Margaritas, June Bugs, and Tea

The BEST Margaritas Ever | Brittany's PantryMmmmm.  There is nothing like reaching for an ice cold beverage when its a million degrees outside.  And trust me.  Right now, in central Illinois, its about that hot.  Personally, I like a nice strong, sweet tea.  In fact, sweet tea is one of my favorite all time drinks.  I suppose I developed a taste for it when I was young.  My parents used to make sun tea in a pickle jar.  Remember those enormous glass pickle jars with the green lid?   They were huge!  A gallon.  We had several, scrubbed clean, filled with water, and about 5 plain Lipton tea bags floating at the top.  We would set the jar out in a sunny spot and and heat from the sun would warm the water.  I used to love to sit and watch the dark, red-brown gold color seep from the top to the bottom.  I’m not sure how long we let it steep like that (I remember several occasions when we forgot and left it out all day) but after awhile we brought it in and mixed in lemon juice and sugar.  The sugar dissolved easily because the whole jar was pleasantly warm and with five other siblings, we easily polished off a jar in one meal.  Its been years since I’ve made sun tea-and even longer since I bought my pickles in a gallon jar-but I remember the flavor of that drink with such fondness, I measure all sweet teas against it.  Of course grilled hamburgers, sun bleached hair, and dirty toes add to the memory, but I stand by my taste buds.

So there you have it.  My drink of choice.  But after all that, I’m not giving you a special iced tea recipe.  No sir, far from it.  Instead I’m posting three drinks that I have come to fall back on when I need a classic, or just need something everyone likes.  I rarely drink so two out of the three are non alcoholic, but if you choose to spike them, I won’t tell anyone.  As usual, these are collected from various sources.  Until this moment I guess I never realized how un-experimental I am with beverages, but I know what I like and am passing my research on to you.
Note: All beverages taste better outside in a lawn chair with your feet up.  Dirty toes are optional.

Jane’s Margaritas
This recipe comes from my sister-in-law’s mother.  I don’t know if she created it or not but everyone who drinks them seems to say the same thing.  “These are the best margaritas I have ever had!”  You be the judge.

6 oz (1/2 can) frozen limeade concentrate
1/4 c triple sec
3/4 c tequila
12 cubes of ice, about half a blender full
Blend in a blender until smooth and frothy.

June Bug Punch - A refreshing drink the whole family can enjoy! {Brittany's Pantry} June Bug
I came across this recipe just a few months ago in the June edition of Better Homes and Gardens.  I made it for my daughters 4th birthday party and it tastes AWESOME.  It quickly became a favorite of kids and adults alike.  Seriously, soooo gooood.

3 c ginger ale
1/4 c grenadine
1/4 c orange juice
3 scoops orange sherbet
Blend together all ingredients.  Pour into ice filled glasses.  (To make a version with alcohol, add a splash of white rum to individual glasses or a 1/2 c to the pitcher.)

Herbal Iced Tea | Brittany's Pantry - No added sugar makes this as healthy as it is refreshing. Herbal Iced Tea
This is a recipe from the cookbook Barefoot Contessa, Family Style, by Ina Garten.  Even though this recipe is one of her most simple, the woman is a food genius.  I know it sounds crazy, but follow the directions.  No sugar needed.

4 Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea bags
4 Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea bags
4 c pure apple juice

Steep the 8 tea bags in 4 c of water for 10 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and add the apple juice.  Chill till cold.

Banana Bran Muffins

Banana Bran Muffins are whole grain and Oh so tasty! Be sure to freeze any leftovers! {Brittany's Pantry}In the short time I have been writing this blog, the majority of recipes included have been baked goods.  While this won’t always be the norm (not everyone likes to bake and I like to cook just as much) I have been whipping up a lot of muffins and breads lately based on ingredients I have in my house.

For example, I had three sorry looking bananas that were way past their prime for snacking, but perfect for baking.  I made a batch of banana bran muffins and I MUST share the recipe with you.  They are so good, it boggles the mind a bit.  They don’t taste like your run-of-the-mill traditional bran muffin, so those of you who are wrinkling your nose at this-HALT!  These are sweet and moist and do not taste like what they are; an extremely easy, fast, and healthy option of breakfast or snacking.  This recipe comes from my good friend Michelle, and I think she got it from a Bed and Breakfast cookbook.  Ultimately, who cares?!   They are a favorite muffin in our house and I hope they become one you can count on too!

Banana Bran Muffins
Yield: 1 dozen

In a large bowl, mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula:
1 egg
3/4 c brown sugar
3 bananas, mashed
1/3 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1/2 c bran
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Mix all dry ingredients into the wet ingredients carefully, JUST UNTIL COMBINED.  Bake in greased or papered muffin cups at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until browned on top and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Baked muffins freeze beautifully.

Earth Bread

Earth Bread by Brittany's Pantry - A quick bread full of healthy ingredients!Yes, its that time of year again.  The time when you realize that you should have planted only one zucchini plant instead of four.  And while this year I am without any veggies due to the deer who keep eating the blossoms off the plants (the little jerks), I have been stocking up at my local farmers market.  No shortage of summer squash here.  And with this in mind, I would like to post my FAVORITE zucchini bread recipe.
Earth Bread by Brittany's Pantry - A quick bread full of healthy ingredients!There are so many of them out there and all seem to be about the same (I do have a chocolate zucchini bread recipe that is amazing) but this one has a few twists.  By all means stick to what works for you, but if you are in the mood for something a little different give this one a try.  This bread is OH so good for you and freezes beautifully for several months.  It also makes a great sandwich with cream cheese for a child-or adult-lunch!  It took at least a dozen tries (and more zucchini than you can imagine) but I finally nailed the recipe.  I have been making it year round and now that its zucchini season again-bring it on!  I’m ready.  And who knows?  You may find yourself at the farmers market too.  In need of more zucchini perhaps?
Earth Bread by Brittany's Pantry - A quick bread full of healthy ingredients!Earth Bread
Makes 2 large loaves or 4 small ones or ALOT of muffins
Recipe Modified 6/21/11

In a large bowl combine:
3 eggs
1/2 c oil
1 c sugar
1 med. banana, mashed
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 large zucchini, washed and grated (about 1 1/2-2 c)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce

Add and mix just until blended:
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
1/4 c wheat germ
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 c chopped walnuts (opt)
1/2 c raisins (opt)

Pour evenly into two large, sprayed, loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for about an hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.  Cool in pans for about 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.  If making four mini-loaves, bake for 35-40 minutes and 20-25 minutes for muffins.