Watermelon Lemon Balm Limeade Recipe

Yay! It’s National Watermelon Day!

We served this refreshing cold beverage at a wedding shower hosted by my friends, the Maule’s. This is a party they will never forget. When planning, we stopped by our favorite vintage rental, Relics, in downtown Milwaukee. We have way more to share about this party, but for today lets dive right into this tasty limeade featuring watermelon and lemon balm.

Stay tuned for our next post where were share decorating tips as well as this delicious Pear, Rhubarb and Goat Cheese Waldorf Salad!

Design and food styling: Liz Maule and Jena Carlin
Model: Ruthie Maule
Furniture and Props: Relics Vintage Rental
repurposed Bar: Jesse Maule
Sign Art: ChalkedMKE


Watermelon Lemon Balm Limeade
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Refreshing Summer Combo!!
  • 15 Limes
  • 2 handfuls of lemon balm leaves
  • 3 cup water
  • 1.5 cups honey
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • half a watermelon, cubed
  • 2 cups ice.
  1. Roll the limes back and forth over the counter with the palm of your hand to releases the juices in the limes. Cut limes in half, and juice them by hand or with a juicer
  2. Muddle lemon balm leaves in brown sugar and dash of lime juice at bottom of serving container.
  3. Bring 3 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add sugar or honey, and stir until dissolved. Let cool.
  4. Mix all ingredients together. Serve.

Julia @ Happy Foods Tube - Beautiful! Love the setting, the props and the limeade sounds and looks delicious! What a perfect summer drink!

Cherry Berry Smoothie Bowl Recipe

Who doesn’t love a good smoothie bowl? Who doesn’t know what a smoothie bowl is? Well, if a smoothie and a bowl of yogurt with fruit and toppings had a baby, it would look like a smoothie bowl. Creamy greek yogurt is combined with frozen fruit, ice and cherry juice in a blender and pureed until smooth and thick. The mixture is transferred to a bowl and topped with assorted toppings. Any number of toppings can be used. They can be healthy toppings such as flax or chia seeds, unsalted nuts, raw coconut, granola or fruit, or not so healthy items such as chocolate, broken cookies or even candy bar bites. We decided on a more healthy approach. We combined Noosa Vanilla Bean Yogurt ( feel free to substitute plain yogurt) with tart cherry juice, frozen tart cherries, frozen blackberries and blueberries and a few ice cubes. The toppings chosen were bing cherries, fresh plum slices, more frozen blackberries and blueberries, gluten free granola, some crushed freeze dried blueberries and a drizzle of pomegranate syrup which was simply pomegranate juice reduced in a saucepan to a thickened syrup.

The key when deciding what to use for your toppings is to use fruits that are in peak season. Combine them with different textures, shapes and colors.  Adding a crunch element to the cold creamy smoothie will give your tastebuds a wonderful surprise. I think that’s what I like about smoothie bowls versus plain smoothies or plain yogurt. The flavors and textures of both combined really takes fruit to a new level. I am looking forward to trying this combo made with decadent, full fat ice cream and maybe a few broken brownie bites and glazed nuts. Yum. Well, we hope you enjoy making your smoothie bowls as much as we enjoyed ours. We’ll be back soon.  If you’ve enjoyed our photography and Instagram, please vote for us on Saveur’s Food Blog award nomination page. Jena and I would really appreciate your help in helping us win the award for best photography and Instagram.  Have a great weekend and don’t forget to cook with love and live to cook.

Jim & Jena


Cherry Berry Smoothie Bowl
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Creamy yogurt, berries and cherries join forces to make up a delicious way to start your day. Granola, fresh plums, berries and a pomegranate syrup round out this tasty take on a classic smoothie.
Serves: 2 servings
  • ½ cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup Vanilla bean yogurt such as Noosa
  • ¼ cup Frozen blackberries
  • ¼ cup Frozen blueberries
  • ¼ cup Frozen tart cherries
  • ¼ cup Tart cherry juice
  • 4-5 whole Ice cubes
  • 2 Tbsp Granola
  • 7 ea. Frozen blueberries
  • 5 ea. Frozen blackberries
  • 2 tsp. Crushed, freeze-dried blueberries
  1. Pour pomegranate juice into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce liquid to about 2 tablespoons. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
  2. Add the yogurt and the next 5 ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour mixture into 2 bowls.
  4. Top each with remaining ingredients and serve.


Coffee Crusted Steak Recipe

When it comes to Father’s Day, I can’t think of a food more dads desire than a big, juicy, mouth watering steak on the grill. After all, us hunters and gatherers are known for cooking our meat after a long hunt. I do realize that today’s dad is in no way similar to our neanderthal relatives. There are very few of us men left who go out hunting for our food and I’m no exception. In today’s world, we get our meat from butcher shops, grocery stores and even buy steaks online.

So now that you know what dad wants to eat on Father’s Day, who’s fixing their man a big steak this year? What do you mean he does the grilling? What do you mean you don’t know how to cook a steak? On Mother’s Day, mom usually wants to be pampered. As husbands, we take mom out for brunch or cook mom breakfast in bed. After all, mom knows that a day named after her means she gets to relax and be taken care of. At least that’s what us men should be doing for mom. So why would dad want anything different? Truth is, we do like to be pampered on our day too. Steaks can sometimes be difficult to make. What cut of steak?, what grade of meat?, what do I season it with, how to cook it? These are a sampling of questions many women ask when trying to tackle preparing steak. Well, today I’m going to answer all your questions about how to make the perfect steak for dad and do it so easily, he may not want to take the job back.

There are a few key things to consider when planning on preparing a steak for dinner. What cut of meat to buy. The quality of the meat. How to season it and how to cook it. The first item on the list is what cut of meat you’re buying. If you want a steakhouse quality, melt in your mouth tender steak, then you have only a few options. A filet, a ribeye, or a strip steak. Those 3 cuts of meat are on every steakhouse menu for a reason. They are the best. I prefer a nice strip steak, but if you pick any of those cuts, you’ll be fine. If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention a t-bone or a porterhouse, it’s because a t-bone or porterhouse steak is made up of both a strip steak on one side and a filet on the other with a bone in between them. They cook a little different than the others because of the bone, so I’m leaving those out.

So your hopefully at the best butcher shop in town and you’re looking at the large case of meat and you’ve decided on a strip steak, but there’s one sign that says choice strip steak, one that says grass fed strip steak and one that says prime strip steak. Which one do you choose? You choose the prime strip steak and here’s why. Because a prime strip steak is the ferrari of steaks. Only 1.8 % of all beef processed in the states is graded as prime. Prime is to steaks what flawless is to diamonds. And, just like a flawless diamond, a prime steak will be the most expensive steak in the meat case.

They are also the only ones the best steakhouses in the country use. So why are prime steaks so good? Because of the marbling. All steaks have a certain amount of fat in them. Tenderloin has the least amount, which makes them very tender, but often means you get less flavor. Fat means flavor, especially when it’s marbled into the meat. Prime steaks are extremely well marbled, which means the fat is woven through the lean muscle. When those steaks are grilled, the fat melts, keeping the lean muscle around it juicy and giving it more flavor. The raw steaks in the photos are all extremely well marbled prime strip steaks and are all about 1.75” thick. I think I paid about twenty four dollars a pound for these babies at a wonderful store called Brennan’s Market in Oconomowoc, WI. They carry only prime beef in their store, which is extremely rare, pardon the pun.  How does that compare to other steak prices?  Well, take a look at these wagyu beef strip steaks available for overnight delivery on Amazon.  They are $995.00 for 4 / 18 oz. steaks!  Sure, the marbling is off the charts, but I’m guessing that you don’t want to spend $250 for a steak that you have to cook.  Why not buy the choice steak or the grass fed steak? Choice steaks are below prime. Choice is good, but about 38% of beef is considered choice, so it doesn’t compare to prime. As for grass fed versus corn fed goes, remember that cows are fed corn for one reason. It makes for bigger, and better beef. Grass fed steaks will ALWAYS be tougher and you will almost never find grass fed prime steaks, because they aren’t as marbled. Grass fed may be trendy, but it’s not good for high end steaks. Leave it for flank, skirt or round steak.

Alright, you’ve confidently walked out of the store with your thick cut, prime strip steaks, you put them on the counter and now what? Let’s start with seasoning the steaks. My favorite seasoning is a coffee, black pepper, brown sugar and rosemary blend which tastes wonderful with a great steak. Just rub it all over the steak, then let the steaks sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Why let it sit out? Well, cold meat will tighten up when it’s subjected to high heat, and we don’t want our twenty-five dollar steak to tighten up. We want it relaxed, which brings us to our cooking method.

The options for cooking the steaks are grill them or pan sear them and finish them in the oven. But wait, why not sous vide the steaks? Sous what? Sous Vide, which sounds like (sue veed), is all the rage now. It is basically placing food in resealable or Foodsaver style bags and removing the air from the bag. The bag is then submerged in a water bath that is kept at a constant temperature, cooking the food perfectly and keeping it at that temperature for extended periods of time. It takes about an hour to cook a steak using a sous vide cooker. The best thing about sous vide cookers is that you don’t have to watch them. Put the food in the bag, put it in the water and set the timer. Once done to the temperature you want, a quick sear on a hot grill or in a hot pan for one minute per side will give you a perfectly cooked steak every time.

I have an Anova Sous Vide Cooker, which I love. There are a few other versions available and the cost is a lot cheaper than that grill you were looking at. About $100 for a basic one. The best part is you place it in the container of your choice. A plastic container, a dutch oven, or even an old cooler can work well. You just put it in the container of water, plug it in and turn it to the temp you want. There’s a simple app that gives the temp to set it at and the time it will take. That simple. They cook a lot more than steak too. Seafood, vegetables, chicken, even desserts. Or, infuse your booze with unique flavorings in minutes rather than days or weeks. Trust me, once you’ve tried one, you’ll love it. For that gourmet steak house touch, top it with a decadent smokey blue butter made with a Wisconsin smoked blue cheese called Moody Blue by Emi Roth Cheese. Roth is the cheese company that won the world cheese championship last year for their Grand Cru, so they know how to make fabulous cheese.   Wow, my mouth is watering already.

So, hopefully these tips on buying steaks will help take the confusion about what to get dad this year.  If you’re not up for buying dad a sous vide cooker, and you don’t really want to take a chance on grilling steaks, just put a bow on those prime steaks and hand them to dad.  Chances are pretty good he’ll have a big smile on his face.  Good luck, and Happy Father’s Day to all you dad’s out there. Enjoy, and remember to cook with love and live to cook.

Jim & Jena


Coffee Crusted Steak Recipe
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This recipe is about as good as it gets when it comes to creating a perfect steak. Thanks to prime steaks, a robust coffee rub and cooking it by sous vide. Of course the smokey blue butter with it just makes it that much better.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4 steaks
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh ground coffee
  • 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Coarse ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. Smoked sea salt or kosher salt
  • 4 ea. Prime strip steaks (about 16 ozs. each)
  • 1 med. Vidalia or sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • ⅓ cup Bourbon whiskey
  • 8 ozs. Mascarpone cheese, softened
  • ½ cup Smoked or regular blue cheese, crumbled
  • 3 Tbsp. Unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. Fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  1. In a small bowl, combine coffee and next 3 ingredients. Rub on all sides of steaks and let steaks sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Place steaks in a one gallon re-sealable plastic bag. Fill a large container with about 2 gallons of water.
  3. Submerge bag of steaks in water just below the slide lock. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible.
  4. Transfer bag of steaks to a plate and set aside at room temperature while preparing sous vide cooker.
  5. Follow instructions for cooker and set temperature to 129 degrees.
  6. When water is set, place bag of steaks in the water. Cook for 1 hour.
  7. Remove steaks from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a clean plate and set aside while preparing blue cheese butter.
  8. For butter, add butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onions and garlic. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until deep golden brown. Add bourbon off heat. Cook until bourbon is almost evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer onion mixture to a bowl and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  9. Add remaining ingredients and blend with a hand mixer until blended.
  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  11. To finish steaks, sear steaks on a very hot grill for 1 minute. Turn steaks over and grill and additional 1 minute. Transfer to plates and top with a dollop of blue cheese butter. Serve.


Ribboned Asparagus Caprese Salad

I know you can now get asparagus pretty much year round. And, it’s pretty good year round. However, like most fruits and vegetables, fresh is best, and local & fresh is king(or queen). That is the case with asparagus as well. If that were not the case, you wouldn’t have local farmers protecting their roadside land like guard dogs. In most rural areas I know, if you have spots where wild asparagus is coming up in the spring, you keep your mouth shut and pray that you get to it before anybody else knows it’s there. It’s kind of like morel mushrooms, except instead of battling tree branches, prickly brush or crazed land owners, you can often pull over on the side of the road, cut your find and be back in the car before anyone knows you were there.

What makes it tough is getting to it before the farmers, who always know where they are, and they get up reeeaaallly early. If you do find a patch, or are fortunate enough to know someone who sells wild asparagus, it is a treat. Everything that comes from the earth unspoiled by us is usually better. It may not be bigger, but it will taste better. Take for example the asparagus caprese salad that we made recently.

Fresh tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella and long curling strips of fresh asparagus drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with some sea salt and fresh pepper. Yum. Also, like most vegetables, asparagus is really good raw and it’s pretty easy to peel with a vegetable peeler. I know, I know, asparagus may be in season, but tomatoes and basil are not. Not in Wisconsin anyway. Heck, those two won’t show up for awhile in my yard.

Thank goodness both can be readily found in the grocery stores these days, and unlike many vegetables, you can get pretty good vine ripened hot house tomatoes and fresh basil these days. They’ll never grow naturally together in the midwest, so sacrifices must be made. That may be the only sacrifice however, because the flavor is still wonderful. Give it a try. It’s beautiful, delicious and a creative new way to showcase this long vegetable that can get a little boring after a couple weeks of roasting it. Enjoy and remember to cook with love and live to cook.

Jim & Jena


Ribboned Asparagus Caprese Salad
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Fresh asparagus is rarely paired with the classic caprese salad. However, we gave it a whirl and found when the asparagus is peeled into ribbons, it adds a sophistication that is welcome and delicious.
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
  • 12 stalks Fresh, wild asparagus, peeled lengthwise into thin strips
  • 6 medium Heirloom or vine ripened tomatoes, sliced
  • 16 ea. Fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup Small fresh mozzarella balls
  • 2 tsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Layer asparagus and next 3 ingredients on a large plate or individual salad plates.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Serve.


Peek-a-Boo Berry Smash Cake | First Birthday Party

Vintage Circus Theme First Birthday Party Smash Cake - Jena Carlin Photography - FB

There is something truly special about planning your child’s 1st. birthday party. It’s a time when all those images you’ve thought about for years as a girl playing with dolls, having tea parties and playing house is now realized. When you can harness that energy into making your little boys 1st. birthday party something to remember.  Maybe not for him.  After all, they probably won’t remember any of it. But as a mother, it doesn’t matter. Creating special moments in time and making your kids happy at that moment is what is important. Letting them know how special they are and how much you love them.  I know, I know, it was a year ago and Austin is now two!  But reflecting back on that day still puts a smile on my face. Not everything went as planned. However, it was still a special day.  Now that he is already two, I reflect back on that day and the wonderful smash cake I made for him. His cake was so good last year I may just do it again!  Buried the lead here…  You can see all of the darling images, games, and crafts from Austin’s first birthday party on Martha Stewart!

Vintage Circus Theme First Birthday Party Healthier Smash Cake - Jena Carlin Photography - Web-4Vintage Circus Theme First Birthday Party Healthier Smash Cake - Jena Carlin Photography - Web-7Vintage Circus Theme First Birthday Party Healthier Smash Cake - Jena Carlin Photography - Web-10If you’re wondering how I made this cake, it was really pretty easy.  Jim and I did an article in 2015 called “Wildberry Poundcake with Mascarpone Yogurt Creme”. You can read the article here.  That cake was a buttery pound cake colored with three different colors of batter and made in tin cans.  It was so good, that I thought it would be a great base for Austin’s cake.  After all, the “natural” cake mixes you can get in the store nowadays are really similar to that cake as far as ingredients go, so why not really know what’s in the cake and make it myself?  Instead of making it 3 colors, I decided on just one color, blue.  I used 6″ cake pans instead of the tin cans, because I wanted to give Austin a special surprise when he dove head first into the middle of it.  Blue pound cake may not be “healthy”, but an all natural cake filled with fresh berries is definitely an improvement from a boxed mix and canned frosting.  Adding fresh blueberries to the cake mix also added some nutrition as well as give great color to the cake.  So how did I get the fruit in the middle?Vintage Circus Theme First Birthday Party Healthier Smash Cake - Jena Carlin Photography - Web-11

Thanks to the creative genius of Amanda Rettke, a friend of ours and fellow food blogger, it was really easy.  If you like cake, her blog “I Am Baker” is for you.  To get the cavity in the center of the cake, all you need to do is cut a circle out of the two layers of cake when you cut them into layers. I used the top of one of Austin’s sippy cups for the template. Why not, it was the perfect size and it was right there with the the half a dozen other soppy cups and kids spoons that I see every day. Simply place a round object about an inch or two smaller than your cake in the center of your two middle layers and cut around it with small, thin knife.  Remove the center and safe it for later when everyone goes to bed and you need some me time with a bowl of ice-cream.  Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a serving plate, top with a layer of frosting, then place a layer of cake with a hole cut out over on top. Top that layer with frosting, then add the other layer of cake with the hole in it. Frost that layer, then add fresh fruit into the cavity. Top with the remaining whole layer and frost the entire cake. I used a sugar free frosting recipe I found online at An American Housewife Barbie.  It uses Xylitol, which is a plant based sweetener, instead of sugar that was used in the original recipe, because I wanted a healthier option that would hold up better on the sides.  To give the frosting that multi-colored look, I made three different shades of frosting, then frosted the cake from bottom to top starting with the lightest color.  The colors blend when you run a spatula around the whole cake when you are done.  A simple pressing a spoon into the frosting to create little peaks gave it texture.  Of course, a 1st. birthday wouldn’t be complete without a 1st. birthday cake topper?  In the end, Austin got to dive into a delicious, homemade cake that was filled with fresh fruit and the love that went into making it. I can’t believe it was a year ago. I guess it’s time for another cake.  Enjoy.

Jena & Jim


Peek-a-Boo Berry Smash Cake | First Birthday Party
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When your baby turns 1, everyone anticipates the moment when they shove handfuls of cake into their mouth for the first time. This smash cake is all natural, buttery good and filled with lots fresh berries to offset the sweet cake. The frosting is sugar free too!
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 1
  • 1 cup of butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • food coloring of choice, to desired color
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • ½ cup fresh strawberries, stems removed, quartered.
  • Frosting:
  • ¾ c granular Xylitol
  • ¼ c water
  • 3 large egg whites (separate and use the yolks in another recipe)
  • 3 sticks real butter
  • 2 T vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 6" cake pans with parchment paper cut to fit on the bottom. Spray generously with non-stick spray. Dust with flour and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and baking powder. Beat together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add flour and beat until it resembles a thick paste.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down bowl until very light and fluffy.
  5. Color batter with food coloring to desired color.
  6. Fold in blueberries.
  7. Transfer cake batter evenly into pans.
  8. Place pans on a baking sheet and transfer to pre-heated oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer cans to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  9. While cake is baking, make the frosting. In a saucepan, place the water and Xylitol. Heat over medium high until it comes to 240 degrees. With normal sugar this would be soft ball stage but because Xylitol and Splenda do not thicken, you cannot test this by traditional soft ball stage.
  10. As you are heating the sugar substitute and water, mix the egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, pour the hot Xylitol mixture down the side of the bowl in a thin stream, mixing into the egg whites. Beat approximately 7-10 minutes on high until the egg whites resemble a thick and glossy meringue.
  11. Start to add the butter in chunks, about a tablespoon at a time. Keep the mixer running and whip the mixture about 7- 10 minutes more. If the mixture breaks up when you first add the butter and it looks like cottage cheese, no worries. Just keep whipping until it's smooth again. Once the frosting is smooth, add your vanilla and whip again for a few minutes. If it's a really warm or humid day it might get too warm to work with. Just refrigerate it for about 7 minutes, whip again. The cooler temperatures will cause it to harden up again. Transfer half of the frosting to 1 bowl and then divide the remaining frosting into the other two bowls. Leave one bowl white, then tint the bowl with half the frosting the shade of color you want the top and layers to be. Tint the last bowl a shade in between the white and the darker shade. Set frosting aside while preparing cakes.
  12. To Frost Cake:
  13. Cut the tops of the cakes off to create flat cakes.
  14. Cut cakes in half horizontally using a long serrated knife. You should have 4 cake layers. Set the bottom two layers aside to use for the top and bottom.
  15. Using a 3"- 4"round lid(or sippy cup lid), cut a round out of the center of the two remaining cake layers using a thin knife.
  16. Place one of the bottom layers bottom side down on a serving plate. Frost top with a thin layer of the darkest frosting. Carefully place one layer with a hole in it on top of the first layer. Frost top with the same frosting. Place second cake layer with the hole in it on top. Frost with the same frosting.
  17. Fill cavity with raspberries and strawberries.
  18. Place remaining bottom layer cut side down on top of fruit filled cake.
  19. Frost outside of cake:
  20. Starting with the reserved white frosting, using an offset spatula, spread a 1-2" wide band around cake, being careful not to frost anything else except the bottom. Next, using the reserved medium shade frosting, repeat frosting process with the middle section of cake. Finish the top section and top with the remaining darkest frosting. Run the spatula around side one more time to blend colors. Smooth top.
  21. Using a small spoon, create small peaks by pressing the back of the spoon into the frosting , then pulling it straight out. Repeat that around the entire cake and on top. Chill cake until ready to serve. To serve, place in front of your child and enjoy the fun.
This cake was colored blue and filled with fresh berries. Feel free to make the cake without coloring and filling it with apples, bananas, melon grapes or any other fruit your child may enjoy.


Joan - This cake is so wonderfully clever on all levels – the colors, the fruit surprise and the frosting are off the charts cool. I can see this type of cake for so many fun celebrations and truly special for a little boy’s first birthday. You both are amazing and thank you for sharing such greatness!

ps….LOVING your cookbook!!

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