Category Archives: recipes

mint cucumber + smoky jalapeño margaritas | celebrating kristy gardner’s book, “cooking with cocktails”

Apparently, it is National Margarita Day today, a celebration of all-things-tequila, salt-laced, and citrus-y. I’m also celebrating the book release of one of my favorite food bloggers and friends, Kristy Gardner, of She Eats. Her new book, Cooking with Cocktails, is dedicated to the both the cocktail-imbibing cook and the food-loving beverage connoisseur. Its beautiful pages are filled with 100 boozy recipes, each crafted with wine, beer, or spirits. I’d can safely say that she wrote this book with me in mind.

I have been patiently awaiting the publication of Kristy’s book ever since I helped her test a few recipes for it this past spring. When she asked me to be a part of her virtual book release tour, I didn’t hesitate for a minute. Since the date of my post along the tour fortuitously fell upon National Margarita Day, I knew that I had to share Kristy’s recipe for “Mint Cucumber + Smoky Jalapeño Margaritas” with you.

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dsc_3937For those of you new to Kristy Gardner, I’ll give an introduction. She is a writer, photographer, and self-professed “bourbonator” from Vancouver, British Columbia. Bourbon is her jam. She also does a little acting and owns a branding agency called, Peppercorn Creative. The two of us bonded over the subject of cocktails {our first love} from the start about four years ago, and we regularly send each other lengthy emails and care packages filled with culinary treats {our second love, essentially}.

I trust Kristy’s drink-making skills implicitly. In fact, the very first recipe of Kristy’s that I tried was her version of Bourbon-Soaked Cherries. Since then, I’ve made iterations of my own and put them atop ice cream, stuffed them inside galettes and hand pies, and eaten them straight out of the jar. This particular recipe that I’m sharing with you is the perfect combination of flavors. As much as I love a simple lime-centric margarita, this smoky, savory, and slightly vegetal version might be my new favorite.

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cilantro-salted tomatillo green bloody marys | bittersweet seasons of change

I love the challenge of taking any vegetable in my garden – at any stage in its life cycle – and turning it into a cocktail. The abundant amount of sunny, 75-degree days kept me donning shorts, pouring the rosé, and harvesting all of the kale, chard, herbs, edible flowers, tomatoes, and tomatillos my garden would spit out, well into mid-November. We have had the most record-breaking, unseasonably warm weather this past month.

Before I share this {very} late fall recipe, I have to say a few things.

From putting in well over 55 hours each week at the restaurant, to observing the backlash of the recent election, to pursuing creative opportunities on the side, some of which I can’t even share with you yet, I have felt devoid of creativity and inspiration. I’ve had great difficulty writing and pouring creativity into this space here. Even when I do get strokes of genius or breaths of innovation, I’m all-too-tired to put action to paper, recipe, or photo. It’s been quite the challenging year for many of us, I feel.

For both me and Steve, we can safely say that 2016 has been the “Year of Change and Secrets.” That’s actually a soft and easy way of describing it. There have been countless highs and lows. Steve and I got engaged, which was wonderful, albeit stressful with respect to timing. We’ve gone through three different executive chefs at work, finally ending up with one of our former, beloved executive sous chefs at the helm. We’ve also lost two of our long-term managers and haven’t realllllly replaced them, so our workload has been more intense.

green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora

And then there’s our side project, which we’ve been working on since April. Keeping it under wraps has been just as exhausting {and thrilling!} as all of the hours before and after work spent quietly building it. Once I can talk about it all, I’ll feel justified in my actions or, in some cases, the lack of them. For now, I simply seek out those moments, where I feel revitalized and recharged. It’s all I can do. I find them when I go for a long run, when I take a lengthy late-night drive, when I sit still in the darkness before the sun rises, and when I stay up late and watch the moon crest above my head.

Okay, I’ll be honest.

I don’t do all of the things I listed above every time I’m stressed. I want to do them, but many nights, it just doesn’t turn out like that. Take two nights ago, for example. I finished off a bottle of bubbles, impulsively booked two nights at a B&B I’d been dying to sneak away to, baked and consumed an entire pan of brownies, signed up for a marathon, and watched almost every Nora Ephron movie ever made. The next day suuuuuuuuuucked, and of course, I was needed at the restaurant to help Steve because he was having complications with his recent hand surgery.

And I couldn’t make it to the B&B.

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bourbon + spiced pear cocktail | fall cocktail favorites

This week has been a weird one. I’m slowly recovering from being sick with a virus that smacked me down on the couch for a week and a half. And my camera and my car both decided to get sick and die at the very same time. How is this fair?! Don’t we wish all of our mishaps and hiccups could be dispersed over several months’ time, but maybe having all the crap happen at once is a blessing.

I’m posting this delicious cocktail, but at the same time, I’m also on a serious cleanse: no caffeine, no sugar, no booze, no animal products. I’ve made it past week one, so I am feeling rather strong. I did take a slight deviation on Friday, when I met up with two friends at Café Max and had one of Max’s famous matcha green tea lattes, made with almond milk. My friend, Sherrie, who is coincidentally my health coach, couldn’t finish hers. With crazed eyes, I brazenly reached across the table and pulled her room-temperature latte closer to me and slurped up the last, lightly caffeinated drips. It was an enlightening moment on my caffeine dependency.

Ouch. Whatever, I balanced it all out with a round of green juice, so it’s all good.

bourbon + spiced pear cocktail | holly & flora

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pumpkin pie martini with coconut cream + homemade pumpkin spice syrup

Today is the first day it actually feels like fall here in Denver. Cool, rainy, and cozy. Thankfully, I have the day off, and I defiantly plan on staying in my PJs most of the morning. There just may be a Hobbit marathon in the works. I am actually welcoming the idea. I came home from work rather late last night, and my entire house smelled of freshly cut basil. Steve took an inventory of the garden and harvested enough vegetables and herbs to span the surface area of our dining room table. There’s so much here to be grateful for.

Between the Hobbit movies, there will be lots of pesto-making, tomato-puréeing, chutney-prepping, and herb-drying. All of these are easily accomplished in my PJs, for the record. I think the most exciting event this Wednesday, however, is Sara Cornelius of Cake Over Steak‘s fabulous roundup, celebrating all-things-pumpkin! It is a #virtualpumpkinparty, and over 70 bloggers are sharing their favorite pumpkin-inspired recipes.

I couldn’t resist the challenge to create a pumpkin cocktail. And not one of those pumpkin-flavored cocktails with whipped cream vodka and store-bought pumpkin spice syrup. Oh, no. This one’s the real deal, and it’s made with full-fat coconut milk, a bitter amaro, homemade pumpkin spice simple syrup, and aged rum.

And it’s delicious. And you can already thank us all for fulfilling your pumpkin desires throughout the rest of the year.

pumpkin pie martini | holly & flora pumpkin pie martini | holly & flora Continue reading

about figgin’ thyme | a rum cocktail with fig + thyme and how to make allspice dram

I’m a firm believer that when something is meant to happen, it will happen in its own sweet time, at just the right time. There is a reason the saying, “It is what it is,” is so simple, yet so pertinent. We do what we can, with the tools we’ve been given, with the understanding we presently have. The rest works itself out.

I’d like to force certain things to happen, though. Like when you’ve worked really hard on a project, and you want that recognition or that promotion. Sometimes, however, the timing just isn’t where you’d like it to be. {Insert wasted energy, emotions, and countless hours here.}

fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora

I have a handful of letters I need to respond to, but they sit on my desk, haphazardly tossed in a pile, waiting for the “perfect” time to craft. Maybe I haven’t spoken with one of the letter-writers, and I feel the need to formally write an intense, full-on disclosure and catch-up of my life’s happenings. Perhaps I’ve been in a funk and feel the need to “be in a better place” in order to write back a cheerful friend. A few moments this evening reminded me that there is no time better than the present to start something.

Work at the restaurant has, thankfully, been a little slow this past week, and I was gifted the past two days off. I had a self-imposed, detailed to-do list beckoning me, but I really felt the need to slow down. I baked a peach crumble. I came up with a few cocktails. I did my nails. I drew a bath and picked out a magazine from a stack of periodicals I’d been meaning to read for quite a while.

I randomly grabbed the very first issue of Kinfolk I’d purchased. It was also the first almost-$20 independent magazine I’d purchased. This particular issue, volume seven, published in 2013, was all about ice cream and entertaining. Sometimes, I buy magazines, and they sit on my desk or tabletop for years without my opening them. I figure that what goes around comes around and that the timing will be right, when I decide to crack the spine and flip through the pages. This time proved my assumptions correct. The timing was perfect.

fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora

I opened to page 102 and read Killeen Hanson‘s words on being neighborly, checking in, and writing to friends and family. She recounts the many times her mother and father have written her over the years: notes on postcards, letters sneaked in junk mail envelopes, folders filled with local newspaper clippings. I’m also a beloved fan of the handwritten letter. Somehow, it supersedes the digital type in a text or email. It takes more time, art, effort. Maybe we, as a culture, have casually and conveniently forgotten this art, since it demands much more of us in our fast-paced, instantly gratified, real-time lifestyles.

“We’ve all received that out-of-the-blue note from a friend; the joy and comfort that these little check-ins bring us is incredible considering the simplicity and scale of the act. It doesn’t take much time or effort to jot down a thinking-of-you note to a friend that will change their day.”

Killeen Hanson, Kinfolk, Volume Seven, “How to be Neighborly: Checking In”

I’m vowing this Labor Day weekend to write letters to those friends, pen pals, colleagues, and family members I’ve been thinking about for weeks, months, even years. That article was so timely and relevant. There is no better time than now to say how you feel and brighten someone’s day with your own handwriting and words and doodles.

  • To my mom, I’m finally sending you the edited CDs of your past singing performances.
  • To Derrick, whom I’ve never met in real life but feel so intricately connected with, look for a recap from the past two years.
  • To Sandy, I’ve finally got a few treats for you. I must confess that I ate the first two batches of cookies I baked for you.
  • And to Gina, look out for a little “hello” in your mailbox this week! Your pen pal is finally following through.

fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora

Another item I happened upon today was a batch of homemade allspice dram I made back in the spring. I can’t believe I hadn’t even tasted the finished product! I pursed my lips, squinted my eyes, and shook my head. I needed to do something about this situation.

So, what exactly IS allspice dram?

Allspice dram is a liqueur made from allspice berries with a little cinnamon. It marries perfectly with many Tiki cocktails and is a superb match with pears. I am in the midst of making a fig shrub, so I had an extra handfuls of figs. I correctly assumed that the flavors of figs, cinnamon, and allspice would go along quite nicely. This little cocktail brings the flavors of summer and the notes of fall together. It almost feels like Indian summer in a glass.

fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora

about figgin’ thyme | a rum cocktail with fig + thyme

  1. In a mixing tin, muddle the figs with the thyme simple syrup.
  2. Fill the tin with ice.
  3. Add the light rum, apricot liqueur, allspice dram, and lemon juice.
  4. Shake well and double strain into coupe glasses. Optionally, double strain into cocktail glasses filled with ice and top with a splash of seltzer.
  5. Garnish with a sprig of freshly cut thyme.

fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora

thyme simple syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-4 sprigs freshly cut thyme
  1. Using a 1:1 ratio of water to sugar, measure out your desired portion. The recipe above yielded enough for about eight cocktails.
  2. In a saucepan, over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat.
  3. Add the sprigs of thyme and let the mixture steep for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Strain off the solids and let the syrup mixture cool.
  5. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora

For the allspice dram, I took Marcia Simmons’ lead over at Serious Eats. She proved that making your own allspice dram is just as delicious as the real deal. I have actually had a difficult time finding my favorite rendition, St. Elizabeth’s, so an adaptation on her simple recipe was a lifesaver.

An excerpt from the Death & Co. cocktail book, elaborating on both St. Elizabeth's allspice dram and Rothman & Winter's delicious apricot liqueur. This book is a must-have in any home bar. Definitely one of my favorite purchases of the year.

An excerpt from the Death & Co. cocktail book, elaborating on both St. Elizabeth’s allspice dram and Rothman & Winter’s delicious apricot liqueur. This book is a must-have in any home bar. Definitely one of my favorite purchases of the year.

 allspice dram

  • 1 cup light rum {I went with Downslope, again}
  • 1/4 cup whole allspice
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  1. In a mortar and pestle, crush the whole allspice berries.
  2. Place the crushed allspice in a mason jar and top with the rum.
  3. Shake the jar daily, over the course of four days. On the fourth day, break the cinnamon stick into a few pieces, and add them to the mixture.
  4. Continue steeping for 12 days total. On the twelfth day, strain the mixture through a chinois or fine-mesh strainer. Take the time to make a second pass through a coffee filter for better clarity.
  5. In a saucepan, heat the water and sugar, stirring, until the granules have dissolved. Add the sugar-water to the allspice mixture, shake, and let the flavors integrate for a few days.

The flavor of homemade allspice dram is best, when it’s used within 3-4 months. Even though I forgot about the batch I made back in March, the flavors are still hanging on pretty well. Lots of cozy, baking spice-like notes with a strong liquor backbone.

fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora fig + thyme cocktail | how to make allspice dram | holly & flora

Cheers to a wonderfully relaxing Labor Day weekend!

Do you write letters at all? Do you think it is an art worth saving, and, if so, how do you plan on promoting and cultivating its future?

Enjoy those last days of summer, and seriously, disregard anyone who’s telling you it’s over. It’s not. Not until the 23rd. So, why rush it? It will happen, when it happens. Despite a few friends, who are already ordering their PSLs {ahem, Aimee and Nicole!}, I am resisting the urge and am still making popsicles and iced tea. The timing’s just right.

Big hugs,