Category Archives: winter

winter persimmon margaritas | making self-care a priority

How much healthier could I be in six months, if I made self-care a priority today?

That’s the question that’s been on my mind the past several days, but before diving into that topic, I wish you all a happy 2018! I seriously can’t believe that we’re already two weeks into the new year. Our Christmas tree is still up, and we are still nightly turning on the outdoor lights that span our rooftop and front porch. We technically haven’t even had our traditional holiday dinner, so we’re keeping it festive until we do. Hopefully, we’ll enjoy that before April.

How was your NYE celebration? Did you pop something fun? What intentions and goals do you have? I’m still fleshing out my ideas and strategies for 2018. I’m never actually “on time” for traditional resolution-making, but it is one of my favorite things to do. List-making and planners and all.

If I were to ask my mom what one of my biggest personal challenges has been, she wouldn’t even hesitate: prioritizing. I tend to fervently say yes to an interesting project or agree to meet someone else’s needs without fully filtering the pros and cons. I want to please. Others. I over-commit, and even though I might deliver, I pay a harsh cost. My physical health suffers, my relationships wilt, and my sanity takes an unfortunate and uncomfortable ride in the backseat.

When I was little, my mom would drive me and my sister down to Arcadia, Florida to visit our grandparents over Christmas. It was an hour-and-a-half ride through twelve small towns. I still have their order memorized. Before we’d pile in our brown Corolla, my mom, adjusting her glasses, would raise her eyebrows, give us the stern eye, and tilt her head, “Girls, go to the bathroom before we leave.” When I’d protest that I didn’t need to go, she’d insist and quickly respond, “Preventive maintenance!”

I think I hear her words anytime I’m gearing up for a long road trip. Preventive maintenance. She didn’t want to stop along the way and slow us down. When I didn’t adhere to her advice, I paid for it with childlike embarrassment, as there weren’t many bathroom stops along the country roads we took.

I’ve struggled to write this post for nearly three weeks now. Just before Christmas, I started experiencing severe stomach pain. It was so crippling that I stayed in bed for nearly three days straight. I googled every symptom I was experiencing and gave myself a pretty solid WebMD diagnosis of either an ulcer or a possible hernia or even, perhaps, gallstones.

I still have yet to see a specialist, but my symptoms have slightly lessened in severity, mostly due to some lifestyle changes. It was ones of the worst holiday seasons I’ve ever experienced, and I’d planned it out to be the most sparkly BEST. This was the first year that both Steve and I were no longer working in the service industry. We didn’t have to pop bottles for 700 people or clean up puke in a bathroom or wait until 3:00AM for the last guest to leave the restaurant to finally drag our beleaguered selves back home.

Despite the scenario I described above, this year’s experience was still worse than any of the holidays spent at the restaurant. And I can say that it was partially a result of not adhering to my mom’s simple advice. I hadn’t adequately prepared. I’d run myself into the ground. I’d pushed myself too far, and as soon as my body had the chance to relax, it decided to shut down and cry for mercy. And, go figure, I was actually mad at my own body for that cry, even though some unwanted and inconveniently timed rest was what I truly needed.

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the ginger apple swizzle | a low-sugar, sherry cocktail

Crisp apples, roasted nuts, spicy ginger, herbaceous rosemary.

Those are some of my favorite flavors of the fall and winter seasons, and they all magically meld together just perfectly, somehow. I have definitely been on a kick with creating all-cocktails-apple lately, and this particular recipe incorporates all of these components in bubbly, festive fashion.

In an effort to cut back on my sugar intake, I’ve been playing around with low-sugar or sugar-free cocktails, focusing on the natural vibrancy of fruits and herbs. The catalyst for this quest occurred earlier this month when Steve and I baked and devoured a batch of oatmeal cookies in one sitting. I kept rationalizing that they were healthy-ish. That they could be dinner. One cookie led to 15 cookies.

Then there was the night that very same week that we baked and ate an entire pumpkin pie.

After dinner.

That was the tipping point.

That pumpkin pie was truly delicious, and I reveled in the decadence of eating the whole thing. Of course, Steve contributed his fair share of slices, too. I’m laughing about it now, but I also knew at that point that I had to slow it down with the sweets. When I craft cocktails, some kind of sweetening agent is almost inevitable, and I normally use a simple syrup to bring sweetness to the drink. Sweetness is necessary to bring balance to a cocktail, especially when there is a strong acidic or bitter note.

And a balanced drink is a good drink.

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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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pear + chamomile bee’s knees with cinnamon-honey syrup | with a vegan option

I’ve been meaning to share this floral, spring-inspired twist on the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail for several weeks now. Back in January, I made a batch of pear- and cinnamon-infused gin, and I forgot all about it, leaving it to hang out in my fridge before even straining it. I’ve been guilty of forgetting projects before. When I stumbled across my unlabeled jar the other day, I cracked the lid only to discover a hazy, unappetizing shade of brown and a way-too-concentrated flavor for the delicate, floral cocktail I had in mind.

So, I tossed that batch, moved on, and made another go of it. This time it was perfectly balanced in flavor and just the right shade of pale gold. I also labeled it and gave myself a pat on the back for doing so. My boyfriend {er, fiancé – I’m still not used to saying it!} gets so bothered with me because I never remember to label my concoctions. I always figure I’ll remember what’s inside the jars, but unless it’s a giveaway shade of strawberry pink, I don’t. Instead, we spend time opening unlabeled jars, smelling them, dotting and nosing small portions on our fingers, or going all-in and boldly giving the unknown liquid a sip.

Why do I rebel so much at taking the time to label something properly? I mean, all it takes is a piece of masking tape and a Sharpie. This time around, I won’t have to guess what’s in this particular jar, but I don’t think that this infusion will even make it that long. I’ve been mixing it with tonic or simply adding an ounce or so to a glass of bubbly.

So good.

pear + chamomile bee's knees with honey syrup | holly & flora

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rosemary paloma cocktails with grapefruit sea salt rims | a cookbook + rosé winner

The past few weeks have been a series of highs and lows. I must be in dire need of a lesson in “going with the flow” because that’s precisely what I haven’t been doing! I’ll start with the most exciting of news: Steve and I are getting married! Our conversation kind of went like this: “I’m asking you to marry me because you’re my favorite!” “And I’m saying yes because you’re MY favorite!” I think that being together ten years let’s me know I’m ready for that step. I knew he had something in the works for a while, but I really did not expect it to happen last week over our quick getaway to Arizona.

We’d both been extra busy the few days leading up to our departure, so I truly didn’t see it coming. As I was sitting on the plane, I saw a text from one of my dear friends. It was simply five ring emojis, followed by the monkey emoji with its eyes covered. I laughed so hard and told her that I doubted it would happen. The only things both Steve and I wanted to do was forget about the mess we left in our house, sleep all day, maybe sit by a pool, and not see anyone we knew for a solid three days.

Some of those wishes came true, but sleep wasn’t one of them. Leading up to the trip, we had both shared a few, consecutive, ten-hour shifts at the restaurant, leaving our minds harried and our eyes laden with dark circles. I had been recipe-testing blender cocktails all week for an upcoming series at the Kitchn, and the sound of the Vitamix motor was ringing in my ear. Needless to say, I left the kitchen in a state of stickiness, along with a stack of cocktail-covered glassware.

We hit the airport last Sunday without getting any sleep the night before. What an excellent way to start a proposal weekend, right!??

rosemary palomas with grapefruit salt rims | holly & flora rosemary palomas with grapefruit salt rims | holly & flora

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