Tag Archives: DIY

toasty whole grain granola with dried cherries + dark chocolate

I am just settling in this afternoon, back from a week-long vacation on Lake Burton, in north Georgia. And by vacation, I mean family reunion. Contrary to what most might assume, the break away from work was refreshing, no family feuds ensued, and the scenery was breathtaking. Any worries we had on the trip were quelled, once we turned the key to our front door: the houseplants didn’t die, the cats made it alright, and the garden surprisingly flourished.

I am taking a short break to write this post, before we deal with the “unknowns” in the refrigerator. I am thinking that a lot of what is still hanging out in the fridge will go straight into the compost. I don’t feel bad about that. The unused food will soon be recycled into soil for our garden’s vegetables and herbs. Even though the trip was relaxing, I am still in vacation mode and want to set up our workweek right. In addition to preparing a versatile quinoa salad for the week, we are also assembling one of our favorite kitchen staples: granola. This particular version, however, definitely carries a theme of indulgence and decadence. Vacations have got to be stretched out as long as possible, right!?

I have been making riffs on granola for years. It is a nutritious and versatile treat that can be made quickly and can utilize scraps and leftovers from your baking cabinet. I tend to make versions that incorporate remnants of oats from a baking experiment, nuts and seeds from a spring hike, and dried fruit that just isn’t tasting quite good enough by itself. I just toss them all with a bit of oil and add some sugar and bake until crisp and golden. Sounds easy, right? It is. Here is a basic granola recipe that I use for everyday breakfasts and snacks, along with a couple of delicious variations.


toasty whole grain granola with dried cherries + dark chocolate


  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped coarsely
  • 1/8 cup golden flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • sea salt or cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 an 8-ounce dark chocolate bar, roughly chopped {you can snack on the other half, while making the granola. You’re welcome. I like to use anything by Ritual Chocolate, made here in Denver. You’re double welcome.}
  • good handful of dried cherries, to taste
  • pinch of cinnamon, optional
  • dash of vanilla extract, optional {you can guess that I use Oh, Lady Cakes’ vanilla extract …why wouldn’t you, unless it’s sold out?}

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Toss all ingredients, minus the chocolate and dried cherries, in a large bowl, making sure to coat evenly with the oil and maple syrup.
  3. Spread the oat and nut mixture onto a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. You should smell the toasty, cozy aroma of roasted nuts. Be sure not to over-bake. Burnt granola is not the best kind of granola.
  4. Once baked to perfection, set aside and let cool.
  5. Toss cooled granola into a bowl and add dried cherries and dark chocolate. Pour mixture into a large Mason jar or anything with a tight lid. You’ll want to keep this fresh and out of the way of humidity.
  6. Serve by itself or along with some skyr {Icelandic yogurt} or Greek yogurt. You can add fresh fruit, if you don’t have dried fruit on hand. This recipe yields one large, quart-sized Mason jar, plus 1 1/4 cup extra.

I have been seriously enjoying the cherry season this year. My recent brandied cherries turned out perfectly, and I have pitted and dried some more, just to capture their essence of summer. To dry your own cherries, you can either easily dehydrate them in the oven or in a food dehydrator. This is the one that I use most frequently.

I am officially off to clean out the refrigerator and finish up the granola project. I have some leftover, week-old sangria that held up quite nicely, while we were away. I just might have to pour myself a glass and sit out in the backyard. Speaking of sangria, you can read my most recent post at the Kitchn, featuring the best red wines for summer sangria, here. Pour yourself some and make your shopping list for granola. Or simply scour your cabinets and make a “kitchen sink” version of your own! Cheers!

brandied summer cherries

I have been patiently waiting for cherry season. As soon as I spied some sweet, ripe, organic cherries, I grabbed about two pounds’ worth and headed home, bursting with ideas on how to capture their ripeness. Of course, I couldn’t resist selecting a handful of the ripest, juiciest ones I could find, right there in the car. It got messy pretty quickly, but I really could have cared less.

I have been thinking about preserving cherries, ever since I saw Kristy Gardner’s bourbon-soaked cherries a while back. She pretty much writes the book on all-things-bourbon, so that’s definitely another upcoming project. For now, since I had some leftover brandy from a recent sangria experiment, I went with a juiced-up, brandied version. They’re super easy and delicious, and they will go perfectly with one of my barrel-aged Manhattans {debuting in my kitchen in about a month!}.

If you have ripe cherries at your fingertips, use them; otherwise, frozen cherries will work just fine. I did walk away with a few tips from the cherry-pitting process:

  1. Wear an apron. If that is not an option, drape a towel over yourself. You’ll thank me.
  2. Maybe invest in a cherry-pitter. I tried using a paperclip, but I ended up loving a simple kebob skewer.
  3. Pour yourself a nice, big glass of wine, find a friend to help, and play a good set of music. This takes a while. I drank a little of this deliciousness {Stolpman “l’Avion” Roussanne, 2011, Santa Ynez Valley, one of my fave summer wines ever} and listened to this {Etherwood’s self-titled, gorgeous drum-and-bass album, on repeat right now}.

Alright, let’s make some brandied cherries!


Brandied Summer Cherries


  • 1 pound ripe, organic cherries {I used Rainier}, and a little extra for juicing {optional}
  • 1/2 cup freshly juiced cherries {you may substitute water}
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/8 cup Cardamaro liqueur
  • 3/8 cup Solerno blood orange liqueur
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 pieces orange peel

If you want to keep it simple, just use brandy as your spirit component. I had a few interesting liqueurs on hand, so I went a little crazy. Another good option is to use 3/4 cup brandy with 1/4 cup orange liqueur, for some added bright citrus notes.


Steps for {the Most Amazing} Brandied Cherries


  1. Wash, de-stem, and pit your cherries.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cherry juice, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. Bring to a low simmer, fully dissolving sugar, about five minutes, letting the spices integrate with the liquid.
  3. Remove from heat and add spirits {brandy, Cardamaro, and Solerno}, stirring to integrate.
  4. Remove cinnamon stick, cloves, and peel. Feel free to keep them, if you want a heavily spiced version of brandied cherries.
  5. Divide cherries into two half-pint canning jars.
  6. Evenly distribute the liquid into the two jars.
  7. Let the jars cool and then transfer into the refrigerator.

The brandied cherries will further develop in flavor over the course of a month. They taste best if used within four months, so this small batch recipe is the perfect size. They are delicious on their own and are the perfect garnish for a Manhattan. If you like a sweeter, fruitier Manhattan, toss a half ounce or so of the brandied cherry juice into your cocktail for added depth and flavor.

Feel free to experiment with the spirit component of this recipe! Try substituting rum, amaretto, or bourbon. I might add a vanilla bean with rum next time. Signing off with a close-up of the cherry-pitting aftermath and some recent garden captures. How are you preserving cherries or any of summer’s current treats? I need to expand my repertoire further! Cheers!

 

pickled spring strawberries + a refreshing gin cocktail

I am just emerging from an unintentional five-day-in-a-row staycation, and I can say I officially feel relaxed. Scratch that. I feel more invigorated. It was a slow week at work, so my current schedule reflected it {sadly, my next paycheck will reflect this quieter week, as well}. I find it challenging to stop and slow down and do nothing. These past few days, however, have been influential in getting me to do more of the “slowing down” stuff.

Slowing down and appreciating everything else that is happening, when I habitually bustle around, forget to breathe, and struggle with sleep. I feel like I successfully hit the “reset” button and am ready to get back to my schedule with a different and healthier perspective. On my first couple of days off, I found myself running into another room with an idea, getting distracted, forgetting why I came into the room in the first place, and looping back, only to greet the floor and sigh. Even cry. A lot. I felt like one of those wind-up dolls that smile and nod and circle and then collapse.

I am sitting here at my computer, listening to Foster the People’s latest album, sipping a glass of rosé {one that Steve wanted to save and declared as “hands-off” – oops!}, and trying to focus on the important things. What are those things to me? Taking the time to daily observe my garden’s progress, leaving my phone behind, refusing the urge to Instagram every moment, crafting a handwritten card instead of sending a choppy text, letting go of the should-haves and could-haves, and simply sitting still and noticing my thoughts and their patterns. I am really going to try and continue this intention, for the next few weeks are going to fly by, and I want to capture them and make them mine.

pickled strawberries with tarragonI just received the final confirmation for my trip to Burgundy, France, today, and I am beyond excited. I don’t even know what to expect. I will be leaving in less than two weeks and will be touring my absolute favorite wine region of France and visiting some of its most historic and heralded vineyard sites. I will miss Steve’s birthday, which is the 20th, but he is actually traveling to California for another wine-centric trip. I think I am excused from not being there for his celebration!

In the midst of all of my studying of Burgundy’s regions, making last-minute travel arrangements, poring over my lean bank statement, and fitting in my writing for the Kitchn, these past few days have been a blessing. I am actually happy that I took the time to do nothing, to stare up at the clouds, and to tinker around in my garden and kitchen, the places where I feel most at home.

freshly cut strawberries with tarragon, salt, pepperThe strawberries here have been spectacular; are you enjoying them, as well? I knew exactly what to do with the copious amounts of strawberries I picked up at the grocery the other day. I had been thumbing through Marisa McClellan‘s latest book, Preserving by the Pint, and noticed a recipe for pickled strawberries. I am always drawn to the weird and off-the-beaten-path type of recipes. Why didn’t I just make jam? Nope. I had to experiment with preserving strawberries in vinegar. And it worked out beautifully.

preserving by the pint, by marisa mcclellanI received this book from an inspirational friend in the food blogging community, Kristy Gardner, author of the site, She Eats. I had been eying Marisa’s book for quite a while, and I had even purchased a copy for a friend. I was elated, when I found out I had won Kristy’s giveaway on her blog. The book couldn’t arrive quickly enough! Once it hit my mailbox, I turned to page 47 and put my perfectly ripe strawberries to work.

strawberries, ready to slice


Quick Pickled Strawberries


This is Marisa’s recipe, here with her permission:

  • 1 dry quart strawberries {about 1 1/2 pounds or 680 grams}
  • 3/4 cup or 180 ml Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely milled sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 2 sprigs tarragon

After washing the strawberries, I removed the stems and leaves and cut the berries into halves. I quartered the larger berries. In a medium saucepan, I combined the vinegar, along with 1/3 cup of water, the sugar, salt, and cracked pepper. I set the saucepan over high heat and brought the mixture to a boil.

In a sterilized one-quart Mason jar, I added the tarragon sprigs. Fortunately, I could clip a couple of sprigs from the garden. I dropped in the sliced strawberries. Once the brine had boiled, I poured it into the jar and over the strawberries. Once the strawberry pickles had cooled, I placed a lid on the jar and stored it in the refrigerator, letting them rest and integrate overnight.

Marisa suggests incorporating the pickled strawberries into a salad or serving the berries in a glass of sparkling water. I will definitely make those options, but I was a little thirsty for something stronger that day, and gin was well within my reach.

sliced organic strawberries


Gin + Strawberry Shrub


  • 1 1/2 ounces St. George Terroir gin
  • 3/4 ounce mint simple syrup
  • 1 pickled strawberry {or 2, if you are daring!}
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • splash of soda water {optional}

In a shaker tin, muddle the strawberry. Add ice {about 4 or 5 cubes}, gin, mint simple syrup, and lime juice. Shake like crazy. Pour into a glass and garnish with a sprig of mint or strawberry slice. Finish with a little soda water, if you need a tamer and less vinegar-y cocktail. I prefer the refreshing punch of a vinegar cocktail, myself.

gin + pickled strawberries + mint simple syrup + freshly squeezed lime juice

mint in the garden

making mint simple syrupTo make the mint simple syrup, simply combine equal parts water and sugar in a small saucepan {I usually make a batch of 1 cup water to 1 cup sugar}. Bring to a boil and let the sugar granules dissolve. Remove from heat and add about 4 mint sprigs. Steep until cool and strain, discarding the herbs. pickled strawberries and the finished gin cocktailI am definitely not alone on the vinegar-inspired cocktail kick. The Times published a great piece a couple of years ago on the rise in the use of vinegar in cocktails. In fact, I enjoyed my first vinegar drink, when I visited Portland last summer. I dined at the famed Pok Pok restaurant and enjoyed a tamarind drinking vinegar. It was simply pickled tamarind and soda – refreshing, vibrant, and different. I didn’t even miss the alcohol. I suggest tossing a pickled strawberry into a glass of soda water and adding the lime juice and mint simple syrup. Spring perfection!

Want to make your own drinking vinegar? Here is an excellent tutorial on making drinking vinegars or shrubs via the Kitchn, written by Emily Ho of Roots & Marvel.

Closing with some photos from the week. Have a great week ahead! I am adding a link at the bottom of this post, so that I can be included on Bloglovin’, making it even easier to follow my posts. And let me know if you are making any pickled or preserved garden goods {whoa, alliteration!}, yourselves!

Cheers,

Jayme

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DIY rose salt bath soak | ruinart brut rosé

These recent frigid, snowy days have left me in cozy-up and slow-down mode here lately.  It seems as if I can’t get quite warm enough or relaxed enough or cheered up enough.  And I refuse to stay in that frame of mind.  As I type this post, I am anticipating a long, decadent soak in the tub later this evening to get me out of my {temporary} funk.  And out of my writer’s block for an upcoming post at the Kitchn.  Maybe a hot bath and a glass of bubbly will fix it all.  Here’s hoping!

I made a batch of this rose salt bath soak in late December with my friend, Yvonne, the same day we made candles and other goodies for our families’ Christmas gifts.  After testing out our recipe, I decided that I had to make several baths’ worth of this treat to stow away for myself.  A trip to Apothecary Tinctura in Cherry Creek inspired this recipe.  I spied a jar of their own rose bath salts and noted the ingredients.  I already had the baking soda, sea salt, and Epsom salt on hand, so all I needed to complete the concoction were some dried roses, pink Himalayan sea salt, and rose essential oil, which they conveniently had on hand.

If you are new to the Epsom salt experience, you are in for a serious treat.  Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is a natural muscle relaxation aid that eases sprains and diffuses aches.  You don’t even need to get all fancy and duplicate this recipe; you simply need to add a cup or two to a hot bath, soak for at least 20 minutes, and experience relaxation nirvana.  That’s a lofty goal, but Epsom salt shows up and follows through.  Just add a few drops of an essential oil of your choice, and you can take it to another sensory level.

Ingredients for Rose Salt Bath Soak:

  • 3 cups Epsom salt
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • crushed, dried rose buds
  • rose essential oil

Gather the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to integrate.  Add a few shakes of the rose essential oil, to your personal taste, stirring along the way to distribute any clumps.  This recipe yields a large jar for yourself or about five 8-ounce jars to give to weary, winter-weathered friends.  You may opt out of the pink Himalayan sea salt, if you are unable to find it easily; I love using it, however, for the rosy color it imparts to the blend.  If you aren’t blessed with a local herbal shop, visit Mountain Rose Herbs for all of the ingredients listed here.  After making my batch, I discovered another rose salt soak interpretation that I can’t wait to try.  Via Erin Boyle at Gardenista, apothecary diva, Briar Winter, shares a rose, cardamom, and ginger body soak that exudes warmth and radiance.

And what indulgent salt soak isn’t complete without a chilled glass of bubbly?  And since I am on a pink streak, I selected one of my favorite Champagnes, Ruinart Brut Rosé, non-vintage.  It is definitely a splurge, but it is worth the monetary expense.  Opt for a half bottle, like I did, to ease any pain to the pocketbook.

Ruinart, Brut Rosé, Reims, France, NV

Breaking it down:  Ruinart is the producer; Brut Rosé is the style of the wine; Chardonnay {45%} and Pinot Noir {55%} are the grapes; Reims is the region within France, pretty much the best spot to source grapes destined for Champagne; and “NV” indicates that the grapes were picked from multiple years and blended.  Ruinart is France’s oldest established Champagne house, producing Champagne since 1729.

  • On the eyes  –  pale pink with hints of orange and salmon, actively bursting with fine bubbles.
  • On the nose  –  vibrantly aromatic, with ripe, red cherry, complemented with floral notes and spicy undertones.
  • On the palate  –  dry, with a lively, delicate mousse; silky, fleshy mouth-feel that confirms the nose with lush pomegranate and a hint of spice.
  • On the table  –  outstanding alone, with light appetizers, with poached salmon or broiled fish…or a lavish bath!
  • On the shelf  –  around $75 for the 750 mL bottle, $45 for my little half-bottle-for-one.
  • On the ears  –  Part of me wants to pair this with Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly,” but that’s way too easy.  This one, however, absolutely nails the very essence of this wine:  The Bird and The Bee‘s “My Love,” off their 2009 album, “Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future.”  Catchy, dreamy, head-over-heels-in-love giddiness, with Inara George’s lilt-like, ethereal voice.  I listen to this song at least once a week.  My boyfriend, Steve, added this track to a sweet playlist he made for me back in 2012.  I fell even harder.

Closing with some recent projects and life around the house.  There seems to be a trend of bringing in the sunnier side of life into the picture, right?!  Do any of you have creative ways that you bring life into the winter season?  Have you tried any fun bubbles lately?  Cheers to a beautiful week ahead!

Our Super Bowl wines, which far surpassed our anticipated outcome of the game: Moet et Chandon’s 2002 Grand Vintage, Domaine Chandon’s étoile, Veuve Clicquot’s Rosé, shown left to right.  #denverstyle

My first foray into cactus terrariums. A how-to post will follow shortly, with the requisite wine pairing, of course!

…and day two of the current terrarium obsession…

Another snippet of the forced paperwhite bulbs experiment.

Tulip and daffodil bulbs were on sale at the garden center for $1 apiece! Completely worth a try at planting them for some spring color.  #score

Blending up our “yard blend” of dried culinary herbs from our summer garden. So excited to release this with our “hot” pepper blend in a couple of weeks!

a new home for the houseplants

Well, hello, after a little break!  I hope you are enjoying the new year and are delving into lots of fun projects and holding true to your resolutions, if you made them.  I finally gave up my streak of baking pies, cookies, and cakes every other day, and I temporarily traded in my apron for my running shoes.  I am feeling a lot more invigorated because of the switch!  Until I find some balance, I am locking up the baking chocolate and the sugar.

Over the past few months, our home remodeling process is really showing us what we tend to hoard or obsess over in this house.  As we purge, reorganize, and rediscover “lost” items, while sifting through the boxes and piles, we are finding surplus amounts of the most random things.  Like six bags of brown sugar, each one hardened and collecting dust on a bookshelf in the basement.  How did that happen?!  I also came across five bottles of expired sunscreen, six pie plates, and four bags of cream of tartar.  I am finding that the more unorganized we are, the more the waste and clutter piles up.  It is time to shake things up around here.

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