Tag Archives: garden

“quickling” – the gateway pickling method | paired with frog’s leap chardonnay

Quickling.  It has become a favorite activity {and all-around awesome word!} here at my house this summer.  You need not let your vegetable harvest go to waste, simply because you feel you do not have the time, space, or know-how to preserve or can your garden goodness.  Quick-pickling, or as I affectionately call the process, “quickling,” is easier and faster than driving down to the grocery to purchase a jar of mediocre, store-bought pickles.  And it is simply more tasty and rewarding!

I hear your hesitation, “I don’t know how to can, and I don’t have one of those fancy pressure cooking devices…”  Well, the process of making refrigerator pickles is simple and does not require a large stockpot or a pressure canner.  “But I only have a small amount of vegetables on hand,” you argue.  Quickling solves that dilemma because you can make a small batch of brine to suit your present demand.  I put off pickling for years because I thought the process was daunting.  If you are a beginning preserver, the quickling process will initiate you beautifully:  simply heat, mix, and pour.  And, if you are a seasoned pro, quickling, as you know, is an excellent time-saver, when you want to quickly preserve and readily enjoy.

I picked these Kirby cucumbers from the garden first thing this morning, when they were at their prime for taste and texture.  I have also heard to pickle or preserve your picked produce {by the way, this sentence was sponsored by the letter, “p”…} as close to the time you picked it, so that its optimal flavor is captured.  I sliced each one, depending upon its size, into either halves or quarters, making sure to cut off the blossom end of each cucumber.  Cutting off the blossom end ensures that an enzyme, which causes sogginess, is removed.

I also avoid commercially bought pickling spices and choose to make my own.  This particular recipe is quite simple:  the spicy, dilly, garlic notes shine through.  I snipped a few cayenne and Thai peppers, several bay leaves, and some fresh dill seeds and flowers.  Some black pepper corns and garlic cloves completed my blend.  Feel free to add other spices, such as coriander, mustard seed, ginger, or even juniper berries.

Spicy Garlic Dilly Quickles  –  adapted from Marisa McClellan, author of Food in Jars and the amazing blog of the same name

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Kirby cucumbers, sliced with ends removed
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher or “pickling” salt
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in halves (2 cloves per jar)
  • 3 spicy peppers, sliced in halves (one per jar or use 1/4 dried pepper flakes per jar)
  • several fresh dill seeds and flowers (or 1 teaspoon dried dill seed per jar)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper corns (1/2 teaspoon per jar)
  • 3 bay leaves (one per jar)
  • 3 medium-sized or pint Mason jars (really, you can use whatever size you have on hand, and I have found that regular-sized mouth jars keep the pickles in line better)

Steps:

  1. Wash and slice the cucumbers into quarters or halves, depending upon the size and your preference.  Cut off the blossom end of each cucumber.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt.  Bring to a simmer and remove from heat.
  3. Add spices to each jar.  Squeeze the cucumbers in as tightly as possible, without damaging them.
  4. Pour the brine liquid into each jar and leave about 1/2 inch head-space at the top of the jar.
  5. Tap the jars carefully to release any trapped air bubbles.
  6. Cover with lids and let cool.  Once the jars are cool, place them in the refrigerator and let them sit for at least two days before you enjoy them.  These pickles will keep in the fridge for up to a month, but I am sure that you will enjoy them long before they spoil!

I am super excited to try this batch of refrigerator pickles in a couple of days.  Be sure to keep these pickles refrigerated at all times, for they are not shelf-stable like pressure-canned pickles.  You can also adapt this recipe for other vegetables that you may have on hand; however, if you decide to quickle tougher veggies, like carrots, beets, or asparagus, blanch them for one minute, so that they are able to absorb the pickling flavor more readily.  This afternoon’s garden chores also included harvesting sage leaves, basil, and parsley.  After writing this post, I will be washing, sorting, and clipping the leaves to place in the dehydrator for the dried herb blend.  And an herb-clipping session like this can only be enhanced by a refreshing glass of California Chardonnay!

The wine  –  Frog’s Leap Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2011

  • On the eyes – pale straw with golden reflections.
  • On the nose – bright citrus with notes of apricot, wet rock, and faint spiced vanilla.
  • On the palate – dry and crisp mouth-feel, with notes of stonefruit, lemon balm, and green apple.
  • On the table – pairs perfectly with an afternoon of gardening or halibut, oysters, or roasted chicken breast {that’s for tonight!}.
  • On the shelf – about $25.
  • On the ears – paired with Wild Nothing’s “Counting Days” from the Nocturne album.  This lazy and dreamy shoe-gaze track captured my sunny, toasty afternoon perfectly.  Through the wispy vocals and hazy keyboards, I can almost see myself driving past an open field with the windows down, hands outstretched the window on a sun-drenched afternoon {while someone else is holding the wheel, of course!}.

Happy sipping, gardening, and quickling!

peach + mint mojitos

I am realizing that if I wait for the “perfect” time to sit down and compose a post {or do anything, for that matter}, that moment may never happen.  Well, here I am – another cocktail post, and another day closer to a finished kitchen!  The kitchen is still unusable, so that means donating surplus vegetables to friends, still washing dishes in the bathroom sink, and striving to make the fastest and easiest-to-clean-up summer treats.  We have done a lot of eating out lately, and I am actually ready for a full-on cleanse of some sort very soon.  I have found that simply selecting a glass, grabbing my muddler, and making a trip to the garden or the store have made some of the most delicious summer cocktail moments of the summer…nice respites in the midst of some serious chaos.

Ingredients for the It’s All Just Peachy Mojito

  • 1 peach, pitted, and sliced (into, maybe, ten pieces)
  • juice from one lime
  • handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoons raw sugar
  • 1.5 ounces rum (spiced or white – I used 10 Cane, one of my favorites)
  • club soda

Steps for making the It’s All Just Peachy Mojito

  1. In a mixing tin, muddle the peach slices, lime juice, raw sugar, and mint leaves.
  2. Pour in rum and a few ice cubes.
  3. Shake the tin to incorporate.
  4. Pour into a tall or “collins” glass.
  5. Top with more ice.
  6. Finish with soda water.
  7. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
  8. Sit back, deeply sigh, think of something you’re grateful for, and take a long, slow sip.

The spearmint and peppermint were sourced from the backyard garden today, and the peaches were picked a day ago in Palisade, Colorado, where the peaches are in season.  I love the fruit from Ela Family Farms; I have been enjoying their produce for several years, here in Colorado.  If you need to find a farmers’ market or a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in your state, check out Local Harvest.  I found the very first CSA I subscribed to, back in 2008, on this very website.  My life was never the same.

So many bartenders and mixologists deride mojitos and other muddled drinks because of their cumbersome nature, when, in fact, these drinks have so much flavor and character!  Bring on the muddling and get rid of some pent-up stress!  Speaking of ridding oneself of stresses, we finished laying the floor tile in the kitchen this afternoon.  The process took over six hours.  Tomorrow, we grout and clean up the excess mortar.  I am beyond excited!!!  I just realized that I have never taken a photo from or of my kitchen for this blog; I would always shoot outside or seriously crop.  A detailed before-and-after post in the near future is necessary for some perspective.  Closing with some shots from this week’s garden and tonight’s kitchen…

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frozen kale power cubes

Why do I procrastinate, when I know that if I just applied a little elbow grease right now and set aside a little time at the present, I would be rewarded in the future? Rewarded with peace, bounty, satisfaction, and even extra time. Discussing the whys and hows of the roots of procrastination in my personal life is a completely different and challenging topic. I will save (er…postpone!) that conversation for another post. Plus, this is more exciting! One thing that I do have a handle on is purchasing and harvesting fruits and vegetables, when they are in season or on sale. This way, I can preserve the produce at its prime and use it later on, when it is unavailable, more expensive, or sourced from another country.

Almost a month ago, I spotted bundles of organic kale for just under two dollars. That’s a great price for organic kale, here in Colorado, in the middle of early spring. I immediately stock-piled about six bundles and set out to preserve them. I love using kale in green smoothies, and freezing pureed kale in ice cube trays couldn’t be easier or more efficient.

kale cube trays

You could make kale cubes simply by pureeing kale and water together. Kale, alone, is too fibrous for a blender to process, so adding a liquid component is a necessity. Instead of adding only water, I like to toss in several other components to “amp up” the nutritional factor; thus, the “kale power cube” is born:


frozen kale power cubes


  • 2-3 bundles of fresh, organic kale
  • 4 tablespoons tart cherry concentrate
  • fresh fruit or a bag of frozen fruit {mango, peach, and pineapple are favorites}
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • a liquid of your choice: filtered water, coconut water, or a juice
  1. Wash the kale. I use the entire plant (both stems and leaves).
  2. Tear into smaller pieces and place in the blender. I absolutely love my Vitamix because it blends so thoroughly; it leaves no particulates or fibrous pieces behind.
  3. Add the cherry concentrate, frozen fruit, and flax seed.
  4. Add your liquid component. I used coconut water (high in electrolytes) and 100% cranberry juice.
  5. Blend away! Add more liquid, as needed.
  6. Pour liquid into ice cube trays and freeze.
  7. Once frozen, label and seal in freezer bags.

Use this recipe as a guide and experiment with combinations of different vegetables and fruits. What are some other players that I frequently use? Blueberries, acai berries, spinach, pomegranate juice, protein powder, chia seeds, or spirulina. I try to use the most highly concentrated ingredients in the cubes, in combination with whatever fresh fruits and vegetables that I have on hand: carrots, bananas, apples, peaches, etc. I toss one or two of these kale power cubes into my daily smoothie. I get a boost of fiber from the organic greens, omega-3 fatty acids from the flax seeds, and anti-inflammatory properties from the tart cherry concentrate and fruit. All of this in a conveniently sized, little cube!

Some advice that I had to learn the hard way? Remember to empty the ice cube trays, once the kale has frozen! If you don’t have an automatic ice cube maker, like me, you will be sorely disappointed when you decide to make an iced tea or a refreshing cocktail, and you have no ice on hand, because all of your trays are filled with green matter!

kale cubes awaiting their destiny...

Signing off with some photos of recent happenings around the house and garden…cheers!

The flip-side of procrastination: don’t procrastinate or postpone the pleasures right in front of us, this very moment. This tattered fortune cookie slip has a permanent home at eye-level, on our refrigerator.

The first flower, a purple crocus, spotted this past March, in our front yard.

Dragon’s Blood waking up from its winter sleep.

The view from our back porch last week. What a mood-swinging spring! One day, we would be enjoying sunny, 50 degree afternoons, and the next day, we would be dealing with five inches of snow. So ready for the warm season…

perennial thyme emerging between the flagstones.

Perennial thyme, emerging through the flagstones on the garden path.

green resolutions | kale smoothies

Fresh off the plane from a trip back home to Florida, I am ready to start my version of a New Year’s celebration!  Since I work in the hospitality industry, the months of November and December are the busiest of the year.  My colleagues and I creatively and fastidiously facilitate a wondrous, festive respite, so that everyone’s family and friends can relax and enjoy the holiday season.  For a wedding planner, it’s June and July.  For tax professionals, it’s the months leading up to April 15th.  During those two winter months, I can barely see straight, let alone plan out resolutions!

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pumpkin sugar scrub

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Almond pumpkin sugar scrub, made from freshly roasted pumpkin puree. This batch tastes so good that you almost want to eat it!

I am up rather late this evening, which seems to be a pattern as of late.  I have been rigorously studying the California Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons on our wine list, so that I can rise to the occasion tomorrow, when I begin my position as sommelier at my new job.  I am scrunching my eyes, as I write this post, for I am finally getting a little closer to sleepy.  It has been difficult to find or make time to write, since the new job and the recent home renovations have taken priority.  All of my day-to-day actions have almost seemed “dreamlike” to me because of the fast pace that I am treading.  I am so ready to slow down…

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