Tag Archives: homemade

garden mint juleps

I know that I am about a month late to celebrate the deliciousness of mint juleps; the Kentucky Derby, the event that prompts one to don fabulous hats and sip on this refreshing cocktail, happens every second week in May.  Although my timeliness is a little off, the mint in my backyard is, at last, ragingly fragrant, ripe, and ready for the picking.  Fresh mint simply screams for homemade iced tea, mojitos, and, of course, mint juleps.

If you’ve ever planted mint, you know that it takes over your yard, and soon, you have more mint than you know what to do with.  All summer long, you can unabashedly toss it into freshly brewed iced tea, or you can take a small amount of time to make some mint simple syrup that can transform your cocktails, teas, and other concoctions.

Baby mint sprigs ready for harvest. Mint thrives in partial shade environments and will take over your yard or garden, if you let it. It makes a great ground cover and always makes you smile, when you “accidentally” step on it.

How do you harvest mint?  Simply take some garden shears and cut just above what I call a “t” line.  Don’t cut the entire stalk off from the ground.  Select a stalk and count up at least two or three leaves up.  Cut just above the leaves, as shown below.  Easy!

Clipping the mint leaves.

Ingredients for Mint Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar {I use raw sugar}
  • 2 cups freshly cut, coarsely chopped mint {stalks are fine}

Steps for preparing the Syrup

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and dissolve sugar by stirring.
  2. Remove from heat, upon being dissolved.
  3. Place chopped mint into a bowl or Mason jar and pour simple syrup on top.
  4. Set aside for two hours, so that the mint steeps.
  5. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve or chinois and place in an airtight container.  The syrup keeps refrigerated for about a week.

Be sure to set aside a few sprigs of mint to use to garnish your mint juleps.  Snip a few sprigs and place them in a vase of water.  They will survive on your table or counter-top for several days, storing them in this manner.

Making the mint julep cocktail is the easiest part of the process, once your mint simple syrup is made.  Simply pack a cocktail glass full of shaved or crushed ice, pour bourbon on top, add the mint simple syrup, stir the cocktail, and top with a mint sprig!  I found the most adorable glass stirrers from a vintage-modern shop here in town, Lee Alex Decor, one of my favorite places to find cocktail accessories.  I couldn’t resist the garden theme!

Ingredients for the Garden Julep

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of mint simple syrup {to taste}
  • crushed ice
  • mint sprig, for garnish

I picked up this Colorado-made bourbon from Divino Wine and Spirits, off Broadway, in Denver this afternoon.  Peach Street Distillers makes some of the most innovative spirits.  They are a small-batch operation, based in Pallisade, Colorado, and only make about a barrel a day {talk about small-batch!}.  The corn is sourced from the western slope of Colorado, and the final result is an aromatic, hand-numbered, balanced bourbon.  If you can get your hands on it, do so!

One other side note:  mint juleps are traditionally made with crushed or shaved ice.  If you are unable to find some {one friend of mine says that Good Times sells it by the bag!}, simply place ice cubes in a clean t-shirt or cheesecloth, cover, and smash several time with a mallet or hammer.  That’s what I had to do today!

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.

“kitchen sink” granola

After ten years in Colorado, I am not that surprised at this month’s drastic weather fluctuations. Here, April is always characterized by volatility, but enough already with this late spring snow! Today was exceptionally messy: five inches of snowfall throughout the day, with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees. Aside from venturing out for a cozy lunch and coffee break, I stayed indoors with the heat cranked high. I am eager to get my hands dirty in the soil and plant seeds and seedlings, but today called for indoor projects and some rest, accompanied by some tea and homemade granola that I made a couple of weeks ago.

kitchen-sink-granola

I have always enjoyed store-bought granola, but I have always wanted to make it myself. It is quite easy and economical. Inspired by one of my favorite food blog’s recipe, I searched through my cupboards and refrigerator and created my own “kitchen sink” edition. Simply combine and bake some whole oats, seeds, nuts, cooking oil, and spices. Toss in your favorite dried fruit, once your mixture is thoroughly toasted. Don’t worry about the exact measurements; play around with what you have on hand, and clean out your dry goods stash at the same time.

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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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spinach + mushroom quiche | vegetable reincarnation

We made quiche for the first time this Christmas Day.  Surprisingly easy to make and quite versatile, quiches can be made with whatever you currently have in your kitchen or reflect what is seasonally available.

What a busy month December has been!  I think that a lot of us can say those exact words, accompanied by a deep sigh of relief, now that the month is closing to an end.  I have let the busyness of the season allow for excuses to not write or exercise or take care of myself, as well as I know I should.  A couple of nights ago, over a glass of wine, my boyfriend and I were discussing how we would celebrate Christmas this year.  Both of us had recently assumed new roles within our profession, and with the promotions, came more responsibility and demands upon our time.  The common thread within our conversation was the quest for peace, avoiding stress, and following our own timing for imposed holiday deadlines.

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