Tag Archives: summer

garden-inspired sugar scrubs {DIY}

Well, this week has definitely been a lesson in learning to not take myself so seriously, to stop the jealousy and comparison cycle, to organize effectively, and to simply slow down. Pretty heavy, huh? My Friday morning began just as I had wanted – with a great workout, a fulfilling breakfast, and a published blog post. Ahhh. Somehow, however, I lost track of time and realized that I was running late for work. I threw an outfit together, assembled a “lunch” of granola and yogurt, and frantically dried my hair.

Clayton, my ride and another one of the sommeliers at work, sent me a text that he was outside, waiting outside in his car. I needed an extra arm that morning for my stack of necessary work items. I precariously held my yogurt container, black dress jacket, makeup bag, earrings, and handbag, and I slumped down in the front seat. It was a hot one, too. Sweat had already started dripping down my face, as I settled in for the five-minute ride to work. I wiped my brow, took a deep breath, and decidedly declared that the rest of my day take a turn for the better.

My internal dialog kind of went like this: “Sigh. Off to work. But things are good. I think I’ll make it today. I’ve got this. Good grief, it’s hot. Are the cats fed? I need more concealer. I haven’t called my dad in a few weeks. Did I forget to turn the stove off? I like this song. Wait. What is that liquid oozing down my thighs?!!” I flinched and saw that my yogurt container wasn’t sealed properly, so white, sour-smelling liquid was dripping down the front of my jacket and into my lap. Eff. Em. Ell. Clayton asked if I wanted to turn around and grab another suit, but I just {crazily?} laughed and said I’d deal. We were late, anyway. After that incident, I mean, what else could go wrong?

So far this week, I’d already miscalculated a bill and overdrawn my bank account, overlooked an important writing deadline, spilled coconut oil inside my purse {who does that?}, flipped out on my boss, and sassed the neighbors at midnight for stealing “my” parking spot. I am in need of a few days off, and thankfully I have a break until Wednesday. It is like I’ve been directly channeling the antics and mania of Mr. Furious from Mystery Men, and I am beyond ready for a makeover.

I ended up surviving Friday, even though the outdoor summer concert at work was rained out, I took a bad fall in the kitchen, and I didn’t get to sleep until 5:30 Saturday morning. One of these days, I’ll have to post an hour-by-hour account of what it is like planning an event for well over a thousand people, praying for the rain to dodge us, over-booking the dining room {despite the weather concerns}, and dealing with high-profile guests, who expect a free drink because of the out-of-my-control rain issues. All of this, while I am wearing yogurt-laden pants and sporting frizzy, wet curls and mismatched socks. With a quick, slight tilt of my head, a bright smile/smirk, and a flit of my lashes. It is a wonder I don’t drink more than I do.

DSC_0047

Steve and I recently took a week-long visit to lake Burton, in north Georgia, for a family reunion. The humidity worked wonders for my skin. While I can’t take the nourishing moisture back home to Denver, I can make a good substitute. Enter sugar scrubs. I am not talking about the $20-a-jar possibilities at the store. I am all about the simple ingredient, good-for-you versions that you craft on your own, for multiple dollars less. Annnnnnd because cute little mason jars!


energizing citrus + vanilla sugar scrub


Fragrant lavender growing along our driveway. The bees are loving it, and I am trying to capture its aroma in every possible manner!


relaxing lavender sugar scrub


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups almond oil
  • 1/8 cup lavender buds, dried or fresh
  • lavender essential oil

I am sending out a super thanks to my amazing aunt, who basically lectured me and led me through a guided meditation over the phone, well over an hour this afternoon. I am feeling a little more centered. I am trying to let go of any jealousy or comparison to other writers, somms, artists, or photographers; those feelings and actions only rob me of my creative energy and positivity. They are destructive and depleting. I don’t like who I become, when I lose my sense of gratitude and focus. I become stagnant with my creativity and take a nosedive into depression and lethargy. It is a destructive cycle, and I am on my own course.

I can at least now laugh at the yogurt incident. I know I need to take more time to plan ahead, schedule out my day, and not take myself too seriously. Until I become more proficient with these skills, I will indulge in sugar scrubs and long baths and good rosé. Those are good lessons to adopt, as well, right? I hope that you have a restful and rejuvenating weekend and that you find the humor in the rough and edgy spots. And let me know if you’ve had one of those yogurt-in-your-lap moments lately. How did or didn’t you effectively deal?

Cheers!

summer cherry bourbon smashes {2 ways}

Yep, here I go again! Posting more about summer cherries {with at least two more cherry posts in draft form!}. I cannot get enough of them right now. In fact, the boyfriend and I headed out to Berry Patch Farms in Brighton, Colorado, to pick our own pie cherries. I had never picked cherries before. It proved a little time-consuming, but we had so much fun! I even ended up befriending a chicken, temporarily losing my debit card, and coming across some snap peas along the way.

I have also been researching how to perfect my lattice crust technique for a possible cherry pie and dreaming up ideas on how to make adorable, miniature cherry pies in jars. Too bad work and gardening and laundry get in the way. Those cherries will have to wait until tomorrow. Until then, I am sneaking little handfuls of those sweet, red spheres and tossing them into glorious summer bourbon cocktails. Bourbon is not just for the cooler months. I’ll prove it.

A little less than a month ago, the season’s first cherries started to trickle in. They weren’t grown locally and tasted a tad sour, but I just couldn’t wait for Colorado cherries. So, I grabbed a couple pints and set out to make some brandied cherries. The process was messy but ever-so-delicious. As I mentioned before, when you decide to pit cherries, grab a friend, pop a bottle of wine, turn on some music, and cover yourself in a towel. Gloves help, too. I actually remembered those this past pitting adventure, thankfully. For once, I planned ahead and actually followed through!

I have come across some resourceful ways to preserve summer cherries, but sometimes it is tricky to find creative means to incorporate them later on. Enter the brandied cherries. I have used the cherries in small tarts, in bourbon smashes, and as a garnish in Manhattans. I even ventured out and used them in a glaze for a pork tenderloin. I am suddenly contemplating a boozy cherry popsicle right about now.


brandied cherry bourbon smash


  •  2 ounces bourbon {I used Tin Cup}
  • 4 brandied cherries {see my recipe}
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar or 1/2 ounce agave nectar
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • dash orange bitters {I used Miracle Mile}

Toss the brandied cherries, raw sugar, and lemon juice in a double old-fashioned glass and muddle well. Add ice, pour in the bourbon, and give a shake of bitters. I like to pour the cocktail into a shaker tin and pour it back into the glass to incorporate the cherries. A good stir will also work.

What if you don’t have any brandied cherries on hand? No worries. Just use the fresh cherries you have and make this adaptation. I made another version of bourbon smashes last summer, when we were remodeling our kitchen. Whenever I make this cocktail, I am reminded of that crazy time, when our house was full of boxes, and we had to do our cooking, dish-washing, and dining on our back porch. So, a good cherry bourbon smash makes me feel grateful!


fresh cherry bourbon smash


  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce Cardamaro {or amaretto, for a twist}
  • 4 fresh cherries
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar or 1/2 ounce agave nectar
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • dash orange bitters

What are you doing with summer cherries, while they are in season? Later this week, I’ll be posting that cherry pie I mentioned, as well as some cherry coconut milk popsicles that were amazing.

Cheers to a great weekend!

spicy quick-pickled spring radishes

I think that this very moment is the best setting ever to write a blog post. For that matter, to do anything! It is pouring rain outside. Not the pitter-patter peaceful kind, but the full-on, fiddler on the roof, batten down the hatches, tap-dancing until dawn kind of rain! I say, bring it!

As many of you know, I spend a few of my evenings working as a sommelier at a restaurant. The place happens to have a most splendid patio. If you have ever worked within the service or hospitality industry, you know that “patio season” is more or less a nightmare. You are constantly scrolling through your weather app feeds and performing audacious rain dances to skirt the afternoon showers, in order to keep your guests satisfied. It is quite the ordeal. I am an anomaly within this field, however: I am secretly jumping for joy inside, when it rains. It means my garden is getting drenched, and it means that I don’t have to tote the hose around our yard and water by hand the next day. Hooray for summer storms that deliver!

We just picked {and pickled!} the last of our spring French Breakfast radishes. We planted them by seed and in succession in early April and have harvested four rounds of radishes. This last go-round was a little spicy and a tad pithy, which can happen when harvesting late in the season, but they were perfect for pickling. Pickling covers a multitude of sins, but it can also bring out the best in vegetables.

Have you pickled before? It seems daunting and suggests the need for fancy equipment. Not necessarily so. Enter quick pickling, or as I lovingly name it, quickling. I touched on this subject last year, when I had a surplus amount of cucumbers. Almost anything can be quickled, and radishes do quite well with this method.

My attention was grabbed about a month ago by Cookie + Kate’s recipe for pickling spring radishes. So simple and fast. I added a few finishing touches of my own, and I have been pickling my radishes ever since. This particular recipe yielded one half-pint of pickled radishes, or about 1 1/2 cups.


spicy quick-pickled spring radishes


  • 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced {about 12 radishes or 1 cup, sliced}
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup Champagne vinegar {or white or apple cider}
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • about 10 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • a few pieces of dill leaves
  • 1 small garlic clove
  1. Scrub your radishes and slice them thinly. If you are brave and skilled, you can use a mandolin. You can also use a very sharp knife to slice paper-thin pieces of this pink root vegetable.
  2. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the water, vinegar, agave nectar, and sea salt to a boil, dissolving the sea salt.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Place the sliced radishes into a clean Mason jar and pour the pickling liquid over top.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, dill leaves, and garlic clove to the jar.
  6. Cover with lid and let cool.
  7. Once the jar’s contents have cooled, place the jar in the refrigerator. I removed my garlic clove at this point. I learned my lesson another time, when I let the garlic clove hang out in the jar for about a week. The radishes took on too intense of a garlic note. Just a touch is enough!
  8. Enjoy!

I have been sprinkling these pink treats on my summer green salads, tossing them on black bean tacos, and using them in relishes. Quickling is one way to use up your excess produce and prolong its enjoyment throughout the season. Use quick-pickled radishes within a month, noting that they taste best within about two weeks of the pickling date. Did you grow radishes this season? Are you pickling anything weird from your garden? The weirdest things I have pickled to date are yellow summer squash slices. I actually loooooved them atop burritos, alongside tacos, and graced over summer tortilla soup. I am not growing them this summer, but a friend of mine is. That’s where gardening friends come into play – tradesies!

Have a great week ahead and enjoy the goodness at hand. It is beautiful, delicious, and fleeting. Savor it, while it is here, and preserver it for later. Goodbye, radish season; it was fun!

strawberry shortcake {dairy-free and gluten-free}

I am really having a difficult time focusing and staying on task lately. In fact, I have an imposing deadline looming over me right this very moment, as I type. I am definitely placing some of the blame on this crazy heat wave for at least some of my lack of enthusiasm. We all know that we feel better, once we’ve tackled our projects, so why do we procrastinate and endure that itchy, uncomfortable feeling of putting things off?

I’ve brought up this topic before; it is definitely a recurring theme in my life. I find that I frequently become the most creative and productive, when I am pushing off something big, but doing that is a double-edged sword. I end up taking on more projects or coming up with great ideas, while postponing that all-important one. That’s where these shortcakes came in yesterday: a tasty and distracting diversion that supplanted my original goal of completing three writing assignments. The shortcakes turned out amazingly well, and I temporarily felt accomplished. About those writing assignments? They are still inchoate, but I am at least enjoying something tasty, as I scramble to finish my goal tonight.

I definitely enjoy my fair share of butter, cheese, and cream. I am finding, however, that my body truly feels better, when I abstain from dairy. It is just rather daunting, as a baker and cook, to realize that you have to change some of your practices and learn how to create delicious food without those components. I feel like I have just mastered baking, so it is a challenge to learn new techniques and find substitutes, so that my treats still taste great and have a palatable consistency. I have had quite a few failures, but this particular dessert came through. Baby steps. And my boyfriend, who is the biggest critic on all things delicious, gave it his well-earned nod of approval.

I didn’t even need to add a lot of sugar because the berries are tasting amazing right now. If only I could grow some in my garden! For some reason, they just don’t like the soil in my backyard. That’s okay, though. There are plenty of other things that are coming along quite nicely right now. Zucchini is just about to take off, and the dill and parsley are cranking. Salads have become a daily staple around here, which balances out my craving for sweet things.


strawberry shortcake {dairy-free and gluten-free}


  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 pound organic strawberries
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • coconut whipped cream {see recipe below}

This recipe is a slight adaptation from the Nourishing Home. I stumbled upon this blog, when I was looking for almond flour shortcake recipes, and I am completely inspired by the recipes I encountered. Alright, ready for some shortcakes? Me, too.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together the almond flour, baking soda, and sea salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut oil, agave nectar, and vanilla.
  4. Separately whisk together the eggs and incorporate into the coconut oil mixture.
  5. Mix the coconut oil mixture into the almond flour mixture. I used a fork to break apart any clumps and distribute the moisture evenly. See the texture in the photo with the closeup of the fork.
  6. Form the shortcakes into six equally sized balls of dough and place on a parchment paper-lined baking pan. I flattened them out slightly. Kelly mentions that you can roll out the dough and use a cutter for interesting shapes. I opted for the drop biscuit approach.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown in color.
  8. Let shortcakes cool before serving.
  9. While your shortcakes are baking, you can assemble the strawberry topping. Simply hull the strawberries and slice them up. Place them in a bowl and add the raw sugar and lemon juice. The sugar will incorporate with the berries and become a lovely consistency for your shortcakes.
  10. Once the shortcakes have cooled, split them in halves and layer with strawberries and a dollop or two of whipped coconut cream.


coconut whipped cream


  • one can {15 ounces} full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • agave nectar to taste {2-3 teaspoons}

This was my second attempt at making coconut whipped cream. The first attempt was a fail because I purchased the wrong coconut milk. Be sure to select full-fat version, from the can, without any guar gum. I credit Angela from Oh She Glows for my success. Her tutorial on how to prepare coconut whipped cream is comprehensive and easy to understand. I won’t attempt duplicating her steps. Just go to her site and bookmark the recipe!

Simply refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk overnight. When you are ready to make the whipped cream, invert the can, open the top, and drain out the watery substance into a separate container. {You can use that leftover, nutrient-rich coconut water for your smoothies!} You will be left with the pure cream at the bottom of the can. Spoon this out into your mixer and blast until creamy and smooth. Add any sweetener or vanilla, and enjoy! It is my new staple in the kitchen. I keep a few cans in my fridge, so I will always have a vegan whipped cream option on hand.

Well, send me some luck tonight! I am successfully caffeinated and prepped for a marathon writing session. I hope everyone’s fourth of July celebrations were fun and filled with all things celebratory and delicious. Mine surely was; although, I didn’t go out to view any fireworks. Kinda bummed about that, but there’s always next year. Cheers! And let me know of any favorite gluten-free recipes that you’ve been enjoying lately. I am upping my repertoire weekly!

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!