Tag Archives: summer

summer berry crumble bake {vegan and gluten-free}

Like most of you out there, I have been hitting the local farms and markets, as often as I can here lately. I tend to bring home so much fruit or produce that I don’t have enough time to deal with it all. It is just so fresh vibrant and super tasty right now; it’s hard to resist. I was immediately inspired by a recent post by another Denverite, Ashlae, of Oh, Ladycakes. She made the most beautiful summer fruit pecan crisp, and I knew it was meant specifically for me {that’s so true!} and my ridiculous stockpile of summer fruit, waiting in the depths of my refrigerator.

I am seriously ready to pump some more life into my, well, life, and this blog. If you are a new reader, you may see some delicious posts or a colorful photo, but you have also probably noticed I have been a little out of sorts, down, and scattered, as well. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but I feel like a marionette many of my days. Like someone else is pulling the strings and calling the shots, but I can’t respond or talk back because I am just a doll on a string. I am in desperate need of balance.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my garden, I like my job as a sommelier, I love taking the time to cook a thought-out meal, and I even find gratification in staging shots, photographing, and documenting all of these things. I just miss being able to sit still and reflect, to devote 100% of my attention to a friend over coffee, and to feel like I have permission to escape up into the mountains and detach for a few hours…or days.

I find great peace simply chopping fruits, herbs, and vegetables. Sometimes, I really enjoy following a simple recipe and getting lost in the preparation, not trying to compose a creative concoction or interpretation. This is the kind of recipe that you can get lost doing. You gather, wash, chop, assemble, bake, and enjoy. I’d love for someone to actually make this for me tonight, but instead, I will write about the time I enjoyed it this past week.

I present to you my vegan berry crumble bake, inspired by Oh, Ladycakes’ summer fruit pecan crisp. It’s easy and oh-so-rewarding. And it is completely versatile, since you can substitute any fruits that are in season, when you happen across this post! Be sure to grab a can of full-fat coconut milk to make some extra coconut whipped cream for the garnish.


summer berry crumble cake


  • 1/2 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 20 or so cherries, pitted {optionally sliced in half}
  • 1/2 pint blackberries
  • 1/8 cup raw sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk or almond milk
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If you are anti-oven because of the summer heat, you can totally make this dessert in the grill. Just monitor the temperature and place the baking tin on a stone or baking sheet.
  2. Wash and slice your fruit and set aside in a medium bowl.
  3. Toss the fruit together with the sugar and vanilla and set aside to incorporate.
  4. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt the coconut oil with the coconut milk, just until the mixture is warm.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, almond flour, cinnamon, and sea salt.
  6. Stir in half of the coconut oil mixture into the flour mixture, using a fork to integrate. Add the remaining half of the coconut oil mixture, until the texture looks like coarse crumbs.
  7. Stir in the oats and nuts of your choice. I had almonds on hand, but pecans would be perfection.
  8. Evenly divide the fruit mixture into baking tins. You can use a 9 by 5″ loaf pan or use a mini-loaf pan, like I did. Top the fruit mixture with the crumble mixture.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until the crumble is nice and toasty brown.
  10. Let cool for 30 minutes, before serving.
  11. Serve with coconut whipped cream!

The boyfriend and I couldn’t finish these berry crumbles in one sitting, so we scooped out the dessert into small, ceramic bowls and heated them up, when we were ready for more. Topping the crumbles with coconut whipped cream is a perfect match, but when we ran out, So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream was a great stand-in.

Signing off with some photos from the mid-July backyard garden. Things are moving along quite quickly, almost too quickly. In about two weeks, we will have more tomatoes than we know what to do with. Time to prep all of the jars down in the basement, so we can do some canning!

And let me know if you have any tried-and-true organizational or anti-stress techniques. I will take notes and put them into practice! Cheers to a more uplifting post over the next couple of days. I am working on the up-and-up!

XO

 

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!