Category: seasonal

Green tea + Jasmine cherry preserves, for our independence.

Ahhh, Independence Day. A day where Americans can reflect on what our forefathers went through to create this nation, and to remember how far we’ve come. But mostly just shoot off fireworks and get hammered. Totes legit. Go ‘Murica.

Anyway, because I’m certifiably insane I usually like to make red, white & blue themed desserts for this weekend. Like a sweet cherry cream pie, or strawberry shortcake cupcakes, or blueberry hand pies. This year I wasn’t feeling it- it’s actually too hot to have that oven on. So I did something totally different. I made cherry preserves. Because I have a lot of cherries, in case you didn’t know.

Shout out to The Washington State Stone Fruit Commission and Rainier Fruit Co. once again for their gorgeous fruit. I love being a Canbassador!

Rainier Fruit Co. cherries! I put 'em into some green tea + jasmine cherry preserves!

But, because I’m a wackjob, these are not just ANY cherry preserves…

They’re cherry preserves made with green tea + jasmine!

Green tea + jasmine cherry preserves.

I had this tea series my dad got me for Christmas, the Boston Tea Company‘s Boston Harbour Series. And seeing that and putting that together with Independence Day, plus all these cherries I have… it gave me an idea. Why not go back to my old standby for making preserves: infusing them with tea!?

The Boston Tea Party was pivotal in the formation of the United States, after all. It should get some credit!

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Cherries in the snow- uh, syrup.

Cherries in a light almond-y syrup. #sweetpreservation

Remember that Revlon lipstick, Cherries in the Snow? I believe they still make it. I remember as a kid my mom wore it, and I loved the name. What a great name for a lipstick. It was one of their best sellers for many, many years by the time I came along. Anyway… I always think of that lipstick when I see cherries, so it was more than a great name, it was great marketing!

This post isn’t really about Revlon or makeup or anything related to it at all, actually. It is, however, about cherries. Sweet, perfect cherries from the Rainier Fruit Company. And of course, part 1 (part 1… yes, there will be more) of what I did with them!

Rainier Company cherries! #sweetpreservation

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Raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Did you know how many types of basil there are? In my short life experience with growing it, I’ve grown Thai basil, Genovese basil, sweet basil, amethyst basil, Greek basil & cinnamon basil. And there are plenty more varieties. This year, we kept it to 3 kinds; sweet basil, purple ruffles basil (which has deep purple ruffled leaves & has an almost anise smell to it) and cinnamon basil. And it’s not just basil I love experimenting with. We have two types of dill, two types of oregano, three types of sage…

I love having them around, especially to sneak into jams and preserves. They’re always unexpected, and leave the taster saying, “Wait.. what is that flavor?!”

Small-batch raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Two years ago I did it with blueberries and regular basil. The year before that? I popped some cilantro into raspberry jam with jalapeños. Last year I made my dad an experimental small jar of mixed berry jam with cinnamon basil, and it was such a hit I decided to try it again. This time, I’m doing a plain raspberry jam… with a sneaky little bit of cinnamon basil strewn in.

Cinnamon basil -which is also known as Mexican spice basil- smells like a strange combo of basil & cinnamon; moreso cinnamon. It’s a very unique smell & flavor. It actually contains the same chemical (methyl cinnamate) that gives cinnamon it’s flavor. When popped into a jam, it really helps the jam straddle that line between sweet & savory.

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The garden life.

Living the garden life, 2015!

Well, last post was about the start of my married life, this post is about the updates to my garden life.

I’ve had gardens for years. You all probably know how I feel about this, but I’ll say it again: if you have a piece of land, you should be growing SOMETHING on it. If you have a terrace or patio or small deck, you can grow some small peppers or patio tomatoes. If you have a window box, you should be growing herbs. There are no excuses! I started growing herbs myself, outdoors on a bigger scale, in “container gardens” in 2008. In 2010, I expanded to create an entire veggie container garden with a few tomato plants, a few pepper plants, and some zucchini, eggplant and cucumber. I really didn’t know what I was doing, to be honest, and while I got one or two paltry cukes, the zucchini didn’t give me anything that year. I later learned that the zucchini wasn’t being pollinated, and I would have to do it myself, which was unsuccessful. I did get some zucchini blossoms out of it, however.

In 2011, I had quite a large setup and everything was doing awesome! I had even gotten some cukes that year! But my nana had passed away in July, and then thats when Hurricane Irene hit us in August. And while she wasn’t as bad as we expected, she was bad enough. She decimated my plants, ripped the growing eggplants off, and ruined a few things. But that year I realized that the best results come from attracting lots of bees!

By 2012, I had learned a thing or two more about how things go, and what should go with what. I planted basil with my tomatoes, and the tomatoes were sweet and juicy, and the peppers were amazing. I wasn’t an expert yet by any means, but I was headed in the right direction. The next year, 2013, I just grew herbs. It was a transitional year for me in a lot of ways and I just didn’t have the heart to have a lot of things to “take care of.”

Baby leaf spinach.

And last year brought my  new raised garden bed! Jay agreed to build it for me and it turned out to be his new hobby/favorite thing ever. And so we really expanded. We ended up with TONS of veggies & herbs… and a few lessons learned the hard way; i.e. cucumbers should be by themselves because they will over take EVERYTHING, and tomatoes and dill should not be planted in the same area! Whoops.

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Ready for rhubarb: baked & pickled.

Bowl of rhubarb (click through for two rhubarb recipes)

Rhubarb comes and goes very quickly. It’s fleeting, rhubarb season. You simply cannot just walk into a store here and get rhubarb any time you want during the growing season. It sells out of the markets & supermarkets almost immediately. My mother absolutely LOVES rhubarb, and the season usually coincides with Mother’s Day, so I try and get some to make her something special. When I find it, I try to grab it. But if its not the greatest quality, or if its on the pricey side, I skip it. The stalk I bought for these two recipes was pretty huge, and I paid a little over $2.00 for it. It went into these pickles and also the next recipe which you’ll see in a few days (so keep that in mind).

So yes, in this post, it’s a two-for-one. One rhubarb cake recipe, and one pickled rhubarb recipe. First, the cake!

Rhubarb cake.

Rhubarb is really, really pretty. There are two main kinds; the bright pinkish red kind (this one) and the light pink and green kind. And then there are a bunch in between, of course, but those are the two main color types you’ll find in your store/market. Both colors are fine for any purpose, so long as you be sure to cut off all the leaves, if they come with them still attached. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous! This is especially important to remember if you buy your stalks from a farmer or a farmer’s market, or get them from someone who grows it. I know the brighter pink ones are more “attractive” aesthetically, but the pinkish/green ones can be very pretty too. I like to use a mix if I can find both.

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Friday Fifteen: we’re back, and it’s SPRINGTIME!

Pink African violet in the sunshine.

Time to dust off all the old pots and fill ’em with new soil! Get those seeds ready! And break out the f*&!#in’ lemonade… It’s SPRING! And I am so excited.

This year I’m starting the year off with my garden bed all ready, and my yard all resodded. Is that a word? Anyway, yes, the garden. My little babes are growing like weeds. So far we have: Globe tomatoes, Pickler’s Hybrid and Pickling cucumbers, Baby Leaf Catalina Spinach, sugar snap peas, jalapeño, and Wild Arugula as well as chives, chocolate mint, sweet mint, and lemon balm. We’re currently  planning our garden bed extension, which will be to the left of the current one and will hold just as much, but be a different shape. You’ll just have to wait & see it! Also we will be creating a separate area for our cucumbers, since last year they got just a lil bit cray cray. Just a lil.

I haven’t done one of these since November, so I thought it was time.

Friday Fifteen: Spring | Sunny screened-in back porch.

 

1. As you (most likely) know, I got married April 3rd of this year! So I am currently celebrating one month and five days of being married… plus 12 years, 9 months and 27 days of being together. Ha. So on that note, I LOVE these invites/thank you’s from Royal Steamline. I loved my invites, and I still think they’re the coolest ever, but these are pretty freakin’ cool. Speaking of which, pictures to come, I swear!
2. My sister-in-law and her boyfriend bought us a ton of awesome stuff of our Crate & Barrel registry, including a bunch of barbecue items, like this corn griller basket. I can’t wait to make this grilled corn with chili butter recipe using it!
3. I want these spring rolls. Now, plz.
4. Being that the image above is of the potting bench Jay made me last year, I think it’s fitting that I link to a how-to on making a shed to house your garden tools.
5. And, in that same vein, here’s a how-to on starting a garden from seed, and a link explaining how to save the seeds from vegetables. Awesome instructionals!
6. If you, too, are growing cucumbers, then you’re going to need to browse the ‘pickles’ category. And if it’s your first time growing them- trust me.
7. I’m seriously into browsing vintage and antique rings lately; mainly the settings and details because of a project I’m planning for my mother’s engagement ring (that she gave me when I turned 21). The best inspiration can be found at Trumpet & Horn and Leigh Jay Nacht.
8. I love DIY projects, and I love a good cocktail… so why not make some fancy tumblers?
9. I found this awesome tutorial for a glowing table, and now I want one! But my question is: does the glowing powder come in a color other than blue?
10. Cilantro-Chile vinaigrette. All day.
11. And HOMEMADE SAMOAS?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS???
12. I’m in loooooove with this Anthropologie dress. Oh, man. So spring-y and girly yet the black gives it a little edge and oomph.
13. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (which is also why I’m putting it towards the end on our list), but Ask A Mortician on YouTube is incredibly interesting, funny and thought-provoking. So I’m throwing it out there… because really, its something we should all just face & come to terms with… and yes, maybe sometimes laugh at. Caitlin Doughty is very good at what she does and definitely manages to make it accessible and less scary-morbid.
14. I love these cedar planters. LOVE THEM. Now I need some (maybe brightly painted ?) wooden planters… *cough*Jay*cough*
15. And don’t forget- Sunday, May 10th is Mother’s Day here in the U.S.! Here’s a few pictures of the cupcakes I made for my mom. “Paris” cupcake liners & toppers by Meri Meri (they no longer make this one). In case you didn’t know, she’s a huuuuge Francophile! 

Mother's Day "Paris" cupcakes.Mother's Day "Paris" cupcakes.Mother's Day "Paris" cupcakes!Paris-themed Mother's Day cupcakes.(photo edit/HB1 filter by VSCOCAM, gold-rimmed plate- vintage Pyrex “flamingo” dinnerware)

 

Je T’aime, Momma Dukes, and to my new mother-in-law, and to all you lovely ladies who have procreated. And thank you on behalf of your (perhaps sometimes ungrateful) children.

Let’s talk about berries & bundts, bitches.

Remember I said I never make cakes? Unless its easy? Well… yeah. This is why I’m obsessed with these tiny little mini-bundts. Remember the mini-bundt pan I spoke about a few months ago?

Strawberry ricotta mini bundt cakes.

I love it. Mini-bundts are my new favorite thing. They’re SO easy to just fill up with a recipe and bam- instant fancy. They make any recipe look awesome-r. And way cuter, let’s be honest. Not that ricotta cake needs help being awesome, but look. So cute.

Strawberry ricotta mini bundts.

And strawberries are cute, too.

Strawberries for ricotta mini-bundt cakes.

When you find yourself with strawberries on sale, and you’re dying for the fresh smell of a summer berry even though it’s only late April, you just buy ’em. And make cakes.

And jam.

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