Honeyed Peaches and Cherries

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Growing up we had three peach trees in our back yard, and my mom would make this recipe every single summer. We’ve used it on just about every sweet treat you can think of – as a topping, in a pie, with oatmeal, on toast, with ice cream – the possibilities are endless. I have made honeyed peaches and cherries in the past using a simpler recipe, but typically prefer this elevated version that includes red wine and more spices, giving it much more complex flavors.

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7 large ripe peaches (peeled and diced), 2 1/2 cups cherries (pitted), 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup red wine, 1/2 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 clove, 2 all spice. Add all of the ingredients to a large pot and mix well. Heat over medium high heat and bring to a simmer for about 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone and the syrup sticks to the back of a spoon.

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Handmade Pottery

The California drought has really put an emphasis on the role that native desert flora can play in Los Angeles landscaping. Recently, we decided to add some small succulents to our patio, and created a few handmade clay pots to put them in.

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We used a self hardening clay, so there was no firing necessary. We don’t have a potter’s wheel, or anything like that, so the pieces have a certain roughness to them that we accentuated with the paint job.

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The dried pieces are not waterproof, but simply painting them creates a seal to solve that issue. We created different shapes for each of the little pots and painted them all a little different.

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The finished pieces feel right at home on our patio, and we’re excited to have new drought friendly plants to decorate with.


Flavored Lemonades

Lemonade is the quintessential summer beverage, and it’s hard to find anyone who wouldn’t enjoy an ice cold glass on a hot summer day. To keep us from getting bored with simple lemonade, I love making batches of flavored lemonades to keep in the refrigerator throughout the summer.

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Grapefruit & Mint Lemonade

The combination of grapefruit and mint makes this lemonade extra crisp and refreshing. 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm water, 1 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, 3/4 cup lemon juice, 6-7 fresh mint leaves. Make a simple syrup by adding sugar and warm water to a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves. Add the syrup, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, mint leaves, and cold water to a pitcher.

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Raspberry Lemon-Limeade

I love the combination of lime with sparkling water so I decided to make this one a fizzy lemonade. Using fresh raspberries to make a raspberry syrup gives this lemonade a sweet fruity taste. 1 cup raspberries, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm water, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup lime juice, 1 gallon sparkling water. Heat sugar, warm water, and raspberries in a small saucepan crushing the raspberries with a wooden spoon as it comes to a simmer. Turn off heat and let it cool. In a large pitcher combine the lemon and lime juices, cold water, ice, and raspberry syrup.

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Lavender Lemonade

For this lemonade I infuse the lavender flavor into the syrup which gives it a delicate floral taste. 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm water, 4 sprigs dry lavender (or 1 tablespoons worth), 1 gallon water, 1 cup lemon juice. Add sugar, warm water, and lavender to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and let syrup cool. Add water, lemon juice, and syrup to a pitcher with ice and a few lemon slices.

 


Cocktail Gift Box

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When I was in high school I would occasionally give my friends gift boxes filled with their favorite candies and snacks for their birthdays. Recently for a friends birthday, I decided to resurrect that idea and put together a little cocktail kit with all of the ingredients you would need for two cocktails, and some charcuterie inspired snacks to go with them.

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Since he was getting a year older, and whiskey is his drink of choice, I decided old fashioned cocktails would be perfect. I simply used small bottles to hold each ingredient, and added them to a box along with dry salami, crackers, and cheese. The gift was easy to put together, catered to the recipients tastes, and is something he can enjoy on a night in even after the birthday celebrations have come to an end.


Sliders Four Ways

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Sliders are one of my favorite bar foods; I especially love when there is more than one type of slider available instead of having four of the same. They are also a great meal to prepare at home for casual nights in and are quite popular with guests. My favorite way to prepare sliders is with mini pretzel rolls and paired with home-made french fries and a good beer. Here are four different slider combinations I tend to keep coming back to whenever making them at home.

For the beef patties: 1 lb ground beef, 4 strips bacon, 1 large tomato (diced), 1/2 yellow onion (diced), 1 teaspoon each of dry parsley, salt, pepper, and paprika.

To get started fry the bacon strips in a large pan until crispy. Remove bacon and set on a paper towel (you will use the bacon for one of the slider recipes). Keep the pan with the bacon oils on low heat. While the bacon is frying, prepare the meat by combining onion, tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, and paprika with the meat. Mix well with your hands to thoroughly blend the ingredients. Create small patties with your hands, and add the patties to the hot bacon pan. Cook patties about 2 minutes per side and remove from pan.

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From left to right –

Slider 1: Make a basil aioli by combining 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 minced garlic clove, and a dash of salt. Spread aioli on pretzel bun then add a slice of havarti cheese, beef patty, arugula leaves, and a couple pieces of bacon.

Slider 2: Spread softened goat cheese on bun, top with beef patty, a few sliced pieces of sun-dried tomatoes, and a little bit of fresh parsley.

Slider 3: Make a spicy aioli by adding four sweet and hot cherry peppers (or you can use canned chipotle peppers), and 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise to a food processor. Mix in processor until puréed. In a small pan sauté sliced yellow onion with a teaspoon of olive oil, a dash of sugar, and a dash of salt. Remove onions from pan and fry egg in the same pan (add more olive oil if needed). Spread aioli onto bun, top with beef patty, sautéed onions, and fried egg.

Slider 4: Chop 2 large portobello mushrooms, 4 caper-berries, and 1 teaspoon of capers. Sauté ingredients in a small pan with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Spread burrata cheese onto bun, top with beef patty and sautéed mushrooms.


Homemade Spice Blends

I like to cook using a variety of spices, and while I certainly do not always stick to specific spice combinations, I have found that making spice blends that I tend to use often can be of great convenience. These pre-made spice blends save time and take some of the guesswork out of cooking.

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For each spice blend combine all of the ingredients and mix well, if using whole seeds or dried herbs you can use a mortar and pestle to finely grind down the ingredients. Add each blend to its own small container on your spice rack for easy access.

Dukkah Spice: this spice blend is traditionally used in Egypt, and is a fantastic mix for most savory dishes. I love adding this spice mixture to fish and meat, or dusted on vegetables for roasting.

1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon sumac, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon crushed hazelnuts.

Italian Seasoning: of course this spice blend can be used in a great variety of both Italian and non Italian dishes. This versatile seasoning is great for pasta and meat dishes, or even with just some olive oil and bread.

1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 tablespoon rosemary, 1 tablespoon basil, 2 teaspoons black pepper.

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Spicy Dry Rub: this rub has just a hint of sweetness and a powerful punch of spice, making it a fantastic blend for meats such as ribs and poultry.

1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon cayenne, 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds, 1 1/4 teaspoons brown sugar, 2 teaspoons ginger, 2 teaspoons cumin.

Pie Spice: this spice blend can be used in many desserts such as cookies, apple pie, and pumpkin pie. A pinch of it can add deep flavor to a latte or hot cider, and in small doses can be used on savory dishes as well.

2 tablespoons cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 tablespoon nutmeg, 1/2 tablespoon allspice, 1/2 tablespoon cloves, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar.

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Hazelnut Coffee Bean Pot De Crème


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I’m not a big fan of all desserts, but I have always loved the richness and pudding like consistency of pot de crème. I recently made a batch of this decadent treat and decided to add both hazelnuts and ground coffee to give it an even richer flavor. Suffice to say that we each had more than one serving even after a full dinner.

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Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 6 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 6 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon ground coffee, 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, 1/4 cup whole hazelnuts, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Instructions: add milk, 1 cup heavy cream, egg yolks, vanilla extract, sugar, and ground coffee to a saucepan. Beat with a whisk and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, continuing to whisk every couple of minutes, until mixture begins to thicken and sticks to whisk. Add the chocolate, hazelnuts, and hot milk mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into individual ramekins and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until mixture is set.  To make whipped cream add the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream and powdered sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 6-8 minutes.

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Top the pot de crème with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate and hazelnut shavings.


Handmade Lavender Sachets

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There’s a reason sachets are so popular: they’re simple to make, have many uses, and make excellent gifts. I love making these little sachets to put inside drawers, as a decorative piece on the bed, or even to throw into the dryer in lieu of dryer sheets.

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To make these little bags I first traced 6 4″ x 5 1/2″ rectangles onto a piece of fabric. I then embroidered little images of lavender onto three of the rectangles using two shades of purple and one shade of green.

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Next, I cutout the six rectangles and paired each plain one with an embroidered one, then hemmed all of the tops of the rectangles so that the fabric wouldn’t fray. The embroidered pieces were flipped to face in, and each set of two was sewn along the edges on the bottoms and long sides of the rectangles.

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After that, I flipped the bags so that the lavender embroidery would be facing out. Lastly, each bag was filled with about 1/3 cup dry lavender and the tops were tied with twine. The dry lavender smell will last for months, and the pouches can be refilled whenever necessary.


Garnachas

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Garnachas are a traditional Guatemalan small plate dish that I have been eating for as long as I can remember. The fact that they’re easy to make and require only a few ingredients makes these a great option for easy dinners, or as a unique appetizer for dinner parties.

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The key to excellent garnachas isn’t just in the meat, but in the tortillas. The tortillas are traditionally thick and small, and lightly fried to give them just a hint of a crunch.

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups corn flour, 1 cup water, 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 lb ground pork, 1 red bell pepper, 1/2 large yellow onion, 3 garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, 1 teaspoon dry thyme, 1/4 red cabbage, 1/4 white cabbage, 2 green onions, 1/4 cup cilantro, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon lime juice.

Instructions: to make the tortillas, combine the corn flour and water in a bowl and mix until the dough is soft (add more water one tablespoon at a time if the dough is too dry). Shape the tortillas into small thick circles, then place on hot griddle. Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a pan. Cook the tortillas on the griddle for only one minute per side, you want them to be firm but not cooked through. As the tortillas finish on the griddle add them to the hot oil pan and lightly fry, about 2 minutes per side.

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Place ground pork meat in a large bowl. Roughly cut the bell pepper and onion and add to a blender along with garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, 1 teaspoon thyme, and 1/3 cup of water. Liquefy the vegetables until smooth and add to bowl with pork. Using a spoon thoroughly combine the pork and vegetables mix. Add the pork to a large pan and cook until most of the liquid is gone and the pork is cooked through (about 25 minutes).

To make the cabbage slaw chop the cabbage, green onions, and cilantro. Add vegetables to a bowl with mayonnaise, lime juice, and a dash of salt a pepper to taste. Mix the salad with a large spoon until well combined. Add the meat to the fried tortillas and top with slaw.

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