white peach sangria

sunset reflection

i had this recipe saved since a year ago, when the air was just as oppressively hot as it is now and we were all just as desperately thirsty for a clean cold drink — but the times were so so different. at once less turbulent yet more uncertain, every step a test of sound ground.

i was swimming my way through fresh unemployment at the time and the simultaneous feelings of rejection and liberation that it brought. things were murky, and i decided to just float in it. a summer wedding gave us roles: a bride and her maids, and so we rallied; and for me it swiftly gave me a new point around which to pivot and swivel. i was grateful.

in that summer, that was what i knew of strength: to call upon others, to link our arms, to celebrate our ties, even as we tightened them. we had a thing every wednesday — we had a thing, period — and it made me strong.

coffee cup

this year, to count back the months and figuratively turn them over in my hands… i see what has shifted and settled, to become more fully itself. anxieties turned into job offers, vows into supreme partnership; wanderlust evolved into residence; and in some cases, quietly kept longings revealed themselves to be decidedly false starts. for better or worse, it was a year of becoming.

it may be a strange time to do a year-in-review — end of june, cusp of july — but i suppose this is what happens when i finally log into a long-neglected blog account. and when i run on teacher time, with summer opening up ahead of me, full of promises of free time and a freed mind.

in any case, i think i like where i stand. i like the view from here; i like how my legs feel underneath me.

a year later, cheers to that.

white peach sangria

White Peach Sangria
Adapted from the Los Angeles Times
Makes 16 servings
 
2 bottles dry white wine
¼ cup brandy
¼ cup peach schnapps
2/3 cup simple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
juice from ½ an orange
juice from 1 lime
3 white peaches, sliced
½ orange, sliced into wheels
½ lime, sliced into wheels
1 lemon, sliced into wheels

  1. In a large pitcher or beverage dispenser, combine the wine, brandy, peach schnapps and simple syrup. Stir in the peach, orange, lime and lemon slices.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours.

fresh watermelon juice

one thing i love about mixing up drinks is seeing the beautiful hue that ends up filling the glass… the honey amber of a whiskey sour, the candy-bright red of strawberry lemonade.

if there’s a color i’d like to tint this summer with, i think it’d be the gentle coral of freshly juiced watermelon.

perfectly cooling, just the barest bit of sweet — it’s the best kind of drink to pair with a light summer meal, especially on one of those days when it’s too hot to move, and all you can do is shimmy up as close as you can to the window to catch the day’s last elusive breezes. (we’ve been having lots of those days around here.)

watermelon juice is cinch to make and pretty practical, too. how many times do you find yourself at the end of a summer bbq with leftover watermelon? that’s actually how we came into ownership of this little baby. instead of eating watermelon cubes til we got sick of them, i decided to whir the fruit up into a juice we could gulp down easy.

stored in the fridge in a beverage dispenser — you know, the kind with the spigoty spout, preferably decaled on the outside with cartoon-y watermelon slices — it’s the easiest thing to fill yourself a chilled glass and get that much closer to some fruit-fueled late-summer zen.

Watermelon Juice
Adapted from Cookie and Kate
Makes at least 4 servings, depending on the size of watermelon
 
1 small  seedless watermelon, cut or spooned into chunks
juice from 1 small lime, or to taste

  1. Working in batches, blend the watermelon until liquefied.
  2. Stir in lime juice, taste, and adjust as needed. Strain out pulp, if desired, and chill.

cold-brew iced coffee

i love these summer sundays, when the morning air starts off warm and soft. i love my porch with its wiry blue table and wobbly white wooden chairs — a prime spot to take in the sunlight while it’s still dappled, before it becomes a scorcher of a heat source. (oh, our poor poor thirsty/dying/dead lawn…)

pleasant porch weather aside, i know it’s truly summer when i switch out my usual mug of hot coffee for a tall glass of the iced kind, milk and sweetness swirled in and ice cubes clinking. it’s a cinch to prepare, and a lovely warm-weather ritual to have: the night before, fill a glass jar or french press with your favorite coffee grounds and fresh water, and let sit on the counter for 12 hours. wake up in the morning, strain out the grounds (or press your plunger), and pour over ice. if i’m adding sugar (or condensed milk, if i’m gettin’ fancy), i’ll shake it up and make sure it gets mixed and thoroughly dissolved before involving the ice cubes.

overnight iced coffee: it’s one of those things in life that has a fantastic simplicity-to-loveliness ratio. 


Cold-Brew Iced Coffee
Makes 1-2 servings
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Pink of Perfection
Original method and recipe from The New York Times

1/3 cup coarse-ground coffee
1 ½ cups water

  1. In a French press or jar, stir together coffee and water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.
  2. In the morning, plunge French press, or if using a jar, strain coffee through a coffee filter. Dilute with water and add milk and/or sugar, if desired, before pouring over ice.

red!

it’s not a color i wear naturally, but paired with cotton-fresh whites, a bit of sparkle, and a cold drink or two, i think it’s just the hue to usher in a new season of warmer weather… punchy pops of juicy ruby tones to combat the haze of summer heat. (never mind that california is struggling under a layer of storm clouds this week. sunshine and brighter days are coming – i am sure of it!)


chiffon scallop shorts at urban outfitters

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mini crystal wildfire necklace at j.crew

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essie nail color in “chubby cheeks”

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huarache gladiator sandals at urban outfitters



breezy eyelet sundress (with pockets!) at jcpenney

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pink ruffle cake by call me cupcake

{more pink cakes here and here and here… and learn how to make those buttercream ruffles here!}

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ambi glass at cb2

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homemade rhubarb syrup {photo and recipe by seven spoons}

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{photo via oncewed}

frosty lava flows

red wine sangria

with a bag heavy with unused oranges sitting on the kitchen shelf and a lonely bottle of wine in the cupboard, what’s a girl to do except stir up a pitcher of sangria?  i also happened to have a little glass container of sour mix waiting in the fridge, so this recipe was truly just a glorified way of cleaning out my leftovers.

to me, the best sangria is a balance of strong, sweet, and fruity – and i’m quite smitten with this version.  i used a bottle of chianti from trader joe’s that i picked up for under 5 dollars (under the label aquila d’oro), so it would be pretty painless to turn this into a punchbowl drink for a crowd.  i can’t wait for this warmer weather to ramp up and the start of the season for grilled steak, fresh crunchy salads, and chilled glasses of this sweet stuff all around.

Red Wine Sangria
Makes 1 pitcher

1 bottle dry red wine
¼ cup brandy
2 Tbsp. Cointreau
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
about 2 cups sour mix, or to taste
3 organic oranges, thinly sliced

Mix the first four ingredients in a standard-size pitcher (about 60 oz. capacity). Add orange slices, cover pitcher, and refrigerate overnight.  Serve in pretty glasses, ice cubes optional.

silky smooth hot chocolate


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after a dinner of spicy, salty bacon cheesiness, i do believe i came down with a bad case of young person’s heartburn. there’s no better remedy for that than a warm mug of milk. uhh – hehe… with chocolate.

i didn’t go any fancier than what came printed on the side of the cocoa canister: a couple spoonfuls of unsweetened cocoa powder, a couple more of sugar from the kitchen counter jar; drop in a slip of milk, stir to a paste, and pour in more to fill the mug. microwave for a minute.

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but to coax me out of the cozy marshmallow fluffiness of a warm bed this morning, i knew i needed something warmer, richer, and slurp- i mean, sip-worthy enough to convince my toes to brave the chill of a cold kitchen floor.

a bit of light cream heated over the stove, a kickdust of espresso powder, and bittersweet chocolate chipped off a dark solid block and flicked in to melt in the pan: this is get-yourself-out-of-bed hot chocolate.

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Silky Smooth Hot Chocolate
from Seven Spoons
Makes a little more than 2 cups

3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons best-quality cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon or ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups milk
¼ cup half and half
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

 

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, espresso powder and cinnamon. Pour in a little of the milk and whisk until smooth. Pour in the rest of the milk, then the cream, stirring until combined. Add the chopped chocolate and heat until the mixture comes just under a simmer.
  2. Stirring constantly as to not scorch, maintain the heat at a simmer and cook until the chocolate thickens slightly, around 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stirring now and again as it will continue to thicken as it stands, and cool to your desired temperature. (To get a frothy top, pour hot chocolate one serving at a time into an airtight screw-top travel thermos or other heatproof container, and shake very cautiously.)

fresh whiskey sours

i do believe we are heading toward longer days. we’ve gotten over the darkest nights of winter and are heading closer now to evenings still graced with that last little bit of daylight. happy hours, indeed.


whiskey sours are perhaps not the most refined of cocktail hour drinks, but they do the trick. ream a few lemon and lime halves and stir the fresh juice around with some sugar syrup and caramel-colored whiskey, and you’ve got yourself something refreshing and sweet and strong, with smoky vanilla undertones. all-around delicious – even if you don’t happen to be a whiskey kind of girl (which i’m not, it turns out).

have one to smooth out the rough ends of the day, or share a pitcherful around a table of friends before hitting the town – the night’ll be a good one.


Fresh Whiskey Sours
adapted from Barefoot Contessa
Makes 4 cocktails

½ cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 Meyer lemons, more if you are using regular lemons)
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 5 limes)
ice cubes
about 1 cup whiskey (I used Maker’s Mark bourbon)

  1. Make simple syrup: bring sugar and water to a boil, and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to cool before using.
  2. Make sour mix: combine the lemon juice, lime juice, and 2/3 cup simple syrup.
  3. Fill each glass halfway with ice. Pour in about 2 parts whiskey and 3 parts sour mix (or to taste). Swirl and drink.

spicy tomato soup


i could have this soup year-round really, but it’s especially good for these balmy fall days we’ve been having around here.

i realize it’s the beginning of december now, and in most parts of the country the air isn’t so much “balmy” as it is biting, and it’d be silly to call this season fall. but down the lane where i live, the leaves on the trees have finally flared up in their most vivid reds and yellows and the leaves on the ground are crunchy as chips, all clustered in the gutters.


and except for the blustery currents of rain coming down yesterday, the wind these days is dry but soft – carrying with it a lingering warmth from our strong-armed california summers, i’d like to think.

so the scene is set for a no-fuss meal like this one: your traditional tomato soup, but tricked out with blue cheese and sriracha sauce. ladle some out on a brisk and golden afternoon, and you’ve got yourself a bowl of lunch that will keep your hands warm and leave some heat on your tongue. with a piece of crispy, butter-browned bread to sop up the smooth-as-velvet soup, nothing matches this weather better.


Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup
from Michael Symon’s Live to Cook by Michael Symon, via the Amateur Gourmet
(adapted slightly for the ingredients I had on hand)
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
salt
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 28-oz. can whole plum tomatoes, with their juice
1 ½ cups chicken stock
¾ cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
½ cup creamy blue cheese {I used one from Trader Joe’s called Stagnola Blu}

  1. Heat the olive oil in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat for 2 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sweat for 2 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, their juice and the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the cream and sriracha sauce and simmer for 45 minutes.
  2. Pour the soup into a blender, add the blue cheese, and blend until smooth, working in batches if needed.
  3. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot. (How smooth the soup’s final texture is will depend on how much of the solids you push through at this point.) Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary (I added another ½ teaspoon of salt here), and reheat to serve. The soup will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for a few days.

courage withstanding

tonight the moonlight is bright enough to make my front lawn gleam with just a little blueness; it is bright enough to glint off the hoods of cars parked in our driveway, to pass through the leaves of the trees that line this street and lay watery shadows on the pavement. it makes the thinking easier.

i am mulling over some difficult things tonight. by this time tomorrow, i – courage withstanding – will have closed a chapter i have meant to shut for months now. leaving is rarely ever easy, and i never seem to have the right words or the poise to put them forth just so. but it’s time.

i think tomorrow i’ll need another one of these.


recipe index

if you look up at the top, you will find a new page where i have listed and linked all the recipes i’ve posted in the past.  it’s fancy!