Mojitos in training

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Earlier this spring, Chris and I made a promise to each other:  we will not start a vegetable garden this year.

We will not start a vegetable garden this year. We will not start a vegetable garden this year.

It's tempting. You know how we love our fresh veggies. You may not know how quickly a list of fun projects can overwhelm me, though. And sometimes even how heaps of fresh veggies can overwhelm me. We decided that there are plenty of other projects we'd like to work on this summer without the designing and planting and maintenance of a vegetable garden looming over us. Maybe another year, but for now you can find me outside puttering around at a leisurely pace and taking frequent, substantial reading breaks.

In lieu of a vegetable garden, we've dedicate a few pots to our favorite herbs starting with a container of luscious mint or "mojitos in training", as I like to call them. Perfect for adding to your water bottle or muddling into a house mojito.

Drinking horchata

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Two weeks ago, Chris was in warm New Orleans for work. A week ago, I was in warm Atlanta for work. Saturday we were both home and it was snowing. Yesterday it stayed in the 30s but was sunshine-y all day long. That tricked me into thinking it was actually springtime here. Maybe even summertime? It's been a long winter, ok? I'll take any semblance of warmth I can get.

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In honor of the sunshine, we made our first batch of horchata and then I lost my composure because it was so brilliantly refreshing and delicious. I know it may not sound refreshing because it is a creamy (non-dairy, but still) but believe me when I say that it was positively thirst-quenching. We were inspired by a few minutes of Martha Stewart Living we caught on PBS over the weekend and followed this recipe. It's not too thick or too sweet. You can add a splash of golden rum if you're feeling boozy, or you can have it as is, served on the rocks.

Instead of the cheesecloth, I'd recommend using a nut milk bag to make the straining process easier. We also cut down the sugar by half (using only 1/2 cup).

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And then we made crackers/cookies/biscuits! We took the leftover pulp, about 1 cup or so, added 2 tbsp of coconut oil, rolled it out to about 1/4 inch thick on a parchment lined baking sheet and baked it for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, flipping half way. Pro tip, to flip them we just topped the tray with another sheet of parchment and then stacked a second baking sheet on top and flipped it over like you would to get a layer or bundt cake out of the pan. Quicker than flipping each one over with a spatula. We sprinkled a bit of maple sugar, sea salt and cinnamon on top. They are a strange hybrid baked good, I'm not quite sure how to categorize them but I do know that a smear of chocolate pear jam on top is a good idea.

We also sautéed up some veggies for loaded quesadillas and blasted the Amy Winehouse station on Pandora, because one time a waitress put that station on during a private dinner and I was blown away by its unexpected perfection. Spring weather will be here soon, right? i think so. In the meantime, we are busying ourselves with our very own maple sap harvest right on our city street...

maple lemonade

Now you've purchased a new citrus squeezer device and are wondering what else you can do with it besides making a tall mojito, right? I wouldn't leave you hanging like that. Your $7 investment shall not go to waste. Here's another way to use it...

I'm over at From Scratch Club this week with a recipe for maple-sweetened lemonade, inspired by the thirst-quencher I picked up at the Burlington Farmers Market the day before our marathon relay. If you are in the mood for a fresh, otherwordly summer drink, check it out here! Boozy additions provided, though the lemonade is special enough without the alcohol.

Mojito season

We've been making mojitos recently. Usually we would just walk a few blocks to our favorite Mexican restaurant, but it suffered a small fire months ago and is closed. Disappointing, yes, but we weren't about to let early Mojitos On The Patio Season escape us entirely. So we've been making them ourselves and perfecting the house recipe.

Here is my take on the mojito. I think there is some authenticity in this recipe, but if not, forgive me and let me be.

House Mojito

Makes one tall, refreshing cocktail

You'll Need

  • A bunch of fresh mint leaves (at least 3 sprigs worth, but the more the merrier)

  • 1 lime, halved

  • 3 tbsp simple syrup

  • 3 oz light rum

  • Ice

Also Helpful To Have

  • A muddler

  • Citrus press

Then You Just...

1.  Add the mint leaves and simple syrup to a glass. Take your fancy muddler, and really work those upper arms and shoulders to give the mint a solid crushing. Really muddle it with all you have. Just pound away at it until the mint smell is bolder than when you started.

2.  Use your new citrus press (like this one) to juice the lime halves directly into your glass. I just recently bought one after Alex made me an outstanding G&T with freshly squeezed lime juice during my Portland trip. I usually just garnish my gin with a slice of lime, but a squeeze of juice makes it even better. These presses work like magic. I used to have a vintage glass juicer that I really liked (like this one), but I couldn't find it so decided to take the $7 plunge and by this gadget. It was the best decision I've ever made, at least the best decision I've ever made regarding citrus juicing tools.

3.  At this point, I add in the ice and rum. Then I top off the rest with seltzer, pop a straw in there and then shuffle out to our own private patio to enjoy a crisp, refreshing and extraordinarily satisfying house-made mojito.

Over the past few years we've been experimenting more with herbs in our cocktails, and what better or more classic place to start than with a minty mojito? Don't fear the greenery in your drink, embrace it. What summer drinks are you mixing up these days? The beauty of the mojito is that it stands up even without the booze. A minty, lime-infused seltzer sounds perfect! No rum required, though it will kick it up a notch if that's what you're looking for. On the topic of mint:  I know everyone complains about it because it takes over entire gardens and yards with its aggressive antics, but I would love to have a mint aggression problem on my hands. I would pick baskets and baskets of it and then put it in my water, seltzer, tea and rum. I'd chew on it and add it to every one of my smoothies. I'd let it massacre other herbs like marjoram and thyme. I would be a mint enabler, the likes of which have not been seen before.

Related
Summer Thyme Cocktail over at From Scratch Club
My summer to-do list from a few seasons ago, including a promise for more herby drinks

Dehydrating citrus

We came into a large box of delicious winter oranges awhile ago. Try as we could, we just didn't get through them all. I thought, "Why not throw them in the dehydrator?" So I did. And then I realized that I didn't know exactly what to do with a bunch of dehydrated orange slices. They were too tough for me to happily snack on- maybe a shorter drying time would have created a chewier orange chip, but these weren't good snacks. Then I thought, maybe I should have dehydrated just the rinds and then ground them into a powder and used it in future cooking and baking recipes. And then, all of the sudden, a flash of lightning came through my kitchen and struck our beautiful home bar, smashing full bottles of spirits and leaving a tiny glowing halo around our Tanqueray and I thought "Oh my! The universe wants me to use these oranges in a gin cocktail!"

In fairness, the lightning part didn't happen but I'm sure as shit that the universe wants me to explore dehydrated citrus in my cocktails. And also, more responsibly, in my water bottle. Why isn't this a huge fad?! Why hasn't anyone told me about the pleasures of dried citrus slices? Yes, fresh fruit is better but who here hasn't found the remaining half or third of a lemon in the back of their fridge after using just a few slices in your water or gin?! Let he who has not cast the first stone. Because here is the reality:  I love having limes and lemons on hand, but I rarely remember to use the whole thing before it goes bad. Give me a jar of dehydrated citrus slices, though, and I am set.

Imagine the possibilities. You will always have the proper garnishes at your home bar, even if you forgot to run out and buy a lime before your guests came over. You can plop a slice right into your cocktail, like we do, or if you have a little more time you can re-hydrate it first in a glass of water and then add to your drink.

You can keep a stash of dehydrated citrus at your office! In your bag! Anywhere! And then you will always be able to spruce up your water without any fuss. I've been tossing a few slices in my water bottle in the morning and enjoying spa water all day long, never having to worry about moldy oranges or slimy lemons being left behind in our refrigerator. I'm going to start stashing them in my desk at work, too. This is a game-changer.

Pictured above, a new favorite:  Gin, ginger ale & a slice of orange. Add a splash of St. Germain if you are feeling fancy.