Friday, July 25, 2014

Mint Simple Syrup

On our family reunion trip next week, we decided to host a nightly happy hour and every evening offer a different beach cocktail. While we did struggle with a few tough decisions, the mojito was a solid on the list from day one. There are a few mojito lovers in my family, so we had to elevate our mojito game, and this mint infused simple syrup was just the ticket. Click here for my favorite mojito recipe and buy Bacardi rum! 
Of course, I will be enjoying virgin cocktails on this trip, but that will probably make me a better bartender since I will carefully measure the booze and line the rim of each glass perfectly with salt! This simple syrup is truly divine and takes no time at all. I also whipped up a basil infused simple syrup for the peach daiquiri night. 

I'll disclose the full happy hour line up away after we come home, because I want every night to be a surprise! 

Mint Simple Syrup
from The Hungry Mouse blog 

1 cup fresh mint, rinsed and chopped (stems and all)
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar

Yields about 1 1/2 cups
  1. Rinse and chop mint, stems and all.  Stick the mint in a bowl or other heatproof container and set it aside while you make the sugar syrup.
  2. Put the sugar and water in a small pot.Bring it to a boil over high heat, whisking occasionally to dissolve the sugar. When it’s boiling and the sugar has completely dissolved, remove the pot from the heat.
  3. Pour the sugar syrup over the chopped mint.
  4. Give it a stir to make sure all the mint is submerged.
  5. Cover it with plastic wrap or a plate. Let it steep like this on the counter until it cools to room temperature. You want to cover it because a lot of mint’s flavor is in its volatile essential oils, which can escape with steam. (Same thing if you make peppermint tea…cover it while it steeps to keep more of that minty goodness in your cup.)The mint will go from vivid green to a duller, cooked veggie colored green.
  6. When the syrup has cooled completely, strain it, pressing the mint with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much syrup as you can. Discard the mint, and store the syrup covered in the fridge for up to 3 weeks

Virtual Book Club

My mom and I are going to read this book together at Topsail beach next week and I think it will be the perfect summer novel. I've been daydreaming of sitting with my toes in the sand, sipping on cold lemonade, wearing my giant sun hat and big shades and reading this book together! 
I also downloaded this one on my Kindle because I absolutely loved her novel Me Before You. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Bacon Weave

During pregnancy, I've had to redefine "happy hour"...albeit temporarily. Before, it was the time when I officially decided to relax, slow down, chat with a friend, and sip on a refreshing cocktail. Now, it's just when I decide to do something fun that makes me happy. The best part of my new definition is that happy hour can happen at any time of day and multiple times a day.  Last night my happy hour was when Josh took me to the movie Begin Again which I absolutely loved - great soundtrack, New York City, Adam Levine...go see it! 
Tonight, my happy hour was making us these delicious BLT's for dinner. Because it's such a basic sandwich, the ingredients really shine so I used the very best. I'm talking Dukes full-fat mayonnaise, homemade bread, a good ripe heirloom tomato, and real bacon. I've been patiently waiting for my first juicy tomato to ripen, and this week the stars aligned. I've been baking my bacon for the last few years, but the bacon weave is the ultimate way to get the perfect bacon bite in a sandwich. Trust me - after all I am a pregnant girl who loves good food! 

The Bacon Weave

3 strips bacon (per sandwich)
1 oz whiskey
1 tsp brown sugar
  1. Set oven to 350 degrees, and cut strips of bacon in half (so you have 6 half-strips)
  2. Place bacon in a small bowl and pour whiskey on top. Let sit for 10 minutes, and discard leftover whiskey.
  3. Take your 6 half-strips of bacon, and weave them together on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.
  4. Sprinkle brown sugar on top, and bake for 23-28 minutes, or until desired doneness. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I spent an evening in my mom's garden room learning the basics on how to arrange flowers. My mom's bouquets are always stunning, with a variety of textures, colors, and always a little greenery to set the flowers. I could not resist popping my 50mm lens on my camera and taking a few pictures. Happiness is a vase of fresh flowers in the kitchen. 
Loving these quotes...
"It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do."
 - Jane Austen

"The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful."
 - David Steindl-Rast

"Some people are old at 18 and some people are young at 90...time is a concept that humans created"
 - Yoko Ono

Monday, July 14, 2014

French Potato Salad

I have a confession, and after I share this I hope we can still be friends. The last time I mentioned this in a group, I got the "bless her heart" stare, so here it goes. I am not a fan of Southern potato salad. I love almost everything about the South, but the mayonnaise and egg ridden potato salad is not on that list. I've been politely tasting small dollops at picnics for years, and have yet to find one that I like. I find that most taste bland. However, I wholeheartedly stand behind chicken salad, bourbon, peaches, boiled peanuts, and my cast iron skillet. 
When my mom made this potato salad over July 4th weekend, I was smitten. It tastes like potatoes, though the combination of herbs, olive oil, champagne vinegar, and a little mustard really make the potatoes shine. I tried this out on Josh's family last night, and it was a hit at the table, so much so that I'm going to adopt this recipe as my new house potato salad. In Ina's cookbook on the following page, you can doll this salad up with green beans, tuna, capers, tomatoes and onions to make the Provencal Potato Salad, but trust me when I say it is amazing just like this. 
I also made Ina's peach and raspberry crumble with South Carolina peaches. With all this Ina talk this morning, I've included a picture of my Barefoot Contessa cookbook collection on my dining room shelves, and yes I modeled my dining room table and settings after her barn. Ina is fabulous and she is my domestic role model! If you glimpse that set of Moscow Mule mugs hiding in my basket, just know that they will be put to good use this October when I can once again enjoy an evening cocktail. I already have a ginger mint julep with fresh pineapple on my radar! 

French Potato Salad
from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves

Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins

Happy 4th of July, friends! If you are wondering why I haven't posted many recipes lately, it is entirely my husband's fault! He has been grilling like a mad man, and has spoiled me with chicken thighs, pork tenderloin, ribeyes, corn on the cob, and foil packets. We have really enjoyed dining "al fresco" and the back deck is set up with tiki torches and a wireless speaker for good music. 
This week, I made these jalapeno cornbread muffins to compliment his barbecue chicken thighs, and they were perfect for summer time and easy to freeze. I'm going to give you a little tip on how to make these extra delicious - cut up a cube of cheddar and drop it into the middle of each muffin before baking. I made a few that way by accident with the larger chunks of cheese that didn't grate well, and those muffins were the best of the batch. 
Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon honey
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray; set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.
- In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, sugar, eggs 
  and honey.
- Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist. Add jalapenos 
  and cheese, and gently toss to combine.
- Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin tray. Place into oven and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until 
  a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.