Fig and Fennel Flower Shrub


I am still waiting for shrubs to be the “in” thing – but I feel like it is getting close.  Once a week the farmer’s market comes to the campus where I work – I swear that is the day when everything comes alive.  There is definitely something to be said for little white tents and crowds everywhere.  There is a vibrancy that exists, you can feel it in the air.

Although there are a lot of great vendors that come, the one I like the most is the jam and shrub vendor.  Their products are excellent, and wish I could buy a different variety each week – but then I remind myself how easy it is to make them myself…both the jam and the shrubs.  I have had to slow down on the jam making this year – work is creeping into my weekend time, but there are no excuses when it comes to shrubs.  They are seriously so simple and easy – and store beautifully in the refrigerator.

The other week I got some figs in my market basket along with fennel flowers.  There are always so many ways to use up the figs, but it was the fennel flowers that I wanted to make the most of – so there I went experimenting – with shrubs this time.  I am in love with this variety – it definitely makes the most delicious cocktails. And look at that color – who wouldn’t want to drink something that is that beautiful?  Who cares if others haven’t picked up on this craze, shrubs are definitely “in” at my house.


  • 2 cups chopped figs
  • chopped fennel flowers
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar


Place all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Cook on medium heat until the sugar dissolved, and the fruit starts to break down.  Simmer for 10 minutes, then strain with cheese cloth into a container.  Store in the refrigerator for a few months.

Use the fig and fennel shrub in a cocktail with gin, vermouth and lemon, or just serve with sparking water for a refreshing summer drink.

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Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

Chocolate, Peanut-Butter and Banana Smoothie

My husband is a creature of habit.  When he finds something that he likes, he sticks with it, that is until he is sick of it.  The smoothie sensation has been going on for quite some time in our house though – he will mix it up a bit, but it always has one consistent ingredient – protein powder.  Over the years he has tried a couple different brands – but lately he has been looking for something new.

Through the Stonyfield Farms Blogger Club, I was introduced to The Healthy Skoop, this plant-based protein powder.  For every serving of Skoop sold, Healthy Skoop donates one serving of free fresh fruits and veggies to a school lunch program in America.  Come on, how can you not love that?  Fortunately I was given the opportunity to try some (chocolate…YUM!!), and now I am sold.  We tried it two ways – the first was just to mix some with milk in this handy cup with a whisk attachment.  Now I am not a huge protein powder person, and this was not my favorite.  It was just a little grainy for me, although the flavor was great.

Then I decided to make a smoothie – my favorite kind, with some grassfed stonyfield farms vanilla yogurt, peanut butter and a frozen banana and WOW!!  It was a complete winner – my daughter and I were fighting over seconds.  The Healthy Skoop may have just made me into a smoothie lover too.

Please note: As a Team Stonyfield ambassador, I am being compensated. All opinions are always my own.



Put all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.

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Monkey 47 Martini

Monkey 47 Martini 1

Traveling is such a gift – getting to explore new areas, having new experiences, but most of all – eating and drinking the local specialties. A few years ago when I was in Paris, I noticed this beautiful bottle of Gin. Ok, so I must admit, I am a sucker for the labels. If a bottle has a nice label, it must taste good – right? Now, I know that is not always true, but since I know absolutely nothing about wine (except that French wines – in France – are my favorite), that is usually how I choose which bottle to buy. Ok, I diverge…so back to this Gin. It just looked interesting, and I had never seen it before – so I asked the bartended about it. He told me it was made in Germany, and then went on to rave about all the botanicals that it was made from. I asked him if I could smell it (not sure if that was completely appropriate, but went for it anyway), and he said yes. He was right, this Gin smelled incredible. The price was a little high for my taste though, so I decided to defer tasting the Gin to another time..

I never forgot about that Gin, but was waiting for the right time to indulge. I looked for it in the US, but they don’t export it yet, so I knew that I had to wait until I was back in Europe. So this summer I was on a quest to try this Gin – but I couldn’t see spending the money on getting it at a restaurant or bar – cocktails in Paris are incredibly high – so I decided I was going to buy a bottle instead. It couldn’t be bad, and if it was, I would figure out a way to make it palatable. I found a liquor store that carried the Gin, and purchased it along with my favorite French vermouth (Dolin). I then waited for the right occasion – Bastille Day – to make myself a martini.

You would think that with all these years of anticipation that I would be let down, but no – quite the opposite. It was better than I could have ever imagined. I was in love. It was the best martini I had ever had. It was wonderfully smooth, flavorful, and if you are not a Gin drinker – you would be after tasting this. Who knew that a German Gin could steel my heart away like this?  That’s what travelling is all about…


  • 2 oz. Monkey 47 Gin
  • 1/2 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
  • Lemon Twist


Mix together the gin and vermouth in a glass with ice – stir for about 30 seconds or until very cold.  Strain into a martini glass, and serve with a twist of lemon.

Makes 1 cocktail.

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Monkey 47 Martini 4

Cherry Liqueur

Cherry Liquor

I am writing this with a big smile on my face – I am relaxed and happy – and looking forward to my husband joining us on this adventure.  Oh, and did I mention how VERY THANKFUL I am to my incredible team who is allowing me to have this break?  I swear two weeks in, and I am already a new person.

As you can tell, I haven’t been blogging, but that is because there is so much to do and see here!  Also – if you have followed my blog for quite some time, you know that I don’t love cooking in other people’s kitchens.  Even though we are here for a long time, the kitchen is not mine, and I the supplies are limited.  Another big factor is the heat…it is very hot here, and we do not have air conditioning.  So I am trying to be very careful about not using the stove or oven very much.  We have been eating very simple dinners of bread, charcuterie and cheese – and a nice salad.  I must say, it has been a welcome change.

Before I left though, the cherries were in full bloom at our house.  As with every year, we are always trying to figure out new ways to use them – last year’s cherry butter was a huge hit, but I just didn’t have the time to do any jamming before I left.  Sad as that may sound… This year I have to give the credit to my husband – he came up with the idea to make cherry liqueur, and I thought it was brilliant!  He even found the recipe on Serous Eats, and then I took over.  Fortunately I was able to have a little taster the night before I left – and OMG this stuff is amazing!!  So easy to make, and look at the color – it is screaming cherries.  It is sweet and absolutely delicious. My husband has been enjoying it while we are enjoying our own delicacies – but he promised to save me a bottle so we could experiment with cocktails when I am home.


  • 6 cups Bing cherries, pitted
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken


Put the pitted cherries at the bottom of a sealable glass jar and muddle them with a wooden spoon or muddler to release some juice. Drain the juice into a separate container and set aside. Then add the brandy, vodka, and cinnamon stick to the muddled cherries. Seal and shake the jar. Let steep for one week at room temperature away from direct sun, shaking every few days.

Combine the reserved cherry juice, sugar, and water in a pan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Once the syrup is cooled, add it to the steeping jar, seal, and shake. Then let it steep for an additional 2 to 5 days. Strain through fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into glass jar or bottle. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

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Celery Tonic

Celery Tonic 2

As I am writing this today, I am listening to my family agonize about what is going on with the Seahawks.  I am not much of a football fan, but I am a big Seattle fan, and anything that will make the city happy, I am in favor of.  My older daughter, who does happen to love the game is upstairs doing homework (she is a little superstitious), while my younger daughter has been lured downstairs to watch the game with her father.  They are going nuts right about now…

New Year’s is always a great time to try out new drinks, and I am finally getting around the post the fan favorite.  I remember seeing this cocktail in Bon Appetit and thinking that it looked very interesting – but I didn’t like that it was not green.  I knew if I was going to make this, I needed a really good muddler – to really extract out all of that delicious celery juice.  Fortunately for me the folks at Artic Chill had sent me a muddler to review months ago – and I was really hoping it would come through for me.

This muddler made it so easy to make this drink – and so easy to ensure that there was plenty of green celery juice for this drink.  This will now be my muddler of choice – it sure beats the end of the wooden spoon that I used to use. Ok, excuse me while I go downstairs to see how this ends…hopefully I will be making another round of these tonight to celebrate.


  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ounces gin (substitute for tonic water if non-alcoholic)
  • Lemon twist (for serving)


Muddle celery with sugar and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker, 1 minute. Add gin, fill shaker with ice, and shake until outside of shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a lemon twist.

Servings: Makes 1

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Autumn Sangria

Autumn Sangria

There is both an art and a science to turning lemons into lemonade.  I may not be a glass half-full type of person, but for some reason, when it comes to food – that is my specialty.  At work. people often joke about my motivational speaking.  But still, they keep drinking the lemonade and showing up each and every day.  It is what keeps me going, and puts a smile on my face – even if the lemonade wasn’t as sweet as we all wanted.

I never really thought about it like this, but for me – turning lemons into lemonade is similar to turning wine into Sangria.  I love a good glass of wine, but it is not what I look forward to on a Friday evening after a long hard week.  It is a well balanced cocktail that really puts a smile on my face.  Last weekend I was invited to a party and was asked to bring mixed drinks.  I was right in the middle of an extremely busy weekend – if I wasn’t driving kids from one place to another, I was in my office on the computer.  There was not a lot going on in the kitchen this weekend – and I had these drinks hanging over my head.

I could have just brought some bottles over to the party and mixed drinks a la minute…but I wanted something easy.  Something that was already prepared, and that people could just pour for themselves.  It finally hit me – it was time to turn lemons into lemonade.  Maybe it was because I was thinking about my upcoming business trip, or because I was looking at all the apples and pears on the counter – but I knew that Sangria was answer.  I went right back to the computer, and started searching for the perfect recipe.  I wanted something with fall flavors – something not too heavy, but perfect to go with a meal.  I found this recipe on NeighborFood Blog and it was exactly what I was looking for.  This Sangria was probably the best I have ever made, it just oozed of fall flavors.  The cinnamon was incredible, with all those apples and pears – it was like a pumpkin pie in a glass.

So the next time you are looking to turn lemons into lemonade, I have a better idea…turn wine into Sangria.  Then invite me over for a drink.


  • 1 bottle of pinot grigio (see below for a non-alcoholic version)
  • 3 cups apple cider + ¼ cup maple syrup whisked in (the maple syrup part is optional)
  • 1 cup club soda
  • ½ cup bourbon (see below for a non-alcoholic version)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 2 pears, chopped
  • 2 plums, chopped


Mix all the liquid ingredients together in a BIG pitcher and stir it up really well. Drop in the cinnamon sticks and fruit, give it another good stir then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Give it one more good stir before serving.

Note:  if you do not drink alcohol, or want to make a version for kiddos, use a bottle of sparkling cider instead or wine and bourbon, and add the cinnamon sticks and fruit.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Autumn Sangria

Watermelon Refresco

Watermelon Refresco

I can’t believe summer is over, and school is starting this week.  My older daughter seems to be holding it together quite well right now – I hope it can last.  I know the first day is going to be tough when she shows up at the new school and it really hits everyone that they have been split-up.  Hopefully it is just for two years, and that she will get to reunite with all her friends in high school.  At least we can always hope.

As I mentioned before, I am pretty behind on my postings.  This summer was much busier than I could have ever expected, and it doesn’t look like it is going to slow down any time soon.  At least I was able to take a little break from work and spend some quality time with my family.  It is not often that I am back east when I need to be, but fortunately this time I was.  We will all miss my uncle tremendously.

It wouldn’t be summer without watermelon, and this year I found a new favorite drink thanks to Cooking Light.  I made two versions – one for the kids, and one for the adults – and it was a crowd pleaser for everyone.  And did you see that color?  I am feeling refreshed just looking at it.

Teddy always did love a good drink as he would sit on my mother’s porch overlooking the water.  So Teddy – this one’s for you…cheers.


  • 5 1/2 cups chopped seeded watermelon
  • 3/4 cup tequila (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons Triple Sec (orange-flavored liqueur) (optional)
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups club soda, chilled
  • 6 lime wedges


Place watermelon in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed watermelon into a sieve over a large bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Combine 3 cups watermelon juice, tequila (for adults only), Triple Sec (for adults only), lime juice, and salt in a pitcher; stir with a whisk. Gently stir in club soda. Serve over ice with lime wedges.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Watermelon Refresco