A Blueberry Smash in the Moonlight & Cocktail Gardening Gone Wild . . .

July 27th, 2013 Comments Off

Blueberry Smash - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Icy, Cool, Blueberry Smash

Have you heard? Cocktail gardening is all the rage these days. Of course, mixing drinks from fresh-picked ingredients has been popular with gardeners for as long as booze and backyards have been around, but it always seems to take mainstream media awhile to catch up, now doesn’t it? Strictly speaking, I’ve never planted a cocktail garden, but I’ll make a drink out of pretty much anything in my potager, or the surrounding forest for that matter. And why not? Just about anything edible —wild or cultivated— can go into a cocktail recipe: cucumber for a Porch Swing/Pimm’s Cup, mint for Mojitos and Juleps, berries, rhubarb, melon and stone fruit for Smashes, Daiquiris and Mimosas, chile peppers and citrus for Margaritas, celery and tomatoes for Bloody Marys, edible flowers for pretty much anything, and the list goes on and on. If it’s growing in your kitchen garden, it’s fair game. But if you’re foraging, just be 100% certain that you know what you’ve gathered in that basket!

Blueberries at Last - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com To Extend the Harvest and Provide Good Pollination, I Grow Three Blueberry Varieties in My Garden: BlueRay, Northland and Jersey. Read More About Blueberry Cultivation Here.

picking blueberries in the garden - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Early Morning Blueberry Picking

blueberries from the garden Turns into a Hot Afternoon Dilemma. Shall I Turn on the Oven to Bake a Pie? Nah…

In high summer —when ripe berries and fresh herbs are plentiful— I love to take in sunset or moonrise on the terrace with an ice cold Cuban Mint Julep, fresh Strawberry-Mint Mojito, Raspberry Daiquiri or Blueberry Smash. At the moment, blueberries are particularly plentiful in my garden —despite the efforts of four local black bear— and when it’s too hot to bake a pie or muffins, I’ll take my blueberries with a bit of mint from the herb garden, fresh squeezed lemon/lime juice, vodka or white rum, a hint of St. Germain, crushed ice and a splash of seltzer, thank you very much!

Unknown The Drunken Botanist, by Amy Stewart

Looking for a little inspiration to help liven up the home bar? Author, gardener and cocktail-lover, Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist is a fine, educational read —as well as cocktail gardening and recipe resource— for the horticultural enthusiast who enjoys the occasional homegrown and hand-crafted drink (or two). Curious about the botanical origins of gin and vodka? Want to learn more about the relationships between the various grains, vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers? Wondering about how to play them against or with one another in a cocktail shaker? Well then, pull up a bar stool. Get ready to kick back a glass or two, and chase it with several chapters of cocktail gardening inspiration. And I have just the drink to whet your whistle . . .

Blueberry Smash Ingredients - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com How ‘Bout an Ice Cold Blueberry Smash . . .

Blueberry Smashes on the Terrace - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Now That’s More Like It. Now, Cue Up the Moon . . .

The Blueberry Smash

Ingredients for one cocktail*

1 1/2 oz of Vodka (or White Rum)

1/2 oz St. Germain or Cointreau (and/or 1/2 oz simple syrup)

1/4 cup Fresh Blueberries

Juice of 1/4 Lemon or 1/2 Lime (or a mix of the two)

Slices of Lemon or Lime for garnish

1/8 cup Fresh Mint Leaves, loosely packed, plus a sprig for garnish

Chilled Seltzer Water (optional, for a long version)

Crushed Ice

Method

Reserve a few mint leaves and berries for garnish and place the remaining amount in a cocktail shaker cup and smash with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon until the blueberries are pulpy and the mint leaves are crushed. Fill the cup near to the top with ice. Add citrus juice (and if you like it sweet, optional simple syrup) and spirits and place the cover on your cup. Shake, shake, shake until well mixed. Set aside. Place a couple of the reserved mint leaves at the bottom of a highball or goblet and crush them with a muddler. Fill the glass with ice. Strain the mixture into the glass and, if you prefer a longer, less-potent tasting drink, top off with chilled seltzer. Add a few fresh blueberries, a sprig of mint and/or lemon/lime slices, then serve. This recipe may be adapted and modified in a variety of ways for various berry/herb/citrus combinations**.

Cheers!

*For pitcher sized portions of this cocktail, see John Derian’s version at Bon Appetit, here.

**Find more of my favorite libations in a collection of archived cocktail posts, here.

**For more garden-fresh cocktails as well as recipes for homemade bitters, simple syrups and a shot of good wit, check out Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist Blog, here.

Thunder Moonrise through Halesia tetraptera - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Blueberry Blue Sky & Moonlight, through the Carolina Silverbell Leaves (Halesia tetraptera)

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Seduced by Autumn’s Alluring Scent …

September 25th, 2011 Comments Off

Deep Within the Secret Garden, the Delightful Scent of Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ and ‘Brunette’ aka Cimicifuga racemosa) Perfumes the Air, Luring Me Down the Dim, Winding Path. (Other plants here: Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’, Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’, Viburum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, and beside the Actaea simplex: glowing, chartreuse Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’)

There are many things to love about Autumn, not the least of which is her enviable wardrobe of fine perfume. Earthy notes of musk, moss and damp leaves play against heady florals to create a most alluring bouquet. Just outside my studio door, Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata, aka C. terniflora) scents the damp morning breeze with a cloud of fragrant white blossoms. Nearby —along the edge of the stone terrace— swoon-inducing Damask Roses (Hardy Portland Damask cultivar, Rosa ‘De Rescht’) fill the air with their unmistakably rich scent as they come into a second wave of seasonal bloom; mingling with the nearby vanilla of Henry Eilers Sweet Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’). Further down the garden path —luring me into the shadows— the slightly-fruity fragrance Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex cvs ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ and ‘Brunette’) swirls about, blending at the edge of the damp walls with base notes of moss and fern to balance the sweetness …

One of the lofty delights of fall, Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata, aka C. terniflora) twines about my studio entry door. Here in my zone 4/5 garden, this old-time favorite produces clouds of fragrant, white blossoms throughout the month of September and often into early October. Sweet Autumn Clematis is hardy in zones 4-8 and can reach a height of 30′ or more (easily contained and kept tidy by vigorous spring pruning, as this clematis blooms on new wood)

The old roses, particularly Damasks, are well known for their exquisite perfume. In early autumn —and often straight through the first frost— this Portland Damask Rose known as Rosa ‘De Rescht’ (the right rose, in German), is particularly sweet. Read more about this hardy cultivar and find a Vintage Rose Cocktail recipe by clicking here.

An unusually fragrant rudbeckia, Henry Eilers Sweet Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’), lightly perfumes the air with the subtle scent of vanilla, when planted en masse

The Fruity Scent of Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’) Wafts Up from the Stone Walls Along the Secret Garden Path. Read more about this Autumn blooming beauty by clicking here.

Late-blooming flowers are not only attractive, but vitally important to the support of pollinators as well. As sunlight fades in the September garden, I often find drunken bees and butterflies lingering about the Fairy Candles and other blossoms, long past the sunset. And can you blame them? With all the voluptuous fragrances of fall —and many more yet to come— a stroll through the Autumn garden can be a deliciously intoxicating experience …

Find the recipe for this Vintage Rose Cocktail and read about my favorite Autumn Damask Rose, ‘Rosa De Rescht’ by clicking here

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Fresh Picked Raspberry-Mint Daiquiris And Hazy Summer Reflections …

July 25th, 2011 § 2

Fresh-Picked Raspberry-Mint Daiquiri

An Afternoon Swim

Favorite Old Summertime Slides

Truth: I’m suffering from a bit of vacation envy this week. Months have passed since I’ve had a whole day to myself, and to be honest, I really need one. It’s been terribly hot, and I’ve been doing projects back-to-back. I try to “make hay while the sun shines”, as the saying goes, and during the growing season, taking time off work always feels impossible. But summer days pass quickly —at the speed of light, really— and it’s important to savor their sweetness. My nephew will soon be two years old, and I can’t remember the last time my toes touched sand. I miss my friends. I miss my family. It’s time to slow things down a little and plan a mini-vacation: pick some wild berries, kick off shoes, float in the lake and mix a cocktail or two …

Fresh-Picked Raspberries and Mint

Hazy Green Mountains at Sunset

Savoring a Bit of Summer

Never one for frozen-cocktails, I prefer my libations lightly chilled and shaken with hand-cracked ice. The classic daiquiri (made with lime juice, white rum and gomme syrup) wasn’t originally a blender drink; though on a hot day, many prefer to serve it that way. There are so many variations on the basic recipe, but in mid-summer, is there anything tastier than a cocktail made with freshly picked, juicy fruit? The heavenly fragrance of raspberries and mint, the glow of saturated, backlit color; why it’s just summertime in a glass …

Old Fashioned Raspberry-Mint Daiquiri

Ingredients (one cocktail, multiply to suit any number of companions)

1         handful fresh picked raspberries (about 20 juicy, plump berries)

6         fresh picked mint leaves, slightly crushed

1 2/3  oz Puerto Rican White Rum

2/3     oz fresh squeezed lime juice

extra mint and raspberries for garnish and nibbles

hand cracked ice

*dash of gomme or simple syrup (*optional if berries are tart)

Method: 

Place raspberries and mint in a cocktail shaker and lightly mash (*if berries seem tart, add a dash of gomme/simple syrup to sweeten the drink). Add cracked ice to the cup an pour in the rum and lime juice. Let it all sit for a minute, then cover and shake it all up. Set aside. Add a sprig of mint with three raspberries to a double cocktail glass. Strain contents of shaker into the glass, walk out to the deck, kick off your shoes, sit down and sip. Repeat as necessary.

 Cheers! Here’s to Summer!

Red Sky at Night – A Glowing, Raspberry Sunset

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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A Sparkling 4th of July Celebration …

July 4th, 2011 Comments Off

I love fireworks. Those colorful, explosive displays have always reminded me of neon flowers; great big daisies, electric dahlias and sparkly spider flowers in the night sky. Beautiful! And is there anything more romantic than stretching out on a blanket to take in a delightful show of pyrotechnics on a warm summer’s eve?

wishing  you  a  very  sparkly  fourth  of  july …

To see More Pyrotechnic/Flower Photos & Find a Recipe for Strawberry-Mint Mojitos, Click Here!

Words & Photographs ⓒ Michaela Medina – The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reused, reposted or reproduced in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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A Warm Welcome to Sultry Summer …

June 21st, 2011 Comments Off

A Warm Welcome to Summertime with Pyrotechnic Flower Bouquets

Summer begins today at 1:16 pm EDT, and I’m welcoming her with open arms. After a long, cold winter followed by a wet, drizzly spring, I’m more than ready for hot and hazy, hammock days and sultry summer evenings. There are so many things to love about summer: picnics in the afternoon before a night filled with fireworks, leisurely days spent skimming stones on the river, strawberry shortcake for supper and picking homegrown tomatoes straight off the vine to eat with juice running down your chin, dancing barefoot on the terrace to Cachao with a chilled glass of sangria, and dining al fresco beneath a canopy of stars…

What are some of your favorite summertime pleasures?

Romantic Weekend Picnics
Cool Dips on Hot, Hazy Days
And Strawberry Shortcake for Supper (click here for recipe)
Afternoons Filled with Music and Al Fresco Dining on the Terrace
And Cool Sangria on Sultry Evenings (click here for my not-so secret-anymore recipe)

Here’s To Summer, My Friends … Cheers!
xo Michaela

Words & Photographs ⓒ Michaela Medina – The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reposted, reproduced or reused in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Strawberries & Homemade Granola: Fresh Fraises des Bois for Breakfast …

June 9th, 2011 § 1

Fresh Picked Alpine Strawberries or Fraises des Bois (Fragaria vesca) & Homemade Granola

One of the best things about June —besides peonies— is fresh picked strawberries from the garden. I have a small but productive patch of fraises des bois (Fragaria vesca) —better known as alpine strawberries— in my potager (click here for more information about this wonderful berry). And right now, the alpine strawberry plants are producing so many plump, juicy fruits, I hardly miss the few that I know Mr. Catbird is snatching. For the past few days, I’ve been strolling down to the kitchen garden at dawn to fill a basket with these sweet, ruby red beauties for my breakfast. I love them tossed on top of homemade granola in the morning, and later —if it’s hot— they are wonderful mashed up in a strawberry mojito (click here for recipe) or a strawberry flirt (click here for that little number). Alpine strawberries are easy to grow in patio pots or window boxes; making them the perfect fruit for container gardeners.

The still, early morning hours are ideal for pulling a few weeds and watching butterflies. This week I spotted a viceroy (which looks like a miniature monarch), several painted ladies and more tiger swallowtail butterflies. All of the pollinators seem drawn to the chives and sage in particular, but also to the recently planted cosmos, calendula and ageratum. Which reminds me, I need to get back over to Walker Farm. I have a little extra space around the fence line, and I aim to fill it with more fresh flowers for cutting!

Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) and My New Red Chair

Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are the Sweetest of June Treasures

Top Two Photos: Viceroy Butterfly.  Above: Chives for Butterflies, Bees & Me

In winter, I like to add raisins and other dried fruits to my granola. But in summer, I think fresh berries are the way to go. So at this time of year, I prefer a honey-nut granola recipe to complement the tart taste of fresh fruit. The blend below is based on a simple recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, which I discovered while reading Adam Roberts’ very funny food blog, The Amateur Gourmet. This is a fun recipe to make with kids, because the granola turns out best when you mix it with your hands!

Alpine Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

Cultivated Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are Larger Than Truly Wild Fruit but Smaller Than Standard, Cultivated Varieties

Honey-Nut Granola with Fresh Alpine Strawberries

Ingredients: (makes about 3 1/2 cups, multiply and add twists, as you like)

2          cups rolled oats

1          tsp cinnamon

1          tsp salt

3 1/2   tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4      cup honey, plus extra for drizzling

1/4      cup brown sugar

1         tsp vanilla extract

1         cup (+/-) of lightly chopped nuts (cashews, macadamia, etc)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. Select a large baking sheet (or cookie sheet) and line with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix together the vegetable oil, brown sugar, honey, vanilla with a fork or whisk. Set aside.

Mix oats, nuts, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl.

Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and combine. The best method for even coverage is to use your hands.

Spread the mixture out over the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake 10 minutes, remove pan and drizzle with a little more honey. Turn the granola with a spatula. Return to oven for another 5 – 10 minutes. Watch carefully, as it’s easy to burn. Remove from oven and turn the granola again. If the mixture looks less than golden brown, return to oven for another 5 minutes. Remove the granola from oven and allow it to cool completely.

Serve with fresh berries and milk or yogurt, and a drizzle of golden honey on top. Store extra granola in an airtight canister (it keeps well for a couple of weeks, if it lasts that long).

Ever-Bearing Alpine Strawberries/Fraises des Bois (Fragaria vesca) Produce Delicious Fruit All Summer Long

Succession Sowing of Seed and Planting of Vegetable Starts Continues All Summer Long to Insure a Steady Supply of Greens, Root Vegetables and Fall Crops

Looking Past the Garlic Greens, Peppers, Bean Pole and Into the Heart of the Potager

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links (including Amazon.com book links). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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A Visual Feast: Beautiful, Edible Flowers

May 23rd, 2011 § 1

Pansies (Viola × wittrockiana) are lovely atop cakes, in salads and especially when floating in cocktails…

Or Cocktails, Like this Sunset Mangotini (click here for recipe)

(Viola × wittrockiana ‘Matrix Purple’)

Candied rose petals, lavender ice cream, hibiscus tea, chocolate cupcakes laced with violets; some flowers are more than a visual feast, they’re actually good enough to eat. It’s fun to decorate food with colorful blossoms, and it always feels a bit naughty too —eating something so pretty— when I pull the tiny flowers off a slice of cake and gobble them down. “Don’t eat the daisies“, they say… But that’s part of the fun, now isn’t it?

I grow flowers in my potager for a wide variety of reasons —to support pollinators, provide fresh bouquets for the table, and add beauty to the vegetable patch— but one of the best reasons to grow flowers in the kitchen garden, is to eat them! I enjoy spicy nasturtium and chive blossoms in salads, scarlet runner bean and rosemary flowers in soup, and many other blooming beauties as both ingredient and garnish to dishes from spring to fall…

Bright Orange Calendula Brightens this Garlic Scape Pesto (click here for recipe)

Nasturtiums Add Bold Color and Spicy Flavor to Salads

Fresh From the Potager: Nasturtium, Lettuce and Radishes Make a Colorful Salad with Zing

Never tried eating a flower? Think again. Broccoli and cauliflower are two of the most popular edible buds! Some other, commonly consumed edible flowers include nasturtium, dandelion, violets and pansies, geranium (Pelargonium spp), daylily, squash blossoms, calendula, chamomile, lavender, chive, mint, sage blossoms and of course rose petals. But many other flowers can be grown and used in a wide variety of dishes. Try citrusy bee balm (Monarda didyma), fruity red bud (Cercis canadensis) and apple blossoms, spicy anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), fresh red clover and scarlet runner beans.

Thinking of adding a row of potager posies to your backyard garden? If you’ve never grown edible flowers before, I’d recommend stopping at an organic nursery or farm stand in your area to shop for plants. Do a bit of research before you collect your six packs and ask a knowledgable staff member at your local garden center for a bit of guidance. Two of my favorite edible flower gardening resources in print —by Cathy Wilkinson Barash and Rosalind Creasy— are listed below. Both books contain great cultural and culinary information; including recipes and tips for storage!

Edible Flowers: Desserts & Drinks by Cathy Wilkinson Barash

The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy

And although it should be common sense, I must emphasize that not all blossoms and buds should be consumed. In fact, some flowers —and many berries, leaves, roots and sometimes entire plants— are quite toxic. So, never eat a flower or any plant unless you can positively identify —with 100% certainty— that it’s safe for human consumption. If you have very small children frequenting your garden, or as members of your family or household, never grow anything toxic in your potager. In fact, I recommend  that all gardening adults keep a copy of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants in an easy to locate place. If you are growing your own food, it’s always a good idea to become familiar with both edible and inedible plants, and it’s never wise to grow anything poisonous around small children.

The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants

***

Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site (with noted exceptions) is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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A Toast to Mothers Everywhere: Celebrate Mom’s Special Day with a Spiced Rhubarb Bellini …

May 8th, 2011 Comments Off

Rhubarb Bellini with Warm Spices

I remember the first time I tasted raw rhubarb. As many of you will likely remember from previous posts, my family raised strawberries, and in mid to late spring, strawberries and rhubarb go hand-in-hand. I never paid the perennial patch of rhubarb much attention, but one day —while out in the garden with my mom— I happen to notice that rhubarb is a very pretty plant. Ever the precocious aesthete, I was captivated by the glowing red stalks and the way they contrasted with the ruffly, deep green leaves. Of course, rhubarb isn’t something you generally eat raw —unless you are a curious kid— and my mother dutifully warned her children that the leaves shouldn’t be eaten (they are toxic when ingested in large quantities) and that raw rhubarb stalks are “yucky”. But, kids will be kids, and I needed to know exactly how yucky her version of “yucky” really was. So, the moment my mother had her back turned, I bit off a big chunk of a tempting, red, raw stalk she’d harvested and quickly started chewing it. Wowza. Suddenly, I felt as if my entire face were contracting toward the back of my head. My cheeks sunk in and my lips puckered, pursed and curled back into my teeth. Ptht! Ptht! Ptht! Out went the rhubarb. Oh my gosh, I could not get that sour, evil, red substance out of my mouth fast enough. How could something so pretty taste so bad?

Being a mother is —without a doubt— the hardest job on earth. But I imagine it also must be pretty entertaining at times; especially if you have kooky kids. To her credit, as she watched this scene unfold  —spitting, writhing and coughing child— my mother didn’t scold or lecture me. But, neither did she make an effort to contain her amusement. And why should she? I had a habit of getting myself into things, in spite of her warnings. At times, I can remember her laughing so hard that she was shaking and had tears running down her face. But I did plenty to cause my mother real worry too. Poor mom. Good or bad, I needed to experience life on my own terms —still do, in fact.

New to My Garden this Year: Rhubarb!

Needless to say, I went off rhubarb for awhile. Actually —let’s be honest— I went off rhubarb for decades. In fact, that experience stayed with me and my taste buds until maybe two years ago. It’s true. I avoided rhubarb like the plague. Oh, I know what you must be thinking: silly girl, rhubarb is delicious! And of course, you are correct. But sometimes, well, you just have to see for yourself.

Getting reacquainted with rhubarb required a nudge from my most-motivational-of-muses: curiosity. One of my favorite local restaurants serves some fantastic, seasonal dishes; always accompanied by interesting side sauces, butters and compotes. And by the way, have you noticed that homemade condiments can completely elevate your dinner from ho-hum to spectacular? It’s true. In the same way that a great dressing makes a salad, a good condiment can completely change a meal. Well, in this case, the dinner was fabulous on its own, but the condiment du jour was a ruby red, rhubarb compote. Yes, there it sat —glowing— taunting and tempting me on the plate. Should I, or shouldn’t I? Well, in classic style, I waited until no one was looking and dove into the deep end of the plate. And, it was delicious. Warm, smooth, slightly tart and distinctly spicy; this was nothing like the rhubarb of my Looney-Tunes, “Long-Haired Hare”, alum-faced, nightmares. Mmmm. Hello rhubarb. Welcome back to my world.

Pretty, isn’t it?

Isn’t the golden-copper-red color just gorgeous?

Suddenly I find myself with a patch of rhubarb in my own garden —sometimes I still can’t believe I actually planted it there— and I’m looking for any way to experiment with my new-found friend in the kitchen. Why not start with that enticing rhubarb compote, right? Of course. Something like apple-sauce in color and consistency —but far more sophisticated atop pancakes, ice cream or even grilled meats— this twist on the basic rhubarb compote has a touch of sweetness from brown sugar and the complexity of warm spices. It could, of course, be multiplied and adapted in myriad ways. But, I got the idea in my head that it might make a mighty fine cocktail. And since it’s Mother’s Day weekend, why not surprise mom with a bit of champagne at breakfast? Just add chilled compote to the bottom of a sparkling flute to create a rhubarb bellini…

So rich looking against the smooth, clear glass…

Spiced Rhubarb Compote & Rhubarb Bellini

Spiced Rhubarb Compote Ingredients (creates enough compote for a a few cocktails or a dinner condiment)

4 1/2          Cups chopped rhubarb

4 1/2          Tablespoons water

1/2             Cup brown sugar (+ or – to taste, I like less sugar)

1                 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2           Teaspoons cinnamon (Optional. Eliminate for un-spiced compote)

3/4              Teaspoon ground coriander (eliminate for un-spiced compote)

Directions:

Mix ingredients together in an oven-proof dish and bake at 325° F until rhubarb is tender (15 minutes or so). Cool and mash or place in a blender to puree. Chill and reserve, refrigerated.

Rhubarb Bellini Ingredients (makes one cocktail)

2                Tablespoons spiced rhubarb compote (or enough to fill approx. 1/4 of the flute)

1-2             Dashes of Cointreau (optional)

Brut Champagne, Prosecco or Cava to fill the glass

Method:

Add two tablespoons of chilled rhubarb compote to the bottom of a champagne flute and a dash or two of Cointreau.

Tilt and slowly fill the glass with chilled, brut champagne or prosecco and serve (nice with an orange slice garnish)

 

Here’s to all of the moms out there! Happy Mother’s Day! Cheers!

xo Michaela

Spiced Rhubarb Bellini

Happy Mother’s Day!

You may also enjoy Ina Garten’s Chive Rissoto Cakes. Click on the photo above for past post and recipe!

***

Article and all photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Early Spring’s Sweetest Things…

March 30th, 2011 § 8

The New Sugar Shack at Deer Ridge Farm in Guilford, Vermont

Spring, oh spring, where are you? You certainly are a bit coquettish this year; teasing us with early catkins on willow, then snapping us with a sharp, cold sting. Yes, Spring has been withholding many early-season pleasures here in New England, but she always shows us just a bit of sweetness at this time of year in the form of maple syrup. Cold nights and warm days are part of the swing-season magic responsible for sap production here in the Northeast. And this year —with the chilly weather lingering a bit longer than usual— the maple sugaring season has been starting, stopping and sputtering along. Some days it’s too cold for sluggish sap to run —buckets sit frozen on trees— but on warmer days, the percussive sound of drips echoing along the road makes my morning walk something of a maple dance. And I think it’s always fun to end an early spring walk with a hot stack of fresh blueberry pancakes or lemony French toast, smothered in sweet maple syrup. Yum…

Though less efficient than modern methods of sap collecting, the classic tin sap-buckets are still my aesthetic favorite

The Scenic, Seasonal View Along the Road in My Neighborhood

This sugar maple has three buckets. What’s the largest number you’ve ever seen on a tree?

Though I have participated in the maple syrup-making process many times, I don’t boil sap here at my place in Vermont. However, locally made maple syrup is one of my favorite sweet treats, and since many of my friends and neighbors produce and sell maple products every year, I have access to some of the best syrup in the world. In fact, driving up and down the mucky roads in Vermont and elsewhere in the Northeast this month, it’s impossible to go far without seeing the familiar, early-spring sights of tin buckets hanging from maple trees (Acer saccharum) and steaming sugar shacks. Here are a few photos of the maple-syrup-making process, which I shot at local Deer Ridge Farm over the past couple of weeks (many thanks to Jerry Smith for allowing me in to the sugar shack during this busy season). Learn more about how maple syrup and other products are made from maple tree sap at the official Vemont Maple Syrup website, and for more links and resources on sugaring season in Vermont, be sure to check out this excellent post at the lovely Traveling Near and Far blog.

The heat necessary to boil maple sap down, creating sweet syrup, is usually generated by a wood burning stove or furnace

Jerry Smith of Deer Ridge Farm in Guilford, Vermont is Busy at Work, Boiling Sap He Collected from Local Sugar Maples

Sweet-scented steam fills the air inside the Deer Ridge Farm sugar shack

It takes an average of 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup*. Just imagine how much time & work goes into that sweet topping, next time you take a bite of your Sunday pancake, waffle, pop-over, French toast or a sip of your Sugar Moon cocktail!

Maple Syrup is My Favorite Breakfast Topping, and I Particularly Love it on Lemony French Toast (click here for recipe)

My Sugar Moon Cocktail (click here for recipe) is Made with Locally Produced Maple Syrup

Blueberry Breakfast Popover (click here for recipe) is Absolutely Delicious with Fresh Maple Syrup

***

Special thanks to Jerry Smith and Deer Ridge Farm. Maple products and other produce from Deer Ridge Farm may be found at the Brattleboro Farmers Market (click here for more information).

*Thank you also to Traveling Near and Far for links, resources and fun facts!

Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Oh Sweet, Sweet, Sugar Moon: Celebrate The Vernal Equinox & Celestial Beauty With a Seasonal, Maple Syrup Cocktail…

March 19th, 2011 § 2

The Sugar Moon: A Maple Syrup Cocktail to Celebrate the End of Winter & March’s Full Moon at Perigee

With the full moon at perigee, Winter’s end and Spring’s beginning, it seems there’s plenty to celebrate this weekend. Last night —eager for a preview of tonight’s celestial events— I took a tour of the local Connecticut River Valley, seeking a spot to watch the big moon rising. I wasn’t disappointed. With the sky still blue and clear, La Luna rose proud and full on the horizon. What a spectacular dress rehearsal. And tonight —with beautifully clear conditions in Vermont— I am looking forward to bundling up and taking my front row seat on the terrace here at home.

Moonrise is at 7:23 pm ET tonight, and as the glowing orb inches over the horizon, objects in the foreground will have a tendency to magnify her already super-sized appearance (click here for an article explaining tonight’s “super-moon” at perigee from Space.com). With the silhouetted maple trees —swollen buds on full view— for inspiration, I decided to concoct a special end-of-winter/super-full-moon, cocktail. And at this moment of seasonal transition*, it seemed only natural to combine the sweet flavor of locally produced maple syrup with the earthy, warm taste of bourbon; creating a special, celebratory drink. Meyer lemon adds a perfect floral note to this delicious, golden cocktail, and offers the slightest hint of sour to contrast with maple’s rich sweetness.

So enjoy the evening, whatever your pleasure. And wherever you may be, I hope the skies are clear and the moon is bright and the new season brings you health and happiness

Cheers! xo Michaela

*The Vernal Equinox will occur at 7:21 pm ET tomorrow, March 20th (23:21 UT), making today the last full day of Winter in North America.

The Full Moon Over Budding Trees

The Sugar Moon Cocktail

Ingredients

(makes one cocktail)

2 Ounces of Bourbon

1 Ounce Fresh Squeezed Meyer Lemon Juice

1 Ounce Grade A Vermont Maple Syrup (+/- for sweetness)

Lemon peel for garnish

Method

Pour maple syrup, bourbon and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake, shake, shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a bit of sliced lemon peel (or a twist).

Toast as the Full Moon Rises

Sugar Moon, Sap Moon, Lenten Moon, Crow Moon or Worm Moon. Call it What You Will… This One is Sure to be Super!

Photo ⓒ Anita from “The Croggery” via  In the Company of Stone: the Art and Work of Dan Snow (click here for a peek at the maple sugaring process in this post by Dan Snow)

***

The Sugar Moon cocktail is an original variation of an old, New England classic known as the ‘Maple Leaf’

Article and photographs (with noted exception) copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent.

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Celebrating the Winter Solstice: Welcome the Season with a Sparkling Ode to Krampus…

December 21st, 2010 § 6

The Ode to Krampus

As the final hours of Autumn slip away with the low sun, and Winter arrives in her frosty chariot, I’ll be celebrating the Solstice this evening with friends and family. Marking the Winter Solstice is one of my favorite holiday traditions. And this year, while searching for a special cocktail to serve at a holiday party, my very resourceful friend Mel happened to send me a fabulous list of libations from the New York Times Online. Jackpot!

Being an Alpine-kind-of gal, the very first recipe on the list immediately caught my eye (although Mel and I both agreed that the name didn’t do it justice, so I immediately re-named it The Krampus). This pine and elderflower-essence-infused, sparkling drink honors Krampus: a mythical, demon-like, pagan character from familiar childhood tales. According to Alpine legend, St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) travels with the rusty-chain laden Krampus from house to house, warning and punishing bad children (sound familiar?). Krampus is one of those hold-over pagan elements —much like the decorative evergreen tree, yule log, and other little bits of holiday cheer— that accompany Christmas. I think this Alpine-influenced story and recipe make a particularly appropriate cocktail to celebrate the longest night of they year, don’t you? Have you been naughty or nice? I think a visit from Krampus would be exciting either way!

Krampus and Nikolaus Visiting Children in Austria (image: Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, one of the main ingredients —pine liqueur— proved impossible to locate on short notice, (though it can be found online and in specialty liquor stores). However, I did find a good piney substitute —rosemary liqueur— to use in its stead. And with a sprig of fresh white pine (Pinus strobus) tucked into the glass, this drink is tasty, fragrant, horticultural and festive.

Enjoy the Winter Solstice, and the stark, white beauty of this spectacular season. Cheers!

Pinus strobus -Eastern White Pine

Winter’s Stark, White Beauty

Ode to Krampus

(From the New York Times “For Every Holiday Party, the Right Drink”… with a teensy tweak)

Ingredients: Makes One Cocktail (multiply for a party)

3                ounces of dry white wine

1/2            ounce dry vermouth

1/2            ounce elderflower liqueur

1/4            ounce pine liqueur (or sub rosemary liqueur)

1                ounce club soda

1                ounce dry, sparkling wine (a brut prosecco is perfect)

1                slice grapefruit peel garnish

1                sprig fresh eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)

Here’s the mix…

Add ice to a large cocktail glass and combine the wine, vermouth and liqueur. Stir and top off with the prosecco and club soda. Twist a grapefruit peel over the cocktail and stick it in the side of the glass. Garnish with a small sprig of white pine.

Cheers !

From Winter’s Dusk

To Winter’s Dawn…

May You Find Beauty and Happiness in this Sparkling Season. Happy Holidays!

You may also enjoy the Persephone. Click here or on the image below for story and recipe from last Winter…

The Persephone

***

Article and Photos ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Savoring a Quiet Moment & Raising a Glass to Friendship and Good Company: Soul-Warming, Spicy Mulled Wine…

November 24th, 2010 § 1

Mulled Wine and a Thanksgiving Toast to Friendship

The last few days and hours before a holiday are always a busy time. With all of the necessary preparations —shopping and cooking, packing and travel— it’s easy to lose sight of the more important aspects of our gathering amid all the hustle and bustle. Sometimes it can be helpful to remember that many hands make light the work; free up yourself, so that others may enjoy your company. A perfect pumpkin souffle is no match for a sweet kiss. Savor a few quiet moments with those you love, for those are the times we all remember most.

Do you know someone working a bit to hard, trying to please everyone but him or herself? Perhaps they might benefit from a back rub and a soul-warming serving of mulled wine beside the fire. Sit those worker bees down, pull off their shoes and hand them a glass. The napkin-ring polishing and guest-bedroom primping can wait. Time always speeds up around the holidays, and it’s up to us to pull the emergency break and slow it all down. Grab someone’s hand and take a walk through the forest or a stroll through the local park or garden. Tell a story. Share a secret. Give something of yourself to keep forever…

I love a glass of warm, mulled wine on a cold autumn evening. Last year I posted a recipe for mulling spices —which can be used for regular or spiked apple cider, and for mulled wine as well— but I have another, extra-special recipe I call ‘Mulled Autumn Wine’. This concoction is a little headier and takes a wee-bit more time prepare than the one I previously posted. Of course, I think it’s worth the wait. So if you know someone —or a group of someones— you’d like to spoil over the holidays, this might just do the trick. Feel free to tweak away at the ingredients – everyone seems to have their own special twist…

Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

Soul-Warming Mulled Wine for the Holidays

Mulled Autumn Wine

Ingredients for Mulled Wine: (serves 8)

1            Bottle of good, dry red wine (750ml)

1 2/3     Ounces of good quality brandy

1 2/3     Ounces of Grand Marnier

1            Teaspoon superfine sugar

3            Teaspoons of honey (plus or minus to taste)

2            Ounces of fresh squeezed orange juice

2            Ounces of fresh squeezed lemon juice (Meyer if possible)

1/2         Orange, sliced into wheels

Mulling Spices:

1            Cheesecloth spice bag

2            Teaspoons freshly grated orange peel

1            Cinnamon stick, broken in half

4            Cloves (approximatey)

3            Cardamon pods, split open

3            Star anise

2            Bay leaves

Garnish: (for 8 glasses)

1            Lemon, sliced

24          Cloves

8            Cinnamon sticks

Directions:

Crack open cardamon pods and muddle lightly. Add all spices to a cheesecloth sack and toss in a large pot. Pour in the wine, brandy and Grand Marnier. Stir in the orange slices and the juices, and cover. Let the mixture sit for approximately 3 hours. About an hour an a half before you are ready to serve, remove the orange slices with a slotted spoon and bring the mixture to a very, very low simmer. Add the honey and sugar and stir to dissolve. Continue simmering for a total of an hour an a half (be careful to never let the wine overheat or boil).

In meantime, slice the lemon crosswise into 8 wheels. Stud each lemon wheel with a few cloves and garnish the individual glasses with a lemon wheel and cinnamon stick.

Remove the wine from the stove and pull out the spice sack with a slotted spoon.

Carefully divide the wine between the 8 glasses and serve warm.

Happy Thanksgiving… Cheers!

***

Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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A Toast to the Last Day of Summer: Greeting the Autumnal Equinox with Spiced, Heirloom Apple Cider Martinis…

September 22nd, 2010 Comments Off

Spiced Apple Cider Martini with Dolgo Crab Apple and Cinnamon Stick Garnish

Farewell to summer! The autumnal equinox will occur at 3:09 am UTC (GMT) on September 23rd this year. So —depending upon where you live—autumn will officially begin sometime this evening, September 22nd, or in the wee hours of September 23rd. Here in New England, fall will begin at 11:09 PM EDT. Coincidentally, the Harvest Moon will be full tomorrow, on the first day of autumn. Yesterday evening, I caught the beautiful, glowing orb, just as it rose –nearly full— above the treetops at twilight. Oh, what a beauty…

The Nearly-Full, Harvest Moon…

As if in anticipation of a grand, autumn party, the northeastern fields and forests have already begun to change into traditional fall costume, greeting the equinox with the all the rich hues and glorious textures of the season. Fall truly is my favorite time of the year, but it always seems to pass too quickly. So, I try to soak up as much natural beauty as I can, taking daily walks through local fields and forests, and my own woodland trails here at Ferncliff. Below are some highlights from sunset strolls this week…

Colorful Maple Leaf on the Forest Floor

A Bleached Hayscented Fern in Late Afternoon Light

A Colorful Ash Seedling

Maple Leaves in a Natural Pool

A Meadow of Native Bluestem

I began my week with a visit to Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont (see my post about this beautiful Vermont orchard by clicking here). In anticipation of the autumnal equinox, I decided to pick up some heirloom apple cider, and create spiced-apple martinis; the perfect cocktail to celebrate autumn’s arrival. Heirloom apples have such delightful colors, textures and flavors; ranging in hue from light gold to deepest violet and varying in taste from tartest-of-tart to honey-sweet. A walk through an old orchard is one of the greatest early autumn pleasures I know…

Apple Orchard – Scott Farm, Dummerston, Vermont

The Orchard at Scott Farm

Zeke Goodband’s Heirloom Apple Cider, Lemon and Warm Spices

Zeke Goodband’s apple cider is the best I have ever tasted, and it makes the most delicious base for an autumnal twist on the traditional apple-martini. The golden color of this cocktail is beautifully enhanced by the addition of a pretty, ruby-red, heirloom Dolgo crabapple garnish. Of course, if Dolgo crabapples are nowhere to be found, any tiny red apple —or slice dipped in lemon juice— will do. But, if you prefer a non-alcholic drink, travel back to my post on hot mulled apple cider, another delicious way to enjoy this fruit of the season!

Enjoy the last, golden hours of summer, and the beautiful season of autumn yet to come…

Cheers!

Spiced Heirloom Apple Cider Martini

Ingredients for 2 Cocktails (multiply or divide to suit):

4 ounces heirloom apple cider

4 ounces excellent quality, ice-cold vodka

2 ounces excellent quality brandy (apple brandy if you like)

2 ounces orange liquor

1 ounce fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice

2 cinnamon sticks and/or 1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon (optional)

2 tsp artisan honey

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a jar and cover.* Shake well to mix before serving. When ready to serve, pour the mixture into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake and pour into 2 chilled martini glasses. Garnish with a crab apple (or slice of apple) and a cinnamon stick. Serve.

*The basic cocktail may be mixed a few hours ahead (in a large jar) if serving cocktails at a party. Keep well chilled and shake cocktails in ice individually before serving.

Spiced Heirloom Apple Martini

The last, golden days of summer – A meadow of native bluestem

Sunset in a Meadow of Wild Bluestem

September’s Harvest Moon…

You may also enjoy last year’s Autumnal Equinox post and the Vintage Rose Cocktail. Click here…

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Sweet September Sangria…

September 4th, 2010 § 1

Sweet September Sangria

The Colors of Early September – Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ Along the Terrace

The Colors of Late Summer

Celebrating the end of summer?…What? The autumnal equinox is September 23rd (3:09 UTC)… That’s still more than a fortnight away! Call me a pagan if you will, but as far as I’m concerned, September is a summer month. And this year September has twenty two days of summer -only eight days of fall. So hey now… You needn’t be a cock-eyed optimist to see that the glass is still way-more than half full. And yet for many, once Labor Day has come and gone —children packed up and loaded into bright yellow buses— summer is suddenly forgotten. People can be funny like that. Some seem to need rules and order. They waltz. They square dance. They polka through life. But, have you noticed? Nature has her own rhythm. And myself… I prefer it. At this time of year she always puts on a sultry bit of jazz… A spicy mambo… A lively cha-cha-chá. September is dancing to Cachao. Can you feel it? Now floating like the monarch, then buzzing like the bee; late summer swirls with color. These days are golden-orange, fire-red and rich wine. And the nights? September evenings are velvet maroon and deep violet, inky blue and blackberry brandy. Late summer is more a musical range of feelings than words. Listen to it. Pick up your feet. Toss off your shoes. Wiggle your toes in the grass. Don’t leave the party too early my friends… Let’s close the place down. Pour a dark-red glass of sangria; spin the ice with your finger and savor the sweet citrus as you sway to the music. Make the moment last…

Daylily ⓒ Tim Geiss

Hawkweed (Hieracium gracile) in the High Meadow

Dewy Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Sweet September Sangria

I’ve been serving this classic sangria at summer soirées for as long as I can remember. Everyone wants the recipe… So, here it is. Remember, the secret is in the simplest of ingredients, and the long, slow chill…

Ingredients (makes one large pitcher to serve 8):

5 large, washed valencia oranges. Three sliced and two juiced

3 large, washed lemons. Sliced.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup Triple Sec (you can use more expensive orange liquor, but I think Triple Sec is just right)

2 bottles of chilled, inexpensive, fruity, Spanish table wine *

*Sangria is a traditional drink made with inexpensive Spanish table wine. Using more expensive wine defeats the purpose. Aim for a price tag under $5. You can substitute Merlot for Spanish table wine if necessary.

Directions:

In a large pitcher, add most of the sliced fruit (reserve a few slices for serving; garnishing glasses and/or pitcher) and sugar. Mash with a wooden spoon (gently) for a minute, or until some juice is released. Try to retain the fruit shape (do not totally mash). Stir in the Triple Sec and the juice of the other oranges. Pour in the red wine and stir well.

For best flavor, refrigerate for 8 – 12 hours. Never, never serve sangria unless it has had time to mellow – it must sit and chill for at least 4 hours before serving… and longer is better.

When you are ready to serve, add a dozen or so ice cubes to the pitcher and stir well to mix pulp, juice and wine. Serve cold, pouring each drink into a glass garnished with fresh slices of citrus (either floating in the glass or on the rim).

Enjoy! xo Michaela

Savor the time-mellowed flavors…

Here’s to Sweet September – A (Mostly) Summer Month

Sunflower and Bumble Bee (Helianthus annus ‘Autumn Beauty’)

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ and a Hoverfly

Golden Spider on Rudbeckia ⓒ Tim Geiss

A Little Bit of Sweetness…

And a Lotta Cha-cha-chá…

Cachao Master Sessions Volume One from Barnes and Noble

Cachao Master Sessions Volume One from Amazon.com

Cachao Master Sessions Volume Two from Amazon.com

Cachao Master Sessions Volume Two from Barnes and Noble

Candlelight, Cachao and Sangria… And a Beautiful, Late-Summer Evening in the Garden…

***

Photographs of the Daylily and Golden Spider on Rudbeckia appear courtesy of  Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Article and all other photographs are ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Savoring Summer: Harvesting and Drying The Garden’s Finest Herbal Treasures…

August 19th, 2010 § 4

Drying Herbs in the Stairwell

One of the great pleasures of living in New England is, of course, the seasons. The natural world operates on a distinct schedule here, and all life flows along with it at a steady pace. On these late August days, the song of the hermit thrush —an ever-present twilight melody enjoyed throughout summer— begins to fade as flocks of songbirds gather for migration before the full moon. And the sun, shifting position and setting earlier each day on the horizon, glimmers low and gold in the trees now. Although the noontime hours of late summer can be quite hot, and evenings are still spent bare-shouldered, it won’t be long before downy quilts and lavender-scented sweaters are pulled from closet shelves.

August is a month of preserving; of putting up and setting things by. Jars of jam and pickled produce form neat rows in the cupboards, and my freezer is packed wall-to-wall with summertime’s bounty. This is the time of year when my voluptuous herb garden literally spills from its neatly-edged confines. Borders? Fiddle-dee-dee, the mint seems to say, as it runs wildly wherever it may. But I never mind a bit of excess in the garden -it’s so nice to have plenty to spare. Mint, rosemary, basil, thyme, lavender and lemon verbena; their scents perfume my fingers and fill the cellar stairwell with beautiful fragrance. …

Freshly-harvested basil – Tied with twine for drying…

Basil and Mint Bundles

With dry air and scant rain, August is a great month to begin harvesting and drying herbs for winter. In the coming months, I will be grateful for a hint of summertime’s pleasures in warm cups of tea and fragrant breakfast scones. Drying herbs is simple and economical; an easy way to trim your monthly grocery budget and add flavor to daily meals. Have a look at the price of dried, organic basil next time you visit a grocery store. If you need a bit of convincing before bundling up the harvest and making room in your rafters, that little bit of sticker-shock should do the trick.

I grow herbs in my potager amongst the vegetables, on my terrace in containers, and throughout the ornamental gardens as well. Once the morning dew has dried —usually by 10am— I head outside with harvest baskets to gather whatever tempts my eye. Some days, I focus on aromatic herbs for cooking; including basil, rosemary, thyme and mint. But I also keep other uses in mind; gathering lavender, bergamot and hyssop for scenting oils, soaps, and sachets. Dried bundles of artemisia, tansy, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod and other herbs are also useful for wreaths, swags and dried flower arrangements. Once the cellar stairwell and loft are filled —mostly with herbs for teas and cooking— I string clothesline in my dry cellar to hang bunches of herbs, protecting them from dust with loose paper bag ‘hoods’…

Herbs in the Potager

Keep potted herbs attractive by frequently pruning. More than you need? Try drying bundles to use in recipes —including soup and salad dressing— throughout the winter…

Once I’ve collected herbs, I spread them out on the terrace and pick them over; stripping lower leaves and forming small bundles. I like to use natural twine to tie the herbs together, but I will use recycled rubber-bands as well; particularly for large bouquets of flowering herbs. Once bundled up, I hang the herbs in a dry, dark place. When they have completely dry-cured, I will strip the leaves from the stems and store the herbs in tightly sealed jars (clear is fine for closed cupboards – use dark glass if storing herbs in brightly-lit spaces). Although I try to harvest most culinary herbs before flowering —for best flavor— I do allow some herbs to blossom, in order to provide pollen for bees and other beneficial insects in my garden. Flowering herbs make great companion plants in the potager…

Bundles of herbs are picked over and thinned, then bound together with twine…

Harvesting Herbs in Late Morning, After the Dew Has Throughly Dried

Sorting and Bundling Herbs in My Kitchen

Some sage is left to flower in the potager. Other plants are kept tightly pruned through regular harvests…

Rosemary is a beautiful, as well as a useful herb. I like keeping aromatic herbs near my door, where I brush against them as I come and go. Here, I can quickly snip bits to flavor teas, salad dressings or garnish cocktails…

And as wonderful as dried herbs are in winter, there’s nothing quite like the flavor of fresh rosemary and basil —is there? I keep pots of herbs just outside my kitchen door all summer long, where I can easily access them if I need to add a sprig to a special sauce or evening cocktail. Come late autumn, I will bring the potted rosemary inside to my windowsill, and in late September, I will begin sowing flats of basil to grow indoors beneath lights.

Yes, I enjoy thinking ahead to the coming seasons, but I’ve never been much of a pleasure-delayer at heart. I believe that being prepared for the future should never detract from the importance of the present moment. From lemon-mint sun tea and caprese salad with fresh basil at lunchtime to ice-cold mojitos and herb-infused ice cream enjoyed by the light of the moon; savor the rich tastes and sweet smells of the season while you can…

Lemon-Mint Sun Tea (Click Here for Post and Recipe)

Mentha piperita (Peppermint flowering in the garden)

Cuban Mint Julep (aka the mojito) – Click here for recipe and story

Some great herb gardening resources to give as gifts, add to a wish-list or purchase for your own horticultural and culinary bookshelves…

Gardening with Herbs by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead

The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Celebrating Fourth of July Weekend: Garden-Fresh Strawberry-Mint Mojitos & Flowers Exploding in the Night Sky…

July 2nd, 2010 § 5

Strawberry-Mint Mojitos – One of the Summer Garden’s Greatest Pleasures !   Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

An explosive ‘bouquet’ in the night sky ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Look at those great big sparklers! Oh yes, I do love a little pyrotechnic excitement now and again – don’t you? In honor of America’s birthday, I’m going out to see fireworks tonight, and –goofy gal that I am– I’m pretty excited about it. To me, fireworks look like gigantic, technicolor flowers, exploding in the night sky. Wouldn’t you agree? Well, I know not everyone will get what I’m driving at here, so I put together a few daytime vs nighttime kabooms and kablams (photos below) for a bit of comparison. Even hand-held sparklers look like flowers to me; so much so, in fact, they seem like the perfect fizzy bridal bouquet (well, I do suppose you would have to wear a flame-retardent gown, and say your vows pretty fast – now wouldn’t you?).

Fourth of July is one of my two favorite holidays, (think you can guess the other?), and I’m about to pack up my bag and head on down the dusty road with some treats for my evening companions. Since Mentha villosa (Cuban mint) and fresh strawberries are plentiful in the garden, I figured I might as well whip up a few fresh strawberry-mint mojitos later on tonight. But of course, I can’t leave without sharing the recipe with you.  So scroll down past the floral and pyrotechnic explosions below… ‘Till you reach the cocktail recipe. Enjoy! And do have yourself a safe and fantabulous Fourth of July…

Happy Birthday America !!  xo Michaela

Red-Orange Explosion by Day ⓒ Tim Geiss

Red-Orange Explosion by Night ⓒ Michaela at TGE…

Exploding Queen Anne’s Lace in the Garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Exploding Queen Anne’s Lace in the Night Sky ⓒ 2009 Michaela at TGE

Exploding Echinacea by Day ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Exploding Echinacea by Night ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Wishing All of You a Happy and Safe Independence Day!

Cheers!

Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Strawberry-Mint Mojito

Ingredients (makes one cocktail):

6-8     strawberries washed and quartered, plus extra for garnish

1-2     tsp white sugar

1/2     lime cut into quarters

4         sprigs of mint – (pinch first 3-4 sets of tender leaves and tip)                             {ideally Mentha villosa & p.s don’t stint on the mint!}

2         ounces of fine Puerto Rican white rum*

1/2     cup of cracked, not crushed, ice cubes

Club soda to top glass

Fresh picked strawberries from the garden. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Directions:

Drop the mint into bottom of a cocktail shaker cup and crush the herbs with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon to release the oil. Add the sugar, and squeeze in the juice of the lime wedges, next, add the strawberries and mash together well. Stir in the rum*. You can toss in the lime rinds if you like. Add the cracked ice cubes to the cup – cover and shake well. Pour the contents into a frosted glass and top with club soda. Before serving, garnish the glass with a fresh strawberry wedge and a sprig of mint. Serve.

*This drink is also fantastic without rum. You may wish to add more strawberries and a tiny bit more sugar if you are excluding the rum. Or add a touch of good quality, artificial rum flavoring instead.

Add Champagne, Prosecco or a Non-alcoholic Sparkler for a Strawberry Flirt. Click here for recipe. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Day Bloom ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Night Boom ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Bright Blasts of Dill ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Pyrotechnic Petals ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Bright Blue Bachelor Button Explosion by Day ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Electric-Blue Bachelor Button Explosion by Night ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Article and photographs,(with noted exception) ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Welcome Summer! Greeting the Solstice: Sweet Memories, Beautiful Dreams, Stylish Cocktails and Festive Sparkles…

June 21st, 2010 § 3

Sunset Mangotini – The Perfect Drink for the Longest Day of the Year…  Photograph ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Solstice memories. It was the longest day of the year -and I was eight years old- when I snuck out on a stylin’ new, metallic-orange bicycle for my first unauthorized ride. Off, down the long bumpy driveway I went; coasting out onto the main road with the wind in my hair. The freshly coated pavement, patched with tar and gravel, made my eyes water… The smell of freedom. A little plastic flower basket, carrying who-knows-what, bobbed up and down on the front of my bike as I cruised past cornfields and cows, crackling power-lines and abandoned pickup trucks, and the newly-arrived summer residents, their windows trimmed with flower boxes and their yards filled with the scent of smoking bar-b-ques. School was out and time stretched before me like a warm, open ocean…

Summer. Seduced by the length of the day, I veered off the pavement onto a dirt road and ditched my bike along a familiar path where shadowy, fern-covered banks wound down to an inky brook. Running breathless, I kicked my hot sneakers to the rocks and waded knee-deep into chilly bliss. Before long I heard familiar sounds; the squeak of bicycle breaks and the laughter of friends through the pines. As I squinted in the blinding light, I made out the blurry, flickering silhouettes of my partners in crime as they sprinted down the hill. Oh the sweet taste of  forbidden-rendezvous success! We giggled and gossiped and splashed for hours, ’till the light began to fade, and then we peddled back out to the main road together. Drunk on the sweet elixir of liberation, we dawdled; gathering daisies and tiger lilies, and tasting tiny, wild strawberries along the side of the road. By the time we parted, the sky had faded from deep blue to violet, and fireflies lit the road. For a moment the world stood still, and the summer night swirled around us like a luminous, green blizzard… Frozen in time.

Oh yes, I caught hell for that naughty joy-ride -and understandably so- but it was soooo worth it. Sometimes a little bad tastes awfully good, wouldn’t you agree?

Welcome warm temptress Summer – the season of sweet memories and beautiful dreams. Here’s to wildflowers, bright red strawberries, glowing sunsets, and sparkling summer nights….

Pure White Daisies…

Beautiful Thunderstorms…

Sweet Red Strawberries…

Warm, Sunset Kisses…

And glowing mangotinis…

The Sunset Mangotini


Ingredients for one cocktail, (adjust quantities 1:1) *

2 ounces of fresh, ripe mango puree (peeled and processed in cuisinart)

1 ounce of ice cold vodka

1/2 oz of Cointreau (orange flavored liqueur)

Freshly picked, deep violet-colored pansy blossoms

*a non-alcoholic version of this drink may be enjoyed by combining the mango puree with 1/2 ounce of orange flavoring as a liqueur substitute, (available in fine grocery stores). Skip the vodka and prepare according to directions*

Directions:

Chill martini glasses in the freezer well ahead of time. Prepare ripe mangoes by peeling, pitting and placing wedges of the fruit in a food processor with a metal blade. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker filled half full with cracked ice, pour the vodka, orange liqueur and mango juice. Replace the top and shake well. Strain the contents into a frosty, chilled martini glass and serve garnished with at least one -or better yet two- violet colored pansies.

Enjoy the glow of the summer sun as it sets in your glass…

Cheers! Wishing You a Glorious, Sparkling Summer!

xo Michaela

Strawberry Flirt (click here for post)

Search for other summer cocktails with garden-fresh ingredients by clicking here…

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Mother’s Day Brunch? Garden Fresh Ingredients & Ina Garten’s Chive Rissoto Cakes Help to Make it Special…

May 8th, 2010 § 4

Do you love breakfast in bed? I sure do, and when I was growing up, sometimes my sister and I would serve it to our mom as an unexpected treat – especially on Mother’s Day. Part of what made it so special was the ritual of harvesting fresh flowers and herbs from the garden, and arranging them in petite bouquets on a tray filled with fresh squeezed orange juice and homemade treats like eggs over-easy, French toast or homemade muffins. There’s something about enjoying a decadent meal, without leaving the comfort of warm covers, that can make a girl feel really special. And every mom deserves to feel like a queen on Mother’s Day…

The herbs in my potager are overflowing their boundaries this year; mainly due to the unseasonably warm temperatures we are having in the Northeast. With all of the extra chives on hand, I decided to give Ina Garten’s Chive Rissoto Cakes a try; substituting them for the usual potatoes with my eggs for brunch. Not surprisingly, I was once again blown away by Ina’s ability to turn a few simple ingredients into a knock-out dish. This rice cake recipe will definitely be added to my regular brunch -and dinner- rotation. I think the flavor and texture of these cakes make them the perfect accompaniment to almost any main course -especially fish or shrimp-  or simple light meal, such as a garden salad.

I wish I could cook something special for my sister tomorrow, since this is her first Mother’s Day with baby Morgan, but we are many hours apart, and I will be working the holiday this year. Hopefully, I will be able to make it up to them on a more leisurely weekend. Someday, I will show my nephew how to arrange a special tray, like the one pictured above, for his mom. I know she would love it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Mothers out there. Enjoy your day. Thank you for the love and care you give to your children all over the world…

A fragrant bouquet of Viburnum ‘Anne Russell’ makes a lovely centerpiece if you decide to dine at the table… (raku vase by Richard Foye)

Chive Risotto Cakes

From: Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Ingredients:

1             cup Arborio rice

4             quarts fresh, cold water

1/2         cup plain, Greek-style yogurt (or sub. sour cream)

2             extra large eggs at room temp

3             tbs freshly minced chives

1 1/2      cups grated Fontina cheese, (or sub. 5 oz Gruyere)

1/2          tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 3/4       tsp Kosher salt

3/4          cup Japanese panko/ dried bread flakes, (or sub dried bread crumbs)

Good quality olive oil

Directions:

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, add 1/2 tsp salt and Arborio rice. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the grains of rice are soft. Drain and run rice under gold water in a sieve until cooled. Drain and set aside.

While the rice is cooking, mix yogurt, cheese, eggs, chives, pepper and 1 1/4 tsp salt in a medium sized bowl.

Add the cooled rice to the yogurt mixture and and thoroughly combine ingredients.  Wrap the bowl in plastic and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours until the mixture is firm.

When you are ready to begin preparing for your meal, preheat an oven to 250 degrees. Spread the dried bread flakes, (or crumbs), in a working dish or bowl with low sides. Form rice balls from the mixture using a large spoon or ice cream scoop.

Using a patting motion, flatten the balls into round patties approximately 3/4″ thick, (about 3″ diameter). Place a half dozen or so patties into the bread flakes and turn to coat both sides. Heat 3 tbs of oil in a skillet set to medium-low heat.  Add the patties to the hot oil and cook 3 minutes or so on each side until golden brown. Cook in batches and add to a heat-safe dish in a warm oven.

Patties may be kept warm in an oven for a half an hour or so, and should be served hot. Try them with eggs and a special mimosa for Mother’s Day Brunch, or with dinner anytime. The patties may be made and refrigerated in advance.

Travel back to this post to find my favorite Mimosa recipe...

Time to Relax Mom …

From Ina Garten’s Endlessly Inspirational: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Fresh flowers from the garden…

And chives from the spring potager…

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Words and Pictures copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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