Second food swap (first in our area!) boomed with bounty. The special aspect of a summer swap is that those with gardens bring their freshly harvested abundance. One day I will have a patch of land with a garden, but for now my swap items are kitchen creations and confections. My items this go around were meringues and black raspberry shrub drink mixers. Everything was “swapped up,” and I returned home with more than I could have ever imagined! The camaraderie is almost as delicious as the goods. I now refer to Food Swaps as “Food Christmas.”
From decorations and music to food and drink, I get all sorts of sentimental feelings during the holiday season. You may remember last year when I shared one of my favorite tree-gazing beverages, the pink snow float. This year I put together a more tart beverage with pink grapefruit and lime, more for tree-rocking and sushi eating than lazy lights gazing. Adjust the amounts based on your taste. Begin with pink grapefruit juice, add gin if you wish, then drop in sweet scoops of lime sherbet (I used my melon baller for the little glasses). Top off the drink with club soda or another fizzy liquid and watch the bright green bubbles grow to the top of your glass.
“Rocking around the Christmas tree, have a happy holiday! Everyone dancing merrily in the new old-fashioned way.”
For the party we had for my folks last week, we wanted to send our guests home with something cozy and fallish. What says that more than a pouch of fragrant mulling spices nestled inside of a fabric apple? My sister sewed the apples while my niece and I measured out spices into cheesecloth pouches (the apple template came from a Gooseberry Patch Christmas book). We finished them off by tucking in a recipe for spiced cider and a cinnamon stick for the stem. After the spices are used, the apple pouch can be stuffed with anything and tied up for decoration. I don’t know about you, but I could smell some mulled cider or wine everyday for the next four months.
One Christmas (years prior to drinking age), my Aunt Priscilla set out an assortment of Jelly Belly jelly beans at her house along with a recipe chart of jelly bean flavor equations. My young and curious sweet tooth struggled to be polite while resisting the urge to empty the tray and taste test every listed combination. I remember wishing that I could invent my own someday as I attempted to simulate a banana split experience in my mouth with jelly beans.
This year over the 4th, my niece and nephew introduced me to Jelly Belly syrup flavors. In between water fights with their neighbors, they mixed Blue Raspberry Jelly Belly and Root Beer Jelly Belly flavored sno cones in the backyard. I also enjoyed a sno cone that afternoon, except I toasted to American adulthood and topped off my shaved ice with bourbon. Beam over bean, I said in my head. After all, I am a fall-weather gal, and it was upwards of 110-degrees out there.
It seems like those little gourmet gelatinous beans come in just about every flavor but bourbon, and now at least a dozen candy syrups are available at most stores in town. So I thought, why not put together a Jelly Belly Champagne cocktail? A jelly bean alone seems to fit the amorphous cocktail description of “a mixture of substances.” Let me be clear about one thing though, this bubbly bean beverage must be classified as a kitschy candy cocktail. I would never think of disgracing Madame Clicquot by polluting her perfectly golden dry bubbles with shaved ice, not to mention jelly bean flavored corn syrup. This concoction is for the cheap stuff!
Place jelly beans in the bottom of your cone or glass, cover them with shaved ice, pour about two tablespoons of Jelly Belly flavored syrup over the ice, and top off with champagne. The drink also works w/o alcohol (use sparkling cider or Perrier with the syrup and ice). Pink colored Tutti Fruitti with champagne tastes like bubbly bubble gum; Grape or Root Beer are fun to mix with brown liquor.
What else? Jelly Bellies and their syrups are gluten free, and jelly beans turn into gummy beans as they effervesce. Dare I suggest that drinking a jelly bean cocktail can simulate childhood while being an adult… just be responsible and don’t take yourself too seriously.
My niece is visiting this week, and we are doing special things together like going to the movies with grandma, visiting great-grandma’s house, and taking fancy drinks to the park. I once saw mustache straws and thought it would be fun for us to make something like that to put in our fancy drinks. We made these simple summer lips straws using hot pink card stock and neon bendy straws (how handy that the diameter of my hole punch is exactly the diameter of the straws). The lips template is here in case you want to make some too – just click on the image, print, cut, punch, and slide on straw. You could even encrust them with glitter for extra shimmer. Tonight we are going to eat spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and watch Lady & the Tramp!
With nostalgia for my Great Aunt Catherine (she loved the cherry blossoms), I made cupcakes. Of course, you could make these cupcakes from scratch, but in true Aunt Catherine form, I used box mixes! I have great memories of stopping at hot dog carts for a coke and a dog during my last trip with her to New York City. She was always on the move and liked to eat Chinese take-out while reading the paper.
White Cake Mix: substitute Coca-Cola for water, add 5 T Cherry JELL-O powder, follow box instructions.
Frosting: Cockylit is my go-to for Meringue, and I added about 2 t Cherry JELL-O Powder to her instructions.
Together: Cherry Vanilla Coke in a cake with a big dollop of pink sugary protein on top!
Snowflakes fell from the sky all weekend in my neck of the woods; it was a good reason to drink a mug of hot milk. I did that very thing one morning, but instead of sweetening it up with some honey or chocolate, I used strawberry marshmallows for a creamy summertime flavor. These were no ordinary strawberry marshmallows though, they were handcrafted, locally-sourced Hoosier Strawberry Marshmallows from 240sweet!* The strawberry marshmallow steamer cozied me up and took me back to late June in the middle of our ol’ family strawberry patch, trying to match a quart full of like-sized strawberries for my 4-H project (eating any and all “unsightly” extra-juicy sun-ripened ones in my bare feet).
How it happened: I cut the mallows into fluffy sugar cube-lookin’ quarters. After the milk was heated through, I added 2 mallow cubes, heated the mix up again (~10 seconds microwave, 2 min. stovetop) and stirred. Then I added 2 more mallow cubes on top.
*Saturday I hopped in the car with a good friend and traveled south to the sight of marshmallow magic. The 240sweet folks taught us all things mallow (I took snapshots when I wasn’t savoring freshly toasted samples–future post!), and I brought home a few edible souvenirs.
My niece and I did quick napkin portraits of each other at the kitchen table yesterday. She said, “look Aunt Amy, there’s a sun over your head.. and you have suns for eyes!” Hope you all have sunny eyes this year; I sure hope to live up to mine.
In other news, I think I will start up some drawings on fabric. I like the way it feels, and I need more practice.
Do you have a tree-gazing beverage of choice? You know, a special drink to sit and sip once the tree is decorated and lit. Mine is a pink snow float. Assembly involves a few scoops of peppermint ice cream drenched with ginger ale (of course, if tree decorating is extra-challenging, a splash of gin may also be appropriate). Once the ginger ale is poured, a frothy pink bubblemound will appear at the top! Ginger and peppermint are as easy on my taste buds as they are on my tummy.