Recipes

Watermelon Mint Cooler with Vanilla Vodka #Recipe

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Several weeks ago I traveled to Boston for work. It was my first trip to Beantown, and I took some time to escape from business meetings and spent an afternoon with my friend, Mira Greenland. She was my tour guide of beautiful Boston where we had drinks, food, laughs and walked the amazing Freedom Trail.

We walked, and walked and walked around this amazing city. To beautiful gardens, cemeteries filled with history and even stopped by for a quick picture at the bar that inspired one of my favorite shows of the early 90’s, Cheers.

 

me at Cheers

Where everybody knows your name…

 

beautiful-cemetary-headstones

Creepy yet beautiful.

 

Paul-Revere-Statue

 

Boston-at-night

The city at night captured my heart and I left with a full stomach after some amazing wine and gnocchi.

 

While the city was absolutely breathtaking, I very much enjoyed down time with my friend. We had cocktails, conversions and most importantly laughs away from the hustle and bustle of our lives as business executives. moms and wives. Quite randomly we ended up at a restaurant/bar for an hour or two before dinner where we enjoyed some wine and several amazing cocktails. One of which was a watermelon mint martini which I decided to re-create.

While I’m a fan of martinis, I wanted this cocktail to be versatile so I went with a cooler instead. It needs to be adult as well as kid friendly.  It goes from kid approved to adult friendly with just a touch of vanilla vodka which is exactly what Mira asked for when she ordered her customized watermelon martini.

I started with a medium sized watermelon and mint from the Barton Creek Farmer’s Market in Austin, Texas. I cut up the watermelon in cubes added them to a pitcher. From there, I added my mint, coconut water, sugar, limes and then the vanilla vodka for the adult friendly version.Mix well and refrigerate.

 

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The good thing about this cocktail is that it is almost like a sangria because it gets better and more concentrated with time. I made a double batch because I know that my daughter and husband will drink it while we enjoy our Austin, Texas, vacation by the pool and patio. I’m adding the vodka to my drink individually.

 

watermelon-mint-cooler

Watermelon Mint Cooler Recipe

3 cups of cubed seedless watermelon

3 cups of water

2 limes squeezed

1/2 liter of coconut water

1/2 cups of sugar

1 cup of mint

Optional: 4 oz of vanilla vodka

Mix together in a pitcher. Add as much vanilla vodka as you wish. I like to keep things a little light, but how strong it is can be customized to you. I like to garnish with mint on the top. Enjoy with friends, by the pool or just because.

Forgo the vodka and these could double as popsicles for the kids. I like these kinds of homemade drinks and popsicles because you can control the fruit and sugar levels.

 

 

 

Life Lessons

New Beginnings Are Opportunities Not Endings

Last month I attended one of the two big conferences for my consulting business and blog. It was the first time in 6 years I attended the conference solo meaning no roommate, no bestie or person to hang or connect with during those down times. I walked into the hotel room the first night with just a weird uncomfortable feeling.

Those that know me know that I am a very reflective person. I do incredible amounts of research and evaluation before making a change. I feel in the most control by researching, planning and anticipating the change.

Research serves as my method of control, but it is not a guarantee. Sometimes but not often there are outcomes that I wasn’t prepared for. A quiet and reflective time allows for me to best work through the situation, challenge or problem and move forward with the change.

The uncomfortableness from the conference had me feeling not just vulnerable but I realized it also opened me up to new conversations, friendships and just random meetups that attending the conference with a crew, click or best friend would have kept me from happening. While I love my friendships, I think that they can be a huge barrier to new opportunities especially to someone like me.

Sometimes our friendships and business partnerships not only insulate us but also protect us not from the uncomfortableness but from possibility. And as I sat at the Las Vegas airport I realized that these industry friendships while wonderful and supportive are also keeping me from the opportunities that a meetup of 17,000 industry professionals might bring.

These friendships are most often a barrier not an ally to my business. They are hurting not just my business but are allowing me to protect myself from others and most importantly change.

It’s not just the conference that is bringing out change. My long time contract employee is moving on to what is an amazing opportunity for him. I knew he was moving on from the moment he sent me the text. While I wasn’t surprised,  it was the finality of it that sent me reeling. The unknown that lay ahead.

Opening myself up to new experiences and relationships led me to a fabulous late lunch meetup with someone I have respected for years but known little about. The conversation was well-worth the cost of the cab ride, but I wouldn’t have known that because my besties were influencing the decisions of who I should and should not be connecting which is completely ridiculous and silly. It’s just dumb really.

After not just surviving but thriving at the conference, I am reminded that I can do absolutely anything I set my mind to and while my business, my blog and just life might change, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And for the first time in a long time, I’m excited to mix things up, change up my business and do things my way. Instead of the way that others expect me to be or the way that I thought at the time would work best for me or the way that resulted from the advice I took from a friend.

Random Observations

Who I Am

2015 has been a year of growth for me. I’ve been meditating and listening to myself. I’m trying to understand why I get irritable, upset or just feel unbalanced. Equally important, I’m trying to better understand what drives me like my constant need for knowledge and information as well as the consistent feeling that I have to on the move and going forward like I’m being chased.

I’m often motivated by an injustice or a wrong. Someone pisses me off and tells me I can’t or doesn’t believe I can do something and it sets me down a path to prove them wrong. That’s how I launched my full time business. My boss fired me and I spent the next two years working to prove him wrong. I went so far as to send him an email telling him how his actions motivated and drove me to be the person I am today. It took a while but I moved from anger to acceptance to the realization that his actions helped me make a leap that forever changed me.

The flip side this always being on the move is exhausting. I’ve never been one to sit and take a breather especially once I escaped my old life. At no time will I ever feel as lost and just suffocated as when I was married to a domestic abuser with no way out. I appreciate every day, minute and second I have because I know I was close to being forever gone. I’m thankful and maybe that’s why I feel like I always have to be moving forward. I always have some new idea, project to do or just work. I am always busy.

One of my friends this week described me as “always hustling.” I try to pack a ridiculous amount in a small schedule. Sometimes it works, but tonight in particular I’m completely exhausted. I’m in Austin for a conference and meeting with a potential client. Instead of going out for networking, I’m in my hotel room writing, thinking, reflecting and sleeping. In truth I feel guilty because I might be missing out on an opportunity, but my body and mind is telling me I need the solitude so I’m listening.

I wonder if I will ever slow down. I wonder if what I am doing in running forward because I am subconsciously thinking about my old life. That I have to make up for those 7 years I lost. That I can’t slow down because I never know when it might be over and I want to squeeze every minute out of being me. I worry if all this hustle is keeping me from my daughter, my marriage and friends. I wonder if all this hard work is worth it or I should take some time to step back and just enjoy what I’ve built. Putter in my yard. Can for two weeks straight or just watch soap operas with no concern about the hours that I’m wasting away. In short, I believe there is more change for me on the way. Sometimes I just wish that changed involved a 6 month vacation, lots of margaritas and a beach where I can get away. I’d be okay with inheriting a bunch of money and doing a lot of shopping.

Except I know that even when I’m on vacation I’m still dreaming, thinking and most importantly writing. Even during my long weekend trip I will be taking photos for a client’s instagram and working through ideas that are marinating.  It’s nearly 10:00 PM and I’m here on my personal blog writing right now. I know I have something I need to work through. I just can’t put my finger on exactly what it is. I have some growing. I have a story to tell maybe just to myself that I need to work through. And maybe that will change as I become more self-aware and reflect. I sometimes envy those people who just dance through life. They keep with them only the shirt on the back and a smile on their face without a care in the world. My mind won’t let me follow that philosophy. It’s always churning, turning and creating. It’s the reason I’m at the hotel room instead of out and about sipping cocktails with conference attendees. I need time to listen to me in a room filled with silence. My project is me and I’m all in.

 

Review

Ludivine Restaurant Brings Food to Table Hipster to #OKC

Having been back in the South since the beginning of this school year on a semi-permanent basis, I’ve been venturing out with my husband to try more local fare. While we rarely eat out these days mostly because we love to cook, we decided to give Ludivine a try during a recent date night in Oklahoma City. I made sure using OpenTable to make my reservations for earlier in the week. The main restaurant space is quite cozy with an open kitchen. We were seated right in front of the kitchen where we watched the chef’s work together cooking and plating.

We started off with an exciting twist on the Moscow Mule called the Midtown Mule. It gives a nice homage to the original mule with mezcal, cilantro, lime, ancho chilies and ginger beer. The chilies give it a nice little kick. This was a great way to start things off immediately.

As a starter off with some pate which was delicious as well. I especially loved the pickled onions and of course the pate. Greg and I opted for the Chef’s Tastings which consisted of 4 courses plus desert. I was excited to have someone make selections for us and challenge us a bit by presenting us food in different ways. Our first course was a carrot curry rabbit soup which was colorful as it was tasty. I absolutely love the gamey taste of rabbit. Eating this course made me not regret the fact that I went for the Chef’s Tasting and not the rabbit risotto. Presentation was beautiful on this one. I loved everything about it from the micro greens to the blue willow saucers. It was perfection.  

The second course was a escargot and brown butter micro green salad. The butter just gave the escargot melt, and the only I was sad that I only had four on my plate.

I decided to mix things up upon the recommendation of our greeter who suggested I give the cocktail Bee Smash Kneecaps a try. I recommend you try it too. Almost like a lemon drop but with just the right amount of lavender, lemon, vanilla and vodka. For the third course, we received a blue fin cannoli with greens and tomato sauce. It was delicious but definitely not my favorite course of the night.

The fourth and final main course was a nice wagyu with a froiegras purse, fennel and beet greens. For me the wagyu was just a tad bit overcooked for my liking, but still good enough to clean the plate. I was extremely hesitant of the beet greens as beets are one of my least favorite childhood tortune devices vegetables growing up. Ludivine just might change this thinking.

Our desert was a blueberry shortcake with an amazing ice cream. We enjoyed it with a nice glass of Moscato di astri which I gave an Instagram #winerating of 9.0. I’ll be picking up this one for a home tasting shortly.

Greg and I were extremely impressed with our visit to Ludivine. Their fresh ingredients combined with their creativity and team of chef’s impressed us. In fact, we think it rivals most any San Francisco Bay area farm to table restaurant we have visited yet to date. Ludivine is located at 805 N. Hudson in Oklahoma City. I recommend using OpenTable to make an reservation. Ludivine has a four star Yelp rating which was surprising. The experience was 5 star with me. Read my Ludivine review on Yelp.

For the Book Recipes

4 Important Canning Basics No One Talks About

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Read more about my passion for canning: Orange Marmalade RecipePlum Jam Recipe  and Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe

The biggest challenge in canning is overcoming the fear that you are going to screw up. I remember reading a handful of articles that scared the daylights out of me talking about unsanitary canning and botulism. I didn’t want to can because I was scared I was going to poison my family or waste 20 pounds of tomatoes.

Canning on the surface seems like a great deal of work, but it’s a hobby that I enjoy. I like that I can experiment with recipes and try different things while saving a little money and lowering the amount of processed food and chemicals my family is eating and ingesting. One of the biggest myths about canning is that it is time consuming. If you are organized in your efforts and love to multi-task, canning might just be your thing.

I decided to write about 4 “canning secrets” that are often overlooked in blogs, articles and other resources. If you are new to canning, these are 4 areas that you need to pay attention to because they are used most every time you are canning. The recipes are really secondary.

 Step 1: Sanitize Your Jars, Lids and Rings

I sanitize my canning equipment with a pressure cooker. I picked this up years ago at Wal-Mart. Your local Ace Hardware, big box home improvement store or Wal-Mart should have these on hand. You can also use a pot. I like the pressure cooker because it seems to work faster and alerts me to when the jars are sanitizer by “whistling.”

Place about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of your pressure cooker. Place the circle rack in in the cooker that came with it. Add your jars, lids and rings to sanitize them. I suggest purchasing new lids for every time you are canning. You want your canning accessories to be clean prior to sanitizing.

You can add your kitchen tongs and funnel as well. Add your lid to the pressure cooker and slide to lock it in. For me, locking the lid is the hardest part of using the pressure cooker. Make sure you add your whistler top and ring the the cooker lid. Turn your stove top up on high. Once it whistles, you will slide your “whistler” to the side so the steam and pressure can leave the pot. Wait about 5 minutes. Slide to unlock and use your tongles to remove item. They are extremely hot!

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Step 2: Testing Your Jam

It’s really important to make sure that your jam or jelly has set. I’m not one to use a thermometer which you can absolutely do to determine if they have reduced enough to become jelly, jam or marmalade. Instead, I place 4-5 small plates in my freezer and chill them for 15 minutes. Once my jam has cooked for the recommended time, I pull my cold plate from the freezer and place a spoonful of my jam on the plate. I leave it for 2 minutes and then test to see if it has begun to set. If it doesn’t run off the plate or spread, then it’s time to place the jam in the canning jars. If it is runny, I cook my jam for another 4 minutes and test again.

The strawberry jam pictured below is almost ready. This is an important step for me when I am trying out new recipes. For example, I recently substituted 1/2 cup of honey for 2 cups of sugar and needed to make sure I got the consistency right. The cold plate test is the best way to make sure that your jam or jelly is done reducing and will set.

testing-jam-canning

Step 3: Seal Your Cans

After you fill your jars with jams, jellies or whatever canning goodness, you need to seal the jars. First, add the lid, ring and make sure they are extremely tight. This is key to making sure your canning goodies stay fresh. There are jar tighteners on the market that you can use.

Add your cans with the tightened lids back to the pressure cooker. Make sure there is enough water in the bottom to properly sanitize and seal the jars. I like to have a half inch. Slide your lid back on, place the cooker on a hot burner and wait for the whistle. The jars should make a popping noise when the properly seal. I like to make a mental note of how many jars are in my pressure cooker listening to make sure all the jars have popped. You can check them after you open the pressure cooker. Lids that are sealed should snap or bounce a little when you push the lid down.

 

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Step 4: Let Your Canning Sit

One step not to overlook is to let your cans sit and cool. I like to use a thick cutting board to set my hot jars on while they cool for about 24 hours before placing them in my pantry. This is especially important for jams and jellies. The sugars need time to cool so they can thicken. Otherwise, you have a bunch of syrup for your pancakes and french toast instead.

Read more about my passion for canning: Orange Marmalade RecipePlum Jam Recipe  and Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe

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