jackalope + the bees knees

Well hello there. Long time so see. Yes I know it’s my fault that we don’t connect more. Yes I know that I promised to keep in touch. Yes I know that fourteen weeks ago I apologized for being so elusive and swore that changes were afoot. Yes I know. But here’s the thing…

I’ve been busy.

To give you an idea of what I’ve been up to I’ve decided to offer you a visual journey through the past fourteen weeks of my life. It begins with tiny little seedlings that I started in ice cube trays in the house, and ends with a shot of the garden in full growing glory. In between there’s a whole bunch of fabulous, frivolous and food-centric fun going on. Okay ready? Here ya go…

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So, besides the obvious gardening and harvesting, cooking and cocktail enjoying (really the key to managing the madness) we’ve also spent some time NYC, we’ve done some shopping at my favorite Asian market (the kids are now Yan-Yan aficionados!), we’ve roasted marshmallows on our new fire-pit and celebrated my littlest loves birthday at Monster Jam (she’s a total tough-chic). You may have noticed all the bee images, that’s because in May we became the host yard to a hive of Italian honey bees. They’re fabulous for my garden, a fantastic learning opportunity for my children and since pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food you eat, they’re my opportunity to give back to Mother Nature. Just after the bees arrived we also became the forever family to a full of spit n’ vinegar kitten. Jack was a tiny ball of fur that was initially considered just another sad story. A few weeks and a whole bunch of TLC and Jackalope (it’s how he gallops) is a happy, healthy, 2 lb 14 oz  mischief-maker and a “I can’t remember what life was like before him” part of our family.

Over the past fourteen weeks we’ve also been busy cooking up a storm on my husband’s new swanky smoker. He’s smoked everything from turkey to pit beef, ribs to red potatoes. I on the other hand have discovered that the GIANT cast iron pan a certain someone gifted me is ideal for outdoor frying– hello chicken and calamari!. Since my last post we also wrapped up baseball and soccer season (and not a minute too soon) and said so long to kindergarten and fifth grade and hello to Summer break (big sigh). Oh and then there’s work, which is crazy and exploding in the best possible way.

So you see, I wasn’t kidding. I’ve been a busy girl!

Since the arrival of the bees I’ve been thinking long and hard about honey. It’s my understanding that with a new hive I may not get honey in the first year. Okay, no biggie. This hasn’t stopped me from perfecting a honey recipe for when that real deal honey from my own hive shows up. You may be thinking honey cake or baklava, used as a glaze or drizzled on homemade yogurt; but you’d be wrong. Nope the recipe I’ve been perfecting is one with such a long and illustrious history that it was once considered illegal. A recipe in fact so perfect that it’s quite honestly “the bees knees.”

“The Bee’s Knees cocktail is a gin, lemon and honey classic that dates back to prohibition. The phrase ‘bee’s knees’ was prohibition-era slang for ‘the best’. In that time, the addition of ingredients such as citrus and honey were often used to cover the less than ideal smell and taste of bathtub gin. Improving the taste of an inferior gin may have been the goal, but the result was a fantastic concoction that can hold its own today.”

At heart I’m a wine girl. However since gin happens to be my favorite summertime spirit, I stumbled across a “Bee Knees” recipe calling for fresh basil (of which I have tons), and I find it impossible to say no to a cocktail with a fun backstory I decided to mix myself up one.

I have but one comment: I would have survived nicely during prohibition.

The Bees Knees with Fresh Basil
Daisy Buchanan may not have added basil to her “Bees Knees,” but that certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t!

bees knees

3 oz. gin
3 large fresh basil leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup*
lemon seltzer, to taste
lemon rind, to garnish

  1. Add the basil leaves to a cocktail shaker and using a muddler (or handle of a wooden spoon) bruise the basil. Add the gin and lemon juice, fill with ice & shake vigorously.
  2. Strain into a glass filled with ice, add the honey syrup and top with seltzer to taste. Garnish with a fresh sprig of basil, a twist of lemon rind if desired and enjoy!

*To make honey syrup; combine equal parts honey to heated water and stir until honey is dissolved, let cool.

**adapted from aviation gin

alakazam… pesto!

Ahhhh Spring… The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming and my thoughts have turned to planning my vegetable garden. For me there is nothing more satisfying than tending, harvesting and enjoying veggies produced in my own little backyard.

Part of what appeals to me most about vegetable gardening is the sheer possibility. The possibility that you’ll have a bumper crop of string beans and become this summer’s “String Bean Queen”, the possibility that you’ll plant the eggplant too close to the yellow squash and create some crazy hybrid vegetable and even the possibility that the pumpkin you and the kids were so excited to grow, ends up a total bust.

How I love the daily nurturing and fervent watching for the slightest growth, flower and finally fruit. It gives me such joy! Long before I ever had actual raised beds to plant in I was an avid container gardener. Then it was mainly the growing of herbs, tomatoes and a little lettuce that made me happy. I used those early garden successes in every fashion I could think of, but more than just about anything else I made pesto. Tons of pesto in fact; traditional basil and pignoli, kale and toasted walnut, mint and almond and even arugula and pistachio. I was “The Pesto Queen”!

Pesto is one of the most versatile sauces I can think of. It’s great as a spread on crackers or sandwiches, yummy mixed with some Greek yogurt and served with raw veggies, makes a tasty salad dressing when thinned out with additional lemon juice and oil and can even enliven a simple bowl of minestrone soup.

But the thing that I truly love the most about pesto is that it tastes just like Spring. Fresh, green, unhurried and full of promise.

I wish for you a Spring brimming with promise and possibility…

Arugula and Pistachio Pesto
This pesto is fantastic just about anywhere, but particularly good as a sassy little appetizer with goat cheese and won ton wrapper cups (see recipe below). 

6 1/2 cups of arugula, packed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup salted and roasted pistachios, shelled
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

  1. Boil six cups of water in a medium-sized pot. *Working in small batches, quickly blanch arugula and then shock it in a bowl of ice water. Wring the blanched arugula dry and place in a food processor.
  2. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, pistachios, garlic, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. If the pesto is too thick add a bit more oil and lemon juice. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container.

*I always blanch whatever type of green I’m using to make pesto. You don’t have to, but it helps keep your beautiful pesto bright and green, rather than turning brown in a day or two.

Goat Brie & Pesto Cups
These are a snap to make but look like you’ve toiled for hours.

24 wonton wrappers
pesto (homemade or store bought)
4 oz. goat Brie cheese
shelled pistachios, for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and gently mold the wonton wrappers into each cup. Then lightly spray each raw wonton cup with the cooking spray.
  2. Bake the wonton cups for about 6-7 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown. Remove the baked cups from the muffin pan and allow to cool for a few minutes before filling.
  3. Fill each cup with a square of goat cheese, a 1/4 tsp. of pesto and garnish with a pistachio.