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

drinking in the last of summer

Goodbyes are never easy. Even when you know they’re coming they’re often tuff to take. But it seems to me that every time I say goodbye to something, the opportunity to say hello to something else usually follows close behind.

Goodbye carefree youth… Hello modern maturity.
Goodbye cute but destructive puppy… Hello (slightly) better behaved dog.
Goodbye Summer… Hello back-to-school!

Yeah, it doesn’t get much better than that last one does it? I thought I would give you a few recipes to properly celebrate summers end and the beginning of a new school year. Cake? Candy? Cookies? Nope… Cocktails!

Truth be told I’m a wine drinker with the occasional beer thrown in for good measure, but there’s just something about summer that calls for a mixed drink. This summer I was introduced to five cocktails that were so delightful I thought I’d pass the recipes along to you. Perhaps you’re already familiar with some of them and will agree with me that they’re worth trying, or perhaps they’ll be new to you as well— either way, here are my newly discovered favorite cocktails:

Limoncello & Gin with Fresh Thyme; the perfect summer combo with a fresh herbal note. Campari Shandy; a lovely balance of bitter and hoppy. Pisco Sour; the Peruvian National drink. Stormy Coconut; a riff on the classic Dark & Stormy. And Redneck Margarita; deceptively simple and refreshing.

So while it’s once again time to say goodbye to the lazy carefree days of summer and hello to the hustle, bustle and woeful hours of homework; these cocktails are the perfect way to toast the new opportunities September will also undoubtedly bring along with it. Cheers!

Limoncello & Gin with Fresh Thyme
(makes 1 cocktail)

limoncello&gin

3 large sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
1 tbsp. (.5 oz.) key lime juice
3 tbsp. (1.5 oz.) gin
3 tbsp. (1.5 oz.) homemade limoncello (or store bought)

  1. In a cocktail shaker, gently muddle the thyme with the lime juice (if you don’t have a muddler you can use the handle of a wooden spoon). Add the gin, limoncello and several cubes of ice and shake.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice, garnish with another sprig of thyme and serve.

*adapted from fine cooking

Campari Shandy
(makes 1 cocktail)

shandy

3 tbsp. (1.5 oz.) Campari liqueur
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) pale beer (such as an IPA, Landshark or PBR)
1 lime wedge

  1. Pour the Campari into a tall glass. Add the beer and stir gently to mix.
  2. Squeeze the lime wedge into the glass and enjoy.

*adapted from food 52

Pisco Sour
(makes 1 cocktail)

pisco4

1 egg white
1/2 cup (4 oz.) Pisco
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) simple syrup
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) key lime juice
Angostura Bitters
ground cinnamon, to garnish

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add to it the egg white, Pisco, simple syrup, and lime juice. Shake vigorously for 1 minute.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass, add a dash or two of Angostura bitters to the center of the foam, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and enjoy.

*adapted from oh! calamares restaurant

Stormy Coconut
(makes 1 cocktail)

stormy

3 tbsp. (1.5 oz.) dark spiced rum (I used Kraken)
1 tbsp. (.5 oz.) key lime juice
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp. (.5 oz.) simple syrup
1/2 cup (4 oz.) coconut water (NOT coconut milk)

  1. Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker, top with ice and shake.
  2. Fill a glass with fresh ice, pour in strained cocktail and enjoy.

*adapted from foodista

Redneck Margarita
(makes 1 pitcher)

margarita

1 12 oz. can frozen limeade concentrate
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) tequilla
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) Sprite soda
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) pale beer (such as an IPA, Landshark or PBR)
wedges of lime
salt for glasses, optional

  1. Pour limeade, tequila, soda, and beer into a large pitcher (you can use the can from the limeade as your measurement tool). Stir until well-blended and limeade has melted.
  2. Salt the rim of two large glasses and fill with ice. Add the margarita mixture, garnish with lime wedges and enjoy.

*adapted from jennifer bogart