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Carmen Cooks: Your New Signature Cocktail

Carmen Cooks: Your New Signature Cocktail

A couple of weeks ago I got to share with you my favorite recipe from Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat (link) and this week I want to share my take on several great summer cocktails. These recipes are super easy to follow and many of the fresh ingredients are ones you may have growing in your garden or can purchase locally. The mint at my home is growing in full force and I just adore my phenomenal lavender plant so of course I had to use these in my creations! I chose three delicious and refreshing drinks that are easily customizable. The original recipes are accessible through links below, but the following instructions are my take on these classics. Cheers!

Tangerine Moscow Mule

(adapted from Blood Orange Moscow Mule)

Tangerine Moscow Mule

Ingredients

1 meyer lemon cut into 8 wedges
1 mint leaf
2 oz vodka
2 oz tangerine juice
4 oz ginger beer (here is a link to my favorite)
Crushed ice

Instructions

In the cup, muddle together a lemon wedge and the mint leaf to release juice and the mint’s flavor. I find a wooden reamer does the trick! Add the vodka and tangerine juice to the lemon and mint. I love this little bird-shaped juicer. Pour in the ginger beer and stir. Fill the glass with ice and garnish with lemon, mint, or both! Enjoy!

Tangerine Moscow Mule Tangerine Moscow Mule

Tangerine Moscow Mule Tangerine Moscow Mule


Peach Lavender Sangria

(adapted from Lavender Sangria)

Peach Lavender Sangria

Ingredients

1 750mL bottle of Prosecco
½ cup Altes Fasslager (this is an Austrian fruit brandy)
½ cup triple sec
2 cups of Pellegrino
½ cup lavender simple syrup (you can make this by bringing to a simmer ½ cup sugar, ½ cup water, and 2 tsp dried or fresh lavender and then cooking for 1 minute. Then strain the lavender buds out and let cool)
Fresh sliced peaches

Instructions

Add sliced peaches to the bottom of a pitcher and top with prosecco, brandy, triple sec, lavender syrup, and Pellegrino. Stir and chill. Cheers!


Blackberry Mojito

(adapted from Blueberry Mojito)

Blackberry Mojito

Ingredients

1 cup fresh blackberries
4 oz clear rum
10 fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
Juice of 2 limes
6 oz Pellegrino
Splash of Blackberry Manischewitz
Ice

Instructions

In a food processor, puree the blackberries. Add mint and sugar to a weck jar. I always use a weck jar instead of a cocktail shaker! Muddle the mint and sugar and add the lime juice, rum, and blackberry puree and shake it up! Pour ice and club soda into glasses and then pour in the blackberry rum mixture. Add a splash of Blackberry Manischewitz and stir. Garnish with blackberries, mint, and lime. Salud!

Blackberry Mojito Blackberry Mojito

Photos Courtesy of Gunner Robinson Photography

 

It is that time of year again when front yards become the talk of the town. It is like a fashion show of flowers for everyone to see! Want to give your neighbor’s something pretty to look at? Here’s how…

1. Double or Nothing!

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal with Carmen Johnston Gardens

Use two pots–a 12″ and a 14″–and fill both with soil.

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal by Carmen Johnston Gardens

Then, position the smaller container towards the back of the larger container directly on top of the soil.

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal with Carmen Johnston Gardens

Stuff ‘n’ shove both containers with your favorite plants. For mine, I used petunias, lantana, and Angelonia.

2. For the Love of Layers!

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal with Carmen Johnston Gardens

Place your tall plants (Angelonia) towards the back, your texture plants (lantana) in the middle, and your trailing plants (petunias) towards the front. Add at least 2-4 inches of new soil and then top with mulch.

3. Make it Pop!

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal with Carmen Johnston Gardens

Grab your favorite basket and fill it with flowers. If possible, choose a basket that is flat on the back like ours. It makes it much easier to hang. Then line it with a trash bag, making a few holes for drainage. Finally, add a bright burst of blooms to complete the look.

3 Tips for Instant Curb Appeal wtih Carmen Johnston Gardens

(BONUS TIP: To help create rhythm throughout your yard, paint your pots the same color as your house.)

Your neighbor’s will not be able to take their eyes off of your gorgeous new yard. However, the reward is all yours. There is nothing better than pulling into your driveway at the end of the day and having happy flowers smiling up at you.

I’m just going to say it…Today’s post rules!

Why is it so amazing? I’m glad you asked! One of my main goals for this blog is to make gardening accessible for everyone. I am passionate about making people passionate about gardening. Being surrounded by beautiful plants is such a blessing and I want everyone to experience that. How exactly does today’s post do that? Well, I am offering you 3 Ways to Bring Your Garden Inside for Effortless Entertaining. I like to call each of these glass gardens. (Be sure to read until the end for a very special surprise!)

3 Ways to Bring Your Garden Inside for Entertaining: Glass Gardens  by Carmen Johnston Gardens

For each of these glass gardens I am using clippings of Soft Caress Mahonia. We planted tons of it in our side yard to hide the hideous air conditioning units. I had no idea that I would fall in love with this foliage, but I did and now I can’t get enough.

3 Ways to Bring Your Garden Inside for Entertaining: Glass Gardens  by Carmen Johnston Gardens

This first glass garden could not be any easier! Simply fill a glass bowl with water and then submerge a few sprigs. Feel free to move them around until you are happy with the placement. Such an easy way to bring some green into your home when it is your time to host!

3 Ways to Bring Your Garden Inside for Entertaining: Glass Gardens  by Carmen Johnston Gardens

3 Ways to Bring Your Garden Inside for Entertaining: Glass Gardens  by Carmen Johnston Gardens

I really love this next glass garden because it turns your foliage into a work of art.

I purchased these glass frames from Homeart several years ago. You can use them to bring any corner of your home to life. Just place a few sprigs between the glass and then get ready to impress your guests.

3 Ways to Bring Your Garden Inside for Entertaining: Glass Gardens  by Carmen Johnston Gardens

This might be my favorite glass garden yet! Simply take the framed clippings that you have just created above and lay them flat for place settings or serving trays. They will add an element of elegance to any surface surrounded by guests.

3 Ways to Bring Your Garden Inside for Entertaining: Glass Gardens  by Carmen Johnston Gardens

Side Note: I have recently kicked my coffee drinking habit and have switched over to tea. There is nothing like a hot cup of tea on a cold day. My favorite is chai tea with fresh ginger and honey. Mmm…So good!

3 Ways to Bring Your Garden Inside for Entertaining: Glass Gardens  by Carmen Johnston Gardens

3 Ways to Bring Your Garden Inside for Entertaining: Glass Gardens  by Carmen Johnston Gardens

The thing I love most about glass gardens (and what I hope you will appreciate too) is how quick and easy they are to create.

They can also be pretty amazing to look at…

3 Ways to Bring Your Garden Inside for Entertaining: Glass Gardens  by Carmen Johnston Gardens

Images via Chihuly | Dallas Arboretum

A few years ago I visited the Dallas Arboretum. If you appreciate beauty at all, this botanical garden is a must see. What did I find there? The ultimate glass gardens, of course!

Have a great weekend! Oh, and before you go…

I just had to share one of my favs with you…giving away three glass frames.

I promise you will love them!

(Must be a resident of the United States and 18 or older to enter and win.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’ve been driving around lately and wondering, ‘What are those beautiful pink blooms bursting from yard after yard?’ the answer to your question is this: Sasanguas. These flowers are in full swing this season! Realizing that I had missed out on this trend, I borrowed a few from my neighbor for the sake of this Sunday’s Table.

If your neighbors are as generous as mine are with their garden, snag some Sasanguas of your own and make this super easy centerpiece.

1. Fill a casserole dish with water

2. Snip blooms, leaving a 2″ stem

3. Arrange the blooms in the water

IMG_8630IMG_8626IMG_8641

What did I tell you? It’s just that easy, and beautiful too! These kinds of centerpieces are my absolute favorite. It just goes to show that all you really need in order to make a beautiful centerpiece are beautiful blooms.

These are the flavors that I crave when the fall holidays roll around. I wanted to start looking into some ways that I could prepare for my upcoming festivities, but still bring in the flavors and garnishes from my garden. I love me a Sage Sidecar, but found this amazing recipe where the bartender included roasted pineapple calling it Roasted Pineapple and Sage Sidecar Martini. Doesn’t it just look so divine!!

Roasted Pineapple Sage Sidecar (Image credit: The Express-Times)

Roasted Pineapple Sage Sidecar (Image credit: The Express-Times)

The trick to this recipe is that she infuses the brandy with sage meaning that she added a bunch of sage leaves and let them steep in the brandy for 2 to 3 days, but she warns us to remove the leaves before 4 or 5 days have passed. Another way this cocktail is set apart is by roasting pineapple coated with brown sugar in the oven. Oh, I can just smell it now!! In my post, 5 Must-Have Herbs for a Cocktail Garden, I talk about infusing vodka with rosemary and lavender. Make sure to check it out!

Another way to add depth of flavor to your favorite cocktails is by creating infused simple syrup. Simple syrups are very easy to make – one part water to one part sugar. You can infuse it with a variety of different ingredients such as thyme, ginger or lavender. It’s really up to you!! With this cocktail called Fall Classic, the creator infuses syrup simple with thyme and it pairs lovely with apple brandy and ciders.

Fall Classic - A Shout to Apple Season (Image Credit: Serious Eats)

Fall Classic – A Shout to Apple Season (Image Credit: Serious Eats)

Or what about making this Fall Classic cocktail and serving it in a glass that everyone at the party will just love and think you are so absolutely creative.

Carved apple as a creative cup. (Image Credit: Savour the Senses)

Carved apple as a creative cup. (Image Credit: Savour the Senses)

Both thyme and sage could be used as a garnish in the above two cocktails, but when I think of rosemary its garnish quality really stands out. It is wonderful for infusing liquors and syrups, but I love its elegant nature in a martini glass. Look how beautiful it acts in its role as an olive skewer for this Olive-Rosemary martini.

Rosemary Skewer for Olives (Image Credit: Martha Stewart)

Rosemary Skewer for Olives (Image Credit: Martha Stewart)

But after looking at all the recipes, this one had my head spinning!! An Adult S’more Cocktail! With the weather cooling, it is absolutely the right time of year to be roasting marshmallows by the fireside, but with this recipe no fire is needed! How perfect is that!

Amazing!! Adult S'more Cocktail (Image credit: Party Style)

Amazing!! Adult S’more Cocktail (Image credit: Party Style)

Y’all have a fabulous time picking out which recipe you will be sharing with friends and family this season. Just make sure to be safe and have a DD when necessary. Cheers and here’s to finding ways to celebrate the garden in every single season.

Carmen

During this season of the year, when the temperature begins to drop and things start to show down a bit, I am able to reflect on the year and all the friends and family that I am so blessed to have in my life. We are so thankful to have so many wonderful individuals in our life who are always willing to offer a helping hand. In celebration of cooler days ahead, I love to host small get-togethers to thank those that have blessed me with being a part of my life. When preparing for parties, I love to search Pinterest for ideas and DIY projects that are quick, but will add that personalized touch to my fall festivities. Here are some ideas that I have decided to incorporate for my next bash.

The entry way to your home is extremely important to decorate when having a party. When guests arrive, they will be totally wowed by your curb appeal and know they are headed to a classy party to celebrate the arrival of fall. Here is a beautiful example of a gorgeous front door and what a couple pumpkins and potted mums can do to bring your front entrance from dab to fab in seconds.

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Image Credit: Pinterest

I love when fall rolls around because pumpkins are as far as the eye can see coming in colors from your classic orange to ghostly white and gothic gray. Pumpkins can be used for an array of serving trays from using them as an ice chest for drinks, a punch bowl, a chip bowl and even a vase for flower arrangements.

Pumpkin vessel

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Small pumpkins and gourds serve as wonderful elements to include in tablescapes as candlestick holders, fillers in hurricanes and a range of other clever ideas. The centerpiece on your dining room table can be as fancy or simple as you like it depending on the theme of your party.

Pumpkin centerpieces

Image Credit: Lauren Liess

For a simple centerpiece, try filling a beautiful antique crystal bowl with apples and let it be the star of the table. Or use apples as the seating cards for the party and simply lay them above the forks in the place setting.

Image Credit:

Image Credit: Pinterest

For dessert have something as simple and fun as these chocolate acorns!

The recipe is really easy:

1 pkg. of plain Hershey Kisses

1 pkg. of Nabisco Nutter Butter Bite Size

¼ cup of miniature Chocolate Chips

Gently twist the Nutter Butter cookie to expose the filling. Take the flat end of a butter knife and scrape off the filling to smooth on both halves. Once done, press a Hershey kiss to stick. Place your miniature chocolate chips in the microwave for a couple seconds so the bottoms get soft, but aren’t totally melted. This will be your stem. Press the chip to the top of the Nutter Butter cookie! Presto! You have an extremely cute dessert or fun snack to greet guests at the door with when they arrive with a nice, warm glass of apple cider.

To a fall full of festivities!

Cheers,

Carmen

As the mercury climbs for most of the country, my mind daydreams of sitting in the shade with a cool and refreshing cocktail in my hand. What do cocktails have to do with gardening you ask? Everything! “Garden to glass” is a huge trend taking place for mixologists across the country and by adding a couple herbs to your garden beds you can mix up your own favorite drinks for the summer. There are several herbs that can take your cocktail from blah to ta-daa. Take mint, for instance, without it what would a mojito do? The drink would fall flat and just be plain boring, but with mint it screams summer and digging your toes in the beach sand. Here are 5 herbs that you should consider for your garden to accessorize all your summertime cocktails:

Mint

Now there are several different varieties of mint – chocolate, orange, mojito, pineapple, spearmint and peppermint to name a few. Smell and taste the different kinds that you prefer. Mint can be used in all kinds of cocktails from mint juleps to mojitos. When growing mint, make sure to place it in a container as the plant is very vigorous when placed in the ground and can be very difficult to get rid of in the future; if you desire. It’s a great plant for the beginning gardeners because it thrives. It is happiest when planted in partial sun/shade (4+ hours of UV rays) and kept moist. That means that using a large container would be an excellent idea as it won’t dry out as quickly as something smaller.

Close-up of Mint leaves

Close-up of Mint leaves

Thyme

Again there is a number to choose from, but I prefer the variegated version (Thymus x citriodorus ‘Variegata’) as the leaves look gorgeous in the garden. Thyme is wonderful to flavor simple syrups that can be used in cocktail recipes. It makes for an exquisite garnish as well. The recipe below – Strawberry Thyme Lemonade with a splash of vodka makes for an excellent refreshing cocktail in the summer. Thyme is a perennial and prefers full sun (6+ hours of UV rays) with well-drained soil. It is a very easy-to-grow plant and holds its leaves in the winter; making it perfect to flavor soups and stews during the cold months. A very well-rounded herb to add to the garden.

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade with a Splash of Vodka

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade with a Splash of Vodka

Lavender & Rosemary

These two herbs in combination make the most lovely infused vodka. Just add 1 sprig of rosemary and 2 sprigs of lavender per 3 cups of vodka and the cocktails recipes are endless from a simple vodka martini or tonic to a Mary Rose Martini, Tea Tini or Vanilla Rose.

Lavender is a perennial, if grown in USDA zone 6 or higher. (Find your zone, here). In zone 5, plants may overwinter, but it depends on the variety and weather conditions during the winter. Lavender prefers to be grown in full sun and well-drained soil. It is extremely drought resistant once established. ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are considered to be two of the hardiest English varieties.

Rosemary is quite easy-to-grow and fairly low maintenance. Loves full sun with extreme tolerance to high heat. Prefers dry soil, but should be placed in a container to bring indoors if not gardening in zones 7 to 10. If you garden in these zones, Rosemary will overwinter well. The hardiest varieties being ‘Arp’, ‘Hill Hardy’ and ‘Albiflorus’ (or sometimes referred to as ‘Albus’).

Lavender & Rosemary Infused Vodka

Lavender & Rosemary Infused Vodka

Lemon Verbena

Lemon is one of my all-time favorite flavors. Lemon verbena can be used much like mint and mottled for a cocktail. This Lemon Verbena Spring Fling cocktail sounds very similar to a mojito, but full of my favorite flavors. I’m sure the gin could be substituted with vodka or rum. The key in growing lemon verbena is good drainage, like annual verbena, it prefers to be dry compared to wet. So take care and do not overwater. Giving it an organic fertilizer every four weeks will greatly enhance its growth as it will the other herbs listed above. When planted in full sun it yields the best vigor and most flavorful leaves. Place it where you brush by it to send a beautiful, citrus fragrance into the air. Lemon verbena will overwinter in zones 8 and higher with extra mulch for protection during the cold months and remaining dry during these months is key.

Image credit: Bonnie Plants

Close-up of Lemon Verbena leaves. Image credit: Bonnie Plants

Let’s celebrate summertime with this wonderful recipe from Real Simple Magazine:

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade

Boil 1 cup sugar, 8 thyme sprigs, and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool and discard the thyme sprigs. Combine the thyme simple syrup, 1 quart strawberries (hulled and sliced), 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 5 cups of water in a large pitcher. Chill for 30 minutes (or up to 12 hours). Strawberry flavor intensifies the longer it is chilled. Serve over ice, garnished with additional thyme sprigs. Splash of vodka is optional.

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade and muffins make for a wonderful afternoon snack.

Strawberry Thyme Lemonade and muffins make for a wonderful afternoon snack.

I hope that you will join me in the “garden to glass” movement and add some of these flavorful herbs to your garden to enjoy with your next summertime cocktail.

Cheers!