Passion Fruit Mint Sorbet + Sorbet Float

It seems like spring took its sweet time getting here but summer is already chomping at the bit. Or maybe everyone is just so excited about the nice weather that we're getting a little ahead of ourselves. We're already looking forward to the next season, don't you think?

I'm still settled in with the spring flavours (rhubarb and strawberries - hello!) around here and I think I may have created one of the most refreshing darn things ever. Super bright and tangy passion fruit, herbaceous and refreshing mint, together in one smooth icy treat!

Mint is one of those herbs that just screams "refreshing". It just seems to make everything that much fresher and brighter, especially in an ice cold drink. How many people order Mojitos only when it's patio season? Me, for one. I had one last night on a patio and it was glorious.

To me, sorbet is one of the most refreshing things you can have when the weather is hot and you've got a bead of sweat dripping down your back (ugh). Ice cream is great, but the cream and egg yolks are heavy and rich and sometimes when you need a cool down, you need something a bit lighter. 

This post was inspired by the super cools folks over at Produce Candles and their seasonal monthly candle! They have all kinds of fresh produce inspired candles, like cilantro, radish, carrot, and more! This month is Mint and I wanted to make something that captured the crazy refreshing aspect of this awesome herb. And not only did I make a sorbet, but that sorbet can also be a drink, simply with the addition of sparkling water or sparkling wine! A perfect drink for sitting on the deck with a couple friends and some good food (man, I really wish I had a big deck or a patio). 

If you're in a rush and don't have time to churn the sorbet and wait for it to freeze - or you don't have an ice cream maker - you can just make the base and use that for drinks! You could use it for cocktails or maybe even sangria! 

Passion Fruit Mint Sorbet

220 g water
220 g granulated sugar
15 g fresh mint leaves

391 g passion fruit purée

Sorbet Float

1 large scoop of sorbet
4-5 fresh mint leaves
Sparkling water/wine

For the sorbet, combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir the pot occasionally and bring just to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the mint leaves and let it steep for 3 minutes. Strain the mint leaves out.

Combine the passion fruit purée and the mint simple syrup and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. Place your container for the sorbet in the freezer to chill.

Churn the sorbet according to the ice cream makers instructions and transfer to the pre-chilled container. Let it freeze for 2 hours.

For the float, scoop the sorbet into a glass and put the mint leaves on top. Add the sparkling water/wine, give it a stir to combine, and enjoy!

Homemade Hot Apple Cider

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to all my fellow Canadians! To all the American readers, happy Sunday! 

Whether you live north or south of the border, making this apple cider is going to be your new fall tradition. It's easy, it's crazy delicious, and it makes your entire place smell ridiculously good

I've seen tons of photos of people going apple picking on instagram and I am so jealous! It looks so picturesque and autumny and cozy and delightful. I could go apple picking here but it would probably take me a couple hours to get out there and my boyfriend and I don't have the same days off and I don't know if anyone but me wants to go frolicking through an apple orchard while wearing a big scarf and a flannel shirt and my socks that have bears on them. What's a girl to do.

So instead of prancing among the apple trees and plucking apples to put in my wooden basket, I walked down to the grocery store and picked up a bunch of locally grown apples ($3 for 10 apples! Whaaat!). Not as picturesque, but I still wore my socks with bears on them. 

I quartered the apples, cored them, and tossed them into my dutch oven. Some water, some whole spices, a nice big vanilla bean, and onto the stove it went. Almost immediately, the most heavenly scent started to fill my apartment. Warm spices and cooking apples blended together to create one of them best smells ever. Someone should make that into a candle - oh wait...

After waiting two agonizing hours while it cooked, the cider was ready to be pureed and strained. Ideally, I'd have a really nice blender and maybe some cheesecloth for that process, but all I have is an immersion blender (still good) and a fine-mesh sieve. The apple cider that I was left with was thicker than the store-bought kind, but that was easily fixed with a bit more water. 

The taste, however, was perfect. Very lightly sweetened with a bit of brown sugar and maple syrup, thick and rich, so full of apple flavour, and just the perfect fall drink to warm you up on those chilly afternoons and evenings. 

Curl up with a blanket, a good book, and a warm mug of this delicious apple cider and you'll be ready to take on even the darkest and dreariest of fall and winter days. Socks with bear on them are optional, but highly recommended.

Homemade Hot Apple Cider

10 large apples, such as Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, etc.
1 L water
1 vanilla bean
3 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

Quarter the apples and removes the core and stems. Place into a large pot and add the water, vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and sweeteners if desired. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 30 minutes. 

Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.

Turn off the heat and let cool. Remove the spices and vanilla bean. Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the apple mix until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.


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Hot Chocolate Three Ways

Have you been running around, doing your last-minute Christmas shopping in the freezing cold and crazy crowds? Have you been wrapping presents all day long and have the paper cuts and two empty rolls of tape to prove it? Have you been figuring out your Christmas menu and are freaking out at all the ingredients you have to buy? 

You need a break. You need some proper hot chocolate, a couple marshmallows, and a comfy blanket. 

Christmastime really is a wonderful time, but many of us (including myself) are too busy to enjoy it. We spend our time thinking of gifts, rushing around to get said gifts, worrying about all the plans and parties, but not actually relaxing and enjoying the feeling of Christmas. 

It's just one of those things that people do - worry and stress out. Christmas is a time for cozying up by the fireplace (or the yule log on tv) with a warm drink and just....relaxing. Don't check your phone, don't browse your facebook, don't stress over the presents you haven't gotten yet. What's the point of making sure everyone else has a good Christmas if you don't even have a good Christmas?

So make some time for yourself to unwind. Appreciate the gorgeous Christmas tree you have, the cute lights you've strung up, and the kickass hot chocolate you just made.

Real proper hot chocolate is one of those decadent treats that make you feel all cozy and snuggly inside. You can customize it any way you like - different types of chocolate, infusing flavours into the milk, or adding some booze! These are just a few guidelines that you can expand with your own ideas. 

And, of course, no hot chocolate is complete without some awesome homemade marshmallows!

Earl Grey Hot Chocolate

200 mL milk
50 mL heavy cream
1 teaspoon loose leaf earl grey tea
45 g good quality dark or milk chocolate, chopped finely

Bring the milk and cream to just a boil, add the tea, then turn off the heat. Let it steep for a few minutes, strain the tea leaves out, and bring it back to a boil. Pour 1/3 of the milk mixture over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Slowly add the rest of the milk mixture and stir until you have a smooth hot chocolate.

Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

250 mL milk
75 g good quality gianduja (hazelnut milk chocolate), chopped finely
10 g good quality dark chocolate, chopped finely

Bring the milk to just a boil, then pour 1/3 of it over the chocolate. Stir until smooth, then slowly add the rest of the milk and stir until you have a smooth hot chocolate.

Spiced Hot Chocolate

250 mL milk
1 whole clove
2 whole allspice
pinch of nutmeg
1 stick of cinnamon
30 g good quality dark chocolate, chopped finely
30 g good quality milk chocolate, chopped finely

Bring the milk and spices to just a boil, then turn off the heat and leave it for 5 minutes. Bring it back to a just a boil, and strain 1/3 of the milk over the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Strain the rest of the milk over the chocolate and stir until you have a smooth hot chocolate.

Strawberry Raspberry Mojitos

I've been writing this blog for just over six months now and I feel like I've talked a fair bit about myself. I would like to think that you know a little about me, at least the basics. I've severely toned down my love (read: obsession) of cats, but other than that, you know me, kind of. So I feel like it's time for a bit of a confession.

I do not like alcohol.

Of any kind.

At all.

When I tell people this, they usually respond with, "But you like mixed drinks, right? And wine?", to which I reply, "I don't like anything with alcohol in it. Including mixed drinks and wine. And everything else.". I get a strange look and they try to convince me to try some drink that I definitely won't taste the alcohol in, but, sadly, I always taste the alcohol.

I'm not some prude who thinks drinking is terrible or anything like that. I wish I liked alcohol so that I could have a casual drink or two. 

It's just....the taste. For one, all types of hard alcohol smell and taste like gasoline to me. That taste cuts through anything that it's mixed with. 

My boyfriend was drinking a glass of orange juice after work one day and I had a sip. It tasted like it was half vodka to me. I asked my boyfriend why he didn't tell me it had vodka in it, to which he replied that he didn't know there was any alcohol in it. He didn't taste any at all. 

I'm just super sensitive to the taste of alcohol, whether it's beer, coolers, cider, mixed drinks, whatever.

I drank in high school, mostly because that's what everyone did on the weekends. If you didn't drink, it would be really strange. So I drank. I would hold my breath whenever I drank so that it would minimize the taste. Peer pressure makes you do some silly things sometimes.

Now that I've been out of high school for a while, I've realized that I don't need to drink to be a fun person. If someone thinks I'm boring because I don't get drunk all the time, then they're not the kind of person that I want to be around. I don't have to be approved by anyone to feel good about myself. 

I guess this is a lesson for anyone who has been made to feel inadequate or bad because of something they like or don't like. It's hard, especially when people look at you differently. 

Maybe you don't like chocolate. Maybe you don't like swimming. Maybe you don't like meat. Whatever it is, you have to have confidence in yourself and your personality. Why should anyone else decide what you like or don't like. You decide. The people that accept you for you are the ones worth keeping around. 

I hope I didn't get too serious just now. Anyways, these mojitos are packed with minty, fruity flavour, whether you add alcohol or not. They're great either way! This recipe is more of a guideline that an exact recipe. It makes about one large glass of mojito, but tweak it any way you like!

Strawberry Raspberry Mojitos

Strawberry Simple Syrup
1 cup strawberries, diced
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

Strawberry Raspberry Mojito
Handful of ice cubes, crushed
4 to 5 raspberries
1 to 2 strawberries, diced
8 to 10 mint leaves
1 oz. strawberry simple syrup
2 oz. white rum (optional)
3 lime wedges
1 lemon wedge
Soda water

For the strawberry simple syrup, combine the strawberries, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, until the mixture has a syrupy consistency and has a reddish colour to it. Strain and refrigerate before using.

In a shaker, combine the crushed ice, raspberries, strawberries, simple syrup, and rum, if using. Put the mint leaves in your hand and clap (yes, clap). This helps release the oils. Pop the mint leaves into the shaker. Squeeze the lemon and lime wedges and add them to the shaker. Muddle everything. 

Shake vigorously. Rim your glass with sugar. Pour the mixture about three quarters into the glass. Fill the rest with soda water. Garnish with a wedge of lime, a slice of strawberry, and a raspberry if you wish! Enjoy!

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Spiced Apple Cider and Ginger Molasses Cookies

Fall has arrived in Vancouver! We had a great start to it with almost two full weeks of SUN! If you've ever lived in Vancouver, you know this is a big deal. If you haven't, well, we get our fair share of rain. More than our fair share, actually. We get two months of sunshine in the summer, if we're lucky, and the rest is rain. So sunshine in fall is a big deal.

The boots have been brought out. The cozy sweaters have been brought out. The scarves have been brought out. The knee high socks have been brought out. All of them. 

That's right. You heard me. Knee high socks. Love 'em. It started out with one pair that I would secretly wear under my jeans on really cold days. Then, ever so slowly, they started to make public appearances. They would peek out from under my gumboots sometimes. Or maybe I'd wear boots and tights with my knee highs.Then I got bold. I started wearing them... with dresses! There's not many occasions where you can wear a dress and knee high socks and look appropriate, but I think I pulled it off. 

I've acquired different pairs of knee high socks over the years. Cream, maroon, grey plaid, black, even a pair of white and purple ones. I don't collect many things, except snow globes and knee high socks. I can't help myself. The feeling of having your legs wrapped up in cozy warmth! It's the little joys of life.

Back to fall! It is, by far, my favorite season. I know everyone says that because they go out with their cute leather boots and buy a pumpkin spice latte and wear scarves. I'm not a huge pumpkin person and I tend to wear my gumboots all fall because, as I said, it's Vancouver. I do love my scarves, though. But I am a die-hard fall fan. I adore sitting on my couch, wrapped up in my blanket, sipping tea while it's raining outside. Heck, even going outside isn't that bad because eventually you get to come inside and warm up! Also, my birthday is in fall.

Don't even get me started on Christmas. I am obsessed with Christmas. These treats made me even more excited for the day after my birthday, November 15th, because that's when I tell myself it's okay to openly start celebrating Christmas. I say "openly" because I've already started listening to my Christmas playlist. But my Christmas fever will come later, you'll see!

Apple things just scream fall to me. It's the smell and the spices that go with it, I think. The images I get when I smell an apple pie are all about fall. Ginger Molasses cookies are more of a Christmas time cookie, but I think they work just as good in fall because the spices are similar to the apple cider. They were made for each other! Just like scarves and boots.

The best thing about these is that when you're done baking them, your place will smell of cinnamon, cloves, apples, and ginger. What could be better? 

I used grated fresh ginger in my cookies, but feel free to use powdered ginger if you don't have any fresh ginger on hand. I've got a big root just sitting in my fridge because the nice lady at the spice shop gave it to me for free. 

The very important thing about the apple cider is that you can't use regular apple juice. It's just not the same. Proper apple cider will be cloudy and have stuff sitting at the bottom. This is because it isn't as filtered as apple juice. It has a very different flavour that lends itself perfectly to spices.

Give yourself an afternoon off sometime this week and just make these! You'll be thankful afterwards because you'll be fully launched into fall and ready to take on those dreary, rainy days. 

Spiced Apple Cider

4 cups unfiltered apple cider
3 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves

Put the spices in a saucepan with the apple cider. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and set aside for 20 minutes. Strain the spices out and enjoy!

This makes a small batch, so double it, triple it, quadruple it if you want more!

Ginger Molasses Cookies

Recipe from Joy of Baking

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger (I used 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger)
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoon vegetable, canola, or safflower oil
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sugar to coat

In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. If using ground ginger, sift it as well. If using fresh ginger, keep it aside for now.

In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the oil, molasses, egg, vanilla extract, and fresh ginger, if using. Beat until incorporated. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. 

Cover and chill the dough for 2 hours, until firm. Overnight is alright, too.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put some sugar in a bowl. Using a tablespoon, roll into 1 inch balls. If you're a fan of the giant ginger molasses cookie, make them bigger! Coat generously with sugar and put them on a baking sheet with about 2 inches in between each one. They spread out a lot during baking.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are cracked on top. Take them out and cool on a wire rack. 

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