Friday Cocktail: Ginger-Lime Fizz

Sometimes I’m in need of a cocktail with a little bit less alcohol. As you may have read from my post yesterday, I visited the Hague earlier this week with Cameron. Besides sightseeing we had some amazing food, and also drank quite a bit of wine, with a few fun cocktails thrown in, which has left me in need of a bit of break to help my body recuperate.

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I love this recipe (adapted from Naturally Ella) because all of the ingredients are things I have on hand anyway, and can be spiked for those who want a regular drink. Even though choosing a good ginger-beer, and using freshly squeezed citrus is always a plus with any cocktail, I think it’s especially important for those that don’t contain. Since alcohol contains a lot of flavours, its important to make sure the one’s you add into a cocktail without alcohol are well-balanced and pack enough flavour. My favourite ginger beer for cocktails is generally Fever Tree, but there are a few Jamaican-style ones I like as well which are peppery and wonderfully refreshing, and I’ve just found a really good Australian one that I’m excited to try.

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Since these are so easy to make, whipping up a whole pitcher makes life a breeze when making a batch of these, but just be sure to clearly label the drinks with and without any alcohol. If you’re making these for two, squeeze on extra lime more than you think you’ll need– I always find I want a bit more citrus, and it’s so much easier if it’s all ready to go.

This drink is really a bit of a riff on a Moscow Mule, and you could omit the sparkling water if you wanted , but your drink would be sweeter. Definitely play around bit to get the proportions right for you.

Ingredients: 

• Ginger beer

• sparkling water

• limes

Directions: 

  1. Add the juice of one half to one whole lime to a glass with ice.
  2. Fill the glass halfway with ginger beer, and top with sparkling water.
  3. Gently stir with a mixing spoon, garnish with a lime wedge or a round of ginger, and serve.

If you’d like to up the ginger in the drink, you could muddle a slice or two of ginger with the lime juice before adding the other ingredients. And it you want to add a bit of alcohol, a measure of vodka added with the lime would make a lightened-up Moscow mule.

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While I love an evening cocktail, the unfortunate truth is that its much healthier to give my body a break from alcohol a few days a week. And while a weeknight gin and tonic or glass of wine isn’t very much, they do add up over the week. Drinks like this ginger-lime fizz are the perfect way to ‘have my cake and eat it too’ as the saying goes.

Cheers!

 

72 Hours at The Hague

With reading week this week for Cameron and I, which means no classes, we thought we would take a short rip somewhere we’ve never been before. I should probably add that telling people we were going to The Hague was met with a slight look of confusion, and usually followed by ‘why?”.

Of course when we were brainstorming some more obvious choices came up first, but we decided to go to The Hague because is had things we are both interested in, as well as a pretty interesting history. The main draws for us were Mauritshuis, and the Peace Palace (home of the International Courts of Justice). With these two spots as the ‘anchors’ we planned the rest of our trip, adding a walk along the seaside, some time for wandering and exploring the city, and of course a few places for dinner in between.

We booked a place through airbnb, which was absolutely lovely, but what really made it wonderful was our host. She gave us some fantastic recommendations (including one of the best dinners I’ve ever had), and made us feel like we were visiting a family friend– making a homemade vegan granola, and some very delicious carrot/apple/cranberry muffins. It also happened to be in a great location to have as we explored the city.

After our first night there I knew the rest of the trip was going to be good– stumbling upon a really good Indonesian restaurant for dinner (the owner happened to have family in the states quite close to where I’m from!) we wandered a few doors down into a cosy little bar that we arrived in just in time to hear a group of jazz musicians, and ended up staying twice as long as we’d planned!

For me, though, the highlight of the trip was walking through the Mauristhuis, which has a fantastic collection of Old Masters, and also had a fun temporary exhibition on featuring pieces from their storage. It was busy, but fortunately there was plenty of space to wander and really look at the pieces. We had to wait for a while before seeing Vermeer’s famous View of Delft, but it was so worth it. Electronic reproduction and high quality scans of paintings available online are fantastic, but seeing a work in person is just a totally different experience, and always reminds me why I fell in love with Art History to begin with.

The next day we planned around our visit to the Peace Palace. We’d originally hoped to sit in on a hearing, which are open to the public with pre-registration and your passport, but it was moved forward a few days. Instead we opted for the extensive audio/visual tour, which I found really interesting, and definitely worth a visit. Outside of the visitor’s centre is a tree covered in wishes for peace tied to it’s branches like paper leaves, which was such a beautiful symbol of global connection, and such an illustration of the power of hope.

 

On our last night we had dinner at a restaurant that came highly recommended by our host, called Eten bin Wergelds (Eat the World in English), that she was nice enough to call ahead for us and make a reservation. When we arrived we were lucky to be the only ones in the restaurant, which was quite fun. We opted for the tasting menu (I was able to get a vegan version), which was absolutely fantastic. The name definitely describes the range of influences–my appetiser consisted of a fanatic curried spinach with perfectly crispy wontons and ponzu, and Cameron’s was a seared fish with amaranth and smoked carrot oil. It was such a fun way to spend our last night, and should definitely be on your itinerary if you’re in the area.

 

While these are definitely the highlights, I’ll add a few more recommendations in the ‘Get Away’ tab in case you find yourself wanting to plan a trip.

Friday Cocktail: The Clover Club

I’ve been wanting to try this cocktail for a while– mostly because it always looks so pretty, but also because it’s a definite classic, and I happen to love raspberry. The colour is just the right shade of pink, and reminds me of all the flowers that are suddenly blooming across London.

Unlike last week’s Friday Cocktail, this requires no preliminary prep work. The original recipe calls for a raspberry simple syrup, but I thought I would try it subbing a bar spoon of good raspberry jam and was thrilled with the results. The colour is a bit different than if you were to use raspberry syrup, but besides that there is really no difference.

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Maybe things have felt so busy because reading week is coming up, and everything is a a surge before the calm. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been frantically trying to settle on a topic for my dissertation, with a research proposal deadline looming, and just can’t seem to find something that I’m really interested in, and also happens to be feasible. Either way, I am thrilled to have a bit of a break, especially since Cameron and I will be taking a short trip to The Hague next week.

Since this week has been full-tilt, I had a bit of help from Cameron with photos, even though I did manage to find the time to do the actual testing of the drink.

Fair warning– this cocktail calls for an egg white. It doesn’t really do anything to the taste, but does give the drink a smooth texture and a little bit of froth at the top. If you  add the egg  white I definitely recommend using one from local as possible, free range hens. If you just feel  a bit weird about it, then definitely omit the egg white. The texture of the final drink will be a bit different but will still taste delicious.

Ingredients:

• 1.5 ox gin

• .5 oz cointreau (or lemon juice)

• bar spoon of raspberry jam (you could use raspberry simple syrup here, but this is so much easier)

• 1 egg white

Directions: 

  1. combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
  2. shake vigorously to combine (probably a bit longer than you think it needs)
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass and enjoy. (You could vanish with a fresh raspberry or two, or an orange peel if you’d like)

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Cheers to the weekend!

Three Ways to Improve Your Morning

While some of us are naturally inclined to be ‘morning people’ and others are not, everyone likes a little boost in the morning to get things off to a good start. The three tips detailed below have been rigorously tested (by me) and I really have found they make a huge difference. On days where one of them gets skipped over I definitely feel a bit out of sync the rest of the day.

I have always been a morning person– as soon as the sun starts to fill my room with light I am up and ready to go (this made the darker months this winter really tough, but my Lumie alarm clock was a lifesaver!). That being said, awake doesn’t necessarily mean I’m feeling ready to start my day. These morning rituals help me to feel more alert and ready to take on the challenges the day may bring. If you’re not a morning person, don’t feel bad. Some people have different cycles of naturally occurring melatonin that don’t stop making you sleepy until much later. Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about this one, but giving these tips a try may at least make your body feel a bit more awake.

1. Have a Glass of Water.

I know it seems incredibly simple, but having a full glass of room temperature water as soon as I wake up is incredibly helpful. Not only does it help to rehydrate me after 7+ hours without any, I’ve found that it sets me up for success in drinking more water throughout my day. Starting the day hydrated helps me notice when I’m beginning to feel a bit less hydrated, and reach for a glass of water far more often. Plus, if you start your day with 1-2 glasses of water, your already in a great place to get your recommended amount for the day. If you’re not sure how much that is, take your weight in lbs, then divide by two– for example if you weigh 125 lbs, you should be getting about 62oz of water per day.

2. Practice a Short Yoga/Meditation.

You might be a bit wary of this one, but I’ve found it to be an amazing way to prime myself for a positive day. I’m not saying you need to spend an hour on this– I started waking up just fifteen minutes earlier to do a short practice of a few gentle sun salutations, stretches, and brief meditation and immediately noticed a difference (here is a nice one). Getting my blood flowing, even just a little bit has gotten rid of the fog that usually doesn’t lift until I’ve been awake for at least an hour. Doing a short seated meditation at the end, whether it’s just observing my breath, or setting an intention for the day ( “I am grateful for this day”) helps me to start the day in a positive place. I’ve also found that another benefit of this short practice is that it makes me far more likely to make my workout later in the day.

3.  Don’t Forget Breakfast.

This may be the most obvious one here, but so often it gets skipped, or thought of last, only to be grabbed on the way out the door, or not balanced enough to keep your body going until lunch. One way I combat this is to make a point about planning what I will have for breakfast the night before, and thinking about how long it will take to make/eat. Once the morning comes its so much easier to just carry out this plan, rather than having to think about it while I’m trying to plan my day. Another way I make it easy for myself is by making something the night before (like overnight oats or a chia pudding) so there is  no effort required in the morning.

 

Creating a morning routine that involves all three of these steps has been so helpful for me, and I hope it will be for you as well. When adding something to my morning routine I find that giving it a try for at least one week, and ideally two is the best way to know for sure how it affects me.

So, let me know in the comments if you give this a try and how it works for you, or a part of your morning routine that helps set you up for success.

Friday Cocktail: The Bitter Darling

I suppose this week’s cocktail is continuing the Valentine’s Day theme I’ve had so far this month, though admittedly in a rather different direction. I like the humour of having this drink around such a sugary-sweet romantic holiday. Though honestly I’m not sure if the name suits it- spicy sweet kick of ginger is warming and quickens the pulse enough to be exciting. Maybe the ‘Drunk in Love’ would be more appropriate– I’ll let you be the judge.

The drink really isn’t all that bitter, but you can and should play with the proportions to suit it to your tastes. I’ve experimented a bit with the amount of ginger syrup used, and have found that a touch more than the recipe calls for is quite nice.

 

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I used Demerara sugar, which is why my ginger syrup is so dark 

You can make the ginger syrup pretty easily by combining 1 to 1/4 c ginger (peeled, and cut into thin matchsticks) with 1c water and 1c sugar into a medium sized saucepan. Heat over medium until it just starts to boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes until the ginger flavour has steeped into the syrup, and the consistency is a bit like maple syrup. Strain into a clean jar, and let cool. You can save the ginger and make candied ginger (it’s surprisingly easy!) with this recipe from Alton Brown– it’s great as a garnish, or just for eating. I love ginger if my stomach is a bit upset.

Back to the cocktail though…

It would be just the thing to sip in bed with Netflix, binge-watching  The Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt or 30 Rock, for cocktails with friends, or even date night with your s/o if you’re into celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Ingredients:

• 2oz whiskey

• 1oz juice from a freshly -squeezed clementine

• 1/2 ginger syrup

• Angostura bitters, to taste (I used 5-7)

Directions:

• combine ingredients in a shaker with ice

• shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with the peel of a clementine (or the candied ginger you made!)

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Cheers, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Perfect Blend of Sweet and Savoury

In case you hadn’t heard, Valentine’s day is on Sunday this year, which makes brunch the prefect way to celebrate whether you’re having a day with friends, your partner, or celebrating on your own (self-love totally counts on Valentine’s day!).

When I was thinking about some of my favourite breakfast/brunch items, baked goods were definitely at the top. I have a serious sweet tooth, but often want something a little bit savoury in the morning as well, otherwise I feel like I’m having dessert. Scones are a particular favourite of mine not only because they are delicious, but because they are so easy to make. In fact, recipes often explicitly tell you not to mix the batter for very long, or you will have dry, overly-hard scones, perfect for someone who has very little patience like me. Stumbling across this recipe from The Minimalist Baker, I knew I had found the perfect recipe for a fun, relaxed brunch.

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I was a little war of the rosemary-blueberry mix at first, but deduced to give it a try anyway, and was pleasantly surprised. It’s definitely an unexpected flavour, but strikes a really nice balance between sweet and savoury, with the rosemary giving them a herby, grounding flavour– sort of the prefect combination for the end of winter and beginning of spring. It may even replace blueberry-ginger as my favourite flavour combo! The recipe originally calls for frozen blueberries, but I was lucky to find some really delicious fresh ones at the market, so subbed them in instead, adding a few extra because why not?

Another thing these scones have going for them is that they just so happen to be vegan. You could, of course, sub the flax egg for a chia egg, or other egg substitute, but I think these are pretty perfect as they are. I did need to add a bit more flour than the recipe called for, probably because I didn’t use spelt flour, which would have soaked up a bit more of the moisture, so be aware when you’re mixing and adjust accordingly.

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Ingredients:

• 1 flax egg (or one real egg, if you’re into that kind of thing)

• 1/4 c almond milk (unsweetened)

• 2 & 1/4c flour

• 1tbs baking powder

• 1/4 sugar

• 1/2tsp sea salt (finely ground)

• 1 tbs fresh rosemary, chopped (don’t sub for dried)

• 6 tbs room tempt. coconut oil (not liquid)

• 1/3 c plus 1 handful blueberries

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F, mix dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, rosemary)
  2. mix wet ingredients in a smaller bowl (flax egg, almond milk)
  3. add coconut oil to dry ingredients as use a fork (or pastry cutter) to combine until it looks a bit like sand
  4. slowly add the wet ingredients, stir until just combined, then gently stir in the blueberries
  5. turn out onto a lightly floured surface, form into a 1-inch high disk, cut into wedges. (You could also make this recipe even simpler by making drop scones instead)
  6. sprinkle the tops with a little bit of sugar, then place on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes

(click here for the original recipe)

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How are you celebrating Valentine’s day? Let me know in the comments!

 

Friday Cocktail: Cherry Old Fashioned

Some weeks I’m more on top of things than others, and this week is thankfully one of them. I’d originally planned a totally different cocktail for this week, but was so excited about this one I just had to share it.

 

Not only is it especially simple to make, the combination of bourbon and cherry is one of my favourites, and makes me think of spring (fitting since on Groundhog’s day they predicted Spring was on its way!). Preserved fruit and veggies in the form of jams, marmalades, and pickles, is one the best parts of winter. They’re a bit like little hints of warmer months that brighten up a meal. While I was picking up a loaf of our favourite sourdough bread early this week at our favourite place (Gail’s), I decided to try some of their cherry jam as well. Gorgeously syrupy with large cherries hiding at the bottom, my first thought was that it would be lovely in a cocktail.

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My hunch was right- skimming a bit off of the top to replace the sugar resulted in an old fashioned that was wonderfully balanced, with just enough cherry to be a surprise, but not too much to be overly-sweet– the bourbon and tart cherries becoming better than the sum of their parts. If you don’t live near a Gail’s (I’m sorry), try to find a really good dark cherry jam and thin slightly with a bit of water or bourbon before using, or sub Luxardo maraschino cherries and halve the amount used.

Ingredients:

• 3/4oz bourbon

•1/4 oz sweet vermouth

• 2 dashes angostura bitters

• 1/4-1/2 tsp runny jam

Directions: 

  1. combine ingredients in a mixing glass, stir to dissolve the jam
  2. add ice and stir again to chill
  3. strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel, or a cherry

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I think the slightly red colour makes it a prefect cocktail for Valentine’s day as well.

Cheers!

 

Things I’m Looking Forward to in February

January and February, are notorious for being cold, slow, and generally not very fun. The holidays are over, spring is still waiting in the wings, and things can tend to feel a bit bleak.  Strangely though, I’ve always liked this time of year, especially February. Yes, it can often be bitterly cold if you’re somewhere North, but it’s also some of the last weeks  of winter that are free of Holiday stress or planning, and more enjoyable since January usually helps me find my routine again and I’m able to enjoy my workouts and self-care.

If you’re not a fan of February hopefully this list inspires you to look forward to at least one thing this month, and if you are, I suggest making the most of it and thinking about your own list as well, and maybe even let me know in the comments!

1. This month is already set to be rather busy, which I’m definitely excited about. I love having a packed schedule (within reason), as it helps me to be so much more productive in every area of my life. There’s something about really needing to manage my time well that kicks me into gear and makes it happen, whether that means efficiently getting all of my coursework done, or making the most of the free time I do have by catching up with friends or having a date night with Cameron.

 

 2. I don’t think I could make a list about things I’m looking forward this month without including Valentine’s Day. Growing up it was one of my favourite days of the year- I would wear red or pink to school, make handmade cards for all of my friends and family. I still send cards to my friend an family, handmade or not, to let them know I’m thinking of them. This year is going to be especially fun, since one of my best friends from college is coming to visit for the weekend! Cameron and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s day in a particularly special way — instead we celebrate ‘us’ on our anniversary, which makes it a lot more personal I think. Instead we usually make a fun dinner together, and do something more casual like go for a hike, or to a movie. I do still get him a card (it’s my favourite part of every holiday), but the only gift we exchange are conversation hearts.

3.  Reading week is toward the end of this month, and I’m definitely looking forward to the short break in classes, even though I will be writing a few papers. Cameron and I are thinking of taking a short weekend trip (suggestions welcome in the comments!) somewhere we can get to by train and relax for a few days before the rest of the term. Writing this now it’s unbelievable how quickly this year is already going by, and how quickly my dissertation is approaching.

4. Leap day! I’ve always thought the idea of an extra day what such a strange and wonderful idea. This year it falls on a Monday, which would usually make it quite hard to celebrate, but since I have no Monday classes, may still be possible. Who knows, maybe I’ll even post a Leap Day inspired cocktail later this month?

Rabbit, rabbit!