Cashmere Apron

Organic Strawberry Basil Margaritas With Ginger

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I hit up my local farm stand, South Coast Farms, on my way home from working out on Friday. The strawberries this season have been outrageous, baskets and baskets of pure berry sweetness filling up a large table every day at the farm. When I showed up Friday, the normal “strawberry” table was overflowing with heirloom tomatoes. Strawberry season at the farm ends today and the farm’s “U-Pick” option was the only way I could enjoy a few last baskets of their organic strawberries. So, I grabbed my basket and walked out to the field.

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A few observations from my strawberry picking: (1) There is no match for the goodness of food that goes right from the ground into your hands. (2) I will have a greater appreciation for naturally farmed food and the people that bring it to me, as my back was sore after a mere 35 minutes of picking strawberries. (3) Standing in the field and looking around at heirloom tomatoes on vines and giant bunches of fresh green lettuces and kale, I was inspired to keep shopping/eating/buying local farm stand fruits and vegetables. (4) It is the simple and pure things in life that make me feel good – standing in that field picking strawberries, chatting with people I didn’t know on a relaxed Friday afternoon, watching kids fill their little buckets with strawberries picked with their own little hands, the warm sunshine and cool ocean breeze.

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I decided to kick off the holiday weekend using the strawberries in fresh strawberry margaritas. All of the ingredients listed are organic (I purchased the basil and limes at the farm as well). Happy Fourth of July…Enjoy this “Farm-To-Glass” spirit.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup of organic strawberries, stems removed
1/2 cup Patron Silver tequila
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 cup Cointreau
1 Tb organic basil, roughly chopped +extra for garnish
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
*Fills two large margarita glasses or three smaller glasses

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DIRECTIONS
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour over ice into Margarita glasses and top with a few sprigs of basil. For garnish, create a mini kabob of strawberries, basil and ginger and rest on the side of the Margarita glass. Serve on a large farm tray with baskets of strawberries as decoration.

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All For Mom

May 8 is just around the corner and with it, a day that is dedicated to M-O-M. This carefully curated list of gift ideas appeals to different tastes and preferences and there is sure to be something every mom would appreciate (or at least I would)! All of these gifts can be found online and ordered, except for the weekend getaway, of course!

Mothers Day Guide(1) Fitbit Alta Luxe
Motivation Is Your best Accessory.” The updated and more glam Fitbit Alta comes in a trendy array of colors including: blush leather, graphite leather and stainless steel. The classic version still comes in black, blue, plum and teal. The updated look and features will keep mom moving, grooving and on trend.

(2) Oscar de la Renta –  a Restrospective at the de Young Galleries in San Francisco running through May 30. An overview of the exhibition is described as follows, “Oscar de la Renta’s designs celebrated the best in us—beauty, optimism, and confidence. Including more than 130 ensembles, this world-premiere retrospective pays tribute to one of the most beloved and influential fashion icons of our time.” Definitely a reason to visit San Francisco with your mom, and if geography poses an issue, check out the art galleries in your town. A relaxing Sunday viewing art, lunching, drinking champagne…O’ Happy Mother’s Day!

(3) Juice Beauty Gift Set. “As the new creative director of makeup for Juice Beauty, Gwyneth [Paltrow] collaborated with the company on a line of organic makeup this winter. And this month, in further partnership with Juice Beauty the launch of a new organic skincare line goop by Juice Beauty.” (Glamour Magazine, March 2016). The company is based in California and the all organic formulations offer everything from skincare to make-up that starts with a pure, unadulterated juice base. Juice Beauty offers FREE shipping on orders over $30 and 15% off your first purchase by signing up for their newsletter. The product line is extensive and reasonably priced.

(4) Simone Le Blanc Spa Indulgence Gift Box. A company that curates anything but ordinary gift boxes, Simone Le Blanc believes in connecting people through carefully selected gift experiences. The way they package their gifts, along with the quality would absolutely make me want to be the recipient of one of these special packages at my front door. They offer everything from her to him to babies and more. Classy. Elegant. Unique. Their pricing starts at the reasonable and ramps up to the high but there is a wide array of quality selections for every budget. This particular Mother’s Day gift box includes:

  • Coyuchi Organic Cotton Robe. A beautiful and elegant bathrobe handmade of 100% organic cotton, fabricated to be both lightweight, incredibly absorbent, and soft-to-the-touch. S/M, fits most.
  • L’Objet 28 Candle. Bright mint, deep Rose de Mai, orange flower, topped with warm honeyed amber notes swirl in this candle inspired by travels to Morocco. Hand blended and poured into a keepsake porcelain and brass vessel. A truly luxurious candle.
  • Rodin Body Cream. A luxurious formula of calming jasmine and nourishing neroli essential oils, moisturizers, healing agents and antioxidants to smooth skin and restore glow.
  • Rodin Body Oil. A gloriously rich elixir for restoring suppleness and radiance. Made of eleven aromatic and skin-soothing essential oils derived from flowers and other botanicals.
  • Cousus De Fils Soaps. A trio of fine soaps handmade in France using traditional techniques. Naturally scented and made without artificial ingredients. Beautifully wrapped in antique wallpaper patterns.
  • Simone LeBlanc Gold Foil and Stone Leather “Moments” Journal. Dove gray leather journal with gold foil embossed “Moments” lettering for capturing special memories. A timeless keepsake.
  • Crystal Geode. A unique geode to fill the home with charm, vision, and an open heart. The perfect sparkling memento.
  • Signature Simone LeBlanc Keepsake Wood Box. Handmade in Los Angeles. Reusable and just right for storing beloved heirlooms or personal mementos.
  • Menu with inspirational quote and component details.

(5) Alexis Bittar 4-Piece Stacking Ring Set. Alexis Bittar is the CEO and Creative Designer of the jewelry company bearing his name. He is best known for his lucite bangles and high fashion runway collaborations. His jewelry is modern and just different enough to always invoke the question from others of, “That’s beautiful…where did you get it?” My mom gave me a very unique Alexis Bittar stacking necklace for my birthday and I get compliments on it EVERY day (I am NOT being dramatic). The jewelry price point is very reasonable and his line is carried widely at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. I loved this ring and thought it would be a very well-received Mother’s Day gift!

(6) The Giving Keys classic “Inspire” necklace. A “pay it forward company” that helps employ others impacted by homelessness. Custom-made in Los Angeles, The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness in Los Angeles to make key necklaces and other jewelry out of repurposed keys. Singer/Songwriter Caitlin Crosby is the company’s founder and lives by the motto, “Keep your eyes open to all the needs you see around you. They are all over the place.” Today, The Giving Keys are carried in over 1200 stores in the US and internationally including Nordstrom, Fred Segal and Kitson. There is a large, budget-friendly priced product line which can also be found online. The company also says, “Our products are worn proudly and intentionally by individuals from all walks of life who want to be inspired and touch others with their words.” I can’t imagine a more meaningful gift for the woman that inspires you.

(7) Spa and relax away at The Bernardus Lodge & Spa in Carmel Valley, California. Okay, not everyone can just take off for a weekend in Carmel Valley with their mom. BUT, what a great sentiment! You can always schedule a special day at a local spa. We did this for my mom’s birthday this past weekend and what a great day we shared. We worked out overlooking the ocean, had a delicious lunch, received amazing massages and finished our day with a glass of rose and a beautiful ocean view. Maybe the Bernardus Lodge & Spa can be on a future list. It is sooooooooo worth it. Tucked away in a beautiful valley – the calm and mellow feel coupled with gourmet locally-sourced food and the incredible scenery will keep you coming back year after year.

(8) Pamela Love: Muses and Manifestations Book. This beautiful hardcover book would not only be gorgeous on a coffee table or nightstand, but the content is inspiring as well. Give mom a copy of this tome and wrap it with a soft afghan. Trendsetting contemporary jeweler, Pamela Love, invites you into her universe, revealing the obsessions and inspiration behind her cult jewelry line she began in 2007. Part of the book, which inspired me, shows her process for jewelry creation and the use of vision boards and where she finds her motivation. The pages are colorful, elegant and so captivating. This is an excellent gift for mom to enjoy and think of you every time she sees it.

I hope you find something appealing on this list for your mom, or maybe for YOU. Happy Mother’s Day.

Meyer Lemon Cookies with a Powdered Sugar Glaze

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When a large bag of Meyer Lemons lands graciously on your front porch the question begs…what to do with Meyer Lemons? My first instinct, which was covered in my last post, was to make Meyer Lemon Limoncello. Sipping Limoncello in the warm Italian sunshine is one of my most vivid memories of a long-ago trip to Europe. The Meyer Lemon Limoncello was a success and is now on my gift giving list for the holidays. When wondering what else to do with Meyer Lemons, I decided to infuse vodka, which yielded a delicious flavor and a very gregarious cocktail hour this past Christmas day. That post is soon coming up (perhaps as part of a Mother’s Day gift guide).

After searching for all kinds of recipes about what to do with Meyer Lemons, I came across a wonderful sounding recipe for a Meyer Lemon jam. I envisioned slathering the homemade citrusy deliciousness across a rustic piece of bread with morning coffee, drizzling it onto poundcake with fresh strawberries and topping my kids’ nightly bowl of ice cream with just a dab of the zesty freshness. I sterilized my mason jars and laid them on the counter, ready to be filled. After peeling, chopping, draining, boiling and BURNING my precious lemon jam to a dark mahogany hue, I put that idea on hold until next year when perhaps my patience will be more abundant.

Among some of the other Meyer Lemon recipes I came across, this one stuck out. I found it on a beautiful blog with creative desserts called The Sugar Coated Cottage. I followed The Sugar Coated Cottage recipe to a T, and voila, one more fruitful idea for what to do with Meyer Lemons – create a light and fluffy Meyer lemon cookie with a powdered sugar glaze. The Meyer lemon adds just the slightest hint of citrus so as not to detract from the sugar cookie itself. I often get the complaint from my kids that they prefer, “Just vanilla, mom,” but I could barely glaze these babies fast enough before they flew off the counter. If a baked good sits in my home for more than two days, it’s a flop. These beautiful-to-look-at and tasty-to-taste cookies undoubtedly earn a checkmark in the make-again (and again) column.

Golden flecks of the Meyer lemon zest make for a pretty cookie

Golden flecks of the Meyer lemon zest make for a pretty cookie

Ingredients
For the Cookie:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tb Meyer lemon juice
2 Tb Meyer lemon zest
1 and ¼ cup all purpose flour (I always use Swan’s Down brand cake flour in my
baking. I like the light fluffy texture it yields)
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
Extra sugar for rolling

For the Meyer lemon powdered sugar glaze:
1 and ½ cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp Meyer lemon juice
2 Tbsp Meyer lemon zest

Directions
-Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
-Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
-Add extra sugar to shallow dish for rolling.

To make cookies:
-With mixer on medium cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
-Add in the egg, Meyer lemon juice and zest, mix to combine.
-In a separate bowl put flour, baking powder, baking soda, stir to combine.
-With mixer on low slowly add the flour mixture to butter mixture, mix until well combined.
-Roll into 1” balls and roll in sugar.
-Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
-Bake for 7-9 minutes until edges are lightly browned.
-Let cool.

To make the glaze:
-Mix all ingredients until completely combined.
-Drizzle over cooled sugar cookies.

The Meyer lemon is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange offering a little more sweetness than regular lemons.

Arrange cookies on a vintage-looking platter surrounded by fresh lemons and mandarin oranges for a vibrant and inviting presentation.

Notes:
1. This is a soft dough, if making up next cookie sheet while first one is baking place second cookie sheet with rolled cookies into refrigerator until ready for the oven.

2. If you find the dough is too soft you can refrigerate for 10 minutes to firm up.

3. If you need to store the glaze lay plastic wrap directly on the surface so it does not crust over.

4. Store cookies in airtight container

5. Watch cookies closely while baking, as soon as the edges are a light golden brown remove from oven. Press top of cookie lightly, if firm they are done. If top is soft then put in oven for 1 minute intervals until done.

The sweet citrus taste is attributed to the Meyer lemon's cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.

The light and sweet citrus essence tasted in the cookie is attributed to the Meyer lemon’s cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.

Meyer Lemon Limoncello

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When my mom’s Meyer lemon tree was overflowing with glowing yellow citrus, I found myself the lucky recipient of a giant bag on my doorstep. I started researching all the delectable ways these lemons could be incorporated into recipes. It was an experiment that yielded beautiful cocktails and desserts, and one gorgeous roasted chicken.

What makes Meyer lemons so special? ’Lisbon’ and ‘Eureka’ lemons grow year-round and are most likely the lemons you select whenever you reach for them in the grocery store. The Meyer lemon, named after Frank N. Meyer who discovered it in Asia in 1908, is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. The Meyer lemon is less acidic and sweeter with a more fragrant smelling rind. The Meyer lemon is seasonal, available mainly from December through May (Costco had bags of Meyer lemons this year, which I just noticed).

Obsessed with Limoncello from my first trip to Italy, I decided to use the Meyer lemons to first make my own Meyer Lemon Limoncello. I let my peels infuse for a month and the result was delicious.
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This Christmas, I plan on making Limoncello again with the Meyer lemons and giving homemade bottles as gifts during the holidays. There is so much you can do with the packaging and suggesting different ways to drink, cook and bake with Limoncello. If you want to try this recipe, any lemons will do, but take advantage of the Meyer variety if you have time.

A thick piece of lemon peel can be tied around the neck of the bottle. Create an "L" out of the lemon peel and glue to a gift tag.

A thick piece of lemon peel can be tied around the neck of the bottle. Create an “L” out of the lemon peel and glue to a gift tag.

Ingredients
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11-12 Meyer lemons, washed and dried
1 750-ml bottle vodka (80-to-100 proof)
2 cups sugar
2, 1 quart Mason jars
Strainer/Collander
Small funnel
Decorative/Sealable bottle(s) of your choice

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Cover the Meyer Lemon peels with vodka

Directions
Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler being careful to avoid the pith. Divide the lemon peels equally between your two, 1-Quart Mason jars. Fill each jar to the top with vodka and seal.

Fill jar to the top, covering all peels, and seal the lid

Fill jar to the top, covering all peels, and seal the lid

Place the Mason jars in a dark, cool spot and let the vodka infuse anywhere from one week to four weeks. *The longer you infuse the vodka the more lemon flavor you will get out of your Limoncello.

Vodka being infused with Meyer Lemons

Vodka being infused with Meyer Lemons

Once you are ready, place your collander/strainer over a measuring cup that is large enough to hold at least two cups but preferably four. Strain the infused vodka through the collander/strainer. It should yield four cups of vodka approximately. Add your four cups of infused vodka to a large pitcher.

Now you will prepare a simple sugar syrup which you will add to the infused vodka (once it has cooled). Bring two cups water and two cups sugar to a boil and stir. Once all the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and let the simple sugar syrup cool completely.

Once the simple sugar syrup has cooled completely, you will add it to your pitcher of infused vodka and stir. Be sure to taste it and make sure it is to your liking. I used a 1:1 ratio and thought it had the right kick.

Pour Limoncello into a decorative bottle that seals

Pour Limoncello into a decorative bottle that seals

You are ready to bottle your Limoncello. Pour into the decorative bottles you selected using a small funnel or a steady hand! I found the pretty bottles you see here at Cost Plus but am certain any variety and any size can be found online. Chill the finished Limoncello in the fridge or freezer for four to five hours before enjoying. I always keep my Limoncello in the freezer as I like to serve it cold and it will last much longer (up to a year).
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Limoncello Ideas

The Pearl Cocktail

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Cheers to Easter weekend! Despite the increasing maturity of my peeps, now 17 and 14, I couldn’t resist shopping for their Easter baskets this week. Who doesn’t want to wake-up on Easter morning to jelly beans, Reese’s peanut butter eggs, chocolate bunnies and special gifts. I know I’m not alone in recalling how my son was once horrified by the idea of a giant white fluffy bunny hopping through our home in the night. We have moved beyond the egg dying, egghunts and pictures with the Easter bunny which means that Easter Sunday is now a bit more relaxed.

And while I am nostalgic about those early kid days, the upside is that the pace is much less frenetic and we are able to enjoy holiday meals and time spent together and, of course, the holiday cocktail hour (for the adults). I found this recipe in a local culinary magazine and thought it was the perfect Easter creation with shades of lavender and the sugared candy rim. It seems like a perfectly perfect cocktail to sip on this Easter weekend.

Simple ingredients on display

Simple ingredients on display

The ingredients are simple and look inviting displayed on a silver tray. Be sure to have a crushed bucket of ice on hand, a crisp white linen towel for any spills and a silver cocktail shaker.

Ingredients
1 1/2oz Grey Goose La Poire Vodka
2 lemon wedges
1/4 oz Creme de Violette
1 oz Piper-Heidsieck Champagne
Fresh mint

Instructions
-In a cocktail shaker combine vodka, Creme de Violette and juice from squeezed lemon wedges
-Shake vigorously with ice
-Strain into a coupe glass rimmed with turbinado sugar and top with Champagne
-Float a mint leaf on top for an extra pop of color

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This pretty cocktail was originally created in my hometown at the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel, as a Signature Anniversary drink.

Cookie Dough Cake Pops

FullSizeRenderLast-minute ideas are sometimes the best. My daughter went off to a gift exchange this afternoon and I wanted to send dessert. I was thinking I would make Oreo ice cream pie, one of my “go-to’s” but when I asked my daughter she said, “cookie dough cake pops.” I went online and found a very easy recipe and, miraculously, I had all of the ingredients. I adapted the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction but used white chocolate instead of dark.

These cake pops were super easy to make and, after taste-testing, I have determined that the Christmas calories are worth it. I put gold tissue paper in the bottom of a mason jar and topped the lid with a burlap doily. I poked holes in the doily and pushed the cake pops through to create a little bouquet of Christmas sweetness.

A simple Mason jar filled with gold tissue and topped with a burlap doily is perfect for presenting this bouquet of Christmas cheer and sweetness.

A simple Mason jar filled with gold tissue and topped with a burlap doily is perfect for presenting this bouquet of Christmas cheer and sweetness


Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 package Ghirardelli white melting chocolate wafers
1 package Wilton 5 ” Bamboo lollipop sticks

Directions
In a large bowl using an electric or stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in milk and vanilla. Add flour and salt and mix on low until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Chill the dough in refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until firm enough to roll.

Line 1 large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough into balls, about 1.5 tablespoons of dough per ball. Insert stick into each ball. Freeze balls for at least 20 minutes on 1 cookie sheet.

Melt chocolate following instructions on the package. Remove a couple of balls from the freezer at a time and dip into melted chocolate. Tap the stick against the bowl and let any excess chocolate fall off. Sprinkle with sprinkles of your choice and hold the stick for about a minute before putting down on lined cookie sheet. This will allow the chocolate to set and avoid a flattened top.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

vanilla caramel popcorn halloween cupcakes

Lead HalloweenIngredients
one dozen vanilla cupcakes (use your favorite recipe)
melting chocolate
salted caramel popcorn
caramel sauce
pastry bag or squeeze bottle
melon baller
parchment paper
Halloween cupcake liners

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients
1 lb box of C&H Pure Cane Powdered Sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick salted butter (softened)

Directions
Make vanilla cupcakes and let cool on a rack.

While cupcakes are cooling, melt chocolate and add to a pastry bag (the process would be neater in a squeeze bottle but I didn’t have one on hand). On a sheet of parchment paper, pipe out chocolate spider webs. They are simple to make once you get the hang of it. I used this tutorial from the internet (the example uses white chocolate but the process is the same for dark chocolate). Once you have created your spider webs, leave them to harden on the parchment paper or pop in the fridge until you are ready to use (they harden in about 15 minutes-very quick).

Easily pipe spiderwebs onto parchment paper

Even with my hands covered in chocolate, I managed to create these cute chocolate webs

While your spider webs are setting, take your melon-baller and scoop out a hole in the top of each cupcake. Fill the hole with caramel sauce. Once all of the holes are filled, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.

Scoop out a small hole in the cupcake and fill with caramel sauce

The caramel center is a yummy surprise in almost every bite

To make frosting, add all of the frosting ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat with a mixer for approximately 2-minutes, scraping down the sides. Add frosting to a pastry bag and frost all of the cupcakes in any style you desire. I used a thicker frosting tip to cover the cupcakes thoroughly.

A tray of homemade Halloween sweets

A tray of homemade Halloween treats for every age

Once the cupcakes are frosted, cover the top with the salted caramel popcorn and insert a spider web in the middle. Arrange on a platter and serve for a fun, Halloween dessert.

*Add the popcorn to the top of the cupcakes right before serving so it doesn’t go stale from exposure to the air.

The popcorn adds a whimsical touch to the cupcake

The popcorn adds a whimsical touch and a crunch to every bite of cupcake