“French 28” Lavender + Lemon Champagne Cocktail

For the last three years, I’ve thrown myself a dessert party for my birthday. “I can make my own birthday cake if I want” is generally the idea, and the theme is loosely French: cheese, chocolate, champagne. This year, to keep things simple, I decided to only serve a champagne cocktail and sparkling rose. To keep things French, I decided to play off of the classic French 75 cocktail. I infused the simple syrup with lavender and swapped out some of the lemon juice for more floral tasting Meyer lemon juice. Seeing as it was my 28th birthday, I thought my cocktail would be appropriately named the “French 28.” Nobody can agree on where the “75” comes from anyway.

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Year in Review

In spite of the personal, national, and global turmoil, there was still a lot of good in 2016. It was one hell of a travel year for us, including awe-inspiring hikes, beautiful golf courses, and some incredible meals. We were overwhelmed with love and support from friends and family. I continued to find my way professionally as a photographer, cooking class teacher, and blogger. And I launched this new blog! Those are the parts I want to focus on and remember, so I’ve put together this “year in review” to record some of the highlights. I mostly did this for myself as a practice in gratitude, but I’ll also consider it my Christmas card substitute. Lord knows I don’t have my life together enough to get real ones in the mail.

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Brioche Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Icing

Cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning (or any morning, for that matter) are a nostalgic endeavor for me. From my childhood through my college years, it was usually a can of store-bought rolls with the little cup of icing. It wasn’t until my young adult years that I discovered the magic of homemade cinnamon rolls.

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

All vanilla extracts are NOT created equally. Once you taste the pure flavor of good vanilla, it’s hard to turn back. Unfortunately, a small bottle of artisanal extract can run upwards of $10. So, make it yourself! It’s as easy as vanilla beans + vodka.

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How to Build a Better Cheese Board

There are few better ways to get a dinner party off to a good start than with a cheese board. Since guests rarely arrive at the same time, it’s nice to have something for guests to eat right away. Fortunately, a beautiful spread of cheese doesn’t take a ton of prep like a lot of bite-sized appetizers do.

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Whole Grain Flatbread Crackers

Sure, you could just buy some, but these flatbreads are totally worth the little bit of extra time. They’ll save you some pennies, and you’ll be *so proud* to tell your friends that they’re homemade.

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Brown Butter + Chocolate Ganache Cake

This election season has been extra tense and vitriolic, so we need to find goodness wherever we can. And brown butter makes pretty much everything better. Can I get an amen?

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Gramma’s Banana Bread with Pecans

Banana bread was one of my very favorite snacks as a child–preferably straight out of the oven with a slathering of cream cheese. I actually thought it was my mom’s recipe until I received a box of recipes as a wedding gift from her mom, my Gramma Tina.

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Morningside Kitchen’s Autumn Sangria

I had the pleasure of attending Morningside Kitchen’s “Farm to Bar” cocktail class a few weeks ago with my friend Carly. Obviously I was excited that the class centered around seasonal ingredients, and I was eager to learn some new tricks for mixing drinks. One of my favorites from the night was the Morningside Autumn Sangria, which they are currently serving in the restaurant.

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Build Your Own Grain Bowls

Apparently “grain bowls” are a thing these days, but they’ve long been a part of my work-from-home-lunch repertoire. It’s a good excuse to throw a bunch of leftovers in a bowl together and call it a meal. You can mix and match, eat it hot or cold, and you don’t need a recipe.

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Corn + Parmesan Broth

When you cut the kernels off of a corn cob (like maybe for this summer shrimp pasta), what do you do with the cobs? Most likely you throw them away, or perhaps you’re a good citizen and compost them. But either way, it’s a shame to toss them because they still hold a ton of flavor!

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Summer Shrimp Pasta with Corn + Capers

This has been a summer of pasta dinners for us, especially after our trip to Italy in early July. I love burst tomato sauces because they’re quick, easy, and much fresher than a can of sauce. My favorite tomatoes are sungold cherry tomatoes because they’re so sweet and flavorful, though any variety of cherry or grape tomatoes work well with this recipe. The sweet tomatoes, corn, and shrimp are balanced by salty capers and cheese and lots of fresh mint.

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