We’re holding on to summer at my house for as long as possible, but I can’t help but notice that the chill in the morning air is taking longer to wear off.
Because August is far too early for hot chai, or even hot chocolate, I’ve found a new way to transport myself to a happy place where the prospects of snow and ice don’t exist. A drink with both summery, tropical flavors and a warming blend of spices can provide a lot of comfort (and denial); enter the Spiced Chai Piña Colada.
Like a snug chai tea, this drink features the gratifying combined flavors of cinnamon, clove, pepper, ginger, and a little hint of liquorice. The amber rum has a caramel-molasses profile that works well with the warm spices, and coconut milk gives the drink a soothing silkiness. But it’s also an ice blended drink, with bright tropical pineapple and coconut flavors that contrast nicely with the rich spices and keep everyone grounded in summertime fun.
Infusing a simple syrup is the easiest way to get these comforting spices into your drink. You’ll have two options: first, if you have all the available spices on hand, you can just steep whole spices in your syrup for a rich and heady infusion. But, if you’re short on ingredients in the pantry, or just big on simplicity and convenience, you can easily substitute chai tea bags (I won’t tell anyone if you don’t).
To keep the drink from getting too rich and caloric for a summer day, the coconut cream usually found in a Piña Colada has been replaced with lite coconut milk. It doesn’t effect the taste or consistency, and it means you can have two.
So have two! Happy Cocktailing!
photos by Elana Lepkowski
- 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 1 heaping tablespoon fresh chopped ginger
- 4 cloves, whole
- 1 star anise
- 4 2” cinnamon sticks
- 6-8 green cardamom pods
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2-1/2 ounces gold rum (use a gold or amber rum for a richer taste vs white)
- 2-1/2 ounces pineapple juice
- 1-1/2 ounces lite coconut milk
- 1-1/4 ounces chai syrup (see recipe below)
- 1 cup ice
- cinnamon stick for garnish
- Bring sugar and water to just under a boil. Add spices. Stir to combine.
- Turn down heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove from flame and let sit, covered for an hour.
- Strain mixture into an airtight container. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to a month.
- In a blender, combine rum, pineapple juice, coconut milk, chai syrup and ice. Blend and pour into a rocks glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
- Note: To make a chai infusion with tea bags. Boil a cup of water and steep two bags for 5 minutes. Discard the tea bags and stir in one cup of sugar until fully dissolved. Also, for a thicker cocktail, gradually add more ice, 1/4 cup at a time until desired consistency is reached.
I make homemade body scrubs for myself all the time, but receiving one as a gift is a treat! Recently, I was given a jar of Geranium body scrub made with pink Himalayan sea salt and coconut oil from my friend Holly.
That same night I jumped in the shower and uncapped my pretty pink gift. The smell of sweet, floral geranium filled my steamy bathroom. The scent was faintly reminiscent of rose with a bit of lychee and something entirely more earthy. I couldn’t get enough of the soft pink, super moisturizing, scrub. The day I scraped the last bits of scrub from the bottom of the jar, I called Holly for the recipe.
After doing some research, I found it interesting that my nightly geranium scrub was beneficial in promoting emotional stability, alleviating pain, enhancing mood, and reducing inflammation. As Holly says, it’s a very grounding scent. Geranium essential oil is also said to help with depression, anxiety and insomnia. No wonder this scrub quickly became my favorite night time ritual! Going to bed with the faint scent of geranium still lingering on my skin and the soft moisture of organic coconut oil is just about as relaxing as it gets. I hope you will give it a try!
photos by Leah Bergman
Geranium Body Scrub- recipe by Holly Cory
1. In a bowl combine sea salt and coconut oil, mix to combine.
2. Add in 10-20 drops Geranium Essential Oil, stir to incorporate.
3. Spoon into a small jar with a tight fitting lid.
*Use in a warm shower or bath, breath deeply, relax and enjoy! Your skin will feel moisturized and renewed with a lovely lingering geranium scent. Thank you Holly for the recipe!
This past weekend I had the honor of representing Darling Magazine’s “Hostess” persona at their Create + Cultivate conference. I lead a room full of 90 talented, beautiful, and inspiring women in a round of crafting Painted Rope Votive Holders to inspire a simple hostess gift idea, or dinner party accent. As I prepared for speaking to this group and sharing my craft with them, I thought about what it means to be a “Hostess.” Immediately my thoughts went to figures like Martha Stewart and June Cleaver. Historically a hostess is synonymous with a perfectly tidy kitchen, ruffled apron, steaming pot roast, and wobbly jello mold, not to mention a spacious dining room to entertain in! Quite the opposite of my small one bedroom apartment, dishwasher-less kitchen, and round 4-seater dining table, I should add.
For starters I had mixed feelings about considering myself a hostess. What I’ve found is that while I love the art of entertaining, cooking a meal, mixing drinks, and generally socializing with friends and family; often times I feel the pressure to achieve perfection only to fall short on many occasions! You have no idea the frenzy of dish washing, toilet bowl scrubbing, and hurried candle lighting that ensues before my guests knock on the door. (Tell me I’m not alone in this!) I’m usually frustrated and sometimes a bit embarrassed at how little space I have to entertain guests, not to mention my general lack of seating. There is no, “Let’s retire to the library for cocktails” in this house.
So, as I considered all of these facts, and tried my best to work them into a meaningful presentation to accompany my candle project, I realized one very important thing. Despite all of my preconceived notions and feelings of inadequacy when it comes to the proper entertaining home, I still considered myself a hostess. The good intention behind the act of opening up one’s home, big or small, creating a welcoming atmosphere, and a sense of comfort is all that is really required. I think too often we get caught up in the idea of perfection, of keeping up with the Jones’, and forget about what qualities and talents we can personally share with others. So on that note I led the conference in a round of candle holder making.
photos via Esselle
It’s always been my intention with this blog to share inspiration, delicious recipes, easy entertaining ideas, and DIY projects made for the modern-day hostess. I hope that I can inspire you to consider yourself a hostess in your own right, to open your home to the ones you love, and to never be intimidated or held to a level of perfection that is simply not realistic. Mostly, I hope you take away a desire to entertain, to host, and to share your talents and hospitality with others.
On that note, Esselle is giving away a $50 gift card to use towards one of their Hostess boxes to a Freutcake reader. Esselle creates dinner party decor and tablescape essentials for the modern hostess…how perfect! So, please leave a comment here about your thoughts on what makes a “Hostess.” I would love to hear from you, and you might just win a gift card too.
Here’s How to Enter:
Note: Comments must be entered by 12:00 am PST, August 29th in order to qualify.
For years (before getting married) I believed that the only way to set a table was with matching sets of dishes or china. Of course, when we got engaged, I registered for a lovely set of everyday china that carried a simple but elegant black, white and silver pattern throughout the salad, dinner and dessert plates. I still love my china but have found it can be a bit boring to set an entire table with the same pieces. As my collection of vintage china and dishes has grown (that’s a whole different post) I now love to set a mismatched table working in pink depression glass salad plates, little gold rimmed bread plates, equestrian themed dessert dishes and the list goes on.
While my collection of tabletop is far from being complete, let’s face it a collector never stops collecting, I do have some tips for setting a mismatched table with what you have!
Tip #1: Set the Foundation
While I love combing the thrift stores for beautiful lone plates and saucers, I also think it’s important to have a foundational set of china or dinnerware. That set could be as simple as a beautiful set of white dinnerware (which is so versatile!) or as decorative as classic blue and white china. Either way, It’s nice to start with a full set to work with.
1/ (New) Gold Chargers 2/ (New) gold rimmed dinnerware 3/ (Vintage) Blue & White China 4/ (Vintage) pink and gold plates 5/ (Vintage) white and gold dessert plates 6/ (Vintage) Midcentury gold rim fruit plates
Tip #2: Mix Vintage & New
I love the art of the mix! Vintage china atop a brand new gold charger and finished of with modern flatware. Don’t be afraid of mixing vintage and new when it comes to table settings. It brings character and whimsey.
Tip #3: Use What you Have
There is nothing worse than the feeling of breaking a piece of china, am I right? (especially if it’s an heirloom or an pattern that is no longer available) I decided a couple of years ago that I was going to overcome my fears and put my china to use. There is no point in having it if you don’t enjoy using it! Mixing china patterns, vintage and new pieces takes the stress off of having a complete and pristine set.
Tip #4: Pick a Color
One way to unite a mismatched table setting is to pick a color scheme and run with it! For example, pair mismatched plates with a yellow and white theme to them.
Tip #5: Pick a Pattern
Another way to unite a mismatched table setting is to pick a pattern element that your dinnerware may have in common. For example, a vintage floral pattern can work well! Many different but similar florals (especially vintage roses) can come together nicely.
Tip #6: Layer Patterns
Don’t be afraid to layer different patterns and colors! Just like with clothing, different patterns can play nicely together to create a lovely layered effect. Try mixing a small print with a larger pattern or band of color.
Tip #7: Try Vintage Flatware
If you chose to have a primarily modern table scape, mix things up by adding in mismatched vintage flatware! If you don’t have time to collect these pieces yourself, this is a great resource.
photo by Bryce Covey via Style Me Pretty
So, do you like the mismatched table look or do you prefer all matching sets? What are your favorite places to find tabletop treasures?
Just when you thought dessert couldn’t get any better, we’re hitting you with a delicious, rich, luscious treat that even those of you who are vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free can eat! I mean, it’s kind of magical.
Let’s get into it! There are two things about this sweet coconut rice pudding that make it extra special. First, frozen cooked white rice. Have you used this stuff yet!? It’s A-MAZING. I prefer Whole Foods 365 brand frozen cooked rice. Its seriously changed my rice-eating life—perfectly cooked grains of rice are flash frozen and bagged for your convenience, I mean come on! If you can’t find it, no worries, homemade white rice works just as well. Hint: You could also use leftover from your Chinese takeout order.
The second thing that makes this dessert so special is the coconut milk. It gives the pudding all of its creaminess and a little hint of exotic sweetness. Look for light coconut milk to slim things down a bit. You don’t really need all of the heaviness of full fat coconut milk here, since the recipe’s so simple and subtle.
If you really want to take this dessert over the top, serve the rice pudding in DIY fresh coconut cups. Here’s what you do: Find yourself some coconuts. I was surprised by how many grocery store had ‘em! Take the tip of a meat thermometer or clean screwdriver and punch out the 3 holes at the top of the coconut (FYI usually only 1 or 2 will yield to puncturing! Don’t worry if you can’t get all three); drain coconut water into a glass—drink that, lady! It’s good stuff.
Next, one coconut at a time, hold coconut with a kitchen towel in your hand. Use the dull side of a heavy chefs knife to firmly whack all the way around the coconut’s diameter at its widest part (think, like, it’s equator). Keep going around and around until the hard outer shell begins to give way. This might take a few laps, so don’t get frustrated. Open the coconut and separate into two halves. Fill with rice pudding!
If this seems totally crazy and excessive, forget it! Scoop your pudding into pretty glass bowls and call it a day. Either way, you’ll want to eat a whole tub of this fast and fancy treat—let us know what you think.
photos by Erin Phraner
- 4 cups frozen cooked white rice, thawed
- 1 (13.5) ounce can light coconut milk
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Optional: Fresh coconuts, for serving
- Bring the rice, coconut milk, sugar, vanilla bean and vanilla extract to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, simmering, 15 minutes or until thickened slightly.
- Transfer pudding to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. Scoop into small glass bowl or serve in fresh coconut cups. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
I’ve always loved the idea of making my own soap. Much like making homemade body scrubs; a bit of craft and a little bit of cooking are both involved! When it comes to soap scents I generally prefer clean or floral combinations like oatmeal, lavender, lemon, or milk & honey because they are subtle and more gentle on the skin. A couple of weeks ago I made a batch of homemade Honeycomb Soap. A combination of goats milk soap and organic honey formed into a “honeycomb” shape using a surprisingly easy technique. The results were just too sweet! Here’s how I did it…
Note: I make soap the semi-homemade way using a pre-made soap base. Quite honestly I am terrified of the from scratch mad-scientist method of mixing lye and other ingredients that could potentially be very dangerous. Plus you can find all sorts of high quality soap bases online which are quick and easy! Simple. Also, this soap has a very light and natural honey-milk scent. If you want to bump up the honey, you may want to add a few drops of a honey fragrance oil.
Step 1: Chop soap base into cubes and place pan over low heat.
Step 2: Stir soap with heat-proof rubber spatula or wooden spoon until completely melted and no lumps remain.
Step 3: Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup honey. Set aside.
Step 4: Lightly spray soap molds with non-stick spray, wiping them down until lightly greased.
Step 5: Cut bubble wrap into shapes to fit the bottom of each mold and press into bottom.
Step 6: Pour hot soap into molds using a 1/4 measuring cup. Cool completely before removing from molds. *They should pop right out but if not use a butter knife to loosen edges.
Step 7: Carefully peel bubble wrap away from soap revealing the “honeycomb” pattern. Package and gift away!
photos by Leah Bergman
Have you ever made soap? What is your favorite scent to make? I think I’ll experiment with a floral blend next. Also, if you want more inspiration, check out my recipe for Black Tea and Lemon soap.
Creating a cocktail always involves a little magic. There’s an obvious element of potion-making, mixing the contents of all these bottles together; a bit of this, a bit of that. But also, every element brings change and is changed by the others. In the end, you wind up with something wholly different than its parts. That’s the real magic of cocktails: the magic of transformation. And the magical, transformational effect I’ve come to love most this summer is so simple that I’m sure you’ll love it too: drink-changing ice cubes!
Picture it if you will: serving your guests that refreshing classic cocktail, the Gin Rickey. A simple glass of gin, lime juice, and club soda. A palatable summer afternoon drink, light and breezy for porch sipping. But the minutes go by, and, with each sip, your guest’s demure cocktail slowly transform into a very different classic: the fruity, flirty Singapore Sling! Et voilà!
They say the method of a trick should never be revealed, but I’m quite happy to lay it all out– and it’s really not that difficult. The secret lies in creating ice cubes made of a super concentrated, fruity syrup. Believe me, very minor work for something that will make your guests go AHHH! And you only need to add one or two “loaded” cubes to your drink alongside regular ice cubes, so the base cherry syrup recipe will actually stretch for multiple rounds of cocktails.
Not super into cherries? Mix up some watermelon, or roasted plums! Anything that goes with limes and a large splash of gin. Do you have an interesting combo of summer fruit? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear what you’re mixing up!
photos by Elana Lepkowski
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 ounces Gin
- 4-6 ounces club soda
- 1-2 Singapore Sling Ice Cubes, plus non-flavored ice cubes for the glass
- 1 cup diced cherries
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ½ ounce Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
- 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
- In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and then simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and cover for an additional 30 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve, pushing down on the cherries to release all of their juices.
- Set liquid aside and store in an airtight container.
- In a highball glass filled with regular ice cubes, combine lime juice, gin and club soda.
- Add in Singapore Sling ice cubes and top with a splash more soda. Stir gently to combine.
- *Save those sugared cherries for topping yogurt or ice cream!
You know that feeling when you overthink something so much you don’t see what’s lying right in front of you? In this case, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh was literally lying right next to me on my nightstand for a couple of months before I realized it was the perfect selection for Freutcake Book Club’s late summer read. I started the book awhile back but got distracted and didn’t end up finishing it. Well, that’s half the story; the other half is that I didn’t really want to finish it. I was enjoying it so much I didn’t want it and my experience with its beauty to end too soon! But now I think it’s time to fully indulge…
The Language of Flowers follows main character Victoria Jones as she turns eighteen and is emancipated from the foster care system. Victoria is hostile, mistrusting, and hard to understand yet you find yourself rooting for her at every turn. She has a unique ability to understand the “language” of flowers (a fascinating way to express thoughts and emotions that was created during the Victorian times) and uses this knowledge to find a job, help others, and eventually find a place where she belongs.
As I sat reading late last night, I completely started crying. Not just watery eyes – full on tears streaming down my face. I don’t remember the last time a book has done that to me, perhaps never. So I hope this mushy confession prompts you to grab a copy for yourself and join us over the next few weeks as we read The Language of Flowers. You won’t regret a single moment (or tear) you spend on this brilliant novel.
photos by Leah Bergman
And stay tuned for our Freutcake Book Club meeting inspired by the novel and an online discussion coming late September. I promise, you’ll never look at flowers the same way again!
August-September Book Club Selection:
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Questions about book club? Email us!
I finished my college years long ago but I still love the fresh start that back-to-school time brings! It’s the not quite summer, not quite fall time of year when re-setting goals, cleaning that scary pile of to-do lists, and sprucing up the wardrobe all feels appropriate. I may not have classes to attend, or lectures to sit through, but I love these pieces all the same! Who wouldn’t want this very grown-up back pack or a modern wool varsity jacket? How fun! What’s on your wish list this year?
National food holidays make you do crazy things, like developing a sudden Sunday afternoon craving for s’mores so badly that you whip up a batch of S’mores Rice Krispies Treats. No camp fire needed, just a few ingredients, melted and mixed and you’re biting into gooey marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker in no time flat. Ya, food holidays are dangerous like that.
But let’s face it, during the summer months, a national holiday is hardly necessary to celebrate with s’mores. They’re just as much a part of our all-American summer food culture as cherry pie and the good old fashioned hamburger. Remind me to make hamburgers soon!
Of course, if you have a wee-bit more time, you can always take this recipe up a notch by covering the top with additional mini-marshmallows and toasting the bars under the broiler until the ‘mallow begins to brown and puff. Although to be honest, these bars will do the trick all on their own with plenty o’ melty marshmallow throughout.
From Gooey S’mores Bars, to S’mores Rice Krispies Treats and S’mores Brownie Bites—one can hardly have too many variations on the classic recipe! So, let’s enjoy what’s left of our S’mores Summer, who’s with me?
photos by Leah Bergman
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 1 (16oz) bag mini-marshmallows, plus 1/2 cup for garnish
- 5 cups Rice Krispies cereal
- 5 graham crackers
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips
- Grease a 9x13" pan and set aside.
- Break or chop graham crackers into small bite sized pieces. You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups.
- In a large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add (16 oz) mini-marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
- Stir in Rice Krispies and toss until well coated.
- Fold in graham crackers and chocolate chips.
- Evenly spread mixture into prepared pan and top with additional 1/2 cup of marshmallows. With greased hands or a greased spatula, press evenly into pan.
- Allow to cool before cutting into squares.
- *If you want to add a toasted s'mores topping, cover the entire pan with mini-marshmallows and toast under a (low) broiler just until browned and puffed. Allow to cool before cutting.