Melon Mojitos!

It’s been HOT here in Ottawa. Very hot, like with heat warnings at least half of every week. Fusselette has been in town on furlough from her job up in Northern Ontario and she brought down with her a small pot of pineapple mint, which I’d never heard of before.

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And when in possession of mint in the hot summer, one must make mojitos. Obviously. And these ones were just a wee twist on the classic.

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Grab a couple glasses and scoop a few balls of watermelon into each one. You can use cubes if you don’t have a melon baller. You’re just gonna squish ’em anyway. Slice up some lime wedges and add them in as well.

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Yes, those are key limes. Just wait for the post where I deal with them. Add some mint leaves (pineapple mint!) to the glass as well. I also added an extra splash of lime juice because of my wee limes.

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Use a muddler (or in my case, my trusty spurtle) and mush those up. LongJohn helped, as you can see.

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Let them sit for a few minutes so the juices can meddle with each other.

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I added in a few more balls of melon, then 2 ounces of white rum.
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Top that up with club soda.

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Garnish with more mint and enjoy in the summer sun!

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Brazilian Lemonade

It’s not summer yet, but you’ll be glad to have this in your arsenal when those long hot days finally roll around. The Minion and I discovered this amazing beverage while we were tooling around Salt Lake City and ended up having dinner at a Brazilian grill. The funniest part about it is that it contains no lemons whatsoever. But that is what it’s called.

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The traditional method follows the rule of threes: 3 limes, 3 cups water, 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, and 3 tablespoons sugar, but you can play with it as much as you like to come up with something that suits. I like it with a hint of mint added, myself.

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Take your 3 limes, washed and scrubbed, and slice off the stem and leaf bits at the top and bottom, then quarter them. If you have a really good blender, traditionalists will chuck the limes in whole, but my blender is not that great, so I quarter them. I found wedges were better than cutting rings, as the rings tended to get stuck around the blade at the bottom.

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Fill your blender with 3 cups water and chuck those limes in.

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Next, add in 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. I thought at first I could leave out the sugar but it’s necessary. The milk is just not sweet enough. Feel free to use any sugar substitute you like, of course.

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Now this looks way less appetizing, I’m sure. If you want to add some mint, tip in some fresh leaves at this point.

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Blend for about thirty seconds, until you have this frothy goodness.

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Strain out all the solids and compost those. Your compost bin will smell amazing.

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What you’re left with is a pale green milky liquid and a bit of froth.

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Serve over a glassful of ice and enjoy how refreshing it is.

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Want a dairy-free version? Not a problem. Tip a can of coconut milk into the blender and top it up with water to equal three cups. You will need to double the sugar to six tablespoons to compensate. The result is a slightly creamier version, and I can’t decide which I like more.

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In terms of longevity, this beverage is meant to be served immediately (possibly with some white rum mixed in), but I couldn’t drink both batches by myself that quickly so I tossed them in the fridge. The one of the left is the one I made with coconut milk, and you can see that over time it separates quite a bit. That said, a quick stir and it’s back to emulsified goodness, with no alteration in flavour.

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Evening Tipple: Drinks at the Haye Loft

If you’re ever toodling around Long Boat Key in Florida you may pass an old restaurant hidden behind a mess of palm trees on the one road on and off the island. This is Euphemia Haye. Feel free to make a reservation and enjoy sumptuous dining on the ground floor, but the real fun is to be found upstairs.

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In the Haye Loft, the bar above Euphemia Haye, you’ll find (at least four nights out of seven) a dashing older gentleman with a suave moustache mixing drinks and cracking jokes behind the counter. This is my uncle Eric. Go and tell him I say hi! Eric’s been a fixture behind the bar at the Haye Loft since its inception, and people come from all over to chat with him and sample his excellent cocktails and top shelf liquors. Here’s a nice rum with a delightful colour (not that I had any, but my dad said it was delicious).

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After finding out that the Pie’s favourite cocktail was the White Russian, Eric made him up a Smith and Kearns, which might be his new favourite.

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While you’re tippling away, avail yourself of the bar menu and give the hummus a try – it’s worth the experience.

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The Caesar salad is made up daily and bursts with flavour.

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And our unanimous favourite snack (which we never thought we would like) was the fried green tomatoes in a roasted red pepper sauce. It’s weird and not what you expect, but so good.

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If you still have room after all of that, go next door to the Dessert Bar. All these puppies are made fresh daily and differ depending on the season and the whims of the kitchen.

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The fruit crumbles shown here are the perennial favourite, though we preferred the berry crumble over the top-rated apple.

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If you’re in town, stop by and say hi!

SideBar: Mint Julep, Modified

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This year, Ottawa marked one of the hottest summers on record. I’m sure that wherever you are, the super el Niño occurring this year really messed with your summer. Here in Ottawa, summer is very reluctant to let go, and the temperatures here in September are only now just starting to cool down to what they should be.

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As it still feels like summer, why not enjoy a summer beverage on this lovely Friday? Yes, it’s yet another bourbon drink, but bourbon is such a very adaptable alcohol – there’s so much you can do with it (and Trav drinks a heckuva lot of it). This is a twist on the traditional mint julep, which is made with bourbon and mint and sugar – that’s it.

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Trav and I decided to take advantage of the massive amounts of lemon balm taking over my garden (so I can make more lemon balm tea) and do a wee varietal (lemon balm is also mint, after all). We also used honey syrup instead of regular sugar syrup (which is 1 cup honey dissolved in 1 cup hot water).

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Grab yourself a glass of some sort. I didn’t have any silver julep cups on hand because I’m not that fancy, so this is just a tumbler that used to be filled with weird Italian effervescents for digestion. Shove about 8 or 9 lemon balm leaves into the bottom of the glass.

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Tip in 3/4 oz honey syrup, and using a muddler (or a spurtle, because I’m not fancy enough to own a muddler), proceed to squish the crap out of your honeyed leaves.

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Squish, squish, squish.

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Now pour in some decent booze, about 2oz bourbon to be exact. I like this Evan Williams kind for this drink because it’s a little fruity.

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Top with some ice cubes. Or one giant one. The ice will hold the leaves down so you don’t sip them up accidentally.

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Sip it whilst calmly admiring your bumper crop of lemon balm.

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Tea for Two … or Thirty-two

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For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party I decided to go with a garden party luncheon theme. It turned out to be one of the hottest days we had this summer so I made sure to have plenty of refreshments. Rather than employ hot tea on a hot day (even though the tea cups would have been super cute), I went with iced tea in the hopes that my guests wouldn’t collapse from the heat. I decided on a nice cold decaffeinated mint version (using Stash Organics Cascade Mint), a black tea with a twist (Teavana’s Mango Blank Tea with Lemon), and then the popular Earl Grey Gin cocktail (made with Tetley Vanilla Earl Grey).

And it is suprisingly difficult to make large quantities of iced tea. For one, I only had one pot large enough to hold the required amount of boiling water for each batch. So that meant I could only make one batch of tea at a time. I also only had one bowl large enough to hold that much hot liquid while it cooled. And then I didn’t have enough room in my refrigerator to cool it all down. But I did manage. It took a bit of math to figure out how many tea bags I needed for each of my batches (seeing as I usually just chuck two bags in a teapot and I’m done).

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And I had to calculate how much fluid would fit in each of my glass jars. I got these 7.5L ones from Home Sense for a reasonable price. Remember when you figure out how much water you need, you also need to consider any other displacement volume, such as whether you’re adding fruit (lemon slices) and/or ice.

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And speaking of ice, because I didn’t want to water down my tea as the day wore on, I chose to make my own giant tea ice cubes by freezing some tea in these little ziploc containers.

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All in all it was a very successful shindig, and everyone was refreshed!

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SideBar: Frosted Whisky Root Beer

Root Beer Cocktail 19This popped up on my Facebook feed recently and Trav and I decided it was interesting enough that we wanted to try it. That, and root beer is a favourite amongst our set. Root Beer Cocktail 15

First, grab yourself some oranges. You’ll need about four large juicy ones.

Root Beer Cocktail 2Juice those suckers until you get 1 cup fresh orange juice. Root Beer Cocktail 4

Next in the recipe is 1/2 teaspoon cherry bitters, which we didn’t have, so we improvised. I pitted about 5 fresh cherries and mushed them up with a fork. You can use any other kind of bitters you like. We think that it would have enhanced the flavour, but the cherries were a nice touch.

Root Beer Cocktail 7Then we chucked those things in a 1L bottle. Root Beer Cocktail 9

Add in 1 1/4 cup Canadian whiskey (we actually used Maker’s Mark, which is a bourbon, but Trav says it’s a better choice) and 1 cup water. Give it a decent shake and then shove it in the fridge for a couple hours.

Root Beer Cocktail 10When you’re ready to serve, grab some pint glasses, run them (inside and out) under cold water, and chuck them (gently) in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Grab yourself some of your favourite ice cold root beer. We were trying to find Harvey & Vern’s, because it’s local, but this was the stuff they had at the store. Root Beer Cocktail 11

Grab one of your frosted glasses and pour in 3oz of your orange juice/whiskey mix.

Root Beer Cocktail 12Top with root beer and serve immediately. It’s subtle, but it’s quite nice. Root Beer Cocktail 18

SideBar: Earl Grey Gin Cocktail

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This is very much my new favourite cocktail for summer, and I’m really not a gin kind of person. Here is a very slight variation on a recipe from Sugar and Charm and I hope you find it as delightful as I do. I already had a batch of Earl Grey tea sitting in my fridge so it just seemed like a logical choice. Just remember that if you’re planning to drink these late at night you might want to go with decaffeinated tea bags.

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Grab yourself a pot of chilled Earl Grey tea (mine was vanilla Earl Grey which I think simply added to the goodness), some gin, some honey, some lavender (fresh sprigs are better but this was what I had), and a lemon.

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In a cocktail shaker (or the ol’ Captain-America-glass-and-sundae-spoon), plop some ice, a teaspoon of dried lavender, 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice, 3/4 oz honey, and 1 1/2 oz gin.

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Tip in 6 oz chilled Earl Grey tea and shake it up (or give it a good stirring).

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Strain into a tumbler over ice and garnish with another sprig of lavender. I left the dried ones in, which meant I required a straw so as not to sip them up.

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SideBar: the Side Car

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I really should wait for Trav when I want to make fancy drinks. He has all the hardware and the appropriate and pretty glasses. But sometimes I get impatient (you’re all going, duh, REALLY?), and I wing it. This one is pretty easy, so there wasn’t a lot of room for error. Start by grabbing a pretty cocktail glass (or in my case a heavy tumbler) and rubbing the rim with lemon juice. Then dip it in granulated sugar.

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Grab yourself a cocktail shaker and dump in some ice. I do not own a cocktail shaker, so I made do with a Captain America glass and a sundae spoon. Sorry, Steve.

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Feel free to play with the following proportions to suit your taste. In the shaker, pour 1 oz lemon juice, 1 oz Cointreau, and 2 oz Cognac. Shake vigorously (or stir with enthusiasm) and strain into your cocktail glass (tumbler).

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I should probably have served this with twist of orange or lemon but again I didn’t have any so a young sprig of rosemary did the job. Tada!

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SideBar: the D’Artagnan

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Let’s sit down and have a drink today to celebrate: Ali Does It Herself turns FIVE this week! Five years of shenanigans and DIY failures and a whole lotta successes and support from you, you gorgeous nearly 14,000 followers. Thanks for sticking with us through the ups and the downs – here’s to five more years!

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This light cocktail seems at first like a standard mimosa but it packs a secret punch with a touch of class. To make the simple syrup that goes into this recipe (and a whole lotta other ones), simply dissolve one part granulated sugar in one part water and store the result in the fridge. I made this to serve 6 people twice, but I will put in brackets the amounts for just one serving so you can do your own math when expanding or contracting the recipe.

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Start by grabbing 2 large juicy oranges and using a zester to pull some twists off them.

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Then you might as well juice them as well, so as not to waste all that citrusy goodness. Pour 6oz orange juice (1/2oz for one) into a container with a pour spout.

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Next, tip in some booze. This recipe calls for 1.5oz Grand Marnier (1/8oz for one), which you could substitute for another orange liqueur (though Grand Marnier is the best).

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It also calls for 1.5oz Armagnac de Montal (1/8oz for one). Armagnac is a type of brandy from a particular place (Armagnac), but you can substitute with another type of brandy if you find Armagnac a little pricey.

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Then you need to tip in 6 teaspoons simple syrup (1/2 teaspoon for one).

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Give it a good stirring – don’t fret about the seeds and pulp from the oranges because you’re going to strain this as you pour. Add in some ice cubes and stir it again to chill the mix.

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Pour about an ounce each of the mix through a strainer into 6 champagne flutes (one for one), then top up with about 3oz chilled sparkling wine or Champagne.

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I used Freixenet brut because I like how it tastes and also I had an enormous bottle of it under the sink and that’s why I made this whole party beverage in the first place.

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Garnish with a twist of orange peel and serve immediately.

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Egg Nog?

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I love egg nog.  So much so that I wish I could have it all year ’round.  So of course I learned to make my own.  And every time I offer it to people, I try to do it in Denholm Elliott’s voice from (my favourite movie of all time — don’t judge) Trading Places.  He’s just so emphatic.

I know.  I don’t know why I showed you that. I just love egg nog that much. So when I found this recipe on Design*Sponge I knew the time had come. THIS WAS IT.

So first you start by creating an ice bath. That means either filling your sink with water and ice cubes, or a large bowl that will hold your pot. My sink is terrible at retaining water (not my sink, not my problem), so I opted for a heat-proof bowl.

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Then grab a medium-sized pot and crack in 6 whole eggs. Give those a thorough whisking.

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Pour in as well 2 cups whole milk (we call it homogenized here in the Great White North), 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

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Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the custard (because that’s what it is) thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Resist the urge to speed things up by turning up the heat. That’s how you get scrambled eggs plus milk. Not cool.

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Plop the pot into the ice bath. Add in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and whisk the whole shebang for about 3 or 4 minutes.

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Put the lid on the pot, haul it out of the ice bath, and let it come to room temperature, about an hour (I had some errands to run so I actually put mine in the fridge for about four hours and it was fine as well).

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Next, strain the egg solids (those lumpy bits) out of your custard by pouring it through a sieve over a bowl.

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You can throw these out. Or compost them like a good citizen.

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Now whisk in your booze***. The original recipe calls for brandy or rum plus bourbon, but the Pie and I are not bourbon fanatics like Trav, so we opted for 1/2 cup rum plus 1/2 cup maple whisky.

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Whisk that whisky right in there.

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Might as well add a few dashes of grated nutmeg as well.

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Now pour 1 cup whipping cream into a bowl and beat the crap out of it until it forms stiff peaks.

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Then fold that gorgeousness into your eggnog.

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Let your eggnog chill for a couple of hours before drinking. It’s like drinking whipped cream, essentially. I personally don’t think the recipe would be that good without the alcohol to kind of dilute it, so if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic version, this is probably not it.

*** That said, however, if you want to try this particular recipe without the booze, this is what I recommend: instead of adding 1 cup booze, add 1 cup whole milk, and then when it gets to the final 1 cup whipping cream, just add it in without whipping. Then the whole thing is much less solid and easier to drink on its own.

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