Friday, June 20, 2014

The lavender garden ...

Last weekend was spent in the lavender fields of the Texas Hill Country. It was our (almost) annual trek to the Blanco Lavender Festival to find inspiration among the gloriously fragrant fields of cultivated 'lavandin' herbs.

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You don't have to live in the South of France to grow lavender (although I must say the fields across the pond are far more productive and beautiful than ours.) But, with knowledge of the varieties best suited to your climate and time spent learning the secrets of cultivating healthy shrubs, anyone can master a beguiling garden.

Le Clos de Meaux is a stunning olive and lavender farm in Seillans, France. Image via

One thing we learned very quickly is that the 'Provence' Lavender (botanical name: Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence') cultivar grows best for us in Central Texas. There certainly are others, but we've found that this variety is far less susceptible to fungus rot than others.

Alamodeus lavender garden.

The local varieties must be grown from transplants and need really well-drained soil to be happy. We planted ours in raised beds with lots of air circulation between plants. They want lots and lots of full sun (even in scorching Texas summers!) What they do not want is lots of water. Perfect! We're in a drought - a good match. Just an occasional drink from our drip irrigation, and these shrubs are happy.

Lavender 'Provence' in the Alamodeus garden.

Lavender 'Provence' is the sweetest of lavadins, so it's perfect as a culinary herb. The French add it to their Herbs de Provence spice blend. Another favorite in our area is 'Grosso,' which produces more oil and has a stronger scent.

With summer upon us, I'll be out to snip some lavender to create a lavender infused simply syrup. This is great to add to cool summer sippers like a Lavender Lemonade Mojito. Yum!

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LAVENDER LEMONADE MOJITO RECIPE

Ingredients:

1 C freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-7 lemons)
1 small bunch mint
2 C water
1 C light rum
3/4 C lavender simple syrup (see recipe below)

Lavender Simple Syrup:
1 C granulated sugar
1 C water
1/4 C dried lavender

Instructions:
Put sugar, water, and dried lavender in a medium saucepan, stir, and bring to a boil.

Once mixture comes to a boil, lower to a simmer and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until it thickens. Turn off the heat, cover the saucepan, and let steep for about an hour.

Push syrup through a mesh sieve to strain out lavender buds and into an airtight container. Place in fridge to cool.

In a pitcher, muddle mint leaves with lemon juice until well combined. Add water, rum, and 3/4 C chilled lavender simple syrup.

Pour into ice-filled glasses and enjoy.

(makes about 4 delightful summer drinks)






On the Menu: Lavender and lamb ...

I've had a long love affair with Herbs de Provence, and one of my favorite ingredients in this French spice/herb blend is lavender.

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Everything from chicken to steak has been prepared with this lovely family of flavors from Provence. Now, I'm going to create my own similar spice package with herbs from our garden to prepare Grilled Lamb Chops. I found this drool-worthy recipe on Blue Kitchen and discovered that I have all the ingredients growing in our potager. We even have a couple of bottles left of the olive oil pressed from our olives during last year's harvest. Too bad we didn't raise any lambs.

Truthfully, I may assign this recipe to my husband. He's an amazing grillmaster with a knack for rubs and marinades! With him at the helm, these chops should be delicious.

GRILLED LAMB CHOPS WITH LAVENDER RECIPE
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon fresh lavender blossoms (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grill
4 loin lamb chops, 1-1/2 inch thick, about 1 pound total
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Marinate chops. Mix herbs, garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl. Trim excess fat from lamb chops and rub chops on both sides with herb garlic marinade. Arrange chops in a single layer on a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap them tightly. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Grill chops. About 1/2 hour before grilling, remove chops from fridge to allow them to come to room temperature. Prepare the grill for direct grilling. Season chops generously with salt and pepper. Brush the grill grate with olive oil and grill chops for about 4 minutes on the first side, covering the grill for at least part of the time to enhance smoky flavor. Turn and grill for about 3 minutes on the second side for medium rare, again closing the cover. Transfer chops to platter, tent loosely with foil and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Serve.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Acequia love ...

I've often been asked why I chose the name 'ACEQUIA' for our body care line. It's simple really. I love the history, symbolism and natural beauty the word represents.

The Acequia Madre at The Alamo. San Antonio, Texas.


The word 'acequia' was brought to America when Spanish explorers, and the missionaries that followed, came to settle the arid Southwestern United States. The Spanish term means 'aqueduct,' and these man-made features were the only way to deliver water to mission farms and fields. In San Antonio, Texas, where we're located, the acequias fed the water of the San Antonio River to five Spanish missions, including Mission San Antonio de Valero, better known as The Alamo. This acequia is called the 'acequia madre' and is still in use today.

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Symbolically, an acequia is designed to deliver essential moisture where it is most needed. That really resonated with our concept of creating an all-natural line of body care products that truly conveyed moisturizing, emollient-rich botanicals and blissful butters to nurture healthy, happy skin. 

 

Michael Trapp designed acequia and garden. Images via

We were influenced by the natural beauty of acequias the world over. So, we knew we had to develop 'luxury as nature intended' by creating the best skin solutions with no harmful chemicals or additives to stay true to our inspiration. And, we've done just that.

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Our ACEQUIA name also reflects our commitment to environmental responsibility. Even our packaging is made of recyclable materials, lessening our carbon footprint and that of our customers. So, next time you see the word acequia, or notice our little Capistrano Soap Company ad here on my blog, you'll know that our body must-haves are handcrafted by artisans who believe that 'luxury comes naturally.'

Oh, and our Capistrano Soap Company name ... that's a nod to Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded in 1731 by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order on the eastern banks of the San Antonio River.




Sea glass cottage ...

If I owned a little cottage by the sea or a cozy lake cabin, I imagine I would take my decorating queue from the serene colors of sea glass.

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These blissful water hues in greens and blues feel so tranquil - just what's needed for a vacation hideaway!

 

Outside, the sea glass shades remind me of ocean breezes and serene waters. I adore the color on shutters and doors in the photos above via G&G Inspirations (left) and EM for Marvelous (right).

 

Inside, the beachy blue-green shades invite relaxation and prop-your-feet up comfort. There's nothing stuffy in the photos above via Yanbin Chronicles (left) and Better Homes & Gardens (right).

 

Images above via My Notting Hill (left) and Eye for Design (right).

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From tile and glassware to serving pieces and furnishings, sea glass influences would be my design inspiration.

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Let the building begin (even if it's just on paper!)







On the Menu: Seafood Pasta Salad

There are just some seafood dishes that are perfect for summer, and among my favorites: Seafood Pasta Salad. Really, this super-easy dish is a boon for entertaining. Just make ahead and chill.


This is one of those fabulous interchangeable entrees that is just as delectable with crab meat as it is with shrimp (but, I really LOVE the shrimp). The best news is my husband is a pasta salad kind of guy. So, it's a win-win.

SEAFOOD PASTA SALAD RECIPE

Ingredients:
1 (16 oz) package of pasta (I like bow tie, but you decide the shape you prefer)
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 medium green sweet bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
3 chopped scallions
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 pound shrimp or crab meat, cooked

Directions:
Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package directions, drain and rinse with cold water.
Add the onion, green pepper, parsley, scallions, oregano and Italian dressing.
Add the mayonnaise and combine thoroughly to moisten.
Add the salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in the shrimp or crab meat.
Refrigerate.

Makes 10 delicious servings.




Saturday, June 7, 2014

Color pop ...

I can't help but fall in love with tablescapes inspired by bold summer color. The color pops that might make my head spin any other time of the year seem perfectly suited for al fresco dining.

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I love the effortless style of tabletop decor that brings together a kaleidoscope of color and pattern.


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Splashy looks like these will surely provoke conversation and let guests know this lighthearted setting is all about fun.

Vivre dinnerware by Tracy Potter

If you know me, you know of my continual quest for plates to add to my collection. I fall in love so easily with dinnerware of every shape, size and pattern. Now, I've added bold linens to my ever-expanding horde of tabletop stock. 

LA Garden Linens of Jacqui Getty. Image via

Where I love to express the dinner theme is in centerpieces. Personally, I think they should be the boldest strokes on this vibrant canvas. I love the unexpected and vivid florals - both capable of taking the spotlight with brilliant hues.

 

Images above via Charming Spaces (left) and Coco+Kelley (right).

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Bright stripes is my inspiration du jour. Now I just need to gather a few friends to break bread.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Italian sushi?

I can't bring myself to want sushi. Sorry, I just can't say raw fish appeals to me. But, with evolution, or perhaps revolution, I can have something as visually compelling and far more compatible with my taste preferences. We're talking 'Italian Sushi.'

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From the prosciutto that I adore, to the basil and cheeses, every ingredient makes drooling an appropriate response to this colorful appetizer.

Just a note before I share this recipe. Not all prosciutto is created equal, so please don't scrimp on anything but the best. Go to the deli and ask for Italian Prosciutto di Parma imported from the Emilia-Romagna region. The finest is produced by Pio Tosini, using pork produced for its flavor rather than lean meat. You'll love it. Truly exceptional prosciutto is one of my favorite indulgences!

ITALIAN SUSHI RECIPE

Ingredients:
3 cups cooked RiceSelect Sushi Rice, cooled
1 cup grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
2/3 cup Half & Half
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
8 to 10 large thin slices Prosciutto di Parma
7 oz of red sweet (bell) peppers, cut into strips and roasted

Directions:
Cut red sweet peppers into strips and roast on stove top. Cool.

Combine rice, cheese, Half & Half and basil in a bowl.

Place one prosciutto slice on cutting board; spread 1/2 cup rice mixture evenly over prosciutto, pressing slightly. Arrange a few pepper strips lengthwise down center over rice. Carefully roll into a log. Repeat with remaining prosciutto slices. Cover and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

Cut each roll crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place on platter cut side up. Serve at room temperature.

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Yield: Approximately 64 pieces
Preparation: 25 minutes
Chilling time: 15 minutes

Buon appetito!


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