Monday, June 30, 2014

Homemade Summer Honeysuckle Simple Syrup

homemade summer honeysuckle simple syrup
If I could encompass one thing about my childhood... it would probably include the hunt for + the sweet taste of honeysuckles. As I have lived in the South my whole life, once spring came around, the honeysuckle flower bushes began to pop up everywhere you went. There is something so gorgeous, yet simple, of honeysuckle vine weaving in + out of a white picket fence or lining a perfectly manicured lawn. Their scent is intoxicating, almost like a Michael Kors or Marc Jacobs perfume. Its' essence wafts through the air and peer pressures you into taking a deep breath and enjoyin' the smell + the sun. I loved the days that my friends and I would wander the streets of our neighborhood looking for the flowers that we could drain of their sweet honey nectar. We literally would spend hours doing it. Fast-forward 10-20 years and I still get transported back to those years while I'm driving with my top down during the summer. I kept thinking to myself, why can't their be a honeysuckle perfume? a honeysuckle vodka? honeysuckle cookies? honeysuckle everything. Then, I came across a wonderful blog by a good 'ole southern young lady (like myself), Hannah from Honey & Jam. If you haven't checked out her blog yet, I seriously urge you to do so. Her recipes are simple, yet scrumptious and her imagery is phenomenal. She developed a recipe for Honeysuckle Simple Syrup that she used to sweeten her sweet tea (a.k.a. the elixir of the South). I just knew I had to try it. So, I waited a year. Literally, a year, until the honeysuckles would bloom again. The second I saw the flowers starting to blossom, I grabbed my Mountain Man and we went honeysuckle-hunting. I'd say we cruised the streets of Buckhead for over another collecting eight, yes EIGHT, cups of honeysuckle blossoms.

After getting all of our honeysuckles, I took them home and started the simple syrup. I decided to take a different route than Hannah by placing all the blossoms into a large mixing bowl, and then boiling together sugar, water, and honey until a simple syrup was formed. I added the honey because I thought that it would enhance and bring out those natural flavors that I love so much from the flowers. I poured the hot liquid over the flowers and let them steep for at least 24 hours, that way the floral notes would pass into the simple syrup and create a overwhelming moment of honeysuckle joy when used. Once they have infused, simply strain the flowers through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a pretty jar (making sure to use a rubber spatula to get as much as that sweet-honey-goodness out as much as possible). Then, all you gotta do is store it in the refrigerator until it is cold. Our first drink we made was Honeysuckle Lemonade-- and it was fabulous (and its' recipe will be posted next). But my mind won't stop racing with ideas what you could use this for... honeysuckle mint juleps, honey suckle moscow mules, honeysuckle sweet tea, heirloom tomato salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella drizzled with a little syrup to sweeten it up a bit (instead of balsamic). I mean the possibilities are endless!! I cannot wait to share all the recipes we have been making up using the small component. It's the perfect summer treat!! Enjoy :)

For the Honeysuckle Syrup:
8C Honeysuckle Flowers (whole, stems + leaves removed)
3C Water
2C Sugar
1C Honey
Pinch of Salt

1. Preparing the Honeysuckles: Pick through your eight cups of honeysuckle flowers, making sure to remove any stems or leaves that remain…we just want the flower and its’ sweet honey nectar. Place the honey into a large bowl and make the simple syrup.
2.  For the Honey Simple Syrup: Place the honey, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil, and simmer until the honey is completely dissolved. Pour in the syrup into the bowl of prepare honeysuckles and let it cool completely on the counter overnight (covered with plastic wrap) until the flower flavor as steeped into the simple syrup liquid.
3. Finishing the Honeysuckle Syrup: Strain the honeysuckle flowers out of the infused simple syrup through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a big bottle.
4. Chill the honeysuckle simple syrup until cold and serve in lemonade, sweet tea, Moscow mules, mint juleps, and many other drinks! Enjoy :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Copycat Recipe: Zoe’s Kitchen Protein Power Plate with Greek Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken, Greek Feta Coleslaw, + Caramelized Onions

Zoe’s Kitchen Protein Power Plate with Greek Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken,
 Greek Feta Coleslaw, + Caramelized Onions
Some of my fondest memories come from my days at the University of Alabama, well y'all probably already know that, haha. And one of our favorite places to get a quick + healthy lunch was at Zoe's Kitchen. Our go-to meal was their Protein Power Plate. It's fabulous, fresh, and doesn't weigh you down the rest of the day. Their dish consists of a greek vinaigrette feta coleslaw that is topped with grilled chicken and a mound of luscious, sweet caramelized onions. It seriously was the perfect way to start the day, or end the night really. And for a while now, I have been wanting to recreate it myself at home. Because I mean, look at its' components... it should be a breeze. I found a great recipe for greek yogurt marinated grilled chicken, and honestly I can't wait to make it over + over again. It would be great on tacos, in other salads, or just as a main entree. It blackens nicely on the grill, yet retains the moisture from the greek yogurt marinade. For a little extra sweetness, I drizzled my grilled chicken with a little white balsamic reduction-- and it was perfection. Who doesn't like tangy + sweet?! You can make your own reduction at home or you can pick up a handy-dandy store-bought brand at the grocery store. It's as simple as that! The coleslaw is heavy on the onions, which we love, but if you're not so into that... then feel free to not use the red onions. The vinaigrette recipe makes a big batch, so only use enough to lightly coat the coleslaw. You don't want it soggy or drowned in a bunch of liquid. And don't skimp on the feta because it adds a nice saltiness and creaminess to the coleslaw. All you have left to do is caramelize a shit-ton of onions (the more the better, in our humble opinion). Then, just load it into a big bowl and drizzle a little more reduction, as well as some extra crumbled feta... and dinner is served!! I can see this meal becoming a weekly tradition for us, that's how much we liked it!! Enjoy :)

For the Greek Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken:
16oz Greek Yogurt (try to use a thick yogurt)
2-inch Piece of Fresh Ginger, Peeled & Grated
4 Cloves of Garlic, Minced into a Paste with Salt
1t Ground Cumin, Red Chile Flakes, Kosher Salt, Pepper, & Greek Seasoning
½t Dried Oregano
2-4T Sugar (depending on how much sweetness you like)
1 Lemon, Juiced + Zested
4 Bone-in, Skin-on Chicken Breasts
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for greasing the grill)
White Balsamic Reduction, For Drizzling

For the Greek Vinaigrette:
½C Red Wine Vinegar
¼C Honey or Agave Syrup
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1T Fresh Basil, Minced
1t Fresh Oregano, Minced
½t Dried Marjoram
1t Red Pepper Flakes
1 Lemon, Juiced + Zested
¾C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper, To Taste  

For the Greek Feta Coleslaw:
2 Bags of Shredded Angel Hair Coleslaw (the thinly shaved kind)
¼ Red Onion, Shaved
¼C Fresh Parsley, Chopped
1 Small Handful of Fresh Oregano, Chopped
8oz Crumbled Feta Cheese
6 Green Onions, Thinly Sliced
¼C Minced Chives
Prepared Greek Vinaigrette (to taste, as little or as much as you want)

For Serving:
Caramelized Onions
Crumbled Feta
Minced Chives
White Balsamic Reduction

1. Marinating the Chicken: In a small bowl, combine yogurt, ginger, garlic, cumin, chile flakes, salt and lemon. Whisk until smooth and pour into a baking dish. Place the chicken breasts in the yogurt mixture and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours or up to a day to marinate.
2. Grilling the Chicken: When ready to grill, heat a very clean grill to medium. When the grill is hot, brush with the oil and place chicken on the grill, skin side down. Cook until the skin is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes, and then flip. Cook another 5-10 minutes, covered, until chicken is fully cooked. Remove chicken from grill and let rest 5-10 minutes before pulling meat off the bone and shredding or slicing it. Drizzle the chicken with some White Balsamic Reduction.
3. For the Greek Vinaigrette: Combine first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in oil until blended. Season with salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
4. For the Greek Coleslaw: Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl thoroughly. Let sit in refrigerator for at least an hour. Add in some of the prepared Greek Vinaigrette (just enough to coat the coleslaw, but not drown it and make it soggy). Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve cold.
5. For Serving: Spoon some of the Greek coleslaw into a bowl and top it with some grilled chicken. Garnish with a pile of caramelized onions, crumbled feta, minced chives, and a little drizzle of more white balsamic reduction. Enjoy.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Life As Of Lately... the wedding edition

I have been such a bad blogger...
But it truly is super hard to balance blogging, etsy orders, school, and most of all, wedding planning
Since I decided to forgo hiring a wedding planner, I have done everything myself
it is all-consuming. trust me on that one y'all...
So here are some pictures of the process this far 

Our invitations wrapped in triple baker's twine + monogram heart

Testing out our new personalized stamp

Our invitation suite

Our beautiful calligraphy

Mastering the seating chart

My dancing shoes 

My labels for my gourmet Bellini bar

My first makeup trial

Loving the twine 

Some florals that'll be used in my bouquet-- eek!

More invitation assembling 

My mom's antique cabinet that will be used for our pie bar display

Black, Gold, & Pink

Confetti for celebrating 

The whole layout

My blush dress + accessories

Love the envelope liners 

We're each others lobsters

Let the puzzle commence

I'm his -- he's mine

My gorgeous Alice + Olivia clutch 

My locket that will be attached to my bouquet with my handsome
father and gorgeous mother on their wedding day

So perfect 

Georgia koozies for my side + Alabama koozies for Clayton's side

Our sequin placemats

Fringe Garland for decor in our wedding colors

XOXO, Juliana (a.k.a. the wedding planning junkie)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Roasted Peach Lemonade with Roasted Peach Puree + Honey Simple Syrup

Summer Roasted Peach Lemonade with Roasted Peach Puree +
Honey Simple Syrup
Summer is officially back... and it's back with a bang. It is so damn hot down here in Atlanta, I can barely even step outside before passing out. I'm literally counting down the days until Autumn returns. Until then, it's time to embrace the heat and enjoy signature cocktails, using the grill, and having cookouts with friends and family. And when I think summer days in Georgia, the first thing that comes to all of our minds are peaches. Peaches, peaches, peaches. Peaches on everything. Since they are just coming into season, I bought two bags of them at the farmer's market yesterday. I knew I wanted to make something refreshing, so I ended up deciding to make homemade peach lemonade. I put my own little twist on it by roasting the peaches with honey and turbinado sugar. I absolutely love roasting fruit, it concentrates their sweetness and gives off the most luxurious syrup. After you roast them, let them cool a bit and try to peel off as much of the skin as you can. If you can't get some that's fine because we will end up straining out the big flecks and pieces before serving. Then, all you have to do is puree the roasted peaches until as smooth as possible. I used meyer lemons for my lemonade because I love their sweetness, but any lemon will do to be honest. To sweeten the mix, I made a honey simple syrup. Whenever I make lemonade, I always make honey simple syrup. It enhances the lemon and gives it the most unbelievable balance with just a hint of floral notes. The thing about lemonade is that it is about as Southern as you can get.... uh, besides sweet tea of course. But then you add in roasted peach puree, and well, you've hit the maximum of southern-ness (if you know what I mean). This is great for a picnic, a lemonade stand, or even boozy (hey hey!). We spiked ours with vodka, cointreau, and fresh muddled peaches -- lemme tell you, it was awesome. So go on y'all... make it while the weather is still scorchin' hawt. It will quench your thirst indeed!!
a view from the top 
ready to gulp down...
how cute are these mason jars?!
For the Honey Simple Syrup:
1 ½C Water
1C Honey
¼C Sugar

For the Roasted Peaches:
5-6 Large Peaches, Seed Removed & Split in Half
Honey, For drizzling
Sugar, For Sprinkling

For the Summer Peach Lemonade:
Roasted Peaches, Cooled & Pureed (make sure to remove the skins)
Prepared Honey Simple Syrup, Chilled
2C Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice (I prefer Meyer Lemons, but regular lemons are fine)
4C Cold Water (or more if you want it less strong)

1. For the Honey Simple Syrup: Place the honey, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil, and simmer until the honey is completely dissolved. Pour in the syrup into a container and let it cool completely in the refrigerator until chilled, for about an hour.
2. For the Roasted Peaches: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare the peaches by cutting them in half and removing their center seed. Toss the peaches with the honey and place them cut-side down in a roasting pan. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, and then flip them over, sprinkle heavily with sugar, and continue roasting them for another 15-20 minutes. For the last 5 minutes of roasting, turn the oven up to broil and let the fruit flesh caramelize and brown. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely. After cooling, remove the peach peels and puree them in a food processor until smooth.
3. For the Summer Peach Lemonade: In a large pitcher, combine the peach puree, honey simple syrup, lemon juice, and cold water. Stir to incorporate, and then strain to remove any solids. Chill the peach lemonade overnight or until cold. Enjoy on a hot summer day.