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favorite things of summer

You certainly can’t call 56 degrees and rainy “summer.” My patio is still covered in grime; its table and chairs unused. Our window air conditioning units sit lonely in storage. The girls and I haven’t yet made popsicles, ice cream or s’mores.

So to break me out of my un-summer-bummer, I decided to focus on the things that I do like about this “season”…so far.

I used to think pink wine was something imbibed by sorority girls out of a box. Not anymore. Charles & Charles Rosé is sweet without going over the top and has a fuller body akin to chardonnay. It’s the perfect summer refresher. (Seattle peeps: try Met Market, Central Market, and some QFCs, $8.99-$14.99).

Coooooold brew coffee. Yeah, yeah. It’s all the rage right now. But if you try to take my Toddy Cold Brew Coffee System from me I will claw you with my perpetually un-manicured fingers.

All you do is pour 7 cups water and 12 oz coarse ground coffee into the white thingie (that’s its technical name), let sit overnight, filter into the pitcher, and you have a gorgeous coffee concentrate. Serve over ice with milk, or make it hot by adding boiling water (like an americano–that’s what I do). It tastes incredibly smooth (cold brew contains 67% less acid than conventional coffee) so I find myself drinking waaaay too much and buzzing all the way through my day. Amazon, $34.95.

My mom turned me onto these little beauties. 34° Crisps are super thin (and yes, crispy) and come in a variety of savory and sweet flavors. Mom buys the chocolate variety and makes mini ice cream sandwiches by placing a tiny scoop of ice cream between two crisps. I like dunking the caramel crisps in my coffee, or placing a slice of strawberry and a wedge of parmigiano reggiano on a rosemary whole grain crisp. Safeway, Whole Foods, Central Market, $3.99.

I’ve been a fan of Skotidakis Jalepeno Yogurt Dip for a long time, and now they have a new Dill & Cucumber flavor. It’s thick like sour cream and packed with flavor. Dip your veggies or chips in it, or spread on a sandwich or wrap. 50 calories and 3 grams of fat per serving never tasted so good. Costco $5.69.

CO Bigelow Mentha Lip Tints are minty-flavored glosses that moisturize. I’ve been using them for years but recently found some fun new summery colors at Bath & Body Works, so I stocked up. One for the car, one for the purse, one for the bathroom. $7.50.

In the summer I tend to go for more sheer coverage on my face, and Too Faced Beauty Balm does just the trick. It moisturizes, illuminates without being shiny, and it has just enough coverage to minimize those little imperfections (plus has SPF 20). Ulta, $32.

Wella Brilliance Treatment is a must-have if summer dries out your hair. Apply for 5 minutes in the shower and it works wonders, especially if your hair is (shhh) color-treated, like mine. Ulta, $12.00.

I think I’m the only white girl in Seattle not rocking Toms right now. Call me a rebel. I found these Jack Purcells, my feet fell in love, and I decided to call them my new summer kicks (when I’m chasing after the girls and flip-flops aren’t appropriate, that is). I love the violet/gray color and no laces means I can slip them on and go pluck my 23-pound youngest off the 13-pound dog. Nordstrom, $69.95.

What are your favorite things of the summer?

 

day 12: mandarin mulled wine

It’s the last day of Bakemas.

It’s also Christmas Eve.

What does that mean? I need a drink. And I’m darn tired of baking. So I’m giving my oven the day off and making a delicious beverage for y’all.

I’m always at a loss for what to serve at holiday parties. Regular ol’ beer and wine seem so blah. I detest eggnog (the real stuff…the store bought stuff sans alcohol I can drink by the gallon). Martinis don’t seem quite festive enough. Cider is good, but I always feel like liquor ruins the flavor of good apple cider.

But this year, I’ve come up with the perfect solution. And it involves cheap, cheap wine.

Need a last minute idea? Follow my lead, ladies and gents.

$5 a bottle? I’ll take it. Two of em. Double the recipe if you’ve got tons of folks, or if your family drinks wine like it’s going out of style. Mine does.

Please, please don’t waste good bottles of wine on this. Good wine was not meant to be cooked.

Rummage through your spice drawer and pull out a couple of cinnamon sticks, a few cloves, and a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

Also grab some mandarin oranges. Or “satsumas.” Or “cuties.” Or, as my husband likes to call them, “crack.”

You’ll need about 5, plus more for garnish (I used a regular orange for garnish because they’re bigger, so snag some of those too if you’d like).

Finally, measure out 3/4 cup of sugar. I had some raw sugar that I wanted to use up, but granulated or baker’s sugar would work just fine too.

Pour the wine into a crock pot (or a saucepan, if you don’t have one or it’s otherwise engaged). Halve three of the oranges and juice them over the wine.

Add the sugar…

…and spice(s) and everything nice…and give it a good stir.

Slice up the remaining two oranges…

…and float them on top of the wine mixture. It adds nice flavor, plus it makes it purdy.

Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours (if you’re using a saucepan, cook covered over low heat for 4 hours).

Serve warm, garnished with a fresh orange slice if you’d like. I also threw a cinnamon stick on there to make it bee-youtiful, but it’s not very practical for sippin.

Neither is the wine glass, for that matter. A mug would be much better for a hot beverage. But practicality has never been my strong suit.

Mulled wine is to wine what apple cider is to apple juice.

Does that make any sense?

I’ve been baking for way too long. What I’m trying to say is that the wine tastes spiced like apple cider does. The cinnamon, nutmeg, and oranges all come together to give it a festive, holiday-spicy flava.

Your guests will totally dig this junk. It tastes like you put way more effort into it than you did.

Plus you can get away with serving Trader Joe’s two-buck-chuck at a party.

Well, I’m off for a few days to lick my baking wounds and enjoy Lucy’s first Christmas.

Everyone out there have a safe, lovely holiday. Bake lots, take photos and hug your kiddos like there’s no tomorrow.

And don’t drink too much mulled wine. It may be delicious but it’ll kick you in the pants the next day.

Happy 12th Day of Bakemas and a very happy holiday, whichever one(s) you celebrate!

-RDG

Mandarin Mulled Wine

  • 2 bottles (cheap) red wine
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 5-10 cloves
  • 5 mandarin oranges, plus more for garnish

Pour the wine into a slow cooker or saucepan. Stir in the sugar and spices. Juice three of the oranges and slice the remaining two. Stir in the juice and float the sliced oranges on top of the wine mixture.

Slow Cooker: Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 4 hours.

Stovetop: Cover and cook over low heat for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve warm. Garnish with orange wedges if desired.