Hello hello everyone! I feel like all my creative energy is being sucked away by wedding planning, but I haven’t forgotten about this series! So far we’ve learned how to start an apartment garden, maintaining it, and found beautiful planters. Time to shift gears with the seasons and turn all your hard work into a nice fall/winter dried herbs supply.
And if you’re in a small apartment this diy is especially for you! This drying shelf is a small space two-fer. Bump up your storage and increase your wall space’s functionality in one go.
When I first thought to add shelves to the kitchen, I wanted something simple & clean with some kind of extra function. Finding affordable shelving that matched what I wanted was not simple. So on went the DIY cap and out came the calculator. For 4 custom shelves, going the diy route only cost $50! Could you save even more? Yes! We chose to spend a bit more on wood to get the color & wood knots we wanted plus ‘fancier’ brackets for the entry way shelving. We love how customizable they are and how perfectly they fit in each space.
Supplies wood (we chose 8″ width to match the bracket width)
sandpaper shelf brackets
wall anchors + screws
1| Measure out your space before heading to Home Depot- they’ll cut your pieces there! Pick a piece that has enough thickness to support what you’ll grace it with. Our 1″ thick shelves don’t bend under anything 😀 (note: scrap wood is pictured because I forgot to take process pics along the way -.-‘)
2| Sand sand sand sand sand. Wipe down and sand again. No splinters in the kitchen please! I knew I wanted to keep as much as the visual texture as possible so I skipped straight to 600 grit, then 800. This technique keeps the rough wood look but feels silky to touch. #protip Consider sealing the wood in this step if you’re planning on storing liquids.
3| Attach the brackets to the wood and mark & drill where you want the hooks to go. (If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can countersink your screws for a perfectly flush look.) Before you attach the shelf to the wall, do you know what you’re drilling into? We had no clue (#apartmentliving) and didn’t want to risk ripping a giant hole. Enter the most magical piece of hardware- wall anchors.
4| If you’re a home improvement pro, skip ahead to styling your cozy kitchen vignette! Need to be convinced why this extra step is necessary or how to do it? This video is the clearest explanation.
5| Bundle your herbs and hang out for a few weeks.
Ok, maybe you just came by to see how to build shelves on the cheap and don’t want to learn how to dry herbs. But give me a chance to show you the brilliance of the herb shelf.
To air dry herbs you need 2 things:
1| a dry environment
2| moving air
This keeps the herbs from getting moldy before they ever dry out. With the herb shelf you have a built in area with plenty of air space around each bundle. Simply tie the bundles together, hang them up, and enjoy a few weeks later.
I am ridiculously proud of my first garden small haul. Look at those tiny bundles! I like air drying herbs the best because I’ve burned a few too many in the microwave… And when the herbs have dried I can use the hooks for anything else.
What are some of your favorite uses for dried herbs and what do you display on your kitchen shelves?
Sometimes the best recipes come from desperation. Each Sunday we do Big Breakfast. We usually make eggs, pancakes, bacon, the whole nine yards. One weekend though, we didn’t realize we were out of milk. Noooooo! That meant no pancakes! That is until our brilliant roommate mentioned stout pancakes.
Stout pancakes? Why not. If mimosas are a brunch staple, let’s invite the darker side to the table. And because of a well intentioned Costco run, our stout to milk supply was heavily favoring the Guinness.
And in the name of simplicity (I, Sailor Moon!! Nope, wrong post.) and using less measuring cups, we stick to using Aunt Jemima’s Original pancake mix. Either from scratch or boxed, use whatever go-to pancake mix you like!
Spiced Stout Pancakes 1 cup go-to base pancake mix
1 T oil
1 cup stout beer
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 tsp cinnamon
If you’re using boxed mix, start by combining all the ingredients the box calls for minus the milk. Instead, wherever it calls for milk, add the cup of stout.
With the base mix ready, whisk in the cheddar cheese and cinnamon. If you find the batter to be runny you can always add a bit more dry mix or cheese. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes for the perfectly fluffy pancakes, then cook as usual.
Serve hot and with lots of syrup! The blend of stout, cinnamon, & cheddar makes a surprisingly light pancake with none of the flavors overpowering each other. Pair with a citrus breakfast bowl to really bring it together.
Add this one to your home brunch rotation list and tell me what you guys think!
Remember that Cara Cara syrup recipe from before the laptop incident? Well, this cocktail has been sitting in the archives waiting for editing and it’s finally here! This Citrus Mint Smash just edged out Mojitos in my rankings of ‘most refreshing drinks’.
Citrus and mint are truly the flavors of summer. A splash of gin really makes it a party. By using the flavored Cara Cara syrup, we can cut down the ingredient list and steps for this smash. Easy, refreshing, & beautiful.
Citrus Mint Smash | makes 1
2 oz. Cara Cara syrup
2 oz. dry Gin
Gently ‘spank’ the mint leaves to wake up their flavor, then muddle with the syrup. Add ice, the muddled syrup, & gin to your cocktail shaker. With your best bartending skills, shake it like a Polaroid picture until cold.
Pour the cocktail over ice and top off with club soda and an orange garnish. The fizz creates a really beautiful gradient.
Cocktail Making Tips + Tricks
When muddling, start lightly. If the herbs tear they become bitter.
To chill cocktails without watering them down, add as much ice as possible to the cocktail shaker. This way you’ll increase how much ice surface area the cocktail touches with less shakes.
Since the breakfast bowl, I’ve been obsessed with Cara Cara oranges. They’re extra sweet, tangy and pink! (Well, pinker then normal oranges). But with a 10 orange bag still left, I had to look for other ways to use them. The delicious solution- cocktail syrup.
Quick explanation. Simple syrups are used in drinks instead of granulated sugar because they mix more easily. Most syrups are made with equal parts water and sugar (or sometimes 2:1 sugar to water for “rich syrup” & extended store time), and add the infusion ingredients later. But because orange juice already has high amounts of sugar and is a liquid (duh), using it directly in equal parts cuts straight to the chase.
Cara Cara Cocktail Syrup equal parts fresh Cara Cara juice & sugar
(~3 oranges = 1/2 cup of juice)
Making simple syrups might be the easiest recipe ever. Start by juicing all your oranges and strain to remove pulp (Cara Cara oranges don’t have seeds! Win.).
Combine your juice and sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil, stir until the sugar dissolves. Let cool in a glass container. That’s it. Finito. Store in the fridge up to a month.
Best juicing practices- Have the oranges at room temperature and roll them against the counter before juicing. This will help the citrus release the juices. Don’t have any juicing tools? Try using the back of a spoon.
There’s a lot of debate on how long simple syrups keep. General rule is one month in the fridge, but some people say theirs have kept for over a year. Just keep an eye on it 😉
I love the tanginess of Cara Cara’s on its own, but if you want a sweeter variation add a splash of vanilla extract.
The original or sweetened version can be further reduced (like how we made thered wine syrup for Valentine’s Day) to make an amazing dessert glaze.
I’m working on 2 cocktail recipes using this syrup, so check back next week to see how to use it!
Does cold weather drive you to sugar? It always makes me crave tea, & of course, a dessert to go with it. Everyone in the apartment has been slacking a bit with brownies & cupcakes constantly coming out of the oven, so we decided to do the Under Armour ‘Rule Your Nutrition Challenge‘ this month! Shifting focus to be extra aware of what we eat.
This healthy stirfry bowl is the perfect lunch for the challenge- it has protein to rebuild muscles after a workout, veggies for all the vitamins, and low in carbs. (Though always check with your doctor before making any dietary changes!) This bowl delivers flavor & goodness all in one.
And if you’re looking for a breakfast option, try the citrus bowl.
Healthy Stir-fry Bowl
2 T olive oil
1 chicken breast, diced
1/4 cup chopped carrots
1/4 cup asparagus
1/4 can of corn
1/4 cup broccoli
pepper, turmeric, & lemon juice to taste
handful of spinach (or any green, leafy base)
spoonful of Greek yogurt
Warm the olive oil in a large sautè pan over medium heat. As the oil is warming, dice the vegetables and chicken breast. (This is a great recipe for meal prep too! You can dice everything at the beginning or the week and throw into a pan later.) Transfer all the ingredients into the pan. Add your pepper, turmeric, & lemon juice on top and cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep from burning.
By the time your mouth starts watering, the stirfry should be good to go! Pile over your washed greens and finish with a spoonful of Greek yogurt. Your ridiculously easy lunch packs all the nutrients for a midday pick-me up.
Let me know what you guys think! Do you want to see more quick and healthy recipes? Tag your recipes with #curatedcooking for me to test or see how you liked any of the ones here!