Hannah Drake

Recipes

5 Simple Syrups You Need in Your Home Bar

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

I started exploring the wonderful world of simple syrups last fall to up my beverage game (and impress our guests). It’s a really…simple way to take your cocktails to the next level. They’re easy to make and they keep well in your refrigerator. Once you have the basics, you can do pretty much anything! (Including doubling or halving the recipe to meet your needs.) So let’s get to the five key syrups (IMO) that you need for your home bar so you can make delicious seasonal drinks all year round.

And remember: the beauty of simple syrups is that they’re great in any drink, it doesn’t have to be alcoholic.

LAVENDER SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1 cup cool water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 Tablespoons lavender buds

Add the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 7 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, strain, then chill for 1 hour before using. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 1 month.

Variants: blackberry lavender simple syrup (add 1 cup fresh blackberries) or lavender thyme simple syrup (add 1 bunch fresh thyme)

Try it in a Gin & Tonic or a Gimlet for a refreshing summer cocktail. For a non-alcoholic drink, add 1 Tbsp to lemonade.

ROSEMARY SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1 cup cool water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Add the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 7 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, strain, then chill for 1 hour before using. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 1 month.

Try it in a Gimlet or a cranberry sour.

APPLE CINNAMON SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1 cup cool water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 apple (any kind), sliced

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 3 cinnamon sticks

Add the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 7 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, strain, then chill for 1 hour before using. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 1 month.

Note: If using ground cinnamon, it will settle. Shake well before using it to mix the cinnamon through.

Add it to your gin & tonic for a delicious autumnal drink.

CRANBERRY SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1 cup cool water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 1/4 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

Add the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 7 minutes. (Do not allow the berries to burst.) Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, strain, then chill for 1 hour before using. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 1 month.

Try it in a Moscow Mule for a cocktail perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

GINGERBREAD SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1 cup cool water

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup molasses (treacle)

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger or 2 ounces (225 grams) fresh ginger, peeled & diced

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon or 4 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 teaspoon cloves or 12 whole cloves

Add the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then chill for 1 hour before using. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 1 month.

Note: This syrup will be dark and thicker than normal simple syrup because of the added molasses and it will settle over time. Shake well before using it to mix the molasses and ground spices through. Using fresh ginger may result in a different taste than ground ginger.

Try it in a Kentucky Mule (bourbon & ginger beer) for a festive cocktail you can drink throughout the holidays. It’s also unbelievably good in a cup of hot chocolate!

Earlier this moth, I attempted to freeze a simple syrup to free up space in the fridge and kind of just to see if it works. I poured it into an ice cube tray and after a few days, it was a really soft solid. Almost like jelly. They came out in one piece (but didn’t pop out like normal ice cubes), so I was able to put them into a bag to keep in the freezer. But then they just kind of turned into a solid mushy thing. I can just scoop it out when I need some, but it’s not as clean and simple as I imagined.

If you want more, check out my Cardamom Coconut Gin Fizz post for the cardamom simple syrup recipe or my Red, White, & Blue Raspberry Lemonade for the raspberry simple syrup recipe.

Shop some of our bar favourites below. We use the 250ml glass bottles (with the cork) to store our simple syrups when we’re entertaining. (It doesn’t quite hold a full batch if using 1 cup of both water and sugar.) The pourers fit perfectly in the top which saves us from a sticky mess. To store in the fridge, we keep them in mason jars. I recommend using both because it’s messy to pour from the mason jars, but they do seal it a lot better and keep it fresher longer.

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The Great British Drake Off: Lavender Week

MarriageHannah DrakeComment

Last October, we decided to have our first Great British Drake Off. You can read all about Treacle Week, where I won, and where the idea came from before we dive into our latest challenge. We had so much fun doing it the first time that we decided to do it every quarter with a different main ingredient. The first quarter this year was Red Velvet Week, where Luke won and my bake was an epic failure anyway, in honour of Valentine’s Day. (You can find the recipes for Luke’s ginger cake and my molasses cookies on Treacle Week and the recipes for Luke’s red velvet cinnamon rolls and my red velvet cake on Red Velvet Week.)

THE CHALLENGE

It’s Lavender week at the Drake household and each baker will need to prepare a signature lavender bake. The bakers will attempt to create a biscuit or cookie with a show-stopping lavender flavour, complemented by other unique flavours.

THE BAKERS

Luke is a professional construction site manager who has dabbled in baking. He insisted he has baked every type of dessert you can think of. Most people say he’s good at anything he does. Luke can eat a whole batch of chocolate chip cookie dough in one sitting, but he’ll probably regret it later. His favourite thing favourite treat to eat is whatever his wife has just baked. He had no problem wishing aloud that he had brownies for dessert on a random week night. He lives in Birmingham with his wife.

Hannah is an amateur baker who dabbles in construction. She has been baking for as long as she can remember. Hannah once had an order-based bakery from her own kitchen called Bananas that specialised in cupcakes, quick breads, and cookies. She once ate an entire banana cream pie on a dare from her cousin, but insists it was mostly pudding so it wasn’t that impressive. Her favourite thing to bake and eat is chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes. She feels chocolate frosting is actual garbage and fiercely believes nothing pairs better than vanilla frosting on chocolate cake. She lives in Birmingham with her husband.

LUKE’S BAKE

Lemon Lavender Shortbread from The Beach House Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 tsp.culinary lavender

  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • pure cane sugar for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, sift together flour and salt. Set aside.

Place 1 Tbsp. of the granulated sugar, lavender, and lemon zest in a mortar and grind lightly with the pestle.

Place lavender mixture in large bowl with remaining sugar and butter. Cream together until smooth. Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture until it forms a dough. Shape into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into shapes (I used a 1 3/4 inch cutter) and place on prepared sheet. Sprinkle with some pure cane sugar, then place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Can be store in an airtight container for 5 days.

HANNAH’S BAKE

Salted White Chocolate Lavender Cookies from Spache the Spatula

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 tsp cornstarch

  • 3/4 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 2 tsp lavender

  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 6 Tbsp vegetable shortening

  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

  • 6 oz. white chocolate chunks (about 1 and 1/2 cups)

  • sea salt, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a food processor, process the sugar and lavender for about 10-20 seconds until the lavender is chopped into pretty tiny pieces, and sugar starts billowing like smoke up pout of the top of the processor.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening, and lavender sugar at medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Add in the egg and egg yolk and beat for 3 more minutes until fluffy. Add in the flour mixture and the chocolate and beat on low until combined.

Using a large (3 tablespoon-sized) cookie scoop, scoop the dough onto silicone baking mat (or parchment paper)-lined baking sheets an inch or two apart. Place the tray in the freezer.

Preheat your oven to 375F (170C). When the oven has finished preheating, take the dough out of the freezer and bake for 12 minutes. It should look a little underdone when you take it out. Immediately sprinkle each cookie with a small pinch of sea salt (and extra lavender, if you want).

Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheets before moving to a wire baking rack to cool completely.

(Note: I put 6 scoops of dough in the freezer as soon as I put six in the oven so the last batch wouldn’t have been in the freezer for significantly longer than about 12 minutes.)

THE JUDGES

We took our cookies into work the next day and offered them to our coworkers on the agreement that they would tell us which one was better.

THE WINNER

After five votes, Hannah was winning unanimously, but after one judge changed his mind, it opened the flood gates for a 4-4 tie. When the final vote was cast, Hannah was declared the winner.

NEXT ON THE GREAT BRITISH DRAKE OFF

For our summer edition, we might try making homemade bread!

How We Meal Plan + 2 Weeks of Dinner Recipes

LifeHannah DrakeComment

This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve talked about meal planning here, but it’s an ever changing process for us that we tweak as we see fit in order to best serve our needs.

I personally love meal planning because it gets me excited for the week ahead and it’s a great opportunity to talk about any upcoming plans we may have. I find that I crave the meals we have plan and it definitely helps curb cravings for ordering out or eating junk. (Don’t worry, we’re not perfect and sometimes we’ll scrap plans and order take out curry, or Chinese, or pizza or something.) We usually try at least one new recipe a week in order to expand the arsenal from which we choose and that’s been a really fun aspect of it too. Luke doesn’t enjoy meal planning as much as I do, but he’s still game for it every week.

Every Sunday morning, we sit on the couch and meal plan for the week ahead. We began following a template for the week in early 2018 so we could more easily see how often we’re eating things like rice, pasta, bread, etc. and try to eat fewer carb-heavy meals each week. This year, we’re trying to eat less meat, so we’re alternating vegetarian salads on Tuesdays and vegetarian soups on Wednesdays. We’re not great at it, but a goal of two meatless dinners a week is pretty good for us.

After we’ve planned our meals, we’ll go grocery shopping for most or all of the ingredients. (Because the UK doesn’t have as many preservatives and other stuff in the foods, produce doesn’t last quite as long as it does in the US, so we might do a smaller trip later in the week for the rest of the vegetables.) The only downside is that we organise our shopping list by recipe instead of by location in the grocery store. I need to create a template for a shopping list that groups things by location.

Our two week rotation looks like this:

WEEK ONE
Monday: fish & vegetables
Tuesday: salad
Wednesday: vegetarian soup or sandwiches
Thursday: vegetarian
Friday: Italian
Saturday: grain bowl
Sunday: Luke’s choice

WEEK TWO
Monday: meat & vegetables
Tuesday: vegetarian salad
Wednesday: soup or sandwiches
Thursday: vegetarian
Friday: courgetti (zoodles)
Saturday: Asian
Sunday: Hannah’s choice

Last summer, we decided to expand our options for Wednesday because who wants to be eating hot soup on a warm summer evening? We also included courgettie (or zoodles, for us Americans) because we found we were eating it about every other week anyway.

So what kind of foods do we cook? (And yes, I do mean we. We split the cooking about 50/50. It might even be 60/40 with the scales tipped to Luke if I’m being honest.) Here’s what a typical two-week menu looks like for us.

WEEK ONE

Salmon & Asparagus

SALMON, ASPARAGUS, & BROCCOLINI

We probably have this meal more often than anything else. The grocery store near our house as a great deal for packs of 2 salmon filets (3 for £10). It’s just too easy and too refreshing to resist. We cook the salmon at 200°C for about 20 minutes with lemon, salt, pepper, and sometimes dill. We do the vegetables on the stovetop with oil or butter, lemon, salt, and pepper. It’s great all year, but it’s also the perfect al fresco dinner in the summertime.

Chinese Spiced Duck Salad - Simply Cook

CHINESE SPICE DUCK SALAD

I’ve mentioned the meal subscription Simply Cook before. It’s different from Hello Fresh and Blue Apron in that it only sends you the flavour pots (sauces, spice mixes, etc.). It sounds lame, but we actually remake more of these recipes than what we’ve tried from Hello Fresh because the flavours are just out of this world! We always make the salad on spinach and always include the avocado. The recipe calls for “Szechuan Five Spice” and “Chinese Marinade”, but we’ve only found Chinese Five Spice and Szechuan marinade at our grocery store. It works well!

Thai Pumpkin Soup - Ayla Rianne

THAI PUMPKIN SOUP

We first tried this in the autumn and were seriously impressed. It’s so easy to make and we almost have all of the ingredients on hand. It would be really nice with some bread, but again, we’re trying to cut back on how much bread we have throughout the week.

BBQ Chickpea & Cauliflower Tacos - She Likes Food

BBQ CHICKPEA & CAULIFLOWER TACOS

This is easily one of our favourite options for vegetarian nights. We follow the recipe closely, but switch the jalapenos for avocado. Using a head of cauliflower and a tin of chickpeas makes a ton of food for us, so after 2 tacos each (they’re so filling), we have plenty for leftovers. Also, this is the slaw recipe I always use now.

Cacio e pepe

CACIO E PEPE

We were first introduced to cacio e pepe from Chrissy Tiegen in her Cravings cookbook. Her lemony arugula (rocket) version is heavenly. But when we took our cooking class in Rome, it totally changed the game. We learned that fettuccine alfredo is not a thing in Italy. Cacio e pepe (meaning cheese and pepper) is the real deal and a typical Roman dish. It’s so simple to make. All you need is noodles, butter or oil, pecorino cheese, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper. Cook your noodles as usual, saving some of the pasta water. Heat butter or oil in a pan. Add a ladle of the pasta water, add the cooked noodles, add the cheese and black pepper. Cook sauce down until it’s creamy. (It should only take a couple of minutes.) I haven’t made Chrissy’s version since we learned how to make it in Rome, but I would love to combine the two so her version is a bit cheesier.

Buddha Bowls

BUDDHA BOWLS

We used to have Buddha bowls a lot more frequently, but the truth is they can kind of be a big undertaking. However, the beauty is they can be whatever you want! We typically do it with quinoa or couscous, roasted chickpeas (love the crunch!), roasted veggies, spinach, avocado, and a poached egg. We’ve never added sauce because of the egg but I’m definitely curious about tahini dressing.

Creamy Chicken & Buttermilk Dumplings - How Sweet Eats

CREAMY CHICKEN & BUTTERMILK DUMPLINGS

Maybe this would be more of a treat on a Wednesday where the other days are a little lighter on the carbs and dairy, but as I’m writing this post, I’m craving this soup something fierce! I promise you it will be the best chicken and dumplings you’v ever had. (Sorry, Mom!)

WEEK TWO

Masala Lamb Chops - Simply Cook

MASALA LAMB CHOPS

It was another hit from Simply Cook and has become one of our go-to recipes when we host people for dinner. It’s easy to make and it always impresses our guests. We do the salad on spinach and always include the coriander. We haven’t been able to find the spice blend that came in the box, so we just go without it. It’s still delicious and flavourful.

Loaded Greek Salad - Halfbaked Harvest

LOADED GREEK SALAD

Halfbaked Harvest has quickly become one of my favourite food bloggers. All of the recipes I’ve tried, I’ve loved and this salad is no different. We first tried it in January while we were on a cleanse diet of sorts, so we decided not to add quinoa. It’s a lot of work to prep all the veggies, but it’s worth it. It’s actually become one of our go-to work lunches too because the recipe definitely makes six servings. Believe me. Don’t try to do four. It’s too much salad.

Hot Sausage & Pepper Soup - Ruled

SAUSAGE AND PEPPER SOUP

The original recipe is called “hot”, but we’ve adjusted it to not be so spicy. We don’t use the jalapenos or as much chili powder. There’s still a bit of a kick though. Or at least enough of a kick for me. It’s pretty easy to just toss in the slow cooker and will warm you right up on a chilly evening.

Veggie Burgers

VEGGIE BURGERS

We love Linda McCartney’s veggie burgers. They’re seriously delish. When we’re trying to be good, we’ll cook some portobello mushrooms to use as buns too. It’s insanely messy, but insanely good. We might have it with slaw, corn on the cob, or a salad depending on the season.

Pesto Courgetti

PESTO COURGETTI

Or zoodles for us Americans. Like I mentioned above, we found that we were eating courgetti about every other week anyway, so we decided to add it to balance out our pasta nights on the opposite weeks. We usually keep it simple with pesto and sausage, but we recently started making our own pesto. It’s easy. Blend 50g basil, 50g pine nuts, and 1 garlic clove in a food processor for two servings.

Motomaki Roll

MOTOMAKI BOWLS

Motomaki is one of my favourite restaurants in Boulder, but there’s nothing like it around here. It’s essentially Chipotle, but for sushi. You can get big rolls (wrapped in seaweed, not tortillas, don’t worry) or bowls. I always get the shrimp tempura and add sushi salmon and we’ve tried to recreate it a couple of times. We can get frozen shrimp tempura at the grocery store and now our store has a sushi bar that has salmon & tuna sashimi. You need rice, tempura asparagus (we make our own), slaw mix, cucumber, and mashed avocado. Add the shrimp tempura, diced salmon, and finely chopped tuna. Top with sriracha aioli and soy sauce.

Roast Chicken & Root Vegetables for 2 - Chef Cory Vitiello

ROAST CHICKEN & ROOT VEGETABLES

We tried this for the first time in January and it was easily one of the top five dinners we’ve ever made. Allegedly this is the dinner Meghan Markle cooked the night Prince Harry proposed, but the recipe is actually from her ex-boyfriend who is a chef in Canada. Who knows. What I know is that this is hands down the best chicken I’ve ever had. The first time we made it, we didn’t allow for enough time for the chicken to brine all 12 hours; we only did about 4. For the vegetables, we included a parsnip, a couple more potatoes than it calls for, and used a shallot instead of pearl onions because we couldn’t find any. We had left over veggies, so I probably wouldn’t use that many potatoes again.

Photos from the source recipes or of similar meals found via Google.