the love list

Image: Olaiya Land

Hello beautiful people!

I’ve got a lot of new projects in the works--which is why it’s been a little slow around here lately. But I didn’t want to leave you without some weekend inspiration. So here’s a little Love List to help you kick things off in style!



- I'm getting antsy to take off on my next travel adventure. In the meantime, I scratch my travel itch daily with the gorgeous images Suitcase Magazine posts to their Instagram feed.


- I'm dreaming of making these Blueberry Dark Chocolate Scones from @dinnerwithjulie. Bake up a batch of these and your weekend brunch just got a whole lot sexier.

Image: Julie Van Rosendaal

Image: Julie Van Rosendaal


- I met Jeska and Dean Hearne at a photography workshop in Scotland last year. Not only are these two a super-talented photography duo, they offer a beautifully curated selection of goods by independent designers and makers in their online shop, The Future Kept. I want pretty much every item they've selected for their shop. And I love their "Buy Less. Buy Better." motto. 


- If you're going to be anywhere near Seattle, I suggest you check out my new favorite local restaurant: Le Messe. My friend Sharon turned me onto this new Eastlake gem. Part of me doesn't want to tell anyone about it because I don't want it to get so busy I can't get a reservation. But the other part of me thinks a restaurant with stellar service, inventive small plates and perfectly cooked handmade pasta (at a reasonable price) definitely deserves a shoutout.


- Nothing But the Wax is an online magazine devoted to "telling the untold stories of black millennials through culture, fashion & beauty". It's beautifully designed, provocative and very necessary. Yes, yes, yes to celebrating the beauty, style and intelligence of young black men and women! (P.S. You need their Instagram in your life.)


- And last but not least, it wouldn't be Friday without a cocktail! This Mango and Black Pepper Gin & Tonic is happening as soon as I hit "post". XO and Happy Weekend!

Hey travel lovers! There are still some spots left in my Alentejo, Portugal fall retreat. Click here for the details and to join me in all the deliciousness I have planned!

smoky calendula margaritas

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

I just got back from five sun-soaked days in Palm Springs. Five days during which, per our tradition, I ditched my devices, hiked, swam, sunned myself and got what felt like a luxurious amount of sleep. 

All that sleep and sunshine and time away from my computer and phone did something magical to my brain. It afforded me the time and perspective to think. Not about laundry and bills and the rising tide of emails in my inbox as I do in my normal life. But really think--about the bigger picture of my relationships and my work and whether I like the direction things are going. Mostly I do. But I discovered that in a few areas (many related to this blog) I definitely do not. With a little distance and space to connect with myself, I realized I’ve started to feel like a phony in my online existence.

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

For the past several months, I’ve lost my lifelong joy in cooking. I’m constantly thinking about whether recipes will look good on the blog and on instagram, whether people will actually make them, how difficult they’ll be to shoot--instead of simply what I want to eat. My photography, too, has felt staid and unsatisfying. I feel like it’s become sort of advertorial and aggressively pretty as I’ve been prioritizing turning this space into a full-blown business and growing the blog and my followers on social media. My Instagram feed, the victim of too many online marketing classes, has started to feel impersonal and rigidly formulaic. The whole shebang had started to feel like a rather unfulfilling slog. 

And that, friends, is no good. 

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

I recently read a post by a woman I follow, who’d decided to take a six-month break from Instagram in order to focus on herself and being a better mom, wife and friend. I found it immensely encouraging to hear about someone else’s struggles with the social media monster. It made me feel I’m not the only one unnerved by my constant desire to find Instagrammable moments rather than be present. 

So it feels important to tell you all about how I’ve been feeling and publicly announce my intentions to keep things a little more real around here. I think it will keep me more accountable (thank you!) and I hope it will help anyone else wrestling with similar demons.

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

For these reasons, and because I just need this space to feel fun again, I’ve decided to scrap all the advice I’ve accumulated over the past 2 ½ years on how to grow your blog/social media following/online business that doesn’t feel like me. If it feels like an opportunity to grow my skills that will push me outside my comfort zone (like the Oaxaca photography workshop I took), that’s one thing. If it feels cheesy and inauthentic, it’s a no-go. 

I don’t care if posts featuring cakes and cookies and ice cream get more likes. I don’t eat those things very often. I don’t care if the prevailing theory of social media is that you should have a highly-curated feed with lots of negative space and a unified “color story”. I want to post what I find beautiful and what makes me happy, in whatever order I feel like. In general, I want less pretty and more real.

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

To that end, I plan to free myself from the vice-grip of social media. I want to work on developing a photographic style that feels truer to myself. This week I started reading cookbooks for fun again and choosing recipes that appeal to nothing but my own whims and fancies. It was fantastic. 

I want to focus on the parts of my job that bring me real joy: Travel. Leading retreats and workshops. Meeting and collaborating with new folks. Getting people jazzed and confident to cook for themselves and people they love. 

image: Olaiya Land

Connecting with other people and encouraging them to do the same is what gives me the most energy--not learning about SEO or fretting over my social media feeds. This realization feels incredibly liberating, like it deserves a little celebration. So this week, I made some desert-inspired Smoky Calendula Margaritas and toasted my new-found freedom. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. And that’s definitely something worth raising a glass to.

Smoky Calendula Margaritas

  • 2 tablespoons calendula petals + additional to serve
  • ¼ cup flaky salt (I used Maldon)
  • ½ cup mezcal
  • ¼ cup calendula simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • Lime wedges, to serve

*Notes: I learned on my trip to Oaxaca that the best quality mezcal is clear, not amber. Do yourself a favor and track down some quality mezcal for these margaritas. I learned the hard way that cheap mezcal is not your friend. If you want to wake up without a killer hangover, buy good mezcal

- You can buy calendula petals online or from an herbalist or health food store. I bought mine at Rainbow Natural Remedies here in Seattle. Marigold petals will also work. If they come as full flower heads, remove the petals from the stems before proceeding.

image: Olaiya Land

To make calendula salt: place 2 tablespoons of the calendula petals in a spice grinder and pulse until roughly chopped (you can also do this in a mortar and pestle or molcajete). Transfer to small and bowl and add the salt. Stir to combine and set aside. Stored in an airtight container, the calendula salt will keep indefinitely.)

To make the margaritas: Pour some of the calendula simple syrup into a small plate with a lip. Transfer the calendula salt to a similar plate. Dip the rim of 2 8-oz cocktail glasses into the simple syrup then place the rims of the glasses in the calendula salt and turn to coat evenly. Set aside. 

In a cocktail shaker, combine the mezcal, calendula simple syrup, lime juice, orange juice and a pinch of calendula petals and shake vigorously over ice for 30 seconds. Pour into the prepared glasses. Top with more ice if necessary. Garnish with a lime wedges and serve.

Makes 2 drinks.

Calendula Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dried calendula petals

Place the sugar, calendula petals and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. 

Remove from the heat and set aside to steep for at least 30 minutes, and preferably for an hour or two. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to remove as much syrup as possible. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

the high noon: golden watermelon, ginger, basil + tequila

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I just got home from 5 days spent camping on Orcas Island with my mom.

I briefly thought about just posting the outdoorsy, pacific-northwest-perfect highlight reel of our trip: sleeping under a twinkling night sky, hiking along crystalline mountain lakes and watching baby harbor seals frolic in the bay. (True story.)

But in the spirit of realness I try to bring to this blog each week, I figured I should also tell you how I arrived on the island so tired and tense that I promptly got in a mega-argument with my mom, during which I behaved like a total ass. And how for the first two days, I felt an overpowering urge to check my phone despite the complete lack of signal at our campsite. I kept reaching for my back pocket and my useless phone--a digital phantom limb that refused to stop itching. 

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I should also probably disclose how at the soaking tubs perched above a peaceful, wooded cove, I listened to a group of twenty-somethings drone on about the hipness of their lives and how “tight” Copenhagen is until I wanted to rip my own ears off. When their conversation turned to spontaneous human combustion, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer and proceeded to lecture them on the finer points of spa etiquette like a deranged schoolmarm. (I fully expect to look back on that day as the line demarcating the beginning of my old age.)

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

But the good news, and the point of this post, is that I eventually I stopped checking my phone and wanting to argue with my mom over nothing and lecturing millennials for not properly appreciating the glory of the Pacific Northwest landscape. And when I did, I found myself able to slip into the easy, camp-side spirit I’d been craving.

I was thrilled to be dressed in my coziest clothing. I skipped wearing makeup and didn’t attempt to corral my curls into any sort of order. I swam and picnicked and played cards. Mom and I explored the villages on the island. We bought tomatoes and tiny, sweet peaches at the farmers market. We watched the full moon rise and set over the bay. 

At the 11th hour, one week before I pack my bags and head back to Europe to lead another culinary tour, I found my way to that carefree, summer state of mind. 

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I’ve created this cocktail to help you reach the same state of summertime nirvana. It’s called The High Noon, both for it’s sunny color and to evoke the pleasure of basking in the August sunshine. It’s origins are accidental: I was trying to buy a regular old red watermelon to make cocktails for my pop-up dinner earlier this month and discovered I’d brought home a golden watermelon instead. When I saw that Sherrie from With Food + Love was organizing another #drinkthesummer event this year, I knew my contribution would involve that gorgeous yellow melon!

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I know I posted a salted watermelon cocktail last year. But I can’t help it--salty watermelon is one of my favorite summer flavors! So I’m back with a cocktail featuring watermelon, a ginger-basil simple syrup, a splash of tequila and a chile-salt rim to keep things interesting. It’s sweet, sour, tangy and a little spicy. Just like summer.

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I’m thrilled to be part of the #drinkthesummer event! I loved tinkering in the kitchen to create this cocktail recipe. But I’m even more excited to try out some of the other recipes created by the bloggers participating this year! 

Here is a list of all the summer party people. Check out their seasonal cocktails and mocktails--hopefully you’ll find a new favorite blogger or two to follow! 

With Food + Love | Basil Fig Smash
A Little Saffron | Beach Bum's Rum
A Thought For Food | Tarragon Tequlia Swizzle
Downshiftology | Limoncello Prosecco with Blueberries and Thyme
Heart of a Baker | Green Tea Mint Cooler

Hungry Girl por Vida | Whisky Peach Alexander
The Green Life | Spiced Plum, Fig & Kombucha Cocktail
Hummingbird High | Watermelon and Mint Agua Fresca
Floating Kitchen | Peach Sun Tea and Bourbon Cocktail
Beard and Bonnet | Melon Mojito

EGD | Backyard Peach Sweet Tea
Appeasing a Food Geek | Basil and Black Pepper Gin Sour
Vegetarian Ventures | Garden Tonic Punch
Nosh and Nourish | Mango Margaritas with Chile Lime Salted Rims
Domesticate ME! | Watermelon-Basil Mezcal Margarita

The Foodie Nurse | Husk Cherry Margarita
my name is yeh | Choose Your Own Adventure Bloody Marys
Sevengrams | Cucumber, Gin and Chartreuse Cocktail
Wicked Spatula | Coconut Gin and Tonic
Eat Boutique | Sbagliatos and Homemade Sweet Vermouth

Nutritionist in the Kitch | Healthy Muddled Blackberry Pina Coladas
Chocolate + Marrow | Pequito Verdecito
The Solstice Table | Jalapeño Watermelon Cooler
HonestlyYUM | Watermelon, Fresh Herbs, & Sotol Cocktail
Seasonal Cravings | Strawberry Lime Gin Rickey

Salted Plains | Frozen Honeydew Daiquiris
The Broken Bread | Honeydew-Ginger Apricot Mojitos
Fix Feast Flair | Ginger-Berry Splash Cocktail
Turntable Kitchen | Summer Cooler Cocktails, Two Ways
Foolproof Living | Blueberry, Dark Cherry and Calvados Cocktail
Dessert for Two | Salty Melon Slush


Heartbeet Kitchen | Salty Watermelon Shrub Elixir
TENDING the TABLE | Raspberry and Fig Hibiscus Cooler
Snixy Kitchen | Lavender Earl Gray Blackberry Ice Cream Floats (vegan)
The Bojon Gourmet | Vanilla Rooibos Peach Ice Cream Floats (vegan)
Gratitude and Greens | Hong Kong Style Crushed Watermelon Ice 

My Heart Beets | Spiced Pistachio Shake
rooting the sun | Strawberry Fennel Soda
The Modern Proper | Vanilla Bean, Plum Shrub
Feed Me Phoebe | Watermelon-Cucumber Kombucha Coolers
Gourmande in the Kitchen | Stone Fruit Thyme Shrub Soda

dolly and oatmeal | Cold-Brewed Shiso & Hibiscus Tea Iced Latte
happy hearted kitchen | Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Fennel, Orange + Cardamom
I am a Food Blog | Cherry Vanilla Sodas
Tasty Yummies | Fig Vanilla Bean Almond Milk
Let's talk evergreen | Iced Earl Grey Yuanyang With a Hint of Rose

Kale & Caramel | Emerald Beaut Green Spritzer
Earthy Feast | Watermelon Hibiscus Agua Fresca
Now, Forager | Sparkling Plumcot and Purple Basil Shrubs
The Pig & Quill | Brown Sugar Blueberry Pie Shakes
Well and Full | Peach Bubble Tea

Sweetish Co | The Best Frozen Hot Chocolate
holly & flora | Spiced Pineapple Shrub Sparklers with Black Tea + Coconut
Pure Ella | Fresh Mint Tea

A huge thanks to Sherrie from With Food + Love for organizing. Now jump on into this virtual cocktail party and shake up some seasonal, boozy (and non-boozy!) goodness. Drink responsibly and #drinkthesummer!

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com
Golden Watermelon Cocktails with Ginger, Basil + Tequila

Golden Watermelon Cocktails with Ginger, Basil + Tequila

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-inch knob fresh ginger, thinly sliced (no need to peel)
  • ½ cup loosely-packed basil leaves
  • ¼ to ½ small seedless golden watermelon (or red watermelon)
  • 2 tablespoons flaky sea salt or kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon chile flakes (I used Portuguese piri piri)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup silver tequila
  • 4 small stems fresh basil, to garnish

*Notes: Unless you plan to make a lot of these cocktails, you’ll have some simple syrup left over. It will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for about a month. Use leftover syrup to flavor lemonade, in sorbet and popsicles, or stir a little bit into a fruit salad to kick it up a notch.

- Straining the watermelon is optional. It makes for a clearer cocktail, but you can skip this step if you like.

- The watermelon juice will keep, covered, in the fridge for 4-5 days.

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

First, make the ginger-basil simple syrup: Combine the sugar, water, ginger and basil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Set aside to steep for at least 30 minutes. Pour the simple syrup through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to get out as much liquid as possible. Discard basil and ginger and set syrup aside to cool completely. 

While the syrup is cooling, make the watermelon juice. Cut the rind from the watermelon and cut it into chunks. Puree in a food processor or blender then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Do not press on the solids with a spoon or you’ll force them through the sieve. Repeat until you have 1 ¼ cups strained watermelon juice.

Next, stir the salt and chile together in a small bowl and set aside.

To assemble the cocktail: Pour some of the honey simple syrup into a small, shallow bowl or a small plate with a lip. Transfer the salt to a similar plate. Dip the rim of 4 8-oz cocktail glasses into the simple syrup then place the rims the glasses in the chile salt and turn to coat evenly. Set aside

Shake the golden watermelon juice, ¼ cup of the simple syrup, the lime juice and the tequila over ice for 30 seconds (you will need to do this in 2 batches unless you have a large shaker). Strain into the prepared glasses. Top with ice to fill the glasses. Garnish with the basil and serve.

Makes 4 cocktails.

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com