Ugh, you guys.
This week has been hectic to say the least. I wanted to post this recipe on Monday, but you can see how that worked out for me.
But it’s cool. Now that it’s Friday night, I can sit here with my tea + honey, and spill my love for the combination of figs, honey, rosemary, pepitas and stretchy mozzarella.
Because that’s how I Friday. Party on, Wayne.
It’s fig season, so I made this Fig, Rosemary and Honey Pita Pizza.
If you’re wondering why a pita pizza over a real pizza, it’s because I was lazy, and sometimes a quick pita pizza is just enough. It’s a great way to fill that pizza void when you want to keep things light and don’t feel like making a batch of dough.
The “new wood” season of figs is here, so if you follow a lot of food blogs, you’re going to see a lot of figgy things happening.
Black missions figs, brown turkey figs and green kadota figs are all piled high at my local Whole Foods market. They were all neatly separated, and while I hummed and hawed over which ones I wanted to take with me, I decided to play a little swappy-swap.
The best of all three, please and thank you.
*Disclaimer: Product received from Young Living Essential Oils in exchange for review. Opinions in this review are my own and are not influenced by compensation.
There’s an obvious fork in the road when it comes to essential oils these days. Some people are all over it like honey on a hot biscuit, while others have a serious urge to block and delete the next person that tries to coax them into hosting an essential oils party.
Regardless of which side you’re on, I’m not here to tell you how great clary sage oil is for creating a calm environment or how lavender oil soothes anxiety; I’m here to tell you that lemon oil tastes freakin’ fantastic in homemade icing, and peppermint oil adds a major wow factor to homemade brownies.
In addition to adding Young Living’s Essential Lemon Oil to my drinking water (because it’s super duper refreshing and rejuvenating), I’ve been playing with a variety of oils in the “test kitchen” for a few months now.
I have good things to say.
Oatmeal: I’ve been adding Young Living’s Orange Essential Oil to my oatmeal in the morning along with cinnamon, walnuts, pepitas, dried cranberries and chia seeds. I use 4-6 drops, but you could adjust that to your preference.
Waffles + Pancakes: Another great way to use these oils in the morning is in waffles or pancakes — holla! Another 4-6 drops in a batch of batter and you’re golden.
Smoothies: If your smoothie’s lacking oomph, a few drops of essential oil could definitely kick things up. Ideal flavors depend on your smoothie base; there are ample fruity blends that you could try, but you can never go wrong with Cinnamon Oil. (Check out my Best Breakfast Smoothie to get you started.)
Yogurt Parfait: Up your yogurt game by adding 4 drops of essential oil to plain Greek yogurt; top with fruits and granola, and dig into delish.
Cream cheese + wheat crackers: In a bowl, mix together a few tablespoons of cream cheese and your preferred essential oil. Spread over crackers for some easy and tasty nosh.
Homemade Croutons: Add a few drops of herb-infused essential oil into olive oil for extra flavor before tossing your croutons. If you’ve never made your own croutons before, check out my How-To!
Oil for bread dipping: The only way to kick off a traditional Sunday Italian meal is with fresh bread and tasty oil for dipping. Add some herb-infused oil to the olive oil for extra yum factor — along with some crushed red pepper and grated parmesan, of course!
I think this is where y’all might get excited.
Strawberry Banana Bread: You’re definitely going to want a piece of this. I used Young Living’s essential lemon oil in my lemon basil glaze and it. was. to die for. Use between 6-8 drops for one batch of glaze. Grab the entire recipe for my Strawberry Banana Bread With Lemon Basil Glaze NOW.
Ice Cream: An easy way to jazz up your vanilla scoops without using sugary toppings is by adding a few drops of essential oil. I’ve tried it with peppermint, cinnamon and orange, and dang — they were all delish!
Mint Chocolate Chickpea Brownies: Okay friends, listen. These brownies? The most moist and fluffy cakey-cake you’ll ever put in your mouths — and adding 8-10 drops of peppermint oil is a very wise decision if you’re down with minty chocolaty goodness.
In case I haven’t made it obvious, I give cooking and baking with essential oils two big thumbs up. I highly encourage anyone with a collection of them to take them into the kitchen and blow your own minds.
For more information on Young Living Essential Oils, visit their Website.
I was never big into the usual ol’ cucumber and tomato salads. There was just too much tomato happening. I love tomatoes on a burger or a sandwich, and of course I love me some tomato sauce and tomato soup, but eating big chunks of raw tomato just isn’t something I’m into. Someone once told me that they loved tomatoes so much that they’d actually eaten one like an apple once.
I. Could. Never. (A fresh ball of mozzarella, though…)
Since my husband really digs cuke and ‘mato salads, we compromised one day and came up with THIS bowl of goodies. It’s now our go-to salad for those days we don’t feel like cooking or eating big. It’s also a great side dish and a total hit with our pals at cookouts.
We’ve got juicy grape tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, roasted bell peppers, rich black olives, tangy shallots, soft little pearls of bocconcini and toasted walnuts tossed in a simple homemade dressing. Originally we used toasted pine nuts in our recipe and it was to die for but, since pine nuts are crazy pricey, we played around and learned that toasted walnuts are just as delish.
Have you made this recipe? Snap a pic and tag me on Insta! #KillingThyme
- 1 English cucumber
- 1 pint of grape tomatoes (I like using heirloom grape tomatoes if I can find them)
- 7 oz bocconcini pearls
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 cup of black olives, pitted
- 1 bell pepper, halved and deseeded
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Gut out the bell pepper and quarter it. Toss it in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Place in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for approx. 15 mins. or until the skin on the pepper starts to blister.
- Remove and allow to cool. Once the roasted pepper has cooled, you should be able to easily slide the skin off. Slice into strips and add to a large serving bowl.
- Slice the cucumbers into 1/2 inch rounds; add them to the bowl.
- Cut the grape tomatoes in half; add them to the bowl.
- Add the olives, red onion, bocconcini and toasted walnuts (see notes)
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate until ready for use.
- To make the dressing, simply add the ingredients listed into a bowl and whisk until thoroughly mixed — or put the ingredients into a glass bottle/jar, cover, and shake until thoroughly mixed.
- Once the salad is ready to be served, drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.
- Walnuts: Toast the walnuts in a dry pan on medium-low heat for approx. five minutes or until they become lightly golden and fragrant. Keep a close eye on them as they burn easily.
- Once toasted, toss them into the bowl with everything else.
While trying to find a good freelance work/life balance (is that possible with freelance work?) the energy to do business with my blog just isn’t there. Because I felt that’s what my blog was there for, it’s been neglected.
But wait. A business was never what I intended my blog to be.
I started this blog back in 2012 as a hobby. I’m a natural born creative who loves to write, photograph and cook, so having a space for those things collectively was a total dream. I’d heard about making money through blogging, but I’m not business savvy in the least so it didn’t interest me. Also, as they say — don’t turn your hobby into money, because then it becomes a job and no longer a creative escape.
Of course, I had a hard time saying “No” in 2015 when a few opportunities fell into my lap. Before I knew it, I had ads on my site and I was working with a few low key brands. Awesome. But It was at that point when my focus shifted and turning my blog into a business became a goal — especially since later in the year I’d be moving to the US, the land of opportunity for food bloggers. (Depending on who you are and who you ask.)
I had no idea how disappointed I was going to be. Taking full advantage of the opportunity to work on my blog full time once I’d moved, I completely drained myself. I overthought, over-planned and got completely lost between who I am as a blogger and who I thought I had to be in order to maintain the business aspect of it.
That last part? Yeah. To hell with that. Seriously.
This had been on my mind for the greater part of last week and I was completely torn on what to do. My gut was telling me to scrap the idea that food blogs are only worthy if they’re making money. I’m making money with freelance work, anyway. I don’t need the blog as a source of income! But there was that other pesky part of me — the part that has been brainwashed by the nagging blogging groups and their sad motivational attempts with “28 things you’re messing up with your blog that keep you from being a success” — that has been looming over me like a dark cloud. Success? I want success. But for me, thriving on creativity is success; creating beautiful content that will make people hungry, healthy and happy is success.
And on Monday night, while laying in bed and scrolling through Facebook posts, I found an article (and amazing comment on the article) that flipped a switch in me.
It was about Saveur’s food blog awards and the sour grapes that inevitably come with being competitive in the food blogging world. You can read it here if you’re interested. It’s a fantastic read and I highly encourage you to take a gander.
In a nutshell, what resonated with me most was when Michelle said that one of the things she dislikes most about blogging is that as bloggers, we’re all at the mercy of larger entities that can seemingly make or break us.
What struck me even MORE though (and when I say struck I mean lit a huge blazing fire under my ass to stop giving a funk about things that truly don’t matter), was a comment by Ashlae from Oh, Ladycakes:
“WORD, lady. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone still gives a shit about the Saveur awards. While I was guilty of drinking the kool-aid the first two times I was nominated, I quickly realized – while I was sitting in a courtyard at the Bellagio being talked at (by the companies who sponsored the awards) for a good three hours (and being urged to post on allllll my social channels 18323x a day) – that the awards are just a clever way for Saveur to gain access to our audiences, and then use that to reel in sponsors for their own monetary gain. Which is, admittedly, brilliant on their behalf – but tacky as fuck.”
The sipping of the Kool-Aid (guilty); the smoke and mirrors of working with big brands; the gloomy pressure of having to share things on social media every minute of every hour every single day.
I don’t want that. I don’t want any of it.
This article by Michelle, in addition to the raw and honest comment by Ashlae, were obviously very timely for me. I’ve been contemplating a rebrand for a while; one that would hurt my traffic but represent me and my love for food in a more suitable way.
At the beginning of 2016 I was full of high hopes; I reached for the stars, landed on the sun and got burned.
A thorough breakdown on my thoughts and feels:
I’d have to be a sellout to succeed.
Cool your jets — I’m not calling people who blog for money sellouts.
When turning your blog into a business, it’s imperative that you stick to your guns and work with companies that are a good fit for your brand. If you’re an avid shopper at big box stores and buy big brand products, those things are a good fit for you. However, if you’re like me and opt to shop local and support the small guy, they’re not a good fit. Unfortunately it’s rare that small independent companies can afford to shell out enough cash for a sponsored post. Sponsored posts don’t come cheap — they’re a lot of work and they’re a food blogger’s bread and butter. It’s how they put all of that pretty food on the table.
The biggest eye opener for me was when I was approached by a big brand name to write a “How-To” post on hosting a food bar party with a bunch of their products. I had nothing against this particular *big brand* so I was pretty into it until I read further into the proposal. What really chapped my ass was the part where I would have to purchase said products from a certain *big box store* — one that I loathe. I mean, I never shop at this store. I hate it. It’s unethical and I refuse to support it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I’d have to take photos INSIDE the store to document the “shopping experience” and chat about how I love shopping at this place. (I mean, what the actual shit? People do this and are okay with it?) So basically, I’d have to place my morals and beliefs on the shelf so that I could rake in some Benjamins. For someone who digs shopping at this store, it was a great opportunity with a hefty payout. For me, it seemed downright ridiculous.
But was *I* being ridiculous? Pretentious, even?
I sat in quiet contemplation for a good hour. On the balcony. With a vodka soda or three.
These were my thoughts as I sipped away:
- Is this how most sponsored posts go? Is this how it really is?
- Would I be stupid to turn this down?
- Doing this would make me feel yucky.
- But it’s a lot of money.
- It would probably set my foot on the right path.
- No, no. It would be the WRONG path. Supporting a company I don’t believe in would definitely be the wrong path.
- Is it possible that blogging for business just isn’t currently on par with my beliefs and vision?
I can now say that you LITERALLY cannot pay me to shop at *big box store*. I turned the opportunity down and, for days, wondered if I was completely daft.
Despite the fact that there wasn’t an ounce of me that doubted my decision, it sure made me think. It made me think, overthink, explore and get completely freaking lost in my purpose.
Then I took things a step further and removed all ads.
Back in the day, when I was first approved to put ads on my site, I thought I was legit. Having ads on your site seemed like the first step into money making madness but, for me personally, they just don’t bring in enough income to justify the real estate they take up (not to mention they interfere with a blog’s aesthetics and, depending on the type of ad, can make your site run slow or crash thus creating a bum experience for your readership).
Because so many bloggers have ads on their site (and hey, if it’s worth it for you that’s amazing — you keep doing you!) I always felt it was necessary; I thought that a blog without ads wouldn’t be taken seriously.
I’ve since learned that that’s complete and utter bullshit.
Fear of change and consequence.
It’s no secret that I’m pescetarian now; I have been since the beginning of 2016. Despite the fact that I’ve been running a pesco-vegetarian focused blog for over eight months now, I still have meat dishes on my blog (and an awkward explanation of why on my Start Here! page which will be rewritten soon) because some of them are really popular. One of them still brings in my highest daily views and it is old AF.
But the truth is I hate looking at them. I hate seeing them on my site. I don’t eat these things.
(But… the traffic.)
Well, what about the traffic? At the end of the day, who cares. My blog should be a reflection of who I am, not a pile of attempts to keep traffic high. I’m confident in my upcoming content anyway. SERIOUSLY IT WILL BE SO GOOD.
Plus, my most viewed recipe is a hangover sandwich for crying out loud. Get that bunk outta here. I’ve got better.
And then there’s that whole censoring yourself thing.
I have a blog voice that I’m comfortable with and one that is contrived; you’re currently reading the former.
All year, I’ve been afraid to speak. Like, really speak. I’ve had to watch what I say in case brands be lurkin’. Sure, it’s important to be professional — and I’ve never planned on using super foul words (is shit even a bad word anymore? Let’s go with no) — but when I have to cover up my playfully caustic wit, borderline inappropriate one-liners and the odd use of the word shit in my own space for fear that a brand might see me, consider me and then opt out because they can’t lighten up… [insert peace sign here] bye.
I have a personality; I’m exuberant, unswerving, funny and loving with a sparkling dash of misanthropy.
So Basically, I’m just gonna be.
There seems to be this lingering pressure as a food blogger that you have to earn an income from it eventually, and if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong. This pressure inevitably sucks the joy out of something you once loved and that, my friends, is the most tragic part.
I can’t deal with that.
Killing Thyme is my baby. Killing Thyme is where I’ve grown as an amateur cook, as a writer and especially as a photographer. My personal progress has been remarkable and you can’t define my worth with a dollar sign.
I want to love this space again. I want it to be an escape, not something I feel the need to escape from.
And I can’t even begin to tell you how free I feel right now.
“You have no idea how high I can fly.” – Michael Scott, Dunder Mifflin
So now, onto this cocktail. It’s funny — I haven’t always been a gin fan. In fact, I’ve only come to enjoy the taste of gin this summer. When I was a teenager, my Mom’s drink of choice was a simple gin and tonic. Well, it turns out that a gin and tonic on the rocks and a glass of ice water look exactly the same — that is until you gulp it down, only to realize that your ice water is actually your Mom’s gin and tonic! We had a few good laughs and eventually stopped using the same glasses, but needless to say I’ve only recently acquired a taste for gin as an adult.
This recipe came about organically, as most of my recipes do. During my last visit to my childhood home in rural Alberta this summer, I volunteered as bartender. My Mom, of course, requested a gin cocktail. She knows I love to experiment with cocktails and usually enjoys whatever I whip up, so I happily went to work. In the fridge, I found lots of fresh lemons, along with a gorgeous bunch of mint and some cucumbers. I immediately thought of a gin based, mojito-style cocktail. There were also some fresh blueberries set out for snacking right next to where I was playing mixologist, so I decided to muddle a few in with the other ingredients. I took a sip to test my creation and I was shocked at how much I liked it — gin and all! So, I decided to make one for myself with a few tweaks and that was how this Blueberry Lemon and Cucumber Gin Mojito recipe was conceived.
I’ve been blueberry crazy this summer! We’re coming to the end of blueberry season in North America and I’ve been experimenting with different ways to preserve them to make the magic last. What I came up with is a blueberry simple syrup made from honey, rather that traditional white sugar. I’m all about making healthier, more natural substitutions in my cooking and baking — and yes, even in my cocktails. To be honest, we don’t even keep white sugar in our pantry! My Blueberry Honey Simple Syrup adds so much flavour and a lovely purple hue to these cocktails.
My Blueberry Lemon and Cucumber Gin Mojitos combine sweet blueberries with refreshing lemon, cucumber and mint. A healthy dose of gin unites the flavour profiles of these late summer sippers and a splash of soda water adds just the right amount of sparkle. My gin mojitos are free of refined sugars and made with all natural ingredients — so the next time you’re craving a cooling summer cocktail, indulge yourself with a fresh twist on the classic mojito!
Another thing I like to do is incorporate edible flowers into my recipes whenever I can — I’m enamoured with flowers and blog about them frequently! I foraged these pansies from my Mom’s garden and love the fun pops of colour and cheerful feeling they add to the cocktail. If you want to get creative and make these Blueberry Lemon and Cucumber Gin Mojitos really pretty, you can experiment with freezing edible flowers into ice cubes to preserve them, or simply use them to garnish your cocktail. Flowers (edible or otherwise) are an inexpensive, thoughtful way to elevate your libations or parties — and they’re one of my not so secret weapons, especially when I’m entertaining.
For more exciting recipes and glamorous entertaining inspo from Justine, head on over to JustineCelina.com.
- 4 cups fresh blueberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup honey
- Juice from half a lemon
- 1.5oz Blueberry Honey Simple Syrup
- 2oz of gin
- Juice from half a lemon
- 5 fresh mint leaves
- 5 slices of cucumber
- Soda water
- Edible flowers (I used pansies)
- Cocktail skewers
- A slice of lemon
- Fresh blueberries
- A sprig of mint
- If you’re making floral ice cubes, begin by sourcing your flowers, washing them and dropping them into the ice cube trays to freeze. You really can’t mess this up — so experiment with different flower place- ments within each cube and have fun with it!
- Start on your Blueberry Honey Simple Syrup. Add blueberries and water to a medium sauce pan over low heat. The blueberries will begin to break down quickly — help them along by pressing them with a potato masher to aid in extracting the juices. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Strain the blueberry juice into a heatproof bowl, using the potato masher press the juice through the strainer. Reserve the juice for the Blueberry Honey Simple Syrup and discard the skins.
- Add the blueberry juice and honey back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to thicken for 10 minutes.
- Turn off the burner. Add the juice from half a lemon to your saucepan, stirring until incorporated. Allow your Blueberry Honey Simple Syrup to cool before using it in the Blueberry Lemon and Cucumber Gin Mojitos.
- Begin assembling your cocktail by adding lemon juice, mint and cucumber to a cocktail shaker and muddling them together with a pestle. Add Blueberry Honey Simple Syrup and a few ice cubes. Shake vigorously until the cocktail shaker becomes cold.
- Add the contents of the cocktail shaker to your glass along with your gin. Pour soda water overtop to fill your glass to the desired level.
- Garnish your Blueberry Lemon and Cucumber Gin Mojito with a slice of lemon and a few blueberries on a cocktail skewer.
- Add a sprig of mint, or a few more edible flowers and enjoy!