Lavender & Lemon Sparkling Soda

Lavender & Lemon Sparkling Soda | PepperDesignBlog.com

I’ll preface this post by saying that I’m not one for soda (never really developed a taste for it) and I’m not one for complicated, but this recipe is so good that should you ever be up for trying both of those out at the same time, I say give it a go with two enthusiastic thumbs up.

It’s not really complicated, per se, but any time you have to pull a saucepan and fresh ingredients out to make a drink (especially a non alcoholic one), well, you’ve gotta be dedicated. BUT this drink is so worth being dedicated to. Especially if you’re in charge of bringing a pretty drink to a shower or brunch or something like that. :)

Lavender & Lemon Sparkling Soda | PepperDesignBlog.com

I discovered this yummy refresher while trying to replicate Kevin’s famous lavender lemonade – I’ll share that one one day! I didn’t use enough lavender or lemons, turns out, but I came up with a simple syrup that is now full of our herby-garden and is my best friend.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you probably know how much I love experimenting with ingredients from our own garden. There’s just something about growing, cultivating and harvesting, even in the extreme urban, grow-a-handful-of-beets-and-call-it-a-day kind of situation our veggie box is in. It’s really satisfying to go from dirt to plate (or glass).

Lavender & Lemon Sparkling Soda | PepperDesignBlog.com

This recipe starts off with two parts water to one part sugar, plus a handful of lavender (and rosemary if you’re running short on lavender).

Boil and reduce 50% (not going for a reduction that becomes a thick honey, but more of a light syrup consistency). Once pulled off of the heat, add lemon juice to taste (limes work if those are available).

Lavender & Lemon Sparkling Soda | PepperDesignBlog.com

Lavender & Lemon Sparkling Soda | PepperDesignBlog.com

Strain herbs and lemon seeds out to enjoy your finished simple syrup.

Lavender & Lemon Sparkling Soda | PepperDesignBlog.com

The non-alcoholic version includes equal parts simple syrup to Perrier (or club soda, or maybe even tonic water?). The party version adds whiskey or gin, the brunch version a heavy splash of champagne.

Lavender & Lemon Sparkling Soda | PepperDesignBlog.com

Craving one of these sparkling sodas right now! When our lavender plants produce enough buds to demonstrate the pink version I’ll definitely share. It’s a really pretty drink when the colors start to come out.

Happy Monday!

PS another great (similar in many ways) recipe to bring to a party, and a roundup of all beverage recipes shared here.

A Birthday Weekend in Photos

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

I mentioned on Tuesday that this last weekend was an incredibly memorable one. I thought I’d share a few photos with you! A lot of these are recycled from Instagram, so if you follow me over there you might recognize the highlights.

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

On Friday night, Kevin surprised me with appetizers, dinner and dancing with our closest friends – and with family that flew/drove in from all over California! I love this amazing group of people so much, they made this day so special.

We started with appetizers at Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar where I took my birthday oyster shot! (ps didn’t go as planned, as evidenced here) but thankfully the cocktails and design are both out of this world, too. Next, Kevin arranged for a private lounge at Kettner Exchange in the Little Italy area of San Diego for our group of 30 or so. Great food and drinks just kept coming (I wish I could remember the name of that drink… but it was that good).

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Look at my little brother, trying to be all Justin Beiber cool. I wish I had a picture of all of my friends from this evening.

Afterwards, we celebrated a birthday right with a little dancing! My family and a few friends also joined for a ‘staycation’ at Hotel Vyvant. Such a sweet surprise to walk Everywhere we headed those two days.

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

The next morning we had brunch and visited Little Italy’s amazing farmer’s market. The girl’s joined us, too! If I could sum up a few of my favorite things that bring me joy in three words (other than family, faith…) it would be: coffee, goat cheese, and farmer’s markets. As I type that I realize how silly that sounds, but right now, in this stage of my life, it’s the little moments, sites, sounds, tastes that matter most. I wouldn’t have chosen to spend my Saturday any other way.

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Kevin wouldn’t let me in on a single detail so he basically asked me to show up in something fancy and pack an overnight bag. That made me nervous! But I should have known better because he’s an excellent party planner.

And the reason this is the best weekend out of the entire year? The weekend may come to a close after two days of amazing-ness… but then there’s Memorial Day.

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Our neighborhood has adopted this holiday as their own with an annual parade, relay races in the morning and LOTS of bbqing and beers all afternoon.

This is a day worth memorializing on all levels. I’m proud to have service members within my family and remember and honor those who have gone before us. This is an important holiday to celebrate with our girls.

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Everyone comes out and if you’re not walking in the parade you’re lining the streets watching all of the fun cars, floats and people go by.

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

Morgan's 30th | PepperDesignBlog.com

I have learned so many wonderful lessons over the past three decades (I summed up a handful here). It’s been a crazy journey, this is my last birthday post! (promise) Thanks for hanging in there and for coming along for the ride. xo

Honey & Rosemary Balsamic Reduction Dressing

Honey & Rosemary Balsamic Reduction Dressing | PepperDesignBlog.com

We’ve been enjoying some yummy salads around here and one key ingredient is a balsamic reduction dressing. Reducing the vinegar helps with the bite, and makes for a really nice sauce straight on fresh peaches or grilled chicken, too.

Here’s how I make it:

I use a small 1.5 quart sauce pan and heat about 1/2″ balsamic vinegar (this is usually plenty for a meal + leftover dressing for the next day) over medium-low heat.

Gently simmer until the balsamic vinegar reduces by roughly 50% and holds tight to the back of a spoon. My 1/2″ is now 1/4″ inch (spoon test is also helpful here). When the vinegar begins to show bubbles across the top, it’s ready to pull from heat.

Honey & Rosemary Balsamic Reduction Dressing | PepperDesignBlog.com

Two hints: don’t use a fancy balsamic vinegar, a generic brand is just great! Mix in herbs for a delicious twist. I especially love rosemary chopped very finely.

Honey & Rosemary Balsamic Reduction Dressing | PepperDesignBlog.com

While still warm, I love to stir in two tablespoons of honey to offset the vinegar taste just a bit more.

For a creamier dressing, try adding 1/4 cup (or so) of mayo after the reduction has cooled down.

I sometimes mix this reduction with olive oil for salads or serve as-is with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato slices. Sooooo delicious.

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