Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Making a Fall Craft for Cocoa - How To-sday

Stir a little sweetness into a cup of coffee or cocoa with a seasonal spoon.  I love making chocolate spoons.  They make great favors, wonderful gifts and they are fun to use.

For Halloween they can be decorated to be ghosts, spider webs or other spooky creatures and for Christmas or Hanukkah they can be sprinkled with colored sugar in appropriate colors.

Candied Spoons

12 oz. pkg semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tsp coconut oil
35 to 45 plastic spoons (you can use white, black, gold or silver or a mixture)
Candies, nonpareils and colored sugar for garnish

Line baking sheets with parchment paper and place a couple of round handled spoons in the middle of the baking sheet.

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on medium for 30 seconds.  Stir to be sure all the chips have melted.  Add shortening to thin chocolate and stir gently.

Dip each spoon into chocolate mixture to cover the bowl of the spoon.  Place on parchment paper with the bowl edge resting on handle of wooden spoon to keep it above the paper.

After chocolate begins to harden, but is still soft add sprinkles of colored sugar, mini chips or other decorations to the chocolate.

Once chocolate has hardened (which will take some time), wrap each spoon with cellophane or a small plastic bag.

Alternates: Use white chocolate and add two mini semi-sweet chips for eyes to make ghosts, or sprinkle with blue sugar for a Hanukkah treat. Use a large marshmallow on a stick instead of a spoon for the perfect cocoa stir.

Decorate with tags and ribbon for favors and gifts.

Wrap each spoon in cellophane and place in a mug to display.

Tie them with ribbon to a package of hot cocoa or coffee to make a teacher or friend gift.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Home Made Vanilla Extract - weekend recipe

My infusion program, which is gaining popularity, details how to infuse the flavor of herbs into different mediums (technically called a menstruum.) As part of the program I demonstrate how to make tisanes, simple syrup, flavored salt and sugar, and alcohol extracts.  One of the infused alcohol items I demonstrate is vanilla extract. 

Recently I have been making zucchini bread with the vanilla extract I created as part of these demonstrations.

This could be termed the easiest herb recipe you can make:

Hand-made Vanilla Extract

You need

8 ounces of plain vodka
2 to 4 vanilla pods (organic is best of course)

Put the pods in a glass jar, cover them with the vodka.  Cover and leave in a closed, labeled jar for six weeks.

After 6 weeks, you have the most wonderful vanilla infused vodka that you can use to make all your holiday baked goods.

And if  you want to start now it will make a great gift for the baker in your life.

**Important – this is not “Vanilla Vodka”. In other words – do not attempt to drink the vodka after the vanilla has been added! Consider the fact that only a few drops of vanilla extract are typically used for an entire recipe… yes, it will be like that.

If you want to try a couple other infusions using vanilla for your home or face, check out my Herb of the Week post on Vanilla.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Celebration of Roman Goddess Felicitas

On this day, Ancient Romans celebrated Fausta Felicitas, an ancient Roman Goddess of good fortune and lucky happenstance. Her name is essentially two words of the same meaning, likely doubled up for emphasis, for fausta in the Latin is the adjective "favorable" or "auspicious", while felicitas is the noun meaning "luck", "good fortune" or "happiness"; Her name can be translated as the nicely redundant "Lucky Luck"Felicitas, the goddess of good luck, on this day. 
Felicitas was shown on coins of the Empire in a variety of poses, usually holding the caduceus, or herald's staff (an attribute of Mercury or Hermes, said to represent peace) and the cornucopia, or horn of plenty. She could also be depicted holding a patera (offering dish), or with a rudder, ship's prow, or globe, all of which are also attributes of Fortuna.

Create your own special celebration of the Roman goddess Felicitas by making a list of the good fortune you have experienced in the past month. If you're not feeling so lucky, here are a few herbs that might help.  You can plant them or wear them.

  • Allspice promotes luck, health, and happiness.
  • Chamomile is the gambler's lucky herb. In Rome, gamblers washed their hands in chamomile for luck.
  • Thyme is the traditional herb of courage, and was often used as an ingredient in teas, soups, and as a main ingredient in tokens and sachets to encourage good luck in battle, in overcoming shyness, and in 'winning the day'. The word thyme may well derive from the Greek thymon, which means courage.
  • String nutmegs, star anise, and bits of sandalwood in a lucky necklace.
  • Peppermint (Menta Piperita), love and protection are this plant’s best uses. Softens roads and relationships, and makes a wonderful addition to healing, prosperity and luck amulets. A fairy attractor when planted.
  • Plant hen and chicks (Sempervivum) on your roof to bring good fortune.
  • Plant rosemary by the door for luck. 
  • Spearmint has been used as protection against curses or to attract money.
  • Honeysuckle brought into a home will help ensure a good marriage for the people who live there. Grow honeysuckle near your home to attract love, luck and wealth and to protect your garden from negative influences.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Energizing Bath Sachet Blend - Bath Blend of the Month

The days are getting noticeably shorter now, so a pick me up may be needed.  This energizing bath blend could be just what you need.  Mix it up and place 1/4 cup of blend in a muslin bag.  You can make the bags ahead or keep blend in a jar and place 1/4 cup in a muslin bag or terry cloth and drop in the bath while it is filling.

Energizing Bath Sachet Blend
½ cup lavender buds
½ cup peppermint leaves, crumbled
½ cup spearmint leaves, crumbled
½ cup lemon grass, cut small
8 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops lemongrass oil
5 drops each peppermint & spearmint essential oil

Blend the herbs together in a plastic bowl, then add each essential oil separately and stir to combine.  Allow to meld overnight, then fill muslin bags and store in an airtight container.  This recipe will make up to 8 bags.

To Use: Place filled bag under the tap while bath is filling, then slide into the water.  Use the bag as a scrubby to get even more herbal energy!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Meatless Monday Creamy Herb Dressing

If you like a cream dressing but cannot use milk or cream in your foods, this versatile recipe may be your solution.  Tofu provides the creaminess without the cream. Make the dressing with any herb that matches your meal or mood. Serve over your favorite greens.

I recommend making a combo of three herbs, like basil, savory and lemon balm or lemon basil, thyme and oregano.

Creamy Herb Dressing

  • 1⁄2 cup soft silken tofu (4 oz.)
  • 1⁄2 cup tightly packed fresh herbs, such as basil, dill, cilantro or a combo of three herbs
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt, plus more if needed
In blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and 2 tablespoons water. Process until very smooth, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice, about 2 minutes.

Use immediately or refrigerate in tightly sealed container for up to 3 days. (The vibrant color will become olive drab, but the taste will not be affected.) Stir well before each use. Thin with 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon juice or water (or more if needed) if dressing becomes too thick.

This recipe adapted from one in Vegetarian Times
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