Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Scent Surpise from the Lemon Verbena lady

Recently I entered a giveaway on the blog of my herbal freind Lemon Verbena Lady.  I enter herbal giveaways when ever I run across them because you never know what might happen.  Well, this time I WON!

Here is the amazing scent collection I received as a result.  It was actually in a basket (there was some question about that happening) and included a cute herb tea towel, I think I will take with me when I give lectures.

Many of the scented items were crafted at the Village Herb Shop in Chagin Falls, Ohio, where Lemon Verbena Lady took a recent trip.

If you look carefully you will find that there is a Jingle Bell Potpourri, a Simmering Spice Blend, a cleaning spray and a room spray and some reed scent diffusers with a great "strung popcorn" scent.

There was a short note inside which said look for a few surprises as well.  I am guessing these wonderful Herb Jellies were part of that surprise.

Now I have never been to the Village Herb Shop, even though it is not far from my hometown.  It opened after I moved to Chicagoland, but I have corresponded with Kathleen Kips the proprietor on many occasions and I recommend a trip to the shop if you are ever in the Cleveland area.  Kathleen is most noted for her knowledge of the Language of Flowers and Herbs and has a wealth of information on the subject to share.  The shop is located in a great victorian and surrounded by gardens.

There was one extra surprise that made me jump for joy!  You see that bright orange folder?  That is an herbal mustard seasoning from the Reppert's herb shop The Rosemary House  in Mechanicsburg, PA.

That seasoning is called the Mayor's Magic Mustard Mix.  The Mayor refers to Mr. Reppert the former Mayor of Mechanicsburg.  Since Mustard is a passion of mine, I cannot wait to try this and all the recipes included.  The Rosemary House is known for their special seasoning blend called Roastmary about which my husband says I make nothing that can compare to its perfect blend of seasonings for roasting meat and vegetables.  I've given up trying to copy it and just buy a proper supply each season.  Here is the link if you wish to do the same: Roastmary!

So a super big thank you to Nancy, the Lemon Verbena Lady, for this special package of herbal surprises that arrived just in time for the holiday!  That wonderful ornament/decoration is already hanging on my herbroom door!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

From My Family to yours --
         Have a Joyous Christmas and a Blessed New Year

This is our unusual ways of celebrating:

Yes that is my cat under the tree.  We never saw this cat unless the tree was up then he sat in among the gifts until we took the tree down (in February!)  At which point we would not see him again until December!

My brother and sister in law in Wisconsin, the only real tree I ever see these days! We celebrate with our plush family... long story!

My mother in law with the plush family members!

My well decorated fake tree!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday De-stress treatment

Okay it is two days before Christmas.  Time to stop for a moment, give thanks for your blessings and take a few minutes to rejuvinate yourself.

This aromatic bath is good for relaxing muscles and relieving stress.  It is also valuable to those with arthritis.  Juniper berries essential (volatile) oil breaks down the surface tension of the skin helping it to absorb the beneficial aspects of the remaining herbs.

Muscle-Saver Relaxation Bath Bag

1 tsp. juniper berries
2 Tbls. dried peppermint
2 Tbls. dried spearmint
2 Tbls lavender flowers and leaves

Place all the ingredients in a square of muslin or a handkerchief, tie up with string.  Or place in an unbleached muslin bag.  Place the bag in the tub while it fills with water.  The bag acts like a giant tea bag, turning your bath into a therapeutic herbal tea.  Use the soaked bag to scrub your skin.  If you prefer a shower, soak the bag of herbs with the shower head, then use it like a washcloth.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter Holiday Beverages - Weekend Recipes

I love the smell of Christmas! To me it smells like cinnamon, cloves, oranges, apple pie and evergreens! Two of my favorite things to make for the long winter months here are a mulling spice to be used in wine or cider and a simmer recipe ( I shared my simmer recipe earlier this week, check it out.)  I’ve shared items like this in the past, but I can create any number of combinations so these are just a bit different from those I have shared previously.

Mulling Spice

2 Tbls. Cinnamon chips
2 Tbls. Orange peel chunks
4 tsp.  whole allspice
4 tsp.  whole cloves

For mulled wine, use 2 T of the spices in a tea ball or muslin bag. Add to 1 ½ quarts Burgundy wine with 2/3 cup sugar or honey. Heat to almost boiling and simmer 20 minutes.

For mulled cider use 4 T in a tea ball or muslin bag and add to 2 quarts of cider. Simmer 15-20 minutes.

Cran-Apple Mulled Punch
This special recipe was shared with me by a customer.  She created it using the Backyard Patch Spiced Cider / Mulled Wine Blend, but you can use the blend I shared above.

12 cups apple juice
6 cups cranberry juice
½ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons Mulling Spices

Simmer on low heat for 30-45 minutes.  Serve warm. Serves 20 to 25 (6 oz. cups)

Hot Spiced Pineapple Juice
I think my internet friend Mary Ellen Wilcox said that she uses this recipe at her Christmas Workshop.  I loved it because it was pineapple which is such a great juice to use at a holiday gathering.  It could also be a favorite of mine because of the rum??!

1 (48 oz.) can pineapple  juice
1 cup apple cider or juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup light rum or 2 tsp. rum  extract
Whole cloves
Lemon slices
Insert the wholes cloves into lemon slices and set aside.  Combine pineapple juice, apple cider, sugar and spices in a large saucepan.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in rum or extract.  Serve in tall mugs with the lemon/clove slices as garnish.  Makes 9 (6 oz.) servings.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tea Infused Hot Chocolate

I will reach for a cup of tea any long cold day or night.  In truth I drink hot tea almost any time of year.  My husband has been enjoying Hot Cocoa in his Coffee for several years now.  When he was diagnosed with diabetes he stopped enjoying this until he discovered the happiness of Backyard Patch Sugar-free Hot Cocoa (It is amazing what he does not pay any attention to that I make until he needs it!)

His obsession with cocoa in his coffee got me to thinking, how would it taste in tea?  Since tea and milk go well together, this seemed like a great pairing.  So I did an experiment and came up with this recipe.

Hot Cocoa Tea

1 tsp. tea
          (any mint herbal tea is perfect, an oolong is a rich counter part and Chai was made for milk anyway)

1 cup of milk

3 1/2 Tbls. sugar (or sugar substitute equivalent)

2 Tbls. cocoa powder (dutch processed)

Make one cup of tea and set aside.  Mix together the milk, cocoa and sugar. in a small pot and heat on the stove.  Stir constantly to keep the milk from scalding.  Once the milk is hot add the tea and bring back to a simmer (no bubbles) and whisk the ingredients.  Pour into a mug and enjoy.  (Makes one super sized serving for one or two smaller servings to share.)

Alternative with instant mixes

Make 1 cup of instant cocoa with water from 1 cup of steeped tea.  Whisk the cocoa for a richness of flavor and enjoy with a cinnmon or peppermint stick.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Simmering Spices the Natural Way - How Tuesday

This recipe is large enough to give you aromatherapy for the entire holiday season.  Remember that sweet oranges helps improve feelings of happiness and cinnamon gives you contemplative and restful thoughts.

To make this blend you need to use a container that is disposable, as you cannot make this in a bowl you want to serve food in later.  I use a bowl made from the base of a 2 liter pop bottle, so when I am finished I can recycle it and not worry that it would be used for food.

Gather your herbs and spices and you cinnamon and sweet orange essential oils.  I also use cellulose fiber for a binder to help the mixture retain its scent.

Add the herbs and spices to the bowl and stir to mix.
1/4 cup each of rose hips, coriander, rosemary, cinnamon, allspice and orange peel.

Add the 1/4 cup cellulose fiber to another bowl (bottle bottom) and place the essential oil on the fiber by drops.  You will use 1 tsp. of each oil which is 120 drops each. or 5 ml.  Stir the cellulose until the oil is absorbed.

Then blend the cellulose and herbs together.  Remember to keep away from the skin or face.  Cinnamon oil is a skin irritant so if you get it on your skin wash it off immediately.

To use:  Place 1 Tbls. of simmering spices into a non-food use pan with 1 quart of water.  bring to a simmer and keep on stove on very low heat.  Add more water as needed.  I picked up this pot at the thrift store and will use it all season, then discard it after using it to mix potting soil in the spring.

You can make a smaller version of this recipe as follows:

4 Tbls. rose hips
4 Tbls.rosemary
4 Tbls.coriander
4 Tbls.cinnamon
4 Tbls.allspice
4 peel
4 Tbls. cellulose fiber
60 drops of cinnamon essential oil
60 drops sweet orange oil

At the Backyard Patch we make a wonderful Cider Blend that you can also use as a simmering spice.  We call it Spice Cider / Mulled Wind Blend.  Follow the link to see this and our other seasonal spices.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Decorating with Pinecones

Recently Tina Sams, the editor of the Essential Herbal Magazine, was showing pictures of her chandelier decorated with pine cone ornaments.  I love pine cones as holiday decoration and have said on several occations that I want to decorate an entire tree with pine cones ornaments one year, but collecting only one or two a year, it will be sometime before I can fill an entire tree.

That got me to thinking.  I have made scented pine cones in the past and those are great ornaments.  How about making more brightly decorated pine cones?  Around my apartment complex are several different conifers giving a nice variety of cones.  I suspect you could try this too!

Collect cones from your yard.  It will get you outside for a walk and you can enjoy the season.  When you bring in the cones you must clean them.  Run them under cold running water and lay them out on a baking sheet covered with wax or parchment paper.  Place the tray in the oven at 250 degrees for 20 minutes.  This will open up the cones, remove excess sap, and kill any bugs or bacteria hiding inside.

Let them cool.  You will see re-crystalization of some of the sap which gives the cones a natural beauty, then get creative.

You can scent the cones with a mixture of ground spices (see this previous post) or you can decorate them for use in displays.  Here are a few suggestions for decorating pine cones.

  1. Paint the tips of the pine cone wings. (Yes, that is what they are called!) With white poster paint paint just the tips of the wings to look like snow, then sprinkle with clear or white glitter or even granulated sugar for sparkle.
  2. Spray the cones with clear acrylic or paint them with clear glue and tumble in a zip lock bag filled with colored glitter.  You can use one color at a time, like red, green, silver or gold on blend the glitter together for a combination effect.
  3. Dot the cones with craft glue and press on colored sequins.
  4. Wedge fun spices and herb twigs in between the wings, like juniper berries, allspice berries, star anise, broken cinnamon sticks, and cloves.  This is a rustic natural look that will also give off a scent.
  5. Dip the cones in wax and use to decorate the mantle, then use them as fire starters for a Christmas night blaze.
  6. For a crystal effect, paint on some clear glue then roll the cones in faceted or smooth glass seed beads.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Roast Pork with Sage & Pecan Pesto - Weekend Recipe

This is a make ahead recipe that you can serve to guests and family for rave reviews.

Roast Pork with Sage and Pecan Pesto

2 quarts apple cider
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup, plus 3 Tbls. fresh sage, chopped and divided.
1 tsp. pepper
2 Tbls. olive oil
fresh sage and pecans for garnish

Combine cider, 1/2 cup sage, and salt.  Stir until salt dissolves.  Place Pork in plastic zip seal bag add cider mixture.  Seal Bag and chill for 12 to 24 hours.

Remove Pork from brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle pork with pepper.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat; add pork. Cook 6 minutes or until browned on all sides, turning pork occasionally. Place pork on a rack in a lightly greased roasting pan. Sprinkle remaining 3 Tbsp. sage over pork.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of roast registers 150°. Remove from oven; cover and let rest 10 minutes or until thermometer reaches 160° before slicing. Garnish platter, if desired. Serve with Sage and Pecan Pesto.

Sage & Pecan Pesto
Do not over process this, it is best with some granules and texture.

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup firmly packed fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1        garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt 

Combine all ingredients in a food processor; process until ingredients are finely chopped.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Supporting Artists Guest blog post

I am so excited today is my first post as a guest blogger!

I have been asked to contribute a regular column on the Supporting Artist Blog.  This month I shared some great holiday recipes you can make with herbs for yourself or as gifts.

Hop on over to the Supporting Artist Blog and check out my post!
Here is the direct link to the blog post!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gifting or Tea let's make Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

I am all about cakes you can serve with tea and this one is a perfect companion.  So if you are thinking about having a tea party for your holiday or winter celebrations or if you like to give tea-related gifts then this recipe is for you!

Lemon isa flavor that works well with any black or herbal tea so I love to make Lemon Tea Breads.  In fact I make a Lemon Tea Bread Mix at the Backyard Patch that comes in a holiday festive bread pan, because I like them so much.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

1/2 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbls. poppy seeds
grated zest of 2 lemons (about 2 Tbls.)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
confectioner's sugar

Preheat the overn to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 9 by 4 inch loaf pan.

Place the butter in a bowl and using a mixer, beat the butter on medium speed utnil creaming.  About 2 to 3 minutes.  gransdually add the granulated sugar and continue to beat untilt he mixture is pale and has doubled in volume, maybe 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well inbetween additions.

Sift together the flour and salt in a bowl, the sift again into another bowl.  Add the poppy seeds.  granually add the sifted mixture tot eh butter mixture, beating until smooth.  Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla.  Spoon the batter into the perpared pan,.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  About 1 hour 15 minutes for one pan.  I like to divide this into two smaller loaves.  If you do that you need to bake them less time, check them at 45 minutes and continue accordingly.  remove fromt eh over and let cool for 10 minutes,  Then invert onto a wire rack, lift off the pan and allow to cool completely.  Sift confection'ers sugar on top or craft a lemon glaze with lemon juice and confectioner's sugar.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pear Salad - weekend recipe

Here is a quick and easy salad to give you a sweet treat after all that shopping.  It is best this time of year when Pears are in season.

Salad with Pears and Blue Cheese

5 oz. package of salad greens
1 red pear, thinly sliced
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
3 Tbls. raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing
2 Tbls. walnuts, finely chopped.

Combine the greens, pears and blue cheese in a large bowl, then add dressing and toss gently.  Spoon onto a plate and sprinkle with the walnuts.

It is also holiday festive when garnished with pomegranate seeds.

Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

1/2 c. raspberry vinegar
1/4 tsp. each salt & pepper
4 tsp. sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (2 tsp.)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. Dijon style mustard

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate in a container with a tight fitting lid. Will keep for months. Makes 1/2 cup
Raspberry Jam Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon raspberry jam
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Vigorously whisk together the raspberry jam, vinegar, and olive oil until thoroughly combined; season with salt and black pepper to serve.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent Calendar - enjoy the holiday with herbal ideas

My internet went a bit haywire just at Thanksgiving, so I apologize for posts that have not made it up and the fact that it is three days into Advent and this is the first post for the calendar .

This year we decided to place the Advent Calendar here on the blog so more people can enjoy it. It has it's own page so you can come back and see the posts all in one place.

Today we posted December 2,3 & 4 which has recipes and activities for Herbal Syrup, Honey Mustard Vinaigrette and a stress reducing herbal tea.  Tomorrow we will share a relaxing bath.  We are also giving you a special coupon code you can use in December for a discount in our Etsy store!

Click here to view the page Advent 2012

I hope you have as much fun with these recipes as I did bringing them together, and remember stop back everyday for a new posting between now and Christmas.

Happy Holidays,
Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
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