Lemonade is such a simple thing. Lemons, water, sugar. That’s it. Yet, we complicate matters… packets, powder, stirring endlessly. This is all unnecessary. Come with me and let’s go back to a simpler time (and a simpler way). Let’s squeeze, juice and macerate. You won’t regret this.
Vanilla extract is one of those things that can be over looked in a recipe. It’s so casual to “add a 1/2 tsp vanilla” or “take off the heat and stir in vanilla.” But why must we take it off the heat? And why do we add vanilla extract in the first place? All the answers are here, my friend.
Every year I make a mess of my kitchen. I actually have to purchase brown sugar, and I start stockpiling butter in the freezer beginning in October (hey, butter is expensive! Buy it on sale and store in your freezer.) I make a serious Christmas Treat Box, my friend, and my family loves it. I absolutely love making them.
I love room sprays, but I don’t love it when they smell too perfume-like and fake. This room spray is fresh, clean, and centering.
Orange essential oil has antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and antiseptic properties (which is why I love this spray for the bathroom as well!) and cedar essential oil is also antiseptic. Both scents are calming and centering (See resources for more information on essential oils).*
For this blend, I also included sandalwood, because Joel and I both like it. Except I accidentally bought the sandalwood that is blended with a carrier oil already. Oh well, it’s nice for smearing on as a little hand or neck perfume. I added extra of it in this blend, so adjust that if you have full strength sandalwood essential oil.
This is a great blend that is not too floral and just earthy enough that it really works for the end of summer and fall time of year. If you want to make this even more fall-tastic, add 10 drops of cinnamon essential oil. I just ordered some.
Another recipe using essential oils, Rose Lip Balm.
And one more for a Sugar Lip Scrub.
The blue spray bottle is from Target, the Threshold brand. It should be in their garden area, or here online.
Here’s where I ordered my cinnamon oil from: https://www.pureformulas.com/
If you missed my post last week about the different flowers I have in my garden and some ideas of what to do with them, check it out! There is some amazing blooms out there and I really wanted to share them with you. But if you want a way to ease into the world of edible flowers, herbs and gardening, this is a great place to start!
Here, we have one of the classics. Chamomile. Chamomile is calming, peaceful and promotes contemplation and rest. Chamomile is super easy to grow (you can put it right in your garden bed, or in a container). I put it in the herb garden which is right outside the back door of our house. I love my little herb garden. I had no idea Chamomile grew tall and liked to flop over, so I added a tomato cage around it a few weeks after I planted it. I wish I had done this at the start, because trying to force unwieldily chamomile stems into a cage and breaking them, as well as bruising some flowers and leaves, isn’t exactly a graceful and um…”peaceful” task, but it was done and the plant seems to have bounced back just fine. In fact, just one plant gives me quite a bit of flowers, and I find myself drying a small batch about every week.
When they are all dry they should look something like this:
The center yellow part will still have some moisture, that’s okay. Store in a small jar, adding more dried chamomile as you make it.
To make a cup of tea, use 1 tablespoon of flowers per 8-10 oz cup. Boil some water, pour over the flowers and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain or remove the tea ball/sieve and then add honey or lemon as desired. I prefer it without any further adornment… it’s the best chamomile tea I’ve ever had and I don’t want to cover up the flavor.
There are lovely things being turned into bouquets these days. With really innovative and special floral designers such as Ponderosa and Thyme, Sammy’s Flowers, and more, all kinds of cool and unique blossoms are showing up in bouquets. More innovative and and mysterious then the typical roses and carnations, these arrangements have brought the more fringe flowers to the forefront.
But another group of flowers captures my attention, a group that often goes unseen and is unknown to many. The flowers of vegetables and fruits surprise, delight and intrigue me all through the growing season.
Many people don’t see this, or even realize it’s happening, but it’s a process that is there, working hard to grow more produce. Just like those commercially cut flowers, like roses for example, vegetable and fruit flowers grow from seed, are pollinated, reproduce, and then die.
The thing that is so intriguing about it, is that many of these flowers are really stunning, but they are practically never seen by most people. The best way to view them is to start a garden yourself and be surprised when your brussels sprout suddenly pops open a bright yellow flower, or your carrot creates large starbursts of green and white.
Watching some of our garden friends create flowers and then fruit or vegetables, also helps me to understand the ways they are different from each other.
Root vegetables make flowers, but the produce is growing underground, where as fruit trees, such as blueberries and cherries which are both in our yard, create their fruit where the flower once was, similar to peppers and tomatoes. Why? Does where the fruit is produced have to do with the type of vegetable growing? Is this why tomatoes are often called a fruit vs. a vegetable?
While this article explains some things about fruits and vegetables, I know I have a lot more to learn.
Back to the flowers. Some of my favorite flowers from fruits and vegetables so far are:
Artichoke (taken 2012, at our old apartment. We had three artichoke plants in the front yard)
Lettuce: Photo taken 2014, during our first garden season at our rental house in Keizer) These flowers are so delicate. I think they would be amazing as filler in bouquets or small, sweet arrangements. Can you imagine the gorgeous salad topper they would make?
Blueberry: First photo from WikiCommons (originally posted on Flickr by reviewer Kved, second photo of our plants after they were pollinated and began producing fruit). So most of us realize that fruit trees and bushes flower, but we don’t always get to see the particulars of the flower they make. We have blueberry and cherry in our yard, and blackberries lining our street, so the differences and nuances become really exciting to notice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen blueberry flowers end up in a wedding corsage either, though I think they would be quite sweet in one.
Onion: Walla walla sweet onions. Note how similar the chive and onion flowers look… this is true of a lot of alliums. Want to grow your own? Check out this article, the top 16 Alliums for your garden.
The onion flowers start with a small bulb and then the outer coating peels away gradually, to reveal a large puff ball of small white blossoms. They really are striking! I can imaging these in a tall, elegant arrangement.
Squash: Aww, my squash. These are pie pumpkins and acorn squash, but many squash flowers look similar. I have a love/hate relationship. I’m not growing squash this year because of the space they require and battling of a white powdery mildew. But I had some really great experiences with squash last year, and some philosophical moments (like most of my deep thinking garden thoughts, it involved bees).
Herbs: Herbs have flowers too! Below is our chamomile, which is commonly used for the flower, but other herbs, like rosemary, thyme, oregano, and chives, also below, have fabulous (and edible!) flowers. I am just waiting for the day when those talented florists can figure out how to incorporate rosemary flowers into their arrangements. Maybe you’ve seen that already? Let me know!
Borage is another one that is edible and I just started growing it (on purpose) this year. We had a borage plant at our old apartment, but it was there already and I had no idea what it was until a gardener friend told us. I used it to decorate cupcakes, which is perfectly lovely! But I’m experimenting with it in other uses; currently, borage vinegar for salads and marinades.
Here it is, just producing some buds:
Here are the borage flowers:
Makes for a lovely cupcake decoration (photos below by Alexandra Grace Photography):
Collard greens: This photo is from my instagram, where one of these little buds was hidden inside a collard green bundle. Such a nice surprise!
Tomatillo: An exotic looking surprise! This is our first year growing tomatillos and they are beautiful.
Carrot: I think this is the one that is the most astonishing to us! We left a couple of our carrots to over winter and they made flowers this spring. The carrots will not be good to eat anymore, as all the energy and sweetness is going to produce the flower and seeds right now, but the flowers are about 8 feet tall and huge! I could see a spectacular carrot cake being decorated with these, the smell is earthy and slightly sweet (much like that of a carrot, go figure!). These are edible too, but don’t go looking for them in the wild-apparently they are often confused with fatal Hemlock flowers.
I hope this has inspired you to plant a garden, or visit one and see what’s in bloom!
Some mornings I need a drink that is mellow, not coffee, but something to ease me into the morning. When I feel like this, I want this green tea. It’s cleansing in a way that you can’t see, but you feel instead. It has grains of roasted brown rice, and popped sorghum in it, making it slightly nutty and savory. I found this at our local Salem, OR Asian market, but you could also get it online here. There are a lot of varieties, just pick the one that looks the best to you. I this next time I’ll have to try this one.
Crackers are very important in my house. Crackers and cheese can be a meal, a snack, a late night writing/blogging source of fuel. I can not resist a good cracker! With a slice of cheese or a dip, I’m powerless.
DIY crackers could also be a fun project for kids; they can totally handle rolling them out using the pasta roller (it’s something they can crank and move! That’s like the requirement for all the fun kids toys, right!?)
These crackers are also something you can whip up when you don’t have much around except the basics! A little butter, a little milk, and you’re in business. I bet these would be good with flaked roasted garlic or onion too, and the seeds could be changed up to suit your mood or what you have on hand.
In the food processor (what would I do without this machine? It’s one of my most used kitchen appliances) put in some flour, a little salt, sugar, some poppy seeds and a little cubed butter.
Slowly add in milk until it’s a cohesive dough.
Form into a disk and put it in the fridge. I left mine in their overnight, but as long as you give it an hour it’s fine. Leaving it in their overnight was an experiment, and it worked! So if you want to make this dough a day (or probably even 2 days) ahead, go for it!
Also, this little guy is my favorite for measuring small amounts of liquid. I got it in the baking aisle at Winco, but here’s a similar one.
When you are ready to roll out and bake the crackers, preheat the oven and get out the pasta roller. You could also just use a rolling pin and a large area of counter/table and some flour on the counter and rolling pin to make sure it doesn’t stick.
Cut into 8 pieces…..
Shape into little discs…..
And here’s why this recipe is genius! I might just make all my crackers using the pasta maker from now on.
You start the dough disc going through the pasta machine at level 1 (or the widest setting) and then with each pass through of the dough, gradually set it smaller and smaller. I went from a level 1 down to a level 5. I was worried this dough would stick, rip, tear and otherwise be difficult… but it wasn’t! It worked like a dream and behaved very well as far as cracker doughs go.
And look how thin!
Put 3-4 long pieces of rolled out dough onto a large baking sheet. Spritz or brush lightly with water and sprinkle more poppy seeds and some kosher salt on top, lightly pressing them in with your fingers so the seeds and salt stick.
Bake 10-15 minutes. CRUNCH!
Pasta maker, Atlas, Amazon
Bowl, Martha Stewart Collection “Lorraine Stencil” Dinnerware Collection, Goodwill
Kosher Salt, Diamond Crystal, Amazon
Recipe, Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table: Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Southern Alaska, Amazon
Mini glass measuring cup, Amazon
Food Processor, Cuisinart, Amazon
It seems like all the nut milk recipes I’ve tried require an industrial sized blender. I’m in the kitchen, nut milk spilling out over the top of my blender, half of it still in the bowl, trying to add a little maple syrup to the batch and get the sweetness just right. I love, absolutely LOVE homemade almond milk (any nut milk, for that matter). The quality and flavor is far beyond what you can buy, and the homemade version has no carrageenan, which is a potential source of inflammation in the gut and could also cause breast cancer*.
But I just need this to be easier. Also, I’m the only one in my house of two people and three cats that drinks almond milk, so I’d rather not make a huge batch and risk it going bad.
Huckleberry Cookbook has my answer! A new almond milk recipe, with dates and a whole vanilla bean! Heaven. Nut milk heaven. Dates make things interesting… I’ve been loving dates lately! They are used in a lot of vegan and raw recipes, and I’m starting to understand why.
There are a couple things I love about this recipe over other nut milk recipes:
1. You soak the almonds in a small amount of water, so you don’t have a large bowl teetering (why does everything in my fridge always seem to be teetering?) all night, it’s just a small bowl that fits in right next to the kefir grains and the jar of freshly grated horseradish (okay I think I just answered my own question.)
2. Dates! I had a chance to use these large, plump and juicy medjool dates. Man, these things look luscious.
4. The quantity is perfect! One batch fits in the blender. One batch also fits in the nut milk bag (how many more times can I say that?), and one batch is perfect just for me. No more blending in shifts, no more adjusting sweetness over and over again, no more standing at the counter straining (because who needs that, really?) Invest in a nut milk bag. It’s way easier then fighting with cheesecloth, and you can reuse them for all kinds of kitchen projects (see Resources section, below the recipe.)
So here we are. A beautiful jar of almond milk that I actually enjoyed making!
It’s the perfect amount of sweetness, and the salt is something I never thought to add before. I think you could do it with or without. The vanilla is technically optional, but I think it adds a richness you just can’t get from a carton. Almond milk? Yes pleeeeease.
*Source: Dr. Andrew Weil, on The Splendid Table
Large Canning Jar, Weck, Cost Plus World Market
Nut milk bag, Harold Import Co., Amazon (this bag is polyester, 11″x 9″ and is machine washable. There are tons of nut milk bags, some made with natural fibers which are quite nice. You can also use nut milk bags for making jellies, cheese and preserves.)
For another recipe from Huckleberry, check out these Strawberry Galettes.