Thursday, September 19, 2013

Temporary Hiatus

I'm taking an extended vacay from blogging - I do plan to return to it eventually. In the meantime, if you'd like to say hi, come see me on Facebook at .

Monday, February 11, 2013

Good heavens, y'all!

No blog posts since November?!?!

Why in the world did you let me get away with that? I'ma gonna have to post extra recipes, to make up for that one. ;)

Monday, November 26, 2012


"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember."

           ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Known for centuries as the “herb of remembrance”, rosemary has played its part in human life all the way from weddings (to encourage couples to remember their vows!) to funerals. 

As Christian legend has it, that the rosemary bush sheltered the Holy Family in their escape to Egypt. In gratitude, Mary laid her cloak on the shrub, turning its white flowers blue. 

Rosemary has been credited with enhancing love, warding off plague and typhoid, and growing only in the gardens of the righteous. Aromatherapists prize its essential oil for its strong, fresh, camphor aroma and its clarifying/invigorating benefits. It blends well with citrus, forest, and Oriental notes, and can be found in rinses for dark hair, room deodorants, household sprays, disinfectants, and soaps. 

Present-day research is looking into rosemary oil as beneficial in fighting Alzheimer’s Disease - “herb of remembrance”, indeed! 

In the kitchen, Rosemary lends a savory, pungent note to many dishes. It goes beautifully with pork, beef, and poultry - sparingly with fish - and pairs well with cheese and fruit, especially citrus. Here are just a few of my favorite rosemary recipes, for the holidays and beyond - enjoy!

Rosemary Roasted Cashews
From Ina Garten
1 1/4 pounds cashews (About 4 cups)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place cashews on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until they are warmed through. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Toss the warm nuts with the rosemary mixture until completely coated. Serve warm.

Rosemary Cheese Fingers
From The Complete Book of Herbs, Lesley Bremness  ISBN 0-14-023802-6
2 oz butter                                                     
2 cups rolled oats                                           
1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated        
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbl chopped rosemary (fresh or dried)
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Place remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix in the butter.  Press the mixture into a greased 8” square pan.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.  Cut into fingers.

Rosemary Squares
From The Pleasure of Herbs , Phyllis Shaudys ISBN 0-88266-423-9
1 cup flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. dried rosemary (or 1 tsp. fresh)
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1 cup candied fruit & raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8x8” square pan. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together; add rosemary and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the eggs vigorously, gradually adding brown sugar. Add vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix until moistened, the fold in pecans, candied fruit, and raisins. Pour into pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from pan while still warm; cool and cut into bars. Yield:  30 squares.

Slow-Cooker Rosemary Roast
From Jules

½ cup good steak sauce
1 (4-5 pound) chuck roast
2 Tbl dried minced onion
1 Tbl fresh or 2 tsp dried rosemary
Whole baby carrots
Red potatoes, peeled and cut up

Pour steak sauce into the slow cooker’s crock.  Place meat in the crock, turn to coat both sides with steak sauce, and remove to a plate.  Place vegetables in the bottom of the crock and sprinkle with half of the rosemary.  Next, sprinkle the dried onion and remaining rosemary on each side of the roast and place it on top of the vegetables.  Cover and cook on Low for 10 hours or High for 5 hours  (times may vary, depending on your slow cooker).  If desired, make gravy from the juices.

Variation: Instead of steak sauce and minced onion, use a can of condensed French onion soup. Pour half over the vegetables, season with rosemary, then use the remaining half on each side of the roast and season roast with rosemary as well. Makes a great beef/onion gravy.

Enjoy your Rosemary, and Happy December!   ~ J.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Craft show season!

 We interrupt these recipes for The Season...

Basic booth setup... all in place and ready to go!
The view from where I sit, before the show opens

Just a sample of needle-felted alpaca earrings. More to come!

Monday, October 8, 2012


Scented Pine Cone Mix (recipe follows)
In looking through my files of herbal classes I've taught over the years, I've just noticed a glaring omission - I have never written a handout on making potpourri! How can this be? Potpourri was one of the first things I ever made to sell at craft shows - I still make several types of it regularly. So, why have I never written down  any instructions for it?

Maybe because it's just that easy. With a few basic guidelines, some simple equipment, and your own nose, you can make a blend that looks pretty and smells wonderful.

First of all, a few "fun facts":  The term "Potpourri" refers to a blend of flower petals, bark, spices, and other botanical materials that are intended to gently scent the air. It gets its name from the French words for "rotten pot". This relates to the "wet" type of potpourri, where wilted-but-not-dry flower petals are layered with salt and allowed to ferment. The wet method of making potpourri could possibly date back to ancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures.

The "dry" method of potpourri-making involves using essential oils and dry plant materials. Its history is a bit shorter, since essential oils date back only to the invention of steam distillation (late Middle Ages). This is the method we'll be exploring in today's post, and in the radio show episode that goes along with it: .

(Hey, why have I never thought of posting the corresponding show link IN its blog post? Blonde moment!)

Commercial versions of potpourri tend to use unscented petals, wood shavings, and other materials with a heavy dose of synthetic fragrance oil. This type of potpourri is not usually allowed in my house, since the synthetic oils tend to give me a stuffy nose and a dull headache. We're taking the natural route, here, friends. The scent of natural essential oils may not last as long as the artificial stuff, but it's usually a lot less likely to aggravate the sinuses. To be sure you have the natural ones, look for oils that are labeled "Essential Oil" (rather than "Fragrance Oil"), and that have the words "pure and natural" on the label.

Before you start

This is a reasonably safe craft, but some of the materials should be handled with respect. Essential oils are pretty potent substances, so take care not to get them on your skin and do not take them internally. Keep essential oils out of the reach of children - some can be poisonous. Research and know what you're using. The same holds for dried materials. If you're drying your own flower petals or collecting materials from the outdoors, be sure you know what you're using.

When mixing potpourri, it's a good idea to wear a dust mask. Pollen, dust, powdered spices and fixatives... you may want to keep your lungs clear of all those, right?

And that brings us to Equipment. You will need non-reactive bowls/spoons/measuring cups that you can dedicate to craft and never use for food again. By "non-reactive", I mean stainless steel, glass, or ceramic. These substances will not react with or be changed by the essential oils. I've found some great, inexpensive stainless steel bowls at Big Lots and similar places. The Goodwill or other thrift shop is worth a try, too.

Suggested Equipment:
Dust mask
Large bowl
Mixing spoon
Eyedroppers or pipettes (available at health food stores, or the Atlantic Spice Company - see my links, to the right on this blog)
Smaller bowls in various sizes - not strictly necessary, but can be handy
Canning funnel for pouring potpourri into a jar or bags
Gallon-sized glass jars

Making Potpourri
Many of the basic parts of a Potpourri can be found at a good herb/health food store, or online:

Essential oil: The real scent of your mix. 
Fixative: Material that absorbs the essential oil and releases it. slowly. Fixatives act as a sort of preservative for the scent, and help it last longer. Some examples are orris root, calamus root, cinnamon sticks, oakmoss, frankincense tears, myrrh gum, benzoin gum, vanilla bean, rose hips, and cellulose fiber (ground corn cobs). Citrus peels, bay leaves, dried hibiscus flowers are a few milder fixatives. There are plenty more in each category - these are just some of the ones I've used most often.
Filler (both scented and unscented): The pretty and fluffy/bulky part of the mix. Fillers help create air pockets in the potpourri, and give it color and texture while holding the scent. Flower petals, leaves, spices, seed pods, small pine cones, wood shavings (especially cedar and sandalwood), dried berries, citrus peel, dried fruit slices - almost any botanical material can serve as a filler as long as you like the look. 

From left to right: Cinnamon sticks, dried hibiscus (top center), whole rose hips (in measuring cup), and a package of cinnamon-spice simmering potpourri
Basic instructions for dry potpourri:
Measure out fixative into a non-reactive bowl. With a pipette or eyedropper (or the dropper cap that comes on some essential oil bottles), measure out and gradually drip essential oils onto the fixative material(s). Place in a glass jar and shake well to blend the oil and the fixative.

Once the oil is absorbed, mix the scented fixative with the filler materials. Pour the mixed potpourri into a large glass jar (1 gallon or larger), shake well, and store in a cool dark place. Shake the mixture every day - you want every piece of your potpourri to meet up with a piece of the fixative. 

After several days, open the jar and sniff the mixture to see if you'd like to add more oil. If you do, try to drip it on the pieces of fixative and any darker-colored, woodier parts of the mix that the oil won't stain. Replace the jar lid, shake well, and store in a cool dark place for two to six weeks to cure and mellow. Be sure to shake the mixture every day or so. After the mix finishes aging, place in decorative containers with lids, or package up to give as gifts.

Adapted from Herbal Treasures by Phyllis Shaudys
Atlantic Spice/San Francisco Herb Co. sells a small, dark brown birch cone that is gorgeous in this mix!

Scented Pine-Cone mix in a candle vase
(vase purchased at a Yankee Candle store)
6 oz. assorted cones (red pine, spruce, hemlock, tamarack, or other medium- to small-sized cones)
2 oz. orange peel, dried (large-cut or cut in long strips)
1 ½ oz. orrisroot, in as large chunks as possible
1 oz. cinnamon pieces, 1- to 3-inch
1 oz. whole hibiscus flowers (for color, texture, and a weak fixative)
½ ounce bay leaves, torn up if very big (or lemon eucalyptus)
90 drops essential oil*

     Blend oils together and drip onto orrisroot. Mix with all the other ingredients and let set, covered, for 3 weeks. Shake often.
     A bag of scented cones, decorated with a Christmas-plaid ribbon, makes a thoughtful gift or an attractive bazaar or craft show item! 

* I like to use a mix of cinnamon and sweet orange oils, for a sweeter scent. If you like a less-sweet, more spicy scent, the original recipe calls for:
21 drops cinnamon oil
21 drops allspice oil
21 drops sweet orange or bergamot oil
15 drops clove oil
12 drops nutmeg oil

For a simmering potpourri, "pretty" isn't the main thing. The ingredients tend to work a little harder, with a little less "fluff" allowed! All the dry ingredients in this mix are scented, and the scent comes out beautifully in simmering water.
The essential oil isn't absolutely necessary in this mix, either, and can be omitted entirely. If you'd rather replace the allspice oil with cinnamon, orange, or lemon for a sweeter scent- have at it!

From The Pleasure of Herbs, also by Phyllis Shaudys, contributed by Dody Lyness
1 cup whole allspice
1 cup star anise
1 cup ginger root, c/s
* 1 cup sassafras bark c/s
2 cups orange peel
2 cups lemon verbena leaves
2 cups rosebuds & petals
30 drops allspice essential oil
3” cinnamon sticks

     Mix all dry ingredients (except cinnamon sticks) in a large stainless steel, glass, or ceramic bowl. Add 5 drops of allspice oil at a time, stirring well each time. Use cinnamon sticks as decoration when packaging.
     To simmer, use about 1/3 cup of mixture per cup of water. Do not leave unattended.
     * Sassafras bark can be extremely expensive, and may be omitted if desired. If harvesting your own, use the dried bark from the roots of young sassafras trees.

Pomanders are not exactly a potpourri, but have been used since medieval times. They are decorative and useful for covering up odors. The type shown here dates more from Colonial and Victorian days,  although the Colonials frequently used less-expensive apples as their base fruit. In our homes today, we can keep a closet or little-used room fragrant with the spices and citrus of a pomander.  Oranges are used most frequently, but you might also try apples, lemons, limes, crab apples or kumquats.  The smaller pomanders can be hung on the Christmas tree or tied onto packages

1 small Orange - thin-skinned variety. (doesn’t have to be pretty!)
¾ cup Cloves, whole (approx. 2.5 oz)           
½ cup Orris root powder (~ 2 oz.)                 
¼ cup ground Cinnamon (~ 1 oz.)                 
¼ cup ground Allspice (~ 1 oz.)                    
1/8 cup ground Nutmeg (~ .5 oz.)                 
Dust Mask (very important!)
Bamboo Skewer
Ribbon for hanging

The orange should be near room temperature, so it’s easier to handle.   
1.     Mix spices and orris root together. 
2.     Poke bamboo skewer through the fruit, from stem end to blossom end.  Snap it off about 1” from end of fruit, if you’d like. 
3.     Use an awl, crewel needle, or other sharp object to punch holes in the fruit, a small section at a time.  Insert stem ends of whole cloves into the holes. Cloves should be roughly ¼” apart.  The fruit skin will shrink as it dries, pulling the cloves more tightly together.    Traditional pomanders are simply covered with cloves, but you can create patterns if you’d like.
4.     Optional:  When orange is completely covered with cloves, you may brush it with an essential or fragrance oil (Orange, orange & clove, cinnamon, etc.).
5.     Roll the “cloven fruit” in the orris & spice mixture.   Place fruit and spices in a cardboard shoebox, if desired.
6.     Leave the fruit in the spices in a warm, dark place for 4-6 weeks, rolling the fruit in the spices every day that you think about it.  I put mine on top of the fridge.  The spices will help dry and preserve the fruit.
7.     When fruit is completely dry, remove the bamboo skewer and brush loose spices off the pomander.  Using a long needle, thread a ribbon through the hole.  Make a loop in the top for hanging, and tie the bottom in a bow.  (if necessary, you might first tie the bottom around a 1” piece of skewer to keep the ribbon from pulling back up through the fruit.)
If kept in a closed place, your pomander should last for years.  The spice mixture can be re-used for additional pomanders.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Resting on your (Bay) Laurels...

A couple of recipes for using bay leaves - Enjoy!

Traditional recipe, from
1 Tbl. salt
1 Tbl. ground bay leaf
2 Tbl. white pepper
2 Tbl. black pepper
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp.cinnamon
1 Tbl. allspice
1 Tbl. mace
1 tsp.celery seed
1 Tbl. cloves

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Place in an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place up to 4 months. Use to season poultry, fish, beef, vegetables, and sauces. Yield: about 1/2 cup

1 ½ cups sour cream
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
6 ounces chopped corned beef
2 Tbl. minced onion
2 Tbl. minced fresh parsley
2 tsp. dill seed
1 to 2 tsp. Beau Monde seasoning
1 small rye bread loaf, hollowed out
Party rye slices

Combine first seven ingredients in large bowl; mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Spoon dip into hollowed loaf and serve with party rye slices.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fall is in the air!

This morning, I woke to cloudy skies and a little chill in the air. And did I actually see a hint of orange on the topmost leaves of the maple tree, out back? Yahoo! The Autumnal Equinox comes this week, a cold front is on the way - time to get the hoodies out of storage and make way for Fall!

My own recipe - perfect for a Sunday afternoon open-house in the Fall, or post-sledding party in wintertime.

1 gallon brown apple cider - clear cider will do, in a pinch
3-4 cinnamon sticks (about 3” in length)
1 Tbl. whole allspice
2 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. star anise, optional
1 Tbl. dried orange peel ( ¼” cut)  OR
1 whole orange lightly studded with cloves*
½ cup brown, white, or Demerara sugar, to taste.
(Cider can vary in sweetness - test it out!)

Mix all ingredients in a large pot or crockery cooker. Heat almost to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 to 45 minutes.  Test-taste along the way, to make sure the spice proportions suit you. Strain and serve in mugs with a cinnamon stick.  Adding rum is very optional!
* If using a fresh orange, omit dried orange peel and 1 tsp of the cloves.  Float the orange in the cider while simmering, 
Also, if you will be holding the cider at a simmer for a long time - as in a crock pot, for a party - the spices will get stronger and stronger. Either strain them out after 45 minutes or be prepared to add a little hot, unspiced cider, periodically. 


This is an absolutely gorgeous cheese ball. The pomegranate seeds look like rubies against the green of the chopped cilantro, and the inside is a deep Fall gold. It's also delicious - a little bit sweet, a little dash of curry, a hint of heat. 

From The Herb Companion magazine, Oct./Nov. 1998 issue
16 oz. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 Tbl butter
4 Tbl chopped crystallized ginger
1 bunch (4 to 8) green onions with some green tops, chopped
1 Tbl hot curry powder
¼ tsp crushed red pepper (or more, to taste)
2 tsp paprika
3 Tbl medium-dry sherry or white wine vinegar
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped (substitute Italian parsley if you don't care for cilantro)
Seeds of 1 pomegranate (optional)

Process all ingredients except cilantro & pomegranate seeds in a food processor until blended.  Turn out onto plastic wrap, cover, and refrigerate overnight. (Can be formed into balls, wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for later, at this point.)
When firm, form into a ball and roll in the chopped cilantro.  Stud generously with pomegranate seeds if desired.  Serve immediately, or rewrap with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until about 20 minutes before serving.  Serves 12 as an appetizer.

Coming on next week's radio show... Herbal Comfort Food!

Enjoy, and stay Snug. ;)