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Claires Herbs ~ Rose Geranium Punch

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“ I should have felt much too guilty at this exploitation to enjoy my bath, but I didn’t. I wallowed luxuriously, scrubbing the salt and grime from my skin with a loofah sponge and lathering my hair with a shampoo made from chamomile, geranium oil, fat-soap shavings, and the yolk of an egg, graciously supplied by Mrs. MacIver.
Smelling sweet, shiny-haired, and languid with warmth, I collapsed gratefully into the bed I was given. I had time only to think how delightful it was to stretch out at full length, before I fell asleep.
When I woke, the shadows of dusk were gathering on the veranda outside the open French doors of my bedroom, and Jamie lay naked beside me, hands folded on his belly, breathing deep and slow.
He felt me stir, and opened his eyes. He smiled sleepily and reaching up a hand, pulled me down to his mouth. He had had a bath, too; he smelled of soap and cedar needles. I kissed him at length, slowly and thoroughly, running my tongue across the wide curve of his lip, finding his tongue with mine in a soft, dark joust of greeting and invitation.”

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Voyager.”  

 

The lovely Rose Geranium  or Pelargonium Graveolens is just one of my favorite plants in the whole world. It's easy to grow, lovely to look at and smells absolutely wonderful. I've used rose geranium essential oil mixed with spearmint in my diffuser for years to calm my hot flashes and I love using it in my bath as it's a wonderful toning oil to use on the skin. Rose geranium oil mixed with an egg yolk beaten with a bit of olive oil and combed through warm, wet hair is a wonderful deep conditioning and follicle treatment. ( just make sure to rinse it off with shampoo and warm, not hot water so the eggs don't scramble!) It is said to have anti- inflammatory properties, so be sure to keep some around during the winter months when the cold begins to make your joints ache. 

1 teaspoonful almond oil and a vitamin E capsule with a few drops of Rose Geranium essential oil AND Rose absolute is one of the best massage oils that I know of. Emotionally, rose geranium essential oil is a wonderful oil for promoting balance, tranquility, conviviality and relaxation. This could be why the following punch recipe from The Western Reserve Herb Society cookbook  is just so very delightful!

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2 Cups Rose Geranium leaves, washed
4 Cups cold water
In a saucepan place leaves and water. Bring just to a boil, but do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain into a large glass jar/bowl. Discard leaves.


Add: 1 cup sugar
8 Cups cranapple juice
4 Cups orange juice
1 2-Liter bottle of any lemon-lime soda
Serve over/with ice.

 

If  I didn't have a rose geranium plant handy, I would use a few drops (start with 4 and add more to taste )  of Mandy Aftel's Geranium Chefs Essence  in  4 cups of cold water. Be careful and start with fewer drops than you think. It's very concentrated. 

 

The following picture is of the ice ring that I made to go into this punch . Instead of going through the normal process of freezing a little bit of water and adding a layer of fruit, and freezing some more and ading more fruit, I tried something new. I got pre-frozen fruit , a mixture of peaches, cherries , grapes and berries. I added many cups of these into the ring mold and poured cranapple juice over the top. The ice ring was frozen solid within 4 hours...almost unheard of! I unmolded it by putting the ring into hot water for a minute and then turned it upside down into the punch bowl.

All the fruit went to the top and the ring had a beautiful Della Robbia look that made it incredibly festive. The only thing that I'll do differently next time is to layer some pretty edible leaves in first! this is a wonderful mocktail to serve for anytime of the year but it's definitely very pretty to serve on a Yule or Solstice table accompanied by a sugar cookie or two!

Elegant Entertaining~ Rose Geranium Punch

 

 

 

All pictures are mine with the exception of the Rose Geranium which is from wikipedia!

 


31 Days of Halloween- Oatmeal and Homemade Apple Butter!

31 Days of Halloween- Oatmeal and Homemade Apple Butter!

31 Days of Halloween- Oatmeal and Homemade Apple Butter!

31 Days of Halloween- Oatmeal and Homemade Apple Butter!

WOW. It feels so good to be writing here from Windesphere again. I've been working on my book; Stirring the Senses and I'm happy to say that it's finished! Once that was done I decided to turn my time back to the enormous amount of canning that I had left to do. Here you see my latest attempt at apple butter, which I simmered in  the slow cooker for over 18 hours. Once it was done, I water processed it and this morning we enjoyed it on our oatmeal with brown sugar, walnuts, a bit of Irish butter and lots of cinnamon. Mine also was topped with goat cheese which trust me, is absolutely glorious on oatmeal. So is caramel but that's for another post!


Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Corn Pudding with Cheddar, Maple Syrup and Sage


I love corn pudding and this is my favorite recipe. It's much lighter than most, using corn as it's primary ingredient and not too much filler! It smells so good when it's cooking and tastes even better. Corn pudding is the perfect midwinter dish and can be served by itself with a salad or with a pork roast, ham or sausages. Hard cider or winter beer is the perfect accompaniment. If you can find the dehydrated corn use it..it's absolutely delicious, sweet as sugar and feels very rustic. I reconstitute it in buttermilk and it's almost better than fresh!

 You'll need:

Two bags of frozen sweet corn( I use one white and one yellow) or reconstituted dried corn (about 6 cups)

2 cups of diced onion

2 tablespoons of fresh minced garlic

3 tablespoons of maple syrup

1 cup of diced sweet peppers

1 tablespoon of dried sage

1 large wedge of hard cheddar  (shredded)

1 bunch of green onions  (Chopped)

2 cups of organic buttermilk

4 organic eggs 

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the eggs and buttermilk in a bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients  and fold together. Place the blended ingredients into a baking dish and bake at 350 until firm, approximately 45-50 minutes. My preference is that you use a cast iron skillet or baking dish because for some reason cast iron bakes the pudding very evenly.  Serve with  slices of country ham or sausage. 

 

Picture of corn from http://www.thespicehouse.com/


Bubbling in the Cauldron: Slainte' ~ It's a Scottish Witches Brew!

Turn It Up Loud!

        

Every year I try to come up with a different Witches Brew for the neighborhood Halloween Party that I throw. This year, I got a head start as we were invited to a Chagrin valley Trails and Riding Club clambake and of course wanted to bring a wonderful beverage for everyone to share.

I wasn't at all sure what to do so I went into to Pat O' briens Fine Wines in Pepper Pike to ask my good friend Bret Schwartzman if he had something new and fun for me to play with. With a huge grin and a gleam in his eyes that was definitely mischievous he plucked bottle of a wicked looking alcohol off of the shelf and said "How about some Junior Johnsons Apple Pie Moonshine?"

By the time I'd gotten home I still hadn't quite figured out what kind of drink that I wanted to make, so I took the lid off of the mason jar with the wicked looking brown liquid in it. Unbelieveable...it smelled and tasted just like a fresh cinnamon spiked apple pie. For some reason it also made me crave a mug of Atholl Brose, that wonderful Scottish drink of oatmeal brose, honey ,whisky and cream.  I grabbed my copper kettle and filled it with 3/4 of a gallon of apple cider, 3 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice and 1 stick of butter. I let that simmer for a bit, whisking frequently and next added about 1 1/2 cups of blackstrap molasses and a sachet of one cup of oatmeal tied in the foot of a brand new pair of stockings that I'd cut the foot off of. (I keep cheap pairs around for that purpose) After that simmered for about 45 minutes there was still plenty of liquid but it was syrupy and wonderful and the molasss and oatmeal gave it a very  earthy flavor.  Then I added one and a half jars of the moonshine, 1/1/2 cups of Buttershot schnapps, 1 cup of Drambuie, 3/4 of a cup of vanilla brandy and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. I brought it to temperature, filled a camping thermos with boiling water , dumped it out and then added the hot Witches Brew. I took it to the clambake and my friends really enjoyed it ~ I was thrilled! The next day  I took the remaining Witches Brew out to the barn where we enjoyed it with piping hot coffee and brown sugar whipped cream! 

Trust me, this is alot easier than it sounds and well worth the trouble. Just be careful though...this drink is very strong and it's so delicious that it's next to impossible to stop drinking! I served it in little plastic shot glasses and if I'd had the whipped cream that evening a little dollop would have been  just the right bewitching finish.

Have fun, be safe and Be~Witching! 

Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Witches Brew

Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Witches Brew

Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Witches Brew


31 Days of Halloween: Scenes from Castello di Amarosa Vineyards

 

 

Last weekend my husband and I spent a really memorable weekend in Napa Valley. One of the wonderful places that we discovered was a sensational vineyard in St. Helena  named Castello di Amarosa.It is an absolutely authentic and  sensational castle that sits atop of a magnificent hillside AND is a working vineyard. Because it is harvest season in Sonoma right now, the smell of crushed grapes was everywhere and the scent just added to the incredible ambiance of the setting. They have goats , sheep and chickens and truthfully if you didn't know that it was 2013 you would be instantly transported back to feudal Italy in the 13th century. The castle was superbly dressed for the harvest season  and the dungeon was filled with all sorts of Samhain finery. Every year they have a Medieval Faire and a Haunted Pagan Ball, which I intend to be at  in 2014! Feast your eyes and do click on the links...

31 Days of Halloween: Scenes from Castelo de Amarosa Vineyards

31 Days of Halloween: Scenes from Castelo de Amarosa Vineyards

31 Days of Halloween: Scenes from Castelo de Amarosa Vineyards

31 Days of Halloween: Scenes from Castelo de Amarosa Vineyards

31 Days of Halloween: Scenes from Castelo de Amarosa Vineyards


Food Alchemy~ Quinoa Dark Chocolate Cake

Food Alchemy~ Quinoa Dark Chocolate Cake

Food Alchemy~ Quinoa Dark Chocolate Cake

To me, Food Alchemy is what happens when you take an ingredient that's usually meant to be used one way and then turn it into something that is by turns utterly extraordinary and totally unexpected. Such was the case with this chocolate cake. The recipe above came from last months Organic Spa magazine and the lovely young woman in the picture above is my sons girlfriend Angie. About three nights ago she asked me if we could try this recipe and I was completely intrigued. Quinoa in a cake... How bad could it be? If it worked I thought, there's one more gluten free cake recipe to add to the arsenal and I'm happy to say that it was absolutely delicious. 

We had a wonderful time making it and really the hardest part was cooling the quinoa down fast enough to make the batter. If you make it beforehand and cool it you won't have that problem! Indulge yourself if you have a copper bowl and whip the cream with a handwhisk. I added some rose extract, a bit of vanilla extract and date sugar to the whipping cream. It turned into a luscious, dense custard, just lightly flavored and perfect with the chocolate!

We sat in front of the oven for the 50 minute baking time just laughing, watching and smelling the luxurious chocolate aromatherapy that was taking over the kitchen. When the baking time was over we dusted the cake with cinnamon and ate it warm with the whipped cream. It was amazingly rich, dense and chocolate~ty. It was surprisingly not chewy and when you look at the list of ingredients, actually quite healthy! Have fun with this one. I'm going to make it again for  my next Herb Society meeting, but I'm going to slice it in half, fill it with bittersweet ganache that I've flavored with raspberry jam and then I'm going to cover it with clouds of whipped cream pineapple basil, candied violets and fruit. Let me know what you invent and my thanks to you Angie for all of the fun and inspiration! I probably would never have tried it if not for you!


Bubbling in the Cauldron: Three Cheese and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese

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I found out today that Friday April 12th  is National Grilled Cheese Day. For someone like me, that's perfect. Cheese is actually my favorite food. I am told that it's an addiction, but I really don't care. Grilled cheese is one of my all time favorite comfort foods and there are so many different varieties. Generally I don't think that there's anything better than a plain old fashioned grilled cheese with   American cheese and tomato soup. I know, I know....

That being said  my favorite restaurant in NYC Artisanal is having a contest to come up with a fabulous new grilled cheese sandwich to put on their menu and I decided to try to come up with a submission in hopes of winning a fabulous dinner in their private cave.

I took my inspiration from my favorite appetizer in the world, the simple yet sublime Gougere. A Gougere is a simple puff pastry with with flavorings added and baked into warm little balls of cheesy deliciousness. They're cheese puffs, but  to call them that is actually an insult.A perfect Gougere is a sublime little puff of Pate a choux (think cream puffs!) filled with spices and cheese. I make mine with gruyere, jarlsburg and cumin and I love them.

 This grilled cheese began with me caramelizing the onions and ended with sandwiches of fresh pumpernickel bread and three different cheeses; Gruyere, Jarlsburg and to add the cumin flavor , a delicious Leyden which is a medium hard nutty cheese reminiscent of a Gouda  and is studded with cumin. I added apples and mustard seed to the onions because I wanted the touch of sweetness. I have to admit that it was very very good!

 

You will need for each sandwich:

 2 tablespoons of Caramelized onions.  I caramelized my onions with a few apples, a touch of honey, balsamic vinegar and mustard seed, but plain lightly salted caramelized onions would be just as delicious!

Two slices of a fresh Pumpernickel Boule about 1/2 an inch thick. (I got mine at Whole Foods)

2 or 3 hand sliced thin pieces EACH of Leyden, Jarlsburg and Gruyere.

1 or 2 slices of organic Black Forest ham  ( I didn't use it as we are not eating meat right now but I thought that it could be a great smoky addition)

1 tablespoon of Pasture raised organic butter 

 

The preparation is simple!

Lay the cheese in alternating layers on the pumpernickel bread and top with the onions. Close the sandwiches and  melt the butter in a  cast iron pan. Lay the sandwiches in the pan and begin to grill them. Take a manual panini press or if not a cast iron pan lid and press the sandwiches. They are done when the cheese is melted and the bread is delightfully buttery and crisp. 

Serve with a side of mushroom soup or an arugula and walnut salad! To drink I'd choose a delightfully refreshing hard apple cider or apple lambic!