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Perfume Illuminated: Jasmine

 

 Flavor: Jasmine

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Photograph courtesy of https://www.miniperfumebottle.com/

My goodness what a week it’s been! Tuesday’s transit of Venus makes this a period of time in which to celebrate the feminine in all of her aspects. Indeed around here we’re all feeling just a touch more romantic than usual, possibly because on Tuesday the 12th my darling husband and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary.  Today is also an lovely day for me because after a bit of a hiatus Perfume Illuminated has returned! Roxana Villa and I are delighted to be back and todays subject is one that delights us both!  

 Whatever the reason today is for all of the extra love in the air,  it' also Friday, also known in these parts as Venus Day!  Today is a perfect day for a delightful love spell or to manifest abundance in all aspects of your life. Flowing, silky fabrics in bright hues of ruby , pink and gold feel like just the right thing to wear on a day devoted to love and what prettier posy could we play with today  than the ethereally beautiful Jasmine flower?  

 When I first began my journey into the world of aromatherapy, I became obsessed with finding a bit of true Jasmine absolute. I was convinced that it possessed some sort of alchemy, something that would make me a bit more beautiful, just a touch more magical.  I was never able to find it, the early 80’s still being awash in synthetic perfumes masquerading as the real thing, but thankfully because of Scott Cunninghams  “Magical Herbalism” I was convinced to take a stab at growing a beautiful jasmine plant in a lovely pot on my patio.

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 I remember walking outside when it was awash in bloom to bury my nose in it, thinking to myself that I’d never smelled anything quite so luscious. It had a totally narcotic effect on me, which I quickly learned was part of her charm and I experimented with the lovely blossoms that I harvested from it, making simple tisanes and syrups while strewing them along with fresh rose petals throughout my bedclothes in an attempt to recreate the effect of Medieval flowery bower. The lovely jasmine is a superb hormone balancer and I love to steep the beautiful flowers in some almond oil to use for wonderful massage  .  After a warm bath, you’ll   sink peacefully into your bed knowing that the sweetest of dreams are on their way and if you’re menopausal like I am you’ll find that a bit if this wonderful oil helps to banish the insomnia that  occurs so frequently during the night!

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Photograph courtesy of https://www.oceanthoughtsyoga.com/

 

One of my earliest memories of my mother was of the Jasmine tea that she would always order whenever we’d find ourselves in a tearoom together, a ritual she loved that connected to her mother and grandmother before her. I love it too, but I find that most Jasmine teas leave a longing in me for something fresher, a bit more fragrant. A couple of handfuls steeped in a pot of tea temperature water and then sweetened with a touch of honey does the trick for me as does a bit of Jasmine hydrosol just lightly spritzed into a glass of branch water.  Indeed when I first met Roxana Villa, she offered Jim and me each a glass of spring water that had been perfumed with a lovely Jasmine Hydrosol. I’ll never forget it….I couldn’t believe what I was tasting. It was the purest essence of Jasmine and it was the most delightful thing that I’d ever tasted in a glass of water.  It didn’t need anything else, but this is a drink that goes beautifully with Moroccan or Persian food. It’s utterly refreshing and completely compliments the exotic flavors of a flaky Chicken Bastilla  (Morrocan chicken pie) that’s been dusted with fresh cinnamon and confectioners sugar. 

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Bastilla Photograph courtesy of https://moroccanfood.about.com/

One of my favorite things to do with fresh  jasmine blossoms is also the easiest and that is to create a beautiful syrup to use in many different recipes. Homemade Jasmine syrup  drizzled over perfectly ripened melon, pineapple mint and creamy oozing burrata cheese  is as decadent a dessert as it gets or I love to make a simple rice pudding by cooking Arborio rice risotto style with coconut or almond milk, pieces of pistachio nougat, chopped almonds,  dried cherries, a touch of cinnamon and some raw honey. When the rice is thickened perfectly, I add a touch of ghee to taste, scoop some into a pretty bowl and drizzle it with this same syrup. To call this comfort food is an understatement. Take the same pudding, thin it out with a bit more almond milk and throw it into an ice cream maker to create a wonderful frozen dessert that you can serve with the jasmine syrup and sliced white Queen Anne cherries! Ummmm…. 

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Nougat photo courtesy of https://annmariekostyk.com/

 

You can also make an incredible martini with this syrup by shaking together an ounce or two  of ginger flavored vodka (Skyy makes an exceptional one!) , a teaspoon of lemon juice, a dash or two of white peach bitters,  a tablespoon of agave nectar, cracked ice and at least a tablespoon of this luscious syrup. If you want to, for fun you can omit the lemon juice and instead of agave add a bit of amaretto and a raw egg white (organic please!). Shake hard, strain into a martini glass and you’ll have a delicious “Fizz”.

 

Garnish either of these delightful cocktails with several of the fresh blossoms for a beautiful, summery cocktail!

 

To make approximately 1 cup of Jasmine syrup you will need to bring 1 cup of water , 1 cup of sugar and a couple of strips of lemon peel to a gentle simmer.  Let the sugar dissolve, stir it for a couple of minutes, no more because you don’t want it to boil or begin to caramelize. Then put a couple of handfuls of just picked ,pesticide free, non – washed organic Jasmine blossoms into a mason jar and pour the syrup over them and let the whole thing steep for a couple of hours after which it will be completely ready to use!

In a pinch you can use the Monin Jasmine syrup...not nearly as good nor as magical but a suitable substitute:)

Now while the syrup is steeping, why don't you float over to Roxana Villas Illuminated Perfume to bury your nose in her blooming Jasmine musings! have a wonderful weekend, filled with love, abundance and beautifully fragrant thoughts....

 


Where the Shore meets the Sea : Roxana Villas Greenwitch Solid Perfume (and a fabulous prize draw!)

 

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“To sail on a dream on a crystal clear ocean,

to ride on the crest of a wild raging storm

To work in the service of life and living,

in search of the answers of questions unknown

To be part of the movement and part of the growing,

part of beginning to understand,

 

Aye Calypso the places you've been to,

the things that you've shown us,

the stories you tell

Aye Calypso, I sing to your spirit,

the men who have served you so long and so well

 

Like the dolphin who guides you, you bring us beside you

To light up the darkness and show us the way

For though we are strangers in your silent world

To live on the land we must learn from the sea

To be true as the tide and free as a wind swell

Joyful and loving in letting it be

 

Aye Calypso the places you've been to,

the things that you've shown us,

the stories you tell

Aye Calypso, I sing to your spirit,

the men who have served you so long and so well”

Calypso by John Denver

 

 

 

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Lucky me, for I have become enchanted by the Greenwitch.  I’m not resisting her magic….. her sirens song brings back luscious memories and blinds me to my own primal fear. She carries within her soul the most precious knowledge  of the sea…. That it is our first home and no matter what, no matter where we spend our final resting day that it is to the sea that we always will somehow , some little piece of what’s left of us return. Our tears are made of the same blood as hers. 

When I opened the beautifully wrapped parcel that I received from Roxana Villa of her Greenwitch solid perfume  and smoothed some of the buttery unguent  into the hollow of my throat I was instantly mesmerized. I became acquainted with the Greenwitch last year  in it’s ethereal liquid formulation and the solid perfume  is equally as enchanting! Roxana’s Greenwitch is a groundbreaking Sea Chypre and it IS for me the long walks on the beach that I crave, that beacon that shines from the lighthouse straight into my soul. It smells at once of the deepest part of the sea AND the sea-spray, of male passion and amber.  It is the scent of musky womb water and deep forest flowers. This witch is all of those things and even more that I have not yet begun to fathom. Her song is the song of the whales AND the eagles.  She is at once whole and disarming all at the very same time …she is the very truest essence of Gaia distilled into a magically fragrant form.

Greenwitch  is  a completely  natural fragrance with many different notes including hand blended accords of green floral essences,  oakmoss , vetiver , patchouli and seaweed.  The only exception to the all botanical  formulation is a little bit of musky Africa stone which is the fossilized excretion of the Cape Hyrax and thousands of years old that creates an alchemy with the other sweet essences to cause a silky fusion of savory, salty and sweet.  As the heat of my skin melted the jojoba and the soft creamy beeswax from Roxana’s own hives  the fragrance was unleashed and I was flooded by a million memories of the sea ,  of surfing the big waves of off the black sandy beaches of Hawaii  and playing with the rays, of kayaking in La Jolla and having sharks swim underneath and dolphins playing alongside me in the waves. I’m reminded of the sweetest times spent with my son and nephew when they were very young, building forts of drift wood , splashing at the waters edge and feeding white bread to the greedy gulls. 

When Alex was a young boy we’d take the whale watching boats that sail off the San Diego coast into the deeper waters to watch for the gray whales that migrate from Mexico all of the way back to their summer feeding ground in the deep waters of the Bering Sea.   I will never forget those moments.  The extraordinary power, majesty and beauty of those magnificent creatures can’t be truly known until you’re in the water with them watching them swim, breach and dive. The sight of the flukes of a gray whale who has just begun a deep dive is breathtaking and a reminder of who we really are.….My son who has since become a diver tells me of interactions with creatures once unfathomable to him, diving with sharks and barracudas in their mysterious realms and facing the fear that distracts us everyday from really living. Surfing in the waters off of  San Diego he became intimately acquainted with communities of harbor seals and  dolphins who frequently came close to him when he was paddling out to the big waves.  

 Alex


One day when we flew out to visit him in San Diego, I looked in the back of his truck and saw a trident shaped fishing spear alongside his surf board and wetsuit.  When I asked him if he was fishing he told that he was indeed, but for garbage not fish. Everyday he and many of the other surfers would go out and clean the kelp beds of as much paper and plastic as they could find, put it in their trucks and take it to the trash bins. Way too much debris from our lives here on earth is ending up in the vast beautiful ocean spaces. It is as if because we cannot really see what is living within it’s depths that we are ignorant of the devastation we are causing and as we destroy our oceans, we slowly destroy ourselves. Spend one afternoon paddling the seas in an insignificant  plastic kayak and have a pod of dolphins surf the waves with you and your life will change forever. Trust me...the desire to protect and nurture that which you previously hadn’t been able to see will instantly overwhelm you.


 Our beautiful planet is mostly covered by these ancient swirling , living seas and we will never be able to live within them as the sea creatures can although we are constantly trying , incessantly searching . It is hard work to look beneath the surface of anything, whether it be of the sea or your soul.   Beckoning and frightening us at the same time , we ignore the sirens song at our peril sometimes until it’s almost too late. The beautiful scent of Roxana’s Greenwitch solid perfume is a magical spell of hope and rebirth …a reminder to look within, to find the joyful wildness that lurks inside our hearts …to become undomesticated at last. In doing so perhaps we will finally discover that we are the only ones who can save ourselves before it's too late. 


Roxana has generously given a sample of her new Greenwitch Solid perfume for me to give to one of you lucky readers! It is beautiful! If you'd like to be entered please leave me a comment and some of your thoughts or tips about preserving our beautiful environment and I'll put your name in my cauldron for the prize draw!

                    I am honored to be reviewing the new Greenwitch Solid Perfume today with several other very talented bloggers! Please go to their sites, read their musings and show them some love!

Roxana Villas Illuminated Perfume

Perfume Smellin Things

Scent Hive

 

                         

 

 

 

                          

 

                        

 

 

Photograph of whale Flukes courtesy of https://www.whoi.edu Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

 


Perfume Illuminated: Green

  Spring

Happily here in Northeast Ohio the world is turning just a little bit greener everyday.  It was the longest winter that I can remember in many years, with fabulous storms and blustery days but I'm ready to come out of my  cave! My horses are beginning to shed their coats and everywhere I look I see stray wisps of hay and grass being carried away by the birds who are busily building their nests. The beautifully established patch of Lily of the Valley that are quietly tucked away in the side yard  have begun to poke through the falling leaves. I can't wait to pick bouquets of them to place in the little crystal vase of my mothers that sits on my desk!

With the first rays of springtime warmth come loads of garden catalogs and plenty of inspiration to get out into the yard to begin to plant. I'm so excited because this is the first year that I'll be in my new home for an entire season of planting. My raspberries are beginning to bud and so are my roses. Everyday gives me a thrilling new glimpse of something green that wintered over in my herb boxes. And true to form I've gained about 8 extra winter pounds that need to disappear! 

It seems that I fight this same eight pounds every year and this winter was no different. Here in Ohio the winters are cold and there's not much to do but eat and sleep! But springtime is the best time of year for a cleanse, because all of the best things for you to eat to wake up a body that's carrying just a little extra winter padding are available in our gardens starting right about now! Springtime tonics are among the easiest and most effective of cleanses and I'm pretty sure that mother nature makes them that way on purpose because winter foods although delicious and very sustaining can pack on the pounds. So springtime with it's sumptuous feast of dandelions,asparagus, wild ramps, violet leaves ,fiddle head ferns and chickweed can be just what this witch orders to cleanse her blood and create an abundance of energy. Each of these wild foods have a very distinct medicinal use and combined to make delicious juices and salads will restore anyBODY that's suffered bit too much with the winter blues! 

Wild food is all around you, you just have to look for it. When I still lived on our farm, we had a beautiful artesian spring that must have been the original water source for our century home. I loved it because it was beautiful and magical place, nestled deep in the woods by the barn and down a wee hill and every spring the first thing that would begin to grow would be the wonderful patch of peppery watercress that loved the fresh clean running water. I loved it down by that little spring. I "planted" big clusters of crystals of all sorts among the trees down there and one day took Alex and all of the neighbor kids down to the spring to show them what I'd found. They were teenagers before they actually figured it out but they still talk about the "crystal forest" with the same twinkling smiles and peals of laughter that they had when they were very young. 

Watercress is a perfect spring tonic because it stimulates your digestion and really gives a boost to your tired blood. My mother always made little tea sandwiches with watercress, thinly sliced breast of chicken and a little mayo and they were absolutely delicious and perfect for tea. I love to make watercress soup and the easiest way to do it is to bring about 4 cups of very good chicken broth to a simmer and add a can of coconut milk. You could also do this with heavy cream or half and half, but because I use this as a tonic soup I'll go without the dairy with the exception of about 1 teaspoon of salted butter that I'll stir in near the end. Bring it all to a simmer, salt and pepper it and add a a couple of tablespoons of minced shallot. Let it all simmer for about 5 minutes, whisking continuously and then add about 3 cups of watercress leaves. Whisk them in and reduce the heat, letting them wilt and infuse the soup with their rich wild flavor. Take the whole thing off the stove and put it into the pitcher of a blender or a vitamix, give it a couple of turns and serve. Garnish it with a few toasted almonds and serve. It will be very green, it will be good and you will begin to feel your blood become enlivened after the first few spoonfuls! You can use the same base for a soup of fresh asparagus, but be careful of eating too much asparagus if you have issues with your kidneys or suffer with gout. As absolutely delicious as it is fresh asparagus is very high in purines and can contribute to a rise of uric acid levels in the blood, one of the primary causes of gout. 

A salad of dandelion leaves is deliciously bitter and has a wonderful diuretic quality that can be used if you want to cleanse your kidneys. Fresh young sweet violet leaves are a wonderful addition for any woman who suffers from fibroids either in the uterus or the breasts and the tiny leaves of the friendly little chickweed plant are wonderful to eat and will help keep all of your most intimate parts slippery, moist and cool! 

Wild Ramps

And then there are the ramps or the wild leeks as they're known in certain parts of the Appalachians. There are acres of ramps in the woods that I ride in and every spring I saddle up and ride out to collect some. There is no more exquisite smell in the woods at this time of year than the perfume of the moist soil and the wild scent of the onions. They can be eaten raw if you dare with fresh butter and salt or minced and mixed with butter and chevre and then slathered under the skin of a young chicken and put in the oven to roast. Ramps are very stimulating and eaten to promote energy and passion. Enjoy one raw and you'll know what I mean because they definitely stoke the fires inside, but make sure that you're enjoying them with someone that you love for they are very pungent!  One of my favorite things to do with them is to make a wonderful bloody mary for a Sunday brunch. Just take some organic tomato or V8 type juice, add some sriracha hot sauce to taste, a teaspoon of good horseradish,a tablespoon of minced wild ramp,  salt and pepper and for fun some bacon flavored vodka! Stir, pour over ice and add one wild ramp for a gorgeous spring garnish! Yummmmmmm!

                           

 Now that you've enjoyed yourself here at the farm , why don't you  follow the trail through my woods, pick some ramps of your own and go visit my darling friend Roxana, Mistress of the divine Illuminated Journal. I'm pretty sure that she's blended up some fragrant treats for you to enjoy on this fine first spring day!

 

All pictures and writing by Beth Schreibman Gehring

All rights reserved


Perfume Illuminated: Elderberry

"I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries." ----- Monthy Python and the Holy Grail

Elderberries-reduced 

When I was a little girl my mother made me become a Brownie in the hopes that I would follow in my sisters footsteps and become a Girl Scout.  My mother had been a troop leader par excellence and was just thrilled that she had one more chance to do it again! She spent my Brownie year choosing amazing things for us to do and wonderful places to go.  I don’t remember most of it because it was all overshadowed by the one place she chose that was perfect.

One of her best friends when she moved into the Orange School District was a woman named Dolly Temple.  My mom was the youngest PTA  member and Dolly was the oldest, but the two looked at each other and became instant friends. It was because of the huge  Navajo Squash Blossom necklaces that each was wearing around their necks in a community that was a hotbed of diamonds and Mikkimoto pearls.  As my mother told it, she walked into this thoroughly stuffy group of very fine 50’s housewives and then there was Dolly.  She and mom gravitated to each other immediately because of the boldness of those necklaces  which at that time absolutely no one understood or valued.  My mother looked amazing when she wore her Indian Jewelry and so did Dolly. Both were incredibly strong, with  striking features and even stronger personalities. The Indian jewelry that neither of then were ever without simply mirrored the strident boldness that each of them carried within.  Both wore black during the day way before it was acceptable to do so!

They were just fabulous , the last of a generation of  the “they just don’t make broads like that any more”.

Dolly was a transplanted southern girl who owned 36 of the most incredibly beautiful  acres in Moreland Hills, complete with a gorgeous Georgian mansion,  horse barns, orchards and pastures. She raised the most beautiful Arabian horses and had several lovely little Welsh ponies.  

Dolly Temple was my first mentor, the very first women who ever put me on a horse.  My mother in an attempt to keep her youngest daughter interested in the “Silly Brownie Stuff” as I called it took us out to Dolly’s farm.  She should have known that it would be all over then . I took one look and was smitten.  The day came to cross the Brownie Bridge and approximately 5 minutes before it was to be my turn I looked at my mom and said, “I don’t want to be a Girl Scout…I want to go back to that place with the horses and learn to ride. “ My mother  simply smiled and called Dolly.  If she was disappointed she never let it show. Her generosity that day completely changed my life.

From that day on I practically lived at the Temples and at least 4 times I week I would go there after school, catch and brush the horses, saddle up the ponies, have my lesson and then go riding around her woods. I’d come into her house afterwards for homemade hot chocolate and huge slabs of crusty warm homemade bread with home churned butter.  Sometimes I’d walk in and she’d be plucking a duck or a chicken that she’d just killed herself and the end result that day would be the most incredible homemade chicken and dumplings which she served on lavish Royal Worcester plates with her mothers gorgeous sterling.

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Once or twice I accidentally walked in on her in the middle of the butchering process, but I actually didn’t mind because she walked her talk. Nothing was wasted.  Dolly was very wealthy, but she did everything herself. She used everything that she raised from fruits and vegetables to the animals that she kept.  She taught me to forage on her property for food and was the first woman to teach me about the value of eating wild plants.  I adored her.  She had blueberries everywhere and raspberries and plum tree surrounding the riding ring. There were French chestnuts that lined one of the lanes and the pastures were filled with apples tree. Everything had a purpose and was in just the right place and she let me explore all of it as if I were here own child.

One day in the spring when I was riding   I noticed one of the most beautiful bushes that I’d ever seen. It was growing down along   the driveway and it was the filled with the heaviest clusters of creamy flowers that I’d ever seen ,  draping on beautiful purple stems with thick green leaves. It was also emitting a very strange musky sweet aroma that reminded me a bit of my grandmother not in a bad way, but more like a bottle of vintage violet perfume that’s turned a little bit dark and dirty. I later learned that the beautiful blossoms were Elderberry flowers and that the plant although most parts are filled with more than a little bit of cyanide was one of the most beneficial of the wild tonics.  Dolly made wines , cordials and syrups out her Elderberries and she also took some of those flowers and made wonderful  fritters, covered in a very light batter and dusted with a bit of confectioners sugar. They were amazing, the heavy flowers were delicious prepared that way although definitely not for anyone who suffers from a battle with seasonal allergies!

If you’ve access to some elderberries of your own you should try to make the fritters and at the very least the syrup! You can buy elderberry syrup in any Whole Foods and it’s indispensible during cold season for helping to beef up your immunity. One of the best tonics that I know of is a simple tea made from the syrup and a bit of chopped up crystallized ginger. I use this when anyone in my house is recovering from a nasty upper respiratory infection and it was my staple drink when I was down with a bout of pneumonia 15 years ago.  Something about the elderflower can inhibit a virus and truly shorten the duration of a very nasty flu by several days and I always keep some form of it in my  home apothecary.

St Germain

The very same syrup makes a wonderful iced tea in the summer laced with cinnamon and a bit of fresh mint. You can also use it to make a marvelous martini and a bit of elderberry syrup drizzled over berries and homemade vanilla bean ice cream is a wonderful treat. One of my favorite finds of the last several years is a golden liqueur from France made of Elderflowers named St. Germain. Although not nearly as heady and wild tasting as the homemade syrup it’s a delightfully fragrant addition to a glass of champagne.

If you’d like to try to make your own syrup you should definitely do so but remember that all parts except for the flowers and berries (including the seeds) are potentially toxic.  Start with a lot of the ripe berries (about 2 lbs of them) and cook them gently in about 4 cups of water until they are soft.  Some people put them through a food mill but I prefer to  GENTLY mash the berries and let the weight of them strain the juice through a chinoise or a fine mesh strainer. Put the juice back into a saucepan , add a cinnamon stick, some crystallized ginger and a cup or two of maple syrup. You can also use honey if you’d like or plain old sugar.  Gently reduce the syrup until it’s as thin or thick as you like, taste and bottle. That’s it. Make this once and you’ll never reach for another bottle of Robitussin again!

Now enjoy a bit of frolicsome fun with one of my favorite silly Brits, The London Forager as he makes some delicious elderflower champagne!

 

   

See that fabulous little Elderflower fairy over there flitting happily among the blossoms? She's come to lead you through the meadows to Roxana Villa's lovely gardens where I  do believe that she's prepared a wonderful fragrant adventure amongst the elderberry flowers especially for you! 

 

 

 

Elderberry Photograph courtesy of ThriftyLiving.net 

St. Germain Poster courtesy of St. Germain

 Lavinia Platter Courtesy of Replacements


Perfume Illuminated: Coffee

 


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I have a confession! Yes ,  it’s true….If there were a 12 step program for coffee junkies I would probably be way overqualified. I have loved the taste and aroma of a wonderful cup of coffee for as long as I can remember.   Through impatience I have broken several French Presses, (my favorite way to brew a pot) and I have lived through the search for the perfect bit of Latte’ art which I find to be a fabulously fun affectation.  I have been known to drive miles out of my way to avoid a Starbucks.  I can’t help it, to me there’s just nothing more satisfying than a wonderful cup of perfectly brewed (not burnt) coffee, with just the right amount of milk and sugar and a touch of cinnamon. I’m pretty well a purist, no fancy syrup laden latte’s for me. My husband adores them, vanilla, pumpkin, caramel, you name it. He’s a coffee as dessert kind of guy and he’s definitely as sweet as all that.  I’m the kind of girl who when wandering about in Paris would still want a Gitanes with my espresso ,  a chocolate macaron and a little bit of Voltaire.  About as sweet as I get with a cup of coffee is the Mexican version that is served at my local cantina….a perfect blend of caramelized brown sugar, a bit of chocolate, a lot of fresh cinnamon and a  simple mocha java.

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 Somewhere in the last 20 years though,  at least in America coffee has became more of a necessity than a pleasure .  Gone are the days when you had to make it yourself to have a wonderful pot of it, like my mother in law used to with her trusty percolator which made incredible coffee, now instead relaxing with a great cup of it, we can find it in every store and on every corner.  Coffee has ceased to be a creative and relaxing part of the day or a luxurious part of the morning,   a fact  which I find to be very sad.  I can remember when I was first dating my husband and he was living with his mom in Cincinnati  . Sunday mornings were relaxing and wonderful, as you’d wake up to a wonderful breakfast cooking, the newspaper spread out all over the table, Stevie Wonder blasting through the stereo and a freshly brewed fabulously aromatic pot of   Vietnamese with cinnamon coffee. 

Another one of my favorite places to eat breakfast and drink coffee is in New York City in the dining room of the Park Lane Hotel.  Here you can sit with a Sunday New York Times, look out the window onto Central Park and eat a wonderful breakfast. The coffee is superb, perfectly brewed and just the right temperature, served in a proper coffee cup and poured from a proper silver pot. Whenever I’m in New York this is how I start my day because relaxing in that gorgeous dining room readies me for a long day in the city.  On the other coast every morning my sister starts her day at the local indie coffee shop, with a delicious cappuccino and her LA Times before she goes down to her studio to paint.  This sort of treatment elevates a good cup of coffee to the level of soul experience, not simply a way to get though the day or a jumpstart to an overly fatigued body and mind. Sadly this is what we do with coffee these days and too much of it can burn out the adrenals and perpetuate the very exhaustion that we are trying to avoid.  I’d like to propose a return to the concept of coffee as a leisurely pastime that is restorative, one where we brew a pot of it, share it with a good friend and just take some time for ourselves almost in the same way that we do with a lovely cup of tea! We’d drink a lot less of it and the  moments  we spend in its company would go further to relax us body and soul. 

Coffee as a flavoring is superb! Most bakers know that the addition of a bit of brewed coffee to chocolate will enhance the flavor of the chocolate without masking it.  My mother used to make the most amazing chocolate mousse layered in a crystal trifle bowl with sherry soaked lady fingers , whipped cream and caramelized almonds. I once asked her for a taste of it before she added the coffee. She smiled , indulged me and it was then that I discovered the particularly delicious chemistry that these two ingredients share. The combination is a legendary one, think of Jamocha Almond Fudge Ice cream or tiramisu!  Mocha buttercream frosting ? Imagine the most devilish of possibilities but let’s just say that it’s not JUST for cake anymore!  On the savory side powdered coffee grounds make a fabulous dry rub for barbecued  beef , chicken or pork when mixed with salt and other spices like cinnamon, cumin  and  dried ancho chile and a little bit of espresso whisked into a barbecue sauce will help to give it a rich full bodied flavor !  A classic mole sauce can be jazzed up just a bit with the addition of a couple of tablespoons of strong , brewed coffee.

Tiramisu


For a simple yet  amazing coffee syrup,  just take several cups of freshly brewed coffee and slowly reduce them with a cup or two of brown sugar and lots of cinnamon.  Don’t let it burn and what you’ll be left with is a wonderful  syrup that you can use in  coffee or chocolate martinis or even a deliciously old fashioned ice cream parfait!

An added benefit is that used coffee grounds are a fabulous fertilizer for all of your houseplants  and an excellent thing to add to your compost pile as they’re heavy in nitrogen and good for all  acid loving plants especially your tomatoes!

So grab your seed catalogs,  pour yourself a delicious cup of coffee, lace it with a bit of honey, cream and cardamom and float over to Roxana Villa’s deliciously Illuminated Journal to see what  she’s dreamt up for you. I hear murmurings of a Mocha perfume and I am beside myself with  passionate longing!

 

 

Coffee Photo by Beth Schreibman Gehring, Park Lane Dining Room courtesy of The Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, Photo of Tiramisu courtesy of https://calabriataste.files.wordpress.com


Perfume Illuminated: Eggnog

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My brother in law Peter is a quiet, very laid back research scientist. 362 days of the year he is a semi strict vegetarian, who hardly ever touches alcohol, let alone massive amounts of eggs and cream! However on Solstice Eve,  Christmas day and New Years eve, he has been known to ask me for this eggnog and being the terrific guy that he is, I never refuse to make it for him! It's simply known in our family as Peter's eggnog and it's delicious! It's so easy to make and it's even better when served in a punchbowl surrounded by spicy yuletide greenery! You can make the recipe from scratch if you desire and if I have the time sometimes I will using whole organic eggs, milk, sugar and cream, but frankly when the good organic eggnogs are so plentiful why bother (and you have the added bonus of not having to worry about raw eggs)! Also, if you have anyone in your family who is allergic to milk, don't forget about Silk's soy eggnog or SoyNog as I believe it's called! Actually all of the milk substitutes (actually I think that it is a disservice to call them that as they are delicious in their own rights!) are fashioning wonderful eggnogs that you can use as the base for this recipe.  They're absolutely delicious  and you will be able to serve a delicious and festive holiday beverage that leaves no one feeling left out! The good news this year is that you don't even have to omit the whipped cream because theres a fabulous whipped rice cream available in a can and ready to use like Redi Whip. Made by Soyana, you should be able to find it at your local Whole Foods.

At any rate every year  , people beg me for this recipe and I'm always so embarrassed to tell them just how easy it is...with this one it's all in the presentation (and the rum!) At last years Winter Solstice party I think that we went through about 3 punch bowls of it and lots of the RSVP's for this years party start with "Ill see you around the eggnog bowl!" 

 

All you will need is :

 

3 quarts of organic eggnog ( Please splurge on the organic, you won't be sorry!)

 

About 2 cups of really good rum! I personally love the Captain Morgan's special reserve spiced rum for this recipe. It's already infused with spices and vanilla.... practically perfume! ( And I have been known to use it as such!)

 About 6 cups of dried raisins that you've soaked for about 6 hours in some brandy,reserving the brandy for the eggnog as well! 

Lots of creme chantilly  , aka whipped cream that has been infused with vanilla extract, simple sugar syrup and some rum flavoring.

 

A liberal sprinkling of ,

 

Nutmeg for joy and good luck, Cinnamon for love and prosperity and Allspice for good health throughout the year!

 

The recipe itself is quite easy, simply put the eggnog into a punch bowl and whisk in the rum and brandy. Ladle the creme chantilly onto the eggnog so that it looks like fluffy clouds of cream, sprinkle with the spices and serve. Put some of the raisins in each serving. You will need to add more whipped cream on top as the evening unfolds because the creme chantilly gets folded into the eggnog, making it AMAZING! Serve in a lovely punch glass or a pretty tea cup with a kiss and a wish for a marvelous New Year!  

 


Perfume Illuminated: Apple

Alex up in the apple tree
 

Every year I look forward to the month of September for many reasons, but mostly because the harvest season with its totally unabashed abundance inspires me to begin really cooking again!  Summertime is wonderful with all of it’s light fresh meals, but it’s the long slow braises of autumn and the scents of apple butter, chili  and stews that feed my soul at this time of year.  If we’re lucky this year, the Indian summer will bring with it bonfires,  apples and clambakes and lots of fresh cider.  As soon as I feel the first chill in the air I’ll begin to think about making Cidre’, that thoroughly seductive French hard cider that my son and nephew love to drink all winter long as well as delicious slowly baked  Apple Tarte’ Tatins that emerge from the oven dripping with butter and  oozing with creamy salted caramel.  Mornings will start with fresh cinnamon toast from the  bakery around the corner spread with spicy homemade apple butter.

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I begin longing for these treats in the last weeks of August when plump red apples start falling from my trees and the smell of their ripeness begins to waft  through my windows with  the warm breeze.  Riding the trails this time of year is an incredibly delicious experience with the warm windfall apples crunching under Henry’s hooves ,  the last of the ripening berries that I can steal from the birds and the sticky sweetness of the molding fallen leaves.  When my son Alex was just a little boy,(he's the one in the picture above hanging a bird house in one of our apple trees!)  I used to take him apple picking at a farm that was right around the corner. We’d spend the day picking apples and the fragrant concord grapes so ripe that they were covered with wild yeasts.  We’d bring a lunch of fresh cheese and warm bread and we’d spend the day playing among the trees , choosing the best apples and coming home with huge bags of fruit.  Alex was homeschooled and one year my husband came home to find two huge jars on the sink filled with cider and bubbling very mysteriously.  “It’s an organic chemistry experiment dad….we’re making  Cidre’ “ my son proudly told his father! Jim looked at me in disbelief, but I was relentless and besides, I knew that he’d love the results!

I think that was the point that my husband officially began to question my sanity, but when the time came to fill the bottles with the sweetly alcoholic brew even he got in on the action. There’s something about the act of putting things by that brings out the provider in every man and I’ll never forget the sight of him helping Alex siphon the liquid from the carboys into the bottles that we’d labeled so proudly.  We let the Cidre’ settle for another month or two and then we opened the first bottle. It was perfectly delicious and amazingly fresh and tart!  

Apple cordial is easy to make as well. Just take many peeled and cored fresh apples, slice them and put into a bottle of spiced rum. Add more spice if you like, a whole vanilla bean, some whole cinnamon sticks , raisins and a bit of  brown sugar or molasses. Shake and then let the whole thing sit for month.  Pour it into several pretty bottles and give it as Christmas gifts. This is a wonderfully   satisfying treat served  in pretty glasses and drunk next to a  cozy fire. Add a happy feline and stir!

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 I have my own apple trees once again and this year I am going to rent a cider press so that I can use my own fresh apple cider to make the first batch of Cidre’ that I will have attempted in many years.  I’ll also make apple butter with bourbon and as much chutney as I can bottle.  Making apple butter is one of the easiest things that you can do with a surplus of fresh apples. The traditional way calls for a huge copper pot and a bonfire ,  the way that it’s made every year at the Apple Butter Festival in Burton, Ohio.  The Century Village in Burton has a wonderful festival  every year where you can see apple butter being made in this way. We used to get up at 5:00 am   and meet our friends Bethane and Doc to partake in this particular alchemy….that of turning apples, cider, cinnamon, butter ,sugar and smoke  into the rich and golden spread. True apple butter made in this way takes hours to melt it down. First you build the bonfire and then you bring out the cauldron which is literally bigger than a kitchen sink!  Add apples and cider and stir with a wooden paddle ,  every now and then adding more crates of peeled apples.  Eventually, the apple butter experts come round and deem the pot fit for canning   adding  vast amounts of cinnamon, sugar and butter to the already delightful mixture. Every now and then you’ll buy a jar that has a bee in it…. signs of  very good luck and a naturally made product!

Lacking a bonfire but owning a wonderful copper pot, I make apple butter every year at home. It’s very simple and makes your kitchen as well as the rest of your house smell incredible.  I embellish a little bit simply because I can, but in the end it’s apple butter plain and simple.  Try this because its one of the most satisfying  Autumn  conserves that you can make. 

You will need:

Tons of apples, sliced and cored!  It’s your call as to peel them or not, I keep the peels on because I like them, but the purists say remove them!

A large bottle of fresh apple cider

Cups of brown sugar

Huge amounts of cinnamon

At least one stick of very good butter

A slow cooker or a large copper pot (the slow cooker works very well  ,but it never gets quite as creamy as it will if you stand for hours cooking out the liquid and stirring   happy  good wishes into the pot!)

Here’s the simple recipe. Put the apples into the pot or cooker,   add enough cider to cover and cook for as many hours as it takes to really cook them down . When it’s almost done add the cinnamon to taste, brown sugar and enough butter to have it be silky and smooth.

When it’s done pour it into   sterilized glass jars and seal tightly. 

 

Now…. to gild the lily as they say! This simple recipe although wonderful doesn’t quite do it for me.  Real apple butter made over a bonfire has a bit of a smoky taste so at the very end I add a bit of organic liquid smoke.  Sometimes, I leave it at that, but more than often I’ll add some bourbon, something wonderful like a Woodford Reserve or a Bookers, because you will taste it! 

If I want it to be  apple chutney instead of  apple butter, I’ll  make it in the slow cooker and add raisins, lemons , walnuts and onions and a little bit of the liquid smoke. I play with the spices, sometimes adding fresh sage from my garden and sometimes add a bit of brandy or a touch of single malt.  To serve add a freshly roasted chicken or a loaf of fresh bread and a large wedge of  white cheddar.

Please promise me that you’ll have fun with the harvest this year and make a promise to yourself to put something by even if your stillroom is the teensy kitchen in your apartment.  .  In the end, that’s what food like this is about ,  because it’s slow, creative and fresh.  Let it become a real part of your seasonal experience and enjoy the journey  as well as the results!

Last but not least, I leave you with this little ditty...The Johnny Appleseed song. This lovely song is what my husbands family sings every time they get together. Because there are so many of them and they are some damn musical they  sing it acoustically and in 4 part harmony. It's a gorgeous family tradition that has been sung at blessings, funerals , deathbeds and Thanksgivings for many years.  


Now, run as quickly as you can over to Roxana Villa's Illuminated Journal ,where she will delight you with her thoughts about  the fragrant and lovely Apple and it's place in her wonderful perfumes!


All photographs and text (except for the video of course!) are protected by my copyright! Thanks for not using them without my permission!


Perfume Illuminated:Peaches

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Nothing says summer to me like the smell of a juicy ripe peach. I wait anxiously for them all year and when the moment finally arrives that the sensuous flesh is creamy and sweet I'll buy them by the bagful  , devouring them  fresh  and creating wonderful soups, cocktails and of course the occasional buttery cobbler! My sister who  has more of a way with sugar , butter and flour than anyone that I’ve ever met makes the most delectable pies and cobblers all summer long. I swear that I don’t know how she does it, but every time I eat one of her fabulous desserts I am transported back in time to a place where the world was incredibly lazy, buttery and wholesomely good.

Peaches are one of the fruits that work as beautifully when they are blended into a savory dish as they do with ingredients that are decadent and sweet.  The simplest way to enjoy them is with a knife and a hammock, cutting slices of fresh peach and devouring them under a soft breeze. However, there are so many wonderful dishes that you can create with them and a few of these suggestions will I hope surprise and delight you all at the same time!

Currently while the peaches are so ripe, my favorite thing to do with them is make soup. Chilled peach soup is   wonderful and can be an aperitif or a dessert depending upon the sweet and savory components that you choose.  One of my favorite things to add to the mixture is the piquant surprise of a raw Ancho chili.  Make this and you’ll see why!

For this delicious soup you will need:

6 large fresh peaches
Flesh of 4 small ripe nectarines
4 cups of apricot juice
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
Agave nectar
1 cup of fresh basil leaves/ mixed varieties
1/2 seeded Ancho chili

1 cup of fresh mascarpone mixed with 1/4 cup fresh raspberries, 1 tablespoon agave nectar, 1/4 cup red grape juice- blended until smooth.
1 Bottle of Prosecco or Cava
Place  all ingredients (except tofu mixture) into the pitcher of a Vitamix  and blend until smooth. Pour into a tureen and add 1/2 a bottle of  the Prosecco. Stir gently and taste adding more agave, cinnamon or juice to taste.
Ladle into small bowls and swirl a bit of the Mascarpone /raspberry through the fruit soup.

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 A fairly decadent thing to do with the flesh of sweet  juicy peaches is to make them into a wonderful body scrub. Just take a cup or two of fresh peach slices and put them into a  bowl.  Add ½ a cup of extra virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons of fresh yogurt (full fat!), a teaspoon of cinnamon and a cup and a half of raw sugar. Mash together!

When you’re ready,  draw a warm bath and soak for at least 10 minutes.  Then rub the peach mixture all over your body using a circular motion and leave on for at least 10 minutes. Then shower off and towel dry leaving your skin peaches and cream smooth and smelling simply wonderful!


Finally, fresh peaches and raspberries marry beautifully with many different meats, but my favorite thing to cook them with is pork tenderloin.

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 It’s a very simple recipe...Pork tenderloins rubbed with a dry rub of your choice and then put into a pan with fresh onions ,  green, red and yellow peppers,  about 4 cups of fresh peaches,  a bag of frozen raspberries, a bottle of Heinz chili sauce, a cup of Jim Beam Red Stag cherry flavored bourbon, fresh garlic and about 1 cup of "Soy Vay" or any good teriyaki marinade. Bake slowly in a 350 oven and baste constantly. Finish with about 1 cup maple syrup and put back into the oven for 5 more minutes to glaze. Remove from pan, reduce the juices and serve sliced with a side of hash brown sweet potatoes and a fresh sweet corn , beet and arugula salad! If you want to substitute chicken go right ahead and I promise that it will be just as good! 

Now dance over to Roxana Villa's Illuminated Journal  for some fragrant musings about using the gorgeous scent of peaches in perfume!




All photographs by Beth Schreibman Gehring with the exception of the peaches and cream photograph which is courtesy of www.sweetsperfume.com


Perfume Illuminated: Lime

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"You put the lime in the coconut, you drink 'em both together
Put the lime in the coconut, then you feel better
Put the lime in the coconut, drink 'em both up
Put the lime in the coconut, and call me in the morning"


There has always been something about the gorgeous lime fruit that has always seemed a bit exotic to me. One of my best friends who was a bit of a pirate at heart introduced me early on  to his Royall Lyme cologne, a  fragrance that I still love with the same passion that I reserve for a fine Bay Rum. I love to buy huge bottles of it and use it for a summertime splash because it's such an undeniably refreshing limey fragrance and doesn't smell terribly masculine on me at all. Many of my favorite natural fragrances have lime in them, but I'll let my partner in crime Roxana Villa talk to you about that in her fragrantly Illuminated Journal ! For now, I'm just going  to talk to you about using the delicious lime in fresh cocktails and food...two of my favorite things!

Fresh limes produce a magnificently flavored juice which I love to use in so many different ways, especially in the summer when it's almost bitter bite can transport me to nirvana by way of a tall and refreshing gin and tonic or when used as one of the fresh juices that I love to squeeze into my guacamole. In California I can get wonderful things called Sweet Limes which are yellow in color, musky and sweetly flavored and when mixed with the juice of the green ones make the most perfect limeade that I've ever had. Last but not least of course, is the lusty menage a trois'  that the lime has always carried on with flaked salt, mezcal or tequila.....

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Midnight Margaritas anyone?

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My love for the lime isn't limited only to the summertime and in the winter I like to fill my Solstice punch bowl with a simple and delicious mixture of Skye Vodkas's Raspberry infusion , Skye Ginger infusion , Roses lime juice, ginger beer , simple syrup and tons of fresh raspberries for a really festive version of a Moscow mule!  Be careful with this one though, like it's namesake, it does have a bit of a kick but it's a wonderful recipe and can be freshened easily throughout the evening.  For large parties I serve it in pretty plastic punch cups with skewers of sugary candied ginger which really make the drink special!


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Besides being an amazing addition to my favorite cocktails, the juice of fresh limes will mix beautifully with many foods, from pork to seafood and can be combined with tomatoes, onions, cilantro,garlic, olive oil and sea salt for a magnificent salsa fresca which can instantly turn a simple piece of grilled fish into an exotic mediterranean feast or raw fish into ceviche! There are Mexicans salsas and enchilada sauces flavored with lime that turn fajitas and fish tacos into into true gourmet fare and then there is the Indian hot lime pickle, which is actually a chutney made of dried limes that turns a simple curry of any type into an ambrosia with its zestiness.

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I admire the taste and fragrance of the lime for the complexity that it adds to Thai and Vietnamese cuisine and yet the simplest and most seductively luscious thing that I've ever tasted using fresh lime juice came to me by way of the wonderful farmers market that I frequent on Sunday mornings whenever I'm in  La Jolla. This farmers market is always filled with the most beautiful fresh produce and there are many vendors preparing wonderful things to eat from French crepes to the freshest chili cheese tamales that I've ever tasted, but my favorite stand belongs to the group of Mexican women who sell large cups of sliced papaya, mango and watermelon that they slice and dust with sea salt, chili and fresh lime juice. It is possibly the simplest combination of flavors that I've ever tasted, but also one of the best.

These is very easy to reproduce at home and I've made this salad many times for it's an easy and  wonderful dish to serve on a hot summer evening. I usually add cucumber spears and avocado for a more complete meal. Just arrange slices of fresh papaya, mango, avocado, cucumber and melon on a pretty platter and dust with ground sea salt , chili powder and squeeze fresh lime juice all over the top. If you'd like, sprinkle some chopped marcona almonds over the top for a bit of additional flavor and a satisfying crunch!

Last but not least, for the best shrimp cocktail to be had this side of the border take a jalapeno pepper, remove the seeds and mince it up. Put it  into a bowl and add 2 cloves of minced garlic, some diced red onion,  green onion and fresh cilantro. Then stir in several chopped heirloom tomatoes with a bit of their juices,1 tablespoons of clam juice,a tablespoon of tequila,  a teaspoonful of white horseradish and salt, chili powder and extra cumin to taste. When you're done the mixture should be the consistency of salsa.  Take a martini glass and put a couple of teaspoons of the tomato mixture into the bowl of the glass and then put several shrimp around the rim of the glass. You can use boiled shrimp, but I like to use grilled shrimp because I love the flavor and texture more! Garnish with a thick crispy slice of very good bacon cooked the way that you like it. The formula is simple.....Dip the shrimp  and take a bite mixed with a bite of the bacon. Be sure to eat this with a lover..it's messy!

Now how about those Midnight Margaritas!

Mezcal Photograph courtesy of : www.amountainofcrushedice.com

All other photographs by Beth Schreibman Gehring


Perfume Illuminated:Cilantro

 Cilantro

 Cilantro : Flavor

Cilantro, the leafy part of the coriander plant  is one of the most loved or reviled herbs that I've ever eaten.  I adore it now, but I really had never loved it much myself until about 20 years ago when I walked into my kitchen and found a dear old friend making me a fabulous bowl of guacamole for our dinner that evening. Until that night I'd thought of Cilantro as a very musky, moldy substitute for fresh parsley and I didn't have much use for it. But upon tasting Haas's absolutely scrumptious guacamole I became convinced that I'd been completely wrong about the stuff and set about learning to use it in as many ways as possible. Fresh chutneys, Pico de Gallo, pesto,  fruit and tomato salsa's...all of these brighten when a bit of fresh Cilantro is added to the mix! Last weekend I made a fresh Chimichurri sauce to serve over a grilled sirloin steak. It could just as easily be served over chicken or even a marinated and barbecued tofu, but with the medium rare steak it was absolutely wonderful. Just take a handful of Cilantro, fresh green onions, garlic , spinach , fresh rosemary, basil,  bell pepper, a tomato and an ancho chili and throw the whole mess into a vitamix with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend until fairly smooth and pour over a freshly grilled steak before you slice it. If you slice the meat on the grain each slice will have a bit of the sauce and will taste absolutely wonderful!

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Fresh Cilantro has a wonderful flavor that's a cross somewhere between celery, mint and mate' and it brings a bit of a refreshing bittersweetness (is there such a word?) to any dish that you use it in. The key with Cilantro is to use it raw in cold salads and salsas, because like parsley it loses it's punch when its been heated. The contrast between Cilantro's intensity and the rich creamy sweetness of a perfectly ripe avocado is exactly what your looking for to stay cool on these hot summer evening. My friends guacamole is a true work of art. Just take several perfectly ripe Haas avocados and mash them with chopped and dried seedless cucumber,chopped fresh red onion, a couple of minced FRESH garlic cloves, the juice of a fresh orange and fresh lime, salt and pepper and at least a cup of torn cilantro leaves. Forget fancy designer versions with blue cheese, bacon, sage and other such affectations....this is what you want guacamole to taste like! Serve it with fresh corn chips and a pitcher of Patron margaritas and you'll find yourself licking the bowl!

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I discovered the other night that fresh Cilantro brightens up  the saltiness of feta cheese and mixed with small chunks of fresh watermelon, cucumber, red onion, mint, raw pecans and feta makes a superb cold salad that you simply need to dress with a bit of rice vinegar and a touch of walnut oil.

After enjoying the salad I thought to myself...well, how about a martini? Watermelon and Cilantro in a cocktail? Why not! Take several chunks of fresh sweet watermelon and muddle them in the bottom of a shaker with a bit of fresh Cilantro, mint , a pink peppercorn or two and some agave nectar. Add a generous jigger of Hendricks Gin, a tablespoon or two of organic limeade and a bit of branch water and pour the whole thing over some cracked ice in a cocktail glass and Ahhhhh. Perfect for these drenching summer days. You could also use  your favorite vodka, but the Hendricks is  a completely wonderful brew, infused with cucumber and rose which creates a luscious love spell when mixed with the sweet juicy melon! Just go to https://www.hendricksgin.com/ to learn more! Roxana Vila has woven a wonderfully fragrant Cilantro spell at her gorgeous illuminated journaI. I know  that you'll enjoy her luscious fragrant wisdom!

                               Now for a little British wit from our friends at Hendricks Gin!

Photograph of Cilantro courtesy of:  https://www.foodshareregistry.org