Perfume Illuminated Feed

Perfume Illuminated: Mead

                Mead-1-
  

To drink a glass of Mead on a warm summers eve is one of romantic things that I know and to drink it under the spell of the Mead moon is one of the most magical rituals that you can share with a lover. I am completely in love with the taste of fresh mead which in its  simplest form is a delectable wine made of honey, water or juice, spices and yeast that have been allowed to mingle with absolutely unbridled passion. A true gift from our friends the honeybees, the discovery of mead had to have been a happy accident because no doubt some lucky farmer stumbled upon a jar of honey that had perhaps been filled with rainwater and forgotten. Wild yeasts would have found their way into mixture and impolitely had their way with it and voila', the first taste of Mead would have been enjoyed! 

                                     Chaucerslabel
 

 You can usually  find commercially made mead (I quite enjoy Chaucer's!) at any good wine store or you can attempt to make it at home which  I've found to be quite alot of fun and often better than what you can buy!  If you have a home-schooled child like mine was, you'll find the making of any sort of wine or brew to be a wonderful lesson in organic chemistry! Alex and I spent one entire autumn making beer and wine and I'll never forget my husband coming home to our farm to find huge carboys sitting on the kitchen counters filled with the yeasty beginnings of cidre' and mead. I think that he thought we'd gone mad, at least until he tasted the fruits of our labors!  Every day Alex and I would check the fermentation locks  and then the time came to siphon it into bottles. We made fancy Windesphere Witch labels and gave it all away as Yuletide gifts ,  given that he was was way to young to drink more than a wee dram of any of it. It was very good and seriously potent and came with the satisfaction of knowing that we had created it ourselves using simple  and good organic ingredients combined with alot of love and patience. 

You can go through the process of making you own mead like we did, or you can cheat and create a simple mead type beverage blend which is what I've done for the 7 or so years that I've been an apartment dweller. Just take a room temperature bottle of May Wine or a delightful Reisling and decant it into a carafe. Add  at least 3/4's of a cup of raw honey and stir until infused. Strain and pour the wine back into a clean carafe, adding any spices that you enjoy and let the whole thing steep for a day or two. I love to add fresh berries and basil flowers in the spring and sweet windfall apples and cinnamon sticks in the fall. Eaten with with a sharp Manchego or Cheddar cheese, a loaf of bread, sweet sausage and thou, it turns into the most romantic of feasts. In the fall with a hearty soup made from cheese and ale, a glass of mead is a wonderful accompaniment alongside a crackling fire. I think that you'll find this recipe to be a suitable substitute and perhaps even better than any mead that you can buy with the exception of what's served at your local Renaissance Faire! However, now that I own a house again with a wonderful old basement that my husband has promised to turn into a stillroom , the huge glass bottles and locks will be coming back out and my friends and family will be getting gifts of delicious mead and ale this Christmas.  I can't wait!

Now fly over to Roxana's Illuminated Journal to read more about the fragrance of mead from the honeybee mistress herself!

Picture of the Medieval BeeKeeper courtesy of : http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Mead

Chaucers Mead Label courtesy of : http://www.chaucerswine.com/mead.asp


Perfume Illuminated: Butter


        Whipped cream

Croissant1

 Butter.  I know that I’m not supposed to admit this but I love it.  There are certain things that it’s impossible to make without it…..can you imagine a croissant made with margarine? Impossible.  Give me a break…there’s a reason Paula Dean is always so happy and that French cuisine is still considered to be one of the worlds finest.. “Buttery”  is a term  that we use to describe delicious wines and creamy cheeses and even some of the worlds most gorgeous women have been described as having buttery soft skin.  Could there ever be Maine lobster drenched in olive oil? Or,  a clambake without those adorable little pots of drawn butter? The thought of it is simply a sacrilege.  No self respecting roux will ever be made with Earth Balance  soy butter so please don’t even try! In fact unless you are on a totally restricted diet it’s okay to have a bit every now and then, in fact I say that it’s absolutely necessary.     

For all of it’s vilification a little bit of butter every  now and then has been discovered to help a  weight reduction diet  produce  the desired results.  We need that rich and satisfying mouth feel  that butter promotes because that’s the pleasure that sends the trigger to our brains letting us know that we’ve eaten enough. One of my mothers favorite cooking secrets was to melt  a little bit of butter with olive oil in a  sauté’ pan full of vegetables.  Just a ½ a teaspoonful can easily do the trick, providing   just the right flavor with all of the healthy benefits of  the Mediterranean diet!

If you’ve never tried to make your own butter it’s quite an easy process and   a hit with small children who just adore the process of putting a bunch of cream into the Cuisinart and  turning  it on to see what happens.  You can also do this in a Vitamix if you’ve got one or a very high speed blender. Just  be sure to start with the freshest heavy cream and please use organic because it really does make a difference!

  To begin you’ll put two pints of fresh heavy cream into the bowl of a cuisinart  fitted with the metal blades.  Close the lid and pulse away! First you will see the fresh cream just spinning around in the bowl but suddenly the little buttery specks will  start to form. Keep pulsing. Soon you will begin to see a large ball of butter   beginning to form  and separate from the buttermilk. Eventually you will have a large amount of fresh butter!  At this point take the butter out of the bowl of the Cuisinart , shape it into a ball and wrap it in a bit of cheesecloth placing the ball of  fresh butter in a small bowl to drain some more. You’ll be amazed at how much liquid will  still be produced! Reserve the buttermilk for baking  or feed it to your animals.  My cats love it so much that  they’ll fight over it! The next day you can salt your butter and mix it with fresh or dried herbs.   It won’t have the same color as butter that you buy in the store because you haven’t added anything strange to it and  it  will be absolutely delicious!    I love to season my fresh butter with sea salt, garlic and fresh herbs to brush onto grilled bread  or sweet corn, or whip it up with cinnamon and raw honey for a wonderful spread for warm cornbread. This same butter , blended with a few capers and a bit of garlic and  salt and fine herbs creates a wonderful finishing sauce when melted over a perfectly cooked steak or salmon filet!

For even more fun  why don’t you buy a cute little butter mold and create  pretty molded butter pats in whatever shape suits the season or your fancy. You can still find beautiful old fashioned butter molds in many antique stores  and they are lovely to display in your kitchen when they’re not in use.Chill the  molded pats of butter and serve them to your guests on individual butter plates with some gorgeous crusty bread.  Delicious!

Another wonderful thing to make yourself is Ghee, one of the most mysterious and delicious staples of   Indian cuisine . Ghee is actually clarified butter and it is very easy to make at home.  Store bought Ghee can be very expensive though and you can make it at home for a fraction of the price. Ghee or clarified butter has many uses including  drawn butter  for clams and lobsters and the topping for an old fashioned  British potted shrimp or beef. 

Ghee makes a wonderful  massage oil, especially when whipped with a  beautiful essential oil such as ylang ylang or jasmine and some coconut oil. Used either directly as a soothing moisturizer or scooped into a hot bath as a fragrant bath oil it is luxurious and absolutely wonderful for your skin! Anything that you make with butter is better when made with Ghee because of the purity of its taste. Because it has a much higher smoke point than regular butter it is wonderful for sautéing .  So don’t be intimidated, it’s easy to make your first batch! You’ll start with a pound of sweet unsalted butter. Remember, the fresher the butter , the better the ghee , so you might even try making your Ghee with your own  homemade butter! Put the butter in a deep saucepan and bring up the heat. You’ll know that you have it right when it begins to simmer and the liquid begins to evaporate and the milk solids begin to cook and coagulate together.  Keep skimming off the milk solids while the butter is simmering, you want to remove all of them !  It will take about ½ hour but you will eventually have completely clarified , golden butter that’s  delicious and ready to use.  Pour the hot butter into a jar and refrigerate for use as needed. I just can’t think of a better flavor than this one melted over fresh asparagus or used as a dip for a simple steamed artichoke. Squeeze a bit of lemon, add a bit of salt and pepper to taste and that’s all you’ll need!

Now why don’t you sail on buttercup petals over to Roxana Villas lovely Illuminated journal to read her fragrant musings about Butter!

Photograph of Whipped Cream : http://culinarymasterclass.com




Perfume Illuminated: Nasturtium

Nasturtiums at Giverny

                                                  Flavor: Nasturtium

 The home where I grew up had acres of lovely gardens and when I married and   able to buy my first home it was a small farm in Geauga County.  That first spring, eager to begin to live the sustainable lifestyle that I’d always dreamed of my husband and I planted fruit trees, masses of vegetables and  even a patch of asparagus. 5 years later our son Alex was born and together the three of us lived a fairly idyllic life until we moved back into the city 21 years later, choosing to rent an apartment because we weren’t sure what our next real move would be. I’d given up a life that I loved for the reality of caring for my aging parents and although I never regretted the choice I’m sure that you can imagine my dismay when spring came the following year and I had no place to plant even one tiny heirloom tomato. I found a  wee bit of unused earth  in the area behind our apartment building but was told that it needed to be kept landscaped ,which actually meant   only a lawn and completely devoid of all other flowers . Ick!  

 

That year not long after Easter  I walked into a bookstore and went longingly over to the gardening section.   I was simply browsing but then I saw a beautiful book on container gardening, something I’d never really tried before.   Suddenly a whole new world was opened up to me.  I had a beautiful but very small third floor patio with a southwestern exposure and when I say small it was literally no more than 8 feet long and perhaps 4 feet deep. But I was determined to find a way to have fresh tomatoes and basil that summer …nothing was going to stop me! I really didn’t know what I was doing which was probably a good thing because   if I had really followed the rules I would never have attempted to grow so many of the vegetables that I did. Determined to learn more and help pay for this new found hobby, I took a job at the local garden center doing what? Creating container gardens! I had a blast mixing all of the herbs and flowers to create gorgeous hayracks and window boxes that my customers loved.  The best part was that I was given free rein and I learned about all of the likes and dislikes of the plants in the process.

That was the first spring that I ever planted nasturtiums! I had met them before growing wild along the fence at my sisters home in La Jolla, giant orange and golden mutants of flowers that tasted sweet and peppery hot like the California sunshine that I taught my son to enjoy simply because he could have a wild snack whenever he passed them by!  The  nasturtiums that I planted cooperated happily and transformed that  little balcony into an abundant garden that helped feed us incredible salads all summer long. I lined the railing with flower boxes and planted all of my herbs in them and masses of nasturtiums   both yellow and gold.  I grew lettuces all along the bottom of the railing in boxes until they bolted with the summer heat. I had hanging baskets of strawberries and cherry tomatoes and I grew paste tomatoes for sauce by planting them against the metal railing and using the rails for support.  I grew beans by running them up an old bakers rack that I was using for potting supplies and I used every bit of ceiling space that I had for flower baskets. I even grew a blueberry bush in one of my containers.   It was an amazing experiment and I couldn’t believe just how much food I was able to grow in that small space. The fun continued when I woke up one morning to find sunflowers beginning to grow in several of my containers. I didn’t plant them myself, so I can only assume that they were a gift from the Mourning Doves that used one of the unplanted clay pots to nest in. 

2004_0420birds0045

 That was the year that I learned that no matter what and no matter where I found myself, I could feed my family easily. My husband and I spent evening after evening sitting with glasses of wine on that tiny porch while we ate fresh salads and bowls of  pasta topped with tangy farmers cheese that I made myself from raw goats milk, and nasturtiums and pesto that came from the many varieties of basil that I grew in my containers.  Summer came and went, but not without gifting me with lots of herbs,   the occasional tomato through autumn and when Thanksgiving finally arrived I was still able to pick fresh sage  for my chestnut stuffing and fresh Nasturtiums for my salad! Believe me when I say that I was more delighted with that small harvest than I ever was with the large gardens that I left behind.

Extremely high in Vitamin C and used by many herbalists as a natural blood cleanser  and antibiotic, Nasturtiums are so easy to grow in containers and if you plant some you’ll be rewarded with more beautiful flowers than you’ll know what to do with so here are some really simple suggestions! Take a wedge of Boursin or any other herb filled soft cheese and cream it even more with a bit of butter and half and half. You can even add some finely minced nasturtium petals for flavor and color! Put the mixture into a piping bag and pipe just a bit into the center of a nasturtium blossom for a wonderful hor d’ oeuvre. Make sure before you fill them that you’ve checked each blossom  for bugs! If you’ve grown them organically you won’t need to worry about washing them which is better anyhow because the flavor IS better. Just dust them off with a soft vegetable brush and use.

You already know that I love to use them in  green salads, but they are also incredibly delicious chopped into egg salad with fresh chives and a bit of apple and curry. I’ve also used the same mixture for deviled eggs and I love to add currants and sliced almonds for a satisfying sweet/ spicy flavor!

I also love to make a  dipping sauce for fresh asparagus and artichokes using mayonnaise (Hellmans please) or Vegannaise as the base. Put about a cup of it into the blender and add fresh lemon juice , a bit of  Braggs liquid amino acids (like soy sauce without the soy!) and lots of fresh herbs and nasturtium flowers. Blend it all up and serve!

Nasturtium buds are delicious also and you could pickle them like they do in  South America or just toss them straight into your salads. Just be sure to pick the young green ones because as they get older they will be too hard to eat. They are wonderful, peppery like the flowers but with a very satisfying crunch. Nasturtium leaves are edible as well and tossed into a wonderful salad with some fresh dandelion , violet leaves and chickweed make a wonderful wild salad that is rich with minerals , vitamins and sunshine.  Speaking of salads, you can make a wonderful nasturtium vinegar by heating some white wine vinegar to almost a boil and then adding lots of the blossoms and letting them steep for a few days. Your vinegar will be colored depending upon which color flowers you use, but I find that the bright red makes the loveliest vinegar. Decant into clear bottles and enjoy  the warm peppery flavor all year round !

One of my favorite recipes for soup is a wonderful gazpacho that I make with fresh tomatoes, pineapple, cucumber onions, garlic ,about 4 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, Green , red and gold peppers, a bit of smoky chipotle, about a cup and a half of fresh almonds and nasturtium blossoms.  Place all of the ingredients (you decide how much of each you'd like!) into a blender with about 1 cup of half and half and two cups of water and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chives, goat cheese , fresh basil and enjoy!

Soup1

Nasturtiums grown in containers don’t like to have their feet too wet and they will enjoy  being fed with a time release fertilizer like Osmocote at least once every month. For containers choose the trailing variety and give them a space where they can stretch their legs and get really bushy and blossom-full!

You'll enjoy them all summer and if you have a wonderfully sunny exposure you'll probably have some blooms through autumn.


Perfume Illuminated: Mimosa

             Mimosa
                                                             

This weeks  Perfume Illuminated features the delicate and fragrant Mimosa  and though for my end of things there is no real flavor connection, there are many wonderful memories and some truly delicious cocktails that come along with them! When you're done here, make sure that you float on your long stemmed glass of bubbly over to Roxana's Illuminated Journal to read what she has to say about the Mimosa : Fragrance! I know that you'll love

 Flavor: Mimosa

It's Mothers Day and what better cocktail to enjoy on such a day than a delicious mimosa! Ever since I was a little girl I've loved them  ( yes, my fabulous and very worldly mother let me enjoy  a little one even then!) and from my first sip at my brothers graduation brunch at Brennans in New Orleans I was hooked on that combination of fresh juice and great champagne. To this day there is nothing that says celebration to me quite as much as a Mimosa, not even a Bellini, that luscious combination of peach juice and champagne which I love but doesn't conjure up the same lovely gardenia soaked memories! My mother and I traveled together several times a year for business and often we'd start the day with a Grand Mimosa at the Ritz Carlton or sometimes if the day was too busy we'd wait until tea. She loved the Mimosas with Chambord served at the restaurant on the 7th floor of Bergdorf Goodman and she adored drinking them at breakfast while sitting by the window in the Park Lane Hotel restaurant.  She really was so much fun to travel with! I'll never forget the time that we were in Atlanta and she hired a carriage driver to take us from our hotel to the restaurant where we were having our dinner simply because she thought that it would be so much fun! She loved to enjoy her life, even in the later years when it all got a bit tougher and she never missed an opportunity to enjoy a party or a glass of wonderful champagne! 

             New YOrk Program 

 

 

Although my mother died in August of 2008 my taste for Mimosa's did not, because for the last two years my niece Kacy and I have gone  to New York City in October  for the Food Network Food and Wine Festival. I'll never forget  when she called me.....I was sitting in my mother's hospital room where she lay in a deep coma and my cell phone rang. "Aunt Bethie .....guess what! I know what we should do.There's  this food festival in New York in October and after Grandma dies you're going to need something to look forward too, so we're going!"  I couldn't say no...not with my mother laying there! She would have never passed it up!

That weekend turned out to be a dream come true...one my favorite cities enjoyed with one of my favorite people, in fact possibly the only other person that I know who loves the glamourous aspects of New York City as much as my mother and I did ! It's a wonderfully madcap weekend , filled with fabulous New York Parties, incredible food and more alcohol, wine and champagne than anyone should ever drink. There's a million opportunities to meet your favorite Food Network stars (and aren't they the only ones that count these days!) and last year Paula Deen even invited the two of us to be her honorary daughter and grand daughter. Nigella was there , Ina and Anthony too and Kacy and I just have the best time experiencing it all together. We act like ridiculous food groupies and since my mother died it's become our favorite time to spend together! We spend the entire weekend shopping and eating, flirting,drinking and bonding. We exercise every food demon that we are possessed by and thank goodness for those darling yellow cabs.....

 Kacy and Beth 

 My niece and I share the sensibility that there is absolutely no excuse deny oneself an extraordinary glass of  Champagne! Last year we discovered the Mimosa's at Sarabeth's, the delightful brunch restaurant three steps away from our door at The Park Lane. They were absolutely delicious in the traditional sense, made with champagne and freshly squeezed orange and blood orange juices and absolutely perfect with my Eggs Benedict and her eggs with smoked salmon. The whole feast was made even better by the fact that we were sitting outside practically on the street right next to the Central Park watching the carriages come and go and enjoying the NYC fashion parade on their way up to 5th. We ate and drank and then of course we went shopping to exercise the whole thing off! That evening was the Grande Dessert Party sponsored by Duff of the Ace of Cakes , Perrier Jouet and Gilbeys Gin. What a feast...freeflowing Champagne and desserts  everywhere from the finest pastry chefs in the city. Kacy's boyfriend joined us and we ate, drank and laughed until the early hours when I took my cab back happily to my hotel and fell into bed, but not without first a bit of room service to nullify the effects of all of that      Perrier Jouet 


         romservice 

 

The next day was Sunday so I spent wandering the streets of the the city just taking it all in. Before I flew out, I stopped at The Champagne Bar at The Plaza to have one final Champagne cocktail. The Champagne Bar at the Plaza is a gorgeous, intimate affair, with a marvelous menu of bubbly by the glass and divine green velvet "affaire de coeur" chairs to sip it in. As I sat there truly relaxed and enjoying myself after such a satisfying weekend, I felt the presence of my mother sitting across from me, smiling and just drinking it all in.  

        PLZ223_Champagne_Bar 

 A perfectly mixed, traditional Mimosa generally consists of freshly squeezed orange juice and champagne. Actually if you want to be precise, it's about 2 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice in a flute champagne glass and then you'll fill the rest of the glass with Champagne.  But if you want to drink my mother's favorite, here is the recipe. I love giving away her secrets because she was so much fun! If she was still with us today, I'd have brought this to her already with one of the Bluebells from her garden that she loved so much.

You'll need one perfect long stemmed flute champagne,  a bottle of well chilled Taittinger and some freshly squeezed orange juice, preferably a mixture of blood orange and navel oranges. 

Pour about 1 and a half ounces of the juice into the glass and add a dash of orange flower water, a dash of Chambord and a couple of tablespoons of Grand Marnier into which you've muddled some very fresh, juicy raspberries. Fill the rest of the glass with the champagne (be careful not to overfill!) and enjoy. 

                 Happy Mothers Day Mom! I always miss you, but today I miss you more .......

All photographs belong to Beth Schreibman Gehring except for the Plaza Hotel, which is courtesy of The Champagne Bar at The Plaza Hotel!




Perfume Illuminated: Earth

                           

" You ask me where to begin

Am I so lost in my sin

You ask me where did I fall

I'll say I can't tell you when

But if my spirit is lost

How will I find what is near

Don't question I'm not alone

Somehow I'll find my way home


My sun shall rise in the east

So shall my heart be at peace

And if you're asking me when

I'll say it starts at the end

You know your will to be free

Is matched with love secretly

And talk will alter your prayer

Somehow you'll find you are there


Your friend is close by your side

And speaks in far ancient tongue

A season's wish will come true

All seasons begin with you

One world we all come from

One world we melt into one

Just hold my hand and we're there

Somehow we're going somewhere

Somehow we're going somewhere


You ask me where to begin

Am I so lost in my sin

You ask me where did I fall

I'll say I can't tell you when

But if my spirit is strong

I know it can't be long

No questions I'm not alone

Somehow I'll find my way home

Somehow I'll find my way home

Somehow I'll find my way home

Somehow I'll find my way home"

Jon Anderson

IMG_0466

                                                    Flavor: Earth

I spend my days doing quite a lot of volunteer work for many different organizations, but without a doubt one of my favorite  jobs  is  being a docent  for  the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.   Our Botanical Gardens are award winning and lovely, with an incredible rose garden, a healing garden for seniors and one of the most gorgeous herb gardens that I’ve ever seen.  I must confess that I love them all and never tire of wandering among them, but it is the Hershey Children’s Garden that I love the best.  In the garden there is a huge fountain that is actually a sundial and on very hot days the children splash and play among the jets like billy goats while their mothers relax on benches in the shade, easily able to keep their eyes on the happy kids .  

IMG_0482  

In this garden there are patches of fresh herbs and a playhouse with a sod roof. There’s a very happy berry patch surrounded by espaliered fruit trees and a vegetable garden and a pond with a little dock and lots of carp splashing around.  A wonderfully huge tree house above it is filled with books and you can curl up safely in the branches eat your lunch and dream the afternoon away.  I love to lie face down on the little dock with the children , tease the fish and afterwards play hide and seek among the stately wizard pines whose boughs drape towards the ground like Merlin’s robes!

IMG_0484
 

The Hershey Children’s Garden is designed to be a teaching garden of the highest caliber and it is here that our children learn all about their food and where it really comes from. It’s magical to watch as these kids, some who have never seen a garden let alone an apple tree, pick the sweet ripe berries and taste them for the first time.  They pull radishes, lettuces and crunch the fresh carrots that still have the earth clinging to their roots.  They taste the wild ramps that grow on the back hill in the spring and are amazed by their sweet oniony taste . 

IMG_0485
 

One of the pathways through the garden leads to my favorite place of all, which is the compost pile.  Ours consists of three bins that demonstrate easily how the compost is made from beginning to end and I adore the look of amazement on their faces when we come to the third bin and   they realize that this is a simple demonstration of how dirt is made.  In this garden our children can play in the dirt to their hearts content and leave with a rich new understanding of their place in the world. As playful as it is, this garden is truly the most important of all the beautiful places found in our Botanical Gardens. It is situated on a piece of land the size of a city lot and enough food is grown here to easily sustain a family of 8.  It is a shining example of what could be done to build sustainability from the ground up instead of reliance on foods that are brought to us packaged and completely unknown.

Through the mechanics of  food science we can grow our vegetables hydroponically, but there is no substitute for the taste of a vegetable or piece of fruit that has been freshly harvested from richly nutrient filled soil.  The wines that we drink, the vegetables that we eat and even our meats are all fed by the minerals and vitamins that come straight from our earth. I love it when I drink a glass of Bordeaux and can literally taste the soil that the grapes were grown in.  I adore the taste of a potato minutes from the earth, brushed , unwashed and baked slowly in the coals of a campfire. Dressed with just a bit of butter and  truffled salt there is no sweeter , earthier taste to be found anywhere.  

2005_1226Soup0008
 
 

 Today in honor of the robust and wanton sweetness of  Gaia, I’d like to offer you my  recipe for  leek and potato soup.  It’s different than most because the vegetables are roasted allowing them to be caramelized and sweet.

You will need:

 10 cloves of garlic

About 20 Yukon Gold fingerling potatoes diced/ use your judgment and add more if they are smaller

2 tablespoons of raisins

2 large leeks , sand removed and sliced into rings, greens included

1 bunch of fresh ramps, lightly brushed , not washed

1 tablespoon of truffle oil

1 cup of chopped fresh herbs, sage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, thyme

2 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup of hard cider  

2 pints of half and half

Salt and pepper to taste

Rogue River Creamery Smoky Blue Cheese to garnish

Chopped fresh chives

Take the  garlic, potatoes and leeks and lay them on a baking sheet, salt and pepper them and add some chopped fresh rosemary if you like. Drizzle with olive oil and roast  until tender but be careful not to overcook.

In a soup pot bring the stock to a simmer and add the raisins, herbs , hard cider and truffle oil. Simmer gently for about 10  minutes and add the roasted vegetables. Cook for at least another 15 minutes and then add the half and half to taste. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it’s  a consistency that you like. Add more liquid if necessary. Heat through and pour into a soup bowl or tureen, garnishing with the crumbled  blue cheese and fresh chives.

This soup is wonderful served with a hearty whole grain bread with fresh butter and a simple glass of wine. Thats all you'll ever need.  Well, almost all you'll ever need... 


 Heres a bit of Jon Anderson to keep you warm on this beautiful spring eve.....




Now, why don't you fly over to Roxana Villa's beautiful Illuminated Journal. I can't wait to read what she has to say about the fragrance of earth!


All pictures are the property of Beth Schreibman Gehring


Perfume Illuminated: Dandelion

        Dandelion-3
                                                   Dandelion: Flavor

I  have always felt such an affinity for Dandelions. Where many see lowly weeds, I see necklaces  and fresh salad greens! When I was a child playing in my dads gardens, one of the happiest signs of spring were when those bright golden  , pollen laden blooms would appear all over our yard as if by magic! I couldn’t wait to get outside and play with them! That lovely golden pollen always tickled my nose and made me sneeze, but I loved it anyhow!

“Who put them there?”  was  always my question , because I knew that my father hadn’t planted them and he was always trying to get rid of them.  I loved them…so much abundance and so much joy to be found in those smiling yellow faces.  I could never understand why he’d get so upset at my favorite pastime, which was to blow the seeds everywhere that I could, flower after flower.  My friends and I made long necklaces and head dresses and pretended that we were fairy queens!   I cried every time he mowed them   down. This ritual went on for years until my dad discovered Chem lawn  who came  to spray  everything and completely ruin my fun. It took me years but I finally convinced him to go au natural in the gardens again and the dandelions returned with a vengeance as if to say….” Ha…you thought we were gone but we’ve been here for the whole time just waiting!”.  I was beside myself with joy the first time that I saw them reappear.  Dandelions have an absolutely unabashed generosity about them ! Pick only one and the next day three will magically appear it its place. I still don’t know how they do that and that’s why I absolutely love them!

Dandelion or  as the French call it Dent de Lion or  pissenlit (the English call it Piss in Bed!) is one powerhouse of a springtime tonic. I love to use the leaves in salad, their bitterness is delightful on the tongue when countered by a salty dressing of olive oil, onion, egg and a bit of crispy bacon. Dandelions have a marvelous diuretic quality. I use them (either the leaves or the tincture all of the time when I’m retaining too much water weight during specific times of the month and when eaten as part of a springtime liver flush they are unsurpassed for their cleansing and laxative qualities. I’ve even used a homemade tincture of fresh Dandelion root during a time when my breasts were very sore and cystic.

It was several months later that I realized what a  spectacular woman’s ally this special plant truly is.  After only a few months of taking the tincture everyday, my breasts became very smooth  and the skin supple.  Tincture of  fresh Dandelion root or the leaves eaten regularly are really good for removing inner blockages of many kinds.  Dandelion leaves eaten regularly as part of a springtime salad are marvelous for the digestion and when I still lived on my farm I used to make a simple wine  of infused Dandelion leaves and flowers. Dandelion wine is a delicious and very pretty aperitif. Making it is simple. Just take a bottle of really good organic Riesling or viognier.  Open it and decant it into a large glass jar filled with freshly washed Dandelion leaves and flowers. Add a bit of raw honey, shake well and let the whole thing infuse for about a week.  Strain and decant wine back into the bottle which you’ve saved and chill it for another day or two. Serve this lovely springtime digestif in lovely little wine glasses before dinner with wheat crackers and a crock of  fromage blanc to which you’ve added a bit of lemon rind and just a touch of honey and salt. This spring as the lively yellow flowers begin to grace your lawns remember that Dandelions could be your new best friend! They are an acquired taste to be sure, but once you make their acquaintance you’ll never want to be without them!



Now drift through the sky on a cottony tipped seed over to Roxana Villas Illuminated Journal and see what she has to share about Dandelion: The Fragrance!

Picture courtesy of :http://www.english-country-garden.com


Perfume Illuminated: Marzipan



                Marzipanfruit 

               Marzipan: The Flavor                               

My mother absolutely adored Marzipan. There is a special family recipe for it and every year my mother would wait anxiously at Christmas time for a special box to arrive from her cousin Pat, the official guardian of the family recipe. Aunt Pat ‘s Marzipan was beautiful and she must have slaved over it for hours, tinting each batch which the colors that  she needed and hand shaping  each piece into a lovely little pea pod , complete with curling tendrils or a potato, lovingly hand tinted  with a brush dipped into food coloring and then dusted with a bit of cinnamon to look as if it had just been pulled from the earth.

My Aunt Pats Marzipan was delicious as well as beautiful, filled with ground almonds  and sugar then flavored with just a touch of rosewater and natural almond flavoring. Because it was so fresh the smell was incredible and I would put my nose in the box to take a deep delicious breath. Every year I’d watch my mother guard the precious little package, eating one at a time, savoring the delightful flavor and the love that had gone into creating each piece. If I was lucky, she’d let me have one, but never the Strawberry because that was her favorite. Dipped in crystal sugar for a sparkling dewy effect it was indeed the most beautiful piece in the box so I never begrudged her that pleasure!


   Grand_feast

 Marzipan recipes first began to appear on the huge groaning boards and feast tables during the Middle Ages. Fanciful Marzipan creations were truly the first “Illusion foods”, in other the paste was shaped to create beautiful replicas of traditional feast foods, causing much delight when the guests would sample one of the unusual sweetmeats . Marzipan was also used extensively in the 16th and 17th century to make incredibly fanciful and artistic sugar centerpieces that were found on the banquet tables of noblemen all over Europe  and even in this country,  Marzipan delicacies could be found wrapped in gold leaf  and served at  George Washington’s table. Many Medieval and early American cookbooks still have recipes for Marzipan and it’s fun to make it yourself, but truthfully you can save yourself the trouble and buy it premade and ready to use at any good gourmet food sto
re.

 Marzipan can be rolled thin into a sheet of frosting to cover a cake or it can be dipped in chocolate, my own personal favorite way of eating it!  There are may wonderful recipes for marzipan to be found online for both cooked and uncooked variations, but I suggest the cooked, because it is generally smoother and much  easier to work with. Go to this link  http://candy.about.com/od/nougatmarzipancandy/r/Basicmarzipan.htm for a good basic recipe, but be sure to add a bit of rosewater and almond extract  to the mixture to give it a very special flavor.  It takes a while to get used to tinting and shaping the marzipan  so be very patient and definitely expect to mess up the first batch or two that you make.  I promise that you’ll get the hang of it though and once you do , you’ll have an easy and delicious Christmas gift that you can make in a relatively short amount of time.  One of the easiest things to do with fresh marzipan is to take a hazelnut and form a healthy bit of the candy around it, shaping it into a ball.  Chill the bonbons in the refrigerator and then melt and temper some dark chocolate and dip each piece of marzipan in it. I love to have bowls of crushed pistachios   or decorative sugar crystals ready to sprinkle onto the candies for an even fancier effect.  You can even get gold leaf powder to dust the chocolates with , a beautifully elegant effect. Several of these “truffles” interspersed with some pretty cookies and the fancy marzipan fruits and vegetables will be an amazing presentation for any occas
ion.

The last party that we ever gave for my mother before her death was a magnificent 85th birthday tea that we held at the Cleveland Ritz Carlton for her and about 50 of her friends.  My sister and planned the menu with all of her favorites, little cucumber sandwiches, egg salad and roast beef, smoked salmon with capers and plenty of scones and sweets.  We had a huge birthday cake that was covered in orchids and of course many pots of fancy tea including the special jasmine which was always her favori
te!  

When I called my Aunt Pat and my cousin Susan in Chicago to see if they could join us for the day, I was very saddened to discover that my Aunt wouldn’t be able to travel.  My cousin asked if there was anything that our mother would like and thinking about it for a split second I asked them for enough marzipan to pass out as favor for everyone who was joining us.  My cousin Susan ,  an extraordinary cook in her own right said that she would be delighted  to have that be her contribution and about 2  days before the party the box arrived at my front door.  I had gotten clear rectangular candy boxes from Sur La table and enough licorice Scottie Dogs  (my mother’s other favorite candy!) to fill them and plenty of polka dotted ribbon! When I opened the box I gasped. Inside was one lovely gold box marked “For Barbara”, that was filled with beautifully made vegetables and fruits just as she had always loved.   I was shocked to see several other boxes that were filled with enough marzipan strawberries for everyone to have at least three.  I had so much fun making up those little boxes and tying them with the ribbons and even more fun when I saw the delighted expression that crossed my mothers face as she saw that all of her friends were to finally to get some of those treasured strawbe
rries. It was a wonderful day, made even more special with the addition of such a delicious and fragrant treat. I've always wanted a fragrance that was reminiscent of my favorite marzipan candies and Roxana Villa's beautiful "Smell Me" perfume instantly reminded me of that special day with my mother. It smells absolutely wonderful just like my Aunt's special rosewater and almond marzipan and my mothers favorite teas. 

When you're done here, hop over to her Illuminated Journal  and read her thoughts on Marzipan: The Fragrance! 

                             Now sit back and enjoy the Retta show!


  

 

  Marzipan Picture  courtesy of http://www.sugar
craft.com/

 Grand Feast courtesy of http://www.pbm.com/ 


Perfume Illuminated: Raspberry

Brown
 

I once read a wonderful story about raspberry bushes. It was in the mid 90’s in one of those wonderful new agey books (or as my son calls them “That weird hippy stuff  you read mother”) and the premise was that the blackberry or black raspberry  has a collective consciousness that extends all around the world. To be honest with you, I loved the idea of that and I found it incredibly easy to believe. You see, at that time that I read that  I was still living on our farm in Burton Ohio and blackberries and black raspberries were everywhere. They drove my husband crazy. because if you’ve ever had a berry bush  as a best friend, then you know just how prolific they really are. Every year  before they’d flower , Jim would go into the brambles with his gloves and his clippers and every year he’d find more and more of them.  Fortunately, when they began to flower, he’d have to leave them alone. Raspberries and Blackberries are a major source of sweet nectar for the honeybees.  He’s quite allergic, so if he missed a few the berries got their chance! Berry bushes are a bit like willow trees and If you drop just one clipping, within weeks it will have taken root and begun to spread. I love to imagine that they are all entwining their tendrils in the earth underfoot and that they are all connected just like my little book said.

                          Black-raspberries
 

 By the time that we moved 21 years later, there were black raspberries and blackberries everywhere and to my absolute delight they’d become completely uncontrollable.  They didn’t all ripen at the same times and they were all amazing. We had our favorite patches but Alex and his best friend Jessica still swear by the ones that grew down by our pond.  They didn’t start out down there , they came from some of the first clippings that my husband tossed over the fence as far away from the garden as he could find. Eventually my husband gave up and just forgot about trying to tame them. He’d settle for just trimming them a bit and then he’d join in the fun eating handful after handful.  Those berries were incredibly sweet, juicy and delicious which the most sumptuous sensual scent.   They were actually the size of quarters.

 When they were little, Alex and his friends Tyler and Jessica used to spend hours eating their way around the brambles.  They’d come running up with handfuls of the warm juicy berries for me and I loved them so much for the taste of course but more for the pleasure of knowing that these children that I adored were having an early experience of sustainability.  We’d share them and then they’d go running off for more.  I’d send them home covered in purple juice, thankfully their mothers forgave me! These are some of the best memories of my life.  I made cobblers, pies and ice cream out of them and if you’ve never had a real black raspberry margarita then you don’t know what you’re missing.  For some reason, tequila marries well with black raspberries, mint and a bit of sugar.  Black Raspberries and meyer lemon juice mixed with  sugar, branch water and cracked ice made a delicious and refreshing lemonade that  is absolutely delicious and lovely to look at too!

Red and Black Raspberries marry well with many different types of food, but the most impressively with pork and wild game. There’s something about the sweet  yet acidic quality of the berries that cuts right through the fattiness of duck or goose  and venison is never more luscious than when it’s glazed with a sauce of black raspberries , elderberries and red wine.  I love to throw them into salads, combining  them with raw pecans, red onions and mixed greens. If you need a bit of protein, sliced grilled chicken or duck breast will round out the flavors as will a sprinkling of  fresh goat cheese which marries beautifully with the tanginess of the fresh berries. A simple vinaigrette made with olive oil, herbs and a light red wine will dress this salad perfectly.

My first experience of the black raspberry as a medicinal tonic came when I was a child and I developed a serious tummy ache one day after eating too many pieces of very greasy pepperoni pizza. Instead of  going for the antacid in the cupboard, my mother vey wisely took  out the bottle of  raspberry cordial that she kept in her medicine cabinet  and poured  a nice bit of it into a cup of hot water. She gave it to me to sip and it has been my favorite stomach tonic  ever since.   Raspberry leaf tea has always been one of the midwives best allies from conception to birth indeed it is said that drinking a tisane of clover and raspberry leaves can help  promote fertility  in women and virility   in men!  Raspberry leaves contain vast amounts of natural and easily assimilated vitamin C, B, A, E, Calcium and iron.  A cup of raspberry tea made with the a bit of mint , raspberry fruit, dried nettles and alfalfa and the leaves helped ease my morning sickness and  the well known abilities of  that same tea to tone and strengthen the uterine muscles has helped prevent many a miscarriage over the centuries and helps with the bleeding and cleansing that all of our bodies go through after childbirth, allowing them to return quickly to their pre -pregnancy suppleness. 

One word of caution though. If you are breast  feeding, you may find that drinking the tea can either help the production of your breast milk or hinder it.  If you fall into the latter category, try my favorite remedy instead. Two days after I gave birth to my son, Jim walked into the house carrying a case of really wonderful stout with instructions from his mother to have me drink one of them every afternoon at about 4:00 pm. There was much native wisdom in this prescription and when I asked my own mother about it she just laughed and said that my MIL was absolutely correct and to do as she instructed .  Drinking that one beer became such a relaxing part of my day and my breast milk was abundant.  Another bonus was that Alex slept through the night before he was six weeks old probably due to the hops that it was laced with! Fruity Raspberry Lambic beer from Belgium is incredibly refreshing and wonderfully relaxing and would be a sweet and perfect substitution for someone who generally doesn't enjoy the bitter taste of beer. 

                 Lambic
 

It’s been 8 year now since we sold our farm and I miss those black raspberries every summer.  I have been an apartment dweller all of this time but this spring we are in the process of purchasing a home once again.  We have found a lovely place in a wonderful city called Cleveland Heights, with a huge front porch and gardens that wrap around the whole lot. It has apple trees and herb beds and there are daffodils and crocuses coming up   everywhere.  But, it doesn’t have any black raspberries so come the "Merry Month of May", I will be making the drive out to Burton to ask for a few of the canes from the patch by the pond so that I can again have some of my very own. My poor husband!

Now buzz over to Roxana Villa's Illuminated Journal to read  more about the luscious raspberry and its wonderful uses in  fragrance!

Black Raspberry Photograph courtesy of :  http://www.living-and-loving-my-country-life.com

Lambic Beer photograph courtesy of : http://atattooedtale.wordpress.com

Painting of raspberries courtesy of :http://www.urbanartantiques.com


Perfume Illuminated: Sage

Are you goin' to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt (On the side of a hill in the deep forest green).

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground).

Without no seams nor needlework (Blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain).

Then she'll be a true love of mine (Sleeps unaware of the clarion call).

Tell her to find me an acre of land (On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves).

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Washes the grave with silvery tears).

Between salt water and the sea strands (A soldier cleans and polishes a gun).

Then she'll be a true love of mine.

Tell her to reap it in a sickle of leather (War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions).

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Generals order their soldiers to kill).

And gather it all in a bunch of heather (And to fight for a cause they've long ago forgotten).

Then she'll be a true love of mine."

 Scarbourough Fair/Canticle  - Simon and Garfunkel

Cloisters
 
 

Flavor: Sage 


For todays Perfume Illuminated, Roxana and I have decided to take a fragrant and flavorful journey with the genus Salvia....more commonly known to us as sage. Sage is the  herb that I love the most passionately and if I ever(perish the thought!) had to choose just one herb to spend the rest of my days with it would be the sage. Immortalized in songs and sonnets , sage is still planted in the cloisters and medieval knot gardens that have been hidden for centuries behind castle walls.   Images of Sage and it's lovely flowers are embroidered into some of the most famous tapestries ever created, tapestries that set fire to the imagine passionately.   Indeed , the lovely little sage is no stranger to the secret languages of passion and romance.

   Unicorns
 

It comes in so many different varieties and I plant as many as I can, adoring them for their flowers which my hummingbirds love and the velvety fleshy leaves that flavor my stews and stuffings  all throughout the year. There are Sacred Sages, Culinary Sages and even a Psychoactive Sage, the gorgeous yet notorious Salvia Divinorum.  I have found it growing wild in Colorado and Arizona and have picked big bouquets of long stemmed Sacred White Sage in Wyoming where it grows abundantly along the Snake River, taking it home and turning it into smudge sticks.  The Native Americans have always considered sage one of the sacred herbs and  burned smudge sticks such as these to banish any feelings of negativity or the lingering feelings of fear  and sorrow left in a space once a being has passed on or suffered through a long sickness or trauma. They also used the wet leaves in their sweat lodges to produce copious amounts of smoke that would help open the nasal passages and the lungs.  

       Sage-bundle
 
Sage is an ancient herb, beloved for centuries in Europe and on this continent for its medicinal and antibacterial qualities and of course for the musky, earthy flavor that blends so beautifully with so many things.  Indeed the associations that we have with the aroma of sage are of hearth and home, the scent of a turkey roasting with a sage, sausage, apple and chestnut dressing takes me back into my mothers kitchen faster than almost any other thing else that I can cook. I'll post that recipe when Autumn comes!

SageDerby
 

Sage Derby, that remarkable English cheese has it’s origins in the 17th century when sage leaves were added to fresh derby curds to produce a delicious cheese enjoyed at Lughnasadh and Yule feasts that was almost minty in flavor and wonderful for the digestion.  These days, fresh sage is still added at the beginning of the process and chlorophyll too, so that the cheese has a beautiful marbling of green throughout.  Sage Derby is my favorite cheese to melt over sprouted grain bread for a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich and one of the most beautiful cheeses to use on a cheese board. Make sure that you have a wonderful ale to go with that and some fresh apples too! 

I’ve also made my own farmers cheese flavored with sage using  a gallon of organic milk (cream top!), a pinch of salt and the juice of a lemon. It's a very simple recipe, just bring the milk to   a boil, stir for a minute and add the salt . Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and the curds will begin to form. Take a lot of cheese cloth and line a strainer with it, (I've found that a pasta pot with a strainer works very well for this) and pour in the milk and curds. Let it drain for a bit, scoop out the cheese and put it into a bowl. Add some salt, pepper and chopped fresh sage.  refrigerate and serve with whole grain crackers for a light treat thats delicious and has the added bonus of being a digestif as well!

I love to drink sage tea when I've got a touch of the flu as it relaxes me and cools me down if I'm feverish. Just steep a handful of fresh sage (or a tablespoon or two of dried) in a  cup of hot water, add a bit of raw honey and enjoy. This same tonic makes an exceptional gargle for a sore throat and really soothes the parched dry tissues of aching tonsils. Sage powder (ground in a coffee grinder) and mixed into a paste with baking soda and a bit of peppermint essential oil is one of the best remedies that I know of to help sooth inflamed gums naturally. Women who experience a heavier flow during their monthly periods can  drink sage tea to help bring a bit of balance to their cycle and lighten up the bleeding. An important note for women who are breastfeeding - avoid sage as it will dry up your milk production very quicklyI  I love to take fresh sage and pieces of Crystallized ginger and simmered them in  sugar and water until they boil down into a delightful syrup that makes a very relaxing and restorative stomach tonic when stirred into a glass of white wine.  Try infusing the same syrup into a pitcher of iced green tea! You'll love it!

So this spring whether you've a garden or a patio, be sure to plant a few different types of sage to enjoy! Don't forget the beautifully fragrant clary sage and in my book you can never have too much pineapple sage! That's the one that the hummingbirds really adore and you'll spend many a summer afternoon watching them dart from bud to bud while sipping a cool glass of that 

delicious iced tea! 


When you're done listening to the Mediaevil Babes, float over to Roxana Villas gorgeously Illuminated journal for her sure to be wonderful musings about Fragrance: Sage 

 





Sage Derby Photo courtesy of bowerscheese.com

The Captive Unicorn Tapestry courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

Sage Bundle Photo courtesy of www.bluestarincense.com


Perfume Illuminated: Cannabis


Cannabis: Flavor

    Cannabis_flower 

 

I am still such a happy old hippy. I just can’t help myself…. I seriously take great joy in living part time in a state where Marijuana is barely criminalized, but definitely enjoyed by a huge percentage of the local population openly and freely on a fairly regular basis. Indeed ,Cannabis needs absolutely no introduction to anyone who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s and I don’t think that it’s popularity has ever dwindled regardless of the mass prohibition and vilification that this incredibly helpful herb has had to tolerate for the at least last 70 years. Its remarkably fragrant qualities and euphoria producing tendencies make it a very attractive and comforting intoxicant for those who really don’t like to drink but want to enjoy a relaxing state of being that really doesn’t  produce a nasty hangover in the morning or leave you wondering if you said or did anything that you shouldn’t have!

My own history with this fairly notorious little herb goes way back to the early 1970’s when I was coming of age as a teenager. Quite frankly I loved it and I found smoking a joint or two with my friends around a bonfire to be a lovely way to pass an evening.  We weren’t causing much trouble at all, unless you can call a bunch of reasonably intelligent kids sitting around listening to Yes and discussing politics, existentialism and quasi pagan philosophies well into the night trouble.  It was only when we began to add alcohol into the equation that it began to get a bit complicated.   And…who needs complications when you can just have a simple bit of harmless fun and a brownie or two?

To understand the politics of Marijuana you truly have to look no farther than the corporate interests that widespread use of hemp and Cannabis would impact.  Hemp one of the Cannabis cousins is an incredibly useful plant with nary a fraction of the “enlivening”  components of Cannabis Sativa.  It also makes fabulous paper, cloth, food, oil, and can be converted into energy.  By now everyone knows that the original Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper and that Jefferson , Washington et al. were hemp farmers. One doesn’t need to read between the lines to see that the reintroduction of legal hemp farming across the United States would completely impact the timber, cotton and paper industries.  

It’s that simple and it’s the powerful impact of industrial hemp farming on other industries that keep it from widespread legalization here in the United States. In 1938 the Dupont Corporation had already patented the processes for creating paper from wood pulp and many of the powerful industry captains of that time were  heavily invested in the factories that would be creating paper products. There were studies done at the time showing that paper made from hemp instead of wood pulp was not only a better and more stable product, but was easier on the environment.  The processes used to produce hemp products are much less toxic than the ones used to produce paper and it was widely known that hemp was incredibly useful.  However the enormous wealth of men like William Randolph Hearst enabled them to persuade our government to outlaw it because of the vast amounts of money that they stood to lose at the time.   

 

The many incredible health benefits of using Cannabis Sativa wisely as medicine  are well documented.   There are studies now that show the ability of marijuana to help children and adults with  Attention Deficit Disorder gain focus in their lives and the effects  Cannabis on Glaucoma have been well understood for years. People with cancer and fibromyalgia use it to find relief from pain without the horrendous side effects and addictive tendencies of traditional pain medications. Crohns patients and those with IBS and other inflammatory bowel diseases who are fortunate enough to live in states where Cannabis has been decriminalized can find easy relief from the painful  and completely debilitating  pain and intestinal spasms that they experience daily as part of their disease .  There are even new groundbreaking studies that show that breast cancer can be put into remission by a daily dose of cannabis and patients suffering from the horrific side effects that chemotherapy produces can easily and safely find relief by ingesting a simple  THC med strip, a sublingual delivery system that  dissolves under your tongue and has the pain relieving properties of two  Vicodins without the terrible side effects.

Personally I look forward to the day when marijuana is as legal and as easy to purchase as a bottle of vodka, which I consider to be far more damaging.  Living in San Diego part of the time, I experience daily the really scary stories of the murderous drug wars that are raging on approximately 45 minutes from my lovely coastal home.  At a dinner party last year I met a government agent who had been brought into San Diego specifically to help secure the Tijuana border. His made his feelings very clear,   that Americans need to insist upon the legalization of marijuana immediately in this country.  Regulate it like alcohol, tax it  (it’s California’s largest cash crop!) and shut down the need for the illegal trade that results in so much horrific bloodshed along our Mexican borders.   

Perhaps I’ve said enough of the reasons that I believe that Cannabis should be decriminalized in this country.  It’s never made sense to me that I could go out and legally drink myself silly, potentially leaving myself open to reeking some real havoc on some unsuspecting souls life forever yet if I wanted to indulge myself by smoking a bit of pot   and relaxing in my living room I could really get into some serious trouble for it. That finally seems to be changing in this country and perhaps it is as simple as all the boomers are coming of age. The last staggering statistic that I heard on National Public radio was that approximately 54 percent of American seniors still admitting to smoking it and perhaps that is why we are many steps closer to finally demanding its legalization. At this point in California and many other states, medical marijuana is available in all forms to the lucky residents and all you would need  to procure it without risk to life and limb is a qualifying diagnosis from your physician .  There are strictly enforced dispensaries where those lucky enough to enjoy the privilege will find all sorts of ways to indulge themselves. There are fancy edibles like lollipops, ice cream and brownies and even sodas made with cannabis for those who wish not to smoke their medicines.   

All over California   http://freeculturemag.com/ is offered  in coffee shops  and other gathering places and conversation among white collared executive types about  their medical marijuana is as relaxed and easy as a conversation about men and chocolate in Paula Deens kitchen.

In honor of that sort of sanity  (and chocolate!) I’d like to offer a recipe or two!

I am told that the best way to make anything delicious with marijuana is through the use of something called “Cannabis Butter”. This does seem a bit easier than the first time that I tried to make anything with marijuana back in the 70’s.  A dear HS friend of mine (who’s probably reading this and laughing a lot) and I decided to help her sister harvest the two marijuana plants that somehow she’d managed to grow unnoticed in her closet.  Friday night the exciting phone call came…the parents were out and it was time to dry the goods! Having never done this before, we decided to use the oven and we put leaves, buds and all on two cookie sheets in a 300 degree oven. Within 10 minutes we knew the mistake we’d made. To salvage the project we tossed the whole thing into two boxes of Betty Crocker brownie mix.  Let me tell you….all of the room spray in the world couldn’t remove the sweet smell of the evidence in time. To this day I have no idea why we didn’t get caught.  Goddess that was fun!

 

 Try the butter recipe. It seems much easier!

Butter
 
 

The following (and the above picture) is a recipe that seems to get a lot of great accolades from a fun little site called http://bestmarijuanabrownierecipe.com.  Marijuana butter is very green and looks like something that is straight out of the Dr. Seuss classic “Green Eggs and Ham”.  However, I must admit that it does sound quite delicious melted over a loaded baked potato or a simple Dijon encrusted filet of sole with fresh asparagus…both recipes that I saw in the “Culture” magazine that I was reading last week!  Careful though, I’m guessing that it is fairly potent stuff!

 

Cannabis Butter

The amount of butter and cannabis used can vary depending of how potent you want the end product to be. A batch of brownies typically calls for a 3/4 cup of butter, for use in brownies I recommend at least 3.5 grams (1/8 Ounce) of cannabis be used. For best results I’d use anywhere from 14 grams (1/2 ounce) to an ounce (28 grams). But once again this can vary greatly and in the end it all comes down to personal preference.

For simplicity’s sake we’ll use 1 lb of butter and 1 ounce of cannabis.

 

Directions:

1.             Melt the butter in a pan/pot (pun intended).
Finely grind or chop the cannabis as small as possible without it being too small that it will fall through our strainer later on.

2.             Once the butter has started boiling we can turn it down to a simmer and add the cannabis.

3.             Stirring occasionally wait until the butter has turned green from the marijuana. (The longer the cannabis is being cooked in the butter the more time we allow the THC to be extracted resulting in a more potent result)

4.             Once the butter has turned green we can now remove the leaves by pouring the butter through the strainer.

And we’re done!

At this point we can either freeze/chill it for storage or we can use it as an ingredient in another recipe.

 

 Strawberry-Banana-Brownies
 

 

How about this delightful recipe for Strawberry Banana Brownies that I found on the “Culture Magazine“ website?

 

Strawberry Banana Brownies

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ cups sliced strawberries

1 ripe banana, mashed

1 egg

*1 cup marijuana butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder 

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar for dusting

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a double boiler, allow to partially cool, and then transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the egg and vanilla. Puree 1/4 cup of the strawberries and whisk into the butter. In a separate bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, sugar and flour. Add to the butter-egg mixture and fold thoroughly. Add the remaining strawberries and banana and fold until well mixed. Pour into greased 9-inch baking dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

 

 

 

 I am also told by excellent sources that the best marijuana brownie recipe ever is a simple adaptation of the classic brownie recipe from the book “The Essence of Chocolate”  by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg.

 20090209essence_of_chocolate 

 

 

Fudgy Brownies

 

 Introduction

In order to achieve the crackled top and fudgy texture of classic brownies, this batter must be beaten by hand until it pulls from the sides of the bowl. This sounds like a task, but it’s not; there’s something homey and satisfying about stirring this thick, glossy batter yourself.

Ingredients

6

Tbsp. (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for the pan ( Substitute Cannabis butter)

8

oz. 70-percent bittersweet chocolate

¾

cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

¼

tsp. salt

2

large eggs

cup all-purpose flour

½

cup toasted walnut halves (optional)

 

 

Steps

                Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

                Cut an 8-by-16-inch piece of parchment paper. Lightly butter an 8-by-8-by-2-inch pan and line it with the parchment, allowing it to extend evenly over the opposite sides. Butter the parchment, including the paper on the sides of the pan.

                Place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water and stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.

                With a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, beat the sugar and salt into the chocolate mixture. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and mix vigorously until the batter is very glossy and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

                Break the nuts, if using, into large pieces over the batter and fold them in.

                Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap the pan bottom on the countertop to level the batter. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out moist but clean.

                Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove the brownies from the pan using the parchment “handles,” and cool completely on the rack before cutting into 2-inch squares.


Be sure to go over to Roxana Villa's utterly gorgeous Illuminated Journal to read; http://journal.illuminatedperfume.com/2010/03/perfume-illuminated-cannabis.html

 And.....While your  brownies are cooling here’s a bit of Bob Marley for you !


 

 Please note that these recipes are listed here for sheer entertainment value and are intended for use only where the use of medical marijuana isn’t in violation of any state law. I don't need to go into the legalities of this issue, everyone knows them. Also, please note that edibles made with marijuana can really vary in potency and in other words   can really be potent depending upon your height, weight and general state of health. Please use as much care and intelligence as possible!