DECEMBER ~ 2009
"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: It is time for home" ~ Edith Sitwell, poet
December 1 ~My herb supplies are all in, recipes set aside for this year's treats and gifts--now all I need is TIME!!. After bagging up herbs a few weeks ago, I set aside a good handful of various aromatic herb leaves to use as card/package confetti. Smells wonderful and always makes people laugh--until it comes time to vacuum it up!! If you are giving a gift of herb breads, for example, it is nice to pack some sprigs of one or all of the herbs used in the box/basket with it.
December 2 ~ The mail was full of seed catalogues today. Too early! These need to be savored and there is hardly time for that this month. January happens to be National Seed Catalogue month. I put mine in a special pile to be gone over on a cold, snowy day with a big cup of tea.
Making some herbed vodkas as gifts--I am using rosemary, lemon geranium, anise, banana and mint. Simple-just steep a cup of herb/food per quart of vodka and let set a few weeks. Strain and rebottle.
December 3 ~ Helping a young woman with polycystic ovary disease. Unfortunately, this is becoming more common due to excessive red meat and milk consumption and estrogenetic effects of certain chemicals in the environment. It is a several prong approach--to regulate the cycle, decrease cysts and generally reprogram the hormonal cycle of the body that affects several functions (blood sugar, weight gain, etc). Diet and herbs are very effective.
December 5 ~ Finishing up decorations. Since the woodstove is going, I sliced a few big oranges thinly, put them on wire wracks on top of some foil on the stove and let them dry for several hours--smells wonderful. Then I put ornament hangers on the slices and hung them from the cedar roping in the doorways. Baking is next!
December 6 ~ Going over new recipes for holiday meals and noticing how herbs have really worked their way into regular cooking--not the typical old use of some of the same old powdered spices--but new, easy, innovative ways of using whole/fresh herbs in every aspect of cooking/baking. We will get healthier in spite of ourselves!!
December 7 ~ Feed the Birds!! If you have left over squash or other veggies still laying out in the garden rotting--smash them open so the birds can feast. Today, I opened up all the spices I bought and am organizing my gift making schedule (anything to procrastinate). I just love the smell--but it so happens that some of them will go into my winter tonic--that it is time to make up and start drinking--immune stimulants and things to keep the blood moving!
December 9 ~ Don't forget the "other" Holiday spices--like cardamom and chili peppers!! Each has something great to offer (aside form the germ killing benefits). Cardamom always reminds me of the taste of PEZ candies-but I add it to my winter coffee every morning, in my german spice cookies and to most cakes (whether the recipe calls for it or not). Hot peppers (in small amounts) taste fantastic in hot chocolate mixes, truffle candies and fudge. Both make you happy-and help keep you warm!
December 10 ~ Tomorrow is Chanukah and we always make LOTS of latkes--so we start today peeling and making potato batter and frying in olive oil--which is usually not a good frying oil, but is traditional for Chanukah. Olives and their oil is an ultimate herbal remedy--for everything!
December 11 ~ Unless you are an expert baker--which I am not--there will always be accidents...such as batter bakeover. Luckily, I know myself well enough to always put a baking sheet under my pans to catch the mess. But what if the mess tastes wonderful--like yesterday's bakeover of a lemon balm/cornbread/flour cake????? I always have extra milk--so I crumbled up the crispy baked spillover and used it in ice cream.Yummy!! Make do..or do without! Happy Chanukah!!
December 12 ~ Have any family/friends with constant sinus problems you want to give a practical gift to? How about a Neti pot along with a bag of kosher salt with goldenseal powder mixed in (ratio of 5 parts salt to 1 part powder)--and directions for use (usually one scant teaspoon salt mix to a full neti pot). It would be a gift that keeps on giving...relief and comfort.. all season long
December 13 ~ AS I make cookies--lots of them, I remember that originally, cookie cutters in shapes of animals and foods were to replace actual sacrificial foods--there is so much history in the everyday things we do. I also use the cherry wood rolling pin my parents made together when they were dating (making it around 56 years old) while I make some really old family cookie recipes and some totally new ones. One old one is Mexican Wedding Cakes--which my dog jumped up and stole /ate nearly a dozen leaving no trace at all----so I also now, will call these cookies "really expensive dog biscuits"
December 14 ~ Rosemary Sugar--tastes delightful on lots of things this time of year--just pulse sugar (white or demerarra or turbinado, etc.) with fresh rosemary. Use it on ice cream, in tea, cookies/cakes, fruit--
December 16 ~ For cookies to serve for a holiday tea--always think of adding lavender to the dough. It goes well with lemon or a stronger spice like cardamom mixed into a regular sugar cookie recipe. Goes well with all teas (black and herb--except mint) and just makes you feel good smelling it and eating it. I made 6 dozen today along with the triple batches of ginger and spice cookies.
December 18 ~ Saved by Elderberries. This cold season has been brutal. There are several different herbal remedies I use when I feel the onset of a cold/flu and usually decide which one to use based on the particular symptoms. This year, I keep relying on Elderberry as the sinuses and throat seem to be the most affected areas. I have some homemade elderberry syrup I made several years ago and keep frozen--and I have storebought Sambucol which is fine--but--I use the homemade for the really most difficult symptoms--it is better--even though it is older. Since this is the season of less than healthy eating, doing what my grandmother suggested may help anyway--she always told me to put in DOUBLE the amount of cinnamon/ginger/vanilla a recipe calls for. Everyone thought her baked goods were the best--and that is why--but it also helps kill germs and overcome the sugar overload of holiday foods.
December 19 ~ Put the tree up and aside from the regular decorations, I used leftover yarrow, rosehips and money plant to lay in the branches. For the small tree in the kitchen, I have antique cookie cutters, along with herbal sachets (in calico print material) tied with cinnmon sticks.
December 20 ~ Winter Solstice is my favorite night--every candle I have in the house gets lit. I also make my ginger Solstice Man (using gingerbread cookie dough with NO leavening) I use pieces if dough to make a face and use peeled almonds to look like rays. He gets displayed until Summer Solstice when he is burned in a bonfire.
December 22 ~ Making gifts of Winter Tea. There are fixed ingredients, but no real recipe as you choose to add more/less of whatever ingredients you like. The point is to encourage a strong immune system, keep you warm, but also relax you into hibernation. Use a base of black tea (whatever type you like) and add rosemary, pieces of crytallized ginger, pieces of a vanilla bean, star anise, cardamom pods, whole cloves, nettles and a bit of Demerrara sugar if you want. Make as with any tea and curl up with a magazine/book/seed catalogue!
December 24 ~ Unexpected herb encounter!!--Holiday sledding had me ending up in the middle of a burdock patch--it was stuck to every bit of clothing!!
December 29 ~ The week between Christmas and New Years is like a "free time" or "land of the lost time" week--nothing on TV, no regular schedule--the perfect time to sip tea and catch up on herb magazines/books.........and start to tackle those seductive seed catalogues that have been arriving for weeks. It is really cold and snowy today--which is my signal to delve into those catalogues. I have, over the years, and after lots of wasted effort and money, developed a plan of attack. The next few days, I will go through them all for the first of THREE times-- and mark EVERYTHING that I want and/or interests me. Practicality or expense will not be entertained. I only note Hardiness Zones--because my wishing is not going to change my climate. Then, I will put the catalogues away for a few weeks (January is "Ordering from Garden Catalogues month"--no kidding!) Stay tuned for what I do on my second go around.
Happy New Year!!