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from scratch – making lilac sugar

From Scratch - Making Lilac Sugar with Finding Shibusa

In spring, the earth seems to sing its pleasure at the retreat of the frost and snow, as if awakened from a spell. The songbirds arrive and start each day with their giddy banter, where a month earlier there was just hush. In Vermont this transformation comes quick, one minute we are shrouded in ice, seemingly the next the trees are festooned with blooms. Happily this is where I find myself this week, when the lilac blossoms are bursting and the air is sweet with their intoxicatingly joyful scent.

Lilac Blossoms - Making Lilac Sugar with Finding Shibusa

I am now lucky enough to have the luxury of a large old lilac hedge on one side of our garden. I no longer have to sneak round with pruners in hand, hoping to gather enough of this fleeting indulgence. This year, with blooms at the ready, I decided to see how else lilac can be enjoyed. Which led me first to food…

Lilac Blossoms and Sugar - Making Lilac Sugar with Finding Shibusa

Lilacs are edible, their intense scent making them a perfect choice for infusing into other things. The very simplest of these is Lilac Sugar.

Lilac Sugar

Granulated sugar
Clean, dry lilac petals
A lidded container or jar.

Simply layer the lilac and sugar in a jar and set it in a cool dark place for a few days, shaking it occasionally. I used 1 cup of sugar to 1/2 cup of lilac petals. After a few days it is ready to use. It’s perfect for baking, to rim a cocktail glass, swirl into tea, or add when whipping cream to top fresh berries. I can’t wait to come up with ways to use it. A beautiful way to save the season.

Lilac Blooms - Making Lilac Sugar with Finding Shibusa

All images by Joanna Revers of FINDING SHIBUSA.




from scratch – homemade snickers bars

Homemade Snickers Bars

To be honest, with this recipe in your repertoire you can win at just about anything. It’s that good. I am not a candy person. I am more salty than sweet, which I’m sure many of you can attest to. However, about a month ago I made these for my boyfriend as a welcome home from a weekend trip that he took. He eats Snickers on the regular and I thought it would be a perfect surprise. What I didn’t plan on was my reaction to them. Proceed with caution because you will eat these, and you will eat them often, like every day at 4pm when your coffee/sweet craving comes, because they are there, in the fridge, in the freezer, or left out to be oozy and gooey. You will eat these, so make them for Halloween and give them away, to friends, at work, at a party – wrap them in parchment paper and tie them with baker’s twine. You will win, and you won’t have a whole tray of them calling to you from the kitchen every day.

homemade snickers bars

makes one 9×13 pan

So this looks like a lot and potentially complicated, but it’s not. It’s easy. Yes, there are four layers, but basically you just mix each layer over heat, pour it into the pan, and then let it cool and harden. Repeat with the other layers, licking the bowls in between.

bottom chocolate layer

1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter

Thoroughly grease you baking pan. Melt ingredients together in a saucepan or microwave, then pour into the baking dish and spread until even. Let cool and harden completely.

nougat layer

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cup salted peanuts chopped, roughly chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in sugar and milk, stirring until dissolved and bring to a boil. Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in fluff, peanut butter and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Turn off heat and fold in peanuts, then pour over bottom chocolate layer. Let cool completely.

* When I made these I didn’t have salted peanuts at home, just unsalted. So I mixed those with Himalayan pink salt, which I think, added a little extra salt to the recipe, which I think is why they were so addictive for me. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

caramel layer

1 14-ounce bag of caramels
1/4 cup whipping cream

Combine ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Let melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth – this took about 10 minutes for me. Pour over nougat layer and let cool completely.

top chocolate layer

1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter

Melt ingredients together in a saucepan or microwave, then pour over caramel and spread until even. Let cool and harden completely.
Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving, then cut as desired. These can stay at room temperature, but they do get gooey. I like them refrigerated best!

Note: for best results, buy one of the half-sheet aluminum cake pans at the grocery store. That way, you can pop the entire square out and cut from there!

Recipe and image from How Sweet It Is – Thanks for this, they are just so good.




the best, all-natural, homemade cold remedies

How to Make Homemade Cold Remedies with these everyday Ingredients

I went away to a wedding in Buffalo this past weekend. It was a beautiful, unusually warm fall weekend and it was great to spend time with family and friends. But on the day we were leaving it started. The sore throat. First just a twinge when I woke up, so I thought perhaps I had just been snoring (so unlike me). But then within a few hours it came on strong. It went through its usual mix – sore throat, fever, aches and pains, stuffy nose, chest congestion, and cough.

Sometimes when I get sick, because I am sick, I dissolve into a puddle of weakness and ineptitude, not doing the things that I know I should be doing but lying around feeling sorry for myself and eating rice pudding (my go-to comfort food). This time, though, I didn’t have the time to indulge my weakness as I have a ladies weekend planned in Maine and there is no way that a cold is going to get in the way. This time I did sick right. Here are a few homemade cold remedies that you can easily make from ingredients at home and which help heal and restore in a gentle, soothing, all-natural, non-chemical way.

1. hot toddy

Cider Hot Toddy - homemade cold remedies

I figured I would start with the best, and the most effective at making you feel better. The Hot Toddy is magic when you are sick. It is my alternative to NyQuil. It puts you quite contentedly to sleep while soothing your throat, clearing your sinuses, and warming you and your chest. And it’s delicious, if you can still taste. There are many different versions from the standard Hot Toddy to the Cider Hot Toddy (pictured above). It’s hard to go wrong with this and pretty easy to customize to your taste. The main ingredients are an alcohol (bourbon, rye, or brandy usually), lemon (I tend to go big on this), honey (ditto), hot water, and then accessory flavors (cloves, anise, cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger). Make a big cup of this, cuddle up, and then sleep – one of the best home remedies.

2. honey ginger throat drops

Homemade Honey Ginger Throat Drops - homemade cold remedies

No matter what medley of cold symptoms I get, I always get a sore throat. And from that sore throat comes an irritated throat and cough, so it is essential for me to have something to soothe it, especially at night. Store bought, mediciny drops and lozenges work, but I hate having to ingest something so chemical and dyed, especially at night if I am going to fall asleep after, or even while, I am having it. These Homemade Honey Ginger Throat Drops from the Free People Blog are the answer. Easily made from just honey and ginger, both key healing and soothing ingredients, you needn’t be worried about sticky red, blue, or green residue on your teeth, or your pillow.

3. a natural cough remedy

A natural honey, ginger, cayenne cough remedy.

Simple to make, simple to take. This Natural Cough Remedy is made with the all-stars of natural, healing ingredients – apple cider vinegar, cayenne, ginger, and honey. This cough medicine is both soothing and cleansing, it will help remedy your cold, instead of just masking it and making you feel twitchy. I’d much rather take something that is actually healing my body rather than just masking my cold.

4. ginger, jalapeño, and lemon tea

Ginger, Jalapeño, and Lemon Tea for a cold

This should definitely be part of your repertoire. Thanks to Barrett at Valleybrink Road for this game changer. I like to make a pot of this and sip it throughout the day, even when I am not sick. Sometimes I will skip the jalapeño and add apple cider vinegar for an everyday cleansing drink – but if you are fighting a cold, stick with the heat of the jalapeño it will sock it to your sinuses and warm you from the inside out.

5. turmeric milk

Turmeric Milk - an all-natural, Indian homemade cold remedy

Turmeric has been getting a lot more attention these days for its countless health benefits and healing properties. In India it has been a long-standing home remedy, used to treat skins problems, colds, chest pain, sore throats, and even toothaches. To treat a cold, Indian mothers make Turmeric Milk  or haldi ka doodh which is a warm, peppery mix of turmeric, spices, and warm milk which instantly warms and soothes the throat. Thanks Journey Kitchen for introducing me to this new-to-me treatment.

So these are a few of the ways that you can soothe and calm your cold with homemade remedies that actually remedy, made from natural, healing ingredients you have at home. My cold is on its way out, but I’d love to know – Do you have any to share?

Images via 1, 2, 3, 4.




chalkboard globe

Not only do I have a thing for slate, and thus chalkboards, but I have a thing for globes too. If you have one that is a little less than lovely, or if you simply want to create your own objêt d’art , just paint it with chalkboard paint and voilà – the world is yours to make of as you will. If you don’t want to have to DIY, they are available from time to time at Bluebell Vintage.

Originally found via Design*Sponge.




a fabulous tart

The Jewels of New York Spring Breakfast Tart
Spring Breakfast Tart

Um, yes please. This simply is perfection. First, it is a tart, and I love tarts. Second, it’s a breakfast tart which takes breakfast to a whole ‘nother level. Third, not only is it a breakfast tart, but it is a breakfast tart that has whole, sunnyside up eggs in it. Amazing not only for the visual appeal, but also for the consumption, which will no doubt have a lot of running and oozing, mixing, and mopping up…
Fourth, if you’re not already hooked, it also has bacon, asparagus, gruyère, crème fraîche, thyme, and is sprinkled with arugula blossoms, love that. And fifthly and finally, I love how it is assembled in a perfectly imperfect painterly way.

This stunningly fabulous Spring Tart was created by the talented and creative duo behind The Jewels of New York, the Brooklyn-based catering and food-styling company. They have a truly discerning eye and an inspiring palate which they share through their online collection of seasonal recipes, see them here. To see their catering capabilities look here, I love their brown bag lunch!

To see the recipe for the Spring Breakfast Tart look here, seems like a perfect weekend for it!




pantry projects

Burgon and Ball Perfectly Pickled Jar

If you’re anything like me, then you love a good project… and anything to do with organizing, especially in a visually appealing way that probably involves buying something. That is why I love these jars from Burgon and Ball, available in the U.S. here. For starters, they just look amazing. No more sticky labels with messy handwriting – just smooth glass and a fabulous font.

Not only do they look great, but the jar’s very nature begs for a project. As does the fact that we have now moved into the dwindling days of summer – okay I give in, the early days of fall. So it’s the perfect time to come up with things to do inside, that are warm, like canning. You may still have a lot of tomatoes left on the vine – make tomato jam. Or maybe you have, unlike me, already embraced fall and gone apple picking – make apple chutney. Cleaning up the garden? Homegrown herbs.

Burgon and Ball Delicious Jam Jar
Burgon and Ball Homegrown Herb Jar

Not sure how to fill your jars? Try this amazing cookbook. “Make your own bacon, cheese, and marshmallows” – um, awesome! (Stay tuned for my two new favorite cookbooks!)

Jam it - Pickle it - Cure it - A cookbook on preserving food.




I came across the first cookbook from San Francisco’s famed Tartine Bakery while idling my time away with a coffee in a little bookstore in Woodstock, Vermont… little did I know what I had gotten myself into.

Named simply Tartine, it was, quite frankly, a showstopper. The bakery, owned by husband and wife team, pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt and baker, Chad Robertson, was relocated to San Francisco from their first bakery located in Point Reyes Station just slightly north up the coast in Marin, coincidentally, my homeland. If you know me, I know what you are thinking – weren’t you born in Wales? – well, yes. We then moved to San Francisco and later, Marin, and well, you know how the song goes…

The first incarnation of their bakery used a wood-fired brick oven to bake bread and rustic, elegant pastries. It was here that the soul of Tartine’s singular breadmaking was realized as Robertson set about to understand the process, the elements, and his environment. What he learned serves as the focus of the second cookbook, Tartine Bread.

If you are anywhere near as passionate or as enthusiastic as I am about good bread and the elusive zen of mastering its making, then you should definitely look this cookbook up. It is sure to please. Not only is it filled with wisdom, insight, and inspiration from years of baking and hundreds of raw, starkly beautiful images of bread and the food it makes, but…
It also offers a behind the scenes peek at the lifestyle and lives of the Northern California surfer/breadbakers, sigh, who have helped make Tartine what it is today…

And what is that you ask?

A place that you really should visit. If that is an impossibility then, experience their cookbooks. And if that still is not possible then try making one of their café’s inspired panini’s at home. I suggest: Idiazabal & Membrillo – made with lightly smoked sheep’s cheese and quince jam – or – Pecorino & Almondmade with sheep’s cheese & almonds crushed with olive oil, lemon and sage.

For some slightly-more-instant gratification watch the video below.

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