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.
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…
Lilacs are edible, their intense scent making them a perfect choice for infusing into other things. The very simplest of these is Lilac 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.
This week’s cocktail is so simple, so fun, and the best shade of pink. A simple mix of gin and, you guessed it, jam, you can most likely make it with what you have on hand. Though it’s definitely a reason to splurge for a fabulous jam… or better yet, make your own.
The Gin and Jam Cocktail comes from Todd, the Drinks Editor at Honestly Yum, an honestly great blog that I like to frequent for food and drink inspiration. You may remember that I have shared a drink of his before. Thanks, Todd, for this pink and sweet and swirlable cocktail that’s as easy to make as it is to finish.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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?
Truth be told, I am a fan of the evening drink. And while most nights I defer to a good glass of wine, there is something to be said for the well-conceived cocktail. Much like the wreaths I discussed the other day, a cocktail is a microcosm of the world around. It has a point of view, all touched on with its perfect pairings and essences and notes. It is put together. First in that it is made, a labor of love, and second in that it has style. The glass, the garnish, the rocks, the rim. Some nights you just have to go all out.
There are so many inspiring things being done these days that I just had to start sharing a drink with you. This week’s cocktail comes from a truly inspiring and funny duo (note that the recipe notes are their own), Andrea and Paul Bartholomew from The Framed Table. Both photographers, their blog is “a photographic menu of culinary explorations”, and well worth the visit. Thank you both for sharing this drink – a smart mix of easy sophistication and well-appointed languor.
dried rose tea buds (optional, for garnish – we used Damask Rose Tea Buds from Harrods in London, of course)
In a collins glass, combine simple syrup, lemon juice and the infused gin. Stir.
Add 3 ice cubes and top off the glass with club soda. Stir again.
If additional charmingness is desired for presentation, add an optional garnish of dried rose tea buds from Harrods in London and make sure to tell everyone where you got them.
• INFUSED GIN: add 2 tbsp loose leaf Earl Grey tea to 8oz Gin and it let set for 2 hours covered at room temperature. Filter into another container for use later. (We used Plymouth Gin and Flowery Earl Grey loose leaf tea from Harrods in London. If you use this same tea, make sure to tell everyone where you got it – everyone wants to hear that story again.)
• SIMPLE SYRUP: mix 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into a glass jar and cover. Makes about 1½ cups and will keep in the refrigerator for a few months.
• ICE CUBES: chip pieces off an iceberg from your transatlantic ocean liner voyage and form into cube-like shapes, approximately 1 to 1.5 inches. Keep below 32°F (0°C) until ready to prepare this cocktail.