Thursday

Easy Chive Butter Recipe - A Two Ingredient Wonder


Chive butter is one of the most versatile savory butters you can make at home. It has a mild oniony, garlicky flavor that's somewhat sweet and never bitter. It improves the taste of most vegetables, and is the default flavored butter topper for a baked potato. For a rich finish, add a pat to your grilled or broiled steaks, too. That little dab of garden kissed dairy makes all the difference.

Chive butter is another two ingredient butter, like honey butter, that's be easy to prepare. You can even complete a batch during a commercial break in your favorite holiday movie -- I speak from experience.

You can source fresh chives in the produce department of most major grocery store chains if it isn't a resident in your garden. (And if not, why not? Chives are reliably frost tolerant, and I've even braved the herb patch after a significant snow to harvest some when my windowsill plant starts to look a little short and stumpy.)

Chive Butter Recipe


2 sticks (one cup) salted butter, softened
1/4 cup fresh chives


Rinse chives and pat them dry with a paper towel. Let them sit on your countertop for a half hour or so to get rid of any residual moisture. Dryer is better.

Chop chives as fine as you can, and set them aside.

Add softened butter to a mixing bowl and cream using a whisk or fork.

Add the chives a little at a time until fully incorporated.

Spoon mixture onto waxed paper, and form it into a log about one and a half inches in diameter.  You can also place the mixture in a tub or ramekin, or add it to a decorative mold.

Refrigerate until firm.

The recipe can be halved or doubled.  To eyeball a quick prep session, use about two tablespoons of chives for each half cup (stick) of butter.  The mixture will last about a week in your refrigerator. It can also be made ahead and frozen.


Photo courtesy of Flicker user: Edsel Little
https://www.flickr.com/photos/edsel_/4022195735/in/photolist

Wednesday

Honey Butter Recipe

Herb and other flavored butters are popular around holidays like Christmas and Easter. They're delicious, and show a little extra attention to detail that doesn't take a culinary or decorating degree. They come together quickly, hold in the refrigerator for days, and can be molded or not, depending on how much time you have or want to spare. (They're tasty served in a simple tub or shape like an angel or holly wreath.)

I'm particularly fond of savory butters like chive, sage and rosemary, but my honey flavored butter is a big hit, too -- sweet, rich and wholesome. It's tasty on dinner rolls with baked ham, and is always welcome with breakfast biscuits or scones. You can make it days ahead, which is nice when crunch time approaches. With just two ingredients, it's ridiculously easy to prepare.

If you have honey lovers in the family and don't enjoy mopping up the sticky drips, this butter delivers the sweet, natural flavor of honey but leaves the mess behind.

Honey Flavored Butter Recipe


Ingredients

2 sticks salted butter (1 cup)
1/4 cup honey

Directions

Soften butter on your countertop or in the microwave to make it easier to work with.

Combine butter and honey in a small mixing bowl and beat with a whisk for three to five minutes. You can also use food processor or hand mixer.

*Spoon mixture onto wax paper, and roll into a log about 1-1/2 inches in diameter.  Refrigerate until set. If using with sweet rather than savory dishes, you can sprinkle cinnamon on the chilled log for a little extra color.

Refrigerate until serving time.

Slice into generous 1/4 inch rounds, and serve in an iced dish.

This recipe can be halved or doubled easily.

*Other options include spooning the prepared mixture into a tub or adding it to large or individual decorative molds.

Special Note: If you've prepared my lavender flavored honey recipe, now's the time to use it! You can find it here: How to Make Lavender Honey    (It makes a very nice holiday hostess gift.)

Photo courtesy of Flickr user: thebristolkid
https://www.flickr.com/photos/thebristolkid/3225285221/in/photolist

Tuesday

Easy Rosemary Body Scrub Recipe - for Dry Skin

My skin tends to dry out over the winter, especially my feet and knees. To help combat the flakes, I make a rosemary body scrub that uses a mild sugar abrasive and light oil moisturizer. This is pretty easy since rosemary is one of my go to herbs for cosmetic and medicinal applications. I maintain a couple of shrubs indoors over the winter, one of which started life as a tabletop Christmas tree. The aroma is fresh and reminiscent of the outdoors -- woodsy with a hint of camphor -- the big brother of mild mint.

This scrub is effective and easy to make, and includes the added benefit of moisturizing as it exfoliates. As I do here, I like to use avocado oil as a base ingredient in most of my homemade skincare preparations because it contains skin loving monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. Both help reduce the skin damage caused by free radicals.  It's also a natural sunscreen. Using avocado oil will make your skin feel velvety smooth -- and you can't ask much more than that. You've probably noticed many high end cosmetics use it in small amounts. Lose the big names and marketing costs, and you can make your own preparations for a fraction of the price and still use wonderful ingredients.

In a pinch, you can substitute olive oil as a convenient and less expensive option, though. Actually, my grandmother kept a small bottle of olive oil next to the kitchen sink. She'd put a drop inside her rubber gloves, giving herself a moisturizing treatment every time she hand washed pots and pesky dishes. Her hands always looked beautiful. Give it a try with either olive oil or avocado oil.

I use a rounded teaspoonful of the mixture at a time, and apply it in a circular motion for about 30 seconds per problem area (like my heels).  I usually perform this little chore after a shower while sitting on the side of the tub. I always rinse and wipe the tub afterward to remove any lingering sugar crystals or oily residue.

Rosemary Body Scrub Recipe

  • 1 cup of white, granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup avocado or olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • *1/3 cup fresh, finely chopped rosemary needles You can substitute 1/4 cup dry needles or 12 drops rosemary essential oil. 
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Apply as needed to warm skin. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Refrigerate the mixture between applications.


*Rosemary oil will provide better aroma, but using fresh or dried needles will increase the abrasive effectiveness of the mixture and impart a little more of the herb's natural freight of anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. Your choice.

Avoid using rosemary body scrub on broken skin because the lemon juice in the mixture will sting.

Photo courtesy of  Flickr user: Steffany   https://www.flickr.com/photos/steffanyf/3555798984/in/photolist

Monday

Keeping a Rosemary Christmas Tree Alive Till Spring

If you've purchased an adorable rosemary Christmas tree and are now experiencing some problems, you're in good company. Fragrant and aggressively trimmed tabletop rosemary trees can be pesky to maintain. In fact, requests for help with rosemary trees appear in my in box almost daily during the holidays. How do you keep these little jewels alive till spring? Here are some tips that may help:

Check the tree carefully before you buy. If it has water in the bottom of the container, pass. Overwatering is one of the fastest ways to kill this plant.  It hales from the Mediterranean where conditions are typically dry rather than wet. Once rosemary starts to decline (read drop all its needles), it's difficult to rescue. The needles on a healthy plant should feel springy and look bright green and plump.

Water sparingly. Wait for the soil in the pot to feel dry to the touch before you water. Sprits occasionally, though. The heat coming from your HVAC system wrings moisture out of the air. If you don't have a humidifier, your indoor air is probably too dry for your houseplants -- including your rosemary bush -- to feel comfortable.  Although it doesn't like wet roots, rosemary prefers some comfortable humidity in the air. Buy an inexpensive pump sprayer, and use it to keep the environment around your plant less dry. It also helps to keep rosemary with other houseplants. This creates a more favorable microclimate for all.

Keep it away from artificial heat sources. Artificial heat steals the moisture from the plant and pot as well as from the air. (Actually, it can even suck the moisture out of your wooden furniture and cabinetry.) Place your plant away from heat vents and other heat sources. Also, avoid placing it on warm surfaces like old style television sets. Keep it off the top of your refrigerator, too.

Give the plant plenty of light. Rosemary requires at least six hours of bright light a day. It may be dormant till spring, but it still needs life giving illumination. Place it in your brightest window, but keep it from touching the glass. That cold glass may damage the needles. If this spoils your decorating plans, move the plant into a sunny spot regularly, or buy a grow light for it. Use the grow light when you aren’t in host or hostess mode.  In a pinch, you can add a grow light bulb to a regular light fixture. It's a good, cost effective compromise. You can find grow light bulbs at most variety and home improvement stores.

Remove all the fussy stuff. Those baubles on the plant and the decorative wrapper around the pot have to go. The ornaments damage the stems and needles, and the wrapper can cause moisture to pool and kill the roots.

Put the plant outside once in a while. If you live in an area that gets above freezing for a few days periodically throughout the winter months, put the plant outside when weather permits. Think of this as a spa day. In fact, if the plant is looking poorly now, check the Weather Channel and put it outdoors the first chance you get. Be careful, though. Rosemary can't stand freezing conditions. Bring it in again before the temperature drops much below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. You may get a little more outdoor time by keeping the plant in the sunshine but close to a protected area like a wall. The temperature in a protected spot can be a few degrees higher that the published temperature. Invest in an inexpensive thermometer, and check for likely outdoor locations.  I have a large commuter rosemary bush that spends summer outdoors and winter inside. I roll it onto my deck five or six times over the winter to get some fresh air and sunshine. It stays near a light colored wall where reflected light and heat keep it happy. This trick really works, so try it.

Repotting isn't a quick fix. If anything, rosemary likes tight quarters -- rootwise. Any problems you're having are more likely water and light related than due to cramped conditions or feeding (fertilizer) shortfalls. Keep the plant in the original pot till spring or even fall of next year. During that time, it will likely require feeding once, probably in late spring.

Good luck.


Photo Rosemary courtesy of Flicker user: Elvert Barnes https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/15864017135/in/photolist

Sunday

Easy Eggnog Fudge Recipe


I have to admit I'm an eggnog-aholic. I watch the grocery shelves every year, waiting for the newest batch of eggnog to arrive. I've tried making my own, but somehow it isn't nearly as satisfying as scoring that first quart from the market. I hoard my often renewed stash, and savor every drop till after New Year's.

It's actually the nutmeg that makes eggnog taste so special. Lots of holiday recipes use nutmeg as one of many flavoring ingredients, but its mild flavor is often overwhelmed by more aggressive players like clove and allspice. In a glass of wonderful eggnog, nutmeg is the star. With the support of creamy dairy and egg (they make a nice trinity in all kinds of sweet and savory dishes), it's a match made in holiday heaven.

I say this because it takes a lot of goodness to get me to relinquish any of my precious eggnog to us as a mere ingredient in a recipe. Believe me when I say the eggnog fudge recipe below is that good. Think of capturing the fine flavor of eggnog and savoring it in something other than a drink (however tasty) that spends a brief moment on the tongue. Wrap your taste buds around a bite of perfect eggnog infused candy that's as creamy as custard and as sweet as Christmas morning. *Thank the nutmeg gods for whoever invented this one.



Easy Eggnog Fudge Recipe


Ingredients

1-1/2 cups white, granulated sugar
3/4 cup creamery eggnog (regular, not lite)
1/2 cup salted butter
12 oz. package white chocolate baking chips
7 ounce jar prepared marshmallow creme
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg (Freshly grated is best because it imparts the most flavor.)
1 teaspoon rum extract (You can substitute 3 tbsp. light rum.)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Directions

Butter a square, 9-inch pan and set aside.

  1. Bring the sugar, eggnog and butter to a boil using a double boiler or heavy saucepan.
  2. Continue boiling until the mixture reaches 234°F on a candy thermometer,** stirring constantly. This should take about 8 minutes. 
  3. Remove from the heat and add white chocolate chips and nutmeg, stirring until the chips melt.
  4. Add marshmallow creme, rum extract (or rum) and pecans 
  5. Beat until incorporated.
  6. Pour mixture into the prepared pan.
  7. Cool.
  8. Cut into small squares.
  9. Store in your refrigerator, or freeze for up to a month.


Makes approx. 2 lbs.


*I came across this recipe years ago online and don't remember quite where. I've probably made a few changes, though. I always do. If you know the talented candy maker originally responsible for this recipe, please let me know and I'll credit the source.



**Scorching can be a problem if you aren't using a double boiler, so take the "stirring constantly" direction to heart.



Eggnog photo courtesy of Flickr user: Isaac Wedin https://www.flickr.com/photos/izik/3141194799/in/photolist

Fudge photo courtesy of Flickr user:  Sarah R   https://www.flickr.com/photos/reid-bee/16064774456/in/photolist

Saturday

Slow Cooker Spicy Apple Cider Recipe


The aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and other exotic spices are always an important part of fall and winter for me. If I'm not feeling the holiday spirit yet, a batch of spicy hot apple cider is a sure fire way for me to start seeing visions of sugarplums, or more likely, cookie fixings and wrapping paper. Apparently the sense of smell is almost as evocative as the sense of hearing, which bodes well if you plan on spending a few hours this weekend baking and listening to Christmas carols. You may come away from this prep marathon tired, but probably revisit a few cherished memories of Christmases past while creaming butter and calculating your cache of chocolate chips.

When I make spiced cider, the house smells like Mrs. Santa's kitchen (or what I imagine inhalations of her baking and brews smell like), and tastes like a little slice of childhood in a ceramic mug. Check out my recipe and instructions below. You'll like the mellow flavor and nice balance of spices. The addition of a few peppercorns gives it a bit of a bite to cut the sweetness, too.

This recipe uses a slow cooker (crockpot) to heat and infuse the mixture, but you can do the same thing either on your stovetop, or in the oven (at around 250 degrees Fahrenheit uncovered to start, and then down to 200 or on the warm setting to hold).

Slow Cooker Spicy Apple Cider Recipe


Ingredients

2 quarts sweet apple cider (not hard cider)
2 tbsp. packed light brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick (3 to 4 inches long)
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1/2 tsp. whole allspice berries
1/2 tsp. whole peppercorns
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg (fresh ground is best)
2 cardamom pods, crushed (optional)
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 whole orange, quartered (You'll be using the peel, so organic or unwaxed oranges are a good choice. *If you use a waxed orange, see the note below for instructions on how to remove its waxy coating.)


Directions

Place apple cider in a slow cooker, uncovered and on high for an hour. This evaporates some of the water and concentrates the apple flavor.

While the cider is reducing, measure out all the spices but the nutmeg and salt, and place them in a double length of cheesecloth. If you don't have cheesecloth, you can use a coffee filter. Close and secure the open end of either option with a length of twine.

Add the spice bag, quartered orange, nutmeg and salt to the mixture, and continue cooking for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Test the cider to see if it's spicy enough. If the taste isn't up to your standard, continue cooking and checking it every 15 minutes or so. When you're satisfied, remove the orange sections and spice bag, switch to a low setting on your slow cooker and cover. Note: don't leave the spice bag in place. It will eventually overwhelm the apple flavor and start to taste bitter.

Use the mixture as desired.

You can refrigerate any remainder for up to 48 hours. Oh, and you can add rum to taste of you want a beverage that's a little -- more.

The recipe can be halved or doubled. When cutting it in half, use a pinch of nutmeg rather than trying to measure out a 1/16th of a teaspoon's worth.

*Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes are often waxed to improve their appearance and help them retain moisture. Although wax isn't harmful per se, it isn't intended for consumption. If you're using a recipe that includes citrus peel, you can remove the wax by rinsing the whole fruit in hot water for 30 seconds or so. For multiples, fill a pot with hot (not boiling) water and immerse the fruits for 30 seconds. Then rinse each one in hot water briefly. You can also use this method to remove wax from vegetables.


Photo supplied by Flickr user: Alexis Lamster https://www.flickr.com/photos/amlamster/6387142769/in/photolist

Tuesday

The Spicy Hot Buttered Rum Recipe You've Been Looking For


When I crunch my way through frozen grass to the mailbox, I know it's time to stock up on hot toddy mix (also known as spicy hot buttered rum). If you think a hot beverage on a fall or winter evening is one of those comfort indulgences you can't live without, this mix belongs in your life. It's alcoholic or not, depending on your personal preference, and holds up in the fridge from around Halloween to New Year's Day. It's also chock full of those aromatic, warming spices you associate with evenings spent in front of the fire or watching Christmas classics on television.

Cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg are all in there, giving flavor to the brown sugar and butter base. The butter makes this beverage go down smooth and feel fulsome but not heavy, and the addition of a little cardamom pulls it all together.  The recipe calls for rum, but it's delicious without the alcoholic libation.

This one is special whether you're indulging alone or serving it to guests with a cinnamon swizzle stick and a full head of whipped cream dotted with ground nutmeg.  Consider it my gift to house bound gardeners everywhere.

If you only add one new recipe element to your holiday this year, make it this luscious little beverage.  It's a sip of goodness for sure.


Hot Rum Toddy Recipe

Ingredients

1 stick salted butter
1/2 lb. light brown sugar
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom (Don't skip this)
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Pinch allspice
Rum (Dark)

Combine all ingredients but the rum into a batter. You can do this by hand or using a food processor.  Cover and refrigerate.

To Serve:

Place two tablespoons of batter into a mug.

Add 6 ounces of boiling water.

Add 1 1/2 to 2/12 jiggers of rum (This can be optional, and the quantity depends on your taste for alcohol.)

Stir thoroughly.

For a festive touch, add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle a little ground nutmeg on top.

This recipe will make about 8 servings, and can be doubled or tripled.


Photo courtesy of Flickr User Jill Robidoux - https://www.flickr.com/photos/jylcat/8483109237/in/photolist