A Lavender Dessert to Remember…

If you love Creme Brulee and lavender, here is a recipe that is to “die” for.  I know it’s the beginning of the New Year and we’re all thinking about our healthy resolutions, but I have to share this Honey-Lavender Creme Brulee recipe with you before it fades into Christmas past memory.  We served it at our annual Boxing Day dinner party  to eight other couples and everyone was wowed!

Creme Brulee with Lavender and HoneyI have never made Creme Brulee before, but it’s definitely been on my culinary bucket list, so this was the year. I borrowed a kitchen torch and 6 ramekins (the oval type) to augment my round 6 oz version and made a few substitutions to simplify the process.   It’s easy to get it right the very first time!

This recipe was a winner of the Frei Brothers Winery contest and published in Bon Appetit Magazine, Holiday edition 2014.  It came originally from My Backyard, Eugene Oregon.

Honey-Lavender Creme Brulee
(pairs with Frei Brothers Russian River Sauvignon Blanc)

Makes 6 Servings

  • 3 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. dried lavender buds
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved
  • 5 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • Special equipment: 6 ,6-7 oz. round ramekins, a kitchen torch

Note: I substituted lavender honey and our own Tahitian Vanilla lavender sugar to skip steeping and straining the lavender buds.  I did heat the cream with an extra vanilla bean which was easy to remove without straining.

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In medium saucepan, bring cream, lavender and vanilla bean and seeds to simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; allow to steep 10 min.  Strain mixture into a bowl.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 Tbsp. sugar, honey and yolks over low speed until well combined and starting to change color, about 2 min.  Slowly stream in milk mixture; mix until just combined (to avoid becoming foamy)

Place ramekins in high-sided baking pan’ divide cream mixture evenly among them.  Fill baking pan with water until it goes 3/4 up the side of the ramekins.  Bake 50-55 min. until mixture is set, but still wobbly.

Remove ramekins from pan; place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.  To serve, remove from refrigerator and keep at room temperature for 20 min.  Sprinkle custards with 2 Tbsp. sugar.  Using kitchen torch, melt sugar evenly until deep brown and crunchy.

Prep time: 15 min

Bake time: 55 minutes

Chill time: 2 hrs up to two days

Epilogue
Inspired by this delightful recipe, I decided to purchase my own kitchen torch.  I found several brands out there from kitchen stores, but decided upon a professional model that didn’t need to be recharged frequently during the process.  J.C. Penny online had a great looking professional torch (on sale) which I’ve ordered  http://www.jcpenney.com/dotcom/jsp/browse/product.jspcontainerId=JCP|EMAIL&ppId=1845358

 I’ll keep you posted as this dessert will become a favorite at LavenderGreen Farm!

 Happy New Year,
Ginna

Keeping the Holidays Peaceful

Norman  Rockwell Family Dinner

“Freedom from Want” – Norman Rockwell

When I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I envision something like the Norman Rockwell painting  “Freedom from Want” with three generations of family gathered around a big farm table passing the Turkey and mashed potatoes.  The meal begins with a prayer of thanks or the song “Bless be the Ties that Bind” and everyone is grateful to be together for a lovely feast.

We’ve had this kind of Thanksgiving and Christmas at the farm in days past and I treasure that memory forever. The family cooks, Grandma, Mom and Aunt Mary were flushed and slightly out of breath, but proud to serve up the feast to their treasured family. Their  table was laid with traditional holiday fare, repeated year after year.  In our case, dim sum from the German tradition with seven sweets and seven sour’s and ham and game along with turkey.  Family and food were the focus, and tired “little ones” the main distraction.

 Some things this year will be the same, and some things will be different–but the one thing we want to maintain is the joy of the season and a peaceful and pleasant time with family that nourishes relationships and builds memories that sustain us.  There will be many more distractions this year that we’ll have to workaround to make the season merry.  Here are a few tips on how we’ll keep the peace.

Uplifting Conversation
Plan ahead to increase the probabilities of relationship building  conversations and good digestion  by using place cards around the table, thoughtfully.  Position the good talkers next to the good listener’s and grandparents near distant grandchildren, and the hard of hearing near the kind hearted.  You know your peeps!

Maintain a lighthearted conversation at the table.  Ideally, we like one topic at a time with everyone offering an opinion or a story or a joke and a lot of laughter.  The host or hostess or good conversationalist can introduce the topic–avoiding topics that are known “hot buttons” for one or more family members.  Since our family loves to debate–this is not easy–and the best debaters can drown out our more thoughtful and soft spoken family members, so we will try to facilitate the family like a “focus group” with everyone getting a word in participation. When this breaks down with three or four conversations are happening at the same time, bring them all together with a provocative new question around a topic.

Avoid risky topics. I must confess to my own hot buttons in conversation like climate change, GMO’s impact on the food supply and terrorists, but I will keep these topics close to the vest as everyone knows where I stand on these issues and I don’t want to be on a soap box or start a debate.  I’ll speak of positive advances in alternative energy production, growth in organic food farming, and International efforts to secure world peace, instead.  If I hear a comment that is likely to set off a fire storm, I’ll reply with something like “how interesting” and change the topic.

Guests
We’re meeting niece Morgan’s significant other and potential new family member for the first time, so I want to learn more about him, without making him want to run from the table and our family!  Questions meant to grill or haze this newbee (like, when are you going to marry my niece?) are off-limits and will be more uplifting, such as “how does your family celebrate the holidays”?

Inviting a stranger to the group, like a visiting foreign student, is often a blessing in keeping conversation from becoming too personal and cooling contentious topics.  Introducing them to our traditions and learning about their traditions can involve everyone in delightful conversations.  Many foreign students have been invited to our table over the years as well as friends at loose ends for the holidays.  I’m sure they are unaware of the role they play in keeping everyone on their best behavior.

Cocoa, our mini-red poodle will not be invited to the table, as much as he would like to attend.  The little beggar who delights us privately might very well be a nuisance to others and will be brought to the party for a touch football game….later.

Minimizing Distractions
Cell Phones – Some ground rules need to be set in advance around cell phones, don’t you think?  We do have some family members who tune out the conversation and text away with phone discretely in their laps, insulting the people at the table, I believe.  Others have a way of proving you are wrong, with an “I’ll Google that” and tell you the facts.  So, we’ll gather cell phones in a basket before dinner with a promise to return them after the meal.  If someone must take a call, they can leave the table to do so.  Tough rules for tough distractions!

Football – The big screen will be in another room and the DVR will be activated if dinner runs into game time.  We will honor big game times and try to keep meal schedules on track to avoid anxiety on the part of true fans.

If we play touch football in the yard, we’ll let the little kids win, or at least not humiliate or wound them. We do have a die hard football fan in the family, a brother-in-law who can’t miss a moment of play, so he usually decides to stay home in his man cave and watch the entire game day with take-out chicken. This is OK with the rest of us. We can catch up with him later.

Toasts and Prayers
Keep them short and eloquent, toasting the hosts, the cooks and the people in the room (who are the right people) and the people far away who are missed.  Going around the table asking each person what they are grateful for can be uplifting, bonding and a great climate setter for the meal. If a prayer is de rigor in your family as it is in our’s, remember to keep it short and relevant to the day and don’t use a blessing for the meal as an opportunity to present a sermonette, as the gravy congeals.

What to drink and when?
It’s lovely to have complimentary wines served with the meal and cocktails before and cordials after, all within moderation and in due time.  It’s fun for the cook to sip a little and cook a little, but it can seriously slow down preparations–yes, this is learned from experience.  Mia Culpa.  Also, the host should make sure that there are plenty of interesting, non-alcoholic drinks available and monitor drinking so that the party is convivial, but doesn’t get out of hand or set up any driving risks.  The weather and roads during the holidays  are challenging and demand good driving skills so don’t let family members drive who have overdone it.  They can nap on the couch until ready for the road or handoff their keys for a ride home.

Lavender Ambiance
We have to bring lavender into our holiday equation, or it wouldn’t be a LavenderGreen Celebration.  We’ll have a menu with lavender in Herbs de Provence for the turkey.  You can find other lavender infused recipes on our Pinterest page, but use sparingly to introduce this new taste to family.  This year, we’re making Earl Gray Tea & Lavender Infused Chocolate Truffles, by popular demand. (Recipe and video)

Before the meal, we’ll diffuse “Celebrate” to set a cheerful mood and give a scent memory of Christmas past with this blend of lavender, frankincense, orange, cinnamon, rosewood, cistus and mandarin.  We’ll add a few drops to our diffuser in the foyer to great incoming guests.  We’ll turn it off when the fragrance of roasted turkey should prevail.  (order Celebrate here)

We’ll spritz the football game room with “road rage relief“, probably in mist form, when the going gets tough for losing team’s fan because it reduces anxiety and tempers.

Here’s hoping that this will be the best Holiday ever with good memories made and relationships strengthened!

To learn more about the miscellany of modern manners–for hosts and guests, see Ben Schott’s article entitled “Giving & Thanking” in the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  This article triggered my own thoughts and experiences in hosting holiday dinners for family.  I’d love to hear from you about your family’s experience and your tips for keeping the peace at holiday time.

Happy Holidays Readers and many blessings in the year ahead,
Ginna

Lavender Lover’s Chocolate Valentine Recipes

“Biochemically, love is just like eating large amounts of chocolate”.
~ John Milton

Chris and Gina Gemmel farm wedding at Lavender Green Farm

My husband, Chris loves chocolate in all of its forms, so I thought I’d make him a chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day as an expression of my love for him.  We have been married since “childhood” and I hope to keep the love by adding some lavender for its mythical effects on nurturing it.  Both chocolate and lavender have a long history in aiding affairs of the heart and this recipe is lower in fat than most (at 0.5 grams per serving) so it will be kind to his heart both ways.

A very personal and romantic message written on a blank or homemade Valentine card is also part of my plan. This year, I think, something from the heart will be so much better than a box of chocolates with mysterious centers, purchased at the last minute.  I’m aiming for an original card and our Lavender Lover’s Chocolate cake to make this Valentine’s Day memorable.

I’ve used LavenderGreen’s prepared Lavender and Tahitian Vanilla sugar in this recipe, but you can make your own by adding a teaspoon to a tablespoon of crushed lavender petals and a vanilla bean to a cup or two of sugar and storing it in a cool dry place for ten days. You can order it on our site.  Or, if you are running late, you can use plain sugar with 1 1/2 teaspoons of pure vanilla and a teaspoon or two of crushed lavender florets.

If you are using lavender buds you have on hand, make sure they are of the English, Angustifolia variety such as  Hidcote or Munstead which are best for cooking.  Craft quality lavender is better suited for sachets and soaps because it has a clean, sharp fragrance that would spoil the scent and taste of the cake.

You might want to try this cake (even if you’re not trying to woo your husband or lover this Valentine’s Day) and be sweet to yourself and your friends and family. It takes about an hour from start to finish, including baking.

Heart Cake

Lavender Lover’s Chocolate Valentine Cake

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups un-sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
13 tablespoons cocoa, unsweetened
2 cups lavender vanilla sugar (reduce sugar if desired)
7 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup nonfat milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water

Directions

1. Combine all dry ingredients.
2. Put into large mixing bowl with the rest of ingredients, except for water.
3. Add boiling water and stir.
4. Put into greased 9 x 13, or 2 8 inch cake pans that have been greased and floured.
5. Bake at 350 degrees F.
6. Bake layers for 30-35 minutes  (round layer or heart shaped pan)
Bake 9 x 13 for 35-40 minutes (sheet cake size)

Notes for the chef:  Your batter may look a little thin, but this recipe produces a very moist chocolate cake.  You may lift cake on to a platter with raspberry sauce as shown in the picture and top with fresh raspberries, or ice the cake with your favorite icing.  For Lavender Lovers, we also like to dust it with powdered sugar or whipped cream with lavender flowers strewn on top.

Credits, this recipe has been modified from a Hershey’s original and adapted by Lavender Lynn and LavenderGreen.

If you don’t have a heart shaped baking pan, make the sheet cake format and cut individual servings with a heart shaped cookie cutter.

Calories: 185 per serving for the cake

 

In the mood for a lighter dose of Chocolate and Lavender?

Enjoy our favorite Lavender hot chocolate recipe.

 

Cup of hot chocolate with Lavender

Lavender Hot Chocolate

 

About This Recipe

This is a wonderful recipe posted on Food.com by “ratherbeswimin” in 2008 and made at the farm many times.  We substitute 3 tablespoons of our own Tahitian Lavender sugar and omit the pulverized dried lavender and vanilla extract from this recipe, but it’s great either way.  Calories are 196 per cup. We also top off the pretty cup with a little whipped cream sprinkled with lavender florets when we’re in the mood and don’t mind the extra calories.  To cut calories in half, make this cup half coffee and half hot chocolate which I do when I need a quick, feel good pick-me-up in the afternoon.

Ingredients

4 cups whole milk or 4 cups half-and-half
1 tablespoon pulverized dried lavender
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Add milk to a medium saucepan; add in the lavender; set over medium heat and bring just to a boil.
2. Remove from the heat and steep for 5-8 minutes, or longer for a stronger lavender flavor.
3. Return saucepan to heat; whisk in the chocolate until melted and smooth.
4. Whisk in the cocoa powder, sugar, and salt; remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
5. Divide among 4 Irish coffee glasses or mugs, straining out the lavender if desired.

 

Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Servings: 4

 

Happy Lavender Valentine’s Day to You!

Cheers,
Ginna

Herbs de Provence Stuffing

A promise is a promise, so here is our favorite Herbs de Provence stuffing, a little late for Thanksgiving dinner but in plenty of time for your Christmas planning.

Bowl of Herbs de ProvenceIngredients
1/4 cup basting oil (herb infused olive oil will heighten the taste)
1 cup ounces diced celery
1 cup ounces diced onions
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
2 tablespoons butter
32 ounces chicken stock
1 lb cubed stuffing bread
1 granny smith apple, grated

Directions
heat the oil on medium high. add onion and celery and cook for 5 mins.
add herbs and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
add butter and stock and bring to a simmer.
combine with cubed stuffing bread and grated apple.
add mixture to backing dish.
back on center rack of oven or 30 mins or until stuffing is browned and cooked through.

Let’s Talk Turkey

Live Turkey in WoodsEveryone has a turkey story and I’ll share one that makes me blush!  A long, long time ago I invited my in-laws to Thanksgiving dinner.  I had a very busy schedule at Fisher-Price Toys in East Aurora, NY and the holidays were hectic as you can imagine.  Fisher-Price had a wonderful tradition of giving employees a turkey for the holidays.  I froze this huge turkey for our big Thanksgiving feast.  With all of the preparations, though, I neglected to take the turkey out of the freezer to defrost in time.  So, Thanksgiving morning, with local grocery stores closed, I had to deal with this partially frozen turkey.  Necessity being the mother of invention, I decided to pop it in the microwave on “cook” and then brown it in the regular oven.

Don’t try this at home!  My turkey looked beautiful and smelled OK, but when we carved it, it was shoe leather on the inside and very rare just under the nicely browned skin.  We had to toss the turkey and go out for dinner.  Of course, this sad affair has lived on in the story telling tradition of my husband’s family and it was a bit hard to live it down.  Fortunately, twenty years have passed along with at least 20 turkey dinners and I can now claim to make a perfect turkey at Thanksgiving.

There are many ways to prepare your Thanksgiving Turkey, from brining to deep frying, and perhaps you have tried them all.  Our favorite at the farm is a slow roasted turkey seasoned with Herbs de Provence for a classic that is easy to prepare and a favorite for everyone’s palate.  We use our own organic blend of Herbs de Provence with Marjoram, Oregano, Lavender and Thyme.  The ingredient of lavender cannot be found in many Herbs de Provence blends on the market but it is wonderful, giving a slight floral twist to the fragrance and taste.  Herbs de Provence is a lovely seasoning for game fowl, like pheasant, too.

One of our favorite recipes is Williams-Sonoma’s take on this classic, presented below and tested in our kitchen for a decade, at least.  You won’t be disappointed and remember, a Turkey and a Microwave oven are not the best companions.

Herbes de Provence Roast Turkey

Herbes de Provence Roast Turkey

Image Credit:Williams-Sonoma.com

Ingredients:

1 fresh or thawed frozen turkey, about 16 lb.
1 yellow onion, quartered
2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch lengths
3 or 4 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 to 3 Tbs. herbes de Provence
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 to 6 Tbs. (1/2 to 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Let the turkey stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Do not leave the turkey at room temperature longer than 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 425°F.

Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey and reserve for making gravy, if desired. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the onion, celery, parsley and 1 Tbs. of the herbes de Provence in the body cavity, and season with salt and pepper. If desired, truss the turkey with kitchen twine. Brush the turkey with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle with the remaining herbes de Provence and season with salt and pepper.

Place the turkey, breast side down, on a buttered roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes, basting with some of the remaining butter after 15 minutes. Using 2 pairs of tongs or heat-resistant kitchen gloves or mitts, turn the turkey breast side up and reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Continue roasting, basting with the remaining butter and pan juices every 15 to 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast, away from the bone, registers 165°F, and into the thigh, 175°F. Total roasting time should be 3 to 3 3/4 hours.

Transfer the turkey to a warmed platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for about 20 minutes before carving. Serves 12.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Note: Herbs de Provence and Herbes de Provence both correct spellings .  They can also include other herbs, like tarragon or fennel, so be sure to read the label to ensure that you are going to love the blend. Ours is perfect for lavender lovers.

Cheers,
Ginna

Cooking with Lavender

Desert Island

If you were ship-wrecked on a deserted island, which herb or essential oil would you like to take with you?

I would choose lavender because of its amazing versatility.  I could use it for treating a sunburn, or a scrape, or a bug bite.  It would reduce the stress of it all, make me less hungry, and help me relax and get some sleep.  Lavender would ease a tension headache and sore muscles from building a shelter.  I’d use lavender to wash myself and my clothes, or anything else I could take off the ship.  I could brew a tea, or make some lemonade and make my “catch of the” day taste divine.  Hands down, lavender would be my first choice and I would hope to be rescued before my stash of lavender ran out! To see more of lavender’s benefits, take a look at https://lavendergreen.com/lavender-benefits/

Let’s explore some the benefits of lavender, beginning with it’s culinary properties because that seems to be the least known use of this wonderful herb.

For now, I’d like to describe the many ways of using lavender in food or drink.  It seems that every on-line food website includes recipes using lavender in beverages, sweet baked goods and savory dishes.  A good rule of thumb is that lavender can be substituted for any recipe that includes mint, because lavender is part of the mentha family–with a floral twist.  The ingredient list in the recipes can call for a drop of lavender essential oil, whole dried lavender buds, finely ground or crushed lavender buds, an infusion, a tincture, a candied lavender floret,  a lavender flower head, or lavender blend with other herbs such as Herbs de Provence.

Bowl of Herbs de Provence

On top of these form variations, there are well over 100 unique cultivars of lavender, all with slightly different properties, scents and flavors.  You can simplify your choice by using Lavandula Angustifolia for culinary purposes.  The two varieties of Angustifolia in widest use for food preparations are Munstead and Hidcote.  Angustifolia is often referred to as English lavender, or True lavender and sometimes wild crafted lavender.  These two varieties are considered the “sweetest” or most “floral” and therefore better tasting in food.  Munstead is pale blue in color and adds its wonderful flavor to a recipe, Hidcote is deep blue in color and makes an excellent decorative garnish, such as salad dressing or icing on a cupcake.Periwinkle Blue Dried Lavender Buds

For food preparation, the best choice is organic lavender.  Organically grown lavender may be a little more expensive because no herbicides are used, but who needs more chemicals in their body?  Organic lavender essential oils labeled E.O. are sometimes noted as an ingredient, but we rarely use the oil in cooking at LavenderGreen and tend to rely on buds, blends and infusions as our mainstay.  Visit our shop to order organic lavender buds and blends.  Wow your family and friends with your gourmet cooking prowess with just a pinch of lavender.

Never, ever use Fragrant or Fragrance oils in cooking, by the way.  They are not meant for ingestion and could be very toxic.

Stay tuned for more recipes and techniques for cooking with lavender.

Cheers,
Ginna