Thursday, September 11, 2014

Scents of the Season ~ Spicy Potpourri Mix

Fall is in the forecast here, and I am very ready.  I'm anticipating the rain and sweater weather that the weatherman predicts for this weekend.  Texas weather is rather fickle, so I'll believe it when I see it, but I'm hopeful!

In celebration of fall's arrival, I will be making one of my favorite 'Simmering Scents' for the stovetop- a mixture of dried oranges, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, and bay leaves.  I simmer mine in a cute little enamel pot that a dear friend sent me with her own 'simmering potpourri' one year.

The photo above was made as 'traditional' potpourri, so I added in some essential oil of orange to make it more highly fragranced.  I also added orris root powder  to preserve the scent (which explains the dusty white powder on the side of the bowl, which did not make for a pretty picture, oh well....).

For a quick simmering scent- use peels of fresh oranges, lemons, and or apples, along with a few shakes of cinnamon or a cinnamon stick or two.  I like to add in rosemary sprigs or mint sometimes in place of the cinnamon.

Do you have a favorite simmering scent for fall?

Do you make 'old fashioned' potpourri for display in bowls or jars?  

Please share your favorite way to bring a 'scent of the season' into your home!



Monday, September 8, 2014

Autumn in the Still Room

Planning for Autumn in the Still Room in these last days of Summer ...  herbs drying for storage

ginger infused honey on the kitchen windowsill (a pitiful photo, but the honey will be delicious!) ...
star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom seeds all waiting to be stirred into a potpourri for simmering on the stove ...  planning a printable for sharing with you ... 
So many ideas seem to flit about in my head this time of year ... gathering them like acorns and storing them away for the days to come.

What good things are brewing in your Still Room this time of year?


Catherine Ann

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Seasons in the Still Room

I love the changing of the seasons, and I have to admit that Autumn (or Fall, whichever you call it) is my favorite time of year. I love the apples and pumpkins, the colorful leaves, acorns, dried Indian corn, chrysanthemums and other assorted autumnal things.  Fall is also the best ever time for gardening in my part of the world, and after the heat of summer, I relish cool mornings and warm afternoons spent in the garden.  Many herbs thrive in our mostly mild winters and fall is the time to plant perennials and seeds for early spring bloomers such as poppies, dill, cilantro, and borage.  
Inside, I take an inventory of the Still Room Pantry about this time of year.  Now is the time to restock and create a stock of herbal helpers for the coming cold/flu season.  I'll post more on stocking the Still Room later.  I also begin a list of herbal gifts I want to make for the holiday season.  Again, a post or two on Herbal Holidays is in the works for you in the days to come.
I also do more baking in the cool, crisp days of autumn. Muffins, coffee cakes, cobblers, and herb-laden biscuits and breads to accompany soups and stews are what I bake most often.  I'm working on a Still Room Recipe Book, which I plan to have ready in time for the holidays.  The following recipe is one way I like to welcome Autumn into our house:

Autumn Apple Crisp

Preheat oven to 375.
Lightly grease a 2 quart baking dish.

Apple mixture:
2 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of cardamom
pinch of nutmeg 

1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. sugar

Toss apples with lemon juice, sugar and spices to coat.
Place in baking dish.

6 tbsp. butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (or 1/4 cup oats, 1/4 cup chopped nuts)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cardamom

Use pastry cutter or your fingers to mix butter into other ingredients until you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. Sprinkle over the apples.
Bake until bubbly and brown, about 1 hour.
Serve plain or topped with ice cream, whipped cream or yogurt.

What are your favorite things about Autumn?
What herbs do you use most this time of year?

Herbal Blessings,

Monday, July 28, 2014

Basil, Sweet Basil


Basil loves the summer heat, but I have to be vigilant in keeping the blossoms plucked off or else it will promptly go to seed and wither away.  Thankfully, there are a multitude of lovely uses for basil to keep the plants nicely pruned and productive.  A few favorites are:

Caprese salad- a summertime staple in our home, even the littlest (and pickiest) Love loves this!  
The one above is a simple tossed together version.
You will need:
vine ripened tomatoes (don't even bother with those grocery store imposters)
fresh mozzarella (lovely if you make your own ... or buy from the grocery store)
fresh basil leaves (not dried, fresh is a must here)
extra virgin olive oil (your favorite brand or variety)
balsamic vinegar (or wine vinegar, or whatever you fancy)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Toss tomatoes and mozzarella in a serving dish.
Add a handful of torn basil leaves.
Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar.
Sprinkle on sea salt and black pepper to taste.

This is a great light lunch.  I serve this with garlic toasts, croutons, or gluten free crackers.

Here's a link to a very pretty Pioneer Woman version, if you have nice slicing tomatoes, this makes a beautiful presentation.

Basil also livens up the salad bowl, the pasta plate, and when there is lots and lots of basil needing preserving quick, I blend it into pesto and freeze in ice cubes, or make a simple basil & olive oil puree and freeze that.  Then, when winter comes and the basil has gone away, I can pull a few pesto or basil paste cubes from the freezer and toss them into the soup or pasta sauce.  Basil chopped and mixed into softened butter is delicious on bread or summer vegetables.  Basil infused vinegar is beautiful, especially when made with purple basil, and makes delicious salad dressings and very nice gifts.  

These are just a few simple ways I  use up the bountiful basil in the herb garden.

What are your favorite ways to use basil?

What is your favorite variety- sweet, purple, Thai, holy, lemon, lettuce leaf ... ?

I enjoy them all!  Lemon is my favorite, but that's no surprise, is it?



Friday, July 18, 2014

Lemon Verbena Love

Lemon Verbena

I love lemony herbs, and my favorite of all is Lemon Verbena.  It has a delicious lemon fragrance that is wonderful in the teapot, baked goods, and scenting the home.  
As much as I love Lemon Verbena, it doesn't particularly love my Texas climate.  It burns up in the summer and freezes in the winter, so I treat it as an annual or a very tender perennial.  But in my book, it is well worth growing, even as an annual.  It dries well, so thankfully I can order a supply from Mountain Rose Herbs if my harvest is slim.

I'm not the only one who loves this lemony gem- here is a blog by the Lemon Verbena Lady!  This is a link to her recipes that feature Lemon Verbena.
She has great information on her blog about all kinds of herbs, not just Lemon Verbena, so do spend some time perusing her posts.  

How do you use Lemon Verbena in your home?
Do you have a favorite recipe?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Simple Recipe for Hot Summer Days

Herb Buttered Pasta

Cook 1 lb. pasta per package directions.
While pasta is cooking, melt 2/3 cup butter and stir in 2 tablespoons each finely chopped fresh basil and parsley, along with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

When pasta is done, drain and stir in herb butter.
Top with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Serve with a salad and garlic bread for a tasty summertime meal.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

12 Herbs for Hot Summer Days

It is HOT here, the thermometer is edging closer and closer to that dreaded 100 mark.  Now begins the season of hiding out indoors from lunchtime until the sun goes down in the evenings, and then it will still be uncomfortably warm.  I often slip out early in the day and gather snippings of herbs and flowers to brew up a nice herbal sun tea.

Some herbs wilt like I do in the summer heat, but there are hardy herbs that seem to enjoy the hot summer days (or at least not wither away if kept properly watered).

12 Heat Loving Herbs

lemon balm (requires afternoon shade)
lemon verbena
Mexican mint marigold
mint (if grown in a shady spot and kept well-watered)

All of the above do reasonably well in my heart of Texas (HOT!) summer garden.  They do require almost daily watering and a few demand afternoon shade to keep them from burning up in the summer sun.  A thick layer of mulch helps hold in moisture and keep the soil cooler, too.

What herb grow well in your summer herb garden?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Herb Garden Favorites - Sage and Thyme

One of my herb garden favorites- sage.
There are many great uses for this herb, including, but certainly not limited to, holiday stuffing.

Thyme is another favorite easy to grow herb.  I'm not sure who loves it more, me or the bees!
I enjoy it in sauteed vegetables, salad dressings, and more.

Watch this new video from Mountain Rose Herbs and Rosemary Gladstar to learn the benefits of common garden sage and thyme:

I'd love it if you would share your favorite uses for these two herbs!

Herbal blessings,

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day Blessings

Hope your day was as blissful as this bee in the sage blossoms!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Old Practices for a New Year

Returning to well-worn paths this season.
2014 is my year to EMBRACE life-
my life, not someone else's.
As I've pondered and prayed about what that means for me,
seeking what shimmers these days, herbalism has surfaced time and time again.
In small ways such as treating a cold with elderberry syrup, peppermint tea with ginger-infused honey and lemon; and an aromatherapy steam of eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, and lavender essential oils.
A brief warm spell drew me out to the garden where I cut back winter damaged herbs and found myself planning next season's plantings, which feature more and more herbs.
An email from a fellow herb lover, dropping a hint that I have some herbal writing to do.

All of these small clues led me back full circle to where my heart has been for many years- herbs and herbcraft for the home.

So, as snow flies outside my window (a rare occurrence here in my part of Texas), I'm gathering notes scratched into journals to review for future writings, stacking the seed catalogs by my bedside for winter wishlist making, and simmering beef and barley soup laden with bay, garlic, parsley and thyme on the stove.
Small steps on a well-trod path.
Tomorrow I'll brew another batch of elderberry syrup, more tea, and see what else my hands find to do.
Heart-shaped dream pillows for Valentine's day gifts are one possibility.
Perhaps I'll mix up some LOVE tea as well.

What herbs are you using these days?
Making anything lovely with herbs? 
What topics would you like to see covered here at Still Room Herbs?

Herbal Blessings,

Monday, December 9, 2013

Essential Holiday Scents

Essential oils are one of my favorite ways to use herbs in my home.
In the photo above, the small wooden cabinet on the right holds a selection of essential oils.
My husband bought that for me many years ago especially to hold my ever growing collection.
I use essential oils in the bath, in cleaning, for first-aid, and to add natural fragrance to the house.
They are also used in creating gifts such as bath salts, lotion bars, solid perfumes, potpourri, and dream pillows.
There are many, many uses for essential oils, they are a daily staple here.

I buy my oils from Mountain Rose Herbs or Aura Cacia almost exclusively.
My local Natural Grocers carries Aura Cacia brand, so I shop there when I need something quickly, but when I have time to wait for the UPS man, I order from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Both brands are of excellent quality, so you won't be disappointed with either.

For simplicity's sake, I often add a few drops of one or two essential oils to either a small pan of water simmering lightly on the stove top, or to the humidifier which runs almost daily in winter to combat the dry air caused by our central heat unit.
During the holidays I like peppermint, orange, cinnamon, rosemary ... spicy 'holiday' fragrances.
On my list now are some  'Christmas tree' scented oils-

These Holiday Diffuser Blends from Mountain Rose herbs all sound nice.

Do you use essential oils in your home?
If so, what is your favorite way to put them to use?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gifts from the Still Room

I love Christmas!
It is my favorite time of the year.
I love the decorating, the baking,
choosing gifts from the World Vision Catalog
for those less fortunate than my family-
those who without the gifts of chickens, rabbits,
or goats might go hungry.

And I enjoy creating homey, simple herbal gifts for those I love.
Gifts such as-
Herb Infused Honey
Bath Salts
Herb Infused Oils
Simmering Scents
and this
Vanilla Sugar Scrub

1 cup vanilla sugar made with white or brown sugar (see directions below)
1/2 cup sweet almond oil (or whatever oil you like)
a few drops of vanilla essential oil (optional)

Mix together and use as a body scrub to exfoliate and make your skin soft, smooth, and sweet smelling.

Vanilla Sugar
 Take a whole vanilla bean and place it in quart jar and then fill the jar with sugar. (I prefer organic cane sugar, but use whatever you have on hand.)
Let the sugar and vanilla bean sit for a few days and soon you will have a delicious vanilla sugar to put in your cup of tea, your favorite cake or cookies, or a deliciously scented sugar scrub.

I'll share more gifts from the Still Room in the coming days.

What gifts are you making this Christmas?
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