How do you make a good first impression? Smile? Shake hands? Or, stumble into a thorny twig and end up bleeding mess? I, of course, chose the later. By not putting on my sensible shoes that were in the car (so I wouldn’t smudge my new pedicure), I managed to make a grand entrance into One-derings Lavender Farm. Two of the owners of the farm, Kim and Amy, rushed to my aid and after a dash of alcohol (on the foot; not in the mouth) a swipe of aloe and a big bandage, I was good to go. I know, I know…idiot!
Let’s begin again, OK?
While visiting my hometown, I had the opportunity to go down to historic Findlay Market where I met Kim of One-derings. Kim’s knowledge of English culinary lavender peaked my interest and I asked if I could come out and have a tour and find out more about this aromatic herb.
So, on a beautiful summer evening I drove through the verdant hills and lush, green fields to an area very close to where I spent the summers of my younger years. Around every turn I found farmers reaping their golden harvest, grazing horses with shiny summer coats and young lambs crowding next to fences to say “hello.” Thanks to Kim’s accurate directions (way better than any GPS) I found my way to the grove of tall pine trees and the fragrant lavender fields beyond.
I entered the cottage that houses their retail store and where bouquets and sachets are assembled. I was awash in a wave of gentle, aromatic lavender. I’ve never been anywhere that I felt so enveloped by scent. Soothing, soft and inviting…oh my! I had to start taking pics of everything I saw…then I went outside (and you know what happens next, don’t you?).
Onward and upward. Kim and I go out to the fields so I can get a lesson in lavender while Amy goes back to gleaning the bursting purple buds. Gleaning is harvesting the lavender that is mature enough to be cut, leaving the rest to be harvested later. How do they know when the lavender is ready to be gleaned? The bumble bees arrive…that’s when Amy knows it’s time to begin her task. She works in silent concentration and soon she has filled another bin to be processed into bundles and buds.
They started with around 600 bundles of lavender their first year and they now harvest between 3,000 and 5,000. They have many varieties which gives them a staggered harvest and each provides a special beauty inherent to that particular species. Two of my favorites were Bueno Vista and Hidcote.
Kim informs me that it’s extremely hard to grow lavender in the dense clay soil of Ohio. One-derings is blessed because their lavender field is situated over a natural gravel pit that provides the good drainage that lavender requires. Kim believes that English lavender is better for cooking because it has 1% camphor content, whereas the French lavender has 3%. Therefore, the French has a more intense camphor smell and flavor, the English is more delicate.
Amid the fields of lavender are pockets of chamomile that compliment the growing cycle of the lavender. Close to the cottage are other herbs such as sage, calendula and rosemary, just to name a few. Many of these are used with the lavender to produce their beauty products.
After my tour, I was invited back into the cottage to look at the many products that have evolved naturally through requests from their extended family and the fact that the sisters come from a family of engineers….engineers that have years of expertise formulating beauty products because they used to work at the largest consumer products company in the world. Some of their products include: body lotion, shea butter and linen spray. I was really impressed. So impressed, that I purchased several items and I can truly say that I love them all! Have to say here: this is NOT a sponsored post. I have not been paid or given anything to influence my opinion. I just found some great local folks that are doing a wonderful job bringing you lovely fresh lavender bouquets, sachets and beauty products and wanted to share this with you. If you are interested, everything but fresh lavender can by purchased from their website here.
As the sun was setting, I was offered a special treat: fresh lavender lemonade and delicious rich, buttery lavender shortbread cookies. I asked Amy if she could share her recipe with you and was delighted when she said “yes.”
When I got home, I started working with the 2 large bundles of lavender that I had purchased. First, I put the lavender in the refrigerator overnight so that it would be easier to handle, then I started to make small bundles to be dried and gathered buds for sachet, potpourri and of course, cooking.
Two weeks later, the lavender was dry enough to process. I remembered that Kim had told me that you could process it either by pushing the buds through a sieve or processing them in a food processor. My food processor was broken (I know, right) so I did it the old fashioned way with a sieve, and I’m glad that I did because I really liked the consistency of the lavender powder in the cookies.
When Amy makes these cookies, she rolls them and presses the sugar sprinkles in before baking. I did a little twist on this and used a cookie cutter to give them a flower shape. Then gently pressed some the sugar crystals in before baking. I did this in 2 batches. After I finished cutting out about 22 cookies, I popped those in the oven, rolled the dough into a ball again and then rolled that out to 1/4 inch and popped it back into the fridge. Then did that process 1 more time till all of the dough was used. If you want to cut it into little rectangles like Amy does, it would be more simple, but you know me…I opted for pretty.
So here it is for you to enjoy and share with family and friends for your next Sunday Supper. Since this recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies you have an opportunity to send some home with them.
One-derings' Lavender Shortbread Cookie Recipe
Yield: 4 dozen plus
Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 20- 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
Rich and buttery with a touch of lavender.
1 1/2 cups salted butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons processed lavender buds
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Lavender sugar sprinkles (I used Wilton)
Either use a food processor or a sieve to process the lavender buds.
In a large bowl, cream together (I used a blender) the butter, granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar till light and fluffy. Mix in the lavender and lemon juice.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and salt till well combined. Mix this into the butter mixture in the large bowl until combined.
Cover a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Place dough on cookie sheet and top with another sheet of parchment or wax paper that is the same size. Roll the dough until it covers the cookie sheet and is about a 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and remove the top sheet of paper, sprinkle with purple sugar crystals, replace top sheet and gently roll sugar into dough. Remove top sheet again and cut into small rectangles of desired size and transfer to another cookie sheet (use parchment paper on the cookie sheet for easy removal).*
The cookies expand a bit, so you may want to leave an inch of space between the cookies.
Cook for about 15 - 20 minutes until edges are slightly golden brown (mine took about 30 to reach this stage). Remove from oven and allow to cook for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
* My process differed because I removed the chilled dough from the refrigerator and used a cookie cutter to cut out the shape, then sprinkled the sugar crystals on and gently pressed them in the dough with my fingers. I took the leftover dough, rolled it out again on the cookie sheet and repeated the chill, cut out process.
I truly believe that many Americans are consuming way too much salt, do you?
One of my dearest friends Fran, recently asked me why someone would suggest adding additional salt to a watermelon salad that contains feta cheese (given the fact the most feta cheese is fairly salty.) My answer was that I didn’t think you’d need to. I hope that you all have noticed that I try not to use very much salt in my recipes. Now, some recipes require salt for the proper chemical reaction to occur…but most of the time, heavy use of salt is not necessary.
Fran and her hubs are trying to reduce the amount of salt that they are consuming and I really applaud them for this. They are now looking at food labels closely and noticing just how much salt creeps into their diet. Fran is diligent about finding products that fit their new regime and many manufacturers are realizing that more and more of us are looking for these low sodium alternatives. She’s also scouting out resources for “no salt” items such as nuts, chips and ketchup. By doing her homework, she has found many foods that are really helping to reduce their daily salt consumption. I have to say that we do have to remember even natural foods such as carrots and milk contain a slight amount of naturally occurring sodium, so you should take that into account as well.
So, how much salt do you really need per day in your diet? Dietary guidelines recommend 2,300 mg a day for those folks under 51, and only 1,500 mg for those above that age or if you are diabetic, have high blood pressure or kidney disease. We need salt to every day to control and correctly balance the fluids in our bodies, but too much salt can lead to fluid retention which can increase your blood pressure. If you develop chronic high blood pressure it can lead to a variety of problems…heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and kidney disease. Some folks are more salt sensitive than others, for them it’s even more important to watch the amount of salt they consume. Just one teaspoon of table salt contains 2,358 mg of sodium.
So what are some easy ways to get started lowering your sodium intake?
5 Easy Ways to Lower Your Sodium Intake
1. Look at labels – become aware of how much sodium is listed for the products that you purchase. I believe that if you realize how much sodium items contain, you may make better choices or at least balance those items with ones containing less sodium.
2. Look for items that are “low sodium” or “no sodium”. You might just be surprised at just how many of your favorite products offer this alternative. You don’t always have to make the soup from “scratch”, you just need to reach for a different can. Soy sauce is a great example: 1 tablespoon of regular soy sauce contains around 1,100 mg of sodium, while the low sodium alternative has only about 550 mg. That’s a savings of 50% of the sodium content!
3. Use less. If a recipe calls for salt, try using less than the amount listed. Also, salt the food right before it is served, instead of while you are cooking it. You can use less and it will still taste salted.
4. Taste your food before you salt it. We’ve all seen this. A person liberally sprinkles salt on untasted food out of habit, not necessity.
5. When you eat out, ask if the kitchen can use less salt. Most restaurants use liberal amounts of salt because it’s the world’s least expensive flavor enhancer, but I’ve found that if you ask them to use less, they do.
Our taste buds have become accustomed to salt and it will take a bit of time to get used to using less, but once you do, you’ll actually taste the natural goodness of the food more and it’s better for your health. Try it!
For this week’s post, I asked Dana if she would talk to you about some of the benefits of honey. She was very enthusiastic to share her knowledge with you.
“I’ve got an easy assignment this week because honey is one of the most healing foods in the world! First, I should preface that these benefits are greatest when high quality RAW honey is consumed. Pasteurized honey does not have as many health benefits as it has been boiled and therefore loses nutrients. Make sure to check you label to look for RAW, honey. Whole Foods, as well as your local farmer’s market will have quite a few great options.
Raw honey is antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal. It can be used topically for minor cuts, scrapes and burns. It can also help reduce swelling, minimize scarring and promote faster healing…just thoroughly wash off the minor wound with soap and water, dab on a bit of raw honey and cover with a bandage.
I believe honey’s greatest and most interesting benefit is that it may help fight seasonal allergies. To explain this theory, when bees eat the nectar of a flower, they ingest the pollen spores that so many of us are allergic to. By eating local honey in small amounts daily for at least a 2 month period, your body may become used to the presence of the allergens and become immune…like what happens when you take a vaccine. (Note: make sure that you consume honey local to your region to reap the benefits!)
Daily consumption of honey will also boost your level of antioxidants which may help prevent heart disease and keep cancer-causing free radicals at bay. Yay!
Possible allergy immunity, lower risk of disease and an antibacterial in one tasty package. Honey is a no brainer! I add honey to my coffee, yogurt…and of course, toast! It’s also a great sugar substitute in baking. If you’d like another Sunday Supper recipe using honey, please click here.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Honey contains bacteria than can cause infant botulism, this is why doctors forbid honey for infants under the age of one.”
Disclaimer – Please note: the information presented is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease. Please consult your physician if you are having any medical problems.
Kangaroo Island ( known as Australia’s Galapagos) is one of the most unique spots in the world. Secretly (or not so secretly) this was the place that I most wanted to see during our Australian adventure because of the opportunity to spot kangaroos ( lots of them) in their natural habitat. The closest I’ve ever gotten to a wild animal in their natural environment was Angel the cheetah, who was the first large cat ambassador for the Cincinnati Zoo. There’s nothing like feeling your heart beat like crazy because one of the fastest animals on the earth is sprinting towards you, then feel her hot breath and sharp, sandpaper tongue as she starts licking your leg. No, she wasn’t washing me before taking a bite…she was just saying “hello.” Angel was a gentle, beautiful animal and this was one of my “all time best” life experiences. Jeff and I “met” her before a photo shoot we were preparing to do. The shoot never happened, but the experience has always stayed with me. You can read more about my friend Angel, here.
So, when I heard that we were going to visit fields of kangaroos and get “up close and personal” with them, I was very excited. As you can see from this pic, they’re pretty close, but I was expecting a different experience. As I said a few posts ago, my chance encounter with a kangaroo on Hamilton Island was much closer and more spontaneous, but I still will cherish all of my time with these beautiful creatures.
Every foot of this area was covered in “roo pooh.” Really, I kid you not…you could tell where they had been just by looking at the ground.
We took every opportunity to view the natural flora and fauna on the island. We went “bushwalking” along the steep trails of the coast with a naturalist guide. It was incredible to see how the plants and animals have adapted to their surroundings.
In an area where fresh water can sometimes be scarce, these plants funnel water towards their roots.
While these plants “sacrifice” some of their leaves to survive the harsh conditions.
I’m glad that we didn’t run into this “critter” on our walk, but we did see the dens where the Goanna lives.
We traveled to the wildlife sanctuary to visit koalas, birds and the occasional kangaroo. Koalas are VERY picky eaters. Of the 20 plus species of eucalyptus found on the island the koala only eats 6. The blue eucalyptus is their fav.
Next stop: the Remarkable Rocks. Formed 500 million years ago from granite that has eroded from the corrosive effects of sea spray and wind. These boulders balance on a large lava dome. We may not fully understand how they got here, but we can all understand their grandeur and beauty.
Then off we went to Flinders Chase National Park and Admiral’s Cove where the New Zealand fur seals live. Can you spot them basking on the rocks?
After our morning adventures, it was time to stop for a proper tea and admire the view.
The New Zealand seals are not the only seals on the island. Later we visited the Seal Bay Conservation Park to get a glimpse of Australian sea-lions. We visited them as they were waking up from their naps and heading out for dinner with friends and family.
I think this little guy just wants to stay close to his mom and have dinner at home.
Kangaroo Island is also home to Ligurian bees. They were brought to the island in 1881 and in 1885 Kangaroo Island was declared a bee sanctuary. It’s now the oldest bee sanctuary in the world. The bees on Kangaroo Island are extremely special because they are genetically pure due to their isolation. If you would like to read more about the Ligurian bees, Native Food and Wine has done this knowledgeable post.
Due to their purity, these bees are actually helping stabilize the rest of the world’s bee population and are also involved in cancer research. I’m a big proponent of honey, and Dana will soon be writing a post explaining some of honey’s benefits.
We were still plagued with bad weather, but right before sunset the sun came out to play and Jeff grabbed these wonderful shots.
Flora, fauna and fun in a very special and beautiful place.
This week’s recipe has to include some of the golden, sweet Ligurian honey, right? This is what we were served as an entree (remember that’s Australian for appetizer). Fresh, local ingredients served in simple Sunday Supper style.
Kangaroo Island is truly one of the most magical places on earth…I’m so glad that we went and that I got the chance to take you there with me.
Crostini with Blue Cheese, Honey, Walnuts and Figs Recipe
Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
A sweet, savory and crunchy appetizer of toasted crostini, blue cheese, honey, walnuts and figs.
6 thin slices of baguette grilled or toasted
4 oz. good quality blue cheese (can substitute goat cheese)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3 figs, sliced in quarters
6 tablespoons honey (local if possible)
Micro greens for garnish
Grill or toast 6 thin slices of baguette and place on plate. Sprinkle blue cheese then walnuts evenly on top of bread. Add 2 slices of figs per plate. Drizzle with honey and top with a dash of micro greens. Serve.
This really is by far the easiest recipe EVER! So, if you have friends and/or family that pop over for Sunday Supper unannounced, don’t worry, you can pull off this elegant dessert in an instant for them…you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen.
We were served this dessert several times in Australia, including during our brief stay in Adelaide. Adelaide was a “stopover” for us. We arrived late at night and took off early in the AM, so we spent time at the airport and that was about it. I’d heard that Adelaide loves to promote the best of Australian food and wine via their many food festivals. Sadly, we just missed one!
Our biggest decision when planning this trip was whether or not to stay in Adelaide and then drive up to the Barossa Valley wine country, or, go to a place that very few folks (even Australians) have ever been, Kangaroo Island. Well, the island won, which means that the next time we’re in Australia, we’ll be going back to Adelaide and on to explore the Barossa and all of its lovely, world class vineyards.
Our visit was short and sweet and so is this week’s recipe. The hardest part might just be picking out what dish you are going to use. I opted for small, vintage compotes, but you could use wine glasses, martini glasses, or if you don’t want to get fancy, just a tumbler.
If you like this recipe, but are saying to yourself, “I don’t have an espresso maker,” you can either use instant espresso, or perhaps just make a pot of very strong coffee. Pour a jigger of the aromatic brew over a scoop of rich, creamy ice cream…add an optional cookie or two, and “voila”…the easiest dessert ever!
I recommend that you use good quality ice cream. I went with classic vanilla, but feel free to change it up with another flavor if you’d like.
Affogato Ice Cream Dessert Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Rich, creamy and easy! Hot, dark, rich espresso over cold, buttery ice cream.
1/2 cup (4 jiggers) freshly made espresso
4 - 8 scoops ice cream
Scoop ice cream into whatever container you choose...glasses, compotes, tumblers.
Pour 1 jigger (or more, to taste)) hot espresso over the ice cream. I like to use a small, glass pitcher (as shown) and pour at the table.
Serve and eat immediately.