This week I am obsessed with roses! I have a serious case of petal love! Get it? I knew you would...
For the past few days I have been offering tips and suggestions for how to use these lovely blooms to make everything from extract to sugar to water.
It sprinkled her last night so I have another tip, go outside, listen to the birds singing and photograph your roses in all their fleeting glory! Share the photos on social media and/or message them to loved ones. Spread the joy and brighten someone’s day! THEN, rip off the spent blooms and get to work!
Share your photos in the comments section.
Pink roses connote grace, elegance and gentleness while red roses are symbols of passion and courage; both are perfect to pick and place in the kitchen!
Smelling Sweet Like a Rose
I have been busy today! First thing this morning I harvested several cups of rose petals and put them to a multitude of uses! First, I changed the rose petals in the rose extract I making. Second, I put a bunch in a big pot and brought them to a simmer using spring water. Then, I captured the steam to create rosewater which I bottled but only captured just a few tablespoons so I think I need to do the process two or three more times before I fill a bottle. Third, I squeezed out all the rose petals from the distilling pot and wrapped that up in what is known as “super wrapping” to prevent both spillage and spoilage. (super wrapping is simply covering an entire object in plastic wrap. Super wrapping is a technique used quite often in professional kitchens to keep products fresh.) This water is going to be used as a hair rinse or a skin tonic and will keep up to a month in the refrigerator. I also harvested several roses just to sit on the counter and look pretty. Our home is smelling sweet as a rose!
As you know, Dear Readers, I am a firm believer in making the most out of what is growing in my garden. I think the many projects I have made from one plant, in this case a rose, prove that. I also adore experimenting and “playing“ in my kitchen. I am planning to make rose sugar which is extremely simple. All you do is gather rose petals and give them a wash and a spin in a salad spinner and allow them to dry spreading by them out onto clean towels or paper towels. (Don’t allow them to dry too long or they will dry out and not have as good a flavor.) Then throw a handful or two of these cleaned petals into a food processor along with a cup or two of sugar and give the two ingredients a good spin until the petals are very finely ground. Lastly, spread the sugar out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and allow to dry. Store in an airtight container. (This method will work with any edible flower by the way.) Use the sugar in and in shortbread or sprinkled over the top of sugar cookies, it’s absolutely scrumptious! I am debating making rose petal jam and or jelly but I haven’t decided if I want to take that project on just yet.
Share what you’re making from your garden in the comments section.
The Invisible Guest
Much about cooking is about movement and the direct opposite is true for taking photographs. Taking photographs is all about stillness. Holding your breath while trying to photograph a bird, hoping it will keep still long enough to capture its coloring so you can identify it later. Looking at a loved one in just the perfect light, with the perfect tilt of their head that allows the light to play on their facial features just the right way... The moment you say, "Hold it." They move. The moment where "stillness" was required has passed, the image gone.
Cooking requires movement. Yeast must grow. Dough must rise and expand. As I always say, Dear Readers, "Cooking is dynamic." The fact cooking is dynamic is why I find it so intriguing and enjoyable. As you know, I have written a cookbook that is due for release soon. Essentially the book is complete and ready to publish. Through the process of writing my cookbook, I have discovered that writing is also dynamic. Words may be written on a page and seem "still" but they are anything but "still." The reader takes the words on the page into their life and from there, the words take flight. In the case of a cookbook, the words on the page form a recipe which is then used by the reader to create food for a meal; thus, the author becomes the invisible guest at the meal. In the case of a novel, the author may make the reader laugh, cry, smile or be afraid. (Hopefully a cookbook will NOT elicit crying or fear!) Writing, like photographs and cooking, is powerful!
The next time you try some of the recipes on my Recipes Page, remember to set a place for me, the invisible guest, at the table... Metaphorically speaking...
To those of you Dear Readers who currently serve in the military, who have served or who are about to serve, thank you for your service, dedication and bravery you have given our country.
What To Do?
Our rose bushes are loaded with roses! The roses produce numerous buds on one stem and each bud blooms at a different time, sort of on a rotation. I don’t like to take any cuttings for one bloom if it means sacrificing three to six buds. The pink roses have also given more blooms than I could possibly pick. At the same time, I want to somehow use the blooms for more than just to have something “pretty” on the counter. What to do? What to do? Make stuff of course! This morning I began two projects; homemade extract and homemade rose water.
So far, here is what I’ve done:
Collected the petals from the roses that are nearly spent.
Washed and spun dry the petals.
I filled two jars with petals and covered them with vodka to make extract. (Within three hours the color has nearly leached completely and left a soft pink hue.) Visit my recipe page for my full flower extract recipe.
The remaining petals went into a pot and got covered in spring water. I simmered the petals until they lost their color. And allowed the water to cool. This is rose water but it’s my first attempt so I may drain and add more petals and repeat. It sure smells lovely!
I also picked roses that have a single bloom we can enjoy as something “pretty” but the petals can also be used to make rose sugar or for candying later.
Please share in the comments section if you do anything with your roses besides putting them in a vase.
Hot and Sticky
This morning began as many Saturday mornings begin, by my yard sale shopping. This weekend was surprisingly fruitful because I finally found a sale selling fabric. My mother, Ellen, loves to make kitchen pot holders (and skirts and dresses) and we both love a bargain. I can’t wait to see what clever projects she will cook up! My mom and I love to dream up both culinary and sewing creations together.
Anyway, while I was out shopping, I received a rather strange text message from a friend who asked, “How are you with snakes?” My response? “My goodness Sir, it’s early to be this funny!!! NO!” Then I messaged, “And Russell is truly phobic so that’s why I didn’t volunteer him.” My friend messaged back, “I won’t be going outside often. I think I’ll have a drink.” Snake in the yard or not, a drink is always a good idea!
Today’s weather is a lot like a good cinnamon roll, hot and sticky! It’s a perfect day for staying inside, avoiding snakes and having drinks. It’s also a perfect day for projects like marinating chicken legs in a beer and mustard brine (to be grilled for dinner while Mai Tais are sipped) and preparing ribs (to be grilled tomorrow while more Mai Tais are sipped.) Days like today are also great for making fresh herb dip and biscuit dough. By the way, the biscuit dough will used two different ways; some biscuits will be brushed with buttermilk and lightly sprinkled with sea salt to be served with the grilled chicken legs tonight and some biscuits will be brushed with buttermilk and sprinkled (heavily) with sugar to be served with strawberries . Work once and get double the reward,. My kind of cooking! Yum!
It’s a tie!
This morning while sweeping the porch, garage, walkways and back steps, I was treated to a visit by one of my favorite birds, a hummingbird. He, yes he, flitted from the feeder to the pink bush (I have no idea what this plant is by the way but it’s pretty) that blooms by our man door. For those of you that do not live in the East and have no idea what a “man door“ is, it is actually a garage door. The type of garage door that typically leads from inside the garage into the yard or out to the side of the house, here in the East, that type of door is called a “man door.“
What led to me sweeping the porch, garage, walkways and back steps you might be wondering? Well, Dear Readers, I got sidetracked. Yep, I got sidetracked. I went outside to replenish the birdfeeder that hangs from the lilac bush which the squirrels decimated overnight, stupidly looked down saw the weeds which sprung up in the space of time it took me to fill the birdfeeder, and begin yanking and pulling the weeds. Yanking and pulling the weeds lead to sweeping and swearing. Sweeping and swearing lead to sighing and smiling when the hummingbird flitted about the yard. The little hummingbird was my reward on two levels:
Level One: Hummingbirds just make me sigh and smile.
Level Two: I got to message my husband, Russell, and rub his face in the fact that I have seen yet another hummingbird and he has not seen even one this season. As far as which of the two levels is more rewarding? I have to be honest, it’s a tie!
If you’re wondering what Russell’s response was to my messaging him that I got to see yet another hummingbird flit about the yard and feed, his response was this, “Why don’t they like me?” My tender response to my husband’s message? “How many reasons do you want? You usually like short texts.”
Remember, Dear Readers, there is never any judging here at Mary’s Kitchen! In addition to that, you’ve never met my husband.
Springtime is the season of firsts. The first hummingbirds appear. The first garden of the year is planted. The first fresh berries appear in farmers markets. The first blooms burst open. The first birds of the season start to sing and dance. The air becomes filled with sweetness and color is everywhere! Evening walks become a game of ‘name that fragrance’ and baby birds are beginning to hatch.
Today, I challenge you to notice some of the “firsts” in your neighborhood and to please share what you’re seeing, smelling and hearing.
Well, Dear Readers, I have the displeasure of introducing you to the culprit known as the four-lined plant bug (Poecilocapsus lineatus). This no good, life-sucking son of a gun is ravaging my beautiful herb patch. It’s eating my mint, oregano and sage. What is shown here is only in the nymph phase. Normally, images associated with nymphs are pleasant; images of a beautiful young woman dancing about a forest come to mind, for example. Nymphs however, are actually bitches sent by the devil to break a gardener’s heart. Although these four-lined plant bugs supposedly cause no real damage to the plant, just make it unattractive, it causes a whole lot of damage to the gardener’s spirit. There is nothing worse, Dear Readers, then waiting for spring to arrive, seeing new growth of fresh herbs that are healthy one day and covered in orange bugs and brown spots the next... Anyone out there who is able to share any tips about how to get rid of these terrible pests, please do so in the comment section. Yes there are sprays and things but if anyone knows of a natural method to assassinate these little nymphs, please share it so we can help one another.
I have written a cookbook but I have a difficult time following a recipe. I garden but rarely, if ever, remember what I planted where. I walk among many yet can feel alone. I dance the steps but to my own tune. I planned to walk through the sunroom to the garden to spread the morning coffee grounds over soil, without bumping into something that triggered a chain reaction of crashing plants and tables that lead to 30 minutes of sweeping but my plan didi not go to, well, plan. Why? Variables What the what Mary? Yep. Variables.
Variables can be factored in but cannot be predicted. Variables are inconsistent and do not follow a pattern so therefore are not predictable. Variables are cool! Variables are fun! Variables and cooking have a lot in common. When cooking, variables can be factored in but cannot be predicted. The power goes out. The milk got drunk. The meat went bad. The phone rung. You walked away and the food burned. You followed all the instructions and the food was horrible. You baked the food as specified in the recipe instructions and it was raw. These scenarios are not “mistakes” or “disasters” but variables.. Think of variables as opportunities to learn. Think of variables as opportunities to improve. Variables sounds pretty cool and fun to me!
Avid home cook and passionate instructor