In my home town, we have a very special place called the Dushanbe Teahouse. The tea house was a gift from our sister city, which is located in Tajikistan (a country I’d love to visit someday), and is a stunning building that is carved by hand. When I was in high school, the tea house opened as a restaurant and (of course) a purveyor of wonderful teas. The tea house is a place that has gifted me with many great food memories, and served as the venue for meals and conversation with some of my favorite Coloradans. One of these was the candied rosehips that were brought out as a nibbler for guests while they looked over the menu. I remember gobbling down the entire serving before the waiter even returned with my water during my first visit!
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one, because the teahouse stopped serving the rosehips not long after (when I asked, they said that the starter was so popular that it was costing them a lot of money to provide them to patrons). That experience is what got me interested in rosehips though, and is the reason I always leap at the chance to eat anything with rosehips in it. Today, I was pondering on what to make for New Year’s treats, and glanced over at a box of dried rosehips I bought before the holiday mayhem and set aside. This is my last New Year’s in Tallahassee (I’m moving to Brooklyn in May), and I’ve made some truly incredible friends during my time here. A few of them are coming over to have champagne and snacks on New Year’s Eve, and I thought the best way to celebrate them and all the wonderful things they’ve brought to my life would be to share a dish with them that takes me back to my home.
If you have a special event coming up (New Year’s Eve party, perhaps?) or are looking for a way to use up rosehips, this is a great last-minute treat. Candying dried rosehips is super easy (I promise!) and you’ll be rewarded with a pretty and tasty snack that is incredibly addictive. If you don’t have dried rosehips on hand, don’t fret: you can usually find them in specialty markets and Middle Eastern markets. I used the vanilla sugar to add a bit of warmth, but regular ol’ granulated sugar works just fine here, and you can play around with adding your own flavors. This amount serves 4-6 people.
-2/3 c vanilla sugar
-pinch of sea salt
-1/4 cup water
-1 cup dried rosehips
1. Add sugar, water, and salt to a flat-bottomed pan (I used a medium skillet)
2. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it forms a hard ball when dropped in ice water (Read more about candy-making stages here.)
3. Toss the rosehips in the pan, and toss to evenly coat. Work quickly, since the sugar will start to harden once you remove it from the heat.
4. As quickly as possible, transfer the rosehips to a baking sheet that has been coated with butter and sprinkled with sugar. Make sure they are in one layer (rather than piled up on top of each other) for cooling
5. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes, then serve!
A little while ago it came out that the Komen Foundation’s perfume contains carcinogens. While I have other reasons for being skeptical of Komen, the perfume controversy got me to thinking about other ways perfumes could be made. I purchased perfumes that simply consist of plant extracts that have been infused in alcohol, and I have also used essential oils as perfume. I like the former especially because the fragrance is lighter and can be used in a mister.
Long story short, I’ve started making my own perfume. There are still a couple (that are, as far as I know, carcinogen-free) that I will buy, but when I just want a simple scent, making my own is easy and fun! So far, I have just done lavender, but you can use anything you like (herbs, flowers, citrus zest, etc.)
For the perfume I made here, I used a bunch of lavender from Bluebird Hill Farm in NC. The best part is that their bunches of 50 stems fit perfectly in a pint jar for easy infusing! Just turn the stems with the flowers facing down, set in a jar, snip the stems, cover with vodka or everclear, and wait (I have vodka, so that’s what I’m using). I am waiting a month because it want it to be stronger than my infused vodkas, which usually infuse for a week or two, but you might wait more or less depending on what plants you decide to use.
I’m planning on blending some fragrances next, and I’m definitely planning on giving this perfume as a gift!
1 bunch lavender
Pint jar, with lid
-Turn the lavender so the stems are facing down, and put into a pint jar.
-Snip off the excess length from the stems (I cut them just a tiny bit shorter than the jar).
-Add enough vodka or everclear to cover.
-Top with the lid and close tightly. Let sit (away from sunlight is probably best) for one month.
-Use! You have a couple options for this (and probably more than I haven’t thought of):
- Keep in the jar with the flowers. To use, dip your finger in and dab the scent on.
- Strain the flowers out, and funnel into a perfume bottle to use as a spritz for yourself or to scent linens and such.
Chris and I normally aren’t huge Valentine’s Day folks–we might get each other a little gift, and use the occasion as an excuse to cook a nice dinner or go out to eat, but I at least would rather do things to show Chris I care about him the rest of the year. That being said, today I have been craving cake. I’ve had a cold since yesterday night, and maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been wandering around in a feverish fog this morning, but I got it into my head that a great gift for Chris would be the gift of a cake, which would also help address my chocolate craving.
I was indeed right, further proof of my theory that food is the best gift.
I am too sick to spend much time fussing over building a new cake recipe, so I just pulled one from a cookbook (hence why there isn’t a cake recipe typed below). To make it extra special, I replaced the water in the batter with strong coffee and topped it with chocolate chips before baking. I also baked it in a greased casserole so it’s tall-ish. But that’s all I did differently! Just find a chocolate cake recipe you like, adapt it with the coffee and chips (if you want to), and put it in the oven.
The toppings were the place where I did anything remotely innovative, and represent my attempt to eat some antioxidants while eating my cake (ha!). All I did was make a simple orange glaze like my mom used to make for cakes, and top it with pomegranate seeds. It’s a great way to make a cake look impressive when you’re short on time (or not feeling all that great!)
Chocolate cake with pomegranate and orange
Your favorite chocolate cake recipe
zest of 1 orange
1 c powdered sugar
1-2 tsp milk
seeds from 1 pomegranate
-Prepare cake according to directions (replace liquid with coffee and add chocolate chips, if desired)
-While it bakes, combine sugar, salt, and zest in a bowl. Whisk in milk until it reaches desired consistency.
-After the cake cools, turn in over onto a serving platter. Drizzle with glaze and pile the seeds in the center.