Lavender Everywhere

I'm not a fan of artificial scents, anymore than I'm a fan of artificial food. To me they don't smell nice at all. When I'm in a room with air fresheners plugged in,  I can't wait to leave. I avoid the laundry aisle at the store, and don't even like being outside when my downy/bounce loving neighbors do laundry and the smell comes wafting over the fence from their dryer vents. I can't imagine infusing my clothes in this stuff and breathing it all day - or inhaling it from my sheets and pillowcases all night.

But I do like nice smells in my house. If you've been reading my blog for anytime at all, you probably guess one of my favorites is lavender. I use lavender in many ways throughout the house.

This summer I used my stems of lavender from my garden to make lavender wands. I also bought small drawstring bags from the craft store and filled them with lavender flowers to make sachets.

Most recently I made gel air fresheners with gelatin and lavender essential oil. The recipe I used was simple:

1 cup water
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 Tablespoon salt
essential oil
optional: coloring, ribbon, glass pebbles, flower petals, etc.


Heat water to a boil. Add salt and gelatin stirring to ensure both are completely dissolved.

Stir in about 20 drops of essential oil and coloring if you're using it, adjusting to your preference. Pour into jars and decorate if you like.

With the holiday season coming, I'm planning to find some pretty jars make some with cinnamon and other spicy scents.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Since we moved into our house a few years ago, we've tried to grow as many of our own vegetables as possible. We still have a lawn, but we've re-purposed most of our borders from growing flowers to producing fruit and vegetables. Why, we asked ourselves, settle for a pretty shrub, when we can have a shrub that is just as pretty - but also bears fruit in the summer? When we needed shade, we bought fruit trees and grape vines.  Where we needed ground cover, we planted strawberries. Where there was lots of sun, but little water, we planted drought tolerant herbs.

We're not experts at it by any means. We have our successes and failures, but we do have a few basics that we can depend on that do well, though not necessarily spectacularly, every year, like broccoli or kale. Then there are others that are more unpredictable. Last year we could hardly keep up with the strawberries, this year it's tomatoes.

I don't know if it's the hot, sunny weather we had this year, or if we've done something different that we aren't aware of, but this year we've had more tomatoes than the previous three years at least. The plants have nearly taken over the border they are in, and it's been a trick trying to keep up with all the tomatoes.

We've been managing though, and I've been getting a lot of experience with different ways of preserving tomatoes. The first thing I tried was making tomato sauce. I peeled, pureed and simmered all day. I ended up with two pint jars of tomato sauce, but it took me all day and at least for me, it seemed like a lot of work.

The next thing I tried was just peeling, putting into freezer safe jars and popping them in the freezer. This was very quick and easy, and since I was up to my elbows in tomatoes at the time, quick and easy was a bonus. As far as how good it is, I'll know better when I eventually go to use one of the jars.

The third thing I tried was oven roasting. This has been my favorite so far. I used the roma tomatoes, and simply sliced them in half, spread them on a baking sheet, drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them with herbs and garlic, then roasted them at 325 degrees until they were nicely done - about 3 hours.

It's even easier than freezing, and I already know they taste amazing. I have a few ideas of things to do with them - if they ever last long enough to do anything with them. Somehow they always seem to end up being eaten...

What's your favorite thing to do with a bumper crop of tomatoes?

Chicken Marsala

Do you ever make something you haven't made in years and then ask yourself 'Why on earth did I ever stop making this?'

I had one of those moments recently when I made chicken marsala. Everyone in the family has always liked it - including the picky ones. It's fast and easy, so time and energy wasn't the problem. I have no idea why it fell off the menu, but for now  I'm just glad it's back.

Chicken Marsala

2 chicken breasts
5 or 6 mushrooms, depending on size and how much you like them
olive oil
1/4 marsala wine
1/3 cream
salt and pepper to taste

  • Butterfly the chicken breast and slice the mushrooms
  • Heat oil and add the mushrooms and chicken pieces, cooking for a few minutes on each side. Make sure the chicken is done, but don't overcook.
  • Add the marsala wine and allow to flame, if you can. I never seem to get it to, so I cook it for several minutes to evaporate the alcohol.
  • Stir in the cream and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Pumpkin Muffins

It's tough to wax poetic about pumpkin muffins while not two feet away my cat is crunching on a grasshopper he brought in from the backyard. It's a shame, because these are very good muffins. At least I can take double pleasure this beginning of September. Not only is pumpkin season beginning - grasshopper season is coming to an end.

Last year I cooked a pumpkin for the first time, and as I suspected would be the case, the most difficult part of the process was finding the time. But whether you cook your own pumpkin, or buy it in cans, these muffins will not disappoint.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 c milk
1/2 c pumpkin
1/4 c melted butter
1 egg

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottoms of muffin cups, or line with paper or silicon cups.

Mix all ingredients just until flour is moistened. As usual for muffins, don't overmix. The batter will be lumpy.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle sugar over the top (I use Billington's Sugar Crystals)

Bake 18-20 minutes. Remove immediately from pan and cool on wire rack.