2 Last Minute Christmas Gifts from the Grocery Store

We are down to the wire now, and the grocery store stays open late. I’ll keep this short and simple, you have places to go.

wonder bun

Wonder Bun photo by vsimon

#1. Wonder Bun Kit.

Purchase a 10 ounce custard cup and your choice of ingredients. Print the recipe, and a link to the video. Add some measuring spoons if your giftee is short on cooking equipment. Wrap it up and Viola!

This little bit of heaven is a gluten free and dairy free lifesaver. Do you need it egg free too? Click on the recipe link above and see the comments from Alli. She uses Orgran “No Egg” Egg Replacer, and “LUUUUUUUVS” this version of Wonder Buns. She even makes one before going out to dinner and has the restaurant put her burger on it. Great ideas!! Thanks Alli!

fennel seedflickr

fennel seeds photo by Kevin Dooley

#2. Seed Tea for happy tummies.

1 tablespoon whole caraway seeds

2 tablespoons whole anise seeds

4 tablespoons whole fennel seeds

Mix it up and put into a small pretty jar. Package with a tea strainer. And a mug if you like.

To make tea: put about a tablespoon of the seed mix into the strainer. Heat water to almost boiling. Steep seed tea for about 3 minutes.

We warmly wish you the happiest of Holidays,

peace and abundance in the New Year.

Linda and Vincent Simon

Preserved and Pickled Presents

pickles (5)

beet, cauliflower, and cucumber pickles photo by vsimon

We are making a list and checking it twice. Sorting through our colorful pickle and jam selection, choosing just the right kind for each recipient. Wouldn’t you like to get some summer in a jar?

These gifts took some forethought. We pickled and preserved this summer. But the time spent then is paying BIG dividends now.

We had an overabundance of produce in our garden. We ate it, gave to the local food pantry, froze, dried, and canned some. This was the first time Vince made pickles and jams using a water bath canner. He became a canning maniac. 🙂

Many nights after dinner, 6-12 jars of new pickles would appear. All of the pickle recipes were from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich.

These are mighty tasty pickles that brighten up winter meals with loads of flavor and color.

Beets were wonderfully flavored with cinnamon, allspice berries, whole cloves, brown sugar and cider vinegar.

Turmeric makes the Indian style cauliflower and cucumber spears sunny yellow. They are also highly spiced with garlic, cumin seeds, fresh ginger, a bit of very hot carrot pepper, distilled vinegar, and salt. These are my favorite.

Whole red cherry peppers were pickled with a garlic clove, bay leaf, several whole peppercorns, distilled vinegar, and salt. They are so pretty with the green stems intact.

Dills, dills, dills. We have many.

These are pretty too. One recipe of sliced cucumbers has a sliver of hot carrot pepper, a chunk of red cherry pepper, whole dill seed heads, and yellow mustard seeds.

Another recipe of chunked cucumbers has dill heads, grape leaves, garlic, another sliver of carrot pepper, black peppercorns, distilled vinegar, and salt.


plum-jam (3)

plum jam photo by vsimon

Vince made plum, ground cherry with orange, tomato, tomatillo, and arctic kiwi jams. Our homemade jams are made with love and sugar. We left the high fructose corn syrup out, unlike most store bought kinds.

The plum and ground cherry jams are winners!! These are perfect slathered on wonder buns. We need to make more next year.

grnd-cherry-jam (6)

ground cherry jam with orange photo by vsimon

One orange tomato jam used pineapple tomatoes flavored with ginger. Another jam used yellow peach tomatoes flavored with lemon.

Both of these jams are good on toast. And also make excellent pan sauces for pork or chicken. Just cook the meat, then melt a bit of jam in the pan. Scrape up the browned bits and you have an instant sweet and tangy sauce.

Great gifts, don’t you think? Plan ahead and next year you may be able to share your riches too.

Note to self, buy more jars.

A Dozen Gifts for Cooks

Having the right tool in the kitchen can make the difference between joy and frustration. We have been in many home kitchens, and have used many tools, over many years. Some quality tools are inexpensive, some are investments.

Do you need some recommendations? Here are some that add pleasure to my day.

Some are available locally, some are harder to find. Buy local when you can. I have included links to our Kitchen Hardware Store if you can’t.

For the cook

Microplane zester for fine citrus zest, zingy fresh ginger root, fragrant nutmeg, airy mounds of parmesan… I am found of saying “add zest to your life”.

Silicone spatulas so your scraper will not melt into your sauce. You will only need to purchase these once. One piece models are the best, so the scraper doesn’t separate from the handle. And get several sizes, for big bowls and skinny jars.

Scoops in many sizes, makes portioning muffins, cookies, and meatballs easy. And less messy.

Citrus reamer for fresh juice, to enliven dull dishes. Wood is the best. I have owned fancy schamcy ones, but none better.

A good, sturdy peeler. Get it in red so you find it in the jumble of the tool drawer.

Pretty ramekins for individual servings. These make you feel special.

Custard cups for super quick gluten free Wonder Buns.

Pressure cookers for slow cooked tenderness, fast.

For the cook and the gardener

Excalibur food dehydrator for dried tomatoes and cinnamon apple slices. Next year we will also dry sage and blackberry leaves for herbal teas.

Water bath canning set for pickles (beet, beans, cauliflower, cucumber, peppers) and jams (plum, ground cherry, raspberry, tomato, tomatillo).

The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich. This is an updated version of the book we used repeatedly this summer to “put food by”. Vincent made eight different kinds of pickles that are going to be holiday gifts this winter.

For the cook and the reader

Hungry Planet What the World Eats by Peter Menzel. For those who want some anthropology with their food. IMHO, everyone should read this book. It includes beautiful pictures of families in 24 countries, and what they eat in a week. And notes the average health care cost per person for each country.

What do you want for Christmas?