Saturday, December 15, 2012


“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
I Peter 4:10

Today was a demonstration of Herbal Holiday Gifts for the Lyonia Environmental Center at the Lyonia Preserve in Deltona, Florida.  

Herbs & spices, whether bold or subtle, impact our holiday traditions & fragrances as much as the foods.  Their delightful flavors and aromas create memories that will last a lifetime and here are a few of them and their popular uses:

ALLSPICE (Pimenta diocia)
·       tastes like a blend of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg with a slight peppery note
·       adds a distinct holiday flavor to mulled drinks, mincemeat, fruit cake and Christmas pudding.

STAR ANISE (Illicium verum)
·       the world’s prettiest spice with a star-shaped seed and an anise-like flavor
·       goes well with such holiday fare as poultry, pumpkin and fruits  
·       beautiful on a plate as a garnish or floated in a pot of tea.

BAY (Laurus nobilis)
·       spicy fragrance which seems to bring other flavors together giving them depth and richness.
·       wreaths (ornaments, kissing balls)
·       swags: drape across cabinets, cupboards, windows or mantelpiece           

CINNAMON (Cinnamomum cassia)
·       our most favorite holiday spice with its sweet flavor and fragrant note
·       traditionally used in everything from gingerbread to fruit desserts and a perfect partner for anything chocolate!

CLOVES (Syzygium aromaticum)
·       among the most intense in aroma and flavor of the spices
·       lends vitality to such holiday foods as baked goods, sweet potatoes and fruit desserts
·       makes interesting garnishes for gingerbread and studded ham plus pomanders.

GINGER (Zingiber officinale)
·       pungent bite used fresh, ground or crystallized
·       star of holiday classics like gingerbread but also pairs well with honey, nuts and dried fruit as well as the other holiday spices

MINT (Mentha spp)
·       unmistakable refreshing fragrance and flavor.
·       fresh or crystallized to help digestion - a nice addition to an overladen holiday table
·       garnish to holiday platters                        

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)
·       strong somewhat piney, mint-like flavor with a hint of ginger.
·       Christmas evergreen - popular with holly and mistletoe, fresh cranberries or topiary trees
·       tie raffia or ribbon around napkins and tuck in sprigs of fresh rosemary.

SAGE (Salvia officinalis)
·       pleasantly pungent, lemony flavor that enhances many foods
·       herb wreaths, floral arrangements in pumpkins, garnish, potpourri with seeds, nuts & cranberries

THYME (Thymus spp)
·       pleasantly hot bite tempered by a savory-sweet note
·       use in manger with other herbs grown in the fields about the Holy Lands - rosemary, lavender

I demonstrated several last minute favors, decorations or gifts that use these herbs and spices and some are a great way to recycle older herbs & spices too!



Bay leaves
Chili peppers (or dried apple pieces & cinnamon sticks)

            Form loop at one end of wire.  Add 1” of bay leaves then two chili peppers (dried apples) alternately until completely filled.  Bend into wreath shape and attach wire end to loop.  Add raffia and tie bow over wire loops & around additional chili peppers (cinnamon sticks).  Optional: (Tie in cinnamon sticks between dried apple slices)



Ground Spices
Craft Glue
Cinnamon Sticks
Spanish Moss
Bay Leaves

Glue Gun

Mix 1 part glue to 1 part water. Use foam brush to paint the pinecone. Sprinkle spice over the pinecone. When coated, allow to dry.  Glue a cluster of Spanish moss to top of pinecone.  Add raffia/ribbon bow with loop for hanging.  Add bay leaves, berries & cinnamon sticks.




Bundle dried herbs such as rosemary, sage & thyme in a sheet of paper and secure the ends with raffia, paper ribbon or cotton twine.  To use: Place the herb bundle underneath a pile of logs and light the newspaper which will ignite the herbs giving the logs a chance to catch fire and giving off a pleasant aroma!!


Instruction for this mix can be found in an earlier post here.




            Combine 1/2c dried rosemary, 1/2c dried mint, 1/4c dried thyme, 1/4c lavender flowers and 3Tbs cloves.  Mix well and package in sachet, muslin bags, doilies or handkerchief.




Fill a cone shaped cake decorating bag with the following layers of herbs:
       1st layer – 1/2tsp tarragon, rosemary, garlic granules
       2nd layer – 1tsp parsley, thyme + 2tsp minced onion
 3rd layer – 1tsp oregano, basil

Poke cinnamon stick into bottom layer of herbs and secure with ribbon.  Glue a whole star anise to top.  Attach instructions to prepare dip to the ribbon.

Instructions: Combine contents of dip tree with 1 c mayonnaise and 1 c sour cream, chill overnight and serve with veggies or chips or use combined blend as seasoning in cream cheese for a spread.







            In a wide-mouth pint jar, add 1c long grain rice and tuck 2 bay leaves down the side.  Add 1/2tsp each of marjoram, rosemary, basil, spearmint, sage and parsley around the top of rice.  Add 1/2c or more rice to fill jar.  Top with lid label with the following ingredient meanings & instructions.

Rice (strength)
Bay leaves (honor)
Marjoram (joy & happiness)
Rosemary (remembrance)
Basil (good wishes)
Spearmint (refreshment)
Sage (good health)
Parsley (festivity)

            Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, stir in contents, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 45 mins. or until all water is absorbed.  Meanwhile, sauté a chopped red & green pepper and 1/2c onion in butter until semi-soft.  Add 2 ½ c chicken broth plus 2c leftover turkey (optional) and blend well.  When rice mixture is cooked, remove bay leaves, add broth mixture and simmer on low heat 20 mins., stirring occasionally.  Serve hot.


See these links for more information on available free presentations and demonstrations for your groups!


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