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The Scent of Christmas

Wrapping presents, writing cards, eating chocolate and listening to classic Christmas tunes all help to get me in the mood for the big day. But there’s something missing from the picture, one of my senses is yet to be fulfilled, and that’s when I reach for my essential oils to concoct a festive feast for my nose. There’s so many to choose from at this time of year, each evoking it’s own memory of Christmas past.

Image courtesy of Black Velvet Styling

Pine and fir essential oils remind me of putting up the tree and decorating it, finding those lost baubles I’d forgotten buying and where I lived when they first went on the tree.

Orange and cinnamon bring to mind this delicious Italian chocolate nut Christmas cake by Delia Smith, which is a hit every time. To me it combines my all favourite Christmas flavours in one scrummy treat.

And last but not least, frankincense and myrrh, those most famous of nativity gifts. They bring back memories of my school plays as a girl and more recently my son’s star turn in his play group Christmas play. It was definitely a proud mummy moment.

I add a couple of drops each of 3 – 4 different essential oils to my burner, light the candle and let the scent of Christmas fill my room. If you don’t have a burner, you can always fill a small bowl/dish with water, add the oils to that and carefully balance it on a radiator for the same effect.

Wishing you all peace, joy, love and laughter for Christmas and the new year.

Image courtesy of Black Velvet Styling
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My favourite porridge recipe

The nights are drawing in, the mornings are getting darker and the car windscreen needs clearing before it’s safe to drive. All these things make me think about it being cold outside but cosy inside, and one of my favourite dishes to have for breakfast to get me warmed up in the morning is porridge.

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Image courtesy of Black Velvet Styling

This recipe happens to be vegan, not that I am vegan (or even vegetarian) but I’m not a massive fan of milk (love cream, cheese and butter though!). You wouldn’t know it’s dairy-free because to me it tastes like lemon cheesecake, I think it’s the oats thickening as they cook that gives it a creamy consistency. It also uses two of my favourite seasonal ingredients – apple and cinnamon.

I hope you enjoy it, let me know how you get on and what your favourite way of eating porridge is.

Lemon Cheesecake* Porridge

Makes 2 generous bowls

  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 cups water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 apple, cored & grated
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Ground cinnamon, to serve

 

  1. Soak oats, water and lemon juice in saucepan overnight – optional but optimal.
  2. Add the grated apple and maple syrup to the pan.
  3. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbling, thick and creamy.
  4. Divide between two bowls and serve with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

*As mentioned above, this recipe is dairy-free, there’s no cheese in it, it just tastes like lemon cheesecake to me.

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Lavender – grow and eat your own!

My first guest blog from my dear friend Barbara Goodall. She’s an aromatherapist, gardener and foodie so I couldn’t think of anyone better to write about growing and eating your own lavender. Head on over to http://www.timeout-for-you.co.uk/ for more about what she does.  

Lavenders thrive in full sun and well drained soil… Mine loved the conditions this summer!!

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Grow your own…

Two species of lavender are growing in my garden, giving a long flowering period for my pleasure as well as providing nectar for many butterflies, bees and other insects.

True Lavenders such as Lavandula angustifolia ‘’Hidcote’ (height c. 30cm x spread c. 30cm) provide a high quality essential oil. This compact plant has blue/green narrow leaves and intense, dark blue flower spikes from late spring to early summer. I also love the effect and simplicity of the vertical stems before the flowers open!

Hybrids such as Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ (Ht 90cm x sp 90cm) are slightly less hardy, have long, loose spikes and flowers a month later..

By cutting back my lavenders after flowering, just above the woody stems, I leave some green tips that will have at least a month’s growth to protect the plant from the frost. In the spring, after the frosts I give them a wee trim back to keep them neat and compact.

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Lavender Field in Wiltshire

In Cooking…

Adding fresh lavender to my shortbread and scone recipes is a gentle way to enjoy the therapeutic effects of the essential oil and is a reminder of warm sunny days…

I grind a few chopped lavender flowers (maybe half a teaspoon), in a pestle and mortar for a floral taste and smell, or finely chop the leaves for a more balsamic earthy flavour. See below for the recipe. 

So many therapeutic qualities to choose from…

Julia Lawless gives some wonderful descriptions in her book Lavender Oil, Nature’s Soothing Remedy.

An excellent essential oil for skin care, a valuable soothing remedy and a good analgesic, its regulating effect on the nervous system is unique.

Its nature is balancing and harmonising and is neither yin nor yang in the extreme and tends to increase the overall effectiveness of a remedy when used in combination with it.

Lavender is a supreme adaptogen.  It can have a restorative effect in cases of listlessness or weakness, yet has a calming effect on those prone to hyperactivity or agitation.

Lavender Shortbread recipe

190C/Gas mark 5/6 for 10 to 15 minutes

Makes c.24

Ingredients:

200g butter

100g icing sugar sieved

200g plain flour

100g cornflour

Pinch of salt

½ to 1 tsp finely chopped lavender flowers

Caster sugar for sprinkling

Method:

Chop butter and soften

Beat in icing sugar

Add flour, salt and lavender little by little kneading well to form a smooth dry paste, initially with a flat bladed knife and then with your lightly floured fingers

Turn onto a floured worktop and roll into a sausage shape, say 5cm in diameter

If you are patient, wrap in greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge for an hour

Slice into discs and place onto baking trays and sprinkle with caster sugar

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or so depending how golden brown you like your biscuits.

Leave on your baking tray for 5 minutes before you transfer them to a cooling tray

They smell and taste divine warm!

Store in an airtight tin if you like them crispy