Scents for Healthy Living

lavender-flower-clip-art-8096518-branch-of-lavender-violet-scented-beautiful-plant When a well-dressed woman entered the elevator, I was enveloped in a delicious scent.  Asking her what it was, she replied – vanilla – she had been baking and the scent had lingered on her clothes.  I remembered my experience when I read Jan Moran’s (author of Fabulous Fragrances) list of aromatherapy solutions to common problems.

Try the complementary scent to solve the appropriate problem:

  • Anxiety: vanilla, lavender, basil, rose, chamomile
  • Depression:  rose, lavender
  • Fatigue: lemon, peppermint, lily of the valley
  • Headache: lavender, eucalyptus, ginger, peppermint
  • High blood pressure: lavender,sage
  • Insomnia: lavender, basil, vanilla
  • Stress: lavender, rose, vanilla

Time to get some lavender and bake some cookies with vanilla.



Watermelon Salad

watermelon-salad-with-feta-and-cucumber-5      A small restaurant no longer in business had a luncheon offering I’ve often thought of replicating.  When I saw this recipe in a local newspaper, I decided to try it.  As good as the dish I remembered, the taste has the sweetness of watermelon and the tartness of cheese, with the complement of cucumber and mint.

Watermelon Salad with Cucumber, Feta, and Mint

  • 3 1/2 cups chilled, seedless watermelon cubes (cut into bite-size pieces)
  • 1 medium English cucumber, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons crumbles feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze (found in the vinegar aisle of the grocery store)

Scatter watermelon on a medium platter.  Top with cucumber and mint.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Drizzle with glaze and serve immediately.

Chef Jacques Pépin adds kalamata olives – maybe next time I will too.


The Versatility of Coffee


“…coffee can energize the industrious at dawn, calm the reflective at noon, or raise the spirits of the beleaguered in the middle of the night.”

Count Alexander Rostov, A Gentleman in Moscow

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Found this quote from a fellow reader, prompting me to look for the book…9781442490628_p0_v3_s192x300

Will, I think you’re too brave to be a runaway.”

That wasn’t what Will had expected. She said, “I — what?”

“It is real life that takes the real courage, little wildcat. School is very difficult. But that’s because it takes toughness and patience. It’s what life is, my love. Although life is very beautiful, it is also very difficult.”

—Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, Katherine Rundell

from the Cakes, Tea, and Dreams site

A Chocolate Legacy

3-thumb-480x626-1109  Albert Kumin has been described as the dean of American confectioners and a teacher of great pastry chefs – including superstar baker Nick Malgieri.  Kumin created desserts for the Four Seasons and Windows on the World in Manhattan as well as for Jimmy Carter’s White House.  After reading Albert Kumin’s obituary in the New York Times today, and noting he had not written a cookbook, I searched for his recipes.  He was 94 – proof that chocolate is good for you.

The New York Times reported when Kumin was asked to create a successor to the chocolate velvet cake, “he created something he called a chocolate pastry cake: layers of cocoa sponge moistened with orange-liqueur syrup, crisp chocolate pastry and whipped ganache, sprinkled all over with chocolate pastry crumbs.” I could not find the recipe but it is still on the menu at the Four Seasons.

Here a few recipes from his Jimmy Carter White House days:

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE  (12 to 14 servings)

Sponge Cake: 3/4 pint (6 extra large) whole eggs, room temperature 1/4 pint (6 extra large) egg yolks, room temperature 9 ounces (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) sugar 6 ounces (1 1/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons) cake flour 2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons) cocoa powder 1 ounce (2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) cornstarch 1/8 teaspoon baking soda 1 ounce butter

Whip eggs, egg yolks and sugar until thick and light in color and soft peaks form. Combine dry ingredients and sift together. Melt butter to lukewarm, not hot. Fold dry ingredients into egg-sugar mixture. Then fold in butter. Spoon batter into two 10-inch greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on racks. Then remove from pans and cool cakes completely on racks. Freeze one cake for later use.

Mousse Filing: 1 pint heavy cream 2 ounces (1/4 cup) orange-flavored liqueur 1 1/4 pounds melted semi-sweet chocolate

Whip the cream until stiff. Melt the chocolate at 100 degrees. (Use a candy thermometer). If it is too hot, the mixture will collapse; if it is too cold, there will be lumps. Fold whipped cream into melted chocolate, working quickly so the chocolate doesn’t lump. Fold in liquer.

Sugar Syrup: 4 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar 1 cup water 1/2 orange rind 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liquer

Boil sugar, water and orange rind until sugar is dissolved, to make simple syrup. Remove from heat; remove orang rind and when mixture is cool, stir in liquer. (There is enough syrup for more than two cakes. It keeps in the refrigerator.)

Cut cake into three thin layers. Brush the syrup on each layer with paint brush. Place one layer on plate; cover with mousse filling; top with seconc layer; spoon on more mousse filing; top with third layer. Cover sides and top with mousse. Place in the erfrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes to set. Will keep for one to two days in refrigerator.

PECAN DIAMONDS (About 6 dozen)

1 pound (3 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons) flour 11 ounces (1 cup plus 6 tablespoons) butter 6 ounces (3/4 cup) sugar Pinch baking powder 3 eggs

Cream butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs. Beat in flour to form cookie dough. Divide dough in half. Pat each half into bottom and one inch up sides of 11 by 7 by 1 1/2 inch baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes, until dough is light golden and it begins to firm up. Set aside.

Filling: 1/2 pound butter 6 ounces (3/4 cup) dark brown sugar 3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar 6 ounces (3/4 cup) honey 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) heavy cream 1 pound pecan pieces

Melt the butter; stir in the sugars and honey. Bring to boil. Cook 2 1/2 minutes. Add the cream; return to boil and remove from heat. Fold in the pecan pieces. Spoon over cookie dough. Place pan on top of a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees about 24 to 28 minutes.Remove from oven and cool in pan. Cut into diamond between 3/4 and 1 inch long.

This is best if made a day or two ahead.