Category: rose

Scenes from the garden, 2013.

My grandpa's 60+ year old rose.

Typically, I update about my little container “Victory garden” a few times during the summer. But because I’ve been so busy this year, I really had to pare down. I didn’t grow anything other than the usual herbs; a few of mine come back every year (chives, oregano, mint) and I bought a few more, like dill, tarragon, rosemary, etc. You all saw my garlic already. So I was going to stick to just herbs, my little garlic shoots & my flowers, but then I bought a cherry tomato plant at the last minute because it felt kinda naked without any veggies. But I swear, I’m stopping at that!  I have way too much going on this summer to have a massive garden.

Anyway, I was inspired by my visit to the Queens County Farm Museum & I thought I’d share some photos with you of my garden, & what I’m growing this year. Even if it’s not a lot of stuff, it’s still beautiful, because nature is always beautiful & interesting. That rose pictured above is from a plant that’s over 60 years old. It was one of the first ones my grandpa planted when he moved out to Long Island from the Bronx, and it’s still the most beautiful rose I have.

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I like cupcakes & I don’t care if you don’t.

There are certain unalienable rights that i believe we have as humans- from the time we’re born until the moment our heart beats for the last time. You may know some of these from the Declaration of Independence; i.e. life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. But as far as I’m concerned, and perhaps this fits in with ‘life’ or ‘liberty’ or more likely ‘the pursuit of happiness’… but to me, one of those rights is the right to love certain things (or people!) without being judged/mocked/hated/etc. This isn’t just a marriage equality thing I’m talking about, although obviously it goes for that too, without saying. But really it goes beyond that, sneaking into all of our lives, even into the smallest & most seemingly unimportant things.

If you love something, it’s guaranteed someone else is gonna hate it, and chances are they’re going to try & make you feel stupid or wrong for liking it in the first place.

Ooh.. what's going on here? Candied pansies!

I can hear it now: “Oh no… not only is this bitch gonna rant now, but based on that picture, obviously she’s gonna post a cupcake recipe too…”

For example, here are some things I love, things which include but are not limited to:

Pink hair. All shades, but most especially that soft cupcakey, Marie Antoinette-pink that almost looks faded. Oh, how I miss my pink hair days (although mine was more magenta)…

Pizza. Again, all kinds; but margherita pizza has the ability to cure the grumpiest of my moods.

Sleeping animals. If there’s a sleeping pet around, I will get down to wherever they are & harass them, squealing over their cuteness. I don’t do this with wild animals, but there have been occasions where Jay has had to convince me not to chase rabbits or feral cats/ kittens & shove them in my pockets to bring them home.

I love my nose ring. I mean, I love my nose piercing in general, but I really love wearing a ring in it instead of a smaller screw. I don’t know why. I think maybe I feel too conservative or ‘sorority girl’ with a small one. *shrugs*

Uggs. They’re warm. They’re comfy. So listen, I don’t give two shits- when it’s 24° F, snowing, I need to run to the store & I’m already wearing sweatpants, I don’t care if Carrie Bradshaw would gasp at my outfit. Screw her & her Jimmy Choos. Step in a snow bank in those & then lemme know if you wanna borrow my fleece-lined, suede & wool hamburger bun boots. (I’ll say no)

Le Creuset pots, skillets, mugs, baking dishes & French ovens, in all colors, in one photo together. It makes me smile.

Cooking shows. No, I don’t care that you hate Paula Deen and no, I’ll never get tired of seeing anyone bake anything on TV. Go watch intelligent things like the Kardashian’s and leave me alone, thanks.

Neck tattoos. That’s all. Just…. neck tattoos.

Okay, this one is more sarcastic, but I love when they say that PopTarts are “crazy good” in the new commercial. Now… I’m not above eating a s’mores PopTart once in a blue moon but crazy good? No, truffle macaroni & cheese is crazy good. PopTarts are a lazy breakfast option for kids or snack option for adults who smoke funny cigarettes.

Early ’90′s Hole.

And cupcakes. SO… MUCH… BETTER than full-size cakes. Eff cakes. Cakes are like, the utmost in drama & needless steps- like extra frosting (crumb coats?! WTF is that about?!). And fondant tastes like feet. Not that I know what feet taste like, but I can imagine.

And at this point, everyone’s all like “Oh I am SOOOOO over cupcakes!” And I’m pretty much like, “Uh… Who asked you?” Not me.

Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, topped with a green-colored vanilla buttercream & sugared pansies!

See, first off: I care not what your opinion is of something I enjoy. When I make fun of your ugly chair or hideous choice in clothes, and you didn’t ask what I thought, and then you feel put out or insulted… remember that. Cause see, we’re all entitled to opinions. But if you say “I LOVE LOLLIPOPS!” and I say “Ugh, lollipops are for losers, they’re total shit! They’re made with high fructose corn syrup, and only a total idiot would eat them knowing that!” that’s me making you feel bad for liking them, and I’m a dick. If I say, “Eh, they’re not my thing”, or “I don’t see the appeal”, that’s different. Giving your opinion in a way that doesn’t make someone else feel stupid is one thing. Telling them that they’re an idiot for liking whatever it is they like… that’s shitty. Stop doing that, guys.

Because bottom line: no one should make you feel bad about liking/loving whomever or whatever you choose.

And second: I’m personally “totally over” the following: pork belly, quinoa, mustaches on everything, high-waisted pants, kohlrabi, kombucha, kale & ANY MENTION OF THE PALEO DIET. Seriously. Every time I see one of those on a blog post, I want to scream & murder anyone within 40 feet of me. But yet I never say it. I don’t go around yelling at people to stop eating quinoa because it’s “played out” or “over done.” Who cares? It’s not up to me to tell you what to eat or do just because I’m tired of it. You love quinoa, eat it. You don’t, don’t.

And I happen to love cupcakes. Which is why I love this article by Allison Robicelli. She says everything I want to say right here, but better, with better examples, and more profanity than I’m currently using. I think I love her- but that’s another story. Like I said on Facebook, this blog isn’t a cupcake worship blog. It isn’t just ALL cupcakes, all the time. It’s about so much more than just one little cake. But it doesn’t even matter, because I reserve the right to love what I love either way. And also, like I said on Facebook, you judging other bloggers doesn’t make you look any cooler. As a matter of fact, you being an asshole about what I choose to do/like doesn’t make me look bad, it makes you look insipid.

So yes. I love cupcakes. I won’t apologize for it, I don’t feel bad when a snobby food blogger scoffs at them in favor of a green tea cookie with local honey glaze or lemon curry marmalade, and I don’t care if the people I reading this are tired of them. I am not. Besides, what is there NOT TO LIKE? It’s a small, individual cake. Just for you. That you don’t have to share (!). It’s an only child’s dream, which is probably why they struck a nerve with me. I am an only child, see. Anyway… I don’t care about snobby food bloggers who are “too good” for cupcakes. I can be snobby too. Better yet? I can make snobby cupcakes. Like these, rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes with sugared (or candied) pansies.

Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, topped with a green-colored vanilla buttercream & sugared pansies!

I think that’s just as good as a rhubarb shrub cocktail or kohlrabi summer salad, don’t you? Probably better, actually. Because I think kohlrabi is boring, and anyone can make a cocktail. Well, maybe not anyone; it’s generally frowned upon for children.

Okay, so, yeah. Cupcakes. Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, and sugared pansies. How pretty, springlike, and mature.

They really are mature, too. These aren’t for kids. Or picky eaters. Even though there’s only 1/4 teaspoon of rosewater in them, that 1/4 teaspoon packs a punch. There’s also both vanilla bean & vanilla extract in them, to kind of even out the rose, but it doesn’t eliminate it at all. So if you’re not a fan of roses, rosewater, or anything in the edible flower family I’m warning you now: stay away from these. These are not for you.

Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, topped with a green-colored vanilla buttercream & sugared pansies!

They’re gorgeous. I know. And yes, these were indeed my fall-back Mother’s Day dessert after that abysmal rhubarb failure. I really didn’t want to make anything similar to something I had already made, but I think these candied flowers bring it to a whole new level. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s totally different than the last time.

So here’s the recipe & the how-to on making sugared pansies (or flowers).

ROSEWATER-VANILLA BEAN CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon rosewater (I use Nielsen-Massey)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper liners. Pur the milk into a glass measuring cup & scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the milk, set aside.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into large bowl. Beat butter and oil in a separate medium bowl. Add egg; blend.
  3. Whisk in milk, rosewater, & vanilla extract. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just to blend.
  4. Divide batter among liners, filling them about 2/3-3/4 full.
  5. Put cupcakes in oven & reduce heat to 325°F. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to racks; cool.

Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, topped with a green-colored vanilla buttercream & sugared pansies!

SUGARED FLOWERS (PANSIES)

Ingredients:

  • Edible flowers, such as pansies or rose petals
  • Granulated sugar, or superfine sugar
  • Pasteurized egg whites
  • Clear but opalescent edible glitter, luster dust or disco dust (optional)

Directions:

  1. Wash your flowers or petals carefully, and pat them dry. Spread newspaper on a table, then a few layers of paper towels. Place the flowers on the paper towels.
  2. Thoroughly coat the flowers with the egg wash (it’s best to use a small food safe paint brush). Sprinkle the sugar & edible glitter over them, and then gently shake off the excess.
  3. Let them dry for an hour before using. Flowers will last a few days if fresh, if dried then they’ll last up to 3 months in an air-tight container placed somewhere cool & dark.

And you’re done. Make sure the flowers you use are not only organic, but meant for eating. DO NOT USE FLOWERS TREATED FOR BUGS. You’ll be ingesting chemicals. Make sure you specifically purchase or pick flowers meant for this purpose. If you grow roses, and you know for certain they’re not coated in any kind of bug spray or insecticide, then that’s okay. Just don’t pick roses in someone else’s yard unless you’re sure of the same. You can also buy edible flowers at certain markets.

Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, topped with a green-colored vanilla buttercream & sugared pansies!
Magenta (or purple) liners from this multipack at the Layer Cake Shop!

As far as frosting, I used a plain ol’ vanilla buttercream tinted green, nothing fancy. It’s better with these cupcakes to use a plain vanilla frosting, or else it can be too much. You don’t want to overwhelm anyone. Keep it simple. You’re already giving them rosewater in the cakes, and a candied flower on top.

And by the way… any and all cupcake hatred can be directed to my e-mail, and all will be answered with the same thing: “You’re an idiot.”

Rose petal hibiscus tea jelly.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis

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Is that not the prettiest jelly you’ve ever seen?

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It really is. And it’s not just because I took these photos with a magical new addition to my life, although yeah, this camera takes insane photos. It’s because this jelly really is the prettiest jelly ever.

I love tea. I always have. In an Irish family, tea is basically a staple… you can’t escape it. Yes, I love coffee too, but I definitely own more varieties of tea than coffee. Tea is comforting for me. Tea is childhood illness, when my grandmother would make me a cup when I was home sick from school & my mom was at work, holding her hand to my forehead to see if I was “hot.” Tea is when I had a bad day as a teenager, and my mom would make me a cup before bed & tell me the day is over and tomorrow is a new start. Tea is family. Coffee is a jolt to get me going, whereas tea is a warm hug to settle me down.

I made a super crazy good tea jelly last summer, and it was such a massive hit that all four jars disappeared. One I sent to Lyns, and the other three just seemingly vaporized. I know I used it for a few things, and I remember having it on scones and English muffins, but I definitely don’t remember all the jars being used up. Hmm. But nonetheless they were, and now they’re seemingly gone, so it was time to make some more. I really liked the tea I used last year, but I wanted something different this year. I was still in a summer mood at the time, and it was so hot out I didn’t want to make anything too heavy or wintery, and a lot of my loose teas remind me of fall & winter. I wanted to avoid that completely- I’m more than a little annoyed that the Back To School stuff has been in stores since before my birthday and that people are trying to sell me sweaters. It’s still summer, dammit! I’ve also been reading a lot of my vintage cookbooks, or rather my reprints of vintage cookbooks, such as The Virginia House-Wife, The American Frugal Housewife & Civil War Recipes; and for some reason they all made me think of things like rose or lavender-based jellies and jams. Flowery edible things always remind me of the Colonial times or Victorian times. Rosewater was often used back then in recipes in place of vanilla extract, which was very expensive. Although it’s still used widely today, especially in Indian & Middle Eastern cuisine, most people nowadays use it as part of their toilette. Rosewater is great for your skin- it absorbs excess oil so it makes a great toner.

So as a kind of experiment, I decided to make a small jar of jelly using some flower-based tea & rose petals.

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I decided to use the last four Hibiscus tea bags from Davidson’s that I had left to make some rose petal hibiscus tea jelly. Why add actual rose petals? ‘Cause I can, really.

ROSE PETAL HIBISCUS TEA JELLY

Makes about 1 8-oz. jar with some overflow

Ingredients:

  • 4 Davidson’s Tulsi Hibiscus tea bags
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 cups plus two tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Certo liquid pectin (or 1/3 cup apple pectin)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh strained lemon juice
  • 4-6 large unblemished rose petals (from roses not chemically treated)

Directions:

  1. Sterilize and keep warm two 8-oz. jars & one 4-oz. jar (for overflow, just in case). Place the lids in a bowl of hot water and set aside.
  2. In a bowl of water, delicately swirl the rose petals to remove any bugs or excess dirt. Remove gently and drain on paper towels. Add the tea bags to the 1 3/4 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, then remove from the heat, add the rose petals, and let steep for 5-6 minutes. Drain and toss the tea bags & petals (unless you want to add the petals to the jars; they’ll float but you can still add them if you like).
  3. Add the pectin, lemon juice and sugar to the tea. Bring to a boil and cook over high heat until it reaches 220° F on a candy thermometer, or passes the freezer plate test, about 25-30 minutes.
  4. Pour into prepared jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and place lids & bands, turning only to fingertip tight.
  5. Process in a waterbath canner for 5 minutes. Remove onto a clean tea towel and do not disturb for a day. Check seal. Use any that aren’t sealed immediately.

The tea is slightly rosy itself. But my rose petals were a red color, so the jelly was infused with a slightly more red color than the tea would normally have (and the petals then turned a pale pinkish color themselves, as if all their color was leeched out into the jelly). If you don’t want to use the petals, you don’t have to. It just gives a really subtle rosy flavor. A drop of rosewater in the tea before cooking would work too, but it wouldn’t be as subtle. If you’ve got hibiscus, then by all means- use hibiscus petals! Like I said, the petals float to the top, so when you open the jelly; you’ll see them at the surface. You can eat them, scrape them off and toss them, or save them.

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This is a jelly with a slightly looser set. It shakes & jiggles just like jelly is supposed to, and it holds it’s shape well, yet softly. I hate that store-bought jelly is so over-firm. I think jelly should be jiggly, like jello. I think it’s better to be safe than sorry, that’s why I recommend in the recipe that you sterilize two 8-oz. jars and a 4-oz. jar. You’ll probably have a little overflow, but you might have more than just a little. ‘Cause see, depending on what kind of pot you use, what kind of oven you have, etc. you might end up with more than just one 8-oz. jar (or maybe a little less!)… so better to be safe, no? And besides, what’s the problem with ending up with more jelly? None as far as I can tell.

This isn’t really a jelly for the casual jelly-lover. It’s a very distinctive, unique flavor and it’s not for everyone. That said… if you love hibiscus tea, you’ll love this.

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And don’t worry- if your jelly doesn’t set, you can still use it! It’d be wonderful as a syrup added to iced tea, a vodka or gin cocktail, or sparkling water. Same goes for those petals you save. Plop them in some sparkling water or lemonade, too. It’s very Victorian. And if you love tea, yet you’ve never tried hibiscus flower tea, I suggest you try some. It’s delicious- especially Davidson’s.