My mom is Canadian. So I grew up with Maple syrup — over pancakes, on oatmeal, poured over snow and in sugar candy. South Louisianans have cane syrup.
I was first introduced to cane syrup by one of my students. Her family makes cane syrup the old fashioned way . . . cutting it by hand, grinding it, boiling it down and bottling it in small batches in Gray.
She also taught me about how Cajuns use cane syrup in everything from pecan pie, to cakes and cookies and even savory dishes — anything that needs a little sweet. And theirs, Baudoin Creations' Sweet Memories Old-Fashioned Cane Syrup, is super smooth and light . . . and local and lacking the chemicals of mass production.
The Thibodaux-based Donner-Peltier Distillers uses Sweet Memories in their products and you can find it in drinks at several New Orleans' restaurants and bars. Or you can buy your own at the Laurel Valley Plantation Store.
I personally just like it over biscuits . . . like my mother-in-law taught me . . . like she learned from her French grandfather from Port Allen. She said she'll crave biscuits with cane syrup, just like he would always eat — I think it's the taste . . . but mostly I think it's a way to connect to someone she loves that is long gone.
Two of my favorite things are sweet tea and lavender . . . sweet tea from the South and lavender from when I studied in France during college.
Now I've never put them together . . . but leave it to my mom to come up with an amazing summer treat. She was inspired by her garden that was overflowing with lavender and mint.
For whatever reason, lavender isn't used much in American cooking. But the French put it in everything from chocolate (divine) and cookies to meats. I love the soft floral flavor . . . maybe because it reminds me of the French summer sun, masses of purple flowers and running my hands through them, perfuming them for hours. Bliss.
So as I let my two wildebeests tear through Mimi's house this afternoon, I sat on the porch overlooking the Chattanooga valley and sipped lavender mint tea. . . a world away . . at least for a few minutes.
Lavender Mint Sweet Tea
- Simple Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp fresh lavender buds
- 3/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 4 cups cold water
- 4 tea bags (I prefer a plain tea like an English Breakfast tea)
- Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients, stirring until sugar melts. Simmer for 2 minutes. Strain, pressing solids through strainer. Keeps chilled for up to 3 months.
- Tea: Pour boiling water over tea bags and steep for about 20 minutes.
Finding Fresh http://finding-fresh.com/wordpress/
My first recipe from my new Nourishing Kitchen cookbook was strawberries in minted honey syrup with fresh Louisana strawberries, spearmint and raw local honey.
And, I know the cookbook author says it's good with yogurt or whipped cream . . . which I'm sure it is . . . we couldn't help but eat it on vanilla ice cream from my favorite local ice cream company — New Orleans Ice Cream Co.
Strawberries in Minted Honey Syrup
// The Nourished Kitchen
1 cup water
1 cup honey
2 pints strawberries
1 small bunch fresh mint
Bring water to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the honey and whisk it into the water until it dissolves fully. Continue simmering over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and let syrup cool to room temperature.
Hull the strawberries, cut them in half, and set them in a bowl. Pluck the leaves off the stems of mint, tear them with your hands, and drop them into the bowl with the strawberries. Pour the cooled honey syrup over the strawberries and mint, then cover the bowl and transfer it to the fridge. Allow the berries to marinate for a day, and then serve them with their syrup.
Serve with cultured yogurt or whipped cream . . . or ice cream . . .
Oh, and because I scrapped our original dinner plans for fresh 12th Street Bakery bread . . . I had to stop at the grocery store for a few things.
What is the old saying, "Never go to the grocery store hungry"? . . . .ESPECIALLY with kids?
So my 8 year old spotted this honeycomb from the Savannah Bee Company. Indeed it looks really cool. Supposedly you chew on the wax until the honey is out and then spit the wax out. I'm game. I love trying new, nonmeat things. So I looked quickly for a price, didn't see one and just tossed it in the mini cart as I grabbed for my 3 year old who was dashing, tripping and dancing in front of carts. Basically being psychotic. The girl behind the deli counter even asked if she could get me a cart with a child seat for him . . . . no, this is a trial run with him "walking." And we all say, the trial is OVER.
Anyway, we made it to the checkout with about five items. The woman checking us out chatted about how cool the honeycomb was. I told her I was probably paying for its coolness.
And on the way out, clinging to pscyho's shirt with the older one driving the cart, I looked at the receipt . . . wait for it. . .
Yes, I just typed $18.99 for a roughly 5-inch square of honeycomb.
And did I turn around? No. I would rather pay $18.99 for something I throw in the garbage, then go back in the store with two, miniature crazy people. . . I think . . .
This better be damn good.
Happy St. Patrick's Day! In honor of my red-headed little son by the same name, I always try to do some Irish things on this day.
And when I was at Rouses today, I picked up an Irish Soda Bread from their bakery. It's a sweet, flaky bread with a scone-like quality.
And my little leprechaun loved it!
Ok, so we really don't need to sweeten anything up in our over-sugared diets, but here's a natural, local option that is awesome and actually does a little something for you too.
My mother-in-law brought me this raw honey, that, according to many health experts, is good for everything from sweetening your tea to helping treat allergies, acne and burns.
I'm not here to advocate any particular usage . . . . but I do know it's pretty darn good right off the spoon! And I need all the help I can get with the seasonal allergies this land of sugar cane throws at me.
Just in case you might want some . . . my mother-in-law bought this honey at the Old Green Store in Schriever and I bought more at Heavenly Scent in Houma.
It's Fat Tuesday and we're ready to party! . . . oh wait, it's 35 degrees and raining. Hard-core revelers are still out at the parades this last day of the Mardi Gras season. We are not that. So we watched the local coverage of the New Orleans' parades and celebrated inside with a traditional king cake.
I love the tradition of this Mardi Gras cake because you can only get it (well, mostly) during Mardi Gras season. For my Yankee friends . . . and, according to South Louisianans, that includes East Tennessee. . . .that's between Twelfth Night, Jan. 6, and Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Another part of the tradition is the baby. It used to be baked inside the cake and whoever got the baby had to buy the next cake. Now, I'm sure to keep people from choking and suing, the baby sits in the middle. Either way, my boys fight over the baby.
King cake can have lots of variations and fillings, but, after lots of taste testing, I prefer the basic king cake — a cinnamon-roll type cake that has loads of white icing and then covered in loads of purple, green and yellow sugar. And, I know it's crazy, but my favorite is from the Thibodaux-based grocery chain, Rouses. I've tried all the fancier kinds, but, I'm a journalist at heart, and I like to KISS (keep it simple stupid).
So I know this isn't a healthy post, but it's Mardi Gras, it's cold and I'm sober. I'm having cake.