Coconut-Lavender Panna Cotta by Maggie Oster


Lavender in raised border © Photos Lamontagne / Getty Images

With Fall in the air, we seem to be nesting more — wearing comfy, warm clothes and spending hours in the kitchen. So we’re exploring recipes and ways we can enjoy the harvest. And maybe entertaining our sweet tooth just a bit, too.

From the Herb Gardens 2015 wall calendar by Maggie Oster
Coconut-Lavender Panna Cotta
Providing a sense of calm and balance, the fresh, sweet aroma of lavender has been beloved for centuries. Used for its beauty, singular scent, and medicinal properties, lavender continues to be a favorite. The use of flowers and leaves of lavender in cooking is growing in popularity. With a flavor that melds floral, piney, and camphor, fresh or dried lavender flowers are most often added to desserts, but they sometimes find their way into savory dishes. Lavandula angustifolia, with its sweet, mild flavor, is the best choice for cooking. Of the dozens of true lavender varieties, Hidcote and Munstead are the most widely available, hardiest, and easiest to grow. Harvest lavender midmorning on a dry day when almost all the buds are open. Tie stems in bundles and hang upside down in a dry, dark place. When dry, gently strip the flowers from the stem. If buying, be sure the flowers are for culinary purposes. Quickly and easily made, panna cotta is a sweet and creamy pudding that is among the most versatile of desserts and readily flavored in innumerable ways.

Herb Gardens 2015 wall calendar by Maggie Oster

2015 wall calendar

1 14-oz. can full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup raw honey
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin or a ¼-ounce packet

Combine the coconut milk, honey, and lavender flowers in a small saucepan. Warm over medium heat, bringing to a mild simmer, stirring to incorporate the honey. Turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain into a mixing bowl, and then return to the saucepan.

Put the orange juice in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top and let soften for 5 minutes. Stir gelatin into coconut milk mixture, whisking for 1 minute to dissolve the gelatin.

Pour into dessert glasses or 5-ounce ramekins. Chill in the refrigerator for at
least 4 hours. Makes 4 servings.

Maggie Oster
Raised on a farm where every meal was homegrown, Maggie Oster has a passion for growing and cooking food. Her parents also instilled in her a deep love and appreciation of nature, which has led to a lifetime studying, creating, and interpreting gardens and gardening. She has a bachelor of science degree from Purdue University and a master of science degree from Cornell University, both in horticulture. Her writing and photography have encompassed a wide range of topics, culminating in eighteen books, including The Herbal Palate, Herbal Vinegar, Recipes from an American Herb Garden, and Reflections of the Spirit: Japanese Gardens in America. The Potato Garden was a James Beard Award finalist. She has also contributed to other books and has written a number of magazine articles. Many of her books and articles feature her own photography. Currently, Oster maintains the family farm in Indiana, which includes extensive food and ornamental gardens. She also operates a bed-and-breakfast in a cottage on the farm. For more information, please visit her website.

A Rainbow of Greens by Ann Lovejoy

basket of greens

Basket of cabbage, kale, and Romanesco broccoli. Photograph © Reinhard / Mauritius / SuperStock.

From The Organic Kitchen Garden 2015 wall calendar by Ann Lovejoy — Crisp, crunchy, and flavorful, cool-season greens have been winter staples for centuries. With the protection of cold frames or plastic tunnels, kale, chard, and cabbage can be harvested all winter, even in the snow. For variety and good looks, plant rainbow chard or Bright Lights Swiss chard, both of which produce vividly colorful stems in shades of raspberry, coral, peach, and salmon. The crinkled foliage holds up well into the cooler months and can be sautéed, steamed, or stir-fried.

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Mystic Heart

For most of us to this life born, the heart takes no great comfort in its own company but yearns for its completion in another. And so it is that it becomes a hungry hunter and wanders the world in search of its counterpart. The tales told of this human enterprise see no end.

Two Hearts – One Soul greeting card

Two Hearts – One Soul greeting card

We live in an age with more than its share of sorrow and loneliness, and so it is a goodness and a mercy when two hearts meet, and a greater goodness when they surrender one to the other and declare themselves as bound and joined.

But the sages declare that the happiness of this union is given to us as example and foretaste of a greater bliss which is the perfect Unity of the soul. There is no need to search for this in far and distant realms, for it is the nearest of all things. The soul is here for its own joy, and it abides always in the Great Unity and the mystery of No Other. So it follows, then, that all souls are in truth just one soul. Thus is the simple secret of the ages laid bare for all to see, but alas, there are but few to hear, and fewer still to seek.

Blessed Be.                               

by Michael Green