Laurel Vukovik writes and teaches about herbs and natural healing. She is the author of 1001 Natural Remedies (DK, 2003) and Herbal Healing Secrets for Women (Prentice Hall, 2000). Thanks Laurel!
These truffles are a decadent holiday treat. Infuse the cream with lavender flowers, rose petals, peppermint or orange peel.
1 cup heavy cream
1 to 2 tablespoons dried herb or 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh chopped herb of choice
1 pound bittersweet chocolate
In a medium saucepan, bring cream and herbs to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for 10 to15 minutes. Strain. Using a sharp knife, chop chocolate finely and place in a large heatproof bowl. Reheat herb-infused cream to a gentle boil, and pour immediately over chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Leave at room temperature until thickened, about 15 minutes. Pour chocolate mixture into a shallow glass dish. Cover, and refrigerate until mixture is cold and set but still pliable, about 30 minutes.
Using a small spoon, scoop out teaspoons of chocolate and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for 10 to 15 minutes or until firm enough to handle.
Shape chocolate into balls and roll each in powdered cocoa or crushed toasted almonds or hazelnuts. Chill in an airtight container until ready to serve. Will keep for up to two weeks refrigerated.
Fresh sprigs of herbs and a decorative bottle make this a beautiful and useful gift.
Fresh herbs of your choice, such as oregano, rosemary, sage or thyme
Vinegar (wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, at least 5 percent acidity)
Wash and dry herbs. Coarsely chop herbs and put into a wide-mouth jar. Add vinegar to cover herbs. Use approximately 1 cup of loose packed herbs to 2 cups of vinegar. Cover with a lid. Steep the herbs in the vinegar for 2 to 4 weeks (don’t leave in direct sunlight). Strain vinegar and pour into a clean, decorative bottle. Add a few fresh herb sprigs, cap the bottle and seal.
Herbes de Provence
This classic herbal seasoning blend adds interest to soups, stews, beans, roast chicken and fish. The lavender flowers add a unique flavor.
3 tablespoons dried marjoram
3 tablespoons dried thyme
3 tablespoons dried savory
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
Mix dried herbs together and store in a tightly lidded decorative glass jar. For a creative presentation, layer each herb separately into the jar, with instructions to mix the herbs together before using.
Honey-Mint Lip Balm
Lip balms make great stocking stuffers, and they’re easy to make.
4 tablespoons sweet almond oil
1 tablespoon grated beeswax
1 teaspoon honey
10 drops peppermint essential oil
Combine almond oil with beeswax. Warm gently over very low heat until the beeswax melts. Remove the mixture from heat, add honey and stir thoroughly. Add essential oil and stir again. Pour the mixture into small glass or plastic lip balm containers and cool before putting lids on the containers.
Fragrant Bath Salts
Bath salts can be made in just a few minutes. For a memorable gift, choose a beautiful container: glass, handmade pottery or decorative tins are all good choices.
1 cup Epsom salts
1 cup baking soda
1/2 teaspoon essential oil (50 drops) of your choice
Combine Epsom salts and baking soda in a nonporous bowl. Add approximately 50 drops of essential oil, mixing well with a metal spoon. Transfer the bath salts into a decorative container. Choose a container with a lid or top to preserve the fragrant essential oils. Add a label or gift tag with the following instructions: To use, fill the tub with warm water and add four tablespoons of bath salts.
Scented Pine Cones
This simple gift makes a perfect holiday potpourri.
1 ounce cinnamon essential oil
1 ounce sweet orange essential oil
1 pound small pinecones
3 ounces dried orange peel
1 ounce dried orris root
2 ounces cinnamon sticks
Mix cinnamon and orange essential oils together. Using a small-bristle paintbrush, brush the essential oil mixture onto each pinecone. Combine all ingredients and place into a large heavy plastic bag or tightly lidded container. Mix well, and seal tightly. Age for one to two months before using. Display in a large glass or ceramic bowl.
Aromatherapy Room Mist
This room-freshening spray makes a nice gift packaged in an attractive glass spray bottle and tied with raffia and a sprig of dried flowers.
40 drops essential oil of your choice
1 teaspoon witch hazel or vodka
8 ounces filtered or spring water
Combine essential oil and witch hazel or vodka in an 8-ounce bottle with an atomizer top. Shake well. Fill with filtered or spring water and shake again. Spray into the air as desired.