St. Lucy's Day is currently most often associated with Sweden, one of the celebrations of light in the midst of winter's darkness. Little Christmas, or the Feats of Saint Lucy, is a favorite advent celebration. In the early morning, the Lucia Bride, usually the youngest daughter, is dressed in a long white gown with a myrtle or bilberry crown and lighted candles. She awakens the family, often bringing coffee and tea, and braided Lucia twists, flavored with saffron and cardamon. After the family is served, she visits the barns, taking food to the animals.
In addition to the home celebration, the young girls attend services at the church dressed in their lighted crowns. St. Lucy represents the promise of the light in the darkness and the sun's return.
Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and those with visual challenges. Lucy was born in Syracuse, Sicily in the 3rd century. She was born to wealthy Christian parents and at an early age she secretly vowed to remain a virgin and serve God by helping others.
Her father died when she was young. When she came of age, her mother arranged her marriage to a pagan but Lucy rejected him. It was the time of the Diocletian persecutions and when her suitor denounced her as a Christian, she seemed destined to death by burning or life in the brothels. Her fate was to be martyred by a sword through her throat.
In another story she escapes the marriage by tearing her eyes out in frightful desperation. She is often depicted carrying her eyes on a tray.
Miraculously, her sight was restored and she was able to serve God and mankind as she has intended. She is celebrated for giving sight to the blind, food to the hungry, and light to the darkness. The name Lucy comes from the root word Lux, meaning light.
Herbs associated with St. Lucy's Day
Saffron Myrtle Dill Goldenrod Bilberry
St. Lucia's Saffron Braided Bread
I teaspoon saffron, soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes. Let cool
2 packages dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
4 T softened butter
3 T sugar
1 teaspoon salt
I cup slivered almonds
1 cup dried bilberries (blueberries) or raisins
5 to 6 cups unbleached flour
1. Prepare saffron.
2. Dissolve yeast in water.
3. Mix the butter with eggs, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
4. Add milk to butter and eggs.
5. Add almonds and dried fruit
6. Stir in saffron mixture.
7. Add flour gradually and stir with wooden spoon until it is is smooth and forms a ball.
8. Place on floured board or counter and knead until smooth - about 5 minutes.
9.Put into a greased bowl, turn it over and cover with a towel in a warm place until double, about an hour and a half.
10. Punch down dough, divide into 3 sections. Braid and form into a circle shape.
11. Place on cookie sheet and let rise until double - about 30 minutes.
12. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
13. Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
14. Remove from oven, cool and ice.
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Combine and gradually add water until it is the consistency of icing.
Drizzle on to bread.
Decorate with slivered toasted almonds and/or dried fruit if desired.
Top with candles
St. Nicholas was born in the 4th Century in Lycia, Asia Minor to very wealthy parents. Even as a child he was very religious. He was very young when he became a priest and he went on to become a bishop. Sadly, his parents died shortly after he was ordained. He inherited a great fortune, and he shared it generously with people in need. His giving was from the heart - he was not interested in credit or compensation. He often gave unanimously. He was dedicated to common people and emperors alike.
St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, laborers, merchants, pawn brokers, and particularly sailors and those who work near water.
There are many stories describing his generosity. A nobleman who had lost his fortune was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters so planned to sell them into slavery. St. Nicholas galloped by their castle in the dark of night and threw a bag of gold in the window. He did this three nights in a row, providing each daughter with a dowry. Eventually, it was discovered that he had been the generous benefactor. His fame as a gift giver spread through out many lands and he has been credited with the concepts of Father Christmas and Santa Claus.
The three bags of gold represent the three golden balls found on the signage outside pawn broker's shops.
In another more gruesome story, he saved three babies, often pictured beside him. During a famine, an inn keeper had no meat to feed his customers so he cut up three children and tossed them into a brine filled pickling tub. Thankfully, St. Nicholas walked in just in time to bless the boys and bring them back to life!
During that same famine, he convinced sailors on a ship filled with grain to unload some of their cargo to feed those who were starving. They were initially reluctant since the grain had been weighed and they wanted to deliver the entire shipment. He assured them that the cargo would weigh exactly the same amount when it was delivered. It did.
As you celebrate St. Nicholas Day, give a gift from the heart. It doesn't need to be expensive. It could be a kind word, a quote that would make someone feel valued, a thank you. Or is could be a poem, or a recipe! Here's my gift to you!
Golden Bishop's Tea
4 cups black or green tea
4 cups apricot nectar
Serve hot with a honey if desired and a sprig of rosemary
and a sprinkling of nutmeg
Optional: 1 Tablespoon apricot brandy per cup
Golden Apricots, Tansy and Wheat
As you celebrate St. Nicholas Day, think gold! Decorate with golden wheat and tansy! Serve apricot or orange nut bread with Golden Bishop's Tea. Create your own golden delights!
Prepare Your Seeds
The first step in preparing the pumpkin seeds is to cut open your pumpkin! If you can find a peanut pumpkin,I think you'll be delighted! I was! They look like they are covered with peanuts and are a little sweeter than most pumpkins. And baking your own pumpkin, instead of using canned, is always worth the effort. What a difference!
Directions for baking the pumpkin are in an earlier post.
Oil and Season
Add one or two tablespoons of olive oil to thoroughly coat.
The final amount will depend on the size of your pumpkin and the amount of seeds.
(about 1 teas. oil per 1/2 cup of seeds)
Add 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
(inspired by Kevin Lee Jacobs - a favorite!)
Bake and Serve
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and serve warm!
VARIATION - If a friend shows up and she's in a rush to get to class and you want to share but they aren't quite done, you can turn the heat up to 450 degrees. Watch closely so they won't burn, stir to coat evenly and remove to a foil packet with a vent. Send her out the door!
This is on of many options. You'll find a lot of recipes for savory, as well as sweet, roasted pumpkin seeds! If you come up with your own variation, add it in the comments below! Enjoy!
Autumn always inspires me to make acorn cookies!
Acorn Cookie Recipe
2 cups walnuts (pecans will work too!), finely chopped but not ground
Put 1/2 cup aside for later
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
combine in food processor or mixer
3 cups flour
1/2 teas baking soda
add flour, baking powder and 1 1/2 cup nuts
1 teas. vanilla extract
add vanilla and process until dough is mixed
Refrigerate until firm for a couple of hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 F
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls - should make about 3 dozen cookies.
Bake until firm and lightly browned on the bottom.
Roast remaining 1/2 cup nuts on parchment paper on a cookie sheet in 350 F oven until brown, stirring occasionally to brown evenly.
1 cup chocolate morsels, dark or milk chocolate, based on your preference -
2 teas. shortening
in a small microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds. Stir. Heat for 30 more seconds.
Stir until evenly melted and ready for dipping.
Assembling the Acorns
The cookies are very rich so handle carefully.
Dip about a third of the end of each cookie in chocolate and then dip into the nuts!
Asparagus Cheddar Pie
This week I'm working on Orange for my Exploring Rainbows class and my asparagus cheddar pie turned out to be more orange than expected so I thought I'd share. More orange will follow on my Lost in a Rainbow section after next Tuesday's class. Here's the recipe - very easy.
Heat oven to 375 F
Partially baked 10" home made pie crust - I baked mine for 5 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
Brush the bottom of the baked pie crust with 1 T dijon mustard, optional
I pound asparagus,, cooked
3/4 cup light cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh dill, optional
2 cups grated cheddar cheese separated into 1 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup for topping.
Hot Hungarian paprika
Cut the asparagus stalks in half and reserve the top halves. Cut the bottom halves into smaller pieces - about one inch - and place in pie shell.
Combine eggs, cream, garlic, spices and 1 1/2 cup cheese and pour over asparagus.
Arrange the top pieces of asparagus with the spear heads facing in towards the middle.
Top with remaining half cup of cheese.
Sprinkle with paprika.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes (until the eggs are set and knife inserted in the center comes out clean).
Honey lemon tea can be used alone or with black tea or any combination of herbal teas.
Sterilize wide mouth canning jar or glass container.
Place lemons loosely in jar. Slowly pour in honey, using a knife to pull lemons away from the sides and allow honey to flow cover entirely.
Place jar in refrigerator and let marinate for seven days.
To serve, use 2 or 3 Tablespoons per cup or to taste,
You will need -
Basic White Bread Recipe
Make a basic white bread recipe - I use King Arthur Unbleached Flour. - see recipe above. A recipe for 6 cups of flour will make 3 loaves.
This is very similar to the recipe I use and has a step by step guide especially helpful if you are a beginner.
After the bread has risen the first time, divide the dough into three parts. Divide each part into three more sections to make the braids. Roll sections into 10 - 12" long lengths.
Place shredded cheese and paprika on rolled lengths before braiding them and then add more cheese and paprika to the top after the braids are complete..
Oven - 375 F
Cover and let rise until double - 30 to 45 minutes.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Ding Dong season is here! Last night we gathered to sing carols and learn new harmonies. Challenging and so much fun. This group is amazing and our director, Jessica Johnson, is brilliantly talented (not to mention kind and gorgeous!)
I took some herbal treats and thought you might like to try them so recipes are included.
Lavender Mint Cucumbers
Green Beans Vinaigrette
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lavender blossoms
I cup (two sticks) butter at room temperature
2 cups almond flour
1 cup flour
Combine the sugar and fresh lavender blossoms using a food processor.
Add the butter and combine. Next add the flours.
Mix until thoroughly combined.
The batter will be soft.
Chill for 30 minutes.
Flour both sides of the dough and place between two long sheets of waxed paper.
Using a rolling pin, roll to 1/4 inch thickness. Work quickly. The dough will get soft again as you work with it.
Cut cookies with a floured cookie cutter.
Remove all the excess dough and return to the 'fridge. This will make it easier to move your shaped cookies.
Gently lift cookies onto a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment paper.
Chill the cookies on the baking sheets for 30 minutes
Set oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Once the oven is preheated, bake for about 30 minutes. Begin checking at 20 minutes and don't let the edges of the cookies brown.
Cool on a wire rack placed.
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 Tablespoon water.
Mix thoroughly with a fork. Add a little more water if needed.
Keeping the cookies on the wire rack, move them over the sink if your rack fits, or place waxed paper under neath for easy clean up. This can get messy!
Use a spoon to lightly glaze the cookies. Top with lavender blossoms. Let the glaze set up and serve.
My last harvest of lavender and almond lavender cookies to celebrate the summer solstice.
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!