When my Mom first introduced me to one of her favorite seasonings, Trader Joe’s Flower Pepper, I’ll admit, I wasn’t overly enthused to try it. Despite my love of tossing flowers in salads or dousing them in sugar, I somehow wasn’t keen on the idea of grinding flowers into my food (go figure). But a few twist of the pepper mill later and my mind was changed. While it’s not a seasoning for everything (or everyone), it has become one of my favorite ways to spice up a salad, a dressing, a piece of fish, or even a poultry dish with just enough of a floral essence to completely change the dynamic of flavors in a totally subtle and effortless way. Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s no longer carries their flower pepper, but, while plotting out the perfect mother’s day gift a few weeks ago, I stumbled on my old flower pepper bottle in my spice cabinet and realized just how easy it was to recreate this seasoning for my Mom (who had been desperately trying to hunt down any remaining bottles). Not only was it easy to make, but the flowers were so pretty and colorful to work with, and of course, call me biased, but nothing beats homemade!
DIY Flower Pepper
Peppercorns (I used a mix of black, green, and red)
An empty pepper mill
Measure out your ingredients using the estimated ratio of 4 parts pepper to 1 part flowers. My final recipe was about 1 cup peppercorns, 2 tablespoons of lavender, 1 1/2 tablespoons of calendula, and about 1 tablespoon of rose petals. I layered the ingredients in the pepper mill (it was a clear one from Ikea) for a prettier presentation (this looks nicer if you’re giving it as a gift). However, you can also just toss all the ingredients together. If you choose to layer the ingredients, simply be sure to shake the pepper mill a few times prior ti using.
This tastes great on salads (especially ones with fruit), mixed into goat cheese and then served with crackers, and on chicken and pork.
*If you have trouble finding dried flowers, I recommend checking your local health food stores as well as a place like Whole Foods. You can also order them online from stores like Amazon (although they tend to only come in larger amounts). For those of you in New York, I got my dried flowers at a shop in the East Village called Flower Power.
Everyone loves getting a bouquet, but a bouquet you can eat? That’s a gift I would give myself!
Start by making your cupcakes and frosting and let both cool. I used a recipe for just basic vanilla cupcakes and buttercream (you can try this and this, but remember to only make a 1/4 of a recipe) but feel free to make whatever kind you want. Bake the cupcakes in yellow or green liners (to look like the flower) and dye your buttercream whatever color you want to make it look like the petals. Pipe on the frosting with a star tip. Side note: I used a 6″ pot that held 6 cupcakes.
While your cupcakes are cooling, cut two circles of styrofoam to fit into your pot, one for lower in the pot and one for closer to the top. You can also you use a block of floral foam.
On top of the styrofoam bunch up a sheet of green tissue (to look like the grass/ground).
To assemble the “flowers”, put either 2 large toothpicks or a cake pop stick in the bottom of the cupcake. Gently press it into the foam. Side note: If the green tissue starts to get in the way, you can put the cupcakes in the foam first, then press pieces of the tissue in around the cupcakes.
Wrap the whole flowerpot in colored tissue and tie with a bow.
Adapted from a recipe in The Cupcake
When I first heard about diy vanilla extract, I assumed it wouldn’t be easy (extracting just sounds hard). Well let me tell you, I assumed wrong. Making your own vanilla is a dream (especially if
you’re a vodka lover you have vodka on hand) and will save you from weekly (expensive) vanilla runs (if you love to bake as much as me). All you need are vanilla beans, cheap vodka (like dirt cheap), and bottles (I got mine at the Christmas Tree Shop but they can also be found here).
I made 3 bottles so I have back-up when one runs out, although these bottles do last a while (mine I started using in January looks almost untouched). FYI these also make great gifts (just ask my mom!). One more FYI, definitely let this sit for the full 2-3 months, otherwise it will just taste like shots of vanilla vodka…which you may be ok with if you’re a vodka lover and all…
Vanilla Beans (3 per 8 ounces of vodka)
Bottle with a tightly sealed lid
1. Place the vanilla beans in your bottle (make sure you split the beans before adding them to the bottle). Fill the bottle with vodka.
2. Tightly close the lid and place the bottle in a cool, dark location for about 2-3 months.
3. Shake occasionally.
4. Whenever you finish a bottle, just refresh with a new bean or two and refill with vodka.