July: Stars 'n Stripes and Sunflowers at Hauser Creek Farm

Red White and Blue Lavender Shortbread

Red White and Blue Lavender Shortbread

Happy Fourth of July! There's nothing prettier - and more all-American - than sunflowers. It's been a few years since we planted them en masse, and I missed them. So this year I enlisted a local farmer-friend who showed up on May 11 to do the planting. Since then, growing conditions have been perfect and the first blooms are now on the verge of breaking through. This coming Friday evening, July 7, the farm will be open 5 to 7 o'clock-ish. I expect to be picking lots and lots of sunflowers by then so come and get 'em! If you are interested and want to stick around for munchies, please bring a simple dish or beverage to share. 

While the farm's lavender is basically done for the year, I like to extend the season by making lavender sugar using some of the leftover dried bundles. Makes a great hostess gift in addition to being a versatile staple in my pantry. Lavender sugar smells amazing and adds a soft floral note to breads, pound cake, and cookies like the shortbread I made for the 4th.  To make lavender sugar, simply place 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add 4 teaspoons dried culinary lavender buds, cover, and process for about 30 seconds. Of course, you can make a larger batch but generally speaking two teaspoons lavender buds per 1 cup sugar is a gracious plenty. Store the sugar in a covered container.

Lavender Sugar at Hauser Creek Farm

Lavender Sugar at Hauser Creek Farm

Sunflower in process at Hauser Creek Farm

Sunflower in process at Hauser Creek Farm

Sunflower in full bloom at Hauser Creek Farm. Do you see the bees? 

Sunflower in full bloom at Hauser Creek Farm. Do you see the bees? 

Lavender Sugar: Fragrant by Design, Hits the Sweet Spot in Style

One reason I love lavender is that it's so incredibly versatile and multifunctional. Among the many ways that it can be used, and one that's pretty phenomenal in my opinion, is lavender sugar. I think every cook should have a secret ingredient. Mine is lavender sugar. Every now and then when I'm in a baking mood I like to use lavender sugar because it adds an interesting background flavor to cakes, breads, pies, and cookies. You can also sprinkle it on top of scones or muffins or stir it into hot cocoa or tea...yummy. Best of all, it's easy to make! All you need is some storebought granulated sugar, dried culinary lavender buds, a food processor, and about 60 seconds. Put the sugar and lavender buds in the food processor, process for about 60 seconds and you're done! This creates a finely-textured sugar and breaks apart the buds, releasing the essential oil and fragrance. An alternative is to use a clean coffee grinder in which case you'll need to make smaller batches. And here's a thought - transfer the sugar to pretty jars, tie on a decorative ribbon and you've got a unique gift! Stored in an airtight container in a cool place, lavender sugar will keep for up to a year although the fragrance may fade over time. Of course, the proportion of buds to sugar can vary depending on taste. I generally use 2 teaspoons lavender buds to 1 cup sugar.

Finally, hasn't the year just flown by? If you're out and about this Sunday afternoon, we hope you'll feel free to stop by the farm for Fall Open Farm Day. We'd love to see you and share a slice of Lavender Pound Cake and hot tea. We'll have lavender buds for sale (so you can make your own lavender sugar!) along with soap, bundles and more. See you soon!