Tag Archives: wine pairing

bundt cake with thyme sprig

meyer lemon + thyme olive oil cakes | paired with anselmi’s “i capitelli” dessert wine

I recently read a very inspiring post on Darling magazine’s website about celebrating our small and large moments of victory, fanning the flames of our goals, and daring to actually live out those crazy dreams we have for our lives. I know I’ve been pretty wordy about goal-setting and intentions on my last few posts, but I have no apologies. We all need a little motivation; I’m seriously preaching to myself.

Lately, I’ve had a few setbacks with the goals I’ve written for myself. I dealt with a case of bronchitis, and I had to stop running for a few weeks. My work schedule has been a little unpredictable, and my finances have taken a toll. I have over-committed and have had some difficulty finding a sense of balance, in turn, hurting a couple of friends and family members as a result.

I can only pick up where I left off with those situations and do my best from this point on. I’ve slowly built my running mileage up to four miles a run, and I’ve tightened up my budget. As far as the fragile relationships go, I’m making room for quality time and making sure I am giving my full attention to the person I’m spending time with.


We have to reach for our goals but, more than that, we have to hold on and live them, until they’re the only truths we believe in.”

Megan Magers


Sometimes, it is tough holding onto our goals. When we are met with setbacks. When we’re the only ones who see any progress. When we supposedly “fail.” When no validation comes our way. It’s at those points where it is so important to stay strong and remind ourselves WHY we made our choices and commitments in the first place.

So, I’ve gotten back on my feet and am trying to make something beautiful from my mistakes. This brings me to my recent marmalade mishap: I botched a batch and couldn’t get the marmalade to set. I wanted to toss out the six jars I canned. I was livid with the results.

At first.

meyer lemon thyme olive oil cake | holly & flora meyer lemon thyme olive oil cake | holly & flora meyer lemon thyme olive oil cake | holly & flora

I could’ve thrown that batch away, and I would’ve missed out on the opportunity to expand my creativity. I’ve used that runny, but oh-so-vibrantly-tasty batch of marmalade in more ways than I would have, had it been “perfect.”  It has found its way into a ginger-soy stir-fry sauce, as a dipping sauce for gyoza, over toast, in a gin cocktail, over granola, and drizzled over these Meyer lemon bundt cakes {recipe loosely adapted from this recipe on Food Network}. I think the bundt cake glaze is my most favorite incorporation of the sweet, citrus-y jam.

meyer lemon thyme olive oil cake | holly & flora


meyer lemon + thyme olive oil cakes


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, in solid form
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring bundt pans
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • zest from 3 lemons
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt or skyr
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped, fresh thyme
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease the lining of the bundt pans with the coconut oil and lightly dust with flour.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the sugar and lemon zest until integrated.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, again, pulsing until integrated.
  5. Add the olive oil and yogurt and pulse for about 30 seconds, until all of the ingredients are blended.
  6. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and fresh thyme.
  7. Pour the flour mixture, in three separate passes, into the olive oil mixture, pulsing just until combined.
  8. Pour the final mixture into the greased and floured bundt pans and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack. If the cakes don’t want to release easily, use a knife to separate the cake from the edges of the pan.
  • I tested this recipe using a 6-piece mini-bundt pan. If you choose to use a 12-piece mini-bundt pan, decrease the baking time, checking on the cakes after 22 or so minutes.
  • Remember to grease the middle part of the bundt pan molds! I forgot to do this, and each cake didn’t want to release easily, since that middle portion was stuck.

marmalade glaze


  • 3 tablespoons marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  1. In a saucepan, combine the marmalade, coconut oil, and lemon juice over medium heat.
  2. As soon as the mixture reaches a slow, bubbly boil, quickly reduce to a low simmer.
  3. Whisk in powdered sugar.
  4. Reduce for about five minutes or to desired thickness.
  5. Remove from heat and let stand for 20-30 minutes to thicken further, as it cools.
  6. Drizzle over lemon olive oil cakes.
  • If you don’t have any marmalade, you may substitute 3 tablespoons orange juice and simply mix all ingredients together without heating on the stove.

meyer lemon thyme olive oil cake | holly & flora meyer lemon thyme olive oil cake | holly & flora

And now, let’s take this dessert to another level.

How so? Dessert wine. After a meal, I am always excited to pair a dessert wine with my sweet baked goods or even some cheese. The citrus notes in this particular recipe pair perfectly with Sauternes, a dessert wine from the Bordeaux region of France, made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes. I didn’t have a Sauternes on hand, but I did have a Sauternes-like dessert wine from Italy, Anselmi’s “I Capitelli”, Passito Blanco.

I hadn’t tried it before, and I was completely blown away. This nectar-like, sweet wine is complex and balanced with vibrant acidity and provided ample notes of honey, dried apricot, brûléed peaches. I would also enjoy this dessert wine simply by itself, alongside fresh fruit, or with a salted caramel crème brûlée.

meyer lemon thyme olive oil cake | holly & flora


Anselmi “I Capitelli” Passito Blanco, Italy, 2011


  • Off the vine – 100% Garganega {the primary grape used to produce Soave}
  • On the eyes  –  golden honey-hued.
  • On the nose  –  rich, concentrated aromas of white peach, sweet apricot, honey, and caramel.
  • On the palate  –  full-bodied and viscous with notes of honey, maple, and ripe peaches.
  • On the table  –  excellent alongside fresh fruit, lemon cake, light pastries, and even with steamed lobster. It can definitely stand up and complement a funky bleu cheese.
  • On the shelf  –  around $40 {375 mL}.
  • On the ears  –  I think I’ve listened to Royksopp‘s latest, and supposedly final, album, The Inevitable End {November 2014}, at least once a day for the last three weeks. Right now, my favorite track is “Skulls.” I may have danced around the kitchen with this one blasting. I’m comfortably listening to this album right now on headphones, so there won’t be any neighborly casualties. 😉 The video to this track is definitely worth checking out, especially if you have major beard crushes, like I do.

meyer lemon thyme olive oil cake | holly & floraI also want to add that it is so important to celebrate our accomplishments, the large breakthroughs and the little victories, and not just focus on the hiccups, roadblocks, or setbacks. Even though each of our victories leads us closer to our goals, we have to remember that life happens along the way, in the mix. We have to take time to revel in those small, happy moments.

Let me know if you end up making this recipe, this decadent product of an originally perceived failure. They were absolutely delicious and had the best texture, almost like a sour cream cake doughnut. I ended up eating two of these mini-bundt cakes the night I baked them. And I didn’t feel any guilt about it! It was a victorious celebration, after all, right?

Happy weekend! I’ll be tucked away inside my house for a couple of days. The forecast is calling for well over a foot of snow. We’ll see how well that prediction holds. I’m betting on maybe five inches!

Cheers!

Jayme

meyer lemon thyme olive oil cake | holly & flora

 

spring pea + arugula + spinach ravioli

This past week has been a crazy one. I think I repeat this line quite often. We have been in the midst of changing over our wines-by-the-glass list at the restaurant, which requires a lot of tasting, note-taking, and discussion amongst the sommeliers. It is an arduous but exciting process. After we make the final decisions, we send the menu proofs to the printer, make revisions, and begin the task of educating the staff on the changes. It really sounds simple on paper, but selecting the wines is also a battle of politics – which distribution company needs support, which winery needs recognition, which varietals are our guests demanding…and, the most important question, which bottle would I most likely reach for at the end of a long shift for a much-needed sip?

Sigh.

On a brighter note, the garden is progressing quite beautifully, and our seedlings are growing up, with only minor casualties along the way. I did lose a few basil sprouts due to the indecisive weather patterns we have been dealing with; however, two of our cold-hardy plants, arugula and parsley, remained alive over the winter and have already given us an early spring harvest. There really is nothing like heading outside to the garden, clipping fresh vegetables and herbs, and, moments later, cooking up something fresh and delicious with them.

I was recently inspired by a post from one of the new contributors at the Kitchn, Sarah Crowder. She is also the author of the blog, Punctuated with Food. Her recipe for Minty Pea & Arugula Wonton Ravioli was visually captivating and sounded delicious. I had never used wonton wrappers to make ravioli, so I was up for the challenge. It was the ease of the process, however, that sealed the deal on my trying a twist on her recipe.

I poured myself a glass of Chardonnay and set out to clip some of the aforementioned spring arugula. It was about to flower, so it had to be harvested soon, in order to preserve its optimal flavor. I called up a good friend and asked her to join me for a glass. One glass turned into two, and this quick and simple recipe turned into a lovely afternoon snack.


Spring Pea + Arugula + Spinach Ravioli


  • 1/2 cup spring peas {about 24 pods or 3 1/2 ounces}
  • 2 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1 cup loosely packed spinach
  • 1 tablespoon high-heat oil, like safflower oil
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped white onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning {I use my dried herb blend from the garden}
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup Ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream {more, if you want a creamier filling}
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten, plus 1 tablespoon of water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil, for the sauce
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, for garnish
  • micro-greens, chives, or sprouts, for garnish
  • 72 wonton wrappers

Begin by setting aside a large bowl of ice and water. In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil. Carefully toss the shelled peas into the water and cook for only one minute. Add the arugula and spinach and continue boiling for another 15 seconds. Drain the water and transfer the veggies to the ice water bath. Strain the veggies, removing any cubes of ice. Set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat the safflower oil over medium-high heat. Toss in the onion and garlic, along with a pinch of salt, and sauté for four minutes, until the onions are slightly caramelized and toasty. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a food processor, combine the peas, arugula, spinach, and onions & garlic mixture. Add the Italian seasoning, cheeses, and heavy cream to the food processor. Pulse to your desired consistency. I like a coarser filling. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you desire a richer consistency, add a little more heavy cream or pulse the mixture a little longer.

This is the fun part – stuffing the wonton wrappers to make the ravioli. Set out 36 wrappers on a baking tin or other surface. Measure 1/2 tablespoon of the filling and place in the center of each square.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water together to prepare the egg wash. Brush the egg mixture on the outer edges of the wonton square and carefully place another wrapper on top, pressing lightly to seal. Try pressing out any air pockets by lightly squeezing from the center toward the outer edges. I enjoy a little less “pasta-y” {not exactly a word, but I think you get the idea!} ravioli, so I used a ravioli cutter and trimmed them a little. I think they turned out pretty darned adorable!

Like Sarah mentioned, you can freeze the uncooked ravioli, if you are not ready to enjoy them right away. This is a perfect solution for make-ahead meals. I will definitely experiment with other fillings over the summer and pack them away for future enjoyment!

To cook the ravioli, toss 6 pieces into boiling water for a strict 2 minutes. I found that if I cooked them longer, they would burst. For the sauce, I tried two variations – a simple browned butter sauce {shown in these photos} and a simple toss of extra virgin olive oil, with a squeeze of lemon juice. I liked both options equally. The browned butter sauce was rich and savory, whereas the olive oil and lemon juice combination was vibrant and fresh. I garnished the ravioli with fresh chives from the garden, toasted pine nuts, and micro-greens.

If you haven’t ever made browned butter and feel a little intimidated, this visual tutorial helped me conceptualize the process. You’ll feel even more accomplished and versatile as a home cook, when you can make a good browned butter sauce!

I paired this recipe with one of my favorite Chardonnays. The wine really shines with the browned butter preparation. I also added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the finished dish to add a needed dash of acidity. The flavors and textures really came together. A wine with great acidity, like a squeeze of lemon, also fills in the gap, when acidity is missing from a dish. A mouth-watering sip of crisp wine encourages the next bite and brings balance to the pairing.


Paul Lato “le Souvenir” Chardonnay, Sierra Madre Vineyard, 2011


  • On the eyes – brilliant, pale straw.
  • On the nose – toasted hazelnut, baked apple tart, squeezed lemon, orange blossom, with hints of vanilla.
  • On the palate – rich-textured, exhibiting notes of baked apples, Meyer lemon, honeyed hazelnuts, with a lingering finish and medium acidity.
  • On the table – perfect alone or with poached halibut, roasted chicken, and pasta dishes with either lean or rich sauces.
  • On the shelf – about $75 {yep, I splurged}.
  • On the ears – paired with Phantogram’s “Black Out Days” from their recent album, Voices. Steve and I saw them perform at the Ogden here in Denver last month, and I have listened to their current album at least 50 times. Truth. I think I chose this track not only because of the harmonic layers and trance-like beats, but also because I can really identify with the “crazy voices in my head” theme, as of late. Good wine always helps quiet those crazy thoughts, though. 😉

Have a great weekend, sip something delicious, and, even better, share it with a friend!

Oh, I almost forgot. I am also posting more about wine on my new Tumblr blog, Sommthing to Talk About. Steve thinks the title is a tad silly, but I dig catchy, witty plays on words! I will be directly linking to all of the wine posts that I write for the Kitchn, so it will be easier to follow those. It is wine-focused and is still taking shape, but you can find me there now, as well! Cheers!

DIY rose salt bath soak | ruinart brut rosé

These recent frigid, snowy days have left me in cozy-up and slow-down mode here lately.  It seems as if I can’t get quite warm enough or relaxed enough or cheered up enough.  And I refuse to stay in that frame of mind.  As I type this post, I am anticipating a long, decadent soak in the tub later this evening to get me out of my {temporary} funk.  And out of my writer’s block for an upcoming post at the Kitchn.  Maybe a hot bath and a glass of bubbly will fix it all.  Here’s hoping!

I made a batch of this rose salt bath soak in late December with my friend, Yvonne, the same day we made candles and other goodies for our families’ Christmas gifts.  After testing out our recipe, I decided that I had to make several baths’ worth of this treat to stow away for myself.  A trip to Apothecary Tinctura in Cherry Creek inspired this recipe.  I spied a jar of their own rose bath salts and noted the ingredients.  I already had the baking soda, sea salt, and Epsom salt on hand, so all I needed to complete the concoction were some dried roses, pink Himalayan sea salt, and rose essential oil, which they conveniently had on hand.

If you are new to the Epsom salt experience, you are in for a serious treat.  Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is a natural muscle relaxation aid that eases sprains and diffuses aches.  You don’t even need to get all fancy and duplicate this recipe; you simply need to add a cup or two to a hot bath, soak for at least 20 minutes, and experience relaxation nirvana.  That’s a lofty goal, but Epsom salt shows up and follows through.  Just add a few drops of an essential oil of your choice, and you can take it to another sensory level.

Ingredients for Rose Salt Bath Soak:

  • 3 cups Epsom salt
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • crushed, dried rose buds
  • rose essential oil

Gather the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to integrate.  Add a few shakes of the rose essential oil, to your personal taste, stirring along the way to distribute any clumps.  This recipe yields a large jar for yourself or about five 8-ounce jars to give to weary, winter-weathered friends.  You may opt out of the pink Himalayan sea salt, if you are unable to find it easily; I love using it, however, for the rosy color it imparts to the blend.  If you aren’t blessed with a local herbal shop, visit Mountain Rose Herbs for all of the ingredients listed here.  After making my batch, I discovered another rose salt soak interpretation that I can’t wait to try.  Via Erin Boyle at Gardenista, apothecary diva, Briar Winter, shares a rose, cardamom, and ginger body soak that exudes warmth and radiance.

And what indulgent salt soak isn’t complete without a chilled glass of bubbly?  And since I am on a pink streak, I selected one of my favorite Champagnes, Ruinart Brut Rosé, non-vintage.  It is definitely a splurge, but it is worth the monetary expense.  Opt for a half bottle, like I did, to ease any pain to the pocketbook.

Ruinart, Brut Rosé, Reims, France, NV

Breaking it down:  Ruinart is the producer; Brut Rosé is the style of the wine; Chardonnay {45%} and Pinot Noir {55%} are the grapes; Reims is the region within France, pretty much the best spot to source grapes destined for Champagne; and “NV” indicates that the grapes were picked from multiple years and blended.  Ruinart is France’s oldest established Champagne house, producing Champagne since 1729.

  • On the eyes  –  pale pink with hints of orange and salmon, actively bursting with fine bubbles.
  • On the nose  –  vibrantly aromatic, with ripe, red cherry, complemented with floral notes and spicy undertones.
  • On the palate  –  dry, with a lively, delicate mousse; silky, fleshy mouth-feel that confirms the nose with lush pomegranate and a hint of spice.
  • On the table  –  outstanding alone, with light appetizers, with poached salmon or broiled fish…or a lavish bath!
  • On the shelf  –  around $75 for the 750 mL bottle, $45 for my little half-bottle-for-one.
  • On the ears  –  Part of me wants to pair this with Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly,” but that’s way too easy.  This one, however, absolutely nails the very essence of this wine:  The Bird and The Bee‘s “My Love,” off their 2009 album, “Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future.”  Catchy, dreamy, head-over-heels-in-love giddiness, with Inara George’s lilt-like, ethereal voice.  I listen to this song at least once a week.  My boyfriend, Steve, added this track to a sweet playlist he made for me back in 2012.  I fell even harder.

Closing with some recent projects and life around the house.  There seems to be a trend of bringing in the sunnier side of life into the picture, right?!  Do any of you have creative ways that you bring life into the winter season?  Have you tried any fun bubbles lately?  Cheers to a beautiful week ahead!

Our Super Bowl wines, which far surpassed our anticipated outcome of the game: Moet et Chandon’s 2002 Grand Vintage, Domaine Chandon’s étoile, Veuve Clicquot’s Rosé, shown left to right.  #denverstyle

My first foray into cactus terrariums. A how-to post will follow shortly, with the requisite wine pairing, of course!

…and day two of the current terrarium obsession…

Another snippet of the forced paperwhite bulbs experiment.

Tulip and daffodil bulbs were on sale at the garden center for $1 apiece! Completely worth a try at planting them for some spring color.  #score

Blending up our “yard blend” of dried culinary herbs from our summer garden. So excited to release this with our “hot” pepper blend in a couple of weeks!

bourbon maple pecan pie | paired with vin santo

Yes, I am still defiantly avoiding a juice cleanse or a green smoothie marathon, almost two weeks into the new year.  And I do not apologize if this pecan pie recipe tempts you past your threshold and sends you back to your pre-2014 indulgent self.  You will honestly thank me, if this happens.  Pecan pie is a dessert staple, a baking “rite of passage” in my family, that always makes an appearance at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at my house.  In fact, the recipe I swore by for years was found on page 392 of the Cotton Country Collection, from the Junior League of Monroe, Louisiana.  This past holiday season, I decided to stray away from the corn syrup that is almost always a primary ingredient in this sweet, southern standby, and opt for sweetening with maple syrup and brown sugar, instead.  I am officially converted.

Not shown: I also added a small dollop of Talenti’s Tahitian Vanilla Bean Gelato, and it really set off the flavors in the pie.

Ingredients:

  • dough for a 9″ pie {this is the one I use}
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1/2 cup grade B maple syrup {yes, B is better}
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla {The Real Deal is my standing fave}
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place your chilled dough onto a lightly floured piece of wax paper.  Flatten into a disc and cover with another piece of wax paper.  Roll the dough evenly in each direction, until the dough will fit nicely into a 9″ pie pan.  Crimp the edges to your liking.  I spied some beautifully designed pie crusts here.  Chill your pie dough in the refrigerator, while you are assembling the filling.
  3. Chop the pecans and spread onto a baking sheet.  Toast pecans, until they become aromatic, for about five minutes, watching vigilantly, for they tend to scorch quickly.
  4. Remove pecans, set aside, and turn the oven up to 375 degrees.
  5. In a medium saucepan, combine syrup and butter on medium heat, until melted and incorporated.  Do not let the mixture boil.
  6. While the butter is melting, beat eggs in a mixing bowl.  Add brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla, flour, and salt.  Whisk this mixture into the maple syrup and butter mixture.
  7. Bring to a slow, bubbling simmer and stir for five minutes.
  8. Remove saucepan from heat and add chopped pecans.
  9. Blind bake your pie crust for five minutes and then pour pecan filling into the pie crust.
  10. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the center is no longer in a liquid state, but still remains “jiggly.”

Tip:  Bake your pie a day before serving it.  On day two, the texture is perfect, the filling has integrated, and the pie holds together better.  The trick is not sneaking a slice during the waiting period!

You can definitely enjoy this pecan pie alone or alongside a bourbon on the rocks; however, if you can score some Vin Santo {translated, “holy wine”}, an Italian dessert wine, you just might experience the most perfectly paired ensemble.  Sigh.  And if you have not yet discovered the luxury and deliciousness of dessert wines, this may very well be a great place to start!  Need a good breakdown on sweet wines?  Read this brilliantly simple guide or skim over this one.

Castellare, S. Niccolo, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, DOC, 2005

Breaking it down:  Castellare is the producer; “S. Niccolo″ is the name of the bottle; Malvasia and Trebbiano are the grapes; Vin Santo is the style; Chianti Classico is the region within Italy; and 2005 is the year the grapes were picked.  This sultry, amber-hued dessert wine is made from grapes that are harvested, dried in a ventilated room, and then fermented in small oak barrels.  The wine is aged five years in barrel and another six months in bottle.

  • On the eyes  –  brilliant amber, with rich, golden tones.
  • On the nose  –  toasted pecans, dried apricot, dates, golden raisin, browned butter, toffee, and spice cake.
  • On the palate  –  golden raisin, spice cake, buttery caramel, balanced sweetness and acidity, with a toasty, long finish, hinting at bitter black walnuts.
  • On the table  –  perfect accompaniment to shortbread, oatmeal raisin cookies, fruit tarts, and nutty pies.
  • On the shelf  –  around $25.
  • On the ears  –  I couldn’t resist pairing this duo with a track from the Avett Brothers.  “Kick Drum Heart” from their album, “I and Love and You,” highlights my excitement for this bourbon + maple + pecan pie.  The words are incredibly sweet and touching.

DSC_000

Sunday was an exceptionally productive day, as far as home improvements go.  I know that I am overdue on posting an update on our kitchen remodel, but we are waiting for the back splash tile and the cabinet hardware to arrive.  Soon, I promise!  That afternoon, we hauled out the table saw and finished making cuts for our hallway door frames and an oak shelf to provide a perch for some of our houseplants.  They’ve been living in a cluttered stack, under the front windows, and are ready for a better home.  Finishing that project this morning!  Closing with photos from Sunday afternoon…

Bitter and windy, despite the sun’s warm rays.

Steve getting ready for finishing the shelf.

Our houseplants’ current home: no room to stretch out or thrive. Problem solved very soon and very cheaply! I see a post in the making…

Our little Ash cat, getting used to her cat carrier, so that an upcoming trip to the vet will be a little less scary.

how to make soy candles | paired with vietti barbera d’asti

I am most likely channeling almost everyone’s thoughts right now, when I say that I seriously can’t believe Christmas is less than three days away.  I tried my best, under the circumstances, to finish making and packaging gifts much earlier in the month, but it just didn’t happen.  I did, however, manage to sneak in a day off, summon a friend’s assistance, and make some last-minute, handmade gifts this afternoon.  I might be late sending them out, but I will get some points for crafting my own gifts, even if I have to give out the points, myself!  It simply feels good to give a handmade gift, and many times, it is far less expensive than purchasing a similar gift in the store.

Strolling the aisles of Whole Foods a couple weeks back, I fell in love with this beautifully packaged, naturally dyed, sugared fig-scented candle.  The sweet, rich, spiced fruit scent literally stopped me in my tracks.  And so did the price.  $20 for a ten-ounce soy wax candle.  Ouch!  I didn’t need it that much.  Instead of forking out the bills, I settled on heating up some spiced cider later that evening to abate my desire for a holiday-scented house, curled up with my computer, and ordered the supplies necessary to create my own soy wax container candles.

I honed my candle-making skills last year at a class held at Moondance Botanicals here in Denver.  The shop is absolutely adorable, boasts handmade bath and body products, and hosts classes ranging from candle-making to aromatherapy to soap-crafting.  Throughout the past year, I salvaged jars, glasses, and containers for candle-making.  After purchasing the necessary supplies, I ended up spending less than $4 per candle.  True story.  And I used clean-burning, non-GMO soy wax flakes.  Beat that, over-priced fig candle, made by someone I don’t even know!  #knowyourmaker

Materials Needed:

  • various glass containers {I find many of mine at the Goodwill or a local thrift shop, or I simply save jam, pickle, and relish jars}
  • soy wax flakes {I use EcoSoya Container Blend}
  • cotton wicks
  • essential oils {I purchase mine in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs}
  • Bic pen {the barrel assists in wick placement}
  • hot glue gun
  • seamless aluminum pouring pitcher
  • saucepan
  • digital thermometer
  • water

Steps:

  1. Fill a seamless, aluminum pouring pitcher with soy wax flakes.  I use a 3-quart pitcher and fill it with about a pound of wax.  I am able to make four or five 4-ounce candles using this amount.  Don’t get too precise here:  just melt the wax and if you don’t use all of it, let it cool and use it again another time.
  2. Heat your glue gun.
  3. Pour about an inch or two of water into a large saucepan and place the pitcher into the saucepan.  Let the water simmer, allowing the wax to fully melt, in a double boiler fashion.
  4. While you are waiting for the wax to melt, prepare your containers.  Thread the wicks through the “barrel” of a Bic pen {or something similar}, so that you can accurately place the wick base into the container.
  5. Dot a bit of hot glue onto the wick base and press firmly, placing the base in the center of the container.
  6. Once the wax has fully melted, remove the pitcher from heat, and add your essential oil or fragrance oil.  I usually add my oils between 130 and 150 degrees.  I find the best scent “throw” results at this temperature range.  I use about one and a half ounces of essential oil per one pound of wax.
  7. Pour the wax into the containers.  Many sources state that the wax adheres better to preheated containers.  I haven’t tried doing this, and so far, I haven’t had any challenges with non-adherence.
  8. Steady and center the wicks by placing chopsticks or pencils atop the containers, so that the wicks have a steady surface upon which to lean.  Wait for the wax to fully cool.
  9. Once the candles are cool {I wait overnight}, trim the wicks to 1/4″ thickness.
  10. Now you’re ready to burn, baby, burn!  Burn for four hour intervals, at max.  Keep the wick trimmed to 1/4″ at all times to lengthen the burn time.

Making soy wax container candles is incredibly easy and is a thoughtful, classy gift.  I keep a ready stash at all times, so I have a memorable, handcrafted gift for any occasion.  My dear friend, Yvonne, came over this afternoon, and we made nine candles for Christmas gifts.  We also collaborated on a rose + sea salt bath soak, vanilla + lavender sugar scrub, peppermint shea butter lip balm, and a batch of rosemary + mint cold-pressed soap.  More to come on those endeavors!  Cheers to a thrifty, creative, DIY Christmas!  Next candle-making session, I might try these embellishments…

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And, of course, we had something delicious to sip on, to get those creative juices flowing!  What to imbibe when candle-making on a chilly, snowy afternoon?  Something red and Italian, like a Barbera.  Tasted and paired this afternoon…

Vietti, “Scarrone,” Barbera d’Alba, 2009

Breaking it down:  Vietti makes some of THE most delicious wines from the northwestern corner of Italy, the Piemonte.  Their expressions of Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Arneis are benchmarks for quality and uniqueness.  This wine sources its grapes from Castiglione, specifically from the Scarrone vineyard, and is fermented in stainless steel tanks for two weeks.  It is aged in French oak barrels for 14 months and is bottled unfiltered.  Only a little under 800 cases were made.

  • On the eyes – deep ruby and purple.
  • On the nose – concentrated ripe black cherries, spiced vanilla, faint licorice, and dried herbs.
  • On the palate – dry, with bright, mouth-watering acidity, lush tannins; ripe, black cherry notes reaffirm the nose and suggest baking spices, complemented by rich plum; medium tannins, with a lingering finish.
  • On the table – perfect with sharper cheeses, poultry, pasta with browned butter and mushrooms, and roasted game.
  • On the ears – unintentionally paired with Neon Indian’s “The Blindside Kiss” from their album, “Era Extraña.”  The CD was in the player and sounded just about right at the moment.  This particularly dreamy, fuzzy, synthpop-influenced track was a perfect backdrop for today’s adventures.  Every time I listen to a synth-driven track from this album, I decide to hang on to my under-explored Alesis A6 Andromeda keyboard.  I’ll try figuring that thing out one day…

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!  Did you decide to make most or some of your gifts this holiday season?  Do you think it’s worth it?  Did you give up and just pour yourself a glass?  If so, what did you pour?  Signing off to enjoy some peace and quiet here at the house, before the craziness ensues at the restaurant this Tuesday night.  Just might have to pack some bubbles to celebrate making it through the 450 covers on the books…