December – Gifts From the Kitchen

December – Gifts From the Kitchen

This year I am having fun making many of the gifts I am giving during the holidays. As well, it is wonderful to have something ready for hostess gifts when invited to a party. Wrap any of these in a pretty tea towel for a personalized gift.

Here are some ideas, most have been posted on my blog over the past few years.

II didn’t realize I had so many recipes for lemons! Skip past this section if they are not available to you. But, if you are lucky enough to a backyard lemon tree (or don’t know what to do with ALL THOSE LEMONS), here are some options, make:

Meyer Lemon Confit

Confit Meyer Lemons in Olive Oil

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices (would work with regular organic lemons, wash and maybe add more sugar as Meyers are sweet):

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices

Meyer Lemon Indian Spiced Pickle

What about preserved lemons? Use some holiday spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in the preserving process.

Preserved Lemons 

Preserved lemons

There is Lemon Marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Just the thing for Christmas tea.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Toast and Tea

There is Meyer Lemon Aigre-doux. This is an Italian sweet and sour preserved lemon recipe, wonderful blended with olive oil for a lemony salad or roasted vegetable dressing.

Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux,
Preserved Lemons

And lastly Lemon-Lime Curd, amazing on any kind of holiday bread or toast. You could also make this all lemon curd or even all lime curd. Panettone anyone?

Lemon Curd

Lemon Lime Curd

What about homemade applesauce? Apples are readily available in many areas. Add a few cranberries to the simmering apples to color them pink or red. Homemade applesauce is so much better than any commercial one you can purchase.

Gala Applesauce

Consider a pretty crock of cheddar beer dip or spread. Use a sharp cheddar and one that is the darkest orange for the best color (I used a white sharp cheddar which wasn’t as pretty).

Cheddar-Beer Dip

Or a jar of homemade mustard, there are two recipes on my blog. Choose the one that fits your schedule. Here is the second for hot and sweet mustard, it’s quick and easy.

Hot and Sweet Mustard

Give it in a pretty container for a special treat.

What about spice mixes? Most of the commercial spices are full of sugar, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want to put in your food.

A popular mix with my friends is the Fennel Spice from Michael Chiarello. Although it is easy, I find most folks would rather receive a jar than make it themselves. I have given it many times in the past and it is always a much appreciated gift. He also has an excellent toasted chili spice. I use it to coat port tenderloin (or a slow cooked shoulder of pork) before I cook it sous vide. It’s also great on grilled chicken. For a vegetarian or vegan option it is wonderful coating slices or wedges of sweet potatoes.

Fennel Spice Before Being Blended – Can’t you just smell those fennel and coriander?

Pork Tenderloin Coated with Vinegar Then Coated with Toasted Spice Rub

There are other bloggers who have amazing spice mixes, Mollie from the Frugal Housewife has a delicious “smokin’ Chipotle Taco Seasoning‘. Any Mexican food fan would love a jar. She has a number of other spice mixes and blends, all of which don’t contain any preservatives or additives you don’t want to feed your family. Plus, they taste better than commercial blends. The Foodbod is another source of various spice blends, focused on vegetarian cooking. She is also the queen of sourdough. She sells her own starter on her bread website, which is full of tips and instructions.

You’ll also find a number of spice mixes on my Pinterest page.

I am taking these last minute ideas to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #254. Join the party by adding your own link. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives

February in the Kitchen – Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

February in the Kitchen – Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

A glut of Meyer lemons has had me researching ways to use them before they rot. This recipe for Meyer Lemon Confit by Tara Austen Weaver in the Sunday Chronicle caught my eye. If you have a similar abundance, Meyers make a distinguished Lemon Curd and also do well salted and preserved. The article included a recipe for using the confit with Pasta with Kale. Since my garden also has an abundance of kale, it was a no brainer.

Meyer lemons are a hybrid cross between a lemon and an orange. Unlike the more commonly available Lisbon or Eureka lemons, Meyers are thinner skinned, juicier, and have less of a sour bite. Because of their mildness, they are not always suitable for recipes needing a lot of acid. But their flavor is slightly floral, delicate, and elusive. A bowl of them on the counter will fill your kitchen with fragrance. I once saw my son (as a toddler) pick one from the tree and eat it as if it were an apple.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

They are named after Frank N. Meyer. Dr. Meyer was a Dutch plant explorer working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He found them in 1908 near Beijing and brought them back, it was one of about 2,500 specimens he is credited with collecting.

Meyer lemons have thrived in backyards and gardens throughout California, Texas, and Florida. But, they haven’t made it as a commercial crop because they don’t ripen well once picked from the tree and are thought to be too perishable. The Meyer almost died out in the 40’s when they were found to carry a virus, which threatened the California citrus crop (although it didn’t hurt the Meyer lemon). Trees were to be torn out and destroyed. Lucky for us an “improved” Meyer lemon released in 1975 was found to be virus free.

Meyer Lemon Tree

Meyer Lemon Tree in a Half Wine Barrel Container

There was a mature Meyer lemon tree in our backyard when we purchased the house 25 years ago. It has continued to provide us with lemons all year almost non-stop all year. The same tree will have mature lemons, immature lemons, and flowers at the same time. Meyers do well in containers, although they are frost tender and should be moved to a protected place in the winter.

Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

  • 3 medium Meyer lemons (organic if possible)
  • ¼ cup of whole peeled garlic cloves
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Wash and dry the lemons. Cut off the ends and slice them ¼ inch thick, removing any seeds.
  3. Cut the garlic cloves so they are approximately the same size.
  4. Set a saucepan full of water on high heat and bring it to a boil.
  5. Blanch the lemon slices for 90 seconds, removing them with a slotted spoon to a strainer set over a bowl. You may need to do this in several batches. Once drained, add them to a medium bowl.
  6. Add the garlic to the boiling water and simmer for about 4 minutes. Drain but DO NOT TOSS OUT THE WATER IF YOU ARE MAKING THE PASTA DISH BELOW.
  7. Add the olive oil to the bowl with the lemons and toss to coat with oil.
  8. Lay the lemons in a single layer in a rectangular baking dish leaving space at one end.
  9. Add the garlic cloves to the remaining oil in the bowl. Toss to coat. Then add them to the empty side of the baking dish.
  10. Drizzle with any remaining oil in the bowl.
  11. Bake for 1-½ hours until the garlic mashes easily and the lemon rinds are soft. Turn the lemons every 30 minutes.
  12. When done, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool.
  13. Finely chop the mixture and transfer it to a tightly sealed jar.

The Lemon and Garlic Confit will keep for a month in the fridge, freeze it for longer storage.


Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

Pasta with Kale and Lemon Confit (serves 4-6 as a main dish)

  • 1 pound of pasta, I used linguini
  • Water from blanching lemons and garlic
  • 2 bunches of Tuscan kale (you want about 5 cups when chopped and packed down in the cup)
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 ½ tablespoons of Lemon & garlic confit
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • Grated Meyer lemon zest, to taste (I used one additional lemon)
  • ½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Wash the kale and remove any tough center stems. Finely chop the leaves.
  2. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil (this can be the left over blanching water plus extra as needed). Once it boils, add the pasta and cook for the recommended time. Drain but do not rinse, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the kale, stirring while it wilts and cooks down for about 2 minutes. The kale will be slightly crispy like dried nori.
  4. Add the red pepper flakes and salt, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 10 minutes while the pasta is cooking.
  5. Stir in the Meyer Lemon Confit.
  6. Add the drained pasta to the frying pan; toss to mix with the kale. Add a little of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems dry.
  7. Add the lemon juice, lemon rind, and taste for salt.
  8. Serve hot topped with Parmesan.
Pasta with Kale and Meyer Lemon Confit

Pasta with Kale and Meyer Lemon Confit

It was also good stuffed under the skin of a chicken breast, sauteed (skin up), and finished in the oven.

Chciken stuffed under the skin with lemon & garlic confit

Chciken stuffed under the skin with lemon & garlic confit

Bon Appetit!

This post is part of the monthly link up party “Our Growing Edge“. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. February 2015 is hosted by Kim at the blog Love, Live, Life by Kim.


I’m also taking this pasta dish to share at Fiesta Friday #54, a weekly bloggers virtual dinner party hosted by Angie at the Novice Gardener. Please come join the fun.

Fiesta Friday