Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stir Gently and Add Friends

Violas, hollyhock confetti, scented Pelargoniums, rosemary flowers, dianthus, bachelor's button, borage, nasturtium, and pineapple sage are all edible flowers organically grown.

When Jeff and I moved into town, we left behind a wake of friends who shared meals with us for years. Although we're only separated by 35 miles, it is a long and slow road back-up the famed Highway 1 toward Big Sur, but stopping in Cambria, my homeplace for so many years.

We travel so much during the year that it is difficult to meet new friends and forge meaningful friendships. So, when our friends Andy and Jeanie asked us to join the Monday Night Neighborhood Potluck group we were interested, but tentative.

Jeff and I both made something special to carry to the dinner. When we walked into the home and climbed the stairs to the kitchen, we were greeted by smiling faces, outstretched hands, and open hearts. Hosts Tom and Eve Neuhaus own Sweet Earth Organic (and Fair Trade) Chocolates in downtown San Luis Obispo. Eve is an author and Tom is a professor at Cal Poly and travels to Africa to help better the plight of tribespeople.

We set our offerings amongst the other dishes and casseroles, soup pots and baskets, and got into line with 24 others–a vast continuum of ages from local students to a famed photographer in his 90s. A long, wide dining table held us easily. We sat, talked, laughed, heard poetry, and began to weave together friendships.

Five years later and we still look forward to reuniting with friends every couple of weeks. This neighborhood potluck forces me to come out of my studio and interact with others, others so interesting and full of life that they infuse me with their spirits and love.

Jeff and I look forward to creating something tasty, beautiful, and simple for each gathering. This past week, he made my mother's enchilada casserole, and I (who didn't want to come in from my burgeoning garden) seized the chance to pick edible flowers and concoct one of my delicious homemade cheeses, so simple and adaptable that you'll embrace it for your own gatherings.

Spread the washed and edible flowers on your "palette" to dry. Remove any green parts, stems, leaves, etc. My list of favorite edibles includes: borage (wow, what a gorgeous blue star), nasturtium, viola, violets, scented pelargonium flowers, sage flowers, dianthus, chive blossoms, garlic chive blossoms, tulbaghia blooms, bachelor buttons, arugula blooms, runner bean blossoms, and mustard flowers. KNOW what you're eating and NEVER experiment with an unknown flower. Always use organic flowers.

Sometimes I make my own yogurt, but on short notice, I bought organic yogurt for the process.

Stir flowers into yogurt.

Mix gently.

Some people use cheesecloth to drip their cheeses, but I love these conical pre-made strainers, which are available in cooking and health food stores. I've had mine for over 10 years, and they've got many more miles to go. I hand wash them in hot, soapy water and rinse and dry between using.


Tabs on the sides hold the strainer above the crock, which allows for dripping. Whey drips into the crock, and the whey can be used for making homemade ricotta.

Pour stirred yogurt and flowers into the strainer. Cover lightly with plastic wrap (keep it suspended above the yogurt so it doesn't stick), and set crock and strainer in your refrigerator to drip for two days. (You can determine whether you want it to drip one or two days, depending on the consistency you desire)

Slice a day old baguette.

Thin slices so they're like chips. Woops, this slice is probably too thick.

Toss slices with olive oil (make sure you use quality extra virgin olive oil). If the oil is bad, this will taste don't want that.

Spread slices on a parchment lined cookie or jelly sheet.

Lightly sprinkle the crisps with sea salt before baking. I prefer Malden; to me the delicate crystals are like snowflakes. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 9 minutes, just until crisp. Remove from the oven and set them on a cooling rack. 

On the day you remove the cheese from the refrigerator, pick and clean some more fresh blossoms. I picked calendula, nasturtium, rosemary flowers, dianthus, borage, and the red tubular flowers of pineapple sage. (Pineapple sage flowers are lovely sprinkled on vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet.)

Remove the ball of cheese from the refrigerator. The crock will have a few inches of whey inside it. Don't waste the whey! Use it for other cooking projects. Sprinkle the outside of the cheese with your new supply of fresh flowers.

I used a basket tray as my serving piece. Flower cheese in the center surrounded by the baked "chips" of baguette. I decorated the edges of the tray with the leaves of scented Pelargoniums so that whenever a sleeve or hand brushed across them the sweet aromas of flowers would infuse the air.

Ten minutes after arriving at the Monday night potluck. You can make this as a savory cheese, too. For my savory cheeses, I use herbs and decorate the exterior of the cheese with flat leaf parsley, thyme, rosemary flowers, cilantro, and tarragon. Yummy.

Hollyhock flowers are one of my favorite edibles. I cut the blossoms into confetti, and I also stuff the blooms (remove center) with my homemade flower cheese. The individual stuffed flowers are gorgeous and tasty.

Sending wishes for warm evenings with friends and family. Happy Valentine's Day!



P.S. Please visit me at my Lowe's blog and leave one of your valued comments.

P.S.S. For those of you who join Sharon Lovejoy's Grimy Hands Girl's Club, there is a small gift to go in the mail. Please send me your mailing address. This only applies to the first 100 members.


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Your flower blossom cheese looks wonderful. I bet the herb one is delicious also. I've never tried making my own cheese, but this sound rather simple and fun.

I'm interested in your Grimy Hands Girl's club.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Kat said...

What a fabulous idea Sharon. I make yogurt cheese all the time and have never thought about adding flowers. I can't wait until the nasturtiums are blooming to try this.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sharon, As I often buttering bread is advanced cooking for me...the idea of making my own cheese is light years beyond my capabilities. I have been fascinated with this posting, though, especially the use of so many edible flowers for taste and colour.

I do agree that as one gets older forming friendships seems to be much more difficult than in one's youth. However, I do believe that one must continually keep an open mind towards other people, especially the young, since in that way one does not lose touch with the modern world.

Leontien said...

Looks wonderfull! I remember eating all kinds of flowers when we were little. We would try the different tastes and if we would like any, we would bring them home and give them to my mom. If they would not taste so great... we would make my little brother eat them...


Vee said...

What beautiful cheese! I am so glad to also learn that there's an easier way to make yogurt cheese as I have always done the cheesecloth method. Now I'll be looking for the sieve with tabs. I must learn what to do with the whey because I've always just sent it down the drain. I feel like slapping my own hands. :D

Such a good idea a pot-luck among friends, too.

Claus said...

I too get together with friends one a month. Only one of us is married and has children (and it's not me), so our group is not that big, but we always have a lot of fun. I hope this goes on for the longest time. It makes great memories, and strong bonds. It is a unique feeling, and one I dearly enjoy and love.
Lovely cheese recipe! and the presentation is adorable!, not to mention inviting. I like the herb idea. I do have parsley and basil at home, so it would be nice to add those ( I love basil! ). For an afternoon at home with mom, my brother, his wife and niece...inviting!
have a lovely weekend Sharon!

Alyssa said...

What a beautiful post!!! Oh, confetti flowers! What a great story ;) Thank you for your bulb advice. I'm on it this weekend and will let you know how they look... Currently, I am taking daisies and adding confetti ribbon all over them with sparkles for a friendship potluck supper at Church tomorrow evening. All of the flowers will be in canning jars. I like to keep it simple sweet. ;)Alyssa -member of the grimy girls' club

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I'm so happy you shared this recipe. I'm really excited to try it once we've got some flowers blooming in our garden. I knew that some of those flowers were edible, but not about Hollyhocks or Dianthus.
I'm going to join your Grimy Hands Girl's club! I was going to add it before I even read the end of your post.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

This looks wonderful. Maybe this first season will supply some blooms to try this... thank you

Mozart's Girl said...

Hello dear friend! Beautiful and sun-filled post today, thank you so much for that...lifted the February gloom of Olde England somewhat! xo This reminds me of when I was at my very first darling dad always taught us early on which leaves & flowers were 'safe' to touch or eat, so I knew that the young & bright green soft beech leaves in the hedge were perfectly edible when my friend & I decided to play at being squirrels! Sadly, the school didn't believe a 5 year old and sent me home in a panic, sure that I'd poisoned myself!! I still love them- and the young hawthorn leaves known here by country folk as 'bread & cheese'. Love to you this weekend xo R

Jim Longs Garden said...

It looks delicious and I'm jealous you have FLOWERS to pick!! You make it look so tasty and beautiful.

Unknown said...

This is beautiful. I'm jealous too Jim! We are still buried in snow!
I'm a member of the GHGC! Now, if I could just get my hands grimy...
Thank you for this beautiful dish today!

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

OMG, Sharon, the strainer and the yellow ware bowl look like they were made for each other! And it goes without saying that the cheese is beautiful! xxoo Nancy

Sharon Lovejoy said...

In answer to all the e-mails, no there is not a charge to be a member of the Grimy Hands Girl's Club, but there are benefits. Jeff and I will mail out goodie envelopes to the first 100 members next week.

Also Rachel, this was touching. I love it that you were taught these things. My Grandmother Lovejoy is the one who taught me and I never realized how that knowledge would stick with me forever.

Thanks for your sweet words!


Bonnie said...

I have attempted various recipes using flowers and people think I'm trying to poison them! The only thing that went over well was lavender shortbread.

Pondside said...

So many good ideas in this post, not the least of which is the idea of a pot luck supper club.

marcia said...

Just delightful Sharon!

I'm living joyously through your ventures as we only have white in our landscape...deep cold white!

love marcia

Susan said...

Communal dining not only makes for a wonderful smorgasbord of dishes, it also forges friendships unlike any others. I have missed that here in Seattle, but hope with a move to Charlottesville, VA, we'll have that again.
Wish I was there enjoying your blossoming cheese and crostini! Love you, xoxo

Suzanne said...

You and your lovely cheese are invited to my home anytime you want to come! I can't wait to try this in the summer--we're still suffering the snow:-)

Pat said...

Your recipe has it all - the love of gardening, the joy of being in he kitchen, and sharing with friends. How perfect!

Kay's flowers said...

Dear Sharon,

I'd be most interested in the Grimy Hands club.

Love the flower cheese! How very colorful. No wonder it was gone in 10 minutes. I love potlucks and think there's no better place for good old fashioned fellowship than around the table.

Have a great weekend.

Love and blessings,


Unknown said...

Oh, how yummy and beautiful! :)

Debra Howard said...

What lovely offerings! I bet your friends were thrilled. We finally got some rain and even a bit of snow here in Seymour(thankful)! We also had some very low temperatures for us so I am praying some of my more tender plants are OK. I so enjoy reading about your garden delights especially during the gray days of winter.

farmlady said...

What an absolutely beautiful idea for a potluck. I have never seen anything so pretty that was edible.
I must try this soon.
Aren't you glad that you live in California during the winter. It would be difficult to find all these lovely flowers east of the Rockies right now.

Rick said...

Aren't boys allowed in the Grimy Hands Club? Thanks for posting the link to the Lowe's blog. It just stopped last year. It is hard to find from their web site.

Zuzana said...

Dear Sharon, yet again a post that satisfied all my senses, none the least the visual.;)
I love edible flowers and the meal you served here looks out of this world.;) So simple yet so ornate and intricate.
And good friendship is one of the most important things here in life.
Have a lovely weekend,

Marcie said...

Oh my! I'm on my way over. Save some for me! lol!

So beautiful! I have used flowers in salads and as a garnish so many times, and made lavender short break and taken a few other forays into cooking with blossoms... but this just inspires me! I would never have thought to make a "petal cheese." Thank you for sharing so much beauty in every post!

brandi said...

~good morning my friend...

i want to stir gently and add some friends...thank you so for sharing this delicate beautiful sweet treat with us...i look forward to trying this!!!

so my dear i have been wandering through trying to find out more about your Grimy Hands Girls' Club and i am at a loss for figuring out more about and joining along...please do email as to where i can read more...

i hope this finds you well and your days are being filled with only joy flowing about...much love light and blessings~

Lydia said...

THIS post inspires me to beat the bunnies out to the day's offerings

Gina said...


Since we are covered in snow, just imagining making anything with fresh blooms is inspiring!

Dawn said...

So happy to have joined the Grimy Hands Girls Club!

These flower petals are making my heart sing. So lovely and radiant!

The dogs are starting to lose their hair like mad, so I'm thinking warm days are approaching.

xoxox Love to you,


Larkrise garden girl said...

Hi Sharon, Wow what a wonderful recipe! The flowers were beautiful
and you have certainly raised my awareness on cooking with organic flowers. Cheri

Marguerite said...

I had no idea it was so easy to make cheese. I'll have to try this at the next potluck I attend. (I was at one yesterday actually, wish I had seen this then!) Grimy girls you say, sounds interesting.

Unknown said...

Happy Valentine Day, Sharon! I enjoyed this though I have no intention of making cheese--just eating it! We have a great local fromagerie and I brought home four different types this afternoon. :-)

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

Sharon, only a few more months I tell myself, I can do the same thing with nut cheese. I want to try anyway. I grow some of those flowers, and soon they will bloom again. The weather did a flip/flop and now we're 62F today. Yea!!

I just want to be a member of the Grimy Hands Girl's Club because of you and the name. Love it.~~Dee

Eve said...

Thanks so much for the link to Sweet Earth, Sharon, as well as the astoundingly delicious and beautiful cheese - and Jeff's enchiladas. What a great neighborhood we have!

Much love,

Lili said...

I always learn so much from you in my visits over here Sharon, and it's always something so amazingly beautiful. I love those conical strainers and forgot that I was going to look for one. Now I will have another use for it too while I start planning for spring planting. Maine is still very much hidden away in snow right now! xoxo ~Lili

Carol said...

Hello Sharon!
Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment! I am ready for spring. : )

I found your post about blending edible flowers in yogurt fascinating! Hate to admit it, but I've never tasted an edible flower! Maybe this spring I'll give it a try!


Cindy said...

Sharon, I just discovered your blog and I'm excited to go back through your old posts. I've been a fan for years, and have bought your books as gifts for many young parents. I saved the article about your shop that was in Country Living Gardener. That was quite awhile ago!
Please join me at my very new blog, It's about crafting, gardening, baking, etc. Not much gardening now though!

Melissa said...

What a fun post! I have always wanted to start a neighborhood dinner club....would be so fun if you were on the guest list!! Your neighbors are so blessed!!

I am heading over th your Lowe's Blog now...sipping tea and feeling inspired by you, as always!! :)

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

Hi sound like you are doing wonderfully! It's always so nice to read a blog and see the familiar names of places I love.

I knew there were flowers that were edible, but I had no idea there were so many. How beautiful!

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day tomorrow!

Thea said...

i think i'd like to start a neighborhood potluck, too!

JOHN SHORTLAND, Cotswold Hills, England. said...

Hello Sharon!

Thought I'd drop by and visit after the kind words you left on my blog. Now that I find you are an author of some note I am even more delighted that you found my attempts at writing worthy of attention!

By chance, I have just started making both my own bread and my own yoghurt so shall certainly be trying this recipe out once we get some flowers blooming in the garden this spring.


Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I am anxiously awaiting April and May so I can get my hands dirty!! Count me in please in the Grimy Girls Club!
Thanks so much for sharing these recipes--I can't wait to try the yogurt cheese with the blossoms--how delightful!

kj said...

holy moly sharon! i don't know what i enjoyed more: seeing this colorful recipe unfold or knowing you are among a community of friends who break bread and offer hands together.

grimy girls club is a great name!

love to you,

Carol said...

Dear Sharon, What a tasty post. I am so impressed with your fresh flower cheese! You do not mention that you do anything except put flowers in the yogurt and then drain it. Is that all there is to it? Clearly it was a big hit at the potluck! I love your petal mosaic too. Happy Valentine's Day to you! Your Valentine composition is joyous!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Yes, dear Carol, that is all you do. Mix the petals into the yogurt, transfer to the strainer, let it drip. When finished just decorate the ball with fresh petals on the exterior. (others are inside).



Aunt Jenny said...

Oh Sharon ..the cheese looks so lovely. It will be July before all my edibles are blooming..makes me miss my hometown so much when I read your posts! But I will certainly make this cheese this summer...just perfect!
And the Grimy hands girls club...I want to be a member for sure!!! I will try to put the picture over on my blog ....proudly!!! Have a great week!

jerilanders said...

I have never eaten my flowers, I am so thrilled to see them blooming in my gardens that I simply can't bear to pick a single one! Maybe I shouldn't be so stingy with my nasturtiums, as I have always wondered how they would taste. Your dish looks yummy and pretty to boot!.

Beth said...

I LOVE this, Sharon!!!!!! I'm going to do it, too, as soon as we have summer here. There is something so special about getting to eat our flowers. love, Beth

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear friends,

I've received so many e-mails about this with many more questions.

Yes, you can use goat yogurt or sheep yogurt in place of the cow's yogurt. It will taste accordingly.

Drip it for one day for a softer cheese, two days for firmer cheese.

You do have to sprinkle more fresh flowers on the outside of the ball once you've taken it out of the strainer. Otherwise the flowers are inside and not seen till you spread the cheese.

BE SURE YOU KNOW EDIBLE FLOWERS. Kathy Wilkinson Barash wrote a good book on edibles, as did some Herb Companion authors, I think Susan Belsinger wrote one too. Of course, you all know that Rosalind Creasy has a new edible gardens book that is fabulous. She has lists of edibles in the back of the book.

Good luck!

Tinker said...

It all looks beautiful!
Your books and articles (and long ago, your Heart's Ease shop) have been inspiring me for years (thank you, from the bottom of my heart!).

I would be delighted to join your Grimy Hands Girl's Club, but I'm not quite sure this comment sufficient to join? If not, could you let us grimy-handed girls know where to join, please? :)

Hope you had a lovely Valentine's Day and wishing you a wonderful spring!

Linda said...

Sharon this looks so beautiful and so delicious. We have been dairy free for a few years because of my daughter's intolerance to it but are hoping to start adding it back into our diet soon. We will start with yogurt as it is easiest to digest. If all goes well this will be one of the first things I make to celebrate! Both of my girls will be so delighted. Thank you for sharing.

Lori ann said...

dear sharon,
what a delightful charming post, the flower petals cheese receipe is as yummy looking as it is pretty.
do you ever run out of ideas??

p.s. i found a mountain bluebird for you!

pps. you have over 50 comments, i hope you find mine!

Knitting Out Loud said...

Lovely Valentine's Day post!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

My dear Lori Ann,

You have no idea what these comments mean to me. I always check them before I go out to my studio (or garden), at lunch time, and at night before I fold up my computer for the day.

I've said it before-I work alone and mostly don't ever answer the phone during the day because I can lose hours of concentration. So this blog, and others I have come to love for their glimpses into wonderful lives, have come to mean so much to me.

Sending love and thanks,


Carla said...

Beautiful Sharon! I expecially love the way you cut the bread for hearts. I will be gathering flowers as soon as the rains stop to make this lovely dish.

Linda Hoye said...

Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this - I know I will be trying it one of these days. I just love visiting your blog, Sharon!

Vicki Boster said...

Oh my Sharon - this recipe is outstanding - I can see why it was so well received!! Truly such a beautiful dish - how wonderful would this be for a garden party!!

(I am just crawling out of the yarn room for a bit - have beenthere all winter it seems. How I have missed you~~)

Glynis Peters said...

Wow, you made it look so easy. I am going to have a serious look at my garden. I have so many edibles and do not use them.

fer said...

That is a very colorful recipe! I have never tried eating my pansy. I will make sure to give them a try

The Unusual Farmchick said...

So easy yet very gourmet, not just with presentation. My children adore yogurt and this will be in the list of items for them to make themselves. We love borage, pretty stars yes, but the light cucumber flavor & scent add that extra dimension of pleasure we enjoy.
Thank you for sharing this Sharon.
I too, am adding your Dirty hand girls pic! Great idea #2! lol.

rebecca sweet said...

I'm back from Seattle, exhausted but happy. The sun is rising right now and is a deep tangerine color, casting a beautiful glow on my computer - you'd laugh how it complements the gorgeous colors of your flower cheese!! I LOVE this recipe! Guess what I'll be making on March 22nd.......