An Owl, a Song, and a Gift to Make

Busy, busy, busy. That pretty much sums up this time of year for everyone, and on the weekends in particular. We started our weekend off with a visit from this busy owl, who loves to come and hunt in our backyard just around sunset. On Friday, he came so close to our deck that we had to run out and take some snaps of him, and here’s the best one of this guy (or gal?) that my husband took with his 35mm. Beautiful.

Yesterday was all about starting the gift goodie-making in earnest, beginning with those things that can be made ahead. I love stuff you can make ahead, and amongst these is a new recipe for a savory Walnut Thyme Honey from Bon Appétit, which tastes pretty awesome and I’m posting the recipe below. I also made an old-fashioned ice box cookie dough for slice and bake cookies that I’ll bake off and share later this week. And today is decanting and bottling day for the first batch of the Cranberry liqueur, and I’ll post that process separately along with some cocktail recipes this week as well. But meanwhile, here’s another bit of a different sort to share with you…

Last night, we went to a CD release party for this fella, and even if you’re not a huge fan of country or country folk music you’d probably enjoy his music. We had a great time at the show and above is a song from the CD that I found on YouTube. Jon Byrd is his name and he spent his formative years in Alabama (my home state), ended up here in our big city for a while and was part of Atlanta’s infamous Redneck Underground movement as lead guitarist for the seminal and storied country band Slim Chance and the Convicts (Letters to Mama, 1993, and Twang Peaks, 1996). Jon moved on to Nashville about 12 years ago, and in October of this year released a solo CD called Down at the Well of Wishes, and you can follow the link to hear moreSlim Chance and the Convicts are still a big part of the Atlanta scene and a fun band to see, and they opened for Jon last night. Here are some of their tunes from the CD The Dark Side of the Moon Pie. Check out these musicians, if you feel so inclined, and if you like them, consider supporting an artist for Christmas…buy a CD for a friend as a gift!

All dressed up and ready to give!

And now, back to our regular programming. Gifts of food: Today’s feature is the Walnut-Thyme Honey I mentioned previously. It’s easy and pretty, and you can use rosemary instead of thyme, but since I have such fond memories of the wonderful thyme-scented honey from Crete, I just can’t imagine that rosemary could be as good in this (even though I love rosemary). We already had some dried arbol chilies on hand from making chili powder, but you can find them in latin markets as well as many local groceries in the ethnic food section…and judging from tasting this before jarring it, you could leave out the chilies if need be. I made 4 batches of this yesterday, and I think it would not only be great drizzled over your favorite cheese or used as a condiment with prosciutto panini—as recommended by BA—but would also make a mighty fine crostini appetizer drizzled over soft goat cheese. I can see right now that one of these jars will be living with us!

Walnut-Thyme Honey (Bon Appétit, December 2011)

Note: I made a couple of changes based on my experience yesterday that I think are helpful, but you can follow the original recipe by clicking above.

  • 1 cup walnut pieces
  • 3/4 cup orange blossom honey
  • 1/2 cup walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil (I used EVOO because I like the olive flavor in the mix)
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or rosemary leaves) plus 2 sprigs
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 4 whole dried chiles de árbol
  • Preheat oven to 325°. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes, and watch carefully. Let cool. Break the walnuts into coarse pieces; set aside.
  • Whisk honey and oil in a medium bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in walnuts, thyme, and lemon zest. Into each of two 8-oz. jars, place 2 dried chilies and 2 sprigs of thyme. Divide the honey walnut mixture evenly between the two jars…the oil will separate a bit from the honey. Cover and chill.

    DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 month ahead. Keep chilled. Stir before using.

    Sprigs of thyme and chilies go in.

    The filled jars.


20 thoughts on “An Owl, a Song, and a Gift to Make

    • Thanks Diane, I’ll pass along your compliments to Dave. Hearing but not seeing is more often the case around here, too, but this fall we’ve seen two different kinds of owls in the yard. Mom said she thinks he may be a juvenile Barn Owl and that the rings around his eyes will turn white. They are really impressive creatures and boy are they loud!


    • You’re most welcome for the idea on the honey, John. I thought the picture was especially good because it was about to rain and getting dark. My husband is a photographer by profession, so he’s quick on the draw with the camera.


  1. Slim Chance & the Convicts are a hoot! See ’em if ya get a chance, definitely!
    Tomorrow is decanting day for my batch of cranberry liqueur. Can’t wait to take a nip!


  2. Such a cute little owl and an excellent photo of him! These honey jars are so clever with their little spoons as a gift as well… and a great recipe to boot! This would be so great to receive at Christmas!


  3. What a treat to have an owl in your backyard! I’m sure we have some in our hood but I’ve never seen one in our backyard, lucky you! I’m not a fan of country music, sorry! The hand made gifts look great!


    • Yes, it really was a treat to see him up close…that’s a great way to put it, Eva! I’m actually not a fan of country music either but Jon is so good, and more of a folk singer in a way…he’s mesmerizing. Still, I totally understand variety in musical tastes. Thanks for the compliments on the honey!


  4. Love the photo of the owl. I have never seen one. There is a bald eagle at the cottage in Maine and that was a thrill the first time I saw him. The honey sounds terrific and looks like a great gift to receive the way you have packaged it.


    • We’ve seen lots of owls camping, and heard quite a few in the neighborhood, but he was so close… it was great! We have red tailed hawks nesting two doors over, too…kinda funny in a city. A bald eagle, now they are grand…so huge, though I’ve only seen one once and he was flying. Thanks for your compliments on the gift making…I “borrowed” the packaging idea from Bon Appetit after I found those little spoons.


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