star anise & licorice love
I made some soap the other evening, and set aside some perfectly perfect star anise seed pods to take pictures of the next day. Aren't they gorgeous? (That's actually a little bit of soap smudged on the one in the bottom picture, oops.) If you're not familiar with star anise, it has a strong licorice flavour, and its extract is used as the flavouring in many black candy licorices such as the Panda brand ones. Chewing the seeds is good for digestion and fresh breath, and it tastes wonderful, if you like licorice. The seeds have a nice crunch that would be kind of awesome sprinkled on vanilla ice cream, now that I'm thinking about it.
Licorice root is an entirely different beast from a different plant. You can buy the root dried and in little pieces at most health food stores. I make a tea similar to the Aveda tea with it and a few other herbs. I blogged about it back in 2009. Just mix licorice root, mint, basil, and sweet fennel (leaves if you can find them). Steep for 5-7 minutes. The licorice root is lovely in a tisane - it makes it sweet but not overly licorice-y, which you might not expect. Seeing as how it's licorice and all. Yum.
Are you a licorice fan? I am, 100%. Can you tell? I went to Fox Hill Cheese House today for work, (well, I was in the area for work, and made a stop on my way home) and they had licorice gelato that made its way home with me. Yum! (Alas, they didn't have my favourite, coconut. Maybe next time!)
One other little bit of miscellany that's stuck in my head: I already wanted to go to Iceland. This video seals the deal (and I can't stop playing that song! I love it.)