Friday, July 8, 2016

Fresh Herb Mayonnaise - Weekend Recipe

There is nothing more wonderful than turning fresh herbs into a condiment you can use of fresh vegetables or homemade sandwiches.  This herb enhanced mayo is great on tomatoes, wrap sandwiches or as a condiment on a burger.

1 cup real mayonnaise
¼ tsp minced garlic
Juice from ¼ lime
¼ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
¼ tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
¼ tsp. finely chopped fresh sage
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Allow to meld in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Lavender Oat Sachets - Bath Blend of the Month

Lavender Oatmeal Sachet
2 cups plain old fashioned oats
1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
2 tsp. chamomile flowers
1/2 cup baking soda
small muslin bags

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or a food processor and pulse until the mixture looks like flour.

Fill each muslin bag with the mixture and tie shut. If you don’t have muslin bags, you can simply add about 1/3 cup to a hot bath, under running water.  I prefer using a muslin bag to hold homemade bath soaks because it cuts down on clean up time.

This blend can be stored in a glass jar and just fill the muslin bag as needed.  When done, just dump out the contents and rinse the bag out to dry for next time. 

We currently make these as a product of Backyard Patch Herbs, so you can get 5 draw-string tea bags of this mixture in a colored canning jar.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Herb of the Week - A variety of Mints

Recently at the Plant Sale I was asked about other mints to grow besides the Pineapple Mint we had at the sale. Now I tend to stick to the traditional for my herb garden where I mostly grow what they call true mints -- spearmint and peppermint.  But there are many other options as well.  The hybrid exotics, give one many choices, from Chocolate Mint, to Apple Mint to Ginger Mint.  Here is a run through of some of the exotic mints you might want to try in your garden and why.

Chocolate Mint
If you enjoy the taste combination of crisp mint and rich chocolate, you'll love chocolate mint (Mentha piperita). Closely related to spearmint, chocolate mint stands out from the crowd due to its purple stem and indulgent cocoa scent and taste -- without the calories. Chocolate mint can be used fresh or dried and makes a great addition to teas, baked goods, fresh fruit, and ice cream.  Besides it’s chocolate – what’s not to like.


Ginger Mint
Mentha gentilis, also known as ginger mint, is an easy to grow herb with a spearmint-like scent. The herb's leaves are veined yellow and can be dried or used fresh to add flavor to fruit salads, teas, and marinades.  Visually different from most mints it is a nice addition to the landscape.

Ginger mint is believed to have antiseptic properties and is used to help relieve tummy troubles. In addition, the herb is used commercially to repel rats and other rodents.

Apple Mint
Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) is a lovely, aromatic plant that can rapidly become obnoxious if not contained. When kept confined, this is a beautiful herb with many fantastic culinary, medicinal and decorative properties. Since apple mint can be invasive, it is wise to consider confining the plants to a container. You can put the plant in a container and then bury the container.

Consider planting apple mint alongside cabbage, peas, tomatoes and broccoli to improve their flavor. Use fresh leaves as a pretty and fragrant dessert topping, as salad additions – especially fruit salad, or to make tasty apple mint dressing. The fresh or dried leaves can be used in both hot and iced teas.

Water mint
This strongly scented herb (Mentha aquatica) smells similar to peppermint and requires high moisture to thrive. If you have an area prone to flooding and a place that stays damp this is the perfect plant for that spot and water mint is known for its pretty, sphere-shaped lavender flowers so you get a real treat for the eyes.  However, it's the leaves that hold the herb's medicinal and culinary benefits.

Water mint can be dried for use in teas to treat digestive problems, fevers, or headache and is also used as a sore throat and mouth gargle. The herb can also be used fresh in salads and other culinary dishes.

Corsican Mint
Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) grows as a beautiful bright green, moss-like, ground cover with tiny light purple flowers. The herb prefers moist soil and shady areas. Its small leaves and low habit make it perfect as part of a fairy garden.


Corsican mint has an especially strong scent and taste and is known for its use in creme de menthe and other liqueurs. In addition, Corsican mint tea made from dried leaves is sometimes used to treat digestive illness, headaches, and fever.

Remember that mint are perennials and that they will grow prolifically as they reproduce by seed, runner and root multiplication,


Please keep in mind that while mint is generally considered safe to use, large quantities of any variety may be toxic. It's critical to consult your doctor before using mint or any other herb as an herbal remedy, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Celebrating Martha Washington

I have celebrated presidents in the past in February but I thought this year I would celebrate Martha Washington. Martha Dandridge Custis married George Washington in 1759, was born 
June 13, 1731.


She is known for a few rather poignant quotes:

               The greater part of our happiness or misery               depends on our dispositions and not on our 
          circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one 
          or the other about with us in our minds
          wherever we go.


          I am fond of only what comes from the heart.


rarer image of young Martha Washington

Martha was also a normal 1700s housewife with books of recipes and notes for keeping a household. This example is for Honey of Roses is more of a honey infused with roses.  The intensity of the flavor from changing the rose as suggested would make this a wonderful flavoring and probably a good treatment for skin.


Martha Washington's Recipe for
Honey of Roses

Take a pinte of honey, boyle & scum it, & add as many bruised leaves of red roses buds (ye whites being cut of) as you may easily stir in. Yn cover it close & boyle ye pot in water, till you think ye goodness of the roses is in ye honey. Then change ye roses once or twice in ye same manner, & at ye last, strayn out ye roses & keep it for yr use. 


Her recipe is is bit more involved than mine, but I think you can get the same wonderful aroma and flavor with a simpler recipe.  The key is to make sure your roses have not been sprayed or treated with pesticides.

Rose Petal Honey
1 cup lightly packed rose petals—organic, pesticide free, rinsed & air dried
1 cup light honey—choose a nice, thick one if you can

Warm the honey in a hot water bath until it is easily pourable. Pack the rose petals into a 1 pint mason jar. Pour honey on top, stopping to rap the bottom of the jar on the counter to knock out air bubbles and make room for more honey. Once the jar is full, cap it and set it on a sunny windowsill.

Flip the jar once or twice a day to combine. Enjoy after at least a week, but leave the rose petals in the honey—they’re delicious, and the flavor will just get stronger

Use on hot buttered toasted tea cakes or just plain toast. Stir into oatmeal, or for if you are feeling adventuresome, drizzle over your lovers body and indulge.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Weekend Recipe - Tea & Champagne Punch

June 10th is officially “Iced Tea Day" in the US. I thought it would be fun to celebrate this occasion with one of the oldest iced tea recipes ever published. The recipe was published in 1839 in “The Kentucky Housewife” cookbook. There is a warning that comes with this though. Apparently, in 1839, being a housewife meant drinking a lot of alcohol because this one packs a pretty good punch.
 

"Tea Punch - Make a pint and a half of very strong tea in the usual manner; strain it, and pour it boiling (hot) on one pound and a quarter of loaf sugar. Add half a pint of rich sweet cream, and then stir in gradually a bottle of claret or of champaign (sic). You may heat it to the boiling point, and serve it so, or you may send it round entirely cold, in glass cups."


 (Courtesy of whatscookingamerica.net)

This is a classic pairing of champagne, sugar and cream. The effervescent bubbles of the champagne help to lighten the cream and the sugar really ties it all together. Adding the tea adds a certain bit of maltyness and astringency that really makes this a refreshing drink. And the best part about it, it is really easy to prepare in advance for those times you would like a nice punch for a gathering.

Unlike so many old recipes, I think you could easily make this, just as presented and use it at any summer picnic.  Here is a translation of the recipe for you:

Kentucky Iced Tea Punch
3 cups boiling water
3 tsp. black tea
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 750ml bottle of champagne or sparkling wine.

Brew 3 cups of black tea for 10 minutes, using 3 tsp. of any black tea with three cups of water brought to a boil.  Strain the tea and pour it over sugar in a large picture.  Add heavy cream, and entire bottle of champagne.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muscle Saver Bath - Bath Blend of the Month

Much garden work is being done at my house as I put in gardens where none were before.  The shoveling, the raking, the building of raised beds, it is all good for me, but my muscles sometimes scream in protest.  This aromatic bath is good for relaxing muscles and relieving stress.  It is also valuable to those with arthritis.  I find this is very helpful when my hands start aching. Juniper berry’s essential oil breaks down the surface tension of the epidermis helping the skin absorb the beneficial aspects of the remaining herbs.
Muscle-Saver Bath 

1 tsp. juniper berries
2 Tbls. dried peppermint
2 Tbls. dried spearmint
2 Tbls lavender flowers and leaves


Place all the ingredients in a square of muslin or a handkerchief, tie up with string.  Or place in an unbleached muslin bag or coffee filter.  Place the bag in the tub while it fills with water.  The bag acts like a giant tea bag, turning your bath into a therapeutic herbal tea.  Use the soaked bag to scrub your skin.  If you prefer a shower, soak the bag of herbs in the shower and then use it like a washcloth.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Make a Famous Salad Dressing


Joe Marzetti introduced Americans to his now-famous dressings (from his native Italy) when he
opened his Columbus, Ohio, restaurant in 1896.

Richard Hellman, who owned a deli in New York City and had won numerous culinary awards, began bottling and selling his mayonnaise in 1912, first in wooden containers, then in glass jars. The
Hellman's Real Mayonnaise that we use today is basically the same recipe Hellman originated.

Caesar Cardini is credited with inventing Caesar salad in 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico (although there are
those who believe it was more likely invented by Giancomo Junia, an Italian chef in Chicago, around
1903).

Ranch dressing - arguably the most popular on the market today - can be traced back to the Hidden Valley Guest Ranch near Santa Barbara, California. The owners began serving the dressing in the 1950s. Guests liked it so much that Hidden Valley began producing its instant, dry mix.

Thousand Island dressing, traditionally made from diced green olives, peppers, pickles, onions and hard-boiled eggs in a mayonnaise and chili-sauce base, dates to the early 1900s. Although often credited to a chef at New York City's Waldorf Astoria Hotel, actress May Irwin actually brought the recipe to the chef there from George and Sophia LaLonde's fishing resort in Clayton, New York.

Green Goddess, made from mayonnaise, anchovies, tarragon vinegar, parsley, scallions, garlic and spices, originated at San Francisco's Palace Hotel, where George Arliss stayed while performing the play The Green Goddess.

I always try the “house’ dressing when I go to a restaurant.  I want to know what the local chef or cook has made to dress his or her salads.  Usually a vinaigrette with a special combination of herbs and a certain acid like a flavored vinegar or a local balsamic I have never been disappointed ordering house dressing.  I think it was this virtually endless array of possibilities that first got me interested in making herb mixes. My first two blends were Dill Dip and Italian Dressing – my own version of a house vinaigrette. Since that time I have developed 11 more dressings, including my own RanchBlends and a Lemon Chive Combo that can be made into three different dressings.

Some recipes for dressing cannot be easily made into a mix however, so I thought I would share a couple of those recipes with you today.

The key to blending your own world famous dressing is to use the freshest ingredients possible.  Choose freshly squeezed lemon juice over bottled and try fresh herbs over dried. The spring cuttings from the herb garden are the sweetest and most wonderful for making and herbal dressing. Choose your vinegar based on the kind of dressing you're making: red wine, champagne, rice, white wine and apple cider vinegars all have excellent flavor. Avoid using a plain white vinegar because its flavor is sharp and severe, but if you have a white vinegar infusedwith herbs (LINK) this is a perfect time to use it.  Use a light vegetable oil, like sunflower or a canola blend, or a good-quality olive oil. Typically, dressing recipes call for two to three times the amount of oil as the amount of vinegar. I like less oil, especially if using a flavored vinegar, such as a raspberry or tarragon. Experiment to suit your taste.



Dressing in a Hurry
Fast enough to put together even after dinner guests have arrived, this is great on any combination of greens.

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 sprigs fresh, chopped, stems discarded
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley or 2 sprigs fresh, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried dill or 2 sprigs fresh, chopped fine (no stems)
1 clove garlic, minced

Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, honey and mustard in a bowl until blended. Slowly pour in oil, whisking constantly. Blend in the herbs and garlic. Makes 3/4 cup.

Herbed Buttermilk Dressing

2 cups buttermilk (is best, but if you do not have it you can use 2 cups milk less 2 Tbls with either 2 Tbls white vinegar or 3 1/2  teaspoons cream of tartar)
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 sprig fresh parsley, diced
5 to 10 strands of chives, sliced thin
2 green onions, diced
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in blender and pulse blend for a few pulses. Chill before using. You can toss this with any salad.  Especially good with an abundance of vegetables. Makes 2 cups.

If you want more information on blending herb dressings and making salads they check out the book by Jim Long “The Best Dressed Salad” (Long Creek Herbs, 2006). Jim is an herb grower and lecturer who has been around longer than me and he has much information to share.


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