Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer Recipe - Chicken & Squash

This is a light recipe that uses some great seasonal items.

3 oz.  chicken breast
1 tsp olive oil 2 1/4 cups of spaghetti squash

1 red pepper, cut in half seeded
1 tomato cut in half
2 cloves of garlic, wrapped in foil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle of fresh oregano, basil and or thyme

Grill/fry chicken in olive oil, salt and pepper, set aside. To make spaghetti squash easier to remove, cut squash in half and remove the seeds.  Then place one half of the a seeded squash in a microwaveable dish with 1/2 cup of water, loosely cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high approx 5 minutes or until squash comes loose with a fork. Scrape out with a fork. Measure out 2 1/4 cups into a bowl.  

Place tomato, red pepper, and foil-wrapped garlic on a baking pan under the broiler until the red pepper skin is blackened. Turn over and broil 5 more minutes. Do not turn tomatoes. Do not salt at this time.

Once done, place roasted pepper, tomato, and garlic in a mini chopper or blender with balsamic vinegar, herbs, salt & pepper. Blend.  Pour sauce on squash and top with chicken, and VOILA!

For more summery squash flavor used diced summer squash or zucchini.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Weekend Recipe - Chicken with Sorrel Sauce

This recipe is part of our Zodiac Box for Cancer.  We make a number of herb-themed boxes for the signs of the Zodiac and find the right recipes is my favorite part.  This recipe uses Sorrel, an herb that is fresh in the garden right now!  You can make this ahead and leave in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking.

2 boneless chicken breasts
olive oil

1/3 cup sorrel (about 6 leaves) chopped
1 Tbls. margarine
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup light whipping cream
2 tsp. chopped parsley, fresh
1 tsp. fresh tarragon
½ tsp. rosemary
salt & pepper to taste

Fry chicken breasts in a Tablespoon of olive oil with tarragon until just cooked.  Melt a table of margarine in a pan and add sorrel and stir until wilted.  Add sour cream, whipping cream, herbs, salt and pepper.  Cook on warm until finished frying chicken.  Place chicken in a 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan and cover with sauce.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Pour sauce on squash and top with chicken, and VOILA!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Traveling to Southern Indiana to visit gardens

We took a trip over the Fourth of July to southern Illinois and Indiana.  It was one of those you get to see gardens and I get to see ships and agricultural buildings.  So hubby and I were both happy.  It was a leisurely adventure through the area along the Ohio River and I have other gardens to share, but I wanted to start with this little treasure I found outside Evansville, Indiana on the Lloyd Expressway.

We drove past this garden, created as a display garden by the Southwest Indiana Master Gardener Association, several times over the two days we were in the area and finally on the last day I said, we have to stop I need to know what it is.  I could see the sign, but not read it from the road.  What we found nestled between the Boy Scouts of America building and the Red Cross Disaster Relief offices was this great little gem of a garden.
taken from the "lookout garden" a few feet above the rest you get a great overview

Divided into several smaller theme gardens they had everything from a pond and rain water garden to a kitchen garden next to a log cabin, experimental gardens, and even a large vegetable garden that is used to provide produce for the local food bank.
The Cottage Garden
There were many flowering plants and a wide assortment of herbs.  There were a few plants I could never grow this far north that were exciting to see flourishing in the southern Indiana heat and humidity.

The Cottage Garden was just like you would find outside an English Cottage with tight groupings of flowers and herbs.  I loved the arbor and picket fence that left know doubt as to the setting and it framed a nice view of the gardens beyond.

There were the usual July flowering herbs to be seen like Anise Hyssop and Echinacea.

There was a variety of echinacea I had never seen before that was eye catching not just for its color, but the texture and shape of the flowers which in some ways looked like a Zinnia.  It is called 'Hot Papaya.'

There was a log cabin that had been moved to the site from a local farm around which were a nice vegetable/herb kitchen gardens.

They had a Berry Patch with strawberry and other bush berries growing against a fence. A nice display of this year's All American varieties.  These were displayed in these neat recycled plastic raised beds that added a nice texture and gave small plots to display the plants.

My favorite garden was the Sensory Garden.  Laid out with sunny and shady spaces, the focal point was a wonderful stone path where each stone was surrounded by low growing thyme plants. (Okay it was the thyme that made it my favorite!)

thyme walkway
The thyme was a mix of varieties, with a fuzzy creeping thyme the most dominant.

Through the arbor was a shady spot with a perfect bench that allowed for quiet contemplation.

A cedar gazebo gave another shady spot to rest and was surrounded with colorful and flowering shrubs as well as a broad assortment of lilies.

The vegetable garden covered the entire back edge of the garden and included tomatoes, peppers, squash and a large selection of cabbage.

Made me happy to see the squash was about as far along as mine is at home!

There were a few gardening techniques to try that I saw displayed especially for frames to grow beans and tomatoes.  They were also experimenting with compost mixes and had a nice area of compost bins you could look at as well.

The land this garden is built on was 1.2 acres donated by the state on the grounds of the state hospital back in 2005.  They have leased more land from the adjacent Boy Scouts of America headquarters giving them a nice sized garden which they make the focus of part of their garden walk, held in early June each year.

The only disappointment for me was the little bins they had in the garden which must sometimes hold brochures with more details.  All of these were empty.  Perhaps they are only stocked during the garden walk which I missed by a month.

The selection of herbs was nice.  And some of the varieties unique enough that it was obvious they did not always go for the typical or the easy.  Their borage (unlike mine) was in full bloom.

The Lemon Balm they grew was a golden variety that was flourishing.   An they had all the staples, oregano, marjoram and chives in the kitchen garden in front of the log cabin.

There were a few plants that I envy because they do not winter over well or at all in northern Illinois.
indian poker, a plant I cannot grow in northern Illinois  was featured

 Something I had only heard of but never seen was this creeping St. John's Wort, whose leaves look almost succulent.

another view of the All-American plants

I was even able to indulge my artistic side with my new camera and took a few very nice flower images.

Flowering St. John's Wort
Flowering Silver Mound Artemesia

I recommend a stop at the Southwestern Indiana Master
Garden Association Display garden on Lloyd Expressway
just west of Evansville, Indiana if you are anywhere near the area!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Special recipe - Using Herbal Vinegar

When I first started my business, back in 1995, I was most keen on teaching people to make herbal vinegar.  I think this is a simple way to incorporate herbal flavors into your cooking and they are easy to make, was well as making great gifts to share your garden abundance.

 I made a How-To on Making Herbal Vinegar a few years back so I will not go into that, but this time of year when we often eat salads because the heat drives us out of the kitchen, an herbal vinegar is a great companion to have.  Also herb vinegar is what you need for flavorful marinade for grilling meats and vegetables.

 Today I thought I would share two recipes.  The first I created back in 1995 when I was doing demonstrations on making vinegar at farmer's markets and the second is a great creamy dressing.  I make a log of vinaigrette blends with herbal vinegar, but this one is a departure from that with a great herbal character.

Herb Shallot Marinade
Tenderizes less expensive cuts of meat.  Marinade chicken or beef 3 to 4 hours or overnight, then cook as usual.

3/4 cup oil (olive)
3/4 cup of any Herbal Vinegar
3 Tbls. shallots, finely chopped
1 Tbls. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. fresh minced garlic 
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Pinch of salt (optional)

Mix all ingredients in small shallow bowl, beating until well blended.

Herb Salad Dressing  or Dip    
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbls. herbal vinegar (sweeter herbs like dill, lemon balm, or chive are perfect)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried lemon balm
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
dash salt & pepper

Soak the dried herbs in the lemon juice until absorbed (or use 1 tsp. each fresh herbs instead.) Blend with remaining ingredients and allow 4 hours in refrigerator to meld.  Can be used as a dip or thinned with 3 T. of milk for salad dressing.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Crockpot Bar-B-Que chicken - Weekend recipe

Fire up the grill or use your oven for this quick and easy BBQ chicken.

Crockpot Bar-B-Que Chicken
6 to 8 servings

6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. savory or sage
1/2 cup water

Ideal slow cooker size is 5-quart. Place chicken in slow cooker. Whisk together remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour sauce mixture over chicken. Cover and cook on high 1 hour, and then on low 4 to 6 hours, or until chicken is tender but not overcooked.   If the sauce begins to dry out as the dish cooks, stir in another 1/2 cup water.  You can substitute the 3 tsp. of seasonings with 1 Tbls.of Backyard Patch Bar-B-QueSpice Mix

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Herb of the Week - Companion Plants

I've written on companion planting before, but I came across several new articles and resources on the subject, that I thought some updated info would serve everyone.

For a while it was believed that Companion Planting was only folklore and had no basis in science, however experts now call the interaction of plants allelopathy or "growth inhibition as the consequence of the influence of one organism on another."  The scents or air interactions as well as root excretions of certain plants will effect others.  Here are some examples of what I mean:
  1. Legumes, such as peas and beans take nitrogen from the air and fix it for their own use, which will in turn benefit neighboring plants.
  2. Some plants exude chemical from the root that repel insects, like the African marigold. This plant will give off a chemical called thiopene which repels soil nematodes.
  3. Other plants may attract beneficial insects which in turn keep pests in check, like mint that attracts hoverflies.
Herb Companions

I have always known that tomatoes and basil enhance each other, so this year in my community garden I planted three varieties in the tomato bed to see which one has the best effect.

basil planted between the two rows of tomatoes
Chamomile, German variety (Matricaria chamomilla) improves the flavor of cabbages, cucumbers and onions.  The plant also accumulates calcium, potassium and sulfur which it returns to the soil.  These minerals are good for lowering the pH of the soil (making it more acidic) which vegetables like.

Chervil improves the growth and flavor of radishes and keeps aphids off lettuce.  Good to plant near dill and cilantro too.
chives 2014
Chives will improve the flavor and growth of carrots and a tea made from chives can be used to treat downy mildew on cucumbers.  I tried it on my rosemary for the same issue and it worked!

Geraniums will repel Japanese beetles and are a nice low growing addition to a rose garden.

Mint deters white cabbage moths, aphids and ant.  It improves the health of tomatoes and cabbages when grown near them.  It also attracts hoverflies and predatory wasps, but keep it away from your parsley.

Nasturtiums by tomatoes in cages.
Nasturtiums with work on wooly aphids, whiteflies and cucumber beetles.  Whitefly is a bug that likes lemon verbena, so I often plant nasturtiums in my lemon verbena pots. If I had known about the cucumber beetle thing, I think I would have ringed my community garden with nasturtiums before I planted anything.  As it is, I set in some seed only after the cucumber beetles ate alot!

purple sage
Sage is used as a companion for broccoli, cauliflower, rosemary and cabbage and carrots as it will deter moths and beetles because of its strong scent, but don't place it too close to the cucumbers.

marigolds encircling tomatoes
Scented marigolds (sometimes called Mexican or French marigolds) are the best at repelling soil nematodes, but remember a dense planting is needed, not a random plant here and there.
scented marigolds
Stinging Nettle helps neighboring plants to grow more resistant to spoiling. It also increases the essential oil in other herbs.  And a tea made with the leaves can be sprayed on plants to help them grow strong stems.

Summer Savory should be placed near the beans and onions to improve the flavor. I just discovered a midget variety that I think will work great around these plants.
Midget Summer Savory (Saturejus hortensis 'midget')
Tansy will keep away leaf borers and is very good companion in the fruit orchard or among the grape vines.

The Practical Organic Gardener by Brenda Little
How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons

The Essential Herbal magazine - several recent editions from 2013 and 2014

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Weekend Recipe - Butter with Horseradish and Mustard

July 4th is just around the corner.  Will you be grilling out?  This recipe will put some zip into any burger, beef, turkey or veggie!

Horseradish and Mustard Butter
Do you like butter on cooking steak?  Then this butter will be just what you want to try.  The flavor of horseradish with mustard will be good on beef, chicken and pork.  Experiment and enjoy!

2 ¼ sticks softened butter
2 tablespoons horseradish cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Place softened butter in medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients; mix until well combined. Place butter mixture on a piece of plastic wrap about 8 in. long. Roll mixture into a log about 2 inches in diameter; wrap tightly. Chill until required.

Formed into a log and wrapped in plastic wrap, butters like this will keep for up to 1 month in the freezer and up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Allow to soften slightly at room temperature before slicing into rounds. You can halve the quantities given here, if preferred.

If you love herbal butters, the Backyard Patch makes a selection of different blends crafted especially to blend into butter.  You can find them all here.  We even make one with horseradish!

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