Thursday, May 31, 2018

Ham & Cheddar Strata


Once posted as part of an advent calendar, I still feel this is a great recipe that can make a great make-ahead breakfast dish.  You can freeze individual servings and enjoy for a quick breakfast or lunch.





8 oz. thinly sliced deli ham
3 cups reduced-fat (2%) milk
7 large eggs
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 loaf French bread (about 12 oz.), cut into 14-in. slices
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives


Directions:
Spray 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Line dish with ham. In large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper until well blended.

Arrange half of bread slices, overlapping slightly, on bottom of prepared dish. Pour half of milk mixture over bread. Sprinkle with half of cheddar. Repeat layering. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap and bake strata 50 to 55 minutes or until golden and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes. Garnish with chives. Makes 6 main-dish servings

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ShrHamMay
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)
   May - Ham and Shrimp Dishes (ShrHamMay)
   June - Bread recipes
   July - Garden Delights
   August- Grilling
   September - Salsa, Corn and Jelly
   October - Squash Dishes
   November - Pumpkin Recipes
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mistakes New Herb Gardeners Make


So you're thinking of herb gardening, or maybe you tried it last year and it was an utter disaster? Have no fear. There are a few simple mistakes that many herb newbies make (and I know, because I made most myself). Master these simple and practical tips for herb gardening and you'll be using your own fresh herbs in no time.

Fresh herbs are one of the greatest ways to increase the taste of your food healthfully. I often toss whatever leafy herbs are at hand liberally into a salad to add unexpected variations in flavor (basil, oregano and dill are all great choices). Fresh herbs can add punch to sauces or create intensely flavorful crusts for roasted meats. While fresh herbs are now regularly available at grocery stores year-round, growing your own herbs is a great way to master flavors you like and control the origins of your food. Growing herbs at home can be easy whether you live in a house in the suburbs or an apartment in the city.

Let it be known that one of the reasons I started to grow herbs was because they are much more resistant to diseases and infestations, but that still means you need to avoid a few mistakes to be able to enjoy them to the fullest. 
Don’t worry I am not going into soil pH, chemical make up of the soil or any of that.  Those discussions are for those who want to increase a harvest, not enjoy a few herbs in the backyard.  I have only tested my soil once or twice and once was because I was afraid it may have changed after a horrendous flood.


Mistake 1: Growing from seed. Many herbs are perennials rather than annuals (dill, cilantro and basil being exceptions) which means they take forever to mature and impatience can set in.  When you first start out trying to grow fresh herbs, I recommend you begin by trying to grow from seedlings rather than planting your own seeds. You can even grab a small plant at the grocery store to get you started.  Seeds grow slowly; some take weeks to germinate; others need precise conditions to sprout and grow.  All of these can be a headache for a new herb gardener, so skip it dive right in with plants.

Mistake 2: Starting with the wrong varieties. Choose herbs you enjoy eating, those that enjoy the weather where you live.  Don’t try something that says it likes cool weather if you, like me, live in Chicago.  Those hot days in late June will kill it.  Some plants can help you grow others.  Basil wilts if it does not get enough water, you can use it to gauge if you are watering all your plants enough.  Or choose scented geraniums, which love dry soil and will endure being forgotten rather well.
scented geranium
Mistake 3: Watering potted herbs like houseplants. It is better to water herbs daily only a moderate amount than to water once a week like a houseplant and let them dry out.  Houseplants love this, herbs require moderate and regular watering. This is particularly true during hot summer months. Make sure the soil drains well and that your containers have a drainage holes and it will be difficult to water herbs too much.


Mistake 4: Not cutting early and often. As a novice gardener, it may seem like your puny little plant just isn't ready for a trip to the barber, but then you will find yourself sitting there wishing for leaves without much success. Basil is a great herb to practice pruning. Basil, like many herbs, if you don’t trim aggressively it will continue to grow straight up, and become too tall and top-heavy. Clipping or pruning makes herbs bushy and causes them to produce more leaves.  It also keeps them from flowering.  You rarely, if ever, want your herbs to flower.  Flowering herbs lose flavor in the leaf when they produce flowers, giving you even more reasons to prune your herbs.

To prune you cut the herb just above a set of growing leaves. With basil, when you cut the plant that way, the originally trimmed stem will no longer grow. However, two new stems will grow around the original cutting, creating a “V” shape. 

Making your first trim approximately 3-4” above the soil produces a nice sturdy plant. Of course you want to be sure you are always leaving a few good sturdy leaves on the plant.

As it continues to grow, continue to prune it approximately every 3-4" for a nice solid plant. Your clippings make great bits of herb to experiment and cook with and result in more leaves to use later.

Mistake 5: Taking the leaves from the wrong place. When you are just starting out it seems to make so much sense to pick off a few big leaves around the bottom of the plant, and let those tender little guys at the top keep growing. Wrong. Leave those large tough old guys at the bottom alone. They are the solar panels that power your herb's growth. Once your plant is big enough to sustain a decent harvest, keep on taking from the top, as you have been when pruning. That way you get all those tender new herbs that are so tasty, and your plant gets to keep its well-developed solar power system in place. Plus, if you pluck from the base and leave the top intact, you get a tall skinny plant that will flop over from its own weight. (See rule above!)
Mistake 6: Growing the wrong variety. When choosing herbs, read the label carefully. For example, there are two main varieties of oregano: Mediterranean and Mexican. Mediterranean oregano is the more common variety, and what you likely own if you have conventional dried oregano in your cupboard. I have Mexican oregano growing in my personal garden. I love Mexican oregano in spicy dishes, for making beans from scratch, and often use it in tomato dishes where I don't want the flavor to seem too much like marinara. Similarly, there are several types of tarragon, French Tarragon and Russian Tarragon are the most common, however if you want a culinary tarragon then you want French which cannot be grown from seed and must be cultivated from root.  The first year it grows slowly then after that it springs from the root and gets more than 3 feet tall (see next rule).  The Russian variety is easy to propagate, drought tolerant and very often substituted for French, but the scent is not nearly as strong and the flavor for cooking is very limited.

Mistake 7: Being unaware of final size! If you are planting in soil instead of pots, take care that your cute little herb seedling doesn't become a giant plant that takes over your garden. A word of warning for oregano and mint: both can be voracious growers. If you are planting outside in a garden, rather than in pots, you may want to consider potting these herbs and then burying the pots in the ground. This will add a measure of control to the root systems of these herbs, which can otherwise take over a garden and strangle nearby neighbors. 
spreading spearmint
Mistake 8: Give yourself Rewards. There is an element to passion about herb gardening. To want to continue you need to feel rewarded. With herbs, finding uses and experimenting with new herbs and new uses can be that reward.  So don't stick too long with one or two herbs just because they work. Branch out to a few other basic herbs that you will use regularly in your kitchen. There are few things more rewarding than being able to pop out to garden to clip fresh herbs to use in my cooking. Once you have become comfortable with your first plant, I recommend moving on to try growing oregano, mint, rosemary and thyme. All are regularly useful herbs in the kitchen, and all are relatively easy to grow. 
Cuban oregano (with pansies)

A young woman in a Garden center near Burlington, WI introduced me to this year’s new herb. Cuban Oregano Plectranthus amboinicus, a semi-succulent perennial plant in the family Lamiaceae with a pungent oregano-like flavor and odor. It is native to Southern and Eastern Africa. It is widely cultivated and naturalized elsewhere in the tropics where it is used as a traditional medicine, spice, and ornamental plant. I love the scent and cannot wait to try cooking with it.


Basil Perpetuo

I was also at a garden center and found a variegated Basil that I have wanted to try since I first wrote about it, Basil Perpetuo a beautiful basil with a great flavor for Pesto that I have been looking to buy as a plant since 2014, because I hate growing basil from seed!  You can read about this and other Pesto Basil in this post from 2014

Friday, May 25, 2018

Spicy Sauteed Shrimp with Rice - Weekend Recipe


Spicy Sautéed Shrimp with Rice

2 cups Instant brown rice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, zested
16-oz. jumbo shrimp, thawed and peeled
Crushed red pepper
2 Tbls. canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 zucchini, sliced in half and cut unto ½ inch half mons
2 tsp dried garlic, minced
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbls. BYP Garlic and Herb Combination
4 oz. plain goat cheese

Directions:
Cook rice according to package instructions. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Stir in lemon zest, set aside. Season shrimp with salt & pepper and crushed red pepper, to taste.  Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, pepper and zucchini. Sauté until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, and BYP Garlic and Herb Combination, bring mixture to a simmer and allow water to cook away.  Add shrimp.  Cook stirring frequently, until no pink remains. About 5 minutes.  Break apart goat cheese and stir into mixture until incorporated.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with brown rice. 

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ShrHamMay
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)
   May - Ham and Shrimp Dishes (ShrHamMay)
   June - Bread recipes
   July - Garden Delights
   August- Grilling
   September - Salsa, Corn and Jelly
   October - Squash Dishes
   November - Pumpkin Recipes
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans with Ham and Herbs


This is an easy slow-cooker recipe that is hearty and tasty and not bad even in the summer served with a salad.

1 pound dried pinto beans, sorted and washed
3 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
4 to 8 ounces cooked ham, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano


Directions:
Cover beans with water and soak overnight; drain. Put beans in a large kettle; cover with fresh water and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.

Place beans in a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker with water and remaining ingredients. Cover cooker and cook on low setting for 9 to 11 hours, or until beans are soft and done. Stir a couple of times during cooking and add more water if necessary.

Serve with cornbread, rice, a green salad or slaw. Serves 8 to 10.

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ShrHamMay
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018


For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)
   May - Ham & Shrimp Dishes (ShrHamMay)
   June - Bread recipes
   July - Garden Delights
   August- Grilling
   September - Salsa, Corn and Jelly
   October - Squash Dishes
   November - Pumpkin Recipes
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Thyme and winter - the Disappointment of Freeze/Thaw

Here is northern Illinois (zone5b) we have a bit of snow, but usually not enough for my taste.  Partly that is because I am from the snow belt in Ohio and we don't really notice if there is not at least a foot in a snow storm, but also because I am an herb gardener.  The blanket of snow over my herbs is great protection from the freeze / thaw we get here in Illinois.  This winter we had a few big storms, but that blankets of snow never materialized because it would warm up, the snow would melt and then it would snow again.  This action can kill herb plants, especially those without a protective layer of mulch or leaves over them.

My herb garden is surrounded by maple trees that drop their leaves and allow me to cover eth bases of the plants with leaves.  At home the only trees I have are London Paine, a type of Sycamore.  They have huge leaves with an almost waxy coating that do not break down well and are so large they catch the wind and blow off the garden in a strong northern wind.

As a result until I buy a mulcher or shredder I just don't have much cover over my home plants.  This year when the snow did not cooperate, that resulted in some winter kill.

To illustrate what I mean.  This is a picture of the Thyme walkway at the end of the season.


This is the thyme walkway in April before I raked the leaves out of the plants.  You can see a few are dead and a few others have dead patches.  Sad day for thyme at my house.  I weep!


By May it was cleaned up and I started to replace the plants and cut out the dead after some of the plants came back.



Over in the raised bed herb garden, there was a bit more of a set back for the garden than I expected or hoped as well.

Here is the fullness of growth at end of season.



Now I left the tarragon and the rue up for winter interest and seeds for birds, knowing those would need to be cut down, so that is not something I am sad about, they were supposed to die.  But the lavender, the lemon balm, the oregano, and the sage are a bit winter weary as is the thyme.  I want to remove that thyme, so again I am not weeping, but I am sad. The one plant that seems to have thrived in this winters weather was the winter savory.  It was out there being green and happy beginning in March.  By April when this photos was taken it was slow to fill in.

By May it was starting to look better.

My side yard is a garden that hinges on maddening. It is full shade.  There are parts of it that get no direct sun at all.  There are some parts that get only morning sun and others that get only afternoon sun.  I am working on the best plant for the location and kinda plant something I think will work and see what comes back in the spring, then I buy more of that and create groupings.

At the end of last year with the addition of a path and garden architecture it was beginning to look better that before.

Here is the before (beginning of last year)


Here is the after (end of last year)


Here is this Spring.  There was one time during the winter when we had rain instead of snow and the entire side yard flooded.  You can kinda tell.





Friday, May 18, 2018

Potatoes and Ham - Weekend Recipe


You don't have to settle for bland potato dishes anymore! Instead, opt for this one which combines the classic flavor of fresh sage with another classic, tasty prosciutto. This wonderful dish can be a side dish or make a meal of it. 

Potatoes and Ham
2 pounds new potatoes, red & white
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 pound prosciutto, cut into small strips
4 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Boil potatoes for 5 minutes, until cooked half way. Drain and set aside. Sauté the prosciutto in olive oil for about 3 minutes or until the prosciutto is slightly browned. Add potatoes and sage and toss Place mixture into a baking dish and bake at 375 degrees F. for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are brown and crispy.


To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ShrHamMay

To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018



For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:

   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)

   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)

   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)

   May - Ham & Shrimp Dishes (ShrHamMay)

   June - Bread recipes

   July - Garden Delights

   August- Grilling

   September - Salsa, Corn and Jelly

   October - Squash Dishes

   November - Pumpkin Recipes

   December - Herbal Cocktails

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Cheddar Shrimp Nachos


Cheddar Shrimp Nachos
Trying to avoid Fish Tacos I decided on this great shrimp nacho recipe.  Not you can enjoy form quick finger food and drop the fatty meat from the dish.

3/4 lb deveined, peeled and cooked shrimp
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) cheddar cheese, shredded
1 – 4 oz. can green chilies, chopped and drained
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup ripe olives, sliced, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp cumin, ground
48 scoop-style tortilla chips
Chopped cilantro (for garnish)

Directions:
In a large bowl combine, shrimp, cheese, chilies, onions, and olives.  Combine the mayonnaise and cumin.  Add to shrimp and toss to coat.  Drop by tablespoons full into tortilla scoops on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.  Serve warm sprinkled with chopped cilantro.





To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: JambMar
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)
   May - Ham & Shrimp Dishes (ShrHamMay)
   June - Bread recipes
   July- Garden Delights
   August - Grilling
   September - Salsa, Corn and Jelly
   October - Squash Dishes
   November - Pumpkin Recipes
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...