Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Recipe Theme 2021 - Savory Cheese Cake

We have been sharing our recipes on a monthly theme for several years now. This year we will be sharing recipes here on the main blog and also on our website blog as well, now you will get twice as many recipes from our stash of herb themed recipes.  We might yet make a dent in those three filing cabinets of recipes I spent a decade collecting.

This year we have set the theme as follows:

January 2021 – Baked Items

February 2021 – Breakfast Dishes
March 2021 – Italian Dishes
April 2021 - Chicken Recipes
May 2021 - Appetizers
June 2021 – Mediterranean Dishes
July 2021 – Pork Recipes
August 2021 - Seafood
September 2021 - Pizzas
October 2021 – Mexican Dishes
November 2021 - Cookies
December 2021 – Gift Recipes

For our first recipe, I have decided on an herb enhanced cheesecake that is savory and makes a great dip as well as something you can serve by the slice.

Savory Cheesecake
3 8-ounce pkgs cream cheese, softened
2 cups sour cream, divided
1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of celery soup
3 eggs
½ cup Romano cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbls cornstarch
2 Tbls finely chopped fresh basil, or 2 tsp crushed, dried
1 Tbls finely chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried, crushed
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon or ¼ tsp dried, crushed
½ tsp cracked black pepper
Red bell pepper slices, lemon twists, or fresh herbs for garnish


Combine cream cheese, 1 cup sour cream, and soup in a food processor or a large mixing bowl.  Blend at medium speed until smooth.  Add eggs, cheese, garlic cornstarch, basil, thyme, tarragon, and pepper. Blend until smooth. Pour into a greased 9-inch springform pan.  Place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 60 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Turn off the oven and let stand in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan on a rack.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.  When ready to serve, remove from pan.  Spread remaining sour cream over the top.  Garnish.  Serve with crackers, Melba toast or fresh vegetables.



Each month a theme is chosen and a number of recipes on that theme from my massive archive will be shared.  This year we have 12 new topics, different from the topics of last year.  

To find the recipes of last year, check out this recipe linkSearch the blog with any of the following topics: Recipe2018, Recipe2019, or Recipe2020.

You can search the monthly theme by looking for the theme keyword in the search box and it will pull up the recipes on that theme as posted, so look at the bottom of the recipe in each posting for the KEYWORD for each month.  All recipes this year will be tagged Recipe2021 so you can find them all.

The themes are:

  • Jan 2021 – Baked Items
  • Feb 2021 – Breakfast Dishes
  • March 2021 – Italian Dishes
  • April 2021 - Chicken Recipes
  • May 2021 - Appetizers
  • June 2021 – Mediterranean Dishes
  • July 2021 – Pork Recipes
  • August 2021 - Seafood
  • September 2021 - Pizzas
  • October 2021 – Mexican Dishes
  • November 2021 - Cookies
  • December 2021 – Gift Recipes


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Vanilla Bath Blend - Bath Blend of the Month

Botanical bath and shower products inspired by the garden were not my first creations when I started the Backyard Patch.  In fact, I expected not to make many at all.  When I began I had Italian Dressing, Dill Dip, 6 herbal tea blends, and one bath salt recipe completed my entire catalog.  

Over time that has changed and I now make a large number of Bath Products.  They are fun and simple to create and as a result of many public demonstration programs,  I have formulated more recipes than I can ever put into my catalog of products so I have decided that I will share some of my favorite bath formulations each month.  Come back around the beginning of each month for another special body treatment. and if you look back through the blog you will see others around the beginning of each month too!

This bath recipe is best made and used immediately.  The vanilla will give you a seasonal scent while the honey soothes and rehydrates dry skin. And if you make your own vanilla extract this is even better.

Vanilla Bath Blend

1 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup castile soap
1/4 cup honey
1 TBS vanilla

In a small saucepan, grate the castile and cover with a bit of water.  Heat to a simmer and stir until soap is melted.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

TO USE: Immediately take the warm and melted ingredients to the bathroom and pour it into a  running bath.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Bucket List for a Quarantine Winter 2021

Since most of my life got put on hold to complete orders starting in November, many of my grandiose plans for the holiday and crafts I wanted to try got shelved.  The other day I realized that Covid is still raging and I am not going back to the office while it is, I cannot teach in person until late January at the soonest, and it will be cold (it is Illinois afterall!) So why don't I just get cracking on a list of activities.

One of our few activities this fall was winter lights at the Chicago Botanic Garden, so we will be visiting the garden in winter also.

There is no excuse not to work on that set of ideas I made a concerted effort to save to Pinterest - see my herb themed Pinterest boards here - so here is my quarantine winter bucket list 2021. I chose only 4 items per topic so that I can keep this manageable and therefore attainable!  Think of these as new year resolutions.


Work up some new packaging for gift items

Finish the upgrade to Herb Mix packaging

Find some herb bloggers to do some group projects with

Create / find and adapt the recipes for the Recipe Theme for 2021

Recipes from my collection
Just a few of the hundreds of recipes in my collection


Get out and walk everyday, regardless of the weather!

Organize the craft spaces and supplies so I can figure out if I have what I need to make these:

    Fun snow globes / kits

    Spring decorations / wreaths

    Make dried flower arrangements with garden materials I dried and saved last year

    Create some of the organizing ideas I have saved

Practice and get better at playing my bowed Psaltry

I can't find the photo of the Psaltry my hubby got me last Christmas, but these are just as lovely from 


    Order Seeds for exotic herbs

    Create Winter Sowing area and materials and begin winter sowing for 2021 garden

    Make self watering seedling starters

    Take scented geranium cuttings and learn to grow them hydroponically

Monday, December 28, 2020

Mocktail and Cocktail Punch for the New Year Holiday!

I have to say I am always more ambitious than my time actually allows, but I must admit I was not expecting to be as busy as I have been this fall.  I should have had a clue when when people where Christmas shopping from in in July.

I have been teaching online and that takes more preparation and concentration that one might realize exhausting my ability to write a post.  I have never been one to pre-program most of my posts so those that are pre-programed were kinda the only ones that happened recently.

As a result the recipe theme ended in October.  Since November and December were not my most creative theme ideas anyway, I just dropped them from the schedule and will start a new set of recipe ideas come January for 2021.

Instead I thought I would share a few punch recipes with you.  If you are entertaining during the holidays, these are a fun way to share flavors.  If not, making a punch and keeping in the refrigerator is a great way to extend the holiday fun when, like us, the number celebrating is rather small.  You can also share these recipes with family and all share the same beverage while Facetiming or Zooming.

Merry Mocktail

4 cups cranberry juice

1 bottle sparkling apple cider

1 liter ginger ale

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Orange slices studded with cloves

Put some ice in a punch bowl or pitcher. Combine all the liquid ingredients together and give them a stir. Float a few orange slices in the punch and add a few fresh cranberries. Or stud the orange slices with cloves and keep on the side to use as garnish for people to add to their glasses. Add 12 ounces of vodka to the recipe for a cocktail.

Mocking Fall Apple Punch

4 parts Sparkling Apple Cider

1 part Mulled White Grape Juice

½ part Lime Juice

Apple slices studded with cloves and kept in lemon juice until used as a garnish and apple mint sprigs.

Put some ice in a punch bowl or pitcher. Put all the liquid ingredients together, and give them a stir. Float a few apple slices in the punch and add a few sprigs of apple mint. Or stud the apple slices and place in lemon juice on the side as garnish for people to add to their glasses. Substitute hard cider  and/or mulled white wine for a cocktail.

This Bourbon Punch is a variation on the HARRY ELLIS COMMEMORATIVE Knockout PUNCH, but I was never able to definitively determine which Harry Ellis the drink was designed to commemorate, so if you have details, please share.

Sneaky Bourbon Punch

Bourbon is a smooth alcohol, and anything made with it can sneak up on you, so enjoy this punch when you know you will not be driving.

  • 8 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 750ml bottle of bourbon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 oz. ginger beer
  • 4 oz. lemon juice
  • 4 oz. unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 6 oz. Madeira Wine
  • 24 oz. sparkling or soda water
  • Fresh nutmeg


  • Mint leaves
  • fresh cranberries


Let cinnamon sticks sit overnight in bourbon. Strain. Stir sugar into the juices and ginger beer until completely dissolved. Pour juice/sugar blend, Madeira, and cinnamon-infused bourbon into a punch bowl and stir. Top with sparkling water and stir again. Grate a healthy amount of nutmeg—about a quarter of the whole—on top.

To serve, pour a 3 oz. ladleful over ice in a punch cup. Garnish with a cranberry and a mint leaf. Don’t dilute the punch with ice, always have the ice in the glass!



Each month a theme is chosen and a number of recipes on that theme from my massive archive will be shared.  This year we have 12 new topics, different from the topics of last year.  

To find the recipes of last year, check out this recipe link or search the blog with the topic Recipe2018, or Recipe2019 

You can search the monthly theme by looking for the theme keyword in the search box and it will pull up the recipes on that theme as posted, so look at the bottom of the recipe in each posting for the KEYWORD in the () to search for each  month.  All recipes this year will be tagged Recipe2020 so you can find them all.

The themes are:

Feb 2020 - Footbal Tailgate Favorites (AppFeb)
March 2020 - Kabobs (KabobMar)
April 2020 - Brunch (BrunchApr) more in 2021 also
May 2020 - Non-Traditional Pizza (PizzaMay)
June 2020 - Stir Fry Dishes (StirJun)
July 2020 - Salads with no lettuce (SaladJul)
August 2020 - Pickled things (PickleAug)
September 2020 - Quiche (QuicheSep)
October 2020 - Squash Soups (SquashOct)

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Busy Season - Join the Advent Calendar - last minute gifts and more!

Much to my surprise and excitement, people really did shop online this fall.  Backyard Patch Herbs has been so busy that posting on the blog was impossible.  I was able to keep up with the Advent Calendar which you can view here- Advent Calendar.

We lost a lot of sleep since Thanksgiving, we would fill the back seat of my car and go to the post office every morning, work all day making orders and fill the car again the next day.  My only trips away from the house were generally to the post office. 

I never realized how important ink was when you print your own labels and ink is in short supply at stores. And canning jars may be something folks are hording as much as toilet paper.  We had to trek to the hinterlands to buy jars frequently and there was a limit on purchases.

I ran out of shipping boxes two to three weeks ago and my husband started making me boxes out of other boxes.  He announces it as his new hidden skill.

All that being said, I wanted to share a couple things with you, 

First if you want a last minute gift, I suggest two things:

1- The Essential Herbal Magazine!  It is an eMagazine so you can get the January/February issue which just came out, sent to your family member or herb friend.  The magazine comes out 6 times a year with the in-between months receiving an "extra" of seasonal herb recipes and ideas.

2- An herbal subscription at Backyard Patch Herbs - these monthly subscriptions are available in various lengths and can feature tea or cooking blends sent once a month.  For those ordering at the last minute, we will send an email with subscription details and send the first installment around January 15.

Now to the meat of the message - my husband and I are going to graze through Christmas while creating a mystery marathon with our subscription services since our favorite PBS station is no more.  We are creating charcuterie boards featuring meats, cheeses, spreads and olives.

I have made this great spread with goat cheese and olives-

Holiday Green and Red Spread

  • 3/4 cup green- or black-olive finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 5 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (or 2 Tbls fresh)
  • 5 ounces soft goat cheese
  • crostini or thin slices of French bread

In a small bowl, combine olives, thyme leaves, walnuts, and cranberries. Spread 1 to 2 teaspoons goat cheese onto each crostini. Place 1 to 2 teaspoons olive mixture on top, and garnish each with thyme tips. Serve.

So enjoy your holiday safely, and may we all be prosperous in the New Year when we will be able to hug again!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Candy Cane Bath Salts - Bath Blend of the Month

 This is a great last minute gift, and it is also fun to make with kids as you layer the salts to make a perfect candy cane swirl.

Candy Cane Bath Salts

2 cups Epsom salt

2 cups sea salt

1 cup baking soda

red rose petals

beet powder

spearmint and peppermint (optional) essential oil

Mix the salts and baking soda together and divide evenly between 2 bowls.  In one bowl add up to 3 drops of peppermint essential oil.  In the other bowl add enough crushed red rose petals and beet powder to make the salt pinkish red.  You will probably need about 1/4 cup each of rose petals and beet powder.  Add more for a deeper color and more contrast in your final product.  Then add 15 to 20 drops of spearmint essential oil.  Spearmint essential oil is much milder than peppermint.  The roses mixed in with mint has an amazing smell.  

Creating the Candy Cane Effect

Now for the fun part, layering the bath salts!  Take a bag or a jar and place one color of salt in the bottom.  Make sure the salt is level and hold the jar or bag steady.  Then add the other color of salt to create a layer, or candy cane stripe.  Repeat until your container is full.   I enjoy making this bath with kids because of the pattern that appears when the kids layer the salts.  They really enjoy watching the candy cane form.  It is fun if you tilt the jar as you add the salts to create a diagonal look.


Add 2 Tablespoon salts to bath water as you fill the tub.  Swirl to dissolve.  To avoid a ring of rose petals, measure the salts into a muslin bag, tea ball or coffee filter and float in the bath swirling to dissolve the salts.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Busy times at Backyard Patch Herbs - Advent Calendar Announcement

I have announced the coming of the Advent Calendar in my newsletter, but not here on my Blog.  About a year ago we migrated our website from one provider to another and the new provider has the ability to craft as many pages as I want and I have been having fun finally posting the product related recipes I have tried to figure out how to post so people could search for them easily. 

In my work I found my old website postings of Advent Calendars and decided it was time to do that again.  I posted items on Facebook a few years ago, but nothing as organized as I was back in 2010- thru 2014.  Here are the links to the postings that were collected onto a single page for each year on an old website.


2012 http://www.backyardpatch2.mysite.com/custom3_1.html

2013: http://www.backyardpatch2.mysite.com/custom3_2.html

2014: http://www.backyardpatch2.mysite.com/custom_17.html




No Advent done in 2015 thru 2019

In 2020, I gathered new ideas and recipes to share and will be doing so on the website.  Each day beginning today, Nov 29, 2020, you will have the opportunity to read a recipe, craft idea, decoration tip or gift suggestion all related to herbs.  Since so many people are staying home for the holiday, we tried to find recipes and gift ideas one could make at home as well.

Short History of Advent Calendars

There are many types of calendars used in different countries. The most common ones in the UK and USA are made of paper or card with 24 or 25 little windows on. A window is opened on every day in December and a Christmas picture is displayed underneath.

In the 19th Century, German protestant Christians counted down to Christmas by marking 24 chalk lines on a door and rubbing one off every day in December.

Paper calendars were first popular in Germany in the early 1900s, although people made their own  from the 1850s. There's a debate about exactly where and when the first mass produced calendar was printed but it was in the first decade of the 1900s. The most famous and popular early maker of printed Advent calendars was a German printer called Gerhard Lang. His first calendars consisted of two sheets, a 'back' piece of card with the numbers 1 to 24 printed on it and a separate sheet of pictures which you could cut out and stick onto the numbers each day. The first calendars with 'doors' were made in Germany in the 1920s. During World War II, the production of Advent calendars in Europe stopped due to a shortage of cardboard.

When they were first made, scenes from the Christmas Story and other Christmas images were used, such as snowmen and robins, but now many calendars are made in the themes of toys, television programs and sports clubs. The first record of an Advent calendar, in the UK, was in 1956.

The first calendar with chocolate in it was made in 1958; and in the UK Cadbury's made their first chocolate calendar in 1971. However, they didn't sell very many to start with. Chocolate calendars really only became popular in the 1980s.

Some European countries such as Germany use a wreath of fir with 24 bags or boxes hanging from it. In each box or bag there is a little present for each day. Pinterest is covered with great ideas for making Advent countdown decorations.  I started a tradition back in 2011 of posting Advent recipes and activities.  I posted them on my, now defunct, website and on Facebook. This year I thought it might be nice to go back to using my website, so this year I will be posting them beginning November 29th.  

Each day I will have an activity or recipe that one can make.  Many will focus on gift giving and all will use herbs and spices. Since it has been almost decade since our original Advent calendar, we will bring back a few of the popular recipes from our original postings.

You can find the Advent Calendar, which will be updated daily – on our website www.backyardpatch.com  then just click on the Advent Calendar link at the top of the website home page.

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