Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How Tuesday - Making Herbed Wine

Herbed Wine is about as striking a taste as herb viengar and just as versatile.  In fact any recipe that calls for wine you can use an herbed wine instead.  And it is easy to make. 

For today's HOW TO-sday I'll show you how to make Herbed Wine-

Pairings of herbs and wine are as ancient as humans can be. I often get asked about mixing herbs with wine and years ago created a Spiced Wine blend that I sell in the winter, but recently I engaged in a bit of research and found that adding herbs to an ordinary bottle of wine can make a very drinkable savory wine that is as easy to make as an herbal vinegar.

My husband has food sensitivities which resulted in my blending of cooking herbs for our personal use when I first began growing herbs 20 years ago.  That same sensitivity keeps him from drinking wine very often, but as he becomes a self-taught chef he loves to cook with wine and blending herbs into wine certainly gives you a new flavor to cook with.

Whether you like white or red wine you can easily blend herbs into it.  You can use fresh as these recipes suggest, but dry herbs blend into wine just as well as I will show below.

Herbal Chardonnay

3 sprigs of Rosemary
2 large basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
1 ½ cups Chardonnay

Wash herbs and place in a clean pint jar. Add wine and cover.  Store in a cool, dark place for at least a week or until the flavor suits you.  Remove herbs.  Use to marinade fish or chicken, wine sauce or as part of cooking liquid for rice or beans.

Herbal Burgundy

4 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs marjoram
4 sprigs parsley
1 ½ cups burgundy

Wash herbs and place in a clean pint jar.  Add wine and store in a cool dark place for a t least 2 weeks or until flavor is full and mellow.  Use to marinade beef and ham, in making beef stew, vegetable soup and tomato sauce.
I made the Chardonnay wine with dried herbs this winter (I did not have all these fresh herbs, so decided to make the entire recipe with dried.)

Below the photos is a recipe we then made with the herbs which is exquisite and easy.

I used   1 tsp. dried basil, 1 to 2 tsp. rosemary and 2 tsp. minced dried garlic with a nice inexpensive Chardonnay which has been open in the refrigerator for a week or so, being saved for cooking.

I measured the herbs into a small container and add a small amount of wine allowing the wine to rehydrate the herbs.  I let them sit for about 10 minutes.

Then I added 1 ½ cups white wine to a mason jar and poured in the rehydrated herbs and liquid.

I left the jar in the corner of my kitchen counter space in the dark area near the refrigerator for about two weeks and then we made the Pasta Recipe.

If you want to try your Herbed Wine the "Recipe of the Month in June 2011" on the website is Fusilli Pasta with Herb Wine Dressing -- Check it out Here! (scroll to the bottom of the page)
Here is another to try as well--
Sauteed Mushrooms with Herbed Wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine infused with herbs  (like rosemary, oregano, basil, marjoram, etc.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place mushrooms in the skillet, and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Mix the wine and garlic into the skillet, and continue cooking until most of the wine has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with chives. Continue cooking 1 minute.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Edible Flowers!

Happy Memorial Day!

This was orignally my big planting weekend when I first started growing herbs.  Then we would take time out for the Memorial Day Parade in Wheaton (IL).  Now we take time out for the Parade and Service in Elmhurst (IL).  But still I always want to plant something so this year I decided it would be my Scented Marigolds.  I'll be growing htem from seed.

Here is some information on Scented Marigold for you and maybe you will join me!

Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) are North American native flowers that were revered by the Aztecs in Mexico, who used them in religious ceremonies, as an ornamental, and as a medical plant. They were said to relieve hiccups and the effects of being struck by lightning. No wonder they were considered magical plants.

It was the Aztecs who introduced marigolds to Spanish and Portuguese explorers. Once the seeds made it to Spain, they quickly spread throughout Europe and North Africa. In Europe the plants were called "Mary's gold," referring to the brightly colored flowers and the Virgin Mary. The tall varieties we call African marigolds were bred in North Africa. Marigolds have since circled the globe. They are used in India and Pakistan as dyes, food, and to make flower garlands as part of harvest festivals. They finally made it back to the Americas as hybrids. Most marigolds we grow are a cross between tall African (T. erecta) and dwarf French (T. patula) varieties.

Marigolds are a “sure thing” annual flower. Once established, they will bloom all summer and actually make a great fall annual, bringing color to a garden when little else is still blooming. Plus, the flowers and buds are edible, having a somewhat citrus-like flavor. 'Lemon Gem' (T. tenuifolia) is considered one of the best tasting marigold varieties.

Although not botanically related to marigolds, calendula (Calendula officinalis) is called "pot marigold" because its bright yellow flower petals resemble marigolds. It was used during Tudor times as a poor man's saffron in cooking. Calendula is native to the Mediterranean, but like marigolds, has spread throughout the world. It is used medicinally to treat wounds and sores.

While folklore has it that marigolds repel a number of insects and should be interplanted with herbs and vegetables to protect plants, the only proven pest marigolds repel are soil dwelling nematodes. French marigolds are thought to be the best at repelling some types of nematodes. The most effective way to grow them as nematode repellents is to plant a thick stand of marigolds, grow them for 3 to 4 months and then till them under like a green manure crop. They are not as effective if simply interplanted around other crops.

Harvest marigold and calendula flowers as they open in late morning for garlands, cut flowers, and edible flowers for salads, cakes, and teas. Marigolds and calendulas are easy to dry and store for later use. Spread the flowers on a screen to dry in a well-ventilated, shady location and store in glass jars. You can remove the seeds and store them, too, for sowing next spring.

~Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Recipe for Potato Curls

I love potatoes.  I think I have said that before.  I try not to eat too many of them as they can cause other health issues for me, but I love them, so when I eat them I want to enjoy them. One of my favorite appetizers is potato skins.  But with bacon, cheese and sour cream they are a calorie nightmare.  So what I have instead is a recipe where you get the great flavor and texture of the skins but not the calories.

Fried Potato skin curls with Herbs
These crisp shards of potato skin are cooked in oil infused with the season’s freshest herbs. The longer you leave the oil to infuse, the more intense the flavors. You’ll need only the potato skins for this recipe; save the flesh for other recipes, like potato salad, or mashed potatoes. Yields about 7 cups.
3 cups canola oil
1-3/4 cups coarsely chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as rosemary, parsley, cilantro, oregano, marjoram, and summer savory
5 lb. medium Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and dried well
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the oil and 3/4 cup of the herbs. Warm over low heat until the herbs begin to sizzle, 3 to 5 minutes. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes more, then remove the pan from the heat and let the oil cool completely.

Heat the oven to 200°F.

Using a paring knife, peel the potato skins about 1/4 inch thick and 3 inches long. (If working ahead, submerge the skins in water for up to 2 hours.)

Strain the herb oil through a fine sieve and discard the herbs. Return the oil to the pan, put a deep fat/candy thermometer in the oil, and set the pan over medium heat until it reaches 365°F. If the potato skins were soaked in water, drain and blot them dry. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, fry the peels until golden and puffed, 5 to 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the peels to a wire rack set on a large rimmed baking sheet; keep the curls warm in the oven. Repeat with the rest of the curls.

Carefully add the remaining 1 cup of herbs to the oil (the oil will splatter). Fry until crisp, 20 to 30 seconds. Drain the herbs, using either a wire mesh skimmer or a fine sieve set over a heatproof bowl and then transfer to the rack with the curls. (Discard the oil once cool.) Toss the herbs and potato curls and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

It is a fun recipe and frying herbs is an entirely different texture and flavor.

If you like potatoes, take a look at our SPUD CELEBRATION where we have our 5 best blends for cooking with potatoes .  In addition to the mixes and recipes you will receive a description of different potato types and what they are good for.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Instead of the Herb of the Week...Mustard

I have decided that the Herb of the Week is going to take a break for a a while.  Not that I don't want to focus on herbs like that, but it takes a lot of time to write it and I find my time is in the garden rather than the books.  So instead I will be making notes on herbs I want to focus on in future and snapping photos of them and when the garden gets under control (meaning when the weather cooperates and lets me weed and plant properly) I will go back to posting the weekly herb focus.

Until then I will share a few more recipes, as I am enjoying a great deal of herb cooking right now even if the garden growth has been slowed by the chilly temps and blustery rains.  Also I did update the Seasonal Recipes page (see above) with recipes for summer burgers, just in in time for Memorial Day! 

On the Seasonal Recipes page I did post a couple of sauces, but I did not include mustards in that list so I thought I would share a couple simple, make-your-own mustard recipes here:
photo by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

Large Batch Herbed Mustard
This is a recipe I have experimented with for several years.  I no longer remember where I first found it or adapted it from so I apologize for that.  But there are many variations with this and you can experiment with the flavors and tastes depending on what you have around the garden.

4 cups dry mustard
4 cups flour
1/2 cup salt (use less)
8 cups vinegar (cider)
3 1/2 cups sugar
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup mixed dried herbs (See notes for details)

Mix dry ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl or large mouth jar.  Add vinegar.
Mix well until no lumps remain.  Let stand overnight.

Stir again and add more vinegar if needed.  Pour into smaller glass containers. To keep, refrigerate or water bath can.

Notes: Dill is always good with mustard, as is parsley and chervil.  I have found that a combination of basil, parsley and chives measured generously with thyme, rosemary, sage added sparingly is a great combination.  A ratio of 2 1/2 Tbls. parsley, 2 Tbls. basil, 2 Tbls. chives, 1/2 Tbls. thyme, 1/2 Tbls. sage, 1/2 Tbls. rosemary will give you a nice cup of herbs to make this recipe.  Another variation is to make an herbed cider vinegar, something with a thyme base or onion base like chive blossoms is a perfect flavor to use.  One time I used lemon basil vinegar and was very happy with the mustard which was perfect on sausages and chicken breasts. 

Small Batch Herbed Mustard
This recipe makes about 1 cup or so and is a bit less time consuming as you can use a food processor.  It is ready to eat in an hour but will taste better if you wait overnight.  This is not really yellow like a mustard it is more red like a ketchup, so you can tell people it is a spiced up ketchup if they, like my husband, avoid mustard.

1 cup dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
4 Tbls. red wine vinegar
4 Tbls. dry red wine
1 Tbls. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbls. dried Basil
4 Tbls. tomato paste

Place all ingredients in the container of a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 1 minute. Scrape sides with rubber spatula & process 30 seconds longer. Keep in a well-sealed glass container & allow to stand overnight before using.

If you like a Sweet Hot Mustard, check out the herb mix we created to make an Oriental style dipping sauce (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.)


Monday, May 23, 2011

Celebrating the Father of Taxonomy

Carolus Linnaeus was born on this day in 1707.
When I was in High School  I took Latin as my foreign language class because I knew I was going to go into natural science and figured since one uses Latin for naming everything, it would be the best choice.  However,  after declining verbs and translating Julius Caesar and Beowulf from the original Latin I was not as convinced of my idea being useful in the future, especially since you can’t speak Latin – it’s a dead language. 
I was at the time planning to be a geologist and archeologist and thought I would make the grand discovery and need to be able to name it.  Although I have done some archeology, my career path took me into museums rather than field work so as a result I never used the Latin nearly as much as I thought I would.  I recall much more the making of chocolate chip cookies for my Latin instructor Martin Poluse on the Ides of March.  I concurrently took Botany at that same High School from Dave Fowler and as a result learned the Linnaean naming style for plants.  Since most plant names are also Latin I have somehow continued to use my small skill from both those classes even though at the time I never thought I would end up as a specialist in herbs.

Carolus Linnaeus (1707 – 1778) was a Swedish botanist; he developed the binomial system for naming plants and defining plant relationships. His system for naming, ranking, and classifying organisms is still in wide use today (with many changes). His ideas on classification have influenced generations of biologists during and after his own lifetime.
In 1735, he published the first edition of his classification of living things, the Systema Naturae, which at the time was a mere brochure.  During the following decades, he met or corresponded with Europe's great botanists, and continued to develop his classification scheme. Returning to Sweden in 1738, he practiced medicine (specializing in the treatment of syphilis) and lectured in Stockholm before being awarded a professorship at Uppsala in 1741. At Uppsala, he restored the University's botanical garden (arranging the plants according to his system of classification), made three more expeditions to various parts of Sweden, and inspired a generation of students. He was instrumental in arranging to have his students sent out on trade and exploration voyages to all parts of the world: nineteen of Linnaeus's students went out on these voyages of discovery. Perhaps his most famous student, Daniel Solander, was the naturalist on Captain James Cook's first round-the-world voyage, and brought back the first plant collections from Australia and the South Pacific to Europe. Anders Sparrman, another of Linnaeus's students, was a botanist on Cook's second voyage. Another student, Pehr Kalm, traveled in the northeastern American colonies for three years studying American plants. Yet another, Carl Peter Thunberg, was the first Western naturalist to visit Japan in over a century; he not only studied the flora of Japan, but taught Western medicine to Japanese practitioners.
Linnaeus continued to revise his Systema Naturae, which grew from a slim pamphlet to a multivolume work, as his concepts were modified and as more and more plant and animal specimens were sent to him from every corner of the globe.  Many of his hopes of naturalizing plants from other regions to Sweden were never realized.  He died in 1778. His son, also named Carl, died 5 years later.  The remaining family sold Linnaeus's library, manuscripts, and natural history collections to the English natural historian Sir James Edward Smith, who founded the Linnaean Society of London to take care of them.
I find it interesting that he was a botanist who worked as a doctor to pay the rent.  His naming system has been altered many times, but the way in which one looks at a plant, identifying leaf shapes and stem styles and flower construction, is still used today to determine family relationships for plants which can help in breeding and cultivating them.  Who knew an instructor who made me like translation and another teacher’s obsession with understanding plant classification would end up as something I still use.  At the time I just liked school. Thanks Guys!
Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh

Friday, May 20, 2011

Buying Herbs - A shopping experience

Saturday, May 7th on rather short notice, I went to the annual Freinds of the Oak Park Conservatory Herb Sale.  The sale is in its 23rd year and since I moved to Illinois about 22 years ago, I have been to this show almost as many years as it has existed.  When My freinds and I first started going one had to wait outside in a line for it to open.  We would bring herb tea and scones and have a picnic on the sidewalk.  Then they allowed members to come a day ahead and the line got much shorter.  Normally my friends and I shop on member day, but this year I was teaching so we went on Saturday.

The shopping is wonderful and the herbs, many of which are raised by volunteers, are very well cared for.  The variety was not as extensive as in years past for things out of the ordinary.  I remember this was the show where I bought my Pineapple Mint and Peruvian Sage in the past, but the most exotic herb I got this year was a Pineapple Sage and a new ornamental oregano that is also edible but had showy yellow green leaves which will make it look great in the patio boxes.

Here are some images of the shopping experience:

Everything is labeled above and lots of volunteers around to help.


Curly Parsley
Mint (forgot which one, might be chocolate mint)

This Scented geranium was so cute I had to buy it!

The checkout area (new two years ago)

My very helpful cashier Alice!
It was a great event, I had a good time and you cnd just see my purchases down in the left hand corner of this photo.  That tall thing being my lemon verbena!

Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How Tuesday - Making Cheddar Scones

I love scones.  I like them for breakfast, for an afternoon snack, for a side with a soup or stew meal, and especially with my evening tea while watching mystery.  I experiment with scone recipes and scone ingredients.  This time I am going to demonstrate how to make a quick and easy savory scone, Cheddar Cornmeal Scones. 

This scone can be served with tea or with a meal.  It is great with a beef stew or chili and for breakfast a great accompaniment to Huevos Rancheros.  It is perfect with a stronger flavored tea, like Irish Breakfast.  Although the recipe makes 6 nice sized wedges, I think I would cut it into 12 pieces to make them easier to handle. Oh and by the way, you don’t need a full sized food processor to do this, as you can see I don’t have one!

Cheddar Cornmeal Scones

¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. sugar
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Dash of cayenne
3 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 large egg, separated
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Into the bowl of a food processor add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, cayenne and salt.  Pulse on and off to combine. 

Add the butter bits and process for approx. 10 seconds or until the mixture is like course meal. 

Add the grated cheese, milk and egg yolk.  Process for a few more seconds, just until the dough forms.

Turn out the dough onto the floured bread board. 

Knead the dough about 10 times. 

Pat the dough out with your hands to form an 8 inch circle.  

Using a knife, dipped in flour, cut the dough into 6 wedges.

Place the wedges onto a greased baking sheet.  Brush tops with a beaten egg.  Sprinkle with a little additional grated cheddar cheese. 

Bake for 17 minutes or until golden.

I have done other listings with herbal scones and the process to make those is about the same.  If you want to see my other recipes check out "Scones" in the search.  If you are looking for scone mixes or scone mixes with tea recommendations , see our website for all the newest mixes:  http://www.backyardpatch.com/.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rosemary - Herb of the Week

I was out herb shopping this past weekend and one of the items I was shopping for was Rosemary.  I need to replace my prostrate rosemary which died over the winter.  So far I am 0 for 3 in finding one, but I have a few more places to try.
This quest made me decide to make the herb of the week
                     - Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Besides being a great spice for recipes, rosemary is excellent in sleep pillows and herbal baths. It rekindles your energy and will make you feel happy. It is one of the best or at least longest known from a herbalist standpoint as it can be found in many of the oldest “herbals” (those are the early publications on the power and use of herbs.)  Rosemary, in the language of flowers, is “remembrance.”  This dates back to medieval times when rosemary was thought to increase memory.  It is a great herb of headaches, aiding sleep, restoring hair and as a strong anti-bacterial.  Recently there have been studies testing its use against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Rosemary is a semi-hardy perennial native to the rocky cliff sides of the Mediterranean.  The leaves are needle-like and sharply scented of pine.  In addition to the glossy leaves, it can have flowers in blue, white or lavender depending on the species.  In the Midwest you will need to grow your rosemary in a pot so that it can be brought inside in the winter, however in the summer, give it a sunny location and it will thrive.  Many people place them in the ground for summer and only pot them up in the fall.  All it requires is good drainage.
In bringing the plant inside at the end of the season several rules need to be followed or, like me, your rosemary will need to be replaced the following spring.  You can leave your plant out until the temps drop below freezing consistently.  You do not want to freeze the roots.  Once inside a cool sunny window will do (temps around 50 to 60 will be perfect). I’ve left mine out well into November most years. 
Rosemary prefers cramped roots, lots of sun and high humidity.  Anyone in the Midwest knows that after months of winter your home can become every dry.  So keep the plant well watered.  NEVER let it dry out.  According to Adelma Simmons “A dry rosemary is a dead rosemary.”  The best solution is to place it on a bed of pebbles and keep a layer of water in the pebbles, then it can draw up the moisture it wants and the humidity around the plant will be increased.  Just check everyday that the level of water is visible in the pebbles.
Rosemary, with its pine-needle-like leaves has a strong flavor so should be cut or chopped fine when used.  Pork, beef, veal, lamb, chicken and tomatoes as well as breads are all enhanced to rosemary.  It makes great vinegar and can be used in herbal butters and in herb jelly.
It is also used in bath items because of the anti-oxidant and antiseptic qualities it holds.  In perfumes and lotions the essential oil of rosemary is sometimes added as a preservative.  The aroma of rosemary actually releases adrenalin into your system which is why just a sprig of rosemary pinned to your lapel will make you feel more awake and revived.  In bath items the presence of rosemary helps prevent wrinkles and improve blood flow to skin cells reducing the look of aging.
You can also prepare an effective sleep enhancing rosemary tea using a pinch of valerian.
Herb Seasoning for Beef
¼ cup rosemary
¼ cup parsley
¼ cup thyme
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. granulated onion
Blend together and store in a tightly covered jar.  Use ½ tsp. per serving for meats or vegetables.  Can be used as a rub, seasoning or marinade (blend into olive oil and vinegar).  You can use this blend to make a rosemary butter to, just blend 2 tsp. per stick of room temperature butter and blend in with a fork.  Allow to meld for at least 1 hour before serving.  (The Backyard Patch has a blend for butter using rosemary called Butter N Cheese.)

Rosemary Shortbread

1 cup unsalted butter - room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves - minced fine
additional confectioners sugar for garnish
In a large bowl cream the sugar into the softened butter using a large mixing spoon. Add the flour 3/4 cup at a time. Add the vanilla extract, pistachios and rosemary and mix until well blended. Roll the dough into large marble sized pieces using 1 level tablespoon of the dough and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes until light brown. After the cookies have been removed from the oven and have cooled off slightly roll each one in confectioner’s sugar. This recipe makes approximately 30 cookies.

Mind-altering Spray

Make your own mind improving aromatherapy treatment by mixing 10 drops of rosemary essential oil with 10 drops of basil essential oil and 10 drops of peppermint essential oil with 4 ounces of distilled water.  Mix all together and place in a small spray bottle and shake well before using.  Mist the room to keep you mind alert and wakeful.
Remember just enjoy your Rosemary!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Recipes Using The Rules for Blending Herbs

Yesterday I shared ways to begin using herbs by starting with THREE.  All the recipes I am sharing today follow the rules of three herbs I set out yesterday.  If you missed that post (see here).

In yesterdays blog I spelled out 7 rules for blending herbs in the three catagories: sweet ,savory, and pungent.  Below I have presented one recipe for each rule, so you can see how they work.  Notice that when a pungnet herb is used it is usually not int he same quantity as a sweet or a savory.

Rule 1 – 2 sweets and a savory

Lemon Butter for fish
¼ cup butter
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
1 tsp. chicken or vegetable bouillon
¼ tsp. dill
¼ tsp. lemon balm
¼ tsp. thyme
Dash salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients.  Make enough to serve with 1 lb. of fish.

Rule 2 – 2 savories and a sweet

Dill Dip
I make my commercial dill dip mix with many more than 3 herbs, but this version is simple, easy and very tasty, especially because it uses herbs most people keep in the kitchen, can be made on a whim.

1 cup sour cream (low fat is fine)
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbls fresh or dried chives
2 Tbls. fresh chopped parsley (or 2 tsp. dried)
2 Tbls. chopped fresh dill (or 1 Tbls dried dill weed)

Blend all ingredients in a bowl.  For best flavor allow to meld in the refrigerator at least one hour, overnight is better.  And you can make a salad dressing by thinning it with milk.

Rule 3 – 1 sweet, 1 savory and 1 pungent

Snow Peas with Herbs
½ lb. snow peas
2 ½ Tbls. peanut oil
1 Tbls. fresh spearmint, snipped
1 tsp. fresh tarragon, snipped
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Wash and drain and devein peas.  Heat oil in pan over high heat.  When hot quickly stir fry the peas and herbs for 1 minute.  Season and serve immediately serves 4.

Rule 4 – 2 savories and a pungent

Rock Cornish Hens with Wild Rice (serves 4)
This is a main and side dish comb to which you can add steamed green beans or asparagus for a complete meal.

4 Tbls. vegetable oil
3 Tbls. lemon juice
2 game hens, cut in half
1 ½ stick of butter, melted
1 glove garlic, minced
4 Tbls. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage, crumbled
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup wild rice

Blend together oil and lemon juice.  Brush over all sides of the chicken halves (you can substitute 4 large sized bone in chicken breasts.)  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Mix herbs, seasonings, and butter in blender.  Baste hen pieces with half the blend during last 20 minutes of baking.  Cook rice and season with rest of herb butter.  Serve chicken on bed of rice (serves 4)

Rule 5 - 3 sweets (for a sweet or fruity dish)

Uplifting Herb Tea

1 Tbls. chamomile
1 tsp. Lemon balm
1 tsp. Lemon grass

Add to 8 ounces of boiling water and steep for 5 minutes.  Serve hot or cold.

Rule 6 - 3 savories

Fiesta Salmon (Serves 4)
This is wonderful with garlic bread served over Pasta.

1 Tbls olive oil
1 cup tomatoes, skinned and chopped
2 Tbls. lemon juice
2 Tbls fresh thyme
2 tsp. tarragon
1 lb. salmon fillets, skin removed
1 cup red onions peels and chipped
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup dry white wine
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup fresh whole basil leaves
Fresh lemon slices (garnish)

Place oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 more minutes.  Stir in the vinegar, lemon juice, white wine, thyme, tarragon and salt.  Cut the salmon into chunks and add to the pan and cook while stirring for 5 to 7 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.  Remove from the heat and stir in the basil leaves.  Garnish with slices of lemon if desired and serve immediately.  

Rule 7 - 2 sweets and a pungent

Herb Dressing

¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup vinegar

½ cup dried lemon balm
½ cup dried dill
¼ cup dried rosemary

Mix together dry ingredients and store in an air-tight container. Each time you need a dressing, shake together 1 tbsp. of the herbs mixed with ¾ cup olive oil and ¼ cup vinegar.

If blending hers yourself makes you shake in your shoes, we have done all the ahrd work for you.  Check out our many herb and seasoning blends HERE!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Rules for Blending Herbs to Cook With

I read a lot of old cookbooks and recipes.  In fact I sell vintage cookbooks on Etsy under my own name.  I like these old books because they intrigue me with the cycle of seasonings and changes in the palate.  For example my modern palate cannot fathom making or serving tomato aspic yet no 50’s housewife entertained without some sort of molded salad.

In one book I read that a recipe should contain just one or two herbs, and a meal should include only one herb-seasoned dish.  In my mind a rule that limiting is made to be broken.  I rarely add only one herb to a dish, in fact I teach people to think in three when working with herbs.

Last week I posted a short blog about this concept and got requests to expand it, so here is more detailed information on the three flavors of herbs and how to combine them.

Choose Herbs based on Sweet, Savory and Pungent

When planning to cook with herbs you need to recognize that they have different strengths.
  • Sweet
  • Savory
  • Pungent
Sweet flavors include anything that would pair well with fruits or yogurt, like flower flavors, dill, and citrus herbs like lemon balm, lemon marigolds, most flowers, sweet basil and mints.

pansy and Cuban oregano

Savory are the cooking flavors we all recognize, like thyme, tarragon, oregano, marjoram, savory, robust or spicy basils, and others.

Pungent are those herbs whose flavor and scent is strong and hard to mistake, including cilantro, sage, rosemary, chili peppers and garlic.

When blending and using herbs, you must learn to classify them into these categories by tasting them and deciding which category they fall in based on your personal palette.  Then remember the important key to perfect blends is knowing that you can never use two pungent herbs in equal quantities in the same blend, but two savories will go together fine, and sweets always add character. 

My rules for working with three herbs are:

  1. 2 sweets and a savory
  2. 2 savories and a sweet
  3. 1 sweet, 1 savory and 1 pungent
  4. 2 savories and a pungent
  5. 3 sweets (for a sweet or fruity dish)
  6. 3 savories
  7. 2 sweets and a pungent

Although I could craft a chart for you, it is really best if you make your own based on your tastes.  So instead I created a blank Herb Chart and put it on the Blog Pages so you can print it and fill it out your way.

Come back tomorrow and check out the recipes I have chosen that use three herb combinations.

Friday, May 6, 2011

May is National Salad Month -- Make Salads!

In celebration of the National Month for Salads, I turned up some unique herb-related recipes that that make unique salads.  I cannot guarantee that all of these are low in calories, however!

Borage & Cucumbers in Sour Cream Dressing

3 long cucumbers
1 cup sour cream or fresh plain yogurt
2 Tbls. rice vinegar
½ tsp. celery seed
¼ cup chopped scallions
1 tsp sugar
¼ cup finely chopped young borage leaves
Salt & pepper to taste

Borage or chive flowers for garnish

Wash, score and very thinly slice the cucumbers.  Salt lightly and let stand in a colander for 30 minutes to drain.  Rinse off the salt and pat dry with paper towels.

In a bowl, mix remaining ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Add cucumbers and toss lightly.  Garnish with borage flowers or chive blossoms.  Refrigerate 1 hour before serving. 

Black Bean Salad RecipeServes 6 to 8

1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, thoroughly rinsed, and drained (or 1 1/2 cup of freshly cooked black beans)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, defrosted (or fresh corn, parboiled, drained and cooled)
1/2 cup chopped green onions or shallots
2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced, or 1 whole pickled jalapeño pepper, minced (not seeded)
3 fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
2 Tbsp lime juice (about the amount of juice from one lime)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sugar (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste


Make sure to rinse and drain the beans, if you are using canned beans.
In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, onions, jalapeno chile peppers, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, basil, lime juice and olive oil. Add sugar and salt and pepper to taste. (The sugar will help balance the acidity from the tomatoes and lime juice.) Chill before serving.
Broccoli Salad
Serves 6

This great recipe is a spring and summer pleaser with Backyard Patch Ranch Dressing.
4 cups raw broccoli. Cut into pieces
1 large mango cut into chunks
½ cup cashews
½ cup red onion , thinly sliced
1 can mandarin oranges drained (11 oz)
3 Tbls orange juice
1 TB horseradish (optional)
In a large bowl, toss broccoli mango, cashews, onion and oranges.  Blend dressing orange juice and horseradish well to make salad dressing.  Pour over salad before serving, then toss.  Yield 6 servings.

Enjoy!  And if you want some crowd pleasing salad dressings you can make at home, try these links:

Backyard Patch Salad Dressing Herb Mixes

Backyard Patch Samplers with Salad Dressings

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Herbs to Protect Your Bones

The bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis is a normal event that occurs in humans as we age.  To slow its progression medical science suggests regular exercise, ingestions of calcium-containing foods or supplements.  A diet rich in vegetables, especially onions, has been found to decrease bone loss.  Recent research has found a few Bone enhancing herbs that can also be added to that regiment of bone protection.  Herbs and plants have been studies extensively for their value at reducing the risk of osteoporosis.  Some of the common herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme have been found to inhibit the bone breakdown that contributes to osteoporosis.

Because these herbs are high in essential oils researchers also looked into the essential oils and component of these oils to inhibit bone breakdown.  This coupled with the knowledge that the minerals found in plants like calcium, potassium, and magnesium are important to bone health.  Also the vitamins K and C as well as phytoestrogens can contribute to bone health.

The essential oils that were found to inhibit bone deterioration, included sage, juniper, pine, eucalyptus, and rosemary. The components of these oils which was discovered to be doing the work were thujone, eucalyptol and camphor which can all be found in sage oil.  Menthol, thymol and medicinal turpentine were also found to inhibit bone breakdown.

So what to do with this information

The dried herbs used in the study were given at a does of 1 gram per day to a rat so scaled up that is 150 grams per day or 10 Tablespoons of dried herd.   The problem with large quantities of an herb is that taking too much can result in levels of toxicity, so until more studies are done, I would not try to use quite this much.  However there is probably nothing wrong with increasing the use of sage, rosemary and thyme in cooking and in teas. 

Here are a few recipes to get you started:

I make a tea I called S&G which contains Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, you get the connection right?  S&G is Simon and Garfunkle.  I love that song and those musicians, so making the tea was not a big step.

If you would like to make a tea with these herbs, here is another possibility:

Thyme to Heal Tea
Thyme is a digestive aid, as well as a cold symptum releiver, so this blend can assist with stomach and cold issues.

1 Tbls. Thyme
1 Tbls. Red clover
1 Tbls. Sage
1 Tbls. Rosemary

Mix together and store in a tin or jar airtight jar.  Use 1 tsp. per cup of hot water and steep 5 minutes.

Hearty Herb Blend

2 parts dried rosemary
2 parts dried savory
1 part dried thyme
1 part dried majoram
½ part dried sage

Grind fine to use in a shaker or leave coarse.  Great salt substitute.  Good rubbed on roasts or added to stews.

Herbal Tub Tea

The ultimate treatment is one in which you soak your entire body.  I make and market four different
tub teas/bath bags, but I have crafted many more.  They are a great way to enjoy the healthful benefits of your garden and really are simple to make.  You can use a muslin bag or a tea ball.  And if you are feeling gifty you can package them cutely in a tea cup or mug.

Making tub tea really depends on what benefits you want to access.  In this case since we want to increase our bone health I have chosen two blend with our needed herbs:

Stimulating - Rosemary, lavender, peppermint, lemon balm
Cleansing – sage, thyme, lemon verbena, green tea

Once you have crafted your combination of herbs, shoot for a total volume of about ¼ to ½ cup, place them in a cotton bag, coffee filter, or square of fabric.  This giant tea bag can be placed in the bath where the warm water will cascade over it as you fill the tub, or you can make a stronger more healing infusion by boiling the tea bag for 15 minutes in a small sauce pan with about 1 cup of water, then pouring the resulting tea into the filled tub.

~Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
copyright 2011
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