Friday, June 29, 2012

Weekend Recipe - Herb Flower Salad

This weekend it is to be so hot and right before the grilling event of the summer, that I thought I would share a quick salad recipe with you.  You can make this as a meal by serving over a chicken breast, or as a side salad.  It is the perfect way to enjoy all the blooming flowers in your herb garden.

Herb Flower Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

2 Nasturtium flowers and 8 leaves
6 red clover blossoms
6 to 8 young plantain leaves
2 stalks lambs quarter greens and seeds
12 pepper grass leaves
    you can use kale instead
2 purple mustard leaves
    you can use kale instead
6 catnip leaves
6 violet leaves
4 dandelion leaves

½ cup good olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
      add about 1 to 2 tsp. lemon thyme or lemon basil, crumbled dry or minced fresh.
Gently toss the flowers and herbs in a bowl.  Prepare dressing by combining ingredients in a jar and shaking briskly.  Toss with greens just before serving.  To add texture to the salad, drop in some slivered almonds or plain roasted nuts.  To give it strength mince in some fresh garlic.  

Don't Forget your last days to comment and get into the drawing for some citrus bath salts is June 30th.  See this post for details.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Herb of the Week - Wild herbs

Who says a cell phone cannot take good photos!  This is the view down to the picnic area from the scenic overlook in Eau Galle Recreation Area in Wisconsin where I recently attended a family get together.

I had left my camera in my car which is down in that parking lot you can just bearly see in the photo, so I used my phone to get these shots.  It was only good for that anyway as there was no phone reception here.  That was nice too!

While walking with a couple family members I found several naturally growing herbs and had a great conversation with my nephew about foraging.  If you live in Minneapolis, check out the facebook page Foraging with Friends.  Here is what I found in a short 15 minute treck up the side of an earthen dam.

This is Mullein, it is not yet flowering, but we did see several plants that had shot up the towering yellow spike of flowers that is so indicative of this medicinal herb.

This is a white yarrow or common yarrow (Achillea millefolium).  It is surrounded by purple flowers and  some rue.

Angelica caught my eye as we were driving home from the event and my husband was not thrilled that I made him stop by the side of the road to snap this. 

This one although very unique in shape and flower, has me stumped.  I thought it was Pussy Toes when I first saw it without the flowers open.  However, when I saw the flowers open, then I thought it might be unicorn root.  I could not verify either identification, as I could not find an image, that looked quite like this with the tan striped pods that opens to a 4 petal flower with serrate petals.  If you know what this lovely plant is please let me know so I can improve my mental data base.

It was the season for purple flowers as the thistles, wild asters and astralagus were everywhere.  I took this nice show of astralagus just as we topped the dam.

Astragalus  also known as field milkvetch, purple milkvetch, cock's-head is native to much of western and northern North America from most of Canada to the southwestern United States, as well as eastern Asia. It grows in vernally moist areas such as meadows, and is often found in sagebrush.  It can grow in less than ideal soil, which is probably why it was growing on the steep slope of dam.  With a tap root it can find water and stay anchored on the side of the road or in this case the side of a dam.
This is a perennial herb growing a slender but sturdy stem from an underground caudex. It leans or grows upright to a maximum height near 1 foot. The stem is often roughly hairy. Alternately arranged leaves are up to 4 inches long and made up of several pairs of leaflets up to an inch long each. They are oval to lance-shaped and may have notched tips. The flowers originate in an oval-shaped cluster of purple or pink-tinted to nearly white pealike flowers. Each flower is up to an inch long.
The fruit is an oval-shaped legume pod up to a centimeter long. It is dark colored with white hairs and dries to a papery texture.  The name milkvetch comes from the fact it is used as a grazing crop for milk cows and sheep.  There are many species and some do contain hazardous compounds.

This view made walking up a rather steep earthen dam worth the effort.  The view, like that from the overlook I shared first was such a great bit of Central Wisconsin terrain and vegetation.  It made the effort to find the access road worth, three dead ends! 

By the way those steps were on the water side.  We had to walk up a narrow dirt path from the dry side of the dam!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Giveaway reminder

Don't forget to post a comment on the How-To from last Tuseday to get your share of the Citrus Bath Salts Giveaway.  These are the cute salts we made for the MS Society!

Click here to make your comments and get in on the giveaway!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Recipe for the weekend - Brewed Iced Tea

It is going to be a scorcher again this weekend, so I decided the best idea was to give a weekend recipe for iced tea.  This is the traditional way to make brewed iced tea, not sun tea or refrigerator tea.

Brewing your iced tea extracts the full flavor from the tea to give you the best tasting iced tea possible. It is also the tired and true method passed down in families for making iced tea.  I know my family has been doing it this way for at least 100 years.

You will be serving this tea cold, but to make it you need to brew it hot. So your technique is to brew regular tea, then serve it over ice.    So what you need to be most aware of is how diluted your tea will become with the ice.  To make up for that we will double the amount of black tea and triple the about of herb tea leaves we use when brewing.


  • 2 teaspoons of black or flavor black tea for every 6-8 ounces of water (double the amount you uses for hot tea) - if making an all herb or herb and fruit tea, then use 3 teaspoons for 6 to 8 ounces of water. 
  • a tea pot or heat resistant glass container
  • a glass or plastic picture for serving
  • ice


  1. Heat the water (Boiling for Black Tea, just before it boils for herb and fruit teas)
  2. Place the tea in bottom of the teapot
  3. Pour water over the leaves and steep (approx. 4 minutes for black tea, 10 to 15 for herb teas)
  4. While the tea is steeping, fill the pitcher to the top with ice
  5. Strain the tea over the ice and serve in glasses with more ice.
  6. If you are making ahead, pour the warm tea over half a pitcher of ice and place in the refrigerator.  When ready to serve pour over additional ice to get the right, strength.


Hot brewed iced tea extracts the most flavors giving you the best tasting iced tea possible. It is also easy to make and takes no time at all before you are sipping a chilled glass of delicious iced tea.

Of the 26 varieties of tea made by the Backyard Patch there are a few I always recommend for making summertime iced tea.  My favorite is Calming Spirit, with a hint of mint you get a cool and refreshing taste over ice.  For a relaxing tea I recommend Rest Easy and Elmhurst Garden Walk teas, the first is minty the second is more lemony.  remember Garden Walk tea is only available in the summer and features a floral bouquet of flavors, like lavender, calendula, chamomile and lemon verbena.  For those who enjoy black tea, try the Garden Gait Tea.  This blend was made for the Lisle Women's Club garden walk and is a wonderful mix of hibiscus, lemon verbena blackberry leaf and black tea for a rich bright flavor you can enjoy on a hot day.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Patio Gardens - Gardening in Small Spaces

I was tooling around Etsy again looking for accessories and garden ideas and I came across some great custom made garden spaces you can pick up there. 

The first was this recycled garden on a shutter that I just loved.  Living in an apartment, I do not get to look outside at my lush garden which is 11 miles from my home, so what to do on my patio to bring home the wonder of my larger garden always plagues me.  Especially because I want it to be more original that it sometimes is.  But look -- you can get this perfect decorative garden that you can hang on any wall or patio, is it not a joy?
The maker is Jennifer Stevenson of New Jersey.  Her shop on Etsy: Elizabeth Kate Décor is named after her two daughters.  The shop is somewhat new, but I just loved the items she has and this planter was intriguing.
She credits her daughters for the inspiration for her clever items and I can imagine the fun they must have when you design a sign that states” The grass is greener where you water!”

Another item I found while on my quest is this wood pallet garden.  I have wanted to make a wood pallet into a garden space because it is the perfect display for a porch like mine, but the husband is not too keen on it.  Maybe I should show him this picture and explain someone else will do most of the work!
This is from a shop called Woodposte and Rick is the maker in Little Rock, Arkansas.  His shop is new also, opening just in April of this year. He has some unique wood items and this was among them.  He explains that he didn't grow up working with wood but his grandfather did and is still going. Rick says he has come to enjoy it and all the power tools that come with the hobby. The shop name comes from a unique place as well, it is crafted by combining family names. Wood is his grandfather, father, and older brother's middle name while Poste is the middle name of his father-in-law.

His comment about how he ended up working in wood products in charming. “I guess I should have seen it coming since I ran track like my grandfather, had the same college major as my grandfather, and enjoy the same career my grandfather enjoyed. He's a good man.”

And how can you go wrong with this mini herb emporium by your home?
If what you are looking for is the plants already gathered together for you to grow, I found that too!
This perfect little garden package comes with six live plants.  This herb garden in a box includes your choice of 6 plants from an extensive list that includes Garlic Chive, Onion Chive, Oregano, Parsley, thyme, tarragon, basil, spearmint, marjoram, tarragon, winter savory, rosemary, lemon thyme, sage, and peppermint.  She promises to give recipes, or you can stop back here to get a few too!
The name of the shop is Sosucculent.  With herbs I can always agree!  Gayle has an older shop, opened back in 2009 and a great background in gardening and plants.
According to Gayle, she grew up in a family greenhouse and floral design business in Cleveland, Ohio.  Being from Northeastern Ohio myself I could not resist someone who knew Cleveland was once known as the Greenhouse Capital of the World.   A graduate of Ohio State University for Nursery and Landscape Management, she eventually started an Herb Farm. It was later that she discovered cold hardy succulents and gave up as much of the herbs to enjoy her new found friend.  I will not hold that against her because she still has herbie things for me to enjoy.  The store is populated with many succulents in some of the most original containers and arrangements I have seen.  A true joy to look at.

I hope you have enjoyed this exploration of herb gardens you can have at home and that you will visit these shops and stop back here for recipes and ideas once you have your garden started!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Herb of the Week - Lemon Verbena

I know that I have done lemon verbena (my favorite herb) before, but recently I learned something new about my plants.

Every year I bring my Lemon Verbena indoors because it cannot winter over in the ground in Illinois most winters, although this past winter might have been an exception.  Just before I was ready to take them all back outside this spring, the lemon verbena plantss got a brown spot illness.

I did the regular soap and water treatment, washing the leaves and removing the heavily infected ones and getting it a newer sunnier place to sit with a fertilizer treatment to give it some strength strength to fight back.  The one plant you see here has done very well and once it got outside the new leaves are quickly replacing the old.

The other plant did not, it dropped all its leaves once I repotted it and put it outside.  It looked like I planted a dead stick.  It turned hot so I was not in the mood to drag out the potting tools and remove it from the pot and replace it so I just left it on the porch floor.  For whatever reason I watered it while watering everything else and look what happened.

My lemon verbena I thought was dead, sprouted new leaves.  I have now moved it to a sunny spot and water it each day I will see how it does the rest of the season.  I should not be surprised it did this, I tell people all the time to be ready for lemon verbena to drop its leaves in the fall because it is deciduous, I just never expected it to do the same thing in the spring!  If you water it through winter, even if it does drop all the leaves it will come back in February, but I have never had it do this before.  I love that my herbs still thrill and astound me with their activities!

These two with the one I bought at the herb sale means I have three plants this year on the patio and will need to make many things with lemon verbena, so I searched through my recipes and found these I am planning on trying soon.


Lemon verbena and Raspberry Muffins

A secret to a sparkling flavor in these delicately crumbed muffins is to craft a lemon sugar with lemon zest and lemon verbena.  You can make them ahead by the large batch, then wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in a zip seal bag you have pushed extra air out of.  When you want one, unwrap, place in a paper towel and microwave for 30 to 60 seconds.  You can keep them up to a month this way.

1 lemon
12 to24 fresh lemon verbena leaves
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup nonfat buttermilk (or use 1 cup milk with 1 Tbls lemon juice)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) raspberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat 12 large (1/2-cup) muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper liners. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemon in long strips. Combine the zest, lemon verbena leaves and sugar in a food processor; pulse until the zest and leaves are very finely chopped into the sugar. Add buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla and pulse until blended. Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk mixture and fold until almost blended. Gently fold in raspberries. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake the muffins until the edges and tops are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve warm.

Lemon Verbena and Pinapple Sorbet

3 to 4 fresh lemon verbena leaves, partially cut up
1 can frozen pineapple juice concentrate, thawed but still cold
2½ cups cold water (or about 2 juice cans of water)

In blender, place the lemon verbena leaves, pineapple juice concentrate and 1 cup of the cold water.  Blend well until the leaves are completely pulverized. Add the remaining water and pour the mixture into a hand-cranked or electric sorbet mixer. Freeze until firm. Serve in previously frozen bowls. (I freeze the spoons, as well.) The sorbet stays firmer that way when serving it on a warm summer day.
Lemon Verbena Chicken Salad

3 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1  tablespoon olive oil
1/2  cup  mayonnaise
1/4  cup chopped lemon verbena leaves
1  teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 Tbls. Fresh lemon juice
2 sliced scallions
2  sliced celery stalks
kosher salt and black pepper
1  pound watercress, thick stems removed

Heat oven to 400° F. Rub the chicken breasts with oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until cooked through, 14 to 16 minutes; let cool, then shred. In a medium bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lemon verbena, and lemon zest and juice. Fold in the chicken, scallions, and celery; season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Serve over the watercress.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How Tuesday - Making Citrus Bath Salts

These are the bath salts I made for the Chesapeake MS Challenge Walk that was held June 9 in Maryland.  I love doing what I can for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, unlike breast cancer which does not run in my family, MS seems to be a disease that has affected my family more than once.  As a result is it what I call my "charity of choice."  So when I was asked to do bath salts on a budget, this is what I crafted as a significant donation.
 Read to the bottom for a special giveaway I have planned for these extra salts.
How to - Make Citrus Bath Salts
The salts are not too hard to make.  You just need to let the steps “marinate” for a while to get a perfect batch.

First I put the Epsom salts in the bowl and colored them with food coloring.  I used red and yellow together by dropping first the yellow then the red in exactly the same spots then stirring briskly.  I use a pair of small plastic salad or serving tongs to do the mixing.  This seems weird but it is because you have to break up the clumps when you make salts like this.  The jaws of the tongs can get in and do that.
Once colored I let the salts sit for 24 hours to really absorb the color.  You want to make them a bit darker than your finished product so that when you add the other salts you will not dilute the color too much.
Then I measure in the sea salt and corn starch.  I use those in this recipe to keep the salts from being overly drying to skin.  Cornstarch soothes dry itchy skin and sea salt adds minerals and nutrients.

Once these are thoroughly mixed in then I measure in the baking soda, but before I stir the baking soda in I add the essential oil.  In this case a combination of grapefruit and sweet orange oil to go with the color.  I should mention that the MS Society chose the color as that was the shade for the logo they were using this year.  I enjoyed using a color I never had before in bath salts.
I let the essential oil soak into the baking soda for at least 30 minutes before I stir it in, being sure to break up the clumps that have formed.  Baking soda holds scent better than any other salt.  (That is why you put it in the refrigerator to clear away odors!)  By adding the essential oil to the baking soda you get the best scent retention and let me tell you these were exquisite.

Then all I had to do was bag up 200 of them.  The boxes were totally full when I shipped them which means the extra I just naturally create when making big batches like this could not be passed on to the MS Society. 

The Giveaway
I am going to give the 10 extra packages of Bathsalts the last batch produced to my viewers here.  If you post a comment about why you like, make, enjoy or want to try bath salts I will place you in a drawing and at the end of the day on Saturday June 30, 2012. I will draw out 10 names and mail off a package of these orange scented bath salts to you!  And if you can get someone to follow the blog or friend us on facebook I will enter your name again for each friend or follower you encourage.  Just post here the names so I can verify you recommended them.
How do we use these bath salts?  Let’s have some fun:  Of course you can dissolve them in your bath water, only 1 Tbls. per bath is needed for a good soak.  Use ½ Tbls. for a foot soak.  Now if you are a shower only person you can still enjoy the salts as a body scrub (just not on the face.)  Place a Tablespoon in the center of a wash cloth and wet it well.  Use the cloth on legs, arms, elbows, heels and any other rough patches to increase exfoliation.
The Recipe:
3/4 cup Epsom Salts
1 Tbls. sea salt
1 Tbls. Cornstarch
3 Tbls. Baking Soda
20 to 30 drops 100% essential oil (I used 20 grapefruit and 10 orange)
Blend together and keep in a tightly sealed jar.

Remember that we have many types of bath salts at the Backyard Patch.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Recipe for this weekend - Get your veggies

I love carrots.  I can eat them raw.   I can eat them cooked.  I can eat them glazed.  I could write a book -- Dr. Suss would be proud!

Recently someone I know pinned a photo on Pinterest showing some Veggie Fries.  I decided to try the recipe and make some of my own to add to my carrot repertoire.  You can also make this with zucchini, summer squash, and root vegetables like beets, turnips and rutabaga.

Veggie Fries

Carrots or other vegetables cut in 3 inch sticks
Olive oil (spray or brush)
     I used Backyard Patch Soup and Salad Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking pan with parchment or wax paper.  Spray or bush on a light layer of olive oil onto the paper.  Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to a wide bowl and add 1 to 2 teaspoons of Soup & Salad Seasoning.  If you do not have Soup and Salad seasoning, you can add salt and pepper, paprika, hot pepper flakes, minced garlic, ground sage, thyme or rosemary or just about any other combination of herbs you think you will enjoy Our Potato Topper is great with roasted veggies like this.  Toss the vegetable sticks in the herbed oil and then spread in a single layer on your prepared baking pan.  Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, tossing about half way through.  You will know they are done when they are golden and slightly brown at the edges.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How Tuesday - Let's Make Lemon Herbal Cooking Oil

This is a bit late, but my heart is in the right place.  The garden is dragging me away from the computer these days.  I have to garden when the temps and the rain are just right.  It rained all day the other day so I could sit down and get caught up on blog posts!  

When I taught the class out in Vernon Hills on cooking with herbs I discussed making herbal oils.  My first rule with them is do not believe any book you see that says make them and store them for longer than a week.  Unless you can pasteurize, it is just too dangerous to consume an herbal oil older than that.  However, an herbal oil is a great gentle way to bring the flavor of herbs without the bulk of herbs into a dish or a dressing.  And since it is salad season, I thought making Lemon Herb Oil would be a great How To.

Lemon Oil is also great to cook with and you can infuse the oil overnight and use it for a couple of weeks (keeping it in the refrigerator) before needing a new batch.  Chas and I enjoyed the batch I made for the lecture on chicken, salad, fish and even steak.  We tried the Sage oil with the recipe I included at the end here, but I recommend just about any flavored oil will help you make amazing mashed potatoes.

Making Lemon Cooking Oil


2 Tbls. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lime zest
1 handful of lemon herbs (lemon verbena, lemon basil, lemon thyme, lemon balm or a combination is perfect)
   + I used lemon verbena, lemon thyme and lemon balm.  The Lemon Basil was still too young when I did this in early May.


1. Wash and air dry the herbs, then place them in a glass jar with a tight fitting plastic lid.

2. Squeeze the lemon juice.  You notice that I cut the lemon peel (zest) off before I juiced it, much easier that way.

I grated the lime and peeled the lemon, it was more about after grating the lime I was too lazy to grate the lemon too!

3. Bruise the herbs in the jar lightly to release the essential oils.

4. Add the lemon juice and shake the jar to coat all the herbs with the juice.

5. Add one to 2 cups of good quality extra virgin olive oil.  Remember you need a good quality base to make a good finished product when it comes to cooking oils.

6. Make sure all the herbs are under the oil and place the jar in the refrigerator overnight.

By the next day it is ready to cook with and can be used to make dressings, marinades and sauces.  

Remember that the juice raises the water content, which can lead to spoiling, so keep it refrigerated when not being used and try to use it up in two weeks.  If you do not use all of it in that time, please discard it and make a new batch.  No need to get botulism!
Lemon Herb Oil

2 Tbls. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lime zest
1 handful of lemon herbs (lemon verbena, lemon basil, lemon thyme, lemon balm or a combination is perfect)

Place herbs and zest in jar and bruise the herbs lightly.  Add lemon juice and shake to spread it throughout the herbs.  Add 1 to 2 cups of olive oil over the herbs until they are covered.  Place in the refrigerator and meld overnight.  By the next day you are ready to cook with it.  Because of the juice the water content is higher so do not keep this oil longer than 2 weeks and always in the refrigerator.

Recipe to Try!
Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
1 teaspoon anise seed, rosemary leaves, dried sage, or minced garlic
2 lbs. new potatoes, peeled
½ cup flavored olive oil
salt & pepper

Put seed, rosemary, sage or garlic in heavy skillet over medium heat, toast for 4 minutes. Grind with a mortar and pestle. In a large sauce pan, combine 2 quarts of water with a tablespoon of salt.  Add potatoes and cook, covered 20 to 25 minutes until tender.  Drain. Run potatoes through a food mill or ricer.  Stir in oil, toasted herbs, salt and pepper.  Serve with steaks or chicken filets.  If you like a lumpier potato mash, just use a regular masher instead of ricer.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Recipe for this weekend - Remoulade Sauce

I just had another article published in the Essential Herbal Magazine.  The July/August issue is due out any day now, so you could subscribe now and get it as your first issue!

For my article this time I chose to feature herb sauces.  When I wrote the article I found a number of recipes for sauces but had to narrow it down to the proper size for the article.  In the process a couple recipes had to be eliminated.  But there was one that was difficult to eliminate.  Since I liked it so much, I decided to share it here:

Remoulade Sauce

This is a mayonnaise-based sauce that is heavy on the herbs, not the pickles.

3 large egg yolks
3 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 few dashes of Tabasco or other hot sauce
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 Tbls. chopped tarragon
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
3 anchovy-filets, rinsed and finely chopped (soak them for 30 minutes if you buy the salt-packed kind)
2 Tbls. capers (rinsed and chopped (soak for 15 minutes of you get the salt-packed kind)

Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, Tabasco, and salt in a food processor.  With the motor running, pour in the olive oil is a slow steady stream.  When all the oil is added, the sauce should be thick.

Scrape into a mixing bowl and stir int he remaining ingredients.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for no more than 2 days.  If you do not like anchovies, you can leave them out, but I think the capers are a wonderful flavor in this and should not be avoided.

If you are grilling this weekend, try it on burgers or steak.  I know it is great on fish too!

According to Wikipedia these are a few ways you can use the sauce:
  • In Iceland, remoulade (remolaði) is a condiment commonly served on hot dogs, together with mustard, ketchup, raw and roasted onions.
  • In Louisiana Creole cooking, remoulade often contains paprika and tends to appear more reddish or pink, not yellowish as in other areas.
  • In the U.S., it is typically served with chilled beef tenderloin, sliced thinly, as hors d'oeuvre.
  • In the Netherlands it is often served with fried fish.
  • In Germany its main use is with fried fish and as an ingredient of potato salads.

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