Saturday, August 31, 2013

Weekend recipe - Garlic & Dill Salad Dressing

The summer season is not yet over, but this recipe can carry you into the fall and let you relive the summer's flavors!

Garlic & Dill Salad Dressing

½ cup olive oil (or canola oil)
2 ½ Tbls. tarragon vinegar
2 Tbls. snipped fresh dill (or ½ tsp. dried)
1 ½ Tbls. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white or black pepper

Place all ingredients in a jar with tight-fitting lid; cover and shake.  Let stand at least 30 minutes.  Shake again before serving.

This dressing is quick and easy to make even in the winter.  Dill always provides a bright summery flavor that will lift your spirits in the gloomy weather of the fall rainy season.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Art in the Herb Garden

Some days I go to the garden intent on photographing something I or my plants are doing.  Other days I am documenting the garden as it moves through seasons or a plant thought its life cycle.  And sometimes I just take pictures for the sake of taking pictures.  I do not have the most presition camera.  I am working onit, but darn if I spend my earnings on somthing to read or something to grow and neverhave enough left to upgrade my camera.

However, sometimes my camera surprises me and gives me a great image.  Today was one of those days.  I was documenting seeds for an upcoming blog on seed gathering.  While I was doing this I realized the zinnias and the black eyed susan's were still blooming so I snapped a few images.

I thought you might like to see them....

Coneflower with unique red kissed petals

End of season Nasturtiums still have it!


Purple Zinnia

Dew on the leaves
This coneflower even has a cucumber beetle. 
 Back to business tomorrow maybe!  Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Herbed Zucchini - Weekend recipe

Still have a zucchini surplus?  Does your famer’s market have a deal on them?  Try this recipe!

Herbed Zucchini

2 small zucchini
1 sweet red pepper sliced
1 Tbls. olive oil
1 Tbls. butter (optional)
1 Tbls. fresh minced herbs (basil, oregano, savory, sage, thyme, or any mixture of fresh herbs that you have on hand)
1 shallot, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash zucchini cut off both ends. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, cut each half in half lengthwise. Keep cutting zucchini in half lengthwise, until you have what looks like long match sticks. Now cut the zucchini strips so it measures about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches long. Heat olive oil and butter in pan, toss in shallot and garlic. Sauté until tender. Add zucchini and sweet red pepper, sauté until just tender. Just before removing from pan, toss in fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.  Serves 6 to 8

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Stuffed Tomatoes in Tomato Season

This past week while driving someone was talking about cars at the Volo Auto Museum and explained that they had Disney characters from the movie Cars including Tow Mater.  Now I have seen the move Cars and love the characters in it, but for some reason without the visual, my brain went somewhere else entirely, like how clever it was to take a word kids would know and a color they love and make it a character they can like and learn from… Get the picture?  I think this time of year I have tomatoes on the brain.  The vines are brimming with fruit, the farmer’ Market is selling tomatoes at a lower price so more of them move out, and even the grocery store fruit is of a better quality.

Got an over abundance of tomatoes?!? Looking for a cool, light and refreshing side…or even a main dish dinner?!? Well, stuffed tomatoes are THE way to go!

Stuffed Tomatoes with Avocado Salad
   4 large tomatoes
   1 avocado, diced
   About 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
   1 jalapeno, finely chopped
   2 garlic cloves, crushed
   1/2 tsp ground cumin
   1 tsp lemon juice
   Salt and pepper to taste

Cut a cone around the stem bud, cutting out the center portion of the tomato. Scoop out the seeds. (So it won't be so "runny" when you fork into it.) In a mixing bowl, toss together the avocado, onion, jalapeno, crushed garlic, ground cumin and lemon juice. Season with a little salt and pepper.  Stuff the Avocado Salad into the Tomatoes.

Grilled Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes

  4 orange tomatoes (or you can use any cool heirloom tomato you find)
   1 15 oz. can sliced black olives
   1/2 cup goat cheese blended with 2 tsp. of Herbs de Provence Seasoning

Cut a cone around the stem bud, cutting out the center portion of the tomato. Scoop out the seeds. In a mixing bowl, fork the Herbs De Prevence into the goat cheese until well incorporated,  then toss the black olive slices with the goat cheese and stuff into the awaiting tomatoes. Place the stuffed tomatoes on a hot grill and grill for about 5-8 minutes, or until goat cheese gets oozy…and the tomato skin begins to wrinkle.

If these two recipes don’t make you hungry, try any of these suggestions for a stuffing materials:
Tuna Salad
Rosemary Chicken Salad
Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Calendula Salve - How Tuesday

A friend sent me an email with a simple calendula salve recipe .  Her instructions were:

“Macerate your whole flower tops in good quality EVOO. Just stuff a jar with flowers and then fill will oil to cover you plant material. Place for 6-8 weeks in a sunny window. Strain out your plant material and add some beeswax about 1-4 Tbls. to your strained oil. Gently heat to melt the beeswax and pour into containers. Easy simple calendula salve. Good for wrinkles too!
Thistledown Farm”

Now I know this is not the kind of detail I give on the blog so I worked out the details for you.

I made my calendula oil by harvesting the flower heads of my plants a few at a time. I started with about 5 of 6 flowers and poured 8 ounces of almond oil over top in a mason jar.  In future I would use grapeseed oil or coconut oil as almond can go rancid.

As weeks passed I added more flowers.  I chose those of the best quality that were at the peak of pretty.  I harvested them in the morning before the oils were evaporated from the petals.  

Some were yellow and some were orange as you can see it gives the oil a rusty color.

Once I was happy with the quality of the oil (about 8 to 10 weeks, I think.) 

I strained it and placed it in the top of my double boiler.

I then grated about 6 ounces of bees wax.  Well I should be honest I cut up about 3 ounces and grated about 3 ounces, because I knew I would need at least 3 ounces to make the salve.  I could start with the large chunks and add the grated to get the thickening I desired.

I added the grated wax a bit at a time to get the perfect consistency.  Once the beeswax was melted I let the mixture cool to see if it would create the solid that I wanted.  I ladled out a small amount into a cup and let it set up.

I found it to be the hardness I wanted, yet still soft and easy to spread om the skin.  I  then added this to the double boiler and remelted it, added just a bit more wax and poured it into containers.

I use this salve for myself.  It is great for my rosacea.  Calendula is a perfect herb for the Zodiac sign of Leo so I also include the salve in the Zodiac Box for Leo.

Here is the final recipe:

Dozens of fresh calendula flowers free of bugs and blemishes

8 oz. almond or olive oil

4 ounces beeswax

Steep the flowers (all at once or over time) in the oil for 4 to 8 weeks.  Once the oil is well infused with the flowers, strain it to remove the flower particulates.  Grate the beeswax.  Place the oil in the top of a double boiler and simmer (do not boil) of the heated water adding the grated beeswax and stirring until it is melted.  Use about 4 to 6 ounces of beeswax per 8 ounces of oil.  Once the wax is all melted remove the boiler top form the water and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.  check the mixture for consistency and texture.  Be aware salves are subject to humidity and other environmental conditions so you will need to adjust the amount of beeswax accordingly.  If you are satisfied with the texture return the double boiler to the water and allow it to remelt, then while warm pour into containers. All to cool completely before putting a cover on the containers.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Zucchini Spice Bread - Weekend recipe

What do you do with all the Zucchini you start having this time of year?  Well I have a few recipes you can try.  We will start with a traditional Zucchini Bread with a spicy twist.

Zucchini Spice Bread

Makes 1 loaf
1/2 cup canola oil, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces), coarsely grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

1. Heat oven to 350° F. Oil an 8V2-by-4V2-inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the
flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, light brown and granulated sugars, eggs, and vanilla; mix
in the zucchini. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not overmix).
3. Spread the batter In the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes
out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Harvest time How Tuesday- Air Drying Herbs

Herbs are tremendously useful in so many ways. So it is late summer now, your herb garden has been planted, watered, weeded, and you’ve watched the plants grow and thrive. Now it’s time to learn how to use those wonderful herbs and it requires only a little bit of work. The first step in using the results of your garden is to harvest them.

Harvesting an herb does not mean removing the entire plant, rather cutting or rimming 2/3 to 3/4 of the plants height. An herb’s essential oils can be dispersed by the wind and the heat, and on extremely wet days, fewer oils are produced by the plants. The best time to harvest your herbs is during mid to late summer, on a calm and dry morning. Harvest them right before the flowers open in the morning and just after the dew has dried from the leaves.  Yes i did say 2/3 to 3/4 they will grow back, I promise and they will be happier if you cut them often instead of waiting until October.

Using fresh herbs right out of your garden is a delight. Make sure to clean the herbs before using them fresh in recipes. To clean fresh herbs, fill a bowl with cool water and place the herbs in the bowl. For a larger quantity, use the cleaned kitchen sink. Add about two tablespoons of salt to the water. Any insects present on the herbs will be driven away by the salt in the water, without damaging the plant. Rinse carefully and allow them to air dry.  You can speed up this drying by  placing the herbs in a salad spinner.

Of course, herbs don’t have to be used at the time they are picked. They can be preserved for later use in three ways by: drying, freezing, or preserving them in salt, butter or vinegar.

I have posted ways to make and use butters and vinegar before, so I will let you look at those posts:

I will talk about some other drying methods in the coming weeks as well, but I thought I would start with the easiest -- air drying.  And I have some great photos from this year’s harvesting. This is a very simple way to preserve herbs. It works best with sturdy herbs like sage, lavender, thyme, savory, mints, rosemary and oregano.

Pick herbs in the morning, after dew has dried, but before the heat of the day sets in. Rinse them and pat them dry. Then, try one of these air-drying methods, all of which take about two to three weeks:

  • Remove leaves from the bottom of the stem, and bunch four to six stems together loosely. Bundle with a rubber band or string and hang them, upside down, out of direct sunlight for two to three weeks.
  • Spread the herbs out on a loosely on a window screen or woven basket tray and dry them flat.

  • Put herbs into brown paper bags and loosely tie or fold over the top.  This is especially good for thyme and chives.
When the herbs crumble to the touch, you can pack the leaves into jars or seal them in plastic bags. Be careful not to crush them yet. Store them whole so that they’ll keep more of their flavorful oils. Keep them from direct sunlight so they’ll maintain their flavor for several months.

Steps to air drying:

Trim the stems until all the herbs in a bundle are about the same length. Place 4 to 6 stems together and bundle with a rubber band.  Some people like string, but since the stems shrink during the drying process, I am more fond of rubber bands which will contract and keep the herbs off the floor.

fresh savory and sage ready to be hung

I also like the fact that the last loop of the band can be placed over the hanging bar and back over the stems to serve as a hanger.  And when I want to remove the herbs.  I just tug on the bundle and the rubber band snaps off the hanging rod.
Rubber band looped over rod
 Place the herbs in a dry dark area out of direct sunlight. and give them 48 hours to two weeks to dry.
Quick and easy drying rack using paper tube wire hangers

Once the herbs pass the "crumble test," they are done and can be stored until you are ready to use them in a sealed jar or container.  I place bundles whole in glass jars or zip seal bags until i am ready to strip the stems into my still room jars for use in blends.
Savory crumbling perfectly

Sage perfectly dry
When I dry sage, I like the use the leaves with the best color to make rubbed sage.  So I will sort through the leave and separate out the leaves I like.  I crumble them in my hand to a coarse consistency.

Then I place them on a paper towel and using the balls of my fingers rub in gentle circles until I create a clumping powder.  

There are those who run sage leaves in a blender or grinder to make rubbed sage, but I think this lets too much essential oil escape and I prefer the hand method.  It does not take any longer and you have no extra cleanup!
rubbed sage ready for bottling

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