Thursday, December 24, 2015

Twelve Days of Christmas

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me.  What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas? 

This is what I found out!

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember. 

  1.  The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
  2. Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
  3. Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
  4. The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  5. The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
  6. The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
  7. Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
  8. The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
  9. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love,Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
  10. The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
  11. The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
  12. The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Monthly Bath Blend - Cinnful MIlk Bath

Salts can be drying in the winter, so I like to use blends that have no salt in the tub from time to time.  This blend is made with Backyard Patch Cinnful Dessert Blend.

Milk, especially powdered milk, is great for soothing the skin and making it silky soft.  Coupled with cornstarch and you have a rich bath that will cool down the winter burn and aid skin healing.  Add to that the lovely seasonal scent of cinnamon and you have a real treat.

Cinnfull Milk Bath

1 cup powdered milk
1 cup baking soda
3 Tbls. cornstarch
2 Tbls. cream of tartar
1 1/2 Tbls. BYP Cinnfull Dessert Blend

Combine all the ingredients together in a tightly lidded jar and shake vigorously.  Once they are combined scoop a couple of tablespoons into a warm bath and enjoy the scent.  If you want to avoid a brown ring (cinnamon does not dissolve) place the mixture in a coffee filter and bind with a rubber band before placing in the tub.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Handmade gifts are great for these People

  • Delivery Person - Whether you have a regular pizza delivery person, or a grocery store delivery service, you'll be able to have a gift for them.
  • Neighbors - New people moving into your neighborhood, or moving out. Do you have a neighbor that's struggling financially, they'll never know your trying to help.  I have new neighbors so I will use it to introduce myself.
  • Parents - My parents get harder to buy for every year, so I make them gifts in a jar whenever I can't think of anything else.
  • Boss and Co-Workers -How about that office party or gift exchange with co-workers, instead of giving a gift within the set price range give a gift that can be used. We do an exchange at the Garden Club and I love to give a handmade edible as a gift.
  • Child's Teacher - Christmas can be an expensive month for most of us, and when your child throws in "mom I want to give my teacher a gift", it can sure add up especially if you have more than one child.
  • Landlord - If you have good landlords then why not give them a gift at Christmas time, gifts in a jar cost hardly anything to make except your time.
  • Mail Carrier - There are people that give money or gift cards to their postman/women, why not be a little different.
  • Grandparents - With today's economy it's hard for the elderly to make ends meet, give a little help and make them a gift that they'll be able to use and benefit from.
  • Sister - Maybe you’re not as close to your sister as you'd like or maybe you have no idea what to get her. I have made gifts in a jar not only for my sister but for my husband’s brothers and sisters-in-law as well.

So now that I have given you list of recipients you have several choices. You can give them one of the Backyard Patch Items in a Jar – all of which are available here:

Stacking Jar with seasonings
Stacking Jar with single Herbs

Or you can make one of these:

Spiral Pasta Soup in a Jar

2 Tbls. dried basil
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup dried onions
4 chicken bouillon cubes
3/4 cup dried tortellini
Fill the rest of the jar with the tri-colored spiral pasta.

Cover the top of the jar with a circle of fabric held in place with a rubber band. Cover the rubber band with a twist of raffia or a ribbon and small bow. Tie on the instructions.

1 jar spiral soup mix
8 cups water
2 cups crushed or diced tomatoes

Bring water and tomatoes to a boil in a large soup pot.  Add the spiral soup mix and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes, or until pasta is tender.

Icebox pickles

4 cups sugar
4 cups vinegar
1 ½ tsp. turmeric
1 ½ tsp. celery seed
1 ½ tsp. mustard seed
1 Tbls. pickling salt

Slice cucumbers to fill a gallon jar or 4 quart jars.  Combine remaining ingredients and add to jar(s).  Keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks before eating.  Keeps in the refrigerator for 3 months.

Note: for a more interesting flare, try 2 Tbls. BackyardPatch pickling spice instead of turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed.

Spiced Lemon Tea Mix

½ cup lemon herbs (lemon thyme, lemon balm, lemon verbena)
1 Tbls. lemon peel
1 Tbls. ginger
2 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. cloves

Blend all ingredients together. Store in a sealed jar.

To use: add 1 to 2 tsp. per cup of boiling water.

Citrus Bath Salts

2 Cups Epsom Salts
1 Cup Baking Soda
 Fresh Grated Zest from 1 Orange or Lemon
20 drops of citrus essential oil (you can use all lemon or lemon verbena, but a mixture with tangerine, orange and grapefruit with the lemon is more stimulating).

Combine Epsom Salts and Baking Soda in a bowl.  Grate zest of orange or lemon and add to bowl. Stir ingredients together. Slowly add in about 20 drops of essential oil one drop at a time and stir until well incorporated.  

Spoon the citrus bath salts into a clean empty jar and seal. Let your bath salts sit for a day or two to get infused with the scent of the oil. If giving as a gift, embellish with a ribbon, tag or whatever you like.

To use: add one to two Tablespoons to the bath while running.  You can also use the salts as a body scrub in the shower, but watch for slipper floors.

Simmer Jar Gifts

Directions: Use a pint (2 cup) jar, container, or pot to combine scent waters. Add ingredients to container, cover with water, and choose from these options:
  --simmer on stove top, topping off with more water as it evaporates
  --add heated mixture to a slow cooker, fondue pot, or something similar that will keep mixture heated. Preheat waters to a boil (in microwave or on stove top). As water evaporates, always top it off with HOT water to keep the temperature as high as possible. Higher heat = more fragrance.

1. Orange, Cinnamon & Spice. 1 orange, 2 cinnamon sticks (or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon), 1/2 tablespoon whole cloves (or 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves), 1/2 tablespoon whole allspice (or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice), 1 anise star (optional)
2. Lemon, Rosemary & Vanilla. 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, 2 lemons, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
3. Lime, Thyme, Mint & Vanilla. 3 limes, 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, 1/2 teaspoon mint extract, 1 teaspoon vanilla.
4. Orange, Ginger, & Almond. 1 orange (or peel from 2 oranges), one 4" finger of ginger, sliced (or 1 tsp ground ginger), 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.
5. Pine, Bay Leaves, & Nutmeg. Handful of pine twigs or needles, 4 bay leaves, 1 whole nutmeg, outer layer grated into mixture.

Scented waters may be refrigerated between uses. Reuse for 2-3 days, or as long as they still have a pleasant fragrance.

To give as gift, pack ingredients into 1 pint Mason jar and place a tag on them with instructions for use.  Keep them in your refrigerator until ready to gift and remind receiver to do the same.

To USE: Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Simmer in pan on stove top, or heat and add to slow cooker set on low; add more water as it evaporates.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Weekend Recipe Early - Baked Herb Feta

You can make this as an appetizer before the meal on Thanksgiving Day - Something Warm and Warming.

Baked Herb Feta

2- 6 ounce packages of feta
1 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 180C or 350F degrees. Place the feta on a 12 inches square of foil. Mix together the freshly chopped herbs and press on to the sides of the feta. Drizzle with the oil and season to taste with cracked black pepper. Gently fold the sides and ends of the foil over to make a parcel. Place on a baking tray and bake for 10 -15 minutes until the feta is soft. Drain any excess liquid before serving and serve either hot or cold chopped in salads, with bread or as part of a cheese platter

Can also be made with 1 ½ Tbls BYP Italian Seasoning or Grilled Meat Rub instead of the fresh herbs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How to make Stuffing

1. Cook vegetables, fruits, herbs and/or meat in butter, then add broth.
2. Toss with beaten eggs and cubed bread.
3. Transfer to a buttered baking dish and dot with butter or drippings. Bake, covered, at 375 degrees F, 30 minutes; uncover and bake until golden, about 30 more minutes (or cook the cooled stuffing in the turkey).

Here are two variations on that theme that you might like to try this year.

Cranberry-Apple Stuffing
Melt 1 stick butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 chopped apples and 1 cup dried cranberries with 2 cups each diced onions and celery and 1 tablespoon each minced sage and thyme; add salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes. Add 3 cups turkey or chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Beat 2 eggs with 1/4 cup chopped parsley in a large bowl; add 16 cups cubed stale white bread, then pour in the vegetable-broth mixture and toss. Transfer to a buttered baking dish and dot with butter. Cover and bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees F; uncover and bake until golden, 30 more minutes. (Or stuff in your turkey and bake.)

Bourbon-Pecan Stuffing

Melt 1 stick butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 cups each diced onions and celery and 1 tablespoon each minced sage and thyme; add salt and pepper and cook 3 minutes. Add 2 chopped pears, 1 cup chopped pecans and 1/2 cup bourbon to the cooked vegetables and cook another 2 minutes. Add 3 cups turkey or chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Beat 2 eggs with 1/4 cup chopped parsley in a large bowl; add 16 cups cubed stale white bread, then pour in the vegetable-broth mixture and toss. Transfer to a buttered baking dish and dot with butter. Cover and bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees F; uncover and bake until golden, 30 more minutes. (Or stuff in your turkey and bake.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Herbs

As I do every year at this time, I was looking for new recipes to try for Thanksgiving.  We are entertaining this year and I wanted to do a few new recipes.  My husband however, had other plans.  He said we would be doing traditional and that would not include doing something we have not done in the past.  So no brine for my turkey this year, even though I think it would be a great thing to try.  We will instead do a traditional butter, seasoned with herbs, pressed under the skin. It is not like that will be bad!

Here is the buttered turkey we did a couple years ago.  We blended 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter with 2 Tbls. BYP Poultry Seasoning.

Have you ever wondered why we have a taste for certain flavors at different times of the
year? For example, why do we look for foods like pot roast, baked turkey or roasted ham in winter? Why do foods like spicy chili, corned beef and cabbage, beef stew or chicken pot pie not appeal to us in the summer? The answer is in the need of the body for warmth or cooling and the inherent properties of the herbs to provide this warming and cooling.

In warm weather we crave foods and flavors that help cool us. In winter, our cravings turn to foods that warm us, and give us more fat, a bit like a bear before hibernating.  This may be why pumpkin pie is only a winter food.  There is the issue that pumpkins aren't ready to eat until cool weather, but the spices we traditionally use for pie making - cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg - are all warming herbs. In summer, those spices would make us feel hot and clammy. They're not spices that cause sweating (and thus cooling) like hot peppers do. So in winter, spice cake, pumpkin pie spices, spicy Indian chai tea is what our bodies crave. It's the way our bodies adjust to the changing seasons.

savory - 2015 herb of the year

The herbs considered by many to be traditional holiday seasonings include rosemary, thyme, savory and sage. Not surprisingly, those are all warming herbs, seasonings that not only give us  a warm feeling spiritually, but also add a warming effect internally.

Winter warming herbs traditionally used with the heavy, fatty winter meats. Roast goose, a seriously greasy food, was traditionally seasoned with hyssop, winter savory, onion and thyme. Those herbs helped cut the greasy taste while still warming the meal.  The same holds true for pork. Back in the days when most people raised their own pigs and butchered privately, putting up pork loin, pork roast and bacon, each had more fat left on than you will find today. Historically, people used the fat for flavor and richness adding herbs that helped manage the fat and increased the warming. Rosemary, thyme, savory, sage and hot peppers went into sausage, seasoned roasts and was used in mixes for curing the meat.

Our tradition and tastes for the foods like dressing or stuffing, the seasoning in our gravy and on a roast turkey, all come down to us from those customs from the past that placed certain actions with needs of the body and the spirit.  Poultry seasoning, a must-have in the traditional dishes, is a mixture of sage, thyme, rosemary and savory. Even though today the modern turkey isn't as fatty, our yearnings for seasonings are still there.

So enjoy your winter season herbs and know that they are good for you and will help you enjoy the winter change of seasons.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Monthly Bath Blend - Sugar Cookie Bath Salts

There are few things that rival a nice warm bubble bath to reduce stress and find comfort. I have always advocated a nice soak in the tub and recently have found with the stress of moving, relocating the business and trying to keep up with orders, lectures and shows that I am in need of the healing powers of the bath.

I have also found that you can easily turn your tub into a spa like experience easily and cheaply.  This recipe is not only sweet smelling and fun, it makes a great gift that although it smells like a cookie has absolutely no calories!

The added benefit of these salts is they are full of magnesium sulphate.  This mineral reduces stress and eases muscle tension and inflammation.
Sugar Cookie Bath Salts 
6 cups Epsom salts
1 Tbls. canola oil
4 drops vanilla extract
1/2 cup unscented liquid soap
1 tsp cinnamon

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  I have cookie sheets that are never used for baking and I used those, but I still lined them.  Spread the salt on the sheet.  Place oil, liquid soap and vanilla in a mixing bowl.  Use your hands to mix thoroughly.  Pour the wet mixture over the salts. Sprinkle the cinnamon lightly over all the entire mixture. Allow to air-dry until the moisture is completely gone. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Keep in a cool and dry location.

To use: Add a scoop into a warm bath and breath deeply. (When gift giving be sure to include a scoop!)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cauldron of herbs for Halloween

When we think Halloween we think of witches.  Witches were well presented in Shakespeare’s Macbeth standing around a cauldron chanting this:

"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."

Did you know that the items mentioned were actually phrases to symbolize different herbs?  Although there are variations of the plants symbolized in the chant, here is a mostly accurate presentation of the more accepted versions:
Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
Eye of newt – mustard seed

Toe of frog – buttercup leaves

Wool of bat – holly or moss (I lean toward moss, what do you think?)

Tongue of dog – hounds tooth

Adder’s fork – violet

Blind worm’s sting - Knotweed
Lizard’s leg – Ivy

Howlet’s wing – garlic or maybe ginger (but garlic was more common)

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Weekend Recipe - Crock Pot Potato Soup

Easy Crock Pot Potato Soup 
Use this crockpot recipe to feed your hungry crew before or after a chilly evening of trick or treating.

1 30 oz. bag of frozen diced hash browns
1 32 oz box of chicken broth
1 10 oz. can of cream of chicken soup
1 tsp. savory or thyme
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. marjoram or oregano
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese (not fat free)
3 oz bacon bits 
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
salt and pepper to taste

Put the potatoes in the crockpot. Add in the chicken broth, cream of chicken soup and half of the bacon bits. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook on low for 8 hours or until potatoes are tender.  An hour before serving, cut the cream cheese into small cubes. Add the herbs to crock pot. Place the cubes in the crock pot. Mix a few times throughout the hour before serving. Once the cream cheese is completely mixed in, it's ready to serve.  Top with cheddar cheese and some additional bacon bits.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Monthly Bath Recipe - Chamomile Arthritis Bath Salts

I have developed arthritis in one hand and my hip.  It is early yet and may be able to be controlled with physical therapy, but it does have occasion to interrupt my sleep, so since we now have a nice deep bathtub, I decided to work on bath salts for soothing  joint pain. 

This blend for the bath tub is a combination of Chamomile and Lavender with Epsom salts.  All of which are great for reducing inflammation.

I generally use heat seal tea bags for blends like this, but I know not everyone has access to those, so if you don't you might want to try sewing these up in a used dryer sheet. Just fold the sheet in half and stitch it closed on the two of the three open sides, if you have a sewing machine you can make quick work of this.  Then fill it and hand stitch closed the last side.

Chamomile has strong anti-inflammatory benefits, making it a great addition to the warm bath along with relaxing Lavender. Epsom salts also have an anti-inflammatory effect for soaking.  Combine the added benefit of hot water to increase circulation  and you have a great therapeutic bath that eases joint pain and reduces sore muscles. Some slow, deep breathing is useful as well for relaxation.

Chamomile Arthritis Bath Salts
1 cup Epsom salts
1 cup sea salt
1 cup baking soda
3 Tablespoons Chamomile flowers
2 Tablespoons Lavender buds
12 drops chamomile essential oil
10 drops lavender essential oil

Use about 1 cup of mixture per sachet.

Your bath salt sachet gets tossed into the running hot bath and the fabric keeps the herbs from clogging the drain and making for messy clean up.  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back in the groove - Herbs for Fall

We have finally finished moving.  I have the internet at home now for the first time in over a decade. And it is a good thing, because I am not working outside the home as much as before.  I am going to be spending my time growing the herb business!  Something I have wanted to do, but have not had the hours needed for such a long time.

Harvest was good this year, as water has been plentiful and flooding not an issue for a change. Here a a few shots of the inside and outside of the new shed.  Now I have two sheds.  One at the property and one at home so I can harvest twice as much on a work day.  This will be good int he long run because the more you harvest the more grows back!!

Since it is harvesting season, I thought I would share a few harvesting and preserving links from posts past as I gear back up to posting more regularly.

Happy harvesting!

Here is a post on Drying the Harvest

This one is an overview of of the technique of hang drying.

This one details how to make herb pastes - the best way to preserve the fresh basil flavor.

Of you can just Freeze the herbs too!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Herb Scented Bath Jelly - Monthly Bath Blend

It is canning time and my thoughts turn to making herbal jellies.  You can check out my how to on Purple Basil Jelly here if your thoughts are going there too!  But in keeping with these thoughts I found a great recipe for a Bath Jelly.

Jellies can be made as a luxurious adult home spa goody or they can be packaged for the kids (set with toys inside). They make great gifts. They may not bubble up as nicely as some commercial products, but definitely a nice treat.

Herb Scented Bath Jelly

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup liquid soap (unscented–shower gel, hand soap or bubble bath)
Essential oil (choose a favorite, use just a few drops)

Bring 3/4 cup water to a boil, remove from heat then slowly dissolve the gelatin. Slowly pour in liquid soap and stir. Add essential oil, combine well.  Pour liquid into a clean clear jar or container, seal and refrigerate overnight.  Once it gels, it’s ready. This is not a long term recipe, it will keep for a few weeks if refrigerated and sealed airtight to avoid mold, but not much longer.

Optional: A couple drops of food coloring can be added when first mixing jelly to give it some color, don’t use too much though since it can stain tubs.

To Use:
Just put a spoonful under running tap for a bubbling treat (a tablespoon or two will do).
If you wish, skip the essential oil and use liquid soaps that have a fragrance.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Monthly Bath Recipe - Green Tea Bath Salts

Adding green tea to your bath salts can add a “zen” theme to your bath.  The antioxidant rich qualities of green tea will enhance your skin with anti-aging benefits. Add some quiet moments of meditation or reflection in the bath for a deeply relaxing experience!

Green tea can be purchased in bulk, or by tearing open tea bags. The Epsom salts can be obtained in the pharmacy section and sea salt from the cooking section of the store.

I used food coloring to color half of the salts green, though this part is optional.  To avoid having tea leaves stuck to the tub, I suggest placing the mixture in a bag or square of cloth before using.

You can find muslin bags at a health food or craft store, along with the jasmine essential oil. 

Green Tea Bath Salts  
1 cup Epsom salts
1 cup Sea salts
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup bulk green tea, or green tea powder
12-20 drops jasmine essential oil
5-8 drops green food coloring (optional)

Mix well and store in an airtight container. Keep in a cool, dark place, as sunlight can degrade essential oil.

Use 1 cup per bath. Add to running hot water to dissolve.  Sit back and become “one” with the bath!

An alternate way to prepare this bath is to brew 3 or 4 green tea bags in a pot. After 10-15 min, add directly to the bathwater, along with the salts and jasmine.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Breads for Lammas Day - Weekend Recipe

The Celts were great about celebrating seasonal and celestial time periods.  They marked many of these days with a celebration.  August first is the festival of Lughnasadh (Loo-na-sa) it was a celebration of the first loaves of bread from the new harvest.  To commemorate this festival I am sharing a couple of herb bread recipes.

Make them and enjoy your Loaf Mass!


Summer Herb Quick Bread
Adapted from "The Provence Cookbook" by Patricia Wells

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbls. imported French mustard
1/2 cup Swiss Gruyere cheese, grated
1/4 cup mint, minced
1/4 cup chives, minced
1/4 cup thyme, minced

Preheat the oven to 425F. In a food processor or blender, combine flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, yogurt and mustard; add cheese and herbs. Pour batter into bread pan and bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes or until firm and golden. Remove pan from oven and invert onto a cooling rack.  Makes 1 loaf or about 12 slices.  It will keep if stored in a zipseal bag at room temp for about 3 days.

Oregano Herb Standard Bread

1 pkg. Active dry yeast
5 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 ¾ cup milk
3 T. salad oil
2 T sugar
2 T minced Oregano
1 t. salt

Stir together the yeast and 2 cups of flour. Heat together all the remaining ingredients except the flour, until lukewarm. Add to flour-yeast mixture and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, followed by 3 minutes on high speed slowly stirring in flour as much as can with a spoon.

Now knead in the remaining flour to make a stiff dough for about 8-9 minutes. Shape into a ball and put in lightly greased pan/bowl, turning once to grease all sides of surface. Cover and let rise for approximately 1 hour or so until the dough mixture is approximately double in size. Punch down dough and divide in half, cover and let sit for 10 more minutes. Shape into 2 loaves and place into buttered 8 x 4" loaf pans. Cover and let rise another 45 minutes Bake in 350 F for 40- 45 minutes and cover with foil last few minutes to prevent over-browning.

Herb Sourdough Bread

If you have a sourdough starter this is a great herb bread you can craft with it.  Try it if you can get some.

1 cup sourdough culture
1 Tbls. butter
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp crushed dried basil
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough Proof
Pour the culture into a mixing bowl. Melt the butter and add the milk to warm. Stir in the salt, sugar, thyme, oregano, and basil and stir. Add the butter mixture to the culture and mix well. Add the flour a cup at a time until the dough becomes too stiff to mix by hand. Turn out onto a floured board and knead in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth and satiny.
Or mix and knead all of the ingredients for a maximum of 25 minutes in a bread machine or other mixer.

Proof the dough overnight (8 to 12 hours) at room temperature, about 70°F, in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap (or leave in the machine pan, removed from the machine, securing the plastic wrap with a rubber band). During this time, the dough should double in size in the covered bowl, or rise to the top of the machine pan. After the proof, use a spatula to gently ease the dough out onto a floured board. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. If marked flattening occurs during this time, knead in additional flour before shaping.

Loaf Proof
After the 30-minute rest, shape the dough. Flatten it slightly, then lift a portion from the periphery and pull it toward the center. Continue this around the dough mass to form a rough ball, then pat and pull into the loaf shape you desire. Place on a baking sheet or in a bread pan and proof for 2 to 4 hours, until it doubles in bulk or rises nearly to the top of the pan. Proof for the first hour at room temperature and then at 85° to 90°F in a proofing box.

Place the pan with its shaped, proofed loaf in a cool oven, then turn the temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 70 minutes. Or transfer the loaf to a preheated baking stone in a 450°F oven and bake for 40 minutes. When the loaf is baked, remove it from the pan and let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Comfrey as a Fertilizer

Comfrey is an invaluable plant in the herb garden.  (Around here we call it Indian boneset.)  In addition to the medicinal and cosmetic uses. It is a plant containing all the nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth in a digestible form.   It has a high potash content and is also a source of nitrogen, phosphorus and other elements.

As such you can use it as a fertilizer in all of the following ways:

As a mulch, by spreading freshly cut Comfrey leaves round plants (Black currents and fruit bushes especially benefit from this treatment).  Laying a topping of grass clippings adds bulk and accelerates the decay and release of nutrients.

Add Comfrey leaves to the compost heap in thin layers between other compost.  It will work as an activator encouraging the breakdown of other plant material.  Avoid the roots in this mixture or they will regenerate and sprout new plants.

Fill a bucket halfway with comfrey leaves and cover with water to create a liquid fertilizer.  It needs to steep for 4 to 5 weeks covered.  Strain off the liquid (beware it will be smelly) and use it undiluted as an organic fertilizer for container plants, tomatoes and general garden use.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Foaming Bath - Monthly Bath Blend

This blend is good in the bath or shower.  Make the recipe and place in a pump bottle in the shower or use in a filled tub.  You will need about ½ cup per bath, but a pump or two in a bath puff will give you a luxurious shower.

Foaming Vanilla Bath
1 cup sweet almond oil (light olive or sesame oil may be substituted)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup liquid soap
1 Tbls. vanilla extract

Measure the oil into a medium bowl, then carefully stir in remaining ingredients until fully blended. Pour into a clean plastic bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Shake gently before using. Enough for four large luxurious baths.

To Use:
Swirl about ½ cup into the tub under running water – then step in and descend into a warm, silky escape.

In the shower - Place a squirt or two into a damp bath puff and rub it into a lather then use to scrub the body.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Herb of the Week - Culantro

No I did not spell that wrong, I really mean that we are highlighting 
CULANTRO (Ergyngium foetidum) as the Herb of the Week.

Culantro is not cilantro. It has long leaves with tapered tips and serrated edges. When it comes to flavor, culantro is like cilantro, times ten.

In warmer climates, above Zone 7, the actual cilantro plant can be reseeded and grown commercially, harvesting the leaves as they appear. In zone 7 and below the climate is seasonally ideal for Cilantro so many people buy the plant expecting it to bear leaves for an extended period, but it will not. The reason is true cilantro, in heat, is working to expend it's energies to go to seed, coriander. Leaves are herbs, seeds are spices as a general rule in understanding the difference between the two.

Richard Jung /Getty Images

The solution to a perennial heat bearing cilantro is to plant, Culantro - Ergyngium foetidum. Culantro is a biennial herb grown throughout the Caribbean and Central America, and is a key ingredient in Puerto Rican cooking. It is relatively unknown in the United States, and is often mistaken for its relative cilantro (Coriandrum sativum L.). It is also known by many other names, such as Puerto Rican coriander, Black Benny, saw leaf herb, Mexican coriander, Saw tooth coriander, long coriander, Spiny coriander, Fitweed, and spiritweed. In Puerto Rico it is known as recao. 

It belongs to the same plant family as cilantro, but looks quite different. The long, tough leaves smell very similar to cilantro (with much more flavor) thus making it a respectable summer substitute for cilantro, which prefers cooler weather.
Unlike cilantro, culantro doesn't bolt, it will produce seeds, but the foliage stays aromatic and tasty. It is a tender perennial that can be wintered over in a pot or cut back and mulch over in the fall.

Culantro is the answer for those who enjoy cilantro but live in a hot/warm climate and want fresh all spring/summer and fall.

To Grow

Culantro can be planted in pots or on the ground. If planted in the ground, this herb will continue to reproduce for an almost endless supply. Culantro is relatively pest and disease free. It is rumored to be attractive to beneficial insects such as ladybugs, green lacewings, and to provide an excellent defense in the garden against aphids. 

Growing culantro is like growing lettuce. You plant after frost in the spring, then pick individual leaves until summer’s long days and high temperatures arrive. At that point, culantro, like lettuce, will grow out of its rosette, stretching upward with a fast-growing stalk that will bloom and set seeds. Soon afterward, the plant is usually exhausted and dies. If the seeds are allowed to drop into the soil, it may reseed. However, in areas that experience freezing temperatures in winter, this tender tropical will be killed. Your best bet is to grow it in spring and cut off the flower stalk when it appears in order to encourage continued leafy growth, rather than flowers. It will eventually succeed in flowering, and when it does, the leaves will become somewhat tough and less appealing.

When cultivated, culantro thrives under well-watered, shady conditions. Grown as an annual, it is actually biennial in areas warm enough to let it overwinter.

To Use

In cooking it is used to flavor salsa, softrito, chutney, ceviche, sauces, rice, stews, and soups. To harvest, remove the oldest leaves all the way down to the base of the plant leaving the young new leaves to grow. The leaves can be chopped and used fresh or frozen to keep their flavor.

The appearance of culantro and cilantro are different but the leaf aromas are similar, although culantro is more pungent. Because of this aroma similarity the leaves are used interchangeably in many food preparations and is the major reason for the misnaming of one herb for the other. While relatively new to American cuisine, culantro has long been used in the Far East, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In Asia, culantro is most popular in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore where it is commonly used with or in lieu of cilantro and topped over soups, noodle dishes, and curries. In Latin America, culantro is mostly associated with the cooking style of Puerto Rico, where recipes common to all Latin countries are enhanced with culantro. The most popular and ubiquitous example is salsa, a spicy sauce prepared from tomatoes, garlic, onion, lemon juice, with liberal amounts of chiles. These constituents are fried and simmered together, mixed to a smooth paste and spiced with fresh herbs including culantro.

Equally popular is sofrito or recaito, the name given to the mixture of seasonings containing culantro and widely used in rice, stews, and soups. There are reportedly as many variations of the recipe as there are cooks in Puerto Rico but basically sofrito consists of garlic, onion, green pepper, small mild peppers, and both cilantro and culantro leaves. Ingredients are blended and can then be refrigerated for months. Sofrito is itself the major ingredient in a host of other recipes including eggplant pasta sauce, cilantro garlic butter, cilantro pesto, pineapple salsa, and gazpacho with herb yogurt.

Culantro is rich in iron, carotene, riboflavin and calcium. This plant is widely used as food flavoring and seasoning herb for dishes and chutney in the Caribbean; it is popular in Asia for food use. And to use cilantro solely as a substitute for culantro in your sofrito will only result in an inferior, soulless green paste with no Caribbean whoomph! 

The culantro plant is used in traditional medicines for fevers and chills, vomiting, diarrhea, and in Jamaica for colds and convulsions in children.  The leaves and roots are boiled and the water drunk for pneumonia, flu, diabetes, constipation, and malaria fever. The root can be eaten raw for scorpion stings and in India the root is reportedly used to alleviate stomach pains. The leaves themselves can be eaten in the form of a chutney as an appetite stimulant.


Sofrito is a versatile, aromatic mixture of herbs and vegetables used as the foundation for many Latin Caribbean dishes. There are many variations of this recipe. If you wish to prepare your sofrito with ingredients that are easy to find in any grocery store try the basic sofrito recipe. Store sofrito in a glass container in the refrigerator for immediate use or freeze sofrito in 1/4 to 1/2 cup portions for use at any time.

Basic Sofrito
2 medium green peppers, seeds removed
1 red sweet pepper, seeds removed
2 large tomatoes
2 medium onions, peeled
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro leaves
1/2 bunch parsley leaves

Chop and blend all the ingredients in a food processor or blender.

In the recipe below ajíces dulces (also called cachucha or ajicitos) are small sweet peppers with a hint of spice. They look very similar to habaneros, but aren't spicy.

Special Sofrito

2 medium Cubanelle peppers, seeds removed
4 to 6 ajíces dulces, seeds removed
1 red sweet pepper, seeds removed
2 large tomatoes
2 medium onions, peeled
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro leaves
4 culantro leaves

Chop and blend all the ingredients in a food processor or blender.

Green Rice
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh culantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsely
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup long-grain white rice

 Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and jalapeno and saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, culantro, and parsley and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender with 1/2 cup of broth. Blend until smooth and set aside. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the herb puree and cook, stirring, to evaporate most of the liquid, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups broth, stir, cover, an reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, without stirring, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve, garnished with additional cilantro.
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