Friday, September 29, 2017

Green Beans with Basil Vinaigrette Weekend Recipe

It is still in the 90s here this week, not at all what you expect at the end of September, but the basil is loving this heat and producing more leaves.  This cold bean dish is perfect to enjoy when the temps are hot and humid.

Green Beans with Basil Vinaigrette

1 lb. green beans, trimmed
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed flat parsley leaves
2 1/2 Tbls olive oil
2 Tbls red wine vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice and water for an ice bath.  Add green beans to water and cook until crisp tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain and transfer to the ice bath.  Let sit in the ice bath until chilled, then transfer to a serving platter.

While the beans are cooling make your vinaigrette by chopping garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt.  Mash with the side of the knife until it forms a paste.  Take this paste and add to a food processor or blender with herbs, olive oil, Dijon mustard and puree until smooth.  Pour resulting dressing over chilled beans and grind some fresh pepper to taste.

Enjoy your chilled beans with other garden fresh items or grilled chicken or a burger.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Spinach and Parsley Growing in Autumn

We decided to put hoops over one of our raised beds and try to expand the growing season.  More for starting plants in the spring rather than the fall, but then I realized Spinach and Parsley in addition to garlic can be planted in the fall for a harvest in the upcoming season.
The end of summer marks a new beginning for spinach and parsley, the easiest veggies to grow through winter.
Young plants that get their start in early fall are strong survivors, capable of making it through temperatures well below zero with proper protection.
You can pick a few leaves in fall, but the big payoff comes in spring, when your overwintered plants start to explode with sweet, crisp leaves weeks before other garden goodies are ready to pick.
Metal tube used to side the beds is covered with pvc bent to hoop over the bed and covered with plastic sheeting.


1.      In areas with strong winds and heavy snow, build a cold frame or low tunnel enclosed by a row cover to provide good protection.
2.      Mix in a balanced organic fertilizer to the garden bed.
3.      Sow seeds or set out seedlings.
4.      Until seeds germinate, keep the soil moist.
5.      Install the frame or tunnel over the plants when the first frost comes, but keep the top or ends open for ventilation until temperatures drop into the teens. Growth will slow as days become shorter and colder, and then resume in February in response to longer days.

To speed germination of spinach seeds, soak them overnight in water, and then let them dry at room temperature for up to five days. Parsley seeds will sprout faster if you place them in a strainer and pour one cup of very warm water over them. Allow the seeds to dry overnight on a paper towel, and then plant them.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Melon Basil Sorbet - Weekend Recipe

Summer is not finished with us yet meaning there is still time for a frozen treat.  With cantaloupe still available, fresh and basil just hitting its stride, this is a great time to craft this sorbet.

Musk Melon Basil Sorbet

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
10 basil leaves, divided
2 small muskmelon (cantaloupe), peeled, seeded and diced

In a small saucepan, stir sugar and water over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, add 5 basil leaves, and allow to steep until cool.  Strain or remove the basil leaves.

Puree the melon or cantaloupe in a blender or using an immersion blender until smooth.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the basil-infused sugar water (simple syrup) and reserve the remainder for another use (check out my herbal cocktail recipes for ideas.)

Finely chop the remaining 5 basil leaves and stir into the melon mixture.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Then pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturers directions.

Pack the sorbet into an airtight container  (optimally 24 hours.)  Makes 4 cups.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cosmetic Vinegars

I love to teach and describe how to make vinegars with herbs.  Most of the time these vinegars are for consumption, they can then be used to flavor vegetables, make dressing and marinades or otherwise cook with them.  However, today I want to talk about Cosmetic Vinegars.  These are vinegar used after a facial steam or as a tonic or skin refresher, or even a hair rinse.  The technique is very similar, but the concentrations are different.

You want to use apple-cider vinegar for cosmetic vinegar.  Apples are high in antioxidants, so using anything with apples for cosmetics is highly recommended.  You want to steep these for 3 to 4 weeks.  Don’t scrimp on the steeping time, the intensity you get with a longer time period is essential to the healing benefits. You also want to add thyme and/or sage for germ fighting and rosemary because it contains volatile oils that get the blood flowing under the skin.

Marvelous Mint Cosmetic Vinegar
4 cups apple cider vinegar
1 part spearmint or apple mint
1 part sage
1 part thyme
1 part rosemary

Luscious Lavender Cosmetic Vinegar
4 cups apple cider vinegar
1 part lavender
1 part rosemary
1 part thyme

Steep the herbs in the vinegar for several weeks (at least 3) in a dark place. Then strain and bottle. 

To use:
Blend ½ cup vinegar with 3 cups water and splash it on your face after washing; warm in the microwave to steaming and place in a bowl and hover over it with a towel behind your head to open and clarify pours before deep cleansing.

Vinegar Hair Rinse
This flower, water and vinegar rinse removes soap residue and adds a sparkling healthy condition to your hair.

2 oz. Rosewater or other flower water
2 oz. Apple cider vinegar
2 oz. Water or an herbal infusion (tea)

Combine rosewater, vinegar and the water/herbal infusion, shake well before using as a hair rinse.

To Use: Massage in well, leave on for a few minutes. Rinse off as usual.

You can make an herbal infusion (tea) by steeping with herbs of  your choice, and allow to cool. Certain herbs when made into a strong infusion can bring out mild and subtle tones and highlights to your hair, depending on condition, color and texture. Some of the herbs that can be used are Chamomile, Sage, Basil, Horsetail, Lavender, Nettle or Rosemary.
Chamomile can be utilized for subtle golden tones
Rose softens and brings highlights
Hibiscus flowers or Alkanet root for slightly reddish tones
Nettle for warm tones
Rosemary, Sage or Walnut leaves bring out brown shades

Friday, September 15, 2017

Butternut Squash Bake - Weekend Recipe

Winter squash is just coming into season and I thought this recipe might be useful for a meal or a festive holiday dinner.  Keep it handy through the fall and winter.

Butternut Squash Bake

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 2 cups)
½ cup mayonnaise (DO NOT use low fat, only regular)
½ cup onion, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup crushed saltine crackers (about 8 crackers)
1 Tbls. dried savory
2 Tbls. Parmesan, grated
1 Tbls. Butter, melted

Place squash in saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until very tender.  Drain well and place in a large bowl.  Mash Squash.  In another bowl, combine the mayonnaise, onion, egg, sugar, salt and paper.  Add to squash and mix well.  Transfer to greased 1 quart baking dish.  Combine the cracker crumbs, cheese and butter, sprinkle over top.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until heated through and top is golden.  Serves 6.

This recipe was crafted for Walkup Farm in Crystal Lake as a postcard give-away.  I do not know if they were ever distributed to the public.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

6 Unique Ways to Preserve an Herb Harvest

There are many ways to preserve the herbs from your harvest.  Here are a few quick and easy ones to get you started.

Freeze leaves in water

Quick and easy, you just grab an ice tray fill the square halfway with water and add the herb leaves.  You can leave the leaf whole or chopped them fine.  Pop them into the freezer.  Once the cubes are frozen fill the tray the rest of the way with water and freeze again.  This two-step method makes sure the leaves stay covered by the water and ice so they keep their green color.

Once finally frozen you can pop put the cubes and place them in a zip lock bag for long term storage.  This will give you herbs for casseroles, soups, stews and long cook dishes all winter.  Discard the cubes once the spring harvesting begins.

Make a Bouquet Garni Bundle 

Bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs (thyme, bay, parsley, rosemary, savory) used in long cook soups and stews.  It is great in the crock pot where you can hang the bundle from the side and let the flavor infuse the dish, then remove the bundle when cooking is over.  You do not have to worry about leaves in the dish or picking out bay leaf.

You can use a bouquet garni fresh, or you can make fresh bundles and hang them to dry.  Once dry, you can wrap a cello bag around them and give them as a gift along with a soup recipe, or save their wonderful goodness all for yourself.

I have previously posted recipes to use with bouquet garni too!

Dry in a paper bag

Savory, Thyme and rosemary are all great candidates for bag drying.  The leaves have a small size and very little moisture, so you toss the cut stems in a bag, hang it on the wall and let the herbs dry.  Sometimes depending on humidity, I will give the bags a shake every few days. No other special treatment is needed and the herbs will be try enough to be stripped from the stems for storage in about a week.

Honey or Vinegar Infusion

Make an infusion of herbs transferring the flavor into another medium.  You can create a vinegar or honey.  See these posts for detailed instructions.

How Tuesday on making vinegar

Recipes using Herbed Vinegar

Make a compound butter
A compound butter is any plain unsalted butter to which you add herbs. You can create a single herb flavor or blend the herbs tighter to create a variety of flavors.  The general rule is 1/8 to 1/4 cup herbs into 1 stick unsalted butter.

Here is one of my favorite versions:
1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 tsp chopped chives or garlic chives
1 tsp tarragon

Blend the herbs into 1 stick of room temperature unsalted butter with a fork to get the herbs evenly distributed.  Then roll the soft butter into a sausage in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to eat in a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  You can use the butter on fresh steamed vegetables, steaks, baked or roasted potatoes, rice, egg noodles are on your morning toast of muffins.

I have more recipes for making compound butter (also called Herb Butter) all over the blog, but here is one of my first. 

Make a salt

There are several ways to make herb salt.  My two favorites are just to layer the whole herb leaf in salt and allow the salt to absorb the flavor from the leaf then later remove the leaf and you have white salt infused with flavor.  Another way is to run the salt and herbs in a coffee grinder.  I start with a larger salt so that I get a fine salt with fine flakes of herbs in it. 

You can also make an herb salt with chopped fresh leaves that you stir into salt, then spread on a baking sheet and allow to dry in the open air for 2 to 3 days to a week depending on humidity.  This is a great way to infuse the salt with a mixture of herbs, like a blend of chives, thyme, parsley and sage.  You use about 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh herbs to ¼ cup of salt (I like kosher.)  Once the herbs and salt have dried, you can place the mixture in a jar where it will keep its herbal taste for at least a year.

We will be posting more ways to make herbed salt and flavored sugar later this fall.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tarragon & Cashew Pesto - Weekend Recipe

Okay it is Pesto season and I love to make pesto, but I find if you always use Basil it always tastes the same.  So I have changed it up with Lemon Basil, or Parsley or even Cilantro, but this recipe I found on  Dunk and Crumble for a pesto made with tarragon and cashews is without doubt the best in unique tastes for pesto.  The underlying flavor of lemon certainly made my taste buds happy!

Cashew Tarragon Pesto
1 large bunch fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 cup raw cashews
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 3 lemons
a handful of lemon balm or lemon verben stripped from the stems
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon vinegar or chive herbal vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast cashews in a dry pan over medium heat until lightly brown and fragrant.  Allow to cool slightly.

Purée parsley, tarragon, nuts, lemon and lemon juice, lemon herbs and garlic in a food processor. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and a bit of salt and pepper, and blend until a coarse paste forms.  Add a few tablespoons of warm water to thin the sauce to desired consistency, and adjust seasoning to taste.

Use as a sandwich spread, atop a bowl of hot pasta, or alongside roasted chicken.
Makes about 3 cups pesto.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Homemade Body Butter - Bath Blend of the Month

Happy Labor Day - 

To celebrate, pamper yourself with this fluffy body butter.  It is one of the simplest to make.  You need a hand mixer and a decorative container to place it in when you complete it.  It makes a great gift and you can scent it with any fragrance you want.

6 oz Coconut Oil
2 oz Cocoa Butter
2 oz Essential Oil (your choice)

Clean your container in warm soapy water and allow to dry.

While your container is drying melt both your coconut oil and cocoa butter. You can melt them over a double boiler, or in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave in 20 second bursts, stirring in between each burst.

Once the oil and butter have melted, place them in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes. Do not place in freezer. Once the oils and butter are opaque, using a stand or hand mixer, beat on high for 4-5 minutes.

The mixture should become thick and creamy. If after 5 minutes of beating it doesn’t become thick, refrigerate for 5 more minutes and beat again.

Once the oils become creamy, refrigerate for 5 more minutes. After 5 minutes, add in your essential oil and beat until well incorporated.

Once stiff peaks form, spoon into your clean container and seal. Will last up to 6 months in an airtight container.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Creamy Parmesan Dressing - Weekend Recipe

This special recipe is fast, but worth making from fresh Parmesan and lemon basil.  It is perfect on a lettuce or greens salad, but is exceptionally good on tomatoes.  And it is thick enough to use as a dip.

Creamy Parmesan Dressing
1 cup mayo
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ lemon, juiced
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 Tbls fresh chopped lemon basil (or regular basil)
2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire
3 tsp pepper
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt to taste

Blend all ingredients together is a shaker and shake well, allow to meld at room temp for 30 minutes before serving.
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