Freezing Herbs in Olive Oil

The aromas of fall elate this warm, fuzzy feeling that seems to linger within my soul… I want to hunker down somewhat, but the gardener in me refuses to let go of my love.  The plants are telling me by their exasperated appearance that they’re ready to call it a season…

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“Farewell, our garden matron, it’s been a great year Jean, but now we must depart… see you in the spring!”  I wrestle with this and fight it because deep down in my lonely soul of winter days, I can’t bear the thought of the winter world that will all to soon envelope everything I love.

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So in efforts to capture and hold on…  I ‘put-up’.

I can.

I freeze.

I dry.

I preserve.

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All winter long I can go to the freezer, cupboards and can shelves and remember the feeling of the prickly leaves of zucchini as I carefully reached in and took hold of her bountiful beauty.

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I can look at the jars of salsa and reminisce of summer days strolling through the hoop house and gazing over the Heirloom tomatoes heavy with their colorful fruits.

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Bringing up a jar of vegetable soup and tomato juice… blending their beauties together in a kettle and slowly warming up for all my loved ones. This rich, romantic aroma wafting through our home… but best of all… “Oh mom… that smells sooooo good!” That’s my reward.

Fall.

Harvest.

Food.

Life is good on the farm.

Herbs are such a blessing to any kitchen and as I’ve been showing, extremely easy to preserve. For those of us whose winter months don’t allow for growing, we are able to enjoy the fruits of our labor by preserving.

Here I am harvesting basil

Here I am harvesting basil

Here’s a step-by-step super easy way to freeze your garden herbs in olive oil.  You can use this technique with any herb or combination of herbs.

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STEP 1: Using a 12 compartment cupcake tin, cut 12 squares of plastic wrap to fit into each hole. Be sure they’re large enough
to come up over the rims at least 1 1/2″.
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STEP 2: Filling only one hole at a time, place plastic wrap and press in; Take 1 Tbsp. of herb and place in hole.

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STEP 3: Carefully pour olive oil into hole, filling until level with tin.

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STEP 4: Repeat process until all holes are filled.  Place in freezer for 48 hours to allow oil to completely solidify.

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STEP 5: Lift each ‘puck’ up; if they stick a bit, carefully use the tip of a knife to help it pop out.

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STEP 6: Quickly remove plastic and place them all in a large freezer bag.  It is fine that the herbs and oil separated.

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STEP 7: Store in freezer and enjoy all winter long! Yum!

How to use you herbed oil pucks:
*Toss them into cooked, drained pasta.
*Let thaw in a bowl and use in a pasta salad… yummy fresh herb flavor with that white stuff on the ground.
*Toss in with a stir fry.
*Use to sauté meat for fajitas in.
*Thaw and brush on a roast before putting in the oven.
*Use when frying potatoes for home fries.
… and of course, like I always say, the uses are only limited by your imagination!

You can also do these in ice cube trays, but for my size family… that’s kinda’ funny 😉
Happy Day,
Jean

Dry Spice Blend Recipes: Easy to make salad dressings and dips

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Many of us have harvested and dried our herbs… did you ever think to use them to create your own spice blends? Even if you didn’t grow and preserve your own, by purchasing your herbs in bulk and combining them to make your own blends you’ll save big in the wallet.

I thought I’d share some of my families favorites and most commonly used… at least in my home! Here are some awesome spice blends that I know you’ll all love…

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Italian Seasoning

3 Tbsp. oregano
2 Tbsp. basil
2 Tbsp. marjoram
2 Tbsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. thyme
1 Tbsp. rosemary

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container.

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Taco Seasoning

2/3 c dried chives
1/3 c white sugar
4 T. sea salt
3 T. garlic powder
3 T. cilantro
2 T. onion powder
2 T. cumin
1 T. oregano
1/2 t. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients into a food processor and blend until thoroughly mixed. Store in an airtight container.

Veggie Dip

3/4 c dried chives
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. plus 1 T. basil
1/4 c. sea salt
3 T. celery seed
3 T. dill weed
2 T. garlic powder
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container.

To Make Dip:
Combine 1 T. dry mix to 1 cup sour cream. Use with veggies or pretzels.

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Ranch Dressing Mix

2 T. parsley
1  t. garlic powder
1  t. onion powder
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. paprika

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container.
To Make Dressing:
Add dry ingredient mix to:
2 cup real mayonnaise and 1 1/2 cup buttermilk- you can exchange the buttermilk with regular milk.
Let set in fridge for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend. If too thick add a bit more milk. It will thicken while it sets.

I would multiply this recipe several times and keep stored. When you want to make the recipe, add 3 Tbsp. dry mix to 2 cup mayo.

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Creamy Italian Dressing Mix

1/2 cup white sugar
4 T. sea salt
3 T. garlic powder
3 T. onion powder
3 T. oregano
3 T. parsley
3 t. basil
2 T. marjoram
T. thyme
1 T. rosemary
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients and blend thoroughly and store in an airtight container.

To Make Dressing:
Add 2 Tbsp. dry mix to:
2/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar.
Blend together and let set in fridge for up to an hour before serving to allow flavors to blend.

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Making home made spice blends and dressings is so easy and saves a ton of money… not to mention homemade just always taste better!

Happy Day,
Jean

Looking for a local Landscaper, florist and more?

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Check out my new post at The Detroit News, The Good Life blog for an article on one of Michigan’s oldest nursery/greenhouses… dating back to 1890.

Supporting local is key to Goldner Walsh Garden & Home… read all about this wonderful company by following this link!

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/thegoodlife/2013/09/26/goldner-walsh-garden-home-find-everything-need-decorate-fall/

Happy Day,
Jean

Saving Heirloom Seeds: Quick and easy how-to without the fermentation process

We’ve had three light frosts here in the Thumb of Michigan already. I’m not ready to loose my garden… not yet… I’m just not ready. I still need to feel the life that it provides me with.  I still need to touch it’s bounty…

I just started harvesting the Roma beans.

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The lettuces are quite big enough to be transplanted into the hoop house.

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The two fall zucchini plants are just making their babies.  I just don’t want to see my gardens die yet…

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But my gardens are getting tired and beginning to show the signs of all its hard work.

Fall has moved in even though I’m not done with summer. But it’s here and there’s work to be done in preparation for the all to soon coming wicked days of winter.

Along with all the food preservation that I do each year, I also preserve something else… my seeds for next years garden and bounty.

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So why save your own seeds? Just buy them right? Well… that’s an option and if you purchase seeds from local, small family owned businesses you’re keeping your dollars within your community or at least your state.

But for me, I’m interested in being self-sufficient and not relying on seed companies, local or not to feed me and my family. It’s very important for me to know what I’m getting and where it’s been.

Saving my seeds also saves me money and depending on the size of ones garden, this can be a substantial amount.

Today lets look at a quick and easy how-to on saving Heirloom seeds without the fermentation process.

*The reason that some people teach and stress the fermentation process is because some believe there’s a better chance of killing any and all bacteria’s that may be in the produce.

NOTE: I’ve been using the following method that I’m about to show you for over 10 years and I have never once had problems with disease or poor germination.

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Step 1: It’s very important to find as perfectly shaped specimens as possible, harvested when fully ripe off a disease free plant to ensure successful seed saving.

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Step 2:  Using the small end of a melon baller, carefully scoop out the seeds. You’ll get some pulp but that’s fine for now.

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Step 3: Using your fingertips, separate the seeds from the pulp as best you can. You won’t be able to get it all.

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Step 4: Put the semi-cleaned seeds in a colander and wash with cold water. Gently press the remaining pulp through the holes being careful not to damage the seeds.

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Step 5: Place a paper towel folded in half and then half again so it’s 4x thickness on a paper plate and put the washed seeds on it. Be sure they’re in a single layer and not mounded one on top of another.  Be sure to label your paper towel by writing directly on it or using a sticker as I’ve done here.  Allow the seeds to dry on your counter for 2-3 weeks being sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. Once you’re sure they’re dry, fold the paper towel in half and store in a labeled zip-lock baggie and keep in your freezer till next spring.

This method of seed saving can be done with all seeds that come from ‘juicy’ fruit or vegetables. Here are a few other photo’s of my saved seeds.

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This red tomato is my Russian Big Roma and I’ve been saving the seeds for well over ten years. This is one of my favorite tomatoes. Because I’ve carefully selected only perfectly shaped and the largest tomatoes each year, the plants from these seeds will produce plants that are stronger, more disease resistant with larger fruits/veggie.

Saving your own seeds will be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do for your family.  Knowing that the produce you eat, grow, harvest, preserve and eat again each year has been possible because of your efforts…. this will give you a sense of true accomplishment.

Happy Day,
Jean

I Support Farmer’s Markets

I’d like to take a moment to give a shout out for this wonderful Facebook page and website. They are completely dedicated to supporting and promoting local and farmers markets…

They’ve share several of my blogs including one today…

Won’t you take a moment and check em’ out… be sure to give em’ a like and tell them Jean from For Dragonflies And Me sent you!

Here’s a direct link!
https://www.facebook.com/FarmersMarkets

Enjoy friends!
Jean

Garlic-Thyme Infused Olive Oil

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I love to preserve my garden bounty as much as I love to garden and write! Whether it’s putting the good things in the freezer, on the can shelves or drying for the pantry, I relish in the accomplishment!

I thought I’d share my yummy Garlic-Thyme Infused Olive oil recipe with you today…

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Ingredients:

Pint mason/canning jar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4-6 fresh cloves garlic to mince
1/2 cup thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. sea salt
Double ingredients except salt if you want to do a quart jar.

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1. Fill your jar with oil leaving 1″ of head space

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2. Take your fresh picked thyme and start striping the leaves into the oil until you have about 1/2 cup worth

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3. Mince garlic into oil.  Add salt

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4. Stir all ingredients until well blended. Leave in a cupboard out of direct sunlight for about a week before you use it. This will allow the flavors to blend.

Now that you have your yummy oil ready, here are some idea’s on how to use it!

*Brush on bread before you broil or toast it for Brushetta
*Brush on any veggie that you want to grill… this is our favorite for zucchini and yellow squash.
*Toss into pasta instead of sauce

… these are just a couple of my personal faves… do you have any idea’s?  If you do, please leave a comment here and share… be sure to come on over to my Facebook page and give it a like… we have lots of fun there!

Happy Day,
Jean

Planting Garlic: Now’s the time to get your garlic planted for next years harvest

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Garlic is gold. This gold takes patience for sure.

The clove is tenderly placed in the cool earth and then carefully buried into a wintery grave.
The ground freezes with this little life waiting… sleeping…
Snow falls. Insulates. Freeze.

Soon will come the spring… my time of joy will come again. When I can step outside, closing my eyes to inhale the good clean smell of mud… grass… wind through the trees… earth smell. All you gardeners reading this are holding your breath… imagining and understanding fully what I’m saying… goose bumps…

You know because you love the same things I love.

Dirt.
Air.
Seeds.
New life.

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So now that I’ve got you all excited to garden again… here’s the easy as one, two, three planting guide!

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1. Using your nicest, largest bulbs, divide them into separate cloves.

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2. Making a hole in your garden spot, about 4″ deep, take one clove.

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3. Placing the flat, root side down place one clove into the hole; cover with dirt and tamp lightly; I cover with mulch, which happens to be grass clippings here.

4. Repeat this process, planting your cloves about 4 to 6 inches apart.  I recommend you place a stake in the ground marking it as ‘Garlic and your date’ so you know where you planted. I would also jot it down in your garden journal, calendar or wherever you keep that kind of information. If you don’t keep that kind of information, I highly recommend you start!

…now walk away and dream of spring, because this is where the patience starts.

So, once spring arrives you’ll see green shoots like this…DPP_0032…the shoots that look like onions all around the perimeter of the raised bed, those are your garlic! These are about a week old. They will look like a little ‘v’ coming out of the ground, just like an onion, but the leaf will be pointy and flat, not round.

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(Photo credit to Reflections from the Artist’s Garden. To see more go to their Facebook page at this link
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reflections-from-the-Artists-Garden/320228484713794?fref=pb

In July you’ll notice a round stem with a pointy, lighter green tail looking thing- (see above photo) growing up from the center of the flat leaves. It will grow and once it’s about a foot tall, it will start to curl and the head will begin to swell. This is what we refer to as the ‘garlic scape’. At this point snap or cut this off at the base where the scape is growing out of.  It is wonderfully edible, so be sure to use it. You can snip it up and use it in anything you’d normally use garlic for. It is a bit more mild in flavor….

…If you don’t it will turn into a seed pod, that looks like this… this is the garlic ‘seed head’.

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If you leave it go ‘to seed’ you will NOT get a large bulb… you’ll end up with a walnut size bulb that doesn’t amount to anything.
***You can leave a few of them to do this if you’d like to grow ‘green garlic’ which is similar to a scallion (green onion). Simply plant these into the ground all season long and you’ll have fresh green garlic.

But… most of us want nice, big bulbs for our cooking and to save more seeds. So be sure to snap off the garlic scape.  Around the end of July to the middle of August, you’re garlic will be ready to harvest. You will know by the leaves. Once the bottom six to eight leaves are browned, the bulb is finished growing. If left in the ground it will ‘split’ and not be fit to store.

When you harvest your garlic be sure to carefully pull straight up, loosening the ground around slightly. You don’t want the neck to snap and have to dig for it. It will be slightly difficult to yank out because the roots are very secure.

After you’ve harvested all your garlic, cut the stems off leaving about 3 to 4 inches of the neck (like the one in the first photo of me holding a bulb). You can put all your garlic in a mesh onion bag or crate with holes for proper air circulation. You will need to let your garlic ‘cure’ so it will store properly.

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In about four to six weeks your garlic will be properly cured. Sort through them keeping the largest and best shaped bulbs for your seed. I know you’ll be tempted to want to keep the big ones and plant the little ones… but with garlic, you get what you plant. In a few years of planting all nice big cloves, you’ll successfully get all large bulbs.

I recommend that you print this article off and tape it to your calendar for next spring as a reminder… but if you don’t, no worries, I’ll re-blog it for you in July!

Keep posted for this yummy recipe in my next post! Garlic-Thyme Infused Olive Oil…

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Happy Day,
Jean

Winterizing, dividing and mulching your gardens

August is the time of year when I neglect my flower gardens most. With all the hustle and bustle of preserving the bounty, my days are filled with the harvest and ‘putting up’. I love it all though… this garden bounty between the can shelves, freezers and jars of dried herbs. We’ve sown and now we’re reaping.

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So now that Septembers arrived, lets talk about preparing for next years gardens. First off, I always draw my plans for both my vegetable gardens garden’s as well as my flower beds. I like to keep reminders of what I need to plant where and when along with other pertinent info that I would otherwise forget.

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There are several things to consider when winterizing, dividing and mulching your gardens.

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Now’s the time to start to plant fall bulbs and garlic.. You have until mid October but the temps are getting colder. Keep posted on a how and when to plant garlic!

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The other thing August reveals to me is I don’t have enough things blooming compared to the other months. August has always been a hard time for me to pay attention… but not this year. I’ve got my list of what I need to transplant and where for next year in my garden journal.

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Most perennials are cut back after we have had a killing frost in the fall. This usually occurs in late September or early October for us living in the Midwest, zone 4-5. Due to my location, I don’t ‘clean-up’ my beds. I leave the debris and the leaves because they act as natural mulches and help insulate my less hardy perennials, like lavender.

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I clean my beds and remove the debris and leaves and do the necessary divisions/ splitting in the spring once there’s at least two to three inches of new growth.

If you have vegetable gardens, I recommend applying a layer of manure this fall so it will compost through the winter and be ready to till in the spring. I do this in my raised beds as well. In the spring we simply scratch it all in and put a six inch layer of fresh composted soil on top, and then we’re ready to plant.

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A general rule of thumb when trying to decide when the best time to transplant and divide your perennials is if they bloomed in spring or early summer, divide or move in fall. If it bloomed in late summer or fall, it’s recommended to split in the spring. With the exception of daylilies and irises, which prefer an August move. One other factor is plants with taproots, like comfry prefer not to be moved at all, rather take an offshoot following the rule of bloom time.

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Plants with tender crowns like Delphinium can be protected by filling an empty nursery pot with leaves and setting the pot over the crown of the plant. Place a rock or brick on the pot to keep it in place. The crown of the plant will stay dry and protected over the winter.

I often look for bargains at the big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes for typically expensive shrubs or other larger plants that they’re hurriedly trying to clearance out…’something’s better than nothing’ mentality for them. Well, I’m happy to oblige and I can honestly say I can count on one hand how many plants I’ve lost due to late fall planting. There’s a few tricks to having a successful fall planting.
*Place a deep mulch, at least a foot around the base of the plant.
*Water regularly until the first light frost.
*If it is a tender perennial, follow the step listed above for Delphiniums.
*Some shrubs might do better if wrapped for the winter as well.
By following these few simple tricks, I’ve had wonderful success with late fall plantings.

Get more great info at http://www.bachmans.com/divHomePage.ep?currentNodeBean=GardenCare&categoryCode=02&pageIndex=_pageIndexToken_winterizingYourPerennials

Winterizing your gardens will give you peace of mind, knowing that your much cherished plants will have a better chance of survival. Be sure to follow the rules of proper plant division and the few tips on mulching and again, you’re sure to rest easy this winter knowing that you’ll enjoy those beautiful plants next spring!

Happy day,
Jean