Herbal Gifts: Home made herbed vinegars and oils

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So excited to announce my article in this wonderful publication! Check it out on pages 14 & 15.

This would make a great gift for all your Herbal Enthusiast friends and family!

Click this link to follow it there!

http://www.essentialherbal.com/

Happy Day,
Jean

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

Harvesting Herbs: Tips to get the most yield from your herbs, yummy herb butter recipes

My soul belongs in the garden… it seems the only place that I can truly find the peace that I’m longing for is there in the rich, soothing soil. All my cares seem to fade away as I stroll through and become absorbed with the beauty that surrounds me.

The colors. The patterns. The shapes. The intricacies. No human could recreate these miracles that His mighty hand has designed. Perfection.

My beloved Potager

My beloved Potager

The sound of bees buzzing in the Potager… a low hummmmmmm. They’re busily doing their work, faithfully pollinating the blossoms that will all too soon be peppers, tomatoes, eggplants that we’ll finally feast on after a long winter… we’ll again eat of the bounty our gardens provide from our tender nurturing.

"White Rose Bud", by Jean Smith

“White Rose Bud”, by Jean Smith

The aromas… those of musk and sweetness mingled together in a moment inhaled that only a rose can exude. The herbs. My legs gently brush their delicate leaves. The intense licorice of basil… Lemon grass’ eloquent citrus scent… Chives don’t want to be forgotten; her oniony promise while we wait for the real thing. Parsley, marjoram, ohhh and thyme… I love to stop and strip a few of her leaves off, roll them between my fingers feeling the precious oils soften my fingertips… then bringing the bruised herb up to my noes… inhale. Richness. The wise men of old knew the value of these garden treasures.

Fresh herbs growing

Fresh herbs growing

Perfectness… It’s a feast for the senses. My garden, my faithful friend..

My Tree Frog, by Jean Smith

I was relaxing in the patio today reading a new garden memoir and there and behold a tiny tree frog nestled on the patio chair across from me. Some of you may be thinking, “ewhhhh”, but not me… I named him Norman and greeted my fellow garden friend and went on reading. Before long he hopped down over beside my leg… well, I had to get my camera- it’s not usually too far from my grasp, but I for some reason left it in the house. So I dashed in and grabbed it. Norman was waiting. I picked him up… to his dismay, yet he patiently let me take his photo.

The birds are so chattery right now…and I am loving this moment… Peace. In my gardens.

I’m passionate about herbs as most of my dragonfly readers know. Recently I posted info on preserving them… well today lets discuss harvesting your herbs.

Here’s a few tips to help you in your harvesting!

*The leaves of herbs are most flavorful when harvested before the plant begins to flower. If you aren’t able to get to your herbs and you notice they are beginning to form flower buds, simply cut the buds back. This will provide you with a bit more time to get them harvested.

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*You can pick individual leaves or whole stems or branches. Small leafed herbs are easier to pick by the stem or branch such as thyme, marjoram, tarragon, fennel, rosemary and oregano. Basil, cilantro, dill, parsley and sage are larger leafed, but can be done in stems as well. I personally harvest all by cutting branches.

Stems are sometimes easier to pic off then individual leaves

Stems are sometimes easier to pic off then individual leaves

*Chives should be cut as close to the ground as possible.

*Pick most herbs, with the exception of basil, in the morning after the morning dew has dried. Basil, seems to keep longer and fresher when picked in the late afternoon.

*Harvest annual herbs right until they are killed by frost or bolt (flower and set seed). To prevent bolting, keep them trimmed back.

*Stop heavy harvesting of perennial herbs about six weeks before your fall frost date. This will allow the plants a chance to harden up before the cold weather sets in. Mulching them will help protect more tender perennials in cold climate areas.

Herb butters add a lovely finishing touch to cooked veggies, fish or chicken and are so easy to make!  All you need to do is beat your favorite fresh or dried herbs into some softened butter, cover with some plastic wrap and chill until you’re ready to serve it up!
Here are some yummy Herb Butter Recipes to try this year!

Lemon & Fennel Butter ~ the flavor of fennel goes very well with fish or grilled corn on the cob!
1 Stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fennel fronds
zest of half lemon, grated
1/8 tsp. pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly blended; pat into a roll about the size of a tangerine, cover with plastic wrap and chill.  When ready to serve, cut into chunks~ very cute!

Cilantro & Scallion Butter
~ Use this on some new potatoes and enjoy the sweet savor of scallions blended with the pungency of cilantro!
1 Stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 scallion (green onion) finely chopped.
Follow prep method above.

Chive Pepper Butter ~ So yummy on grilled chicken or roasted cod fillets!
1 stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 tbsp. mixed peppercorns, lighted crushed
Follow prep method above.

Happy Day,
Jean