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

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

Grow veggies in the shade and some yummy recipes!

My 2014 raised bed garden plan

My 2014 raised bed garden plan

Gardening is therapy for me. Being able to run my fingers through freshly mellowed soil… holding some tiny seeds in the palm of my hand and then dropping them in a carefully made furrow… gently covering and patting the soil… watering to help it come alive… Gardening is pure passion…

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I’m very blessed to have ample area’s of sunny spots to garden in, although I realize that this is not every gardener or gardener-wanna-be’s situation. Well don’t despair~ if you have at least two hours of sunshine a day, YOU can garden too!

I have some shady area’s that I need to plan for in one of my raised bed gardens. The photo above is my plot plan for next year’s plantings in this garden (photo below). The bottom two rows of beds ( in drawing)  get a substantial amount of shade from the large tree beside it. As you can see in my plot plan I have several of the things listed below planted in those beds, with the exception’s of squash and basil.

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Many people think this is an impossibility, but not so! Gardening in the shade is possible. There’s actually several wonderful garden veggies and herbs that will tolerate only two to five hours of direct sunlight, while producing a fair amount of produce for you.

You can plant many of these crops right now for a fall and winter harvest.  Check your zone and the maturity dates before you plant.

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~Here are some culinary herbs that will produce well with only two to five hours of sunshine per day:
*Parsley
*Oregano
*Mints
*Sweet Marjoram
*Chives
*Cilantro

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~Here are some Veggies that will tolerate some shade with about four to five hours of sunshine per day:
*Greens you can plant include lettuces, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, arugula, Asian greens, mustard greens and mesclun mixes.
*Peas, both shell and snow
*Beets
*Carrots
*Radishes
*Potatoes
*Turnips
*Beans
*Rhubarb
*Scallions (Green Onions)

You will have great success with many of these crops if you harvest them as ‘baby’- greens, carrots and potatoes.   These crops will provide a fair supply, just on a smaller size scale.

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Gardening in the shade does require a bit more patience. Things definitely take a bit longer to mature, but they will… and the rewards will be worth the wait.

Here are some recipes to use some of your garden goodies!

Sensational Cilantro Dip

4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped or 2 Tbsp. dried
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice, about 4-6 limes
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp. green chilies, chopped finely
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Combine all ingredients and serve with tortilla chips or use as a topping for taco’s or rice.

Yummy Feta Chive Muffins

2 to 2 1/2 cups organic white flour
3 tsp. aluminum free baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbles without the juice
1/4 cup fresh chives, snipped or 2 Tbsp. dried.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Combine all dry ingredients; In a separate bowl, mix eggs, mild and oil; stir gently into dry ingredients.
fold in feta chees and chives.
fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Serve warm!

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