Herb Education

Herb EducationPhoto: http://www.tipsonhomeandstyle.com/food/easy-to-grow-essential-herbs

Unfamiliarity with herbs keeps people from using them. Over the past few years, I have enjoyed taking one herb at a time and experimenting growing, cooking and drying it. Recently, we happened on some interesting information about herbs in a cookbook from my brother-in-law’s family. Here’s some basic information regarding the herbs we grow.

* Add herbs in small amounts, 1/4 teaspoon for each 4 servings. Taste before adding more.
* Always crush dried herbs or snip fresh herbs before using to release the flavor.
* If substituting fresh herbs for dried, use 3 times more fresh herbs.

Basil– Sweet warm flavor with an aromatic odor, used whole or ground. Good with ground beef, lamb, fish, roast, omelets, pesto, dressings, and spaghetti. The plant does not like cold weather.

Chives– Sweet mild flavor of onion. This herb is excellent in salads, fish, soups and potatoes. Delicious mixed in with sour cream. Easy to grow.

Dill– Both seeds and leaves of dill are flavorful. Leaves may be used to garnish or cook with fish, soup, dressings, potatoes and beans. Leaves or the whole plant may be used to spice dill pickles.

Mint– Leaves are aromatic with a cool flavor. Excellent in beverages, fish, cheese, lamb, soup, peas, carrots, and fruit desserts. Refreshing over mandarin orange slices. Different varieties exist. We grow spearmint. The plant can spread easily so best in potted.

Oregano– Strong aromatic odor, use whole or ground to spice tomato juice, fish, eggs, pizza, omelets, chili, stew, gravy, poultry and vegetables. Smells like pizza!

Parsley– Best when used fresh. Use as garnish or seasoning. Try in fish, omelets, soup, meat, stuffing and mixed greens. Varities include flat-leaf and curly. We grow flat-leaf.

Sage– Use fresh or dried. May be used in tomato juice, fish, fondue, omelets, beef, poultry, stuffing, cheese spreads, cornbread and biscuits.

Sorrel– A citrus flavored herb that resembles spinach and in some cultures is considered a vegetable. The taste becomes stronger as leaves mature. Young leaves can be used in salads or lightly cooked like spinach. Older leaves provide a tangy flavor to soups, stews and sauces. Especially used with fish.

Cooking with Thyme

Cooking with ThymeThyme is my favorite herb. I love the smell and taste. We stuff our roast chickens with it, along with a bay leaf, flattened garlic cloves, onions, celery and salt. Makes the house smell wonderful. We also found a recipe in a Betty Crocker cookbook for potato soup that is delicious and very quick to make. Will share it with you.

Home-Style Potato Soup

3 medium potatoes (about 1 lb)
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
2 green onions with tops, chopped
1-1/2 c milk
1/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/8 t dried thyme leaves (we use about 1 T of fresh leaves, chopped to release the flavor)

Peel & chunk the potatoes. Heat the broth & potatoes to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat so that the mixture gently boils. Cover & cook about 15 min or until the potatoes are soft. Break the potatoes into pieces. (We use a potato masher to mash a few chunks and give the soup a thicker consistency.) Stir in the milk, salt, pepper, thyme & onions into the mixture. Heat over medium heat, stirring some, until hot & steaming. Do not let the soup boil. May add 1-1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese at the end.

NOTES: We often cook up a link of turkey sausage (or you can substitute vegetarian sausage) and toss it in when the soup is heating up at the end. If we do not have green onions, we use regular onion and cook it with the potatoes. The recipe makes a small batch, 3-4 servings.

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen-by Environmental Working GroupBy: Environmental Working Group
Recently, we read an interesting article listing the “dirtiest” produce found in the grocery. The article was not referring to dirt, but rather pesticide residue. Spinach, lettuce and kale were amongst the top 12. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization created in 1993 to provide the public with information regarding health and the environment, puts out a yearly list of the dirtiest/cleanest produce.

Here is the link: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/

EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
Dirty dozen
Buy these organic
1 – Apples
2 – Celery
3 – Strawberries
4 – Peaches
5 – Spinach
6 – Nectarines– imported
7 – Grapes – imported
8 – Sweet bell pepper
9 – Potatoes
10 – Blueberries – domestic
11 – Lettuce
12 – Kale/collard greens

———————————-

Clean 15
Lowest in Pesticide
1 – Onions
2 – Sweet Corn
3 – Pineapples
4 – Avocado
5 – Asparagus
6 – Sweet peas
7 – Mangoes
8 – Eggplant
9 – Cantaloupe – domestic
10 – Kiwi
11 – Cabbage
12 – Watermelon
13 – Sweet potatoes
14 – Grapefruit
15 – Mushrooms

Lettuce Care

Lettuce CareLong-lasting lettuce is our specialty. Harvesting the lettuce with its roots, keeps the plants alive helping them stay fresh longer for you. We also recommend wrapping the roots with a damp papertowel. The lettuce can be put back in the bag and kept in the refrigerator crisper drawer.

Personally, we love our OXO salad spinner. Sometimes, we will clean the entire head of lettuce, break it up (or use a salad knife), and then store what we don’t use in the salad spinner in our refrigerator. This allows the lettuce to keep drained. Excess water on the leaves will cause it to spoil. Also, it makes it easy for the next meal!

Pictured is a salad knife for the curious. It keeps the cut edges from turning brown.

Dining with Bok Choy

stirfry1Bok Choy is a wonderful addition to any stir fry. We love it because the stalks keep their crunch.

Here is our favorite way to stir fry:

After rinsing the bok choy, we chop up the stems and leaves. We cut up any other vegetables we have in the refrigerator (carrots, cabbage, celery, peppers, onions, etc), totaling 6-8 cups of veggies. The key secret in our stir fry is pouring boiling hot water over the vegetables and letting them soak for 4 minutes or so. We drain them immediately in a colander and run cold water over the veggies to stop the cooking process. This gives them a head start and makes tender-crisp stir fry.

Bok ChoyIn a wok, we heat up some olive oil. We toss in minced/chopped garlic and grate gingerroot, if we have it. We stir fry chicken/beef chunks until done. (Usually, we use about four chicken breasts.) Next, we throw in the veggies and about 1/2 t. of salt. Basically, we simply heat up the veggies. They won’t need too much more cooking.

Finally, we mix 1/2 c water, 2 T soy sauce & 1 T cornstarch in a separate bowl. Once the mixture dissolves, we pour it into the wok with everything else. We cook until the liquid thickens to the desired consistency.

Then, we pair it with rice and dig in!