Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cooking With Herbs

In honor of my wonderful husband being able to fix our kitchen sink problem (doing a way better job than that plumber who we hired did), I wanted to post some recipes I got when I attended meeting of the Herb Society back in January.  (Actually, I was going to post them anyway, but I am so excited at having a working kitchen again that I had to sneak that part in!)

During the meeting, a demonstration was given by Judith Griffin.  I was so impressed with her demonstration that I just had to buy her book, “Mother Nature’s Herbal”:

It is full of all kinds of information on growing herbs and their many uses – and not just for cooking, but for beauty products and other remedies as well.  Her demonstration was not just informative; her sense of humor made the whole thing really fun.  If you would like to learn more about her and her line of products, she has a website (click here).

Here are the recipes that she shared with us that day.  Enjoy!

Beef, Lamb, or Pork Blends

Change the flavor of your meat and create a new twist to your main entrée. Serve vegetable blends that are seasonally compatible.

Option 1:  Mix 1 teaspoon each lemon thyme, rosemary, ground ginger, and lemon zest for each pound of meat.

Option 2:  Mix 1 teaspoon each marjoram, thyme, orange peel; ½ teaspoon ground cloves; and ½ teaspoon minced garlic for each pound of meat.

Option 3:  Mix 1 teaspoon each ground chili powder, minced onion, spicy Mexican oregano and ½ teaspoon yellow mustard seed for each pound of meat.

Option 4:  1 tablespoon mint, such as applemint, spearmint, or cinnamon basil. This is especially tasty on lamb.

Homemade Pork and Sage Sausage

Sage enhances the flavor and helps to digest pork.

5 pounds lean ground pork or ground venison
4 teaspoons no-salt herbal blend (Option 1, above, was used during the demonstration)
½ cup ground, dried sage
¼ - ½ cup crushed hot pepper, more if desired

Combine and mix thoroughly. Divide into patties and cook in a frying pan until done or freeze the patties for later use.

Asparagus:  Asparagi Italiana

Italians cook white asparagus, but green will do. Asparagi is served as a main course.

½ cup butter or ghee
2 tablespoons ground hazelnuts
2 pounds asparagus
½ cup freshly grated romano and parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh, chopped parsley, basil, and thyme or lemon thyme

Heat butter or ghee until it turns golden. Remove from heat and blend with 2 tablespoons of hazelnuts. Cook asparagus in non-aluminum pot 12-I7 minutes. Drain, sprinkle herbs and cheese on top of asparagus and spoon the hazelnut butter over them. Serves 6.

Roasted Lemon Herbal Tuscany Chicken
3-lb roasting chicken
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons ground rosemary (freshly ground)
2 tablespoons fresh ground lemon thyme
2 bell peppers, yellow or green, seeded, cut into 4ths
2 red bell peppers, seeded, cut into 4ths
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
6 bay leaves, placed between legs, wings
2 red onions or 1 large onion, sliced
6 new potatoes
1 cup white wine (Pinot Grigio is recommended)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Brush chicken skin with olive oil.
Grind or pound (mortar and pestle):  Rosemary, lemon thyme, fennel seeds, garlic.  Rub onto brushed chicken or place inside the skin or cavity.
Place chicken in a roasting pan and cover/surround bird with veggies.
Cover and roast at 350° for 1-1/2 hours.  Uncover and brown 30 minutes.
Garnish with herbs, lemon slices, olives, and serve with an herbal flavored rice or wild rice.

From Mother Nature's Herbal by Judy Griffin, PH.D. GFWHS Meeting 1/21/12

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Defying Convention

I am not the rebellious type – truly, I’m not.  I don’t mean to break the rules of conventional wisdom; somehow, it just seems to happen.  I notice this at times when I am sitting in Sunday school.  Like all the times I have heard that when things are going well, we tend to forget the Lord, and then as soon as things begin to go badly we are “stirred up in remembrance” and turn to Him.  “I’m just a freak,” I find myself thinking, mostly because I know secretly that I am prone to feel more spiritual when things are going well and get a little agitated (spiritually and emotionally) when things are not going so great.
Gardening has proven to be no exception to my weirdness.  I have been trying to garden for about five years now and I had decided in the beginning that I wanted to be as organic in my approach as possible.  The pests in the area were delighted with this decision and I have struggled every year.  Having been told that garlic pepper tea was an excellent deterrent I whipped some up to deter pests.  Compost tea and other organic amendments (including some primo bunny poo) have been added to enhance plant health and growth.  Yet, once again, this year my tomato plants looked terrible; they looked so terrible, in fact, that I threw up my hands and decided to forget it.  They were a lost cause and I would save my money and my time by doing nothing more than watering them and letting nature take its course.  It wasn’t long before one of Robert’s “experiments” actually started taking over one of my tomato plants:

Logic would tell you that a plant that looks that terrible and that has been that neglected wouldn’t produce a thing, yet I am amazed every time I venture outside to see that those awful looking plants keep churning out these cute little tomatoes:

Meanwhile, my Cherokee purple tomato plants have grown big

….and have produced tomatoes that are badly cracked and not so pretty.  Who would have thought?
Our living situation has also defied conventional wisdom.  (And before I start, let me say that yes, I know that in these times I should just be grateful that I have a house.  The logical, spiritual part of me knows this, but it is the irrational, upset part of me that is writing this particular post today).
I have been begging Robert for some time to consider moving…out of Texas (way too hot);  then okay, not out of Texas , but at least out of the metroplex (way too crowded);  then okay, just to a house with a bigger yard and some windows.  I just hate the house we are in.  There is very little natural light in the house itself.  The yard is great if all you want to do is have barbeques and then go inside, but if you want to garden you are very limited in space.  And our newest wonder of wonders happened this weekend when we discovered that what we thought was a clogged kitchen sink turned out to be our 40-year old metal pipes going bad.  Replacing them is going to mean tearing up something in the kitchen (floors or walls or both), and the repair is probably going to eat into any money that we had to buy some land somewhere.
“I know you want to move,” Robert has told me (even before this weekend’s fiasco), “But moving is just logistically impossible.  There’s just no way to do it.”
Really?  Logistically impossible?  How many new families have shown up in church recently?  From other places?  And how many of these people are even in our age range?  How many families that we really liked have recently moved away?  To other places?  Some of which are not even in Texas?  Why are we the only family we know who finds it logistically impossible to move?
Since we have once again defied all trends and happenings, I have been working on trying to make our cluttered, smothering, dark little house more bearable.  I recently went on a cleaning/packing spree.  The back of Mom’s little Honda CR-V was loaded completely with a donation for Goodwill.  I will be sending this little stack of items to our local 4-Paws animal rescue group  for their annual garage sale:

Mom and I even have rented a little storage unit in which to put some items that we don’t really use but aren’t quite ready to get rid of yet.  This also defies the wisdom of most organizational gurus who would say if you have to store it, you really don’t need it.  However, I don’t want to be too heavy-handed in my de-cluttering efforts just now.  I’m hoping that if I can get to the point that I don’t have to move two things out of the way to reach the one thing that I actually am going for, I might like our house a little more… because it has become clear that I’m going to have to…(sigh).
On a lighter note, it seems that The Most Beautiful Child in the World has a knack for defying convention, too (although as she gets closer to being two,  Mandy probably would say “defiant” instead of “defying”).  I saw an example of this yesterday evening during a visit from Mandy and Paisley.  You see, my little Nestlé bunny loves being in her run so much that when it is time for her to come in for the night, she runs away from her mother every single time.  Said mother has threatened on more than one occasion to leave her out for the owl, but after lots of chasing, Nestlés mother finally reels the errant bunny safely in.  Well,  you can imagine my surprise last night when I witnessed Nestlé happily stay in place while Paisley walked up to her!  Nestlé even let that little curly-haired girl pet her:

And then pet her some more:

Is Paisley a bunny wrangler or what?  The kid who is allergic to animals seems to be the one who has a special way with them!  Doesn’t that just defy all?