Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stop What You Are Doing and Take a Minute!

Whether you talk on your cell phone or text or tweet, I would like you to stop and think about who and what is around you. If you have kids or grandkids, stop what you are doing and spend time with them today if you can.  If you have a dog and it isn't too stormy or cold out, take it for a long walk.  If you are in the middle of a storm, get a cup of tea or coffee and curl up with a good book or your cat.   Hope you still have power!  Dust off those cobwebs and enjoy each other's company today.  Life is too short not to be together.

The Herbal Husband helped me by taking these photos.  I need to spend time reading my favorite blogs!  Will be doing that throughout the coming weeks and hope to get more in touch with all of you!  We are off to the movies in a little while to see "Crazy Heart" with Jeff Bridges.   The movie was very good and Jeff Bridges was great!  He should win the Oscar!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Let Him Eat Quiche!

The other night The Herbal Husband had a hankering for quiche.  So I made a Ricotta and Spinach Quiche from one of my favorite cookbooks, Three Rivers Cookbook II.  I only have the first two, but I think there are four in the series.

Ricotta and Spinach Quiche-Serves 8
"A quiche most everyone loves - this makes a large one."
 Original recipe by Marlene Parrish

1 bunch fresh spinach or 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach
1 cup Ricotta cheese
nutmeg, grated
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup cream & 1 cup milk or 2 cups half & half
4 eggs, lightly beaten
salt & pepper

Line a deep 10" quiche pan with your favorite tart pastry, prick and bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees.  Meanwhile, wash spinach and cook for a few minutes.  Squeeze out all liquid and chop: should be about 3/4 cup.  Combine spinach with Ricotta, a little nutmeg and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Spread over the bottom of pie shell.  Combine eggs with cream, milk and salt and pepper.  Pour over Ricotta-spinach mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until puffed and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let quiche sit 10 minutes before serving.

Here is my additions and subtractions to the recipe.  I added a chopped onion sauteed in a little butter or olive oil, cooled, 1 t. of oregano (an Italian mixture or even dill) and an 1/8 t. garlic powder to the first mixture.   I also reduced the cream/milk mixture to 1-1/2 cups and used only 3 eggs not 4.  I also did not bake the pastry ahead, but I baked the quiche for 45 to 50 minutes total.  You need to let it sit for at least 10 minutes.  The Herbal Husband could not wait to dive in and it had a lot of liquid!  So don't listen to your family!  Wait until it rests before cutting it.  Hope you enjoy it!

P.S. I would like to thank the three brave souls who participated in my poll question about lemon verbena in the dark in the winter.  I think that one person is going to try it next season and the other two had not tried it.  I have never tried it, but I do keep our lemon verbena in a southern window in the winter.  Here is an earlier post about my favorite herb, lemon verbena.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blue Skies, Snow and Mischief!

Remember we are in our gray period, winter.  So when we get a blue sky kind of day, it is the greatest!  So you have seen by the banner photo, we had snow again last night!  It is winter here and very cold again.  We had a brief taste spring on Monday when it was in the 50's!  So you have seen the blue sky, the snow and now on to the mischief!  I took this squirrel hunting in the snow for peanuts that might have been left behind.

Then it got a little bolder and jumped up on the bird feeder.  Fortunately the good news is it didn't get any birds or food!
Then I tapped on the window and off it went.
Never a dull moment!  Hope you are have a calm peaceful day wherever you may be!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Lamp Post for the Faeries!

As you know, I have been reading Sharon Lovejoy's new book, Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars.  You should be reading it too.  She inspired me to find items that would be good for a faeries' landscape.  When I was out in my herb garden the other day, I spotted this sunflower and it reminded me of a lamp post for faeries.  A little cold for the faeries to be outside.  Maybe when they are, they will enjoy the sunflower lamp post!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Surprise in the Winter Garden!

There is a little snow on the ground today, but early this week, it was mild.  I was poking around and looked over this viburnum and found, 'Graham Thomas.'  My favorite rose in the summer garden.  Here it is in its glory.  I was really afraid that it was the trumpet vine!  That would have been bad.  Dreaming of a warm summer day!  Hope it is a great day wherever you are.  

Monday, January 25, 2010

Visitor in the Garden!

Look who's tracking its breakfast.  Kitty/Ginger Snap was out in the front garden keeping the mole/vole population at bay.  It was chasing squirrels the other day.  Not with great success!  Those moments I wish I had a video.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Life/Old Faithful in the Herb Garden!

In amongst the sticks of pineapple sage and lavender plants, new life is appearing in the herb garden!  The chives are coming up.  I wish spring was a little closer!  Chives can withstand the cold better than most herbs, but I dare not cut too much.  I have some frozen for use and they work really well on baked or mashed potatoes and that Saturday omelet or in stir fries.  It is still winter here and Mother Nature does not want us to forget that fact!  We are going to have a lot of rain today!  Just glad it is warm enough to be rain and not snow!  Hope you are enjoying the day wherever you may be!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Sunny Day in the Herb Garden!

Really enjoy the sun quick because it is supposed to rain a lot here tomorrow.  One of California storms is headed this way.  The sun will be gone shortly!  Does not last too long in the winter!  Even the squirrels are enjoying the day and the peanut caddy!  Don't tell The Herbal Husband!  Have a new feature that I hope you will participate in.  It is the poll question of the week.  A reader e-mailed me to ask among other things about lemon verbena whether you should place it in the dark.  I have never heard that theory, but please let me know whether through an e-mail to me or a comment whether you have had success putting your lemon verbena in a dark place in your house.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lookie What Came in the Mail!

I have started reading it already!  It is just the cutest!  I don't think you have to be a grandmother to enjoy this book.  I would say Sharon's message is to get families involved with their children.  Your children just want your time and I know that many families are stretched to the limit, but spend time with your children.  They will reward you with great joy!  Can hardly wait to read the rest!  Going to see Extraordinary Measures and have dinner out.  The Herbal Husband refuses to cook tonight!  I'm cooking tomorrow.  No really, I am!  Talk to you later.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Herbal Jelly Recipe Marathon!

Here are the last three herbal jelly recipes that I made last year.  That sounds weird to say!  Here is the Pineapple Sage Jelly recipe:

Makes four 8 oz. jars

1 12 oz. can of Old Orchard Pineapple Juice, frozen concentrate, reconstituted with 3 cans of water
(It makes three recipes of jelly once it is reconstituted.)
2 cups of pineapple juice
1-1/2 cups of pineapple sage leaves, packed
3-1/2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar OR lemon juice, your choice of one
1 pinch of salt
1 pouch of liquid pectin

(Jars should be sterilized in boiling water for ten minutes and lids covered with hot water in a separate pan.) Wash and dry the pineapple sage in paper towels, then coarsely chop it.  Put the pineapple sage in a large saucepan, and crush the leaves, using the bottom of a glass.  I use a food processor.  Add the juice, bring slowly to a boil and boil for ten seconds.  Remove the saucepan from the heat; cover and let sit for 15 minutes to steep.

Strain 1-1/2 cups of liquid from the saucepan and pour through a fine strainer into another saucepan.  Add the one of the vinegars OR lemon juice, salt and sugar and bring to a hard boil, stirring.  When the boil can't be stirred down, add the pectin.  Return to a hard boil that can't be stirred down and boil for exactly 1 minute, then remove saucepan from heat.

Skim off the foam and pour the hot jelly into four hot, sterilized half-pint jelly jars.  Leave 1/2" (or less) head space and seal at once with sterilized 2-piece lids.  I just leave my lids in hot water not boiling until you need them.  Can the jars in a boiling water bath for five minutes.

I would use this jelly on thumbprint cookies, cream cheese and crackers for a quick appetizer and a teaspoon or two as a glaze for the last 15 minutes of baking chicken or pork.

Here is one of my favorite jellies, Lemon Verbena jelly.  Wonder why?

Makes four 8 oz. jars

1-1/2 c. lemon verbena leaves, torn,
2 cups water
2 T. apple cider vinegar OR lemon juice
3-1/2 c. sugar
3 oz. Certo liquid pectin

(Boil jars for 10 minutes and pour hot water over lids separate from jars.Put torn verbena leaves and water into a saucepan.  Bring to a boil for 10 seconds, remove from heat and let stand covered for 15 minutes.   Measure 1-1/2 cups of liquid, add vinegar OR lemon juice and sugar to a 3-1/2 quart saucepan.  Mix well and bring to a boil that cannot be stirred down on high heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat briefly and add pectin.  Bring back to a rolling boil and boil for exactly 1 minute stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, skim foam with spoon and pour into sterilized jars.   Can the jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Use as directed above in the Pineapple Sage Jelly recipe.

The third and final recipe is Rosemary Sherry Jelly.  It is my version of a recipe from Herbs:  A Cookbook and More:

Makes eight 8 oz. jars

1 bottle (750 mg.) cream sherry (original recipe)
Plus enough additional sherry to equal 3-3/4 cups (my version)
¼ c. strained lemon juice
2 t. crushed, dried rosemary in metal tea ball or 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
7 c. sugar
6 oz. liquid Certo liquid pectin (I used just one pouch of Certo.)
8 small sprigs fresh rosemary, optional

Boil jars in large pot for 10 minutes and pour hot water over lids and keep them separate from jars.  Then combine sherry, lemon juice and rosemary and bring to a boil for 10 seconds in a medium to large saucepan.  Take pan off the heat and let stand covered for 15 minutes.  Strain liquid.

Use a 5 or 6 quart pan for the next process.  Add sugar to rosemary sherry mixture and mix until dissolved.  Bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.  Remove from heat briefly, stir in both pouches of Certo and return to heat and boil for exactly 1 minute.  Have jars ready to go.  This mixture will not need to be skimmed, but because of the double Certo, it sets up quickly!  Place a sprig of rosemary in each sterilized jar before pouring the jelly in.  (I did not use the extra rosemary.)  (I used just one pouch of Certo.  So mine was more of a syrup than a jelly.)  From Herbs:  A Cookbook and More.  I would particularly use this as a glaze on ham, pork or chicken in the last 15 minutes of cooking time especially when baking in the oven.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guest Blogging for The Herb Companion Magazine!

The snow was gone in a blink of an eye!  My guest blog for The Herb Companion magazine is all about looking for some color this time of year, winter!  Here is the link.  Caught The Herbal Husband's cold!  Going to get a cup of tea and find the tissue box!  Talk to you later.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Letter in The Herb Quarterly Magazine!

The mail after a holiday is always pretty good.  Today it was especially great.  I got my Herb Companion magazine, my Country Gardens magazine AND The Herb Quarterly magazine.  I write letters from time to time to The Herb Quarterly.  This is the second letter I have had appear in the magazine.  It is in the Spring 2010 issue.  Basically I was mentioning that jelly making was a category they missed in an column on preserving herbs.

Long and short, welcome to The Herb Quarterly magazine readers.  In the photo above, are my rose geranium jelly, rosemary garlic jelly, cinnamon basil and lemon basil jellies.  Here are the links to the recipes in this blog.  The rosemary garlic jelly recipe is here.   The rose geranium jelly recipe is here.  The cinnamon and lemon basil jellies recipes are at this link.  The other jelly recipes mentioned in my letter, lemon verbena, rosemary sherry and pineapple sage will be shared in the coming days.  Hope you enjoy my blog!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Closeup of a Favorite Herb Flower!

Almost forgot!  Here is a closeup of the 'African Blue' basil flower.  This was late last year.  I think!  The plant is almost gone!   We have been having the leaves in salads and sauces.  The smell is amazing!  Hope you are having a wonderful day filled with herbal smells.  I know the girls in the west (You know who you are!) are enjoying their herb gardens!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Great Insulator in the Herb Garden!

I mentioned in previous posts around this time of year that snow is the great insulator!  Look at this feverfew!  Maybe it's difficult to see through the twigs and sticks.  Just click on it to enlarge it!  I was quite pleased to see it, bright green and ready to start growing!  The lavender to the left doesn't look to bad either. 

This is the plant that my friend's daughter is growing for her science project, garlic or Chinese chives growing up through the lavender.  I need to get in my garden in the spring and remove about 80% of the garlic chives because they will take over in the garden!  It is warming up here!  Hope it is warm and sunny wherever you may be!

Friday, January 15, 2010

What A Difference A Day Makes!

It's gray again, but the snow is melting.  The male cardinal was hanging out waiting for his treats on the sunflower bird feeder this morning!  It's a popular place in the winter.  Click on the bottom photo to get a better view!  That arbor may not make it through the winter!  The cat climbing it has made it lean even more!  Hope you are OK wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It Has Been A Sunny Day!

Even though you may be shivering looking at my herb garden, there is a silver lining.  We had sunshine most of the day and in the wintertime in Pittsburgh, that is a great thing!!  Getting much warmer here over the next few days.  Taking our friends, Jim and Laverne out for dinner.  Next week will be their 65th wedding anniversary!  They are very special people.  Hope you are staying warm and you had sun wherever you may be.  Praying for those in Haiti!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Different Kind of Garden Browsing!

My first sighting of Santa's reindeer!  A little late for the season!  This one was browsing the white pine in the way back.  He had a nice little rack starting.  Click on the picture to see his alien eyes! Always like that feature!  Watch out for this different kind of garden browsing.  You could lose a plant or two.  Fortunately, most plants are covered with snow so they can't pull them out of the ground at the moment!  Hopefully, today will be our last day of cold for a little while!  We definitely need a break!  Talk to you later!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Confessions Day! I'm a Magazine Junkie!

OK, there I said it.  I really do love magazines, especially when they have herbs, gardening or counted x-stitch in them.  Organic Gardening magazine came in the mail last week.  New look, new editor (and a favorite garden writer of mine, Ethne Clark, she has written a great book on Herb Garden Design, among others), but I think same great information only better looking.  It is all about what entices a reader to pick up that magazine on the newsstand and read it.  Organic Gardening has had its ups and downs, but I really think it is going in the right direction!  One of my favorite articles is called Butter Up! about making herbal butters!  Wonder why?  Let me know what you think about Organic Gardening or any thing else that's on your mind!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Spicy Feast!

In trying to slim down, The Herbal Husband cooked this spicy (not hot) but tasty stew made with chicken thighs, potatoes from our garden, chicken broth (low fat and sodium), a jar of canned tomatoes from our garden, carrots and peas and cumin, turmeric and curry.  It was very good.  Going to have some leftovers tonight!  Yummy!  Hope you're staying warm!  It's going to be better soon!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter Isn't Winter Without. . .

ICICLES!  Some years they aren't as enormous.  This year everything is worser!  We haven't had a normal day temperature wise yet this year!  The year is still young, but winter gets old quick when it is worse than it's supposed to be!  OK, we are supposed to get a rise in the temperature later this week.  The Herbal Husband and I are counting the days!  Talk to you later!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Blanket on the Herb Garden!

 My new banner says it all, SNOW!  It does provide some comfort to my herb garden in the way of insulation.  It is also very cold as even the deep south is suffering through at the moment.  I think the weather will be back in the warmer direction by mid-week here.  'Til then stay warm!

Friday, January 8, 2010

This is Weird but Beautiful!

Just took this picture a little while ago!  Sun in our gray period of winter!  As I have always told you it doesn't happen too often, but we cherish the sun just the same!  Looks like 6 or 7 inches not much by some of  your standards, but enough to make it beautiful.  The Herbal Husband was measuring the snow on the bench.  Hope you are staying warm wherever you may be.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rosemary in Winter Indoors!

This prostrate rosemary is doing very, very well in our garage.  We dug it up late in the season and it has transitioned very well.   There are south facing windows and it is an unheated space.  It also doesn't get below 32 degrees though which is another key to success.  We are getting more snow, but when you don't have to commute, it is a beautiful time!  Take care and stay warm wherever you may be.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Tiny Update on The Great Seed Experiment!

I don't have any pictures, but I'm aware that 11 days after my friend planted the garlic chive seeds, she had germination of plants.  I think she has 6 plants in each of three sections, clear, green and red.  Here is the original post and the second post if you missed them.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Goes On and On and On!

The mailbox continues to be chock full of goodies, including one of our favorite seed catalogs, Johnny's Selected Seeds out of Maine.  They are employee owned.  They do their own research.  Hopefully, The Herbal Husband and I will get to visit some time in the near future.  Like I said in an earlier post, we keep this catalog at the backdoor because we are always referencing it during the growing season.  It has great information.  Johnny's also has a great selection of organic seeds and unusual varieties, especially herbs.

The second catalog that appeared that day was White Flower Farm which has been a bible for botanical names of perennials for me for many years.  I think it is very similar to the Thompson & Morgan catalog I talked about recently.  They both have a lot of unusual varieties.  It is still FREEZING here!  We are wishing for Lake Erie to FREEZE over.  That will stop the lake effect snow!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Guest Blogging for The Herb Companion Magazine!

A new year and the same old resolution, lose weight!  So hopefully, with my latest guest blog for The Herb Companion magazine, I will inspire you and me (or is it I?) to eat a bit better (the roast pork recipe is earlier in this blog or at the link above).  For the last several days because it is so cold out, I have been exercising indoors with Leslie Sansone. I have all of her 4 or 5 mile programs.  So it gives me at least an hour's worth of exercise.  She breaks it down into miles and you can do, 1, 2, 3 or all 4 miles.  The tape below started it all several years ago.  I was walking for an hour outside until the ice came and I had to go indoors.  There are a lot of good programs on the market and I lose my motivation quickly, but hopefully we can energize each other.  My goal is at least 20 or 25 pounds!  I'll let you know how I'm doing.  Please do the same.

Monday, January 4, 2010

This is My Favorite Peruvian Dish!

Oh wait, there are more favorite Peruvian dishes.  This just happened to be dinner the other night.  The picture is a little messy, because I jumped into it before I thought, oh, blog post!  Lomo saltado, literally translated it means "jump steak".  It has steak strips, tomato, onion, hot pepper without the seeds (There is a story about that.), vinegar, soy sauce at the end, peas, steak fries and served over rice.  Sort of like a Peruvian stir fry!  It's delicious!

Lomo Saltado (Serves 6, we think!)

1 (or maybe 1-1/2) pound(s) of sirloin steak, cut into strips
3 medium tomatoes or 1 beefsteak (or 1 jar of canned tomatoes) about 1 pound of tomatoes, cut in wedges
2 medium or 1 large onion,  cut in wedges
1 medium hot pepper, deseeded and cut in long strips
1 T. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. canola or vegetable oil
1 t. of granulated garlic
a sprinkle of black pepper
a sprinkle of annato or paprika
1/2 of a large bag of steak fries (or maybe more)
1/2 c. of fresh or frozen green peas
 A splash of soy sauce (can be light)
Cooked rice for 6 people
A small bunch Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish

Wash, cut and chop parsley as a garnish and set aside.  Preheat the oven for the fries per package directions.  The fries can bake while you are preparing the rest of the dish.  Marinate the meat strips in a container with the garlic, annato or paprika and pepper.  Let it rest on the side.  In the meantime, cut the onions and tomatoes in wedges and set aside.  Using your largest skillet (ideally 14" wide x3" deep), heat the oil on high, when it's hot, add the meat and brown to keep the juices in.  Once the meat is browned, add the onions and saute the onions for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes, stirring to mix the flavors.  Once the tomatoes are soft and the juices mixed, add the vinegar, stir to combine.   Then add the peas, lower the heat to medium and cook for a few minutes.  Finally, add the hot pepper, cover with a lid and turn the burner to low heat until the pepper is cooked.  Add a sprinkle of soy sauce just before you serve.  To serve,  place several fries on the plate, use a ladle to dish some saltado on top of the fries and garnish with parsley.  Serve rice on the side or how I like it with the rice on the bottom not the side!

This is a translation from The Herbal Husband's brain to blog page!  If you don't understand a step, we will hopefully be able to help you through it!   A quick story about the hot pepper.  Make sure that you deseed it!  The Herbal Husband didn't think that the pepper I bought one time was hot, he left the seeds in!  It ruined the dish!  He couldn't even eat it!  Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Well, So Far It's a Tie!

There is an ongoing disagreement about the indoor herbal plants that come inside for the winter.  Unfortunately, we have two cars and one of them is in the garage!  So these scented geraniums are in my "laundry" section of the basement!  It makes for a fragrant time, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they survive!

On the flip side, the garage for me is still the place to be when you're an herb in a container at our house!  Here are a couple of my troughs, the sweet lavender and in the way back is a habek mint!  It has been mighty cold here, but they are doing very well.  Promised The Herbal Husband a lemon verbena bread.  Got to go!  Stay warm!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Goes On and On!

Two of my favorite seed catalogs arrived in the last couple of days.  I know I always say it's my favorite.  Can't have too many of those, right?  The one is the American version of the English company, Thompson & Morgan.  The English only speak in botanical names.  It really makes you learn the botanical Latin which is the way it should be.  The other catalog is John Scheepers out of Connecticut.  Each of these catalogs has unusual varieties that are not found in too many other catalogs.  Hope you are staying warm wherever you may be!  It is FREEZING here!

Friday, January 1, 2010

I've Got a New Use for My Garden Spade!

The snow was so wet and heavy, The Herbal Husband thought this was a good use for my garden spade!  In the end it wasn't fast enough!  Hope we all have a very happy and healthy 2010!