Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Arroz Con Pollo From the Other Night!

Well, I have been slacking in the blogging department.  I wanted to share another Peruvian masterpiece from The Herbal Husband.  I thought I had share this recipe before, but it appears I'm keeping it from you.  We were getting in a rut with meals.  The same food every week.  So when The Herbal Husband mentioned arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), I was in!  Here is the recipe:

Arroz con Pollo

Serves 6-8

1 whole chicken cut in pieces or 8 thighs with skin and bones

1/3 cup of oil

1 medium onion diced

1 fresh hot pepper or powdered hot pepper to taste (It was left out of ours

    and it was just as good without it.)

1 cup cilantro leaves, minced

1 teaspoon of granulated garlic or 2 cloves of garlic minced

¼ pound of fresh peas or a small bag of frozen peas

3-1/2 cups of long grain rice

Salt & pepper to taste      

¼ teaspoon of cumin

3-1/2 cups of water or chicken stock plus additional cup of beer,
 water or stock to be added at end of cooking

1 sweet red pepper, diced

Marinate chicken pieces with salt, pepper, cumin and hot pepper (if powdered) for 15 minutes.  Heat oil and fry chicken to seal in juices in a Dutch oven.  Keeping chicken in the pot, add the onion, then garlic and cook until light brown.  Stir to keep from burning.  Add water or stock and cilantro.  When mixture comes to a boil, add rice and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until liquid is gone.  Add fresh or frozen peas 3 minutes before being done with the diced red pepper.   If desired, stir in one glass of beer, water or stock (about 8 oz.) to rice at end to make it moist and help it finish cooking.  Turn heat off and let it sit on the burner covered for 5 to 10 minutes until rice is done.  

The purple bits you may see in the photo are purple potatoes that were an addition to this version of the recipe.  The Herbal Husband said not to list them as an ingredient because they are not traditionally in arroz con pollo.   So there you have it.  Maybe dinner for you tonight if you are still searching for a dinner idea.
It was raining cats and dogs a little while go.  We don't have snow at the moment.  Thank goodness, but snow back in the forecast for tomorrow night!  Winter is not through with us yet.  Stay safe. Talk to you later.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Letting It Snow Some More!

The Herbal Husband making it snow some more!  We got more than a dusting or a half an inch like they predicted.  My blogging friend, Peggy R, warned me yesterday.  Didn't want to believe her!  We have an opening for at one of the three local news stations, Peggy!  You're a better forecaster than they are!  Well don't look now but we are warming up the next four days but some freezing rain before it turns to all rain.  So the garden will be uncovered again by next week.  I'm not going to say we turned the corner because March is a wild month of temperature fluctuations and lots of kinds of precipitation.  The Herbal Husband's birth month.  I don't need to say any more.  Stay safe everyone!  Talk to you later.  P.S. As you can see by my new banner photo, it is starting to melt with a bit of sun at the end of the day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Different From One Day to the Next!

'Berggarten' Sage Holding Its Own
As you can see we have already lost the snow, but we may have a coating again by tonight!  Just typical weather for February in the 'Burgh.  People have started to ask about whether we have started to plan our garden.  Usually by this time, we have our seeds ordered.  For some reason, we have not done a thing.  The seed box is on the shelf in the garage and The Herbal Husband's car is blocking an attempt at gaining access to said box.  So we have done nothing.

My herbal sister in England, Debs Cook, has picked up the gauntlet and is possessed with starting every herb known to exist.  Just a slight exaggeration, but she is close!  We don't have a lot of indoor seed starting capability so we have gone to buying plants and starting seeds that wouldn't otherwise need an indoor start.  It works quite nicely.

Was out briskly walking the garden.  We have gone from 40's into the 20's with the wind blowing!  I think I have lost some herbs that in the milder winter last year have done better.  Hope you have had a great day and like Debs, you have started a few or a lot of seeds.  Talk to you later.

Monday, February 18, 2013

New Page for Guest Posts for Herb Companion and Mother Earth Living Magazines

Well, I have put together a page of the Guest Posts I have written for The Herb Companion magazine and now Mother Earth Living.  I hope you will find this page useful.  It was a trip down memory lane to see everything I have written.  Pretty special, herbally speaking.  I have been reading a lot of herbal books and articles.  I'm not bogged down, but just find myself enjoying my reading and I'm not too concerned that I'm not blogging every day.  So I hope you will understand.  I'll blog when I get some things together herbally speaking!  I really don't need topics.  I just need to put some thoughts together.  Talk to you later.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lavender Cupcakes with Earl Grey Icing for Valentine's Day!

I was inspired by the delightful post by my Herbal Sister, Debs Cook, called Herbs for Love.  I found a recipe on Facebook for lavender cupcakes with earl grey icing.  I tried to surprise The Herbal Husband, but he discovered I was making them.   As you can see the lavender cupcakes just came out of the oven.  One got put back in for a bit more time.  OK, had to try it!  Here is the recipe link I used from sheknows.com.  I changed it up a bit.  I didn't use the food coloring and they taste just fine without it.  I'm also not going to use the frosting recipe because The Herbal Husband doesn't like heavy frosting and it's too caloric for me.  I also baked them about twice as long as the recipe calls for.  At 13 minutes, they were still underbaked.  So I say start with 13 and work your way up if necessary.  I think I ended up at 20 or 25.  I downsized my minutes, because they were just a touch overdone.  OK final decision on temperature and time.  The Herbal Husband requested a second batch and I baked them at 375 and for 20 minutes and they were perfect.  Cooked all of the way through and not over baked.  I made a cup of lavender earl grey tea and let it cool and I took a couple of teaspoonfuls and beat it into the frozen whipped topping.  Sorry if you like real whipped cream, use it.  Also if you like the frosting idea, go for it. Here is a finished cupcake.  They are delicious.  The whipped cream came out a tad runny, but delicious.


 Well, hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day.  Talk to you later.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Bit of Windy Potpourri from the 'Burgh!

The Herbal Husband's Pre-Valentine Gift-Vanilla Waffles!

Daffodils Trying to Make an Appearance!

Ever Faithful Chives Are Up Through the Leaves!

The Trough and Rosemary Are Out for an Airing!
We have a mixed bag of items today.  Just thought you would like a pre-Valentine gift I gave The Herbal Husband on Sunday.  I made him his favorite waffles with vanilla.  Just add one tablespoon of vanilla to your favorite waffle batter unless it already has it included.  He loves them and the recipe makes extras for the rest of the week.  Sooo I may get off easy on Valentine's Day!

We got off easy storm wise.  We had very little accumulation of snow and it is already gone.  We are in the high 50's at the moment and sunny as you can see in my photos.  We will be back to reality tomorrow with appropriate temperatures in the 30's.  Nice to see the daffodils make an appearance and the ever faithful chives have popped up.  Some of the plants were out briefly, but have gone into the garage until the laundry is done.  The wind has been very gusty.

Hope you are having a wonderful day.  I had green tea in my morning tea mug today.  This afternoon I'm having elderflower.  I'll discuss green tea and elderflower in my next post.  Talk to you later.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Calming Chamomile Tea!

So my choice of tea today was homemade.  I made a couple different combinations of tea blends several years ago.  I had a really great harvest of chamomile back then as well.  Here is a small paragraph from my List of Annual Herbs about German chamomile.

German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a wonderful apple-scented plant with daisy like flowers that grows to about 2’ tall.  It grows easily from seed which should be sown in the early spring and again in summer for a succession of harvests.  Harvest flowers when their petals start to turn downward to use fresh or dried in teas.  The plants fade quickly after flowering.  In my experience if you harvest the flowers, they keep producing more flowers.  If you let the flowers go by meaning not harvesting them, the plant will die.  So you have to be on top of harvesting the flowers especially in the hot weather.  It is a front of the border plant. 

If you click on the mug to the right, it will show you the process of filling the bags.  After so many years the flavor of the chamomile was still excellent.  Very calming tea after a long day.  We got my Herb Companion and some of my Herb Quarterly magazines moved to a cabinet in the dining room where I work.  More convenient for me.   Maybe I'll get to read some different ones that I've not yet read and, of course, I'll share what I read with you.  It was a partly sunny day here.  We are just getting a minor storm tomorrow.  Hope New England doesn't get battered like they are forecasting.  Stay safe and warm wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chateau de Villandry 2007 and 2011!

2007 Vegetable Garden Plan!

The 2011 Vegetable Garden Plan!

The 2007 Vegetable Garden in October

The 2011 Vegetable Garden in July
2007 Overview of the Vegetable Garden
2011 Overview of the Vegetable Garden

2007 Lemon Verbena in the Herb Garden
2011 Lemon Verbena in the Herb Garden
I'm woefully behind in posting about our fabulous European adventure in 2011.  So indulge me a bit and I'll try to make it a great armchair vacation for you during this cold snowy winter.  This is one of my favorite gardens in the world, Chateau de Villandry.  It was completed around 1536 and was the last of the great chateaus to be built on the banks of the Loire River during the Renaissance period.  I have given you a comparison in gardens from when we were there in 2007 to 2011.  I realized reading the brochure that they have two plantings of the vegetable garden, one in spring from March to June and the other in summer from June to November.  I would go again in August or September.  October was great and July was a bit under grown.  Don't get me wrong it is a beautiful place no matter what season you visit.  The last two pictures are of my beloved herb, lemon verbena.  In July it looks a bit more like the plant you grow.  In October when it's like a hedge, it doesn't look as familiar.  These last three photos are of the new Sun Garden is an exotic place made up of three green areas.  It was a very peaceful sighting.  Enjoyed this garden as much as the vegetable in the fall.  Hope you get to go some day.  You will really enjoy it.
The Sun Garden
The Cloud Room

The Sun Room
Well, it is finally sunny here!  Got out to see what's going on in the herb garden.  Still pretty covered up with snow.  We are supposed to get a bit of mixed precipitation tomorrow night into Friday.   We may get into the 50's next week.  Maybe Phil was right.  Spring will be early this year.  It was really early last year.  Hope you are having a sunny day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester, London, England

Exquisite Flower Arrangement in the Dining Area

The Promenade Where We Had Tea!
Smoked Salmon, Egg, Cream Cheese and Cucumber Sandwiches
Jelly with Cream?  I Don't Remember!
A Delicious Raisin Scone or Two
The French Pastries for Dessert!
A Tin of 80th Anniversary Tea!
The Description of the Anniversary Tea!
Well, I can't believe that I haven't blogged about all of our adventures in 2011!  I'm still only in France by my recollections.  Since it is so cold and snowy outside, we'll get back to those adventures and finish out that once in a lifetime trip during our adventures with tea.  I will just jump into the latter stages of our trip when we spent a long weekend in London.  2011 was a very cool and rainy summer for London.

I always make it a priority to go for tea whenever we are there.  We decided on The Dorchester and we took the bus there so we could see the sights along the way.  I always like to get dressed up and you will have to take my word for it.  It was an overcast but not a rainy afternoon.  We got off the bus and the heavens opened up.  We turned the wrong way trying to get to the hotel.  There was a mess of construction and I just got turned around.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it, but by the time we righted ourselves, it was too late.  We looked like two drowned rats.  So much so that when we presented ourselves to the Maitre D, he looked at The Herbal Husband and asked him if he needed to go to the men's room to fix himself!  Poor Herbal Husband!  He was mortified and when he went to the men's room there wasn't a dryer in sight!  He was not a happy camper.  However, the multiple plates of sandwiches did ease the pain and he did enjoy the afternoon tea at The Dorchester and proclaimed it one of the best in London!  It's that multiple sandwich thing!  And of course, scones with clotted cream helped as well.  It was a delicious afternoon.  Oh and we got a tin each of Anniversary Tea.  Very delicious.

Well, we have had little snow clippers each day for several days.  An inch or two of snow not more, but just annoying at best.  This day three years ago, we had almost two feet of snow!  Glad we don't have that in the forecast.  Hope you are enjoying our tea adventures.  Will blog a bit about the European adventures seeing as I just realized that I haven't finished blogging about that!  I do get sidetracked!  I hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  Talk to you later.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Milk or Not?

You wouldn't necessarily think that this tea would need some milk, but it is chai.  Chai traditionally has milk as an enhancer to the mix.  I remember I had my first cup of chai at the movies made by an Indian lady who owned the theater.  I loved it and looked forward to going to the movies in the winter months so we could have chai.  This is the package of Rosemary's Chai from The Rosemary House.  I was hooked on chai from Fortnum and Mason in England.  However, Rosemary's Chai gives Fortnum and Mason's version a run for their money!  I realized that you can't order Rosemary's Chai from the website so called them at (717) 697-5111 to place an order.  I know they do their mail order packages on Wednesdays.  So you will be just in time with your order!  If you are lucky enough to be in the Harrisburg area, The Rosemary House is opened Tuesday through Friday 10 AM to 6 PM and Saturday 10 AM to 4 PM.  They are closed Sunday and Monday.

I also have purchased a chai mix from The Spice Shop in England and I must admit that I haven't made it yet.  It is just the spices that are added to milk and then added to tea.  A bit more complex, but I'll make a cup and share it with you later in the month.
Masala chai from Hindi means mixed spice tea.  It is also very popular in southeast Asia.  I have also gotten hooked on the chai tea latte at Panera Bread.  Can't have that too much.  Here is an article from Mother Earth Living called Make Chai:  3 Recipes.  Have always wanted to make my own.  Now is the time.  I do have milk with stronger tea blends, even sometimes English Breakfast.  So tell me milk or no milk?  Hope you are having a great day.  Cold and snowy still.  It's February!  Talk to you later. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

How to Brew the Perfect Pot of Tea and Other Matters!

In my tea mug today is Blue Angel described on the Secret Garden Tea Co. site in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada as "a delightfully sweet taste of caramel, flavoured with apples, hibiscus, and cornflower petals".  I think the cornflower petals were added for appearance, but the debate will continue as to whether they are an edible flower.  I pulled out my edible flowers book from Canada called Herbs & Edible Flowers by Lois Hole and it does have bachelor's buttons under "For the Adventurous" in the back of her book.  She also has listed (Knapweed, Chicory) under the title bachelor's buttons.  She does have the correct botanical name for bachelor's buttons and that's what you want to concentrate on.  Knapweed is from the same genus, but chicory isn't.  Chicory is definitely an edible flower in several of my books.  Chicory grows along roadsides here and I wouldn't be eating those flowers as I said in my post on edible flowers.  If you grow them yourself or know someone who does, it is perfectly OK to eat chicory flowers.  BTW, Lois puts bee balm in for the adventurous list!  You have to do research!  Especially when using books from other countries!  Please do your homework when thinking of eating a flower you aren't familiar with.  Don't be adventurous!  Check several sources before you eat anything.  Here is what's inside the bag.  You can smell the caramel, delish!
So how do you brew the perfect pot of tea.  Well, I have a few books that I'm reading and one of my favorites is from the old Victoria Magazine called The Charms of Tea.

Brew the Perfect Pot of Tea

A good pot of tea requires three items:  pure water (the softer, the better), boiling water and loose tea (although tea bags, in a pinch are OK.)

Begin with cold water that is placed to boil in a metal kettle.  Cold, running water is fully oxygenated and better for tea.

If your tap water is very hard or poor tasting, use bottled water.

Fill a porcelain teapot with hot tap water and let it sit to warm up while the kettle boils.

Just before the water reaches the boil, empty the teapot, dry it and add the tea.

The perfect measurement for how much tea is one heaping teaspoon of tea for each cup and one more for the pot.  If possible, place it in a tea ball or bag for easily removal.

If you're going to be using teabags, use one for each serving and one more for the pot.

Set the teapot next to the stove and the moment the water boils, pour it over the tea.

It is important that the water be boiling as fully as possible.

Equally important is that the water not boil too long.  Don't let it overboil, not only will you lose much of it to steam, but the water will lose oxygen and the tea will not taste good.

Let the tea steep for three to five minutes.

Stir it once during steeping to distribute the essential oils.

When I'm just making a cup or mug for myself, I just brew it one to three minutes.  Sometimes I take a bit of milk particularly when I'm drinking chai.  We also use our tea balls several times to get as much flavor from the tea as possible.  The month is just starting so I'm going to pace myself, but hopefully I'll teach you something new and you will teach me as well.  Got to do some errands this afternoon.  Not looking forward to getting out in the elements!  Hope you are staying warm with a cup of tea!  Talk to you later.