Monthly Archives: April 2013

Cooking with Herb and Spicy

Last week my Son-In-Law, Randy, asked me about cooking with herbs and spices. Since he was deployed to Qatar last year and visited the spice baazars, he has been fascinated with cooking with some of the great flavored spices he brought home with him.  We have tried Morrocan cooking, Arabic cooking, and Egyptian cooking with him.  Wonderful grilled rubs and marinades!  We have all benefitted from the wonderful tumeric, cinnamon, fennugreek, paprika, and curry that he has given us as gifts and the fabulous stews, couscous, and spice rubs that he is experimenting with!

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But he was unsure how to use fresh herbs, or how to pair them up with food.

I have a small raised bed outside my home that I use mostly for seasonal veggies and herbs.  A couple of years ago, I  planted one rosemary bush, a small thyme, some chives and a purple sage and garlic.  They have all wintered over nicely and are large enough now to provide all the herbs I could want!  I also grow mint in a pot (it is a notorious spreader), and every year I plant fresh basil, dill, and flat leaf parsley.  I’ve tried cilantro a few times, but with less success.  The gkids always enjoy the garden, clipping, pulling carrots, radishes, onions, garlic, and planting seeds.  It’s a great family activity!

herbsCooking with fresh herbs is also very good for our bodies.  They contain large amounts of anti-oxidants and vitamins.   Herbs strengthen the immune system, lower blood sugar and cholesterol; they have anti-inflammatory properties, and prevent Alzheimer’s diseases and cancers.  And they are easy to grow and cook with.

We talked about keeping an herb garden and he specifically asked me how to use them and what to use them with, so here are some pointers:

1. Never spray pesticide or herbicide near an organic garden.  By planting “companion” plants together, you can avoid damage naturally.  Planting garlic bulbs in your garden will help drive pests away.  Cabbage, lettuce, beets, and onions all love garlic and it will keep away aphids.  Garlic is also said to improve the flavor of neighboring plants and also improve your roses!  However pulses and legumes (beans, potatoes, peas) don’t seem to like to be near garlic (or onions). Cucumbers also don’t like aromatic herbs, but sage protects carrots, parsley protects asparagus and tomatoes, basil protects beans and peas.  So by planting carefully, you can have a pest free garden without sprays! (Please!)

You don’t need a big garden…you can grow things in buckets on the patio if that is the only space you have…just water them regularly.

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2.  Fresh Herbs are somewhat stronger than dried herbs, so you can use less.  I like to use herb bundles in soups and stews instead of trying to pick off all those tiny leaves, just tie a few compatible herbs together and then fish out the stems after cooking.  I will also often add a sprig of whatever I used in the dish to garnish the plate…very pretty!  Always wash the herbs first and store in a zippy bag with a damp paper towel inside.  They should keep for quite awhile this way.  But part of the joy of having a garden is being able to go out a just clip off some fresh herbs whenever you need them!

3.  Here’s my list of what to use in what.  It is by no means exhaustive! There are lots of other variations and everyone to their own taste…but it’s a start!

Garlic:  soups, stews, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, chicken, pork, lamb, beef, everything Italian, infused oils, almost anything tastes better with garlic!

Basil:  Eggs, Tomatoes, ratatouille, fish, pizza, pesto, soft cheeses, anything Italian, especially pasta or rice.  Cocktails (muddled basil to lemonade, bellinis, or gimlets)!  Soups and salads, also good in some desserts with lemon or orange.  Infused oil, vinegars, tea.

Rosemary:  Sausage, eggs, soup, stew, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, potatoes, again, anything Italian, oranges, infused oil, vinegar,  tea, meat marinades, bread (esp. foccacia), honey.

Thyme:  Eggs, soups, stews, gravy, meats, poultry, tomatoes, potatoes, asparagus, beans green and white, oils, vinegars, tea, marinades, broccoli, ratatouille, cucumber, onion, squash, honey, goat cheese.

Sage:  Poultry, flavored butters and oils, eggs, lamb, beans, pasta, rice, soups and stews, apples, pineapple, fish, pork, sausage, honey, asparagus, squash, goat cheese. Freeze in ice cubes for summer drinks.

Parsley:  tea, soups, eggs, gravy, cream sauces, tomato sauces, garden and potato salads, grilled fish, chicken, and  beef dishes, potatoes, stews, pasta, rice,  to top or garnish anything for a fresh grassy flavor.

Dill:  fish, shellfish, potatoes, yogurt, mayo, sour cream, cream sauce or gravies, beets, carrots, soups, stews, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles.

Oregano:  tomatoes, potatoes, fish, poultry, fish, pasta, soups and stews, eggs, lamb, most vegetables, tea, oils and vinegars.

This may also help….it’s from About.com.

Beans (dried) cumin, cayenne, chili, parsley, pepper, sage, savory, thyme
Beef basil, bay, chili, cilantro, curry, cumin, garlic, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
Breads anise, basil, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, lemon peel, orange peel, oregano, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme
Cheese basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chili, chives, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, horseradish, lemon peel, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
Chicken allspice, basil, bay, cinnamon, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger lemongrass, mustard, paprika, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
Corn chili, curry, dill, marjoram, parsley, savory, thyme
Eggs basil, chervil, chili, chives, curry, dill, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
Fish anise, basil, bay, cayenne, celery seed, chives, curry, dill fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon peel, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, marjoram
Fruits allspice, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mint
Lamb basil, bay, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, garlic, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme
Potatoes basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Salad Dressings basil, celery seed, chives, dill, fennel, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, thyme
Salads basil, caraway, chives, dill, garlic, lemon peel, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Soups basil, bay, chervil, chili, chives, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, marjoram, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme
Sweets allspice, angelica, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, lemon peel,  mace, nutmeg, mint, orange peel, rosemary
Tomatoes basil, bay , celery seed, cinnamon, chili, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, gumbo file, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme

Enjoy!

Tea, Race Cars, and Incandescent Gas

Yesterday was a busy day with the gkids.  As I picked them up from school, we had much on the agenda.  First there was the dreaded homework :  math, spelling, a writing exercise…OK maybe later.  But Cooper did manage to sing me the “Sun Song”.

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“The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas….”  while waving his hand behind his posterior.  (He admitted that he got in a lot of trouble at school for his hand gestures….and got caught by the Principal — oh Brother!)

For full effect you can find it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me06I9GDM_k

It was really hard to keep a straight face. . .

Then there was a painting project.  It is Pinewood Derby time again, and both kids are participating. Daddy helped them with sanding, weighting, and spray painting the racing stripes on, so now I got to help with decorating.  We pasted and glued on numbers, stickers, etc.  and then got to the really fun part!  Painting on the flames, the windshields, the door handles, and making it look like a real car!  Wow that was fun, and the gkids are very artistic.

Coopers carOlivias car

After all that concentration…we needed a little down time.  So we had “tea”.  My Scots Granny loved her tea, and it was always a special treat for me to have it with her.  I grew up loving tea parties and dressing up dolls and Teddy’s and doing a lot of pretending like I was the Queen of Sheba (I had no idea who that was, but it sounded good).

However, I had an 8 (going on 20) and a 6 (almost 7) year old very grown up crew…so we decided to make the real thing.  No self-respecting tea is without a good scone.  (Granny pronounced it scun).  So we did that first!  Learning to “knead”…which Cooper thought was “need” is fun.

Nana:  “If you wanna make really good scones, you have to knead them and then let them rest a minute.”

Cooper: ” I “need” scones.  But I especially “need” whipped cream on them! ” hahahahaha….(he’s our resident jokster).

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We cut them out with a biscuit cutter and baked.  See the recipe here.

Next it was chop up the strawberries, and whip the cream.  We don’t add sugar to our

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vanillacream, but I do add vanilla bean seeds for extra flavor!  Just split a bean and scrape the “caviar” into the unwhipped cream.  Yummy!

To complete our “tea”, along with scones, we decided to make some “fairy apples”.  (Gotta have some fantasy element, right?) Apples are peeled and then poached with red hot candies and cinnamon sticks. (They are called fairy apples because they turn pink.)

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We used the “water” from cooking the apples to pour over a couple of Pomegranate Pizzaz and Perfect Peach teabags to get a nice fruity, somewhat sweet “kid” tea.

The result was a very nice tea, and lots of giggles and fun.  And yes, Cooper again serenaded us with his “Incandescent Gas” song….this time without the hand gestures!

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Daddy’s Home!

My son-in-law, Randy flies for UPS. Sometimes his trips overseas forces him to 294454_2539300167101_1972003724_nbe gone for a couple of weeks at a time, especially if he has back-to-back routes…so this year, he missed being with his family for Easter. He is very good at bidding for trips so that they don’t happen over important family events, but is not always able to accommodate every holiday.

The grandkids are also on Spring Break and he is off for a few days before his next sojourn. Since there’s no school, the kids are loving having him at home and all to themselves for a few days. Unfortunately, my daughter still has to be at work this week…so it was Daddy and Nana to the rescue.

So in honor of Spring, Nana’s Cooking Day, Daddy’s return, and Mama’s need for a mid-week celebration…we postponed our family Easter celebration dinner until he got back. Thursdays are usually my days to cook with the kids, so we planned our feast for last night.

Our menu? We decided on a bit healthier menu this year.  Normally we have the usual Baked Honey Glazed Ham, Devilled Eggs or Potato Salad, Green Bean Casserole..you know with the mushroom soup and fried onions, etc?  But we are all trying to eat “CLEAN“…meaning less processed foods and more local, organic, farm-to-table type foods.  So this year, having found a source for local Pastured Pork, we are having Roasted Pork Tenderloin.  For more information:  http://kerryg.hubpages.com/hub/The-Benefits-of-Pastured-Pork

20130404_164644_resizedRoasted Pork Tenderloin (or round pork chops as Cooper calls them) is easy and quick to prepare…no waste, very flavorful.  I purchased two pork loins about 2 lbs a piece with plans for leftovers for our dinner for 5.  The secret to succulent pork (besides choosing pastured pork) is to marinate it.  It’s best overnight, but 3-4 hours also works.  Here’s the marinade I used:

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3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, zest of one lemon, 2 T minced garlic, 1 T chopped fresh rosemary, 1 T chopped fresh thyme, 1 T Dijon mustard.  I mixed all of the above and put it into a large ziplock bag along with the tenderloins.  Marinating it in the bag (instead of a shallow dish) helps keep the entire surface moist.

To cook, preheat oven to 400.  Remove pork from the marinade and pat dry, allowing the herbs to stick to the surface.  Sear in a hot skillet (I used coconut oil) for 3-4 minutes on a side until well browned.  Place in hot oven for 18-20 minutes until interior temperature is 137.  Let meat sit for 5-10 minutes until all the juices go back into the meat before carving.  (The pan juices make a wonderful sauce…just add a bit of sour cream or mascarpone!  Yum).

To add to our feast, we chose Maple Glazed Butternut Squash…and a true spring favorite, Crunch Pea Salad. And as a special treat, Jelly Bean Cupcakes! As my daughter Lori says…it just wouldn’t be Easter without them! (See recipe from last week).

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562297_10200982609072724_255171512_nCooper loves raw peas, so he always sneaks a nibble or two.  But it is his big sister who I trust with the knife!  She is learning knife skills very quickly!

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This salad usually calls for a quite a bit of mayonnaise.  In keeping with our clean eating,  I used only 1T Mayo and added 1T sour cream and 2T Plain Yogurt.  For a bit of zip…chopped fresh mint leaves just adds to the flavor!

Besides chicken…there is probably nothing Cooper loves more than BACON.  OK…I try to find bacon that is pasture raised, not overly salted, and humanely butchered…but who doesn’t love bacon?  This just makes this Maple Glazed Butternut Squash even more yummy!

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This is such a simple recipe and soooo good.  Peel, core, and cube one butternut squash.  Place pieces on a cookie sheet and drizzle with 1-2 T Pure Maple Syrup.  Top cubes with 3-4 slices of bacon (depending on how many cubes you have) and place in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes….the squash carmelizes even further with the addition of maple syrup and is sweet and salty with the bacon on top!  It will get crispy and you can just crumble it over the top to serve!  This would also work well with sweet potato, beets, carrots, turnips, acorn squash or any yellow vegetable with a naturally sweet flavor.

Put it all together?  THE PLATE

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YUMMMMM!  And dad…he even helped with dishes!

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Welcome Home Daddy!