of January 29, 2010
an Herb Garden
access to a small herb garden can be as simple
as having a nice large squatty pot just outside
your kitchen door containing a few of your favorite
herbs like sweet basil, purple leaf basil, chives
and flat leaf parsley.
food preference tastes should dictate what you
would like to grow. Two favorites that almost
everyone would agree upon are parsley and chives.
Their mild flavors are very versatile and can
be used in any variety of cuisine.
you want your mini garden within arms reach of
your cooking area. All you have to do is design
a window box or group of planters for your kitchen.
When creating this mini herb garden, decide where
your box will be located.
amount of sun that you get in the chosen window
will dictate which herbs to select. Both southern
and western exposures are generally sunny and
hot. Good choices are are thyme, coriander, French
lavender, bay laurel, basil, lemon verbena, dill,
parsley, chives, sage and rosemary. A nice combination
of both upright and trailing herbs is attractive,
so consider adding creeping thymes or oregano
or to you mini garden for a little eye appeal.
and eastern exposures will provide more shade
and are not as warm. Shade loving plants that
will work nice here include parsley, spearmint,
peppermint, lemon balm, chives, borage, and Cuban
Fill your container(s) half full of potting soil
mix with equal parts of potting soil, peat moss
and vermiculite. Move and place plants until you
are pleased with how the design looks. Remember
to keep in mind the mature sizes of the plants
and what their growth habits are. Do not place
a plant that will mature at 12 inches in front
of a plant that will mature no taller than 2 inches.
Don't fear mixing plants together - it will not
Once you have settled on the placement of the
plants, add potting soil to about 1 inch below
the rim of the container. Tamp the soil down firmly
and liberally water. Pinch back any large growth
to promote thick growth.
When planning an herb garden outside, you can
start modestly with a few pots on the patio or
located on a bakers rack. Some herbs like sage,
thyme and mint are available in different colors,
so that you can make an attractive bed in various
the bed as close as possible to the house, so
you do not neglect to gather the herbs for cooking
during wet weather. Whenever possible, grow each
type of herb in a separate pocket. You can actually
divide the bed into distinct pockets with dwarf
hedges of lavender or you can use concrete or
stone pavers or stones to add a landscaped design.
This way, herbs may easily be reached by footpaths
and easily replaced without disturbing other plants
that are nearby. Keeping plants harvested insures
thick and hearty growth.
most herbs grow well in full sun to part shade,
choose a spot for your garden that gets at least
6 hours of sunlight per day. Make sure there is
good drainage and easy accessibility
Heights and Sizes:
1- 1 1/2 feet or less in diameter and less than
1 foot tall
Parsley, Chives, Cilantro, Fernleaf Dill (other
dills grow to 3' tall), Cuban Basil, Thyme
2 feet to 4 feet wide, less than 2 feet tall
Marjoram, Basils (except African Blue), Tarragon,
Savory, Thyme, Chocolate Mint and Peppermint
but Large: 4-6 feet wide, less than 1 foot tall
Oregano, Spearmint, Orange Mint
4-6 feet wide and tall
African Blue Basil, Rosemary, Lavenders, Sages,
Lemon Verbena, Pineapple Sage
Bay Laurel (This is actually a tree but it makes
a great central point of interest to your herb
garden (whether potted or planted in the ground).
It grows very slowly but will eventually reach
15-20 feet tall.)
of January 22, 2010
with Fresh Herbs
using fresh herbs in cold dishes, they should
be at room temperature. When preparing a dish
that requires a lengthy cooking period, you can
use a small, tied bunch of fresh herb sprigs.
This bundle is generally known as a bouquet
garni and customarily contains parsley, bay
leaf, and thyme. Herbal combinations can also
be minced and added to a meal immediately upon
completion of cooking, and as a garnish before
serving. This French practice is referred to as
fines herbes. It contains chopped fresh
chervil, parsley, tarragon, and chives. This blend
is good on mild flavored cuisine like salads,
scrambled eggs, and dishes containing poultry
are no hard and fast rules when cooking with fresh
herbs. Start to experiment using small amounts
to see what you like. Here are a few ideas that
will help you get started:
not to mix two very strong herbs together.
Try mixing one strong and one or more with
milder flavors to complement both the stronger
herb and the food.
the weaker the flavor of the food (like eggs),
the less added herbs are required to get a
nice balance of flavor.
herbs are more concentrated than fresh, and
powdered herbs are more concentrated than
crumbled. Each herb is slightly different
but a starting formula is: 1/4 teaspoon powdered
herbs is equaled to 3/4 to 1 teaspoon crumbled
or the equivalent of 2 to 4 teaspoons fresh.
chopping fresh herbs, chop the leaves very
fine because the more of the oils and flavor
will be released.
sparingly with the amount of an herb used
until you become familiar with it. The aromatic
oils can be less than appetizing if too much
extended cooking times reduces the flavoring
of herbs, so add fresh herbs to soups or stews
about 45 minutes before completing the cooking
time. For refrigerated foods such as dips,
cheese, vegetables and dressings, fresh herbs
should be added several hours or overnight
before using. Note:
Fresh Basil is an exception. If you add it
to salad dressing overnight or longer, it
salsa, hot sauces and picante, add finely
chopped fresh or dried herbs directly to the
herbal butters and cream cheeses by mixing
1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh herbs
to 1/2 cup margarine, butter, cottage cheese,
low fat yogurt or cream cheese. Let it set
for at least an hour to blend the flavor;
then taste test on a plain cracker or a melba
round. You will gain a great feel for the
dimensions of what the flavor will be good
with by taste testing in this manner.
vinegar for use in cooking and in vinaigrettes.
Bruise one cup of leaves for every 2 cups
of white wine or delicate vinegar. Allow to
steep for two weeks.
of January 15, 2010
to Cut Calories?
on the vegetables! Delicious vegetables like broccoli,
cauliflower, bell peppers, cabbage, spinach, eggplant,
zucchini and yellow squash are all high in nutrients
and low in calories. Don't obliterate their healthy
benefits by piling on tons of butter and salt.
A light mist of olive oil and fresh herbs will
enhance the vegetables' natural delicious flavors.
Using a nonstick frying pan to sauté requires
less oil, thus adding even fewer calories.
to cut even more calories? Steam your veggies
instead. Or blanche them instead for cool or room
salads? That's great; just don't drown them in
salad dressings - even low fat ones. Read the
labels, there can be a lot of calories in them.
Use only 1 tablespoon per serving and then toss
the salad to get the same benefit of flavor from
the dressing distributed over the greens.
on the starches or keep to a minimum. Yes, that
includes all those filling things you love like
bread, pasta, potatoes and rice. If you have to
choose from the four to keep you full, choose
brown or wild rice or a whole grain bread (keep
the servings small).
meat with a tofu, vegetarian or egg white (or
egg substitute) dish at least 2 or three times
a week. Poach or grill your meat, fish or poultry
and keep the serving size to 3 or 4 ounces per
plenty of water, green or black tea. If you are
not big on water, try putting a little juice like
lime or lemon and even a sprig of mint in your
water. Pass on the sodas, even diet ones. Give
up sugar for a while; if you must use a little
honey or an artificial sweetener.
sure to include 6 ounces of low fat or fat free
yogurt in your diet each day.
control is your best friend if you are trying
to shed some pounds. Until you feel comfortable
knowing what a half cup serving or a 3 ounce serving
is, measure or weigh your portions until you feel
knowledgeable of what an acceptable serving size
of January 08, 2010
are several varieties of Balsamic vinegar can
be found in most large grocery stores varying
in price from cheap to super expensive. One need
not be a connoisseur to tell the difference because
the difference in taste is definitely obvious.
finest balsamic Vinegars are born in the lovely
rolling hills of Modena, between the Secchia and
Reno River valleys in the provincial northwest
of Italy where barrels made from different woods
give fine Balsamic Vinegars their unique flavor.
Balsamics are a study in balance and contrast.
Sweet and sharp. Spicy and mellow. The process
begins with gently crushing the wine grapes and
concentrating their juice over an open flame.
Then the sweet thick grape "must" is
fermented once by yeast to make alcohol. Then
fermented again by the "madre" culture
to make the smooth and subtle sourness for which
Balsamics are known.
The process of becoming vinegar occurs in wooden
barrels. As the volume decreases through evaporation
over the years the maturing liquor is transferred
to smaller and smaller casks, each with its special
blend of aromatic flavoring woods. The filled
barrels are placed in the attic for ideal temperatures,
hot in Summer, cold in Winter. Over years of aging,
the fruit and spice and mood of the finest Balsamic
Complex flavor in fine Balsamic Vinegar comes
from this long and exacting aging. A variety of
woods are used including durmast, chestnut, ash,
cherry and mulberry. Balsamic vinegar makers keep
a secret art in the matching and blending of resinous
aromatic wood staves. One taste of a truly fine
Balsamic will make clear why it is worth all the
effort. Balsamic Vinegar is truly in a class apart
from other vinegars. Unlike the sharp tastes we
usually associate with vinegar, the balsamics
present a rich dark complex of sweetness and intrigue.
having said all of this, let us return to the
supermarket shelf where a full two-thirds of the
brands are "imitation" balsamic vinegars
that have nothing in common with the traditional
balsamic vinegar. These are basically wine vinegar
with added sugar and artificial flavors and colors.
your best guides will be your own taste and budget.
But generally speaking, a fine "tradizionale",
to use sparingly, is wonderful to have on hand
for special presentations, while a good quality
"condimento" is excellent for every
of January 01, 2010
January approaches, most of us once again think
of New Year's resolutions if you have gained weight
in the last year. As most of us grow older and
our metabolic rates drop, the pounds tend to creep
up on us. Before you know it, you have to buy
new clothes to fit your expanding measurements.
You wonder how you could have gained another five
pounds this year. You think to yourself that "I
don't eat that much that is bad for me".
OK, all right, you do grab a pat of butter here,
a little extra mayonnaise there, a little half-and-half
in your coffee . . . what can it hurt? It is such
a very small amount!
Yes it may be tiny, but consistent indiscretions
do finally add up. If you drink two and one half
tablespoons of half-and-half distributed among
your 2 or 3 cups of coffee each day, you add 50
fat laden calories a day. That does not sound
like much until you realize that those 50 extra
calories have blossomed into 5 extra pounds at
the end of one year.
Do the math: 50 calories x 375 days in a year
= 18,750 calories.
3500 excess calories are necessary to gain one
18,750 divided by 3500 = 5.2 pounds.
a look at those consistent things that you are
ingesting each and every day that adds unwanted
fat and calories to your diet. Replace the half-and-half
with fat free half-and-half or use 1% milk. Instead
of the pat of butter on your toast, try using
spreadable fruit or sugar free jam or marmalade
only. Replace the mayonnaise with low fat mayonnaise
or use mustard or honey mustard.
After you take a close but really honest look
at what you consistently eat every day, you probably
won't have to wonder where those extra fifteen
pounds you have gained over the last few years
have come from.