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Extra herbs? Dry ’em out!

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So it’s November and I still had fresh herbs growing out back! Yes, half of it was dead thanks to the surprise snow storm we had. But amazingly some were hardy enough to fight the frost! Sweet, I thought! Then I realized I couldn’t use it all up. The thought of having it all go to waste made me sad. I already have basil oil and didn’t need any more. What to do with all of the oregano, thyme,  and sage? I wanted to be able to use it during the wintertime.

Then it hit me. Dry them out. I began looking up for ways to do it. Most said to take two weeks, hanging them somewhere. Well, with two dogs, leaving something edible out there, nothing lasts more than five minutes with them alone. So that was out. Yes, they’ll eat plants. They seem to have an affinity for lettuce sometimes. It’s weird, I’m sure you dog owners have similar stories!

Fresh herbs from our garden

BINGO! I can speed up the process with an oven. So I gathered the leafy herbs, and washed them in a salad spinner. I plucked the leaves off the stems. It took longer than expected, but then again, I had more than I thought!

I set the oven for 200º and it only took four minutes to preheat. I laid the leaves on a cookie sheet, covered with a paper towel. It said to use something with cotton. To absorb the moisture, and to protect the leaves from the metal. You don’t want to scorch it! Then I put it in the oven, and left the door ajar. I turned on the broil and set it for an hour. I kept the herbs on the bottom rack. Oh, it warmed up the kitchen! Sure, the gas bill went up a bit, but know what? You’re not paying for additional gas to heat up the house either. So, it goes both ways. AND you have fresh dried herbs stocked up in your pantry! How is that not a win?  Right, that’s what I thought.

Preparing herbs for the drying process

After an hour, with checking many times in between, I knew it was crispy enough to crinkle up the way I wanted it to. I had three glass jars, all from jams. I had washed it so it was clean and dry. Then I stuffed them all. I also used it as a way to break it: the oregano was plentiful, so to make room, I had to press down on it. This broke them into smaller pieces, which is what you want for dried herbs anyway.

Freshly dried herbs!

I’m so excited about using them for Thanksgiving! Of course I’ll use them much earlier than that, but the idea of how fresh they are (even though they’re dried out now), just has me itching to use them up in the kitchen! Now the fun part is finding ways to use them! Oh, I won’t have a problem in that department …

An invigorating start to July

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July is the month where you truly believe it is summertime, isn’t it? An abundance of fruit and vegetables screaming to be harvested! It’s as if the stores, the farmer markets and gardeners can’t give away enough of their produce fast enough. Fine by me!

But it can become boring, eating the same thing over and over, doesn’t it?  What if you decided to stir things up, and see how else you can consume it? That’s what I did with portabella mushrooms. I love it grilled, roasted, cut up, mixed into pasta, and side dishes. The other night, I was in the mood for pasta, but not for red sauce or white. What’s left? Olive oil and fresh herbs? Been there, done that. I also spied a beautiful portabella cap sitting in the fridge, waiting to be used. Then it hit me: if I could make a sauce with cashews, why not mushrooms? It turned out to be a delightful surprise, that had my Mom raving!

The best part? I used what I already had lying around the kitchen. Now I realize, the ingredients I used probably aren’t what you can find in every kitchen. I just love using what I already have, instead of letting it go to waste.

Portabella Mushroom Sauce with Thyme

Portabella Mushroom Sauce with fresh thyme

1 portabella, chopped

3 shallots,  chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

olive oil

1/2 cup golden sherry

1 1/2 cup vegetable broth, separated

1/8 cup quinoa flour

5-10 sprigs of fresh thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1.) Sautee onion and garlic in a saucepan with olive oil. When golden, add mushrooms until cooked. Approximately 5 minutes.

2.) Put the mushroom mixture in a blender, add sherry and 1 cup of broth. Puree. After you’re done, return to the pan.

3.) In a separate bowl, mix flour into 1/2 cup of the remaining broth.

4.) Add the creamy broth to the saucepan, and blend. Cook until it’s about to boil. Add fresh thyme (the leaves only). Season to taste.

5.) Serve over pasta, or anything you would normally eat mushrooms with: rice, meat, or even vegetables. Maybe even replace the ketchup in your hamburger?

Want a twist? Dice up another mushroom, and cook it as well, add it to the sauce after it’s been made. Chunks are preferred by some!

Quinoa Salad

Cucumber and fresh dill salad

Fresh strawberries, kiwi, honeydew and blueberries

In the last few days, I was fortunate enough to have access to the internet and it’s chock full of recipes to try! Quinoa salad with roasted root vegetables, cucumber and dill salad, and even lemon basil sorbet! The latter blew my mind away.

Let the summer inspire you with its’ surplus!