Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Herbal Picnic Recipes

Since the holiday weekend is approaching, its got me thinking about picnic foods and recipes. We had some terrific herbal picnic recipes in the May/June issue. Lynn Smythe sent a great article on the subject, and these are just a few of the recipes in that article:

Sage and Tarragon Chicken Salad

This is another terrific sandwich spread to serve on top of the whole wheat herb bread.
One (10 ounce) can chicken breast
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely diced celery hearts
2 teaspoons fresh sage - chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves - chopped fine
salt & pepper - optional
Drain the liquid from the can of chicken breast. Flake with a fork and add to a medium size bowl. Add the mayonnaise, celery hearts, sage and tarragon and mix well. Add salt and pepper if desired.

Whole Wheat Herb Bread

This bread tastes great served along with the egg salad and chicken salad recipes which are also located in this chapter. Make this bread the day before your picnic. When making this bread choose from among basil, chervil, chives, garlic chives, parsley, thyme, oregano or marjoram or a combination of 2 of these herbs. Be sure to use the milder tasting soft stem herbs. Don’t use woody stemmed herbs such as rosemary or sage for this recipe as they may impart an overly strong flavor to your bread.
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup fresh herbs - chopped fine
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 teaspoons celery seed
Place the yeast in a small mixing bowl. Add the warm water and stir until the yeast has been dissolved. In a large mixing bowl stir together the flours, sugar and salt. Stir in the herbs. Stir in the yeast and water mixture and mix well. Add a little bit more warm water if necessary to make a sticky dough. Cover the top of the bowl with a small kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm place such as on top of the refrigerator and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk - approximately 1 hour. Sprinkle your hands with flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands then punch down the dough, divide it in half and place each half into a greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Cover the pans with the kitchen towel and let the dough rise until doubled - approximately 30 minutes. Brush the top of each loaf with half of the melted butter and sprinkle with half of the celery seeds. Cook in a preheated 400 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the loaves sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Makes 2 loaves.

Rosemary Shortbread

1 cup unsalted butter - room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves - minced fine
additional confectioners sugar for garnish
In a large bowl cream the sugar into the softened butter using a large mixing spoon. Add the flour 3/4 cup at a time. Add the vanilla extract, pistachios and rosemary and mix until well blended. Roll the dough into large marble sized pieces using 1 level tablespoon of the dough and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes until light brown. After the cookies have been removed from the oven and have cooled off slightly roll each one in confectioners sugar. This recipe makes approximately 30 cookies.
Lynn Smythe
5312 Cleveland Road Delray Beach, FL 33484-4228

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Lavender time!!!

Lavender is one of my favorite herbs. It has such a great fragrance, and the colors of the various species are all so pretty. There is never less than a pound of dried lavender in the house, and there are 7 or 8 plants of it in the garden. Grosso is probably my favorite to grow because the spikes are huge, dark purple, and the stems are over a foot high.
A couple culinary recipes:

Lavender Syrup
Make lavender tea using the darkest purple buds you can lay your hands on. Add the water to sugar in the following proportions- 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 3 minutes. Cool, and pour into sterilized bottles. Cap. Refrigerate after opening.

Lavender Shortbread
1 1/2 c butter
2 1/3 c flour
2/3 c sugar
1/2 c cornstarch
2 T chopped lavender flowers
1 T chopped fresh mint
1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 325 F. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment. 
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, lavender and mint. Mix until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). 
Add flour, cornstarch and salt, and beat until combined. 
Divide dough in half. Flatten into squares and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm. 
On a floured board, roll or pat out each square to a thickness of 3/8". 
Cut the dough into 1-1/2" squares or rounds. Space cookies about 1" apart on baking sheet. Prick each several times with a fork. Bake 20-25 minutes until light golden. Do not brown. Cool slightly, then transfer to rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Store in cookie tins or sealed container.
Makes about 5 dozen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

learning a new program....

Spent the weekend learning Publisher for the magazine. That was really pretty much fun, and although this next issue is even more crammed with articles than usual, it came out to four fewer pages due to column width, etc.
Oh, the possibilities! Between the new camera and now learning a different program, it feels like so many more options are available. It just keeps getting easier to put together great stuff.
I'm on pins and needles waiting to see a proof - hoping that it looks as good at the printer's as it did here.
Also ran into an old friend who is a whiz at Excel. His assistance made the subscriber list (mailing list) work for ME - instead of the other way around - lol.
Daughter Molly is spending the week at a camp where a naturalist will be teaching her about native plants and their uses. She goes every year, and comes back with such gorgeous projects. One year they made gourd bowls, another year baskets... and one that we do from time to time, they made face masks using the plaster strips that doctors make casts from (or used to). It is available in the fine arts section at craft stores. We paint them, and they give us enormous insight as to our feelings about life at that moment in time. Fun too. If you try this one, be sure to use plastic wrap with a nose hole cut out so that it releases easily from the skin.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Berries and Blossoms

This morning I was out and about and took these pictures of mulberries and elderblossoms. These are two fruits that are often overlooked, perhaps because of their abundance. The single bough of the mulberry tree that I photographed was just a small portion of the tree, laden with the berries in various stages of ripeness. Each tree has a different flavor, some sweeter than others. The berries can be baked into pies and cobblers. My daughter has always loved spending hours sitting by the trees eating and staining her hands and face. We have one tree that has berries that are ripe when they are only blushed with pink. They seem to be the sweetest.
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Below is part of the elder grove that we transplanted as tiny plants to an area beside the deck. Over the years it has spread and grown, and we need only to step outside the door to pluck the berries to add to muffins or pancakes. The elderflowers can be used in many ways as well.
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Gathered and dried, they make a delicious tisane with a very light floral flavor. In bath teas, they are soothing to the skin. The entire floret can be dipped into a light batter and fried to make elderblossom fritters. Cut off protruding stems, and serve with a simple syrup made with blossom tea. Or make some elderberry syrup when the berries are ripe, and save for next year's fritters.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wild Edibles

There are lots of wild things out there to eat at this time of the year, and though its not for everyone, most people that I know really enjoy trying a few things fresh from the yard, meadow, or woods.

To ease into a wild salad, try adding some (or all) of the following to some mesclun mix.

Daylily buds --- violet flowers and leaves ---rose petals
Sheep sorrel --- young dandelion leaves ----garlic mustard greens
Chickweed --- lamb’s quarters --- wild mustard
OR try a stirfry using daylily buds, garlic mustard greens, store bought mushrooms, and sesame seeds. Chicken or shrimp can be added, and using sesame oil is incredibly tasty.

To eat the nettles, Choose young plants that have not yet "bloomed". It must be cooked enough to wilt and turn bright green. Purists may have some trouble with this method, but it is easy and cuts down on the number of times the prickly nettle needs to be handled. Wearing gloves, fill a plastic bag (flat bottom is best) with the tender tops of the nettle plant. At home, open the bag and sprinkle just a bit of water into the bag. Place in the microwave, and cook for about a minute. It is ready to eat…. Delicious, nutritious, and of course – free!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Street Fair

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My sister had made arrangements to vend at a street fair this past weekend and I went along for the ride. I've become a little jaded about craft festivals - especially outdoor, non-herbal events - and apparently with good reason ;-).

Sales were slow, as people were in a hurry to get to the carnival at the other end of the street, but the people watching opportunities were spectacular. The weather was beautiful, and we got to hang out and talk (a lot). It was very reminiscent of a 13-day stint we pulled in a mall years ago, where we made up stories about some of the people as they went by.

Now its on to finishing the upcoming issue, and then the Ft. Wayne Soap and Candle Bee or bust (maybe both).

Friday, June 03, 2005

Some Breads and Spreads

We're pretty busy around here getting ready for a new issue and a couple shows. This post is an excerpt from the Jan/Feb '05 issue of The Essential Herbal, sent by Sarah Liberta. Sarah has a wonderful like of mixes at her web site. The link is shown at the end of the article. This should keep you busy until I get back :-).

Hearts and Flowers Breads and Spreads

These lovely open-faced sandwiches are the perfect complement to afternoon tea. If you don’t have the vertical pans, bake in loaf pans, slice thinly and cut desired shapes with cookie cutters.

Fig Bread

2 cups bread flour
2 Tblsp sugar
1 Tblsp powdered milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tblsp butter or margarine
1 egg + water to equal 5 ounces
1/3 cup fig preserves with syrup
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Dash of grated lemon peel
1 tsp yeast.

Place all ingredients in your automatic bread machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Set machine for dough cycle. When cycle is complete, remove dough, punch down, divide in two and place in vertical heart- and flower-shaped bread pans.
Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Bake in oven for approximately 1 hour. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Slice thinly; serve with matching flavored butter or cheese spread.

Fig and Pecan Butter

1 stick unsalted butter or margarine
2 Tblsp fig preserves (or fruit of choice)
2 Tblsp pecans

Pulse in food processor for a few seconds till blended. Transfer to serving bowl, cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight, allowing flavors to develop. Serve with bread or spread on bread slices for open-faced sandwiches. Garnish with edible flowers.

Fig and Pecan Cheese Spread

8 ounces cream cheese or Neufchatel
1/3 cup fig preserves (or fruit of choice)
1 Tblsp pecans
1-2 Tblsp milk or half and half

Whirl in food processor a few seconds till blended, using only enough milk to reach desired spreading consistency. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight, allowing flavors to develop. Serve with bread or spread on bread slices for open-faced sandwiches. Garnish with edible flowers.

Strawberry Pecan Bread: In place of figs, substitute 1/3 cup fresh or frozen strawberries in sugar.

Raisin Pecan Bread: In place of figs, substitute 1/3 cup plump raisins which have been soaked in water or apple juice for 30 minutes and drained. You may also replace water in recipe with apple juice or cider. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
From Sarah Liberta of