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How To Freeze Fresh Herbs And Pesto

September 18th, 2012

Many gardeners enjoy the early fall ritual of freezing annual herbs; especially basil, cilantro, chives, dill, parsley, as well as homemade pesto. This easy process requires minimal time and effort, and can make chilly weather soups, stews and sauces full of garden fresh flavor.

While freezing herbs can be done in bulk, the key to freezing pesto is to create serving size portions – perfect for drizzling over pasta or a homemade pizza. Pesto does not preserve well when it is re-heated and re-frozen. Therefore, creating individual portions allows the pesto to taste fresh with each use.

Ready to try?

How To Freeze Fresh Herbs

(Baking Sheet Method)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and carefully spread out the washed and dried herbs. Not allowing them to touch will prevent the herbs from freezing in a large mound. When frozen solid, place the herbs in lidded glass container back in the freezer. Once already frozen, the leaves will not clump together.

(Ice Tray Method)

After washing the herbs, place 2-3 individual leaves, or a spoonful of chopped herbs into ice cube trays. Fill the tray half full of water, gently ensuring that the leaves stay down. If a few leaves give you trouble, the next step should alleviate the problem.

Once frozen or mostly frozen, fill the remaining cubes with water, and freeze once more. When completely frozen, place the individual blocks of ice into a zip blog baggie, or a lidded glass container. When ready to use, remove from the freezer and drop the entire ice cube into soups, stews or sauces.

How To Freeze Fresh Pesto

Make your favorite pesto sauce (our favorite recipe is below), and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon out ¼ cup mounds of pesto onto the baking sheet and place it in the freezer. When they are frozen solid, wrap each portion with plastic wrap, and store them in a lidded glass container in the freezer.

 Fresh Basil-Chive Pesto

Recipe from The Happy Go Lucky Vegan

¼ cup pine nuts (almonds or walnuts will also work)

1-cup basil

2 tbsp chives, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic

½ lemon, squeezed

½ cup olive oil

½ cup water

Sea salt and pepper

Method: Add all ingredients except for the water into a blender or food processor. Slowly add the water to thin out as desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.

**Fellow gardeners: what is your favorite way to use frozen pesto and herbs?

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How-to Dry Herbs for Cooking and Decorating

May 12th, 2011

 

With their intoxicating aromas and ability to transform dishes into palate pleasing wonders, herbs are simply sublime. Throughout history, herbs have been used in many ways and for many reasons. Ancient Greeks used parsley as a cure for stomach ailments; early Dutch settlers planted chives in meadows so that cows would produce chive-flavored milk; and early American settlers burned herbs for their fragrance, stored herbs with linens, and used herbs for illnesses. These are just a few ways that herbs have been used throughout history. In some way, shape or form, herbs have been used by different cultures around the globe.

If you have an abundance of herbs growing in your garden or if you would like to preserve some of your herbs to enjoy year-round, you should dry some of your harvest. It’s easy to do, and it is a great way for you to savor the herb gardening season and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Once dried, you can enjoy your herbs for cooking or decorating. Tie pretty ribbons around bunches of dried herbs then hang in increments from a string for a simple, sweet window swag; add dried herbs to glass bottles filled with olive oil, which you can use to decorate your kitchen counter with and for flavoring salad dressings and sauces; or make an aromatic sachet with dried flowers and herbs to tuck into travel bags or scent a drawer.

When cooking with dried herbs—if you’re substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs—one teaspoon of dried, crumbled herbs is the equivalent to one tablespoon of fresh herbs. Before storing dried herbs in air tight containers, look for any dried herbs that may show signs of mold and toss those out. To retain flavor, store leaves whole then crumble them when you’re ready to use them. Dried herbs will last for about one year and should be kept out of the sunlight.

There are several ways that you can dry fresh herbs, but we’re going to keep it simple and provide you with the steps for air drying low moisture herbs, such as bay, dill, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Air drying is the easiest process and least expensive:

1. Cut healthy herb branches mid-morning from plant. Cutting herb branches mid-morning allows for any morning dew to dry from the leaves. If you cut too late in the afternoon your herbs may be wilting from the heat of the afternoon sun, and you don’t want that. Note: The best time to cut herbs for drying is just before they flower—this is when they contain the most oil, which is what gives them their aroma and flavor.

2. Check the leaves, and pull off any diseased or dry leaves and make sure there are no insects on leaves.

3. Pull off lower leaves from herb branches, approximately one inch from bottom so that you have space to tie them together.

4. If the leaves are dirty, you can rinse herbs with cool water, but make sure to gently pat them dry with a paper towel as wet herbs will mold and rot.

5. Combine 5-6 herb branches together then tie with string.

6. If you want, label a paper bag with the name of the herb(s) you will be drying inside. Make several holes in the bag then place the herb bundle, leaves down, into the bag so that the stems are at the opening of the bag. Gather the open end of the bag around the stems and tie closed with a long piece of string. Hang the bag in a well ventilated, warm room (70 to 80 degrees F). You can dry herbs without placing them in a paper bag, but the paper bag helps keep dust off of the herbs while they’re drying.

7. Check herbs in approximately two weeks then periodically until dried. The drying process should take approximately 2 to 4 weeks.

Enjoy!

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Garden Hero: The Lovely Ladybug

July 16th, 2010

 

With their richly colored orange-red wings and distinct black spots, lovely ladybugs often conjure up childhood memories of placing one on your hand or arm then intently watching it with fantastical awe. This beautiful bug is adored by many children for its calm nature, but it’s also adored by gardeners for its beneficial pest control behavior.

Ladybugs have colossal appetites and not only consume aphids—lice that feed on plant juices—but also eat other insects and larvae, including leaf hoppers, mealybugs, mites, whiteflies, and the eggs of the Colorado potato beetle, just to name a few. One ladybug, in its lifetime, can consume more than 4,000 aphids, their preferred meal.

In addition to consuming aphids and other insects, ladybugs require pollen as a source of food, in order to mature and lay eggs. Some plants that attract ladybugs include basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, pepper, thyme, and tomatoes. If you want to be extra considerate of your little garden heroes, consider planting bell-shaped flowers, such as lilies or tulips, which capture drinking water for ladybugs and provide a cool, relaxing oasis for them to inhabit. With the garden protection that ladybugs provide, they deserve to be pampered!

If you’re interested in using the heroic ladybug to help combat the villains in your garden, it is important that you not use insecticides—which you should try to avoid regardless. Insecticides will not only eliminate most of their food source but also discourage ladybugs from laying their eggs in your garden.

If purchasing ladybugs for your garden, do not release them during the heat of the day. Keep them in a cool place, such as the refrigerator, before releasing them in the evening after the sun goes down. Placing your ladybugs in the refrigerator will not harm them but simply slow them down. Ladybugs do not fly when it’s dark, so this is your best chance at giving them the opportunity to get comfortable in their new living environment. Also, before releasing the ladybugs, water the areas that you will be placing them in so they have plenty of water to drink. Think of ladybugs as house guests; you want them to feel welcomed and comfortable. If your ladybugs are comfortable in their new home, chances are they’ll stick around. You can’t fence ladybugs in, but should they choose to stay and live in your garden they’ll be great heroes in combating those villainous aphids and their sidekicks.

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Cucumber Slices with Dill

March 22nd, 2010

4 large cucumbers, sliced
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, dill and onion. In a separate bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, water and salt, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Pour vinegar mixture over cucumbers. Cover then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

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