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From Garden To Glass: 5 Herbs For Your Cocktail Garden + Book Giveaway

March 27th, 2013

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Spring is upon us, which means gentle, crisp breezes, sun-kissed flowers, and early evenings on the porch are all just around the corner. A Mint Julep or Cucumber Cooler in hand can only make spring that much sweeter, no? If you’re growing herbs in your garden this season, consider adding cocktail ready herbs and citrus to the mix. Imagine a freshly shaken cocktail ready in minutes, and all within reach of your own backyard.

***Would you like to learn more about the plants behind your favorite boozy beverages? Check out our giveaway details below! Entering is as simple as throwing a lime in your favorite margarita.

Basil – If you enjoy adding fresh Basil leaves to your pizzas and pastas, then perhaps adding these fragrant leaves to your cocktail is a logical next step?  Muddled basil leaves  add a nice Italian twist to a traditional martini,  adds flavor to hard lemonades, and compliments most cocktails with a tomato base.

Growing Tip: Basil loves warm weather. Plant this herb when temperatures remain in the 70’s or warmer, and keep these plants well protected from frost.

Cilantro – If you haven’t added fresh sprigs of cilantro to your martini– run, don’t walk! Even Bond would appreciate the invigorating flavors of cilantro the next time you serve up a martini, shaken, and not stirred. Cilantro also adds a zesty flavor to Cucumber Coolers, or try freezing cilantro in ice for a frozen margarita. Get inspired with these flavorful cilantro cocktails ideas over at Organic Authority.

Growing Tip: Cilantro plants do not transfer well, and should be started from seed whenever possible.

Lavender – Cocktails made with sprigs of lavender is the latest chic trend at dinner parties. The fragrant, purple flowers on lavender are perfect for stirring a martini, or adding an intriguing flavor to lemon drinks – like hard lemonades or Lemon Drops.  Are we the only one’s eager to try this lavender infused simple syrup?

Growing tip: Lavender is extremely drought resistant and grows best in well-drained soil and in full sun.

Lime – these flavor packed green fruit are perfect for margaritas, but also taste wonderful squeezed in Bloody Mary’s, or added to many vodka drinks. Plus, the best Cuban Mojito’s are not only made with mint leaves, sugar, and rum – but also a wedge of lime that gets muddled with the other ingredients. Try any one of these 10 Lime Cocktails at your next dinner party.

Growing Tip: This fruit tree prefers to grow in tropical or semitropical climates – however, this plant will also grow in cooler, drier climates with a little extra work.

Mint – On a warm weekend afternoon, adding a cool touch to your favorite hard lemonade recipe, a fresh mojito or mint julep can be very invigorating. Simply adding it as a fragrant garnish to other cocktails just screams, “Spring is here!”

Growing Tip: Grow this herb in a container to keep it from taking over your garden, as this herb is notorious for spreading very quickly.

And if you’re growing sage in your cocktail garden… we love this cocktail  recipe using muddled fresh sage leaves, bourbon, and Benedictine (an herbal liquor). Benedictine and bourbon bring out the flavor of muddled sage, while verjus (a tart unfermented grape juice) adds a bit of acidity.

Sage Advice 

(From Drinks.SeriousEats.com)

7 sage leaves, plus one for garnish
½ oz verjus
dash simple syrup
2 ounces Jim Beam bourbon
½ oz Benedictine
dash bitters
In a cocktail shaker, muddle 7 sage leaves with verjus and simple syrup. Fill with ice, then add Jim Beam, Benedictine, and bitters. Shake well, then strain into an ice-filled glass. Garnish with additional sage leaf.

Giveaway details: The Drunken Botanist, written by Amy Stewart explores the extraordinary, lesser known, and sometimes bizarre plants behind your favorite boozy drinks. This book will not only make you the most interesting guest at the next cocktail party – it’s also packed full of recipes using fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

To enter this giveaway: Eager to win this book for free? Leave a comment below, and tell us your favorite fruit, vegetable, and/or herb you enjoy in your cocktails. We will select a winner at random in one week from today (4/3/2013). Good luck!

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease.  We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

 

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How to Maximize Small Space Gardening for Apartment Renters

March 1st, 2013

Herb Gardening-Pizza-219

“I’d love to have a garden but it’s impossible to do living in a tiny apartment.” If this is what you think, you’re either not trying hard enough or not that interested in gardening, because there are tons of ways to use your green thumb—even for renters. From balcony plants to window boxes to sprouting jars, apartment-dwellers have a wealth of options available to them.

And with the number of urban gardeners on the rise, you can even find lots of store-bought tools and DIY ideas that help you to greenify your space while still keeping your living area clutter-free and maximizing the space. Here are just a few great ways to get the most garden out of a tiny area.

Use the walls. If you don’t want to have plants taking up precious counter space, consider mounting them to a section of your walls that gets a decent amount of sun. You can use manufactured options like FloraFelt to create a true “vertical garden,” or make your own mounting system to show your knack for design and artistry. A simple wood slab with metal brackets attached can be fantastic for sprouting jars, or you can build a shelf, a window box that goes on your wall, or use gutters (yes, that’s right, gutters). Some people have even used old hanging shoe organizers as “pots” for their herbs—not bad if function is more important than aesthetics to you.

Get a pallet, jack. Yes, that was cheesy, but it’s also a great idea. If you stand a pallet up vertically, the open slats are spaced perfectly for you to fit in a bunch of different plants while using very little space. You’ll just need trays that have been cut to fit and plants that are okay with being a little cramped. Oh, and of course the pallet itself but, if you just call around to a few stores close by, you’re bound to find a place that will allow you to take a pallet or two the next time they get a shipment. Some of the surprisingly best options to try are pet stores and paint stores, and you should definitely check out Craigslist, because it’s fairly common for people to list them.

Let it all hang out. The concept of decorating your house with hanging plants isn’t a new one but you can take that a step further by creating a hanging garden. This works fantastically for individually potted plants, especially if you can find a space where they’re able to get a lot of sun. But if you just don’t have room or like the idea of heavy ceramic pots hanging over your head, you can always try your hand at what this crazy guy has discovered and start a string garden. No, those photos aren’t doctored. The plants really are hanging by a string and there’s no pot holding in all that dirt. It’s pretty awesome.

Create tiers. Even for those of you apartment-dwellers lucky enough to have porches or balconies, there’s a good chance that they’re not very big so you still have to be creative with your space. One clever solution is to nest your pots together vertically rather than placing them side by side. This blogger made a gorgeous outdoor herb garden by using different sizes of galvanized steel containers and punching holes in the bottom to let the water drain through. The end result is kind of like a series of Russian nesting dolls (or a snowman), with a giant tub on the bottom, followed by a medium-sized tub centered inside it, and then a small tub centered in that one. Making it tiered gives the plants more space vertically and horizontally since they can spread out above the lower ones. Genius.

About the Author:

Mark Russell writes about apartment living and solutions and creative ideas for living in small spaces.  Mark is a writer for Apartment Guys in Chicago.

 

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Baby It’s Cold Outside: What You Can Grow Indoors

January 5th, 2013

Baby it’s cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you have to deprive your inner gardener of fragrant herbs and fresh vegetables this winter. In well-insulated homes with temperatures kept above 60 degrees F., growing plants indoors can be an ideal environment for both young and mature plants.

Growing Herbs Indoors: Most herbs can grow very well indoors, and require minimal maintenance. Place herbs near a bright window, and ensure they do not come in direct contact with the window. If a sunny window this winter is hard to come by, your next best option is supplementing their sun exposure with grow lights.

The best herbs to grow indoors are perennial and do not require significant sunlight. These include flavorful herbs like chives, marjoram, oregano and rosemary. Herbs like basil, parsley, sage, and thyme grow well indoors, but keep in mind that they require strong sunlight to thrive.

Growing Vegetables Indoors: To successfully grow vegetables indoors, choose small vegetables that do not build lengthy root systems. Delicious varieties of beets, carrots, eggplants, peppers, radishes, and tomatoes all have relatively short root systems and will do well in a container next to a sunny window. Leaf lettuces like Bib and Boston are also quite easy to grow from seed indoors, using a small container.

While your herb garden may not require supplemental light, the shorter and darker days of winter may not provide vegetables with the 6-8 hours of sunlight required to survive. Using fluorescent lights that provides a full UV spectrum or grow lights can make all the difference. Ask your local garden center which lights will work best for your vegetable needs.

Tips For Growing Plants Indoors:

*Keeping a fan nearby can regulate plant temperature, and will help to properly circulate the air to prevent mildew and fungus from forming.

*You may need to water indoor plants a little more often, as winter heaters tend to keep soil pretty dry. Water plants when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

*Plants need darkness as well as sunlight in order to survive. Set a timer on your fluorescent lights, and don’t get overly ambitious about providing excessive supplemental sunlight.

*Add a time released fertilizer to plants as needed. Do some research on all of your plants, as different plants require varying amounts of fertilizer. Generally, plants that are growing rapidly will require more fertilizer than plants that are slow growing.

 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease.  We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

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Basil Basics- Great Tips for Growing This Tasty Herb.

October 28th, 2012

 

Basil is an annual-growing herb which is often used in Italian cooking, but it actually originates from India. There are many varieties of basil nowadays – some of them are spicier, others have a lemony or cinnamon flavor. Basil grows easily in sunny and warm weather. The leaves are used for cooking and the flower buds are edible too.

The size of the basil varies – the “sweet basil” can grow up to 6”, but most gardeners can grow it only up to 3”. Some short varieties grow really well in pots. Basil needs a full sun exposure and warm climate in order to grow successfully. From after you plant the seed, allow 60-90 days and you can harvest the basil. Gardeners try to prevent the blooming of the basil as long as possible. This is done by harvesting the top layer of leaves when the plant reaches 6”. Once the plant blooms, it won’t reach that full and bushy state with lots of tasty leaves. When the plant goes to seed after that, the leaves lessen their flavor. You can still cut them, as well as the flowers, and use them in cooking though.

Basil is part of the mint family and it has strongly aromatic leaves. The different types of basil have different flavors. The color of the leaves goes from green to dark purple. Traditionally, basil is planted among tomatoes as they help each other during the growth. Some of the varieties you can grow include: “Genovese” (with large leaves), “Mexican Spice” (with purple flowers and cinnamon scent), “Spicy Clove” (a quick growing type you can grow in a container), “Lemon” (with a lemony tang and small leaves), “Red Rubin” (with great flavor and purple-colored flowers). Since basil loves heat, you should plant it when the day temperatures are higher. Basil also likes rich soil and you shouldn’t keep it dry. Plant the seeds about 10” from each other. Once the plants reach about 6” in height you need to start pinching off their top leaves, so they don’t grow too high with only few leaves. Keep in mind that basil is sensitive to frost and as soon as autumn comes you should be prepared that the plant will go. If you want to extend its season you can cover the plants, but as soon as frost touches the leaves they will turn black.

You could also grow the basil indoors from seed. You will need direct sunlight (perhaps put the pot on the windowsill) and plenty of warmth. Feed the plant monthly, otherwise its leaves will be pale green and you won’t be happy with their flavor when using them for cooking. As it has already been mentioned, basil needs regular harvesting – the tops should be pinched off and this way you can keep the plants to produce leaves for longer. Basil is used in cooking – it adds not only taste, but color too. You can put fresh basil leaves in salads or sandwiches. You could even wrap cheese cubes in basil leaves if you are aiming at preparing a fancy gourmet dish. Don’t forget that you need to treat the basil as you treat your other potted plants – regular care, plant food, water and sunlight. Don’t forget it’s there and you will be able to enjoy the production for a long time to come.

 About the Author:

Nicole really enjoys sharing interesting home organizing and gardening ideas. You can read some of her latest publications at http://www.flowershops.co.uk/.

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A Heart-y Holiday Menu

November 23rd, 2011

Looking for a non-traditional entrée or a side dish that will wow your guests over the holiday? Try these delicious yet heart healthy dishes that will certainly break up the monotony at your dinner table! The winter holidays arrive only once a year; making it unlikely that one or two high calorie meals will tip the scale.  But healthy eating as a lifestyle is really about the big picture of what you choose to put in your body.  Replacing heavy creams and fatty meats with fresh vegetables, herbs, nuts and lentils are just a few ways to transition a holiday meal while still making it taste flavorful and satisfying. For more pictures, information, and recipe ideas go to Happygoluckyvegan.blogspot.com.

Holiday Lentil Walnut Loaf

An exceptionally delicious entrée for vegetarians, and for those wanting to serve a unique dish on the holidays. Use fresh herbs and vegetables. This recipe can be made gluten-free.
(6-8 servings)

1 cup dry green lentils
3 tablespoons ground flax seed
½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced finely or grated
1 celery stick, diced finely
1 small apple, grated
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon Herbes de Provence
¾ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
½ cup whole wheat flour (or oat flour to make this gluten-free)
¾ cup leftover stuffing (or breadcrumbs)

Method: In a medium- sized pot, add 1 cup of dry green lentils to 3 cups of water.  Allow lentils to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until lentils are tender.  Strain lentils, and process 75% of the lentils in a food processor or blender. Add the processed lentils to the whole lentils in a large bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large pan to medium-high heat and add olive oil.  Combine onions, garlic and a pinch of salt, and allow the onions to sweat.  Add carrots, another pinch of salt, and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add the celery and the apple, and mix in your fresh and dry herbs. Allow flavors to combine for 2-3 minutes.  Let it to cool slightly, and combine the onion mixture with the lentils.

Make flax egg by combining the ground flax seed and warm water in a small bowl. Allow mixture to thicken for 5 minutes. Combine the flax egg, walnuts, flour, and leftover stuffing with the lentil mixture.  Knead the loaf with hands until it is moist and all ingredients are mixed well together.  Form into a large loaf and place into a well-greased loaf pan or casserole dish. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Use your favorite barbecue or tomato sauce to glaze the loaf.

 

Cauliflower with Curry Butter

This non-traditional cauliflower dish is incredibly flavorful, and full of spices rich with anti-inflammatory properties.  Although, your guests will not be concentrating on the latter as they go back for seconds! Use fresh cauliflower:

(6-8 servings)

3 pounds cauliflower
4 tablespoons Earth Balance, or other vegan butter
½ teaspoon turmeric
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
salt

Method: Using a paring knife, cut cauliflower into small florets. This should yield 8 cups of cauliflower. Heat a large pot of salted purified water to high. In batches, stir in cauliflower once the water reaches boil. Allow the cauliflower to simmer for 4-5 minutes, or until tender.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the cauliflower and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and combine turmeric, cayenne pepper, black pepper, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  Once all ingredients are incorporated, drizzle the butter sauce onto the cauliflower while mixing.  Stir in cilantro and lime juice.  Add additional salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve warm.

Homemade Herbed Stuffing

A vegetarian-stuffing full of flavorful herbs, this recipe can be made gluten-free.
(6-8 servings)

1 loaf of bread (brown rice, whole wheat, multi-grain), torn into small pieces
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
½ cup parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fresh sage, minced
salt and pepper
2-3 cups vegetable stock

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast bread cubes in the oven or toaster until golden brown.  In a large saucepan, combine olive oil, garlic, onions, and a pinch of salt and sauté until onions have sweat.  Add the celery, another pinch of salt, and cook until celery is tender (about 4-5 minutes).  Allow the celery mixture to cool, then using a rubber spatula, add the celery mixture to the bread crumbs. Add the fresh herbs and additional salt and pepper to taste to the bowl.

Slowly pour the vegetable stock in, as some bread absorb better than others. The bread should be evenly coated, moist and clumping together.  It should not be soggy or drowning in stock.  Pour bread mixture into a large casserole dish, and drizzle a little olive oil on top.  Cover with foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the tin foil after 25 minutes, and bake an additional 10 minutes for a crispier top.  Serve warm and with vegetarian gravy.

Savory Green Beans and Roasted Tomatoes

A simple yet satisfying dish with heart healthy green beans and cherry tomatoes.

(6-8 servings)

2 pounds of green beans, ends trimmed

1 carton of cherry tomatoes (about 10 tomatoes)

1/2-teaspoon cumin

1/2-teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4-teaspoon ground cloves

Salt

Pepper

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a lightly greased cookie sheet, place tomatoes on sheet and lightly salt and pepper them. Bake tomatoes for about 50 minutes, or until no longer firm   Boil 1 inch of water in a deep skillet.  Add green beans and allow water to boil again.  Place cover on beans, and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Simmer until beans are tender, but still a little crisp.

Remove beans and add seasonings. Toss green beans evenly, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Place roasted tomatoes on top.

 

What’s your favorite holiday dish?

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The Great Indoors. A Guide To Indoor and Windowsill Gardening

November 20th, 2011

Whether you’re an urban gardener, or would like to bring your plants safely indoors for the winter; windowsill and indoor gardening is an easy way to grow your favorite herbs, vegetables and peppers.  In fact, many plants grown in containers require minimal care, and grow just as well indoors.  You will also find that the proximity of the plant is ideal when indoors, as herbs can be easily snipped and thrown into your favorite dish, and you can leave that cumbersome winter jacket in the closet as you harvest your veggies.  You’ll also find easy access in recycling your used coffee grounds. This blog post about Container/Vertical Gardening may also be particularly useful as you grow your indoor garden.  Follow these simple steps below and grow your own beautiful indoor garden without the worry of frost and weather damage.

 Step By Step Indoor Gardening:

  1. Find a container that is at least 6 inches deep.  Containers vary in shape, colors, price and materials used.  Wood, plastic and strawberry containers are the least expensive, but may rot easily.  Choose Redwood and Cedar wood, ceramic and metal containers if available, as these are less likely to experience wear and tear.  Wide containers are also ideal for growing several herbs in one container.
  2. Scout out a good location in your home for your garden. The location must provide light for at least 5-6 hours a day – keep in mind that south or southeast facing windows yield the most light.  Windowsills work well, but be certain that sneaky drafts will not bother your plants.  Also, stay clear of heating vents and kitchen appliances, as these can deplete your plants of the humidity needed for proper growth.
  3. Select herbs, vegetables and chilies that will not grow too tall or wide.  The Producer, Veggin’ Out and Uncle Herb’s Favorites have a variety of plants that are easy to maintain in an indoor garden.
  4. When transplanting plants to the in-doors, add 2 inches of soil to the container and place plant carefully inside.  Patting down the soil gently, fill the remaining areas with soil leaving an inch of room at the top of the container for water.
  5. It’s easy to forget about watering your plants if your location is in a less used room or behind a couch.  Create a watering schedule, and ensure plants are getting enough water by allowing water to seep through the holes at the bottom of the container.  This helps water infiltrate the roots of the plant.  If your containers do not have holes, drill them and place a plastic or decorative container at the bottom of the pot to collect water. Herbs will need less water than vegetables and chilies, and remember to fertilize the soil once a month with organic fertilizer or compost.
  6. To avoid disease and dust, mist your plants with tepid water, and carefully wipe down leaves that may have accumulated dust.

Using Lights For Indoor Gardening:

Uncle Herb’s Favorites and The Producer have a wide variety of herbs and salad greens that grow well using indoor lights.  Obviously more costly than natural sunlight, growing lights can be purchased at any home goods store and many find they are more reliable than waiting for sunny weather.  If you live in an area that receives little sunlight (even if just in the winter months), this may be an excellent option for your indoor garden. Because plants need a full spectrum of light for photosynthesis, be sure the lights you purchase are either fluorescent or have high intensity discharge.  Both of these methods will ensure your plants grow as naturally as they do in the great outdoors.

Get The Kiddos Involved!

Gardening is a fantastic way to keep your children active while learning about the science and nutrition behind each plant.  Are you looking for ideas to get their hands dirty (in a good way)?  For one, encourage your children to decorate the plant containers with paints and other artistic tools.  They’ll love decorating something for the home! Or, take a family nature walk and pick out unique and odd shaped rocks to place between containers.  Label the plants’ names on each rock and set them beside each container.  Also, ask children to pick out which seeds they prefer to grow and allow them opportunities to nurture each plant until harvest time. This could be a great opportunity for kids to experience the science of plant growth!  Lastly, allow children to help in the kitchen and give them easy jobs using the herbs and veggies they grew!  Children will have more awareness about what food goes into their bodies if they take an active role in their daily meals.

What herbs, vegetables and/or plants are you planning on growing indoors this winter?

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Companion Planting: How To Effectively Play Musical Chairs With Your Garden

October 10th, 2011

Have you had the dilemma in which your pea plant grew remarkably tall with plump pods next to last year’s carrots, but were sulking by the onions the following year? I can tell you it is not the vegetable gods cursing your peas this year.  It has to do with placement.  Companion gardening is strongly recommended as an eco-friendly way to manage your garden.  This is because most of the plants in your garden have substances in their leaves and roots that repel and attract other various types of plants.  We can thank the Iroquois tribe for discovering companion gardening when they noted that three vegetables grew very strongly together. They dubbed them the Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash. Since the discovery, vegetables and plants have been studied to find which plant took from the soil to compliment plants that put nutrients back in.  Companion planting is commonly used on personal gardens, and can greatly enhance your crop as well as aid in naturally deterring insects.

You can find any of these premium vegetables and herb seeds in Veggin’ Out and Uncle Herb’s Favorites!

 

                  Vegetables And Herbs That Grow Well Together                                                     

Vegetable

Friends: Companion Plant

Enemies: Non-Companion Plant

Bull’s Blood Beet Bush beans, cabbage, broccoli, kale, lettuce, onions, garlic Pole beans
Scarlet Nantes Carrot Beans, tomatoes None
Di Cicco Broccoli Beets, celery, dill, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes Pole beans
Washington Cherry Tomatoes Carrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, peppers Corn, potatoes
White Spear Bunching Onion Beets, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, pepper All beans and peas               

Herb

Friends: Companion Plant

Effects

Superbo Basil Tomatoes Improves flavor and discourages insects
Bronze and Green Fennel None Most plants dislike it – keep it separate
Common Sage and Greek Oregano Carrots, cabbage, peas, beans Deters some insects
Bouquet Dill Cabbage and carrots Improves growth and health
Titan Parsley Tomatoes, Asparagus Improves growth and health

 

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Spanish Seafood Dish

June 17th, 2011

Our guest chef has done it again! Check out Katheryne’s spanish shellfish recipe. Fresh mussles and clams come together with tomatoes, fresh herbs and white wine to create this great dish.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:
1 lb of cleaned de-bearded mussels
1 1/2 lbs cleaned little neck clams
2 cups white wine (a white table wine will work perfect)
1 cup of organic canned crushed tomatoes
1 small onion finely diced
4 cloves of garlic finely diced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon of dried oregano leaves
the juice of one large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
handful of roughly chopped or torn cilantro leaves to garnish

Directions:
First heat either the oil or the butter on med-low heat in a big deep soup pot with a lid or dutch oven.  Once the oil/butter is hot add the finely diced onion.  Sweat the onions for about five minutes.  Once the onions have turned translucent, add the minced garlic and continue to cook for another two minutes.  Now add the crushed tomatoes, white wine, smokey paprika, cumin, thyme, and oregano to the pot to make a broth.  Turn the heat up to medium or until the broth begins to simmer. Let the alcohol in the wine cook off for about twelve minutes.  Add the mussels, clams, and the lemon juice and cover the pot with the lid.  Cook covered for about three to four minutes or until all of the shell fish have opened (that’s how you know they are ready).  Serve in a big bowl with crusty bread and garnished with cilantro from the Humble Seed.  The bright cilantro really awakens this hearty seafood dish.

*NOTE always check your shell fish prior to cooking to make sure they are all alive.  To do this look to see if all of the shells are closed.  If the shell is open, tap it on the counter, if it does not close, its dead, throw it away.

 About Katheryne:

Sustainability is very important to me because I believe that we should take care of the planet that gives us so much. Love the earth and it will love you back. Know where your food comes from; be informed about what you are consuming. By choosing to eat organically grown produce the impact that you are making on the environment and your own health is a positive one.  Living sustainably to me, is not about  what you are giving up, it’s about all that you get! You can check out my website and please be sure to “like” my Facebook page!

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Is your soil pH way off base?

May 26th, 2011

 

Have you ever dealt with vegetable plant problems that confounded you? When it comes to growing your own herbs and vegetables, soil pH is one element in gardening that you should be aware of in order to grow the most successful plants.

If your tomatoes develop blossom-end rot the soil could be lacking in calcium or if your peppers have too much leaf growth the soil could contain too much nitrogen. Each of these soil conditions can be fixed by testing the soil pH and amending if necessary. Soil pH (potential Hydrogen) is basically the measurement of acidity or alkalinity and runs on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. If the soil pH is too high or too low this can be toxic to plants. Garden soils generally have a pH between 5.5 and 8.0, and vegetable plants generally grow best in soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0.

To test your soil pH, you can purchase a soil pH meter or soil test kit through Amazon or at your local garden center. You can also check with your local Cooperative Extension office to see if they can test your soil for you.

What are culprits for soil becoming too acidic or alkaline? Climate and mineral content are two reasons why soil pH can be affected. When it rains, calcium and magnesium can be leached from the soil. In areas where rainfall is high, like in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll find soil that is more acidic, while in areas that are dry you’ll find soil that is more alkaline. As far as mineral content goes, natural rock in soil will affect soil pH. Acidic rock contains more silica which will create acidic soil, while limestone will create alkaline soil.

If your soil pH is below 6 that means the soil is too acidic, and if your soil pH is higher than 7.5 that means the soil is too alkaline. You can easily fix these soil pH problems by adding ground limestone to acidic soil and soil sulfur to alkaline soil. Both limestone and sulfur can be found at local garden centers.

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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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