English Cottage Gardening – Herbs Of The Mint Family

Herbs of the Mint family are a beautiful and useful addition to any cottage garden. They include such favorites as basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender, and lemon balm.

Basil flowers

Basil flowers

Sage

Sage

Originally, cottage gardens were grown for household use, not for beauty alone. Herbs were used as medicine, as flavoring for food, and to freshen the air in the damp, musty lodgings.

Rosemary

Rosemary

The concept of a separate herb garden, isolated from other flowering plants, would have been inconceivable to an early cottage gardener. Herbs and vegetables were grown side by side with roses and foxgloves, both of which also had household uses.

Bee on Lavender

Bee on Lavender

As you can see from these pictures, herbs can be as beautiful as purely decorative plantings. They are also very attractive to bees and butterflies.

Thyme

Thyme

I try to incorporate as many as I can into my overall garden design.

The Vernal Equinox Cocktail

strawberry smash

Celebrating the arrival of Spring!!

Yield:  1 cocktail

Ingredients

3 ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced

6 leaves of mint

1 ounce white rum

1/2 ounce honey and 1/2 ounce water, mixed until honey dissolves

2 ounces prosecco

Directions

Add the strawberries and mint to a rocks glass. Smash the strawberries and mint gently with a muddler until the berries are a pulp and the mint smells strong. Add the rum and honey mixture to the glass and give it a stir. Fill 3/4 full with ice. Top off with the prosecco. Garnish with a sprig of mint!

Vegetarian Honey Winter Vegetable Soup

vegetarian winter veg soup

Reprinted from Salon.com

There’s never been a better time to be a half-assed vegetarian. Five years ago, the American Dialect Society honored the word flexitarian for its utility in describing a growing demographic—the “vegetarian who occasionally eats meat.” Now there’s evidence that going flexi is good for the environment and good for your health. A study released last October found that a plant-based diet, augmented with a small amount of dairy and meat, maximizes land-use efficiency. In January, Michael Pollan distilled the entire field of nutritional science into three rules for a healthy diet: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” According to a poll released last week, Americans seem to be listening: Thirteen percent of U.S. adults are “semivegetarian,” meaning they eat meat with fewer than half of all their meals. In comparison, true vegetarians—those who never, ever consume animal flesh—compose just 1 percent.

Yield:  10-12 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

8 ounces crimini mushrooms, halved and sliced

2 medium carrots, finely diced

2 ribs celery, finely diced

1 large onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon kosher salt

One 35-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/2 quarts water

3 tablespoons soy sauce

One 2-by-2-inch piece Parmesan rind

7 ounces butternut squash, cubed

5 ounces kale, stems removed and chopped

Two 15-ounce cans great Northern beans, undrained

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

Shaved Parmesan, for serving

Directions

Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into an 8-quart stockpot over high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the mushrooms and saute until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Decrease the heat to low, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the carrots, celery, onions and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 30 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, sage, rosemary and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring to break up the tomatoes. Add the water, soy sauce and Parmesan rind, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, about 15 minutes. Decrease the heat to low, add the squash and kale, cover and cook until tender, 30 to 35 minutes.

Return the mushrooms to the pot along with the beans, honey and red wine vinegar and cook until all is heated through, about 15 minutes. Remove the cheese rind and serve warm with shaved Parmesan.

Serve with hearty whole grain bread and a green salad.

Coq Au Vin Et Miel

250px-Coq_au_vin_rouge

It’s perfect weather for a great pot of Coq Au Vin…  avec Miel!! 

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

6 oz. bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 1/4 lb. chicken legs and thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 lb.  mushrooms

3/4 lb. shallots, halved

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups full bodied red wine

6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs

3 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

1 yellow onion, cut in half

2 tablespoons honey

2 cups chicken broth

3/4 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces

Directions:

Cook the bacon until crisp in a large skillet, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken in the skillet, turning once, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven. Add the garlic, tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk in the red wine, the honey and the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the bacon, chicken, mushroom mixture, carrots, the herbs, the bay leaf and the yellow onion. Simmer until the chicken is fork-tender, about 2 hours.

Transfer the chicken to a plate. Skim the fat off the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Discard the herbs and yellow onion and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Return the chicken to Dutch oven. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately with noodles or boiled or mashed potatoes.

The Romancing The Bee Diet – The Essentials

Fat bee

Okay, here is the diet I made up.  I’m no expert, but I’ve been on just about every diet there is with varying levels of success. I know what works for me and what doesn’t.

All of the foods allowed on the Romancing The Bee Diet (“RTBD”) are low (below 55) on the Glycemic Index (GI).

The GI is a numerical system of measuring how much of a rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers–the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response. So a low GI food will cause a small rise, while a high GI food will trigger a dramatic spike. A GI of 70 or more is high, a GI of 56 to 69 inclusive is medium, and a GI of 55 or less is low.

For me, a food with a low GI keeps me satisfied longer and naturally suppresses my appetite. The variety of foods allowed enables me to still cook creatively!

Foods allowed on the RTBD are listed below. If it’s not on the list, I’m not going to eat it!!

Lean meats such as beef, skinless chicken, lamb, pork loin and veal – 8 ounces per day, OR

Any type of seafood without breading or batter – 8 ounces per day, OR

Three eggs per day (3 ounces), OR

Any combination of the above, not to exceed a total of 8 ounces of protein per day.

One grapefruit per day

One lemon per day

Apples or pears – two per day, total.

Non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, salad greens, winter greens, onions, and garlic. (unlimited)

1 avocado per day

2 tablespoons raw honey

2 tablespoons olive oil or butter (not light) or mayonnaise made with olive oil (not light), or a combination of these, not to exceed two tablespoons total.

2 tablespoons bleu cheese or parmesan cheese

Unlimited – Tea, diet soda, water, Vinegar, Tabasco, salt, pepper, fresh and dried spices and Dijon Mustard.

1 five ounce glass of wine per day, preferably red. (May be used in cooking)

EATING BREAKFAST IS ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED!

That’s it.  No counting of calories or carbs or points.  I’m hopeful that the small amounts of “naughty” foods will keep me from feeling deprived, while still allowing me to lose 2-3 pounds per week.

Go-To Honey Salsa

salsa

This is an accompaniment to the Black Bean Soup posted today, and it is a good all-purpose Salsa recipe. The honey counters the acidity of the tomatoes.

Ingredients

1- 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1- 10 oz can orginal Rotel

1/2 small onion, roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

1/2-1 jalapeno, seeded or not (depends on how spicy you like it)

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

small to medium size handful of cilantro, washed

juice of 1 lime

Directions

Put all the ingredients in the base of a food processor or good blender and pulse to combine for 30 seconds or so until all the ingredients are finely chopped and salsa is desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve with chips or over tacos.

Black Bean Soup With Honey

black bean soup

The inspiration for this recipe was one that appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine on January 4, 1987.  The recipe looked so good that by the time I made it to the grocery store, all the black beans had been sold out!

Ingredients

1/2 pound smoked slab bacon with rind

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions

1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery

1 1/2 cups finely diced carrots

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme

4 tablespoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled

3 tablespoons tomato paste

16 cups rich chicken broth, preferably homemade and concentrated, or canned broth may be substituted

1 pound black turtle beans or other black beans, about 3 cups (soaked and drained)

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt to taste, if desired

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

Salsa for garnish (recipe follows today)

Sour cream for garnish

Directions

To soak beans quickly, cover them with generous amount of water, cover pot, bring water to boil and boil 2 minutes. Remove cover and allow beans to sit in the liquid for one hour. Drain.

Slice off and reserve the rind of the bacon. Cut the bacon into quarter-inch cubes. There should be about one and one-half cups.

Put the bacon cubes and the rind into a heavy kettle or casserole and cook, stirring often, until rendered of fat. When ready, the bacon cubes should be well-browned and crisp.

Add the onions, celery, carrots, bay leaf, garlic, thyme, three tablespoons of the cumin, black pepper and oregano. Stir to blend and cover the kettle or casserole closely. Cook about five minutes over moderately low heat. Do not allow the mixture to burn.

Add the tomato paste and stir briefly. Add the chicken broth and bring to the boil.

Add the soaked beans to the soup. Cook, uncovered, over relatively high heat about two and one-half hours, skimming the surface occasionally to remove foam, scum and fat as it rises to the top. The soup is ready when the beans are soft and some of them have disintegrated because of the cooking heat and stirring.

Stir in the lime juice, honey, cayenne pepper, salt, coriander leaves and remaining cumin. Remove and discard the bacon rind and bay leaf.

Puree soup a bit with an immersion blender.

Ladle the soup into individual soup bowls. Serve the salsa and sour cream on the side, to be added at will. This soup is best served with jalapeno honey corn-bread muffins as an accompaniment (recipe follows today).

Yield:   Eight to 12 servings

Southern Honey Cornbread Dressing

Yesterday I posted a recipe for Perfect Herbed Honey Oyster Dressing.

Today I started feeling guilty about calling it “perfect.” It wasn’t the dressing I grew up eating. Nope, my mother L.J. used to make old-fashioned Southern Cornbread Dressing.  With her own homemade cornbread.

It wasn’t sophisticated, but it was mighty good!

This is L.J.’s recipe, with some honey added to make it extra tasty…

Ingredients :

Honey Cornbread, recipe follows

7 slices oven-dried white bread

1 sleeve saltine crackers

8 tablespoons butter

2 cups celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

7 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon fresh sage

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

5 eggs, beaten

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, dried white bread slices, and saltines; set aside.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until transparent, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the vegetable mixture over cornbread mixture. Add the stock, mix well, taste, and add salt, pepper to taste, sage, and poultry seasoning. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Pour mixture into a greased pan and bake until dressing is cooked through, about 45 minutes.

 Honey Cornbread:

1 cup self-rising cornmeal

1/2 cup self-rising flour

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup honey

2 eggs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into a greased shallow baking dish. Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Perfect Herbed Honey Oyster Dressing

 

Stuffing, also called dressing, is a seasoned mix of vegetables and starches and sometimes meat and seafood (such as oysters) that are cooked within the body cavity of an animal that is then served alongside the animal usually as an ancillary course.

Various kinds of stuffing go as far back as the Roman Empire, where recipes appear in De re Coquinaria, a collection found within a kitchen anthology called Apicius that chronicles thousands of Roman dishes. In De re Coquinaria, chicken, rabbit, pork and dormouse stuffings are made available. While some scholars argue that because of the language used in Apicius, which is closer in ways to Vulgar than Classical Latin, that many of the recipes contained within it were not cooked in Rome, there are long traditions and other historical references that corroborate the wide use of stuffing in Ancient Italy.

Stuffing in America is not uncommon in restaurants but is not regularly utilized in most households. Rather, it is traditionally served during the Thanksgiving holiday. 

This is the perfect Thanksgiving stuffing/dressing!

Ingredients

2 loaves Italian or French bread (1 lb total), cut into 3/4-inch cubes (12 cups)

1/2 lb sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (if needed)

2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups)

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme, crumbled

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 2 teaspoons dried sage, crumbled

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

18 oysters, shucked, drained, and chopped (3/4 cup)

2 1/4 cups turkey giblet stock or low-sodium chicken broth

 Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Spread bread cubes in 2 shallow baking pans and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans halfway through baking, until golden, 25 to 30 minutes total. Cool bread in pans on racks, then transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet.

If bacon renders less than 1/4 cup fat, add enough oil to skillet to total 1/4 cup fat. Cook onions, celery, thyme, sage, garlic, salt, and pepper in fat in skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with bread cubes, then stir in bacon, honey, parsley, butter, and oysters. Drizzle with stock, then season with salt and pepper and toss well.

Transfer stuffing to a buttered 3- to 3 1/2-quart shallow baking dish. Bake, covered, in middle of oven 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until browned, about 30 minutes more.