Sunday, April 8, 2018

Summer! What a beautiful word!
The garden is in its glory, the herb room is getting crowded with drying hanging herbs, oils and tinctures are brewing. The Louisiana heat is beginning to take a toll on the spring herbs, many are burning up in the 90 degree heat. I plant in March and harvest early. This year the basil appears to be suffering from a bit of a blight, but we are doing what we can to replant. Have a few orders to fill today, creams and tinctures, so this will be a short entry. Have a good day in the garden everyone!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Spring is very slow ..

This is April, it should be a bit warmer, but I can’t complain because my northern sisters are still under snow!
Been working very hard on the new herb beds, added 2 new ones this year- a bed just for basil, tomatoes and peppers, other for tumerick , culinary ginger and summer savory. So- now with all 6 of the new elderberry trees, and the Hawthorne tree, and all 11 of the herb beds I am very busy.
The cold and flu season was very hectic this year, made countless amounts of syrups and tinctures. Still have a bit left, I’ll probably tincture the rest of the berries. Really glad it’s over for now, it was very hard to keep up with the orders.
I am so very anxious for summer to begin! I want to harvest lots and lots of culinary herbs and make many jars of herbal teas...and jellies....and syrups...salves, tinctures.... Waiting for summer is very hard...

Sunday, December 31, 2017

I now have a site for business:
I have no idea if this will help me at all.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The herbs at the new herb farm, have finally begun to have a life of their own! The roots that I have been toting around for the last 8 years, planting and re- planting at every place we have lived, are now old enough to be harvested! We now have a new page on Facebook, "Herbs for Outlander Fans." This page came about because of Diana Gabaldon's books; a time travelers series! The heroine is a nurse and an accidental herbalist who helps people with the only means she can dig up- plants,roots and petals! I try to duplicate some of her formula's from the book to give the readers of the series a visual look at how infusions, salves, and poultices appear during the 1600's in Scotland. We post many pictures of the farm and products that are produced from our herbs.
I highly recommend the books. A very respected herbalist from Scotland, by the name of Claire, is the advisor on the STARZ tv version of the story.
When I wrote last, my husband was very ill and suffering with the effects of his leukemia diagnosis. He is doing well, he is still in remission. We live each day as though it is our last, we enjoy our gardens and try to expand them yearly. We are optimistic about his future and hope to have many years running the herb farm.
I continue to call it an herbfarm, but it is more like a glorified garden at this time. It does provide some income. When I retire , (in 5 years) I will devote all of my days to it. I hope it will be a decent living.
Our newest products are natural, herb based, hot and cold processed soap and traditional smudge sticks. (Our long awaited crop of white sage has finally produced a goodly amount!
See you soon with more recipes and pictures!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wonderful use for lemon basil!

A very nice recipe using lemon basil (which I am planting tomorrow) : 1 large,fresh from the garden, tomato- diced
10 lemon basil leaves, minced coarsely.
Good olive oil
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Sea salt, coarse
Fresh black pepper
Crostini, warm from the oven, rubbed with garlic butter

In a small bowl, toss tomatoes with basil, salt and pepper.
Place on a pretty white plate,
Pile high in the middle.
Add parm and sprinkle with olive oil.
Surround this with crostini and open a good merlot!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Sunflower Herb Farm: pesto

Sunflower Herb Farm: pesto: Extra Rich Pesto :
6 cups of genovese basil, leaves only.
3 large fresh cloves garlic, peeled and roasted (in a skillet with a small dab of olive oil)
1 cup of toasted, unsalted, unshelled, macadamia nuts (dry roast in a very hot skillet. Watch carefully, do not burn)
1 triangle of grated, fresh parmesean cheese (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 to 1/2 tsps sea salt
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor place basil leaves, roasted garlic, toasted nuts. Pulse off and on until roughly chopped. Start pouring the 3/4 cup of olive oil in a slow steady stream while running the machine on lowest speed. Stop machine, add grated cheese. Pulse and add 1/4 cup of olive oil in slow stream until incorporated.I serve it on fresh french bread with creamy unsalted butter.I hope you enjoy it!PS: don't even think of trying to count calories when you serve this pesto!

update and pics

To my fellow outlander: you can use this picture. Feel free to use any picture on the blog.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunflower Herb Farm: peaceful day and wishful thinking

Sunflower Herb Farm: peaceful day and wishful thinking: We are about to be discharged from the hospital as soon as he sees the doctor. I'm sitting here going thru our old pictures, looking at ...

peaceful day and wishful thinking

We are about to be discharged from the hospital as soon as he sees the doctor. I'm sitting here going thru our old pictures, looking at those great active vacations we used to take. Makes me lonesome for our life. In the process of trying to keep his weight up,despite the chemo, I have gained 40-50 pounds. I am a slug.
I think I need to start trying to be healthy again.

Friday, August 23, 2013

losing your mind is not an option.....

My husband will leave the hospital tomorrow with no more chemo to do. He had 8 rounds of it and it has been pure hell. 8 rounds of 5 days a week in 7 months. 7 spinal taps, several bouts of fever, infection and unknown bacteria. He is grateful for the end of it.
We now move onto the second round of the treatment, possible bone marrow transplant at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas.
He is understandably afraid.
We are both bewildered and incredibly sad.
When he comes home we will have a little peace, about 8 weeks of it, before the actual transplant. (If I have all the facts straight, and if he has a matching donor) Then he will become an inpatient in Houston and I will have to return to Louisisana. He may be there for 3 months.
I have to work to keep the bills paid. It's necessary fact of life.
I wish I could stay with him. I can't imagine the horror of letting him go thru this alone but we have no choice. It's that or lose everything. We have worked for 16 years to buy and build our house. My husband wants to keep it and will not allow me to try to get a leave of absence.
I could let the house go in an instant.
How will I be able to stand this? This is not happily ever after.
I feel as though I am about to lose my mind.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Oranges from neighbors

Someone gave me a beautiful bag of just picked oranges, so me being myself; I made a cake with them.
Here's the recipe:
1 basic yellow cake recipe, zest and juice of 6 medium oranges.
Proceed with recipe using the juice of oranges instead of liquid recipe suggests.
Mix batter gently until ingredients are incorporated, then beat 2 mins with a hand mixer.
Pour into two oiled and floured 8 inch round cake pans. Set temp to 325 and bake for 15 mins then
Rotate and bake 15 more mins. Cool for 15 mins. Turn out on rack to cool.
Orange syrup:
1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup fresh orange juice. Bring to a boil and stir on low to completely
dissolve sugar. Using pastry brush, paint layers with orange syrup. Let cool entirely.
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, 1/2 stick of shortening, 1/4 cup of fresh orange juice,
1/ 8 cup of triple sec ( orange liquer). 5 cups confection sugar. Stir until all ingredients begin to
Hold together. Beat on med speed until fluffy about 2 mins then add zest of two oranges
And beat for another min.
Frost bottom layer with about 1/2 cup of frosting then frost with the rest of cake.

I love fresh citrus. While we are waiting for our new trees to produce our
country neighbors are gracious and share oranges with us.
I will certainly share the fresh mulberry jelly I am making in a few weeks. I love to trade!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

hospital window

Well, here at the hospital for the second round of deadly chemo
. My poor husband has had so much of it this week that he became toxic and
had to be given lasix to bring down swelling. He is so nauseated and tired. The doctor says only 6 more treatments, ,and at least 4 more spinals, at least 2 more bone marrow biopsies.
I will never complain again if I have a cold, or any other ailment. His suffering is almost
more than I can bear.
tomorrow will mark one year ago that we moved into our house.
I feel so sad that we will still be here at the hospital,
he has been diagnosed with a very aggressive leukemia. it requires a week of chemo, in a hospital, every 3 weeks. but..that's when things are uncomplicated. If he gets an infection, or a blood clot or fever, he's stays longer. of course, all of these things have happened.
we are so sad. I can't say it any other way,
It"s spring and we should be getting our herb beds ready. I don't have the energy
or the will.
I saw fresh strawberries at a fruit stand on Friday. I will go home and make fresh jam
for him.
And a loaf of homemade buttermilk bread..
Yes..that is what I will do. Maybe he will eat if I do this.
Perhaps our next blog will say happy things. .

Saturday, February 9, 2013

happily ever after is just a bedtime story

Here's the thing:
my beloved, my cherished husband , the wonderful man I love..........was just diagnosed with cancer. We um, don't know what kind yet, his doctors agree it's lymphoma or leukemia. We are heartbroken. What began as trip to the doctor's office for the flu, has become a nightmare of something horrific and unbelievable. . This can't be happening. He is the love of my entire life.
I can't be here without him. This isn't supposed to happen.
When did God decide we weren't supposed to live happily ever after?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Spring is coming in a few months. I know it's January, but the seed catalogs are here! Yay!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

faithless blogger

Haven't been a very faithful blogger have I?
I have had much peace. Not everything has gone the way I imagined,
But, almost everything is very nice.
The herbs have had to fight the near primitive
Conditions here, whenever my back is turned, the
weeds gain ground. It will be a few years before
I can have the beds I had before.
However, I baked oatmeal cookies today, cooked nice meal for my husband,
worked on my new kitchen chalkboard.
We just came in the from watching
the sunset, something we never got to do in town.
I love the sunsets....

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Prize Winning Ribs

This is for you Doc, thanks for helping me feel better today.

for the dry rub:
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsps paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 TB kosher salt
1 tsp instant expresso powder (or any instant dark coffee)
1/4 tsp all spice
1 tsp chipotle powder (or your favorite dried ground-up hot pepper)
2 slabs of pork baby back ribs (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)

for the braising liquid
1 cup of sparkling white wine (prosecco is good. but I use Guiness stout sometimes)
2 TB apple cider vinegar
2 TB Worcestershire sauce
1 TB honey

Preheat oven to 250 degrees
Add all dry rub ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are comined. Rub mixture evenly all over each rack of ribs, making sure to coat top and bottom. (sometimes I leave them overnight in the fridge) Place ribs, single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or in a roasting pan and let sit, covered, in the fridge for one hour.
Remove ribs from fridge, pour braising liquid over them, wrap very tightly with heavy aluminum foil and place in oven, side by side if possible. Cook for 2 1/2 hours.
Remove pans from oven, discard foil and pour or spoon the braising liquid into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a vigorous simmer and let cook until liquid reduces by half, 20 to 30 minutes.
(at this point, I discard the liquid and use Jack Daniel's barbeque sauce to baste the ribs. I use at least half the bottle. But, if you want to use the braising liquid instead, it makes a lighter sauce. I say, just use whatever barbeque sauce you like!)
Preheat the broiler, brush the glaze, or whatever sauce, over each rack of ribs. Place the ribs under the broiler until the glaze until it begins to carmelize, one to two minutes. (watch very carefully, or all your hard work will be spoiled by burned ribs!) Slice and serve after resting a few minutes. They will be falling off the bone...
What to drink? Well...any dark beer would do!
I like to serve jalapeno poppers and spicy sweet potato fries with them. (cilantro, sour cream dipping sauce is also good with the fries! But, that is another recipe that I will post later)
If you do them on a pit, just make sure to temp the coals. It's important to cook them very slow! Ribs are ruined if they are rushed.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas, how can I keep you?

This is the last week before Christmas and I am sad that the season has zoomed by so quickly. When my friends and I discuss our day, someone usually says, "Thank God it is almost over", or "I'm almost done with my shopping", or
"I haven't even started!"
This is distressing to me.
I too am guilty of letting these comments come out of my mouth, it's such an automatice response. When my much- overworked friends want to commiserate with me, I repeat those words back to them.

I don't want to say it anymore.

The real truth is, I've tried to stay up longer and get up earlier this month, because I truly do want Christmas last as long as I can.
Cookie baking, candy making, card sending me, I want it to go on and on.
But, no matter what I do, my precious holiday is still whizzing by me at the speed of retail stores getting ready for the next holiday!
Every day this week I will continue to get up early and stay up as long as I possibly can. I want to extend this incredible feeling I have for the birth of the child who changed the world.
I want to continue to do all the wonderful, sentimental rituals I have practiced for years.
Today,making more candy, baking cakes, cookies, and bread. No tired feelings at the end of the all this kitchen
madness,just happiness.
The Christmas tree is lit right now, wrapping paper and cookies platters are stacked up on the table along with confection sugar, chocolate chunks, raisins, apricots, and flour.
It's a nice cluttered scene.
To my relief, I've finally mastered the art of cooking the pralines, and all batches are turning out right!
We've watched all the familiar Christmas movies this week, and written out countless, glittery Christmas cards.
My husband and I sang Christmas carols with our fellow church members, went out to see the lights downtown, gave out candy canes, started to fill our stockings to each other. (I love shopping for the small things that go into stockings! The grandchildren's stockings are particularly fun to fill!)

The last thing I have to do is buy my Christmas ham and fixings. The last minute shopping, it feels good to be with others in the store, gives me a thrill to say, "Merry Christmas"!

May this week feel like an eternity!

Hope all of you cherish and enjoy the season.

And please...don't forget to leave cookies and milk for Santa.

Merry, Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sugar Plums and Alka Seltzer

Spent the afternoon making my yearly Christmas pralines. The house smelled so delicious today, butter and cooked sugar in the air; the caramel,vanilla making my mouth water!

I began this candy cooking party at 12:30 p.m.

It is a mystery to me the little problems I have when I begin my cooking and baking ritual every year. It's not like riding a bike, you tend to forget things that keep you in the seat.

The first batch of candy is always a disaster. (but I never remember this) It's like a practice run. My husband knows this, he counts on it. He waits in the wings to eat the broken and chipped pieces. (I never bring my friends and co-workers broken candy.) He was confident that he would be eating candy after a few minutes, the anticipation was all over him.

This year I thought I had avoided this problem because the first pot of candy looked so beautiful. I stirred and spooned it onto waxed paper, it cooled nicely, it had a nice rounded look, was creamy and brown. Wow, it was darn near perfect.
Hah! Ok, Jan! First one out of the box, ready to plate and wrap! I did it good! No frustration this year!

Well, what do you think?
That candy would not, could not, come off of the waxed paper.
I would not, could not, have done something wrong?
I laid everything out before I starting cooking, had everything in a neat line...spoons, measuring cups, bowls, candy thermometer.....

I forgot to butter the paper.
How could I have forgotten? Such a small detail...
To quote a famous Peanuts character: "AUUGH"!
My husband sat on the couch like a cheshire cat, patiently waiting for me to stop using very unchristmas-like words. He waited for a break in the wailing and moaning, and then he said, "Any mistakes this year...dear"?
He watched quietly as I pulled and tugged, chips flying off in every direction, cracks marring the rounded perfection that I strived for. As the shards flew around the kitchen, I could hear him talking to his friend on the phone, "Well, I gotta go, I think she may need some help." (He already knew what to say to avoid a headless state.)
I mutely handed him a large bowl of pieces and sent him back to the couch. He sat happily munching while I fumed and sputtered.

The second round was not much better.
I buttered another sheet of paper, ran back and forth to the stove to stir the new batch. As the temperature rose to 239, I figured this one was a cinch.


I didn't stir it quite enough, and spooned it out before it had enough air in it. Rushing it? How could I?
This batch was more like soft toffee.

It ran together like a traitor when I spooned it onto the paper-covered counter. *&*#! %$!!!!

This candy had to be scraped back into the pot. Have you ever had to scrape warm sticky candy off waxed paper? It isn't on the top of my list of things to do.
I advise that you stir that candy until you think it's about to set up in the pot, or until your arm falls off.
You wonder why didn't I throw it all away and start over?'s why: cleaned, shelled pecans are $7.00 for 2 1/2 cups.
I kept at it and made 5 batches, 1 1/2 cup of pecans in each. (you can add that total up!)
That pecan price is enough for me to pull up every bit of candy off the counter. I wasn't leaving a man behind on waxed paper!
But, pulling it up it isn't fun and your vocabulary suffers in the process.

I'm done for today, it's 5:03 p.m. and the last of it is cooling on the counter. I haven't checked it yet, the last few pieces, but I know what to expect.
My husband, the official tester of this house, has advised me that it was "sorta chewy", and "not like the perfect spoonful" he tried another batch ago.
He should know....he's eaten enough of the mistakes today to make him a candy genious.

I just saw him go into the bathroom for an alka seltzer.
"I'm just trying to save your Christmas reputation, he said. "Someone has to do it".

As he walked away grinning I heard him add, "what I go through for you!"

He won't sleep tonight, he's had more sugar than the sugarplum fairy locked in a Macy's candy store.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rose and Lavender Cookies

My most recent visit with a local study group, The Attakapas, was great fun! We discussed how to use culinary herbs and the proper way to make a pot of tea. I served our signature blend, "Summer's End", which went well with their menu of scones and cookies.
The members were very gracious and well informed. I wish that I had time to join their group; but my job, building the new house, harvesting, making winter medicines and packing the apartment are all I can manage!

Here is the recipe for the herb cookies I served .

Rose and Lavender Cookies

1 and 3/4 cups and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup , 3 tablespoons and 1 tsp confectioners sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup of fresh fragrant rose petals (the unsprayed variety)
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
3 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 and 3/4 cups unsalted walnuts, or almonds, or macadamia nuts (your choice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 drop of rose oil
1 and 1/2 cups of confection sugar for rolling
Zest of one lemon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Put roses, lavender and nuts into a food processor and process until very finely chopped.
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir until combined, then mix with your hands until dough stays together. Spoon out by tablespoons and roll into balls.
You can bake at least 16 at a time on a standard cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes,until brown around the edges
Cool cookies for a few minutes.
Zest your lemon into the confection sugar, toss until mixed.
Roll cookies into sugar, let cool completely, then roll again.

40 servings

You can use almost any culinary herb for these cookies. In the past I have used: lemon balm, lemon grass, rose geranium, pineapple sage, violets, purple basil, lemon thyme, bergomot, chocolate mint, spearmint, peppermint.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

a door and a fine porch

This week we went to visit our new house in progress. I was amazed to see that I now have a roof, walls and a beautiful porch. I have to share it with all of you who have been so supportive of our new farm. Don't you love it? That's me smiling in my office. I can smile easily now!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

dreaming of cool nights , simmering apples, and a pot of beef boogie woogie.

The heat is hanging over the land like a wet woolen blanket, my skin is so damp as I stand out in the middle of our field, that it makes trickles of sweat pour down my spine. As I water the trees, and herbs that we have left, I wonder when summer will end.
I love summer; the smells, the sound of the bees, the abundance of herbs it usually brings, but..this year...we are having a record heat wave that I have not seen in many decades.
The tender herbs have given it up, they have shriveled and died before I could save them. The only thing we have left at our new farm is the lemon grass, oregano and rosemary who all thrive mightly in this desert-like season.
When I plan my products for the upcoming fall festivals I use what has survived and flourished in summer. So far, it appears that the thai and mediterranean herbs have lived the longest and made the most decent harvest. (does that give you an idea how hot it is?)
Wildcrafting the passion flower leaves, honeysuckle, blackberry, and soon- to-be
saw palmetto berries, will help give us a surplus with our cultivated herbs.
I will use all that I have to make teas and tinctures, balms and salves.
Here in town, the garden survived better with more water. I have been able to harvest the bergomots, lemon verbena, mints, basils, thymes, savories,
roses, St. John's Wort.
Today I am deciding whether or not I actually want to do a booth at the Rice Festival, the pickings are half of what they were last year.
Perhaps the new herbal flavored cookies and cakes that we plan to make can be doubled, the apple butter and jellies tripled.
The end of summer makes me tired.
We are all longing for the sweet cool evenings that fall will bring.
I think that I will take a little nap before I make my proposed list of sellable items; the heat has made me sleepy.
I can dream about autumn leaves, simmering apples, pots of stews, chowders,and chili. My husband, who loves Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon says, "When are you gonna make that stew? You know, that beef boogie woogie"?
He knows I only make it when the wind turns cold and the kitchen won't turn into a sauna. He's waiting for that.
yep...a nap is good.
I can hear the bees humming around the basil flowers..such a lovely sound to fall asleep to...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

lovely afternoon with a chicken

Spent the afternoon with a recipe from Rachel Ray.
Mediterranean Chicken Stack recipe"!
It can be found on her website for a 5 ingredient skillet; I just received it on my email.
I can't say enough about this recipe. It was fun and very tasty!
I did have to cut back on the amount of olive oil and the amount of breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat bread instead of white) and since I couldn't find a low fat goat cheese, had to use half the amount called for.
it was delicious!
And....very pretty to look at.
I was so proud of myself when I finally stacked it up on the plate.
It fulfilled my envie' to cook and kept itself within the limits of my new low carb diet. (I have missed cooking since I've started the low carb way of life.) Working on it this afternoon satisfied my creative cravings.
I'll say it: food is like artwork to me when I plate it up.
I know that's silly to most people, but I find it makes me happy. (I would rather create it now than eat it!)
The only thing I changed was to add a little bit of Cajun seasoning on the chicken, sauteed portabella mushrooms, sprinkled finely sliced basil and a added touch of fresh parmesean.
If anyone reads this blog and can't find the recipe, I will print it here.
I'm sorry to say, the picture is a poor one (I never know how to stage food, darn it!) and does not do it justice!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

passion flowers

Yesterday I found some passion flower vines and flowers in a small area of our farm. I had seen them before but did not mark their place. This summer, they re-appeared delicate and purple, vines twisting around other summer weeds. It was very comforting to see them, survivors they are, no one to tend them, orphans in a wild landscape.
We have had a drought in this part of our state, no rain for weeks and weeks, but this month rain found its way back to our parched ground. The passion flowers took advantage of the water and bloomed in glorious profusion amongst the yellow and white honeysuckle. I will mark the vines this year, so that I can them find next again next spring.
The blooms are very near the elderberry flowers, whose dainty yellow and white petals I have long searched for.
Our house should be started in 3 weeks, I am looking forward to it, but these wonderful herbs are making the wait so tolerable!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Creative Italian with a low carb twist!

Since my diet has changed and I have to re-learn to eat; it's been a challenge to invent new recipes.
Saturday, I had most of the afternoon to get creative. It turned out to be a lot of fun and very tasty things came out of the oven!

Here are a couple of high protein, low carb ideas .

Squash Stuffing for Chicken
1 TB olive oil
2 cups diced acorn squash
1 small green pepper, diced
1 medium onion diced
1 stalk celery diced (try to dice all vegetables the same size)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 bratwurst turkey sausage, casing removed.
1 TB basil, 1 TB thyme, 1 TB oregano, 1 leaf of sage, finely chopped(1/2 of each if dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
Spray skillet with a little olive oil cooking spray,add turkey sausage and cook till done. Remove turkey from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside into a bowl. Heat olive oil, then throw in squash, onions, green peppers, celery , saute till tender.
Add garlic and herbs, stir throughly. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for a minute, then add turkey sausage into vegetables.
Stuff loosely into a large whole chicken. (Suggestion: Season your chicken with salt and lemon pepper, sliced lemons on top of breast.
Put extra stuffing into a sprayed casserole dish and bake beside chicken. (take casserole out after 30 minutes) Bake chicken, covered with tin foil at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Uncover chicken, baste with juices, and cook at 425 for 30 minutes or until thigh is at correct temperature or juices run clear. Chicken should be browned.
Remove stuffing and mix into the casserole of stuffing you cooked on the side. Serve with your lovely browned bird!

Eggplant Rollatini
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise about 1/4 of an inch.
3 TBS of Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound of chicken,turkey, or tofu sausage, casing removed
1 cup of low fat ricotta cheese.
1 cup of low fat mozzarella cheese, or any low fat shredded cheese
1/4 cup of parmigiano cheese. (not the stuff in the can)
1 handful of chopped fresh herbs: your choice, I use basil, oregano, thyme or winter savory, parsley. (if using dried, use about 1/2 the amount)
1 recipe of marinara sauce, (recipe given at end of this blog.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray, lay slices of eggplant on sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over eggplants. Turn slices over and repeat.
Roast in oven for 20 minutes, flipping them over midway.
Remove from oven, let cool.
While eggplant is cooking, spray a large skillet with olive oil , brown the sausage. Remove, drain and cool.
Mix together mozzarella, parmigiano, and ricotta in a bowl, adding your fresh herbs. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add your cooked sausage and stir together.
Time to put everything together!
Line up eggplant slices next to your cheese and meat mixture.
On a cutting board place a slice of your roasted eggplant. Mound a large spoonful of your cheese, meat mixture on one end and roll up.
Place seam side down into a sprayed baking dish. When all rolls are in baking dish, spoon marinara sauce over rolls. Sprinkle with a small amount of whatever low fat cheese you wish. (I used low fat mozzarella)
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling.
Marinara sauce:
1 large can of crushed tomatoes, 1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes, 3 cloves of garlic crushed. 1 handful of fresh basil, torn into small pieces,leaves only.
Put 1 TB of olive oil in a saucepan. When oil is hot, add red pepper flakes and garlic. When they begin to sizzle, add crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 1/2 hour.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sunflower Herb Farm: spicy hummus

Sunflower Herb Farm: spicy hummus: "We live in a very small town and I can't always find tahini. I improvised with this recipe and it came out great! 2 cans of chick peas (gar..."

Monday, May 30, 2011

farm work makes u strong

Yes. This is day 5 of my low carb, high protein diet. My headache is a dull distraction, but I think I can get thru this. I have for years, eaten very little meat, but now I have to do this. It's a bit hard, but I can change my carb addiction.'s an addiction.
I am going out to the farm to work until I drop. I will sweat the cravings out!
Have plenty to do today, many tasks that I haven't had time to do. Lots of weeding and harvesting today. If I keep harvesting like this, I will have lots of Italian Seasoning to sell in October at the Rice Festival. It was a great seller last year, but I didn't have enough for everyone. Gonna make much now!
I will go over my last year's sales at the Festival to see what profited the best and try to concentrate on that. It's my favorite festival.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Small creatures and silly humans

May, almost June. The balmy, cool evenings are turning into warm humid nights. Yarrow is up for a second crop, valerian and pineapple sage are spreading nicely. Borage is heavy with blue blossoms and the basils are out of control! This year, a new herb that I am very excited about, Hibiscus Sab, is green, lush and growing with the idea that it belongs with the rest of my old friends in the garden.
I have no idea what is going to happen in the next few months..but I am no longer agonizing about the time that's passing. Something strange and wonderful happened to me when we lost that last farmhouse loan.
No longer running a race.
I just...............
let go.
Took a felt full,and good.
Now that I am calm, peaceful, I know that everything will happen in the time it's supposed to.
Life is beginning to make sense.
My husband was offered a full time position with the company he had taken a temporary job, they gave him a raise and a plan for his future.
He has relaxed, and become more like the man I know and love.
We are closing our new loan on the 3rd of June and next week I have an appointment with the builders to pick out finishes and floors.
I am even working on myself. Yesterday started going to a weight loss clinic. Lots of pounds accumulated while I despaired about the direction we were going in.
I don't feel like I'm running after a dream, I feel like I'm catching up to myself.
Why didn't I remember the verse in the bible that said "He looks after the smallest creatures in the world, why wouldn't He look after you? Worry not, for it changes nothing."
O Lord, you are wise. You had it all figured out before I came along.
Thank you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mulberry Wheatgrass shake

I am still experimenting with healthy shakes. This morning I made one that I was almost afraid to drink, so many ingredients! But, it turned out so tasty that I have to post it.
1/2 tsp wheatgrass
1/2 tsp spirulina
6 oz of low calorie peach yogurt
1 banana
2 leaves of raw Kale
1 TB of honey
1 small handful of frozen blackberries, and mulberries. (ours were still good from last summer!) Any frozen berry will do.
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp of ginseng, powdered
4 ice cubes
As I started my blender I thought, "Oh my, thats a lot of stuff. Will it clash?
It was so good!
My husband, who like a lot of men, don't eat many raw greens, drank it easily. He said,"It makes all those hot days of berry picking worth it!"
Of course, I think this one is my best, but tomorrow I may feel differently when I experiment with pineapples.
For my friends who asked, I always buy my powdered wheat grass and spirulina from Mountain Rose Herbs. They have a reliable reputation and great organic products.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

marshmallows and healthy shakes

Did a demonstration today and was asked to post the recipes from them on this site.
My sincere thanks to all my friends who showed up to support me during this demonstration! It made the speech so easy! Love you all!

Healthy Sunflower Herb Farm Shake:
1 cup of vanilla yogurt
1 mango peeled
1 banana, sliced
1 or two large leaves of Kale, or 1 large handful of fresh uncooked spinach
1 tsp of vanilla and 1 tsp of coconut extract
2 or 3 TBS of honey or whatever sweetner you like
1 TB of Spirulina powder
1 tsp of Bee Pollen
1 tsp of powdered Panax ginseng
1 large cup of ice
Blend all together on high speed until mixed.
I love this shake, gives me a kick all day!

Homemade marshmallows

The trick to homemade marshmallows is to read all the instructions first, and gather all the materials you need to make it ahead of time.
When you start making it, everything has to be waiting for the next step.

3 packages of unflavored gelatin
1 cup of cold water, divided
12 ounces of granulated sugar, approx 1 and 1/2 cups
1 cup of light corn syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt, or sea salt
1 tsp of vanilla or whatever flavor you like
1/4 cup of confection sugar
1/4 cup of cornstarch
non stick spray
Place gelatin in bowl of your standing mixer with 1/2 cup water. (If you dont have a standing mixer, place in a bowl with your hand mixer close by.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, sugar and corn syrup and salt. Place over medium heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. (use your timer)
Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, about 7 or 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches 240 degrees, immediately remove from the heat.
Turn on the mixer on low speed and while your mixer is running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl, (If you are using a hand mixer, use a very big bowl) into the gelatin mixture.
Once you have added the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is trying to climb the sides of the mixer, about 12 mins. (I time it)
Add the flavoring (and color if you want it) during last minute of whipping.
Before the mixture is whipping prepare the following:
Combine the confection sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray your 13 by 9 pan, metal or glass, with the nonstick spray.
Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and shake pan around to cover bottom and sides. Return the rest of the shaken mixture into the bowl for later use.
When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly sprayed spatula for spreading evenly in pan. Dust the top of the marshmallow with the reserved cornstarch and confection sugar. Reserve the rest to roll the marshmallows in after cutting.
Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for 4 hours or overnight.
Turn the marshmallow out onto a cutting board, and cut into squares. (I use a cornstarch dusted pizza cutter) Once cut, dust all sides with the remaing cornstarch and sugar mixture, using additional if necessary. (the main thing is to keep them from sticking when you bag them.) Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Have fun with this! I have infused them with green tea, rosewater, any herbal infusion I like! My favorite is lemon coconut marshmallows!

PS: Jill, I can demonstrate them at the Assisted Living if you want to see first hand how they are made. Your children will love making them with you!
Mountain Rose Herbs are on the web. You can buy the spirulina, bee pollen and ginseng from them! They are totally organic and very reliable! Just type in their name and the site will come up.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I feel like I'm in Tuscany...

Got up early this morning, but had to literally roll out of bed onto the floor because the muscles in my body were screaming, "Are you crazy, don't you think you planted enough yesterday?" Arms, legs, rear end and back are all sore and stiff. Took a bit of valerian and some Advil before I rolled out.
Yesterday, a beautiful sunny day,we planted 24 san marzano,and beefsteak tomatoes, 2 black mulberry trees, 1 mock orange, frilly soft chervil, lemon verbena, flatleaf parsley, buttercrunch lettuce. Today green beans, more tomatoes, genovese basil, tall lemon grass, Greek oregano, white yarrow, heavenly scented lavender, rosemary, spearmint, purple bee balm, delicate St. John's Wort. Have one white climbing rose, purple echinacea, great yellow calendula, German chamomile, black cumin, and wooly mullein to put in. We also hope to plant 2 fig trees and 2 plums. Whew!
I hope my body can hold up until dusk, but as we all know, the daylight will last 1 hour longer today!
Maybe I can plant a couple of olive trees to make the illusion complete.
If I do plant the olives, to celebrate, I will open a good bottle of red italian wine, and eat simple soft goat cheese with bread for supper.
Life is good.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

summer roses and bees

This week we went out to the new farm and started to till different spots for our gardens. We have tilled up 2 spots so far and plan to make more.
I have not started new gardens in many years and have forgotten that this is back-breaking hard work. After we have the ground tilled and the fences put up I will be able to relax and start planting. I know this is silly.... but I so want a garden bench and a rose trellis as much as I want to build up my new herb boxes.
Natural green beauty makes me happy, comforts me in many ways.
In my imagination, the roses are already spilling across the trellis and the bees are happily buzzing around.
The real world sees that my roses are still in the their pots,the trellis and garden bench still reside at the lumber yard; but I know it's only a matter of time before we get the bench and plant those beautiful pink and white climbing roses.
Right now the hard work of building boxes, mixing compost, manure; tilling more spots and putting in fences are my reality, but my dreams of scented summer days are coming closer and closer.....
I have a bottle of Advil on my bathroom counter where it will remain until the end of planting season, my tinctures of valerian and St. John's wort sitting beside it, a big supply of our herbal arthritis cream in the medicine chest; all necessary items when you are 50 and putting in a new farm!
In April the flowers will be blooming and I will start to harvest some winter herbs, the roses may not be profuse; but I think we will see a few..
Can you see me sitting under that tree, iced tea in hand, homemade bread spread with the last of the mulberry jelly?
I can hear the bees singing to me there.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

bunny suit

I ordered an extraordinary amount of seeds,plants,trees and plugs this afternoon.
The price took my breath away.
When I had my little farm, I was able to propagate many plants, collect many seeds and graft many trees. Since we have not had the farm for 2 and 1/2 years, we are starting again from scratch. All of our trees were left there, all of the established roses and many of our years-old herbs, left behind. The people who bought the home and grounds stated to me that they were very interested in herbs, so I left them, to live and prosper with them. Sad to say, the realtor must have tipped them off for the sale and told them to show an interest. They have since mowed and cut everything down. It felt like my children were cut down in the prime of their of lives. (I felt that connected to my herbs and trees.) We would have worked much harder to take all the living things with us, had we known they would be killed.
But..on to the future..
Starting over is costly, but today I made a huge purchase to begin again.
Got some elderberry trees, some bay, lemon verbena, southernwood and more.
I look forward to my new deliveries and saving seed again.
We will be very busy this year!
I can't wait.
Until everything arrives, I don't have a lot to do.
I am driving my husband crazy....
Going to make a red velvet cake this weekend, for him, who loves me despite my OCD behavior.
Seriously...I am such a pain right now.
But spring he will complain that I won't look at him unless he comes into the garden bearing mass quantities of compost and manure.
I told him if he dresses up in a rabbit costume tonight, bringing a pack of carrot seeds, we may be able to work something out......

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Yea! Seedlings are up!!!!

Glorious Saturday!
On the kitchen table, in front of the biggest window, two greenhouses are sitting with small green sprouts!

Purple and green basils, and two types of tomatoes: San Marzano's and Beefsteak. Hm..this sounds like a great beginning for Mexican or italian sauces, salsa and yes.......PESTO!!!!!!
Today, in two more miniature greenhouses, we will plant lots of peppers: serrano,giant jalapeno, cayenne, poblano, long slim red pepper and hot banana pepper. The pepper seed arrived yesterday from our favortite grower, "Pepper Joe." I have purchased these organic seeds from him before and have always had an abundance of peppers.(He always includes two free packs of seeds!)
It's been a very cold winter, ( it tries my patience as a gardener), but all this ice and sleet will make spring so much more dramatic!

Soon the iron rich herbs will be peeking through the short frozen grass, and the struggling dandelions will begin to multiple quickly. I love to forage (wildcraft) in early spring, so much to pick!
Going out to the farm today, will check on the purple martin houses and fill up the container with bird seed. The pond is almost full. The ground is saturated with water, so no earth will be turned or tested today. Expecting lots of mulch to be delivered soon.
February is such an antsy time for me... I feel that spring is coming and my daydreams are beginnning to carry me away from my everyday desk job! My rubber boots are sitting in the doorway of the apartment, clean and waiting for me to put them on. (They are much too clean and are begging to have a layer of mud on them!)
Does anyone else love the smell of fresh plowed dirt? I can't wait to crumble it up in my hand!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

purple martins are coming

Today we put up the purple martin gourds. We follow the Puple Martin flight map on a website and it shows they are close to us now. They usually come in at the end of January or first few weeks of February. This is the first time we've put up our six gourds since we sold the house.
Hopefully we will see a scout this week.
At the old farm we raised many generations of the little purple birds. We dutifully put up their habitat, counted the eggs and recorded how many babies they had.
Those little purple guys were my constant companions during spring and early summer. They were with me, swooping close by or watching with heads poking out of their little houses as I walked the herb rows.
Our cat "Fuzz" used to watch them with a twitching tail and ears laid back, but he never came close to catching one of them.

The "dawn song" they sang in early sunrise was beautiful. Other calls were the "scolding" song, the "I love to fly" song, the "come out and learn to fly" and the "lets go to sleep" song. We often felt that they were talking right to us.
Their housing was on the southern side of the garden, a perfect place for us to watch them and them to scold us.
Since purple martins love to be around humans they made a lovely addition to the natural show that awaited us every morning.
I can't wait for them to come back!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blending the tea.....

Tea blending is such a quiet pleasure for me. I feel very happy as I handcut and stir together leaves,spices and flowers .

The wooden spoon makes a shushed sound as I sweep and fold the herbs in my old brown ceramic bowl. It is comforting, familiar. The aroma of the tea brings back the memory of a long summer season.

In winter, the tea herb selections are few because I use only the most recent summer's harvest.

This is all we have left since the last festival:

Autumn Mint Morning: Spearmint,Culinary Hibiscus,Cinnamon Chips.

Summer's End: Roses, Pineapple Sage Blossoms, Bergomot leaves,Lemon Verbena.

Winter Dreams:Calendula, Lemon Balm, Mugwort, Organic black tea leaves,with dried Apricot.

Stress Less:Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Red Clover, Calendula, Organic black vanilla tea leaves.

In late spring some of the tender, sweet new blossoms will have bloomed, and the fresh green tonic herbs . I will then make these fragrant teas:

Sweetheart Rose Blush : Rose Petals, Rose Hips,Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Pineapple Sage, Vanilla.

Spring Zing: Lemon Verbena, Rose Hips, Dandelion leaves, Peppermint, Lime and Orange mint,organic green tea.

Serene Lemon: Chamomile, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Balm, Pineapple Sage blossoms.

Strong Woman:Red clover,Dandelion leaves,Stinging nettle leaves.

If you would like to try your hand at blending and don't grow your own herbs, begin with the freshest you can find.

If you start with dry herbs:
Ask the store owner to smell the dried herbs. If they don't look vibrant and smell like the flower and leaves they are supposed to be, don't buy them. A good supplier will gladly let you look at and smell their loose herbs. If they smell and look like musty brown herb, they will taste the same way in your cup. Hot water will not rejuvenate an old herb.

When you start with fresh:
Buy from someone local to ensure the freshest harvest.
If the supplier or farmer can't tell you about the herbs, they probably have no interest and no real talent for growing them.
As an herb farmer, I always offer to let the customer pick a leaf to smell the wonderful aroma. It is a wonderful thing to smell a fresh herb! Crush it gently in your hand and inhale!

I enjoy and lovingly tend each herb I plant, take real pride in the dried plants we process. The herbalist or grower you buy from should be able to give you an abundance of information about the herbs you choose.

Give it a try, making up your own tea blend. It is very satisfying and will you happy too!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

winter blues..and greens...and....

My ability to write this blog has been a bit diminished lately.
A very sad thing happened to us on the very week,
no, no, on the very day we were supposed to close our house loan. My husband had an oil spill with the company crude oil truck. This means he was pumping oil into the container on his truck and a valve caused a hose to burst and it spilled out many gallons onto the ground. Lots of crude oil on the ground.

He was fired.

He is a much better person than me. The bank and the lawyers closing our loan would not have asked us about our jobs on this day. We were already approved.
They were ready to give us the money.
My husband said it was wrong to take the loan because he lost his job and it would be lying.
I did not see it this way. I was frantic, panicked. Absolutely crazy. I lost -my-freaking- mind.
The day the spill happened, he came home very late. I knew something had happened.
He tried to explain,but I held up my hand in front of my face and said,
"No...Kyle...I can't talk to you right now. Please don't tell me anymore. I can't hear what you want me to know."
Honestly, I don't think I could have held my tongue. I would have said every terrible thing I was thinking. It would have changed our relationship forever if I had spoken what my burning brain was thinking.
We didn't speak to each other for 5 days.
That's a very long time when you live in an apartment that's only 500 square feet. A second floor apartment with 12 steep concrete steps. (pure hell when you buy groceries and you're 50 years old.)
At the end of those terrible days, we forgave each other. We talked and talked all night. We decided never to go so long again without forgiving each other.
My heart is broken tho..
I feel broken
all over.
Another spring in town. No plowing, no planting, no anything.
Had to call everyone. The builder, the bank, the lawyer. It was so humilating.
My friends and co-workers ask me about the house and I just say, "oh, it's coming along". It's hard to lie. Not much of a lie, but it feels like a big fat one.
The good news is, we have 4 months to accept the loan, the bank will just run our credit again. Thank God we won't have to start all over with the loan process.
That means I have until March. Not very long. Hmmph.
My husband is looking for a new job, may have one in February.
I sincerely hope he gets it. I don't know if I have the strength to start a loan all over again. It's so hard, so very hard to start over.
Valuable lesson learned tho..
I learned that no matter what happens in a marriage, you have to forgive your partner. He is your lover,spouse, your friend.
He is the person you can not live without. The man that looks after you when you are sick or angry or discouraged. The person you've been looking for. The guy that loves you when you are very tired at the end of a long day.
When you know that you are married for life, have a true partnership; a real, honest- to- goodness, " I love you more than my own life" relationship,
you just have no option but to forgive .
No matter what happens. Ever.
I love him like that. I love him forever, until my life is over.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

lots of sore throats out there..

Tonight I am making a course of ease for a friend with a sore throat caused by her sinus's running amuck!
Yarrow, Sage, Epsom salt and apple cider gargle.
Licorice, Myrhh, Marshmallow, Pleurisy root tea with chamomile.
Handfuls of Mint and Rosemary herb with a few drops of eucalyptus oil for steam.
A bottle of Elderberry syrup and Echinacea tincture for her immune system.
My friend works hard and is run down from all the work travel she has been doing. I think this will help, I used these same herbs and methods last week when I was not well.
Will send her a bit of Ginseng root next week when she feels better.
We have had some crazy weather here. Lots of cold, flu and sore throats.
Good thing my cold kit was made early!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunflower Herb Farm: Will I burn for this?

Sunflower Herb Farm: Will I burn for this?

fall day

This sunday morning is so very beautiful....I just can't find the words to describe it. I'm so dazzled that I can't think what to do first.
We've had two very light frosts, the basil is still hanging in there. Since the wild herbs (and the domesticated ones) are flourishing,(the yarrow, lemon balm, bee balm and st. john's wort is going crazee!) I think I will go wildcrafting and dig up some healthy dandelion roots.
Will post my recipe for corn chowder with herbs later this week. It was just what we needed for a cold evening last night.
Roasted dandelion roots sound like a nice side dish addition to the chowder. What do you think?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Autumn Meal

This was originally from Jamie Oliver, but I found guiness a bit strong for us. I used a dark Dos Equis. Any dark beer will do.
3 onions
1 rib of celery
3 carrots
3 potatoes (sometimes I use a mix of sweet potatoes and white)
3 large cloves of garlic, minced (don't use the stuff in the jar)
1 sprig of rosemary, oregano, thyme, minced.
1 pound of beef cubes, lean
6 baby portabella mushrooms
4 TBS unsalted butter (real butter, don't use margarine)
1 beer, dark (one 8 oz bottle will do, I found that too much liquid made for a watery stew.)If you find it dry after cooking for an hour, just add in more beer.
Salt, Pepper to taste
2 TBS flour
1 cup cheddar cheese(I used a sharp cheddar)
Beef Broth (enough to just cover the stew, not too much)
2 sheets of puff pastry
1 egg beaten with a little water

Cook all ingredients in a pot that will go into the oven.
Melt butter in pot, cook sliced onions. Let onions cook until clear,add garlic after onions go translucent. Do not cook on too high a heat, you will burn the garlic.
Add carrots, celery,potatoes (that you have cut into same size chunks.)
beef, salt and pepper, flour and 8 oz. of dark beer. Stir and add beef broth.
Place pot in oven with cover for 2 hours at 350 degrees.
While stew is cooking prepare crust:
A sheet of puff pastry rolled out to cover the bottom of a pie plate.
I do not cut around the edges, in Mr. Oliver's recipe, he just folds it around the top cover pastry.
Place pastry in fridge, (roll out top when stew is done.)
When 2 hours of simmering is up, uncover and check for thickness of stew.
If you find that it is still a bit runny, you can always add cornstarch
in cold water to thicken. (about 1 TBS in 1/3 cup of water)
Put back into oven uncovered for about 15 minutes.
When stew is ready, grate 1/2 cup of cheese and mix into the stew.
Pour stew into pie plate that you refridgerated earlier and roll out the
top.(he scores the top of his cover pastry,and it makes a very beautiful
Before you cover the pie, grate another 1/2 cup of cheese
and put on top of stew.
Use an egg wash on bottom of pie crust lip to seal the top.
Place already scored top crust on pie and roll the bottom pastry around the top, sealing as you go.
Cut a few slits on top crust to let steam out. Use rest of egg
wash on top pastry for color.
Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.(or until the top crust is golden brown)
You may want to place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack in case it bubbles over.

I love to make this in the fall, and often throw some root vegetables
in with the carrots and potatoes. This recipe is a great October meal and makes the kitchen smell heavenly with autumn aromas!

Have the rest of the beer with the lucky person that gets to eat pie with you!

I'm making a pumpkin cake for dessert with cream cheese frosting.
My husband had a very stressful week at work and I wanna spoil him today.

Friday, October 22, 2010

i can't speak...

this is so amazing...

We got the loan. Can you believe it? After living off a farm for 2 and 1/2 looks like our life on an herb farm is ready to begin.

I think the contractor is ready to start next month.

can't speak, too shocked.

the pantry will be enormous..the cooking island will be the size of a small boat...oh yea.....

the herbs in spring will take over my life again. oh my...

i get to drive the little john deere tractor....WOW

oh my
oh my
oh my....

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cook Book Winner

Just a quick note about the winner of the cookbook. No one came forward to claim "Martha Stewarts Cupcakes" at the time of the drawing, but I am holding on to the winning number until someone says "that's me!!!!!"
Here is the winning number: 20847302.
Thanks to all the kind and wonderful people who came to my little herb booth and bought all of my products. I had a great time talking to all of you.
Not sure if I'm doing another fair or festival soon, but if anyone needs a product, just send me an email or leave a comment on this blog.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

going to festivals

The Rice Festival is only 2 days away now and all I have left to do is make the lemon balm cookies. Its a nice recipe, one that I have been making for years. I'm sure all of you could follow it, its a basic Mexican Wedding cookie with the addition of lemon zest, and lemon balm in the dough. When they come out of the oven (just slightly underbaked)I roll them in confection sugar that is laced with lemon zest. It makes a beautiful little cookie. I love selling them, my repeat customers buy me out on the first day. (its a two day festival)
I try to make extra every year, but we always run out of them.
Here is the final rundown of all our products this year:
Homemade marshmallows:Chocolate, Rosy Vanilla, and Lemon Coconut.
Tea balls and various types of tea strainers.
Fresh apple butter.
Herbal teas: Stress-Less, Autumn Morning Mint, Winter Dreams, Summer's End.
3 Herbal Extracts: Echinacea, Valerian, and a Calcium rich blend.
Elderberry Syrup.
Rosewater Facial toner.
Bees wax lip balm: Chocolate, Rosy Peppermint.
Italian Seasoning
Live plants: Spearmint, Chocolate mint, St. John's Wort, Yarrow, Comfrey, Lemon Grass.
Freshly picked herbs: bundles of basil, bundles of Lemon Grass roots.
Bath Salts: Lavender, Rose, and Lemon Grass Chamomile.
We will also have various dried roots and herbs for serious herbies.
Whew, thats enough for this year. Too bad this festival isn't in the spring, not much to bring in the way of fresh.
Bartered with a friend for help setting up booth this year. She wants a herb and vegetable garden in the spring,so I will help her design and plant it.
Good trade I think.
Now...if I can turn my brain off, I will try to sleep.
Good night.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

little elderly woman

If you are like me, your garden probably attracts a lot of pedestrians who love to browse and smell your herbs. Yesterday I was very late coming home from my day job. (the job that really pays the bills) A small elderly woman walked into our driveway and started touching, and smelling the basil. (Isn't that one of the reasons we plant it close to the sidewalk?)
My husband, who loves to talk to little wise women, told her she was welcome to wait for me. She must have been very deaf because she responded only with "Well, I don't need to give you any basil!", then proceeded to go down the walkway touching and smelling everything. She appeared to have a good time, made little remarks to him about different herbs. She then turned and hobbled away with her cane. She told him "goodbye" as she walked away and he watched her until she turned the corner. (I drove up 5 minutes later.)
I always seem to miss these little wise women. I love talking to them. The trend in our new culture doesn't have much time or use for women unless they are young and beautiful. This little mother probably could have given me very valuable information about herbs and flowers.
I could have offered her a cup of tea.
We could have talked about all our favorites.
How nice it would have been.
My day job, as a social worker in a long term care facility, has made me so appreciative of all elderly folk. I have been blessed by getting to know them and have never regretted my decision to continue this career.

She probably knew more about herbs than I will ever learn.

I hope she comes back today. What a wonderful conversation we could have!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sunflower Herb Farm: new salve

Sunflower Herb Farm: new salve: "You know, I'm a culinary herbalist first. Yes, I love to cook with herbs. I love the beauty of all green things in food. The herbal aromas..."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

i feel the love of autumn in the air

Yes, it's still August ( just a few more days), but when you have a garden- you know before everyone else- that autumn is creeping nearby.

My first indication is the basil. I grow lots of it, many varieties. I cultivate basil because of it's intoxicating scent and the wonderful flavors. A lot of people, who aren't growers, really hate the scent of basil, and comment on that dislike when they brush up against it.

It's like cilantro, you either really love it or really hate it.

I'm not commenting about the tiny little bundles you get at your local supermarket chain, or the stuff in a glass jar that you get off the store shelf. I'm talking about the really green, leaves as large as your hand, spilling out all over the place, bees in an intoxicated state circling it's flowers- garden basil.

If you've never grown it, you must try at least once in your lifetime.
It's beautiful to behold, comes in various shades of green, yellow, purple, and has endless uses in the kitchen. Vinegars, oils, pestos, stuffings, salads, sorbets, italian food, lovely desserts.
The basil in my garden is still bright green and flourishing. I use so much of it that it doesn't really have the time to flower. (only the stray stalk hiding under the others.)

The signs that autumn is coming lies in the basil stalks. The once soft and juicy stems are becoming woody on bottom, and the leaves are not as fat and round as they were in the spring and early summer monthes.

Another cue to autumn is the lemon balm. Balm leaves are smaller now, and want to dry up so much faster. In spring, it has out- of- the box color, and big fat leaves. Lemon Balm has a great love affair with spring!
It is truly a heavenly site in spring, one of the first to break out of the winter ground. The bees around it look like they've been drinking wine! (they get that glazed-over look as they dip and sway!)

Slowly, slowly we are cutting back and harvesting much. The oregano is flowering, getting long and leggy. It's my next harvest.

The rooms in the house are filled with drying racks. Baskets are stacked everywhere with leaves in single layers. Bundles are hanging in any spare space. My husband keeps running into them, the apartment is so tiny!
He doesn't complain anymore about the large pantry I want in the new house, or my proposed herb shop with long tables! He knows that the herb shop is the only way he will get to walk around the house without getting a face full of dried herbs.

Yep, summer is almost over, I can feel it.
Louisiana has long, long hot days until November. Our growing season is forever, but I know that the change is here.

As I put my summer garden to bed, one plant at a time, I say prayers thanking God for the wonderful season I've had. The calm hush while standing in the picked over rows- awes me into silence. It happens every year, this quiet calm.
The ground that is revealed looks very naked and surprised to be open to the sky.
Standing in the sparse rows, stalks lying randomly at my feet, I am peaceful and happy that I was able to share their summer lives.
The winter that's coming will bring the quiet, solitary business of making herbal teas, salves, cough syrups, herbal jellies, tinctures, powders and lots of seasonings. I love making these products. When I stand in the kitchen making them, I hear the inner voices of all herbal healers that have come before me. They are with me in the room as I stir, mix, grind seeds and roots into powder. It is a serene time for me, a reflective quiet.

In my garden, I feel as though I am putting beloved children to bed for a long winter rest.

Monday, August 9, 2010

a bird bath and two chairs...

My husband had a day off today. (alas, I was working)
He got out the wagon and brought over these items to our newly mowed land:
the beautiful, well worn stone bird bath, his old riding lawn mower, our white mailbox (still on its aged wooden post) a much used cast iron barbeque pit, the purple martin guords and our favorite adirondack chairs. He hid them gleefully at the end of our small woods.
This simple, small gesture brought me to tears. I have not thought, or allowed myself to think, about these precious things that we took for granted 2 years ago. I have not seen any of our "outside" things since we moved into town.
He called at lunch and left a message on my phone. The message was direct and listed off the items he had lovingly loaded up and brought out to the new farm.

He did this for me. I know he did.

After work, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I stopped at a little Lebanese grocery store and bought a bottle of champagne, two glasses and a little bowl of hummus.
I cried all the way out there, the whole 12 miles out of town.
We toasted ( I toasted him for being such a good man) and ate hummus in the middle of a field, surrounded by our old things.

Life is about simple, loving gestures. He made this gesture.
It brought me back to him with tears and an appreciation for the word
I feel so hopeful right now.
I can almost see the farmhouse........I think it's butter yellow with little white shutters. There's a field of sunflowers lining the road.
Can you see it?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

too early for this

Woke up this morning earlier than I wanted to.

I have this grand long-standing love affair with Saturdays because it's the only day of the week that I feel is totally mine. I don't like to share it, don't like to compromise with anyone for it, I just want to be left alone on this one day of the week.
It's the one day that I can be anonymous.

My husband was getting ready to leave for work (I don't think the sun was up yet) and making a lot of racket. I think it was for my benefit. I think he wanted to tell me something.
I stumbled into the kitchen/living room where he was clumping around and he turned and said," Oh, hi, you awake?"
I floated/sleep-walked toward the coffee pot and waited to hear what he wanted me to know.

"I don't want to go to work today", he said, " I just want to be here with you, drinking this pot of coffee, watching the birds fight over the seed I just threw out, and listen to your fingers tapping on the computer."
(I always have a Saturday session on my computer while he watches the weather channel.)
This statement made me a bit sad, mostly for him, and stirred me to explain about us and how our lives have changed so drastically in the last two years.
He turned then and walked out to go to work. He went because that is the responsible thing to do and because we have to pay for the NEW HOUSE. (I have come to hate those two words.) We both have to pay for it. We work all the time now, him twelve to fourteen hours, me at least ten to eleven hours.

When we had our farm, we often had matching schedules. Saturdays usually found us up very early because we didn't want to miss one hour of our free day together.
Getting up first, he would make coffee, then I would saunter out and pour us a couple of cups. We would get semi-dressed and stroll out to our garden.
We spent hours in there, watching the sun rise, listening to our birds fight over sunflower seeds, watching the wild rabbits sneak over to share the bird's breakfast. We would just enjoy each others company without having to say a word.
The big live oak tree we used to sit under was perfect, very old, large grey branches hanging to the ground, a perfect place to be alone with the wildlife around us.
After a few hours I would walk along the rows of our garden, pulling weeds, picking produce, shaking out seeds for next years planting. My husband would make another pot of coffee, and the morning would continue slowly and beautifically.

We had great conversations about our future. never follows your grand plans.

We had to sell the farmhouse and leave.
It broke my heart. I mourned the loss of our life and felt it would never be peaceful again.

We thought we would have a new house in 6 months.
Wow, were we wrong.

Everything that had the potential to go wrong, did. It all went wrong in a huge way.
We moved into this little upstairs apartment (it's 600 square feet) and we have been here for 2 years. It has been miserable. We don't know when the sun comes up and when the moon comes out. One little patch of grass between sidewalks. We have concrete everywhere and... we have..... NEIGHBORS. On both sides. Loud, noisy neighbors.

This is whining in the worst way, I know that. I also know that some people have no jobs, no homes and are sick and dying. I have no reason to whine. I wish I wouldn't. Sometimes whining is the only way I can get my anger out.

All of my dishes, cookbooks,and familiar things are in storage. I miss them. All my pretty teapots, rose printed tablecloths ,linen napkins and vintage cookbooks are being held hostage along with my red kitchen aid mixer. My life can be summed up in about 200 boxes, in 2 storage units that I visit periodically. (My husband visits his riding lawn mower and his hay wagon.)

Hopefully, we will begin building in 6 weeks. The bank that is thinking about financing our house is still busy raping our private life. (raping is the only word I can think of, it feels like such a violation.) We are a good risk, but they have to turn over every minute of our past. It doesn't feel good.

I just want them all to leave me alone. Why does it have to be such a violation of your private life to build a house? I feel like a pregnant women with an alien loan officer inside of me.

I believe that soon I will be estatically happy and picking out flooring and colors for the walls. I believe this will happen.

The pond is dug and filled with water, the road is cloaked with a financially obscene amount of rocks and the blueprints have been paid for.

I'm dreaming about the trees I want to plant, where I want to have coffee on Saturday mornings with my husband, and where my new herb farm will be planted. It feels right, I am happy that things are happening in the direction we want, but the sad statement by my husband this morning made me long for the old life we had.

I hope that he and I will be in our garden again soon. I hope to make new bunny friends and plant more herbs than we ever had before.

I really just want to stop walking up these twelve concrete steps everyday!
My knees are killing me.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

enchiladas a la bella swan

My poor husband has been working outside in 105 degree weather all week.
He drives trucks for an oil company. He stands on rock and concrete for 10 to 12 hours a day. Six days a week.
Forget what u see on the weather channel....
in Louisiana.... it has been over 100 degrees for the last two weeks. The thermometer on my car hood said 105 at lunch. ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE.
It has been a very stressful week at work, heat makes people antsy and irritable.
I thought my husband deserved a little more than a cold salad or a ham sandwich.
Yesterday afternoon, I remembered that in the one of the Twilight books Bella Swan made chicken enchiladas for her father. I typed in "Bella Swans Chicken Enchiladas" on the internet and sure enough, the recipe popped up. I thought this would make him happy. I called him and requested some dark Dos Equis to go with our supper.
I loved this recipe, the enchilada sauce was made from scratch and the filling was homemade without any fast and easy tips to hurry it up.
Enchiladas should be homemade, slow, simmering a long time.
Not only did I want to cook something good for him, but I wanted to prepare something with lots of steps and lots of chopping.
Sometimes you just want to chop things, ya know?
An intense week at work, too much stress, you just want to chop things.
So...... I chopped green peppers, onions, cilantro.
HAH! Then I got to shred chicken..with two very, very sharp knives.
Ah...the chopping gave me something to do that required concentration, (and with sharp objects too!) it re-directed my brain.
I also got to grate cheese with my nifty and very sharp microplane.
Okay,.. its been a rough week.
I didn't cut myself once.
He loved the enchiladas and I loved the beer.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July birthday

Today is my grown up daughter's birthday.
She was born in the Bicentennial year in one of the 12 original colonies at 12:03 AM.
She and I have lamented how different her life would have turned out if she had been born 3 minutes earlier.
That particular year, the state of New Hampshire gave the first born Bicentennial baby a huge advantage for the future. Scholarships, money, diapers for life etc....
But, as it turns out, she was born 3 minutes too late.
We had to be ordinary people, live ordinary lives as the mother and daughter who met each other 3 minutes too late.
We struggled along thru the years, never having any money, never having enough time together after her 4th year of life. (thats when I started working 3 jobs)
The time we did spend together was wonderful tho...walks to the park, public library, baking cookies, pies, bread.
Our best times were spent foraging in the woods for berries and herbs.
We picked blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.
We walked along fall paths so brilliant with yellow and orange leaves that we had to wear sunglasses.
The apartments and houses we lived in were not always great but we filled them up with our favorite things. We tried to ignore the the lack of necessities and dodged the bad things. Too many bad things.
I hope I did allright.
I hope she loved me despite the fact that I worked too many hours and was not there for her all the time.
I love her, I'm proud of her.
She turned out to be a great mama.
She bakes cookies too.
Happy birthday darling.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

oatmeal and flax seed cookies

1 cup of room temp butter
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups of flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tsps cinnamon
3 cups of oats
1 TB maple syrup
1/2 cup of ground flax seed

Cream butter, sugars. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, stir in vanilla, maple syrup.
Sift flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. Stir into the butter mixture.
Mix in oats and flax. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 if you have a hot oven or 375 if it runs normal.
Place rack in middle of oven.
Spray cookie sheet with oil and spoon out in TBS. (We love great big cookies) The original recipe called for tsps.
Bake for 10 minutes or 13 if you make large cookies.
Cool on cookie rack as soon as they come out of the oven.

If you love big cookies you may want to double the recipe.

Guacamole for my friend Denise. (because she asked me to.)

3 large Hass Avocados, or 5 small
(I use only Hass Avocados. They have a buttery taste that the large green ones do not have.)
1 medium onion
2 roma tomatoes, or 1 medium garden fresh tomato
1 big handful of cilantro, just leaves
1 tsp of cumin, and 1 tsp of red chile powder
1 TB of minced garlic, or 4 fresh cloves, minced
1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper
1 big splash of Tiger Sauce
1 small splash of Tabasco sauce
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced.
(I will post the recipe for homemade chipotles, later)
juice of 1 fresh lemon, or 2 limes
3/4 cup of sour cream, light or regular

Mince: tomato, onion, cilantro, garlic, chipotle pepper.
Add cumin, chili powder, tiger sauce, mix w wooden spoon. (At this point you have pico, a fresh salsa.
Scoop out avocados and add to your bowl of veggies, squeeze lemon over them.
Mash all ingredients with a potato masher, leaving some small chunks.
Not everyone likes their guac to be smooth, most like it chunky.
Add sour cream, salt and pepper, tabasco, and taste.
Adjust to your liking with more chili powder, cumin or pepper.
It's all up to you, but add seasoning slowly, little bits at a time.

Sometimes if I'm in a festive mood, I add a few splashes of tequila to the mix. It adds a little exciting taste and makes us all very cheerful when we've had a rough day at work. I only do this if its an "Adults only, Can't take another minute at work", party.

You can eat it right away, but its better if you let it chill a few hours.

Where's my margarita?
PS: Denise, the avocados are only 33 cents today at Walmart!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

oatmeal soothes the soul

When I'm upset or sad, I bake.
It is an old fashioned thing to do, most un-modern like and very far away from the social service persona that I cultivate most of the week.
But..I love to bake.
Since my children were little I have baked to soothe away hurts, scrapes,
and bruises. Now, I have discovered that I bake to cover the emotional hurts .
Today has been very trying, too many memories, hurts and too many hard tries to be a strong, capable,calm woman. Sometimes, I have to hurt a bit and let sorrow come over me like a warm wool blanket that's seen too many winters.
I am baking at this moment, the smell of cinnamon, vanilla and oats are filling my senses. It's making me remember how it felt when my little daughters pulled at my skirts to get a "bite" of the dough as I shaped cookies. Sugar crunching under our feet, flour flying around the room, vanilla always managing to spill on the table. How wonderful it was in those days to have a pudgy,slighty sticky little hand reach up to me,begging, "mommy please, can we have a taste?"
Today, I'm alone in this kitchen. They are grown women and my husband is working.

I don't mind the solitude very much. The cookies are getting done along with the messy clean-up. No one is driving me to distraction with spills and cries for mediation of small spats between little girls.

Too bad I will have to lick the bowl all by myself. It was a lot more fun when I had to fight for the spoon.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

men and ruffled feathers

What a month this has been for injuries!
A few weeks ago a chair, with someone sitting in it, came down on my bare foot, created nice purple and green coloring, and last week I stupidly set a cooking timer while I tried to take a quick shower.
the timer went off while I was in the shower, and I ran to the kitchen, in towel, to take food out of the oven.
(Please do not try this at home. Cooking and showering..... the two do not go together.)
I slipped on my own puddle and came down hard on my ankle.  Its a  great swollen ankle to go with the yellow and blue toes.  The colors kinda match and make for interesting conversation at work. (I have to wear sandals,can't get my shoes on, hence the public viewing, lol)
I used the same backache salve for my toes and ankle. (See earlier posting) Everything is healing nicely.

This morning , my husband told me that he hurt his wrist yesterday while pulling on some equipment .
I didn't want to show my excitement when he stated that he may have broken a small bone or popped a vein in his hand.
Been wanting to try out the power of "knitbone"(comfrey) on something like this.
It looked like a sprain, didn't appear that anything was seriously broken. (I would have sent him to our physician right away if I had seen bone or a mishapen look.)

This morning I finely cut the comfrey leaf, mixed it with my new pain killer salve and pasted the whole thing to his hand and wrist with gauze. We then wrapped the hand and wrist with an ace bandage.
I hope to see some improvement by tomorrow night.
My husband, the willing guinea pig,   gotta love him.
I am making homemade biscuits for breakfast to soothe his ruffled feathers.
Men like to have their feathers smoothed out.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sweating in purple

We have been picking berries for about 4-5 weeks, sweating, itching, wiping bloody scratches on our hands, ants attacking us at every turn.

During the last week  of picking I had begun to think that as a modern  40- 50 hour a week working woman, I should just get over this pioneer thing and buy some berries. Berries that would be all cleaned and prettied up (and much larger) at the local Walmart produce section. (my o my, what chemical therapy can do for fruit!)

Well, this morning, a beautiful sunny Sunday, I got up early, started the coffee, and made soft scrambled eggs with small flaky biscuits. I then spread the the biscuits with real butter and of course....blackberry-mulberry jelly.  Jelly from those hard-won, 80 to 90 degree temperatured days , buggie, humid as hell, lookin for snakes everywhere, berries.
It was etheral, magical......
Purple, spreading softly, dark and rich, the ultimate fresh berry taste that can only come from unspoiled, no chemical enhancement,  naturally beautiful, from your own land.. fruit. 
If you are thinking that its too much trouble to grow and pick your own produce......... think again, and again.

Don't you love summer?

Today we make pesto. YEA!!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

a pond is just a big hole

Drove out to the farm today to view the work that our contractor did on his first day.  The road he's making is very nice, my yellow jeep  made a very satisfying dust cloud on our way in!  (ahh, country life... dust flying along your own country lane!)
The pond, which is my husband's great desire (mine is the superhuge kitchen and pantry the size of a bedroom) looked like a big hole in the ground. But..Kyle was estatic and in heaven.  He called the grandchildren to come over because he said "a long time from now they will talk about how it used to look before it filled up with water.  They can say, I saw it before it was a real pond".   So, everyone came over and jumped in and out of the diggings and climbed on the bulldozer. 
Of course, their mother my daughter, fussed about them getting really dirty and worried about the dangers of climbing on the bulldozer. (I could die laughing hearing her sound like me 20 years ago!)
 So far "The pond" is about 8 feet deep and about 40 feet long. Not bad for one days dig.  I think it will be 12 feet deep in the lowest point.
But to get back to that road....
I am in love with my dirt road winds nicely to the back of the property, meandering slowly around the trees.
The house will look beautiful at the end of it.  
Imagining endless days of sweet ice tea and little tomato sandwiches.
I know just where I'm going to put my  two rope swing. It will hang on that big hackberry tree at the bend.
Life can not possibly get better than this.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

old fashioned pie crust and mulberry filling

We found two beautiful mulberry trees on our new farm property. Since last week we have been harvesting mulberries and blackberries. (i think they are dew berries, but can't be sure.) 
Besides jelly, I have tried to make as many pies and cobblers as I can. Here is a great little pie recipe:

Makes 2 pie crusts:
2 1/2    cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup of solid vegetable shortening, cut into 8 chunks
6-8 TBS of ice water

Combine flour, sugar, salt in a food processor. Pulse to mix.  Throw in butter and shortening around the flour and pulse in short bursts until it looks like small pebbles. Sprinkle 6 TBS of water and pulse until no dry flour remains and the dough just starts to pull away and make a ball.  If it is too dry (and this is important) add 1 TB more and pulse a few more times till added in.  You do not want a dry dough, it will crack when you try to roll it out.   Separate the dough onto two sheets of saran wrap and wrap separately.  Smooth out to form two round discs.    Let chill in fridge for about 1 hour.  When ready to roll out, let it rest on counter for at least 10 minutes.

Mulberry filling
3 cups of mulberries, washed
1 and 1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp  fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
unsalted butter, 4 TB cut into 8 pieces
1 egg, a little water added
1 TB of white sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees ( at least 30 minutes, you need a good hot oven to start the pie)
In a large bowl, mix berries with sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, zest and lemon juice.
Place mixture into bottom pie crust. Dot with butter.
Top with second crust.
Crust may be cut (i like to use a pizza cutter) into lattice strips. It makes a very pretty presentation.
Crimp the edges, cut slits into top crust. (if you don't lattice)
Paint top crust with egg and water mixture.
Evenly sprinkle sugar over top of pie.
Let rest for about 20 mins in fridge. (it will help pie crust retain its shape)
Bake in your preheated oven for 15 mins. Bake on a cookie sheet to avoid bubble spills.
Lower oven temp to 350 and bake for 40 minutes more.
At this point, I rotate the pie after about 15 minutes to cook evenly.
At end of baking time be sure the berries are tender by stabbing one with a fork, it will give easily. If it feels as though the berry is a little uncooked, let it go for another 10 mins.  If you think the pie crust will get too dark, wrap a piece of tin foil around the edge of the crust.

Test your pie before you finish cooking it. Partially cooked berries do not make for a good pie.
The last mulberry pie I baked cooked for only a total of 45 mins and the berries were still too uncooked.
I have added an additional 10 mins to  my personal total baking time. You will have to be the judge about the doneness of your filling. My oven cooks too hot. I bake my pie on the middle rack for this reason. It saves the bottom crust from burning but doesn't allow the berries to bake enough.
If your oven does not behave like mine, adjust the cooking time to fit.

Serve with sweet thick cream, homemade vanilla whipped cream, or vanilla icecream.

I hope you make wonderful memories for your children and family with your summer pies.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

berry heaven

Today was the first day that berries became ripe on our new farm property.

The late afternoon was perfect, slightly cloudy with a great soft southern breeze blowing through the trees, not too hot. As we approached the two mulberry trees in the overgrown wooded area, we could see the heavily laden branches, soft purple bullets hanging easily within our reach. My husband and I started with the low branches but soon had them all picked.
Mulberries are so unique, you just have to put your bowl beneath the branches and gently shake, the ripe berries fall into it, the unripe still clinging tightly.

When they were too high for me to pick, I left him to gather from the high branches and wandered off to look for blackberries and other wild herbs.
I picked honeysuckle branches filled with blossoms as I walked along, the fragance coming from the branches very intoxicating, soft and sweet. I love to make bath oils from honeysuckle so I'm very happy when they begin to flower.
I stopped every few yards picking off the blackberries clustered on pretty purple canes. They were just starting to ripen, so we only got about 2 1/2 cups.

About 2 hours later, despite our sunblock and hats, we were very hot, red faced and ready to leave.
(it was only 80 degrees today)
On the way home I asked my husband what he wanted to do with the berries we'd picked and he answered as I knew he would, "Jelly please." We had at least 5-6 cups of berries in our bowls which will make a nice amount of jelly.

When we got home a great recipe was found on All for blackberry cobbler . (it only required 2 1/2 cups of blackberries so I was in blackberry heaven.)
I think I'm going to get a bit of vanilla bean ice cream for the cobbler.

One of the best parts of the day was the fact that we only saw one little non -poisonous snake.
He didn't bother us and we didn't bother him.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

new salve

You know, I'm a culinary herbalist first. Yes, I love to cook with herbs. I love the beauty of all green things in food. The herbal aromas, mmm. The pretty plates it makes! It makes me very happy.

But...I wanted to know more. So, for the last two years I've been taking a wonderful class of study on the medicinals.
I've learned some of the medicinal side with my new lessons and... by experimentation. Most experiments come from neccesity.
My latest "necessary" came Saturday afternoon because I incorrectly lifted a very heavy flowerpot filled with very wet dirt and compost.
Gave myself the most incredible back strain. You know? The kind of ache that gives you spasms when you exhale? Owwww , Owww, Ow, Ow. O my... it hurts. I tried not to breathe because it meant I had to exhale. That's pathetic.
No time or inclination to go to the doctor, I thought to myself, "okay, you wanna practice what you preach? Make your own painkiller.
I searched my herbal pantry to see what I had. I came up with these ingredients relying on my memory of the lessons:
Lavender Oil
Ginger root, powdered
Valerian tincture, made this autumn
freshly ground red pepper, powdered
cocoa butter
bees wax, melted
Measured out all ingredients according to what I needed most .
Mixed all together and put into the food processer to emulsify.
(I am guilty of adding in about 8 powdered aspirin since I didn't have time to bark and dry out my willow.)

Here was my plan of treatment:
Took a hot bath with epsom salt, lavender blossoms, valerian tincture and lavender oil.
Made myself some chamomile tea with skullcap and valerian tincture. Sipped while in bath.
Applied the salve liberally.
I found that the powdered pepper and ginger root needed to be increased. (added more until I felt a bit of warmth on my skin.) After I applied salve I wrapped my back semi-tightly with a cotton cloth and put on a soft white cotton t-shirt . I tried to lay quietly on my back.

To my amazement, it was wonderful. The pain slowly decreased and I was able to fall asleep.
Turns out I was pretty right on track.
I knew that the lavender was a painkiller, valerian for sore muscles, ginger and red pepper (capsascin) are great for warming the affected area, bees wax and cocoa butter were healthy, soothing additions.

Had to really process it as oils and waters don't mix well. I may not have added everything I needed , but I used what I had on hand .

I've heard that acting on instinct is the mark of a good herbalist. It is also wise to use what is available and make use of the landscape around you. I'm sure that a good master herbalist would have known better or more effective herbs to make the salve with, but I used what I could remember . (and what the pain allowed, lol,)

I want to thank my fine teachers at Sage Mountain for helping me to ease my pain ....and be the herbalist I wish to be.


Please do not attempt to make herbal remedies unless you have real knowledge of herbs. I have made many mistakes over the years on myself. Before taking my study course I thought I knew a great deal. I was very wrong.
It is not a good thing to make any remedies unless you study all aspects of the herbs you grow. Much has to be learned . I have grown herbs for 20 years and still do not know all that I need to know. Be safe, take lessons from learned herbalists.