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 years..it 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.

But..life 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 .....it 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 Recipes.com 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.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I have to say it.
I had a complete meltdown Saturday. We have put off building our house and starting our farm for months. We have been in our middle of town IN a second story APARTMENT for 1 and 1/2 yrs. ONE AND ONE HALF YEARS.
We had driven out to our property that day to broadcast some red clover . Afterwards we went to sit on a little hill to watch the sun go down. It was a perfect, warm spring day.
I just broke down and couldnt stop crying.
My husband, who doesn't do any of the gardening (past the tilling and tractoring) could not understand the rush of emotion that I was feeling.
"What is it?" he said.
I said, " Kyle, it's spring and I can't tolerate or live with the fact that I'm going to spend another season in that apartment. If I had known we wouldnt have started building right away I would have never let you sell that farm!"
He thought a minute and said," Honey, you know the economy is bad here ,to start our farm over right now is very risky. Just building our house is risky right now. I'm afraid we could lose everything."
Looking over at him with my dirty teary face I retorted, " I will die if I can't start this house and build up the farm now, this year." I threw myself on the ground and starting wailing in earnest.
He didn't say anything, just walked away to finish sowing the seeds. (He is a wise man. He knows you can't reason with a woman who has just thrown herself face down in the grass.)
After the sun went down, he came back, picked me up off the ground and drove us back to town.
I thought, "He's heartless. He can't see my heart is breaking."
Well, of course, I was wrong.
He told me to call the contractors yesterday and make an appointment to buy our houseplans.
I am a little embarassed now about the meltdown, but I am happy that he will at least try to help me be a little less hopeless. Spring makes me feel a little nuts. Without my gardens and dirt in my hands, I don't know who I am.
I am grateful that he loves me. He is a good man.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It must be spring, I've got the hand weights out again..

Spring Report:
I have just finished watering my little seedlings of basil, cilantro,anise hyssop and will be transplanting them this week. Will let the small tomato and pepper plants stay in the house for awhile longer, they do not do well in strong wind and cold.
All of the new leaves of lemon balm are coming up very green and pretty. The little heart shaped leaves are very romantic looking and oh so fragrant.
I think nothing is as beautiful as the first flush of lemon balm and basil. This year I may try to do some water colors of these beautiful herbs.
The comfrey, yarrow, mints, oreganos, thymes are all doing very well, covering the ground with their new growths. Our Sassafras tree is budding out very nicely and never fails to amaze me when it begins to put on it's little leaves. I thought I saw the Pineapple sage and St. John's Wort peeking out from the mulch, tomorrow I will pull it back and see for sure.
If you are a novice and wish to plant, please remember that April and May are very windy months in Louisiana, plant only things that will be out of the wind for now. Some herbs have tender stalks and will not be able to withstand these windy months. It feels like spring, but I have been fooled many times.
It's time to spruce up your garden area, turn over the soil, add manure,mulch and new soil in beds. The ground is just warming up, do not plant anything that needs 7 or 8 hours of sun.
Cilantro, dill, chervil all love the cool temperatures and can be planted now. Mints can be planted, they are very hardy and do not mind cool temperatures.
What to do while you wait for the season to really begin in earnest?
Sharpen and oil your tools. Dust off the old pots, cleaning them well with a little bleach and a lot of water. Get an unusual seed catalog and order something that you have never planted. (some of my best herbs have come from this idea) Find a pretty pair of gardening gloves and get a great hat. This year I plan to get a new toolbelt and hang all my favorite gardening tools around my waist.
If you like to wildcraft, (forage in the wild) look for nettles, dandelion, cleavers, coltsfoot, docks, chickweed. They are all in abundance now.
Be sure that you are harvest responsibly, do not take all that you see. We must leave enough for growth next year. A good herbalist respects the earth, taking only what he or she needs. Many American herbs have been wildcrafted into near extinction by over zealist amatuers. A true, nuturing herbalist will remember this and let that small patch of red clover live to be picked another year.
If you are unsure of what are foraging for, take an identification guidebook with you. I made many mistakes my first few years of foraging. Identify your plants with more than one point. Look at the shape of the leaves, the color of the stalks, the roots, the type of flower it produces. These points will give you correct identifications and keep you safe. Many plants look alike but are not what you believe them to be. Never eat or make medicine with what you are not 100% sure of what it is. A good book to refer to is "A Modern Herbal", by Margaret Grieve. There are many pictures and the plants are all thoughly described. It is an online site also.
Will be doing some light weight lifting to get my back and arm muscles into shape. I often lift big bags of dirt, manure and mulch over my back, forgetting to use the wheelbarrow!

It must be spring, I am dreaming of chervil omlets.......

Monday, February 15, 2010

i had to make something from the book

Today I read a tweet that said, "making boeuf bourguinon for senior citizens."
Well, as you all know, I bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking monthes ago. I haven't made 1 thing from it.
This little tweet told me I had to make something. So like a copy cat I decided to make the Boeuf Bouguinon also. But, before I made it, me being me, I did some research on it first. I watched no less than 8 videos with different chefs making it. (of course, not one of them was Julia Child. You have to pay for that video!) I watched them hoping that they would make it easier for me. It did not. Most of the videos were made by men, and men being themselves, always try to make shortcuts and do things their way. Watching them just frustrated the hell out of me. So I turned off the computer, got out Julia's book and began her famous recipe.
The recipe turned out to be beautifically written, each step explaining how to go on to the next step. It was truly effortless. I did have to turn to a couple of different chapters on how to braise onions and cook the mushrooms, (in the French way) but the recipe gave the page numbers in the instructions.
The Boeuf is almost done, I smell and hear it slowly simmering in the oven.
Notes to self: I didn't add enough wine at the beginning because it seemed like too much (and I didn't want a watery stew) but it would have been exactly right. I have had to add a little more at the end of cooking.
Best note to self: Do not watch anymore videos of people trying to imitate the recipe. Julia really does it best.
It is an extrordinary dish, and my husband will be so happy when he eats it.
He called me from the road about an hour ago and asked what was for supper. I said, "Julia" and he knew immediately what he was having tonight.
If you do decide to cook this dish, do it on your day off, it takes about 5 hours with prep time. Read all the directions thoroughly, even the part of where to put the racks in the oven.
Shop for the ingredients the day before,(this is where having an herb garden is a distinct advantage) and don't buy the cheap wine.
The Beaujolais I bought was pricey, but so worth it!
Besides, we are gonna have the rest of the wine with the meal.
This was so much fun. If you love to cook, you have to try this classic dish. You will feel like you really accomplished something.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine jelly

I wanted to make a red jelly for Valentine's day this year, to put in between shortbread cookies. I love rosehips and I love the idea that jelly can be healthy.
This rosehip, pineapple sage, hibiscus jelly will get vitamin C into your children in a delightful way!

1/2 cup of dried and cut rosehips
1/2 cup of dried pineapple sage blossoms and leaves
4-5 dried hibiscus petals (be sure that it is hibiscus saff and not your garden variety hibiscus)
4 and 1/2 cups of water
strained juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
5 cups of sugar
1 package of sure jell, powder
3 or 4 drops of red food coloring. (the juice by itself is a brown reddish color)
To make the juice:
Put 4 and 1/2 cups of water in a med saucepan and add herbs. Bring to a boil then turn heat off. Let herbs infuse with cover on pan. When cooled store overnight in a covered bowl. The next day, strain herbs from liquid and measure liquid to equal 4 cups.
Put herb infusion, lemon juice and pectin in pot. Bring to a boil. When juice is boiling add sugar and food coloring, all at once. Bring back to a rolling boil, then time for 1 minute. Remove from heat.Skim foam and put into 8oz jars that have been sterilized and kept warm in a 200 oven. It should make 4. Seal with lids that have been kept warm in a small saucepan of hot water. Follow guidelines of safe canning.
Do not move jars until morning, to let the jelly set.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Triple dark chocolate cake w/ chipotle chocolate frosting

I can't help myself, when valentine's day is near- I go into a chocolate baking frenzy.
Here is the latest frenzy:

If using a Wilton baking pan use shortening to grease the pans. After greasing, sift quality cocoa powder into pans, covering sides and bottom. Tap out excess. Preheat oven to 350, and put baking rack in the middle of oven.
1 and 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup buttermilk and 1/2 cup cream (or use 1 cup of buttermilk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra large eggs, at room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup of fresh coffee, or 1 tsp expresso powder with 1 cup of water
Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl combine the buttermilk and cream, oil, eggs and vanilla. Put mixer on low speed and slowly add the wet to the dry. Add the coffee and stir to combine. Make sure you turn the batter over from the bottom. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 mins.
Start checking the cake with a tester at about 35 mins, if it comes out dry, remove from oven. Cool in pans for 30 mins. then turn out onto racks.
When its time to frost, cut a little off the top of the bottom layer to make cake level for top layer.
8 ounces of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (I like to put 7 oz of bittersweet and 1 ounce of unsweetened in mine.)
3 TBS of really good cocoa powder
2 TBS of boiling water
12 TBS of unsalted butter, room temp
1 and 1/2 cups of confection sugar
1 tsp of chipotle pepper powder
1 pinch of salt
Melt your chocolate in the microwave very slowly, a minute at a time, stirring in between. (or you can do it the traditional way, double boiler.)
Remove chocolate and set aside to cool, 30 mins (or in fridge it takes about 10 mins if you stir a couple of times)
In a small bowl, stir together cocoa and boiling TBS of water. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, confectioners sugar, chipotle powder and salt until creamy. Beat in melted chocolate until well combined. Mix in cocoa mix until smooth.
This will frost a 2 layer cake or 12 cupcakes.
Now a shortcut if you don't really like to bake:
Get triple fudge cake mix from duncan hines, and add expresso powder to it. Works just as well. Its really the frosting that makes the cake taste heavenly!

Open a bottle of a dark merlot and have cake with your husband!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

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 (garbanzo beans)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and toasted in a skillet with a touch of olive oil.
1/3 cup of Asian Toasted Seasame dressing (Kraft makes it in both the light and regular version)
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup light or reg sour cream
1/3 cup lemon or lime juice
pinch of cayenne
pinch of cumin
pinch of chili powder
2 sprigs of dill (or tsp of dried)
small handful of parsley or cilantro (or both together)
a couple of drops of tobasco sauce

Drain beans and put into food processor. Add all other ingredients and turn the machine on.
When it is smooth to your taste, spoon out into a bowl and drizzle a nice virgin olive oil onto it.
You can make your own pita chips by opening pita , paint on olive oil and a bit of garlic powder.
Cut into triangles.
Bake in a 350 oven until crisp.
If want to be traditional, use tahini paste instead of the asian dressing. But since tahini is a bit bland, increase your spices a bit.
I think you will find that the asian dressing will give you just the right amount of flavor!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Freezin in the deep south..

It is 20 degrees this morning!!!
My little pots are huddled in the entryway to the apartment, shivering and talking amongst themselves. "Wow, glad she saved us. Too bad not everyone got to sleep up here. I wonder if the comfrey is unhappy this morning?"
This is such unusual weather for us, we haven't had a freeze like this for a few years.
We southerners are such babies about the cold, we don't know how to dress, eat or drive when it turns icy.
I am cozy, happy and about to brew a big pot of chamomile, rosehip and nettle tea.
This afternoon I will make calzones and side of spicy marinara sauce. They house will smell like tomatoes, garlic and oregano. Yummy...
Later, I plan to snuggle in with my red thermal socks, blue flannel shirt and will watch Tortilla Soup and Julia and Julie. Foodie movies are so comforting .
Here is the spicy marinara recipe that can be used for dipping calzones or heaping on top of pasta:

Five Minute Marinara:
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic , crushed
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
one 32 oz can chunky style crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 handful chopped herbs: oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, lemon balm.
(dried is good if you don't have any fresh left.)
fresh italian parsley, chopped
Add olive oil to medium saucepan over moderate heat. Add garlic and crushed pepper to the heated olive oil. when pepper snaps and garlic sizzles, stir in crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and herbs. Cook for 5 minutes and stir in parsley. Serve.
Yields: 4 servings