In the Kitchen {Herbs}

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use Rosemary sprigs as flavorful skewers

 We’ve been enjoying fresh herbs from the garden, mainly parsley, thyme and basil right now, and drying some to use during the winter. They’re flavorful and it’s much cheaper than purchasing them at the store. When cooking just remember that dried herbs are about 3 times as strong as fresh. During the summer I use fresh herbs and during the winter I use dried; substituting one for the other as needed.

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  Parsley was one of the first things in the ground and it’s still going strong. I grow it in mini rows then I cut it and let it grow back again. This method is super easy and prolific!

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This year I tried planting thyme in amongst the carrots while Noah planted some thyme indoors. It’s astounding to compare the two. The outside plants are robust, dark green with large leaves; the indoor plants just don’t look like they’re doing as well. They are small, scraggly and pale. I pick as much fresh thyme as I like whenever I need it during  the summer. When I harvest the carrots I’ll harvest the thyme too and dry it. I use thyme a lot, especially on roasted meats and veggies. I use oregano nearly as often. I have a  container of oregano and two rosemary “trees” indoors too, and while they’re not quite as robust as they would be outside, they’re doing well enough until I can decide where I’m going to transplant the oregano (the rosemary I keep indoors because of our low winter temps). It’s a hard decision because, like mint, oregano has a tendency to spread and the longer it’s there the harder it is to remove.

As for the basil, I only pick a few leaves here and there so it will keep growing strong. Eventually, I’ll make some pesto and I’ll ferment a jar full (at least) as basil takes on a wonderful liquorice flavor when fermented. I also planted some sage and dill this year. It’s not ready for harvesting yet but I look forward to having some on hand for pickling, stuffing into fish, and maybe making up some gravlax!

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Slowly, I’m expanding the list of seasonings I grow instead of purchase. Other than salt and pepper the herbs above are my most used seasonings. I’ve also made onion and garlic powder by dehydrating them and then processing the dried veggies in a blender. The flavor is fantastic! I’d like to get some perennials going (maybe alongside those chives?)  and I wouldn’t mind trying to grow some chamomile (soon!)

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sharing with Fight Back Friday

Honey Mead

Lately I’ve been experimenting with honey mead. The (really simple) directions and inspiration came from Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation (of course!). I went with a honey to water ratio of 1:6. This seems to be a good amount. I use Really Raw Honey as it contains natural yeasts.

DSCN8892Then for fun and flavor I add in some dehydrated lemon- enough to cover the surface.

DSCN8903And a sprig of rosemary. That’s it.  Although the flavoring options are endless, and optional!

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DSCN8912Then you just let it sit and wait for the bubbling to begin. Stir it up at least once a day (more frequently in warmer temperatures) to disperse the natural yeasts and help ensure no mold gets started on the floating additions.

DSCN8919The bubbling will get going and be pretty active for about a week to 10 days.

DSCN8959 DSCN8960I wait till I notice the bubbling subsiding. Then I strain out the lemon slices, rosemary and all the tiny waxy bits from the honey and bottle. I like a lot of carbonation so I let it build up a little before putting the bottles in the fridge. These are still in an early mead stage and don’t contain much alcohol. I also poured some mead off into my airlock jar. Only a quart because that’s the size jar I have.

DSCN9050I let it sit for, I dunno, maybe a month before I really wanted my jar back so I transferred it to another bail top jar. It’s still aging but it definitely has a drier more wine like taste compared to the fresh mead.

Then start a new (larger) batch!

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sharing this post with:

Wildcrafting Wednesday, Frugally Sustainable, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday

Chèvre Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Chicken

I’m been meaning share more from Nourishing Traditions but lately most of the recipes I’ve been using from Nourishing Traditions have been simple and basic: sauté in butter, season to taste with salt and pepper and maybe a splash of lemon juice. Simple, good but not really enough for a post. But this chicken, stuffed with herbed chèvre, wrapped in bacon is definitely post worthy. I saw a similar recipe on Pinterest and later when it was time to get dinner going and I had some freshly made goat cheese and chicken on hand…well one thing lead to another.

First I pounded the chicken to make it uniformly flat and just a little bigger so it would be easier to roll up. Then I mixed up some of the goat cheese I made earlier with some oregano and rosemary I have growing in the kitchen and some salt and pepper. This time I made a simple goat cheese from some yogurt I made from our goats’ milk and strained until it was thick. It was a tad more soft and spreadable than the somewhat chalky bars of goat cheese sold at the supermarket. Store brought goat cheese will work too- just cut a few slices and season (or buy pre-seasoned). Then roll it up and wrap two pieces of bacon around each piece of chicken and secure with toothpicks. The bacon not only lends flavor but helps keep the goat cheese inside.

The next step is to brown it on the stove top- and preheat your oven to 350F. I love my cast iron and it works well for the transfer to the oven. Otherwise brown the chicken and transfer to an oven-safe dish. Bake in the oven till done.

Then serve. I made wild rice and green beans. As you can see in the photo below the goat cheese and herb is absorbed and infuses the chicken with flavor but there isn’t a separate layer inside like when chicken is stuffed with ham and cheese. And if anyone doesn’t like goat cheese you can always skip the goat cheese and just wrap with bacon. Although, in my opinion, they’d be missing out.

Enjoy!

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sharing with:

simple lives thursday, fightback friday, freaky friday, farm girl friday,homestead barn hop, monday mania, make your own! monday, melt in your mouth monday, fat tuesday, slightly indulgent tuesday, hearth and soul hop, scratch cookin, weekend gourmet carnivalclever chicks, ,real food wednesdaygluten-free wednesdaythis chick cookswildcrafting wednesday,healthy2dayfrugally sustainable,


Celebrating

For us February is a month of celebrations. Perfect- as winter has grown old and this season’s mildness has only served to fuel our spring fever  to get out there and DO stuff. And if you can’t get out there and work well you might as well have some fun (and that means cake, of course).

First Ezra’s birthday. An amazing 3 years old! He requested blueberry cake. Luckily I had some frozen blueberries still left from last summer. So we cooked them into a sauce/filling. I recently went gluten/wheat-free so we decided to try one of those packaged GF cake mixes. Let’s just say I’m not too impressed. I mean it looks great, and the texture is right but it just tastes……. not quite right.

Then for Valentine’s Day we transplanted some apple tree seedlings. The boys have been planting the seeds from their apples in my rosemary pots. A whole bunch came up so we moved them to their own separate containers.  Of course all this enthusiastic handling by little kids and a dog who has to sit on everything means that we only have a few survivors. Still it was fun and the boys got to check out the various stages of seed sprouting and root growth.

Even Ishmael LOVED it. This boy gravitates to dirt. He can find it, scoot over and get his hands it in 5 seconds flat. That’s my boy!

photo by Noah

Then it’s Noah’s birthday. What?! 5 years old already!

He received a pirate boat kit which he studiously put together- by himself by looking at the picture on the box. Once the glue dried we had some fun painting. He painted his boat and I borrowed a little paint to make him a Batman and Robin peg clothing pin figure.

photo by struggling_along

photo by Noah

Of course another birthday requires more cake! We went more traditional this time with a Chocolate Surprise Cake. It’s an old recipe and doesn’t really give any instructions- just a list of ingredients so here’s my one layer version:

The surprise is a whipped cream filling. It’s really good. It’s like having a HUGE really good whoopee pie.

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linking to Seasonal Celebration Sunday @ the natural mothers network