Tag Archives: dried herbs

mint juleps with rhubarb liqueur, strawberry + tarragon | on embracing the crazy-faith

So, what’s the craziest dream you’ve ever dreamed?

You know, the one that wakes you up in the middle of the night and compels you to turn on the light that’s resting on the nightstand, all flustered and sweaty, in order to write down its contents in a scribbled, shaky, illegible scrawl. Chasing your pencil. The kind of harried writing that begs a shot of something strong. Whiskey-strong. You’re wide awake; you know what you want; you’re ready.

This is what life should be about, right? I know it’s kind of heady for a Saturday morning, but this is no ordinary, Saturday morning. Dude, I didn’t even mean to make a parallel here with the Kentucky Derby. I promise that I didn’t, but it so fits. I don’t know that much history on the Derby, but I do know that today’s particular, racing combination of horse and human is known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”

I don’t have a horse on the line; perhaps, you do. And I wish you the best of luck. Luck. The very definition of the word means “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” I’ve been thinking about the term lately. And as a result, I’m choosing to use its placement in my conversation more wisely.

mint juleps with rhubarb liqueur, strawberry + tarragon | holly & flora

mint juleps with rhubarb liqueur, strawberry + tarragon | holly & flora

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how to freeze summer tomatoes + life without a kitchen

For us, Labor Day was exactly what the holiday sounds like:  a day of actual labor and hard work.  I hope yours was much more relaxing; although, working hard is rewarding and satisfying in its own rite.  Today’s post might contain a lot more photos than usual, but posting them gives proof that gardening, harvesting, preserving, and cooking, again, is not dependent upon yard space or kitchen space.  Even though we are still existing without a finished kitchen, the garden continues to proliferate and demand our daily attention.  It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, challenging harvest season, but we’ve made it work…

Freezing Tomatoes:

  1. Select ripe, unblemished tomatoes.
  2. Thoroughly wash and remove stems and any bruised spots.
  3. Place tomatoes in the blender.  If tomatoes are large, slice in half for ease in the blender.  Blend away.
  4. Measure and pour the tomato mixture into freezer bags.  I measure out two cups per bag, so I can know exact amounts for a recipe.
  5. Remove the air from the bag {I use a straw here – #ghettostyle}, label with a Sharpie marker, and lay flat, horizontally in the freezer.  Once the bags have frozen, you can stand them up vertically, like a “filing system” in the freezer.

Tips for Freezing Tomatoes:

  • Freezing is fast and requires very little equipment – basically, a blender, a knife, freezer bags, and a Sharpie.
  • Preserving, in this method, keeps your kitchen heat-free, a bonus in the summer.
  • Use the thawed, puréed tomatoes in stews, soups, or sauces.  Don’t try substituting puréed, formerly frozen tomatoes, for a recipe that calls for fresh tomatoes, or else you’ll end up with mushy tomatoes.  Gross.
  • Try to use the frozen, puréed tomatoes within four to six months, for optimal flavor.  If you are ever in doubt that something in your freezer or pantry has expired, check out StillTasty, a great resource for determining the shelf lives of many foods.
  • Instead of taking the time to de-seed and de-skin beforehand, we choose to purée and freeze the entire tomato. The gel surrounding the seeds actually imparts more flavor than the flesh of the tomato.  The skins impart even more anti-oxidant properties.  Why limit your taste and your nutritional impact?  Read more about retaining the seeds and skins of the tomato here, via the Kitchn.

For today’s post, I am reflecting on the cue, suggested by You Grow Girl‘s “Grow-Write-Guild-Prompt-Eleven.”  I am joining the party a little over ten posts too late, but I am still on board with their concept of writing about your garden, capturing what is happening right now, and sharing mishaps, successes, recipes, and must-to-dos, along the way.

What was happening last year both in the garden and in the kitchen?  Well, like this summer, the tomatoes were pumping, and I had a kitchen, for one…  Without the ability to seriously can, this year, I am relegated to quick-pickling and freezing most of my produce.  I am almost ready to purchase another freezer; room is running out.  Black Krims always do well, but I have noticed that my early fertilizing has hindered my tomatoes’ fruit output later in the season.  I have learned, this year, to fertilize after the initial flowers have shown, and to prune large, unnecessary leaves, so that the plant can direct its energy to producing quality, limited tomatoes.  The key is to concentrate the plant’s energy to the task it has at hand.  I have also learned to plant vegetables with different vegetables; in other words, no monocultures.  Why?  Fewer diseases, better plant cohabitation, more efficient water usage, and better quality fruit production.

Crisp, toasted bagels, with sliced Black Krim tomatoes, goat cheese, basil, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of white truffle oil…this is my most favorite summer decadency.

How have I best used my abundance of heirloom tomatoes in my garden this summer?  By simply cutting them off the vine, washing them, slicing them up, and serving them alongside a chiffonade of basil, some crumbled Avalanche goat cheese, sea salt, cracked pepper, and a drizzle of white truffle oil.  I serve this on top of toasted “everything” bagels, and they are a memorable capture of summer’s bounty.  So easy…

And after a brief argument on where to plant the cool season crops and whether or not to include tomato seeds in the pasta sauce, we took a break to enjoy a shot of whiskey and a “pickle-back.”  The rich, savory component of the whiskey is accentuated by the briny, sharp, acidic pickle brine.  You may have some pickling brine left over, if you made some “quickles” last week.  Make this decadent and unique treat; you won’t be under-stimulated.  You might possibly be disappointed {I doubt it}, but it won’t be boring…at the very least, try something new, for once!

Next step in the garden, that afternoon:  snipping ripe basil and parsley leaves, washing them, and placing them into the dehydrator.  This was Steve’s job today.  My job was to collect the appropriate lighting necessary to capture the herb’s verdant nature and the energy in the moment.

With respect to herbs:  pick appropriately, wash, spin, dry, store, and repeat.  I absolutely love my very cheaply purchased dehydrator from Bed Bath & Beyond.  I have two of these, and I want two more.

Freshly picked Japanese “fairy tale” eggplant, ready to be de-stemmed and washed.

Washing our vegetables outside in the stockpot. Despite our lack of running water, we are able to wash our produce and preserve it.

We take all of our leftover water that was used for washing, boiling, and cooking, and we use it to water our newly planted drought-tolerant grasses and vegetables. #reduce #reuse #recycle …in that order!

Carrot top greens, onion skins, spinach stalks, used as stock components.

Making stock on the back porch, using a crock pot.

Purple cabbage head forming…ready in a couple of weeks.

Multi-colored heirloom carrots, pulled from the ground today.

Half-ripe cantaloupe…ready in about two weeks. This was a “happy accident” that we planted. When the school’s community garden received donated plants, this was one of the “left-overs” or the “not-planted.” There is only one fruit on the vine. Planting will be worth it, even if this is the only melon harvested.

Heirlooms from the garden plot:  Brandywines, Black Krims, German Johnsons…
#tomatobag

Community-supported flowers: water, cultivate, and pick appropriately.

Cosmos, sunflower, dill, marigolds…

homemade herbal tea + fruit ice cubes

These sweltering, lazy afternoons are just begging for iced tea, time spent outside and a possible dip in a cool stream.  Well, that is exactly what happened recently.  I don’t have air conditioning in my house, so sometimes, it is necessary to scope out the coolest spot around and take full advantage of its offerings!  Looking back, this particular day was especially meaningful to me:  one of my dearest friends and I hung out, for what I thought was one of the last days I would see her in a while.  While hiking at Lair-o-the-Bear Park near Morrison, Colorado, she let me know that she soon would be moving back to her home state of Michigan to look for a teaching job.  The hike was the only activity we had thoughtfully planned, but upon hearing the news, we decided to make the most of that day and soak up the time we had together.  We searched out a cool stream, started by simply wading into the water, and, after one crazy suggestion, we decided to fully submerge ourselves, in our hiking clothes, and sit in Bear Creek, passing the time and reminiscing for a good 30 minutes.  Cleansing…

In our busy, chaotic, and scheduled lives, we sometimes forget that the small, intimate, seemingly mundane moments are what actually comprise most of our lives.  The quiet moments spent perusing the morning paper, over coffee, accompanied by a soft sigh.  The seconds, when we gather our belongings, grab our keys, close the door to our car, and take in the golden colors of the late summer afternoon sun.  The times where we accidentally meet eyes with our loved ones, while doing the dishes, folding laundry, or piecing together the last perfectly composed bite on our plate.  Pauses.  Those are the moments that give “life” to our lives.  If we fail to appreciate the spontaneity, the accidents, the in-between times, we fail to embrace the richness and uniqueness of our limited days.  Those moments are the most important ones…

I took the time to craft some herbal tea recently.  With some dried herbs of my own and some that I purchased from Apothecary Tinctura, a local herbal shop in town, I mixed a hodgepodge blend that seemed cheery, calming, and delicious, all at once.  I selected a handful of licorice, a small handful of orange peel, a handful of hibiscus, a handful of lemon balm, a few rose hips, and a generous handful of chamomile.  I am loosely assembling a recipe, here, as you can see.  I combined the ingredients and stored them in a Mason jar for today’s use and for a few other brewing sessions in the near future.

I scooped a cupful of the dried herb blend and placed it into a large jar.  I added about two quarts of boiling water and let it sit and steep for about ten minutes in the sunshine.  I let the mixture cool and added some honey, as a sweetener, and a little lemon juice to brighten it up.

I save bulk, glass jars that formerly stored green bar olives. These large jars are perfect for batching drinks and soups or simply storing dried herbs. I currently have two of these jars filled with dried peppers, waiting to be integrated into our spicy dried pepper blend.

Another great touch to add to an iced tea of any sort is fruit-composed ice cubes.  I chose to make some ice cubes, freezing a piece of fruit within each cube.  I will have to try the lovely example I saw at Los Dos Aikos, where the blog’s author, Jaclyn, and her daughter puréed fruit and froze it in heart- and star-shaped molds.  It turned out adorably!  Read more about their how-to, here.

On a whim, I spied these ice cube trays at Whole Foods. You can also find them at Bed Bath & Beyond.

To make the cubes, simply add your choice of fruit to the trays, fill with water, and freeze.  I add them to iced teas, iced water, and even cocktails to brighten up the drink with fruity notes, as the ice melts.  The berries make a colorful statement to the beverage; it is such an easy way to take your drinks to another level of style and taste!

While I was waiting for my fruit cubes to freeze, I entertained Stacey’s rag doll kitty, Willow. She is notorious for photo bombs and “taste-testing” recipes!

I added the frozen fruit cubes to my herbal tea, and I was immediately summoned to my favorite chair on my back porch.  Summertime sipping simply encourages reflection.  I am grateful for my friends, like Stacey, who actively embrace a love of the current moment.  And I am happy for learning how to enjoy life in the midst of perceived chaos and uncertainty.  On a very happy note, I learned that Stacey received a job here in town, just before she began packing, and will not be moving back to Michigan.  Willow will still be able to visit me and the garden, we will purposefully take many more hikes in the future, and I will capitalize on the richness of my friendships and not take them for granted.  You never know when things may change.

Herbal tea and raspberry ice cubes, garnished with a sprig of freshly cut thyme.

Our first hike of the day, Deer Creek Canyon. I love this trail that overlooks the “hog back,” or the Front Range of Colorado. You can see downtown Denver off in the distance.

Stacey and her dog, Lucy, at Lair-o-the-Bear Park.

Jayme on the left, Stacey on the right, just after our soaking session in the stream.

don’t fear the pink

Pink…

What words come to mind, when you see this color or hear its name?  What associations, emotions, pictures, people?  I see beautiful sunsets, gorgeous azalea blooms from my home state of Florida, Sunday dresses, spring ties, sprinkled cupcakes, seersucker suits, brightly colored parrots, a singer by this name, ripe strawberries, and, of course, flamingos.  Not to mention delicious rosé wine, my subject of choice today.

After having coffee this morning, with a wonderful friend and colleague within the wine industry, I felt compelled to mention a few things on “pink wine.”  We shared stories of how “pink” wines are perceived within the wine-consuming crowd.  As kismet would have it, I had a half-finished bottle of rosé in my fridge, an evening off, and another new book to begin reading.  At 11:00 this morning, I was already imagining a summery beet salad and some goat cheese to pair with my chilled wine.  I constantly question why anyone would limit their enjoyment or palate because of preconceived notions of what a color means to them.

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last year’s lavender | DIY lavender bath salt soak

One good thing about the process of cleaning out and renovating a house is that you come across a lot of misplaced items that you had been searching for.  You also come across a lot of excess junk and unwanted items, and that sends you on a clean-out-and-simplify quest.  At least that is what it does to me!  Our kitchen is an empty room, as of last night.  We ordered our tile, tore down the old cabinets, and moved everything in the kitchen to either the living or dining room.  Everyday life becomes a little trickier to navigate, and finding what you need, at the moment you need it, is next to impossible.

I did manage to come across a bag of dried lavender from last season’s garden.  It was an unintentional find, but as soon as I opened the bag, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath, I knew that I had to capture the fragrance and make something…despite my kitchen being a complete disaster.  A sea salt soak sounded just about perfect, and it is so easy to make – no recipe needed.

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