It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas

It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas

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Although we’ve really enjoyed the 50-60, even 70 degree weather this fall, it’s a little weird to be wearing shorts in Virginia in December. Last night was one of the first real reminders of what we’re in for this winter, a hard frost. Though scraping your windshields in the morning can be quite a pain, the delicate, cold crystals really made our herb test garden glitter this morning. So, goodbye short sleeves and screen doors, we’ll pack you away until mid March. Hello, long johns and indoor herb gardening! 

Savory Beef Stew Recipe

With these cold winter nights there is nothing better than to light a fire, open a bottle of a nice deep, dark red wine, slice up a warm loaf of crusty bread and dip into a hearty bowl of Savory Beef Stew. Here’s one we suggest!

Beef:  Make sure you are getting a cut that is ‘made’ for stews. 1 to 1 ½ pounds should do it.

Leeks:  I like to use leeks instead of onions, but either one is fine.  Leeks just have a subtler flavor.  1 leek or onion, chopped.  

Carrots: 1 cup of chopped carrots

Garlic: 2 – 3 cloves chopped fine

Mushrooms:  1 cup of coarsely chopped Baby Bella or Shitake 

Potatoes:  I’m sort of moving away from potatoes these days, and a big fan of Sweet Potatoes. Or I suggest using Yukon Golds.  A cup of cubed Tomatoes?  Depends on your taste.  Sometimes I’ll add, and sometimes I won’t.  In any event, use a 15 oz can of GREAT quality chopped tomatoes.  Better yet, use your own!  These should be added when you pour in the broth.

Broth:  You can use beef, mushroom or vegetable broth.  I usually use mushroom broth and one container will do.  If you need more liquid, add a bit of water.

I do like salt and pepper, but that really is ‘to taste’.  I’ve been using red peppercorns lately and really happy with the result. You can toss just about anything else into this stew, but I like to keep it clean and simple.  That way, the flavors of the herbs really stand out.  

Don’t Forget To Add Herbs!

Herbs:  honestly, almost any savory herb works in this stew.  I’ve got a lot of dried concoctions from my fall harvest, and I’ll toss in my Herbs de Provence and add extra Bay and Thyme.  Marjoram works … oregano.  It’s really up to you and your palate but don’t be shy!

    Cooking Instructions

    Olive oil in the bottom of the pan heated to medium low and toss in the meat.  A lot of recipes call for the meat to be tossed in flour, but that seems to ‘gum up the works’.  Just allow the meat to brown slowly.  Stir around a bit.  Once the pieces are nice and brown, toss in the garlic, leeks and carrots and potatoes and let them cook SLOWLY – low heat and a lot of stirring and patience.  When they are nice, soft and aromatic, toss in the herbs.  Ok, if you need measurements, let’s say a tablespoon of that and a tablespoon of this and then keep it on low heat and allow all those flavors to infuse.  Slow and steady.  Then pop in the mushrooms and cover the whole batch with the broth.  At this point, it’s time to let this baby simmer.  You’ll need to check from time to time, and cover and uncover.  There will come a point where you are getting close to the finish line.  Take a spoon and let the stew cool a bit.  Taste and then decide on the salt and pepper.  It’s at this point that I may decide on an additional ‘punch’ – maybe a bit of Worcestershire Sauce!

    After 2 hours, check the beef.  If it’s easy to shred, you are near the finish line.  Make sure that the broth has a nice, herbal infusion and it’s salted and peppered to your taste.  I usually let it sit, unheated, for a bit and then slowly heat back up right before serving.  Enjoy!

    Create Your Own Herb-Infused Oils

    Create Your Own Herb-Infused Oils

    Congratulations on growing your own fresh herbs! As you’re harvesting your fresh herbs you may be wondering of different ways to use them. One of our very favorite culinary uses for fresh herbs is to create Herb-Infused Oils. It’s relatively easy to create your own oil that’s at least as good if not much better than the expensive stuff at high-end grocery stores or specialty food shoppes, and at a fraction of the cost.

    Use these delicious herbed oils on almost anything:

    • Marinades for meats, fish, and veggies
    • Perfect as a salad dressing
    • Drizzle over bread, risotto, pasta or any other grain dish
    • Stir fry

    (more…)

    How to Prepare Lemongrass

    How to Prepare Lemongrass

    Many cooks have never cooked with Lemon Grass – what a shame!  Lemon Grass is an easy, zesty herb that packs a robust punch of flavor to many recipes. Lemon Grass has a plethora of health benefits, especially when paired with other flavorful spices such as Garlic, Coriander, and fresh Chilies.

    Cooking with Lemon Grass is as easy as can be.

    Simply cut off the lower bulb and remove the tough outer leaves.  Most recipes call for the main (yellow) stalk, though some cooks reserve the upper green stem to add to soups and curries for extra flavor. (more…)

    Rare and Unusual:  Rau Ram – Vietnamese Coriander Summer Salsa Recipe

    Rare and Unusual: Rau Ram – Vietnamese Coriander Summer Salsa Recipe

    The Growers Exchange prides itself on our large and diverse offerings of plants; we are now selling over 175 different types of herbs and we are adding more each season! In addition to our ‘usual suspects’ we are known as a source for the more hard to find herbs, the rare and unusual. We love introducing our customers to these plants, as you will not find them in your big box garden centers, but they are a must have for gardeners that appreciate and support the broader offerings of the world of herbs.

    An herb that we have grown for years, Vietnamese Coriander has been growing in popularity along with our exposure to and demand for more unusual foods from around the world. Also known as Rau Ram, this herb is well known in Vietnamese cooking. Often pronounced as ‘zow-zam’, it is used as a cilantro substitute ~ sort of a ‘citrusy cousin’! The taste is quite similar, but we find it to be more lemony, more peppery with a bit more punch! Actually, it is well known throughout Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, the plant is known as laksa and often served there as a condiment, along with basil. (more…)

    Create Your Own Herb-Infused Simple Syrup Recipe

    Create Your Own Herb-Infused Simple Syrup Recipe

    Midsummer is the perfect time to begin using all of those herbs that are at their peak!  Almost any culinary herb that is currently in your garden will work, and the combinations are absolutely endless.

    Basically, you are creating a flavored sweetener and how you use it is up to you.  A few of our favorite uses for an herb-infused simple syrup include:

    • Sweetening iced tea, lemonade and coffee
    • Added to any cocktail or mocktail (e.g. The Ultimate Mojito)
    • Drizzled over yogurt or ice cream
    • A substitute in any recipe that calls for water

    (more…)

    Lavender & Calendula Healing Salve

    Lavender & Calendula Healing Salve

    Whether you are suffering the effects of this current Arctic Blast or wintering is South Florida (lucky you), most of us are feeling the effects of winter on our skin.  Dry, chafing, itchy skin that looks nothing like those hand models on TV.  Here is a quick and easy way to use herbs to relieve and revive, as well as use those herbs that you grew all spring and summer.  If you don’t have any on hand, a quick trip to the your local health food store may provide all you need! (more…)