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…)

Savory Beef Stew

Savory Beef Stew

There is nothing better on a cold winter night 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.

A few words before you begin:

Start Early – although it is possible to overcook this stew, I’d count on at least 2 ½ hours to make sure that your beef gets to that ‘shredded stage’.  I’m using our own grass fed beef with not a lot of fat, so slow and low simmering works best for me.

The Right Pot – use a good old fashioned Dutch Oven or treat yourself to a Le Creuset Casserole.  Honestly, I got mine at a deep discount at Home Goods and it’s gotten more use than my car!

Herbs herbs and more herbs – fresh is best, but if you are cooking this in the deep dark days of winter and the garden is a memory, used dried.  I can’t stand to see folks waste their good $4 on a clamshell of half dead ‘fresh herbs’! (more…)

The Ultimate Easy Mint Mojito Recipe

the ultimate mojito recipe

A perfect drink for a warm sunny day, or even a cold wintry day when you want to feel like you’re at the beach.  A few years ago, we began growing Mojito mint – what a plant!  Like all mints, it is easy to grow and provides plenty to cut.  But, the added attraction is that this is the real deal and an essential ingredient in a mint mojito, a cool summer drink that has been popular in Cuba since the 1920’s.

Remember the secret:  fresh mint that is crushed with sugar to release the mint’s essential oil.

Bonus tip: if you grow this indoors, you can enjoy fresh mojitos all year long. (more…)

24 Yummy Basil Recipes

24-yummy-basil-recipes

Anytime is a great time to add basil to your recipes!  Fresh from the garden, or indoor garden, paired with tomatoes or other produce, basil adds a great burst of flavor.

The highly fragrant herb is related to peppermint and comes in many varieties to give added depth and options to your recipes.  Basil plants are generally green, however some varieties are purple.  Basil plants such as lemon basil, anise basil, clove basil and cinnamon basil have unique flavors that are suggested by their namesake.

Fresh basil is used in many recipes and is generally added toward the end of the cooking process.  Most of the time basil is added at the last minute as cooking it too long tends to dilute the flavor. Many people are already familiar with basil as the main flavor ingredient in pesto – along with olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts. Yet the possibilities for adding basil to your recipes is nearly endless.

Basil is best when used fresh from your kitchen garden, although fresh cut basil can be kept in the refrigerator.  To store basil, wrap it in damp paper towels and place in a plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator. This will keep fresh basil for about four days.  Or you can place the basil, stem down, in a glass of water with a plastic cover.  This will keep the basil for about a week if you change the water on a regular basis.  For longer term storage, basil can be blanched quickly in boiling water and kept in the freezer.  Although when dried, basil loses much of its flavor, and the taste may be significantly different. Dried basil can be kept in a cool, dark place for up to six months.

Healthy Benefits of Basil

A study by Purdue University showed that basil is rich in antioxidants, has anti-aging properties and can help to reduce inflammation and swelling.  Basil is rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium.

Below are 24 of of our favorite basil recipes found around the web.

Breakfast Basil Recipes

frittata-tomatoes-basil-mozzarella

Frittata with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

If you’re into the paleo or primal lifestyle, Whip up this tasty, grain-free breakfast treat.  It’s easy.  It’s healthy and it tastes great.

basil-breakfast-strata

Basil Breakfast Strata

Pair this tasty egg casserole with kielbasa.  Even better you can make it ahead of time so there’s less preparation in the morning.
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Three Easy Basil Recipes That Will Make You Feel Like A Professional Chef

After working, taking care of kids, and running errands, the last thing almost anyone wants to do is figure out what is for dinner.  Instead of spending more money on unhealthy food, have a few easy and healthy go-to weekday dinner plans.  Cooking does not have to be difficult, and summer is just around the corner.  It is time for farmers markets, fresh tomatoes, and basil in your garden.  Enjoy your summer dinners by using fresh herbs such as basil to make your meals easy, tasty, and nutritious.  Instead of having to hit the store every day, get fresh herbs straight from your garden.  Below are three easy and healthy basil recipes.

tomato-basil-salad

1.       Simple and Delicious Tomato and Basil Salad

Cooking does not get much easier than this.  Note that it is important to use ripe tomatoes that are in season.  The recipe can easily be adjusted to serve between two and several dozen people.

6 small servings of salad

Ingredients:

  • Several ripe heirloom tomatoes
  • Several basil leaves, coarsely torn
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Shortly before serving, slice the tomatoes and arrange them on a plate facing up.  Lightly drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes.  Top the tomatoes with the basil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

pesto-sauce

2.       Easy Pesto Sauce

Pesto sauce is a way to make spring and summer pasta dishes more festive.  When stored in airtight containers, this sauce will last about 6 months in the freezer.  Freezing sauce in individual containers is highly recommended as the sauce takes time to make and is better when made in larger quantities.

8 cups of sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup pecorino cheese, grated
  • 2 ½ cups parmesan, grated
  • Salt

Boil basil leaves for 5 seconds or until wilted, drain, squeeze out excess liquid, and set aside.  Blanche the garlic.  Coarsely chop the basil.  Place the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil in a large bowl.  Use a hand mixer to blend into a coarse sauce.  Stir in the cheeses, and season with salt to taste.  Put extra sauce in small airtight containers for later use.

The easiest way to turn pesto sauce into a complete meal is to make quick pasta.  By having extra sauces on hand, dinners can be as easy as boiling pasta water and reheating the sauce in a microwave or on the stovetop.  Homemade sauces are quick and easy in addition to being cost-effective.

shell-pasta-art

3.       Shell Pasta With Creamy Basil Sauce 

This recipe tastes very similar to a traditional Alfredo Sauce.  By using yogurt instead of heavy cream, this pasta is healthier without sacrificing taste.  The fresh basil and feta give this dish more interesting and subtle flavors along with a great, creamy texture.   Eliminating the chili flakes can make this dish more kid-friendly.  For people that like more of a kick, extra hot Syrian or Turkish chili flakes can make the dish even better.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2/3 cups olive oil + a few tbsp. extra
  • 1 lb. bag frozen peas
  • 1 lb. pasta
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 tsp. chili flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1 2/3 cups coarsely torn basil leaves
  • ½ cup feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Place the Greek yogurt, olive oil, and ¼ cup of the peas into a food processor.  Blend into a uniform sauce and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Cook the pasta according to the directions until al dente.  Fry the chili flakes, pine nuts, and some of the peas in olive oil for about 4 minutes.  Drain the pasta and shake well.  Add the pasta gradually to the yogurt sauce while stirring constantly to avoid curdling.  Note: adding the pasta all at once might cause the yogurt sauce to split.  Immediately before serving, add the basil, and feta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  As a last step, pour the pine nuts and oil mixture over the top of the dish.

Have a better life by eating better food

One of the best ways to make healthy food taste better is to put in a little extra effort and add herbs such as basil instead of preservatives.   Take advantage of summer produce that is readily available.  Who knows?  You might fool the guests at your next dinner party or potluck into thinking that you went to culinary school by understanding flavor profiles and cooking easy, delicious food with fresh herbs from your garden.