Make festive sips that lighten the season with a must-have herb or two. This ingredient is the underrated star of cocktails ranging from the classic to artisanal. Take fresh mint leaves, for instance, which can brighten any flavor. Or a sprig of rosemary as a garnish, which can make any average mixed drink glow.
The best part is that you can grow these herbs in your garden — so you can experiment on your own blend all year and then impress your friends come Christmastime. Here are some ideas to get you started:
This cool and refreshing leaf is a universal component of cocktails. Together with spirits and other ingredients, it has come to define traditional drinks like the mojito and julep. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go off the beaten path and pair it with your distilled liquor, ingredients and garnishes of choice.
Ingredients: Sugar, fresh mojito mint leaves, white rum, fresh lime juice, club soda (chilled), crushed ice, lime slices and mint sprig
On the other hand, why don’t you put a twist on your mint cocktail in the spirit of the season? The twist? Cranberry mint fizz.
Ingredients: Cranberries, mint leaves, sugar, lime juice, Smirnoff Cranberry Vodka, cranberry juice, ginger ale and cranberries for garnish
Some combinations to consider for your mint-infused cocktail:
Blend with lavender for a floral accent.
Mix with lemon mints to achieve a citrus taste.
Pair perennial mint with berries, melons, gingers and peaches.
This savory herb pairs well with sweet and citrusy drinks. And it does a good job of adding flavor when infused into a cocktail or elevating the experience when applied as a garnish. When used fresh and raw, it also brings comfort and warmth, exactly what we need to survive the cold that envelops us.
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!
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!
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
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…)
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…)
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.
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