Mouth-watering Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad
Watermelon…goat cheese…basil and balsamic vinegar! What a combo! First time I had this salad it was at Leslie’s house on a hot summers’ day. We had a delightful lunch together at Chez Burkhart where she served thee best salad I’d had in a while. It was just these few ingredients. Experiment. I like the idea of just lime juice. salt and pepper. And Mamie says mint is good too.

5 cups of greens - romaine, spinach, various snipped herbs such as tarragon, parsley and oregano
5 cups sweet juicy watermelon - cut into small cubes or use a melon ball
½ cup feta cheese - cut into small cubes
Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ cup basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped chive or sweet red onion if you don’t have chives
salt and pepper to taste
On a bed of lettuce, top with watermelon and cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette right before serving.

One who plants a garden, plants joy.
– Ancient Chinese proverb, from the book The Spirituality of Gardening by Donna Sinclair

Light Potato Salad with Tarragon

Though a shrub, tarragon's delicate stems hunch over when top heavy from rain if not trimmed shorter.
I clip tarragon back often as this plant seems to thrive with a bit of a breeze in amongst its stems.
It's one herb you can use throughout the day: scrambled eggs in the morning, a sandwich at lunch
or in a salad at supper. Here's a fav of our family....

Light Potato Salad
I like to serve this salad when it’s still slightly warm on a bed of romaine lettuce. Leaving the skins on
makes for a hearty salad as the skins hold both the fibre, the flavour and shape of potatoes.
For added flavour and colour, add a shredded carrot or  1/2 cup of cooked peas fresh from the pod. 

6 to 8 small red new potatoes, about 3 cups
2 tablespoons chopped pickles
2 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ground mustard
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
2 tablespoons of red onion, chopped finely

Steam potatoes until they are easily pierced with a fork. Drain. When they are cool enough to handle,
cut in bit sized pieces. 

Mix yogurt, mayonnaise, pickles and mustard together in a small bowl. Add to potatoes along with onions, chives and tarragon; mix lightly. 

Garnish with petite colourful herb blossoms from the garden. You really can’t go wrong adding
edible herb flowers; they are there for show as they don’t carry an overbearing flavour.

tarragon

Power Nuggets

It's fun to surprise folks and use a herb in a snack recipe. These nuggets are great for inside or outdoor adventures... whenever you need extra energy.  A recipe formally known as Energy Balls originally came from Cooking Vegetarian and was adapted by the magazine Common Ground. I’ve added a favorite herb and taken out chocolate chips - who needs them when you have lemon verbena!
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 flax seed
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup crushed hazelnuts or coconut
1/2 cup almond or peanut butter
1/2 cup dried currants or cranberries, chopped
2 large dates, chopped finely
1/2 tsp. lemon rind
1 1/2 tbs. lemon juice
4 T. honey
1/2 tsp. cardamom seeds, ground finely
1/4 cup lemon verbena, fresh and chopped finely
1/4 tsp. cardamon or more
1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds.

Put the rolled oats, seeds and coconut into the bowl of a food processor. Process until they are ground.

In a medium bowl mix together the nut butter, seeds, date, cranberries, lemon rind, lemon juice, cardamom and herbs. Add dried ingredients.

Mix with a fork until all ingredients are well incorporated.
Add in 1 to 2 tbs. water, using enough to hold the mixture together. 

Roll into small balls, I used a melon baller /about one tablespoon to get the right size. Roll the finished balls in roasted sesame seeds to coat. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Trim the lemon verbena plant as well to allow the herb to branch out. Play it right and you can harvest from the plant a couple times. 

Trim the lemon verbena plant as well to allow the herb to branch out. Play it right and you can harvest from the plant a couple times. 

Summertime Sangria

From cool Sangria to a quiet morning cup of tea, there are tips and recipes in my E book
Herbs in a Healthy Home on Amazon to create drinks using the herbs in your garden.
Make this non-alcoholic by substituting the wine for a sparkling beverage and adding
a bit more sugar.  Have fun experimenting with available seasonal fruit and berries.
ere's my fav recipe for my favourite summertime drink.

Sangria
I cut up the fresh fruit in the morning and have it soak in the liquor during the day.
Making the rest of the Sangria just before cocktail hour is a breeze and
leaves plenty of time left to swing on the backyard bench.
1 lemon, chopped finely
1 orange, chopped finely
1 cup of berries, frozen or fresh
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 oz. sweet liqueur
2 cups of juice (orange or 5 Alive)
2 cups of wine (red or white)
Sprig of mint for garnish

Place fruit, liqueur and brown sugar in a large glass pitcher. Leave in fridge for the day.
Just before serving, pour in juice and wine. Stir and serve in tall chilled glasses with a spoon.

Add a fresh sprig of a flowering herb just before serving makes your drinks distinctive and beautiful.

Add a fresh sprig of a flowering herb just before serving makes your drinks distinctive and beautiful.

Basil is Bountiful

Basil is growing well and looks like i will have lots to add fresh to dishes along with freeze some for use later on in the year. Here are some Quick Culinary Uses from my E book, Herbs In a Healthy Home, available on Amazon.

  • Basil flowers and leaves are best used during the last few minutes of cooking.
  • Cut up finely and garnish on vegetables, chicken or egg dishes.
  • Basil always works well with tomatoes, zucchini and peppers.
  • Try using basil leaves instead of lettuce in a sandwich.
  • Theresa, a dear friend of mine, once fed me a chicken breast marinated in just two ingredients: dried basil and balsamic vinegar. It was delicious. That woman can cook!

    Chiffonade is a word I learned from fellow foodie and sister-in-law Carol when she helped me edit my book so long agin. Chiffonade is a knife technique used for cutting herbs and a perfect way to prepare the basil leaves for many of these recipes. To chiffonade, stack the leaves then roll them into a tube. Cutting across the ends of the tube with a knife will produce the fine strips of basil used in many of these recipes.

Spring has Sprung

Today the crocuses are in full bloom and there was a hint of violet in the air. Tonight the sun won’t go down until 7:30. It is spring. I have yet to make it into the back yard to check how the herb garden faired though I can see the chives are a few inches high. The thyme is usually one of the last herbs to come back from winter so for now I’ll keep using the dried thyme I harvested last fall. This is a great recipe - easy and tasty.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots

André was raving about roasting these sprouts and he had every reason too. They are delish roasted. I buy uniformed sized brussels sprouts and also cut the carrot in relatively the same size so they roast at the same rate. 
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cup of brussels sprouts, halved
6 carrots, cut diagonally in 1 1/2-inch-thick slices
Himalayan salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 380 degrees F. Lightly oil a casserole dish and place brussels sprouts and carrots in a single layer. Stir in balsamic vinegar, olive, syrup, thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup over the vegetables then mix in the garlic and thyme. Place the dish in the over and stir occasionally. Bake until browned and tender, about 30 minutes.

Thai Basil Stir Fry

As I work at the finishing touches of my herb book I realized that all along I have been cutting down on my meat consumption while creating this book. I’ve made a conscious effort now to reconsider each recipe with meat as a main ingredient. Many of my friends and family now are vegetarians and I too lean this way. This thai dish is one of the last recipes I’ve removed from my book. I’ll blog it as a way of preserving the intent behind it, that there are alternatives to meat. Just ask my grandson about how much he loves his tofu.

Thai Basil Stir Fry

Many years ago in Harrison, there was a wonderful Thai restaurant where Wanta made her tasty dishes from her mother’s recipes from Thailand. Our daughter Charmaine eventually worked with Wanta and told me Wanta cooks everything from scratch. Don’t let the list of ingredients deter you; I've recreate the spirit of Wanta’s authentic-ness in this recipe. I like to use Tamari sauce as it is lighter and less salty than regular soya sauce. We use Michel’s dehydrated chilies in any recipe that calls for chili flakes. This stir fry can be served over cooked rice as well as noodles. You may also substitute marinated tofu for the chicken this recipes calls for.
Cooked rice noodles, enough for four servings
1 can coconut milk, reserve ¼ cup for simmering
3 tablespoons tamari sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 thin slice of hot chili, minced finely
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced or use bottom white part of green onions
2-inch piece of ginger root, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 chicken breasts, cut into ½ inch strips
1 cup of chives, chopped
1 ½ cups Thai basil leaves, cut into slivers
¼ cup of peanuts chopped, for garnish
Basil flowers for garnish when in season
1 lime, quartered

In a wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Stir in onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook until lightly browned.
Meanwhile, combine coconut milk, tamari sauce, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes in a bowl.
Add chicken strips to the cooked veggies and stir fry about three minutes until chicken is browned. Stir in the coconut milk sauce, bring to boil then turn down to simmer. Cook until sauce is reduced by half about ten minutes.
Add mushrooms, green onions, basil, and the remaining coconut milk. Cover and simmer until heated through. Add noodles and stir evenly to coat. Serve individually, adding garnishes and a squeeze of one quarter lime over noodles.

 

Leaves They are a Changing ...

      Herb by Herb

My herb book with a chapter for each of my eleven favourite herbs have now all been read ’herb by herb’. Thank you to the friends and family members who offered to read a chapter. While I contemplate the book's direction, I’ll enjoy sharing herb ideas while I learn about Squarespace blogging. 

Tarragon was the last herb chapter to come back and it will soon be the first fresh herb we will be without here in Harrison Hot Springs. In the rest of Canada, this plant dies down as soon as the cold weather arrives. Here our plants are still tall though its branches are becoming noticeably thinner.  Tarragon’s long slender leaves make a great addition to salads whole; its stems are easily stored in a vase on my kitchen counter.

Herbal Bouquet

As the weather is more unpredictable and I’m not going into our garden as much during heavy rains, I make a bouquet to pick herbs from ‘inside’ the house. I cut a long stems of each herb, give them each a good swish in a bowl of water. The herbs get a good rinse then I trim off any leaves with holes. I clip off the lower half of the leaves from each stem and it’s these lower leaves that I use to make my salad. The rest of the long bare stemmed herbs I plunk into water, in a tall glass vase with water. I refresh the water the next day if I haven’t quite used up all the herbs.

This bouquet method works well for any long stemmed herb. For shorter stemmed herbs such as thyme, I’ve started using my salad spinner that keeps herbs fresh in the fridge. It’s because this time of year, I put a handful of fresh chopped herbs into every salad I make. I might not be able to go out and pick lettuce or kale from the garden so the herbs keep the salads tasting a bit like summer.

Tarragon Time

During the fall, the tarragon in my herb garden gets battered about by wind and rain until it goes to sleep for the winter. I can’t predict when that is going to happen so in the growing season, I take full advantage of tarragon being a prolific plant. I’ve now dehydrate enough for our family to use until tarragon comes back in spring. Using a dehydrator is quick, easy and helps retain tarragons’ colour and flavour. 

During spring and summer seasons when I have a bounty of one particular kind of herb from these types of harvests, I use it for the main ingredient in that day’s salad dressing. Today between winter rain showers I’ll pick tarragon for our salad tonight. Here’s a recipe I’ve been sharing that originally came from my friend Rhonda when shared with me about low carb living.

Avocado Salad Dressing

Other than its flavour enhancing the dressing, lemon juice helps to keep this salad dressing’s beautiful green colour. Use any herb you like, our favourites are basil and tarragon. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to make the dressing flow better for salad dressing. This recipe makes for a great dip as well when it is thick. There is no need for the traditional oil to go into this dressing as the avocado has plenty of good oil in it.

1 avocado - peeled and mashed
1/2 juice of a lemon
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of finely cut fresh herbs
1 heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon of plain yogurt

Mash the avocado finely with a fork in a medium sized bowl and add juice. Add the garlic, herbs, mayo and yogurt. Stir well, cover and refrigerate until use.

Let me know if you try and like this salad dressing!
Earla

To Everything There Is A Season

"Your basil chapter makes me want to try every recipe!" said Tania. Earlier in the month I had bravely created a Facebook message asking for friends to read through my manuscript, 'herb by herb'. Confident about the herb info and observations I share, it’s the technical part of writing that gets me every time. 

For the past 10+ years I’ve found joy in creating a dedicated herb garden after moving to Harrison. I still love to look at the photos I captured throughout those years; they are the optimistic piece to my puzzle of why I’ve stalled on the project this month. I knew there were typos and unclear passages sneaking past my eyes so I was grateful that within a couple days of finally asking for help, all the chapters were spoken for by girl friends. Even my busiest friend Tania made time to help me. 

As the last chapters trickle in, I’m in the middle of prepping to delve into the book being printed and available online. Again I've been doing everything to avoid the finishing of ‘this part’ until I realized the flow of interruption I've created was me avoiding my biggest derailment- thinking about my sister's input and lack there of since her death. 

"Where are you now?" I want to cry out thinking of Leigh-Ann. “At this juncture, I need you!" It was Theresa who said out loud what I’ve said to my self at times with soul-seeking clarity, ‘Leigh-Ann is here, helping.’ Leigh-Ann is my greatest task-master, my favourite cheerleader. Her enthusiasm throughout my adventures in gardening spurred me on to write down what I know about herbs. Her voice is so clear to me whenever I see borage, “You mean you can eat these blue flowers?”

Fall is the season when she came to our house to be cared for during Leigh-Ann's terminal illness. This time of year there are no more borage flowers, their blue stars have died down.  While on a walk-about in our garden, I explain to our oldest grandchild Fraser “to everything there is a season”, as this phrase sinks in most days. Seasons pass for humans, and even sisters. I trust my friends like Theresa and Tania to help me in my processing, just like I trust spring will bring bring back the borage flowers. My sister is still here to help.

Flowers are beautiful angels of nature. - Doreen Virtue