Herbs in the Kitchen

Originally Published October 2004

Fall….. autumn….. vernal equinox. To me, fall brings images of the late afternoon sun slanting into the chicken house with a warm glow as I close the flock up for the night. Darkness falls earlier and earlier. It’s always surprising to me how fast the days shorten once the equinox passes. It’s a time of thinking about colder days ahead, comfort foods in the kitchen and baking to warm up the house a little.

I do very little baking in the summer. In our farm house with an air conditioner used only in the bedroom when it’s extremely hot and sticky over night, the kitchen (and the rest of the house) stay very warm for about 3 or 4 months. We do lots of outdoor cooking and quick meals. But, during the cooler months, the kitchen again releases those wonderful aromas of bread, cookies, stews, bean pots and sauces.

Many people don’t think of herbs as an ingredient in dessert food or sweet treats. We all know herbs are used liberally in dishes like stew, casseroles, pasta sauce, soup and roasted fowl or meat and, of course, tea. But, baked goods are a perfect place to incorporate more herbs in your meals. And, remember, herbs are not used only for flavor. Many of the common culinary herbs we use every day have health benefits. The seemingly small amounts of herbs used daily add up to give the body added immune properties, vitamins and other health benefits.

I have favorite herbs for desserts and sweet treats and like to experiment, too. An easy way to incorporate herbs in baking is to find a quick bread recipe that is rather plain. Then, chop some lemony herbs to add to it. Or, if you don’t want little green specks in the bread, steep your lemon herbs in the required liquid over night, remove the herbs and use the flavored liquid. I think either lemon balm or lemon verbena works best for this type of recipe. For a holiday splash, instead of using lemon herbs, use the flowers and leaves of pineapple sage. You’ll have red and green speckles throughout the bread.
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Winter Holiday Herbs

Monthly Feature DECEMBER 2014

Holdiay Collage

The holiday season is upon us!

 

Shopping, decorating, getting those handmade gifts and cards ready, cleaning for company, cooking and baking cause a flurry of activity. If you have young children, their excitement can be contagious, making the upcoming holiday even more fun for the whole family.

The stories of the holidays make great telling or reading, too. Some families read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ every Christmas Eve, other families tell the story of Hanukkah each year, while still other families cherish the meaning of Kwanzaaor other winter holiday celebrations.

These celebrations are what help us connect to our history, our families and cultures.

Winter Scene

Spending time with your herbs is a perfect way to slow down, catch your breath and become involved in age old traditions. Whether you’re cutting herbs for drying and making into bundles to decorate your packages or to give as culinary gifts or you’re making herb tea and cookies for a small gathering, just having the herbs around you, smelling them and handling them can help you relax, remember your summer garden and think about next year’s growing season.

Holiday Candle
I like to incorporate herbs in all I do for the holidays. I add herbs to sugar cookie and shortbread recipes, give gifts of herb vinegar, serve herb butter with holiday meals and of course use herbs in stuffings, soups and other main dishes. Decorating with herbs adds fragrance and history to your winter holiday. Herbs are a connection to our past. They have nothing to do with crowded malls, shopping, over used credit cards and canned holiday tunes coming out of loudspeakers.

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