25 Random Acts of (mostly food) Kindness
25 Random Acts of (mostly food) Kindness

 

Happy post-Thanksgiving to everyone! Here are some ideas to share food and kindness this holiday season.

1. Let someone cut in front of you at the grocery store.

2. Send an edible thank-you note – enclose a dark chocolate bar.
3. Take some groceries to an elderly neighbor or a neighbor with a newborn.
4. Volunteer to serve a meal or cook chili non carne for the homeless.
5. Give a larger tip than normal when you eat out.
6. Open a door for someone when they ride in your car.
7. Visit a lonely neighbor.
8. Send chocolate chip cookies to kid away at college for the first time.
9. Invite a widow or widower to a steak dinner.
10. Be polite to the employees at the deli counter.
11. Take a neighbor flowers for Valentine’s Day.
12. Bake sour cream coffeecake for a friend.
13. Listen to your kids talk while you eat a dinner of arugula pesto on pasta.
14. Watch someone’s children during lunchtime and have an indoor picnic.
15. Ask, “Can I bring you some vegetable soup for dinner?”
16. Invite someone new for coffee and scones.
17. Make a new coworker feel welcome. Celebrate with smoky spiced nuts.
18. Smile at strangers everywhere you go.
19. Help with the dishes without being asked.
20. Compliment five people everyday.
21. Offer to pick up a neighbor’s mail.
22. Donate to a nonprofit organization that feeds hungry children.
23. Volunteer to work in the school cafeteria.
24. Visit a nursing home.
25. Send a gift of chex mix anonymously.…

Thanksgiving Help Lines
Thanksgiving Help Lines

My countertops are covered with sweet potatoes, oranges, Yukon Gold potatoes, apples, and there’s a bag of cranberries in the refrigerator. This year we’re going to my mom’s house for Thanksgiving. I plan to bake a batch of my grandmother’s soft yeast rolls. What are your Thanksgiving specialities?

If you run into trouble in your kitchen this week, some of these phone numbers and websites might help. If I may give you my two cents: Thanksgiving is not a consumer-driven, gift-filled day, it’s about sharing a meal, plain and simple. Fill the day with some good food, good drink, and have a good time.

Butterball Turkey Talk: 1-800-BUTTERBALL (288-8372)

Empire Kosher : Poultry Customer Hotline: 717-436-7055

Fleischmann’s Yeast Baker’s Hotline: 1-800-777-4959

 

General Mills: 1-800-248-7310

King Arthur Flour Baker’s Hotline: 802-649-3717

Nestle Toll House Baking Information Line: 1-800-637-8537

Ocean Spray Consumer Helpline: 1-800-662-3263

Reynolds Turkey Tips Hotline: 1-800-745-4000

U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline: 888-MPHotline (674-6854)…

University Press of KY Spring Catalog
University Press of KY Spring Catalog

I keep referring the forces in publishing that push my book to completion regardless of what I do right now, for that’s the stage my cookbook is in. I tell the best male cook that if something happened to me tonight and I couldn’t see this cookbook to completion, he will. We’re in that deep. The manuscript is final, the illustrations are done, the book is listed on Amazon, and we now have a beautiful 4-color catalog. It included names like James Still, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, Nelson Mandela, and Monica Weis. Humbled does not even begin to describe how I feel. Honored is more like it. Here’s the link to the catalog for Spring 2011 from University Press of Kentucky. The whole catalog is worth a look, but I particularly like page 19.…

We Have A Cover
We Have A Cover

After my book manuscript was completed and sent to my publisher, and after I cut 100 manuscript pages, and turned the manuscript in again, I sat in a bit of book-limbo. I worked on other projects, I cooked, I traveled, and I twitched. I knew the work of editing, marketing, and designing my book was underway, but I couldn’t see, feel, or touch it. Until yesterday. The final book cover arrived from my editor and I must say I am thrilled. Following a bit of input from me and the press employees, and then with the creative inspiration of the artist, this is where we landed. Four seasonal illustrations will round out the cover and decorate the inside of the book. I’m confident the illustrations will spruce up the book’s interior. I’m not the first to say: writing a book is solitary, sometimes lonely, work.  But since I enjoy solitude I was in good company. The editing process, while harried, shapes the book and helps it evolve into something usable, readable, and in this case I hope cookable. (Is that a word?) The design process with the application of color, font styles, and page layout  brings the book to life. A warm, heartfelt thank you to Sara Turner at Cricket Press and my editor Anne Dean Watkins at The University Press of Kentucky for their hard work on this lovely cover. I’m proud to have you as my illustrator and publisher. I can’t wait to see the next round of illustrations.…

July In Review
July In Review

July was a hot month here in Kentucky and here on this blog. I love how the use of the blog changes as the year moves along as evidenced by the favorite recipes over the past 30 days:

Fresh Blackberry Cake

Oven Baked Chex Mix

Mojito (and Blueberry Mojito) Recipe

Well with one exception: Oven Baked Chex Mix. This recipe always receives lots of visitors. Just the other day I had a conversation with my editor about recipes that readers of my book can get from the internet and recipes that my book need provide. Oven Baked Chex Mix, while a favorite of my family, and a favorite of many of you will continue to live only here on this blog and not in my book. My hope is that you’ll visit the blog for certain recipes and conversations with me and then also buy the book for recipes, tips, techniques, and menus for fresh homemade food with a focus on traditional Kentucky ingredients.

One last thing: one of my favorite parts of any of my work is talking to people. Whether I’m doing a food demonstration at a farmers’ market, or passing a tomato over the back fence, so to speak, I enjoy connecting with people through the talk about cooking. That goes for this blog too.

I can tell many visit and use this blog, but I would love to have more conversation. Feel free to comment on any blog post. This comment from yesterday at the bottom of this blog post is my reason for bringing this up. This lady missed her mom and a taste of olive nut spread helped her remember her mom via a recipe. That pretty much sums up what I love about cooking and the kitchen in our homes. Kitchen are a place where we nourish ourselves, and each other, if we take the time. Kitchens are more than just a place to run from, more than just another room to keep clean, and more that just the place that holds the food we assemble in a last ditch effort to get supper fixed before the next activity. A kitchen, and the potential that lives there, is a place to embrace and to use to touch the lives of those we feed in a healthy, nourishing way.…

Signs of The Times
Signs of The Times

For a long time I’ve been fascinated with signs. Signs of all kinds. Last weekend on our trip to Illinois for a GreenApron family reunion I snapped a few pictures of signs I saw in the town of Grafton. This particular sign caught my eye and still left me wondering who made the fudge? I write the word homemade a lot it seems and if I’m not writing the word homemade I’m thinking homemade – because I think most homemade food just about beats anything I can buy and usually for a lot less jingles. It can be tricky to spell.…

Time Capsule #7 - Nina's Coca-cola Cake Recipe
Time Capsule #7 - Nina's Coca-cola Cake Recipe

The best male cook I know grew up in a very brand loyal family. The canned soda served at his boyhood home was always a Coca-Cola product. No Pepsi or RC need apply, Coke was it. So why was I surprised when I asked him if I should make a pan of brownies for a recent picnic, and he said, “No, how about a Coca-Cola Cake.” Coca-Cola Cake? I’ve made many sheet cakes, but never this one. Quickly, I dialed the phone, and Nina, best male cook’s mom, read to me her trusty recipe for Coca-Cola cake. The recipe went together easily and resulted in a moist and chocolately cake with fudge-like frosting. Perfect for picnics, barbecues, or a pot-luck, this cake travels well and fills the bill for a summer-time cake of the most brand loyal kind.

Makes One 13×9-inch cake

Cake ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup Coca-Cola

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

6 tablespoons Coca-Cola

1 pound (1 box) confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Grease and flour a 13 x 9 x 2-inch cake pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Stir together the flour, sugar and baking soda in a small bowl. In a large saucepan, melt and stir together, until well blended, the vegetable oil, 1 stick butter, 4 tablespoons cocoa powder, and 1 cup Coca-Cola. Stir in the flour and sugar, mixing well. Add the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract. Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cake is set in the middle, and springs back when lightly pressed with your index finger. Cool on a rack. The cake can be frosted while still warm, if desired.

Meanwhile, prepare frosting by mixing and bringing to a slight boil, 1 stick butter, 4 tablespoons cocoa powder, and 6 tablespoons Coca-Cola. Remove from heat and immediately stir in confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Stir in nuts. The frosting may look thin, but it will set up when cooled. Immediately pour frosting on cake, and quickly spread the frosting with a spatula or knife. Allow cake to cool for several hours before serving.…

June in Review
June in Review

From My Kitchen Table I’m happy to report we’ve had a busy month. Thanks to everyone visiting from the Facebook and Twitter links and by subscribing to our RSS feed.

In the kitchen June is an exciting month as fresh produce transitions from spring foods to summer produce. Kentucky corn is just coming on and I’l already had our first green tomato, zucchini, and new potatoes. I’m all stocked up for the 4th of July holiday weekend. I plan to make a Black and Blue Berry cobbler and have on hand the ingredients for many side dishes and salads. Now all we need is for this fine weather to continue so we can grill, swim, watch a parade, and visit with family. That’s what a holiday weekend is all about. I hope you have some similar plans for an enjoyable and safe weekend.

In case you missed them these were the 3 most popular posts during June:

Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe

Mojito (and Blueberry Mojito) Recipe

What’s the Deal with Kale?

And *drumroll* the most popular post of all time for this blog:

Chex Mix Recipe

Tip Tuesday - Food Temperatures and Digital Thermometer
Tip Tuesday - Food Temperatures and Digital Thermometer

 

Every kitchen needs basic kitchen equipment – sharp knives, whisks, silicone spatulas, wooden spoons, cutting boards, hot soapy water, etc. I could go on and on. In my kitchen I have the basics and then several favorite gadgety items I’m not sure I can live without.

For instance, I love my glass, chemistry-lab-beaker-like stock seperator.

And my assorted sizes of scoops.

And my bench scraper.

But, one of the gadgets I love best and would encourage all to buy in this season of the grill is a digital thermometer. For several years I cooked with an instant read thermometer an essential tool to accurately measure the final temperature of food, particularly meat that requires a final temperature of a specific degree: pork, ground beef, poultry, and even leftovers.

Last year, I bought this digital model and I now wonder now why I hadn’t purchased one sooner. It can be preset to the final temperature and the probe/wire are heat-proof meaning the probe can be left in the food item with the white screen sitting outside the oven or grill. It beeps when  the preset temperature is reached and some models even have a portable remote beeper that beeps just in case you walk out of the kitchen or into the next yard to chat with your neighbor.

About appropriate temperatures: In order to keep food safe and kill any illness-producing bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Trichinosis, Campylobacter, etc. the final temperatures below should be reached. Larger cuts of meat and large birds continue to cook once out of the oven or off the grill, so the cooking can be stopped 5 to 10 degrees before the final temperature is reached. This will allow the meat temperature to rise, killing bacteria, but not overcook the meat:

Ground beef – 155  F

Whole or ground poultry – 165 F

Pork – 160 F

Leftovers – 165 F

Steaks – beef, lamb, bison – cook to desired degree of doneness. No final temperature recommended.…

Boone County Farmers' Market

Every year I do fresh food and recipe demonstrations at the Boone County Farmers’ Market. The dates for this year are:

Saturday, June 26th

Saturday, July 31st

Saturday, August 21st

Saturday, September 25th

Each day listed above I’ll be at the market from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. Would love to have you come out, stop by and say hi, and taste a recipe made with farm-fresh produce. The market is located at 6028 Camp Ernst Road in Burlington, KY.…

Tip Tuesday - Freezing Garlic Scape Pesto
Tip Tuesday - Freezing Garlic Scape Pesto

Just before we left on our vacation I made Garlic Scape Pesto. A little pesto goes a long way, so we ate a little of the pesto on a bowl of black beans. In order to save the pesto until we returned, I froze the extra pesto – cheese, nuts, and all. All I did was simply press some plastic wrap on the top of the pesto and stick it in the freezer. The day after we returned the kids needed some lunch. Presto pesto: I boiled a pound of rotini and tossed it with the thawed garlic scape pesto and then sprinkle with black pepper, a pinch of salt, and some shredded romano cheese. It tasted just as good as the day I made it. So for today I say: garlic scape pesto freezes well in an airtight container. Allow time to thaw before using.…

Reliving The Magic
Reliving The Magic

I’ve never considered myself to be much of a Disney person. The last time I went to the Magic Kingdom I was 12 years old and, although I had a good time, returning to the park has never been at the top of my list. Disney and their empire seemed a bit artificial to me: fake characters, amusement rides, and more chicken nuggets and French fry meals than I cared to pay for. For the past several years we’ve chosen to take lake or beach vacations with good books in hand and perhaps the occasional paddling of a canoe.

Despite my ambivalent feelings about Disney we decided to plan a trip there. Our kids are at a good age and no naps, diapers, or strollers would be required allowing us the freedom to enjoy the parks without the schedule of a young child. When I mentioned our plans to friends everyone who had traveled there shared tidbits of Disney wisdom from their trip. After the wisdom most said, “You’ll love it there. There’s no place in the world like Disney World.”

To accommodate our trip we saved frequent flyer miles, budgeted our money, and when the big morning arrived we boarded a flight to Orlando.  Upon our arrival at the Polynesian Resort hotel staff threw yellow and pink leis around our necks. We checked into our room, changed into cooler clothes, and hit the ground running. For five days we traveled by boat, monorail, and bus between our resort and the main theme parks. In the afternoons we cooled off in the pool and then after a delicious meal headed back to watch fireworks, or the famous Electric Parade, at the Magic Kingdom.

The kids browsed in gift shops without once being told to put something down or not to touch something. The grounds were clean, the floors swept, gift shops stocked, and garbage cans empty. The food was hot, the drinks were cold, and no matter where we visited the Disney staff treated us, and other guests, with kindness and respect. I never once heard an employee say, “That’s not my job”, or “No, I can’t help you with that.” A kind lady at the resort gift shop even put the stamps on my postcards while we stood chatting. In short, the trip was truly, for lack of a better word, “magical”. Disney magic some call it – a place almost too good to be true.

A few short hours after we left Walt Disney World I stood in line to buy tickets to the Kennedy Space Center. In just a few short minutes the gift shop attendant told me that it wasn’t her job to sell me tickets to the space center and she couldn’t understand why she had to do the work of the concierge. At breakfast the next morning the waitress tapped her French manicured fingernails on the table while I decided what to order. To top it off, our room overlooked the roof and air …

Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe
Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe

After a few iterations I’ve settled on a recipe for garlic scape pesto from the garlic scapes I harvested in my garden. The only problem with any garlic scape pesto, is well, the flavor is quite garlicky. I was tempted to pick some basil from my doorstep herb garden to add to the pesto but then it wouldn’t be pure garlic scape pesto so I avoided the temptation.

In an effort to mellow the scapes I used only 1/2 cup scapes and an equivalent amount of walnuts and parmesan cheese. It’s really quite good, don’t get me wrong, but think condiment such as spooned over a bowl of black beans and rice, or as a spread for hearty bread, or a small amount stirred with some hot pasta.

Makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup chopped garlic scapes
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a blender or small food processor. Blend until creamy, scraping down the side of the blender jar or bowl once or twice. Store refrigerated.…

Time Capsule #6 - Red Beans and Rice with Chili Vinaigrette Recipe
Time Capsule #6 - Red Beans and Rice with Chili Vinaigrette Recipe

 

Serves 6 to 8

Judging from the popularity of Winter Wheat Berry Salad, I am offering a recipe for another whole-grain salad. This delicious dish has been part of my repertoire for over 20 years. It travels well to a potluck and tastes best served at room temperature – and that’s a bonus if the weather is warm.

3 cups cooked brown rice

1  1/2 cups cooked light red kidney beans, or one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed

1  1/2 cups cooked dark red kidney beans, or one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed

1  1/2 cups frozen or canned corn kernels

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup chopped green onion, mostly green part

1/3 cup canola oil

1  1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1  1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

In a large bowl combine the rice, beans, corn, red bell pepper and green onion. Toss to mix. In a small bowl combine the oil, vinegar, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin and salt. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is well blended. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally for up to 4 hours before serving, or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.…

Five Arbitrary Thoughts - Volume VIII
Five Arbitrary Thoughts - Volume VIII

 

1.Did anyone notice I posted Tip Tuesday on Wednesday? That’s what a holiday week does to me. First, I felt like Tuesday was Monday, then of course I went into Wednesday thinking it was Tuesday. Oh well. Just for the record, today is Thursday, of that much I’m sure.

2. Another fact I know for sure is that all the YoungAprons are now out of school. Our life is different during the summer. This year I anticipate much more hooking up with their friends than in years past and opening my kitchen more to the friends for food, popsicles, ice cream, and cold drinks. We’re also letting our teen ride his bike to the pool and venture out a bit more without a helicopter parent at his side. This is the hard part of  him growing up. To me it’s not the getting taller and smarter that’s tough, it’s the leaving our nest to explore that smacks of a day where they’ll be on their own. Time is fleeting.

3. I’m on a kick to get back to Kool-aide. For 10 cents a packet, and the use of my own sugar (of which I can add less) and tap water, I make an  economical pitcher of lemonade for thirsty wiffle ball players. (No green, red, orange, or blue Kool-aide. Not my favorites.) We save money, containers, and if served from a reusable cup, we even save on cups. Plus kids need to learn how to pour drinks from jugs and pitchers and not always be handed a neat, tidy individual packaged serving. I’m slowly stepping away from the microphone.

4. We loved our Memorial Day weekend. The best part of the weekend is the annual Park Hills Memorial Day parade where firetrucks and politicians flow through the streets throwing candy to anyone who’ll eat it. In my next life I plan to live on a parade route. One more thing: when walking home I noticed untouched hard peppermints and butterscotch candy littering the streets. I think we’re getting picky about our free candy.

5. Speaking of Memorial Day iwith summer unofficially underway, this is the first summer in several years I haven’t been in the middle of editing a cookbook and the first summer I’ve found myself in the middle of the production of my own cookbook.  I like the prospect of spending the days of summer a bit more in tune with my own schedule which today included getting up for an early morning walk, followed by a sit on the patio to read. By the time the YoungAprons roll out of bed I’m exercised and refreshed for our day together. I plan to run my test kitchen in the morning to beat the heat and then do editing and other work in the afternoon. One of my new favorite blogs about writing and publishing is The Creative Penn. Check it out.…

Tip Tuesday - Garlic Scapes
Tip Tuesday - Garlic Scapes

For the first time I’m growing garlic in my raised-bed garden. We planted the garlic last fall and if all goes well we’ll harvest bulbs of garlic in July. Growing garlic is a lesson in patience because the gestation from planting to harvest is about 9 months. In the spring, the garlic sends up a thin curvy shoot that if left to its own devices would bloom and suck energy from the developing garlic bulb. (The scapes from my garden are on the left end of the platter.) In an effort to grow big bulbs of garlic, the scapes are pinched off and either discarded, composted, or used in cooking. I’ve seen garlic scapes sold at farmers’ markets for up to $1.00 per scape. I’m working on a recipe using the garlic scapes and I’ll post it as soon as I’m pleased with the outcome.…

Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning

Another Saturday, another opportunity to spend time in the kitchen with the back screen door and window open. I’m retesting two fall (as in the season of fall) recipes for my book. One of the recipes requires 2 hours in the oven so I thought I’d better heat the kitchen early because this afternoon it’s supposed to be nearly 85 degrees outside.

My grandmother lived in a small home with no air-conditioning. She would never have thought of “lighting the oven” on a hot afternoon. In her attempts to keep the kitchen cool we often ate sliced ham, tossed salad, and cottage cheese for dinner when the afternoon temperatures soared. To her a cold meal was better than a hot kitchen.

This weekend is Memorial Day and hopefully it presents plenty of opportunities to cook and share food and honor our veterans who make sacrifices for our freedoms.

If the grill is lit, a flat-iron steak is a perfect cut of beef for feeding a crowd because it’s a bit more economical than New York Strips or Rib-eyes.

If the garden is producing try this Arugula Pesto tasty and fresh-tasting mixed with pasta and served hot or cold.

If a picnic is in the works this Moist Carrot Cake travels well and pleases young and old picnickers.…

Time Capsule #5 – Mojito (and Blueberry Mojito) Recipe
Time Capsule #5 – Mojito (and Blueberry Mojito) Recipe
Mint, Bourbon, May, and Kentucky go hand in hand. Mint, Rum, and June (ok, it’s almost June) can walk the same path, but not for the same reason.
With a little imagination,  and a copy of Old Man And The Sea, I transport myself from Kentucky to Havana right in my own backyard.
In order to properly mix a Mint Julep, or a Mojito, you first need to make  mint sugar syrup. It’s quite “simple” and leftover syrup sweetens everything from herbed lemonade to sweet tea. If desired, wet the lip or edge of the highball glass with fresh lime juice and dip in granulated sugar. This will add a touch more sweetness to the drink.  I recommend a true sugar cane rum such as the Brazilian brand, Ypioca Cachaça, sold in a wicker wrapped bottle, sort of the Brazilian equivalent of Chianti wine in a basket-bottle.
Mint Simple Syrup
Makes 2 cups

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh mint leaves

In a small saucepan bring water to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add mint and stir. Let steep for at least 30 minutes. Cool and store in a glass jar or pitcher in the refrigerator.

Mojito
Makes 1 tall mojito

2 ounces rum
Juice of one lime
2 ounces mint simple syrup
about 4 ounces club soda
fresh mint leaves for garnish

Fill a tall highball glass with ice. Pour in the rum, lime juice, mint syrup, and top off with club soda. Stir to combine. Garnish with fresh mint, sip, and enjoy. Repeat only if you’re not driving anywhere.

Blueberry Mojito
Makes 1 tall, blended drink

about 2 cups ice cubes
2 ounces rum
2 ounces mint simple syrup
Juice of one lime
about 4 ounces club soda
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Put ice in a blender. Pour in the rum, mint simple syrup,  lime juice, club soda, and blueberries. Blend on high speed until frothy. Pour into a glass and garnish with fresh mint.…

Sweet Garlic Asparagus Relish Recipe
Sweet Garlic Asparagus Relish Recipe

 

Makes about 2 cups

This relish was made by the volunteer fire fighters at the May’s Lick Asparagus Festival a few weeks ago. The relish lit up the homemade brat the best male cook slathered it on. It was full of fresh asparagus and other flavors that blended together well. I had to ask how it was made and their secret was to start with a good, sweet pickle relish. I expected something a bit more complicated but this just goes to show me that sometimes the most flavorful food is the simplest. (The brown blobs in this photo are whole-grain mustard. The relish is peeking out from underneath.)

1 cup finely chopped fresh asparagus

3/4 cup high-quality sweet pickle relish

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

pinch salt

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for 30 minutes before serving.…

Tip Tuesday - Portable Kitchen Herb Garden
Tip Tuesday - Portable Kitchen Herb Garden

Today is tip Tuesday and today I offer a few tips for growing fresh herbs in a portable herb garden.

One demarcation I’ve noticed between a good cook and a better cook is they way the cook seasons food. I believe the seasonal use of fresh herbs in one way to improve the freshness and flavor of recipes along with the judicious use of salt, freshly ground black pepper, fresh lemon juice, and a variety of spices.

Herb plants can be either annuals or perennials. The edible part is usually the tender leaves and/or the stems of the herb plant that are chopped, or torn,and added to food for flavor and color. Most herbs grow quite well in warmer weather and even hot weather (except cilantro – it goes to seed or “bolts” in hot weather.) Now is a perfect time to plant herbs outside the kitchen door and a hole in the ground isn’t even required.

To grow herbs from plants I buy basil, dill, sage, oregano, thyme, and rosemary plants. This might initially be about a  $20.00 investment depending on the size of the plants. Using a planter or large pot I arrange and plant the herbs in loose, rich potting soil. I plant one pot of annual herbs (basil, dill, and parsley) and another pot of perennial herbs (sage, oregano, thyme, and rosemary.) Position the pot(s) in a sunny spot on a porch or patio, close to the kitchen door. Water regularly and fresh herbs will be available to snip and cook with all summer long.

The dill, basil, and parsley won’t survive the winter outdoors in the pot. Sometimes they grow OK indoors, but I typically replant the annual herbs every year just like I replant flowers like impatients, begonias, and petunias. The other herbs – rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage –  will grow every year without replanting. If the wintertime temperature drops below 10 degrees F it might be necessary to move the pots indoors. In the spring I give the plants a good haircut (or harvest and dry the herbs in the fall) and then the stems regrow the leaves for another season of fresh culinary herbs.

Herbs are good whole-leafed in salads or chopped in sauces, salads, pasta dishes, or spring and summer soups. With enough basil Fresh Basil Pesto is a favorite. Enjoy the fresh taste of herbs grown locally and seasonally in this portable kitchen herb garden…