Spices, seasonings, and more

The anticipation of growing my summer herb garden is starting to build for me this month.  I attended a gardening seminar a couple of weeks ago, and ever since the excitement of what I will be growing this year in my edible garden has stayed with me.  I always have my regular list of perennial herbs that I nurture every year, but add in a few other edibles, including vegetables, garlic, green onions, and a few tomato plants.

However, during the winter months, I have to rely on my kitchen cabinet of spices, seasonings and more.  I have finally admitted to myself that I must have an addiction, as I really love to try a variety of seasonings when I prepare our meals. I love my collection and have several favorites that I have acquired over the years.

My kitchen has three cabinets devoted to spices, seasonings, and flavorings.  My rolling rack contains a variety of salts, spices that are not used most days, and some baking decors.

My upper cabinet near my stove contains the spices I use most often for seasoning our meals.  Here I have a collection of salts, peppers, herbs, herbal blends, a variety of special blends, and some of my favorite mixes from Pensey spices.

I have found that using turntables in this cabinet has helped with the organization a great deal, as well as some boxes of spices organized by use which easily pull out to be accessed quickly.  I don’t buy my spices in large quantities, as I prefer to have fresh available all the time and would not use enough to justify large bottles of any particular seasoning.

I have a third cabinet for liquid flavorings and baking spices, along with more baking decorations.  Having an organized kitchen has helped me to be more efficient while preparing meals.  It has also helped me when planning to purchase ingredients for a new recipe, as I am able to easily check my current supply as I know where every one is located.

Springtime is a great time to get organized in the kitchen!

 

Seed Season

My mailbox is full of gardening catalogs and the excitement of spring and summer is almost here.  So many new ideas every year are contained in these great publications.  Yes, there is something to actually having a printed catalog in hand, when searching for my lettuce seeds for my summer kitchen garden. Most often, I am reading and learning from the various companies as they showcase their products.

I love to shop these catalogs and complete a bit of research on the types of seeds that might work best in my short season Michigan garden.  I know that my yard does not have the greatest and longest sunny exposure, so I am always careful to choose seeds that will grow to maturity within the summer months.

This year, I will grow a variety of mesculun salad leaves and other lettuce mixes. In years past, I have had great success with lettuce in my garden. And fresh garden lettuce is so spectacular, that it is hard to compare to anything found in a market.  For this reason, I think everyone should have a small kitchen garden. So satisfying!

rosemary potatoes

I love the taste of fresh rosemary and decided to use some from my garden for these potatoes.  They were delicious.  If you have fresh parsley from the garden as well, that would also compliment the taste of this dish.

To make these potatoes, I used my electric skillet, but they can also be prepared on the stovetop.  I used seven small red potatoes, olive oil, black pepper, about 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, crushed garlic, and some chopped prosciutto.

First, I parboiled the potatoes for about 20 minutes.  I chilled the potatoes earlier in the day and then diced the potatoes.  Then, I browned the chopped prosciutto in the skillet with a tablespoon of oil and the flavors.  Then, I added the potatoes.

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I cooked them until they lightly browned, and then added some diced red pepper, grated Parmesan to taste and some fresh or dried parsley to taste.

These potatoes could be used to accompany eggs for breakfast or any meat or fish dish for dinner.  Excellent taste and flavor.

 

Grilled chives from the garden

Summertime herbs are being harvested in my garden, and I recently decided to grill some chives with my other vegetable assortment for dinner.

The chives were delicious on the grill and gave another texture to the Asian dish, which I paired with some grilled shrimp.  There is something just so wonderful about taking cuttings from a home garden and adding them into the dinner menu.

I usually clip my chives a couple of times a season and enjoy them in everything from herb dips to garnishes for salads or pasta dishes.

If you did not plant chives this year, be sure to put them on your list for next year, as they are super easy to grow and will even tolerate some shade in the garden.

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Herb Potatoes

Try this easy way to make a small serving of red potatoes which are full of flavor and quite tasty.  No one will have to be committed to eating a large potato, and they look very nice side by side in a chafing dish for serving with a buffet.

I used small red potatoes, but any small size fingerling potato would work as well for this recipe.  The key to the recipe is slicing the potatoes in half and roasting for 30-35 minutes cut side down.

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I set my oven to 425 degrees and just sprinkled the potatoes with a dash of sea salt.  After roasting, I mixed 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese with 2 tablespoons softened margarine and a mixture of oregano, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.  Any green herb mixture will do to liven up the potatoes.

Finish the dish by broiling for one minute.

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Sweet Annie garden wreath

A couple of weeks ago I was gifted a fresh bundle of Sweet Annie, an herb also known as annual wormwood.  The plant is a variety of Artemisia with fern-like foliage. Sweet Annie has long been used for making dried wreaths, arrangements, sachets and decades ago, simply for hanging to deter insects.

I happen to be very lucky to know a horticulturist who tends an herb garden for education and display in my hometown.  When I work with her, I learn so much about plants, their history and usage. I watched as a fellow Master Gardener worked with some Sweet Annie in the garden fashioning it into a wreath.  I decided to try it myself at home.

I chose to use a wire frame and gently misted the plant material to help it form into a circular wreath.  I cut the lengths of plant material in 6-7 inch lengths and then wired them and laid them on top of each other.  The garden wire is green and easily hides into the wreath.  I continued around the frame until I admired the look of the design.

I have the wreath hanging on my garage door which greats me every day as I access my home.  The fragrance of this plant is lovely and has stayed for quite a while after hanging.

Other ideas for combining Sweet Annie would be to add yarrow, dried herbs, such as: sage, tarragon, lavender, or even Chinese lanterns which also are prevalent this time of year.

So, here is another way to enjoy the garden after harvest.

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A garden walk on Old Mission Penninsula

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week we had a wonderful day touring gardens along the Old Mission Peninsula in northern Michigan.  The annual garden walk was organized by the Friendly Garden Club of Traverse City, which is a member of Michigan Garden Clubs, Inc. The garden club has many community service projects which are funded by this activity, which has taken place for 33 years.  Some of their projects  include the Grand Traverse Children’s Garden, Open Space Logo planting, and Senior Center planting.

Six Old Mission Peninsula gardens were featured this year, which included informal semi-shaded gardens, terraced sunny gardens, woodland gardens, a three-story barn with a rock garden, vegetable gardens, cottage gardens, a raised potager bed, a fenced Williamsburg garden, a chicken coop, and formal gardens of roses and perennials.  Many of the homes had beautiful water views and stunning entertaining spaces.  The tour was spectacular.  The day was beautiful and sunny, with lovely breezes from the water. Many of these homeowners tend their own gardens, with some of them also belonging to the garden club.

Here are some photos from the day:

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