THE FIGHT OF THE BLUMBLE BLEES

I am still harvesting herbs, trying to think of a million ways to preserve them short of hanging them from the ceiling in every room in the house. I just hate to think of any of them going to waste. So I freeze them, make pesto out of them, give them to the unsuspecting neighbors. I am even making Herb Oil. It really is delightful, and we will get to that shortly.

BUT,,,,,, there seems to be this guard bee in the yard. I have no idea what kind of a creature it is, but it is BIG, REALLY BIG, and it does stand guard over parts of MY garden. He/she and I need to come to an agreement that it’s quite OK for me to carry on out there cutting whatever I need without having to dive back and forth worrying about this very large bee thing coming after me. Now I’m not timid by nature,, but I sure as heck am not stupid either. And this thing is BIG. And it doesn’t look like it is playing around. When I get too close to an area that it is circling, it really dives close to my head. It starts to come after me, stops, turns the other way (almost as if it is saying “scared ya didn’t I” or “do you really want to make me mad lady?” ) and then turns instantly, hover in midair, and comes right back. It is lightning fast. And on the return trip I give in and run like a sprinter back to the house. I would take a picture for you to appreciate, but he/she is much too quick and besides, I am not sure it wouldn’t come swooping down, take my camera and drop it on my head.

Now, back to herb oil. It is quite easy to make. It will last for several weeks. But there are safety measures you need to be aware of for making herb oil. Wash all you herbs well, and dry them one whole day hanging. The moisture must be gone. The reason for this is moisture in the herb oil can cause botulism. It cannot grow in the oil if the herbs are dry and the containers is dry. So be sure that you have a completely clean and dry container and dry herbs. Fill the container with herbs that you have bruised to help release some of their essential oils, and them fill the container with your choice of oil. You may choose to use extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, or another NON GMO oil. But choose an oil that is light in flavor so it won’t over power the herbs. Let them sit overnight up to a week in a cool dark place capped tightly. Check the flavor occasionally to see if it is as strong as you desire. Then strain the oil through a fine strainer with cheesecloth into a “dressy bottle” of your choice that is equally clean and dry. If you decide to put a piece of new herb in the bottle to dress the finished oil, that is fine, but make sure it is clean and dry before you add it. It will last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator that way.

The oil is so good drizzled over pasta, with a grind of sea salt, pepper and grated cheese. Imagine how good the rosemary oil is drizzled over lamb just off the grill. How about just added to red pepper flakes, garlic powder and a grated cheese, a little lemon juice, for a bread dipping oil. There are so many uses, it won’t last long.

Until next time, cook something you enjoy. Food is the path to happiness. Peace can be found over the table, feed your neighbor instead of making war.

Join me next time for a look at some other visitors to my yard. You won’t believe who has been in my bird feeder.

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BEING A GUEST SPEAKER

I was invited to teach a cooking class on a subject of my choice at “Natural Grocers” in Overland Park, Kansas and last Saturday was the day….and it was such a nice group of people. The facility was really nice too. There is a very large meeting space with a kitchen set up at one end. There is a sink, stove/oven combination, a refrigerator. Just about everything you could want. There is an overhead television so the stovetop is projected on a screen for the audience to see, and a microphone for the speaker to use. Neither of those were working, but then I have never needed help talking loudly, just ask any teacher I ever had in school. THAT was not a problem for me. So I just went au-natural’. When I say they had the necessary equipment I just mean they had a few pieces, but because it is a new store they were lacking in some kitchen utensils. So I ended up taking all of my own pots, pans, knives, measuring cups, measuring spoons, etc, etc, etc. But because I ended up taking all my own equipment, I decided to keep my menu GLUTEN FREE. And had I used their equipment, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. So my Sous Chef, Wanda Burke, who has been with me for almost 10 years, and believe me she is the best ever, and I set up our own mini-kitchen.

My theme was “TIPS AND TRICK TO HELP YOU COOK AHEAD” . MY recipe was a base recipe of Quinoa with roasted chicken breasts. A lot of people think Quinoa is a grain, but in actuality, it is a seed. It has been around for over 7,000 years. The main crops are grown in the South American countries of Ecuador, Peru, Chili and Argentina. But some is being grown in California and a few other western states in the last few years. The popularity of Quinoa has tripled in this country alone in the last 4 to 5 years. But the popularity has exploded worldwide. It has become so popular that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has declared 2013 the year of Quinoa. It has also tripled in price. Which has made it difficult to grow enough to export AND still keep enough to subsist on for the local farmers who grow it. And there is also the issue of clearing land to plant more crops that is better left un-cleared. But that is a different subject best left for another time.

There are many colors of quinoa. I tend to like the multi-colored because the red and brown seeds have a nutty, crunchy texture after they are cooked. The beige or off white seeds seem to become quite soft and to me seem mushy. I prefer the darker colors I guess because they don’t seem to lose their body even after reheating or sitting in a dressing of some kind.

Here is a basic recipe that can be changed to include any number of different herbs, spices, meats or vegetables and therefore it turns into a fresh salad, a warm side dish, a stand along main dish; if using all vegetable products and no meats, it is a great vegetarian meal, and it is gluten free by nature.

4 organic chicken breasts, dusted with a fine rice flour that has sea salt, pepper, a good amount of garlic powder, and all purpose seasoning added to it.
1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion diced
3 medium carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken stock plus 1 package chicken concentrate such as Better than Bouillon
1 15 oz. can Cannellini beans drained and rinsed or fresh soaked overnight and cooked 1 hour
1 cup frozen corn or fresh cut from the cob
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup fresh basil, julienne
3 tbsp thyme, fresh
2 springs fresh parsley
2 tbsp salt free all purpose seasoning

Rinse the Quinoa in a fine mesh drainer. Set aside

Heat the oil to medium heat. Coat the chicken breasts with the rice flour, spanking any extra off.
After a small pinch of flour sizzles in the pan, add the chicken breasts and brown in the oil. Do not turn the breasts until they are turning white around the edges. And resist the urge to move them in the pan as this will cause them to lose their golden brown coating if you move them before they are ready to naturally release themselves because they have developed a coating. Keep warm on a rack and set aside in the oven.

Drain all but 2 – 3 tablespoons of the oil from the pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery and saute until vegetables are beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook about 5 minutes, do not brown the vegetables. Add the chicken stock and slowly simmer, loosening the fond from the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Add the quinoa and all purpose seasoning. Cover and cook about 12 minutes. Set a timer and at 12 minutes check by taste for texture. Depending on the texture continue to cook as long as 10 more minutes. Add the corn, peas, fresh herbs and all purpose seasoning. Cook about another 5 minutes, long enough for the flavors to combine. Taste for salt and pepper. Correct if needed.

Mound a cup of quinoa on each plate. Place a sliced chicken breast across each mound, top with a sprinkle of extra parsley and serve.

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The best part of growing herbs is eating them

It has been a busy month since I last sat down to write a note. Just one thing right after another. But with all the interruptions the one constant has been my herb garden. It just keeps growing. My basil got so thick I had to cut it yesterday and decided to make a batch of pesto. I love pesto. It is so good on pasta, with chicken, veggies, a big handful of fresh grated cheese and a drizzle of bright pure first pressed olive oil. But it is also good mixed in a little mayo as a sandwich spread, great on a cold pasta salad, good to dress blanched green beans. If you run out of things to use it on it freezes beautifully. Just put it in a plastic bag and get all the air out of it, fold it over, and it will freeze really well.

 

You need– 3 cloves garlic, 1 cup parmesan cheese, 1/3 pine nuts toasted , washed and sorted basil about 2 cups, 1/2 olive oil and additional to cover top of pesto in container, salt and pepper to taste. All this is gently pulsed in a food processor and voila’ you have PESTO.

{One little note, if you can’t find Italian Pine nuts (versus ones imported from China) you can use almonds. The reason I mention this is there is some thought that there is a thing called “pine nut taint” that affects ones taste buds after consuming pine nuts sourced from China. You can do a search on it for further information and form your own opinion, but I personally try to stay with US sourced pine nuts or Italian sourced nuts. New Mexico is a source for the nuts also. They can be found. And believe me, if you have gotten the toxic taste, you won’t use them again.

Well, until next time, enjoy. If you have time, join me next Saturday at Natural Grocers, in Overland Park, Kansas. for a Cooking Class. Begins at 1pm. First come, first seated. Look forward to seeing you there. Check their web site for details-www.http/naturalgrocers.com

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