Food & Recipes

Cooking With Marvelous Mint

Mint Today, I am taking part in Summer Fest.

Margaret Roach (awaytogarden blog) created this blogging project as a way to share “fresh-from-the-garden” recipes and tips. This week’s theme is HERBS and since I have been writing about herbal cooking and gardening for over 22 years, I just HAD to participate! This is my contribution on “Cooking with Mint”.

Mint is one of those unappreciated, underutilized herbs in the kitchen. Most people only think of it as an ingredient in chocolate recipes or as a garnish in ice tea. But mint is one of the few herbs that works exceptionally well in both savory and sweet dishes. It combines well with stronger herbs like rosemary and cooling herbs like lemon balm, cilantro and parsley.

Did you know that there are literally hundreds of different varieties of mint? It all started with about 20 species of mint that crossed and re-crossed until literally hundreds of different mints were created. Everything from apple mint to orange mint can be found at specialty nurseries around the country.

But of all the different mint varieties out there, spearmint and peppermint are still the most widely known and the most popular in the kitchen. Spearmint is so common that it is usually just labeled “mint” or “the best mint” by nurseries.  Cross breeding has created many different spearmint leaf shapes, but you can still determine if you have spearmint by the fragrance. It is cooling without the menthol overtones of peppermint. If however, the mint you find smells like a candy cane, it is peppermint.

DRINKS
Yes, mint is the perfect ice tea garnish and yes, you can make a killer hot tea with its leaves. But try making a limeade-mint drink this summer or add a little mint to your next fruit smoothie and you will see that mint can bump up the flavor a notch. It adds a coolness that is much needed when the weather warms up.

MintBlueberries DESSERTS
Mints combines well with just about all fruit desserts. Try mint with fruit salad, strawberry shortcake, sorbet, fruit parfaits or cobbler. You are probably already familiar with how well mint combines with chocolate. To change a chocolate recipe to chocolate-mint, just flavor the liquid of the recipe (milk, cream, water, etc.) with fresh mint leaves. This is best done by heating the liquid, adding fresh mint, covering and letting it set for ten to thirty minutes. Then strain out the mint and use the liquid in the recipe.

SIDE DISHES AND ENTREES
Try mint with carrots, peas, corn or new potatoes. I kid you not. It works! You can also add some mint to rice or couscous for a little variety in your side dishes. Mint also gives a nice contrast and balance to spicy ingredients like jalapeños. Add a pinch of mint to your next spicy meal and you will see what I mean.

As for main dishes, mint is most closely associated with lamb and pork recipes. But it can be used on chicken or beef as well, especially if combined with something sweet (like citrus) and something spicy (like hot peppers).

If you are interested in experimenting with mint, look to Mediterranean or Indian cuisine for some more delicious combinations. In the meantime, try some of the recipes below this summer.

MintCorn Minted Corn on the Cob
This is a fast, simple recipe for when you are in a hurry to get the dinner on the table. It is quick, but tastes very delicious.

6 ears of corn on the cob
butter or margarine
18 sprigs of fresh mint
plastic wrap

Shuck and rinse the corn. Pat dry. Generously butter and carefully place 3 mint sprigs lengthwise on each ear of corn. Wrap ears individually in plastic wrap and fold down the ends so that it is completely sealed. (The plastic wrap will hold the herbs in place.) You do not need to poke a hole for venting. It is actually faster if it is kept sealed and steams the corn inside. Microwave 3-4 ears at a time for 8-12 minutes on high or until corn is tender when pierced with a fork. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings. This recipe is also delicious with other herbs substituted for the mint such as thyme, rosemary or sage.

MintLimeade Spearmint Limeade
Limeade can be a nice change from the standard lemonade of summer, but if you prefer, you may substitute lemons in this recipe. If you do, you may need to also adjust the sugar to your taste.

½ cup fresh spearmint leaves
6 cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups fresh squeezed lime juice
½ cup lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine spearmint leaves with just two cups of the water. Heat to boiling, turn of heat and cover. Let mixture sit 20 minutes. Strain out and discard mint. Add sugar to the mint water and heat until sugar is dissolved (about two minutes). In a large pitcher, combine mint water, remaining four cups water, lime juice and lemon juice. Stir to mix. Chill and serve over ice.

Summer Punch
This recipe is great for summer parties and even the kids will like it. It calls for peppermint, but you can use any mint in the garden.

1 ½ cups water
1 cup fresh peppermint leaves
12 oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
2 liters lemon-lime carbonated beverage
extra mint sprigs for garnish

In a small saucepan, combine water and mint. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover. Set aside for 30 minutes, and then strain into a large pitcher. Discard mint. Add remaining ingredients. Stir well. Chill and serve over ice with fresh mint sprigs in each glass.

For more herbal recipes go here:

Lavender Biscotti

Lemon Balm

Cilantro and Coriander are the same plant!

Lemon Verbena Syrup

Borage

Growing Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena Fruit Punch

 

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July09Harvest2wtmk

I have an Anna Apple tree growing espalier style against my west fence in my herb garden. My boys and I harvested several bags of apples from this little tree this week.

July09Harvest3wtmk

Even though it is grown flat against the fence, I get tons of apples from this tree each year. That is the beauty of espalier.

AppleTreewtmk

After making an apple pie or two,I am going to make homemade applesauce!

How do you make applesauce you ask????

Well, I peel, core and slice the apples and place them in a crock pot with a little cinnamon and allspice. Then I let them cook for about 6 hours. These Anna apples are very sweet, so no sugar is needed!

Easy Peasy! YUM!

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BayPlant This past week was National Herb Week- A special week created by the International Herb Association to promote the world of herbs and the Herb of the Year (which in this case is BAY).

I just blogged about growing bay and making “Rice Pudding” with bay over at the Herb Companion Magazine site. Yum!

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This week, I was honored to participate as a guest blogger over at the NapaFarmhouse1885 blog. Owner, Diane Padoven, and I became friends through Twitter and when I saw her website, I was instantly enchanted with her writing and her eco-friendly products. She sells potting benches and other cool garden accessories made from reclaimed wood as well as cute aprons and even vegetarian dog treats!

GuestPostofGardenFreshLiving Have you ever noticed how fragrances (from the garden or otherwise) can stir up old memories? Well, my guest post is on fragrant holiday memories and how those snapshots in time stick with us forever. Are you reading this Mom? The post is about you!

Please check it out here and leave a comment if you can. This year, I hope some wonderful holiday fragrances will help you capture new memory snapshots of your own…

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Lavender Biscotti

Lavenderfield_2 My mom harvested her lavender last weekend and ended up with several baskets filled to the brim with fragrant bundles. I dried my own lavender last month and have it hanging in the garage. All this harvesting and drying got me to thinking about some of the more unusual things I have done with lavender.

I know that not everyone thinks of food when they think of lavender, but I do. I like to bake with it. I use it in breads, pastries, cookies, custards and ice cream. When used correctly, it has a light, floral flavor. Too much, and your food ends up tasting like lavender soap! I have learned the hard way that a light hand is best.

Here is a delicate lavender biscotti recipe that I have made for years. The biscotti has a light blending of lemon and lavender — a great combination. I like to serve it with hot tea, or for dessert, or a midnight snack, or sometimes for breakfast with coffee…You get the idea.

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No Tomato Salsa

This delicious salsa does not have a tomato in sight. It features Cilantro — my plant of the week. You can always add a chopped tomato to the mix. It is delicious either way.

Ingredients:

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
juice of one lime
One 15 oz. can black beans (drained)
1 cup canned corn (drained)
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 avocado, coarsely choppped
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tbsp. freshly chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine vinegar and lime juice. Set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, combine remaining ingredients except salt and pepper. Gently stir in lime juice mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. This is best served with tortilla chips and eaten within three days.

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Summer Squash – YUM!

Here is a bowl of summer squash recently collected from my sister-in-law’s garden in Colorado. This is the BEFORE photo…
Squashbefore

I chopped some of them up…

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Lemon Verbena Syrup

I mentioned Lemon Verbana a few weeks ago here. I thought I would share another recipe for how to use it…

Lemon Verbena Syrup has a multitude of uses. Try it as a sweetener in hot or iced tea or fruit drinks. Drizzle it over cake, ice cream, pastries or fresh fruit. Bottle some syrup to give as a gift with a box of tea. It is not something you can just pick up at the store. You MUST make it yourself.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup hard-packed fresh lemon verbena leaves

2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer three minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for one hour. Strain into a decorative bottle. Store in the refrigerator and use within three months.

That is all there is to it!  Enjoy!

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Lemon Verbena Fruit Punch

Here is a recipe I like to make in the summertime using fresh lemon verbena leaves.

Lemon Verbena Fruit Punch

1/2 cup lemon verbena leaves
5 cups cranberry-raspberry juice blend
4 cups lemon sparkling water
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine lemon verbena and 2 cups of the cranberry-raspberry juice. Cover and simmer five minutes over medium heat. Turn off heat and let mixture steep 30 minutes. Strain into a large pitcher. Add remaining cranberry-raspberry juice and all other ingredients. Chill until ready to serve.

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Lemon Verbena – A Powerhouse in My Garden

Lemon Verbena

Have you ever grown Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citriodora)?

That is Lemon Verbena in this photo below. It is the tall plant reaching up to the birdhouse.

How to use and grow Lemon Verbena - Living Homegrown

Where to Buy It:

It is not exactly a common plant and you may have trouble finding it. But if you ever see this plant at the nursery…buy it and buy it fast. You won’t be sorry. It will be in the herb/vegetable section. If you can’t find it there, you can order it through mail order from Richters Nursery.

Why is it so special? Oh let me count the ways…

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