Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dried Mint

This spring, I had a *brilliant* idea - I decided to plant some mint cuttings in one of my flower pots.  I thought it would be pretty and practical.  It didn't work - the mint took over.  Charlie recently suggested I trim the mint back a little.  I thought it was a great idea. 

However, now I had all these trimmings and I just couldn't put them in the compost pile!  I decided to dry them.  

I plucked the leaves off the stem and laid them out in a single layer on my food dehydrator trays.

By the way, make sure to check each of the leaves (top and bottom) for impurities.... very important.  I found a little surprise.

I have found in the past that the food dehydrator is the best way to dry herbs - they really keep their color and have an intense flavor.  I have tried air drying, but they loose their color and a lot of their flavor.  I have heard you can also use the microwave, though I haven't tried it. I think oven drying would be the next best thing to using the dehydrator. 

If you have a dehydrator, set it to the lowest temperature.

The mint dried for about 21 to 22 hours.  You just keep the dehydrator going until the leaves are crispy.  I was really surprised it took so long, but then I read that herbs that have a lot of essential oils take the longest to dry.

Ok, next: I think I'll try mint tea.  What do you do with your mint?


One of the things Charlie likes is shortbread - which is great for me because it is so quick and easy to make!  Flour, butter, sugar pulsed in the food processor, put in a greased pan, bake - done!  Crisp, buttery and sweet. 

I have a "shortbread" pan I found at a thrift shop, but you could easily use a round cake pan or a springform pan.  


1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a shortbread pan or a round cake pan.  Pulse all ingredients together in food processor - it will be very dusty looking - this is ok.  Dump it all in the prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or until slightly golden brown on edges.  Place on wire rack, and slice into wedges while still warm.  Let cool completely.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Christmas Cactus Cuttings

My Christmas Cactus plant grew from a cutting off of my Great-Grandma's plant, and having that kind of history behind a plant is special to me.  When we moved from our house in town a few years ago, my big beautiful Christmas cactus plant started going downhill.  I couldn't figure it out!  Then, I talked to a friend and she asked if we have soft water, and said that the salts build up.  The Christmas Cactus plant is especially sensitive the soft water, she said.  So, by the time I got the plant on a well-water-only regimen, many of the leaves had dropped off.  My clever husband suggested I take some cuttings on what is left of the plant, and I thought that was a great idea! 

So here are the cuttings I picked off the mother plant.

This is the origional plant, looking sad.

I used potting soil and rooting hormone.

Dipping the ends of the cuttings in the rooting hormone (this end is where I want the plant to root).

Make sure to press down the soil around the cutting well - you want good stem/soil contact.

A tray of cuttings!  Hopefully some of them will take.  I am leaving them outside in a well light spot that doesn't get direct sunlight.  As they grow, you want to make sure to pinch off all of the flower buds that grow - we want all of the energy to go into making a healthy plant.  I will let you know how they do!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Beef Short Ribs

Last fall we bought a 1/4 beef, 2 lambs and 1/2 pork from local farmers.  We have had fun trying out new cuts of meat and figuring out different ways to use them.  This last weekend we decided to try some short ribs, neither having tried them before. 

Making the dry rub mixture.

Using the chimney starter to light the coals.

Heating the big green egg to 200 degrees F.

The short ribs.  They came in two strips of four bones each.  I cut them into one bone pieces.

The dry rubbed short ribs ready to go on the big green egg.

Then they smoked for about two hours.

Then, I put the ribs in a glass 9x13 pan, poured a lager beer and chicken stock over them and covered the pan with tin foil. 

We were afraid it was too much liquid, but it seemed to be ok.  A lot of it simmered away. 

Back on the big green egg at 350 degrees F for about three hours. 

While they are cooking, I boiled down some vinegars for the sauce.  Done! 

While the meat was flavorful, moist and tender, the short ribs were pretty fatty.  I am not sure if all short ribs are like that, but we decided that even with the fattiness (which we just cut off), these ribs were the best they could be.  I would like to use this technique for some baby back ribs one day. 

  Beef Short Ribs

For the rub:

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (I used sweet Hungarian)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • For the ribs.

  • 4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut to one bone each piece
  • 16 ounces lager beer (I used Hamms)
  • 2 cups chicken stock

  • For the sauce.

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, cubed

  • Preheat the big green egg (or other grill) to 200 degrees F.

    To make the rub, mix together all of the rub ingredients.  Generously rub all sides of the short ribs with the spice mixture.  Place the ribs on the big green egg grid around the outside and close the lid. Let the ribs smoke for two hours at 200 degrees F.

    Once the short ribs have finished smoking, transfer to a 9x13 glass baking dish.  Being careful, remove the grid from the big green egg, place the plate setter (legs up) in the egg, and replace the grid.  Bring the temperature up to 350 degrees F.

    Pour the beer and chicken stock over the ribs, and cover tightly with aluminium foil.  Place back in the big green egg for three hours, or until the ribs are fork tender.

    In the meantime, put all of the vinegars and Worcestershire sauce in a saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes or until reduced by half.  Set aside, and right before you pull the ribs off the grill, warm the reduced vinegar over low heat. Using a whisk, add the butter a little at a time, stirring constantly, until the butter is emulsified - but don't let it boil. Transfer the ribs to plates, top with the sauce and serve immediately.

    Like I said earlier, the ribs were fatty but I think that might be how short ribs are?  When we got down to the meat, it was tender, moist and flavorful. 

    The vinegar sauce was strong.  Since I love vinegar, I loved the sauce but Charlie didn't care for it as much.  To tone it down, I would add a little brown sugar or honey.

    Monday, July 22, 2013

    Of Beans and Peas....and Flowers

    I went out this morning to pick peas and beans, and thin the carrots.  I am late in thinning the carrots (as usual) but found some tender little carrots to munch on...

    I picked a nice pile of peas.

    And a pile of green, yellow and purple beans.  

    ...then I got distracted and started taking pictures of the flowers.  I love these double pink poppies.

    The cottage gardens are coming along.

    The blue delphiniums are starting to bloom.

    And the dahlias are starting to bloom!  I love this one.

     The unfurling petals are actually almost lilac colored.

    Cute little pom-pom dahlias.

     The love-lies-bleeding is finally growing longer!

    A tiny hop blossom.

    The grapes are growing.

    More poppies!

    And just to keep it real (as most gardens have issues): an asparagus row that is very weedy.

    More weeds (they sure are healthy).

     Yes, those are all individual tiny little itsy-bitsy weeds. 

    The gophers are leaving mounds.

    One of the rhubarb plants is a little less than happy.

    This plant died for no apparent reason. 

     And the bugs have to eat, too.

    But aside from all that, I found the first hollyhock blooming!  I am in love with this color.

    My first time growing borage.  The true-blue color of this herb is surreal.


     The pansies are happy.

     This was a flower in a wildflower seed packet - I think it is a yellow poppy?

     More poppies.  Notice the crinkles on the petals?

    The wildflower garden (such as it is right now). 

    Zinnias!  Last year was the first time I had ever planted zinnias.  I enjoy their bright splashes of color, and they are pretty heat and drought tolerant (a definite plus).

    Zebrina Malva - a relative of the hollyhock.

    Another double poppy.

    The sunflowers are budding.

    Well, I guess I'd better get working on those beans and peas...  Have a lovely day!


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