“Herbs deserve to be used much more liberally,” quoting food writer and chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. I keep telling my friends, family, and co-workers the marvelous benefits of herbs. Bursting flavor and full of nutrition! I recently found this guide, the ANDI guide which rates foods based on nutrient density. My ravings on herbs are justified according to ANDI. ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index,” a scoring system that rates foods on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.
Here is a list of basic herbs and their scores to illustrate this concept.
Herbs/ ANDI Score
Bay Leaves/ 271
Basil rated the highest of all the herbs! Such an easy herb to grow in terra cotta pots in the kitchen window sill or in a sunny garden spot. Our bed of herbs in the screenhouse of our greenhouse include a few varieties of basil. Genovese, lemon, and Tai to name three. In the heat of the summer, it is prolific! Basil nutrients rate up there with arugula, leaf lettuce, and radishes. It’s about 50% the value of superfoods kale and garden cress, but 4 or 5 times more than soybeans or pinto beans. The Italian and Mediterranean cultures include basil in many of their recipes as well as Thai and Mexican cultures. Where I live and work in the St. Louis, Missouri region, there is an Italian restaurant or pizzeria on every corner of the block and in between. We love our pasta and pizza! My home kitchen has the flavors of Italy with my own fresh homegrown basil. Cost pennies to grow. Last night I made homemade pizza with a cup of fresh Genovese basil leaves cut into strips and atop tomato sauce, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, garlic and black olives. Sometimes its a veggie pizza, with chunky tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, arugula, black olives, etc. You know, the plumposity of veggies in a single slice of pizza pie! Then there’s pesto! It’s flavor tastes how the word sounds when you say it. PEST-O! More flavors to discover in this nutrient dense herb … sweet, lemon, Tai, spicy, lime, Genovese, cinnamon, anise. Cannot wait to make some lemon scones with the lemon basil this weekend. What herb has captured your taste buds?
As a personal chef by nature I wonder if I should name my summer time culinary creations a nosh, dish, bowl, or plate. I improvise when I cook in my kitchen. With the ingredients in hand from the garden or farmer’s market, they make way for creativity. A casual menu on a whim. This summer my herbs climb with the summer humidity. My chicken risotto served in individual bowls one weekend was laced with a leafy green herb Dean brought home from the greenhouse. It had a spicy bite to it unknown to be parsley as I had thought it might be by its look. When returning to the greenhouse mid-week for watering, I discovered on the garden sign it was watercress added to Sunday’s risotto bowl. I had never grown or cooked with this newly discovered herb before, and it paired deliciously with the farm fresh eggs for egg salad on dollar rolls last night. I hear it is the new kale in the farm-to-table culinary world. Just 1 cup of chopped water cress is power-packed with potassium and vitamins A & C. There are only 4 calories in 1 cup of chopped watercress. Calorie breakdown: 8% fat, 42% carbs, 50% protein. Oh, the flavors burst, so it goes a long way!
Fresh sprigs of dill were snipped into the red potato-celery salad. This week a spare bottle of local summer ale went into the crockpot with the turkey breast sprinkled with lemon pepper from the Olde Town Spice Shoppe, slow-cooked for 10 hours. Succulent! Accompanied with farm fresh, roasted yellow beets, red potatoes, and carrots in a bowl! The leftover turkey breast had filled a casserole dish of enchiladas another night. When I cook, I cook for 2 or 3 meals, using one dish to accent another. Rarely does food go to waste in my home. That stock left from the turkey breast is put into the freezer and will make another risotto another rainy night. Tonight it is small plates of Three-Cheese Italian Herb-Veggie Foccocia and Italian Breaded Chicken Tenderloins. What nosh, dish, bowl, or plate are you making tonight with your garden fresh ingredients?
Hot tea has been the beverage of premium choice for the 3+ long months of winter. Wild cherry is my favorite, seems to cure whatever may ail my body. Then there is the tea garden green or pomegranante green tea that brings a bit of spring or summer into my day, healing to my mind. Of course, the classic Earl Grey with a tad of half & half brings me to my days as a young mother. My sister-in-law introduced me to this tea after spending a year in England. The more contemporary, spicy, citrusy flavor of Chai filled my tea cup several times as well this winter. The tea set in the photo is a gift to my daughter, Elisabeth who celebrated her 30-year birthday a few days ago. I want to share my love for tea. It can change the tone of a day after a few sips. It must be taking those few moments to savor that saves the day. The mentioned teas and tea set are all compliments to the Olde Town Spice Shoppe in historic St. Charles, a local small shop for all your teas, accessories, spices, and gourmet foodie items.
Spring visits Missouri again this week, and a spot of tea does not quite fit the bill. I make a change with the temperature of the day. It is a celebration drink with the good news. My bloodwork showed no auto-immune or cancer! Just an allergy to the cold, which this winter was the worst for me since this allergy appeared over 5 years ago. Pyrmid apricot ale is poured into a clear glass, sharing the bottle with my hubby as I am feeling a bit woozy-headed and tired this evening. The apricot ale pairs wonderfully with the sweet chili Thai noodles with sweet peas and grilled chicken. I think this ale would accompany a dark chocolate dessert very nicely. My Weight Watchers weigh-in is tomorrow, better hold off for another day when I feel up to baking and can work off the extra calories (or points) before weigh-in.
I sip a cinnamon vanilla herbal tea as I write. What is your choice of beverage? And what food do you pair it with? I would love to hear!
“Dinner is double d-licious”, my husband said yesterday evening. To me just another creation made with leftovers and stables from our mostly empty frig and kitchen cupboards using little time. Dean and I are headed out-of-state in just a couple of days, so we have not stocked up with groceries. Saving time and pennies for the trip north. I made a breakfast dinner. On the menu: fresh organic blueberry pancakes and eggs scrambled with fresh organic basil, diced tavern ham, & shredded Monterey cheese. Tight schedules and tighter budgets dictate the menu some days. What throw-together meals have you created?
The basil is quite pungent now as the weather in the St. Louis area has been well over 90 degrees everyday this past week. Basil grows prolifically in Missouri, our long summers are ideal. I have grown sweet basil, but desire to try growing some other varieties.
Here are some varieties of basil:
Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilcum) is the most popular variety which is used in Italian style dishes and salads. It grows to a height of 2-1/2 foot.
Lemon Basil (Ocimum citriodorum) has a mild lemon flavor, and is commonly used with fish. I love it with lemon thyme in my lemon bread recipe. Double d-licous lemon flavor! This variety grows to a height of 1 foot.
Purple Basil (Ocimum basilcum purpurea) is similar to sweet basil, but has purple leaves. It is a tender variety and grows to a height of 2-1/2 foot.
Red Rubin Basil (Ocimum basilcum) is like sweet basil but has very dark colored leaves, a much deeper color than purple basil. It grows to a height of 2-1/2 foot.
Cinnamon Basil (Ocimum basilcum) comes from Mexico, and has a cinnamon flavor. I want to try this for sure! I like cinnamon flavors in my tea, coffee, chocolate, hot cereal, fruits, veggies, and meats. It grows to a height of 1-1/2 foot.
Thai Basil (Ocimum sp.) is very spicy, typically used in Indian cooking. I started experimenting with Thai foods this past couple of years. I will have to try this variety in my recipes. It grows to a height of 3 foot.
Please share the variety of basil you use in your recipes or have grown.
You were wondering what this “Suzy homemaker” is blogging about now? I love to write with imagination and humor. No crudeness or lewdness. Everything in spicy good taste. On Saturday and Sunday I came home from an afternoon of selling spices and gift items to tourists and locals, and the odors of the shoppe just lingered. My hair permeated tea garden green. Better tea in my hair than hair in my tea! My unmentionables became a basilly brassie braissre, a chamomile chicy chamisole, and a perfectly peppermint pair of panties. Yes, life has gotten spicy to say the least! I cannot say that I reeked with herbs and spices, because these fragrances were pleasant. No lacy lingerie, just enjoyed my weekend at the Olde Town Spice Shoppe, talking with foodies and sharing my 2-cents worth on herbs, spices, and recipe creating. Though Dean and I grabbed a day off mid-week before one of our busiest weekends with the farmers’ markets and spice shoppe. The planned weekday rendezvous with my hubby promises to be spicier yet!
I blame EarthDance Farms for my plant habit, or at least unveiling it once again. It started as a child, but I did not know the habit had formed within my roots. I find ways to support my plant habit. Those greens and flowers are more than worth it! The greenhouse work, the planning, plucking, pruning, planting, sowing, soaking, and selling is therapy.
For this season in my life, I need to take on a part-time weekend job educating and selling spices, herbs, teas, and foodie accessories to patrons at the Olde Town Spice Shoppe on Main Street in historic St. Charles, Missouri. Tourists as well as locals are the client base. The owners at the spice shoppe are looking for a long-term relationship, and I think I am the one. Over the years I enjoyed being a patron at this niche store, but as an employee I get a dose of the foodie culture every weekend. I will write about my spicy adventures on this blog, as it is a part of my life now.
But back to the plant habit and farm culture. Dean & I do not want to get underwater with Deanna Greens And Garden Art. The first 3 years in any business are the most expensive and crucial. The plants and business grow together. I can still play with the plants a couple of evenings during the week, and on a Saturday or Sunday evening. Dean will be taking the plants to the farmers’ markets most weekends. I believe in knocking on the door of opportunity, as it leads to another opportunity down the road. My farming childhood, culinary background, home economics and human resources education with my wholeness and wellness passion are trails to more dreams. I cannot say for sure where, but I am on this path, enjoying the stops along the way. Not rest stops, but interactive interludes. My days of rest come few and far in between. No worries, I still make time for my hubby, family, friends, and church. Days away from work and chores are planned for this summer. Though my housekeeping has gone to pots, literally!
“Texas does not, like any other region, simply have indigenous dishes. It proclaims them. It congratulates you, on your arrival to having escaped from the slop pails of the other 49 states.” ~ Alistair Cooke ~ Quite a bold statement about the culinary creations in Texas considering the wonderful Italian pasta dishes on The Hill in St. Louis to the creamy seafood bisque found along the Oregon coast to the smoked northern pike in Minnesota. Texas is where Dean & I are headed for a mini vacation to inhale some sunshine and reunite with the Gall cousins. The family is celebrating his aunt’s 80th birthday on Saturday. We fly into Dallas/Ft. Worth tomorrow afternoon. So when you think of Texas food, do you think of huge sirloin steaks smothered with spicy BBQ sauce or keg of beer or Tex-Mex chili? Well, I think “Texas tea”. No, not the kind of “Texas tea” from Beverly Hillbillies. I am envisioning seated in a tea room sipping on a cup of rose tea and savoring a freshly baked herb scone surrounded with potted geraniums, English ivy,and lace tablecloths. Why? I am not sure, other than I am a romantic at heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love the outdoor life, earth, farming, critters, blue jeans, and cowgirl boots. But the more refined me, likes to wear a simple floral dress or blouse/skirt duo with a lace sweater and slight heels while visiting a local tea room establishment. So Dean & I will find such a vignette in Arlington/Ft. Worth area this weekend. I will write about our discoveries in “Texas Tea (Part 2)”. Maybe a recipe or two will be revealed as well.
Winter’s chill has come with the New Year here in Missouri. Brrrsy! A thin layer of snow, freezing rain, and more snow covered the church parking lot New Year’s Day. In 2012 I did not need my black faux fur Russian hat, but I pulled it from the coat closet this 1st week of 2013. Dean calls my head covering my “Ivana hat”. I think he likes the old world style on his bride! Warm, and protects my head and ears from the stinging air. Already this year it’s requiring drastic survival tactics! It was 10 degrees F in “Skunk Hollow”,according to the local 550 AM radio station yesterday morning. A woven scarf and gloves accompany. I have long locks (unlike the photo), yet not enough for 10 degrees F. For those quiet intimate nights with my hubby in order to keep the pets from snuggling in our bed requires closed bedroom doors. Don’t want to keep the dogs and cats outside or even in that garage for more than 5 minutes. I know, they are part of the family, and spoiled! So then, pajama bottoms with a long-sleeve night shirt is mandatory as well as the space heater next to the bed. The heated air from the furnace does not circulate as well with closed doors. All those clothes kind of defeat the purpose, but makes for great snuggling with my man. Marital union must take place in the winter months, as there are plenty of people born the months of September, October, and November, right? What about those folks up in Alaska, Norway, and Russia? Somehow, they reproduce! Cups of hot earl grey tea and chai lattes are on my winter survival list also. Oh, cannot forget the fire in the kitchen fireplace. Spicy hats, teas, and layered bed clothes add a spark to life, don’t they?!