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There’s nothing like the smell of fresh-baked blueberry scones , especially when a key ingredient is from your own garden. Market or garden-fresh blueberries make this recipe taste great, and freshly grated lemon zest gives that extra pop of flavor. For even more sweetness and decadence, drizzle with fresh lemon glaze while the scones are still warm.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing on top
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Lemon Glaze Ingredients
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salted butter, melted
For this simple recipe, start by adding all of the dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk them together. Cut the cold butter into the mixture until crumbly. Whisk together the cream, egg, and lemon zest in a liquid measuring cup. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry until the dough just comes together, fold in the blueberries. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and lightly knead, gently turning and folding the mix eight to ten times. (Too much kneading will result in tough scones!) Roll the dough to 1-inch-thick, 4-inch-round circles and cut them into quarters. Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, and voila!
Fresh ginger makes gingerbread cookies taste even better!
Whether you cook something sweet or savory, fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has a traditional place at the holiday table. Its bright, spicy flavor adds something special to cookies, cakes, and festive starters that will encourage family and friends to keep coming back for more. The key is choosing the freshest roots from the store or (even better) your own potted ginger plant.
Ginger is wonderfully easy to grow as a potted houseplant, if kept in a sunny window. Just provide it with a well-drained pot of fertile Fafard Professional Potting Mix, water moderately, feed monthly with an all-purpose water soluble fertilizer and you’ll be set. If planting ginger root for the first time, be sure to plant it with its horn-like buds facing upwards and sink it 1-2” below the soil’s surface. Store-bought roots will work very well or you can purchase plants from retail greenhouses like Logee’s. One choice cultivated variety is the Javanese ‘Sunthi’, which has smaller, more pungent roots, but it is hard to find in commerce.
Starting with the good stuff always makes recipes taste better, so be sure to go for the firmest, nicest ginger roots for your holiday cooking. Here are several fresh ginger recipes that will make the best use of them:
Tart lemon glaze makes this moist, seasonal cake taste extra good.
Fresh Ginger Cake with Lemon Glaze
This oil-based cake is very flavorful and moist. The addition of tart lemon glaze makes it even more decadent. Begin by buttering and flouring a bread pan and heating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. All wet ingredients should be at room temperature. Wet Ingredients
2 large eggs (room temperature)
¾ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup hot water
¾ cup granulated sugar Dry Ingredients
2 cups cake flour
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ cup packed, macerated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon lemon zest Glaze
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup powdered sugar Directions
Combine all of the dry ingredients (except the sugar) in a sieve over a large mixing bowl and sift the ingredients. Next, add all the wet ingredients, except the ginger, lemon zest, and eggs, to another large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth and light.
Combine the molasses mixture to the dry ingredients and fold in the ginger and eggs, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until fully combined. Then transfer the batter to the baking pan. The cake should be baked for around 45 minutes.
Test the cake with a bamboo skewer and make sure it comes up clean before removing the cake. Before the cake cools, whisk the glaze ingredients together, skewer holes across the top of the cake and pour the glaze over the top—allowing it to sink into the cake and harden. Once cool, take a knife along the cake edges and remove the cake from the pan.
Gingerbread with Fresh Orange Zest
Crisp gingerbread ready for decorating!
For years I sought out the best gingerbread recipe and finally settled on a conglomerate of recipes gathered from a variety of places. Wet Ingredients
¾ cup salted butter
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup dark molasses (not black strap!)
¼ cup warm water
1 tablespoon fresh crushed ginger
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest Dry Ingredients
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
A healthy pinch of salt
3 ¼ cups sifted flour Directions
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy then mix in the molasses and water. Sift the dry ingredients then add them to the wet until fully combined (be sure not to over mix).
Flour your hands and pull the dough together into a flattened ball and chill for at least 12 hours. Before you roll the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Flour up a board and pin and cut your dough in two. Roll out the dough to around 1/4 inch thickness. Be sure to keep the board and pin floured to stop the dough from sticking.
Cut out your shapes and reroll any excess dough, though try not to overwork it as this results in tough cookies. Place the rolled cookies onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for eight to ten minutes, depending on how large or thick your cookies are. The less baked, the chewier the cookie. Allow the cookies to cool before decorating. Royal icing is the best for decorating and gel food coloring provides the deepest colors.
RoastedEggplant Dip with Ginger
This creamy, nutty, gingery eggplant dip tastes great with pita, crackers, and fresh vegetable crudités. Ingredients
1 large, fresh Italian eggplant
3 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon full fat Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons macerated ginger
1 clove finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon flatleaf Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the top of the eggplant, cut it in half and place it flat side down on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Roast it until it is completely soft. This should take around 45 minutes. Once cooked, allow the eggplant to cool. Scoop out the soft eggplant and add it to a food processor. Briefly heat the coriander, cumin, and fennel seed in a heated pan with two teaspoons of olive oil—a minute or two should be enough. Add all of the ingredients to the food processor and pulse the dip until smooth—adding salt and pepper to taste.
This dip tastes best if the flavors are allowed to marry for sein the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before serving.
It’s that time of the season! No, I don’t mean the holiday season. I mean the season for colds, flu and other bugs that bring us down in winter. Despite flu shots, good care, vitamins and other attempts to ward them off, these bugs always arrive, unwelcome and uninvited. So, how do you treat them naturally? DIY herbal cold remedies, of course!
During the summer months, I grow plenty of herbs for teas, salves, soaps and tinctures that I use in the winter. Some years I also grow medicinal herbs indoors on my sunny kitchen windowsill. They are cheap and effective, while also smelling pleasant and tasting good. Even nicer, some of the best grow like weeds, to include peppermint, chamomile, garlic, cayenne pepper, lavender, and elderberry. Others, like ginger, are tender plants that can be grown indoors in winter or outdoors in summer.
Anyone who has grown the classic herbs peppermint and chamomile know that they’re wild and must be kept in bounds. Nonetheless, their usefulness far outweighs their weediness.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is a sun-loving herb that generally germinates in spring and summer, remains a low-growing foliage rosette through winter, and blooms in spring, producing a cloud of little white daisies. These choice flowers should be harvested at their prime and quickly dried to make herbal tea or inhalations. (Be cautious about letting them set seed; they become weedy!) A combination of dried orange peel and dried chamomile flowers makes a lovely tea and inhalant that will ease the stomach and gently clear the sinuses. Just add one teaspoon of dried orange peel and three tablespoons of dried chamomile flowers to two cups of boiling boiled water. Steep it for a few minutes, for tea, or breathe it in.
Peppermint flowers and leaves can be used to make tea.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) has rhizomatous roots that spread like wildfire, so I grow mine in large pots in sunny spots. The summer foliage and flowers are easily harvested and dried for year-round use. Peppermint can be used to make inhalations and compresses as well as head-clearing tea. A good, simple mint tea recipe for colds contains two teaspoons dried elderberries, two tablespoons dried peppermint leaves and a few peppercorns to fire up the spice. Add this mix to three cups of boiling water, steep for a few minutes and serve with honey.
Garden fresh garlic tastes better and is great for colds.
Garlic has proven cold-fighting benefits and is truly a plant-and-leave-it crop requiring next to no care; just plant it in rich, well-drained soil in fall, and let it grow and bulb up in spring and summer. As any garlic grower can tell you, garden-fresh garlic is worlds better than the store stuff. Still, grocery garlic works just as well as a cold fighter.
Fresh lemon garlic tea is a standby infusion for cold sufferers. Simply add three large (or four small) sliced garlic cloves and the zest and juice of two lemons to three cups of boiling water in a saucepan. Allow the mix to boil for 5 minutes before removing from the heat and straining. Add a teaspoon of honey to each cup, and you have a truly useful cold treatment.
Cayenne pepper clears the sinuses and is rich in vitamin C.
Nothing clears the head and chest like something spicy. That’s why cayenne (Capsicum annuum) is sought after as an herbal remedy for cold sufferers. The sun- and heat-loving veggies are easy as pie to grow during the summer months and are easily dried when red and ripe. Crushed cayenne can be added to any simple herbal tea as a stimulant to get the blood flowing. It is believed to help with headache pain and clear stuffy heads.
Lavender is soothing and reduces inflammation.
Lavender (Lavandula spp.) is one of the most beautiful, sun-loving plants, and its dried fragrant flowers are a versatile herbal. Not only can they be added to soaps and creams, but they make a wonderful cold inhalant when infused with one tablespoon eucalyptus leaves and two tablespoons of lavender flowers. The two fragrant botanicals are harmonious partners. In fact, their oils may help to relieve depression, inflammation and congestion, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Elderberries can be dried and added to various herbal tea remedies.
Gardeners with a good bit of space can and should grow elderberries (Sambucus spp.). Not only do they make delicious jam, juice and wine, they are also healthful and medicinal. The shrubs can grow in full sun or partial shade, though plants grown in higher light yield more fruits. Umbels of edible yellowish spring flowers give way to edible black berries in late summer. Both the flowers and berries can be dried to make teas. The berries also make delicious syrup that can be used to sweeten and flavor any herbal tea. All are believed to alleviate cough and allergy symptoms.
Ginger soothes the stomach and helps clear the head.
Ginger root (Zingiber officinal) is delicious and desirable in more ways than one. Like cayenne, it’s spicy, so it acts as a stimulant that gets the blood flowing and clears the head and sinuses when added to tea or an infusion. It also helps sooth stomach when added to tea. Ginger is most easily grown in a pot outdoors in summer or in a sunny window or sun room in winter. It’s plump, spicy roots can be harvested as needed. For delicious fresh ginger tea, boil five large slices of ginger root in three cups of water with a cinnamon stick for a few minutes, strain and serve with honey.
All of the plants mentioned grow best in soils with average to good fertility and porous drainage. Before planting them in spring, amendment with Fafard Premium Topsoil will ensure good growth for the growing months. Likewise, ginger plants grown indoors thrive when planted in Fafard Organic Potting Mix.
Two great reference books for medicinal herbal plants are the recent book Grow It Heal It by Christopher Hobbs and Leslie Gardener (Rodale Books, 2013) and the classic Complete Medical Herbal by Penelope Ody (DK, 1993).
Though all of these herbal remedies are deemed safe by health experts, it’s always smart to talk to your doctor before partaking in any garden herbs. Also, be sure you have no allergies to these plants before using them. Some planning ahead is required if you want to grow your own herbal remedies, but when the winter sniffles arrive, you will be glad you broke ground and took the time.
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