Flavor Pairings: Why Grow Herbs For Cooking, Cocktails, And Culinary Crafts

I remember my first herb class on growing herbs for culinary and creative crafts. I left that annual herb sale with young fragrant plants, with just enough knowledge to be dangerous wielding a trowel, and a perpetual enthusiasm that all contributed to help me form my first edible garden oasis.

After a trip to Home Depot, I was armed with shiny silver tools, bags of potting soil to house my foliage friends, fertilizer to make them grow, and the inner drive to begin digging my way to becoming a green thumb farmer girl!

Now, 20 years later, it’s hard to imagine my kitchen without a bunch of basil on the counter, herbs drying on racks, and jars of dried oregano and chocolate mint within easy reach at each meal. From summer’s juicy ripe berries, peaches, and tomatoes to fall’s vibrant harvest of squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, onto holiday turkey and ham feasts, and into hearty winter stews and casseroles, herbs enhance every season’s fare!

I’m still thrilled to witness the miracle of propagation each time with every plant. I shelter them in stormy weather, talk to them while watering, trim their leaves, and weed their beds. In return, I’m rewarded with savory, spicy, and fruity aromas, a relaxing hobby, a healthy method of adding flavor to food and cocktails that lasts all year long, and great natural photography backgrounds!

Do you have herbs and are looking for ideas on how to use them? Do you see those little plastic packets of greenery hanging in the grocery store but have no clue what to do with them? Maybe you want to expand your culinary horizons and explore your green thumb capabilities? Many people are lured into using fresh herbs through the culinary route.

This is the first in a series of articles on growing herbs for cooking, cocktails, and culinary crafts. Plus tips on pairing all kinds of flavors, from custom infused oils and balsamic vinegars to herbs, spirits, sweet and savory dishes. When you marry the right foods together into a succulent harmonious balance, the results are amazing and herbs contribute such character to your cuisine.

This isn’t about becoming a food snob or being tethered to rules, except for this one; seasoning is vital in cooking and herbs go hand in hand with that philosophy. I’ll offer general guidelines along with novel combinations I’ve discovered but there’s no one taste fits all. It’s thrilling to develop original recipes and tweak the traditional dishes we savor. Play with new ingredients. It’s great fun to use homegrown edibles but if you don’t want to grow plants yourself, buy a few freshly packaged herbs from the store and practice cooking with them.

Be daring with oil and vinegar selections. There’s a wonderful store called Savor The Olive in Virginia Beach that is a tasting room full of unique fused and infused oils and light and dark balsamic vinegars. If you have one of those in your area as well as wine tastings, take advantage of going for a visit. Experiment, so that your sense of taste gets stronger and more acute and it will tell you how much to use.

Herbs add to the enjoyment of cooking and help you personalize what you’ve prepared. Being a chef is an art. Each person has a unique touch and flavor palate. The kitchen is your studio, the plate your blank canvas. Let instinct and imagination guide you. Herbs are one of the tools in your aromatic arsenal that enable you to present a mouthwatering masterpiece.

Hope you’ll join me on a tasting tour of my fertile little deck farm as we pinch and smell the herbs, swirl and taste the wine, envision what main course will be the star of the plate, and tempt your taste buds with food that’s appealing to the eye and tongue.

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Successful Diabetic Cooking and the Secrets Behind

When people initially hear the words “diabetic cooking,” the first thing that comes to mind are steamed food that is bland in taste and not precisely appetizing to look at. Others react more strongly, asking “What diabetic cooking?” These people often consider the diabetic food list consisting mostly of fresh and raw vegetables and fruits. Truth be told: there are ways of overcoming the usual fear about this cooking and really going for the big time. Food of this kind does not have to be raw, or bland or unappetizing in presentation. For one thing, most foods that diabetic people are allowed to eat are basically the same with stuff that non-diabetics eat, with a few modifications, of course.

However, if given the proper attention, forethought and preparation, diabetic cooking can not only become better tasting food than non-diabetic meals; but this is also a far, far healthier option to take. Here are some tips on how to make the best out of diabetic food.

1. Substitute. Substitute. Substitute. There is a long list of food that should not be part of a diabetic’s meal plan. Sugar is the most notorious of all. Fortunately, diabetics can substitute artificial sweeteners to use in drinks, in baking goodies and even in plain cooking preparations (like making marinades, etc.) This principle of substitution can also be used for the lot of foods that should not be part of diabetic cooking. For example, mayonnaise should be severely limited, but one can always substitute plain natural yogurt or balsamic vinegar for salad dressings. White bread can always be replaced with sugar free varieties, or better yet with whole grain varieties or breads that do not use leavening agents and sugar (i.e. sour dough and rye breads.)

2. Think fresh produce instead of packaged produce. Diabetic cooking would indeed entail the person to delve into some deep rooted culinary expertise – or at the very least, learn new ones. It should be noted that although this way of preparing often make recommendations for steamed, boiled and grilled foods, this does not mean that these are the only options allowed. The key here is to use as much natural ingredients as possible. Pre-packaged meals are all convenient, but when a diabetic person has to monitor calorie intake as well as sugar levels and slat levels, that convenience flies straight right out of the window. It would be best if the person prepares his or her own food since the ingredients can be carefully chosen and monitored in order to balance meals.

Again, the key here is to substitute natural ingredients for processed ingredients. Instead of buying the pre-marinated, ready to cook hamburger patties, why not make your own, using freshly ground meat, freshly chopped vegetables, freshly crushed pepper and sea salt. All these ingredients are natural and portions could be carefully monitored. Even marinades for grilled meat can all be made at home from fresh herbs and select spices.

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