The Herb Blurb – December 2019

What are your holiday traditions?

I love the holiday season for all the long-treasured activities. The sumptuous array at the Christmas Eve appetizer party, the Nutcracker Ballet, the zoo and botanic garden light displays, and the lighting of the Yule log. Count your blessings, not your deficits, get out there and celebrate!

Holiday Gifting, So Overrated

holiday giftsInstead of succumbing to the annual onslaught of marketing and maxing out your Visa with unnecessary purchases, give a little thought to your gift-giving this year and skip the January regret.

Consider concert or theater tickets. How about a membership to the zoo, the Botanic Gardens, or a museum that provides a year of fun and interest? Remember those coupon books you gave to your Mom when you were little? Or was this only me? How about a coupon for babysitting? Cleaning out the garage? There are also movie tickets, a salsa lesson, massage, or a mani/pedi at the local salon. Check out Groupon for the latest deals. If you are always too busy to meet with friends treat them to lunch or a happy hour date. This will be more appreciated than some gift hastily ordered on Amazon. Cut down on the waste and bedlam of the holidays. Spend less and give more.

The Herbalist’s Happy Hour

The-Herbalists-Happy-Hour-Cover-V7Speaking of gifts, The Herbalist’s Happy Hour – Crafted Cocktails and Tapas from the Garden is a great reference for cooking up easy, fresh, delicious drinks and appetizers for entertaining and enjoying. For that person in your life who loves to cook and entertain. A unique gift for anyone interested in herbs, farm-to-table creative cooking, and artisanal beverages. Get it here.

The Spirit of Giving

Spirit of GivingWith all the misery and hardship in the world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and just focus on ourselves and our own little universe. Every act of kindness, no matter how small, gives light to the darkness. Who can you reach out to this season? A homeless shelter? A friend in hard times? A family in need? Give the gift of kindness, it helps us all.

Fun Things to Do & Activities

So many fun things to do! Get out of the malls, away from that screen and go celebrate. Tis the season!

Light Shows - Go online and reserve ahead for these, they sell out nightly.
Denver Botanic Gardens Blossoms of LightDenver Botanic Gardens, Blossoms of Light, nightly through January 3, 5-9 pm.  Entertainment and lovely light displays.

Denver Zoo – Zoo Lights, November 30 to December 30, 5:30 – 8:30 pm. Fantastic lights, ice sculpting, treats, and frisky wildlife. Reserve online.

Hudson Gardens, weekend dates through December 30, 5-9 pm.  Wagon rides, Santa, and a one mile illuminated trail through the gardens.

Holiday Events
9 News Parade of Lights, tonight, November 6 December 6 and 7. The big guy in downtown Denver. Go early to get a spot.

Georgetown Christmas Market, December 7-8 and 14-15. An old-time mountain celebration, entertainment, hayrides, craft vendors, food, and roasted chestnuts on an open fire.

Check for more fun things to do.

Herb of the Month - Juniper

JuniperJuniper has been used since ancient times for its cleansing properties. Used to purify temples and protect from witches, today the smoke from juniper branches is used in sweat lodges. It is said to cleanse the air of bad energy and make it easier to commune with the spirits.

The berries are highly aromatic and used in the production of gin. Could this be a spirit connection? Juniper berries are also sold in high-end kitchen shops for seasoning hearty stews and game. Wait until the berries are a dark blue and use with constraint, they can easily overpower a dish.

Juniper berries are used medicinally for indigestion and urinary problems. I will often pop a few in my mouth as I hike through the woods.

Care of Fresh Christmas Trees

Care of Fresh Christmas TreesAvoid a bristly fire hazard by New Year’s Eve with a little care for your Christmas tree. Be sure to make a fresh cut immediately before you put it up, essential for water uptake. The base container should hold a gallon of water and should be checked daily. If the tree base dries out, resin will form and you will need to do another fresh cut. Keep the tree away from fireplaces and heat vents and if you love your tree you’ll put a humidifier near it or just mist it with water whenever you think of it.

If you have a lot of lights on your tree, keep them off when you are not actually enjoying it. Your tree will appreciate the break from the heat. Use LED lights if possible, they stay cool and are energy efficient. I also turn the thermostat down a few degrees; fresh trees will last longer on the cool side.

Bath & Body

The Holidays are Killing Me Face MaskThe Holidays are Killing Me Face Mask
Another quick face mask is mashed avocado. Apply to face, let dry, wash off and glow!

This is a quick skin soother, great for winter dryness. Tastes good too! Take a few minutes to escape from the holiday demands to refuel and relax. Put a slice of cool cucumber or a chilled, used teabag over each eye while your mask tones and soothes.

  • A spoonful of plain organic yogurt
  • Spoonful of honey

Combine and spread on a clean face. When dry, steam off with a warm washcloth. Finish with a cold water rinse. You look fabulous!

Recipes of the Month

Overwhelmed with CSA and garden produce? Here are some recipes for herbs and produce to use or freeze for future use.

Baby Crab Cakes with Sriracha & Chive Aioli

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Dash of Worchester sauce
  • 2 cups lump crabmeat, drained and cleaned of all shells
  • drops of sriracha, to your taste (optional, can also use Tabasco)
  • 2-3 chopped scallions
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs (equals 4 slices), I like panko
  • Butter and cooking oil

Combine ingredients gently in a bowl, shape into small individual rounds. You can also use extra breadcrumbs to coat the outside. Refrigerate until firm.

In a skillet, melt butter and add an equal part of oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Brown crab cakes on each side over medium heat. Make sure you don’t crowd them and don’t turn them before they are browned. Cooking for a crowd? Bake on an oiled baking sheet for 15 minutes at 350.

Sriracha & Chive Aioli 
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sriracha, more or less to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Dash of Tabasco
Combine and serve.

Put these Baby Crab Cakes on a pretty platter; decorate each with a dollop of aioli and some chopped chives

Baby Crab Cakes with Sriracha & Chive Aioli

Homemade Boursin Cheese

Our Homemade Boursin Cheese is easy and delicious!

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 8 oz butter – room temp
  • 16 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 4 tbs freshly grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Fresh or dried herbs of choice. If fresh they should be minced. I like chives, marjoram, thyme, basil, dill, red pepper flakes but use whatever you have on hand. Use enough to nicely speckle the cheese.

Put into a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Put in a small, colorful bowl and serve with crackers, smoked fish or use to stuff a chicken breast.

Homemade Boursin Cheese

Spicy Chickpeas

Spicy Chickpeas are a great snack.

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne or milder pepper of choice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put chickpeas on a paper towel and let them dry out. I sometimes just leave them overnight. Preheat oven to 375.
Place garbanzo beans in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Add spices and toss well.
Put on a greased tray and put it in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool and enjoy!

Spicy Chickpeas

Chicken Tortilla Soup, 4-6 servings

For a vegetarian version replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock and the chicken with black or pinto beans.

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 jalapenos or milder peppers of choice, seeded and minced
  • 1 large can whole tomatoes, hand-squeezed to a pulp texture
  • 1-quart chicken stock
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • Veggies of choice – I like to add 1 ½ cups of chopped zucchini, corn, and spinach or chopped kale
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • Lime cut in wedges for garnish
  • Tortilla strips or chips

Heat oil in a stockpot. Add the onions, zucchini, and peppers and sauté until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Add the tomato pulp, seasonings, and stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Add chicken and greens if using and simmer until tender. Add lime juice and heat through.

Put a small handful of tortilla chips in the serving bowls, pour soup over the chips and top with cheese, avocado and cilantro.

Squeeze a lime wedge over or serve on the side.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
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