Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Make Your Own Moroccan Mint Tea

 The heat of summer has definitely rolled in here and with that comes the need for a great refreshing drink and Moroccan Mint Tea comes quickly to mind.  Although it's a great 4 season tea, it really comes across best iced in the summer (at least to me!)

When you hear the word "Moroccan," images of a busy and crowded open air market amidst hot temperatures immediately comes to mind.  It's no wonder that spearmint is the refreshment factor in this very famous tea.

In North Africa, in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia specifically, this tea is served all day.  It is considered a drink of hospitality and is served whenever visitors arrive as well as at mealtimes.  Shop owners will greet you with a cup of this tea when you enter their shop.  

 Best of all, this tea is made from very simple and basic ingredients.  I really enjoy using bulk tea for the Gunpowder, but even a green tea bag will work.  You can also use spearmint fresh or dried, depending on what you have on hand.  Again, a spearmint tea bag will suffice if you want to give this a try.  I like using the best ingredients available to get the best flavor, but feel free to experiment.

 To get to the actual preparation, I will give you a recipe by the glass and for a teapot amount.  You'll probably want the teapot version because this tea will be addictive!

By the Cup:

1 tsp of Gunpowder Green loose tea.  (Use a quality green teabag if you don't have the loose tea)
1-2 nice sized sprigs of fresh spearmint. (Use a teaspoon of loose dried spearmint or a teabag of a quality spearmint tea)
1 tsp of sugar (traditionally it's sugar, but you can use Stevia or honey if you like)
1 to 1/2 cups of boiling water (depends on the size of your mug or glass.)

Steep tea leaves, mint and sugar in boiling hot water for 3 minutes.  Gunpowder is a strong tea so if you oversteep it, it can become bitter.  Save these tea leaves for at least one more steeping as well.

To mix the tea, pour into another glass and then pour back into the original glass.  This also aerates the tea.  

Garnish with a sprig of fresh spearmint to serve.  Drink hot (like they do even in summer) or serve over ice for an amazing refreshing drink.

 By the Teapot (1-1/2 quart):

1 Tbsp of Gunpowder Green loose tea.  (Use a quality green teabag if you don't have the loose tea)
4-5 nice sized sprigs of fresh spearmint. (Use a teaspoon of loose dried spearmint or a teabag of a quality spearmint tea)
3-4 Tbsp of sugar

 Steep tea leaves, mint and sugar in boiling hot water for 3 minutes.  Gunpowder is a strong tea so if you oversteep it can become bitter.  Save these tea leaves for at least one more steeping as well.

Pour your first cup of tea out and then back into the teapot to mix and combine well. 

 (If you're feeling very Moroccan, then when you're ready to serve, pour your tea into tall heat resistant glasses and pour from as high as you can manage with out spilling. (Do not hold the glass and place on a tray to catch spillage.)  This will aerate the tea and create a froth on top...yum.  Not a necessary step, but very North African if you're are daring with your tea experiences.)

Photo Source

Sip, enjoy, repeat.

I make a dry mix for winter use as it's one of our son's favorite teas.  Just a mix of half gunpowder and half spearmint.  Use a tsp and a half or to taste.  Makes a great gift as well.

Two great tastes combine for one amazing refreshing tea.  And of course, this tea is full of health benefits as well.

Thanks for reading...Blessings!

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Store Fresh Ginger

Fresh ginger.  It's really the ultimate way to use this ancient kitchen and medicinal root.  Native to Southeast Asia, it is renown for its aromatic qualities, not to mention it's tremendous use as a medicinal spice.  And fresh ginger is not only superior in flavor but contains higher levels of gingerol as well as ginger's active protease (it's anti-inflammatory compound.)

Typically fresh ginger will last 3 weeks in the refrigerator if left unpeeled.  However, I tend to not use it that quickly at times.  So, if you want to be be sure of keeping your fresh ginger "fresh," then here's a method I found from somewhere on the internet that has been working well for me. 

I needed a method of storage that would work long-term and wasn't too fussy.  There are many methods out there and I've tried a few, but this one seems to fit the bill for me. So far, my ginger has been storing well using this method going on a month and half.  It still is looking good too.  So without further adieu, here it is...

First, get a clean paper towel.  Lay your ginger root at one end of it and start to tightly roll, forming the paper towel to the ginger.

Once that's done, get a piece of plastic wrap and starting at one end, roll your paper-towel wrapped ginger root.  Again forming the plastic to the shape of the root as you roll.

You'll want to get it as tight as you can in order to keep out the air.

Wha-La...the finished package.  Yes, it looks like a spider web wrapped cocoon of some type but that's okay.  It's supposed to look this way.

Store your wrapped ginger root on a shelf in the refrigerator where it can be seen and maintained if the plastic wrap comes loose.  You will also want to rewrap it everytime you use the root.  Make sure to change out the paper towel if you notice it becoming too damp.  I wasn't doing this and found some mold on one of my roots.  I just cut out the mold parts and rewrapped in a fresh towel.  Also make sure to rewrap it so it stays airtight after every use.


That's it.  Pretty simple yet it has really been working for me the best.  Hope this helps you as well.  Blessings!

What's your favorite way to store fresh ginger?

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Monday, June 10, 2013

3 Amazing (Heat Tolerant) Summer Greens for Your Garden

There's no doubt about it.  Springtime means lots of great lettuce, spinach and various other summer greens.  This year I planted Broccoli Raab, Arugula, Mizuna and Giant Red Indian Mustard.  There's no doubt that these greens are wonderful during these cool springtime temperatures but as soon as the heat of summer sets in, these greens have bolted and finished.   I still will have kale growing but eventually it also will succumb to the cabbage butterflies who love to use their leaves for their voracious young. 

This does not work for me.  I don't spray the garden.  I don't want the pesticides, $$ and expensive as well as the labor involved.  Ultimately I'm a lazy gardener who wants plants who don't need to be coaxed, babied or pampered to produce.  That's where these 3 greens come in.  Easy to grow, very heat resistant as well as vitamin dense, these top performers deserve consideration for being grown in your garden.

1. Swiss Chard.  I mention this green a lot because it deserves attention.  Most people are unfamiliar with it unless they have grown it themselves and that's too bad because it's one of the most reliable greens to grow.  It germinates very easily in pots or directly sown in mid-spring and that's about all the work you'll need to do.  Love.  It also comes in a variety of colors including, yellow, white, orange, and red. 

 Health benefits?  Lots of them.  Swiss Chard is a great source for vitamin C and vitamin K.  Vitamin K is believed to help with bone formation and strengthening as well as helping to limit neuronal damage to the brain.  This means it's thought to be useful as a treatment for those with Alzheimer's.
It is also rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, B-complex group of vitamins, and minerals like copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
  Need I say more?  This summer green can stand the heat, is very insect resistant and doesn't bolt.  If left to overwinter, it will come up in the spring and produce leaves before it finally bolts.  I manage to harvest as many as I can before my new plants have gotten big enough to harvest.  This green is a win-win.

 2. Mustard Spinach.  This is a new green for me.  I grew this one year in the garden and it not only grew well and quickly but was also hardy and very heat resistant over the summer. It's not a mix of two greens but rather a mild Chinese mustard and native of east Asia. This ancient green is making a comeback with the emerging trend of nutritious greens being fashionable on the dinner plate once again. Its mild flavor makes it popular as a cooked green.  I found my seeds in the grocery store seed rack and not in a seed catalog.  Don't worry if you can't find the seeds easily, one packet should be enough.  I planted mine once and had LOTS of volunteers the following spring.  You won't want to let this go to seed if you don't want lots of it around.  I like mine to set seed as it's a great way to get your seed for next year.  

It's also a very fast growing and large leafed green.  You won't need too many of these plants as the leaves of one or two plants as these plants become quite jungle-like in nature.  That's a bonus for me, it's less leaves to have to wash and more to cut up in soups, stews, as well as sauteing in garlic.

.This green is also loaded with vitamins C, A, Folate and B-6, Calcium and trace minerals.  It packs a big bang in the nutrient department.  This is a great green on its own or to mix with others.

3. New Zealand Spinach.  This isn't a true spinach either but rather a long vine-like plant that produces edible leaves.  It was said to have first been introduced by Captain Cook from his South Seas expedition.  It has a mild flavor as well and has thicker more succulent type of leaves. It likes a moist environment and will thrive under those conditions even with the heat of summer.  Mine grows in an area with some part shade which might explain why it loves to grows so well.  

It's said to be difficult to germinate so you may want to soak the seeds for 2-8 hours before planting.  I however had no problems getting mine started and once established in the right environment, it needs no maintenance except for harvesting.  I planted mine five years ago and I haven't planted it since.  It reseeds itself readily and I often end of weeding it out of the garden.  This could be called invasive, but I call it handy because it has shallow roots which make it easy to remove.  

New Zealand Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin C, A, Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorus.  It also contains antioxidants which adds to its already rich nutritional profile.  I like it because while regular spinach is gone with the heat of summer, this green grows steadily on for months through the fall.  

There you have it, three amazing greens that are easy to grow, withstand the heat of summer and are loaded with vitamins and nutrients like their spring cousins. Did I mention these greens are highly resistant to insects and pests too?  Another great bonus as a garden vegetable.  There are more great summer greens for your garden, but this is a good place to get started now...happy eating!


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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Perennials for Your Garden: Armeria (Sea Thrift)

Over 20 years ago I was a budding gardener with lots of enthusiasm and a new little yard that was begging for flower and herb beds. I knew quite a bit about annual flowers, but I soon learned about the kind of plants that didn't need replanting year and year and soon became infatuated with flowering perennials.  Since then, my garden has shifted over the years and I've seen which plants have done well and Armeria is definitely a surprise favorite.

Perennials DO come back year after year but generally bloom only once a year.  Many bloom in spring.  The trick with perennials is to plant a variety of them in one flower bed of varying heights and blooms times.  Armeria is a low growing, spring-blooming perennial.  It's definitely meant to be planted in the front of the border. 

"Armeria," "Thrift," or "Sea Pink" is so named because it is commonly found along coast lines and originates from the Mediterranean.  There are over 100 species but there are only a few types that you'll find in garden catalogs.  The colors are mostly in pink but they also come in white.  

The plants themselves struck me as odd-looking as they are best described as "tufts of grass."  They are perfect "grass" as they never grow beyond their short height of 4 or 5 inches.  In the early spring they send up tall stalks of little cushions of pink flowers that are exquisite to look at.  I love them planted along with chives and their beautiful globe shaped flowers. 

 What makes this a great plant for your garden?  It's easy to grow as long as you have the right growing conditions for it.  What's nice about this is that because it's a Mediterranean plant, it likes rocky, infertile dry soil.  I love this.  This basically means that you don't have to pamper it, fertilize it, water it or baby it.  In fact, I've done nothing to them over the years and they've slowly spread and fill out.  Armeria spreads very slowly and is great as a ground cover.  It also has no serious insect or disease problems.  Perfect.  Dead head the flower blooms for more flowers in the spring.

Find this perennial anyplace where they are sold and also online.  I found mine at Bluestone Perennials, a local online/catalog nursery which also sells to the public.  They even offer a red Armeria as well.  Nice.

Armeria, or Sea Thrift (go by the Latin name when researching) is a great flower choice for your perennial flower garden...enjoy!




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