Mother’s Day = Time for Planting!

It’s always been the general rule of thumb, at least with my family here in the mid-west, that nothing gets put in the ground until after Mother’s Day.  Still some cool nights, but beautiful warm days and no worry about frosts.  I would love to have a huge yard with space for an amazing garden.  However, my house, a lovely old home that has been in my family since the early 1900’s, has the tiniest yard.  Great if you don’t like to mow, but not so wonderful for gardening.  So, I make do with a container garden.  I have a tomato plant, some jalapeños and my herb garden, of course.  The invention of the hanging garden bags has provided the option of a few more plants as well.

This weekend was an amazing weather weekend, perfect for yard work and planting! I went to a local market and greenhouse on Saturday to purchase hanging baskets, flowers to plant and the herb and vegetable starts.  I have tried a couple of times to start my herbs from seed, but I wasn’t very successful.  So, what herbs do I plant??

I plant all my favorites, especially those that I need for salsa and other summer grilling recipes.  My herb garden this year includes: Rosemary, Cilantro, Chives, Mint, Thyme, Tarragon, Sage, Parsley and Basil.  Given plenty of sun, moist soil and pruned occasionally (which is easy since I will cook with the fresh herbs on nearly a daily basis), the plants will provide herbs all summer.  If you have a place inside your home that is conducive to good growing, you can move the herbs indoors when the weather gets cold.  Herbs can also be frozen to be used in cooking whenever the recipe calls for fresh herbs.

I recently made quick and easy chicken and steak fajitas using the Cilantro I had leftover from making salsa, and didn’t get that posted (yet) but watch for more recipes using fresh herbs to come!  Because of their wonderful fragrances, herbs can be used for other purposes too.  A new favorite room freshener of mine combines a lemon cut in half, a few sprigs of fresh Rosemary and a couple tablespoons of vanilla.  Place in a small saucepan half filled with water.  Put on the stove and simmer to fill your home with a fresh scent.  I actually put a small bowl in one of our vehicles overnight to help remove “wet dog” smell…it worked great!

So we’re talking the same food language…

To make sure that we are talking the same food language here, I thought I should define what I mean by “seasonings.” When I say seasonings, I am referring to the things that can be added to food to alter or enhance it’s flavor such as herbs, spices, oils, and vinegars.  Primarily we’ll be talking herbs and spices. 

So, what is the difference you might ask?? By definition, herbs are plants that have seeds, leaves, flowers, barks, berries or stems that are used to flavor foods.  Some are used for medicinal purposes as well.  Spices are the result of an herb being dried.  And, someone way before me had the brilliant idea of combining the flavors that are typical in certain foods to make spice blends…a busy cook’s best friend! 

Why blog about seasonings??  Because I can talk forever about something I am passionate about, and because many family members and Facebook friends are probably tired of hearing my everyday menu play-by-play.  Maybe, just maybe, there are people out there interested in great food and want to cook for their families, but don’t know how to make the same ol’ chicken into something new and yummy.  Hopefully, we can share easy, inexpensive and fast ideas. There are so many tasty flavors out there, and we need to get away from the idea of just salt (a sometimes needed, much overused spice) and pepper on food!! I’ll share my favorite seasonings (look out…my spice collection rivals most of my girlfriend’s shoe collections!) and amazing recipes to make boring meals exciting.  And, to help me get out of any spice rut I might have fallen into, I will explore the hundreds of herbs and spices available.  I’ll start with an easy one…and my very favorite: Garlic.