Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Mexican Hot Chocolate In A Mason Jar

The kitchen gardens bountiful summer harvest of herbs are hanging about drying for winters use. The fragrances fill the air indoors as we begin to settle in on some chilly fall nights.  The aroma beckons their use in that first warm cup of homemade cocoa.  Who am I to argue with such things? It’s time to pull out the mugs and teapot.

The special blend for this cocoa stems from the history deep within the Mayan Indians and preserved among the Mexican People. Using a Mexican chocolate called Ibarra gives the cocoa a sweet touch of cinnamon. The final touch is an infusion made from the herb Mexican Mint Marigold. Also called “Texas Tarragon,”  the herb gives the cocoa the faint southern flavors of anise and licorice.

Mexican Mint Marigold comes from high within the mountainous regions of Mexico. It’s the perfect herb to grow in the southern regions where Tarragon simply won’t grow. The perennial is very drought tolerant and makes a beautiful display in our kitchen garden during the fall months. The tiny golden yellow flowers are among the last to bloom before frost still providing food to the honeybees. If harvested while the flowers remain on the stalks and hung to dry adds extra beauty to garden and herb crafts.

Simply add your cocoa to a mason jar and decorate with a sprig of Mexican Mint Marigold or your favorite mint, along with a couple sticks of cinnamon. Tie it on the mouth of the jar with a piece of jute rope or raffia. They make a simple and elegant gift to give during the holidays.

Mexican Mint Marigold (Texas Tarragon)

Mexican Cocoa


1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped Mexican chocolate (Ibarra)

Optional: pinch of dried Mexican Mint Marigold finely crushed

I put a couple nice size teaspoons of the cocoa mix in my favorite chocolate mug and sprinkled a small pinch of Mexican Mint Marigold on top. Just pour on some hot water and enjoy the warm Mayan Indian chocolate flavor.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

French Baguettes Infused With Rosemary

Oh my! The smell of Baguettes baking the the oven brushed with butter and fresh Rosemary is simply irresistible. 

The greatest thing about making them is that they are actually very quick and easy.

The secret to making the best Baguettes is creating lots of steam in your oven.  

I do two rises with the dough. The time will be much shorter than with regular bread dough. 


Before you begin to put together your ingredients, go ahead and take a 9X12 baking dish and fill it half way with water. Turn the oven on to 450 degrees and place your dish on the bottom rack. 

This will get the oven nice and hot and get that steam going. You can chose to make to nice size Baguettes by only dividing the dough in half with this recipe or divide the dough into 4  or even 6 pieces for breadsticks.

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbs. active dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar or honey
3 1/4 cup organic unbleached flour
2 tsp. Rosemary Salt
Drizzle of Olive Oil
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
3 Tbs. unsalted butter for brushing
1 Tbs. Rosemary Salt for brushing


In a small bowl mix the warm water with the yeast and sugar.Cover with plastic wrap and a towel in a warm spot. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Your starter will become bubbly and foamy. 

In your mixing bowl combine the flour and salt. Gradually add the yeast mixture. Add a drizzle of Olive Oil. Mix with dough hook or knead by hand until dough becomes nice and smooth.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel in a warm place. Set the timer on 30 minutes to rest and rise.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Roll out each half into a nice triangle shape and then roll your dough up lengthwise and tuck in your ends.

Place your dough on a lightly oiled baking sheet with the seam and tucks on the bottom. Cover with towels and set your timer for another 30 minutes to rest and rise. 

While you are waiting for the dough, go out to the garden and cut a sprig of Rosemary. 

Get out a small saucepan and put in the 3 Tbsp. butter, kosher salt and with scissors cut tiny snips of the Rosemary sprig. Turn the burner on low for the butter to melt.

With a very sharp knife make a slash down the length of each baguette. I do not slash the breadsticks. 

Brush with the melted butter mixture and place in your hot steamy oven. Set the times for 7 minutes. 

Take out the the oven and brush again using up the rest of the butter. Place back in the oven for 8 minutes to finish baking.

Take out of the oven and cool on wire racks.


Have even more fun and whip up some of your favorite herbal butters to serve with your Baguettes. 

They also make wonderful gifts to give to family and friends. 

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Texas Pecan Yeast Bread

Texas Pecan Yeast Bread

This bread makes wonderful toast and sandwiches with a lot of variations. It's really delicious with a little homemade jam or honey on top. 

You can add a bit of cinnamon and nice big organic golden raisins to sweeten it up a bit. I just happened to hit the mother load on pecans this season and love them in bread. 

You'll enjoy this recipe because it's a pretty basic one that can be altered in many ways by combining different grains, seeds and even home milled legumes.

 I also use different organic oils as well, such as Sunflower, Sesame, Olive and Canola. The trick is to not add in all your flour at the beginning so you can adjust for the added in grains and such. 

The dough should always be sticky but not to the point of sticking to your fingers where it can't be kneaded well. Makes 2 loaves. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


1 1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (can substitute with local raw honey or organic raw sugar)
1/3 cup unsalted butter (can substitute with an oil)
5 1/2 to 6 cups unbleached bread flour (can substitute one cup for fresh milled wheat, bran or legumes)
1 cup organic whole oats
1 cup finely crushed pecans
1 tsp. sea salt
4 tsp. active dry yeast
2 nice large eggs from the hen house or cage free


Take the water, brown sugar and butter and put in a small glass bowl for the microwave. Heat about a minute and stir, then heat one more minute. Leave it to stay warm in the microwave while you prepare the other ingredients. (Optional: if you want to add raisins let them heat in the microwave in this bowl. It helps them swell a bit and makes a little raisin juice that's yummy)

You will need the dough hook and mixing bowl for this part. 

First put in the one cup of oats. Next add 5 cups of flour (Remember, that you can substitute one of the 5 cups for another milled grain like wheat or legume) add salt and yeast. I use a hand wire whisk and whisk it all together, then place the bowl on the stand with the dough hook. (If your adding cinnamon or any other seeds or spices this is the place to do it.) 

Take your small bowl out of the microwave and test it to be sure it's not hotter than luke warm and the butter and sugar is stirred well and melted. Pour the wet mixture in with your dry ingredients. Mix about a minute with the dough hook on speed two and turn it back off. 

Add the two eggs and turn it back on the second speed. When the dough becomes well combined and begins to pull away from the hook, check it with your finger to see how sticky it is. I will usually add 1/4 more flour here and then test it again. 

If it still feels to sticky I will add one more 1/4 cup. Pour it out of the bowl and knead the dough for a minute or so to make sure everything is worked in well. Lightly oil another big bowl and put the dough in, turning the ball around in the bowl to lightly oil the whole thing. Cover with plastic wrap or a cotton towel and set it in a warm place to rise. Usually about an hour until it is double in bulk.

Next, pour the raised dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat it out and divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a loaf and place in the slightly oiled loaf pans with the seam side down. Tuck under your ends a bit. I take a small bit of milk and brush the tops and pat on oats or seeds. 

Again, cover with plastic wrap or a towel in a warm place to allow to rise double in size. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes on 400. You will know when the bread is done by tapping it on the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds a bit hallow it is complete. Cool on a wire rack.

This is another variation using Home Milled Brown Lentils and Golden Flax Seed

Happy Gardening!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Garden Dry Your Own Chile Pepper Flakes

The Chile Peppers are first to come in this season and we've grown a wide variety. 

Just yesterday I harvested a whole lot of the Birdseye (Thai) Chile Peppers. My favorite for drying because they're little and fast to dry.

I have been known to dry my peppers naturally, (air dry) when our weather is not to humid. That rarely happens here in the Gulf Coast area. 

You can visit me at Natural Family Today for a great photo to see how I stung together peppers to dry naturally last season. I also included some other tips for canning and preserving naturally.

I am doing oven drying today. You can use a food dehydrator for this method as well. 

After spreading the prettiest peppers out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper they were ready to go in. I like using the paper because it seems to help absorb any moisture and the peppers dry faster.

The Chilies take approximately 8 to 10 hours to dry. Other peppers can take up to 12 hours because they have a thicker skin than the chilies. 

To make this real easy, I turn the oven on the lowest setting at around 170 degrees. I like putting the peppers in right before I go to sleep for the night. 

When I wake, the smallest ones are already finished drying. I go ahead and pick them out and place the rest back in the oven.

When the Chilies have completely dried, it's just a matter of crushing them. They are a little crispy, so it is not to big of a challenge. Just be very sure to wear gloves or to not touch your face. They are HOT!

I crushed my Chilies by using a coffee grinder. Don't over grind or you will end up with a lot of powder. Although Chile Powder is great too! A simple mortar and pestle works well, it is just a little more time consuming. 

Find a pretty jar that has a good seal to help keep everything dry. I found one I liked that once was filled with orange blossom honey. 

My next project will be making up some Sweet Thai Chile Sauce. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Happy Gardening!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Lemon Basil Strawberry Muffins

Lemon and Strawberries are the essence of summer. This recipe is not only very refreshing, but also very easy to make and with the right ingredients can be quite healthy. Lemon Basil is a fun treat to add to many dishes. It has a smell of fresh lemon drop candy that I so much enjoy while walking through the garden. As with several herbs, Lemon Basil takes part as one of my favorite aroma therapy sessions.


2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar (or try with Stevia or Xylitol)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 egg (organic or farm fresh is best)
3/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup organic expeller pressed sunflower oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 tbsp. homemade strawberry preserves (can substitute with fresh or frozen organic strawberries) or a good quality organic strawberry preserve.
1/4 cup fresh Lemon Basil leaves (chopped) or flowers stripped from stems
1/2 to 1 cup of unsalted raw sunflower seeds (amount depends on desired crunchiness)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rack should be in center of oven. This recipe made 20 muffins. I used baking cups in my muffin pans.

In a large bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, oil, lemon zest and juice and vanilla extract. Add the strawberry preserves, Lemon Basil and oil to this mixture.

In another large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Whisk it to mix it well. Add in the sunflower seeds. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and mix only until well combined. Over mixing will cause the batter to become to tough.

Fill each baking cup almost full. Place in oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Check by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean they are done.

Place on a wire rack to cool.

If you don't have buttermilk you can make your own by adding one tablespoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Let it sit for about 5 minute and you will have instant buttermilk.

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Juicing Cactus Fruit For Delicious Nutrition

Freshly Juiced Limes, Cactus Fruit, Coconut and Pineapple

Iced down and Ice Cold fruit juices are so refreshing during the hot summer months. Try this combination with a sprig of freshly picked pineapple sage or your favorite mint for garnish. This combination makes great frozen popsicles too!

Peel 6 to 8 nice juicy limes and place in bowl to be juiced. I use a juicer that is an attachment to my food processor.

Next is preparing the Prickly Pear Fruit, also known as Nopalea Cactus. If you have never had cactus fruit you will be in for a real treat! They are so sweet and juicy and taste like watermelons.

They are abundant right now in Texas and I've been fortunate to score them at the local market at 5 for $1. Needless to say that while they are in season is the best time to stock up.

I've cultivated about 25 prickly pears throughout specific places in the garden where caution can be taken in dealing with their long spines.

Not only do they make wonderful drinks, but jams and jellies as well. They even make superb salad dressings.

Prickly Pear Fruit

Just look how wonderfully red and juicy the Prickly Pear fruits are inside. I first cut them in half and then again into wedges. Just slip your finger up and under the skin and slip it off. I used 3 fruits for making this drink. Place them in the bowl to be juiced with the limes.

Add several chunks of fresh pineapple or you can use 1 cup of organic canned pineapple juice. If using fresh chunks go ahead and place them in the bowl to be juiced as well. Otherwise, save the cup of canned juice to add to your pitcher in the end.

For the coconut you can choose to shred or grate your own or you can do like I do and simply purchase some nice and moist organic coconut already shredded for you. I used 1 cup for this drink.

The key to this is after you run the other fruit through the juicer, begin adding the coconut. Take all the pulp from the juicer and run it back through the juicer 2 or 3 times. You will be so surprised at how much more juice comes through and gives the coconut optimum squeezing time. 

Next, add the concentrate (which is all the juice you just made) to your two quart size pitcher. Fill the pitcher half full of ice. Then simply top it off with cold water and stir vigorously.

You may add 1/2 to 1 cup of honey to the drink and stir in as well for some extra sweetness. The fruit all on its own however is quite refreshing all by itself.

Health Benefits

Prickly Pear Fruit is Beaming with health benefits! If you are a juicer, you will not want to miss out on something new to add to your diet.

The fruit is said to compare to the nutritional value of beets and red Swiss chard. 
Prickly pear cactus contains a relatively rare form of antioxidant called betalains. They also contain powerful antioxidants--polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids and vitamin C.

The Mexican people have used this fruit medicinally for generations to help treat diabetes. Today's research has found it to definitely help in lowering blood glucose. 

Happy Gardening!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Embracing the Flavors of Basil

This year has been an exceedingly good year for basil at our homestead. The top choices for basil round off into four distinctive flavors. Each to be savored and enjoyed throughout the year.

Sweet Basil

The most commonly known basil of all is simply Sweet Basil. We enjoy its sweet flavor fresh from the garden in an array of dishes. Paired with garden fresh heirloom tomatoes during the summers harvest leaves you longing for each and every season. My favorite for adding to sauces, as pesto and homemade tomato soup.

Sweet Thai Basil

This basil brings a whole new aspect of cooking to enjoy the kitchen. It's sweet and spicy anise flavor is a favorite in all of my Asian dishes. Whether I'm preparing a stir fry with savory garden vegetables or my favorite egg rolls and crab puffs, there is none other to match the Thai. 

Cinnamon Basil

This basil goes a long way in my Texas kitchen. It is an inspiration to all of my Mexican dishes and breads. Bring me the tamales and enchiladas! Once you have tried the spicy flavor of Cinnamon basil added to your salsa making during pepper harvesting you will know exactly what I'm talking about. 

Magical Michael Basil

A new basil added to my garden this spring and I'm thrilled with it. It is the candy store of all basil! I've not even began to reach it's potential and endless possibilities for the kitchen harvest. In fact, I'm so in love with its sweetness and beauty that it now embraces my beloved Basil Blackberry Jellies. Candy and Perfume is the best way to describe Magical Michael.

Enjoy and Happy Gardening!