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Herb Growing

by Cait Landon

Don’t have much space? There is no better choice for container planting than flavorful herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme and parsley. And many, actually most, herbs grow beautifully in containers.

Where can you put a small herb garden?  First of all since all herbs will grow in containers, you can put containers anywhere there is a source of water and plenty of sunshine.  They will fit in all your growing areas; on the patio, on the back-porch and even on your kitchen windowsill.

The simple and classic design is to put one herb type in a pot but you may consider raised beds for convenience, and it will make your gardening very easy. But if a raised bed is not an option for you, a large pot is the next best thing.

Your herbs needs at least six hours of sun each day. And you should use a premium-quality potting mix. Do Not use garden soil; it can be too dense and possibly infested with disease or nematodes. A definite must have is containers with good drainage holes and they should be large enough to accommodate the roots as they grow.

Combine the herbs according to their shape so there is room for more than one in a pot to make them pretty and interesting.  For example, pair upright rosemary with creeping thyme. If the pot is large enough, you can add sage or chives, too. A large strawberry jar is a perfect vessel for compact herbs that you only use a pinch at a time. These include mint, oregano, thyme, sage, and rosemary (in the top of the jar).

Harvesting Tips
Generally harvesting herbs is like giving them a hair cut. Cutting off the tips, down to a intersection of leaves, makes them branch out and regrow as a fuller plant. Cut them regularly so they do not grow leggy and never cut off more than a third of their growth at any one time. Perennial herbs should be pruned back every fall, about a third to keep them from getting too woody over the winter months and to encourage new growth in Spring.

Harvested when the oils responsible for flavor and aroma are at their peak, proper timing depends on the plant part you are harvesting and the intended use. Herbs grown for their foliage should be harvested before they flower. While chives are quite attractive in bloom, flowering can cause the foliage to develop an off-flavor. Harvest herbs grown for seeds as the seed pods change in color from green to brown to gray but before they open. Collect herb flowers, such as borage and chamomile, just before full flower. Harvest herb roots, such as bloodroot, chicory, ginseng, and goldenseal, in the fall after the foliage fades. Some general guidelines to use include:
•    Begin harvesting the herb when the plant has enough foliage to maintain growth. Up to 75% of the current season’s growth can be harvested at one time.
•    Harvest early in the morning, after the dew dries, but before the heat of the day.
•    Harvest herbs before flowering, otherwise, leaf production declines.
•    Herb flowers have their most intense oil concentration and flavor when harvested after flower buds appear but before they open.
•    Herb flowers harvested to dry for craft purposes should be picked just before they are fully open.
•    Annual herbs can be harvested until frost.
•    Perennial herbs can be clipped until late August. Stop harvesting about one month before the frost date. Late pruning could encourage tender growth that cannot harden-off before winter.
•    Harvest tarragon or lavender flowers in early summer and then shear the plants to half their height to encourage a second flowering period in the fall.

If you are new to gardening as a whole or just new to growing food, just imagine the first time you serve guests tomatoes garnished with basil you grew yourself.

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Perfectly Grilled Corn on the Cob

ears of corn in husk

Herb Butter:
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs ( basil, chives or tarragon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
black pepper

Combine in food processor until smooth.  Refrigerate for 30 min for flavors to meld then bring to room temperature before serving

Directions:
Heat the grill to medium.

Pull the outer husks down the ear to the base. Strip away the silk from each ear of corn by hand. Fold husks back into place, and place the ears of corn in a large bowl of cold water with 1 tablespoon of salt for 10 minutes.

Remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place the corn on the grill, close the cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, or until kernels are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove the husks and eat on the cob or remove the kernels. Serve with Herb Butter.

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Cookbooks for a Cause

As this community prepares for a growing number of older adults, the Good Samaritan Society – Denton Village will get out in front of the wave by building a Community Life Enrichment and Wellness Center. Plans include:

•    A new chapel for community worship, a prayer room and chaplain’s office.
•    A well-equipped wellness center with an exercise area designed to meet the needs of a full range of fitness levels.
•    A medical exam room for physician visits.
•    A flexible space for dining and community events.
•    A technology center to provide opportunities for life enrichment services.

The Community Life Enrichment and Wellness Center will be much more than a building. It is a response to a calling to bring our best thinking, and our best experience to a growing need. And with your help, this project will happen soon. As part of our fundraising efforts for this project, our Marketing Coordinator Allison Swink has compiled recipes from residents and staff of Denton Village to create a one of a kind community cookbook.

All proceeds from sales of the Denton Village Community Cookbook will be used to expand resident facilities and services, and help seniors age well for years to come. Sales have already begun and cookbooks are expected to arrive December 9th. The cookbook has over 500 recipes, including recipes from Extreme Cuisine Catering.

Since 1976, the Good Samaritan Society – Denton Village has provided shelter and supportive services to older persons and others in need, believing that “In Christ’s Love, Everyone Is Someone.”

For more information on ordering a cookbook please contact Allison Swink at 940-383-6353 or aswink@good-sam.com.

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German Potato Salad

German Potato Salad

2 1/4 pounds potatoes (waxy variety, such as Yukon Gold)
4 slices bacon
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup onions, diced
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons mild brown mustard
1/2 bunch chives, snipped

Cook the potatoes in simmering salted water until just tender, about 15-18 minutes. Drain and dry. While the potatoes are still hot, remove the skins and slice the potatoes 1/2-inch thick. While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the dressing. Cook the bacon over medium-high heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon, reserving the bacon fat in the pan; crumble the bacon into small pieces, and reserve. Bring the chicken broth, vinegar, onions, salt, sugar, and pepper to a boil. Combine the oil, rendered bacon fat, and mustard with the warm potatoes. Pour the boiling broth-vinegar mixture over the potatoes. Toss in the crumbled bacon and chives. Makes 8 servings.

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Let’s Cookout

Let’s Cookout

by Cait Landon

In case you haven’t noticed, summer is here.  The grills are being lit as more and more weekends include get-togethers and cookouts. Take note though, these gatherings can start to take a toll on your waistline if you always chow down on burgers and potato salad every weekend. Luckily, there are a few ways that you can keep your belt in check and still enjoy your favorite foods at warm weather get-togethers. Consider the following ways to throw your own healthier cookout or barbecue.

Make Some Activities Available

Games aren’t just for kids. Set up a game of Cornhole, Bocce Ball or lay out a couple of Frisbees for some friendly competition. This gives people options for other things to do at your cookout, and it is also an easy way to incorporate fun activities that get people moving.

Give Dishes a Makeover

Typical cookout foods like potato salad and bacon cheeseburgers are yummy but can pack on calories. Lighten up these favorite dishes by making sensible substitutions to some of the ingredients. For example, opt for low fat mayo in your potato salad. Try lean turkey burgers instead of beef and swap out traditional fries for sweet potato fries. Perhaps have grilled chicken as an offering. Whole chicken or chicken breasts can be made in a variety of ways, like marinating with chipotle seasoning, vinaigrettes, jerk sauce or Cajun seasoning. If using chicken with skin, remove the skin before eating. Make fresh garnishes available like lettuce, onions, and tomatoes and forget the cheeses. Try to add healthy options like a cucumber and tomato salad or vegetable kebabs to give the whole table a bit more interesting flavor. Hummus is a great alternative to use for dips and salads with low fat raspberry and balsamic vinaigrettes are perfect on sunny, hot days.

Seasonal and Local Produce

Summer is synonymous with fresh produce. Watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, corn, and cucumbers, whether alone or incorporated into main dishes are fresh and scrumptious.  Grill squash, tomatoes, cucumber, and corn to make a colorful addition to meals.

Lighten Up Your Beverages

Beverages are another source of empty calories that add up. You can serve fun, refreshing, lower calorie drinks so easy with just a few simple substitutions. Offer flavored sparkling water as an alternative to soda or make lemonade sweetened with agave or stevia instead of sugar. Also fruit infused water is so refreshing on a hot day. Try orange and cucmber slices in your water.

The key with any cookout is to provide many options for your guests. By having typical cookout favorites and including some healthier dishes, you are expanding the choices available plus encouraging a fresher fare. Guest will really enjoy the change of pace with a few new options thrown in the mix.

Deviled Eggs

12 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1/3 cup nonfat cottage cheese
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
or scallion greens
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
Paprika for garnish

Halve eggs lengthwise with a sharp knife. Gently remove the yolks. Place 16 yolk halves in a food processor (discard the remaining 8 yolk halves). Add cottage cheese, mayonnaise, chives (or scallion greens), relish, mustard and salt; process until smooth. Spoon about 2 teaspoons yolk mixture into each egg white half. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

Per serving: 34 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 71 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 3 g protein; 0 g fiber; 85 mg sodium; 31 mg potassium.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, (see Ingredient Note)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk, (see Tip)
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 large egg whites
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, (Neufchâtel)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.

Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk whole eggs, buttermilk, oil, corn syrup and vanilla in another medium bowl until well blended.

Beat egg whites in a large clean bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until light and foamy. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup sugar until stiff glossy peaks form.

Beat butter and cream cheese in a large bowl until creamy. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Alternately add the flour and buttermilk mixtures, beating until just smooth. Fold in about one-third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula until just smooth and no white streaks remain. Fold in the remaining egg whites. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly.

Bake the cake until a skewer inserted into it comes out clean and the top springs back when touched, 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn out onto the rack; let cool for at least 1 hour more before slicing.

Ingredient Note

Whole-wheat pastry flour, lower in protein than regular whole-wheat flour, has less gluten-forming potential, making it a better choice for tender baked goods. You can find it in the natural-foods section of large super markets and natural-foods stores. Store in the freezer.

No buttermilk? You can use buttermilk powder prepared according to package directions. Or make “sour milk”: mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup milk.

Per serving: 261 calories; 12 g fat (5 g sat, 3 g mono); 52 mg cholesterol; 35 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein; 1 g fiber; 167 mg sodium; 73 mg potassium.

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Sweet Memories

Sweet Memories

by Cait Landon

Did you know that sharing a cake at a wedding is a tradition that began in the 17th Century in ancient Greece! Through the centuries it has become an elaborate art form that symbolizes eternal love and commitment to each other.

From her dress, her groom, her flowers and of course….the perfect wedding cake, every girl dreams of having the perfect wedding day. The wedding cake should be just as memorable as the first kiss, or the walk to the altar.  And choosing a cake that’s compatible with the style of the venue, the season, your gown, the flower arrangements, or the menu will all fall into play for cake decisions.

Passion and experience, just like eggs and butter, are the main ingredients for decorators to design your special cake. Their imported chocolates, the best liqueurs, and fresh fruits are merged with proven recipes and baked to perfection, resulting in moist and flavorful cakes that every bride hungers for at her wedding, whether she is looking for some sweet inspiration or has her heart set on something extraordinary.

But, the facts are, you don’t hire a baker every day to make a show-stopping dessert to feed 200 of your nearest and dearest, so the details can be a bit tricky.

You’ll want to book early
The caveat: you also want to order it after you’ve nailed down some details. For example, your venue should be booked, you should have an estimate of how many guests are attending and your color scheme and invitations should be chosen. These wedding specifics will help determine specifics about the cake.

You’ll want to choose wisely
A good qualified Baker will have done this routine many, many times so rely on their expertise and they will be able to guide you through the “need be’s”  and the basics.  They will be able to suggest frosting types based for your wedding particulars.  They know best which frosting type will hold up in the August heat or if the style and design you have been dreaming of will also work with the wedding venue.  Your room size could be a determining factor of a stacked cake or one with columns.  Beautiful and tasty is your goal, so go with an expert.

After the wedding
Avoid freezer burn! Even if you take the most painstaking packaging measures, eating the top tier of your cake on your first anniversary sounds far better than it tastes. Think about indulging on your two-week or one-month anniversary, and treat yourself to a fresh cake in the same flavor when celebrate the first year. If you must adhere to tradition, wrap the cake in plastic wrap, and then bag it in an airtight baggie. Stay away from aluminum foil — it might not protect against freezer burn as well as plastic wrap because it’s not an airtight material.

On another note, once the cake has been cut, the bride and groom usually feed each other the first slice, symbolizing their commitment to provide for one another. Let’s think about this little ritual for a moment. You’ve just had your hair and makeup done, you’re wearing an exquisite gown – do you really want buttercream plastered all over you? An idea instead of the popular “smash”, after the first bites, sweep your beloved into your arms for a kiss or playfully kiss away the tiny dollop of frosting in the corner of his mouth, or sweetly lick the buttercream off her fingers.  That is sharing responsibly and makes for a great photo op.

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