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How to Grow Your Own Herbs for Cooking

Published: Saturday, March 25, 2017 @ 12:00 AM

The next time a recipe calls for fresh basil, skip the poor substitute of dried basil, forgo the last-minute dash to the supermarket for some overpriced wilted basil, and just pluck a few tender leaves off of the basil plant you have growing in your very own herb garden.  What? You don't have fresh basil growing in your garden? Well consider this your invitation to start.

Growing your own herbs is a simple and inexpensive undertaking that pays off big for your taste buds and your budget.  If you can keep a houseplant alive, you can sustain an herb garden.  Here’s how.

Decide what you want to grow.  Some popular choices from home cooks are listed here along with their care instructions.  Start with just a few that you know you’ll use regularly, and then branch out from there.



























































Herb

Special Care

How to Harvest

How to Use

Basil

Pinch off any flowers that appear. This preserves the plant’s flavor, and will also help increase the leaf density of each stem.

Harvest the upper leaves first, taking just a few leaves from each stem at a time.

Add raw to salads, sandwiches and wraps, cook into soups and sauces, chop and sprinkle on pizza, make pesto.

Parsley

Parsley has a longer than average germination period of three to four weeks, so extra patience is required.

Cut the outermost stalks just above ground level, which will encourage further growth.

Both the leaves and stalks can be eaten in salads, soups, and Mediterranean dishes like Tabouli.

Chives

If you don’t intend on eating the flowers, pinch them off as soon as they begin to appear.

Cut the leaves with scissors, starting with the outside leaves first, allowing about 2 inches of the leaves to remain.

This entire plant can be eaten from top to bottom— the bulbs taste like mild onions, the leaves can be used in salads and other dishes, and even the flower heads can be tossed into salads.

Cilantro

Cilantro does not like hot weather. If the soil temperature reaches 75 degrees, the plant will bolt and go to seed, making this a short-lived herb. Aggressive pruning will extend its life, so be ready to use or store it. Save the seeds to use in cooking (the seeds are called coriander) or to plant.

There are two methods of harvesting cilantro. When the plant reaches about 6" in height, you can remove the outer leaves with a scissors, leaving the growing point intact for new growth. Or you can wait until the plant is almost completely grown and pull it from the soil by its roots to use the whole bunch at once.

Salads, wraps, dips, and many Mexican recipes.

Rosemary

This plant can be difficult to start from seed, so you may wish to buy a mature plant. And be careful not to overwater—rosemary likes its soil on the dry side.

Simply cut off pieces of the stem as you need it.

Many culinary and even medicinal uses.

Thyme

This plant can take awhile to start from seed, so you may wish to buy a mature plant. Drought-tolerant thyme is extremely easy to care for, and prefers drier soils.

Simply cut off pieces of the stem as you need it.

Often used to flavor meats, soups, and stews.

Dill

Drought-tolerant dill is extremely easy to care for, and prefers drier soils.

Don't start harvesting dill until it's at least 12 inches tall, and never take more than one-third of the leaves at any one time.

Great flavoring for fish, lamb, potatoes, and peas.

Mint

Mint is an invasive plant so stick to container gardening with this one.

Pinch off sprigs as you need them.

Mint is extremely versatile, and can be used in salads, desserts, drinks, and many other recipes. You can even chew it by itself for a pleasant, refreshing flavor.

 

Decide where to plant your herbs. Many herbs grow well indoors and outdoors in the ground or in containers.  If you have a little space with at least 5 hours of direct sunlight a day, you may prefer to grow them indoors, as the herbs will be much more accessible for cooking and watering, and not subject to threats of pests, weeds, or variations in temperature.

Decide whether you’ll start from seeds or seedlings.  Seedlings are very young plants that you can transplant into your own garden. They are typically only available in the spring and summer from gardening centers and farmers markets.  Seeds cost less, but take more time and resources to grow from scratch (here's how).

Gather your materials.  You’ll need a few gardening tools, like a small shovel or spade, some gardening gloves and pots or containers (optional since herbs can also be planted directly into the soil). You’ll also need some fertilized soil.  If you have a compost pile, you can use some fully decomposed compost to fertilize the soil.  Otherwise, you can use a general purpose compost solution, available in any gardening store.   If you’re container gardening, use a packaged potting soil mix, which will be free of pests.

Start planting.  If you’re starting from seeds, sow into moist soil and cover with 1/2 inch of soil on top.  The seeds should germinate in about one week.  If you’re using a pot or container for seedlings, follow these steps.


  1. Ensure proper drainage by filling the pot with a shallow layer of course gravel.
     


  2. Fill the pot about 1/2 of the way full, and place the plant, still in its original container, into the new pot.  Add dirt around the plant, gently packing it into place, so that the top of the new soil is at the same level as the top of the plant’s original soil. 
     


  3. Remove the plastic pot, tap it so you can easily slide the plant and all of its soil out, and place the plant and all of its soil into the hole in the soil of the new pot.


Care for your plants. Water at the base of the plant when the soil begins to feel dry, at least once per week.  Pull weeds that appear near the plant, because they will steal the nutrients from the soil.  If growing outdoors, bring them in before the first frost.

Harvest the herbs.  Most plants will grow new leaves if you don’t pick the stems bare. You can pick the leaves with your fingers or snip them with kitchen shears.

Use or store the herbs.  Many recipes call for fresh herbs, so simply pick your herbs, wash them and pat them dry before using in your favorite recipes. To store, you can preserve your herbs for future use by freezing them or drying them.  In either case, you must first prep them.  First, remove any soil or bugs by rinsing in cold water.  Then, remove flowering stems and flowers and gently remove excess water by patting with a paper towel.  Once your herbs are prepped, you can choose your method of storage:


  • Air drying:  Cut the stems at soil level and hang upside down in bunches (so that the flavorful oil travels into the leaves) to dry for one to two weeks.  Once dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store in a dry, airtight container for up to a year.
     


  • Freezing:  The benefit of freezing, as opposed to drying, is that the herbs retain more of their just-picked flavor.  Place clean herbs directly into freezer bags, or try the cube method: Place a few teaspoons of chopped, fresh herbs into each cell of an ice cube tray.  Fill the trays with water, and freeze.  When cooking, just pop out a cube and add it to the pot like you would fresh herbs!



Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1739

10 tips on shipping packages during the holiday season

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 3:12 AM

Deadlines For Sending Christmas Gifts To Military Members

Braving the crowds on Black Friday may be the easiest part of holiday shopping. Shipping packages to gift receivers around the country can be a huge challenge – both in getting the gifts there in one piece and in keeping your budget under control.

Here are 10 tips to help you ship your gifts:

>> Read more trending news

1. Buy something you can mail easily

This seems like you’re buying for you and not them, but odds are there is something on your recipient’s list that is easy to ship through the mail.

Even with the right packing precautions, it’s always safer to buy items you know can survive a bumpy trip through the mail. Apparel, shoes and most toys are a safe bet.

>> Start planning now for military holiday shipping deadlines

2. Know the rules

The United States Postal Service has restrictions on what can be shipped, both internationally and domestically. Some things, such as ammunition, are completely prohibited, while other things, such as nail polish and perfumes, have restrictions.

Find out more at usps.com/ship/shipping-restrictions.htm.

>> These are the best gift cards of the 2017 holiday season

3. Pay attention to the box

Make sure to use a new, sturdy box that’s a few inches larger than your gift on all sides to allow for plenty of packing materials. Using that box that’s been in the basement all year can result in your gifts cascading out at the wrong moment.

The Postal Service estimates that a crease can reduce a box’s strength by as much as 70 percent.

>> 10 tips for Black Friday shopping

4. Buy good packing material

The Postal Service suggests using higher-performing cushioning materials made of polyethylene or polyurethane. Basic polystyrene cushioning can endure only one impact.

Using stronger, but thinner cushioning is better because you can use a smaller box and save on shipping costs if the price is based on the package’s dimensions and weight.

Newspaper is not a great choice because it flattens, but it’s good for wrapping fragile items and separating them from other items in the box.

>> Oprah’s 2017 favorite things list is the ultimate holiday gift guide — Here are our 11 top picks

5. Shake it

You want your packing job to result in a tight fit. Use at least 1 inch of cushioning around the item—top, bottom and all four sides — to fill in any air spaces. There should be very little movement when you shake the box.

The key point is to keep the gift items as far away from the box’s walls as possible. When you have a very fragile item, use two boxes, and cushion around the inner box with at least 3 inches of packing peanuts.

>> Too much Christmas music is bad for your health

6. Know your deadlines

The holiday season is the busiest time of year for the Postal Service. These are the dates they recommend shipping items in the contiguous United States to make sure they arrive on time.

  • USPS Retail Ground: Dec. 14
  • First Class Mail: Dec. 19 (Alaska Dec. 20; Hawaii Dec. 15)
  • Priority Mail: Dec. 20 (Alaska Dec. 20; Hawaii Dec. 15)
  • Priority Mail Express: Dec. 22 (Alaska Dec. 21; Hawaii Dec. 20)

For more information on shipping to the rest of the world, visit www.usps.com/holiday.

>> 7 tips for buying the best artificial Christmas tree this season

7. Flat-rate is your friend

FedEx, UPS and the Postal Service all offer flat-rate boxes, meaning that you can pack as much as you can into a box and ship it for one price. However, these do come with some limits – for example, UPS and the USPS only allows up to 70 pounds, while FedEx only allows 50 pounds.

>> PHOTOS: Rockefeller Center Plaza Christmas Tree arrives in New York

8. Look for deals

Do a little shopping around before you ship. Some places, such as PostNet stores, will help you compare shipping prices. You can also do this online at sites such as Shipgooder.com.

USPS, FedEx and UPS also have tools on their websites to estimate shipping costs.

>> 10 ways to save money during the holidays

9. Avoid missed packages

If you want to help your recipient avoid unwanted snooping from neighbors or children, consider sending the gift to their workplace. If it’s meant for kids, that’ll help keep it away from prying eyes. It will also help people from missing deliveries at home.

Keep your tracking numbers handy so you can pinpoint the package’s destination and lets its recipients know when to look out for it.

>> 10 holiday activities that don't have to involve eating

10. Consider insurance

Santa’s delivery service isn’t always perfect, so it’s worth considering insurance on whatever you’re shipping.

Ask your shipper about insurance or a declared-value option. The post office includes $100 of insurance in its Priority Mail Express shipping and offers options for declaring a higher value, for a fee.

If your package ends up being damaged in transit, but the shipping company determines that you packed it improperly, or did not follow proper packing procedures, they may have grounds to deny your claim.

Website seeks Pilgrim descendants to post their stories

Published: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 1:41 PM

PLYMOUTH, MA - NOVEMBER 20: A boy dressed as a pilgrim rides on a float during the annual Thanksgiving Parade November 20, 2004 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Michael Springer/Getty Images
PLYMOUTH, MA - NOVEMBER 20: A boy dressed as a pilgrim rides on a float during the annual Thanksgiving Parade November 20, 2004 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.(Michael Springer/Getty Images)

A genealogical organization in New England has announced the launch of the world's first online gallery of Mayflower passenger descendants.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society told The Associated Press that the goal is to document the approximately 30 million living descendants of Mayflower passengers and crew.

>> Read more trending news

MORE: New bill takes on Native American mascots in Mass. schools

The website identifies 108 passengers and crew members known to have left descendants, allowing participants to locate their Pilgrim relative. Those who are a known descendant of a Pilgrim can post their story on the website.

The new project will help mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's passage, which takes place in 2020, The Associated Press reported.

MORE: Native Americans mark Thanksgiving with day of mourning

The Associated Press contributed to this report

It’s not all about the turkey: 9 things you probably didn't know about Thanksgiving

Published: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 10:54 AM
Updated: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 10:54 AM

Thanksgiving - By the Numbers

Each year, Thanksgiving comes around with with the giddy anticipation of devoruing comfort food and spending some QT with loved ones, which reminds you just what what you are thankful for the most.

The rich, deep history of this centuries-old tradition is woven into the United States' cultural fabric, yet, there are still many aspects of the holiday that most Americans don’t know.

RELATED: 5 things to know about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

To resolve that general lack of Thanksgiving knowledge, we’ve gathered nine interesting and unusual facts about Thanksgiving facts you might not have known.

When did Thanksgiving begin?

The holiday is believed to have begun in Massachusetts at the Plymouth Colony in 1621. The famous harvest feast was celebrated by the Pokanoket tribe and the colonists. The Plymouth Colony was composed of pilgrims, who were a part of the English Separatist Church. They traveled from England to the "New World" aboard a boat called the Mayflower in search of a place where they could practice their religion freely.

What foods were served?

Just as expected, turkey could have been served during the first Thanksgiving. Edward Winslow, the Pilgrim chronicler, wrote that before the dinner men went on a "fowling" mission to catch some bird meat. Fall produce that would have just been harvested was also on the menu, including grapes, plums and that Thanksgiving staple, cranberries. Unlike present-day Thanksgiving meals, seafood, such as lobster, bass and oysters, were also featured prominently during the early days of the holiday.

When did it become a national holiday?

It wasn't until nearly 200 years later that President Abraham Lincoln announced that every last Thursday of November would be a national day of thanksgiving. In 1941, the feast became an official national holiday by an act of Congress.

Guess which Thanksgiving-related fowl Benjamin Franklin wanted to represent the U.S.A.?

If you guessed the good ole turkey, then you are right. Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers, had much love for the bird and deemed it "much more respectable" than our current national bird, the eagle.

Load your plate with protein and stay away from starchy vegetables. (I'm looking at you, mashed potatoes.) These are among the tips for avoiding that stuffed feeling on Thanksgiving. Photo: The Food Network(HANDOUT)

The turkey's name was born out of confusion.

When Christopher Columbus landed on America, he thought he was in India. So he named turkeys after the "tuka," which is an Indian word for the peacock. Maybe it was their similar feather pattern that contributed to the mix-up.

Not just Americans celebrate it.

Canadians observe Thanksgiving, too. It's called l'Action de grâce and has been celebrated since 1578. The holiday was founded on the same principles as the United States' Thanksgiving, which is the grateful breaking of bread with each other during harvest time. The weekend before the holiday, which is on the second Monday in October, is when citizens feast on staples, such as turkey, corn and mashed potatoes.

Other countries with holidays similar to Thanksgiving include Germany's Erntedankfest and Japan's Niinamesai. Grenada, Liberia, the Netherlands and Norfolk Island also recognize their own Thanksgivings.

Thank the holiday for TV dinners.

Due to a 26-ton surplus of Swanson turkeys back in 1953, the company decided to try and sell the extra birds. They sliced the frozen meat and repackaged it, which gave way to the modern-day TV dinner.

Turkey has inspired the names of several American cities.

Yes, there are towns named after the turkey. There's Turkey, North Carolina, Turkey Creek, Louisiana, and Turkey, Texas. As you can imagine, there are plenty of wild turkeys in Turkey, North Carolina that like to hang out in the wetlands.

Thanksgiving has become the unofficial favorite holiday for NFL games. 

The Detriot Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have a reputation for playing on the holiday. The Detroit Lions started the tradition in 1934 because the team's owner George A. Richards wanted to drum up excitement for the then-new team. The Dallas Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving since 1966, because their general manager, Tex Schramm, saw it as a way to get national attention.

6 easy side dishes anyone can make for Thanksgiving Day

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 3:18 PM
Updated: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 3:18 PM

Here are 6 easy side dishes anyone can make for Thanksgiving Day Homemade Cranberry Sauce French Green Beans with Garlicky Almond Breadcrumbs Martha's Mini Cornbread Puddings Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans Giada's Roasted Potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips and Brussels Sprouts Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Although the turkey will surely take center stage at your Thanksgiving table, a few unforgettable side dishes can't hurt.

These simple Thanksgiving sides won't take very much time or effort to pull together, but look (and taste) like a million bucks.

RELATED: The ultimate guide to a budget-friendly Thanksgiving dinner

This Thanksgiving Day, give your family a feast they won't forget by including a few of these easy-to-make dishes to accompany the big star.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Delish dishes up an easy-to-make cranberry sauce that turns out right every time.

Time required: 25 minutes

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 2 teaspoon orange zest
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

     
  1. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, and place over low heat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Pour in cranberries, and cook around 10 minutes until berries burst.
  3. Add in orange zest and a pinch of salt.
  4. Remove from heat, and allow mixture to cool completely.
  5. Refrigerate before serving.

French Green Beans with Garlicky Almond Breadcrumbs

Just because a dish looks fancy, doesn't mean it's complicated to make. Country Living raised the bar with this elegant and easy French green bean side.

Time required: 30 minutes

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sourdough breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup almonds, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pound haricots verts (French green beans)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

Directions:

     
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over low to medium heat.
  2. Add in sourdough breadcrumbs and sliced almonds, stirring for 5 minutes.
  3. Add in minced garlic, and stir for 2 more minutes.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat, and stir in chopped chives, salt and pepper.
  5. Steam French green beans, then toss in butter or olive oil, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Move green beans to a serving dish, then cover with seasoned, garlicky breadcrumbs.

Martha's Mini Cornbread Puddings

Martha always knows how to add flavor and simplicity to any Thanksgiving feast. Her Mini Cornbread Puddings will steal the show at this year's event.

Time required: 40 minutes

Serves 24

Ingredients:

  • Butter for greasing 
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn kernels, thawed

Directions:

     
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and butter muffin tin cups.
  2. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl.
  3. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and whisk egg, sour cream and corn together inside the well.
  4. Continue mixing until just combined.
  5. Spoon mixture evenly into muffin tin cups, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Allow puddings to stand for 5 minutes in tin before removing them.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans

This nutty, buttery sweet potato casserole recipe from Taste of Home truly symbolizes a Southern Christmas dinner.

Time required: 1 hour 10 minutes

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans (40 ounces each) sweet potatoes, drained
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • For the topping:
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cold butter

Directions:

     
       
    1. Mash canned sweet potatoes in a mixing bowl, then add in eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla and salt. Combine completely.
    2. Grease a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish, and pour in sweet potato mixture.
    3. Combine brown sugar, flour and pecans in a separate mixing bowl, and cut in butter with a pastry cutter until crumbs form.
    4. Sprinkle sugar mixture over sweet potato mixture, and bake for 60 to 70 minutes until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Giada's Roasted Potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips and Brussels Sprouts

Giada De Laurentiis with Food Network created this delicious and hearty root vegetable recipe that will satisfy even the pickiest palate.

Time required: 1 hour

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced into 1 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 pound red potatoes, sliced into 1 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 3 medium parsnips, sliced into 1 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, sliced into 1 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

     
       
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease an 11-by-17 glass baking dish with olive oil.
    2. Place sliced and chopped vegetables into the dish, along with herbs, salt and pepper.
    3. Toss until evenly coated, drizzling with additional olive oil if needed. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Not only are these tasty wraps from Damn Delicious damn good, they're super easy to make and take only 15 minutes to prepare.

Time required: 15 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces prosciutto, sliced and halved horizontally
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

     
       
         
      1. Wrap a slice of prosciutto at an angle around an asparagus spear. Repeat to wrap all asparagus spears with prosciutto.
      2. Pour olive oil into a large skillet, and cook wrapped asparagus over medium high heat until asparagus is tender and prosciutto appears crispy.
Don't want to miss the big parade this year? Here are 5 things to know about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade before you head out.

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