Experimenting with Herbs


Over the past couple weeks, I was blessed with a bountiful harvest of fresh herbs. And being the kind of person to experiment and try new things, I decided to try my hand at something a little unusual that I wouldn’t have thought of if not for a book I was reading on using herbs in different ways – using salt and sugar!

Herb sugars and salts are things that are quite easy to make. All you need is a food processor (or mortar and pestle), some salt or sugar, and a jar to hold it. This time around, I experimented with a mint sugar, a rosemary salt, and a candied version of both mint and basil leaves.

Mint Sugar
Here’s the recipe I used, but feel free to use more or less mint depending on your preference
8 sprigs mint leaves
1.5 cups sugar

In a mortar and pestle, I mixed all the mint and sugar together and blended for about 5 minutes. Taking care to really crush the leaves to release the fragrant oils, it was a fun and refreshing process as you can smell the fresh, stimulating aroma of mint as you grind it all together.

  

After grinding, I spread the sugar out on a cookie sheet to dry for about an hour or two, then strained it into a jar (to remove the coarse leaves and break up the clumps of sugar.

My sugar now has a fresh minty flavour to it, and has a slight green tinge to it from the mint leaves. It looks delicious and can’t wait to try it!

Potential uses:
-flavouring tea and coffee and hot chocolate
-baked goods (mint chocolate chip cookies perhaps?)
-gifts for friends/family
-sprinkled over fresh fruit

Rosemary Salt
Making rosemary salt is pretty much the same process as the mint sugar. The rosemary that I grew was extremely fragrant and was an absolute pleasure to work with. Here are some before and after pictures.
  

Potential Uses:
-sprinkle over meat and potatoes
-use as a rub when baking or grilling
-gifts for friends and family

Candied Mint/Basil
Owing to an abundance of fresh and delicious basil. I decided to try making some candied basil and mint leaves. Again, the recipe is super simple, and takes a minimal of prep and processing time.

1. Collect your herbs, wash and make sure it is completely dry before using
2. In a bowl, separate the white from 1 (or 2) eggs, depending on how many leaves you will be processing
3. In another bowl, prepare the sugar
3. Dip leaves in egg white
4. Leave to dry in a cool, dry place on a sheet of parchment paper
5. Serve and enjoy

Potential Uses:
-after dinner refreshment
-garnish for afternoon tea
-before meal appetizer
-a sweet treat and delicious indulgence

Wrapup
That’s about it for the herbs I was experimenting with. A couple of things to note.

1. Make sure the herbs are clean, washed, and fully dry before using it
2. Ensure the sugar and salt after mixing the herbs together are dry and do not have excess moisture before storing (especially in air-tight containers
3. Eat the candied mint and basil leaves within a couple days of processing for maximum taste and freshness

Herbs are so versatile and even a little bit will add a nice dash of flavour to any dish. I would highly encourage everyone to grow their own herbs, even if it’s in a small pot on a balcony or windowsill – it’ll do wonders to your home cooking


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September Reflections

September has been a month of transition – a month of new beginnings, a month of recharging, and a month of possibilities. A number of interesting things went on in the month I’d like to take a bit of time to share some of the things that went on for me in September.

1. More Publicity
First off, my business got some really great publicity from The Toronto Star, one of Toronto’s most widely read newspaper and one with a fairly large national following (I think) as well. We had been in contact with a journalist there who was interested in doing an article about us, one thing led to another, and before we knew it, we were featured on the front page of the Living section. If you’re interested in reading the article, you can find it here

2. Experimenting with Herbs
Also this month, I had the chance to get a hold of a couple of really good books on growing and utilizing herbs. As I learn and start incorporating some of this stuff in the business, I had the opportunity to try some of the things first hand. These included drying a variety of herbs, creating a mint sugar, a rosemary salt, and some candied mint and candied basil leaves. I’ll create a post about it soon!

3. Weekly Sunday Review
Also this month, I had the chance to start implementing a new weekly review. I’m using a template that I found here, and so far I’m finding it quite valuable as it’s forcing me to focus and plan my life on a more detailed level on a weekly basis. Combined with my monthly reviews, I’m finding that I’ve been better able to track and stay on top of my goals and priorities over the last little while.

4. Pear Pick
At the beginning of the month, I had a opportunity to volunteer my time to go on a fruit pick with an organization called Not Far From the Tree. They connect homeowners (who have fruit trees they are unable to pick) with volunteers to pick the fruit and donate part of the harvest to local food banks and charities. I think it’s a great initiative and was happy to volunteer a couple hours on a warm September afternoon.

5. Scally’s Cup
As the summer ultimate season wound to a close, I was asked to represent the Thursday competitive division in playing in the Scally’s Cup, hosted by the Toronto Ultimate Club. It was great playing again at a more competitive level, and for the first time in a while I got the chance to cut on the field instead being in a handling role. It was a humbling experience to see that my fitness definitely needed some work if I were to be a full time cutter, but also reassuring that I was able to be a strong influence on the field scoring a number of points for my team.

6. Recruiting
September means the beginning of recruiting season. And while we were a little slow in getting our act together, we are well underway, having posted our jobs opportunities at a number of schools. If you’re interested in a potential opportunity, let me know!

7. Day Trip to Niagara
One of the most memorable events this month has been a day trip to Niagara on the Lake. I had a chance to visit a number of interesting food places along the way and in the area including Upper Canada Cheese Company (featuring local cheese from local Guernsey cows), Olson Foods (featuring local food from the Niagara region by chefs Anna and Michael Olson), Inniskillin winery (which has delicious and outstanding ice wines – try the sparkling ice wine), Sunnybrook Farms Winery (which specializes in producing only fruit wines), and the quaint little shops right in the heart of Niagara on the Lake.

9. Books:
If you haven’t guessed already, I love to read, and really enjoy the time that I set aside with a good book. And though most of my reading has been directly related to business in the past couple months, I really enjoy these kinds of books. Ideally, I’d like to broaden the scope of my reading, but there’s only so much time in each day to devote to stuff like this, it’ll have to wait until the lighter (I think) winter months. Some books that I’ve read or are reading currently include An Incomplete Education, Duct Tape Marketing, A Whole New Mind, Groundswell, and The E-Myth Enterprise.

Reflections
The end of September means it’s another year older for me, and hopefully another year wiser. I’ve been doing some recent introspection, and I think that I’ve really grown and changed over the last little while. The new weekly Sunday reviews that I started doing are really focusing my daily and weekly efforts and I realize that one thing I want to focus more on and define in more detail is my long term plan and long term goals.

In tandem with this, the weekly reviews (and these monthly reviews) have really shown me that what you think about and focus your energies on really shape and determine your reality. I firmly blieve that if you have a clear idea of exactly what your goals are, and what you’re working towards, you are much more likely to achieve them instead of having a vague and nebulous ideas what you want in life. The clearer and more difined they are, using as much detail as possible will help you to focus your efforts in working towards making your vision a reality.

Looking forward, October is going to be another busy month, but it should be a fun and rewarding one. I’m hoping to be able to announce another big venture that I’m working on, and there should be more exciting things to share as well.

Life is good, and I’d like to leave you with this parting quotation:

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
– George Bernard Shaw