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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.


      Showing posts with label stevia. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label stevia. Show all posts

      Sunday, November 8, 2009

      THREE HERB RECIPES

      Sorrel Pesto Appetizer


      This low fat appetizer is like a crustless quiche, served warm or at room temperature. The sorrel has a lemony taste, and is easy to grow as a garden perennial.


      2 ½ cups nonfat cottage cheese


      4 cups sorrel leaves, washed and spun dry*


      8 ounces low-fat cream cheese cut in pieces


      1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese


      2 large eggs


      2 cloves minced garlic


      4 teaspoons chopped fresh basil


      ½ cup pine nuts


      Salt and pepper to taste


      *substitute a pack of frozen chopped spinach if no sorrel is available: pre-cook and drain in the same way as below. Still very good but missing that lemony zing.



      Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Chop sorrel leaves. Drop in boiling salt water for a minute. Drain well in a strainer, squeeze out additional liquid by hand, and pat dry with a paper towel. Let cool. Drain cottage cheese in the strainer and press out excess liquid. Put all ingredients except pine nuts in food processor and blend until smooth. Then mix in pine nuts and adjust seasoning.


      Bake in a buttered 9” round pan for about an hour, until lightly brown on top. Let cool. Cut in wedges. Serves 12 as an appetizer, 8 for lunch.


      Garnish with small fresh sorrel leaves, cherry tomatoes both red and yellow, extra pine nuts if you have them and extra pine nuts.



      Lemon Loaf Lavandula


      Not all lavender has the same great flavor. Some species taste like camphor. For cooking use any variety of Lavandula angustifolia, sometimes called English lavender. If you don't grow your own and are buying dried lavender buds, make sure it's 'culinary grade' not just anything they have lying around a cosmetics chain store.


      For the cake:


      1/3 cup butter


      1 cup sugar


      2 eggs


      1 tablespoon grated lemon rind


      1 teaspoon dried lavender buds, or two teaspoons fresh lavender buds (off the stem, no leaves)


      2 1/2 cups sifted flour


      1 tablespoon baking powder


      1/2 teaspoon salt


      1 cup milk

      Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-by-f-by-3-inch loaf pan. Cream the butter and sugar until soft. Add the eggs one at a time until smooth; add the rind. Pinch the lavender with your fingers to release more oils and add to the mixture. Combine flour, baking powder and salt, mixing lightly with a spoon. Add the dry ingredients and milk to the creamed mixture, alternating in two or three pours. Bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. While the cake is baking make this glaze.



      For the glaze


      1/2 cup sugar


      1/2 cup fresh lemon juice


      1/2 teaspoon dried lavender buds or one teaspoon fresh buds


      1 tablespoon grated lemon rind


      1/4 to 1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur a delicious option


      Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan, pinching the lavender buds with fingers before adding. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from stove.


      When the cake comes out of the oven, let cool for about 10 minutes, turn out of the pan and place on a plate, right side up. Prick the top with a fork in several places and pour the glaze over the loaf letting it absorb slowly. Let the cake cool before slicing. Pass any extra glaze in a small pitcher when serving the slices.



      Tangy Herb Cheese


      Line a strainer or colander with rinsed cheesecloth, or if you don't have that, position several drip coffee filters inside. Spoon unflavored yogurt in the filters or cheesecloth. Place the colander on a deep dish, cover loosely with wax paper, refrigerate, and let the yogurt drain for eight hours or overnight. Put the drained yogurt in a container and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of your favorite finely chopped fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary and chives. Spread on crackers, celery or cucumber slices.

      Tuesday, October 13, 2009

      STEVIA: HOW SWEET IT IS

      © Alan & Linda Detrick, Ellen Spector Platt design.

      I grow culinary herbs on our condo rooftop and make them available to everyone in the building. Fortunately for my selfish needs, 95% of the residents don’t seem to cook, or don’t like fresh herbs, so there’s plenty for the few of us who do.

      I usually have old favorites like basil, thyme, rosemary, lavender, cilantro, dill, mint, perilla, calendula and anise hyssop but the collection varies from year to year and I’m always excited to try a new taste. This year I NEEDED Stevia rebaudiana, commonly called honey leaf, candy leaf, sweet leaf, or sweet herb, and I planted two 4" pots in larger containers.

      When I nibbled a leaf in
      May, I wondered what
      the excitement was
      about. I’d read that
      stevia is 200 to 300
      times sweeter than
      sugar, and this leaf
      had just a tinge of
      sweetness.But by late
      September, when tiny
      white blooms appeared
      and the leaves were
      ready to harvest,
      they were infinitely
      sweeter.

      Right, stevia and thyme

      In the garden stevia is
      not a pretty plant;
      leaves and flowers are
      quite undistinguished. It grows as a small shrub with shallow roots, native to tropical and subtropical regions of South America like Paraguay & Brazil but it won’t winter over here. Plant after soil has warmed, in New York City, late May or early June, in an area with excellent drainage.

      To harvest I cut all
      the stems from one
      plant, rinsed them
      off and hung them
      to dry. I’ll save them
      for a lecture/demo,
      so audience mem-
      bers can taste my
      organically grown
      herb. The other
      plant I dug up
      and placed in a pot
      on my sunny office
      window. I could have
      saved the plant by
      taking cuttings, but
      not this time around.

      The leaves are the
      sweetest part: stems
      and veins contain
      some bitterness.
      Stevia is reported to
      have no carbs and
      no calories because
      the sweetening mol-
      ecule can’t be ab-
      sorbed by the intes-
      tines. Many think it
      reduces blood
      pressure, is a diuretic
      and is useful for dia-
      betics as a natural
      sweetener. There are
      some vague indica-
      tions that stevia may
      reduce fertility, which
      in my Grandma years,
      is not something I’m
      personally concerned
      with.

      In health food stores
      it’s sold bagged as dried leaves, chopped into powder or crystallized,
      as an herbal supplement. Sweetness depends on the concentration so recipes are hard to figure.

      Above: Stevia hanging to dry in my NYC closet, with peonies, lavender, goldenrod, etc..

      Try a crushed fresh leaf or two in a pitcher of fresh lemonade or iced tea. To sweeten hot tea or coffee, brew along with the tea leaves or coffee grounds.

      Buy stevia in spring at your favorite nursery or on-line from an herb grower like my favorite, Well-Sweep Herb Farm in Port Murray, New Jersey.

      Now if I can only stop myself from reaching out and nibbling on the sweet stuff every day I might have a plant left come spring.

      Tuesday, June 16, 2009

      STARS OF TODAY

      On my rooftop garden I aim to have plantings of major interest from March through December: that means interest to ME, who designs, plants and tends the garden for my condo building. In winter only the desperate smokers face the gale-force winds and frigid cold of the 18thfloor. Here’s what’s making me happy today.

      One bush of blue hydrangea is coming to peak form, a Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’ that blooms on both new and old wood. The H.m.‘Nikko Blue’ that were planted before my tenure rarely flower but I hate to rip them out because the foliage is still nice. The hydrangea is backed up by some modest yellow potentilla, enhanced by the bright blue.Also starting to bloom is the lacecap hydrangea ‘Lady in Red’ whose new leaves and stems are a reddish color as advertised and whose foliage will turn deep maroon in fall.

      The lavender ‘Hidcote’
      is really showing off
      and I picked a few
      stems for pressing,
      but the ‘Provence’
      lavender (Lavandula x
      intermedia 'Provence')
      is just getting started.

      The brilliant chartreuse
      foliage of the Sumac
      ‘Tiger Eyes’ (Rhus
      typhina) makes it one
      of my favorite plants
      now and until late fall,
      especially in front of
      the deep mahogony
      of the cut leaf Japanese maple. In a container this sumac is beautifully controlled.

      Just going off stage is the climbing rose ‘New Dawn’ that blooms here but once a year, even when I deadhead assiduously. It earns its keep by the month-long show it flashes in late May. Other roses like 'Crown Princess Margareta', 'Oso Easy Paprika', and
      'Graham Thomas'
      have finished their
      first big bloom and
      are setting new buds
      for later display.
      (Below, the climber
      'New Dawn' trying
      to escape.)And in the herb garden,
      not much color but in
      teresting sweet flavor
      from my one specimen
      of Stevia rebaudiana
      that is making its debut
      this year. Stevia powder
      is all the rage as a
      natural sweetener, and
      I wanted to see what
      this semi-tropical herb
      would do here in NYC.
      In the fall I’ll bring it in
      to winter over on my
      windowsill.

      Below, Wreath design Ellen
      Spector Platt , photo© Alan & Linda Detrick

      If you like to dry
      hydrangea for indoor
      decorations DON’T
      CUT THE FLOWERS
      NOW. Wait until they’re
      very mature. That
      means that every stem
      you cut will have been
      on the bush for 1-2
      months, feel papery
      to the touch, and have
      started to change color
      slightly, i.e. the whites
      get tinges of pink
      or wine color, the blues
      get tinges of green or
      maroon. If you cut too
      early, the petals will
      shrivel as they dry. Cut
      when the flowers are
      mature, then you can
      arrange them immed-
      iately without even
      hanging to dry. And don't try to dry the flower heads that have but a few petals like the lacecap varieties. You'll thank me for this tip!
      (Design Ellen Spector Platt, photo© Alan & Linda Detrick)

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