Lemon Verbena-Walnut Loaf Cake

Cake:

1/2 cup boiling water
4 tsp fresh lemon verbena leaves
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
cooking spray
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Glaze:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  To prepare cake, pour 1/2 cup boiling water over lemon verbena leaves in a bowl; steep 5 minutes.  Remove and discard leaves; cool tea to room temperature.  Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup; level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.  Place egg whites in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy.  Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat well.  Add brewed tea, applesauce, and canola oil; beat until well blended.  Gradually add flour mixture; beat just until moist.  Fold in walnuts.  Pour batter into an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 15 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan.  Cool completely on a wire rack. 

To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and rind in a small bowl.  Add juice, stirring with a whisk until smooth.  Drizzle glaze over cake; let stand until set.  Yield 12 servings.

Chai Shortbread Cookies
A combination of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper gives these cookies a taste reminiscent of Indian spiced tea.  The fine texture of powdered sugar helps them retain the characteristic shortbread crunch.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of ground cloves
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup powdered sugar
10 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp ice water

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup; level with a knife.  Combine flour and next five ingredients (through pepper), stirring well with a whisk.  Place sugar and butter in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined (mixture will appear crumbly).  Sprinkle dough with 1 tablespoon ice water; toss with a fork.  Divide dough in half.  Shape dough into two 6 inch long logs; wrap each in plastic wrap.  Chill 1 hour or until very firm.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Unwrap dough logs.  Carefully cut each log into 18 slices using a serrated knife.  Place dough circles 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool on pans 5 minutes.  Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.  Yields 3 dozen.

Tequila Oregano Butter

4 or more cloves garlic, minced
1/2 generous cup chopped fresh Mexican oregano
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp crushed dried red chili pepper
2 tsp chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp or more gold tequila
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened

Mix all ingredients together and chill for several hours.  Serve with zucchini and corn dishes; rice, pasta or bread; and especially on grilled fish, chicken, or steak.

Pineapple Mint and Basil Ricotta Spread
Try this on bagels, or as a crepe filling.  If you don’t have pineapple mint, replace it with spearmint or orange mint.

1- 15 oz container low fat of full fat ricotta cheese
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp loosely packed whole basil leaves
1 1/2 tsp loosely packed whole pineapple mint leaves
1 – 8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained well

In a food processor, puree ricotta cheese, sugar, vanilla and basil and pineapple mint leaves until smooth.  Transfer to a medium bowl; stir in pineapple.  Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Yield 2 cups.

Fresh Herb Jelly
A delicious choice for hearty meats and barbecue. 

2 cups water
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pkg powdered pectin (1 3/4 oz)
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup oregano leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped

In a large saucepan, stir together the water, lemon juice and powdered pectin.  Scrape the sides of the pan to make sure all the pectin has dissolved.  Place the saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Stir constantly to prevent scorching.  Add the sugar and herbs while stirring.  Bring the mixture to a full, rolling boil 4 minutes, then remove from the heat.  Skim the foam off the top of the mixture and pour into clean, sterilized jars.  Seal with paraffin, if desired, and allow to set overnight.  Note:  If the jelly does not set overnight, remove the paraffin and reheat the mixture over high heat.  Bring to a hard rolling boil 2 minutes, repour into the jars, and reseal.  Because you are working with herbs and not fruit, sometimes the pectin doesn’t react the first time and needs to be reboiled.

Goat Cheese and Herb Dip
Chopped edible flowers such as calendula, borage and nasturtium add color to this zesty dip.

8 oz soft fresh goat cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp plain yogurt
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp chopped fresh mint
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped assorted edible flowers (optional)

Blend goat cheese, oil and yogurt in processor until smooth.  Transfer to a small bowl.  Season dip to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate until dip is cold and flavors blend, about 3 hours.  Serve with toasted baguette slices and raw vegetables. 

Honey Lime Geranium Oat Muffins
Delicious and healthy!

1 cup old fashioned Oats, uncooked
1 – 8 oz container plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup fat-free milk
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp grated lime peel
2 large egg whites or 1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
10 Lime geranium leaves, finely chopped

Glaze:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
4 tsp lime juice
1 tsp grated lime peel
3-5 Lime geranium leaves, finely chopped

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line twelve medium muffin cups with paper baking cups or spray bottoms only with cooking spray.  For the muffins, combine oats, yogurt, honey, milk, butter, lime geranium leaves and lime peel in a large bowl; mix well.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Stir in egg whites or whole eggs until blended.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; mix well.  Add to oat mixture all at once; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened (do not overmix).  Fill muffin cups almost full.  Bake 20 to 24 or until light golden brown.  Cool muffins in pan on wire rack 5 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Cool 10 minutes.  For glaze, combine all ingredients iin small bowl; mix until smooth.  Dip tops of muffins into glaze.  Serve warm.  Makes 12 muffins.

Three Basil Pesto
Be sure to use one purple variety, added last, to get beautiful purple flecks in your pesto!

3 cups mixed basil leaves, including one purple variety (we used African Blue, Genovese and Red Rubin)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic
1 small yellow onion
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
pinch of salt

In a food processor, process the garlic and onion to a coarse paste.  Add half of the olive oil.  Add pine nuts and process.  Add basil, one cup at a time – add the purple basil last.  Add Parmesan, rest of olive oil, and salt.  Process until it is a pleasing consistency.  Chill for at least 2 hours to blend the flavors.  Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Double Chocolate Mint Decadence
Flecked with milk chocolate and almonds, these crispy biscotti have rich minty chocolate flavor.

2/3 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 tbsp amaretto, Gran Marnier or double strength coffee
2 cups plus 2 tbsp unbleached or all purpose flour
6 drops peppermint essential oil
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup chopped milk chocolate
2 tbsp peppermint or orange mint, finely chopped

Place nuts in a shallow pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool.  In a mixing bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, essential oil and liqueur or coffee.  In a bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.  Add to the creamed mixture, mixing until blended.  Cut nuts into halves or thirds.  Fold in nuts, chopped mint and milk chocolate.  Divide dough in half.  On a greased and floured baking sheet pat out into two logs about 1/2 inch high, 1 1/2 inches wide and 14 inches long, spacing them at least 2 inches apart.  Bake in the middle of a preheated 325 degree oven for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Transfer from the baking sheet to a rack.  Let cool for 5 minutes.  Place on a cutting board.  With a serrated knife slice diagonally on a 45 degree angle about 1/2 inch thick.  Place the slices upright on the baking sheet 1/2 inch apart and return to the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes longer to dry slightly.  Let cool on a rack.  Store in a tightly covered container.  Makes about 4 dozen.

Sage-Feta Cornbread
Sage leaves, arranged in the buttered pan before the batter is poured in, form a beautiful pattern on the crust of this bread and distinctly flavor it throughout.  Crumbled feta contributes moistness and a salty bite.

1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
18-24 sage leaves
3/4 cup stoneground cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup olive oil
(1 cup) crumbled Greek feta                                                                       

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.   Smear the butter on the inside of a 9 inch glass pie plate.  Press the sage leaves into the butter in a circular daisy pattern, saving about 6 to press into the side of the pie plate horizontally.  Stir in the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt together with a wire whisk in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and olive oil in a second bowl.  Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients until the lumps smooth out.  Stir in the cheese.  Pour the batter into the pie plate over the sage leaves.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the bread springs back in the middle when you press on it.  Let cool for about 10 minutes in the pan.  Loosen the sides with a paring knife, then flip the cornbread out onto a plate or board with the sage leaves on top, and serve while still warm.

Popcorn Chickpeas
Toss canned chickpeas in a hot skillet with lots of olive oil, then finish them with rosemary and garlic, and they transform into this warm, chewy and irresistible cocktail munchy.

One 15 oz can chickpeas
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp coarsely chopped rosemary
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Drain and rinse the chickpeas in a strainer.  Turn them out onto paper towels or a clean dish towel and pat them dry.  Pour the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and toss in the chickpeas.  Cook them for 5 to 7 minutes, shaking the pan often.  They won’t really brown, but they will turn several shades darker, shrink a bit, and form a light crust.  Pour the chickpeas back into the strainer to drain the excess oil and then return them to the pan.  Lower the heat to medium and add the rosemary and garlic.  Stir for another minute or two until the garlic begins to brown.  Sprinkle with the salt and a few grindings of pepper.  Toss again and pour them into a serving bowl.  Serve warm.

Pink Lavender Lemonade
A refreshing alternative…

2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup fresh or frozen hulled strawberries
1/4 cups fresh lavender flowers, chopped
2 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 cups water

In medium saucepan, combine 2 1/2 cups water, sugar and strawberries.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat.  Simmer 5 minutes to extract pink from strawberries.  Remove from heat.  Stir in lavender.  Cover and cool.  Strain cooled liquid into large pitcher, gently pressing juice from berries.  Add remaining 2 1/2 cups water and lemon juice.   Stir well.  Add 1/2 cup more sugar, if desired.  Just before serving, add ice cubes.  Garnish with lavender flowers.  Yields 6-8 servings.

Razzlemint Tea

1 teaspoon each of dried spearmint, peppermint, crushed rosehips, lemongrass; 1/2 tsp each of orange peel and raspberry leaf; dash of cinnamon (or purchase our ready -made tea blend!).

Mix ingredients together well.  Bring cool water to a boil.  Place 1 tsp of the tea blend in a tea infuser, pour 1 cup of boiling water over and allow to steep for 3 – 5 minutes, preferably in a covered container.  For iced tea, allow to steep up to 10 minutes, then allow to cool to room temperature and add ice and a squeeze of lemon if desired.

Pistachio Mixed Herb Pesto

1/2 to 1 clove garlic, peeled
2 cups packed flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp lemon thyme leaves
2 tbsp tarragon leaves
1 tbsp sage leaves
1 tbsp oregano leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3/4 cup roasted pistachios
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Into blender with the motor running add garlic and pulse until finely chopped.  Add all of the herbs, cheese and pistachios to the blender and blend until finely chopped.  With the blender running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the mixture becomes creamy and emulsified.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve pasta or use as a topping for bruschetta.

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