Homemade Herbed Cheese

Herbed CheeseIf you want to offer your family or guests a soft cheese that's full of flavor and low in calories, try making cheese from yogurt. Once you've drained off the excess moisture, no one will know that you're serving yogurt cheese, and with a few added herbs, it will taste great. Served with a tray crudités (fresh raw vegetables), it'll be a big hit.

Herbed Yogurt Cheese Recipe

2 cups plain yogurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp. minced chives
1 tsp. cilantro
1 tsp.parsley
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. olive oil (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2  tsp. pepper

Place yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined sieve and suspend over a mixing bowl. Allow the yogurt to drain for two hours or more in the fridge. Squeeze out any excess moisture. Combine yogurt and other ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Overnight would be even better.


How to Make An Herbed Ice Bowl

Keep your dip or crudités cold with an herbed ice bowl. Just snip a variety of fresh herbs, like parsley, sage, chives and thyme, and something colorful, like grated carrot into a shallow dish and add water to cover by an inch or two.

Herbed Ice Bowl Instructions

Suspend a smaller but heavier bowl on top and freeze. Coat the outside of the top bowl with cooking spray to make it easier to remove later. The top bowl will displace water and create a concave surface.

Once your herbed water has frozen, unmold it and you'll have an ice-dish made of colorful herbs. I like to use stainless steel nesting bowls and skip one size in the set. I add a brick to the top bowl for weight. (This is my all-purpose indoor brick. It's actually amazing how often it comes in handy for odd jobs.) Ring molds look great decorated this way too, with dip in a dish in the center and crackers on a platter nearby.

Herbed Ice Bowl Tips and Tricks

If you mix crushed ice with the water, the arrangement will freeze faster and you'll be able to keep all the herbs from migrating to the bottom of the bowl.

I've used herbed ice bowls to hold fruit, fresh vegetables, salad and dip (inside a clear glass dish).

Once you've sourced your bowls, this project can be completed and popped into the freezer in fifteen minutes, and the results look spectacular. There's no waste, either. Once the herbs have thawed, you can use them in soup stock.

Special Notes: If you don't have fresh herbs around, use green vegetables, like kale, cabbage, carrot tops and spinach.

For your first time, do a dry run by making an ice bowl with water only to see if you like the look and thickness of the nesting bowl arrangement you've selected. The walls of the bowl at its thinnest point should be at least an inch and a half thick.

Keep your herb bowl on a platter with a rim to catch melting water, and watch it occasionally throughout the evening to make sure it doesn't overflow.


Gluten Free Holiday Cooking

If you're avoiding gluten, holiday cooking can be a challenge. You don't have to throw your hands up in despair, though. I have some content up at TLC's food site about creating holiday magic - gluten free. Please take a look.

There are more and more products available that will make gluten-free cooking easier and tastier too, so the next time you're at the store, check out the specialty food aisle. From soy and other specialty flours, to no gluten blends that mimic the flavor, rise and crumb of wheat flour, you'll be surprised if you haven't checked for new brands in a while:

How to Have a Gluten Free Holiday

How to Make Herb Butter

Herb ButterMake herb butter for the holidays. It's a simple way to create a dramatic an delicious accompaniment to a fine meal.

Herb butters always make meals special. Whether you're serving your own homemade bread, or want to add a unique touch to steamed asparagus or stuffing, fresh herbs and butter make a wonderful combination. I've already written about chive butter as a great pairing with potato dishes, but the three herb butters below are also delicious.

For a designer touch, present molded butters to your guests. You can use special butter molds, or try individual serving molds from your craft store. Once refrigerated, your formed butter pops right out and is ready to serve. Molded butters work well on a buffet or as a take along for fresh breads.

The recipes below call for fresh herbs, which work best, but you can also use dried (I've made notations below); just let the finely ground dried herbs marinate in the softened butter for three hours or more before refrigerating.

Herb Butter Recipe

1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 tsp minced fresh parsley (1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp minced fresh sage (1/4 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme (1/4 tsp dried)

Blend well and serve.

This all-purpose herb butter blend is a winner with fowl and stuffing preparations. It's also tasty when served with sweet potatoes or stuffed mushrooms.

Rosemary Butter Recipe

1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary (1/2 tbsp dried)
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 garlic clove minced fine
2 drops orange juice

Blend well and serve.

If you are serving lamb over the holiday, this butter would be perfect. It also works well with beef roasts and game.

Salsa Butter Recipe

1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced fresh cilantro (1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp minced fresh parsley (1/4 tsp dried)

Blend well and serve.

This herb butter tastes wonderful melted on fresh corn, slathered on tortillas or added to cornbread stuffing.

Dill Butter

1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 tbsp minced fresh dill (1 tsp dried)
1 tsp minced fresh parsley (1/2 tsp dried)
4 drops lemon juice

Try this on grilled salmon and egg dishes.


Make Chive Butter

This holiday season mix up a quick gourmet treat that's makes a wonderful addition to your table or a thoughtful hostess gift. Chive butter is a delicious accompaniment to stuffing, potato dishes and steamed vegetables. When pressed into a form, it can also make an impressive presentation. The recipe below will only take about five minutes to put together.

Chive Butter Recipe

1/2 Cup Butter (softened)
1 Tbsp. Minced fresh chives
2 Drops lemon

Mix and serve. For a little holiday refinement, place mixture in a mold and refrigerate. You can find food grade molds either online or at your local food craft supplier.


Save Money Over the Holidays - Make Inexpensive Herbal Gifts

With the holidays fast approaching, it's time to sit back and devise a strategy for gift giving. With so many people on a tight budget, the prospect of holiday gifting may seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be.

Gifts From the Heart

One of the most wonderful aspects of this or any other holiday season is giving of yourself, and what better way to show you care than in making Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa presents with an herb theme. In past posts, I've offered instructions for making many herb crafts and food items. Use the links below to explore a few projects that are easy to put together and make wonderful gifts. From lavender bath salts to a homemade batch of specialty herb blends, you'll be able to find a project that will fit your taste and budget.

Lavender Bath Salts

Bath salts are inexpensive to make, and you don't have to use lavender, either. Armed with a bottle of your favorite essential oil or oil blend, you can make up a batch of bath salts in minutes with a little food dye, Epsom salt and the fragrance of your choice. Let the mixture dry and place in a decorative jar, tin or muslin bag (you can even buy the bags inexpensively in bulk).

Herb Blends

What you would pay handsomely for in the market, you can make inexpensively at home by growing your herbs or buying them in bulk from online suppliers. With a few key herbs, you can make a number of seasoning mixtures that will be a hit as stocking stuffers for the budding chef on your list or as a thoughtful hostess gift.

That's not all. Flavored oils, carpet fragrances and fresheners, and even homemade herbal shampoos and bubble bath are wonderful gifts.

With some planning and an afternoon's work, you can craft baskets or individual items that you'll be proud to give. They'll be thoughtful, homemade and inexpensive. For years, I've given baskets with a lavender theme. I use lavender from my garden, but you can find lavender buds online or use the link below.

Take a look at these URLs for some guidance. There are more projects on The Herb Gardener and across the web, so if you don't see what you're after, keep looking:

Herbal Gifts to Make

Bubble Bath - Lavender (or other scented)

Herbal Shampoo

Bath Salts

Carpet Freshener and Deodorant (Eco-Friendly)

Lavender Sugar Include this Lavender Cookie Recipe

Tea Rub Meat Preparation

Cajun Spice Blend

Old Bay Type Seasoning

5 Star Herb Vinegar

Herbs De Provence

Garlic Oil

Flavored Mayonnaise (Keep Refrigerated)