Herb conversion - If you're cooking with herbs and have some fresh varieties around, the conversion from fresh to dry is three to one. That means for every tablespoon of fresh herbs in a recipe, use 1 teaspoon of dry herbs. The flip side of that is for every teaspoon of dry herbs in a recipe, use one tablespoon of fresh herbs.
Herb prep - For the best results, mince fresh herbs fine and grind dried herbs small. Herbs can be chewy, fibrous or bitter if you get a big bite, so make sure you prep them well. I use a coffee grinder for most of my dry herb chopping chores and a mini-chopper for fresh herbs (or a sharp knife). I also like using a mortar and pestle.
Herbs to buy fresh - If you'd like to try one of the fresh herb varieties from the produce department of your market (until your garden crop is ready), try chives, cilantro, dill and basil. They all taste much more flavorful fresh than dry.
Customize your mayo - For holidays, I like to make flavored mayonnaise. It's very tasty and creamier than commercially available mayo. It's surprisingly easy to make, too. Just take your time with the blending. If you try this one addition to your dinner, or after holiday sandwiches, you won't be sorry. You can find a basic recipe with herb variations in my post: Herb Mayonnaise Recipes
If you know you'll have at least one guest who is a stickler for eating low fat treats (the killjoy), make an herbed cheesy dip using yogurt and spices. It's easy to make, refreshing and tastes good with crackers, chips or fresh veggies: Homemade Herbed Cheese
- Save your leftover green onions for the garden, too. If you know you won't be using the whole bunch from the market, save those with the longest root tips and plant them in a three or four inch pot. Transplant them to the garden with your other seedlings once they show a little growth (two weeks or so).
- Cut off the heel off your whole celery bulb and plant it in a 6-inch pot to a depth of two inches using potting mix (with the side you cut facing up). Put the pot in a sunny window and keep it watered. In ten days or so you'll see it sprout. Transplant it to your garden after the last frost of the season. It'll give you celery goodness all summer. (Oh, and try placing any leftover celery ribs in a glass of water in your fridge. They'll last longer that way.)
- Peel any extra ginger you have from your ham glaze recipe and slice it thin. Place it in a jar and cover the slices with Sherry. They'll last indefinitely that way in your refrigerator and you can use them for your teriyaki marinade. If you purchased organically grown ginger from a specialty market, you may even get it to sprout. Ginger is wonderful in a warm weather garden and makes a very nice houseplant.
- Plant leftover potatoes (red, russet or sweet) in your garden using a large trash bag you've perforated with a three-hole punch. You can do this on a deck or patio pretty easily. If potatoes start to sprout roots in your cupboard, there's a good chance they sprout in your garden as well.
- If you buy garlic by the bulb, you know that the center cloves are long and kid of puny. You can place them in water in a sunny window and start a whole new plant from them for your garden. Sure, it takes a couple of years for garlic to mature, but free starts make it worthwhile.
- That big bunch of parsley is either too much to use in your recipes or you employ it as a garnish that's later discarded. This year, remove the stem ends from leftover parsley and dry the leaves on a cookie sheet using your oven's "warm" setting. Just crack the over door a bit and dehydrate the parsley until it is crackling dry (about five hours). Seal the dried leaves in zip-lock bag or air tight jar and place the container in a dark cabinet. It should last sixty days or more. Crumble the leaves as you use them.
Have a wonderful holiday.