Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Herb Drying for Dummies

Although my normal garden is nothing to brag about, I do have a fairly lovely herb garden. Which is just great. Until it's the end of October and my basil is falling over itself and everything needs to have something done with it if I want to preserve some for myself over the winter. Which I do. But then the idea of cutting off leaves and hanging it or putting it in the dehydrator for days or making a pesto with it or slow oven-drying it, or any of the other methods for herb preservation that I've ever tried made me want to put my head under the covers and hibernate. Often I do have the time and energy for these things and I enjoy them, but this fall, it just made me heave a fat, dramatic sigh. Still, the cheapskate in me just couldn't let them all freeze and go to waste.

(Note: The following is an unnecessarily long story of how I accidentally learned this herb-drying-for-dummies trick. Interestingly many of my for-dummies tricks are discovered quite by accident while I, myself, am acting (for research purposes of course) like a dummy. Anyway... continue on with the story if you will or hop to the instructions below for the method...)

Finally, I went out and chopped down the basil. I figured I'd let it sit on the table and maybe it would, uh, dry itself or something. It didn't. A few leaves started getting funky and I figured, "Okay, I'm not going to let it just sit here and mold." So I took off all the good leaves and figured I'd just dry them in the oven. I had way too much basil to throw in the dehydrator and oven-drying seemed a little easier than making pesto, (and it didn't involve any expensive ingredients that I may or may not have had).

Generally, to oven dry, I do this: 1) Turn the oven to lowest setting. For me this is 175, which is a little too high for herbs, so I let it get almost there and then I turn the oven off and let it sit, and then when the oven has cooled a few hours later, I turn the oven back and then repeat that process. For a small amount of herb, it's not a big deal. But for a large amount, it takes forever. And you have to keep "tossing" your basil so some doesn't dry while the other stuff accidentally steams/cooks/gets weird. And then if you really have a lot of herb, you need to take the stuff that has dried out and let the other stuff keep going. Blah blah blah.

And I seriously had a lot of basil. It would have taken days and been super annoying and commandeered my oven. And I was sure I'd forget it was in there and pre-heat the oven for something and ruin the basil.

So I turned on the oven and let it heat. Then turned it off and let my basil sit in the warm oven. Then it was bedtime. And my basil sure wasn't all dry. So I gave my basil a toss and then turned on the oven light to remind me the basil was there so I wouldn't accidentally cook it all while preheating the oven for something non-herb-related the next day.

And guess what? The next morning, my basil was perfectly wonderfully, effortlessly dry. Crumbly, fresh-scented, awesome. When I took the pans out, they were warm to the touch. The light I'd left on had kept the oven just warm enough to be the perfect temperature. And leaving it overnight was the right amount of time (though I'm sure they could have been left for longer).

Herb Drying for Dummies

1) Take the leaves off the stems and spread leaves out on large cookie sheets. It's ideal if the leaves don't overlap, but I certainly broke that rule and had overlapping leaves and leaf clusters just everywhere.

2) Heat your oven to its lowest setting. As soon as it gets there or close, turn the oven off.

3) Turn the oven light on.

4) Let sit overnight. Note: If you have a ton of herbs (especially if they're overlapping), give them a little toss before you go to bed to get the bottom ones on top and visa versa).

5) In the morning, they should be crumbly and perfect. If not, leave them a few hours longer with that oven light on.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Shamelessly Self-Serving Post

This isn't about food. It's not even about cheap stuff.  It does involve a coupon. That's something right.

Recently, I bought a candle as a gift for a friend. When I did, they gave me this coupon code and said that if someone else bought a candle, they would get $10 off and I would get a free candle. (Here's the code if you're interested: http://my.cndl.es/x/qka7y8).

I thought that sounded like a pretty good deal. For me of course. And for you too if you were thinking of buying a scented soy candle for yourself or someone you love. And not just any soy candle--a soy candle with a ring hidden inside. Like--you burn the candle and in the wax is this ring in a bag/foil. The ring comes with a code that could score you a valuable ring (one ranging from $100-5000 in value--you have supposedly 1 in 100 chance for the $100 ring; 1 in 1000 for the $1000 and 1 in 5000 for the $5000).

I've been slightly obsessed with this concept for a while (why oh why did I not think of it myself). They're like Cracker Jacks for grown ups. (Some might say that they're like crack, but I'm not quite willing to go that far.) Some people consider the idea lunacy--why not just go out and buy yourself a ring if you want one? My brain understands that question, but my inner child is all about fishing some waxy bag with a piece of jewelry out of a scented candle. I don't know. My cheapskate can't justify the idea, but I may or may not have recently bought a candle for myself (for research purposes of course, and because soy candles are supposed to be better environmentally and burn cleaner and I did need a nice scent for winter and all...). And I'm obviously trying to find a cheaper way to score another one. Shameless.

If you would like to feed your inner child rather than your party-pooping grown up. Or if you know someone whose inner child is alive and well, then feel free to click on this link and get yourself $10 off. I believe that this link is good for another three days. And, who knows, after you make your purchase, maybe you'll get a link to send to all your friends so you can get yourself a free candle. Go on, spread the lunacy. Happy wax fishing.

$10 off Diamond Ring Candle:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Oatmeal Coconut Cookies

I've been really inconsistent in my posting days. So recently I decided to post every Monday and then one other day in the week. That seemed like a reasonably low bar. Apparently not low enough as Monday came and went and this post only got half-written.

Fall, my friends, is here. Oatmeal cookies feel like fall to me--the spices, the oats, the oven on. The coconut adds a touch of sophistication and I LOVE it. I think it's the best oatmeal cookie recipe I've found. Enjoy.

Oatmeal Coconut Cookies
adapted from Averie Cooks
Makes 12-18 cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes per batch
Cost: $2.00
egg: .10, coconut oil: .50, brown sugar: .10, white sugar: .05, vanilla: .10, coconut: .25, oats: .05, flour: .10, chocolate chips: .75

Note: The source for this recipe warned against using more chocolate chips than this recipe calls for. I thought she was crazy. Nope. She's right. If you use more than it says your chips will fall out of this slightly unusual dough. So just follow the recipe already.

1 egg
1/2 C coconut oil, melted into its liquid state (though you don't want it hot for the recipe or your chocolate chips will melt as you mix them in)
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
1 C sweetened shredded coconut (do NOT pack it in--just lay it loosely into your measuring cup)
1 C old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick)
1 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 C chocolate chips

Combine egg, coconut oil, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.

Add coconut, oats, flour, and baking soda. Stir.

Stir in chocolate chips. You'll notice that they're going to fall out of this dough. Just fold them in or grab the dough and knead those chips in till they stay. This is a slightly odd dough--crumbly-ish, but oily. Just trust. It will all work out.

Scoop cookies onto cookie sheet. You may want to squeeze them into balls to ensure those slippery chocolate chips don't keep trying to fall out.

Now here's where you have to delay gratification: You've got to chill these for several hours. Otherwise (at least this is what the source recipe warned), these will spread like crazy. So chill them. (Note: I did NOT do this on the cookie sheet. I just balled them up and put them in a bowl.)

Preheat oven to 350. Bake 9-ish minutes. The coconut can burn, so err on the side of underbaking rather than overbaking.

Cool these for a few minutes and then enjoy.



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