Do you like to use herbs to flavor your favorite dishes?  If so, than you’ll want to try herb salts.


So what are herb salts, you may wonder?

They are created by mixing the herb of your choice with kosher or sea salt, which is used in place of plain salt to add delicious flavor to food.

Herb salts are easy to create and make great gifts.

I’ve made several different types of herb salts in the past and recently set out to make a batch of rosemary salt.


Since I don’t have rosemary growing in my garden, I drove to my sister’s house to clip some fresh sprigs of rosemary from her garden.  (You can also use fresh rosemary from the grocery store).


You will need 3 1/3 cups of kosher salt and 1/3 cup of fresh rosemary along with a jar to store it in.

1. Rinse the rosemary sprigs in water.
2. Remove the leaves, starting from the top downward.


3. Put the rosemary and salt in your food processor and pulse until the rosemary leaves are approximately 1/8 of an inch long.
4. Place the rosemary salt onto a baking sheet and put in an oven that is heated to 200 degrees and bake for 30 minutes.
5. Let the herb salt cool and then put in jars with a lid.

That’s it!  I told you it was easy.

Rosemary tastes great on your favorite meat dish including beef, chicken or pork.  I also like to sprinkle it on the top of buttered rolls – yum!

While rosemary salt is delicious, it is just the beginning – there are other herbs that can be used to make herb salt.


Basil salt is a great flavoring for Italian dishes such as marinara sauce or sprinkled on pizza.

To learn how to make basil salt, click here.

If you love cilantro, how about a sprinkle of cilantro salt on your favorite Mexican dish?

Cilantro is one of those herbs that many people can’t get enough of.  Click here for instructions to make your own cilantro salt.

Whether you use herbs from your own garden, the farmers market or grocery store – they are a delicious addition to your pantry as well as a great gift idea for the ‘foodie’ in your life.
Do you grow fruit in your garden?

For those of us who live in warm, southern climates, you’ll often see a citrus tree or two in the growing in the backyard.

While I do have a lemon and orange tree growing in my garden, that is just the beginning of my fruit crop.  I also have a pair of apple and peach trees that generously provide us with fruit in late spring.  

The final fruit crop that I grow isn’t found on a tree but rather on bushes.


Ever since I was a child in Southern California, I have loved blackberries.  We had a line of blackberry bushes growing along the back wall of our suburban home and it was often a race between us and our dog ‘Smitty’ to see who would get to them first.

Now, I have my own blackberry bushes growing in my side garden, which are located right behind my apple trees.

While I enjoy eating fresh fruit, I also like to make jam so that I can enjoy the fruits of my garden throughout the entire year.

Last month, I made several batches of peach jam and last week, it was time to make my first batch of blackberry jam.  

It took a few weeks to get all of the blackberries picked from the bushes.  The reason for this is that not all the berries ripened at once, so we would freeze them after picking until the entire bush was clean of berries.


My 13-year-old son asked if he could help me make the jam.  I was pleasantly surprised that he would want to help me, but I will take any opportunity I can to spend time with my son.


We gathered supplies – canning jars with lids, sugar, powdered pectin and a canner.

The first step involved mashing the blackberries in a large pot before adding the powdered pectin.


The blackberry mixture had to be heated to a high temperature until it began to boil.


Then it was time to add the sugar.  Jam takes a lot of sugar, but I don’t like mine overly sweet, so I decreased the amount of sugar by 1 cup.
It helps to have the sugar pre-measured before boiling the fruit mixture.


After adding the sugar, we needed to heat the mixture back up to boiling.  It was nice to have a helper, since you have to stir the entire time.  Once it begins to boil, you have to let it continue for 1 minute before taking off the heat.

Take a couple of minutes to scoop off any foam that accumulated on the top of the blackberry jam before filling sterilized jam jars.


We carefully added the hot blackberry jam mixture into the jam jars.  It smelled so good that we were tempted to try some, but decided against it since we didn’t want to burn our mouths.


Using the handy magnet utensil that came with my canning kit, I carefully put on the lids.

At this point, you can allow the jam to cool and then enjoy it on toast or English muffin.  But, you will need to refrigerate the jam unless you want to preserve it by processing it by water bath canning.


A hot water canning bath involves submerging the jars of jam in boiling water for several minutes.  This will preserve the blackberry jam and allow it to last over a year on the pantry shelf.

Canning kits include a large pot, metal insert, funnel, magnet utensil for lids and tongs.  They are relatively inexpensive and can be found at Walmart or Amazon.  I have even seen them in my local Ace Hardware store.


After a 10-minute boiling water bath, the jam was ready to be taken out carefully with tongs.  

We let them sit overnight to cool before eagerly tasting the fruits of our labors.  

It is hard to compare the delicious taste of homemade jam that was made from fruit from your own garden.  In fact, I find myself tempted to make a second piece of toast just so I can enjoy some more delicious blackberry jam.

Of course, you don’t have to grow your own fruit to be able to make jam – simply buy some fruit at your local grocery store or farmers market.  Earlier this month, I saw 1/2 pint containers of blackberries on sale for 97¢.

While I make jam every year, this was the first time I’ve made blackberry jam and I can’t wait until next year to make some more.

Thankfully, I have eleven jars to last me through the next year.

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Want to learn more about canning?

If you are lucky, maybe your grandmother, mother or aunt can teach you.  5 years ago, my mother taught me how to make jam and I’ve never stopped.
If you don’t have anyone to teach you, a simple Google search can help you find a class offered nearby or you can learn how to online.

I am always on the lookout for new things to make from the garden.


Recently I learned how to make specially flavored salts using herbs from my garden.  ‘Herb salts’ have become a popular flavoring tool in the culinary community and they are very easy to make.


The process of making herb salts starts out looking like this…



And ends up transformed into this…

Are you interested in making your own herb salts? 

Summertime means that many of my herbs are actively growing and I sometimes run of ways to use all of the fragrant leaves of them.

Herb or ‘gourmet’ salts are a great way to preserve herbs while adding a new twist to flavoring my favorite foods.

Basil Salt

In my last post, I shared how to make basil salt using two ingredients – fresh basil leaves and kosher salt.

Today, I’d love to show you how to make your own unique herb salt blend.


For my herb salt blend, I went out into the garden and looked for a variety of herbs that I love to cook with.  I found rosemary, sage and thyme. I then grabbed a head of garlic and kosher salt.
I must admit that I was thrilled that I had all these herbs growing in my garden.  I grew the garlic too! 

For equipment, you should have a cutting board, a sharp knife for chopping, a baking sheet and a glass jar with a lid.  
You can make this recipe using a food processor, but it is optional.


1. You will need 2/3 cup rosemary, 2/3 cup sage and 2/3 cup thyme leaves.  These are the amounts I used to get the flavor I liked, but you can play around with the ratio of each herb or choose different herbs to get the flavor you want.  


2. Place 1/2 cup kosher salt on your cutting board and add 5 peeled garlic cloves and chop them together.  The garlic should be finely minced at this point.


3. Chop all of the herbs together.

4. Combine the salt/garlic and the herbs together and continue chopping until finely chopped.

**You can use a food processor for steps 3 & 4 instead of chopping.  Simply put all ingredients in at once and pulse for 30 seconds. 


At this point you can use your herb salt to flavor a roast of beef, chicken or pork before cooking or to flavor roasted vegetables.  But, if you aren’t using the herb salt right away, continue on…


5. Put your herb salt mixture onto a baking sheet in a thin layer and bake in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes.  This step dries out the herb mixture.  You can also allow it to air dry over a couple of days instead of putting it into the oven.


6. Place your dried mixture into a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds to get rid of any lumps.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can put the dried mixture into a Ziploc bag and roll it with a rolling pin until it is finely ground up.


7. Put your herb salt into a glass jar with a tightly-fitted lid.  Store in a dark, dry place with your spices and dried herbs to preserve its flavor.

I will use my herb salt blend to flavor a pork loin, baked chicken or even a beef roast.  It would also taste great when sprinkled on roasted vegetables or put into soups, don’t you think? 


As you can imagine there are a number of different types of herb salts that you can make.  Here are a few different combinations that you might want to try:


Rosemary Sage Garlic Salt

All of these herb salt blends can be made following the same steps as I have done for my herb salt blend – except where noted.


Rosemary Lemon Pepper Salt – 1/3 cup rosemary leaves, 2 tablespoons lemon zest, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and 1/2 cup kosher salt.
*(Increase cooking time to 1 hour)


Rosemary Sage and Garlic Salt – 1/2 cup of rosemary leaves, 1/2 cup sage, 5 peeled garlic cloves and 1/4 cup kosher salt.


Sage Thyme and Garlic Salt – 1/2 cup sage, 1/2 cup thyme, 5 peeled garlic cloves and 1/4 cup kosher salt.


If your garden is filled with herbs, this is a creative way to use them in the kitchen or give them as gifts.  Even if you don’t have a garden filled with herbs, you can find fresh herbs at your local grocery store or farmers market.


So, how about you? What would herb(s) would your ideal herb salt contain?

I enjoy DIY projects – particularly when they involve things that I have grown in my garden.

It seems that a lot of the things that I make from the garden include herbs.  I have dried herbs, frozen them into ice cubes and have done homemade herb butter.

Using herbs from my garden when I cook always gives me a special satisfaction, and my food tastes great too!

Basil Salt
 
Today, I am excited to share with you how to make basil herb salt.  If you haven’t heard of herb salts before, they are referred to as ‘gourmet salts,’ which are very popular in the foodie community.
 
Herb salts are easy to make – especially if you have a food processor.  The salt helps to preserve the fresh flavor of your favorite herbs, and they add fabulous flavor to your favorite dishes.
 
Gourmet salts also make great gifts.
 
 
It is hard to find anyone who doesn’t love basil and the flavor it adds to so many different dishes.  I enjoy making Italian food and am often using basil.  Usually, I tear or chop some fresh basil leaves and add them as flavoring.
 
Basil salt can be used in a variety of ways including sprinkling into your favorite tomato sauce, on top of a fresh-baked pizza, adding to bruschetta or simply sprinkling some on the top of fresh tomatoes.
 
Are you ready to get started?  
 
You will need fresh basil (either from your garden or the store) and kosher salt – pretty simple!
 
Grab your food processor, a baking sheet and a glass jar with a lid.
 
 
1. You will need 1/2 cup each of kosher salt and basil leaves.  
 
 
2. Add the basil and kosher salt to your food processor and pulse for 30 seconds.
 
 
The finished mixture should look like this.
 
 
3. Pour the mixture out onto a baking sheet in a thin layer.  The mixture will be somewhat moist.
 
 
4. Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 225-degree oven.  After the first 10 minutes, lightly mix the basil salt mixture and bake for another 10 minutes – this helps it to dry out completely.
 
 
5. Put the dried basil salt mixture back into the food processor and blend to remove any remaining lumps.  *Make sure that the food processor is dry beforehand.
 
 
6. Put your basil salt into a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
 
That’s it – you are done!
I must admit that this is a pretty easy project and the food processor does most of the work.  
 
Keep your basil salt in a dark, cool space where you keep your other herbs/spices to help preserve its flavor.  Use it within a few months for the best flavor.
 
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This is one of the rare times that I didn’t have to spend any extra money on a DIY project – I had the basil growing in my garden, the kosher salt was in the pantry, and I used a mason jar that I had on hand.
 
 
I made three batches of basil salt and will keep one for myself and start using it right away.  The rest I plan on giving away as gifts.  
 
Gifts from the garden and kitchen are personal and much appreciated by others.  Last year, I gave away homemade jam from my peach tree.  This year it will be basil salt.
 
I can’t wait for my basil plant to grow more leaves so I can make more!
 
‘Herbes de Provence’ salt
 
**Basil salt is just the beginning of different types of herb salts you can make.  In my next post, I will show you how to make a customized herb salt blend as well as some ideas of other herb salts you can make.
What would you use basil salt to flavor?

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Have you ever had to leave town for a few days and wanted to ensure that your potted plants don’t dry out?


Look no further than your wine cabinet…

Glass bottles, like this empty wine bottle, can help water your potted plants for a couple of days.


All you need is a clean glass bottle and water to create your own self-watering bottle.


1. Water your potted plants well.

2.  Fill an empty glass bottle with water and cover the top with your thumb to keep the water from dripping out as you turn it upside down.


3. Insert the mouth of the wine bottle into the soil, about 2 inches deep.  

That’s all there is to it!


As the soil dries, water will slowly seep into the soil from the bottle, essentially watering your potted plants for a couple of days.
*This can also be done to plants in the ground as well.
So, the next time you find yourself putting empty glass bottles in the recycle bin, keep out one or two to use to water your plants while you are away.

Do you have a border in your garden? 


How about a decorative one that you made yourself?


Last year, I visited a garden that had a beautiful border that the owner made herself using concrete mix, broken dishes and glass beads.


There were also lovely step stones as well.  

The creator of this functional garden art was kind enough to show me how she made them.


Have you ever made a piece of art that you display in your garden?

What kind of household cleaner do you use?


Earlier this year, I had heard of DIY natural cleaners made from grapefruit and decided to try it out myself.


The cleaner was very easy to make and I used grapefruit from my mother’s tree, although you can get yours from the grocery store.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked.

Do you like the idea of using household cleaners that are natural?

I do.

Did you know that citrus has natural cleaning properties?

It does.

I just finished making up a batch of citrus cleaner and wrote about it in my latest Birds & Blooms blog post that you can read here…



So, if you have a tree filled with citrus, or even if you have to buy some at the grocery store – this cleaner is well worth it!


This past week, I was blessed with harvesting produce from two different gardens.


One was from one of my vegetable gardens…


About a 1/4 of my side vegetable garden is planted with cauliflower.  

Over the weekend, I was able to harvest my first cauliflower of the season.  

Now, I am aware that some of you may not care for cauliflower.  Personally, I like it raw but NOT when it is cooked.

I’ll share with you a little secret that I have used to get my kids to eat cauliflower…


I cut the tops of the florets off, dice it and then sprinkle it on top of our dinner salads.  It looks like grated cheese.  I also slice carrots, celery and cucumbers to add to our salads, which not only add great flavor to salads – they are also a great way to get more vegetables into my kids 😉

The cauliflower was so delicious – it tasted like butter – seriously.

The next harvest was of another kind and from a different garden…


On the family farm, my mother has a large grapefruit tree.  

Now, as anyone who has ever had a grapefruit tree can tell you – these trees are overly generous in the amount of fruit that they produce.


Luckily, my mother has 4 kids who are more then happy to help share with her bounty.

With my husband standing ready holding grocery bags, we picked some delicious fruit from the tree.

*While all the grapefruit looked ripe, some were not quite ready to be picked.  If they did not come off fairly easily when lightly pulled/twisted, then we left them alone.

If I am going to be perfectly honest with you, I do not like to eat grapefruit – at all.

But, I have another purpose in mind for my newly picked grapefruit – I am going to make a natural cleaner from it using vinegar.

I promise to blog about it soon, so hold onto some of your excess grapefruit or maybe offer to take some off of your neighbor’s grapefruit tree 🙂

What if you could create a small world in a container?


Have you ever seen one?  


If you have ever seen a terrarium, then you have.


Last week, as we arrived at the family farm for our weekly dinner gathering, I was greeted by the following sight when I entered the dining room…


The table had beautiful terrariums lined up in a row.

They were so beautiful and I wanted to share them with all of you, so I whipped out my cellphone to take some pictures for you.

Now you may wonder, whether or not my mother had spent a small fortune buying these beautiful arrangements.

Well, the answer is no.  She created them herself.


My mother has always had a special affinity for succulents and with her artistic eye, she creates stunning arrangements.


She creates tiny worlds using various succulents and arranging bits and pieces of things such as seashells, lichen, twigs, moss and pebbles.


These arrangements were prototypes that were to be photographed so she could use the pictures to apply for entry for a large holiday boutique held at a local church.


Two of these beautiful terrariums were then being taken to California as gifts for her sisters.

Last year, she made me a lovely terrarium…

Chopsticks are a great tool for placing items inside a terrarium.

Terrariums are quite expensive if you buy them at the store.  

But, you can create your own small living world yourself.  Believe it or not, my mother got all of her containers at the local Goodwill store.  

Pebbles and moss can always be purchased at the local craft store.  But, you can also gather many items for terrariums such as twigs, lichen, small rocks, etc. the next time you take a nature walk.

If you would like to learn how to create your own terrarium; I wrote a “how to” post for Birds & Blooms that you can see here.