Preparing & Preserving

Hot Spiced Gluhwein for the Holidays

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the familiar spices that flavor our favorite cookies, breads, nuts and so much more. Here’s where these traditional spices originated and how to put them to use in a recipe for hot spiced wine.

Christmas Spices

While you were mixing the ingredients for that batch of gingerbread cookies, did you wonder how the ginger and cinnamon found their way to your kitchen? And I don’t mean by way of the supermarket.

It’s easy for us to take for granted the many baking spices we rely on for our holiday sweets and other recipes. But each took a long road to reach us.

The crusaders returned home from their travels in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and brought with them the spices we still use today. Our holiday baking wouldn’t be the same without the nutmeg, allspice or cloves they brought home.

Here are some of the most common Christmas spices used in holiday treats and where they originated:

Great Gobs of Gardening Books for 2013

New gardening books are published every year, but this crop is especially fruitful.

Baker Creek Vegan CookbookIf you need inspiration to help you add more vegetables to your family’s menu, look no farther than this new cookbook from the folks at the Baker Creek Seed Company. The cookbook, written by Jere and Emilee Gettle with Adeena Sussman, is a natural follow up to the Gettle’s first book called “The Heirloom Life Gardener.” If you didn’t grow up enjoying Grandma Nellie’s Garden Soup, don’t fret. Her recipe for homemade vegetable soup is included in the new collection of more than 125 recipes in “The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook” (2012, Hyperion).

Vertical Vegetable Gardening book1“Vertical Vegetable Gardening” is a Living Free Guide (2012, Alpha Books) that adds to the body of creative ideas for using every square inch of gardening space. Chris McLaughlin has gleaned ideas from gardeners across the country for the best ways to grow vegetables vertically.This user-friendly how-to guide is organized into four parts that make it easy to find information. While beginning gardeners may want to delve into The Basics: Soil and Seed, experienced gardeners might turn right to Vegetables and Fruit that Enjoy Growing Up.

Has it Really Been 4 Years?

Happy Fourth Anniversary to!

Weird Veggie1 Carrie Fritz Love AppleIt was February 24, 2009, when I hit the “publish” button on my first gardening blog post.

I wrote a short post about the predicted drought conditions in the West, with the headline: Warmer, Drier Forecast is Daunting!

It seems like I could have written that headline yesterday, too.

Over the last four years I’ve written a lot about conserving water in our landscapes from planting water-wise flowers, trees and shrubs, to ways to use water more efficiently in the garden.

Those tips are even more relevant today.

Of the 449 posts I’ve written, I’ve been surprised by the one that’s been most popular: my simple recipe for Pickled Jalapeno Peppers. That one post continues to draw hundreds of gardeners looking for ways to use their home-grown jalapenos.

Holiday Gifts from the Women’s Bean Project

A basket of gifts from the Women’s Bean Project is a meaningful (and delicious) way to celebrate the holidays.

If you’re looking for some last-minute holiday gifts, purchasing products from the Women’s Bean Project is a simple way to spread the good cheer.

Gourmet food packets of soups, chili, salsa and dip mixes, spice rubs and chocolate-covered espresso beans make wonderful edible presents and help support the mission of the Women’s Bean Project in the process.

Each product is handmade by participants in the project who are working to break the cycle of chronic unemployment, poverty or other difficult life circumstances.

The group helps get women ready for employment by teaching job skills through its business of packaging tasty food products and making beautiful pieces of jewelry.

The nonprofit started in Denver in 1989 and has grown considerably since those early days.

Beginning with just $500 worth of beans, the program now has an annual operating budget of over $1.5 million. That’s a lot of beans!

How to Make Vegetable Stock

Here’s a quick way to turn kitchen discards into a flavorful vegetable stock.

The holiday season starts in earnest with Thanksgiving next week and I know that I’ll be peeling potatoes, chopping celery, dicing onions and clipping herbs.

Instead of throwing away the potato peels or composting the celery ends, I plan to work some kitchen magic by turning discards into stock.

I’ve been recycling my holiday kitchen waste ever since I read a recipe for making potato peel broth years ago.

The light brown broth is so flavorful you won’t believe it came from vegetable bits that are usually tossed away.

Here’s how you can reuse vegetable kitchen scraps, too:


Well-washed vegetable peels, whole vegetables and fresh herbs.
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns or fresh-ground pepper
2-3 bay leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
Kosher salt to taste (optional)


  • Wash vegetables before you peel, scrape, chop, etc.

15 Easy Garlic Recipes from Gardeners

More than 180 garlic-loving gardeners stopped by earlier this month for the online Garlic Planting Party sponsored by Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. Maggie Wann was selected at random as the winner of the Purple Italian garlic prize package offered here.

Even if you didn’t win the prize package, there’s still time to order and plant your garlic.

Many people posted their favorite way to use garlic in their cooking, from roasted garlic to pasta sauces, pizza, stir fry, pesto and shrimp scampi.

Some gardener-cooks said they use garlic in just about everything they cook.

Like Su commented, “What’s a day without garlic?”

There were so many good ideas for using fresh garlic, I thought I’d include 15 easy garlic recipes that readers submitted for the contest. These all sounded too good to be relegated to the comments section of one blog post:

  1. Put whole peeled cloves in with vegetables when roasting.

How to Grow Tasty Tomatillos

Let’s celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the lively taste of tomatillo!

While planting tomatoes this season, be sure to add a couple of tomatillo plants to your gardening efforts.

Classic Mexican dishes need the lively taste of tomatillo to roast, grill or simmer into a chile verde sauce or use raw in salsa, guacamole or gazpacho.

Tomatilllo (toh-mah-TEE-yoh) may look a little like its distant cousin the tomato, but they’re miles apart in taste.

The fruits are eaten green, while still firm and have a sweet, but lively lemon-apple-herb taste that’s essential to Mexican and Southwestern cooking.

I grew several tomatillo ‘Toma Verde’ plants last summer and enjoyed the entire process. These plants produce small-size fruit, but there are other varieties that grow bigger or those that ripen to a deep purple.

I started the seeds along with the tomato seeds in spring and transplanted two little plants to my container garden once the weather warmed. But I’ve also seen tomatillo plants on the vegetable tables at local garden centers.

How to Grow Tabasco Sauce Step 2

How to Grow Tabasco Sauce, Step 1, included information on growing Tabasco pepper plants from seed. Step 2 is an illustrated guide for using the fresh peppers to make your own Tabasco sauce.

After the Tabasco peppers have ripened to the perfect color of red, pick them from the plant, wash, and carefully remove the stems and green caps. Chop peppers and place them in a saucepan. It’s always a good idea to wear kitchen gloves whenever handling fresh peppers.

Add about 1 1/2 cups or more of white vinegar to the pan of chopped Tabasco peppers. Mix in 1 teaspoon of salt. Heat the mixture until it just begins to boil and then turn heat down. Simmer for 5-7 minutes. Allow the pepper and vinegar mixture to cool completely.

Carefully pour the pepper mixture into a blender. Make sure the lid is on tight and puree. Pour the mixture into a jar and tighten the lid. Place the jar in the refrigerator and allow it to steep for 3 weeks.

How to Grow Tabasco Sauce Step 1

This is the first of a two-part blog post on how to plant, grow and bottle your own Tabasco sauce.

Well-known food writer Eugenia Bone once wrote there isn’t a condiment sitting in the refrigerator that can’t be homemade.

That idea stuck with me last season as I was deciding what to plant in my garden. I thought about all the assorted bottles of sauces and small jars of accompaniments taking up space on the shelf in the fridge and landed on my favorite: Tabasco sauce.

Because that large bottle is my go-to favorite for spicing up soups, adding a zing to curry and sloshing on dirty rice, I decided to plant, grow, and bottle my own.

It was about this time last year when I set my sights on homegrown, homemade Tabasco sauce and I kept that in mind as I shopped for seeds in the piles of gardening catalogs that stack up so nicely right after the first of the year. I found authentic Tabasco seeds in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog.

Aprons Ready for National Tie One On Day

Get your favorite apron ready. Tomorrow, November 23, is National Tie One On Day.

Tie One On Day blog
National Tie One On Day
was started by “apron lady” EllynAnne Geisel to help us put the giving back in Thanksgiving.

Her idea is that each of us should use the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as a time of sharing instead of stressing. It’s time to stop worrying about preparing a large holiday meal and focus on others.

It’s easy to get started. Just take a moment out of your day, wrap a loaf of bread or other baked goodie in an apron or a towel and deliver it to someone who could use a kind gesture. (And these days, who wouldn’t benefit from a random act of kindness?)

As we all know, these last few years have been especially difficult for so many of our friends, neighbors, and family members. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t appreciate a thoughtful gesture like this.

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