Cooking with Herbs

Written by The Peaceful Cottage on . Posted in Cooking, Kitchen Tips

“All wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the … use of man.” (D&C 89:10)

(Image from frugalhomesteads.blogspot.com)

As I have learned to cook, I have been amazed at the impact a few carefully chosen herbs can do to finish off a dish. Herbs come from plants that have aromatic oils in their leaves, seeds and stems. Fresh herbs will provide the most robust flavor to your dishes. However, I have found that I appreciate the convenience of keeping a well stocked cupboard of dried herbs and spices.

Some tips for cooking with herbs:

  • A good rule of thumb for substituting seasonings is: 1 Tablespoon of Fresh Herbs = 1 teaspoon of Dried Herbs = ¼ teaspoon of Ground Herbs.
  • For enhanced flavor grind dried herbs just prior to use.
  • When mixing flavors try complimenting a strong flavor with more mild flavors.
  • The more mild the dish the less herbs are needed to round out the flavors.
  • When chopping fresh herbs the leaves should be cut very fine to release more aromatic oils and flavor.
  • Extended cooking time reduces the flavor of cooking. Fresh herbs should be added during the final 5 – 10 minutes of preparation, while dried herbs should be added 20-45 minutes before the dish will be served.
  • Fresh herbs should be harvested in the mid-morning to early afternoon. Wash in cool water and dry in a towel.
  • You can dry herbs by placing them on a cookie sheet, place in a 125 degree oven for a few minutes.

Common Cooking Herbs

Basil has a strong, pungent, and mildly sweet flavor. It comes in a variety of types: Sweet Basil (used for Italian cooking), Thai Basil and Lemon Basil (both used in Asian foods). It is excellent when used fresh, but can also be used when dried. It is used in a wide variety of foods including: Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Traditional American dishes. Some great combinations include tomato dishes, soups, salads, pizza, salad dressings, chicken dishes, egg dishes, salmon, tuna, spaghetti, meatloaf, dips, herb sandwiches, and many cooked vegetables.

Bay Leaves have a distinct flavor. It is best used when dried. Often found in slow cooked meals, such as roasts, stews and soups. The leaves are typically removed prior to serving a meal.

Celery Seed can be substituted for celery – generally 1/8 teaspoon per stock of celery. It has a warm, slightly bitter flavor.

Chili Powder is a hot spice commonly used in Mexican, Indian and Southwestern Cuisine.

Cilantro comes from the coriander plant. The leaves and stems are used for cooking. It has a very distinct flavor, with slightly citrus overtones, but it is also often described as “soapy.” It is extremely popular in “California-Style Cuisine” (such as California Pizza Kitchen). It may be used in salad, guacamole, pizza, salsas, Mexican, Indian and Tex-Mex cuisines.

Cinnamon has a distinct flavor. It is often used in desserts, breakfast meals, cereals, breads, as a seasoning in drinks and on fruit.

Cumin is the second most popular spice in the world (following black pepper). It has a distinct warm, earthy and somewhat spicy flavor. It is used in Indian dishes, Tex-Mex, Mexican Cuisine, Cuban, Mediterranean, Spanish, Italian and Middle-Eastern Cuisine.

Coriander Seed has a warm, nutty, spicy-flavor. Often it is combined with cumin to create curries for Indian dishes. Curry is used as a thickener. It may also be used for pickling vegetables, in sausages, rye breads and other European cuisines.

Dill Weed is best when used fresh. It is often used in borscht, on fish, in soups, stews, breads, with beans, in coleslaw and on egg dishes. It is often used for pickling and may be used to flavor butter, cheese, vinegars and oils.

Garlic Powder can be a quick substitute for cloves of garlic – about 1/8 teaspoon to every clove.

Oregano has a warm aromatic flavor. It comes in a variety of cultivars which each have a distinct flavor. It is commonly used in tomato sauces, on meat, breads, casseroles, soups, pizzas and on vegetables. It is found in Italian, Greek, Spanish, Latin American, and Turkish cuisines. It combines very well with basil and works well with spicy flavors.

Paprika is a spice made from grinding dried bell peppers and chili peppers. It can range from sweet to very spicy. It is often used to add color (such as on deviled eggs). Paprika can be used to season and add color to meats, soups, stew and rice dishes.

Parsley comes in two varieties: curly leaf and Italian. Curly leaf parsley is typically used as a garnish. Parsley has a mild flavor and is often used in combination with other herbs and spices. It is very common in a variety of dishes including potato dishes, rice, meat, soups, and sauces.

Black Pepper is the most commonly used spice in the world. It best when freshly ground from whole peppercorns.

Rosemary has a very distinct flavor and smell. It is used often in Mediterranean cuisine, in fish dishes and for barbequed meals.

Saffron is consistently the most expensive herb. It has a bitter taste and will give dishes a warm-golden color. It is often used in confections, as well as, Middle Eastern, Asian and European cuisines. Some common substitutes for saffron are safflower and tumeric.

Sage has a mild peppery flavor. It is often used in marinades for meats. It combines well with onions and may be incorporated into sauces and stuffings. It is very common in European, Italian and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Salt

  • Table salt is a fine grained salt with a very strong flavor. It is used in baking, for adding flavor in cooking. It should be used in small quantities as it has the saltiest flavor.
  • Sea Salt has had very little or no processing and therefore maintains a unique flavor and coloring. It is often used with chocolates. Typically sea salt is the most expensive. Sea salt will not retain its unique flavor when it is cooked or dissolved.
  • Kosher salt contains no preservatives. It is excellent for adding flavor to meats, it may also be used to brine and preserve food.

Sweet Marjoram is very similar to oregano in flavor and can be used a substitute in many dishes.

Tarragon is considered one of the four Fines Herbes of French cooking (the other three are parsley, chives and chervil). It can be used in chicken, fish and egg dishes. It may also be used in some Italian dishes and is one of the main ingredients in a Béarnaise sauce. It also may be used to flavor creams, oils, vinegars and butters. It combines very well with vegetables such as green beans and cauliflower.

Thyme is widely used through out the world. Thyme adds a lot of flavor, but also blends very well with a variety of herbs and spices. It is used to flavor meats, soups, stews, lamb dishes, marinades, tomatoes and eggs. It may be used to flavor cottage cheese, butters, vinegars and oils. Fresh thyme will typically last about a week, so often dried thyme is preferred for convenience.

Square Foot Gardening

Written by The Peaceful Cottage on . Posted in Gardening






(Images from www.democraticunderground.com)

This year I am hoping to have a successful vegetable garden. During the past I have tried every year to do some gardening, but have only grown a handful of fresh vegetables. In researching different gardening methods I have decided to try square foot gardening.

Square foot gardening was popularized by Mel Bartholemew; it is a very efficient way to create an organic vegetable garden. In the modest space of 64 sq ft (2 – 4’ x 4’ beds) you can grow enough fresh produce to feed a family of four.

Important Elements to a Square Foot Garden

· Create raised beds that are between two and four feet in width (possible combinations include: 2 x 2, 3 x 3, 2 x 6, 4 x4…). These dimensions allow the garden the entire bed at arms reach. When you walk on the soil it becomes compacted causing distress to the plant roots.

· The garden beds should receive full sunlight from 6-8 hours each day, and should be located in an area of well-drained soil.

· Soil preparation should include a mix of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost. This is a lightweight soil that will maintain appropriate amounts of water and provide adequate minerals for growing plants.

· Create a grid system by dividing the garden in one-foot squares. The grid system will allow you to easily remove plants at the end of the harvest cycle and replace with additional plants. This system will also help eliminate wasteful planting.

· Plants should be planted with consideration of their final growth size and habits. Plants that grow on vines such as squash, watermelons, beans, peas, and tomatoes should be trained to grow on a trellis.

· A plant spacing guide can be found at “My Square Foot Garden” (http://www.mysquarefootgarden.net/plant-spacing/)

Other Square Foot Garden Sites

· www.squarefootgardening.com

· Edenspath.wordpress.com

· timssquarefootgarden.com

· journeytoforever.org

· frugaldad.com/2008/03/03/how-to-build-a-square-foot-garden

· beingfrugal.net/2008/03/10/building-a-square-foot-garden

· www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2007/04/21/an-introduction-to-square-foot- gardening

Mothers Who Know

Written by The Peaceful Cottage on . Posted in Motherhood

Cassatt, Mary - Young Mother Sewing
(Image entitled “Young Mother Sewing” by Mary Cassatt)

In October 2007, I listened to a talk by Julie B. Beck entitled, Mothers Who Know, which had a significant influence on my life. She taught how the world needs more women who recognize and fulfill their divine roles. I feel strongly that her words are true. As I listened to her speak, my heart was filled with hope as I saw more clearly that the path I am on is exactly where I need to be. This knowledge gave me the confidence to move forward in cultivating talents that will improve my abilities as a woman, wife, mother and homemaker. I know that as a I become a “Mother Who Knows” I will draw closer to the Savior and will be filled with the eternal joy given to all who follow Him.

The excerpts below are taken directly from that address:

* “The responsibility mothers have today has never required more vigilance. More than at any time in the history of the world, we need mothers who know…”


* “There is eternal influence and power in motherhood.”

* “Mothers who know are nurturers. This is their special assignment and role under the plan of happiness. To nurture means to cultivate, care for and make grow. Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes.”

* “Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home. Home is where women have the most power and influence; therefore, [we] should be the best homemakers in the world.”

* “Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth. Growth happens best in a ‘house of order’… Nurturing requires organization, patience, love, and work.”

* “Wise mothers… are selective about their own activities and involvement to conserve their limited strength in order to maximize their influence where it matters most.”

* “Mothers who know are always teachers.”

* “Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distractions, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s good in order to spend more time with their children – more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world… That is influence; that is power.”

Principle of Design #1 – Balance, Scale and Mass

Written by The Peaceful Cottage on . Posted in Home Design, Principles and Elements of Design

I love learning about the “secrets” to design… so I thought I would do a series on the Elements and Principles of Design.

Principle #1 – Balance, Scale and Mass
(Image from www.housebeautiful.com)

Balance and scale are used to create mass, or visual weight, in design. When a visual equilibrium is met the room will feel composed and completed. Careful consideration should be given to the placement of objects throughout the space. For example, if one side of a room contains several dark, heavy or large pieces the room will often feel off-balanced.

You can create balance in a room with symmetrical (mirror image) placement of objects from a central point. Typically, symmetrical balance will create a more formal feel.

(Image from www.bhg.com)

Balance can also be achieved asymmetrically by placing varied objects around a central point. Often asymmetrical balance will create a more informal or casual feel in a room.
(Images from Country Living, A Kitchen Full of Color)

A third way to create balance is through radial placement. Objects are placed in a circle around a the center point of the design.
(Image from House Beautiful, “Dark Dining Room”)

Some helpful points for achieving this visual equilibrium are:
* The visual weight is more important than the actual dimensions or size of an object…
* It is important to factor architectural elements – such as a fireplace or large window – into the “balance equation”…
* Massing furniture or objects together can create a heavier visual impact. For example, a sofa may be balanced with two smaller chairs…
* You can balance a little piece with a bigger piece by placing the large object closer to the central axis and the small object further away…
* Lighting can effect arrangement as it will create a visual impact of its own…
* Achieving balance is intuitive…

“The desire for symmetry, for balance, for rhythm is one of the most inveterate of human instincts.”

–Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman, Jr. (The Decoration of Houses)

Cleaning Products

Written by The Peaceful Cottage on . Posted in Clean Home












Routine households cleaners need to be able to create a clean, fresh and sanitary environment, but it should not pose health risks to the family or the environment. This balance can be achieved by using very common household items that have proven their effective cleaning abilities throughout the years.

Some of these more vintage cleaners may require more time and energy to help maintain the home, simply because they are not as corrosive as their more modern counterparts. The intense level of toxic material that are found in many modern cleaning agents can actually cause harm to the environment, the health of our family and be destroying the surfaces which you are trying to maintain.

We should always begin cleaning with the most mild cleaner and slowly work towards more abrasive and toxic cleaners. By maintaining a regular cleaning routine these products will be very easy and effective.

Some simple and financially wise cleaners that can be used routinely in the home are listed below:

1. General All-Purpose Degreaser: For cleaning simple spills and greasy fingerprints around the home, simply combine 2 cups of warm water with 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle. Simply spray the area allow a minute or two for the dishwashing liquid to penetrate the surface and wipe with a clean damp cloth. This will be safe on countertops, wood and stone surfaces. (PH Level is neutral 6.5-7)

2. Bathroom, Kitchen Sink and Oven Cleaner: A gentle, yet effective cleaner that will remove stains without scratching surfaces is a paste mixture of 3 parts water to 1 part baking soda. To add additional cleaner power substitute water with dishwashing liquid, mixed with baking soda until you have created a think paste. For more stubborn stains a touch (pea size amount) of toothpaste can be added for extra whitening power. (PH Level will be somewhere between 7-9)

3. Soap Scum and Mineral Deposit Remover: Simply soak a rag in either vinegar or lemon juice. Cover area with the rag for a few hours. Wipe and rinse excess. (PH Level will be near 3)

4. Window Cleaner: 1 part vinegar to 1 part water. (PH Level will be near 3)

5. Hardwood Floor Cleaner: 1 part vinegar to 1 part water. (PH Level will be near 3)

Alkaline household cleaners (PH 7-14) are best for cutting through grease, oil, fats, proteins and other common household dirt.

Acidic household cleaners (PH 0-7) are best for cleaning areas that will have calcium build up and rust (typically areas that have high levels of water use… bathrooms and kitchen sink).

The more neutral the product the easier it will be on our bodies and our environment.

** PH Levels for Common Household Cleaners
Chlorine Bleach 13
Ammonia 12
Oven Cleaner (Containing Lye) 12
Tub and Tile Cleaner 12
Borax 10
Baking Soda 9
Dishwashing Detergent 6.5-9
Vinegar and Lemon Juice 3
Toilet Bowl Cleaner 3

Farmhouse Table

Written by The Peaceful Cottage on . Posted in DIY, Furniture, Tables

I have wanted to learn how to refinish furniture for a very long time. So I finally jumped in to my first project… a Farmhouse Style Table. I must admit… I am very pleased with the way it turned out. I sanded down the previous scratched varnish. Applied primer and a beautiful off-white latex paint. Then I distressed the edges and finished with several layers of polyurethane.

Before

















After

I have linked this post up with:
Kimba’s DIY Party over at A Soft Place to Land.
Post image for DIY Day with Lisa Leonard Designs
Miss Mustard Seed Workshop Series… This has a fantastic tutorial with it.
Posted with Remodelaholic’s Anonymous Meeting 8…

Finely Crafted Bungalow…

Written by The Peaceful Cottage on . Posted in Bathroom Design, Craftsman, Fireplace, Home Design, Kitchen Design, Stonework, Wood Work

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the classic bungalow. Typically, they are full of excellent craftsmanship, well thought details and feel “like home”. This newly constructed bungalow from Black Star Construction Group has all these elements… it is a beautiful home.

Welcoming curb appeal with the deep front porch and flagstone pathway.

Contemporary Arts & Crafts, Santa Barbara, CACasing Detail.

Fine craftsmanship is shown in the details.



I love this fireplace!


This kitchen has great cabinetry. I love the way the formica countertops turned out, the metal trim edging is perfect, and the glass back splash really gives it a trendy feel. The fir flooring keeps the entire feel very comfortable.



I love the dark trim with the light painting. I think the molding adds a very nice touch.



I am always a huge fan of a well designed tile shower. I think that it is a classic feature…

Contemporary Arts & Crafts, Santa Barbara, CA Contemporary Arts & Crafts, Santa Barbara, CA

A more modern take on a classic arts and craft design element.

Full master bathroom remodel. Full master bathroom remodel.

This bathroom is amazing. The combination of the tile with black edging, the diamond motif and the brilliant green work flawlessly together.

(Images may be found at blackstarconstructiongroup.com)

Shaker Style…

Written by The Peaceful Cottage on . Posted in Home Design, Shakers, Staircase, Wood Work

The Shakers immigrated to the United States in the late 18th century to avoid religious persecution. When they arrived in America they began developing a society that emphasized a belief in a personal relationship with God, simplicity, equality, industry and a striving for perfection. This emphasis created a legacy of perfectly, yet simply crafted pieces. The enduring beauty of Shaker furniture is a result of their attention to details, the utility of their furniture and a fine elegance in all the created.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, KY - Photo by Joy Ribisi

Influential Elements in Shaker Design

  • Simplicity – In direct contrast to many of the pieces found during the same period, which were influence by the Federal and Sheraton styles, the Shakers would remove all elaborations creating pure and highly functional pieces. Shaker decoration is integrated in the overall form of a piece, they would use the basic elements of design (scale, proportion, repetition/variation and symmetry/asymmetry) to create visual appeal.
  • Open and uncluttered spaces.
  • A limited color palette of earth-based neutrals, warm yellows, reds, blues and greens.
  • Handcrafted furniture in cherry, chestnut, maple and pine.
  • Handmade quilts, toys, dolls and other accessories.
  • Establish a Place of Order – The Shakers believed that every object should have a designated place, which necessitated large quantities of storage. Cupboards and drawers would often line an entire wall. Oval boxes and woven baskets were used to organize small objects. Pegs on chair rails were available to hang clothing and furniture to keep the floor clean and bare.
  • Symmetry and repetition – They relied heavily on patterns involving the repetitive use of similar shapes, forms or space to create unity and order within each design.







  • Natural Elements – Fabrics included cotton, silk and wool. Hardwood plank floors finished with a clear varnish.
  • Lighting included beeswax candles and sconces.
  • Cleanliness was considered essential in the Shaker society and as such homes, furnishings and farms were meticulously maintained.
  • Other elements commonly found in Shaker design include the “Hand within a Heart” motif (to represent our heart belongs to God and our hands were meant to labor), the Tree of Life, doves and bird, and clocks (signifying mortality).
Picket Fence Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Maine - 2007 Shaker Workshops Photography Competition Winner - Joy Ribisi

Images may be found at–

Ten Habits for a Clean Home…

Written by The Peaceful Cottage on . Posted in Clean Home, Habits


Enjoying a clean home is simply a matter of developing clean habits… Here are ten of the most effective “clean habits” we can develop to keep a more tidy abode.






















(Photograph is from Country Living)

1. Make your bed. When you get up in the morning you should immediately make your bed. This will tidy up any bedroom.

2. Put things away as soon as you are done using them. When you do not put things away you create a new “dumping ground” for everyone who walks by… so instead of one item to put away it will quickly become many items to put away.

3. Have a “home spot” for everything, yes, everything in your home. If you know exactly where the scissors go it is easy to not only find them, but also to quickly put them away again. (The home spot should be near where an item is most often used.)

4. Throw away junk mail while you are going through the mail. I have a trash can at the foot of the stairs in our garage, so as I walk from the mailbox to our home I can sort the mail and throw away the trash… typically the additional clutter will not make it inside our home.


























(Photograph is from House Beautiful)

5. Shine your sinks… this one is essential for our family because we have insanely hard water… after you use the sinks grab a dry hand towel, washcloth or tissue and wipe down any water spots or soap residue. This is important for both kitchen and bathroom sinks.

6. Keep several small trash cans in high traffic areas of your home. The more convenient your trash cans are the less likely trash will end up somewhere else.

7. Wash pots, pans and dishes as you cook and immediately after eating. Dishes are sooo easy to wash when they are freshly used… you will very rarely have to “scrub” anything. This habit alone will save you so much time.

8. Wake-up your home and put your home to bed every day with a quick 5-20 minute straighten of each room… it is amazing what you can do in 5-20 minutes of focused quick cleaning.

9. Get rid of stuff… get rid of stuff… get rid of stuff. It’s simple – a home with less “stuff” is easier to keep clean.

10. Have cleaning supplies mixed and ready to go in commercial spray bottles. This one is very handy when you are dealing with unexpected messes… like a sick child.