Survival Food Herbalism

eibren(z6PA)July 9, 2009

Late one night, I was starving, but too tired from gardening to prepare a decent meal. For such times, I keep a few staples on hand, one of which is Chef Boyardi ravioli! I used to love it as a child, but, that particular night, the thought of eating such an insipid dish was offputting.

My solution? I mixed in a substantial amount of paprika and hot pepper to my ravioli bowl, which I sprinkled liberally with chopped onions and cheddar cheese before nuking all in the microwave.

It was rather tasty.

Do any of you transform basic canned or frozen food with the herbs you grow or keep on hand? Share your secrets here! We promise not to tell....


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Since becoming ill, and now unable to cook for myself, I've had to have my meals delivered - either by Meals on Wheels, or from some other meal-delivery place. While there is a wide choice, I like to give things a flavour change from time to time by adding one or another herbs.

Parsley is my current favourite. Goes with everything. But if it's fish, while I'm reheating it (most meals come frozen), I like to add some lemon balm or lemon verbena or lemon myrtle to it.

Sprinkling a lamb dish with some chopped mint really lifts it.

If it's a pasta/tomato dish, on goes some basil. And perhaps some snipped garlic chives.

Nothing like a sprinkling of sumac over a tossed salad! (not from my garden, but from a jar this time!). And maybe I'll toss in a nasturtium leaf or two, or some cress.

So little effort for so much more zing! Especially since I have a herb-only garden!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 4:03AM
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I've always cooked the majority of the meals. But since I discovered I was gluten intolerant, I cook nearly all the time. Wheat and its brethren are in so many prepared foods, take out foods, and more that the only way to keep from suffering is to cook my own, from scratch.

But occasionally I'll treat myself to take out. One of my take out favorites (other than grilled meats with veggies) is steamed "dieter's specials" from the local Chinese food place. It is steamed veggies & meat with white rice. Yep. Bland to the max! But I add depending upon my mood some combination of sesame seeds (black ones are my fav), hot pepper, ground ginger, sesame oil, black pepper, and wheat-free tamari sauce. Not exactly herbs from the garden but "survival food herbalism" none the less!

Because I cook so much, I love this time of the year. Our 6 months of winter have passed and things are lush and green. I can go as needed to the gardens and get what herbs I need. Last night I took the last of the mature parsley from the garden. I was making pozole and the cilantro I had in the fridge was older than remembered and hence more rotten. (My cilantro in the garden has all bolted.) In a pinch, fresh parsley can add some of the same qualities that fresh cilantro does. Definitely not the same but depending upon what you are making it may save that emergency trip to the store! There's some survival herbalism for 'ya!


    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 9:09AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

daisy, I've somehow missed that you've been ill. Which is surprising since, I always enjoy reading and learning from your posts. I send you wishes for strength and health and energy.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 9:35AM
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We really do cook everything and being reactive to MSG, there is not much packaged food we eat. But I have a couple of quick fixes....

My main one right now is my garden stir fry. It's glass noodles, soy sauce, oyster sauce, pepper flakes and any junk from the garden. Bok choy goes in, bolted or not, any radish that is ready out there and the radish greens, sprouts if I have them from thinning. Spinach if I have it. Whatever hot pepper is ready to be picked. Garlic and onion. If I have mushrooms in the fridge, those go in. An egg. And lots of my Thai basil tips that I trim cause they are starting to flower. Kind of a stone soup type of thing. It's yummy though.

I suppose the same could be done with ramen noodles.

Sunday, we got home really late, so I just sauteed zucchini, onions garlic, fresh basil, oregano and rosemary in some olive oil and that was dinner.

Canned menudo with fresh onions and cilantro is always good. Or canned black beans spiced up.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 11:55AM
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It's amazing how a few herbs can lift a dish--but I never thought of that for Meals on Wheels! Thanks, Daisy--when I go up to be with my Mom in a few days, she will have the benefit of your ideas...she is always complaining about how bland the MOW are...

The Dieter's Special idea is great, too, Fata--my brother needs to watch his weight, and frequently gets take-out from a Chinese establishment.

Ania, do you prepare the noodles separately? That dish sounds tasty! I too have found that the little bits and pieces from broccoli and etc. in the garden are a great stir fry addition.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 10:11PM
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Eibren, for non-cooks some of the bottled sauces may be the best way to go. I don't know if your brother cooks but if he doesn't, he can use a bottled sauce from the asian section of your supermarket and he can control the calories, fat, and sodium intake by watching how much he uses.

ania, I too like the garden stir-fry special. One my my favorite things to do is to cook a roaster chicken or something else that is economical so there would be protein for multiple meals. A stir-fry is one of those things I do when I only have a little meat leftover. And I grab whatever is in the fridge, pantry, or garden to throw into it. If you are looking for ways to cut costs, this is a great way!


    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 9:13AM
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I soak the glass noodles (the bean kind) for 15 min in warm water. I start with the egg beat up and cook that. I throw everything else veggie in and stirfy until done, throwing in the sauces at the end, throw the noodles in and stir them around until they soak up the sauce and turn glassy looking, about 2 min. Turn off heat. Then drizzle sesame oil and put in the chopped basil. You can also add lime zest, lime juice and ginger for flavor.

If you look up a thai basil chicken recipe, it's basically a variation on that. My thai basil needs trimming on a weekly basis so I've been making a lot of thai basil chicken with glass noodles as well.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 11:10AM
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CA Kate

I can't begin to count the number of times a bland meal has been rescued by a handful of herbs.... fresh or dried.

I have a jar where I toss whatever herbs were "left over" and dried on the kitchen counter... there are peppers, etc. too; it all goes in the jar for future reference. Then whatever comes out of the jar is what goes into the food.

I frequently add fresh herbs to salads to change the taste a little. My favorites are basil, terragon, nasturtium leaves or flowers, and parsley.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 1:21AM
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granite(z6 NC)

This time of year I am regularly harvesting herbs to dry or freeze so that I can keep "punching up" meals. I am a big fan of garlic, chives, basil, oregano, and thyme in lots of foods and I will do selective use of winter savory, lemon balm, and rosemary. For some reason I just don't get into using sage in cooking, go figure. I dry the oregano and thyme, store the garlic in the basement, and freeze basil and chives.

One of my favorite summer dishes is sliced cukes, onions, and tomatoes with lots of basil and either a vinegar dressing or a creamy mayo dressing.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 9:50AM
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