Enjoying a new twist on hamburgers


With the garden well underway, it’s time to start enjoying those bountiful harvests. One thing I have lots of right now are herbs. I’ve really enjoyed adding some extra flavor to our meals with a wide variety of herbs. I recently tried a new twist on a summer favorite — hamburgers.

I usually just make cheeseburgers and have tried adding dill one time. This time, I decided to go all out. What could it hurt? If it wasn’t any good, we’d be making them again sometime soon anyway.IMG_4598

But not only were they good, they turned out delicious. I added a variety of herbs, giving it a unique and tasty flavor. With a little cheese on top, this was way more than your normal cheeseburger. I am hooked. I may never make plain hamburgers again.

My hamburgers included Oregano, Parsley, Basil, Thyme and more. (See recipe below) What combination of herbs are you going to try?

One tip I have read is after making the patty, use your thumb to make an indention in the middle of it. This keeps the burger from swelling up in the middle. It seems to work. Also, spray the hamburger with vegetable or canola oil to keep it from sticking to the grill.

To top off this creation, lightly butter your hamburger buns, then place them on the grill for a couple of minutes. Build your hamburger with your favorite toppings – two of mine are homemade ketchup and home canned pickles.

Until next time, happy garden- fresh eating!


Herb Hamburgers

1 lb. hamburger

1 1/2 tsp. fresh thymeIMG_4586

1 T. fresh garlic chives

1 tsp. fresh greek oregano

1 tsp. fresh sage

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ketchup

1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix all ingredients and form into patties. Spray lightly with vegetable or canola oil, then grill. Enjoy topped with cheese and your favorite toppings. For the buns, butter one side and place on grill for a couple of minutes, until lightly browned.


The discovery of Dandelion Syrup


Dandelions, dandelions and more dandelions. They seem like they are everywhere in the spring. Last time I talked about making Dandelion Jelly, but I wanted to do more. I started exploring the uses of dandelions and there are many, but one in particular jumped out for me.

Dandelion syrup – it sounded good and seemed fairly easy to make, although a longer process than with the jelly.

Once again I set out to pick some of those yellow blossoms. Just one note of caution: Watch out for the bees. There were a lot out this time, so I just let them keep their dandelions and picked the ones that were free of bees. We all were happy that way.

Once I had about 150 dandelions, I headed back in to begin the process. First rinse the flowers and let them dry for a while. Then again pluck the petals from the green leaves. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to get around this process if you are going to be eating the end product. With the petals plucked and in a bowl, bring four cups of water to a boil and pour it over the petals, making sure they are all immersed in the water. Cover the bowl and leave it on the counter as it cools to room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, strain the petals from the water and discard the petals. In a large pan, mix the petals and 3 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Simmer this about one hour 25 minutes. It has a wonderful rich flavor, with a definite hint of honey.

It’s best to store the syrup in a glass jar, but other containers will work as long as they are not metal. Cover and keep in the refrigerator. This was great poured over some buttermilk pancakes. (I warmed a portion of the syrup in the microwave before using it. I wasn’t sure what reheating over and over would do to the syrup, so I didn’t heat the entire bottle.) It also would be good drizzled over some warm biscuits right out of the oven. One other use I found is for a sandwich. Growing up I never liked peanut butter and jelly, so my mom made me peanut butter and syrup sandwiches. I know it sounds strange, but it tastes really good. I recently purchased a bowl of freshly made peanut butter from the store and decided to try it. I mixed about a third cup of peanut butter and 2-3 tablespoons of syrup together and spread that on some homemade bread. It was delicious! I can’t wait to have another sandwich.

Now as I enjoy my dandelion jelly and syrup, it’s time to try something easier – a recipe for dandelion and rose soap. At least this time you don’t have to pick out the yellow petals, so it should be a piece of cake.

Until next time, happy garden fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener. Send your comments to her at julieclements75@gmail.com.

Warming up with a bowl of homemade chili


Cold weather brings a craving for warm, tasty food. One favorite for many people is chili. There are a variety of chili recipes out there, but using home-grown vegetables and peppers adds a fresh taste you just don’t get elsewhere.

Chili also gives me the opportunity to use a lot of frozen foods I have saved from the summer.

There are several options for the homemade chili. One is made with a chili base.

Unfortunately, I didn’t can any of this last season, so I have run out. Instead, we created the following recipe.

You begin by preparing one pound of dry beans. First, sort and rinse, then boil the beans two minutes in 8 cups of water. Cover and let set one hour. Then drain and rinse the beans, return to pot with 6 cups of water and simmer 2 hours. You can use any variety of beans. I usually grow three or four different kinds, mixing some red beans and pinto beans.

When the beans have been simmering about an hour, you can start browning a pound of hamburger. Drain that, then add a bag of frozen onions (one cup), and chopped frozen peppers. This is where you can get as creative as you want.  My freezer is stocked with frozen poblano peppers, serano peppers, jalepenos, garden salsa peppers and more. Our traditional way of making it calls for two large poblano peppers and two jalapeno peppers, but do anything you want. Hungarian Wax peppers are another favorite I like to add. Cook the peppers and onions until softened.

Once the beans are done, drain off any excess liquid, then combine the beans; two pints of tomatoes, drained and chopped; the hamburger mixture; and 1 tsp. cumin.

Even with the peppers, this makes a pretty mild chili, so if you want a little more spice, add a half teaspoon of red chili flakes.

Let that all simmer for 1-2 hours, then serve with your favorite toppings.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Homemade Vegetable Soup


I’ve talked about several methods of preserving a variety of vegetables from your garden. My newest experiments have been with dehydrating and I’m continually looking for more to do with that.

Dehydrating offers a variety of benefits, including long-lasting storage and saving space over freezing the vegetables. It also makes combining various foods easier than once they are frozen or canned.

With the ease of grabbing a handful of carrots or green beans whenever they are needed, I wanted to do more than just add the ingredients to a recipe I was cooking. With a variety of vegetables dehydrated, the perfect use was to create a garden-fresh dehydrated soup mix.

This was a fun creation because there are so many options. I decided to start with a beef img_4029vegetable mix in a pint jar.

To fill the jar, I added a quarter cup each of carrots, green beans, potatoes, onions, corn, celery and sun-dried tomatoes. To complete the jar, add 1 tsp. garlic powder, five beef bullion cubes and 30 dried basil leaves.

There are several fun things about this recipe.

One is simply creating the mix. I like to layer mine in the jar, mixing up the colors. You also could mix everything together then fill the jar for a colorful mixture throughout.

Another fun thing is you can experiment with it as much as you would like. Don’t like corn? Add peas instead. Want more tomatoes? Put more in and reduce something else. img_4031

You also can adjust how much seasonings are in there. I started with three bullion cubes, which was good. But I wanted a richer beef flavor so I increased it to five. You also could try making it with chicken bullion for a different flavor.

Other herbs also are an option. Thyme or rosemary seem like they would be good substitutes for the basil. It’s all up to your own personal taste.

Another fun thing is this makes a unique and personalized gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend or relative. Tie on a bow and attach the cooking instructions, and you have a tasty present ready to give.

Uimg_4023ntil next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Getting creative with flavors


One of my favorite ways of preparing meals is by smoking the meat, whether ribs, chicken, turkey. To do this, recipes often call for rubs to be used. We’ve tried a variety of them, finding several that are our favorites, but it just wasn’t home grown.

With the variety of peppers I grow, many of which we smoke and dehydrate, it seemed I could do something with them. Besides, if I just use those peppers in recipes, I’ll never get through them all.img_4176

I found some homemade rub recipes in a smoking and grilling book I had gotten for my husband and thought I’d give it a try. I found a recipe that I had most of the ingredients for and began making a few substitutions. It was fun trying to find as many homegrown ingredients as I could for each recipe.

Through a little trial and error, I made a variety of rubs and seasonings, including an all-purpose rub that can be plain, hickory or apple smoked; as well as a Steak House Rub, Memphis-Style Rib Rub and Hickory Dill Rub. The fun part about this is getting creative. Substitute peppers for an endless variety of combinations.

I used to grind all of my peppers with my mortar and pestle, but I recently made a new purchase for the kitchen – an herb grinder. I haven’t used it too much yet, but when I did it worked great, and I can’t wait to get some more peppers ground up to start creating some new recipes. If you find a new combination that you like, let me know. I’d love to try it out.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie’s All-Purpose Rub

5 T. dark brown sugarimg_4177
1 T. Hungarian Wax Peppers
1 T. Sweet Red Peppers
1 T. Serano Peppers
1 T. Mucho Nacho Peppers
1 T. Rosemary
4 tsp. onion powder
4 tsp. garlic powder
4 tsp. dry mustard
3 tsp. basil
2 tsp. parsley
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp. ground corriander
1 tsp. sage
1 1/2 tsp. thyme
3 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt

Grind dried peppers in herb grinder or with mortar and pestle. Then combine all ingredients in food processor until fine and store in jars or air-tight bags. For variety, smoke the peppers with either hickory, apple or mesquite smoke for different flavors.

Hickory Dill Rub

5 T. dark brown sugar
4 tsp. dry mustard
3 tsp. pepper
1 T. dill seed
2 tsp. dill weed
8 tsp. chives
3 tsp. corriander
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
4 T. hickory-smoked Poblano Peppers

Grind peppers, mix all ingredients in food processor until ground fine. Use as a rub on your favorite foods before smoking, or use as a seasoning in your foods.
Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

More pecans than you know what to do with

img_5389Have you been seeing all of the pecans falling from the trees the last few weeks? I have and I couldn’t wait to gather some. I planted some nut trees this spring, so I have several years to wait for mine to produce. Luckily, I know someone who has a giant pecan tree in their front yard so I could gather all I wanted.

Since I don’t have any way to reach the high ones, I found it easier to simply pick up the ones that had fallen to the ground, being on the lookout for the really light ones that were rotten.

With two sacks full of pecans, now the question was what to do with them all. I certainly wouldn’t be able to eat them all while they were still good.

After a little research, I found the best way to save pecans is by freezing, and with all of the rest of my garden done for the winter, I have plenty of time to sit and crack pecans.

While it’s not hard, it is definitely time consuming. I decided the entire bowl was a bit too much to do at once, so I would work on the pecans for about an hour a night, making pretty good progress.

Pecans are one of the easiest things I have preserved so far. Once the pecans are shelled just toss them into a freezer ziplock bag and they are done. You can add to the bag as you go.

I look forward to having my own pecans on hand throughout the winter for all of those tasty recipes. There are so many times I simply leave the nuts out of a recipe I decide to do on the spur of the moment because I don’t have nuts on hand.

I froze mine whole, but you could chop them if you wanted before freezing. I’ll just chop mine as I go.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Pecan-apple pancakes

Half cup chopped pecans (or to taste)
Half  large green apple, chopped  (or to taste)
Pancake mix

Prepare the pancake mix according to the directions, then mix in the pecans and apples. Cook until golden brown.

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Cooking with cilantro, corriander


Believe it or not, I still have a little bit of cilantro hanging on in my garden. My other herbs have given up and I even chopped down my droopy sage this past weekend so I can cover the herb bed with hay before it drops into the teens later this week.
As I was trimming the sage and chives back, I noticed some green leaves still filling the cilantro area of the raised bed. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve had several frosts already. Some of the leaves are looking a little brown but not all, which I was excited about.

Cilantro is an herb with a very bold taste, that I can only describe as fresh and summery. It adds so much to any dish in which it is used.

One obvious use for cilantro is in salsa. Whether making fresh or using canned salsa, the fresh cilantro adds a burst of flavor. Chopping up a little fresh cilantro and adding it to a jar of salsa before serving is a nice addition.

Another recipe recently shared with me by Janell Jessup was for Mexican Pot Roast. It’s a delicious and unique way to eat pot roast, and a great way to incorporate cilantro into a meal. I used dried cilantro, but I think fresh would be best if you have it available. Unlike all other herbs, cilantro seems to lose some flavor when dried, causing me to use a large amount of dried cilantro to get enough flavor – at least for me.

Another option for cilantro is to let the plants go to seed, then collect those and let them hang in a paper bag until the seeds dry and start to fall off. This produces coriander, which also has a cilantro-like flavor and stores well. Just grind it up and add it to your recipe.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Mexican Pork Roast

Chopped peppers and onions (you can use the frozen combo package from Dillons or whatever you have frozen from your garden)
1 pork roast (about 3 pounds)
1 16 oz. jar salsa
1 bunch of cilantro

Layer onions and peppers on bottom of slow cooker. Set roast on top. Top roast with salsa and chopped cilantro. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours. When the roast is fall-apart tender, remove it, shred and mix back into the salsa, peppers and onions. Serve over Mexican rice or in a tortilla with cheese and sour cream, top with toppings of your choice, ie: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, black onions, etc.
~ recipe submitted by Janell Jessup

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.