Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Use what you have.....Garden Edition
Last winter I joined a crafty Flickr group entitled "Use What You Have" with the original intent of using up some of my yarn stash before I purchased any more. I went the entire month of February without buying any yarn! That was difficult for me, especially when I went to the craft store with my sister and didn't buy anything!
Little did I know how this small effort would affect all aspects of my life. With rising gas prices and a tight budget in general, I have expanded on the "Use What You Have" idea in order to cut back on spending, making fewer trips to the store, and to make due with what is available here at home.
I was finally able to get the garden started yesterday. I planted lettuces and spinach and cleaned up the herbs that survived the winter. One of my favorite Spring herbs is Lemon Balm. A member of the mint family, lemon balm spreads itself out in the garden just like mint. I like to use it fresh in the Spring because it tends to get stalky, dry, and sometimes buggy later on in the Summer.
If you've never tried lemon balm, don't be fooled by the pungent lemon smell when you first break up a leaf. The flavor mellows a lot when you use it in cooking.
So, what's for dinner after a day in the garden? How about marinated chicken breasts on the grill?
Lemon Balm Marinade/Vinaigrette
Mix together 1 tablespoon minced shallots (green onions or chives will work too), 2 tablespoons finely chopped lemon balm leaves, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 6 tablespoons lemon juice, 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar (red wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar would be good too), 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 1 teaspoon brown sugar. Mix well and blend in 8 tablespoons olive oil (or vegetable oil). Use as a marinade for chicken or fish, or as a vinaigrette salad dressing. Discard the leftover marinade just in case.
I got a great price on whole chicken breasts and they took longer to cook on the grill, but were delicious. I didn't get a picture because the kids were too hungry!
The first time I ever saw lemon balm used in food was at a folk festival in Pennsylvania. A lady was selling lemon balm cookies and they were delicious. Try adding some chopped lemon balm to your favorite butter or sugar cookie recipe. The last time I tried it I didn't use enough. The lemon flavor is very subtle, so if you want lemon-flavored lemon balm cookies, add some lemon zest or lemon flavoring also.
I'm looking forward to more good things from my garden, less running around and a great way to "Use What You Have!"