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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. She's agreed to answer any questions you might ask about food, its preparation, and even clean-up tips. But we have to prepare you. She just might want to come right over to your house and help you fix dinner.

To send any questions to Ask Aunt Nettie, .

This month Sandy from Boston wrote to Aunt Nettie. She wants to know the difference in the taste of fresh herbs versus the dried, and when to use each kind. Once again Aunt Nettie comes to the rescue.

Well, Sandy, I kin see yer havin' a dilemma, but don'tcha worry none, child. I kin fix most everthing, in the kitchen, that is.

Fresh herbs are my favorite in the whole world, and the best kind is them you grow yerself. They're easy, really. Some are PERENNIALS, so ya plant 'em jes once, and don't give 'em a bother after that. The perennials I like ta use in the kitchen are CHIVES, ROSEMARY, LEMON THYME, ENGLISH THYME, MARJORAM, OREGANO, GREEK OREGANO, PARSLEY, MINT, DILL, an' SAGE.

Rosemary When yer cookin' with fresh herbs, add 'em in the last few minutes. If ya cook 'em too long, they kick the bucket, and ya wasted yer time.

The flavors I jes' treasure most are usin' fresh herbs in recipes like salads, either grain, bean, or vegetable salads. That's when fresh herbs are jumpin' alive with flavor 'n' singin' a zesty tune. Fresh herbs make garnishing easier than puttin' on shoes. A sprinkle o' fresh chives an' basil on top a colorful salad, er a sprig o' fresh dill on top a tofu torte jes' puts a smile on this ole face. It's so purty.

Some herbs are ANNUALS. That means ya haveta plant 'em fresh every year. But I don't mind 'cause they're really no trouble. My favorites are BASIL, SUMMER SAVORY, CILANTRO, GARLIC, an' TARRAGON.

Now here's what I kin tell ya 'bout the dried herbs. They're best used for recipes that take some longer cookin' like soups, sauces, an' stews. It's also best that ya don't keep 'em too long, say 'bout six months, er they lost their zip. My favorite dried herbs are thyme, marjoram, an' dill. Don't waste yer money on dried cilantro. It doesn't hold onto its flavor once ya dry it. Cilantro is one herb ya absolutely must use fresh er not at all. An' that's a fact.

Dill Measurin' up yer herbs doesn't put a strain on yer mind, er take a special calculator either. Jes' figure on one-third the amount of dried herbs compared to the fresh. Fer instance, if yer recipe beckons ya to use 3 T. fresh parsley, figure on usin' jes' 1 T. dried parsley. Another example is the other way 'round. If yer recipe says use 1/2 t. dried marjoram, clip a few sprigs of fresh marjoram from yer garden, an' measure up 1 1/2 t. fer yer recipe. Now, that's all there is to it.

Now here's a recipe that jes' might appeal ta yer creative side, 'cause it's up ta you ta add the fresh herbs ya like best. This dish is good fer breakfast, lunch, er dinner:

1 lb. (453 g) extra firm tofu, crumbled
3 T. Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. red bell pepper, diced
2 green onions, minced

2 T. fresh basil, tarragon, thyme, mint, marjoram, or dill or any combination of these to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients except herbs in a 10" (about 25 cm.) non-stick skillet.
  2. Cook over high heat for 4 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to blend flavors.
  3. Add herbs and cook 1 or 2 minutes to infuse flavors. Serve warm or cold. Serves 6.
    VARIATION: For an Asian touch, add a teaspoon or two of sesame oil, 6 Chinese snowpeas, diced, and 1/2" (about 1 cm) piece of ginger, peeled and grated.

    VARIATION: Instead of cooking, use the ingredients fresh and toss with 1 T. extra virgin olive oil to create a salad. Adjust flavors to taste.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with megabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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