Fresh Herbs

A fresh and fun recipe catalog by a girl who likes to play in the kitchen the "from scratch" way.


Filed under: CILANTRO,CORIANDER,Crockpot,CUMIN,GARLIC,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 10:56 pm

Well…that was surprising! Authentic Indian cuisine in a crockpot? Seriously? Pinterest has promised many things, but seriously? Skeptical- definitely. Hopeful- beyond belief.

Major credit to the author of this wonderful recipe who CLEARLY did her homework. I always read the comments in a blogged recipe and every single one raved about this dish. Comments are also a good place to capture any updates or ideas for tweaks, and this post didn’t disappoint. So armed with rays of hope that I wouldn’t be wasting expensive ingredients on a lark, and some tweaks in mind, I put this recipe to the test.

Now, I will say that this recipe is NOT a throw everything in the pot and go to work for 8 hours to come home to delicious Indian food. There is some active cooking time, but like anything that’s good it is worth the effort. It was a great Sunday meal. And the more I make this the less time the steps in advance will take. It was also a reminder that a crockpot is a kitchen tool that can be used for more than no-brainer recipes.

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from

Chicken Tikka— the marinade
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
1/4-1 tsp cayenne (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
3-4 boneless chicken breasts

Stir all ingredients except chicken into the bottom of a gallon plastic bag. Add the chicken and coat the chicken completely with the marinade, cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

1 can 28 oz. diced tomatoes (I puréed because I didn’t want chunks)
1 can 6oz tomato paste
1 tbsp oil (I used coconut)
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp tikka paste (International aisle in grocery store. Brand I found was Patak’s).
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp dried coriander

To Serve:
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Take the chicken out of the marinade (discard the marinade) and place under your broiler about 6-10 inches from the heating element and broil on each side about 10 minutes. You don’t have to worry about cooking the meat all the way through.

While the chicken is broiling, in a pan over medium high heat, add oil. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes until the mixture is nice and fragrant. Place the mixture into your crockpot. To that, add the tomato puree, tomato paste, garam masala, tikka paste, cumin, paprika and coriander.* Stir together. When the chicken is done broiling, dice into 1″ cubes, add them straight to the crockpot and stir into the masala mixture. The original recipe swears that it by far tastes the best when the chicken is first broiled and then slow cooks in the masala sauce. It gives the sauce a real richness of flavor…so don’t skip this step! Slow cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low 6-8 hours. (I did high for 4hrs.)

Before serving stir in 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp garam masala and 1tsp salt. Then stir in the cream and fresh cilantro. Serve over Basmati rice (I make mine in the rice cooker with a bay leaf and 2 cardamom pods) with naan on the side!

*One of the comments on the original recipe suggested opening up the spices by heating them gently before you add them to the masala. I added them to the onions and oil without having my ginger and garlic ready to go. Spices will burn so next time I’ll do the same (instead of adding to the tomato) but I’ll just be sure all of my ingredients are ready so I can tend to the heat.

So it’s not Little India, but it was 10x better than the jarred simmer sauces. I happened to have all of the spices on hand because I do a lot of cooking, but the ingredients are easily accessible and the techniques to pull this together are basic. It makes a lot of sauce and while the original recipe says it feeds 4 you can easily get 6 large portions. Great leftovers for lunch!

Next time I may experiment with my tomato base and try tomato sauce or a smoother purée. The masala was a bit chunkier than I’m used to, but I puréed a can of whole tomatoes, so that may make a difference.

Cook often and eat well!



Filed under: BAY LEAF,Crockpot,Savory,Soups — |FreshHerbs| @ 6:33 pm

Once again we’ll be hosting the family Thanksgiving feast for both families. I really look forward to having everyone over and with two new additions, our own Ethan Robert Mercier and his 4-days older cousin James, there’s lots to be thankful for. When I say we’re hosting with a newborn in tow I get looks that indicate my friends think I’m crazy, but I’ve always approached this holiday as a shared potluck. I divvy up the necessities among all the families to make light work for everyone. This year is no exception, however this year mom will be in charge of the turkey and a few of the sides I typically handle…not bad for having had the last three years off I’d say.

But of course, I’m still thinking of ways to contribute to the feast…so I’m making a basic turkey stock that can be used for the meal…gravy most likely. And to make it super easy, I’ve thrown everything in the crockpot. A wise friend told me, when I was preggo and couldn’t handle the thought of raw meat, to buy a rotisserie chicken. Brilliant advice! I happened to opt for turkey and when we’d cleaned the breast I stashed the carcass in the freezer. The perfect, and essential start to my stock.

|Turkey Stock|
adapted from a few different recipes online

1 turkey carcass (I just had a breast carcass)
10 cups water (or enough to cover carcass)
1-2 carrots, large chop
1 onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
5-7 allspice berries
8-10 peppercorns

Add all ingredients to crockpot and cook on low for 10 hours. Strain liquid and freeze or refrigerate for use. Note: there is no salt in this recipe, as I prefer to salt my recipes, not the ingredients. It’s easier to control the sodium that way.


|IT’S GETTING CHILI| 10/20/2012

Filed under: Crockpot,CUMIN,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 12:43 pm

As we get ready to welcome Baby M. I’m thinking more and more about how I can put my crockpot to use this winter. I have no illusions that my maternity leave will allow me oodles of time to really get back in the kitchen and play. I’m hoping for some of that, but I’m trying to be realistic as well. The following chili recipe is one of my crockpot staples. It’s nothing fancy (though it does have a surprise ingredient or two), but it gets the job done for a basic, hearty, and healthy chili recipe that can be easily multiplied to feed a crowd.

Meg’s Red Turkey Chili

Based on Betty Crocker’s Family-Favorite Chili

1 Lb (approx) lean ground turkey
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 grated carrot (optional, I add if I have it to amp up the veggies)
2-4 cloves crushed garlic (to taste, I use 1 heaping tsp of jarred)
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 15 oz can plain tomato sauce (you can also puree another can of diced tomatoes)
2 Tb chili powder (about a palm full if you’re eyeballing)
1-2Tb ground cumin (again, you can eyeball)
1 Tb cocoa powder (secret ingredient! don’t skip it!)
1 Tb apple cider vinegar (another secret ingredient)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

dash of hot sauce (optional if you like it spicier)
1 15 oz can pinto or kidney beans (whatever you have on hand)

For topping: shredded cheese, sour cream or plain greek yogurt

Brown your meat in a skillet (we use turkey but you could easily use beef and just drain the grease before adding it to the crockpot). Meanwhile, dice your onions and add them to the crockpot. I then add the meat before the other ingredients so that the warmth of the cooked meat starts to soften my onions. Then add everything up to the s&p. Give it a good stir, pop the lid on and walk away. I typically do this on Low for 6 hours, but you could speed things up and do it on High for 4. No need to babysit it, but if you are home I’d recommend a stir every now and then (just for an excuse to take the lid off and smell deliciousness!).

At the end of cooking, add your beans and stir through. Cook on low for another 20-30 mins so the beans have time to warm. You can add the hot sauce at this point, or you can leave the hot sauce as a condiment/topper. Serve it up, top with some cheese and greek yogurt, and enjoy! I like to serve this with homemade drop biscuits or bread. This typically serves 4-6 depending on your portion size. We can get dinner and a lunch or two. Again, easily multiplied if you want to make a big batch and very forgiving if you want to play with the ingredients. Also freezes very well.

Herb note: Cumin is a dried seed from a member of the parsley family. I always use it in chili recipes because it adds a depth of flavor, but it’s also common in my Mexican dishes. It’s a staple in my homemade taco seasoning and I always have some in my pantry.

[Cook often and eat well!]


|SLOW COOKER SOUP| 02/26/2012

Filed under: Crockpot,Soups — |FreshHerbs| @ 6:34 pm

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of my CrockPot. I’m also a fan of soup. So soup made in aforementioned wonder-appliance is nirvana. This tomato soup hits the spot. Super easy to make with pantry staples and the flavor is really great. I like this recipe because it is not the usual tomato-basil combo. While I have nothing against those flavors (this is a blog about using |freshherbs| after all) I’m not always down for that with soup. It kinda makes me feel like I’m eating watered-down pasta sauce. So this recipe was a winner in my book- the perfect partner for grilled cheese!

Vegetarian Crock Pot Tomato Soup
Modified from

Yield: 2 quarts (can easily adjust recipe up if your Crock Pot is big enough)

2 Tb unsalted butter
3 cans of 14.5 oz diced tomatoes (drain liquid and reserve)
1 onion, small dice
1 Tb brown sugar
1.5 Tb tomato paste
s+p to taste
2 Tb flour
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 c plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp dry sherry
1/4 tsp paprika (hot if you have it)

Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet (regular skillet will do, but I was dying to use my new cast iron). Add drained tomatoes, onion, sugar, tomato paste, and a pinch of s+p and cook until tomatoes have dried out a bit (10-15 minutes). Stir in flour and cook additional 2 mins. Add 1 cup of broth and remoisten your tomato mixture. Add entire skillet to crock pot.

Simmering pre-soup tomatoes in my new Lodge cast iron skillet.

Add the remaining broth, tomato liquid, and a bay leaf. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours. Clean the house or something. You’ll want to be home so you can smell this…remember, this is nirvana.

After five hours discard the bay leaf and puree with your immersion blender until smooth (you can do this right in the crock pot!). With your blender, stir in the yogurt, sherry, and paprika, additional s+p to taste. Cook on high for another 30 mins so the flavors combine.

Enjoy the Oscars!

|Cook often and eat well!|



Filed under: Crockpot,GARLIC,Savory,Soups,THYME — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:32 pm

I love French Onion Soup. Love it. Of course I love the melted cheesy crouton on top (who doesn’t?)…but I love the savory flavor and sweet, soft onions too. A great cold weather dish…that is even easier in the crock pot. I’ve been wanting to try a crock pot version for a long time and I seized the opportunity today. Carpe diem for the new year!

Most FOS recipes call for beef broth which won’t fly with hubs so I modified the beef broth in the original recipe with chicken broth and worcestershire sauce. Combined with the tang of the balsamic vinegar, I didn’t miss the flavor of the beef broth at all. The finished soup was really rich and caramel colored.

4 thin-sliced onions (your eyes will water!)

Crockpot French Onion Soup
Makes a huge crock, probably 8 servings.

4 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tb of butter
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
2 Tb brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 Tb flour
8 oz of beer (I used Stella Artois because that’s what I had)
64 ounces of low-sodium chicken broth (I used Better Than Bouillon and made 8 cups of broth)
1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper

Garnish: baguette crostini or croutons + grated cheese (parm, cheddar, or swiss)

Set your crock pot on high and add the butter to melt, then add garlic, brown sugar, butter, salt and balsamic and mix until combined. Add onions and stir to coat the onions with the balsamic mixture.  Cover and let cook for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are a bit caramely and brown on the edges.

Balsamic coated onion love.

While the onions are softening, make your broth (if not using cartons) and add the Worchestershire sauce to the broth and set aside until ready to add to your soup. When the onions have softened after an hour add in flour, stir thoroughly, and let sit for 5 minutes. Add in beer, broth mixture, thyme, and pepper, then you have two options:

Option #1: turn heat down to low, cover and cook for 6-8 hours.

Option #2: keep the heat on high, cover and cook for 4 hours.

You can totally drink the rest of that beer!

[I opted for #2 since I wanted to have this for dinner.]

To serve, turn your broiler on low and ladle your soup into oven-safe bowls. Float your crostini or croutons on top of your steaming soup and cover with sliced or grated cheese of your choice. Broil for a few minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly.

And the end result is a really flavorful, delicious FOS that is good enough to make it, well, here. Even hubs cleaned his bowl (and that’s a huge compliment!). This soup will leave you French Onion Fabulous in less than 6 hours (including prep) so it’s a great option for a weekend meal.

[Cook often, and eat well!]