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!]



Filed under: cheese,CILANTRO,CORIANDER,GARLIC,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:45 pm

So I cubed up my paneer and fried it (2 min per side, just two sides) in a combo of sesame oil and canola oil. Why sesame? Because I had it (and it was suffering from a severe case of pantry fatigue)…I also like the way it smells, it’s great for frying, it’s a traditional oil used in South Indian cookery (I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘cookery’), and it’s actually brimming with anti-oxidants and good fats.

Paneer can be frozen after it's been fried.

This amount of paneer will fry up in two batches in a large frying pan. I drained it on a paper towel and let it cool completely. Then, having none of the ingredients for Saag Paneer on hand, I added my fried cheese {swoon} to a freezer zip lock bag, as per instructions from my friend Shubh, and froze it. Apparently, freezing fresh paneer is a bad idea, but freezing fried paneer is ok. I would suspect that, as with any frozen cheese, the consistency changes slightly after freezing so that frying would be difficult. Hence, fry then freeze.

Fast forward about a week and I was able to procure the necessary ingredients to make Saag Paneer (or Palak Paneer). Hubs loves chicken saag. Neither of us have had paneer before, so I thought this would be a good introduction for us. The key ingredient here is garam masala, a traditional Indian spice blend. The blend typically includes a variety of spices like pepper, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cumin. I prefer natural and organic spices and I chose a garam masala made by Frontier. Different brands will have a different combination of spices so look around and choose one that has the spices you like. The recipe below makes A LOT OF SAAG. Next time around, I’ll make this in a half batch. I also made the mistake of using the entire batch of paneer- unnecessary. The recipe below reflects this adjustment. It’s also very important to salt the dish. The original recipe I based mine on called for salting after the paneer has been added, but at that point it’s hard to stir without breaking up the paneer, so salt first, then add the paneer.


Saag Paneer (Palak Paneer)

It's not from Little India, but it's pretty good for my first attempt at Indian cuisine.

Probably 8 servings; 1/2 recipe for smaller portion

Handy equipment: immersion blender

1 large onion
6 cloves of fresh garlic
1 oz fresh ginger
fresh cilantro, to taste
2 10oz packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup plain greek yogurt
4oz buttermilk
pinch red chili powder (adjust for spiciness desired)
1 Tb garam masala
1 C heavy cream
salt to taste
3 oz homemade paneer (defrosted if previously frozen)

Grind the onion, garlic, cilantro, and ginger into a fine paste. I used my immersion blender for this step and it was the perfect tool.

In a medium saucepan, combine the paste, spinach, yogurt, buttermilk, chili powder, and garam masala. Simmer at medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Use your immersion blender again to cream the mixture to desired consistency (you could also use a potato masher). Add the cream and simmer until the mixture has a creamy consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Add the cheese, simmer 5 minutes.

Serve with basmati rice (I flavor mine with a bay leaf, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick and a cardamom pod) and hot naan bread (homemade or store-bought).

The verdict? Well, it’s not Little India saag, but for my first attempt at Indian cuisine I was pretty pleased and I learned some valuable lessons for next time. The flavor seemed pretty authentic and I really liked the consistency of this dish. The yogurt makes it thick, so I may try to omit that next time for a creamier consistency. Like I said above, this made A LOT of food. Way too much for 2 people (we have a limit to the number of times we’ll consume leftovers before our eyes roll into out heads), so I’d certainly suggest halving this recipe and with the ratios above that’s very easy to do.

|Cook often and Eat Well!|



Filed under: cheese,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:40 pm

So I can’t quite fathom how I purchased a gallon of whole milk (with the intent to make mozzarella) and let it expire by A WHOLE WEEK! Yes, it got shoved to the back of the fridge, but I knew it was in there and had the best of intentions. How did the mistress of “Don’t waste that!” let dairy, of all things, languish in the fridge? I know, work! I’ve been on the run with some work travel that threw me off my game plan. So when I did FINALLY have a night to myself (because hubs has been working like gangbusters too and I haven’t seen him in weeks!) I decided that it was time to pour that milk down the drain…or make cheese.

I didn’t have the energy to make even 30-minute mozzarella (which is ridiculously yummy and easy) so I opted for a cheese recipe that I’d been dying to try that literally uses just two ingredients: milk and lemon juice. I have a friend who is Indian so after some recipe searching, Facebook Q&A with Shubh, and a consult with my cheese book from Stephanie I embarked on what would either be a sour milk disaster or absolutely delicious. [spoiler alert…this story is going to be continued]

First, I learned that milk doesn’t necessarily go sour if it sits unopened in the back of the fridge and passes its expiration date. Now, I wouldn’t go chugging a glass of it, but it was whole milk and I wouldn’t have done that anyway because I prefer 1%. Since cheese is made with boiled milk, I figured that anything sketchy would be boiled away and the acidity of the lemon would do the rest. I was right.


1 gallon of whole milk (not ultrapasturized)
2 fresh lemons, juiced (about 6Tb)

In a large pot, bring milk to a boil. I scorched the bottom a bit so you might want to stir to avoid that. When the milk comes to a boil it will foam and rise quite rapidly so move off the heat quickly and stir in your fresh squeezed lemon juice (which I also strained to avoid any seed bits) for about 2-3 minutes until whey is clear. (I started with 2Tb and had to add 4Tb to get a clear whey.) Then, leave it be for about 10 minutes so curds form.

Cheese cloth... the magical kitchen tool. Like my new faucet?

Pour curds and whey into a colander lined with a double layer of cheese cloth. Then bring the corners of the cheese cloth together and tie it around your faucet to drip dry for at least 2 hours. Make sure you squeeze out the paneer as much as you can by twisting the cheesecloth before you hang it. It will be pretty hot so I’ve found that a cheapo pair of clean “cheese making only” dish gloves is a good barrier so you don’t burn yourself. If you have asbestos hands, don’t worry about the gloves.

After the curds have drip dried, you essentially have paneer. Some recipes say leave it in a bowl, still wrapped, with a weight on top for 2 hours, some say overnight. I left mine overnight, but in the morning didn’t have any residual moisture, so the drip dry is very effective. I tasted it last night and this morning (there was no difference in flavor) and it tastes like a very bland ricotta or cottage cheese. I can see why it would be the perfect canvas for Indian flavors.

If you just wanted to eat it plain, I hear that the best way to enjoy it is fried so it’s lightly browned. If you don’t want to use it right away, it’ll keep for about a keep (I unwrapped mine and put it in a plastic bag). If you want to freeze it, make sure you fry it first then freeze it.

Me? I’m going to attempt saag paneer – that lovely Indian spinach dish. Hubs usually gets chicken saag from our favorite Indian restaurant and I’ve never been bold enough to try an Indian dish from scratch – talk about a complex array of |fresh herbs| and spices – so I think it’s time I tackle my fear…

{I must just pause here for a moment to record what’s happening in front of my house. It’s snowing, and the plows are finally out and about. Well, the guy driving the one that keeps passing my house broke his plow. I keep hearing a loud BOOM when he drops his plow…a BEEP BEEP BEEP when he backs up to see what happened…and lots of man-type GUFAW as the plow operators try to figure out what’s causing the BOOM. They’ve finally given up and driven off}

…anyway. So yes, I’m going to attempt saag with homemade paneer as soon as my jar of garam masala arrives in the mail. This post will have a follow up so stay tuned!

[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!]


|EAT MORE VEGGIES| 10/09/2011

Filed under: Apps,DILL,PARSLEY,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 12:23 pm

I’m trying to eat more veggies (EMV)…but I’ve never really been a fan of crudite. I think that is partially due to the fact that I’m an event planner for a living, and crudite for an event is, well, rather expected and boring (though typically one of the healthier options on the menu). So really, it’s an entertaining staple. I started to think to myself that maybe crudite isn’t just for parties anymore. Why not keep some dip on hand in the fridge to help aid my EMV goal? Hubs L-O-V-E-S raw carrots. Everytime we run out of cut carrots I get a {sad face} from him so having veggies on hand isn’t the problem (me washing, peeling, and chopping them is). I, on the other hand, always have plain nonfat greek yogurt in the fridge (can’t remember the last time I purchased sour cream at the market). Not only is it healthier, but it’s easier to digest too. So I set out to find a dip using my greek yogurt as a base and found this tasty dip that I modified to my taste.

Veggie Dip
Makes 1 cup; can be doubled for a party

1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay ™ seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients and let sit in fridge for 2 hours (better overnight). Serve with crudite, potato chips (not part of the EMV goal!), and other favorite party dippers.

This makes me think of my SIL- she’s a Maryland girl and loves Old Bay. As the weather turns colder and I find myself reaching into my spice cabinet for dried, as opposed to |FreshHerbs| I’m reminded just how handy dried herbs can be. This dip has no salt (outside of what’s already in the Old Bay) yet it still packs a flavor punch that fancies up bland raw vegge. So who’s going to EMV? I’m going to try! Cook often and eat well!