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Monday, October 10, 2011

Mints, Music, and must have Cookies!

The plant that is in front and behind
the lovely toad of the road is
Apple mint
Sometimes called woolly mint; Mentha suaveolens
Around here we are so into Fall, we have actually been able to work til noon in the gardens and sit outside in the afternoon and drink tea or read a book.  Just to be able to go outside without swooning from the heat is such a blessing for me.  The horses and donkeys spend their afternoon frolicking around the pasture (really!), jumping and kicking up their heels.  The dogs have decided they can abandon the giant holes they dug in the soft sand that was supposed to be the outside patio garden.  And then there are the chickens, who are slowing down egg production for the winter.  Ahhh, come on girls, this is the time of year when we need eggs for baking!  Think pumpkin pie, quick breads and dozens of fresh baked cookies!

Mints for a cool weather garden!

(Left) Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis  
and  (Right)  Passionflower.
Passionflower Passiflora is not in the mint family.
The plants in the mint family are some of my favorites to grow and use in my herbal teas.  The mints tend to be wild and free spirited garden plants but hey, that is not such a bad quality, especially if you want a low maintenance garden.

Spearmint  Mentha spicata
Peppermint is much more
effective as a medicinal herb
than Spearmint,
which is mostly a culinary herb.

photo by
And then there's catnip Nepeta cataria.
Cats love this plant as it contains
a constituent that causes
them temporary euphoria!
The Mint Family of plants falls under the order known as Lamiaceae.  There are as many as 3,200 types of mint species around the world.  Most mints are perennial.  Mint plants typically have a four sided square stem and leaves that grow opposite each other on the stem or in a whorled pattern around the stem.  Several of the mints are important medicinally and most have a pleasant aroma.

Medicinally, mint is known for properties that help with indigestion, stomach cramps, menstrual cramps, flatulence, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and colic in children. 
New research indicates that mint oil used externally in a cold compress or rubbed directly into the skin can significantly reduce pain in cases of arthritis and chronic joint pain, with few if any side effects.  If you have some mint growing in your garden, I would suggest Peppermint, Spearmint (my favorite) or Apple mint, you can easily make yourself a cup of refreshing herbal tea...here's how:
Put the kettle on to boil,
gather your mint, but don't stay too long in the garden or the kettle will boil over!
Strip a good 1/4 to 1/2 cup leaves off and put in a 4 cup tea pot or sauce pan. Pour about 2-3 cups boiling water over the leaves.  Let steep, covered (you don't want to loose those wonderful smelling volatile oils!), for about 10 minutes. 
Now, find your prettiest tea cup.
Before pouring, lift the lid and inhale deeply!
Now pour and enjoy.  Add a little sugar, if desired.

The nymph Menthe
and Mint Sugar Cookie fix'ins!
Easy Mint Choclate Chip Sugar Cookies!

One of our very favorite cookies is made with the addition of the Mint plant, and these cookies are sooooo easy to make!  The only problem is they tend to disappear very quickly.  I like to make them small, you know, that kinda reduces the guilt factor!  As in this statement that is heard around here way too often,  "I guess I could have just a couple more cookies because they really are so small!"
You will need a small package of sugar cookie mix.  Betty Crocker is one of my cooking heros.  Did you know:  The name was first developed by the Washburn Crosby Company in 1921 as a way to give a personalized response to consumer product questions. The name Betty was selected because it was viewed as a cheery, all-American name. It was paired with the last name Crocker, in honor of William Crocker, a Washburn Crosby Company director.  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 
Okay, you will need a Sugar Cookie Mix
                                   1/2 stick of Butter (Oh, Please use real Butter!)
                                   1/2 cup (or more, I vote on the side of more!) Chocolate Chips
                                    about 1/2 c. fresh Peppermint leaves, packed, then chopped pretty fine. 
I have used dried Peppermint but the cookies just are not as good!

The Secret Ingredient!
1 Tbls. Triple Sec

photo by Jim
Wildernest Treehouse JamFest
That's me in the pink
and turquoise blouse and cowboy hat!

Now there is no sense in me telling you how to make these cookies!  Follow the directions on the package...those directions work real well! 

But, there is a secret ingredient that is not on the package.  I find that the 2 Tbls. water called for in the directions (on the package that I told you worked real well) still makes too dry a cookie dough.  So, a creative solution to more liquid?  Cointreau or Triple Sec.  Do as you please, but we like them this way!

Oh, and try not to eat them all before lunch!

Wildernest Treehouse JamFest

Saturday night, (October 8) Sandra, L, and I and a whole bunch of Northeast Texas music lovers descended on the Pineywoods for a great night of Music, Music and more Music! 

There were quite a few musicians who took the stage (my policy is no last names or personal home addresses)  including Scruffy, Gus, Alex, LeeAnn, Amy, Ty, Tami, Kent, and the group KMG (Kevin, Mia and Gus).  If I left anyone out, my apologies....everyone was fantastic.

There were hot dogs and chili on the grill, lots of drinks and cookies.  I believe there were even folks smoldering (how about toasting) marshmallows over the fire and making S'mores.

And let me tell you about the spot in the woods where we were having so much fun.  Not too far from Quitman we turned down a county road, then another county road, then a verrrrry sandy road.  Word to the wise....next year if you drive a sporty type car, borrow a pick up truck!  Then we hiked a ways and ended up in the clearing you see in the photo above!  Talk about out in the sticks.  The location was absolutely beautiful, the moon was almost full and the temperature was near perfect!

Thank you to Jim and Glenda for putting on JamFest and we are hoping they will continue with this great music venue!  Looking forward to next year.  As always, herbally yours, Susan

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