Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

As a grand finale to our association meeting October 15th, fellow member Georgeann Brown (MG class of 1992) educated, entertained, and fed us during her excellent food demonstration, “Savory and Sweet Herbal Cooking.” Assisted by her sous chef, Frank Deutsch (MG class of 2009), Georgeann prepared three dishes prepared with herbs easily grown in any SE Michigan herb garden, Sundried Tomato Tapenade; Polenta Rounds with Pesto, and Sundried Tomatoes and Parmesan (she substituted kalamata olives for the tomatoes for variety), and Lavender Infused Mascarpone in Chocolate Cups.

Georgeann has been an active member of Maumee Valley Herb Society for over 15 years and works in the herb garden at Toledo Botanical Gardens. She maintains an extensive culinary herb garden of her own, which is an essential part of her company, un coup de main. Georgeann teaches the art of cooking in small classes in her home, where students learn how to choose and use the freshest seasonal ingredients. She obviously is an expert in the culinary arts – the recipes she prepared were outstanding!

Georgeann was as entertaining as she was informative, with frequent bursts of laughter from the audience punctuating her demonstration. The demonstration was fast paced – Frank was quick on his toes to make sure everything went in and out of the oven and was beautifully presented in quick succession. The results were absolutely delectable!

I tried to take notes, but by the end of the session I came away with a few “words to live by” rather than a bunch of isolated rules and instructions.

1.  Use what’s fresh, locally-grown and in season whenever possible.

2.  Don’t fret when you need to use prepared food items or substitute another ingredient when no fresh, in season ingredient is available. (example – store-bought pesto when your basil is finished for the year).

3.  The answer to the question, “Can I substitute Kraft cream cheese for Mascarpone?”  is an emphatic, “NO!”.

Georgeann, and her company un coup de main, teaches classes and has a hugely successful catering business in influential homes because of her innovative food and stunning presentations. Look for her at www.georgeannbrown.com .

Here are the recipes Georgeann made and was gracious to give us –


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If you need another reason to attend this Saturday’s general meeting, it’s Georgeann’s taste tempting class on Savory & Sweet Herbal Cooking.  Learn quick and simple ways to incorporate the herbs from your garden into elegant, but easy to prepare dishes that are guaranteed to please.


Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade with Crostini

Polenta rounds with Pesto, Kalmata olives and Parmesan

Lavender infused Mascarpone in Dessert cups


Long time Master Gardener Georgeann Brown is the owner of  un coup de main Cooking School in Dundee and past president of the Maumee Valley Herbal Society.

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I knew something was up as soon as I turned into the parking lot last Monday night.  The air was filled with the aromas of freshly baked herbal bread right out of the oven.  The closer I got to the front door, the stronger the aromas of drying lavender, thyme, bergamot, mint and rosemary were competing with one another to draw me in.  I stopped and noticed something was odd about the potted bayleaf…somebody had given it a rather severe haircut and about one quarter of its leaves had been harvested to serve a higher purpose.

Sharon and Winnie with their herb garden

What I am talking about is the Herbs, Senses workshop Winnie Webb, Sharon Diefenthaler and Karen Morris were hosting in the conference room.  With myself on the door, this session drew 24 people which is a very impressive turnout when you consider the original MEN advertisement listed a local pizza parlor as the reservations phone number!

Aroma therapy 101

These ladies really outdid themselves with the vast array of plants and props they set up to transform our rather bland conference room into a haven of tranquility and some of the most deliciously soothing aromas I have ever experienced.  Each table had a fragrant herbal arrangement, the front presenters tables were groaning under pots of freshly dug rosemary, lavender, geraniums,  mints, oreganos, chives, parsley and cilantro.  The side tables were strewn with sachets, soaps, candles and an entire section from Franks arts and crafts.  The show stopper was one of Linda Welch’s vertical garden pieces planted with herbs…what a novel, space saving idea!

Vertical herb garden

Herb drying rack

The kitchen counter displayed the herbal breads, gooey lavender brownies, herbed hot buttered popcorn and a rather interesting Vernors punch with bergamot, honey, bruised mint and wafer thin dried lemon slices.

Assorted herb breads

Sharon and Winnie shared with everyone their experiences with herbs and how pleasantly mood altering and uplifting the aromas can be to our weary psyches. Karen was spritzing the arms of the unsuspecting with a lavender oil based concoction that smelled terrific, while Sharon was showing how the woody stems of rosemary could be used for kebabs and Winnie demonstrated some basic herb drying methods with a homemade wooden rack.  Karen and Sharon explained how to make spice bags, bouquet garnis and a tasty herb mix called “herbes de Provence”

Herbes de Provence

Rolling basil for freezer storage

Frozen herbsicles

Sharon told the group of her experiences visiting a special greenhouse that grows herbs and flowers organically as part of a patient rehabilitation program. I am also reminded of her own program with the ISD at Matthis’ greenhouse and how the kids all “fight” to work in the herb house when we are taking cuttings and transplanting.  This is positive effect of aroma therapy!!

The herbal products and ideas table

The presentation ended with Sharon and Winnie talking about how easy and inexpensive it is to incorporate herbs and their aromas into just about any household use.  As a guy, even I found that part interesting!

Good work ladies…your efforts were much appreciated. Everyone left full of herb bread and with an assortment of dried herbs, bags of bayleaves and sachets…and a greater appreciation of the benefits  herbs can have on our senses.

This workshop is actually an excellent lead in to Georgann’s upcoming Culinary Herbs presentation  on October 15,  after the general meeting.  Be sure to read the blog for details and some of the recipes that were covered in the workshop.

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