About Me

My photo
Indulging my interest in food and flavor, I love to write about cooking, gardening and life's bounty. My new book - "Discover Cooking with Lavender"- is now available

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

As I've traveled around to talk about my new book – “Discover Cooking with Lavender”, I’ve learned even more new ways to enjoy this aromatic herb. My favorite is Sweet Potato French Fries topped with Lavender and Blue Cheese.

I congratulate the innovative chef who put this item on the menu at Mark Restaurant and Bar. Lavender doesn't usually get even a small mention on most menus. I knew I had to taste these fries since I am constantly praising lavender. One small problem, I hate sweet potatoes. And yet, could I really snub my favorite herb?

The restaurant is located in Burien just south of Seattle near SeaTac Airport. I was there doing a book event at a Poggi Bonsi Lavender Displayfood-lover's gift shop, Poggi Bonsi.  Susie Gee, the host at Poggi Bonsi, mentioned that if I was hungry, the restaurant across the street served Sweet Potato Fries topped with Lavender and Blue Cheese. I was curious, so I crossed the street and decided to give this dish a try.

A large plate of fries was placed in front of me. My eyes feasted on the vivid orange potatoes, the purple lavender buds and the creamy color of the melting Blue Cheese.  Mark Restuarant & Bar's Sweet Potato FriesSkeptically, I picked up my fork and took my first taste. Wow! The flavors were perfect together. The sweet taste of the potato complemented the tangy blue cheese. Lavender contributed a floral note, marrying the potatoes and the cheese.  

As I gobbled up one fry after another, I began plotting how I would make this dish at home. Easy, healthy and flavorful, Sweet Potato French Fries topped with Lavender and Blue Cheese has become one of my all time favorites. I discovered I love sweet potatoes as long as they are served with lavender.

Note: Be sure to use "yams". On my first attempt, I used a sweet potato. The flesh was nearly white, and the texture was very hard and dry, the taste was not as sweet as what I remembered from those at the restaurant. I went back to the store and, after talking with the produce guy, I bought "yams". I got the result I was looking for. I've learned that "Yams" are a type of Sweet Potato, sometimes known as a red skinned sweet potato.

 Sweet Potato French Fries Topped with Lavender and Blue CheeseSweet Potato Fries Topped with Lavender and Blue Cheese


Yam1 yam (in the United States orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are called yams), peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch thick sticks*

1 teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Blue Cheese crumbles

1 teaspoon lavender budsCut Up Yams

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Peel and cut yam into 1/4" thick sticks.
  3. Put cut up yam into a bowl or a plastic bag; add salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss or shake until yam sticks are coated with olive oil.
  4. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place fries in a single layer on baking sheet.
  5. Bake in 450F oven for 15 minutes. Oven Ready Fries
  6. Remove from oven, place on a serving plate sprinkle with Blue Cheese crumbles and lavender.

* Note:  For cutting the sweet potato (yam) into fries, use a french fry cutter. I found a great one at Mrs. Cooks in Seattle. It is a low tech gadget with 3 interchangeable blades. It will cut a sweet potato into thin or thick french fries. The third blade cores and sections apples or pears in one simple step.








Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sensational Salsa

Summer Mango Salsa
This colorful salsa tastes great with corn chips. I love serving as a sauce for halibut.
Salsa Ingredients

1 mango, peeled and diced in ¼ inch cubes
I avocado, peeled, pitted and diced in ¼ inch cubes
1 tomato, seeded and diced in ¼ inch cubes
½ cup red onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon Latin Seasoning blend*
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and toss them together. Serve at room temperature. Serve with corn chips, fresh vegetables or with halibut, salmon or chicken.
Summer Mango Salsa

*Latin Seasoning
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons dried lavender buds
2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoons achiote rojo paste
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1. In a dry skillet, toast the cumin, coriander and lavender over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Cool.
2. Using a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder, pulse the mixture until finely ground.
3. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the thyme, seasoning paste, pepper and salt. Pulse to blend completely.
Yield: 6 ounces
Copyright Kathy Gehrt 2010

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mother's Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day Gift Guide from Discover Lavender:  Top Ten Gift Ideas

1. Give your mom “Discover Cooking with Lavender.” No surprise that my number one gift idea for Mother’s Day (and almost any event you can dream up) is my very own cookbook, “Discover Cooking with Lavender.” What would you think if I didn't put it at the top of the list? This book is the ultimate guide to cooking with lavender.

Seattle area retailers offering “Discover Cooking with Lavender” include: Made In Washington, Ravenna Gardens, Swansons Nursery, Sky Nursery, West Seattle Nursery, Lavender Heart Botanicals, City Peoples Mercantile (on Sand Point Way), Fresh, University Book Store and Fremont Place Books.


2. Buy “The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook." This new book, written by Debra Daniels-Zeller, offers 200 recipes and tells stories of the farms and farmers who grow our food.

Whether your mom likes to cook or simply enjoys discovering and learning about local farms, she will be grateful for this gift.



3. Take your mom to her favorite cookware shop so she can select some new kitchen toys. In my neighborhood, my favorite cookware shop is Mrs. Cooks.  I’ll be there on Saturday, May 8th, so stop in and say hello. Other great retailers offering cookware include Sur la Table, Dish it Up and City Kitchens.


4. Create an edible herb garden for your mom. Plant a container with sage, oregano, parsley, tarragon and lavender. Your mother will think of you every time she snips herbs to add flavor to her favorite dishes. And she will save money, too. Go to a local nursery, they will be delighted to help you. If you are in the Seattle area, go to Sky Nursery, Swansons Nursery, City People's garden shop, Ravenna Gardens  or West Seattle Nursery.


5. Drop by Eat Chocolates in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. You will find an assortment of hand-made truffles and beautifully crafted chocolate candy.


6.  Give the gift of lavender sugar. If you are a dad and want to help your kids discover the joy of gift-giving, this idea is for you. Get a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid. You can buy a jar at the store or just wash out an empty pickle jar or peanut butter jar. Buy culinary lavender buds at the grocery store or spice shop. Mix 1 tablespoon of culinary lavender buds with 2 cups of granulated sugar. Pour the mixtures of sugar and lavender into the jar, cover it, and put a ribbon around it. Enlist the kids to help.  This is easy and inexpensive.


7. Invite your mother to spend Mother’s day with you. Take her to a beautiful garden. In our region, I recommend the Lakewold Gardens, Kubota Garden, Bellevue Botanical Gardens  or the Japanese Tea Garden at the Washington Arboretum.

If the weather remains cold and rainy through the weekend, Volunteer Park Conservatory is a good option. Another wonderful conservatory that I love to visit is W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory  at Wright’s Park in Tacoma.


8.  Register you and your mom for a walk or race. One of my best ever Mother’s Day gifts was aninvitation to run with my daughters in the Kirkland 5K race. Consider this as a way to enjoy time with your mom.  After the run, treat her to breakfast at a favorite eatery.


9.  Bring your mom to a wine-tasting at a nearby winery. On Sunday (May 9th) afternoon, I will be at Columbia Winery in the tasting room offering samplings from my new cook book - “Discover Cooking with Lavender.” Check out event calendars at wineries near where you live. Many offer unique events.


 10.  Invite you mother to go sailing with you. On Saturday, May 8, 2010, 10am – 4pm, the Center for Wooden Boats  will host a day of free boat rides and family activities at Cama Beach State Park. The event will feature free boat rides on a variety of visiting vessels, toy boat building, live music and more.


Happy Mother’s Day!




Saturday, May 01, 2010

My Edible Herb Garden

May 1st is National HerbDay! Events celebrating herbs are happening all around the country. Click here to find an event in your area.  I will be at a local nursery demonstrating how to plant a kitchen herb garden. Having a garden full of herbs is a luxury. Imagine having enough dill to make a sauce to serve with fresh salmon or halibut. Think of cutting fresh rosemary for seasoning chicken or port.  Dream of fresh mint to chop and serve with fresh berries or pineapple.

Fresh herbs add depth and richness to our food. Food is more pleasurable and satisfying.  And somehow this leads me to a more healthy diet. I am happy with smaller portions, and I feel better - healthy and vibrant. Herbs are easy to grow. The ingredients of an edible herb garden are:  six to eight hours of sun daily, very well drained soil, little fertilizing and pruning in the spring for renewal. Many herbs are perennial plants that come back year after year. In the Pacific Northwest where I live, lavender, rosemary, mint and sage are perennials. Basil, chervil and cilantro are grown as annuals. I like to grow my herbs in a container. The herbs planted in my kitchen garden include sage, tarragon, oregano and dill. I have lavender growing in containers, and also in borders. I also plant basil, however I will wait till the nighttime temperature is above 50F before planting. Five Tips for Creating Your Kitchen Herb Garden

  1. Use soil mixes formulated for containers. While it is tempting to fill my container with soil from my garden, I’ve found that this soil is clumpy and does not give the drainage the herbs require. To provide adequate drainage, make sure your container has drainage holes in the bottom. This will prevent the plant from drowning. Use a container large enough to accommodate the plant’s root system and to hold enough soil so the plant gets enough moisture especially in hot weather. I use containers that are at least 18 inches in diameter. Plants in pots need to be fertilized. I use an organic fish fertilizer. I find a biweekly routine to keep my herbs thriving and healthy.
  2. One challenge in container gardening is to group plants in containers according to their needs.  Lavender and Rosemary are draught-tolerant and are at risk for root rot if they get too much water, while basil and chervil suffer when not watered enough. The solution is to group plants together that require similar growing conditions.

 Soil, sun, water and plants are the ingredients for creating an edible herb garden. Want to know more? I recommend Rosalind Creasy’s  book, “The Edible Herb Garden.”

Her book contains an encyclopedia of culinary herbs, recipes and growing tips.

Friday, April 16, 2010

On Following Rules and Recipes

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun!”

                                                 ~Katherine Hepburn

I used to follow recipes just as they were printed. I’ve never been one to follow directions and rules, so I’m not sure why I made recipes an exception for so many years.

When I began developing recipes for my cookbook, my perspective changed. Now I consider a recipe to be a guide, and I feel free to add or eliminate ingredients to suit myself.

Rhubarb in the garden


Rhubarb brings back memories of my childhood. My parents grew it, and we ate lots of it. When April comes around, I crave rhubarb.

Rhubarb Growing


So when I came across a recipe for bread with rhubarb in my Pillsbury booklet “Brunches and Desserts”, I wanted to try it. Rhubarb, with its tart taste, color and texture, makes this bread a hit anytime or anyplace. 




At first I made the bread strictly following the recipe, no added ingredients or improvisation.

Toasted Pecan & Rhubarb Bread

Then one day, I thought about lavender and wondered how it would taste with rhubarb. Then I remembered this delicious bread and replaced the plain sugar with lavender sugar.

What did I discover? I now know if you always follow the recipe, you miss the fun (and the flavor, too)!

Kathy’s Toasted Pecan and Rhubarb Bread

This recipe is a variation on one I found in a Pillsbury booklet titled “Brunches and Desserts."  I’ve added more flavor by using lavender sugar. Lavender flatters rhubarb infusing it with a hint of floral essence.

 3/4 cup lavender sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb (do not thaw)

1 tablespoon lavender sugar

 1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom only of 9x5 or 8x4-inch loaf pan or 2 smaller (7.5x3.75) loaf pans. Line parchment paper in baking pan(s).  In large bowl, combine 3/4 cup lavender sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat well. Add buttermilk; blend well.

2. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In small bowl, combine flour, pecans, baking powder, baking soda and salt; mix well. Add to buttermilk mixture; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in rhubarb. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over top.

3. Bake at 350°F. for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled. Store in refrigerator.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Easter Brunch

Tangerine MimosaOn Easter Sunday, my husband John and I were invited to join friends and family for a brunch and Easter egg hunt.

Kirsten, our hostess, is one of those people who makes everything look easy and elegant.

To express our appreciation, I'd created a special hostess gift for Kirsten.


I had filled a basket with a small lavender plant, culinary lavender buds, a Dagoba Lavender Blueberry Bar, lavender strawberry jam and a copy of my new book, “Discover Cooking with Lavender.” Now, I could hardly wait to give it to her.

Hostess Gift Basket

We gathered in her spacious kitchen and chatted while Kirsten fried small potato fritters. Kirsten’s husband Noel opened champagne and served Mimosas

Kirsten and Noel's toddler sat on the kitchen floor playing with her collection of toy Easter eggs. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee, along with the savory fragrance of eggs and ham sent my appetite into action. Fruit salad, walnut coffee cake and pecan-rhubarb tea bread beckoned from the kitchen counter top.  

Easter Brunch






Peeking into the dining room, I admired the colorful table, the stunning yellow tulips and pastel Easter eggs – all set with 10 place settings. “How beautiful everything looks.” I commented.

. Easter Table for Ten


I knew this would be a memorable occasion with fabulous food, however I was surprised when Kirsten smiled and said, “I have a special gift for you!”

Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream - French LavnderOpening the freezer compartment of her refrigerator, Kirsten pulled out a carton of Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream. "Have you tried this? It's French Lavender and it's heavenly."





At home later that evening, I tasted my special Easter treat. Words can not describe the sweet delicate taste of this ice cream. The smooth and creamy texture made me want more. The subtle flavor gave just hint of lavender.

Ice Cream in Pink Dish

Kirsten's gift will be gone in a few days. The memory of her gracious hospitality will linger for a long time.





Thursday, April 01, 2010

Mom’s Stewed Rhubarb: Revisited

Rhubarb grew in my mother’s garden. In early spring, I remember my mother cutting the pink slender stalks and making stewed rhubarb. She served this to us at breakfast and sometimes as dessert after supper. I loved the sweet and sour contrast that comes with eating rhubarb. Sometimes, I would take a raw piece, dip it in sugar and suck on the fruit enjoying the taste.

After reading Molly Wizenberg’s recent blog post  “A lot of rhubarb”, I realized I’d been rhubarb-deprived for too long.  Since I don’t have a rhubarb patch, I had to settle for buying  local rhubarb at the grocery store.

My mother didn't’t use a recipe. Her stewed rhubarb was made by combining rhubarb (cut into 1 inch slices) with sugar, water and vanilla, and then cooking it on the stove top until it was soft and mushy.

Playing around with flavors, I decided to add lavender sugar and use Novelty Hill Chardonnay in place of the water. Lavender adds a slightly floral taste to the rhubarb. I combine the mixture in a dutch oven and cooked it in the oven for 30 minutes.

While the poached rhubarb was still slightly warm, I served myself a small bowl and time-traveled back to my childhood when rhubarb ruled!