Recipe: Simple End-of-Summer Plum Cake

Nothing says end of summer to me more than biting into a sweet, juicy plum.

This cake, which combines summer fruitiness with warm fall spices, helps ease the transition between the seasons. If you don’t happen to have a plum tree nearby, now is the perfect time to pick up a few stone fruit like plums and peaches at your local farmers market. This cake is so easy to make and requires such simple ingredients, you’ll likely already have them in the pantry.

End-of-Summer Plum Cake

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr

Equipment

  • Springform pan

Ingredients
  

  • cups flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • tsp cardamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk
  • 8 tbsp butter (one stick)
  • 3 plums, each cut into 8 wedges (about 1 lb). Be sure tochoose firm, not overripe plums.
  • Sprinkle of powdered sugar (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Set oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cream butter and sugar with mixer for a couple of minutes, until soft and fluffy. Stir in vanilla and eggs. Set aside.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
  • Alternate mixing flour mixture and milk into creamed butter until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour thick batter into a greased cake pan. I like to use a springform pan so everyone can see the prettiness of the cake.
  • Place plum slices in a circular pattern on the cake until most of the batter is covered.
  • Bake in oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 min until done.
  • After cooled sprinkle powder sugar on top. (Optional)
<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

Recipe: Tzatziki Sauce

I have had a remarkably productive crop of cucumbers this year. Which is just fine because we love cucumbers in my house. In fact, one of my family’s favorite sauces is tzatziki sauce, which is made with yogurt and cucumbers. Though you’ll most often find this Greek sauce on the menu next to gyros and falafels, it is amazingly good on lots of things. Put a dollop on your soup or smear it on your sandwich if you require a tangy sauce with a crunch. Try it!

Tzatziki Sauce

Prep Time 30 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Cucumber, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 Lemon, about 2 tbsp of juice
  • 1 tsp Champagne vinegar
  • 1.5 cups Plain Greek Yogurt, Fage preferred
  • 3 tbsp Dill and mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 Small Garlic clove
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Deseed and finely chop one cucumber. Most recipes will tell you to grate it seeds and all, but I find I don’t have to salt the cucumbers and strain the water off if I just deseed it. I also like the crunch of larger pieces of cucumber. Chop herbs and smash or finely chop garlic.
  • Put yogurt into bowl. It is also important to use Fage Greek yogurt because it is thick and has already been strained – this way, you won’t have to do it. If you don’t have Greek yogurt, you can strain regular yogurt to a Greek yogurt consistency. First, line a sieve with a coffee filter and then set over a bowl. Spoon in 3 cups of yogurt to yield 1 ½ cups ofGreek-style yogurt, refrigerate and let drain for two hours.
  • Add, chopped cucumbers, herbs and garlic to yogurt.Stir and then add lemon and then vinegar. Slowly stir in olive oil and add salt to taste.
<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

10 Ways to Use Up Those Summer Herbs

If you’re like me, you have more herbs than you know what to do with in your garden. Beyond drying and freezing, I have to find creative ways to make sure I’m not letting all that herby goodness go to waste. There are so many things you can do with herbs and the following is a list of some of the things I’ve been doing with my herbs this summer.

Stir up Pesto

One of the tried-and-true standbys for using up an abundance of basil is to make delicious pesto. A spicy sauce made with basil, garlic, Parmesan-Reggiano, pine nuts and olive oil (I also add a Fresno pepper for bite), you can use pesto on everything from pasta to sandwiches or even as a marinade – and, bonus, it freezes really well, too. (Freezing it in ice trays and then storing the cubes in a storage bag is the way to go.) Here is a simple, basic pesto recipe that should take you no more than 15 minutes. The sauce is traditionally made using a mortar and pestle, which is how I like to do it, but feel free to use a food processor.

Basic Basil Pesto

Prep Time 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian

Equipment

  • Mortar and Pestle or Food Processor

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups Basil
  • 2 Garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Pine Nuts
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Put basil into food processor or mortar andpestle to process.
  • After processed, add garlic, pine nuts, andcheese.
  • Slowly drizzle in olive oil as sauce isprocessing. Add salt to taste.
Keyword Basil, Pesto

Arrange a Bouquet

One of my favorite ways to use herbs is to make herbal bouquets. Many herbs produce lovely flowers so it’s a great way to bring both the beauty and luscious scents from the garden inside. This is one that I made last week with my daughter, Molly. We used dill, Thai basil, Mexican mint, lavender and calendula.


Concoct an Herbal Oil Infusion

To take advantage of the beneficial properties of specific herbs, consider making an herbal oil infusion. Some oil infusions (comfrey, for example) may be good for scrapes and burns others for beauty serums and creams (lavender, for example). Make your own herbal oil infusion at home with the following recipe.

Recipe: How to Make a Long Herbal Oil Infusion

  1. Fill a one-pint jar with a tight-fitting lid about halfway to two-thirds with dried herb of choice. Cover leaves with preferred carrier oil, such as olive, avocado, coconut, or grapeseed.
  2. To make a long oil infusion, leave for six weeks and shake the jar a couple of times a day. After six weeks, strain the oil through cheesecloth.
  3. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of vitamin E to help preserve the oil. You can also add a few drops of essential oils like rosemary, lavender, or chamomile to make your oil even more beneficial.

Blend Chimichurri

I like to think of Chimichurri as a kind pesto … just made with parsley. An Argentinian sauce used as a marinade or as a table condiment, it is usually eaten with steak. But for those eschewing meat, you can also eat it with veggies or cheese. Here is a basic recipe.

Basic Chimichurri

Prep Time 15 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Cup Parsley
  • Few Sprigs of Oregano
  • 1 Small Shallot
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Small Fresno Pepper or Red Jalapeno
  • 1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3/4 Cup Olive Oil

Instructions
 

  • Put parsley and oregano into food processor or mortar and pestle to process.
  • After processed, add garlic, shallot and pepper and process. Add vinegar.
  • Slowly drizzle in olive oil as sauce is processing. Add salt to taste.

Whip up Compound Butter

Compound butter is a great way to get the flavor of all the different kinds of herb you grew in the summer year-round. Easily frozen, there are a ton of different combinations. Here is a good simple recipe:

  • Get good butter. I like using European butters because they have more butterfat, hence making your compound butter extra creamy and delicious.
  • Soften butter to room temperature until it is easily stir-able—this will probably take a few hours.
  • Gather the herb of your choice. You can use either dried or fresh herbs, but if you’re using fresh, make sure the herbs have had several hours to air dry after rinsing before mixing them into the butter. You don’t want to mix water into the butter.
  • Chop finely and mix into butter. You can also add garlic, lemon peel, or even ginger. Experiment with flavors you like!
  • To store in the freezer, scoop the herb butter onto a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Shape it into a log by rolling it in the paper and wrap tightly on each end. I also put them in freezer bags to help prevent freezer burn.

Brew Herbal Infused Water

I love adding herbs to water to get all the beneficial nutrients. You can add just a bit to a cool drink and sip immediately for a delicious summer refresher, or steep herbs like tea for longer periods to wring out even more nutrients. To get even more of the medicinal benefits, some folks make what’s called a long herbal infusion. Check out the following recipe courtesy clinical herbalist Kathleen Raven Wildwood, founder of the Verona, Wisc.-based Wildwood Institute.

  1. Take one ounce of chosen dried herb.
  2. Place in a canning jar. Use a one-quart jar for leaves (such as basil), or hardy flowers (such as red clover), one-pint jar for roots, barks, or berries (such as rose hips).
  3. Cover completely with boiling water, stir with chopstick or knife and add more water until full.
  4. Place lid on and let sit four-to-eight hours for leaves or hardy flowers, eight hours for roots.
  5. When done brewing, strain and refrigerate. Infusion will keep for 48 hours in the refrigerator. Infusions may be reheated. (Do not boil, preferably. It is still OK to drink if it is boiled, but nutrients may be lost.) Infusions may be iced, sweetened, and milk may be added. Some do well with salt or tamari, such as nettle.

Infuse Vodka

Nothing could be better to use (or easier to make) for summer cocktails than infused vodka. For basil vodka, which is the perfect base for summery, refreshing drinks, grab a large bunch of fresh basil, stick the leaves in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid, fill with plain vodka, seal the lid and sit the jar in a cool, dark place for up to three days. Taste it every day to get it to the flavor you prefer. After three days, strain out the basil leaves and pour yourself a cocktail! You can do with this with any herb you’d like.


Stir up Simple Syrup

Speaking of Happy Hour, you can get some of that same herbally goodness in your cocktails with herbal simple syrup. Here is a great base recipe.

Herbal Simple Syrup

Prep Time 26 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1/4 to 1 Cup Fresh Herbs

Instructions
 

  • Combine water, sugar, and herbs in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir continually until sugar dissolves and then simmer for1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and let syrup steep with herbs, about half an hour. Note the amounts of herbs will depend on the strength of the herbs themselves. You may, for example, need 1/4 cup of lavender but 1 cup of basil to get the strength of flavor you desire.
  • Cool and pour syrup into container through a mesh strainer to remove herbs. Store in the fridge for up to one month.

Shake Up Some Herbal Salt

Herbal salt is the easiest thing ever to make. For real. Just stick a spring of rosemary (or whatever) into your salt cellar and call it a day. You’ll have fragrant salt to add as a finisher to your dishes at the table.


Invent an Herbal Hair Rinse

There is nothing my locs like more than a good herbal rinse. I usually collect a few from my garden and let it sit in a jar with hot water for a few hours. Sometimes I add a hibiscus teabag and I always add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.

Try this recipe. Grab handful of:

  • Lavender (moisturizes dry scalp, fights hair loss, increase circulation to scalp)
  • Chamomile (fights dandruff and dry scalp, restores shines, reduces hair loss)
  • Rosemary (prevents premature graying, stops hair loss, boosts shine, decreases dandruff)
  • Calendula (thickens hair, reduces dandruff, improves scalp condition, conditions)
  • Basil (increases scalp circulation, stimulates hair follicles for new hair growth)

Put herbs in large mason jar. Pour hot water over herbs and then add 3-4 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar. Let sit for a few hours.

<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.