Gardening for Health

Using Herbs For Christmas Dinner

By Maria Price

Herbs make my Christmas dinner special. Not only do they add incredible flavors but they also have health benefits. Here are ways you can incorporate herbs into every part of your holiday meal.

Influenced by all the historic colonial homes in the Annapolis area and looking at what I have grown in my garden, I like to cook a Christmas goose. The first time I cooked a goose, about 40 years ago, I set my kitchen on fire. I don’t want that to happen to you, so make sure you have a deep roasting pan with a rack to elevate the goose. Use an 8- to 10-pound goose and stuff it with cubed celery root, onions and apples. Sprinkle the goose with caraway seed and thyme. Drizzle the goose with Aquavit and bake at 350 degrees until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the inside thigh registers 185 degrees for about three to four hours. After two hours, drain all the fat from the roasting pan. Baste the goose with some of the pan drippings.

I grew a lot of beets and froze them, so I’m going to make a beet salad. Roast a couple of bunches of beets in a pan with garlic from an entire knob. Slice an onion and add some dill and parsley and then drizzle olive oil over all of it. Cover the pan with foil and roast until tender at 400 degrees. When the beets are easily pierced with a fork, slice them and mix well with the onions and garlic and add about half a cup of chopped parsley and dill. Drizzle with red wine vinegar and chill. Serve the beet salad over butterhead lettuce.

I also grew a variety of sweet potatoes called Mahon. They’re deep orange, smooth and sweet. Peel four sweet potatoes and cut into thin slices. Blanch them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Drain and pat dry and smother them with olive oil. Heat a grill pan and cook the potato slices three or four minutes on each side. For the dressing, mix 5 tablespoons of lime juice, 3 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons of honey, 4 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger, one red chili finely chopped and two garlic cloves crushed and salt and pepper. Mix well and serve warm or cold.

An herbal Christmas menu wouldn’t be complete without Christmas cookies. I always cut and dry lavender flowers from my plants. I like to make a spritz cookie in the shape of a wreath with lavender flowers. It gives the cookie a delicate lavender flavor.

In a food processor, beat two sticks of unsalted butter with ½ cup of powdered sugar, ¼ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon of vanilla and then add 2 cups of flour. Add one tablespoon of crushed lavender flowers and mix well. Put the dough into a cookie press fitted with a wreath disc. Press the cookies onto an unbuttered pan. Sprinkle lavender sugar on top and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned about 12 minutes.

Merry Christmas!