Something about the holidays getting closer conjures up thoughts of tasty casseroles straight from the oven and piping hot drinks with twirls of steam rising from our favorite mug helping to make rosy cheeks even rosier.

Why not add a new twist of flavor to go along with the twirls of steam?  Adding a pinch of fresh or dried herbs from the farmer’s market to any food or hot drink can bring a richness to the festivities in your home that permeates all the senses.  When all our senses have been nourished, it delights our soul, don’t you think?

The most popular herbs and spices are sage, rosemary, mint, oregano, basil, dill, parsley, thyme and cinnamon.  Just reading about them brings up the twinkling sights and jingle-jangle sounds of the holidays.

Sage has a unique earthiness to it and it uniquely pops poultry and dressing with a hint of peppery flavor.  After using rubbed sage for years, I decided to add some not-so-finely-diced fresh green sage to our Thanksgiving dressing. My goodness, what a zing to our taste buds!  It’s been a holiday tradition at our house ever since.

Sage is also used by gourmet cooks in seasoning soup, specifically vegetable soup.  No wonder it is sometimes referred to as “garden sage” or “kitchen sage”.  Many family recipe books are filled with the gourmet seasoning blends of rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano, basil and dill in heirloom recipes handed down from grandmother to bride for centuries.

Mint leaves added to a carrot casserole refreshes the palate and refreshes the plate it’s served on, too.  When a food pleases the eye, it accomplishes so much more than just thoughtlessly spooning it out of a boring serving dish.  Imagine mint infused cooked carrots glistening from a sparkling white serving dish with tiny sprigs of mint tucked in, trying to peep out.  Add a halved maraschino cherry,  cozily nestled to one side to refresh the eye. 

Cinnamon is highly aromatic and when mixed with sage, dried apples and honey, makes for a hot cinnamon toddy the whole family can enjoy together.  Add boiling water to a few slices of dried apples, a leaf of sage and a tablespoon of honey, then stir with a cinnamon stick.  The mixture may make you sleep so well, you’ll wonder the next morning if you were sprinkled with fairy dust the night before.

How festive, how fun!

Source by Mary Theresa McLean

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