Monthly Archives: February 2015

Time for Some Thyme

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Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris)  is best grown with a dappled noon-time shade in the summer in the southwest.

Special for Savor the Southwest  February 2015
by Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule

Spring is springing out in my garden – and the little thyme cutting I got from Savor Sister Muffin Burgess back in at our anniversary party in November is finally starting to take off.  November was a terrible time to take cuttings of this warm climate herb – but the great thing about herbs is that humans have been mistreating them for 7000 years or so, and the weak ones have mostly died out.

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There are many species of thyme, like this species in the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, used for the herb blend za’atar.

Thyme is a large and very popular genus, with over 350 species and countless cultivars grown around the world. Aside from looking lovely in the landscape, thyme is a strong herb used in cooking, and has some proven medicinal properties as well. It can also be grown indoors in bright, indirect light.

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Many herbs that do in the Southwest are originally from a similar climate – like this Thymus vulgaris growing wild on the rocky hillsides of the Galilee.

This lovely, fragrant, tasty, and healthful herb in native to the rocky slopes of the mountains of the eastern Mediterranean region, in the area that is now mostly Greece. Since they are pre-adapted to low water conditions, most species of thyme can be grown here. I grow my thyme plants where they get roof run-off, thus I rarely need to water them; and yet they offer a lush look to my entryway with their glossy green leaves.

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Not just tasty, thyme is also another pretty face in the garden! For peak flavor, it is best to harvest this (and most culinary herbs) just before they bloom.

Make sure you grow your thyme in well-drained soil. You may have to add some sand to your soil. I killed several thyme plants until I had finally added enough sand to their bed.

There are many thymes to choose from, but here are the species most commonly found in the nursery.

Common or culinary thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a low woody plant barely reaching a foot tall. It quickly becomes leggy with bare wood showing so harvest and use or dry your thyme often. (You can give friends jars of your dried herbs as truly personal and unique gifts.)

Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox) makes an attractive and useful groundcover. It is culinary too! Harvest as needed.

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Creeping thyme, with tiny leaves and charming purple flowers, is perfect for a fairy garden.

Lemon thyme (Thymus X citriodorus) is a delicious and fragrant low-growing variety with glossy green leaves, and goes wonderfully with fish dishes.

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Lemon thyme is great for flavoring fish dishes – two flavors for the price of one!

Equally fragrant and delicious is the golden lemon thyme (Thymus X citriodorus ‘Aureus’). With wonderfully variegated leaves, it looks good in the landscape.

Not generally used as culinary herbs, two popular species of creeping thyme are useful in the landscape. Mother-of-thyme (Thymus serpyllum) and woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanginosis) both grow well between shady flagstones, and smell great when stepped on.

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Add some fragrance to your landscape – plant this heat tolerant woolly thyme between the flagstones of your path.

Sprinkle thyme (either fresh or dried) in soups, salads, on meat dishes or use in herb breads. Use an ample number of sprigs in herbal vinegars and oils for an intense and refreshing flavor.

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We use ample thyme in our cooking. This 8 ounce jar gets refilled several times a year.

For a quick meal at the end of a long day make Sopa de Farigola, or Thyme Soup, a dish popular in the Catalonia region of northeastern Spain, and thus part of our Sonoran heritage as well.  Fresh eggs and day-old bread are topped with a boiling broth made from water, sprigs of thyme and some olive oil. Great for replacing electrolytes after a day working in the garden!

More about thyme in my books which I will be selling and signing at the Tucson Festival of Books March 14 & 15 this year – Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press 2014, $23), and Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing & Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol Press 2011, $15) also available at Tucson area bookstores, nurseries, botanical gardens, and state parks.

JAS avatar  © 2015, Jacqueline Soule. All rights reserved. I have received many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you are free to use a very short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact me if you have any questions.

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Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pescado en Mole Verde, Spring Roots with Spicy Creamy Dip

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Hello, Amy Valdés Schwemm here, celebrating spring with two recipes using Mano Y Metate Mole Verde.

Spring root vegetables are on the table now! Carrots and purple diakon from Tucson CSA/Crooked Sky Farms, baby onions, and Cylindra beets from the Breckenfelds are very tender. The purple daikon is so mild and the baby beets and carrots sweet, and all prettiest when fresh. I’m sure we’ll have humongous taproots later in the season that will need roasting or pureeing.

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I love creamy dips with crisp, raw veggies. My sister makes a spicy and creamy dip from Mole Verde powder and sour cream. Just mix the two ingredients to taste and refrigerate to let the flavors blend.

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Common sour cream works beautifully for this dish, but I had milk to use up, so I made homemade cultured ricotta to use as the base.

021To make, gently heat any milk in a pot directly on the stove to almost boiling, add strained lemon juice a spoonful at a time, then stir and watch the tiny curds form and the whey turn translucent. (My milk was raw and apparently soured enough to form curds when heated without added acid.) Allow to cool to room temperature, add an envelope of “Bob and Ricki’s Sour Cream Culture” available in Tucson from Brew Your Own Brew.

Strain though a cloth napkin, incubate at room temperature for 24 hours (either hanging in the tied up cloth or in a covered dish). For a smooth texture, whip in a blender or food processor. Salt to taste and refrigerate.

When you add the Mole Verde powder to taste, it can be as spicy or mild as you like. Delicious on tacos or any savory dish where you would use Mexican crema.

 

 

 

Pescado en Mole Verde/Fish with Mole Verde

I’m waiting patiently for the tilapia to grow to harvestable size at a local school’s aquaponic system, so in the meantime, I purchase filets from the market. Simply oil both sides and bake for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees F. To make the sauce, put a couple tablespoons of chicken fat and one tin of Mole Verde powder in a saucepan, and stir until the paste is sizzling and fragrant. Add a cup of chicken broth and simmer until it thickens. (Any mild oil and broth can be used.) Pour over fish and return to the oven to keep warm.

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Mano Y Metate Mole Verde powder is only thickened with pumpkin seeds and sesame, where the other mole powders are thickened with organic corn tortilla meal and/or organic graham cracker in addition to other nuts and seeds. So Mole Verde makes a lighter sauce than the other moles, perfect for spring. It is spicy from roasted green Hatch chiles and jalapeno. The herbal notes are from parsley, cilantro and epazote. See Jacqueline’s excellent posts about each of those herbs.

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Serve with plain rice, corn tortillas, and lettuce drizzled with lime juice. I had an anxious tester that doesn’t eat dairy, but I sometimes I add creama and a melty cheese to the sauce, reminiscent of Mariscos Chihuahua’s famous Filete Culichi.

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Have a good spring and enjoy the weather and wildflowers, and I’ll be back here in May.

Amy

ManoYMetate.com

 

Categories: Cooking, herbs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sweet Roasted Mesquite for a Happy Valentine’s

Valentine's Roasted Mesquite and Heirloom White Sonora Wheat Oatmeal Cookies

Valentine’s Roasted Mesquite and Heirloom White Sonora Wheat Oatmeal Cookies

 

[If only this were a scratch-and-sniff site….]

‘Tis the season for the sweetest, rarest, and heart-healthy mesquite treat of the whole year– Roasted Mesquite! During this relatively cool and occasionally soppy “wintery” weather, stored mesquite pods, which may have drawn in moisture from the humid air since harvesting last summer, can be roasted or toasted for ease of milling into a fine meal. The result is a transformation into something even sweeter than the already-yummy natural raw mesquite meal.

 

 

Tia Marta here to introduce you to Roasted Mesquite and to share some creative ideas for celebrating Valentine’s (and beyond).

 

When mesquite pods are roasted, their complex sugars burst with an almost chocolat-y bouquet. Roasted mesquite has hints of its “botanical cousin,” the carob, from the Near East (known as Saint John’s Bread in the Bible, as it fed St. John so well through his desert wilderness retreat). Those soluble complex carbohydrates that make mesquite such a heart-healthy food–giving sustained energy, helping with cholesterol, balancing blood sugar—come flavorfully to the fore when mesquite is roasted. Take note: all fitness fans, hypoglycemics, diabetic and gluten-free cooks! Roasted mesquite is a super booster-food especially for you. Its complex sweetness and its nutrition make it a gift for everyone you love.

Comparing roasted mesquite flour and natural raw mesquite flour (MABurgess photo)

Comparing roasted mesquite flour and natural raw mesquite flour (MABurgess photo)

You can use roasted mesquite meal in so many ways. In addition to baking with it, the distinctive aroma and richness puts it into the category of seasoning or spice. Shake roasted mesquite through a big-holed spice shaker to jazz up bland dishes or for sprinkling atop coffeecakes, muffins, sundaes, custards, frapaccinos, salads….Yum, it is waiting for your inventions. I make a little mix of garlic powder, sea salt, and roasted mesquite meal, then put the combo in a shaker and keep it handy by the stove or on the table to sprinkle on about everything. Try it on your steamed greens or in quinoa. When corn-on-the-cob season rolls around, there isn’t anything better than my roasted mesquite salt dusted on it. (Mesquite orchardist and agriculturalist Mark Moody will have fresh corn with roasted mesquite at Flagstaff farmers markets this summer—don’t miss it.)

Add a tablespoon of roasted mesquite meal to any hot cereal. It does wonders for oatmeal. Mesquite is the tastiest of all nutritional supplements. Whatever you add it to, you know you are boosting flavor and nutrition—making hearts happier!

Taste the glorious nutrition of a roasted mesquite and berry smoothie! (MABurgess photo)

Taste the glorious nutrition of a roasted mesquite and red berry smoothie! (MABurgess photo)

Try this delectable and easy Desert Delight–Roasted Mesquite & Red Berry Smoothieso colorful it can make breakfast into a Valentine’s feast. So rich it can be a Valentine’s dessert served with a spoon. (You can double or triple this recipe for company):

Presoak: 1 Tablespoon chia seed in 1 Cup organic apple juice for a few minutes.

In a blender, mix:

1 cup organic plain or vanilla non-fat yogurt.

2 Tbsp. Roasted Velvet Mesquite Meal*

1 cup frozen raspberries or blueberries

2 Tbsp. prickly pear juice or nectar

your pre-soaked applejuice-chia mix

½ or whole ripe banana

1 Tbsp agave nectar (optional as desired for more sweetness)

A few ice cubes (optional as needed for chill or dilution)

Blend on medium ½ minute until smoothie is gloriously pink. Serve in parfait glass with a thin sprinkle of chia seed or pinch of roasted mesquite meal on top as a garni.

Valentine's gluten-free roasted mesquite/almond coffeecake (MABurgess photo)

Valentine’s gluten-free roasted mesquite/almond coffeecake (MABurgess photo)

Ingredients for gluten-free roasted mesquite and almond coffeecake looks like an ad for Bob's Red Mill

Ingredients for gluten-free roasted mesquite and almond coffeecake looks like an ad for Bob’s Red Mill

And here’s a wonderful gluten-free recipe to share with wheat-sensitive friends:

Muff’s Gluten-Free Roasted Mesquite/Almond CoffeeCake:

(This is a heavier cake that sometimes turns out more like an energy bar when sliced.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil or butter an 8×8” pyrex baking dish and dust with rice flour.

Sift together:

½ cup Roasted Velvet Mesquite Meal*

¾ cup organic brown rice flour and/or amaranth flour

½ cup almond meal

¼ cup tapioca flour

2 tsp guar gum or locust bean gum (for leavening)

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp sea salt

Mix In:

¼ cup agave nectar

¼ cup canola or other cooking oil

¾ cup soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk

Beat separately then add in:

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

Pour into baking dish. Bake 25-35 minutes or more until cake tests done. Serve with thanks to the nutritious bean trees of the desert!

Roasted mesquite cookies in valentine iron pan

Roasted mesquite cookies in valentine iron pan

Roasted mesquite cherry oatmeal cookies

Roasted mesquite heirloom wheat & cherry oatmeal cookies

Now for a relatively “healthy” cookie try this celebration treat with roasted mesquite—

Muff’s Roasted Mesquite & White Sonora Wheat Valentine Oatmeal Cookies (with pinyones and dried red cherries to honor George Washington’s birthday too)—a great cookie for any time of year.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together: 1 cup (2 sticks) organic butter softened, ½ cup organic brown sugar firmly packed, and ½ cup organic white sugar

Beat in and mix until creamy: 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla

In a separate bowl, sift together: 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 cup organic White Sonora Wheat flour**, and ½ cup Roasted native velvet Mesquite Meal*

Mix dry ingredients with moist ingredients until smooth.

Add, and mix in: 2-3 cups quick oatmeal (uncooked), ¼-1/2 cup pine nuts (pinyones) shelled, and ¾ cup dry cherries or dry cranberries.

Onto a well-greased cookie sheet, drop 1-tsp glops of cookie dough well-spaced. (You could use a heart-shaped mold or heart cookie cutter.) Press a dry cherry on top of each glop for décor.

Bake 10-12 minutes until barely golden brown, and enjoy the festive desert flavor of roasted mesquite with your Valentine!

Roasted Mesquite and Heirloom White Sonora Wheat Oatmeal cookies droozled with prickly pear juice (MABurgess photo)

Roasted Mesquite and Heirloom White Sonora Wheat Oatmeal cookies droozled with prickly pear juice (MABurgess photo)

*For purchasing Roasted Mesquite Meal–seek and ye shall find. There are only a few places where you can source this seasonal culinary treasure, if you are not roasting and milling it yourself! Find it at the wonderful NativeSeeds/SEARCH store (3061 N. Campbell Ave, Tucson, www.nativeseeds.org). Our roasted mesquite is from native Arizona velvet mesquite, Prosopis velutina, grown and milled with the highest standards. For tastes, visit the Flor de Mayo booth on Sundays at St.Phillips Farmers Market (SE corner River Rd and Campbell Ave), or order at www.flordemayoarts.com via PayPal. It is also online at www.mesquiteflour.com and from the Prickly Pops booth at Thursday Santa Cruz Farmers Market.

**The special local ingredient for the cookie recipe above, heirloom White Sonora Wheat flour, is available at two Tucson locations. Several different grinds of Hayden Flour Mills’ heirloom flour is at the Native Seeds/SEARCH store. For super-fresh-milled “live” White Sonora flour, from local, certified organic whole grain grown by BKWFarms, you can contact Tia Marta by phone or email by the Friday before pick-up at Sunday’s St Phillips Farmers Market, along with the roasted mesquite meal.

For more ideas on how to cook with mesquite—roasted or natural–check out the recipe book Eat Mesquite! published by www.desertharvesters.org, and available at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store. Visit www.bajaaz.org, the website of Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture, for more mesquite details.

Newcomers as well as confirmed “desert rats” can see the actual plants which produce the local ingredients of our Valentine Cookies—mesquite trees and heirloom White Sonora Wheat growing at our special Baja Arizona parks. See and appreciate them in their winter-spring glory at the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace Mission Garden (base of A-Mountain, Saturdays), at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and in the ethnobotanical garden at Tohono Chul Park.

Enjoying roasted mesquite treats is indeed another way of rejoicing in the desert’s natural bounty, and of supporting appropriate, sustainable desert agriculture. Happy Valentine’s, and may your heart be happy cooking with roasted mesquite!—from Tia Marta and Rod at www.flordemayoarts.com.

 

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On Emptiness, Filling, and Cups Overflowing: Chocolate–Chiltepin Cupcakes with Cool/Hot Frosting

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Aunt Linda here: Happy February ! The peak of February’s very gorgeous very Full moon was Tuesday.  Also easily visible with the naked eye, the planet Jupiter played flirtatiously around the moon for several days.

Today’s blog offers a little parable. So pour yourself a cup of tea, coffee, or whatever you prefer, and travel with me.

Once upon a time, during a moon such as this with Jupiter visible to the naked eye, in a land not so far away ….   a pilgrim, or a seeker, or a soldier, or an emperor, or someone just like you and me, crested the peak of a mountain having finally found the Wise One.  After many moons of seeking this particular Wise Person, the seeker arrives with high hopes of learning what they had so dearly yearned to learn.   They were in Search of Answers.

“Ah”, said the Wise One, “sit down and let us talk over some tea”. So, after warming the water and preparing tea, the Wise One began to pour the liquid into the cup of the One in Search of Answers.

The Wise One poured.

And poured.

And poured.

Until the tea cup overflowed. Spilling onto the table, the floor, the person.

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In some versions of the story, the more polite seeker, is startled, and exclaims: “Teacher! Perhaps you have not noticed that my cup is spilling over!”.  In another version, the tea spilled onto the robes of the (not so polite) emperor, who becomes angry, chiding the Wise One for ruining his robes.

In each version, the reply of the Wise One is the same:  “There is no room in the mind of the seeker, for the wisdom he/she says he wants, and has searched for for so many years. Emptiness, whether mind or cup, is needed before new insights can be received”. Being filled with opinions, speculations, habits of mind,  hinders the ability to take in of fresh insights/knowledge.

Temple Grandin ran into this phenomena in the world of animal husbandry. Having discovered extremely practical wisdom about how to work with large animals more efficiently and calmly. She developed methods that significantly decreased the stress on both animal and human, and other methods that significantly increased efficiency. Her ideas were practical. Her ideas were “humane” and efficient . They offered ranchers and industry alike, to save money.

And they were met with “full”-on resistance, if you pardon the pun.

Rolling forward in time, the vast majority of ranchers, have integrated some if not all of her ideas of moving animals. Corrals and shoots have been redesigned. Transportation trailers for horses were redesigned (diagonal facing not front facing) . It goes on and on.  But before the “industry” could take in all this animal-human wisdom “it” had to empty It’s mind of preconceived ideas.

IMG_4614We redesigned our corrals. No more box shapes with corners. Curves allow flight animals such as cows and horses to feel safer and move as they would in the field.

On a personal level, when my mind is “full” of worry, I can sometimes miss the more innovative solutions available to me. Conversely, when I empty my mind enough, life gets easier. For me, “easier” is simply more practical.

One example from the week: I discovered a nest of baby mice in the feed bin this week.   I immediately felt stress. TO be clear, I am not “anti-mouse”.  I am just “anti-TOO MANY MICE that it becomes unhealthy”.  An occasional mouse is not uncommon around poultry, and the “girls” (the chickens themselves) or a king snake take care of them. Until recently, our cat was a good “mouser”, but she is 20 years old now and no longer on the job. So this issue of mouse nests is a new dilemma for me. I do not want unhealthy mouse droppings around the hens and eggs. I do not want mice eating the feed, and bugging the chickens all night long, as they nibble here and there. Follow the trail of mouse poop and you will be amazed at what acrobatics they are! I hate to use poison for a variety of reasons, one being fear that a predator such as a hawk or neighbors cat could be poisoned itself if it eats the bait-ridden mouse. And baby mice, despite knowing all of the above, are just so cute. I don’t Want to kill them!

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Adorable for sure, this nest of baby mice is nevertheless not welcome in the hen house.

I was full -on- fretting.  No space for innovative solutions to present themselves. Deciding to relax my mind, I went for a walk, switching mental channels from a litany of methods of killing mice, none of which I liked … to a question… How does Mother Nature do it?  Mice have a plethora of babies, presumably because there are a plethora of animals that eat/need those mice. What eats mice? Snakes came to mind. ( Just as I am not anti-mouse, I am not anti-snake either. All have their place. It is BALANCE that I am looking for). I sent out a text (modern world) and within minutes had a Python present itself. Then another snake owner said she was looking for a good source of mice for her reptile. Later this afternoon, a litter of mice, will be delivered to a Python. And I will be rid of the “seed” stock of multiple generations of mice. Whether or not the snake-owners will raise the mice and feed them as needed, or freeze them for later feeding, I do not know. Stay posted.

The Recipe:

Chocolate-Chiltepin Cupcakes with Cool/Hot Cream Cheese Frosting

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IMG_9137 IMG_8168 I Love the sensation(s) on my tongue as the cool of the mint in the frosting meets the heat of the chiltepin! And while it is my “go to” cupcake recipe all year long, it might be a Very fun Valentines Day treat, what with the Chocolate/Chile combination as well as the sensual mint-chile interaction.

Ingredients for Cupcakes:

1 Cup Milk (cow, almond, rice, coconut, etc)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

¼ cup honey (local honey if you can; it is good for you and your local beekeepers)

½ cup oil of your choice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa

¼ teaspoon dried and crushed chiltepins, seeds removed if desired.

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

How to:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 12 cupcake cups with paper liners.

Whisk together the milk and vinegar and in a large bowl and set aside to allow time to curdle. Once curdled, add the honey, oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.

Sift the dry ingredients together and slowly add to the wet mixture, stirring between additions. Divide batter among the cups, filling each about ¾ full.

Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, you can frost them with the Cool/Hot Cream Cheese Frosting that you have made while the cake-lets were baking. 

Ingredients for Frosting:

2, 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon mint extract

1 teaspoon chocolate extract

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

¾ cup powdered sugar

1-2 tablespoons milk (cow, nut, coconut etc)

¼ teaspoon dried and crushed chiltepins. Note: leave seeds of you are going to eat promptly or want the heat to remain stable. Remove seeds if you will be eating frosting in a few days and do not want the “heat” to increase. The “heat” from chile comes from the oils on the seeds, and with time, the heat will “grow”. Experiment and see what you prefer!

12 springs fresh mint – for an edible garnish atop the cupcakes.g

How to:

Combine all the ingredients except the fresh mint in a food processor bowl and mix well until combined. Add just 1 tablespoom of milk to begin, adding the rest by teaspoons if you want to thin the mixture.

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Frost the cupcakes; top each cupcake with a small sprig of mint for an edible garnish.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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