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Southwestern Chocolate Cake

This is my version of a quick cake from my childhood. Use a mild oregano or marjoram instead of the hot, biting oreganos.

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped or 1
teaspoon dried, crushed
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vinegar (cider or white)
2/3 cups cooking oil
2 cups cold water

Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix thoroughly.

Pour into ungreased 9 x 12 baking pan and bake 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Ice with your favorite chocolate icing.

Lemonade Oregano Sorbet

The combination of oregano with fruit juices makes a great dessert or a palate cleanser between courses in a meal. This is both sweet and “herby” with a refreshing taste. Use a hand-cranked sorbet mixer or a small ice cream freezer. If all of your ingredients are chilled in advance, it takes only about 15 minutes to make this dessert.

1 small can frozen lemonade concentrate (about 4-6 ounces)
3 cups water
Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
1/4 cup sugar
2 sprigs (about 2 teaspoons) oregano or marjoram leaves

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until leaves are pulverized. Chill until ready to freeze. Pour into freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Serve in chilled dishes with a sprig of fresh oregano on the side.

Orange Oregano Sorbet

This is a simple and quick dessert if you have a Donvier sorbet maker, or any small electric ice cream freezer. Make sure everything is well chilled before you begin the freezing process and it will freeze quickly. (For more sorbet recipes, see my book, Fabulous Herb and Flower Sorbets, available on my website:

3 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons honey or sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Juice of 1/2 freshly-squeezed lemon
2 tablespoons fresh mild oregano or sweet marjoram leaves
1 tablespoon vodka (optional; adding it makes a smoother, less firm sorbet but it’s not necessary)

Combine all ingredients in blender and process until the leaves are well pulverized. Pour into bowl of ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Skillet Corn Bread with Oregano and Roasted Pepper

Even if you’re not a big fan of corn bread, you will possibly like this one (and for corn bread lovers, this one is excellent). It’s moist, best fresh from the oven but also good reheated. Serve it with soup or salad, or as a bread with a main course.

1 medium poblano chile pepper or similar roasting pepper
2 cups cornmeal
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

Char poblano chile over open flame on barbecue grill or in oven under broiler until completely blackened on all sides. Place pepper in paper bag to steam, 15 minutes. Peel, seed, and finely chop chile.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and black pepper in large bowl to blend. Whisk eggs and milk in medium bowl to blend. Mix in poblano chile and oregano. Combine egg mixture and dry ingredients, mixing lightly.

Melt butter in 10-inch-diameter heavy skillet over medium heat, swirling to coat bottom and sides of skillet until butter is sizzling. Immediately spread batter evenly in skillet and put in oven.

Bake until corn bread is golden brown around edges and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Cut bread into wedges and serve warm from skillet.

Grilled Yellow Squash with Oregano

This is a simple, quick side dish. I like to pick the yellow squash when they are about 1 day old, for grilling.

About 6-8 very small yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise
5 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
2 teaspoons dried (or 1 tablespoon freshly chopped ) oregano
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

Mix everything except the squash together, then brush on the squash and grill on medium heat grill, turning often, until squash is tender. Brush on more of the oil mixture during grilling. Serve hot.

Serves 3-4 people.

Green Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup diced mild onion
2 garlic cloves minced
3 cups fresh green beans trimmed, and cut into 1" lengths
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tomato, diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the green beans and broth, cover and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add the diced tomato, cover and steam for 1-2 minutes, then add the oregano, parsley, salt and pepper and steam for another minute. Serves 4-6.

Oregano Pesto Potatoes

2 cups torn-up fresh greens (mustard greens, spinach or similar)
2 cups fresh parsley flat Italian or regular standard
1/2 cup fresh oregano
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons sliced, toasted almonds or soy nuts
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
About 8 medium sized potatoes, peeled and quartered

Combine everything except potatoes in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse blend to chop the greens, then with food processor on, slowly add oil through food chute; process until well blended into a pesto. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425F. Place potatoes on a baking pan and bake for 20 minutes or until tender, turning as needed. Remove potatoes to a large bowl; add 1/3 cup pesto and roll potatoes to coat. Return potatoes to oven for 5 minutes before serving.

Remaining pesto will store in the refrigerator for up to a week, or can be frozen and used as needed. Or, use it for Pesto Bread:

Slice French bread in thick slices. Brush each slice with melted butter, then spread pesto on the bread and toast until lightly browned.

Corn and Tomato Salad with Fresh Oregano

1 lb. package frozen corn, thawed (or drained, canned corn)
12 Roma tomatoes or about 4 regular tomatoes, diced
1 yellow sweet pepper, diced
1 green sweet pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, diced fine
1 jalapeno or seranno chili, seed removed if desired, diced fine
2 garlic cloves, minced fine
Juice of 2 fresh limes
1/2 cup light vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh oregano or marjoram, chopped fine

Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine lime juice, oil, salt and pepper, garlic, oregano and chili pepper and whisk to combine.

In a bowl, mix the corn, tomatoes, sweet yellow and green peppers and onion then pour the lime/oil liquid over and toss to evenly distribute the flavors.

Chill for at least an hour (or even overnight) before serving.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

8 to 10 cloves garlic
2 pounds potatoes, washed, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon freshly minced oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

To roast garlic, wrap unpeeled garlic cloves in foil. Bake in a 400 degree F. oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until cloves feel soft when pressed. When cool enough to handle, squeeze garlic paste from peels, discarding peels.

In a covered kettle cook potatoes in boiling water for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. Drain; return to kettle.

Add roasted garlic to potatoes and mash with a potato masher. Add sour cream, butter, milk, oregano, salt and pepper. Beat until light and fluffy.

Serves 6.

Grilled Chicken with Oregano

This is an Americanized version of a delicious Mexican dish. This calls for Mexican oregano, which is a sharper, more biting flavor than milder oreganos. Use what you have on hand.

4 chicken breasts, skin on
2 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons chopped onion
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons dried oregano (Mexican, if available, crumbled)
10 Additional garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons additional chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt

Arrange the chicken breasts in a skillet in one layer. Add the 2 garlic cloves, the onion and 1 cup of chicken broth. Cook, covered over medium heat, turning the pieces once, until the broth has completely reduced and the chicken is tender, about 25 minutes.

Crush the oregano and the 10 cloves of minced garlic in a mortar and pestle (or put it in a blender and pulse blend briefly) with salt and 2 tablespoons water or chicken broth. With your hands, spread this paste over the chicken pieces, turning them so they are evenly covered. Return chicken to the pan and cover, leaving for an hour (without heat).

Heat a barbecue grill to low heat and brown the chicken lightly on both sides, brushing with a bit of melted butter or oil as it grills and turning often.

Note: if made in advance and transported chilled, in an ice chest, this works great over a campfire grill.

Fresh Ginger Tea

I first experienced fresh ginger tea in Bali, Indonesia. I had been trekking in the jungles of West Papua, New Guinea with a friend in 1999. It was hot, muggy, humid and my friend ordered a glass of this tea for me in a restaurant. It was the most refreshing, cooling drink. Now I enjoy it every summer at home.

Herbs used:
1 cup Fresh ginger root, peeled, sliced in thick slices

1 lemon, sliced

1 cup sugar


Bring 6 cups of water to boil. Add 1 cup sliced ginger root, remove from heat, and cover.

Let stand for half an hour, then add a sliced-up lemon and 1 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar.

Add 2-3 more cups water then pour into ice-filled glasses. This makes a deliciously refreshing summer beverage and is cooling to the system.

Oregano Dip with Vegetables

2 cups plain nonfat yogurt
1 cup real mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram (or your favorite
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine the ingredients in a food processor, pulse blending briefly. Chill.

To serve: arrange carrot and celery sticks, endive leaves, jicama wedges, radishes and other favorite fresh vegetables, around a bowl of the dip and watch your guests make it disappear!

Makes 3 cups.

Crab Salad with Orange and Oregano on Toast

About 12 oz. flaked crab meat (precooked, canned or frozen)

1 fresh orange, peeled, sections cut in small pieces, drained
1 tablespoon sweet pepper, chopped fine
2 tablespoons scallion, chopped
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup olive oil
Dash freshly ground black pepper

Combine crab, orange and remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill.

Serve on warm crackers, or on small bread pieces that have been brushed with butter and toasted.

Cool and put small dollop of crab salad on each piece, top with tiny sprig of parsley or an edible flower (dianthus, garden pea blossom, etc.)

Stuffed Mushrooms

Serve these steaming hot to your guests with your favorite wine.

8-12 oz. large, fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon parsley flakes or 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dry oregano or 1-2 teaspoons freshly chopped oregano leaves

Wash and dry the mushrooms. Remove and chop the stems.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushroom stems, celery and onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the bread crumbs, Worcestershire Sauce and seasonings.

Mound the stuffing onto the mushroom caps.

Arrange caps on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until thoroughly heated.

Serves 5-7.

Lemon Balm-Blueberry Cake

Herbs used:

3 tablespoons freshly-chopped Lemon Balm leaves
2 leaves Lemongrass (the leaf, not the bulb), snipped fine with’s important to snip with scissors, not expect the food processor to do it adequately)


1 package Duncan Hines or any brand Lemon Supreme cake mix

Combine the liquid ingredients called for on the box...usually 1 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup oil. Put that liquid in a blender with:
3 tablespoons freshly-chopped Lemon Balm leaves and
2 leaves Lemongrass which have been snipped up with scissors. Pulse-blend until the herbs are fairly well pulverized. Add that to:
The dry cake mix and eggs, beating well and pour into two oiled, floured round 9 inch cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

With cake slicer, slice each cake in half, making 4 small layers.

1 large package instant vanilla pudding
1 large (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened to room temp.
3 cups milk

In food processor, pulse blend ingredients, then stir in by hand, one small carton Cool Whip.

Fold together well and refrigerate for several hours.

Spread about 1/2 inch layer between the first and second layers of cake. Place the second cake on that, and cover the next layer with the filling.

Put a layer of fresh blueberries over that, add the third layer, repeat with filling and berries, then place the fourth layer on top.

Cover it with filling and dot liberally with fresh blueberries.

Pineapple-Verbena Sorbet

Herbs used:

Lemon Verbena leaves

1 can frozen pineapple juice concentrate, thawed but still cold
3 leaves fresh Lemon Verbena, partially cut up
2 cans cold water

In blender, place the Lemon Verbena leaves, pineapple juice concentrate and 1 can of cold water.

Blend well until the leaves are completely pulverized.

Add the remaining can of water and pour the mixture into a hand-cranked or electric sorbet mixer. Freeze until firm.

Serve in previously-frozen bowls (I freeze the spoons, as well, the sorbet stays firmer that way.)

Sweet ‘n Sour Sauce


1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/8 cup corn syrup or mild honey
juice from one can 6 oz. can chunk pineapple (add the pineapple after the sauce is made)
1/4 cup water, in which you have mixed 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Bring the ingredients to a boil, mix in the cornstarch after it’s mixed with the water, stirring until the sauce thickens.

Add the pineapple chunk and pour over servings of the vegetables and tofu.

Sweet ‘n Sour Tofu

Herbs used:


Drain one container of tofu. Cut into cubes, about 1 inch square. Toss in flour but not worrying about coating all sides.
Heat about 1/2 inch oil in a skillet and brown the tofu about 2 minutes, turning once. Drain and keep warn.

In a wok, heat about 3 tablespoons mustard (or favorite) oil to almost smoking. Add the following, in the order listed:

2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 large onion, sliced
Stir quickly and add:
1 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 cucumber, cut in chunks (not peeled)
2 small zucchini squash, cut in pieces
1 large carrot, sliced

Stir quickly and add 1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce.

Put the lid on to steam the vegetables for about 1 minute. Then stir well again, adding 1 sweet bell pepper, cut in pieces, along with a hot pepper such as Scotch bonnet, jalapeno (seeds removed) or similar if desired.

Add the warm toasted tofu and toss together.

Serve over rice and pour sauce over.

Mexican-Mint Chicken Salad

Herbs used:

6 leaves cut up, fresh Mexican mint marigold (or substitute 2 teaspoons freshly-chopped French tarragon)
4 leaves (about 2 teaspoons chopped) Garlic chives
1 bunch Chives, or about 4 tablespoons, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, stem removed and discarded

Chicken Salad Recipe:

4 large fresh or frozen chicken breasts
2 cups diced fresh jimaca if available, or 1 sm. can diced water chestnuts
2 cups canned pineapple chunks
1 tart apple (such as Granny Smith)
6 leaves Mexican Mint Marigold, chopped
4 leaves Garlic Chives, chopped or snipped
4 tablespoons Chives or 3-4 whole green onions, green and white both, chopped
2 cups Hellman’s real mayonnaise
Salt to taste

Simmer the chicken breasts until tender. Cool and dice.

Add remaining ingredients and mix gently.

Refrigerate a few hours before serving.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Marigold Blossoms

Herbs used:

Sweet Basil
French marigold blossoms (petals only: snip off with scissors, leaving the green base behind)


12 Roma or cherry tomatoes, cut in half, seeds scooped out
1 small (4 oz.) package cream cheese, room temp.
1 sprig (about 4 inches long) Sweet Basil, stem removed
1/2 cup pecan halves
Petals from 2 French marigolds

In small food processor, put the pecans, marigold petals and basil and pulse-process until the material is chopped fine.

Put in small bowl and combine with the cream cheese, then stuff each tomato half, rounding up like with deviled eggs.

Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 24 hours before serving.

Herbed Cheese

Herbs used:
1 sprig (about 8-10 inches long) Greek or Sicilian oregano, leaves removed, stem discarded
3 leaves Garlic Chives, coarsely cut up
1 4-inch sprig Sweet Marjoram
2 4-sprigs Thyme (remove the stem and discard it)


1 round of skim milk or similar cheese
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (or sub. 3 Ritz crackers if allergic to nuts)

Place the coarsely cut-up Garlic Chives, Marjoram and Thyme into a small food processor with the nuts (or crackers) and pulse-blend until the mixture is well chopped.

Pour some of the herb mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and place the cheese on top.

Pour the remaining mixture on top of cheese, pull the plastic wrap up and over and wrap tightly. Refrigerate over-night to let the herb flavors blend into the cheese.

Serve at room temperature with a cheese knife and good crackers.

Mango-Peach Salsa

Herbs used:


2 ripe peaches, peeled, seeded
1 ripe mango, peeled, seeded
1 bunch fresh Chives (about 2 tablespoons chopped) or 2 green onions, all parts used
1/2 garlic clove, minced fine
Juice of 1/2 fresh lime
1 whole jalapeno, chopped, including seed
2 tablespoons freshly-chopped Cilantro

Chop in hand-cranked food processor ($10 from K-Mart) or chop by hand.

Mix well and divide in half. Leave one half as is and refrigerate.

To the other half, add 1/2 cup sour cream, mix and refrigerate (this gives two distinctly different salsas, the one with sour cream being a bit milder).

Green Grape Salsa

Herbs used:
Mint (any kind)


4 cups white seedless grapes
1 bunch fresh chives (about 2 tablespoons, or 2 chopped-up green onions, top and white parts)
juice of 1/2 lime
2 tablespoons freshly-chopped mint
1 whole jalapeno including seeds

Put in hand-cranked food processor, or chop by hand.

Mix well and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.