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Chef's Hat: To add a new dimension to your dishes – try a sprig of mint

Mint's refreshing, clean taste and cooling effect make it a unique herb with a distinguishing taste. This herb is a great addition to anything from drinks to main dishes to desserts.

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Photo illustration / Shutterstock.com
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Mint has a distinctive flavor - a bit sweet and a bit on the savory side.

Many people think the only purpose of mint is as a garnish or as the flavoring for gum or candy.

However, mint is much more than just a flavoring or garnish. Its refreshing, clean taste and cooling effect make it a unique herb with a distinguishing taste. This herb is a great addition to anything from drinks to main dishes to desserts.

There are many types of mint, including spearmint, apple mint, chocolate mint, peppermint, mojito mint and pineapple mint.

Spearmint and peppermint are the most common types used in recipes. Spearmint and peppermint can be interchangeable in recipes, but spearmint does tend to be sweeter. So if replacing spearmint for peppermint, it is usually necessary to cut back on the amount called for in the recipe.

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How do you use mint? It can be used instead of parsley in most recipes. It can be sprinkled on top of vegetables or eggs. Mint can be added to iced tea and lemonade. And a bit of chopped mint adds a touch of sweet, savory flavor to ice cream.

When just starting out with using mint in recipes or on top of vegetables, it is best to start by adding a small amount of chopped mint to dishes. Fresh mint can quickly become overpowering. The last thing you want is to only taste the mint and not the other flavors of the dish.

You can use dried mint in most recipes. But dried mint won’t have quite the zip or the bright color of fresh mint. So if possible, it’s always best to use freshly picked mint.

Mint is easy to grow in pots and can actually be grown in a small pot in a sunny window over winter. So there is no reason not to have fresh mint on hand year-round.

Not ready to jump right into a world of mint? Mint pairs well with most vegetables. Add a bit of chopped fresh mint to fresh green beans or sprinkle some mint onto a buttered ear of sweet corn. Gradually add a bit of mint to salads and chicken dishes.

Mint will soon become your go-to herb.

Are your meals getting boring? Mint is brightly colored, very aromatic and will add a bit of pizzazz to pretty much any type of dish. It’s time to elevate this herb from just being a garnish to a vital part of your favorite meals.

There’s no end to the amazing world of mint. Enjoy it from breakfast to your late night snack.

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Happy Eating.

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Tossed Salad with Blueberries, Mint & Toasted Pecans

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This salad looks inviting, but add in the blueberries and get their delicious flavor and healthful anti-oxidants.
Photo illustration / Shutterstock.com

  • 2 cups assorted mixed greens, spinach, romaine, iceberg, etc. (or use a bagged salad mix)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ½ cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup sliced strawberries
  • ¼ to ½ cup chunks of Swiss cheese
  • ½ cup toasted pecans

Dressing

  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

For the pecans

  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon or cayenne pepper, if desired

To make the toasted pecans, place a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper on a cookie sheet.

In a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, place the brown sugar and water and mix until rapidly bubbling. Add the vanilla and stir well. Turn down the heat to medium.

Add the pecans and thoroughly stir so all of the pecans get coated with the mixture. Cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes. The mixture will become fragrant. Do not overcook or the sugar will burn.

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If desired, add cinnamon or cayenne pepper.

Remove from heat. Spread the pecans in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Use a fork to separate the pecans if they are stuck together. Let cool for at least an hour. Store in an airtight container or baggie.

For the dressing, in a small bowl, add the maple syrup, vinegar and mustard. Mix well. Add the sugar and mix again.

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and mix. If it is too thick, add more olive oil, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the salad, in a medium sized salad bowl, add the salad greens and mint. Toss to mix the mint into the greens. Add the cucumber, blueberries, strawberries and cheese and lightly toss. Spoon onto individual serving plates. Top with dressing and pecans. Serve immediately.

Fresh Fruit Salad with Mint

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Chopped mint adds a new taste to Fresh Fruit Salad with Mint.
Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

  • 1 cup cut up melon, cantaloupe or honeydew
  • ½ cup strawberries, cut into quarters
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Note: Other fruits can be substituted – apples, grapes, watermelon, peaches or whatever you have on hand.

In a measuring cup, mix together the honey and lemon juice. Make sure it is mixed well.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the fruit. Add the mint and gently toss. Pour the dressing over the fruit and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Donna Evans is an Echo Journal correspondent.

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