Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Save Big Bucks on Books! Shop At Used Bookstores!

Just a portion of our many bookshelves.

It's no secret that I love books!  My house is filled with lots, and lots, and lots of books. All age levels.  All genres.  We read .. a LOT!

 Today I want to introduce you to the concept of buying used books, not only for yourself, but also as gifts.  First, let's get rid of the crazy stigma that giving someone a used item is less than appropriate.  Nonsense!   The information in the book doesn't change and isn't any less useful just because someone else has read it before you!  Used bookstores specialize in books which are very lightly used or nearly new and yet cost  1/2 to 1/4 of the original price!  That's my kind of savings! 

I'm going to use my favorite local bookstore for my example.  If you don't live in my area, then I encourage you to find used bookstores in your area.  A quick Google search will get you going in the right direction.  This post will give you all the right questions to ask the owners about their policies on buying and selling books. 

Book Rack Used Books

Here's my favorite bookstore!  You'll find it at the corner of Lake and Knoxville in Peoria.  It's open Monday through Saturday 10am to 5pm.  It makes my heart happy just to see a photo of it!

Here are my top 6 reasons why you should visit your local used bookstore. 

Reason #1:  You Can Earn FREE Books!

Many used bookstores offer patrons the opportunity to earn free books.  The Book Rack happens to make this really easy!

Free Book Cart!


The first place you want to head is to the FREE book rack out in front of the store.  This cart of Misfit Books isn't a place for second-rate material.  The owner just wants everyone to be able to have books to read, regardless of whether they currently have any extra money.  So, she stocks this cart once a week with new material straight from the store shelves.

 Book Buying Program!

 Every used bookstore across the country has a book-buying program.  That's how they get their inventory!  Although rules vary, nearly always the owners prefer to give you in-store credit vouchers rather than cash.  However, if you prefer cash, some owners will give you cash, but, it will be less than they would give you in in-store credit.  Some stores limit you to using in-store credit for up to half the price of any books which you purchase.  Others, do not.  So, be sure you ask and understand their book buying and selling policies before you shop.

Book Rack Book Bucks Vouchers:

Stacy gives you special Book Buck vouchers, which you can use just like money.  You can trade the vouchers dollar-for-dollar on books you purchase from the store.  So, literally, you can trade your used books in for books from the store and not spend a penny!  The vouchers are also transferable.  So, you can give them as gifts.  You could get the vouchers in $5 increments and use them as Teacher Gifts!  What a great idea for Christmas!! 

Reason #2: Small Business Owners Are Community Leaders!

When you arrive, you'll be greeted by the super friendly owner, Stacy Hardin.  She is very knowledgeable and can help you find something special as a gift or just to enjoy reading.

When Stacy was just 12 years old, she visited The Book Rack and fell in love with reading.  She filled her bedroom closet with all of her favorite books, dreaming of one day owning The Book Rack.  Fast forward over 30 years, and she had the opportunity to do just that!  She changed the name to Book Rack Used Books, creating an atmosphere of "family" that keeps you coming back again and again! 

 Stacy is great because:

 1.  She is dedicated to making Peoria a better place to live!  

2.  She has built and installed Little Free Libraries in some of the lowest per capita income areas in Peoria.

3.  She supplies books for both adults and children at a local restaurant, where people from that neighborhood know that there will always be a table of free books in the back corner.  These books are always supplied by Book Rack at absolutely no cost to the restaurant or the people who stop by to take a book to enjoy reading.

4.  She is a true entrepreneur!  She is constantly brainstorming new ideas for improving the shop and insuring that customers have a really good time shopping there.  If you have ideas for her, she'd love to hear them!  She also owns, Hardin Candles, selling her own line of soy based candles.

5.  She cares for others, as a tutor for area dyslexic students.  

Reason #3:  You'll Find Great Prices!

Most used bookstores strive for selling books for 1/2 to 1/4 of their original price.  Some stores feature $1.00 rack, which is super fun if you have young children.  It's always a treat to be able to tell your kids to pick a book when you stop by, knowing that $1 is within your budget.

At Book Rack, books are generally priced at just $6 or under.

There is a special children's room for readers who are middle-school and younger.

Reason #4: You May Get A FREE Book on your birthday!

You always get a FREE book when you stop by Book Rack Used Books during the week of your birthday.    Age doesn't matter!  Young and old alike receive a free book!  I just love the word "Free", especially when it comes to books!

Reason #5: Special Sales and Promotions

Local used bookstores often have special promotions and sales.  Sometimes they have author fairs, where you can stop by and chat with local authors and buy their books.  They have Black Friday and Small Business Saturday promotions and other Holiday sales.  The best way to keep apprised of these savings opportunities is to find their page on Facebook and "like" it. 

"Like" Book Rack Used Books on Facebook:

  1.  You'll be apprised of all special sales or deals right when they happen! 
  2. Stacy also posts photos of books, which have just come into the store.  If you message her and yell "dibs" first, then she will put that book on a "hold" shelf for you and you'll have 24 hours to stop by the store and purchase it.  
  3. You'll know when Stacy has her periodic "Dollar Days" Sale.  It's just what it sounds like.  All books in the store are just $1 for a specific period of time. 
  4. You'll find out about special contests!  

Reason #6:  Referral Program!

 Once again, many used bookstores have referral programs.  It's the "you scratch my back.  I'll scratch yours" idea.  When you bring them business, they find a nice way to tell you "thank you."

Book Rack Referral Program:

 If you refer friends to Book Rack, when they stop by and spend $5 or more, you will get a FREE $3 book!  You can get business cards from Book Rack Used Books and write your name on the back of each card.  They can present the card to Stacy when they come to shop.  Or your friends can just tell Stacy that you referred them, when they stop by.  You'll still get credit!  There's no limit!  If 10 friends spend $5 each, then you will 10 FREE books priced at $3 or less! So she can track your referral credit, you need to give  Stacy your name so she can put it into the computer.  

Use my name, please!  

Stacy has me in the computer under both my real name and as Under the Median.  So, please, please stop by and peruse the books at this amazing local business.  Do be sure to tell them that Hope from Under the Median sent you!  You'll get books at a great price and at the same time you'll help feed my need for new books to read!  Thanks so much!

Happy Shopping and Happy Reading!

Do you have a local used bookstore?  What has been your experience?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!  

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Monday, October 29, 2018

My Five-Step Plan for STRETCHING Food Dollars

What do you do when you are short on food dollars? 

We have all had it happen! You get to the end of the month to find that your food budget is quickly running out.  I had it happen a few months ago when I wrote this post

 You need to feed your family. You need to stay within budget.  You need help!

Here's my tried and true five step plan for making it to the end of the month with both your sanity and your budget in tact.  

STEP #1: Take Stock of what you already have in the house. 

  Check your freezer.  Check your pantry.  If you need ideas and inspiration on organizing your pantry check out my post entitled, "Your Pantry:  Disorder Costs Money".  Make a physical list of available ingredients.  As you make your list, various possible meal combinations will occur to you.  When this happens, make a notation of these in the margin of the paper.  I like to use a red pen, so that it stands out from the rest of the print on the page. 

STEP #2: Use Grocery Store Flyers to Find Loss Leader Items

Every major grocery store chain has their weekly flyer available on their website.  Focus on the loss-leader items.  These are items which are,  "sold below market cost in order to stimulate sales in other areas of the store."  Let me translate that for you.  Stores are hoping that you will come in, buy their special loss leader items, and then stick around and buy a whole lot of other over-priced items.  Ultimately, they wind up making money, not losing money.  But, don't you do it!  The name of the game is:  go in with a list, stick to the list, buy the lowest priced items, and then get out of the store!    When you make your list of loss-leader items be sure that you focus on real food, not processed food.  Single ingredient, whole foods are more versatile and go a lot further than processed foods.  (For more grocery store tips read my post entitled, "Before you head to the store, do these six things".)

STEP #3:  Look for Markdowns!

Every grocery store has a special areas in which they showcase markdowns. You'll find them in the dairy, meat, bakery, produce, and general merchandise areas.  So, you'll need to check your store carefully to find all these little corners or baskets of marked down goodness. If you can't find them, ask an employee to show you where they are at!    It is critical that call your store and ask what time of day they do their markdowns!  This is important, because it will be different for every store - even if you have more than one of the same franchise in your town.  We have several Kroger stores.  They all do their markdowns at different times of the day.  Don't be afraid to buy markdowns!  They aren't bad.  Sometimes they are discontinued.  Sometimes they are close to the expiration dates.  Sometimes they are end-of-the-season items.  Regardless, they mean fantastic savings for you!   I generally head to the markdown sections first.  Then, I double back and do the rest of my shopping.  Here's a link to a tutorial I wrote on how to shop at Kroger

STEP #4:  Brainstorm low-cost ingredients

This is actually kind of fun to do, even if your monthly grocery budget isn't currently on life-support. I have an ongoing list of basic items, which can be used in a variety of recipes. In general, there are no prepared foods on this list.  You won't find chips.  But, you will see baking potatoes on the list.  Why?  Because your kids can inhale that bag of chips in about 5 minutes.  But, a big bag of potatoes will cost you roughly the same amount,  you can stretch those spuds and include them in at least four different recipes throughout the week.  These low-cost items can save you big time, if you are trying to get to the end of the month and only have a few dollars for groceries.   Let me give you examples.  

Here's my list of $21 worth of low-cost budget stretching ingredients, along with the average price, which I would expect to pay for each item. 

8# of potatoes - $4.00
5# of dried beans - $6.00
1# pasta - $1.50
1# brown rice - $1.50
5# flour - $2.50  (about double that price for whole wheat flour)
20 corn tortillas - $2.00
10 flour tortillas - $1.00 
32 oz. rolled oats - $2.50

STEP #5:  Make a Menu Plan

Okay, you've made a list of items you have on-hand.  You've searched for the loss-leader items currently available at local grocery stores.  You've scoured the racks of markdowns. You've brainstormed low cost ingredients, which you can use in a variety of ways.  As you compare the three lists, you should be able to put together a menu plan in about 10 minutes.  Seriously!  If you need additional inspiration, you can Google a few of the ingredients on your list, with "recipe" after the words.  You'll find a huge variety of recipes, all using the ingredients you have on hand, can get on sale, or can purchase at a bargain price.  

Here's My Example!

Here's an example of a weekly menu plan, based on my list of low-cost ingredients from Step #3:


Pancakes (2 days) - Easy to make and they freeze well! 
Oatmeal (2 days) 
Homemade muffins and fruit (1 day) 
Soaked Oat Muesli (1 day)


Black bean chili soup (2 days)
Loaded Baked Potato soup (2 days)
Homemade Muffins
Homemade dinner rolls (easy and fast to make from scratch!) 
Pasta with homemade marinara (1 day)
Refried black beans top with cheese or salsa (1 day) 


Hot baked potato bar
Homemade biscuits topped with white gravy
Smoky black bean filling (spread on corn tortillas and top with cheese, salsa, or veggies)
Stir-fried rice (use bits of leftover veggies, egg, etc.)
Roll-ups - made with leftover stir fry rolled up in flour tortillas
Layered tortilla casserole   

While, clearly, you would need to add additional veggies, fruit, and maybe a little dessert, I wanted to show you how far about $20 worth of basic ingredients will go to stretch those food dollars. 

What did I miss?

What are your "go to" items when money is tight and you need to make it to the end of the month?
I'd love to hear from you!  Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

This Week's CSA Box: Sweet and Savory Autumn pies!

We just have one more week of my CSA subsbcription and then the long winter ensues.  This always makes me so sad!  But, today we have a big batch of local goodness to explore together!  As soon as I opened this week's box, I immediately thought that this is the perfect week for some old-fashioned comfort food:  PIES! Sweet, savory, egg-based, formal, informal.   I'll give you ideas for all shapes and sizes of pies and links for a whole week's menu, based on the items I got in this week's CSA box!

Let's get started!!

Here's what we got:

Baking potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Mixed leaf lettuces
Yellow onion
Yellow pepper
Hot peppers
Green onions

What to do with it:

Potato Turnip Spinach Baeckeoffe:  I am always fascinated by the interesting facts that I learn while researching recipes for this weekly column.  Today I found out that the Germanic word "baeckeoffe" is translated "baker's oven", because this dish was often prepared at home and then delivered to the local baker to cook in his oven.  Regardless of the origin, this recipe looks amazing!!  It uses turnips, baking potatoes, onion, and spinach.  Substitute the tatsoi from the box.

Sweet Potato Quiche:   Quiche is always a great choice for Sunday brunch!  Even my grown up sons like a good quiche.  This recipe uses sweet potatoes from this week's box.  Quiche is easy peasy to make.  Pair it with a nice green salad and fruit for dessert.

Roasted Delicata Squash Galette:  Delicata squash is my newest veggie love!  I had never tasted it until this year and it has risen in the ranks quickly to a top spot for our family!  This week's recipe is a gallete.  Once considered French peasant food, due to their informal appearance and use of locally available ingredients, galettes are like a free-formed tart.
Use a store-bought pie crust to save on time.  (I do.  But, don't tell my family that!  LOL!) 

 Rustic Radish Tart:  Here's another recipe in which you can use store-bought crust to save time if you want.  If you want to make your crust from scratch, no worries.  The recipe for the crust is on the website.  This selection uses radishes, onion, and apple from this week's box.

Winter Vegetable Pot Pie Recipe:  :Showcasing a variety of winter vegetables, this recipe from GoodHousekeeping is topped with biscuits, instead of an actual pie crust.  It looks incredibly yummy!  You could use any number of vegetables from this week's box for the filling.

Spring Onion Fritatta:  I was taught to make these years ago by someone who was raised in Rome, Italy. A French specialty, fritattas are both easy to make and use up all of your "odds and ends" of leftover vegetables at the end of the week.  They were the quintessential expression of "waste not, want not".  This recipe calls for asparagus, which clearly we don't have at this time of the year.  I'm going to sub some tatsoi for color and extra flavor.

Veggie Pot Pie:  Looking for something totally traditional?  This is for you!  Allrecipes always hits the mark when you are looking for recipes for comfort food that your grandmother made.  The recipe for the crust is included in the recipe, but, if you want to cheat, buy a pre-made crust.  We promise not to tell your Grandma!  😀

Apple Pie by Grandma Ople:  Apparently Grandma Ople won numerous prizes at county fairs with her rendition of apple pie.  I will say that I thought it looked delicious!  There's even an accompanying video on the website.  Give it a try and see what you think.  Click here for a link. 

Gotta finish with salad to go along with all those sweet and savory pies!

Tatsoi and Mustard Green Salad with Ginger Honey Vinaigrette:  You can sub the kale for the mustard greens if you'd like.  

Apple Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette:  This is a re-run from last week.  But, I took it to Wednesday night Bible study and it was a HUGE hit!  I was asked to recreate it for a cookout tonight.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

This Week's CSA Box: The Biggest and Best!

So Big That I Couldn't Get It All In One Photo! 

14 Items!

Just TWO more CSA weeks left!  😞

What Did We Get?

Baking Potatoes - 7 medium
Sweet Potatoes - 4 medium
Yellow Onion - 1 large
Hot peppers - 2 medium
Bok Choy - 1 medium
Purple topped turnips - 6
Radishes - 1 large bunch
Carrots - 1 large bunch with the green tops attached!
Mixed color peppers - a dozen
Kale - 1 bag
Tatsoi - 1 bag
Apples - several varieties - a dozen
Mixed Leaf Lettuce - 1 bag
Delicata squash - 1 small

What To Do With It:

 Vegetable stew!  My first inclination was to make soup and it was a great choice!  Here's the recipe from Forks Over Knives.  I really like this website and use it for a lot of recipe ideas.  I added a little liquid smoke and a couple of bay leaves to mine.  It uses baking potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, onion, and carrots from the CSA box.

Panera Copycat Quinoa Broth Bowl:  We went to Panera Bread on Sunday while visiting my Sister-in-Law.  I was delighted to find that they offered a vegan lentil quinoa bowl.  It was filled with large pieces of kale in a delicious vegan broth.  At just 270 calories it was a great big bowl of WOW!  Here's a copycat version from The Balanced Berry. It uses the kale from this week's CSA box. 

Roasted Delicata Squash:  Easy Peasy and absolutely delicious!  Cut, take out the seeds, slice, put it on a pan, brush it with olive oil, and roast.  That's it!  Let Rachael Cooks show you how it's done.

Roasted winter Vegetables:  When I roast vegetables, I usually do two full pans of them at one time.  I often serve a simple supper of roasted vegetables, homemade muffins, and fruit for dessert in the winter.  If you'd like instructions on how to do a whole lot of them at once, this recipe from Food Network has easy-to-follow instructions and a video to watch.  Enjoy!

Kale and Sweet Potato Salad with Dried Cranberries: Another Forks over Knives creation, this salad is the perfect combination of sweet and tart flavors!  I  doubled the dressing recipe and added about a Tbsp of real maple syrup.  It was the perfect amount for a big bowl of kale.  The whole family loved it!

Festive Vegetable Pot Pie:  This recipe just screams "comfort food!"  A combination of warm and savory herbs and spices compliment the mixed vegetable filling inside the gluten-free crust made from mashed potatoes and almond flour.

Apple Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette:  Nothing better than the combination of apples and mixed lettuce greens!  This has a serious YUM factor!  Use the salad greens and apples from the box.  However, any of the other greens from the box would be a perfectly acceptable substitute.  Here's a link for the recipe. 

      Easy!  Fresh!  Delicious!  

This recipe for 10 minute Lemon Garlic Sauteed Bok Choy is a sure winner as a side dish or I would even consider throwing it over some quinoa or brown rice as more of main dish.  

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Last Week's Grocery Wrap Up and Our Weekly Menu

I just have one more week for my $75 a week October grocery challenge.  So far, so good!  I shared in this post how I spent $20 at three stores, leaving me with just over $55 for the rest of the week.  I finished the week a quick trip to another four stores.

2 Stores: Chicken and Milk

The meat-eaters voted to get the $.88 a pound chicken breasts at HyVee and spent $4.50.  

We also bought a gallon of milk at Aldi for $.98.  

Big Lots

 We then headed to Big Lots with my $5 off $15 coupon.  You earn one of these coupons by using your Big Rewards Card for three purchases.  Then, Big Lots sends you an e-mail shout out that you have earned a special coupon.  You must download the coupon and take it to the store. 

My Big Lots $5/$15 Strategy:

In order to maximize the discount percentage, I use a calculator and try to get my pre-tax total at exactly $15 or as close to $15 as I can get it.  This means I am saving 33% on each item that I buy! Your total will need to be at least $15 before tax is added.    

I decided to stock up mainly on personal care items. 

 15 rolls of toilet paper
1 bottle of Suave Shampoo
2 small bottles of chili powder.

Big Lots has a nice array of spices!  This chili powder is incredibly low in sodium - just 10 mg per 1/4 tsp. serving.  That's lower than any of the other brands that I have found! It's tasty, too! 

What I paid:

My Pre-tax total:  $15.50.  
After the $5 off coupon:  I paid just $11.33!


 What I got:  

The remainder of this week's grocery money went to a few basic items that we had run out of.  

Real maple syrup

What I spent:  $25.63

What I spent altogether this week:  

$62.07!  I had $12.93 leftover from my allotted $75 budget!  

So, what did we eat?

 Here are photos and a run down of our weekly menu:


cream of wheat - 3X
steel cut oats  with berries, raisins, and nuts- 3X
Leftovers - 1X


Lentil Soup
Split Pea Soup - 2X
Black bean soup - 2X
Lentil soup - 1X
Salad and sandwich - 1X

Split Pea Soup

Black Bean Soup


 That huge bag of pea pods that I got on markdown last week at Kroger, made an appearance in several supper dishes this week:  pea pod gravy, for baked potatoes sauteed pea pods with lemon, stir fry over quinoa, and son #3 begged me for a big handful just to eat raw because he loves them! 

Roll ups, quinoa salad, roasted squash, and fruit salad.  The meat-eaters filled their tortilla with roasted chicken and cheese.  The rest of us filled ours with some of the hummus that I got on clearance earlier in the week at Kroger and some sauteed pea pods with garlic, onion, red pepper, and lemon.  Yum!

      Stir fry vegetables with quinoa    

Baked potato with creamy pea pod gravy.  It looks like cheese sauce, doesn't it?  But, it contains no dairy at all! 

Spaghetti squash fritters, breaded-baked zucchini rounds, sauteed pea pods with onion, garlic, red pepper, and lemon.
Here's a link to my spaghetti squash fritter recipe.   

Creamy Spaghetti squash casserole and sweet potato.  Click here for the casserole recipe

Stay tuned!

We'll finish up the last few days of October and see if I am able to stay within my $300 total for the month.  

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Cheap Eats: Creamy Spaghetti Squash Casserole

This casserole was created out of a sense of complete and utter panic. I had just walked in the door from picking up Son #3 from work to find that Son #2 was leaving for work in just over 30 minutes and I had nothing for him to take for his supper.  Quickly doing a mental rundown of items I had on hand, I remembered that there was a container of cooked spaghetti squash in the fridge.  I really didn't want to add a marinara to it.  I wanted something quick, creamy, and different.  At that moment, my recipe for Creamy Spaghetti Squash Casserole was born!


3-4 cups of roasted spaghetti squash flesh (this is about 1 medium squash)
1/2 of a large white onion - diced
2 cloves of garlic - minced
1 Tbsp of salt-free seasoning - your choice
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 cup all purpose flour (gluten free is fine, too)
1 Tbsp of Low Sodium Soy Sauce (Or Bragg's Aminos)
a shake or two (or 3 or 4) of hot sauce (depending on how hot you like it)  
3 cups mixed diced vegetables
1 1/2 - 2 cups of milk (soy or almond milk are fine, too).

 Optional toppings:  shredded cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, dried chives. 


Heat 2 - 3 Tbsp of water in a pan and add diced onion and garlic.  You do not need to add oil to the pan. Add more water as needed to keep the vegetables from burning.  Cook until the onion and garlic are lightly browned and softened.

Add the spices, flour, soy sauce, and enough water to form a roux.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned.

Stir in milk and hot sauce

and mixed vegetables.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook until the mixture is thickened. 

Pour in cooked spaghetti squash and stir until it is fully incorporated with the hot, creamy, vegetable mixture.

Optional toppings:  Dried chives, nutritional yeast, or shredded cheddar or parmesan cheese.

Enjoy! For a FREE downloadable version of this recipe click here

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Putting Food By for Winter: Herbs

If you are ripping herbs out of the ground before it freezes too hard to get them out, then know that I am right there with you!  I had a HUGE sack of mint in my kitchen courtesy of my friend, Tracey.  So, tonight I processed a whole lot of mint! 

Welcome to the third, and final, installment of my "putting food by for winter" series.  In case you missed the first post on freezing click here.  For the second installment, which was centered on blanching, click here. Now for the third, and final, part of our series:

Putting food by for Winter:


There are two main ways that I preserve herbs for winter.  Freezing and dehydrating.

Both freezing and dehydrating begin the same way!

Step 1:  Wash, stem, and cut the herbs down to size


Step 2:  Wash the herbs thoroughly.

 The easiest way to do this is to place the herbs in the basket of a salad spinner. 



Fluff.  Voila!  Herbs all ready to preserve!

Method #1:  Freezing

Many years ago I decided that freezing herbs in an ice cube was a great way to preserve them.  You don't have to worry about the herbs clumping together in a freezer bag.  Plus, it's super simple to pick an ice cube out of a freezer bag and use it in either a tea or a recipe.

Have your friends save yogurt containers for you!  I keep a couple dozen empty containers on hand at all times and I use them constantly, for homemade marinara sauce, pesto, individual servings of hummus, and more! 

Place herbs in small yogurt cups and add water to fill.

Place in freezer until completely hardened.  Then place in freezer bags.  Be sure to label the bags. 
Depending on the herb, I use one of these "cubes" for a big pot of soup. We drink herbal tea all winter long to aid our immune system. Heat a small pan of water to boiling on the stove.  Add the herbal ice cube. You may need to add a little more heat if the cube cools the water too much.  But, really I haven't had trouble with this.   Steep for 15 - 20 minutes for herbal tea.  

 Method #2:  Dehydrating in the microwave

  Step 1:  Dry the herbs after washing them.

  Get your herbs as dry as possible.  Then put in a single layer on a paper towel.

Step 2:  Place in microwave on the paper towel.  

 Step 3:  Cook for 2 minutes on medium heat level.

You cannot dry herbs on high power.  Do a manual cook time and use a power level of 5 or 6.  Delicate herbs like mint need a cooking power of 5.  Heartier herbs can take a level of 6.  If your microwave only has general power settings, use medium or medium/high.  Experiment a little bit.  You'll know if the level is too high.  The herbs will begin to brown.  You don't want to cook them.  You just want to remove the water content.  Cook for two minutes.  Then rearrange the leaves to expose more of the surface area to the heat of the microwave.  

Step 4:  Cook in 1 minute increments until dry.  

After the initial 2 minutes, re-set the manual timer to 1 minute on power level 5.  Keep checking them after every additional minute of cooking time.  When they are done, they will feel very dry.  They may be a little warm.  

Step 5:  Cool and place in glass jar

Let them cool completely before moving them to long-term storage in a glass jar.  CAUTION:  Be very sure that they are completely dried out before you put them in a jar.  If there is too much moisture remaining in the plants, they will mold and all your hard work will be lost.  I have never, personally had herbs mold that I have dried in the microwave.  But, you must be very careful.  If you are uncertain, you can place them on a clean dry towel in an out-of-the-way place for a day or two, tossing them periodically, to be sure that they are completely free of moisture before you put them in glass jars. 

Enjoy the last few days of warmth.  Winter is around the corner!  

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