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 Fun, Flavorful Ways to Use Fresh Herbs


There is something incredibly satisfying about cooking with herbs you’ve grown yourself—an indoor herb garden not only looks and smells wonderful, it’s also a fun, easy way to let your girl learn about gardening and plant life. Whether a simple collection of pots on a sunny windowsill, or a whimsical potted pizza garden, here are a few ways you and your girl can use what you’ve grown.                            

Fine-Tune Flavors

Herbs are great for enhancing the flavors of most any dish, and they can add wonderful colors, textures, and aromas, too. How you use them all depends on what other ingredients are in your recipe: if a dish is very mild, a little herb may go a long way. If the other ingredients have strong flavors, you may need more. Experiment with different combinations to see what looks, tastes, and smells best to you.

Fresh herbs are delicious, but they don’t last long once they’re picked. Take only what you need from your garden as you need it—or try your hand at drying some of your herbs to use later! Just remember: dried herbs are usually more intense than fresh, so if a recipe calls for fresh or dried, and you plan to use the other, be sure to adjust the amount.

Using dried instead of fresh? Add about 1/3 of what the recipe says.
Using fresh instead of dried? Add about 3 times more.

Something to Try: Pizza Night

pizza party

Take this pizza recipe from American Girl magazine to a whole new level by making your own, from-scratch, pizza sauce! Add a fresh salad with dressing made from the herbs you’ve grown for a super special meal.

Homemade Pizza Sauce


Makes 1 pizza pie


  • 1½ lbs of tomatoes, cored and diced
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2-3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • basil— ¾ teaspoon fresh or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • oregano— 1½ teaspoons fresh or ½ teaspoon dried


In a medium saucepan, cook the garlic and onions in the oil over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions look translucent. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the tomatoes, basil, and oregano. Use a potato masher to break the tomatoes into smaller pieces.

Return the saucepan to the stove, turn the heat to high, and cook the sauce until it’s bubbling around the edges. Then reduce the heat to low. Partially cover the pot with a lid, and let the sauce simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Stir the sauce periodically to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

Herb Vinaigrette

Makes 1 pizza pie


  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red- or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ⅛ teaspoon (pinch) salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs, such as thyme, parsley, or basil


Put all the ingredients into a bowl with high sides and whisk well—or put them into a jar, tighten the lid, and shake well. Just before serving, whisk or shake the dressing again, and pour it onto the salad a little at a time. Toss the salad after each addition of dressing. Stop adding dressing when the greens are just lightly, but uniformly, coated.

Adapted from A Smart Girl’s Guide: Cooking © 2016, You’re the Chef: A Cookbook Companion for A Smart Girl’s Guide: Cooking 
© 2016, and American Girl magazine © 2017.

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