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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

rice or almond milk

There are a ton of recipes out there for making rice milk at home. Basically, they all come down to the same thing: cooked rice, and water. Add vanilla or whatever else you like, but blended rice and water is basically all that goes into rice milk. Here's what I did. Give it a try!

3 c water
1 c cooked rice -- basmati or brown work best for me

For almond milk, soak 1/2 c raw almonds overnight in 3 c water, and then follow the same blending instructions as for rice. 

Put into a drinks blender. Blend on high for two or three minutes. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla if you wish. I didn't bother adding any sweetener.

Now, pour and strain the rice milk. You can leave it unstrained, but I found that it was a bit sludgy at the bottom and I figured I wouldn't likely use that part anyway. So I used a little tea strainer to strain out, and squeeze and discard the extra mush.

If you do this process with almonds, to make almond milk, use 3 c water and soak 1/2 c raw almonds in it overnight before blending, and then keep the almond sludge to use in something yummy, like banana nut muffins or an Indian chicken korma. You can use other nuts, too, such as cashews, hazelnuts, or pecans, but I don't recommend just any type of nut. Peanuts and Brazil nuts I can't see working too well due to their higher oil content, for example.

And there you have it. Rice milk. As you can see, the end results yield not much more than the 3 cups of liquid you began with. Use your rice milk as a dairy replacement, or for Thai iced tea. It works just fine in breakfast muffins. I'm sure you can come up with more ways to use it!

**P.S. My son is now older than when I first made this post, and although he is over a year old he is still nursing a lot, and we are not comfortable with his consuming much dairy until he is two. We recently introduced "Daddy milk" -- warm vanilla rice milk -- as a way of giving him fluids and comfort snuggle time while gently cutting out an afternoon nursing session. It has worked really well! Boy loves his rice milk, and with a tiny bit of stevia added for sweetening it doesn't taste so different as cow or goat milk do from human milk. I hope that doesn't put any of you adults off trying rice milk for yourself! I simply mean that this rice milk doesn't have the same strong gamey flavor that even processed cow milk has in comparison to the very mild sweetness of mama milk. Plus, animal substitutes are often chock full of hormones and toxins (milk is where cows dump toxin waste from their bodies) that are very harmful to both developing and mature humans alike. At any rate, at least for the cheap cost of making your own rice milk, I suggest that it is worth a try! You and your kids may just love it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

pumpkin puree

Here's another way of avoiding buying costly cans that are also wasteful on energy resources. Most people love pumpkin pie. I love pretty much pumpkin anything -- that is, anything except coffee. Starbucks has a weird and deformed thing going on with that pumpkin spice chai latte, if you ask me. I do have a gorgeous recipe for pumpkin pound cake that is moist and delectable as can be, and I plan to try out pumpkin muffins soon, so watch for an upcoming post. Buy why buy cans of pumpkin puree when you can make the stuff at home for less than 1/3rd of the cost? Cheaper on your wallet, not to mention it tastes about 5 times as good when it is from scratch. And it really is easy, I promise. I started doing this as a university student in England, where every penny counted a lot, canned pumpkin for pies (or anything else) was just about unheard of, and I had an American friend who was feeling desperately homesick and couldn't return home for Thanksgiving. I found myself making things up as I went along that first time, but it worked! And it was delicious.

First, buy a pumpkin. I am not overly picky about where I get mine. This year, I bought two pumpkins each about the size of a basketball through my Bountiful Basket order at the beginning of October. Make sure the outside is intact and there are no questionable parts on the gourd, but other than that any old pumpkin should do.

Next, cut it in half. Use some elbow grease and a big, sharp knife. (Please, please, use sharp knives. Either get your man to keep them sharp for you, as mine so sweetly does, or take the time once a week to check through your knives and sharpen any dull ones. Believe me, a sharp knife is safer than a dull knife, not to mention less irritating.)

Cleaning the inside of the pumpkin doesn't take much. Get rid of the seeds and as much of the loose fibers as you can using a large spoon. Don't worry about scraping it hard, though. It all cooks up and will puree down quite easily.

Place the pumpkin halves cut side down onto non-stick baking sheets, and then into the oven at 400F. Roast for approximately one hour, or until the skin is partially blackened.

Remove trays. Let cool. Peel the skin and discard, leaving behind soft cooked pumpkin flesh.
At this point, I usually cut the pumpkin into large chunks and toss them directly into ziplock bags for freezing. If you would like to continue the puree process, go for it!

Use a food processor, or an immersion wand blender, or just some muscle and a potato masher or butter cutter to mash and break down the pumpkin into mush. You can leave it chunky or make it perfectly smooth. Add spices to taste. I suggest 1 Tb cinnamon, 2 tsp allspice and 1 tsp nutmeg per 3 cups of plain puree. At this point, if you want to bake pies, add your sugar or honey, evaporated milk and eggs to the spiced pumpkin puree and bake. One deep dish pie requires roughly 3 cups of puree. Or, ladle puree into labelled containers in portion sizes for freezing.

See how simple that was? As you can see in my photo, you can do the same for butternut squash, or many other types of squash, as you can for pumpkin. Butternut makes a delicious alternative to pumpkin in the same types of recipes, too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

chocolate cherry chunk cookies

Generally, my posts are related to saving money, cutting corners, healthier options... Not this one! Oh, my goodness, you must try these cookies. My mum sent me the recipe from who-knows-where a few years ago and I never made them until recently. She was absolutely right. Delicious!

I must confess that I tweaked the recipe oh so slightly. As I type, I can hear my husband's voice echo in my head saying, "surprise, surprise..." He teases that I just can't stick to a recipe as given. It's a long story that goes back to the first time I baked him brownies, and I added "bark" (nutmeg) without warning him before he took a bite. Ha! That was quite a shock to his system, poor love! Anyway, I did change a few things. Firstly, my honey isn't overly thrilled with white chocolate. I think he would actually have preferred I left it out altogether, but instead I reduced the white chocolate to 6 oz and added 4 oz of dark chocolate chunks, to make 10 oz of chocolate instead of 16 oz at the end of the recipe. I also replaced dried cherries with dried cranberries, for a little extra tartness.

Chocolate Cherry Chunk Cookies

Melt together 1/2 c butter and 4 oz dark chocolate.
Put it in a large bowl.
Beat in 1 1/2 c sugar, 2 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla.

Blend dry ingredients separately.
1 1/2 c flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt.
Add the dry to the wet, to form a stiff, fudge-like dough.

Stir in 16 oz white chocolate chunks and 1 c dried cherries.
(Please note chunks, not chips! Use baking chocolate squares and chop them roughly into large chunks with a knife. Chips are too small for this cookie.)

Bake in cookie size, 1 Tb dropped onto a sheet, for 10 minutes at 350F until they are glossy and cracked. They will not be fully set at the end of this time, but don't bake further. Instead, allow cookies to cool on the baking sheets until they are stable enough to transfer to a rack. (Any remaining dough can be left on the counter. The fridge will set it up too hard, so don't bother chilling the dough while you wait.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

why tinctures?

"Tinctures are concentrated liquid extracts made with fresh or dried herbs. Herbal material is macerated (soaked) in a natural solvent called a menstruum. The menstruum -- usually a mixture of distilled spirits and water -- dissolves and carries the active constituents out of the fibrous plant material...

"The key advantages to tinctures are that they are concentrated and convenient to use, easy to mix into combinations, dosages are easier to control, and they have an excellent shelf life. They may be taken internally, applied directly to the skin, or used in external applications like fomentations."

(excerpt taken from book, Practical Herbalism, by Philip Fritchey, Whitman Productions 2004)

Tinctures are most commonly made with alcohol as a preservative. At the time of writing this, I have a red raspberry leaf, nettles, and peppermint tincture in vodka sitting in my kitchen cupboard, half-made. Vodka is cheap and tastes mild, which is why I prefer it. Other alcohols may be just as easily used. Rum, wine, brandy. Remember that Christ Jesus on the cross was offered bitter herbs in wine and initially refused them? Herbal infused wine was a common medicine at the time, and he was very likely being offered pain relief, sedative, dulled awareness, even perhaps something to help him die faster, which may not have been desirable to him while he was bearing the full weight of our sins. I can also think of many historical stories in books I read as a child of Medieval castles under siege, wounded knights biting down on herbal-wine-soaked rags whilst having their shining armor removed to reveal ugly battle wounds, or stories of Viking warriors pulling out a flask of herbs and wine to give to their dying, skull-cracked friends or pouring it over their own wounds, or of Irish witches lacing herbs into cups of grogg, which is spiced or "mulled" wine, in order to gain control over the tribal kings... Herbs have long been preserved in alcohol for potent use and convenient shelf life. Herbology was for the longest portion of history the only form of medicine known or applied. It is only in the last century that we have the become enraptured with synthetic medicines and have forgotten the vast store of cures present in natural sources.

Some people dislike tinctures because of the alcohol base. Let me point out that there are reasons for using alcohol, and also ways around it if alcohol is still undesirable in the circumstances. Pregnant or nursing women, for example, typically don't want to regularly consume a tincture containing alcohol. They could add their tincture to a hot drink, instead, and allow the alcohol to evaporate off with the steam for a few minutes before drinking. That's a pretty easy fix. The residual taste of vodka in the drink is hardly noticeable. Or, they could make their tincture using 5% or more acidity apple cider vinegar. The acidity is important for shelf stability of the final product. I recently came across a brilliant solution for giving children an immuno-stimulant tincture, of echinacea preserved in honey. The honey is not then useful in dropper form, as most tinctures would be measured, but a teaspoonful of herbal infused honey directly in the mouth is really not that bad! Honey would be a solution better for hard herbs than for soft, and only for consumable tinctures rather than ones that are made for external application. Vegetable glycerine may also be used as a shelf-stable, preserving tincture base, and is the most commonly used in children's tincture products. Like honey, it often goes down easily due to the sweet taste, but is still easily measured by standard droppers.  

So as you see, there are alternatives. However, alcohol does retain one particular benefit that honey or vinegars cannot offer. Alcohol is very quickly assimilated into the blood stream and taken into the liver, whereas water or vinegar tend to "roll off" the liver. In general, this fast absorption means that stomach acid is a lesser hazard to consumable alcoholic tinctures, and herbal qualities desired by the user are more rapidly taken to the point of complaint or need in the body. We tend to abuse our livers. We feed them full of toxins, as they cleanse our blood and bodies from waste we cannot otherwise rid ourselves of very quickly. This isn't just the big stuff, the alcoholism, smoke abuse, or the person who requires a lot of different medications for controlling severe health problems, but the small stuff that we use daily or frequently without thinking. Non-organic produce with insecticide residues, the metals contained in your antiperspirant deodorant, the paracetemol you keep on hand for all the little headaches, the ibuprofen you use every month during period pains. Some herbs are especially beneficial for ridding the body of the damages these goods leave in their wake, and cleansing the liver from clogging toxins often helps the rest of the body to work more efficiently as the blood is cleaner and happier.

Here is a wonderful video, made by the delightfully cheerful Shoshanna of Bulk Herb Store, that provides not only instruction for general tincture making but also information about a liver cleansing tincture.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

immune boost and germ protection

Okay, I know you already are looking at these lists below and wondering why I don't simplify things a bit further. Why blog long lists of herbs? I wanted first to provide you with a source of reference to understand the reasons I have suggested the use of certain herbs together in the recipes at the end of this blog.

It is October, and once again the cold and flu season is upon us. For the last month or two, I have been having various conversations that touch again and again on this topic. How do we keep ourselves, and our families, well? How can we recover faster and better from these common viruses? Well, start by actually having a look at these lists. Antibiotics and antiseptics help fight germs, in the body and out. Anticatarrals help rid the body of mucus, so when you get a snotty, disgusting sinus infection you probably should consider some of the herbs and foods from this list. Antispasmodics? Well, when you're coughing like mad, it hurts, and you will want something to help suppress those coughing spasms. And lastly, flu usually brings fevering along with its other joys, so refrigerants are greatly beneficial in that respect. All five of these lists are taken from the book, Practical Herbalism, by Philip Fritchey. He includes even more than these herbs in each list. I have included these herbs because they are either quite commonly known and available, or they are especially beneficial as ingredients in my recipes below. Herbs in italics are found in more than one list and are especially worth noting.

Antibiotics (Anti-bacterial)
Black Walnut
Colloidal Silver
Honey (raw)

Anticatarrhals (decrease mucus in respiratory and digestive systems)
Black Walnut
Capsicum (chili pepper)
Fennel seeds
Flax seeds
Milk Thistle
Vinegar and honey

Black Walnut (hull and leaves)

Anise seed (infants)
Capsicum (chili pepper)
Lemon Balm
Passion Flower
Red Clover
Red Raspberry

Refrigerants (to cool the body's temperature and reduce thirst)
Lemon Balm
Lemons, limes, oranges

Are you starting to see the common threads? Notice that of the herbs listed here, garlic is the most useful, being indicated to use for all our purposes except as a refrigerant. Let's start with garlic, then.

Garlic: anti-microbial, antibiotic, anti-fungal, immuno-stimulant (boosts the immune system), anti-oxidant, anti-spasmodic, expectorant (removes mucus from throat and lungs), to name a few. Garlic is even valuable as an aid to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels for diabetics.

Shortly before my 15th birthday, my family upped and moved to Northern India, up in the Himalayas. One of the most common problems where we lived was, mercifully, not mosquitos and malaria traveling with them, but something we called "Delhi Belly". Nasty bouts of giardia, caused by drinking impure water, producing major disruption in the gut, diarrhea, vomiting. You could live uneasily with a mild case of Delhi Belly for days or weeks, if you were lucky enough that it did not increase and take over, but the simplest way to handle it was usually a quick trip to the school nurse and a course of some kind of medication. Our protection against this ugly bum-chafing illness was garlic. Raw garlic. Most Indian food typically has garlic in it, so we were already getting some garlic in our daily diets. But this was a step beyond the culinary arts, and besides, cooked garlic has reduced healing properties due to the breakdown caused by heat. Breakfast included personalized combinations of homemade granola, oven toast, scrambled eggs, homemade yogurt, but always, always, a peeled clove of raw garlic, swallowed either whole or in two or three large chunks with a glass of milk. I remember being able to bring myself faithfully to the daily challenge much better than did my younger brothers, who I would hear trying to wriggle out of their garlic with excuses of forgetting or having just brushed teeth, but I also had fewer battles of tummy trouble than they did in that first year.

My sister-in-law loves to travel. She also loves Jesus, and loves mission work, and she is a medic. Inevitably, the combination has taken her to some interesting places in the world, places where mosquitos are not merely irritating but can be harmful or deadly due to borne diseases. Anyone who knows the long list of common side effects from malaria tablets will understand the desire to avoid taking them unless absolutely necessary. However, even when a body is protected against malaria, other diseases, such as malaria-related Dengue fever, do not yet have protective inoculations either by needle jab or pill packet. My sister did some research and discovered a simpler way to keep herself well and protected from the nasty insects: garlic tablets and tincture of black walnut, daily. So simple. I have since heard more reports, particularly from mission families, of the same prevention from mozzies.

I could go on and on about the benefits of raw garlic! It is wonderful stuff. Let me make a few suggestions, though, for those of you who are not yet accustomed to the thought. Odorless garlic tablets are available. I still suggest raw, fresh cloves, as they are not only the cheapest and most readily available form of garlic anywhere in the world, but the natural, organic form is untreated by chemicals or processing. If you are brave enough to try the real stuff, start by taking it with a meal. Garlic burps are by far less likely to occur if you have some food in your stomach, even just a bit of toast or half a banana. Then, there is the taste on the tongue. I can and have swallowed many cloves simply with water. Milk does a great job of hiding the flavor as the garlic goes down, though, and is a good option for older children. Younger children might want a small teaspoon of honey with just a few tiny bits of fresh crushed garlic folded into the center. You might be surprised how willingly a child will eat garlic if they get something sweet as well! So, there is my first tip for immune-boost and germ protection this season. Consume raw garlic. 

A few other things are helpful to keep around the house, too. As I hope you noticed, herbs are great at multi-tasking. Here are a few recipes to try, and why.

Immune-Boost Tea
Echinacea root and herb, elderberries, and rosehips 2 parts each by weight
Nettle and peppermint 1 part each by weight

Mix together and store sealed, dry, dark, as you would with all herbs. To use, make a decoction by simmering for 20 to 30 minutes in a non-aluminum pot with a lid on before straining and drinking a cup at a time. Echinacea has a very long list of uses, both inside and outside the body, due to it's remarkable effect of increasing white blood cells. This tea is for emergency use, however, such as after exposure to illness or when you start seeing symptoms of cold and flu. The reason for this is that echinacea bears huge and wonderful immune properties when not used as a regular cure, but overuse or regular use of echinacea reduces the stimulant in the body and eventually will stop working. So, this common Native American tribal herb is best used internally at the time of need, or externally at the point of injury. Elderberries help reduce a fever.

Honey Tincture for Kids
Pack a glass canning jar 2/3rds full with echinacea root and elderberries. Fill up with honey, and cap. Either in a crock pot on low or on the stove top, keep the jar hot by sitting it in a hot water bath not quite bubbling for a full 3 days. Once strained of the herbs, this herbal infused honey "tincture" can be given to children for immune boosting properties simply on a spoon. This is great for children who are not so thrilled about drinking tea.

As you can see in the lists above, the mint family is wonderful for combating illnesses that are already contracted but also helpful as prevention. Unlike the echinacea-based tea, this next recipe is one you may drink far more regularly without fear of dulling your body's response. This is a light, refreshing drink, lovely both hot and cold, and in my experience goes down very well with grumpy men with sore throats as well as children who are under-the-weather or trying not to be ill.

Lemony Throat-soother Tea
Blend equal parts (by weight) of lemon balm and catnip along with a slightly lesser portion of thyme. Add fresh or dried lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to get the colored part only) as desired.
Do not simmer to brew, as you did for the Immune-Boost! Catnip is a delicate herb that requires careful attention more than most, or you might accidentally compromise it's marvelous qualities with too much heat. Infuse this tea: place dried herbs in a pot with a lid, pour boiling water directly over them and cover immediately. Allow the herbs to infuse the water for 10 minutes or so, covered the whole time, and drink hot or allow to cool completely as you desire, and sweeten with honey. But please remember not to simmer, and to keep covered. For children, give up to 2 ounces every hour while cold and flu symptoms persist.

Listerine mouthwash contains thymol, taken from thyme herb, as one of the main ingredients, and Listerine Antiseptic still adheres to almost the same formula that Joseph Lister produced in 1874. Thyme has a remarkable quality for killing germs and made one of the first official surgical theater sterilizing cleaning fluids by Lister, twinned with the use of eucalyptus. Lemon Balm is most commonly used by herbalists to ease all symptoms considered to "proceed from a disordered state of the nervous system." It retains similar properties and benefits to catnip but I include it in this recipe especially for it's anti-depressive quality, as I find illness so easily lowers the spirits. Catnip, though, is the one that I want to particularly make a fuss over. It is, among other things, antispasmodic (cough suppressant), refrigerant (reduces fever), emmenagogue (aids flow in menstrual cycle, thereby reducing pain), sedative and nervine (soothes nervous system), antacid (soothes tummy), and astringent (shrinks mucus membranes). The flowering tops of catnip is one of tradition's most often used remedies for cold and flu, aids sleep without causing sweating, and is especially wonderful for use in the treatment of children since it covers such a broad range of complaints and yet is mild in flavor.

I hope this provides you with an abundance more information, and some helpful ways to keep your family healthy during these cold months. The lists at the top of this blog include many more foods and herbs than I have listed in my recipes so that you not only have avenue for more ideas but can look through your pantry and pull out oatmeal with raisins, and cranberry juice, for example, as a breakfast well-suited to further reducing cold virus symptoms. Check out my posts, also from October 2012, on herbal hand sanitizer and cleaning spray, for more ideas on combating nasty germs while avoiding high costs and damaging chemicals.

My family and I wish you Healthy Holidays!

rice milk

Anyone who has had to go dairy-free for any length of time will know the frustrations such dietary restrictions can have on a person's grocery budget. For me, going without dairy altogether for a while is fine. And then I hit the wall. I want tea! My resolve weakens significantly when I can't have my proper cup of PG Tips, brewed in my Brown Betty teapot with a hand knitted cozy, with milk. Black tea just isn't the same. Herbal tea tides me over for a good long while, as half of my enjoyment of tea is the process. The ritual of boiling and brewing. (Appropriate phrasing for October, don't you think?) But even then, some of my herbal brews are simply delightful with something a little milky, a little creamy, added in. So, being wary of sacrificing other items for the sake of boxed and processed goods, I started researching some options for homemade dairy-free solutions. I found the recipe for homemade rice milk here:

But in case this link ever gets removed (as happens sometimes with older links), here is the recipe again.

1 c cooked basmati rice
3 c water
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp sweetener of choice

Put all the ingredients into a blender. Blend on high for 2 minutes. Strain. Refrigerate. Use within a week. Yields a little over 3 cups.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

carrot ginger soup

Carrot Ginger Soup
2 lbs carrots, chopped
1/2 (1 c) lg sweet onion, chopped
4 TB fresh ginger root, minced
4 TB olive oil

1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
4 c chicken stock
salt and pepper and a swirl of cream to serve, as desired 

In large, lidded pot, simmer onion in olive oil to partially clear.
Add and combine all the rest of the ingredients. Cover. Once cooked, blend to perfectly smooth. Serve with or without a dab of cream swirled in the center. Yields 2 quarts.

How ridiculously easy is that?! I love making this soup in bulk, 2 batches at once, and freezing 3 of the 4 quarts for future meals. It is just as good thawed and reheated, which not all soups are. Just ensure you freeze this soup dairy-free when you freeze, as cream doesn't defrost brilliantly in soups. This is one of my very favorite soups for company, as a small bowl of warmed, warming carrot and ginger is delightful to the palate and pairs well with quite a few different styles of cuisine.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

herbal cleaning spray

This is related to my post on herbal hand sanitizer, so if you are interested in more information about the ingredients then go squint at the other post.

Herbal Cleaning Spray
1 quart glass canning jar with lid and ring
the colored rind of one orange or lemon (use a veg peeler to avoid the white pith which isn't useful) 
1-2 ounces of eucalyptus herb and lavender flowers
white vinegar

Pack herbs and rind into the jar. Fill up to the top with white vinegar. Cap, store dark and cool for 6 weeks. Strain. Use in a spray bottle diluted 50%. Store unused solution in the jar in the fridge or a cool, dark cabinet, clearly labeled and dated. I keep a roll of masking tape and a permanent marker in a drawer in my kitchen for easy labeling that doesn't run in case of a spill. 

Use this as a spritz for anything you need sanitized. Follow up with a damp cloth and wipe clean. Kitchen counters, sinks, toilets. I don't recommend using anything with a vinegar base on mirrors or you will result in a prematurely antique-styled mirror face, which might look a little odd if that is not the look you had planned for in your decor. But this works on pretty much everything else that can be wiped clean. You may add a drop or two of biodegradable Original Blue Dawn liquid dish soap to the bottle if you wish to combat oils and residue a little harder, but I find that this spray is usually sufficient alone.

The hand sanitizer does not contain lavender. The reason these lovely flowers are used here is not only the fragrance that will gently cleanse funky odors from your house as you work, but also because lavender is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. You can use rosemary instead, if you wish, for the same reasons but with a different fragrance. I prefer lavender's softer finish to the smell. Lavender is also extremely gentle on the skin, which is comforting to me as I am terrible about remembering to buy or use rubber gloves when I clean.

There are so many variations on herbal cleaning sprays you can make! Many herbs bear properties which are antiviral, antiseptic, antibiotic, or two or all three together in one herb. Consider those properties according to your intended use -- for example, you probably want as many anti-germ properties as possible in a toilet cleaning spray -- and then think about the scents you like. Here are some other combinations you might like to try. Perhaps you like a certain odor to linger in the bathroom and a different one in the kitchen, or you might want to change up the scent according to the season. Perhaps you want to use herbs growing in your garden and so harvest fresh (to use twice the volume as you would have for dried herbs). I like to rotate my scents just to keep things interesting, and often have two different blends going at a time.
  • orange peel, peppermint
  • lemon peel, thyme, oregano
  • lemon peel, eucalyptus 
  • orange peel, cinnamon essential oil or freshly chipped sticks, cloves
  • Vinegar of the Four Thieves mix (equal parts of lavender, sage, rosemary, peppermint, and wormwood)
  • lavender, lemongrass
  • simply citrus -- peels of orange, lemon, grapefruit

hand sanitizer

I love killing bad germs. What I'm not so fond of is killing good germs. Or drying out my skin. Or paying lots of money! Herbal hand sanitizer is so easy to make, I'm wondering why I didn't discover it sooner. I only started making it after my son was born. With a tiny baby in the house, I admit I get a little germophobic. Hands must be washed a zillion times a day, and sanitized between times. If you use anything with an alcoholic base, such a routine wreaks havoc on tender skin. It got so bad within the first few weeks that the skin underneath my wedding ring was chapped raw, flaking, red, and sore so that I had to remove my ring until my finger healed. That's when I figured there had to be a better way. And no way was that better going to involve not washing and cleaning my hands.

Herbal Hand Sanitizer
1 pint glass canning jar, with lid and ring
1/2 c eucalyptus herb
the colored rind of one orange
the colored rind of one lemon
apple cider vinegar

To get the colored rind from the fruit, use a vegetable peeler. The colored part is where all the good essential oils lie, and those oils are what is not only fragrant and slightly moisturizing, but where all the good anti-germ super power lies. I suppose you could use a few drops of distilled essential oil of orange and lemon, but then you have to keep shaking your finished solution to keep it all mixed up. This way, not only is it cheaper but you never have to worry about it separating. Orange has been cited in the use of cellular regeneration. Lemon is widely known to be astringent and antiseptic. Each has many other good qualities but I am sure you can go find more information if these wonderful points are not convincing enough for you.

Eucalyptus is a tropical tree. Once upon a time, my husband traveled to Australia and swam in a natural pool surrounded by eucalyptus. The water was saturated with the stuff. He was warned not to swallow any of the water, as the oil from these trees makes them not only highly flammable but tainted that pool of water to be poisonous. So, don't drink your herbal hand sanitizer! The good news is that the oil from eucalyptus is deterrent to insects and especially germs. Distilled as an essential oil, it combats airborne viruses. In our hand sanitizer, it works magic action against all the bad germs that you really don't want making their way inside your body from hand to mouth or nose.

And apple cider vinegar? Good carrier. Gentle on the skin. I actually use it to clean my hair, as a diluted rinse following a baking soda "scrub" on my scalp, instead of shampoo.

Pack your herbs and rind into the jar. Fill up with vinegar to the top. Cap. Store in a dark, cool place, such as a kitchen cabinet or the fridge, for 3 weeks. Give it a good shake on occasion. At the end of this time, use a thin rag or cheesecloth to strain and squeeze out the solids from the liquid. The remaining liquid is your sanitizer. Store in the fridge. Use as is or diluted 50%. I have this in a dollar store spray bottle on my kitchen ledge, and a tiny spray bottle in my purse so that I don't have to use an alcoholic sanitizer when I'm on the go. My one year old son gets his hands sprayed with this stuff at least once a day. I'm not concerned about poisoning him, as I ensure his hands are either followed up with a quick wipe with a damp cloth or let to dry before he can put them into his mouth. He is still mostly crawling and his little hands go everywhere they can possibly reach. I like knowing I'm fighting germs where I can, and he is used to a quick spray and a "clap your hands dry" game after a visit to the grocery store.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

lemon poppy seed muffins

For the last three weeks I have been on a "diet" of sorts, eliminating dairy, wheat and sugar from my diet. Sugar includes honey and maple syrup and molasses, too, by the way, not only the white processed stuff. We do have cheats from time to time, on the weekend.

This morning, we really wanted muffins! We hadn't had muffins in quite a while. So, I compromised and they are not wheat-free or sugar-free, but they are dairy-free.

Here is the recipe I started with. They really are quite delicious. You can add berries, fresh or frozen, to the batter and fold in last, increasing bake time by 3 minutes, without altering the rest of the recipe. Very handy.

Joy of Cooking Basic Muffins

Whisk together:
2 c all-purpose flour
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Whisk together in another bowl:
2 lg eggs
1 c milk or cream
2/3 c sugar or packed light brown sugar
4-8 Tbs warm melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Use quick, light strokes to add wet to dry, mixing only until dry ingredients are barely moistened. Divide into 12 cups in muffin/cupcake tin. Bake 15 minutes at 400F.

Jeanie's Dairy-free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Whisk together:
2 c whole wheat flour
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp poppy seeds
1/4 tsp ground orange peel
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Whisk together in another bowl:
2 lg eggs
1 c water plus 3 Tbs mango-orange juice concentrate
a scant 1/2 c sugar or warm honey
6 Tbs warm melted odorless coconut oil 
3 tsp lemon essence

Use quick, light strokes to add wet to dry, mixing only until dry ingredients are barely moistened. Divide into 12 cups in muffin/cupcake tin. Dust tops of muffins with a light sprinkle of poppy seeds. Bake 15 minutes at 400F.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

milkin' cookies

My friend, Lindsay B, is a doula -- a woman's advocate, especially in situations where women need extra encouragement from another woman, such as during labor. Such an amazing lady. She has all kinds of tricks and tips up her sleeve. When my son was born, she sweetly brought me and my husband dinner, along with a special new-mama bag of goodies for me. Boobie rice bags for heating or cooling the breasts (I used them all the time for a while!), honey sticks, a little book of helpful ideas for communicating with growing baby, and a tub of the most amazing lactation cookies I have tasted yet. I have tried a few recipes since then and just not found anything to match hers.

Lindsay gave me permission to post her "Milkin' Cookies" recipe here, to share with you all. I hope you try them and love them as much as I do! Also, go check out her blogspot. She has a lot to offer, and if you want to find out more about what a doula does, definitely stop by there!

Nursing Cookies Recipe
1 1/2 cups butter (or coconut oil if you are dairy free)
1 1/3 cups brown sugar (or 1 3/4 tsp stevia instead of the brown and white sugar, for sugar free)
2/3 cups white sugar (see above for sugar free)
2 eggs (or 3 tsp egg replacer mixed with 4 TB water for egg free)
2 tsp pure vanilla ~OR~ almond extract
3 cups flour (or 3 cups rice flour for gluten free)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups oats (for gluten free make sure it is certified GF)
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup of dried fruit
1 cup of chocolate chips (optional)
Melt butter and place in large mixing bowl. Stir in sugars, add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Blend together wet and dry ingredients until moistened. Add oats, nuts, fruit and chocolate chips and stir. Drop by spoonful onto greased cookie sheets and bake at 350 F for approximately for 15 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes and cooling rack for 20 minutes more. Makes 2 dozen large, 3 dozen smaller cookies.

I find that this recipe is more crumbly when both gluten-free and sugar-free, but still delicious! I also had better results when gently shaping and flattening the cookies on the sheets, rather than just dropping spoonfuls. Give it a try and let me know what you think!