Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Homemade Christmas gifts: Teas

   For Christmas this year I made some homemade herbal teas for the tea-drinkers on my Christmas list. I collected some herbs I found locally and put servings in paper teabags I bought at Teavana.They were a big hit!

I made two different mixes:

    A breakfast tea: mixture of white pine needles (~2 Tbsp), orange peel (pinch), and cloves (5 dried flowers). Did you know that pine is even higher than lemon in vitamin C content? To prepare, cover with boiling water and steep for about 20 min or until the color of the needles is diminished.
     A night time tea or warm milk infusion: place a mixture of lavender (1/2 Tbsp) and roasted hazelnuts(1/2 Tbsp) in hot water and steep for about 15 min. Lavender can be a very effective sedative for certain people, so take about a half hour before bed.

I also thought about making a dried version of my Rosemary-Strawberry tea but never found the time. This is a great combo for anyone feeling unmotivated or lethargic. I find it gets me unstuck and moving even if I am doing something monotonous. It also makes a great iced tea with a little honey.

Additionally I like to make an infusion of Tagetes (African marigold) with ginger and apple. Again I didn't get around to making a dried version of this either. I dried the Tagetes I grew this summer and stored it for use. However this tea is best warm because the marigold is very earthy regardless of its brilliant color.

    According to several well known herbalists: drinking about a quart of strong herbal teas from fresh ingredients (infusions) every day, can broadly improve overall health. These mixtures can also help treat acne according to an apprentice of Susan Weed. I hope to grow enough herbs to try this approach in the spring. Right now it is hard for me to find fresh herbs due to the amount of dogs in all of the green spaces where I live.

Do you have a favorite herbal tea mixture you drink?

Nut Butter Bread (GF) and my Blogging Story

    So.....it seems I've come down with some sort of virus. Low grade fever, chills and sore throat. So boo about that but also yay because I can blog again! Since I tend to primarily include recipes here, I thought I might write a post about myself and my story for being here.

     I am a university student with a passion for experimentation and creation of all types. Most bloggers have a story behind the birth of their sites. My motivation was to cure my acne issues. Additionally it offered a great way to save recipes for later use and encouraged my cooking creativity. After visiting many doctors and doing my own research, the only issue I have found that might cause my acne is probably a hormonal imbalance of low progesterone. Other than my acne symptoms, I sometimes have mild bouts of depression and excess energy. Both of which I have learned how to cope with and correct. However the acne is another story. It presents itself severely around my mouth and cheeks and flares near my cycle. I've had it since puberty and have been prescribed many topical and oral medicines for my condition. Everything I have been given such as antibiotics, steroids, and even dried chinese herbal supplements have had significant and sometimes debilitating side effects. I am hesitant to try synthetic hormone replacement and hope that I can cure myself through self diagnosis with topical and oral herbal medicines, and diet changes. I have always eaten relatively healthy because my mother has always fed our family well. However, it doesn't seem to be enough and I hope to record any other successes I might find on this site. I know many other people are struggling with severe acne and realize that treatment for every person is extremely unique. I feel as though most treatments I have received have been blanket diagnoses that are assumed to work for everyone with the same symptom even though the condition arises from different sources. I hope one day to find a way to fix my condition and not my symptoms and do so with tolerable side effects.
   I have tried implementing several changes in my lifestyle that are well known for curing acne.
Of these are:
  • Eliminating food groups (gluten, dairy) to find allergies: none were found
  • Eliminating junk food (such as chips, sugar and all natural sources of sugar such as honey, certain fruits and etc.). The results: I lost weight. No change in acne and it was very difficult, meaning it was something I probably could not maintain. I still avoid these foods as much as I can, just not entirely.
  • Different levels of regular exercise (moderate to very intense): Again I lost weight. No change in acne.
  • Washing my face several times a day with many topical treatments. Including not washing my face. I've had mild successes.
  • Oil Cleansing Method with hemp oil: probably the most successful thing I have tried, however it is nowhere near strong enough to deal with PMS acne. I apply it at night before bed for optimal suppression of facial oil production.
  • Currently I am experimenting with seed cycling to regulate my hormones, but results are supposed to take several months to appear.
So that is my story and why I am motivated to make changes in my lifestyle. My blog here is a chronicle of my journey and I hope it might help others resolve their own issues.

Now for that recipe as promised:

Gluten-Free Nut Butter Bread

 ~50 min

Adapted from Choisis La Joie's recipe for walnut butter bread (which I can't wait to try). I used simple unsweetened peanut butter and made small cupcake sized breads to test the taste. These took around 25 min to cook in the oven instead of 40.

 The taste and texture of this bread was wonderful for a gluten-less recipe! It very strongly tasted of peanut butter, but it was very simple to make. I can easily see myself buttering a slice for toast in the mornings.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Desert Recipe of the Week: Ginger Lemon Oatmeal Cookies (and some pictures from the quarry)

~30 min
This recipe made very soft and flavorful cookies. I might have put more ginger and lemon in than the recipe called for. It was totally worth it. Very delicious.

See the recipe here

Took a hike around the quarry the other day and took some artistic pictures.

The weather has been lovely :(

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Strawberry Purple Dead Nettle Salad

~10 min
So I've had a really stressful semester at school (should be noticeable from the lack of posts >.<)... I finally snapped the other day and just went hiking. I missed an appointment I had, but it was totally worth it to be outside and moving for once.

While I was out I found some delicious looking purple dead nettle and brought it back home with me. Food resulted:

  • Purple dead nettle
  • Strawberries
  • honey (2 parts)
  • apple cider vinegar (1 part)
  • healthful oil of some type ( I used hemp seed) (1 part)
As always with foraging, you should be very certain you can identify the plant you have picked before you eat it. So be sure you can distinguish between these:

 Purple dead nettle:                                       image source

Poisonous look-alike:                                 image source

Purple dead nettle (PDN) is a relative of the mint family and has a hint of mintiness and very soft leaves. It paired great with strawberries. 

To assemble the salad: cut up your strawberries, clean and trim PDN leaves, and add them to a bowl. Mix the honey, ACV, and oil  together in a separate container in a 2:1:1 ratio. Coat salad and toss.

It also never hurts to taste the dressing before applying it to make sure the mixture tastes good to you. Happy trails :)

Open-faced Ham and Avacado Breakfast Sandwiches (Gluten- Free)

~15 min

To make these delicious breakfast sandwiches you will need the following:


  • pre-cooked ham slices
  • sliced mozzarella cheese
  • half an avocado per sandwich
  • masa harina for tortillas
  • beef grease or any other high temperature oil, vegetable is fine

First prep the tortillas. Use about three tablespoons for a 4 inch wide tortilla.
 Add just enough water to get the flour to stick together in a ball. About 1 tablespoon.
Now go ahead and make a ball of the dough to see if you need more water or not. Adjust accordingly. It should stick together like this:
On a cutting board press the ball as flat as you can get it without it breaking. Using a broad flat knife (like this Santoku) scrape the tortilla off of the cutting board. At this point I usually flip it over and press it again to make it flatter. I'll usually repeat this flipping and pressing about four times until it is about 2 cm thin. (It goes quickly once you get the hang of it)
 To cook, generously grease a skillet with beef drippings or any other high temperature oil and turn the heat onto medium high. Once pre-heated, toss in the tortilla to cook for about 2-3 min each side. You'll know its done when it looks like these pictures:

Remove tortilla when cooked and throw in the ham to brown.
Now melt some cheese on top of the browned ham.
Cut up some avocado slices...
And have a lovely breakfast.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Homemade Beef Stock/ Bone Broth

      The weather at night has officially hit below freezing here. As such it felt appropriate to post about soup broth to help banish those winter cold shivers. Homemade soup stock is a wonderful source of essential vitamins and minerals. Store bought broths are not as good for you due to the quality of meat and lack of bones ( no bones in bone broth?!) commercial makers use. Store brands also tend to supplement their products with  copious amounts of "flavoring"=MSG in the mix to help reduce costs. If you need more incentive to make your own stock, also note that Bone broth is a superfood! It is a wonderful source of nutrition and perfect for anyone with sensitive tummies that might be upset from illness. It is an essential food in many diets such as GAPS that work to restore proper gut flora to people that have poor digestive stamina.

I followed the recipe located at this site. Instead of Apple cider vinegar ( I don't like the taste of it) I used tomatoes and some rice vinegar to help draw out the nutrients from the bones.

I have been using my leftover beef grease drippings a lot these days, so I basted the bones and veggies in it and also made some Yorkshire puddings to eat with the broth. The puffy puddings turned out really lovely. Thanks to Closet Cooking for the recipe

Coated with beef grease drippings

The roasted Mirepoix and bones all together
 The herbs and sachet I made out of a slow cooker lining bag. My herbs are still vibrantly alive even after our first frost.
 After 8 hours it is dark outside and time for food.

 Grease drippings yum!
 These were as delicious as they look. They were marvelously puffy with a soft hollow interior and crunchy exterior shell that tasted great with the stock.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Orange Peel Powder

So what do you do when its late summer and delicious fresh oranges are everywhere you look? You buy a ton to devour greedily and stuff in your face. The next logical step is to obviously make orange peel powder with the leftovers.
Orange peel powder is a great addition to any pantry. It is very simple to make and much cheaper than buying at the store. I like to add it to things like teas, sweets, and Asian dishes to give them a wonderful orange flavor.

To start, begin stock piling orange peels. Like a squirrel preferably. It is important though to remove as much of the white pith as possible soon after eating because if left in the mixture, it will cause the powder to taste bitter. As the peels dry it becomes exceedingly harder to remove the pith so make sure to stay diligent.
You can dry these two ways:
1). Place the pith-less peels in a dark dry place like a pantry for a few weeks until stiff.
2). heat them in the oven on the lowest setting possible with the door slightly cracked for ventilation.

I like to use a combination of both. I throw the peels in my pantry until I have enough to make powder with and then dry the ones that are not stiff enough in the oven.

Citrus peels have natural antibacterial properties, so it is not important to worry about them molding or going bad as they sit out. 

Once dry put all of the peels in two or three plastic ziploc bags.

Take a hammer and pound the peels until they are the right size or consistency you want them. I work on mine until they are about a centimeter in diameter.
Store crushed peels in a bag for future use.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Propagating (Stealing) Plants

    This post is for those of you  who are too cheap or poor to buy your own plants. Or maybe you just want the thrill of stealing from others and profiting from your ventures. Or maybe you just have fun trying new things and propagating plants is something you have never done. Whatever the case, it is still obvious that many nurseries and other stores that sell plants can label them with exorbitant prices when the amount of effort it takes to propagate your own is relatively low!
       To get started propagating: You need a clipping large enough to have a few leaf junctions (where the leaves meet the stem). These junctions are usually where the roots will sprout from. About 2-3 inches of a plant is typically enough. To develop the roots just place the part of the plant you want to grow roots in a glass of water. Leave the clipping in a sunny window for about 2-3 weeks. You should be able to plant your clipping successfully once the roots are about an inch or two long. Some plants take longer than others to sprout roots, but if there is no growth after 2-3 weeks, odds are that the plant can not be propagated in this manner. Technically speaking, all plants can be propagated, it's just that some are more fragile than others and require more care and encouragement (hormone exposure). This hack-n-slash method is best for robust and hardy plants.

Here is my own propagation creation:

A sweet potato vine and a coleus

Here you can see the roots sprouting from where the leaves meet the stem. 

My creation:

 I saw this container at Krogers the other day for $20. All of these plants (except the grasses) can be propagated and are fast growers. It contains coleus, verbena and black sweet potato vine.

Here is a list of common plants that can be propagated this way:

  • Chlorophytum comosum, often called the spider plant (the hanging baby plants can be propagated) 
  • marigolds 
  • verbena 
  • all types of mint 
  • wandering jew 
  • purple velvet plant 
  • sweet potato vines (all types) 
  • creeping thyme 
  • most types of ground cover/vines (if you can see little roots growing budding from leaf junctions it can be propagated)

I am sure there are many more plants that can be cultivated in this manner! I have just included a short list to get you started. I will do my best to update as I find more propagatable varieties. Do you know of any plants that can be propagated this way? Please Comment!