Tuesday, November 12, 2019

5 Comforting Soups






       When the weather takes a cooler turn, nothing provides warmth and comfort quite like a good soup. I figured that I’d share some of my favorite Fall and Winter time soups with you today.




1. This soup is a hearty, healthy, veggie filled comfort soup that’s perfect for Fall and Winter. If you want to make this with dairy instead of the dairy alternatives, simply use butter instead of coconut oil and milk instead of cashew milk. You can also use chicken or bone broth instead of vegetable broth if you prefer. It also helps to keep an extra cup or two of broth handy just in case the rice gets a bit over cooked and soaks up all the broth. With this in mind, Wild Rice takes longer to cook, if you want to use white or brown rice, or want to use a mixture, shorten your cooking time for the rice.


Mushroom and Wild Rice


Ingredients
6 cups Vegetable Broth
1 cup uncooked Wild Rice
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
8 ounces Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 medium Carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 small Red Onion, diced
1 small Yellow Onion, diced
3 tablespoons Coconut Oil
3 sprigs Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped
¼ cup All Purpose, Gluten Free Flour
1 ½ cups Cashew Milk
3 cups Baby Spinach, roughly chopped


Instructions:
     In a large stock pot, over Medium-High heat, heat 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil. Add Yellow Onion and sauté until translucent (about 5 minutes). Stir in the garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Add in the broth, wild rice, mushrooms, carrots, celery, red onions, thyme and bay leaves. Give it a good stir and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer. Once it reaches that point, cover it and allow it to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
     During the final 10 minutes of your broth mixture, it’s time to work on that cream sauce in a separate sauce pan. Melt the coconut oil on Medium-High heat. Whisk in the flour, until combined (there should be no lumps). Add in the cashew milk and cook for about 1 minute, constantly stirring. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture almost comes to a simmer, it should be quite thick at this point.
     Add the creamy mixture and the spinach to the broth mixture and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.
     Enjoy!


2. This traditional, Native American, soup is inspired by three of the most important crops that they grew, and they grew them together. These plants helped to support one another and keep each other healthy as they were growing. They also work well together in this comforting soup. It’s easy to add some chicken, turkey, or beef to this if you want to make it a bit more hearty.

Three Sisters Soup


Ingredients
2 lbs Winter Squash, the ones I use most often is Butternut or Acorn
1 medium Yellow Onion, diced
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 sprig Thyme
4-6 cloves Garlic, minced
6 cups Vegetable Stock
1 can (15oz) Cannelloni Beans, drained and rinsed
½ lb Corn Kernels, or about 1 ½ medium ears of Corn
1 bunch fresh Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste



Instructions:
     Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice squash in half and remove seeds, then roast for 40 minutes. Allow squash to cool, then remove the flesh and save the liquid in the squash for later. Cut the squash into about ½ inch squares. In a large pot, sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until brown. Add thyme and garlic and stir until the garlic turns brown. Slowly add vegetable stock and squash. Allow mixture to simmer for a few minutes before adding beans and corn. Simmer for about 20 minutes, add in the parsley, salt, and pepper. Simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.
     Enjoy!


3. To me, the best comfort food is a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. This recipe takes that concept from basic and kicks it up a notch. I like to serve this with a Pepper Jack Grilled Cheese sandwich, or a Cheese Quesadilla.

Southwest Tomato Soup


Ingredients
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
½ medium Red Onion, diced
½ medium Yellow Onion, diced
1 Poblano Pepper, diced
2 teaspoons Cumin
2 teaspoons Paprika
2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Coriander
1 can (15oz) Black Beans, drained and rinsed
30 oz Tomato Sauce, low sodium or no salt added
2 cups Vegetable Broth
¼ cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Top with Sour Cream *optional


Instructions:
     Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in spices and blend, either with an immersion blender or a food processor. Add beans, sauce, broth to the blended veggies and mix together. Bring up to a boil. Reduce heat back to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste and top with cilantro right before serving. Serve hot, and top each bowl with a dollop of sour cream (optional).
     Enjoy!


4. Chowders are wonderfully chunky, hearty, and comforting soups. They’re great for cooler weather. But this chowder has a twist, instead of using potatoes, it uses roasted cauliflower.

Roasted Cauliflower Coconut Chowder


Ingredients
1 head Cauliflower
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Yellow Onion, diced
2 medium Carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks Celery, diced
¼ cup All Purpose, Gluten Free, Flour
4 cups Vegetable Broth
1 cup Coconut Milk
1 Bay Leaf
2 tablespoons Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions:
     Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Chop the cauliflower and its stem into bite-sized pieces. Place the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil, toss to combine, and spread into an even layer. Roast until just golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
     On medium-high heat, in a large sauce pot, drizzle the olive oil  and add garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in vegetable broth and coconut milk, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the roasted cauliflower and bay leaf. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until cauliflower are tender, about 12-15 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. If the chowder is too thick, add more coconut milk as needed until desired consistency is reached. Top the chowder with parsley right before serving. Serve hot.
     Enjoy!


5. Lentils and Rice is a classic dish, but so is Lemon Orzo soup. This hearty soup combines the best of both dishes. This classic flavor will bring comfort and warmth this fall/winter season.

Lemon Lentil Soup with Orzo


Ingredients
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 medium Yellow Onion, diced
2 medium Carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 cups (12 ounces) Lentils, picked and rinsed
8 cups Vegetable Broth
2 cups Kale, shredded
juice of 1 to 2 Lemons
1 cup uncooked Orzo pasta
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 handful fresh Dill, chopped


Instructions:
     Heat the oil in a large stock pot, over medium heat. Add the onions and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally until they are softened and starting to smell sweet, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more.
     Stir in the lentils and broth. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil. Taste then adjust with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Add in the Orzo and Kale and cook, uncovered, another 10 minutes, or until the orzo is tender.
     Take the soup off of the heat, and then stir in the juice of 1 lemon and the fresh herbs. Taste the soup, and then season with additional salt and/or lemon juice. Serve hot.
     Enjoy!





     If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Eucalyptus






     Who doesn't love Koalas? The adorable, fluffy, wild marsupials are one of a handful of animals that can live off a diet of mostly Eucalyptus. While these endangered animals are a great reason to learn about this wonderful plant, there are a number of other reasons as well. Though it’s really amazing to find out that fresh Eucalyptus (and large quantities of the oil) is toxic to most species of animal on Earth, but that 3 marsupials in particular have not only developed the ability to consume it without harm, but have made the Eucalyptus trees their primary food source. The Koala, Greater Glider, and Ringtail Possum are these animals. Other animals use Eucalyptus to line their nests, gather pollen for honey, and a number of other uses.





     Eucalyptus is actually a large genus of more than 660 species of shrubs and tall trees of the Myrtaceae, or myrtle, family. They are native to Australia, Tasmania, and a few other nearby islands. In Australia the eucalypti are commonly known as Gum Trees or Stringy Bark Trees. Many species are cultivated widely throughout the temperate regions of the world as shade trees or in forestry plantations. About 500 of these species are used for producing essential oils for medicinal, industrial, and aromatic uses. These trees grow rapidly, and many species get quite tall. The Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans), of Victoria and Tasmania, is one of the largest species and attains a height of about 90 metres (300 feet) and a circumference of 7.5 metres (24.5 feet). Many species continually shed the dead outermost layer of bark in flakes or ribbons (giving rise to the common name of Stringy Bark Tree), however, certain other species have thick textured bark. The leaves are leathery and often hang vertically and most species are evergreen. The flower petals fuse together to form a cap which is shed when the flower expands, exposing the fluffy stamens that make up the major portion of the decoration of these unusual flowers. These stamens can be white, cream, yellow, red, or pink. The fruit is surrounded by a woody cup-shaped capsule and contains a large number of small seeds. Possibly the largest fruits, about 5 to 6 cm (2 to 2.5 inches) in diameter, are borne by Mottlecah, or Silverleaf Eucalyptus (E. macrocarpa).

     So how is Eucalyptus helpful for us? It’s a great medicinal herb that helps in a large number of conditions, predominantly those that have to do with the respiratory system. Certain species are also a major source of nectar and pollen for honey. The trees produce wood that is used in a number of ways, for building material, paper, etc. And areas that are commonly swampy and riddled with malaria can be dried up naturally, in a few years, by planting Eucalyptus trees, that also repel those pesky, malaria carrying, mosquitoes.

Medicinal Uses:


Common Names- Tasmanian Blue Gum, Blue Gum Tree, Stringy Bark Tree, Strawberry Gum, Fever Tree Leaf

Scientific Name- Eucalyptus globulus is the most commonly used for medicinal purposes, however all Eucalyptus species have similar medicinal properties.

Edibility- Most Eucalyptus trees are inedible, however where they are native, Eucalyptus flowers are significant producers of honey, flower nectar, and “manna” sweet dripping directly from the tree or scraped from leaves, and in some cases even edible bark and seeds.

Summary of Actions- Analgesic, anodyne, antibacterial, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, bitter, decongestant, deodorant, depurative, disinfectant, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, refrigerant, stimulant, and vulnerary

Energetics and Flavors- Aromatic, Pungent, Slightly Bitter, Cool, Dry, Moist

Parts Used- Dried Leaves and Essential Oil

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as An Shu (whole tree) and An Ye (leaf only), Eucalyptus effects the Lung and Bladder meridians. It promotes sweating, releases to the exterior, and relieves wind heat. This means that it’s used to treat sore throat, cold, aches, pains, sinusitis, headaches, and acute rheumatism. It soothes the lungs and expels phlegm, making it useful for bronchitis, asthma, and tuberculosis. It clears toxins and supports immunity, so it’s often called on for lung infections, urogenital infections, and skin eruptions. It reduces inflammation, helping to relieve nerve pain, neuralgia, wounds, and burns. Eucalyptus also expels parasites and repels Insects, so it’s useful to treat roundworm, pinworm, lice, and is used as an insect repellent.

Ayurveda- Known as Nilgiri in Hindi, and Tailpama in Sandskrit, Eucalyptus is known for increasing pitta dosha and pacifying kapha and vata dosha, making it ideal for clearing breathing pathways, opening airways, and promoting vigor and vitality.

Essential Oil and Aromatherapy- Eucalyptus Essential Oil is inhaled and perceived as refreshing and can be inhaled to promote a sense of vitality. It’s also invigorating and helps to relieve stress. It has traditionally been used to relieve the discomforts associated with fatigue, headaches, colds, sinusitis, mucous congestion, muscle aches and pains, and asthma. A few drops can also be diluted and used as an effective mouthwash.

Respiratory and Allergies- Research has shown that Eucalyptus can decrease mucus and expand the bronchi and bronchioles of your lungs. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory and may help improve asthma symptoms. It’s also soothing to the mucus membranes, so it helps reduce pain and inflammation in the sinus cavities, helping reduce some of the symptoms of hay-fever and sinusitis. This is especially effective if you add a drop or two of the essential oil to a sinus irrigation treatment such as the Neti Pot.

Insect Repellent- Research has shown that it’s effective at warding off mosquitoes and other biting insects for up to eight hours after topical application. The higher the eucalyptol content of Eucalyptus oil, the longer and more effectively it works as a repellent. Eucalyptus oil may also treat head lice. In one randomized study, this oil was twice as effective as a popular head lice treatment at curing head lice.

Cold, Flu, & Malaria- A tea made from this herb relieves cold symptoms like cough, nasal congestion, and headache by decreasing inflammation and mucus buildup. The vapors and essential oil act as a decongestant. This herb also is said to help reduce fevers and stimulate the immune system. The tree has also been used to transform swampy environments infested with malaria into habitable neighborhoods.

Blood Sugar- Eucalyptus oil has potential as a treatment for diabetes. Experts believe that it may play a role in lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes, but caution should be taken as it may interfere with certain medications.

Burns, Cuts, & Wounds- The Australian aborigines used Eucalyptus leaves to treat wounds and prevent infection. Today the diluted oil may still be used on the skin to fight inflammation and promote the healing of burns, cuts, fungal infections, and other minor wounds.

Muscle & Joint Pain- Current research suggests that Eucalyptus oil eases joint pain. In fact, many popular over-the- counter creams and ointments used to soothe pain from conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis contain this essential oil.

Household Uses- During the 19th century in England, Eucalyptus oil was used in hospitals to clean urinary catheters. Many studies later revealed that Eucalyptus oil contains substances with microbial properties, confirming the British use as a cleaning agent. Eucalyptus Oil effectively removes grease and grime, making it an excellent cleaning product for the kitchen. It may also be mixed-in with homemade hand soaps and laundry detergents. Added to natural homemade sprays as a cleaning agent, it can be used for washing toilet bowls, floors, counter tops, and windows, just to name a few surfaces. The clean scent makes an effective fabric freshener, and it can be mixed with Lemon or Tea Tree Essential Oils, diluted with water, then applied to odorous materials such as the insides of shoes. Furthermore, as an air cleanser, Eucalyptus Oil is beneficial for eliminating mold that could contribute to respiratory issues.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Eucalyptus Essential Oil is extremely stimulating to the brain, anyone who experiences seizures and similar issues should avoid this oil as it may induce a seizure.
     While eucalyptus leaves are generally recognized as safe, there are some serious health risks associated with consuming eucalyptus oil, as it can lead to toxicity. It’s also important to note that children are at higher risk of toxicity. Seizures, difficulty breathing, a lowered level of consciousness, and even death have been reported.
     Avoid Eucalyptus if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
     Some people experience contact dermatitis upon applying eucalyptus oil to their skin. Use a carrier oil, such as olive oil or jojoba oil, to reduce your risk of skin irritation. Before using the oil, do a patch test to ensure you don’t have a reaction.
     Finally, eucalyptus oil may interact with certain medications, such as those for diabetes, high cholesterol, acid reflux, and psychiatric disorders. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider before using it






     I only included a basic introduction to this highly aromatic and exotic plant. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!




Resources:


7 Impressive Benefits of Eucalyptus Leaves: Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eucalyptus-leaves

9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Eucalyptus Trees: Tree Coin: https://tree-coin.io/9-facts-eucalyptus-trees/

9 Unexpected Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil: Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/9-ways-eucalyptus-oil-can-help

Eucalyptus: Gaia Herbs: https://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/herbs/eucalyptus

Eucalyptus: A Modern Herbal: https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/e/eucaly14.html

Eucalyptus: White Rabbit Institute of Healing: https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/eucalyptus/

Eucalyptus Globulus: Always Ayurveda: https://www.alwaysayurveda.com/eucalyptus-globulus/

Eucalyptus Oil Varieties, Benefits, and Uses: New Directions Aromatics Blog: https://www.newdirectionsaromatics.com/blog/products/all-about-eucalyptus-oil.html

Tasmanian Blue Gum: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/e/eucalyptus-globulus=tasmanian-blue-gum.php

The Health Benefits of Eucalyptus: Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266580.php

Useful Eucalyptus The Many Uses of Eucalyptus: Everyday Health: https://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/alternative-health/useful-eucalyptus-many-uses-eucalyptus/

Uses of Eucalyptus Oil: Purusha Ayurveda: http://www.purushaayurveda.com/articles/2016/4/11/uses-of-eucalyptus-oil

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Absinthe






     Happy Halloween everyone! Each year, as spooky season comes along, I think of all the spooky treats and drinks that I enjoy. Today I wanted to share with you a little about one that happens to be a favorite of my husband’s, Absinthe.

What is Absinthe?


     Basically, Absinthe is a botanical spirit that is predominately anise flavored. In short, it tastes like black licorice (eew), but don’t let that stop you from trying it. Each brand of Absinthe has it’s own botanical blend and can vary, quite widely, in taste depending on what herbs are used in it’s creation.

     There are three herbs that make up the “Holy Trinity” of Absinthe; Green Anise (Pimpinella anisum), Florence Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), and Grand Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). Most people would not consider it a true Absinthe if it is not made with these three herbs as a base. Other herbs that Absinthe may be made with include; Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Petite Wormwood (Artemisia pontica), Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Angelica (Angelica spp.), Star Anise (Illicium verum), and Veronica (Veronica spp.). Because of the complexity of flavors in all of these herbs, a good Absinthe is a mysterious flavor. Quite like a good wine. As you taste it, the flavor will evolve. You’ll notice a hit of something hidden behind a wall of flavor, and each stage of your “tasting” may reveal more than you might expect.

     Traditionally, the herbs used in Absinthe make the spirit turn a bright green color. However, there are un-colored, or white, Absinthes that forgo the added green herbs, as well as red or yellow Absinthes that use herbs such as Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) or Saffron (Crocus sativus).

     Absinthe is a strong spirit, reaching up to 75% ABV, or 150 proof on the strong end of things. And some Absinthes tend to include more than a few bitter elements from the herbs. So the tradition of adding cold water and/or sugar to the spirit came about as a way to address both of these issues. These additions dilute the strong Absinthe and unlock some of the depths and flavor characteristics while adding a bit of sweetness via sugar. Not to mention the really neat effect of Louching. When you add water to an anisette (anise flavored liquor or spirit) it will turn cloudy. Absinthe does this and it’s a beautiful and intriguing reaction.





What is the deal with the Green Fairy?


     Medical potions and decoctions made from wormwood date back to at least Roman times, the invention of Absinthe as we now know it is traditionally credited to one Pierre Ordinaire, a Hugenot doctor who fled France for Switzerland in the mid 1700’s and set up shop in the remote Val de Travers near Neuchâtel. He sold a green medicinal potion as a remedy for a number of ailments ranging from digestive issues, to kidney stones, to worms, and even gout. His potion was soon nicknamed ‘La Fée Verte” or “The Green Fairy” both for its beautiful color and for it’s supposed magical qualities.

     The reign of Napoleon III (from 1852 to his downfall with the Prussian invasion in 1870) was the height of popularity for Absinthe. It was primarily a drink of the military and the fashionable bourgeoisie due to it’s relatively high expense. By the early 1870s, it had become common practice to begin a meal with an apéritif, and of 1500 available liquors, absinthe accounted for 90% of the apéritifs drunk because of the belief that it would “sharpen the appetite.” This lead to the hour of 5 p.m. being deemed L’Heure Verte, or the Green Hour (where our modern Happy Hour comes from) in almost every café. The cafés were an extremely popular place to socialize, since most of Paris’ citizens were living in cramped apartments, often in poverty.

     During the years of 1880 – 1910, Absinthe’s price dropped down low enough that made it accessible to every tier of society. Artists and performers would crowd into the cafés and partake of a little bit of “The Green Fairy” to help gain inspiration. This is where we get the common myth of Absinthe causing hallucinations and even bouts of insanity, as artistic types are not known for abstaining from strong drinks, and Absinthe is one of the strongest (typically being bottled from 45-75% ABV or 90-150 proof). I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen people acting crazy when they’ve had a bit too much vodka or tequila, of course drinking Absinthe to excess would cause insanity.

     Another reason for the myth about hallucinations is a compound that is contained in Wormwood. It contains a chemical compound called thujone, which was thought to be a hallucinogen and rumored to cause transformations in the mind. True, there is a level of toxicity inherent to thujone at extremely high doses. But not in the dose one would encounter by consuming Absinthe. In the U.S., thujone levels in absinthe are capped at 10 milligrams per liter, while absinthe in Europe may have 35 milligrams per liter. Modern science has estimated that a person drinking absinthe would die from alcohol poisoning long before he or she were affected by the thujone.


What are the Medicinal Properties?


     Absinthe gets it’s medicinal properties from the herbs that go into it’s creation. Most of these herbs contain compounds that help with digestion and reduce inflammation. Since each Absinthe recipe varies on which herbs it uses, I’ll just go over the three main herbs and their benefits here.


Grand Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) – Wormwood has a reputation as an extremely bitter herb, and indeed it is. But the same compounds that make it bitter also serve to help our digestion. Improving bile secretion and flow to ensure that our food is properly digested and nutrients are properly absorbed. It also helps to get rid of any parasites that may have moved in, which is where it’s common name comes from. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory herb, helping to provide relief from chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and gout.

Florence Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – Fennel is used throughout the world as a culinary herb. The plant is often cooked as a vegetable and the seeds are used to flavor a wide range of dishes. However, most people don’t know that it’s also a great carminative. Helping to eliminate flatulence and expel gas.  It’s also a great source of potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar. Fennel seeds are also great to help treat asthma symptoms, as well as to relieve sinus pressure and cough associated with upper respiratory conditions.

Green Anise (Pimpinella anisum) – Anise is another herb used, throughout the world, as a culinary herb. It imparts a sweet, licorice-like, flavor to dishes made world wide. But it is also a medicinal powerhouse, particularly for digestion as it’s a great carminative, helping to relieve flatulence and improve digestion in general. It’s super rich in Iron, and other vital nutrients needed for the production of blood cells. This makes it a great herb to help treat anemia. It also helps reduce the symptoms of depression. It also is a great anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce pain caused by chronic inflammatory conditions. And it also helps to regulate blood sugar.






     I hope I have helped to dispel rumors and peak your interest in this traditionally, medicinal Spirit. Now go out there and get spooky with some Absinthe!

      If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!


Resources:


Absinthe: Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/absinthe-history/

Absinthe – 10 Facts and Myths About the Green Fairy: Pickled Plumb: https://pickledplum.com/absinthe/

Absinthe a Deadly Potion: Medicine Net: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=7277

Absinthe and Medicine: The Absinthe Blog: https://www.alandia.de/absinthe-blog/absinthe-and-medicine/

Does Absinthe Really Cause Hallucinations?: How Stuff Works: https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/absinthe.htm

Effects of Absinthe: Absinthe 101: https://www.absinthe101.com/effects.html

The Devil in a Little Green Bottle – A History of Absinthe: Science History Institute: https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/the-devil-in-a-little-green-bottle-a-history-of-absinthe

The Sauvage 1804 Distillation: Absinthes: https://www.absinthes.com/en/themag/news-absinthes/the-sauvage-1804-distillation-emile-pernot-345

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Fruit Butter

 



     I love carving pumpkins. It’s a family tradition, every October we each get a pumpkin and get to be creative with it. But what do you do with all the pumpkin guts when it’s all over? Cook it of course!

     I thought you might enjoy my recipe for Pumpkin Butter. It’s a crowd favorite every Fall, and can be frozen for use throughout the year. And since we’re on the topic, I figured I’d share a few other fruit butter recipes as well. After all, they’re a great way to sneak a little extra nutrition into your daily routine.


1. Pumpkin Butter is one of my favorite “jams” throughout the year. And I love to kick it up a bit by adding my secret ingredient, cardamom. I eat this on toast, waffles, crepes, and even ice cream. Try adding it to your favorite quick bread recipes to add a bit of moisture and flavor to them. This recipe is not suggested for canning, but freezing it works super well.


Pumpkin Butter


Ingredients
2 15 oz cans Pumpkin Puree (Or make your own)
1 cup Sugar
½ cup Apple Cider
½ teaspoon Ginger, ground
½ teaspoon Cinnamon, ground
¼ teaspoon Allspice, ground
¼ teaspoon Nutmeg, ground
*optional ¼ teaspoon Cardamom, ground


Instructions:
     Combine all the ingredients in a crock pot. Turn on LOW and cook for one hour. Stir and then cook for another 2 hours, with the lid partially open. Stir the butter every once in a while. It is done when it is reduced by about half, and thick enough to run your spoon across the bottom without the pumpkin running back into the space. Crock pots vary a bit, so your butter might take a little more or less time. Serve warm or cool. It will keep for about 10 days in the refrigerator and 6 months in the freezer. If you plan to freeze it, leave at least 1/2 inch at the top of each jar for expansion as it freezes.



2. And here we have the most commonly found fruit butter, at least here in the South. Apple Butter is one of my go-to’s for spreading onto my toast, but it’s so good for so many things. Try on top of your favorite cheesecake (you can also drizzle some caramel with it), spoon a bit onto your Latkes (potato pancakes), even throw some into your baked sweet potatoes. This recipe is not suggested for canning, but freezing it works super well. 

Apple Butter


Ingredients
3 pounds Apples
½ cup Sugar
½ teaspoon Cinnamon, ground
¼ teaspoon Allspice, ground
¼ teaspoon Nutmeg, ground


Instructions:
     Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir well. Cook on LOW for 6-7 hours. Remove the lid, and stir until the apples fall apart. Continue cooking with the lid off for 30-60 minutes, until the apple butter thickens slightly. Crock pots vary a bit, so your butter might take a little more or less time. Serve warm or cool. It will keep for about 10 days in the refrigerator and 6 months in the freezer. If you plan to freeze it, leave at least 1/2 inch at the top of each jar for expansion as it freezes.
   


3. What’s better than a tropical vacation? Lounging on the beach, breathing in that ocean air? This fruit butter brings a little of that tropical feel right into your very own kitchen. Monkey Butter is made with Bananas, Pineapple, and Coconut, so it’s like having a taste of the tropics with every bite. Try it over ice cream, on some crepes, or just spread onto your toast in the morning. If you don’t like coconut, you can use ground cashews instead, or simply leave it out. Be careful though, this recipe is not one that you can easily can for long term storage. Try freezing it instead.

Monkey Butter


Ingredients
4 very ripe Bananas, thinly sliced
1 pound Pineapple, cored and crushed
1 cup Sugar
3 tablespoons Unsweetened Coconut, ground
3 tablespoons Lemon Juice

Instructions:
     Combine all of the ingredients in a large nonstick pan. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the banana has dissolved and the mixture has thickened slightly (about 15 to 20 minutes), stirring frequently. Serve warm or chilled. Can be stored in the fridge for 4 to 6 weeks or 6 months in the freezer. If you plan to freeze it, leave at least 1/2 inch at the top of each jar for expansion as it freezes.



4. This may be the easiest of these recipes, and super tasty. Feel free to use whatever berries you have on hand, the berries I’ve suggested are just a good, standard mix. This recipe can be altered slightly for canning, but I like to keep it simple and just freeze it.

Honey Berry Butter


Ingredients
1 cup Strawberries
1 cup Blueberries
½ cup Blackberries
½ Cherries, pitted
3 teaspoons Chia Seeds, ground
½ cup Honey
2 teaspoons Lemon Juice



Instructions:
     In a food processor, purée the berries and chia seeds then transfer to a saucepan. Add the honey and the lemon juice and boil the mixture, stirring until it is thickened. Let the strawberry mixture cool to room temperature. Let the butter stand, covered, in a cool place for 1 hour to allow the flavor to develop. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Serve warm or chilled. Can be stored in the fridge for 4 to 6 weeks or 6 months in the freezer. If you plan to freeze it, leave at least 1/2 inch at the top of each jar for expansion as it freezes.



5. I love peaches and lavender, this recipe combines both! And they taste so amazing together. If you want to switch it up a bit, you can use any stone fruit in place of peaches (apricot, plumb, etc) or any aromatic herb (mint, basil, chamomile, etc). Some other great combinations may be Chamomile Plumb, Mango Mint, Mixed Stone Fruit with Ginger, or Cherry Basil. Play around with it, make some tasty combinations!

Lavender Peach Butter


Ingredients
4 lbs Peaches, peeled and pitted
1 cup Honey (or Agave Nectar)
1 cup Sugar
½ cup Apple Juice
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 teaspoons food grade Lavender

Instructions:
     Place lavender buds in cheesecloth, and tie up the bundle. Bring peaches, lavender, and water to boil in a large stainless steel pot over medium high heat. Reduce heat and continue cooking until peaches are soft. Taste periodically to check strength of lavender flavor, and remove the cheesecloth bundle when you’re happy. Depending on how you feel about lavender, that may be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend peaches until texture is uniform (or use a food processor). Measure out six cups of peach puree for the butter. (You can use the rest for jam or you can add it to a refreshing cocktail or lemonade) Combine puree, lemon juice, honey, and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat, and keep stirring! Be careful and keep a close eye on this so that it doesn’t burn. When your butter starts to thicken and sticks to the spoon, it’s ready to can. Process for 15 minutes, or according to jar size. Serve warm or chilled. Can be stored in the fridge for 4 to 6 weeks or 6 months in the freezer. If you plan to freeze it, leave at least 1/2 inch at the top of each jar for expansion as it freezes.




     As always, I hope you enjoy these recipes. Feel free to play around with the ingredients and let me know what you think below!



     If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Ghost Pipe







     We have come, once again, to this amazing time of year. The time where the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is thinning. This is the time where we gather around fires, in the dark of the night, and tell stories of wonder, and more than a little bit of fright. With these stories at the forefront of my mind, I have decided to tell you about a ghastly little flower that steals it’s sustenance from unsuspecting prey. A flower so small and pale that it resembles finger bones sticking out of the soil of the forest floor. A flower that is often mistaken for a fungus. The Ghost Pipe.

     Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe or Ghost Pipe) is a plant that does not contain chlorophyll (the chemical that makes plants green among other things), meaning that it cannot photosynthesize it’s own food. Instead, it steals it’s nutrients from mycorrhizal mushrooms. These are mushrooms that have a symbiotic relationship with certain trees, they exchange nutrients with one another. The mushrooms share with the trees, but the Ghost Pipe does not give anything back, it only takes. This makes it a parasite, not only to the fungi that it is directly stealing from, but also to the tree that is sharing it’s resources with the fungi. Indian pipe looks waxy and sometimes totally white but commonly it has black flecks and a pale pink coloration. Rare variants may have a deep red color. Indian pipe plant has a dark-colored, fibrous, perennial root, matted in masses, from which arise one or more short, ivory-white stems, 4 to 8 inches high, furnished with sessile, lanceolate, white, semi-transparent, approximate leaves or bracts, and bearing a large, white, terminal, solitary flower, which is at first nodding, like a downward facing smokers pipe, but becomes upright in fruit. The calyx is represented by two to four scale-like deciduous bracts, the lower rather distant from the corolla. The corolla is permanent, of 5 distinct, erect, fleshy petals, which are narrowed below with a small, nectariferous pit at the base. Stamens 10, sometimes 8; anthers short on the thickened apex of the hairy filament, 2-celled, opening by transverse chinks. Stigma 5-crenate, depressed, and beardless. Pod or capsule 5-celled and 5-valved; the seeds numerous, and invested with an arillus-like membrane. The plant is found growing in complete shade on stable forest floors, usually where green plants do not. It prefers Rich, moist soil, or soil composed, of decayed wood and leaves, and near the base of trees. Because of it’s feeding tendencies, and dependence on mycorrhizal mushrooms as well as their host trees, this plant is virtually impossible to cultivate.

     There is a Cherokee legend about the Indian pipe: Long ago, when selfishness first entered the world, people began quarreling, first with their own families and tribal members, and then with other tribes. The chiefs of the several tribes met together to try to solve the problem of quarreling. They smoked a peace pipe together, while continuing to quarrel among themselves for the next seven days and seven nights. In punishment for smoking the peace pipe before actually making peace, the Great Spirit turned the chiefs into gray flowers and made them grow where relatives and friends had quarreled. 

Medicinal Uses:


Common Names- Ghost Flower, Corpse Flower, Indian Pipe, Ghost Plant, Ghost Pipe, Fungus Flowers, Ice Plant, Bird's nest, Fit Plant, Ova-ova, Pipe Plant, and Death Plant

Scientific Name- Monotropa uniflora 

Edibility- The whole plant can be cooked. It is tasteless if eaten raw, but has a taste like asparagus when it is cooked.

Summary of Actions- Antiperiodic, antispasmodic, hypnotic, nervine, sedative, and tonic 

Parts Used-  Root, whole plant. Fresh flowering tops and flowers.

Traditional Native American Uses- Indian Pipe has profound Spiritual meanings as well as Medicinal uses for most Native American Tribes. The appearance of white animals and plants often have a major impact, and all the tribes hold a special reverence for them. In addition to the Spiritual impact, Ghost Pipe also is a major healing herb. Both for the physical and emotional aspects of healing. Some of the more traditional uses were treat West Nile Virus and Malaria, as an extremely potent nervine often used to treat seizure disorders, convulsions, insomnia, mental health disorders, severe stress and anxiety, and chronic muscle spasms.  

Eye Inflammation and Conditions- This plant was used by some native North American Indian tribes to treat eye problems, the stem was bruised and the clear fluid of the stems applied to the eyes. It’s still used for eye issues today, mainly the juice of the plant is mixed with Rose Water and applied to inflamed eyes to reduce the swelling. 

Emotional Pain and PTSD- Ghost Pipe has been shown to be effective in treating severe mental and emotional pain due to PTSD and other traumatic injury. It has also been used in cases of acute anxiety and/or psychotic episodes due to intense drug experiences. 

Colds and Fever- An infusion of the leaves has been used to treat colds and fevers. 

Convulsions, Fits, and Epilepsy- A tea made from the root has been used for convulsions, fits, epilepsy, and as a sedative. Roots also have antispasmodic properties. This has been a traditional treatment for people of all ages, including children, who suffer from convulsions, fits, and epilepsy.

Physical Pain- Ghost Pipe helps relieve skeletal tension associated with migraines and neck pain, as well as sharp, shooting pains associated with pinched nerves. Corpse Plant is often used to help people suffering from severe pain caused by Lyme Disease. This herb might me most effective in cases when there is an element of emotional pain along with the physical. 

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- The plant contains several glycosides and is possibly toxic. 





     I only included a basic introduction to this ghastly wonder. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!




Resources:


Ghost Pipe, A Little Known Nervine: American Herbalist Guild:  https://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/sites/default/files/donahue_sean_-_ghost_pipe-_a_little_known_nervine.pdf 

Ghost Pipe Facts and Uses: Health Benefits Times: https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/ghost-pipe/ 

Indian Pipe: Eldermoon School of Herbal Medicine: https://www.jennifercosta.net/blog/indian-pipe#/ 

Indian Pipe: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/m/monotropa-uniflora=indian-pipe.php 

Indian Pipe (Monotropia Uniflora): Medicinal Plants of the Northeast: http://www.bio.brandeis.edu/fieldbio/medicinal_plants/pages/Indian_Pipe.htm 

Indian Pipe (Monotropia Uniflora): The School of Homeopathy: https://www.homeopathyschool.com/the-school/provings/indian-pipe/ 

Monotropia Uniflora: Botanical Society of America: https://botany.org/Parasitic_Plants/Monotropa_uniflora.php 

Monotropia Uniflora: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=moun3 

Monotropia Uniflora: Plants for a Future: https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=monotropa+uniflora 

Monotropia Uniflora- Ghost Plant, Indian Pipe: USDA Forest Service: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/mycotrophic/monotropa_uniflora.shtml 

Three Herbs- Yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Indian Pipe: Ryan Drum Island Herbs: http://www.ryandrum.com/threeherbs.htm 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Magic of Tea





     Nothing makes me feel quite as good as making a cup of tea. If I need a bit of energy, need to calm down and relax, need to wake up my mind and get ready, whatever the need, tea can help.  Now, at this stage, it's important that I clarify a bit before moving on. The word “tea” is often used to describe a hot (or cold) beverage made from dried herbs. For the purpose of this post, I am using “tea” to talk about a hot (or cold) beverage made from the dried leaves of the Tea plant, Camellia sinensis. All of the recipes I give you here will have this plant as it's base.

     There are two main varieties of the Camellia sinensis and each are preferred in making specific teas. Camellia sinensis sinensis (Chinese tea) is native to China and grows best in cool temperatures and high elevations so often it is grown on mountain slopes. This variety is known for producing a sweeter, gentler taste and is the preferred variety for both green tea and white tea. Camellia sinensis assamica (Assam tea or Indian tea) grows best in the Assam region of Northern India. This plant grows larger and produces bigger leaves that the Chinese variety, which is why it's often considered more tropical. This variety is used for robust teas like black tea, oolong, and pu-erh.

     Though the varieties grown for each tea are not the only difference between them. There are several processing steps that each tea goes through which gives each variety of tea it's unique flavors. 

   

White Tea


     This is the most delicately flavored of the teas, with a light, fruity and sweet flavor. The taste profile of this tea is often described as floral. White tea leaves are minimally processed from only the young leaves of the C. sinensis. The leaves are then sun-dried to prevent oxidation.

Several varieties of White Tea exist. These include:

Silver Needle- The rarest and most famous white tea, Silver Needle tea consists only of spring buds. It has a delicately sweet taste and floral aroma.

White Peony- This variety consists of the buds and first few leaves of the stem. It is less expensive than Silver Needle and has a slightly stronger flavor.

Tribute Eyebrow- Consisting of larger leaves plucked after Silver Needle and White Peony has been harvested, this tea has an earthy flavor. "Eyebrow" refers to the curved shape of the leaf.

Long Life Eyebrow- Similar to Tribute Eyebrow, but Long Life Eyebrow has a lighter taste and is less processed.

Darjeeling White- Grown in India, this tea is less expensive and more widely available than many of the above varieties.



Green Tea


     Green Tea leaves are withered in sunlight and then dried by pan roasting, steaming, or frying to prevent oxidation. This drying process allows the leaves to maintain the color of the tea bushes. They are typically rolled before packaging.

There are quite a few varieties of Green Tea and my favorites tend to be from Japan. So here are some of the more popular varieties from Japan: 

Sencha- The most commonly drunk variety of Japanese green tea is known as Sencha.
This tea is grown in direct sunlight, and tends to be harvested in the first or second flush of leaves. Once picked, the tea leaves are steamed, then the leaves are dried out and rolled. Rolling the leaves gives them their needle-like shape and helps release all the juices inside of the leaves, thus intensifying the flavor.

Gyokuro- The process for Gyokuro green tea is similar to Sencha, except that about 3 weeks prior to harvest the tea leaves are hidden from sunlight. This allows the leavs to keep more of the strong-flavored amino acids and gives Gyokuro its fuller taste. After this, the tea goes through the same steaming and rolling process as Sencha, but since the tea is more difficult to shade and cultivate, the production cost and selling price are higher.

Tencha- Tencha is made very similarly to Gyokuro Tea. It is removed from sunlight three weeks prior to harvest, and then after harvest the leaves are steamed, air dried, and removed of vines and stems. A major difference between Tencha and Gyokuro is that after it is harvested and cultivated, the Tencha does not go through the rolling process.

Matcha- Matcha Green Tea is ground up Tencha. After the shading, harvesting, and steaming, the leaves are then air-dried, removed of stems and veins, and then ground into a powder to be brewed.

Fukamushicha- Fukamushicha contains leaves from the several other processes that are deep steamed providing a deeper color and brew. This process provides a richer flavor and surprisingly has soothing effects on the stomach due to its light flavor.

Kukicha- Kukicha is also known as twig tea because unlike most teas, it is made with twigs and stems instead of the leaves. Although more yellow or brown in color, the tea is still made from the stems of leaves that go through the Green tea process. It is known for its yellow brew.

Bancha- Bancha is the second harvest after the first flush has been taken for Sencha, then regrown. Bancha leaves tend to be picked in three periods varying between June and October, with the tea leaves becoming less desirable in each harvest.


Oolong Tea


     Green and White Teas are processed to prevent oxidation. Oolong and Black Teas rely on oxidation during their processing. Oolong Teas fall somewhere between a Green Tea and a Black Tea in oxidation levels, ranging from around 8%-80% oxidized. This allows the flavor of Oolong Teas to varry quite a bit. Some taste more like Green Tea (less oxidation) and some taste more like Black Tea (more oxidation).

China and Taiwan may be where this tea style originated, but now there are several styles throughout the world. Some of the more popular varieties from China and Taiwan include:

Phoenix Tea- The leaves of Phoenix oolong teas are harvested from one single bush of the tea plant. Each bush has a different flavor, meaning this tea tastes different with every batch. Today, Phoenix tea is also used to refer to all oolong teas produced in Guangdong province, not just the ones from a single bush. Phoenix teas are noted for their natural flavors and aromas of flowers and fruits. Phoenix oolong tea has a rich, full-bodied feel. Some Phoenix oolongs offer a floral flavor that is similar to orange blossoms or orchids. Other Phoenix oolongs are fruity or spicy with flavors similar to ginger and grapefruit.

Iron Goddess of Mercy- This type of oolong tea is arguably the most famous Chinese tea. These oolong teas were only used to brew tea for the emperors of China. Today, you can get your hands on high mountain oolong teas reserved for royalty. This oolong tea is light and airy and features hints of flowers and honey. It's often described as smelling similar to orchids and boasts a refreshing finish.

Wuyi Oolong Tea- This oolong is heavily oxidized and dark in color. This tea is revered for its health benefits and legend has it that this oolong tea saved the mother of an emperor in the Ming dynasty.
It has a sharp, smoky flavor that is unique among oolong teas and similar to Formosa Gunpowder black tea. It boats hints of caramel, butter, and toast.

High Mountain Oolong Tea- Also known as Gaoshan, High Mountain Oolong Teas consist of a variety of different oolongs grown at the highest elevations in Taiwan. They are typically seasonal teas due to their production timeline. High Mountain oolongs include Alishan, Wu She, and Yu Shan. These oolongs are grown at altitudes higher than 3,300 feet and tend to grow more slowly than other oolongs. Harvested by hand twice per year, the leaves harvested in October are known as winter  and the leaves plucked in June are known as spring Gaoshan. The leaves are spread out on a large tarp to dry before undergoing oxidation. As the leaves dry, they develop aromas of rose, jasmine, and geranium. Once the tea develops aroma, the leaves are folded and withered for eight hours. Tea masters then oxidize the leaves before they are sorted and packaged for sale. High Mountain Oolong tea is generally crisp and sweet with notes of flowers or pine. The tea features a buttery aftertaste that is smooth and creamy.

Milk Oolong Tea- This tea is also commonly known as Golden Daylily tea or Nai Xiang tea. The tea is named for its creamy flavor that is light and flowery. This tea is grown at higher altitudes and is also produced in Thailand. Milk oolong tea is characterized by a buttery, creamy flavor with a smooth finish. The milky flavor is not produced by infusing it in milk. Instead, the tea leaves naturally produce a milk-like flavor and aroma when oxidized for a certain period of time. There are some artificial milk oolongs on the market, though these are generally labeled as flavored oolongs.

Oriental Beauty- One of the most interesting oolong teas is Taiwan's Bai Hao Oolong. Also known as Oriental Beauty, this tea has a unique appearance and flavor profile which is a direct result of having been infested with leaf hoppers. These tiny insects chew on the soft tea leaves to get access to the sap and nutrients in them. In turn, the plant goes on defense, producing compounds which act as a natural bug repellent. There are two side-effects as a result. First, by chewing on the leaf, these insects cause parts of the leaves to oxidize while the leaves are still on the plant. Second, the compounds released to fend off this infestation of leaf hoppers have a different flavor profile than the tea would normally produce. Oriental Beauty oolong is known for its complex aroma of honey and stone fruits.



Black Tea


     Black Tea is heavily oxidized, giving it more of a bold woodsy flavor that is often described as astringent. Black tea is the most popular type of tea in the West. Many believe that this is due to the bold flavor and long shelf life of black teas. In the East, black tea consumption is less common. In China, black tea is known as "hong cha" (or red tea) due to the reddish color of the infusion. Some of these teas are intended to be served with milk and sugar, others are not. However, serve it the way you want, you are not restricted by how other people say you should serve your tea.

Some of the more popular varieties of Black Tea include:

Darjeeling- Commonly known as the "Champagne of Tea," the region of Darjeeling produces what is often considered to be the world's best black tea. These blends vary substantially by when they are harvested. Each of the harvests is known as a "flush" and the first flush, harvested in spring, is the most famous and the "greenest" of the flushes. In general, Darjeeling teas taste delicate, fruity, floral, and light, and are best served without any milk or sugar added.

Keemun- This tea is from the Anhui Province of eastern China. High-quality Keemun teas are a connoisseur favorite and are noted for their distinctive aromas and flavors, which are often described as smooth, tobacco-like, fruity, floral, piney and reminiscent of wine. This tea is good by itself or with milk and sugar.

Assam- This tea tends to be bold, malty and brisk. It's often used as the base for English and Irish Breakfast Tea, as well as other black tea blends. A bit of sugar and a splash of milk are commonly added to Assamese teas.

Yunnan- This black tea hails from Yunnan, a province in China better known for its pu-erh tea (an aged variety of heavily oxidized tea). Some Yunnan black teas are partially fermented, meaning that they straddle the line between black tea and pu-erh. Their flavors are typically chocolaty, dark, malty, and nuanced. Sometimes, they have notes of spice or a lasting sweetness in the finish. People who love chocolate tend to love Yunnan tea.

Ceylon- These teas come from the island nation of Sri Lanka. As Sri Lanka has an immense range of altitude in a limited space, it produces a wide variety of flavor profiles in it's teas. However, Ceylon teas are generally bold, strong and rich, sometimes with notes of chocolate or spice. Ceylon teas are the most common bases for Earl Grey blends and are often served with milk, sugar, honey, or lemon.

Nilgiri- This is a fragrant, floral tea from the mountains of South India. In the 1980s, Nilgiri teas suffered from major quality issues, but in recent years, the teas from this region have vastly improved and earned a spot on the world stage. This tea is particularly good served iced and holds up well to additions such as sugar or lemon.

Bai Lin Gong Fu- This rare tea is a nuanced, flavorful, handmade black tea. It's rare even in its homeland of China. It can be brewed multiple times in the traditional Chinese syle of tea brewing. If you can get your hands on some, it's well worth a try!

Lapsang Souchong- This is a smoked black tea that varies in flavor from delicately smoky (which is more traditional) to an almost ashy flavor that some people describe as similar to that of an ashtray (which is, more commercial). Lapsang Souchong tends to appeal to people who like bold flavors, such as smoked meats, roasted coffees, and bittersweet chocolates. This tea is usually served hot with the occasional bit of sugar. Though these teas also stand up well to being iced.




     The process of brewing tea at home has it's own benefits. Not only is the process itself often relaxing, but the tea leaves and herbs you use can have a great impact on your health and mood. One thing that people don't often think about is how the smell, the aroma, of the tea can effect your mood. The scent of Tea is considered to be soothing and relaxing over all, without being overly sedating.






     Here are some mood enhancing tea blends that I love. All of these recipes are measured in “parts.” Simply substitute the amount you want for the word “part” (i.e. if you want a small amount use teaspoons, if you want a large amount try cups). For any recipe that has a liquid extract, place the extract in the container first and swirl it around to evenly distribute it. Then add in the remaining ingredients. These recipes are “make ahead” recipes, allow them to sit for a few days before using them to allow the extract to be absorbed.



1.  This blend is a great mixture of comforting Cinnamon and Vanilla with relaxing Rose. It's great to drink any time you just feel the need to relax. I prefer this blend as a hot tea and I typically make it with a mixture of Darjeeling and Ceylon, but any Black Tea will work well.


Exotic Spiced Rose

5 parts Black Tea
1 part Rose Buds
½ part Cut Cinnamon or Cinnamon Chips




2.  This soothing tea is one of my favorite late Summer, early Fall blends. It's great either hot or iced. The Lavender can sometimes overpower the delicate White Tea flavors, so feel free to use less Lavender if you want more of those flavors to come through. Sometimes I sweeten this tea with honey, and I occasionally add a little bit of Chamomile. The White Teas I usually use for this are the Darjeeling White or the Tribute Eyebrow, but any White Tea will work.


Lavender Peach

5 parts White Tea
1 part Dried Peaches, diced
½ part Peach Extract
½ part Dried Lavender




3.  This tea is a great pick up when you're low on energy. Not only is there a little bit of caffeine in Oolong, the Citrus and Peppermint help to increase your awareness and boost your energy. I save and dry the citrus peels from all the citrus I eat, so I always have a blend of citrus peels on hand, but you can use whatever citrus you prefer. You can also switch up the extract to any other citrus flavor (I like Grapefruit on occasion), or use a blend of citrus extracts. This tea is great either hot or iced and I often sweeten it with some honey. The Oolong Teas I prefer with this blend are either the Iron Goddess of Mercy or the Phoenix Tea. But any Oolong will work.

Energizing Oolong

5 parts Oolong Tea
1 part Citrus Peels (a mixture is good, but you can use a single citrus as well)
½ part Peppermint Leaves





4.  This tea blend reminds me of long walks through the woods. It helps to balance you mood, bringing a calm and refreshing energy. I prefer this tea blend hot without any aditives, but it stands up well to sweetening and adding a little lemon if you want a more energetic tea. The Green Teas I prefer with this are  Gyokuro and  Kukicha, but any Green Tea will work, though I wouldn't recommend any of the ground teas such as Matcha.


Forest Green

5 parts Green Tea
1 part Pine Needles
½ part Catnip
½ part Tulsi
½ part Juniper Berries





5.  One of my favorite teas has always been Jasmine Green Tea, which is a Jasmine Scented Green tea common in China. This blend takes the concept of a floral scented tea to a whole new level, adding in bits of the flowers and making a calming blend that is reminiscent of a gentle breeze flowing through a flower garden. This tea is great either hot or iced and is perfect to drink while enjoying a relaxing bath. The Green Teas I prefer for this blend are  Fukamushicha and Sencha, but any Green Tea will work well. I don't recommend any of the ground teas such as Matcha, however.


Relaxing Garden Tea

5 parts Green Tea
1 part Tulsi
½ part Chamomile Flowers
½ part Rose Buds



6.  White Tea is great to use in herbal blends when you want other bold flavors to stand out. The White Tea helps to provide a great balance in these teas. This tea in particular is full of bold flavors that help to invigorate you without going overboard into a jittery state like you would from being over-caffeinated. This tea is great either hot or cold and I often sweeten mine with honey. Because it's full of bold flavors, the White Teas that hold up best in this blend are the stronger flavored ones such as White Peony and Tribute Eyebrow, but any White Tea will work well.


Invigorating Ginger Berry

5 parts White Tea
½ part Dried Ginger Root 
½ part Lemongrass 



7.  This tea blend is loaded full of flowers and fruits, giving it a beautiful appearance. It balances your mood and reminds you of a tropical garden, perfect for relaxing. This tea is great either hot or iced and I prefer to sweeten mine with honey. I will occasionally add a bit of lemon to it as well. My favorite Oolong Teas to use for this blend are Oriental Beauty and High Mountain Oolong. Any Oolong will work well in this blend, however.


Back to Eden

5 parts Oolong Tea
½ part Rose Hips, seedless cut 



8.  This blend is a gently invigorating and uplifting one. The zing of the Peppermint is tempered with a hint of Vanilla and Lemon Balm. I prefer this tea hot, but it works well iced too. The Black Teas I prefer to use for this blend include Yunnan and Nilgiri, though any Black Tea will work.


Minty Minx

5 parts Black Tea
1 part Peppermint 
½ part Lemon Balm







     I know I just threw a lot of Tea information you way, I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and want to see more, Become a Patron!


Resources:


All About The Tea Plant (Camellia sinensis): The Spruce: https://www.thespruce.com/camellia-sinensis-definition-765682

Don't Just Drink Tea, Breath It!: Silver Tips Tea: https://www.silvertipstea.com/blogs/updates/tea-as-potpourri

How Tea Works: How Stuff Works: https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/tea1.htm

Sweet Smell of Tea: Tea Muse: https://www.teamuse.com/article_010302.html

Tea 101- Camellia Sinensis Tea Plant: Cup and Leaf: https://www.cupandleaf.com/blog/camellia-sinensis

Tea Aromatherapy: Sugimoto Tea: https://www.sugimotousa.com/blog/tea-talk/japanese-culture/902/

The 6 Steps of Tea Processing: Red Blossom Tea: https://redblossomtea.com/blogs/red-blossom-blog/the-6-steps-of-tea-processing

What are the Benefits of Green Tea Essential Oil?: Leaf: https://www.leaf.tv/articles/what-are-the-benefits-of-green-tea-essential-oil/

Monday, September 9, 2019

Eating Cacti




     I love cooking and eating unique foods, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I have tried and fallen completely in love with several preparations of Nopales, or Prickly Pears. Not only can you eat the cactus pads, but you can also eat the fruit, and the whole plant makes some delicious dishes. So I figured I'd share with you a variety of Cactus recipes, these recipes are still Gluten Free and Vegetarian, but some of them do include eggs and dairy.

     Before we get into the recipes, here's a quick video on how to clean the cactus pads so you don't eat one of the spines. Nobody wants to do that.





This lovely woman has a YouTube channel devoted to Meatless Mexican Recipes, I encourage everyone to check her out!

But now that you know how to clean your cactus, on to the recipes!

1.  Cactus goes well with eggs? Who knew? But this is such a great dish! And it's super simple, great for breakfast or brunch. My husband and I love to stuff tortillas with this and make a Mexican Breakfast Burrito as well.

Huevos con Nopales


Ingredients
1 tbsp Olive Oil
4 Green Onions, diced (white and green parts are welcome)
3 Garlic Cloves, smashed and minced
1 cup Nopales, diced (blanch them if you want the goo gone, but this step is optional)
1 small Hot Pepper (Serrano is my go-to, but you can use Jalapeno or Habanero as well), diced
4 Eggs, beaten well
1 small Roma Tomato, diced (optional, but I really like this touch)
¼ cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste


Instructions:
     In a skillet, over medium-high heat, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil for about 1 minute. Add in the Nopales and Serrano Pepper (or whatever pepper you choose). The Nopales will start to ooze a bit, keep cooking until that liquid is mostly gone (about 3-4 minutes). Add in the eggs and tomatoes, reduce the heat to low and cook until the eggs are done to your liking. Stir in the cilantro, salt, and pepper and serve warm!



2.  Here is proof that I was born and raised in the South. I swear, if we can eat it, we will find a way to fry it. But this recipe is soooooo good I couldn't leave it out! I use all gluten-free flour (my favorite is Namaste Foods Gluten Free Organic Perfect Flour Blend), but it's also super good with a mixture of corn meal and flour. I also like to use coconut oil to deep fry with, it doesn't break down as much at the higher temperature making it a little bit healthier. This is kind of like frying a grilled cheese, it's great comfort food and pairs well with tomato soup!


Stuffed Nopales


Ingredients
6 Nopal Pads, cleaned and blanched
Oaxacan Cheese (or Mozzarella)
3 Eggs
2 cups Milk
1¼ lb Flour, sifted
Salt and Pepper to taste
Coconut Oil (or whatever oil you want to use for frying)


Instructions:
     For the batter, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Slowly pour in the milk while wisking. Whisk until mixture is smooth, then add in your eggs one at a time. Once the batter is mixed well and smooth, cover and chill in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
     After cleaning your Nopales, pair them together with close to the same size pads per pair. If needed, trim them to equal sizes and shapes. Use them to make “sandwiches” with the cheese slices by layering one Nopal, then some cheese, then a second Nopal. Secure them with toothpicks.
     In a deep skillet, sauce pan, or deep fryer, place enough oil to cover your Nopal sandwiches (one at a time). Bring the oil to a boil. Dip each sandwich into the batter, making sure to cover them well (optionally, if you're having problems getting the batter to stick you can dredge them in flour first), and place them in the boiling oil. Fry them until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oil and place them on a clean kitchen towel to drain. Try to remove the toothpicks before eating.
     Enjoy them, while hot, with Salsa and/or Guacamole!



3.  Speaking of guacamole. I just LOVE avocados, and any excuse to use them is a good one! So of course I had to make some guacamole with Nopales. This version is a little more work because I grill the Nopal, but if you want to skip that step, you can just blanch them to get rid of some of the goo. I also happen to collect cast iron, so I am lucky enough to have a stove top grill (like this one) that I can use which makes this recipe much easier.

Grilled Cactus Guacamole


Ingredients
1 Nopal Pad, cleaned
2-3 ripe Avocados
Juice and Zest of 1 Lime
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
½ a medium Red Onion, diced
1-2 fresh Jalapenos, seeded and diced (or Serrano for a little more heat)
a little less than ¼ cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder to taste



Instructions:
     After cleaning the Nopal, brush it with a little olive oil. Heat up your grill and place the Nopal on the grill to cook. It should take about 20 minutes per side, but if you want a little extra of that grilled taste, you can cook it a little longer. Also, you can toss your peppers on the grill too, before dicing them.
     Cut your avocados in half and scoop them out. Mash them up with the lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. After grilling your Nopal, and allowing it to cool, dice it up and combine it with all the other ingredients. Mix well. Chill for 15 minutes and serve cold.



4.  What's better on a hot day than indulging in a fruit sorbet? Well, Prickly Pears make a great sorbet. Be sure to use a real ice cream maker (like this one) for this recipe though, if you freeze it and then blend it later, the chunks won't get as smooth and you'll miss out on the awesomeness that is the smooth texture of this sorbet.


Prickly Pear Sorbet


Ingredients
7-8 ripe Prickly Pears
1 cup Water
Juice and Zest of 1 Lemon
Juice and Zest of 1 Lime
½ cup (or a little more) Sugar


Instructions:
     In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, stir together the water and sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool. While you're waiting for this, cut the Prickly Pears in half and scoop out the insides, being very careful to avoid the irritating hairs and spines on the outside. Pulse the pulp in a blender for a moment to separate out the seeds. Strain this through a sieve to fully remove those seeds. Once the sugar mixture is cool, add in all the remaining ingredients, including your strained puree. Place this mixture in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
     Once the mixture is chilled, set up your ice cream maker and pour in the mixture, following your factory settings. Serve immediately or put in the freezer for later. If you put it in the freezer, take it out of the freezer before serving to let it soften enough to be able to stir it with spatula and bring back the smooth, velvety consistency.



5.  I have been working in the hospitality industry most of my adult life, and a good majority of that work has been behind a bar. I love mixing new drinks and creating amazing cocktails. So when I heard that Nopals could be juiced, I decided that I was going to make it my next cocktail goal to create a Cactus Margarita. Well, I ended up creating 2! The first one is from the cactus pads, the second is using the fruit. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!


Nopal Margarita


Ingredients
For the Nopal Lime Mix:
2 Nopal Pads, cleaned and diced
2 cups Water
½ cup Sugar
Juice and Zest of 3 Limes (6 tsp Lime Juice)
For the Margarita:
1.5 oz Tequila of your choice (I prefer to use Silver Tequilas for this recipe, my favorite is Milagro)
.5 oz Triple Sec (or other Orange Liqueur like Cointreau)
2 oz Nopal Lime Mix


Instructions:
     To make the Nopal Lime Mix, combine the Nopal pads, water, and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir while boiling until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 1 hour. When the hour is up, strain out about half of the cactus and put the syrup into a food processor. Add in lime juice and zest, blend until smooth.
     For each margarita, combine 1.5 oz Tequila, .5 oz Triple Sec, and 2 oz of the Nopal Lime Mix. Shake with ice and pour into a glass (optional-rim the glass with salt for a great flavor). If you want to make a batch of frozen margaritas, combine ingredients in a blender with ice and blend away. I make the frozen ones in batches of 4, so that's 6 oz Tequila, 2 oz Triple Sec, and 8 oz of the Mix. I also like to use the Nopal Cactus Pieces (from making the Mix) as a garnish.


Prickly Pear Margarita


Ingredients
For the Prickly Pear Syrup:
1 lb Prickly Pears
Water
1 cup Sugar
Juice and Zest of 1 Lime
For the Margarita:
1.5 oz Tequila of your choice (I prefer to use Silver Tequilas for this recipe, my favorite is Milagro)
.5 oz Triple Sec (or other Orange Liqueur like Cointreau)
.5 oz Prickly Pear Syrup
1.5 oz Lime Juice


Instructions:
     To make the syrup, cut each prickly pear in half and scoop out the insides (be careful of the irritating hairs and spines on the outside of the fruit). Combine the fruit and sugar in a pot. Put just enough water in the pot to cover everything and bring the contents to a boil over medium-high heat, stiring and mashing the fruit as it boils. When the sugar is dissolved, cover and remove from the heat. Allow to steep for 30 minutes, or until it's cool. Add in the zest and lime juice, give it a good stir, then strain out the pulp and seeds.
     For each margarita, combine 1.5 oz Tequila, .5 oz Triple Sec, .5 oz Prickly Pear Syrup, and 1.5 oz of Lime Juice. Shake with ice and pour into a glass (optional-rim the glass with salt or sugar for a great flavor). If you want to make a batch of frozen margaritas, combine ingredients in a blender with ice and blend away. I make the frozen ones in batches of 4, so that's 6 oz Tequila, 2 oz Triple Sec, 2 oz Syrup, and 6 oz of Lime Juice.




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     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...