Thursday, November 29, 2018

Citrus Pine Infused Vinegar






     I love trying to introduce healthy and tasty herbs to just about everyone I know. So it's no secret that I love to gift herbal infusions. These are great for just about everyone. Cooks love the flavors, health nuts love the benefits, and people who may never use them still think they're pretty and will display them somewhere.

     Speaking of using them, how do you? There are so many ways. The first, and easiest way to use these is to sprinkle them on top of your salads or add a little bit of oil to them and make them into super tasty salad dressings. I'm also very southern and eat my cooked greens with vinegar on them. Some of these add a nice kick to my greens. You can mix them with honey and water and make a nice lemonade-like drink. This is an especially good idea for the fruit flavored vinegars. I also love to eat cucumbers (and other fresh veggies) that have been drenched with vinegar, but not necessarily pickled.

     Now I make these year round for personal use, but I figured that this Christmas I would gift a few to certain people I know. So here's my instructions for infusing vinegar (or cooking oil) as gifts for the Holidays!

The Vinegar:

What I used in this particular infusion was Apple Cider Vinegar. It's got a great flavor that goes really well with citrus and since I decided to use Lemon Balm, Pine, and Grapefruit for my vinegar, that's what I decided to use. Other vinegars that work really well are Rice Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, and Malt Vinegar. But really you can use whatever vinegar you want.

Herbs:

You can use whatever combination of herbs you want in these infusions, and you can used dried as well as fresh. This particular vinegar uses Grapefruit peel, Lemon Balm sprigs (because of the pretty flowers!), and fresh Pine Needles. Other examples may be a Cranberry Orange Vinegar, Ginger Lemongrass Vinegar, or even an Italian Herb Vinegar with Basil, Oregano, and Garlic. You can even turn any of your favorite cooking herb blends into an infused vinegar. Have fun! For some flavor inspirations, this page has links to over 20 different recipes. Or keep reading because I'll give you a few of my favorite infused vinegar recipes from the past!

Variations:

You can use this same process to infuse other things as well, such as oils, honey, or even some vodka if you're feeling extra spirited. For oils, I like to use a variety of healthy oils such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, or Cold Pressed Grapeseed Oil.



Citrus Pine Vinegar




1 Cute Bottle (the one I use is a Grolsch bottle that I picked up a few years ago. Check out the bottles at Specialty Bottles if you need to buy some)
A Vegetable Peeler
1 Grapefruit
a few Sprigs of fresh Lemon Balm
a handful of Pine Needles
enough Apple Cider Vinegar to cover your herbs (this bottle is fairly large so I used just shy of a quart)




Instructions:
Sanitize your bottle and allow to air dry. Wash all of your fresh ingredients. Peel your grapefruit and slide it into your bottle. Follow up with your lemon balm sprigs. Clean up the ends of your pine needles and stuff those in your bottle as well. I ended up only using about 4-5 clusters of needles. *Optional, heat your vinegar until just under boiling. Pour your vinegar into the bottle, making sure to cover up all those yummy herbs. Seal and allow to sit 2-4 weeks before gifting/using.

The following recipes use the same set of instructions:


Place the herbs in a clean jar/bottle. Cover herbs with vinegar/liquid of choice (warmed to help speed up the infusion process). Seal the jar/bottle and allow to sit for 2-4 weeks before using/gifting.


A Taste of the Orient


2 cups Rice Vinegar
¼ cup Lemongrass
4-5 slices fresh Ginger
* Optional for a little heat 1 Cayenne Pepper sliced lengthwise


Cranberry Juniper Vinegar


2 cups Red Wine Vinegar
1 cup Fresh Cranberries
¼ cup Juniper Berries


Spicy Chipotle Vinegar


1 cup White Wine Vinegar
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar (or for some great boozy flavor, use Tequila)
1 Jalapeno sliced lengthwise
1-2 tsp Chipotle Seasoning Blend of choice


Lavender Peach Vinegar


2 cups White Balsamic Vinegar
½ cup Peach, diced
2-3 tsp dried Lavender
¼ cup Honey, raw local honey is best


Mojito Vinegar


1 ½ cups Champagne Vinegar
½ cup White Rum (or more vinegar if you want to keep this kid friendly)
½ cup fresh Mint Leaves (sprigs make it more decorative)
1 fresh Lime, sliced
¼ cup Simple Syrup (equal parts sugar and water cooked on the stove to make a syrup)


Garlic Dill Vinegar


2 cups White Wine Vinegar
about 4-6 whole Garlic Cloves
3-4 fresh Dill sprigs (or 3-4 tsp dried dill)





I hope you enjoy these recipes. Have fun creating your infused gifts! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below! Also, if you want me to cover anything specific, I'd like to know!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Stuffing, Acorn Squash, and Lentil Loaf







     Eek! Thanksgiving is early this year. I almost let it slip by me. But don't panic if your in the same boat. Here are some great Thanksgiving recipes fit for any gluten free, vegan friendly, table for this year complete with a few variations just for fun.


1.  Acorn squash is one of my favorite fall flavors. On top of it's deliciousness, it's super easy to roast and stuff. The flavor of the squash works well with a number of different stuffing options as well. This recipe does not include the stuffing because I have several options for you to choose from below.


Stuffed Acorn Squash

(6 Servings)

3 Acorn Squash, halved and seeded (save the seeds to toast later, they're yummy)
¾ cup of Ghee, melted
6 cups of Stuffing (recipes below)
Salt and Pepper to taste


Preheat your oven to 400.  Brush each half of squash with melted ghee and stuff 1 cup of your chosen stuffing in each half, season to taste with salt and pepper. Wrap each half tightly in foil.  Bake, covered, for about 1 hour.  In the last 15 minutes of cooking, remove the foil to allow any extra liquid to cook off.  Transfer the Squash to your serving platter, carefully. If you have any stuffing left over, you can arrange it around the squash on the platter.



2. Lentil Loaf is a staple in my home. It's super easy to make and can be extremely versatile. In this recipe I'll guide you through how to stuff your Lentil Loaf. I'm not including the stuffing here because further down there are a few stuffing recipes and variations. Any of those stuffings will work well for your Loaf.

Stuffed Lentil Loaf

(6 Servings)

3 tbsp ground Chia seeds
6 tbsp Water
1 ½ cups Lentils (I use Yellow lentils to make it more like turkey, brown for “beef”)
3 ½ cups Vegetable Broth
2 medium sized Onions, diced (I like using sweet yellow onions, but it's your choice)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
3 tbsp Olive Oil
2 cups cooked Rice
¾ tsp Salt
½ tsp White Pepper
2 cups of Stuffing (recipes below)


Mix together the ground chia seeds and water. Place in the fridge to chill. Reheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and drain the lentils and add them to a stock pot with the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to and allow to simmer about 30 minutes. Strain (optional- you can save the broth to cook your rice in for more flavor) and mash while hot. Set aside to cool. In a skillet, sautee the ontion and garlic in oil for 3-5 minutes, or until soft and just transparent. Combine with mashed lentils, in a large bowl. Add in rice, salt, pepper, and chia seed mixture. Mix well (optional- combine in a food processor and process until smooth for a more turky-like appearance). Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, leave the edges coming out of the pan. Fill the bottom of the lined pan with a little more than half of the lentil mixture, make sure to get up on the sides, but leave space in the center.  Fill with 2 cups of stuffing. Put the remaining lentil mixture on top of the stuffing and seal the loaf. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Gently pull loaf out of pan using the parchment paper. Remove paper and arrange on your platter. Slice carefully. If you have any stuffing left over, arrange it on the platter as well.




3. This is one of my favorite stuffing recipes. It's super tasty and really easy. This stuffing goes so well with so many different dishes, and you can easily make it into a salad by serving it over a handful of fresh, baby greens. Chayote squash is a great vegetable found year round here in Florida. It can be eaten raw or cooked and has a slightly cucumber-ish flavor. If you cant get chayote, try butternut squash for a delicious fall flavor.

Quinoa Chayote Stuffing


1 cup dry Quinoa
2 tbsp Olive Oil or Ghee
2 cups Vegetable Broth
1 cup diced Chayote Squash
½ cup diced Celery
½ cup diced Carrot
1 diced medium sized Onion (I use sweet yellow onions)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2-3 leaves of Fresh Sage, chopped
1-2 sprigs of Fresh Thyme
¾ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Pepper
¼ cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
2 tbsp Olive Oil or Avocado Oil


Rinse your quinoa very well and allow to drain. While your quinoa is draining, pour about 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or ghee) in a sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the drained quinoa and cook, constantly stirring, to allow the remaining water to evaporate and toast the quinoa. This should take about 2 minutes. Add in the broth and bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, covered. Don't stir or lift the cover! Remove the saucepan from heat and allow to sit for an additional 5 minutes....still no peeking! Remove the cover and fluff your quinoa. If any liquid is remaining at the bottom, return it to the heat for 5 more minutes. Otherwise, toss that quinoa into a large mixing bowl to await the other ingredients.

Heat another tablespoon of oil (or ghee) in a pan and add your veggies (chayote, celery, carrot, onion, and garlic). Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until veggies are nice and tender (about 20 min). Now it's time to add in your sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Mix together while cooking for just a few more moments. Then toss 'em all in with the quinoa. Add in your parsley and the remaining oil. Toss well to combine.



4. Falafel stuffing? Sounds weird, I know, but it's DELICIOUS! This recipe does take a bit of work because you'll be making your own falafels to use, but the result is amazing and totally worth it! This works equally well as Tamiya (an Egyptian version of falafel), just use fava beans instead of chickpeas.


Fall Falafel Stuffing


For the Fall Falafel:
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
3-4 Garlic Cloves
1 cup cooked (or canned) Chickpeas, drained
¾ cup fresh Parsley leaves
1 tbsp ground Sage
½ tsp Cayenne powder (or to taste)
½ tsp dried Rosemary
Salt & Pepper
¾ cup Gluten Free Bread Crumbs

For the Stuffing:
Falafel, smashed
1 tbsp Olive Oil or Ghee
1 cup Butternut Squash, diced
1 medium sized Onion, chopped (I prefer sweet yellow onions)  
1 cup Celery, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, smashed and chopped
2-3 fresh Sage leaves, chopped
1 tbsp fresh Rosemary leaves
1 tbsp fresh Thyme leaves
½ cup fresh Parsley leaves
2 tablespoons Olive Oil or Avocado Oil


For the Falafel:
Preheat your oven to 350.  Coat a baking sheet with olive oil.  Place the onion, garlic, and chickpeas in a food processor and pulse a few times to break everything up.  Add in 1 tbsp olive oil and the remaining ingredients and pulse until a coarse paste forms.  Don't process this too well or it won't work.  Form the mixture into small balls (or use a small, 2 tsp, cookie scoop), or patties.  Mixture will be soft, be careful and use wet hands to avoid sticking.  Arrange falafel on the greased cookie sheet and brush with olive oil.  Bake for about 35 minutes, turning once or twice to ensure even browning.

For the Stuffing:
Smash all of your falafel (make sure they are broken up into large chunks, but not completely ground) and place into a large mixing bowl. In a skillet, heat olive oil (or ghee) over medium heat. Add in butternut squash, onion, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until veggies are tender. Combine with falafel and remaining ingredients. Mix well to combine.



5. This stuffing is a great way to sneak some extra healthy veggies into your family's Thanksgiving. Jam packed with cauliflower, beets, celraic, and so much more. You can also eat this as a roasted veggie salad, over a bed of fresh baby greens.

Cauliflower and Roots Stuffing


4 tbsp Olive Oil or Ghee
1 medium sized Onion, chopped (I like using Sweet Yellow Onions here)
2 cloves Garlic, smashed and chopped
1 large Carrot, peeled and chopped
1 cup Golden Beets, peeled and chopped
1 cup Celraic (celery root), peeled and chopped
1 head of Cauliflower, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh Parsley leaves, chopped
2 tbsp fresh Rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp fresh Sage, chopped
½ cup Vegetable Broth


In a large skillet, over medium heat, warm the oil (or ghee). Add onion, garlic, and carrot. Cook until soft (about 7-8 min). Add in Beets, Celraic, and Cauliflower. Cook until tender (about 7-8 more min). Add in remaining ingredients and cook until liquid is absorbed (about 10 more minutes). Optional- roast in a preheated oven for 10 more minutes with a little ghee or olive oil.



6. For all of my Shroomies out there, this stuffing is awesome! It's packed with mushrooms and herbs to make your Thanksgiving out of this world. The creamy element is cashew milk so it's perfectly great for all you vegans as well!

Creamy Wild Rice and Mushroom Stuffing


1 cup Wild Rice, rinsed well and drained
1 cup Brown Rice, rinsed well and drained
5 cups Vegetable Broth
1 tbsp Olive Oil or Ghee
1 medium sized Onion (for this I like to use red onions)
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
½ cup Celery, chopped
½ cup Carrot, diced
1 cup Mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp fresh Sage, chopped
½ tbsp fresh Thyme leaves
1 cup Cashew Milk
½ cup fresh Parsley leaves, chopped

In a saucepan, combine wild rice, brown rice, and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until rice is tender and the kernels pop open, takes about 45-60 minutes. Uncover the rice, remove it from the heat, and fluff it with a fork.

In a skillet, heat oil (or ghee) over medium heat. Add in onion, garlic, celery, and carrot. Cook until tender (about 7-8 min). Add in the mushrooms and continue cooking an additional 10 minutes. When done add it to the rice with the sage, thyme, and cashew milk. Put it back on medium heat and cook until thick and creamy. Add in the parsley and toss to combine.





I hope you enjoy these recipes! Let me know what you think down below!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sea Grape




     I was born and raised in Florida, pretty much on the coast. I grew up playing in pine scrub and frolicking amongst the dunes on the world's most beautiful beaches. Most of my botanical and herbal knowledge is not coastal at all. While I recognize a lot of coastal plants in the dune habitats, there are very few that I am truly knowledgeable about, and I'm working to fix that. One of the plants I decided to start with is the Sea Grape.

     Sea Grapes, Coccoloba uvifera, is a sprawling shrub or small tree in the buckwheat, or Polygonaceae, family. It can grow up to 30 feet high (some have been documented to even reach heights around 50 feet) and tends to branch off into multiple trunks if not pruned regularly. Often, on beaches, you won't notice any that are more than 10 feet. The leaves are often red-veined. They are also almost completely round and are typically 8-12 inches in diameter, earning it the name Platterleaf in some areas of the world. Sea Grape blooms starting in March and going, sometimes, through October. The flowers are white or ivory in color. They form clusters and eventually develop into bunches of fruit that start off green and mature to a reddish or purple hue. The fruit is very reminiscent of grapes, though the clusters are formed in a slightly different habit (it's more of a string of fruit than a bunch), which is what gives this plant it's name.




     Sea Grape is native to the Caribbean and tropical America including Florida, the Bahamas, and Barbados. These plants are salt tolerant and often are planted to help protect and rebuild endangered dunes. As such, this plant is protected under Florida law and cannot be messed with without the express permission of the person who owns the land that they are on. You can check out the Florida Statute here. This means that wildcrafting or foraging from this amazing plant is illegal in this state (without written permission). However, its sold as an ornamental shrub at many nurseries, and grows well in just about any, well-drained, soil. It's also an excellent potted plant and takes well to bonsai. Just kee in mind that if you are looking to harvest the fruit, you will need at least one male and one female plant in order to produce the grapes as these shrubs are dioecious. The fruit is edible raw and makes great wine and jelly, but be careful of the pits that make up roughly 80% of each fruit. Here's a good recipe I found for Sea Grape Jelly from Authentic Florida.

     In addition to being edible, Sea Grapes have quite a few medicinal uses. Not only the fruit, but the leaves, bark, and roots, are all useful. The flowers are also major draws for pollinators and make an excellent honey. However, some people may have their allergies triggered by the Sea Grape pollen.

Medicinal Uses:


Botanical Name- Coccoloba uvifera

Common Names- Sea Grape, Florida Sea Grape, Bay Grape, Seaside Grape, Platterleaf, Mangrove Grape, Horsewood, Hopwood, and Seaside Plum

Parts Used- Fruit, Leaves, Bark, and Roots

Summary of Actions-  Astringent, Antidysentery, Antidiarrheal, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Photoprotective

Lowers Blood Sugar and Prevents Diabetes- The fruit of the Sea Grape is low in sugar, but high in many vitamins and minerals that are attributed with helping to control blood glucose levels. There have also been numerous studies that show how drinking a tea made from the leaves can effectively lower blood glucose levels.

Strengthens the Cardiovascular System- Sea Grapes are a wonderful source of calcium and potassium which help to reduce blood pressure. They also contain good amounts of the unsaturated fatty acids that help to reduce cholesterol, increase the elasticity of blood vessels, prevent oxidation, maintain structure of the arteries, and prevent cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction.

Helps the Thyroid- Sea Grapes are an excellent source of iodine which is used by the thyroid. When the thyroid does not get enough iodine, it ceases to work properly and can become enlarged, creating a goiter. Just 30 grams of Sea Grapes a day is enough to prevent a goiter from forming.

Helps Treat Diarrhea and Dysentery- This is the traditional use that has the most information. The juice, as well as teas and decoctions from the roots and bark, were used by Native Americans to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and a number of other digestive problems. There is also a traditional tea, used for the same purpose, made from boiling together all the parts of the plant.

Traditionally Used for Asthma and Hoarseness- Tea made from the leaves of the Sea Grape was used to also treat hoarseness and asthma. Resinous gum from the bark can be used to treat most throat ailments.

Contraindications and Warnings- Pollen may cause allergic responses in some hay fever sufferers.




     I only included a basic introduction to this amazing herb.  If I missed anything please let me know in the comments.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. If there is anything you'd like me to post on in the future, please leave it in the comments.

References:


Coccoloba uvifera: Useful Tropical Plants: http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Coccoloba+uvifera

Coccoloba uvifera: Wildflower.org: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=couv

Dominican Medicinal Plant Inventory: Partners for Rural Health: http://www.prhdr.org/docs/Dominican%20Medicinal%20Plants.pdf

Sea Grape: Stuart Exchange- Philippine Medicinal Plants: http://www.stuartxchange.org/SeaGrape.html

Sea Grape Facts: Health Benefits Times: https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/sea-grape/

Sea Grapes: Maritime Marvels: Eat The Weeds.com: http://www.eattheweeds.com/sea-grapes-maritime-marvels/

Seaside Grape Information-Tips for growing Sea Grapes: Gardening Knowhow: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/sea-grape/seaside-grape-information.htm

Sea Grape Tree: Urban Tropicals: https://urbantropicals.com/product/sea-grape-tree-coccoloba-uvifera/

Welcome

Greetings from the Bat Lady!

     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...