Friday, December 30, 2011

Herb Calendar for 2012

I am not an artist.  The only drawings I ever did with any skill were the recreations of stone tools for my catalog sheets and site reports back 30 years ago when I was an archaeologist.  I was never able to transfer that skill in drawing to anything else.

Herbal calendars with pictures and herb info are always popular with me and I have kept every one I have received, hoping someday to transfer my own information into somthing similar with all my herb photos.  I actually took steps to accomplish that toward fall of 2011 and found it was a bit more work than my limited computer and art skill can produce at this time, but now I have the information and steps and 12 months to do one for next year...  It's doable, I think.  Just as soon as I learn to use Print Shop.

However, I was just steered by an online friend to this lovely FREE herb calendar for 2012 created by Alice Cantrell and her daughter Anna.  The blog it is on is also a good read too!  Here is the link:

You can download this free PDF and print it and Alice has even given permission for you to use it as a gift for others and shows how you can dress it up to be one.

The calendar items were drawn by her 14 year old daughter who then digitally colored them.  And at the end is some nice straight forward information on each herb.  The best thing (in my opinion) is she included - and I think those were hand drawn - the moon phases on each month.  Since I am now tuned into the patterns of nature in herb gardening, like moon phases and day length as it effects my plants, this was a small but very useful addition to a calendar.  I plan to keep a copy out in the herb shed.

This would be the perfect gift for that January Birthday in your life or for yourself just to enjoy these great drawings.  I am putting mine up in the cubical at work to bring in a bit of greenery!  With wonderful people like Alice out there, maybe I don't need to make a calendar after all!

Please enjoy this little gift from Alice for your new year!

If you like soups in winter, please take advantage of our SOUP SALE.  We are taking 25% off soup purchases in our Etsy store.  Just use the coupon code: JANSALE25 when you check out to get the discount on all our soup mixes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Using Rose Hips in Winter

Everyone tends to go with the old remedy of increased vitamin C as a way to stave off seasonal illnesses and colds.  I believe in this as well, but what you may not know is that citrus is nice but Rose hips are the largest source of Vitamin C by volume and are simple and easy to use in your seasonal cures.

Roses, traditional non-hybrid roses, develop a seed pod just at the base of the flower.  These red balls are known as "hips" and yes the seeds are in them.  Rose Hips make a wonderful tea.  They are high in Vitamin C, also contain vitamins A, B, D, K, E, and flavinoids (antioxidants), and prevent bladder infections, ease headaches and dizziness. 

I usually wait until frost before I harvest my rose hips, so with frost not coming until 11/11/11 this year, I am still out cutting hips in December.  I find the best way to let them dry is on the plant, rather than indoors on a screen. To many times they mold which made me decide to let mother nature do her thing and gather the dried hips instead.

Once you gather the hips you need to crush them. And sift out the prickly bits that exist inside with the seeds.  I find they irritate my skin and they float to the top of my tea so I prefer to remove them.  You can buy sifted rose hips if you do not wish to do this rather labor intensive job yourself.

Many of the medicinal herbs listed here I grow only for personal consumption because I do not try to diagnose or treat illnesses for anyone but myself.  However, these are tried recipes and certain can assist you with seasonal ailments when taken in moderation and in consultation with a professional.

Basic Rose Hip Tea

Pour 1 cup of boiling water
Rosy Bite Tea Leaves
over 2 heaping teaspoons of chopped rose hips

You can use rose hips with or without their seeds. Steep the herbal tea, covered, for 15 minutes and strain. Sweeten the refreshing, slightly sour tea with honey, if desired. Drink the tea lukewarm at bedtime for maximum effectiveness. The tea can be also be added to soups and stews to boost their tartness and vitamin C content.

I use rose hips in two of my favorite iced tea and hot tea blends.  With rose petals, hibiscus and sage I make a rose hip tea called Rose Blush that is good hot or cold and when mixed with honey and a bit of whiskey is great for seasonal ailments.  The other I call Rosy Bite because the tart nature of the rose hips is blended with Hibiscus.

Rose Hip Wine Helps Circulation

Rose hip wine stimulates the appetite and increases blood flow. Steep 3 ounces of dried rose hips in 1 quart of strong, dry red wine for 2 weeks. Filter the wine. Drink 2 small glasses per day. Who can beat that prescription!

Medicinal Tea Mixture for Cold Prevention & Relief

1 1/2 ounces rose hips
3/4 ounce marshmallow root
3/4 ounce mullein flowers and leaves

This tea stimulates the immune system. When you have a cold or flu, the tea loosens bronchial mucus and makes coughs more productive. For a cup of tea, use 1 cup of water and 2 teaspoons of the tea blend.

Herbal Tea Mixture for Abdominal Cramps and Mild Diarrhea

1 ounce rose hips
3/4 ounce peppermint leaves
3/4 ounce lemon balm leaves
3/4 ounce blackberry leaves

This tea regulates bile flow and relieves intestinal cramping and mild diarrhea. It is also a first-aid remedy for queasiness and nausea. Use 1 cup of water to 2 teaspoons of the tea blend.

Medicinal Tea to Relieve Gout & Kidney Gravel

1 1/2 ounces rose hips
3/4 ounce nettle leaves
3/4 ounce goldenrod leaves
3/4 ounce horsetail leaves

This tea flushes gravel from the kidneys, combats chronic urinary-tract infections and helps eliminate uric acid assisting gout patients. For each cup of tea use 1 cup of boiling water and 2 teaspoons of the tea mixture. Strain and enjoy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Herbs on the Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas!
I hope your Holiday is filled with all that you desire, from family to food to peace and quiet!
This year with the herb business expanding and my role with organizing an office move time slipped through my fingers and I ended up not getting my decoration out.  We are also traveling to Wisconsin for the holiday so in the end since I would not be home to enjoy it, I decided against putting up the tree. 
So in celebration of Christmas Day I created this virtual selection of herb related ornaments that I could have put on my tree, if I’d actually gotten it out of storage!
I start with scent.  Here are the spice and applesauce balls I made at the Palos Park Library for my November program.  These smell heavenly and are so easy to make.

Not sure if I shared the recipe to make these here before but here it is:
Apple Spice Balls
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 ½ cups ground spices
  (1/2 cup each cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
2 tsp. orris root powder

Gradually stir the spices into cold applesauce until thick enough to roll into balls without being sticky.  If crumbly, add a bit of water.  Roll dough into small balls and lay on wax paper to air dry.  Allow to dry for 1 to 2 weeks.  Wrap in netting and tie with ribbon.  To create ornaments, push a skewer through the center, and when partly dry, remove skewer and thread with ribbon, then continue to dry.

I also crafted a scented ornament using mulling spices.  The warmth of the bulbs on the tree lifts the scent out of the ornament and it is pretty to look at too filled with cinnamon, star anise, orange and lemon peel, lemon balm and cloves. 

A friend said she dries Queen Anne’s Lace during the summer, spray paints it gold, sometimes add a bit of glitter, then sets them on the tree branches.  

In the past I have made popcorn and cranberry garlands, especially when I worked at Kline Creek Farm with the hubby.  I remember coming home with red fingers and it wasn’t only from the cranberries.

A pomander ball, made by pressing cloves into the skin of a fresh orange is always a seasonal scented delight.  They were very popular in the Victorian era and were something I remember my grandmother teaching me to make back when I was in first grade.

Pine cones are my favorite thing to use in decorations.  This year I started working on a ball ornament that incorporated many pine cones of various shapes and sizes.  I don't think it has the final look I want yet though??

I love the attractive natural look of them.  I have decorated them with just ribbon.
Dusted them with powdered sugar or glitter to give a snow effect and painted them gold and silver too. 

I like pine cones so much that 40% of the glass ornaments I have for my Christmas tree are shaped or colored like pine cones.

Hope you have enjoyed the vitual tree and however you decorate, I hope you have a blessed and peaceful holiday season.  Please enjoy your holiday and if you are traveling, be safe!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hanukkah Herbal Dishes

I know that my focus this year has been almost entirely on my own religious background with the Advent Calendar and the Herbal Gift Series, however Christmas is not the only holiday in December and I thought I would share a couple recipes I found in a book called the Jewish Holidays Cookbook by Jill Bloomfield.  There are many great traditional recipes in the book but these two were ones my grandmother liked to make at holiday time.  She was not Jewish, but she did have a number of freinds at the Senior Center who were and as a result we learned to enjoy these dishes as if they came from our Finnish heritage.
Matzo Balls
Although these are seen to be like a dumpling, they really are not that dense.  To keep them light and fluffy pack them loosely; you want them to float when they cook. Matzo balls almost double in size when they cook, so be sure not to make yours too big.  I like Matzo balls as an alternative to noodles in chicken soup.  They are different and actually more simple to make than noodles anyway!

Serves 6
3 eggs
1 cup matzo meal
4 Tbls. vegetable oil
2 quarts plus 2 Tbls. chicken broth
½ cup cold water
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. white pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. parsley
1.    Separate 2 eggs and put the egg whites in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Set the yolks aside because you will add them later. Whisk the egg whites until they are light and fluffy.
2.    Crack the last egg and combine with the yolks you set aside. Using a fork, beat together. Gently fold the yolks into your fluffy egg whites.
3.    Add matzo meal, vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons of chicken broth, water, salt, white pepper, and garlic powder, and parsley again folding it carefully into your mixture.
4.    Place bowl in refrigerator for 1 hour, until the mixture is chilled and firm to the touch.
5.    Place 2 quarts chicken broth in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
6.    Remove matzo mixture from the refrigerator. Using your hands, scoop out a small bit of mixture and gently roll it in your hands to form a ball, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. (Rinse your hands with cold water if the dough is sticking to your fingers.)
7.    Using a slotted spoon, place matzo balls into the chicken stock 1 at a time. Reduce heat so mixture is at a low simmer. Cover pot and allow matzo balls to cook gently for about 45 minutes until they are cooked enough.
8.    Serve your matzo balls in the broth they were cooked in, or as a substitute for the noodles in chicken noodle soup.
Polish ponchik are fried doughnuts stuffed with jelly; Eastern European Jews brought these with them as they moved to Israel. This quick and easy recipe allows anyone to celebrate Hanukkah with homemade jelly doughnuts.  And what holiday cannot be enhanced by donuts!

Serves 5
1 (10 count) package of pre-made refrigerated biscuits
24 oz canola oil (for frying)
¼ cup raspberry jelly or jam (or feel free to use your favorite flavor, I like apple butter and grape too!)
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons Backyard Patch Cinnful Dessert Blend (or just cinnamon)
1.    Separate biscuits and flatten into a circle about 4 inches in diameter.
2.    Place about a teaspoon of jelly or jam in the center of each biscuit. Bring the edges up the the middle to form a ball. Pinch it closed at the top to seal in the filling.
3.    When all 10 ponchik are ready, pour the oil in a saucepan and bring to 350 degrees F. While waiting for the oil to reach temperature, pour sugar and cinnamon onto a plate.
4.    When oil is ready, use a slotted spoon to lower ponchik into oil. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until the dough is cooked through and golden brown.
5.    Remove from oil with slotted spoon and place on plate with cinnamon sugar. Gently roll the ponchik to coat. Be careful, ponchik will be hot.

Happy  Hanukkah!   

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rescuing the Carpets with an Herbal Carpet Cleaner

Stubborn Carpet Stains & How to Remove Them
Getting your house ready for company?  Some of the items below may happen before the party and some may be part of your party clean up.  Either way these fixes may help you revive a carpet.  (They are not all chemical free so take that with a grain of salt!) Modern carpeting is designed to resist stains, so you can usually remove them if you use the right method. Refer to these tips, and remember: the sooner you get to a stain, the easier it will be to remove.
Herbal Carpet Cleaner
¾ cup water
3 Tbls. dish soap
½ tsp. ammonia
½ tsp. Thyme or Lemon Herbal vinegar
Combine all ingredients together and place in a foam bottle.  To use, squirt the foam onto the carpet and work in with brush.  Then blot out of carpet with a damp then a dry paper towel.  The trick with this recipe is not to place the liquid on the carpet, only foam.

A list of stains and the removal technique:

1. Chewing gum
Freeze with ice cubes in a plastic bag; then scrape off with a butter knife and blot with trichloroethylene (dry-cleaning fluid, available at drug and hardware stores).
2. Animal Urine
Immediately blot up excess with paper towels; soak with club soda; blot again; scrub with Herbal Carpet Cleaner (above).
3. Coffee, Beer, Milk
Blot up excess with paper towels, scrub with Herbal Carpet Cleaner (above); cover with paper towels and weigh down for 2 to 3 hours.
4. Fruit Juices, Soft Drinks
Blot up excess; sponge with a solution of 1 teaspoon of powdered laundry detergent and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar dissolved in 1 quart (1 liter) of warm water.
5. Blood
If fresh, blot up with cold water (not hot). If dried, cover with equal parts cold water and meat tenderizer. Let stand for 30 minutes. Sponge off with cold water.
6. Grease, Oil, Lipstick, Butter
Blot up excess with paper towels; sponge with dry-cleaning fluid; work from edges to center.
7. Shoe Polish, Ink, Dry Paint
Dab with paint remover; if that fails, use dry-cleaning fluid.
8. Wax
Scrape off as much as possible; then place a brown paper bag over the area and run a warm iron over it. The bag will act as a blotter and absorb the wax.

We do have a few herbal vinegars left from this season.  Check out our Etsy vinegar listings.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Making Herbal Gifts series - Cleaning and Greening

Last year I made a lot of Lavender, Rosemary and Rose Petal vinegars and some homemade Lavender furniture polish. You wouldn’t think that any of those items would be suitable to give as presents but I had a friend who wanted to become greener around the home so suddenly these items and a few others seemed like a perfect match.  (If you like in the Chicagoland area, I will be giving a program on this topic in the Spring at the Wauconda Public Library.)

I saved this gift idea to the last so that you could make them more for yourself than as a gift, unless you have a friend like mine...

I have described how to make and use vinegars before, so check out these posts for more details on how to make vinegar you can use for cleaning:

There have also been a couple other opportunities to do blog posts on cleaning with herbs.  Here are a couple others if you are interested:

Cleaning for the Holidays Recipes

Here are a few other recipes you can try around your home or make up for the neat nick in your acquaintance (that would be my hubby!)

Bathroom Scrub
This is a two-part cleaner you keep in a shaker and a spray bottle and used together to clean and deodorize you bathroom and kitchen.

  Baking soda
  Thyme vinegar (or plain white if you don’t have herbal vinegar)
  Essential oil of something disinfectant (thyme, sage, clary sage, tea tree)

Add the essential oil by drops to the baking soda and place in a shaker container.  Place the vinegar in a spray bottle.

Directions for use: Spray the tub/shower walls and floor with the vinegar.  Shake on the fragranced baking soda.  Spray again with vinegar.  Everything will fizz, clean and deodorize.  Wipe the mixture around to clean stubborn spots and then rinse.

Soft Scrub
I love this because a tooth brush and this blend and you can get the faucets shining brightly. and it is great on shower tile and soap scum.  I use it to spot clean the floor tile between washings.
1 cup of baking soda, borax or washing soda
1 cup of castile soap

Mix together and put in a plastic lidded container.  Dip a sponge or cloth in and use as a soft scrub for your tub, tile and toilet.

Window Cleaner
Make a great all-purpose window cleaner so you can see those pretty lights.

1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
2 cups of water in a spray bottle

Combine all items together in a spray bottle. Shake to blend. Spritz the window and wipe with a clean lint-free cloth.

Check back in March for more details on the program in Wauconda scheduled for April 4th.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making Herbal Gifts - Chutney, mustards, etc.

Adding to the previous food items, like homemade gingerbread men and trees and spiced
cookies and all the things mentioned earlier I thought I would include these easy to make at the last minute items. 

My husband pointed out over Thanksgiving that his favortie gift to recieve are condiments.  Chutneys, relishes, exoitic jellies and such, especially if they are homemade or small batch made like those you find in local gift emproiums.  His sister and brother in law find him some great ones while travling in the UP of Michigan each year.

Here is a great seasonal chutney with all the perfect spices that I makes it a great gift and a wonderful side dish for holiday cooking.  To give as a gift you will need to waterbath can the chutney in mason jars.  For full details on this process I recommend checking out the Ball canning website.

Spiced Cranberry Chutney
·         1 tablespoon(s) canola oil
·         1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 1/2 cups)
·         1 tablespoon(s) grated fresh ginger
·         1 teaspoon(s) ground allspice
·         2 stick(s) cinnamon
·         1 cup(s) sugar
·         4 cup(s) cranberries, fresh or frozen
·         1 cup(s) dried apricots, diced
·         1 cup(s) apricot nectar
·         1 teaspoon(s) grated lemon zest
·         2 tablespoon(s) lemon juice
·         1 teaspoon(s) kosher salt
·         1/2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground black pepper
·         2 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut in 1/2-inch dice

1.   Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; add onion, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon sticks. Cook, stirring mixture frequently, until onion is translucent and tender, about 10 minutes.
2.   Stir in sugar, cranberries, apricots, nectar, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper. Stir mixture to dissolve sugar, then bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 22 minutes. Stir in apples. Continue to simmer 10 to 12 minutes longer, stirring once or twice, or until apples are tender yet still hold their shape.
3.   Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl. Cover surface of chutney with plastic wrap. Cool at room temperature 30 minutes, then refrigerate several hours until well chilled and chutney has set up. (Chutney can be made up to 3 days before serving and stored in the refrigerator.)
4.   For long term storage or to give as a gift, you will have to process this mixture in a waterbath canner.  Pour the mixture into sterilized mason jars leaving ½ inch head room.  Seal with heated lids and rings and place in boiling water for 12 to 15 minutes.  Remove from boiling water and allow to cool.  Place any jars that do not “pop” in the refrigerator and use quickly.  Those that seal will stay fresh for a year.

I posted several Mustard recipes in a blog back in August.  This was the basic recipe I recommended and I still think it is the easiest and most versatile.  It makes a great gift when combined with some summer sausage and hard cheese and crackers in a gift bag or basket.

Make-It-Yourself Gourmet Mustard
1 cup of Dijon-style mustard
¼ cup dried herbs (or about one-half cup finely-chopped fresh herbs)
1½ tablespoons dry white wine
Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar and refrigerate for a week before using, so that the flavors mellow and mingle. Keep for up to three months (although it certainly won't last that long).

Some zesty herbal combinations to make this more personal are:
  • Minced thyme, parsley, and marjoram, with one clove garlic
  • Minced tarragon with basil and thyme
  • 1-2 tablespoons prepared or freshly grated horseradish, one clove garlic, ¼ cup grated fresh ginger root, 2 tablespoons honey
  • Substitute red wine for white, with basil, chives, and a clove of garlic.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Making Herbal Gifts - Liquors and Spiced Wine

One of my favorite ‘quick presents’ is a bottle of wine, something that many people resort to buying for people they don’t know what to buy for, but I add an extra dimension to my gift.  Sometimes I add a couple of mulled wine glasses (the kind with a handle on) and pack the lot up in a basket with mulling spices.  You can pre-mix the seasoning, or add a little recipe scroll and a pretty organza bag full of spices contained in the recipe so that the recipient can make up batches of soothing, warming and delicious mulled wine

Mulling Spices for Wine or Cider

8 to 10 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
6 to 8 whole cardamom pods
3 star anise

Add spices to 1 750 ml bottle of dry red wine (like cabernet sauvignon or merlot) with a slice of lemon and orange.  If you like it sweet add 2/3 cup honey.

If you have in time and inclination, you can also make your own liquers.  I found these three receipes in my files and tried the first one with great success.

Many wonderful drinks had their beginnings in medieval monastic gardens and stillrooms. They're easy to make, but they do take time to age. If you start now, you'll be offering your liqueur New Years’ Eve guests and still have some to serve at spring events. To ensure that your liqueurs are worth the time it takes to make them, use the best ingredients, store in glass or ceramic containers, and age in a cool dark spot.

These recipes use vodka and white wine; brandy or white rum are also good. Berry Rosy Liqueur
2 pints blackberries or raspberries
1 cup fresh rose geranium leaves
4 cups vodka
½ cup white wine
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
Combine the berries, geranium leaves, vodka, and wine in a wide-mouth jar with a tight-fitting lid. Steep for one month in a cool, dark place. Open and crush the berries slightly with a potato masher and steep for another 4-5 days. Strain, pressing the juice from the berries, then filter through a coffee filter or double layer of cheesecloth. To make the syrup, bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan, add sugar, and stir until dissolved. Cool. Add half the syrup to the liqueur; taste, then continue to add and taste until it is as sweet as you like. Pour into a bottle, cap it, and age in a cool, dark place for three weeks to three months. Makes about 1½ quarts.
Spiced Pear Liqueur
8 ripe pears, juiced (about 4 cups pear juice)
2-inch piece ginger root, peeled, sliced
1 whole nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups vodka
½ cup white wine
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Combine the pears, ginger root, spices, vodka, and wine and proceed as above, steeping for 5 weeks. Strain, filter. Make the syrup and add as above. Bottle and age for at least 4 weeks—the longer the better.
Van Der Tum Liqueur
This is a slightly different liqueur from South Africa.  It was served on special occasions.  The spices in it make it perfect for this time of year.
6 whole Cloves
1 stick Cinnamon
1/2 Nutmeg, grated
3 cups Brandy
2 Tbls. sliced Mandarin Orange peel
3 cups Rum
1 cup white sugar
½ cup water

Bruise the cloves and cinnamon and tie, with the nutmeg, in a muslin bag. Place the muslin bag, brandy, orange peel and rum in a clean, sterilized jar and seal. Allow to infuse for one month, shaking the jar gently every day. Strain the liqueur through muslin. Boil the water and sugar until very thick, then combine with the liqueur. Decant into dry, sterilized bottles and seal.

As always you can find more recipes of a seasonal nature by visiting our Advent Calendar which adds a new holiday recipe or craft each day through December 25th.  It also has some hidden treasure int he form of discounts and free items from the Backyard Patch.
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