Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mason Jar invented today!

John Mason of New York City, patented the Mason Jar on November 30 1858, and changed homemakers' food preservation habits forever.

The jars we tend to recognize today are the Ball Mason Jars.  These were produced by the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Co., but not until 1885.  Although they produced a jar with the ”Patented 1858” imprint in the glass for many years, it was the patented jar style and the technique of mould casting they were using, the jars were made in the late 1800s into the 1900s.

I love a good mason jar.  They are sturdy, inexpensive and versatile.  These days making gifts in Mason Jars is especially popular, especially with the color jars Ball has been reproducing recently.

I pulled together these two cookie recipes so you can make some gifts and avoid the mad dash to store.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
·         3/4 cup white sugar
·         3/4 cup packed brown sugar
·         1 cup rolled oats
·         1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
·         1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Using a 1 quart jar, layer in the ingredients in the order given. Pack down the jar after each addition. Put the lid on, and cover with an 8-inch circle of fabric. Secure the fabric over the lid using a rubber band, then cover the rubber band by tying a nice piece of ribbon or raffia around the lid. 

Attach a tag to the ribbon with the following instructions:

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, cream together 3/4 cup of softened butter, with 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Add the entire contents of the jar, and mix by hand until combined. Drop dough by heaping spoonfuls onto an unprepared cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven.

Oatmeal Fruit Cookies in a Jar
·         1/2 cup packed brown sugar
·         1/4 cup white sugar
·         3/4 cup wheat germ
·         1 cup quick cooking oats
·         1/2 cup dried cherries
·         1/2 cup golden raisins
·         2/3 cup flaked coconut
·         1 cup all-purpose flour
·         1/2 teaspoon baking soda
·         1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the flour, baking soda and salt together. Starting with the brown sugar layer the ingredients in a 1 quart jar in the order given. Ending with the flour mixture.

Attach a card with the following directions:

Oatmeal Fruit Cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line one baking sheet with parchment paper.  Empty the contents of the jar into a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon blend the mixture until well combined. Using your hands work in 1/2 cup softened butter or margarine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat 1 egg with 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup milk. Still using your hands or a wooden spoon blend the egg mixture into the dough until well combined. Drop teaspoon sized mounds 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 to 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Place cookies on a rack to finish cooling. Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

At Backyard Patch Herbs I make soup mixes in Mason jars which are also perfect for gift giving.  You can check them out here: SOUP MIXES IN A JAR 

If you want to get an awesome cobalt blue reproduction 1858 Mason jar check out this listing at Amazon Drygoods!

Monday, November 28, 2016

French Toast Day

Okay it is Monday and this is a great day for leftovers, so why not use up the left over bread and biscuits and make some French Toast.

Nobody knows for sure how French toast began, but recipes date back to the sixteenth century. In France, it was called pan perdu or lost bread, because it was a way of using lost (stale, unusable) bread. In England, it was known as "poor knight's pudding"—a basic, affordable dish that a family with a few chickens and a cow could afford. 

Simple French Toast
Serves 4 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)
  • 4 slices of bread, air dried or day old is best.
  • Beat egg and vanilla in shallow dish. Stir in milk. Dip bread in egg mixture, turning to coat both sides evenly. Cook bread slices on lightly greased nonstick griddle or skillet on medium heat until browned on both sides.

Kitchen Note:  Make a Holiday Special French Toast or Pancakes
Stir ½ teaspoon of Backyard Patch Cinnful Dessert Blend into every 2 cups of French toast custard (egg-milk mixture) or 2 cups of pancake batter before cooking.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

National Eat a Cranberry Day

Today, November 27, is National Eat a Cranberry Day

This year it falls after Thanksgiving, but I bet you still have some leftovers don't you?

Cranberries are a very useful and versatile berry.  Grown in bogs in New England and Wisconsin, I often vacation in Wisconsin cranberry country.  Native Americans applied crushed cranberries to wounds.  We now know that Cranberries contain hippuric acid, which has antibacterial effects on the body, as well as natural antibiotic ingredients, which would make it perfect for treating wounds.  The berries were also used them to treat scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C.  Mariners in the 18th century carried a large supply of cranberries on their voyages to treat this illness.  It was much easier than trying to keep oranges.

There is a great museum with Native American and Cranberry History in in Sawyer County Wisconsin.  The Sawyer County Historical Society just moved into a new building, but when we last visited they had a lot of things in a small space and a great collection of vintage snow mobiles.

More recently, these tart red berries have been shown to prevent urinary tract infections, reduce the risk of kidney stones, and help fight gingivitis. For a peck of great-tasting cranberry recipes check out the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association website. 

I love making things with cranberries and have posted recipes previously.  You can check out my highly recommended cranberry sauce here. And we have a set of recipes and other things you can do with cranberries for the holiday here.

Enjoy this amazing fruit on its special day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Five Herbs of Holiday Wellness

There are some great solutions to be found in nature when it comes to holiday over indulgence. Here’s a list of healing herbs that can help get you through the festive times ahead:

1. Meadowsweet herb (Filipendula ulmaria)
A traditional herb that has been used for centuries to treat irritated digestive systems. Meadowsweet can help calm acidic digestion, gastritis, wind and bloating, it also has pain killing properties for headaches when you’ve over indulged!

Those pain killing properties come from its salicylic acid content which gives it many of the same therapeutic properties of aspirin. But unlike aspirin there is no danger to delicate stomach linings.

2. German Chamomile flower (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile is one of the most popular herbs in the United States.  Gentle enough for children and soothing for stress related issues, chamomile helps relieve acidity, indigestion, stomach pains and wind and soothe frayed holiday nerves. After infusing a tea, a warm or cooled moist Chamomile teabag can be applied to soothe strained or inflamed eyes.

Here is a quick tea recipe designed to aid stress from too much family.  The vitamin C in the rose hips will boost energy and immunity and the soothing calming nature of mint and chamomile will aid digestion and help with stress.

“C” Tea
2 parts Rose Hips
1 part German Chamomile flowers
1 part Peppermint leaves

Blend the dried items together and keep in a tightly lidded jar or tin.  Use 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of hot water and steep for a full 7 minutes before sipping.
3. Peppermint leaf (Mentha piperita)

An herb which helps to clear the head and relieve irritated stomachs from cramps, nausea, wind, bloating and indigestion. Its warming and stimulating properties are particularly valuable at the onset of a cold to combat the chilly and depressed feelings that often precede the sneezing and runny nose and feverishness. It is a general tonic for the nervous system and will relieve nervous fatigue.

4. Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare)
A fantastic sweet herb with a taste reminiscent of aniseed, to give sluggish digestion a helping hand, and relieve bloating and flatulence. Fennel seeds also stimulate digestive enzymes aiding absorption when you’ve over-indulged. In fact if your Christmas meal includes some things you find hard to digest, such as cabbage or brussel sprouts, try adding fennel seeds to help your body cope a bit better.

5. Caraway seed (Carum carvi)
Caraway has similar actions to fennel helping to soothe irritable bowels and aid digestion. In fact chewing caraway seeds is a very traditional way of aiding digestion after a meal. It will also help you stay awake through that family story you have heard a million times.  It is easily added to savory bread recipes or biscuits. 

Try this quick bread at your holiday table.

Herb Quick Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup fat-free milk
1/3 cup canola oil


In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Transfer to a 9-in. x 5-in. x 3-in. loaf pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

National Indian Pudding Day

Do not let the name fool you.  This is not a Native American dish.  It does, however, seems appropriate to hold this day in mid November, as we approach Thanksgiving. With Native Americans and the foods they introduced the starving settlers to very much a part of the first Thanksgiving feast, this dish made with cornmeal is a perfect complement.  It is slightly possible these puddings were served, and enjoyed, at that first Thanksgiving.

Early colonists brought with them to America a fondness for British “hasty pudding,” a dish made by boiling wheat flour in water or milk until it thickened into porridge. Since wheat flour was scarce in the New World, settlers adapted by using native cornmeal, dubbed “indian flour,” and flavoring the resulting mush to be either sweet (with maple syrup or molasses) or savory (with drippings or salted meat). In time, Indian pudding evolved into a dish that was resoundingly sweet, with lots of molasses and additional ingredients such as butter, cinnamon, ginger, eggs, and sometimes even raisins or nuts. Recipes for Indian pudding began appearing in cookery books in the late 1700s.

Indian puddings are as diverse as the population making them.  Generally, they include molasses and cornmeal. Apples were often an ingredient, or raisins, and they were usually baked.
Make sure to enjoy your American heritage, and a dish or bowl of Indian pudding, as you celebrate National Indian Pudding Day.  These days they generally a baked custard with milk, butter, molasses, eggs, spices, and cornmeal. The name is likely derived from the cornmeal, which was known as indian meal way back when, not from the American Indians.

Now served as a dessert it is rather unappetizing looking as it is a lumpy brown mush.  But served with a bit of vanilla ice cream, it can be a great holiday pleaser. I looked for the oldest version I could find and this one adapted from a book published in 1980 called An Olde Concord Christmas, may be the best tasting and closest to the authentic New England tradition.

New England Indian Pudding

6 cups of milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup molasses
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup golden raisins (optional)
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 250°F. Scald the milk and butter in a large double boiler. Or heat the milk and butter for 5 or 6 minutes on high heat in the microwave, until it is boiling, then transfer it to a pot on the stove. Keep hot on medium heat.

In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, and salt; stir in molasses. Thin the mixture with about 1/2 cup of scalded milk, a few tablespoons at a time, then gradually add the mixture back to the large pot of scalded milk. Cook, stirring until thickened.

Temper the eggs by slowly adding a half cup of the hot milk cornmeal mixture to the beaten eggs, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture back in with the hot milk cornmeal mixture, stir to combine.

Stir in the sugar and spices, until smooth. At this point, if the mixture is clumpy, you can run it through a blender to smooth it out. Stir in the raisins (optional).

Pour into a 2 1/2 quart shallow casserole dish. Bake for 2 hours at 250°F.

Allow the pudding to cool about an hour to be at its best. It should be reheated to warm temperature if it has been chilled. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

5 Things You Should Keep Instead of Throwing Away

This is a guest post, in hopes of keeping relevant while still out in the garden harvesting, this is from Jessica Kane.  Let me know what you think!

When most people think of recycling, the first thing that comes to mind is probably that little bin that you put out to the curb once a week. Everyone knows you can recycle bottles, most glassware and a wide variety of paper products this way, but a lot of items still end up in the garbage when they shouldn't. Eco-friendly people often don't realize that many items do not need to be sent to some landfill or plant far away to be properly recycled. If you're looking to be nicer to the big, blue planet that you live on, here are five things you should keep instead of throwing away.

1. Cell phones

E-waste is hands-down one of the biggest recycling problems of the 21st century. As technology rapidly upgrades, handheld devices quickly become obsolete and are simply disposed of, and often in the worst way. These small, useful devices are loaded with precious metals and volatile components that can poison the environment. If your curbside recycling program doesn't include something specifically for small electronic devices, don't bother throwing them in the recycling bin, either. Instead, you can take your old phones to a local ecoATM, where the kiosk will actually pay you cash for the phones you bring. These can often be found in nearby Walmart stores.

2. Water bottles

Plastic water bottles are extraordinarily useful and abundant items that can improve your day-to-day life in a surprisingly large amount of ways. They make excellent packing material for shipping, and if you're looking to make an indoor garden, cut them up and use them as pots for smaller sprouts and vegetables. More constructive people can use them as aqueducts for larger gardens or drains for around your home's foundation. You can also refill old water bottles and store them somewhere in case of an emergency, but be sure to re-filter the water before drinking it, as some plastics have been shown to leak hazards into water over long periods of time.

3. Shoes

With so many people around the world suffering from foot-based ailments and diseases, it is downright irresponsible to not recycle your old shoes, no matter their condition. Look for the nearest PlanetAid drop-off near you, and give someone else in the world a better chance at life. The condition of the shoe does not matter — the company repairs what it can and then uses leftover shoe material to make rugged, recycled footwear for those who have none at all.

4. Batteries

There is quite possibly nothing more harmful to the environment than single-use, alkaline batteries, as there are so many of them that have been disposed of irresponsibly. Batteries contain metals and acid, which are poisonous and corrosive. Instead, keep your old batteries in a bucket, and bring it to a designated recycling area (or ship it out) when it's full. Batteries have useful materials than can be reused by many industries.

5. Wrapping paper

After a big birthday party or winter holiday, think twice before sending all of that useful (and pretty) wrapping paper to a landfill. Instead, cut them up for confetti for a surprise party or patriotic holiday. Old wrapping paper makes excellent packing material, and particularly crafty individuals can shape the paper into beautiful ribbons, streamers and even envelopes for special occasions.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Econoheat., the world’s #1 leading manufacturer of the largest waste oil burning product line.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Sugar and Spice Sugar Scrub - Bath Blend of the Month

Sugar & Spice Scrub
This makes a great holiday gift item for those you want to give something handmade and special. The fragrance is perfect for the season!

2 cups Brown Sugar 
1/3 to 1/2 cup Grapeseed Oil
1 Tbls. Honey
1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
2 Vanilla Pods
5 Drops Cinnamon Essential Oil
5 Drops Ginger Essential Oil
5 Drops Clove Essential Oil

Split the vanilla pods and scrape out the seeds from within, put the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla seeds into a bowl and combine.  Add the oil, honey, and essential oils. Start with 1/3 cup oil, add more only if the mixture seems stiff and dry, otherwise you are ready. Mix well. Package in jars, label and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Winners in the Phyllis Shaudys Raffle

Congratulations to the Winners in the Phyllis Shaudys Raffle

Oct. 31 was the last day of our Book giveaway raffle. We ran the entrants through and these two lucky people won:

         Pleasure of Herbs - Judy C

         Herbal treasures - Theresa B

Thank you to everyone who entered.  We will be having another Raffle soon with a more recently published book called Healing Herbs by Tina Sams.  If you want details about this book, check out my review.

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