Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sweet Dreams Bath Tea

Many people do not think that a bath is a good idea in the summer, but it is actually very good for you.  Sun screen, sun exposure and daily workouts and summer activities make skin sweaty and oily and allow it to pick up a number of toxins.  This blend will give you a great reason to take a bath and the relaxation effects will give you a good night's rest.

Sweet Dreams Bath Tea

1 cup lavender buds

½ cup hops

½ cup mugwort

½ cup mullein

½ cup jasmine flowers

8 drops lavender essential oil

4 drops patchouli essential oil
Blend dried herbs together in a large bowl.  Place in a tightly sealed jar for storage. 

To use: Add 2 to 4 Tablespoons in a muslin drawstring bag and hang under tap while filling tub, or brew in a saucepan of 2 cups of water simmered for 5 minutes and poured into bath water.  Fills about 10 bags

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Monthly Recipe - Vanilla Extract and Banana Bread

Since the garden is slow to get going this year, I am not sad that the recipes I chose to share this month are Bread Recipes.  I am known for my famous Zucchini Bread – I have shared that recipe before, you can find it here.  This past Christmas I made zucchini bread and used the vanilla I made myself to create it.  The flavor was much richer than distilled vanilla, so I thought I would share with you how to make your own vanilla extract.

I will  start, however, with the first recipe for this month I have a simple one- Banana Bread.  Most of the breads I will include are quick breads, those that do not require yeast, however I do have a couple yeast recipes you might like, too.

Banana Bread

½ cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
2 eggs
½ tsp pure vanilla extract (see below)
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 ¾ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp dried cinnamon basil leaves, crumbled
¼ tsp cinnamon or allspice, but I recommend BYP Cinnful Dessert Blend which contains both
Pinch salt
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, Grease a 5 x 9 inch loaf pan.  With an electric mixer, cream together the sugars and butter until fluffy.  Reduce the speed and add eggs one at a time.  Add the vanilla and mashed bananas and mix well.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon basil, and cinnamon (or allspice or Cinnful Dessert Blend.)  Add to the banana mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir in nuts, if using.  Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 45 to 55 minutes more, until firm in center.  Let sit for 5 minutes on a wire rack, then run knife around edge and remove from pan.  Wait until cool to slice and serve.

Making your own vanilla extract

Alcohol can be used as a medium to make an extract.  If you are a baker, you will love experimenting with extract tinctures for flavoring cakes and cookies.

A tincture is an herbal extract made by infusing herbs in alcohol. This alcohol-based preparation is designed to preserve the natural benefits of chosen herbs and can be used to treat a variety of circumstances.

The alcohol—generally 100% vodka—extracts the medicinal constituents from the herbs, resulting in a strong and powerful concentration of the herb’s healing essence. Tincturing also allows the water in the alcohol to extract the water-soluble constituents from the herb, further increasing the tincture’s herbal potency.

This recipe is the simplest way to make your own liquid herbal extracts in your own home.

1.  Start with a clean 12 oz.  jar that has a tight-fitting lid and the herbs of your choice. If you can use fresh herbs this is best. Fresh material is always preferred but availability is determined by season you are making your extracts.  When making vanilla extract you need vanilla beans. One will be plenty.   

2.  Slit open the bean and scrape out the inside, then place the scrapings and the bean in the glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

3.  Pour a good and strong alcohol, like vodka or everclear over the vanilla.  Completely cover the herbal material, and leave 2-3 inches of alcohol above the herbs.  100 proof alcohol is recommended, but you can also use grain alcohol.  When using grain alcohol, mix it with equal parts of purified water to create 50% alcohol to 50% water ratio. 

4. If using dried vanilla, you will need to add more alcohol over the next day or two as the dried herbs absorb and expand. A good ratio for dried material is about 1 part herb to 5 parts alcohol, and with fresh material 1 part herb to 3 parts alcohol.

5.  Cover with a tight-fitting lid, shake well, and place the jar in a dark place.  Allow the mixture to soak and macerate for 4 to 6 weeks. Shake every few days to help the alcohol extract the active constituents from the vanilla.

6.  After 4 to 6 weeks strain the vanilla out of the resulting liquid, which will have become very dark. Use a large strainer lined with fine mesh or cheesecloth. Make sure to tightly squeeze the material to extract every precious drop from the cloth. Funnel the material from your larger container into smaller bottles, preferably amber bottles and store in a cool dark place.  An herbal tincture will be good for at least 3-5 years, if not indefinitely.

Rich dark color of infused vanilla, just before straining

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: BreadJun
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya (JambMar)
   May - Ham and Shrimp Dishes (ShrHamMay)
   June - Bread recipes (BreadJun)
   July - Garden Delights
   August- Grilling
   September - Salsa, Corn and Jelly
   October - Squash Dishes
   November - Pumpkin Recipes
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Friday, June 1, 2018

Making Chive Blossom Vinegar - Weekend Recipe

My favorite herb flavored vinegar to make uses Chive blossoms.  You can only make it at the beginning of the season when chives bloom in their lovely pinky purple flowers.  On a good year I can get a jar or two of vinegar from my plant at the house, so this year, although late, is exceptional. The plant has more blossoms than it has in years and I have already collected two jars of blossoms and expect to get two maybe three more.

Why do I love this chive blossom vinegar?
Chive blossoms are an edible flower that tastes great in a salad due to their light onion flavor.  For those who find true onions too strong these are a great way to access the flavor without the pungency.  The blossoms make a gorgeous pink vinegar that looks good on the shelf as well as lends a wonderful onion flavor and scent to salad dressings, marinades, a vegetable splash, and other dishes where a hint of onion is perfect.

The best part of this year was hubby asked it there would be some soon as he was missing it and wanted to make bean salads with it

How do you make Chive Vinegar?
Making vinegar is one of the easiest things to do and I have detailed the steps before.  For chive blossom vinegar you need a jar.  I use a canning jar, but many times use Marzetti slaw jars and corn syrup jars to craft vinegar as they fill the shelf so neatly.

Fill the jar half full with vinegar, distilled white is fine, nothing fancy is needed.  Just make sure it has a 5% acidity on the label to avoid any bacteria.  

Go out to the garden with the jar and begin cutting the blossoms, popping them into the jar.  Once you harvest them all you will want to give the chives a hair cut, about 2 inches off the ground to promote good new growth and perhaps more flowers later in summer.

Continue cutting the chives until you fill the jar, then add vinegar to fill the jar to the top.  Put on the lid and let it sit.

24 hours later, starting to turn pink
The vinegar will extract the flavor and color from the blossoms.  Even 24 later you will start to see the pink color suffusing the vinegar.

Wait about 2 weeks, strain out the flowers and begin to use the vinegar.  Try this great dressing/dip:

Herb Vinegar Salad Dip / Dressing       
1/2 cup mayonnaise 
1/2 cup sour cream 
2 Tbls. chive blossom or other herb vinegar 
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. sugar 
dash salt & pepper

Blend ingredients in covered container and allow 4 hours in refrigerator to meld.  Can be used as a dip or thinned with 3 T. of milk for salad dressing.

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