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Archive for the ‘herbs’ Category

It happens to me every spring and fall, for some reason this year is the worst it has been in awhile.  My sinus are on an all-out revolt.  At times this will last a few weeks, but it has now passed a month.  The early thaw, combined with snow afterwards, then warm weather again followed by massive rains, then night time freezes again.  I have had nose-bleeds (I rarely get nose bleeds) and the inside of my head sounds all “snap-crackle-pop” like a bowl of Rice Krispies.  I am ready for the weather to steady out, but know a month from now we could be getting a surprise snow.  Meanwhile, I breath chamomile steam to help soothe and try to keep hydrated.  Enough on that.

Potty training and twins is a real zinger.  Nine times out of ten, the one goes while you are putting the other on the potty.  Nice.   Two potties helps, but having the older girls to help me sit them on the potty at the same time has done the trick.  Who would have though that they would pee at the same time like that so easily?  Anyhow, Brie has it down.  She’s had on trainers (not Pull-Ups) most of the last week.  She rarely has an accident, is excited about the whole deal,  and when out and about will get bothered when she wets her Pull-Up.  CeeCee on the other hand has at least one accident every day and could give a rip about potty training.  If today goes as good as the last few, tomorrow it is big girl underwear for Brie and we’ll slowly keep trying to CeeCee.  I’m hoping when the one gets it the other will get a tad jealous and want to do the same.  At least, that is how everything else around here goes.

Sewing was a “treat” yesterday.  The kids were not cooperative, at all.  The phone was ringing every 10 minutes.  We were at my parent’s restaurant so I felt I had to answer it in case it was someone trying to get ahold of me.  I sewed something wrong, ripped it apart and proceeded to re-sew it wrong.  One of those kind of days.  I did, however finish one of the other twin dresses and the next will be finished after the kids go to bed tonight.  I’m anxious to get those out in the mail with the hopes of bringing a smile to a couple little girls and their mom. 

No photos to share, I feel like my posts are bare without photos..but at least it is a post, right?  I’d dig through and find some, but temps in March reaching well into the 60’s with sun shinning is just too much to pass up!

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 Keeper of the Home is having an Organic Gardening Carnival.  Join in the fun and learning!

 

This was my first year gardening.  Well, I planned one before (you can read about it here), got it planted, it was huge and quickly overgrew with weeds when I discovered that caring for a newborn while pregnant made the garden quickly lose priority.  The only thing I got from that garden was more cucumbers than a person could dream of eating or preserving.  Why is it that the standard garden wastes all the row space, produces so much harvest that your begging family to take some of it off your hands, and takes hours in weeding?  I need simplicity in my life, not another time consuming task, but then again I want fresh, healthily, responsibly grown produce for my family.  What’s a girl to do?

This year was a different story, I found a book called Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and decided to follow his method.  It worked and I can’t wait until next year.  Forest made me two “boxes” to plant in that are each 2 ft by 4 ft.  Here they are planted and growing mid-spring (with egg shells crushed onto the surface to help get rid of slugs/snails):

The main idea of this method is that if you have good soil your garden will grow.  The area I live in is clay, lots of clay.  So with Mel’s formulated mix of peat, vermiculite, and compost your garden grows in a rather small, but nutrient dense space.  I know there is some question as to how “organic” the mix is, but for me this was the route to take as I knew it would be much more organic than what I was buying at the grocery. 

I had a great spring harvest of spinach, radishes, green onions, and lettuces.  Then for summer I harvested beets when the tomatoes started growing too big.  I don’t have a picture of it, but I planted my tomatoes in the back row and then trained them to grow up a trellis.  The fall plans had to be set aside seeing as our fall has been consuming with family and school.  I had planned to plant and harvest more greens, broccoli and a few other goodies.  I almost forgot my herbs.  In these little boxes I also grew two types of basil, lemon thyme, vicks plant, lemongrass, rosemary, sage, parsley, 2 cilantro plants, chives, and lavender.

The size was perfect for us as it supplemented where our CSA lacked in greens and herbs while providing extra tomatoes and onions for preserving.  Plus, it was manageable with our current lifestyle.  I think that I could do double the size next year just as successful so long a there is nothing else on my daily schedule.  Next year I wuold like to try my hand at carrots, potatoes, garlic and more herbs as well as a few other non-starchy veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and maybe even some green beans.

Wrap-up of what I grew for the early and summer season in my 8ft by 2ft space:

  • radishes
  • different lettuces
  • spinach
  • onions
  • 3 heirloom tomato plants
  • beets
  • thyme
  • vicks plant
  • chives
  • lemongrass
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • lavender

 Neat and tidy, no bending down and digging through for fruits, and minimal to no weeding!  I can’t recommend it enough.

Don’t forget to go to the end of this post and register for my little giveaway….Christmas is coming!

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under the weather

Jane and I are under the weather.  We are taking an echinacea, mint, and nettle tincture as well as broths and keeping warm.  Swollen glands, runny nose, slight fever…it all is slowing me down.  Who is going to soak grains then rinse and dry them, who will keep up with the rotating out of summer clothes, who will plan meals, watch the budget, and teach school.

Oh yeah, life keeps moving even when mom is sick…thankfully I have a husband who isn’t afraid to dig in and get his hands dirty.  Hopefully I can sneak a nap in here and there and I’d better be feeling good by Monday as my garage is smelling like a cider house in preparation for apple day!

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lavender, herbs, leafy greens, and strawberries with my garden helper

lavender, herbs, leafy greens, and strawberries with my garden helper

We try to preserve what food we can around here. In the season of life I am in, there is little time for a garden. We have tomatoes and herbs planted this year. Our CSA supplies us with enough to eat as well as a bit to put away for later. Any additional food stores I feel the need to prepare I can get from the local Amish or the Farmers Market.  My preferred methods of preserving food are my chest freezer, dehydrating, lacto-fermenting, and if I really have to this year I’ll try canning. 

While freezing and canning are a given to most people, lacto-fermenting and dehydrating are not your typical methods.  I touched on lacto-fermenting awhile back in my salsa post and will be talking more about it in the weeks to come.  It’s easy and so long as you have cool storage it’s a great way to increase your nutrients and enzymes in your diet.  Dehydrating is something I’ve really been trying to do the last 6 months or so.  I’m learning as I go and plan on sharing.  I have a post in the works, though it might be a few days until I get it finalized.  I do have some tips and suggestions that I wish I had known when I started. 

In keeping with my current theme of non-starchy vegetables, I’ll list some of my favorites and how we store them:

  • Celery- If your house is like mine, you buy celery for a recipe and then there it sits until it gets all rubbery.  I’m the only one in the house that is interested in eating raw celery (especially with PB and dried fruit on it…a kid at heart.)  I’ve taken to chopping it up with carrots and onions so that when I am preparing meat or soup I have a ready-to-go set of chopped veggies in the kitchen freezer to help start some good flavors.
  • Herbs-Most herbs get dried.  I do make some into oils, but I am not sure how much of the nutritional value of the herb is transferred into the oil.  Herb’s I’ve done into oils so far: Basil, Thai Basil, Lavender, Calendula, and Cayenne.  The Basils are both in olive oil and are used for food, the Lavender is in coconut oil for a lotion, the Calendula is in olive oil to be made into a salve, and the Cayenne is in coconut oil to be used as a salve.  I am sure if I wanted to use the Lavender or Cayenne for food purpose I could as with the coconut oil I do not plan on adding beeswax or any other additives…just strained and as is.
  • leafy greens-  Aside from spinach and lettuce I have little to no experience with other greens.  I do freeze spinach, though, as we often toss it into eggs, soups, or pasta dishes.   I intend to start including other greens in our diet.  I suppose some of these could be dehydrated as well. 
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower get frozen.  I cut them up a bit, wash well, and then freeze into meal sized portions.  Then those portions gets double bagged to help prevent freezer burn.  These go out in the garage freezer.
  • Cabbage- So far sauerkraut is all I’ve done to preserve cabbage and that seems to work well.  You chop it up, add some salt,whey, and Caraway Seeds in the jar and let it sit at room temperature for a couple days.  We store ours in the fridge and usually end up eating it in soups.
  • Cucumbers-Pickles are another thing that only one or two of us enjoy.  I made some last year and this year they still sit in the fridge (lacto-fermented again.)  I have a new recipe to try this year that I will photo-document for you.  Lacto-fermenting really is very easy and anyone can do it and gain those added enzymes and good-for-you extras.  Cucumbers abound this year and I’m not sure what to do with them all.
  • Peppers-Green Peppers are chopped and frozen for easy additions to meals.  Chili peppers are dried and ground into chili powder.  I would like to roast some red peppers this year at some point. I’m not sure how to preserve those.  Other hot peppers get preserved in our salsa.
  • Summer Squash and Zucchini-Most of this gets shredded and frozen.  From there I can make breads or muffins, squash cakes/patties, or throw it in casseroles, soups, or pasta.  I’m considering drying some of it this year as my freezer gets so full towards the end of the year. 
  • Green Beans- Last year I froze (surprise, surprise) a bunch of them.  We used them all.  In soups they tasted fine, on their own they were less than stellar.  This year I will dehydrate some and am going to try to lacto-ferment the others.  We all like canned green beans so I’m hoping the fermented ones will turn out more to our liking…even if we do end up cooking them and losing some of the lacto-ferment benefits.
  • Tomatoes-technically a fruit, on some non-starchy lists and not on others.  I’m throwing them in though as the nutritional benefits of tomatoes are great and they show up on some of the lists.  Last year tomatoes were made into salsa and then they were pureed whole (no core) and frozen as is.  The puree has been used to reduce into sauce.  This year I am going to dehydrate tomatoes as I had a friend give me a jar full of sliced dried tomatoes and I’ve used them in bread and on pizza’s.  They are very thin, I’m thinking of doing some in two thicknesses just to see.  I’m also thinking of attending an Amish produce auction and having a canning day with another friend and canning diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato juice.  It’ll be a lot of work, I’m frightened as she has a pressure canner, but I end up buying so much of this at the store and I would rather be doing it myself for cost and quality concerns.
  • Onions- We never have enough onions around here.  Some make it to get frozen for convenience and others into salsa.  I would like this year to buy a bunch and dry some and store the others in the basement and see how long I can get them to last (same thing with potatoes though they are not a non-starchy item…just something we tend to eat a fair amount of and spend too much money on in the late winter and spring.)

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I have never “canned” in the traditional sense of canning.  No steam bathing, no wax, no pressure cooking (I once had a bad experience with a pressure cooker…they scare me.)  To preserve things around here we lacto-ferment.  It sounds funny, but it is easy to do and a good way to not only preserve it but also give it a nutritional boost (much in the form of healthy gut flora.)  Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is my go-to book for lacto-fermentation though I would like to get my hands on a copy of Wild Fermentationto see if it is my cup of kombucha (anyone get the pun?)  

 

All of the ingredients are garden fresh organics from our CSA (minus my own cilantro.)  The recipe uses whey, not a common kitchen ingredient, though I bet you have some and didn’t think about it.  I get my whey from our home-made yogurt.  I line a sieve with a piece of muslin and pour some yogurt in.  Back in the fridge it goes for a couple hours to drain.  The remaining yogurt cheese is usually put into a smoothie or popsicles and the whey is used for fermenting. The whey is important as it gives a boost to the good guys in preserving your product. 

The salt we use is Real Salt with all kinds of good extras in it.  If you salt is nice and white it isn’t as good for you as it could be.  Celtic Sea Salt, Real Salt, Sea Salt, whatever you use it should have flecks of good extras in it. To think all this time people have been taking what is good for you out of the salt!  The salt is important as it inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria for the days you let your product ferment until enough lactic acid is present to preserve the veggies for months. 

Lacto-fermented condiments can be kept in a cool, dark place.  Cellars are ideal.  We do not have one, so I keep a box of stuff packaged and in our crawl space for winter.  In the heat of summer what I have left that is fermented is kept in the fridge.  Makes for a small fridge along with all the summer produce. Some day I’ll have a better set-up, though for now it works.

Here’s the process with pictures courtesy of my husband.

You need to start with washed produce, notice how unperfect my homegrown goodies are and please do not look too hard at my horrible knife skills.  I think after I take a photography class I should take a knife skills class as well….I know I’m dangerous. 

I use my Cuisinart to help chop so I start by quartering my two onions.  Here I placed them all in, don’t do that…one at a time works much better.  Pulse about 5 times and then once at a time checking consistency.  You don’t want them pureed, just chopped.

Do the same with a green pepper or two (I like to do this with yellow peppers just for more color variety, but alas green was all I had.)  Add to the bowl and mix as you go.  You’ll want to find a good mix for yourself.  Some people like mostly tomatoes, some want lots of peppers.  I’m not sure where we fall, but I know we like it how I make it.  This is a good time to add garlic, three healthy sized cloves went into this batch.

Tomatoes are best done by hand, they get too mushy and watery in the Cuisinart.  Core your six tomatoes and cut them in half at the equator.  Use your fingers to scoop out some of the seeds and juice leaving the flesh behind to chop up and add to the bowl.

Keep mixing it up to make sure it’s looking tasty to you.  Be sure to save your scraps for your compost pile.

Another lesson for you.  See me slicing those jalapenos without gloves all nice and slick.  Didn’t feel so slick when hours later I rubbed my eyes.  Wear gloves, I did a sink full of dishes and scrubbed with the veggie brush right after this photo.  Next time I’m wearing gloves.  6 jalapenos went into this batch, adjust according to your heat preference.

Cilantro, one of my favorite herbs.  You need LOTS of cilantro for this.  I had two good sized fist-fulls of it and in tasting the end product I wished I had  more.  Rinse well and dry (salad spinners are great for this part) before chopping up and adding to the mix. 

Next you need to add your whey, lime or lemon juice, and salt. 

Taste it to make sure it’s good, but know that your flavors will be individual at this point.  It takes time for the flavors to get to know one another and mix well.  These things don’t just happen at first meeting you know.  If you think it’s the heat you like and your pleased with it, ladle it into clean jars.  I have 3 quart sized jars waiting for this batch.  You want to be sure to leave an inch at the top as this will be fermenting and might build up some pressure.  The vegetables should be covered by their juices, if not add a little filtered water to cover them.

Ooops, it looks like we sampled a little too much!  That is the price I pay for having husband take photos for me.  He’s worth it though.

Fermented Mild Salsa

  • 2 large onions
  • 6 large tomatoes (peeled if you like, but I just don’t have it in me to peel them)
  • 2 green peppers
  • 3 big cloves of garlic
  • 6 jalapenos or to taste (seeded)
  • lots of cilantro
  • juice of three lemons or limes
  • 1/2 cup whey
  • 2 Tablespoons of Real Salt
  • water if necessary

Chop all veggies and combine in a bowl.  Add juice, whey, and salt.  Stir well.  Put in jars leaving an inch at the top.  Make sure juices cover top of veggies, adding a bit of water if necessary.

Let set at room temperature for 2 days before placing in cool storage. 

Keeps for months, though the longer it keeps the more flavor it has.  Our jars we opened at the end of winter left a bit of a fizzle on your tongue…interesting but still very tasty!

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I’m taking to herbs much better than I thought I would.  First thing I want to say is that if anyone out there has any must-have books on herbs, please let me know.  The selection is overwhelming and I need to have a book referencing many of the herbs and their properties.  I also like to have books full of beautiful landscapes and garden plans…like, don’t need.  So if you know of or have a really good herbal reference book that you find yourself going to again and again, please let me know.

So I did finally order some basic herbs to start my herb cupboard.  I ordered Alfalfa, Cat Mint, Cinnamon, Slippery Elm powder, Hawthorn Berries, Bilberries, Chamomile Flowers, Comfrey, Olive Leaf, Nettle Leaf, and Ginger Root.  I’ve harvested Lemon Balm, Lavender, Plantain, Fenugreek Seed, Yarrow, Lemon Grass, Thyme, Basil, and Oregano.  All this is in addition to the Peppermint, Spearmint, Cayenne, fresh Lemons, Garlic, and Ginger that I already have on hand. It didn’t seem like much, but with it on-hand it really is quite the collection!   Thankfully we have a dresser with open shelves up top that is being moved out of one room and into my kitchen for storage.   The drawers will be a nice dark spot for herbs and “tonics” as my oldest calls them and then the top will be for cookbooks and a few other items that need a home. 

Some of my family thinks me a bit odd for having herbs brewing in alcohol, feeding a sick kid a spoonful of Garlic Honey, but so it goes.  We are trying to persue a more traditional style of life and this is one path we are taking.  Besides, when you see your kid gladly taking garlic honey to help fight an oncoming cold (and smell her breath) then see her getting well instead of more into a cold…well, let’s just say I know it’s working for us and it’s far less than a doctor bill and prescription or even a bottle of cough medicine.  I am not saying that there isn’t a time and place for the medical community.  I guess in the end we are trying to find a balance between what we can accomplish with the God-given resources at hand versus when modern medicine is best. 

Enough drivel, here’s what we have done so far with the herbs we have:

  1. Lavender Honey
  2. Basil Olive Oil
  3. Thai Basil Olive  Oil
  4. Immune Booster-  This tincture has been setting for 2 weeks will be for another week.  It has Echinacea tops and root as well as peppermint in it. 
  5. Garlic Honey to help with one of the girls coming down with a cold (and it worked well)
  6. Ginger Lemonade with Honey for the same little one that was under the weather
  7. Plantain on bug bites, fresh chewed up and spread onto the area
  8. Oatmeal with Honey, Cinnamon, and Bilberries

In my plans are:

  1. a tea to help control blood pressure
  2. Fenugreek Seed tincture
  3. Cat Mint, Chamomile, and Lemon Balm tea because it sounds cool and calm
  4. cooking as often as possible with what I have on hand!

Next time I discuss herbs, I’ll try highlighting some of what we have used so far and how it has worked for us. 

As I am sure you can figure, I am not a member of the medical community and I feel I have to say that anything I post in relation to health should be taken as just that…this is about my experience, not my trained/medical advice.

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We are your typical American home-owners.  There is always a project going on around here.  I’m sure I have mentioned the project that will not endfront porch we are building on.  While in my mind’s eye it is a large sweeping porch with a sitting area, swing, and even a small table to sit and have coffee with friends.  Reality is that it is a small porch to go on our small house.  In reality it is about 5 ft by 10ft…not big but so much better than the crumbling concrete steps we had before.  We started work on it well over a year ago, it’s been in the plans for at least five years and it now has a shingled roof.  Still need to do the siding, soffiting, and railings.  Then the fun begins…paint, a swing, and flowers (if it gets done before winter.) 

When we work on stuff around the house we try really hard to not go into debt to do it.  My husband’s college loans and the twins’ adoption along with standard debt like our mortgage have us under enough pressure.  So we choose pressure in the form of an un-done project instead.

I’ve not mentioned my knee lately.  It’s still giving me troubles but no where near as bad as it was.  Slowly I regained movement and now I’m trying to regain strength.  Driving is what seems to irritate it the most.  I’m hoping to try a short bike ride with the kids today and see how that does me.  Swimming really seems to help it (strength-wise) but I don’t get to the pool much with the twins not being able to swim (working on it…they still little!)  Anyhow, my best advice on an injury like this is to go to the doctor, have it looked at and ask specific questions such as “will this heal on it’s own”, “what types of exercises will strengthen it”, “what is the best way to rest it” etc.

My meal plans for the week so far have been right on, but I am getting tired too.  Having my husband gone  for me means that I’m “on duty” all day and night.  I do not sleep as well, it’s harder to cook meals, and the girls (especially the twins) get a bit grumpy without seeing daddy all week.  I love my husband and he is such a huge help to me.  I do not mean to sound as if husband’s are supposed to help with baths, laundry, housework, and so on… just that mine does and if I am spoiled, so be it! All kidding aside, we’ve been married ten years and I can not imagine a better spouse and friend to call my husband. 

Herbs, I’ve not mentioned them lately either, but I have a post in the works.  I plan on putting the finishing touches on that today and have it up tomorrow.

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