Monday, September 21, 2015

The First Day of Autumn and Fire Cider tonic

If you've visited me a few times you know the level of excitement I have this time of year. Getting to finally use that post title up there... most. exciting. day. ever.

I'm crazy like that. 

I crave autumn. It is definitely my peak season. Some folks hit their peak in the spring, coming alive as the earth reawakens with fresh growth after a long winters rest. Not me. I get my wake up call as the temps begin to ease off, the colors of the earth deepen, and the days grow shorter. I won't bore you with the that special color the sky gets just before sun set. Or that deepened orange glow just as the sun rises. Or the scent of the fields as the farmers pull in their harvest. Or that crispness you feel in the air, growing each day until the trees have all changed their colorful robes and begun to drop their leaves back to the earth. Or the woods...the smell of pine and drying leaves, the way it comes alive with a flurry of activity no other season can compete with, the almost anxious nature of the woodland animals as they gather the last bits of food and housing needs for the season. The sights and sounds are just different in the autumn.
Or the smells and tastes of the season...the pumpkins, the tart juices apples, hot cider with cinnamon, dried herbs and flowers hanging, barn lofts filled with hay...

If you've visited me before, you just know all these things give me such a lift deep in my soul. Sigh. I wish autumn was forever... This season fills a need in my soul that spring and summer never will.

I'm still rolling along with my own "school" work. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have started the Herbal Academy of New England's Intermediate course. I've also started taking the Essential Oils for Families course thru Vintage Remedies. So far I have really enjoyed the lessons and look forward to learning more as I continue on. I have added more reference books to my own library here at home. You can never have too many good reference books, right?


This weekend we put together some recipes to prepare our herbal medicine pantry and move us even further from traditional OTCs and meds. One recipe we put together was Rosemary Gladstar's Fire Cider...

       Fire Cider Cold and Flu Remedy: free recipe from Herbalist Rosemary ...

This is a warming winter tonic, though some swear by it no matter what the season. The ginger root and horseradish are traditional go-to remedies for rich foods, and will help aid digestion, especially during the cooler seasons where the richer, heavy foods are a mainstay and digestion is sluggish. The onions and garlic are proven immune-boosters, always good to have as the weather changes and all manner of virals start creeping into the community. The cayenne and spicy peppers will spur on the digestive juices as well. There's just nothing 'bad' in this mix. Everything serves a purpose and works together to give you some extra boost and immune-system recharge during the months we need it the most.

I did tweak my recipe here a bit, pulling bits and pieces from several online recipes, but that's the beauty of Fire Cider (and most herbal remedy blends, really). You can adjust and substitute herbs to suit the needs of your family. Here's what I did...
!/2 cup fresh grated horseradish root (I peeled, some say it's not necessary)
1/2 cup fresh grated ginger root (I peeled, some say it's not necessary)
1 large white onion
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon (I grated for the zest, then just cut the lemon into thick slices and squeezed the juice in, then tossed in the slices)
5 good sized sprigs of fresh rosemary (can use 2 TBS dried)
1 TBS tumeric powder
1/4-1/2 tsp ground cayenne (start with 1/4 tsp and add more if needed for your taste)
I bottle of Bragg's (raw, unfiltered, with "mother") Apple Cider Vinegar*

I didn't grate my roots, but sliced them, then diced up. I came across several recipes where these were simply sliced thin and used that way as well.
Start throwing everything into your jar. For our recipe, I used a 2 quart mason. I started with the roots, then the rosemary springs, lemons, onions and garlic, jalapenos, spices. It makes no difference which way you choose to add items, just get them in the jar and lightly pack. if needed.
Pour in your ACV. The obvious health benefits of a good, raw vinegar aside, you could make this with regular apple cider vinegar, or even white vinegar. You need enough to cover the mixture by a couple inches, yet still leave room for shaking/stirring daily.
That's it. Label it and let it sit there on the counter, and give it a shake or a stir every day or so when you see it.
There's about as many suggestions for the time frame it needs to steep together as there are recipes for making it. It's up to you and your needs I imagine. Most suggest at least 2 weeks, some go as far as saying several months. My plan, gleaned from several blogs and sites I looked at, will be to decant around 6 weeks or so.

The decanting: Strain out your herb and food goodies, then add honey to the remaining juice. This again is to your personal taste. Some don't even add honey, they prefer the kick of the recipe as is. I've sampled ours is amazingly delicious as-is, but perhaps a bit much of that 'kick' for the children, so I will either add some honey to the batch once strained and jarred for the pantry, or we will simply add our 'dose' to tomato or vegetable juice when taking. Yes, it is that versatile. The perfect family winter tonic I'd say!

Now,. when you decant and you've got all those great herbs and foods there, you don't have to send them to the compost...USE THEM! There is still a great deal of goodness in that batch of half spent tonic fodder. I already have ideas to run the mix thru the food processor and coarse chop to make what Rosemary refers to as Fire Cider Chutney :-). Coarse chop the mix, add a bit more vinegar if it's too dry, add a bit of honey to sweeten, maybe a bit more cayenne to taste and voila...a wonderfully potent add-on to scrambled eggs, fried rice, vegetables, etc. If it lasts long enough to get used that way and not simply eaten by the spoonful :-)

Another great way to use those goodies is in Fire Cider Onion and Honey cough syrup:
Slice onions into half moons and place in a sauce pan. Pour honey over just to cover, then heat slowly on low heat *bring just below a simmer, and definitely do not boil* Cover with a lid set slightly ajar to allow steam to escape, and cook gently for about 40 minutes. Want an added immune boost? Add chopped up garlic to taste with your onions! They syrup is delicious as is, but you can puree the goodies you strained from your Fire Cider and blend them into the syrup as well. This concoction will help ease and loosen even the deepest bronchial symptoms. There are many stories about this onion and honey syrup being a mainstay in the kitchens of previous generations.


My Next batches of herbal goodies for the weekend were infused oils. I set up some herb blends to make an arthritis salve, a muscle rub, and a gentle baby ointment. I filled the jar about 1/3 full, then covered with sweet almond oil. I capped the jars and placed them in my Excalibur dehydrator to heat gently for 3 days. I'll strain them off and jar up my herbal oils tomorrow. Later on I'll be turning those oils into salves and balms to add to my shop and offer locally.

All the while, building my herbal pantry and preparing for the seasons to come. What projects have you been working on lately? I'd love to hear about your canning, essential oil, herbals and more! Drop a link to your blog in the comments!


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sprucing up the HMB...

Just in case you don't know, the HMB is the Home Management Binder. I'm sure y'all knew that though :-) Just about everyone has one in one form or another. If you've got a family at home, they just plain make sense to keep handy so things run smoothly, with or without Mom at the helm even.

I used to keep mine quite handy. And now I'm re-working it and getting the dust bunnies out of it so I can put it back into use. Yes, I got lazy with it. I got very lazy with it all, truth be told.

So, I have a new binder ready, I am printing off pages I will use, getting rid of things I no longer need kept handy, and hunting around the internet looking at some great examples of not-lazy homekeepers and their binders. To say I'm quite humbled is an understatement. I don't know that I was ever quite to the level some of these wonderful Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 ladies are, but there's still time for me to catch up and get my homemaking mojo back on track.

And yes, I am slowly working on the big ol' fat kitchen binder I've always kept handy as well. That is a huge task in progress as our eating habits have changed, and the home sized has been shrinking over the past handful of years, so I'm reworking some recipes we still use, and playing with other ones to see if they are worthy of keeping. I'll try to keep you up-to-date on that one as I go and get the tabs along the top of the blog updated as well. 

Why have a homekeeping binder anyway? I don't know. There are different reasons for different households I suppose.  In my household, I have children to train up, a household to keep running, and a homestead to keep moving forward with animals to tend and chores to keep on top of. Sure I can keep most of the daily and seasonal things in my mind and just do what needs done day to day, season to season. But a binder just makes it seem less mundane, kwim? There's that nice dolled up notebook sitting there, staring at you every day, waiting to be pulled out and glanced at. You just feel more in tune with the seasonal flow of the home with a binder waiting every day. 

Or maybe I just have this strong craving to have office supplies about me, pretty colored pens, bits of bright sticky notes, fancy section dividers, stickers and doo-dads. 

Yeah, it's definitely more the allure of pretty office supplies in my case. Sheesh I'm shallow in that respect. I can't help myself. There oughtta be a 12 Step program for office supply addicts.There are stores I'm simply not allowed to be in by myself according to husband...Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabrics, Staples and OfficeMax. He'd no doubt prefer I stay clear altogether, but at the least, I am forbidden without adequate supervision, and shop on a cash-only plan, LOL And yes, we have a mutual agreement...he needs the same level of "oversight" at places like Harbor Freight, Snap-On, Grainger, etc. 

So, the binder is in the works, the menu and kitchen binder is as well. I could easily spend a lot of time working on the new binder, but I know no matter what I do to update it, it will always be a work-in-progress. And then there's the day planner to update. Lawdy-sakes there are SO MANY great planner ideas out there. Stickers, planner pages, washi tapes, markers, highlighters...oh my! The FUN I could have there. Of course I'd fancy it all up to the point I'd never write in it for fear of messing it up somehow, LOL.

Don't laugh folks. 
Y'all know the struggle is real...


Share: Guide to Using Whole & Rolled Grains

Guide to Using Whole & Rolled Grains

New to grains? Not sure which ones to use for some of your recipes? Here’s a quick reference to selecting the right grain for your recipes. These quick descriptions of various grains are from the pamphlet my local bulk foods store had on hand. Great information to get you started on incorporating different grains into your diet.

Barley:  Great for soups, casseroles, pilafs. Or ground for flatbreads. Barley is considered to be an excellent ingredient for providing soluble fiber, which can help reduce cholesterol. It is also rich in niacin and iron. Barley does contain gluten, and although the level of gluten is much lower than that of wheat, it should be considered unsafe for those with gluten sensitivities.
Buckwheat:  A rich source of the amino acid lysine. It contains high levels of protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, B vitamins, and iron. Buckwheat is an excellent addition to pilafs. Buckwheat contains no gluten and can be added as a substitute for wheat when baking.
Flaxseed: Flaxseed is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial in reducing cholesterol and lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. The seeds contain soluble fiber, which also help in reducing cholesterol levels. Of the fiber in flaxseed, 1/3 is soluble and 2/3 insoluble, which is an important component in aiding digestion. It is also the best source of lignin, which may play a role in fighting certain types of cancer. [source: WedMD]
Corn: This whole grain contains high levels of Vitamin A, B, and C. Yellow corn is particularly high in both antioxidants and carotenoids. Carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with eye health. Corn is the produced grain in the world, as well as being gluten free, and is a key ingredient in many gluten free foods.
Millet: Millet digestible, high in antioxidant activity, and can help control blood sugar and cholesterol. It is also very high in magnesium and iron.
Quinoa: A more recently discovered whole grain that was once the staple of the Incan empire, quinoa is the highest source of potassium which helps control blood sugar. This whole grain will help you feel full longer, and is one of the best sources of nutrition for gluten free diet. Quinoa is a complete protein, with a high protein to carbohydrate ratios based on the germ making up 60% f the grain. Studies also show quinoa is a good source of antioxidants and vitamin E, has excellent nutritional properties with a high protein content, and has great amino acid balance.
Farro, or Emmer wheat: This strain of wheat is one of the oldest forms. Used in ancient times, farro or emmer, has twice the fiber and protein of modern wheat, and is similar in benefits to modern wheat in terms of lowering cholesterol, maintaining blood sugar levels, and stimulating the immune system. Farro also contains antioxidants, phytonutrients, lignans, and betaine.
Oats: One of the best whole gains available, due to nutrient benefits which help lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and heart disease, and can aid in weight control. Oats are higher in protein and healthy fats, and lower in carbohydrates than most other grains. They also contain 20 polyphenols called avenanthramides, which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-itch activities. Their soluble fiber helps to control blood sugar, and they have beta-glucans which can aid the body’s endurance through chemotherapy and other nuclear therapies, as they are thought to be radioprotective. There is also evidence that introducing oats to children early in life can help reduce the likelihood of asthmatic episodes. Oats may contain gluten.
White Rice: White rice has had the husk, bran, and germ removed (polished), which allows it to cook more rapidly. This makes it the most popular variety of rice, but also the least nutritious due to the removal of the bran and germ. White rice is often enriched with nutrients, such as iron, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin to restore some of the lost nutritional value. Flour milled from rice contains no gluten, so it is an excellent choice for those who are gluten intolerant. Rice is also available in many varieties that retain the bran and germ, making them more nutritious, such as brown rice, red rice, black rice, and brown basmati.
Wild Rice:  Wild rice is slightly higher in protein than other whole grains, and is a good source of fiber, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin B6, and niacin. There are very few studies on the benefits of wild rice, but the ones that do exist show promise, such as determining a high value of antioxidants, and effectiveness in lowering cholesterol and other lipids.
Rye: Rye is a rich whole grain and versatile source of dietary fiber. It contains arabinoxylan, a fiber source known for its high antioxidant activity. Other compounds rye contains are phenolic acids, lignans and alkylresorcinos, as well as many more. Similar to other grains, rye’s benefits include improved bowel health, aid in controlling blood sugar levels and weight management.
Sorghum: Sorghum is gluten free and often used by those who have celiac disease. This whole grain is similar to others in terms of nutritional benefits, and since it has an edible hull, it can be eaten with all outer layers, thus retaining most all its nutrients. Grown from traditional hybrid seeds, it is a non-GMO grain source. Sorghum grains have a naturally produced wax surrounding them which contains compounds called policosanois, which may have a positive impact on cardiac health.
Spelt: This species of wheat is rich in vitamin B and other fiber, as well as iron, magnesium, niacin, thiamin, and phosphorus.
Kamut: This species of wheat has a higher level of protein and vitamin E than other wheat. This whole grain is a great source of selenium, an antioxidant mineral that helps to maintain a healthy immune system and is thought to guard against cancers.
Amaranth: A whole grain high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, amaranth has 3 times more calcium content that the average throughout other whole grains. It is known to be a protein powerhouse and excellent for your heart, as well as containing cholesterol lowering properties.
Teff Grain: One cooked cup of this whole grain contains 123mg of calcium. It is too small a grain to be processed, so all the health benefits stay within the grain when used. Teff Grain is also known to be resistant to starch, a benefit that aids in weight control, blood sugar management, and colon health.
Wheat: Among the nutrients present in whole wheat are high levels of protein, fiber, B vitamins, thiamin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Studies have shown that the insoluble fiber in wheat bran may help fight colon cancer and at the very least is beneficial for digestion.

Sources: Whole Grains Council and WebMD


Jeremiah 6:16
Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.

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