Monday, July 27, 2015

Pita Bread Is Not a P.I.T.A To Make!

Fresh baked Pita
I know you are probably thinking,  "Why should I make these when I can buy them at any grocery store?"  But you can't.  You really can't.  The texture and flavor are not even comparable.  Homemade Pita bread is no more trouble to make than homemade biscuits or yeast rolls, and much less messy.   If you make either of those from scratch, you can make Pita.  And you should, if only once, just so you know what the difference is.  

Pita flat bread on left is from grocery store, with no air pocket.

Did you ever notice how often store bought pita pockets are on the dry side and don't taste quite fresh?   Other flat breads also named Pita are flat, with machine poked perforations throughout, and no pockets at all.  Have you ever had one crack and split just as you are trying to fill it?  These don't do that.  You will not find either type of Pita fresh in our grocery stores or regular bakeries, though both are baked fresh daily at bakeries throughout the Middle East.  The soft ones from the grocery store likely have preservatives added! 

Pita is eaten any time of the day, often filled with meats, salads or grains and eaten as a pocket sandwich, like gyros or falafel.  It is torn into pieces and used to scoop up Hummus, Tsatziki and other savory dips.  Pita can be used as a wrap instead of a tortilla, or stuffed with any sandwich filling you favor.  You can add part wheat flour to the dough, if you want to.  It is versatile, tasty and freezes nicely.  So I figured, why wouldn't you want to know how to make it?  

This recipe makes eight (6-7 inch) pita breads.  If you are making them to serve with a dip, you could make 12 smaller ones, instead.  :-)  It is an easy, non-fussy recipe that will work right into most schedules.   It is my recipe, so feel free to share it wherever.  :-)  I developed it through trial and error after three other Pita recipes simply didn't work for me.   It is now perfect for me and my equipment, and I think it will work well for you in your home kitchen, also.   

It is important you use quality flour.  Cornstarch is added as a filler in cheaper, all purpose flours.  The resulting flour lacks protein strength, and makes doughs like pie crust resist stretching and expanding.  They tear, crumble and crack easily.  People then think they can't roll a pie crust or make bread, when it is really the flour's fault. If you like to bake, splurge on good flour!   My favorite all-purpose flour brands are King Arthur and Bob's Red Mill.   My favorite bread flours are King Arthur, Bob's Red Mill, or All Montana, in that order.  King Arthur and Bob's are available at most grocery stores.  All Montana (bread) flour can usually be found in 25-50 lb. sizes at Cash and Carry Restaurant Supply stores.  I use part all-purpose and part bread flour in this recipe.


1 cup tepid water  (100-110 degrees)
1 1/2 tsp. active dry or instant SAF yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar or raw honey
1 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Can of Vegetable pan spray (or extra olive oil) for rising bowl and your hands!

Misting spray bottle filled with distilled water

Instructions:  (illustrated in photos, below)

Whisk yeast into warm water in small mixing bowl or a glass 2 c. liquid measure. Stir in sugar or honey and salt.  Allow to dissolve together for a few minutes. The mixture may get foamy, but that is not a concern.  It just means your yeast is alive and ready to work for you.

     Place in Kitchen Aid mixing bowl:
        2 cups bread flour
        1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 

Pour 2 Tablespoons of olive oil into the flour in the mixing bowl.  Attach a dough hook. Mix on speed 1 for about a minute, until oil is dispersed into the flour.

Pour/scrape the yeast mixture into the flour in the mixing bowl.  Turn to speed 1 to gather ingredients together. Then turn to speed 2 to knead the dough.  Allow to knead for about 5 minutes.  Dough will be slightly tacky, not sticky.  Adjust if necessary, by adding a little bit of flour (or water) with the mixer running, to achieve that consistency.  

Place dough in an oiled or sprayed bowl.  Oil top of dough.  Cover with saran wrap and allow to rise for about an hour in the summer or an hour and a half in the winter.  When dough has doubled, punch down, and separate into 8 roughly equal pieces.  Knead each one lightly, shaping each into a ball.  Spray the tops with vegetable spray and lay saran wrap over them.  They must rest for 15 minutes to make it easier for them to stretch and for you to roll them out.  

Place a baking stone and an empty water pan in the oven while the balls of dough are resting for 15 minutes.   Fill a teakettle and bring it to a boil.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees convection or 425 degrees if using regular bake setting.   

Roll one Pita out at a time, leaving the other balls covered, while the previous one is baking.  It takes less than 2 minutes to roll each Pita out.  Also,  I use NO added flour when I roll them out.  Many recipes tell you to "be sure to use plenty of flour!"  Using "plenty of flour" makes rolling them very difficult, if not impossible.  If you follow my recipe exactly they will be tacky, but not sticky, and will roll out perfectly without sticking to the bread board.  

Shaped dough resting period of 15-20 minutes
Finger pressed dough ball shaped into small, flat circle
Finger press/flatten one ball of dough onto a plastic bread board, a pie dough rolling mat or even the kitchen counter.  Use rolling pin from the center outward every direction, pressing to flatten dough and stretch it while you roll, to about a 1/8th inch thickness.  The circle of dough will kind of hang on to the surface you are rolling on, and stay where you roll it, but will be easy to lift off when you are ready.  

Pour about 1/2 cup of boiling water into the water pan in the oven.  

Roll from center outward, as thinly as possible, to about 1/8th inch thickness
Lift Pita off rolling surface and place it on the hot baking stone.  Quickly spray with water, and shut the oven door so you don't lose too much heat.

Place Pita circle on hot baking stone and spray quickly with water!

      Oven is steamy above from water pan and water spray.  After 3 minutes air pocket will begin to form.
The Pita bread will begin to puff up in one spot first, and gradually spread across the entire surface of the bread.  Do not poke it.  Do not flip it over.  Leave oven door closed until it looks like a balloon.  (see below!)
Within 3-5 minutes, bread will puff completely.  Remove and transfer with spatula to cooling rack.
I like a tiny bit of golden color to form at the edges only.  If it didn't happen, but the bread is puffed up, remove it to cooling rack and increase oven temp by 5 degrees for the next bread.  Wait a few minutes before rolling out the 2nd bread to give oven temp the time to increase.  Then place the next pita on the stone and spray it.  If your bread does not puff up, check the date on your yeast AND calibrate your oven temperature.  This dough needs a very hot oven to behave properly.

Air deflates as the breads cool on rack.  8 delicious pita pocket breads!
As soon as the breads have cooled to room temperature, place them in a ziplock storage bag to keep them soft.  These freeze nicely, also.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Feathered Orphan Friends


This little guy is the largest of 6 sibling Tree Swallows orphaned last week. Tom and I have so enjoyed watching both parents fly back and forth with food for their babies when we are sitting outside on our  porch.  We were so sad to find first one, then the other parent dead in our yard.  The babies all had feathers and wings, so it made sense it would not be long until they would fly away.  Because they were in our front yard,  I considered it a responsibility and a privilege to stand in for their mother until they were ready to fledge and could catch their own bugs.  They were thriving as of day five.

A sparrow was circling their nest last night. and I am not sure if the 109 degree heat yesterday, or the sparrows, caused the demise of all but the largest swallow.  When I chased the sparrow off the stoop and only one swallow greeted me for the morning feeding, I knew something had happened.  We found all but the largest swallow dead in the bottom of the birdhouse early this morning.  A sparrow flew off as I approached with food.

Sparrows have seemed very interested in the birdhouse, and while researching online I learned sparrows will peck all the occupants of a birdhouse to death in order to claim it for themselves.  It turns out we had the bird house in the worst possible location to invite sparrow piracy.  We just didn't know that bird houses should not be placed close to homes.  It has been there for many years and has seemed like a cozy home for countless bird families.

We removed the dead babies from the nest this morning, and returned the last swallow to his nice clean nest.  We carried the entire birdhouse down to the basement so the little fellow wouldn't have to be in the forecasted 112 degree heat.  And then within an hour, when we weren't looking, he fledged, IN the basement, hit the concrete floor and died.  We tried everything we could to save all of them, but sometimes we humans are just not a substitute for the natural parents.   


Many years ago I attempted to rescue three Robin orphans.  Our then veterinarian was well known in the Portland, Oregon area for wild bird rescue and release, and he shared a baby bird formula recipe with me. The first set of orphans were so young their throats were not yet open, and they couldn't swallow the formula.   I wrote the recipe down in the back of one of my cookbooks, and I'm so glad I did.   I knew these swallows needed food right away, as baby birds can die in just 48 hours without food.  I just wasn't sure how long their parents had been dead.


In this photo from day one, they were still a little wary.  Bet you are wondering about the mess on the little stoop?   The swallows back their rear ends up to the window opening without warning, and poop onto the stoop, rather than soil their nest!  I almost fell off the step stool the first time it happened.  I  learned to duck very quickly!  I started most days by scraping off the poop on the stoop.  :-)


By day two, the swallows were double and triple stacked at the window, waiting for me, mouths gaping for food.  They chirped a sweet greeting when they would see me.  I fed the formula to them with a glass eye-dropper every two hours during daylight hours.  It can take about 15 minutes to feed them all, as they vie for position by standing on each other's backs, pushing and shoving at the window.   I sometimes had to mop off their heads and bodies with a soft, watercolor paint brush, as the birds standing on top of the others during the feeding frenzy dripped goop on the lower ones.  They would hold still while I brushed off the drips though, and didn't seem to mind.

It was a lot of fun getting to know them for almost a week, and I miss them already.  The bird in the lower position in the above photo sometimes blocked the little ones because his body is larger, so I had to gently shove him over with the eye dropper so I could reach the little ones.  These were juveniles, but infant birds require food every hour, 24/7.


This baby bird formula is for bug eaters, like swallows.  If you are rescuing seed eaters, you can add raw, unsalted sunflower seeds to the ingredients.  They formula must be blended in a blender very well,  and should be the consistency of a pudding, thinned slightly with water so it can easily be drawn into the eye dropper.  It should not be too thin, as then the birds could aspirate it and suffocate.  Milk must not be added or given to them in any form.  They cannot digest it.  Remember, homemade formula is for short term use only.  You can purchase a lab quality baby bird formula or dry mix from your local vet or pet store for extended use, formulated to meet the needs of specific types of birds.  It is a little less messy to work with, too.

Baby bird formula recipe:

1/2 cup Oatmeal
1/4 cup Cream of Wheat
3 cups of distilled water

Prepare the above as if making breakfast cereal.
Stir in the following, and blend the works in the blender.

1 small jar baby food pureed mixed vegetables (or fresh, cooked very well)
1 small jar baby food applesauce
Approximately 15 kibbles of best quality dry cat or dog food, pre-soaked in warm water

Store in the refrigerator in small containers, or freeze for later use.  Once it has become cold, you will need to add water with a fork or mini whisk to thin it out a bit.

If you find orphaned birds, consult your regional Audubon Society online, as well as your local Veterinarian.  And be prepared, they'll capture your heart!



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Maintenance And Propagation Of Lavender Plants

Summer 2014 Lavender
If you are growing your first Lavender plant this year, you are in for a treat.  They need little care, prefer very little water, and will reward you with exceptionally fragrant blossoms.  Dried, their scent will last for years!

If you are determined to give your new Lavender plant a regular dose of water, please use drip or emitter lines briefly, once a week, or let a hose trickle at the base of the plant briefly, like 10 minutes, once a week.  We use drip irrigation, infrequently, and we have a dry, desert like climate.  Please, no sprinklers!  It will cause the stems to splay out and is not good for it.  Lavender really hates wet feet.  I know people who absolutely never water their Lavender, and they have lovely Lavender, anyway.

If you live in a wet, damp climate, i.e., coastal weather, you may need to put white rocks below your plants to maximize the warmth and reflection from the sun.  Many people have to work around that issue, and if necessary just google for ideas and solutions for that.

2014 Lavender, perfectly ready to harvest!

Your Lavender will most likely come into bloom (most years) by early July.  Sometimes it is earlier, and sometimes later.  But you will see the bloom develop.  It will  slowly send up stems in late spring with tight green buds at the top.  It will seem like they are stuck there for the longest time, but great things are happening, so please be patient.   When the blooms are almost ready to pop, you'll see a tinge of lavender color in them.  Wait again!  Then usually one to three flowers will open up at once.  Wait longer!  I harvest mine when about 1/3 of the stem has open blooms.  Friends who own and operate a Lavender farm told me that the longer the Lavender stays on the stem, the more intense the fragrance is.  I find that to be true, at least for Grosso or Provence Lavender.  Those are the two varieties that I grow.  

We have just about finished spring garden clean up, and have been working on getting the Lavender plants ready for the growing season.  We have 18 large plants that. span 5 feet across, so many of them are nearing the time for replacement.  After they reach about 5 years of age, they begin to develop gaps and holes from damage that occurs to the woody interiors during long freezes and hard winters.

Deadwood pulled out of the Lavender

When the greening of the Lavender has begun in the spring, you can pull and/or twist off any stems with black or gray dead areas that sometimes occur in the center of the plants over the winter.  Those stems are not alive, and are not going to thrive at any point in the future.  If you have not pruned your Lavender yet, you can do that now, too, so long as buds have not formed yet.

We generally prune our Lavender plants in early March by giving them a trim across the top, cutting an even inch to an inch of a half off the top, leaving the surface evenly flat across the top of the plant, edge to edge.  Then I invert the large shears, and prune the sides at an angle from the top edge inward and downward, which gives each plant a cupcake shape.  It sounds odd, but do it anyway, and have no worries.  When the new spring growth comes in, they will somehow miraculously turn into perfectly rounded plants!

In some areas of the country Lavender is pruned in the fall instead of the spring.  But if you have winters with temperatures below freezing, you are better off waiting till spring.  In any case, prune just the green part of the Lavender, and be careful you do not cut into the woody part of the stems.  It is easy to tell the difference.

All the deadwood in the trailer came from just 5 large Lavender plants.  Hollow centers with a fairy ring of healthy Lavender were all that remained.   The photo below used to be a robust Lavender plant.  Once the deadwood was removed, not much was left.

Hollowed out Lavender plant - layered branches at top left

The best way to use the remaining ring of Lavender stems is to propagate/clone new plants.  It sounds difficult, but it is the simplest thing, ever!  There are several ways you can start new Lavender plants.  Some people say layering doesn't work for them, but it always works for us, and is a good way to grow a nice, big start for a new plant.

Method 1: Root in water Trim most of the leaves off 6-8 inch long stem cuttings, and put them into a jar of water in your kitchen.  They will usually, eventually, grow a tangle of roots and can then be planted.  (I'm not patient enough for this one...if I see it every day, I have to mess with it, change the water, etc.)

Method 2:  (photo just below) Layering:  Select a branch at the base of the Lavender plant.  Leave it attached to the Mother plant.  Have a handful of wire and wire cutters to make long, metal U-clips (or giant staples) nearby.   With your hands, move the soil directly under the branch to form a sort of shallow trough that you can lay the branch in.  Scrape the bottom part of the branch with the edge of a pocket knife, a rough rock, or whatever is handy.  Lay it in the trough, pinning it down securely with the u-clip.  Cover most of the branch with soil and pat down firmly with your hand.  Water the branches regularly.  Within just a few weeks, roots will have grown from the scraped part of the branch, and it may then be severed from the Mother and planted!  You can also use the layering technique in the fall, pinning the branch down for the winter.  By late spring roots will usually form!

A pinned branch of Lavender.

Emitter irrigation line across several newly layered branches

Method 3:  Start stems in soil with Rooting Hormone.  Fill small container with wet soil for each stem you are planning to start.  Poke a deep hole in the center of each pot with a pencil or chopstick.  THEN cut 6 to 8" stems, and begin the process immediately, one at a time.   Using your fingernail, scrape along the lower 1 inch of each stem which easily pulls off the gray coating, exposing a tender, green stem.  Prune each at an angle, 1/4 inch below the joint.  Prune off all but a tiny tuft of leaves at the top of the stem.  Dip the stem in water to re-moisten.  Tilt an open jar of Rooting Hormone powder towards you at an angle, and dip and roll the green part of the Lavender stem into it, coating it quickly and thoroughly.  Put it in the hole in the prepared pot, and pat the soil firmly down around it.  Place it in a warm place that receives good light, and keep it evenly moist.  Within a couple weeks you will see new growth at the top of the stem.  Then you can plant it!  

In the spring it is easy to tell where the deadwood is!

These will be new Lavender plants in a few weeks.

The next thing you know, you'll need a trailer and a Sickle to bring in your harvest, too!  


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sourdough Bread - You Can Make It Yourself!

                                                              Sourdough Boule

I'm finally retired!  :-)   Now I can finally keep up with my sourdough starter, and make our daily bread.  It is such good bread.   Sourdough is magical, too, because you don't add any packaged yeast at all.  It is leavened solely by wild yeast spores you are able to catch with your starter.  The ultimate in organic!

Sourdough is not difficult to make, but you do have to pay attention and remember to feed/refresh the starter every 2 days once it is active.  Alternately, you can refrigerate or freeze it for up to six months, which is what I did when I worked full time.  The bad part about that is it takes two cycles of refreshment just to rebuild your starter to the point where it will leaven a loaf of bread.  It can take up to 20 refreshment cycles before the sour part of the sourdough arrives.  That will happen if you have followed directions, kept up with feeding your starter, and the correct wild yeast spores have taken up residence.

There are many sourdough starters out there, and I have tried and thrown out many over the years.  The one that works the best for me is from the book,  Crust And Crumb, by Peter Rhinehart.  It is an outstanding book from start to finish.  I have been a baker, managed a bakery, and worked as a pastry chef.  There is a lot of good knowledge in his book that would take you a very long time to learn on your own!  I obviously cannot share all you need to know about this recipe in this blog due to copyright issues.  I hope to at least share enough to inspire you to try making your own Sourdough bread.  Check the book out of the library if you cannot buy it.  It is fantastic!

Day Four Sourdough Starter

This is a great starter recipe:

Day ONE, Stir together:
1 cup organic whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. Diastatic Barley Malt, powder or liquid (King Arthur Flour sells it online)
1 tsp. raw honey
1 cup raisin water ( soak 1 cup of raisins in 1 cup of warm, distilled water  20 minutes, then strain)
Cover with saran wrap.

Day TWO, add to above:
1 cup unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp. Diastatic malt powder
1 tsp. raw honey
3/4 cup room temperature distilled water
Cover with saran wrap,

Day THREE, add to above:
2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp. Diastatic malt powder
1 1/2 cups room temperature distilled water
Cover with saran wrap.

2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 cups room temperature distilled water

Day FIVE - Add the following, and from now on, cover sourdough starter w/ plate or other loose cover that allows gas to escape.
4 cups unbleached bread flour
3 cups cool water

Allow to sit about 4 hours, then refrigerate it.  The starter should be very active and bubbly now.  If not,  allow it to do its thing for a few more hours at room temperature, then refrigerate.  It should hold in the fridge several days while you wait for your book to arrive.

Please consult the book Crust and Crumb for instructions on maintaining your starter and making world class homemade breads!

Large and small air pockets form the best texture.
Batard, or Torpedo Loaf
              Notice the blistering on the crust?  As the bread cools, it makes a crackle noise.






Sunday, March 1, 2015

Candied Ginger Root


My family loves candied Ginger root.   During the dark days of winter, our son and I tried many different ways of making the candy.  We've sliced it, diced it, chopped it, and, after making it about 4 times, we have finally arrived at the method that we like the best.  Wonder if that's why none of us even had a cold this past winter?

The original candied ginger recipe inspiration came from:  If you want to enjoy an amazing array of candy and pastry recipes, be sure to visit his blog.  Because we live in an arid climate, we thought the thin slices suggested in his recipe might be too dry and crispy in our area.  We tried cutting the ginger into little squares the first time we made it.  But the sliced, candied Ginger is our official favorite.  After making several batches,  I can tell you truly, "It's ALL good."

Select the freshest Ginger root you can.  Spring Ginger is the most tender with the fewest coarse strings in it.  Ginger root is always fairly gnarly, but see in the photo above how the skin is fairly smooth and hydrated?  Choose that.  For this purpose select Ginger root that is not overly dented, wrinkly and dehydrated.  

Measure 3 cups of water into a 3 qt. size stainless saucepan.   (We have a well, with lots of minerals in our water.  I discovered hard water can discolor the ginger root, so I recommend distilled water.)

Peel 1 pound of Ginger root, total.  That is by far the hardest part of this recipe!  I peel it one finger or clump at a time and chop and drop the root into water right after it is peeled. That seems to help to preserve the gold tone of the ginger root and prevent graying. Once all the root is peeled, begin chopping or slicing it as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife. 


Bring water and Ginger root chunks to a boil.  Reduce the heat and let it simmer 10 minutes. Drain and repeat, simmering the chunks of ginger again for 10 more minutes.  Drain and discard the water. 

Place 3 cups of fresh or distilled water, 1/4 tsp. of salt and 3 cups of sugar into the stainless saucepan.  Bring it to a boil, then lower heat to medium and heat until temperature reaches 225 to 230 degrees.

Remove the saucepan from the heat source, and let the chopped or sliced Ginger root cool and stand in the syrup AT LEAST an hour, but for the best candied root, let it sit overnightThat long soak in the syrup seems to make a wonderful difference.  The inside will be tender and melty, and the sugared outside just the right amount of crispy.

The Ginger must be hot when it is rolled in the sugar, so if you let it sit overnight, simply reheat the syrup and Ginger so it is hot before straining it and rolling it in sugar.


Spread 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar over a cookie sheet.  Drop the hot, drained ginger onto the cookie sheet, and toss with a turner until evenly coated.


After the pieces are evenly coated with sugar, transfer them to a cookie rack for about 12-24 hours.  If you soaked the chopped Ginger in the syrup overnight, it will benefit from at least 12 hours of air drying before placing it in a jar.  Be advised,  it is highly unlikely that much candy will ever make it into a jar.  It seems to disappear pretty quickly from the rack!


The remaining Ginger syrup stands alone as a soothing remedy for adult sore throats.  Children often experience it as a little too hot and spicy.  I gave bottles of Ginger syrup to our neighbors with their Christmas treats, and they raved about it. 


You can drop fresh lemon slices into a quart jar of the ginger syrup, and store it in the refrigerator all winter.  What a burst of flavor!  It freezes very well, too, once the lemon slices have been removed.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fire Cider

Fire Cider is a great tonic and folk remedy for colds and flu.  Rosemary Gladstar started this version of it, named it, and shared her recipe with the masses many years ago. Despite one company recently trying to trademark it as their own, it belongs to The People.  It is wonderful!

It only takes a little over an hour to make a half gallon of it.  Just chop or grate the ingredients, place them in the jar(s) and cover to the brim with Fort Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar.  Place a barrier of saran wrap or wax paper over the jar before placing the screw band and lid on the jar to avoid corrosion.  Place in a pantry or cupboard for about 8 weeks, twirling the jars now and then to redistribute the contents. 

Strain, add raw honey to taste and bottle in Bail Wire bottles.  I store mine in the refigerator.   Save the mash in the freezer to use in stir fry dishes.  Really!  It adds a lovely zest to salad dressings and is a delicious marinade for poultry. 

At the first sign of a cold or sinus issues take a tablespoon of it in a juice glass of water, several times a day.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Herbal Cough Syrup

It is that time of the year again.  Leaves are starting to turn, the skies hold a different light and the mornings are chilly.  The annual ballet of leaves in their colored tutu's is about to begin! Unfortunately viruses, cold germs, etc., are lining up at the start gate as well.  It is satisfying and reassuring to be able to make some of my own tonics, teas and syrups for my family.  Oddly enough, they work faster and better than any of the ones I've tried from the grocery store "Cold Care" aisle!   

I met fresh Osha root for the first time this week.  It is no mystery to me now why Native Americans named it Bear Root and wore it as a spiritual talisman in addition to using it to treat bronchitis and pneumonia.  Osha has immense presence, and even if I didn't know what it was, I think I might be able to sense the power within the root.  The scent of the fresh root is amazing.  Last year I ordered dried Osha root from a herb supplier, and it worked very well.  But if you have access to the fresh root, get it!  One of my goals in the next year is to learn to identify Osha in the wild and harvest it myself.

If you live on the west coast like I do, Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals or Dandelion Root Botanical Co. should be able to supply you with the ingredients to make this syrup.  If you want to grow some of your own medicinal herbs, there is no better supplier of seeds or plants than Horizon Herbs in Oregon, owned by Richo Cech.  The variety of plant offerings, and their customer service, are fantastic.  The live herbs I have purchased from them have arrived healthy and ready to plant in my yard.  Years later, every one of them continues to thrive.

Tina Sams of The Essential Herbal shared her Herbal Cough Syrup recipe (see link below) in The Essential Herbal book, By The Hearth, on page 85, I believe.  It is a compilation of the first 5 years of fall/winter articles in The Essential Herbal Magazine.  Under The Sun compliments it with spring and summer recipes.  They both contain oodles of wonderful articles sent in by Herb lovers across the U.S. and beyond.  If you don't have the books, you can order them online from The Essential Herbal Magazine and they are keepers!  I refer to them all the time.  

The recipe below is from The Essential Herbal Blog.

Once I started making this cough syrup, it mutated a little based on ingredients I was able to purchase or had in my pantry.  I will post the recipe I made below.  

Fresh Osha Cough Syrup

Horehoumd Sryrup & Osha Cough Syrup

Herbal Cough Syrup (my version of Tina Sam's recipe)

2 cups distilled water
3 oz. fresh Osha root, sliced in coins (1 1/2 oz. if dry)
1 T. Black Cherry bark
1 T. Elecampane root
1 T. Licorice root
1 T. Mullein root
1/2 tsp. Lomatium root
Small Hand, diced, fresh Ginger root
Juice of one fresh Lemon
Optional tinctures of Horehound, Thyme and Goldenrod (1/2 oz. total)

Make the decoction:
Simmer roots and barks in the water in a small saucepan for about 45 minutes.  Let cool to 110 degrees.  Add lemon juice.  If adding any other herbs, add the last 5 minutes decoction is cooking.
Allow them to steep in the saucepan with the roots and bark.

Strain into 1 qt. measuring cup.  Add raw honey to equal the amount of liquid decocted.  Add 1/4 cup of super-fine granulated sugar.  Return all to the saucepan.  Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes.  Add tincture if desired.  Pour into sterilized bottle.  This recipe yields approximately 16 oz. of syrup.  

Here is a link to some creative herbal Honey cold and sore throat remedies!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ginger-Marshmallow Root Candy

Ginger-Marshmallow Root Throat Soother Candies

Dear Anonymous, here is the herbal candy recipe you requested.  You'll love the versatility of it!  The master recipe w/ variations and instructions (link below) are from The Essential Herbal blog, by Tina Sams, owner, editor and publisher of The Essential Herbal Magazine.  The Ginger-Marshmallow (Althaea) Root throat soothers are a mutation and variation I came up with.  We liked them so much I plan to make this recipe again this year.

I originally tried this recipe as a last ditch effort to make Horehound Candy.  Three completely different recipes didn't turn out right.  They were either too soft, too sticky, softened in the jar, etc.  I bought two new candy thermometers in case they were at fault.  I am so glad I tried one more time with Tina's recipe.  The first time was a charm!

I simmered a small hand of diced Ginger root with 1 cup of water in a 21/2 qt. stainless pan for about 25 minutes, then allowed it to cool in the pan to room temp.  I then added 3-4 Tbs. dried, cut Althaea Root to the room temperature water, stirred it in well, and put a lid on it.  I allowed it to sit covered, at room temperature, for 4-6 hours, which drew out the mucilaginous properties of Althaea Root, and somewhat thickened the water.  That was exactly the result I hoped for.  Althaea must be infused with cool, not boiling water, to draw out the demulcent properties.  

Because the roots absorbed some of the water they soaked in, I strained the roots from the liquid, then added a little bit of water to the concoction to make sure I had the minimum 3/4 cup liquid called for in the recipe.  The rest of the recipe is included in the link above.  I'd love to see what variations you come up with!  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Soap Addiction!

If you are just beginning to make handmade soap (as is a friend of mine), keep your eyes open at garage sales and junk stores for a storage cabinet big enough to hold most of your soap equipment.  A soap maker tends to accumulate essential oils, clays, colorants, jars, tins, bottles, crock pots, distilled water, misc. funnels, cutters, freezer paper, etc.  You will grow into it faster than you think!

Soap Equipment Storage Cabinet 
A small or used refrigerator to store your infused oils, hydrosols, large batches of salve or Shea and Mango butters is very handy as well. Mine is always stuffed!  

College dorm size refrigerator

A rolling wire rack or utility cart is useful for keeping this and that close to the soap making area. Oh, and you'll need to improvise some drying shelves or racks for the curing soap!

Often used misc.

Our pesky kitten

I was just getting my equipment out to make soap, and was reminded to tell you, if you have a feline mascot, put him in another room with a closed door while you are making soap!    He just  can't help being curious.