Herbs For Cooking

Our Daily Water

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The first day of August means plenty of sunshine and long hot days here in Colorado.  In the intense dry heat it is very easy to become dehydrated.  I find my kids are especially susceptible to neglecting their water-glass which leaves them tired, grouchy and even prone to headaches.

Long ago I learned the magic of simply placing a sprig of mint or lemon balm in my water bottle.  After a half hour or so the water takes on a lovely light taste of the herb.  My kids love herbal waters and I often put a sprig of mint into their water bottles if they are headed out and about for the day.  Yet when we spend the day at home, I have found that filling a pitcher with water and herbs doesn’t seem to attract their attention.  The pitcher is cumbersome for them to use and they often forget about it being in the fridge.  So, earlier this summer I purchased a big beautiful glass beverage dispenser for our family.  Originally I had thought to place it in the refrigerator full of luscious tasty herbs infused in water but it found a prominent home on our kitchen bar, right smack dab in the middle of our living space.  The water is room temperature (unless I add ice cubes) which I find goes down easier than really cold water.  And it doesn’t get forgotten in the fridge.  The kids love going over to the dispenser multiple times per day to fill their glass and they are drinking a lot more water, success!

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Pepperminty Mint!

Making your own herbal waters is so easy.  Simply place fresh herbs (along with fresh fruits and veggies if you please) in your jar or dispenser, add water and wait a bit.  Soon you will have a tasty treat!  The amount of herbs, fruits and veggies you use depends on your tastes and the size of your dispenser.  Ours is large and we like our water very flavorful so I usually use a big bunch of herbs.  The water we have most often is mint because we have a ton of it in the yard yet there are a lot of herbs and combinations to choose from.  It is really only limited by what you have available and your imagination.

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Just Strawberries

After trying many blends our two favorites are ~

  • Chocolate Mint with Tart Plums
  • Lemon Balm with Strawberries

A nasty blend we tried ~

  • Basil with Oranges…  I thought my first glass was kind of fun, my kids wouldn’t touch it after the first sip.

Other ingredient ideas for making tasty infused waters ~

  • Herbs: any kind of mint, lemon balm, chamomile, anise hyssop, borage flowers, lavender, sage, cilantro, basil…
  • Fruits: berries, all kinds, melons (think honeydew or watermelon with mint), oranges, limes, lemons, apples, plums, peaches, pineapple, cherries…
  • Veggies: cucumbers, peppers and ??  I am sure there are many more that would be tasty especially in combination with savory herbs, but I haven’t experimented yet.

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How about you?

Do you have any fancy ways to help your family to drink more water?

Shared On: The Kid’s Co-op, Eco-Kid’s Tuesday, Kid’s Get Crafty, It’s Playtime, Natural Living Monday

Categories: Food Is Your Best Medicine, Herbal Tips And Tricks, Herbs For Cooking, Herbs For Kids and Mamas, Kitchen Creations, Parenting, Seasonal Herbal Crafts, Summer | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

How To Make A Hydrosol

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To me the scent of wild things, of plants and flowers is truly enchanting and brings great joy to my life.  Essential oils and hydrosols capture a bit of that magic for us humans to enjoy any time.   Hydrosols are the aromatic water that is created during steam distillation of essential oils.

Hydrosols are different in their healing properties than aromatherapy spritzers where essential oils are simply added to water.  This is because in addition to small amounts of essential oil, hydrosols also contain water soluble healing compounds.  Among these compounds are plant acids which lend themselves beautiful as toners for the skin.  Hydrosols are generally considered to be gentler and safer to use than their essential oils counter parts.  According to Sagescript hydrosols “contain the beneficial products of essential oils plus more and in a less concentrated, safer form.”

You can use the following method* to make homemade hydrosols from any number of fresh plants and flowers.  Consider using roses (of course!), lavender, calendula, lemon balm, catnip, rosemary and any other fragrant or soothing plant.  I think chamomile would be especially nice.

Today we are making peppermint hydrosol.  The good folks at Mountain Rose Herbs say that peppermint hydrosol is great for cooling down on a hot day and that it is “it is particularly helpful for abrasions, hot spots, and as a facial toner.”  I think it will make a perfect spray or compress for cooling down on a hot day.

~ Materials ~

  • Large pot with a lid, a pot for canning works great for this.
  • Small bowl or container to go inside your pot to collect the hydrosol.
  • Something heat-proof to stand the smaller container on inside the large pot, a jar rack works perfectly for this.  If you don’t have one of these don’t despair.  Try using heat-proof ramekin instead.
  • Water, distilled or filtered
  • Ice cubes
  • Peppermint (or other plant material)

~ Method ~

Place the rack or ramekin in the bottom of the large pot and put the small bowl or container on top of the rack/ramekin.

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Next fill the bottom of the large pot with plant materia.  You want the plants to reach up to the smaller bowl.  Then fill with water until the plant material is just barely submersed.

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Finally put the lid to your larger pot upside down on top of the large pot and fill it with ice cubes.

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Heat this whole set up just enough for the water surrounding the peppermint to steam but not boil.  Let it work it’s magic for 20 minutes or so.  We used a clear lid so we could watch the hydrosol condense!

~ How It Works ~

The water will steam the plant material carrying all the goodness from the plant into the air.  The steam collects on the lid of the pan and condenses due to the ice cubes.  Because the pot lid is upside down, as the steam turns back into a liquid the liquid is directed to drip down into the smaller bowl.  This liquid is your hydrosol!  Pretty cool, uh?

Please store you new hydrosol in a dark glass bottle in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

~ How to get kids involved with this project ~

If you have read my blog for long, you know that sharing herbs with kids is a great passion of mine.  So of course, getting them involved in this fun project is a big plus for me.  Here are a couple of ideas for sharing the fun with little ones!

  • harvestingmintHave them help you harvest the peppermint.  Explain to them that cutting the mint right above the point where two leaves sprout off the stem helps the plant to grow two new stems.  This is because there are baby leaf buds nestled in right above each individual leaf.
  • Ask the child to help you set up your still.  And share with them what is going to happen.  This is a great time to talk about water and all of its forms.  The liquid water in the big pot will heat up and turn into gas or steam.  This is like a big peppermint infused cloud.   The solid water in the form of ice cubes will help the steam cool down and “rain” into the bowl.
  • Explore your new hydrosol together.  Spray it on yourselves and talk about the effect on your body and mind.  Taste it and cook with it.  Make lotions together too!

For more fun with mint join me at our summer herb camp where we have a whole lot of magical minty ideas!

* Jeanne Rose’s Herbal Body Book is where I found this great way to make your own hydrosols.  I stumbled upon this awesome book years ago when I was a teenager.  For weeks I coveted and saved until I could purchase it and bring it home with me.  My first sojourn into making hydrosols with this method was way back when.  I made the most beautiful rose water right in my family’s kitchen.  So incredible!

References: 

Categories: Aromatherapy For Kids, Herbs For Cooking, Herbs For Kids and Mamas, Hydrosols, Kitchen Creations, Medicine Making, Science Exploration, Summer Herb Camp | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Ginger Day ~ Herbs for Kids ~

Not long before holiday break we had a lovely day playing with ginger and doing one of the kids’ favorite activities, foot soaks!  This is a great way to spend a cold winter day especially if little ones are passing any sort of cold around as it stimulates the immune system and helps kids relax.

Read more about this amazing plant in my Materia Medica under Ginger.

Foot Soaks

Ginger Tea Tasting

To start off our exploration of ginger we had a tea tasting.  Ginger tea is warming to the core while stimulating digestion and the immune system.

To make ginger tea simply chop up a bit of fresh ginger and simmer in water for 15 to 20 minutes, strain and sweeten with honey if you would like.  The amount of ginger you use will depend on your taste and how much tea you are making.  When making this tea for kids, I use about a nice fat inch of ginger for every 3 to 4 cups of water.   When I make this tea for myself I use 2 to 3 times that amount of ginger because I like it spicy!  As usual most of the kids loved the tea while some didn’t like it at all, but hey, at least they gave the tea a try!

Ginger Is Not A Root

English: Ginger cross-section

English: Ginger cross-section (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know?  Ginger is a rhizome, not a root.  A rhizome is an underground stem which grows horizontally sending leaves up through the soil and roots down into the earth… just a bit of botany for you.  I brought in a big beautiful ginger rhizome to show the kids.  We talked about how it grows underground and is harvested for us to use.

Held up so everyone could see, I asked the kids what color they thought the ginger would be on the inside?

“Purple!”

“Green!”

“Pink!”

and wisely, “Brown!”

Well, of course, next we cut it open and checked it out.  Inside ginger is yellowish (often times yellow herbs indicate an affinity for the digestive system)  and it smells oh so good.  Passing around the cut ginger gave the kids a chance to enjoy the delicious smell.

Ginger Syrup

We used our cut up ginger to make syrup for the kids to take home and share with their families.  Making syrups is easy and fun!  Plus most kids will eagerly take syrups when they may not be so excited about teas or tinctures.

Ingredients ~

  • about 1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh ginger, chopped
  • orange peel from one organic orange, optional
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup of honey

Directions ~

Simmer the ginger and orange peel  in 4 cups of water.  Cook at a low boil for about a ½ hour or until the liquid reduces by one-half.  Now you have a strong decoction.  Strain the mixture with a fine mesh strainer.   Return the liquid to the pot and add the honey, it should melt with the heat of your ginger decoction.  If not, heat very gently until the honey just melts so as to preserve the natural enzymes in the honey.  Then bottle, label (include the date) and refrigerate your new syrup.  It will keep in the refrigerator for about three months.  Ginger syrup is great for stomach aches, headaches and as a winter warmer.  Mix with hot water for a quick cup of tea, sparkling water for a healthy gingerale or simply take by the spoonful.  Yummy…

Warming Foot Soaks

Finally we got to our favorite part of the day, foot soaks!

Here is a full description on doing Foot Soaks With Kids.  Having done this many times over the years, I have figured out a few tricks to making it all run smoothly.  The kids love it and I love seeing them really experience something so nourishing and relaxing, it is like magic!

Foot Soaks

Our Ginger Day foot soaks consisted of ground ginger, epsom salts and orange essential oil.  The kids giggled with the addition of each new ingredient but especially with the salt, it tickles!  After they finished soaking we used a rose chamomile infused olive oil as a foot rub.

The perfect end to a perfect morning!

Shared on:  The Kid’s Co-Op, It’s Play Time, Teachers of Good Things, Eco-Kids Tuesday

Categories: Bathing, Ginger, Herbal Crafts And Projects, Herbal Medicines, Herbs For Cooking, Herbs For Kids and Mamas, Lesson Plans For Preschool And Home, Medicine Making, Mindful Self Care, Playing With Herbs, Syrups | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Fresh Thyme And Lemon Balm Honey

The first snow is magical.  We were blessed with that special magic just over a week ago.  Just a light dusting,  it was beautiful.  The snow brought huge smiles to my girls’ faces in anticipation of winter fun.  Preparation for the storm included a trip the garden for one last harvest.  My little one followed along side me and helped me bring in our veggies and herbs.  As we rambled through the yard we found our  way to the fairy garden we planted a couple of months ago during the heat of summer.  We found a large amount of thyme and lemon balm all ready to come inside and join us for the winter.  We decided to make a little treat for getting us through the long winter ahead ~ herbal infused honey, yummy!

Fresh Thyme and Lemon Balm Needs A Bit Of Sorting

Infusing honey with herbs could not be easier…

Pack the herb into the bottom of a jar.

Fresh Thyme

Pour honey over the top.  Use a chop stick or a knife to stir the herbs into the honey because the honey will sit on top of the herbs and need a bit of help making its way to the bottom of the jar.

Before Stirring The Honey In

Some fun gooey bubbles will come up and insight potential giggles from little onlookers.

Honey Bubbles

After stirring you will see the honey level go down and will need to add some more to top it off.  Perhaps the fairies took a little sip?

After Stirring

Then comes the hardest part, waiting.  Waiting for the honey to be done.  If you can, try to wait at least a week before you start eating your honey.  Truth be told we have already “tasted” the honeys many times and even had some on pancakes.  Ah well…

Make sure to label your honey and stir it every day.    Or you can simply turn the jar over a couple of times a day.  This great tip and a wonderful video tutorial from Mountain Rose Herbs on making herbal honeys can be found HERE.  After a week or so has passed either strain the herbs out of your honey or just eat them along with the honey.

Please Note:  When infusing fresh herbs in honey you want to be sure to keep the herbs covered in honey so they don’t rot.  The water content in the herbs is what makes this happen.  By keeping the herbs covered the honey preserves them and prevents spoilage.  It is really hard to keep the herbs covered which is why turning the jar over a couple of times a day is just brilliant   Because the flipping of the jar doesn’t keep the herbs submersed in honey, but it does keep the herbs coated and that does the trick!

How to use infused honey…

Well this is the easy part!  

A tasty spoonful here and there…
Spread on biscuits and toast…
A big dollop in a cup of tea…

It gets even better though because the HONEY is infused with the medicinal properties of the plants, it becomes delicious little immune system boost during the winter.  Along with the amazing healing benefits of honey, LEMON BALM is a wonderful antiviral which eases tension in the nervous system and lifts the spirits.  Thyme, rich in essential oils, is an antiseptic that is amazing for spasmodic coughs and fighting off infection.  The thyme combined with soothing honey should be wonderfully soothing for respiratory issues.

Does it get any better than this?

Lemon Balm and Thyme Honey

Shared on: Natural Living MondayThe Woodwife’s Journal, Kid’s Co-op

Categories: Herbal Crafts And Projects, Herbal Gift Ideas, Herbal Medicines, Herbs For Cooking, Herbs For Kids and Mamas, Infused Honey, Lemon Balm, Medicine Making | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Herbal Guacamole

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People either love them or hate them, yet as far as I know there is nothing else in the world like the lovely avocado.  Tasty creaminess that adds just the right touch to so many dishes.  In our house it is often the avocado that pulls everything together.  It wasn’t always so for me.  As a child I would find them lurking in the taco salad my mother so often served.  Like a little bits of pale green nastiness they would taunt me as I zealously hunted them down and banished every piece from my meal.  As I got older my tastes changed and I found myself wanting to like avocado.  Finally the answer came for me… salt.  Salt!  So simple, it brings out a special flavor in the avocado that makes it absolutely delectable.  And all you need is a little, just a sprinkle to make the avocado’s tastiness shine.  Whew!  I am grateful I figured that one out because now I love avocados and I am not sure I could live with out them.

I found avocados to be the perfect baby food for my children.  Just cut one open and smash it up right in the peel.  Tasty nourishing baby food.  Luckily my kids never had my avocado aversion and they like them even without salt, go figure.

My favorite thing to make with avocados is guacamole, of course.  I love to add as much flavor to my guacamole as possible with herbs.  Forging out in my yard (as well as at the farm stand and grocery store) I search for any savory addition for my guacamole.

Favorites are ~

  • Herbs like chives, parsley, thyme, cilantro, and even basil
  • Flowers like spicy nasturtiums, borage, and chive flowers
  • Veggies like arugula, tomatoes, and peppers

This year my garden isn’t in the best shape.  We had a lot of construction right around our back yard and I found it wasn’t much fun gardening with loud construction equipment rumbling right over my shoulder.  Yet, I still managed to get a few lovely herbs planted and flourishing.  And, with the help of my local farm stand, I found enough to make a nice version of my family’s favorite dip.

Ingredients ~

  • Ripe Avocados
  • Herbs ~ I used cilantro, chives, thyme and parsley
  • Fresh Limes
  • Garlic
  • Salt, of course!

Method ~

Prep your ingredients.  Chop the herbs up nice a small.  I use a lot of herbs when I make this (probably about a 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chopped herbs to each avocado)  and my kids still love every bite, even my 6-year-old who doesn’t like “leaves.”  How great is that?  Not only are my children eating avocados often with veggies for dipping but they also are getting lots of amazing green leafy herbs all chock full of goodness.  It is enough to make my heart sing!

Mince the garlic.  How much you use depends on how much you like garlic.  My husband and I like it a lot so we use 1 to 2 cloves each.  I mince the garlic with salt to help get the garlic’s juice’s flowing.  Then I leave it on the side so my hubby and I can add it to our guacamole because raw garlic is too spicy for my kids.

Next, smash the avocados up on a plate, I use a potato masher for this.  My kids love helping with this part.  It is really fun to see the avocado turn into little green tubular shapes.

Then just mix in your herbs with a squeeze of lime juice and so salt to taste.  Easy,  healthy and delicious served with raw veggies, crackers or chips for dipping.  Yum!

Avocado Nutrition ~

Despite their bad past reputation avocados are in fact good for you.  Each bumpy skinned fruit  is packed with heart healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin E, and potassium as well as antioxidants.  So eat up and enjoy!

Categories: Herbs For Cooking, Kitchen Creations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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