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Monday, January 31, 2011

Herbal Medicine Chest #3 - Tinctures, Glycerites, Extracts and Infused Oils

This is the 3rd week of our Herbal Medicine Chest. Check out the other posts in this series by clicking on the Herbal Medicine Chest page tab or the button to the left. Join us every Monday for the next several weeks to explore herbal preparations and put together your own Herbal Medicine Chest.
See the linky at the end for herbal recipes from others.  Don't forget to check the comments section of each week's post to read the remedies shared by savvy folks who aren't blogging.

Here's yet another group of herbal preparations that are the same and yet different.  The goal is to extract the properties of the herbs in question, but the means used to do that depends on the end application.  What I mean by that is, who's going to use it and how?

The equipment needed for these preparations includes large glass jars with lids, cloth for straining, a fruit press or other means to press the plant material after steeping, various menstruums as described below, dark glass jars for storage and maybe a funnel.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rib Sticking Cultured Milk Breakfasts

Smoothies are all the rage now and with good reason.  Instead of drinking empty calories and highly processed milk products, that are basically dead food, leaving you hungry and lethargic, smoothies can offer digestive enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that fill you with whole food, rib sticking satisfaction and energy.
Here's a favorite breakfast smoothie:

1 cup homemade cultured yogurt (from raw milk) or organic store variety like Stoneyfield.
1 cup frozen berries
1/2 cup raw milk
1 TBSP organic black strap molasses
2 TBSP organic coconut oil (melted)
1/2 cup homemade milk kefir
1 banana
1 TBSP rice milk powder
1 TBSP organic barley malt/ honey or 1/2 tsp stevia powder
1 TBSP powdered greens, 1/4 cup frozen or fresh spinach
1 tsp lecithin
1 tsp flax seeds

If you dare, add a raw free range egg.

Mix well in blender starting with fruit (whole greens if you're using them) and yogurt, then add other ingredients.

Or, here's a breakfast that will stick to your ribs all morning.

1/2 cup sprouted grain cereal (Ezekiel)
1/2 cup homemade yogurt from raw milk (more to taste)
1 TBSP roasted organic peanuts
1 TBSP organic, unsweetened coconut
2 TBSP dried fruits like raisins, cranberries and currents

Add a glass of greens and a cup of fair trade coffee with 2 TBSP coconut oil for a great start to your day.

These recipes were posted on

Full Plate Thursday
Friday Potluck
The Pennywise Platter Thursday
Simple Lives Thursday,
Hearth and Soul Hop-Volume 33!
Fermentation Friday
Tuseday Twister.
Kefir on FoodistaKefir

Monday, January 24, 2011

Herbal Medicine Chest #2 - Teas, Infusions and Decoctions

This is the 2nd week of our Herbal Medicine Chest.  Check out the other posts in this series by clicking on the Herbal Medicine Chest page tab.  Join us every Monday for the next several weeks to explore herbal preparations and put together your own Herbal Medicine Chest.

Here's another group of herbal remedies that are alike, yet different.  All are made using plant parts and water.  So far, so good, right?

Let's talk about equipment...I like to use my french press to make herbal or loose leaf tea but I've also used a tea ball or mesh strainer.  It's best not to use an uncoated metal pot or pan to steep any of the above preparations because the metal can alter the results or create a metallic taste.  And we'll just stay away from plastic altogether.  You'll need a kettle or pot to boil water, a teapot or other glass container with a close but not tight fitting lid. Or cover a glass canning jar with a small bowl.  The reason for this is to allow the steam evaporation to condense and return to the container rather than be lost in the air but not build up pressure that might break the jar if it's sealed tight.
Click on the Mountain Rose Banner below to view the tea equipment they offer.

The usual dosage for infusions and decoctions is 1/2 cup 3x / day.  It's best to sip rather than chug to allow your digestive tract to absorb the benefits.  Especially in cases of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. For weak individuals, elderly, low body weight or children, reduce dosage.  We'll be making enough for one day.  Store in the refrigerator and re-warm gently or drink cold.  Make a fresh batch each day.
Both infusions and decoctions can be used internally, depending on the herb, either as herbal "tea" or added to other remedies and both can be used in many ways externally. We'll cover these in the weeks to come.
As with all herbal remedies, be sure it's safe to use the herbs in question during pregnancy.  "When in doubt, don't."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Herbal Medicine Chest Blog Hop

Hey, everyone!  Join us every Monday for the next several weeks to participate in the Herbal Medicine Chest Blog Hop!  This week we're talking about Herbal Salves, Ointments and Balms ( Just posted this one today.)  Jump over there to read about herbal remedies and share some of your favorites!  I'll post a new topic each Monday so come back to help us celebrate making Herbal Remedies at home.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Herbal Medicine Chest - Where Do I Begin?

Organic herbs, spices, teas and oils.The most important piece of advice I can give you about beginning to prepare your own herbal remedies is to start with quality ingredients.  The banners shown here represent two of my favorite sources for quality herbs, EOs and ready made preparations, among many other things.  Mountain Rose Herbs also offers some great How-to videos on their web site.

But before you begin, don't just take my word for anything you read here, do your own research.  One of my favorite resources is The Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ode. Some of the info I'll share here comes from her wisdom and experience as well as that of other herbalists.  Click on the link at the left to review and/or purchase her book. 
Vintage Remedies offers some valuable classes on prevention, whole foods and herbal remedies that result in certification at various levels.   You can find some free, e-courses and The Wildcraft Game at LearningHerbs and The Herb Mentor.

There's lots of information on the web but you need to verify your sources.  While I can't endorse some of the practices and beliefs of some of the authors, many do offer valuable herbal wisdom.  Be discerning.  What I'm going to share with you are things we use in our home and have researched and experimented with over the years.  Based on feedback and personal experience we have received some great empirical evidence of their efficacy.  All that to say that the field tests have been successful!

Here's some of the things you'll need to gather before you begin:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Crispy Flatbread

Have you ever noticed how satisfying something crispy can be when you are attacked by the munchies? This recipe for crispy flat bread certainly hits the spot with crunchiness and lots of flavor! A cross between a cracker and a chip, they've become a favorite with family and friends for meal time or a healthy snack.

2-1/2 Cup flour (I use unrefined, unbleached, organic white flour w/ bran.)
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP sesame seeds
3/4 cup warm water
course sea salt

Preheat baking stone in 450F oven.
Mix dry ingredients.
Add water.
Dough will be firm and crumbly at first but will begin to smooth with kneading and rest periods.
Knead on unfloured surface for 2-3 minutes. Cover and let rest for 12-15 minutes.
Knead again for 1-2 minutes. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
Divide into 24 equal pieces and form into balls.
Cut parchment paper to cover baking stone.
Roll as thin as possible.
Place on parchment paper and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
I like to use 2 pieces of parchment so I can be preparing one while the other is baking.
Move parchment with rolled breads to baking stone and bake for 4-5 minutes. The edges should start to brown and curl with golden brown beginning to show on top.

Sharing this recipe with
Monday Mania
Pennywise Platter Thursday
Simple Lives Thursday
Fight Back Friday
Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Little Bit's Holiday Chocolate Chip Cookies

In an effort to cut down on refined sugar I've been using either rapadura or evap cane juice + 1/2 tsp/cup of molasses to replace brown sugar in our recipes.  My daughter wanted to make chocolate chip cookies to share with some friends so she started mixing before she realized we didn't have brown sugar.  I simply told her to add a little molasses to the evap cane she did...1/8th cup!  I thought that might be a little on the strong side but much to my surprise, the chocolate chips and molasses taste great together!  Everyone loved them!  So she called them, Holiday Chocolate Chip Cookies!  Like Christmas in a cookie!

2-1/4 Cup + 2 TBSP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1/8 cup molasses
1-3/8 cup evap cane juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Beat sugar, molasses, butter and vanilla until creamy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.
Gradually add flour mixture to sugar/butter mixture.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto baking sheet.
Bake @ 375 for approx. 10 min.
Allow to cool on sheet before moving to wire rack.

This post is linked to:
Jenny Matlock


Monday, January 10, 2011

Herbal Remedies Past and Present - Influences on Western Medicine

Alternative medicine is a fascinating field of study that includes many ancient practices from cultures all over the globe.  Practices that have stood the test of time and are still being used today in many countries.  Folks still draw from the ancient works of Hippocrates, Galen, Dioscorides and Avicenna to learn about herbal remedies.  The Bible talks of herbs and plants used for healing as well as proper diets for good health.  Every culture, through written or oral traditions, have used healing plants for their medicinal properties to create or restore wellness.  Pliny, Nicolas Culpepper, John Gerard and many others spanning history from the beginning  leave behind herbal knowledge that is valued today.
Most herbal books found in the States focus on one particular cultural tradition or another.  Rich European traditions for herbal remedies, which were influenced by a combination of Arabic, Celtic, Greek and Roman cultures, are the basis for Western Medicine.  However, Eastern medicine offers it's own set of practices that prove to be quite valuable such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and healing wisdom from India called Ayurveda.  While some of these traditions are coupled with many rituals and various religions, it is feasible to examine them from a neutral standpoint, gleaning the valuable medical properties and uses of herbs as well as diet and movement to learn a comprehensive overview of alternate practices.
Important to all is to be "in touch" with your body so you can understand what it's telling you and being responsible for our own health.  When you're thirsty, you drink; when you're hungry, you eat;  because our bodies were designed to stay healthy and will try to show us what they need to do that through various means, we need to learn to interpret these symptoms.  These signs can lead us toward an alteration in our diet, supplements or other natural and alternative means that can begin the healing process or indicate that we need to seek out medical diagnosis or advice before proceeding.
Determining the diagnosis based on symptomology or more advanced means is the first step.  Seek out the guidance of an experienced herbalist or health care practitioner who is willing to cooperate with you in selecting a treatment plan.  Looking at the body as a whole instead of merely treating symptoms while ignoring the root cause of the illness is also important.
This is not an invitation to snake oil cures or quackery.  Today's herbalist needs to draw from medical and scientific research as well as cultural traditions to gain a respectable reputation in the Western Medical community as viable alternative healers.  The public demand for more "natural" cures and the huge increase in health care costs may cause the mainstream health care providers and health insurance policy makers to take another look at herbal remedies that have been scientifically proven and even some that are merely backed by centuries of hard to ignore empirical evidence.  This demand is based on the risk involved with many orthodox pharmaceuticals and treatments, environmental concerns and a growing reawakening of the knowledge that prevention and maintaining good health practices are essential.
An ancient Chinese text says, "the good doctor attends to keeping people well, while the inferior only treats those that are sick."
In the first or second century A.D., one of the oldest Chinese herbals, listed 365 healing remedies, most of them plants but some from animal extract or minerals. Dioscorides, a first century A.D. Greek physician, listed 400 plants. In the Chinese Materia Media today, there are 5,800, while India lists 2,500. In the tropical forests of Africa there are over 800 plants gathered regularly for medicinal use. Germany, the first western country with official herbal monographs, list nearly 300 herbs used by the medical profession.  Western herbalists find that they can deal with most ailments with a working knowledge of about 150 or so plants.

The key is restoring and maintaining balance...physical, spiritual and our bodies so they can heal and live in harmony as they were designed to do.  Health is a manifestation of your world, both inside and out.  What you eat or drink determines if your body has what it needs to function properly and fuel all systems or if your diet is lacking in nutrients or overloaded with poor choices which can cause deficiencies.   It's also important to remember that the largest organ we have is our skin so every element or chemical we come in contact with both intentionally and environmentally, has the potential to be absorbed into our bodies effecting our health.  What you put into your mind creates a worldview that influences nearly every choice you make...good or bad.  And what you put into your soul creates the kind of person you will become based on spiritual nourishment or lack of it. 
I'll be writing more on these topics and others in the days and weeks to come so be sure to check back here for more on Herbal Remedies Past and Present. Become a follower to receive instant notification of new posts.

Join Jenny for lots more letter "I" topics @
Jenny Matlock

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Knitting Projects January 2011

The flu hit our house about 3AM New Year's Day and has had both my girls in it's grasp for the past few days.  Thankfully, I seemed to have escaped with a few aches and cramps, the others were far worse.  While I was spending time with the sick, and after the initial yuckiness had passed, I needed a project.

I love wool!  There's nothing like it to keep you warm on the most blustery of days with less than dry snowball fights!  We have a variety of wool sweaters, wool pants, hats, mittens, gloves, scaves and blankets to keep us snug in the coldest winter weather.
Months ago, I purchased several skeins of a very soft wool in shades of deep blue/purple and olive green.  It is hand spun and very lovely.  A pattern with little attention to detail was just the ticket so I started a pair of fingerless gloves. 
The process is simple...using #6 DP needles, cast on 36 stitches dividing evenly over 3 needles.  Join the ends and continue to knit in a k2, p2 ribbed pattern for 6".  Then cast off 6 stitches and continue the round.  When you reach the cast off point, cast on 6 stitches again and continue as before for about 1 1/2 inches. Cast off.

And when those were finished, I needed something else to do so I decided to turn this simple pattern into mittens.  They look a little skinny before you put them on but they fit nicely.


My oldest daughter, who can't sit still for long without a project in hand, decided to make a few gifts for friends while she was recouperating.  The first was a hat.
 And the next was a pair of mittens along the same lines as the ones I made.  She, like me, can't be bothered with patterns when there's creating to be done.  Problem there is that neither of us have directions for the second mitten!

Those projects are next on the list so if we write the directions down, I'll add them here.

If you're local and you'd like to learn how to make these or just knitting in general, I'm open to hosting a knitting class in my home.  Drop me a line if you're interested and we'll discuss a small fee for materials and the lesson as well as a good time to get together.  

This post is linked to Simple Lives Thursday.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fermented Sauerkraut

This recipe is from the fermented vegetable and fruit section of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  Just click on the link to purchase your copy.

Makes 1 quart

1 medium cabbage cored and shredded
1 Tbsp Caraway Seeds
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
4 Tbsp Whey
Mix together in a large bowl.
Pound with a wooden meat hammer or pounder for 10 minutes to release juices
Place in a wide mouth quart jar and press down firmly until the juices come to the top of the cabbage.  the top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar.  Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before moving to cold storage.  The sauerkraut may be eaten immediately but improves with age.

Check out the other recipes at Real Food Wednesday.

Kitchen Goals for January 2011

First let me write about meeting goals last month.  One goal for December was to make a batch of yogurt each time I bought raw milk which ends up being weekly.  I'd send a quart or two to college with my daughter so she could have her sprouted grain cereal and dried fruit with yogurt for breakfast.  Each time we or some of our friends visited her college town or she came home, I replenished her frig with yogurt and raw milk.   My husband likes to take yogurt in his lunch but he likes his with fruit. So each time I made yogurt, I also made 12 little 4 oz jelly jars of Fruit on the Bottom yogurt for his lunch.  Only about half made it to his lunch box because it's so good!
Last month also included some dabbling with sourdough and I'm still struggling to make it happen.  However, I did make a couple batches of flatbread for Christmas.

Plastic containers are so handy to have on hand but with all the talk about the xenohormones and chemicals that leach into our food, (read all about it here) I've tried to eliminate many of them from regular use by using lots of different sizes of canning jars and buying a couple sets of glass containers which I love!

It's easy to talk about things that should be so in my kitchen but when things get busy, it's also easy to try making choices at the store that may reflect at least some of my goals.  But, when things get hectic, sometimes I panic to get food on the table and all my goals go right out the window for a meal or two.  And, everyone at my house is not on board with my healthy diet plans so if he goes to the store, there's no telling what he'll bring home! 
So, when I think about goals for my kitchen in January, there are a few things I'd like to tackle.

  1. Purging my kitchen of most or all refined, processed foods.
  2. Prepare for a 3 week eating plan to kick start the new year.
  3. Plan and prepare ahead of time so I don't get caught off guard when I get busy.  One aspect of this goal is to make breakfast bars weekly because they are a healthy snack that is easy to grab when you need something to tide you over until mealtime or as a quick breakfast with yogurt.
  4. Baking bread at least once a week including flatbread and /or crackers.
  5. Make 24 Fruit on the Bottom yogurt instead of 12 each time because we love it, too!
You can read about other whole food advocates' Kitchen Goals for January 2011 at Kelly's blog.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Goals and Health Related Giveaways

As we start the new year with plans for improvement or change I'm sure that everyone has at least one personal goal in mind that relates to their health.  Over at Kelly the Kitchen Cop, they're hosting a giveway that you can enter by sharing a *NON* weight related health goal for 2011.  Click to learn more.

You can also join Kelly for her 2011 Weight loss and Wellness Adventure for tips and discussions to help you meet your weight loss goals.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Projects in review - The Recycled Greenhouse and other garden stuff

Wandering through the colorful seed catalogues that have arrived in recent weeks, I'm already getting the urge to get out into the garden.  Last years tomato blight destroyed all my tomatoes and I didn't even get one!  Not this year!  I'm planning to get an early start so the plants are strong before the blight hits.  But as I thought back over the spring season, I recalled some fond memories of the girls and I working in the garden.  Here's a little recap of those adventures.

Our first project in early Spring was to build a green house.  If you've read much about me in past blogs, you know that I'm somewhat of a packrat, a trait that vexes my husband greatly!  It has, however, come in handy when I get an idea but don't have the means to act on last Spring.  I'm one who likes to use what I have on hand and since funds are usually limited for things like this, I started scouting out what was available.

 We started with a few things to make the frame; first we found long hoops of recycled black well pipe that we fastened together with the recycled metal supports from the shed that collapsed under a heavy snow a few years back. Wow!  I'm glad I didn't throw them away!  The dog kennel/peep pen served as the base for our ribbed roof. We covered this skeleton and framework with a partial roll of construction grade plastic we found in the shed.  Probably not a good choice because it broke down over the winter but it was here so we used it. 

 And here's the greenhouse we made from them;
The wire "ceiling" was added to keep raccoons out when we had growing peeps and also to prevent fledgling hens from flying out of the pen.  We discovered that it made an excellent shelf for holding an old screen door laden with freshly harvested herbs for drying!  The warmth in the green house did the job in just a couple days!

Scenes from the kitchen garden.

I love all the many shades of bee balm!

A collage of gardening memories from the Spring and Summer of 2010.  You can see our flats of plants growing in the greenhouse if you look closely.
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I'm sharing this post with:
Alphabe-Thursday(letter "R")
Penny Worthy Project

Wildcrafting Wednesday

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Baked Brie

In an attempt to eat better we've tried eliminating as many processed foods as we can.  This recipe is so simple but it does use cresent rolls from a tube.  If anyone has a recipe that would replace these I'd love to have it.

Purchase a round of brie and wrap it in cresent rolls.
Bake per instructions for the rolls.
Remove from oven and cut into 9-10 pie shaped wedges.
Serve warm with seedless raspberry jam.


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The Woodwife's Shop

Preparing small batch natural, additive free products for beauty, health and home right here in our kitchen since 1991 from herbs grown organically in our garden, wild crafted in nearby meadows and woodlands or purchased from reputable, like-minded companies. Dried everlasting wreaths, arrangements and potpourri. Herbal salves, tinctures, soaps, teas and more.