Category Archives: Nutrition + Health

Rhubarb + Ginger Shrub (Drinking Vinegar)

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It is Recipe Redux time again(!) This month’s theme is Cocktails and Mocktails for May Celebrations. Since showers and celebrations with friends abound this time of year, we were challenged to share our healthy, colorful drink concoctions for festivities like bridal showers and graduation celebrations.

Generally, due to having a slightly finicky relationship with both alcohol and drinking my calories, I’m more in favor of drinking water, lemon water, or (hot, unsweetened) tea for most occasions. It is why I share few drinks here. Occasionally however, I enjoy a nice glass of something special at social events. Cider, wine, or slightly sweet and vinegary lemon ginger kombucha are then my go-to special occasion drinks.

 

 

Aside from those options, have you heard of drinking vinegars/shrubs? They are a quite old way to preserve seasonal fruits–and then drink them with or without alcohol. Shrubs have become quite popular in recent years as a flavor add-in to mixed beverages at nicer restaurants and drinking establishments, and when I first discovered them a few years ago, I went through a short phase of experimenting with vinegary blackberry, pomegranate, and orange concoctions. And then I forgot all about them.

We experimented with many traditional folk methods of using herbs last term in my herbal pharmacy class and the base recipe for a fruit + herbal shrub was the showcase during one week, so I went with the old-time method of reaching for the flavors of the season. What resulted was this rhubarb + ginger shrub which has equal hints of rhubarb, ginger, and vinegar, and is very mildly sweetened up with honey. I prefer the very plain jane method of enjoying just a splash of it in a glass of ice water, but it is often added to sparkling water, and in various ways to enhance cocktails.

 

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Rhubarb + Ginger Shrub (Drinking Vinegar)
The amount of ingredients here are part of the base recipe for fruit and herb shrubs, so if you’d like to experiment with other flavor combinations, choose any other fruits and herbs/spices to use in the same amounts. There are also several methods of macerating the fruit, which will yield slightly different flavor profiles. Here is a good video, if you’re interesting in exploring. 

1 cup chopped rhubarb
2 Tbs. freshly grated or minced ginger
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup raw honey or maple syrup

  • Add the chopped rhubarb and ginger to a clean pint jar. Add vinegar and honey and stir well.
  • Put a small square of parchment paper over the top of the jar and then cap the lid. The parchment will prevent the vinegar from breaking down the metal of the lid.
  • Let the jar macerate (infuse) in the fridge for one week. Try to shake up the jar about once a day for a better infusion.
  • After at least a week, strain the rhubarb and ginger from the vinegar mixture using a fine mesh strainer. Press out as much of the liquid as possible. If you have cheesecloth, putting a square of it over the strainer and then squeezing the rhubarb in your hands in the cheesecloth ball to finish straining will help get all the liquid out.
  • Then use right away or pour the liquids back into the jar and store in the fridge for up to a couple months.

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Herbal Allies // Ginger, Licorice and Chamomile Tea

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I’ve spent the last three early mornings lingering over the breakfast table, laptop, morning books, and empty porridge bowl all pushed aside. Just me in the early morning stillness facing east towards the bright sun shining into my eyes, a big smile on my face. William came in this morning and asked me what I was doing. Chameleon-ing, I told him. I’ve been soaking up as much of the early morning sun and warmth as I can.

We’ve finally been getting a good stretch of sun and warm days here and it feels just about right as May is the best month, to my way of thinking. Given I’ll be making my way into a new decade in a few days, I’ve been figuring a good way to begin my birthday week celebrations is by starting each day basking in the sun with a mug of tea. It feels like the best sort of end of a decade indulgence.

 

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The other thing I’ve been doing lately is drinking this ginger, licorice, and chamomile tea. It is usually my evening/after dinner drink of choice as the licorice root is naturally sweet, chamomile is soothing, and ginger is warm and zesty.

In my herbal class last term, we experimented with different methods of making herbal tea. Certain herbs, like flowers or leaves, are better prepared by infusing them in freshly boiled water, as I’ve done here. Others, like roots, will have more of their beneficial constituents released by decocting them in gently simmering water for 15-30 minutes. The thing we learned though, is that though medicinally speaking, some methods of extracting might be better, either way will be fine depending on preference. It is something like the people that pour warm water into a mug and then dunk their tea bag in. When I’m offered tea prepared in this way, I often cringe and hesitantly accept, because it’s not the way I prefer my tea (i.e. strong, long-infused, and exceptionally hot, especially if it’s black/Irish tea). But I understand we all have our personal tastes and what might be ‘wrong’ in the recommended way of things may be just what a person needs.

So going against the grain here, I’ve found that I actually enjoy licorice and dried ginger root prepared in the easy infusion method of pouring boiling hot tea over and letting sit for 10-15 minutes, rather than simmering away on the stove. Luckily for me, the chamomile prefers this method too.

 

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I’ve chosen these specific three herbs because they particularly spoke to me to be infused together, but after thinking about their medicinal actions, I came to a good conclusion why:

Ginger // Common fresh or dried ginger is probably my most often used herb/spice, right after cinnamon. It is good in this tea as it is gently warming and pungent, and balances the sweet flavor of the licorice and slightly bitter properties of the chamomile. Freshly grated ginger root can also be used here. Ginger is exceptionally beneficial in controlling inflammation and muscular pain, increases circulation, and also aids in digestion.

Licorice Root // Despite the connotation with licorice candy, licorice root does not taste anything like the red or black ropes I loved to eat as a child. Licorice is an excellent herb for balancing the adrenals, balancing blood sugar, and helping decrease stress and inflammation. It is also soothing to the mucous membranes and GI tract, and makes for a good addition to an evening tea when we are winding down and might be craving extra sweets. Note: licorice should not be taken by those with high blood pressure. 

Chamomile // Chamomile  is an indispensable herb for evenings for so many reasons. Well known as a gentle, calming tea, these delicate yellow flowers help relieve irritability, stress, anxiety, insomnia, upset stomach, and much more.

 

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Ginger, Licorice, and Chamomile Tea, makes 1 12-ounce mug
Dried herbs are best purchased in small quantities in bulk from a natural foods store, if you have access. Alternatively, an excellent place to source them online is from Mountain Rose Herbs.

1 Tbs. dried chamomile flowers
1 tsp. dried licorice root
1/2 tsp. dried ginger root

  • Add herbs to a tea ball or basket and then set in a mug or tea pot. Pour 12 ounces freshly boiled water over the herbs, cover or cap the mug or pot, and then allow to infuse for at least 10 minutes and up to four hours. Drink warm or cold.

 


Healing Mineral Broth

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In honor of Earth Day, the Recipe Redux challenged us to show how we reduce food waste. Whatever you would normally toss, use it up. Share tips for reducing food waste in meal planning, prep, or using up scraps. 

One of the things I was most excited about when we bought our house was finally having the ability to compost because I hated having to put all my vegetable scraps in the trash. But I am also the least responsible compost-keeper. I have a one-two pile system going in the last owner’s dog run that I never turn, don’t add enough green to brown material to, and sometimes draw in little rodent creatures, as I’ve created their ideal habitat. It is fairly routine for William to remind me about how I need to turn/do something about my scrap piles and for me to nod along, I know, and then do nothing about it. This is definitely the case of liking the idea of something more than the actual process, and is just one more reason I would have made a terrible farmer.

Thanks in part to learning the benefits of making healing vegetable broth last fall in my cooking class, I’ve slightly reduced my critter-habitat production, as I’ve found another initial use for many of my scraps. But also, our neighborhood cat has now got my back. ;)

The recipe we learned was Rebecca Katz’s Magic Mineral Broth, which she designed to include vegetables that will provide minerals essential for their deep-healing effects. I’ve been given the recommendation time again this past winter to incorporate more broth, as I’ve needed to return to more specific gut-healing and immune-enhancing protocols than just eating my vegetables. Mineral broth is good for that but it is also rich in electrolytes needed for athletic recovery, nutrients essential for bone health, and lots of minerals that just about all of us could use more of.

What’s more, it can be made using vegetable scraps. Lately, that is what I’ve been doing, as I throw the kale, collard, and tough broccoli stalks in the freezer, along with onion, garlic, celery, and carrot bits and pieces until I’ve gotten a good-sized bag. Then I dump it all out into a large pot, add a few good additions along with water, and simmer away for a couple hours.

In addition to making sure my broth includes onions, garlic, or leeks, I always add a good pinch or small handful of kelp or one of its varieties. These are seaweeds that are themselves extremely rich in nutrients, but also add a real umami flavor that enhances the taste. And no, the finished broth does not have a seaweed/seawater flavor.

For more about the specific reasons vegetable broth can be so healing, check out these informative articles by Ally, Aimee and The Salt.

 

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Healing Mineral Broth, makes about 10 cups
The broth above is a deep purple because of the addition of purple carrot scraps. Use what you have, but tend for vegetables that will impart a mild flavor (less beets and nightshades, more onions, brassicas, celery, and carrots). Mushrooms would be lovely as well. Add the finished broth to soups, stews, instead of water in cooking grains, or simply for sipping on its own. It is tasty, I promise. 

8-10 cups assorted vegetable scraps
1-2 bay leaves
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves or 2-3 sprigs fresh
A small handful of parsley stems
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
a good couple pinches of kelp (I’m currently using wakame)
10-12 cups water

  • Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to a strong simmer. Turn down, cover, and simmer for 2-4 hours, adding water if needed.
  • Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, and then strain off the scraps (and compost if you can).
  • Store any broth that won’t be used within a couple days in glass jars in the freezer.

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