Tag Archives: herbal wellness

summer calm herbal latte

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Did I tell you my summer term was a real whopper? I probably did because I complained and/or used it as a (valid) reason to opt out of a whole host of summer social activities that I wanted to partake in on many an occasion these past weeks. If I’m remembering correctly, I was singing the same tune last summer too so clearly I need to learn how to say no more to heavy lifting during the long seasons when I want to relax, socialize, and travel more. I somehow ended up taking three of the best but most time-intensive classes and most of my weekends for May/June/July were spent polishing off weekly deadlines and term checkpoints.

Realistically though, it wasn’t all bad. My herbal class textbook went along well with both my pathophysiology and personal life learnings, and I found myself scribbling this recipe for a summer calm herbal tea blend and latte in my notebook while reading the nervous system chapter on herbs on a day that I was also laying on the grass under the tree in our backyard, listening to the buzz of insects and children playing nearby, and feeling generally rather chill. So yeah, it wasn’t all tough going. I had a lot of relaxing afternoons where I could read or study from anywhere as long as I got it done. Many days, I chose outside in the backyard or the local forest.

And then it got hot and term project deadlines brought me indoors and reliant on the internet. And I forgot all about my recipe that includes a few nice herbs to infuse calm.

 

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Since we’re now closing in on just a few last weeks of summer and the back to school or work frenzy has got some of us a little higher strung, it’s definitely time to bring out this recipe. I might just be sipping on it a ways into the next season as well as it will be perfect for those cool, dark afternoons and evenings that are sadly coming our way. It’s got a few perhaps new-to-you herbs that are really good ones too.

 

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Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora // One of the best anxiolytic/nervine herbs for calming a racing mind, or at least I think so! Skullcap is one of the original herbs used in herbal medicine in the United States, and has a rich history of use here since at least the early 1800’s. In addition to being useful for anxious, nervous, and stressed mindsets, it is also a great anti-spasmodic for tight, painful muscles–both of these reasons are why I love it so much! Personally, however, I think its flavor is one that “grows on you.” When I first began working with skullcap, I found its stronger flavor slightly off-putting, but now I use it so much I tend to really favor it.

Holy Basil/Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum // With a very long history of use as a revered herb in India, and used there as a rasayana or rejuvenative, Holy Basil brings about health and long life. It is known as an adaptogen, meaning it will restore stress levels back to a balanced state, and also has antioxidant and neuroprotective qualities.

Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis // In the springtime on my trail runs, I often stop along the way and rub my hands in the lemon balm, especially if I’m in need of a mood lift. The fresh herb smells and tastes very lemony, but in the dried form, it is much more subtle, and acts like a gentle mood elevator. Some studies also show it enhances cognitive function, and may even relieve some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease like forgetfulness and irritability. It’s also great for stress headaches and improving focus.

Lavender, Lavendula angustifolia // Lavender is a mild nootropic herb, which means it “acts on the mind,” helping cognitive function. Additionally, it is good for nervous headaches, exhaustion, or anxiety. The essential oils in the flowers have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well, and I find their aroma just lovely.

 

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Summer Calm Herbal Latte, makes 1 large drink (18-ounces)
In the last step, I like to combine the steeped tea and warm milk in a liquid measuring cup and then have about a mug and a half of latte, as it tends to be the perfect amount for me. 

1 Tbs. summer calm herb blend (below, or herbal tea of choice)
3/4 cup nut milk
1 tsp. coconut butter
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

  • Add herb blend to a tea ball or basket and then pour 12 ounces freshly boiled water over the herbs, cover or cap the mug or pot to capture all the beneficial essential oils, and allow to infuse for at least 10-20 minutes.
  • While the herbs are steeping, gently warm the nut milk, coconut butter, and vanilla extract on the stovetop or in a microwave safe dish.
  • Remove the tea ball or basket and carefully combine the tea and nut milk blend.


Summer Calm Herbal Blend

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.

2 parts skullcap
2 parts holy basil
2 parts lemon balm
1 part lavender flowers

  • In a jar, or other glass container, combine the dried herbs in parts, either by volume using tablespoons or measuring cups, or by weight. Then gently shake or stir the herbs, cap, and label with ingredients and amounts for future reference.

 

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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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toasted oat porridge with chamomile, walnuts + spiced apples

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Everything is connected here…the soil feeds the plants that feed us. We are merely the walking, talking result of that connection.
– Lora Lea Misterly

 

I tend to share the same old stories here, I’m sure, but one of the big turning points in my relationship with food was marked by my visit to Quillasascut Farm School back in 2009. The week of cooking, harvesting, and gathering with like-minded young folk was put on as part of a Slow Food Youth workshop. I was the only “experienced” farm girl among the participants, and I was chosen in part because I come from a conventional agriculture background while the teachings and discussions were in line with Slow Food’s philosophy of food that is good, clean, and fair. At the time, I had just wrapped up spending 18 days straight working wheat harvest which entailed driving a combine for 12 hours a day across soil that was essentially devoid of life–save that wheat. The experience was a good one and I worked for a great family but I was beginning to put the pieces of our food and health systems together.

 

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I don’t think the week at Quillasascut changed any of my viewpoints on food necessarily, but through it I was able to move away from hyper-focusing on what any one food was doing to me individually and instead look at it from a broader lens, taking into consideration the communal and ecological connections to what I was eating. I was able to move away from thinking of myself as just an eater and realized I play a vital part in this connection within our vast food system. When I began to take into consideration and participate in more of the story behind my food, where did it grow, in what conditions, by who, were the people that grew it compensated fairly?, what role do I play?, I stopped worrying so much about the things that do not matter, i.e. exactly how many calories are in my meals, how I can control my body, etc., and just eat with joy, mindfully. To be sure, I’ve had a volatile last few years in terms of my relationship to food and body image, but each time I begin to overthink and hyper analyze, I’m usually brought back into better relationship by refocusing on the communal and broader connection aspects of eating.

 

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This month, The Recipe Redux challenged us to pull out one of our cookbooks and share a reduxed recipe. In similar, past challenges, I have shared recipes from my favorite blogger family. This year, I instead pulled down Quillasascut’s cookbook, Chefs on the Farm. 

The book is beautiful, and though many of the recipes bring back warm memories since they are ones myself and the workshop participants made there with chef Karen Jurgensen, the book contains much more than recipes. Each season is marked with a reflection by farmer Lora Lea or her husband Rick about life on the farm as well as knowledge of sustainability practices that can be incorporated, no matter the location, or lack of farm.

 

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Today’s recipe is adapted from a chamomile porridge in the Winter section of Chefs on the Farm. Both chamomile and oats have relaxing properties that soothe the nerves and set us up for a more grounded day. Chamomile is also useful for soothing an anxious, hyped-up, or perhaps overworked stomach and digestive system, which may be needed this time of year. Along with omega-3 rich toasted walnuts, the oats and chamomile combine to make a truly delightful and nourishing breakfast option during this holiday season. Enjoy the combination on its own, or if you’ve the mind, make a quick spiced apple compote to serve alongside. If unable to track down bulk chamomile, break open a packet of tea. Enjoy!

 

Toasted Oat Porridge with Chamomile, Walnuts + Spiced Apples, serves 1
1/2 cup old-fashioned or thick rolled oats, gluten free if necessary
1 cup water
1 Tbs. dried chamomile flowers
dash of sea salt
1 small apple, diced
dash of cinnamon and ginger
1-2 Tbs. walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

  • Toast the oats in a skillet over medium-high heat, just until they become fragrant. This step is optional but it will lead to a richer, toasty oat flavor.
  • Then, in a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil and add in the toasted oats, chamomile, and a dash of sea salt. Cook for 5-10 minutes, depending on the cut of your oats and desired consistency.
  • While the oats are cooking, combine the diced apple, spices, and a splash of water in a small saucepan. Bring them to a good simmer and cook just long enough for the apple to soften and the liquid to form a slight syrup.
  • Remove the oats to a bowl, pour over the spiced apples, and top with toasted and chopped walnuts.

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