Tag Archives: tea

summer calm herbal latte

IMG_1856

 

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.

 

IMG_1849

 

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.

 

IMG_1846IMG_1847IMG_1844

 

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.

 

IMG_1862

 

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.

 

Advertisements

Herbal Allies // Ginger, Licorice and Chamomile Tea

IMG_1545

 

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.

 

IMG_1521IMG_1539IMG_1540

 

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.

 

IMG_1535

 

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.

 

IMG_1542

 

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.

 


White Tea + Rhubarb Cake

IMG_5705

Last week, I celebrated a birthday. It was a very ordinary sort of day with no particular fanfare, leftovers for dinner, and Will at a school event for the evening.  So I enjoyed the evening after work in the garden, planting seeds. And then I made cake.

IMG_5750

On your birthday, you are supposed to feel special, or at least that’s what our society tells us–and though the day was particularly ordinary, I felt truly blessed and happy from its beginning to end.

Normally, in past years when my birthday didn’t include a big gathering over dinner and cake, I’d feel just a teensy bit like I was missing out on an annual rite. This year something changed, and I felt simply grateful for so very many friends who care and who show it in small ways, regularly. From the kind encouragements, to the brief check-ins and the funny moments where we laugh uncontrollably. Those things, those people, I am grateful for having in my life.

Though the hornblowers, smoke, and light show were left for perhaps another year and turning 27 isn’t exactly an exciting number, I am so joy-filled, so blessed to have gotten to celebrate another one.

IMG_5713

Now for cake. I’ve been bent on a rhubarb obsession this past several months, and since it’s spring and rhubarb is at the peak of its season, I’m going to eat it up while it is available! This is White Tea & Rhubarb Cake.  I made a simple rhubarb sauce, then strained it through a sieve and infused just the juice into a loose-leaf white tea. The tea and rhubarb mixture serve as the liquid for this cake. The flavor is very light, very subtle, and quite good. If you’re big on frosting, go ahead and make it–the beautiful pastel pink comes from the rhubarb, not food dye! If you would prefer the white tea and lovely rhubarb flavors to shine through and aren’t big on super sweet, go ahead and foreg0 the frosting. It’s quite nice to eat it simply–and the Rhubarb-Infused White Tea is a treat all on its own!

IMG_5786

White Tea + Rhubarb Cake, makes one 6-inch cake
1 3/4 cups Sarah’s gluten free flour blend
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup rhubarb-infused white tea 
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 6-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Mix together flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, pour in the rhubarb + tea mixture. Add the sugar, honey, oil, and vanilla extract. Slowly whisk in the flour mixture. Beat for one minute or until the batter becomes smooth and starts to thicken.
  • Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating half way through. Insert a toothpick into the center if you are uncertain if its done. The toothpick will come out clean.
  • Place on cooling rack, and remove from pans after about 10 minutes. Cool completely before frosting or serving.
Rhubarb-Infused White Tea
3-4 rhubarb stalks, chopped
water
1 Tbs. Loose-leaf white tea, such as Silver Rain
  • Make a rhubarb sauce by simmering rhubarb stalks and a small amount of water (less than 1/4 inch to the bottom of a small saucepan) until the rhubarb has turned into a puree.  With a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth, strain the rhubarb sauce, reserving the bulk of the mixture for another use.
  • Meanwhile, bring water almonst to boiling, and with the tea in an infuser, steep a good 3/4 cup of white tea for a lengthy period of time, until it is strong. Keep in mind that white tea will not get too strong like black tea. The flavor is subtle. Add the rhubarb sauce liquid to the steeped tea until you have 1 1/4 cups.  Measure out 1 cup for the cake, and reserve 1/4 cup for the frosting.
 Tea + Rhubarb Vegan Frosting
1/2 cup vegan butter, such as Earth Balance
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup rhubarb-infused white tea 
  • To make frosting, whip together all of the ingredients, adding a touch more rhubarb liquid for color and moisture, as needed.


%d bloggers like this: