Tuesday, April 26, 2016

TUMERIC + GINGER LATTE with cardamom, vanilla, and reishi

This is a variation of the cardamom latte I've been really loving these days, this time using fresh ginger and turmeric as the base.

A little time-saving tip: 

Purchase a good amount of ginger and turmeric. If you buy organic you can simply rinse without removing peels. Cut into 1-inch pieces and mince, either by hand or using a food processor or Vitamix, according to manufacturer's instructions. Place a heaping tablespoon of either the minced turmeric and ginger combined or separate, into an ice cube tray or silicone mold and freeze until solid. Remove from mold and store in a glass Ball jar or other storage item of choice. I use these cubes for stir-fry, dahl, soups, tea, etc. It's really convenient to have at the ready!

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 3

1 T. ginger, minced
1 T. turmeric, minced
OR 2 cubes worth of ginger + turmeric combined and prepared as recommened above as "tip"
1 heaping tablespoon whole cardamom pods
1 piece of sliced, dried reishi mushroom
1 whole vanilla bean, cut in half
3 cups milk of choice [I love homemade tigernut milk, scroll down after clicking link for recipe]
1 - 3 T. honey, to taste

Combine ginger, turmeric, cardamom, reishi, and half of a vanilla bean in medium size saucepan. Add 6 cups of water. Bring water to boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer.

Simmer for 45 minutes or until liquid is reduced to half of its original quantity leaving approximately three cups.

Strain liquid, reserving pulp for another batch. Pour tea back into pot. Add milk and honey and slowly warm over low heat to just hot but not boiling. Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

VELVET LIP BALM, SIMPLY

I love to play around with different beauty recipes and rarely purchase many in the store. I've found making my own lotion, lip balm, sugar scrub, masks, salves, boo-boo drops, and bath salts to be unbelievably easy, many completed in thirty minutes or less, some taking only minutes to create. It's a fun activity for my kids to join in on, getting to immediately experience the sweetness of their labors.

The Environmental Working Group [EWG] has put together a fantastic database of cosmetics and other beauty and body products. It's worth searching the items you use most frequently - the safety implications of many can be shocking [even some of the "natural" ones]. If nothing else, it provides us the opportunity to be educated consumers. Check out EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

Purchasing the ingredients for this recipe is a small investment at first but will make many batches. The ingredients found here are repeated in many lotion and salve recipes as well. Store oils in a cool place to extend life and maintain quality. Below I have linked each ingredient to its description at Mountain Rose Herbs. You can purchase high quality ingredients there or find them on Vitacost and Thrive Market. Check out Return to the Garden's library under "Dive Deep / Herbal Medicine" for more resources on making your own beauty products.

This is the lip balm recipe I've landed on. Thick but light. Smooth. Rich. Velvet.

[THE RECIPE]
Makes approximately 11 tubes of chapstick

11 - 12 empty plastic lip balm tubes [you can purchase or reuse]
1/2 oz. beeswax, pastilles or chopped
1/2 oz. shea butter
1/2 oz. jojoba oil [appx. 2 tsp]
1/4 oz. coconut oil or castor oil [appx. 2 tsp / note: coconut oil will make for a super light balm while castor oil will add thickness]
1/2 tsp. vegetable glycerin
1/4 tsp. vitamin E oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil or essential oil of choice

Set up double boiler or create your own by filling a small pot one third of the way with water. Place a heat proof bowl on top.


Combine all ingredients, except peppermint essential oil, in bowl and bring water to boil over medium heat. Stir frequently.

Once completely melted, remove from heat and add essential oil stirring until completely integrated.

Use a spoon to carefully pour oil mixture into lip balm tubes or container of choice, filling to the top. Cool completely. Cap and wipe any excess lip balm off tube.

Store at room temperature for up to six months. Use as needed.

Monday, March 28, 2016

STARING AT A PLANT.


On my counter I have a cactus. It sits right in front of where I sit each morning for breakfast, six inches lower than plate level. This particular plant hasn't always held such a regal place in my kitchen. A couple days ago I uprooted it from a spot a bit tucked away, one I don't often have cause to pause at. Frequently I would forget to water it even the meager amount it requires. So here it sits, relocated and eager to be noticed.

There are actually two varieties of cactus in this pot. One that flowers at Christmas and one around Easter. The latter plant is covered in a ripple of buds that slowly open over the course of the day, revealing itself in fullness around noon. After a few hours of shameless display, it draws inward returning to bud and self.

This opening and closing is rhythmic. Cyclical.

A pattern I can expect to repeat each day until the flowers fall to the ground.

A couple days ago I posted this:

In the same way flowers are created to bloom only then revealing the full breadth of their beauty, we too are created to reveal our beauty to the world. The more I lean into the things that bring me life and joy and peace; the more I sink into being created fully enough; the more I open all of me to the world, trusting in it's goodness, the more I'm finding the world to be filled with a tangible pulse, a beat, a Spirit. There is fear. There is pain. Much of which I can't explain. But as I come back to beauty and peace, this is what the world consistently offers back to me.

As I continued to meditate, I began to see the pattern of the plant. What I find intriguing as I watch this plant each day, is how it so closely mirrors the natural patterns within my own being - this idea of outward and inward. In order for its flowers to continue to open, for it to continue to give its beauty to the world, this plant must draw in, close, seek rest and stillness. Carving out space for this rest, this inward movement towards the soul, has been the only way for me to seek with clarity the things that fill me up, bring me life and joy and peace. There is rest, there is stillness, there is silence and from this well we draw movement and creativity and life.

Sometimes it takes moving things around, clearing the dust, bringing things out of corners and into light for us to see.

I almost missed it.

I almost missed the insights this plant had to offer, offers still. I nearly rushed passed it's rhythmic movements and holy pulses.

But I didn't. The discipline of cleaning, of clearing the literal dust, caused me to notice and change. And that's what this inward journey takes. It takes discipline, courage, and faith. It requires saying no to many things and yes to a few. It demands I put away the to-do list, silence the phone, turn off the computer and be present.

It asks me to stare at a plant. To do nothing but watch.

May you shuffle and move and poke around the things that need it. May you draw inward in the same way you give outward. May you seek the pulse that binds everything together as one and immerse yourself in this work of creativity and peace - for you. For all.




Thursday, March 17, 2016

CARDAMOM LATTE with ginger, vanilla bean, and reishi

There are times when I'm called to the kitchen less for the creativity of it but more out of a primal desire for something my body desperately needs in that moment. Not in a surface "I'm craving sugar but that's probably covering up a deeper need" sort of way.

This desire is deep and earthy - flowing from a bodily wisdom I have yet to fully understand.

Over time I've learned to pay close attention to this call and surrender to the part of me governed by ancient wisdom. It's been interesting within the context of recipe creation. There's an undeniable inner intuition that drives what I take from the cupboard and add to the pot. In these moments, brain follows visceral.

I call it meditation.

It's less about the recipe and more about the sacred within the daily. It's not unlike waking on a cool summer morning to the sparkle of sunrise wrapped in a dance with mist on the calm of the water outside my window. The world is alive with enchantment and possibility within the dew and earth and air.

It's tangible, physical, earthy magic.

Sometimes I have the wherewithal to write down what my hands are doing. This is one such time and I'm so excited to share it with you. Move slow, feel what your body is doing while you create. Lean over the pot and take in the changing aroma. Feel the steam on your face. Notice what this does in your body. If you have the sudden urge to add something, do it! Follow this beautiful intelligence we each have within the muscle and bone and blood and organs of our body.

Sip mindfully, with loving intention, and smile. Invite a little magic.

Medicinal Note: If you're familiar with Ayurvedic medicine, this tea is excellent for balancing vata and kapha dosha types. It's grounding and gently warming; acts on the spleen, lung, stomach, and large intestine; improves the circulation of chi [life force]; and works to dispel mucus, cold, dampness, and phelgm. The recipe came to me on a very windy, cool spring [vata aggravating] day. Cardamom is such a wonderful whole-body tonic. In addition, reishi mushroom is fantastic for boosting the immune system.


[THE RECIPE]
Serves 3

Note: all herbs dried and cut or whole.

6 c. water
4 T. whole cardamom pods
2 T. fennel seed [optional]
2 tsp. cut ginger
1 whole vanilla bean, cut in half [reserve other half for use at another time]
1 slice reishi mushroom
3 c. tigernut milk or milk of choice
2 - 3 T. pure, raw honey [to taste, orange blossom honey is wonderful]

In a medium size saucepan combine water, cardamom, fennel, ginger, half the vanilla bean, and reishi mushroom. Bring to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to to simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced to half [approximately 3 cups].

Meanwhile, place milk and honey in a small saucepan. Heat on low until milk is very warm but not boiling, stirring occasionally.

Pour reduced tea through fine mesh strainer into three large mugs [approximately 1 cup of tea in each mug]. Divide the warmed milk between the mugs [approximately 1 cup of milk in each mug].

Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for 24 - 48 hours to serve at a later time.

These herbs aren't necessarily inexpensive so you can reserve the cooked herbs to use a second time. Tea will be less intense so either reduce water or add a few more herbs.

Friday, February 26, 2016

CHLOROPHYLL: the green giant



Chloro-what??! If you rewind back to the days of desk sitting and page turning, you might be able to dig up this vaguely familiar word in the recess of your mind. Think elementary science class. Maybe something? If you're seeing green, you're on the right track.

Simplified, chlorophyll is the pigment that makes plants green and is vital in said plants ability to absorb energy from light, also know as photosynthesis.

I'll spare you the science lesson and get to why this is important, why you might care.

There has been much hype surrounding green veggies in the recent years. What's not new is why much of the hype is actually legit. Vegetables are nature's gift to us - a tasty package of many of the nutrients we need to survive. In addition, fresh, green veggies and herbs are full of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is said to aid the body in cleansing and detoxifying its cells [of which our bodies are made up of]. A clean, healthy cell has a better chance of optimally utilizing nutrients.

Of course, the best way to get chlorophyll is through fresh vegetables, but in the winter green is scarce. I've found taking chlorophyll in liquid form to be a nice stand-in rather than paying the high price for fresh greens flown in from various continents. In combination with the frozen veggies tucked in my freezer, chlorophyll helps nourish my body throughout the long winter months.

I want to be very clear that I'm not suggesting chlorophyll as the magic cure to prevent illness and I'm certainly not saying replace fresh green vegetables with chlorophyll. Illness happens even to the healthiest eaters, especially when said eaters have children in school. Green vegetables and herbs contain so many more nutrients in addition to chlorophyll and it would be a foolish substitution for the green stuff direct from the ground. I am suggesting that green, in liquid form, can aid a body in ridding the stuff that needs to go and strengthening the systems that could use it in months that come up empty in green.

As always, please research for yourself before giving chlorophyll a try and if you have specific health concerns or illness, consult a well-trained physician of natural medicine or your doctor prior to use.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

HERBAL GREEN TEA with peppermint and moringa

Green tea is one of my favorites but from a Chinese Medicine perspective, is very cooling. Great on a hot summer day but not necessarily what we're looking for in late winter. This tea falls more in the balancing category yet provides many of the benefits of traditional green tea. It's full green goodness, many of the herbs boasting a high chlorophyll content and all dense in nutrients.

Because over 50% of the herbs are on the neutral to cooling spectrum and can be a little drying, adding a teaspoon or two of blackstrap molasses will increase the warming energy and provide gentle lubricating benefits [know that this will change the flavor!]. Raw, pure and local honey can also be used for mild lubrication but will maintain the energy of the tea.


[THE RECIPE]

Note: All herbs are cut and dried unless otherwise noted. Please notice omissions necessary for listed health concerns. Clicking on the herb will take you to a more detailed, yet basic and understandable, profile including each herb's history and some medicinal benefits. 

1 c. peppermint leaves [cooling energy]
1/2 c. moringa leaves [warming energy]
1/2 c. nettle leaves [neutral-cool energy]
1/2 c. alfalfa leaves [neutral-cool energy]
1/4 c. lemon balm leaves [cool energy]
1/4 c. ginkgo leaves [neutral energy; omit if coagulation disorder present]
1/4 c. whole fenugreek seeds [warming energy; omit during pregnancy and replace with 1 - 2 T. ginger]

Place all ingredients in a large glass bowl and stir until combined. Scoop approximately one tablespoon of herb mix into a small press n' brew tea bags and seal with hot iron. Store in a glass jar with tight fitting lid in a cool, dark place for 6 - 8 months.

To brew: bring two cups of water to boil. Place one tea bag in a tea cup or pint size ball jar and fill with boiling water. Let steep for 15 - 20 minutes for a strong tea. Drink warm or at room temperature. Add pure, raw honey or blackstrap molasses as desired.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

DIAPER RASH SALVE for fungal infections



Early on, my husband and I realized that raising our youngest child was going to be no lazy walk in the park. She came on with a strength and stubbornness from the start. And the vocal chords to match. This particular little girl also brought with her bound up digestive and elimination systems and a tendency towards rashes, particularly bad in the diaper area that sent her into fits of rage and unpredictable thrashing. My husband and I didn't sleep for the first eighteen months of her life, rotating in shifts of three nights on and three nights off just trying to survive this little bit of terrible we'd found ourselves in. We were forced into using antibiotics and disposable diapers, prescription cream and suppositories - all things I had adamantly tried to avoid. I changed my diet, eliminating everything that might cause her discomfort, dealt with constant anxiety, was losing weight and had scary things happening to my body. On more than one occasion, I found myself curled up on the floor screaming and crying and wanting to run away.

I tell you all this for a couple reasons. First, to say it's hell. Parenting can be soul-crushingly difficult at times and is, in a very literal sense, a sacrifice of self. It requires a constant choice to say "yes". Yes I will stay, yes I will do my best, yes I will continue to show up and give and care and protect. And yes, I will let my kids see my failures and fears and say time and time again, I don't know and I'm sorry and I love you.

The second reason to share this part of my story is to say, it doesn't last. After a year and a half of sleeping no more than two or three hours a night, and not even in a row, my husband and I woke up and realized we'd slept six. Slowly my daughter's digestive discomfort and rashes began to diminish a bit. I began to understand this sensitive little being I cradled in my arms and we built a language of our own. I found a few [professional] people to walk me through healing, inside and out, and I surrounded myself with a group of friends I love like sisters. As my youngest gets older, I have been able to find space just for me. To sink into the things that bring me joy and hope and fill my life with beauty and creativity.

What I didn't give myself the grace to accept is that there are times in life that are really, really hard. They break us open and spill out our guts and there is no way to put things back exactly how they were. It's confusing and terrifying and maddening and exhausting. But these times also allow us to see that we were gifted an inner strength so much wider and deeper and powerful than we can actually grasp. Pain tends to tear open the curtain, revealing a more compassionate and accepting space. A space that invites us to come as we are and then walks us forward, asking us to keep the wonder of a child and grow into the wisdom and love of a saint.

Lets keep walking.

[RASH SALVE]

I've consistently used this salve recipe for just under two years and found it to be the only thing, outside of prescription cream, to diffuse the rash that to this day persists on my very stubborn child's bottom. She seems to be unfazed by sleeping in a mound of stinky fluid and excrement. Until we find the magic button that inspires her to step away from nighttime diapers, this salve is a must have for us.

Note: all of the herbs listed are dried. Measurements can be approximate. For the most part I eyeball it so don't get caught up in accuracy.

1 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 oz. beeswax
4 T. Oregon grape root, cut
2 T. yarrow, cut
2 T. calendula
1 T. myrrh gum tears
5 frankincense tears
2 - 3 drops pure lavender essential oil

Place dried herbs and oil in a quart-size glass jar with a tightly fitting lid. Shake to combine. Line the bottom of a Crock-pot with an old kitchen towel. Place the sealed jar in the center and then fill Crock-pot with enough water to cover the oil and herbs. Cook on low, uncovered, for 24 - 48 hours, adding water as needed to maintain water level.

Strain herbs and pour half of the oil into a double boiler. Add beeswax and cook over medium heat until was is completely melted, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, pour remaining oil into a medium size glass jar and add essential oil.

Once the wax has melted, add this mixture to the oil in glass jar. Mix well with a butter knife, small whisk, or spoon. Set aside, uncovered, until salve has solidified. Cover with a tight fitting lid and store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months [although, I'll admit, we keep ours around for longer and it works just fine].

Use as a preventative measure for nap or nighttime sleeping, in acute or chronic situations, or other rash ailments that find you. Test salve on a small patch of skin for any reaction prior to widespread use.

If condition persists or gets worse, it's best to check in with your pediatrician.