Friday, October 29, 2010

Ointment assortment

Growing my own herbs gives me a great opportunity to find ways to utilize them for medicinal purposes. One of the easiest ways to do so is to make ointments or salves.

The basic recipe is to take 2 cups of herb-infused oil and melt 1/4 cup of beeswax into it, then pour into labelled storage containers. Infused oil can either be made in advance and stored, or made at the same time as your ointment. Here are the specifics of how I make two of my favorites.

Nettle ointment - for treating itchy skin, dry rashes and bites (shown finished, front, in picture above)
2 c dried nettle leaf
3 c olive oil
1/4 c beeswax pastilles
Set up two pots as a double boiler (or use a double boiler, if you have one, which I don't) and bring water to boil. Add nettle to top pot and cover with oil, ensuring leaves are completely covered and soaked. Simmer leaves in oil for 30 minutes. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and pour the hot oil and leaves into it. Wrap herb in cheesecloth and press to remove every bit of oil you can. This should make 2 cups.
Wipe out any remaining leaves from the pot, return the oil to it and replace in double boiler. Add beeswax, stirring constantly until melted. When wax is melted, drip a bit off a spoon onto a plate and put it in the freezer for 2 minutes. If it comes out the consistency you want, your're done. If it is still too runny, add a bit more beeswax and repeat until you are satisfied.
Pour into glass or metal containers with lids (I use sterilized baby food jars). Be sure containers are labelled with product and date.
Supposedly this is helpful for arthritis in the fingers as well. I don't have arthritis, so I haven't tried it.

Calendula ointment - for treating scrapes, minor cuts, diaper rash, and dry skin
I make my oil in advance, and keep it on hand for other uses. Because calendula is antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral, you can use the oil straight for many types of skin infections and issues.

To make the oil: Ensure calendula flowers are completely dried. Place in a clean and dry glass jar and pour in enough olive oil to completely cover. The jar needs to be covered, but release of gasses in a tightly sealed glass container filled with oil can result in a God-awful mess. I cover the jar with an unbleached coffee filter and secure it with a large rubber band (I save the ones that come holding asparagus together.). Swirl the mixture a couple of times during the three weeks you will leave it in a sunny window. If so much olive oil is absorbed that the flowers stick out of the top, add more. Strain and press through cheesecloth and return the oil to the jar you used to infuse it in, this time putting a lid on it.
When I harvest my calendula next year and go to make another batch of oil, I will use any that is left from this year's batch.

To make the ointment: Warm the infused oil in a pot on the stove. Add 1/4 cup beeswax pastilles per 2 cups oil, stirring constantly. When wax is melted, drip a bit off a spoon onto a plate and put it in the freezer for 2 minutes. If it comes out the consistency you want, your're done. If it is still too runny, add a bit more beeswax and repeat until you are satisfied. Pour warm mixture into glass or metal containers with lids (I use sterilized baby food jars). Be sure containers are labelled with product and date. They will keep for a year away from heat and direct sunlight.

Variation: For treating nail fungus
Immediately after pouring the warm mixture into the storage jars, stir in a scant 3/4 tsp tea tree oil.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I am a genius! I have just discovered the BEST way to preserve my extra tomatoes: canning Bloody Mary mix!

Well, I discovered it in the same way Columbus discovered America, which is to say it's a pretty sure bet someone else has been down this road before. But, hey - we got a day off of work last week to celebrate what Columbus did. I am just offering up a way to help the celebration along.

This recipe makes ONE quart jar. You will want to multiply based on the volume of tomatoes you have - and your future needs for instant Bloody Marys.

Bloody Mary mix
3 pounds tomatoes
1/2 c grated horseradish (storebought is fine)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
2 tb lemon juice
1 tsp salt

1. Quarter tomatoes and put through a food mill. (I use the attachment for my stand mixer.) Processing the tomatoes without heat works for this recipe because it will cause the result to be watery rather than thick like tomato sauce.
2. In a large saucepan, stir in the horseradish, mustard and pepper, and bring the puree to a low boil.
3. Meanwhile, canner, jars and lids should be sterilized. The canning water should be boiling, with the jars inside.
4. Remove jars from boiling water. Add lemon juice and salt to each jar, then fill with Bloody Mary mix leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rim and top with lid. Turn rings to fingertip tight.
5. Place jars in canner and process at a full boil for 40 minutes, then remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars. Enjoy listening to the thwonk sound each lid makes as it seals, letting you know that you did it correctly. Let jars cool for 24 hours before moving.
6. Before getting ready to use, you will notice the water rose to the top and the heavy stuff sunk to the bottom. Its ok to have even up to an inch of tomato water at the top of the jar. Shake before opening, pour into a pitcher, add an equal amount of vodka and mix well. (This makes a fairly strong Bloody Mary, half the amount of vodka makes a very weak one. You might want to be somewhere in between.)
7. This is the best part...pour into glasses filled with ice, garnish with a lime wedge (or celery stalk) and ENJOY!

Friday, October 15, 2010


Except for asparagus, I feel like cooked vegs really need something done to them...just steaming really isn't enough. This combo dresses up broccoli, and puts this year's garden bonanza of shallots to good use.

Roasted broccoli
1 head broccoli
3 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
grapeseed oil (or olive)
1/4 c sliced almonds (or walnut pieces)
Pepper to taste
Trim broccoli and place in shallow baking dish. Top with shallots, drizzle with oil and use your hands to toss.
Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Top with nuts and bake 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with pepper.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Phillies are in the is in the house!
Guests always show up with chips and queso, but I like to whip up something primal friendly as well. And guess what? Company loves it too.
Here are this year's phavorites:

Pesto cream cheese layers
I make my own pesto (recipe at the bottom of this post), but you could substitute store bought in this super simple (meaning great at the last minute) creation.
1 block cream cheese
1/2 c pesto
1 roma tomato
Slice cream cheese in half horizontally. Put most of the pesto between the two layers. Put remaining pesto on top. Dice tomato and sprinkle over as well. (The tomato was a new addition to this spread -- just trying to get in a little Phillies red!)

Pesto cream cheese layers with onion garlic flax crackers (top left), Brad's Raw kale chips (bottom left) and carrot chips.
Macadamia onion dip
Yeah, it does sound wierd, but trust me it's good.
2 c macadamias (I prefer lightly salted)
3/4 c water
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 handful crumbled bacon
In food processor, grind nuts with 1/4 c water. Stop to redistribute, scrape down sides and add 1/4 c water. If it is still too spackly after processing a second time, repeat, adding remaining water. When spread is desired consistency, fold in onion and bacon to taste.
Thanks to the folks at Harvest Market for their inspiration on this one!

I usually serve my dips with carrot chips, but recently I have discovered two raw food crackers that are good for munching too. My favorite is Foods Alive onion garlic flax crackers. For soft spreads, Brad's Raw Chips (I use Kale, but there are several varieties) are good too. Both are pictured with the Pesto cream cheese layers.

Basil walnut pesto
4 c fresh basil, lightly packed
3 tb minced garlic
1 c crushed walnuts
1/3 c grated parmesan or romano
1 c olive or walnut oil
Put basil in blender, top with next three ingredients and half of oil, and puree, stopping frequently to scrape down sides. Add remaining oil gradually as needed to achieve desired consistency.
I keep my pesto fairly dry because this is how I preserve the excess that comes out of my garden every year. After blending, scoop half cup portions into a muffin pan, cover with Press-N-Seal and freeze. Reheat in saucepan or microwave, adding a little oil to thin out.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My new favorite dinner

Seriously. Good.

Dry rubbed, slow roasted, baby back ribs
Dry rub (inspired by a variation of a variation of an Alice Waters recipe)
1 tsp coarse ground pepper
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp fennel seed
2 tsp rubbed sage
2 tsp cumin
To prepare: Mix rub ingredients together and pat into all surfaces (especially meaty side) of 2.5ish pound rack of ribs. Let sit covered in refrigerator for several hours. Set on counter 1 hour before cooking to come to room temp. Drizzle with oil (I like olive or walnut).
To make: Turn grill on to the lowest setting possible. Grill over indirect heat, meat side down, for 30 minutes. Flip rack every half hour for 3 hours. Add a little more oil if absolutely necessary.

Did I mention there was slaw too? Especially awesome when apples are in season.

Waldorf slaw
1 bag shredded red cabbage
1/2 red onion, diced
1 apple, diced (something crisp and sweet!)
1 c sour cream (or greek yogurt)
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
1/3 c crushed walnuts
1 tb fresh parsley, chopped
fresh ground pepper to taste
Put cabbage, onion and apple in a large bowl. Whisk together sour cream and vinegar and add to bowl. Stir until solid ingredients are coated with dressing. Add walnuts and pepper and mix through. Top with parsley.

What I want for dinner every night...