Herbs

Host A Heart-Healthy Tea Party

Posted by on Feb 8, 2015 in Frugal For Everyone, Health, Herbs, Recipes | 55 comments

Host A Heart-Healthy Tea Party

February is National Heart Health Month. Wouldn’t it be fun to promote awareness by hosting a heart-healthy Tea Party? You could go all out, putting all the la-de-da and elegance that you can think of into the planning. This would include the dress-up, the hats, the flowers, fancy china, tablecloths, napkins, etc. It would be fun to pretend you’re Kate Middleton throwing a party for her royal in-laws. None of this needs to cost a lot- it just needs to look impressive. A good Thrift Store would be able to provide anything needed for next to nothing. This would include table linens, dishes, serving platters, etc. Things wouldn’t need to match, it’s actually better if they don’t. Of course, hosting a heart-healthy tea party means the focus is on food and drinks that are exactly that – heart-healthy choices. While scones, a traditional food could be served, they should be oatmeal scones served with light cream cheese (or yogurt cream cheese) instead of clotted cream, and topped with quick strawberry spread. (Recipes/Instructions later in this article). If you need inspiration, check out the gorgeous photos in this post about Afternoon Tea at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel in London, England.  http://www.safariontheblog.com/2015/01/afternoon-tea-at-the-sheraton-park-lane-hotel-london.html Now let’s go plan a  Tea Party. The details: Set the date and the time – traditionally between two and five in the afternoon Send out fancy invitations Ask the guests – young girls love this one – to dress-up: dresses, hats and if available, white gloves. If boys or men are invited they should wear suits and ties Plan the table(s) setting: Tablecloths and cloth napkins Flower arrangements – one bouquet divided into smaller ones is perfect The dishes, again, nothing needs to match: Tea Pots, Cream Pots, Sugar Bowl, Honey Bowl, Dish for Lemon Slices Serving Dishes of all kinds Cups and Saucers Small Plates Cutlery The Tea: It may be possible to buy a variety pack of herbal teas which will allow your guests to sample different kinds. They may prefer to drink regular black or green tea or be more adventurous and try the different herb teas or even a combination. Both black and green tea contain tannins which are good for heart-health. One of the best herbs for general heart-health is hawthorn (the berries). Celestial Seasonings, available at any supermarket, includes hawthorn berries in several of their teas. For children rooibos tea is a pretty safe bet. A great way to get used to drinking herbal teas is to mix them with regular tea. Ginger and  cinnamon, two spices that most people normally have on hand, are excellent heart-healthy choices. Try adding 1/4 tsp. of ground ginger to a pot of regular, chamomile or mint tea. Provide cinnamon sticks in place of spoons to stir the tea. The Food: Besides the spices mention above, oatmeal, fruit (apples, cherries), berries (red ones like strawberries and raspberries), nuts (almonds, walnuts), and dark chocolate all benefit the heart. None of those foods are exotic, hard to find or costly. Some suggestions to get you started: Fancy cucumber or salmon sandwiches Oatmeal Scones http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Scottish-Oat-Scones/ Yogurt Cream Cheese  http://frugalforeveryone.ca/yummy-yogurt-treats-so-easy-to-make/ (make the cream cheese plain without the herbs) Quick Strawberry Spread: Boil together until spreading consistency 3 cups chopped strawberries (frozen is fine), 1 Tbsp. lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar. Make a few days ahead and refrigerate until ready to use. Strawberries partially dipped in melted dark chocolate Small apple tarts topped with cinnamon You get the idea – be fancy, be elegant, be hoity-toity. Present heart-healthy food and drink, then simply enjoy. Talk to you again next...

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Bring Back the Pollinators

Posted by on Jan 25, 2015 in Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Green Living, Health, Herbs | 64 comments

Bring Back the Pollinators

Winter has settled in, making this a perfect time to browse through seed catalogs to dream and plan the Spring garden. While browsing through the William Dam catalog I came across some important information that I want to share. The following is taken straight from that catalog: www.damseeds.com  “The Humble Bee.                               Such a small creature in this vast world, but such an important part of our lives. In the last year every paper, blog, and social media site has made comments on the humble bee. From our local 4H clubs to our churches, even to the great office of the White House, people are waking up to how we impact creation. As a seed company the bee is vital to our survival: without some form of pollination there would be no seed, and natural pollinators always work best. There is great debate into what has caused the decrease in the bees and other pollinators. While seed treatments have taken a lot of the blame for bee population decline, ecologists all agree it is a combination of causes. So what can we do as growers and gardeners? University studies have shown that increasing habitat and providing a wide range of flower pollen and food will make for healthier bees. Healthier bees will be able to withstand virus, predators, and chemical contamination. We believe increasing diversity of habitat is very important to the bees – growing food and providing pollen plants is at the top of the list. This summer we dedicated half of our flower trials to studying which flowers and plants benefit bees and other pollinators. It was amazing to see the results, and actively feeding bees did not sting us. A simple thing like allowing broccoli to flower gave the bees a month of food. As stewards of this Creation we live in, simple things can make a difference. Grow a flower, save the bees.” For the first time ever, they have devoted two pages in their catalog to plants that benefit pollinators. This really helps in choosing the right plants. We have a quarter acre of wasteland that needs to be planted which we will now do by spreading their Bee Feed Mix. Our yard has been a bird and butterfly friendly habitat for years – to attract even more varieties we’ll also spread their Bird and Butterfly Mix. Their Beneficial Insect Mix and Northeast American Wildflower Mix are two mixes that will have to wait till next year. Won’t the flowers in the picture below pretty up an area that is now waste land? There are a number of individual plants which can be tucked into any flower bed, vegetable/herb garden or even window boxes. Besides attracting pollinators, any of these will add beauty to the yard. They include: Achillea, Agastache, Alyssum, Asclepias, Aster, Basils, Borage, Buddleja, Catnip, Centaura, Clover, Coreopsis, Dill, Dracocephaleum, Echinacea, Flax, Gaillardia, Gaura, Helianthus-garden types, Helenium, Heliotrope, Latavera, Lavender, Malope, Marigolds, Monarda, Mustards, Oregano, Orlaya, Parsley, Phacelia, Prickly Poppy, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Thyme, Tithonia, Tomato, Verbena, Zinnias. A few other facts  about pollinators: Monarch Caterpillars eat only Asclepias (Milkweed) during their life, however, the adult butterflies have a more varied diet that includes: Aster, Buddleja, Echinacea, Verbena and Zinnia; Butterflies like flowers that give them a platform to hold onto while they sip the nectar, so include flowers like Achillea, Rudbeckia, Tithonia, and Zinnias; Bees love broccoli. Leave some of your broccoli, arugula and other mustards to bolt to provide a month of food for bees. Since herbs play a...

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NATURAL REMEDIES FOR COMMON AILMENTS

Posted by on Aug 31, 2014 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Green Living, Herbs | 38 comments

NATURAL REMEDIES FOR COMMON AILMENTS

It used to be that using natural remedies to treat minor illnesses was just part of a well-managed household. But today many minor ailments are being seen by a doctor and treated with pharmaceuticals. Why? Natural remedies often do the job just as well, if not better, and at less cost and with far fewer side-effects. Shouldn’t we take responsibility for our own health whenever we can and leave the more serious problems to be dealt with by doctors and drugs?This article discusses the use of natural remedies to treat many minor ailments, always keeping in mind that the purpose of treatment is to relieve discomfort and to do no harm. I’ve only included safe, familiar products, easily found in the home or at a health food store, to be used in treatment. When dealing with serious illness, severe allergies, chronic medical conditions, or if in doubt, always call the doctor. NATURAL REMEDIES: Acne: Acne is most prevalent during the teenage years, just at the time when looks are considered to be important. As a result, teenagers afflicted with this skin condition can really suffer. Rather than go into detail here, anyone interested in further information can visit the Mayo Clinic:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/basics/definition/con-20020580 While there are drugs available to treat acne, trying natural remedies first is always the better choice. Many may  find relief by adhering to the routine below: Acne is caused by the excess production of sebum, the oil that lubricates the skin. Naturally, this means the first step is to get rid of the excess oil by keeping the face super-clean. Only oil-free, non-drying soaps, like Dove or extra-sensitive baby soap, should be used. Lavender has natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and regenerative properties. This would suggest that Yardley Lavender Soap cleans the skin while promoting healing of the acne lesions. Be careful when trying any new product – if a rash or redness develops, stop using it immediately. Once a day, fill a sink with hot water. Position face over the steam and drape a towel over the head to keep the steam in. Steam away for about five minutes, then lightly pat dry. Soak a cotton ball with basil vinegar and pat on face. Do NOT dry off, but allow it to evaporate. Apply a yogurt mask once a week. Mix together 1 tsp. each of plain yogurt, honey and finely ground oats. First steam the face as above, then apply the mask, using all of it. Leave for 15 minutes, rinse off with warm water and finish with a splash of cold water to close the pores. Carefully pat dry. Finally, do not wear make-up. It will aggravate and highlight the problem. To make basil vinegar, click on my previous post: http://frugalforeveryone.ca/culinary-cosmetic-antiseptic-and-more-basil-does-it-all/ A severe or sudden outbreak of acne could be a symptom of a more serious health problem or a drug side-effect. Consult a doctor immediately. Colds: Fall is the beginning of the cold season and sooner or later most of us will fall victim. Fortunately there are natural remedies that work, both in preventing and treating. The best preventative, as far as I’m concerned, is mullein tea. Mullein is a large plant that grows wild in farmers’ fields. We always dried enough of the large mullein leaves to see us through the fall and winter. Every night, when our boys came home from school, they would have mullein tea, sweetened with honey. As long as we had the tea, they never had a cold. If we ran out though, which often happened around April, the colds would start. Mullein is now available from most...

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MICROGREENS: Superfoods You Grow Indoors

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Green Living, Herbs, Recipes | 39 comments

MICROGREENS: Superfoods You Grow Indoors

It was a great day when I discovered MICROGREENS, superfoods you grow indoors the year round. Microgreens are baby herbs and vegies, very easy to grow on windowsill or counter-top. They are fast producers, harvested within two to three weeks of germination, when the plants are only one to three inches tall. I had been thinking about the produce that would be available come Fall, really just a choice between expensive organic or less expensive chemical-laced. Not exactly great choices, that is, until microgreens came along giving us another option, one that is both super healthy and inexpensive. Microgreens are nutritional powerhouses because all the nutrients the plant needs to grow to maturity are stored in the tiny plants, waiting to be distributed as the plant grows. But as microgreens aren’t grown to maturity, it means all those extra stored nutrients – protein, antioxidants, beta-carotene and vitamins C, E, and K – are available for consumption when the plants are cut. Growing Microgreens: Remembering chia pets, I decided growing chia would be good place to start. I found an old berry clam shell which would work for a little greenhouse. Since it already had drainage holes in the bottom, it just required soil, watering and seeding. It only took a few days for green shoots to appear and a few more days after that I was cutting chia microgreens to add to salads, sandwiches and hamburgers. That was easy and fun, enough so that expansion was the next step. Knowing plants germinate and grow at different speeds it seemed smart to give each type of plant its own growing container.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, but at the same time wanted to set up a continuous use system. That actually turned out to be easier and less expensive than expected. Preparing the Microgreens Containers: Shown above: Cook’n’Carry aluminum trays make perfect drainage trays. Plastic containers of the right size were found so that two could fit into each tray. The plastic cover that comes with the tray serves as a mini-greenhouse cover during the germination stage. I started by drilling six quarter-inch drainage holes into the bottom of each of the the plastic containers; Next two inches of organic, nutrient-rich growing mix was added, watered well and tamped down, enough to smooth out the soil, but not pack it; A moisture meter was used to keep a check on the moisture content. Once the meter read 5, the seeds were liberally sprinkled on top of the soil, lightly tamped down to ensure good soil contact and covered with vermiculite. (It doesn’t have to be vermiculite, it can be a light layer of soil – I just happened to have leftover vermiculite); The containers were then placed into the drainage tray and covered with the plastic lid. The lid actually sits on top of the plastic containers, leaving almost an inch of space underneath which, as it turned out, provides good air circulation. Germination, Growing and Harvesting the Microgreens: During the germination period, the seeds do not want light. Since I use the large window in my dining-room for my ‘indoor farming’, it was easiest just to leave the trays on the dining table, away from the light, until the green shoots appeared. Once that happened, the plastic cover was removed and placed under the aluminum tray, and the entire unit moved to the windowsill; When the plants are growing, they need a minimum of 6 hours – more is better – of light each day. If a window sill isn’t available, a table in front...

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BASIL Does It All- Culinary, Cosmetic

Posted by on Aug 3, 2014 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Green Living, Herbs, Recipes | 49 comments

BASIL Does It All- Culinary, Cosmetic

Basil is one of my favourite herbs. I love the many different ways to use it – as a culinary herb, invigorating tea herb and, in a minor way, a cosmetic/medicinal herb.  Most everyone knows that basil and tomato are an unbeatable combination and that basil is the main ingredient for the traditional pesto sauce. But not everyone is aware that basil can also be used in omelets and scrambled eggs, salads, rice dishes, mushroom dishes and any chicken dish. It perks up many soups, and adds pizazz to pizza. Some General Information. A useful fact to remember for all herbs is that 3 measures fresh herbs = 1 measure dried herbs. Tearing the leaves releases more flavour than chopping them, which is fine for adding to salads or sliced tomatoes, but for some foods, like soup, butter or dips, I much prefer to bruise them before cutting them into very small pieces. Basil, garlic and parsley are three terrific mix and match herbs. Any two – or even all three – go well together. Most herbs should be added to cooked foods at the end of cooking – basil is one of those herbs. Basil Culinary Uses: A great way to flavour pasta or rice – heat a small amount of olive oil in a saucepan, remove from heat, stir in some finely chopped basil; add the cooked pasta or rice to the basil-oil, stir well and serve; If lemon basil is available, make up lemon basil-oil mix as above and stir in cooked rice – this is excellent served with fish; Use either of the basil-oil mixes as a dipping sauce for freshly baked bread. Use this basil-oil to replace butter on crusty rolls or bread; Add basil to cold rice or pasta salads; Finely chopped basil is terrific when added to a ham quiche or a tomato pie; Mix low-fat cream cheese with finely chopped basil and use on baked potatoes. Garlic or chives can be added to the cheese-basil mix. Make it a frugal product by using yogurt cream cheese, which actually makes it even healthier; Add to chicken stuffing; Add to any ground meat mixture, such as meatballs or meatloaf; Add to omelets or scrambled eggs – for each egg, add 1 Tbsp. fresh, finely chopped basil; Add a snippet to steamed zucchini or carrots. Always add basil at the end of the cooking; Add some finely cut basil to sauce for cauliflower; For a very simple dip, blend 2 Tbsp. fresh finely cut basil with 1 cup yogurt. To make the best basil vinegar for salad dressing – use ¼ cup fresh, torn basil to ½ cup red wine vinegar. When working with herbs and vinegars, glass containers should always be used – no plastic or metal. Give it time to steep and flavours to blend (a week or more is great) – strain and use as is – not necessary to add oil or anything else. Or use purple-leaved basil with white vinegar to make a beautiful red salad vinegar. French Herbal Boursin: Boursin is an easy-to-make mild French Cheese Spread, which is delicious when used as an appetizer and spread on crusty bread or crackers. Can also be served as a dip with breadsticks. To make the Boursin: In a food processor, combine 2 or 3 peeled garlic cloves with 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup fresh chives and 1/4 cup fresh parsley. Blend in 1 cup (8 oz./250g) cream cheese  – yogurt cream cheese may be used – until mixture is well blended and smooth. Chop 1/4 cup black...

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20 Tips for Healthier Eating, Some Savings.

Posted by on Jun 23, 2014 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Herbs, Recipes | 56 comments

20 Tips for Healthier Eating, Some Savings.

Over the past few years I have started getting rid of things, including old recipe notebooks from the time our boys were still at home. With seven of them, the only way to keep on top of things, and stay on budget, was to make up monthly lists to organize meals. At the time, this was a lot of work but it did help me feed them healthy meals, stretch the food budget and turn ‘blah’ into ‘this is good’. The following tips are based on that experience: Whipped Butter. Some restaurants serve those nice little pats of butter that are soft and easy to spread – the good news, you can make your own. Have ingredients at room temperature – if the butter or milk is too cold, they won’t blend. Use an electric mixer to whip 3 Tbsp. slightly warm (not hot) milk into 1/2 cup butter, softened, until creamy. This decreases the calorie and fat content and increases the butter amount. Keep refrigerated and use within a week. Sour Cream. Substitute an equal amount of yogurt for baking – works as well, has fewer calories and costs less, a lot less if you make your own. Less Egg Yolk. For every 2 or 3 eggs called for in a recipe, discard one of the yolks to cut down on the cholesterol. Less Sugar. Cut down the sugar in recipes by up to one quarter. You won’t notice the difference, but you will cut costs and calories. Less Salt. Many of us have gotten into the unhealthy habit of using too much salt. Slowly cut back on the salt and increase the use of herbs. Herb Salt. Mix together ½ cup salt, 1 ½ Tbsp. each of dried parsley, dried chives (or minced onion) and dried basil. Over time you can decrease the salt even more to 1/4 cup and increase the herbs to 2 Tbsp. each. Italian Seasoning. Seasonings do have an expiry date so it doesn’t make sense to buy a pack of Italian Seasoning if you only use a tablespoon once in a while. Make up your own from the seasonings normally found in the pantry. Mix together ½ tsp. of each of the following dried herbs: basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage to make 1 Tbsp. Italian Season OR mix together ½ Tbsp. dried oregano, ¼ Tbsp. dried basil, 1/8 Tbsp. onion powder, 1/8 Tbsp. garlic powder (+1 tsp. red pepper flakes – optional) to make one Tbsp. Italian Seasoning. Lemon Juice. Place the lemon in a measuring cup, completely cover with boiling water, let sit for 15-20 minutes, drain off the water and the lemon will now yield double the amount of juice. (Also works for oranges). Confectioners Sugar. Just grate ordinary sugar in blender. Cinnamon Sugar.  Add cinnamon sticks to sugar in an airtight container. Vanilla Sugar. Add one or two vanilla beans to sugar in an airtight container. Wheat Germ. Use this healthy food more often. Next time you need bread crumbs for topping or breading, replace 1/4 of the crumbs with wheat germ. Wheat germ is also great sprinkled on ice-cream, yogurt and in salads. Over-ripe Bananas. Peel, wrap well and freeze for smoothies or baking. Potato Flour. When a recipe calls for potato flour, grind instant mashed potato flakes and add 2 Tbsp. of this to every cup of flour called for in the recipe. Ground Beef Extenders: To 1 lb. ground beef for hamburg patties or meatloaf – add 1/2 cup of shredded carrot or 1/2 cup shredded zucchini or 1/2 cup applesauce. Sauteing Meat. Add...

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