Tag Archive | healthy living

Making Your Own Cottonwood Bud Oil

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Spring time in the Rockies!   What a beautiful time of year!   The grass is beginning to grow, the baby calves are being born and it looks like summer is within sight!

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We recently watched a reality show where the people made their year’s supply of a wonderful salve that they claimed to use on everything from sore muscles to diaper rash.   Also known as balm of gilead, the salve contains a bounty of medicinal properties.   It’s made from cottonwood buds whose resin contains “salicin” – which is the same compound that gives aspirin it’s pain relieving, anti-inflammatory benefits.   Using the balm as an external rub will reduce joint pain (as with arthritis and rheumatism) and will ease sore muscles.

Because cottonwood is high in antioxidants, it is useful for healing the skin, including sunburn.   The buds are also antiseptic and can be added to other oils to prevent rancidity and molding.

Since we live on a creek bottom full of cottonwood trees, my interest was piqued.

The best time to harvest the buds is in late winter to early spring – so I grabbed a plastic bucket and headed for the woods.

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I picked these buds in early February – they were just beginning to swell.   You can see the little drop of resin.

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While most recipes called for placing the buds in olive oil, I did find one recipe that used rendered beef fat.   I have LOTS of that – beautiful grassfed beef fat – rendered and frozen in blocks.   It got my vote!

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I placed the frozen fat in my crock pot and put the temperature on low to let it melt.   After removing the buds from the twigs I had gathered, they were chopped quickly in a blender.

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Then, I combined the melted beef fat with the chopped buds in the crock pot – and gently simmered for about 48 hours.   Upon waking on the second morning, our house had a wonderful, aromatic smell!   The resin from the buds had turned the rendered fat a slightly orange-ish hue.

I strained the mixture through cheesecloth, wringing to extract all of the oil.   At this point, the oil is done – but it is runny (like a baby oil consistency).   I wanted to use it more like a salve, so the oil was then warmed with a small amount of candellila wax to “thicken” it.   Use about 1 ounce of wax to 5 ounces of oil.

It was poured into jars and then cooled, sealing with a canning lid.   Store your salve in a cool, dark place.

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A note of caution – I have read that people who are allergic to aspirin may also be allergic to cottonwood bud oil.   Please check with your doctor before using if this is the case.

This lovely salve has been our “go to” for arthritis pain and sore muscle rubs.   It helped a friend who rubbed it on his elbow afflicted with tendonitis, and it calmed an injection site from a tetanus shot.   I think we will be gathering cottonwood buds for years to come!

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Power Your Day With A Kale Salad

Here is a recipe that just may change your opinion of a “kale” salad. It is packed full of color, flavor, fruits and veggies, is super-nutritious, and is just plain delicious!! The dressing is a simple mixture of fruit juice and olive oil. Give it a try!

 

Start with a bunch of freshly washed/dried kale – baby kale is ideal, however, I had good results from just removing the center rib section from my bigger leaves. To this, I added a good-sized handful of baby spinach leaves. Chop or tear all the leaves into small sections and place in a large salad bowl.

Next, toast one-half cup sliced almonds on top of the stove until slightly brown. Set aside to cool.

Dressing: In a separate small bowl, zest an orange. (Reserve the fruit for later). Add 1/4 cup of a good (organic) extra virgin olive oil to the bowl followed by 2 tablespoons of orange juice which you will squeeze from the orange you just zested. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice, a little salt and pepper and then stir.

Add 1/2 cup of cran-raisins and the toasted almonds to the kale/spinach mixture and top with the dressing that you've made. Toss to coat thoroughly and let stand at least one hour.

Just for fun, I also added some roasted sunflower seeds and raw hemp hearts. The hemp hearts have a nutty taste and add some all important Omega 3s to the dish!

Peel the rind from the remaining orange and chop fruit into small sections.

The dressing gives the salad a light, fruity flavor. Packed with goodness – hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

 

My Self Proclaimed Challenge – Homemade Everything!

It started a few years back – you know, you run out of some ingredient and you have to either find a substitute or go without. Where I live, the closest grocery store is a half-hour away. With fuel over $3.00 a gallon, I figure a trip has to be very necessary at that price – so homemade became my motto. About five years ago, I vowed to avoid processed food. Living on a farm with a great big garden made that really easy. I don't eat every meal good, but at least five out of seven is healthy, homegrown, and without preservatives.

I challenge myself each time I go to the grocery store to see what aisle I can avoid. Haven't seen anything in the freezer aisle for years….because it is all processed food. If I am hungry for waffles, I make my own from scratch. I know… I understand that I do not have to leave home for an 8 to 5 job anymore so I have time to live this way, but I also think I would still get up early to keep this style of living even if I had to be out the door to punch a clock.

In the next few posts, I thought I would share a few more reasons to avoid buying prepackaged items. Usually, you can make a batch of glass cleaner, non-abrasive cleaner or laundry detergent for pennies on the dollar AND make a large batch while you're at it. You spend the time to make a big batch of laundry detergent and you are set for months.

So here's a few ideas for your own homemade fabric softener – perhaps one of them will fit your lifestyle!

First option: crumple a few balls of aluminum foil and place in the dryer with a load of clothes. As crazy as that sounds, the metal dissipates the charges that build up between the fabric as it flops around in the dryer.

Second option: plain old vinegar to the final rinse water. It will not only take the leftover soap out of your clothes, but also helps to clean washers and drain hoses too! You do not the risk of smelling like a pickle from using vinegar – when your clothes are dry, the smell has dissipated. If you insist, you can add 10-20 drops of an essential oil (eucalyptus or lavender for example) to the vinegar.

Third option and my favorite to date: Take 2 cups of a cheap hair conditioner and combine it with 6 cups of hot water. When it is all mixed together, add 3 cups of plain white vinegar. No chemicals, no artificial flavors or colors. This makes a family sized batch – pennies on the dollar,

So – here are a few ideas for you to start you off! Many more to follow. If you have a great homemade, no preservative, no processed, no artificial anything you'd like to share – let me know!

Til next time…

 

Sous vide……..What a Great New Way to Cook!

The holidays are always greatly anticipated at our house, especially when we are privileged to host our family and friends. We go into high gear – and this year, it was even more fun than usual.

A couple of weeks ago, a new-found friend had been explaining a cooking technique he used. It was called sous vide. What??? How do you spell that?

It's French, pronounced “soo veed” and it means “under vacuum”. After our friend's animated description, we looked at each other and decided we just had to check into this technique a bit further. Off to the Internet we went, reading different recipes and understanding the whole concept of this type of cooking. The sous vide technique cooks your food in a vacuum sealed bag while it is submerged in a water bath at a precisely controlled temperature —- whew! That's a mouthful!

In a nutshell, you take your piece of meat, for example, and place your favorite spices, fruits, and/or rubs inside the bag. Vacuum seal the bag closed and submerge it in the sous vide cooker. It is preset to a special temperature and the cooker will hold water within one degree of that temperature for the entire period of time it cooks. The natural flavors and juices are locked inside the bag as it cooks. The nutrients found in the food are retained – compared to grilling or baking, where they may evaporate or stay within the pan.

The time and temperature that you cook your meat varies. We did a brisket for 48 hours (yup, you heard it right!). Beef tenderloin – 4 to 6 hours. Pork tenderloin took 6-8 hours and salmon was done in fifty minutes. Each cut of meat was sealed in it's own bag with it's own variety of seasonings. The low, slow way of cooking made the meat OH so tender and moist.

We chose to purchase a sous vide cooker, but have been told that you can make your own by purchasing a heating element and circulator on-line. I will tell you that the cooker, itself, was pricey – but we seldom go out to eat and I would liken the price to a fancy dinner out for four. The water temperature and the cooking time determine the “done-ness” of the food – so special attention was given to the cooking manual!

Not to be outdone by the main dish, we had to have some homemade Thanksgiving bread to complete the look. We made a batch of dough, shaped the rolls into balls and scored the sides with a sharp knife. As the dough rose, it spread apart and gave the appearance of a little pumpkin. We stuck a nut in the top to give it a stem – and off to the oven they went.

After a wonderful day of great family, friends, and food – we paused to say “thanks” for another holiday….and bustled off to the car to go see Santa!!

 

Wild Ricing??

Sometimes you just don't realize what a cool childhood you had. Things that we feel are “normal and every day” are foreign to others. Let me tell you of one of those ah-ha moments.

Last evening we had a neighborhood get-together where everyone brings a crockpot of soup. We share the soup and eat like kings! I made a wild rice/ham soup using the wild rice that my parents had picked in Minnesota.

When I mentioned that it was hand-picked and processed, people were a bit mystified……rice? Did you grow up near a rice pattie? How do you pick it?

Well, “ricing” was an actual season in Minnesota – the same as fishing season and hunting season. The wild rice (which is actually an aquatic grass) grows in shallow water in lakes or slow-flowing streams and rivers. My family would rice in the area lakes and slow-moving waters of the Mississippi River where the plants grew in areas of slow or no current. Ricing season was during the last part of August and first part of September. The Division of Natural Resources controlled the season and you had to purchase a license to be able to rice. You were not allowed to rice with any motorized boat – the vessel had to be propelled by muscle power only. My parents used a canoe and my Dad pushed the canoe through the water with a big pole that had “feet” on the bottom of it. As he pushed, my Mom sat in the middle of the canoe with two 3-foot sticks. She would reach out to the right with one stick pulling the rice stalks over the boat and then would knock the heads off with the second stick. Then she would repeat the process with the same sticks, only working on the left side of the canoe. They worked back and forth, in this way, through the wild rice patch. You certainly ran the risk of losing all of your rice if you tipped the canoe over, so many would unload mid-day just in case!

There were always buyers on the shore to buy your “green” rice, or you could take it in to be processed for your own use. My family always had a burlap bag of processed rice and we ate it often. One of our family favorites was wild rice pancakes where my Mom added cooked wild rice to our pancake batter. (You want to talk about a flapjack that would stick with ya – that was it! Try it!)

 

So, here is the recipe for the Wild Rice Ham Soup that we enjoyed last night. It's hearty and delicious!

Since I was preparing for a lot of people, this recipe will serve 12 and fill a good-sized crockpot. First, bring 2 cups of rice and six cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes. Your rice will pop open when it is done – taste it to be sure.

 

Then in a separate pot, melt 3/4 cup of butter and sauté a small diced onion in the butter. After the onion is done, blend in one cup of flour until smooth and then gradually add six cups of chicken broth. Stir this mixture constantly as it thickens until it comes to a boil, then reduce the heat and stir in your cooked wild rice, 1 and 1/2 cups of diced ham, a cup of shredded carrots, 1/4 cup of slivered almonds. Cook for an additional few minutes and then add 2 cups of half and half just before serving.

 

A Great Recipe for Your Cherry Tomatoes

It's October, and our area has already experienced a number of frosty nights. We hurriedly pulled the tomatoes from their vines and have frozen and canned a number of batches. One favorite recipe for our cherry tomatoes follows. It makes a beautiful presentation and is full of all kinds of nummy flavors!

 

Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Mozzarella and Basil

This recipe will yield about 36 hors d'oeuvres.

1/2 pound of fresh mozzarella, cut into very tiny diced pieces. Should cut enough to make approximately

1 1/4 cup

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of chopped basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated lemon zest

Salt and pepper

20 cherry tomatoes

 

In a medium bowl, stir together the cheese, oil, basil, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before assembling to let the flavors all come together.

Slice each cherry tomato in half and scoop out the insides with a melon-baller or teaspoon. Sprinkle each half with a dash of salt and place, inverted, on a paper towel to drain for about 15 minutes.

Fill each tomato half with about a teaspoon of the cheese mixture and arrange on a serving tray. We like to finish the plate with a drizzle of balsamic reduction over the tomatoes – not much – just a little bit for a great flavor!

Enjoy!

 

The “Fruits” of our Garden

It was an idea that I had been brewing all year – having a farm-to-table dinner with the bounties of the ranch. Boy, did we have fun!

We invited friends from our neighborhood to join us for the fixings. For two days before the party, we gathered and chopped fresh fruits and vegetables.

 

Our evening started with cherry tomatoes stuffed with mozzarella and basil and a charred corn and avacado dip. Baked potatoes and homemade bread (yup, Mom's recipe from my blog earlier this year) coupled with our grassfed beef smoked to perfection. One neighbor accepted a “throw down” challenge with the beef, and he and Kevin each prepared their prime rib and New York strip roasts with their own secret seasonings and techniques. Fresh corn on the cob was mouthwatering, and the watermelons were ready for the picking. We finished off our evening with apple crisp and strawberry rhubarb crisp. Many enjoyed our homemade wine with the meal.

I'd love to share one of the appetizer recipes – it's a hodge-podge of garden veggies that is light, colorful and healthy!

 

Charred Corn and Avacado Dip

2 ears of corn

2 avacados, diced

2 jalapeños, seeded and diced

1 red onion diced

A handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 can (or fresh cooked) black beans, drained and rinsed

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Remove the silks from the corn, soak in water for 10 minutes and then place corn on a hot grill for 10 minutes, rotating several times. Cool and remove the kernels from the cob. (note: I have made this several times when corn on the cob was not in season. I simply cooked the frozen or canned corn on the stove in a pan with a bit of EVOO).

Combine all of the remaining ingredients and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Enjoy!