Category Archives: Baking with Herbs

Solar Powered Herbalism

Picture3It is hot out there, which leads me to thinking about positive ways to use all this thermal energy.

For those of an esoteric bent, the  idea of harvesting the sun’s  energy in making our preparations is appealing. There are many ways to utilize the sun’s energy when making herbal preparations. Solar infusions are  wonderful and all you really need for those is a half-gallon or gallon sized canning jar.

Solar ovens can be used for making herbal preparations.  I have a fancy one I picked up several years ago after a IRENEW event, but they can be easily made.  Decoctions and infused oils both work well in solar ovens, although I have found it useful to not clamp the lid down tightly when decocting.  One fun thing about this is you can go really old school and decoct in clay pots.

I do also use the oven for drying hardier parts of the harvest.  I have a screen made of chicken wire for dehydrating  roots, berries,  fruits and vegetables . I am not keen on dehydrating more delicate parts of the plants  in the solar oven.

A solar oven is  best though of as a slow cooker, which is why it works well for infusing oils.  The biggest challenge I have found in using the solar oven is in planning.  Preparing  with the solar oven involves checking the forecast and  thinking ahead.

Since granola recipes really lend themselves well to herbal additions and preparation in a solar oven, I thought I would include this recipe.

10152073551166860Gluten free  Herbal Granola

5 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup finely ground unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup ground seeds including lightly roasted milk thistle seeds
1/4 cup astragalus powder
1 cup almond meal or any other ground nut
1 cup honey or maple syrup
1 cup olive oil, coconut oil, melted butter or any combination thereof
1 tbsp. vanilla
1/4  cup ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup dried cherries

Grind the coconut and the seeds.  I use pumpkin seeds and milk thistle seeds.   Mix this with the astragalus powder and the almond meal .
Stir in your sweetener, oil,  vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.    Don’t skimp on the warming spices as they help to improve digestion of foods like nuts and grains. |

Finally stir in the oats and almonds bake in your oven until golden brown.   If  using a conventional oven bake at 250 degrees for about an hour.    I like to add the cherries after it has baked.

Brown Soda Bread

IMG_5771Most of the time you hear about soda bread people are talking about the sweet loaf with currants and raisins but I am a large fan of savory breads that can be used to sop up a hearty stew.

There are as many different brown soda bread recipes as there are Gaelic Grandmas out there but this is one of my favorites.

Brown Soda Bread

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats (ground coarsely)
3 tablespoons ground pumpkin seeds (this is supposed to be wheat germ)
2 teaspoons dried rosemary plus additional for topping
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper plus additional for topping
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg yolk
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 inch round cake pan.
Cut butter into flour, oats and wheat germ. Ad rosemary, baking powder, baking soda salt and ground pepper. Mix the egg yolk into the butter milk and lightly stir this into the dry ingredients.

Spoon this mixture into the pan. If you can let it rest for 30 minutes or so before baking, you will appreciate the results.

When you are ready to bake the bread, whip up the egg white until it forms a soft peak and stir in some pepper and rosemary. Cut a 1/2 inch x in the top of the loaf and then brush the loaf with the egg white mixture. Bake at least 3o minutes. Serve warm.

Cornish Pasties

IMG_5666My husband spent his summers staying at his grandparents’ cabin in Eagle Harbor, MI and one of his fondest memories is eating the giant pasties served at Toni’s
I was one of the few Iowans I knew who knew about pasties, because my Mom made them growing up. When we were growing up we used chunks of pork and beef, and I prefer them that way, still.  But I gave in and started adding some ground meat, sometimes after I had Toni’s. I don’t really like hamburger, so I use ground pork.

I’ve kind of avoided posting a recipe because well, I don’t really have precise measurements for the filling. I just kind of throw it together but I can post a specific dough recipe that works well for pasties.

Dough

2 scant cups of flour
4 oz butter
1/4 tsp mustard powder
4-6 tbsp water

Mix the flour and mustard powder. Cut the butter into the flour and add the water until you have a nice elastic dough. The consistency isn’t quite like pie crust, it is the same recipe I use for my sausage rolls.

Filling

1/2 sliced skirt or stew beef
1/2 ground pork or sliced pork chops
thinly sliced rutabaga or turnips
thinly sliced potato
finely chopped onion
salt
pepper
rosemary

I mix the meat and vegetables together, like a meatloaf, before I put the pasties together.   I will admit that when I use ground meat, it holds the vegetables in place, which makes crimping the crust a little easier. The short video below gives you a little bit of history about the pasty and shows an alternative method of putting the pasties together by layering the ingredients.

Once you have them put together, bake them in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 60 minutes.