Debbie’s Naked Apple Sauce recipe

Over the years, people have asked me for the secret to my apple sauce. Interestingly, I think of my apple sauce as being no doubt tasty but rather simple and common. But who am I to argue when I am told it is extraordinary? After all these years, I have struggled with why, but have finally come up with the only possible answer ~ my  and intention while making it. Yes, of course I try to find the best local ingredients, but I think it must be the added ingredients that make it stand above the rest.
There are two other secrets as well.

  1. I only use apples but not common baking apples. I also make sure there are at least five different varieties in my sauce, such as Fuji, Honeycrisp, Baldwin, Empire, Golden Delicious, Gala, Jonagold to name a few. Sure, you can use the standards like McIntosh or Cortland, but make sure you include some other varieties. This makes the flavor more complex and delicious.
  2. I use apple cider instead of water.

peeling apples

Debbie’s Naked Apple Sauce

Ingredients

  • A variety of local apples
  • Red Jacket Apple Cider (if you cannot find it, ask your local grocer to stock it or use another local apple cider)

Peel, core, and slice apples. Make sure there is a nice mixture of sweet and tart apples. Add apples to a large sauce pan. When the sauce pan is full of sliced apples, fill the sauce pan with about 1 ½ inches of apple cider. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the apples are soft and mushy (yes, mushy is a technical term). Then remove from stove and use a potato masher to well – mash the apples. You can use a food mill but I like chunky apple sauce.

Well, there you have it – now you can make you very own Naked Apple Sauce, no sugar, no spices – just . I highly recommend that you get to know who is growing your apples, without a doubt, it tastes so much better – ENJOY!apple sauce

It’s Marshmallow Root Time!

Over the years, I’ve noticed that as the weather gets colder, my digestive tract gets irritated. Yes, my allergies change but I also get acid reflux. I have no idea why this happens, but the first year it was very painful. In fact, it woke me up in the middle of the night it was so uncomfortable. Since I prefer to try to heal myself before I go to the doctor, I did a lot of research.Of course, my first line of attack was to remove the cause. I looked at my lifestyle and tried to identify any changes. Why was my esophagus getting irritated? Why was my stomach acid backing up into my esophagus? Truthfully, I couldn’t come up with a solid answer. However, after several years, the only conclusion I could come to was, that it had to do with the changing of the season, because it starts to happen every autumn and rarely any other time of the year.

Then, I looked at remedies. Most of the allopathic (conventional) remedies reduce the acid in the stomach so it does not irritate the digestive tract anymore. Most people need to take it for the rest of their lives. I understand the logic but I need (as we all do) the acids in my digestive system, I need them to do their job ~ digest my food, allowing my body to absorb nutrients from it. I need those nutrients to maintain a healthy body.

Dried Marshmallow Root

There are lots of remedies and theories out there, for example, when and what to eat. But what I really needed to do was heal the irritation in my digestive system so it could work properly and I could be comfortable again. Luckily, I knew about Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis).  It is very soothing and mucilaginous. It coats, protects and heals all inflammatory digestive disorders and enhances the immune system.  All I need to do is simply drink a cup of cold infusion after each meal and feel the discomfort melt away. Depending on the severity of the heartburn, relief happens instantly or may take a couple of days.  You can find Marshmallow Root in the bulk section of most health food stores. One thing I really love about Marshmallow Root is that after my system has been healed, I can stop using it. I have found that the infusion tastes better if I keep it in the refrigerator.  One important thing to know about Marshmallow Root infusions ~ they can be very thick and mucilaginous, in turn coating the digestive tract, which can inhibit the absorption of some medication. So, if you are taking any medication, be sure to take it at least an hour or more before or after you drink the Marshmallow Root infusion.  Here’s to relief from heartburn!

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

If you are having a difficult time finding Marshmallow Root locally, Healing Spirit Herb Farm is a wonderful company to order from.

Forest Bathing

Recently, it became apparent that I was spending way too much time indoors and not enough time outside. I was juggling everyone else’s needs and forgot about mine. It became obvious that it was taking a toll on my ability to maintain a sense of calm and balance throughout the day. And that’s what everyone needs from me as well as what gets me through the day.

So I decided to take a fine autumn morning to do some Forest Bathing, also know as Shinrin-yoku. In the early 1980s, the practice was developed in Japan as a form of preventive health care and healing.  Over the years, there has been quite a bit of research  that speaks to the benefits of Forest Bathing. But honestly folks, if you have ever spent any time in the woods, you already know the amazing gifts communing with nature provides. We’re talking about some real stress release, which in turn boosts your immune system for starters.

Although I love sharing a walk in the woods and exploring with friends and family, my focus tends to be more on the conversation and not on my surrounding. I’m more inclined to walk faster to keep up and I miss a lot. The deep stress release really only comes when I am bathing in nature. Think of a long soak in a bubble bath with music and candles ~ ahhhh. Therefore, when I really need/want to reap the benefits of the forest, I go into it alone, allowing myself to be 100% present so I can bath in my surroundings.

If you have read my blogs, you know that I love Waterfall Therapy, simply sitting by a waterfall, allowing it to release all the stress from the body. Well, sitting in the middle of the woods, listening to and watching the wind blow through the autumn leaves is also a fabulous stress reliever.

On snowy days, I love sitting outside listening and watching the snow fall around me. I look up, pick one snowflake, and watch it fall gently to the earth. I enjoy watching water falling from tall waterfalls like Taughannock Falls too. I pick one section and follow the flow all the way down.

After over four hours of wandering through the woods, paying attention, listening, observing, I was ready to re-enter and engage in the activities of my daily life again. It normally does not take that long, but I just could not see a reason to pull myself away from such a lovely experience. Feeling stressed?  Do yourself a favor, soak in the forest; you will be happy you did.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

 

 

Vitex ~ when your pituitary needs rebooting

A few years ago, I learned the hard way how well my herbal remedies worked ~ I ran out during a trip. I was taking some remedies to support my body and others to help ameliorate symptoms. Ever so often, I like to titrate down the dosage in order to if I actually need as much as I am taking; less is always best in my book. However, I don’t normally stop any of the tried and true ones. When packing for a trip to Florida, I didn’t refill my tincture bottles; I thought I had enough for the ten day trip. I did have enough but when the trip ended up being extended for almost a month, I ran out. When I noticed my supplies getting low, I started to take half doses or even less. Unfortunately, I noticed some symptoms coming back and it became obvious that my body really needed more to ameliorate the symptoms. From a “scientific” point of view, this was great news. The tinctures were working very well. Although, it did make me rather uncomfortable until I returned home.

The most obvious absence was noticed from Chaste Berry (Vitex agnus-castus). I had been impressed with it for over a year, but forgot how uncomfortable I was before it became part of my daily routine. It’s one of those herbs that are known both by its Latin and colloquial names ~ Vitex or Chaste berry. It has a long history of use and was even mentioned in Homer’s the “Iliad” as a symbol of chastity, capable of warding off evil. The name “chaste” was referred to by the monks in the Middle Ages who used Chaste Berry to decrease sexual desire. Not sure it actually works that way on men, but it is known to increase the female libido.

Vitex is a reproductive herb. It acts on the brain’s pituitary gland, which controls and regulates all the other glands in the body along with regulating and normalizing hormone production by releasing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). This, in turn, signals the ovaries to produce more of the hormone progesterone. Vitex stimulates the pituitary gland and helps restores balance. Think of it as “rebooting the pituitary gland” and bringing balance and harmony back to the body. As a result, Vitex normalizes hormonal imbalances, such as those that can occur during menopause, premenstrual syndrome, or menstruation; it also helps dissolve fibroids and cysts.

I was experiencing a boatload of menopausal symptoms and found that combining Vitex, Motherwort, and Lady’s Mantle ameliorated almost all of them. I use Vitex primarily for adenomyosis, which is uterine thickening that occurs when endometrial tissue that normally lines the uterus moves into the outer muscular walls of the uterus. It is similar to endometriosis, but the tissues develop beyond the uterus. Before I found Vitex, this disease was very painful and woke me up most morning with a heavy pressure on my lower abdomen; it felt like someone was standing on me. It also caused flooding and severe cramps during menses. The gynecologist gave me three options ~ take painkillers or insert a hormone releasing vaginal ring or hysterectomy. She also mentioned that most symptoms dissipated after menopause. I decided to investigate what herbs were out there that could support my body during this time. I had heard and read about Vitex but there was no mention of ademomysis except it’s abilities to “reboot the pituitary” which relieved the pain of endometriosis along with dissolving fibroids and cysts; it just made sense to try it. Vitex tends to be slow acting; it usually takes three cycles to start working.  Lucky me, I started to feel relief within 3 weeks. All of sudden there was a sense of calm within me during the day and the painful morning started to become a memory (until I ran out).

Vitex has become a key player in my daily herbal routine. Every year I still experiment and titrate down the dosage but am quickly reminded how well it works keeping my discomfort at bay and how very grateful I am to have found it.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Adapt and Thrive

As I look back over 2017, it was without a doubt an atypical year for our world, our country, and our home. The saying, “adapt or die,” comes to mind but it makes more sense to me if I reword it “adapt and thrive.” It tends to resonate better for me, although I do indeed respect the original saying.

There is no way I can digest and respond to what has been going on in our world right now, it is too over whelming to tackle but I can focus on a small piece of our lives. This year, I’ve had very little time to focus on the natural world and harvesting herbs except for a couple of moments I stole here and there. With that said, Mike created a wonderful little nursery at our new home for some of my plant allies to move into.  Although, they had a very late start, they do appear to be adapting to their new home and thriving beyond my expectations. Some are even to starting to flower in mid-October!

After I transplanted Arnica (Arnica spp.), it appeared to wither, so I decided to cut off the tops, hoping it would help it concentrate on establishing its roots. For a month, it looked dead, except for a little leaf here or there emerging from the soil. Now it appears that it has settled in and enjoys its new home. It is leafing out nicely, I would be surprised if it flowers this year, but I’m looking forward to it spreading out in 2018.

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) seemed to make itself at home instantaneously. I didn’t have to provide much support except water during our dry periods.

Three years ago, I transplanted St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatumin) to my old garden. It didn’t come back until this spring, and it did robustly. I collected flowers daily until I moved some of it to our new nursery. It continued to send out flowers but I did not harvest any, allowing it to get acclimated to its new home. Well, it must like its new home, because it is now sending out fresh new aerial parts. I am mentally prepared to wait a couple of seasons before it revisits the nursery but hopeful that it will return next year.

When I moved to a little cottage in the woods in 1998, I became enamored with Spearmint (Mentha spicata). It was growing right outside my front door. After a summer of adding it to my water, sun tea and random dishes, I couldn’t imagine life without it. It really brightens up the day and I have been planting a little stem at each new home since. Spearmint is a rather vigorous plant, and you really don’t need much for it to get established. Perhaps it was not prudent to put it into our nursery as our little plant is really thriving, but we can always find it a new home on the land next year.

A dear friend gifted me Calendula (Calendula officinalis) seeds and although they had a very slow start, they are now sending out lots of lovely orange blossoms. I am hoping they self-seed next year.

Although the new house’s gardens had Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) already, I needed to bring some with me. I cut the aerial parts so it could concentrate on establishing roots. I am overwhelmed that it is already sending out flowers.

Mike was planting Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) seeds for his orchard garden, so I took a couple seedlings for the nursery. Besides its medicinal qualities, it’s a great asset to any garden, as its root secretions will activate the disease resistance of nearby plants; and it intensifies the medicinal actions of other herbs.

Mike also planted some Tulsi, a.k.a Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) seedlings that I transplanted into the garden, which has started to flower. I love how the bees’ pollen sacs are bright red from visiting the Tulsi.

Although, I didn’t have much time to spend with herbs this year, I am overwhelmed with their ability to thrive in our little nursery. I cannot wait to spend more time with them in 2018.

Feeling a little burnt out?

There are just those periods when life is merely overwhelming. Sometimes it’s because there are simply too many tasks to complete and not nearly enough time. Moreover, those times are days when you really need a good night’s sleep and it seems impossible to get more than four hours straight. Your body and mind are so fatigued, and everyday you feel worse. With no salvation in the near distance you just spiral downward, perhaps your body will give out and you will simply get very sick, ahhh now perhaps you will get those restful hours of sleep your body has needed for such a long time. Does this sound familiar? I think everyone must go through this from time to time; unfortunately, some experience this more often than not.

At those particular times, it is paramount to take care of ourselves; nonetheless, it is so difficult to do so. There are wonderful herbs known as adaptogens that can really make it easier to move through the day and not collapse. As the word implies, adaptogens increases your body’s ability to adapt and resist stress. It knows what your body needs and helps it adapt so you don’t reach the point of total burnout. When you are exhausted, they give you energy and when your nerves are frazzled, it soothes and calms them. Sounds wonderful, right? You bet it is.

There are a variety of adaptogens herbs out there. Today, I will be focusing on Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera). Ashwagandha (known as Indian Ginseng) has been used as an Ayurvedic herb for over 3000 years. Ayurveda classifies Ashwagandha as a rasayana, which is an herb that deeply rejuvenates and promotes longevity. And that’ something we all need.

There are two interpretations for the name Ashwagandha: the smell of a horse, perhaps because some people think the fresh root smells like horse’s urine and has a strong unpleasant taste but I prefer the other interpretation, the strength of a horse, since it is a wonderful energy builder. It increases the body’s ability to adapt and deal with tension and anxiety. It helps increase memory, facilitates learning, and promotes general well-being as it enhances stamina. Ashwagandha is excellent for both mental and physical fatigue. It can significantly reduce cortisol (which is released when stressed) concentrations and the immunosuppressive effect of stress.  Because it can both strengthen and calm the nervous system, it can help increase energy levels gently, meaning it won’t give you that crash and burn effect that sugar and caffeine often does. Taken over time, Ashwagandha can build up emaciated tissues, decrease the negative affects of stress and increase energy levels.

Since Ashwagandha is not overtly stimulating, one of its benefits is that it is a gentle sedative and supports healthy sleep cycles. Its Latin species name is somnifera, refers to its ability to support sleep. Instead of thinking of it as an herb for acute insomnia, it is something that when taken over time it can restore nervous system health and healthy sleep cycles.

Not only is Ashwagandha excellent in assisting the body adapt to stress it is used for a variety of degenerative, wasting and chronic diseases, including arthritis, TB, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Because it helps builds tissue and supports overall health it can help people regain their strength while strengthens and supporting the immune system.

Ashwagandha seems to help and strengthen the whole body. Research has found that it protects and supports the immune system, helps combat the effects of stress, improves learning, memory, and reaction time, reduces anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness, helps reduce brain-cell degeneration, stabilizes blood sugar, helps lower cholesterol, offers anti-inflammatory benefits, and actually enhances sexual potency for both men and women. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center notes the benefits of Ashwagandha on their website as it was “found to reduce growth of breast, central nervous system, colon, and lung cancer cells without affecting normal cells. It was shown to prevent chemotherapy-induced neutropenia in mice. In a small study of breast cancer patients, Ashwagandha alleviated chemo-induced fatigue and improved the quality of life.”

What’s not to love about this wonderful herb? Well, the taste tends to be a bit strong and unpleasant. That is why when I first started working with it; I made a wonderful herbal honey with it. I blend Ashwagandha powdered root with Buckwheat honey, which has an equally bold but yummy taste. It has a nice balanced flavor. The honey is perfect for sweeten tea, coffee, oatmeal but I enjoy it best on a peanut butter sandwich.  I also make a tincture with the roots for when I need a stronger and more consistent dose. The traditional Ayurvedic preparation of Ashwagandha is to simmer the root in milk, with a bit of honey added at the end.

Ashwagandha root may be found at your local health food store or at Mountain Rose Herbs.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

60%

During the first year or so of Mathew’s life, I came to the realization that at least 60% of his personality was formed in utero; perhaps even more. I spent hours watching him interacting with the world in his own personal way, on his own terms. It was fascinating, and I loved observing him move around the world, exploring it; everything he did had such bold intention. I tried my best not to take the lead and simply support his endeavors. When we went to the playground, I sat and watched, similar to an anthropologist, hoping not to change behaviors of their subjects. At times, I would hear, “Where is that boy’s Mom?” They thought he was abandoned. It made me giggle.

I came up with 60%, because life does happen and events and interactions do contribute to shape our personalities. However, there are certainly some core basic characteristics that we own and are solid part of our personalities from the very beginning.  Of course, this figure is my belief based on observations and nothing more. When I look at the lives and directions my brothers and myself have taken, it without a doubt validates this belief. Simply visualize a central point and draw 3 arrows, one proceeding north, one east and one west; you will get a picture of the different paths we have taken in our lives, even though we were all raised in the same loving home.

When I look back to my first memories, they are filled with dreams of exploring and adventures. I have always looked at the earth as my home and yearned to explore every part of it. During the first 7 years of my life, I lived on a very friendly street in Long Island. My exploration started with my block, I was known to walk into neighbors’ houses and make myself at home. Thank goodness everyone knew me and tolerated this behavior ~ a friendly and loving street indeed. I went to a block reunion years later and many of my old neighbors had stories of finding me in their homes, just checking things out or getting something to eat. I distinctly remember feeling that there were no boundaries; it was my block, my home and I was checking everything out. When I was around 5 years old, I dreamed of hiking down the block and building an igloo on the corner house’s lawn and living in it. I was preoccupied with designing and building this igloo. I can still remember it vividly. For my 6th birthday, my brother gave me a suitcase. Yes, a strange gift indeed, or perhaps he was telling me something? Regardless, I loved it; it had big purple flowers all over it. One day I packed it with my favorite blanket and headed towards the backyard. My Mom asked me what I was doing. I said, “Going out to play.” I walked into the backyard and climbed over the fence and started walking, I was going to explore the world. I wasn’t running away, I was going towards adventure.

Later we moved to a house in the woods. I spent my days exploring our backyard and following our stream for miles with my dog. These are just a few of my early memories of exploring.  I have not changed. I still look at the earth has my home and desire to explore it all to find out what’s here and there.

After 13 years, Mathew still moves around in the same bold way, but his preference and exploration is more focused on interacting with the cyber world. If he was left alone, I am not sure he would choose to explore anything else. The cyber world appears to possess infinite possibilities. I am happy to say that he can be still change gears and enjoy the natural wonders that our planet has to offer as well. Although, I do no share his fascination with the cyber world we do share the exploration of our wonderful planet.