Six Easy Steps for Herbal Infusions

Making an infusion is similar to making tea.  Once you know which herbs you want and if you are using fresh, frozen, or dried, the rest is easy.

For this example, I am using fresh Holy Basil from my garden.  Holy Basil is an "adaptogen" - which helps the body adapt to stress.  

Step One:

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Harvest the stems and leaves before flowers form, in early morning, just after the dew is off. That's the ideal. However, these I harvested at 5:45 a.m. because that is when I needed to make my infusion.  Also, the tops had flowered, so I used them.  Amount?  Enough for 2+ tablespoons fresh per cup of water. (If using dried herbs, use 1+ tablespoon per cup of water.)

Step Two:

Rinse off any obvious dirt.  

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Step Three:

Strip the leaves and flowers to use.  (Some people also use the stems.)

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Step Four:

Chop Coarsely.

Step Five:

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Place the herbs in either a mason jar or a french press.  When I began making infusions I used a mason jar and then strained the herbs through a cheesecloth.  If you are going to make infusions several days a week, invest in a french press to save you time.

Steep for 4 hours minimum.  The longer the herb steeps (generally), the stronger the infusion.  I either make my infusion at night and let it steep overnight to drink in the first few hours of the day, or begin steeping in the morning and drink during the afternoon.

Step Six:

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Drink the infusion within a day or two, putting it in the refrigerator if over 12-24 hours.  Or freeze the infusion in ice cube trays.  This is especially useful for infusions you want to use as herbal remedies.  For example, if you want sweet basil, chamomile, and mint to steep together for 4 hours to help with digestion or headaches, you don't want to wait 4 hours for relief.  Having it made and frozen, you can pour boiling water over 2-3 cubes and have instant help.

If you have questions, or ways that you make infusions, I'd love to chat in the comments.

The best ways to get a family healthy together

Families are pulled into so demands and distractions, and away from living healthy together.  I've worked with several couples and families to improve their exercise and nutrition and I want to share the best ways I've found to help all ages get healthy together.

Your journey starts with questions:

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  • What are the personalities of your family members?  Who is competitive? Who is high-energy? Who prefers solo or methodical activities?  On the other hand, who gets bored easily or wants lots of people involved? While no one will get their liking every time, include each person's regularly.
  • What are the strengths of each family member?  Organized? Research-oriented? Creative? Curious?  You'll want to use each person's strengths to get them excited about the activities.  For example, who can research what supplies to take on a day-hike?  Who can find three hiking trails to pick between?  Who can pack sandwiches for after a hike?  The answers should not all be "Mom."
  • Is your goal to get everyone active and eating well for the moment or to stimulate a love of movement and good food for a lifetime?  (I'm going to guess the latter, so my ideas below reflect a lifetime goal.)

Physical Activity ideas I have seen be fantastic for busy families:

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  • Walk and talk.  This foundational activity is so important.  Even just once a week, perhaps on a Sunday afternoon, allows a free-flow of conversation and builds trust.  My personal experience is from my mother and I walking when I was very young.  By the time I hit my teenage years and needed a sounding-board, we were already in the habit of walking and talking.
  • Jump-rope contests for the competitive ones.  And talk about funny video/photo moments!
  • Too cold out?  Do what my friend, Devika Kumar (the owner of Hendersonville CycleBar) does with her daughter - turn on some funky music and have a dance-off
  • Martial arts.  Most martial arts gyms have both adult and youth classes available.  If there is traditional exercise equipment available, parents can lift weights/cycle while the kids are in class.  Then the kids can do homework while the parents are taking class.  It's not "together" - but it is a shared experience you can discuss.
  • Water sports.  Kayak.  Canoe.  Sail-boat.  Stand-up paddleboard.  Unless you live by the water, these are not daily activities.  But they are great to add in the activity mix and fun motivation, learning skills together.  "The reason we are doing X exercise is so we won't be sore when we paddleboard this summer."
  • Cycling. Depending on your neighborhood your kids may ride bikes all summer, or you may take them to a park to ride.  Simply get a bike for yourself and join them.  And those squats you are doing during the winter will help you with that this summer.
  • Gardening.  Start small.  (Containers or a 4'x4' raised bed.)  This is a great way to introduce kids to how food is grown and get them away from the screen and into the sunshine.
  • Hiking.  A classic family exercise.  But with a few challenges to overcome.  One family I took hiking had one child who was older and faster. The younger child, said she wanted hike the "tough trail" - and, as anticipated, half-way through started complaining.  Watching for frogs, bugs, deer, and so forth proved the distraction she needed.  Lesson?  Even if a child says "let's do the big one" - stick to the easier trails first.
  • Movement games.  This idea goes against "traditional" exercise.  I worked with a family whose father was a "go-hard-or-go-home" exerciser.  The 10-ish year old girls were not.  My goal was to create movement the girls enjoyed and memories that would encourage them to stay active all of their lives.  Frisbee golf, roller-blading, tag games, and so on got them moving and sweating...at least with each other and with Mom.

What about healthy eating for busy families?

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  • One family decided to take one summer and deeply connect.  Little to no electronics and gadgets and passive-entertainment.  They spent their free time cooking from scratch, walking and playing games, and doing projects around the house.  "Busy" did not allow them to do that during the school year, but for a few weeks during the summer they traded passive-busy for connection and healthy eating.  Even now the mother says she keeps some of the cooking habits she taught herself that summer.  (Side note: the family lost weight without trying.)
  • A family I helped start eating healthy decided to divide the meal duties as follows: together they (or the mom/dad) decide the menu for the week and write it on the kitchen chalkboard; the parents order the food; the son (who wants opportunities to drive) picks up the food; the father and daughter have weekly connection time while pre-chopping the veggies for the week; the mom gets her creative outlet in cooking - without having to cut vegetables every day.  Then the kids alternate nights cleaning the kitchen.  The family discovered and used each person's strengths.

Three tips for the "busy-ness":

 Shameless boast.  This is my cousin who is heading off to college next year on a baseball scholarship.  We're so proud!

Shameless boast.  This is my cousin who is heading off to college next year on a baseball scholarship.  We're so proud!

  • As kids get older and want to hang out with friends, invite the friends to participate in the exercise or cooking.  This means less time playing chauffeur.
  • "Together" does not have to be "physically together" all of the time. If your goal as a family is to run/walk a 5K together, everyone can train during the week when their schedule allows, then train together on Saturday mornings.
  • Sports-families (like my cousin's above) have a challenge.  Perhaps one child is in baseball and basketball.  Another in gymnastics and swimming.  A third is hooked on video-games. What I've seen work beautifully is each year encouraging each child to select one sport, so there is more time for family activity.  The video-games?  You have to decide how you want to limit that.  But while you are waiting on the baseball game to start, frisbee in the parking lot sounds like a lot more fun to me.

 

 

 

Take Three: Healthy School Lunches and Snacks

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I don't mean take three lunches.  (Though, if you can take a mid-morning snack, a lunch, and a mid-afternoon snack that's great.  However, not all schools allow a place and time for snacks.)

Here's what I do mean: a reader asked for ideas for healthy lunch options for her son going back to school.  My response:  Powerful Plate, of course.  A whole-sprouted-grain bread sandwich with chicken or turkey (no nitrates or junk), lots of cut veggies with hummus or peanut butter, and fruit.  But a year of just that would get boring and the ice cream bin at school would become a very tempting substitute.

So, I reached out to some friends and got three great takes (hence the "Take Three") on Healthy School Lunches and Snacks.  One of the coolest things I noticed -- there is a lot of overlap PLUS a lot of individualization, depending on likes/dislikes and personal schedules. Just the way it is supposed to be. 

Enjoy (and personalize) their ideas --

"I do try to have fresh fruit in my kids' lunches, and buy lots of healthy protein bars for snacks- I'll mix a big salad and put it in separate containers for the week and add dressing the morning of and mix. I buy whole grain bread and make sandwiches and I do cheese and crackers a lot, string cheese, and peanut butter or ranch dressing and carrots. (My girl likes pb and my boy likes ranch) I also do yogurt a lot for snacks and lunches. And I actually feed my kids a full meal after school, because they both have sports until later in the evening. So after sports they will snack."  Thanks for sharing...Christine Carter at TheMomCafe.com

"From Pinterest I make batches of healthy breakfast cookies. There's all kinds of recipes. And then I send one or two with each of my kids to eat when they get hungry. Could be snack time for my young ones or after school on the bus for the older ones. They decide. It's homemade, healthy, and tasty. They loved it!" Thanks for sharing...Lois Pearson at SunnysideWoman.com

"I provide my kids with healthy snacks to have during school time, and they only bring water to drink. I make their lunches so I know they're eating healthy. They have lunchmeat that qualifies for the heart check program, whole wheat bread, baked chips, yogurt or fruit." Thanks for sharing...Brenda Melendez at brendalovessharing.com

The other thing I noticed...all of these ideas work for adults, too.  Prep ahead the salad, make the breakfast cookies, and toss in some yogurt and fruit.

Share what you do for healthy lunches.

What to plant in your fall garden

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It's spring

again, kind of

Thanks to one of the ViREO Life readers for asking what to plant in a fall garden.  The answer is "Like spring, almost."

The cool weather (spring/fall) crops will germinate faster in the fall, due to the warmer soil.  And some spring pests (cabbage worms, especially) I have found less of an issue in the fall.  The real difference for me is have available floating row covers for when killing frosts begin, to extend the harvest into November and December.

What I plant and why:

  • Beets - the green leaves to blanch and freeze; the beet root to store in the fridge through the winter
  • Lettuce - but much less, since we eat fewer salads in the fall
  • Greens - kale, swiss chard, spinach, as many as the beds will hold, to be able to freeze for the winter (or if a mild winter, cover and eat out of the garden in December).
  • Radishes - I can get two batches of radishes in because they grow quickly.  I won't eat as many radishes as we grow, but I blanch the radish greens with my other greens for freezing.  We get a lot of food grown in a small space because of the 30 days maturity time.  (This means if you live near me and like radishes, you may end up "gifted" with a few.)

Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts - I do not plant these in the fall, simply due to space.  In the spring I plant them in the same bed where sweet potatoes are started.  By fall the bed is covered to overflowing with sweet potato vines and there is no room.  If you have the space, plant them again as you would in the spring.

Plants I have tried unsuccessfully to "over-winter" are leeks and onions and garlic.  If you want to try planting them in the fall, do so.  If you are successful, let me know what you did so I can try again.

When to start your fall garden?  Late August and early September seem to work for us to sow seeds.  By the time seeds have germinated the weather is cooler.  If I was planting broccoli and cabbage plants, I would not plant them in August, due to the heat.  Other gardeners plant in August, in a shadier spot.

One last note about fall gardens:  if you are planning to plant cover crops (oats, vetch, winter rye, etc.) where your summer crops were, let me know and I'll blog separately about cover crops.  That has been a study-then-learn-by-oops experience for us that I'm happy to share.

Happy and healthy gardening!

Basil in a Bag ... now you can try it at home

A few weeks ago I planted some basil seeds in pre-bagged product.  (See video here.)

Four of the six seeds germinated.  Now, what to do with them?  Eat with tomatoes, of course. Make a basil tea as medicine (yep - details are in the video). Store for the winter.  (Watch to learn how.)

Happy growing.

Remember, you can find your path and fulfill your potential.

Behind the Scenes of Cooking with Jack

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Getting ready to launch my YouTube channel with Jack Scalfani...on his Cooking with Jack show.  

Click here for the link to the episode.  And enjoy some behind the scenes pictures below...

 Jack setting up his camera (stating the obvious, huh?)

Jack setting up his camera (stating the obvious, huh?)

 Checking the lighting (on my channel I'm not quite that sophisticated yet)

Checking the lighting (on my channel I'm not quite that sophisticated yet)

 Filming is in progress.  Notice his great lamp in the back!!!

Filming is in progress.  Notice his great lamp in the back!!!

Great action shot!  (Actually I'm tossing away a wrapper into the trash.)

We're having fun!

The end result is YUMMY!