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With three assignments due in and motivation at an all time low, there was a certain inevitability to the fact that I would end up in the kitchen making something yummy to see me through the tedium.

I’ve been wanting to make a healthier take on lavender biscuits for some time, as it’s a flavour I particularly enjoy, and this is the recipe I came up with using sprouted oat groats, brazil nuts and raw honey. It’s so quick and easy – though you need to be a bit prepared as the oats need about three days sprouting time before hand.

I wanted to make a gooey oreo style cookie with a cream filling and here is what I did.

For the Biscuit Base:
300g sprouted raw oat groats
150g brazil nuts (soaked overnight)
2 bananas
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
1 teaspoon ashwagandha powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (or a teaspoon of vanilla essence)
Small pinch himalayan crystal salt

To sprout the oats, soak over night, rinse thoroughly then leave to sprout in a specialised tray or a jar with muslin cloth over the top so the air can circulate. Rinse morning and evening with fresh water and strain. Make sure the groats you buy are not heat treated or they wont work.

The Basic Biscuits

Put the oat sprouts and soaked brazils in a food processor and blend until well broken down. Add the bananas, honey, salt and the ashwagandha powder, if you are using it, and process again, stopping and scraping down the sides a few times to ensure it is all evenly mixed. You can easily leave out the ashwagandha, I just added it to give me a little extra stability whilst studying as it’s a lovely calming adaptogenic herb. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the lavender flowers by hand. You should now have a gooey, sticky raw cookie dough that tastes delicious just as it is.

I made these in the dehydrator but if you don’t have one you could bake them in the oven on a low heat for a short time instead. If you do have a dehydrator, spread the mixture thinly on a teflex sheet and dehydrate for 12 hours. Flip the sheets, peel away the teflex and score the mixture into small squares before dehydrating for another 6 hours. Break them into the individual squares when finished.

They are very tasty like this but I wanted something a little more decadent so I decided to add the lavender macadamia cream as an indulgent filling.

Bliss Biscuits

For the Filling:
100g macadamia nuts
1/2 cup strong lavender tea
Tablespoon raw honey
1/2 tsp vanilla powder

Blend all the ingredients together until they form a thick cream. Add the liquid a little at a time, adding a bit more if it’s too thick to blend. You do want it to be pretty thick though so it doesn’t ooze out of the sides of the biscuits.

Layer the cream between two of the biscuit squares and enjoy! If you are planning to keep them longer than a couple of days it’s best to refrigerate the biscuits and the cream separately and assemble as you go along, they’ll last longer this way.

Yummy Macadamia and Lavender Cream Filling

With the cookies made (and eaten!) I have run out of excuses so I best get back to the grind stone!

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The best known wild food dish is probably nettle soup. There’s actually quite a lot you can do with nettles, using them in the same way you’d use spinach (except of course for in a baby leaf salad – ouch).

However nettle soup is still probably my favourite and I have it at least once a week at this time of year. To stop if from getting dull I do a few different variations which you can adjust according to your preferences.

The Classic Nettle Soup:

The classic nettle soup is essentially nettles, onion, garlic, stock, seasoning and a potato. Lightly fry the onion in a little olive oil, add the garlic, then the potato and stock and cook till the potato is tender. Add the nettles and cook for a couple of minutes to break down the stings, blend the whole thing up and voila. The potato makes it creamy and gives it a thicker consistency if you like a more substantial soup. What’s good about this recipe is that you can vary it quite a lot, adding lemon if you want something fresher or, my favourite on an early spring day when it’s still wee bit nippy out, chilli and rosemary. Nutmeg is also nice and you can use a can of cannellini beans to make the soup creamy instead of the potato.

Nettle, Leek and Herb Soup with Lemon Cashew Cream:

Herby Nettle and Leek with Cashew Cream

This is a really tasty soup and very quick and simple to whip up in a hurry. You’ll need:

For the Soup:

  • 2 leeks
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Colander full of nettles
  • Veggie stock
  • Fresh herbs- I use marjoram, sage and thyme, a few sprigs of each
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Lightly fry the leeks in the oil, add all the other ingredients, cook for just a couple of mins to break down the nettle stings, blend up and enjoy with a swirl of lemon cashew cream.

    For the Cashew Cream:

  • 1 cup cashews
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Blend all the ingredients in a high powered blender adding the water until you reach the desired consistency, it’s better a little thicker than regular cream would be.

    Raw Nettle Soup:

    Being a big fan of my nettles straight from the hedgerow as i wrote about here, I thought I’d try out a raw nettle soup, a bit like a nettle gazpacho, in order to keep all the nutrients in the nettles in their whole and vital state. I love this version, it so vibrant and energising, but it’s not to everyone’s taste… my hubby thinks it’s gross!

    Raw Nettle Soup

    All you have to do is blend together the following ingredients, pour into a bowl and serve. The speed and pressure of the blender will break down the nettle stings but make sure it’s blended completely smooth.

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 spring onion
  • 3 wild garlic leaves
  • About a centimeter ginger
  • Half an apple
  • Sprig of fresh herbs, chives, dill or thyme are nice
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh nettle tops with thick central stems removed
  • 1 cup water
  • Nettle Dahl:
    When I fancy something a bit more substantial one of my favourite dinners is a nettle dahl.

    Nettle Dahl


    I just make a simple dahl with red lentils, spices, onion, garlic and ginger and add the nettles for the last couple of minutes of cooking time.
    In fact you can add nettles to many of your favourite curry dishes, it works really well and is just as delicious as spinach, chard or other greens.

    Happy foraging, I’d love to hear your favourite nettle soup recipe if you have one.

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    Almonds are one of my favourite nuts (along with walnuts), not only because they’re so delicious but because there are so many things you can do with them. I have been making almond milk to drink every day for a couple of years but only recently have I been even more decadent and enjoyed almond milk baths. As I hate to waste, I try to use up the pulp left over from the almond milk in a variety of ways, including making face and body scrubs like the one below.

    Almonds are the most nutritious of all nuts containing calcium, magnesium, iron, Vitamin E, trace minerals and fatty acids. Using the milk in the bath helps soothe tired, dry, rough or dehydrated skin.

    Almond Milk Bath:

    1/2 cup almonds soaked for a few hours
    1 litre of water or herbal infusion of your choice, lavender or rose are beautiful for bath milk
    4 drops essential oils if desired, again you can’t go wrong with lavender, chamomile or sandalwood for soothing skin and helping you unwind

    Blend the almonds and water/infusion in a fairly powerful blender and strain through a jelly sieve or muslin cloth. Save the almond pulp that’s left over for making the scrub below. Stir in the essential oils and pour into a hot bath just before getting in. Let the day’s troubles float away.

    Almond Pulp Body Scrub:

    1 cup almond pulp
    1 tablespoon finely ground sea or crystal salt
    A teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon honey
    4 tablespoons sweet almond oil or other base oil
    1 tablespoon ground lavender flowers
    4-5 drops essential oils of your choice

    Mix all ingredients together and store in the fridge before taking into the shower with you and scrubbing your cares away.

    Ground almonds have been used in natural cosmetics for centuries for their beautifying and nutritious properties and the pulp from almond milk has many similar benefits though some of the fats and nutrients have already been extracted into the milk. It is also softer than normal ground almond after being blended with the water. The salt is cleansing, both physically and energetically as salt can help absorb any negative energies we have picked up throughout the day. The pepper will boost the circulation, the lavender and honey are soothing, healing and antiseptic and the oil helps trap moisture in, leaving you silky and smooth.

    You can always save a cup of the milk to sip whilst you recline in the tub, it’s nice warmed with some cinnamon and a touch of honey.
    Enjoy.

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    Eat leeks in March and ramsins in May
    And all the year after physicians may play.
    C.N. French A Countryman’s Day Book (1929) – Quoted by Gabrielle Hatfield

    Ramsons - A Woodland Treasure

    Ramsons, otherwise known as wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is one of my very favourite things to forage. Unlike a few other things which grace my plate at this time of year, I didn’t start eating them just because they were good for me, but because they are so unbelievably yummy! As luck would have it, they also happen to be an exceptional food for promoting health and wellbeing. As part of the same family as onion and garlic, they exhibit many of the same antibacterial properties, being useful to ward off infection and traditionally used to treat wounds in Scotland. As with normal garlic, Ramsons is a pungent remedy that aids the heart and circulatory system. It can help balance cholesterol and is therefore of use in preventing arteriosclerosis and boosting the memory. Maria Treben recommends it for “heart complaints and sleeplessness arising from stomach trouble and those complaints caused by arteriosclerosis or high blood pressure, as well as dizziness, pressure in the head and anxiety.” I would also recommend it for low blood pressure as its gift lies in its ability to equalise the circulation.

    My father-in-law bringing in the harvest

    As a blood cleanser, wild garlic is a wonderful addition to the spring diet and is of particular use in chronic skin conditions due to its alterative properties. It’s also a specific remedy for problems of the gastro-intestinal tract, helping everything from IBS to colitis to expeling parasites. It is particularly useful for bloating and gas due to its ability to balance the gut flora and discourage ‘unfriendly’ bacteria.

    Many people recommend adding ramsons to soups, bakes, stews etc, but I find it loses its flavour very quickly when cooked so I prefer to eat it raw, sliced thinly in salads, as a garnish or as a delicious pesto. To make ramsons pesto blend a couple of large handfuls of leaves with a 1/4 cup olive oil and a small handful of pine nuts or cashews. Its pretty potent and intensely garlicy so I don’t recommend it before a first date! Mix it 50/50 with basil or parsley to tone it down a bit or with other wild foods such as chickweed. It’s so vital and green you’ll feel healthier just looking at it!

    Wild Garlic Pesto

    You can find it growing in damp, shady woodlands and hedgerows or by streams, throughout the spring. It produces beautiful delicate white flowers a little later in the season which can also be eaten. Be careful not to confuse its long green leaves with those of Lilly of the Valley, which is poisonous – you can easily tell the difference however because of the intense garlic aroma which belongs to Ramsons.

    The Swiss herbalist Abbe Kuenzle, heaps praise upon this woodland wonder. According to Treben, he writes, “It cleanses the whole body, rids it of stubborn waste matters, produces healthy blood and destroys and removes poisonous substances. Continually sickly people, as those with herpes and eczema, pale looks, scrofula and rheumatism should venerate Ramsons like gold. No herb on this earth is as effective for cleansing the stomach, intestines and blood. Young people would burst into bloom like the roses on a trellis and sprout like fircones in the sun.”

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    There are two things that nearly all students excel at, and they are procrastination and snacking. With a big exam coming on Wednesday I realised I’d have no chance of studying without a pile of suitable snacks to keep me going and so I decided to combine these two well refined art forms in order to make some tasty treats. They are based on Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe for Zoom Balls which contain guarana and kola nut and are a bit too stimulating for a wee sensitive soul such as myself! So I’ve changed it about a bit and added some more suitable herbs and come up with these two varieties, the stress soothers and the brain boosters.

    Brigitte also has a lovely recipe for Energy Balls here which utilises more everyday kitchen ingredients and is great if you don’t want to fork out for lots of herbal powders.

    Basic Ball Ingredients: (For both variants)
    * 1 cup nut butter. I like to make my own with a combination of almonds and hazelnuts- the hazel being the Celtic tree of wisdom, I figure it’s a good addition to any study snacks!
    * 1/4 cup tahini.
    * 1/2 cup reasonably runny honey. Preferably good quality and local. I like to use Borage honey as borage has such an affinity with the adrenals and nerves.
    * 1/2 cup walnuts- broken into small pieces. Walnuts are thought to be good for the brain because of the beneficial oils they contain as well as their ‘signature’ or resemblance to it.
    * 1/4 cup hulled hemp. You could use sunflower or other seeds instead.
    * 1/4 cup carob powder.
    * 1 tsp cinnamon powder.
    * 1 tsp cardamom powder.
    * Small pinch sea salt or himalayan crystal salt.
    * Enough dessicated coconut for rolling.

    For the Stress Soothers;
    Add the following herbs which will help you feel mellow and grounded.
    1/2 cup Eleuthro powder
    1/2 cup Gotu Kola powder
    1/2 cup Ashwagandha powder
    1 Tbs Liquorice powder

    For the Brain Boosters;
    Add the following to boost memory and aid circulation.
    1/2 cup Gotu Kola powder
    1/2 cup Brahmi powder
    1/3 cup Rhodiola powder
    1/3 cup Gingko powder

    You can also make your own variations depending on what you have around.

    First mix your nut butter, honey and tahini in a large bowl.

    Then add the powders, carob, nuts, salt and seeds and mix thoroughly.

    Pull off bits of the mixture and roll into balls about yay big.

    Finally, cover the surface of a plate in dessicated coconut and roll the balls in it until coated.

    Enjoy immediately or leave to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

    Now thats done, my brain is boosted, I’m calm and centred… I suppose I should get down to some work 🙂

    The trouble with studying herbs, is that the wonder of the plants themselves are always distracting me from my books.
    I’m reminded of these lovely lines from Rumi;
    Love lit a fire in my chest, and anything
    that wasn’t love left: intellectual
    subtlety, philosophy
    books, school.
    All I want now
    to do or hear
    is poetry.

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    Over the last month or so we’ve been getting a lot of oranges in our organic fruit and veg box. I guess the apples and pears are running low so they’re bulking up the local produce with a few things from further afield. I don’t usually go for oranges but I’ve found myself enjoying them more and more and have been inspired to use the peel in a variety of ways as well as eating the fruit.

    Orange peel has many beneficial qualities, being higher in vitamin C, flavanoids and enzymes than the fruit itself. I have been using large strips of it fresh in teas, on its own or with other herbs, and also cutting it into smaller pieces and drying for future use.

    The peel has long been used in Chinese Medicine, from both the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and the bitter (Citrus aurantium) as well as from tangerines (Citrus reticulata). It had several key functions including ‘moving the chi’ to reduce any accumulations, or congestions, whether in the respiratory tract, bowel or liver.

    Primarily a digestive aid, orange peel is aromatic, carminative, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic and can help with bloating, wind and constipation. The bitter orange peel is more cooling and than its warmer, sweeter cousin and so has a greater affinity with the liver and gallbladder being both a cholagogue and a choleretic. Sarah Head has written a lovely post on citrus bitters on her blog which you can read here.

    Being thermogenic, orange peel can boost the metabolism which makes it helpful for weight loss, as does its ability to aid in digesting fatty foods.

    Also high in vitamins A and C, orange peel can be helpful for building a healthy immune system and warding off coughs and colds. It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and has high levels of antioxidants, making it very suitable as an addition to any immune tonic blends.
    Immune tonic tea with orange peel, cinnamon, elderberries, cardamom and ginger.

    It also contains d-limonene, as does lemon peel, a substance which has been shown to inhibit tumour growth in some studies and which is currently being more fully researched.

    The orange family also gives us a whole host of wonderful essential oils including tangerine and mandarin. The sweet orange oil, which is expressed from the peel of the Citrus sinensis variety, is uplifting, warming, anti-depressant and emotionally balancing, bringing some of the joy of childhood to a gloomy day. Citrus aurantium gives us no less than three precious oils, bitter orange, from the fruit, petitgrain, from the leaves and twigs and neroli, from the blossoms. Neroli is one of my favourite oils so I will be sure to write more on it in the future.

     

    Here are three simple ways you can incorporate the health giving properties of orange peel into your life. Always remember to use organic oranges as toxins from pesticide sprays will be stored in the skin.

    Orange Peel, Ginger and Cinnamon Infused Honey:
    This harnesses the anti-bacterial and warming properties of the orange peel.
    Place several long strips of orange peel in the bottom of a glass jar. I use a vegetable peeler to avoid taking too much of the white pith. Add five or six slices of fresh ginger and two cinnamon sticks broken into small pieces. Fill up the jar with good quality, raw honey and stir to release any air bubbles. Leave to infuse for about three weeks, stirring daily for the first few days. Strain the honey and place it in a fresh, clean jar. Use a spoonful in teas or any other way you fancy.

    Orange Peel and Cardamom Tea
    The combination of orange peel and cardamom enhances the digestive properties of both these herbs and makes a delicious after dinner cuppa.

    Orange Peel and Lavender Tea
    This tea can be made with fresh or dried herbs and is so lovely for balancing and calming the emotions and inducing a sense of peaceful contentment.

    Sweet Orange Oil Footbath
    You can’t beat this one for banishing the winter blues and bringing a smile to even the most jaded of lips. Dilute four drops of sweet orange oil in a tablespoon of base oil such as sweet almond and swish into a lovely hot foot bath. It’s always important to dilute essential oils before adding them to the water or they can irritate the skin.

     

    All this talk of oranges reminded me of a poem I used to like many years ago. I dug it out and am including it here for your pleasure. To me, it sums up perfectly the generous gifts of joy the orange tree so kindly bestows upon us.

    The Stolen Orange by Brian Patten

    When I went out I stole an orange
    I kept it in my pocket
    It felt like a warm planet

    Everywhere I went smelt of oranges
    Whenever I got into an awkward situation
    I’d take out the orange and smell it

    And immediately on even dead branches I saw
    The lovely and fierce orange blossom
    That smells so much of joy

    When I went out I stole an orange
    It was a safeguard against imagining
    There was nothing bright or special in the world.

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    As promised, here is the recipe for my rose and cardamom chocolates. I’ll give you the basic chocolate recipe which can then be varied in infinite ways to make any flavour you fancy indulging in. I made nearly 400 of these for my wedding last year and added in a little sprinkle of aphrodisiac herbs and some flower remedies that resonate with the heart to complete the effect.

    The basic recipe could not be easier and contains only 4 ingredients, plus the flavourings, should you choose to use them. These chocolates are raw and vegan so are fine for most people. Chocolate has been shown to have many health benefits, such as a high magnesium and antioxidant content, however most commercially available chocolate also has a lot of sugar and dairy which detracts from this. Despite the benefits, chocolate is still a stimulating herb so I would recommend you do as I say and not as I do, and eat it in small quantities. 🙂 The ingredients are a little pricey to purchase but will last a long time if you get a reasonable amount. They are mostly available from good health shops or online retailers like Raw Living and Indigo Herbs. Practitioners, students or those in the trade can get great discounts buying through Tree Harvest.

    These amounts are enough for 3 to 4 chocolate moulds depending on their size and depth. I have bought all my moulds from Cakes, Cookies and Crafts, which do a fabulous selection, including leaves, flowers, hearts, dinosaurs and even halloween themed skulls and spiders!

    Ingredients:
    120g raw cacao powder
    100g raw cacao butter
    20g virgin coconut butter
    80g agave nectar
    Tiny pinch of crystal or sea salt

    2 drop rose essential oil
    2 drop cardamom essential oil
    Flower remedies (optional)

    The easy rule is that the total weight of the butters equals the total amount of chocolate powder. This makes a fairly intense chocolate but you can add more butters if you want it less so. You can also play around with the proportions of the butters. I only add a small amount of coconut butter as it can be quite ‘fatty’ and give the finished chocolates a very low melt point but you could add more, or omit it altogether and just use cacao butter, as you like. Equally you can add a little more agave, up to about 100g, if you want the end product to be sweeter.

    So what you do is melt the butters, gently, in a bain marie/ double boiler and when they are completely liquid stir in the sieved chocolate powder and agave syrup until well mixed and the consistency of melted chocolate. Add a pinch of salt and 2 drops each of your chosen essential oils and stir well. Using a spoon, fill your moulds and pop in the fridge for an hour before tucking in. It really couldn’t be simpler!

    I use rose otto and cardamom essential oils in this recipe but you could substitute ground cardamon, though the finished chocolate would not have quite such a smooth consistency. Rose on its own is also beyond divine!

    I recommend adding just four drops of your chosen essential oils for this quantity of chocolate. Drop them onto a teaspoon first to prevent any extra falling in the mixture as they are so intense it can alter (and ruin) the whole thing. It’s imperative when using essentail oils internally to buy only organic, food grade quality oils as many of the cheaper brands are diluted or mixed with solvents and could be quite toxic. I mostly buy oils from Materia Aromatica.

    Some of my favourite flavours for chocolates are;
    Orange and Geranium
    Lavender
    Peppermint
    Lime with Chilli
    Orange and Ginger

    You can also add nuts, dried fruits, herbal powders, crystalised ginger, pollen… the possibilities are endless.

    For rose chocolates I like to use a few drops of flower remedies that work with the heart chakra such as Hawthorn and Lime flower as well as a pinch of a suitable herb such as powdered Hawthorn Berry. If using the Dr Bach essences, Holly would be a good choice. For orange chocolates energising essences like Olive (Bach) or Sycamore are nice and for Lavender, calming and soothing essences work well. Dr Bach’s White Chestnut would be a good choice.

    Due to its stimulating nature chocolate works quite well as a carrier herb, helping deliver the other medicinal ingredients throughout the body. I always see food as a medicine and adding herbs, flower remedies and essential oils to my chocolates, soups, smoothies, honeys, vinegars, salad dressings, pretty much everything really, has become second nature.

    I hope you enjoy making these little treats and experiment with them as freely as I have!

    Peppermint, Ginkgo and Gotu Kola oak leaves and Lavender and Ashwagandha hearts .

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