Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Buzz About Argan Oil

Had my hair done yesterday and my veteran stylist of many moons asked me if I would like my freshly shorn & colored locks to be given a finishing spray of "Moroccan oil"? "Argan oil, I prompted? She drew a blank at the word "argan", so I asked to read the product's label which I knew would say argan on it and it did. "It's the hot thing in hair care!" she parried. "What's it derived from?" I asked (ie animal,plant,or other). None of the beauticians in the salon were certain but the manager thought it was made from a plant. She advocated their line of Moroccan oil products to me. So, I let Angela spray me with it and it imparted a nice shine and pleasing scent.

 Argan oil has been shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, strengthen elasticity, protect against stretch marks, and improve skin’s overall health and vitality. Traditionally, the women of Morocco have utilized argan oil as the foundation of their beauty regimen, applying it to their skin, hair and nails. It is derived from the pressed nuts of the Argania Spinosa tree that is indigenous to Morocco.The oil is rich in naturally occurring antioxidants, essential fatty acids, carotenoids, ferulic acid, sterols, polyphenols, and contains remarkably high levels of vitamin E. Argan Oil contains Squalene, a unique and rare component which is suggested to protect against skin cancer. Argan oil is traditionally used for skin, hair and nail care, cooking, massage, the prevention of stretch marks, and the natural healing of dermatological disorders. It is referred to as "food for the skin."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Frosted Violet Jam

Sweet Spring violets can be made into a lovely, purple jam. Gather one packed cup of these pretty flowers and put them into a blender or food processor with three quarters of a cup of Spring water and the juice of one lemon. Blend to a coarse paste and add two and one half cups of organic sugar and whir til dissolved. Heat three quarters of one cup of Spring water in a heavy saucepan. Stir in one package of powdered pectin (Pomona's Universal Pectin works well) and bring to a rolling boil for one minute. Add this mixture to the blender or processor and combine for a minute or so. Pour the fragrant jam into small, sterilized jars and seal. Store in the freezer. This pleasing jam is delicious on Country white toast, scones, and between layers of cake (Victoria Sponge is a good choice).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tea Leaf Eggs

Make a baker's dozen of these spice~marbled eggs to serve as deliciously different bruncheon fare :

                         Ingredients :   13 organic eggs
                                               one quarter cup loose black tea leaves
                                               3 tablespoons soy sauce
                                               1 teaspoon sea salt
                                               3 teaspoons Chinese five~spice powder

                          To Brew :  Cover eggs with water in a cooking pot, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer for five minutes. Remove the eggs to a collander and bathe with cold water. Set eggs on a paper towel and gently tap each one with the back of a metal spoon to visibly crack the shell all over. Put the eggs back into the cooking pot and cover with fresh water ; add the tea leaves,soy sauce,sea salt, and spice powder. Bring to another boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover pot, and gently brew for thirty minutes : carefully stirring the eggs occasionally. Remove from heat and cool eggs in the infusion for one hour. Peel to eat at room temperature or store refrigerated for two days time. Serve on a nest of cellophane noodles or steamed edamame.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March Meanderings

Today's brisk air is brimming with Full Moon energy : looking foward to tapping into it upon moonrise.
Meyer lemons are now in the markets here, along with bundles of watercress,asparagus, and rhubarb. Their beautiful yellow zest & citrus inside yields an intense lemon flavour. The juice was the perfect accent to a lunchtime "naanwich" of Tandoori-spiced chicken. Discovered a new garden center to prowl in the hope of finding out-of-the-ordinary herbs & seeds. Planning to add mugwort,motherwort,and pennyroyal to the garden this year. The tiger lillies and chives have broken ground, while the yarrow,Lady's mantle,lamb's ears,and catnip are all sporting new leaves. Pruned the briar rose and raspberry canes in the afternoon sun of St.Patrick's day : the lavender bed is next(soon, but not today). 
Spied a "kitchen" tarot deck at the bookstore earlier today and another deck with an "enchanted faery pendulum". Both were imaginative though a bit too whimsical for serious divination. "So much to do,so little time" to usher in the Vernal Equinox. May Lady Day bring  the solace of Spring to those who seek Her renewal and light.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

For Those Who Wander

If you are lost without the benefit of a GPS or compass, you can use these three ways to determine which direction you are facing :

          1.)  The Watch (daytime) : this method only works when using a traditional watch with hands.Take your watch off and point the hour hand at the sun.Halfway between the end of the hour hand and the twelve o'clock is due South : hence, at 8:00 am, the halfway point is 10:00 am; while at 4:00pm, the halfway point is 2:00pm. If it's a cloudy day and you can not see the sun,  hold a pen,pencil,or small straight stick,upright on the watch dial.Unless it is very overcast, a faint shadow will be cast, so you can work out where the sun is in the sky.

           2.) The Stars (nighttime) : find the brightest star in the sky ~ one that you can easily see.Using a stick, look along its length at the star, as if you are looking down the sight of a gun, and make sure you keep as steady as you are able.Wait a minute or so for the star to move.

                  * If the star has moved left, you are looking North.
                  * If the star has moved right, you are looking South.
                  * If the star has moved up, you are looking East
                  * If the star has moved down, you are looking West.
             3.) The Stick & Shadow Method : (this takes time and only works on sunny days) : push a straight stick into the ground.Mark the end of the shadow it casts, using a small stone or rock, or by scratching a mark in the ground.Keep repeating this every hour or so ~ the place where the shadow is shortest (that is, is closest to the base of the stick) points to the North.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Irish Brown Bread

This recipe yields one large,craggy loaf that is the perfect accompaniment to a bubbling cauldron of potato~leek soup.

Ingredients ~

4 cups (13 1/2 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
2 to 3 tablespoons organic sugar
1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (@ room temperature)
2 tablespoons melted butter (1 ounce)

 Method ~
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk and the oil or butter. Stir together until blended—some lumps will remain. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead about 10 times, or until it all holds together. Form it into a large ball and place it on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut a deep cross in the top: according to Irish lore,this releases the faeries from the dough! Bake the bread in a preheated 400°F oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until it tests done (a cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spring Prelude

March blew into the Northeast yesterday with a chill wind and fluffy clouds of blustery countenance. The last day of February was sunny and still. Swept the porch of Winter debris, scattered the salt hay bale around the yard, and hung out a wind chime. The Sylphs of Springtime are indeed ushering in the winds of change. All around there are harbingers of the season-to-come : budding quince and forsythias, cooing mourning doves, and lengthening daylight hours. Green chickweed is already creeping into the garden beds : time to tidy them of their Autumn leavings on the next warm day.This seasonal transition conjures cravings for greens and Hot Cross buns. The front door's now adorned with glittering trefoils in a wreath,St.Brigid's cross,and shamrock gel clings on the window trio. Saint Pat's is just around the corner. The Long Island celebration is far from veneration for Catholicism and is a parade & party event to show Irish pride. Time for a visit to the local Celtic shop to buy Cadbury chocolates and potato crisps to give the kids a taste of Ireland to mark the occasion. It's important to acknowledge their paternal heritage, despite the holiday's association with the church's attempt to drive the pagans (symbolized by snakes) out of The Emerald Isle. Hopefully, there will soon be a working oven in the kitchen from which to produce Soda breads and a brisket (corned beef). Be on the lookout for Mad March Hares : hares acting oddly might be shape-shifters or "were-hares." These dangerous creatures can only be dispatched by a silver bullet, or a bullet dipped in rue or rowan tea! LOL Actually, it was the hare's Sprintime courtship displays that gave rise to this curious lore. Unlike rabbits, hares don't dig burrows. Instead, when they are alarmed or need to rest, they crouch down flat in little hollows in the ground known as "forms". The hare's apparent ability to vanish out of sight made people believe that the animal had magickal powers.