Sunday, March 3, 2013

Herbal Butter, Oils & Salad Dressings: my favorite ways to incorporate herbs and fats into my diet


            If you have ever wondered what you can do with all of your fresh herbs in the summer, besides drying and freezing, I have several fun ideas for you! One of my favorite ways to incorporate these extra herbs, along with healthy fats, into my many cooking dishes is by making and using herbal butters, oils and salad dressings! Besides that, I also love to incorporate fresh herbs and lots of greens into my salads, such as dandelion, arugula, chard, kale, and purslane!
            Butter, glorious butter! The list of health benefits of butter, especially when it’s of pastured, organic and raw is a very compelling one. Butter contains many vitamins (A, D, K and E), the first of which is crucial for the thyroid gland to stay healthy; as well iodine, selenium and more, which helps improve the immune function and metabolism, protects the body against heart disease, arthritis, gastrointestinal infections; helps the body better absorb calcium and phosphorous, which are essential for strong bones and teeth; and lastly is rich in saturated fats, so it is very good for lung function, and also rich in omega-3 and -6 medium-chain fatty acids, which is important for skin health, and brain function (see resources).
making my favorite herbal butter
         
 My herbal butter recipe isn’t exact, and I use whatever is easily available.

Jennifer’s Herbal Butter:
-1/4 lb pastured organic cultured butter at room temperature
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 3-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ tsp dried sage, tarragon, and rosemary
*in summer substitute the green onions for a few handfuls of chives, and fresh herbs*

-when the butter is at room temperature, put all ingredients into a bowl, mix thoroughly, put into a jam jar and store in the fridge

            Next, some background on herbal oils. I personally have learned to use extra virgin olive oil, from trader joe’s, because a friends’ family from Spain said it was the highest quality (just from smelling it). Though, I trust that they, along with Italian friends of mine, know good olive oil. Otherwise, I buy bulk organic from the co-op, both of these sources have turned out to be excellent for herbal-infused oils. Besides the above suggestion, here are a few things I have learned from reading traditional food recipes about good oils and fats.
            Besides butter, other fats I add to most dishes are oils, specifically olive oil, though coconut oil and flax-seed oil are also excellent to cook with. Personally, I prefer using olive oil because it is multi-purposeful, so I can use it to make salad dressing, beauty products such as creams, and lotion, and salves, an ‘herbal ointment’. Also, olive oil is very rich in antioxidants, vitamin E, and the monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid), which is shown to protect against heart disease. If you would like to use different oil, you can  substitute with almond, sunflower or grape seed oil.

Yarrow Infused Olive Oil for
EXTERNAL use only
Herbal-Infused Oil Recipe:
            Here is how to make the basic infused-herbal oil, from what I learned in Lise Wolff’s “3 Seasons of Herbal Medicine”, course.
-Take fresh plant material, and wilt for 8-24 hours so enough moisture will be out of the plant, as to not cause any mold growth (which would ruin the oil)
-After the allotted time, rip or cut up the herb, and pack down into a jar, making sure there is at least 2 inches of head space
-Pour in oil, to fully cover the herb, and if the herb floats above the oil, hold down with rocks 
-Infuse for 4-6 weeks in a cool, dark location. Though, I infuse it in the sun, because how can herbs be harmed by sunlight, they do synthesize it into energy after all.
 -After 4-6 weeks, strain through a fine-metal strainer and rebottle. 
*For a measurement-based recipe see the book Herbs & Spices book in resources*

            Now for what you’ve been waiting for, background about   store-bought salad dressings, and a recipe on making your own healthy version at home! Salad dressings you buy in the store, even if they are low-fat, organic or any other ‘health label’ they can slap on it are still made with really low-quality oils, along with a slew of artificial colors, flavorings, preservatives, and don’t even get me started on sweeteners they add. By making your own salad dressing, you are combining healthy fats, such as olive oil, flax seed oil, eggs and in this case anchovies, along with lemon juice and mustard, to have your own incredibly fresh, healthy and delicious Caesar salad dressing! 

Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe~ 
 makes ¾ cup
Caesar Salad Dressing Ingredients
Ingredients:
-1/2-1 tsp Dijon mustard
-1 Tbsp wine vinegar
-1 Tbsp lemon juice; freshly squeezed
-1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese; finely grated—fresh is preferred
-1/2 cp Extra Virgin Olive oil; cold-pressed
-1 Tbsp flax oil; expeller, cold pressed
-1 egg yolk; preferably organic, local and free-range
-2 anchovy fillets
-3-5 garlic cloves; peeled and mashed

Directions:
Put all ingredients into a food-processor and blend until smooth. As you see in my pictures you may notice that the Caesar dressing is very runny at first—but not to worry—it will thicken with time and refrigeration.
           
  *Recipe courtesy from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions*



Resources:
-Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
-Weston A. Price  http://www.westonaprice.org/
-The Healthy Home Economist http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/
-Herbs & Spices by Jill Norman. This book is an excellent book on how to use a majority of cooking herbs and spices, prepare and store them, includes recipes and herbal mixtures as well.



1 comment:


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