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Monday, March 6, 2017

Spring is in the Air

Did someone say spring is in the air?  It sure doesn't feel like it with temperatures hovering around 40°, but sure enough, cherry blossoms will be blooming, tulips will be bursting, and spring will have sprung.  Many of us think about doing a little spring cleaning around the house, but how about a little spring cleaning on ourselves? A great book we recently read, Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Elson M. Haas, suggests, ”…springtime seems to be the best time for major cleansing, drinking nourishing liquids, such as fruits and vegetable juices, for a period of five to ten days or longer.”  While that may be a bit much for some folks, starting with a few days and working up will help get your spring off to a good start.  One of the spring cleansing programs the author recommends is Stanley Burrough's Master Cleanser listed below. As always, it’s a good idea to check with your health physician prior to starting any new health regimens to see what works best for you.  

Stanley Burrough's Master Cleanser

2 tbs fresh squeezed Lemon or Lime juice
1-2 tbs maple syrup
1/10 tsp (or a dash) cayenne pepper
8 ounce of spring or filtered water - drink liberally (6-12 glasses) throughout the day

See you soon!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Edible flowers: the funky

Our exploration of edible flowers is about to get weird, folks.

From left: cornflower, red clover top, and calendula.

Today we'll learn about a few lesser-known varieties of budding plants: calendula, chrysanthemum, cornflower, and red clover tops.

Sharp calendula

First, calendula: These bright yellow strands have a sharp, almost bitter taste often compared to saffron. Native to Southern Europe, calendula has long been widely used in Western herbal medicine to detoxify the body and in skin-care regimens. Actually, its list of uses is quite long: anti-inflammatory, relieves muscle spasms, helps with digestive issues, antiseptic, helps reduce menstrual pain, is useful in many skin irritations from acne to athlete's foot...you get the idea. Pick some up today, and try mixing up a curing potion for yourself.

Next, chrysanthemum: Native to China, these flat, mellow buds are widely used in Chinese herbal medicine. With a mild, honey-like flavor, chrysanthemum makes a tasty hot or cold tea, and is often taken for its cooling properties. Studies have also shown that the flowers are useful in treating high blood pressure.

Cheery cornflower

On to the brighter flowers! Cornflowers, native to the Near East, are bright blue flowers that were long thought to be good for eye-sight (jury is still out on that one) and also used as a bitter tonic and liver cleanser. We add it to teas for its bright blue punch and mild flavor, but the pretty hue is a welcome addition in any number of foods (I'm thinking cakes and frostings, in particular).

Red clover, red clover, send flowers right over!

And finally, red clover tops. Native to Europe and Asia, red clover tops have long been used to treat breast cancer and menopausal symptoms, but current research is not conclusive in its effectiveness. In tea, red clovers add a bright, floral flavor without overwhelming.

(Source: Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier)

This post is part of our series on Edible Flowers. For others in the series check out:
Edible flowers: The Basics
Edible flowers: The Funky
Hibiscus Jasmine Cooler

Kara Elder grew up playing in the kitchen cupboards and reading cookbooks for fun while watching her mom cook tasty Mexican meals. After graduating with a degree in Russian, she found herself increasingly interested in reading food blogs and planning menus. Kara has worked for Bazaar Spices since 2014 and also keeps busy working a few other food-related jobs. You'll most likely find her haunting the aisles of various grocery stores and farmers markets in search of inspiration.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Earth's Natural Gifts

Earth day is like thanksgiving but specifically for our planet. To show our thanks, Bazaar Spices is highlighting some of our favorite gifts from the earth that help enrich our lives.

Calendula: Skin Soother

Native to Mediterranean countries, this flower has long been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It can be used to brighten a salad or add a little floral flavor to a soup. It has also shown to effectively improve the skin. It helps with the skin's hydration and firmness and is often used to soothe the skin from inflammation or open wounds. This makes this miracle flower a great ingredient if you have eczema or happen have a nasty sun burn (keep that in mind, summer will be here before you know it)!

How to Make Calendula Oil:

Once the the weather starts to warm up, take a jar and fill it half way with calendula. Pour your oil of choice in (mine is extra virgin olive oil) until the jar is full and seal it with the lid. Set this jar by a window that is exposed to good sunlight and let it infuse for at least 6 weeks.

Hawaiian Alaea Salt: The Purifier

Hawaiian alaea has been used for centuries. Because it's unrefined, it's rich in minerals (but also has iron-oxide due to the red volcanic clay that is mixed in, giving this salt its beautiful deep color). Traditionally, this salt was used by Hawaiians in ceremonies to cleanse and purify. It's very light in flavor, slightly sweet and great for grilling meats and veggies. It can also be used to make your very own mineral rich scrub for very dry cracked areas of the skin.

How to Make Tropical Hawaii Scrub*:

Mix each of the following ingredients and use especially on your elbows, knees and heels of your feet.
1/3 cup of fine Hawaiian Alaea salt
1/3 cup of liquid coconut oil
2 tbsp of crushed dried hibiscus
The zest of 1 medium orange

*The coconut oil in this recipe gives the scrub a very nutty smell that fades when used in the shower, leaving the nice orange aroma.

Valerian: The Original Sleepy Time Tea

This root gained popularity throughout Europe in the 17th century, and has long since been used as a natural sleep aid or for calming anxiety. Scientists believe it increases the amount of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which helps regulate nerve cells, giving a calming effect.** The most popular way of taking valerian is through tea, and it is really simple to make.

How to Make Valerian Tea:

Boil some water, then pour it into an 8oz cup. Then, pour 1 tsp of valerian into an infuser and let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes. A nice optional choice is to dip a second infuser with 1/2 tsp of your favorite calming herb or botanical for the last 2-3 minutes. You can choose anything such has lavender, lemon balm, hops or chamomile.

**Source: University of Maryland Medical Center

Cinnamon: Super Spice

With its rich history (of which you can read about here) and multiple health benefits, I could go on about how great cinnamon is. Not only is it filled with antioxidants, but components in cinnamon have been shown to alleviate and prevent signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.*** Also, cinnamon is a great way to start your morning, as the mere scent of it has been shown to improve alertness, and mixing it with honey makes for a great sauce for fruit.

How to Make Delicious Honey Cinnamon Sauce:

Simple mix 1 part cinnamon (you can learn about the different types here) with 2 parts honey. This sauce is particularly great with oranges, but would work great with apples, pears, plums or any fruit of your choosing. Add some sliced almonds, pistachios or any type of nut to make a more well rounded breakfast.

***Source: National Institutes of Health

Sara is currently studying romance languages at the University of Maryland, College Park. As a student and a team member of Bazaar Spices, she is able to fuel her interest in understanding different cultures. For Sara, understanding different cultures is key to connecting with people, and there is nothing more gratifying to her than that.