Elderberry Syrup

Cold and flu season has arrived and one way to fortify your immune system is elderberry syrup. Elderberry (sambucus nigra) is one of the oldest remedies known to man. And the great thing is that it works. You can find numerous research studies on the effectiveness of elderberry in treating colds and flu. Let’s hear it for old wives. They knew what they were talking about.

Making elderberry syrup is very easy. I order dried elderberries online because I’m not a knowledgeable forager, and better safe than sorry. 

Here is my recipe for making elderberry syrup.

  • 2/3 cup dried black elderberries
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons dried or fresh ginger root
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cloves (2-3 whole)
  • 1 cup raw honey

In a saucepan, combine water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half (about 45 minutes). I like to use the crockpot. When the liquid has reduced, allow it to cool to lukewarm. Carefully mash the berries and pour the liquid into a glass container, then discard the berries. They have done their work.

Add the raw honey (you could also use sugar, or maple syrup) and stir to dissolve. Store in the refrigerator.

The standard dose is 1/2 teaspoon for children, or 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon for adults daily. If you do get sick, take the the standard dose 2-3 times daily. Elderberry syrup can shorten the duration of your illness by up to four days or more, and is useful in reducing mucus, cough, sore throat and more.

As with any medication, don’t exceed the recommended dosage especially with children. However, it does taste a lot better than cough medicine, and it’s great on pancakes.

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Mushroom Risotto

Life has been really hectic lately. I’m working on a second Pantry Magic cookbook, expanding my line of fruit and vegetable powders on Etsy, and it feels like forever since I’ve posted anything. But honestly, I’m having one of those days when I just want something simple and warm and nourishing. Creamy mushroom risotto is the perfect answer. I know, you’re thinking that’s too much work, all that stirring. But there’s nothing complicated about risotto, and as a matter of fact, I find the stirring kind of soothing. Besides, it doesn’t really take that long, so let’s get started.

Here is what we’ll need:

  • 1 cup of arborio rice (you could also use a short grain brown rice)
  • 2 cups of mushrooms, any kind, sliced and quartered, plus 1 tablespoon of my Gourmet Mushroom Powder (you can find it for sale at ElaineintheKitchen on Etsy)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 have onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Pour the rice into a heavy bottom sauce pan with no oil or water.

Let the rice toast lightly, stirring to keep it from burning. When the rice becomes slightly fragrant, pour in the wine.  Let the wine cook down and then add 1 cup of vegetable broth.

Let the rice simmer on a medium low heat, stirring frequently. When the broth has been mostly absorbed, add another cup of broth. Continue slowly adding the broth until it has been absorbed.

In the meantime, in a preheated sauce pan, add the onions and garlic along with two tablespoons of broth.

Season with the thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes and add the mushrooms. Sauté,stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are cooked (10-20 minutes). Remove from the heat and cover.

When the rice is cooked and has absorbed most of the broth, add in the mushrooms and onions, along with the parsley. Stir to blend completely.  Continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Cover, and let rest.

 

Served with a simple side dish of steamed carrots, tossed with maple syrup and dill.

A Plate of Creamy Goodness

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Chai Concentrate: Instant Comfort in a Cup

After a hard day sometimes you just need some good old fashioned comfort, and you need it NOW.  Problem is, comfort usually takes time and on days like that I’m not into delayed gratification.  So what I need is a little kitchen magic and some make-ahead planning.

My crock pot is the closest thing I have to a magic cauldron.  I can make the most wonderful concoctions in it with almost no effort and I use it often, especially for that heavenly elixir, chai tea.  Frankly, I’m too cheap to buy the stuff in a box or bottle, and I tried the homemade instant mix but I don’t like the idea of coffee creamer (I mean what IS that stuff anyway?).   For me, it’s not just about how a dish looks, it’s also about how it’s made and what kind of ingredients go into making it yummy.  Now, I love chai, hot, cold, with or without milk.  It’s delicious, comforting and a special way to unwind after a busy day.  The trouble is I want my comfort now and not half an hour from now after I’ve assembled all the ingredients, found that I’m completely out of cinnamon sticks, gone to the store, come back, steeped the tea and spices and poured out that first cup.  No, I want it fast, easy and ready to use.  With a little research and a few of my own contributions, here is my version of Chai Tea Concentrate.   There are no actual rules here, so use the spices you like.  So drag out that slow cooker and let’s make some comfort in a cup.

Chai Tea Concentrate

Makes slightly less than 2 quarts

 Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water
  • 8 individual tea bags (black or green)
  • 1 cup sugar or 3/4 cup honey or brown rice syrup (I use half regular sugar and half light brown sugar) – you can always add more to taste
  • 6 slices (rounds) fresh ginger
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 8 cardamom seeds (they’re tiny but strong)
  • 6-8 peppercorns
  • 1 nutmeg, or 1 1/2 teaspoons of grated nutmeg
  • Peel from one fresh orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel powder (you could substitute additional fresh orange peel or orange zest)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried lemon peel powder (you could substitute 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chai Concentrate Ingredients 1

 

 

 

 

 

Directions:

Pour the water into the crock pot, add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the tea bags, and all of the remaining ingredients except the vanilla.

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Set the crock pot to hi and let it simmer for 2-4 hours.  It will have reduced slightly and is very strong, so if you’re sensitive to caffeine you should use decaffeinated or your favorite herb tea.  MON 006

Turn off the heat and let cool slightly, then add the vanilla.

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When the concentrate is completely cooled, strain and store in the refrigerator in a glass container.

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Magic in a cup.  Enjoy!    Wed Chai 003

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Warmup with French Onion Soup

French onion soup sounds like one of those time consuming, only eat it in restaurants kind of dish.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  French onion soup is really easy to make and one of my favorite homemade winter day treats.  So break out the slow cooker and get started.

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 5 large onions, sliced thinly and separated
  • 1 tsp sugar, divided
  • 3 ½ pints beef broth
  • 4 tbsp ruby port
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup of your favorite melting cheese (provolone and/or mozzarella cheese, swiss, gruyere) grated
  • 6-8 slices sourdough bread, lightly toasted – I like to use a full baguette from the  bakery

Directions

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Cut the onions in half and slice the halves. Sliced Onions

 

 

 

 

Heat the butter in the slow cooker until melted.

Butter and garlic

 

 

Add the onions, cover and cook, on low, until the onions are soft and just beginning to brown.

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Next I add the port, beef or vegetable stock, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

Divide the soup into individual oven-proof bowls and place the bread slices to cover evenly.onion soup 014 Sprinkle with the grated cheese and put under the broiler about 6-inches from the heat until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes.

Enjoy!