Monday

Ginger Shampoo Recipe

If you love the scent of ginger, this simple shampoo recipe is for you. Ginger stimulates circulation because it increases blood flow to the scalp, so using ginger shampoo regularly may help to promote healthier hair that will grow faster and resist some of the depredations of modern life, like drying out too fast or becoming brittle. Ginger shampoo may also have benefits in controlling dandruff for the same reason. (You can use a ginger based scalp conditioner for dandruff control, but it will often contain oils that are hard to get out of your hair.)

This recipe will make it easy to get the benefits of ginger as part of your hair maintenance regimen without the oil or expense of salon formulations. A lot of the best herbal preparations are the simplest, and it doesn't get much simpler than this:

Ginger Shampoo Recipe


1 cup distilled water

2 tablespoons of grated ginger root

2 tablespoons grated castile soap

Length of cheesecloth

Ginger Shampoo Directions

Boil water and pour over grated ginger.

Strain hot liquid through cheesecloth into a bowl containing castile soap.

Wisk to incorporate.

Cool to room temperature before using. Any extra can be refrigerated for up to a week.

Directions for Use

Wet hair and massage the shampoo in thoroughly. Ginger shampoo will cause a tingling sensation on the scalp. Be sure to rinse it off completely.

The shampoo is supposed to make your scalp feel warm and tingly. That's how you'll know it's working its magic. You should start to see a difference in your hair (or the presence of dandruff) after five to eight applications.

Special Notes: The recipe can be doubled. Only use it a maximum of three times a week. Discontinue use if stinging or redness persists longer than five minutes after application.

Saturday

10 Reasons to Grow Herbs

10. They're easy to grow -- so easy that in some places they're considered weeds.

9. Many herbs can attract good insects to the garden (because they have a strong aroma/scent) and repel undesirable ones.

8. From appetizers to desserts, they make inspired garnishes for most dishes.

7. They'll happily take up residence in the most rocky, barren corner of your landscape and still give you a good harvest (for the most part).

6. Herbs are available in lots of varieties, heights and sizes, sometimes in the same general herb category, which makes them versatile and fun to incorporate into your flowerbeds.

5.They'll give you a sense of power the first time you step out your back door with a pair of shears to harvest some fresh herbs for supper.

4. They'll expand your culinary horizons. Once you start experimenting with sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, chives and their ilk, dried herbs from the market will never have the same appeal again.

3. You'll start to explore the broad and interesting world of hot and cold beverages. How about lavender tea as a muscle relaxer or hyssop tea to clear your sinuses? Whether you want flavor or a home remedy, herbs make great raw material for experimentation and discovery.

2. If you're looking for an inspired and inexpensive way to make unique, personal and memorable holiday gifts, herbs are the solution: make spice blends, teas, culinary wreaths, potpourri, herbal remedies, lavender wands, bath salts and even beauty aids in a couple of hour. Add bargain ribbon and maybe a muslin bag (also inexpensive) and you'll be an instant family superstar - and budding herbal expert.

1. You'll be living the dream. You know you've always wanted to grow herbs. Even potted on a sunny windowsill, keeping herbs is a romantic and compelling hobby that will repay you for the cost of some soil and a pot in dozens of ways.

    Monday

    Advice About Japanese Beetles (and a Ray of Hope)

    During the summer months I get hundreds of visitors a day looking for a way to get rid of Japanese beetles without resorting to hash chemicals. Japanese beetles are a frustrating pest, and there are few easy answers to getting rid of them. If you have them in your yard in great numbers, you have something beetle tasty, like roses, on your property to attract them. For me it's roses and asparagus.

    I have an article for catching Japanese beetles early and using their scent to repel them: Control Japanese Beetles Naturally. This works pretty well if you catch them before they start coming out in large numbers. In zone 5, that would be around the middle of June. Your Cooperative Extension Office will know the date range for your area. Japanese beetles are b#@!$%s, but they're predictable.

    If you missed the window, and lots of folks do, you can resort to traps. The only problem with this method is that to trap the beetles you have to attract them first. A trap will send the call out to all the beetles in your yard, the neighbor's yard and maybe even farther away than that.  The smart ones that don't make it into the trap stick around for lunch -- and dinner.

    To be honest, I don't like pesticides or traps. I have pets, like having bees and butterflies around, and worry about birds and other wildlife being affected. Insecticidal soaps haven't worked well for me over the years either, and I refuse to put a veil (row covers) over my plants to keep the beetles out.


    I only have one real light at the end of the tunnel to offer you. If you keep killing all the Japanese beetles you see by swatting them into a cup or bucket of soapy water, there'll be fewer around come fall. That means fewer grubs in your soil to cause problems next season. This really works pretty well. Early prevention plus diligent control the previous season (now) could mean very few Japanese beetles to bug you next spring and summer.

    One way you can enhance the eradication efforts in your garden is by adding predatory (beneficial) nematodes.  These microscopic worms, once introduced to your soil, will kill the beetles in their grub stage so they won't be as much of a problem (your yard won't be a breeding ground and nursery for Japanese beetles over the winter.

    I have almost eliminated the problem in my garden, and that's saying something.

    Watering Plants on Hot Summer Days

    Giving your plants enough water during the hottest part of a summer day can be a challenge.

    Make a Plant Water Reservoir

    If I'm going on holiday or temperatures are soaring, I have a quick trick that will help you keep your patio and deck plants hydrated.

    Fill a two-liter bottle with water and place a small piece of sponge in the neck. Upend the bottle and bury the neck into your pot's soil as close to the plant stem as possible. Use an inexpensive sponge, and cut pieces just slightly larger than the bottle opening.

    The sponge will help dispense the water slowly over the course of a few hours, keeping your plant wet enough to stay cool, moist and comfortable.

    Special notes: Place the sponge far enough inside the neck of the bottle to stay put but not so far that it passes through the narrow neck into the wide end of the bottle.

    Don't wad or compress the sponge too much or the flow of water will be too restricted. (This may take a little experimentation.) I cut small sponge "squares". Pushing the slightly larger corners into the bottle's neck provides enough pressure to keep the sponge in place, but the sponge is still porous enough for the water to flow at an even drip.

    If you plan on doing this for a number of days, cut the bottom off the bottle. You can do this with a pair of scissors after making a small cut in the plastic with a sharp knife. Once the bottom (the top once the bottle's in place) is gone, it'll be easy to add water from your hose or watering can allowing you to leave the bottle in place for days or even weeks at a time.

    Check the water level to make sure you have a flow rate the works for your plant. If it's too fast or slow, make adjustments in the density of your sponge.

    Thursday

    Homemade Sloppy Joe Seasoning Recipe



    I like to make sloppy Joes in fall and winter. This recipe is the result of quite a bit of trial and error over the years. I like it because it's spicy and has something for everyone in the family.

    Sloppy Joe Seasoning Recipe

    2 tbsp. Onion powder
    2 tbsp. Paprika
    1 tsp. Garlic powder
    1 tsp. Chili powder
    1 tsp. Marjoram (dried)
    1 tsp. dry mustard
    1 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. Black pepper
    1/4 tsp. celery seed

    Sloppy Joe Directions

    Saute a pound of ground beef and drain. Add the mixture and stir to incorporate. Gradually add a cup of ketchup (catsup) and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Simmer uncovered for five minutes.

    Special note: I also like to add a half cup of sliced mushrooms and a quarter of a cup of diced green pepper if I have it.

    If you insist on adding tomato sauce instead of ketchup, add about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the blend as a thickening agent.  It won't be as peppy though.

    You can make a big batch ahead of time. Use about a third of a cup per pound of ground beef (or turkey).

    Special note: Use onion and garlic powder instead of onion salt or garlic salt. If you use the salted varieties of these dried spices, the mixture will have too much sodium.

    Morning Snippets from the Heart of a Summer Garden

    I'm watching a bumblebee headed out looking for his next big score.

    He has a stumbling pace and a dogged persistence the way he harries the geraniums, making his lumbering approach like a helicopter. . .one pass . . . two. . .and then touchdown and a quick scramble into the heart of the bloom. He finally spies the hyssop bush, a bumblebee favorite, and heads that way by the shortest possible route, which is over my steaming coffee cup.

    I see the blue jays squabbling and complaining as they track Gabby, my old ginger cat, with their eyes. They don't look apprehensive. They appear full of mischief, and soon one flies over Gabby's head, too close for comfort, and chortles as he veers off and returns to his buddies along the fence.

    Gabby is above this avian wrangling and ignores the jay. A few years ago he would have given chase, launching into the warm morning air, sure and efficient. He wouldn't have caught the cagey bird, but they'd have had a diverting exchange. Arthritis has my Gabby taking a more sedate course these days, and the jays soon lose interest in him. Jays are smart and industrious, and love to taunt cats with their aerial exploits while maintaining a safe distance -- the cowards. Gabby turns his back and sharpens his claws on an old tree stump, dignified and unflappable.

    I watch the spider webs along the deck railing every morning with great interest. They often have fat morning dewdrops on them that reflect the light like dangling prisms. The spiders in their spun parlors seem stuporous or dreaming this time of day, but I know it's an illusion.

    If you're working today, have a good morning.  Take a break for a mid-morning cup of tea or a peek out the window.  Summer's good, and it won't last.

    Wednesday

    How to Make Cocktail Sauce

    When you're ready to boil up some peel and eat shrimp, the last thing you want is to discover you're low on cocktail sauce. This simple cheat will make great sauce in seconds and save you money too.

    Money Saving Tip: Just pick up store brand ketchup and a little horseradish on sale and your homemade cocktail sauce will be a big hit for half of what you'd pay for it at the grocery. (Inexpensive ketchup is also a tasty base for sloppy Joes made with your own spice blend.)

    Homemade Cocktail Sauce Recipe

    1 cup Ketchup (Don't waste the premium brand on this. Store brands are fine.)
    1/3 cup Horseradish (1/2 cup if you like it spicy)
    1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    1 tbs. Lemon juice

    Combine all ingredients and let incorporate in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.

    Special Note: For some zing, add a quarter teaspoon of dried dill or a half-teaspoon fresh dill (or to taste).

    Need instructions on making radically flavorful and tender peel and eat shrimp?  Try: Making Peel and Eat Shrimp

    Tuesday

    Sweet and Sassy Summer Snacks

    Sassy Sun Tea

    If you read my sun tea post, you'll know how to make a tasty tea from your favorite fresh herbs using a little time and sunlight. One way to sweeten things up and create tea a party favorite is by adding equal parts apple juice to your steeped tea blend. Pineapple sage and apple mint work well for this. So do lemon balm, lavender and chamomile. Add a cinnamon stick or a lemon wedge and you have a thirst quencher with an herbal twist. It's just the thing for a parched herb gardener and friends.

    Fried Squash Blossoms

    While you're weeding your veggie patch, don't forget to harvest some of those large orange squash blossoms for a tasty fried appetizer. Now is the time. These quick fried flowers are a spring classic that'll be gone in a flash, so get 'em while they're big, bold and beautiful: How to Fry Zucchini Blossoms

    Simple Peel and Eat Shrimp

    Want to try a cool dinner when the temperatures hit the red zone. Make some peel-and-eat shrimp. It's easy, easy, easy to do. If you use beer and peppercorns, you'll get shrimp meat with loads of flavor and a tender texture. Shrimp is a tasty mouthful anytime, but when it's hot out, this "fruit of the sea" makes the perfect light meal: Peel and Eat Shrimp


    Picnic Foods

    Picnics are one of the delights of summertime, and whether you're enjoying the fresh air and a sandwich in the backyard, or laying out an impressive spread at an romantic outdoor retreat, a meal al fresco is an occasion to celebrate.  Check out my TLC.com article:  Top 10 Picnic Foods for  some  picnic ideas and recipes.

    Monday

    Herbal Sun Tea Recipes and Instructions

    Now that high summer has arrived, it's time to brew up some refreshing herbal sun tea. Let nature do all the work and harvest a refreshing and healthy glass of tea for your late afternoon or evening meal. Here's how:

    How to Brew Herbal Sun Tea

    Grab your favorite large glass jug. It should have a tight fitting lid (non-metallic preferred). Harvest and rinse your favorite fresh herbs. You should have about a third to a half cup of herbs for each eight ounces of water.

    Place the herbs in the jar and then add water. I usually use three cups of herbs to seven cups of water or thereabouts. Seal the jar and shake it until you get a little foam.

    Place the jar in a sunny spot for about six to eight hours. Shake it two or three times throughout the day.

    If you like your tea with a rich, deep color, add a teabag (your favorite basic brew) during the last fifteen minutes or so.

    Strain the liquid and add and sweetener to taste. It's summer in a glass.

    Some tasty herb blends to choose from:

    Peppermint and pineapple sage

    Lavender, sage and rosemary

    Thyme, apple mint and hyssop

    Catnip and lemon balm

    Lemon balm, ginger (quarter sized root, minced), lavender

    Spearmint, basil and lemon balm

    Fenugreek seed and camomile

    Lemon balm and lavender

    Special Notes: You can easily refine your herbal tea to make it weaker or stronger; add honey, stevia, brown sugar, cream, lemon, lime or anything else that livens up your taste buds. Keep working the recipe till you find one that makes you long for sunset.

    If you want a little lavender refinement in your regular tea brew, try making lavender sugar. It's a flavorful reminder of summer all year long: Lavender Sugar Recipe