Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I decided to take advantage of the time off and spend some time shopping. Yes, I even went shopping on Black Friday. But it was in the afternoon, and the stores weren’t any busier than a normal weekend. I was so exhausted from the food that I couldn’t bring myself to bake anything over the weekend. The Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart was a hit for Thanksgiving, though this time around, the mousse texture wasn’t exactly there.
I had been feeling in a bit of “funk” for the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure what was causing it. But I did know something that would help me snap out of it, so to speak.
You might want to make a cup of tea. This is a long post!
I first discovered that herbs could be used as medicine when I was in college. I was an undergraduate history major studying Medieval Europe. One day, while roaming the seemingly never-ending stacks of my university’s library, I came across a book on the pagan religion Wicca. After thumbing through it, it sparked an interest in me and I checked it out of the library. While I was reading that book, I learned that herbs were used in Wiccan rituals for magical purposes. The book also taught me that herbs could be used as medicine. While I can’t remember the title, had some simple herbal tea recipes and recipes on making salves and lip balms.
Eventually, my interest in using medicinal herbs led to its own research. One day, I stumbled upon Mountain Rose Herbs. MRH is a company from the West Coast that sells bulk herbs, prepared herbal products, herbal medicine supplies, and more. At the time, their site had a page dedicated to herbal education programs.
First, I looked for programs that were located in my home state. But sadly, there weren’t any. The closest one was in Vermont and it only offered on-site learning. At the time, I couldn’t do that. So I just started looking for schools and teachers that offered distance learning. Yes, this was being done long before the pandemic! It was at this time that I learned that the United States offers no formal certificate or licensure for herbalists. But that was okay with me (it still is!), I only had a passing interest in herbalism. I wasn’t about to go and change my career or anything.
Luckily, the summer months were coming. Which meant that I would be working all summer long. So, I found a school that offered a decently-sized program for the money and I decided that if the interest still remained come the fall semester, I would register for a course.
So I worked a lot and saved some money. When it came time to go back to school that September, I gave myself a couple weeks to settle into the semester and then I did it! I enrolled in my first herbal studies program. Sadly, the school or program no longer exists, even though I wish I could recommend it. A few years ago, the people running the school decided to take a different direction. They closed the herbalism school and opened a different type of natural health program. Much more collegiate, a lot more money.
But for me, at that time, the program I was doing was stellar! I learned a lot and completed the course fully. But, I wanted more!
The company that I’d just finished studying under offered a more advanced level course. I decided to take it as well. And it was during this course that things started to change a little bit. My college courses became more difficult and time-consuming. I made more friends and went off-campus more frequently. Spending less time in my dorm room meant I had less time to study herbs. One of the issues with all of these distance learning programs is they are “at your own pace.” This, does have its benefits. But, for a young college student, things can easily be overlooked and before you know it, your course completion time is nearing and you still haven’t done 80% of the program!
So sadly, the more advanced level course was lost..though I still kept the course texts until recently. After that my interest in herbs kind of ebbed and flowed. I didn’t enroll in any programs but I still looked at videos on YouTube every once in a while. I kept getting emails to some of the schools I looked into in the early days of my interest, so I considered myself to “staying up to date” on things.
After a few years, I chose to enroll in a very long, in-depth, and expensive program. It was a very reputable program and was certified by the AHG, the American Herbalist Guild. In fact, this program was being run by one of the founding members of the AHG. I liked this course because it covered a lot and it seemed like would provide me with a great education. And it did. One of the other benefits was that I was able to pay in installments. Sadly, I never completed it past the first 12 lessons. In fact, I stopped after lesson four. Life got in the way. And even though I also kept most of those materials, I decided to move on from it. Maybe I’ll do it at another time.
Fast forward three years and we enter the spring of 2020. One of the schools I had looked into a few years prior and took a quick course from them was offering a great deal due to the pandemic. So, I took them up on the offer. The Herbal Academy (HA) out of Massachusetts, was offering their Introductory Herbal Course and their Intermediate Herbal Course for a fraction of the cost and at a payment plan. So last spring and into the summer I paid it off. I am now about halfway through the first course and still have time before I “need” to begin the Intermediate one.
I am really enjoying the HA courses. The program is filled with text, videos, handouts, projects and more! I do intend to complete both the Introductory Herbal Course and the Intermediate Herbal Course. But, most recently I decided to enroll in another course. And to be honest, it’s what I am calling my “dream program.”
I’ll have more on that in another post soon. Stay tuned!
Wow! That was a long one. If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with it. I hope you learned a little bit more about me.
This week, I am thinking of breaking out of the Ina-shell once again. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve made a recipe that wasn’t out of one of Ina Garten’s books. If you follow me on Instagram, I teased that I may be cooking something out of the Gourmet Today cookbook. I still have not decided what that will be. But, I’m busy thumbing through the pages, looking for something enticing.
I will surely let you know what recipe I am making Friday morning whether I chose to make one out of Gourmet Today or another cookbook entirely. In addition to my usual Friday-night dinner cooking plans. I will also be making a chocolate cake for a family member’s birthday. However, I will not be making an Ina Garten chocolate cake. She has quiet a few recipes for chocolate cakes. They vary in shape and size, but I just want something a little different.
The cake and frosting recipe I make for the birthday celebration will be out of The Magnolia Bakery Handbook. This is a dedicated baking book and for the price, you get A LOT of recipes and information. If you buy one baking book, I think it should be this one! The recipes are easy to follow and the results are well-worth it.
I’m so excited to share with you photos of the chocolate cake this weekend and whatever recipe or recipes I decide to make for Friday’s dinner.
In other news, I may start doing more than one post a day every now and then. I’ve always wanted this blog to evolve a bit over time. I may have some general life related posts or just little “updates” about things that I am doing that day or that week.
Until the recipes are made….
P.S. The photo at the top of this page is not something I’ve made. (But boy, do I WISH I had the recipe!) I just liked it and felt it went with the theme of this post a little bit.
After some thinking, I’ve decided to expand the blog a bit.
This blog will always be about Ina and cooking my way through her cookbooks and recipes, but I’ve decided that there may be a time when I want to share something more personal.
So, I’ve added a new category!
It’s called “Life” and it’s where all the posts pertaining to my life will go. Now, this doesn’t mean “lifestyle.” So, no lame, overused photos of PSLs and winter fires during a snow storm. But it will be the more personal posts, not necessarily Ina related.
Yesterday was the first of many recipes on this very long journey. For my first recipe I felt strongly that I wanted it to be one from Ina’s first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. So, I got it off the shelf and started paging through it. However, I quickly realized a slight problem. Many of the recipes called for ingredients that are “fresher” and “in season” during the summer months.
Now, yes, it is technically still summer (at least until Tuesday!), and I could (in theory) get some of these items now. But doing so I would break one of Ina’s cardinal rules: always use the freshest ingredients possible. So I continued on paging through the book until I stumbled upon an applesauce recipe.
With Fall just around the corner, apples are starting to come in season here in New England and the ones this recipe calls for tend to be “always in season.” So that is what I decided to make.
Her apple sauce recipe is overall quite easy to make. The most annoying aspect was peeling the apples (I had 14 to do!), but it was totally worth the effort. The addition of butter in the pot makes the sauce smooth and helps layer some of the spices included. The added lemon juice and orange zest give it an especially interesting taste. In fact, one of my first thoughts after tasting it was “This tastes like gourmet.”
I also love any excuse to break out my Dutch oven and since the apples cooked for 90 minutes in it, it’s starting to move beyond being used only to make bread.