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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

What IS an ‘Herbal Lifestyle’ Anyway?

by KC Compton

Tags: Cooking, Herbs, Vanilla, Marmalade, Lifestyle, Recipe,

As we try to find ways to describe what our magazine is about, the term “herbal lifestyle” often comes up. I generally try to avoid using it because I always think, “What is that?” and I get a quick flash of someone with a flowing dress and flowers in her hair.

Not a bad image, actually, but also not representative of what we do here, or that to which we aspire. However, I do know that since I’ve started paying close attention (beginning the day we bought this magazine back in 2003), I’m simply amazed at how much of the really wonderful, sense-pleasing things in life come to us courtesy of herbs.

For instance, a few days ago my friend Nancy invited me to dinner and for dessert we had Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream, which was just about as good as any ice cream I’ve had. She used two vanilla beans – vanilla bean is an herb, so this treat would neatly fit in the “herbal lifestyle,” right? On my way out she handed me a jar of her homemade Amber Marmalade, featuring grapefruit, lemon and orange rind – again, the best marmalade I’ve had. (Yes, Nancy is a good friend to have.) And I think this marmalade also fits in the herbal lifestyle category, since we define herbs as the useful plants, and lemon and grapefruit both have culinary and medicinal properties. (Does orange? I’m not thinking of any, but maybe one of our readers will straighten me out.)

At any rate, considering such scrumptiousness, don’t you think we can come up with a better term than herbal lifestyle? Have any suggestions?

Here are the recipes for Nancy’s delicious dishes (the original ice cream recipe was adapted from an old Bon Appétit magazines she had in her attic, but I couldn’t find it online).

Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream

(You can practically bet on people wanting seconds of this delectable treat. We melted half an organic, free-trade, dark chocolate bar – Dagoba, I think – in the microwave with a little milk and spooned it over the top. Absolute heaven, I’m tellin’ ya. AND CHOCOLATE IS ALSO AN HERB!!! –KC)

Makes about 2 quarts

• 4 cups whipping cream
• 2 cups half and half
• 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
• 7 egg yolks
• 1 1/3 cups sugar
• ½ cup bourbon

1. Combine cream and half and half in a heavy, large saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla beans; add beans. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture. Return custard mixture to same sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 9 minutes. Do not boil! Strain custard into large bowl. Stir in bourbon and chill.

2. Transfer chilled custard to ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. (Can be prepared ahead and frozen in covered container.)

Vanilla flower by brocktopia.

Photo by brocktopia/Courtesy flickr

Amber Marmalade

(The recipe is imprecise and doesn’t say how many pints it makes. But honestly, this is the best marmalade you’ll ever eat. And I’m not much of a marmalade fan. If you have a better recipe, please share, but I can’t imagine it. –KC)

• 1 grapefruit
• 3 oranges
• 3 lemons
• Water
• Sugar

1. Halve fruit, remove seeds and slice very thin. Measure fruit and juice and add 3 cups water to each cup of fruit. Let stand in earthenware or glass bowl for 12 hours; boil for 20 minutes in large saucepan. Let stand again for 12 hours.

2. Measure the mixture and add ¾ cup sugar for each cup fruit and juice. Cook these ingredients in small quantities, 5 cupfuls at a time, until the fruit is clear and the syrup sheets from a spoon. Remove from the burner and cool for about five minutes, stirring frequently. Pack in sterilized pint jars, seal and store.