Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Brewers Herbs

Beer is an ancient drink (and food) that I happen to be quite fond of. I especially like beer with lots of floral hops. Hops were not always used in beer though, and may not have been used until the 9th century. Before that, a mixture of herbs referred to as gruit was used to flavor beer. Although I don't brew beer, I do grow hops and other herbs so am interested in what herbs are used in beer. I recently read "The Homebrewer's Garden" by Joe and Dennis Fisher to learn more about herbs in brewing, a very interesting book by the way.

Here are some of the herbs from this book that grow in my gardens.

Anise Hyssop - provides a licorice flavor to beer.
Basil - adds a slightly bitter, spicy flavor.
Bee Balm - often used as a tea, bee  balm provides a bitter, minty flavor.
Borage - gives a spicy, cucumber like flavor to beer. This herb can also be steeped in wine.
Chamomile (Roman) - is said to be one of the 'secret' herbs in Celis White beer. It gives an apple-like flavoring.
Clary Sage - provides a balsamlike aroma to beer.
Coriander - this is a flavoring in one of my favorite beers; Belgian Whites.
Dandelion - yet another use for this common weed. Use the tender spring leaves in your salad and the larger leaves later in the season to bitter your beer.
Elder - the berries are best know for making wine, but they can also be used to flavor beer. The flowers can be used for 'dry hopping' as well.
Oregano - adds a distinctive flavor to beer.

Horehound - this herb can add a warm, menthol flavor. I wonder if horehound beer can be used to control coughs?
Hyssop officinalis - this herb is used in Benedictine and Chartreuse. Using it in beer provides a minty, medicinal scent.
Juniper - commonly used in gin, juniper can contribute this taste to beer as well.
Lavender - oh, the many uses of sweet lavender. I would love to try a pale ale flavored with lavender. Let me know if you know of one.
Lemon Balm - this is used in many liquours and can add a lemon scent/flavor to beer.
Mint - there are many types of  mint, and although I love a mint tea, I don't know how this would be in beer.
Rhubarb - great in a fruit crisp, this is one fruit that would be interesting in beer.
Rose hips - apparently rose hips are used in some beers from Poland and impart a citrus flavor and red color to beer.
Rosemary - before the use of hops in beer, rosemary was quite popular.
Sage - was used in fifteenth century English beer recipes and adds bitterness and camphorlike scent.
Savory, Summer - provide a peppery, oregano-like flavor and aroma.
Spruce - was popular during the American Revolution spruce adds distinct, woods taste that is popular in winter beers.
Sweet Woodruff - this herb is what makes May wine what it is but can also be used to add a mild, sweet aroma to beer.
Thyme - used to give beer a spicy aroma.
Valerian root - is commonly used as a sedative so what better place to use it than beer?
Yarrow - both the leaves and flowers can be used to bitter beer.

I'd love to see more 'herbal' beers so I hope that if you are a brewer this gives you some ideas - and don't hesitate to share with me! I'd love to write reviews!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cornbread & Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

When the weather starts to chill as it has been the past few days, cornbread and black bean chili becomes my favorite meal. Here's my recipes.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup canola oil
2 - 3 eggs

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl until everything is moist. Pour/spread into a greased 9 inch square pan. Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes or until done. Best when eaten hot from the oven, but great the next day warmed with maple syrup on top. Sometimes I'll add pecans or raspberries to this recipe too.

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

1/2 large onion chopped
1-2 garlic cloves chopped
1 dried guajillo chili whole
1 cup vegetarian broth
2 cans black beans
1 large can chopped tomatoes
oil for frying

Put a small amount of oil in a soup pot and cook onion, garlic and chili until onion is transparent; 5-10 minutes. Add black beans, broth and tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes or more until flavors meld. Add salt, pepper and hot pepper if needed.
Options: If available I will often add 1/2 cup of chopped winter squash or green pepper as well.

Enjoy and keep warm.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cosmetic Terms


In my 10 years or so of working in cosmetic science I’ve learned a great deal. Having a foundation in biochemistry has been helpful since much of cosmetic science has to do with protein and lipids as well as biochemistry of skin. For those who are new, let me share a few definitions to help you get started.

Moisturizer - A substance or product that adds or restores moisture to the skin. Keep in mind that moisture refers to water so oils alone do not moisturize.

Humectant - A substance that binds to water to help retain moisture. This is important for the product itself to keep from drying out, but also to help keep the skin moistened. The best example is glycerin but humectants also include propylene glycol and sorbitol.

Emollient - A substance that softens and sooths the skin making it more supple. Typically this is an oil. It is thought to fill the crevices between the cells in the stratum corneum or outer layer of the skin to improve appearance.

Lubricant - A substance that reduces friction and often forms a film on the skin. This is important for feel when applying a product to the skin.

Barrier - Something that bars passage. Healthy skin is a barrier in that it bars passage of substances into and out of the body protecting it from the outer environment and holding moisture in. Lotions and creams help support this barrier function of the skin. Damaged skin is less of a barrier making it more prone to infection.

Occlusive - Impenetrable; a film spread on the skin to prevent moisture loss. Petroleum oil is one of the best occlusive agents but vegetable oils also work.

Emulsifier - Binds together substances that could otherwise not be mixed such as oil and water. Emulsifiers are used in any cream or lotion to help hold the oil and water phases together.

Surfactant - Reduces the surface tension of a liquid such as water. I first learned this word referring to a phospholipid that occurs in the lungs. Its function there is to reduce surface tension and help keep the lungs open for air to be there. In cosmetics it means the same thing but examples include detergents, foaming agents, emulsifiers and dispersants.

Antioxidant - A chemical that inhibits oxidation reactions or free radical damage to other molecules. Common antioxidants are vitamin A, C, and E and polyphenols. Antioxidants in skin care products are important both to protect the product itself as well as  to diminish the signs of aging.

Preservative - A compount that inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus or kills bacteria and fungus. Preservatives are important to protect the product itself as well as to protect the consumer from getting an infection that could be serious. It is absolutely necessary to to make sure products containing water or water based ingredients are properly preserved.

Exfoliant - Something that removes the outer, dead layer of skin cells, the stratum corneum. This can be done physically with an abrasive substance such as salt or ground seeds or chemically such as salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acid.

Fixed Oils - Non volatile oils which are lipids or fats. They are sometimes used as a carrier for essential oils. These include olive oil, almond oil, etc.

Stratum Corneum - The outermost layer of the epidermis of the skin. It provides the skin with its barrier function.

Cosmeceutical - A combination of the words Cosmetic and Pharmaceutical. It refers to a cosmetic ingredient that has a pharmacetical action on the skin. The term is not recognized by the FDA and a cosmetic that makes a pharmaceutical claim is no longer considered a cosmetic but rather an over the counter drug.

To read more about Sagescript Institute ( you can see this article in the Examiner or this article in the Examiner.


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