February brings us the first signs of spring. Soon those spring bulbs will be peeping out of the snowdrifts. Tulips, hyacinths, and primrose are starting to appear in garden centers and grocers and longer, warmer days are interspersed with snowstorms. Enjoy skiing, sledding, skating, and all that frosty beauty before it melts away. Plan an adventure!
The Art of Pressed Flowers, Delicious Vegetarian, and Mexican Fiesta classes are all sold out. There are some seats left for the Spring Self Renewal Mini Retreat, details below.
Spring Self Renewal Mini-Retreat, Denver Botanic Gardens, Saturday, March 23, 10 am to 1 pm, $69, $64 members. info here
Spring is a time of renewal and re-awakening. Take some time off to discover herbal tonics, health-boosting superfoods and natural skin products you can make yourself. Learn simple self-care practices to regain balance and vibrant health. Bring home a soothing skin salve, a cleansing face mask and a detoxifying spring tonic along with recipes and lots of new ideas for becoming your best self. Superfoods lunch and all materials included. Treat yourself!
This is the year to create your garden! It’s a wonderful feeling to saunter out into the yard and pick all the fixins' for a wonderful salad, savory herbs for seasoning, and flowers for beauty and fragrance. Container gardens, kitchen gardens, fragrance gardens, whatever you like, start planning now; spring will jump out of the snowdrifts before you know it.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Have you always wondered if Valentine’s Day was just another holiday dreamed up to plunder our pocketbooks? It actually started back in Roman times.
February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno, Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The next day was The Feast of Lupercalia, celebrating fertility. Girl’s names were written on pieces of paper and put into jars; the boys would pull a name and that would be their partner for the festival. This would often result in an ongoing relationship and sometimes, marriage.
Emperor Claudius II of Rome, also known as Claudius the Cruel, was having a hard time recruiting soldiers because of the men’s reluctance to leave their women, so he canceled all marriages throughout Rome. A priest, Father Valentine, married couples in secret. He was caught, beaten to death and beheaded on Feb. 14th.
The church, in an effort to get those pagans in line, replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th. Valentine’s Day greetings became popular during the middles ages and really took off in Britain in the 18thcentury. From there the retail industry took it to new heights of consumerism, with Valentines accounting for a quarter of all cards sent today.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day by telling someone you love how much they mean to you and why. It doesn’t have to be romantic love. Include some flowers, wine, chocolate or a nice meal to emphasize your point. We all appreciate feeling loved and appreciated.
February 1st is Imbolc, celebrating Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of fire. She provides the fire of inspiration, healing, poetry, and divination. Light a candle during this time of growing light and take some time to find out what inspires you. What lights your fire? This is a time to celebrate new beginnings, planting seeds for the future.
Fun Things to Do
Colorado Garden and Home Show, February 9 -17. The big guy with gardens, demos, classes, and aisles of new ideas. info here
High Plains Snow Goose and Heritage History Festival, February 15 – 18, Lamar.
Birders and history buffs get together to view the migration of thousands of snow geese. Tours, presentations, craft auction, and barbeque banquet.
Denver Restaurant Week, February 22 to March 3. Try a multi- course meal for 2 at that posh restaurant you’ve been wanting to check out. Hundreds of Denver’s top restaurants will offer multi-course dinners for three tasty prices: $25, $35 or $45. Make reservations early, the 6-8 PM spots fill fast.
Denver Art Museum – Saturday, 2/2
Denver Zoo –Sunday 2/3,, Monday 2/4
Museum of Nature and Science, Monday, 2/11
Denver Botanic Gardens –York Street, Monday, 2/18
Herb of the Month – Cayenne
My first intimate encounter with cayenne came when, as a budding herbalist, I found an article that recommended sniffing a pinch of cayenne up the nose for congestion. I was having a dinner party and was quite congested so I gave it a snort. It did indeed clear up congestion, setting fire to my cranium, as fluid ran out of my nose, eyes, and mouth. It provided a good laugh for my husband and callous guests.
That said, cayenne is a very healing herb and helps with digestion and improves circulation.
It is high in Vitamins A, C, B complex, calcium, and potassium. Capsaicin, an extract of cayenne and other peppers, is used topically to reduce nerve pain. It works by reducing substance P, the primary chemical used by nerves to transmit pain signals. I’ve read that if you apply the powdered herb to an open wound it will stop the bleeding. But what will stop the screaming? I can only surmise this was written by the same sort of sadistic herbalist who recommended the sinus snuff. Use cayenne as a seasoning, as a supplement in capsules, or in a premade ointment.
Recipes of the Month
Let’s heat things up. If you are sensitive to heat use a milder chili powder in place of the cayenne.
- cooking oil
- ½ onion minced
- 3-4 cloves minced garlic
- ½ -1 tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into strips
- ½ cup water
- 2 tbs soy or shoyu sauce
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- Fresh or dried parsley for garnish
Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a skillet. Heat over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender. Add turmeric, garlic, and cayenne and saute for a minute. Add remaining ingredients, except for yogurt, and cover. Simmer on low temperature stirring occasionally until chicken is fully cooked and sauce is reduced, (take the lid off for a few minutes if needed). Add yogurt and stir. Garnish with parsley and serve with rice, roasted potatoes or yam recipe below.
Cayenne Spice Blend
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 tablespoon ground chili pepper
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
Combine all ingredients and store in a tightly sealed, air-tight container.
Orange Jicama Salad with Cayenne Lime Dressing
- 4 seedless oranges/tangerines or 8-10 mandarins (cuties), peeled and separated
- 1 ½ cups peeled and julienned jicama, you could substitute thinly sliced fennel root
- 1 small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin
- ¼ cup chopped fresh chopped cilantro
Gently combine ingredients, add enough dressing to coat. Serve on baby greens and garnish with cilantro sprigs.
- 1/3 cup avocado or olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- ½ -1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon. ground coriander
- 1-2 tablespoons honey or agave
- Salt and ground pepper to taste
Mix well and store extra in refrigerator.
Spicy Cayenne Shrimp
- 1 ½ pound raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
- 2 -3 tablespoon butter
- 2 cloves garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1 ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
Rinse shrimp. Melt butter in skillet, add seasonings and stir well. Add shrimp and l sauté lightly for 7 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Serve over rice.
Roasted Yams with Chipotle Cream
OK, I know it’s not cayenne, but I love this recipe for its simplicity and great flavor.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees
- 2 large yams or sweet potatoes
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Chipotle cream
Cut yams or sweet potatoes into flat discs 1 - 1 1/2 inches thick, trimming off ends to attain a flat surface. Lay on an oiled baking tray. Spray the tops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 30-35 minutes. Serve dressed with a dollop of chipotle cream
- ½ cup sour cream or yogurt
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce minced, just use the sauce or a smaller portion if you are heat sensitive.
- Black pepper
Mix together and let sit at room temp before serving.