What is Your Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink? (the search for benign spirits)

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I do get bored easily.  I never cook the same thing twice.  I have to have different flavors to keep interested.  I like variety and I am bored to death with water and lemon.  Where is this leading, you may ask?  Weeellll, because of the work I do, I was advised that drinking alcohol, even the incredibly moderate amount I do consume, is unwise.

Everything has a spirit.  Alcohol has its own spirit.  (Doug then said matter-of-factly, “That’s why it’s called spirits!” Oh yea…never thought of that!)  But, unfortunately for wine snobs like me, not necessarily a good spirit.  And one, even if I am not presently drinking, that can fight against my own when doing my work.  Enough said, I was getting bored (gasp) with wine too.

But I need inspiration!  I need everyone that reads this blog, my friends, my confidants to note their favorite non-alcoholic concoction.  Sweet tea?  Kombucha?  Juice?….Okay, those are all my ideas.  Sound off, my friends!

Your favorite non-alcoholic drink….

Making Extracts (cold medicine and vanilla)

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One for cooking, one for health:

For Health: Garlic and Herb with Echinacea Extract

Feel a cold coming on?  You will only have to start taking your new cold extract and you will feel better in no time!  The herbs in this mixture are anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-biotic, and specific to the lymphatic system and to the upper respiratory system.  And most of the herbs are in your cupboard!

In a pint jar add 1 clove of garlic (whole is fine), 1 Tb of basil, 1/2 ts of rosemary, 1/4 t thyme, pinch of ginger.  If you grow purple coneflower, aka Echinacea, then place 1 Tb of crushed leaves or a big flower in it.  You can get it from the health food store or online if necessary.

Fill jar with vodka, rum, brandy, or apple cider vinegar if you are adverse to alcohol (the alcohol works the fastest though).  Shake daily and keep in window for a week.  Place in cupboard.  After four weeks, strain.  It is ready after a week, however.  Just dip your teaspoon in there.  You can put your teaspoon of ‘maybe not the yummiest concoction you ever made’ into a tablespoon of orange juice to help it go down! This works as cold medicine as well.  Take 1 ts as needed.  You cannot overdose!

For Cooking: Vanilla Extract

This one is much tastier.  In fact I insist that you put a little in your batter and have a thimble yourself.  Delicious! (And helps libido if you wanted it for health reasons!)  When recipes call for a teaspoon of vanilla extract I always double it.  This stuff is too good not to use plenty.  When you get to the store, check out the ingredients of store-bought vanilla extract.  You are making the same thing only fresher and more fabulous and you will save so much money!

In a pint jar place one whole vanilla bean (health food stores, online).  Add 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  Fill with rum or brandy.  Let sit for a week in the cupboard before using it.  Don’t strain it!  When it gets half way down, add another bean, a touch of brown sugar, and top with more alcohol.

Try adding a splash of vanilla extract and orange juice while making scrambled eggs.  We call them “sweet eggs”.  They are very good!

The Long Farm Lunch

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They sat together comfortably at a long table in the vineyard under the trees.  The slight breeze was not menacing but sweet and lifted the warm air so that the scents of flowers all around could be inhaled.  Grapes hung heavy on the vines and the birds sang sweetly.  Friends laughed and poured another glass of wine.  Shared plates circled the table and the hours went by with companionship, rest, and food.  Crispy baguettes and fresh olive oil that taste of hay and summer.  Sliced ripe tomatoes and salty mozzarella……

These are the kind of things I read.  I read book after book of travel and ‘moving to Europe’ memoirs and drool incessantly over the pages then go back to my farm kitchen and do dishes.  The people in my books never do dishes.  They just eat.  It is amazing I am not a larger woman as I think I am perhaps part hobbit and love to eat…often.  My favorite memoirs take place in Europe because they do something that we here in America don’t do.  Rest.  On a workday.  With wine.  In the middle of the day.  Can I get an amen?

I grew up on peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches with chips and two small cookies.  Packed in my Muppets lunch box with a thermos of kool aide, lunch became less than exciting and to this day I do not eat peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches!  When my kids were little, packing lunches was my nemesis because they would not just eat sandwiches and my gourmet offerings could only go so far.  Still, planning lunches is difficult.  I can make the most elaborate dinners in minutes, never repeat a recipe, write book after book filled with delicious dinners but lunches…mais non.

I am doing well this year with my resolutions.  I am flossing regularly, doing yoga once a week, taking my daily herbal tinctures, and being nice.  I am adding to my list a new lunch routine.  I do hope you’ll join me.  Too often lunch is a rushed thing.  We just weren’t raised with any type of lunch knowledge save for back to back commercials of fast food.  So, here is my lunch plan.  I started it last week and it is lovely.  When I am at the shop, I am rushed so I still have to work on that, but on days I am home doing laundry and cleaning, I am Italian or French…sometimes Spanish.

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I prepare “peasant plates” of what my family calls mish mosh.  Romantic term; probably won’t make it into any of the books I read.  It is a bit of heavenly cheese, crackers, homemade bread, olives, homemade pickles, salad, leftovers, whatever inspires me.  Some dates, grapes, or some type of fruit.  I get bored very, very easily and one bowl meals make me wander off and forget to finish my food so the variety pleases me.

And now breaking all the rules.  I pour myself a half a glass of wine.  In the middle of the day.  I am tired of self inflicted rules.  I am tired of “appropriate”, who the heck made that up, expectations.  I did not have a sip of wine or alcohol until I was twenty seven years old.  Doug jokes that he drove me to drink.  My mother was quite serious and adamant that I would become an alcoholic if I had but one drink.  I believed that with all my being and religiously did not imbibe.  So when I got married and saw Doug had a beer and did not become an alcoholic I was shocked.  So, I had a bit of wine.  Lo and behold, I am not an alcoholic and that has taken me years of analyzing how many ounces of wine I put in the glass, how many did I have (usually one or less), how much did I have this week to see if I was becoming one.  Though it worked that I did not drink as a teenager or young adult, her plan has set silent boundaries in my head I seek to release.  I know my body and I know that a glass at lunch does not make me any less than brilliant.  I work much harder after a good rest.

So, great book in hand, dreaming of being in Italy, I read and nibble and sip.  Ahh, it is wonderful.  When all is said and done, I have only sat for thirty minutes but if feels like a two hour break for my mind and body.  When summer comes sneaking in, with all its busyness and tasks, I will sit beneath the Elm tree next to the lilacs and read, nibble, and sip my way to happiness…and maybe a few friends will come by and join me.  I’ll work on growing a vineyard.