Thursday, April 10, 2014
This year, more than others, I have anticipated spring with a surprising fervor. Winter has been long and very cold. Yet, as winter comes to a close I can't help but want a few "fare-well to winter" soups to see this season out in respectable fashion. Part of me is not quite ready to bid my squash friends good-bye as they have been common meal companions through these endless months. On the other hand, fresh greens are clamoring for attention, trying with reckless abandon to spring forth from the ground. The effort is just so hard to ignore! And who would want to? Asparagus, spinach, kale, baby lettuces, micro-greens - they're all singing like sirens "look at me, I'm here and ready to nourish you in a lighter way!"
So here is a wrap up to our winter meals - we bid you adieu and prepare to embrace the growth, newness, beauty, excitement and energy of spring!
1 T. coconut oil or ghee
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
8 large yellow or orange carrots, rinsed and cut into chunks
1 large head cauliflower, rinsed and cut into chunks
2 c. pumpkin or winter squash puree [or 4 c. peeled and cubed fresh or frozen]
8 c. broth or stock of choice
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 T. dried sage
2 bay leaves
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Over medium heat, melt coconut oil or ghee in large soup pot. Once melted, add onion and saute until just transparent. Add garlic and saute another minute or two. Sprinkle in thyme, sage, and bay leaves and stir for 30 seconds or so. Add carrots, cauliflower, and pumpkin or squash if you are using cubed or frozen [if using puree wait until the end to add] and cook for a minute or two. Pour in broth or stock, stir, cover and bring to boil. Once soup is boiling turn heat down to allow for a simmer and cook until all vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes.
When vegetables are soft, turn off heat and let cool for 5 - 10 minutes. Add pumpkin or squash puree at this time if using. Very carefully blend with an immersion blender or blend in batches in a blender. Return pureed soup to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and pour into individual bowls. Add toppings as desired.
Purple Carrot Chips
Follow this recipe using thinly sliced carrots in place of kale.
Follow this recipe using kale cut into thin ribbons rather than whole leaves.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Place shelled pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet. If you have a toaster oven, toast on the lowest setting once or twice. If you prefer the skillet method, place pumpkin seeds on skillet and roast on medium-high heat for just a minute or two until pumpkin seeds become fragrant and slightly brown. Stir consistently and don't take your eyes off of them!
Chopped Green Onion or Chives
If you grew onions or chives last year, check out the spot you planted them. You may be surprised to find them shooting up!
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
I tend to rely on a variety of stir-fries for my lunches throughout the week. Getting a meal in while tending to two active, demanding girls is hard enough. Cooking nearly impossible. So salads, stir-fries, and smoothies generally round out my daily meals.
During the summer we put away quite a few veggies from the Farmer's Market and our own garden. When these run out, as they inevitably do, I rely on store-bought frozen. Organic ensures the product itself is not genetically modified but doesn't protect the product from being owned by a GMO-based company. Whenever you can, try to find out who the parent company is and what they're standard practices include. Even better, ask your local health food store if they carry any local, organic frozen [or storage] produce. You may be surprised with what you find!
2 medium mushrooms, chopped
1/2 a medium onion, diced
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced or granulated garlic powder
A good 2 - 3 cups of veggies of choice, fresh or frozen [for this recipe I use frozen beans and frozen asparagus]
2 tsp. tahini
splash of white wine vinegar
sea salt, to taste
raw sesame seeds, garnish
In a large skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until onion is just transparent and mushrooms slightly browned. Add fresh or frozen veggies and saute until just soft. Add tahini, a large splash of white wine vinegar, garlic or granulated garlic powder, and salt to taste [I tend to make this recipe on the saltier side]. Mix well.
Serve over warm quinoa and garnish with sesame seeds.
Friday, February 7, 2014
NOTE: If you don't have children in diapers, this incredibly potent salve is still for you. I keep it on hand for all sorts of general first aid uses, including cuts, scrapes, burns, bites, etc.
Okay, let's just put it out there. Walking with a baby through teething is miserable - especially when it's a very long journey. There's a reason we don't remember our teeth coming in - the unbearable pain. Sharp bone masses cutting through skin in your mouth sounds like a walk in the park right?
On the scale of teething misery, my youngest daughter pulls a 10. She is notorious for horrible teething. Constant runny nose, check. Cranky and irritable, check. Outbursts of screams in the middle of the night or a nap, check. Terrible sleep, check. Rash on cheeks and around mouth, check. Obnoxiously red bum, check. Sores that blister, check.
The last of these "symptoms" is what caused me both pause and concern. Without fail, my daughter's little tush breaks out into sores that inevitably turn into blisters. I've tried creams, powders, baths, naked time, diet changes - apparently nothing can stave off the sores. At one point I had a steroid cream prescription in hand but simply couldn't get myself to the pharmacy - I knew I could do better right out of my kitchen.
Then a friend of mine mentioned she had picked up a honey cream from a local Amish community and it worked fantastically on her little boys.
Pause for a brief slap-hand-to-forehead, DUH!, moment.
Of course honey! I had already been using it for cuts, colds, burns, allergies, pretty much everything. It makes sense sore bummies could benefit too.
[HONEY - MY SECRET WEAPON]
Raw honey is one of my favorite all-purpose medicinal tools. It's sugar content makes it a powerful antibacterial which is why it works so well in treating cuts, scrapes, large wounds, blisters, burns, rashes, and bites. When environmental allergens are high, consuming a teaspoon or so of honey can reduce allergic reactions to pollen [I also like bee pollen granules for this]. Raw honey is a nourishing food and really an all around wonderful kitchen remedy. Please note, because honey is extremely high in sugar, if you have hypoglycemia you may want to avoid internal use. Heating honey can quickly destroy it's beneficial properties so please use raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized, local [if possible] honey.
This salve has worked wonderfully for us. My daughter still finds herself with a very red bum come teething time but it has kept any sores from turning into blisters and effectively preventing infection.
Makes about a 1/2 cup of salve
Special note: the essential oils found in this recipe are important as they are specifically used to treat diaper rash. You can use yarrow or Moroccan Blue chamomile essential oil in place of German chamomile. Make sure you are using high-quality essential oils when treating medical conditions.
1/4 c. unrefined, pure coconut oil
1 T. lanolin
1 T. beeswax pellets
1 T. shea butter
1/4 c. raw [local] honey
20 drops grapefruit seed extract5 drops German chamomile essential oil
5 drops lavender essential oil
80 mg zinc powder [or crushed pills]
In a double boiler place coconut oil, lanolin, beeswax, and shea butter. Heat on low until just melted, stirring constantly when it starts to melt. Turn off heat and gently stir in honey. Pour this mixture into a blender or small food processor. Let it cool to room temperature [about 10 - 15 minutes].
While oil mixture is cooling, place the pills into a small dish and crush to powder using the bottom of the pill bottle.
When the oil mixture has cooled, add remaining ingredients and blend on medium to high until a thick, creamy paste has formed [about 30 seconds, stop to scrape sides, blend an additional 30 seconds]. Scoop mixture into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. You can use immediately but I like to let mine cool for 4 - 8 hours if possible. This will keep for about 6 months at room temperature.
I like to pour most of my salve into a glass jelly jar and put a little in a small tin to keep as an all-purpose salve for general first aid use.
I use cloth diapers and this salve has had no effect on their absorbency.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Then I looked outside to see my world covered in twinkling ice and pure white. A fire softly burned and my hands were drawn to the warmth of the tea resting in my hands. My body relaxed and faith reminded me although things are bad, maybe getting worse, fear isn't the answer. Concern, yes. But fear leads to rash statements and thoughtless action. Fear may motivate in the short term but can't sustain momentum.
Concern, compassion, love, grace, humility, gratefulness, hope, faith, discipline, passion, adventure - these can bring great shift and immense change. They have the ability to create sustainable motion and allow us to have a bit of fun along the way.
So yes, fracking will probably pollute a good chunk of ground water. And yes, it's a really bad idea. But sit and enjoy a clear glass of pure water on a hot summer day [or a dry winter day!], soaking up it's hydration and satisfaction and you'll quickly realize you want everyone to have the same experience. All of a sudden clean water for all becomes important to you.
And yes, vital pollinating bees are dying due to wide-spread pesticide use on many nursery flowers and crops. Yet, watch a tree bloom in spring, have a picnic beneath it's canopy under the hum of its busy workers, and you'll quickly develop a deep respect for our fuzzy little friends. You may even find yourself creating a pesticide-free sanctuary for them and teaching others how to do the same.
It's true genetically modified crops [and their creators] are attempting to take over the world using less-than respectable practices but walk through a garden full of heirloom vegetables or through a farmer's market bursting with variety and the beauty may just take your breath away. It might even suck you in and beg you to taste the undeniable depth only an heirloom can give. Soon you may find yourself growing these gems yourself, maybe even talking about them from time to time, slowly winning people over through your joy and passion.
Fear is powerful, true. Fear gets its message across fast and with not much effort. It's easy and cheap and dangerous.
Joy is more difficult. Joy asks us to walk away from fear and step into a life full of almost unbearable beauty. But joy is deep and wide and more powerful than fear. Joy is eternal.
So as we are bombarded with headlines and worries and news that brings us to our knees in tears, may we remember fear doesn't need to be our response. Look to what is, right now in this moment. Find something beautiful and cling to it. Let the joy and hope penetrate and from that place move forward. The world may not seem as bad after all.
[THE RECIPE: PULP CRACKERS]
7 c. vegetable and / or fruit pulp from juicing [pictured here are beets and carrots but green juice pulp is equally as good]
1/2 c. flaxseeds, ground
1 c. water
1 1/2 - 2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 T. nutritional yeast
1/4 c. alfalfa leaf, dried and ground*
2 T. herbs of choice [I love sage and rosemary with root vegetables]
1/3 c. coconut oil, melted
1/2 c. small seeds of choice [sesame, flax, chia, hemp or combination]
*The alfalfa leaf is optional but I add it to give the crackers an added nutritional boost. Alfalfa is an immune booster, anti-inflammatory, detoxifier, blood purifier, is great for woman's health, and can aid almost any ailment. It's health properties are endless and I highly recommend getting it into your diet. As always, if you have any special health conditions always do your own research before consuming any herb.
Place ground flaxseeds and water in a small glass bowl, stir, and let stand for about 10 minutes to form a thick gel.
Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a large glass bowl. When the flax has gel-ed, mix it in with the rest of the ingredients. You may need to kneed using your hands to form a firm, dough-like ball.
Separate into four sections and set aside.
Dehydrator Method: Place each dough section on a parchment paper lined dehydrator tray. Roll out to about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with sea salt and sesame seeds if desired and gently press into dough. Score for easy breaking [optional]. Dehydrate on low [around 105 degrees] 16 - 24 hours or until the crackers are very crisp. Break into pieces and store in a Ziploc bag or tightly sealed container. I like to save the silica packages from my nori sushi roll packages to keep the crackers crisp.
Oven Method: Spread the mixture onto parchment paper, rolling out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with sea salt and sesame seeds if desired and gently press into dough. Score for easy breaking [optional]. Bake at 250 degrees for about an hour and then gently flip. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, turn oven off, and let stand in oven until it is cool. Remove from oven, break into pieces and store in a Ziploc bag or tightly sealed container. I like to save the silica packages from my nori sushi roll packages to keep the crackers crisp.
[THE RECIPE: ADZUKI-MUNG HUMMUS]
5 c. mix of adzuki and mung beans: soaked, cooked, and drained
1/4 c. tahini
juice of one lemon
3 - 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 - 2 tsp. sea salt [adjust to taste]
1 tsp. cumin, ground
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
large handful of fresh parsley
large handful of fresh cilantro
few tablespoons of extra virgin olive or unrefined sesame oil
Place all, except oil, in a blender. Blend to very smooth, adding oil as needed. Refrigerate to chill [or place outside if your outside in frozen!] and serve with veggies and crackers.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Amaranth is an especially great food for infants and toddlers, pregnant and nursing women, people who do heavy manual labor, and on and on and on. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found that wherever amaranth is consumed regularly, there is no malnutrition [see source below]. Let me say it again, no malnutrition. It is packed with protein [apparently the digestible kind!] providing half your daily needs, as well as calcium [and the necessary nutrients to help calcium absorption - magnesium and silicon], phosphorous, iron, and zinc. If your child is congested, try giving him / her amaranth to disperse the dampness [found with congestion] and relieve the stuffiness. If you suffer from heavy menstrual cycles, amaranth may help to reduce some of the bleeding if consumed regularly. It is worth trying to fit this food into your and your family's diet whenever possible. Start small and work up. My daughter now loves it plain, especially the texture, or with fruit and seed milk.
Serves 3 - 4
1 c. amaranth seeds
3 c. water
small handful of dried fruit [like currants, raisins apricot pieces, etc.], optional
Place amaranth seeds [and dried fruit if using] in a quart-size glass jar and cover with water. Soak overnight [I like to keep my jar in the refrigerator] or at least 6 - 8 hours. When you're ready, place all in a medium sized saucepan [add more water if necessary - there should be at least two times the amount of water as amaranth] and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until amaranth is thick and creamy. Approximately 20 - 30 minutes.
3/4 tsp. Ceylon "true" cinnamon
scant 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 - 2 pinches each ground cloves and ground cardamom
1 small pinch sea salt
pure [local if possible] maple syrup, to taste
nut or seed milk of choice
frozen [local if possible] blueberries or berries of choice
small handful of nuts or seeds, gently crushed
1 - 2 tsp. Power-Up Add-In [see recipe below]
After amaranth is cooked, stir in cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and salt. Pour into single serving bowls and top with maple syrup, milk, berries, and herb mix [see recipe below]. Enjoy warm!
Bulk Herb Store has a great mix of herbs designed for weight-loss [if you're so inclined] but are also great for energy, detoxification, elimination, you name it. I add this mix to my smoothies, energy balls, and cereal to give me a boost whenever I need it. Check it out!
Source for information on amaranth: The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood, pg. 10
Sunday, January 12, 2014
I often live under the illusion all my meals need to be spectacular. You know, full of complexity and perceived "wow!" factor, a table full of mouth-watering dishes, everything coming together seamlessly. When I look at how my life, specifically meal time, actually is I find mealtimes miles from whatever immaculate images I've created in my mind - it's laughable.
Here's maybe the most important lesson I've learned about feeding people well:
Keep it simple.
It sounds obvious but in reality I need to remind myself of this truth daily. What I know is if I don't keep food simple it just doesn't work. I slack, I rely on the leftovers of leftovers, I get to 5:00 and start to panic, or deem the evening "on your own night". I'm frazzled and frantic and grumpy because I've let myself down again. I'm not present and therefore can't enjoy anything - my husband, my kids, the people around our table, the setting, the smells, the tastes. I miss all of it because I'm in recovery mode.
And then I look into the eyes of my girls and get a sucker punch to the gut. What I'm teaching them is perfection is most important and if perfection can't be attained then just scrap it all, be cranky, and eat popcorn.
Here's the thing, when I keep my meals simple, fresh, local, and "me" I actually serve more than just food to those I love. I give them a piece of my heart, my time, my effort, and all the good things I want for them. I'm giving my girls a sustainable and joyful way of doing food, something they can carry with them their entire lives.
When I hone in on what I'm good at making and enjoy eating, the meal comes out the way I want every time. I can relax and take pleasure in the process, experimenting along the way. This is what makes cooking fun and what brings me back to the kitchen each day. I like the comfort in familiarity that allows for creativity and adventure.
So, if you've struggled to "get it right" in the kitchen, find a few [seasonal, healthy] meals you like to make and cook them a lot. Get comfortable with the process and then experiment with different flavors and ingredients that reflect your own uniqueness. For me these are sauteed veggie scrambles, soups, and salads. I can make a mean veggie-hash in minutes or throw together a salad bar from almost anything. Over time I've learned what flavors I love and which I hate, creating my go-to dressings and seasonings that make assembly a cinch.
Don't feel like you have to scrap all your grandiose meal plans, just save them for the weekend or an open day. If you head into complex meals with the space they demand, I promise you'll have a lot more fun.
Here is one of my favorite, simple, and local lunches that provides the "fresh" reminiscent of summer yet uses seasonal produces and flavors. This is an especially great meal to enjoy while detoxing!
If you live well north of the equator, it's no secret winter is upon us. Glance out your window and the banks of snow, maybe snow flake flying, and biting temperatures will remind you of this. But all is not lost when attempting to support your local community with your food purchases. In many parts of the country winter farmer's markets are popping up surprising us all with the bounty farmers have year-round. If you can't find a winter market check in at your local health food store - many are locally minded and stock produce direct from your area whenever possible.
Although olive oil and some herbs and spices aren't grown and produced in my area, purchasing them from a local artisan or market gives money to small business rather than big box stores. I like to use well-crafted, high-quality olive oil on my salads for their intensity and variety of flavor.
That being said, if you live in West Michigan, my favorite haunts are:
Sweetwater Local Foods Market
Harvest Health Foods
Nourish Organic Market & Deli
Global Infusion [for herbs / spices / teas]
Old World Olive Oils
Even changing just one or two of your common purchases from large stores to local businesses can make a big difference. If each of us did this, imagine the impact we'd make!
1 small head of savoy cabbage, thinly sliced [If your cabbage is a bit wilted, cut and place into a bowl of water with a large handful of ice. Allow cabbage to soak for 20 - 30 minutes or until it's crispy again.]
1/2 delicata squash [I roast the whole squash and save extra for another time], reserve seeds
sage or rosemary, ground
caraway seeds, whole [optional]
squash seeds of delicata squash
1/2 kohlrabi, peeled and either shaved [use vegetable peeler or mandolin] or cut into match sticks
2 radishes, thinly sliced
3 - 4 baby turnips, thinly sliced
1/2 [local] apple, cubed
homemade sprouts [mix of choice, alfalfa is great for detoxing]*
juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed or 1/2 - 1 tsp. local apple cider vinegar
extra virgin, first cold-pressed olive oil [from local specialty store]
splash of local, organic, pure apple juice [if added sweetness is desired]
While squash is baking, place rinsed and drained squash seeds on another parchment lined baking sheet or stoneware pan. Toss with a pinch or two each of sea salt and nutritional yeast. Set aside [if you have an additional oven or toaster oven you can bake these while squash is roasting]. When squash is done, set oven to 375 and bake squash seeds for 10 - 20 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy.
While squash and seeds are roasting, prepare additional ingredients as noted above.
Toss prepared cabbage and kohl rabi. Drizzle over salad a tablespoon or two of olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. When squash is done, toss with cabbage mix.
Top with a layer each of sprouts, turnips, radishes, and apples. Sprinkle with roasted squash seeds and eat to reducing toxins, good health, and supporting our local communities!
*To make homemade sprouts: purchase seeds specifically used for sprouting [will note on the package]. In a large glass jar, place seeds to cover bottom and cover with four times the water. Place a piece of screen or cheesecloth over the jar and secure with a rubber band. You can also purchase a sprouting jar. Let the seeds soak for 24 hours. Double check to make sure the cloth or screen is securely in place and then drain the water from the seeds. With cloth or screen still on bottle, let water run through to fill the jar. Drain water again, tip jar to side and place in a sunny windowsill. Gently rinse and drain the seeds 2 - 3 times a day for 3 - 5 days or until sprouts are a few inches long. Remove sprouts from jar and store in an airtight glass container for no more than a week.
Monday, January 6, 2014
This is unlike me for two reasons:
1] When I have a to-do list, generally I feel the insane urge to plow through. Only upon completion do I allow myself a tiny moment of relief it’s over. Then I add another item to the list and bam! moment vanishes and off I go. Rarely does cleaning the kitchen feel like an effort worth pause and celebration.
2] The idea of sitting quietly and enjoying myself for a moment mid-day a few times over has, until fairly recently, been a foreign concept – one that tends to make me twitch. I’m inclined to bow down to accomplishment and success in the work I do yet never allow myself to fully embrace the “after” of such work. My mantra [I’m sorry to say] has been “What else needs to be done?” My answer? Everything.
And then today, with the help of a little divine intervention, I actually sat down. Not in the “well, I’m practicing mindfulness and being present so I should” sort of way but in an “I really want to just be for a minute so I’m going to” manner.
Let me make this clear – I am not giving anyone an excuse to be sluggish and lazy. With a world full of good, life-giving work there is no room for sitting on your laurels with the TV on, eating another microwave dinner, and repeating this charade day in and day out. If that’s you, this is your wake up call. Get up, the world waits! As important as it is to have rest with work, it is equally as important to have ample work with rest.
On the other hand, I do support the practice of putting accomplishment in its proper place understanding I can achieve many things and still refrain from letting accomplishment define who I am - it is not my God. Achievement does not own me - defining my mood, my energy level, my personality. By taking a moment to sit in the present and consider the thing I just did [whatever it was], I am allowing myself to feel the pleasure and gift of hard work. I compare it to savansana after an intense yoga class or long day. It’s natural for me to give everything to my practice or day but even more innate, if I allow it, is to sink into the rest that comes after.
When we live in the present and give ourselves fully to something, there can be no other response to the act but to be still.
Of course we can push through, railroading any form of rest and reflection on the way. But in yoga this is where injury happens to our bodies. In life this is where damage happens to relationships with self, others, the earth, and with God.
If we don’t take the time necessary to reflect on our decisions made and actions taken, how can we possibly make well thought out choices that will benefit the people and world around us?
As we enter this new year swelling with both promise and challenge, may we take intentional time each day to recognize that our accomplishments, the things we do, cannot define who we are.
It’s the spaces in between the doing that truly form us into our best selves.
Now, if you’re not convinced to rest amid bouts of work simply because it’s awesome for your body, your spirit, and actually allows you to be more productive overall, then maybe adding an immunity boost to sweeten the deal will get you. That’s right, rest [both mental and physical] is bar none the most important thing you can do to prevent illness. I’m not messing with you – you can do everything I've listed on the Colds & Flu Prevention page [all good things to do regardless], but without giving yourself space to break, will still be culpable to colds and other illness.
That being said, this is my go-to tea blend in the event a cold pops up. I drink at least 4 strong cups a day throughout the duration of the cold and then a cup or two each day in the week or two after as sort of "I mean it!" finale. You can also use this tea as a preventative if you feel something coming on.
This, along with some of my other tried and true remedies [by this I mean I have personally tried and found them to be true], ensures any illness will be short-lived.
Oh, and did I mention? This recipe is as simple as they get. This means you can combine the herbs while the water is boiling, steep a cup, and go rest basking in the accomplishment of just making your own tea blend!
2 parts each:
Yarrow Flower, dried
Elder Flower, dried
1 part each:
Peppermint Leaf, dried
Olive Leaf, dried
Place all of the ingredients in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid, leaving at least a two-inch space at the top. Gently shake the jar to mix herbs.
To use, place 2 - 3 teaspoons of tea mix in a metal tea strainer, tea ball, or unbleached cotton tea bag. Put tea bag in a mug suitable for hot liquids and pour 1 - 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over tea. Steep for at least 10 - 15 minutes to make a bold tea [the stronger the tea the more health benefits you receive]. I like to let my tea steep to room temperature and drink warm rather than hot.
If you're dealing with a sore throat, add a good splash of lemon juice and a bit of honey.