Monday, July 28, 2014

PUMPKIN + SUNFLOWER SEED BUTTER



After quite a few attempts at making a creamy seed butter, I've finally gotten one I love. The recipe makes a more peanut butter-like seed butter so if you prefer sweet you can add a bit more stevia or coconut sugar.

[THE RECIPE]

2 c. raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
1 c. raw, shelled sunflower seeds

If you want a basic seed butter simply toss with salt and skip the spices. For a spiced bend use the following spices:

3 tsp. Ceylon cinnamon powder
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
2 tsp. ginger powder
1 tsp. vanilla powder
1/2 tsp. cardamom powder

Option Additions: hemp seeds, flax seeds, raw stevia powder, coconut sugar

Place pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a quart-size jar. Cover with water [filling jar] and secure a tight-fitting lid. Let soak overnight on the counter. In the morning, drain the water, rinse well and drain again. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the soaked seeds on a baking sheet and toss with remaining ingredients. Bake 20 minutes, stir, bake an additional 20 minutes, and stir. After 40 minutes total of baking time, turn off the oven and let the seeds sit in the oven until they are a deep golden brown [10 - 20 additional minutes] but not dark brown. Remove and cool completely.

Place cooled seeds in a blender [with tamper option] or food processor. Turn on blender or processor and gradually make your way to the highest setting, scraping the sides as needed. You shouldn't have to put much effort into keeping down the mixture, the machine will do most of the work [this is where I've gone wrong in the past. I would continually push the mixture down with the tamper rather than just letting it be]. It will start to become a thick paste-like consistency and maybe choke a bit. After a couple minutes enough of the oils will be released and the butter will start to flow more consistently. Once you've achieved a nut butter or creamy consistency, add whatever additions you choose [see options above] and continue to blend to smooth. Pour [you may need a spatula] into a glass container and let cool before storing in refrigerator.

Friday, July 25, 2014

COCONUT WATER & COCONUT MILK KEFIR

I recently started making my own kefir [milk and water] and am so excited about it I had to post it here. First, I love the taste and texture - a bit tart, with a hint of lemon, thick and creamy if milk kefir and light and fizzy if coconut water kefir. It's packed with pre and probiotics, amino acids, enzymes, and the more difficult vitamins and minerals to get from diet alone.

Best of all, my two little girls love it. We enjoy the coconut water kefir with meals and the coconut milk kefir alone, topped with a pinch of pure stevia and berries, as a salad dressing or garnish in soups, and in smoothies.

Don't let the instructions fool you. It really is so easy to make and once you've done it a time or two it'll be like riding a bike. I whip a new batch up in around five minutes or less these days.

A Couple Notes: There are commercially prepared goat's and cow's milk options available [ranging in quality and price] however, this is a great vegan alternative. If you prefer kefir made with animal milk you can use the same kefir starter and simply follow the instructions included. Regardless of the milk or water you choose, remember this is a serious amount of good bacteria coming your way so start small for a few days [think teaspoon for kids and tablespoon for adults]. You may become a bit bloated and / or gassy - don't worry, it will pass. You're experiencing the war between good and bad bacteria in your gut. Over time you can gradually increase the amount of kefir to whatever feels balanced for your body.


[THE RECIPE]

3 packets of kefir starter [I use the Body Ecology brand; it comes with six packets*]
three 14-ounce cans of coconut milk [I use Native Forest Regular Coconut Milk] and three 17.5-ounce cans of pure, young coconut water [I use the Amy & Brian brand] or you can simply do a single batch of either the milk or water [or a double batch of either]
1 small cooler
2 kitchen towels
medium size pot
funnel
2 1/2 gallon-size glass jars with tight-fitting lids
kitchen thermometer [optional]
one kitchen spoon [to stir]

Pour coconut water into pot and warm to 90-degrees over low heat. You can use a kitchen thermometer but I tend to just check it periodically with either a clean finger or my lip - if it feels slightly warm I know it's ready. Once warm, put funnel over one of the glass jars and carefully pour coconut water into jar. Add 1 1/2 packets of kefir starter, secure lid tightly, and gently shake to incorporate. Wrap with one of the kitchen towels, place in cooler, and close lid. Set aside.

Pour coconut milk into the same pan you used for the coconut water and warm to 90-degrees over low heat. Again, you can use a kitchen thermometer but I tend to just check it periodically with either a clean finger or my lip - if it feels slightly warm I know it's ready. Once warm, put funnel over the other glass jar and carefully pour coconut milk into jar. Add the remaining 1 1/2 packets of kefir starter, secure lid tightly, and shake [a little more vigorously than the water] to incorporate. Wrap the jar with the other kitchen towel, place in the cooler next to the jar with the coconut water, and close lid.

Let the coconut milk kefir sit in the cooler [unmoved] for 24 - 36 hours or until slightly thicker. The coconut water kefir should remain in the cooler for about 48 hours.

Gently remove the coconut milk kefir from the cooler so as not to disturb the water kefir, close the lid to the cooler, and gently shake the milk kefir jar. Place in refrigerator to slow fermentation process. It will get thicker over the next day or so if you prefer a thicker kefir consistency [more yogurt-style]. After the water has sat for the required time, remove and place in refrigerator as well. Water kefir should be a bit fizzy. Both should have a tart, almost lemon-y taste.

To make a continuous batch follow the same instruction above but rather than using a new starter each time, reserve 6 T. of the milk kefir and add to the new batch or 8 T. of the coconut water kefir to add to that new batch.

Refer to Donna Gate's Body Ecology Diet for more detailed instructions and the extensive benefits of kefir as well as the best way and time to consume kefir.

*I've tried the more generic [and less expensive] brands from the health food stores and found that I had a fizzier kefir water with the Body Ecology brand as well as a better quality product. I can get quiet a few more batches out of one starter kit than I did with the other brands. It seems to be easier on my digestive system as well. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ASPARAGUS-LEEK SOUP WITH HERBS

 It's been a while! Here is one of my favorite soups this year. I love it for breakfast [try before you dismiss!]. For me and my body type, soups or cooked veggies in the morning provides a warm, nourishing, and grounding way to start the day. It's also a fantastic simple dinner - light and easy to digest. You can bulk it up by adding any or all of the garnish options listed below or serve it along side a small salad.

[THE RECIPE]

1 1/2 - 2 lbs fresh or frozen asparagus [depending on the season you could also try green beans + zucchini in place of the asparagus], chopped into 2-inch pieces
2 large or 3 medium leeks, rinsed and sliced
1 large fennel bulb, rinsed and sliced, or 2 tsp. whole fennel seeds
2 - 3 large garlic cloves, minced or sliced
1 - 2 T. ghee or coconut oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 - 5 c. water or broth of choice
2 c. nut or seed milk of choice [I really like using homemade walnut milk]
1 1/2 - 2 c. fresh basil
one large handful each of fresh parsley and dill leaves

In a dutch oven or large pot, warm ghee or oil over medium heat. Add cut fennel and leeks. Saute over medium heat until leeks begin to look transparent and fennel is soft [about 7 - 10 minutes]. Add garlic cloves and fennel seeds if using and saute for an additional 3 - 5 minutes or until fragrant. Season with a bit of salt and pepper, add asparagus and water, stir, cover, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 - 15 minutes or until asparagus is bright green and soft. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in herbs [basil, dill, and parsley]. Carefully blend using an immersion blender or place in blender and blend in batches until very smooth. Return to pot and stir in milk of choice. Garnish as desired. This soup is wonderful both warm and cold. Enjoy!

Garnish Options: coconut kefir [recipe to come soon!], toasted walnuts, goat cheese, cooked quinoa, cut avocado, finely sliced basil leaves



Thursday, April 10, 2014

"END OF WINTER" SOUP



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!

[THE RECIPE]

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.

[THE TOPPINGS]

Purple Carrot Chips
Follow this recipe using thinly sliced carrots in place of kale.

Kale Chips
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

TAHINI STIR-FRY WITH QUINOA

Limited sleep [such is the woe of being a parent] begs this to be a really simple post to mirror a simple recipe.

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!

[THE RECIPE]

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
quinoa, cooked
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

HOMEMADE HONEY BUM CREAM + ALL-PURPOSE SALVE


 
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.

[THE RECIPE]
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 extract
5 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

PULP CRACKERS WITH ADZUKI-MUNG HUMMUS

The other day I was reading a magazine and much of what caught my eye involved a bit of "the world is in trouble and thus coming to an end" language. As I read I could feel the fear "the end" [and all it may or may not entail] crawling through my body. At least for me, negative emotions seem to creep up as physical first and with every tightening muscle I wondered, "Is all this true?"

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.

Enjoy!