Category Archives: food

Make Your Own Buzz!

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Next week is National Pollinator Week! I didn’t even know this was a thing, but I’m glad it is and I think it needs to be shouted from every rooftop. This week is brought to us by the Pollinator Partnership, who I found out is funded by Monsanto and Bayer. Ugh. The very organizations that are killing them via  “Monsanto’s genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant ‘Roundup Ready’ crops,  Monsanto’s insecticide-producing, genetically engineered ‘Bt’ Crops, and  Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds treated with Bayer’s insecticides”. Read more about it here… it’s sickening.

I feel like the situation is dire for our pollinators and our food supply so I still feel that our pollinators are worth celebrating and talking about.

What can you do?

1. Avoid buying bee killing pesticides like: Monsanto’s Roundup, Dow’s Rodeo or Bayer 2-1 Systemic Rose and Flower Care. Don’t forget that seedspotting soil and plants are also pre-treated with neonics.

A quick weed killer that can be used in place of Roundup is as follows:

-1/2 cup of salt, preferably sea salt or Himalayan salt

-1 gallon organic or non-gmo vinegar

-1/4 cup all-natural dish soap (for sale at local health food stores)

Mix ingredients and place in a spray bottle. The correct ratio is a 1/2 cup of salt for every gallon of vinegar and 1/4 cup for this recipe.

For seeds try:

•    GrowOrganic

•    Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. 

•    Seeds of Change

•    The Seed and Plant Finder 

•    Seed Savers Exchange

2. Let Dandelions and Clover grow in your lawn. This is by far the easiest thing that a person can do. Bees love them. Don’t worry, we won’t judge you for not having a perfect lawn 🙂

3. Plant bee friendly flowers: lamb’s ear, which has some added benefits that you can read about here), hyssop, lupine, bee balm,  coneflowers, heather, lavender, heliotrope, etc. You can also find mixes that are native to your region to make things super easy.

4. Buy Organic. Let your dollars do the talking for you. Support organic farmers. If they are local, even better!

5. Add Your Name. Sign Petitions to let your voice be heard regarding passing the Saving America’s Pollinators Act .  Another petition can be found here.

Also, tell Lowe’s to stop selling bee killing plants and pesticides here.

The more I read about this, the sicker it makes me. I am hopeful that the message will continue to spread and we can change this course before we lose our valuable pollinators.

Source: Honey Bee Health via Organicconsumers.org

 

Kombucha Overload

2014-05-02 20.57.42There was a time I’d only seen this mystical liquid on the interwebs. Everyone was drinking it and it is supposed to be a magic elixir of health and good feeling. It took some time but I found it randomly in a supermarket a bit to the south of me (read: too far for a regular trip). I bought some and it was good, but not the best thing I ever tasted.

I recognize that Kombucha has some health benefits and some less publicized health risks. The moral of the story is if you are going to drink, start slowly and  speak with your doctor if you have problems with your kidneys or liver.

So, I gathered some supplies and SCOBY from an online source and brewed my first batch. It was pretty good! A no frills, straight up fizzy tea…better than I expected. I didn’t think the hubs would like it, sometimes I think his taste buds are from outer space because he doesn’t seem to like delicious food sometimes. I was pretty surprised when I found him drinking a glass of it that I didn’t pour for him. He chose it willingly! I had to hide my amazement.

Here is what I did not anticipate in my first couple tries:

  • As you prepare your first batch for secondary fermentation, the SCOBY will have to be moved to a second batch so you should already have a cooled batch of sweet tea.
  • The SCOBY grows pretty quickly (what the heck am I going to do with all this stuff?)
  • You can add fruit, spices during the secondary fermentation to jazz up your drink . I like raspberry and ginger.
  • It’s best to have larger jars and a non-metal funnel. I didn’t have larger jars (I only had the one huge one for brewing) so when I did the secondary fermentation, I quite a few small ones and it was a bit cumbersome.

I got a little worried about the growing SCOBY situation. Unfortunately for me, the people I know in town aren’t willing to try Kombucha, so giving some of the SCOBY to them (I would have been thrilled) is out of the question. I put some in the compost heap–going back to the Earth couldn’t hurt. I went to the only expert I know – Google- because surely those can’t be the ONLY options. Here’s what I found:

Via Mockingbird Meadows:

1. Use it as a facial –put it on your face for 15 minutes

2. Dry out and give it to your pet as a chewy treat.

3. Put a small piece under a band-aid to assist in healing cuts and burns

4. Dress plants that like a high pH with it directly

5. Blend a small piece of it into a smoothie

6. Add a small bit of it to flower vases in order to rejuvenate your flowers

Via Holistic Quid:

7. Make SCOBY Jerky- this post has pictures and everything

And finally- for the Crafty Folks:

8. Make some jewelry- Check them out here and here. It’s incredible. Who knew?! The internet literally has everything.

I may get bold one day and try some of this. Especially the facial thing. It skeeves me out right now, but if I’m two glasses of wine deep, I might try it 🙂

Today I’m going to prep a batch for secondary fermentation, maybe with blueberries this time, and make a SCOBY Hotel for some of the extra. I didn’t realize that you could just KEEP some.

I’d love to hear about your Kombucha experience! What advice or ideas do you have?

 

Building My Dream Herb Garden

photo_12348_20090723I remember walking through a colonial era house in Elizabeth City, NC a few years ago. There was a beautiful herb garden planted near the front. The design reminded me of a traditional English herb garden, complete with a gravel path although on a much smaller scale. It was so beautiful and inspiring. I imagined that there were herbs used for cooking and healing and maybe some just because they are pretty but I don’t’ suppose that one would be planted for that reason alone.  I also pictured herbs hanging in bundles from the rafters and long lines of herb-filled jars on shelfs in the kitchen. It is a cozy, warm image in my mind.

This last week, I finally have my garden plot prepared and planted a few aromatic herbs. I’d only heard of two of them before but went out on a limb to try  some new ones.

Here’s what I know I have in no particular order: Lemon Balm, Anise Hyssop, German Chamomile, and Cinnamon Basil.

About the only thing I know about any of those herbs is that they can probably go in a tea bag and taste pretty good. It’s time to expand my knowledge.

Lemon Balm:  I opted to plant this because it attracts bees and I want to do all I can to make a nice place for both the bees and my plants. It’s a calming herb and has been used since the Middle Ages to reduce stress & anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite and ease the pain of indigestion (read gas & bloating).  I feel like it’s got quite a bit of credibility. Lemon Balm is usually combined with herbs such as valerian and chamomile for relaxation so it’s a good thing I added some Chamomile. It can be used in creams to treat cold sores also.

Cinnamon Basil: I was nervous about this one but after some brief research, I’m very pleased to add it to my garden. It is a common ingredient in Italian food, which I don’t make all that often, but can be used in Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese cooking as well. I found some cookie recipes here that I’m exciting about trying. Although I will have to adjust to keep them gluten free. Cinnamon Basil has an impressive list of medicinal uses which include: allergies, cold and flu, respiratory disorders, etc. The most appealing thing to me is that it can repel mosquitos. Yay! I can’t wait to test this! It is advised to plant it near decks or maybe make a centerpiece with it during picnics. You can also rub it on the skin. Last Summer I got a mosquito bite on the bottom of my foot so this could have saved me some misery. Additionally, a poultice can be made with it to use for insect bites and wart removal. Now, what the heck is a poultice?

German Chamomile: The most popular herb in the world. In the Middle Ages chamomile was used as a love potion! More recently this herb is used to treat many issues including anxiety, digestive issues, muscle spasm, skin conditions, and mild infections. More specifically, chest colds, sore throats gum inflammation acne, eczema and minor burns. Sounds good! The white and yellow flower heads are what is used to make the teas, ointments, and extracts.

Anise Hyssop: I don’t prefer the taste of anise but given that this plant attracts butterflies and bees and is repellant to deer and my nemesis – moths, I decided to try it.  This herb can help with blood sugar control, relieve respiratory symptoms, and improve digestion. A warning though- do not consume while pregnant. I’m pretty interested in this jelly and cocktail recipe.  The Methow Valley Herbs website has a wonderful post about Anise Hyssop.  Here is a recipe for an Oxymel that will help loosen mucus, made with Anise. Interesting stuff.

I have a mint plant left to add to the garden. With mint, I make the most healing elixir that I know of: mojitos. They take me to a sunny, tropical place in my mind and I am completely at ease.

That’s what I’m starting with. It’s not in an elegant, traditional garden. It’s not even a complete medicinal garden. I’m not even sure what a complete medicinal garden looks like. Here’s what I know: I have a while to watch these lovelies grow, I will enjoy the butterflies and the bees, and I will be ready when cold season hits. I will let you know how it goes 🙂

 

Have Gelatin Will Cook

I have been anxious to supplement my diet with gelatin. I know I should be consuming bone broth instead, (whole food=better for you). That fact is this though- I used to really like jello when I was a kid. It was such a treat when I found it in the fridge, especially if there were little bits of canned fruit in it!  I seriously could have been my own commercial. Of course as I got older, I replaced the fruit in my jello for something a little more adult…but I digress.

I have seen in some spots where it is recommended to put the gelatin in a bit of water and down it to supplement. That would work for me for a bit but I really need something more. I need it razzled dazzled so I’m rounding up some possible kitchen experiments:

The previous list looks more like a dessert menu which is not the worst thing in the world because I’ve committed to only eating desserts made by hand, so I like having options.

Let’s try another list of possible sources:

Why am I so interested in gelatin?

Natural News has a brief article that describes how wonderfully therapeutic , gelatin is. Some of its benefits include:

  • supporting digestion- it binds with food and moves it through the digestive system
  • heals the gut lining thereby reducing food allergies
  • contains glycine to assistthe liver in removing toxins (note: a healthy body produces it’s own glycine) and increases sleep quality
  • contains lysine which helps the body absorb calcium and plays a role in the formation of collagen (think skin, connective tissue, etc.)

So what did I end up trying first? A variation on kombucha/kevita gummies

The trick with cooking, at least for me, is I actually have to feel like it. Then, I have to have products on hand, which tends to be a road block. But I was bent. I was making something with gelatin in it no matter what.

Here’s what I had on hand:

1/2c Kevita probiotic coconut drink

3/4 c unsweetened applesauce

2 lemons

4T grass fed gelatin

I put the applesauce on low heat and added the juice of 2 lemons. I stirred in the gelatin until well blended then took it off the heat. When it was about room temperature I added the kevita. It fizzed up a bit which was kind of alarming but I just went with it. I poured into a small, greased (with coconut oil) casserole dish and put it in the fridge until it set.

gelatin blocks

So these aren’t bad. Here’s what I like: they are so thick! They are substantial little blocks to bite into and I appreciate that. It feel like it will satisfy. What I’m not too crazy about: they aren’t flavorful. That’s really not the worst thing though. The bit of lemon flavor (which I figure is all the vitamin C and whatnot) is refreshing, but it needs something else. I didn’t want to put to many items in the mix because I wasn’t sure what would happen.

The good news: I’m thinking that this is a pretty forgiving recipe (except for pineapple, figs ginger root, papaya, and kiwi-the gelatin won’t set unless the fruit is canned). Maybe I add more gelatin but probably not. I might find out what happens when I add less. Who knows!? There are plenty of options. I might get a little wild with the next batch.

What’s your favorite recipe with gelatin? Do you have any recommendations for my next attempt?