Thursday, May 17, 2012

Making Your Own - Sauerkraut

I finally did it!

I live in an area which is becoming famous for fermented foods. For a couple of years they have had a Fermentation Festival here with classes, talks and demos on fermented foods: how to make them and why they are good for you. Dozens of vendors let you sample the kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, olives, pickles and things I've never heard of, that they have for sale.

I have been getting huge heads of cabbage free every couple of weeks, so I decided it was time. My kraut has been 'working' for a couple of weeks now and it's looking good.

I used a recipe from a local free magazine called "Discoveries: For Those Who Live and Play in Northwest Sonoma County".

These are the instructions I followed and so far it's looking great.

This recipe is for Sauerkraut or Kimchee

Thinly shred a medium head of cabbage in a food processor or by hand with a sharp knife--the thinner the shred, the crunchier the result. Thinly slice 2 green onions using both the green and white parts, and two tiny red Thai chili peppers (or some crushed dried hot red peppers to taste). Add one teaspoon grated ginger and one large clove of garlic, smashed and chopped fine (Other optional ingredients are daikon radish, carrots, beets, dry hijiki seaweed, cumin, dill or parsley). [I used cabbage, garlic, ginger and seaweed in mine because I have had this combination and love it.]

In a large glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl, add 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons of sea salt to the shredded cabbage mixture. Mix well and let sit for about 10 minutes until liquid (the brine) begins to form. Mash everything together with a potato masher to encourage brine. (It works!)

Then put the mixture into two very clean wide-mouthed 16 ounce canning jars (or a single quart jar), packing jars full by smashing down the contents with a spoon until the brine completely covers the top of the cabbage mixture. Leaving about 1/4-inch of space at the tops of the jars, screw on the lids, but not too tightly. Set the jars on top of the fridge (in a pie tin, in case of overflow) and cover with a towel.

Let sit two to three weeks or longer. After one month, your homemade sauerkraut/kimchee is ready to eat. You can put the unopened jars in the fridge to retain a crunchy texture.

Note: if you open the lid and discover a bit of mold on top, just scrape if off and the rest will be fine.

I used pink Himalayan salt.
Have another couple of weeks to go for my first batch. I'll make sure and let everyone know how it turned out. Tomorrow, I will start another batch since I just received another huge head of cabbage. I wonder what I'll put in it this time...maybe some chili peppers.

If you want to know about the Fermentation Festival which will be in the fall, you can subscribe to the Osmosis website newsletter to receive updates.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring in Pocket Canyon

This is the time of year when I fall in love with my home and yard again. I begin to go outside and work in my garden, happy to see which plants have survived the winter. Yesterday I saw an iris ready to bloom that has not bloomed for 6 years!

The stinging nettle is returning as is the elecampane and the agrimony - herbs I planted years ago which come back every year. The artemisias and the mugwort are coming up. The evening primrose and the St. John's wort have expanded - yay! For the first time ever the rosemary is blooming! Thyme, oregano, savory and rue have survived. The peppermint and spearmint are flourishing. For many, these are not great accomplishments, but out here in the redwoods, cold, wet, dark winter conditions threaten Mediterranean herbs. There is not a lot of sun even in the middle of summer, because I live in a narrow canyon surrounded by hundred foot trees. But I am glad and hopeful to see each one that returns.

I notice that the bluebells are out in force, remembering that the daffodils did not do so well this year. I know they are still there, since gophers don't like them. The foliage came up, but no flowers.

There is still enough water flowing through the small creek that crosses beneath my driveway, for a mini waterfall from the huge pipe that got installed before my time. I am comforted by this sound of water...this is a safe amount. All is well. The reflection of the big creek it falls into shimmers on my porch roof. It is delightful to sit out there and eat my late breakfast, read, write and dream. Each spring I see that I am not ready to give it up - this life in the woods, despite the discomforts I endured this past winter.
In winter I swear this is it...I'm moving, I can't stand it anymore. Worrying about flooding, and suffering from the bitter damp cold for months at a time.
But then Spring finally comes and with it a whole new perspective. I managed to start some peas in my little greenhouse, then transplant them between rainstorms. Now they have found the mesh I installed for them to climb up on.
This year there are dozens of new redwood sprouts. In the 18 years I've been here, I have never seen so many. Part of me wants to pull them up as they will take over my garden if they survive, but part of me realizes this is Nature reclaiming the land. I remember that I will not always be here, but these trees could live for hundreds of years.
When I first got this place I made a commitment to protect the redwoods on my I have a crop of babies! I should take this as a good sign and nurture them. The earth abides and I am grateful.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Healing Power of Culinary Spices

Found this great book at the library the other day and highly recommend it. "Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Every Day and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease". The author is Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD. You can purchase it through  this blog by clicking the link in the sidebar.

Many of the spices you already have in your cupboard if you like to cook. Some have to be purchased at an herb store, some at ethnic grocery stores. I love it that spices and recipes from many world cuisines are included. The book describes the spice, where it comes from and how to identify it if there are others that are similar to it.

There is some history about the plants and how they have been used. It goes into research from around the world as to the healing properties both from the 'folk' point of view and through scientific research. On top of that there are recipes for using them in your everyday diet. Here are just a few examples:

Pomegranate Guacamole

1 lime
1 cup sliced scallions
4 garlic cloves, diced
2-3 serrano or jalapeno chiles, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbs. pomegranate juice
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1. Peel and pit the avocados and place them in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with lime juice. Mash until it forms a coarse pulp.
2. Add the scallions, garlic, chiles, cilantro, and pomegranate juice. Continue to mash until well blended but still a little chunky. Fold in the pomegranate seeds.

Makes about 2 cups

The author refers to pomegranate as "a pharmacy unto itself", with special value for blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and numerous types of cancer.

Another gem - Lemongrass "the calming spice"
And who would not benefit from that these days? This is a good one for hot summer days (haven't seen many of those for a long time)...but you could drink it hot as well.

Lemongrass Tea

1 cup lemongrass pieces about 1/2 inch each
1/2 cup sugar
8 cups water

It says to boil 2 cups water with the lemongrass and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Steep til cool then put in blender or food processor until finely chopped. Then you strain out all the solids. Serve cold or iced

Lemongrass is helpful in reducing cholesterol and has anti-cancer properties as well.

Although the book does have illustrations, more would be better. It has a chart on what you can use to substitute for spices you don't have when cooking and recipes for popular blends such as: bouquet garni and mulling spice. I was pleased to see another recipe for Ras-el-hanout since I collect them. A whole section at the back is devoted to curry and masala blends. Finally there is a section on where to find spices that may not be available in your area...websites and phone numbers.

I appreciate the fact that the author includes research done outside the U.S. and Europe, because we don't always have access to that. He pulls it all together in a very user friendly way. This book is a 'must have' for anyone trying eat their medicine.

2 ripe avocados

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Perfect for this Holiday Season

I made the salsa recipe until fresh cranberries were no longer available. You can buy fresh cranberries and freeze them to use later. I plan to do that this year because I love this salsa so much.

I probably posted this before, but it is so delicious, I thought I'd post it again. Made some for Thanksgiving and have to say...this one is so popular, you have to double or even triple the recipe if you have more than 6. People literally park themselves near this salsa and don't move! Delicious.

I have used lemon and even orange juice when lime was not available. I prefer the lower amount of sugar. I'm making some right now! It's really good with corn chips, especially blue corn chips. Unsalted best.


1/2 -- 3/4 CUP SUGAR



I haven't tried to make this but as soon as I get my new oven, I will.




1.Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. Lightly brush a 9 inch glass or ceramic pie pan with melted butter.

2.Scatter the cranberries in an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle ½ cup of the sugar and the pecans over them.

3.Place the butter, flour, eggs, almond extract, and the remaining 1 cup of sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to combine well. Pour or spread the butter mixture over the cranberry mixture.

4.Bake the tart until it has risen, is lightly browned, and the center has nearly set-40-45 minutes. Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes, then slice and serve warm with the whipped cream. Or, let the tart cool completely, about 1 hour, before serving. Dust with confectioners’(powdered) sugar if desired.

This tart can also be made with 1 cup chopped apple and 1 cup of cranberries.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gather, Prepare and Eat Acorns

The other day on my walk, I noticed there were a lot of acorns on the ground. I know they were the staple food source for California Indian people for centuries, so I knew they were edible. In fact, at different times in my life when I was spending time with Native People, I cooked and prepared them myself. I decided to try it again.

I gathered acorns over a couple of days, let them sit for a few days, then cracked them open taking out the nuts inside. I soaked them overnight to loosen the brown skin on the nut, then removed the skins. I ground them in my Vitamix to the size of coffee grounds. I put them in cold water and poured off the water about a dozen times.
Today I am cooking the mush. It is creamy and smooth, with a mild flavor.

Acorn has a high level of protein. It was the staple food for California native people for generations until Europeans came with their animals, which escaped and fed off the acorns making it unavailable to the people. It has been said that is this the main reason the native people were forced to go to the missions...for food after their own food source was taken by the animals.

Acorn is a nut and after the tannins are removed by processing, has a light nut flavor. Tannins create a bitter taste and are not good for our liver, so must be removed, but it is not poisonous. All types of acorn can be eaten. Some have more tannin than others and so take more processing before eating.

Check out this website: Acorn Recipes and Acorn Preparation

A great website, which although it is low tech...has everything you need to know about acorn.

I think it is very useful for us to know about 'wild foods' and how to prepare them. Find out what grows naturally near you or within a short distance, that you can use for food or medicine. Learn how to prepare these items, including seeds, nuts, berries, sea vegetables, leaves, roots, mushrooms, and fruit. This will be beneficial to you in many ways:

1) it will get you out in nature, walking and being observant,
2) you will be learning something new, including the cycles of nature,
3) you will see that you are not at the mercy of the supermarket down the street - which will empower you and help you feel more secure.

Knowing that everything you REALLY need is available and within your reach is a good feeling. It is empowering to collect and prepare wild foods.

Hopefully, we won't need to rely on these things to survive, but will just add them to our diet for variation and fun. Have a wild foods dinner with your friends.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fall - Time for Spiced Chai

This is the season for chai. Hot and spicy, it warms you up and is good for you. It's a good way to strengthen your immune system before the onslaught of winter.

I start my chai by putting fresh ginger, cardamom seeds (taken out of the pods), and cinnamon stick in the crock pot overnight. The next day, after I turn off the crock pot, I add black tea and let that steep for a few minutes. I make a large batch. I make it strong, then put it in the refrigerator for easy use at a later time. When I want some, I use about half a cup or so, add multi-grain milk and honey then heat.

There are hundreds of recipes...find one or make up one. Here is an article from the Herb Companion newsletter with 3 recipes following:

"Sensuous, soothing and simply irresistible, chai is the ideal accompaniment for savory scones … a perfect break on a busy afternoon … a satisfying finish to a holiday dinner with family and friends.

Derived from the Chinese chá, “chai” means tea in much of the world, including Asia, Eastern Europe, parts of Africa and Brazil. Masala chai is an aromatic blend of black or green tea with warming spices. Sugar and milk often are included, as well.

Travel to India, Nepal and Tibet, where masala chai originated, and you’ll likely see vendors peddling the tasty brew on street corners or at train stations. According to Ayurvedic tradition, masala chai boosts the immune system, enhances metabolism, relieves stress, aids digestion and sharpens the mind.

You can find hundreds of chai recipes associated with different locales, restaurants and even families. Preparation methods vary, too—some aficionados insist on boiling the tea, spices and milk together, while others take a gentler approach, briefly steeping the tea leaves and spices in hot water, then adding hot milk and sweetener last.

The following recipes are three twists on this long-loved delight. Experiment by adding fennel seeds, coriander seeds, nutmeg, star anise, and lemon or orange peel to create your own favorite blend."

Basic Black Chai

• 1½ cups cold water
• One 2-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken
• 2 heaping teaspoons black tea
• Seed of 3 cardamom pods
• One ¼-inch-thick slice fresh ginger
• 3 whole cloves
• 2 black peppercorns
• ¼ to ½ cup milk
• 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar

1. Bring water to a boil in small saucepan. Add cinnamon, cover, remove from heat; steep 2 minutes. Return pan to heat; bring to a boil. Add tea, spices, milk and sugar; cover, and remove from heat. Steep 3 minutes.

2. Pour mixture through fine wire-mesh strainer into warm teapot, discarding solids. Garnish with cinnamon sticks.

Gentle Green Chai

This is a yummy variation of kahwah, a Kashmiri green tea.

• 1½ cups cold water
• 2 heaping teaspoons green tea
• Seed of 1 cardamom pod
• 2 whole cloves
• 2 strands saffron (optional)
• 6 blanched almonds, chopped
• ½ cup milk
• 1 tablespoon honey

1. Combine water, tea, spices and almonds in small saucepan. Cook over low heat until hot (do not boil). Partially cover; steep over low heat 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in milk and honey.

2. Pour through fine wire-mesh strainer into warm teapot, discarding solids. Serve.

Tulsi Chai

In India, Tulsi Chai, made from holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), is used to treat colds and reduce stress.

• ½ cup holy basil leaves
• 2 cups cold water
• 2 heaping teaspoons green tea
• Seed of 1 cardamom pod
• One 1/4-inch-thick slice fresh ginger
• One 2-inch cinnamon stick, broken
• 2 whole cloves
• Pinch of nutmeg
• 1 tablespoon honey
• Milk, to taste

1. In small saucepan, boil basil and water. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in tea, spices and honey: bring almost to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and steep 3 minutes.

2. Pour mixture through fine wire-mesh strainer into warm teapot, discarding solids. Serve with milk. Garnish with skewered crystallized ginger cubes, fresh basil leaves and grated nutmeg.

Read more

Monday, October 17, 2011

Edible Mushrooms Growing in my Living Room!

A couple of weeks ago I had a booth at the annual harvest event at Laguna Farms in Sebastopol. I was selling my herbal products and giving flower essence readings.

They offered many classes including one on growing edible mushrooms. I made two 'bags' full of rice hay and mycelium.

Two days ago they sprouted. I was so excited! Mushroom babies! I spent some time trying to find out what kind they were then finally identified them - Pleurotus ostreatus var.columbinus blue oyster mushrooms! I wasn't sure how long to let them grow before harvesting, but after I did a little research, I figured it out.

This picture shows them on the second day after they pop out of the plastic bag. They get as big as cookies and lighten in color when they are ready to eat. Once they start, they grow fast.

I have been eating them for two nights now. Although they are not supposed to do this, I notice my dreams are more vivid and active than they had been before. I am very sensitive to new energies, so it might just be me. But I do feel different. I cut the fresh mushrooms, cook and eat them in minutes. They are so alive, the first time I cut them I apologized.

I am hooked! Growing my own edible mushrooms is so easy! I always heard that, but now that I've done it and eaten the results I am a believer.

Today, the universe said YES, and sent me the latest catalog from Fungi Perfecti. I knew I had one, but couldn't find it. I have been listening for guidance about the direction I am to take next and now I know I will be growing mushrooms.

Since I live in the woods, my place is cool and dark most of the time. I have the right kind of place for growing mushrooms, both indoor and outdoor. You can eat them and it's legal!

The first time I ate them, I wanted to taste their natural flavor, so I did not use any seasoning. They were so delicious,with a mild and delicate flavor. I sauteed them briefly in a little olive oil and butter. Yummm!

Last night I mixed them with roasted eggplant and garlic over linguini sprinkled lightly with fresh grated parmesan. It was a gourmet meal.

Tonight I'm going to cook up a batch and freeze it. They are producing so many mushrooms I can't eat them all. I will cook them up, freeze them, then used them in a sauce over polenta that I will bring to a Halloween party potluck.

Not sure if they grow a second time, but I'll see. My next experiment will be to grow some medicinal mushroom like Reishi and Lion's Mane.

Here are some useful websites I found in my research:

To start "growing your own" I suggest going to the website by Fungi Perfecti, because they are totally reliable and they have been doing this for a long time.
Try growing your own. It is so amazing. A great project for kids. You can grow them on your kitchen counter. They don't take up much room and you don't have to do anything. No watering or weeding! ha ha