culinary nutrition

herbal tinctures and mental wellness

FullSizeRender

Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional or medical practitioner.  I speak only of my personal experience and do not attempt to make any recommendations for tincture usage by anyone else.  Please use caution when using herbal tinctures.  Use at your own risk.

I’m no where near being able to talk myself out of the dark place.  It’s not unlike arriving at your destination and having no memory of having driven there, like sleepwalking.  Like the general routine of taking medication, opening windows around the house in the early morning.  Your day – your life – will be affected by these things, but the small actions of doing them are seemingly inconsequential.  Living at a low vibration is cumulative and one day you realize you’re not where you want to be.

I’ve never been known to self-medicate.  I rarely remember self-care.  Something I have returned to again and again, however, is a home remedy using herbal tinctures.  Tinctures, like essential oils, are powerful vehicles in that they squeeze many essential benefits out of a few potent drops.  I don’t have to spend hours grooming or bathing or brewing elixirs or whatever else we’re often encouraged to do to make special time for ourselves.  Too much time to myself is quite likely what has been driving me mad.  I can instantly (and discreetly) imbibe a few drops of tincture onto my tongue or into my water glass and carry on.

I have made a few of my own tinctures and sought out others, and through a bit of personal experimentation have figured out the right dosage for my needs.  I wanted to share with you here the ones I have turned to again and again.

The process for making tinctures is very simple.  It requires about 4-6 weeks of soaking time for potency.  Typically, I fill a mason jar three quarters of the way full with herbs, and pour in soaking alcohol to cover.  It is recommended to use 80 proof or higher.  I then cover with a piece of parchment paper and seal with the outside ring of the lid.  Brew at room temperature in a dark cupboard.  

Dosage: Theoretically, everyone should consult their healthcare practitioner when taking any substances, and a naturopathic doctor can help determine the proper dosage for your needs.  If you are interested in supplementing with herbs and other natural substances, find a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner that will support your quest for holistic health.

********************

CAYENNE – I made this one myself using whole dried cayenne peppers and organic vodka.  I like this one for a burst of energy or focus.  I’ve also used it after a dehydration hangover or during a tension headache because cayenne can increase blood flow to an area and works as an anti-inflammatory.  Additionally, the rumor mill speaks of capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne and other peppers, as being mood-boosting.  A typical dose is one drop on the tip of my tongue or a few drops in warm lemon water.

PASSION FLOWER – I purchased this from a natural foods market as I was having trouble sourcing the herb and didn’t want to wait an additional month to brew.  Anxiety will do that to you.  This tincture is recommended for social anxiety, and I have been using it a lot recently while starting a new job.  I’ve also taken this right before I go into therapy because I tend to constrict my muscles and get the shakes when I’m emotional.  I generally find that a half of a dropper-full in a glass of water is a decent dose for this store-bought version.

CHAMOMILE – Homemade with organic dried chamomile from an apothecary shoppe, soaked in rum.  I use this in a similar way to passion flower, but mostly I use it to wind down before bed and for a good night’s sleep, especially if the events of the day have been particularly emotional.  Mine is full-strength, so I only need about five drops on the tip of my tongue to feel its effects.

KAVA KAVA – This is a half-strength brew with leaves from an apothecary shoppe mulled with brandy.  Kava is known as the “social” herb, in that it loosens inhibitions similar to alcohol.  When I take a higher dose, I have noticed similar effects to marijuana; particularly a relaxing of the muscles, drowsy eyes and loss of mental focus.  I only use this tincture in the comfort of my own home at the end of the day, typically to prepare for social interaction or to take an “emotional chill pill” (so to speak) before bed.  Because of the weakness of this brew, five drops will just begin to elicit its effects, and I generally take 10 drops on the tongue, though occasionally I will take more.  I do not take this tincture very often as Kava has been implicated in some kidney distress.  However, as I do not regularly tax my kidneys by alcohol consumption or other means, I figure I’m not at high risk.

MARSHMALLOW ROOT – This was gifted to me by a friend in a sort of “hippie trade” (I think I gave her some homemade salve…).  Marshmallow has a soothing effect inside the body (much like ghee, coconut oil, chia, and slippery elm) in that it coats our innards so things pass through more efficiently and resists bacteria growth and infection.  Because of this, it is great for cough and respiratory issues as well as digestive and stomach issues.  I take it when I start to feel pain in my “lady area” to prevent UTI and other infections.  I have found that five drops in a glass of water gives me results by the end of the day.

Advertisements

eating meat again

IMG_2607

Disclaimer: I make no assumption about what is good and right for you or anyone else to consume regarding animal products. I make no claims regarding the consequences or benefit of consuming animal products. I only state what I am choosing and a brief cause for why. Please consult reputable research and data to form your own opinions.

It came to me as a matter of intuition. I began joking with friends, “You know how people go on cleanses where they cut out eating this and that for a week to see how they feel?” I’d been on over a dozen cleanses by then. I had a very “clean” diet by so many standards, but I didn’t feel all that great. I felt extremely limited and wholly unsatisfied and created shame around certain ways of eating and indulging.  And I started having extreme physical discomfort after eating beans, legumes, and most grains – which appear to be the power basis of a vegetarian diet. My protein sources limited, my energy and morale low, I suggested, “What if I added meat back in for a week, just to see what happens?!” Folks laughed at me: the nut always shaking up her diet. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually go through with it at first, but as soon as I gave myself permission and stopped making animal foods the enemy, the primal cravings quickly surfaced.

It’s been nearly two and a half months since I had that first bite of chicken in seven years. I survived on a low-protein diet for most of that time, so I wasn’t initially compelled to add meat to every meal. When I do have it, my portions are typically half-size and more like a condiment. For example, I’ll chop a bit to go in with pepitas and carrot shreds in a salad. Though it is true that I entertained adding meat back in for sufficient protein, I do not think a vegan or vegetarian diet lacks in protein.  My VATA imbalance no longer allows my body to support those kinds of plant-based proteins, and I was at a loss.  Subsisting off fruits and vegetables and nuts may sound like a primate’s dream, but I was getting a bit bored, and I often felt malnourished and ravenous.  Overall, adding meat and animal protein back into my diet has made me better able to stay satiated on a legume-free, low-grain diet.

More than simply changing my way of eating, I have changed my tune.  For a long time I was under the presumption that we had to find our one true way and stick to it.  I wanted to be labeled VEGAN so that no one had to guess and I had a set of rules to follow.   But my foodie nature suffered, as it mostly meant lame garden salads and faux-meat substances, and things were still highly processed and full of preservatives. I longed for a simpler way of eating without restriction.  Lately, I’ve offered my wandering heart more forgiveness.  Through studying Ayurveda, I have come to realize that we are constantly seeking a state of balance, and we may flow this way and that, day by day, year by year.  If I can understand my needs and how to work toward balance no matter where I’m at, then I can break free of any rigid systems and do what’s best for me in the moment.  I believe my scrubbed diet (among other things) tipped me into a VATA imbalance over the last seven years and I am in recovery.

Going vegetarian taught me how to cook. It taught me how to love vegetables and get creative when I wanted a “better” version of something. Recently, that fire started to dampen, and when I opened up the possibility of incorporating meat back into my meals, I began to see a future of delicious creativity ahead. I still think of myself as plant-based, because meat isn’t the main thing I eat, or even my favorite thing to eat. But it has been a good friend to me through this trying time.

IMG_2686

THINGS WORTH NOTING:

Ethics: I seek out the most ethically produced meat I know how. There are many ways to research this, many medias to guide your way. I urge you to make these choices for yourself. I want pastured chickens and wild fish. Local when possible. I’m not yet eating red meat or pork (never quite had a taste for them anyway), but if I did, I’d start with buffalo meat, lamb, goat, etc as they don’t tend to be factory farmed like cattle.

Prevalence: I try to only add one animal protein per meal. I may toss a boiled egg into my salad, spread cheese on a cracker, or stir-fry chicken and vegetables – all for separate meals / snacks.  I prefer goats’ milk cheese and sheeps’ yogurt to avoid factory-farmed dairy and lactase. I never desire to drink a glass of milk or anything like that. I prefer ghee or clarified butter with the milk solids (casein) removed, but do eat butter when that is what is available.  To keep within budget, I alternate when I buy certain products. I don’t keep them stocked all at once.

Mainstays: If I want milk for something like cereal or baking, I use a nutmilk or coconut milk. I find them cheaper and more delicious. I do watch out for fillers like gums and preservatives and “natural flavors” so I never buy shelf-stable boxed milk. I have found a canned coconut milk with only two ingredients: coconut and water. Nut milks you’ll likely need to blend yourself at home, but there are decent options in the refrigerator section with minimal ingredients in a pinch.  I avoid whey products (protein powders, bars, etc) as they do not support my personal health.   

More ethics: I’m still wrestling with how to eat animals. I have a tendency, with everything I do, to think through the chain of impact with a level of depth that makes it hard to get through the day without being on the verge of tears a dozen times. I make few decisions lightly. This one feels right for me for now.

Additional Reading:  You must do the work yourself.  You must be interested in order to form opinions.  You must research well in order to form grounded opinions.  You must believe for yourself in order to form strong opinions.  My journey has been long; nearly a decade.  These are some sources that have guided my way.
Avoiding Factory Farmed Foods: An Eater’s Guide by HuffPost
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan or any of his other books
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Any memoir about farming, homesteading, eating ethics, food politics, etc.
SOME carefully chosen documentaries: Food, Inc and other factory-farm docus.  Important to distinguish between the investigative ones uncovering injustice versus those trying to shame you into veganism.

RI: berry beet compote

IMG_2775 (1)

I haven’t been cooking much creatively lately as I sort of fell out of line with my one true passion for a while. For a number of reasons, I thought I needed a different hobby; needed to get involved in a new creative venture. I’m slowly getting back into the kitchen, starting with simple, whole foods recipes that don’t require much effort. And, with the move, I’m trying to use up the random things left in my pantry, so I guess things do tend to get a bit interesting!

This RI: Recipe Inspiration series is intended to be a round up of flavor combinations, recipe techniques and ingredient profiles to encourage you to be playful and experimental in the kitchen. I don’t follow recipes very often, and I think it’s a good thing! We can flex our creative muscles and find things to fill up our dinner plate from what we have already lying around. Here we go!

IMG_2778 (1)

MIXED BERRY + BEET COMPOTE

Week after week, my CSA box was full of beets. I love beets, but it was a bit much. I steamed and froze some of them for future use, and the future of cleaning-out-the-freezer-before-the-move was coming up quick. Along with a bag of frozen mixed berries, I stewed everything together. Berries are a low-sugar fruit, and beets are a high-sugar vegetable, so #balance, and earthy-meets-sour notes abound. Paired with one the of the many options listed below, the flavor combo is right on. It’s absolutely delicious.

What you will need:

  1. Mixed berries (fresh or frozen), such as blueberries, black berries, raspberries, strawberries
  2. Fresh or frozen steamed beets, chopped
  3. Coconut sugar or other natural sweetener (honey or maple syrup work well)

What to do:

  1. To a saucepan, add berries and beets. There will be juices after a while; continue to stir while it comes to a low boil and the juices begin to evaporate.
  2. Add in coconut sugar. I added one tablespoon per cup of fruit and it’s still pretty tart. If you want it sweeter, add more.
  3. Once the sauce is the consistency you like (I like it not too thick, but not runny), transfer some of the compote (especially the beets) to a blender and quickly blend to chop up the beets. Add back to saucepan and stir to combine.

IMG_2783 (1)

How to use:

  • Serve over pancakes, waffles, cereal, toast.
  • Swirl into yogurt, ice cream.
  • Fill crepes, jam bars, thumbprint cookies.
  • Spread on sweet and savory sandwiches.
  • Can be used as a sauce for baked chicken or fish.
  • Shown here stirred into full-fat coconut milk for a yogurt-style snack.

Tips:

  • If your compote is still pretty tart, serve it with fatty, sweet components to mute it down a bit.
  • I like to eat it with plain coconut milk because the heavy, creamy mixture supports VATA balance.
  • If you are feeling KAPHA or PITTA, you might enjoy it with a bit of ice cream.
  • You can make a compote out of any fruit. Fruits that are more ripe and sweet likely won’t need an added sweetener.
  • You can blend it smooth if desired.

IMG_2770 (1)

 

creative liberties

FullSizeRender (2)

There are few places I’d rather be than in the kitchen.  I realize that sets me apart from a lot of my contemporaries, and the generations before us.  I didn’t grow up in the kitchen.  And, though I have to remind my mother that she does more than she thinks she does when it comes to home-cooking, I didn’t grow up with my mother in the kitchen, either.  I became interested in cooking during college, after removing meat from my diet and finding myself at a loss for what to eat after that.  As the years went on, I found myself pouring over food blogs and cookbooks and, more importantly, pouring over pots and blenders in the kitchen, mostly making it up as I went along.  By senior year, I was the margarita cupcake queen, hosted club board meetings potluck-style in my apartment, and raced home between classes and duties to roast vegetables and make gigantic green smoothies.  When I think of my relationship to food, I can fondly look back at my life in stages: when I couldn’t stand the thought of animal cruelty staring back at me on my plate, when I eschewed wine in favor of bread and cheese in Europe, when I discovered flaxseed and made a connection between food and healing, when I played private chef at Casa de Mom and Dad, when every meal went down Chopped-style in our Denver volunteer house, on and on.

Sometimes I picked up trends (hello, bananas; goodbye, bananas) but most times I was just following my heart – er, tongue.  Now that I’m “in the health food scene” as I say – which means nothing more than that I have my finger on the pulse of what is happening on the nutrition front and the social media explosion of food-sharing – I’m even more privy to trends in food and wellness.  Some I embrace whole-heartedly (chocolate + tahini is EVERYTHING), and some I can’t justify launching into (delicately constructing a patterned parfait only to demolish it in a fraction of the time??).  In culinary nutrition, we encourage batch cooking and meal prepping.  However, that’s never quite worked for me.  Sometimes, yes, it pays to wash and prep all your greens, make a slow-cooker soup, or blend up a quick dressing to use all week.  But I don’t make it a regular thing, and here’s why:

  1. I’d rather not spend half a day cooking all my meals for the week.  I prefer to spend my free days bopping around doing whatever thrills me in the moment.  Sometimes, that’s cooking an elaborate meal which takes half a day, but at my own will and freedom.
  2. I’d rather spread out my cooking over the week so that I still have it as my daily meditative and creative time.
  3. I don’t want cooking to be just another chore I have to do on the weekend, like vacuuming, or bathing.
  4. I try not to eat the same thing all week, which is often the result of meal prepping because it is easier to batch cook one dish rather than individual cook seven.
  5. I have no idea what I’ll be craving any day, so I’d rather deal with that when it comes.
  6. I have the time and freedom to cook at my leisure.
  7. I enjoy the creativity that comes from trying to make meals out of what I have on hand.  This is why I don’t meal plan and shop for a list of ingredients, either.  I’m more comfortable problem solving and making it up as I go rather than following a recipe.
  8. If I were to prep a snack or a dessert to have on hand all week when the craving hits, I’ll eat most of it before the end of that day.  Never fails.  Face palm.

The following recipes were whipped up based solely on what I had on hand.  It lets the creativity flow freely.

IMG_1567

POTATO + EGG SALAD

5 red potatoes, boiled and chopped
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
Bunch chives, finely chopped
1 Tbsp ghee
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
A few healthy pinches of pink salt
Dash red pepper flakes

Add ingredients to a bowl and smash with a fork until well-mixed and desired consistency.  Spoon over fresh and crispy lettuce leaves, or use as a filling in a collard wrap.

Yield: 6 servings

Note: There is no mayonnaise in this recipe (GASP!).  The only reason for that is I did not have any on hand.  I think smashing the potatoes and eggs together creates a nice consistency, and the ghee was added for healthy fats and moisture in its stead.  I salted the salad quite a bit, because I think potatoes beg for salt and it’s okay if your salt has plenty of minerals!

FullSizeRender (1)

RAW MANGO COCONUT PUDDING

2 very ripe mangos, pulped
1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 Tbsp coconut palm sugar
1 Tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Refrigerate to set until thickened to desired consistency.

Yield: 1.5 cups

IMG_1578

RAW CHOCOLATE TAHINI FUDGE

1/4 cup tahini
1 heaping Tbsp cacao powder
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Small pinch pink salt

Blend ingredients until smooth.  Pour into a fudge mold (I used a parchment-lined pyrex dish).  Freeze until set, about one hour.  Slice to serve.  Store in airtight container in freezer.

Yield: 6-8 servings

eat responsibly for all mankind

img_1759

Prepping for breakfast/dessert

My philosophy around food and eating has probably changed as many times as I’ve been asked the question.  I really think that is okay.  We are constantly learning and educating ourselves, testing out our theories, finding out what is practical and sustainable, and what we are willing to make sacrifices for.  Below is what I submitted in an assignment for the Academy.  It’s an overarching theme rather than a strict yes-this no-that.  What also follows is my current interpretation of my own food philosophy.  I hope you will let me know your thoughts, what your food philosophy looks like, what you eat or don’t and why.  I am so curious!

img_1602

The components of a typical meal

Eat responsibly for all mankind.
Honor your privilege of choice. Choose foods with a positive impact on the planet and humanity; it is an ethical imperative. If you aren’t growing your food, someone in the world is. Make sure that someone is compensated fairly so they can afford their share of the crop.   Make sure your food practices do not compromise vulnerable communities around the world. Source, production, packaging, shipping, distribution, and price all have an affect on the overall health of the world and humanity. When in doubt, stay local and small and purposeful.

Eat foods found in their most natural form. 
Eat like a hunter/gatherer: from the earth, hand-processed, nutrient-dense, seasonal, wild and naturally grown, homemade, grateful and without waste. Know the source.

Eat intuitively. Look to the planet for healing.
Eat to fuel your body and brain. Eat what feels and tastes good, makes you groove and laugh and find your creative niche. Don’t be fooled by tricks and trends. Eat what you would make for yourself. Don’t eat the same thing every day. Eat sweet and savory and succulent and smart. Above all else, let the earth be your healer and guide. Nature already has what you need to survive.

Eat for best health.
Eat the right foods for your body so that you feel good in your skin. Eat because you get to, not because you have to. Keep an open mind and try various styles of eating to find what works best for you. When you fuel your body with the proper nutrients, you gain a certain zest for life, and in turn make yourself a better companion for your loved ones. You don’t have to be the grumpy one whose mind is always “elsewhere.” You can be present in your life and full of vibrancy.

img_1647

I was baking.  No refined sugar or flour in sight!

I wish we could talk about our diets in terms of what we DO eat, not just what we don’t.  But that doesn’t always give the whole picture, as you might tell from my philosophy.  Although I’d love to give the long list of wonderful, healing, and delicious foods I eat, it’s probably more clear if I note foods I avoid.  I’ll do a bit of both just for clarification.

Nay

  • Meat, fish
  • Dairy (all animal milk and byproducts, including sheep/goat cheese, etc)
  • White sugar and flours, gluten
  • Processed food: things with refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, vegetable/canola/corn oils and other modified oils.  To me, processed foods generally include anything that itself is not an ingredient  (granola bars, cereal, munchies, beverages, veggie burgers, yogurts, ice creams, etc) and also includes doctored-up almond milks, canned soups, chocolate, protein powders, etc.  All this because they almost always include preservatives, food colorings, MSG, other chemicals, GMO derived products (soy, corn), and cane sugar in all its various forms.  I am definitely one of those people that reads every. single. label. and almost never purchase packaged foods.

Maybe

If I’m dining out, it’s a bit of a different story.  I mean, at the end of the day, I’m a FOODIE, and I have needs. 😉  Because I don’t do it often (read: once every couple months), I stretch the limits and basically just avoid meat.

img_1729

We made frittata!

YAY!

  • I eat what I call “backyard eggs,” which means I get them from people I know who live in town, have small flocks of birds and let them run free in their yards, feed them vegetables, and hand pick the eggs themselves.
  • I am loving ghee, which is clarified butter with all the milk solids and lactase removed (it is not a dairy product and is a healing food; can be used like butter and other cooking fats).
  • I also love honey and it is my preferred sweetener of choice because the raw, unfiltered kind is packed with health benefits that many alternative, plant-based sweeteners are lacking.
  • I love fats (even saturated) and eat fairly low-carb.  I definitely could get more protein in my diet, and I’m working on that with things like sea vegetables and seeds and the like.
img_1584

Local honey sets us back a pretty penny, but it is SO incredibly worth it

 

follow your gut to santa barbara

img_1221

Aside from my homebrew kombucha, my first experience with fermented foods, on recollection, happened in a café basement on a crowded street in Denver. You entered through the kitchen and, upon descending the skinny staircase, found yourself exposed to the underside of fine-casual dining. (Sort of fitting, if you think about it. The secret spaces where the magic happens. If everyone knew about it, they’d be doing it themselves. There’s foodie and then there’s You put what in your mac and cheese?) It was darkish, with string lights hung about. The quarters were tight and we were instructed to bring our own knives. Greet your neighbors. We’re going to be making kimchi.

That night, I added brine to my vocabulary. I flirted with danger by not only risking my own fingers to the knife, but my neighbor’s as well. We shopped around the little “mini mart” set up with beautiful organic produce, chopped strange things with strange names (HI, JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE), salted, seduced, massaged, stuffed. Our jars now a rainbow of turning temptresses: things were beginning to g r o w. Best of all, the course was taught by a rad coworker making a career change from social work into holistic nutrition (sound familiar?) and I was surrounded by some of my favorite people making “lovers kraut” jokes. We took home our prizes and waited. Burped, and waited. The thing about ferments is that they’re growing the good stuff quickly, so mostly it becomes about flavor: you can ferment as little or as long as you want. Me, being rather impatient when not outright forgetful, I opted try to the good stuff after only a few weeks.

And I hated it.

img_1242

I thought my love affair with the probiotic underbellies was effectively over.

I was introduced to lacto-fermentation when I started my new job in California. We make some of the best sauerkraut* and pickles I’ve ever had. I didn’t even know that pickling (in vinegar) and fermenting (in saltwater AKA “brine”) yields two insanely different results, both in flavor and nutritional profile.  (Fermenting foods grows the good bacteria we’re talking about.  Soaking foods in vinegar just changes the flavor/texture.)  That, coupled with my continued admiration for kombucha, led me to the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival.

A festival like this is grounds for hippie/foodie/nutty/nutrition-y people to congregate and get their freak on. Well, in a way. Have you ever massaged cabbage before? It’s a sort of…feeling. ANYWAY. When you bring together people who love this stuff with people who know a thing or two about this stuff, it’s merry magic and then some. I took notes, and that’s really what I came here to share. If you have questions, please let me know and I will do my best to answer/point you in the right direction!

*I haven’t had enough sauerkraut to make these claims. But it LOOKS better than any other kraut I’ve ever seen and tastes BOMB, and I made it, so there’s that.

img_1240

From left to right: water kefir (2 jars), water kefir mojito soda, assorted pickled veggies, sauerkraut, salsa

The Festival boasts a “Screamin’ Pickle” contest where folks can enter their own home-crafted ferments for a chance at the glass pickle trophy! Maybe next year I’ll enter some carrot kombucha…

img_1386

DIY pickling station: Pickling is very easy. Stuff a jar with garlic, fresh dill, and your favorite vegetables and pour over saltwater mixture. Seal. Burp. Set. Don’t forget. To “burp” your jar is to unscrew the cap slightly to let out a bit of the CO2 that’s been building and then seal it back up again. The CO2 is a good thing, so we don’t want to let it all out. We just want to prevent an explosion during the multi-day ferment process.

img_1181img_1182fullsizerender-4

Salsa demo: Ever opened that jar of salsa or hummus and felt a tingling sensation on the tip of your tongue as you registered this was probably a week past enjoyable? I can’t attest for the probiotic content of those cast-offs, but you can be intentional! If you like the zing, or if you want to get more out of your raw dip, it is SO easy. Make your salsa as usual and place in a glass jar. Weigh it down with olive oil by pouring about half an inch of oil on top, seal and let set!

On weights: Weights are important in fermentation because we want the good bacteria to grow, not the bad. Oxygen in ferments leads to internal mold growth, so we also need to pack things down and release all the air bubbles. America is more familiar with the bad, because we are so intent on sterilizing our nation and ourselves that we can probably spot the signs of mold anywhere. I didn’t even know “good” bacteria existed until I was introduced to kombucha in college. Literally, I had no idea. Of course, fermentation is an ancient, ancient tradition the world over, but it’s really no surprise that many of us in developing countries have been shielded from this knowledge. I digress: You will often see kraut, kimchi, pickles kept below waterline with a piece of cabbage or something. I’ve seen drier ferments weighted and sealed with a baggie of water. Below waterline, good. Exposed, bad. Exceptions, always. BUT as a general rule.

img_1385

Kraut demo: The best way I can describe to you homemade sauerkraut vs. store-bought and ballpark versions is that it is drier. I’m convinced I don’t like most kraut because it’s just so weirdly wet. The kind we make at work can hold it’s own on a sandwich and isn’t going to leak everywhere and make everything smell rotten. All it takes is a head of cabbage and some salt. It’s brilliant with caraway seeds and a touch of sweetener. Chop up the cabbage, massage with the salt until the water starts to seep out. Stuff in a jar and burp once a day until it smells like kraut you want to eat (a week maybe).

Size matters: A helpful tip we learned from the workshop was that larger batches of kraut in larger jars yields the best result (in terms of proper CO2 buildup). Small jars let out too much CO2 when burped so it is recommended to use gallon-sized jars. I think it tastes fine in smaller jars, but again, it’s personal preference. Without the proper CO2 buildup, you may not be getting the biggest nutritional bang for your very real (though economical) buck.

fullsizerender-7

fullsizerender-6

barbareno.com

Miso hungry: In the week before the festival, I was picking over beans in the rare bulk bin at my local grocery chain. I went with the cheapie black beans because money. But the other option was pinquito beans, which apparently are only grown on about four or five farms in the whole world, right here in Lompoc and Santa Maria. So a chef from an SB restaurant that specializes in taking local cuisine and fancying it up, taught us how to ferment them into miso! I can’t say the ingredients are that easy to source (I mean, it probably just requires a trip to the Asian market) but one day I might decide to do so. Until then, I’ll take us out to dinner at Barbareño and and request every sauce on the menu infused with this stuff.

Tempeh: There wasn’t a demo on making tempeh and I still haven’t researched it myself, but there was a food station serving it made out of beans other than soy (think: garbanzo). I think that’s a nice alternative.

img_1187

fullsizerender-8

RealFoodDevotee.com

Kefir: Most people know of kefir as a fermented dairy drink. Thusly, I have never tried it. The process involves kefir grains (different varieties for dairy and water) and a sugar water solution. One of the things I like best about starter grains is the intrinsic traditional value of them: they have to be passed down from somewhere. Even if we purchase them from a vender, they still carry with them vibrations from their former space. I have a certain nostalgia for all things with history. So kefir involves grains, and sourcing them involves knowing someone who homebrews or purchasing them through a vender (online is a good place to start). Then you can use the eventual ferment as a base for “soda” and other flavored beverages. Or drink it straight, which is basically sweet water. The dog really liked it!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Microbiome: So what is all this about, anyway? It is my understanding that the research is on the cusp of confirming what ancient tradition has always known to be true. In San Diego, American Gut is doing research into the microbiome to discover more about how our gut health affects our overall health. We got to chat with one of the project organizers and learn about the project. What stood out most from her information was the discovery that, when studying healthy humans like athletes and such, everyone had a different make up of microbiomes in their system, and they still haven’t been able to find one recipe for gut bacteria that equals impeccable health. Everyone is made up of different microbiomes and thus our diets are going to require different specifics. But it is important to cultivate good bacteria in the gut, and one way in which we know to do this is through fermented foods. A dollop at each meal could begin to improve your mental health, energy levels, immunity, bad breath, and, of course, colon clean-outs.

img_1205

How to actually get fermented foods into your diet

Honestly, I’m still working on it myself.  Because there aren’t tons of recipes (at least not North American recipes) that already call for the fermented goods, it’s probably more of an intuitive call.  I’ve seen people enjoy kraut and kimchi in mac and cheese, so it can be done, people!   I like kraut on a sandwich.  I’d throw pickled vegetables in a wrap or spring roll.  Salsa is a no-brainer.  Beverages would be a good place to start, since you can replace unnatural beverages (soda, fruit cocktail, coffee) with a cup of kefir or kombucha.  You can also add fermented drinks into smoothies and juices and other raw recipes that might call for a liquid.  If you have tips and tricks, please share!

DISCLAIMER: All recipes are brochure handouts from SBFF posted to show source of information.  Interpretations are my own.

collected iv

I’ve been riding a high lately. Reading good books, trying new fitness classes, catching up with old friends, savoring fresh fruit, upping my saturated fat intake, saying yes to vitamin supplements, watching less dramatic TV and more Seinfeld re-runs, dreaming of the future, surviving, breathing deeply.

I have been inspired to share more on certain topics here in this space and for you all and I hope you will stay tuned for those thought-purging moments. They will include things like a recap of the fermentation festival I attended outside Santa Barbara last weekend, a guide for shopping farmers markets and avoiding the scams, monthly challenges, and other hush-hush things that are still developing. All these pieces of excitement are bursting to come out of me and I keep telling myself, Patience. Five DEEP breaths.  Besides, these posts take a good chunk of time for me to curate (in true Bre style) and I have to have some boundaries for myself!

img_1250

I must have found this photo years ago and stuck it in this music box from my grandma. It must have traveled with me from Iowa to Colorado and back. I must have unpacked it upon my arrival in California. And yet it has remained elusive to me, probably because I don’t have much necessity for a tiny music box… I must have recovered it from the back of the closet a few days ago, and upon seeing it thought, These are the founders of the Bad Kid empire. Like we would ever want to be part of an empire, but day after day I am more and more ready for the family business to begin. Look at us toothless and cookie-scarfing. We were destined for this.

img_1170

By now you’ve seen me work my way around a handful of split peas. Here they are again, boiled and blended, topped with fried green onions, dulse flakes, and a scoop of coconut oil. I’ve started to think of “well-balanced meals” as including a scoop of fat and a dollop of fermented foods. I’m still working on the ferments, but the fat proved to be a non-issue.

img_1157

Market oranges, figs, grapes, strawberries. Turmeric tonic recovery drink, again.   Dollop of coconut oil, again.

img_1165img_1166

Have you all been keeping up with Laura Miller? If not, I’ve been doing a poor job spreading the word about my girl-crush. Shoot! I’ve been eagerly awaiting her cookbook from the library (finally came yesterday!) and even convinced my boss at the deli to invest in it. Laura makes short cooking videos about raw vegan foods and that is how I first fell in love with her bouncy curls and earthy vocal tones. Now she’s created this youtube segment, Talking in Circles, which resonates with a homegirl so much! Unrequited lesbian love affair aside, I’ve been looking to people like Laura for advice on handling the big A monster. I posted this reminder in my bedroom and it’s usually one of the first things I see upon waking, when it is most vital.

img_1228-1

I came home from the fermentation festival to this display on the kitchen table. Jared did all the market shopping this week because I was…preoccupied…and he did a bang-up job.

img_1236

Love a good food festival, and one centered on ancient food and medicine traditions is worth the $$$$ even on a tight budget. Got to make some things, meet some people, spend a day in the sunshine, breathe into my whole being. Came home with these goodies. More on the festival in a later post.

img_1244

I offered Dante a sample of the water kefir ferment I took home from the festival. He’s always curious about the scents and functions of “people food” but rarely ever eats anything we offer him. He was all over this, though!

img_1253

This was inspired by that oat cacao shake I presented in the previous post and Meghan Telpner’s morning elixir from a video post about fat fat FAT for breakfast. I drank about a third of this before thinking, Oh, my gosh, I am so full! It sustained me until I had to convince myself to have a late lunch while I was still at work surrounded by free food. The next morning I went back to finish it and it was solid! Well…more like a very dense mousse. It lasted me another two breakfasts. If you trust my recall abilities, an actual recipe follows. Just blend. Refrigerate for thicker pudding/mousse.

1 tbsp cacao powder | 1/3 cup canned coconut milk | 1/3 cup water | 3 tbsp oats | 1 tsp maca powder | 10 cashews | 1 tbsp coconut shreds

img_1267

Sometimes, if you’re passionate about eating fresh, local foods, you have to move where those foods are abundant. Thank you to tree-ripened California oranges for bringing the citrus back to my life!

img_1260img_1263

SPRING ROLLS: My version of a “salad.” I still think it requires a lot of ingredients but it’s so fresh! Dipped in umeboshi sauce. Stuffed with the following.

Cabbage | kale | mushrooms | carrots | cucumber | oranges | red pepper | marinated + baked tofu

img_1276

We’ve remained loyal to our market strawberries, which means we went a couple weeks without when all we could find were conventionally-grown, chemical laden berries. Jared brought these home this week so you can find us hovering over the stove dipping them into melted chocolate.

img_1278

I saw a concept for a breakfast porridge using coconut instead of oatmeal and thought I might try it out.  The above result is made without egg or banana (the options provided in the original recipe) and I made mine chocolate, of course, by adding cacao powder. It is NOT for people who don’t like oatmeal because it’s mushy. I mean, I didn’t hate it. It’s just textured. That’s a dollop of peanut butter (HEY, FAT FRIEND).  Anyway, I would not necessarily call it your new breakfast staple, but I wanted to share it with you anyway so you get a good idea of the crazy things I am willing to eat even when the recipe doesn’t exactly pan out…

img_1288

Mood.

img_1298

I love to make fake out – essentially homemade meals that taste like take out. I stir-fried an assortment of veg (leftover from the spring rolls) and added a savory sauce which makes it feel more guilt-laden than it actually is. The sauce is a quick blend of soy sauce or aminos, coconut milk, rice vinegar, and about a tablespoon of arrowroot powder. Add it at the last minute just before removing the vegetables from heat. It thickens quickly.

img_1301

A quick breakfast hash with the vegetables around. Served with a fried egg and avocado. We’ve been trying out ghee lately and there is a LOT in this dish.

Potatoes | red pepper | cherry tomatoes | kale | chili powder | hot sauce

img_1295

Okay, the Academy released the first module today and I am geeking out over here because
SCHOOL
MEGHAN
COOKING VIDEOS
KITCHEN TALK
SOCIAL JUSTICE
BRIGHT COLORS
NOTE TAKING
MESSY HAIR.