healthy living

herbal tinctures and mental wellness

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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.

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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.

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I’ve been taking to the sauna each day after work.  It’s been cold enough here (re: windy) for me to pull out my winter coat heralded from the blizzard days.  It only works because I always feel like I have a lower core body temperature than most.  (Is that physically possible?  Mildly concerning?)  We just discovered a coat closet at work stuffed up with brooms and a vacuum and one of those metal dollies, which tells you how little people don jackets here.  Okay, earlier this week it was in the 70s and I was in heaven, at the beach, glimpsing summer on the milky horizon.  Either way, I’m grateful for both kinds of days.  And I get to be now, since wretched weather isn’t the norm.  The best is pattering rainfall on my bedroom window, the one just above my plebeian floor mattress, as I fall asleep or fall awake.  Somehow the rain scatters at the thought of sunlight and gives us our time to turn our face upwards, reveling in the treasure of the nightly rainfall.  All without living in the sticky, salty tropics.  All without living in the bitter, biting midwest.  I am starting to miss the city so much; always something to do and some place new to explore.  But I know I need to be here now, to finally hear what my breath sounds like without the mask of everything I put on before.

I keep trying to carve out time in the evening for things I think should qualify as “personal time,” including book reading, loom knitting, journaling, yoga-ing.  But I always seem to end up in the kitchen.  Today I played around with charred eggplant, homemade hairspray, cookies, dog treats.  I cannot deny that that is my restoration, my meditation, my happy place.  So often we try to mold ourselves to be “better versions of ourselves” when in fact, we were at the core, living it all along.  I’m all about personal growth and challenging the self, but there’s a call for near-daily realignment with our soul; glimpsed most often in the rituals we conduct naturally.  I want to be an avid reader again, but now the pages of the most interesting story seem to fall open in the cast-iron skillet, in conversations with my brother, snuggles with the puppy, and strong cups of tea.

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Where this fails on the glamorous front, it should win breakfast awards.  I think by this point I’ve really honed in on my CHOPPED skills and started to embrace that I enjoy most what I throw together myself and end up more pleasantly surprised than I do following someone else’s recipe.  When people give their own dishes high accolades and they don’t always live up, I’m usually left thinking I could’ve done it better if I’d just followed my own creative jolts (raise your hand if you’re a narcissist!).  I do the exact same thing which is why I’ve tried to steer clear of offering up actual recipes and more just suggestions and glimpses into my meals and creative processes, since I can tell you I LOVED something but I can’t expect you’ll love it too.  As my mom always tells me, I have different tastebuds.  (And my tastebuds are the BEST!)

coconut milk | frozen strawberries | maple syrup | Dandy Blend | protein powder | pink salt –> blended to pudding consistency and refrigerated

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I’m PREEEETTTY SURE I can digest that cow’s milk butter better than those vegan legumes (I think they’re yellow split peas but not 100% sure (they were hand-me-downs)).  It’s so frustrating when you eat a whole foods diet – almost 100% plants – and you still have times when you don’t feel like your body is functioning properly.  There’s all kinds of tips and tricks to make things more digestible, but believe me, I’ve tried a ton of them and they don’t work for my lifestyle and my body.  I’m cutting out beans, legumes, and other high FODMAP foods for the month of February to see if I notice a change.  Will keep you posted.

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Look at that stack of fresh, raw veggies!  What a rainbow on a gloomy, rainy afternoon.  Sometimes I get to be such a pro at pantry-based meals that I just CRAVE fresh produce.  I’ve been eating a ton of cooked soups and stews, too, lately, so one night I up and took myself to the grocery store and put every raw vegetable in the cart that was calling my name.  Easter egg radishes, sweet peppers, zucchini squash, rainbow carrots featured next to that hummus recipe from Ottolenghi I’ve been talking about.  It’s also likely a huge source of my digestive issues this week but it was gooooooood.

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Up until last week I worked at the gym where we are currently members.  It was great at times, but mostly it wasn’t the (non-profit) political structure in which I wanted to be involved.  I’m so grateful for my time there because it really stretched me to interact with my new community, and now even when I pop in just to use the sauna it feels like an event because I have to stop and talk to EVERYONE.  Also, it’s given me some liberties that someone like me needs because otherwise I’m just too introverted and would rather stay home.  I mean, if shutting myself up in the sauna solo for thirty minutes isn’t introverted, I don’t know what is…

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On a whim, while whipping up homemade hairspray and purposefully burning eggplant, I tossed together these tahini cookies. If molasses was my flavor of Winter 2016, tahini is Spring 2017.  These are hinted with tangerine oil and a little bit of orange-y chocolate frosting.  All from scratch, of course.  Off camera, I also blended up molasses, peanut butter, and coconut oil and froze in little pucks for the wolf pup.  He hangs around our culinary adventures so often and I try to always give him a taste, but he rarely dines.  Those are a special treat just for him and he loves them!

eat responsibly for all mankind

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

 

follow your gut to santa barbara

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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…

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Mood.

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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.

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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

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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.

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The next time you see me, I’ll officially be a student at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.  Words can barely describe how elated I am to begin this journey; pictures of food do a little more justice.  I have been waiting for this experience since I discovered the program shortly after it had begun last year.  Meghan Telpner has been a sort of personal hero – if not for her advocacy for an ethical lifestyle, than for unabashedly spreading her vibrant personality wherever she goes.  I am giddy for the day I can add a professional stamp to my love of food and find a way to turn my passion and, more integrally, my way of life, into my livelihood.

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CURRY NOODLE SOUP: I feel very strongly about leftovers.  There are obvious implications of food waste, and most pertinent to my current life is $$$$.  So I’m willing to eat leftovers all week.  And if the original flavor isn’t as tasty on the third day, I find a way to revamp the dish rather than feed it to the garbage monster.  This soup started as your standard vegetable – kind of bland, but good for a meal.  Then it was curried (always a good idea when you don’t know how to alter the spices appropriately).  THEN I threw in some ramen noodles and topped it with sesame seeds.  Next level.

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OAT CACAO SHAKE: I must confess, despite my appearance as a “health food” blogger/person, my life is made up of very few smoothies, shakes, and salads.  GASP!  You can’t join the mathletes, it’s social suicide!  This Bad Kid brand is ringing true more and more every day…

Allorah, they do surface every now and then, and I definitely don’t regret them.  This shake contains the following.  Why no measurements, you ask?  Everyone likes their blends a different consistency and flavor, and I don’t even own measuring spoons…

almond milk | oats | hemp seeds | maca powder | cacao powder | honey | coconut oil | ice cubes

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I can officially say I now enjoy the texture of watermelon after being exposed to the organic variety we carry at work. It’s always been too mushy and watery. Maybe it’s the overstated anthem of the age – to “go organic” – but when you can see/taste/love the difference, it makes all the difference.  Jared even said the other day, “I do think we should only buy market strawberries. They just taste so much better!” I was like, A+, brother! So we’ve been on the hunt. BUT you still have to be careful at the market because conventionally-grown produce sneaks its way in, confusing shoppers and disappointing die-hards who seek farm-to-table options. More on that in a later post.

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So it’s probably apparent, and should be by the end of this post, that I’ve been cooking almost exclusively out of Heidi Swanson’s Near & Far cookbook. It has so many wonderful interpretations of global dishes and I am hooked! It doesn’t help that I only own three cookbooks anyway… This is the Root Donburi from the Japanese chapter. It has introduced me to umaboshi (pickled plums) and I am in love!

*I’ve linked to Heidi’s book via BKK so many times that it reads as an unofficial ad.  #SNS

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Also from Heidi, the best turmeric tonic I’ve had to date. It starts with a honey-turmeric paste (shown above) which I think makes all the difference. I’ve been drinking this in the AM after our rigorous hikes as turmeric is anti-inflammatory and our muscles be achin’!

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Making sauerkraut at work!  How do you get your ferment on?

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The image above and the rest that follow are pieces of our “weekend.”  With our overlapping schedules, the only times Jared and I have to adventure together are between my shifts on Wednesdays, and Thursday evening.  The days are exhausting and leave me with that sweet Zen Zone where everything is righteous and golden.  Here we are exploring from Montecito (just outside Santa Barbara), up to San Luis Obispo.

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My week in food and fun.

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CITIZEN BISCUITS: the formation. Let me be clear: I really dislike working with coconut flour. I’ve mentioned a few times already that I found myself stuck with about a pound of it and in an effort to not waste an ounce of my existing pantry of expensive to semi-expensive goods, I’ve been trying to sustain myself off of it. These were an idea after a little bit of soul-searching lead me to find a way to give an offering to humanity. A sort of You’re out there, I’m thinking of you, I can’t solve all your problems but I can send my love. I wouldn’t say they turned out particularly well. Go figure. Bre + baking = questionable results. BUT I’ve never even made real biscuits before so I think that, coupled with the fact that they were still edible, means it wasn’t a complete failure.

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WORLD PEAS SOUP + CITIZEN BISCUITS FOR ALL MANKIND

Pea soup is inspired by Heidi Swanson (the most awesome Yellow Split Pea Mash found in her Near & Far cookbook). Basic idea is cooked split peas (I used green ones), blended with a bit of coconut milk and salted. Heidi suggests topping with pan-fried scallions but onions caramelized in turmeric will work just as well.  Jared and I devoured caramelized onions immediately so they’re not pictured.   Soup paired with the coconut flour biscuits described above.

 

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A sort of behind-the-scenes shot. Baked beans inspired by the Modern Potluck cookbook. Of course I ignored the fact that I didn’t have any of the ingredients called for, so quickly picked through my cupboards to find proper substitutions. This, my first true batch of vegetarian baked beans, will be hard to top. Navy beans (cooked from dry) plus a sauce made from maple sugar, honey, soy sauce, and sweet and sour mustard seeds.  Baked for 1.5 hours at 350 degrees.

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Beginning the month-long project of making apple cider vinegar from scratch. A simple mixture of sugar water and chopped organic apples. The leprechaun hat courtesy of a glass wedged strategically to try to keep the apples submerged in water (lest it mold). In addition to the zillion cooking contributions ACV can make, I use it in a homemade face toner (equal parts ACV, water, and witch hazel) and dip the tips of my hair into a jar of ACV cut with water as a sort of conditioner in the shower.  I had to leave behind my old brew for the cross-country move so I’m currently making do without.  It’s challenging…

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Local berries. We bought three baskets of strawberries and couldn’t eat them all before they began to mush (we’re mindful to keep the appropriate fruit at room temperature to preserve their flavor and nutrient profile). The last basket made a lovely compote-style jam which was sweet enough on its own. I also find strawberries to jam up nicely without starch or pectin, so all I did was cook down the berries until spreadable consistency. This simple concoction quickly became a favorite and we’re anxiously awaiting the next set of market strawberries so it can be re-imagined!

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I was clearly using up a can of coconut milk this week! Soak one tablespoon of chia seeds + 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats in 1 cup coconut milk and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, top with local sage blossom honey and up to one teaspoon maca powder. If my batch was ready, I would have stirred in some vanilla extract (one-half to one teaspoonful). This served as a most delicious, energizing breakfast, but I’ve been craving it as a late-night snack as well (replacing the maca with cinnamon or chopped chocolate).

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I’m grappling with whether or not to put my SCOBY into hibernation until I feel more inspired. This next-to-last batch was double fermented with carrot juice and it was actually a raging success, requiring me to heavily reconsider.

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I dry roasted these golden beets without a touch of salt or oil. I love both those things and use them liberally but this yields a nice result as well. They dressed a bed of massaged kale topped with a coconut milk dressing (blend: coconut milk, lemon juice, honey).

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“CEREAL” aka pan-toasted oats, honey, strawberries, blackberries, oranges, and the last of that can of coconut milk.

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Hi, hot springs!

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Another one of those baking (mis)adventures… I’m calling this a sponge cake. I have no idea what a sponge cake traditionally is, but for my purposes it’s when the porous cake soaks up the whole ganache and tastes better after setting in the fridge overnight.  We decided we’d gone particularly nutrient-dense in the cake (which is also hiding zucchini!) so we bought a couple bars of high-quality milk chocolate for the ganache. #badkids 

Side note: despite all the laughable shortcuts made during the baking process, the biggest complaint was texture from the coconut flour.  There are better gluten-free flours and, most notably, I’m not gluten-free, so my favorite sprouted spelt flour and the occasional unbleached whole grain wheat flour will do (especially when trying to share with a dude). End rant. Original recipe found here.

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The gift of this fella is immense. Mama Bear says, after hearing me describe daily life with him, “It’s like having a child!” WHOA; hard to believe that’s come upon me at this stage of my life (though I’ve been calling Jared a doggie dad for two years now).  Beyond trying to feed his need for attention at all times of the day, re-learning life through his eyes gives new meaning to it all. He’s truly the one who seeks adventure at every turn, is always ready to play, and is so unbelievable curious about the little things, like the process of brushing my teeth, getting dressed, the smell of curry powder, where the trash goes, what we’re always doing in the fridge, etc. This particular photo was on the way to a long afternoon of hiking straight up in straight sun. He wants so badly to feel the 80mph wind on his face that we have to hold onto his harness as he hangs out the window.  On the way home, in a rare moment of peace, he was passed out in the back.

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Another sort of behind-the-scenes look at what I deem BTS-worthy. I’d like to note that I started cooking my dry beans with a bit of seaweed (kombu is always a favorite) to help improve digestive ease (re: reduce impending gasses). Also, look at this beauuuuutiful Le Creuset dutch oven graciously gifted to us by our fabulous aunt + uncle cheerleaders, Rusty and Kris. Between their donations and my antique restorations, our cookware is the sturdiest stove-to-oven set you ever did see.

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This summer I discovered that my second favorite cocktail (besides bourbon + ginger) is bourbon + beer. I had fun coming up with names for it, since I figured it doesn’t qualify as a traditional cocktail but more of a bomber. I couldn’t choose between BOUR or BEERBON, so I use them interchangeably. Introduced the fellas to this blend of “local” (old hometown region and new). Did the trick.