Wednesday, July 29, 2009

S'More, Please!! Not....

Okay, this is totally and unabashedly a not-so-healthy Martha Stewart recipe but I caved in to the comfort food thing....again ((and, unfortunately, paying for it now)) These are so goood but with the recipe comes a serious word of caution: DO NOT eat more than one at a time and keep a watchful buddy around to roll their eyes and scold you, if you do. I do speak from wishful experience here. Better to savor just one and take the rest to a potluck....
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light-brown sugar (the original recipe called for 3/4 way)
  • 1 large egg
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 30 squares (*Note: This math is impossible-the Giardelli 8 oz. bars start with 8 rectangles. Divided equally, you will get 34 squares, not 30. You have no other choice than to eat the four extra pieces (like I did) and that, my friends, was mistake #1)
1)Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse oats until finely ground. Add flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; pulse to combine. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, scraping down side of bowl. With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture just until combined
2)Drop dough by tablespoons, 1 inch apart, onto two baking sheets. Top each with a chocolate square. Bake just until lightly golden, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Remove sheets from oven; heat broiler. Top each cookie with a marshmallow. One sheet at a time, broil until marshmallows are lightly browned, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. Makes approx. 30 cookies

Food Fare in Fifteen

I've been trying to plan meals to include food choices grown, grazed or produced within a fifteen mile radius of home. It's rather easy being surrounded by great farmer's markets and farms, not to mention the abundant selections available right out the back door. The baskets, counter tops and fridge have been full of great local food! Yesterday's partial harvest from the garden is seen above (with a basket full of fresh dug potatoes, herbs and a 5 gallon bucket of raw honey that came later in the day) The basket above was dubbed 'Gazpacho to Go' ...and go, it went, directly into the food processor to be blended into a yummy cold soup for lunch for the next few days. Tomato soup, hot or cold, is a comfort food that is always at the top of my fave list. Add a grilled cheese on sourdough, and I couldn't be a more 'comforted' camper.This recipe is more of a ingredient list, because it will vary with whatever is available and abundant: First and foremost, though: Lots of ripe tomatoes. I probably used a dozen or 15 of various sizes and colors. Quarter and put in the food processor bowl and pulse until good and juicy with small chunks. Empty tomatoes into a soup pot. Next, cut the ends off two medium cucumbers and a medium zucchini, half lengthwise and scrape seeds out (if they're large). Quarter and put in the food processor. Pulse until smooth and add to the tomato mixture. Repeat this process with a large onion, 3-4 garlic cloves, 1-2 jalapeno peppers (seeds removed), LOTS of fresh herbs: cilantro, chives, rosemary, parsley, basil, bee balm or oregano, salt and pepper, and a splash of olive oil. Pulse all until nearly smooth and add to the soup pot. If you have it, add two leftover ears of roasted corn, kernels cut from the cob and stirred into the pot. One final addition is not locally grown but, in my opinion, absolutely essential to the recipe: one organic lime, juiced and zested. Another tasty (non-local) addition is a cubed avocado. Stir well, taste for seasoning and chill through! A dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream on top is a yummy garnish.Dinner: All local....the veggies, flowers and pesto from the garden. The chicken, corn and yes, even the mushrooms are local from the farmer's market. I made the pesto with local goat feta.I may never use parmesan again! It keeps the pesto from turning black. oh yes, it was Heaven on a plate.

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Arrival!

A healthy new arrival was delivered from the garden early this morning!!
Weight: 5lbs 5 oz.
Height: 17 1/2 inches long
What a surprise! I was definitely not expecting this baby, but it will be happily welcomed into the family meal plan for the next week or so...maybe even shared with the neighborhood. The sibling in the center is the average size zuke I have been harvesting for the last few weeks. The baby on the left had to be harvested at the same time as it's huge twin. The little baby one was growing directly on top of it and they were connected at the neck! I still am amazed that I didn't see this coming!! Blessings come in all shapes and sizes and this one is definitely a keeper!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Just another day...

oh dear...
the crapper's full of creeper
and the bathtub's bounding with basil
Time to make pesto!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Laugh or Cry??

I recently ordered a new batch of business cards and mailing labels from 'Company XYZ' (name changed to protect my *ss) Their marketing and signage page caught my eye and in no time, I had uploaded a nice design using my own photo images for a market banner to use at shows, etc. The price was extremely reasonable. The banner looked lovely on the preview page and I kept getting what seemed to be personalized pop up boxes suggesting that I had uploaded a "NICE DESIGN!" with "GREAT PHOTO RESOLUTION!". After I jumped through all of their specification hoops, I was given another chance to use this same image on a T-shirt, mug or tote bag. I ordered one T-shirt. I waited two weeks for the banner and the shirt. They finally came today and I was thrilled by the quality of the Tshirt and the reproduction of images. Really sweet. When I unrolled the banner I saw the same great quality on the photos and font, until I saw the entire text line. Now look at this closely...what do you get when you overlap FARM & AT?? yeah....This sign isn't get me more than alotta big laughs from my customers !! I spent most of the afternoon trying to get this squared away with their customer service department. Bottom line...sneaky bottom line, though it is my fault. My loss. I'll spare you all the boring details here but Dang it!I was so mad trying to understand how the Tshirt is fine and the banner is trash. However, every single time I look at that crazy text, I laugh again. Costly humor, that banner!!

Making Elderflower Syrup

This is a repost from last summer. The simple syrup recipe remains the same but the pleasure is always new again! We thoroughly enjoyed the elderflower syrup this past weekend in the "Homestead Herbalism, Too" class and also made lemon verbena and lavender blossom syrups as well. There are a limited amount of freshly bottled syrups available for purchase, if you are interested. They are listed in the seasonal offerings section of the website. A single tablespoon of syrup over a tall glass of cracked ice and water is such a lovely refreshing treat on a hot day. Add sliced lemons or limes, if you prefer! A spoonful of the lavender syrup is amazing in a hot cup of chamomile tea. Try one or all three...The sky is the limit with the creations you can concoct! Enjoy...we sure did!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Entertaining the Electuary

One of the most pleasant ways to prepare and take herbs is in an electuary, which is a fancy-pants name for a sweet herbal paste or jam. In times past, many bitter-tasting and downright unpalatable herbs were likely prepared in this way to 'help the medicine go down". In its simplest form, an electuary consists of honey and powdered herbs; however, I've seen a variety of interesting additions in recipes: fragrant flowers (fresh rose petals come to mind), wine, brandy, herbal vinegar or medicinal tinctures; fruit or herb syrups, jams or conserves.
The gamut of possible combinations in recipes of electuaries can run from the very simple to the extremely complex. The great Greco-Roman physician Galen's Theriac electuary had over 64 different ingredients! Well made, electuaries will keep for a very long time. Many actually mellow and improve with age. Precious pots of herb and honey blends have been found intact in the burial tombs of many of the great pharaohs of Egypt. Apparently they were considered a valuable necessity to have in the afterlife!
The standard 'dose' for a sweet herbal paste is usually a teaspoonful taken as needed, depending on the electuary's potency. They may be stirred into hot complimentary teas to be ingested or taken straight off the spoon. Truth be told, my favorite vehicle of choice is a piece of buttered whole grain toast! But, I digress...
My favorite combination for an electuary is an assortment of warming carminitive and aromatic spices. This particular blend is particularly useful in the event of digestive cramping, nausea, intestinal gas, diarrhea and other uncomfortable disorders of the digestive system. Many of these same spices are also strongly antibacterial in the case of digestive upset caused by ingesting microbial nasties. Some may be surprised, if not skeptical, of the potent medicinal power of these common kitchen cupboard spices. If the medicinal value of this tasty electuary hasn't sold you yet, make this simply to stir into a cup of hot water or hot black tea and cream for an instant chai tea! And please, don't forget to try the buttered toast. It's heavenly.

Here is my own recipe for this excellent electuary. Be sure to use whole spices to start. Commercially powdered spices may have already lost a good part of their 'zing' and with it, a good part of their medicinal value.   

*3 tsp cardamom seeds
*2 tsp whole black peppercorns 
*2 tsp fennel seeds
*1 tsp coriander seeds
*1 tsp whole cloves
*1 tsp ginger ginger root pieces
*3 tsp cinnamon chips
*1 TB ground turmeric 
*pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place whole spices into a pie tin and roast in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the spices are fragrant. Remove and cool.

Grind whole spices together in a mortar and pestle (or an electric coffee grinder if you have one) until quite finely powdered. Blend in the ground turmeric and a pinch of sea salt. Stir into 2 cups of honey. The finished electuary should be rich, dark and nearly paste-like in consistency.  Store in a clean jar and cap tightly.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

'How Does the Garden Grow?'

Along with a basket of freshly harvested produce came the sudden realization that a few weeks have passed since I shared garden photos! The early spring rains finally moved on and made way for some gloriously sunny days, both which have produced one of the most beautifully lush and healthy gardens we ever have seen here in the last fourteen years! With the new 'bones' of fence, posts and raised beds in place, keeping our hens and assortment of wild critters at bay has been a breeze, producing a kind of lovely sanctuary beyond the gate. The gardens have flourished and produced quite a bit of food, flowers and culinary herbs so far this season.
The bamboo poles are full of spiraling vines laden with flowers and tiny beans. The Rainbow chard continues to put out new growth. The zucchini and cucumbers are giving us more fruits every day and we are thrilled to have the first harvests of early heirloom tomatoes: Tigerella and Bloody Butcher. The rest of the heirlooms are loading up with fruits, likely to ripen later in the month when the nights get warmer. All ten of the tomato plants are surrounded by their companion plantings of basil which I have been plucking at for a few weeks....even the first batch of pesto batch been consumed already this summer. Now to perfect the mozzarella cheese making!My curiosity got the better of me yesterday after a good soaking thunder storm. I was convinced that the storm must have caused the new potatoes to swell so I rocked a plant back and forth a bit in the moist soil and pulled up this bevy of beauties. We promptly cooked them up with some eggs for breakfast. A simple potato never tasted so good!! Oh, to have the patience ( and will power!) to let them be and grow to full maturity....and what would potatoes be without cabbage?? This is an early photo of the brassicas which all grew into lovely firm heads that I harvested a few days ago. A second crop will go in shortly for fall sauerkraut making.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bliss...Simply Bliss

David Winston and Donna Bryant's joyful union surrounded by friends, family and green! So incredibly happy for you!! May the years bring many smiles and many blessings.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sweet Nerve-ana

I have always considered the American Basswood or American Linden (Tilia americana) an enormously impressive tree. Standing upwards of one hundred feet or more, it's deliriously fragrant flowers have almost always been out of my reach. I am usually happy to stand on tippy toes to pluck a few flowers on low growing branches. But I am happier still, to stand beneath a tree in fullest fragrant blossom, to observe the humm and drone of perhaps thousands of drunken bees at work far above me. It is quite an amazing sight. The combination of being in the presence of such an ancient tree, the perfume of the sweetest of summer's flowers and the confirmation that the health of the honeybee population may not be so dismal after all provides a nearly instant cloak of peace and calm. Recently, I was invited to harvest various wild plants growing on the property of one of my students. I was thrilled at the prospect, knowing the property rather well, as the former home of an old herb friend who had long ago moved out of the state. I hadn't been to this particular piece of land in perhaps 15 years. When I had finished filling my basket, we chatted by the front of the house under the shade of a lovely tree that I hadn't remembered when my friend resided there. When I looked up to admire it further, I discovered it to be a young-ish linden tree, fully laden with branches about to flower....branches that had touched my hair and neck and shoulders while we visited. I was so delighted to meet a flowering linden within my reach that I stroked it instantly and vowed to be back the very day the flowers opened. I was sure that my friend had planted this tree and I thanked her quietly, where ever she might be now, wishing she could know that I was standing underneath it about to accept some of it's beautiful medicine. I also vowed in that moment to somehow reacquaint myself with this wonderful woman who I had lost track of over the years. As anyone intimately involved with plants well knows, some plants call to you, for reasons unknown, by a sweet scent, a vibrant color or a subtle shiver of leaves. It may even be a more blatant tickle of leaves on your neck or thorn snagged onto your sweater....whatever the method, the introduction has been initiated. It's up to us to continue the conversation and explore the gifts of the message. When rapt attention is given to the subtle voice of the plants, it opens the door to often beautiful and undeniable synchronicity. A remedy needed, a lesson learned, a truth told. For the past few weeks I have immersed myself in the immeasurable lessons of the linden tree, deepening my relationship with it's gifts through a thin gold cord that connects old friends, new friends and interestingly, also a friend who has passed.
(Interjecting a little bit of storytelling here...)
Seven years ago, Minnesota herbalist, Matthew Wood spent the first of many weekends here, sharing his herbal knowledge with a rather large group of us. During that time, he spoke highly of the virtues of the peach leaf, a medicine known quite well in the south. While he spoke, a woman who lived nearby, whispered to me to come by and harvest whatever I needed for drying and tincture making, which I did as the sun-kissed peaches dropped from her trees. Matthew's classes continued on through the months, while my peach leaf and fruit tincture infused in the cupboard. When September came, I packed up and drove to the Green Nations Gathering in upstate NY. I had brought along a few bottles of peach leaf tincture to give to Matthew, who was attending. Also attending the conference was William LeSassier, who was an herbal mentor to Matthew, David Winston, Margi Flint, Kate Gilday and many other well-respected herbalists. His reputation as a genius had proceeded him, and although I had quietly sat in on a few of his lectures, at the time, I must admit to being pretty insecure about assuming that he could also be a teacher and a mentor to me. Sometime during the weekend, as fate would have it, William and I ended up at the same place at the same time, and the subject of peach leaf came up. He quietly wished to have some for a particularly annoying digestive condition he was suffering at that moment. I shyly offered him my own...which he appeared astounded to see come from my bag. He was thrilled, then tasted it and defined it as 'PERFECT', the best he had ever tasted. He immediately initiated a barter. He pulled from his bag a full quart jar of raw Basswood (Linden) Honey complete with combs. It was a beautiful amber jewel and he deemed it the most valuable possession he had to barter with. I offered him the tincture for free, of course- no barter needed. He insisted and gratefully, I accepted the honey. It sealed the deal on a quick friendship, confidence and praise from a well respected teacher and in a few months, a visit to the Farm to teach a class on facial diagnostics that I had only heard legend about through my own mentors. It was an incredible weekend of sharing, and one I shall never forget. He renewed my faith in myself as an herbalist and taught me so much more in that short weekend. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks later, just after I received a wonderful thank you note expressing his appreciation of our farm, hospitality, great food and peach leaf tincture. I still have that note and most of that Basswood honey to this day- savoring both from time to time, still reminiscent of summer flowers and synchronicity, sweet praise and precious fleeting time spent with the 'Herbalist's Herbalist'.
(Okay, now back to the linden tree story....this will all make sense shortly, I promise)
Home with baskets of fresh linden flowers, I am again reminded of the deep peace that comes from working with this tree, surrounded by the bees and the sweet smell. The fragrance lingers in my truck, in my kitchen and my fingers as I put some up to dry and to tincture. Linden flower is helpful for insomnia and the type of anxiety that usually comes with the darkness (children and the elderly understand this best). It has a calming effect on the nerves (nervine) and adds a bit of sweetness and emotional comfort, like a warm, sun dried quilt on the bed at night. I like to combine it with passionflower when my mind swirls round and round, long after my body has given up the ship, but when nervous exhaustion either won't let me fall sleep or stay asleep for very long. Winston likes to use it for nervous 'bellyaches', especially with nervous gagging and vomiting. I use it also, combined with catnip and elderflower for an especially yummy tea to break a fever. As a nod to my Swiss German ancestors, I love the idea that the Linden tree was planted at the center of many Germanic villages underneath which all meetings, celebrations and ceremonies took place. It was believed that the branches of the tree provided an 'umbrella' of peace and safety and kept truthful hearts in all who stood beneath it. Perhaps that is why, in Germany, the linden is also known as the 'Tree of Lovers'... truth being the keystone to successful relationships of any sort. To put this story of Linden Love to bed, I finally decided to fill a jar with the newly harvested flora, covered them with brandy and topped it off with a goodly quantity of William's precious linden honey to potentiate the brew. Only one week in the jar and already one of the most energetically amazing and lovely tasting brews I have ever made. Of course, thanks to all of the friends, near and far, who have helped to stir this particular pot to create a beautiful legacy of sharing among plant people. It surely is a fine testimony as to what constitutes 'good medicine'.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them,
can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life ~ Hermann Hesse


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