Update 4/2– Garam Masala, Candles and Soap

For the most part I have been focusing on spending time with my family and healing.  Every little moment seems to matter so much more.  It feels so good to just be able to cook a meal or spend time relaxing with my DH, I can’t even tell you.  Things I might have taken a bit for granted just a month ago.

One of the interests I’ve entertained myself with is spices.  Or rather, spice blends.  There’s been several but I’ll tell you about my favorite one.  I was liking  paneer (cheese) so much (both the making and the eating) I started diving into Indian Cooking blogs and Indian-fusion sorts of recipes for other dishes that included or complemented it.  Of course then I needed garam masala (lit. “hot mixture”), which I haven’t found locally.  So I took to making my own from the items I easily had on hand.  Eventually I will use whole spices as fresh and local as possible, roasted and/or ground myself to match the quality and freshness of the homemade paneer, but for now, after several attempts, our favorite quick mix is this:

Mix equal portions of ground cinnamon, coriander, ginger, and cayenne pepper.  Add a double portion of ground cumin.  Add a half-portion each of ground black peppercorns, cardamom and all-spice.  Store in a glass jar or other airtight container in a cool, dry place.

IMG_3653Naturally, then, when a friend shared their abundance of fresh, baby spinach I turned to Indian Fare.  I’d bookmarked several spinach and potato dishes that reminded me of a dish I’d enjoyed back when I lived in Arizona and combined them to produce what I was looking for.  The results turned out so delicious I’ve made them several times in the past two weeks!  The closest recipe is here.  The changes I made are that I used my processor to do the grating.  I cooked the spinach along with four large potatoes, peeled and diced, in a large skillet with minimal water and a lid (to get the potatoes cooked quicker with less water).  I also added a grated carrot, a clove of minced garlic, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of fresh parsley to the spinach and potato mixture (it all gets blended up together at the end).  I omitted the cayenne but instead used 2 tsp. of my garam masala spice mix.  And I used sour cream instead of evaporated milk.  The best way I’ve ever served spinach – hands down!

Since the last update I’ve also completed two exciting indoor craft projects with my Dear Husband I want to share.  Candles and Soap.

With the candles we were able to perfect our mix, method and container/wick widths to get a pour we like and can predict.  They burn clean, even and slow with a gentle pear scent. Next time we will use a bit shorter jar.  These are 20-hour candles.  I really wish you could smell them:

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DH and I had planned our soap adventure for awhile now, but like many things lately it needed to be postponed.  We were spurred into action by a request from a friend for all-natural, lemon guest soaps.  Thus, these lemon bars were born:

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Our soap is a blend of organic goat milk, vegetable glycerin, coconut oil and soy protein.  Natural iron oxide powder produces the yellow color.  Light use of lemon essential oil (5X) provides the desired properties and scent.  It wasn’t as much work as we anticipated and the results were definitely worth it. I think we’ve been bit by the soap-making bug…our list of ideas to try is growing!

Given all the possibilities I don’t know that lemon would have ever placed among my picks, but I already plan on making more for myself when my own sample runs out!  Even though we kept the scent on the fainter side of things, there is something just perfect about the rejuvenating pick-me-up of the lemon when I wash my face in the morning!

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Weekly Update – 3/8

I suppose my weekly update should rightfully be called a monthly update.  I can’t believe we’re all the way back to the Full Moon again, now in Virgo!

Not to be too heavy, but since the last time I posted I was diagnosed with a rare sort of cancer and have had surgery to remove the singular tumor.  I spent a week away from most of my family at a large hospital two hours away and am still at the beginning of the recovery-phase.  It has all happened very fast, but the prognosis is good.  I am feeling both “lucky" and well-loved.

I made the decision to go ahead and mention this here because DH and I are convinced it would have all been terramin labelmuch worse, and perhaps more similar to what we were told to expect, if it wasn’t for a product called Terramin Clay (Calcium Montmorillonite).  This is because we had originally been operating under the presumption that I had a cyst which ruptured beneath my skin and my research was for natural home remedies to draw-together and pull-out an infection of this sort.  I initially tried a daily compress of Epsom salts and later a compress of wool-felt soaked in cold-pressed castor oil (i.e. “the Edgar Cayce Remedy”), which may have added to my results.  However, we didn’t notice dramatic changes until the Terramin.

Based on what I read about the clay I started ingesting a teaspoon mixed into 8 oz. of water or orange juice every morning.  I much preferred the taste of it when mixed with orange juice, but mixing the fine powder with water allowed me to brush my teeth with the remaining “grit” in the bottom of the glass.  Being gritty and all, you might imagine that it would be too abrasive to scrub your teeth with, but it isn’t.  The clay is highly absorbent and any grit turns soft on contact.  Studies show that it actually helps harden tooth enamel through remineralization;  I found more than one person claiming that it had completely repaired not only their enamel but large cavities as well.

Although most commonly used for internal applications, I also started applying a thick paste of it to the distressed area that I would let dry and tighten and pull like a face mask might.  This was why I’d purchased Terramin in the first place.  I’d read that the negative charges on the clay give it the ability to adsorb or attract positively charged toxic matter like a magnet.  It seemed perfectly suited to ridding my body of what I thought was the ruptured cyst.  After just four days the affected area was reduced to a third of its former size.  It was indeed drawing together and pulling outward!  I used clay for the eight days preceding my visit to the doctor, and every day both reduced and condensed the lump.

Fast forward to after surgery.  Now we know that what we thought was a subcutaneous rupture was really a quickly growing tumor, spreading – and we know that we watched the Terramin Clay reverse the process before our eyes! Even the surgeon reports that the tumor turned out to be surprisingly self-contained, pulling away from the muscle instead of rooting down into it, which in the end was my saving grace from a much worse scenario.  So of course I think this clay deserves a study.  And a medal.  And more people getting to know it.

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In other news to share, another product.  I don’t anticipate that will happen very often.  Nutiva Organic, Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil.  (I love their Coconut Manna, too, but that’s another story!)  I buy it in bulk, two 15 oz. containers at a time.  I keep one in a liquid stage and one as a solid and now keep my pantry in a regular supply.  When I get down to scraping the edges of the container, I move it into the bathroom shelves because it is a great thing for lips, skin and hair.

I’ve been experimenting with it in place of butter and shortening in our familiar recipes.  I even chilled it really well and made a killer pie crust for the tastiest pot pie ever, and have used it to make a healthier, hint-of-coconut caramel.  Using the solid oil in place of butter also turned out to be the final tweak to our everyday, sandwich bread recipe which I’ll share here with you in the coming weeks.  Now it is perfect in every way.  The oil adds just a faint undercurrent to the aroma and taste, but really softens the loaves without diminishing their slice-ability.  My plan is to wake-up at the start of our week and replenish the bread box with that week’s supply.  I read of a local mother who makes 16 loaves for her family every Monday morning.  My goal is 4 to 6, depending on the weekly menu.

It’s also been on my list to share with you my ricotta success.  I absolutely love ricotta but unless I find it on a great sale I usually just substitute a farmer’s cheese because it’s easily on-hand.  However, where homemade ricotta is creamy and spreadable, farmer’s cheese (like Paneer mentioned in a previous post) is crumbly and has some melt.IMG_3537 (1024x768)

I used the recipe for Fresh Homemade Ricotta at Epicurious.  The second time I made it, I didn’t have the fresh lemon juice and used a mild, white vinegar without thinking too much about it (or I would have used a stronger variety) – but it worked.  I’m planning on buying a chinois to assist in making this ricotta and soon, Greek Yogurt.  It lets you drain as much whey as possible without losing your creaminess.

If your family is anything like my family, you will savor the whey almost as much as you savor the cheese.  I will usually try to incorporate it into the same meal.  For example, if making Mattar Paneer, I will use the whey to cook the rice and lentils that go on the side.  There is nothing else like them!  Or, if making Italian, use the whey as the liquid in your bread recipe.  However, it’s also worth freezing any unused whey in pre-measured, one-cup increments.  I add it to bread or rice pudding, pancakes, hot cereal, tomato soup… I intend to keep experimenting…

Many Blessings.

Weekly Update – 2/8

 

We call our homestead/aspiring intentional community The Liberty Project.  I’ve called this place “Heaven” so many times since diving into our adventure last August that I’m starting to think this blog has just been waiting for me to get here!

IMG_3501 (1024x768)Last night we enjoyed the lovely Full Moon in Leo.  Here on the 49th parallel I’m feeling quite happy to see her rise up above the treetops once again!

To honor the Leo-Moon I decided to try something bold and expressive, that I’d never made before.  Roasted grapes!  I’d noticed a trend toward the ingredient and had saved several recipes to try.  In the end I went with a roasted grape, goat cheese, and honey pizza that I adapted from this bruschetta recipe.  Roasted chicken with thyme, lemon, onion and grape adapted from this recipe.  And a sauce for the chicken that I made from the other roasted ingredients pulsed through the blender, white wine, a tablespoon of apricot preserves and a touch of honey.  Spectacular is a good way to describe the meal – just like the Leo Moon!

I also tried an experiment.  For the grapes roasted with the chicken (that I knew would be made into sauce) I used canned grapes instead of fresh.  Canned grapes?!  Why, yes!  You see, back at the end of Fall, after the sweet and savory jams, I canned the last of our grapes – 7 quarts – using an Amish method I’d read about.  Just to try it and see.  That is, the grapes are left whole and kept minimally processed, canned in a water bath and nothing more.  Although most sources report that grapes aren’t so good for canning in this way, I could see how they would fit nicely into our repertoire if it worked out and thankfully we’ve loved them!  I’m going to can grapes again next year, too!  When I open a quart, I strain off the liquid, mix it with just a bit of agave or honey, and pop it into the freezer for an after-dinner grape-ice treat.  Because of the grape’s softness, the seeds are quick to pop out, if they haven’t  already released themselves, and in specific applications they are perfect.  I’ve used them to make a  grape syrup for peanut butter French toast and a grape cake dessert, among other entirely successful ventures.IMG_3523 (1024x768)

The night before the Full Moon we brought home our new doggie, Sara.  Her mother is a purebred Rottweiler and her father, pure Black Lab.  She was born the day after my husband’s birthday back in the first week of November.  We first learned of Sara’s existence on the Winter Solstice, when she was for sale for $200.  My DH had an overwhelming feeling about her; he had long expressed the desire to cross paths with a Rott-mix puppy.  Yet we’d only talked about coming across a rescue (we watch Petfinder.com), and never buying.  On a whim he gave Sara’s seller our number and we left it at that.  Then on the weekend we were surprised with a phone call saying that Sara’s new owner couldn’t give the puppy the attention she needs and that we could have her if we picked her up by Monday, when she was being taken to the shelter.  She’s housebroken and proving to be really smart and great with the kids!

Also in this last week I guess you could say that I’ve been exploring my love for cheese.  This was originally inspired by my addiction to Mattar Paneer and the realization that like everything else, I could make the dish more often for less money and with better quality if I made the Paneer (cheese) myself.  My final product (And I got to choose the source of the milk and it cost less than $2 for a pound.):

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This has led me to start delving into other simple cheese recipes like this and this.  And exploring the idea of waxing cheese to store it in the pantry.  I can’t wait to find a great sale on cheese just to try it out!  I’ll let you know how it goes!

H2O2 Oral Therapy Update

Day 10 and we’re up to 28 drops in 8 oz of water 3x per day.  I still haven’t grown accustomed to the taste but I find myself looking forward to the next cup almost as much, if not equal to, my morning coffee (which is saying a lot).  No surprise, then, that my coffee consumption has gone down by half this past week!  I generally feel a noticeably heightened sense of clarity and vigor for about an hour after ingesting.  I say generally as there have been a few times where it left me feeling rather ill.  When they say not to lay flat for an hour after the dose, for example, that’s actually a good idea and not just obscure advice (apparently it can increase the “bubbling” that sometimes occurs in the stomach).  And you definitely want to leave a space between consuming the diluted H2O2 and eating anything.

That long-lasting bruise that disappeared?  It was replaced a few days later with three tiny blisters that are now almost gone themselves; the only evidence that my leg was ever injured in that spot.  Also, the pronounced improvement in my breathing continues.

Frankly, I expected to feel poor during this initial 10 days and was fully prepared for the “crisis period” many described, but which neither my DH or myself experienced.  Our plan is to get to 50 drops 3x per day and stay at that level for 3 weeks (the cleansing phase), before reducing it to a daily 50-drop dosage for 3 to 6 months (the restorative phase).  After that our maintenance routine will be a weekly 50-drop dose.

I’ll update with developments or changes.

The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook

My son is a Page at the local library, and brought The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook home for me the day it was put into circulation.  He almost skipped it due to its lack of interior gloss, but I’m so glad he didn’t!

If you are a vegetarian living in the Pacific Northwest this is a must have book, for all its insight into local products, traditions and seasons of harvest.  The only thing that could make the book better is if its pictures were in color and included some shots of finished products.

If you are a vegetarian living elsewhere and simply want to indulge in some of the 200 recipes from Oregon and Washington, than this is also your book!  The Pacific Northwest produces a wondrous bounty of unique ingredients!

Last night my family enjoyed the Wild Mushroom Soup with Sherry, using the Garlic-Mushroom Stock recipe also found in the book, and it was superb just like everything else we’ve tried!  And after this, I’m sending the Bake Bean with Hazelnut Bread recipe to my Step-Dad!

Prevent Food Waste, Save Money, Help the Planet

The results of an intensive 10 year study of food loss recently published through the University of Arizona reveals just how wasteful our nation is with its bounty.  The study, which also made use of decades of earlier research by the same UA Bureau, is the first to quantify the nation’s edible wastes with accurate percentages that track the entire production/consumption equation.  For example, at a commercial level the study finds that nearly half of all perfectly edible produce, nuts and grains are discarded without ever reaching intended markets, often plowed under due to failed bets on the high stakes commodities market.  This constitutes a major impact to the environment as mature crops are discarded in favor of a new bet on a new potential crop.

At a consumer level, the study finds that the average household ultimately discards 14 percent of all food purchases.  Nationwide this is the equivalent of 43 billion dollars each year!

So the question becomes, what can be done about it?  I believe we can turn this knowledge into a positive by letting it spur us to action.  In fact, the study noted three consumer actions that will have a big impact on the future direction these percentages take (given in all caps; the expounding is my own):

  1. PURCHASE PLANNING.  Keep a well-stocked pantry, free of lots of store bought cans and processed junk.  Repurpose glass jars and fill them with organic, whole foods bought locally in bulk and representative of everything your family eats the most of (i.e. don’t buy things just because they happen to be on sale).  When something is used from the pantry or you notice the bulk-jar needs a fill-up, immediately add the item to your next shopping list.  This will help you avoid impulsive trips to the store (the most likely time for you to buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need; 15 percent of such purchases statistically go to waste).  Plan your shopping trips wisely.  Examine the pantry, look in the freezer, examine the sale-ads for the store(s) you’ll be visiting, and then make a meal list for at least a week, if not two or more.  Buy on sale, but not just because it’s on sale.  For example, don’t let cheap prices lure your family into stocking-up on processed foods.  Instead look for good prices on fresh foods that can be paired with items on hand in your pantry, or turned into pantry items (i.e. a cheap price on strawberries becomes a year’s worth of homemade strawberry jam).  Also look for good sales on your common pantry items.  Try not to buy anything at the store that isn’t on your  list, unless you find a good deal on a healthy item that will expand your running list of meals.
  2. RESPONSIBLE USE.  If you appreciate flexibility like we do, avoid planning your meal list by the day of the week and instead just keep a numbered list of the complete meals you have on hand.  Remove meals as they are consumed and add them as they are acquired.  Put the meals that utilize the most perishable ingredients at the top of the list and make choices that don’t allow those items to go to waste (i.e. take-out can truly wait a night if you have fresh ingredients on hand you are letting spoil).  Save any leftovers from your prepared meals for lunches, save the unused portion of any ingredient for use in other meals (in fact, count on this when planning your list), and save the best scraps of meal preparation in freezer bags (for making great stocks, broths, gravies, casseroles, etc.).  If you see produce moving toward over-ripe, preserve it through freezing, dehydration, or canning; or let it motivate you to make something from it in impromptu fashion.
  3. EDUCATION.  Learn about the ingredients you buy and consume and how they are best stored and preserved.  Always take the extra moment to store things properly.  Label and date anything you freeze or otherwise preserve.

And if you really want to see our nation start to break its ties with the specter of mindless insatiability, I recommend a fourth.  Support one of the many programs nationwide that collects surplus foodstuffs from restaurants, grocery chains, produce warehouses, and distributes what would otherwise be thrown away to those who need it most.

Nutrition Data for any Ingredient or Recipe

Know what you are eating!  NutritionData.com has been around for almost 7 years, but I only recently rediscovered it while tiding up my bookmarks.  Since last I was there, it has been acquired by Condé Nast Publications and gained several handy “Nutrition Management Tools” developed, according to the site, to provide “the most comprehensive nutrition analysis available and to make it accessible to all”.  For me, the feature to analyze my own recipes is the coolest!  It is simultaneously more straightforward and more evolved than others I’ve used!!  There is also a nifty tracker to monitor your daily nutrient intake, if you are so inclined!  The source for the data on each individual item is provided in the footnotes of that item’s Nutrition Facts Page, which is appreciated!