Blessing, desserts, Foraging, Health, Plants, Spirituality, Uncategorized, winter

Pies and Tea

If you scour the interwebs for recipes like I do, you may have come across recipes based on books, fancipes, if you will. I’m on a roll with Hobbit riffs at the moment. This is my take on Mince Pies; gluten free. The mince is green Walnut Chutney, which was made from the green Walnuts I gathered with friends on a sunny late summer day; chopped and soaked with spices in brandy to make Nocino. After the nuts were strained, the chutney was made for the occasion of our Solstice party with dear friends.It made a…lot…of… chutney. So, I’ve been looking for ways to use it up, and this is my favorite.

There is a beauty and satisfaction to eating something you have invested so much time and effort into. Months to get to these hand pies.Very earthy and in keeping with the feeling of Hobbits.

The tea is English Breakfast sweetened with Doug Fir syrup. I think I have become instantly addicted to the syrup. Yum!

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The book is John O’Donohue’s “To Bless the Space Between Us”. As you can see, I’ve bookmarked my favorites for future reference. Here is a passage I found intriguing:

“There is an implicit wholeness in the human heart; it is a huge treasure house that we draw on every day. Ultimately it is what anchors and guides us. A simple metaphor for this is a physical wound. When you have a wound in your hand, it always heals from the edges; the center is the last place to heal. Clearly it is not the wound that has finally relented and decided to heal itself. Rather it is the surrounding health and wholesomeness of your body that invades the stricken place with healing. The mind of blessing is wise , and it knows hat whatever torments or diminishes a person cannot be healed simply from within that diminishment; consequently it addresses the wholeness and draws that light and healing into the diminished area. When someone blesses you, the fruits of healing may surprise you and seem to come from afar. In fact, they are your own natural serenity and sureness awakening and arriving around you.

In my family, our parents always insisted before and after meals, at the rosary, and at the Angelus time that we bless ourselves and say the appropriate prayers. Lately that simple ritual has come back to me with new echoes: Bless yourself. If each of us has the ability to shape and form our lives through our thinking, do we not also have a huge ability to bless our lives

I would say that making food for ourselves and our loved ones that is drenched in our love and labors is a blessing indeed.

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classes, Elixirs, Uncategorized, winter

Upcoming Class, DIY Bitters and Elixirs for the Holidays

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In this class, you’ll learn to make two highly nuanced and delicious herbal concoctions: digestive bitters, and herbal elixirs. This is a special, collaborative workshop between two local herbalists bringing their experience to the table.

First, Natalie will walk you through making herbal digestive bitters, usable as a cocktail ingredient or as a digestive aid. She’ll talk about the basics on how to make a tincture, and about the medicinal benefits of bitters. Think Gentian, orange peel, cardamom and grapefruit. She’ll have a DIY bitters bar available where you can make your very own concoction to bring home.

Diana will show you how to make an elixir, and will bring a dazzling array of her elixirs to sample. Learn about the benefits of using alcohol and honey to create tasty and medicinal preparations youll love. They make great gifts for herbalists, foodies and cocktails lovers alike. Youll be able to take home a bottle of an elixir for yourself!

The class fee includes a $15.00 materials fee, which includes a 4 oz jar of your own blend of bitters, and a 1 oz bottle of herbal elixir. Tickets available at: 

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2696401

Please be aware that we will be handling alcohol in this class, and all preparations we will be making contain alcohol.

This workshop is being put on by the Adiantum School of Plant Medicine and the Dianaverse School. For info on the Adiantum school and more classes, visit: www.adiantumschool.com

WHEN AND WHERE:

Monday, November 28 6:00-8:00pm

Victrola Cafe
Capitol Hill
411 15th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98112

 

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Natural Dyes, Uncategorized, winter

Winter Dye Experiments

While there are many things that can be done with herbs in winter, I look forward to the lull in foraging to do arts and crafts. One area I’m exploring is natural dyes. While I can’t afford at this point to buy all locally produced organic textiles, I can try to get familiar with the dye process, and hope one day to produce more of my own clothing. Upcycling is fun, but I still have to wonder about how the fabrics and dyes impact the environment where they are produced; in fact, I know much of the clothing we wear is toxic and environmentally unfriendly and in many cases produced by slave labor. You can read more about that if you’re interested, here.

Now the fun part; home fabric dyeing. I decided to use Hibiscus as an experiment to see how it would dye while making some Hibiscus tea, so these linen/cotton bits were dyed with the second brewing; there was so much life left in the tea, and it was so pretty I couldn’t resist. They may have come out darker if I had used the first brewing. Also, I decided to see how the tea would brew on its own and didn’t mordant the fabric before dying.

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Another thing I forgot to do was to check the ph level of the solution, so the next time I might do that and pre-mordant and see if that increases the color absorption. For most dyes, you want a neutral ph of about 7. “Mordant” is a French word that means “biting”. A mordant helps bind the pigments to the fabric. I’m pretty happy with samples from the vinegar bath and the salt bath. The straight solution came out a bit lighter than it looks here, but still useable, whereas the one that had washing soda added didn’t take much color at all! Although Hibiscus is full of vitamin C, which I would have guessed to be somewhat acidic, the acidic addition is the one that came out darker, so I will have to find the ph sticks for my next try.

My next try will be a local herb, Red Alder. Let me know if you’d like to see another dye post for the results!

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Foraging, Health, recipe, winter

Winter Foraging and Nourishment

Now, we are in the midst of winter…. don’t tell my garden, though, in spite of several days of freezing weather, the plants are starting to grow!…. dead nettle and kale and the neighbor’s flowering quince are starting to bloom… last year the seasons started early and it looks like this year will be even earlier…. But beyond that, it is supposed to be Winter …

winter greens tart (18)

“swiss chard and malva neglecta sprouting”

In Chinese medicine winter is the time of nourishing and protecting the kidneys; the taste for the kidneys is salty. Good quality salt is one way to help direct the nutrition you take in to nourishing the kidneys throughout the season. 

Although salt has been vilified in recent years, it’s an important component in good health, everyone needs some and some people actually need more than others. Your doctor can do a blood test to see where your potassium – salt balance is and advise accordingly; a few conditions that may benefit from more salt are conditions such as adrenal fatigue (kidneys) and cystic fibrosis. Most people who are getting too much salt, are getting it through processed and prepared foods, where salt is heavily added for taste and preservation. Not only is it a lot of salt, but it’s processed salt, or as I call it “processed salt food product”. This “salt” has been heated to crystallize, iodine added then bleached to make it white again, and often had dextrose (hello, diabetics) or anti-caking agents added in.¹  These added ingredients can be included up to 2%. The FDA considers them non-toxic, so it’s up to you how important that is to you, I prefer to avoid additives. Be aware that many sea-salts are also fairly processed. I use celtic sea salt that’s minimally processed, it’s kind of chunky and damp, so I dry it in the dehydrator (an oven on the lowest setting for a few hours would also work) and then grind it up in the blender or coffee grinder. If you’re adventurous you can add some herbs into the mix for a custom flavored finishing salt. Cutting the salt with up to 50% herbs or spices will also cut the amount of sodium, if you need eat less salt; without losing flavor.

If you’re adventurous and live near a coastline with a clean stretch, you can make your own salt! As many coastal communities put their waste water outflows at public beaches or other pollution sources such as offshore drilling may contaminate the quality of the water, it’s important to do a little research on the quality of your local beaches. I live on Puget Sound and it seems the water doesn’t get clean around my region until up around Camano Island. I’m judging this by the website for Washington State Dept. of Health Shellfish Safety Information, which shows areas closed for pollution…. looking at it today is a bit discouraging. This information changes often, as, well, water moves and weather changes, so check your local area just before you hope to gather some water. I would advise doing the same before foraging for seaweed or other sea life.

So, if it’s a good day, pollution-wise, and you want to give it a try, I’ll show how I’ve harvested salt from the wild.

First gather some sea water in a container. I would avoid busy beaches when there are lots of people and maybe dogs in the water for obvious reasons.

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Next I strained the water to remove any extra materials that might have come home with the water.

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After that, I simmered the seawater to evaporate the majority of the water, leaving just a little water to evaporate from a pan that I set aside in the kitchen for a few days.

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When that had evaporated, I used a spatula to scrape up the salt residue that was left.

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I transferred it to a spice bottle, and have my very own wild foraged salt! I only gathered a little bottle of water so I ended up with only a little bit of salt. Salt is only 3.5% ² of the composition of seawater, so it takes quite a bit of seawater to  get a quantity of salt from it.

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I really enjoyed going through the process of making it myself. I find I appreciate things more when I’ve made an effort to make it myself and see the process…. and I always find it rewarding to reconnect to the natural world where everything we use ultimately comes from. I don’t think I’ll be making all my own salt anytime soon, so making my own salt made me aware that I’d like to know about the companies that produce salt. In the spirit of the locavore movement there is a small artisanal salt producer locally, the San Juan Island Sea Salt company.

¹http://www.saltinstitute.org/news-articles/iodized-salt/

²http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/whysalty.html

*Nothing in this post is meant to be construed as medical advice or to be used for treatment. This article is intended to solely educational. If you have concerns or questions please visit your doctor for advise.

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recipe, Spirituality, winter

Crones of Winter

Winter is upon us. We’ve passed the Solstice; the longest night of the season, but we still have the bulk of winter ahead of us. Winter is a time to go within and reflect, to rest and nourish the body and soul.

I wrote these thoughts about the Crone a couple of years ago:

As we enter Winter, I’m enjoying researching some of the traditional crones of Winter. Winter in colder climates is seen as the dying part of the year; the void from which the Spring will flow. It was associated with the crone phase of a woman’s life and there were some interesting archetypes and myths. One of these is Baba Yaga, the old woman of Eastern Europe who lived in the woods, outside of regular village life. These old hags lived out in the woods, and were fearsome as a winter’s storm. They wielded thunder and ice and generally had bones lying  around their abodes. Baba Yaga lived in a hut on chicken legs. This is thought to refer to the food huts that country folk would construct on one or several stumps that would keep the food high enough to be out of the path of most animals. The fact that they are chicken legs, a domesticated animal shows that she was part civilized, part wild, a hedge-witch or a person who could straddle both worlds. She rode around in a pestle and abducted small children, presumably to eat. She is probably where some of our popular fairy tales, such as Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, originate from. She had a lot of knowledge but was likely to extract a high price for it, or set difficult tasks, or some say put one through an initiation. Old women have no time to harbor your illusions, aren’t afraid to speak their minds and can be quite cranky. They also understand there is no teacher like experience.

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The western Europeans had Caillech Bheur, the big blue giantess who reminds me an awful lot of Kali. She ran around with a tree stump as a club, and when she struck the ground, it caused the winter storms and thunder. In fact, there are other Celtic female archetypes who remind me of Kali, such as Sheela na-Gig, another crone. I’ve traced the Sheela na-Gig image back as far as Gobekli Tepe, 12,000 years ago in Turkey.

Cailleach Bheur'

As we moved forward in time, we started taming the wildness of woman in her wisdom, and requiring her to be more polished and youthful, so we end up with the Snow Queen, who nonetheless is cold and inaccessible; sharing her wisdom with only those she deems worthy or who have fulfilled her tasks.

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Winter tests our mettle, can be unpredictable and harsh, showing no mercy to the unprepared. It’s also a time to go within and reflect, to sweep away all that doesn’t serve us, transmute the leftover energies of the previous year, so that energy becomes the fertilizer of the growth that will burst forth with the new Spring.

For the adventurous and wise who would like to journey with the Crone this Winter, get out your cauldron, er, pots and pans and make your own bone broth! Bone broth is nourishing, providing minerals that our body needs to build itself up. Adding a dash of vinegar helps to extract the minerals from the bones. Simmer your bones, vinegar and whatever herbs you would like for a few hours for maximum nutrition. I like to add astragalus, which supports the wei qi of the lungs, where we directly interact with the world while breathing, and perhaps encountering viruses and such. I also like to simmer mushrooms in the broth as most mushrooms have immune supporting constituents. You can drink this broth as is after straining, or use as a base for a soup to add even more nutrients to the mix.

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