Hurricane Rena's

spice up your life

Author: rena (Page 2 of 5)

Cooking with Stinging Nettles

At this time of year, on the west coast of BC, a lot of people, myself included pick and use stinging nettles as a super food, high in vitamins. Seriously. We do. The sting in stinging nettles is caused by tiny hairs on the plant, which no longer sting after the nettle is dried or cooked.

Some people use nettles for tea, they boil the nettle and then drink the water. I prefer stinging nettle as a vegetable, not unlike spinach, but with a more potent, wild flavor. I love the stinging nettle, it is one of the first foods available in spring. As the winter storms blow endlessly on, with driving wind and rain, we go to beaches to watch the big waves smashing driftwood into smithereens along the shoreline, and I watch the bushes and roadsides intently for that first sign of spring, the stinging nettles, poking their way up from the ground. The first shoots are the best. I pick them until they become tough, sometime in May. I pick only the tops once they grow big though, or selectively harvest individual leaves. The stems become excessively tough and were once used to make fibers and rope that was of strong, durable quality. You can see how this happened if you attempt to cook and eat them at this point.
I have made nettle beer, which is supposed to be medicinal and healthy. I didn’t like it very much and ended up giving most of it away. This recipe, along with a lot of information about the value of nettles is in Susan Weed’s wise woman herb book.

One of the most basic things I did during my years on the road as a teenager was dry both nettles and dandelion greens to make my often convenient and instant, cheap food a little more nutritional and flavorful. I made a sort of spice blend for the various types of Kraft dinner and instant noodles I was eating at the time, with nettle flakes, dandelion greens, engavita yeast flakes, Parmesan cheese and cyanne pepper. This was my universal noodle spice. I carried it in my purse and added it to bland soups and sandwiches, or the many bowls of instant Mr Noodles I was stuck eating during this era of my life. Anyway, the dishes I make with stinging nettles and pasta have evolved significantly since those hard times when I was just setting out on the independent roads of life and my choices to have wild vegetables and greens came about because I could neither afford, nor store, the regular kind.

These days, I make stinging nettle lasagna, and stinging nettle spanakopita, stinging nettle dip and stinging nettle soups. But dried stinging nettle leaves are a staple in my food supply and I dry large amounts each year to sprinkle into soups, sauces and just about everything, adding a super green food that has A, B, C, E, F K and P, as well as trace mineral your body needs like iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium and silica.

To dry nettles, spread them on screens near your stove, heat registers or with a space heater blowing over them, or in the sun. You could put them in the racks of your dehydrator until the hairs no longer sting and the leaves can be crumpled into flakes by hand. Store in shaker bottles for convienent use. If it is out and easy to use, you will find yourself adding it to dishes where it will be good.

To harvest nettles, find a patch and go when the patch has grown to about knee height with some smaller nettles coming up. Wear gloves and use scissors. You can pick nettles with your hands, and by breaking off the stem under the first 4 leaves, but it is more likely that you will pull up the whole plant by the roots using this method and kill it, we don’t really want to do that. Stems left in the ground will regrow another top and live to bear their seeds, thus not depleting the nettle patch with your careful harvesting. Cut the top leaves off of every 5th plant at the most. This is especially important if you are picking nettles in an urban or well populated area where there may be other people wanting nettles from the same patch, and it is respectful to the plant and group of plants living its life. It is also of utmost importance if the nettle patch is quite small and thinned out. But there are lots of places where there are miles of nettles in all directions, so one rarely needs to pick from a patch that is sparse where this would be a problem.

To cook the nettles, put 1 inch of water in a saucepan with a lid. Turn on the heat and stuff in as many nettles as you can fit in the pot and put the lid down. The nettles steam in the pot with just a little bit of water. They shrink to half their size. You can add more nettles after they shrink to ensure you have enough to make what you would like. Be sure not to let it boil dry.

If you would like more “nettle tea” which is essentially what the water you steam your nettles in becomes, you may add more water. Boiling your rice, noodles or potatoes in nettle tea gives some of the flavour and some of the vitamins present in the nettles to the other food being cooked. Pasta may take on a green tint, but valuable vitamins are being added. However, if your nettles are picked near a road, you may want to discard this tea and not use it. The steaming process cleans the nettles, but what it cleaned off of them will be in the water.
Rinse the nettles off once they are steamed, after about 4 or 5 minutes, chop them up and use as you would for spinach, except that the flavor is a lot stronger than spinach.

Here is a recipie

Parmesan nettles,

Steam a pot full of stinging nettles, reserving water for boiling pasta if clean.

Saute in a pan garlic and oinion in olive oil mixed with another cooking oil of a higher temperture rating, such as sunflower or grapeseed oil.
Add cooked nettles and saute in the now garlic and onion flavored oil for about 5 to 10 minutes, meanwhile, boil pasta in nettle water, with oil and salt added. I recommend spaghetti or vermicelli for this dish.

Add salt and pepper to the pan with your nettles,
In a bowl mix up some wine with yoghourt and Parmesan cheese. Mix in nutritional yeast flakes and cyanne pepper to taste.
When the pasta is done, rinse it off under cold water and then add to sauteing mixture. Save some of the nettle water in case additional liquid is needed.
Add the pasta to the sauteing mixture.
At this point, capers, if you have them could be added.
A splash of wine would be a good idea in the sauteing pan at this time, either red or white, whichever you may happen to be sipping on as you cook. If you are not having wine, a good balsamic vinegar would be appropriate in the dish here as well. (even if wine is present, it is still good to use both)
Mix the pasta with the nettles, garlic and oil. Then add the yoghourt Parmesan mixture and mix it in so that each noodle is coated with it, adding wine and the nettle pasta water as necessary so nothing is getting burnt or sticking to the bottom. A dash of oregano at this point is a good idea as well.
Turn off the heat and let it sit covered for 5 minutes so the flavors can mix.

Dish it up in plates or bowls. This is Parmesan Nettles, the fine delicacy of a dish that evolved out of the humble beginnings of my survival food on the road of instant noodles with nettle Parmesan sprinkles. It is exquisite with a side dish of garlic oil fried spot prawns fresh from the traps, but stands up well on its own.

Feel free to try this dish and comment on what you think of it, or share stories of your own experiances with the mighty stinging nettle in the comments section below.

Introducing the Probiotic Perogy

  Here’s a concept I bet you’ve never tried before. Sourdough perogies

In my enthusiasm for making my food healthier, and especially for making my favorite refined flour foods healthier by using sourdough starter and fermenting processes, I decided to try something different with that challenging food, the home made perogy. I searched the internet for a recipe, to no avail. Perogies are a lot of work to make. In fact, previously I only ever attempted to make perogies once a year, to honour my Ukrainian heritage at Ukrainian Christmas. But I am embracing  married life with more domestic activities, perogy making included.

I fed my pet the other day. (My nickname for my sourdough starter, “the pet”) When I divided it in half, the half I needed to use up went towards making the perogy dough. I mixed it with some sour cream, and hydrated it well. I let it sit out for a few hours. Then I mixed some flour in. the proportions are you begin stirring the flour in with a spatula and end up mixing it all by hand until its absorbed.

I then covered the dough with freezer paper and let it sit for 24 hours in a cool place, but I didn’t refrigerate it. Some fermentation should take place, but slowly. We don’t need perogy dough to rise. We just want the flour mixture to become pro-biotic, easier to digest, and have sourdough flavor.

The next day, make the filling.

The filling I made was my unique take on a traditional perogy flavor. I mixed dill, cottage cheese, dried onion flakes, a pinch of chili garlic salt with some hemp hearts and dried nettle flakes. This enhances the nutritional value of the perogies as well as the flavour, as nettles are a vitamin filled veggie, and hemp hearts have protein and omega 6 in them. It also makes the perogies into a complete protein, so as a meal, they will be complete all on their own. Using dried onion and dried nettle absorbs some of the excess moisture present in the cottage cheese so the perogies will not be soggy and the filling will not sog out through the dough.

To make the perogies you roll out the dough. I find it helpful to roll out dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper. It saves on the mess created on your counter, and is also easier to get it off of if it sticks. Sprinkle a little flour to help keep it from sticking. Roll it out as thin as you can get it. Perogies with really thin skin are the best. This dough allows for a texture that will stand up to being rolled out and stretched quite thin, resulting in a delicious perogy that is not too doughy or thick.

Cut some squares in the dough once it is rolled out.

Each square will be one perogy. You stretch the dough out a little more in an individual square. Then carefully place a spoonful of the filling in the center of the square. Fold one edge over diagonal so that the square becomes a triangle over the filling. Then seal the edges by squishing the dough closed over the filling. You have now, a perogy. The shape is not so important as this part of the process. To pinch and twist the dough so the filling will not come out during cooking.

Bring a pot of water to a boil with a little bit of oil in it and salt.

When it is boiling, gently lower 4 or 5 perogies into the water. Stir immediately with a slotted or holy spoon. Notice how they sink When they begin to float, take them out of the water with the slotted or holy spoon. Place in an oiled dish. Avoid cooking too many perogies at once. My tester batch of this recipie made 24 perogies. They are best gently fried with onions immediately after boiling, and served with sour cream, or Balkan style plain yogurt for the health concious.

Or you can freeze them on a cookie sheet and have pre cooked perogies that you can fry up later. This was my first ever batch of sourdough perogies, and I will be defiantly trying this again soon. It was worth the time and effort, the results were spectacular, and made a satisfying meal all on their own. We had these for dinner on Good Friday.

Easy Squash Soup Recipe

I spent the weeked at a workshop with a group of friends that I meet with a couple of times a year. We bring food for our meals that we share as potlucks, and the meals are often feasts for the senses. One of the dishes I brought was this easy squash soup, the recipe for which I will share here. This soup is a golden yellow orange warm and spicy soup perfect for after a rainy morning spent outdoors on the west coast.

I became aquainted with this easy squash soup from our community lunches, where a hot lunch is served at the community center on the days the food bank food is given out in my community. It started out as an extention of the food bank and quickly became very popular, even supporting the food bank as people other than food bank recipiants went to it and pay for their lunch by making a donation to the foodbank. It aslo removed the standing out in a crowd stigma for people who were getting the food bank to have a large group of all walks of life going to the community center on that particular day. There is often three types of soup to choose from, and this squash soup is my own personal interpretation of what is sometimes the vegan choice. Not that I am vegan, but this soup is good even made in a base of water.

Here is how to make it.

You chop a squash in half, clean out the seeds and stringy guts. Save the seeds for roasting or replanting your squash vines. I used a sweet dumpling, but have also made this soup with sugar pumpkin or acorn squash or even mature 8 ball squash.

Then you steam the squash until soft.

When it cools, scrape out the squash flesh and put in a pot of either water or a mild flavored bone stock, perferably chicken or turkey.  Heat up the water

Add 1/2 teaspoon of  Thai red curry paste, and 1/2 teaspoon tumeric.

Next you add a can of coconut milk

Here I added some sweet potato chopped into cubes because I felt like the squash might not be enough.

Cook until the sweet potato is soft.

Add fresh grated ginger root and a tablespoon of miso at the end.

The miso adds saltiness and is pro biotic, making this soup even more healthy and satifying than it already is.

If you do not use chicken or turkey stock, then the soup is suitable for vegans and vegitarians as well.

You simmer the soup until it is soft, and it is best served the next day after the flavours have melded together.

 

How to make Super Healthy Rye Bread

This is a recipie for how to make sourdough, sprouted grain rye bread and also a recipie for reuban sandwiches

One of my favorite kinds of bread to make is sourdough sprouted rye. One of my favorite dishes to make with this bread is rueban sandwiches.

Now I never really thought of a rueban as a healthy food, but up until fairly recently, I have not been thinking of bread as a particularly healthy food either. I was always looking for meals that eliminated it or minimized it. However, when the bread is made with the following recipie, it is much healthier than most other bread one may encounter. Healthy and delicious. I have read, in medical literature in a docters office, that long fermented sourdough breads do not raise the blood sugar level the way regular breads do, and are thus that much healthier. Isn’t that what Homegrown Cooking is all about. Learning how to make the foods you love in a healtheir way that tastes even better than before.

This is not a spur of the moment baking project. It will take a couple of days until you have your bread, but trust me, it will be worth the wait.

 

First, you sprout some organic, whole grain rye for about 3 days, until the sprout is poking out of the seed about 1 cm or ½ inch. To sprout the seeds, you soak the rye in water overnight and then rinse twice a day until the sprout reaches the desired length. Wash and rinse off any icky looking sliminess that might appear. Your rye sprouts are not rotten if this happens.

 

On the day you bake the bread, or day before, wash the sprouts really well, taste some, then either chop them fine on a cutting board by hand, or whip them in a blender or food processor together with your sourdough starter. (You can read about how to make sourdough starter here.)

It is best to add a little flour at this point and let it ferment for about a day.

 

The next day, you add an equal amount of flour, a teaspoon of yeast, sprinkle on up to a teaspoon each of salt and oil and knead the dough. Then you let it rise in a warm place a few hours, or overnight. This is not exactly a quick recipie. I let mine rise by the woodstove.

 

You may have to add flour again and knead it to a texture that you can shape into a loaf. The sourdough eats away at the flour a bit, it gets bubbly and sticky. We need it to be bread dough, not batter.

 

Shape it into a loaf, in a parchment lined loaf pan and slash the top in a diagnol pattern. Or slash your initals in it if you want. Then let it rise yet again in the loaf pan for up to 1 hour. Brush the top with a mixture of cooking oil and warm water. This helps make a beautiful crispy crust.

Pre heat the oven to 400o F Bake the bread at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for half an hour before you look in to see if its done.

 

Then you test for done ness by poking it with a skewer or toothpick to see if it is doughy inside, or poke a meat thermometer inside and see if it is 180 degrees. Or tap on the loaf to hear a hollow sound. This method is not my favorite, because sometimes the crust is done and the inside is still doughy. The thermometer method is the most reliable. Its great hot out of the oven with butter. Its even better with sharp chedder cheese.

 

Or you could make rubans with it.

To make rubens, you slice the bread, and spread hot mustard on it. Layer on corned beef and saurkraut. (To make home made saurkraut, see recipie here) Top with Swiss cheese and broil in the oven until the cheese is bubbling. Serve with a dill pickle and glass of beer.

 

Make Sauerkraut in a mason jar easily

Here is an easy way to make sauerkraut in a jar

Sauerkraut is basically fermented cabbage. It is used in German foods and the cuisine of Eastern Europe. After centuries of dying from scurvy while they sailed the seas, the British began to eat it as well a couple of hundred years ago. I hated it when I was a kid, I never would have thought I would ever be making it, let alone loving it so much I want to write about how to make it, feeling like this is something I should admit and share with the world.

It features prominently in Ukrainian cuisine and my Great Grandparents made it in crocks in their basement. I think maybe my Grandparents did too. And my parents tried it once or twice, but they did not like living with a stinky crock of fermenting sauerkraut in the basement, and a crock made a lot more sauerkraut than we as a family would ever need. So a lot of it sat there getting stronger and stinkier and we decided not to do it anymore. Until years later, as an adult, I wanted some homemade sauerkraut and figured out a different way of making it.

I make sauerkraut in 1 quart jars, each jar being its own batch. No giant stinking crocks in the basement for me. No all day long of shredding cabbage by hand to fill such a crock making a three year supply at once either.

 

My enthusiasm for making sauerkraut came about when I grew this giant trophy sized cabbage in my plot at the local community garden. It was a spindly little thing in the fall just starting to form a ball on top and I decided to mulch it to see if it would survive the winter. It did, and then quickly grew into this monster cabbage when spring came. It surpassed the size of a basketball and was well on its way to being beach ball sized before I had to stop admiring it and harvest it because slugs were starting to eat it and ruin it.

 

What would I ever use a cabbage that size for? How many stir fries and coleslaw and cabbage rolls could I possibly make? Besides I wanted to savor and enjoy my trophy sized cabbage for longer than it would take me to get sick of eating cabbage everything day after day, and longer than it would take for that monster cabbage to go rotten in the fridge waiting for me to use it up.

 

So I consulted my Ukrainian cookbooks for their many contradicting recipes and called up my Dad for his expert advice. He remembered the stinky crocks in the basements of our elders and the ton of work that it was to shred dozens of pounds of cabbage by hand.

 

The advice from the cookbooks seemed kind of dangerous and contradicting. One advised to seal the jars tightly while it ferments. One recipe advised to close the jars and open once in a while to let the gasses escape. One advised to put paper or cloth over the mouth of the jar and screw it on with the band. Most of the recipes involved making sauerkraut in huge crocks the way I’d seen it done before. What was I to do?

 

I began by putting a tablespoon of pickling salt and of pickling spice in the bottom of each sterilized quart jar, as well as a teaspoon of caraway seeds. You can sterilize the jars with either boiling water, or the ozonator (read about ozonators here)

 

I shredded the cabbage the easy way, with a food processor and a giant mixing bowl, cutting it into chunks and running each chunk through the blades on maximum. I packed the shredded cabbage tightly into my sterilized jars, squishing it down with a sterilized spoon. 1/3 of the way up the jar, I added another tablespoon of pickling salt, pickling spice and caraway seeds. Then I packed the cabbage in again, until 2/3 of the way up the jar. At which point I added more salt and spices, then more cabbage, packed in and squashed down. At the top of the jar, I left some space and finished my layers with a tablespoon of pickling salt and spice.

To squash the cabbage down, I used a sterilized smallest size mason jar, which fit inside the wide mouth quart jar. I began to tighten the lid of the jar, causing the smaller jar to press down on the cabbage and squeeze some brine out of it.

I left it in my porch to ferment, with a little pressure from the band of the jar on the smaller jar, but the lid not tightly screwed down, just held in place with ¼ of a turn on the band. This is important, to allow gasses to escape while the cabbage ferments.

I kept a close eye on it for mold. If there is any, scoop it off the top with a clean spoon that is washed imminently after touching it. If there is mold, the lid and the smaller jar being used as a weight must be washed in boiling or ozonated water before being put back.

The sauerkraut ferments in about 3 weeks. In about the 2nd week of its existence, you want to start tasting it regularly to see if has reached its ideal point of fermentation. Unlike the sauerkraut of my childhood which was allowed to ferment endlessly and get stronger and stronger, there is an ideal point where you will want to either can it or slow the process down by refrigerating it.

I used to get fresh lids at the point where I liked my sauerkraut and can it, in a boiling water bath for 10-20 minutes to seal the jars and kill off the fermentation, but have since learned that it destroys valuable nutritional enzymes to do this. Sauerkraut is better if eaten with some of its fermentation bacteria alive. So now I just refrigerate it.

To my pleasant surprise I find it causes less gas than fresh cabbage, though you wouldn’t think so, being a still living fermented food. There are peppercorns, allspice, mustard, caraway and coriander seeds in it. I don’t mind the spices, but some people take them out. This has been consistently the best sauerkraut I have ever tasted, and my friends and family love it as well. Together with sourdough sprouted rye bread, it makes the best Rubens (read here for recipe).

At beach fires, where you roast sausages and hot dogs on sticks, it helps make the fun cookout food a lot healthier by supplying pro biotic gut bacteria instead of excess acidic vinager and sulfates as its store bought counterpart would. This is my sauerkraut shared with you in hopes that it helps make your life healthy and fun.

 

Blogger’s Block

 

Its been a month since I last wrote a blog post. A month! I am shaking my head in shame, cringing in disgust. I firmly resolved to work on this for 1 hour a day and then a month goes by. Somehow it just didn’t happen. What went wrong?

First of all, my last post was kind of emotional. I was trying to write about health, disease prevention. Anxiety and how to turn it into empowerment. Taking charge of your own health in a homegrown kind of way, especially when you have to get tested because of a history of illness in your family.

Then there is political anxiety. After freedom of speech, and the press was upheld by your country through out history, of wars and peace and protests, censorship was always an unhealthy course of action, and is now being threatened with becoming law. I recieve information regularly about people who are imprisoned and beaten for expressing viewpoints on blogs. I wonder if its really a good idea.

There is the question of having to be careful what you say, especially when giving health related advice, even if your evidence is all anecdotal. Where does one draw the line? I research health issues extensively in order to improve my own well being and empower myself with knowledge.Am I overstepping my qualifications if I pass such knowledge on to you, my readers? I am a blogger, not a doctor or psychiatrist. My knowledge comes from personal experience and research.

So I suffered bloggers block for a month, then wrote 5 articles at once. But its not a good idea to post them all at once, so back to the twice a week posting schedule.

 

This blog may contain affiliate links. I’m not that big on promoting products in general. This blog is about independent living, overcoming the need for so much stuff and consumerism. My philosophy leans heavily towards voluntary simplicity, so to write authentically about products involves some serious soul searching.

I believe the more stuff we can learn to make for ourselves, the better off we are for it. I want to help show you how to take back your own homegrown independence and free yourselves from the tyranny of consumerism, however, in order to keep doing it, I need to promote something. Oh, the irony…

 I started blogging hoping to create a closed loop of mutually supportive enterprise, to sponsor the Homegrown show promoting Canadian independent music, providing links to their albums and sites for a small commission, but soon saw that I would have to expand the endeavor in order to do it. I am breaking one of the rules of blogging here I think, to admit that I hope to make some money from it, not just develop another creative passion that becomes important to me as part of my contribution to the world, though I see its potential to do so, and shares a certian similarilty to crime that writing poetry and making community radio shows do. As in, just like crime, it doesn’t pay.

So what to do to break out of blogger’s block?

Here are some suggestions if you too are ever trapped in it.

Keep writing down future article ideas

 

Time writing sessions with a timer as well as research time. I lost a lot of focus and time by doing endless research that got sidetracked and went nowhere, and gradually turned into general internet surfing. While interesting, it contributes nothing towards getting my site built. It won’t for you either.

 

Read motivational books such as Getting Things Done and the 80/20 principal, or the 4 Hour Workweek for inspiration and ideas. Keep reading this kind of book continously because they train your mind to spot opportunites in the world.

 

Sometimes the causes of blogger’s block are emotional. Some of mine defiantly were. Doing EFT regularly helps you get through this, as well as Tai Chi, and Chi Gong which are both mind/body excersises that improve one’s focus.

 

As for the 80/20 principal, in the case of writing, I don’t think you can have the productive 20% of the time without the 80% of unproductive time. The 80% is going to be there whether you like it or not. The trick is don’t be committed to doing menial chores when that 20% of productive time happens, drop everything and take advantage of it, write when the time is right.

 

The Dreaded Cancer Scare, and What to do about it

 

Everyone knows someone who either had cancer or died of it. Most people are related to such a person. If the cancer victim in your life is a parent or grandparent or both, you will also hear afterward a lot of talk about how the origins of the disease may be genetic. It tends to run in families. Your doctor may think you need to get tested more because of family history. To add to the loss of your family member is the dread that you may be next, that the odds are even worse for you than they are for everyone in general.

If you are prone to having anxiety about disease, this may trigger it in a big way, particularly if you are still slowly getting over the loss of your loved one. Especially if you sat by their bedside while they were suffering and felt trace elements of your loved one’s pain in your own body. Especially if you wished somehow that you could help them face their time of trial and felt helpless in doing so. If you spent many nights feeling the presence of your loved one close by, comforting you, only to have it fade into the nightmare of the cancer that killed your loved one also being present, as if it lurks in the night searching for another victim to devour.

Maybe you experience some symptoms and think that they may be psychosomatic because of your recent experience. But your doctor still thinks you should get tested because of family history.

People tell you, “put that thought out of your mind.” Thinking about a disease increases your chances of getting it. Losing sleep lowers your immunity to disease in general. Being stressed out doesn’t help either. But this is easier said than done.

Putting that thought out of your mind may feel like procrastination or denial. It comes creeping back in moments when your guard is let down. It takes energy to keep that thought out of your mind and when the energy is depleted, the thought comes back, along with the anxiety.

The thing to do is to change your fear to empowerment. You do this by taking action. There are some small ways in which you can take charge of your health in this kind of situation, both the potential disease and the dread that you may be more likely to get it than other people.

You think of what you don’t want. Same thing as everyone doesn’t want. You don’t want to get cancer. The thought of it is empowered by your feeling of fear and dread.

Then, think instead of what you do what. You want to feel strong and healthy, feel good inside your own body. Empower that thought with feelings. Good feelings just as strong as the fear that came creeping in there. Do something physical that you enjoy, that makes your body feel good. You can make yourself more healthy, and give yourself more vitality.

You can also detox whatever toxins may be accumulating in your body, either from the stress of losing your loved one and having the scare, or from the world that is always feeding us crap likely to make us sick.

We don’t have to let it make us sick. You can read all the personal accounts online of people who say they cured their own cancer with common natural and household items, such as apple cider vinegar, broccoli juice, baking soda and cannabis oil, (if you live in a place where it is legal and available) A lot of these items, along with their positive story online will not hurt you if you try them, and will ease the dread of disease that comes creeping in with the sadness of losing a loved one to cancer and all the literature and talk about the causes being genetic. I am not a doctor to give medical advice, but a teaspoon of baking soda in water each day probably won’t hurt you… and it may be a small action you can take so “putting that thought out of your head” doesn’t take a constant battle of willpower that you will lose if ever you get tired or emotionally drained. You don’t have to forcefully evict the thought of dread. You face it, and know that you are taking action that may be helpful. There are also articles about the possibility of cancer being linked to body PH. You can test your saliva with an inexpensive water testing strip and know for yourself if you are in the healthy range of acidity/alkaline balance.

 

Because the nature of dread is you don’t know if you have an illness or not, so you don’t know if you need to do something or not. But detoxing the body is good for you anyway, and will empower you to detox the mind while you are at it.

Diatomaceous Earth has been said to remove parasites and toxins when used as a gentle internal cleanser, as well as providing the body with trace minerals. Be sure to use a food grade variety if you try this.

Some people swear by turmeric and honey, some people take their health into their own hands with vegetable juice cleanses. Even if all the evidence is anecdotal, there is evidence in medical literature that placebos work on a lot of people who try them. So choose something that resonates with you, something that rings true, and check into whether it may be harmful before trying it. And empower your self with health in the weeks leading up to your test. Honour the memory of your loved one without experiencing the dread of disease.

Just because you may have a family history that includes tragedy doesn’t mean you can’t do a few things to decrease the odds of your getting it.

 

Growing micro Greens and sprouts indoors

The other day I shrank back in horror and shock as I paid 3.50$ for two little tiny tomatoes here in the lush forest of British Columbia. This inspired me to get serious about growing micro greens and sprouts indoors. The horror and shock I felt about my tomatos is nothing compared to what people in the north have to deal with every day to buy fruits and vegetables. I saw this first hand years ago when I traveled through the Northwest Passage on an ice breaker. Now the story is even more drastic. People are sending food to northern neighbors who lack basic food security due to the extremely short growing season and high cost of transport. Celebrity Singer Susan Aglukark sent 1000 pounds of food to her community for Christmas. With the drought in California making fruit and vegetables ever more expensive and having to be imported from ever further destinations, it makes a person seriously think about growing your own micro greens.

My sources of knowing about the high cost of food prices in the north, along with personal knowledge of family members who resided there and struggled to be able to afford a healthy diet can be seen here HP high price of food in Nunavut. The article is about Nunavut. My family members who have experienced this lived in the Northwest Territories. It cost me 70$ to order a cake last winter to contribute towards a family event that I was unable to attend because of the exorbitant price of getting to the Northwest Territories from where I live.

Think of the cost of transporting a small package of seeds as compared to hauling  rapidly aging produce in a refrigerated compartment from Mexico to Alaska, Nunavut or NWT. Think of the environmental impact as well, and you see where it may be more practical for people there to be growing sprouts and micro greens indoors for a steady supply of vegetables, at least in the north and in any circumstance where the food must be transported by air, such as the job I do at isolated locations along the west coast.

I learned how to do this in preparation for provisioning for ocean voyages I was going to take when I lived on my sailboat. Where it ended up being particularly useful is when I went for months on end with no money, and had no shortage of fresh salad greens thanks to old stores of beans, grains, spices and snack foods that were still intact enough to sprout given the right conditions.

Also when I have to pack a months worth of food supplies, and everything else I may need, into 300 pounds or less, it allows a person to have somewhat greater food security to pack foods that can be eaten either as is, or sprouted into fresh greens for a source of salad after all other salad choices have gone rotten.

I set up a shelf in my living room for growing foods I don’t want to buy imported at great expense anymore. I bought 3 full spectrum florescent grow lights to illuminate the shelves. I put them on a timer to provide artificial sunlight for so many hours a day. I use some seed starting soil and potting soil. Basically I have houseplants that feed me.

And so could you. I read about this first in the book Sailing the Farm. (here’s a link to my review of it.) I have benefited from this knowledge mostly in my isolated work environments and during months of poverty. Even when it is not necessary in those circumstances, I am continuing to do it anyway for the purpose of reducing the environmental impact of my own healthy diet. And also for taste, and for being able to have a variety of micro greens that are not readily available in the grocery stores where I live.

Some of my favorites are Fenugreek, mustard greens, arugula, parsley, cilantro, radish, peas, sunflower seeds, wheat, rye and all varieties of lentil and bean. Most dried beans sold as food supplies will sprout. Most grains will sprout as well. Sunflower seeds will sprout if they are raw, not if they are roasted.

I also grow sweet potatoes indoors in pots. The sweet potato does not need as much light and the greens from it are edible, not poisonous. Bail also grows in pots indoors at my house, and a chili pepper has survived the winter, flowered a second time and produced enough little chilies to make a bottle of fermented hot sauce.

One small ice cream bucket can contain enough seeds to keep a family in fresh salad greens for several months. Also, the nutritional value of grains, nuts and beans increases astronomically when they are sprouted, as well as the volume of food that they produce.

I am not saying this is the answer to the food security issues in the north that people are facing because of high food prices, but suggesting this technique of growing food in jars and old pie plates might be able to help a little bit in that situation.

When I worked on the icebreaker going through the Northwest Passage, part of my job was helping out in the galley. Our provisions for a crew ranging from 20-40 people were stored in coolers and store rooms. Part of my job in the middle of the trip was to separate leaves of fresh lettuce and spinach that was months old, going rotten and slimy from the inner centers of each bunch that was still OK. I couldn’t help but think of how much better it would be if we just brought seeds and dirt and grew baby greens on board the ship in containers to eat fresh. All those store rooms had florecent lights. We were running 110 power constantly for refrigeration. Why not for grow lights?

We were searching for the remains of the Franklin expedition who starved and died in the Arctic because of relying too heavily on imported food which became tainted. During my work of sorting out the increasingly rotten produce from our refrigerated store rooms, I could see a similarity that made me feel kind of uneasy. Seeds and a mesh bag became part of my traveling provision supplies from that point on, for any trip longer than 1 week, and part of my diet at home in any season when the garden is not feeding me a steady supply of its produce. This winter I took it a step further and set up the plant shelf in my living room, to grow both mirco greens and sprouts indoors.

 

Bees Surivivng the winter despite mistakes I have made in their care.

Here’s some news about a learning curve that I am going through this year. The very first post I posted on this site was about getting my first bee hive, something I have always wanted to try doing, and have wanted to do more since I have learned about how important bees are to our food supply and the fate of the world in general. No mason bees for me, if I am going to care for insects, I will have honey bees.

I have been endlessly worried about my bee hive and whether it is surviving the winter or not. This is my first year of bee keeping and I made some amature mistakes that jeapordized the well being of the creatures in my care that I will not make again now that I know better.

I left a screen door on the house instead of a solid door when the storms and cold began. I fixed it a month later, but imagine if someone did that to your house? You might become more suseptible to cold and illness. If you had to live off of stored food, like my bees do, and it was in danger of going moldy because the landlord didn’t supply a door, it would not be good. If the basement flooded a little too because the house was unknowingly placed in an area that becomes swampy over the winter, it might increase your chances of illness and death as well.

I fixed that problem with the uneasy task of suiting up and moving the hive at a time of year when the bees do not want to be disturbed. My helper and I had to carry the hive carefully to avoid causing mass panic within and thus protective aggressive behaviour. It was extremely heavy and the ground was extremely slippery and muddy. But it had to be done, there was too many dead piling up outside the door, giving me the hint that things were not ok inside. I did some clean up, I swept out the entry way, now supplied with a solid wooden door, with pine sticks, and only one or two of the hives inhabitants buzzed around me. I put out fresh dry food, and one came up to eat it. But there were one or two where there were normally hundreds. So I wondered and wondered how many of the worlds most precious bugs had been killed by my previous beginner ignorance?

My helper, who is a more experianced bee keeper came around today and said we needed to open it up and look inside. This is the absolute worst time of year to do that. Today was the best day at the worst time of year to even try. So we opened the lid. We heard nothing. The new food has not been touched. There was dampness around the edges of the feeding box. Our hopes plummeted.

We took out the feeding box. There were a few dead in the deep super that appears to be still full of honey. We did not see or hear any signs of life. My helper took her hive tool and began to loosen the top box from the bottom box, where the bees have glued it shut with propolis.

Suddenly, we heard it. A promising sound. Buzzing. A stir from within.

Then, as we carefully lifted the top box, we could see the cluster of bees. It was a tightly packed cluster, a lot were in there. There was enough bees, my more experianced helper said to me, that the queen could be laying eggs and more brood hatching at the center of the cluster. It was a lot more promising that we had dared to hope for.

“She must be a really strong queen”

I felt ever so proud, ever so thankful to be the keeper of such resiliant creatures who survived and thrived dispite my lack of knowledge and mistakes made in what they need for their well being.

 

 

 

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough starter

 

Last week I wrote about making sourdough bread using cooked whole grain dish leftovers. Today I will write about how to make and care for the Sourdough Starter.

 

My first sourdough starter was given to me by a friend, she said it came from the original batch of San Francisco sourdough. I carefully fed it every couple of days until finally, I forgot. It went rotten and moldy. I had heard that I could scrape the moldy surface off and keep using it, but I didn’t want to take that chance. Maybe in the pioneer days when the nearest package of yeast was hundreds of miles away, and if I wasn’t going to see anyone else I could get some sourdough starter from, maybe then I would consider scraping off the moldy surface of my rotten starter and keeping on using it. But such is not the case in my life.

 

I found several recopies on the internet and one in the Lighthouse Cookbook, by Anita Stewart. Its a cookbook that celebrates the unique cuisine that has evolved among the BC coast light keepers, where self sufficiency is more than a niche or an interest, its absolutely necessary for quality of life when one only gets food supplies once a month and everything must be pre ordered. No going to the store if you forget something around there.

 

I actually prefer to use both yeast and sourdough starter if I make bread. This is based on the recipe in the Lighthouse Cookbook, but is my own interpretation, of how I made it when I needed to.

 

 

1 tbsp yeast

2 cups boiled water, cooled to lukewarm

1tsp salt

3tsp sugar

2 cups all purpose flour

 

It can be made with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water as well.

Dissolve the yeast in warm water, add sugar and salt, then mix in flour. Leave out on the counter, loosely covered for 3 days. I store mine in a glass canning jar, with the lid on top but not tightened during this stage.

If you have wine or beer brewing in your house, keep the sourdough starter in a different room to avoid crossing yeasts.

 

 

Stir it each day, add a little bit of flour and water each day.

After 3 days, you need to feed it equal amounts of flour and water, and also give it “air” by mixing it up in an open bowl. Leave in the bowl for an hour or two before using to make sure it is activated.

 

This is a good time to use some or give some away to friends.

 

Return some to the canning jar after, and once every 4 or 5 days, feed it a similar volume to itself of flour and water. This is the basic sourdough starter that gets kept alive between using it, and improves with age. My current one is about a year old and tastes just like the “ hundreds of years old” one I was given that was part of the original batch of San Francisco sourdough. Strange how that happens, Eh?

But that’s because the same wild yeasts live here on the west coast as lived in San Francisco centuries ago according to experts.

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