Evolution · Health · Natural Medicine · Recipes

Bitter Better

To know light, we must know darkness. For many of us accepting this wisdom can be difficult. In most cases, we are programmed to push aside the shadow, focus on the “good” and get on with it. Of course, we want to feel good, we don’t want to experience pain, don’t want to suffer. Suffering, in my view, is an experience which comes from how we perceive and receive our pain. It is real and heavy, full. Can we process our pain, our grief, without suffering? Sometimes. It takes courage and openness, forgiveness of ourselves, too, in our process, acceptance of this process. Softness. We are so deep, with so much to muck through: past lives, cultures, families, faiths, programs, beliefs. With the “Lie of Shutting Down” our oldest, longest runner. And Change our true constant.

I do my best to take the “bad” with the “good”. It’s a process, always. When I was 17, my peers voted me “Class Pessimist”. Today, I am seen by most as a “happy” person. Back then, it was easier to harsh out and put things down. I liked my edge, my jaded snub, it felt more sure. I chose my armor young, and have been working decades now to drop it to my feet. Sure my “happiness” today is what appears at the surface, yet deep down, it is my integration of all that I feel as real, the bitter, and the sweet, that bolsters my shine.

Ha! I came here to talk about bitters. You know, those aromatic, citrus or floral distillations that are top dog in the new wave cocktail craze. Bitters. Dash. Dash.

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Before cultivation, much of our leafy plant food contained bitter flavor. Over time, with industry, and a push to instant and pleasure, we shifted this. Bitter foods are no longer a component of our daily bread. Our traditional diets, their support of our whole, growth and healing, have been watered down, sugared up.

We have swung far and yet the pendulum begins it’s swings back.

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Bitters serve us by stimulating our digestion and filtering/detoxing processes, particularly our liver. They are especially important for the digestion of rich, fatty and highly processed foods, a. k.a. the Standard American Diet (SAD).

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Many years ago, I wanted to bring in daily bitters and so, I started drinking roasted chicory root brewed in the manner of coffee or tea. I soon added dandelion root, which I buy dried and raw and then toast in a cast iron skillet. I like the flavor. I drink it straight, with half and half, with coconut milk or coconut oil, with ghee, a bit of lemon zest, cinnamon, cocoa… Possibilities endless.

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Now, I am beginning to prepare my own distillations. You can try it too. This recipe from Traditional Medicines Wellness Tea is a great place to start.

Citrus Spice Dandelion Bitters

Ingredients:

1 cup white rum (or vodka) high end

4 tsp of fresh orange peel

2 tbs dried dandelion root and leaf (or 6 tbs fresh, chopped finely)

2 tsp fresh ginger

½ tsp cinnamon

6 cardamom pods

(star anise, clove…throw in a few peels of lime…)

Materials:

12 oz Mason jar

amber dropper bottles (1 or 2 oz)

Yields approximately 6 oz.
Place all herbs into a mason jar, and fill to the top of the jar.

Label your jar with the name, plants used, alcohol used and alcohol strength. Include the date on the label.

Shake daily for two weeks, and then strain out the herbs with muslin or cheese cloth. Be sure to squeeze out any remaining liquid from the herbs.

You should have enough extract to fill about six one ounce or three two ounce dropper bottles.

These make super gifts!

Bitters are best taken 30 minutes prior to eating, one teaspoon, to allow our bodies time to respond. Let the juices flow…

That could mean a posh cocktail. Wink. Dash. Though, in my efforts to be clear, present and cleanse my body, I carry a 4 oz. flask of Swedish bitters in my bag, and down a swig every now and again.

Where ever, whatever, slow and holy, my friends.

Bitter. Sweet. True.
e.

 

Cooking · Culture · Photography · Travel

Invitation To Flow

Everyday, watching my son dive under white capped, rising, churning waves, the brunt of the crash passing over, I am reminded that we can flow in all kinds of conditions.

Always, there is a path of least resistance. It is our choice to take it or not.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Already, I am tuned in strongly to all I have to be thankful for. Externally, this is obvious. Daily magenta sunsets, baby turtles flapping their way to the sea, whales blowing a powerful hello, 75 cent pork rib tamales, with potatoes and carrots, steaming in the own juices. Warmth… I have a beautiful lot to be grateful for.

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~ You are full of grace ~

Though this year, what lies internal receives my greater focus, my greatest thanks. My keen self awareness is host of my party this year.

We have not been invited to any Thanksgiving gatherings. I feel us still carving out our place and relationships here. As well, our foundation of American culture within our little, slightly complex, non-coupled, co-habitating family is less than united. An American, a Frenchy, a bright young sun, newly living together in Mexico.

Who knows what the day will bring. Always, looking out to see/sea, I am comforted by the expanse, my sense of opportunity.

Last year, opportunity did not seem to be knocking and so, I invited her to invite. I posted on FB that our family was seeking a Thanksgiving connection. I was slightly shy to do so, but in other ways it felt good. Of course, I received a lot of love. It was cool. We were welcomed by a neighbor-friend to a cozy, delicious gathering with folks we otherwise might not share time with. Our hearts and community expand asking, receiving, giving thanks.

They were not sorry for having us either, “Seven” is a great conversationalist, and I brought these…

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The apple tart was requested by “Frenchy”, asking that I please keep it simple. I did. Though I added pear, I used no cinnamon, nor lemon zest. It was tricky to curb my inclinations, but it felt good to get outside of my view. Give even more less a try. It was, of course, fabulous! Great butter crust, thin bed of homemade apple sauce, layers of thinly sliced Cortland and Empire apples, red pear. For shine, I brushed the top with warmed seedless raspberry jam.

Ah, and then the Foccacia Pugliese, from my Nonna to my Papa to me. Yeast, salt, potatoes (cooked and milled), flour, water, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, salt, salt, olive oil, olive oil, salt. Ha!

Who knows, who knows, the waves they come, the waves they go… Today may be flat, tomorrow raging. Let us dive, grab a line, hold hands, float alone…

Keeping simple. Fluid. Awake.

Keeping holy and slow…

Buen Provecho, Grateful Ones. Buen Dia de Grace.

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Painting · Photography · Poetry · Travel

Everyday Nostalgia

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(homebody)

welcome.
smooth sherbert sunset,
bursting gorgeous star,
bursting
steely-blue,
heavy-gray,
with waves,
as if
the full
rising moon,
waxy-white
yellow-green,
were not
already enough.
below,
inside,
nostalgia spins the dial,
driving music,
driving home,
spanish ham,
warm toes

Sharing this poem, in a mist of nostalgia, simple impressions upon returning “home” from visiting what is now my new home. Deep down knowing this, the great myth, is no more than a feeling, a creation, a choice, never mind four walls. ~ e.

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P.S. I haven’t driven a car in three months.

Painting by Tom Schulen

Health · Photography · Recipes · Travel

La Balanza

How to keep our physical maintenance simple? This is something I’m always trying to distill. And in a way, the answer is really clear. Oxygen. Deep breathing. Water. Plenty of it. Movement. Fresh, whole food. But then, it’s not so simple, as it involves, so often, our clouded minds. Yeah, underneath the ease of deep breathing and hydration comes discipline and commitment. Diet and exercise are simple, we know what’s right. Alas, what we know. What be believe. What we do…

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Photo by Christophe Vani

Although I have grown a lot in the past couple years toward loving and appreciating who I am, I still slag behind in my personal “physical maintenance.” I love churros more I guess, than I love myself.

A lot of times, people have to get really sick to embed the lesson of real, habituated, loving self care. I hope I do not need to go this far. I’m improving, all the time, ‘cuz already, I got pretty sick, more than half ass kickin’. And it changed me.

This week, I was inspired to make Beet Kvass. It seemed simple, economical and full of benefits. My kinda medicine.

Beet Kvass, a lacto-fermented beverage, from Russia and the Ukraine, is thought to be more hydrating than water. Drinking 4-5 ounces, morning and night, is said to clean the blood, liver and kidneys, aid digestion, improve regularity and provide the body with potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamins A and C, folate and folic acid. And of course, it is rich in pro-biotics and beneficial enzymes.

Kvass can be made only with beets, sea salt and water. Traditionally it is made with whey but this is not necessary if one increases the salt.

I chose no-whey and to add red onion and ginger, as I had read about it’s taste of earth funk. I figured the onion and ginger would lift that up. It did. It brought great balance. It was totally delish. (FYI I like salt and sauerkraut.)

Beet Kvass

One Half Gallon

Use a glass jar, which may be covered loosely or sealed.
If choosing to close tight, be sure to allow gas out on occassion.

3-4 Medium Beets, option to peel, 2″ chunks ~ Do not shred~
Half Large Red Onion, 2″ chop
Two Inch Ginger Finger, sliced
1 1/2 Tbs. Sea Salt
Spring, Well, or Filtered Water

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Much depends on the heat of your home. Here in the tropics, well, the process goes fast, I may need more salt than you. Play around with it.

After two days, Sally Fallon of “Nourishing Traditions” says to put it in the fridge. Then once the liquid has been drunk make a soup out of it, or do a weaker second batch, reserving 1/2 c. liquid to start. I made soup!

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There are a million people talking about this on the web, like here at Wild Fermentations.

I really like the stuff and it is super easy to make. I need to clean my blood, and hydrate. So… simple, for now…if I stay with the beets and heat. Stay with self care.

I had to go on anti-bios this week. Long denied ear infection. This drink will help me clean my filters and replenish my gut. Nice I had some pre-conscience, intuitive pre-sight, going on with the beets.

Three months now living tropical. Finally, the heat has taken a back seat, windows down, doors closed at night. I even wore socks inside the house, tho’ that had more to do with being lazy to every- everyday sweep and mop the silt and sand from slick tile floors. Felt good. Socks. Not sweeping.

Soon, I’ll have a churro. “Seven” and I always split one. We’ve agreed we don’t need the cinnamon-sugar roll. It’s the sweet dough, crispy-ridged outside, chewey-goo inside texture-vault that makes it so damn good. The boy is pushin’ for his own. Maybe…with a Beet Kvass chaser. Heh. Heh. Heh.

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I’ll share this one with you!
Photo by Aperi Oculus on Flicker

Cooking · Culture · Photography · Travel

Give It A Try

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Have you ever eaten cactus? Pig snout? Grasshoppers? Well, come to Mexico and try! There’s lots of great beaches here, too.

Today, I let my son “Seven” skip school for World School, and big market day. After our front seat AC, kid-movie-on-the-dvd, happy-go-lucky-bus-driver ride, I had to stay in the vein of “Yes!” I could not resist huge vats of frying pork fat.

I tried a taco de trompa, pig snout. It was as you might suspect: porky-tasty, gummy-chewey. I piled it with taco bar texture and spice. “Seven” stuck with carnitas or “regular” roast pig. Isn’t it funny how many omnivore-types freak at the thought of eating noses, feet or tongues, but have no problem with butts, shoulders and legs?

Ahh, that is another subject beast. For now, let’s touch on something a little less complicated, shall we?

Cactus! Humble star of the Mexican taco bar. Nopal, those hearty, prickly plants that grow with little water. We can eat them! I suppose to me they are uncomplicated because Some One Else harvests the brilliant green, clumps-of-tiny-sticker covered paddles, then Some One’s grandma holds them gently in her deep-brown hands and carefully cuts out the tiny-sticker-clumps. Finishing them off near julienne.

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In Mexico, we can buy nopales in many frutería/veggie stands, neatly packaged in clear, hopeful bags. Clean strips, or whole oval paddles. 12 pesos a pound. That’s 75 cents.

My first cook, I kept it simple, though not typical Mexican boil simple. I sautéed. After caramelizing a Spanish onion, I added garlic, then the nopales, sprinkling salt each round. Nopal cooks quickly… A little way in their clear, sticky liquid, their okra-like quality, shows up. By the end they’ve reduced to half their original mass. Rough, dainty cactus are full of water.

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I found them curiously sour. I was pleased I hadn’t squeezed in a lime. On the other hand, the fruit, the “tuna” or prickly pear, is sweet, melty, soft. Refreshing. Super hydrating. Light green or vibrating deep-purple-pink. You can peel the bulb by carefully breaking open the top with your thumb and pulling down the skin to make a star. Inside you’ll find many small-beebee-sized black seeds, which I swallow whole. To read more about nopal click here.

“Seven” and I like the cactus veg. It has a lot of give-back in the mouth. Smooth, slippery. Slightly green bean, slightly asperagee, but tart. I like to add them to a fresh tomato sauce to enjoy with spaghetti. (Spaghetti...my favorite comfort food.) Our new dinner-explore reminds me of a wonderful dish my Nonna used to make with these crazy green beans, 8-year-old-fore-arm length, super skinny flat, twirl around your fork with the linguine kinda green beans, with clingin’ garlic and tomatoes. Nonno’s Garden Memory Update = Spaghetti Nopales.

Que rico los dos!

And pig snout? Hmm…I put this in the Balinese Dragonfly-On-A-Stick category: happy to have been there, done that! El Fin.

Buen Provecho, Amigos!

Remember, Slow & Holy…

No wall between us.

Xo,
e.

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Cooking · Creativity · Meditation · Poetry

The Poetry of Everyday

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Finding myself all around the making of a Spaghetti Bolognese, the kitchen a total full-life mess, I am reminded of a poem I wrote. And so, while the onions carmelize real deep and sweet and the oregano, garlic, carrots, celery, tomatoes and meat, wait with wine, I will share it with you, Dear Readers.

this everyday

dishes piled high,
resting all day
in a dirty stainless pit.
coffee grinds and carrot peelings
mixing with oil, soap, water.
small mountain of life.
still,
it is time to chop.
wooden block.
to cleave straight
to the heart,
seeking balm within.
one stroke.
smooth cool skin,
bright flesh,
firm and fresh,
transformed
with heat,
and attention.
cinnamon, cardamom, clove.
slender green stalks
cut off
from tough gray roots.
one stroke.
tender, budding shoots
nestled together,
conforming to meet
within the circle
of a bamboo basket.
steaming heat.

Painting by Laurie Justus Pace

Cooking · Parenting · Recipes · Travel

Cacao For Now

Sometimes breakfast can be an overload on mornings my sleepy sun “Seven” and I are trying to get out the door. His tired being often wants to skip it, though I know eating breakfast helps him, a lot, to enter the day, fuel his dust kickin’ walk, his talk, talk, talk…

These days we are in half a banana, one egg, pinch o’ salt, dash o’ cinnamon, beat well, fry in butter, flip, brown, serve mode. And it’s workin’. The round can be a bit soft and sometimes break on the lift, but it’s delish. Two smalls would work perfectly, but I like the simplicity of one.

A couple days ago, I added 2 tsp. o’ raw oats to bring the bind, letting them soak a bit, while the boy slid from bed to sofa to sofa to bed, draggin’ butt to shorts and shirt. The oats brought more firmness, of course.

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This quick-whip breakfast is wholesome, satisfying and yum. “Seven” scarfs it right down, like he does all pleasing life.

Today, I added 1 heaping tsp. of unsweetened cocoa from “Mexicolate”, our local in house native cacao processing boutique and chocolatería. Que fabulouso!

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The banana provides a lotta sweet, the cocoa balancing it out. Though a fat pat of butter and drizzle of honey never hurt.

We are in the midst of a busy week, beach parties, circus performance, Halloween and Day of the Dead. And here in Mexico, if they say it starts at 630, well, it starts at 8.

We are often first to arrive and early to leave, and I am not ashamed. I have to live with the kid. Wink. Wink. I want him to rest.

When I visited “Mexicolate”, this morning, the owner, “Toto”, was there. He gave me a sample of a grain free, dairy free lime torte, the crust made of dates and coconut and the top with avocado and lime. It was beyond yum. I have already been on their whole sensual tour before, but today I met Max, a chocolatier, who let me snap him up.

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Their chocolates are lovely, hardly sweet at all, with a bit of cardamom and honey and topped with dried and fresh fruits, spices and peels. When I tried the chile one, I chewed the dry strip up well, then, half way through, spit it out. It had done it’s job. Click here to find out more about this fabulous business, from pod to mouth.

Can you think of a good name for the Banana “Omelette”, that has no roll, Pancake, that has no grain, but is full of possibility?

“Seven” suggested “Banana Egg Galaxy”, or how about “Dragon Butt Egg”?

I hope you’ll try this my friends, get creative with what ever you have. Cocoa, coconut, peanut butter, chocolate chips, cream cheese, jam… Or dairy free, too. We just like the smell of morning fried in butter.

Buen Provecho!

And don’t forget, whatever, where ever, take it in slow and holy…

Xo,
e.

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