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.

 

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 · 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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Cooking · Culture · Recipes · Travel

Everyday Watermelon

I know at this time of year where I “come from” watermelons aren’t in the shops, nor in the minds of the people. Too cooling. Out of season. But I would eat them all day. I’m in another realm. One where today, walking with my son “Seven” to our first potluck gathering since we moved to this sweet, Mexican beach town, sweat was literally dripping off my upper lip. And I’m not a sweater. So I thought.

Moving along, I was wishing the bright yellow Guadalupe shopping bag I was carrying that was stressing my arms and belly could ride easily atop my head, the way that old woman was carrying a big, green-black plastic garbage bag-full atop hers, strolling along, smiling with her friend. Mine was too bulgy, busting my biceps with it’s loaded up. Sarongs, travel dishes, bamboo utensils, cloth napkins, bikini, sunscreen (probably expired), water, clean clothes, and a big, full, silver bowl, our first homey dish for school potluck at the beach. Watermelon Rice Salad.

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~ Do you know about these? I wish everyone had them.
“To Go Ware” Photo courtesy R.E.I. ~

Five people brought popcorn. It was good.

Our salad was superb. “Seven” and I ate some before we left. He said it was “the best ever”, then added he would like it with scrambled eggs. “No way”, I said. “It’s so clean and amazing.” A wonderfully balanced bowl. The flavor of celery is cleansing to me, offering a tiny, smooth-bitter bite, while the green beans add a sort of flat sweetness, very different from that of gushing watermelon. Lime. Onion. Zing.

“Seven” helped make the salad by picking the flat parsley leaves off the stems, and keeping his chunky mitts off the melon.

~ Watermelon Rice Salad ~

2 cups Cooked Rice
2 Tbs. Good Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground White or Black Pepper
3 Tbs. Lime Juice
3 Stalks Celery, small diced
1 Cup Steamed Green Beans, small diced
2-3 Tbs. Parsey, Mint or Basil, rough chopped
2 Tbs. Red Onion, fine diced
1 1/2 – 2 cups Watermelon, small diced

I started by breaking up the rice into a large bowl, pouring over mucho olive oil, sprinkling generously with coarse sea salt, grinding black pepper around and squeezing in 2 very juicy, small limes. So simple. I mixed it well, to melt the salt and coat the rice, to bring the juice alive. I added the celery and green beans. I mixed. We left the parsley leaves whole. Then I added the red onion and mixed again. Finally, gently, we added our brightest star, our beautiful-sweet-juicy-red watermelon, cubed a tiny bit bigger than her two green friends. I made sure to squeegee all the fabulous juice from the cutting board. It totally makes the sauce. Mix. Taste. Remember. Northern Summer.

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There was some great Pollo Asado, whole grilled chicken, at the sandy potluck table. Some one bought it from the side of the road, and I sure was glad. It was fantastic with our salad. Popcorn side, a few tostadas. Avocado, cucumber. Crazy orangenta sun sinking into a silver-blue sea. Small fire burning. Kids taking turns fishing into a late arrival bag of “Big Mix”, orange, chili-cheese-powder coated puffy corn stuffs. Big Hit!

It was not much like potlucks at “home”, and that’s A-okay. I’m brewing home within.

Buen Provecho, Amigos, where ever…whatever it may be!

Take in it slow and holy.

XoXo,
enza esperanza

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~ The start of mural alley. Golden Life.
I do not know who painted this beauty. ~

Cooking · Recipes · Travel

Ginger Cranberry Apple “Compote”

The color alone transforms any plate!

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~ Painting by Jennifer Lawson ~

I live in Mexico now, but am feeling nostalgic. In the North, in the cooler days my fridge was never without a tangy, slighty sweet, super simple Ginger Cranberry Apple “Compote”. It is a great side to roasted vegetables and meats, omelettes and cheese, ice cream, pancakes, toast and crêpes. Yep. It’s good stuff.

I call it a “compote” because technically a compote is stewed and this is made in the oven. I tried making it on the stove top once, but it just wasn’t as good.

~ Ginger, Apple Cranberry “Compote” ~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

6 Large Apples, cored and cubed
1 Bag (12-16oz.) Fresh Cranberries
3 Inch Piece of Ginger, grated

Spread chopped apples between two baking dishes, approx. 9″ x 13″, distribute half the clean berries, and grate half the ginger to each, mix a bit and bake, uncovered, for about an hour.

I love Cortland apples, though Gala, Empire, or McCoun work well, and combining is nice. (Read about apple varieties here.) Try pears, too!

1477499476000~ My Typical Cold Weather Vermont Breakfast ~
On Bed of Braised Cabbage & Jasmine Rice
Drizzled With Ghee

I generally freeze my ginger for greatest life and ease of use. And while a regular kitchen grater will work on this fibrous root, I adore my inexpensive, porcelain grater for ginger, tumeric, horseradish, fresh wasabi… I found mine at a thrift store, but they are available online. Though, perhaps, the most versatile tool for this type of prep is the microplanner/rasp.

img_0302-330x247~ Porcelain Grater, Microplanner/Rasp, Triangle Zester/Grater ~

I hope you make this “compote”. It lasts quite awhile in the fridge, though honestly I only got to test this once, when I went away for awhile. Often, just out of the oven, I pack it into a couple of pint sized mason jars, which have been sterilized. The intense heat of the fruit pulls in the seal and it becomes a shelf stable gift.

Until next time. Buen provecho! I am off to the beach, to day dream with the terns and the waves. To dream of apples. XoXo, enza esperanza

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Cooking · Creativity · Parenting · Recipes

Sneaky Rice

Hello Lovelies!

Sometimes, I feel like I have so many ideas and things to do and say, that I crowd myself out and never get anything done. Never finish anything. Always just mental diving. Though this week I did start and complete a big dream catcher. Sí, mis amigos, if I had a dollar for every novel I have picked up in the last year, begun, then quickly laid aside in between it all, I would be on a flight to Buenos Aires already!

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~ Nearly Done ~

With this blog, though I have been strongly feeling to begin it, I thought I already had too many half pots on the fire. “No way, Ladypants!” First you must finish the drawings for the coloring book, finish the designs for the CaféPress page, and make that beach mobile that lay in pieces of soft wood, thin rusty metal, worn, edgey shell, crowding the only table in the room.

Et voilá, here I am starting a blog. No new drawings. Big pile ‘o books.

One thing I do finish easily these single-mama days is the cooking, and many times, I finish the dishes in the same day. I’m a clean as I go kinda cook. One who, when alone, listens to food podcasts while cooking and reads food books while eating.

In my inner and outer kitchens, I love working with what is. I highly appreciate simplicity, economy, creativity, and whimsy. Ingenuity. Experiment. I can assure you, though I favor simplicity, there is no compromise of smooth or bold in my bowls. Things are never dull. I simply enjoy working with a given palette, what is already here, and sometimes I am surprised by all there is. In this way I create. Though of course I also do the shopping of basics, and seasonal, too.

My recipes are not precise, clear blueprints. They are solid approximations. They generally require tasting. I encourage you, don’t be afraid of raw, open your mind and flatten your buds. Allow it to come freely. I imagine my sharing recipes this way may be helpful to those who would like to get a little more comfortable with their intuitive cook. Get their taste bud trust running high and low.

Welcome! I hope you will be pleased, entertained, inspired and guided. I am happy to be here. I am Enza Esperanza.

And now, while my brightest sun, “Seven”, is swinging on a trapeze in the big bodega turned circus school, across from the “Mexichocolate” shop, with a bunch of other little jumpy, brown monkeys, and the sweat beads a tropical shine upon my face, I want to tell you about my lunch.

Looking around, I decided on making a big, thin sweet potato pancake, with red onion, garlic and broccoli, but it turned into sweet potato fried rice with ginger, chile and peanut butter. It was fabulous. Crêpe omelette strips, and cucumber, on the side.

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Note: I love sweet potatoes and use them in many ways. One kid pleasing favorite is to blend them, baked or quick steamed, with tomato sauce (thin with water, possibly add salt and pep, a splash of balsamic) for pasta, pizza, etc. Think Romano cheese. Extra vitamin A and C. Calcium. A nice soft landing. Tone and balance.

Ahhh, a little further now, into the now, I offer you today’s culinary coming together, a kid pleaser, even with it’s ginger zing, for the peanut butter, ahh, the peanut butter knows it’s earthy place.

Ginger, Peanut, Sweet Potato Fried Rice

A.K.A. Sneaky Rice  (Serves Four)

~ 2 Cups Cooked Rice, loose not packed (I love Jasmine)

Patiently Sautée (to beginning stage of caramel, golden brown):

~ 1/2 Red Onion, diced

~ Sprinkle with Sea Salt

Add:

~ 3 or 4 Garlic Cloves, minced (brown a bit)

Add:

~ 1 Medium/Large Sweet Potato or Yam, grated
~ 1/2 Crown and Stem of Broccoli, chopped small

~ Sprinkle with Sea Salt

Sautée, approximately five minutes.

Add:

~ 1/8 tsp. Cayenne and a Squeeze of Lime
or Several Shakes of Your Favorite Hot Sauce
~ A 2 inch piece of Fresh Ginger, grated
~ The Cooked Rice
~ Two Honking Tablespoons of Unsweetened, Salted Peanut Butter
~  Medium Pour of Oil, your choice
~ A Bit of Water, 2-3 Tablespoons

Mix well, nice round, lifting, under belly strokes!

Continue to sautée until all is tender, approx. two more minutes.
Remove from heat.

Plate and top with:

Omelette Strips

~ Two Eggs, mixed well
~ Pinch of Salt

Fry thin, cover to steam, or flip, to brown.

Cut into 1/4 inch strips and pile onto each heap of rice.

Garnish with green onion, cucumber, cilantro,
mint, cherry tomatoes, whatever moves your fancy.

Of course, you can use any veggies you choose, sweet red pepper, carrot, cabbage, red or green… I simply used what was on hand.

In the end, this dish was tickled by my memory of the Senegalese Peanut Soup I loved as a teenager, served with yeasty poppyseed baguette and no salt butter, at The Saxton’s River Inn under Averill Campbell in the early 80’s. To make a similar rich, wonderful soup, from a recipe by Mark Bittman at the New York Times, click here.

Try blending the soup, too. Holding aside the chicken and collards, some onion, tomato, sweet potato, then adding them back in.

Thanks, for coming by! As we go on, I will get more into the cultural and spiritual ins and outs of my flowy day to day, and paint a relaxing, colorful backdrop: my new life, with sun, and Pineapple Tomatillo Compote, in a small town on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Though not before I pay homage to what came before. Up next, APPLE Season in Vermont!

XoXo