21 December 2012

natural christmas

Since I work from home, virtually never go to the mall and rarely watch television, I depend on nature to tell me when December has arrived and it's time to bring a little greenery inside to celebrate the Christmas holiday.  For the most part, I left my flower gardening self back in the Pacific Northwest.  The return of this small cluster of Paperwhites gives me a real sense of renewal, and makes me nostalgic for Sharron and the garden plot we shared at Luscher Farm and for the wonderful people of the Hardy Plant Society.  Sign number one: Narcissus.

When I went to a pruning workshop at Mission Hills Nursery and the talk was all about roses, I almost excused myself, until I learned that a citrus tree wants to be pruned just like a rose bush.  Create a vase shape, let some air circulate in the center, and for citrus, be sure that no branches make contact with the ground, because the last thing you want is to build an insect highway leading up into the tree.  It works!  The hard pruning I did last Spring has tripled the output of this Satsuma.  Sign number two: Tangerines.

And so it is time.  The Black Pine is getting a trim and joining us inside to be decked out in white lights.

The Rosemary gave up a bundle of branches to make a wreath for the front door.  It needed this - looks much more shapely after being pruned.

Today is Winter Solstice 2012 and the beginning of a New Age of compassion some say.  It's no secret that the holiday season has become a frenzied, commercial affair.  I'm ready for more restful times.  Bringing a bit of nature inside, lighting a candle and building a fire get me into the right spirit.  My body wants to retreat into the long nights of Winter, to emerge with fresh eyes and an open heart.  Wishing you peace ~

24 November 2012

vietnamese vegan noodle soup

Thich Nhat Hanh has been a spiritual guide for me since the late 1990's when his book Teachings on Love was just the right medicine for my depleted soul.  I've had many opportunities to study with my teacher since then and even met my husband while on retreat at Deer Park Monastery, the ultimate teaching on love!

In 2008 I went on a pilgrimage to Vietnam with 450 people from 41 countries, invited by my dear friend Jane and accompanied by lovely Holiday from Portland.  We were honorary delegates to the United Nations in Hanoi and visited orphanages and temples all over Northern Vietnam as a Sangha (community) celebrating Thich Nhat Hanh's return to his home country after 40 years of exile.

Most of my time in Vietnam was centered in Hanoi, where Pho (pronounced "Fuh") noodle soup was on the menu every day for both breakfast and lunch.  I learned a process for making the fragrant broth and cooking the rice noodles just enough.

Vegan Broth

8 cups water
3 T soy sauce
8 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 small onion, diced
1-inch piece ginger, charred and sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 pods star anise
2 large bay leaves

 I've never been asked to char my ginger before, but for this recipe, I gladly skewer a thumb of ginger and blacken it over an open gas flame, like roasting a marshmallow.  First, sweat down the garlic and onion in a large stockpot.  Add soy sauce and water and bring to boil over medium heat.  Char ginger, slice into pieces, and add to stock.  Break cinnamon sticks and add, along with star anise and bay leaves.  Reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered for 20-25 minutes.  Strain out solids.  Return clear broth to pot and keep hot until ready to use.

Veg Pho Bo

8 cups Vietnamese style broth (above)
1 pound rice noodles
1/2 cup Asian cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup tender greens, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn into pieces
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 scallions, sliced thin
3 T unsalted peanuts, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
chili-garlic sauce

Nice options to add:  tempeh/tofu cubes - bean sprouts -mushrooms

When the broth has been simmering for about 10 minutes, soak the noodles as follows.  Bring 4 cups of water to boil.  Remove from heat, add noodles and let soak around 15 minutes, stirring now and then so noodles are pliable and separate easily.  Drain noodles and divide among six bowls.  Simmer mushrooms and tofu or tempeh in broth until heated through, then remove with slotted spoon and add to noodles.

Place fresh greens on top of noodles and ladle in the hot broth.  With this technique, the greens will retain their freshness, and the rice noodles will not be overcooked.  Serve with lime wedges, chili sauce, basil and cilantro, plus maybe some salt and pepper on the side.

The greens can be whatever is available from your garden and the quantity of greens to noodles is purely subjective.  Once you have a broth that you like, and your rice noodles are soaked rather than cooked, everything else is open to artistic interpretation.

This recipe is for my sister and brother, Kim and Tom.  Happy Holidays!

Adapted from Sally Bernstein, Vegetarian Journal 2000

25 June 2012

pickles and pancakes

On this glorious summer morning, I'm back in the kitchen after weeks of steady music rehearsal and a weekend of performing.  My first batch of pickles is in the crock, with crispy cucumbers from Suzie's Farm (plus one from our garden) and under the tutelage of the master fermenter Sandor Katz.

Nov 2012 - recipe added for Tom:

Sour Pickles (adapted from Wild Fermentation

Brine ratio 2 T sea salt per quart water
3-4 pounds cucumbers
3-4 T dill seed
2-3 heads garlic, peeled
1-3 fresh grape leaves
1 pinch black peppercorns

1) Rinse cukes.  Scrape off any remains at the blossom end.  Soaking in cold water will freshen them.
2) Dissolve sea salt in water to make brine.
3) Clean crock or jar and place at the bottom >> dill, garlic, fresh grape leaves, peppercorns
4) Place cucumbers in crock/jar.
5) Pour brine over cucumbers, place a clean plate/weight over them, making sure that they're all under water.
6) Cover with cloth to keep out dust and flies, or lower crock lid into moat, if you have a fancy set-up.
7) Check every day.  Skim any mold from surface.  Taste pickles after a few days.
8) After one to four weeks, the pickles will be fully sour.  Move to fridge to slow fermentation.

Fresh out of buckwheat pancake mix, this gluten-free experiment worked!  The basic recipe is one cup of flour plus one tablespoon of baking powder.  I used one-third cup each of barley, rice and garbanzo flours and added a tablespoon of ground flax.  Mixed with a light coconut milk and into the cast iron skillet they went.  They come close to classic pancakes in taste and texture.  I might add some lemon or vinegar next time for a hint of sourdough.  Add my husband's tempeh bacon and breakfast is on!

24 April 2012

trying new things

Trying something new everyday is a terrific way to keep the mind flexible, and my friend Laura Plumb returns to this practice often. Case in point... my first paid on-camera gig for a political ad. I'm playing an environmentalist mom here, right in my comfort zone. For these three lines we must have shot 25 takes from different angles! Bob Sly was great to work with, very low-key and professional. It's also my mom's birthday this week (one of the big ones) and she's flying to Maui for her first real vacation that I can remember. Talk about being open to trying new things! When she grows, I grow, and that's how we change the world... one horizon opening experience at a time.

25 February 2012

volcano climb for cristina

My performance in The Vagina Monologues this weekend is dedicated to the memory of beautiful Cristina Siekavizza. This story comes from her aunt Clara Molina Arntson, about raising awareness of domestic violence in Guatemala, and beyond. Thank you dear Clara, for sharing your journey...

"As soon as you asked me to write a few of my thoughts from my January climb of the Water Volcano in Guatemala in an effort to bring awareness of domestic violence in my country, I was glad to do it, because I hadn't had the opportunity to write down what this climb really meant to me. When I heard that the Ambassador to the UK in Guatemala was organizing a volcano climb for 8,000 people my thoughts were of disbelief, I never thought that she could gather that many people to do the climb. My sister had invited all of her 5 sisters to join her in the climb to bring more awareness to her daughter's killing this past July 2011. Yes, it is hard to realize that my niece has been killed by no other than her husband of 8 years. The man who we all thought was a great example of a religious man, the man who loved his children was the killer of my niece. We have evidence that it was him, there was a witness to his crime, none of us doubt that she is no longer with us, but to know that he is running from the law with their two children, ages 7 and 4 is the second biggest hit we all received.

The climb was an incredible feeling, I'm not much of a hiker or walker per se. I do workout and I keep myself physically in shape, but when I heard about the climb I was very concerned and scared at the same time and I thought about not making the necessary plans, which included airline tickets, arrangements at home, etc. inside of me there was always a voice telling me that I could do it and that I needed to be present for my sister, wondering how one more person would make a difference in the 8,000 registered was my excuse. I knew my sister would understand that I would always support her, but I didn't think I would be missing out on much.

My life has been changed by this trip, to see more than 16,000 people, women, children, men, young, old, handicapped, from all around the world supporting one cause changed my world. I was so glad to be there, we started at an altitude of 7,000 feet and were up another 5,000 (I did not make it to the top of the crater), but we did climb 5 hours up and 4 hours down. There were moments were my heart was beating so fast due to the altitude but I would say to myself “you have to keep going.” Physically I was never tired, I did not want to stop and rest at all, didn't feel the need to drink or eat, I did it because I knew I had to, but I was so excited to be there and loved watching everything around me. It was an incredible experience.

Domestic violence has taken another description in my vocabulary, it means so much more to me and my family, before my niece’s incident I did not understand how this could happen to a person, to a woman in particular. In the past if I would have heard someone scream I would have paid attention but I don't think I would have done anything about it because of fear, I don't think that for a minute now. I know that if I hear someone screaming and asking for help I would find a way to help out, I would never let their screams go unnoticed."

14 February 2012

fennel marmalade and coleslaw

Now a traditional New Orleans Po' Boy has some kind of meat and is served on a baguette. The women of Hearty Vegan Meals created one with a fried sweet potato layer, crusted with cornflakes and other interesting things, which sounds kind of irresistible, but I was seeking more simplicity. The sammy you see here has beautiful thick slices of baked butternut squash on sprouted grain bread (to up the protein content) sprinkled with nutmeg, and dressed with coleslaw and fennel marmalade from Hearty Vegan Meals. I've made the coleslaw three more times since and it's a winner.

Lucinda's column from Suzie's Farm newsletter this week talks about "fennel fatigue" but with fennel marmalade and roasted fennel on the menu, I don't think I'll ever tire of this delicious bulb. I love hearing her musings on the subject, just the same.


for the slaw:

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots

for the dressing:

1/2 cup plain non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh fennel leaf
1 tablespoon agave nectar
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Fennel Marmalade

1 bulb fennel, julienned, leaves reserved
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
pinch salt
2 tablespoons agave nectar

Add fennel, garlic, onions and salt to a shallow pan with a little water. Slowly cook until very soft and tender, and just beginning to caramelize, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add agave and toss to coat. Crank up the heat and cook for about 5 more minutes, until sticky and browned. I added a spoon of olive oil at the end to bring up anything good that stuck to the pan.

28 January 2012

lemon in its many forms

Kwan Yin (the bodhisattva of great compassion) sits peacefully under the Lemon Grass in our garden. At our house Lemon Grass goes into Thai green curry and Tom Kha soup. I understand it can also be cleansing and a very effective anti-inflammatory tea. Applied externally, it's a natural insect repellent, and was a good friend to me in Vietnam.

This Lemon Grass lip balm was made (in a bottle cap!) at Honeyfest, a weekend of community events to raise awareness about the global implications of the dying honeybees, and benefiting Grow Strong, an organization that promotes self-sufficiency in rural Kenya.

Lemon Verbena grows just out the back door.

Drying Lemon Verbena, soon to be enjoyed as tea. That's Oregano on the right.

Meyer Lemons from a neighbor. A key ingredient in coleslaw dressing.

Even more Meyer Lemons from another kind neighbor! Fresh-squeezed lemonade anyone?

23 January 2012

hearty vegan meals

Suzie's Farm delivers greens galore every week, and has stocked our cabinet with a subtle rainbow of dried beans and winter squash. Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites has been a terrific resource for rounding up ideas for squash and beans and fresh greens, plus herbs and peppers from our own backyard garden. This Chocolate Stout Chili layers on complex flavors topped with Smoky Creamy Almond Sauce from the Recipe Renovator, and a bright handful of chopped cilantro. Oh, and I made a batch of corn tortillas following the tips in Viva Vegan, with help from my trusty aluminum tortilla press from the local Latin grocery store. Being in San Diego has it's advantages!

Chocolate Stout Chili
adapted from Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman

1/3 cup chopped onion
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 large cloves garlic
1 jalapeno, cored, seeded, diced
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can (15 ounces) fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
4 ounces roasted green chiles
12 ounces vegan stout beer (or water or veg broth)
3-and-1/3 cups cooked red beans

Soften onion, bell pepper and garlic in a little water until tender. Add jalapeno and seasonings, cook another minute or so. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, chiles and beer. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook another 15 minutes. Add beans and simmer another 15 minutes, until thickened.

Next up: Cabbage, carrots, fennel and butternut squash make a gorgeous Po' Boy sandwich. Picture and recipe coming soon!

16 January 2012

get involved with your food

I keep going deeper into DIY territory food-wise. Everything is fresher and there's no packaging, plus it is an awesome feeling to be intimately involved with my nourishment. A Grist article by Jane Mountain lit a fire under me last week! It's all about five packaged foods you never need to buy again, starting with soup stock.

I'm aware of the unhealthy BPA linings in many canned foods, so I already make my own beans, always with kombu! When it comes to soup I usually go the easy route and use a big onion, water and garlic as my base, but a stock with more complexity adds a lot of richness to the soup. I'll share my Vietnamese noodle soup recipe soon. It was noticeably better when built on this basic stock from Deborah Madison:

Basic Vegetable Stock

1 large onion
2 large carrots
2 celery ribs, including a few leaves
1 bunch scallions or chives
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, optional
8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
8 parsley branches
6 thyme sprigs or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves

In a soup pot, I sweat the vegetables, garlic, herbs and yeast (if using) in a small amount of water (you could use olive oil) for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1-2 teaspoons salt and 2 quarts cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain.

Oh my! Who knew granola could be so easy, oil free and irresistible? I used what I had on hand, which meant a handful of almonds and about a cup of walnuts (no pepitas or pecans this time), plus raisins and no oil. Tahini and candied ginger are the secret ingredients! Recipe from Rivka Friedman.

Granola with Tahini

2 1/2 cups oats
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini
1 tablespoon walnut oil, optional
2/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), either salted or unsalted, depending on preference
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup raisins, cranberries, or other dried berry (I like half raisins, half cherries)
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Preheat oven to 325˚.

1) In a small bowl, mix syrup, tahini, oil if using, salt, and cinnamon until incorporated. In a large bowl, mix all remaining ingredients until well-distributed.

2) Drizzle the syrup-tahini mixture overtop, stirring with a fork until all dry bits are at least slightly wet and clumps have started to form.

3) Spread granola on a large rimmed baking sheet in a thin layer and bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes.

4) Remove from oven, stir with a fork to move pieces from edge to center and from top to bottom. Make sure pieces that have started to brown are in the center and well-surrounded.

5) Return to oven and bake 10-12 more minutes, until golden brown throughout. Granola will not be crunchy when it leaves the oven; don’t worry — it’ll crisp up as it cools. Once cool, transfer to air-tight container; granola will keep this way for up to 1 month.