~ For people who are passionate about respecting the earth, walking in nature, observing wildlife, local diet, making do, repurposing, organic gardening, foraging for wild plants and fungi, natural health, scrumptious healthy cooking, renovations, DIY, crafting, raising children simply and mindfully, taking time for stillness, and living in harmony with the seasons.
Another fantastic recipe from Heidi Swanson’s super natural every day cookbook. These are excellent as breakfast muffins as they are quite filling. I also love the taste of the coconut oil in these.
3 cups rolled oats
2 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1/4 cup flax seeds
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
1/3 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
1/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F). Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan.
Combine the oats, flour, baking powder, salt, flax seeds and walnuts in a large mixing bowl.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the coconut oil, butter, maple syrup and sugar and slowly melt together. Stir until the butter melts and sugar has dissolved but don’t let the mixture get too hot. You don’t want it to cook the eggs on contact in the next step.
Pour the coconut oil mixture over the oat mixture. Stir with a fork, add the eggs and stir again until everything comes together into a wet dough. Spoon the dough into the muffin cups, nearly filling them.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges of each oatcake are deeply golden. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes. Then run a knife around the edges of the cakes and tip them onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 1 dozen oatcakes.
Swanson, H. (2011). super natural every day: Well-Loved Recipe From My Natural Foods Kitchen. New York: Ten Speed Press.
A wonderful recipe when you need something a little different to tease your palette. I love black sesame paste, especially when sweetened in Chinese desserts. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour, so if you are wheat-free these are a very flavorful alternative! This recipe comes from Heidi Swanson’s super natural every day cookbook. She also has a gorgeous cooking blog filled with interesting stories and eye-candy photographs.
Black Sesame Otsu (soba noodles, black sesame paste, tofu and green onions)
1 teaspoon pine nuts
1 teaspoon raw sunflower seeds
½ cup black sesame seeds
1-½ tablespoons natural cane sugar
1-½ tablespoons shoya, tamari or soy sauce
1-½ teaspoons mirin
Scant 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fine grain sea salt
1-½ cup extra firm tofu
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
Toast the pine nuts and sunflower seeds in a large skillet over medium heat until golden, shaking the pan regularly. Add the sesame seeds to the pan and toast for a minute or so. It’s hard to tell when they are toasted; look closely and use your nose. Remove from heat as soon as you smell a hint of toasted sesame; if you let them go beyond that, you’ll start smelling burned sesame- not good.
Transfer to a mortar and pestle and crush the mixture. The mixture should be like black sand. Alternatively, you can use a food processor. Stir in the sugar, shoyu, mirin, sesame oil, brown rice vinegar and cayenne pepper. Taste and adjust if needed.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the soba and cook according to the package instructions until tender. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the noodle cooking water, and rinse under cold water.
While the noodles are cooking, drain the tofu, pat dry and cut into matchstick pieces. Season the tofu with a pinch of salt, toss with a small amount of oil and cook in a large skillet under medium-high heat for a few minutes, tossing every couple of minutes until the pieces are browned on all sides.
Reserve a heaping tablespoon of the sesame paste, then thin the rest with the hot noodle water. In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, half of the green onions and the black sesame paste. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss gently again. Serve topped with a tiny dollop of the reserved sesame paste and the remaining green onions.
I served mine tonight with a side of sautéed asparagus, beet greens and shiitake mushrooms. Delicious!
Swanson, H. (2011). super natural every day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen. New York: Ten Speed Press.
This was a very exciting weekend for me as I was able to finish the next phase of the Medicine Wheel garden. If you recall, last summer my neighbor simply rotatilled a small area and I created the garden straight into the ground using mulch to mark the pattern and paths. Click here to see last year’s Medicine Wheel garden.
This year, I had the time and budget to create the first row of raised beds. I used 2″x10″x8′ untreated spruce lumber. (As this is an organic garden I avoided pressure treated lumber as it is impregnated with chemicals.) I pre-cut the wood and later B came over and helped me cut out the angles and assemble the boxes. I had some extra chicken wire laying around so I tacked a piece under each box to keep the pocket gophers from stealing my root vegetables.
Then we arranged the boxes into a circle. You can see the location of last year’s garden in the background. I like the new location as it is closer to the cabin and is close to the water supply.
We laid newspaper and landscaping cloth in the paths and middle section to keep the weeds out, and filled each box with a mixture of dried leaves, sand, compost, peat and topsoil. I will be adding casings from my vermiculture (worm bin) later to boost the soil even more.
Then we spread mulch over the landscaping cloth. This was where we stopped last weekend.
Yesterday evening, I got to work disassembling the fence around the old garden and moving the fence posts to the new location. It was a treat to see a Pileated woodpecker working on a tree nearby and then fly right over me. I call them the ‘punk rockers’ of the wood pecker family.
Then early this morning, Lucy and I awoke to a large coyote checking out the new garden! I let her out to chase it away. Later, after our morning walk and breakfast, I added a final round of newspaper and landscaping cloth around the outer edge of the wheel and covered all of the cloth with more mulch. Then I wrapped the fencing around the posts and secured it with wire. I left a few extra feet to wrap around the end as a makeshift gate. I didn’t get too fancy with the fence as it will be dismantled and rebuilt again next spring in order to make room for the second row of raised beds.
I planted the potatoes (red and Yukon gold), onions (red, white, yellow and shallots) and garlic. The fun part was transplanted all of the plants that I had bought previously straight into the raised beds; including tomatoes, green and red cabbage, broccoli, kohl rabi, brussel sprouts, red peppers and jalapeno peppers, cauliflower, leeks, northern lights Swiss chard, kale, anise, chervil, dill, fennel, curly and Italian parsley, and marigolds for both color and to keep pests away. So already, things are growing in the garden! I also have celery and two types of red lettuce but I will have to try and fit those somewhere else.
Note the VHS video tape that I tied onto the garden fence (below). This tape is very effective in keeping wild animals (including birds) out of your garden as it rustles and moves in the slightest breeze. Also, because it’s shiny it reflects light which also makes the animals uneasy. I recommend taking it down every fall and replacing it with fresh tape every spring. Unfortunately, you will be picking up the odd bit of tape after heavy winds but it is truly worth it, knowing that a deer or rabbit is capable of eating everything in this garden within 30 minutes. It also helps that I have Lucy, as wild animals tend to avoid areas where they detect the scent of a dog.
I tied pie tins and other noise makers to the posts. The also reflect light and when the wind blows they bang against the metal and make random noises, again keeping the wild animals at a distance.
It’s been a few longs days but the garden is now planted and safely fenced. I still have a few things to find room for and will be adding a few more large pots for the center area for summer squash. I am going to have to be creative in finding room for the winter squash, cucumbers, beets, beans and peas. Next year, the second row of raised beds will double my planting space but until then I will make do with what I have.
I look forward to sharing the garden with you as it grows over the summer as well as all of the scrumptious cooking and preserving I will be doing with the harvest. For now, its a glass of wine and a hot salt bath for me! Cheers everyone… and may you enjoy your own gardens this season!
I sampled another one of Lorna Sass’s recipes this weekend. These Fruit and Nut Oatmeal bars were very moist and did tend to fall apart a little. I found that toasting them in my toaster oven just before eating them dried them out a bit and prevented them from falling apart. Otherwise, these are very flavorful! Feel free to use any combination of dried fruits and nuts.
Fruit and Nut Oatmeal Bars
1-3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons walnut or hazelnut oil (or canola oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup raisons, preferable golden
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup hilled, raw unsalted sunflower seeds, toasted
3 tablespoons ground flax seed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Grease an 8×8 square baking pan. Sprinkle two tablespoons of the rolled oats on the bottom of the pan and reserve two tablespoons to sprinkle on top.
In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and blend in the honey, orange juice concentrate, oil, salt and cinnamon. Cover and turn off the heat.
Place 1/2 cup of the rolled oats in a spice grinder and process into a flour. Stir the oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining cup of oats, apricots, cranberries, raisons, grated orange zest, almonds and sunflower seeds into the honey mixture in the pot. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix together the ground flax seed and 1/2 cup of water. Whisk vigorously until the mixture becomes gummy, about 1 minute. Fold the flax seeds slurry into the oat mixture. Pour into the prepared baking pan and and smooth off the top. Sprinkle the remaining oats on top and gently press them into the batter. Bake until the bottom and sides are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Cool in a rack. Slice the cake down the middle while it is still in the pan. Then cut each half into 1-inch wide bars. Enjoy warm, at room temperature or chilled. You can refrigerate the bars in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Enjoy!
Sass, L. (2006). Whole Grains Every Day Every Way. New York: Clarkson/Potter Publishers.
Another great recipe from Lorna Sass’s Whole Grains cookbook. I adapted it by omitting the anchovies (as I had run out) and using zucchini instead of yellow summer squash. Lorna mentions that instead of quinoa, you might also try using farro, kamut or coarse bulgur.
On Saturday, E came over to plant her first garden! In preparation, she chose and bought 5 packets of seeds and brought them over. She will be growing lettuce, peas, cucumbers, orange carrots and a fancy purple striped carrot. Friend, J, came over and helped us haul the potting soil. Here we are making our way to the greenhouse.
It was a cold morning so we were grateful to be working in the greenhouse. I had set aside the back bed for E’s garden and had found a stack of old plastic pots that were left behind by the previous owner of the cabin. We decided to grow her vegetables in pots so that I can move them outside once the weather is warmer (the location of the greenhouse is in partial shade), and also so that (if she chooses) she could put a whole pot in her wagon and wheel it home to harvest the fruits of her labor with her family’s participation.
E began by arranging the pots then filling each with a mixture of potting soil and compost. She planted a different vegetable in each pot, taking care to read the directions for spacing and depth.
Then she watered each pot and made labels out of plastic garden markers. E read how long each will take to germinate and we figure that by the time she returns in two weeks that she’ll have baby plants sprouting in each pot! In the meantime, I will keep the pots moist and warm. Later, we’ll build a mini trellis for the peas and the cucumber to climb up and I will scrounge around for a few more pots so that she can plant potatoes next time! Once school is out, E can visit her garden as often as she likes to garden and weed and, the most exciting part…. to harvest!
I want to introduce you to one of my new favorite books: Whole Grains Every Day Every Way by Lorna Sass. I found her cookbook online last month while hunting for ways to cook ‘whole grains’. As a foodie, I love to cook with a wide variety of ingredients and have always loved my trips to ethic grocery stores, health food stores, gourmet cooking shops and of course, visiting food stores and markets on my own travels around the world. I am always eager to learn more… and taste more, and I always come home with a new idea or ingredient to try.
I love Lorna’s cookbook as she begins with a “Whole Grains 101” chapter, taking you through each grain (alphabetically), describing the various forms the grain comes in, its nutritional properties, and the various ways to cook and incorporate the grain into your meals; for example, cooked in water and added to soups and salads, or milled into flour for baking, or enjoyed on its own as a breakfast cereal. The rest of the book is a compilation of delicious recipes that incorporate the grains into your daily meals.
Lorna’s cookbook contains over 150 recipes and is full of excellent ideas for those under-appreciated whole grains that we always want to buy but never know what to do with. The whole grains include: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, job’s tears, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye and tritcale, sorghum, teff, wheat, and wild rice. Categories include: stand-alone soups and salads, risottos, pilaf and polentas, stir fries and skillet dishes, braises, stews, casseroles and savory pies, breakfast and brunch recipes, and desserts and baked goods.
Lorna Sass has a doctorate in medieval literature and has her own blog focused on Nourishing Body and Spirit where she offers her skills as a Transformational Life Coach and promotes her cookbooks. Along with “Whole Grains”, she has written cookbooks on pressure cooking, vegetarian dishes, and a whole cookbook dedicated to cooking with soy. You can find her cookbooks online, in stores, or click here to order directly from her and she will personally autograph it for you.
I am happy to have discovered Lorna and am particularly looking forward to working my way through her book ‘Whole Grains” and learning to work with these tasty grains under her expertise.
Sass, (L). (2006). Whole Grains Every Day Every Way. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers.
Do you remember that lovely painting done by my friend Omar that I wrote about back in March? I took it to be professionally framed six weeks ago and today I finally picked it up today! I choose a dark rustic frame that would provide a good solid contrast against the busy grain of the cedar walls and love the way it turned out!
I hung it in the perfect place… in the spacious front foyer, where it happens to be the first thing you see when you open the door and enter the cabin. It is also right above the umbrella stand where the blue and orange umbrella lives (when it is not raining) so I am curious to see how many people make the connection between the painting and the umbrella… as well as the personal connection between the painting and their host. I’ll try to take a better picture of the foyer tomorrow in daylight.
Thank you again (and again), Omar, from the bottom of my heart for creating a work of art that will bring joy and a smile each day. I do hope you and Kay will come and visit it! The framing job covered up the edge of the canvas where your signature was placed so I now need it resigned by the artist! Take care!
This recipe is adapted from Lorna Sass’s Whole Grains Every Day Every Way. These tasty morsels are tasty, chewy and decadent with the toasted hazelnuts. I like to keep a bag of these in your freezer for unexpected visitors!
Chocolate Chip-Hazelnut Cookies
2 cups spelt flour
½ cup raw cane sugar
½ packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semisweet (or dark chocolate) chocolate chips
1 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
1 large egg
10 tablespoon (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degree (F). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, blend the flour, sugars, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Stir in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Whisk in the melted butter and vanilla extract. Stir in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to create a soft dough.
Form the dough into 1 ½ -inch mounds. Place on cookie sheet and flatten. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (a few minutes longer for crisper cookies). Place cookies on a cooling rack (slide the parchment onto the rack). Cookies may appear fragile but they will firm up as they cool.
Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Enjoy!
Sass, L. (2006). Whole Grains Every Day Every Way. New York: Clarkcon Potter/Publishers.