Plus, gorgeous fall bounty; can't wait to go crazy with the heirloom avocados I picked up!
Fall is off to a magical start. Happy Autumn!
I had the great fortune of spending one of the most memorable weekends ever tucked away in no cell-phone-zone, celebrating Autumn on a wonderful farm in Capay Valley and then jetting off to soak in magical sulpherous springs in Wilbur (more on that later!). The Fall Hoes-Down Festival at Fully Belly Farm is a celebration of the end of harvest for which farmers put down their hoes and pretty much party. It's one of my favorite events ever and look forward to it with anticipation each year. The beautiful site of 300 acres is filled with all sorts of activity (like corn husking, salsa-making, sheep shearing, goat-petting, gourd painting), workshops (like cheese making, fermenting food, blacksmithing, how to use herbs), pumpkin patches and fields of sprouting crops, and informative farm tours that allow one to learn about their sustainable farming practices; not to mention tons of amazing organic food, yummy desserts, drinks, and fun, live music; we literally couldn't get enough, and I didn't want to leave. Some highlights below...
Precious, two week old baby piglets who slept in a line up; I love the rebel in the middle faced the opposite direction!
A wonderful little workshop on fermentation... Can't wait to start pickling!
Fresh and delish salads of sorts, and local brews of kombucha and beer...
Plus, gorgeous fall bounty; can't wait to go crazy with the heirloom avocados I picked up!
Hay forts, corn husking, grain-to-bread- pizza making and sheep-to-shawl wool weaving--- love that loom!
No farm, no food.
The air was mild and the sky was unbelievable...
Fall is off to a magical start. Happy Autumn!
One of the highlights of last fall was attending the Hoes-Down Fall Festival at Full Belly Farm in Capay Valley- where my CSA comes from. It was there that I encountered the amazing herbalist Kami McBride, as I heard her give a talk on various common herbs that could really enhance our health and wellness if used as they were meant to. Herbs and spices are a great gift from nature and are a wonderful way to not only heighten the flavor of our food but to supplement our intake of nutrients, as they are abundant with medicinal qualities that help keep us from getting sick. Below are some of the most common herbs that I bet lurk behind your kitchen cupboard. Read on to find out about their amazing healing properties:
One of the most popular and well-loved herbs, basil's warming and aromatic qualities calm the nervous system, settles the stomach and digestive issues, clears the mind, and wards off colds, coughs and allergies as it destroys phlegm. Have more of it during the late summer/early fall to prevent wintery sinuses and bronchial congestion. It is great as pesto, or in a cup of tea. It's also so easy to grow. Buy a plant and be sure to pinch off the flower heads, as doing so encourages larger growth (which I haven't been good about doing)!
This photo was taken on an amazing hike in Point Reyes along the Tule Elk Trail. This plant is unlike anything I've come across in nature. Certainly unique, the root of the burdock plant is rich in nutrients and minerals and has multi-healing properties. It is high in calcium, phosphorus, iron, chromium and magnesium, regenerates cells, and resolves skin ailments like eczema, psoriasis, boils, and other inflammatory conditions. Burdock root is also helpful in supporting sluggish digestion. This root is great in teas, soups, and even baths!
This jagged-edged green weed is a powerhouse of healing and full of nutrients. These leaves love parks and lawns and thrives in moist, dried or disturbed soil. They're bitter in taste- a flavor we need more in our diet, and make such great spring salads. Bitters increase salivation, which is beneficial for nutrient assimilation and the breakdown of food. Dandelions are a tonic to the liver and kidneys, contains high amounts of Vitamins A, C, and E, and stimulates the flow of digestive substances.
This antibacterial root helps fight colds and flu's, relieves nausea and motion sickness, increases circulation, prevents mucus congestion, soothes sore throats and upset stomachs, lessens menstrual cramps, constipation and inflammation, and stimulates digestion. Best in tea, stir fry's, morning porridge, salads, and even baths! It certainly is one the main ingredients in my flu-be-gone tonic that I whip up for myself (and household) whenever the ickies come along...
This wise plant can be found in most Thanksgiving turkey stuffing around the world. It is used in heavy meat feasts because it is an antidote to many digestive problems associated with eating meat, as it helps facilitate easy digestion and the breakdown of bacterial pathogens commonly present in meat. Like many herbs, sage fights colds and coughs, and aids in deep sleep. Its aroma kills airborne bacteria: pick some for your dining table's centerpiece! Perfect in tea and like others- in a bath to keep sickness away...
One of my favorite spices, Cayenne is well known for its pain-relieving properties, as it contains Capsaicin- found in many topical pain reliever creams. Apply cayenne-infused oils to arthritic joints, sore muscles and any nerve pain (including shingles). This medicinal herb stimulates blood circulation and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, and increases the blood supply to the brain- thereby clearing the head, drowning out congestions, and lessening headaches and mental fog. Cayenne adds a wonderful touch sprinkled into salads, stir-fry's, grain salads, lemon ginger teas, and even in the bath
Try this Gentle Detox Bath Tea (from Kami McBride's book, The Herbal Kitchen)
8 quarts water
1 cup fresh Basil or 1 cup dried Basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh Burdock pieces or 1/2 cup dried Burdock
1/4 cup sliced fresh Ginger
Let the herbs help your body do its job of letting go of what it no longer needs.
The feeling of coming home to find a CSA box dropped off outside my door is comparable to receiving my goods from indulgent online shoe shopping- only a splurge on local veggies and fruits is a truly guilt-free and long-term-happiness-inducing indulgence. What timing! This box included all the right stuff for a perfectly balanced, healthy, delicious, nutritious and colorful Thanksgiving feast that Ben and I are preparing for some special guests. The menu will include all the fixings like potatoes, sweet potatoes, cornbread, cranberry sauce, mushroom gravy- complete with a (sustainably raised, vegetarian fed) stuffed 13 pounder of a bird from a Bay Area farm; incidentally all will be as gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free as possible--- not that anyone has to know. Just saying. (Well, except for the dessert- which I'm not in charge of, not to mention, the vino).
I'm so thankful for all that this year has blessed me with, including awesome friends, wonderful family, a cozy home in our new town of San Francisco, my great job(s), the beeeest co-workers, the bestest partner, and our beloved (newly shaven) Cocker Spaniel, Toby.
What's better than a weekend that includes Organic Mexican dining (loaded with drizzles of Cashew Cheese), Bi-Rite Creamery, and a Neighborhood Garden Party full of local goodies- not to mention- lots of good company and no-jacket-required weather? In this town, that's the life!
This past weekend, Benny and I volunteered some time at a neato community garden called Garden for the Environment, nestled in the Inner Sunset of San Francisco. GFE is a sizable, urban demonstration garden that offers education programs covering urban composting, organic gardening and sustainable food systems.
above: Benny chopping up branches for the compost. We loved our experience at the Garden and the community it musters, and can't wait to return to revel in its splendor and even take an intensive gardening + composting workshop.
Join in on the all day festivities on Saturday 9/25, as GFE celebrates their 20th anniversary, complete with local eating provided by Santa Cruz's Freewheelin' Farm, Arizmendi, and Produce to the People. See you there!
This just in--- New York State Governor just signed into law a ban on baby/children's food related products containing BPA (Bisphenol A). Under this new law, sippy cups, baby bottles, straws or pacifiers containing BPA cannot be sold in NY State.
BPA is a chemical used in polycarbonate plastic food and beverage containers and in resin linings for cans. BPA is associated with a host of health and developmental issues such as early onset puberty, polycystic ovary syndrome and breast and prostate cancer. Because children’s bodies are smaller and metabolize more rapidly than adults, toxins build up in their bodies quickly, and infants have been detected with high levels of BPA in their bodies. BPA has also been linked to obesity, infertility in males and females, brain dysfunctions, learning disabilities, thyroid disruption, heart disease, and diabetes.
It's huge for a state as large as New York, both in population and economy to pass such a ban. NY joins Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, Vermont, Minnesota and Wisconsin. California has pending BPA legislation...
In general- a good rule of thumb to look for the BPA-free label, like these awesome water bottles that I wrote about in this older post. It's not just baby related; watch out for canned foods, microwave popcorn, and toothpaste bottles. Not to mention, ATM receipts, CDs, shower curtains, bike helmets, car seats, eye glass lenses all contain BPA or Bisphenol-A (all at varying levels from high to trace amounts). Yes, a lot of these are hard to avoid, but make small steps. Switch the shower curtain to fabric, decline the receipt, use pyrex and more glassware, ditch the canned food items for Organic veggies, and use parchment paper bags to get produce from the store. One day at a time...
Well, a big reason I moved to California, at least, was to be near the beautiful coast and explore it as many ways as possible. This past wknd, we loaded up our Subaru with eager adventure seeking buds, and rode up to Tomales Point, the most northern tip of the Point Reyes Peninsula- to take a hike... The 9.5 mile Tomales Point Trail is ripe with wildlife viewing and floral diversity, and is also an enclosed reserve for the native Tule Elk, a subspecies of North American elk found only in California. For thousands of years vast numbers of Tule Elk thrived in the grasslands of central and coastal California; in the mid-1800s, following the gold rush, hunting and habitat destruction by settlers nearly drove them to extinction. Through conservation efforts, Tule Elk population has increased to about 4,000.
Some notable features of this experience: Tule Elk sightings all along the way made this hike super memorable... (PS, the male/bull elk have gorgeous antlers and protect large harems of ladies, or the cow elk).
Along with fabulous company...
...and ridiculously stunning and dramatic views of the coastal bluffs and lush grasslands...
Here are Ben and Brendan at the climactic end--- perched atop the northernmost tip of Point Reyes National Seashore, where the Pacific Ocean meets Bodega Bay!
A hop skip from San Francisco, the drive was painless, and once off highway 101, the ride through quaint towns and many dairy farms felt like a drive through small country roads, which made the experience sweeter. There's so much to explore within Point Reyes; I can't wait to go back for more!
Get yourself reacquainted with Olive oil! Yes, it's one of the most popular cooking oils, and at that, a great source of heart-friendly-monounsaturated fats (the good, healthy fat) but did you know that its uses extend beyond the kitchen? It's an incredible cleaning agent and a gentle, effective moisturizer for skin.
Here are my suggested top alternative uses for Olive Oil:
*Unsqueek door hinges! Forget the WD40. Olive oil works just fine... no mold, no lingering chemical smell either.
*Buff, shine, and polish a bunch of household items: rub oil with clean cloth to prevent tarnish or corrosion and/or add sparkle to your stainless steel products, rusty tools, stuck scissors, leather furniture, and shoes!
*Bathe, shower, scrub, shave, & moisturize! Add a few drops in your bath, or while showering, use it along with a scrubbing agent to exfoliate, and also shave your legs! Ditch the $$$ moisturizers and oil up the skin for an incredible softness and nutrient-rich alternative to creams and lotions. And while you're at it, rub into cuticles!
*Hair tonic: Control the frizzies! It's kind of better than your $20+ pomade; no build up either!
*Get your key or zipper unstuck... Keyholes get rusty and keys get stuck; so do zippers. Rub keys with oil using a cotton swab and place in rusty lock. For zippers, rub oil onto the teeth, and gently pull on tab.
*Remove makeup: Attention gals, guys and babies- whether it's every day or Halloween, massage oil onto face and rub off with damp cloth.
Remember, you don't need amazing, expensive, unfiltered, dark-green, extra-virgin Olive Oil for alternative uses other than cooking.
Happy Olive Oiling!
Pardon my absence from the past week; I've been on the Eastern Shore with The Boyfriend and his family vacationing and celebrating a momentous 70th birthday! Their newly rebuilt and fine waterfront abode is perched on the historic Kent Island, the largest island on the Chesapeake Bay.
But this beloved Bay is increasingly exposed to pollutants, thus endangering the precious ecosystem. So responsible residents (ie, Boyfriend's family) are participating in a bay-restoration project, whereby oysters are used to filter the water and remove toxic pollutants. One such environmental awareness group is Oyster King, a privately owned Maryland corporation whose initiatives are aimed at cultivating an accelerated population of oysters, which consume nitrogen-containing compounds (nutritious, actually, to these filter feeders) thus removing them from the water.
Oyster filtration mitigates water pollutants... Did you know this?!
Here's how it works. Floating Oyster Hotels are placed in the water, under the dock.
Oyster King technicians come out for quarterly visits to ensure the proper development and maturation of oysters so that they can reach all the important reefs.
Teeny tiny baby oysters, or oyster larvae, called SPAT.
Spat, a year later... Oysters!
Want a piece of the action in saving the environment?
Getting the Chesapeake Bay back to its original, pristine beauty would take about 20 million unharvested oysters... For those in Maryland or surrounding areas, may it behoove you to participate in this program. Waterfront property or not, you could still support this worthy initiative and get a tax credit.
Chesapeake Bay Program