Release Your Fire + Ease Your Allergies With Cilantro

food for your soul Release Your Fire + Ease Your Allergies With Cilantro

Cilantro’s growing in the garden these days and that’s a good thing! A natural heat-expeller (I’m making that term up, but that’s what it does), anti-inflammatory to ease allergies and arthritis, digestive, anti-bacterial and anti-viral, the list goes on.

The leaf to the coriander seed, this green is used widely in Indian, Asian and Mexican cooking. It has cooling properties which balances the heat found in many dishes that use chilies and peppers, like salsas and curries.

cilantro Release Your Fire + Ease Your Allergies With Cilantro

According to Ayurveda, spicy dishes can add to a person’s internal fire

Ayurveda calls our internal fire Pitta, affecting the way we feel, as well as the way we interact with and see the world. Mix this up with the abundance of Pitta-increasing foods/activities engrained in our lives (i.e. coffee, alcohol, over-work, stress, etc) and we can become unbalanced.

A post diving deeper into what Ayurveda is and why I reference it in relation to the healing benefits of food is coming soon, yet I’d like to say a little more now.

A common question is, “Does Pitta have to do with the physical body and temperament?” And “What will I feel like when I get rid of it?” Ayurveda in general weds the body and mind. One can experience physical symptoms or qualities of Pitta and, most likely, will experience mental qualities as well.

Now, to “get rid of it.” You don’t want to, we need fire. A friend, and small business owner, gave me an example from her life as she worked with a Doctor of Chinese Medicine to help her with a sleep disorder. Let me just say also, if she had an abundance of fire in her system it makes sense she’s a hard-working, successful small business owner. Fire is needed to manifest and accomplish such goals.

Pitta (even in overabundance) can be helpful!

The charm comes in knowing when and how to find balance so we don’t work to exhaustion or start yelling impossible demands at our employees.

My pal was experiencing troubled sleep, acne, and painful menstruation. Her doctor of Chinese Medicine gave her an herb regimen and for the first week of therapy she experienced the physical sensation of heat in her body. After that first week her skin began to clear and she felt relief from painful menstrual cramping and restless nights. According to Chinese Medicine she was expelling excess heat.

This is a perfect example of what Pitta-reducing or cooling herbs can do.

In terms of “how will I know if I’m balanced?” Heck if I know, really!

I can’t tell you what you will feel when you’re balanced. Health and body awareness are personal journeys. Always in flow, balance is never static. You’ll know when you feel balanced and when you need balance, even if others disagree. Ya dig? So go forth, and good luck!

This brings us back to cilantro, which is a great herb to help reduce and balance heat.

It can act as a mild diuretic, aiding the body to release excess heat. As we enter into Spring it’s a perfect time of year to start using cilantro in cooking to expel stored heat we may have accumulated from heating foods during the winter (i.e. meats, fats, sweets, heartier vegetables, butter, and dairy products).

Cilantro helps alleviate allergies.

Due to anti-inflammatory properties cilantro helps sinuses and blood vessels stay open and flowing. Cilantro also aids digestion, which helps strengthen our immune system. Keeping internal inflammation at bay and digestion healthy is essential to alleviating allergies.

All you need is a teaspoon of cilantro juice a day to start benefiting. Use it in cooking, chopped and tossed over rice, in salsas, throw a handful of fresh leaves in a smoothie even! Keep a bundle in a cup of water on the counter and nibble a sprig when you walk by. Make it up, do what you want!

Do you have a cilantro recipe to share?  Leave it in the comments!  We’re always looking for new ones.

What to do After a Freeze in Your Garden

Ugh!  The freezes will never end this year!  Stay positive friend…

A winter freeze is always a good test for the year round gardener.

Our failures in gardening inform our successes.  I leave my personal garden uncovered to see what will be affected by freezes and what I can get away with.  The freezes in 2011 taught me a lot about what I can grow without being afraid it will die.  Now I can plan gardens with an added degree of confidence.

Here’s how you can learn to make more informed decisions about your future winter gardens.

Take note of what was affected by the freeze and why.

Did plants die?  

Note which plants died and what the low temperature was.  A plant I’m always sad to see bite the dust are my nasturtiums.  I always try to protect them, but they just aren’t very cold tolerant.

Did all of a specific variety die or just some?  Make observations as to why this may be.

Where were they located in the garden?  

Gardens can have what’s called micro-climates.  These are things that might affect the garden like being up against the house on the south side, having a big shrub or tree on the north side, or being totally exposed to the elements with nothing to block the wind or insulate the plants.  All of these things matter when planing for next year’s winter garden.

Which varieties got damaged?  

Do some of your lettuces have freeze damage?  I’ve noticed this year that some of my lettuces like the oak leaf varieties seem to be getting the brunt of the freeze damage while some like my new all time favorite Red Summer Crisp look just as beautiful and radiant as ever.

Cut back freeze damage on your veggies.  Cut off affected portions of lettuce leaves and other plants that were damaged by the freeze.  This will help the plant grow back healthier instead of spending energy trying to repair damaged appendages.

If your herbs were affected the rules for cutting back are a bit different.  The top parts of your herb plant, even if they are looking a bit crispy, are actually insulating the lower part of the plant.  Now if you can’t stand the looks of the plant in this condition, by all means, cut it back.  But if you can wait until the weather is a bit warmer on a regular basis then it will allow your plants to grow back much more quickly.

So go out into the garden this weekend, assess the damage, and learn from your observations.  This is what makes gardening fun and exciting!  Cause you never know what’s going to happen…

Sooth Your Strung-out System with Winter Veggies

food for your soul Sooth Your Strung out System with Winter Veggies

As we transition from Fall to Winter our bodies naturally start gearing-up for the time to draw inward and gather strength for the cold season ahead. Even in Austin, TX, or at least we can pretend can’t we? According to Ayurveda, it’s the time of year to start incorporating rich sources of protein, grains, and hearty vegetables.

Ayurveda is India’s ancient health system that focuses on balancing the body and mind through diet, herbs, lifestyle, and yoga.

 

So let’s take a look at what we’re growing out there in our gardens. Deep-dark-nutrient rich leafy greens, peas, and root veggies like sweet potatoes. All things that naturally grow during this time help our bodies sustain through the corresponding season and climate.

The qualities of winter are cold and dry.

 

Yes, it does rain during winter, but in general it has a drier quality when we add in frost and wind.  Balancing foods are ones that will warm us, ground us and provide a healthy dose of nourishing fats and proteins.

Fats are fabulously soothing to the nervous system.  When I spent 2 years living at a yoga community I was practicing a number of Ayurvedic remedies.  During this time I learned about the different qualities of oils and their effects on the body.

Here’s a great remedy I learned after going through a bout restless sleeping.  Rub sesame oil on the bottoms of your feet and/or your forehead.  Trust me, it really works! Sesame oil has a warming quality that soothes the deeper nerves.

In Ayurveda the bottoms of the feet are thought of as the body’s internal pharmacy and entrance into the body.  As for the forehead, this will soothe mental activity and nerves associated with the head.

roasted veg Sooth Your Strung out System with Winter Veggies

Another thought is to drizzle some olive oil on your wintry meals.

 

By ingesting the oil we are nourishing the internal tissues, which is an important part to staying healthy during the harsher winter season.

When looking at what to do with all those fabulous winter roots and hearty greens there’s no need to be daunted.

 

Bake ‘em. Bake ‘em all; potatoes, beets, carrots, celery root, burdock root, radish, turnip, rutabaga, cauliflower, broccoli, herbs, even greens.  Toss them in a baking dish, don’t over crowd, give them space to breathe as this will help create a caramelized flavor.

To start, toss them with salt, pepper and olive oil. Bake at high-ish heat, 400 degrees, until looking good and toasty and easily pierce-able with a knife.  Serve with a hearty grain if you wish.  Maybe add a protein rich piece of meat or some well-cooked legumes.

You’ve got a winter meal that will help calm and ground even the most strung-out of us.

 

Paying attention to what’s growing and in each season gives us insight into the effect it can have on our bodies. It’s really an experiential concept, so give it a shot and see how you feel.

A Garden Is The Perfect Holiday Gift!  We Have Options For All Wallet Sizes.  See Your Options Now!

 

Root to Flower

Fennel Root to Flower

Fennel

As I chopped vegetables Thanksgiving day for my grandmother’s giblet gravy I couldn’t help but think about our food traditions.

Upon occasion we find ourselves eating a whole turkey and preparing every part.  We use the giblets and the neck to make a gravy.  We cut off all the meat and enjoy it as a meal.  Afterwards, we take the bones and what’s left on them and make a soup.

To me this is part of what I love about Thanksgiving.  

Not only do I get a whole day devoted to cooking, drinking wine, and spending time with the people I love.  I get to prepare a whole animal and explore all the uses I can find for it.

“Nose to Tail” is the term coined by Fergus Henderson to refer to using all of the parts of an animal.  Slowly this became a popular concept among chefs and foodies today.  Personally I love the fact that people are trying to challenge themselves this way.

Nose to Tail, is not a new concept just a new term referring to the rethinking of traditional regional cooking from various cultures. 

So maybe you’ve heard of this concept.  Maybe you like pate and sweat breads and giblet gravy!  Not only do those things taste awesome and are fun to experiment with in the kitchen, but they each are packed with various vitamins and minerals that we can use.

I love to experiment in the kitchen and hardly ever follow recipes, but cooking the whole animal or even parts I’m unfamiliar with I reserve for the weekends.

On the weekdays I like to keep it simple.  An easy saute with a few veggies and herbs from the garden, paired with some quinoa and a sausage I bought at the farmer’s market are a usual meal for me.  If I can I will cook it all in the same skillet to minimize the mess..  I am just one person.

The veggie saute is where we as home cooks can really put the Nose to Tail concept to work every day.  I like to call this my Root to Flower cooking strategy.  When getting veggies and herbs from the garden I try to find uses for every part in my sautes, soups and roasts.  Things like radish tops, broccoli stems and cauliflower leaves can all be used.  Here’s a list..

Roots

  • Fennel, Cilantro, Celery, Parsley ::: Braise, mash, roast, or use in soups

Stalks

  • Broccoli, Cauliflower, Collards, Kale, Chard ::: Saute, roast, use in soups, or braise

Leaves

  • Broccoli, Radish, Turnips, Carrots, Beets ::: Saute, braise, or add to a soup
  • Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower ::: Braise
  • Celery ::: Eat fresh in salads or add to soups as an herb

Peels

  • Citrus ::: Zest or candy the peel, or soak in water to make a natural cleaner/pest repellent
  • Potato ::: Bake potato peels and stuff them, or make them into crispy chips
  • Watermelon ::: Pickle, or use the white part in place of cucumber in salads

 Seeds

  • Melon, Squash ::: Roast
  • Herbs ::: Herb seeds can often be used fresh or dried as a more concentrated version of the herb itself, some herbs double as spices like fennel and cilantro/coriander
  • Broccoli ::: I’ve seen the seed pods sauteed and used fresh in salads

 Flowers

  • Melon ::: Add to soups, ice cream and deserts
  • Squash ::: Eat fresh in salads, or stuff/batter and fry them
  • Lettuce ::: Add fresh to salads for a spicy kick
  • Herbs ::: Add fresh to soups and salads for a delicate touch of flavor
  • Pansies ::: Candy or just add fresh to deserts and salads

These are easy ways to get more out of your garden and farmer’s market finds.

To celebrate this concept I along with Jess Moss from Hotline Ink have created a shirt diagramming a fennel plant and all it’s edible parts from Root to Flower.

 

We have a limited quantity with our first printing so snatch one up to share with your friends and family.

Making Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother with 101 Cookbooks

We grow a lot of basil for people!

Right now in the Seedlings Greenhouse we have about 40 basil plants mostly Thai Basils and Genovese Basil with some Holy Basil and Lemon Basil.  To keep them in a bushy shape I prune them regularly so they will branch out and not be “leggy.”

I went back there last night to do my regular pruning and ended up with a plethora of basil.  The last few times I did this I made a basil puree with olive oil and garlic to use in a pasta salad and a quinoa salad.  They turned out so tasty!  This time I wanted to make pesto.

So I googled pesto…It’s been awhile since I’ve made it.

I found a post on 101 Cookbooks where Heidi Swanson’s friend came to visit from Italy with her baby and her mother.  The mother cooked with Heidi.

101 cookbooks pesto copy Making Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother with 101 Cookbooks

If you haven’t seen this blog and you love to cook you must check it out.  Heidi has been chronicling her cooking since 2003 and pretty much anything you can think of is included.  I’ve been using this blog as a cooking reference since 2007 and found it when trying to cook my first pork chop.

Basically Heidi says there are two differences between Italian pesto and the way we make pesto in The States.

In Italy they chop every ingredient by hand.

When you put all the ingredients in the blender they all become the same size almost like a paste.  If you take the time to hand chop things *with a sharp knife* the the pine nuts and garlic will be a little chunkier giving your pesto more texture.

I don’t have a sharp knife, so I cheated a bit and put the basil in the blender with olive oil and chopped the other ingredients, combining them with the grated Parmesan and salt in a bowl.

In Italy they use young basil leaves, or new growth.

basil 1 Making Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother with 101 Cookbooks

The young basil leaves have a lighter fresher flavor giving your pesto that WOW factor.  This is another reason it’s important to prune your basil on a regular basis.

Pruning stimulates new growth and helps with the production of your basil plants.  When left un-pruned basil plants will spend their energy producing flowers and seeds, and all the leaves on the plant will be older with a slightly different type of flavor.

The Recipe

1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
3 medium cloves of garlic
one small handful of raw pine nuts
roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and FRESHLY GRATED
A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Now, who knows how much a large bunch of basil is?  I certainly don’t.  I am no chef so don’t take my word for it, but I just added the ingredients until it looked and tasted the way I wanted.

After I was finished I had about 12 oz of pesto.  I took most and put it into small jars to freeze for later.  This winter I will not miss basil when it’s out of season!

pesto Making Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother with 101 Cookbooks

If you need to get your knife sharpened take it to Assured Sharp at the Mueller Farmer’s Market.  He just sharpened some of my gardening tools the other day and they are awesome!