Thursday, December 11, 2014

White Wine/Beet Vinegar reduction Kidney Beans

~ 30 min prep, 3 hours simmer, serves a LOT of people. I just munch on this throughout the whole week really.



Recently I've been trying to consume more beans and fiber. Since switching to a gluten free diet I haven't been getting enough even with my increased consumption of vegetables. This was primarily spurred by my discovery of the nutritionist Karen Hurd's website that outlines the wonderful health benefits of beans. She discusses how beans clean toxins from the body via the liver and all of the successes she has had treating her clients with them.   

When I set out to do this, I was determined to avoid canned beans. I didn't want to risk BPA overexposure since I already have hormone instability. I know there are some brands without BPA, but to be extra sure I thought I should just stick with dried beans since it was a food I would be consuming frequently.

I soon found out that making a pot of beans that wasn't flavorless required a bit of skill. Not only do you have to add a lot of spices in the correct amounts, but including meat was pretty essential. In addition, I am pretty strict about eating sugar and didn't want to add any to my mixture. So I started with black beans flavored with southwestern spices because its hard to go wrong with chili powder and cumin. However, I still had to use excessive amounts of bone broth to keep the mixture flavorful.

This irked me a bit because I don't make bone broth very frequently so I like to hoard my stock. I just couldn't seem to make dried beans taste good! Luckily, I decided to experiment with a reduction sauce of white wine and vinegar to add some more taste. To my surprise, it turned out really lovely. I honestly expected to ruin the beans and have a horrible tasting goopy mess to deal with. I used beet vinegar instead of corn vinegar and also found that that was a useful addition. The beets actually sweeten the beans perfectly so I didn't need to add any sugar afterward.  

As for the beet vinegar: I don't know if this is sold in stores. I fermented my own. I used a few probiotic pills as starters and left some chopped beets in salt water out on the counter for about a week. Be careful about mold. It is good to start with a small batch of liquid so the bacteria can make vinegar quickly enough to prevent mold from growing. Warming the mixture a bit (no more than 90 degrees or so, you don't want to kill the bacteria) and keeping the vegetables below the liquid surface helps prevent mold growth.
Of course you can instead just throw some beets in vinegar and sit them on the counter for about a week. This is way easier.

Ingredients:
  • 1 bag dried red kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup white cooking wine
  • 1/2 cup beet vinegar (I just ferment my own)
  • a few strips of pork back fat or ~ 4 pieces of thick cut bacon
  • 2 tbsp meat grease or drippings (if you don't get enough grease from the meat that is)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 of a sweet onion
  • fresh ginger ~1/4 cube inch of peeled root
  • 1/2 cup of bone broth
  • 1-2 tsp celery salt
  • 3 pinches of cumin, allspice, turmeric, and marjoram (not sure if these add much, but they didn't ruin the mix)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • water to cover beans 

    1. To start, fry the pork or bacon in the meat drippings until crispy over medium heat. 
    2. Cut up the onions, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until soft. 
    3. Add the wine and vinegar and reduce (over medium heat still) until only a thin coating of the sauce remains (usu when ~1/8 in of liquid evenly coats the bottom of the pan). The sauce is done when the tartness and bitterness become mild to taste. 
    4. Reduce the heat to low and add kidney beans then cover entirely with water. 
    5. Add broth and spices to taste and simmer until the beans are of the desired softness usu~3 hours.
    6. You might need to add water as you keep cooking as the beans will swell. 


    How do you know if you aren't getting enough fiber? Check for these signs. Especially if they appear after you begin a gluten-free diet.

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    17th Century Sweet Potato Pie

    ~1hr, serves 6-8 (it tastes so good that you may not want to share it with this many people though!)

    This is a really wonderful pie recipe that would make a great addition to any Thanksgiving table. The dessert is not overly sweet, but the inclusion of bone marrow and butter make it wonderfully filling, moist, and very delicious. I was surprised at the simplicity and spectacular taste of this historic recipe. The pie is adapted from John Gerard's "The Herbal" located at the Plimoth Plantation website.

    John Gerard

    Ingredients
    • 4 sweet potatoes
    • pumpkin pie spice
    • dates
    • 4 lbs beef bones for marrow (you can find these at a local butcher or purchase from Earthfare)
    • 2-3 Tbsp honey
    • half an organic orange (you will need to include the peel)
    • homemade pie crust from here

    sauce
    • one egg yolk
    •  1-2 Tbsp butter
    • 1 Tbsp honey
    • 2-3 tsp cinnamon whiskey
    • 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar

    -Preheat oven to 450 and heat a pot of water for boiling for the potatoes.

    -Put some butter on the bones and cook them until marrow is soft ~15-20 min in a deep dish pan. A lot of fat will melt into the pan and they will start to smell really good when finished.

    -Chop the sweet potatoes (without peeling) into thirds and boil until soft but not mushy.

    -While waiting on the potatoes and bones to cook, make the pie crust. Make sure to grease the pie pan.

    -When the bones are done cooking, lower the oven temp to 400 to cook the crust.  Keep in mind it won't really brown much. Poke it with a fork to check for done-ness.

    -Peel and chop sweet potatoes into the desired size, I used ~1 inch chunks.

    -Chop dates into small pieces.

    -Remove marrow from bones. Chopsticks work well. Save all the grease from the marrow pan.

    -Chop marrow into small pieces. I ended up just tearing it apart with my fingers. It was odd to try to cut with a knife.

    -When the crust is done pack into it starting from the bottom: a thin layer of dates, all of the potatoes coated in marrow grease, some pumpkin pie spice, the rest of the marrow and grease mixture, and a topping of more dates.

    -Sprinkle generously with ~1-2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice and evenly coat pie with ~2-3 Tbsp honey.

    -Grate orange peel onto the top of the dessert. Then squeeze the orange over it to add fresh juice.

    -Cover with foil and cook for ~10-15 min to let the flavors infuse.

    -While pie is cooking make the sauce. Barely melt butter in microwave and combine well with the other ingredients. Make sure to not cook the egg upon incorporation.

    -When the pie is removed from the oven, place on a cooling rack for ~10-15 minutes. Just long enough so that it won't bake the egg yolk when added.

    -Evenly coat pie in sauce and serve immediately.

    Friday, November 14, 2014

    Case study #1

    I will probably start posting case studies of herbal treatments as I gain permission. Let me know if you have any comments or questions.




    Case study #1
    Age: 26
    Sex: F

    Symptoms: intense hormonal acne, irritability, painful heavy menses (however regular cycle), Slight constipation, mild unwarranted depression, currently recovering from plantar faciitis/tendonitis, chronic dry mouth


    Basal body temperature ~97.7 (before ovulation)-98.1 (after). Night sweats/heat, cold extremities in the daytime. 
    Tongue: hot, liver/heart/lung imbalance, complications in lower burner, lymph weakness (slightly enlarge papillae), slightly dry


    Pulse: Deep. Normal beat/strength. No pulse upon light pressure.
    Skin: pale, face slightly flushed. Dry. Tans easily.
    Sleep: no troubles.
    Diet: no dairy as it aggravates acne. Low in grain and sugar.

    Medications: history of frequent antibiotic use and mefenamic acid to relieve menses pains.

    What emotions do you have most frequently? Rank most frequent as 1 and least frequent as 6
    Joy/Overexcitement (heart)
    5
    Anger (liver -> stomach and spleen)
    1
    Fear/sudden fright (kidneys)
    3
    Anxiety/worry (lungs ->L. Intestine)
    2
    Pensiveness/intense mental concentration (spleen)
    4
    Grief (lungs)
    6

    Personality: high energy levels so uses very intense exercise to relieve stress and jitters. Regulating blood sugar helped with jitteriness a bit. Makes lots of plans/motivated/not very empathetic. Forgetful.

    Herbs
    Contrained (headache inducing) herbs: licorice, poke berry
    Sleep induced very fast by: plantain tea, lavender tea, violet tea
    Compatible herbs: red clover (acne clearing), yellow dock leaves (acne clearing), chickweed (acne clearing), flax tea resolves dryness, plantain tincture (2 spoonfuls after meals) fixed issues with menses but did not change tongue.
    No or minimal results from: goldenrod, dandelion root and leaf, kudzu leaf, albizia julibrissin leaf.

    Acne receded with frequent daily ingestion of beans to remove toxins from bile.

    Sunday, November 2, 2014

    Breakfast Fruit Compote



    ~ 5min
    Serves 1

    I don't know what it is about uncooked breakfasts, but I really dislike them. Eating raw fruit, vegetables, or nuts just doesn't seem to cut it in the morning. Not to mention since my foot problems occurred, I've had to cut down on the carbs to maintain my weight since I can't exercise much.

    This compote is a good way to eat a warm satisfying breakfast with lots of good fats and low carbohydrates.

    Ingredients:
    • 1/2 large apple
    • 1/2 banana
    • 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
    • 2 tbsp shredded dehydrated unsweetened coconut

















    First melt the oil in a small pot over medium heat.
    Cut apple and banana into small chunks and add to the preheated oil. I usually add the apple first and cook it a bit before adding the banana since it cooks faster.

     Stir fry until the apples are mostly cooked.
    Add dried coconut.

     Mix and stir fry until the coconut browns. It can burn easily so be careful.
    Serve with all of the oil poured on top.




    Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    Ginger Asian Chicken Stew

    This dish came to me out of necessity really. I got sick; thus I wanted soup. I also didn't have very much chicken stock left in the freezer so I had to make do with less. Feel free to turn this into a full-fledged soup if you want. I tend to like my soups packed full of vegetables so they always turn out more like stews instead.


    Ingredients:
    1/2 in square piece of fresh ginger (just approximate it)
    1 clove garlic
    4 -6 oz pre-cooked chicken breast
    1/2 tsp sesame oil
    cold pressed coconut oil for stir-frying
    8 ice cubes of homemade chicken broth (about 3/4 cup)
    2 oz chopped onion (or green onion)
    1-2 large carrots
    1.5 baby bok choy plants
    assorted vegetables (I used celery and portobellos) seaweed and brassicas are also good add ins.
    optional: soy sauce, shichimi togarashi, cayenne pepper (to clear out the sinuses)

    Overall time ~45 minutes

    Round up all of your vegetables and chop them. I like to keep the bok choy leaves whole. I just like the texture.


      
     
    Peel garlic and ginger and chop them up into very small pieces.


    Put about 2 tsp coconut oil into a soup pot. I used a deep dish pan and it was difficult. Don't do what I did! Then add garlic and ginger over medium low heat and stir fry until fragrant.


    Add chopped veggies and turn up the heat to medium.



    Now it is time to pseudo stir-fry in a soup pot! When you stir fry vegetables normally you want to cook them at a very high heat so they retain their crunch. Here we want more of a mushy soup texture to our vegetables, so we will cook them over a lower heat for longer. However what I really like about stir-fry is the browning that it does to the vegetables. Luckily this can still be achieved at lower temperatures. In order to get some nice browning on your vegetables you need to walk away from the stove. Get your stirring in at the beginning to coat all of the vegetables with oil. Then don't touch them for about 2-3 minutes. Now it is time to flip/stir them once and repeat. You should see a brown color on your vegetables start to appear. Do this until the carrots are the desired texture (taste them to see since they take the longest to cook)

    When your vegetables are nearly done chop up some pre-cooked chicken into pieces. I had some left over from a previous meal.

    Stir chicken into vegetables and let it warm up for a few minutes.




    Turn back to low heat and add chicken broth ice cubes to quench the cooking.

    Add spices and sesame oil. Cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes.



    Serve hot. I like to eat stew with chop sticks. It lets me pick up the bok choy easily and I get to slurp the broth straight from the bowl. Storing extra stew only makes the flavors of the dish deepen and mix together over time. I think it tastes best the next day.


    Enjoy!


    Friday, August 22, 2014

    Healing Plantar Faciitis: What Did and Didn't Work for Me


    Recently I have been fighting an uphill battle with plantar faciitis in my feet. Its been a long three months and although it hasn't been much fun it certainly has been informative. When the pain first hit, I ignored it mostly because it was just a twinge and and didn't seem important. Although I couldn't run, I could still walk and most of these types of pains are not uncommon for me since I play soccer. It will pass I thought. I can just wait this out like all of my other sports related injuries.

    Then I went hiking and found a few days later I couldn't walk. Panicked I went to my doctor. He diagnosed me with plantar faciitis and mild tendonitis, told me to ice it, and sent me to physical therapy. My first thought was how this wouldn't be a big deal because it is just muscle pain, how hard can it be to heal? I've done this a million times before. Oh boy did I underestimate that simple muscle pain. It has been a long, expensive, and aggravating recovery.


    The main thing that has made me so annoyed with the injury is the inability of  health professionals to know how to treat the issue. I've been to a total of four different health professionals and they all had different advice for me and very little of it made any logical sense or seemed to help at all.

    The first thing they had me do at physical therapy was to undertake strengthening exercises in my foot. This baffled me, I was soooo confused. Strengthening exercises? For my feet? The same feet that run/walk 5-10 miles every week? How in the world are they not strong enough??? They must already have the power of three horses with the distance they carry me every week! Not knowing any better I allowed the therapist to continue to massage my feet, use elctro-stimulation, ultrasound, and direct me to the proper exercises three times a week. At this point I was able to take short 5 minute walks on a daily basis.


    A month later after very small improvements, I decided to go to an orthopaedic doctor. Physical therapy just wasn't working as well as I wanted it too. This one took an MRI in addition to the x-rays and announced I had plantar faciitis again. Interestingly enough, he also didn't mention anything about tendonitis based on the MRI. Either a picture of my ankles was not taken or it didn't appear on the image. He prescribed me physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, ice, rest, and a boot to immobilize my bad foot. 

    I tried the ice at first. It felt awful, it was terribly painful and I had been using heat on my feet since I got injured and it seemed to be helping. I tried the anti-inflammatory meds. Nothing happened. A week later I yanked the boot off my foot due to excruciating pain in my good foot that was not in the boot. I had damaged the plantar muscles in my other foot by compensating too much. Not to mention I couldn't walk anymore due to the immobilization increasing the weakness of the booted foot. I was terribly upset that I had wasted nearly two months of  recovery. I felt like I was just a guinea pig in some doctors' lab. That they were prescribing me things because they felt like I needed to be prescribed something even if it was just a placebo.   

    Back in physical therapy the next week I found out my insurance refused to cover any further visits to the office. So I said farewell to my therapist and decided that the only way I could get better would be to take matters into my own hands and learn on my own. It seemed the doctors were clearly lacking in experience when it came to dealing with this condition. I still continued the exercises daily at home.

    However as soon as I starting reading about the issue, the more and more confusing everything seemed to become. Firstly, it seems that plantar faciitis is a very common condition experienced in nearly one out of every ten runners and in many other people who aren't as active. How in the world had doctors not learned to treat this extremely common condition? It made no sense.

    I discovered that preventing inflammation is mainly important in the acute phase of the injury, at the beginning when there is clear swelling present. Yet here I was two months into the injury and they were still trying to shove anti-inflammatory drugs down my throat and preach to me about icing. There are no magic pills to heal this condition! And ice HURTS. A LOT. Heat doesn't. It was a logical choice. I read from online sources that inflammation is a good thing during an injury. As long as it is present in moderation and doesn't get out of control. Preventing inflammation entirely is known to actually extend the amount of time required for an injury to heal. The main reason I assumed they wanted to prescribe me ice was to get the blood moving in my feet (but they never told me this, always said it was for inflammation). I knew blood was very healing and it is important to have good circulation at the site of injury. So instead of ice I just started inverting my feet every couple of hours. Sure enough it helped with the pain. When the throbbing would get out of control I could just lay on my back and kick my feet in the air for a few minutes to let the blood drain. 

    Furthermore, I knew from my studies of herbs that chlorophyll in general was very healing for injuries. I didn't have access to comfrey, so I began a daily application of fresh plantain poultices for fours hours at a time. It helped relieve the pain a bit, but it didn't seem to fix the underlying problem. So maaaybe the anti-inflammatory prescription did make sense because the plantain works similarly. However I stopped using these after two weeks as they were time consuming to apply, and it was hard pick herbs since I still couldn't walk.  I began taking hydrosylated collagen on a regular basis to promote muscle healing. I can't really tell if it has done anything after three weeks of use though.

    I finally found a wonderful website online called the Plantar Faciitis Survival Guide. (I highly recommend this information to anyone looking for help!!) It described a plethora of massaging techniques used on the calves and feet to loosen the foot muscles and break up scar tissue. I tried them and sure enough I felt instant pain relief. I also used a massage percussion technique to get at the knotted tissues. I was tickled. And I also felt a bit cheated after spending hundreds of dollars on such an "elusive" solution. How come doctors do not know how to treat plantar pain? It is so common. Surely they must have noticed patients continually returning. Maybe people just got fed up like me and never went back. I really don't understand.   

    Unfortunately however, my pain did come back. Every time I left the house I came back with my feet feeling exhausted. They needed a good massage about two times everyday to prevent stiffness and following pain.

    A few weeks later I swallowed my pride about not being able to find a solution myself and went to see a chiropractor. He said I have severe over-pronation and fallen arches. This was a completely new diagnosis that none of the other doctors described. He had his assistant massage the tendons in my legs very deeply. I was excited because he seemed to know what he was doing. They adjusted my feet, applied kinesio tape, and had me step in some foam so I could be fitted for custom shoe inserts.

    I was fine until they had me step in that foam. I almost lost hope. This is what I had read about online. Custom orthotic companies are infamous for striking deals with doctors so that they will sell their specific products. I left the office feeling a bit less sore but still quite dejected. I wasn't willing to shell out 300 plus dollars for a stupid piece of plastic. I had already spent so much money on this ridiculous problem.

    I continued to hunt online for answers. I started to read a lot about how fallen arches are due to the excessive wearing of  shoes; especially those with heels. I began to walk barefoot around the house. Soon thereafter I was called into work. Confident I could handle being in the lab for about an hour (I managed this at home fine with frequent breaks) I went in. The day after work I was in terrible pain and couldn't hardly walk anymore. I was convinced that it was my shoes now. The worn out tennis shoes were indeed hurting my feet very badly. 

    I debated heavily about whether or not to purchase orthotic shoes or minimalist shoes as there are sooo many testimonials and research from both sides declaring the efficacy of each type. After talking to my family I decided that I should give the orthotics a try as they will work, however may not be a long term solution. I'm currently testing them out. After two days in them they are definitely more comfortable than my old shoes, but just don't feel as nice as being in my bare feet. Being able to wiggle my toes and rotate my feet freely seems to help my problem a lot. I am not convinced that being in bare feet or in orthotics is really bad for plantar faciitis yet. I hope to post soon about my SUCCESS with proper shoes, because failure is not an option!

     Have you ever been in a similar situation? What solutions did you discover? Was your doctor helpful in your recovery? I'd love to hear your input and story!




    Friday, July 25, 2014

    Treating Cystic/Hormonal Acne with Herbs from your Backyard


     Severe Acne is Curable!

     You might be surprised to learn that cystic acne is a condition that can be controlled rather easily without the assistance of dangerously strong medication. I have learned from firsthand experience and want to share with you here how to treat yourself at home using readily available herbs. It is a difficult journey and I want to share how I overcame my issue so that others might do the same. Don't be disheartened! 

    I believe the reason our society can't handle this condition is because our medical system is focused on treating symptoms and not the cause of the problem within the body.

    For example:

    About.com lists the following as causes of severe acne:
    • overactive oil glands
    • excess dead skin cells within the hair follicle (pore), and
    • a large number of acne-causing bacteria, Propionibacteria acnes
    Therefore doctors treat only these issues and most patients never see relief from their condition without intense medication. That is because these symptoms are a result of internal imbalances in the body. Most doctors treat the things on the surface not the origin of the problem.

    The truth is, some people are just genetically predisposed to acne. There are many toxins in the food we eat and the environment around us that our bodies must deal with on a daily basis. Some people's systems just can't handle these as well as others and as a result, one exhibits symptoms that seem to have no root cause.

    What I Learned in the Struggle

    I have battled with cystic acne myself and it has been painful, embarrassing, and overall an emotional roller coaster. I've tried a multitude of products, home remedies, alternative treatments, diets, and medications as most other people probably have as well. All of the searching was expensive, time consuming, and frequently caused other negative side effects.

    However, after my search I finally found a solution to my acne utilizing local herbs and could not be more pleased and surprised with the results! I want to share this with others so they might find a way out of a seemingly hopeless situation as well. I initially got the idea from an apprentice of Susan weed on this message board.  However a lot of the herbs she used were hard for me find. I was convinced I could do this on my own but with plants that were easier to locate. 

    In order to better understand how this herbal approach works, I first want to explain the imbalances in the body that lead to my cystic acne in particular. Upon studying herbalism online, I observed that my body is imbalanced because it has excess heat, mild dryness, and weakness in the lower GI or reproductive regions. My symptoms were severe acne that flared during PMS and the presence of excess energy that resulted in frequent anger.

    Herbalism teaches that in order to restore balance to the body, treatment must be opposite of the body's constitution. Since I run a bit hot and dry, I needed to use herbs that were cooling and moist in nature. Using proper herbs and some topical treatments I have managed to control my acne to a reasonable level now. I feel much more confident and relieved. Here's a bit of a timeline in snapshots:


     This is the beginning. You can see my face was pretty rough here. These were average days, it flared up worse sometimes. All of this made me really self conscious and I constantly felt embarrassed.
     

    At this point I was drinking chickweed tea on a daily basis and supplementing with red clover every now and then.


    At this point I had started taking plantain tincture on a regular basis three times a day. This was much easier than making a huge jug of tea to last only a couple of days. And it seemed to work better because compliance was simpler.


     

















    This is currently. You can see a huge reduction in the amount of acne on my chin which is where it predominantly resided. I still have the occasional bump, but I don't get more than one or two a week and they are easily managed. The scars are taking a while to recede, but I feel like they are going away pretty well with the help of MSM cream.

     

    How to Start Working With Backyard Herbs


    I have experimented with many local wild herbs and found that several of these taken internally helped relieve my symptoms. The herbs I list below are VERY EASY TO FIND! Many of them probably grown in your own yard or an abandoned nearby field. In addition they worked great for me and were also free! What an awesome bonus! Here is a list of useful herbs to treat cystic acne starting with the best first:

    Red Clover



    Taken internally as a tea, red clover provided immediate reduction of swelling in my acne. When nothing else worked for my face, red clover took care of the problem. Look for this plant in open sunny fields. Tolerates drought pretty well. Easy to spot when in bloom. Stores well dry. Do not use if stored plant has molded.
    Dose: steep 10 flowers in warm water until the color has leached from them. drink twice daily.
    Plant Profile: Very drying may aggravate those whose body lacks moisture.
    Other notes: Tincture is ineffective on my acne. It seems the dry or fresh tea is required.


    Plantain


    Taken internally as a tincture, plantain is my go to for acne prevention. I love the tincture because I don't need to drink a large glass of tea for the effects. However, plantain is even more potent as a tea if you are looking for something strong. Be aware that it is also a nervine, so the tea tends to make me sleepy :)
    Look for this plant in very sunny and moist areas. I use black seeded plantain, but I assume all types of plantain will have a similar effect.
    Dose: three or four leaves as a tea x2 a day or one Tbsp tincture x3 a day
    Plant Profile: Cooling, neither dry nor moist, mild relaxing nervine
    Other notes: Holding your nose makes the tincture go down much easier. The plant is quite bitter.

    Chickweed


    I am very fond of chickweed as it is the first herb I learned to identify and use medicinally. Look for this herb in cool areas such as under bushes. Chickweed doesn't like the heat.   
    Plant Profile: Cooling, neutral, has high water content
    Dose: drink a strong tea throughout the day. I usually use about 1/2 cup of loosely packed fresh plant per liter of water. I have no experience with the tincture.
    Other notes: Chickweed has a very mild taste and is fabulous when brewed with some lime juice and thyme!

    Wild Violet


    I love the taste of violet, primarily because it really doesn't have one (Some herbs taste pretty rough :p). I use it frequently in salads too. Look for this herb in shady moist areas. Again I don't use this herb much because it makes me  a bit drowsy. This plant will work best for those that have a dry constitution. It make not work for those that are damp. Everyone is different so don't be discouraged if one solution doesn't work for you.
    Plant Profile: Cooling, Moist, slight relaxing nervine
    Dose: Strong tea throughout the day. Use the same amount as chickweed.


    *keep in mind all of these dosages are relative. This is just what works for me. You might need a larger or more frequent dose if you are heavier or if your condition is more serious. Take what you feel you need as all plants are safe for consumption.


    Other potentially useful (and available) plants I have yet to experiment thoroughly with include:
    Dandelion - bitter and neutral all around

    Chicory - similar to dandelion

    Other Useful Tools For Getting Started


    I assume that not all cystic acne has the same root cause as mine. It is important to identify your constitution type in order to get good results! Take a tongue test here to find out your bodily deficiencies (hot or cold, dry or damp): http://eagleherbs.com/self-tests/tongue-diagnosis-38

    For a tutorial on making tinctures see my other post here: http://sparrowchef.blogspot.com/2014/02/simple-winter-healing-herbal-tinctures.html

    If you would like to learn more about other herbs (useful for things beyond acne) for beginners see my facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/foragingnaturewalk

    I hope this post has been helpful and informative for those looking for answers! Keep in mind that there are other factors that can affect your breakouts such as diet, stress, and allergies. Sometimes handling these can alleviate your symptoms, but odds are if the condition is severe, this not enough to fix the problem.

     If you are struggling with severe acne, I wish you the best in recovery and would be happy to answer any questions that you might have! Good luck in your search! 

    Sunday, July 13, 2014

    Fermented Fabulously Crunchy Pickles


    Yeah they really are fabulous.
    Especially in comparison to my first attempt at fermented pickles where I ended up with squishy gross slimy things. They were pretty hard to stomach. These new pickles are wonderful because of the simple little trick I used to make them crunchy and the method that I used to prevent mold formation. Its a pretty common work-around I have seen on other fermenting pages as well.


    This post is primarily about the methodology of making good fermented pickles instead of recipe based. 

    First thing you will need to do is to locate a good fermented pickle recipe. Make sure it includes at least 1/2 Tbsp salt per cup water and lots of garlic such as this one: http://www.deeprootsathome.com/lacto-fermented-pickles-no-canning/.

    To get the fermentation process started you need to place your sliced cucumbers into a wide mouthed glass jar and fill with salt water and spices.

    In order to make the pickles crunchy the secret is to add tannic acid in some form. Surprisingly tannic acid is in many types of foods. Of these are green tea, black tea, fruit leaves, wine, unripe fruits, and many types of nut tree leaves. I chose to use butternut leaves in my pickles, but for those that can't find this fragrant walnut type tree, the more common oak tree leaves will work as well. The more fragrant the leaf, the better it will retain crunchiness in your pickles.

    White oak leaves (left) are the better choice if you can find them, but red oak (right) will probably also work.

    Wash about three or four leaves, cut them in quarters, and pack them around and on top of the cucumbers. You can also use the leaves to hold the vegetables below the brine surface.

    Now for the fermentation setup:
     Simple, I know.
    This step is necessary to keep the pickles submerged to prevent mold. For that reason it is important that you clean the bottom of the cup you use to weight the pickles down well. 

    I used a racquetball to add enough weight to keep the pickles below the water line. Now you can walk away for a couple of weeks and let your pickles develop at room temperature. Make sure the weighted cup sits loose in the top of jar so your bacteria can breathe.

    Other notes:
    Be careful not to add a tight seal to your jar. If you use a tight seal, the bacteria might blow it off of the jar as pressure builds up from the fermentation process. Finding a cup that covers the majority of the top of the jar will prevent dust and things from getting in. Don't sweat it. Being clean really isn't a big deal here. The acid the bacteria produces will sterilize the food.

    Also don't throw away your first batch of pickles! You can use juice from the first batch as a starter culture for the next. It considerably speeds up the process.

    Happy pickling!

    Monday, May 19, 2014

    Seasoned Mushrooms and Soft Boiled Egg Appetizers




    Ingredients:

     per person:
    • half a clove of garlic
    • 8 slices of mushrooms (I just used button)
    • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped green onion or chive and parsley or carrot greens
    • one egg
    • 1/2 tablespoon of butter
    This made a great appetizer, but I could also see it making a very tasty breakfast as well in larger portions. The mushrooms and seasonings make this dish very flavorful. Whereas the egg makes it filling and the yolk makes a kind of sauce to tie everything together. I really liked garnishing at the end because it added a bit of crunch to the mix as well.

    Instructions:

    First finely chop up all of the greens and mince the garlic. Set a skillet with a lid to medium low heat and add the butter. When the butter starts bubbling, and the seasonings. After a minute or two, or once the garlic has browned, add the mushrooms. Coat them well in the seasoned butter and let them cook for a few minutes until browned. Now flip them, coat them in the butter and brown them on the other side. 

    Once done, remove the mushrooms to the serving platters, sprinkle some salt and pepper on them, and remove the skillet from the heat. Let it cool down for a minute and then directly crack your egg into the pan.

    You ideally want your egg to be cooking over the lowest heat possible. However I was impatient and you can see the bubbles and brown bottom of my cooked egg. I just couldn't wait, it smelled too tasty...

    Cover the skillet and let the egg cook for about 5-10 minutes over the lowest heat possible. As soon as your egg yolk is no longer liquid, but more gel-like you can serve these. Sometimes you can move the pan around a bit to see if the yolk moves or not. What should happen is the outside of the yolk will cook just enough to stop it from spilling everywhere, but the inside is still a thick liquid. Also if you see a white film start to form on top of the yolk your egg is done. Remove it ASAP to the serving platters and lay it on top of the mushrooms (It keeps them warm).

    You can see a bit of whiteness on the yolk here...


    Top with some salt and pepper then garnish with uncooked green onions and shredded carrot to serve.