40 Days- end of Week 4, start of Week 5

Wow, more than halfway through! How did your fruit fast go? Enlightening in so many ways, am I right? Naturally, there were some temptations but I knew enough to head a few of them off at the pass. Like this birthday cake that has been sitting on the counter. A couple layers of freezer wrap and a freezer door between me and it should silence that chocolate siren song. I will admit that the day before I started the fast I had a bit of a refrigerator Mardi Gras and indulged in things that were yummy and “needed” to be eaten. Or drank. No alcohol on the fruit fast since it has to be fresh fruit, not fermented.

Chocolate cake siren song SILENCED!

 I think my body would enjoy eating this light fare for quite a bit longer. I certainly enjoyed the simple meal prep. None of that, “what should I fix for dinner,” stuff. I know what is for dinner and can decide how I want to mix it up. My savvy daughter reminded me that guacamole can be made to fit the fruit fast. Last night I had my regular salad and a bowl of guac and I was stuffed!

I actually love how simple this style of eating can be. I have a lot of other things on my mind right now and simple food is such a relief. When you are managing situations that may or may not have a positive resolution it is so nice to know that at least dinner will work out the way it is supposed to. No wondering if the sauce will thicken, the middle will cook before the outside burns, if eating half a block of cheese is really that bad… (yes, it is, and yes, we have all done it), simple fruit fast meals let you relax. And you get to feel great about taking such good care of your temple-body for three days. What a great reset!

Delish! Zucchini noodles and jalapeno slices make this *feel* like a #realmeal

I will be carrying some of the fruit fast meals into my regular eating. I think a lunch of zucchini noodles is perfect. It fills me up and no after-meal sleepiness.

Lunch on the go, apples, tomato, cucumber, zucchini, pomegranate.

I have always loved carbs in the form of breads, crackers, and noodles. Having to bake gluten-free with all those processed flours has not been very appealing because I feel like crap an hour or so after eating. I am going to figure out how to do more whole-grain and add more fruit to my baked goods so I can feel this light when I go back to “regular” eating. For me, this fast has been one to help me push the reset button on eating. To be fair, I actually eat pretty healthy as compared to a typical American diet but I indulge in things that are good only for my taste buds too frequently. Like cheese. I love cheese so much I would marry it. My biggest challenge with cheese is how animals are treated in the industry. I was talking with my savvy daughter about cheese and my fantasy of having my own cow to make my own cheese. Then I would know she was treated well. Maybe goats would be easier, though.

I digress, as usual. Back to our topic. Restoration. Did those excavation questions bring up anything for you? Did you find any old ideas that no longer serve you? Are you ready to let it go? That is such a strange question on the outside. “Are you ready to let go of the things that hold you back, that keep you trapped, that prevent you from blooming?” What a silly question! Of course I am, why do you think I am doing this whole 40 day thing?

We are doing this 40 day thing because it is NOT easy to let go. The old ideas and stories are frequently a cornerstone of our identity. Many times we are not even conscious of how we are driven by those old stories. Recognizing them is the first step in releasing them. Meditation is the tool to recognition. It helps you recognize those false stories and beliefs and also helps you recognize who you really are. Tara Brach has a great meditation that has you imagine yourself 20 years from now and who that person is and how they interact with who you are now. Give this a try for a mini-meditation today. You don’t need to label anything about future you and present you, just feel how the interaction goes. Sometimes words limit our learning about the greater truths. We take unfathomable truths and try to make them fit into neat boxes of learning, naturally that is impossible. We can only understand small parts of the whole. Because of this, I suggest we not even bother trying to understand intellectually. Just feel what is and go from there. Our practice is to know the difference between moving forward under divine guidance and being driven by old fears and habits. I suspect this takes at least one lifetime.

The theme for this coming week is Centering. Our focus is to be and stay present in our daily life. Having practiced this a few times I can say that while it is grand to decide to be centered on every moment of your life, it is nigh on impossible. I recommend picking one or two times in your day that you will be 100% present. For me it will be when I brush my teeth and during meals. Phones are a huge distraction from the present so during these times my phone will be in a different room. I suspect the tooth brushing could become a meditation of sorts if I adhere to this centering action this week.

I will work to be conscientious of staying present in other moments of the day, as well, but anchoring to these two spots will give me pause. It is in the pause that everything is possible and God can be heard. That is my experience, anyway.

Big hug, my fellow 40 Dayer! Through ups and downs, we are making amazing progress in the very act of capital-B Becoming. Ride the ups and the downs, it is what makes us human. Oh, and I will be forthcoming and admit I didn’t journal from Tuesday through Thursday of this past week. No reason other than I didn’t do it first thing in the morning. For whatever reason, that is my struggle to do the daily journaling. I know what to do (first thing in the morning) and yet I skip that frequently. Looks like maybe this won’t be my last 40 Days journey! But that bridge will be crossed when it comes up.

As an Amazon Affiliate, links in this post will take you to Amazon where you can review my suggested items. If you make a purchase it will not cost you anything extra and I make a small commission.

Rose Hips- How to forage and use rose hips in your everyday life

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I like big hips and I cannot lie…

Finally, I appreciate big hips!

Apparently Google does not appreciate wit and innuendo. As such, I try to clarify the post content in the title and use the subtitle for my own fun. I do this for you, darling, just because I want to make it easier for you to find this information that you so desperately need. I am always thinking of how to make it easier for you, dearest reader. I suspect that in this relationship, I like you better than you like me. I’m okay with that.

Let us glorify big hips!!! Yes, rose hips. Those glorious late fall to winter last bits of free food you can forage. They are found almost everywhere except Antarctica (sorry, you poor scientists and adventurers) and you can even grow your own. Best part, they show up just for doing nothing! If you have a rose bush and do not cut the roses then once the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, the rose hips arrive. They supposedly are best after a frost. I cannot validate that at this time because we had a freak snow in September up here in my new home of the Northwest which interrupted my experiment of trying rose hips before and after frost. Oh well, there is always next year.

The fruit and seeds of the rose, the rose hip is bright red when ripe. Usually.

In my former southern home I always cut my flowers. In part to bring in for enjoyment and in part to prune the rose bush and encourage more growth. This cutting prevented the formation of the hips to grow but, down on the southern coast hip foraging would have occurred around February rather than the October to December up here. Whatever the timeframe in your area, try going au naturel with your flowers this season. By that I mean do not spray them with any pesticides or fungicides and let the flowers bloom, then die on the plant. After those lovely petals are finished (and you should harvest them for potpourri and tea, by the way), the hips will form.

Why should you care about rose hips? Lordy! So many reasons! The first being that they taste good! Next, they have oodles more vitamin C than an orange and then they add in all those bioflavonoids that are super-uber good for you! Finally, they might be able to enhance skin tone and lessen stretch marks. (initially there was an exclamation point but it seemed a little too manic and I do not want to be the Richard Simmons of rose hips) Interestingly, rose hips don’t taste like roses. To me they have more of a melon taste that is quite refreshing for so late in the year. It is like a little vacation to Mexico in the winter. And when you concentrate the flavor in a rose hip syrup it just might make your eyeballs roll up in your head a little bit.

Now, I know what you are thinking. “Hello, I am not some hippie foraging queen or Martha Stewart who grows my own wheat just to make pizza.” And I am here to tell you that actually it is Karen Bertelson who grows her own wheat for pizza. Also, you do not have to be that “into the wild” in order to enjoy the fullness of rose hips. Plenty of people make tons of stuff from them that you can buy if you just don’t have it in you to make your own rose hip face oil or rose hip tea. So no excuses. Treat yo-self!

 

Written here, though, is how to forage and also how to use rose hips. Find them, grow them, buy them. It no mattah how you get them (but don’t steal them, for God’s sake) just begin to incorporate these powerhouse fruits into your daily life.

Firstly, if you are going to grow or forage for hips, wear gloves. Remember the thorns. If only one or two rose hips were sufficient, I’d forgo the gloves in a heartbeat. The truth is that you will need quite a few of these little guys and if you do not wear protective gloves you will get so scratched up you will be able to count your heartbeats as it pumps blood out of your hands and wrists. The rose hip oil can heal many wounds but why test it this way?

Next, wait until a really cold spell hits the hips for a night. Preferably something below freezing according to all the old people who tell tales on such things. Maybe I will do some research to see if anything has been published on vitamin content of rose hips pre and post freezing but let us not tarry on such at this time. Once you have had a cold spell, don those gloves and grab a container of some sort. I have used my jacket and also my hat as containers when out for a walk in the woods and stumbling on a bush with very large hips on it. Just can’t pass that by! But it is better to have something like a little bucket or bag that is impervious to rosebush thorns. Just pick the rose hips and put them in the bag.

Avoid any that are rotten-looking or are a pale pink. Ripe rose hips should be red, for the most part anyway. Sometimes a bush will make orange-ish hips and you can tell if they are ripe by picking and giving a squeeze. They shouldn’t be absolutely rock-hard. Maybe they will have a tiny bit of give or maybe they will be totally ripe and squish out a smidgen of sweet goodness like this. Do not over-squish or the hairs and seeds will come out. You don’t want those hairs, they are the key ingredient in itching powder.

Once they are home, you have to decide how many will become tea, how many will become an amazing skin oil, and how many will become a delicious syrup. I can’t help you in this department because I love all of them. All I can say is try a bit of each and see what calls to you.

For a quick and easy shopping if you already cut all your roses and can’t wait til next year, here are links to the items I recommend for tea, syrup, and oil so you can buy them. If you follow these links and make a purchase on Amazon, I will get a small commission yet it will not cost you anything extra. This way you can enjoy all the benefits of rose hips without waiting . Also, you should plan next year’s garden to allow for rose hip collection.

For tea you must dry the rose hips completely and then remove the fine hairs inside of them. Those hairs, by the way, are the main ingredient in that stupid practical joke itching powder. I recommend avoiding these hairs. I have dealt with them in two ways. First I sliced each hip in half and used a tiny spoon to scrape out all the hairs and seeds. Then I dried the remaining hips and crushed to make tea and syrup. Getting impatient with this process, I tried a new method which sped things up dramatically by using my Vitamix to crush the dried hips. Then I went outside and sifted the hips through a fine sieve to remove the ichy hairs. This technique was my favorite and made a lovely tea as well. Below is the picto-recipe

For the delicious rose hip syrup you need to cook the rose hips in water and then add sugar or honey at the end. Again, I did this in two ways, first by removing all the seeds and hairs and then second by filtering the hips through a paper towel or coffee filter. This syrup is outrageous, concentrating all the superb yumminess of the hips into a thick and delicious melon syrup full of healthy vitamins. I use this syrup to sweeten tea, as a flavoring agent in sparkling water, and cocktails. This is not rose water like used in some Indian foods, this is rose hip syrup. Both are delish but only one tastes like roses.

And if you want to get really fancy, you can make your own rose hip oil. This oil is purported to have amazing rejuvenating properties for skin. What I notice is that my skin is brighter when I use it. The Vitamin C in rose hip oil is reported to encourage cellular turnover in a manner more gentle but similar to those retinoic acid creams and without the redness and peeling. You can buy rose hip oil online here but making your own is pretty easy. It is recommended to keep the oil in a dark glass container. I couldn’t find one so I used clear glass. Since my oil is kept in a dark cabinet in a dark room, I am not too concerned with light degrading the Vitamin C. You make your own call on this. As a person working towards minimalism I must learn to make do with what I have on hand and educate myself about what I really and truly need versus what I want. (By the way, I want everything, especially if it is purple.)

Making the syrup and the oil use similar steps. The only difference is that you will put the rose hips into water when making syrup and into oil when making oil. You can use any oil you like but my favorite is avocado oil. Yep, the kind you use for cooking. It is great for hair, skin, and sauteed veggies. Okay, one other difference in making rose hip oil versus rose hip syrup is that for the oil you will soak the hips in the oil overnight at a very low temperature to preserve the Vitamin C. For making rose hip syrup you can overight soak or heat the hips in water at a simmer for about 10 minutes, then strain, return to heat and add sugar or honey and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. I’ve done 1/2 to 1 part sugar to 2 parts rose hip water.

I sure hope you will give rose hips a try in one or all of their many forms! There are even more things you can do, like make jelly or wine. If you have done that, let me know! And let’s continue to see the world through rose-hip-colored glasses.

Hibiscus Enchiladas- Two Ways

Hibiscus enchiladas are the bomb. Once you try these vegetarian delights, you will want to serve them to everyone! Who knew those lovely flowers could do so much?

This dish was begat by the gift of some dried hibiscus flowers. Other than tea, what does one do with these things? My savvy daughter sent me a link to loveandoliveoil.com where there are several recipes using hibiscus for more than just tea! I was inspired by the enchiladas recipe and have since added hibiscus enchiladas to my repertoire of favorites. And by “repertoire of favorites” I mean I no longer follow an exact recipe and these enchies become tailored to whatever my mood at the time desires. Sometimes I am “eating clean” and light and fresh fare that is colorful, uber-healthy, and gourmet. Would that I lived every day this way, filled with verve and vibrancy but the truth is that sometimes I have a bad day or rough week and I want comfort food. For me, comfort food is kind of heavy, it tends to be heavily sauced, have more than one kind of cheese in it, and it may tend toward mono-chromatic.

So here are two versions of the same Hibiscus Enchiladas, one for when you are on top of the world and the other for when the world has been riding your ass all week.

For both recipes you will need:

  • 6-8 corn tortillas
  • 1 Cup organic hibiscus flowers
  • 1 can chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 15 oz can chopped tomatoes or 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Chopped onions and garlic, I do about ¾ cup of chopped onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic, then divide it between the sauce and the enchiladas
  • Julienned veggies of your choice to make about 1 to 1.5 cups(carrots, zucchini, potato, jicama, spinach, kale, swiss chard, yellow squash, and/or anything in the fridge that needs to be eaten). I tend to err on the side of too much veggie because the left overs can be saved for a quick addition to scrambled eggs or soup or as a sandwich filling so feel free to saute up extra to cook once-eat twice.
  • Cheese(s) of your choice (cotija, feta, cheddar, Monterey jack, cottage cheese are some suggestions)

*You may wish to add jalapenos into the veggie mix if you like a bit of heat.

Depending on the tortilla size and the amount of veggies you stuff into each, this makes about 6 healthy enchiladas which is 2 servings in my opinion but could serve 3 if you had lots of sides or were a light eater. If you are making the comfort enchilada version, it serves 4-6 people

Soak 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers in 2 cups hot water (as if making tea) for 30 minutes or longer. Drain and reserve the liquid for tea or for margaritas (see suggestion below for hibiscus cocktail recipes).

Thoroughly rinse the rehydrated flowers to remove any grit and set aside.

Meanwhile for the enchilada sauce (actually, start this first so it can develop the flavor), over medium heat saute onions and garlic and the chopped tomatoes, cut up 1 or 2 of the chipotle peppers and 2 -4 teaspoons of the adobo sauce and add to the mix with  1 tablespoon of chili powder (or not if you want a fresher, lighter flavor), some cumin, oregano, salt and pepper all to taste and cook about 15 minutes. Blend smooth in a blender. In a clean pot place some oil and heat, then add the sauce like you were going to saute it. Let cook about 15 minutes. It may seem like a hassle to re-cook the sauce but it really makes a difference in the flavor. Take it off the heat and keep it warm while preparing the remaining recipe.

To prepare the enchiladas:

For healthy enchiladas, saute onions until translucent. Next add garlic and stir around a moment until fragrant, then add the julienned veggies and hibiscus flowers and saute. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, ¾ teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon oregano, and salt/pepper to taste. I sometimes add some jalapeno slices to this mix as well. Saute until veggies are soft but still colorful and then keep warm until ready to make enchiladas

Place small amount of oil in skillet and heat corn tortillas on medium heat for 30 seconds to soften, placing on paper towel-lined plate. This heating also intensifies the flavor of the tortillas.

Assemble by placing a scant ¼ cup of the veggie mix onto a tortilla and roll up and place on serving plate. Top with enchilada sauce, avocado slices, sour cream or plain yogurt, and a sprinkle of the cheese of your choice.

Healthy Hibiscus Enchiladas with avocado and plain yogurt served with orange and candied jalapeno slices. Hibiscus margarita to round out the meal. Leave out the yogurt for a vegan version.

For comfort enchiladas, follow the vegetable saute and tortilla prep as for healthy enchiladas. Assemble in an oiled 8×10 (or so) baking dish that has a smear of enchilada sauce on the bottom of it by placing 2 tablespoons of veggie mix and 1 tablespoon of cheese (I like cottage cheese and Monterey jack mixed together). Roll up and place rolled-side down in baking dish, pour the enchilada sauce over and cover with cheese. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes before serving. You can use this time to mix up a cocktail with that hibiscus tea.

Hibiscus enchiladas comfort style. I was half-way through dinner when I realized I had forgotten to take a picture of the plated dinner. I really needed that “hug from the inside” this day!

For a yummy beverage, you can fix these cocktails or leave the alcohol out for a nice mocktail.

Hibiscus Margarita- place 1/3 cup of the reserved hibiscus tea into a glass, add 1T simple syrup, about ½ a lime of fresh juice, and a shot of tequila (gold or anejo is my preference). Adjust to taste, then add ice cubes. I like to float or place on rim some candied jalapenos. I tried adding one of the hibiscus flowers to the drink but it really just looked like a dead baby squid rather than a glorious flower.

Hibiscus and Huckleberry-Infused Vodka sparkler- pour about 1/2 cup of hibiscus tea into a glass, add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar and stir to dissolve, then add a shot of huckleberry-infused vodka, a few ice cubes, and fill glass with sparkling water. I love my SodaStream to have sparkling water whenever I want without creating more plastic bottles to deal with.

Wondering what to serve alongside the enchiladas? For the healthy enchilada sides, I’ve made salads. My favorite salad, of which there is no picture I am sad to say, had a base of romaine and tomato, then alternating slices of grapefruit and avocado and in the center were some cooked carrots with a raspberry-chipotle glaze. Dressing was grapefruit juice, olive oil and seasonings. To make the carrots, cook carrot coins in small amount of water until done. Add some real raspberry jam and some of the chipotle pepper in the pot and stir over heat until it reduces into a glaze. For the comfort enchilada sides I go simple and do a cucumber and tomato salad (and maybe a second cocktail). A little of Aura Cacia’s Chill Pill essential oil on the wrist also helps soothe the soul.

Give these a try and let me know what you think! Did you do the healthy version or the comfort version? If you buy the hibiscus flowers from the above Amazon link (or any other items that are linked in this or my other posts) it will not cost you anything extra and I will make a small commission that will let me make up other recipes to use up that bag of hibiscus! That is how the Amazon affiliate thingy works, I get a few cents for pointing you in their direction.

Chanterelles!

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How To Identify and Cook Chanterelle Mushrooms And Be Confident You Won’t Poison Yourself

Chanterelles have false gills
Golden chanterelles and golden sunlight on the forest

Ah, life in the Pacific Northwest. I love it out here. The summer weather is so mild with only a few days that get into the outliers of high temperatures. Unlike my former home on the Gulf Coast, there are definite seasons and finally I can not only enjoy but come to love summer. Gentle breezes let you wear a light T-shirt and shorts and open-toed shoes. You can decide to go for a walk and just heading out the door without having to pile on layers of coats and socks and shoes with laces. A PNW Summer gets me and forgives my tendency to wear inappropriate shoes and forget my hat.

I headed to our little peninsula paradise in mid-September. As I made my way around the tree-lined lake and saw the leaves starting to turn yellow and red, my heart sank a little. I am not yet ready for fall and I dread the onslaught of winter. My blood isn’t thick enough yet or whatever it is that lets some people survive icy mornings without batting an eye. As I pulled into our forested driveway my heart was heavy knowing the sun would soon not be seen over the tree line and the birds would not be singing and I would be once again ensconced in many, many layers of binding clothes.

But wait, what golden light on yonder forest floors breaks?

Oh. My.

Chanterelle mushroom grows on forest floor under hardwood trees.
Chanterelle growing on forest floor

It is the beautiful harbinger of fall around here. The chanterelle. And they are just beginning to poke their lovely heads up.

Now where I come from there are not many mushrooms. Of course, in a metropolis you are not going to find much in the way of foraging at all. All that lawn mowing and green grass chemicals are not good for wild food. When the don introduced me to morel hunting in early spring, I was amazed! All this earthy umami deliciousness was available right outside the door of our little house in the woods? All one had to do was take a lovely stroll in the woods and look around. Morels are a bit harder to see for the inexperienced eye but getting that experience is fun and if you do not find any morels, you have still had a lovely walk.

But chanterelles, now they are a different story altogether. Chantys do not try to hide or blend in to the forest floor as do morels. They pop out from the forest floor like glow sticks at a rave, making it so easy to spot them you just know they want you to take them home. I suspect if they could they would prance around your feet like a puppy and nip at your pant legs. And they make it so easy to identify them that even a beginner like me can differentiate them from the fakes.

In case you are ever taking a walk in the woods and see some orange-ish mushrooms, here is how to tell if it is a chanterelle or if it will make your butt bleed. (To be fair, it will be the chafing from toilet paper abrasion due to frequent toilet visits that will cause bleeding, not the fake chanterelles, but that doesn’t sound as dramatic)

First off, chantys are a medium to dark golden color. But so are the two look-alikes that you should not eat so do not go on just color. Chanterelle mushrooms have what is known as false gills. Gills are those things on the underside of the cap easily seen on mushrooms you get from the store, they look like the fins on your air conditioner compressor. But chantys do not have regular gills, they have this wavy stuff that goes partway down the stem. This is the best way to tell a chanty from the non-chanty.

False gills on chanterelle mushroom
Chanterelles come in different sizes but all have false gills.

Additionally, chantys grow singly, not a big mess of ‘shrooms like some fungus beehive. They also grow on the forest floor, not on trees or rotting logs, because they have a relationship with the trees. This relationship is called mycorhizal and it means the fungus and the tree roots hook up.

Now, I know what you are thinking. How to tell the real chanterelles from those butt bleeders? Good question! Those butt bleeders are commonly called Jack-O-Lanterns or Omphalotus olivascens, I call them omphas for short. First off, they won’t kill you, just give you terrible diarrhea for a couple of days. That is much better than some amanitas making you get a liver transplant, if you live at all. So how to tell the ompha from the chanty? Simple! Ompha has gills. Check it out.

Chanterelle on left, Ompha on right. Wavy false gills go partly down stem versus true gills that stop at stem.

Here is a chanty and an ompha together. These two were found only a couple of feet apart under a giant spruce. Around here the chantys prefer Douglas Fir but there is always the exception. Except the gills part, chantys never have true gills.

Also, ompha is a scrub, in the parlance of our times, meaning it just sits there sucking the life out of trees, dead or alive, and does not have a plan to become a contributing member of society. They just hang out on the passenger side of life. So the ompha will be found growing on dead trees or fallen logs. Omphas may also grow in clumps, where more than one mushroom is growing from the same base. Chantys do not do that. They stand on their own two feet, so to speak.

What do you do if you do not have access to chanterelles in your neck of the woods? You can purchase dried mushrooms here. You must be sure to use boiling water to rehydrate or risk a rubbery mess. Since most of the chanterelles charm is the color and texture it adds to a dish and not the flavor, make sure to follow directions in rehydrating. If you have access to fresh mushrooms and want to hoard them for later, they do freeze well if you saute them before freezing. I wonder if you could find fresh chanterelles in a fancy food store like Whole Foods? Let me know if you see them in your grocery store!

So, what to do with these mushrooms if you are not going to hoard them for the zombie apocalypse? So many things! You can try the classic saute in butter and garlic and serve with crackers and cheese. Then you will realize I am right and that chantys do not have such suberb flavor. (Exception alert, I am told that black chanterelles are flavorful but I cannot verify at this time) I think the thing to do is to add them to creamy dishes, a baked mac-n-cheese, a risotto, a stir-fry, in a cream sauce over tofu (or a meat, I guess, if you are into that), added to an omelette or French-style creamed eggs, chopped and sauteed then stirred into a goat cheese for a kick-ass toast spread or dip. I went and made up a special chanty dish and I am sharing the recipe with you just below.

Shoot, now I am hungry, even though I am not hungry. Writing about food always does that to me.

So, take a walk in the woods this fall and see what you find. Or take a vacation to some northern woods if you are on the Gulf Coast, you deserve a break from the heat and the threat of tropical storms and hurricanes. Go find some little gold buttons of love on the forest floor to remind you that while the sun is going away for now, it will be back in due time.

Here is that simple recipe for the foraged harvest, Chanterelle and Tomato Sauce. The sauce is fast to cook so start the pasta water first, then get going on this quick and easy sauce. It is great on pasta and also on toast! Our tomato harvest has been extraordinary this year so finding ways to showcase both foraged and farmed foods has been a wonderful task! I prefer cooking tomato dishes in cast iron to get a little boost of iron in my diet. Don’t believe the myth about acidic foods and cast iron, a seasoned cast iron skillet can handle anything, even an omelette. If you only have one skillet in your kitchen, make it this one. You will love it. And if you do not have a wooden spatula as shown below, check this one out. I use it for everything and it is good on any type of pan finish.

Chanterelle and Tomato on Pasta
Served over pasta with a sprinkle of flaked sea salt,this sauce is bright and fresh, just like early autumn!

Chanterelle with Tomato Sauce

  • 1 Cup sliced chanterelle mushrooms
  • 2-4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Beefsteak tomato chopped with juice (about 1 cup chopped tomato)
  • 3 cloves garlic (if you are not a garlic lover, you can use less but I recommend trying it this way at least once)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • flaked finishing salt
  • grated Parmesan or Romano (optional)

In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, saute the chanterelles in 3 Tablespoons of butter. If they seem to stick before cooking down add more butter as needed. About 4 or 5 minutes into the saute, press on a couple of mushrooms with a wooden spatula, if it squishes down a bit and releases some watery juice it is cooked. You don’t have to worry about over-cooking mushrooms but do not burn your butter! Once the mushrooms are nice and soft, add the chopped tomato, juice and all. Let the tomato and mushroom cook down, about 3-4 minutes. Now add the garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant, only a minute or two, and there is still tomato juice and butter sauce standing in the pan. Stir the lemon juice into the mixture and remove from heat and add a sprinkle of flaked salt. Serve over pasta and top with some grated Parm or Romano, although this is optional and I like the sauce with and without the cheese. Leftover sauce is fabulous on toast or in a sandwich with a slice of gruyere.

Fresh chanterelles sauteeing
Fresh chanterelles starting to saute in butter. I am cooking a few extra to pop in the freezer.
Chanterelles finished sauteeing
Boy those chanterelles cook down a lot! Don’t worry, you cannot overcook mushrooms but you can burn butter so as soon as you reach this stage, add tomato
Adding tomato to mushroom saute
Adding the chopped tomato with juice to the mushrooms
Add garlic at end of cooking
When the tomato has cooked a bit and starts to soften like this, add the garlic. Notice there is still some butter glazing the pan, you can add another tablespoon if your butter has been soaked up by the mushrooms. Stir in lemon juice and you are done!

Let me know if you try this recipe and how it worked out for you! If you do not have a cast iron skillet then use whatever 10-12 inch skillet you have and then get on Amazon and order a cast iron skillet! You will be amazed at how easy cooking can be.

Here are the items I recommended in the recipe above, consolidated just for you. If you do buy one of these items on Amazon through my provided link, it will not cost you anything extra and Amazon will pay me a small commission on the sale so I can bring you more recipes that are simple and delicious.

Spring makes a booty call

For a few glorious days I got to see what warmth and natural Vitamin D was like. It was as if the Olympic Peninsula weather had a nasty breakup from Winter and went out on a rebound date with Spring. There were a few days of well-above-freezing nights and afternoons that hit 70 degrees; truly such a lovely dalliance. Alas the OP realized that maybe it wasn’t done with Winter just yet and rainy-day 50 degrees returned to try and make things work.

Dazzled by the sunshine and digging out T-shirts, shorts, and, oh yes, a razor (I had sort of let No-Shave-November drag on a bit), I was again smitten by this northwest paradise. While walking in the sunshine I was remembering a hike I took late last summer. I’ll let this be a bit of photojournalism.

Moon and Monty

How does an Idahoan get anything done? There’s so many delightful distractions from the To Do list during the summer. I am a firm believer that one should strive to have accomplishments each day AND that one should absolutely not miss out on the amazingness of the world while in the pursuit of checking off that To Do list. Maybe you should have two lists, a To Do list where you get to feel productive and a Tah Dah! list where you allow time for the miracle of the world to unfold before you.

Figs in the Northern Rockies?

I had some lucky inside info from the don on a location of a fig tree. Figs in Idaho? This place never ceases to surprise me. I was able to find the tree and so much more! I surmise this spot must have been a former homestead along the river and a tiny orchard was planted. First I saw the fig tree, its leaves are unmistakable, even if you have never seen a fig tree before in your life, even if the only exposure to a fig leaf might be the pictures of Adam and Eve with a leafy bathing suit, you will instinctively know a fig leaf when you see it.

Wasps also like figs.

As you might remember if you read the Ponderosa Pinecone picking blog story, the wasps here have well earned their reputation for being aggressive. I was disbelieving of this reputation at first because the wasps in my yard in Houston were so mellow that we never had a negative encounter, even if I accidentally bumped them or soaked them with the water hose. The wasps out here in the harsh and wild West are just plain mean and will sting you just for breathing. Luckily these wasps on the figs are virtually drunk with the sugar and can hardly stay on the fig they are eating. Yes, those boogers eat figs. They poke holes in the figs and nibble until in a sugar coma. Look here.

Wasp-made holes in this fig

So this is probably a good time to mention that whole “figs aren’t vegetarian because they have dead wasps in them” thing. I am not an expert on fig varieties but as far as I can tell, this is just a common fig that doesn’t need another tree or wasps to pollinate (lucky for it because I don’t know how many miles to the next fig tree it might be!) And these wasps are not the fig wasp I saw pictures of on Google. You can tell by the head shape, these are just normal mean wasps that will sting you as soon as look at you- except for one thing… they are apparently happy drunks

Since they are so satiated with sugar, the wasps hardly even notice me or Monty and so we were able to safely pick all the figs we desired.

The grasshoppers also were hanging around the fig tree. The grasshoppers eat with more gusto than the wasps. I identify more closely with them in the eating style department.

Grasshoppers are big and gusty eaters

Near the fig tree was a tree with a fruit hanging on it that I hadn’t noticed before. I grabbed a fruit off the tree and opened it up because for some reason I had an inkling it might be interesting and low and behold…

What is it?

A walnut!

Although doesn’t the walnut fruit look kind of like a small apple? But it pulls away cleanly and leaves the giant nut we love to eat.

By now my collection bag was getting heavy. I do make a point to only take no more than 10 per cent of the food on a wild tree so the animals who can’t go grocery shopping have plenty to eat. Even so, my bag was getting full with the figs and walnuts when I spied a tree with little orange baubles dangling from it.

Drawn to it, I stepped under the tree and plucked one of the salmon-colored beauties. Admiring it for a moment, I ripped it open like a hawk on a starling and checked the seed. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a plum or perhaps an apricot. Once I saw the seed, I tasted the flesh. It was bright and tart and I still couldn’t be 100% sure if it was plum or apricot. Or could this be a rogue plum-apricot hybrid? It was textured like a plum but tiny and orange and tart like an apricot. But the seed lended itself more towards plum. I might have taken a bit more than the 20% on this tree. Plums are famous for having the whole tree ripen at the same time and you have about 36 hours to harvest them or they fall off and rot. Okay, maybe a bit more than 36 hours but it’s not far off the mark. Ask any plum grower. And these guys WANTED to come with me. They were literally falling off the tree and hitting me on the head and shoulders trying to leap into my bag. And they were so soft and squishy and at the peak of ripeness this very moment. It was heavenly and the wasps hadn’t discovered them or maybe they just didn’t have the sugar the figs did so I was all alone picking, or perhaps the better word would be ducking, the plums.

Now Monty, who was not as impressed as I with the extraordinary bounty of the river valley, was getting rather thirsty. However, being the protective fella he is when we are out walking alone, he wouldn’t leave me to go down the 50 feet to the river and get a drink so we walked down together. It was so lovely on the river with the cool fall wind blowing gently balancing the sunshine. I could have stayed there all day.

The wonders never cease! Right near where I parked my car was a group of pear trees and, as luck would have it, there was plenty of fruit on them that was within my reach.

Coming up from the river I came across a blackberry bush. Around here the berries are ripe about July to August and this is in late September so these were well past ripeness and were actually dried on the bush. I picked a few and they were delicious! Kind of like Nature’s fruit leather and I didn’t mind all the seeds in the least, it was sort of like chia seeds. I was entranced by the yumminess, enough to brave all the tiny thorns that are so stabby so I grabbed about a half cup of the dried berries. I probably ate as much or more while collecting.

And if all that wasn’t enough, then, in a cool spot on the walk back I spied a blackberry bush that had berries just beginning to ripen! Honestly, this is the most amazing spot, just when you think you have a handle on it, another surprise rounds the corner.

Here are a couple of photos of the bounty from this Eden.

Pears, figs, walnuts, and berries!

This one includes some items from the don’s garden. It’s a great time to be a vegetarian!

and plums/pluots, kale, tomato, cucumbers…

Gosh, all that remembering has made me hungry!

My days now will be divided between Idaho and Washington. Both of them are coastlines, if you look far enough back in the geologic record. I am quite lucky to have such extraordinary beauty surrounding me and these current cold and gray days are just a time to remember the bounty of summer.

And perhaps begin to plan this year’s garden!

Winter Holiday Soul Food aka Eggnog

Eggnog, ahhhh, that delectable holiday beverage.

A friend posted on a social media site his preparation for eggnog using Alton Brown’s  AGED eggnog recipe. I was intrigued by the recipe but, not being one who handles dairy well, I decided to make it dairy-free. It has been quite some time since I made eggnog and I didn’t remember there being bourbon in it but Alton has never led me down the wrong path before so away I went to the liquor store to get the tremendous amount of liquor his recipe demands.

As an aside, Alton, you should totally invite Monty and me to your place for a throwdown on eggnog.

Having played with dairy-free eating recently, I decided to try coconut milk in place of the six (6!) cups of various forms of cow milk, each richer and fattier than the last. Alton uses milk, half-and-half, and heavy cream (sooooo, why not just use milk and cream, isn’t that what half-and-half is?) but he must be a mutant to be able to digest that much cow milk at his age. For me, and most humans who are not meant to digest lactose as adults, this is a recipe for disaster, bloating, and other activities not meant for company unless you are the proverbial grandpa booming out, “pull my finger!”

However, I am not willing to sacrifice the thick and rich smoothness to get dairy-free. Truly, if your eggnog is watery and thin as tears, why bother? So I bought just about every can of coconut milk in my local grocer and chilled them. It took a little over 4 cans to get the thick cream that had solidified at the top of the can to the 2 cup level but, lucky me, the coconut milk was on sale! For the remaining 4 cups of milk-analog I used a mix of almond milk and the coconut milk remaining from the cream separation. Everything else is as Alton prescribes and I have to say, this eggnog is just what the doctor ordered.

Below is my adaptation of Alton Brown’s recipe for aged eggnog. Both he and I use raw and unpasteurized egg yolks and we are still standing. The high alcohol content of this beverage pretty much sterilizes everything BUT if you are concerned or have immune system issues, by all means do what is right for you and use pasteurized egg yolks. You can also wash the eggs while in the shell to make sure no chicken poo gets into your eggs.

Chill 5 cans of coconut milk overnight, NOT the light version- this ain’t diet time. After they have chilled, open the top and scrape the thick cream off and place into bowl, repeat with each can until you have 2 Cups of the thick cream to replace the heavy cream. Reserve the remaining milk for the 2 Cups of half-and-half that Alton uses. You can see in the photo below how the cream is thick enough to hold the spatula upright.

In a mixing bowl beat 12 egg yolks, 2 Cups of sugar, and 1 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg (yes, fresh does makes a difference). Beat until the egg mixture is pale and comes off the beater in ribbons like egg noodles. I spilled some sugar trying to get it into the mixing bowl. This is why we can’t have nice things…

In a separate bowl combine 2 Cups almond milk + 2 Cups heavy coconut cream from above and 1 Cup remaining coconut milk from the separation of the cream (but don’t toss the rest just yet because you might need more if the mix is very thick), 1 Cup EACH of Jamaican rum, bourbon, and cognac, plus about ¼ tsp of kosher salt.

Slowly stir in the milk mixture to the egg mixture. If it seems a little too thick, add more of the reserved coconut milk.

Pour into jars and place in refrigerator for 2 weeks or more. You can drink it right away but it does develop over time. I’m not a believer in the age for a year thing but a couple of weeks or a month is great, if you can wait that long. When ready to drink, shake the jar very well to reincorporate any separated coconut milk and cream, pour into desired tankard drinking glass and grate some more fresh nutmeg on the top. Truly, the nutmeg balances the flavors miraculously. Don’t skip the fresh nutmeg.

This recipe makes quite a bit of juice so I recommend taking a scientific attitude and tasting the ‘nog every day or so, just an ounce or two, and see what you think about the change in flavor as it ages. I might also add some vanilla and/or almond extract to make this even more interesting, and probably replace some of the bourbon if planning to drink it right away.

Below is a link to video of the liquor tasting as well as a tasting of the freshly made eggnog. I’ve been handing out tastes to everyone I know so I’m not sure how much is going to actually make it to Christmas. Not a bad problem to have!