Cecilias Pot

Our first two years in Topanga, we lived in a large trailer on a thirteen acre property. It wasn’t easy living in a trailer, but we had the advantage of being in nature, right close to the creek, with the enchanting sounds of frogs at night, and so much space to roam. There were about 10 other living spaces around, like a little village. It was a dream come true to finally live in Topanga, and raise our son Zane there. He was only 3 at the time, so though our living space wasn’t comfortable, we had a fun and inspiring environment amongst friends. Most importantly, we were surrounded in nature. We were living amongst a group of people who loved to garden, cook, create, dance, dress up, swing on a flying hoop in the main living room, and encourage and inspire each other.

Zane was having nightmares, and I was at a loss for how to stop them. I remembered a time when my little brother was having bad dreams. I shared a room with him and he used to talk in his sleep, so I knew the nightmares were very intense. One night, my mother attempted to stop them. She put herself into his dream in order to pull him out of it. While Zane’s nightmares were not as bad as my brother’s, they were still going on.

 

A member of our village invited a Chumash Medicine Woman named Cecilia to stay on the land a couple months. The Chumash were the original inhabitants of this part of the California coast, from San Luis Obispo to LA County. She offered gifts of healing and nature walks, where she taught us about the local plants- what plants could be used as food, and what plants were medicine. Every day was a wonder with her. I valued the time I got with her, and treasured every lesson she taught me.

topangamesengercecilia

 

When Cecilia was staying on the land, nature responded. It was like the land was glad she was there. One day we went outside to be blessed by a rain of ladybugs. One fell on my lip and bounced off. I can still remember how it felt. One morning, a deer came to her door and knocked on it with it’s antlers. They went for a walk. In one of our sessions, a blue tailed lizard came to assist us with its lizard medicine.

 

Cecilia had a magical pot. During her sessions with people, she made concoctions with herbs that she had chosen and harvested. When I told her about Zane and his nightmares, she concocted a special brew for him, and told me to simmer it on the stove overnight. She said it would clear out old energy, and invite the good spirits in. I brought it home and turned on the stove to simmer, the faint blue light in the dark room echoing the moonlight on the Topanga hills outside. Then I went to bed.

 

In the middle of the night, I woke up in the in between state. Everything was alive and vivid. I saw a few big, tall, bright spirits walk in the door. Good spirits, the invited ones. They looked almost like people, but more cartoony. I remember their smiles, so big, so alive, so colorful. When I’m in this in between state, my body feels weightless, and sort of buzzed. They were so kind, and I welcomed them in before fading back into deeper sleep again.

 

I did not see what spirits they evicted, but they must have done something, because after that, Zane’s nightmares stopped.

 

In time I developed more awareness about wild herbs, and worked my way up to hiking every day, and foraging with my skilled foraging partner. I had the luck of having gardens where I could experiment with different heirloom vegetables and herbs, that brought great inspiration to my life and food. My magical forest creature friends in Topanga have guided me in this experience, in unusual and beautiful ways, which led me to being called the Soup Sorceress. I often feel like I’m in a Miyazaki movie, surrounded by magical flora and fauna while I create with my hands, pulling ingredients of spirit into a space of creation that heals my heart in a new way every time, and creating new flavors I never heard of before.

 

And I remember Cecilia’s magical pot of herbs, and the graciousness of the spirits, during times I need soup for my soul.

Advertisements

Stop and Smell the Chamomile

I quit drinking caffeine, I think it’s been about 10 months now. A lot of people have asked me how I survive without it. My body became so sensitive to caffeine, it felt like it was killing me (pardon the extremity). I’m surviving better without it. Although I really miss jumping up in the morning, getting excited, grabbing the yerba mate from the fridge, and expelling a ton of energy in a few hours, getting wildly creative ideas, sewing, business dealing, writing, and cooking at the same time, and then falling hard asleep for two hours, then waking up very hazy and sick, and often times crying by the end of the night. I don’t miss all of that, just the good parts.

When I quit caffeine, I used the method of cutting it out slowly, and doing different teas, then coffee, then decaf coffee, then chocolate drinks. After that, I had no chocolate and really worked at cleaning myself out, no sugar, bread, meat, or dairy, except when I snuck a tiny bite of butter. Hehe….. maybe a little pasture raised bacon fat too…and ok, just a couple little bites of bread form Ceor Bread at the farmers market. Tiny bites!

So about a month ago I thought I would give chocolate a try again. I just love chocolate so much, so I made chocolate drinks every morning. I was sort of ok with it, until recently, when I became more aware of what I was doing to myself. “It’s just a little tablespoon of chocolate, this has to be ok” I thought to myself every morning.

Then recently, I visited a friend. I knew it was going to come up… he asked me why my hand was shaking.

“It’s the chocolate. I can’t drink it anymore.”

Sadly, it’s just not working. I’m quick to be nervous and jumpy, which takes away from being centered, wise, and considerate. So being sensitive to my sensitivity after having a soup I made, he suggested some kava kava, valerian, or St. Johns Wort. He was right, except that I had to figure out some other calming herbs, for a few reasons. For kava kava, because I think that I need to strengthen my liver first before I start taking that. Valerian, when I tried it as a kid, used to give me an interesting type of headache. To test that out, I recently held a bottle of it at the store to see if I could feel the energy of it. Just in case it would be a good idea. I felt that strange knock out headache, plus relaxing feeling. Which is what it’s good for. It wasn’t bad, but I needed to think of something else to use. I never felt called to use St. Johns wort, but I might be willing to give it a try, that’s another story.

At the farmers market, I picked up two big fresh bunches of chamomile. I realized, that was my synchronistic, temporary answer, for a fresh and calming herb, that I could add to my morning smoothies. I also had some idea that I was going to make a purple potato salad with chamomile, thai basil, and amaranth. Instead I made this soup for Mimosa Cafe, so others can share in this chamomile experience while it’s in season. A centered, calm, mineral rich, full of nutrients, and nice flavor, experience.

IMG_5288

Recipe

2 cups chopped cucumbers (I peeled the skin, but if I had Japanese or Armenian cucumbers I wouldn’t peel them.)

2 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/4 cup laver seaweed (from Main Coast Sea Vegetables)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp spirulina

10-20 chamomile flowers.

salt and white pepper to taste

Blend it!

(I opt for white pepper because it’s healthier then black pepper, but you can use black pepper)

The seaweed is there for health reasons, but I also did a batch without the seaweed, and the taste was really nice, so it’s all an inspiration and a choice anyway.

Some day maybe I’ll get to have some fun all night adventure, road trip, and I’ll take some caffeine then, but when I drank it every day, I fell apart. I love being busy and handling a lot of things at once, but at this time in my life, within reason to what is healthful.

Recently, I’ve been making a banana smoothie in the morning with chamomile, pumpkin seeds, vanilla, and spirulina.

IMG_5265

Pickled Quail Egg Salad

There are various ways to flavor and color pickled quail eggs. I used turmeric for a pretty yellow color. This was used as an appetizer for the Topanga Mountain School fundraiser, and it was gobbled up real quick. I also added pickled, turmeric english peas, which I’ll explain how to do as well. I have a new vision for this, which is to make cashew cream sauce and drizzle that all over.

IMG_4570

 

This is how I do it, for 2 dozen quail eggs. The picture above is 5 dozen quail eggs.

Start with the brine, because it needs time to cool down.

~ 1.5 cups of apple cider vinegar. (you can you rice vinegar if you want)

~1/2 cup of water

~ 2 tsp black pepper

~ 2 tsp. sea salt (I use real salt brand)

~ Fresh Turmeric Root, approximately 1/8 cup, or a little more, diced. (if you chop them a little bigger, it’s easier to spoon out the eggs, without getting little raw pieces of turmeric root with it.)

You can use 2 tsp. of ground turmeric powder if you prefer. 

Put all ingredients into a pot, and get it to a boil. I boil it a couple minutes, to make sure the turmeric is cooked a little, and the salt is dissolved.

Put the brine aside. If you want it to cool down faster, put it in the fridge or freezer, just don’t forget about it if you put it in the freezer!

Then cook the quail eggs. 

I searched a lot on cooking quail eggs, perfect for pickling, and there are a few answers to this, but I chose this way and it works.

Gently place 2 dozen quail eggs in cool water in a little pot, and bring them to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes exactly. Sometimes I’ll do 10 seconds less.

Make sure you have a bowl of ice water ready before they’re done boiling. After 4 minutes, not a bit longer, quickly and gently scoop the eggs with a spoon and place them into the cold water.

They’ll cool down pretty quickly and then you can start peeling the eggs gently. They’re easy, just be gentle.

Put the eggs into a clean mason jar.

Once the brine is cooled down, pour the brine in the jar with the eggs. Close the jar and shake a little. Then put it in the fridge. Wait 3 days to a week before eating them so they’re nice and pickled. The eggs should last a month from the time you bottled them.

The pickled turmeric english peas:

It’s basically the same thing, but you’ll pour the brine HOT in the jar with the peas in them. That way it blanches it a little. It’s a perfect little sour, crunchy, turmeric pea, flavor burst!

You can use a lot less brine, depending how many fresh peas you feel like shelling.

Top the salad with little greens, radishes, pickled peas, and whatever else you like.

 

Topanga Chili Cook Off 2016

chilicustomer

zaneandmomchilicookoff

I didn’t enter the chili cook off in 2015, because I knew how to make chili. I didn’t have some special chili recipe, or make it very often.

One day I pureed some cooked beets with fresh tomatoes, and then cooked mushrooms and various veggies in the puree with fresh chili peppers, and it was a beautiful pink color! So when the chili cook off came around, there was a vegetarian category, I thought, “That’s a good idea to help promote my veggie business”.

I was young and enthusiastic, and really into the vegetables.

“You’re not putting kale in that are you?” my friend Sean said, who put American cheese in his chili. It made me think of all the times I had been made fun of and it encouraged me to do something better. I lost that contest. It just wasn’t a chili; it was a spicy soup.

The next year, I won second place for making a bison and beef chili topped with fresh strawberries and habanero lime whip cream. It was a chili no one could forget. The kids especially loved it.

I also bent the rules a little and used a tactic where, I kept a couple kids around by feeding them strawberries. It turned out really well for me because they helped me taste test and balance flavors. We also had loads of fun together, which was the whole point anyway. The “chili” was like a habanero, chili curry covered strawberry lollipop with fluffy sour, spicy whip cream.

That year the contest categories were confusing. Although, most people thought I would win 1st place, I was put in the traditional category, when everyone else thought I should be in the non traditional category. I was too happy to care, I was having so much fun with my community.  At the end, a judge walked up to me and brightly exclaimed, “everyone agreed, you had the best chili! the best!” I said, “but he won first place.” and pointed at Trevor. She silently walked away. It was a peculiar, and very Topanga moment.

2016

They came up with a new description for the other non – traditional category. If you were doing something strange (me again), and using different meats other then beef you were in the Champion Chili category. I was placed in the right category, not like last year.

img_5991

Here’s what I used.

~Grass fed beef stewing meat and ground meat, and pasture ground pork from Harvest Gathering Farms.

~My own pork bone broth. Roasted the bones, and simmered for 3 days with curry leaves, apples, onions, coriander seeds, and maldon smoked sea salt.

~Fresh pureed heirloom tomatoes

~Artichoke hearts (thanks to the kids helping me cut fresh ones and scooping out the hearts!)

~Pomegranate Molasses

~Dark Chocolate

~Vanilla

~Cherry bomb peppers, spicy lemon peppers from Erewhon in Calabasas. Habanero peppers and chili peppers from my garden…. It was surprisingly not too spicy.

~Volcano red Wine from Volcano Winery in Hawaii

~Onions

~I topped it with butter mixed with diced crispy garlic, and lime rind.

~I sliced SunChokes really thin, cooked them through and crispy around the edges, and put those in towards the top.

~The best part was adding finger lime pulp on top, also called lime caviar. The judges loved the little lime squirts in the mouth. I got those at the Topanga Farmers Market the day before.

I believe the reason I won 1st place this year, is that I get kids to hang around, who bring in some extra magic to the pot from just being awesome. I also worked exhaustingly hard at it, and go way out of my way to source every ingredient from farmers I know. I was also placed in the right category this year!

 

Sasha, with her second place ribbon for her delicious strawberry pie!

 

img_4106

The kids happily wrote some of my ingredients on my chalkboard.

img_6013

Chili goggles.

 

 

 

 

Little Chefs, Dumpling Party!

We made two different doughs. Organic, white flour, and a gluten free dough. Aside from the challenges of wrapping gluten free dough, that easily tore, they turned out pretty tasty, and didn’t ooze out of the cracks much while cooking. We used rice flour and tapioca flour. It’s a nice texture.

We made two fillings. One with ground chicken, and the other with broccoli. We loved the chicken filling, but we weren’t really into the broccoli filling. This is a good start though. Learning how to roll and wrap the dough takes practice. We’ll be masters at it some day!

img_3571

It all happened so fast. Dough rolling is a lot of work. With flour all over the place, and sticky hands, I didn’t get many pictures. I love how they all look so different. There’s even one with a green onion string wrapped around it.

img_3573

img_3575

Three sauces were made, different variations using sesame oil, tamari, and rice vinegar.

Once gobbled up, the kids played in the kiwi gazebo, and swept up more leaves while creating characters for improv. They’re really excited about getting the kiwi gazebo ready to serve food to Parents.

We talked about making a fruit crumble next week. We had some extra dough at the end, and Luella got creative. Maybe we’ll do mini fruit pies next week. We all agree (when we were making the butternut squash cake a few weeks ago) we don’t need sugar added with the fruit, fruit is sweet enough.

img_3576

We’re growing red roselle flowers in the garden. We started the plant from heirloom seed. It’s a tangy hibiscus like flower that’s used for teas, sauces, and pies. It will make the sauces red. If the flowers bloom next week, we’ll use the flowers in a fruit pie and make tea. This praying mantis is a good sign!

img_3569

Thank you Tallulah, Gracee, Sasha, Evita, and Luella. Our dumpling party was fun. You are all creative, inspiring, and each of you bring the best ideas to the table. Thank you for sweeping. We’re preparing and practicing as a team, which will lead to some lovely gatherings in the kiwi gazebo.

Dumpling Dough

This is a great short and easy video on how to make dumpling dough, and wrap them.

Gluten Free Dough

The description on how to make this dough, and roll it, is easy to follow.

~We pan fried the dumplings until they were brown on both sides, then added a little water, put the lid on and steamed for 6-8 minutes.

 

 

Little Chefs Cooking Class, Butternut Squash Cake!

SavRaw Local Farm Box

My 12 year old son, Zane, insisted that I bake a cake with the kids. I wasn’t sure about doing something sweet, but I liked the idea of showing them how we can put a vegetable in a cake and still make it taste awesome. It also reminds me a little of pound cake, but healthier.

Anyway, we ended up using half the sugar that the recipe called for in the batter. We all strongly agreed we didn’t need that much sugar! How sweet does it really need to be??

preparaion cake

I got everything ready on the table before they arrived. Plus celery snacks. The butternut squash, I boiled and pureed the day before.

I had an important baking question. How do I use the glass baking dishes instead of metal? I asked my friend Patrice, “The Angel in Your Kitchen”. She’s a master organic baker in town.

The oven needs to be preheated…

View original post 348 more words

Little Chefs-Heirloom Tomato Soup

For our latest class we wanted to make heirloom tomato soup!

Sasha and I made some salad with homemade dressing, and tea before the others arrived. Nice to have a healthy snack after school, before we start cooking. We used the borscht pickled eggs I made last week.

We decided as a team, that we would roast the tomatoes.

 

We cut put a garlic in the center to roast with it, and drizzled the oil.

We picked purple basil in the garden, and chose some spices from the spice rack that we wanted to try.

We took a break to stretch and play a little piano.

img_3451

Then we had lots of fun coming up with the flavor we wanted. We pureed the roasted tomatoes and garlic, in the vitamix, with purple basil, and organic cream.

Tallulah said, “Add enough cream until it turns salmon color!” We did, it was just right, but the flavor wasn’t there yet.

We decided to stir fry some onions with the seasoning and blend that in. It was getting better. We also made a music video while chopping onions and garlic.

Then we each took a little bowl, for each of us, and did our own seasoning in each bowl, tasting each others creations, until we came up with how much seasoning we wanted, and which ones.

We added more salt, cumin, olive oil, rice vinegar, and dill to the vitamix. Tasted it and added more until it was delicious!! While I was cleaning, they came up with this beautiful display!

img_3459

They put these cows in every picture.

img_3462

Ingredients:

Heirloom tomatoes, garlic, onions, dill, cumin, sea salt, a little black pepper, olive oil, seasoned rice vinegar, cream, fresh basil.