Posts tagged: real food

Cooking with Borage Leaves — Borage Burritos and Green Smoothies

By , July 14, 2020

Borage Burrito Bowl

This year in my garden, borage is coming up everywhere!

It’s a prolific self-seeder and I could always use it as green manure in my compost pile — but the bees love its flowers, which is reason enough to leave it alone.

I’ve had some bad luck with cabbage and cauliflower this year, and other crops have been inexplicably stunted while others have been growing normally. There’s always an element of mystery to the garden from year to year…I’ve noticed for years that there’s always a crop that fails and it’s just a question of which one it’ll be.

Borage is certainly not one of my failing crops this year. So in the spirit of eating what’s being effortlessly provided to me, I’ve gotten brave, picked those prickly leaves, and done some experimentation.

Now borage flowers are also edible, and they’re nice to nibble on while out in the garden, but I have mountains of borage leaves and I wanted to see if they could be a real, true, edible crop for me. And my conclusion is Yes.

I’ve been using the leaves in two ways — raw, in green smoothies, and steamed, added to other dishes.

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Raw leaves:

I start each day with a green smoothie, heavy on the greens. I have always used cilantro, parsley, or a combo of the two, but I’ve been loving the borage as my green. Cilantro and parsley are strong flavors, but the borage is wonderfully mild, and I love its fresh cucumber taste. And even better than cucumbers, there’s no hint of bitterness whatsoever. The prickles on the leaves get pulverized, and there is no hint of mouth or throat irritation, which I had wondered about.

The raw borage leaves also freeze well and can be added to the smoothie directly from the freezer.

I use a good handful of borage each morning, and sometimes also some cilantro:

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Steamed leaves:

Borage leaves of any size can be steamed, but I like the small and medium size rather than the giant ones with larger prickles. The prickles do cook down into pretty much nothing (and they don’t irritate your mouth or throat when eaten), but even still I like the smaller leaves a little better.

I chop my borage leaves, and since I have Gastroparesis, I steam them for over an hour so they’re very, very tender.

If you don’t have a compromised stomach, feel free to steam them for a more normal length of time.

The color and taste of the steamed borage reminds me of steamed nettles. Dark color… mild taste… nothing exciting, but perfect for stirring into another dish that already has its own bold flavors, like minestrone soup, a vegetable stew, chili, maybe a lentil salad, or…Borage Burritos!

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Borage Burritos (or Burrito Bowl)

Borage leaves, chopped and steamed

Brown rice or Millet, cooked

Your favorite jarred green chile sauce

Your favorite jarred salsa

Mexican-style seasoning, like Penzey’s Southwest, Fajita Seasoning, Arizona Dreaming, etc

Shredded cheese (or avocado bits)

Fresh cilantro

Corn or flour tortilla (optional)

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Combine the steamed borage leaves with an equal amount of cooked brown rice or millet.

(I like brown rice cooked very soft, so I use 1 cup rice to 3 cups water, cooked for 2 hours. I cook millet with that same 1:3 ratio, cooked for 1 hour.)

Stir in the green chile sauce, salsa, and Mexican seasoning to taste.

Heat up until nice and hot.

Stir in shredded cheese, sprinkle on cilantro.

Serve in a bowl, or wrapped in a warm corn or flour tortilla (which you can smother with more green chile sauce and cheese if you like).

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Autumn Scenes

By , November 17, 2019

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Late-August Vegetable Garden Tour

By , August 26, 2019

Hello!

It’s a busy time of year in my garden; in late August the produce is really starting to flood in, meaning a LOT of kitchen time between now and October!

All the time and effort spent thus far in my garden is really starting to pay off though. We have our own private organic farmer’s market just outside the back gate! Here, I’ll show you…

Let’s start in the fruit “orchard” where we have one apple tree, two peach trees, and three or four grape vines. Believe it or not, these are two of the peach trees I started from seed, documented in this post from 9 years ago! I make the grape jam that I love from the grapes, and have been starting to use our cut-up Winesap apples as the fruit in my morning green shake. Later on, I’ll make big batches of applesauce with them.

Standing at the North end of the garden:

Standing at the South end of the garden:

Celery:

Honeydew melons:

Watermelons:

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Photo Tour of The Good Life Center: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Forest Farm in Harborside, Maine

By , July 19, 2019

Care and artistry are worth the trouble. They can be a satisfaction to the practitioner and a joy to all beholders.

-Helen Nearing

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In early August of last year I visited Forest Farm with my family on a special trip to Maine, and it was one of the top highlights of the entire trip. What a special place; I didn’t want to leave. Forest Farm was the entirely hand-built homestead of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of many books including the classics Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World and its sequel Continuing the Good Life: Half a Century of Homesteading. (Still relevant! The value of old books… see previous post.) My copy of Living the Good Life came down to me via my dad, from his mother many years ago. Growing up, his family would take beloved summer vacations to isolated Harborside, Maine and they would hear about the “commie” Nearings who lived nearby. Helen and Scott’s door was always open to those interested in observing, helping, and learning, and Forest Farm still welcomes visitors as The Good Life Center, carrying on the Nearings’ tradition of sharing and showing.

I took many photos! Are you ready for a visit?

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Driving to The Good Life Center through tiny Harborside:

Arriving at the Nearings’ driveway. It was a peaceful, hot, still, muggy afternoon here.

It was very quiet; bees buzzing, small waves lapping the shore in the cove across the street. A few other visitors sifted through while we were there. You just park and amble in. Very laid back, you’re welcome to wander and stay as long as you like, soaking it all in.

This is the caretakers’ cottage over the summer:

Helen and Scott’s beautiful hand-built stone house:

 

Here is a photo of Helen doing the stonework:

Let’s go in. Here’s their kitchen — an airy, light-filled, feel-good space:

Those were the beautiful bowls and spoons they used.

Here are their mugs:

Here’s their kitchen as it was:

Helen and Scott on the right:

Now we walk into the living room, with a cozy wood-burning stove, book shelves lining the walls, and a wonderful view of the surrounding forest and out to their cove:

Here’s more of the house; this area is used as the little bookshop now. Visitors aren’t allowed upstairs to the bedroom but you can peek up the stairwell:

Here’s their original sign:

Let’s go out to the garden and greenhouse now. There’s a little apple orchard in the protected area between the house and the walled garden:

Here’s that lovely walled vegetable garden:

Behind the greenhouse:

Overlooking the walled garden toward the house and greenhouse:

Compost piles on the left, outside the garden:

The rest of the land is forested. There are some walking trails you can take through tall trees, ferns, tall grasses, and dappled shade.

Here’s their cove across the street:

And here’s the mission statement of The Good Life Center:

That concludes our visit to Forest Farm. I hope you enjoyed it!

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Just up the road is Four Season Farm, owned by Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch — names you might recognize if you’re a gardener. The land was once part of the Nearings’.

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Dawn Chorus Herbal Tea Recipe for Spring

By , April 7, 2019

It is Spring. Brown and barren, with the greenery of hyacinth bulbs barely beginning to nose up through the dry soil. Now and then, a wet snowstorm, slush, and mud. This is Early Spring in Colorado, giving way to a period of ephemeral, rarefied beauty that makes it difficult to keep eyes on the road as one drives around a city. Millions of fragrant light pink, dark pink, and white crabapple blossoms filling tree after tree, petals fluttering in every direction on the breeze. Fuchsia redbud trees in protected corners with an iridescent glow on gray days. Cheerful tulips and hyacinth and green grass in front yards. Bushes bowing heavily with lilacs. Fresh spring rain showers. Robins, finches, sparrows, blue jays, flickers — nearly constant birdsong from dawn until dusk. What a feast for our senses.

It is around this time that this winter-lover’s eyes begin to really crave green. It is so nice to see the green!!

I have also rediscovered an old favorite herbal tea blend called Dawn Chorus — it’s a nice one for Spring. Mountain Rose Herbs gets the credit for this one, but it’s such a simple blend that I reverse-engineered a recipe for it quite a while ago. Mountain Rose is so often out of stock on stuff and their shipping is so expensive, that I stopped using them — but I still love this tea blend. My own recipe might have more rose petals in it, which is even nicer than the original.

Dawn Chorus tea blend:

1 part green rooibos (or red rooibos, for a taste that’s different but every bit as good in this blend)

1 part stinging nettles leaf, dried

1 part rose petals, dried

Mix together.

Put a heaping teaspoon into an infuser* in your mug. Add boiling water, steep for 5-10 minutes, squeeze out, add milk!

Then sit down and enjoy it. I am a big tea drinker. A chain tea drinker. I used to have a rule where I had to sit down while I drank my cup of tea. Over time, the rule faded and I’d be up chopping vegetables between sips of tea, starting a load of laundry with a cup of tea in my hand, going out to get the mail with my cup of tea, cleaning up and taking things from room to room with my cup of tea, writing emails with my cup of tea. I’ve recently decided to follow this rule again, most of the time. Taking that quiet moment feels good.

*Infusers! There are so many crappy ones. My favorite is the People’s Brew Basket in stainless steel (made by Republic of Tea — I get this locally at the health food store for about $3.50) and this one which is good for wide mugs. Fill-able tea bags are also sold, but you can make your own with coffee filters like this:

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Green Smoothie: Pineapple-Banana-Spinach-Chia

By , February 7, 2016

Green smoothie, (c) The Herbangardener

I made up this green smoothie recipe a couple weeks ago and it’s becoming a favorite. Not too elaborate, tastes good, just right. The proportions are easy so I’m pretty much guaranteed a tasty result.

Pineapple-Banana-Spinach-Chia Green Smoothie

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Half a pineapple – Cut off the rind, and cut into chunks.*

1 banana

1 Tbsp chia seeds soaked in 2/3 cup water**

1 handful (5 medium) ice cubes

~1/2 cup cold water (in addition to what chia soaked in)

3 oz of fresh spinach (One big handful)

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Put everything except the spinach into your blender. Begin blending. About half way thru, add the spinach. Finish blending and serve.

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* If you’ve got a good blender, like a Vitamix, include the core of the pineapple since there’s nutrition in it.

** The way I do chia is add the chia seeds and water to a small jar, shake the jar, leave on the counter all day or overnight, shaking a couple times, then pop into the fridge to wait for the next time I make a smoothie. If you’re doing the chia then and there, soak for 10 or 15 minutes before adding to the blender.

Green smoothie ingredients, (c) The Herbangardener

Soaked chia seeds, (c) The Herbangardener

Green smoothie (c) The Herbangardener

Green smoothie ingredients, (c) The Herbangardener

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Kitchen Tip: Freeze your extra eggs

By , January 9, 2015

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze eggs

Did you know? You can most certainly freeze eggs! I’ve never read about this handy tip but I’m sure others have done it. For the past year I’ve been freezing my extra eggs and they turn out great. I use them mostly in baking, but also for scrambled eggs or an omelet.

And let’s not think about Easter yet, but this is a great thing to do with the contents of the eggs you blow out for your Easter Egg Tree.

Here’s how I freeze them:

1. Crack egg into a small plastic container. Snap the top on and shake it until the egg is scrambled.

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze eggs

2. With the top still on, place in the freezer till frozen solid.

3. Remove from the freezer, and let the container stand on the counter till it’s melted just enough to pop the egg-disc out.

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze extra eggs

4. Place into a freezer bag. Thaw at room temperature whenever you need an egg!

(c) The Herbangardener, Freeze extra eggs

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(c) The Herbangardener, Cat sniffs eggs

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Yay garden!

By , August 30, 2013

And of course, no post is complete without…

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Japanese Squash and Soba Soup

By , January 27, 2013

This soup is incredible; I could hardly stop eating it. It’s light and different and so flavorful, and it’s quick to make.

It’s based upon this recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine, except I leave out the tofu — and even the soba noodles could easily be optional, as they add more in the way of texture and filler, rather than flavor. The real flavor is from the broth, squash, mushrooms, and scallions. Just like that it is absolutely delicious, and would be a good Paleo dish to add to your repertoire.

Japanese Squash & Mushroom Soup

5 cups water (for out of this world soup, use bone broth — either beef or chicken bones simmered for many hours in water)

3/4 oz dried kombu seaweed (kelp)

1/3 cup dried bonito flakes, lightly packed

2 Tbsp soy sauce, plus more for seasoning (I highly recommend Ohsawa Organic Nama Shoyu!)

1 lb kabocha, buttercup, or butternut winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice

3 1/2 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced if large

8 oz soba noodles, preferably 100% buckwheat (feel free to cut down to 4 oz, or even leave these out altogether)

Scallions, thinly sliced for garnish

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Boil water and kombu together in a large saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in bonito flakes, and let sit 5 minutes.

Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl, and return liquid (it’s now called “dashi”) to pan. Discard solids, or save only the kombu to reuse.

Add the soy sauce, squash, and mushrooms to the dashi. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender. Stir it now and then if you think of it.

While the soup is cooking, cook the soba noodles separately. This is important since 100% buckwheat soba, especially, will turn its cooking water murky and starchy-slimy. So, bring water to a boil (salted or not, your choice) and cook the soba according to the package, about 7 or 8 minutes. Don’t overcook it. When it’s done, drain and rinse in cold water — to stop the cooking and rinse away the starch.

Ladle the soup into bowls, add the soba noodles, and top with scallions. Serve with soy sauce at the table in case anyone would like to add more.

Eat!! Yum!!

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