Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Garden Update

Yesterday was a nice day and, since I knew a rainstorm was approaching, I decided to do a little Spring cleaning and finish sowing my Spring veggies. I also got some heirloom strawberries delivered in the mail so I planted them right away! ;)

Here's what I've sown:
Lavender, arugula, french radishes, stinging nettle

What is currently germinating/growing:
Broccoli raab, (bulbous) fennel, dandelion, snow peas, carrots, blueberries, gooseberries

What is ready to harvest:
Spinach, turnip greens, Swiss chard, collard greens

For this Summer (that is if I can find room/large enough pots available), I'd like to try growing Minnesota midget cantaloupes again and maybe some zucchinis/summer squashes. I will most likely also grow 1 tomato plant for Andrew since I don't eat nightshades. No need to grow New Zealand spinach since there's plenty that grows wild on the green belt, just waiting for me ;).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lacto-Fermented Kohlrabi Pickles

We've had a warm spell here for a few days (Santa Ana winds) and during those warm & dry days I usually like to ferment things (whether food or drinks)...Fermentation is fun & rewarding!

I had some kohlrabi in the fridge so I figured it was a good time to try Kim's recipe for pickled kohlrabi spears (she has so many wonderful recipes on her blog...and a cookbook in preparation ;) ). I had to do some slight modifications: I didn't have any dill seeds so I replaced them with anise seeds and only used 1 tbsp salt instead of 2 (my body doesn't tolerate salty foods well and I think that 1 tbsp of salt per quart of water is more than sufficient)...Note that there's no whey in this recipe.

Since the temperatures outside were in the 80s, my kohlrabi fermented in only 24 to 36 hours (the jar on the right in the picture). I'm also having a lemon balm infusion to ferment (with a bit of honey and raisins) but that's another story...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Novelties & Changes at Alchemille's Garden

Dear Friends,
Spring is finally here! Time to rejoice and do all sorts of new, exciting & fun things!
Spring cleaning doesn't seem like much fun but it is often necessary.
We are also having a virtual "Spring cleaning" at Alchemille's Garden, I thought it was time to refocus a bit...
Here are the details of what you can expect to find:
  1. No more skin/bodycare items: as much as I love making and using my oils & creams, they aren't as popular as other funky-looking, artificially good-smelling & totally non-natural cosmetics out there.
  2. I keep the teas and as usual, will offer my seasonal blends ;).
  3. I will bring my rope incenses back. These are soaked for a few weeks in my handmade scented tinctures and smell wonderful burnt or not.
  4. I still carry my tribal candles and now also have paleo bowls made of clay. I am currently working on scented versions of my candles.
  5. I am currently working on a book both in French & English and plan on listing a few of my tales on Etsy within the next few months.
  6. I still offer Faery Oracle readings and am in the process of making rune sets (with instructions) so that you can do your own readings at home, for yourself or for your friends ;).
  7. I plan offering more botanical beads and tribal/ethnic beads as well
  8. I love fabrics and have been making one of a kind textile cards for many years (for all sorts of occasions). I feel the time has come to share them with the world ;).
  9. I'd like to offer ethnic/traditional herb & spice blends for cooking delicious meals in the comfort of your home.
  10. Because we all need comfort from time to time and relief from worries & stress, I will offer you my own worry dolls ;).
Note that it might take at least a few weeks to have all the above listed under my shop. Feel free to check my shop from time to time and thank you in advance for your support & patience...
Green Blessings,

Friday, March 19, 2010

2 Good Finds...

I wanted to buy a Bundt pan for quite some time but all I could find were pans made of aluminium (a no-no in my kitchen) or with a non-stick/Teflon coating (even more of a no-no). Thanks to Kelly from The Spunky Coconut, I learned about ceramic Bundt pans (I don't know why I didn't even search for these since I like glass & earthenware). So I searched on Ebay and found this handmade & signed small Bundt pan (about 6 inches in diameter) at a very good price (since I was the only one to bid on it). It's a plain pan with no frills but its size is perfect for my use. Thanks again Kelly!

The other good find is a (cook)book: "Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache: The ultimate feel-good book of natural cakes that taste naughty" by Harry Eastwood. I had to order this book from UK since it is not sold in the US. What makes it so special? Well, all these baked goods are made of vegetables as their main ingredient. Think pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini, carrots, beets...But also parsnips and eggplants just to name a few. This book also uses almost exclusively almond flour and rice flour (perfect for my gluten free diet). It is low in fat (fats are not an issue with me) and low in sugar (which I will replace anyway). I will have to tweak the recipes a bit regarding the eggs but they all look tempting and delicious. The book's layout is well done and the pictures are beautiful; it is well worth leaving on the coffee table if you don't intend to bake these goodies (which I doubt)...;).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

French Baking...Gluten Free

As I have already said, I have...ahem...a fairly extensive collection of cookbooks (mostly gluten free). I was just flipping through my french cookbooks today and I noticed there was no xanthan gum nor guar gum anywhere (good! I don't use these anyway).

I also noticed that starches such as arrowroot where used only in small amounts (about 1-2 tbsp for 2 cups of flour or so)...Even better: no spongy nor starchy baked goods.

And I found a lot of dairy free and/or egg free recipes. To my surprise, there are no weird egg replacers and flax meal is rarely used.

So this proves that you can bake a tasty cake (and not a piece of cardboard) without gluten, starch, thickener, eggs or dairy products (I don't mind dairy products as long as they're made of raw milk, which I use to make my own yogurt).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cooking with Flavors from Faraway...

One possible problem about cooking with a restricted diet is, well....boredom. I cook everyday for my husband & myself and even though I am a pretty good cook with a lot of inspiration and creativity (note that I like cooking from scratch), there are times when I don't know what to cook or am just plain not inspired to cook.

I have a pretty extensive collection of gluten free, paleo, SCD/GAPS, hypo-allergenic...etc cookbooks (that I use for inspiration and/or with a little bit of tweaking), some of which I like & use more often than others, but sometimes you need something else...Something comfy, something that brings you back to your roots, something that brings an instant smile to your face.

My father was born in Tunisia so I grew up with the exotic flavors of orange blossom & rose waters, dates, harissa, merguez & couscous...So naturally, when I started cooking I incorporated all sorts of herbs & spices into my dishes.

Now that I'm used to soak, ferment, infuse & (slow) cook nutrient-dense foods I feel the need to reincorporate these flavors of my childhood. I love stews for example, because everything is always cooked to perfection: meat is tender, flavors are fully developed...A few days ago, I made a Moroccan tagine (which is technically a stew) for the first time: grass fed lamb, onions, prunes, cinnamon & almonds. At first I was worried that the cinnamon would be too sweet & overpowering but not at all. It tasted different than what I was used to and my taste buds were nicely surprised. I also felt like I went somewhat back in time since I know that combinations of meat/poultry/fish, vegetables, fruits (fresh or dried), nuts & spices/herbs were used in medieval cooking ;).

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Candles & Bowls

I really enjoy working with clay. Besides its relaxing effect and sensuous touch, it seems to put me in a meditative state. I feel like a kid again; the world can stop turning, I'm happy.

I've been making a few Tribal Candles lately for a customer and figured that I also would like to offer the clay containers, without any wax. Just the plain, minimalistic clay bowls. I call them Paleo Bowls because, like the Tribal Candles, they spiritually reconnect me with the Past & the Ancestors.

I'm also working on scented candles. I won't be using essential oils (that's not my cup of tea nor my area of expertise) nor fragrance oils (I dislike anything unnatural). So I will be experimenting with herbs and resins. I also found naturally scented butters (with botanicals and/or essential oils) that I first need to test for candle making. I know people like scents. I also like scented things from time to time, as long as the scent is natural and not overpowering. We are already exposed daily to so many chemicals and synthetic scents, that I truly enjoy the smell of nothing!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Pre-Spring Harvest

I know it's not quite Spring yet but it surely starts to look like Spring around here. Since the Gods of Rain have been generous with us lately, the ground is getting covered with a wild cloak of green. Nasturtiums and oxalis are to be found almost everywhere along with wild fennel and huge mustard leaves. Even trees of the prunus family (cherries, apples, peaches...) are starting to bloom.

As an apartment gardener, I grow what does best in my containers: mostly greens and herbs. I also grow a few roots vegetables and berries. And I just harvested my first spinach leaves as shown on the picture. I tried growing heirloom varieties of spinach but I had bad luck. This time I tried an new (hybrid) variety called Bordeaux Red Stem and I had no problem at all. The leaves have an arrowhead shape and a red stem. They grew to a pretty decent size but I still have to taste them ;).

Now that the days are getting longer and the sun is returning, I will have to plan for more gardening. I've already sown seeds for a beautiful red stemmed dandelion and ordered some bare root 'Mara des Bois' strawberry plants. This variety is a french heirloom which is basically an improved wild strawberry (in terms of size). But since it's hard to find here in the US, I suspect that they played with strawberry genes a little so that they could recreate this variety (the website doesn't provide clear explanations as to the origin of their Mara strawberries).

Anyway, sometimes heirlooms get lost in time (which is a pity and a shame) and there is a need to re-create them...But does that technically make them hybrids? I try to go with heirloom seeds as much as I can because the taste & appearance of a heirloom edible plant is unbeatable. I'm sure the nutritional content is also superior to modern varieties. And I enjoy the whole process of watching the plant grow...Gardening can really teach you a few things about life!


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