Ooh, my favorite!


Urban Bee Co. Seattle
July 24, 2013, 11:35 am
Filed under: Clean, Green, Health, My favorite things, Nature, Seattle

urbanbee

I found a great new honey to add to our collection and this one’s really cool. The Urban Bee Co. is a Seattle-based group that cultivates healthy environments for bees and collects honey from small neighborhood apiaries, urban farms, and some backyard hives too. This guy I got is from my ‘hood, right down the way on the Alleycat Acres farm on MLK and Columbia where they have hops, chickens, harvest parties, and workshops. Each hive is free from chemicals, antibiotics, high fructose corn syrup, and plastic. The honey is harvested in small batches, never heated or filtered, bottled by hand, and delivered by bike. Hyper-local!

I picked up this bottle (from the fall harvest) at my very fave Sugarpill, but you can order online, or join their CSA.

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There are also great resources available through Urban Bee Co. and their partnership with my other neighbor Stone Soup Gardens. One of the most exciting offerings is help to set up a permaculture bee garden (wish we knew about this before we did all the research on our own). Helping our bees and building community. Great stuff. Makes my heart swell with happiness.



How to build a better salad
July 16, 2013, 11:56 am
Filed under: Farmer's Market, Food, Health, Organic, Recipes

cherry-mizuna

We are salad people. And while I’ve always craved for seasonal leafy greens I have never met anyone that can build a salad quite like Andrew. He often laughs about his time in the kitchen, preferring to work the garde manger station while others fought for the grill. The truth is that properly seasoning fresh ingredients is an art that many restaurants chefs haven’t even mastered. We all know the horrors of an over-dressed, soggy salad. (If you’re looking for a proper salad in Seattle, Matt Dillon is the master.)

Salads are compositions and are a complex form of cookery. Using what’s fresh and available, assessing how sturdy the ingredients are to inform your seasoning, and honing your sense of touch are all important elements to salad-making and are so much more rewarding than opening a bottle and pouring. If you’re bored of your salad routine and hoping to elevate your technique here are some tips to help you compose a salad like a true artist, and a recipe to help you practice.

Try a new leaf

We are all about Mizuna this season. It’s like everything you wish frisee actually was, but we all know that it just isn’t. Mizuna is a Japanese mustard green with a slight peppery taste and small, narrow serrated leaves. For as sturdy as the leaves are (they’re also great sauteed) they make for a really delicate salad.

There’s also my other fave, purslane that is also in season right now.

Soap box: Salad greens should never come from a bag or a box, especially this time of year. I’ll share my tips for washing produce very soon.

Use your sense of touch

No tablespoon measurements or emulsifying. Here we’re going to drizzle and use our hands to feel how we season. Start with a light drizzle of olive oil to coat the leaves, and use your thumb or finger to regulate how the oil is dispersed. Then move on to the acid and salt. (This bit of info was new to me. I never knew you started with the olive oil!)

* assess the greens: How sturdy are they? How much oil, salt, tossing can they take?

Toss with a delicate hand

Use just the very tips of your fingertips to toss to keep the lettuce light and airy. Collect only a few sprigs at a time…like 1/4 of a handful and let the leaves fall through your fingers. Just as the ingredients are coated use the bowl to toss once more and maintain the height of the leaves.

Make two different salads, then combine

This is key! Build flavors by making two components of the salad that are seasoned differently. Essentially all you’re doing is using two different vinegars. It’s magical and your taste buds will freak.

Use separate bowls

Each component should have its own bowl. This will help you stay organized, save time, and will also serve as a tossing implement. We love our stainless steel guys.

cherrymizuna2

Mizuna salad with Summit Cherries and Blackcap Raspberries

We came up with this salad based on what we had on-hand after a farmer’s market haul last week. Don’t feel restricted by a recipe, use what you have and don’t be afraid to try different pairings. In this, the savory chives with the sweet fruit and vinegar are unexpected but so, so good.

For the Mizuna:

–  Mizuna leaves, ends trimmed

–  feta cheese, crumbled

–  chive blossom vinegar (or other savory version)

–  olive oil

–  salt

–  pepper

Lightly drizzle the olive oil and gently toss to coat the leaves. Once the leaves are  coated drizzle a small amount of chive blossom vinegar, feta, salt, and pepper. Toss gently once more with your hands and then by tossing the bowl. Set aside.

For the cherries and raspberries:

–  5-6 cherries, pitted and halved

–  small handful blackcap raspberries

–  4 sprigs chives, finely minced

–  sherry vinegar (or other sweet version)

–  olive oil

–  salt

Lightly drizzle the cherries, raspberries, and chives with olive oil. The berries are fragile, so very few and delicate touches are important. Gently sprinkle the vinegar, and salt.

Plate by gently placing the cherries and berries around the plate. They’re heavy so we want them beneath the Mizuna. No arranging! Just let things fall as they may. Then gently pile the Mizuna on top. To keep height let the greens fall through your fingers as you transfer them from the plate. Scrape out any remaining pieces of feta and oil. Drizzle with the tiniest bit olive oil before serving.

Bon appetite!!

 



Head in the sand
July 8, 2013, 12:07 pm
Filed under: Compassion, Farmer's Market, Food, Green, Health

movies
Most nights after, mornings before, and days away from work I have a habit of turning on the TV and finding something completely mindless to watch on Instant Netflix. I don’t want to think because the way I feel I swear it would cause some sort of brain injury. I just want to melt into the couch and watch any given episode of Family Guy for the millionth time.

But, alas, one can only disconnect for so long, and I soon became aware of how empty and uninspiring that habit was making me feel. For the past few months I’ve changed up my routine and I’ve come across some really interesting documentaries that are streaming on Instant now. I’ll admit that I’m not always in the mood to watch a super-intense, angry-making, political-injustice type movie…I just take them so personally and its effects can be hard on me. But when I do find the time and the energy to watch them I always appreciate how my perspective shifts and the decisions I make are that much more informed. Here’s to not being an ostrich!

Queen of the Sun

I desperately want to add bees to our little farm, and as much as I’ve tried to make it work we just don’t have the room next to the chickens. This documentary from 2011 is beautiful and insightful. (I just wish the cover wasn’t so creepy.) With our beloved honey bees at the center of the story there’s also some really great profiles on some forward-thinking (and some wonderfully eccentric) apiarists and permaculture farmers, discussions on the dangers of monocrop culture and pesticide use, and a really interesting segment on commercial bees and the breeding of Queen’s. Complex and I can’t lie, very emotional it’s the type of movie that will change the way you think of bees, swarms, and farming.

The Happy Movie

A glimpse of people and cultures around the world in an attempt to identify what makes us happy. Positive psychology is a real thing and it’s pretty cool. After I saw how a rickshaw runner lives in India, or how a once beautiful woman found happiness after a terrible accident it helped me reevaluate my knee-jerk reactions to the petty injustices of the day. I often need reminding so I have watched this a few times. The story of the people of Okinawa, the highest concentration of the oldest living people on the planet, was particularly inspiring.

Hungry for Change

I have watched this documentary several times, and it’s usually when I need that little kick in the ass to get things back on track with my health and diet. There’s suddenly been a lot of talk on the addictive nature of refined sugar and flour and this will help explain how and why it’s so hard for us to step back. There’s also a ton of great information on natural health and beauty which is one of my very favorite topics. Heal your body from the inside!

HOT COFFEE

EVERYONE knows the story of the hot coffee incident from McDonald’s in the 80’s, but I guarantee that you don’t know the REAL story. It’s heartbreaking and so much more complex than any of us ever knew. This story and many more will change the way you think about “frivolous lawsuits” in our country and the effects of tort reform. It’s a very interesting look at how the hot coffee incident was exploited to ultimately protect corporations and change our justice system at the expense of the average citizen.



Biodynamic Darjeeling black tea
June 4, 2013, 10:46 am
Filed under: Drinks, Health

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I’ve found the most perfect Darjeeling black tea and there are so many exciting things that make this tea extra special. It comes from one of the last remaining family-owned tea estates in Darjeeling, India. That’s one. It’s grown using biodynamic, organic, permaculture agriculture. That’s two. It’s grown at high altitudes among fresh air and fresh mountain water. That’s three. It’s hand-picked, artisan processed, and fair trade. That’s four, five, and six. 

I’m once again directing you to my favorite tea source at Art of Tea for this award-winning, proprietary blend that has been called “the champagne of teas” (hell yeah it is). This blend of select high-altitude leaves steeps to become a lighter and more fragrant tea than the black blends that many are used to, and quite simply it’s the most beautiful and elegant cup of black I’ve ever had. It’s also rare to enjoy a 100% Darjeeling tea outside of India, so let’s call that lucky number seven.

Like other black teas it can be steeped as high as 206-degrees, but they recommend steeping at a cooler 180-degrees, more like the temp of a green tea. I much prefer it at this temp too.

I steep 2 teaspoons in 16 ounces of 180-degree water for 3 minutes. And one additional minute for each subsequent steep up to 5 minutes.

Biodynamic Darjeeling | Art of Tea | $11 for 2.5 oz (40 cups)

 



Skullcap as a sleep aid
May 13, 2013, 10:44 am
Filed under: Beauty, Health

DSKULL

I used to accept my difficulty sleeping as a part of life. My brain just wouldn’t shut off and I would literally lay in bed for hours spinning. I’ve since become a better sleeper, and while I feel that much of it is because I’m dead tired after work and because I am blissfully happy in my little urban farmhouse with Andrew, I also owe much of it to a tincture of Skullcap. 

If you’ve gone the natural route for sleep aid’s I’m sure you’ve tried Valerian and/or Melatonin, and I’m sure those left you less than enthused. Melatonin, especially, made my eyes heavy and tired but did absolutely nothing for restful, extended sleep. It wasn’t until I met Andrew that I found out about the benefits of Skullcap. (Kind of twisted because he is so much of the reason I sleep so well now, even when he sleeps diagonally across the bed.)

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This vintage Disney reference doing it for anyone? Anyone?

Perhaps that greatest thing about Skullcap is that it’s not a sleep aid directly. Mostly it’s a nervine, meaning that it relaxes and calms the central nervous system while also restoring optimal function (neuro-trophorestorative). So more than anything it serves as a wonderful anti-anxiety remedy that can be used anytime of day. (I will often take a few droppers before busy nights at the restaurant.) But when used before bed it simply soothes your nerves and naturally helps you drift into a very relaxing and restful slumber. The only note of caution I will give is that Skullcap before bed makes for some pretty lucid dreams. If you’re not in the best frame of mind I would skip it until you’re in a happier place. 

When I’m feeling especially wound-up I will take two droppers-full 30-minutes before bed. Because I don’t usually add the drops to water I prefer the tincture in glycerine instead of alcohol, but they’re both the same. (The Herb Pharm brand uses organic alcohol.) Available at most health food stores or pharmacies like Pharmaca.

As always, consult with your physician if you are worried about potential allergies or reactions with other medications. 



Accessories
April 29, 2013, 4:35 pm
Filed under: Clean, Compassion, Green, Health, Home, Organic

accessories

Apologies for the delay with this final installment of my eco-friendly Earth Week favorites. (The neighbor we were stealing wi-fi from suddenly protected his network. The bastard.)  So here it is, a list of some socially conscious accessories and toys. Some of these are first steps in making an effort at a greener life, but I always look and hope for the next iterations just around the corner.

1.  Beeswax candles  Burning 100% beeswax candles are the best way to add a pure, natural fragrance to a room while also cleaning and purifying the air. Burning beeswax emits negative ions that get rid of odors and toxins (like dusts, molds, pollens, and viruses!) by attracting and destroying positively charged particles. Conventional candles and air fresheners are filled with chemicals, just read the label. While these candles are more expensive than others, they burn longer and much cleaner and have the most beautiful natural fragrance. Definitely worth the investment. We get ours from a local nunnery that makes them all by hand, but they are also available at Brookfarm General store.

2.  Baggu Bags  Always a favorite around here, I love the bright colors and heavy-lifting capacity of these guys. I love that Seattle has banned plastic bags and now charges for paper, so if saving paper wasn’t incentive enough, now there’s a toll to consider. They used to have great mesh produce bags that I still use and love. Since they’re no longer available try something like these.

3.  Powerstrip  Most of our electronics (TVs, laptops, phone chargers continue to pull power even when they’re not in use or powered on. It’s called Phantom Load, and the power leached is HUGE, so much so that when people switch to using a powerstrip they notice huge savings monthly. Simply plug all of your electronics into a single powerstrip and flip the switch to completely power off the flow of electricity.

Eco- Tip: Instead of buying new, try picking up a used one at Goodwill.

4.  Preserve toothbrush  These guys are made of recycled yogurt cups, and once you’re done you can send them back to Preserve to be recycled into plastic lumber for picnic tables and park benches. I’d prefer to move away from plastics completely, but at least these guys are doing something other than sending it to landfills. Send your brush back with the pre-addressed packaging, or save them up and drop them off at your nearest Whole Foods. They’ll send them back for you.

5.  Coyuchi Organic cotton linens  Again, moving away from conventional cotton is better for the environment and for you. Since we use our sheets and bath linens everyday it’s worth investing in some nice organic cotton. We love our Coyuchi’s, and I especially love stealing Andrew’s big bath blanket towels. They are often on sale at One King’s Lane, or check them out at Coyuchi site.

6.  Toyota Prius C  Until last fall I had been driving my first car (a ’98 Honda Civic) for the past 15 years! It’s not that I don’t lust after a sexy sports car, it was just that I am conscious of every mile I drive, and every tank I fill. With some nudging from mom and dad I started looking for a new car and as much as I fantasized about a badass Audi coupe there really was only one car that was truly me, and that was the new Prius C…a slightly sportier version of the classic Prius. Since I’m smaller I like that there are fewer blindspots in this body style. Perfect for scooting around town.  I love my little car, and more importantly I love my gas mileage!



Cleaning
April 25, 2013, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Clean, Compassion, Green, Health, Home

Cleaning

 

These guys aren’t as fun or as sexy as pantry staples or cosmetics, but they are an easy and important way to be kind to the planet. The great things about them is that for the most part they’re easily accessible. Here are some of our favorite cleaners for laundry, dishes, and around the house.

1.  Food grade hydrogen peroxide (3%)  This guy again! It really is one badass all purpose cleaner and disinfectant. Again, must be food grade! Think all the benefits of bleach without the awful smell and toxic properties that are awful for us and aquatic life. It’s kind of mind blowing that this one ingredient can be used as a natural rinse for fruits and veggies, a clean way to disinfect countertops and bathrooms, AND also to purify skin, rinse for a clean mouth, and sanitize cuts and scrapes. All this from an extra oxygen molecule.

2-3.  Ecover Laundry Wash and Dish Tablets  A wonderful, forward thinking company with a great line of eco-friendly products that are quickly biodegradable and made with plant and mineral based ingredients. Their factories are run entirely on green electricity and even the bottles are made of a green plastic created from sugarcane (no use of crude oil). It’s a pretty amazing company, their site is a really interesting read.

4.  Natural wood brushes  No plastic on these guys, so there’s not as much guilt when they finally die and head to the garbage. Wood with sisal or tampico bristles. Lots of other great natural brushes at Brookfarm General Store.

5.  Bon Ami  Truly a good friend. This guy is perfect for scrubbing the tub or a greasy pan. Five simple ingredients. There’s also the original 1886 version which I just learned about.

Tomorrow’s the last day to celebrate Earth Week, so I’ll close out with my favorite accessories for around the house! (Are you enjoying this as much as I am?)




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