14 November 2015

Oi-Sobagi- Korean Fermented Cucumber Kimchee

My last post was about eating fermented foods for health and to help reverse the affects of the Standard American Diet, (also known as S.A.D), so I thought I would share my tutorial  on making one of my favorite fermented foods, Oi-Sobagi.

I ran across a video on youtube.com last year, made by Maangchi, who specializes in Korean foods. Her video is very thorough and made it easy for me to give fermented cucumber kimchee a try, but her recipe isn't vegan, and she recommends eating it fresh, with just a side thought about fermenting it. So I have developed my vegan naturally fermented version of Oi Sobagi that I eat practically every day.

The initial process is a little time consuming, but the end result is well worth the effort!

7x11 inch Pyrex baking dish with tight fitting plastic lid or equivilent sized plastic food storage container with tight fitting lid.

2 lbs. cucumbers, (persian cukes or pickling cukes, but not the 8" smooth waxy skinned type, they will turn to sludge) 
Enough salt to rub on cukes, 1/4 cup or maybe more
1 cup buchu, (garlic chives I get from the oriental market), or bunch of green onions
4 cloves garlic, peeled 
1 large white onion, peeled, cut in half through the equator,1/2 slivered other put in reserve to be blended.
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup Korean hot pepper flakes, *note..regular red pepper flakes will not work with this!
1 tbsp. honey or maple syrup or agave
1 tbsp. tapioca flour, (unbleached white flour will do in a pinch, but is more starchy that tapioca flour which can be found at any Asian market Bob's Red Mill also carries it)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp hot sesame oil, (found on the International food aisle in most grocery stores)
1 heaping tbsp. dried wakame and 1 heaping tsp. dried Hijiki, soaked for 15 minutes then drained, (found in Asian market or at links below)
1/2 daikon Radish, matchsticked
1 capsule probiotic (optional, this recipe will ferment on its own, but it ferments slower and in warm weather there is more risk of it molding so I add probiotic for a quick ferment).
2" piece of ginger, peeled
1/2 tsp. salt

Split cucumbers lengthwise, stopping 1/2" from the stem end of the cucumber.  Do half-turn and split again. the cuke should fall open slightly when stood on its end.

 Sprinkle salt over each of the spears, making sure to get it into the center. Note this technique makes for a very attractive presentation, but if you just want to slice them in forths lengthwise it will be less time consuming, you just have to handle the cukes more carefully when turning and rinsing.

 Set aside.  Turn the cukes in the bowl moving the ones on the bottom to the top, every half hour for 2 hours.

  Meanwhile, with a mandoline, Spirooli or a sharp knife cut carrot and daikon into matchsticks.

 I use the Spirooli for the daikon,it makes quick work of the daikon and then you can cut the spirals into smaller 1-2 inch long pieces. 

 Cut the Buchu into 1 1/2-2 inch lengths, if using green onions split lengthwise and then cut into 1 1/2-2 inch long pieces.

Heat water, dissolve tapioca power until thin paste is made.  Place tapioca water, chili oil, half of wakami, (make sure wakame and Hijiki are soaked and drained before using!!), half of chili pepper flakes, ginger, 1/2 of white onion, and the garlic in the blender.  Add 1/2 tsp. salt, the agave or maple syrup, then add the capsule of probiotic and blend until a smooth paste. 

Wearing gloves to protect your hands from the chili oils, work chili paste, reserved chili flakes and the remaining wakame and the hijiki into the other vegetables,(carrots, daikon, onions slivers, green onions or buchu),then Mix thoroughly to cover all the vegetables with the chili paste mixture, set aside. 

After 2 hours, rinse cucumbers thoroughly using 3 rinses; drain and pat dry gently. 

When cucumbers are rinsed and drained, stuff each with the paste/vegetable mix; press firmly to close cucumber around stuffing somewhat, or if you chose to just cut the cukes in lengthwise quarters, make a layer of the cukes in dish and cover with  the vegetable/chili mixture.

 Place snugly together in container that seals tightly. Cover the surface of the cucumbers with plastic wrap to seal out air and press lightly to remove any air bubbles trapped between the cucumbers. put lid on container, making sure it is completely closed. Leave sitting out on counter to ferment for 2-4 days ( depending on how sour you like it. I let mine go 3-4 days, tasting every day starting at day 2 to see when it is the right degree of sour...it depends a lot on the temperature and each environment is different), removing lid twice a day to press gently on plastic wrap lining to remove air bubbles. Do not remove plastic wrap.When pressed, liquid should start to rise around the edges of the container. At the end of two days the Oi-Sobagi should smell appealingly sour, they are ready to eat at this point, but you may leave it up to 4 days to achieve your desired degree of tart.. Place container in fridge. 

Oi-Sobagi is delicious served with a small bowl of jasmine rice, or chopped and added to a dinner salad of mixed greens and other vegetables. I find that with the Oi-Sobagi on the salad no dressing is required, so it makes for a very lo-cal salad. It lasts for weeks on end in the fridge after being fermented... unless you are at my house... then it's days are numbered, since I just can't get enough of it!

Please don't be intimidated by the ingredient list, the ingredients are easily obtained from an Asian market or online, (I have made a list of links for then ingredients below). 

The Road to Health is Paved with Dietary Changes, Part One- Fermented Foods

In a recent post on www.aprepperspantryjournal.blogspot.com I mentioned the importance of incorporating naturally fermented foods into the diet. I thought that the subject was important enough to discuss here at length, so here I go...

The Standard American Diet, also known as  S.A.D., is fraught with dietary hazards. Americans love their meat and potatoes, white bread, simple carb snacks and soda. In moderation, some of those choices aren't a bad thing, but moderation is the key word... Unfortunately, much of the American diet is made up of these foods. Drive-thru hamburger or chicken sandwich dinners with fries and a soft drink are standard fare, (as evidenced by the number of florishing fast food restaurants), and a frightening amount of chicken fingers, hamburger, pizza and hot dogs are fed to American children. Even meals consumed at home are often made up primarily of processed foods, high in salt, simple carbs, sugar and fats but short on nutrients, enzymes and roughage.

  Eating the S.A.D is a recipe for health suicide. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, a suppressed immune systems, digestive issues, kidney and gall bladder problems, metabolism issues and obesity, are common ailments that are directly related to the poor American diet. We are one of the best fed nations in the world and we are literally slowly starving to death. Processed foods like white bread, sugar, soda and fried foods, are comprised of mostly simple carbs or fat, with little nutritional value, little or no roughage and far more calories than are reasonable to consume for the nutrition they provide. But worse than that is what actually happens in the gut (digestive system), when food that contain white flour,(which is mostly simple carbs and water insoluble gluten), highly processed foods and fats are consumed on a regular basis. The villi in the intestine become coated with the cloying, paste-like combination of water insoluable gluten and fat, impeding the absorption of vital nutrients. Over time this coating builds up on the walls of the intestines, acting as a tooth for other intestinal debris to cling to, so less and less nutrition can be absorbed, putrification ensues and toxins build up in the intestines causing inflammation. The lack of nutrient absorption causes the body to go into "starvation mode". In starvation mode the brain tells the body it is hungry, so the person eats, but due to the goop in the gut, little nutrition makes it to the blood stream, and the signal that the body needs food continues to be sent out. The person eats more but the body is still starving... This toxic, inflamed, starved environment is the root cause of gastrointestinal disease, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, and a host of auto immune disorders that are running rampant among the U.S population, and not only in adults, but in children as well.

So what does any of this have to do with fermented foods? Well, the conversation is actually much larger than just the need for consuming naturally fermented foods. The conversation really needs to be about tossing the S.A.D and replacing it with a diet rich in fresh, living foods,complex carbohydrates and and clean proteins, as well as detoxing and cleansing the body, but fermented foods is a good place to start. The root of all illness is inflammation and the gastrointestinal tract, or the gut, is critical to overall health.  In order to reverse the life threatening effects of the S.A.D., beneficial bacteria must be introduced to the digestive tract. Naturally fermented foods are full of life. They are teeming with vital beneficial flora to help with digestion and gut health.  These bacteria promote health by stimulating the immune system, improving the digestion and absorption of nutrients, and inhibiting the growth of pathogens in the digestive tract, thus reducing disease causing inflammation. They create a hospitable environment for  the healing and restoration of the body's natural balance to begin.

Vegetable medley,  spiced beets, green cabbage sauerkraut
 with carrot, apple and caraway, sweet and hot daikon radishes,
and beet and red cabbage sauerkraut with allspice.
 These will provide our family with tasty, living foods, teeming
 with  vital probiotic bacteria.

While naturally fermented, unpasturized foods will by themselves not undo the all damage done by the S.A.D., it is a good place to start. There are many forms of fermented foods, raw
fermented sauerkraut, raw fermented vegetables, unpasteurized miso, and home made yogurt to name a few. Most store purchased versions of fermented foods are likely to be pasteurized which destroys the living bacteria thus defeating the purpose. If you want to make use of probiotic bacteria to improve your gastrointestinal health, you will probably need to make your own probiotic foods.

Why do I need to make my own fermented foods? Can't I just take a probiotic tablet and be done with it? Well...some is better than none. Probiotic capsules can help, but they are not able to stand up to the strength and strains of the real deal. While the numbers of bacteria in a probiotic capsule may sound dizzying, 50 billion+ living bacteria, it pales in comparison to the 10 Trillion bacteria in a serving of fermented sauerkraut. 1*Two oz.s of home fermented sauerkraut has more probiotics than a bottle of 100 count probiotic capsules. Translated this means 16 ounce of sauerkraut is equal to 8 bottles of probiotics."  It is not only the number of bacteria that counts though, it is also the kinds of bacteria that is important. Naturally fermented foods have as many as 28 different strains of beneficial bacteria, (numbering in the trillions per serving), depending on the kind of vegetable and the environment it was fermented in.  A medium grade probiotic cap will contain 5 strains of bacteria, while the top of the 2*line brands may contain 10 strains. Commercially produced yogurts are cultured with two strains of lacto bacilli.

  As with most things discussed on the internet, there are all kinds of numbers being bandied around and all kinds of discussions and debates on the web about the best way to introduce beneficial bacteria into the diet. I am not really interested in the arguments that float around the internet. I have tried to present substantiated info in what I write where it is possible, but what I live by and try to promote is to K.I.S.S, keep it simply sustainable. Creating your own fresh, wholesome fermented foods is both simple and sustainable. As long as you have fresh veggies, salt and a clean container you can ferment your own foods. As a bonus, fermented foods not only help populate your gut with a variety of beneficial bacteria to aid in gastrointestinal health, they will nourish your body with the nutrients, enzymes and fiber that are available in the vegetables themselves. You can't get nourishment or fiber from a probiotic capsule.

There is also the budgetary impact to consider, raw fermented foods are prohibitively expensive to buy in the store, if you can find them at all. Foods fermented at home cost no more than buying the ingredients for a side dish to a meal. The prep time for fermented foods are short, and once they have been through the fermentation process, will last for weeks (or months), in the fridge. At our home I keep a number of jars of fermented foods in the works, since we consume them daily and nothing is left in the fridge for long!

 If you are troubled by I.B.S., acid reflux, gas, bloating, diarrhea, obesity, metabolism issues, or any of a long list of auto immune disorders, like M.S., Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Crohn's, Fibromyalgia, Type 1 Diabetes and more, creating a healthy environment where beneficial bacteria can colonize is a good first step in restoring the body's natural balance and healing. If you are blessed with good health and have no physical issues, now is a good time to get ahead of the curve and establish the habit of eating fermented foods before you do have a problem.

If you are interested in learning how to make your own fermented sauerkraut, here are a couple of links to tutorials I have written on this blog.  Making Raw Sauerkraut and Red Cabbage Sauerkraut (scroll down some on the post to find the recipe). And here is my newest recipe, Oi-Sobagi, also known as cucumber kimchee.

  I will be writing a post a week for several weeks on The Road to Health. Moving away from the Standard American Diet, and beginning the journey to a diet designed to promote health. Please feel free to ask questions and comments are always welcome! Hope to see you again soon!

1*A quote from Dr. Mercola, an osteopathic physician and best selling author of books on health.

22 September 2015

Life at Heart's Ease Cottage, Living Outside

Well, yesterday was 26 years since Hurricane Hugo turned our lives upside down, (click here for that story). In ways our present situation is very similar... we are once again living outside while the interior of our house is in shambles. This time though we have power, the grocery stores have food and the hardware store shelves aren't bare, and we don't have an infant and  7 year old to try and shelter and feed. We are vastly better off than that! But still it is almost humorous, (I did say almost humorous...), that we are living in a tent in the garden on the anniversary of Hugo.

Why are we living in a tent in the garden you ask? Well, that is kind of a long story, but the short of it is, that the refrigerator was secretly leaking under the stove and cabinets. Over time the wet wood started to mold. I am severely allergic to mold, I started suffering from headaches, sniffles and a cough that wouldn't go away, but I couldn't figure out why. One day I stuck my head deep in a cabinet to get my large stock kettle and smelled mold. We immediately began to investigate and found the culprit. Now the floors are all torn up, the cabinets and my beloved ceramic counters will have to be demolished to get to the water damage underneath, sniffle... and since I can't be in the house with all the mold that is now open to the air, we are living in the back yard.

 I have a kitchen set up out on the deck under a canopy, we have a table to eat at and some Adirondack chairs to relax in out on our back deck. Our tent is set up on my yoga platform near the deck at the back of our vegetable garden. The weather has been kind and life is going on pretty much business as usual. I am hoping that fall is a little late this year and the cooler nights hold off for awhile, since it looks like we could be out here for at least several more weeks.

The offending fridge is serving in the outside kitchen until the repairs are done and then it is going to salvage even though it is only a couple years old. I am not taking any chances of it leaking again!

The work area may be a bit Spartan but it functions pretty well. 

Heart's Ease Cottage is still a source of joy and peace to me, even in her damaged state. I can't be inside but who really needs to be when it is so beautiful outside! Everything is so lush, the hummingbirds are battling it out for the feeders, (10 hummers in all I think, although it is very hard to count them), the bees are all over the flowers and blooming herbs, busily prepping for winter, there is a lovely breeze and the garden is still producing.We are turning over crops as things get tired, the tomatoes will soon be done and will give way to lettuce, oriental greens, kale and cabbages. The peppers are in full swing and will be so until frost takes them, mature kale and Swiss chard are providing loads of lovely green leafies for meals and juicing. I just planted more squash and cukes that will produce more slowly but will provide us with goodies until the frost gets them. I have peas in and a new bed of beets. There are new seedlings for 3 kinds of kale, turnips and oriental veggies ready for planting as soon as I can get to them in. Some beds are fallow, waiting for me to plant fava beans, which are winter hardy. They produce huge beans in early spring, and fix nitrogen on their roots that will feed the soil when they are turned in after we harvest the beans in late spring. We use fava beans as a cover crop, but like buckwheat, they feed the soil and as a bonus they feed us too!

Rather than just talk about it, let me take you on a stroll through the gardens...

The west side flower beds are 3 feet high and growing
The east side Veranda garden is lush too!
The "Watering Can Garden", as we call it, is full of herbs and flowers. Some are done for the season, others are getting ready to come on. Next up, the bright yellow flowers of tarragon and the scarlet cascading blooms of pineapple sage.

This side of the herb bed holds many culinary herbs like rosemary and pesto basil as well as medicinal herbs and flowers

Lil' Swiss Miss, our 1957 Swiss Colony Camper is all decked out in  pink flamingos, impatiens and fuschia
The pergola where Lil' Swiss Miss presides is a cool place to sit in the heat of the day and view the herb garden and frog pond .It is also a great place to watch the birds.

The gold fish in the frog pond are almost the size of koi. The frogs were shy and leaped into the water just as I took this photo 

One of two pepper beds is full of hot peppers. In this bed are habanero, jalapeno, serrano and Thai bird chiles. The other pepper bed has sweet peppers, like bell and banana peppers.
The last of the tomatoes are ripening and then I will clear the bed for cabbages.

We have still got pumpkins coming on and some large ones ripening

Beds of kale and Swiss chard have been producing since last fall. Some of the perpetual spinach and Swiss chard (a bed not shown) are three years old.
I will have to dig up my ginger and turmeric before the frost and let it over winter inside. I can harvest as needed from it's pot during the winter and then plant it out again in the spring to finish off.
There is much more going on, but I am sure you are tired of scrolling by now so I will say good bye for today and hope that you will come back for a visit again soon!

25 August 2015


Portions of this post were originally from a post I wrote almost 3 years ago on my other blog www.artofaletter.blogspot.com. Here is the original story and the conclusion:

I sometimes think that I like animals better than people, but as much as I love animals I never thought we would have an indoor dog. My youngest son inherited my weak lungs and struggled terribly with asthma as a small child. We had animals, but they didn't live indoors. Then at the age of 14, it had been two years since he'd had any trouble with his asthma, and he had expressed many times a desire for a dog, so we decided to get him one.

We home schooled our kids, so this seemed like a perfect research assignment for school. E.M. was to research which breeds of dogs met our criteria, no dander, no shedding, not high strung or yappy. His research  found several breeds that fit the bill. The breed that appealed the most was the West Highland Terrier. He also studied about crate and obedience training, animal first aid, and how to teach them tricks. So a few days before his 14th birthday, we set off to search the pets stores to find a Westy puppy.* (I know, I know... a pet store puppy, what about the whole "puppy mill" thing? For an answer to this question read the paragraph at the end of the post). We made a list of the stores that had a Westy pup for sale and began our exploration.

The store we went to had one Westy pup and someone was looking at it when we got there, so we just cruised around looking at the other animals while we waited for them to finish. The door to the service area of the puppy nursery was a dutch door and the top of the door was open, so as we walked by we caught sight of a puppy that was out on the floor getting a bit of exercise. The woman who was watching him while he was out of his cage was unpacking boxes and there was packing paper on the floor around her feet. The puppy raced by her, grabbed one of the pieces of paper and ran with it as fast as he could, until she caught up with him and took the paper. I turned and saw stars in my son's eyes... Oh dear,this was not the Westy puppy... it was a little buff Cocker Spaniel... Cockers shed... (the requirement for no shedding was mine, since I knew I would end up being the one to clean up the hair, and was the only household member who would care if the black pants they were wearing looked like the dog slept on them, etc.)
But I knew that look... so we asked if we could see him.

The woman opened the dutch door to let us in and the pup took the opportunity to snag a piece of the packing paper and dash out the open door. We turned to see the little stinker making his escape down one of the isles, the paper blocking his view as it flapped up over his head. E.M. took off after him, fearing that the front door of the store would open and he would get outside. Ever tried to catch a puppy out on a lark? It is not as easy as you think.... after a try or two at grabbing him, he decided to try another approach, he sat down, patted the floor in front of him and acted like he wanted to play. The pup stopped, looked at him, dropped his paper and ran towards him at top speed. When he got within range, the puppy bounded onto E.M.'s lap and tagged him on the chest with both feet. He then jumped off, avoiding capture, but stopped just out of reach, and turned to looked at him as if to say, "Tag! you're it!" Needless to say, the Westy puppy never had a chance... Tagg went home with us that day.

E.M. had educated himself well on puppy training, and Tagg was a champ. Crate training was a breeze, obedience training went well, "Sit", "Stay" and "No" were well understood and usually complied with, there was really only one problem... Tagg had a paper addiction, specifically toilet paper or tissues. He never touched books or magazine, and only chewed up the occasional school work, but he couldn't resist toilet paper. If you left the house and forgot to put the T.P. out of reach, I would come home to a toilet papered house. It would be everywhere, shredded into tiny pieces. If a friend came to visit and there was a tissue in her handbag, I would find Tagg up to his shoulders in her bag, helping himself to her tissue. I would shout his name and his head would snap up, one side of his lip tucked up and his mouth full of tissue, he would give me a sheepish look and spit out the soggy wad of kleenex. He knew he shouldn't do it but he just couldn't help himself. Even at the age of twelve, if someone forgot the close the bathroom door when we left the house, we would come home to find Tagg looking like "the cat who ate the canary", with a piece of T.P. stuck to his jowl and confetti trailing from the bathroom to the front door.

Tagg is the only dog I've ever met who smells flowers
He learned many tricks, that entertained us and others who came to the house. When I was struggling with mobility issues due to a Fibromyalgia relapse, I trained him to pick things up for me. If I dropped a piece of clothing that I was folding he would pick it up for me. If I knocked my reading glasses off the table, he would gently pick them up and drop them in my lap, smudged with slobber, but at least I didn't have to pick them up! One day long after my relapse, when I was feeling good again and didn't need Tagg's assistance anymore, I was sorting pieces of fabric, a pile to keep, a pile for Goodwill. The Goodwill pile was at my feet on the floor. I was looking at the stack of fabric in my lap when I felt Tagg's presence at my feet. I looked up to see what he wanted, and I saw him standing there, wagging his tail, with the pile of "Goodwill fabric" in his mouth. His eyes said "Here Mommy, you dropped these!"

"Momma Dawn" and Tagg in Costa Rica 2009
He wouldn't eat store bought dog treats and would looks at you like he was being punished if you gave him one. He was afraid of the Kong chew toy that I paid $15 for, (you know the one that has the hole in the middle that you can put peanut butter in...), and he left his heavy pointy ended, well gnawed beef bone strategically around the house where my bare feet will find it. He hogged the couch and snored so loud that I needed to turn the volume up on the movie I was watching.

 He would leave enough hair on the floor to produce a new Cocker Spaniel every three days if I didn't have his long beautiful coat clipped short. He had been banned from every groomer for 20 miles, for being "difficult" about having his feet clipped. I didn't know what I was going to do about getting him groomed, until I met Dawn,  Tagg's godmother and premier dog whisperer at "Furry Godmother's",(Dawn is the local pet groomer and dear friend, who has a gentle and effective way of helping animals deal with their fears and neurosis.) She even traveled down to Costa Rica when we lived there to groom him, (of course that was just one of her reasons for the visit, but bless her, she brought her clippers and she and her husband clipped him outdoors ... I still remember the winds catching balls of his fur and carrying them high into the rainforest...Sigh.)

Tagg was my protector. When my husband went off hiking and I was alone in the house, he would patrol the house, going from room to room periodically, and then settle down to sleep in the doorway to my bedroom until it is time to do the rounds again. If on the leash, he wouldn't let anyone within leash reach of me, anyone, friend or foe... No Fedex guy, phone line repairman, or neighbor checking their mail would ever go unwarned that he is on duty. He would alert me if I don't hear the oven timer going off, if the phone was ringing in my purse, if the washer was out of balance and was walking across the floor... he has even saved my life by warning me of a gas leak in the kitchen... A kettle of water I put on to boil sloshed over and put the flame out underneath the pot, gas had been pouring into the house for a long time while I was in the back room working. He ran to the family room and barked then ran away, when I didn't follow he came back and barked again, then went to the kitchen and barked and barked until I came and found him barking at the stove. The smell of gas was strong, if the space heater had been on the whole house could have gone up in flames! He was my hero...

Watching for the mail person to come

Tagg was also my comforter and councilor. He would lick away my tears and offers his upturned tummy to be rubbed when I felt sad. He looked at me with his soft brown eyes that spoke louder than words, and told me that he loved me no matter what and that everything will be alright. If I left the room, he would go with me. He kept my floor clean in the kitchen and spent half of his days dusted in flour or spotted with carrot juice, since he insisted on laying at my feet while I was working in the kitchen. He never judged me, never held a grudge or pointed out my faults.

When Tagg was 8 years old, I started seeing some wasting around his right hip and though it didn't seem to bother him I kept it in mind and worried that it there might be something wrong. But he had always been barrel chested and slim hipped so I let it go for the time being. Then one day when he and I were out for a walk on the greenway, he took a miss-step and his hind leg slipped off the walkway. He yelped and limped/ dragged his right leg. I checked to see if he had an injury, but there wasn't anything visible. I massaged his right hip and gave him a few minutes to shake it off. Then we tried to walk back to the car, but he couldn't walk more than a step or two without crying out, So I picked him up, which hurt too... It was at least a 1/2 mile back to the car so it was a long walk for both of us. It was hard for me to get my arms around him in a way that didn't hurt his hip, and carrying 40 pounds for that distance, meant I had to stop and put him down so that I could catch my breath. I think we were both wishing for a wagon at that moment.

I took Tagg to the vet, where my previous fears were confirmed; Hip Dysplasia. I was told there was little that could be done for him, except for surgery, which isn't always very successful. So I went home and did some research. I found that eating a diet of raw meat and vegetables can help to strengthen the connective tissues and increase synovial fluid production. So I started grinding chicken thighs up, added blueberries, carrots and peas and fed him that twice a day. I also found a product called Nzymes,which is used to improve synovial production in animals with joint issues. After a few weeks on the raw diet and the Nzyme tablets, Tagg began to walk normally again and showed little if any favoring of his hip unless it was stressed or moved wrong. So Tagg's life began to return to normal, but in the back of my mind I knew that this wouldn't always be the case.

Tagg has been so much a part of my life, a constant, loving and true companion. The dog that started
out as a birthday present for my son had become like one of my kids to me. What would I do for one of my kids? I would do anything within my power to take care of them, protect them, love them... Their pain is my pain... If Tagg needed me to carry him, to help him up and down, to feed him by hand, I would gladly do it. He has always been there for me, and if it was within his power, I know that he would do whatever I needed him to do, I would do no less. But I was then faced with a situation that every pet owner/ animal friend dreads... what if this hip issue doesn't get better enough to allow him a quality life? What if the rest of his life is spent in pain, unable to play or take a walk, having to bear the humiliation of diapers? When do I, as the person who is responsible for his care and accountable to God for his well being, say that it is time to end his suffering? When is his life no longer of any good to him? I couldn't ask him, I could only guess what he considers a good life, but I think he would say a good life is to be able to love and protect his family, to be an active part of our lives. So I prayed that God would give him healing and and allow both of us more time to be together.

  Fortunately, with God's healing touch and a continued dietary regimen, the Dysplasia symptoms disappeared. So, we got our old Tagg back. His mobility returned, his energy was appropriate for a 10 year old dog, and he appeared to be pain free. So I dodged the bullet on having to make a hard decision about his future. Two and a half years have passed since his last bout with his hips,and he has lived life to the fullest, but about 6 months ago he began to have a persistent cough. After much investigation we discovered Tagg had an enlarged heart due to congestive heart failure. He coughed and hacked a lot and was a little short of breath, even though he was on meds,, but kept going about his life, being his sweet, cheerful self. As the months passed his condition worsened, he couldn't get his breath, and had difficulty eating and sleeping. He could no longer play or go on long  walks, but he still had his zeal for life and a happy disposition, continuing the self assigned role in our family of protector, encourager and comedian.

  Then came the day when all he could do was lift his head off the floor and wag his tail when he saw us. He was obviously in pain and I knew it was time to step up and make the dreaded decision to have him put to sleep. Where I had questions in the past about what he would want me to do, this time I was certain I was doing the right thing. His eyes said he was ready to go. We are very fortunate, we have a vet that makes house calls. She came today to ease his passing. He went to his final sleep peacefully at home with his family around him.

  His passing leaves me with a heavy heart, an empty house, and too much quiet. I feel so strange, so lost, unable to think. I don't want to eat or sleep, I don't want to do my daily tasks. I just want to stop... to sit, to think of nothing, to feel nothing. I want to hide from the inevitable, fast approaching wave of grief. I know it will come, I have had much experience with grief... and I know I will be defenseless against it for a season. But I also know that there will be a day when the grief will recede, when my days will start to feel "normal" again and life will go on.

  I believe that God imbues His animals with His character so that while they are with us they can be a living example of how we should live our lives. As a way of honoring his memory and dealing with his absence, I will try hard to live by the example that he modeled for me every day of his life; to find joy in the simple things in life, to never stop trying and love unconditionally and without stint. I know that Tagg did his job here on earth very well and I will take solace in the knowledge that now he rests in the presence of his Creator.

  . Tagg 2003-2015
    Rest in peace my lovely boy.

14 March 2015

Veggie Stock

  A few days ago there was a post on a blog that I really enjoy following. The post was about making soup stock. Here is the link if you want to read the post, Taylor Made Ranch. In the post, Tammy was making the most of a roasted chicken that she had prepared for dinner, picking the meat off the bones and keeping it for other meals, and then she squeezed the last goodness out of the bird, by putting the carcass in the crockpot to make soup stock.
  Back when we ate meat I used to do the same thing .It was satisfying to use everything but the "cluck", knowing nothing was going to waste and making rich yummy stock for use later! I don't make stock from poultry or beef anymore since we are now eating a plant based diet, but I thought it would be fun to share one of the things I do now to live up to my "Waste not want not" credo.

We store in bulk many of the food items that we regularly use so I have an outdoor pantry. During the winter months it stays stays around 40 degrees in the pantry. I store my 3 month pantry goods in there, but I also use it as a make shift of root cellar. I store my citrus fruits like grapefruits and oranges, as well as bushels of apples, and bags of potatoes and onions, and ropes of garlic. It works quite well, but eventually things will reach the end of their freshness and they will start to grow tops or sprout eyes. So periodically I will go through and cull out any veggies that are a little past their prime, cut them into chunks and and roast them.
Culled veggies chunked for roasting
I put the chunked veggies, skins and all on a large tray that has a thin layer of melted coconut oil on it, then spray the tops lightly with my olive oil filled Misto to prevent charring. Then I pop the tray in a 400 degree oven and roast until the vegetables are done through and caramelized.

 Once they are all soft and caramelized I put them in a stock pot or crock pot, (depending on how many culls I have), and add the bag of vegetable tops,ends and juicing pulp that I keep in the freezer for just such an occasion. I will cover the whole business with water, add salt and seasonings like fresh or dried herbs and whole pepper corns and put the pot on to boil. I boil the vegetables, adding water as needed, until the vegetables are cooked to a pulp. As it cooks, the house is filled with the redolent aroma of roasted vegetables... M-mmm, it make me hungry to think about it!!

 At this point I let the contents of the pot cool and then put the vegetables and stock into a large cheese cloth lined strainer, with another pot underneath to catch the strained broth.
I strain the stock in batches, pulling up the corners of the cloth and squeezing all the juices out before sending the pulp to the compost bin.

The resulting stock is a lovely golden color, and the flavor is rich and full bodied. I usually can some for the 3 month pantry and put some in reuseable, stackable plastic containers, in the freezer. I use the stock for a soup base for many different kinds of soup, one of my favorites being Sambar soup. Sambar soup is a spicy, thick soup with its roots in Indian cuisine. It is great to warm you from the inside out on a cold blustery day! The stock is also a great base for a simple vegetable soup,vegan tortilla soup, or really, it is good enough to just serve hot all by itself!

Frozen, canned, or use it fresh, any way you use it this stock is great!

                                                         Sambar Soup

*Some of these ingredients may not be readily available in the local grocery store, but can be purchased at an Indian grocery or even a Middle Eastern market, or online.

*1/2 cup Toor Dal, (dried split Pigeon Peas, may substitute with yellow split peas)
3/4 tsp. turmeric powder
*4-6 drumstick vegetable, (found frozen at the Indian market, but can be optional... they are woody on the outside and must be removed before serving to the uninitiated, but once familiar with them, they can be split and the soft centers sucked out. It's flavor is a cross between a green bean and asparagus. It is optional but does add a nice nuance to the soup. Possible substitution? The stems of asparagus would do... and if you are just wanting to flavor the pot and pull them out it would be a good use for the tough lower stems of the asparagus that you would normally throw away)
*2 Tblsp. Tamarind paste, (can be found in Latino and Indian Markets, the Indian market carries tamarind paste that is in a ready to use resealable pouch. The Latino market usually sells the tamarind in a "cake" which you cut a chunk off of and soak before using to loosen and remove the seeds. If you can't find tamarind paste, a Tblsp. of dark molasses and a 1 1/2 tsp. of balsamic vinegar will approximate the tamarind flavor).
*1 1/2-2 Tblsp. Sambar powder,( purchase from the Indian market, online or do what I like to do and make your own! Recipe follows.)
*1/2 tsp. Hing, also known as asefetida, (translated is means" it smells fetid".It is optional, but may be found at the Indian market.
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 Tblsp. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. black mustard seed
1/4 tsp. fenugreek seed,( also known as Methi in the Indian store)
*10 curry leaves, (optional)
2 red hot chiles, split and minced, seeded if you want less heat. Use latex gloves or you will regret it... )
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 potatoes, cubed
1 chayote, peeled, seeded and cubed (optional, but really nice addition, can be found in the vegetable section of many grocery stores, looks like a bright green pear).
You can also add some celery, onion, chunks of sweet potato... whatever suits you, but know this, the soup is supposed to be more on the soupy side than the stew side... so make sure to have lots of broth if you add extra veggies. 
6 cups of water, (add more if the soup is getting too thick)

Rinse the Toor Dal in a strainer until the water runs clear. Put in pot with enough water to cover, (not the 6 cups...that is for later), let soak 20 minutes, then drain. Add 6 cups water, 1/2 tsp. turmeric and 1/4 tsp. Hing. Simmer until dal is soft. take about half of the toor dal and some of the cooking water and place in the blender, add Sambar powder, the rest of the Hing and turmeric, salt, and tamarind paste and blend until everything is liquified. Add back to the pot, stir well and add drum stick vegetable, carrots, potatoes, chayote, hot peppers and garlic. Add enough water to cover vegetables and cook over medium heat until vegetables are just tender. 10 minutes before removing from the heat, in a small skillet, heat the coconut oil to very hot, add mustard seed and swirl until the seeds start to pop, then add fenugreek and curry leaves. continue swirling over heat to keep from burning spices.When fenugreek is starting to turn darker, remove from heat and pour into soup. It will sizzle so be cautious. Stir in well and cook a little while to blend flavors, 5 minutes or so. Serve in bowls and top with chopped cilantro.

*Note: this is a spicy soup, if you are not able to stand much spicy heat, cut the Sambar spice back by half and leave out the red chiles. To keep from losing all your flavor when reducing the "heat", add 1 Tblsp. Garam Masala, or if you have to... 1 healthy tsp. curry powder.

                                                       Sambar Spice 

1/2 cup coriander seeds
1 Tblsp.cumin seeds
2 Tblsp.Channa dal
2 Tblsp. Dhuli Moong Dal (split mung beans)
2 Tblsp. Toor Dal (split pigeon peas)
1 Tbsp.brown mustard seed
1 Tbsp.10-12 black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. fenugreek seeds
25-30 dried red chiles
2-3 Tblsp. turmeric

Dry roast coriander, cumin seed, dals, fenugreek seeds, peppercorns and chiles 3-4 minutes in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, with no oil, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Remove from heat and place in a bowl . Cool completely. Transfer to a bullet blender or spice/coffee grinder, add turmeric and grind to a fine powder. Store labeled in an air tight container out of the light. I use this spice frequently so I make the whole recipe, but you may want to start by cutting the recipe in half.

Garam Masala

This is my favorite home made version of Garam Masala, it comes from The Passionate Vegetarian, which ranks pretty high on my list of favorite cookbooks too!

Makes a generous 1/2 cup

1/4 cup coriander seeds
3 tablespoons cumin seed
2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 sticks cinnamon, preferably Ceylon cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg

Combine all the spices, except for the nutmeg, in a dry heavy skillet. Toast over medium, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from skillet immediately to stop cooking process. Grate 1/3 of the whole nutmeg directly on to the other spices. Transfer to a spice grinder and pulverize into a fine powder. Store in a tightly cover jar and keep in a dark place. ** note although I try to eat as much as I can raw, I am not a stickler about condiments and spices, heat brings out the oils in whole spices and makes their essence more accessible. But if you prefer not to use the roasted spices you may just use them in their raw form and blend them without roasting.

You are welcome to re-post my recipes as long as there is a link to this blog post. Please don't copy my recipes without giving me credit.

Blog hop this post is linked to:
Clever Chick Blog Hop 130
Corn-free Every Day

08 March 2015

Using Your Canner Off Season

  Wintertime is a great time to dust off your neglected pressure canner and put it to good use. While there is much work for a canner to do at harvest time, often the canner spends it's winter sitting in the pantry with the extra empty canning jars and lids. But it is possible to keep the canner gainfully employed all year round. During the summer months and into the fall the canner is usually filled with green beans, tomatoes and other produce from the garden, the winter months offer a completely different fare, vegetable soup, chili, chicken pot pie filling, venison canned from a hunting trip, taco filling, assorted dried beans... The variety is endless and the time spent in the kitchen canning will give you a convenient assortment of home cooked foods at your finger tips for busy days.

One of my favorite off season canning projects is to put up dried beans. I am a real fan of black turtle beans, and use them frequently, but pinto, garbanzo, and cannellini beans also regularly have a place on our table. Having jars of home made beans on the shelf ready for use is a big help in meal preparation, since I don't have to remember to soak and cook beans before I can prepare a meal.

 Canning beans is really very simple and the end result is far superior to what you can purchase from the store. To can dried beans first soak the beans overnight, I usually do about 10 pounds of beans at one time, but you can do whatever amount you want. Usually 1 pound of dried beans makes 4 pints of beans. So determine how many pints or quarts you want and soak the corresponding number of pounds of beans. I use a 22 quart stock kettle to soak my beans, but a dishpan would work too. Once the beans have soaked overnight cook them for 1/2 hour. If you don't have a large kettle and used the dishpan for soaking, then you will have to cook the beans in your pot in batches.

While the beans are cooking, sterilize your jars. You can steam sterilize the jars in the pressure canner, boil them, or put them in the oven at 250 degrees for 15 minutes. The flat part of the two part canning lid also needs to be boiled and then kept hot until used.
Fill the hot, sterilized jars with the beans, settling the beans as much as possible, then add 1/2 tsp. of sea salt to each pint jar or 1 level tsp. to a quart sized jar. Ladle cooking liquid into the jars. There should be about one inch of head room from the liquid and beans to the top of the jar.

With a clean damp cloth, wipe the rim of the jars thoroughly. then put the flat part of the lid on the jar and screw the band on until snug but not tight.
With the jar tongs arrange jars in the canner so that they are evenly spaced and not touching each other.  Some canners have enough room for two layers of pint jars, other canners are only tall enough for one layer of jars.
Add water to the canner until it is two inches up the side of the jars. Do Not Fill  The Canner With Water!! Put the lid on so that it locks tight and turn the heat to medium high. Leave the weight off of the canner spout and wait for the steam to start pouring out of the spout. It must spew a solid stream of steam for 10 minutes, to evacuate all the air from the canner, then put the weight on the spout and watch carefully as the psi climbs.

When the pressure approaches 10 psi, lower the heat. Adjust the heat until the canner stays consistently at 10 psi. Set a timer for 1 hour and 15 minutes for pints and 1hour 30 minutes for quarts, and watch to make sure that the canner does not go above 10 psi or drop below it. Be careful to not let the temp. go below 10 psi, if it does no matter where you are in the process, you will have to set the timer to 1 hour and 15 minutes again. This is crucial so please watch your psi gauge carefully. Once the time is up turn the heat off under the canner and let it cool completely. Do not take the weight off the spout until the gauge reads zero and the pressure stopper drops, if you do the steam may give you a serious burn and all the liquid will be siphoned out of your jars.  Do not try to cool the canner by running water over it or putting cold rags on it, just let the temperature come down on its own.
 Once the pressure stopper has dropped and the pressure gauge reads zero, it is safe to open the canner. Please be cautious, there will still be steam in the canner. Lift the jars out of the canner using the jar tongs. Do not tip the jars, pull them straight up and out, any water on the lid will run down through the lid band and down the side of the jar so put a towel on the surface where you will be placing the jars. The contents will be boiling inside the jar for awhile, so don't disturb them until the jars are cool. You will know the jars have sealed when you hear a metallic pop, and the center of the jars are pulled down tight. If you press in the center of the lid and it can be pressed down and pops back up then the lid did not seal. Test all the lids and if any of them didn't seal refrigerate them and use them within a few days. If the lids are sealed, remove the bands, then wipe the jars with a soapy cloth, dry them and write the contents of the jars and the date on the lids.

  That is all that there is to it! With just a few hours of intermittent attention, you can have a shelf full of tasty ready to eat beans, waiting for you to use in your kitchen creations!  As always I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a comment!

This post is linked to:

Clever Chick Blog Hop 129
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