Friday, January 28, 2011

Fun with Found Objects



This mattress spring was hauled into the yard for use as a trellis. It was far too appealing for another use. Add a piece of plywood and an impromptu square dance might ensue.

Petaluma Urban Homestead Olive Oil


We had a bumper crop of Mission Olives this year. We inherited two very large trees when we bought this house. We have cured them in the past but in recent years they have had the olive fruit fly and were unusable. Not this year!

We are blessed to have two olive presses within a 20 mile radius of our little homestead. Both McEvoy in Petaluma and The Olive Press in Sonoma offer two different community pressing days a year. That's four chances to get olives pressed. Our olives were ready just in time for The Olive Press date in December. The olives cannot be picked more than 24 hours before pressing. Our trees needed pruning so we ended up stripping the pruned branches right into the bins the day of the pressing. We ended up with 65 pounds. There were plenty left on the tree but we ran out of time. Next time we'll invite friends to help harvest.

The Olive Press weighed our harvest and charged $0.65/pound. There were lots of other folks with olives waiting in line. The olives varied in size and variety but all were checked for quality. They combined all of the community olives and pressed them together. They could then determine the weight to volume ratio. A few weeks later we picked up a gorgeous GALLON of extra virgin olive oil! We won't be missing this opportunity again.

There are PLENTY of urban olive trees that go unpicked every year. This is an incredibly underutilized local crop. We have olive presses available for community use and we are importing olive oil from all over the world. Another urban gleaning opportunity awaits.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Carob Nut Balls



Over the holidays the kids made handcrafted gift baskets. We included Carob Nut Balls in wax paper bags tied with twine. Our homemade calendula soap, a plant-dyed dish towel, our homemade lotion and a decorated gourd were all combined in a paper grocery bag made into a gift basket. They were quite happy with their work!

Our recipe is based on the one I found at FRAN'S HOUSE OF AYURVEDA. Thank you Fran!

"3/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup carob powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup raw honey, brown rice syrup or agave nectar (up to 1/2 cup if you like them sweeter)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup puffed cereal*
1/2 cup chopped nuts*

COATING OPTIONS
unsweetened coconut
carob ganache
cocoa or carob powder combined with a dash of cinnamon

Thoroughly combine the almond butter, carob powder, cinnamon, honey and vanilla. The dough will be quite stiff. Knead in the nuts and cereal. With wet hands, form into walnut-sized balls. Make sure the surface is glisteningly damp. Choose which coating you'd like to use and roll balls in either coconut, carob ganache, or cocoa/carob powder. Personally, I tried them all, just to see how pretty each variation can be. I found the coconut coating to be the nicest, and easy to coat by shaking the balls in a ziploc bag with the coconut.

Refrigerate until firm, or freeze in an air-tight container to store for a week or more.

*If you have the option, choose a tiny puffed grain like quinoa or millet. Otherwise, crisp rice will work great, or a flake cereal crushed into smaller bits. If using sweetened cereal, use smaller amount of honey.
*Use any seeds or chopped nuts you like, or according to your dosha. I used lightly toasted pecan pieces."




For those of you unsure about Carob here is some information that might be helpful:

-Carob has it's own natural sugars similar to what you find in honey and fruits.
-Unlike chocolate, you don't have to add a lot of sweetener to make it taste good.
-It's an alkaline food
-Contains 3 times as much calcium as chocolate.
-High in fiber and protein
-Full of antioxidants and polyphenols
-Low in fat (contains about 1% fat compared to 24% fat in cocoa)
-High in vitamins and minerals (contains iron, vitamin B, phosphorus, and magnesium)
-Hypoallergenic
-Doesn't contain any harmful stimulants such as caffeine, theobromine, or theophylline
-Not addictive
-Safe enough for dogs to eat unlike chocolate which can seriously injure or kill them

I remember living in San Diego and walking around my neighborhood picking up carob pods off the sidewalk. It was planted as a landscape tree. I'd break a pod open and want to eat it on the spot. They smelled delicious!

In her course at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Michelle Vesser makes "Ojas Balls". "Ojas- the essence of the body, which literally means 'to invigorate'". The same basic recipe as above but she included powdered immunity-building herbs such as Ashwangandha, Codonopsis, Astragalus, and Siberian Ginseng. You can also add demulcent/moisturizing herbs such as Marshmallow Root, flax seeds and Licorice Root. Or, warming/activating herbs such as Cardamom and the Cinnamon already in the recipe. Yum!

Michelle teaches a two day course called REMEMBERING OUR WAY at OAEC. www.oaec.org Check it out.

Inspiration

I have a friend who often asks me "What makes you lit?" Well, right now the answer is these three books. I cannot recommend them enough!


HOW SHALL I LIVE MY LIFE? On Liberating the Earth From Civilization by Derrick Jensen.


RADICAL HOMEMAKERS: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes.


LITTLE HEATHENS: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Make Your Own Almond Milk

By request here's my recipe:

I use 1 1/2 cups of organic 'raw' almonds. Put them in a four-cup glass measuring cup filled with filtered water. Then place them in the refrigerator overnight. I have left them in for up to three days and they are still fine. It's nice to have them well sprouted.



Pour the soaked almonds and water into the blender and hit 'liquefy'. I let them blend for about a minute.



Pour the milk and pulp into a straining cloth laid over a strainer set on top of the big measuring cup. You can use a flour sack towel or a nut milk bag. I use a non-absorbent honey-straining cloth. It's not shown in the picture but I use the strainer just in case almond pulp escapes the straining cloth somehow. I don't want to have to re-strain it. Bundle it all up in a sack and squeeze out the milk.



Pour it into a quart sized airtight container and top it off with water. Save the pulp to use in oatmeal, desserts, bread or (ever-popular with the kids) Carob Nut Balls. I'll post that recipe next.



The fresh almond milk keeps for a week or so. It's so naturally sweet it does not need to be sweetened. I am now addicted to Almond Milk Lattes. I can't even describe how good they are. I got the idea from the Cafe Gratitude cookbook called I AM GRATEFUL. In it they say, "Almonds are the only nuts that are known to alkalize the blood, while all others acidify blood. Almonds are also highest of all nuts in arginine, an amino acid that boosts the immune system and inhibits tumor growth". I thought, "If coffee is acidic why not use almond milk to counteract the acid?". It works for me!

The kids discovered the soaked almonds in the refrigerator and asked to try them. Needless to say I was unable to make almond milk with that batch since they ATE THEM ALL! They taste like young coconuts and are a great sweetish fresh snack. I didn't figure this out. They did. As I took the pictures for this post they all had a glass of fresh almond milk and then couldn't keep their hands out of the pulp when I was finished!