Plant Based Artisinal Ink

Blackberry Calligraphic Ink

Blackberry Calligraphic Ink

This is a departure from my customary post, yet an alchemical expression, uniting our being with nature.  From beginning to end, it is most satisfying being a part of the process.

Blackberries ripening in the morning sun.

Blackberries ripening in the morning sun.

Harvest about one cup fresh, handpicked berries.

Gathered Sun-kissed Berries

Gathered Sun-kissed Berries

Wash well and allow to dry thoroughly, so as not to dilute the concentration.

Dry berries

Clean, dry berries

With mortar and pestle, gently crush berries into a jammy consistency.

Crushed blackberries

Crushed blackberries

Cook in a double boiler over medium heat.  Simmer covered for 20 – 30 min.

Cooked berries

Cooked berries

Strain cooked berries through a 100% cotton cloth.  Double a draw-string tea bag over on itself pouring berries directly into a sterile glass ink well.

Draining berries

Draining berries

Macerate berries with grain alcohol, or at least 80 proof vodka; to further extract essential plant oils while draining.

Ingredients for extraction

Ingredients for extraction

Add 2-3 tablespoons gum arabic to thicken.  I added 1 Tbsp. liquid Gum Arabic with a mineral spirit-like preservative quality.

Final Product

Final Product

Squeeze bag gently until all liquid juice has been fully extracted.

Allow to cool and paint, or write away!

Berry Artistic Ink

Berry Artistic Ink

I could not wait to apply brush to parchment and experience the glide of this yummy medium.  The color is lighter than anticipated, but will undoubtedly darken over time as exposed to UV rays, and the aroma is so “jammy” wafting off the page, that I expect my artwork to be perfectly edible.  This is a quick and simple craft to potentiate your art, and I successfully did it ALL while wearing white!

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Nostalgia Aromatherapy

Lilac in bloom

Lilac in bloom

Our senses conjure memories of time’s past. Distinctive shapes accompany colors and casual conversation, pressing the “play” button on recordings archived in our minds and hearts.

Mom's Lilac Tea Cup

Mom’s Lilac Tea Cup

A welcomed, familiar fragrance is often associated with one who has passed. Lilac floods the canvas that is my Mother’s. The heirloom lilac tree grows just outside our old homestead backdoor where the pale, purple perfume wandered in. My Mom chose this lilac backdrop to capture many family celebrations. She spoke of lilac memories a lifetime apart in such an enchanting way; I was convinced were my own.

Lilac Extraction

Lilac Extraction

Blessed with the lilac bouquet from this tree, its essence is preserved in this carefully created extraction:

Mom’s Lilac Spirit
*Infuse in a 6 oz. colored glass spray bottle
1 dropper full of Lilac Extract
4 oz. Distilled H20
3 drops Lavender Essential Oil
3 drops Sage
6 drops Lemongrass
4 drops Geranium (Bourbon Reunion)
½ dropper full Forget-Me-Not Distillate
6 drops Orange
2 drops Neroli

Cherishing Moms’ memory on Mother’s Day, and every day we are touched by their never ending spirit, wisdom and love.  I share this tribute with you, with every spritz, or two.

Mom's Lilac

Mom’s Lilac

Individual Cheeseless Margherita-Style Pizza

Personalized cheeseless vegetable pizza

Personalized cheeseless vegetable pizza

This colorful vegetable pizza is quick to prepare and filled with flavor. Preheat conventional or toaster oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit while assembling. Begin with Naan or unleavened flat bread. This recipe would be vegan if not for the possible ingredients used in Naan. Our naan is local but contains “DATEM”, which is an acronym for bread conditioners often containing animal ingredients.
Coat the bread of choice with just enough tomato sauce so as not to become soggy. Pesto is an excellent alternative!

Sauce covered bread.

Sauce covered bread.

Heap a generous portion of sautéed vegetables on top. I often choose the same selection of easy to come by garden veggies because I like them. These veggies were previously prepared and seasoned with intention for future entrees, like this one.

Add thick tomato slices or small wedges. Heirloom varieties, like this Black Krim, are known for their meaty texture, therefore; withstand heat well. Heirloom varieties contain higher levels of effective lycopene antioxidants, demonstrating a reduction of blood platelet aggregation. Our tomatoes were not ripening in the cool summer nights so I brought them indoors to save them from both animals and the elements, but only after a hint of color first appeared. This is the formation of lycopene, which continues to develop from the inside out.

Fresh Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

Fresh Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

Garnish with fresh basil to bring forth the flavor of these mouthwatering tomatoes.

Fresh plucked basil complements the sweet tomato.

Fresh plucked basil complements the sweet tomato.

Finally, grind black pepper overall to taste. We use a Turkish coffee grinder as our pepper mill, for a fine dusting of a tri-color blend.

Grind pepper blend to taste

Grind pepper blend to taste

Bake briefly at 400 degrees F directly on top oven rack for just a few minutes. The finished product will be hot all the way through and the bread becomes slightly crisp while remaining flexible. Try different sauces and toppings to suit your individual palate and needs, because it’s all YOURS.

Now that I have fed myself, I will go feed the tomatoes. They are still growing!

Celebrating 150 historic years of healing with heart

Apothecary - Materia Medica

Reflections of the “Prince of Wales” Hotel in the equally historic “Niagara Apothecary”.

The Prince of Wales Hotel Restaurant and Spa celebrates 150 consecutive years of health and romance.  A short drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake (N-O-T-L) from Cleveland & nearby surrounding Great Lakes areas make it easily accessible. The Prince of Wales Hotel is sharing its year-long birthday observance with lovely Valentine’s packages making it the heartbeat of this historic town.  General Manager of this landmark Inn, Kelly Exelby, has arranged to celebrate with class, offering promotional packages blending luxury accommodations with four star rated dining for a sensual experience.

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Escabeche Restaurant at the Prince of Wales Hotel

The Hotel’s restaurant, Escabeche, boasts a sophisticated ‘Tasting Menu’ optimized by award-winning wines from the excellent local vineyards – “A culinary adventure to tempt your palate and satiate your desire.” The dining room is thoughtfully arranged with intimate seating providing privacy for a peaceful and leisurely dining experience proven to be digestively beneficial. Upon scheduling reservations and being seated, professional servers inquire if there are any dietary considerations or special requests. Escabeche designs a menu to meet your individual health needs.

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“Fall Vegetable & Upper Canada Ricotta Cheese Cannelloni”

Original dishes are kindly created with the freshest available ingredients from local resources. Every meal is therapeutic, positively stimulating all senses and further enhancing their notable “Secret Garden Spa” services. Menu modifications are not only willingly made, but suggested or recommended to meet specified health requirements. Chef welcomes challenges and understands food’s nourishing properties. Pictured dishes feature mushrooms like the chanterelle, chosen for their use in medical mycology. The Restaurant team will tap into additional menus from the adjoining “Churchill Lounge” to share ingredients for a personalized experience. Veteran ‘Garcon de Table’, Brad Kempsder, invitingly exclaims, “Let’s build something together.”

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Signature “Churchill Coffee”

The Churchill Lounge invites you to relax around the hearth and warm your heart with a cup of traditionally brewed high tea or their signature beverage, “Churchill Coffee”.  I have frequented the Churchill lounge over the years and enjoyed satisfying meals, indoors and out.  There is no limit to this condensed menu carefully crafted from the same fresh, locally grown ingredients characteristic of the Prince of Wales.

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Live musical entertainment at the Churchill Lounge

The palpable ambience vibrates with harmonic resonance while being treated to live, classic acoustic entertainment.

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Private cottage up the mews from the Hotel

Every peaceful, private room greets you like a big hug.  Each room is uniquely decorated inspiring the rich Victorian style in keeping with its 1864 establishment.

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Luxury accommodations

The Prince of Wales staff’s unparalleled services demonstrate their attention to detail. Fresh fruit and water upon arrival to your room, a fragrant rose bud placed on your pillow with care at evening ‘turn-down’ and handcrafted bath salts positioned on the private Jacuzzi tubs procure a personal touch. Accommodations are appointed with heated towel holders in the elegant and spacious bathrooms, adding to your memorable experience.

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Signature healing salts

Overlooking Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake is in the Niagara peninsula just down river from Niagara Falls.  The area is surrounded by water generating energy, lending to this therapeutic theme.  The Prince of Wales amenities include a chemical-free indoor salt water swimming pool and hot tub, a vantage point from which to watch the weather overhead through the wall of windows.

Therapeutic effects

Salt water pool

BAPoWLobby

“Secret Garden” themed Hotel Lobby at the Prince of Wales

The pool room is above the “Secret Garden Spa”, whose tranquil facilities include a plethora of professional spa services, relaxation lounge with the promise of serenity.  Massage and regular exercise promote healthy parasympathetic activity by reducing blood pressure and heart rate, ameliorating cardiovascular disease. Homeostatic imbalances precipitate illness by compromising immune function. Adaptogenic herbs and foods also inhibit excessive catecholamine release substantiating the importance of complementary relaxation therapies.

Evening at the Prince of Wales

Evening at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Restaurant and Spa

The Prince of Wales Hotel Restaurant and Spa is located on the Main Street in downtown N-O-T-L, accessible by foot en route to shops, parks, The Shaw Theater, golf course, marina and several historic sites, expanding a refreshing exercise work-out.  An optional service provides transportation to wineries for care-free tastings!  For a more romantic adventure, a horse-drawn carriage is available just outside the door.

Evening at the Prince of Wales

Botanical witch hazel extraction – traditional complexion renewal

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Botanical Witch Hazel Extraction
‘Biochemical Alchemy’ label

The witch hazel plant has quite a pedigree, offering healing properties as one of a number of its multiple uses.  I have been a fan of witch hazel for decades, housed in my medicine cabinet as a staple, and as a foundation for other preparations such as this “Botanical Complexion Topical”. 

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Dried florals and botanicals from my garden

Maintaining a growing garden leaves me susceptible to insect bites and nettle stings.  I also prefer glove-free gardening and often stick myself on rose thorns, subjecting my skin to oxalates emitted from tomato’s protective glandular trichomes in addition to other prickers and brambles.  Goddess only knows what microscopic goodies get under my finger nails and may be transmitted transdermally.  The bright afternoon sun aids in the synthesis of Vitamin D3 and feels so good on my face, but irritates the Rosacea condition I have also been treating for 20 years. Providentially, witch hazel aids all these conditions. 

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“Botanical Complexion Topical”

This latest incarnation of my botanical toner is suggestive of The Mountain Rose Blog‘s recent recipe.  I extracted a select combination of plant parts I have grown, dried, collected and prefer for fragrance and pH rebalancing.  Most of my food and preparations are intuitive blends I have practiced repeatedly over the years.  This forgiving process welcomes you to invent your own.

  1. Gather your chosen ingredients.  The current batch contains varietals of the following:
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    Measured herbal ingredients

Handful of rose petals

2 Tbsp. Rosemary

1 Tbsp. Comfrey Leaf

1 Tsp. Peppermint leaf

20 or so Lavender Wands

Small Sage bundle

1-2 Dried Persimmon slices

1-2 tsp. Lemon Thyme

1 tsp. Basil

6 gtt. (drops) Orange Extract if no fresh orange oil is available and…

86% double distilled Witch Hazel

*Overall amounts depend upon container size.

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Dried contents

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Liquid infusion in process

Put all ingredients into a glass jar.  Fill with witch hazel ensuring herbs are immersed, allowing room for expansion.  Add liquid extracts.  Seal with a tight lid and put in a temperate location out of direct light for a minimum of a fortnight.  Gently tilt jar daily mixing contents, returning to its undisturbed location.

  1. Strain extraction initially through a sieve.
  2. Allow contents to settle then re-strain through an unbleached coffee filter or fine cotton cloth.
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    Initial straining

  3. Transfer to a glass spritzer bottle or keep stored in sealed jar, applying to skin with a glass eyedropper, so as not to contaminate contents.  Keeps well and yields enough to be shared.  This fruity, refreshing toner regenerates dermal elasticity and stimulates the senses while promoting healing on a cellular level. 

    * The human body is in a constant state of flux so bear in mind that as individuals, we each have unique responses to products at different times.  Use with care.

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    Infused claret product

“Alsace-Mediterraneo” infused Veggie Quiche

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Full moon pie

It has been many moons since I have baked a quiche.  Not ever having been especially fond of cooking, quiches were easy, satisfying and the food du jour, soon becoming a staple in our early home together.  I actually phoned my now very-grown-daughter for tips preparing and baking quiche so as to ensure a successful outcome.   Recently logging onto the “Penzey’s Spice” Facebook group page inspired me with a photo of an asparagus quiche wafting across my screen.  I have been on a serious asparagus bender lately and wanting to take full advantage of this remarkable spring cleansing food, I am rejuvenated by modifying this quiche recipe.

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Artisanal recipes

Yes, I am promoting and consuming the creamy-cheesy-vegetable richness of this decadent delight with Crohn’s disease!  Whaaaaaa?  I know, right?  Well, there is a disclaimer.  When something is worth it, there is usually a disclaimer.  First and foremost: everything in moderation.  As I mentioned at the top of this manuscript, It has been many moons, precisely however many moons there are in a quarter of a century.

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Fresh basil

HOLY BASIL BATMAN the smell is absolutely intoxicating.  I can taste the air in anticipation of this practically illegal prescription.  The scent of the smoked Gouda melding with the tri-pepper blend and Herbes de Provence are enough to make me trip.  This is no flashback, my friend, this is a newly discovered way of eating what I want while being nutritionally beneficial AND taste beyond belief!  Now that I have tantalized your taste buds, I will share the culinary chemistry, outlining each wholesome ingredient working in concert with one another.

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“Proper food combining”

Proper food combining:  the theory behind this practice is what allows me to consume a multitude of foods while maintaining a healthful lifestyle with Crohn’s.   Quiche is mostly about all protein (meats) cheese and eggs. This is a crustless quiche recipe, therefore; the proteins are not neutralized by starches and breads creating an indigestible bolus that prohibits efficient absorption.

Quality matters:  The quality of all ingredients is essential to ensure freshness and patency.  Pasture raised eggs are the most wholesome and nutrient rich, making them more bioavailable.  Like eggs, dairy from local farms is not only fresh, but animal friendly, meaning the animal byproducts are NOT subjected to synthesized hormones and antibiotics that are dumped into the environment and ultimately consumed by everyone, clearly proving “less is more”.   Grass-fed organic cows produce milk that is unparalleled to anything most of us have ever experienced since WWII.  We still get a little wonky with respect to pasteurization in the U.S., however; if you are fortunate enough to know of those with Gentlemen (& Gentlewomen) farms, you may be privileged to enzyme intact foods which do not interfere with the digestive process.  For the rest of us who have compromised GI systems and conditions resulting from impaired digestion, there are digestive enzymes.  Never leave home without.

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Regional grated smoky cheeses

Breaking it down:  The cheese I chose is a sweet, smoked Gouda, melting like butter and broadening flavors with a familiar yet meatless smoky appeal.  Much of the lactic acid is removed during the curd washing process contributing to the characteristic mellow, sweetness.   Traditional cheeses like Lorraine, Emmenthaler, and Gruyere are of a similar quality and part of the globe from where quiche Lorraine originates.  Quiche consisted of meat, cream and egg, ironically featuring local cheeses following WWII.  This recipe is “Alsacienne” because it contains onions.  Onions have remarkable antimicrobial effects and grow readily.  Onions are a preferable vegetable to nightshades containing solanine, which interfere with enzymatic action causing inflammation.  While making French onion soup, I learned caramelizing  diced onion first enhances sweetness.  The heat breaks down the plant cellulose, softening both texture and flavor.  Onions are also a potent contrast to the powerful and pleasant chlorophyll filled asparagus.  This lively spring vegetable spearheads the season with its diuretic cleansing properties.  Lightly steamed prior to baking, asparagus continues to soften in the oven, allowing it to retain its nutritive value.  So far we have the necessary elements that make good food enjoyable; quality, consistency, texture and flavor.

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“Kitchen crusader” homegrown Herbes de Provence

Savory and herbs and everything nice:  There is a lot of leeway when preparing quiche.  I consume vegetables most so I prefer accompanying savory herbs.  This Alsacienne quiche lends itself to the savory “Herbes de Provence” blend, indigenous to the suggested area.  I grow and dry my own varieties of oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, lavender, marjoram, dill and tarragon, using fresh when abundant and dried from the season before.  I speak of these “kitchen crusader” herbs often having historical and geographical significance from my heritage and for my health!  Whether I enhance or substitute my own, I keep a bulk quantity of the incomparably fresh Penzey’s Herbes de Provence on hand.  Another must-have Penzey’s blend is “California Seasoned Pepper”.  This colorful pepper and herb combination brighten all vegetables as well as the pallet.

The table is set with a ‘d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation’, the gastronomical backdrop behind this quiche.  Now I will serve this scrumptious recipe:

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“Crust-free Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne”

“Crust-Free Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne”

v  ½ lb. prepared fresh organic asparagus

v  1 small diced Spanish onion or equivalent in-season sweet Vidalia

v  5 beaten pasture raised eggs

v  8 oz. shredded smoked Gouda or 4 oz. of 2 cheeses each.

v  1/2 C. farm fresh milk & cream

v  1 Tbsp. Mediterranean sea salt capers

v  1Tbsp. Herbes de Provence

v  1 tsp. “Penzey’s California Seasoned Pepper” or tri-colored peppercorn blend

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Quiche ingredients

Bring eggs and measured dairy products to room temperature to ensure a puffy omelette-like consistency upon baking.  Gently steam asparagus spears.  Caramelize onion, if desired.  Beat eggs thoroughly, blending grated cheese(s) into the sunny mix.

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“Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne” process

Sprinkle in the herbs and spices of choice.  Line the bottom of a coated quiche dish or large pie plate with vegetables, dotting with the capers.  Pour the silky mixture over the prepared vegetable plate then bake in a preheated 375F oven for 35-40 minutes.

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Quiche is almost ready

Quiche is ready when your senses are imbued by the creamy custard and the surface bubbles with a soft, bronze coating.

I opted for the deep dish pie plate since the eggs rise in a souffle-like fashion.  I also add a dash of fresh ground nutmeg mace, suggesting a subtle sweetness and because it has become my traditional trademark!  Whatever you decide, make it your own and enjoy the process, the product and the gratification.

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Serving “Crust-free Asparagus Quiche Alsacienne”