Giving thanks for Mom’s applesauce

Variety of locally grown apples

Variety of locally grown apples

There’s nothing better than a recipe handed-down through generations that stands the “test of time”.  We grew and harvested apples at my nearby childhood home.  My parents accepted donations for the hand-picked, polished and proudly prepared produce they carefully cultivated nearly half the year.  They were acknowledged for their earnings as pioneer supporters of ‘Heifer Project International’, helping others to feed themselves via sustainable farming.

Old-fashioned apple corer and peeler.

Old-fashioned apple corer and peeler.

In the tradition that was uniquely my Mother’s, I share this classic process with you, slightly expedited but with all the goodness of simple down-home cooking.

Cored and peeled apples

Cored and peeled apples

Pour 1 C. filtered water into a Crock Pot on low setting for all day or slow, overnight cooking, or on high for a couple of hours.  Peel and core 12-15 quercetin rich apples of different varieties.  I chose a combination of local McIntosh, Jonathan, Cortland and Granny Smith, the same we grew on the homestead.  This blend of firm textures, crisp flavors and a balance of sweet and tart complement the slow-cooked concoction, satisfying diabetic requirements.

BAApplePeel

Additional anti-inflammatory ingredients include about ½ tsp. each:  Penzey’s “Cake Spice”

with star anise, high-grade cinnamon for depth, dried orange peel for brightness and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg.  Top it off with about a Tbsp. of raw organic sugar cane or agave syrup to sweeten.  I ceremoniously add ½ C. of cinnamon red hot candies to the first batch of the season, in memory of my Mother.

Anti-inflammatory spices and basic ingredients

Anti-inflammatory spices and basic ingredients

Place all ingredients in order listed into slow-cooker.

Place all ingredients in order listed into slow-cooker.

Use your best judgment should you opt to use sweeteners and organic and/or locally grown produce.  In the 1980’s, I was reprimanded by the self-proclaimed “food police” for providing preschoolers unhealthy snacks containing sugar and poisonous apple skins.  The very suburb criticized in today’s newspaper as a top city to avoid by French tourism (the capital of haute and nouvelle cuisine). Currently, they are well known for their innovative restaurants but it is often the misinformation that can be most dangerous. Today we have more information about what constitutes “healthy” food v. foods to avoid, and why.  HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) was not as prevalent an ingredient over a quarter a century ago.  GMOs were virtually unheard of while little differentiation was made between “organic”, “natural” and “locally grown” produce, and not as widely available.

Soft and warm applesauce cooked to your liking.

Soft and warm applesauce cooked to your liking.

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Savory summer strawberry herb vinaigrette

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Salad dressing recipe best on bed of mixed greens, walnuts and fresh strawberry halves

This surprising, zesty dressing brightens salads and stimulates the senses.  A versatile dressing or marinade, mere modifications change from a tart version to a sweeter, savory sauce that can stand up to poultry, game and some fish.  This recipe was developed to satisfy recent cravings for homegrown ingredients plucked fresh from the garden.

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Recommended fresh ingredients

  • ½ C. rice bran oil
  • 1/3 C. apple cider vinegar, or red wine vinegar, or fresh key lime juice
  • 1 ½ -2 C. washed strawberries
  • 1Tbsp. fresh thyme
  • 1/8 C. fresh basil leaves (cinnamon basil works well)
  • 1/8 C. fresh parsley
  • ¼ tsp. “Reunion Pink” peppercorns
  • Dash of “Penzey’s Baking Spice” or fresh ground cinnamon for depth.

Add all ingredients simultaneously and pulse or blend on high for 10-15 seconds

These fresh, whole foods and savory herbs offer antimicrobial properties and contain water soluble vitamins addressing several common conditions faced today.  Some may argue that an oil-free diet must be maintained when considering cardiovascular conditions.  Others proclaim fermented foods, like vinegars, are detrimental.  In moderation, this preparation is a condiment to enhance flavors, not intended as a meal.  Rice bran oil acts as a nutraceutical, featuring tocotrienols that share a similar tocopherol chemical structure belonging “…to the vitamin E family and are powerful natural antioxidants (Tomeo et al., 1995).”

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Strawberry blossoms

Strawberries are naturally abundant and refreshing during the late spring and summer months.   An effective antioxidant reducing blood pressure, strawberries are high in vitamin C and fortify blood due to iron content.  Strawberries (and apple cider vinegar) contain pectin that reduces painful arthritic inflammation by eliminating uric acid accumulation in joints, causing the painful crystallization of synovial fluid.  Strawberries are a naturally sweet and satisfying fibrous food source.  Allergic reactions to strawberries may be life threatening so take extreme caution.

Therapeutic gleanings from the garden

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My patio garden

“It’s hypnotic watching you…” my neighbor observed.  “The way you care for your plants is an art form.”  I was taken a bit by surprise at having been “watched” while in the solitude of my little patio garden during off hours of the day. 

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Sun-drenched daisies
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Pleased to know others share my appreciation for the craft, I had the honor to help restore her lovely wooded herb garden earlier in the season where we exchanged plants from lamb’s ear and bountiful sweet woodruff, to my sun-loving daisies transplanted across her treed fence line.  Like raising the bedroom blind, the hearty American daisies beam with the bright morning sunshine from the east.

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Variegated grasses make a natural fence

Japanese irises and decorative grasses formulate a dense border discouraging deer from crossing her path.

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Hanging double and purple petunias attract wildlife
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I’m happy to have a place I can go to “take me away”, as the commercial used to proclaim.  For years I have kept hanging baskets of petunias which require dead-heading to encourage growth and stimulate new blossoms.  They can become “stringy” and won’t last the winter.  Personally, I refuse to kill any plants and rather let nature take its course, but have been accused of artificially respirating the botanicals with whom I have shared a bond and come to know fondly in my outdoor home.   In his recent blog post “A Garden for the House”, Kevin Lee Jacobs outlines tips for re-rooting petunias over the winter so as to have beautiful baskets for the following year.

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A rosy view on life
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This is just a sampler of the goings-on in my garden.  I stop and “take time to smell the roses”, snap a pic or twelve, watch the clouds blow by and commune with nature. 

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One of our many winged visitors
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My mind wanders with the wind and my thoughts are carried on the wings of the birds, bees and other insects alike that frequent here.  This is my space where I may be one with life’s growing cycle and those just visiting…if only for a brief time.

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Several varieties of bees eat freely
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It stimulates my mind, my body, my senses and my soul; and is my therapy.

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“Guiding Star Clematis”- colorful cascading fence covering
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Gingersnap Pancakes

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These pancakes are a cheerful way to brighten your day.  Made with wholesome gluten free and dairy free ingredients, this recent formulation is a combination of a craving and recipe by Actress Dee Maaske, prepared for the “Hersey House” Shakespearean Festival, 451 N. Main St., Ashland Oregon, 97520, from The Bed and Breakfast Cookbook by Pamela Lanier.  “Had I but a penny in the world, thou shouldst have it for gingerbread.” William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

A potent medicinal herb for over two thousand years, ginger has more evidenced-based uses and treatments that are being discovered.  Ginger tends to have an additive affect with commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals coincidentally, for the same conditions ginger is effective.

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Traditional, healthy molasses ginger cakes

The minerals in organic, unsulphured organic blackstrap molasses potentiate natural nutrient absorption.   This whole food source is abundant with iron, making it the best form for treating anemia.  This type of molasses ranks surprisingly low on the glycemic index with a versatile delivery.

As an added treat and healthy benefit, I ground my own steel-cut oats with the high powered Vita-Mix®.  The critical B vitamins in the groat are retained in this minimal process.  The product is somewhat crumbly from the absence of gluten with a notable texture, and yet, light.

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Tools of the pancake trade

Sift together:

  • 1.5 C. Oat bran Flour
  • 1C. Brown Rice Flour
  • 5tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1tsp. Baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. Penzey’s Cake Spice
  • ½ tsp. Ground Ginger
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Blended ginger-molasses pancake batter

Combine wet ingredients:

  • 2 Lightly beaten Eggs
  • 1.5 C. Almond Milk (Vanilla)
  • ¼ C. Unsulphured Black Strap Molasses

Stir adding wet to dry ingredients. Blend until moistened. 

 

Cook on a hot griddle.

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Griddle-hot, ready-to-flip “Gingersnap Pancakes”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gluten-free, anti-inflammatory ‘Gingersnap Pancakes topped with sliced bananas

 

 

 

 

*Add raisins, chopped nuts, sliced bananas preserves or chips.

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Carob chip dotted maple syrup glazed ‘Gingersnap Pancakes’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I dotted mine with dairy free carob chips, which aren’t so bad when coated with maple syrup.  For a real “wake-up call”, try topping with Rosemary Gladstar’s “Zoom Balls”.  I’m sure they can be made into any desired shape so as not to roll off onto the floor!

The result exemplifies my mission to create likable, therapeutic foods.  Eating high quality, whole foods is a proactive way to participate in our own care to maintain optimal health.

There is a lot of conflicting, mixed information regarding gluten-free foods.  In the case of a true allergic reaction or positive Celiac disease diagnosis through testing, be aware cross-contamination can occur during the processing of oats, rice bran and other originally gluten-free grains.  Take necessary precautions and know of your ingredients’ origins.

What is it all about?

These past two calendar years have taken me on another journey with an added dimension, during which time I experienced exaggerated mood swings that proved to be equally challenging to those around me.  Someone close to me questioned my behavior and even got me thinking about bi-polar disorder and the many who have, or have not yet, been diagnosed.

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Stress cofactors
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Addressing those uncomfortable perimenopausal symptoms successfully with indole-3-carbinol, most notably elevates energy level.  With all the added energy, my overall strength and mood improved allowing me to really enjoy participating in life for the first time I could remember during my adulthood. Certainly this reflection of energy is contrary to my consistent tendency to retreat.  This got me thinking back throughout my life of living with Crohn’s disease.  Crohn’s is a chronic inflammation triggering the immune system to respond to perceived infection.  When our bodies are constantly fighting infection from whatever source, our energy is drained; in constant pain and/or discomfort and often febrile, causing us to feel irritable and impatient.  Compound these factors with concurring hormonal imbalances brought upon by menopause, PMS, puberty and a host of other biochemical changes we experience as human beings.  A vicious cycle of stress inducing illness not only results from such insults to our systems, but contributes to somewhat erratic behavior as well.

“Neurotransmitter activity is intimately connected with hormonal activity, so any disruption can induce depression in the long term.” 

The endocrine system produces hormones that drive the biofeedback system in the hypothalamic-adrenal-pituitary axis. Adaptogenic herbs upregulate hormones reducing stress related effects of cortisol.  Essential conversion of T4 (thyroxine) to bioavailable T3 (triiodothyronine) can be accomplished with fat soluble vitamins, B12 and necessary minerals.

“…discovery of its antiviral effect on Borna disease virus (BDV), which is hypothesized to be an etiopathogenetic factor in subtypes of affective disorders.”

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Indole-3-carbinol I3C molecular model
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Whole grains and foods containing vitamin B complex, particularly B12, Mg, and Zn help reduce anxiety.  Tryptophan in bananas affects neurotransmitters like serotonin.  Dark chocolate, without added milk byproducts and sugar, reduces the release of cortisol hormones responsible for potentiating stress and altered moods.

Why are we so quick to judge?  The first inclination both physiologically and psychologically is “fight or flight”.  Whether it is conscious or subconscious, we fear contagion.  We witness something different, askew; and we question what we recognize as being out of the ordinary.  When our hormonal imbalance impacts our outward behavior(s), we are among the last to recognize it ourselves.  I can remember my Grandmothers being the first to make excuses on our behalf as children when being scolded for acting out, they would say: “Maybe they’re coming down with something”.  Wise words we should borrow to express our compassion for others during this day and age of dis-ease.

Finding Your Foundation

For any foundation to be stable, it requires a minimum of three supports to create harmony and balance…

Spiritual

                              Emotional                                        Physical

When out of balance, illness results.

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Biochemical Alchemy label

Paracelsus is attributed to having said: “Man is a microcosm, or a little world, because he is an extract from all the stars and planets of the whole firmament, from the earth and the elements; and so he is their quintessence.”  Discovering the fascinating capabilities of our bodies solidifies our integral understanding of life’s perpetual cycle. This, in turn, supports our own ability to heal.

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Essential botanicals

Healthcare is a balance of what has been distinguished as conventional and alternative practices, effective when used in concert.  Also known as “functional medicine”, this philosophy is an approach designed to enhance outcomes.  If the body is treated holistically, then a broad spectrum of modalities should be taken into consideration.  When allopathic medicine is initially administered, it renders alternative approaches impotent by the medical model.  Take for example, the action of surgical and pharmaceutical procedures.  These so-called “alternatives” should be chosen as the primary approach because it elevates the body’s ability to heal itself.  The exception is in a true medical emergency.

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Versatile healing plant

I am truly amazed how versatile herbs are.  Not only the plant themselves, but the many forms in which they may be employed.  One herb can serve multiple purposes.  This utilitarian concept illustrates the convenience of over-the-counter (OTC) meds and prescriptions that are manufactured to treat one symptom, or symptoms; period.  We have become programmed to being highly specialized in our healthcare at the expense of our own health.  Focusing on ailments, we continue to treat the symptoms rather than addressing the source.  Choosing to seek several different doctors for each set of symptoms and diagnoses whilst losing sight of the broad spectrum of holistic practices.

 How Plants Heal

According to Master Herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, “The prevailing scientific view is that all disease is caused on a molecular level.  A chemical drug produces its effect by entering a cell through a receptor that conforms to the shape of the molecule like a “lock and key”.  In contrast, medicinal plants are described by their adherents as working on a higher physiological level making them more versatile.” 

Herbal adaptogens contain multiple constituents working together to produce a combined effect surpassing their individual potential.   This botanical synergism is the science of “nutrigenomics” – highly active substances from food and natural resources that serve as potent dietary signaling molecules, effecting genetic expression.  Taking a synthesized supplement is not equivalent to the multiple benefits from eating fresh, whole food.  Modes of preparation and ingestion are also important.  To illustrate, hepatotoxicity occurs with concentrated pyrrolizidine alkaloids present in comfrey root.  Aerial parts of this plant contain less and are absorbed transdermally.  Oral consumption of comfrey is ill advised as a direct route for ingestion.  Allantoin and rosmarinic acid are anti-inflammatory constituents primarily present in leaves and flowers, therefore; of therapeutic value.

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Prepared plant parts

Plants impart wisdom to those of us willing to learn.  They offer a unique pathway to healing and healthcare.  Herbal preparations range from household products and cosmetics to prescriptives that maintain a chemical balance throughout for plants, animals and people alike.  The most outstanding gift of plants is that they strengthen our relationship with life and the natural world supporting the “permaculture” philosophy of how our biological beings relate synergistically to our physical environment to work in harmony.  Herbology is considered an alternative modality, though it offers an elegant biochemical for healing.  In its most basic element, a nutritive protocol, a philosophy and a lifestyle practice, Herbology is naturally the “art of healing”.

As a Certified Herbalist, I plant my own healing garden I harvest to prepare herbal tinctures, blends, remedies and food to maintain vitality.  A lifelong practice, herbalism is a craft carefully cultivated from intuition, science and strong belief.  These are the elements to necessitate transformation.  These are the ingredients connecting us with our roots that formulate a balanced lifestyle.