Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tasty Tea #6: Peppermint and Lemon Balm

The beautiful Lemonbalm plant!

Mmmmm, this tea has become a resent favorite!  I've always drunk the two teas separately, but this is the first time I have combined these herbs.  Since Gary has been traveling up north quite a bit and I've been juggling both kids, I been craving little something to help calm my nerves (lemonbalm), but also gently stimulate me so that I could get a little energy boost (peppermint).  I know, it sounds like a contradiction, but this tea works wonders.

One morning I opened my cabinet and thought, why not lemonbalm and peppermint?  They seemed like they would be a good combo, they're both in the mint family, so their tastes blend nicely, and when drunk, they give off the affects that I am looking for. 

I consider Lemonbalm a "wonder herb".  I drink it all the time.  It's mild but still takes the "edge" of when you are under stress (for example,  parenting two kids and trying to pack up your house of 10 years all at the same time).  You can drink Lemonbalm every day at anytime of the day.  It's also rich in calcium.  Yummo.  

Peppermint is a standard in lots of people's homes.  Great for settling the tummy, refreshing you, getting rid of bad breath, and gently uplifting your spirits.  Add a teaspoon of honey to this duo and it's a match made in heaven!

That's all for now folks! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Operation Orcas Take 7: Where Buddha Sat

Gary took Buddha up to Orcas this week.  The morning after he left I walked out on the deck and found this, . . . the spot where buddha sat.  Now Buddha waits for us at our new abode.  

  Our move is less than a month away!  Buddha has left the building!  And, . . . emotions are in full swing.  I'm sad.  I'm excited.  I'm overwhelmed.  Sheesh!  Honestly, do I even have time to get emotional?  The answer is. . . always.  I find myself wondering how everything is going to get done, it feels like there is too little time and too much to do.  People keep telling me that somehow it just does.  I will believe it when I see it.  Thank goodness for my chill hubby who has talked me off the ledge many times in the past couple of weeks.  I love you Gary.

For those of you that know me and have been to my house, you may, or may not, believe that there is a little OCD in me.  I can never tell what people think when they enter my home, it's got a little bit of everything.  Behind the unkept garden, crazy loud animals that greet you at the door (dogs, birds, cats, . . .), and the slide that sits in the middle of our living room from time to time, you are also come into a home with an amazing view, bright colors, and good energy.  I will miss this place, but I am positive that we will make our new home just as bright and welcoming.  

Organizing my home and trying to keep things in place has always been challenging for me, especially now with two kids.  With this move I have a chance to start afresh, to develop some better organization techniques and really take inventory.

As I go through our "stuff" I am realizing how much "stuff" we actually have.  Yikes!  I've said it before, and I will say it again, it is AMAZINGLY (HORRIFYING) how much stuff one can accumulate.  As I dig into the far corners of our attic, I'm finding small treasures from my childhood and even boxes of things that I didn't know existed!  How did that happen?

So people. . . my declaration is this. . . . it is my goal, with this new home, to have a "place" for everything, to know where everything is, and to know exactly what I actually have!  

Yes, I did underline that AND put it in Bold Italics.  Now you know I'm serious.  Please kick my ass if I haven't kept my word!

Anyway, if you are curious, take a look at what's going on in our house, . . . .


Boxes, boxes, everywhere, . . . (stacked all the way up to the ceiling in some places!)

Masking tape is my friend, . . . (now you can see the OCD in action; color coordinating boxes so the mover's know exactly where each one goes, there is a different color for every room).  

Is there a piano under there somewhere??

We have a TON of books.  This isn't even half of them.  FINALLY they are organized by category and author.  When we get to our new location books will definitely have their own place.

Ok, people that's all for now!  I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Outrageous Vegan Muffins

Lately I have gotten into cooking vegan food.  Admittedly, I'm no vegan, but I certainly enjoy trying new things and learning about different types of diets.  Even though I like eating some meats, I have also been noticing how good I feel when I eat yummy, filling meals that have not been touched by the meat industry.  Not only have I found some wonderful dishes and new things to try, but I'm finding a sort of clarity in vegan food that I don't find in dishes made with meats.  It feels more "pure" to me.  My body feels good when I eat it.  Perhaps it's a psychological thing, or maybe energetic, regardless something feels right.  I'm excited!

When our vegan friend Jack came over for dinner a few times in the last couple of weeks this new world of cooking opened up to me.  Because I'm Greek (and Greeks like to feed people), I got inspired to dig through the internet and find some scrumpdidalyumptious looking vegan blogs, . . . Oh She Glows and Post Punk Kitchen to name a couple.  Who knows where this little culinary experiment will go, . . . eating less meat is a good thing!  (I'm sure my Greek ancestors are rolling in their graves!) 

 I made these muffins the other day.  If you feel inspired, try them, you'll see that eating vegan can be super yummy.  The original recipe, Outrageous Muffins, was on the back of some Bob's Red Mill Soy flour, and I've been wanting to try it for a while.  When I realized that we were out of eggs, I thought, "hey, why not make some flax eggs and try and convert the recipe to be vegan!"  Instead of yogurt, I used coconut milk and voila, you have these super yummy, fluffy, raisin muffins.  Plus, they are packed with protein and fiber.  Bon-Appetite!

"Outrageous Vegan Muffins"

1/3 Cup Whole Soy Flour
1/3 Cup Medium Grind Cornmeal
1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/4 Cup Wheat Germ
3/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 Cup Salt
1 Cup Ground Almonds
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 Flax Eggs (see note below)
1 Cup Coconut Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/3 Cup Canola Oil (plus a little extra for greasing tins)
1 Cup Raisins

To assemble:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
-Make flax eggs.
-Grease muffin tins with oil, or use cupcake papers.
-Mix dry ingredients and raisins in a large bowl.
-Mix wet ingredients and add to dry ingredients.
-Fill muffin tins 2/3s full.
-Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Note: To make a flax egg:  Mix 1 Tablespoon of ground flax with 3 Tablespoons of water in a small bowl, put in fridge while preparing other ingredients.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bougatsa: Eating Dessert For Dinner, . . .

Ahhh, big sigh.  Bougatsa.  One of my very favorite Greek desserts, made with phyllo dough and custard.  As a child, I spent many summers in Greece.  Some mornings my Dad would drive down to the center of town and bring back fresh Bougatsa.   We would devour it for breakfast.  Now, as an adult, when I go to the Island, I still go back to that same cafe my Dad went to and enjoy some of this delicious sweet.

My dad was born on the Island of Lesvos, much known for Sappho and her school of women, which is where the word Lesbian originates from.  Yes, my Dad is a tried and true Lesbian.  As a lot of you know, my greek heritage is a large part of me, and also an inspiration for many a blog post, particularly in regards to food.  So, back to Bougatsa.  Mmmmm.  Can you tell I'm salivating?

Today I had the pleasure of hanging out with my Dad and his girlfriend, Vangilitsa.  She is a great cook and in order to expand my Greek food repertoire, a while back I asked her to teach me how to make Bougatsa.  Today we finally got around to it and I was surprised at how easy it was, don't be afraid to give it a try, . . .


4 eggs
1 cup of sugar
5 cups of milk
A piece of lemon peel (about the size of a silver dollar)
1 cup of semolina flour
1/2 stick butter
1 pack of phyllo dough
Powdered sugar and cinnamon (for sprinkling on top)

The Custard:
1) Beat eggs in a bowl, add sugar and beat some more till well mixed and slightly bubbly.

2) Pour Milk into a medium sized pot, add lemon peel.  Heat till hot, but not boiling. 

3) Add Semolina flour and stir stir stir!  Keep stirring till thickened (like the consistency of polenta).

4) Slowly add the eggs and sugar to the pot, don't stop stirring.  The custard will form. 

5) Pull it off the heat and keep stirring till custard settles a bit.

To Assemble:
1) Pre-heat oven to 355 degrees
2) Melt butter
3) Center one layer of phyllo down in a 9x13 inch square pan, let phyllo dough come up and over the edge of the pan.
4) Brush the layer with melted butter
5) Do steps 3 and 4 five times
6) Put custard filling on top of phyllo layers and spread evenly.
7) Fold the edges of dough over filling. 
8) Lay five buttered layers of phyllo dough on top of filling
9) Trim edges, but leave enough dough to push down the side of custard to encase filling.
6) Cut portion lines with a knife
7) Bake for 40 minutes
8) Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
9) Enjoy!

Of course we munched on some after it came straight out of the oven, and, unfortunately for my waste, Vangilitsa insisted that I take a generous portion home with me.  Typical Greek.  How could I resist?  Anyway, after the long day that I had; 2 Dr.s appointments (1 for a kid, 1 for a cat), hubby being out of town, toting kids everywhere, grocery store, pharmacy, doing dishes, cleaning, bla bla bla), I found myself digging into this delicious dessert once again as I scrambled to get cats and dogs fed and clean up the days mess.  Although I don't make it a common practice, today I quite enjoyed eating my dessert for
 dinner.  Why not?  You only live once!  

Ευχαριστώ Vangilitsa!  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fig Juice!

When I was a kid I used to get warts.   My Yaya (Greek grandmother) used to hold my hand up to the moon every day for a week and mumble some greek poetry.  Somehow a few weeks later, any wart I had magically fell off or disappeared.  Yes, I'm totally serious.  I don't know what she said or how it happened, but somehow, it worked.  Fortunately I haven't had a "witches bump" for some time, but if one shows up on me, or one of my kids, I may not know what to say under the moon's light, but I will know how to handle it, . . .

This morning when I was out in the front garden and admiring the first ripe fig of the year, I was reminded of something my mom taught me during one of our many herb conversations.  "The sap from a fig tree will get rid of your warts!"  It's easy!  Put a little sap, or "fig juice" as we used to call it, on your wart each day, twice a day to speed things up, and cover it with a band-aid.  A few weeks later your wart should be gone!  It's amazing what is growing in our own gardens.  Never under-estimate the power of mother nature!  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fundamentals Of Life

I came across this photo on my friend Paala's blog.  She writes a lot about breast-feeding and birthing issues.  It's a shame that we have come so far away from our sense of selves that breast-feeding and birthing are even considered "issues".  Both are the most primitive and instinctual acts that all of us experience in one form or another.  What could be more basic, . . . we are born and then we are nourished.

I found myself very moved by this photo.   I was actually thinking about it at 3 in the morning when I was up feeding my son, all cozy and comfortable in my bed.  I am such a blessed woman.  I felt the need to write about it, thank you Paala for bringing this to my attention.

For me, this photo really touches on so many things.  I look at both their emaciated bodies in awe, it shows me that life really struggles hard to continue on, even when our bodies are underfed and malnourished, kind of like a weed that pushes through concrete.  Life is amazing like that.  Without our will or control, it still moves forward, until it doesn't any more.  I am humbly reminded of how powerless I am.  Sigh.  This life!

Seeing this baby drink from his or her mother's breast warms my heart.  A mother, who may or may not even be producing milk for her child, due to her own malnutrition, still tries her best to give what she can to her child.  How beautiful is that.  Even if the child isn't getting any food from the mother, he or she is still getting the bonding experience of nursing and being with his/her mama.  In my opinion, breast-feeding is the one of the most intimate experiences a mother can physically have with her child, right up there with carrying the child and birthing it.

I don't understand why breast-feeding has become such an issue.  Why is it that people judge others for where they breast-feed or how long they breast-feed?  Who cares?  It's not like breast-feeding mama's are heinously flashing their boobs in public, most of the time, it's very discrete and most of the breast is covered up by the babies head.  You see more "T + A" at the local ice-cream shop when the teenage girls come out in their cleavage showing crop-tops and the guys are wearing their baggy-ass sagging jeans!  I just don't get it.  Would a person that harasses a woman in the US for publicly breast-feeding also harass the woman in the picture above??  Why do people care so much what others do about such a personal thing?

As you can see, this photo brings up a lot.  Not to mention, my first instinct, which is people should not be starving like that.  There could be enough food in this world for everybody, if it was somehow managed better and not wasted, but that's a whole other blog post.  In honor of "World Breast-feeding Week" (August 1-7th), I share with you one of the most touching breast-feeding photos I have come across.  There is a lot to be grateful for people, let's concentrate on what's important and stop sweating over the small stuff.  Peace.