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Speaking with Tongues: The Love Language of Good Food

Speaking with Tongues: The Love Language of Good Food

This post is about the food-love I’ve bestowed on my fellow mom friends (and you’ll find an epic recipe for lactation cookie cheesecake bites) but these foods and this kind of love and care can be for anyone in your life; maybe a sick relative, a friend going through a divorce, or anyone you want to show some love to. The point is ‘food as communication.’ It’s bringing back that grandmotherly skill set of using food to tell people how much we love them, and also to tell them we understand how hard their circumstances are at present. When you bring a sick friend a nourishing soup, or a new mom a nutritious meal, what you’re inherently saying is, “I know your physical body needs strength for what you’re going through; I validate the tangible reality of what you’re feeling.” Feeding them gives them not only nourishment, but rest—you’ve taken a task and a mental load off their shoulders. It’s a gesture that says so much, and I think quality ingredients and attention to detail enhances the vocabulary.

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I like to food-love on my friends with extra next-level decadence. I want to make them things that they would NEVER make for themselves and that makes eating in bed feel like a special occasion. I’m going share with you a really simple mixture of ingredients that can be used as a base for a no bake cookie or ball, an energy bar, or a crust, as well as a number of variations that I’ve made. You may be hearing some ingredients for the first time, and I may link to some of the ingredients I used that are hard to find or expensive or were gifted to me, but these aren’t essential! The point is to use what you have, use what you know, and tailor your recipes to meet a variety of nutritional needs and personal preferences—use your own “vocabulary.” (I hope you come up with your own recipe that becomes your specialty!) I’ve also included a short index at the bottom of the post explaining the benefits of some of the ingredients I chose. 

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LOVE TRUFFLES

That’s what I call them anyway. I made this assortment for a friend after her mother received a disheartening diagnosis. I wanted to give her something special, decadent, and delicious, as well as bite sized, portable, and nutrient-dense that even if she only had two minutes to herself after caring for four children all day, she’d at least get an ample kick of protein, healthy fat, and a suite of minerals. When you’re feeling down and disoriented with life, sometimes your reaction is to indulge, binge, throw caution to the wind and just not care what you eat (and the last thing you want is to have people judge you or lecture you for it, or tell you you just need to do more #selfcare!). I kind of wanted to hand deliver the option to let go—“Here, play some music, lock the door, and eat this entire box if you want.” 

The BASE for these is simple: 

  • 8-10 pitted dates + 1/2 cup coconut butter + 1/3 cup pastured butter or ghee. 
  • Pulse and combine in a food processor.

*I’ll refer to this mixture as “BASE” in the rest of the recipes. You can also create your own base with whatever works for you. The dates really help everything stick together and make them sweet, the coconut butter gives it substance, and the butter gives it flavor and also creates a much more pliable texture (coconut butter alone is a bit flaky, and butter alone starts to melt at room temperature. Combined they make a perfect texture.) You can create something similar by subbing in your favorite nuts or nut butter (soaked cashews are perfect for this), cacao butter, etc., or sweetening it to taste with honey, maple syrup, or another whole food sweetener. 

To make these awesome Love Truffles, I came up with a variety of different mixtures as well as different coatings. If they’re coated or rolled in something dry, it keeps them from melting on your fingertips while you eat them (not that that’s such a terrible problem to have.) I made a large batch of the base, and then I mixed up each different version in a separate bowl. It’s a good idea to mix the ingredients together, then let the bowl chill in the fridge or freezer for about 5 minutes to firm up first so you can form it into a ball, roll it in a coating, then return it to the refrigerator.  These are the recipes for making individual truffles, but these measurements are all pretty imprecise and you can adapt them for making a large batch of the same kind if you want.

From the top left:

1. BASE + gogi  berries, rolled in sesame seeds.  

2. BASE +  Moondeli golden turmeric powder (you could use turmeric, ginger, and cardamom) rolled in rosebud petals (you can find these usually in the bulk tea section of the health food store). 

3.  BASE + 1tsp mixture of cardamom, cinnamon, clove (you could use apple pie spices), 1tsp wild milled vanilla (or extract), rolled in hemp seeds and sea salt. 

4. BASE + 1 heaping spoonful of cacao powder, 1 heaping spoonful of shredded dried unsweetened coconut, rolled in coconut. 

5. BASE + granola (I used a spiced mandarin orange granola that a friend made for me, but you could use your favorite), rolled in black sesame seeds. 

6. BASE + 1 Tbs cacao powder, 1 Tbs Moondeli cordyceps and cacao powder, rolled in crushed cacao nibs. (You can purchase other medicinal mushroom powders, capsules, or tinctures that you can add to the mixture as well). 

HOT TIPS: Keep them cold. They won’t freeze entirely if you put them in the freezer, so that’s a great place to store them for a week or two, or to make them extra cold and firm so they keep their shape until lunch time if you’re packing them in a lunch. I enjoy them the best straight out of the refrigerator. If you’re gifting them, set each one into its own cupcake paper or a small square of parchment. You can give a dozen in a leftover cardboard egg carton or, in this case, an empty date container. 

Lately I’ve been making this BASE and using whatever nuts and granola I have on hand to make “fat bombs” for my husband to take to work. (So far he says they really help him keep his hands out of the candy jar and the break room treats, and help get his mid-morning energy up.) 

These are adaptable as a bar instead of a ball, too. Just press them into a baking dish or a cookie sheet and let it chill until firm. Slice into your preferred size, then you can take them to go, wrapped in parchment paper or Bees Wrap.

And if it wasn’t versatile enough, imagine this as a crust for a cheesecake....because that’s happening next.

 

NO BAKE KINDA-KETO CHEESECAKE

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This was my son’s first birthday treat! Here I used the BASE + pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almond flour, and pie spices to make a thicker, more dense crust and pressed it into the bottom of a springform cake pan (the kind where the side of the pan can separate from the bottom). Let the crust chill while you whip up the no-bake kinda-keto cheesecake filling (and you can also adapt the sweeteners to make it keto conpliant). 

  • 1 package of organic full fat cream cheese
  • 4 Tbs pastured butter
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked and strained
  • 1 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 scoop collagen peptides  *

( * optional) 

If you’re dairy-free or have other dietary preferences, you can use any no-bake cheesecake recipe to top this crust. You can also use a thick chia pudding as a topping instead if you’re looking for a paleo option.

Check out Raw Paleo Melissa’s raw keto cheesecake  

Check our this dairy free cashew cheesecake recipe

Whichever crust + cheesecake combination is right for you, or whomever you’re preparing it for, you can create these adorable little bite-sized treats:

LACTATION COOKIE CHEESECAKE BITES

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I made these for a friend expecting her fifth child. I wanted to bring her something she could put in the freezer the week before she delivered to have on hand right after the baby arrived, something that would be easy to eat one-handed, that her kids could bring to her in bed (with a warm cup of tea!), would be nutrient-dense and energizing with protein and healthy fat, and would support lactation and healing after birth. Most importantly, I wanted them to be beautiful. After giving birth—especially after multiple children—a new mom is propped up in bed with a milk-stained t-shirt, diapers and wipes everywhere, the nightstand cluttered with glasses of water, jars of ointment, thermometers, crumpled tissues, a dirty plate from that thousandth lasagna someone brought, and who knows what else. It’s a time when aesthetics take a back seat to utility. But I want my mom friends to feel like a glowing grown up woman! No mother I know would ask outright for a dainty little treat like this, but I promise you EVERY ONE OF US WANTS ONE. 

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I adapted these with brewers yeast for lactation support, as well as rose hip powder for vitamin C and collagen for tissue healing. Even though they’re labeled “lactation cookies” they can be appropriate for anyone (the only ingredient I might sub out in that case would be the brewers yeast. It’s great for boosting milk supply but can have a strong flavor). 

For these recipes, the total yield is about a dozen+ mini cupcake sized treats, and references the same “BASE” recipe from above, with some variations. Remember that you can tailor these to your own needs, preferences, and ingredient availability. 

 

CHOCOLATE

Crust: BASE + 1 Tbs cacao powder, 1 Tbs collagen peptides, 1 handful chia seeds, 1 handful pumpkin seeds, 1 Tbs brewers yeast, 1 Tbs maple syrup. Press into the bottom of a dozen mini cupcake liners and chill. Add cheesecake topping (from recipe above), and sprinkle with rosebud petals (or other garnish). 

 

LEMON

Crust: BASE + 1 Tbs finely chopped or grated lemon peel, 1 Tbs collagen peptides, 1 Tbs wild rosehip powder, 1 handful chia seeds, 1 handful cashew pulp* or almond flour. Press into the bottom of a dozen mini cupcake liners and chill. Use cheesecake topping from above and also add: juice from 1 wedge of lemon, 1 Tbs grated or finely chopped lemon peel, and a whole food sweetener to taste (since the sour lemon might need to be balanced out with a little more sweet). Garnish with lemon peel, rose hip powder, and schizandra berry powder. 

(*I used the leftover cashew pulp from making cashew milk) 

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This turned into some teachable moments with my daughter and the opportunity to show her how to care for the women in our lives, and to honor their important work by nourishing their bodies. She sat at the counter with me, making her own weird 4-year-old concoctions, asking “Mom, what’s in this ingredient?” and choosing them based on the the kinds of nutrients I told her were in them. When she would ask, “Mom, why can’t we keep these?” we would talk about the meaning of generosity and the amazing celebration of new babies and growing families. When she said, “Why are we working so hard on this?” it gave me my own chance to tell her that I do this work for every meal I make for our family (she visibly pondered this but I could tell it will still be another decade and a half before it really sinks in). Still, I’m trying to teach her the language within the food we eat.

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Here are a few unusual ingredients I enjoy incorporating into my recipes for mothers, and why they’re nutritionally valuable: 

  • Black Sesame Seeds- supports lactation, good source of minerals, promotes hormone balance.
  • Brewer’s Yeast- high iron content to support lactation.
  • Collagen Peptides- source of protein and essential amino acids, helps the body build connective tissue for healing. 
  • Rosebud- calms and soothes digestion + uterine discomfort, rich in antioxidants
  • Rosehip Powder- very high vitamin C content, which helps the body repair tissue and heal. Vitamin C also facilitates the formation of collagen and the absorption of iron, so it complements the other ingredients used. This particular powder was harvested and hand-made by my friend in Germany (THANKS ANN MARIE!) but you can find it from Mountain Rose Herbs as well.     
  • Schizandra Berry Powder- good source of antioxidants, and supports liver detoxification which is important for new moms. 

(For more recipes and resources for birthing moms, you can check out my post from last year about postpartum nutrition!)

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Caffeine Goes Wild

Caffeine Goes Wild

All of your caffeine is imported. Just let that "steep" for a minute...

Your coffee is imported from countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Indonesia. You’re getting teas from as far away as India and China, matcha from Japan, and Yerba Mate from Argentina and Paraguay.  Even synthetic caffeine is imported to the U.S. at a rate of 7 million kilograms per year for use in sodas and energy drinks. This often-essential element of our daily lives is so far-reaching with so many ecological, sociological, and even moral implications we are unable to see from the other side of the coffee bar.  As with any agricultural staple in high demand, the side effects follow close behind: mono cropping and the destruction of land, unethical labor practices, and the immeasurable emissions it creates to process and transport it all.  It’s an incredible irony: the energy-for-energy exchange—the land tilled, the natural resources consumed; all that energy literally poured into a 12oz styrofoam cup.  But Yaupon can change all that.  It’s our invitation back to this land. Most of us are strangers here, and we’re part of a centuries-long displacement project, thrusting plant and animal strangers onto the landscape and into the food chain; eradicating others entirely. Yaupon is an opportunity to close that loop of global impact and local degradation. We can bring it all home, back to our ecology, back to our history, back to the wild, and still maintain our modern morning ritual.

Most of us have cleaned up our morning caffeine ritual the best we can.  We’ve got our hipster infusion trinkets, our Chemex and our cold brew, we’re amping it up with butter and chaga and we don’t leave home without our reusable travel cups.  We purchase products that are as fair-trade and organic as possible, but our choices—our vices—still have a powerful ecological impact.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “the United States is the single largest importer of organic coffee, accounting for 40 percent of worldwide imports” and coffee is the single most valuable organic import in this region.  While it is certainly beneficial to support organic and fair trade products over the conventional options, it says a lot about our culture and our mindset that imported coffee is what we seem to value most. There are companies raking in money selling t-shirts and mugs that say “But first, coffee” capitalizing on the ubiquitous attitude of necessity we maintain about our coffee. 


Above even our morning caffeine rituals, we should value interaction with nature, plant medicine, foraging and self-sufficiency, vibrant health, and supporting local ecology.  Yaupon aligns with all of these values. It is itself deeply ingrained in ritual use by indigenous cultures of North America. From the Cherokee meaning “the beloved tree,” Yaupon was once revered as a treasured offering from the land. We still see it that way.  (We also tried fitting “But first, a ritual of gratitude for the plant medicine of the beloved tree” on a t-shirt, but it felt a little facetious…)

If it seems a bit like Yaupon is a dream come true, you’re exactly right. The coastal Carolina natives’ story of discovering Yaupon all began with a dream. “According to this story, an Indian man had been plagued by a lingering illness that none of the Indian doctors could cure. One day he fell asleep and dreamed that if he took a decoction of the tree that grew at his head, he would be cured. When we awoke he discovered the Yaupon tree growing there even though it had not been there when he had fallen asleep. The man followed the directions of his dream and was quickly cured” (from Black Drink, Hudson, 1979). In time, Yaupon became one of the most valued plants to natives from as East as the coastal Carolinas, as South as Florida and Alabama, and as West as central Texas. The decoction—called “Black Drink” or “Cassina”—was used in ritual ceremonies preceding important events like battle or trade transactions, taken as a biliary medicine, or drunk as a social peace offering with early settlers. After generations of ambiguity and misrepresentation, we are waking up to Yaupon yet again. It fulfills our dream to reconnect with our landscape and integrate with our local ecology. It offers us a way to engage with meaningful and nutritive ritual—not as an appropriation of a far-off culture, but as a respect for the land we call home and the history of the very soil we stand on. 

The Unicorn Frappu-cleano

The Unicorn Frappu-cleano

Everyone is raving about Starbucks' new Unicorn Frappuccino -- a brightly-colored sparkling sweet treat. Because "treat yo-self," right? Well, as a nutritional therapist I don't think 59 grams of sugar counts as a treat.  That's an overdose. 

To celebrate spring, mystical magical unicorns, and TRULY treating yourself, here's a recipe full of shizandra and spirulina, not simple syrups, sugar, and ALL OF THIS OTHER CRAP.  Not only is this beautiful and fun, it's nutrient-dense.  Unicorns may not be real, but there's NOTHING fake about this "frappu-cleano." 

You can play with and alter these ingredients and directions based on what you have available to you.  Basically you want the blue layer to be thick enough to stick to the inside of the jar, and then the pink inner smoothie can be any pink smoothie concoction you like! 

Blue Layer

1/4 banana

1/4 cup full fat canned coconut milk (mostly the fat)*

1 scoop collagen powder

1 tsp raw honey or quality maple syrup (optional)

1/2 tsp Moondeli Blue Green Protein **

*You could also use a different milk alternative mixed with another fat like butter, ghee, or coconut oil to thicken.

**Spirulina provides the natural color (it's even in the Starbucks version). It's relatively easy to find at most health food stores.

Blend ingredients until smooth and transfer to a squeeze bottle. Drizzle along the inside of the jar before pouring in the rest of the smoothie.

Read more about the health benefits of spirulina
Read more about tocotrienols

Pink Layer

1 cup strawberries or frozen mixed berry blend

1 cup quality almond, coconut, or other milk

1 Tbs raw honey or maple syrup

1 tsp Surthrival organic schizandra

1 tsp Surthrival chaga extract *

*Surthrival’s chaga extract is blended with vanilla and I use it in place of vanilla extract. You can sub in an extract or organic vanilla powder.

Read about the benefits of schizandra.
Read about the benefits of chaga.

Coconut Cream Topping

1/4 cup chilled full fat coconut milk (80:20 mostly solid fat)

1 tsp raw honey or maple syrup (optional)

To make a whipped cream, whip with a hand mixer or whisk until you reach the right consistency. Top your smoothie with the whipped cream, sprinkle schizandra powder on top, and don't forget your reusable straw! 

Voila! A unicorn frappu-cleano fit for a princess. 

Postpartum Nutrition: Recipes and Philosophies for After Birth

Postpartum Nutrition: Recipes and Philosophies for After Birth

"Eating well can be the first thing to get sacrificed when time, energy, and resources are lacking, yet--paradoxically--the demands of postpartum require you to stay very well fed." - Heng Ou, The First Forty Days

The pop-health industry is quick to prey on new mothers to sell shakes, weight loss supplements, meal replacements, and fat-burning workouts aimed at “getting back your pre-baby body” and fitting into your jeans again. The truth is that giving birth is a profound stress on the body and almost a super-human feat that leaves us nutritionally depleted and in need of replenishment. The postpartum period is a time for shifting our image-conscious perspective away from whittling ourselves down, losing weight, and “bouncing back” to a new and purposeful perspective set on rebuilding ourselves, refilling our vessel with dense nutrition, and growing into a new body with a new and important purpose. In many traditional cultures, women were surrounded after birth with support, given healing teas and broths, and offered the best from her family and community with quality rest and nourishing foods. These days, we feel the pressure to be and do everything—even after birth—and fully caring for ourselves is written off as indulgence.

We have to start shifting the birth paradigm back to the mother-centered perspective. So much of birth culture focuses on the babe--what's the baby's gender, what's the name going to be, what's the nursery theme? And our medical birthing practices are the same: the mother's desires, intuitions, and abilities are second only to "getting the baby out safely." And afterward, of course, it's all about the baby, and the cute little pursed lips, and who they look like and how they're sleeping. The result is a woman who literally is never by herself, but who feels utterly and completely alone. What about mom? If we can refocus the lens to include mothers, everyone benefits. A cared for, nourished, supported mother can birth and sustain her baby, bring joy and life to her family, and have the vitality to enjoy an enriching mothering experience. 

As I relished the last three to four weeks of my second pregnancy, I prepared myself in many ways for birthing, recovering, and resting.  One way I was able to nourish myself well during pregnancy and prepare for postpartum recovery at the same time was to make nutrient-dense meals ahead of time to store in the freezer. This way family, friends, and I could easily prepare warming delicious foods that will nourish and comfort me in the weeks following my birth. 


It has been my goal during this whole pregnancy to treat myself like a client after my birth. To give myself the full attention of my skills and knowledge as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner so that I can pass this information on first-hand to other women. 

I want women to know that it's more important to spend time educating ourselves about healing nutrition than it is to research the best baby monitors; it's more important to spend money stocking our pantries with nourishment than filling a closet with adorable tiny clothes; it's more important to have a specific nutrient-dense plan and a philosophy for recovery than it is to have a weight loss goal. 

Here are some recipes from my own kitchen, some knowledge from my own training and reading, and some wisdom from my own experience. I hope it supports and nourishes you. If you are past the point of preparation, I have also included some recommendations for convenient, quality, pre-made products for purchase. 


BONE BROTH

In traditional Eastern cultures, friends and family would engage in a time called “warming the mother,” which included offering postpartum mothers slow-cooked, soft, easily-digestible and warm foods following birth. Today we know the wisdom behind this, as these warm and gentle foods offer essential nutrients for healing, but also give the digestive system a break. After birth, the body has several important tasks to attend to, like building a milk supply for lactation, repairing tissue, balancing hormones, and recovering from the physical stress of birth. Foods that are gentle on the digestive system allow your body to expend more energy on these other priorities without wasting added energy for digestion. Digestion is also one of your body’s main sources for detoxification, so as your body repairs, recycles water, and flushes out pregnancy hormones, smooth and easy digestion will make for an easier transition (and much less uncomfortable postpartum bowel movements!). Every batch is a little different since you can use up kitchen scraps or add in your favorite herbs.

Directions:

1. Collect leftover chicken, beef, or lamb bones in a large stock pot, Instant pot, or Crock pot. (Bonus: roasting the bones first adds flavor!) You can either add in kitchen scraps OR fresh chopped veggies. I usually use onion, garlic, celery, turmeric, and a bay leaf. You can also add in egg shells for added calcium and minerals, about-to-wilt greens for extra vitamins, as well as stems and tops of other whole fresh vegetables—these all still contain viable nutrients and bone broth is a great way to reduce their waste. 

2. Cover ingredients with fresh filtered water. Add 1 capful of apple cider vinegar (this helps to leach nutrients from the bones) and a few pinches of salt.

3. Cooking times will vary depending on the vessel you use. In a stock pot on the stove: simmer 8-24 hours. In a slow-cooker: Low for 6-10 hours. In an Instant Pot: Manual for 2 hours.

4. Strain the broth through a mesh colander (try to avoid very fine straining materials like cheesecloth as this can also separate out the nutritious fats, which you want distributed through the broth.) You can use the entire batch immediately for soup or sipping, or continue on to the next step for storage.

5. Let the broth cool completely to room temperature before storing. There are several ways to freeze your broth. For sipping, I like to freeze mine in mason jars. That way I can put a jar or two out to thaw then heat them in a hot water bath on the stove and drink them right out of the jar. To store in glass, pour room temperature broth into the container leaving plenty of space at the top of the jar for the broth to expand while freezing. Put the jars in the refrigerator for several hours before transferring to the freezer to prevent cracking. Another method is to freeze cubes or “pucks” of broth in ice cube trays or muffin tins, then store the cubes in freezer bags. These cubes can then be easily added to slow-cooker meals, or heated up for individual small servings. For sipping, I like to add a little bit of butter or ghee and a pinch of my favorite herb blend while it’s heating.

If you are unable to make your own bone broth, you can order three varieties of broths specifically tailored for postpartum mothers from the QUEEN of postpartum nutrition herself, the author of The First Forty Days. Her company MotherBees has been delivering postpartum broths and meals to mothers in California for several years, and they have recently expanded to offer national shipping. The broths are frozen in BPA-free bags which can be put directly into hot water for preparing, and she has some amazing special ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, lotus seeds, and lily petals. Her broths are hand made with local and fresh ingredients. Check them out at www.motherbees.com

Also check out: Osso Good Bone Broth @ www.ossogoodbones.com and Kettle and Fire Bone Broth @ www.kettleandfire.com  

CHICKEN SOUP

Add some chopped onions, celery, and carrots with some chicken from the above broth recipe, and you have a deeply nourishing easy-to-digest first food after baby arrives.  It's easy to freeze in either glass containers or plastic freezer bags--just thaw thoroughly and re-heat on the stove or slow cooker.  I added some dried nettles for some added wild plant power and minerals. Warm, soft, soothing foods are perfect for those first days home with baby. 

You can also stock up on pre-made versions like Wolfgang Puck's Organic Chicken Noodle Soup (available in many stores as well as on Thrive Market), or a variety of Amy's Organics soups. I like the vegetable barley soup and it's easy to find at most grocery stores (I add cooked chicken or ground beef to make it more substantial).


SAUERKRAUT


Another staple in my kitchen is home-made sauerkraut.  I made about a gallon of it in the weeks before I delivered so I would have plenty on hand.  Traditional raw, uncooked, lacto-fermented vegetables yield digestive enzymes, B vitamins, vitamin C (sauerkrauts made with red cabbage contain up to 700mg of vitamin C per cup!) and of course probiotics. In the days following birth, your digestive tract is under duress--for months it has been squished and scrunched up under the weight of baby and other organs, and has slowed down to save energy for the body to facilitate the important role of, you know, building a person.  Since you can't absorb and assimilate nutrients without proper digestion, it's important to really give your gut a helping hand in the first weeks after birth.  When you enjoy a side of sauerkraut with a meal, the enzymes help your stomach digest your meal more easily, and the probiotics help to populate your large intestine with the "good guys." A healthy gut can mean better sleep (melatonin is manufactured in the gut), a robust immune system (70% of your immune system is in the gut), and hormone regulation (good gut bacteria like beta-glucoronidase helps to re-uptake estrogen back into the body). 

Here are some instructions for making your own sauerkraut, and I highly recommend the book Wild Fermentation.  All it takes is cabbage and salt. There are more methods for making a successful batch of sauerkraut than there are for spoiling it, so give it a try! 

You can also purchase some excellent krauts online. Check out: OlyKraut which is locally sourced and made in my beloved Olympia, WA. Whatever you choose to buy, look for a RAW product, especially without added sugars or sweeteners. 


LIVER & ONIONS with BACON & SAGE

Quality grass-fed beef liver is a highly nutritious source of bio-available iron. Iron deficiency after childbirth is quite common, but including iron-rich foods in the diet can help to prevent postpartum anemia, shorten postpartum bleeding, fight fatigue, increase breast milk production and quality, and improve symptoms of postpartum depression. Liver is also rich in vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, and trace minerals.  You may have had family members, aunties, and grandmothers who made you eat liver and onions as a kid.  They were right to give it to you! But the texture can be a little much for people, and the flavor of all that nutritional iron can be unappetizing to some. With this recipe, the bacon, sage, and onions are the main flavors so it's perfect for new liver-lovers.  Look for liver from a grass fed or pasture raised animal.  One traditional preparation strategy to off-set the strong flavor is to soak the liver overnight in milk (preferably raw milk) and then drain the milk off before cooking. 

*For this recipe, I prepared two pounds of liver, but used only one pound for this recipe and set aside the rest for the meatloaf recipe below.

Ingredients: 
1lb grass fed beef liver, sliced thin and cut into strips

1 onion, sliced 

1 package uncured sugar-free bacon, finely chopped

1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped 

3 cups mushrooms, sliced 

4 carrots, chopped 

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped 

2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped 

Directions:

1. Soak the liver in milk for several hours or overnight, then strain off the milk and rinse with filtered water. Then marinate the meat in a simple marinade like avocado oil, coconut aminos, and garlic for 3-4 hours. (The veggies in this dish also lend themselves well to a ginger/sesame flavored marinade for an Asian fusion style stir-fry.)

2. Fry the liver slices in a skillet, about 1-2 minutes per side. You will have to fry one skillet-full, set aside the cooked slices, and then cook another skillet-full. 

3. While the liver cooks, sautee the bacon pieces for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking until aromatic.  Then add the onions and cook for about 4 minutes. Add carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, then add mushrooms.  If at any point the mixture becomes dry, you can add a tablespoon of ghee, butter, avocado oil, or coconut oil. Add the sage and let the mixture continue to cook together while you cycle through the liver slices. Reduce the heat once the carrots are tender.

4. In a large bowl, combine all cooked ingredients and toss. Divide into two portions. You can either cook one portion for now and save the second for later, or store both.

             4a. If you want to enjoy one portion now, add the stir fry back into the skillet with the kale and cook for additional 1-2 minutes until the kale becomes dark green and shiny. Serve and enjoy!

             4b. To store a portion, let it cool to room temperature before adding it to a freezer bag. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat in a skillet. If you prepared any "bone broth pucks" as described above, you can add one during the reheat to add some moisture and flavor. I prefer to add fresh kale during the re-heat rather than store the cooked kale to prevent it from being too mushy. 

*If liver is a stretch for you, consider halving the portion of liver and "cutting" the recipe with either beef or chicken.

And if eating liver is just an absolute NO for you, make this delicious dish as a regular stir fry and then check out: Vital Proteins beef liver capsules @ www.vitalproteins.com


LIVER + LENTIL MEATLOAF with HONEY BALSAMIC GLAZE
 


This recipe touts a couple of post-partum recovery heavy-hitters like liver, lentils, and fennel seeds. (If you’re wary of liver and the first recipe seems too far out for you, don’t worry! You’ll never even know it’s in here.) One cup of prepared lentils packs 18g of protein and 90% of your daily value of folate, both of which are essential for supporting recovering and breastfeeding mothers. To best prepare lentils and yield their full nutritional potential, soak and sprout them first (Directions for soaking and sprouting lentils). Lastly, fennel seeds can help to stimulate the let-down reflex in nursing mothers, and is even used in traditional home remedies for calming colicky babies. It is also calming to the digestive system, which can greatly assist a new mother in her rest and recovery. This recipe yields three loaves, so you can enjoy one for dinner and freeze two for later.

Ingredients:
2 lbs grass fed ground beef
1 lb grass fed liver, cooked and chopped (I used the leftover cooked liver from the previous recipe)
3 cups lentils, soaked and sprouted
2 eggs
1/2 onion, grated
1/2 cup fennel seeds, ground
1 cup almond flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of salt and pepper

Glaze ingredients:
4 Tbs tomato paste (use unsweetened organic ketchup as a substitute)
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs raw honey

2 Tbs coconut aminos (use a quality soy sauce as a substitute)

Directions: 

1. Preheat the oven to 350. In a food processor or grinder, grind fennel seeds into a rough powder. Mix into a bowl with almond flour, salt, and pepper, and set aside.

2. Using a blender or a food processor, pulse liver and eggs together until smooth (some small pieces may still be intact) OR finely chop liver and mix with eggs.  In a large bowl, combine liver, eggs, and ground beef evenly. Add lentils, garlic, and onions and continue to combine.

3. Add the almond flour and fennel mixture to the meat mixture and combine evenly. Add additional almond flour if necessary to reach desired texture. Press into baking pans.

4. Mix glaze ingredients, then coat the top of each loaf generously and evenly. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until a fork can be removed cleanly from the center.

5. After baking, allow the meatloaves to cool to room temperature or slightly warmer, then drain any excess liquid from the baking pans.  You can either remove each loaf from the pan and wrap tightly in foil, or wrap and store the baking pan itself in the freezer. It is best to refrigerate them overnight before transferring to the freezer. To reheat, fully thaw the meatloaves and then bake covered at 300 for 20 minutes or until hot all the way through (to moisten them up a bit after they've been frozen, add a few tablespoons of bone broth to the pan when you reheat).  Add some extra glaze during reheating and serve with a side of mashed sweet potatoes or your favorite veggie medley.

For some pre-made options with similar ingredients, check out: Alexian liver pate @ www.alexianpate.com, Amy’s Organic lentil soup @ www.amys.com, Alvita fennel seed tea @ alvita.com


"LABOR-ADE" ELECTROLYTE DRINK

I prepared this "Laborade" electrolyte drink a little over a week before I was due and kept it in the refrigerator so that I could easily take it with me to the birth center when it was "time!" I wanted something refreshing and hydrating with plentiful electrolytes that also tasted great. This is basically an amped up lemonade--and honestly, a home made lemonade mixed with some coconut water with a little bit of unrefined sea salt would still be an excellent electrolyte drink. I wanted a wider range of minerals offered through the shilajit, as well as the flavor and benefits of shizandra berry.  Shizandra is an adaptogenic food that supports the adrenals to relieve stress, assists in balancing hormones, and promotes focus & mental clarity--all things helpful to a woman in labor!

Ingredients:

2 lemons

1 one-inch cube of fresh ginger

1 thumbnail sized cube of fresh turmeric

1 heaping spoonful Surthrival dried shizandra berry 

1 portion Shilajit mineral resin

1 cup coconut water

4 Tbs raw honey

 

Directions: 

1. Juice the lemons, ginger, and turmeric (you can fresh-squeeze the lemons and press the ginger and turmeric in a garlic press if you don't have a juicer).

2. Boil 2 cups of filtered water in a kettle.  In a mason jar or large glass, fully dissolve the honey and shilajit resin in the boiling water. Then add to the lemon juice.

3. Add the coconut water and shizandra berry, then shake or mix vigorously to combine. Store in the refrigerator. (Shake before drinking). You may continue to add coconut water and/or filtered water to taste. 


DARK CHOCOLATE LACTATION ENERGY BITES

These tasty bites are a treat and a nutrient-bomb in one! There is no specific requirement for certain foods in order to have a healthy supply of breast milk, but there are some foods that can assist the body in the process, like iron-rich oatmeal and brewer’s yeast, a galactagogue with plentiful B vitamins. Even if you (and family members) are not breastfeeding, these are tasty little bites of energy for late nights, early mornings, and mid-meal snacks, and are especially delicious with a mug of hot tea.

This is an easy recipe to modify and add to with your favorite chopped nuts or dried fruit, or a powdered version of your favorite herbs and medicinal mushrooms like ashwagandha or reishi.

Ingredients: 

2 cups organic rolled oats*
1 cup organic unsweetened dry shredded coconut
1 cup ground flax seeds
1 cup chia seeds
1 cup nut butter
1/2 cup organic cacao powder
1/2 cup cacao nibs
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brewers yeast
4 scoops collagen
2 tbs vanilla

2 tbs ghee

2 tbs coconut oil

*If you don’t tolerate oats well, you can substitute large coconut flakes or pumpkin seeds to achieve a similar consistency.

Directions:

1. Mix oats, coconut, flax, chia, nut butter, honey, brewers yeast, collagen, and vanilla evenly in a large bowl.

2. In a saucepan, gently heat ghee and coconut oil until liquid, then add cacao powder and whisk until smooth. Add to oats mixture and combine evenly. Then mix in cacao nibs.

3. Chill ingredients in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then form into bite-sized balls and set onto a lined cookie sheet. Chill or freeze for 1 hour then transfer them to a storage container to freeze (using parchment paper between layers will keep them from sticking together). To enjoy, thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

I stored mine in separate smaller containers with about a week’s worth so I can thaw a batch for the week and leave the rest in the freezer for later.  They should be kept in the refrigerator to prevent them from softening and melting.

With all the wonderful melty ghee, nut butter, and cacao nibs in this recipe, these snacks do not travel well. If you're looking for a couple of convenient options for lactation snacks (think on your bedside table or in your backpack or purse), two brands I've had the pleasure of reviewing are Milkful Mamas and Ommie Snacks, two small-scale women-run companies I'm happy to recommend to you.

Milkful lactation bars contain many of the ingredients as described above like oats and brewers yeast, with the addition of some other milk-boosting ingredients like black sesame seeds and fenugreek. As much as I have TRIED making bars before, I can never get them to hold together the right way for them to be easily transportable. The Milkful bars are so easy to keep in my backpack (I brought one with me for our first checkup with the midwives) or stashed around the house for an easy-to-reach bite. You also HAVE to try one slathered with your favorite nut butter--so good. All the Milkful bars are soy- dairy- egg- and wheat-free. My favorite is the maple walnut, hands down.

If your digestion is sensitive to oats though, no worries! Ommie snack bars aren't actually "lactation" snacks, but their ingredients are top notch, and most of them are made with pumpkin seeds--another milk-booster.  They're also made and packaged sustainably for minimal waste.  They're very dense and filling, easy to transport, and delicious with a mug of tea. They come in 9 different flavors, apricot chai being my overall favorite. 


HERBS, TINCTURES, & SUPPLEMENTS

I'm not an herbalist, so I will let you read about various herbs and their benefits from another source, or check out "Aromatherapy and Herbal Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding," by Demetria Clark. Once or twice a day I have a postpartum support tea with a little spoonful of coconut fat or ghee. I prefer loose-leaf teas, and there are some wonderful blends out there--look for things like red raspberry leaf (for uterine toning), fennel and fenugreek (for lactation), chamomile and lavender (for calm), rose (for uterine cramping), dandelion (for digestive support), and nettle (for ALL THE MINERALS). 

For loose herbs and some fantastic blends like their Nurse-Me-Rhyme lactation tea, check out Mountain Rose Herbs: www.mountainroseherbs.com

In addition to herbal teas, I also incorporate various tinctures and supplemental ingredients into my drinks and smoothies. 


SURTHRIVAL CHAGA - Potent anti-oxidant and immune support. I like to add this to smoothies and tea or take directly. *You can purchase Surthrival products through my affiliate link by clicking on the Surthrival banner at the bottom of the page*

SURTHRIVAL SHIZANDRA - Also known as the "beauty berry," Shizandra supports the adrenal glands, beautifies skin and hair, promotes healthy circulation and respiration, and tones the liver and kidneys. Shizandra also facilitates both stage 1 and stage 2 of detoxification, aiding the liver in removing toxins from the body.  After birth is an important natural detoxification state for women as we flush hormones, fluids, and other materials from our bodies. I like to add this to warm lemon water, teas, and placenta+fruit smoothies. 

ASHWAGANDHA - A gentle non-stimulating adaptogen to relieve stress, aid sleep, and stimulate milk production. I take it under my tongue as a tincture, or add it to lemon water or tea. 

LIQUID CHLOROPHYLL - Chlorophyll facilitates liver detoxification, blood circulation, and wound healing. It also aids in balancing blood sugar. Since the postpartum period can mean sporadic meal times and frequent snacking, blood sugar regulation is important for maintaining energy and not experiencing a crash. 


I wish you well on your journey into motherhood, whether this is your first time or your family is expanding yet again. I hope that by preparing and strategizing for your own health, that you refresh and rebuild your body, and nourish yourself with healing nutritive foods that will warm and heal you through and through.  I hope that by filling your vessel, you ascend to a new level of self-care and appreciation that propels you FORWARD into lifelong fulfillment--that you look backwards only in fondness for memories and not wistfully for what was.  Let your nourishment usher you through the threshold restored.

Further reading recommendations: 

Acorn Flour: An Amateur's Ecology Experiment

Acorn Flour: An Amateur's Ecology Experiment

As much as acorns are ubiquitous in our environment, they are also undervalued and misunderstood.

Until recently, my only physical interaction with acorns had been using the caps between my thumbs as whistles when I was a kid, and sweeping them out of my driveway as an adult. This fall, I learned from my brother and mentor Daniel Vitalis that these are truly valuable, nutritious, and easily accessible wild foods! (You can listen to Daniel Vitalis, Frank Giglio, and Arthur Haines talk about acorn processing in Episode #119 of the ReWild Yourself Podcast). As someone interested in expanding my foraging and plant knowledge skills, and as someone generally down to experiment with weird stuff, I decided I would undertake the challenge to take some acorns through the process from nut to nosh. 

Let me remind you that even though you may see me on Instagram foraging mushrooms in the forest, making wild nettle pesto, and being generally crunchy, I live in basically-downtown San Antonio, Texas. I drive a tiny little Mazda mini-van and I have a Costco membership. I am not an ultra-cool off-grid ultimate-forager mom (yet). I say this first and foremost to admit my utter lack of expertise, but also so that you realize you have access to all of what I'm about to talk about.  If somewhere in the middle of this (maybe you'll even read this to the end) you think "I'd like to try that..." you can and you should, even if for no other reason than the fact that there are delicious pancakes waiting on the other side. 

You must first know that I went about this process in some of the absolute LEAST efficient ways possible, but that was part of my strategy. I'm a huge fan of Katy Bowman, and what I've learned from her books and podcasts and amazing brain is that where there is convenience, there is some cost being shouldered elsewhere. I've made a point in my lifestyle to start questioning these conveniences and start reversing my sedentary lifestyle. I wanted to take this opportunity to use as much ME-POWER as possible and truly appreciate this relationship to my food. I wanted to fully learn this process through trial and error, much the same way we learn to do math long-hand before we allow ourselves to rely on calculators. (Hey, remember when we used to use MAPS for directions? Crazy.) You can rest assured there are gadgets and tricks and hacks for processing acorn flour, but that's not part of this story.

I also got something out of this I wasn't expecting, and that's an important life lesson for my daughter. My little girl worked SO hard for the reward at the end of this process. She tended DAILY to the various steps and tasks; she was engrossed and engaged and enlightened. She was present for it, even when I was caught up in tunnel-vision toward the end result. My point is that we often think "working for something" means doing enough work to make enough money to save up for the thing we want and then buying it. Yeah, there's virtue in that somewhere but only from the perspective of society and consumerism and the value of money. I didn't set out to teach (or learn) this lesson, but it arrived to us through this process. The work we did with our own bodies directly correlated to the outcome.  I'll never hear the phrase "work for what you want" the same way again.

GATHERING

My three-year old daughter and I spent several hours over about two days gathering up acorns. That process in and of itself offered ample opportunities for quality movement: Sustained, engaged squatting, squat-crawling and pivoting, and various seated positions. It was also a great example of what Katy Bowman has coined "stacking," which is where one activity in itself is able to serve many purposes and values. Over these hours together we: spent time outside in the sunshine; we spent quality time together; we moved a lot; we talked a lot; we learned about how to identify a good acorn vs. a bad acorn; we used fine motor and dexterity skills; we practiced counting; we collaborated; we observed trends and patterns in our environment and in our processing. It was a productive learning experience that cost $0. (Hey moms, you're welcome.)

SORTING

Once you start gathering you'll notice a variety of shapes, colors, textures, and abnormalities in the acorns. You'll want to leave behind any acorns with tiny little holes that look like someone has used a tiny drill bit on it. These are the little escape hatches of weevils, which are laid inside and then eat their way out (more on those later). Also toss aside any acorns with cracks or discolorations like these. 

Acorns will look different depending on where you live and what species you're gathering. This particular species is a quercus virginiana, or a Southern Live Oak, and they're EVERYWHERE in Texas. We gathered all our acorns from within 300 feet of our front door. As we gathered, we noticed that the healthy acorns tended to be dense and heavy, darkly colored, and nice and glossy. Like the Pantene-ProV commercial of acorns.

If the acorns are still spongy and moist from gathering, they won't crack well--they sort of just splice open. Much like trying to break a green, living branch. They're much easier to crack when they're a little drier. We filled up some baking sheets one-acorn deep and let them hang out in the sun for a couple of days to dry out so they'd be easier to crack.  This is an important (and longer) process if you're going to be storing your acorns whole (which you can do for up to three years). Consult the experts on that process, but once they're completely dried, you can store them for making flour throughout the year. Because of its high fat content, acorn flour does not itself preserve very well and can go rancid, so as I understand it's best to store the acorns whole and make & use flour as needed.

WEEVILS

After bringing all these beautiful acorns into the house and giving them a nice warm place to rest, apparently all the weevils living inside felt quite welcomed and thus emerged to greet us. I was sipping my coffee in the kitchen one morning when my daughter called from the next room "Mom, the yellow worms are being so silly!" Kids say weird things sometimes, especially my kid, but there was sincerity instead of playful imagination in her voice. Sure enough there were weevils all over the acorns, on the floor, and in her hands. Weevils crawling a 2-foot radius around all of the pans of acorns. Don't panic, they're harmless (and actually nutritious themselves) and easy to sweep up with broom and dustpan. I was still shocked. I thought I had avoided this by only keeping acorns without holes!

Weevils' eggs are laid inside the acorn through an opening that is pretty much undetectable. As the weevil hatches and grows inside the acorn, it eats the acorn flesh and then burrows itself out (once it's nice and fat and warm in your living room). The holes in the acorns show that a weevil WAS inside, not that it IS CURRENTLY inside. I took this learning experience in earnest and set to forging through and not abandoning the project, and I'm glad I did. I texted this picture to my brother Daniel in a panic thinking I would have to throw everything out (and burn my house down), but he was totally unfazed--just a normal part of the process. I sat back down to my pans of acorns and started sorting. I threw out all of the newly-evacuated weevil-houses first. Then I set about feeling and listening to each acorn on the hard wood floor. Some felt light and sounded higher in pitch on the floor--obviously less dense inside and rather hollow; eaten away by a weevil who hadn't decided to show himself yet. Others were dense, heavy, and bass-sounding on the floor. These sounded right, so I tossed them into the "keep" pile.

A LESSON IN FOOD PURITY

The most important realization for me here was the sterility of my food sourcing. Bugs, worms, parasites--these are are completely normal parts of gathering and processing food, we just don't SEE it. When we arrive to the grocery store, all of the weirdly-shaped, bug-bitten, imperfect foods have already undergone this process. SOMEONE ELSE IS ALREADY DOING THIS WORK ON YOUR FOOD FOR YOU. If someONE isn't doing this work, then someTHING like a chemical pesticide or a toxic wash is doing it for you. I was surprised to learn from the podcast with Daniel, Frank, and Arthur how many fresh wild fish are infested with parasites, and that most of the fish at your store was, too, at some point. They were simply removed before being cut into filets, shrink-wrapped, and neatly arranged on the ice tray at Whole Foods. I was humbled by the fact that I have the "skill" of picking out a good avocado by feeling it or a good watermelon by knocking on the rind, but I didn't know how to identify and interact with the wild foods that were sitting outside on my own lawn. Think about that for a second.

So if you make it this far, don't stop for the weevils. Just let them pass through, they're part of the journey. Learn from it. (And if you're totally unsure whether there's a "prize" inside, just crack it open and find out!)

CRACKING

We went the old-fashioned way with this and cracked the acorns by hand with typical metal nut-crackers (which were SURPRISINGLY hard to find; I had to go to three stores to find their last two sets). It took a few sessions of cracking to "get good" at it and be efficient. My husband and I found that it was most efficient to crack about 20 acorns in half, then pick out the flesh rather than crack and pick out each individual acorn. My daughter would recommend going old school and just using your teeth if your hands aren't big enough for the nut crackers...

LEACHING

This is part of the process that I did completely backwards because I'm an admitted amateur. If you're going to make acorn flour, you'll want to go on to the grinding process next and THEN leach the flour. My mistake was researching "how to cold-leach acorns" instead of "how to cold-leach acorn flour" which are two similar process but for different purposes. In my case it didn't seem to change much, but I want to note that I haven't seen a tutorial for making acorn flour that recommends the leaching before the grinding. This is a blog about my experience not my expertise--so here's a good professional tutorial for leaching acorn flour you can refer to. (And if that's all you came for, scroll to the end for the recipe I used and be on your way!)

I think the most common comment I got in posting about my foray into acorn flour was "BE CAREFUL, ACORNS ARE POISONOUS! THEY'RE TOXIC! DON'T EAT THEM!" 

First of all, no they're not. Slow your roll. Far from being toxic (What does that word even really mean, anyway? Can we quantify that a bit?) acorns are just high in anti-nutrients called "tannins" which give them their bitter flavor. For the same reason we soak beans, rice, and legumes to dissolve and ferment anti-nutrients like phytates, acorns are soaked and rinsed repeatedly to leach and remove the tannins. It's very simple whether you're leaching the acorns whole or as a flour: cover with cold filtered water, wait several hours, pour the water off, rinse the acorns, and fill the vessel back up with water again. As I understand, each species takes a different amount of time for the tannins to be removed, and the best way to know is a taste test. Once they're adequately leached, you won't be able to taste any bitterness at all, and the water will be mostly clear. Since I did three separate batches of acorns, they were each started on different days and I was able to clearly see & taste when they were ready. Here is a pour off of the water from 1, 2, and 3 days of cold leaching:

DRYING and GRINDING

Again, my process is a bit out of order and out of whack (although it still yielded the same result). I'm sure an expert can explain the difference, and I do intend to seek out that information. Just know that the pros will tell you to crack, grind, leach, and then dry the acorn flour. I ended up cracking, leaching, drying, and grinding mine. 

To dry, I followed instructions for what must just be for leaching and preserving the whole acorns for other purposes other than flour. I laid the leached and pat-dried acorns on a pan and put them in the oven on it's lowest setting (150 degrees) for a couple of hours, checking on them frequently, agitating them, and biting through some of the bigger ones to make sure they were dried through the centers.

Once they were dry, we stone ground the acorns by hand in some Southwestern molcajetes.  I'll be honest, this part was not as fun for me, but I still reveled in the purpose and the learning experience of it. It was the LAST step before reaping our reward. For almost two weeks my daughter had been asking nearly every morning for acorn pancakes, and each time I would explain the next step and the rest of the tasks required before these promised pancakes would be ready. She was glad to help with every step of the process, but three-year olds don't QUITE have the elbow grease for grinding flour by hand. At least not 21st century three year olds...

Once the flour was ground, we ran it through a sieve to remove any leftover chunky pieces (which I'm glad we did but was also disappointed in my hand-griding skills to have about 1/4 cup of these bits to re-grind afterward).

TIME FOR PANCAKES

Even after the weevils and the mis-matched processing, we were sufficiently rewarded for our efforts! I perused and compiled various acorn flour pancake recipes into one that turned out excellent for us. You'll find many variations out there. Acorn flour is incredibly lipid-rich, over 50% fat (yum!) and free of gluten, which means it doesn't hold together very well on its own. Most recipes will "cut" the acorn flour with white flour (no, thanks) or some other kind of traditional flour on order to help hold them together. I took Chef Franky's suggestion and cut mine 1:1 with sprouted spelt flour.  A lot of other recipes were calling for milk and vegetable oil, which I also wasn't crazy about. I figured if I used some organic canned full fat coconut milk I could hit two birds with one stone on that one. My brother Daniel uses Surthrival colostrum powder as a binder in his pancakes which sounds delicious, too. 

Wholly Chloe's Acorn Flour Pancakes

1 cup acorn flour

1 cup sprouted spelt flour

2 pastured eggs

1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt

1/4 tsp baking powder 

1/2 cup Organic canned full fat coconut milk - or enough to create desired consistency. 

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Raw Honey to taste

This recipe yields about 8-10 pancakes which you can and should lovingly slather with pastured butter and mineral-rich maple syrup. These pancakes are out of this world. They have a mild and pleasant nutty flavor, and because of the higher fat content in the acorn flour PLUS the healthy fat from the coconut milk, they're incredibly filling and will not leave you with the carb-hangover you get from your standard paper-carb pancakes. I was nervous that they wouldn't live up to my expectations after all the work that went into them, but instead they inspired me to START AGAIN and MAKE MORE!

NOW WHAT?

So I'm sure many of you are thinking "Good for you, lady, but I'm under two feet of snow right now and my acorn-processing opportunities are over for the year." True. Sorry about that. No more pictures of pancakes. But what you CAN do is start strategizing for next year. Do you know how to identify an oak tree? Do you know what species grows near you and where to find a few? When do the acorns ripen in your area, and what pests are they prone to? You have some time to start learning and strategizing for next year. I know Daniel will be covering a lot more of this process next year on his podcast, so keep up to date with the ReWild Yourself Podcast. Until then, I hope as you've read this you've found opportunity all around you for more movement, interaction with your ecology, connection to your food sources, and lessons for your kids. 

 

Additional Resources:

Do Sweet Acorns Still Need to Be Leached? - Arthur Haines

The Incredible Edible Acorn - Arthur Haines 

The Veil is Thin: Contemplating Samhain with an Omelet

The Veil is Thin: Contemplating Samhain with an Omelet

Being a conscious-minded mom, I'm wary of the kinds of rituals and traditions I partake in with my family--what they mean and what value they contribute to our lives.  As a nutritional therapist, I'm also wary of American holidays and traditions that somehow always center on candy and over-eating. As 'Halloween' drew near this year, despite the cute array of options for fun family costumes, we made the executive decision not to participate. In my search for some meaning and connection, I learned more about the celebration of Samhain, only to discover that it parallels the very inertia of my life at present. Commence gratitude. 

I've been drawn in the last year to sacred and ancestral rituals. Typical modern Americans like myself are so detached from any kind of authentic rooted traditions. Our ancestral ties trace far and wide, and our traditions become more distant and muddled with each generation. One such tradition that has been unrecognizably Americanized is Halloween--or Samhain--a Celtic tradition that celebrates the midpoint between the autumnal and winter equinoxes. This time of the year was often full of fear and unknowing, unsure of whether the Earth would provide a harvest plentiful enough to survive the winter. Not only was it a time to give thanks to the land for the provision and plenty of summer, but also a time to confront one's own mortality.  Face it: we might not survive the winter. At a time when their own death was strong on their minds, so too were their connections to ancestors and those-gone-by. This led to the tradition of leaving out gifts of food for the spirits of their ancestors passing through--you can see how we side-stepped from there. 

 Penelope takes a "foot plunge" on our trip to Mt. Rainier in between mom's cold plunges. 

Penelope takes a "foot plunge" on our trip to Mt. Rainier in between mom's cold plunges. 

This year I felt inexplicably tied to this tradition and this time of remembrance, and I couldn't quite understand why. As I learned more, I discovered that these very celebrations of thanks and trepidations of the future are not only the cyclical celebrations of October 31st, they're also the meditations on my heart as I prepare for an uprooting life change leaving behind a landscape I truly love while entering into the new chapter of starting a business and expanding my family. 

So in preparation for our big move in two short weeks, we ventured back to Mt. Rainier as a family to say goodbye-for-now. The mountain has been a symbol to each of us in its own way. For me, its immense and beautiful and constant presence has ignited my love and respect for nature. My husband summited Rainier this summer signifying his dedication to his goals and nourishing his masculine hunger for feats of strength. Even my daughter feels connected to the mountain, seeing how it "follows us" to seemingly wherever we are in Washington (and even from a peak in Victoria, BC). We took a hike through a trail we'd never stopped at before, with no agenda other than to just soak in our surroundings despite the rain.  Along the way, I felt compelled to just offer my gratitude to the landscape, to express my wonder and amazement for the mushrooms and ferns, to revel in my smallness against the towering cedars. In return, the mountain gifted me this lovely Pig's Ear mushroom--a relative of the chanterelle.

 Pig's Ear mushroom (Gomphus clavatus). A gourmet treat better than any Halloween candy!

Pig's Ear mushroom (Gomphus clavatus). A gourmet treat better than any Halloween candy!

Before going home, I indulged in what may be my last cold plunges in Washington. There are the obvious and cited benefits of cold plunging, but there are other more personal levels to it as well, especially plunging in moving waters. It makes me feel as though I'm pulling the very strength and energy of the mountain into my body through my skin. It transports me into deeper meditations. It moves things inside me as it moves around me, often stirring up revelations that have been blocked with distractions or resistance. It's a warm blanket of reassurance--just in the form of a glacially-cold mountain stream. Trust me, it makes sense. 

 An invigorating plunge among the moss and lichen in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park. Also celebrating 18 weeks of pregnancy today.

An invigorating plunge among the moss and lichen in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park. Also celebrating 18 weeks of pregnancy today.

So on this rainy transitory morning of October 31--Samhain--I am simply choosing to forego the empty traditions of Halloween that have little to offer us this year. Hear me, I understand that it's harmless fun and often a happy memory of childhood. I'm just choosing to create new ones. A good friend told me a few weeks ago: "It's YOUR life. Create it the way that resonates with your soul!" I think that's what I'll do. 

Breakfast this morning is a delicious omelet of pig's ear and chanterelle, some chickweed picked on today's wet morning walk, and a dollop of local kraut. I am sad to leave here. It feels like I'm leaving an actual person or that I'm grieving a death--it's a visceral dull ache. But like my brother Daniel says, when we eat the foods of our local ecology, we bring our landscape into our cells. We become MADE of the land that we love. 

After two years of foraging and eating from this landscape and literally soaking it up through my skin, breathing it in and exploring as much of it as possible, Washington will travel with me wherever we go. Blessed Samhain to you, friend.