The Teacup Chronicles

Month: December, 2010

Fried wild rice with toasted pecans

While I love nothing better than spending an entire snowy day in the kitchen, there are many days (most in fact) when that just isn’t possible. On those days, it’s nice to have something relatively easy to throw together – something which manages to be both healthy and delicious. This recipe is just one such of those easy-to-throw-together concoctions, and as I imagine life might be as hectic and busy for you as it has been for me lately, I thought I’d share it with you.

Fried wild rice with toasted pecans

This is a festive and wintry take on the Asian classic. Wild rice is actually not a grain at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass growing in the lakes of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan (one of two native grains to the US). If you don’t have wild rice, you are welcome to use a jasmine brown rice instead – but I highly encourage you to try out the wild. The nutty flavor and chewy, toothsome  texture is quite divine – plus it contains more protein, folate and vitamin E than brown rice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup wild rice, soaked overnight
  • ghee, olive oil or sesame oil for cooking
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
  • 1.5 cups finely sliced cabbage
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1 small head of bok choi, thinly sliced
  • 4 eggs, beaten well with a generous pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup  toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup tamari, or to taste
  • Bean sprouts, to garnish
  • Hot sauce, to taste

To Make:

  1. Place the rice in a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups of water and a dash of fat (olive oil, ghee, sesame oil, etc). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 35-40 minutes, or until the rice is tender and some of the grains have begun to burst open. Strain off any excess water.
  2. While the rice is cooking, place the pecans on a baking tray, and roast in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, or until golden and fragrant with a nice toasty aroma.
  3. Next, cook up your eggs. Heat a generous tablespoon of fat in a large frying pan. When a droplet of water splashed in sizzles nicely, pour in the beaten eggs. Tip the pan so the eggs spread all the way out to the edge of the pan, and then let cook for a minute. When the edges begin to set, gently pull them towards the middle to allow the runnier parts to escape to the edges. Continue this process until the top of the egg is mostly cooked, and then gently flip the whole thing over and cook for another 30 seconds or so to give the top a final sear. Remove to a cutting board, and slice into thin segments, then chop the segments into small pieces (about 1 inch long). 
  4. In a wok or large frying pan, heat 2 heaping tablespoons of fat. Once you can get a nice sizzle when you splash in a droplet of water, add your onions and ginger and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add in the rest of the vegetables, cooking until they become brightly colored and are just barely softened – you really want to retain a nice bit of crispness. 
  5. Add in the rice, pecans and egg, and cook for a good 5 minutes to let the flavors meld together.
  6. Add the sesame oil and tamari to the pan along with a nice grinding of black pepper. Let the flavors meld for a minute or two, and then check for seasonings, adding more tamari, sesame oil or pepper as you see fit.
  7. Serve in wide, shallow bowls with a garnish of pea sprouts on top and a bottle of hot sauce on the table for flavoring.

A few herbal inspired holiday gift ideas

The holidays are nearly upon us. I have to admit that I still have much to do in terms of gift making, but one more day spent busily working away in the kitchen should just about do it. While most years, I make elaborate plans to make my own gifts and then fail miserably, running around last-minute in a semi-crazed state – this year I am bound and determined to succeed. I have been busy these last few weeks testing recipes, eating the mistakes, and getting things just right. Here are my favorites so far:

Orangette Lip Balm

Have you every had orangette – that lovely French treat of candied orange peel dipped in chocolate? Well if you have, and even if you haven’t, I think you can appreciate the beauty of this orange scented lip balm that contains ACTUAL dark chocolate..

Ingredients:

  • 40 ml castor oil
  • 30 ml macadamia nut or sweet almond oil
  • 15 grams beeswax
  • 15 grams cocoa butter
  • 10 grams organic dark chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 20 drops orange essential oil

Directions:

In a double boiler over very low heat, melt the oils, beeswax, cocoa butter and chocolate. Take off the heat and add the essential oil, stirring rapidly for 30 seconds or so to incorporate. Pour into tins or tubes, cap and let the mixture set until firm before moving.

Vanilla Chai Honey

All the delicious spiciness of chai packed into a jar of honey. Just a spoonful stirred into a cup of hot water and you have instant chai – that delicious, warming drink just perfect for a chilly winters night. Of course, nobody has to know if you just go ahead and eat it by the spoonful…

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups raw, organic honey
  • 1/4 cup powdered cardamom
  • 1/4 cup powdered cinnamon
  • 1/8-1/4 cup powdered ginger, depending on spice level preferred
  • 1 tbs powdered cloves
  • 1 tbs powdered mace
  • 1 tbs vanilla powder
  • 1 tsp black ground black pepper

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well blended. The mix should be fairly thick, like a thick frosting. Add more honey if you need to – as some honeys are thicker than others.

Edible Gingerbread Ornaments with Rosehip Sprinkles

While not exactly a gift per say, these ornaments make a delicious, fun and affordable way to decorate your tree. They also make great favors for guests (especially of the little kind), who can select their favorites from the tree and nibble away at leisure. They also give off the most delightful spicy fragrance as they hang from the tree…

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 heaped tablespoons molasses
  • 1 eggyolk
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • 1 tbs ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3-4 tbs milk
  • 1 cup rose hips pieces

 

 

 

 

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the molasses and the egg yolk.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Break open the cardamom pods and crush the seeds slightly under the weight of the knife. Add to the mix.

Combine everything together by adding the dry ingredients into the wet. Stir well, adding in the milk a tablespoon at a time until you’ve reached a point where you can clump the dough together in your hands and roll it out easily.

Roll the dough onto a lightly floured board to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes and lay on a parchment lined baking tray.  Sprinkle with the rose hips, and bake about 12-14 minutes, or until risen and golden. Once out of the oven, use a chopstick to poke a hole into each ornament, making sure to poke all the way through the cookie.  Cool on a wire rack, and then string with ribbon or twine for hanging.


Surviving the holiday stress

Brigitte over at My Herb Corner is hosting an herbal blog party this month called “No Time for Stress”, and I just couldn’t resist joining in. I admit, my reasons might be slightly selfish – I have been a bit stressed lately with all the hustle and bustle of holiday parties, travel plans, and classes to teach – and in writing this blog I am hoping to remind myself of all the strategies I should be using to cope with the added stress. In other words, I need a great big dose of my own medicine.

It’s just such a conundrum this time of year. The darkness beckons us inwards, begs us to rest and dream as the earth herself is doing, and yet, our social and work lives seem to ask just the opposite. While the sense of festivity and the bringing together of friends and family is a wonderful thing to warm our spirits during the darkest part of the year – I do find myself getting worn thin by resisting that call for rest and introspection.

Of course, the obvious answer to this problem is to seek a balance.  Make time for resting and putting the feet up by the ol’ fire by letting some of the party obligations go, maybe even deciding to spend a bit less on holiday presents this year so you can spend more time with your family and yourself. But I know that is easier said than done, so I am sharing a few tips with you for remaining sane throughout the holiday chaos, if (and only if)  you promise that you will at least try to find some down time. Do you really promise? (I’ll know if you’re crossing your fingers….). Ok, if you promise, then read on:

Tip #1: Have a nice cup of tea

I’m not sure if my grandmother ever actually made me a cup of tea, but for some reason I always imagine her offering me one when I’m in a tizzy. Her voice, tinkly as a bell and worn as an old shoe, pops into my head and says, “Now, now dear. Why not sit down and have a nice cup of tea?”

I’m not sure if she’s coming through from the other world, or if my mind has just chosen her as the most effective messenger, but I always listen when I hear the advice, and it always works its magic. You’ll know that tea drinking is my preferred method of experiencing herbs – you can read pages and pages about it here – but suffice it to say that there is some magic in the process of preparing a steaming cup of fragrant, herb infused liquid. The preparation in and of itself is part of the medicine. It tricks you into slowing down, just a little, and finding a moment to catch up with yourself.

I like to use herbs that are nourishing and strengthening in my daily stress blend, herbs known traditionally as nerve tonics:

Milky Oats: The very same type of oats you put in your breakfast pot, milky oats are just harvested earlier in the season with the groat is still green and exudes a delicious milky sap. Full of B vitamins and minerals that nourish and strengthen the nervous system, great for those who are depleted from chronic stress, anxiety, and over-work.

Skullcap: Skullcap helps to calm the nervous system and quiet the mind – putting a cap all those thoughts flying in and out of the brain. Skullcap, like oats, is best used before, during and after stressful events, because it works by rebuilding and strengthening – rather than having a strong acute action. Good for those who get tension headaches and tight muscles when stressed.

Tulsi: Also known as Holy Basil, tulsi is revered in India. They love it so much that almost every household keeps a plant in their courtyard, lovingly tended and worshiped by the woman of the house.  It reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, modulates blood sugar, calms anxiety and alleviates depression, while also boosting immune function and acting as a strong antioxidant. Whew!  All that, and it also tastes divine.

Lemon Balm: Calming, uplifting, and soothing to the digestive tract, as well as deliciously lemony tasting. Great for anyone who experiences digestive upset when stressed, or for those who feel a little blue this time of year.

Hawthorn leaf and flower: Traditionally known as a heart tonic, hawthorn also supports and soothes the nervous system – working on that mysterious intersection of heart and mind. Energetically, it fortifies the heart and provides a sense of protection and strength during stressful and emotionally trying times. Especially good for those with stress related high blood pressure.

Lavender: Incredibly soothing to the nervous system – helping to reduce anxiety and quiet the mind. Especially helpful for insomnia.

Linden: The delicious smelling June flowers from an ancient and noble tree, the linden flowers are soothing and sedative, helping to promote sleep and quiet an anxious, worried mind. Also good for those whose blood pressure spikes during stressful times.

Tip #2: Adapt with “Adaptogens”

Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help normalize the stress response and enhance resistance to a wide range of stressors on the body. They bring the body back to a place of balance, no matter what the direction of imbalance might be (which is amazing and profound) , while nourishing and enhancing the vitality of the body.

Here are some of my favorites:

Ashwagandha: Adaptogenic, building and calming to the nervous system, a perfect remedy for those who are anxious, have trouble sleeping, and are also weakened and fatigued by chronic stress. Take a teaspoon of the powder in warm milk at bedtime to promote restful sleep.

Eleuthero: Also known as Siberian ginseng, Eleuthero has been long studied by the Russians for its ability to enhance physical and mental endurance and strengthen the immune system. Great for those who tend to get sick when worn down, or for those who get fatigued easily when stressed.

Reishi: Known as the mushroom of immortality, reishi is said in Chinese medicine to, “calm disturbed shen.” Shen roughly translates as spirit – and symptoms of its disturbance include insomnia, heart palpitations, mental agitation, and sadness. Balances the immune system – whether deficient or over-active, protects the liver from damage, and normalizes the cardiovascular system.

Rhodiola: A rosy smelling root that improves memory and enhances alertness, reduces anxiety and symptoms of depression, protects from radiation and improves immunity. Read more about it in my rhodiola post.

Schisandra: Known as the 5-flavored fruit, the bright red berries are something straight out of Harry Potter – tasting first sour, then sweet, and progressing through salty and astringent with a distinctive ending of bitter. Protects the liver (great for all those holiday cocktails), strengthens the immune system, and enhances alertness and concentration while relieving anxiety, heart palpitations and insomnia.

Tip #3: Don’t forget to breathe

I once read that when taking deep breaths, it is nearly impossible physiologically to experience anxiety. Try it for yourself: take a breath, and pull the air all the way into your abdomen – hold it there a moment – and then slowly, slowly exhale the air through your nose. How do you feel?

When we are stressed, we tend to breathe shallowly, which predisposes us to heart palpitations, foggy thinking and fatigue when our blood is not properly oxygenated. Simply remembering to breathe fully can go a long way to remedying these symptoms – and automatically moves our nervous system out of sympathetic fight or flight mode – and into a calm state.

Exercising is also an important part of breathing deeply, oxygenating the blood and helps to diffuse the impact of stress hormones on the body. So while it is all to easy to nix your exercise routine when schedules become hectic and time seems scarce, try to at least get out for 15 – 20 minutes of brisk walking each day. Sacrificing those 15 minutes will enhance your energy, uplift your mood, reduce stress and increase mental concentration – well worth it, I should say.

Tip #4: Nourish your body

While sweet treats and glasses of wine may temporarily give you a lift and ease the stress – they will only worsen the problem in the long run by further depleting and stressing the nervous system. Instead, choose foods that are packed with the nutrients your nervous system and body needs to function optimally.

B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and vitamin C are all important for nervous system and adrenal health, as are omega 3 fatty acids. Complex carbohydrates and high quality proteins support energy levels, and prevent blood sugar dips that further stress your body, cause fatigue, and de-stabilize mood.

To ensure your body is receiving proper nutrition, include these foods in your daily diet:

  • High quality proteins such as cold water fish, pasture raised poultry and eggs, pasture raised meats, and legumes combined with nuts, seeds, or whole grains.
  • Dark leafy greens such as kale, collards, chard, parsley, turnip greens, pok choi and broccoli.
  • B vitamin rich whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, millet, amaranth, barley, brown rice and buckwheat.
  • 5-7 servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables for antioxidant phytonutrients that protect against the effects of stress.
  • Calcium and magnesium rich foods such as and  sesame, almond, and pumpkin seeds, cultured dairy, and seaweeds.
  • Omega 3 rich foods such as salmon, sardines, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts.

And, lastly, don’t forget your promise to make some time for yourself to rest and go inwards, as the season requires. Otherwise, you are only bandaging up the problem rather than healing the root.

May you all have a wonderful, joyful, rejuvenating and relaxing holiday! And while stress is inevitable, may you adapt and move through it with ease and grace.