Monthly Archives: August 2013
It’s fig season!
Get figgy with it!
Tis the season to be figgy!
British cookery writer Elizabeth David once said, ““To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean.”
I love figs! I love eating fig off the tree!! I love fig preserves, seared figs, fig pastries, figs in salads, poached figs, and so on. Here’s one of my favorite and very simple fig recipes! Bon Appétit!
For the Crust:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening
- 4 Tablespoons ice water
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
For the Filling:
- 1 1/2 lbs mission figs (tips cut off and discarded quartered)
- 1/4 cup orange marmalade
- 2 Tbsp sugar
For the crust: Combine the sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter (or your clean hands) cut in the shortening to the mixture until coarse crumbly dough is formed.
In another small bowl, combine the ice water with the vinegar. Drizzle 1/3 over the water over the flour mixture and stir. Drizzle another 1/3 over the mixture and stir again. Drizzle the rest of the water over the dough and form a soft dough ball. If the mixture hasn’t come together, add another tablespoon of ice water. If it’s too wet, add a tablespoon of flour. Pat dough into disc shape. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Let sit in the fridge for an hour.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out dough to a 14-inch diameter round of even thickness. Place on a parchment or lined, rimmed baking dish.
Spread marmalade on the rolled out dough, leaving a 2-inch border along the edges. Arrange the quartered figs in a circular pattern, again leaving a 2-inch border. Sprinkle sugar over the figs.
Fold the 2-inch bordered edge of the crust over the figs, pleating the crust.
Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the fruit is bubbly.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Enjoy!
The word is a wonderful place, partly due to delicious sweet potatoes! There’s a gazillion and one ways to prepare them, and mashing them up into thick, creamy goodness is never a bad thing. The key to good mashed sweet potatoes is remembering we’re not making a sugar loaded, Thanksgiving style sweet potato casserole or soufflé. With this dish, it’s all about simple…concentrating solely on the tastiness and natural sweetness of the sweet potato. This three-ingredient dish, known as piele in Hawaii, is fabulously simple. Coconut milk—an occasional indulgence because of the saturated fat—contributes rich flavor. Be sure to try this simple recipe for your next dinner, picnic, or potluck! Have a “sweet” Tasty Thursday!
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, (about 3 medium)
- 3/4 cup “lite” coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places. Microwave on high until tender all the way to the center, about 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, place in a baking dish and bake at 425 F until tender all the way to the center, about 1 hour.
When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard skin. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a medium microwaveable bowl and mash thoroughly with a potato masher. Add coconut milk, ginger and salt; stir well. Reheat in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, or in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Garnish with green onion or basil. Serve warm.
You can also cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or oven just before serving.
Last week Gracie (our labrador retriever mix) and I got an invitation from WTTG FOX 5’s Annie Yu to join her live on the set of the FOX 5’s Morning News for a special “Pet Project” segment with animal communicator and psychic, Diane Roadcap. Gracie is an avid lover of everything water related…except baths! She loves swimming and playing in the ocean, rivers, and creeks…but will do whatever it takes to avoid a bath. Paul and I have always wondered why this is the case, so we gladly accepted the invitation in hopes that Diane could give us some insight as to Gracie’s thoughts and feelings. Amanda Marie Bowen and her 2-year old deaf Great Dane, Luna were also invited on the show. Of course some are probably skeptical about a pet psychic or any psychic for that matter…but I believe Diane had an amazing connection with Gracie, and I bet the same could be said by Amanda (the other segment guest) who brought Luna to have a reading as well.
Diane Roadcap’s website says, “As a child, Diane recognized that she had a deep spiritual connection with animals. Playing with a variety of animals in the wooded areas around her home outside of Washington, DC, she discovered that she could connect with them at a soul level. This connection was confirmed at age five when her dog Blackie telepathically warned her that a poisonous snake was dangerously close to biting her. She heeded his warning and slowly backed away before it could attack her. She continued to receive communications from animals and discovered that she could easily read their needs and wants, humor and insights, aches and ailments.”
While we were still in the green room, Diane already began reading our pets as well as Amanda and her family. She knew that Gracie had a smaller, older K9 companion at home which would describe our 11-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, Tabatha. She also mentioned another light-colored labrador which had passed away…of course I knew this was Heidi, a beautiful labrador who passed away when I was around 3-years old. “She wants you to know she’s standing next to you”, Diane exclaimed. I could have fallen out of my chair! She went very into depth reading Amanda, her family, Luna, and their pets at home which I won’t go into detail, as it’s not my place to tell about that very special moment.
Do you believe in psychics? As far back as I can remember, I have had ongoing contact and communication with human spirits who have passed away…family and strangers alike. To my knowledge, there’s nobody in my family who has this “gift.” Though the information given to me is often vague, it is something I’ve gotten used to and experience daily. So it makes perfect sense to me that people have an ability and “gift” to fully communicate with pets, both passed and living. But at the end of the day, we will believe what we know as truth and dismiss that which we don’t. For me, I believe!
Besides learning that Gracie doesn’t like to be in a confined areas…she’s a very happy dog. “She wouldn’t change a thing. She loves people…the more people she’s around, the more she loves life”, Diane affirmed.
Below is a video from the segment. Check it out!
As a massage therapist, I’ve used a variety of essential oils over the years with my clients as well as for myself. Essential oils, also called “essences”, are botanical extracts of various plant materials, and do not only originate from flowers, but from herbs, trees and various other plant material. Essential oils are used in a variety of ways, including the more common aromatherapy method (where the oil is absorbed through the skin) or vaporization (where the essential oil molecules enter the bloodstream via the lungs). However, essential oils are also used medicinally by treating a problematic are (topically) or even taken internally. I use essential oils in all of my massage oil mixtures, formulating the perfect combination for each individual client.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has a fresh, sweet, floral, herbaceous aroma that is soothing and refreshing. It is by far my favorite essential oil to use. Because it is the most versatile of all essential oils, no home should be without it. Lavender is an adaptogen, and can help the body when adapting to stress or imbalances. It is a great aid for relaxing and winding down before bedtime, yet has balancing properties that can also boost stamina and energy. Therapeutic-grade lavender is highly regarded for skin and beauty. It may also be used to soothe and cleanse common cuts, bruises, and skin irritations. The French scientist René Gattefossé was among the first to discover these properties when he was severely burned in a laboratory explosion. Lavender may also be used to enhance the flavor of foods.
Here’s 15 ways to use lavender essential oil to make your life more calm, balanced, and healthy!
- Aching Muscles
If you’ve spent a back-breaking afternoon in the garden, jump into a lavender bath to soothe aches & pains away. Apply Epsom salts & a few drops of lavender oil to the bath and soak away the tension.
Lavender is one of the most valuable oils for the treatment of acne, according to aromatherapists. “It inhibits the bacteria that cause the skin infection, helps to rebalance the over-secretion of sebum, which the bacteria thrive on, and reduce scarring”. Add a few drops of lavender oil to a plain cream sold by chemists and use as a moisturizer or cleanser.
- Bugs & Bacteria
French laboratory studies in the early 20th century showed that lavender is a powerful antibacterial in dilutions of 5 per cent or less it is lethal to bacteria that cause typhoid, TB & diphtheria. Combined with Lemon Balm, for its clinically tested anti-viral properties.
- Burns (minor)
After you have cooled the area by immersing it in running cold water for 5 minutes, gently stroke on neat lavender oil. Pain relief is almost immediate, and burn usually heals without scarring.
- Cuts & Wounds
Apply lavender oil to sooth pain, prevent bacterial infection and aid scar-free healing. Apply neat.
Warm a bottle of lavender oil in hot water for a minute or two, then gently massage a few drops into the skin around the ears and throat. For babies & small children, add 2-3 drops of the warmed oil to a little olive oil and massage in the same way.
Stroke infused lavender oil (a few drops of lavender oil & carrier oil) into dry, itchy skin – small children will find this especially comforting or add a few drops of lavender oil to calamine lotion, just remember to shake before use.
Add 5 drops of lavender oil to a hot foot bath and relax while your feet soak in it. The soles of the feet are particularly porous, so lavender reaches your bloodstream very quickly, exerting its stimulating and soothing effects on various systems of your body.
For babies or small children, sponge them down very gently with tepid water to which you have added a drop of lavender oil. Take care not to let them get chilled. This works for adults too.
- Giddy Spells, Faintness or Palpitations
Make your own smelling salts – sea salt , lavender oil, peppermint oil & basil oil.
Spray lavender mist (lavender oil and distilled water) around your head. It is highly refreshing and soothing. Alternatively, make a compress of a piece of cause or muslin soaked in icy cold water then sprinkled with a few drops of lavender oil and apply to the forehead, or massage a few drops into the forehead, temples and nape of the neck.
In a number of small studies, elderly psychiatric patients have been shown to sleep better and be more alert during the day when their sleep medication is replaced with lavender oil either dropped on their pillows, or placed in a diffuser on the ward. To help to induce sleep, put 3 or 4 drops of lavender oil on your pillow. For babies, add 1 drop of lavender oil & geranium oil in carrier oil and massage into a babies back or a few drops in their bedtime bath.
- Long-Haul Travel
Combine lavender, rosemary, frankincense & sage oils and rub into into your hand luggage. Also, be sure to roll it over your pulse points to help you keep a clear head during those endless hours in the air.
- Menstrual & Tummy Cramps
Massage a few drops of lavender oil into your lower abdomen or apply a hot compress onto the area, which a little lavender oil has been sprinkled.
- Moths & Mosquitoes
These annoying little insects all hate the smell of lavender. To prevent bites, splash yourself with lavender mist (lavender oil and distilled water) before you go out at sunset or to bed, put 3-4 drops of oil on your pillow or soak cotton ball in the oil and leave it on a saucer in front of the window. Lavender oil is also a terrific remedy for insect bites, soothing itching & inflammation: dab it on to them neat as soon as possible. To keep moths off your clothes, hand lavender bags on you coat hangers or keep them among your sweaters and refresh them with a drop or two of lavender oil from time to time.
This infestation by a tiny mite burrowing into your skin causes intense itching. Rub the whole body with neat lavender oil, then following every day until better with a mixture of lavender oil and alcohol. Change and wash bedding and clothes and sprinkle lavender oil on the mattress.
Combine a mix of lavender oil with, analgesic, antiviral & scar preventing essential oils neat or on compresses on the agonizing lesions of shingles. It usually produces a cure within 5-8 days.
Lavender is one of several essential oils that aromatherapists recommend for inhalations to relieve sinusitis, add two drops of lavender & thyme oil to a bowl of near-steaming water and inhale slowly and deeply, with a towel over your head & bowl.
- Stress & Anxiety
Keep a small spray bottle of lavender mist (lavender oil and distilled water) – handy to spray on your face during the day, or apply lavender oil neat to your temples.
Spray lavender mist (lavender oil and distilled water) directly onto the skin or Add 8 drops of lavender oil and 4 drops of peppermint oil to a teaspoon of jojoba oil. Pour it into a cool-to-lukewarm bath and soak for 10 minutes.
A police officer sees a man driving around with a pickup truck full of sea otters. He turns on his lights and pulls the guy over saying, “you can’t drive around with sea otters in this town! Take them to the zoo immediately.” The guy says “OK”… and drives away. The next day, the officer sees the guy still driving around with the truck full of sea otters, and they’re all wearing sun glasses. He pulls the guy over and with anger asks, “I thought I told you to take these otters to the zoo yesterday?” The guy replies., “I did . . . today I’m taking them to the beach!”
*insert rimshot here*
Last night I came home from my book club and watched an amazingly interesting documentary with Paul, National Geographic: Big Sur – Wild California. For those of you who have been to Big Sur will know that this part of California’s Central Coast is home to one of the most incredibly diverse ecosystems on Earth. Here, nature and wildlife have evolved in drastic ways to survive. Big Sur is home to many unique species of wildlife including the highly endangered California Condors, San Joaquin Kit Fox, California Sea Lions, California Tiger Salamanders, and of course the California Sea Otters.
Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) are an aquatic member of the weasel family. They spend most of their time in the water, which is easy to do when you have webbed feet, nostrils and ears that close in the water, and water-repellent fur to keep them dry and warm. Sea Otters are meticulously clean! After eating, they wash themselves in the ocean, cleaning their coat with their teeth and paws. They have good reason to take care of their coats, as it helps them to stay waterproof and insulated against the cold. Unlike seals, sea otters don’t have insulating fat (blubber) to keep them warm in frigid 35 -60 degree ocean waters. They have air-bubble-trapping fur – the densest fur of any animal on Earth. Each square inch of their bodies are covered with 600,000 to 1,000,000 hairs. An entire human head has only about 100,000 hairs!
Sea otters often float at the water’s surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. Otters sometimes float in forests of kelp, or giant seaweed, where they entangle themselves to provide anchorage in the swirling sea.
These aquatic otters do more than sleep while floating on their backs. They are often seen with a clam or mussel and a rock that has been deftly snared from the ocean floor. Otters will place the rock on their chests, and repeatedly smash the shellfish against it until it breaks open to reveal the tasty meal inside. They also dine on aquatic creatures, such as sea urchins, crabs, squid, octopuses, and fish.
Sea Otters are the only otters to give birth in the water. Mothers nurture their young while floating on their backs. They hold infants on their chests to nurse them, and quickly teach them to swim and hunt.
The California Sea Otter survived a close brush with extinction early in the 20th century, but today, under protection of the Endangered Species Act, they’re expanding their range and increasing their numbers. By the 1930’s, most people believed that this subspecies of sea otter had vanished, wiped out by fur traders who coveted its rich pelt. In 1938, however, a small group of otters were discovered living near the mouth of Bixby Creek along California’s Big Sur coast. From those few survivors, the otter has increased its numbers to more than 2,000 today. Growth has been particularly impressive during the past decade, when otter numbers increased by nearly 50%!
Conservation works! If we can see such a population increase with such an enchanting species, Sea Otters should inspire us to be advocates for other Ocean dwelling and dependent species which remain gravely endangered. Change begins with us!
Have an “otterly” wonderful Friday!
Sometimes deciding what to make for dinner after a long day at work can be as task in itself…not to forget the side dishes which will accompany that meal! Perhaps you have an invitation to a dinner party or a potluck and need a quick and simple dish to whip up at the last-minute.
Nothing says “yummy” like a fresh and unique salad, especially during the summertime! As wonderful as a salad made with fresh greens is, I sometimes like to use a fresh vegetable as a salad base. Not only does it offer a more crisp texture, but it’s more filling as well. My fiancé and I had an abundance of broccoli that we bought from the farmer’s market that we needed to use up. So he came up with this simple and delicious salad which we ate as a side dish with grilled veggie burgers.
- 12 ounces fresh broccoli crowns
- 3/4 cup Vegenaise®
- 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/8 cup red wine
- 2 Tablespoons organic coconut palm sugar
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- salt and pepper to taste
Break apart 8 ounces of the broccoli crowns. Finely chop 4 ounces of the broccoli crowns using a food processor.
In a bowl, whisk together Vegenaise®, red wine vinegar, red wine, and organic coconut palm sugar. Combine the finely chopped broccoli crowns to the dressing mixture. Fold mixture into the remaining broccoli with the slivered almonds and dried cranberries. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately or chill for more flavor.
For most of us, a trip to the beach can best be described as relaxing and therapeutic. According to Trip Advisor’s 2013 Top 25 Destinations in the World, 14 locations are seaside and 20 locations are seaside or along a major waterway. There is no denying that we are balanced by water, whether that be an ocean, bay, river, or lake. But for many of us, when we think of the greatest relaxing vacation, we think of a tropical beach oasis. Destinations like Maui, Bora Bora, St. Lucia, Belize, and the Fiji Islands are just some of those popular names that come to mind when you think of aqua blue waters, reef life, warm sands, and tropical air.
Have you noticed an increase of saltwater marine aquariums in public locations? Perhaps you’ve seen them at a clinic, restaurant, hotel, spa, or maybe even a classroom? Aquarium Therapy is not new concept, but it is constantly studied and growing with high popularity!
Most people who watch a tank with fish will feel a calming effect, therefore reducing stress. At Purdue University, researchers discovered that displaying tanks with brightly colored fish helped to curtail disruptive behaviors and improve eating habits of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. It helps to boost physical and mental health. It was shown to help create bonding and a positive attitude. Studies have shown that seniors who were given the opportunity to view aquariums with fish had significant blood pressure reduction as well as cholesterol. Children, when visiting a doctor’s office, were found to be much calmer, especially children who suffered from hyperactivity disorders. Dental patients watching a fish tank required less pain medication. It also helps in reducing insomnia and persons coping with obesity. How awesome is this?
My fiancé and I have two saltwater marine aquariums filled with various fish, invertebrates, and corals. Contrary to popular belief, we find saltwater aquariums to be be more easy to maintain than freshwater…and not to mention more stunning, beautiful, and therapeutic. What I find so awesome about a saltwater marine aquarium (particularly a reef tank) is how organic the system is. When properly maintained; your aquarium becomes its own ecosystem. This is maintained through bacterias, diversity of species, live rock, live sand, etc. No unnatural chemicals are needed!
Another added benefit to aquariums are their incorporation into feng shui design. It is believed that moving water brings prosperity and good luck to a home or office. Aquariums are great feng shui enhancements because they are at the same time soothing and energizing. The sound and motion of gurgling water activates chi and adds humidity to a dry room, helping to balance chi. Moving water gets things going when the chi has been stagnant for a while (think of ice melting in the spring). Use moving water cures anywhere you want to enhance water or wood energy.
As amazing as this all is, any aquarium still requires learned knowledge, experience, time, money, and patience. After all, your marine life are all pets and should be treated with the proper respect and care that every pet has the right to. It is also very important to purchase and trade your marine life with reputable dealers and passionate and ethically driven marine enthusiasts. Marine life should never be harvested from the oceans!