Monday, September 24, 2018

Beautifying Nettle, Horsetail, and Dandelion Tea

I wrote this post in the Spring of 2018 in collaboration with the lovely hair artist, Roxie Jane Hunt. Be sure to continue reading below to see the recipe for this foraged tea and also how Roxie braided fresh nettle leaves into my hair. Yes, I actually said that. Enjoy!

It is the time of year in the Pacific Northwest when the earth is waking from her winter slumber and vibrant green medicinal wild plants are once again emerging from the soil. This is the time of year that our skin and hair crave and need extra nutrients from mineral-rich green plants to restore vibrancy and shine. Of course, you can go to your local apothecary, health-food store, or the internet to purchase dried forms of these medicinal herbs. But something must be said for the potency of the medicine that is growing right outside our front door.

Responsible foraging can be a wonderful way to connect with the earth and the medicine she provides for our bodies to thrive. When gathering edible plants, some important rules apply. First, be sure you are using a field guide written for your particular bioregion so you are identifying plants correctly. Always be sure you are gathering from areas that are not sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, or other pollutants. Steer clear of areas where dogs frequent, so avoid harvesting too close to a pet-friendly trail. Always make sure the plants you are foraging are not endangered and be sure to harvest in a way that is not harmful to their population. Only pick what you plan to use. And finally, one of my favorite grounding practices is to always ask permission from the plant before harvesting. If permission is granted, offer a statement of gratitude to the plant for all of the medicine it provides.
Nettle, dandelion, and horsetail make up this herbal infusion, or tea, and grow in abundance in many bioregions throughout the world. These herbs are considered weeds or pests by many, yet they are indeed powerful medicine and offer amazing benefits for hair and skin health. I can personally attest to the hair-growing and skin-glowing properties of nettle alone. I drink fresh nettle tea regularly and my goodness, it is hard to keep up with the rate of growth of my hair! Combine nettle with dandelion and horsetail, and you have a powerful beautifying trio of herbs...
Continue reading for the recipe for Beautifying Herbal Tea on Roxie's blog and to see my hair braided with fresh nettle leaves.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Homegrown Tomato Soup

I grew tomatoes in my garden last year for the very first time. I remember going to the local plant nursery in late spring and spending literally hours agonizing over which tomato plant varieties I should buy for the newly constructed raised bed in our backyard. Would I want lots of cherry or grape tomatoes? Red ones or yellow ones? Green zebra striped heirlooms or San Marzanos? Beefsteak or Roma? I wanted them all, but I knew we only had room for about eight plants. And so, I settled on eight little plants whose tags promised varying sizes, shapes, and colors of tomatoes come late summer.
Fast forward through a summer filled with lots of watering, staking, pruning, mulching, stressing over, and fawning over those tomato plants to now. In late autumn, my tomato plants were just about done producing fruit for the season. I cannot say for sure if I think my crop yield was worth all of my time, money, effort, worries, and love I put into those plants. But what I can say is that the satisfaction of making this roasted tomato soup using all of my very own homegrown tomatoes certainly was.
Use any variety of tomatoes you have for this soup. Big ones, little ones, pretty ones, or ugly ones. They can be super ripe or not quite ripe yet. You can’t really go wrong. Instead of adding cream or milk (like many tomato soup recipes do), this recipe uses the addition of creamy, protein-rich cannellini beans. So for all you dairy-free folks, this one is a keeper. And do make the garlicky croutons. It’s totally worth the extra few minutes.
Roasted Tomato Soup with Garlicky Croutons
serves 4
For the Soup:
4 pounds of tomatoes in various sizes
1 large yellow onion
8-10 garlic cloves
olive oil
sea salt
1 14 oz can of cannellini beans
10 large leaves of fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1-2 cups (approximately) water or broth of choice
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the large tomatoes into wedges, the medium sized tomatoes in half, and leave cherry-sized tomatoes whole. Arrange them on parchment-lined baking sheets in a single layer. Peel and slice the onion and arrange the slices over the tomatoes. Peel the garlic cloves and add the whole cloves to the tomatoes and onion. Drizzle everything with olive oil, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and toss to coat everything. Bake in the oven for about an hour or more until the tomatoes start to get wrinkly and the onion is starting to caramelize a bit.
  2. When the tomatoes are nicely roasted, remove them from the oven and let them cool a bit. Transfer them to a soup pot, along with any juices that collected on the pans. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and add them to the pot, along with the basil leaves.
  3. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it is creamy, adding water or broth a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Taste and season with salt as needed. Bring soup back up to a simmer to warm it up and serve topped with croutons (recipe below), torn basil leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil.
For the Croutons:
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb seasoning
olive oil
sea salt
5 big slices of rustic whole grain sourdough bread (or other bread of choice) 
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop the garlic very finely and put it in a mixing bowl. Add the Italian seasoning, about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, and a generous pinch of sea salt. Stir to combine.
  2. Cut the bread into 1” cubes. Add them to the oil mixture in the bowl and toss to evenly coat the bread.
  3. Arrange the oiled bread cubes on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Grate Parmesan cheese over the cubes to give them a nice dusting. Bake them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, tossing them halfway through the cooking time to promote even toasting. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before adding them to the soup.

Braised Fennel with Saffron and Tomato

I'll never forget the time I met Deborah Madison. She was on her book tour for Vegetable Literacy in Seattle and I got to hear her speak and get my book signed. Her books hold special places in my heart and are well-loved. It's amazing how many ways she can create beautiful new vegetable recipes that still manage to inspire after all her years of recipe development. Truly, an inspiration. This dish is such a special one.  Lovingly braising the fennel brings out so much flavor and aroma. It is my absolute favorite way to prepare fennel.  Top it with a poached egg or two to make it a beautiful meal.

Braised Fennel with Saffron and Tomato (from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison)

2 large fennel bulbs (I used 3 smaller ones)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp fennel seeds
good pinch of  saffron threads
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 clove garlic, crushed (I actually used 5 cloves of chopped garlic in this...I'm a garlic lover)
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 handful fennel greens or flat-leaf parsley

1. Trim off the stalks and greens from the fennel bulbs. (Mince the greens for a garnish. If there are none, you can use parsley.) If the outer thick leaves of the bulbs look tough and scarred, as they often do, take a slice off the base to loosen them and set them aside for another use (like fennel stock, which I'll be posting about next!)

2. Halve each bulb lengthwise and cut the halves into wedges about 1 1/2 inches at the widest part.

3. Heat the olive oil in a wide sauté pan (I used my gorgeous new Dutch oven that I got for my birthday) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and fennel seeds, crumble in the saffron and thyme and then cook until the steam releases the color from the saffron, after several minutes.

4. Add the fennel wedges and cook them until golden, turning them and the onions occasionally. Once they are well colored, add the garlic, stir in the tomato paste and then add the stock and 1 teaspoon salt.

5. Scrape the pan to release the juices, then cover and simmer until the fennel is tender, another 15 minutes. Before serving, stir in the butter and taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Avocado Toast: 3 Ways!

Avocado toast is one of life’s simple pleasures, and it also happens to be super easy to make and very healthy, too. Avocados are packed with potassium (more than in a banana) and vitamins and have been shown to help reduce inflammation. Here, I use the fruit to make toast three different ways, transforming a simple snack into a feast for senses. So the next time you have some ripe avocados on hand, try one (or all) of these variations.

For Tomato and Hemp Seed Toast:
1/2 medium avocado
1 slice of whole wheat bread (or bread of your choice)
3 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley)

  1. Toast the bread. While the bread is toasting, mash the avocado in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. 
  2. When the bread is done toasting, top with the mashed avocado. Sprinkle with hemp seeds, chopped herbs, and tomato halves. Serve at once.

For Radish and Sprout Toast
1/2 medium avocado
1 slice of whole wheat bread (or bread of your choice)
1 small radish, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons microgreens or fresh sprouts

  1. Toast the bread. While the bread is toasting, mash the avocado in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. 
  2. When the bread is done toasting, top with the mashed avocado. Top with radish slices and micro greens or sprouts. Serve at once.

For Smoked Salmon Toast
1/2 medium avocado
1 slice of whole wheat bread (or bread of your choice)
2 thin slices of smoked salmon
1 teaspoon of sour cream
1 teaspoon capers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill


  1. Toast the bread. While the bread is toasting, mash the avocado in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. 
  2. When the bread is done toasting, top with the mashed avocado. Top with smoked salmon and small dollops of sour cream. Sprinkle with capers and fresh dill. Serve at once.

Pazole Verde and Embracing the Tomatillo

For the longest time, I was intimidated by the tomatillo. I regularly shied away from it at the market. It just wasnt a vegetable I was very familiar with. Something about those papery skins turned me off. It seemed like a vegetable that probably didnt taste all that good since, to me, it looked like it was never ripe. It wasnt until I realized that salsa verde, that pleasantly refreshing condiment at my favorite Mexican restaurant, was made from those pretty green vegetables that always show up at the farmers market this time of year. 

I was determined to make something with this new-to-me vegetable in my own kitchen. Soon after, this soup was born. And it has become one of my favorites. Im already coming up with other ways to use the tomatillo because it is my new best friend.
Pasole Verde (serves 4 generously)
 1 cup dried hominy (alternatively, you may use 1 can of prepared hominy)
olive oil
2 onions
12 tomatillos, papery skins removed
1 jalapeño, deseeded
8 cloves of garlic 
1/2 teaspoon cumin
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 large bunch cilantro
For garnish:
avocado, radish, cotija or feta cheese, crumbled tortilla chips, lime, chopped cilantro

  1. Soak the hominy in plenty of water the night before you plan to make the soup. When youre ready to prepare the soup, drain and rinse the soaked hominy and put in a pot with enough water to cover by two inches. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the hominy is tender and most of the kernels have bloomed open. This could take up to an hour.  Reserve the cooking water to use as the broth in the soup. *Note: Skip this step if you are using canned hominy. In which case, just strain and rinse the hominy and set aside
  2. Chop the onions, tomatillos, jalapeño, and garlic. In a large pot over medium heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onion with a pinch of salt until its beginning to soften. Add the tomatillos and jalapeño. Stir occasionally until the tomatillos begin to soften, about 7 minutes or so. Add the garlic, cumin, and enough pasole cooking water to just cover the vegetables. *Note: If using canned pasole, use water or broth of your choice in place of the cooking liquid.
  3. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it is almost smooth. Bring the pureed soup back to a simmer and add the chicken thighs. Cover and cook 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Turn the chicken once or twice during that time to encourage even cooking.
  4. While the soup simmers, chop the cilantro finely. You may also include chopped cilantro stems, as well. When the chicken is cooked through, remove the thighs from the pot and shred or cut them into small pieces. Return the chicken to the pot, along with the chopped cilantro and the strained hominy. Stir well to combine and allow the cilantro to wilt a bit. If the soup is too thick, add more cooking liquid, water, or broth to your desired consistency. Taste and add salt as needed.
  5. Serve the soup garnished with avocado, cilantro, sliced radish, lime, cotija cheese, and crumbled tortilla chips.