« December 2010 | Main | February 2011 »

January 2011

Sunday Lunch and Simple Gifts!

 

   This article of mine was originally published by my favorite fragrance blog  www.perfumesmellinthings.com. You can read the original Foodie Sunday posting of this article here !
 
MacCheese
Last week, I got the most unexpected and amazing gift. It wasn’t diamonds, perfume , pearls or even a new Le Creuset casserole, but actually it was even better because I learned that there is nothing as wonderful as the gift of some quality time alone with yourself ! Most of you know that my son Alex has been living in California for the last couple of years and has finally returned home to Cleveland. He made the first part of his move in November, packing up his truck with all of his worldly possessions and making the long drive back across the country, but he still left a condo full of furniture to be put into storage out there, awaiting the day that we would return to arrange it in a lovely new California home . Needless to say, with the addition of his two extra cats, and periodically his lovely girlfriend and Leo my grandpuppy, the house has been fabulously full of life but anything but quiet.

Last week, Alex and his father returned to California to finish the job and drive the last car home , leaving me to myself for about 5 days. Now I’ve been married for almost 30 years and truthfully I’ve never been without Jim for that long , at the most we’ve been apart a couple of days here and there but never 5 totally uninterrupted days. I actually planned it out because I was fairly sure that I’d be really lonely. Well, it turns out that I needn’t have worried. I spent that five days relaxing, cocooned in my home , drinking endless cups of tea, writing and lounging, cooking and reading and generally just enjoying my life in a way that you can only do when you have yourself for company and the environment is as peaceful as this was. I had tons of new perfume samples to enjoy and plenty of time to allow them to unfold. I went out to barn and rode my horse and every evening I had wonderful dinner plans with friends that I don’t get to see as quite as often as I’d like to. I came home happy and well fed and fell between the sheets every night with three snoring cats and my dog at the foot of the bed , clad in my most comfortable nightgowns….horrid, raggedy old flannel things with holes in them, plenty of magazines, cookbooks and more than enough Fracas to keep me warm!

Although I enjoyed my “vacation” immensely , I couldn’t make a habit of it because by the time my darling husband was on his way home, I missed him so much that I could barely stand it. When he called me to say that they’d be in Cleveland by 10:00 am Sunday morning I was ecstatic. He and Alex had a incredible journey of their own, leaving San Diego late Thursday night and stopping in Scottsdale, Boulder and then driving straight through the long snowy night , stopping only for gas, food and bare necessity. The only drawback was that they overestimated their ability to find good food on the endless stretches of snow covered highway and by Sunday when they rolled in they were famished. You can only imagine the joy I felt when on Saturday evening after having Slim Jims, M and M’s and Subway and endless liters of Pepsi for dinner they called me form Nebraska to announce that the only thing that they wanted when they got home was a hot home cooked lunch!

Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m cold, tired and starving all I can think about is comfort food , which for me translates to anything really rich and cheesy with a garnish of carbs. I thought about it for a moment and set off to make a huge casserole of macaroni and cheese with smoked chicken , laced with endless pockets of creamy smoked gouda , scallions and cream.

Macaroni and Cheese seems to have made a huge comeback over the last few years, not that for me it ever went out of style, but it seems that everywhere I eat there there’s another variation to be enjoyed. This stuff is not like your mothers Mac and Cheese or even Stouffers which I must admit in my weakest moments I still crave! This Mac and Cheese is the stuff of foodie dreams , topped with lobster or pulled pork, Jalapenos or chicken, and even a variation that I’ve seen with grilled steak which I must be honest and say I found a little bit odd. For my family I settled on my favorite variations, which is basically pasta that I fold into a Bechamel sauce that I’ve enriched with tons of cheese and seasonings and topped with a buttered crumb crust laced with toasted pecans.

I adore a smoky flavor and scent in almost anything , so I figured that I would stir in shreds of smoked chicken breast to add a bit of extra flavor. Well, by the time they arrived the house smelled incredible, filled with the rich warm scent of onions, subtle smokiness and melting cheese. I’d set the table and made a salad for each of us, a simple bit of fresh mixed greens laced with a honeyed dressing and a bit of red onion and spoonfuls of the huge blackberries that my husband and son both love and that I usually try to resist buying at this time of the year for all kinds of political and socio - economic reasons. I brought out the casserole and we sat down at the table to eat, enjoying for one brief moment in time the family that we once were, happy to be together again yet knowing that the next bit of time would be one of more transition as Alex navigates his way through the strange spirals of impending adulthood.

The three of us sat together for a long contented while just happy to be in others company and then Jim and I went upstairs and climbed into bed for a bit of a winters nap and a wee bit of alone time. It was bliss. I fell asleep nestled in my husbands arms watching the snow pile up outside. There were no cats allowed and definitely not the raggedy nightgown. There was however more than a little bit of Fracas…...

Many have asked me for this recipe and I’ll try to share it here although I must admit I’m not much for measuring. I’m a “pinch of this; a cup of that” type of cook and I’m always adjusting as I go. But I promise you that if you can learn to make a good cream sauce, that you can make any type of Mac and Cheese that you like. Here’s my tried and true recipe which was my mothers tried and true recipe. I promise that it’s the only one that you’ll ever need.

For one cup of Bechamel sauce you will need:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups organic half and half, heated
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the roux cooks and bubbles a bit, but don't let it brown — about 2 minutes. Add the hot half and half, continuing to whisk as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a slow boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more as it thickens. Remove from the heat.

Now that you have at least 6 cups of this yummy cream sauce (you should always have more than you think that you need!), all you need to do is season it however you like. For this particular mac and cheese I used garlic, fresh dill, sautéed onions, scallions and lots of chopped chive. Then I stirred in a box of cooked penne pasta, lots of shredded smoked chicken breast and a bag of shredded cheddar and muenster cheese. Then I added about 3 cups of cubed smoked gouda cheese and stirred it all together and folded the whole thing into a buttered casserole. For the topping I used my favorite standby, nothing fancy, just several cups of seasoned Italian bread crumbs sautéed in lots of melted butter with toasted pecan pieces mixed in. Just sprinkle the buttered crumb mixture on the top of the casserole and bake the whole thing for about 30 minutes until it’s bubbly and golden. I love to serve this with a simple salad and a glass of really good ale and anything’s better eaten in the company of those you adore , candlelight, a roaring fireplace and a couple of fat lazy cats!

So now I’m curious....When you’re craving food to comfort you body and soul, what do you eat?

 


It's true! You CAN be allergic to the cold! How to beat those midwinter blues!

 

2003_0507Flagstaff0062

If you're anything like me , once the holidays are over you begin to experience that bit of sun deprived depression, commonly known as SAD. I swore for years that I didn't suffer from this fairly common malady, but my husband did so I learned everything that could to try to help him. I can even remember one funny day around 20 years ago when in a fit of despair I changed almost every light in the house to grow lights. You know what? It worked and as strange as it seemed, he became cheerier! 

I've had to face facts though and finally realize that he's not the only one in the house who gets a bit stir crazy from the lack of light.  It helps if you can get away to a sunny climate for a bit, but my experiences with that have left me a bit topsy turvy and physically confused. There's something a bit disconcerting about putting yourself into an airplane and rearranging your molecules for a few hours to simply grab a bit of sunshine when your body's steeped in midwinter.  I tend to gage my responses to the natural world by the animals that I live with and right now, they're all hibernating. My cats, dogs and horses all beginning putting on a bit of extra fat in September and every one of them has an extra layer of fur, even the ones who never go outside. They nap all of the time and wake up naturally when they're hungry. What a life! The winter air is so still outside with only the occasional flutter of scarlet wings or the piercing cry of a hawk to remind me that spring will eventually return!

IMG_0615

I don't have the luxury that our animal companions do so over the years I've had to learn to cope with the piercing cold and grey skies. For me this is made a little more complicated because I suffer from a really strange allergy that I've had since childhood, a little known condition called Cold Urticaria , which is an extreme histamine response to cold air and water temperatures. This was discovered when I was ten years old, always a strong swimmer I dove into a hotel pool one autumn and woke up in the hospital. This allergy is instant onset and I guess that as soon as I hit the water, I passed out.

At the same time, they discovered that my body was covered in hives. It took years before anyone in the medical community began to understand the connection between the temperature and the symptoms, but because from that point on it didn't stop I learned how to deal with it. I can't tell you how many times I almost drowned before they began to take me seriously. Now an allergist will prescribe antihistamines and certain antidepressants for anyone who has this strange malady but for me that's not the answer because they just dull my senses. For me, some of the answers lie in watching my animal companions and mimicking how they deal with the colder temperatures.  

My physical response to cold temperatures isn't just a product of living in Cleveland, as it can happen anywhere that the temperature outside my body begins to compete with my core. I've learned to swim seal-like in my beloved ocean in July with a full wetsuit, which makes all of the surfers laugh but allows me to fully participate! Half of learning to deal with an allergy such as this is learning to not live in denial about it. I spent years trying to prove to myself that there was nothing wrong because I got teased alot! During my teenage years, I've developed an exceptionally good party trick, which was to put a beer bottle with raised letters on my arm and remove it. Within minutes the letters would show up as the preliminary hives would form. It was great fun, but in all seriousness I'm one who's had to learn to cope with the temperature extremes as a matter of life or death and I've got a few good tips to help anyone who's suffering from the winter blues right about now!

For starters when you wake up,  slowly increase your core temperature with a lovely herbal tea not coffee which is too stimulating and actually makes you colder because your adrenal system and your liver works too hard to process it. Tisanes made of warming spices like cinnamon and ginger will do the same thing if you let them and not cause a nasty drop in your blood pressure after the energy spike. Afterwards,  take a nice hot shower or bath and try using a salt scrub or a brush to awaken your skin. I love salt and sugar scrubs because they leave bit of extra oil on your skin which acts as an insulator, a tip I learned from the ducks that lived on my pond! I've started incorporating a few yoga stretches in the shower, the hot steamy water seems to make them much easier and they awaken my spine.

Irish oatmeal

Then get dressed and make yourself a hot breakfast. Promise me that you'll do this! Try to make it one that has a bit of a fat or protein. Even if you are vegan or vegetarian this is easy....just make the appropriate substitutions, for example instead of mayonnaise try vegannaise and Earth balance makes a wonderful butter substitute. I've never understood why some (and this includes my darling husband who's always cold!) insist upon eating a cold breakfast in the winter.  For cereal lovers, oatmeal with stewed fruit and a bit of butter, oil or cream is a good start or cream of wheat if you don't like oatmeal. One of my favorite breakfasts in the winter is a bowl of brown rice served piping hot , swirled with cinnamon , nuts, raisins, maple syrup and some coconut milk or fresh cream. My mother figured this out for me early and would serve me an open faced toasted cheese sandwich in the mornings that she made with whole wheat bread,  a bit of mayonnaise, a slice of tomato and American cheese.

I always make sure when it's this cold to protect my extremities, a simple thought but amazing how many people do not. Because of my allergy, as soon as my hands or feet get cold I begin to lose heat from my core. Good gloves are a must and so is a good snow hat.  Start your car ahead of time and let it warm up and if you're really in the mood to splurge have a remote starter installed. Getting into a freezing car just makes your body work way too hard to retain its warmth! 

When it's this cold I tend to avoid chilly foods but I eat more frequently keeping my meals and snacks light, but drinking lots of teas and eating plenty of seasonal foods like root vegetables , grains and more animal flesh than I usually do. I used to try to go vegetarian throughout the year but my body just can't handle it and I gain a lot more weight than if I simply eat the foods that I start craving when it gets really cold. Soups are a wonderful addition to a cold weather diet and so are whole grain breads. Don't forget to add cayenne if you can tolerate it and ginger and curry too. Any of these will help warm you to the bone, which is what we're going for! I love salads, but they just make me  colder. I tend to eat alot of warm salads and composed salads during the winter, things with hot dressings and nuts, cheese, squash, beets and potato.  Hot cocoa made with really good shaved chocolate almond milk, agave nectar and spiked with cinnamon and cayenne pepper is a luxurious way to enjoy something creamy and sweet  and toasty warm!

  0106_choc_pot2

The last part of the equation for me when it comes to staying warm all winter is getting the proper amount of hibernation aka sleep:) We've  recently switched from a standard box spring to a memory foam mattress and I'm already noticing the difference in the way that my body feels. My issue is that if I don't get enough sleep or if my sleep is interrupted , I just can't function very well because my body loses a lot of warmth from the anxiety of tossing and turning all night and waking really tired. We've recently begun to use a humidifier which really helps because we not only breath better but our bodies stay hydrated through the night. My mothers old fashioned habit of keeping room temperature water to sip on her nightstand has begun to make sense as well because If I'm dehydrated my body has to work twice as hard when I wake in the morning. Nightclothes that breathe are a must and so are sheets that are not synthetic. Another trick that I've recently discovered is to utilize the sound therapy known as White Noise!  My iphone has a wonderful app that allows me to choose what I want to fall asleep to, whether it be a thunder storm, ocean waves, or crickets. Lately, I've been falling asleep to the sounds of the Amazonian jungle and I wake to the same, feeling refreshed and happy. I'm not really sure why it works so well, but I do have the theory that repetitive, soothing sounds like these tap into our nervous systems almost like a mantra does when you meditate, promoting real relaxation at the deepest levels.  If all else fails , a cup of warm coconut or almond milk laced with a little bit of vanilla and a tablespoon of sherry will always send my insomnia running for the hills and if you've got a partner get naked and make love as much as possible.....A great sex life is THE perfect antidote to the winter blues; ramping up the adrenals and bringing all of your blood to the surface, keeping you nice and warm!

It's my hope that you'll remember this article if you know someone who seems to suffer more than average from exposure to colder temperatures. Cold Urticaria isn't common, it afflicts only about 2% of the population. But it is instant onset and can strike very suddenly and can easily be fatal. If someone you know seems to get hives  from exposure to cold water temperatures or what appears to be an asthma attack when they are exposed to cold air they may very well suffer from this little understood allergy and not know it. If someone that you know claims to feel as if their muscles have become so heavy that they can't focus  and they have been exposed to the cold take it seriously because the next thing that usually happens is that their blood pressure drops and their breathing  begins to be compromised. If the person that you're with begins to get dizzy from the cold air or water the most important thing to do is bring their internal core temperature back up SLOWLY but deliberately. Too much warmth TOO fast can exacerbate the histamine reaction and stop their breathing. If they want water, make sure that it's lukewarm. One of the dangers of Cold Urticaria is that cold liquids can make the throat swell, making breathing even harder and in a person having an attack hot water can do the same thing. 

If you suspect that you might also be suffering from this allergy, the simplest diagnosis comes from an ice cube test that you can do at home. It's the equivalent of my beer bottle trick and it's very accurate. It's what the allergist will do. Just take an ice cube and put it on the soft flesh of your inner arm for about 5 minutes. WIthin the first few minutes your arm should start to itch and then you'll see the hives begin to form. If this happens, call a good allergist  and don't worry. 

If you are one of the 2% like me who suffers from this allergy, don't fight it and don't ignore it. I realize that most people think that you're making it up. It's very real and is just so strange that you'll be tempted  to deny it's existence. Don't do it! I did for years and made my life even more complicated until I realized that there was nothing strange about having it. I learned to take care of myself and so will you. If you suffer from Cold Urticaria and you need help, please feel free to write me at anytime at beth.gehring@stirringthesenses.com.  

 

Cocoa pot photo courtesy of Le Creuset , Oatmeal Phot Courtesy of McCanns Irish Oatmeal

All other photos by Beth Schreibman Gehring and may not be used without permission


Why Sunday Dinner?

 This article was originally published by my favorite fragrance blog  www.perfumesmellinthings.com. You can read the original Foodie Sunday posting of this article here ! In these reprint I've just added a couple of pictures from the actual evening!

Sundaytable

 Why Sunday Dinner?

This first “Foodie Sunday” post is dedicated to my mother Barbara Lowenstern Schreibman, who still whispers in my ear and tells me what to do. After all of these years mom, I’m truly grateful .....And to you Marina, Mistress of this lovely blog, thank you for the opportunity to write in a way that continues to expand my soul and challenges me to grow.

Why Sunday Dinner?
One of the most wonderful things to re-emerge in the last few years is what I consider to be a long overdue return to the family dinner table. When I was growing up we had dinner at home every night, my mother insisted upon it. She worked full time with my father, building the wonderful business that sustained us all for so many years and dinner with candlelight every night and wine and a full accompaniment of gorgeous tableware was her sanity. She was the master of preparation, quite often having the evenings meal ready before she left for work and when I got home from school she’d call me and I’d put the final touches on it, pop everything into the oven and set the table to her very precise instructions. This was how I learned to cook and she was an excellent teacher.

Sometimes there’d be a red wine, sometimes a white and always candles! The amount of plates would vary and so would the settings. She always used linen napkins which she kept freshly washed and pressed, her secret was a brick that she kept on the laundry table and when she took her napkins out of the dryer she would immediately fold them and put them under the brick to press them smooth. What I remember the most was the civility and the conversations and the time just being with my parents who were mostly so busy that dinnertime was the only time that we all could reconnect.

My mother was a fabulous cook though and Sundays were when she pulled out all of the stops. Her kitchen was a symphony of scents; curry, garlic and onions, simmering sauces, roses for the table, melting chocolate. We always had dessert because my father required it in the same way that most of us require air , but on Sundays she made it herself . It was always something wonderfully old fashioned, like a chocolate cake filled with whipped cream and ganache or an espresso coffee mousse with ladyfingers or a layered trifle or Floating Island pudding served in the gorgeous cut crystal bowl that I now own. Out came the Baccarat crystal , the antique Haviland porcelain and her grandmothers monogrammed sterling silver.

The sterling well and trees were polished for the evening’s leg of lamb or roast beef and the gold service plates that she loved were set out on the table with the salt cellars and the monogrammed silver napkin rings that she’d used as a child. Later on she got some lucite ones that she loved that had little holes in them for water and flowers. I can remember my youngest niece playing with them and building towers out of the little blocks. That was the best thing about my mother. As formal as she was, I never saw her get upset whenever anything got broken. “What do you think this stuff is for anyhow? ” she’d say. “They rebuild entire civilizations out of fragments of old china so it can’t be too terribly fragile! ”

My mother had blatant disdain for anyone who saved their good things for company only, a sentiment that I completely share. She also felt as I do that even if you didn’t own gorgeous things that this wasn’t the point. Truthfully, who deserves your attention more, certainly not the strangers in your lives. Children that grow up sitting down to eat at a beautifully set table (even if it’s set with paper and plastic!) learn to interact with adults in a much different fashion then kids who eat their evening meal at the drive through. When I asked my son of his memories from his grandmothers table he sighed and said “ The beautiful tureen that was always on the table , the candles and the smells from her kitchen, the fact that my place at her table was always my place, it never changed. “ For him, it was the continuity of his experience that made it so valuable, the fact that he had a place in the world that never changed.

When she died several years ago, it left a hole in the heart of my family that has taken me all of this time to relearn how to fill. My son was hit hard by her absence, running away first to Honduras and then to California in an effort to recover his life which dramatically changed the day that she died. The two of them being Leos understood each other in a way that I was never privileged to and she was his rock. My sister and I throw parties together and they’re wonderful and when we’re all together in California we eat and laugh and really enjoy each other’s company, but in my gut I’ve known that there was still something missing.

The other night, I finally began to understand. Alex has moved home and I decided to cook a wonderful dinner especially for him and his friends. I spent the day trying to decided what to cook and suddenly my mothers voice rang through my head with absolute clarity, telling me to make a veal stew. Now you have to understand, I haven’t made a veal stew in years as I’m generally opposed to it. However I found myself at the Whole Foods in search of free range veal and I brought it home and began the process of flouring it and braising the whole thing slowly in marsala, onions and cream just like she used to. When Alex came home that night, the kitchen was filled with the smells of his childhood; simmering stew, risotto with peas , roasting potatoes and fruity red wines. The effect was instantaneous and astonishing. He stopped in the doorway , closed his eyes and took a deep and satisfied breath. “Mom, the house smells amazing, I love it that I’m home and you’re cooking such a meal”. Now, most of you know that I’m always cooking something, but this was entirely different and I knew it. I asked him if he recognized the smell and he smiled. At that moment, I understood what had been missing for the last three years. You see, in a effort to reclaim what was left of the pieces of my heart, I too ran away and in an attempt to reinvent myself , I forgot entirely how important it is to hold tightly to the beautiful memories , tastes and scents that can warm us in those scary cold moments when we are sure that we’re orphaned and all alone.
Soup




Tonight , I’m having Sunday dinner for the first time in many years. Jim and Alex will be there, his lovely girlfriend and several of his best friends. I’ll light the candles, pour the wine and I’m even planning to make one of her desserts which I’ll serve in her gorgeous bowl . The table will be set with her dishes and sterling and there will be roses in the soup tureen. There will be a curried soup , cocktails and an appetizer or two. I’m planning to make one of her favorite dishes, a chicken breast baked with bacon, fried beef and a marsala wine and mushroom sauce. We’ll have mashed potatoes and I will take the skins off, just as she did and I will save the beaters for my son.

I will be wearing Shalimar and her pearls.

All of those sights, scents and beloved flavors connect the dots of our souls in a way that nothing else can ever do. Thinking beings that we are, we sometimes just get in our own way because we forget about the simplest things. We run for cover when life gets too raw, forgetting that there are others to care for, who need the reassurance of the stories and memories that we hold. So please for me and in honor of my mother or yours, wherever you are tonight sit down, light a candle, pour some wine and take a moment to gather around the table with someone who’s important to you. Don’t let another day go by without letting the ones you love know just what they mean to you and if you’re ever in Cleveland on a Sunday night please give me a shout. There’s always a place for you at my table.


Truffled Roast Chicken with Fine Herbs!

Chicken

To me, roast chicken is one of the simplest and most elegant dishes that can ever be made. It is also very easy to prepare and serve, making it the perfect Sunday dinner or anytime feast! The delightful free range bird that I roasted last weekend ended up in sandwiches on Monday, stir fry with snow peas and sesame on Tuesday and as a full throttle chicken soup on Wednesday! I do like free range organic birds better, mostly because they really do taste healthier to me.

I am sensitive to hormones and antibiotics and I don't get the same physical reaction from the organic birds as I do the others. It's no secret anymore that organic birds are safer because they are usually not exposed to the many disgusting types of  bacteria that have definitely been found in all of the factory farms. Besides, it's so much fun to go to the local farmers market or butcher if you have one near , choose your own chicken and talk to the farmers that raised it. For me, that will always enhance the pleasure!

Warning! This is not a low calorie, low cholesterol recipe! However ...All things in moderation! To start , I rinse the bird inside and out, neck gizzards and all. To be truthful, I roast the "nasty bits" (as Anthony Bourdain calls them!) but never eat them! They do lend a wonderful flavor to the drippings as they are roasting  and they are essential for making great gravy! After my bird is rinsed, I take a roasting pan with a roasting rack and lay a mirepoix of fresh vegetables on the bottom. A mirepoix is a combination of diced carrots, onions and celery, and is an excellent moist base for many different types of roasts. I like to season the vegetables with a teaspoon of fresh sage and a bit of salt and pepper, but it's not necessary. Next I soften a stick of salted butter and add to that about a tablespoon of white truffle oil (a little goes a long way!), and some dried herb's de provence. You can also use a mixture of Boursin cheese (the garlic and herb type) mixed with the butter...Yummm! With both hands gently start from the opened cavity and loosen the skin from the bird without removing it. Really what you are trying to do is just get room between the skin and the meat so that you can season it. Then take good handfuls of the butter mixture and rub it underneath of the skin onto the breast meat. Take whatever butter is left and rub it onto the the skin. Sometimes I take several slices of really good bacon and lay them on top of the chicken as well, as it really flavors the pan drippings. Then, take one large yellow onion and quarter it, one lemon (cut in half) and several good sized sprigs of fresh rosemary and stuff it into the cavity of the bird. Finally add a 1/2 cup of water and a 1/2 cup of white vermouth. You will probably need to add a bit more water along the way, but you never want the mixture to be too "juicy"! Place the chicken breast side up onto the vegetables and put the whole thing into a 375 degree oven. I tend to roast my chicken slowly, basting frequently. After about 50 minutes, I turn the chicken upside down so that the juices from the dark meat flow into the breast, keeping the whole bird moist. I roast the chicken like that for another 1/2 hour and then turn it right side up. At this point it will definitely be browning but not yet crackly and golden. Turn the heat up a little bit and watch carefully. Keep basting the chicken with the drippings for about another 15 minutes and it will reward you with a golden skin and very moist,flavorful meat. Take the chicken out of the pan and place it on a wooden carving board so that it can rest for a few minutes because as it cool the juices will settle back into the bird. If you carve it when it is too hot, the meat will turn out to be very dry.

Sauce

For a simply beautiful sauce, take the roasting pan and place it on the top burners of your stove, turning them onto medium. Reduce the pan mixture by about a third (deglazing constantly...you want to get the good browned bits up!) and then add 1 cup of white wine that you have enhanced with a tablespoon of a good organic chicken stock base (or bouillon) and a pressed clove of garlic. Whisk the wine mixture into the sauce and let it cook for a few minutes and then add a good dollop of fresh cream, about 1/3 of a cup. Let this continue to reduce and then whisk in a couple of tablespoons of a beurre manie'  that you've made of equal parts flour and fresh butter and let it cook for a minute or two longer.  This simple addition will give the sauce a lovely sheen.  Remove the vegetables from inside the bird and discard. Slice the chicken and serve each portion with a few tablespoons of the sauce. I love to serve a simple steamed asparagus with this, and some lightly buttered egg noodles. A yummy chilled white wine (or champagne!) completes the feast but don't forget sparking white grape juice or cider for those who don't want the alcohol. Enjoy with family , friends and good stories by candlelight. 

 


Herbalism is a tool created by the people and for the People...

The-signing-of-the-declaration-of-independence

"Unless we put medical freedom into the constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize itself into an undercover dictatorship . . . denying equal privileges. All such laws are un-American and despotic . . . " Benjamin Rush, Physician, Signer of Declaration of Independence

 

This is actually a reprint of an article that I wrote for another publication a year or so ago, but as I look around me a realize that once again we're in the grip of a nasty flu season I thought that I would repost it. In the last year since it was written, I've had some really intense first hand experience with some superbugs that my 91 year old father caught in the hospital and nursing home that he lives in. It is more relevant now than ever that we begin to look at natural, safe a practical alternatives for building up our immune systems so that we can defend ourselves against these very real threats. We can no longer take our right to use safe herbal preparations for granted. People choosing to take control of their own health by using centuries old remedies instead of dangerous pharmaceuticals have cost Big Pharma alot of business. As a result all over Europe, corporate greed has won out and herbs that have been used safely by the people for centuries in healing such as peppermint, echinacea, rosemary are being forced onto a controlled substance list, making them illegal to use unless prescribed by a licensed physician or practitioner.

  Make no mistake, the dire prophecy of Dr. Rush is upon us .. and this could begin to happen in America as well.  Learn all you can about Codex Alimentarius / a well documented and real threat to ban vitamins, supplements, herbs and minerals all over the world. Don't be fooled by the Big Pharma and WHO safety rhetoric because as of April1st this goes into effect in Europe unless something drastic happens to change the direction of the policy. This is government sponsored terrorism at it's finest ..our health and right to choose our care given to the highest bidder. The article that follows is a simple overview of my lifelong journey with the healing herbs. But please note that currently herbal information is free and available to everyone. Vote, protest offensive legislation, write your senators and remember that just as recently as last winter John McCain was trying to pass the Dietary Supplement Act which would have effectively pushed us into herbal prohibition. Fortunately "Big Supplement" prevailed. 

 

Many people over the years have asked me about my involvement with alternative medicine, most specifically my use of herbal remedies to address the various maladies that periodically plague me, my friends or my family. As we find out with more frequency about the corruption of the large pharmaceutical companies as well as the continuing abuse of the drugs that they create, I think that it's natural to have become fearful about the future of medicine in this country. The overuse of antibiotics in America has created some of the scariest , most resistant strains of Staphylococcus that we've ever seen and quite frankly I do believe that there is cause for alarm, so much so that we've seen a dramatic rise in the number of people turning to alternative remedies for self healing. With disasterous health insurance practices at the forefront of the current political debate it's clear that it's become time for a powerful paradigm shift relating to the way that we deal with illness.

I became familiar with herbal medicine very early in my life, because as a child I had an Irish riding instructor from County Galway who hardly ever used veterinary medicine to treat  common ills.  Colic , which is a horrible impaction of the gut was never an issue with our horses. Every morning she would boil flax seed on her stove and create a jelly to be given in the mornings feed. We rarely wormed our horses with the fancy new paste wormer filled with chemicals which she generally refused to use, but kept them parasite free with  the pine and spruce that she kept in the pasture for them to eat. She constantly rotated her pastures and I noticed that our horses were eating all kinds of different plants that were growing with rarely any ill effects and they ate them readily. Horses that seemed a bit lackluster  ate certain plants and when I pointed them out to her she was always able to tell me what was ailing them because of what they were eating.  One day, one of the horses went straight for a patch of yellow dock which she told me indicated a weakness in his stomach. After a day or two he brightened and was much happier and far stronger than he'd been several days before. Not a miracle cure at all, he was just an animal who in trusting his instincts chose the natural path towards healing. It was pretty amazing stuff for an impressionable 12 year old to see.

 

Make-your-own-herbal-vinegar-2312-320x240
Herbal Vinegar from http://www.farmersalmanac.com



 

 We used infusions of  chamomile tea and beer in the bran mashes that we made to help promote calmness and vitality. We  rarely used chemical liniments, relying on herbal vinegars that we made with saltpeter, sage , fresh mints and comfrey leaves. I think that it became natural for me to question the amounts of medicine that were being used by my family Dr.s  to "promote health" , because I had been exposed to something so different in my very young years which made complete and total sense to me. In my early 20's after a tangle with birth control pills, antibiotics and the ensuing amount of damage that they did to my body I really swore off of the convenience of modern medicine except as the last resort when I fell ill, never the first.

In my mid 20's I was fortunate to find a wonderful teacher named LaWanna Rine who is a very experienced herbalist and healer. LaWanna has been a practicing herbalist for decades and graciously teaches you by example. I spent many hours with her helping her to prepare teas  ,salves and tinctures and walking through her woods while we gathered the plants that we would use. Her practice is a very complete example of a whole body system for healing. She is is totally vegan and she practices her yoga and meditation everyday. She uses herbs from her property and water from her spring to create her healing teas. She uses aromatherapy in the wonderful treatments that she gives and her powerful medical intuition and her vast knowledge of the bodies systems as her most profound diagnostic tool. She is to this day, the only herbalist that I've ever met who I would trust with the dosage of the more poisonous herbs such as poke root, foxglove or celandine because she knows how to use them with a subtlety and precision that we wish that our Dr's practiced with their candy box of  pharmaceuticals.  I was very lucky to find her and she taught me that the practice of herbalism is everyones birthright.  LaWanna encouraged everyone in her circle to learn as much as possible so that  you could live well wherever you found yourself and not be at the mercy of a medical system that she felt had betrayed our humanity. She also was very firm about her belief that eating with the seasons ,harvesting and growing your own foods as well as wildcrafting your own herbs  provided the most potent medicine for   body, mind and spirit.   She taught me to  use fasting, whole foods  and mini cleanses as tools to promote a healthy digestive system thereby creating a strong immune system.  She's also 86 years old, still teaching and wildcrafting in her woods. She's really quite a remarkable woman!

Now that so many natural herbal preparations can be found in our local Whole Foods store and even in grocery stores that are not traditionally "Health Food " stores, it's more important than ever to learn as much as you can about this old and wise tradition of healing. There are many different companies to choose from, some truly better than others.  Do your research and keep your healthcare choice freedoms intact. Learn to wildcraft, make your own preparations, grow your own herbs for healing. Rely more on the herbs that you can find yourself growing close to your home than the ones that you can buy. There are many wonderful books and home study courses available by herbal legends such as Susan Weed, Rosemary Gladstar or the late Juliette De Baricli Levy that will teach you to do just that.

Please note that  herbal remedies  in most of their forms are very powerful medicine and should not be taken carelessly because they can sometimes be as toxic as  the  drugs we are trying to avoid.  Take the time to do the research and always remember to consult your pharmacist (not your physician because they never know!)  if you are taking any other prescription drugs.  Herbs CAN mix poorly with many pharmaceuticals so it pays to proceed with with caution and proper education. 

In this age of global uncertainty and instability , I truly believe as LaWanna does that it is  so very important to be able care for yourself and your family with as much self sufficiency as possible. We are fortunate to live in a world where so much is  readily available to us including excellent  chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists.  However,  the tradition of herbal medicine for healing has always been passed down from generation to generation and it  belongs to everyone, not just a chosen few, even those of us who call ourselves herbalists. I believe that we're supposed to be there to  teach  and heal,  not hold herbal information closely to the vest so that we can broker the information. Thankfully, herbalism is still regarded as a traditional, yet sophisticated and effective folk medicine that can be readily utilized by anyone who cares enough to truly take the time to learn about , respect and understand fully the properties of the many herbs that are so easily available to us all.

Please enjoy this interview with Susan Weed. Although I've never met her she's been saving my life for well over 20 years with her wisdom. She so gets it and fortunately for us all passes it along in a simple perfect message.