Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sometimes naked fresh is the best

What could be better than freshly sliced cucumber on a just-baked piece of bread smeared with your favorite spread and topped with a salt and herb mixture? Having just finished eating that for lunch, I can’t think of anything more satisfying for a light meal. Of course, if I hadn’t eaten my just-cut salad greens yesterday, I could have added that as a side dish. 

As gardening season winds down, I’m reminded of how much I love certain fresh produce when it’s eaten “as is” or only minimally prepared. All of the raspberries never make it into the house as I snack when I pick. Sometimes I just walk to the garden and eat straight from the vine for dessert!  Strawberries, grapes and blueberries are the same; I have to at least taste them as I harvest. Jim loves plucking the warm peach and demolishing the fruit before he bring it inside. He’ll even eat an ear of corn as soon as he picks it.

Some people savor the tomato sandwich. I really don’t care for them freshly sliced in salad or on a sandwich, but I do love making the simple Baked Caprese Salad that puts the reddest slice of a Costoluto Genovese on top of oven-toasted bread then melts mozzarella on the tomato, finishing it with a fresh Basil leaf. I feel the same way about peppers, especially yellow and red ones, in that I lightly saute them in oil, sometimes throwing in greens as well.  

A gardener and cook should always taste the labor of love at as many stages as possible to see how you like it best. Following recipes to the final instruction can result in a fabulous product. But if you taste along the way, you might find a new option for making the dish even better. 

So here’s to enjoying the last harvests of the season. Savor and commit that taste to memory. When February comes, that will be your motivation for another season of gardening.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cook some skin cream

The white substance fluffing around the immersion blender looked like the richest of icings. I refrained, however, from swiping my finger around the bowl to taste it. We had just cooked it and blended it but it wasn’t to eat; it was body cream.

The Nature’s Thyme Herb Club hosted Erin Tadyus of Sassa Bella last week so we could learn about making body cream. Erin built on her background as an engineer when she began creating body care products made with nurturing ingredients rather than the harsh chemicals that many commercial products include. She told us that when we put something on our skin, our body decides within seconds if it’s toxic and sends it to the liver to detoxify. Therefore, if the body is overloaded with toxic substances, the liver can’t keep up and illness can take over.

Erin not only uses nontoxic ingredients in her products but she also purchases her raw materials locally when possible. Gardeners could create their own essential oils and harvest aloe for those ingredients in this recipe.
Erin also shared a refreshing philosophy that many of us could relate to when she said, “I believe that the way to change the world is to change myself.” She certainly gave all of us one practical way to change our lifestyle habits by purchasing her products or making our own. 

Here’s how we made the cream.
Combine coconut oil, sunflower oil and organic beeswax in a cooking pot. Erin buys pelleted beeswax, which looks like lentils and melts more easily than blocks.

 Melt ingredients together. Remove from burner to cool to room temperature or 110 degrees.

Combine distilled water and aloe juice or powder. Erin discovered that some aloe powders come with “toxic tagalongs” so she located a provider that doesn’t include those.

When oil mixture is room temperature, add Vitamin E oil and essential oil of your choice (if you want fragrance) to the water. Pour water into oil mixture as you blend with a high-speed immersion blender.

Blend until creamy. The mixture is thick. To preserve it, Erin suggested keeping it in the refrigerator until we begin to use it. The longer it’s at room temperature, the less thick it becomes. Although we spooned our cream into small glass jars, Sassa Bella products are sold in an airless pump that helps the product stay fresh longer.

After we filled our jars, we had plenty of cream on our hands to rub in. I must say my skin felt luxuriously soft when we finished! It was a different sort of cooking project but it was certainly worth the effort.