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Roasted Leeks

This is a simple recipe highlighting the leek, a hardy, rich vegetable of late summer.  The recipe can be dressed up or kept modest.  When preparing the leek, I cut off the bottom just before the leaves begin to separate.  This section is generally clean inside and only requires a quick rinse.  Then, I decide how much of the top portion looks good enough to eat and cut off the top few inches.  The middle section of the leek is fine to eat, in my opinion, but needs to be washed.  Fill a bowl with water, pull the leaves apart, and swish them around, cleaning any dirt from the leaves.  Chop both the bottom shaft and the cleaned middle section into approximately 1/4 inch bits.  Put them into an oven safe dish.  I use a small ceramic casserole with a lid.  If you do not have this available, you can easily use any oven safe dish and cover it with foil.  Add a dab of butter, salt, black pepper, and a pinch of sage.  Bake at 375* for an hour, stirring halfway through.

Variations:

Use a splash of cream instead of the butter

Add bit of milk in addition to the butter

Add any herbs that you think sound good and that go with your accompanying dishes

Add a pinch or more of crushed red chile

After baking sprinkle Parmesan over the top of the leeks or grate a little Merlot BellaVitano (my new favorite cheese) over the top

Enjoy this humble allium as a meal on its own, put it on rice, bruschetta, baked potatoes, or use it as a bed for steak, chicken or pork chops.

–Meggie

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

A delicious way to use up some of the zucchini that is pouring out of the garden… I love this cake because it uses a good amount of zucchini, is moist and fudgy, but not too sweet.  I sometimes even use a little less sugar than this because the whole chocolate chips sweeten it up (you can increase the amount of chocolate chips).  If you do use less sugar, decrease the amount of baking soda and baking powder just a bit because those flavors can be stronger without the sweetness in the mix.  You can frost it with a light white frosting or with a chocolate ganache or not at all.  Enjoy.

-Meggie

 Cake

1 1/2 c. oil- I like to use a blend of oils: coconut oil and  butter- but use any oil you are comfortable with

1 1/2 c. organic turbinado sugar

4 eggs

3/4 c. cocoa powder

2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 c. chopped walnuts

3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips

3 + c. grated zucchini

 

Blend the oil, sugar, and eggs until smooth.

Sift together the cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Fold the oil blend into the flour.

Add the walnuts, chocolate chips and zucchini, mix until well distributed.

Bake in a greased and  floured 9 x 13 inch baking pan, or in a bundt pan.  350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until the center is set.

Ganache

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 lb semisweet or bittersweet dark chocolate

preparation

1. In a heavy saucepan, boil heavy cream. Turn off the heat. Add chopped chocolate pieces and let it rest until melted. Use a rubber spatula to stir the mixture until all the pieces are melted.

2. Let cool partially and pour over cake…

 

Food as medicine: for the liver

Empowering people to heal through Spirit, Nature and lifestyle is the work of the Vaidya, or Ayurvedic practitioner. The Ayurvedic system is the original holistic approach using; diet specific to ones’ constitution, medicated oils, steam, massage and marma points. Ayurveda is not just a system to treat disease, but a sophisticated method to help us become balanced, enlightened people. I want to share some of this knowledge of how you can use food as medicine in the coming months. This month the focus will be on the liver.
Certain foods affect the liver adversely. You already know these, but I have to mention them anyway; tobacco, alcohol, coffee, fried foods and white sugar. Anger and stress seem to have a similar effect on this organ. In Ayurveda it is understood also, that too much oil, salt, hot spices and fermented food can increase liver heat to a point of imbalance.
Because it has an influence on every cell in the body one can trace most symptoms of disease to impaired function of the liver. As our bodies’ fat-burner the quality of the fat or oil we consume is very important to liver health. It also helps the immune system fight infections, removes bacteria from the blood and makes bile, which is essential for digestion.
Many foods keep the liver happy. The foremost, in my experience, is the artichoke.
Eating a steamed, organic artichoke frequently, is helpful for your liver but here’s how to make your own liver medicine. Put more than enough water in the pot when you steam an artichoke, (which can take about 20 minutes). Then take the water that is left in the pot, and drink it throughout the day. Simple and effective. If only we can find organic artichokes!
Drinking half a lemon squeezed into warm water every morning is another very effective and gentle liver cleanse. Lemon juice stimulates the liver’s bile production, prevents the buildup of gallstones and stimulates gastric juices. The curandera who taught me said “make sure you drink it with a straw, so the juice doesn’t take the enamel off of your teeth!”
Turmeric can help digest fats and stimulate the production of bile. It should be avoided by those who have gall bladder problems. You can find a recipe here, http://www.curanderahealing.com/recipes, for the Ayurvedic remedy known as “Golden Milk”. Taking turmeric (or curcumin–which is a drug) in capsules is not very effective as turmeric should be heated with a substance containing fat to be potent.
Familiar to gardeners everywhere, Dandelion root is a liver cleanser that is still used as medicine in some countries. It also stimulates bile flow from the liver. Some traditions use it to help fight fatty liver, cirrhosis, estrogen dominance, and even acne.
Stones found in the gall bladder seem to begin formation as hard bile deposits in the liver. The Ayurvedic plant medicine for this (and kidney stones), is a plant known as Bhumyamalaki. This is a gentle and effective cleanse.
There are now many chemical liver cleanses on the market–MSM, lipogen, beta glucan, glutathione. Cleansing the liver too abruptly causes what’s called a “healing crisis” which can make you nauseous and cause pimples to erupt as your liver detoxifies. This is why many people choose to do a more gentle liver cleanse by leaving behind the above-mentioned detrimental foods and emotions and including certain beneficial foods in their diet to a greater extent.
More foods that are beneficial to this organ include vegetables that are cool, dry, light, sweet, and bitter, such as: beans, green vegetables (especially bitter salad greens or cabbage), sweet fruits, oats and barley and moderate amounts of fresh dairy.
Garlic helps your liver activate enzymes that can flush out toxins. Grapefruit is high in both vitamin C and antioxidant properties. Fruits like strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries all enhance the health of the liver. These fruits have organic acids that lower sugar blood levels, and will help you to burn fat, decreasing your chances of fatty liver diseases. Beets are high in plant-flavonoids, which can improve the overall functions of your liver. Walnuts are high in glutathione and omega-3 fatty acids, which help support the liver through its cleansing process. The Ayurvedic plant, guduchi, taken with honey once a day on an empty stomach detoxifies the liver.
Cold-pressed organic oils such as olive, hemp and flax-seed are great for the liver, when used in moderation. They help the body by providing a lipid base that can suck up harmful toxins in the body. Practicing meditation regularly can help prevent stress from taking its toll on your liver.
From web md, “Cholesterol drugs and the painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be toxic to the liver if too much is taken over time or at once. You may be taking more Tylenol than you realize; it’s found in hundreds of drugs like cold medicines and prescription pain medicines”. Our environment is permeated with many other chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides and hormones which the liver must filter out. Other causes of an overwhelmed liver include overeating. This alters the body’s ph level and creates a situation for unhealthy microbes to grow and for blood and lymph imbalance. Excessive protein in the diet can thicken and congest basal membranes of blood vessels, including those in the liver. This prevents cholesterol from circulating, which leads to the body to perceive that its cholesterol level is low, so it will raises cholesterol production to dangerous levels. Using food and gentle herbs we can help the liver eliminate accumulations of chemicals and the by-products of an unhealthy diet.
[Athena Wolf practices Ayurveda and Curanderismo at the Red Hat Healing Center. You can find more information at curanderahealing.com or 536.9335]