Healing Rainbow Soup (Season of Self-Care: 9)

There is no cold or flu required in order to justify a steaming bowl of Healing Rainbow Soup. I’m pretty sure this will keep all that junk away, anyway, so I make it almost every time I have fresh bone broth around. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be cold, you know, like a typical December day in New England should be, in order to enjoy the warm, snuggly, superhero healing love (although, I admit it has not cured me of my weirded-out-ness in regards to this bizarro end times weather we’re experiencing). It just makes me feel like I’m giving myself a hug, like one of those 20-second oxytocin-releasing hugs. That’s some self-care right there.

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If you aren’t familiar with the term “bone broth,” it’s basically chicken stock that is simmered for a longer period of time (up to 24+ hours), drawing the minerals out of the bones and providing a nutrient-dense liquid you can enjoy on it’s own or as base for damn near everything. I’ll give you the quick and dirty method for that below. But first…

Healing Rainbow Soup

Keep in mind that Healing Rainbow Soup can and should vary seasonally, regionally, and according to the flavors you like, so feel free to play around with the veggies and herbs.

In a generous chunk of butter and a splash of olive oil, saute:

one medium or large onion, halved and sliced
several carrots, sliced (if they are young, I don’t peel them…you be the judge)
a few ribs of celery
salt and pepper

After a few minutes, add:

one head of garlic (yes, a whole head), smashed and minced
a 2-inch hunk of fresh ginger, grated

Stir for a minute or two, and then add:

1 can of coconut milk
1 quart of bone broth
2 bay leaves
thyme and oregano
red pepper flakes

Bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes.

You can stop here for the most basic version of this soup. At this point, I like to add thinly sliced cabbage or leafy greens, and either diced potatoes or rice noodles. If I have leftover chicken meat from pre-broth roasting, I’ll add that in, too. If I have them, shiitake mushrooms will find their way into the initial saute. I’ve also been known to do a little egg drop action, and to almost always top with a drizzle of fish sauce for umami goodness. Green onions and miso are nice, too. Seriously, play with this. As long as you’ve got that coconut + broth + ginger + garlic thing going on with the soup base, you’re in for some warming, tasty times no matter what solids you put into it.

Basic Bone Broth

Bones of any variety will do. I’ve made bone broth from chicken, turkey, duck, goose, beef, pork, lamb, and goat. Generally, I’ve already roasted the meat. If you’ve got your mitts on some straight-up soup bones, you’ll want to also roast those before making broth. It really enhances the flavor. Since it will cook for quite a while, I like to use my crock pot. You can also make your broth on the stovetop, but be sure you’re around to keep an eye on things.

What you’ll need:

Bones! Roasted (a whole chicken carcass, beef neck bones, leg of lamb…whatever you’ve got)
one large onion
two carrots
two celery stalks
a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar
optional: garlic, culinary herbs, medicinal herbs

Throw the bones, roughly chopped veggies, and splash of vinegar into your crock pot, dutch oven, or stock pot, and cover with water. Slowly bring to a boil. At this point you can toss in some herbs and/or garlic…or not. You’ll have a rich broth without any additions, but I can’t leave well enough alone.

After 24-ish hours, strain through a fine-mesh strainer. I like to store my broth in mason jars in the fridge for up to one week. Whatever I don’t think I’ll use in that time goes into ice cube trays in the freezer, and then into storage bags for up to six months. Honestly, we go through this stuff pretty rapidly, and I rarely need to think about long term storage.

You can drink it warmed, straight-up with some salt and pepper for a pick-me-up, use for soups and stews, braising meat and veggies, or cooking grains like rice.

Yet another way to get you warmed up from the inside-out this winter…enjoy!

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Gratitude (Season of Self-Care: 8)

Gratitude. Overdone? I don’t think so.

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Each year, just before Thanksgiving, we pick some nice-looking branches, tie them together, and place the bundle in a vase or mason jar. The boy-o makes leaf shapes out of cardstock, which are piled up in a bowl with some pens. Whenever we’re inspired to write down something we’re grateful for, we do so, and hang it on the “tree.”

Typically, it’s stayed around for a week or two, but this year we decided to make a much larger version and keep it out through Solstice. Maybe it’s because life feels generally more strained and stressful this year, and reminding ourselves of the gifts we hold and treasure is the strongest glue we can use to keep our cracked vessel half full, at least.

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It tends to fill up mostly with the people and creatures we love, with activities we like to do together, with things in our life that cast light on darkness (like a borrowed splitter that will provide us with enough wood from the back 5 to keep the fire burning through the other side of winter). I am especially fond, obviously, of the things that come to my son’s mind, like being thankful for his own abilities and the privilege of being able to spend time enjoying them:

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I never think to actually be grateful for me, and what I can do, provide, and share with my family, with the world. Huh.

I learn so much from him.

Self-love is self-care. Own it. Be grateful for it.

Turn It Off (Season of Self-Care: 7)

Simple, right?

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I’ll be honest. It doesn’t always feel that simple. Even if I’m writing, or editing photos, or doing whatever “real” work I need to be doing, and even if there are apps to disable other apps or prevent me from accessing social media, it’s still one big distraction in general, and the time suck I’ve calculated is mind-boggling.

When I feel like I deserve a break, I get sucked into the void, and end up going to bed too late, not knitting a few more rows, not journaling, not reading the last few pages of that novel, not working on my business plan, not…anything real. And, also, I’m generally depressed and/or angered by what I encounter in the void, and leave it feeling less than connected.

The intervention really is that simple: I’ve been putting the phone in airplane mode and putting the computer to sleep, unless we’re listening to music, every night after dinner. I’ve gone to bed earlier and slept better, I’ve done meaningful work and projects, but mostly have felt less drained. More connected to myself and my family. And that’s just in a few days. I may not stick to it religiously, but implementing restrictions on my online hours has reaped benefits immediately. I anticipate my more meaningful and purposeful participation and interaction, both online and off.

Put yourself in airplane mode and see what happens.

Not Doing It All (Season of Self-Care: 6)

I’m caught up in the Doing. Always. I feel guilty if I’m not buzzing around ticking things off the list at hyper-speed, and no matter how many tasks I accomplish, I’m weighted by the heavy sense that I could have done more.

There’s too much to do on a farm when farming is one’s full-time job, and we only wish it were ours. We’re exhausted, C is having an intense Lyme flare-up, and we’re scrambling to finish a new goat barn before snow decides to stay. I say “we” meaning C, as usual, but I’m not much help with carpentry and believe me, there are other things to do.

Yesterday, we stopped. We took a drive, and hunted down the perfect tree. And you know what? Apart from a few sweet moments, we couldn’t relax. I can speak for both C and I when I say that we just could not let go of all the other things we “should” have been doing with that time.

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So, we brought it home, The One, our perfect, round little tree, and then…I don’t know. I guess we just didn’t allow ourselves to create space for some family time after the sun went down. There was simply too much to do. This is my confession of failure at Self-Care. Even though I’ve committed to sharing the ways in which I’m trying to keep my own oxygen mask on, there are moments when I slip, and forget that I need to breathe.

The tree will remain naked until we can come together, unhurriedly, and devote ourselves to turning off the external pressure and being present with each other, if just for an hour. I think we can do it. Maybe even before the weekend comes again.

My work, now, is so very clear. I need to practice being okay with Not Doing It All.

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How do I let go of my unreasonable expectations of what I’m capable of accomplishing in the waking hours? I wonder if I can just turn around, and face the things that feed me in a different way, without buckling at the knees and crawling back to my to-do list, without feeling sheared off at the base.

Forgiveness.
Honoring and Acceptance of my limitations.
Patience.
Asking for help.

I definitely need to come up with some affirmation with a cool acronym.

Out (Season of Self-Care: 5)

Just…go.

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I was really quite reluctant this morning. I bundled up and put on my running shoes, anyway. I did not regret it.

Sweat is some serious self-care for my mood. I don’t have to be super hardcore about it. I don’t even know how far I go, or what my pace is. I’m not training for anything. I just know I’m about 100% less miserable when I’ve pushed myself a bit, physically. Sometimes breaking a sweat outdoors means I run, sometimes it means I stacked wood for an hour. Always, it means my day starts off better than it would have otherwise.

Someday soon it will mean I’m snowshoeing. Good medicine.

Winter Warmer Cocoa (Season of Self-Care: 4)

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Apparently, this week is all about warming from the inside. We’ve been blessed with some pretty mild weather this late autumn, but the bite of morning and evening have a bit of an edge, anyway, and call for toasty beverages to keep my inclination to hide under a pile of blankets for the next six months at bay.

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My favorite comfort foods are full of dairy, and my hot drink of choice is no exception. I drink bottomless cups of tea, all year long, but when I really need a snuggle-for-one, there’s cocoa in my mug.

I prefer simplicity in so many aspects of life and food preparation, but it’s a rare moment when I leave cocoa in its most basic state. I’ve been known to throw winter squash into the mix, infuse the milk with chai spices, add a splash of coffee and vanilla, or use coconut milk in the base.

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The current obsession, perhaps predictably, is peppermint. The flavor is fresh and stimulating, and makes me nostalgic for pretty much every holiday season ever. I use peppermint extract, or one drop of essential oil (be sure to use a pure, therapeutic grade oil).

Here’s a recipe for my basic cocoa with peppermint:

12 oz. milk, or milk alternative
1 scant tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 rounded teaspoon butter
pinch of salt
1/8 – 1/4 tsp peppermint extract or 1 drop peppermint essential oil (again, go for highest quality when using essential oils internally).

Heat the milk in a saucepan until the surface begins to bubble. Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients.

Makes 2 6-oz servings or 1 travel mug.

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I find the addition of butter acts as an emulsifier, providing extracts or oils some fat to cling to, and reduces settling of the cocoa powder.

You can replace the peppermint with other extracts, like almond or orange. Add two tablespoons of fresh pumpkin, a shot of espresso, or add spices to the milk while you’re heating it up. What is your favorite cocoa pairing?

Waste Not, Want Not aka Pumpkin Pie Smoothie FTW (Season of Self-Care: 3)

I’m pretty sure the blue hubbard squash I roasted for holiday pies weighed about as much as my Kia. It was the only blue hubbard that grew in our garden this summer, out of 12 plants, and it made up for being The Only by being The Enormous.

Perhaps this seems like an odd one to include in a month of recipes for self-care, but I’m often running late in the mornings and it’s too easy to leave empty-handed for breakfast and/or lunch. Remember the oxygen mask analogy? It’s a thing.

When I get the boy down to the bus stop, he’s equipped with a full belly and there’s a lunch in his backpack. The cats, ducks, goats, pigs, goldfish, and axolotls have all been fed and, if necessary, freshly watered.

Me? I only make the fed and watered list occasionally. The Enormous inspired me to start a habit of night-before prep, though, so I’m on my way to moving up in the ranks. It has, also, much to do with the fact that I only needed 3 cups of puree for my pies, and ended up with a gallon and a half from TE. I poured quite a bit of it into ice cube trays, but my squash-to-everything-else ratio in the freezer is quite high enough at this point, I’ve already made pumpkin curry soup, and I’ve still had two quarts kickin’ around all week.

Enter the Pumpkin Pie smoothie. Yeah, I’m one of those people who gets really into the autumnal winter squash and cinnamon-y nutmeg deliciousness thing. It’s a thing, after all.

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What to do:

Chuck all the ingredients into a quart-sized mason jar.
Blend it all up with a stick blender, if you’ve got one. If not, use a blender, or the smoothie-making device of your choosing.

Done.

Also, it could be any winter squash. Blue hubbard just happens to be my favorite. And Long Pie Pumpkin. Oh, and Long Island Cheese. And Butternut.

Sometimes, I add greens powder, too. It can be advantageous to mix green and orange to make your smoothie into a less-appetizing color. It’s less likely to be sipped on by curious co-workers (says the girl who used to dye sugar cookies the most hideous color so no one else would want to eat them). Nah, don’t worry. I’ll share.

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Fire Tonic (Season of Self-Care: 2)

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Chock full of warming ingredients, variations on Rosemary Gladstar’s original fire cider recipe is how I keep the internal fires burning throughout the winter months and into the spring.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of fire cider, it’s basically a mess of beautiful antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antifungal roots, vegetables, fruits, and herbs all steeped together in apple cider vinegar for a while, and then consumed as an immune, circulatory, and digestive support tonic in as wide a variety of ways as there are to actually make the stuff. It’s a traditional folk medicine with a standard base of ingredients that can be dressed up or kept simple to suit your needs and desires. It’s an ongoing, evolving experiment for me and, so far, I haven’t met a fire cider I didn’t like.

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You can tailor your tonic to what’s available, and to the flavors you generally like.  I start making up batches during late summer, when I have lots of hot peppers in the garden, but I still have a few of them still miraculously looking half-way decent in my fridge, so I’ll make one last round now, so we have enough to get us through the season. I like to have a good kick of spice in mine, from both fresh and dried peppers, to keep my blood moving when the temp drops. Some folks I know like to go heavy on the citrus or include herbs like rosemary or star anise.

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How do you make it?

Some recipes provide measurements, but in my house, it’s more of a non-recipe, but figure about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of each “handful.”

I start with a quart-sized mason jar.
The basic building blocks of fire cider are onions, garlic, horseradish*, hot peppers, and ginger.
I mince or grate about a 1/2 cup or solid handful of each and dump them in the jar. Most recipes use about 1/4 cup of garlic, but I am an enormous fan of garlic in natural remedies and tend to go overboard with it, if that’s even a thing. I’m known to double, triple, or quadruple the garlic in any recipe in my kitchen, so do what feels right to you.

Now, you can play. Suggestions for additions include:

Lemon slices
Orange slices
Grapefruit slices (or just the peels and/or juice of any of the citrus options)
Peppercorns
Rosemary
Star Anise
Oregano
Thyme
Turmeric (this one is a must for me, and if I can’t find fresh, I just throw in a tablespoon of turmeric powder)
Astragalus
Rose Hips
Cayenne

When you’re satisfied, pour Apple Cider Vinegar over everything, to the top of the jar. Cover tightly and let steep from 4 – 12 weeks. Or more. I like to let mine go for at least two months before pouring off the liquid. Sometimes, if I have several batches going, I don’t bother straining until I’m ready to use it.

Then what?

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For daily use, I put about a tablespoon of fire cider into a little warm water. You can add honey to your cider if you’d like, but I leave it out because I like to keep my use options open. If I’m not drinking it straight-up, I may put it in salad dressings in place of regular vinegar, or into soups, stews, or marinades.
I triple-up the intake if I feel a little something coming on, and if there’s a cough involved, that’s when I mix in some honey.

It’s also great used topically for sore muscles, or soaked into a warm cloth for a chest compress to relieve congestion.

Oh, and the solid pulp you’re left with after straining?

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I like to stick it in the dehydrator, grind it up, and then mix with salt for a seasoned salt blend, which will add a spicy, warming kick to grilled and roasted veggies and meats, or to soups and stews.

*Why horseradish?
It, like many of the other ingredients, has antibacterial and antibiotic properties, and is a digestive stimulant. If you can’t find fresh horseradish root, don’t fret. You can leave it out and still have a punchy, immune-boosting tonic. It’s a powerhouse, but it’s one of many, and if it’s the only thing you can’t find, it’s still worth making your tonic!

Also, this necessary bit:

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional.

Fire it up!

Green It Up! (Season of Self-Care: 1)

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Frost is on the straw on the beds that are abed (say that several times fast, just for fun).
It’s a harbinger of the longest night, closing in and driving us inward.

I’m ready.

I take the definition of the word “advent” to heart as the season begins: a coming into being. We spiral into darkness, and then emerge from shadow into light as we pass through the Winter Solstice. I’d like to devote these shortening days to riding that inward spiral towards building a solid self-care practice: physically, emotionally, spiritually.

After all, this is a heavily loaded season of giving to, sharing with, and welcoming others into our hearts and homes. It’s easy to forget about oneself in the chaos, to find the moments of pause, to put our own oxygen masks on before we help others, so to speak. It’s essential that we’re fit and ready in order to give the most of ourselves. If we’re struggling to find breath, our effectiveness wanes and a joyful season becomes stressful.

I’m kicking off here in my new Woodland Temple home with an advent calendar of sorts, Season of Self-Care, to remind you (and I) how to give to ourselves so that we can best give to our friends, family, communities, the world.

Day One celebrates bringing in the green. Around here, our landscape has become barren, dry, and crispy with ice crystals as we await the first real snow fall. The garden is almost all tucked in, and I ripped out the last bed of greens a couple weeks back. Usually, I leave them in to overwinter because kale is a tough cookie, but I want more freedom in the Spring for planting, and so brought it all in to preserve into a nutrient-dense powder to power up my smoothies all winter long.

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The result is a brilliant, vibrant source of immune-boosting, detoxifying minerals that are likely much more nourishing then wilted snow-bound leaves, as the source for this was picked at its peak.

Our farmers’ market will have fresh winter greens for at least the next several weeks, so if you aren’t pulling them out of your own garden, this is a great time of year to pick up great local greens for your own supplement-making adventure, sure to cost a fraction of what greens powders go for at health food stores.

How to:

There are no measurements here, and the rules are loose!

First, let’s talk about your greens. They can be any dark, leafy greens. My blend contains collards, chard, kale, turnip greens, and immature broccolini (the whole plant, actually). I don’t know about you, but raw greens don’t always agree with my belly. Steaming your greens will make them easier to digest, and unlock a bevy of nutrients that may not be accessible otherwise. Also, they’re sweeter prepared that way, so, you know. Win.

Therefore, Step One is to: steam ’em!

Just give your leaves a quick, two minute steam, until they turn bright and slightly wilted.
Do remove any thick stems beforehand. I didn’t bother with the broccolini or chard, but the collards, kale and turnip greens all had thick ribs. I simply tore the leaves from the ribs, no biggie.
Also, I wanted to fill my 9-tray dehydrator, so I went through several rounds of steaming.

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Step Two: dehydrate ’em!

You can perform this step in a dehydrator or an oven set to low heat (200 degrees or less). It’s not crucial to keep the leaves from overlapping, but a somewhat single layer is best. If you’re a kale chip fan, you’re basically making kale chips from steamed, unadorned leaves, rather than oil-massaged, so just use your favorite method of drying them out. I like to use the dehydrator because I can stick them in and forget about it. If you use an oven, check frequently to make sure your greens don’t burn.

Step Three: pulverize ’em!

For this step, I use my Vitamix. Again, equipment is a matter of taste, and you can get away with a food processor. I would, however, recommend a second pass through some sort of coffee or spice grinder to really get a fine powder. The dry container for the Vitamix makes a lovely fine powder. I achieved nearly the same results with the coffee grinder, but it takes forever and I was seriously worried about burning out the motor.

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Step Four: Dress It Up!

This step is totally optional, but if you want to play around with add-ins, these are awesome:

-Freeze-dried berries
-Probiotics
-Maca powder
-Nettles (steeped and dried)
-Holy Basil (steeped and dried)
-Chaga mushroom
– ___________???

I like to pulverize everything in what I like to call my Boost Blend individually and then mix it all together, keeping it separate from my greens powder, so I can add a boost whenever I want it. Your powders, except the probiotics, can hang out in a tightly sealed container in your pantry pretty much indefinitely. It won’t last long, though, if you’re like me and enjoy keeping summer alive and your vitality high by making winter smoothies. You can also use your powder in soups and stews, or blend it with salt and spices for a seasoning shaker to up your green game for any meal.

Boom.
Enjoy.

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Soak up every drop of sunshine, lovelies.

Join me tomorrow for Fire Tonic!