Ahh, Spring! my favorite time of year. I know, I say that every season, but this time I really mean it. I'm a Spring baby, born in April, and Spring's always the highlight of my year: all the new buds and babies springing up all over the place.
It's a blessing to live in clement Northern California. Many folks say we don't have seasons here in California, but I beg to differ. True, most of us Californios don't hibernate under a thick white blanket for half the year, but we have our seasons too.
The buds on the grapevines are just beginning to peek out; wildflowers are beginning their annual riot in the open fields. Babies of all sorts -- goats, calves, sheep, deer -- are romping stiff-legged across a lush verdant carpet. We all agree that texting while driving is dangerous, but for me driving while smiling at all these newborns is just impossible. I have to pull over to watch the moms and babies enjoying the Spring as much as I do.
So here's my Spring affirmation: Slow down for this season of rebirth. Make time to see the newness that pervades our natural world. Mother Earth gives us everything we need for a satisfyingly rich life full of adventure . . .and good eats!
Sprouting is a great place to get started with growing, and a wonderful activity for including children.
There are so many resources available but my favorites remain -- The Sprout People at sproutpeople.org, and Steve Meyerowitz THE Sprout Man (sproutman.com). And for materials, when I can't find it at my local natural food store, I surf over to my friends at Moonlight Micro Farm (moonlightmicrofarm.com). If you're looking for a one-stop starter kit and don't want to leave the comfort of your keyboard, here's one that includes one of my MTaNM Bags on etsy.com.
I remember my first plant: basil. What a great choice! I thought, seems easy enough, grows fast, will grow all season . . . and I can make several things with the harvest. I was off and running. Where you are may still be too cold for soil preparation, but it's never too early to begin thinking about what will sprout and thrive in your garden this year. Thoughts become things, you know, so here's hoping you'll have something magical in your garden before too long.
My garden benefits from many Springs, and the knowledge that here in clement Cali, we can often "get by" with wonderful hardy crops that over-winter. Right now, my garden sparkles with flowering kale -- the flowers are spicy and delicious, and brighten our salads with their sunny yellow petals. The perennials on the herb mound are already offering up tender tasty new tips for garnishes.
Gardens beckon us in so many ways and now, while we wait for the last threat of frost to pass, we can think about what seeds we want to plant in our garden. Rows of lettuce and dark leafy greens like kale and chard? Possibly just a pot of basil. Even a jar of sprouts is a way to be hands-on with the foods you eat. It's time to begin planning where you'd like to see those veggie starts of your own, or that herb garden you've always wanted. Local nurseries and gardeners have begun to offer small plantings that have been nurtured through the winter in the green houses just for you.
Sprouting is a great place to get started with growing, and a wonderful activity for including children.
There are so many resources available but my favorites remain -- The Sprout People at sproutpeople.org, and Steve Meyerowitz THE Sprout Man (sproutman.com). And for materials, when I can't find it at my local natural food store, I surf over to my friends at Moonlight Micro Farm (moonlightmicrofarm.com). If you're looking for a one-stop starter kit and don't want to leave the comfort of your keyboard, here's one that includes one of my MtaNM bags on etsy.com.
Here are some simple instructions to help you begin. First, I gather the seeds and equipment. I use a large (quart) canning jar just like my grandmother used for just about everything in the kitchen -- coffee mug, salad dressing, utensil stand. . . I set aside the metal round lid and replace it with a plastic grid insert for the top of the jar, making sure it seals with the metal ring. This way I can soak the seeds, pour off the water easily, then rinse and drain daily in this same jar. You can buy stainless steel mesh inserts, but they're pricey, so -- thrifty me! -- I dove into my craft basket and found a left-over needlepoint sheet I converted into a great sprout screen. It's worth noting that steel screen, and even the steel in the rings, can rust, and the rust isn't good for the sprouts (and tastes yucky).
If you know you don't have any extra needlepoint sheets, and you want to try sprouting, check your health food store for sprouting supplies. They may also have untreated seeds for sprouting -- it's worth noting that some seeds intended for the garden -- especially clover seeds -- have a chemical treatment that disqualifies them from being good to eat.
Clover seeds are some of the easiest seeds to begin with. They are fast growing, high yield, sprout easily and are great for salads, sandwiches or wraps, and they last a week in your refrigerator with proper care.
To sprout clover seeds I begin with one teaspoon of seeds and my quart jar. Cover the seeds with filtered water and let them soak for 4-6 hours (or overnight . . . the seeds will swell, so cover them generously). ALWAYS use filtered water, as the chlorine in most municipal water systems will inhibit growth -- that's what it's for! Drain the water, and rinse the seeds -- readers of my book will be familiar with the chemicals that Nature cloaks seeds and skins with to keep them from being devoured by Nature, and that's what the soaking and rinsing is meant to achieve. The soaking also gives the germs of life in the seeds their "wake up call."
Let the jar drain thoroughly because if they rest in water now, they'll rot instead of sprout. At home I rest my jar in the dish drainer; on the road, I prop it wherever I can. You want a spot where it's a nice and warm location but not in direct sunlight. Rinse and drain the sprouts twice daily, always being sure to drain them thoroughly.
After a couple of days you'll begin to see that the seeds have begun to sprout short tails; in three to five days they should be sprouted long enough for you to begin harvesting. The tail of a well developed clover sprout can be an inch or more long. Give them a vigorous rinse just before serving them to wash off as many hulls as possible. You can also dry them well and store them in your 'friger in the glass jar or in a plastic bag . . . but let them breathe. If they are dry when stored, they should stay crisp and delicious for up to one week . . .but around these parts, they never last that long: we eat 'em.
The discovery that I could sprout while traveling was an epiphany, and now I do it all the time. My More than a Nut Milk Bag is the perfect tool to take along with my stash of organic seeds. When I arrive at my hotel, I put seeds in my MTaNMB, let it rest in the ice bucket with a little filtered water to cover the seeds for those 4-6 hours to begin the sprouting process. Then rinse and drain the seeds twice daily hanging them in the shower to drip dry. In a few days I have beautiful living power pack nutritional sprouts to add to my 'on-the-go' salads from the local restaurant or room service.
I always wanted to go to Expo West. Years ago, when I wasn't sure exactly what it was, I nevertheless suspected it was a gathering where magical things happened, and I wanted to be a part of it.
This year, I got my chance. In early March, along with 63,000 others, I spent an action-packed weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center at the officially named Natural Products Expo -- known to its familiars as Expo West. (Take a deep breath.) "The world's largest natural and organic food and product trade show and gathering of manufacturers, buyers, brands and suppliers from the natural product industry." This showcase for new products and venue for all sorts of business was every bit as exciting as I imagined. I enjoyed time with old friends, met new colleagues, and shared my cherished More Than a Nut Milk Bag project story with many, many new folks.
Some of my favorite brands -- Bob's Red Mill, Big Tree Farms, Earth Circle Organics, Living Intentions, Lifefactory and Hodo Soy, were represented, and I enjoyed talking with their makers. I also met the hopeful and ambitious "parents" of many wonderful new products among the 2,500 exhibitors.
What a beehive of activity! Exhilarating to feel the energy and circulate amongst young entrepreneurs with fascinating (and silly!) new products that manifest my own passion for expanding the envelope of natural organic living. Hundreds of samples, surprising as well as familiar, from chia seeds and quinoa to seaweed and kale -- all new ingredients in the mainstream of American food.
And yes, the people part is my favorite. Yes, the products are pretty cool, but what thrilled me was their makers' enthusiasm and creativity. Best of all, meeting the creators themselves. Some of them folks who've been around -- like Blessing (yep, that's her name) from Alive and Radiant Foods -- the company my onetime Living Light colleague Matt Samuelson works with. For hours I walked up and down the aisles, seeing those I buy from or do business with, stopping to say 'your products are so cool.' Everyone, every ONE, of them, was happy to have a real person stop to chat, 'see' them and, I expect, NOT eat their samples. (and there was SO much. . .)
You know I'll go again next year. The price for booth space is prohibitively steep for our charitably focused product line, so I'm interested in exploring ways to get creative sharing with colleagues or co-operative representation. Either way I'll be there to put my MTaNMB products front and center.
I often say, "It's always the sauce" and this I truly believe. Add a few easy-to-prepare sauces and dressings to your kitchen repertoire, and you're well on your way to making every meal tasty as well as healthy. One of my go-to gals, Kris Carr (the Crazy Sexy Cancer Goddess) has just released her first cookbook, Crazy Sexy Kitchen (co-authored by Chad Sarno). Together they've come up with some fabulous plant-based recipes for those willing to admit a few gently cooked dishes into their raw food regimen.
Along with the Bon Bon Sauce, Fresh Salsa and Guacamole, their Garlic Tahini Sauce / Dressing is now on my list of favorite sauces. We often enjoy them with the Wraps and Rolls in my recipe collection.
You readers of my More than a Nut Milk Bag Recipe Collection will have figured out by now how my recipes morph from one to the other. Almond milk (page 45) gives birth to many dishes, one of our favorites being corn chowder (52), which becomes corn tortillas (53), then corn chips (55). Another favorite: carrot ginger crackers (61). The pulp left over from making carrot ginger juice turns into crackers and pizza crusts. This month we're adding the carrot ginger crackers, pizza crusts, marinara, almond cheese and cashew / Brazil nut cheese to the Online Readers Library of full page PDFs that you can print for your binder or load onto your tablet. Rescue some of the last bits of wonderful winter greens, add some sprouts, and you'll have a fabulous Garden Pizza in no time.
This newsletter began with me writing how much I love Spring. At the same time, Spring includes, for my husband Mike and me, a major challenge. Mike runs -- with my help, especially during "tax season" -- an entrepreneurial CPA practice. As March rushed by this year, I started thinking about changing my newsletter schedule. Fanatical readers may already have noticed that some months' newsletters come early, and others later. This year I've decided to refocus on the seasons, that I increasingly find dominate my thoughts about food, with more issue-oriented newsletters in between as the subjects dawn and inspiration strikes me.
Springtime invites us to renew our connection with the sources of all our food, to nurture the soil and enrich our environment. Remember to witness the miracle of life around us . . . AND Remember to eat your veggies!
Summer is surely a-comin' in, and if the sunshine holds out the garden here at the Gatehouse will soon be filled with abundance....
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