Sunday, February 27, 2011

Honoring the Seasons

Berries In My Backyard!

There’s nothing better than picking a fresh blackberry straight from the vine during the hot summer months and popping it straight in your mouth!  Or, how does cozying up with a warm bowl of roasted root vegetable soup during the colder winter month’s sound?  Or, what about the urge to pick apples and pumpkins when the brilliant red and yellow leaves appear on the trees and the crisp fall air blows in?  Eating by honoring the seasons in this way puts us in touch with what it means to be human and connects us to our ancestors.    

Early Fall Harvest

Our ancestors ate with the seasons and danced with the rhythms of the Earth by honoring its cycles and patterns.  Unfortunately, as a nation at large, we’ve lost touch with this concept.  Our fast-paced and technologically-savvy society is always looking for a quick fix; we’ve become reliant on the idea that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want.  But is this a healthy mindset to have?  Or, should we slow down and learn from our ancestors?  I’m here to tell you that it is incredibly rewarding and empowering to do so, and worth every bit of anticipation.  

Local Rainbow Chard
(Photo by Sonia Duda)
Plus, when food is fresh and in season, nutrients are at their peak.  Each fruit, vegetable and plant requires a specific balance of minerals and nutrients in the soil to proliferate.  In turn, those same minerals and nutrients get transferred to our food and contribute to its vitality.  Now talking about the quality of soil in the U.S. is a topic for another discussion, but the idea is that food grown in its appropriate season is nutritionally superior to the alternative.  I’m sure that you intuitively already knew this, which brings us to our next reason for choosing foods that are in season.

Have you ever experienced the bursting and juicy succulence of a ripe tomato or berry that was picked straight from the vine?  How did it taste?  Now, have you also dined out in the winter time and ordered a salad that boasts “fresh” tomatoes, but quickly felt disappointed when dry and cardboard flavored tomatoes stiffly stood on your plate?  You can see my point, right?  Food that is in season definitely tastes better.  As a result, the joy of cooking and eating are brought to life. 

Local Fall Squash
(Photo by Sonia Duda)
Ok, so having a higher nutrient and flavor profile sound like excellent reasons for choosing foods in season, but what about the foods energetic profile?  I’m sure you guessed it: foods that grow in season are energetically more suitable for your body and to your health. Mother Nature definitely has her own wisdom here.  The foods that grow in their season are typically more energetically appropriate for the location you live in too.  For example, if you live in Florida versus Alaska, there will be a difference in the types of foods that are energetically fit for your body and health.  If you missed it, check out the blog post, Warming Mayan Dark Chocolate Pudding for more information on naming food energetics and eating foods that are warming during the colder winter months.  

Picking Local Rainbow Swiss Chard
But, that’s not all!  When we eat foods that are in season, we reduce our carbon foot print, respect the Earth and promote community.  Eating in season means that we are relying on foods that grow locally in our area.  As mentioned above, exactly what foods are in season will depend on the region and location you live in.  So, the best and easiest way to honor eating with the seasons is by supporting your local farmer and eating foods that grow in your local area.  You can also visit Seasonal Cornucopia for specifics on seasonal foods of the Pacific Northwest or Local Harvest for information around the U.S.        

Now, I have to admit that I make exceptions to eating with the seasons.  For one, I can’t live without my citrus fruits, as lemons are my absolute favorite.  But, there’s something special that comes with waiting for berry season or the fall harvest.  The anticipation of this moment in time connects me to myself by allowing me to slow down and be mindful of my actions, putting me back in rhythm with the Earth. 

So, how many of you already eat with the seasons, grow your own food or support your local farmer?  What are some other reasons you enjoy honoring the seasons? 

Wherever you’re at, I encourage you to celebrate fresh, seasonal foods in your homes today and bring harmony back to your life. 

Yours In Cooking & In Health,
Siona J

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Little TLC for Your Skillets!

Cast-Iron and carbon-steel skillets are two definite kitchen essentials!  But, how do you season and care for one of these tender babies?  It’s actually quite simple, and once you learn how to fulfill their needs, you’ll fall in love with them. 

Step 1-Seasoning:
Most cast-iron pans are already pre-seasoned when you buy them, yet this is not the case for carbon-steel pans and skillets.  Upon opening your new carbon-steel skillet, give it a good rinse with water, take notice of its silver color and then place it on the largest burner on your stove.  Turn on the hood/vent fan above your stove and open a window to ensure good air circulation.  Light (gas is ideal) the heat to high and allow any remaining water to evaporate from the pan.  Then, take a small amount of extra-virgin coconut oil and smear it evenly over the entire surface of the pan using a cloth towel.  The oil will smoke as you burn the fat into the pan, for about a minute.  Once the pan stops smoking, re-apply another thin layer of coconut oil and burn it into the pan again.  Continue this process until the entire surface of the pan becomes black.  Yes, I said black.  This process will take several minutes, but once it becomes seasoned, theoretically you should never have to repeat this step again.  The trick is to only apply a thin, even layer of oil as you do so.  Be careful, because more is definitely not better in this case!   Some people say boiling potato skins works too, but I prefer the method I described above.  After completing these steps, your pan is now ready for use.

Step 2-Cleaning:
You don’t want to remove all of your seasoning efforts and have to repeat step 1, do you? Of Course not, so the secret here is to keep the soap (unless you like the flavor of soap) and sponge away from these pans.   After cooking with your pan, you can wipe it out with a dry towel to remove any food debris.  If any food particles are being stubborn and sticking to the pan, take a small amount of salt and scrub the pan with a dry towel.  Then remove the dirty salt.  You can give it a rinse with water after doing this, but remember no soap or sponges please!  If you have food bits that are sticking adamantly after using the salt and dry towel, then you may fill the pan halfway with water, place it on the stove and bring the water to a boil for a few minutes.  This should lift any last pieces of food, although usually this step is unnecessary. 

Step 3-Storing:
After cleaning your pan, place it on the stove and turn the heat onto high for about a minute.  Then turn off the heat and lube this baby up with a thin, even layer of extra-virgin coconut oil.  Just like our skin, these pans love to be moisturized with healthy fats.  Let the pan cool and store in your cupboard as usual. 

Follow these tips and be on your way to healthier cooking.  Let me know how you like your new pans and if I can help you trouble shoot along the way. 

Yours In Cooking & In Health,
Siona J