>My future home

>A couple weeks ago my Dad and I took a quick trip to Pittsburgh, PA-home to Chatham University-aka grad school. At the end of August I begin their MAFS program (Master of Arts in Food Studies). While I find there is something nostalgic about your typical classroom setting, this program steps outside these boundaries and encorporates their 388 acre Eden Hall Campus as our “classroom”. What better way to learn the methods of sustainable agriculture and gardening than hands-on out in a garden!? The program director calls the students that received their bachelors in nutrition “refugees”… I love this! So I will be learning from the best of both worlds…

My Dad & I in front of Eden Hall barn.

Bees!

Aside from Chatham having a gorgeous campus, the city itself pleasantly surprised me. The neighborhoods are full of independent boutiques, coffee shops, and cafes… loved that a Starbucks was NOT at every corner. I made it a point to visit both campuses and the East End Food Coop. I feel I will be spending lots of time (and money) at East End… with a great bulk section, vegetarian cafe, and juice bar… I’m hooked. I can’t wait to be a member!

In June my Mom and I will trek there for about a week to find an apartment, sign a lease, and hit up all the thrift stores along the way. How exciting! I can’t wait to show her everything and have her meet the program director as well as see PIttsburgh in the summer :)

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>Do YOU know your water footprint? By now we are all aware of the looming fresh water crisis & dire need to conserve this precious resource. There are the typical everyday things we all should be doing including turning off the faucet while brushing our teeth, washing clothes ONLY when you have a full load (Dad!) and same for the dishwasher. However, most of us carry on in our daily grind neglecting to make the connection between how much water it takes to eat the foods we do, drive our cars, wear our clothes, etc. Everything we do and own has its own water “footprint” so to speak. National Geographic has this great website brimming with info for us to challenge our daily rituals and think twice about how we choose to spend our next dollar.

>Lemon Coconut Bars

>These had even my Dad raving. I have to say they are superb. What’s not to love about something so quick, simple, and delicious.

Raw Lemon Coconut Bars:

1 cup almonds
1 1/2 cup pitted dates (recommend Medjool)
1 cup dried, shredded coconut
2 TBSP lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
~1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of one vanilla bean
1/4 salt

Chop almonds in food processor into small pieces. Use the “flour around the edges of the container to dust the bottom of a 8″ or 9” glass baking dish.
Add remaining ingredients and process until well combined.
Press into the dish and cover with wax paper.
Refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight. Cut into squares to serve.

>Banana Soft Serve…oh so goood!

>Sometimes I find myself craving TCBY frozen yogurt like CRAZZZZYYYY. I can’t deny how much I miss a big bowl of soft serve every once and awhile. A big bowl loaded with sprinkles….. my absolute favorite!

An alternative I have to regular soft serve (or ice cream) is homemade frozen dessert made with frozen bananas. Toss a few in a blender or food processor, blend for a few minutes or so until a fabulous thick, ice cream like consistency is achieved. By itself like this it is soo good. IF though you are in the mood for some chocolate… whip up some homemade chocolate sauce to put on top. In a blender mix 6 tablespoons of raw cacao powder with 1 cup agave nectar or 100% maple syrup. Drizzle, or in my case drench, the top. Nutmeg or cinnamon adds a wonderful touch as well.

>Some salad dressings worth trying

>I really enjoy salads… full of dark, leafy greens and loaded with many veggies and sprouts. Lately I’ve been adding sauerkraut (Bubbies brand) in place of dressing. Without sauerkraut, marinated or roasted veggies though, a good quality dressing is key.

While living at Greenleaf my go-to dressing was simple: lime or lemon juice, lots of nutritional yeast, pepper, and salt. Sometimes I’d throw a bit of olive oil on there but I’d usually skip it. I happened to be there when there was an overwhelming amount of limes around so they quickly replaced lemons and the need for oil.

Last week I made a ginger-carrot dressing. It was so delicious and reminded me of the ginger dressing they put on Japanese salads. I was always obsessed with these dressings so thankfully I now can recreate them myself.

Carrot-Ginger Dressing:

~2 cups carrot
3 tablespoons fresh ginger
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic
1/4 flax seed or olive oil
drizzle of sesame oil
pepper, curry, cumin to taste

Blend all ingredients (using 1/2 the amount of carrot at first) in a blender. Add spices to taste. As you blend, add more carrots until you reach your desired consistency. The more carrot you add, the thicker it will be and can then be used as a dip as well.

If you like Dijon mustard try this one!

Dijon-Cider Dressing:
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
pepper to taste
1-2 packets of stevia, raw honey, or raw agave to sweeten if desired

Blend all in a blender until smooth.

>Soap Making

>As I continue to learn how to grow, prepare, and preserve food for a self-sustaining life, I naturally have developed a desire to master ALL aspects to homesteading. This is why soap making has been on my long list of do-it-yourselfers. Finally I can knock this one off.

I spent last Sunday making soap with my Mom and cousin-scratch that-my sisssta Avis. My mom and I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous we looked with our goggles & gear to protect us from the lye. Being as caustic as it is-we were scared to even take the cap off the darn bottle. We got over it… or I should say SHE got over it. I made her do the dirty work. I’m too much of a hypochondriac, especially around foreign chemicals that have poison written all over it.

The oils we used were coconut, vegetable, and olive. Here is my lovely mother measuring our oils before melting on low.

In the meantime, you must mix the lye and water. This is the only part of the process that gets sketchy and you have to be extremely careful. The reaction between the two will produce heat… lots of heat… and a nasty smell so don’t go sniffin’.
Once the lye dissolves completely, you need to cool it back down between 95-125 degrees F. The goal is to get the lye/water mixture and oil mixtures to be within 3 degrees of one another (anywhere in the 95-125 range). Once you reach this, you can add the two and beginning stirring or with an electric mixer-we used a hand held smoothie mixer- it makes the process a wholeeee lot faster. Once the soap “trails” you can add essential oils/dyes/food grade products to beautify your creation. We added patchouli essential oil and dried lavender flowers into the entire batch. Once we laid it in the containers to age, we sprinkled crushed lavender and oatmeal on top.

The soap takes a full month to age, so for now it is tucked away doing just that. Come early May we will be able to enjoy our patchouli lavender soap.

>Kombucha Update

>My SCOBY culture has formed! I have given it a little more than two weeks to grow in a dark place at room temperature. Here is what it looks like at 15 days (the white layer on top of the liquid is the scoby).

Today I will make my first batch of tea and let it brew for about 10 days. Long process… but slow food is always worth it :)

>Some of Chicago’s Finest

>I believe in supporting local, small business, and fair trade in every possible way. Here are some of my go-to places in and around Chicago.

CHICAGO DOWNTOWN FARMSTAND : gotta represent my turf! The farmstand only sells produce and food products made/grown within 250 miles of Chicago; most vendors though are within Chicago limits. sweet! Located at 66 E. Randolph, right across from the Cultural Center, in the theater district, and kiddie-corner to MIllenium Park- it’s in a bangin’ location.

INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE: Conveniently located across the street from the farmstand lies this beautiful coffeeshop (others in Chicago are in Lakeview & on Jackson). As direct coffee buyers and supporting fair trade, enjoying a morning cup of coffee doesn’t have to have you feeling guilty. One of their supports to local lies in their milk. From a kick ass farm in Illinois that treats their cows right- Kilgus Farms, you can rest assured your latte is brewed without rGBH & other yucky hormones. At this location be sure to admire the photography displayed throughout the store. In house barista and the city’s best photographer-I’m biased-Joe Lieske, has some of his incredible photos to keep your eyes pleased while enjoying your brew.

DOLLOP COFFEE: THE gem of Uptown. Serves local coffee and tea from Metropolis. They serve up the best chai lattes on this side of the mississippi. It’s a place with much character. The back room provides the finest of environments to loose yourself in whatever your coffee shop forte may be. Curl up on a couch or comfy chair and just enjoy in the joy of dollop.

UNCOMMON GROUND: Uncommon has it all: delicious, locally sourced food (Devon location even uses food from its rooftop organic garden), local brews, organic wines and drinks, beautiful art throughout, and local musicians can be heard just about every night. As members of Slow Food Chicago and Green Restaurant Assocation, their business practice and vision(s) are an excellent model for eco-conscious biz.

MARION STREET CHEESE MARKET: Go here if you want to get lost in a world of chocolate, wine, beer, cheese, and essentially the best of the best. It’s divine and they have a cafe that I cannot wait to try. Be sure to indulge in some truly amazing chocolate and wash it down with the best coconut water I’ve ever had brought to you by Taste Nirvana. Woah!

HEARTLAND CAFE: Love this place! I love even more that my Grandma used to eat here back in the day when she was a Chicago resident and my Mom was a little one. Their eclectic menu will have everyone from vegans to carnivores fully satisfied. Their cornbread is fantastic… don’t miss out!

GREENHEART SHOP: Right in the heart of Division street in Wicker Park… this fairtrade shop is full of awesome, awesome treasures! As one of their volunteers, I’m certain their practices are truthful and worth investing in. You’ll be sure to find something unique and funky!