Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 International Conference on Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine

I'm attending the 2013 ICHNFM this week.  It started on Wednesday and I'm loving it.

It is organized by Dr Alex Vasquez - and I tell you - it is really well organized.  I am very impressed.

There have been some great speakers already and more to come.

Wednesday was focusing on Functional Medicine and a Functional Inflammology Protocol, plus integrative pharmacology.  Today it was all about the brain and how to nourish the brain  - including gluten sensitivity and the brain, and Type 3 Diabetes aka Alzheimers disease.  Fascinating stuff.

Tomorrow brings a day on mitchondrial function and what nutrition makes our mitochondria work better.

They are long intense days - so I'm glad to have nothing to do afterwards but go back to my little house that I'm renting and relax.

Roll on the next 3 days :-D  I'm a happy student.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Harvest Breakfast

When our friends came to help us pick one ton of our Merlot grapes a couple of weeks ago, I made a harvest breakfast for us all.  You have to look after the workers!  I love using everything we grow in our garden for these breakfasts and in a previous post, I'd listed the menu.

We started with all-day-long oat bites - one of my staples and then had a parfait with berries, homemade marmalade granola (no sugar added) and homemade soy yoghurt.  I have to tell you that the highlight in my kitchen in the last few months has been my homemade soy yoghurt.  I'll share my recipe for it in the next day or two, but it has changed my life! I love it so much and its only 4 ingredients!  But, I digress.... the parfait was a blackberry base layer, then yoghurt, then granola, then raspberry, then yoghurt then granola.  Topped with fresh mint.

Then there was a a fig frittata, and also a roasted vegetable flat bread, with homemade sun-dried tomato hummus as its base - on a gluten free flax base:

Then came the an apple banana bread with an almond drizzle, and a discussion on whether sweet and savory dishes should be served on the same plate - or even on the same plate at the same time!!!   It is obvious that there is a big difference between Americans and British!!!

To finish -  the lemon cheesecake - dairy free, sugar free, gluten free ( and served on clean plates!!) Topped with citrus caviar!  Made with cashew nuts for the "cheese" and dates and almonds for the base.

And of course, it was our 10th harvest, so we did have to get out our ten year old Birdland Merlot wine to see how it was doing - and by the time we ate, it was lunch time!!  Every year we change the color of our wine label - our first year was yellow, as you can see below.  I wonder what color we'll choose for our 10th year?

Everyone seemed to enjoy the ending of our harvest

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

We train them young!

We had our youngest ever member of the harvest team for our merlot grape harvest this year.  Talk about training them young.  Little Evelina definitely deserved her wages! She's just 20 months old.

She harvested - the low hanging fruit:

But spent most of her time on quality control, sifting through the grapes and making sure they were up to standard.

Let's hope she comes back every year.  She'll end up being a super grape taster - predicting the best vintages, no doubt!  Thanks for all your hard work little E! xx
Monday, September 23, 2013

Full versus busy

The past couple of weeks have been very full.

And wonder-full!

We've had family staying with us and we've had four days of harvesting grapes.

But what if I had said " the past couple of weeks have been very busy".  It has such a different tone to it.

How often do you use the word "full" instead of "busy"?  Probably not very often. We so frequently hear about how everyone is so busy. Its a great excuse - "sorry, I've been busy", "I'm just so busy with..." etc.  It comes over as complaining about our life, but most of the time, we have put those things in our lives that we complain about. They are in our control.  Or maybe you are using busyness as a measure of self-worth? By using the word busy, it makes us seem like victims and that it is all out of our control..

Instead, we have filled our lives.  Our lives are full.  That sounds so rich and exciting, as opposed to saying our lives are busy.

Yes, you may be running around after your children, working, doing chores, commuting, feeding the family....but how wonderful to have a full life.

By saying our life is "full" gives a sense of pride, rather than a regret or whining when we say we are busy.  We can change things in our lives to make them quieter, we can say "no" and make adjustments, but often we want a full life.

So be proud of your full life.  Don't whine, complain and make it sound like you regret it.  Live your life to the full.

Try using the word "full" this week, instead of "busy" and see what a difference it makes.
Friday, September 13, 2013

Got any grapes?

When Evelina arrived just over a week ago, we learned a new song - which is the cute Youtube at the bottom of this post.  It's all about a duck that asks "got any grapes?".

All week we've been singing "waddle, waddle, waddle", etc - but the song was very apropos yesterday as we were harvesting our one ton of Merlot grapes.  Yes, we definitely did have some grapes.

Craig, Chui and Evelina all helped with the harvest - as did some singing friends of mine (even though they didn't know the "got any grapes?" song) - Carol, Andy and Jeremy.  We picked for about 3 hours - each working in pairs either side of the vines.

All the grapes went in to half ton bins and on a truck John had rented.  They then went off for their custom crush in Sonoma.

It was a lovely morning. It always feels so connecting to the earth and also to friends to work together on the land.

I know you can't wait to hear the duck song, so here it is!:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Harvest breakfast

While we sell most of our grapes each year, we do keep a ton for ourselves.  We pick these ourselves with the help from some of our friends and family.  Its a fun day and a lovely experience to be working on the land. After we've harvested the grapes, we sit down outside and share a big harvest breakfast.

I love to prepare food from our produce for the breakfast.  Here's what is on the menu:

All day long oat bites

  • For snacks when people first arrive - to get them ready for work, we made some all day long oat bites. And we will have coffee and orange and tangerine juice to go with them.
  • Then we've made an apple and banana bread.  Naturally we had to try it - and it was tasty - a very moist cake.  It will be served with an almond butter drizzle.
  • I also made some orange marmalade granola and some soy yoghurt yesterday.  I'm going to combine the granola with the yoghurt and some berries to make small breakfast parfaits.  
  • Then there is a fig frittata.  We've had to ration the figs to only 2 each per day for the last couple of days, so that there are plenty to go in the frittata!
  • To get some veggies into us, I'm then trying a hummus and roasted vegetable tart.  Sounds yummy so hoping it'll hold up, being gluten free.
  • And finally - my famous lemon cheesecake - which is free of cheese/dairy!
Apple and banana bread
The frittata has eggs in it (!) otherwise all dishes are vegan, gluten free, and have no refined sugar.

I think it's going to be a good breakfast for our hardworking family and friend crew.

I'll let you know how it all goes.

Harvesting crew expands

Our harvesting crew is expanding:

Here is little Evelina helping pick some figs:

And also some carrots!

She's doing well in her training - with lots of different fruits and vegetables to chose.....carrots, apples, tomatoes, pears, grapes, figs,....and also some stones to add to the pot!

Its a busy week this week as we have started our grape harvest.  The Godello (white) grapes were picked at 3am yesterday - in the dark!  This is our newest grape - a Spanish white variety that no one else is growing in California.  Our first vintage from last year's crop is being bottled now, so we'll soon be able to taste it.

We will pick our one ton of Merlot for our own wine tomorrow at the much more reasonable hour of 8am!  We are picking it ourselves with some friends and family.  It's always such a lovely day.  Picking a ton isn't too much work and then we all sit down together for a harvest breakfast.

Our main harvest (20+ tons) isn't scheduled yet as it is being bought by Jackson Family Farms (of Kendall Jackson etc) and they will decide when they want it.

With her own little bucket!
What are you harvesting this week?
Thursday, September 5, 2013

An apple a day....

Apples, apples, everywhere....

We've now harvested the majority of our apples - and I've already dehydrated five large bags of them. They taste yummy dried - with nothing added.

And like our pears, our apples are huge this year.  We have a few apples that weigh more than a pound each!  It sort of makes a mockery of the "apple a day keeps the doctor away" as one of our apples could feed a family of four!

In fact, it did for lunch today. I made a nice slaw with a single large apple, walnuts, spring onion and mint.  And it fed four of us nicely!

Not quite sure what has happened with our orchard fruit this year.  We've never seen it so large - with pears over a pound each, apples the same and even large nectarines!  Yet not a great year for tomatoes.

But no complaints!  We are loving it.  What are you enjoying this early September?
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Food as Medicine class - beans, legumes and lentils

We had a great class this morning, focusing on beans, legumes and lentils.  All wonderful sources of fiber - not to mention also great source of protein, molybdenum, B vitamins, calcium, anti-oxidants, folic acid...the list goes on.

Beans have many health benefits eg in heart disease for reducing homocysteine levels, stabilizing blood sugar levels, anti-inflammatory effects, and from the high fiber content, assisting elimination of excess hormones, cholesterol, toxins and carcinogens.

Coriander and coconut dahl with chickpea pancakes

We also discussed ways of cooking, soaking and how to reduce the gas-producing effect of beans by combining with certain spices and herbs or through the cooking and soaking techniques.

We cooked some yummy food too, including:

  • cannellini bean and basil dip
  • lentil and caper pate
  • coconut and coriander dahl served with chickpea pancakes
  • Moroccan bean stew
What a filling lunch that was! I don't think any went home hungry and we got our 35+g of fiber today, just in one meal!

Moroccan Bean Stew with black beans, garbanzo beans and lentils

And we restrained from the black bean brownies and not-so-dumb blondies this time!

Next time we will be focussing on fats, oils, essential fatty acids and the effects they have on our health.

Let me know if you are interested in attending a class.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Quentin Quail and his covey

We have a big covey of quail visiting us regularly at the moment. We enjoyed Quentin and Queenie earlier in the year and their little babes, but at this time of the year, they join up with other families and hang out together until spring next year.

While its a delight to just see Quentin, its wonderful to see 20 or more quails all running together.

When I made jewelry, Quentin was a big character in some of my designs and he became quite famous, with his little running shoes!  They do run so fast.

Little Quentin Quail necklace

Quentin says: "Play dead"!

Quentin eyed the odd egg with deep suspicion

Have you taken time to watch the birds this week?  If not, stop now and go to the window.  Take a short break and watch some birds.  It will calm and relax you - like a little meditation.
Monday, September 2, 2013

New food of the week: Citrus Caviar aka finger limes

I first heard about finger limes just a few months ago when I was looking at a fruit tree catalog.  I thought, "what an amazing fruit".  It's description was:

Unique Citrus:  Australian Finger Lime (Microcitrus australasica) 
One of the most fascinating discoveries in our fruit world, this unusual variety is sometimes called Citrus Caviar.  Contained in the dark purple, 3" long fruit are a multitude of juicy capsules, bursting with intense, sweet-tart, lemon-lime flavor.  Found in the wild in Australia, Finger Limes have been cultivated for less than 10 years in the US.

Well we have lots of citrus trees growing in our garden so the idea of citrus caviar just sounded wonderful to me.  Think of all the uses...I could put it in drinks - little floating beads of citrus; I could decorate desserts with it - imagine a dairy free lemon cheesecake with pearls of citrus caviar sprinkled on top; or just sprinkle them on salads or anywhere you'd use lemon zest......My mind was buzzing!

So yes, I had to order a tree.  I mentioned them to a friend and she asked me to order her one too so we could see who had the better climate for them - Sonoma or Glen Ellen!

But sadly, the company who are based in Oregon, said they can't ship citrus trees to California :-(

Oh dear. I was sad. So I've been asking around at local nurseries to see if they can get one for me....and no luck so far.

Then the other day, I was out in a different part of the county that I don't usually visit, seeing a new client.  On the way home I had to pick up some items for dinner so thought I'd call in a Raley's supermarket.  I've only ever been in a Raley's 3 times in my life - and always this same one. As it happens, I enjoyed shopping in there, as they had lots of different things from what I see in my usual supermarket.  But it was in the produce section that I got really excited.  I'd been around the section a couple of times and just found fresh pomegranates, which we don't normally see at this time of year. This encouraged me to look a little closer, thinking what else might they have that I don't normally see?  

And what did I spy but a little packet labelled "citriburst"! Yes - fresh finger limes for sale :-D

But when I turned the packet over, they looked very unattractive and I figured they were old and out of date.  But on closer examination, I found that their black, dark green color is actually their fresh color! All was not lost.

So 2 packets later and here I am trying them. 

They are fun!  Little pearls of citrus with a crunch to them too!  The description in the catalog was spot on - a little sweet and a little tart. And a burst in your mouth.  The pearls are different colors in each finger - some are a little pinky in color, whereas others are "lemon" in color (!) and apparently they are sometimes neon green!

So I tried sprinkling a few on top of a marmalade oat hemp bar I made, with a little of my homemade soy yoghurt.  Combination of the marmalade with the citrus caviar was great!

The best way to get the caviar out is to cut the limes in half and squeeze each half, as you see in the first couple of photos.

Got to get making some new things now with my new found friend. 

Have you ever seen them or tried them? I can imagine them being great with seafood, if you eat seafood - and a cocktail...well....we'll have to see what cocktail hour brings this evening! Give them a try if you can find them.  They are a happy food!  Something different to delight your eyes as well as your taste buds.

Have you tried a new food this week?

Here's the supplier's video:


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