Chard, Kale, Oxalates…and old punk rock memories.

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If I could climb into a time machine and go back to the past, I would travel to the year 2001. The year that I got married. I would re-live the preparations for our wedding. The center pieces on the tables would be a bright display of purple, white and yellow cabbages all bundled together in a circular nest surrounded by various brightly colored vegetables huddled around and fully garnished with edible flowers.

My bridesmaids, groomsmen and honorable mentions would all be wearing elegant yet flavorful corsages and boutonnieres made out of flowered lavender, mixed with thyme, basil, rosemary and mountain top dandelions.

Then lastly, my favorite part, I would walk down the aisle with an arm full of vibrant rainbow chard and kale. I would also want to add flowering herbs such as chives, lavender, bee balm, and meadowsweet. Lovely lambs ear and dead-nettle mixed into the bunch as well. Maybe some mountain top dandelions for my bouquet, not to mention a few dangling cherry tomatoes and the vine of sugar snap peas poking out around the lower edges; hanging delicately like little bells. To finish it up I would want the vine of grapes used to wrap it all together, it would be a vine that still had the very start of tiny un-ripe miniature grape bundles hanging from the strands. OH yes wouldn’t that all be amazing…

This idea sparked after I gathered a heaping amount of kale and swiss chard into a lovely bundle from my garden. I held it all in my hand and mindlessly began arranging them, so that the yellows and reds of the chard would shine through. I admired the beauty and I began to daydream about how amazing an edible wedding would be! I think I will save this idea for a 25th wedding anniversary or something of that nature!

In reality I would never go back and change one thing about my youthful punk rock wedding. We are different people now, my husband and I, and each decade we change. Our outward forms of expression are symbolic for both who we are and who we were.

Oh for memories sake let me tell you a little about it: When I got married I was only 19 going on 20. We were young wild things, My hair was tinted with tips of firetruck red and my husband’s mohawk matched in color. My lip was pierced with a silver lip ring embellished with a red gemstone in the middle to match our fiery hair. Our wedding party wore black high-top converse shoes and our wedding colors were red, white and black. We danced to a song by Danzig called “Sistinas”.  Our youthful spirits filled the dance floor with a ruckus of movement as we rollicked the night away with beat driving 1980’s music saluting the open space of the room.

Now, here I am 12 years later with two kids and my 3rd dog-child Moonshine a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, still married to the man of my dreams who is now a hard working responsible foreman, who frequents the barber shop to keep his hair precisely trimmed.  I of course wish he would let it go wild, at least, just a little bit. No more days of barbarian mohawks and metal lip rings for us…

No, I garden and take pictures of kale and chard and imagine a wedding with a different kind of ambiance. I have definitely changed.

I love leafy greens in the garden, with most of them you can continue to snip away at their stalks and they will continue to give you a harvest for months.

I am harvesting rainbow chard and kale with my dinners weekly. I like to understand what my food does for my body when I eat it.  When I first started to get interested in the topic of health food and traditional culinary practices I purchased the book “Nourishing Traditions”.  This book is stock full of little excerpts on each page that tell you so much history and fact-full information about what you are eating. So whenever I made a meal from the book I would sit down at our table and read to my little family about what their food was going to contribute to their bodies. It is captivating to me to understand the science behind my food.

Kale, is this robust strong mighty leaf that can often brave the changes in weather and be harvested up until early winter, depending on the circumstances. Web Md calls it the “queen of greens”.  It’s health benefits trump the best of them and it’s flavor is rich to the taste buds.

KALE’S LIFE-GIVING FACTS:

– Did you know that Kale has more iron than beef! Hard to believe! It is being dubbed, “The New Beef”.  Due to it’s high iron content it promotes healthy hemoglobin and enzyme growth, it aids in bringing valued oxygen to vital parts of cell growth, and it also contributes to proper liver growth.

– High in Vitamin K! Vit. K is a great carcinogen fighter for your body! It also supports bone growth and the prevention of blood clotting.

– Kale has omega 3’s which are essential for fighting inflammation. It is important to eat anti-inflammatory foods in order to create a healthy alkalinity in our bodies.

– High in vitamin A which equals good vision and great skin.

– High in vitamin C, that means immune boosting time when you shovel down some of those greens!

– High in calcium: Bone loss prevention!

– Kale can be used to promote detox with it’s high fiber and sulfur content which promotes a healthy liver.

Swiss chard is not as hearty as kale, it’s leaf shines with color as the veins tend to be the shade of the stem and the leaf almost looks waxy because of it’s lush luminous green hues. To be honest, I never really ate chard before I planted it in my garden. I am sure it was in mixed packages of salad greens, but I never intentionally purchased a bundle of chard from the store. After growing it, it is definitely a leafy green that I am learning to cook with and I thoroughly enjoy!

Rainbow chard is as vibrant in appearance as it is in it’s flavor. It can be harvested typically between June and up to November. Both the leaves and stalks are edible. Rainbow chard can be cooked pretty much anyway that you want: boiled, braised, steamed or saute’ed (this goes the same for kale).

SWISS CHARD’S LIFE-GIVING FACTS: 

– Full of vitamins K, A, and C!

– It is packed with potassium, magnesium, iron and fiber.

– It is considered a super food as it is high in antioxidants. Immune boosting super powers!

– Rich in B-complex vitamins.

– Chard is a member of the beet family, but the roots are not edible.

WARNING: Something to think about…  Do you know about oxalic acids? 

Most of us are hopefully aware that rhubarb leaves are poisonous. It is important to only eat the stalk of rhubarb and to discard the leaves. Why? Because the leaves are so high in oxalic acids that they are detrimental for human consumption.

What is oxalic acid? A quick description is that it is a chemical found in many plants. The acid binds with calcium which creates calcium oxalate, which is an insoluble salt. Too much oxalic acid can be dangerous.

It is so trendy right now to consume kale, spinach and chard in smoothies…juice them, smoothie them up or throw them in your salads. I hear this advice all of the time, but what a lot of people don’t know is that too much raw oxalic acid from certain greens is counterproductive. All of these leafy greens are considered super-foods. We want them, they are really good for us, but eating too much of it raw is not the best plan, why? because lightly cooking these greens frees up the oxalic acid count. Most studies say that Kale is not high enough on the oxalic count to worry about. However, chard and spinach are both very high in acids.

Kale has a much lower amount of oxalic acid compared to chard. Many greens have a level of oxalic acid thus if you veto out kale you would have to veto out a large number or greens, and these are edible plants, gifts to the human body meant to be eaten.  Most sources say that eating kale raw is fine but I would simply recommend eating it raw in moderation. I personally prefer to steam or lightly saute’ them because I don’t want to worry about levels of oxalic acid and of course the famous kale chips are a perfect way to intake these nutritious greens. WHFoods offers information on kale and I take their advice on the healthiest way to eat kale is to steam it. They also have a very informative section on the oxalic acid in kale.

Swiss chard actually has a very high content of oxalic acids and WHFoods states, “Swiss chard is only one of three vegetables we recommend boiling to free up [oxalic] acids and allowing them to leach into the boiling water; this brings out a sweeter taste from the chard. Discard the boiling water after cooking; do not drink it or use it for stock because of its acid content.”

Most people are not aware of oxalic acid, and an over consumption of oxalic acid is said to promote kidney stones. Studies show that if you have any type of existing or untreated kidney issues or gallbladder problems that you might want to avoid the high oxalic vegetables all together.

One thing that is important to understand is that food is truly thy medicine. Their is a science to every plantae that you eat and knowing your food means understanding what it can do for you and whether your body should be eating it.  Just like not all prescriptions are for all people, not all food is for all people. We need to educate ourselves about our own bodies and about the right food for our bodies.

I personally enjoy the super food that swiss chard and kale are but I take heed to the recommended wisdom that it is not a leafy green to consume raw, or at least done in moderation.

Or…you could always grow them in order to make elaborate wedding bouquets for an edible wedding?!?!…  😉

More info on Oxalic Acid: 

Click here for info on Kale

Click here for info on chard

Click here for more of a thorough reading on oxalic acid

It is important to take into consideration that I am not a nutritionist. I am someone that is deeply interested in food science but I do not have a degree. It is imporant for you to talk with your personal naturopath, integrative doctor or nutritionist and/or do more research for yourself.

Thanks for reading,

– Jenny Rose

 

 

 

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Without Waste…and Learning and STILL Learning.

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A pattern has evolved in the household of our FoStew domain (Fostew is the abbreviation I give to the valued names of our last name-hood combined in this household).

First, I have really engrossed myself in the mysterious and amazing world of compost… this elemental practice is the gateway into the beginnings of life as we know it in regards to the food chain.  Now, that has lead me to think more actively about my daily actions of what can be re-used, recycled, or re-purposed. New ideas are hitting the fan all the time…  for now it goes a little like this… learning and observing and enjoying the fascinating actions of simplistic practices that I find phenomenal (like a kid in a candy store), which I am just now taking hold of and realizing that a very many of us today (especially my generation and younger) do not practice similar customs that really should have continued to be passed on down the generations.  My version of “age old cooking” and “recycling” and “reusing” is new to me, and old to me… it is a lot of information that I have gathered for years but have hardly put it into REAL practice… again, my efforts right now at this baby stage are truly simplistic compared to the hard work practice of my ancestors who are the real ambassadors of frugality… my learning has only just begun, because somewhere along the lines the traditions of simple homestead, earth making and sustainable practices for the most part have been deleted from the upbringing of today’s western society…but it begs me to wonder where was the fracture? Why have these traditions of re-using so much within the home, including the diet have come to an end in practical daily ritual for so many households in today’s world.

I know it was for me, until I became enlightened to the simplicity of the daily evaluation of intake, out-take and re-take; if that makes any sense.  Another thing that I have thought about is that for so long I have studied and known so many facts and with a head full of knowledge I could spout out many things that are good for us and good for the earth but in practice only a few things would meet my verbal standards. Admittedly, I am fond of knowledge and get thoroughly excited as a sanguine personality type can sometimes be shallow and thus my attempts at following through with my heart spasms are not always finish line worthy, although not intended, but a track record of not finishing is indeed an old habit.  That is why when practice and purpose takes form in my life, my heart is just leaping forward!! My actual current practice and progression in life is slow on the get go right now because I want to actually create a lifestyle here and slow steps are the answer for me; creating habits to LIVE by.  With these simplistic easy no brainer ways of conducting my home I would imagine that there are some people that may scoff saying, “That’s old news…”  Well sure, it is old news, very old news and it is certainly too bad that this old news of simplicity is not practiced by a majority today. It is so simple that it baffles me as I learn to change habits in our home.

Do you follow me?.. I know, I am ranting. Lets begin with what has inspired me tonight:

Sundays have within the past few months become my ritual day of preparation for the week.  Today I started dinner with the help of my daughter. My son was engrossed in Legos and my daughter was begging to help. My son, also begs to help but tonight he was not interested. My husband was out chopping wood all day to provide enough wood to heat our home for the next year and even though today is not a formal “work day” I consider it a day of rest for this human whom provides every bit of bread and butter for this family.

I am a feminist, and to me the word feminist really stands for “equalist”… it is a term that defines a way of life involving the awareness and activism and progression ascending towards a way of equality, therefore it goes both ways in regards to gender… specifically gender is not a question, yet socially it often is… we are both humans, we love each other, we work together and we both contribute to the household and that is pretty much it; the whole topic is really not all that complicated.  Regardless of gender, my husband is the money maker by choice and I am the college student, the teacher of our children (in cahoots with a local home school geared educational program lead by certified teachers), and also a stay at the home madre… and we all know the work that comes along with that title…no need for the mile long list. This is our current set-up ONLY because we chose this path while we raise our children ( I could go into depth as to why we chose this path; pointing at how most men make more money than women, mostly pertaining to two individuals without a college degree… and so on…but I will save that for another time…however, to throw out a bit of thought my spouse would just love to do my job if I had the opportunity to have a position to work outside the home that would make the same or more than he makes…).  I then as an equalist step forward with common sense and consider that my partner has worked very hard all day and I have also worked very hard, however, I consider my position as a place of freedom in comparison to his place of position at work, working under authorities and restrictions. Therefore, I find it liberating to be able to be the provider of meals and nourishment and health in our family.  I attempt to do the simple necessities such as laundry, dishes, sweeping and so forth during the week. Usually on the weekends he and I both cook, both clean, both take care of household needs… it is an equal system, not an expected system.

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Some busy kitchen action on a Sunday night. Chicken bone broth, leeks a sizzling, acorn seeds drying out in the colander, water boiling for dinner tonight, kale being chopped, garlic being smashed and gizzards slow cooking for a side dish of nutrient abundance!

OK so to the point of tonight’s blog entry:  Tonight while cooking dinner, I am multi-tasking every single thing that I do and it hits me… I realized tonight that I have created a new pattern for myself and I am really stoked about this.  As I explained above, this is all new to me, so when it really hits ground and I am actually doing it out of second nature and pattern; it feels pretty darn good.

I began with this… Cutting open acorn squash and erecting the seeds out of the middle and washing them in a strainer to set aside for slow roasted squash seeds in which to make later as a healthy snack. Also putting the squash guts into a giant stock pot I am preparing for bone broth.  I then throw the squash in the oven on top of coconut oil and proceed to grab the thawed whole chicken out of my fridge. I holler over to my beloved because I am still dealing with allergic eczema issues on my hands, I feel hesitant to dive into the carcass of a whole chicken with my vulnerable fingers.  He then preps the chicken, pulls out the neck and gizzards for me to re-use.  We throw the gizzards into a pan to slow cook so that we can eat it on the side with our meal tonight, providing a hefty amount of protein, iron and zinc, as well as, vitamin B-12.

I then throw some chopped up leeks onto the cast iron pan with a spoonful of coconut oil and Himalayan sea salt… I let that sizzle for a minute while I hop over to the cutting board to chop up some fresh veggies (celery and carrots and onions) to the bone broth stock pot. Then I jump back to the cutting board for more work on tonight’s meal and choppity chop up some fresh Italian kale leaves to add to the leeks and then I  threw a couple of diced garlic cloves into the mixture. I throw the stems of the kale into the stock pot. As that all simmers together, I boil some spelt noodles in a pot of water and then continue to work on the bone broth preparations, which is the staple of nutrition in our kitchen that has recently become a health revolution in this home!! Link for more info on health benefits.

The next step is to put the chicken and neck as well as the chicken feet into the stock pot. Let us not waste anything… the chicken feet included! What a gelatin rich broth you are missing out on without those feet! I fill the pot up with water and then add carrots, celery, 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, about 8 to 10 cloves of garlic, and left over vegetable pieces and egg shells that have been previously frozen from former meal preparations.  Again let nothing go to waste.  When chopping carrots make sure and save the carrot tops in your freezer, along with the tops of your leeks, the pieces of kale that you might not prefer if they are too tough, as well as, any vegetables that have just sat in your fridge that you would prefer to not eat but could just as well freeze and save for a broth.  Also, I have recently learned from the advice of an acquaintance to keep egg shells and put them in your stocks.  Basically anything that is edible; save the left over pieces and use them to create a nutritious addition to bone broth or compile left over vegetables to create an amazing vegetable broth. Keep it all in your freezer until the time is right.  Such simple money saving practices that literally use every element of the meat and produce that you purchase. You wouldn’t believe how many years of veggie scraps were simply piled into the garbage or disposal after mindless cooking sessions in the kitchen.

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My current freezer stock of vegetable pieces. I learned this trick from the master composter Mrs. Potter whom teaches our gardening class. I of course should probably put all of this into glass jars or non plastic containers, but this is what I got RIGHT now and as I continue adding new habits into our home I continue to adapt to new habits… for me success is learning and doing with ONE step at a time.

My growing weekly compost pile from our family of 4 is also invigorating… with every meal I add to it, the little pieces left over from the cutting board, the apple cores, the banana peels, the avocado seeds and skin… the list goes on with every meal.  I can’t help but to feel excited about the nutrition that I am planting into the earth from the organic material.  I may be a total earth loving nerd, but I am telling you, this simple stuff really rocks my world!!  If you are making vegetable broth from the vegetables that you freeze, after the broth is complete then simply add those veggies to the compost as well. Any and all vegetable scraps from your kitchen should be added to your compost container.  This is the very first step of the practice of “re-using” which promotes the sustainability and health of your own backyard soil and garden and essentially the EARTH 🙂 !!!

Also, please note: you do not want to add vegetables that have been cooked with meat or meat products to your compost, it may attract animals such as raccoon’s etc. to your compost pile(s) and can create a pest control issue in your yard.

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Compost over flow! Time to get out into that wintery weather for this weeks batch of compost to add to our lasagna gardening layers going on in big pots right now.

As we all know there is no paper or plastic these days that we should set inside the garbage can unless you have a specified recycling service that does not serve to recycle a certain number style of plastic.  Look into that for your own area.  I usually throw my recycling pile for the day into the far corner of one of my kitchen counters. Also, just a note, I am learning to request paper only, strictly learning to do this because of the issue with the form of plastic bags that are used at the grocery store, yet still I often forget… it is all about baby steps of progression and then as long as I am actively trying… one day it just suddenly fits, like a puzzle, stuck with me and BAM a habit is born.

In my house I generally hate clutter, I despise it actually, yet with life and children and busy days clutter is a constant battle…I have not gotten around to finding a bin to place under our sink in order to organize the clutter from recyclables, once I do, it will generally help out even more but in the meantime my counter corner works 😉 .  Whatever works for you, just make sure that recycling goes out there. It truly makes a difference rather than just filling up our land with garbage heaped land fills.

Tonight, I look over at my chaotic kitchen with piles of recyclables a midst my re-use of many products and my creations of meal based staples for the week, usable veggies being tossed in the freezer, unwanted veggie scraps thrown in the compost, as well as, a meal for this evening and I feel pretty darn good. My whole chicken will create endless meals.  Not only will the tender chicken last for 2 to 3 meals, the bone broth made, which is plumb full of vitality for the human body, will be used as soup broth, morning tea, and used to cook with rice or quinoa… basically most kitchen recipes that call for water, simply add broth.  It is so useful and so nutritious! Also, I usually cook my whole chicken on simmer with chicken feet and bones and all the other goods for at least 10 to 24 hours… the longer the better! My daughter adds her job into the mix by pulling out the savory acorn squash from the oven and douses them with cultured butter, cane sugar and salt. I mix up the spelt noodles with the leek, garlic and kale and some fresh basil and chopped tomatoes.  To top it off I celebrate this divine evening with a simple solitary glass of wine.  Ahhhhhh tonight feels good.

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Simple dimple: Recycle, reduse, reuse and close the loop 😉
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The stock pot filled with water and all the goodness included, now it is not officially to be called bone broth until it simmers for the next 10 to 24 hours… preferably 24, at least

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And lastly out of all these neat and tidy photos, I would like to share with you an actual photo of the whole chaotic picture of my kitchen land… and yes, we do draw on our floor with sharpie markers.  It is an old floor, why not have fun with it.  😉

With all that is expressed above I am doing this on a penny pinching budget… we have never been more “poor” than this time in our lives right now. So many expenses this year, but learning to create sustainable habits actually saves you money and you are eating a heck of a lot better.

This kitchen is a place where a lot happens and more is happening all of the time, the kitchen is a place where nutritious meals and tonics and staples are being created that fill our bodies with wholesome food and as I learn I continue to progress into a place that not only fills our bodies with good things but also gives back to the earth.  Goodness all around.  Not perfect yet, not even close, and hardly ever will be… waste still happens, but tonight I was stoked at the progression that is happening around here. Slow but progressive.  I was not raised to cook like this. In fact, I was raised pretty darn awesome considering circumstances and I have no sense of lack from that perspective.  However, I am joyful for the opportunity in my adulthood, and motherhood and personhood at this stage in my life to learn; to soak in the value of what good quality nourishment does to the human vessel and what the practice of sustainability in the kitchen can actually do for the environment around us… Imagine if this simple, easy cheesy puddin pie idea of sustainable practices in the kitchen, the stinken kitchen of all places, spread around the communities that we live in.  Our earth would definitely say thank you and so would our bodies.  Our purchases would begin to speak volume, as well as, the awareness we would experience as we begin to acknowledge the power of putting our money where our mouths are… supporting local farms and avoiding mass manipulative corporations that are controlled by only a few in this nation… imagine what the kitchen work of men and women of households can do with their simple actions. I am enlightened by this simple domestic revolution… 😉

And as I learn I continue to learn AND as I learn I continue to LEARN… and each time I learn I realize that these values are so darn simple… what have we lost within so many generations… practices of our ancestors that can speak wisdom into our lives TODAY.