New Recipe Board

Are you looking for gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, low or sugar-free, (something else -free) or just recipes for YUMMY whole food to make and enjoy? For ideas to get you going, you’re welcome to peruse my Pinterest board where I’ve collected recipes from around the web (and sometimes my kitchen) that inspire our family to eat well every day. Good cooks eat well! Zinnia Cooks at the Oasis recipe board on Pinterest.

And who is Zinnia you might ask? Zinnia Consulting (Ltd. Canada) is one of the workplaces of the Caffeinated Camel. Life extends farther than here at the oasis. Feel free to drop by.

Eat well, live well! Cheers!

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Meal in a Jar!

I just spent several hours with my 3 wonderful sons in the kitchen bulk cooking and preparing Paleo meals in jars for this upcoming week. Not only are these convenient, tasty, and healthy, they’re just so darned pretty! Cooking and preparing food together is part of daily life in our family, and as far as I’m concerned nothing beats it for living the reality of real healthy food as connected to well-being and family life.

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Several forces converged to bring this into being (maybe some of these sound familiar):

• My 3 teen and pre-teen sons consume super-human amounts of food
• Eating Paleo means lots of meat, veggies, fruits and nuts.
• I have kids going to day camp who need packed lunches every day.
• With the nice weather I don’t want to prepare every meal every day.
• Paleo-friendly convenience foods are limited, expensive and over-packaged.
• I can’t stand the tyranny of plastic containers (aarg where’s the lid?).

But, best reason of all: my hubby and I are heading off for a mini-vacation to celebrate our 20th anniversary, leaving kids with childcare at home (woohoo!).

A while ago, I came across this Big Red Kitchen Site with lots of recipes and ideas for Mason jar meals. That settled it. I decided that this was the time to make the transition to jars for leftovers, lunches, and bulk cooking, and rid ourselves of plastic hell. I bought several sizes of jars, adding to the ones I already had. It’s a good idea to buy extra lids from the get go. In my experience, sometimes the utility white plastic lids don’t seal tightly enough as compared with the two-piece canning lids.

Some recipes were cooked in the jars; some are raw; some were put in jars after cooking, and some have a combination of each. Please note that these meal-in-a-jars are not properly “canned”, and therefore have the same shelf life and refrigeration requirements as unjarred foods. The good news is that most of these recipes can also be frozen right in the jars.

In this round:
Main Courses
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Shepherd’s Pie: Loaded raw and baked in the jar. Hamburger, onion, red pepper, spinach, garlic, salt and pepper. Press into bottom of the jar. Blend grated sweet potato with salt and curry powder and layer on hamburger. Top with ground almonds and a shake of paprika.

Chili on Rice: Cauliflower rice: celery, carrot, red pepper, onion, salt, pepper, garlic, poultry seasoning, fried in olive oil. Add grated cauliflower and fry, then add stock (I used cooking water from sausage links). Chili: onion, peppers, spinach, hamburger, cumin, garlic, chili powder, liquid smoke, salt and pepper. Spoon rice on the bottom on the jar, and cover with chili.

Beef and Mango: leftovers of beef strips, mango, roast carrots and turnips, and bok choi with garlic.
Burger to Go: hamburger patty in a jar topped with tomato and homemade kechup, relish and pickles.
Creamy Noodles with Chicken: Sweet potato noodles, garlic cashew cream sauce, with diced chicken. Assembled as dinner leftovers.

Pigs in Blankets: cooked sausage, cut in slices but held together with a skewer (remove before adding lid), in the jar, surrounded by Paleo cake batter and baked in jar. Paleo cake: ground almonds and coconut, bananas, liquid egg whites, salt, cinnamon, fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.
Spaghetti with Meatball: Assembled as dinner leftovers. Sweet potato noodles, tomato sauce with roasted red peppers, topped with a giant meatball: hamburger, carrots, egg whites, garlic, salt and pepper, baked on sheets.

Sides
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Cobb Pride Salads: cherry tomatoes, carrot, yellow pepper, celery, cucumber, blueberries, purple grapes.

Fruit Jello: frozen fruit with jello made from unsweetened juice and gelatin.

Desserts
Apple Cream Pie: almond crust with coconut fat, salt and egg whites. Filling: diced apples, salt, cinnamon, ginger, coconut milk. Added to crusts which were pre-baked in the jars. Topped with raisins.

Chocolate Mousse Pie: almond crust with coconut fat, salt, egg whites and cocoa, baked in jars, then cooled. Mousse: 5 avocadoes, 3 bananas, 1 can high fat coconut milk, melted chocolate chips, blended in the food processor.

Each kid’s packed lunch consists of a main course, salad, fruit, and dessert, each in its own jar. Best of all, they can pack it themselves, and load empty jars into the dishwasher at the end of the day. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Happy Summer!
Cheers, Caffeinated Camel

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Joyous Little Steps on One of Many Paths Up the Mountain- Update

Today’s Venture:
Homemeade
Pickles, Relish, Coconut Almond Milk and Pumpkin Breakfast Cake (all Paleo, GFCF)
milk and cake

This is for folks who think they don’t have the ‘massive’ amounts of time that is supposedly required to invest in Real Food.

Think of yourself as a production line and do tasks that can be efficiently multi-tasked together in a coordinated work flow or production line. Make things at the same time that have coordinated work processes, or that require similar ingredients or equipment that you don’t need to clean between recipes (sweet to savory usually goes better than savory or spicy to sweet!).

Pickles and Relish (similar ingredients and equipment)
Boil in a large pot: apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar, honey (optional), pickling spice, fennel seed, garlic powder, salt, and turmeric (mustard seed, celery seed, and dill are good too, but I was out). I also added a bunch of fresh mint. Boil until vinegar mixture has reduced by about half.

While it boils, thinly slice regular cucumbers (so-called pickle cucumbers are not required). A food processor works best for this, but this time I used a box grater. For relish, I again used the box grater using short strokes to get relish-like chunks. Yes, of course you could take the perfectionist route here and demonstrate your fine knife skills. I opted out this time. For the relish, I also grated a purple onion. I would have included a red pepper for the relish, but we didn’t have any on hand.

Fill jars with sliced cucumbers, and for relish only fill about two thirds full, and add vinegar mixture to fill jar. I lid and date my jars and keep them in the fridge. They get better over time.

Coconut Almond Milk and Pumpkin Breakfast Cake
(shared ingredients and equipment)

  1. In a blender or food processor (Vitamix is amazing for this, or I use a Breville blender), grind about 3 cups of unsweetened coconut and about 3 cups of almonds with however much water your equipment will hold, and blend until smooth.
  2. Strain through a nylon mesh bag into a large mixing bowl. Yes, you can buy a ‘nut milk bag’, but the best of these are $2 paint strainers from the hardware store. I have also found nylon mesh bags as reusable produce bags. Yes, you can use cheesecloth, but it’s a real pain and so really? Why?
  3. Squeeze out all the ‘milk’ into a bowl. Return dregs to blender and add more water, blending again until smooth. Again, drain through the mesh bag.
  4. Repeat this process until the milk is to your preferred concentration/weakness. For us, creamier for eggnog, medium for coffee, and lighter for drinking.
  5. Add a pinch of salt, vanilla and stevia (all optional) to taste.  Refrigerate in jars and shake before serving.
  6. Place coconut and almond dregs from the mesh bag into the mixing bowl.
  7. Blend with 1 large can of pure pumpkin, 1 cup of raisins, molasses (optional), cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, allspice, ground ginger and ground cloves, and about 1 cup of beaten whole eggs, yolks or egg whites.
  8. Beat ½ cup egg whites until stiff. Fold into batter.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees in loaf pans or a Bundt pan or a muffin pan. I use silicon. The baking time is really long compared to conventional recipes, and variable depending on your oven and your pan choice. Approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours for a full Bundt pan. Test for doneness is when a knife comes out clean and dry from the middle.

Combined Work Flow

  1. Put vinegar and spices on to boil
  2. Blend coconut and almonds with water
  3. Compile ingredients for breakfast cake
  4. Finish making coconut almond milk. Jar and refrigerate.
  5. Grate cucumbers and onion, and put into jars
  6. Pre-heat oven for breakfast cake
  7. Pour reduced vinegar into pickle and relish jars. Lid, label and refrigerate
  8. Put egg whites on to beat (if you use a stand mixer, otherwise do this later)
  9. Combine ingredients for breakfast cake
  10. Fold in egg whites, and bake breakfast cake

All in All
So how much time all together? Well, I drank my afternoon coffee at the same time, and I finished just a bit after the time it took to play Yes’s 90125 album (not including clean up). And we’ve got breakfast cake, milk and coffee creamer for the week, and we’ve cracked the evil sugary green of commercial pickles and relish. A worthy effort as far as I’m concerned.

Joyous Little Steps on One of Many Paths Up the Mountain

There is no doubt that our over-reliance on chemicals, sugar, and plastics (among others) is individually and collectively leading to many bad outcomes. Through our daily eating patterns, we are torturing and killing ourselves, our family members, peoples around the globe, as well as countless species and the eco-systems and eco-processes that maintain life on this planet. Socio-cultural and bio-ecological destruction are a definite reality at this time.

I know. There’s so many contradictory approaches out there, that it’s hard to know who and what to believe: vegetarian, vegan, raw, Paleo, gluten-free, 100 mile diet, GFCF, SCD, Feingold, organic, sugar-free, etc. etc. (no, it’s not my intention to marginalize your special approach by having left it off of this list)? And really, it’s so confusing, why do anything different? Amirite?

In addressing this complex of destructive processes, I’m following the approach that there are many paths up the mountain, and therefore it’s folly to spit on somebody’s path forward, just because it’s not the path you’re on, and it’s even more folly if you’re standing on the sidelines. And I don’t take the view that significant changes necessarily result in feelings of deprivation or suffering. This is not the path of suffering in order to reach the promised land. To the contrary, this path IS the good life.

This post describes some of the steps we’re taking on our path for myself and my family. At this time, four of five family members now eat a Paleo (aka paleolithic, primal) diet: no grains, no dairy, and no legumes. By definition, this means our diet is also gluten-free, lactose-free, and casein-free (GFCF). We buy our meat and eggs locally, grass-fed, no antibiotics. We buy our nuts, seeds, and dried fruit in bulk online from a distributor who buys directly from the producers. We cook virtually all our meals from scratch, with few chemicals, little sugar, and with little packaging.

We’re not perfect at this, and it’s clear that there are other paths to take, for us, and for others. Nevertheless, I’d like to share with you some of our recent ventures we’ve embarked on.

MAJOR CAVEAT EMPTOR: I rarely measure for recipes. I know some of you are compulsive measurers out there, and *yes*, trust me, I am aware of the benefits of measurement. My response to the compulsive measurers: Get to know your ingredients and your processes. Let your eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and hands lead you to decide how much and how long. And if that’s causing you too much personal distress, then go seek out the other compulsive measurers out there.

Homemade Ketchup (vegan, potentially raw, GFCF, Paleo, sugar-free (omit molasses))
Blend: jar of sugar-free tomato sauce (preferably home-grown, homemade), dried tomatoes (preferably home-grown, home-dried) that have been softened in olive oil, the olive oil used to soften the dried tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, bit of molasses, ground cloves, ground dried ginger.

Homemade Egg White Mayonnaise (Paleo, raw, GFCF, sugar-free)
I can not eat egg yolks, but mayonnaise can still be made with the egg whites only. This mayonnaise recipe uses raw eggs. Before you jump on the ‘dreaded salmonella from raw eggs’ bandwagon, please be aware that the cases of salmonella with eggs have been primarily due to the unsanitary conditions in conventional chicken production. Stop blaming the eggs. If you want to address the ‘problem’ with salmonella and raw eggs, stop supporting the nasty production processes that lead to salmonella and many other problems. For this (and all recipes), I recommend using farm eggs (that you know have used good farming practices) or pasteurized egg whites from a carton.

You can use any recipe for homemade mayo you like. Any recipe will work similarly for egg whites, egg yolks, or whole eggs. I combine egg white, lemon, salt (and sometimes a bit of mustard) in a blender, then slowly and gradually add olive oil and grapeseed oil while the blender is running. I find that the olive oil alone is too strong a taste for my preference in mayo. A hand blender can also be used, but it’s just a bit trickier.

Oh, and while we’re dancing around the yolks question: We’re on the path that believes that eating fats and cholesterol are not leading causes of heart disease and obesity. So spread these on, they’re yummy!!

Variations on a Mayo
You can use homemade mayo as a base to a wide variety of sauces, including these, which are some of our favourites:
• spinach and nutmeg
• lots of fresh garlic and lemon
• fresh basil
• Green Goddess Sauce: blend: mayo, 5 avocadoes, cooked and drained spinach, nutmeg and salt
• Chocolate mayo icing: Make mayo leaving out the lemon juice, mustard and salt, and using grapeseed oil (not olive oil), and at the end add a bit of melted coconut oil, vanilla, stevia and good quality unsweetened cocoa or melted chocolate.

Homemade Toothpaste (Paleo, raw, GFCF, vegan, sugar-free)

With conventional toothpaste, there are problems with fluoride, glycerin, sugar, chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate, and packaging. Natural alternatives are expensive and don’t address the packaging concerns. In finding an alternative toothpaste recipe, the taste and harshness of baking soda and salt were deal breakers for me.

Using what I already had on hand, this was the recipe I used for this round: Blend: melted coconut oil (natural antibiotic), coconut flour (fine powder as an abrasive), stevia, lemon oil and peppermint oil (for taste).

Delivery system: jar with a spoon was ok, but I’m using a syringe-type plunger that is used for giving liquid medicines to babies. Despite the total ineffectiveness of that product in actually delivering liquid medicines to babies, in my experience, this plastic thingy does a decent job of toothpaste delivery. Camping stores often have fillable and washable tubes that could be useful too.

Bacon-Weave Mole Tostadas (Paleo, GFCF, Sugar-Free)

Bacon Weave Mole Tostadas

  1. Make bacon-weave flat ‘tostada’ shells  Cut nitrate-free bacon strips in half and weave 3×3 flat shells, bake in oven on sheet, drain (this is a variation of the recipe from Civilized Caveman Cooking (http://civilizedcavemancooking.com).
  2. Fry diced pork tenderloin with salt and pepper
  3. Make mole sauce: grind and blend garlic, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almond butter, raisins, chili powder, liquid smoke, unsweetened cocoa, and gradually add hot water until turns to a paste. Add to cooked pork.
  4. Make guacamole: blend avocado, lime, chilis, salt, cilantro, and chopped onion
  5. Spoon mole pork on bacon shells, then add guacamole, and top with fresh diced tomato

Super Sausages (Paleo, GFCF, Sugar-Free)

Super Sausage Dinner

  1. Fry nitrate-free Italian-style sausages
  2. Fry onions, garlic, and grated carrots and apples (pictured here including beautiful purple carrots) with a bit of salt
  3. Make Green Goddess Sauce: blend: homemade mayo, 5 avocadoes, cooked and drained spinach, nutmeg and salt
  4. Assemble the following onto Romaine lettuce leaves: Green Goddess sauce, sausage, and top with onion, carrot and apple mixture.

Joyous Little Steps on One of Many Paths Up the Mountain

These are each little steps, which did not result in a family mutiny, and did not require us to break the bank or give up our day jobs in order to implement. Of course, they required some time, resources and skills. But at least these are investments towards better health, family-life, and social and environmental sustainability. If you’re not investing in those, what are you investing in?
Cheers!

Caffeinated Camel

Transformational Festivals: Update!

Envision Festival packed music, spoken word presentations, yoga, movement, art, dance, performance, workshops, into a festival community experience on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.

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Among many visually stunning images of the festival, Gypsyd of Gypsyd Photography captured and posted some amazing pictures, including one of yours truly.

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Jeet-Kei Leung (who did the fantastic TED talk on transformational festivals, posted previously here on Caffeinated Camel) was also at Envision, here shooting the intro to Episode 1 of his upcoming video series ‘The Bloom’.

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Clearly, ‘The Bloom’ demonstrates and develops the ideas presented in his TED talk. “‘The Bloom’, a ground-breaking new documentary webseries, illuminates the blossoming phenomenon of Transformational Festivals, immersive participatory realities that are having profound life-changing effects on hundreds of thousands of lives.” … “Amidst the global crisis of a dysfunctional old paradigm, a new renaissance of human culture is underway. Over the course of 4 episodes and 23 transformational festivals around the globe, ‘The Bloom: A Journey Through Transformational Festivals’ explores the alchemy of themes that weave a true story of genuine hope for our times: A new blooming of human consciousness emerging through creativity, love and joy and an emerging culture pointing the way to a bright and promising future.”

In the background, Envisionaries participate in the sunset ritual led by festival co-producer Sofiah Thom underneath the Earth Harp, played by Andrea Brook (aka Yoga Girl). The Earth Harp is the world’s largest string instrument and is played with rosin gloves so that the player’s hands become like a giant bow. The Earth Harp’s strings can range up to several hundred feet in length, and so playing it becomes a choreographic performance.

I’m looking forward to ‘The Bloom’, and checking out some of the other festivals I’m hearing about, like Beloved, Shambhala, Bass Coast, Astral Harvest, and North Country Fair (the one in Northern Alberta, not the one in Arcata, California, although that looks pretty interesting too). Such an amazing range of experiences to engage. Check out how these folks collaborated with the Shambhala festival community in creating the Shambhala Green River Collective to support becoming more respectful of the river ecosystem that this festival inhabits.

So many festivals, so much to celebrate!
Cheers, Caffeinated Camel

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Transformational Festivals: Let’s Celebrate!

It’s the dead of winter for many of us in northern climates. Though some are heading out for a winter adventure, I’m hearing more of folks getting ready to buy tickets for festivals like Burning Man, making plans for ‘festival season’, or heading south to tropical festivals.

It’s a common judgement of escapism or being in denial about the realities of our climate. But some are not escapes in the sense of ‘checking out’ or ‘running away’ from real life. Instead, they are aimed to ‘checking in’ to increase meaningful engagement and make daily lives more intentional.
Michael McCarthy’s ‘The Intentional Traveller’, offers that characteristics of an intentional action include:
(a) a desire for an outcome
(b) a belief that the action will lead to the outcome
(c) an intention to perform the action
(d) the skill to perform the action and
(e) awareness while performing the action.

From his perspective, intentionality is the opposite of ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ where kindness is randomly inserted into the status quo. By contrast, “the goal of the intentional traveler is to acquire techniques leading to conscious awareness during life’s journey, and to share them with other travelers.”
Michael McCarthy recently interviewed Sofiah Thom, co-founder and performer at Envision, a music, arts and yoga festival in Costa Rica, who makes it clear that Envision is an intentional gathering which is part of a broader festival community and movement.

Envision is one of many transformational festivals which embody a vision towards active engagement and co-creation as an intentional community. Jeet Kei Leung’s TED talk on Transformational Festivals in Vancouver (BC not WA) captures the flavour, spirit and significance of these events. Transformational festivals provide a “shared psychic space” where “urban, technological humans had stumbled back upon the most ancient of rituals” to facilitate “transformation through inspiration” towards a post-structural “ancient future culture” as an “antidote that speaks so deeply to what is missing in our modern materialist urban societies”.
For many, the ultimate of transformational festivals is Burning Man, which is big, bold and beautiful in the harsh Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Yet geographically far away in south eastern British Columbia, 10,000 ‘Shambalervlies’ (I know you’re out there) make their pilgrimage to the annual Shambhala Music Festival.

Despite its popularity, web presence and flamboyance at transformational festivals, electronica does not hold a musical monopoly. Folk festivals remain a kindred spirit among transformational festivals, though few are as large or famous as Woodstock. Blue Skies Music Festival in Ontario (Canada, not California) is such a folk festival, limited to a mere 500 enthusiastic and dedicated participants who cross their collective fingers and toes in hopes of winning the Blue Skies ticket lottery. There’s no official website, but David Scrimshaw’s unofficial Blue Skies page provides an overview (and while you’re there, check out his blog ‘Disclaimers’ and ‘Claimers’: love it!), but most of what is to be known about Blue Skies is passed through the community by word-of-mouth.

I grew up with Blue Skies as my local transformative festival, and beyond the music, festival atmosphere in the woods (and square dancing), folks like Washboard Hank (make sure you watch well past the intro) still bring a smile and a laugh.

But it wasn’t all fun and games, dancing, music and all manner of things beautiful. Like most transformational festivals, there was a strong sense of community around shared deep concerns with significant social issues in the world. I’ll never forget when Moxy Früvous played ‘the Gulf War Song’ on the main stage on Saturday night at Blue Skies in the early 90s, after which I bought their home-recorded demo cassette.

As every festival junkie (uh, I mean participant) knows, the key to the significance of the transformative festival is not the festival itself, but the ongoing integration of the transformative process into daily life. We can’t all go to festivals, all the time, and many of us wouldn’t even want to. I may not ever be up for the intensity of Burning Man. But somehow just knowing it’s there and vicariously peeking into its magnificence via Youtube captures my imagination and spirit, providing a reminder of intentionality and transformative celebration into my daily life. It isn’t the escape to a non-reality, but more to imagine and experience- even if briefly- a more vivid and colourful reality than exists in my current lived life, whether by festival, travel, video, Flickr sets, travel pictures or with music.

“In these temporary autonomous zones, where we escape for a moment from the hierarchies and agendas embedded into the very material of our mainstream consensus reality, we are freed to co-create and share the momentary realization of the liberated world we would wish to live in” (Jeet Kei Leung).

Now that’s something to celebrate!

Whether or not you participate in an organized festival, there’s plenty of reason and opportunity to create and embrace the spirit of festival and intentionality on your own transformational voyage to infuse more joy and meaning in your life.

Cheers! Caffeinated Camel

Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre), Italy
Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre), Italia

Welcome to the Oasis!

Caffeinated Camel is currently at the cafe. Stop by again a bit later.
Here’s some music to listen to in the meantime.
Midnight at the Oasis, Maria Muldaur 1974
Ciao, Caffeinated Camel