Tomato Season!

I've been going back and forth about writing a blog about tomatoes. It is a perfect, summery food! It's also an (Indigenous) American original. But getting legit tomato recipes from the Americas that are cool and refreshing seems redundant. Salsa y mas salsa! Ha! But then I remembered another summery and tomato-y treat: ceviche! I love making mushroom ceviche almost as much as I love eating it! It's so easy and great for a summer get together so enjoy while the sun is still shining bright.

 

I am going to share my favorite recipe for oyster mushroom ceviche! I was going to share a salsa recipe, as well, but this ceviche is so amazing that I just want you to make it and tell me  how good you think it is.  I made it today and I think I'll make it again tomorrow! It's that good. 

 

The Perfect Summer Ceviche: 

This recipe makes 5-6 servings so make sure you have at least one bag of really good tortilla chips on hand!  Just double the recipe for big barbecues and fiestas.

Ingredients: 

1/8-1/4 lb of oyster mushrooms, roughly diced (I like to sauté mine, until soft, in either a little bit of water or 2 tablespoons of canola/avocado oil)

1 large or 2 medium tomatoes  

1/2 medium red onion  

1 medium cucumber  

1 avocado  

3/4 cup heart of palm, diced (optional)

1 jalapeño or Serrano pepper

1 fistful of cilantro 

1 big, juicy orange  

1-2 lemons  

1-2 limes

Preparation: 

Quarter all of your citrus and squeeze it into a large bowl.  Be sure to remove any seeds from the bowl with a spoon. Wash/sauté mushrooms and add them to citrus juice. Dice onion, peppers, heart of palm, cilantro and of course, the tomatoes. Add them to the citrus mix, stir and set aside for 1-2 hours . Dice avocado and cucumber. Add these to the marinated mix and serve! 

Happy summer, amigos! 

 

Beat the heat with this tomato-y treat! 

Beat the heat with this tomato-y treat! 

Superfoods from a Super Continent!

These days it is very trendy to label many edible things as "superfoods". Suffice it to say the term is overused! But for the sake of convention I will use the term but set guidelines of what is and what is not a superfood. A superfood is any food that has real health benefits, heaps of nutrition and no adverse effects when eaten in moderation. A super food is not any edible item that is newly to market and in need of a sales push. Since weat Nativegan adhere to the ancient belief that we are connected to all living things, all ingredients will be cruelty-free and vegan (as usual!).

 Chia Seeds!

You probably know how the non-edible chia seeds received their fame. The fame of the edible Chia seed is a much older tale and has no j-j-j-jingle. The Tarahumara tribe of the canyons of Mexico are long, lonnngg distance runners. They are also big proponents of eating chia seeds for endurance and recovery. They certainly were right! The chia seed is jam packed with good stuff like: omega-3s, tons of fiber and minerals. The omega-3s supplied are great for joint care and other properties of the seed keep you from dehydrating too quickly.

 Maca Root!

Both the chia seed and the maca root were used as currency by natives because of their known value as superfoods! Maca root is grown high in the Andes mountains of Peru. Inca warriors used to eat it before going into battle. It was said to provide energy and endurance. It was also said to provide virility which REALLY made it popular! This root veggie is full of amino acids (almost all of them!) and lots of minerals and vitamins. Also, maca has antioxidants to help ward of cancer and other killers.

Maple Syrup!

A sweetener?! Yes, I'm listing a sweetener as a superfood. Why? Because it is wayyy better for us than processed and refined sweets like cane sugar. AND because there are real, tangible health benefits! One of those being its high manganese content. 3 tablespoons a day would provide your entire daily allowance. It's also contains a good amount of antioxidants and it is also anti inflammatory. However, we must respect that it is still a sugary food so moderation is highly recommended!

Vanilla and Chipotle Peppers!

Fine, I won't categorize these as superfoods but they are pretty terrific. Mostly, I just want to talk about them because they're in today's recipe! Also, they are indigenous to the Americas and they both have nutritional properties that make them super in their own way. The jalapeños that make the smoky chipotle peppers are high in folate and vitamin C. Vanilla has some of the most powerful aromatherapy, mood enhancing properties and it contains antioxidants.  Vanilla is also known for having anti inflammatory properties.  

Today's Recipe!  

So, that is about it. These are most of the ingredients for our recipe today. Almost all of them are native to this continent (everything listed above is). Okay, now let's make some food! Today's recipe is for roasted maca chia pudding:

Ingredients!  

3 tbsp chia seeds

1 c plant based milk (we used hemp)

1-2 tsp of roasted maca powder* 

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp pure maple syrup

A pinch of chipotle powder  

 *Please note: most maca is available, outside of Peru, in raw, powder form. Roasted powder is available but typically it's much more expensive. So we bought raw powder and roasted it by following directions found here: https://youtu.be/SBTtO6XPfEs . You can use raw powder, but we like the flavor and the additional health benefits of the roasted maca better.

 

Directions! 

This couldn't be easier to make! Just add all your ingredients together, saving the milk for last. Stir in the milk making sure to break up all the lumps. I like to make this mixture in a glass container with a lid, that way I can see the bottom and make sure all the chia seeds are mixed in. Refrigerate for approximately 45 minutes. Remove from refrigerator and stir pudding again making sure there are no lumps. If the consistency is to your liking you can eat it right away! If you wanted to be thicker leave it in the fridge for another 30 to 45 minutes. If it is too thick you can always stir in more milk. 

 

 Pro Tip! 

You can use whole or ground chia seeds for this recipe. If you choose to use ground seeds you may need to use a little bit more milk. Also, you can blend the entire mixture before putting it in the fridge. Then you will have a pudding with a creamy or texture and not so tapioca-like.

 

 

Raw Maca powder for roasting. 

Raw Maca powder for roasting. 

Finished, roasted Maca!  

Finished, roasted Maca!  

Ready to pour the milk!  

Ready to pour the milk!  

The final product: delicious, creamy Chia pudding with roasted Maca! Yum!

The final product: delicious, creamy Chia pudding with roasted Maca! Yum!

You're still here? Okay, one final tip then: for a differently delicious treat try adding a teaspoon of peanut butter into the mix or cocoa powder. Have a super day!!

Corn. Hominy. Posole!

 I have been off adventuring for a bit. Now I am back and filled with inspiration for yummy topics! It's spring already where I live and I have been blessed to enjoy some time outside, watching the sunset, listening to the animals and observing the changes in the plants. I am reminded to start planting my garden. I have been fortunate to see a few plants through a rainy winter. I have a pineapple plant that still seems healthy and potatoes that are just growing like weeds! Speaking of weeds, I started weeding and I found a rogue tomato plant coming up!

I am also reminded at this time of year of the three sisters: beans, corn and squash. The three sisters are commonly planted together by many indigenous Americans. These three plants have a symbiotic relationship that allows all of them to have a better chance at survival. Each of them playing a role that helps one or both of the others. Their successful domestication made them staples in many native diets.

The eldest sister would have to be corn. She is widely revered among many Native American people's. Especially in modern day Mexico and in the New England area. Corn was the first domesticated food in the Americas. Corn is actually a grass that was bred to be larger and larger so that the grain could be easily harvested and produce a sizable yield. There are four to six different types of corn, depending on how you categorize them. Most common are: are pop corn, sweet corn and dent corn. Flour corn is separate and so is decorative "Indian" corn. So the corn you pop is actually quite different from the sweet corn on the cob.

It's easy to see how the evolution of corn dramatically changed the lives of the natives who first grew it. They now could have a sizable store of food that could be dried and sustain them through winters, droughts and other food uncertainties. The need to move around ceased, creating opportunity for organized settlements and different, more creative types of productivity. Artistic and architectural endeavors sprang up from lives of consistency and contentment. Carvings, paintings and weavings all became common sights of added beauty. Of course, culinary arts flourished, too!

How many native Nahuatl or Aztec prepared foods contained corn? The answer is: a lot! Even still today corn plays a massive role in Mexican cuisine creation. Traditional foods have become a mainstay and corn a revered staple in not only Mexico but in diets around the globe! The insightful natives did more than breed corn into a useable, delicious crop.

They also created a type of corn processing called Nixtamalization. This process uses alkalines such as ash or lime water to kill most of the toxins that might be contained in the corn. Done to dry corn, it would also reconstitute and change the chemical makeup. So that it was now capable of forming a dough that would not fall apart. This process is how we get hominy and masa for tamales, etcetera!

Which brings me to my recipe for today: Posole! This is an ancient dish from same native people the Spanish found in the glorious city Tenochtitlan. Even the name remains the same, a true Nahuatl word. However, given time, as with anything, this soup has morphed and taken on different characteristics depending on the region and the cook's preferences. So I am presenting posole in two ways. Both delicious and both possible to make at the same time! Both featuring the outcome of a thousand year journey of domesticated corn: hominy.

So before I build my alter to the mighty kernel, let's make soup!

The first posole will be traditional and mild. The second will be a red posole and will have the added flavor factor of chilies. In order to prepare the red sauce we will prep the chilies first.

Posole ingredients:

3 dried ancho chilies (or chilies of your choice)

3 dried chilies de arbol (same as above)

4 garlic cloves (3 diced)

1 packaged of Gardein chick'n strips (sans sauce)

1 medium onion (diced)

5 cups veggie or mushroom broth (low sodium?)

4 cups of hominy (probably about two 15oz cans)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1-2 tsp oregano (Mexican)

Salt (and pepper)

Garnish (optional):

Avocado slices

Shredded cabbage

Sliced radishes

Tostada shells (or tortilla chips)

Diced onion

Fresh cilantro

Directions:

Break stems off of all your dried chilies and split them in half lengthwise. Clean out seeds. Place in bowl and pour boiling water over until the chilies are completely submerged. It helps to place a cup or small bowl on top to help keep the peppers submerged. Set aside while preparing the rest of soup ingredients.

Next, sauté chick'n strips in oil. Once they are thawed, add cumin, onions and diced garlic then continue to sauté until they are completely cooked through.

In a separate large cooking pot, bring broth to a boil. Then lower to medium heat and add chick'n mix. Add hominy and oregano and continue to simmer.

Finally, put chilies, remaining whole garlic, a generous pinch of salt and about 1 cup on the soaking water into a blender and blend until super smooth. Examine a spoonful. If there are no visible bits of skin it can be used as is. Otherwise, it can be strained through a fine mesh strainer.

Without the chilies, this is your traditional mild version! Slowly add chili sauce to taste. Simmer for 5 more minutes. This is your second version: red posole! Salt to your taste. Water can be added if you want a thinner broth. You can also choose a different veggie meat if you'd like. I recommend serving with at least one garnish of your choice.

That's it. I hope you enjoy!

Red Posole.  

Red Posole.  

Mild Posole. 

Mild Posole. 

I drew you this corn! 

I drew you this corn! 

Love, Romance and Aphrodisiacs.

I can't tell you how to find love.  And in my experience love finds you, you don't find it. What I can say about love is that it transcends romance and should permeate every extension of our existence. Love is not just for lovers, it is for all of us. We are all, therefore, lovers in the highest sense.

 

If you are a meditative person, and I hope you are, meditate on love. Let it radiate from you like the golden light of the sun. It will act like a magnet pulling you towards a future that will be full up with love.  We focus on the one aspect of love and forget that love is a multifaceted gem. Romance is great yet so is every other type of love.

 

I am all about family love, neighborly love, love for nature - all love, really! Still, there is a time when we highlight this romantic type of love. So, I will wax a little less philosophical and share some romantic notions both vegan and indigenous in nature.

 

I still remember the first meal I cooked for my now husband. I made him wild rice and he is not a fan of wild rice. Not the romantic meal I had envisioned! Yet still we made it past that plated blunder (and many others) to a place of mutual culinary coziness.

 

The is no perfection in love or on a plate. Both love and lunch thrive with touch of an artist, of a lover. So if you plan on making a meal for your beloved, let the love flow through you as you prepare their food. Intentionally make your love the first ingredient. It can only help your efforts!

 

Now onto a more blood pumping topic: aphrodisiacs! Most people will probably not put a lot of stock into the true potency of any given edible love elixir. I can understand why, with so many strange things being labeled as aphrodisiacs. Who could sort them out? Well, I have a simple rule of thumb to regulate which ones I deem valid. I just ask this question: Does it improve circulation?

 

Did you ever think of circulation as romantic or sexy? Turns out it plays a big role in romantic activities. Poor circulation (often due to blockages and other heart issues) can lead to decreased activity levels and even impotence. That's the opposite of what we are looking for when it comes to romance! We want to promote virility and vitality.  Vitality is sexy and vitality is built on a foundation of healthy heart circulation.

 

So to make your partner feel zesty and romantic feed them the proper aphrodisiacs. All of the following aphrodisiacs promote circulatory health and are indigenous to the Americas. Let's start with breakfast:

 

Stare at your lover over a cup of hot coffee. I don't personally like having coffee because it gives me heart palpitations but if you can enjoy it without the jitters, drink up for love!

 

Make Chocolate Acai smoothie bowls! Per bowl just blend 1 pack of frozen Acai (usually 4oz), 1 banana, 1/4 cup nondairy milk of choice, ½ cup ice, 1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder or cacao nibs. For fun toppings can include fresh berries,  shredded coconut and/or sliced strawberries.

 

Lunch: Anything! Just add cayenne pepper and/or avocado for an added aphrodisiatic boost.

 

Dinner: Again, I wouldn't dare to impede your creative culinary endeavors so cook away! Just add the herb Savory to spice up your evening.

 

Other native herbal aphrodisiacs*:  Damiana, Guarana, American Ginseng, Deer's Toungue Leaf (Vanilla Leaf), Maca and Echinacea.

*Please remember to exercise caution when using any herbs and heed any warnings or directions associated with your chosen herb(s). Please consult your doctor if you or your parter have any heart or relevant health issues.

 

I hope you are finding all kinds of love in your life and I hope that it's delicious! Enjoy!

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Acai bowl with berries on my Instagram.  

Food is Good Medicine.

I have been inspired by a friend of mine that is an actor, a writer and mother to write about food as medicine. It was going to come up soon anyway! My friend has a child that suffers from eczema. I actually have many friends whose children suffer from this condition. I know adults with it, too. Before I go on I think it's important to note that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. I am simply a proponent of healthy eating and believe in the many beneficial "side effects" of proper nutrition! Always seek the care of a doctor if the situation calls for it. 

So, on to eating for health. It is the current understanding of my native folks to seriously limit sugar intake. Also, when possible, eat local and with the seasons as this is nature's way of giving you what you need, when you need it. Today, specifically, we will be tackling skin health. I have done some research and have come up with a few recipes and tips to help your skin heal. The first is an alternative to bone broth which is said to heal skin issues partly due to its rich mineral content. You can choose to add or subtract things from this recipe and you will still find it satisfying and healing. Here is a recipe mineral-rich vegan soup that is sure to please your palate, as well! 

 

Mineral-Rich Vegan Soup*:

*Note - If you are like me and like to have homemade beans as a staple in your house, great! Just add two cups to the soup. Otherwise...

1 can of rinsed beans (chef's choice) 

3 potatoes, diced (skin on preferably!)

3 cups veggie or mushroom broth

1 small onion, diced

2 cups water

2 cloves of garlic, diced

1 cup of chopped spinach (tightly packed) 

1 cup of medium chopped broccoli  

1 cup of finely chopped cabbage

2 tablespoons olive oil

 

In a large pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat; cook and stir in the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until they are clear and soft. Add in broccoli and garlic and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring often. 

Pour in the broth and water. Add potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender (approximately 20 minutes). Add the beans and the rest of your ingredients. Add salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes. 

Pro Tips: I didn't add any real seasonings to this recipe but it should be full of flavor! Feel free to add herbs and seasoning to your tastes! Also, I highly recommend making as much of this soup organic as possible. The health benefits can diminish significantly when pesticides, insecticides and gmos are in the mix. Also, if eating something that costs fifty cents more can save you an expensive doctor visit in the future, it's probably worth it! 

Mineral-rich soup: Yum!   Did you know that common beans (like pintos)and potatoes are both originally from Peru? It's true!

Mineral-rich soup: Yum!   Did you know that common beans (like pintos)and potatoes are both originally from Peru? It's true!

 "But my kid won't eat veggie soup!", you say. Well, say no more because I also have a complimentary smoothie recipe! This recipe focuses on vitamins that are vital to skin health. As with the soup recipe, ingredients can be added or removed and you should still receive the overall health benefits of this yummy treat!

 

Vitamin-rich Tropical Smoothie:  

1/2 large apple, diced

1/3 cup diced pineapple  (fresh or in its own juice)

1/2 cup fresh, diced papaya  

1/3 shredded beets

1/2 cup blueberries and/or cherries (fresh or frozen) 

2/3 cup coconut yogurt  

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and/or chia seed

1/4 cup chopped walnuts. 

 

Add all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. 

Pro Tip: Put a little bit of the berries, walnuts and/or seeds aside to sprinkle on as topping(s). Feel free to add ice and/or banana when blending your smoothie, it's good either way!

Other foods for skin health: 

Avocado (my favorite!) 

Raw almonds

Raw seeds

Kale

Cooked tomatoes

Peppers

 

Foods to avoid:  

Peanuts

Milk

Soy

Fish

Wheat

Eggs

 

Traditional Herbal Medicines for Eczema:  Garlic, Goldenseal, Plantain, Dandelion. Sassafras, Puffball, Black Walnut, Slippery Elm, Shepherds Purse, Yarrow, Sumac, Spleenwort Fern and Serviceberry. Most of these, like goldenseal, would be in a poultice or a tea and placed directly on the inflamed area. An additional natural medicine is a small piece of absorbent cloth, like flannel, that can be soaked in castor oil and applied to the area in need.

Final Pro Tip: Make health a family affair! Have the kids break up cruciferous veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower, and some sweet peppers. Then mash some avocados for some family-style guacamole. Finely diced kale can be folded in for some added health benefits. Use cut veggies as guacamole dippers and enjoy!

 

 

Welcome to the Journey!

I grew up living close to the earth. As a child I ran barefoot on horse trails through the Sonoran desert. I drank in the smell of the creosote after the rain. My cousins and I made forts among the mesquite and Palo verde trees. I swam in the creek after the thunderstorms. I foraged for broken native pottery. We ate the stickery prickly pear fruits. 

I was lucky in this respect! In some other ways I was not so fortunate. I was raised without true knowledge of my native roots. This is true of both sides of my family. I was an ironic brown child , living in the southwest, surrounded by white people. Here I was, living at the crossroads of Mexico and the US, and I had no real inkling of the native blood I had that linked me indefinitely to both countries. The history of my peoples was hidden from me and remains hidden, for the most part, even still today. 

I was also raised eating animals. Sounds normal enough... but when your family gets sick, someone is hospitalized or someone else dies early of disease you start searching for answers. The link I found seemed to be poor diet that was founded in animal consumption. I watched Forks Over Knives and discovered the China study, which is the most comprehensive study on lifestyle and disease ever done. This study seemed to show that my assessment was right: an apple a day (not a steak) was the key to keeping the doctor away. 

This led to a new era in my life where I turned to plants to sustain my vitality! I was uncertain that I could be vegan. I thought it would be monotonous. Nothing could be further from the truth! I have been able to find amazing, like-minded people who constantly amaze me with imaginative dishes sure to satisfy the biggest critics. I have surprised myself with my culinary creativity, as wel! I want to share that creativity with you! 

I want you to know my personal food journey and then go (re)discover your own. I want you to be inspired to health and staying the course! I am excited to shed light on a growing community of healthy activists that act like an extended family and support group. Much of what I have to share will be tied to my background in southwestern cooking and also in my ongoing search into my native roots. Thanks for reading! Please enjoy!