We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The "Not Too Girly" Strawberry Margarita—Paleo Friendly

by Linda
"Know when to give up and have a margarita."


   We sisters love margaritas. As the legions of tequila aficionados from around the world already know without a doubt, drinking tequila is very different from drinking any other kind of alcohol. My personal motto is this—if you want to add some fun to almost any occasion, just add a little tequila.
   You are most likely already acquainted with that huge country hit that I love by Joe Nichols, Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off. That song was playing on country music radio every ten minutes when my son Jordan and I took a road trip from California to Arizona to see the family during the Christmas holiday of 2005. I can remember laughing out loud when I heard the lyrics for the first time because—well, umm… they are true.


      I developed a margarita recipe about fifteen years ago that has been a party staple of our family ever since. My Carnitas and Margaritas parties were legendary when I was living down in the South Bay, and I have no shame at all in saying that the police actually showed up to end one of them. When I invited the officers to join us, they looked longingly at the great spread of food and drink (not to mention the beautiful women that were dancing in my backyard on the patio to lively salsa playing on my boom box), and it was with courtesy and real regret that they told me that my neighbors had complained and we needed to shut things down—and no, but thank you very much—it was against department regulations to join us. I know my margarita recipe so well in fact, that I have it committed to memory, and so do a number of my friends.
   My original recipe makes a pitcher, and for large gatherings, I have been known to make up a couple of gallons of the magical elixir in advance of the party. During our Sistercation in Bisbee, in September of last year, Michelle and I whipped up a batch before departing Tucson in anticipation of we sisters and our family members of drinking age enjoying the warm summer air while sipping margaritas that first evening in town. So what would my motivation be to come up with a different recipe you might ask? Well, I went Paleo.


   In my efforts to eliminate sugar from my diet—I with a great deal of sadness and kvetching—gave up drinking margaritas, because my recipe was full of refined sugar—arrgh! Then one languid afternoon this past summer, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I found a blog post from Danielle Walker of Against All Grain. She posted her brother's recipe for Paleo Margaritas which was a game changer for me. Well, hello, Margarita… long time no see.
    I also was very inspired by the discovery of honey simple syrup, which it had never previously occurred to me to make. To learn more about the health benefits of honey and how to make honey simple syrup click here. It has many uses other than in the making of cocktails.
 

   It was with real delight that I discovered Paleo Margaritas are delicious, and it wasn't very long before I wondered what would happen if I infused the tequila with strawberries. Typically I use vodka to infuse fruit. Turns out that my strawberry version was a huge hit at our house. You can try out the results for yourself, and we cordially invite you (I know—I love silly puns) to let us know what you think.

The "Not Too Girly" Strawberry Margarita


   Mark, having been a former professional bartender in earlier years, was not too enthusiastic about my idea of making a strawberry margarita. To him, a typical strawberry margarita is more of an alcoholic fruit smoothie—something that the ladies like to order at the bar. So he turned up his nose at my efforts until I made him try one of mine. Hence the name. This is no girly drink—that's why I serve on the rocks—because it benefits from the dilution of the ice. It is full of flavor and packs a wallop, just like my Strawberry Lemon Drop. You can also shake this drink in a cocktail shaker and serve it "up" in a martini glass, or dip the rim of your glass in some salt or sugar, but I prefer this cocktail without those distractions. It is perfectly delicious just poured over ice. It also occurred to me given that the holiday season is upon us, and that the tequila could be infused with pomegranate seeds (fresh or frozen) to make a fall/winter-themed margarita.


Equipment:
A large glass jar or crock (I used my large enamel cast iron Le Creuset pot)
Save your empty tequila bottles
A fine mesh sieve
Cheesecloth (optional)
A citrus juicer
A 1 cup Pyrex measuring cup or ounce measuring shot glass

The place where the Le Creuset collection lives at our house.
Ingredients:
1 litre 100% pure agave Reposado Tequila ( I buy Zapopan at my nearest Trader Joe's)
1 pound frozen strawberries (365 Frozen Strawberries preferred)
Fresh limes
Honey simple syrup

This photographer was multi-tasking for this photo. Check out my post on
how to make homemade sauerkraut.
Infused Tequila:
1 litre 100% pure agave Reposado Tequila
1 pound frozen strawberries (365 Frozen Strawberries preferred)
Simply place the strawberries in a large pot and pour in the tequila. Stir and then cover and allow to sit for 24 hours. After the mixture has infused for 24 hours, separate the infused tequila from the strawberries, which will have lost all of their color. I pour the infused and strained tequila back into the original bottles.

24 hours later, the tequila is a beautiful red, and the strawberries have lost their color.
Ingredients for one Margarita (1 cup):
4 ounces strawberry-infused Tequila
2 ounces fresh lime juice (none of that stuff from a jar)
2 ounces honey simple syrup
Ice (for rocks or shaking)

Procedure:
1. Combine ingredients and pour over ice. Enjoy!

A Final Note: With the gift giving season upon us, we thought we should mention that a bottle of fruit-infused tequila makes a great gift along with a couple of glasses and a card with the recipe or a link to our recipe. Linda found the glasses featured in this post at her local thrift store. We are huge fans of recycling and reusing—especially our sister Juliette who is the family authority on thrifting. Check out Juliette's thrifting tips by clicking here.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Absolutely Delicious All-Butter Pie Crust (Gluten-Free and Gum-Free)

by Michelle

After weeks of testing various ingredients, this tender, flaky, tasty, gluten-free, gum-free dough
(made with white chia seeds and almond flour), was declared the Grand Champion. 

   During the doldrums of summer, when it is just too hot under the desert sun to go outside and play, I decided to finally get a handle on gluten-free pie dough. I've had too many misses in my kitchen when gluten-free pie dough is part of the equation. Since the calendar rolled over to July, we're officially half way through year, which means the holidays will be here before we know it, and along with the arrival of Thanksgiving and Christmas, my annual baking tradition will officially launch. But, summer is a time for baking, too. I love to make hand pies, crostatas, tarts and quiches. All these classic savory and sweet items justifiably need an excellent pastry crust to elevate these recipes to all-star status in your repertoire of good eats.
   Over the years I've been disappointed with the various gluten-free pie doughs that I've made. My fall back desserts have become sweets that don't require a crust, such as homemade ice cream (such as Lemon, Fresh Peach with Amaretto Affagto, and trusty Soft Serve-Style Chocolate and Vanilla), Chocolate and Vanilla Puddings, Angel Food CakeDelectable Lemon Cake, and dazzling Triple Chocolate Meringue Cookies. All the aforementioned desserts are outrageously good and I will make them time and time again until my ashes are offered up to the wind. That being said, there are times when pie is irrevocably what everyone wants, so pie it is, with no excuses for the pastry encasing the grand dessert.

I made blueberry hand pies to test multiple versions of gluten-free pie dough.
Dough #3, at the top, was declared the winner by the judges. 
   Inspired by The Bojon Gourmet to make Gluten-Free All-Butter Pie Dough, one Saturday afternoon I happily proceeded forward with making her recipe, successfully avoiding the drudgery of cleaning my house. And, since I like to tinker in the kitchen, I made three variations of her recipe and blind tested the results, asking my husband and daughter to declare the winner. What started me down the multiple variations path is that I could not locally source millet flour or white chia seeds. Nor could I find the European butters, Straus and Plugra that she highly recommended. Undaunted by making minor substitutions, I forged ahead into pastry land.
   In addition to the substitutions, I added one ingredient to the dough which was ultimately declared the winner by my judging panel. You might ask, what is the special ingredient? The answer—baking powder. My sister, Linda and I always add it to our regular wheat-based all-butter pie crust. And though the difference was subtle, "dough #3" was visually more appealing and tasted a bit lighter.
   Even though we had a winner, I would have liked a bit more browning ability on the pastry for the hand pies that I baked. I thought about how Linda solved this issue with her winner of a fried chicken recipe by adding almond flour, which browns quite nicely. I found that when using almond flour, less water was needed to bind the dough and the finely ground nuts did indeed help the dough turn a lovely golden color.
    I should also note that my first batches of dough I used ground black chia seeds. I finally found white chia seeds, and do prefer them, for the visual appeal, although the black chia seeds leant a whole grain appearance to the dough, which I did not find displeasing. I did try substituting psyllium husk (the new darling of the gluten-free bread baking world) for the chia seeds in one iteration, but everyone preferred the dough made with nutrient-rich chia. For more information about using chia and psyllium husk as a replacement for xanthan and guar gum, read this article. I also tried subbing cream cheese for part of the butter, but again the all-butter pie crust was everyone's favorite.


From this...
...to this: a glorious apple pie featuring a gluten-free crust and gluten-free streusel.
   Linda and I typically use a food processor to make pie dough, but I decided to try a new method that I've read about with interest, and which Alanna of The Bojon Gourmet prefers. In France, a key technique called fraisage, calls for smearing portions of the dough against the counter with the palm of your hand. Then the dough is gathered together, with the aid of a bench scraper, flattened into a disc, wrapped in plastic wrap and left to rest in the refrigerator until it is cold enough to roll out—about an hour.
   The final step is to then employ a procedure used to make puff pastry, which is to roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness, fold into thirds (like folding a letter), and then lightly fold into thirds again. At this point, the dough is wrapped in plastic wrap and left to rest in the fridge overnight. The next morning, the dough is rolled and cut as desired for a pie, turnovers or tart shells, depending upon the end game.
   The rolled and cut or shaped dough is refrigerated once again—up to two days— until ready to bake. If you are making a pie, transfer the rolled dough to a glass or metal pie plate and flute the edges. Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes, and then freeze for at least 20 minutes (until frozen), or up to a couple months. Then, it is best to parbake the crust from the frozen state before continuing on with the final preparation.

Absolutely Delicious All-Butter Pie Crust (Gluten-Free Gum-Free)

Butter for pie dough needs to be sliced thin and very cold, but not frozen. 
Ingredients (for measuring accuracy use a scale for the flours and starches):
about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup ice water (from 1 cup ice cubes filled with cool water)
80g or 1/2 cup sweet white rice flour (Mochiko)
35g or 1/4 cup+2 Tbsps gluten-free oat flour
35g or 1/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour, such as Jeanne's, -OR- 1/4 cup (35g) millet flour,
   -OR- 1/4 cup +1 Tbsp (35g) almond flour
30g or 1/4 cup cornstarch
15g or 2 Tbsps tapioca starch or tapioca flour
15g or 2 Tbsps finely ground white chia seeds*
1 tsp granulated sugar (for savory recipes) or 1 Tbsp (for sweet recipes)
1 Tbsp fresh minced herbs, or 1 to 2 tsps dried herbs or spice, optional (for a savory filling)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt  (omit if using salted butter)
8 Tbsps (119g) cold, unsalted butter (preferably European-style), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

*At my local store, white chia and black chia sit side-by-side on the shelf. If you cannot find white chia, black chia seeds taste the same, but will lend a whole grain appearance to the dough. The chia seeds cannot be ommited as they act as a binder for the dough. My old coffee grinder did the trick for grinding the chia seeds.

I returned to lining the work surface with plastic wrap after working with Dough #1.
If the dough cracks, wait a couple of minutes, pinch the dough together and roll again.
Special Equipment:
pastry cutter
bench scraper
rubber spatula
rolling pin
plastic wrap or parchment paper, plus waxed paper
pie weights

Yield:
1 9-inch pie crust
3 7-inch pie crusts
6 4.25-inch pie crusts
2 7-inch pie crusts, plus 4 4.25-inch pie crusts

It only takes about 2 minutes to cut the butter into the flour using a handy pastry cutter.
Procedure:
1. In a medium bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Stir with a whisk to break up any lumps from the oat flour and ground chia seeds.
2. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is in coarse crumbles, about the size of peas and pinto beans.


3. The amount of water needed to hold the dough together will vary depending upon the weather (humidity) and the overall dryness of the ingredients, so it is best to add 1 tablespoon of ice cold water at a time until the dough comes together. You'll need more water on cold days and less water on hot days. You'll also need less water if you used almond flour in the mix. You've added enough water when the dough can be gathered into a ball.

I accidentally added too much water to the almond flour mixture, but decided to fraisage anyway.
The dough, despite being overly wet, turned out great.
Employ a bench scraper to help form the smeared dough into a ball,
then flatten into a disc with the aid of plastic wrap.
4. Place the dough on a counter, and using the heal of your hand, smear the dough, about 1/4 cup at a time, across the work surface. Using a bench scraper, once again gather the dough into a ball. Transfer the dough to a large piece of plastic wrap. Cover with an additional piece of plastic wrap and flatten the dough into a disc. Refrigerate the dough for a minimum of one hour. After an hour, the dough is ready to use in accordance with your recipe. You can also choose to do the next step, to ensure a flakier crust.


Roll the dough, then fold into thirds (like folding a letter), with the aid of plastic wrap. 
Lightly fold the dough once again into thirds and then let rest, covered, in the fridge until cold.
5. The optional next step is to employ a procedure used to make puff pastry, which is to roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness, fold into thirds (like folding a letter), and then lightly fold into thirds again. At this point, the dough is wrapped in plastic wrap and left to rest in the fridge for one hour or overnight. What I like to do is let it rest for 60 to 90 minutes, then roll out the dough.

Use sheets of wax paper to separate layers of cut dough. Refrigerate dough until ready to use. 
a. For a pie (see step 6), I flute the edges, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
b. For individual tarts, I cut into 7-inch circles, place in the tart pans ( I used 4" springform pans, but 4" cheesecake pans with removable bottoms are better for quickly unmolding hot pans), dock the crust, cover and place in the fridge overnight (you can also wrap in foil and freeze for a few weeks (simply proceed with Step 8 or 9 from the frozen state). This dough patches very nicely, so I used scraps to fill in as needed.
c. For hand pies, I simply cut the rounds (sizes range from 4-1/4" to 6"), separate each with a square of wax paper, stack the rounds vertically on a plate, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, proceed with the recipe. For little to no waste, mash the dough scraps together, flatten into a disc, cover in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Roll the dough again and cut additional rounds. Do not be concerned about overworking the dough... there's no gluten, so the dough will not toughen.
Note: I prefer to roll-out gluten-free pie dough between two layers of plastic wrap. I lay two overlapping sheets of plastic wrap on the work surface. I lightly dust it with sweet white rice flour, Mochiko. I also lightly dust both sides of the cold pastry dough with Mochiko. Place the plastic wrap that was used to wrap the dough and place on top. For a pie or tart, roll the dough to a circle about 1/8-inch thick, rotating the disc, by quarter turns, as you roll to maintain an even circle.

Just about anything can be used to cut the correct circumference. Use a spatula to avoid smudging the perimeter. Note: This dough was made with black chia seeds when lends a whole grain look. 
Mash the scraps together, flatten into a disc, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the dough again and cut as desired. There will be little to no waste.
6. Use the plastic wrap to help transfer the rolled dough to the pie plate. Slip your hand and forearm between the counter and the plastic wrap. Lift the dough and invert it into a 9-inch or 10-inch pie plate. Gently position the dough, then remove and discard the plastic wrap. Using a knife, trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overlap. Fold the dough in half to create a double thickness along the rim of the pie plate. Push lightly along the outer edge, leaving room for the dough to shrink on the rim during baking. Pinch/crimp the dough along the rim to create a decorative edge. Because this is an all-butter crust, it must be very cold going into the oven, for it to maintain its shape during baking. At a minimum, refrigerate the prepared shell for 30 minutes and then freeze for an additional 30 minutes. Alternatively, chill overnight lightly covered with plastic wrap.
8. If a recipe calls for blind baking, preheat the oven to 375°F. Simply "dock" the crust, which means, using a fork, prick the crust along the bottom and sides. Line the crust with parchment paper or aluminum foil (shiny side down). Fill the plate with pie weights or dried beans** and bake the pastry for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and weights and return the pastry to the oven and bake until it is dry, puffed and just turning golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. 
9. If a recipe calls for partially baking a bottom crust, preheat the oven to 375°F. Line the crust with parchment paper of aluminum foil (shiny side down). Fill the plate with pie weights or dried beans** and bake for the pastry for 10 minutes. Brush the crust with the blended white from 1 egg and and return the crust to the oven for 2 minutes more.
(**Note: once the dried beans have been baked they cannot be cooked in a recipe. I store the beans used as pie weighs in a marked container and reuse them as needed again and again.) 

If you are making a recipe where the crust is of visual importance to the final presentation, such as hand pies or free form crostatas, brush the uncooked dough with milk or egg wash before popping into the oven to encourage browning.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fermenting Vegetables—How to Make Sauerkraut at Home

by Linda

“The problem with killing 99.9 percent of bacteria is that most of them protect us from the few that can make us sick.” —Sandor Ellix Katz, The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World


      The truth is that I have been going a little stir crazy the last couple of weeks. "Miss Graceful" tripped and fell at work over a cart made of steel bars that is used for hauling heavy loads of boxes (aka a six-wheeler) and nearly broke her right leg. I have been at home with my leg elevated for the last 20 days. According to the urgent care doctors and one orthopedic specialist, I did not break any bones, but it sure feels and looks like I did. The goose egg-sized hematoma on my shin has stubbornly decided to take up residence it seems.
   Yesterday morning, when it appeared that I actually had the semblance of an ankle, I tested the leg out by taking a short walk to downtown Petaluma and back. That went well enough, and being that we are having the most beautiful fall weather that you can imagine, I decided I should take a drive to nearby Green String Farm to buy some winter squash and veggies. Michelle and I paid a visit this past September, when she was able to spend a weekend with me before she attended a trade show in Sacramento.
Michelle, Mark and I enjoyed a day of wine tasting in Sonoma County and then stopped by
Green String Farm on the way home to pick up some veggies for dinner.
   During our stop at the farm at the end of the summer when we had finished wine tasting for the day, we picked through last of the season's heirloom tomatoes, peppers at their prime, lustrous eggplants and I just couldn't resist scooping up a small watermelon for dessert. Michelle and Mark were both there to be the voices of reason and to help keep my purchases in check on that afternoon. However, yesterday, a very cabin-fevered me was out on my own without anyone else along to try and control my tendency to over buy produce.



   No one should ever let me go to a farmer's market or farm stand by myself. Not only did I purchase my intended winter squash, but the cabbages that were piled up on a large table were simply amazing specimens. I impulsively decided right then and there that leg be damned—it was time to make a batch of sauerkraut. So I bought a few very large heads of cabbage along with some bright red pomegranates, deep orange carrots and some golden quinces. Fortunately they had a small cart that I could use to transport my vegetable and fruit bonanza to my car. When Mark got home from work and saw the enormous heap of produce on the table outside—he simply smiled and shook his head.


   When I first moved to Sonoma County, I decided to purchase a special crock for fermentation. When I began working in a small natural foods store more than 20 years ago now, one of the first things that I learned is how "gut health" is the foundation of the entire overall health and immune function of our bodies. Not only does fermenting vegetables preserve them and predigest them, but the probiotics that grow during the fermentation process feed our digestive tract with beneficial bacteria.
   While one does not necessarily need a special crock in which to ferment one's vegetables, if you are going to making batches often (and why not because it is inexpensive and so good for you)—the fermentation crock makes it really easy to do. Not only does it come with the stones that fit perfectly inside to weight down the vegetable matter, but there is a channel that holds water at the top which forms an airtight seal that keeps bacteria out that might cause mold.


   As much as I love to cook, my house has a very small kitchen, so often, I take food prep and cooking outside. I have a sturdy wooden table on my patio that is great for prepping, and I can spread out and keep the mess out of the house. So this morning I rose at seven, once again the ankle was cooperating, so I immediately went to work on my batch of sauerkraut. I used to get all caught up in thinking there were certain quantities and recipes to follow exactly in order to make sauerkraut, but I have discovered that just about anything goes. Depending on the time of year, and what you have on hand, just throw together whatever is available and is appealing to you. Be careful about adding garlic though. A little goes a long way, just like we found when making hummus. The garlic flavor intensifies over time.
   I began chopping cabbage, and it wasn't long before I was joined by a flock of rowdy finches and other tiny birds who began chirping noisily while they ate their breakfast with gusto. After breakfast they all took drinks and had a bath. By the time the sun actually rose over the roof lines of the neighboring houses—I was nearly done.
My cheerful chirping companions provided a joyful cacophony while I chopped cabbage.
   For this batch of kraut, I decided to use the green cabbage, Italian peppers, carrot, thyme and caraway seeds. I also make sure that I use a good quality Celtic sea salt. Cheap kiln-dried salt is toxic. I also used to worry that I wouldn't be able to eat that huge batch of sauerkraut or kimchi, but that concern turned out not to be true. Not only is it great with eggs for breakfast, but it is a perfect condiment for many dishes. It is a healthy go-to for my lunches that I pack for work, and it makes great gifts. No, I am not kidding. My friends do a happy dance when I bring a jar of homemade sauerkraut for them.

"I want death to find me planting my cabbages…" ~ Michel de Montaigne

Linda's Homemade Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is really easy to make at home, and it is very expensive to buy at the market. The raw refrigerated kind that is— not the canned stuff that survives in a jar on the shelf of your supermarket without being kept cold. You know, the kind we had as kids with our hotdogs back in the day. That kind of sauerkraut has no beneficial bacteria and has had the life cooked right out of it. The only thing to be careful of when making your own is this—make sure that your veggies are weighted and covered with brine, or you could have a moldy mess on your hands. 


Equipment:
5 Liter Fermentation Crock or a large vessel that can be fitted with weights at the top to keep the vegetables submerged below the brine
3 large bowls— two for the vegetable mix and one to collect compost
A sharp knife



Ingredients:
2-3 (4-5 pounds) large heads of green cabbage
4 carrots
6-8 chiles or peppers (I used 3 jalapeños and 6 sweet Italian peppers)
2 tsps dried thyme
2 tsps caraway seeds
3-4 Tbsps of good quality Celtic sea salt—adjust to your personal taste
the juice of two fresh oranges (optional)



1. Cut the cabbages into quarters and then cut away the core. Then slice according to your personal preference. I make a mix of coarser and finer chop, so that the texture varies.
2. Divide the cut cabbage into two large bowls. I use stainless steel bowls. They work well because  you will need to mash and bruise the cabbage with your hands while you press down with force.
3. Toss the cabbage with the Celtic sea salt divided between the two bowls. Begin mashing each of the bowls with your hands. Working the salt into the cut cabbage and applying force. The purpose of this is to bring out the liquid out of your vegetables to make a brine.
4. Remove seeds from the peppers and chiles and chop into thin strips. You can use any combination. Fermentation takes a lot of the heat out of chiles, so you can use a heavy hand with the spicy ingredients if you like a hotter mix. 



5. Shred the carrots ( I shred mine in my Cuisnart with the shredding disc). Divide the quantity and any juice created between the two mixing bowls containing the cabbage and peppers.
6. Add thyme and caraway seeds (any spice combo that you like will do)
7. Mix both bowls well with your hands,  continuing to mash and press with your hands. Add the juice of one orange to each bowl if desired. Taste both mixtures for seasoning. If more salt is needed, add a little more.


8. Add both bowls of veggies to your fermentation crock or vessel. Press down firmly and add weights to the top. I like to let the crock sit for a least an hour before adding filtered water to cover the stones. Some times you will need to add additional water. Depending on the vegetables they may produce enough liquid on their own. 
9. After and hour, make sure that the vegetable are completed submerged below the brining liquid. I like my brine to just cover the crock stones. Place the top on and fill the top channel with water, creating a natural barrier for unwanted bacteria, and still allowing gas to escape that will be created by the fermenting process. Your sauerkraut will be ready in 4 to 8 weeks depending the the ambient room temperature and other factors. Taste as you go along, keeping the channel filled with filtered water. When the kraut starts "burping" you will know that fermentation has begun. My batch from today starting outgassing within just a few hours.
10. When your batch is fermented to your taste, place the fermented mixture in impeccably clean jars that you fill to the top to decrease the amount of oxygen remaining in the jar. I use glass canning jars that I buy at my local hardware store. Keep refrigerated. The sauerkraut will last for months.

This batch of sauerkraut is ready for the stones to be placed on top of the vegetables and brine to weight them down below the liquid. Brine should cover vegetables by at least one inch.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tucson's All Souls Procession and Juliette's Grass-Fed Ground Beef Tacos

by Michelle

   "People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state—it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle... Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one's actions."  ~ The Wisdom of Heschel


   This morning I am wishing that I am Samantha from Bewitched. If only I could magically twitch my nose and have the misplaced items of my life (that are haphazardly lying here and there about the house) fly through the rooms to settle into their rightful places. I can vividly imagine the stacks of papers and receipts feeling compelled to jump to attention and file themselves one-by-one in an orderly fashion. How lovely it would be if last night's dishes washed and dried themselves and then cooperatively hopped into the cabinets and drawers. And the mop, under its own accord, cleaned the tile floors, efficiently swishing into all the nooks and crannies. The vacuum, not wanting to be deemed lazy, roars to life and quickly sucks up all the dust from the earth-colored carpets. The scrub brushes, not to be outdone, would come to life in a flurry of activity and make the bathrooms shine. The laundry would sort itself, enjoy a brisk bath, and then toss themselves in the dryer. Later in the day I'd discover the clothing hanging in the closet or folded nicely and uniformly in drawers. Daydreaming of this nature is lovely and ultimately futile. What I really need to conjure for myself is a little motivation.


   I keep reminding myself that Sistercation 2014 is happening in five weeks. And, at my house! So, I need to get to it. Yet all the piles of stuff that I should be dealing with keep pulling me in to investigate further like I'm falling down the rabbit hole. A big time sink is the ongoing effort to sort a collection of five generations of family photographs that are now strewn across a long dining room table that is set-up in my family room specifically for an ongoing project like this. The photographs also extend to a myriad of boxes stacked on the floor. It is no small endeavor. There are seemingly miles of photographs to sort by family and era. The collection includes sepia-toned images dating back to the 1800s. Then, of course, there are all the photographic slides to deal, too. When my extended family is gathered for Thanksgiving, I thought it would be fun to present a family slide show that features slides that my dad and my father-in-law captured back in the 60s and early 70s. Now, if I can only find the slide projector and big white screen that are buried somewhere in the garage. If it ain't one thing, it's another!
   My sisters and I jokingly refer to me as the family repository. Not only do I have thousands of photographs, but I have also collected our families written correspondence. The letters include the letters my Papa wrote to my Nana while he served on a navy ship in the Pacific during WWII. I fantasize about putting together books that combine family photos and excerpts from the letters and give them as holiday gifts. I can assure you my grand plan won't happen this year. I've got too much to do and not enough time to do it, let alone adding in a specialty project of that scope. Still, it's fun to think about.
   I remind myself to live in the present while I am drawn into the past. I can spend hours upon hours sifting through my family's history, while I chide myself that I have more important things to do, such as putting the house in order for the holidays and getting a jump on family meals that I can freeze, such as The Best Ever Bolognese Sauce and tasty Demi-Glacé to make a quick Grilled Steak Diane.
   I try to console myself for the hours that slide by that I am partaking in an important part of living. And, that is, to remember those that have gone before us and to learn from the lessons of history. As I sort through the photos, invariably one will catch my attention, and I'll stop to take a closer look and really examine the image of an era gone by. If it really captures my attention, I scan it and occasionally I will share the photo on Facebook so that my extended family, including my cousins that are scattered near and far, can share in the fun. I enjoy reading their responses... thank you social media!


   I'm old enough to have multiple chapters in my own life that have opened and closed. My memories are tidily cataloged in photo albums—those thick volumes that sit on bookcase shelves gathering dust that I should be, at this very moment, swiping clean with a feather duster. Every once in a while I'll pull down a particular album—my high school days, my four-month-European vacation, my wedding, the birth of my daughter, wonderful childhood Christmases at my Nana and Papa's and Grandma and Grandpa's—dust it off, and smile wistfully as I flip through the pages. Occasionally the feelings are so acute that I'll be moved to tears. Then a line of a poem or whole verse will move through my mind to punctuate the feeling that is flowing through me, which is invariably the feeling of loss.



  Thinking of my Nana, she passed away as Kurt Gibson famously hit the grand slam during game one of the 1988 World Series that fell on October 15th. Naturally, with the anniversary of her death and my annual preparations during the month of October for celebrating Day of the Dead, my thoughts always include memories of my Nana.
   I fondly recall that whenever the family was together and something good was going on Nana would say, "Stop the clock, stop the clock." She knew time was passing quickly and soon we'd be apart. Nana wanted more than anything for time to stand still so she could stay in those moments that made her and all of us so happy.




Stop All The Clocks

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now;
put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

~W. H. Auden


I adore this portable shrine.

My sister Juliette, and cousins, Avalon (Juliette's daughter) and Maddie (my daughter).
Death

We will meet again one day
On a far and distant shore
Don’t think that because I’m gone
I won’t see you anymore
Although we won’t touch again
Til the night time turns to day
The love we held within us
Will never go away.

Hold on to thoughts of me
My dreams are all for you
Although I’ve crossed the endless sea
These words I speak are true
Like drifting yacht I slipped away
And vanished in the mist
But I am beside you always
Can you still feel our kiss.

And time will come to heal your heart
Like the stream smoothes the stone
If you will just remember me
You will never be alone.
And so with friends gone before
I watch you and I wait
And when the time comes at last
I’ll be waiting at your gate.


~Jack Scarfe

In the late afternoon, spectators began lining the sidewalks and sitting on the overpasses.
I'm not sure why burritos are the enemy, but it is art all the same.


   My sister Juliette and I have made a concerted effort over the past few years to make attending the All Souls Procession an annual event. Last year, we had three generations of our family gathered in the streets of Tucson to take part in the community celebration of remembering those whom we have loved and lost. For me my thoughts combine the figurative and metaphorical. I endeavor to think well of and say blessings for friends who are no longer in my life. Although we may no longer enjoy a close relationship, they continue to play an active part in my memory and have key roles in my favorite stories. I push on through the sadness to keep searching for the light, grace, humor and love that exists in everyday life.

While the cool kids wait for the procession to start...
...Juliette paints her grandson's face.
Juliette's daughter, Sonora.
   "The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory, the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think they know how the universe could have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination." ~ Joseph Campbell

   “Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Yes! Traditional Folklorico dancers.



P.S.:  Please "like us" on Facebook where we post some of our favorite finds from our wanderings and from around the "internets".  If you'd like to see more of our photos, join the party on instagram#salvationsisterlinda and #salvationsistermichelle and #beaumontjuliette

Juliette's Grass-Fed Ground Beef Tacos
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