living and cooking for the planet, for the health, for the animals


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Bread time!

I stumbled upon the New York Times no-knead bread (by Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery) only recently and I desperately wanted to try out this recipe.  Since I do believe that flour is a very delicate but so important factor in our diet I try to get control over it as much as possible. This means that I decided to reduce eating bread and pasta in general. In the case of craving bread I also figured out that it is better to bake it yourself and it is so much more fun and satisfying.

The New York Times no-knead bread is a kind of farmer’s bread with a beautiful crust and a wonderful crumb. The fermentation time provides a fragrant aroma and the prep time is a super plus! It just takes 10 minutes and can be done in between and during your other daily activities! Because I like to modify recipes in my way I changed the basic one a little bit so that I would use the flour I think is best. If you want to try out the original one you’ll find it here: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11376-no-knead-bread

Ingredients

  • 4 ½ cups organic whole grain wheat flour
  • 2 cups organic wheat flour (Italian tipo 0)
  • 1 tablespoon organic hemp flour
  • ½  teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • more flour for dusting
  • 3 cups of water

Instructions

Place all types of  flour in a large bowl and mix with the salt, and yeast.

In a pot preheat the water to 40 °C and Add to the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until blended. Don’t be surprised if the dough will be shaggy and sticky.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 4 hours at warm room temperature, and then leave it in the fridge overnight (about 12 hours).

The next morning you take the bowl outside the fridge and leave it 3 till 4 hours again at warm room temperature.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 220 °C degrees. Put a heat resistant pot with its lid (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats.

Fold the dough loosely from above and below one-third. Do not press or knead the dough. The fluffy dough ball is now ready (best with floured hands!) to let slip into the hot pot. Cover it and put it back into the oven immediately.
Carefully remove pot from oven. Take the soft dough ball (best with floured hands!) and turn dough over into pot. It will look messy, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid reduce the heat to 180 °C and bake another 30 minutes until the loaf is golden brown. Cool on a rack. Enjoy!

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And the sad game goes on – Agropoly

Last week’s news: German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer AG has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion. The tie-up of two of the six largest companies for agricultural chemicals and industrial seed (alongside Dupont, BASF, Dow AgroSciences and Syngenta) would result in the world’s biggest company in agricultural production. The question that arises now is: what does this mean for food sovereignty and seed sovereignty?

A conventional farm becomes habit-forming of the agricultural chemical producers and suppliers and international agricultural trade corporations (Nestlé, Unilever, Mondelez, etc.) as purchasers of their products. Especially the pesticide producers Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta have, of course, an interest that alongside of the cultivation of their plants also their pesticides must be used.

“Food sovereignty” emphasizes the access to agricultural inputs such as land, seeds and water, and emanate from the right of all people and nations to define their own agricultural and food policies. However, because of the nature of capitalist industrial agriculture there are no free lands or areas. It deprives the planet of energy and other commodities, and it impacts the climate.

Also the “seed sovereignty” suffers from this trend. The industrial agriculture does not use locally adapted varieties and does not promote it either. On the contrary: Due to the proliferation of hybrid seeds and due to property rights on seeds  which prohibit the reproduction and seed exchange between farmers (in Europe the TOP 5 own half of the patents on plants) the conventional seed market is growing rapidly.

The acquisition of Monsanto is basically a 62-billion-dollar bet against a required change in agriculture, a change that argues against concentration processes within the separate sectors of feeding stuffs, livestock, seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Bayer is betting that the industrialization of agriculture continues with more and more factory farms, genetic engineering and pesticides. But we do not want a mega-corporation, which has a monopoly on our food and promotes the industrialization of agriculture.

The point is rather to promote the proliferation of antique seeds and an agriculture that is not based on chemistry and mechanization but on biodiversity. This includes organic farming and permaculture. Food should be primarily produced and distributed regionally rather than exported to rich countries. Especially people who suffer hunger and malnutrition need to get access to resources such as land, water and seeds. Everyone needs to have the opportunity to feed him/herself in dignity – whether auto-productive or not.

 

 


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I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden…

Now is the time to pick some rosa canina which is commonly known as dog rose and a magical plant. Its main ingredients are: vitamin E, essential oil, vitamin C, organic acids, tannins, pectins and especially carotenoids bioflavonoids, natural pigments from the important antioxidant.

In medicine its internal use is in cases of colds, flu, gastritis and diarrhea. The fruits are used to prepare syrup, used as a food supplement, especially in the diet of infants and used by the pharmaceutical industry as a flavoring of medicines. The fruit extracts are added to the tablets of Vitamin C.

At this time of year we pick the leaves and buds and dry them to make tea. Herbal teas, decoctions and infusions made with leaves, flowers or rose hips roots are recommended for colds and infections, as well as being a mild decongestant and toning; the rose hips are also attributed immunostimulant properties and antiallergic.

 


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The flavours and colours of Italian Cuisine

Speaking of Italian cuisine is not easy. The richness and vastness of this tasty food is such as to render virtually any incomplete definition or description. However, on the other side, the main characteristic of Italian cooking is its extreme simplicity, such as la pasta. Pasta is probably the most famous dish and one that is universally associated with Italian cuisine. There is a variety of pasta and I’m pretty sure that most Italians can’t even memorize them all.
The fun part of pasta is not also the variety of forms, but also the possibility to vary its basic recipe. You can do coloured pasta, with or without eggs, or pasta with filling. I already tried a lot of things and I’m sharing my recent experiment with ravioli of tomato concentrate.

  • 200 grams of organic flour (type 00 as it is used in Bologna for fresh pasta, it is however also possible to use any other flour, but the more processed the flour the more gluten molecules it has)
  • 1 egg/ 60ml water
  • 60g tomato concentrate

Not all of the eggs (as we have seen here) are equal but an egg is, on average format by 30 g egg white and 20 g of yolk. For coloured pasta, one egg (or the substituted amount of water) can be replaced by 60 grams of vegetables or cooked fruit. Cooked vegetables can be pureed. If it’s blended finely it creates a homogeneous colour, though little pureed or vegetables chopped with a knife will give a colour in patches.
For the filling I used:

  • rucola
  • mix of cheese (leftovers in the fridge)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chilli powder

 

 


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Garden Markers – Repurpose some very natural things

Since planting season is in full swing and most of it has been done we can move forward to some other points of the to-do list: aesthetics. Once we have crossed of the most important things we can focus (or just use our free time) on some projects which makes our vegetable garden look nicer and have even a structural function.

Today, I decided to make some stone vegetable garden markers which are very easy and minimalistic in design – just the way I like it. Our 3000 m2 are divided in four terraces of a hillside of a valley (just the typical Italian surrounding) close to a nature reserve and for this we have not only a very fruitful mother soil but also rocks ‘en masse’. So why not use some (because we have plenty of them) to make a nice decor that, at the same time, fits in perfectly to the natural habitat?…

You really don’t need anything else but the amount of rocks (and if course those ones that suits best according to your taste) and a permanent marker. Use your nicest or ugliest handwriting to paint the rocks and voilà! The labels are done.

 

 


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All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of yesterday

Plant seeds are small miracles: they contain all the genetic material of a plant, they can fly and swim. They survive heat, fire and cold. They can also spend years in a deep sleep and travel hundreds of kilometers. After some or all of these stresses and strains they germinate to grow again to a complete plant. What a miracle.

If we cultivate plants we take control over the seed process by, firstly, collecting seeds, secondly, store them carefully, and, thirdly, put them in the soil and let nature do the magic. But can we do more? Yes. We can prepare the best fundament by mixing the perfect soil which, by the way, we don’t buy, but mix ourselves.

What you need is very simple. You need to follow a basic principle of 60, 30, 5, 5. It takes 60% of the top thin layer of forest soil, 30% of your basic or “mother” soil which you find in your garden, 5% of wood ash and the other 5% organic fertilizer (e.g. “Deltafert stallatico super” which is 100% biologically active humified bovine and poultry dung).

The top layer which is the “forest floor” is composed of fresh and partially decomposed litter that has accumulated over many years. It contains whole or fragments of twigs, leaves, seeds, bark, and wood. It is full of organisms and most of the nutrient cycling happens here, making it a very important part of the overall functioning of the ecosystem. For this reason it makes 60% of our recipe.

The 30% “mother soil” is a good mix already and has a moderate organic matter level and iron oxides. Wood ash contains potassium (which regulates the plants’ water balance) and also calcium (which the plants use to build cell walls and membranes). The use of cattle manure is a popular practice in many rural areas, and this has a reason: among other things, it contains beneficial bacteria, which convert nutrients into easily accessible forms. Sounds like a good support for a germinating seed!

There are many recipes for mixing good soil and it always depends on the plant you are planting, because a vegetable’s seed is different from an herb or flower. However, we had good experience so far and I recommend it plAntily 🙂

 

 


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Why it’s important to connect to NATURE

Why it’s important to connect to NATUREhere exists e lack of information. You might want to say: Hold on! We live in the information age and considering the internet we can say that we ARE the evolution of technology, so how the heck can there be a lack of it? And I say you are right. However, this is the paradox of our time: we can create an enormous network of data sources and in no speed exchange information, but we do fail to connect to the one thing that is actually natural to us: nature.

I recently stumbled upon a book by Galina Schatalowa whom particularly German raw food activists will know very well. The book Fylosofyya zdorovʹya, 1997 (The Philosophy of Health) has been, luckily, translated into German and is an approach that brings together scientific research, practical experience and a holistic perspective about health. Without going into details I want to share what I found fascinating. Schatalowa explains that the major characteristic that distinguishes her approach of natural healing from any other system is its intense use of natural information. In this context I thought of the importance of connecting to NATURE and that we cannot forget that the exchange of information not only determines the life of human community, it is also a condition for the existence of living organisms, the living matter at all.

Unfortunately, today the exchange of information between nature and human beings has a less important role. The information we get is based on the fact of socialization per se, of being part of a human society. Only a small portion of the information comes from nature. However, we need to bear in mind that hundreds of thousands of years ago the sensory organs of human beings have been programmed for the accumulation and processing of information directly from nature. Who thinks that it does not matter for our eyes and ears what type of natural data they receive is very much mistaken. The self-isolation from nature of the modern man results in a chronic lack of information, and is reflected in his physical, but especially in its mental health.

New technology means of course progress and new innovations which I am totally in favor of. However, we do let us distract ourselves from the ringing, vibrating and buzzing of our phone, tablet, TV and computer. Right now I do work at my Laptop and I don’t want to miss this commodity but I need to get away from it and find my balance in nature. How else can I listen to my body signals or to what my body needs during e.g. winter or summer? How it reacts to humidity or dry weather conditions? What is the effect of eating meat vs being vegetarian or vegan? Is there a difference in life quality in the smog of a city or the clean air in the countryside? … I need to find tranquility in order to be capable of hearing what my body is telling me.

I, on the other side, decided to be very caring and loving with my body. I respect my body, my health, my fitness because there are two great attributes I cherish very much which Galina Schatalowa also highlighted to explain that we human beings need them in order to be “guardians of life”: reason, which increases our knowledge and gives us the ability to see far ahead, to foresee the consequences of our actions (what we eat or drink), and benignity that manifests itself in our willingness to share with others the most valuable thing we have – our knowledge. In this respect I really appreciate the internet and the new technologies we have. We can share knowledge and be also inspiration, and hopefully, give impulses to (in my case) connect to nature in order to find our balance.