Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pear Pastry a la Paris!

Although, there may be nothing French about it....

About 6 years ago I was introduced to this modest little bakery in Long Island called Malverne Pastry.  This was a wonderful thing when I was living nearby and had a car.  I would make a weekly jaunt over there for a sublime little pastry called "French Apple Tart."  The first time this crossed my palate, I turned giddy with ecstasy.  Light puff pastry with a thin layer of tart, thinly sliced green apples (skins on!) and a very faint, nearly undetectable flavor of almond.   Not too sweet and just flaky enough to melt in your mouth but crisp enough so you could also hold it in your hand.  This was my one weakness for many years. After we moved further away from the pastry shop, but closer to the city, I would still find a way to make it to the pastry shop a couple times a year...even though I'd have to rent a car to do it.

One day late this past August, having  received a bumper crop of Bartlett pears with a fruit share in my CSA, I decided to try my hand at making my own.  (Thanks, most certainly to the generosity of an generous friend of mine who gave me her share of pears!)   It was a smashing success!  Instead of using hydrogenated-oil filled puff pastry (I haven't mastered the delicate are of making my own yet) I used an organic fillo dough, layered with butter, as the crust.  The result was a crispy flaky heavenly pastry.

Here is the recipe.  I will try it with apples as soon as they are here. 

Preheat oven to 400.

1 package organic filo dough, thawed
1 tube of Almond paste (rolled out as thin as possible, the size of your cookie sheet)
1/2 cup softened butter (you may not need it all)**
2 tbs apricot jam, warmed with a little honey (approx. 1 Tb.), or apple juice and a splash of cognac or brandy.
1 cookie sheet lined with natural parchment
4 - 5 bartlett pears, not too ripe, or tart firm apples, cored and sliced very thin (1/16 in.)  You want them to be like thick potato chips.
1/8 tsp. cinnamon powder to toss with the sliced apples.

** note on the butter:  if you have a pastry brush, melt the butter and brush it on.  I don't, so I spread softened butter instead.

Carefully, on a tea towel, unroll the package of filo.  (Aha! just like it says on the package...they do know what they are talking about.)   Place your parchment on top the cookie sheet and spread a little butter over it.  Then, begin layering your filo, a couple sheets at a time, spreading (or brushing) butter between each layer.  

After you have layered your final sheet of filo, now it's time for the almond paste.  You'll want to place it between two pieces of parchment or waxed paper and roll it out as think as possible.  (I can't give you any hints on this procedure really, because I am still struggling with this bit.  If anyone else knows how to get a thin coat of almond paste onto a thin, fragile pastry, please let me know.)   I can never get it as thin as I'd like, so I tear off tiny pieces and place them over the top of the filo.  Now for the art- carefully layer all of your fruit over the top. When you are satisfied with the appearance of your tart, fold over the raggedy edges of your tart so they look like the picture below.  This keeps them from burning too much. (Stick them down with a little bit of butter, used like glue.   Finally, in a small pan, gently warm your jam, honey and cognac until they are runny.  Add a little water if need be.  Brush your entire pastry, crust and all, with a very fine layer the jam.  Bake for about 20 -25 min, depending on how robust your oven's heating mechanism is.  The crust should be a nice golden color on the bottom and never fear, my edges do sometimes get a little dark, but it still tastes delicious!  After you remove it from the oven, carefully cut yourself a slice and sit down with a nice cup of something warm, put up your feet and relax...dream...and think up your next project.

With Love, and Autumn Blessings~


Monday, July 18, 2011

Garden Tour over at The Essential Herbal

Hey Everybody!

Here is a link to a tour of my city garden which Tina Sams of the The Essential Herbal has generously hosted and posted!

The Essential Herbal's Summer Garden Tour

I hope you have fun!  Happy Summer!


Saturday, March 26, 2011


Near Penzance, Cornwall Trevaylor Woods

That's when she found the tree,   
the dark, crabbed branches   
bearing up such speechless bounty,   
she knew without being told   
this was forbidden. It wasn't   
a question of ownership—   
who could lay claim to   
such maddening perfection?   

~Excerpt from~"I have been a stranger in a strange land"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Too late for the Blog Party: Herbal Hugs

(This was supposed to be part of an Herbal Blog Party two months back at Whispering Earth, but as seems to be my pace, I was too late and so abandoned my article.)

Herbal Hugs.   I need those daily it seems.  Right now as I post, my upstairs neighbor is angrily stomping around, which she does incessantly.  Sometimes I want to run out of the apartment!  Perhaps she needs an herbal hug herself.

There are so many types of hugs aren't there?  There are the friendly ones that we give to each other when run into each other on the street.  There are the deep, full embrace hugs that we give and receive when our hearts are aching.  There are the safe and reassuring hugs which are like warm hearth fire on an icy day.  These are the kind that say "ah, my dear all will be well, but in the meantime here, come have a cup of tea with me and tell me all your worries."   Hug therapy.  Herbal therapy. They go hand in hand.  I watched a documentary on  Mother Theresa the other day, and in it she said  'The worst disease today is not leprosy; it is being unwanted, being left out, being forgotten."  Feeling unwanted is to truly feel alone.  How healing is a meaningful hug.

I have several herbal hugs that I go to when in need, or prepare for others in need of them.  Many of these blends contain oatstraw or milky oats.  These two herbs soothe right through our nerves, into the spinal cord, and all the way into our very marrow, reviving our essence.  The spring green of an oatstraw blend is healing in and of itself.  Color therapy.

However, my all time favorite go-to herbal hug is Kukicha tea with warmed milk and buckwheat honey.

For this brew to be truly nourishing to the weary, afraid or frazzled spirit all three elements really need to be there.  The milk absolutely must be warmed or the beverage looses it's soothing creaminess and gets a little too airy, and any honey other than buckwheat is too sweet.  Buckwheat honey has a bit of a taste to it, sort of reminiscent of minerals, and it's really dark in color.

Kukicha tea was at one time (and still is in Japan) considered the poor persons tea, or was the tea drunk by the peasants and farmers.  It is made with the aged, sun-dried twigs (or sometimes stalks) of the Camellia sinensis plant.  The twigs have much less caffeine than the leaves and because they are the stems, lend us their strength, giving us a little inner shoring up when needed.  I find it much more grounding than other tea (by this I am referring to Camellia sinensis.)

I recall one time when my son was attending a 5 day/half-day nursery school.  I'd collect him at noon, myself rather frazzled from a morning in a separate Waldorf Nursery class, and he'd be wired from exhaustion and sensory overload. (Yes, even in  rhythmic Waldorf school the sheer number of children can overload a child's senses.)     I recall one day, I gathered him up and he was nearly in tears, I  wrestled (yes, wrestled) him into his car seat and handed him my pre-prepared mini thermos of this magic brew.  Relief flooded over him as he took the first gulp.

My husband and I drink a mug of this after dinner each evening once our son has gone to bed.  It is so soothing and the warm milk adds to the relaxing deliciousness of it.  It goes just as well with little cookies as it does sandwiches!  And a thermos of this pulled out of a backpack on a chilly day's walk has no compare in my opinion.   Next I'll share my recipe for crispy thin sesame crackle, or brickle depending on where you are from.  It goes delectably with that!

Prepare the tea with hot water, but not boiling, and allow to steep for three minutes.  For children I suggest a tea to milk ratio of 1/4 tea steeped lightly, and 3/4 warmed milk. For adults this is probably too milky.  I do a smallish mug filled 3/4 way with twigs and then filled the rest of the way with the milk.  Sweeten with buckwheat honey to taste.  I've enjoyed the bags (Haiku or Eden brands) or the loose (I like Mountain Rose Herb's).

I do hope you'll give it a try.  Truly all the people I've given this to are all kukicha junkies now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

John Lennon - Power To The People

May all the people standing up for a dream of a better world be Blessed, Protected, and Honored!

Power to the People!!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Health, Healing, Balance, to heal ourselves

What is healing?  Is it the irradication of a specific set of symptoms, or a return of vitality, or is it perhaps something more complex, different, mysterious? Whether in our own quests for self-healing, or as midwives to others healing journeys, this question invariably comes up.   I looked up the definition of "to heal" and according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary it means "To make or become sound or whole."  What is whole? Is "whole" the body and organs we had in youth?  Or is it something more like a merging and interweaving of our emotional bodies, our spirit bodies and our physical bodies - the physical bodies we are present in today?   I wonder if we are confusing healing with cure?

In this modern society, one in which we are on a daily basis seeped in images of "perfect, young, and athletic" that we can perhaps forget, or miss what we are really trying to do.  Our bodies in their myriad of expressions of our physicality are beautiful! Round, soft, crooked, slow, spunky, rough, wrinkled. Just as we all have unique walks, we all have unique ways that our bodies indicate if we are living in balance.   Recently I was re-reading the book "Healing Wise" by Susun Weed.  In the wise-woman tradition healing is something that can and does exists even when physical variations remain.  Healing comes when life-spirit is ignited, when our muscles are relaxed, our curiosity is present, and we feel connected with ourselves, each other, and the Divine forces that Are.

We can really let ourselves off the hook here, take the pressure off of what "healed" will look like.  We don't realize what pressure is exerted on the system in the quest for healing!  Especially when we, or the ones we are caring for are in the stream of allopathic medicine.  Perhaps the blood panel will not indicate a change, or perhaps it will, but we will nonetheless feel strong, and vital and enthusiastic.  Perhaps we will need to walk slowly, or with a cane, perhaps we will need to employ the help of anti-cancer therapies, but will do so with dignity and the grace of a Wise Queen, and in the process slow down enough to share and see.   Healed is vital, vibrant and constantly changing, and is something which comes from deep within our very beings.  Healing radiates from within like the loving and brilliant Sun itself.

Our physical symptoms are part of our healing...not something which need be fought against and attacked, but rather surrendered into a slow and gentle dance with, where we can hear what is being whispered to our inner being.  This takes courage! It takes the courage to not succumb to fear.  Our bodies begin relaying wisdom to us subtly sometimes, and we are unaware of these gentle messages.  So many do not take notice until full blown conditions are present.   Our healing comes by opening our cosmic center to our spirit selves, which in many of our cases happens via our health "issues."

We find healing when we approach ourselves with tenderness, hold our healing selves, and each other's in our hands as we would a new born dove and then take the steps of courage knowing that we are in the arms of the Divine.

Dr. Stephan Harding - Part 1 / 10 - Gaia Theory & Deep Ecology

For the record.  I haven't ever seen these two videos on youtube before so I am posting them here for future reference and for those of you who haven't heard either of these two people speaking about Gaia.  We've been studying Space in our homeschooling studies this past two weeks, and I just happened upon these videos when searching for footage of Joanna Macy speaking, a truly inspiring speaker.  As a child, these ideas were not part of my education, and I've been reflecting on how much of my post-university life I've spent catching up.  My dream is that the for the children of today, and of the future, this knowledge will be part of their "culture" part of everyday acceptance.