A Spotlight of five Ingredients

I’ve created a page for Chicken Coop Botanicals over on Facebook. This week I spotlighted one ingredient I use each day for the last five days. I wanted to put them all here for reference and for my non-facebook followers. I’ll do this again in a couple of weeks. I’m going to be adding some more products in the store this week and next weekend there will be a special sample available with orders. This weekend and week I highly recommend picking a few of the items. There will not be anymore Tree Medicine chest rub until fall once this batch is finished. We are out of the Rose Face soap for about 3 more weeks as well. I am so happy with the support for my little store on the web! Come on down to Etsy and check it out.

Day 1: This week I want to share a bit about the ingredients I use in my products. I don’t want to limit this to herbs as there is a lot to learn about oils, butters, seaweeds and such. For the next 5 days I’ll share just a bit about an ingredient each day. Today I am listing my St John’s Wort ointment. So let’s begin with this plant. We have a large meadow on our family’s property with many natural grasses and wild flowers. Over the last few years St. John’s Wort has naturalized arriving in a wild flower mix. I began playing with it last summer as a dye plant. The fresh flowering tops gave a unique yellow that I loved. I grew st John’s Wort in my garden 20 years ago as a nervine tea. But as I did more research I found it is also used topically by herbalists in treatment of nerve damage and muscle pain, skin inflammation, skin wounds, and burns. The cooling ointment I made is also helpful with bruising as it includes Cottonwood bud oil (I’ll write about this on Wednesday). I make a tincture of the St John’s Wort as well as infusing olive oil with the herb. I add the Cottonwood bud oil as well and do not add quite as much beeswax to this as I would with a salve. This ointment is thin and very emollient. I have used it effectively with people suffering muscle and joint pain, very hard bruises and swelling from falls. It gets the blood flowing and helps nerve pain associated with edemas as well as bruising. I have just a few of these 1 ounce jars listed in the store as I won’t have herb to work with again until summer. I’ll definitely be making more late summer. This current batch has a shelf life of at least 2 years.
There is much more to add about this plant, but I think I’ll wait until it’s blooming here next summer to add more.

Day 2: I love seaweed! I eat it whenever possible. Seaweed is packed with an unusually high concentration of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.. So putting seaweed into skin products also adds nutrition to the skin. Some high end companies have been onto the moisture infusing qualities of seaweed for quite sometime. In the past I’ve always gone the route that food is medicine and have noticed visibly smoother skin when I am eating seaweed (with miso soup or sushi) on a consistent basis. I’m certainly not giving up my sushi, but I love smoothing this new mask I’ve created on my face. I ordered some powdered Bladderwrack seaweed powder with the idea that I’d add some water and be perfectly happy. But somewhere along the way I discovered Kelp ferment. Through adding kelp to a Kefir water mixture all the bio-availability is pulled out into a gel created by the mixture. I love a good science experiment so I have a jar going on my counter right now. But in the meantime I purchased some online and am mixing it with seaweed powder and Rose water to create a mask that is soothing and softening.
Think what your skin would look like with seaweed both eaten and spread all around. Yum!

Day 3: Today in the ingredient spotlight, we are going to talk about Cottonwood bud resin. Right now, before the buds unfurl, they hold a sticky resin that is full of medicine. I began to research this tree as I’d heard it would be good for joint pain like arthritis. All the years of cooking, knitting and gardening have finally taken their toll on my finger joints. I find that all my joints tend to be quite stiff, but over use of my hands has become painful. As I began to research the anti-inflammatory medicine I found that it is good for sore muscles in general and heals the skin healing process. I was thrilled as these trees grow in many areas of Portland. Especially along the river pathway below my restaurant. As with any wild crafting I certainly would never pick a tree clean or even pick more than 1/4 of the buds off any single plant (the ethics of wild crafting are an entire subject of their own). The wonderful thing about the time of year you collect these buds is that winter storms bring down branches and those are what I gather from. I heat extract the resin from buds that are covered in Olive oil over several days. After squeezing every last bit of oil from the buds I now add this to salves, delicate skin oil and it’s a great addition to my St John’s Wort ointment.

Day 4: The ingredient highlight for day 4 is Red Clover blossoms. That might get a huh out of a lot of people. There is lots of medicine in those red topped blossoms in your yard and garden. First I will say do not ever eat a plant that has been sprayed. If you are walking down the street and want to grab a few think first about where these plants are growing and how. Once you know they are a happy plant for your body munch away! The product you’ll find them in for Chicken Coop Botanicals is the “Cool Flash” tincture. I’m fully in menopause and this tincture helps my overworked liver quite a bit. Although I have a male friend that finds it helpful for his middle of the night wakefulness because of night sweats.
Red Clover is one of the best sources of isoflavones which acts like estrogen. The isoflavones also help in breast health, lower cholesterol (another tincture I use it in, but not in store yet) and they are now looking at helpfulness with bone density. Then there all the nutrients in the little guys–calcium, chromium, magnesium (which we never get enough of), niacin, potassium, Vitamin C. I’ve used red clover as a cover crop in my garden for 20 years to add all this nutrition. I never thought of just putting it directly in me until I began to research ways to experience menopause from a natural point of view. Even just adding the blossoms to a cup of tea is helpful. I love having the tincture as I keep it in my purse cause you never know when those hot flashes are gonna hit.

Day 5: The final ingredient I want to talk about this week is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is wonderful for eating and as a carrier oil for herbs to use in salves(it has one of the longest shelf lives of carrier oils). I don’t use it on my own face, but it is incredible for adding moisture to dry skin and hair (I have formulas I’m working on now). Other benefits you get from those olives are the antioxidants-vitamins A and E, a wonderful protection of the skin that promotes elasticity. Have you been following the scandal this week about companies that are selling Extra Virgin Olive oil and when tested that is not what is in the containers!?! This goes right to the issue of knowing where your food comes from. I buy Extra Virgin (the least processed and so good for you) Olive oil through my restaurant. I know the importer and have been to Italy to meet with a few of the producers. You can definitely find these same benefits from California or other countries’ olive oils. This is a source I already use for cooking so I choose to also use it for my herb crafting as well. Important to me is that if an item is not certified organic I do know the source and that they are using natural methods of producing the oil. I feel this way about all the foods I eat and herbs I use. The word organic is important, but it has widened in its definition over the years. It is much more important that I know the person or company from which I get my products.
I also use EVOO daily in my salad dressing. I love to steep fresh herbs in and allow them to steep for several weeks. You are getting a tasty oil this way and double the “medicine” (food is medicine after all). Right now Chives are coming up so that will be my next infusion. I am still using the Rosemary oil I made at the end of fall, but it’s time for a change. What types of oils have you made or think you’d like to create?

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The Etsy store is now open!

In case you aren’t on social media you may have missed that today is the opening day for the Chicken Coop Botanical Etsy shop!

Over on Instagram (@debaccuardi) I’m having a giveawayIMG_2491 of some lovely items that are listed in the store. I’m also adding a sample of my Forest Gleanings Tea (not yet listed in the store) IMG_2493to all orders received by Sunday night. This is a fun project and I hope you’ll be following along. I’ll be adding new products as they are ready and you know I’m always making something.

In other news–can you believe that Gino’s Restaurant turns 19 yr old today!?! We have been so lucky to have amazing employees and customers over the years. We aren’t doing much celebrating tonight, but next year…yea, I gotta save it up for that 20 year birthday party:)


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The Impatient Herbalist

I’ve been making all kinds of remedies for family and friends (well mainly for myself) over many years. I decided that with the addition of a studio up here on my little bit of Mt Hood I could sell some of the items I really love to locals that want to visit. This will be a great venue for natural dyeing classes, cooking and gardening classes. A jumping off point for wild walks into the forest and making some basic remedies and food stuffs at the end of a walk.IMG_2148

But I’m impatient! I am surrounded by jars of face cream, lip balms and soaps. I’ve started to infuse local honey with sweet violets, young spruce or fir tips, rose scented geranium leaves. IMG_2159On my shelves are tinctures made from healing plants for the body and flower essences to help heal emotional issues. I want to share all these delights and my sweet little chicken coop is still on the list of “to be built”. I think it will be late summer before I am stepping through the door(which will leave plenty of time for fall mushroom walks and classes). So later this week (Thursday to be exact) Chicken Coop Botanicals will open online! Why Thursday you might ask. Thursday is the anniversary of Gino’s Restaurant. What better way to keep all the ducks in a row. Year 19 for the restaurant and the beginning of a new venture.

The online shop, as in the coop itself, will have an ever changing list of items available for sale. These will be both seasonally based and worked in small batches. In August it is finally dry enough to dye yarn and fabric outside. Each season has certain ingredients to work with, as well as certain foods and medicines IMG_2242our bodies call for. In addition, as I work on books, pamphlets and classes they will all be available under the Chicken Coop Botanical banner. All my working life, both in the restaurant business and floral and catering and yarn businesses I have been botanically driven. I’ve played with herbs in the garden since I was 22 and have incorporated them (as well as other plants) into every part of my home and working life. I think this next stage is a culmination of all these aspects of my life.

Check back Thursday morning for a link to the online store. And if you are on Instagram be sure to join in the virtual opening party. There will be a couple of giveaways and lots of products photos. @debaccuardi

The Podcast will be returning soon as well. It will continue in the casual format, but will go way back to the days when I talked more about the ointments, teas and the gardening I do around here. I’ll talk a bit more in depth about the hows and whys of products I’m making or ingredients I’m using. Folk Herbalism is for the people, by the people and information should be easily accessible. You will have to put up with some soap box talk about eating seasonally and how prevention is so much better than treating an existing issue (it won’t be the first time I’ve stepped up on that soapbox). I’m still knitting, spinning and there will still be a lot about these animals around here. I have also been puttering with some sewing and embroidery (I blame Creative Bug for all new hobbies). I hope you’ll join me again for new episodes. I’ll post an announcement and link here when At The Kitchen Table is up and running again.


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The Duck

Remember a while back when I said I was going to talk about yummy, tasty duck confit? Well here I am talking about it. Sometimes I just need to make things and that’s what I’ve been doing instead of posting around here. Some of what I’ve been making involves duck.

IMG_2341 We’ve made two batches of duck confit this winter. One just after Thanksgiving and another at the end of January. It’s an easy process and then you have the meat, fat, jelly and bones for broth for a good long time. I feel like I should have posted this a few weeks ago for my east coast friends. We love having this in the fridge for those days (weeks) where we feel snow bound and/or just don’t want to drive down the hill to go shopping. Not that I know what that feels like this year, but it is nice when we come to the end of the week and don’t have much in the cupboards. What you see in the photo above is the raw duck legs being covered in fat ready to go into the oven. My favorite recipe is from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook . You create a green salt (lots of herbs blended with salt) and pack the legs with it for 24 hours. After rinsing that off you cover the legs with previously rendered fat and cook them at a very low temperature in the oven for ten hours. I now have a new oven that doesn’t get below 275 degrees so I had to cart my pan of fat covered legs over to my in-laws for a long bake at 175. Once out of the oven the legs stay under the fat until you are ready to eat them. The combination of the salt and the fat preserves the legs for a good long time.

Today we enjoyed a wonderful crispy duck salad with wild garden weeds for lunch IMG_2414 I made this confit on January 29th. That batch was made especially for these incredible tamales one of our Gino’s cooks made for the annual Super Bowl/Employee party at the restaurant. IMG_2379 some of the fat was mixed into the masa which made these amazingly flavorful! Another salad variation IMG_2246 and a delicate soup made with some of the jelly found under the meat. That jelly is full of the flavors of that original green salt rub. IMG_2195

You can use the meat for tacos or have a leg on its own over polenta. The jelly is great to add by the tablespoon to a dish you feel just needs an extra something; and let us not forget the incredible flavor of potatoes roasted in duck fat.

So if you are a wee bit chilly this winter season, and you can get down your driveway, go find a butcher to order up some legs and duck fat.

I would add that confit means to cook in fat, so tuna that is poached in olive oil in the same manner lasts as long (and is wonderful for a whole slew of other recipes). How about garlic confit (tasty and very good for you). This is a great preservation technique, but it also gives you intense flavor. Wonderful at this end of winter. We realized today that we are ready to take that step into spring. Enjoying duck with the greens was really tasty, but our bodies are starting to crave the flavors of spring…almost time for those tonic herbs.

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Soup for a Winter Day

I have been extremely busy the last couple weeks dispatching the 12 roosters born here in the late fall. It’s an unfortunate situation, but they don’t go to waste. I have been processing three at a time to make some wonderful broth.

I have been making some very pretty dishes lately, but with all that broth today I wanted to share this tasty soup IMG_2371. I decided we didn’t need to see this in large format as it just isn’t that beautiful. But the flavor! This is a simple broccoli soup utilizing last summer’s crop of broccoli tops. It’s funny–we used to eat so much steamed or sautéed broccoli. We just don’t anymore (greens of every sort have replaced that quick fix veg). Broccoli is a vegetable that freezes very well. I cut the main head when a perfect size (we each have our perfect sizes right?) and continue to harvest side shoots throughout the summer (I lay them out on a cookie sheet to freeze. Putting them in ziplock bags after frozen). I learned the first summer I planted broccoli that a few plants can go a long way. I planted two six packs (hence finding out how well it freezes). I now plant one six pack and still get plenty to freeze. I used rooster broth for the base here, but there is no reason to make this a meat broth based soup. If you make your own yogurt or goat cheese you should have wonderful whey on hand. The protein from the whey goes towards making this a complete meal. I always freeze my whey after cheese making in single cup amounts so that I can easily pull it out and add it to soup as needed. I added it here both for the extra protein and I love the tangy flavor with the broccoli. I also make a Chinese veg broth(full of jujube and goji berries for good health) that would be very good in this if I were going to make a vegetarian version. I always add onion and garlic to this soup (cause, why not!), a couple of small potatoes to thicken it up and that is it. I should say salt and pepper go without saying. I let it all simmer until the veg is soft enough for a puree. I take my wand to it and buzz it to a point where it is almost smooth but not quite. If I were adding cream I would take it all the way for a beautiful smooth soup, but I like it to have a little character. To finish off I add a drizzle of Rosemary oil (olive oil I infused with branches at the end of October) and a pinch of herb salt (gray sea salt blended with rosemary and sage). It may not win a beauty pageant, but all the ingredients are on hand from freezer and pantry. That to me is a successful winter meal.

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Bone Broths and Tasty Alternatives

Today is the day I refill my freezer with meat broth, both rich and light. Plus a wonderful small amount of demi glace. We do this about every six months. I realize I am in the minority of being able to order cases of meaty bones through my restaurant. But you’ll be surprised what you can find if you create a relationship with a good butcher. I will start by saying right now–get good quality bones. Meaning that if the animals ate feed that had antibiotics or grass that had been sprayed with chemicals you too will now be consuming that at a concentrated level. I don’t eat organic at every meal, but when I am cooking at home my food is naturally produced at the very least. I find it is more important to know the producer of your food than to pay for the label “organic”. I will now step off that soap box and get back to the goodness of bone broth.

IMG_2329I referred above to what I’m making today, however, bone broth is made from any animal. Chicken broth is bone broth. The tales of being healed by grandma’s chicken broth are true! Long cooking the bones and vegetables in water pulls out the minerals. Short cooking vegetables or eating them raw gets you the wonderful vitamins. We are going beyond that with long cooked broths. You will enjoy the health benefits of the nutrients and collagen (that is so very good for your joints) with bone broths. I always have large and small containers of various broths in my freezer at any one time. I use chicken broth the most for soups, sauces and gravy. After Thanksgiving Turkey broth is added. Rooster becoming an ankle biter (I mean that literally) into the freezer he goes. But drinking (or eating it in soups) the beef broth is when I feel the most healthful.IMG_2335

Alright, I think we can agree that we these broths (which seems to be all the rage to drink right now) are very good for you, let’s talk about how to make these broths tasty. Cooking some bones and vegetables together can mean anything and I have to say that before I spent some quality time with my mother-in-law my broths tasted a bit weak. My chicken broth didn’t have the golden color of her broth and my veal broth could have come from a can. In the 1970’s my mother-in-law apprenticed with John Snowden in Chicago (of Père L’Ecole de la Cuisine Française). She is a petite blond of Scandinavian descent who, like me, completely adopted the Italian lifestyle when she married. Combining that with the french cooking techniques she learned from Snowden has made her a very impressive home cook. From her I learned that after you eat a roast chicken you want to scrape all the goodness from that baking dish along with the carcass into the stock pot; you never allow a stock to boil (a gentle simmer is the best); cook your broth at least 4 hours (some french chefs believe stopping at 4 hours is perfect); the vegetable accompaniment to the bones should be carrot, celery, onion, leek and possibly garlic; the herbs should include bay, parsley, thyme. Over the years my husband and I have tried different recipes after reading cookbooks and working with other chefs. We really stick to his mother’s basics for the most part. I add chervil and sometimes marjoram to my green vegetables and after herb classes last fall I am also adding Astragulas root and Reishi mushroom slices to give just a bit more healing aids. Sometimes after we strain the poultry broths I still don’t feel it’s viscous enough so I’ll let it sit overnight, skimming off the fat the next morning and cooking it down to just the right flavor.IMG_2337

About 15 years ago Gail (my mother-in-law does have a name) came upon her notes from classes with John Snowden. She and I decided to make his demi glace. It was a “decision” as following exactly through his notes we were taking on a 24 hour project. We began with 30 pounds of veal, beef and pork bones and ended with a quart of the most incredible creation I’ve ever eaten. I haven’t repeated that recipe again as we were happy with flavors we met along the road in that 24 hour journey. Again over the years since my husband and I have read much, seen many renditions made and experimented ourselves to get to the process we now have developed. I see what we are in the middle of right now (still a 24 hour process of cooking 30 pounds of veal bones) as a cross between Snowden (Gail’s interpretation of her time with him), Keller, Robuchon and ourselves. We roast the bones for 10 minutes, add the cut up vegetables and continue roasting for a bit. We then put all in a pot of water with the herbs and lightly simmer for 12 hours. After pouring off we add more water and cook another 8 hours for a light veal broth that is used for soups. The first broth is cooked down even further to become thick for a semi-demi which I love in French onion soup and then finally into the gel that is demi-glace. I often add a bit of tomato paste (ala John Snowden) to that final stage. You may realize that I have not give specific amounts on everything and I have left a couple little secrets out;) But this is about you finding the flavors that you want. It took us years to get to what works for what we cook at home. And there is a book in my head that is starting to find its way to paper. Good for you as more of these cooking adventures and stories will be finding there way to the blog.

I did want to add a bit for my vegetarian friends (even though at this point they probably are not paying attention). Cooking vegetables for lengths of time also opens the cells and gives you the mineral benefits of the plants. I have mushroom broths I love to use in risotto or soups; I add parsnip to my vegetarian broth to give a sweetness and body to the broth. I have recently been paying more attention to Chinese vegetable broths where jujube fruit is added for health benefits. I always add a lot more herbs to carry the flavor.

Fish broth is in a whole other category as I want a light flavor for the most part. I tend to add fennel to that broth. If I want something heavier I add shrimp shells. As I said there are a large variety of broths in my freezer. I consider the freezer to be part of my “Pantry” set up. Spending some time once every 6 months to make a large project broth like the one I’m working on right now is worth it when I haven’t gone shopping and I have everything else to make a warming soup or only have some rice and frozen peas–add any of the broths I’ve described for a healthy and tasty risotto with Aborio rice or rice soup with brown rice or basmati. Most of the broths I make are at the end of a meal (chicken or fish) and it cooks while we are watching tv or visiting with friends. They have just become part of our life. I’ve said for years I could give up all other meats but never broth!

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A Chicken Coop of one’s own

There comes a time for some of us when creative space is outgrown. I did that quite a while ago. I tend to be surrounded in my sunroom by piles of books, baskets of yarn, fiber and material; and then there are the bags and bags of dried plant materials that I use to create herbal products for myself, family and friends. I am one of those that can create amid chaos. However, I seem to be running out of table(s) space. My husband has been eyeing this sunroom for a while with his own ideas of a dining room on top of it all.

So last fall when there was talk of building a new chicken coop for our birds I commented that I’d be perfectly happy with a chicken coop of my own. I didn’t realize until the day the concrete truck pulled up that there were in fact two chicken coops being built. I was giddy with delight! I will finally have “A Room of One’s Own” that Virginia Woolf wrote about so long ago. A place I have wanted for my entire adult life. I have been able to carve out space in many a home we’ve lived in and even had a wonderful shared studio space when Pico Accuardi Dyeworks was in business. But this entire (well small entirety) building will be my place to escape, create, bring the outdoors in. With the added bonus that it is just 25 feet from my house.

IMG_2321 The view from my front stoop will be up the meadow. Looking at my garden with Hunchback mountain in the background.

Since the beginning of last summer I have been asking myself-what’s next? As soon as that floor was laid I immediately thought classes for the fiber arts. And that will happen a bit. However, the more time I have in my garden the more botanical projects have been popping into my brain. So, you’ll notice a new title to this here blog–Chicken Coop Botanicals. Everything that I love to do comes back to plants and nature–dyeing fiber, foraging for mushrooms and herbs, cultivating plants in the garden, cooking. I’m even going to stick my sweet birds into that category as they are a big component in the health of our land here on this little bit of Mt Hood. In my early 20’s I fell in love with the idea of being an herbalist. It didn’t make sense in our lives at that time, but I have read, experimented and created ointments, teas and tonics over the years (it’s great to have a husband that is a willing guinea pig). I’ve been creating body and medicinal products a lot of late, especially during the period my father lived with us. Last summer I created 23 Flower Essences from our property. I want to share some of these products with you sweet friends. I keep going back and forth on selling online. I always worry about liquids leaking in the mail. Today I received a Very fragrant package from my mail lady. At this point my plan is to host a few pop up shop or two in Portland until my coop is finished. At that point I will host a quarterly open house selling whatever I’ve been making during that period. I’m very excited that a greenhouse is also being built so there will also be a spring and fall plant sale by next year.

I have been remiss in public writing for quite some time. Mainly I just haven’t wanted to say This or This is what I’m up to as by the next day it could change. But I really feel that I am where I need to be and I’m doing what I love! Not to say you won’t see me at Gino’s on the weekends, but there are 5 more days in a week;)

I also want to acknowledge those that have really inspired me in the last quarter of 2014. Learning is something that should happen everyday of your life. You might be surprised by a different layer in a subject you think you truly know:

Chelsea Heffner has created an amazing learning space at Wildcraft Studio School. The 2015 schedule will be up later this month. Take a class! Any class! I took two last fall. The first was with the ladies of Portland Apothecary teaching Autumn Herbals. Terrific teachers and a great resource of a Portland herbal CSA. I’d definitely take another class from them. My biggest take away was to put Astragulas root in everything! And now I do (teapot, soups, bone broth). Thank you ladies! The other class, with Elise Krohn, was a Forest Medicine class. This class blew my mind. I have cooked with pine, fir and spruce needles, but have never thought of the medicinal components. Duh. I’ve been playing with these ideas for the last few months and I’m now taking an ecourse Through Blue Turtle Botanicals. Where Elise comes from an Olympic Peninsula Native American background, Darcey Blue is from the southwest and comes to the table with Shamanic herbalism training. I found Darcey through Instagram. I’ve been inspired by several plant and nature lovers on Instagram lately. These are a few others whose products I love–One Willow Apothecaries, Kings Road Apothecary and Amrita Aromatics. What inspired you last year that you will be bringing with you into 2015?

I am so excited about 2015! I feel creative at a whole new level. We have a big spring European trip planned. A summer wedding for my step-son, Gino:) Another more local trailer trip planned for the fall. And writing. There will be writing. I’ve been thinking about the podcast quite a bit in the last few months. I do want to bring it back in 2015. Same title, but the content will reflect more of what I’ve got going on now (don’t you worry, I’m still knitting and spinning daily). I am trying to decide if I want to continue at an audio level or if I will be changing it to a video podcast. Input appreciated.

I haven’t posted in so long I realize that I could go on and on. But I should save something for tomorrow;)

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