Inspirational Docs & Talks

As we reflect on the first week of 2016 we are noticing a trend in our life that we hope continues for the remainder of the year and beyond. That trend is that of self sufficiency and consciousness.

We(C&G) like to consider ourselves a curious pair, always  reading, researching and discussing in search of new knowledge; especially when it comes to topics related to culture, food and the environment. We are thankful for the friends who know our passions and send us recommendations of documentaries and good reads that they know will fill our minds and hearts.
This past week two videos have helped to kick start a higher level of consciousness about our own actions and their effects on not just our bodies but also the environment around us and we thought we would share.

The first was recommended this past week by a friend, the title is  In Defense of Food a PBS documentary  by Micheal Pollan. To be honest we see the dozens of documentaries related to the food system on Netflix and often skip over them. We know about Monsanto and have watched King Corn, we  consider ourselves food/health conscious however the simplicity of Michael Pollan’s research in the documentary is one of the aspects that we connect with, along with the cultural aspects which take a look at our history with food and the whiplash of health and nutrition trends that continue to bombard much of North America.
He puts it quite simply with 3 easy rules “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He explores each of these aspects by looking at our history with food and travels to different parts of the world to see how indigenous tribes and life long vegetarians food choices have impacted their health. The documentary findings are not easy to ignore and we found ourselves delving deeper into our own food choices.
The second video is a TED Talk by Lauren Singer called My Zero Waste Life. 
A year and a half ago the  Environmental student made a challenge to herself to create as little waste as possible. After realizing she was judging others on their actions without fully looking at her own she decided to make a change and be the change she wanted to see in the world.
We found ourselves appreciating her honesty and once again the simplicity behind her actions and choices.
Avoiding plastic waste, shopping consciously (which after taking a trip to the grocery store made us realize the organic/natural choice without plastic can be hard to come by) Her actions are creating a movement and have moved us to look at our waste a little closer, and think twice next time we buy something.

These two video crossed our path for a reason and we are happy to begin the year with these positive lifestyle advocates sharing their advice. Our hope to to continue to increase our self sufficiency in matters of growing our own food but also expand that to making many of our products from scratch. Not to promise ourselves we will be perfect but to know we can do better and continue to try. In the words of Lauren Singer we hope to further align our values with our lifestyle.

Related Resources

Fire Roasted Chestnuts

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Ingredients
– Chestnuts
– Water
 
To Taste
– Salt
1.. Prepare your fire, we used two cement blocks to hold up the pan and wood underneath before lighting the fire.
2. Soak your chestnuts in warm water for a couple of minute
3. Make a small slice in each of the chestnuts, this is to help them from bursting
4. Once the pan is hot add in chestnuts, we used a large steel camping skillet
5. Roast chestnuts, flipping them constantly until they are brown, only slightly burned(too burned they can become hard)
6. Remove chestnuts from fire, and shell them once they cool
7. Season with salt (we often don’t use salt the flavour is amazing on it’s own, however it is an option)
* Best eaten when warm
Health Benefits of Chestnuts
Like all other nuts, chestnuts can help to prevent heart diseases and conditions and provide energy, along with being very low in cholesterol. They are basically just as important to include in your diet as other grains. Preventing the common cold and enhancing fertility in men are some of the other health benefits, which are attributed to the presence of vitamin C in chestnuts.
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Fire Roasted Salsa Recipe

     The experience of cooking over the fire is an opportunity to connect with your food and environment. It gives you a hands on experience creating something that’s not only satisfying for the soul but also the palette. This Fire Roasted Salsa has rich smoky flavours that are only achieved while roasting your vegetable over the fire. This traditional recipe is quite free and I encourage you to explore different vegetables in the process, new types of tomatoes and hot peppers will create new flavours. Here are the basic steps to this delicious homemade salsa.
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Ingredients
– Tomatoes(we used a mix of roma, pink bumblebee and beef steak) and sometimes even throw in cherry tomatoes
– Onions(red gives a really sweet flavour) 
– Jalapenos & or Cayenne Peppers
– Garlic
– Vegetable oil
 
To Taste
– Salt
– Pepper
– Sugar
– Lime Juice 
– Fresh Cilantro 

1. Lightly wash and dry your vegetables.

2. Prepare your fire, we used two cement blocks to hold up the pan and situated the wood underneath before lighting the fire.

3. Lightly oil your pan(must be able to resist high heat). We used a budare a traditional Venezuelan iron pan.

4. Place your tomatoes(whole), onions(cut in half), garlic with peal(whole) and peppers(whole) on the pan.
Fire roasted vegetables.
Fire roasted vegetables.

5. Lightly turn the vegetables to evenly grill them, if you are going to keep the peels on your vegetables then make sure not to burn them otherwise those burnt pieces will show up in your salsa later.

Fire roasted vegetables
Fire roasted vegetables

6.Once the vegetables are evenly grilled remove them using a long pair of tongs and place them in a separate bowl.

Fire roasted vegetables by Culture & Greens
Fire roasted vegetables by Culture & Greens

7. Once all of your vegetables are cooked finely chop your jalapenos and garlic. Remove peals and dice your onions and tomatoes(if you like chunkier salsa then dice them larger) then place all your ingredients into a large pot and place on the stove or over fire in a  heat resistant pot.

8. Once the mixture is at a consistency you like add your extra ingredients for taste like finely chopped cilantro, salt, pepper, lime juice and sugar. Often the salsa will already have a sweet flavour and wont necessarily need the sugar.

9. Allow your salsa to cool and transfer into a sealed jar or container to store in the refrigerator. You may also can your salsa if you make a large batch.

Enjoy with corn chips, with tortillas, rice or on scrambled eggs….or basically anything because it’s just that delicious.

Fire Roasted Salsa by Culture & Greens
Fire Roasted Salsa by Culture & Greens

DIY Organic Dried Chili Flakes

Dried Cayenne Chili Flakes
Dried Cayenne Chili Flakes

We lovvveeee spicy, from actively seeking out farmers markets and grocery stores to  raid their hot sauce collections, cooking up our own sriracha recipes, visiting every Indian restaurant possible and growing an assortment of hot peppers in both Canada and Venezuela this DIY Guide is one dear to our hearts….and appetites.

Our cayenne pepper indoors this past winter, still producing peppers
Our cayenne pepper indoors this past winter, still producing peppers

We originally received organic Ring of Fire(Cayenne Peppers) seeds from a family member many years ago and began planting them in our windowsill in Venezuela before obtaining a small piece of farm land there. These seeds have always gave us a great yield and even withstood winter inside our new home in Canada. We originally began drying & persevering the peppers in Venezuela as our crop continued to grow. The steps for drying and making your own chili flakes are simple and similar to our post on Air Drying Herbs. 

Dried mint, oregano and cayenne peppers

The reason we choose to air dry as oppose to using a dehumidifier or using an oven is personal and it goes back to the roots of drying foods. This way has long been used and effective without using any outside energy and just solely relying on mother nature. Air drying allows you to observe the transformation and drying process, to be patient and to let things happen naturally. Now here are our simple steps to drying and making your own Chili Flakes.

Homegrown chilies are best, but you can also use chilies from a farmers market or store if you prefer or it is more convenient. Choose chilies that are fully ripened some people choose to mix their peppers using both hot and mild, we always just use the Cayenne peppers.

Dried mint, oregano and cayenne peppers

What you will need: Water, towel, string, scissors, glass gar, gloves, marker & label(optional but recommenced) hot peppers

1. Wash your peppers lightly removing any dirt **remember to use gloves when handling your peppers

2. Gently Pat dry with a towel

3. String your pepper, for this you can use a needle and thread and gently tie a knot between each pepper or use some twine and tie a knot around each stem connecting them as you go along.

4. Allow 5-6 weeks to dry, you can check the state of your peppers by pinching them to see if they are brittle, before they are beginning to crumble or turn to hard

5. Once they are fully dried you can remove them from the string and remove any stems. Using gloves you can hand  use a pair of scissors to create small flakes or use a blender to crush them but not turn them to powder.

6. Store your flakes in a glass jar with a good seal & label( For some labelling ideas check here)

Enjoy on pizza, pasta or add it to one of your favourite recipes for a little kick 🙂

Air Drying Herbs in 6 Easy Steps

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If you are like us here at Culture & Greens you may have eagerly planted a garden in the spring with all of your favourite herbs and veggies, maybe you are experimenting with some new plants or using some of your favourite saved seeds. If this is the case you may also be in the middle of harvesting some of your herbs & veggies; and after you have exhausted your prime customers(family & friends) and had your fair share of fresh herbs in every recipe possible, air drying herbs is a great option to save money, avoid waste and ensure the quality of your herbs.

It’s an easy process, all you need is water to wash your herbs, towel to pat them dry, string or an elastic to hang them and glass jar to store them.

5 Simple Steps to Drying Your Homegrown Herbs

1. Cut 

Try to cut your herbs in the morning when they are without dew and make sure it’s close to the base so you have enough space to tie a string and hang them. It’s also best to remove any dead or damaged foliage (We always throw it in our compost)

2. Wash & Dry 

Rinse the herbs gently with cold water and pat dry with a clean towel without damaging any of the foliage.

3. Tie in a Bouquet 

Tie the ends of your herbs together, We usually use a hemp string, but you can also use a twist tie, twine or elastic. Make sure the herbs are secure at the end and be sure to leave a long string to hang them.

4. Air Dry

Hang the herbs in a shaded, warm and dry area that receives good ventilation but away from any dust. We don’t get much light in our kitchen and throughout the summer it’s been warm so for us it’s been an ideal spot. Throughout the colder months you can also utilize your fireplace if you have one by placing the herbs close by to increase the drying time. If you don’t have something to hang your herbs from you can always just tie a string from one object to another in a desired place and hang the herbs from the string.

5. Remove Stems & Store in Glass Jar

Remove the stems. You may choose to crumble your herbs or leave them full, for mint and flowers we tend to leave it full but basil, oregano and parsley we like to crumble. Remember to store in a dark cool dry environment to keep flavour longest. Light and heat tends to affect the colour of the herbs as well as the lifespan. For storing  your herbs mason jars work great, but really any clean jar with a good seal should work fine.

After you have stored them you can simply write on the jar with a permanent marker or chalk maker or take some inspiration from some of our favourite creative labels

Botanical Illustrated Labels by Kitchen Table Scraps

Vintage Printable Labels by Lia Griffith 

Water Colour Spice Labels by Spoon Fork Bacon