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Dharma Kitchen

writer-editor-cook-baker

Dharma Kitchen Favorites: Herbs, Ghee and Hemp--plus chocolate!

Carrie H

The spring is upon us, although in much of the northeast we're still feeling damp and cold.

I spent the first day of spring, which happened to be my birthday, doing a few things. I went to yoga, where we were challenging to think of ourselves not as a work in progress, but to have a more pure approach, to think of ourselves as perfect and okay in the moment we're in. And to stop trying to fix ourselves. Just be. It runs counter to the self-improvement mojo that often drives one to go to yoga, or do anything really, with dedication, heart and purpose. I came home, ate lots of birthday cake and some lunch (which included kale and yes, in that order), did some work on my cookbook. I found out that my new story from Edible Philly about the confusing nature of farm-fresh eggs had been published. And then I spent a few minutes burning palo santo in my house in rooms where I wanted to clear the energy and invite in all the good stuff.  (Thanks, Nanci, from the Loving Piece, for making this lovely item available.)

In the process of doing that, I realized I have some things I need to share. Some of them are actual physical items that are consuming real space in my office and their essence needs to be put into the universe! Some of these items are not going to last much longer (ahem, hemp chocolate), and some are slowly being used in cooking. No one has paid me to share any of this with you; all of the things I mention here I share because I think others might be interested, too. Several of the items I stumbled across during the course of researching stories. 

Gaia Herbs. I have had a rough couple of years, with adrenal fatigue, insomnia and anxiety giving me a one-two punch in winter 2015-2016, followed by a back injury that taught me I'm not long for lugging huge boxes of produce around the Easton Public Market, and, most recently, a shoulder issue that's likely the result of weird posture, and inconsistencies in strength from one side to the other. In those days, I was taking the thyroid complex in the morning and the adrenal complex at lunch time to help bring my stress hormones back into alignment. (Cortisol had spiked and then tanked big time.) They definitely helped, and quickly, although I did jump-start the process with tinctures. If you are having trouble sleeping--either falling asleep or staying asleep or both--chances are your adrenals are out of whack. That's what happened with me. 

 

These days, my Gaia regime includes teas you see here (tulsi is so good for stress relief) along with gently warmed golden milk, turmeric capsules, ashwagandha, rhodiola, and during part of my cycle, vitex. (It staves off night sweats and events out the moods.) Many of Gaia's ingredients are organic, and each product has its own special number that invites transparency--you can trace its farm origin by going to its website. Generally speaking, I've had great success with most of their products (with the exception of their sleeping formulations, which didn't quite work for me so well, but worked well for others I know.) When I wean off my SSRI, I am considering adding their women's formula to the mix; it has vitex and red clover, along with a combination of herbs and a few vitamins and minerals. 

With turmeric, black pepper (aids absorption), ashwagandha, vanilla bean and dates, Gaia's Golden Milk is a slightly sweet, slightly spicy calming restorative drink. I like it with warm almond milk at the end of the day, but it's delicious anytime. And yes, you can make it yourself with these ingredients, but this one is organic, which is helpful when you're feeling too tired to do much else. 

With turmeric, black pepper (aids absorption), ashwagandha, vanilla bean and dates, Gaia's Golden Milk is a slightly sweet, slightly spicy calming restorative drink. I like it with warm almond milk at the end of the day, but it's delicious anytime. And yes, you can make it yourself with these ingredients, but this one is organic, which is helpful when you're feeling too tired to do much else. 

Ok, let's talk about ghee. You can make it home fairly easily, this much is true. You'd need really good quality butter though, to make it worth your while. Ghee, you see, is clarified butter. It's got a high smoke point, it's loaded with beneficial fats, and the lactose is gone so it's fairly safe for lactose intolerant folk. It's also used commonly in Indian cooking, and has a permanent place in the pantries of those who follow a Paleo diet. I stumbled across this Los Angeles-based, woman-run company, Fourth and Heart, while doing a story, and I can't stop using their products. They offer a few different kinds, from straight up ghee to ones infused with Pink Himalayan Sea Salt and California Roasted Garlic to Truffle (of course) and my favorite secret weapon--Madagascar Vanilla. Oh, the things you can do with just a little bit of these ghees in finishing touches in soups, risottos, pasta dishes, dals, you name it. If you drink coffee and like doing the whole put butter thing in it, to help with your metabolism, I hear that the vanilla is lovely in that application, although I don't drink coffee anymore. I also happen to love making popcorn and using gently melted ghee and loads of pink sea salt in it. Their ghee is also used in popcorn from Lesser Evil, and is delicious, too. But you all know how I feel about popcorn. I've got three separate recipes for it on my blog. 

The magical ghees from 4th and Heart.

The magical ghees from 4th and Heart.

The other nice part about this company is that it's mission-driven; you can read more about them here, and either buy their product online or find it in a store near you. I love the name because it refers to the heart chakra--that's the fourth chakra. 

On a recent trip to Louisville for a conference, I learned that the Kentucky countryside is taking advantage of recent legislation that permits hemp growing. Hemp contains a very easily digestible protein, an idea ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids, l-arginine (good for cardiovascular health) and magnesium (good for everything especially the nervous system). I like adding hemp hearts to smoothies, cookies, pesto, oatmeal--anything that would benefit from a nutty, nutritious boost. I got to sample some pretty incredible products, including the freshest hemp hearts I've ever tasted from  Victory Hemp, which is based in northern Kentucky and aims to encourage farmers to grow a sustainable crop--the state used to be the national leader in hemp production. If the name sounds like it's vaguely nationalistic, that's because it is. Chad Rosen named the company in the spirit of renaissance. During World War II, the USDA put together a film called Hemp For Victory to recruit farmers to grow the plant to support war efforts, as the navy used it to make ropes.  

Fresh and nutritious hemp hearts from Victory Hemp Foods in Kentucky.

Fresh and nutritious hemp hearts from Victory Hemp Foods in Kentucky.

 

I also tasted some pretty incredible chocolate made with hemp from Laura's Mercantilebased in Winchester, Kentucky. The hemp in Laura's chocolates is grown without herbicides or pesticides. For real. It's nutty and just ever so slightly smoky/bitter, and totally delicious. I need to get my hands on some more, because as you can see, there are only a few left. They have some other products, including truffles, wafers and bark. 

Laura's Hemp Chocolates from Winchester, Kentucky.  

Laura's Hemp Chocolates from Winchester, Kentucky.

 

Just a gentle reminder, dear reader. I'm not a doctor. I don't play one on television. I like to share things that work for me, that I find important or delicious, or all of the above. These may or may not work for you. In my situation, I didn't want to jump on Synthroid, which my endocrinologist advocated, because my bloodwork and saliva testing pointed toward an imbalanced adrenal system--in other words, the adrenals were tanking the thyroid. I use herbs in consultation with my integrative M.D., herbalists and my own education and research I've conducted. If you are curious, seek out your physician or local health food store; folks there are generally fairly educated about what they are selling and please, for the love of all that is good, don't Google your symptoms and believe everything you read on the interwebs. What works for one person may not work at all for another--or may be downright dangerous. And another thing, while I have you here--these aren't paid posts. I received these products during the course of doing business as a freelance writer and decided to share more information. Much Love.