Friday, December 28, 2012

Oranges Oranges Oranges: Citrus Barons of Yesteryear

Old Orange Grove Inc
Not long ago I was Googling on Oranges for a recipe utilizing oranges , onions and carrots and stumbled across some old historical archive photos of the Citrus Industry right there in the home town where I grew up in El Cajon California. When I grew up the Citrus Industry had already been in decline as newer and newer post WWII Housing boom gobbled up prime land which was valued as more of a money maker than those old orange groves. I had never before given a thought to all the family owned and run companies that once harvested and ran their citrus businesses with pride. Growing up there were all manner of former Mansions owned by the local Citrus Barons and they actually still exist. Most of these butt up against the foothills of Rattlesnake Mountain along Pepper Drive, though they are not as pronounced in all their glory as they once were when they were the center piece of the Farm Estate's former majesty. Though I never really knew the names of the farmers or the product line label, never the less they and the packing houses did exist. Some of the most beautiful commercial artwork I think are those old family farm crate labels which no longer exist. There are websites dedicated to displaying some of the most famous well known brands and the art which was illustrative of glory of the old agricultural empires which dominated most of Southern California almost a century ago. But below I found some labels which were endemic to El Cajon, California. Who knew ?

Old Orange Grove Inc

Old Orange Grove Inc

El Cajon Orange Association
Back in the 1980s, there was an explosion of sorts in the building boom industry that was gobbling up as much farmland as possible  in just about every corner of western Riverside County in California. Incredibly, there were literally tons of older styled homes, Barns and other agricultural outbuildings which were simply bulldozed. What blew me away during that time period was the fact that there was so much of the building material that was still good and I managed to make deals with some developers for salvaging some buildings. Later I built structures on my own property from those same materials and even sold some of the materials as salvage, but that's another story. But when rummaging through some of the things to be cleared out before dismantling the structures, I often ran across some of these same commercial Produce Crate Labels in unopened or partially opened boxes. 

One such experience was of a former family owned farm southwest of Indio CA and directly east of La Quinta CA. I stumbled across it by accident as I noticed several cares and trucks whose drivers were out disassembling Farm equipment for themselves. No one had any permission what so ever. Typical! I found the Farm's office building where business records and other personal artifacts were stored. Stuff was strewn all over the place. The Farmer had specifically specialized in growing Tomatoes and their decorative dark blue background artwork label was Louie Tomatoes. There were many old family photos mixed in with the labels from the 1950s and 60s. They were apparently a Filipino-American family who immigrated and started farming. As I looked of the family photos of happier times, I kept on reflecting the whole time I was walking around the abandoned Farm just how hard working they must have been and the pride of produced they farmed. Of course that is the way things were back then. What I remember most about Farm Families back then was their hard working ethic and desire to produce the best quality. Producing the best which had their family name stamped on the box was their whole reputation. This doesn't seem to be  the case anymore with this world's obsession with artificial synthetic biology run be an Industrial Agricultural Society.

MotorCoach Country Club - La Quinta CA
 The former family farm is now a giant of a Country Club which caters to the expensive top of the line Recreational Vehicles, the costs for which run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The place is now called  Motorcoach Country Club . They just don't let anybody in these places, you got to actually be a *cough-cough* real life Somebody! Most of the former farms went this way as selling the land was more lucrative than the hard work and sweat to keep the farm alive and pay the ever increasing taxes. Sadly I wondered about the kids that the Louie family raised and why they didn't want to keep up the legacy. Oh well, maybe they moved on to more professional careers. Still much of the old Agricultural era of Southern California is long since dead, with the exception of the industrial farms in the desert where most people have no wish to  ever to visit and young people who grow up there want nothing more than to move away from it all. Still, the discovery of those older El Cajon Farm produce crate labels brought back some fond memories of a quieter time of family oriented lifestyle in an area I grew up in, something newer generations will never ever again experience or be able to imagine and ponder about, because our times have degenerated so far away from those ideals. Now a child's closest family member and/or friend is nothing more than some expensive electronic gadgetry.  

After WW II, the land was more valuable for bedroom districts and other commercial urban sprawl. Many of the War Veterans & other Military Servicemen (my Dad included) didn't want to go back to Iowa where harsh winters and other sorry hard working conditions were in stark contrast to an area where beautiful temperatures averaging between 70 & 80 Fahrenheit are year round. So all the agriculture had to go. There were a few holdouts, but by 1980 they were all pretty much gone as another building boom took over with the election of another economy friendly President and wiped out what was left of quieter days. Now there are only reminders of those days through iconic packing labels found at consignment antique sheds. Maybe some are in Museums. Some of these must even be real collectibles by now. Well anyway, it was nice to finally see what was once the area where I grew up. Never heard of those citrus families or the Coop Packing Houses of Bostonia in El Cajon, CA. Maybe one day things will be different, but under the present system of things, don't count on it. Just for fun and interest, here is a website below which contains all manner of original Agricultural crate label artwork and other prints of memorabilia for looking and sale. Enjoy!

art credit Karen Winters

Springtime Citrus Groves along Hwy 126 
in Ventura County CA.

Exhibited at the Santa Paula Museum of 

Art in Santa Paula, California

Art Credit: Brian Mark Taylor

A rural scene of the Central California 
Farming Community

A SLICE IN TIME: "Beautiful Historic Art from a Bygone Era"

Other Reading References 

‘Farm-to-School’ initiative puts fresh produce in classes

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Santa Rosa Mountains Part II: "Switch Back Logging Road"

map credit: 4 WD Club

Sugarloaf Cafe and Market
Okay, this map is an area of Pinyon Flats where the Sawmill  trail head starts at the foot of Santa Rosa Mountain and ascends to almost the top where the abandoned Sawmill camp was originally. From California State Highway 74 and even the Sugarloaf Cafe & market, you can actually see this back and forth meandering switchback road making it's gradual climb to the camp. The Sawmill trail is also called Pigeon Springs Road, which may well be named after a spring which feeds to small lake or pond up at the old camp. I have once driven all the way up there in my Toyota 4X4 in 1986. Of course it really wasn't a public trail back then as you will see where there is now a parking area around which is just before and next to the Refuse Transfer Station. There U.S. Forest Service had not even remotely started construction of the present Cactus Spring - Sawmill Trailhead parking area and adventure jumping off point yet. So I had to drive around a shrubby barrier and up a bank to get to the actual forest road. There always was and no doubt still is a closed iron gate down near the Hwy 74. 

The entrance now though is just prior to the Transfer Station. I went there once after they created the parking area and it's a very nicely maintained starting point. There is an interesting story behind the construction of this long winding switched back road. Back in 1983 I had the privilege of meeting the man who constructed it and found out the reason for it's construction. He lived on Sage Rd in Radec (well, technically Aguanga). His house is out front there of the old famous Cottonwood School House which itself is next to the more modern Cottonwood Elementary School. The house he lived in was an older home with all manner of Barns and other smaller out buildings along with a whole lot of heavy construction equipment. He said the equipment mostly belonged to his son Daniel. The man's name was Jay Dee McGaugh and his wife was Vivian McGaugh. Some of the Idyllwild and Mountain Center residents may know of his brother or even the road named after their family name just west of the Mountain Center 243/74 Jct which is actually called McGaugh Road. That road leads to a Baldy Mountain Meadows area where there is a small Trailer Park and even a medium size lake (when there are wet years) called McGaugh Lake.

Image - Radec Cemetry
Anyway, Dee, as he preferred to be called, mostly did cattle ranching in the old days to make a living. He told us of the story of how he met his wife Vivian and informed her that if she wanted them to move to the city, they'd have a rough time of it, as he only knew ranching. He was a funny old guy with that typical southwestern drawl and all the quirky old time country humor expressions to go along with that New Mexico or Texas accent. You know how country folk have expressions which relate to living life on the land and farm ? After explaining how he met Vivian, and his decision to court her, he explained after he took a liking to her, he said, "So I took to snortin her flank . . " (anyone raised on a farm knows what that is) She, Vivian, interrupted and said, "Oohhh Hooooney, these kids don't want to here talk like that." Anyway, he did a lot of other things to make a living out there, like quite a bit of road building for one. I believe he said he also built the original highway leading east out of Anza towards Palm Desert which most know as Burnt Valley Road. Same road I use to live on. The present highway 371 originally did not run through the Hamilton Creek Canyon. That was later built. Burnt Valley Road which was part of the old Cahuilla Road was the original. The other road he was involved in creating was that famous Sawmill Road that switch backs up towards the top of Santa Rosa Mountain behind Sugarloaf Cafe

Image - TemeculaTim 2008
I'm not exactly sure when this road was built, but I would guess sometime in the 1930s. Dee McGaugh was in the Army during WW II, so at the latest after the war, but I thought he said sometime in the 30s. He said the reason was some experts said the trees had to be harvested because they were labeled as "Bug Trees", which I took to mean they had some pine beetle problem. Anyway, he simply built the road, but never underestimate the justification needed to profit off natural resources by special interests who know somebody in government. Early Sawmills in the San Jacinto Mountains never truly practiced any type of reforestation or replanting programs in the early days. Like most get-rich-quick pioneering ventures, the natural world's raw resources were there for the taking by those who a had the means and the drive to do so. The early irresponsible decision making and consequences of the actions by the early pioneers no doubt have contributed to the present climate change were truly began back around World War I. Although I highly doubt most scientists today would go back that far in making a connection. Countless mammoth trees in Garner Valley, Thomas Mountain and Idyllwild were taken for the building or even rebuilding of southern California cities and industry. The choice of harvesting location was no doubt influenced by the ease of access to the coast. Lumber didn't have to be shipped in from the Pacific Northwest as it does today. In their ignorance of ecology and the environmental disaster they were creating, how could they have possibly known that southwestern forests are incapable of repairing themselves as quickly as those in the wetter northern climates ?

Dee McGaugh said that the forest tree line came down much lower down the switch back then it does now. Makes sense because when I went up there the first time you could see old chain sawed stumps and even stunted Jeffrey Pine trees (sadly a few decades old) in bare spots trying to make a come back and grab a foothold, but with some great difficulty. Considering the huge charred Jeffrey Pine stumps I found on both sides of Hwy 74 near Spring Crest, I had no reason to doubt what he said. Of course experts will disagree as to how low the tree line actually was, but it is clear in only a few hundred years back things were clearly much different then. Even my Great Uncle who was born in 1903 and hunted Thomas Mountain in the 1920s couldn't believe the lack of forest there now when we drove him to Idyllwild in early 1990. He's long since dead now and like Jay Dee McGaugh, you loose a lot of historical knowledge of what the past was really like when these folks pass on. Too bad that we don't think to ask more questions and really get to know them while they are still alive and with us. Below are a few other interesting pics at the old logging kamp like the small lake or pond that is spring fed. Also the water tanks which siphon water off the spring for use in Pinyon far below.

Sawmill Trail - Madelm1953

Sawmill Trail where tree line once existed

credt: Outdoor Adventure USA

Spring fed Pond created by Logging Kamp

Outdoor Adventure USA
Spring with black plastic pipe tapped into it.

Outdoor Adventure USA

Water Storage for Pinyon Water Company
Below here now is a great video of a group's off-road trek up & down this old Sawmill Logging road built by Dee McGaugh and others many many decades ago. It offers great views and an experience which probably most of you will never take. However, if you do, please only go the 5.5 miles and turn back the way you came. Further roads going up are horrible and destroys the nature.

Here is a link of another group which drives beyond the better road to the Sawmill Logging Kamp from below, but the trail which goes  beyond the kamp to the top are extremely rough and not maintained at all. They are pretty torn up and the surrounding landscape badly eroded. I wouldn't recommend anyone go beyond the Logging Kamp. Just go down the same way you came up. Nature up there in spots has been badly beaten up. You'll have to scroll halfway down the page to the Santa Rosa climb, as the first photos are of their Borrego to Anza Valley Trek which is interesting, especially since I thought that road was closed for good. 

This YouTube Video is very Kool. The guy uploaded and published it on December 19, 2012. It's a hiking trek from Toto Peak in the Santa Rosa Mtns along the ridgelines of Dawn Peak, Rabbit Peak and Villager Peak, which very few people have ever taken (including myself, though I always wanted to) because of it's remoteness and the strong degree of difficulty and numerous obstacles along the way.  But it's great that some have documented there adventures for those who may never have an opportunity for such an exploration of remote regions.

Some References and Great Photo Streams by other Visitors
The Sawmill Trail can be accessed by Hiking, Horse, Bike or Offroad Vehicle, but you will need an "Adventure Pass" permit.
USDA - Forest Service: Santa Rosa Mtn Sawmill Trail 5E02
Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument
Tom Chester's Webpage: "Plant Guide to Sawmill Trail, Santa Rosa Mountains"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Santa Rosa Mountain Above Palm Springs: Part I - "Spring Crest"

Image from Press Enterprise
Press Enterprise: BACK IN THE DAY: Ribbonwood was popular rest stop

Well that photograph above isn't exactly what people think of when they picture the housing development along Hwy 74 (Palms to Pines Highway) on Santa Rosa Mountain which is more commonly known as Spring Crest. You'll notice of course in the photograph to the right, that the location (which is exactly Spring Crest) was at one time called "Ribbonwood".  Of course that would certainly explain the crossroads sign as located near the old abandoned Gas Station which hasn't been used in decades. 

Oct 2008 - Cabrillo1543
More commonly people are more familiar with the old abandoned Gas Station that hasn't operated in several decades. Take a look below at what most people see when they drive past modern day Spring Crest. Of course several famous folks have had private homes here. Red Skelton had two of them, though I'm not sure if his wife Lothian has them. One was an A-frame house on the top street overlooking this station and another is at the end of the cul-de-sac (deadend street) which is the first street on the right after passing this station. It was always a larger house and sort of a mini ranch home. They never truly lived there, but preferred the modest A-Frame house. Although they purchased that large 660 acre horse ranch in Burnt Valley and I believe this is where Lothian resides now, but I could be wrong. 

Hwy 74 passes right by Spring Crest and it was here that the above photo locates what was originally called Ribbonwood. Highway 74 is part of that "Palms to Pines Scenic Highway" that was built between 1929 and 1932, finally opening in 1932. As with most of the early highways back then, many entrepreneurs seeking to create business along the highway built little roadside gimmicks to get people to stop and purchase any souvenirs or services before heading on down the road. The roadstop station along the Palms to Pines hwy 73 called Ribbonwood was founded by Wilson Howell. It was a sort of early primitive rest stop for tired travelers who I am sure were ragged after enduring the early rough road conditions back in those days.

Rancho Fruit Market in Temecula

Image from Foursquare
This is probably one of the earliest roadside Fruit stands which much much later became very up until this very day. Hmmm, somewhere at the end of this road with a detour left turn at Paradise Corners to Anza and beyond, there use to be the well known stop called Rancho Fruit Market in the Temecula area right on Hwy 79. It has now moved to old town Temecula after a fire and redevelopment of the land it was once on. But Wilson's place was also another place where one could buy fruits and  vegetables, enjoy a cold drink under an old Ramada (probably made of Redshank) or even rent a Cabin or Kamp spot for the night. Maybe even the weekend. Notice the skyline in the background of Santa Rosa Mountain ?

I found another bit of history that I had read many years back and now it has even been more recently updated. I think readers will find it both sad yet interesting at the same time. In 1959 there was a mystery of sorts surrounding the disappearance of a young woman named Louise Teagarden. She was an outdoors person and friend to even Wilson Howell at the Ribbonwood Camp where she learned much of her outback survival skills. Yet strangely enough on this one occasion, she lived for a couple of months in the wilderness before dying. Her remains were not found until 1991 in a cave in the Palm Canyon Drainage area of which the Spring Crest area (Ribbonwood) on Santa Rosa Mountain is very much a part of the upper headwaters. The Sierra Club actually published an interesting story about Louise Teagarden, who was very experienced as having  outdoors survival skills and yet she mysteriously died. Rather than tell the story over, you may read it for yourself here. 
Sierra Club: "Lost and Found" - Louise Teagarden's Death Still a Mystery
For those a bit more on the impatient side (you really should read it though), there was also a video of the recent 2008 search made for that very cave where she was found. It's only about ten minutes. Writer Ann Japenga, Harry Quinn & Theresa Pawley are making an attempt in the video to locate the actual cave where Lousie Teagarden's remains were found over 30 years later. Very interesting and informative video.

Image -
Hope everyone enjoyed a bit of forgotten history about this Spring Crest area of the Santa Rosa Mountains. On a very special note, I want everyone to know that when I come back for a visit next year, there is a place almost exactly halfway between that Spring Crest Gas Station and the entrance of Santa Rosa Indian Reservation which has a single sentinel Jeffrey Pine tree right next to the road on the side where travelers would be heading east towards Spring Crest. Not far from the Santa Rosa Truck Trail Forestry road actually. You can find it here on  Google Maps . This of course would be the south side of the Highway 74. Incredibly, on this same Google link, you can click on Satellite tab and zoom in as close as possible at the junction of Hwy 74 & Santa Rosa Truck Trail. proceed west and then just around the bend and down a short grade you'll see this Jeffrey Pine tree over on the left side of the highway. 

After 24 years of traveling this highway back and forth to work, I always passed this single lone beautiful tree and wondered about it. Where did it come from and why is it here of all places miles from any other group of Jeffrey Pines ? This isn't the first time I wondered about how and where certain species of out of place species of trees came from. Hwy 74 west of Mountain Center was another example, which I have previously alluded to in in an earlier post of my discovery of the road construction of Hwy 74 which completely & very deliberately diverted an entire stream (almost a small river) by means of a bulldozer and cutting a path towards the South Fork of the San Jacinto River Canyon. The result is an entire mountainside washed & fell away in a landslide at that canyon with no real possible way of repairing it. And amazingly no one noticed or at least has admitted this. More on this after I actually go out and photograph this area next summer. Incredibly, some extensive Chaparral removal has been conducted around this tree and on up the hillside. Some things never change.


Example of Jeffrey Pine. Much
larger than the stunted Hwy 74
lone pine tree, but from where
did the original seed come from ?
But what I found around the hills and dry washes around this tree and other canyons north of Hwy 74 in the Palm Canyon drainage were several large (actually huge) Jeffrey Pine stumps and the reason for their continued forensic existence. They still existed because they are completely charred by some historical forest fire which burned who knows when. But traveling back and forth on this road and seeing the rugged chaparral all around, one would never in a million years guess such large pines once existed here. Even as I stood there looking at these as I found them, I was still blown away. I have long suspected that forests were more extensive  and existed further on down the mountain at lower elevations, especially several hundred years back when ancient Lake Cahuilla once exited. Who knows, maybe the climate was more moderate back then. I have wondered and even imagined that more than just the Colorado river contributed to the maintenance of ancient Lake Cahuilla. Wondered whether the White Water River was bigger and greater than it is now. Did Palm Canyon Creek, Tahquitz Creek Canyon and Deep Canyon (Horsethief Creek) water courses also contribute to Lake Cahuilla ? Ultimately I don't now, but I'm still intrigued about the ancient possibilities. 

Tomorrow I'll have Part II which will focus attention on the switched back logging road you can easily view from Sugar Loaf Mountain Cafe. I'll tell you about the man who built that road and the conversation we had on why he was contracted to build it. Much of of the story he told sounded like forestry politics as usual. 

Of Further Reading Interest:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Porse Snaps - Chaparral Extract in a Bottle ?

Yes Yes Yes, I know, what in the world are you talking about ? My wife and I were invited over to friend's house last Sunday afternoon for Dinner. They live in an charming old world styled apartment house which reminds me of Salzburg Austria from the moment you walk into the Court Entrance door and walk down the corridor and up the staircase to their place on the third floor. The artistry, decor and architecture all fit perfectly with images otherwise seen in Barvaria, Prague or any quaint old world Austrian city. I was introduced at meal time to a liqueur called Porse Snaps (pronunciation of this product name sounds like "Porsche Schnapps" in the Scandinavian accent). Northern Europe (especially Dänemark -Denmark) produces all manner of flavoured Schnapps from any and all herbs and/or fruits. This particular Porse Snaps comes from a plant which grows along streams or found along or in bogs. The spirit is made from the extracted essential oils of the plant leaves in a neutral spirit which is called Brøndum or Vodka. Many essential oil tinctures for herbal medicine are often made in the very same way. In fact the history of elixirs (Liqueurs) made by Monks in ancient Monasteries for Europe's Nobel Elites for centuries is what actually gave us all the many famous well known liqueurs we enjoy today. But now what about this plant Bog Myrtle or Sweet Gale ?

Photo credit: Roger Darlington - Manchester UK
Bog Myrtle, Sweet Gale (Myrica gale)
Myrica gale is found throughout northern and western Europe and North America. It can be collected in Forested woodlands or heathlands near streams or bogs (Fens). It is related to a familiar plant from California's chaparral plant community called Pacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica), which is also aromatic and sweet when it's leaves or berries are crushed. 
Interesting when you become intrigued with a subject and start digging into the historicity of the subject and it's importance to Nature as well as countless other usages. Interestingly Bog Myrtle can grow in inter-tidal zones like estuaries where log jams are washed down from higher elevations for the plant to get a foot hold. Did you know that Sweet Gale or Bog Myrtle is a favourite food of Beaver ? Well neither did I. These low estuary beaver dams can be found in the inter-tidal zone if sufficient numbers of Sweet Gale plant can be found. These Beaver ponds may be submerged at high tide, but retain and hold water at low tide allowing enough deep water levels to provide a refuge for fish, which includes juvenile Salmon where the water may be too deep for predatory wading birds who make their home in the estuary. Hence the presence of Bog Myrtle or Sweet Gale, which encourages Beaver Dam Habitat may inadvertently create and enhance Salmon recruitment scenario.

Now back to the Liqueur, Porse Schnapps. Incredibly a person with enough know how and ingredients can quite possibly create their own versions of this Schnapps. Often other ingredients are used in the recipes. That's why different brands offer unique flavours. One of the most popular is the Aalborg Snaps which is made from fresh Danish Sweet Gale or Bog Myrtle, and further spiced with Rosemary, Sherry, and Oak. A number of other medicinal herbs have also been used along with or independently from Sweet Gale to create their own unique Snaps or Schnapps. St John's wort is just another one of these plants. Basically essences from these plants singly or together in any combination can be cut up finely and put into a large Mason Jar and then a neutral Schnapps (like Brøndum or Vodka) may be poured into the Jar and then tightly sealed and aged for a few weeks to six months. Isn't it incredible the amount of creations and recipes that can be discovered and invented ? This now takes me back to my imaginary experience with essence of Chaparral while I enjoyed sipping this beverage along with a Carlsberg Beer.
Pacific Wax Myrtle
Myrica californica
There are a number of Riparian and Chaparral plant fragrances that came to my mind as I sipped this liqueur. The foremost being Pacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica), Spice Bush (Calycanthus occidentalis), Coyote Bush (Baccharis pilularis), California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa), and even a Mediterranean native Rockrose (Cistaceae Family). All these have a pleasant fragrant, sometimes even pungent order when their foliage is crushed during a hike in Chaparral or Riparian Habitat treks. So can any of you Californian's imagine a pleasant liqueur made from the essences of these native plants of the Chaparral plant community ? 
Spice Bush
(Calycanthus occidentalis)
Okay, neither could I at first, but the flavour was incredibly refreshing and clean. Not at all sticky or syrupy sweet. But now think of the possibilities. If you could experiment with any native California Chaparral plants and have a clear safe knowledge of their past and present usages, certainly a California Schnapps would not be out of the question. Add some Chaparral plant spice essences from the above listings or others of similar safe aromatic quality and you may just invent the first southwestern Schnapps. Anyone who has ventured on a day hike into the various California Chaparral plant communities will understand what i am talking about if you ever chance taking your first sip of Sweet Gale Schnapps (Porse Snaps). Every memory will coming flooding back with your first taste of Porse Snaps from a past pleasant moment spent on an outback trek for which you sought refuge on that hot day by hiking along a riparian habitat of a cool Cienege or Arroyo. It's incredible how many alcoholic beverages actually come from plants, but most folks don't really know what goes into their flavourite drinks. Watch the video below.


Reading References:

Fish and Wildlife Benefits of Shrub Swamp Communities

Banksavers Nursery: Riparian and Salmon Habitat Restoration
Facts about Bog-myrtle (Myrica gale) - Encyclopedia of Life
Aalborg Akvavit - Dänemark - Porse Snaps

Friday, December 14, 2012

Swedish Taco Night Friday: Hearty Mexican Chipotle Chicken Soup Recipe

I don't know what it is about the Chipotle Chile flavour. Maybe it's the darkness of the colours it creates in your various dish recipes or the smokiness of the taste. This time of year we eat a lot of soups and make enough to be left over and eaten over the next day or so. One of my flavourites is Chicken soup with lots of vegetables. Then yesterday Discovery Foods (Santa Maria) posted a Mexican Chicken Stew recipe from the January issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. It called for using Chipotle in the recipe, but most of the text was too small and I couldn't find the recipe anywhere else online anywhere. The problem was solved by using my same recipe I use for regular Chicken Soup and adding some other very important ingredients. 

Basically I start with three lean white chicken breasts. I finely slice lengthwise and mince up finer for smaller bite sized chunks. Marinated in red balsamic vinegar and Santa Maria's Taco Spice for some foundation seasoning and put into large cast iron port for cooking slowly in Olive oil. Added to that are four crushed garlic cloves, two fine chopped medium onions, and generous additions of dried Pizza Herb spice mix which has most of the Mediterranean herb blends, three finely chopped Jalapeno Peppers and four large Chile Ancho Chipotle peppers which I steam first, split open and place in the pot and covered the lid to simmer for a time. I get my Chile Ancho Chipotle peppers from the ICA Store. They have already been smoked or roasted and are usually two to a pack. The Chipotle definitely gives it a darker richer colour from basic chicken soup or stew.

The Discovery Foods page was pushing their Chipotle paste as a substitute (and I also do understand that, it's has good flavour), but I have always done this from scratch, even when making my chocolate mole sauces for chicken dish recipes. After say 30 minutes of cooking at low heat and when the chicken for the most part is cooked through, I added one cup of Chicken stock and one cup vegetable stock. Two bouillon cubes (chicken & Vegetable) in each cup of hot water and add to the blend. Next are the vegetables and I can't tell you exactly how many of what, as you will have to add these as much or less as you prefer. Carrots, Potatoes, Green Beans, added one can of sweet corn and several fresh mushrooms sliced. As far as crushed corn chips for added flavour and texture, I add those last and individually in the bowl of soup. I don't necessarily want to make this a tortilla soup. Basically here I think it easy for anyone to go ahead and make their basic Chicken soup recipe and add these extra simple ingredients and spices to make it Mexican. This is not a real complicated dish at all. Add more water as you need it for more broth liquid also.
Be considerate of others - *smile*
When it comes to heat, mine is ever so slightly warm spice-wise for flavour, but I don't Nuke it for my taste at the sacrifice of everyone else who may not appreciate the Heat scale. Make it as neutral as possible, but not sacrificing flavour. Want it hotter ? That's what Hot Sauces are for. You can add as much heat as your heart desires, but just think about your guests when it comes to main courses. Nuke your own bowl of soup, stew or chili all you want, but be kind to others.

As always - Enjoy!

Oil Pulling Therapy: Is it Scientific ?

image: Trina Holden
Oil Pulling
Oral Therapy for the Mouth & beyond

I saw a video on something called "Oil Pulling" posted by Sue's Health Foods Store from Yucca Valley California on her FB Page. The video was by an apparent well known nutritionist named Dr Ann Louise who discussed something many may or may not have heard of as an oral therapy for better mouth hygiene. Okay, I had never heard of Oil Pulling Therapy, so I decided to actually look it up and do a bit of research on the Net for any actual scientific studies or literature on the subject. First thing that comes up in any Google Search on the subject, "Oil Pulling", are the health websites and countless testimonials which appear to go beyond what can be proven or verified. Any time you stumble across such claims you should also stand on the side of caution. But let's take for a moment and explain what this therapy actually is and where it comes from. The Oil Pulling or rather Oil Swishing, apparently gets some background beginning in traditional Indian Folk Medicine which involves as a remedy that involves any type of vegetable oil swishing in the mouth for about 15 to 20 minutes and then spitting it out. Here is what the origins definition as found in the  wikipedia  has to say: 
"It is mentioned in the Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita, where it is called Kavala Gandoosha or Kavala Graha. Ayurvedic literature describes describes oil pulling as capable of both improving oral health and treating systemic diseases such as diabetes, mellitus or asthma. While Scientific evidence is lacking to support any systemic benefits of oil pulling, some studies have suggested that it may reduce oral plaque, halitosis, and gingivitis."
The systemic benefits evidence as mentioned is lacking, but there is Scientific Studies to back up the oral hygiene claims. At the bottom of the post I'll submit several studies and other references for your further reading and decision making. I'll also post a couple of the videos and you can decide. Basically any vegetable oil will do but it appears Sunflower is the easiest to take as it has no strong taste, possibly almost neutral. 

Again you will have to decide for yourself. There is plenty of evidence to suggest as pointed out below in the references that such a therapy has oral benefits. As for systemic disease cures, take any of these claims with a grain of salt. There is science that backs up the oral health benefits and claims. Sunflower oil seems to be the preferred best as it is neutral as far as taste. Apparently the best time is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Resist urge to swallow and when spitting it out, do so in the toilet and not the sink. This prevents any clogging in the future. Immediately rinse mouth with water or even saltwater. But keep in mind that the studies have also shown that Coconut and Sesame seed oils also appear to have antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial benefits. Once again it's a matter of choice and taste.
Some links for sufferers of IBS and effects of Oil Pulling
Further Reading References:

Sue's Health Foods

Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine 

Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to oral health

Journal of International Oral Health

Oil pulling – Unraveling the path to mystic cure

Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study.
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to oral health

Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry

Effect of oil pulling on halitosis and microorganisms causing halitosis: A randomized controlled pilot trial

Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study

Indian Journal of dental Research

Mechanism of oil-pulling therapy -In vitro study

Asia Journal of Public Health

Effect of Oil-Pulling on Oral Microorganisms in Biofilm Models

Friday, December 7, 2012

Swedish Taco Night Friday: The Incredibly Easy to make Taco Salad

Credit: 1550's Pub Style Restaurant
Typical large Taco Salad one sees at most restaurants across the states. This will be unfamiliar to most Europeans, especially in the north. When I lived in England in the late 1970s, the word/term 'Salad' period was almost a taboo word.
The above picture is of a Taco Salad found at most Mexican restaurants in the states. A giant flower tortilla deep fried in oil to form a bowl for which to insert all manner of Mexican goodies within. The ingredients of course consist of almost everything else that goes into a normal salad with the addition however of some extra ingredients to make it more Mexican. Starting off forst of all with that Flour Tortillas bowl. Most restaurants purchase them already made. But I actually found a video which has no audio, but the visual speaks volumes for itself. It very easily shows how to make the flour tortilla bowl with ruffled edges all from scratch. For Swedes here reading, the first thing you do is purchase the largest flour tortillas you can purchase at your local ICA Store. Then follow the video. It's that easy!
Restaurant Style Mexican Crispy Taco Salad Bowl  - (fried) How to Video

The Actual 'Salad' Ingredients!
1. Lettuce (Iceberg or Romaine)
2. Tomatoes (Kvist Vine Tomatos or Roma (Plommor)
3. Sour Cream (Creme Fraisch)
4. Your favourite brand of Corn Tortilla Chips
5. Cucumbers (Swedes like them - whatever)
6. large Red Onion chopped into fine bits
7. Cheese (preferable cheddar or pizza cheese)
8. Sweet Red Dressing (French) or whatever your flavourite is
9. Salsa (whatever your heart desires.
10. Ground or Shredded Beef or Chicken
11. Some Pinto Beans , Kidney Beans or your favourite
12. Guacamole
13. 1 can Sweet Corn
14. black olives
15. slices of different coloured Bell Peppers
As you can see, the ingredients are so simple that even a child could do this and what's kool is, it is really fast and uncomplicated. Lettuce , Tomatoes , Red Onion, of course are the main ingredient. The lettuce obviously gives it it's crispy texture. So you start with basic salad ingredients and go from there. Corn chips crumbled into the mix not only give more crunchy texture, but also that corn taco taste. Your choice of meat is obvious as well. Whatever you prefer and how your want to prepare and season it. Choose either Pinto or Kidney Beans or both, it's up to you. The Cucumber is a Swedish add on. All other things add as you want them. The Bell Peppers Sweet Red French Dressing, Salsa, Guacamole and Sour Cream are last option toppings as you wish. Same with Sweet Corn and black olives, add as wanted or needed.

Ultimately I think anyone can do this. It did cross my mind however than Swedes can purchase those Santa Maria Mini-Tub Taco Shells. Then you can have bite size salads or mini versions of the Mexican Tostada or Tostado which ever term you wish. This is not a tough recipe to follow and you can change it any way to suit your own personal needs. Now if you are having family and friends over for a meal, by all means make the spice heat scale as neutral as possible. For all you people who want that nuclear fire experience ? That's what the hot sauces are for. Putting these choices on the table in front of your guests allows them to choose and therefore any bad burning sensation is on them, not you !

Tostado or Tostada - You Choose

Bite Size Taco Salads