Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Are you Delighted by Chocolate?

Dark Chocolate Coconut Smoothie Bowl with Toppings
For those of you who are delighted by chocolate and have access to Instagram - you will want to keep an eye out for my posts over the next week or so at truefoodbeauty.

An avid reader of historical fiction, and with a particular interest in the Tudor and Elizabethan period, I am currently experimenting with traditional and often over looked seasoning such as grains of paradise, hyssop and red sandalwood powder, I thought it would be loads of fun to create a 12-night observance.   With a flare for the dramatic, of coarse, I had a hard time deciding whether to be a lit major or a drama major, I began to envision fireside suppers sipping and supping wassail and kings cakes.  Coming back down to earth I decided to take smaller more reasonable steps towards realizing my 12-night fantasy - and will be posting 12 indulgently chocolate breakfasts - aka desserts - on Instagram instead.

What would the dates be?  Traditionally, the festivities and celebrations, which included extravagant entertainments and dramatic food presentations, took place between Christmas and Ephiphany, which was what became known as the twelve days of Christmas, or what the English often called Christmastide, December 26th through January 6th.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Back to the Bacteria

In my fermencentric household moving from fruit smoothie bowls and classes on raw chocolate to fermentation in short order is not unexpected. Fermentation has been a secret passion and then a not-so-secret passion of mine for a number of years.  Back in the summer of 2010 little did I know that when I began experimenting with fermented beverages and sourdough pancakes my life would never be the same.   In no time I quickly moved to krauts and pickled turnips as summer turned to fall which then lead to the exploration of fish ferments and catsups in the winter and then light fluffy fermented nut cheeses and elixirs made from flowers in the spring.  Now when I encounter a new food I wonder what will happen if I ferment it.  Just about every nook and cranny, cupboard and closet in my house has been repurposed at one time or another to make way for the alchemical, almost magical, phenomenon called fermentation.

My secret life began to gain a little traction when I met up with folks from the fermentation festival held yearly and then bi-yearly in Santa Barbara and most recently in Los Angeles.  Founded by mother and daughter Lynn Hartman and Katie Gershfelt, the festival which aims to revitalize traditional food preparation methods and promote local food and traditional farming practices as well as empower attendees to nurture their immune systems and micro-biome with beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods, is just so totally aligned with what I have been doing that I couldn't believe that I had just located so many like-minded people!   It was SO exciting to find the festival and be part of it and the growing community of people - from all walks of life - from amateur fermenters to accomplished entrepreneurs - who are beginning to challenge the way we view our food, how we view our connection to the earth and how we inhabit it.

For the last couple of years I have taught numerous classes on how to make lacto-fermented soda, kombucha, kraut, kimchee, dill pickles, nut cheese and the list goes on and on as more and more people begin to understand the importance of fermented food.

It is hardly surprising that the final class of the year 2016 - to be held on the winter solstice - will be a Winter Kraut Making Gathering.  

Another noteworthy item -  and I will be sharing details later - I am very honored to begin work on ferments for a 2017 Slow Foods Ventura event which will be held in conjunction with American Gut Project which will track the influence of fermented foods on the human microbiome.   

It is a rainy night here in Southern California.  The door just knocked and it was a friend of mine standing in the rain with a new baby kombucha scoby in a jar for me!  Yahoo!  Back to the bacteria!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Deliciously Sugar-Free Raw Chocolate

~  Menu ~

Triple Layer Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter Dessert

Medjool Date Sweetened Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate Raspberry Ganache

Chocolate Pudding

 Raw Chocolate Dessert Class

"I was so happy I came.  
I've never had deserts like this."
~ MB

True Food Beauty Raw Chocolate Class

"It is always a great time around people who enjoy healthy food. " 
~ M

Experience The Benefits 

Raw chocolate contains anandamide which is know as the bliss chemical and which actually enhances our sense of well-being.  Another mood enhancing compound found in raw chocolate is PEA which triggers the release of the same neuro-chemicals we experience when we fall in love.

Polyphenols and flavanols in raw chocolate help improve blood circulation.
The healthy fats found in raw chocolate are similar to the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil.
Raw chocolate is a good source of magnesium which helps to lower blood pressure.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

November Cooking Class - Dessert - Delicious And Guilt-Free!

Don't Deprive Yourself Over The Holidays!

The good news is - you won't have to spend hours slaving in the kitchen to enjoy delicious holiday desserts.

Learn how to make a repertoire of delicious - decadent, and did I say easy to make, desserts!  These desserts literally take moments to whip up.

Most will feature chocolate, of coarse, and many will feature fruit and nuts and natural sweeteners such dried fruit and dates.   

None of them have sugar - not even organic cane sugar - and none of them have grain, grain products or gluten of any kind.

Best yet - you will not be turning on the oven.  

November 12th 4 - 6 pm

Sign up:   lisavalantine@gmail.com

Cost: $40.00
Couples: $75.00

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The CSA Box Challenge

CSA boxes, in addition to regular farmer's market foraging, can present a culinary challenge when you get all sorts of things you might not ordinarily buy.  Today as I prepare for a busy work week I am making good use of the CSA Box and the vitamix blender.  In fact, I have used the vitamix more times than should be counted.

I got a basket of strawberry guava in the CSA box this week.  I decided to make a batch of strawberry guava juice to flavor botanical elixirs.  It smells heavenly and is the most delicious looking color.  I can't wait to try it.

Next I prepared a batch of blended gazpacho from beautiful CSA and Farmer's Market heirloom tomatoes.  The gazpacho is already jarred for work week lunches.

Gazpacho Ready To Go To Work
I happened to get a wealth of summer squash in the CSA box.  I made a blended summer squash soup seasoned with fennel seed.  This blended soup will be very welcome when I come home at the end of a busy day and want something in a hurry right?

Beets, cilantro and green onion stirred into quinoa and dressed with lemon and olive oil are jarred for lunches.

We are in the middle of a mid-September heat wave here in Southern California.  The fragrant melon sitting on the counter, the local California mango, local California blueberries, the crisp cucumbers and celery will make refreshing juice and smoothie concoctions.

The remaining bunch of radishes, romaine lettuce, arugula and cucumbers are stashed in the crisper drawer to become this weeks salads.

I just discovered that what I thought was dill in the CSA box is actually baby fennel!  I have never had baby fennel before!  I wonder what I will make with it?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

~ Friends Gather To Enjoy Local Flavor ~

Another Ferment-Centric Culinary Adventure

Preserved Lemon Class ~ August 20th 4 - 6 PM ~ Thousand Oaks

Meyer lemons, which are actually a cross between a lemon and mandarin orange, are considered the ideal lemon for making preserved lemon because they more closely approximate the flavor of Moroccan lemons.

Even though it is not Meyer Lemon season here in California I found some really nice lemons at the farmer's market that were a good substitute.

What do you look for if you want to make preserved lemon and don't have Meyer Lemons?  Look for small lemons that can easily be packed into jars and that have plenty of juice.  If they are on the dry side augment the jar with plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Dinner Featured Local Farmer's Market Produce!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

~ Local Non-GMO ~

Beautiful Organic Non-GMO Eggs - Locally Raised
Even in the face of an impossibly large Industrial Food System.  We really are much more powerful than we suppose ourselves to be.  We each individually make a difference.  We can change our personal health destiny.  We don't need to feel helpless, hopeless or victimized by the system.  We vote with our dollar.  What we buy we support.   We have the opportunity every single day to vote with our dollar - to either bring higher consciousness to our food choices by supporting local organic farmers and the local food economy or - often  unwittingly because we didn't know we had other options - to support GM food and other industrial faux foods that are adulterated in myriad and often unfathomable ways.  If the GM foods are not supported by consumers - trust me they will go away simply because they don't make economic sense.

So rather than catching yourself grumbling about an industrial food system,  rather than wasting energy feeling distressed or victimized about the potential health hazards of GM foods and what Monsanto is dishing up, I offer another option.

Why not take the focus off Monsanto and what they do - and simply BE the solution.

See how good it feels to just say "No" and take your power back!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

~ Another Plug For Local Food ~

Local Foods Support Health
A primary indicator of health is the human ability to adapt and thrive in the environment in which they live.  In the past people lived closely connected to the land.  It was not uncommon for generations to live and die within the sight of a particular mountain range or valley.  In the past people ate food that was locally produced, and the cheeses and milk, for instance, produced from the grasses and flowers of a particular region produced colors, flavors and aromas that were distinctive to the region.

One of the things that modern people seem to have lost is an intimate knowledge and connection with the environment in which they were born and/or living.  We do not experience the land or the seasons in the profound way that our ancestors did.  We are mobile, often moving from place to place.  And an industrial food system makes it possible for us to eat food that comes from great distances.

One of the most powerful things that we can do to re-connect ourselves with the land,  no matter where we live, is to eat food that is grown locally.   Local food strengthens the human adaptive capacity, strengthens health, is fresher, more nutritious, and usually tastes better too.

Monday, July 25, 2016

~ Terrior and the identity of local flavor ~

Locally Grown Carrots

Once again I re-visit the tantalizing topic of local food.

What does our valley, our soil, taste like?  How does it create a unique local food flavor?

The local terrior - the local soil and environment - interact together to play a role in the genetic expression of plants and when all come together create a unique food expression.  So peaches grown in Conejo Valley will actually taste different - and should btw taste different - than peaches grown in Ojai.

How do we embrace our uniqueness?  How do we even begin to discover what that uniqueness is and learn how to identify it and distinguish it from other flavors?  Very simply - start visiting and shopping at farmer's markets and grow a garden.

I remember my first visits to this valley.  My family was planning to move from Santa Monica and we often spread our picnic in orange groves and as a child I remember I played in farm fields and hid in ditches or oak trees when farmers rode by on horseback.  Basque sheep herders came down each year from northern California to graze their sheep.  It was a very different valley than the one we see today.  The farm fields pretty much disappeared decades ago.

With the food producing land all but vanished - what resources do we have to begin to explore and build a local cuisine, a local food culture?  I like to focus on the positive.  What we DO have is the most amazing climate that grows just about everything.  What we DO have is a whole network of backyards.  Backyards that could be converted to permaculture and create a kind of food redundancy and food security that would benefit the entire community.  Each backyard connected like little points of light - a whole wonderful interconnected food web.

I would get very excited to learn that someone in the community became very passionate about growing heirloom beans.  There are so many interesting varieties and beans grow very well here which I happen to know from my own garden experiments.  I would be very excited to learn that someone in the community became passionate about growing squash.  I can't tell you how many delicious beautiful varieties of squash ARE  NOT grown commercially.   Or how about someone getting so interested in baking real artisanal bread that they go off to study with Chad Robertson in northern California or travel to Europe to study traditional bread baking.  What about artisanal cheese?  What about locally raised backyard eggs from chickens who lead lives that chickens are meant to lead?

Once we start getting excited about local food and food culture the possibilities are endless and things really start to get interesting.

Those of you who attend my classes know that they are all about local food and that at each class participants can expect to experience a whole plethora of new local flavor sensations.  Each bite becomes an education to the palate and is an important first step to discovering, recognizing and cultivating local food and local food identity.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

~ Why Local? ~

Deliciously Local

As many of you know I am totally about eating local.  I find great pleasure foraging for delicious food at the plethora of farmer's markets here in Southern California.  There is good food to be had at ALL times of the year.  Eating seasonally doesn't mean that you expect to be eating watermelon in January.  Eating seasonal means consciously choosing to eat and prepare foods that grow and thrive at that particular time of year.  It means living in rhythm and harmony with the environment around you.

Here in Southern California the seasons are subtle and yet each season brings its particular health challenges as well as opportunities to heal and strengthen.  One of the primary sources of support and vitality in each season of the year are the plants and foods that grown and thrive around you. Eating food that is grown in your own environment strengthens you to withstand the environmental stresses of your environment.  Knowing what to eat in each season and to prepare those foods is a simple way to strengthen and preserve health and prevent imbalances.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

~ Fermentation Festival ~

Screaming Pickle Contest
Don't miss the annual Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival at Rancho La Patera and Stow House in Golita on Sunday September 11th, 2016 from 11 AM to 5 PM.

It will be an amazing celebration of all things fermented and all things local, an opportunity to sample 75 + artisanal fermented foods, visit 50 + exhibits, and meet with experts on the subject.  In addition there will four stages with educational speaker and live and hands-on demos.

This year I have been invited to do a hands-on demo on how to make small artisanal batches of fermented spicy tomato salsa.  Each participant goes home with their own jar of salsa to ferment on their kitchen counter.

By-the-way I just have to mention the Screaming' Pickle Contest.  This is an UBER fun part of the fermentation celebration as amateur fermentation geeks - such as myself - have an opportunity to enter homemade ferments to be judged by a panel of experts.   The award ceremony takes place towards the end of the day.  There are three categories:  fruit, vegetable and beverage.

Look for more information in future posts.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

~ A Celebration Of Local Foods ~

What is local flavor all about?

Beginning to define and discover what local flavor is all about is an exciting process.   At a recent gathering I put together an intriguing menu that was inspired by my travel abroad and yet based and grounded in regional foods that reveal their roots in our local soil.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

~ A Party With A Purpose ~

Dishes that Inspire Beautiful Food

Preserving Summer with Fruit Coulis, Jams and Syrups

Thursday July 14th at 6 PM

Drawing from a delectable selection of farmer's market fruit and berries you will learn to create small artisanal batches of fruit coulis, jam and syrup.  Trust me nothing tastes better than homemade fruit preserves.  We will talk about how to make them without sugar too.

In addition - and with an eye to all things fermented - I will show you how fun and easy it is to take the process a step further by fermenting the fruit.  

Dinner and Botanical-Inspired Elixirs

Focaccia with Blackberries and Lemon Thyme

Quinoa with Blueberries, Mint and Preserved Lemon

Strawberry Tomato Panznella
And many more edibles will be served, shared and sampled.

Don't miss this unique opportunity to gather with like-minded folk for a fun-filled evening.

Everything is made with lots of love and gmo-free!


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Elixirs Go To Local Parties

Spreading The Magic
Experience the essence of our local hills - the subtle floral sweetness of elderflower - captured in a bottle!

Elderflower elixir has a natural effervescence as light and delicate as champagne bubbles!

Elderflower Elixir is truly a magical experience. The limited edition and artisanal elixir is made from the first flush of spring blossoms gathered from the hillsides of our Valley during a 4 - 6 week period.

This week Elderflower Elixir,  Elderflower Rose Soda, Lemon Balm Soda and Hibiscus Soda were featured at two local summer parties.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Local Celebration Of Summer


Brined Pickle class Friday June 10th 6 - 9 PM in Lisa's Kitchen

Last Friday evening I taught a class on how to make small artisanal batches of brined pickles, chock-full of gut healing bacteria, using an assortment of local farmer's market produce.  

Dinner and Botanical-Inspired Elixirs

For dinner I put together an intriguing menu inspired by my travel abroad and yet based and grounded in regional foods that reveal their roots in our local soil.  

I served sourdough pita bread made with Sonoran Heirloom wheat and unbleached unenriched flour, hummus, labneh with herbs and cucumber stirred into it, rose petals chopped with dry fruit and nuts, several rice dishes infused with herbs and fruits and spices, a salad of beets and a salad with greens, fruit and basil, three types of pickles - daikon, turnip and traditional dill pickle - along with about 2 gallons of various botanical elixirs - pomegranate, strawberry, hibiscus, elderflower, rose and sage.

Local Flavor

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cherry Berry Delicious

Cherry Berry Breakfast
Cherry Berry Deliciousness made with farmer's market fruit - fruit that is so good it needs no accoutrement.  However today I jazzed things up a bit just for fun.  I spooned fromage blanc by Cow Girl Creamery and wonderfully tart Strauss Dairy yoghurt into a bowl of cherries and berries, swirled in local wildflower honey mixed with lemon juice and sprinkled ground almonds on top.

The honey lemon mixture really woke things up and brought out the full bouquet of flavor in the fruit.  This was a completely yummy way to start the day.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Farmer's Market Blooms

The Sweet Scent of Spring
Nearly summer - but we are still able to get beautifully fragrant sweet peas from the local farmer's market.  I buy them right up when I see them.  Sweet Pea's have a lovely lingering fragrance that pleasantly tickles the nose.  Snap dragons, sunflowers and baby's breath are other favorites.

Now a quick segue - a quick leap - to the world of edibles...

The above flowers, btw, are not edible.  (Only the seed of the sunflower is considered edible.) It is important to be absolutely certain that a flower or plant is edible before tasting it.

My interest in flowers, botanicals, herbs and such like does seem to marry up quite nicely with an interest in all things edible.  For instance, today I combed the local nursery for edible flowers to underplant and grow among the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant that make up my small potager this summer.  Nasturtiums are a favorite of mine because I like the way they artlessly mingle among other plants and I like their pleasant peppery flavor in summer salads.  Dianthus is another flower that is both colorful and edible.  Calendula too is simply brilliant.  I also like to harvest the flowering stalks of vegetables and herbs gone wild and weedy such as cilantro, chives, radish.  Yesterday I nibbled cilantro blossoms.  Tiny white flowers.  Quite tasty. Today I judiciously pruned the clump of cilantro, with an eye for it's beauty, and then chopped the clippings onto a chickpea curry at lunch.  It was such a simple thing to do, it only took a moment, and yet the cilantro improved my enjoyment of the dish immensely.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

~ Local Food Is Delicious ~

Eating Seasonal and Local
Hooray for local raspberries!  Yes - we grow local raspberries here in Southern California and they are in season right now.  I buy my berries at the local farmer's market in a three pack and they couldn't be more delicious.  Berries and yoghurt have become a favorite item on the breakfast table. What could be easier?

This meal is completely local and regional.  The Strauss Yoghurt is from Petaluma California.  The Grindstone Bakery bread is from Sonoma County. The raspberries are from a local farm and the elderberry syrup (made by me) is from my very own neighborhood.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

~ Farmer's Market Carrots ~

Flavorful Farmer's Market Carrots

So here is a plug for farmer's market carrots. Aren't they beautiful by the way?  Farmer's market carrots come in all colors and sizes - from slender and tender to thick and densely sweet.  Orange, yellow, coral pink reminiscent of that translucent quality one finds in summer melons, an exquisite color that is hard to describe, deep shades of purple, light buttery yellow, and white are some of the varieties I have found.

When I visit the farmer's markets I often buy multiple bunches of carrots from a variety of vendors and I have never ever found farmer's market carrots to be woody or bitter as is often the case, no matter how careful one is, with carrots bought at the supermarket.

One of my favorite ways to prepare carrots is to pan roast them whole until they are fork tender.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

~ Farmer's Market Find! ~

California Blueberries

Yes!  California blueberries!  I used to live in the northwest - premier blueberry growing country - but I have to admit these California blueberries are delicious!  Just picked (not shipped) and locally grown they are perfectly ripe, juicy and sweet. What could be better along side buttered toast, and a pot of tea?  A dish of yoghurt maybe?

This no-fuss French breakfast is just right for me while my arm is healing.  

Saturday, May 14, 2016

~ Fresh and Local Breakfast Favorite ~

Farmer's Market Produce

Nothing is more delectable this time of year - Fragrant and Delicious -  than local fresh strawberries.  Harry's Berries is a particular favorite.

Harry's Berries strawberries are so delicious that they need no further accoutrement than to eat them as they are.  Not even a sprinkling of sugar would add to my enjoyment of them.

This morning I had a local/regional breakfast of organic yoghurt, sourdough raisin toast, butter, a pot of ginger tea and the incomparable berries.  It was heavenly.

It is fun to forage and find delicious local food! Foraging is of my favorite hobbies!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Botanical Elixirs are Magical!

This spring I have been working with wild-crafted flowering native sage, rose, and elderflower.  Sometimes I throw in melissa or lemon balm.  The flavors are delicate, floral and very much alive.

M:  I love the sodas and I've noticed they seem tastier as they age....  maybe my imagination?

L:  No that is not your imagination.  The flavors continue to develop.  That is the true artisanal nature of these beverages and why they cannot be standardized into an industrial food system.  The flavors continue to change and become more complex over time.

Some folks won't appreciate that and will expect uniformity.

M:  I got home late last night and decided to drink remaining soda you made, but it was different and was perfect to my taste and absolutely divine!!!  It was almost like the soda was alive and understood exactly what I needed and gave it to me.  It gave me such a lift!!!  

Friday, May 6, 2016

~ Beautiful Botanical Beverage ~

Local Foraged Flower Creations

Keeping up my enthusiasm for all things fermented and all things local here is a photo of my latest creation.  This beautiful botanical beverage was created with flowers foraged right outside my front door!  I picked elderflower and rose petals on Wednesday morning in my very own neighborhood.  See the previous post.  Then I added lemon, filtered water, organic sugar and let it infuse over night.  The next morning I strained the liquid into bottles and tucked them away in a dark cupboard where they will develop a nice fizz.

 ~ Community Classes for 2016 ~

February 20th - Kraut and Kimchee Class

March 19th - Green Smoothie Class

May 6th - Today!  Kombucha Class

Stay tuned for more developments as I re-envision my work here in the Conejo Valley as a private chef.  Even though I have always been about fresh, local, organic - I would like to enlarge my vision and my work in order to build a stronger sense of community and vibrant food culture right here in my own valley!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Magical and Botanical Inspired Local Elixir

Elderflower and Rose Petal

In spring of 2010 when Carrisa and I concocted our first elderflower cordial it was love at first sip.  It tasted like something the fairies would concoct. Magic in a glass!

What I particularly enjoy about elderflower cordial, delicately floral and naturally effervescent, is that it is a wild fermentation that is deliciously local.  How much more local can you get than sipping the essence of flowers that grow wild in your very own hills?

Since 2010 I have moved to a new property and I was lucky enough to find a place that has elderberry growing on it.  This spring I have been making elderflower cordial.  I harvested the early flowers from the first flush that came on in early April and I have four lovely quarts tucked away.  As the elderflower season progressed I made a few more batches to add to my supply.  Because the cordials take about three weeks in a dark cupboard to develop right now I have cordials, in various stages, tucked away in all sorts of places to await our mid-summer celebrations.

This morning, even though I am running out of both bottles and cupboards, I made one last batch of cordial for 2016.  I decided to try something new.  I added Suzanne's delicate pink rose petals to the mix.   It seems like a match made in heaven.  I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

~ Party With A Purpose - A Culinary Adventure ~

Now that save the date notices have gone out - I would like to share more information about this upcoming class.

You will learn how to make small artisanal batches of delicious kraut and kimchee, chock full of probiotic gut-healing goodness, in your own home. 

I will serve homemade winter squash soup for light supper while you savor and sample a culture plate featuring a variety of cultured edibles.  

Indispensable neighbor Suzanne, a true baking luminary in my opinion, will be bringing over her homemade sourdough bread.  This alone is worth the price of admission. Her bread rivals in texture, taste, and beauty any bread I have ever seen or experienced.  

I will also include something very rare and special on the menu that you may have never encountered or even heard of before.  Intrigued?

Homemade ferments of all sorts add a fillip of flavor and nutrient boost to every meal.  They help stimulate heathy digestion, feed friendly gut-bacteria and are much less expensive than probiotics or krauts purchased from the store. 

You don't have to be a fermentation geek (like me 😁) to enjoy this fun and informative gathering of like-minded folk.

Every ingredient is organic, and 100% guaranteed GMO-free.  

Made With Love - Vegan Soup and Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread Available -