Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Time to Plant!!!!

I have been anxiously awaiting this day for weeks now! After a very time consuming and laborious weekend of sifting my soil, I finally came to the realization that the shortcut I took last year by buying garden soil in bulk did not pay off at all!!! After all that sifting, I still had soil that was full of clay and turned into a lake of sludge when watered. So, in the end, I went and bought bagged stuff and started over...lesson learned: do it right the first time!!!! But what to my wondrous eyes should appear, but prepackaged square foot gardening mix, yippee!!! Mel Bartholomew(the creator of square foot gardening) recommends a soil mix of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 compost which is costly and annoying to mix for 4 beds...hence the reason I bought soil in bulk. But now they come in handy, dandy premixed bags, 2 cubic feet in size and costing $12.99. I'll take it!

So soil is ready (in one 3 more to go!) I soaked it really good so that it is nice and moist for planting (and the water just seeped right in like it was supposed to, big sigh of relief!) I soaked 8 snap pea beans in lukewarm water overnight to help jump start the germination process. I made my square foot grid by tying twine to nails drilled in at one foot intervals. So now it is time to begin. My little seedlings are dying to get our of their cubicles and spread their roots!

First I made my grids of where I would be planting. I planted broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower in the single holes, spinach seeds in the square with 9 boxes. Chard, kale, lettuce and cilantro went into the 4 box squares, and carrots radishes and beet seeds went into the squares with 16 boxes. Snap peas went in a row at the top of the bed and will need a trellis to support them.

Where I planted my seedlings, I made depressions around them so water would easily absorb around the roots. Where I planted seeds, I made a 1 inch depression, filled it halfway with vermiculite, dropped in my seed and then topped it off with vermiculite. Then I lightly watered the seedlings and misted the seeds. I also planted late afternoon when the sun wasn't as hot because that can be a shock to new transplants. It is very important to keep the soil moist at all times so the new transplants don't dry out and the seeds can germinate.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Current Favorite Salad

Most of my family knows me as the best salad maker. I don't say that to brag, it's just I LOVE to get creative with the salad and they appreciate that.  The number one rule to great salads is homemade dressings. I have bought store bought dressings a handful of times in my life and every time I am left incredibly disappointed. I realize that making dressing takes about maybe 5 minutes and is SO worth it every single time!!!! I go through salad phases too where I get hooked on certain ingredients for both salad and dressing. This particular phase has lasted over a year which is a really long time for a salad phase, so it is obviously sensational!

mixed greens
red onion, thinly sliced
grapes or strawberries chopped
celery thinly sliced
sunflower seeds
dried cranberries

balsamic vinegar
dijon mustartd
salt and pepper
olive oil

I often make enough dressing for 2 dinner salads for my husband and I so I don't have measurements for larger quantities. The key is equal parts vinegar and oil, but don't mix oil in until the end while vigorously whisking other ingredients. I usually do a dollop of mustard, a drizzle of honey and salt and pepper to taste. I probably use about  2-3 T each of vinegar and oil. If you want to make a larger quantity, start with 1/4  cup each of vinegar and oil, 2-3 T mustard, 1-2 T honey, and salt and pepper. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for awhile. Mix them up in a mason jar and then leftovers can be easily stored.This dressing is a little on the vinegary side which is how I like it. Traditional dressings are 3 part oil to 1 part vinegar which is a little too oily for me, but you can always adjust the amounts to find the ratio that you like best.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Green Rice Pilaf

This is a great cleansing meal...filling and chock full of healthy goodness. You can always add some beans or meat to make it a heartier meal or serve it as a side. 

Green Rice Pilaf

3 cups diced veggies (I used mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini, green onions, celery and carrot)
1 cup brown rice
3 1/2 cup water or stock
2 large handfuls of fresh herbs (I used parsley, cilantro and 1 green onion)
5 oz container of fresh spinach
4 cloves of garlic minced
juice from one lemon
1/3 cup toasted walnuts or pinenuts
olive oil

Dice up your veggies and mince your garlic, saving one clove for the greens
Cook rice according to directions using water or stock. I toasted my rice first.

 Place spinach, herbs, lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, and 1 garlic clove into a food processor
Add about 1/4 cup water or stock

 Drizzle in 2-3 T of oil while processing

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Throw in the veggies and garlic and saute for 10-15 minutes until tender.

 Once the rice is done, mix into the veggies and add the pureed herbs and greens. Cook on medium low until any excess liquid has cooked off.

Top with toasted nuts and grated lemon zest. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Food Journey

I am going to try to give as brief of a history as possible of some of the issues I have had over the last 10 years and my eventual discovery of food sensitivities so bare with me! For most of my 20's I battled with constant fatigue and body pain, constant bloating and mild stomach discomfort, a compromised immune system (I got sick all the time!!!) and horrendous hormonal issues. For anyone who knows me, they know that I used to live by a calendar that revolved around my cycle and in that 31-34 day period (that is how long my cycles used to be!) I would get about 7-10 good days. I was also easily susceptible to bouts of anxiety and depression. Not to mention a host of other random symptoms that would come and go throughout the years. I had been to every type of doctor you could think of and always came back with a bill of pristine health...great!!! except for the fact I was only in my 20's and felt awful the majority of the time! I started getting regular massages, which my husband tended to think was a luxury, but I knew it was necessary to keep my body pain in check. I took up yoga, the real kind, in a studio that incorporated many other yogic philosophies than just being a form of exercise. Yoga definitely changed my life and my perspective and taught me wonderful tools of healing and transformation. I read every self help book I could get my hands on that might give me some insight on my issues. So as you can see, I am extremely proactive when it comes to my health and am willing to put in the work! All of these things made an incredible impact on my life and has helped shape me into the person I am today, but none of them made the mysterious, plaguing symptoms go away. I often thought I had fibromyalgia or some other auto-immune disorder because they run in my family, so many symptoms were the same, and I really seemed to experience worse times then others or "flare-ups".

In October of 2010, I went to a Homeopathic Dr. who told me to get off gluten, dairy, soy and peanuts. I kind of suspected food so I was not surprised, it was just bad timing for me to commit. Cutting out staple foods in your diet and completely relearning how to cook is not an easy undertaking, but 5 months later I had had enough and was ready to take the plunge. I started by doing a 3 week cleanse (I followed Alejandro Jungar's cleanse from his book "Clean" which was incredible!) Then, I committed to staying off of my main culprits. At this time, I decided to delve into the plethora of resources on the market today concerning our food industry. I watched Food Inc, read Alicia Silverstone's book, Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and The China Study, plus started following numerous bloggers with food sensitivities. Without being a nutritionist, I am an expert on food!!! But the information completely overwhelmed me and next thing I know I am vegan, buying everything organic, introducing super foods, all while not eating gluten, soy and peanuts, plus I was convincing myself that I had lots of other food sensitivities because others I read about had them. Not too surprising that I developed major food anxiety!!! I stayed quite strong for almost a year with only a couple short bouts of "cheating". It was an incredibly transformative year that will forever change the way I look at food. But it was hard to sustain.

Recently I have given into my cravings for all the foods I have denied myself this last year and have discovered some interesting things. I definitely don't feel as good when I am eating bad, but I have noticed that a lot of my issues are much better. My cycle has been exactly 28 days for the last 5+ months with only a week of mild pms (my husband would beg to differ!) And though I still suffer from body pains and low energy now that I am eating the enemy (see how my brain works now??? I am working on that!) , it is not to the same extreme. Bloating isn't as bad either but definitely gets me after a glutenous meal. And I have barely had a sick day this last year (with a toddler to boot), and when I do, it is mild and short lived. So now I am trying to  find the balance. I know that if I continue eating this way, I will put myself right back where I started and I've come too far to let that happen. I deeply admire the people that choose a lifestyle that suits them best and sticks to it, but the majority of us American's struggle with doing what we know is right when what is wrong is just so darn tempting!!! 

But it is all about moderation and giving our bodies a break sometimes. It is also about finding healthy alternatives so that we can still get joy from eating without the toxic overload. I thoroughly enjoy eating a whole foods based diet. I have learned to cook incredibly healthy food that is amazingly delicious. But I still have associations with food that will take time to debunk. Everything revolves around food in this country and I just haven't developed enough experience yet  to live without certain indulgences without feeling deprived instead of feeling empowered by saying no to a food that does not serve me. But I do have patience and perseverance. I know I will have periods of going astray, but I also know I will eventually find my way back. One thing I have learned in life when trying to make lifelong changes is you will always take two steps forward, and one step back. The much needed break I gave my body last year had a drastic effect on my health. The foods I have come to view as "the enemy" do not have the same effect on me as long as I eat them sparingly. It is the sparingly thing I am working on, but I'll get it eventually!!! Sometimes I think I know too much about our food industry but knowledge is power and once you know, you can't unknow. In the case of my health and the health of my family, I choose to know!!!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Creamy Garlic Spring Pasta

This time of year I cannot get enough of asparagus, peas and other spring vegetables. I cannot actually buy local versions of these yet in Colorado because we have a short, late growing season, but my body just starts craving them this time of year so the grocery store version will just have to do (which is at least a little more local than the rest of year) I have been eating as seasonally and locally as possible for awhile now, and it is funny how my body has learned to respond to that. I was just in FL and my mom was serving watermelon and cantaloupe almost everyday and it felt so wrong to eat for some reason. Those fruits are such a part of the summer tradition, it is hard to eat them any other time of year. Same goes for asparagus. I cook with asparagus at almost every meal during the months of April and May and then, I'm pretty much done with asparagus for the year. And tomatoes!!! Ever since I started gardening 6 years ago there is no way I can eat a store bought tomato!!! Truly fresh produce that literally goes from ground to table puts grocery store versions to shame, not only in taste but nutrients as well! Of course we definitely buy other produce that is not in season or grown locally (if any of you have read Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, they did just that...they ate only local, in season food products for an entire year. Amazing book that is very informative and inspirational but reads like a novel) but I have programmed my body to eat somewhat seasonally and it is kind of interesting to see my body go through physical cravings for certain produce that I have not had for a is kind of exciting! Each time a new season comes around I pull out my favorite seasonal recipes and get so excited to start cooking! Dear asparagus, it is so nice to enjoy your tender, crisp stalks of deliciousness once again!!! By the way, this recipe is super fast and super favorite kind!

Creamy Garlic Spring Pasta
serves 6

1 bunch of asparagus trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
2-4 garlic cloves pressed, minced or grated
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 -1 cup chopped parsley
2 cups coarsely chopped spinach
1/2 cup toasted pinenuts
1 7oz container plain greek yogurt
12 oz pasta (I use brown rice elbow macaroni)
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
olive oil
feta cheese

Put water on to boil. Once you get your noodles in, make the sauce. Mix garlic, 1-2 tsp salt, juice of 1 lemon, yogurt, parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir until well combined. Once the pasta has only 5 minutes left of cooking time, add the asparagus and peas to the pot. Once finished, drain and add back to the pot (make sure you reserve 1/2 cup of water) Add in the sauce, water, spinach, and pinenuts. Top with feta cheese and freshly ground black pepper and serve with your favorite salad!