Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's Plantin' Time!

OK. Big news: Just this week, the totally shaded porch of our new home somehow started getting sun. This is no doubt due to the Earth's position now shifting to a place where the sun's rays can tickle the future-plant-bedecked porch in spite of the fact that the building next to us blocks the sun we should've been getting all season. Whatever. I only care that NOW I CAN GROW THINGS! HOORAY!

I immediately headed for the nearest garden center and, in an over-zealous frenzy that surely must be indicative of addiction, bought way too many plants. I got tomatoes, peppers, collard greens, two kinds of lettuce, and far, far too many beans. In the herb fam, I snagged some rosemary, thyme, and three different kinds of basil.

Here's the method to my madness:

Basil: A must. Hardy, pretty, and if you grow enough of it, you can not only save yourself the horror of pay $4 for three sprigs at the store, you can also make copious amounts of pesto. Make a double bath and the extra can be frozen in zippy sandwich bags for a summery treat in mid-winter. Trust me, it's heaven.

Beans: Hardy, fast growers that, as a fun little perk, also produce beautiful pink flowers.

Lettuce: Nothing better than a fresh-picked salad! Bonus: they don't like the heat of July-August, so when they're done, I can pluck them out and replace with a heat-lover.

Collard greens: New to me. {gulp}

Peppers: As my friend Dee once said, "Peppers are so rewarding to grow." SO true. Love seeing them on the vine.

Tomatoes: True confession: they aren't my favorite fresh fruit (and to me they'll always be a veggie, but whatevs). But, much like peppers, they are SO rewarding to grow. When you see them covered in their brightly hued fruit, you sit back and think, "Yeah. I grew that." Bonus: I like to give them away to neighbors. And now I have new neighbors to meet and impress with my growing acumen {blows on fingernails and rubs on imaginary lapels}

Parsley and Dill: Self-propogated from last year! Yup--these determined crops spread their own seeds from last season and came up by themselves. SWEET!! I like your spirit, guys!

So much to do...except for the self-propogating herbs. Yeah! Nice work, guys!

I spent the weekend planting. There is something so primal, so deeply instinctual about digging your hands into the dirt and planting. Hours and hours later, tired and hungry, with an aching back, I felt connected to something bigger and older than me. I also felt excited about what this season will bring. Stay tuned!

Seeing how much work there was at hand, Pelu immediately
became overwhelmed and had no other option but to take a nap.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Yoga for a Rainy Day

OK so it's gray, chilly, drizzly-raining here for approximately the 500th day in a row. Now don't get me wrong, I like rainy moderation. But moderation, this is not.

So in addition to downing copious amounts of caffeine (by which I mean I down 2 cups of tea because anything stronger or more will render me a hand-shaking, stuttering, sweaty, caffeine-sensitive mess), I try to do a yoga pose or two for energy.

What yoga poses are energizing? Oh, I'm so glad you asked!


Now, I am not suggesting that anyone leap into wheel or any other super-intense back bends. Especially without warming up first (bad, bad idea--don't do it!), but you can probably do a little back bend safely and still benefit energetically.

Option 1:  In a desk chair
Prep: In your desk chair, clasp your fingers behind your head to support your neck. Sit up tall. See how your neck is right in line with the rest of your spine as you sit here? Yeah, keep it that way as we start to recline. Don't let your head flop back--that will compress your cervical vertabrae. Now, supporting the head with the palms and keeping the neck long, lean gently back so that your upper back arches gently and your heart lifts. Keep your elbows wide and your heart open. Take 5 deep, energizing breaths. Come back up slowly.

Option 2: On your mat (or rug) with a rolled blanket (like a cigar)
Prep: Sit up tall. Supporting the neck as described above, engage your abs and slowly recline back over the blanket roll (it should be lined up under your armpits as you come back). Lay all the way down on the floor, still on top of the blanket, with each rolled end extending out past each armpit. Keep the elbows wide and the hands supporting the head OR straighten the arms and reach out and up (away from your toes). Take 5 deep energizing breaths. Come back up slowly.

See if you feel a difference. Let me know!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Breakfast: A Busy Foodie's Dilemma

It's no secret I love food. I love everything about it: growing it, cooking it, appreciating when others have cooked it, and, of course, eating it.

But breakfast is a real conundrum. What's a busy, health-loving, food-loving, modern-day gal on the go to do? I'm not going to cook myself a big breakfast on a weekday morning, but a bowl of processed, sugar-laded crap that passes for cereal isn't going to cut it either. Cue my lovely Aussie friend Matilda recently presenting me with a glass jar tied with a lavender bow. Inside was her homemade granola.

The verdict? YUM. was that good. 

I refused to share. I hoarded it like some crazy lady.  I think I devoured it in what can only be described as truly astounding speed. And I was promptly inspired to make my own.

According to my sister the nutritionist, granola with fat-free plain yogurt is a great way to start your day because it's a good source of calcium, vitamin D, and lean protein from the yogurt, as well as whole grains, dietary fiber, and healthy (monounsaturated) fats from the nuts. It's also a heart-healthy breakfast that will keep you fuller, longer. Best of all, it can be made ahead and eaten all week. Oh, and did I mention it's also delicious??

Here's a basic version:

Preheat the over to 250.

In a big bowl, combine about 3 cups of whole oats with 1 cup of slivered almonds, 1 cup of sunflower seeds, and 1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut. Stir in 1/4 cup canola oil and 1/4 cup maple syrup until everything's well-mixed and fully coated.

Spread out on a baking sheet (recommend pre-spraying with cooking oil spray or lightly covering with oil so it doesn't stick) and bake for 90 minutes. STIR IT EVERY 20 MINUTES.

Remove and let cool. Then add 1/2 to 1 cup of raisins depending on how much you want. Or dried cranberries.


Adjustments and options: The recipe called for an additional 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 more of oil but I cut them out to keep it less sweet and more healthy. If you like it sweeter, play with these measurements.

SUBSTITUTE: Any nuts or seeds you want! I tried pumpkin seeds last week and they were awesome. They're super recommended in the world or ayurveda, so definitely give them a go. You could also use cashews or whole almonds or sliced almonds or walnuts or peanuts or flax seeds or anything else. Ditto on the dried fruit: cranberries, mango, blueberries, cherries...whatever you want! That's the joy (and the power - bwahaha) of being the chef! :)

NOTE: Do *NOT* try to make a speedy version by broiling it for a few minutes. I tried and all I ended up with was a tray full of charred bits and an apartment filled with smoke. Learn from my mistake.