healthy

Why French Gardeners Don’t Get Fat

Same reason other gardeners don’t get fat:  they eat a bunch of vegetables, right?  They eat nuts and berries, a few twigs, some tomatoes and lettuce, maybe and a handful of vitamins for good measure–and protein.  Am I close?

Well…sort of.  Loosely based on the bestselling book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, I think the concept is the same.  If you enjoy the process (good exercise) and enjoy the produce (healthy food) than you’re halfway there.  But there’s more to eating than mere consumption.  Concentrating on the depth of flavor in your earthly beets, the crisp sweetness of your corn, the buttery texture of your potatoes and oh-so-sweet onions, you begin to immerse yourself in the pleasure principle.

It’s like I tell my children.  “Everything in moderation.”  Now granted this is merely my way of letting them know it’s okay if Mom dips into the candy bowl.  It’s okay if she drinks a glass of wine (or two).  It’s okay.  Everything in moderation.  I find it’s a fabulous rule to live by because as an experienced dieter I can tell you:  denying yourself something you adore is not smart.  In fact, it goes against human nature—or feeds into it.  You know as well as I do that the minute you tell yourself you can’t have something—you want it.  You crave it.  All of a sudden, it becomes the most important thing you need to eat right now! 

Very bad as we approach bathing suit season.  Piling M&M’s into your mouth is not helpful to your figure, or your heart, your stomach…  So stop right now.  (No, not eating M&M’s.)  Stop denying yourself and give in to decadence!  Luxuriate in a glass of Cabernet, a handful of dark chocolate, a three-layer cake of dense delight, the sugary sweet frosting from a cupcake.  Enjoy it—leisurely.  Don’t rush.  Don’t get crazy.  Simply enjoy…….

You’ll find that once you remove the “desire triggers,” you’ll be able to eat what you desire AND remain slim.  I don’t know about you, but all veggies and no sweets make for a very dull girl.  And I don’t want to be dull!  I want to be delightful and happy.  Cause remember—when momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.

It’s true in my household.  How about yours? :)

p.s.  Pssst….  Don’t tell anyone, but this chocolate mousse is actually GOOD for you.  Swear.  It’s made from avocados though you’d never know it from tasting it!  Follow this link for this and other delicious and healthy recipes.

Tragedy in Wormville

It’s a sad day when I must report to you that my worms are gone. Yep.  Every last one of them, gone, bye-bye, escapees from the worm bin leaving only their stinky remnants behind.  Which is your first clue.  Stinky.  Remember, a properly maintained worm bin doesn’t stink.  It doesn’t smell, doesn’t bother anybody…  It just exists for them to produce. 

So when I returned home from a week in the mountains and removed the lid, you can see how the unpleasant waft gave away the fact there was a problem. Combined with the dried carcasses on the garage floor around my bin, it was no stretch to realize what had happened.  My heart sank.  I poked through the nasty gooey debris, but nothing.  No sight of those gorgeous red wriggly bodies to be had anywhere.

Now mind you when I left, the bin was healthy and clean and my babies had plenty to eat.  They were fabulous!  And worms should be able to make it a week without my help.  Granted my husband remained home while the kids and I jaunted through hiking trails, leapt from waterfalls and cavorted along the paths of Rock City but remember:  he’s not exactly a fan of the worm bin, especially as it’s located within close proximity to his vehicle.  I can only hope he wasn’t standing there cheering them on.  “Run, Willy, Run!”

I wouldn’t put it past him.  While supportive of my endeavors, he’s a reluctant worm farmer to say the least and he’d rather buy bags of the dried stuff from our local seed store.  “Aren’t you trying to be a localvore, honey?  Why not support your local merchants and buy their worm poop?”

Very funny.  I’m working toward self-sustainability, remember?  As for my worms, I won’t give up.  I hate to give up.  After our planned trip to the worm farm this month, I’ll be armed with the secrets of successful worm binning just you watch.  Until then, I’m open to suggestion! :)

Martha Stewart and Me

I’m a fan of Martha Stewart. I love her magazine, would love her show (if I had time to watch during the day) and I love her savvy business sense.  But one of the things I like best of all is that she gives great advice.  Really helpful stuff.  This month in her magazine (get the iPad version—its awesome!) she discusses the benefits of companion eating.  In the garden, we often talk companion planting, but companion eating?

You know I was intrigued.  What was this strange new concept of pairing foods according to the laws of nature?  What were the benefits?  As a born-to-sell kinda gal, I think in terms of features and benefits, goals and rewards (a tough sell in my role as stay at home mom) and I wanted to know more.  Talk to me, Martha!  How can you help?

According to her panel of health experts, some foods are most effective—nutritionally speaking—when eaten together.  By pairing them, you maximize nutritional output by increasing absorption potential.  Have I got your attention, yet?  Snagged me right off the garden bed.

Spinach is packed  full of plant-based iron—not easily absorbed by the body.  Summon the lemon!  (Or grapefruit, oranges—anything high in vitamin C.)  Why?  They say the Vitamin C changes the molecular structure of this type of iron which makes it more digestible. Looking for a healthy breakfast?  Go for a similar effect with oatmeal and OJ.

Now here’s a kicker:  did you know that lycopene needs to be combined with fat to be absorbed via the intestinal wall?  And of course non-saturated fats are best.  Think: olive oil, avocados, nuts and fish.  I do love fresh garden tomatoes drenched olive oil.  Mozzarella and basil only intensify my delight.

Next time your child asks for a banana-peanut butter sandwich, run to the pantry, grab the bread, slice the banana, smear the butter and slap that baby together—quick!—before they change their mind. It seems the potassium in bananas inhibits the retention of sodium; a good thing!  Tuna and soy sauce work the same way as do romaine lettuce and Caesar dressing.  Very cool news.  While my low blood pressure appreciates the extra sodium, my old lady eyes do not .  At all.  :) 

And speaking of kids, keep on serving up those whole grain cereals with milk because calcium can be rendered ineffective without magnesium (found in whole grains, nuts and soy).  Try serving their next grilled cheese with whole grain bread.  YUM and healthy.

Okay. Now this last one made me rethink the entire article. You mean to tell me there’s an actual science to why chicken soup is good for you?

Apparently.  According to Martha’s experts, the zinc in poultry, shellfish, nuts and beans produce a protein that transports vitamin A (found in carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy greens) to the retina.  Very important to sight.

While we’re on the subject of soup, Martha has one of the best recipes for basic chicken soup.  But for those non-soup fans, take heart.  Turkey and sweet potatoes work, as do beans and cheddar cheese.  Hmmm…  Are you with me?  How about a little bean chili for dinner tonight?

Whatever you do, don’t miss Martha Stewart Living.  Bright colors, vivid photography, savory and creative recipes, this is a subscription I look forward to each and every month.  Especially my iPad version.  Not only is it animated, but it includes videos, links, recipes I can click save (to a photo album) for later use in the kitchen.  LOVE it!

**This article is from the current issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine ~ pick yours up today!

And the Raw Results Are In!

Our raw challenge has come to an end and the results?  Well, to be honest, they’re mixed. Except for this chocolate mousse.  No question, this pudding was delicious!

In the beginning, going raw was exciting.  New and fresh, the kids and I had a great time perusing the aisles of our Whole Foods store, searching for the ”never heard of” ingredients for the gourmet impersonations we were concocting, from our chocolate mousse and lemony cheesecake to our Italian pastas and Asian broccoli dishes.  Eating tons of fruit, we created some wonderful smoothies, too–one of the easiest way for my kids to go raw.

But by mid-week however, the excitement was wearing thin.  The kids were whining for cheeseburgers and my husband…  Well, let’s just say it’s never a good sign when you pick up the scent of meat on your husband’s collar during raw week.  (Oh, the horror!)  Makes me suspect he might have been having a cheeseburger “fling.”  Given the opportunity, the kids most definitely would have “flung” a few burgers into their mouths as well.  Unfortunately for them, they’re under my watch 24/7 whereas my husband is not and alas, I must confess, I think my husband cheated.  Only a little bit.  Only out of necessity, driving all day long, no fast food restaurants willing to ply him with raw delicacies and fresh bliss.  What about salads?

Seems they pose more hazard than sustenance, what with the risk of dressing on the chin, driplets staining his tie, smudged across the steering wheel…  Better he chance the sneak of an easy-to-eat burger than face his business customers with a slew of salad and sauce all over him!

Speaking of non-raw, I think my most coveted (craved) food this past week was bread .  Bread for my pasta, bread for our peppers, sandwiches, pancakes–bread is a major staple in our diet, albeit not a good one.  From gluten to migraines, extra carbs to extra pounds, bread doesn’t promote a healthy lifestyle.  But it tastes so good!  Cookies and cakes, crackers and crusts–I think I’ve found my problem!  I LOVE breadstuff.

What else have I learned?

When making ceviche, be sure to cut your fish into 1/2 inch pieces else your dinner may not be ready come dinner time.  And be adventurous!  Octopus makes for really interesting presentation.

My son can juice a mean dozen lemons in no time flat, all the while craving a plate full of eggs and bacon, Reuben to follow with a healthy cheeseburger for dinner. Kids.  But he loves yogurt and berries.  Eats them most every day.  He simply doesn’t want them for every meal.

Hmph.  Salads and soups will only take your husband so far as well.  At some point, apparently he needs something more “meaty” to fill his belly. Go figure.  And he’s the one who needs to eat healthy!  Me?  I’m fit as a feline and every so finicky–I mean, feisty.  Feisty is what I am.  After all, I am the gardenfrisk! :)

On an important note:  When using a blender, do NOT stick your spoon inside while it’s blending to “help things along.”  Yes, you’re sure you have it under control, you know the length of your spoon, you can gauge the distance quite well, thank you but don’t do it.  And don’t–especially don’t–decide to school your daughter in the finer points of blending safety, advising her against doing what you’re doing, because of what “could” happen.  Guess what.  It does.

All over the kitchen. Last thing I wanted to do at that moment was clean a gooey mess.  Not when I was so looking forward to this Lemony Cheesecake my daughter was preparing, nor when I wanted to retire to the sofa.  Nope.  But life throws curve balls at you that way (or sprays them across your countertops, your clothing, your floor).  Then of course, there’s the husband, standing there, staring at you with that barely suppressed grin of his that says, ”that’s what you get for making me eat this stuff.” 

To his credit he laughed, made light of it with the kids–all at my expense, of course.  Lucky for him I’m a good-natured sort of gal or he’d have a heap of trouble on his hands!  The nerve of him.  And to think he implied he was counting the days until our raw challenge was over.  Like father like son…

Some of our successes?  (You mean, besides the 5 pounds I lost?) Our red sauce was excellent as was the Alfredo. 

The zucchini pasta needed to be spiraled for the illusion to be complete, though this passes for Pappardelle quite well, if you ask me.  Gazpacho made for a delightful summer soup.  Combined with a salad, it was definitely enough to satisfy my appetite. 

And this Asian style broccoli was another unexpected winner.  My daughter is a broccoli fan and chose to make this dish one night for dinner and the sauce was really good.  Had a nice spice to it.  We skipped the parsnip “rice” and enjoyed it as a side.

All in all would we do it again?  For a whole week?

Maybe not every dish, every day, but we did learn how easy it is to incorporate raw dishes into our normal diet for a healthy living lifestyle.  And healthy we do want to be!

Raw Diet–the Possibilites are Endless!

Time to free that body of yours from processed junk and rid your diet of enzyme destruction – yes, the raw challenge is here!  (Well, the menu suggestions are going up.) Challenge begins in 2 weeks.  Are you ready?

How about, “Why bother?”

Theory holds that heating foods to temperatures over 115 - 118 degrees Fahrenheit destroys enzymes necessary for a multitude of chemical processes that keep your body healthy. In fact, humans are the only animals that eat cooked foods.  Duh.  Who let Captain Obvious into the conversation? 

Theory goes further to distinguish between alkalizing foods (leafy green vegetables and fruits) and acidic foods (animal proteins, dairy, processed food and white flour and sugar).  Raw food purists believe that a raw diet keeps the body more alkaline, which allows blood to absorb more oxygen.  We’ll delve deeper into the differences between alkaline and acid foods on Friday’s post, but for now, we’re simply talking raw–for which there is a another difference–vegan (no meat or dairy) and simply raw (uncooked).

Me?  I’m no vegan.  I adore sushi and feel nothing goes better with yogurt than blueberries, so this menu of mine will include fish and dairy options.  Can anyone say ceviche?  One of my favorite words.  Besides, according to the dictionary, raw is defined as uncooked, not refined or processed.  I’d say we’re good to go!

Okay, now that you’re excited and your appetite’s tuned in, what else are we going to eat, besides glorious bowlfulls of sashimi and ceviche?  

Ah…  You’ve come to the right place.  The following is a sample menu offering suggestions for a full week’s worth of meals.  These are all gourmet delicacies in some form or fashion–or someone’s opinion, I should say–and have one thing in common:  they’re delicious!  Taste was an absolute pre-requisite for this undertaking set forth (in stone) by my husband.  And we do want to keep him happy, so after a thorough search of the internet, here’s the list:

Shall we start with dessert?  Always my first choice.  I don’t know about you, but calculating how much room you need to leave for dessert allows for efficient meal management at my house.

Nudie Foodie offers this decadent recipe for Chocolate Mousse and with your eyes closed, you’d never know the difference between this and traditionally made.  She makes a mean Coconut Cream Pie, too.  Uncooking 101 has a list of gorgeous dessert items, like this Swiss Apricot Tart and Caramel Fudge Brownies.  Prefer cookies?  How about taking a look at this Chocolate Chip recipe–it’s totally vegan.  Lemony Cheesecake anyone?  Simple fresh berries and whipped cream are always nice–just keep your cream organic and as natural as possible. 

For dinner, your options are equally tasty.  For easy solutions, salads are obviously your best bet.  No prep, no time, 100% healthy and raw.  But what if your family demands more?  (After you give them the “eye” and mini-lecture about all you do for them), offer some of these delicious alternatives:

Lasagna, Zucchini Alfredo, Eggplant Ravioli, Spinach Manicotti  — Of course I started with Italian because I’m a Venettacci.  While these are somewhat involved, an easier method for achieving the coveted Italian flavor would be to Julienne your zucchini/squash (aka ”raw” pasta) and smother it with a combination of crushed tomato, minced garlic, chopped onion, basil and olive oil. 

Tired of same old-same old?  How about some garden variety pesto?  Traditional pesto is made by combining (grounding to smithereens) basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic cloves, Parmesan and olive oil, but Southern Living magazine offers some wonderful spins on this classic–excellent alternatives for your “pasta” dishes. 

Not a fan of pasta?  Check out these recipes for Meatloaf, Chili and BBQ over at Awesome to be Rawesome!  In addition to these “meat” plates, they have a ton more recipes to choose from.  I do like a smorgasboard of options, don’t you?

Cold soups and salsa are a delightful way to consume your food raw, from my simple cucumber soup to this fancy gazpacho, you’ll enjoy every spoonful.  In fact, I plan to use my Cuisinart every day of this challenge to create carrot soup flavored with turmeric & ginger (discovered my kids like this combination), homemade humus and a spicy red pepper drizzle for my ceviche, compete with fresh avocado sides.   Mmmm…  Add a little black bean & mango salsa and lo and behold–it’s Carribbean night!  Pineapple, papaya…both would make wonderful variations.

I’ll bet you can’t WAIT to begin.  Well  hold on to your hat straps because we haven’t even discussed breakfast–the most important meal of the day!  Which is a tough one for me.  Unfortunately, my children do not eat anything remotely resembling fresh, raw and healthy for breakfast.  While I won’t go into the (embarrassing) details, let’s just put it this way:  this will be a tough sell in my household. 

However, smoothies of all flavors make for the perfect solution.  Blending berries, bananas and yogurt together will provide a healthy start for my kids and I’ve since learned, a great way to hide spinach.  Oh, yes…  If you opt for the darker shade of blueberries, the little ones will scarcely notice the color difference when blended together.  For more morning options, you might be interested in perusing the menu over at The Best of Raw Food.   As for my breakfast, I’ll stick with berries and yogurt topped with a bit of raw granola.

So there you have it.  With a plethora of choice at your keyboard fingertips, there’s NO excuse not to give the raw diet a whirl.  While we’ve offered a few suggestions, the websites above contain so many more delicious and nutritious recipes, you’ll eat to your heart’s content.  You’ll feel magnificent, look magnificent and who knows?  You might even go raw for good. 

Challenge begins June 13th, so get those shopping lists together and scour your local health food stores.  As you may have noticed, some of the “secret” ingredients to divine raw dining may not be available at your regular supermarket. 

Remember:  we want to hear about your experiences as we go raw together–so please, stop back and DO share! :)

Garden Bikini Bodies?

Yes, ladies, embrace the power of gardening.  Your body will thank you!

With spring in full sprint, I’ve been tilling my beds, amending my soil, planting my seeds, mulching my rows, and let me tell you–my muscles are looking good!  They don’t feel good, but they look good and if given the choice–I’ll take the latter, thank you very much.  I’d rather be fit, fantastic and forty than flabby, forgettable and *my age*. 

Who wouldn’t? And now I can finally fit into my shorts. My skinny shorts. 

What?  Don’t you have three sizes of clothes in your closet at all times?  I do.  They are:  skinny, normal, carrying a bit extra.  A girl has to have hope, doesn’t she? That one day she might fit back into those old clothes?  I mean, it’s no fun living in “realistic land” all the time.  Ugh.  And today, I can wear the slims!

You can, too–if you take up gardening–and replace that bothersome exercise bicycle (or relegate it to towel holder), because you’ll be getting all the exercise you need–and the vitamin D–from working in your garden.  In fact, keep it up through your golden years and you’ll be the picture of health.  You can even reach centenarian status!  It’s true.  Read an article about it in the newspaper. 

Of course staying fit also entails healthy eating choices–which you’ll have plenty to choose from in your garden.  Greens, reds, oranges, blues…  A veritable rainbow of delectables can be found at your fingertips.  Be sure to clean them first–and your veggies–else you die from some horrific parasite.  Not good.  Especially after all your hard work!

Believe me, after a while, you’ll feel stronger, have more energy, and you’ll look great.  And when you run out of rows to hoe, toss some wildflower seed around your garden.  It’s easy to do (put a check mark in the “can do” column!) and the scenery will do wonders for your state of mind.  And isn’t that half the battle?

Life is hard enough without a little beauty to appease our senses, soothe our frazzled minds, as we stop and smell the roses, so to speak.  I know “they” say attitude is everything, but when your positive attitude cap is drenched in sweat, your muscles fatigued, your back aching and your throat tight and dry, take a water break and enjoy the view. 

Sometimes ambiance makes all the difference in the world. :)

Potatoes for St. Patty’s Day

I don’t know about you, but when I think about potatoes, I think Irish.  Not because the potato is from Ireland, it’s not.  It’s origin is South America.  Wasn’t until the 1780′s the Irish even accepted the crop for widespread consumption. Most believed the ugly tubers to be poisonous, or evil.  Suspicious in the least. 

But once they had a belly full, the Irish knew a good thing when they tasted it!  Made it a downright major staple in their diet.  And that’s when the trouble hit. 

About a 100 years later, a blanket of blight killed off fields of potatoes during the great Irish Potato Famine.  But the Irish are a hearty breed (knew there was something about those Irish I liked!–besides their merry outlook, that is) and they survived, proving stronger and better than ever.  And they still love their potatoes.

As do I.  Potatoes are easy grow.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look at this fellow bursting free from the compost pile.  A real beauty and I had nothing to do with bringing him into this world.  Gotta love an easygoing plant.

Kids love potatoes, too.  They like to plant them, harvest them and they love to eat them–so long as they’re dished out in the proper form.  At our house, we make healthy potato chips and fries which seems to satisfy most days, though mashed and boiled work, too.  My son helped me plant this row.  (Don’t ask me how those two “rogue” plants ended up outside the perimeter of my organized potato row–that’s one of the mysteries when planting with kids.)  Plants end up in the strangest of places, don’t they?

Those wires you see are my protection plan in the case of frost.  Planting potatoes in January is tricky business and can place your babies in jeopardy.  This way, if the temperature dips, I can easily place a lightweight blanket over top of these wire “frames” (9 gauge wire from hardware store) and prevent the frost from killing them off.   Works like a charm

If you have limited outdoor space, you’re in luck (luck of the Irish!).  This garden center has designed the most ingenious method for growing potatoes–perfect for you city bound folk.  Meet the potato box!  Potatoes have an upward growth habit and if you continually mound them with dirt, you’ll increase your bounty, tenfold.

Me, I’ll stick with my in ground garden.  I like to meander through the rows and admire Mother Nature in action.  Besides, I don’t think my husband would look to kindly upon enormous amounts of black dirt anywhere near the patio.  Sure he likes his pressure washer, he just doesn’t enjoy “avoidable” mess.  Hmph.  Does he not see the joy in crafting another super-duper garden project? 

Note on planting:  be sure to “stagger” your planting dates, planting a batch today, next batch in 10 days, next batch a week or so later…   In the foreground of this picture is my latest section which has yet to sprout.  The ones in mid-field are mid-size and those in the back are a foot high and have already been “mounded” with more dirt.  The stakes provide a “visual” marker for me to distinguish the sections by “date planted.”   I’m a visual kind of gal, and besides, it does wonders to help coordinate with my Excel program.  (My version of a garden journal.)

Remember, planting ALL your potatoes at the same time will practically guarantee the dreaded whine, “Potatoes for dinner?  Again?”

As Master Chef in our household, I’ve banned the response.  In fact, there will be no complaints about dinner–until you’ve tasted it.  Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll discuss withdrawing it from the menu.