healthy

Food for Heart

As I age, I find I’m riddled with aches and pains. And I’m stumped. What the heck happened? I look like I’m in shape. I eat healthy. I exercise. What’s going on?

Blueberry & yogurt stock photo

My first impulse is to scream and whine and jump up and down, screeching “This isn’t fair! I’m too young for this!” While I might feel better afterward, my family would be peer at me quizzically whispering, “She’s done it. She’s finally gone over the edge.”

Hmph. So much for sympathy from the ones who love me.  On a positive note, it would behoove me to remember that aches and pains and old age beat the alternative. I’m alive. I’m having a good time. So what if I have to bend over and stretch every now again (careful–the lower back discs can’t take too much of it) or slowly ease my way out of bed in the morning (so I don’t pull something on the way out). Once I get warmed up, I’m good to go, ready to hit the ground running!

But with age, I feel I’m growing in wisdom. Granted this is a highly debatable subject among my inner circle but I’m going to ignore debate and share a little secret. Eating healthy is a mindset. It’s an attitude, one that seeps into your behavior and becomes your lifestyle. I never feel deprived, I never go without–eating the occasional danish helps, the surprise donut from hubby–but sometimes I find myself asking, “Can I do more?” More

Back to School and Into the Garden!

School is back in session and it’s time to get our youngsters out of the cafeteria and into the garden–their very own school garden.

From aphids to zinnias, beets to watermelon, children can gain a wealth of valuable knowledge from participating in a garden, but they need guidance.  And who better to guide them than you?

ladybug in action!

“Me? But I don’t have time for a garden.”

Of course you do—you simply don’t realize it yet!  Gardens don’t have to be time-consuming.  Nor do they have to be stressful.  I mean, where in the garden manual does it say you must sacrifice every ounce of your free time and sanity for the sake of growing vegetables? More

Ever Juiced a Carrot?

We bought a Jack LaLanne juicer a few years back to make the most of our garden.  While there are a wide variety of juicers on the market, we chose this brand for no other reason than the commercials stuck in my head.  Besides, Jack was a fit guy, a motivational sort and I thought, if it worked for him it can work for us!

close up carrot juicing

It does, but so do most of them.  And healthy doesn’t begin to describe a life of juicing.  You’ll be infused with energy, discover a spring in your step (probably because you’ll be pounds lighter!), your complexion will be brighter, your skin luminous–what’s not to like?  Actually, the hardest part about the juicing lifestyle for me is the clean up.  I know, I know….wah.  But truthfully, juicing is so simple and makes great use of your harvest, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to start.

juicing carrots

My daughter enjoys juicing, so long as I handle the mess.  (See what I mean?)  She finds it easy and fun though I’ll warn you, before you pull out that juicer, harvest a lot of carrots, or spinach, strawberries–whatever it is that you want to juice, because you’re going to need a bunch of it. More

Justin Has Carrots!

WOW.  Justin has carrots!   Checking a few, he realized they were ready and his wife Eyry said, “Harvest them ALL!”

 Juicer, anyone?  It is the new rage….  But are they gorgeous, or what?  Have you not grown carrots?

Easy, simple, and oh-so-delicious!  Now at our house, especially this time of year, we tend to shred these babies into the fluffiest carrot cake you’d ever want to sink your teeth into– and while not as healthy as carrot juice, it’s DIVINE.  Trust me.  Check recipe here.

But if you’re not harvesting carrots like Justin, fret not–it’s not too late.  Haven’t you heard?  Spring is around the corner and BloominThyme is gearing up for the festivities!  So stay tuned….we’re diggin’ in for the adventure!

Get Out and Get Your Berries!

It’s that time of year again, when the strawberries are calling your name.  From Plant City, Florida to your local grocery store, the filed up the road or the guy on the corner making your purchase all the more convenient, it’s time to get your strawberries.  And here in Central Florida, it’s a beautiful time to get outside and get pickin’…

We go to our area strawberry farm, Oak Haven.  They have plenty of u-pick hours for the kids to race down the rows (only kidding–they prefer you don’t run :)), a country kitchen open on the weekends, serving up the best strawberry shakes and now, strawberry wine.  Ah….  Fun for the whole family!

Out back, they also have a playground and zip line (of sorts).  Definitely a place to check out if you’re looking for something fun to do.  And speaking of great country fun, the Plant City Strawberry Festival is opening its doors THIS week.  From February 28 – March 10, stop by and enjoy fresh strawberries, strawberry shortcake, petting zoo, garden shows and live music from some of the hottest names in country!

 So if you’re not growing strawberries in your garden this year, don’t dismay.  There’s plenty to choose from out there.  For a strawberry farm in your area, check the website Pick Your Own.  This is a GREAT resource for everything fruits and vegetables.  It’s a BloominThyme favorite!  For recipes to highlight your bounty, how about a little Strawberry Goat Cheese SaladJuicing? Maybe the kids would like to give their favorite teacher a sweet giftStrawberry cupcakes always sound good around my household. 

But no matter how you like your strawberries, get outdoors and enjoy the season.  Blueberry pickin’ will be here before you know it!!

Dirty Dozen

You’ve all heard of the dirty dozen, right?  Not to be confused with Dirty Harry (though my mother would plant him in her garden, if she could!).  These are the top twelve fruits and vegetables known for being laden with pesticides and fungicides.  Unfortunately, my favorite “Granny Smith” tops the list every year. 

Apples.  The number one offender when it comes to toxic residue.  According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), the group who publishes the list every year, it’s believed “more pesticides and fungicides are being applied after the harvest so the fruit can have a longer shelf life.”  Huh.  Well who’d a thunk it.  Yet another reason to grow your own.  That’s what the kids think, anyway.  This week we chased caterpillars from the garden and talked pesticide.  Organic pesticide.

The little boy looked up at me in horror.  “You want me to squish it?” More

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!