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!

Time to Harvest the Carrots!

Talk about exciting days in the garden, the kids have been waiting a LONG time for this day.  It’s time to harvest the carrots! Not only are there plenty of carrots to go around–one for you, one for you, one for you–but these kids remember the carrot cake we made from our last batch and their tongues are wagging.  Mm…  Fluffy and oh-so-yummy!

Yep.  These guys and gals would like nothing more than to feast on some more carrot cake and cream cheese frosting, but this time how about we try something different?  WHAT?  No carrot cake? 

Ah, c’mon. Now that would be just plain crazy talk.  How about a little bit of both?  Carrot juice to go with that cake, anyone?

Start grabbing carrots!  But hey–what happened to the rest of mine?

And why is my carrot so funky looking?

Hm.  Interesting.  As experienced gardeners, we know that carrots like soft beds of dirt.  All plants prefer soft dirt!  It allows their roots to grow nice and deep.  Since carrots are actually the “roots,” they try to grow nice and deep, which gives them the pretty cone-shaped appearance we’ve come to know and love. 

If the dirt is too packed?  It’s hard.  And hard dirt is “hard” for a carrot to push through as they grow.  Ah-ha!  No wonder they couldn’t grow deep.  True.  Could have been a rock or something.  But our carrots are strong-willed (like many of us children) and are determined to continue growing.  If they can’t go down?  They’ll go sideways.  Yep.  Or they’ll pour all their energy into growing wider.

But with spring break bouncing in our way this month, the kids will have a lesson in “delayed gratification.”  No fun, I know.  But definitely a fact of life.  So how will we store them until our return?

I’m glad you asked.  One of the easiest ways to store carrots (without losing half your refrigerator space) is to layer them in damp sand–sawdust will work, too!  Find a bin, box or even plastic bucket and gather (aka: purchase) your sand. 

Choosing only your best carrots, clip the greens about an inch away from the carrot end and layer them  within the damp sand/sawdust. 

Couple of things to keep in mind:  if you plan to store these long-term, choose a dark space where it remains somewhat cool.   For many of my Arctic Amigos, this will be a root cellar.  But warm region folks like us will need to find a dark corner in our garage or garden shed.  One of the keys to this storage system is to keep the “filler” sand damp throughout the length of your storage.  Now we’ll only need to store ours for a couple of weeks, but it sure was fun to learn how to keep them longer if we needed! 🙂  Knowledge = fun

Also, standing your carrots upright and sifting the sand/sawdust over and around them will help when it comes time to use them.  Simply pluck and pull! 

Wunderbar.  Now start dreaming of that carrot cake!  It’s not so very far away…

Zucchini and Squash a plenty!


Nothing says summer like zucchini and squash.   Warm weather, plenty of water and you’ll have more zucchini and squash than you know what to do with!   My son and I went out to harvest last evening and boy did we find some doozies.  Always eager to rummage through the plants, he was eager to pull and pick and beam with pleasure over a job well done.  When he found this fat boy he could barely contain himself.  “Look at this one, mom!  It’s a monster!”

While I don’t like to equate my beautiful produce with monsters, I had to agree with him.  

Apparently I missed this one on my evening stroll the evening before, otherwise I would have grabbed it.  Something tells me you’re not supposed to let them grow this large — might toughen the taste — but since I’m no expert and don’t know for sure, I oohed and aahed like any good mother would.   “Wow.   See what you grew?”  Any encouragement while he’s in the garden is a good idea, as it helps overcome the protests to weeding.  “How awesome!” 

Pleased with himself, he continued his harvest and filled his basket.  Note of caution: when harvesting zucchini, be careful of sharp objects, namely fingernails.  Adjusting my zucchini and squash in the basket for photos, I must have scarred my harvest a dozen times.   (Who knew?)

Now, YOU do.  Go easy on the squash family.  You’ll be glad you did. 

“One more thing,” I told him.  “We need more peppers for Daddy.”

Taking the corner with skill and speed (the kind that makes me nervous when zipping down garden aisles),  he was distracted by a ripe cucumber.  “Hey Mom, the cucumbers are ready!”  Without hesitation, he yanked it from the vine and held it out for my inspection. 

“You’re getting pretty good at this harvest thing, aren’t  you?”

Of course he was, and with an added boost to his measure, he pulled out another one.  When  I saw him heading for a large cucumber still half ripe, I warned him off.  “That one’s not ready, yet.”

He turned and looked at me queerly.  “I know that.  It’s still yellow.”

I smiled.  Of course.  I should have known.  When a child spends a lot of time in the garden, they come to understand these things.  My kids can even recognize plants by their leaves.  Some plants are easy, like corn and watermelon, but while tomatoes and potatoes resemble one another, they are different and my two can tell the difference.  It makes a momma proud.

Collecting the last of our wax peppers, we headed into the house, specifically the kitchen.  Tonight would be busy.  My daughter was making homemade chocolate frosting; a recipe she found while perusing a magazine at the dentist’s office.  When the hygienist called her back, I was given the assignment to copy down the recipe and NOT miss a word.  “I want to make that tonight!” 

Of course you do, I thought, praying she wouldn’t come back with a cavity report, dutifully following my instructions.  And what do you know, half hour later, recipe securely copied into my iphone, both children came back cavity-free.   Do the ironies ever cease?

So she made her frosting, I tried a new recipe from my Cuisine at Home magazine for Onions au Gratin (which was fabulous), and we sautéed our fresh zucchini alongside the chicken strips.  Does it get any better?