Archive for the ‘Curiosity’ Category

Life With Green Smoothie

Sometime in November my daughter, Jenni, told me how she was making green smoothies every morning.  The idea struck a chord with me and within days I, too, was on the green smoothie wagon.  What’s a green smoothie you ask?  Basically it is a combination of fruit and raw vegetables blended into a drink.  It’s different from juicing because you drink the whole fruit or vegetable, no pulp ejection.  This takes a Vita Mix or a Blendtex blender, something that runs at jet engine speed.

I had a Vita Mix which I always referred to as a glorified smoothie machine.  I said this in some disgust as it’s expensive and had mostly sat in the cupboard for the last 15 years.  As my passion for smoothies increased it took a place on the counter and the Kitchen-Aid mixer was put away.  (Some of you may recall my love of bread making, so this was a statement of intent to change my obsessions.)

I wanted some ideas about fruits and vegetables to combine so I bought a book by Green Smoothie Girl.  Without knowing it I was on my way to Life With Green Smoothie.  I signed up for her blog and watched a few YouTube videos.  Neil (my husband) made a great dessert with chia seeds from one of her recipes, I was researching super foods and the blender was in daily use.  This was fun!

Then the pitch came for a 21 day detox.  I ‘stared’ the email and would periodically reread it.  December was passing and I was thinking about losing those pounds I talked about last January.  A few days after Christmas I took the plunge and when January 2nd came my first day began.  Neil decided to go along for the ride since eating around the house was going to have a definite shift.  So to prepare for the event I gave away the last of my beloved fruit cake, off-loaded the remaining short bread cookies, froze the last of my bread, and fed the worms many delights that just weren’t going to be eaten.  Last, I bought a bunch of tea and put all the wine downstairs.

The first week was a prep week before the official 21 days began.  We could add in some cooked food if we wanted.  The basic idea was a smoothie each morning, a smoothie at lunch, and for dinner a salad and a blended soup (cold).  Not being one to confine myself to a rigid eating routine, I took certain liberties in this first week – a few tablespoons of smoked salmon in my salad, a chicken sausage, or a hot soup made in the blender.  The last night we had fish, quinoa, and a cooked vegetable.  Living large!

I did decide to make three commitments: no eating after 8:00 pm, only a smoothie for the morning meal, and to eat only when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.  It’s hard to drink volumes of smoothie or eat lots of salad so most nights I went to bed feeling hungry.

The official first day came – it was a 24 hour fast.  I’m glad I miscalculated which day it would be.  When I swiped the page (I have the menus on my Ipad in Good Reader) there is was and I had no chance to hem and haw about going ahead.  We made it through the fast ready to eat that first great smoothie – honeydew melon and spinach.  When you’re hungry the first few sips are fabulous.  It’s only when you’ve finished and your teeth are longing for something to chew that dissatisfaction sets in.

The menu hasn’t changed much this first week.  Generally smoothies for morning and midday meal and something different for dinner.  Can one call this dinner, another smoothie and a salad?  Being the rebel I am I change it up.  As in today we were getting a chili – blended tomatoes and vegetables on chopped tomato and vegetables.  I skipped this and had a salad.  There are challenge days of just smoothies.  One this week, three next week.  I don’t know about the last week, I don’t want to look.

Week two starts tomorrow.  I broke rank tonight and made quinoa, spicy tofu, and cooked kale.  Oh, here’s an interesting fact: raw kale lowers thyroid function.  I’d been living on kale as my go-to green for my previous month of smoothies.  Then I had a blood test and found out I have low thyroid function.  My Naturopath said no more raw brassicas (broccoli, kale, rapini) all the greens I had been using with the certainty I was doing my body so much good.  Therefore, the cooked kale for dinner tonight.  I just hadn’t stopped buying kale when I went shopping.

How do I feel?  The up side: I feel good!  I’m losing weight.  I would hope so since going to bed hungry should merit something. The meal prep has novelty.   It’s interesting to eat food combinations I would never think of.  Salad dressing made with a base of blueberries, quite tasty.  The night we made a salad dressing with tahini I couldn’t remember it ever tasting so good.

The down side: I’m bored.  I love to cook and this need is not being met.  Tonight when Neil asked me to make spicy tofu I jumped at the chance to combine a few ingredients and just use the stove.

What’s a foodie to do? One night I searched the internet for interesting vegetarian recipes and put them in my new, totally cool recipe app, I finally made sauerkraut from the cabbage I harvested in Fall, and I’m growing microgreens in my spare bedroom closet.  I may not be doing much cooking, but food is still in my life.

An unexpected challenge, remembering to drink water.  One more liquid just slips my mind.  Last night I was seriously dehydrated.  So I’m changing my ways and drinking more.  I like it hot and often with lemon.

How do I reward myself?    I drink tea.  My favorite is the chocolate hazelnut.  It’s decaf and I drink it with a small amount of cream.  It’s my dessert or a mid-morning treat.  (The cream is left over from Christmas baking.  I just couldn’t throw it out.)  It’s just enough off the plan to feel special, it’s warm, and has fat.  Small pleasures can go along way!

I can see eating this way as a basic plan, but I never intended to become a raw ‘foodist‘, a vegan, or even a vegetarian.  I love cheese, milk in my tea, and I doubt I will stop eating fish and chicken all together.   I’m still a ‘foodie’ at heart who loves complex recipes and lots of challenge.  Oh, a piece of bread pleaseeeeeee.

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Vegetables Come From the Store

Growing up I never questioned where vegetables came from.  I didn’t believed they grew at the grocery store, they just came from the store.  It wasn’t until I was a young teen that this unconscious belief came to light.  My family home in San Diego was large and mostly filled the city lot it was situated on.  There was a very small front yard hidden from the street by bushy plantings (great for finding lizards), a small side yard that we eventually made into a covered patio, and a small back yard.  The back yard was an oval patch of hopeless grass surrounded by a border that grew plants that needed no care.  I know this because no cared for them.  I used the dirt area around the lawn to bury my animals and on a few occasions watered the lawn hoping it would become green.  The lawn never responded.  Mostly the back yard was a place where my sister and I laid out to tan ourselves, and my brother keep a land turtle and later an iguana.

One summer my mother grew a tomato, a pepper and an eggplant.  I only noticed her project when the fruit began to ripen.  I found her one afternoon tending her plants and probably asked what they were.  This was my ‘aha’ moment.  Vegetables came from the earth and someone was growing them.

‘Duh’ you say and so do I now, but not then.  I had never considered this.  It isn’t that I was a book worm with my head buried in pages, or so dreamy I only noticed the clouds.  I picked red hibiscus flowers to feed the iguana, I ran the street barefoot, picked mint and caterpillars from the side yard before it became cement, and went to the egg lady’s house in the country when an Easter duckling was no longer a prized pet and needed a new home desperately.  The origin of vegetables had just slipped my awareness.

This memory stays with me.  I wonder if it is the beginning of my fascination with growing plants.  There were many years from that moment till I grew my first vegetables.  I was married and living in Sonoma County in Northern California.  We lived on a Poled Hereford ranch in the old foreman’s house.  The soil was fabulous.  I didn’t really know this at the time.  It is only in hindsight and lots of experience with not so great soil that I realize what I had that first year.  I planted a six pack of cabbages in late January and by March they were huge.  I didn’t like cabbage and so I gave them away.  I also planted some tomato plants.  One morning I found the tomatoes limp and no amount of watering would make them right.  I went to the vegetable stand where I bought them and asked what had happened.  They told we’d had a frost and that’s why they were dead.  I wanted to know why they would sell them if this could happen.  They gave me new plants for free. I imagine out of compassion for my ignorance.  So I learned about frosts.  San Diego never gets colder than about 50 degrees, frosts were not in my experience

After that first taste I wanted more.   We moved to a small cabin in the redwoods.  My husband, Bill, built me a small green house in the only cleared level space we had.  I started my tomato plants.  I had been reading about compost.  I knew there was great composted soil right under the big redwoods and used that for my plants.  They grew to 2″ and stopped.  After research I learned that tomatoes can’t grow in the acidic soil around redwoods.  All plants have a PH range in which they can grow and most vegetables want soil in the middle ranges.  Not to be deterred,  I read more and learned that worm castings is the crown jewel of planting soil.  We found a source nearby and took truckloads back to our house.  We build some cold frames from wood and old windows and I moved my tomato plants.  They began to grow.  They grew and grew and became so leggy they couldn’t stand up.  A new lesson, plants need to have seasonal highs and lows to grow well and not the high heat of a cold frame followed by the cold of night.  I put in a veggie garden in the only patch that got almost enough light.  It went ok.  I started a compost pile and tended it with care.  When Bill and I separated I took my compost and weeks later took the bin too.  I was getting attached to growing.

Through the years I planted gardens when I could.  I moved back to San Diego and put in a garden.  My dad helped me turn the soil.  We were both so excited.  He told me how he had always wanted to grow tomatoes (secret life of parents).  My tomato plants grew lush and green but not one tomato.  Why???  It turns out that when you live by the ocean the summer weather is too cool for tomatoes.  My dad and I were so disappointed but my education continued.

When we moved to Oregon the house we bought had a large garden space.  I was itching to get started.  The previous owner helped me draw up a grid and plot my garden – 25′ X 50′.  I bought a 24′ greenhouse on impulse.  I lost lots of sleep worrying that I didn’t know what I was doing.  That year I planted a packet of basil and several packets of tomatoes.  Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Soloman was my bible.  I carried it everywhere.  I found my way to Portland Nursery.  I wanted to know if they would have the tomatoes I was growing in case my starts failed.  Talking with the plant buyer he wasn’t sure; as they bought from local growers and it would depend on what they planted.  I went home and tended my new plants.  As they grew and I potted them into 4″ pots, I realized I was a local grower.  That year I sold Portland Nursery basil, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.  I sold cut basil to Marco’s my local restaurant.  I was trilled with my success.

I loved driving across the river with my car filled with flats of green plants.  I was in an ocean of green, just another sprout among many.  One year I decided to really go for it.  I filled and emptied the greenhouse three times.  I drove plants weekly.  In the end I probably grew 1500 tomatoes, 500 peppers and eggplants, and lots of basil.  I grew pansies too, but they were covered in aphids and too leggy to sell.  I planted them in a newly turned bed.  When I did my accounting I realized I had paid for my expenses but not my time.  My career selling plants came to an end.

Plants under grow lights

One year after buying a new indoor growing system I grew about 900 plants to pay for it.  I sold these to friends and Langdown Nursery and then planted all the extras that I had.  My beds were filled with lots of peppers and eggplants.  Now I grow mostly for myself with a few extras to sell.  I still thrill to see the seeds sprout and bear their first true leaves.

Tomato with first flowers

I like to transplant them into their larger homes for planting out later.  Each year I experiment with new varieties but also stay true to old favorites.  If I had the room and the help I would plant hundreds of different varieties.  Neil, my husband and occasional helpmate, has asked me if there is ever enough plants?  I don’t think so.  This year I am trying cowpots, four inch containers formed from sterilized cow manure.  I like the idea of not using plastic and planting plant, pot and all.  I’ve learned that the down side of plantable containers is that when the pots are close together in a growing situation they can form mold.  I’m still learning.

So now I know – vegetables do come from the store, but they come from growers first.  Want to be a local grower?

Sweet pepper in bloom

Indian Broccoli Soup

Here is Vidhya’s famous Indian broccoli soup

  • 1 small cinnamon stick broken into smaller pieces
  • 1 bay leaf broken
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1 tsp Rasam powder (unless you are seriously interested in Indian cooking, buy in an Indian grocery)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed (regular, not Lucknow)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 5 Thai green chilies minced
  • 1 bell pepper chopped (I prefer red, but green is fine)
  • 1 1/2 # broccoli florets
  • Up to a gallon of water (depending on consistency desired and heat of chillies)
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp cream
  • 2 basil sprigs

Heat a heavy pot till you cannot hold your hand over the surface for more than 5 seconds.  Add the spices (cinnamon through pepper) and dry roast till aroma is released.  Just a minute or less.  Immediately add the oil.  Saute the onion, garlic, and green chile till soft and lightly golden.  Add the bell pepper and saute for 1 -2 minutes then add the broccoli and mix to lightly infuse with the spices.  Add water and cook till broccoli is soft.  Add cream (Substitute coconut milk or fresh canned corn for a non dairy version.  Trader Joe’s is preferred.)  Add basil and adjust seasoning.   Put in a blender and blend till smooth.

Note:  The amount of water is to help adjust chile spice level as well as consistency.  If your chilies are quite hot you might use fewer or not use the seeds in all of them.

On The Edge

Ever start an endeavor and in the process feel that you are hanging on the edge of your comfort zone?  You see yourself standing at a precipice and wonder if you’ll make it, or the vision of the cat hanging by its claws comes to mind.   There have been several times in my life when I have felt myself in this place.

In 1968 I traveled to Europe with a one way ticket, very little money, and after many months of travel I found myself in Algeria.  America and Algeria had broken off diplomatic relations, the American ambassador was living in the Swiss embassy and left the country before I did.  There were armed men on many corners of the city, and the social structure of the country was in transition as this was only six years after their war of independence.  I stayed for three months living on the generosity of many people but my presence in the county was always on shaky ground and anyone who helped me was taking a risk.  I worried for their safety and mine.  There were a few days when I lay curled in a fetal position and wondered how this was going to turn out and if I would ever get back to the US.  Being on the edge taught about my strengths in the face of uncertainty.  Another memory is the birth of my son, Kris.  He was breach.  Most doctors wanted to do a C-section with a first time breach birth but I was determined to have a natural birth without drugs.  I finally found a doctor at my due date whom I trusted.  When I went into labor he was out of town and I would have his replacement.  We meet when I was eight centimeters dilated.  This was not a time to build a relationship and so when the contractions intensified I knew I was on my own.  I remember how the contractions built and as I would get to the top it seemed like riding a huge wave.  I felt stretched to my limit and there I teetering on the edge. Each time I wondered if I could keep relaxing, not resist, and let the wave pass.  Birthing is like flying on the edge – one big surrender.

Some times the situation doesn’t have the visual drama of these two, yet the sense of being on the edge is still quite real.  In the last years this experience has come when I’m experimenting with fermented food.  The worry arises that I will grow botulism and kill either myself or many people.  Botulism is tasteless, odorless, and has no color.  It only grows in an alkaline environment which is why canning green beans has been the culprit throughout the ages.  If you don’t pressure can the beans they can grow this deadly toxin.  I only can acidic vegetable and freeze the rest of my produce from my garden for just this reason.

Then I decided to make sauerkraut, pickles, and my latest project:  Kombucha tea.  These are all acidic based foods and should not trigger my propensity to worry or my inclination to become excessively informed.  But just the thought that something this lethal might happen can get me fretting and losing sleep.  On some occasions I’ve just thrown my efforts away and started over when I wasn’t sure it was ok, or spent considerable time talking to someone whom I consider an authority to find reassurance.  To date, my sauerkraut and dill pickles are a success and a family favorite.  So I’ve calmed down in regards to these foods.

With those successes one would think that I would have confidence to forge ahead when I decided to make my own Kombucha tea, but the nagging concerns still linger:  might I screw this up and make everyone sick?  I combed the web reading numerous accounts of home brewing.  I liked the sites that had great pictures and descriptions of what to expect at every stage.  I tried to find a SCOBY (Serendipitous Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) from local sources but eventually bought one and a brewing system from HappyHerbalist.  I like to know I’m starting with the greatest chance of success.  They sent an 80 page booklet on Kombucha as well, so I was sure any question I had would be addressed.

Right away there were ambiguities in the instructions which caused doubt.  Then my spigot on the brewing container started to leak and I had to disturbed my mushroom as I solved the problem.  One instruction is to not disturb the mushroom (I’d stuck my hand in the brew while fixing the leak).  My mushroom sank to the bottom of the container and I thought it had self destructed.  I took pictures of the surface of my brew, ready to send them off for confirmation that it was OK.  “I don’t think that’s mold but what’s the white stuff?”  I watched more YouTube videos.  I saw the cavalier way that some made their tea and thought, “Anyone can and IS doing this, why do I think I’m failing?”  I bought PH test strips and sought advise at a local beer brewing store.  The guy there was the type of individual who just dives in and never worries.  He didn’t brew Kombucha, but I envied his fearlessness.  At the point where I felt certain I was destined to start over everything turned around.  My mushroom resurfaced, the PH was in the right range, and the smell was semi-sweet with a cider aroma.

My biggest problem now was being patient enough to allow it to fully brew.  In the mean time I connected with a friend who I hadn’t seen for many months.  I told her of my latest adventure and she pulled out her bottle of Kombucha and said she had been brewing for about 8 months.  She wasn’t dead! She came over with a new SCOBY just in case I needed to start afresh and checked my brew.  I love it when I’m in the dark and feeling on the edge and someone shows up to offer a helping hand.  She confirmed that all looked well.  I used her SCOBY to start a second batch.

Several batches later I’m in full production.  I have a continuous brew and a single brew batch.  The benefit of a continuous brew is that the beneficial attributes of a long brew cycle develop and each day I can take off enough to drink.  I like to add flavor to my Kombucha so I do what’s called a secondary fermentation.  I add blueberries, mango, or ginger juice to a container of Kombucha tea and allow it to sit at room temperature for a few days in an airless bottle.  This infuses the Kombucha with that flavor and develops carbonation.

Do I sound confident?  I am, but I still check the PH on every batch just to be sure.  I love making and drinking Kombucha tea.  My friend Susan decided to make Kombucha after reading my post, Foodies Dilemma – Third Update.  I gave her a SCOBY and we are weathering her ups and downs as she closes in on her first successful batch.  If you’re interested and want a little hand holding I’m here for you too.

There are lots of situations where we can feel on the edge.  Sometimes in retrospect it seems foolish to have been so concerned and other times we realize we might never have done that if we’d had any idea of what we were in for.  For me, I tend to jump in and then worry.  This is just my mode of operation.  I’m not going to be different until I am – accept ‘what is’ as if I chose it. I can see my new resolution is perfect here too.

Is standing on the edge scary? Yes, and things don’t always turn out the way we would like.  But I figure if I don’t walk to that edge sometimes, I just might miss a great view.  As always, I’d love to hear your story.  Make a comment and tell me about the times when you’ve felt – on the edge.

Foodies Dilemma – third update

This may be my last update on this subject as I am changing my perspective.  But here’s what has been happening since I last checked in.

  • I have been drinking Kombucha tea and found my body really likes it.

This is funny as the first time I tried it I immediately returned it to the store and said I thought it had gone bad.  This was in spite of the statement on the label saying it has a somewhat fermented taste.  I was convinced that what I was drinking was way beyond fermented.  Sometimes I’m just not ready for something new.  Months later I tried it again.  I bought GT’s Gingeraid.  Love at first sip.  For two months I drank a 16 oz bottle a day.  This is expensive!  The best price I found was New Season’s if I bought it by the case (which I did).  Many cases later, I now brew it myself.  I’ll tell you about that adventure in another post.

  • I stopped eating bread and drinking wine for about two weeks.

The Kombucha tea diminished my desire for these things.  I still made bread.  Strange as this may seem, my love of bread making is entirely separate from my love of eating it.

  • There was a sneaky beckoning moment.

As my body was releasing it’s wish for grain (I wasn’t having any grains – a la South Beach Diet) I bought a Costco size box of cereal for Neil, my husband.  When I considered this purchase later I realized I got it because of my own desire for wheat.  I didn’t eat it.  Sneaky stuff, those wheat taste buds.  I confess, there was a day or two when I told Neil to keep a wide berth as I was a little testy.

  • I have cut way back on my tea consumption and only drink coffee occasionally.

I think this is the Kombucha tea again.  What I long for in the morning when I get up is energy.  Most mornings I teach a 9:00 AM yoga class and don’t eat until after at 11 AM.  So I want energy but not much in my stomach.  Kombucha tea satisfies this need for energy without the jolt of black tea.  In the listed benefits of Kombucha tea it is consider an energy boaster and supports appetite and weight control.

  • I am drinking half my body weight in water (ounces of course).

It became obvious that my body was detoxing.  I had a spell of dizziness and some lymph nodes that were tender.  The water helps to flush everything out.  I switched from my filtered water to Kangen water.  This is still a mystery to me but it may be helping as well.  Check it out yourself.  I also took some chinese herbs that Dr. Marilyn Walkey gave me.  So nice to have support when I need it.  I’m keeping this habit.

  • My drive to lose weight has changed.  I have taken on the resolution to accept ‘what is’ as if I chose it”.

What is true is I have this body and I really appreciate how its supports me in all that I wish to endeavor.  Wanting to lose weight appeals to me but it in itself will not meet my need for happiness.  I am pursuing a mindful path of eating which includes eating bread, drinking wine, and having black tea.  Right now I have this body – I’m choosing it.  If I lose weight, I’ll chose that body.  The main idea is to not believe that the next moment will be better than this moment.  I am thinking of Ram Dass “Be Here Now”.

  • I’m happy.

Foodies Dilemma – second update

Foods that BECKON.  What I’m learning.

  • Beckoning foods come in many disguises.  It’s the extra bites I find hard to resist.

Case in point.  I left the extra cheese I cut when I realized it was more than I was hungry for.  I didn’t do so well when I took the second piece of freshly made sour dough bread.  I happily cut the second slice off and dipped it in olive oil.  Half way through I knew I should stop.  I didn’t.

  • Beckoning foods aren’t always high calorie foods.  There are secret triggers.

I was in New Seasons the other day.  I walked by the meat department and was snagged by a small pork roast.  They looked so cute all bundled up in their little net coats.  This one was labeled ‘Tuscan Pork Roast’.  I asked the man what made it Tuscan.  He said it was a leg roast that was butterflied and stuffed with roasted garlic and other spices.  In brain-time, almost below awareness, memories and thoughts flashed.  I remembered Italy this summer – carefree days and good food.  The pork roasts my mother made that were succulent, juicy.  The applesauce we had with them. My curiosity about how to butterfly a piece of meat.  Knowing my husband who doesn’t eat pork wouldn’t be home for dinner.  I bought half of one.
When it was finally cooked I was so hungry.  I had a lot of anticipation.  It was tasty but I soon realized I really didn’t want it.  It was too heavy in my stomach.  I wrapped it up, put it in the refrigerator, but know I won’t eat any more.  I thought about cutting it up and giving it to my dog Henry.  I don’t think it will be good for him.  Now I think I’ll bury it in the backyard in a deep hole.  Let the earth creatures enjoy.

Cautions around beckoning foods

  • It’s cute
  • It’s little
  • You are reminded of another time (sunny, warm (it’s winter now), good times)
  • It’s a cuisine you like
  • A childhood memory lingers in the background
  • If you’re a cook it may be prepared in a way that intrigues you
  • It’s an indulgence, you wouldn’t normally eat this food

As I ponder all the thoughts and memories I had around that one little piece of meat, I realize what a maze of hidden agendas food shopping and eating can be.  With so many choices my memory banks must go crazy as I walk through a food store.  I can understand why some cultures just eat the same food everyday, it’s easier.

I know I“m not going on a mono diet.  This means I’m destine to keep slugging it out with my foods that HUM and foods that BECKON.  I suppose there could be worse things in life.

Foodies Dilemma – first update

As I said in my post on Foods that Hum, I’m learning to be free.  Here’s what’s happening:

  • I check in to find foods that ‘HUM’.  See blog on Foods That Hum for clarification
  • I remind myself of Michael Pollen’s words, “The first bites are for taste, the 20th is for calories.”  If I’m near the 20th I check to see if I’m full
  • I’m willing to put something back or not finish what I’ve taken if I realize I’m not hungry or on autopilot
  • I don’t eat late at night
  • I haven’t given up bread or wine
  • I drink a 16 oz bottle of Kombucha everyday and it seems to help with everything
  • I’m consistently doing my home yoga practice with a focus on core strength and building muscle
  • I weigh myself everyday.  I’m a little obsessed at the moment.
  • I’ve lost 3 pounds
  • I haven’t always followed the first two three four points