Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Container Gardening and the Lazy Cook

Container Gardening
Apartment dwellers and those with less than perfect gardening options can still enjoy the fresh food experience.  Any small space outdoors that gets good sun for some of the day is a great place to grow culinary herbs; of course, the closer to the kitchen, the better.

Get bigger pots and intense plant all the herbs together.  This allows the soil to hold the moisture better between waterings as well as looking big, abundant and beautiful.  I always add at least one plant in the group just for 'pretty'.  Mesclun mix, lettuces and spinach do really well in large pots in any sunny area.  This is a good time of year to plan for the growing season.  Pots and garden stuff will soon abound.

Squirrels can be a big problem.  Finding a fertilizer that is safe for food can be a challenge.  There is one solution for both of these concerns in the form of 'bone and blood meal'.  I put about an inch of the granules on top of the soil in each pot.  The little rascals will not dig through it, guaranteed. This layer needs to be refreshed about once a month.  Some people place chicken wire near the top of the soil.  This works too.

I always plant tomatoes and basil together in the same pot.  For parsley, if you have the space, in the fall dig a hole and put in pot and all.  Cilantro (coriander) and dill will self seed. Rosemary will have to be brought in, but will survive through the winter.  Spearmint will usually survive anywhere, and often pokes up everywhere.  However, mint is an essential addition to a summer herb garden.

When my garden was limited to a balcony, I just had to bite the bullet and buy new transplants every year.  It was still worth it to have abundant and readily available fresh food all summer and early fall. 

The Lazy Cook
It is hard to be enthusiastic about cooking when one is hot and hungry.  Pasta is easy to cook in huge batches.  Divide the cooked pasta into serving sizes and store them in airtight containers in the freezer.  When you need it, either leave it to defrost, or run cold water over into the container and then drain.

The ‘no time to cook’ Basic Pasta with Fresh Herbs

1 Tablespoon cooking oil
1 Onion cut in crescents
1 clove garlic crushed
½ red pepper cut in slivers
3 mushrooms, sliced
5-6 sugar snap peas (or ¼ cup frozen peas added at the very end)
1 Morga Soy Cube softened in a little hot water, (or sake, or wine)
(1-2 Tablespoons) ½ to 1 cup of fresh herbs chopped coarsely – mint, basil, rosemary, Italian parsley, curl leaf parsley, cilantro
½ to 1 cup fresh greens
Fresh scallions - optional
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Defrost Pasta and reserve.  Heat oil in a skillet/wok or saucepan and Sauté onions and garlic until lightly browned.  Add the peppers and mushrooms and cook until just tender, add the peas and cook until just tender-crisp.  Add the pasta and the water/soy cube and heat to serving temperature.  Serve by topping with fresh greens, herbs scallions and Parmesan.  Enjoy!
Keep well_

Friday, April 2, 2010

Springing Ahead in Health

Ahh, spring!  We can look ahead to days where we don’t have to struggle just to stay warm.  We don’t have to work flat out for 20 minutes dressing like Eskimos just to go outside. We can relax and stretch out into the great outdoors.  Food is fresh, natural and plentiful.  The sun is shining and life is good.

Spring is the one time of year where we can design, direct, and improve our health in a big way.  According to Oriental Five Element tradition, the liver is in the wood element, which describes the gland and organ (liver/gall bladder) that is hot and juicy.  Conversely, the kidneys are cold and damp, just like autumn.  The moist hot days of spring are the best time to eat very simply, eat a little less, and show our body more care by adding cleansing tonics and fibre to our diet. A little focused attention on your liver will have year long benefits

The whole digestive tract is governed by the liver.  This multi-purpose gland is located just beneath the ribs on your right side.  The busy liver also works to filter the blood, biodegrade hormones and balance aspects of the immune system.  The large intestine is the last process in the liver/digestive system.  In the bowel water is reclaimed and re-cycled back into the body and wastes are eliminated.  This is the reason for auto-intoxication. 

When bowel transit time is slow, many people experience chronic sinus congestion, laborious digestion, lymph congestion, or various skin issues.  Surprisingly, when questioned, most people consider their bowel elimination to be good even when they experience these signs of overload.

Liver cleanses can be a misery if the stored toxins that are being released have difficulty exiting the body.  Nausea, cramping, bloating, prolonged fatigue and headaches are a common complaint, when there is ‘no easy way out’.  The first order of business is to open the bowel. Not everyone is robust.  Extended fasting, and aggressive herbal cleanses are not for everyone.  This is an area where personal and genetic vitality (constitution), determines how a person’s body can handle releasing toxic accumulation on a cellular and system level.

The body also pushes some forms of toxins to the adipose (fat) cells.  I believe there is a correlation between weight gain and toxin.  Extra care needs to be given to weight loss programs where the toxins released can damage the liver/gall bladder and kidneys.   

As a practitioner, I like to develop specific and unique programs for every client.  An alkalizing food plan can initiate the detoxification process, for example, if one has trouble maintaining balanced blood sugar levels.  A week of lemon juice in water every morning, and fasting until lunchtime may work
for some.  A personal plan may also include other resources such as dry brushing the skin, infra-red saunas, enemas, Epsom salts baths, foot patches, and lymph massage or ion foot baths. 

The liver is always trying to unload toxins and repair itself.    Natural plant based remedies can help the body help itself.  It’s the way nature designed us.   A little timely housecleaning and repair can do wonders to increase our energy and immunity, and for improved over all well being for the whole coming year.

Let Food Be Your Medicine 

Scandinavian Winter Salad
2 Cups Pickled Beets (or Roast 4 large beets in oven) until tender, cool and peel
3 large carrots peeled
Grate beets and carrots in food processor
Chop ½ Cup green onions
1 Cup chopped parsley
Mix in large salad bowl
Dressing:  ½ Cup light tasting oil (Organic Canola) and ¼           1Cup apple cider vinegar
                Basic sprinkle and herbamere
                Grind 1 tsp Thyme and 1 tsp coriander (optional)
* Scandinavian salad gets better when covered and marinated in the fridge for an hour or more.

Swiss Dandelion Salad
1 large potato, scrubbed, cooked whole and hot
2 handfuls of wild or cultivated dandelion greens, washed and drained and chopped fine
Dressing:  Apple cider vinaigrette
                Fresh ground pepper

The trick with this is to first wash the greens really well.  If you are using dandelion greens gathered from the wild, washing is a huge job, but is worth it in the end.

The next thing is to mash the cooked potato quickly in the bottom of a salad bowl and throw the greens in really fast and toss well.  Then dress the salad and serve. The hot potato takes out the bitterness of the greens.  This is the best spring tonic ever, and it’s tasty too.

Steamed Artichokes
1 medium or large artichoke for each person
Sauce:  Melted butter with fresh squeezed lemon juice and crushed garlic for dipping.

Prepare the artichokes by cutting off the stem, and then cutting off the top inch so it will perch nicely upside down in a steamer.  Cut off all the ‘picks’ by using scissors.  Rinse in cool water and drain upside down.
Steam artichokes upside down until the base is tender when tested with a toothpick.  Don’t over cook.  Remove from steamer directly onto the plate. To eat, the trick is to remove some of the tough outer leaves and discard them, and then eat by ripping off each leaf and dipping the base into the butter/lemon and then use your teeth to scrape the pulp of the base of the leaf. Discard leaf remains as you go.   Keep doing this until you come to the inside fuzzy core (the choke).Use a spoon to scrape away the fuzz and then cut the ‘heart’ into quarters and dip and eat.
These little wonders cleanse and nourish the liver and make a wonderful light meal with a green salad and basmati rice.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Visiting Another World

For me, visiting Texas was like visiting another world.


I had gone hoping I would be able to brush up on the 'Texas Two Step', but got no closer than the local grocery store.

What a store! 
 This is to prove that you can get artichokes almost as big as your head.
According to local residents, there are 5 seasons in West Texas:
Fall, Winter, Summer, Spring, and March! The weather ran through the gamut of very comfortably  warm, hot and dry, rain torrents, snow sleet and hail, windy, .......and this was just within less than a week.

When we left Lubbock to embark upon the 2 hour trip to the Palo Duro Canyon, it was about 71 degrees.  By the time we got there, the temperature had dropped to 2 degrees above freezing.  We were able to catch the trail-ride at 4  p.m.,but the 6 o'clock ride was canceled due to a sudden appearance of winter.  
Even though we were prepared for the ride with about 3 layers of clothing, we had not factored in a 70 degree drop in temperature. The operators very kindly gave us the loan of thick hoodies so that we wouldn't perish during the ride.  No chance of getting lost here!


The very flat, unremarkable landscape was made beautiful by the express ways that travel though the city.  A marvel of engineering as well.  I was driving in unfamiliar turf very happily.  I am going to load up on photos, and just leave the pictures to speak for themselves.