Ramp Salad and Rhubarb Crunch

This week at the first of the season local Farmer’s Markets–
Ramps

Ramps are related to leeks and here in the Midwest they’re the very first thing that pops out of the ground and are usually sold at Farmer’s Markets from late April to very early May (about three weeks) and then gone. It’s hard to define what a ramp tastes like. They taste both sweet and strong- maybe slightly like a sweet earthy garlic. A popular way to enjoy them is in a salad. We spent Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market in Madison WI and brought two bunches of ramps home with us. I made a ramp salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing– the recipe is here .  It was fabulous, you will love it. Give it a try. Next week, perhaps two weeks from now, rhubarb will be available for sale.  I’ve included a favorite family recipe for rhubarb crunch.

Ingredients
3 cups diced rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup & 2 pats of butter
Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl combine rhubarb, granulated sugar, and 3 tablespoons flour. Stir well and spread evenly into baking dish. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine brown sugar, oats, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Stir well then cut in butter or margarine until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle mixture over rhubarb layer.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

In other news, my husband and I were both shocked to see mosquitos out in abundance this past weekend. Thankfully we won’t spend this year hosing each other down with the kind of mosquito spray that stores sell chock full of chemicals.

Instead–

 

Until next time be well!

Vegetables that grow well together–interplanting and trellising.

Hello, April!

We’re just now starting to figure out what we’ll be planting this year in our container garden.  One thing for sure, I’m going to try and grow a container of potatoes this year. We have seeds and plants started for pumpkins, tomatoes, lettuce and peppers so far.

I ran across an article about pairing up the plants in the garden. Like for instance –plant basil or parsley around the edge of your garden where your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants grow. All of these plants must wait until frost is out of the ground and the consistently warm weather is here for good. You can plant potatoes in the ground, after you’re sure the frost is out, and then plant pole beans or some ornamental gourds above them on a trellis to utilize that space.  Something that I cannot wait to try when we get our new place is interplanting carrots and radishes. Try it, I hear it works great. Something else I saw recently in a food documentary is planting pole beans with your sweet corn and the pole beans end up using the sweet corn as its pole. Be sure to leave room for lovely nasturtiums, an edible flower that looks great in salads.

Some wonderful things to think about if you are short on space. Definitely always consider the vertical as you are planting your gardening–peas work great on a trellis overhead. You can start your sweet peas inside and trellis them up your curtains and across your curtain rods until it’s safe to take them outside. I did this two years ago and loved it. This year we have two grow lights so we’re going to have several plants started in the next three or so weeks. Our greatest hope is to learn how to start most things on our own vs. running to the nursery and buying their 4-6″ veggie plants and flowers.

Here’s an essential oil blend that I use to help manage issues with my tired and sore feet.

  • 10 drops AromaTouch
  • 6 drops Wild Orange
  • 4 drops Helichrysum or Frank
  • 1 Tablespoon of fractionated coconut oil in 10 ml roller bottle

Until next time be well!

Kombucha

Kombucha Recipe

One of the most important things you can do for you and your family’s health is to improve your gut health. Most people are under the impression things like that take care of themselves. They don’t. They probably did take care of themselves fairly well many years back before our food contained large amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, GMO’s and preservatives. At one time most of the people in this country preserved their food. Most people’s diets contained several pickled and fermented foods. Pickles of all kinds, coleslaw, and sauerkraut were table staples.  These foodstuffs helped keep human guts balanced with the proper bacteria. Bacteria and enzymes in our gut help to break down our food.  The food we eat, once broken down, travels off to different parts of our body to nourish us. We need to stay well nourished to stay healthy.

My experience with gut problems began about thirteen years ago as I detoxed from years of smoking and not so smart eating habits. First came the transition to a healthier diet, then came transitioning to organic foods, and then came my intolerance to everything gluten.  After suffering for about 5 years with gluten issues I read an article about gut health. Before I get started let me show you where your gut is and what parts of your body make up your digestive system.

The gut, otherwise known as your digestive track,  has many components– it starts with your mouth and teeth and technically ends where your waste exits. The stomach is one of three parts of your gut that absorbs and digests food, with the small and large intestine being the other two parts that break down, digest, and absorb nutrients. The linings of our small and large intestines are the largest part of our immune system. Now, this was a big find for me. Not only did I not have a clue our immune system is in our gut, but I was simply blown away discovering the largest part of it is the mucosal lining of our intestines. Nutrients enter the blood stream, once broken down, from our small intestines. There are tiny villi all along our intestinal wall. These villi are how nutrients enter our bloodstream.  The intestinal wall is permeable to some extent so that these nutrients can pass through. In a normal, healthy gut the good stuff passes through and the bad stuff does not. But sometimes bad things start passing through, and sometimes the intestines become damaged and the lining develops holes allowing undigested food to pass through.

Learning all of this information made me wonder- was there a way I could heal my gut lining if in fact it was damaged or malfunctioning? So  I began reading about the gut lining and found that there were other people, just like me, experiencing issues with “out of the blue” food allergies and/ or intolerances who were using probiotics as a way to improve their overall gut health. Probiotics as we know help to maintain the good bacteria in our digestive tract. That good bacteria is part of a large ecosystem of bacterial flora that lives mainly in the large intestine.

Gut flora is the complex community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of humans and other animals, including insects. The gut metagenome is the aggregate of all the genomes of gut microbiota. (Wikipedia)

So I made an appointment with our family physician and asked for his opinion on whether or not starting on a probiotic would be a good thing or bad. He didn’t see how taking one could hurt and so I began using a probiotic about two years ago. Of course, I should note before I forget– a steady diet of kombucha and other fermented food in your diet would alleviate your need(most likely) to have to depend on a store bought probiotic. A lot of my gluten intolerance issues went away about one year after I started using probiotics. I still have problems with food that contain a lot of additives, preservatives and maybe GMO’s? Corn still bothers me, as does soybeans and oats.  Although I check labels and watch what I eat, sometimes things are hidden or ? and I experience pain, pressure, a lot of bloating and usually diarrhea.

A lot of my gluten intolerance issues went away about one year after I started using probiotics. I still have problems with food that contain a lot of additives, preservatives and maybe GMO’s? Corn still bothers me, as does soybeans and oats.  Although I check labels and watch what I eat, sometimes things are hidden or ? and I experience pain, pressure, a lot of bloating and usually diarrhea. I currently take a probiotic daily, but I’ve also incorporated fermented foods and kombucha into my diet as well.

Other than those very rare occasions I am presently symptom-free from issues associated with gluten intolerance. I believe the probiotic healed my gut to some degree by restoring the healthy bacteria I needed to process and digest my food. Some of the ways you can contribute to having unhealthy gut flora — a diet high in sugar (which I had for years) and low in fiber (that too).  Chronic stress(yes!) and chronic use of NSAIDs (yes to that too). Also if you are a person that has a lot of infections and relies heavily on antibiotics (thank goodness I can say nope to this one) you are at risk for having an unhealthy gut.

http://www.loveyourgut.com/what-does-the-gut-do/the-digestive-system/

http://www.enzymestuff.com/conditionleakygut.htm

I hope you’ve enjoyed my post about Kombucha, probiotics and gut health as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Until next time–be well!

Soil [how-to prep the garden]

DIY Soil Testing

With Spring right around the corner now is the time for starting our seedlings. We’ve purchased our seed packets, starter kits and grow lights. Next up was prepping the containers on our deck for when the starter plants are ready to go into the soil outside. In prior years we’ve had no containers of soil on our deck because come fall we’ve always bagged it up and used it for fill on our lawn. Last fall I had what one would call–

a light bulb moment when I went to bag the dirt in our containers and haul it down to a low spot in our lawn for fill in. Here was soil I had worked with and grown organic food in for six months, and I was about to throw it on our lawn. The wiser thing to do would be to keep it and add more nutrients to it pre-planting and grow some more great food for six months. Soil over time loses its nutrients. Farm crops especially are nutrient deficient. Tilling soil is one of the worst things you can do, though long practiced and still done today. Farmers till their fields to aerate the soil which loosens up the soil and readies it for planting. Fields and gardens suffer from soil compaction come spring. Stress from machinery last fall, or animals, or possibly even you pushed the soil down causing air displacement. I can remember planting things in a garden and then pressing down the seed rows by walking on them. Now that’s a really bad idea. Soil contains living and breathing organisms and they need air. Biology Life in soil– lists all the wonderful things soil is composed of.

Up until the last three or four years, I simply filled containers and pots with soil purchased from our local nursery, put in my starter plants or seeds and watered. Doing things this way will likely yield you something, but more times than not that is based on luck. If you want luscious flowers, vegetables, and produce crops you need to have rich, nutrient dense soil.

Here’s how to make nutrient dense soil- 8 Steps

Everything, including the seeds and the plants, that we grow is organic. We do not use chemicals or store-bought fertilizers. Because our garden is in containers and not at the ground level we don’t see a lot of the usual garden pests. If I do I simply remove them by hand. Once we buy our own home again we will have to consider what we will do for pests in our ground level organic garden. We are looking into no-till methods for our future gardens. For farm fields, farmers might want to consider the no-till method which has so far proven to almost eliminate soil erosion. Leaving the previous year’s crop intact (what’s left behind after harvest) rather than tilling it in, has proven to increase water infiltration and water retention. Thus requiring less water and causing less runoff of contaminated water (fertilizers and pesticides). For more information about no-till agriculture- visit this site.

Below are more links and how-tos for garden prep:

How to make compost

Soil Testing- kit and info here

Garden Prep- things to do here

There’s a new documentary out called Sustainable. This is a great documentary that gives the viewer a look at how to live sustainably, grow sustainable foods, and features sustainable farms. It also features Illinois farmer Marty Spence & family of Spence Farm a provider of locally grown food for many Chicago area restaurants including Frontera Grill owned by Chef Rick Bayless.

Seed Catalogs and Spring Planting

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I apologize in advance for how bright the photos are. We haven’t had sunshine for about two weeks now. Today–the sun is shining. It’s bitterly cold out, but the sun sure feels good when you’re out in it. I love my seed catalogs, from my two favorite seed catalog companies. I have yet to place an order with them hence the Burpee seeds, also a favorite.

I buy all my tomato seeds from Baker Creek. You can request your free catalog here. I receive a Seed Savers catalog every year but have never ordered from them. They come highly recommended, so this year I will be placing an order for cucumbers, pumpkins, and assorted flowers. I usually buy planters and pots of flowers, but this year I am going to try growing my own. You can request your free catalog here. 

So that’s my spring plan thus far. I have all my pots washed out, soil purchased and grow light ordered.

 

The Benefits of Taking a Nap

nap-time

The benefits are listed here.

I am big on naps for many reasons.  Naps feel good.  I wake from a nap fully ready to take on the world. I am a bit saner after a nap, less cranky and way more energetic. But not everyone likes taking a nap. Remember when your mother used to force you to go take a nap? I do. Until I became an avid bookwork nap taking was pure evil. Do you remember laying in bed as a child staring at the ceiling counting sheep restlessly until your mother let you know nap time was over? I remember that too. But now, well actually for about the last 20 years, I am a regular nap taker.  I often try to get my husband to lie down and nap, but it’s just not his thing. Something tells me he is more the fall asleep in the recliner during the 6 o’clock news kind of guy.  For my nap to be successful I first plan how long it will be and set my clock. I make sure everyone in my household knows I am going to lie down. I turn on my white noise machine, rub lavender over my face and on my pillow and down I go. Whether it’s a 30 minutes nap or two hours I feel like a million bucks when I get up from it.

I do have night time sleep problems, but I’ve had those for many many years. My taking a tap doesn’t make them any worse and sometimes my nap makes me tired enough later in the day to fall fast asleep at bedtime. Try it. Just go ahead and try it.  What are you waiting for? Sweet dreams~ 🙂

Naturally Fermented Probiotic Lemonade

Christmas time brought me two new cookbooks-

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I haven’t had much of a chance to go through each one of them yet, but I did find an interesting recipe in Nourishing Traditions that I wanted to try right away.

Naturally Fermented Probiotic Lemonade- this drink is very very good for your gut.

Ingredients

  • 5-6 Lemons,  juiced
  • 1/3 Cup Lightly refined sugar
  • 6 Cups of Water (not boiled)
  • 1/2 Cup of  Basic Whey

Dissolve sugar in water in a large glass container with an air-tight lid.
Allow the mixture to become room temperate before stirring in the lemon juice and whey.
Leave at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Once done I transfer the lemonade into 2 Weck Jars for Juice for easy storage and serving.
Refrigerate. It will continue to ferment but at a much slower pace.

Light

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My word for 2017 is light.

I’ve started this post ten different times and each time I reread it I erased it.  How does one write about lightness and goodness without it coming off like a sermon? It’s been hard these past few weeks and I feel like things will just get harder. For those who are new to my blog, I’m an activist. If that brings pictures to your head of me tying myself to a tree you’re close. Unfortunately, I lack the kind of courage that kind of action needs. Instead, I donate my time, and money and do everything short of tying myself to that tree to fight for the environment, to fight against climate change, to recycle and reuse, and be the best activist I can for those that don’t have a voice–the animals that walk our earth.  I’m a food activist hence this blog and the many years of research I’ve got under my belt about it. I also volunteer at a homeless shelter and provide money, time and resources to those less fortunate than I.

I can’t turn the news on right now because I can’t handle everything I see being done that goes against everything so many people tirelessly worked towards. All of the work, effort, research and time being deleted, darkened and destroyed. It’s heartbreaking and I’m not sure what if anything I can do about it? I can protest sure, and I can give money and give more of my time. But what changes when programs against the things I believe become the new norm? Another thing I can’t wrap my head around is why it is always the very vital things to all our livelihoods always under fire? It’s hard for me to be full of light and goodness when people so blatantly bash the very things that give them light, and air and peace and life. It’s hard for someone like me who has been a nature lover for over 45 years to reason out other people’s disbelief in proven facts. It’s hard for me to understand the never ending plight and disgrace of racism. So that is where I am at. I’m always telling my husband he can’t keep coming at something from a defensive point of view. But that’s where I feel I’m heading and what I really want is for everyone to just sit down together and maybe agree to disagree, but let’s not go back 100 years or more to censoring everything that goes against the government’s opinions.

When someone acts or reacts from a  defensive point of view they aren’t listening to you. First and foremost to them is defending their opinion or points and really bashing you for having one opposite of theirs. More times than not this kind of conversation ends in threats from one or both sides.

Listening is an art. Communication involves both talking and listening. In a country that considers itself democratic all opinions should be on the table, but they are not. The opinions of one side are starting to be deleted, darkened and oppressed. Keywords to note- delete, darkness and oppressed.

I make a point of not talking about politics or religion on my blog, in my real life, even amongst friends and co-workers.  Because these two subjects are hot buttons of conflict here and I guess just about everywhere.  I don’t think either particularly call a person to defend the earth, or defend its people or defend the animals that walk upon it. Humans do that. I’m human. I’m trying as hard as I can to walk in the light, do the right thing and keep moving forward. The here and now is important but what I do, what we all do to ensure there is a future is equally if not more important. Many cannot see tomorrow or refuse to safeguard tomorrow over today.  Even though tomorrow isn’t promised and never comes for some of us, it still comes. And I’ll be right here God willing to protect it because no matter how dark things get, there will be light.

What’s your word for 2017?

Easy Homemade Pizza Crust

Pizza is a love of mine. In my early twenties I was considered a pizza connoisseur. One of my three jobs at the time was pizza maker. I took this job very seriously, so seriously I took day trips to pizza shops to try their pizza. Why? Because I loved pizza and because I wanted the pizza where I worked to be the best pizza around. There was a time in my life I could have easily ate pizza every day without issue. Even today pizza is my favorite meal. Aside from going out to a pizzeria one can always buy a premade pizza found in the freezer department of every store. We’ve tried them all and even though there are some that are pretty good (Paul Newman, Digiorno), nothing beats homemade. I bought the kits for years to make homemade pizza, but grew tired of the dough not rising or being too sticky or ? So this past Decemember I started to try my hand once again at making homemade crust. I found a recipe here that makes perfect easy to work with pizza dough every time. Try it!

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True North

Ask Wikipedia about true north and you’ll find–true north is different from magnetic north. True north lies a long the earth’s surface  towards the geographic north poles.  It’s quite a complex direction that is found by carefully  adjusting magnetic forces from the compass to remove compass deviations.

Metaphorically speaking someone’s true north could be made up of many things-lines they don’t cross, when they feel they are at their best, when they feel right with the world and so many more possibilities. For me it is the best version of myself; when I feel I am representing the truest version of myself. My true north was discovered several years back during a self-imposed sabbatical. That it exists for me and I can feel it’s presence is what makes it such a beautiful and necessary thing for me.  My true north can and does get weighed down by certain “magnetic forces” around me. For example negative people, hurtful people, unjust circumstances or outcomes and of course things I see happening in the world via the news, newspapers, news sources and the many documentaries I watch a year.

true-north

During times like these the first thing I do is pray.  I pray for strength and I pray for forgiveness and I pray for more patience and tolerance. Prayer reminds me to stay focused and on course. Nothing can be gained by acting out or going against one’s own moral code. I don’t let anyone push me off center to the point I would cross a line that I’ve self imposed or act out of character altogether.

Sometimes things happen in my life that kind of shake me off my course. During times like these the first thing I do is gather my thoughts and decide if there is anything that can be done to change things. Part of what stresses people out during uneasy or challenging times is their inability to realize that they can change their reaction to them;they change how they deal with something challenging. Their go to may be worry, and worry until the challenge is over.  Instead I try to think of a better way, or a less stressed way I can react to these kind of times. Distraction also helps, as long as you don’t escape too long.

My true north is my center. I am grounded when I am centered.  When I am centered I am productive and I’m also the best version of myself.   Staying grounded for me means staying open, not closed. Open to talking, open to listening, open to understanding and open to dealing with fear, and uncertainly which are usually two things humans are challenged by the most. Uncertainty is hard for me–it seems like most uncertain things are dealt with by the passing of time. Thus why I pray for patience (ahem). Fear, well fear is a part of everyone’s life. Fear is often the unknown. Fear is sometimes the well known and your still not being able to deal with something.  I take what I am afraid of and said it out loud at the time I feel fear the most. I recognize what it is and then it becomes so much easier to deal with.

Soon my posts will be less philosophical and more about food again (promise). My seed catalogs just came in and I can’t wait to order seeds and start my seedlings. Until next time–be well!