Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cold and Spicy Breakfast Smoothie Anybody?

I've been making my own smoothies with diverse ingredients for longer than the word "smoothie" existed. Back in high school I worked in an ice cream shop and learned to make an orange julius with a real egg, real milk, orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream. Things have evolved a bit since then; the raw egg was last popular when I was expecting number four, the ice cream has been replaced by healthier ingredients. Now that I have reached a certain, we'll say, amount of years, at times a return to smoothie meals is a way of helping with weight control, as well as detoxing. I have many different ingredients I toss in the blender. I always start with greens of some sort; parsley and kale, spinach, etc. Protein powder, in a rice or soy form, is added, frozen berries, milk. It's an easy way to get a bunch of nutrition and little calories.

This morning's meal was composed primarily of what remained in my bag of greens; mustard greens. To their credit, mustard greens are a known anti-cancer vegetable, they may also be helpful when one suffers from colds, arthritis or depression. Enough good reasons to incorporate them into one's diet, right? Well...

To the mustard greens in the blender, I added fresh strawberries, a tablespoon of frozen orange juice, a frozen yogurt the kids forgot in the freezer, half a frozen banana, ice cubes and a little soy milk. Mmm, it was an interesting mix, smelled like a fresh garden harvest, tasted good until it got half-way down, then the spicy hit. At first it was a sort of pleasant, pinch of cayenne pepper thing. As I drank, it became a little more powerful, still tolerable, but increasingly reminiscent of the "breakfasts" the Mexican cooks would make us when I worked in a Chinese restaurant in college. (These were always hotter when the cook was homesick or mad at a waitress.) I think I may have heart burn all day. I had to wash the whole thing down with an extra chocolate protein drink, life is the pits. I'll stick to collard greens and kale tomorrow.

For the rest of the family, it was a cooking and baking day. The kids woke to the odors of fresh chocolate bread baking (which was not for breakfast, but for park day). They requested bacon and eggs, which were cooked and served. Milk became an issue; we were almost out. You would not believe the panic in a house where children all think they deserve the last glass of milk in the gallon! Really though, there was more like a quart of milk left, enough to do something creative with.  Smoothies for them too, more bananas, no collard greens. I figured that would hold them for a little while. I made a second chocolate bread (my recipe; sort of a challa with Ghiradelli chocolate chips, sprinkled with raw sugar on top) to thank our neighbors who gave us a much-needed desk that perfectly fits the need Lily has for a larger one, such luck, such kindness! I prepared a quick picnic and we headed to the park. It was a fabulous day.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Food and Non-food

What do you eat? We've narrowed it down considerably in our home; we only eat it if it qualifies as food. That, however, is a point up for clarification and debate! What is your family's definition of food? Here is a great post on the less desirable ingredients included in a typical grocery store's aisles:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Garden Boxes

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Gardening Genius

Though my thumbs have become a little greener over the years, I admit to being a fair weather gardener at best. (When the weather is not too hot, I garden, the rest of the time, I hold my plants in light and love from the air-conditioned comfort of my back porch, cool drink in hand, with a promise to weed and water tomorrow.)

Some years we get amazing crops; basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, flowers to celebrate the sheer beauty of nature. This year I planted everything in square foot garden boxes and allowed the blooming bits to take over the space they formerly occupied in the plot out the back door. Only, I have yet to see a flower. Only, the green plants that LOOK as though they should bloom any minute are oddly familiar and making me nervous on a wholly intuitive level. I've been thinking I really should try to identify them, just in case. So I sat down with a plant in my hand and my computer on my lap this morning to tackle the problem.

I began with the species of golden rod, since the entire family is allergic to this little flower, come autumn when its pollen is released. My husband "grew into" his allergies after a year here, and he and Lily are the worst of the lot. Pierre is not a vacation kind of guy, so it was a surprise to hear him talk of leaving for a couple of weeks in August. Turns out he has been tracking the pollen count the past two years to find out how far north, west or any other direction we would need to go to be there when it is the worst part of the year here. Great lengths for a homebody to voyage.

As I cleared all of the species of goldenrod from identification, I scrolled down, scanning the list for something else this pretty little green thing could sound like. It was fern-like, delicate leaf structure, but looked as though it would grow sturdier. Then I spotted it, thought; "nah, probably not," but clicked anyway. There are actually two different plants that cause the pollen we are potentially fleeing come fall, one is goldenrod, and the other: RAGWEED. The picture was a perfect match.

Mild-mannered, eco-minded, nature-loving, kid-protective me was instantly on my feet, looking for my gardening gloves. Then, freaked out by the very number of weeds out there, (and the very hot degree of the temperature in the morning sun), I raced all around the garage looking for weed killer. Do we even own any weed killer? (I have forbidden its use, we're not supposed to have it on the premises.) How fast can I get it on there? Will it poison the tomatoes next to it? Do I care?

The bottle, when I found it, looked large and foreboding and seems to require mixing of some kind. I took a deep breath and decided to leave it for a little later. When I will give Pierre the great satisfaction of getting out his forbidden chemicals and taking care of those buggers. Though I think I will ask him, very nicely, to please leave the creeping charlie and the dandelions alone.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Library

Now that summer is here and lessons are over for three months, my kids have one request that remains; "when are we going to the library?"

"What, again?! We were just there."

"I have holds."  "We haven't been for three days!" "I read all my books." "We're driving to XYZ, we need audio books!" "No, I want to go to the other branch!"

I have been forced to concede, after my children pointed it out to me, that I could have bigger complaints of them. They could be clamoring for a trip to just about any other kid hangout (but I would probably say "no", so that argument is out.) They could be sulking in their rooms, which they do sometimes, or talking on the phone, which they do not do, but instead, they are reading, a lot. And our local libraries (yes, plural!) are a fabulous resource. We have access to inter-library loan, which means we can request books from all over the US and have them delivered for free to our local library.

Then there is the  summer reading program. Ah, the root of many bad habits or a boon to children and adults? I have always opposed the principle of paying kids to read. I would prefer they learn to love literature and books through being read to from an early age. I believe that reading has its own inherent worth that outweighs any made-up contest to see who can earn the most points by amassing pages read. However, it does work on some level.  Kids who read become kids who read a LOT for a short period of time. For an intensive two weeks that it takes to get to the 1200 pages or minutes of reading, that is all they do when they are not outside playing. So, year after year, we sign up for, participate in, and love, the summer reading program. Most years we do two of them, as long as the books are different ones for each form turned in.

Our quietest car rides? The ride back from the library, when all five kids have their new treasures in hand, is one on which I often find myself counting little heads in the rear-view mirror to make sure I haven't forgotten anyone.

If you have not yet, get into the library habit. If your children don't love it, you might. Check out a few books of your own each time to set a good example, and let them see you reading those books (the knitting section is beyond belief, FYI!)