Food on the brain

Sprouts, everywhere. It’s the first day of summer. We may have a perfect-for-solstice 108 sprouting plants, mostly due to my recent ham-fisted actions with a packet of arugula seeds. Despite a spindly June with the tomato, pepper and okra seeds that we started on the fridge in February, we now have filled every available slot in the plot behind our garage. We also have some thriving herb pots on the back stoop. Steve’s in charge of the garden, and it’s looking sharp.

This is just in time for my sudden urge to get more colors into my diet. Or, perhaps my urge was a response to perusing the luscious photography in the Baker Creek and Seeds of Change catalogs this past winter and spring, and to dreaming of the pickled okra that we got at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market last year. Either way, my adventures in healthy eating are taking this blog out into the dirt, back into kitchen (and blender), and then to the basement and TV, with a refreshing iced beverage.

The Plot

radishes
Radishes, Black and White

Last spring at planting time, we were burned out on tomatoes, due to a huge, green, but late and never-ripening crop of beefsteaks, the prior year. It was really sad to have buckets of them that never became edible. We tried – even fried up a few, but they still bore more of a resemblance to balsa wood than to home-grown tomatoey goodness.

So, when faced with open, willing dirt, I filled most of that bed with flowers: my favorites, cosmos and cleome, but also some fantastically shrub-like marigolds, and a new sunflower. Though we also grew a few bush beans and greens, hopefully the year off from producing gave the soil a chance to rest and prepare for this summer’s trial. We’ll see – perhaps my math is off and flowers aren’t a good rotator crop for tomato soil. Yikes. So far, only the peppers are slow to grow.

We missed those beefsteaks, brandy wines and yellow zebras! They are back – and we also wanted to try some of the “black” Krim and Tula tomatoes this year. We also have various anaheim and ancho peppers, one struggling okra, black and white radish varieties, delicata winter squash, arugula, and Tiger’s Eye bush beans. I love growing the beans! The batch will produce enough for just one small recipe, but they grow so quickly and color of the beans is so unbelievably beautiful that I just can’t resist planting a row each year. I snuck those in after Steve set everything else up, and after we harvested the wintered-over lettuce.

We are blessed with wild bunnies that are oblivious to our garden, so far. I’m concerned that they may be carnivorous hares, however. Our composter’s mice population has disappeared, and the neighborhood cats appear to be leaving vindictive droppings in the yard.

The Greens

Still seeking more calcium in my less-than-100% loving dairy diet, I’ve been making a green smoothie for (or with) breakfast on most mornings. Doing so also helps me get another serving of veggies into my day without introducing savory to a time of day that demands sweetness. It also fills me up for the whole morning, which was surprising, but shouldn’t be, considering how much more liquid these drinks get into me, in the morning.

The green component has ranged from a whole head of romaine or a half a bunch of steamed spinach, all the way to a handful of collards or just one leaf of kale (I ran out). While I haven’t eliminated any one green type, I have learned some valuable lessons: a) molasses belongs nowhere near a green smoothie, b) pineapple and banana are what you need to tone down bitterness in greens, and c) stevia and I don’t get along.

Kelp Pickles Recipe
You know you’re in the Pacific Northwest when…

On the last point, stevia wouldn’t normally go into that smoothie, except when I’m trying to make it a recovery drink, having just finished a long run. I’ll add a protein or recovery powder, and I’m currently testing out a few different brands. So far, as sugary as it may be, Endurox R4 is my favorite. VEGA Performance Protein is not: its stevia sweetener upset my stomach. It’s ironic that the vegan product (the latter) may be what turns me back toward whole foods, for getting that protein component. Silken tofu, here I come, next. Before I try another powder, anyway.

A blenderless lunch version: Yesterday I discovered the beauty of a massaged kale salad. Clean, then rip up some kale, add some olive oil and sea salt, and give it a few minutes’ worth of massage with your clean hands. Add a little vinegar, plus a few toppings to brighten it up (slivered almonds and craisins did the trick), and voilà! Edible and raw kale. Yes, it looked like right-on-the-beach kelp, though it likely didn’t taste like it, as far as I know: it was very tasty and tender.

The cocktail

My attempt to drop a few pounds has turned my sights onto empty calories. As much as I love good beer and wine, and as much as my alcohol consumption is definitely moderate, I’m turning to a tall glass of ice water, most evenings. What is not surprising: I sleep more soundly, and I’m not losing the weight. Ah well, you win some, you lose some. Looks like I need better defenses from the candy dishes at work – and from my baking fetish.

Onward.

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