How does your garden grow

Eggplant from last year’s garden

One of the things that I most love about no longer living in the middle of New York City is having a back yard. Specifically so I can have a garden. Last year I hastily planted my 4′ x 4′ raised bed about a month after I had my daughter. I felt lucky to get anything in the ground. Needless to say, my yield was low. I got a nice amount of tomatoes, mostly small, 3 or 4 eggplant, a few jalapeños and 1 zucchini.

This year I’ve got a little more time to devote to my garden so I’m hoping that means I get more out of it. I decided to go all in and try my hand at growing plants from seeds. I found a great website called Sprout Robot where you put in your zip code and pick the plants you want to grow and it gives you step-by-step instructions on when and how to plant them. I’ve already got some leeks sprouting and some eggplant and tomatoes planted under my indoor growing lights.

One of the issues I faced last year was overcrowding so I’m doing a little research about how much room each plant needs and hopefully expanding our garden to get the most out of each variety.

Dietitian Meeting #1

Photo Credit: Suat Emam

As part of the Get Well Challenge, I get to meet with a dietitian once a month for 15 minutes and today was my first appointment. Truth be told, I was a little skeptical about what she was going to tell me in 15 minutes. I really thought she was going to go through my food log and scold me for making less than desirable choices like the 100 calorie Cheez-it packs I bought from Costco. But it was actually pretty helpful. Jane Wilson is the resident dietician at Ellwood Thompson’s. We talked about my goals and she broke down how much protein and fat I should be shooting for each day along with adjusting the calorie recommendation that myfitnesspal.com gave me. She gave me some recipes that encourage a more plant-based diet. I left feeling like I had more direction and wasn’t just guessing as much about my nutritional choices. Tomorrow is the first weigh-in. It will be interesting to see what the results are. I can see me losing or gaining a few pounds.

On a bit of a side note – I really like MyFitnessPal. I can scan bar codes on my iPhone to get the exact nutritional information or access the extensive library on the site to log exactly what I’m eating. It’s pretty convenient as far as calorie tracking goes. At the end of every day it gives you an estimate of how much you will lose in 5 weeks based on that day. I wish it gave you a running estimate taking every day into account since no two days are the same, but an estimate is just that. The weekly weigh-ins will really show whether or not the tracking is helping. It also has a social feature where you can share your progress with friends if you’re into that.

Sunday Goals 9/30/12

This is the first in my series of Sunday goals for the Get Well Challenge. I’ll keep it brief and will report back next week!

  • Attend 2-3 fitness classes plus nutrition meeting and weigh-in
  • Eat a vegetable side with 4 dinners during the week
  • Drink at least 8 cups of water a day

Time to Think About Summer Produce

It seems like an odd time of year to think about where you’ll get your fruits and vegetables come summer, but it’s actually the perfect time to consider buying a share in a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture program. Simply put, CSA members buy a share of a farm’s product and receive regular deliveries throughout the growing season. Participants pay upfront now so farmers can plan how much they will plant and buy materials. You also want to reserve your spot while there is still room available.

The benefit to consumers is farm fresh produce usually grown close to home. It’s also common receive a greater variety of foods than you would normally buy at the grocery store. Depending on the farm you choose, you might have multiple types of apples or corn delivered or even some produce you wouldn’t normally buy. The downside is figuring out how to prepare the bounty you’ll receive.

I just relocated to Virginia and here some farmers team up with one another to offer CSA members an even greater variety of options and a longer growing season. One CSA has options for a produce, share, diary share or a mushroom share to choose from.

Many farms also offer options to harvest some of your own food to keep consumer costs low. So take a few minutes and do a little research on the CSAs in your area. It could change the way you eat this summer.

Photo credit: happykanppy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Easy Tips for Buying Organic Produce

Apples rank #1 on the "Dirty Dozen" list

One of the biggest reasons most people don’t buy 100% organic is because it can really drive up your grocery bill. So, like many, I end up having to make choices when it comes to organic vs. conventional. The area of the grocery store with the most choices tends to be the produce section. The one rule I almost always follow is that I buy conventional produce if the fruit or veggie has a skin that I remove before eating, like bananas or oranges. Yes, the pesticides could seep through, but if I’m going to draw a line, that seems like a good place to start. Otherwise, I try to buy organic. But even then, I wonder if it’s really worth higher price.

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group makes grocery trips a little easier with their annual list, “The Dirty Dozen.” They list the 12 fruits and veggies that they found to have the highest levels of pesticides. If you’re going to buy organic, these are the choices to make in the produce aisle. The top five are:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
You can find the entire list here. And an explanation of how those foods made the list here.

The EWG also has a list of the “clean 15.” These are the fruits and veggies least likely to test positive for pesticides. That means they are ok to buy conventional. The top five are:

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Onions
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
Click here for the full list.
The list is too long to commit to memory, so I like to bookmark either this page or the page linked with the entire list and pull it up on my iPhone when I get to the grocery story. That way I don’t have to guess and I know I’m getting all the benefits of fresh produce sans the nasty chemicals.

Best of BlogHer ’11

I had the opportunity to attend the annual BlogHer conference in San Diego recently. On top of meeting lots of wonderful bloggers and sitting in on inspirational seminars, I got a chance to check out the BlogHer Expo. The Expo was filled with companies introducing their products. Most were mommy-blogger oriented, but I found a few that really stuck out and wanted to share them with you.

Scotch Magic Greener Tape 

While tape might come to mind when you’re thinking of going green, Scotch is changing that perception with their Greener Tape which is made with plant-based adhesive and film. The refillable dispenser and tape core are both made of recycled plastic also. The best part – this version of the popular Scotch product makes the same iconic sound when you rip the tape, and it works and costs the same as the original.

Michael Angelo’s Natural Line 

I really like eating hot food for lunch and nothing is more convenient than a frozen meal. The taste of those meals usually leaves a lot to be desired. Now there’s Michael Angelo’s natural line. The frozen meals don’t contain any preservatives, and have all-natural ingredients, some of which are organic. I got to try a sample at the expo and thought it was pretty good. I don’t think I’d take one to work for lunch every day as the sodium is still a little high, but for days when I’m in a hurry, I’d love to have some of these meals in my freezer ready to go.

Coffee–Mate Natural Bliss Coffee Creamer 

I have to admit, I stopped by this booth more than once for a sample of this coffee creamer. I really liked the vanilla flavor and was impressed when I turned the package over and found that it was made with only four ingredients: Nonfat Milk, Heavy Cream, Sugar and natural flavor. Because it’s a real dairy product, you have to keep it refrigerated, but the creamy sweet taste is worth it.

Boiron’s Arnicare Gel and Oscillococcinum

The names might be hard to pronounce (Oscillococcinum?), but Boiron’s products are some of my favorites when it comes to relieving common ailments. I love that my local drugstore, Duane Reade, carries the brand and even before the expo, I had many of Boiron’s products in my medicine cabinet. They are all homeopathic, so I feel safe taking them. The Arnicare Gel contains arnica and is a topical cream used for muscle pain, bruising and swelling. I used it on sore legs one night and felt better pretty quickly. The Oscillococcinum is to ward off flu symptoms. I’ve had good luck with this remedy also – so much so that I have stared to look for the Bioron alternative to traditional brands when I’m buying OTC medicine.

Superfood Tonics and Vegan Ice Cream from a blender

Chef Jason Wrobel (Photo from JasonWrobel.com)

I had the opportunity to take a class with vegan and raw food chef Jason Wrobel at Organic Avenue on the Lower East Side last week. You might know the name Organic Avenue from the line of juice cleanses. At the event, Jason brought his use of Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs from LA and showed us some of his favorite recipes. I was equally intrigued and disappointed that Jason used the herbs. Intrigued because I’m a big fan of TCM, but disappointed that I’d never be able to make these recipes at home without spending a ton of money on ingredients I’d probably never use again.

The common thread through most of the ingredients was that they’re superfoods. I’m intrigued by superfoods because they are the most efficient way to get some really great nutrients. They are, by definition, calorie sparse and nutrient dense. Many of the ingredients Jason used were high in minerals and vitamins. He artfully explained the benefits. Unfortunately, there were so many, it’s impossible for me to repeat them here.

The most impressive part was when Jason used a Vita Mix to blend up some ice cream. And keep in mind when I say “ice cream” I really mean vegan frozen substance that kind of had the consistency of sorbet. He started with a healthy amount of ice, then added the ingredients and used the plunger while the blender did it’s thing. The results were a little surprising.

Of the six recipes, my favorite concoction was the Chocolate Jing Ice Cream. No surprise since I’m a bit of a choc-o-holic. This was the last thing that we tried and I was getting a little tired. Jason said it was heavy on the yang side, meaning it would create heat and energize us. It was actually creamy with a deep chocolate flavor. It did perk me up a little bit and made me a little loopy!

For a look at some of Jason’s recipes, check out this link to his website.

As for the event itself, I felt it was a little overpriced especially considering it was a 3-hour seminar over dinner time and didn’t include any food other than samples of the recipes. I wasn’t interested in paying $10 for a bottle of Organic Avenue’s green juice, and there wasn’t much else to choose from. I seemed to be in the minority though. Most of the other attendees happily sipped their juices as we learned about the tonics and ice creams.

 

Explaining “Farm to Table”

Bobo Dining Room (photo credit: Logan Hodson)

Ray and I recently had an absolutely delicious meal at Bobo in NYC’s West Village. We tried the steak frites and the steak tartare (both sounded too good to pass up). On top of amazing drinks and an outdoor seating area, the restaurant boasted a farm to table menu. Farm to table is a term thrown around more and more with a desirable connotation, but I wanted to figure out exactly what it meant. So Bobo’s Executive Chef Patrick Connolly broke it down for me.

Steak Tartare at BOBO

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