Friday, June 19

A Colorful, Powerhouse Salad for Summer

Gorgeous photo from ZagLeft blog.
I tend to struggle with cold salads (other than basic green ones) during the summer. I like the idea in theory, but I never seem to be able to actually either pair them successfully with an appropriate protein, or feel comfortable with them standing alone. 

Until now. 

This Apple, Kale and Cabbage Salad from ZagLeft is going to be a summer staple around here - I can already tell!

It's every bit as colorful and crunchy in real life as it is in the picture, and it has such a wonderfully complex taste and texture that it stands alone perfectly. 

Packed with nutritional (and detoxifying) powerhouse ingredients like carrots, apples, kale, and cabbage it gets a sweet zing from almonds, cider vinegar, and dried cranberries. It holds well, and is very satisfying. 

If you're looking for something to spice up your lunch or keep on hand for an easy dinner on summer's hot days, may I recommend this? It's easy to make (and to make in bulk for a crowd!), and so good for you! (I consider it an added bonus that it's pretty inexpensive too.)

What's your favorite go-to salad for summer?

Wednesday, June 17

The Best Gluten Free Quina Pizza Crust Ever

Beautiful photo from the Simply Quinoa Blog!
When I discovered in December that I needed to cut wheat our of my diet for a while to allow my gut to do some healing, my biggest challenge became finding a decent gluten free pizza crust. I could do without most wheat-based things, and oatmeal flour proved a cheap and functional substitute for things like pancakes, but pizza crust eluded me. 

After scouring Pinterest, Paleo blogs and cookbooks, and other sources I tried a wide variety of proposed replacements. I refused to get into coconut flour or almond flour, and the commercial GF pizza crusts were lacking in both flavor and consistency - especially for the cost! Oatmeal flour wasn't cutting it. Nor was cauliflower, spinach, or any of the other veggies recommended as potential alternatives. For a while, I just gave up on pizza altogether. (I am blessed to have such a supportive and gracious husband, considering that we had been in the habit of enjoying really good homemade pizza every Friday!)

Initially, I avoided recipes that called for quinoa as a base. Quinoa flour is astronomically expensive, and a pain to make at home (because of the tiny size of the grain to begin with).

Then, I found this: The Ultimate Quinoa Pizza Crust from Simply Quinoa.

Rather than rely on quinoa flour, this recipe starts with whole quinoa. It requires no special ingredients, and is ready in minutes - you just dump everything in the blender and whir! Plus, it uses less quinoa per person than any other recipe in my repertoire, making it extremely affordable.

This is absolutely my new go-to recommendation for anyone looking for a GF pizza crust. 3/4 cup of quinoa makes you an 8" cake pan of pizza - perfect for one or two people, but easily doubled or tripled for enjoying with friends!

The recipe is completely clean, super easy, and doesn't take long to throw together. It bakes up into a proper crust with just the right chewy, crispy mouth feel you're looking for. Plus, quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse!

I'm delighted to have found this, and wanted to share. (Fair warning - I'll be sharing over on Nutritional Mischief at some point as well, so I apologize in advance for the double exposure.)


Monday, June 8

A Porch!!

One of the things that has been on our wish list since we bought our house was replacing the front stairs with a proper porch. The entire setup for getting from the driveway into the house was poorly thought out by the prior owners, and decidedly in need of some improvement. 

That project got pushed to the back burner, however, while we dealt with more urgent things like getting a garden in, taking down trees that were fall hazards to the house, etc. This past winter, however, we noted that our concrete front stairs had developed a hole... and it was quickly (and alarmingly) getting progressively larger! So the porch project got bumped to the top of the list. 

While the world was still buried in snow, we had people out to look at it, forked over some money, and secured ourselves a spot at the top of the list for getting a new porch! 

As you can see from this picture (from when we bought the house),  the original setup included a weirdly placed wooden set of stairs from the driveway down into the yard, and a very basic set of concrete steps up into the house. We've since moved the wooden stairs to a more logical place (in line with the house door). We had an interesting time ripping the concrete stairs out. Tip: even completely hollow, those suckers are heavy! Thankfully, my Jeep never says no to a challenge.   :)

Once we had the stairs ripped out, we had to clean up the space underneath. (Apparently the previous owners thought that it would be a great idea to dump broken porcelain and other random junk under there.)  Once it was all shoveled out, we raked it (mostly) level and were good to go!
The babies were not the least bit impressed with this development, however, as it prevented them from using their beloved doggie door!

To make sure that no one tried to go out the front door and accidentally killed themselves during the week it took to get footers put in and the deck built, Eric helpfully taped the front door shut. For extra emphasis, he wrote "NO!" on every piece of tape.  :)

I found this quite helpful but, again, the babies were less impressed. Promises of a proper napping porch and sentry station seemed to fall on deaf radar ears as they tried in vain to convince us to restore their doggie door throughout that week.

After interference from uncooperative weather, confusion about the permit situation, and a little arduous digging, the finished product proved to be more than worth the wait!

We wasted no time moving our glider (my awesome birthday gift last year) up onto our new porch. We have thoroughly enjoyed snugging under a quilt on (often still chilly) Saturday mornings for glider coffee, or taking a glass of wine out after dinner for a few minutes of quiet amidst our busy weeks.

I have designs of planting a climbing rose in front of it, but for now it's perfect! 

The dogs have decided it's awesome as well - very official looking to supervise from, and very cool to nap under on hot days.

We're thrilled to have an entire summer and all of the fall to enjoy our new porch!

Friday, June 5

Not Blogging - But Not Slacking!!

So, it's been forever since I posted. It's almost embarrassing at this point... sorry!

But the lack of blogging hasn't reflected a lack of things to blog about. On the contrary - I've got a backlog of things I wanted to post but never got around to. Hopefully I'll get caught up in then next couple weeks!

In the meantime, here's a couple quick pics of little things we've been up to.

Another scrap quilt completed for the guest bedroom!

A giant, comfy napping ball for the babies. Supervision in style!

Bottling homemade Carrot Wine. (And tomato wine.)

Planting piles of seeds, waiting anxiously for them to sprout, and
then finding garden space for them all!
See? Totally not slacking!  :)

More to come soon!

Friday, May 1

Coming Soon to a DSM Near You: Paleo - The Newest Eating Disorder

I thought I'd bring you some free entertainment to start your Friday with, compliments of the news media and some professional shrinks who may or may not have sold their souls for a little Big Food/Big Pharma bribery.... 

Did you know that there is a new movement to consider "raw, clean, and Paleo" eaters mentally ill? 

I kid you not. Feel better when you eat clean? Enjoy "superfoods" like chia seed smoothies or kale? Resent consuming, let alone paying money for chemical and GMO-laden crap? Plan to be diagnosed with "orthorexia nervosa" - the new "health food eating disorder", nominated by some for inclusion in the next edition of the DSM-5 (the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). 

You can check out the article here. I won't really rant any more than that, because it's so ludicrous already I don't even have to. Enjoy your weekend, and remember - watch out for those veggies! You don't want to eat too many and have people start thinking you're crazy.... :P

Wednesday, April 29

Dear NYSED, Grow Up.

One of the marks of an adult, particularly those who seek to hold positions of authority (let alone anyone who wants to be a genuine leader) is the ability to acknowledge when one has made a mistake or done something poorly, and a willingness to act responsibly, maturely and humbly in collaborating with others to fix it. 

The New York State Department of Education (NYSED) clearly never got that memo.

It pretended to listen when there was a huge outcry against Common Core and the associated testing when it they first launched. It tried to soothe ruffled feathers (without actually doing anything about the cause) when people didn't sit down and shut up about the accumulating mess that unfolded as roll-out continued. 

Now it is pouting and petulantly threatening to withhold money and (it implies) make children and school districts suffer if parents don't get over their obnoxious misconception that they have rights or a say in this whole situation and quit refusing to have their children participate in the tests. 

Real mature, guys. Seriously. 

In Capital Region school districts alone, "anywhere from 2 percent to 53 percent of students did not take the tests."  These numbers aren't unique - similar percentages are showing up across the state. When over half of the families in some districts are opting out, it seems like it is long past time for NYSED to quit acting like an overtired toddler and start approaching the situation like adults. 

When this is how your constituents see your program,
you may have a problem...
Is it that hard for all of us (that means you too, NYSED) acknowledge that Common Core, however good and well intentioned its premise, it being badly implemented and everybody knows it? Is it that horrifically unreasonable to take the list of legitimate reasons people are throwing fits and rethink/revise Common Core the implementation plan? 

Maybe it is. Maybe NYSED can't muster that kind of maturity. But if that's the case, I'd like to offer them a small reminder - you're not the only ones who can make threats and control purse strings. Homeschooling, unschooling, and all kinds of permutations thereof are easier, more accessible, and more cost effective now that ever before. With some big employers stating flat out that they give hiring preference to home-schooled kids, these alternatives also have more clout and leverage than ever before. You think it's rough now, with 53% of parents refusing to have their kids test - think how screwed you'd be if even a fraction of those parents pulled their kids out of your system entirely.

So please, NYSED, open your eyes and get your act together. It's not too late to clean this up and do right by parents, teachers, students, and school districts. (In fact, research shows that when you step up to fix a mistake, you actually earn far more loyal adherents than if you'd never made a mistake at all.) But don't compound your existing mistakes by trying to ram compliance down everyone's throat here - you may just bite off more than you can chew. 

Monday, April 27

My Elegant & Complex Garden Plan

Despite never properly putting our garden "to bed" last year, I had great intentions of being totally on top of things this spring. Mapping out a garden plan, companion planting, researching what specific strains of common veggies (tomatoes, etc.) grow best in our region - you get the idea. 

But after a brutal (and busy) winter, I found myself with nothing planned or in place when that first post-it popped up in my planner reminding me that it was time to start planting seeds for this year's garden. What I did have was a pile of assorted seeds in the freezer whose age, levels of proper prep for saving, and probability of sprouting varied dramatically.

Since we've (finally) found a couple good farmers' markets locally and signed up for a CSA this year, I knew our primary veggie needs would be covered regardless of what we grew ourselves. [insert sigh of relief here]  Thus, I settled on my highly elegant and complex garden plan for this year: throw everything  on hand at the dirt and plant what sprouts.   :)

I reassured myself that if we somehow got an abysmally low sprouting rate we could always pick up a handful of seedlings somewhere to fill in any empty garden space. As it turns out, though, our sprouting rate was much higher than anticipated! I've made a huge mess twice already - once in the original round of planting, and again when I transplanted a bunch of seedlings to bigger cups.

I started with seeds for two kinds of pumpkins (cheese and sugar), peppers (chili and two varieties of bell/sweet), broccoli, carrots, eggplant, spinach, arugula, butternut squash, tomatoes (three varieties), onions, and lavender. So far I have no cheese pumpkins, eggplant, or peppers and only 1 butternut squash seedling. Everything else is thriving... and starting to take over our window sills. If they keeping soaking up what sunshine we can get, they'll (hopefully) be strong and ready for their move outdoors Memorial Day weekend.

Meanwhile, our wild edibles (like purslane) are starting to make an appearance, and our established perennials (rhubarb) are showing new growth as well. (Yay!)

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything survives my poor gardening skills (and the deer), and that we get a great harvest this year despite my very inelegant plan.