Peas please

As soon as your soil is no longer frozen, it’s time to plant your peas! If you live in a mild climate like me, the time is now. Peas are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and they have the most beautiful flowers in early spring. It’s one of the first flowers to open in any  garden. Another great thing about peas is they don’t need fertilizer. They actually put nitrogen, their most needed food, into the soil. Most vegetables use up nitrogen and that’s why gardeners have to add it back in every growing season. With peas, you are actually making your soil better! Beans also add nitrogen to the soil too, but they prefer to grow in the summer rather than spring. So wait to plant those.

I prefer to grow snow peas which are eaten as the edible pea pods rather than the round shelling peas. They harvest earlier than shelling peas because you don’t have to wait for the peas to grow. I guess you can say I’m too lazy to shell them! I like to plant a variety of vegetables through the growing season and planting this type of pea allows me to have fresh veges really early in the year! As you can tell, that really excites me!

First, I soak my seeds overnight and buy a small section of farm fence to stake in the ground. What’s nice is they don’t take much room because they grow upward. I plant a row of peas at the base of the farm fence and keep them watered. They grow fast. Since they are the first green in the garden, they might be subject to more pests, so I plant more seeds than the package recommends just in case.

I’m an organic gardener so here are a few tricks for pests. If you have slugs or snails, clean and crumble egg shells around the base of the plants. They don’t like to climb over the sharp edges. If you get aphids (little green plant sucking bugs) spray them off lightly with the garden hose. Most times lady bugs will start to find a crop of aphids and take over for you. I prefer that over spraying with pesticides. Attracting lady bugs early keeps them all over the vegetable garden through the rest of the season. And they eat a lot of bugs for you! If aphids are really taking over and the plants are really damaged, you can buy an organic insecticidal soap that usually takes care of them as a last ditch effort.

In just a few weeks you will have gorgeous flowers and tender, juicy peas! What more could you ask for in the early spring?

 

Grapefruit diet: A juicy rumor

YUM! I’ve always been a big fan of grapefruit. Growing up , I used to drink it with chocolate chip cookies as a snack! Honestly, having tried orange juice with cookies these days, I don’t see how I could stand the sweet versus tart! It wasn’t until I was a teenager I started to hear rumors of the grapefruit diet.  The diet had been around for years, and still comes up today. It seems as though there are enough success stories it continues to linger.

The truth is, there is research as recent as 2006 that showed two groups, one eating grapefruit in the diet,  and a control group not eating it where the grapefruit eaters lost more weight.  First, this tells me it’s not necessarily the “grapefruit diet” that’s  causing the weight loss, but the grapefruit itself. Second, it leaves the question……..what is so special about grapefruit?

There are two theories of what in grapefruit aids weight loss. One is that it lowers insulin levels which usually help the body store sugar as fat. The other is that grapefruit possess powerful enzymes not found in any other citrus fruit.

Whatever the reason, it sounds like a great opportunity to add a ½ a grapefruit or a ½ cup of the juice daily. It’s a good sound fruit loaded with nutrition, especially vitamin C.  The only caution is you’ll want to check any medications you are taking. Some of them clearly state not to eat grapefruit with them.

You know, I haven’t had grapefruit in a long time and have a couple pounds to lose. I’m headed to the grocery store and think I’ll pick some up.

Gluten Free: friend or foe

There has been a lot of talk about gluten free diets lately that have caused controversy. It’s been from one extreme to another. The Today show talks about some dangers of gluten free diets while other doctors, such as William Davis, MD, warns of the dangers of NOT eating gluten-free.  Besides digestive issues, some say gluten can cause blood sugar issues, weak bones and even heart disease.  I personally feel the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

So what are the facts about gluten free diets? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye that some people have issues with. Gluten free diets were designed for people who truly physically cannot tolerate gluten. This includes people diagnosed with celiac disease, wheat allergies or sensitivities, or some types of autoimmune disease. It’s become popular lately as the latest health craze, but each person needs to evaluate if there is really any benefit for them.

If you are not diagnosed with one of the physical issues above, what is your reason for trying a gluten free diet? If you believe  you are sensitive to gluten although you are not formally diagnosed, try it for a week and see if there is really a difference. If there is not, there is no reason or real benefit to doing so. In fact, if your method of moving to gluten free involved removing most carbohydrates from your diet, then it can be detrimental since you need carbs for energy as well as a well-balanced diet.

I’ve had friends tell me they went on the diet to lose weight. Theoretically, one carb has the same calories as another so unless you are eliminating them once again, weight loss is usually not the result. If you are just trying to lose weight, cutting carbs from a diet that is too high in carbs is the right way to go. Then, having a mix of carbs that include wheat, barley and rye is a good part of a well-balanced diet.
Bottom line, gluten-free is not a miracle cure, it’s just the latest health craze that may or may not help you depending on your situation. Besides, limiting your food options is hard enough without forcing an unnecessary one on yourself!

Mardi gras Gumbo

To celebrate Fat Tuesday, here is a gumbo recipe full of nutritious vegetables and colorful enough to be the hit of a Mardi gras party!

MARDI GRAS GUMBO

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped  bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped sweet peppers (orange, yellow and red)
  • 1 ½ cups chopped red onion
  • 32oz chicken broth
  • 2 large tomatoes peeled and chopped ( I like yellow heirlooms)
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups sliced okra
  • 2 pounds peeled deveined large shrimp, chicken or sausage, or a combination of them
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper or hot Cajun seasoning
  • Dash of hot sauce

Make a roux by whisking together oil and flour over medium heat in a stock pot. Keep whisking until the roux turns a dark caramel color. Add carrots, celery, peppers and onions stirring until they are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken broth, tomatoes, garlic, okra and seasonings and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve over rice.

And the study says……………………….

One of my biggest pet peeves is the promises of miracles or panic that is created by the media or by business advertisements.  When they talk about the latest and greatest findings, it is usually something that has been known for a while. They tend to use extreme words to evoke emotion and then throw a study at you that seems to prove their point.  Anyone that knows research and statistics knows it’s possible to manipulate it to lean in different directions. I’m going to help you detect how legitimate some of this research is.

First look at the source of the research.  Is it from “WLU (Wait-Loss University)” to prove the ability to lose weight on “Wait-Loss diet capsules” from the company “Wait-Loss Incorporated”? Gee………sounds like someone funded their own research! I wonder what results their going to come up with?!!  The names may not always be the same, but if you look close enough, you’ll find many companies create their own research centers, hire their own doctors and run tests on their own products.

Then you have to look at what they used for their tests and how they did them.  For instance you may see…….”the average person gains 10 pound a year! But on our Wait-Loss diet capsules, people lose 10 pounds a week!”.  What they didn’t tell you is the study for their weight gain statistic was a group of 10 children between the ages of 8 and 16. Of course they are going to gain weight! They are growing up! Plus, they only had 10 kids. A good study will have a lot more test subjects. The higher the number, the more reliable it is. Also, their weight loss subjects were 4 people weighing 300 pounds each and they only measured the first week on the program.  The higher the weight of a person, the more they will lose when trying any kind of weight loss tactic. More than that, do you think one week of tracking is a good representation?

Read the fine print. You will see all sorts of stuff people have to say but don’t want to tell you.  “Results not typical”, “not approved by FDA”, or my favorite “when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise routine”. Boy, if you eat a healthy diet and exercise, are you going to praise the capsule for helping you lose weight?

When I said many studies have been around awhile, I mean it’s been looked at before. You just may not have heard about it. The media is great at digging up recent studies  that sound extreme and run with them. Most legitimate research/studies have had multiple trials from multiple sources and reference the others to show whether or not the findings are similar or different than the others.  If the results all lean in one direction, you probably have something you can trust and depend on. If they don’t, then you have to question what  you believe and take it for what it is…….a possibility.

There is really nothing wrong with listening to the media or commercials for your health information. They do draw attention to some of the latest innovations in the health industry, but make sure to do your homework before you form an opinion, and better yet, before you spend money on it!

 

The sweet taste of fruit!

Every now and then you’ll hear people talk about how bad fruit is for you because it’s full of sugar. If you are a diabetic trying to control your blood sugar levels, I would agree you need to watch how much fruit you eat. If you are not diabetic, something to consider is the nutrient content of fruit. For example, a blueberry is loaded with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that you will not find in a teaspoon of table sugar.  My recommendation is if you are craving something sweet, eat a piece of fruit. Fruit desserts are a great alternative to the standard fatty sugary treats…..and you get added nutrition to boot!

Growing your transplants

Okay, so now you know I’m still a work in progress. I learned something new this week.

I got so excited to grow my vegetable transplants indoors this year, I planted them the very first day the books said you could start them. I gave them optimal conditions  with even more care than I did in previous years and it really paid off …………..sort of.

My tiny seedlings have grown a foot tall already and it’s only 4 weeks into the 10- 12 week growing period the gardening book recommends! The roots were flowing out the bottom of the miniature pots so I had to repot them in bigger ones and I’m running out of room under the light I have! With the winter conditions and unpredictable weather it will be at least another 6 weeks before I dare set them outside.

Boy, if you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them! For now I’m going to keep repotting them,  sitting them by the windows and cross my fingers for an earlier spring!

Valentine’s Breakfast?

It’s Valentine’s Day! Do you have something special planned?

I’ve only been to a restaurant twice on Valentine’s Day. The first time we could only get an early reservation. In order to accommodate more people, the wait staff quickly pushed us out the door instead of letting us savor the evening. The second time I went to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day the food was cold. I suspect they pre-cooked some of the favorite dinners in advance to save themselves the chaos in the kitchen during the rush. I decided going to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day is NOT romantic.  I’ve found the most romantic evening is found when the two of you cuddle together in your own home, in privacy. And if you like food as part of your romance, then there is nothing more romantic than cooking a great meal to share.

What’s more romantic than intimacy followed by breakfast in bed? Everyone loves breakfast for dinner….right? Here is a recipe from a great book called “Booty Food” by Jacqui Malouf. She has a passion for food and amusing writing style. Although I can’t say her recipes are low fat or gluten free, I can say they are fun for a special occasion slip off your normal routine. Besides, if you cook it yourself, you never have to wonder what quality ingredients you are eating.

Grand Marnier French Toast

  • 5 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 ½ oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Dash nutmeg
  • 6 slices white rye bread (unseeded)
  • 4 TBLS butter

 

Combine eggs, milk, Grand Marnier, orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk well. Soak the bread in the egg mixture. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add bread and cook until crisp on the outside, about 3 minutes per side. Arrange French toast on a plate, garnish with orange slices and serve with warm maple syrup.

 

Enjoy!

I don’t want to gum my food

My family had a terrible dental history. Lots of cavities, gingivitis, root canals, impacted wisdom teeth, braces, head gear, dentures, you name it! Of course I was cursed with half of these issues. I religiously visited the dentist every 6 months and every visit resulted in one or two more visits to “fix” something. One of the first jobs I had while earning my dietetics degree was as a dietary aide at a nursing home.  The most disheartening thing I experienced there, as a food lover, was people whose teeth were so bad they couldn’t eat solid food. They either had dentures which over time became painful, or they literally had their teeth removed. Blending up meals in a food processor or blender so these people could get a well-balanced meal was devastating to me!  Can you image having to eat all your favorite meals as soup?!  It got me motivated to find a cure for my deteriorating teeth!

Finally, a person in my family with terrible receding gums was instructed to buy a Sonicare toothbrush and educated on the importance of flossing.  I adopted the regimen by brushing and flossing twice a day religiously. Once after breakfast and once right before bed. Bacteria really take over your mouth overnight, so you want to thoroughly clean them at that time. Don’t forget to brush the gums and tongue. Suddenly my dentist visits we miraculously better. No more scrapping off tartar, poking and prodding didn’t result in bleeding gums and time in the chair was reduced in half. The best thing is I no longer had to come back to “fix” anything!

If this regimen worked for me, why couldn’t it work for my dog? I rescued a dog with very bad teeth.  The vet told me he would lose all of his teeth in a couple years and there was no way around it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! 10 years later, at age 14, my dog still has half of his teeth left and I saved myself thousands in doggy dental bills! It stinks they don’t have dental insurance for dogs. How did I get him to tolerate me brushing with a Sonicare? Meat flavored doggy toothpaste and a lot of patience and training!

Hey, if you are plagued with dental issues, the small investment in a Sonicare and a little extra time to brush and floss will save you a load of money. And you won’t have to eat tacos el carbon soup for dinner in your old age!

Restorative Sleep

You’re burning the candle at both ends, constantly feeling sick, forgetful, depressed, looking and feeling older than you are. What is one thing you can change to improve your situation? GET SOME SLEEP! It’s amazing what an impact sleep has on a body. When your body is sleeping it is recovering  from everything you throw at it. The stuff mentioned above that is troubling you….it’s getting fixed while you are in dreamland!

If you aren’t waking up feeling refreshed, you aren’t getting enough sleep. How much sleep do you need? People vary. They usually recommend 7 to 8 ½ hours a night. I know some who need 9 or 10, and others  seem to survive on 4. It may take a few long nights of sleep to recover before your standard 8 hours leaves you feeling refreshed, so better to start now.

Sometimes my schedule  doesn’t allow me to get the recommended amount at one time.  In those cases, cat naps really do work.  If you find you are exhausted but only have 10 minutes before you need to be back in action, that’s actually enough time to make a difference. Sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed, and even if you don’t actually snooze, you’ll  be amazed at the difference in how you feel when you open your eyes and start moving again.

Give your body a break. Get more sleep and you will reap the rewards.