Spring! Time to plant organic vegetables!

Peas

Finally! For us gardeners this has been a long drawn out winter!  Unfortunately in some places spring still seems so far away! If you haven’t been following me long, I’m a huge fan of growing your own organic vegetables. There is nothing better than eating something out of your own garden. They are fresher, have more nutrients (produce loses nutrients through storage and travel), tastier, and you know what’s in them because you grew them!

If you don’t have a place to grow your vegetables yet, it’s pretty simple and you don’t need a lot of room.  I usually create a bed 4X8 feet.  Look for the sunniest spot in your yard, even if it’s grassed over.  If you are comfortable with your soil condition and haven’t been using harsh chemicals, you can just dig out the grass and mix in extra soil until you have 8 inches of loose soil. Layer 1-2 inches of compost on top and lightly rake it in. If you aren’t sure of your soils condition, build up a bed with good soil, 10-12 inches high. You don’t need to side it with planks, but if you do, do not use treated wood. There are toxic chemicals that will leach into your vegetables. Don’t forget to add your compost.

If you don’t have a yard or live in an apartment you can still grow vegetables on your patio or deck using large pots. There are even some pots specially designed with self watering reservoirs so you don’t’ have to water as much. My favorites to grow in pots are tomatoes, peppers, peas, strawberries, lettuce and herbs. Read your soil bags to find an organic mix that is okay in pots.  Some warn against it for their product.

If you just built your bed and added your compost, it’s recommended you wait a week or two before planting to let the soil rest and the compost start doing its work. Once you’re ready, buy your seed and plant as directed on the package!

What should you plant now? It’s still early in the season, so you want to work on your cool weather vegetables. Leave your tomato and pepper transplants inside until after danger of frost has past. Here is what you can plant now! Try peas, onions, carrots, radishes, parsnips, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale, collards, and Swiss chard.

Do not fertilize until your seedlings have at least 4 leaves!  It will burn them if you do. But we can talk about that later. I’ll be talking to you soon about maintaining your garden and what you can plant next!

Happy gardening!

CrossFit benefits everyone

Gym

I’ve been watching the increase of commercials and articles on CrossFit. It’s a rapidly growing form of exercise, and for good reason.  The founder of CrossFit is a coach named Greg Glassman who in 1995 opened his first CrossFit gym in California. He found that mixing up exercises improved performance of his athletes.

Most athletes focus on their specialty such as runners, weight lifters, tennis players and snowboarders.  It’s been found many athletes overuse and stress a concentrated muscle group resulting in injury or maxing out their abilities. Unfortunately, I’ve met athletes who seem healthy, but repeatedly injure the same body part over and over. Some try different sports but can’t seem to transfer their abilities.  A good example is a weight lifter who can’t run because he’s never done a cardio workout.  As most of us know, aerobic or cardio workouts are important for your heart too.

What Greg Glassman found was having his athletes change up exercises increased OVERALL fitness.  He found there were fewer injuries, and for those who were already injured, they healed faster. Those who had plateaued were suddenly able to get to the next level!  Sounds amazing doesn’t it?!

If you aren’t an athlete but want to be leaner, stronger or more flexible, CrossFit might be for you. The medical community support claims that working all different muscle groups in different ways can increase your overall strength, endurance, balance and agility. This can help you with any physical challenge you come across in your life.

What’s great about CrossFit is you don’t have to join a gym.  You can do it anywhere with little to no equipment. If you usually get bored with exercise routines this is the one for you. You are constantly mixing it up.

So how do you start?
There are lots of routine samples free online.
The recommendation is working out 5 days a week, 20-60 minutes a day, alternating vigorous days with light workouts. If you don’t have time, 3 days a week is fine. The results will just take longer.

Mix up the following types of exercise:

-Weight training or body weight exercises like push-ups, pull up, sit ups and squats
-Distance training like treadmill, running, rowing, cycling, jump roping and swimming
-Flexibility training like yoga, Pilates and martial arts

Many exercises cross over types. Just be sure on alternating days you are working different muscles or doing a lighter form of exercise to allow your body to recover from the day before. If you are really sore, your next work out should just be a walk or some light yoga with meditation.

CrossFit can be difficult for beginners. It’s important to stretch before and after your workout, complete your exercises correctly, and don’t pound or over work it.  You don’t want to injure yourself. If you have concerns with this, or are truly new to exercise, I recommend getting a trainer or short membership to learn the basics.

Have Fun!

 

What is Kefir?

Kefir

I was walking through my favorite health food store and found a row of bottles labeled “Kefir” in the dairy aisle. I did some research to see what this up and coming health food was.

Kefir is fermented milk, similar to yogurt, that actually has a HIGHER and more diverse good bacteria count. It’s a mega probiotic drink. Compared to  yogurt, it’s thinner, more acidic, sometimes fizzy and has a slight alcohol content (less than 1%). It contains multiple types of beneficial bacteria that some say will improve your digestion and fend off infection. It’s also loaded with nutrients including a solid amount of vitamin Bs.

The history on this drink goes back to the dawn of time in Eastern Europe. Today you can buy it in a variety of flavors that make the taste more appealing. There haven’t been many studies on this product, so claims of curing illnesses have not been proven though you can read a number of stories on the web  that say it does.

If you have digestive issues, you may want to give this a try!

 

 

 

Egg substitutes you have in your kitchen

Eggs

Have you ever been in the middle of baking and realized you were out of eggs? I hate it when that happens! Rather than dropping everything and running out to the store, here are substitutions you can you use instead. Or, if you are vegan or trying to avoid eggs, this also a great way for you to still have baked goods too!

Equals 1 egg:

1/2 banana mashed
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 Tbls apricots mashed
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup tofu
1 tsp yeast mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 Tbls water, 1 1/2 tsp oil and 1 tsp baking powder mixed together
1 tsp baking soda mixed with 1 Tbls vinegar
1 packet plain gelatin mixed with 2 Tbls water
1 Tbls ground flaxseed mixed with 3 Tbls water
1 Tlbs agar powder mixed with 1 Tbls water

You should have one of these in your kitchen!

Time to grow your vegetable starts!

Vegetable starts

It’s that time of year again! If you are planning to grow tomatoes, peppers or other long season vegetables, you should be going to your nearest home improvement center and choosing your seed packets. All you need is your seeds and some soil. Although your store may carry trays to grow your starts, you can use anything. Paper cups, tin cans, plastic yogurt containers and anything else you can pour soil into. Punch holes in the bottom of the container to be sure water can run through and not drown your seeds. Follow the directions on the packet and put them under any lamp. I use a shop light. If you don’t have a spare light, you can just set it close to a window. Make sure to keep it warm though, seeds like 75 degrees to germinate.

Okay….you got that started? Tune back in a few weeks from now and I’ll tell you what to do next!

Gluten free oatmeal raisin cookie recipe

oatmeal cookie

Out of all the gluten free things I bake, this one gets the most compliments. Hope you like it!

1/2 granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup butter
1 Tbls cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups gluten free oats ( if you have celiac disease buy only the gluten free version)
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup raisins
If you can get it, adding 1/2 tsp guar gum will reduce crumbling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together sugar and butter, then beat in egg. Mix in seasonings and then dry ingredients. Drop teaspoons of dough on ungreased cookie sheet and bake between 7 to 10 minutes, or until the edges turn brown. Wait until they cool a little before moving them or they will fall apart.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Dealing with difficult people

Are you unhappy because of a frustrating person you have to deal with? If the answer is yes, then you may want to consider that it’s you that has the problem that needs to be dealt with.

Every person is unique and has different ideas on how things should be done.This is a good thing, because it takes many people to build a community. You have your engineers, your accountants, your teachers, your farmers and of course the artists. Have you ever met a person who could do all of these things? Not likely. Everyone brings something to the party and no two are exactly alike. Unfortunately, different ideas result in conflict.

It’s okay to have conflict, it’s how you deal with the conflict that’s important. If you never learn how to work with people different from yourself, you’re the one who could look like a problem.

If this is sounding too familiar to you, I want to help. I was once in your shoes. If I didn’t see eye to eye with someone, I immediately considered them wrong. In reality, there are many levels of right and wrong that I’ve been proven wrong many times. Before you give up on that person you can’t deal with, take a first step to resolve it……..LISTEN.

Before a person can understand where you are coming from, you need to understand where they are coming from. First, if the relationship is in an emotional state, you need to be the bigger man and either say “I’m sorry, let’s talk this out”. If it’s not quite to that level, you can just smile and say hello, using their name, and it will break the tension. Save the actual conversation for another day.

Now the fixing starts. First, stay calm and LISTEN. Start by asking a question. It can be as simple as why they do the thing that makes you angry. You need to be genuinely interested in what they say. Make eye contact, keep an open mind and focus on what they are saying to you. You may be surprised how much you have in common. Show  your effort by repeating back to them what you think you heard. This will also confirm if you understand them correctly. Resist temptation to interrupt. You can speak only when they have finished and you grasp what they are explaining.

It’s okay to have different ideas. In the end you can agree to disagree on things and still maintain some sort of relationship. Some people you can’t remove from your life so you need to learn to be around each other and accept who you both are. How can you both be happy in the future? Smile, and recognize when the other person restrains to accommodate you. A simple thank you and a smile will make you both happy.

 

Happiness requires action

Rainbow

So many people are in the pursuit of happiness. Many complain about their current circumstances. I have a few negative friends who when I try to give suggestions on how to improve their situation, they answer “I can’t” or “It’s not possible”. In reality, anything is possible and you can do whatever you want! I’m not saying that it will always be easy, but isn’t what you want worth a little work?

I believe some people are afraid to try or make a change. The unknown is scary to them. If you are one of these people, and you are so unhappy where you are, what do they have to lose? You can either be eternally unhappy or risk giving it a try! This seems like an obvious choice to me!

Some people feel like victims and sit frozen in their unhappiness. I have a warning for you…… doing nothing means you are passively letting your life go. You MUST take action to make your life what you want.

For example, if you are fed up with your job, look for a new one. Don’t quite your current job, just start searching. Sometimes just searching can improve your mood. If you find that you aren’t qualified for the job you want, research what you need to get it. Find a mentor who works in the field, get educated, or if you don’t have money to pay for classes, look for volunteer opportunities that will gain you experience or at least get you closer to the people who could get you that job in the future. You may not get that job right away, but you WILL get there if you persist. And the road to getting there should get you excited about the prospect of getting what you REALLY want.

Take a step towards action today. Even if it’s a small one like a phone call. Just like I’ve said before, one baby step at time is all it takes to make a positive change!

 

 

The jerky snack controversy

Beef Jerky

You see the funny commercials. They line the gas station shelves and are now showing up in the more popular snack sections of your higher end stores! I’ve even been to specialty shops where they use multiple types of animal meat including things like chicken, buffalo and even wild boar! There are a ton of flavors too. Not just pepper, but teriyaki, curry and sweet fruity ones made with pineapple. You can even buy kits to make your own! Meat jerky snacks are in!

But how do these snacks stack up in the area of health? There are so many opinions on this I could go on all day.  To make it simple, here is the good, the bad and the ugly:

THE GOOD!
Protein- 12 grams per ounce! Maintains blood sugar levels reducing hunger and could help weight loss.

THE BAD
Fat – 1 gram per ounce! It’s also saturated fat which is the worst kind of fat.
Sodium – 590 grams of sodium which is 1/4 of the max you should have in a day!

THE UGLY
Nitrates – This is a known carcinogen!

If you want to get the benefits of this protein snack without risking your health, look for all-natural versions without nitrates and check your labels for fat and sodium level.  Better yet…..MAKE YOUR OWN! There are a ton of tasty low fat, low sodium recipes online.

 

Vegetables that fight cancer

Coleslaw

Can you say cruciferous? That is the name of a class of vegetables that have been shown to fight cancer! You’re probably saying….”I’m In! What are these cruciferous vegetables?” The coleslaw in this picture is made from one of them! Here is a list for you:

Broccoli
Cauliflower
Cabbage
Brussels Sprouts
Bok Choy
Kale
Collard Greens
Kohlrabi
Horseradish

The compounds found in these vegetables that help protect you from cancer are diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium. Some studies have even shown eating these daily can potentially stop cancerous tumors from growing!

Besides this amazing benefit, these vegetables are packed with nutritional goodness. They are high in fiber, Vitamins A, B-6 and C, Folic Acid and even some potassium and Omega-3!

Some people find these vegetables bitter or complain they cause gas, which is true. Try Beano or a comparative enzyme to reduce bloating and gas. Cooking these vegetables may help the taste, but the more you cook, the more you change the compounds and may lessen the benefit. Lightly sauteing or steaming is your best bet. Or, like the picture above, make your self coleslaw with RAW cabbage and reap the reward!

You can’t take a supplement for this one folks, although there is one available on the market. There is an enzymatic reaction that can only take place with the real food! Another lesson on relying on supplements.

So I hope this is a new one for you, or if not, a reminder that this potentially bitter, smelly vegetable class has its merits!  If you want to learn more, Berkeley, University of California is one of the locations that published studies.