Filed under: Healthy Living
- How pretty to peek inside my CSA box!
CSA. Usually stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Or, in my case , it might mean “Couldn’t Scribble Anything”. I’m coming back to this blog after a 3 1/2 month absence to declare that I finally made the plunge and signed on for a CSA box. CSA. Sounds official. And it sort of is. I signed up and pledged to spend my hard-earned money on weekly shares of whatever the farmers are growing this week. That means a couple of things. Firstly, I have to actually remember to pick the box up. Secondly, I have to figure out a trillion ways to cook squash. But, I’m making this sound complicated, and actually it’s well… fun.
This box comes from Grow Alabama and combines food from farmers all over the state. Last week it was peaches, squash (of course), cabbage, brocolli and…shoot, I’ve already forgotten. The fun is opening the box! It’s so pretty! The challenge is cooking this lovely harvest before it goes bad, getting creative with the recipes and resisting the urge to go out for tacos on a night when you’re too tired to open the refrigerator door. If you’ve never eaten only what is growing fresh and local, you may not realize that your diet can become a mite restricted. For instance, in Alabama, in summer, yellow squash is prolific! Easy to grow, easy to pick, easy to cook. So, you’d better be prepared to get creative!
No matter that I’m not a gourmet cook. My mama taught me about cornmeal, salt and pepper. Now I’ve added Olive Oil to my arsenal and I swear, I can cook about any damn thing. (And yes, its’ pretty tasty)! Plus, I don’t have to traverse around the grocery store wondering what on earth I’m going to buy. I just take what I get in Tuesday’s box and It Works. Just like Steve Jobs just told us about iCloud. “It just works”. There’s merit there, you know. Less decisions to make. A healthier, more frugal menu and those beautiful veggies are not being trucked in from all over creation. Less fuel, fresh taste. Hmmm. You think that could be someone’s new slogan? Well, maybe not.
All I know is tonight for dinner I had fresh organically grown brocolli, yellow squash (of course), locally made bread and (not so locally grown) shrimp. Pretty easy. Pretty tasty. Good for the farmers and your own personal economy. What ‘da ya think? Give it a try? If you do, please…. share the recipes for the yellow squash!
June 13, 2011
- Turkey Creek, Pinson Alabama
There’s a little snatch of memory I have, a bit of a dream, where whorls of color and screams of delight intertwine with splashing, wet rocks and a summer day. That scene is the first memory I have of Turkey Creek. My father had driven my sister and I past the creek in the hopes of convincing us that the move we were about to make to the “country” was idyllic… a daily diary of tanned young bodies, new friends and lazy days. While our move from the city to the country wasn’t quite as smooth as he had, perhaps, hoped, that memory of Turkey Creek has always lingered in a favorable way, just on the outskirts of my mind. Particularly since, not too many years later, I revisited Turkey Creek only to find it overrun with a rougher type of crowd, hypodermic needles littering the glittery rocks and suspicious stares replacing those open faces we had first encountered. Mind you, that was probably 30 years ago.
I recently revisited Turkey Creek. I’d been meaning to, for Oh… I don’t know, forever. I’d been hearing about how the land had been cleaned up, thanks in large due to a grass roots initiative to protect the area. On the day of my visit the creek was roaring and clear. I’d like to post a big shout out to the Eagle Scouts who painstakingly prepared a pleasant trail that now ambles by the side of the creek. My daughter, sister and I meandered about, poking and looking, watching for small wildlife and observing the other people, of which there weren’t many that day. What a worthwhile restoration! Restful benches, marked trails, dotted the hill but didn’t intrude on nature’s landscape. To be there on the creek bank is to feel that you are, indeed, in a remote part of the state; when, actually you are only 20 minutes north of downtown Birmingham. My daughter exclaimed, “I didn’t even know this was here!,” even though she has haunted that part of the state since she was small. I’ll bet there are many folks in our city who would say the same.
So, what IS so great about Turkey Creek?
Well, here’s a few things to start:
• Turkey Creek is home to 3 varieties of endangered fish, the Watercress Darter, the Rush Darter and the famous Vermillion Darter, which exists nowhere else on earth. That’s sort of cool, right?
• Turkey Creek has some historical significance. It’s the site of the home and mill of David Hanby, who was an early industrialist entrepeneur. (I think its funny that he holds a place in history for the way he ripped coal out of the bottom of the river, yet, he had to give the coal away at first, because people were distrustful of his methods. You just never know right?)
• Of further historical interest is that Turkey Creek is the site of Mount Pinson Ironworks, which was built in 1863 and supplied horseshoes to the Confederate troops mounts. The troops may not have had shoes, but apparently the horses did.
But to me, the very, best thing about Turkey Creek is that it is beautiful. It’s so close to the city, yet you can get so close to nature so darn fast! And, its such a testament to the rebirth and preservation that can occur when people pull together for a common goal. I hope you’ll go. Take your family. Even the dogs are welcome. Enjoy and keep our earth at her best!
Want more info? Check out these links:
The Southern Environmental Center
Freshwater Land Trust
Alabama’s Forever Wild Program
generations have carved their undying devotion here
March 1, 2011
Do you watch TV? If you do, you may have noticed plenty of commercials for pre-emergence herbicides. I was thinking about that name. Pre-emergence. (Or as my mother calls it, pre-emergency). That’s me, I think… I’m almost ready to… emerge, and believe me, it IS an emergency! If I don’t get out of the house soon, I will surely crack. Although I live in the Southeastern US, where the winters are normally mild, this particular winter has been brutal by southern standards. (Right, I know I have no right to whine). Nonetheless, the result is that I have burrowed into my house and become complacent, less motivated and well, stagnant. Like the weeds in my yard, I’ve lain dormant all winter, just waiting to emerge. Well, get ready, y’all! It’s time to peek your head out the door, because spring is just around the corner.
So, my little weeds, what are you doing to chase away those final winter blahs and emerge fresh as a daisy? Here’s how I get ready for the grand blossoming of spring. Today I went out and bought a couple of pallets of rock, 25 bags of granite and some landscape fabric. That probably isn’t the average girl’s idea of a fab shopping trip, but for me it was rejuvenating. (More on this little project to come). Never mind the fact that I strolled the nursery amidst howling winds, gray skies and the occasional raindrop, I faithfully believe that spring is really going to arrive. After all, it’s showed up every year so far!
Need some motivation but you say you’re not ready to traipse out and purchase a thousand pounds of stone? Well, there are easier (and less expensive) ways to gear up for spring. Here’s a few ideas:
• Purchase potted herbs or tulips. Think of it as color in a pot. You don’t have to work, or plant, or anything. Just set a pre-potted spring flower in your window, add a little water every now and then and Voila! Instant spring! When the blooms get crunchy, pick off the bloom and plant them in your yard. You can plant over them, if you wish. They will remain dormant just waiting for next spring, when they’ll pop up fresh in your yard.
• Get a jump on spring cleaning. Just a little de-cluttering will go a long long way towards making you feel lighter and a little more free. Isn’t that the purpose of spring, to feel lighthearted? And when it comes time to really clean, you’ll be ahead of the game. While you’re at it, if the weather permits, fling open your windows. The benefit? Fresh air and less energy use!
• Go to your local nursery. Yes, put on a raincoat if necessary. Just browse the aisle to see the early selections. Soon you’ll have mentally dressed your porch or garden in spring color. Still too early where you are? Browse the library shelves for a whole slew of books on landscaping, gardening and color design!
• Visit your local farmer’s market. It may seem early, but there are early crops and some markets feature local farmers who are growing early vegetables in hydroponic greenhouses. One of my favorite local markets, Pepper Place Saturday Market now has a year-round store as well. When vegetables are few and far between, you can browse locally made soaps, books on gardening, local honey, yummy preserves and more. Don’t know where your local market is? Visit LocalHarvest.org to find a farmer’s market near you.
• Get your body moving! When spring arrives, you’ll most likely be outside. Whether you are a gardener, a part-time cyclist or a walker, chances are you’ll be moving your body more than you have all winter. Avoid those early spring stiff joints with a little prep now. Visit your gym. Bundle up and take a brisk walk. Whether you are a yoga fan or not, here’ s a little exercise to detox and get ready for spring. Try it now at Living Healthy.
Any other suggestions?
photo via Flicker, David Turner
March 14, 2010
Monday seems to come around quicker these days. Planning for a Meatless Monday has turned out to be a little harder than I expected. For something that looks pretty quick and VERY tasty, check out this recipe for Cornmeal Cinnamon Pancakes from Domestic Divas. I love breakfast foods for dinner on occasion. However, you’ll need to watch your portions if you’re watching your weight. These sweet pancakes pack a calorie punch of 500 calories per serving!
December 28, 2009
Tonight is Monday night.
To be precise, it is the Monday night after the big Thanksgiving holiday. Many of us know this day simply as Cyber Monday. I am particularly sensitive to Cyber Monday because my own business becomes a place of frenzied chaos on this day. Mayhem, defined as “a state of rowdy disorder” is indeed taking place in my little business. Black Friday and Cyber Monday marks the beginning of the crazy holiday season; the time of year when I work late every night, trying to make my whole year’s salary in 60 days, and kids and dogs are left to fend for themselves.
Yes, tonight is exactly one of those nights. Frozen pepperoni pizza for dinner is the ultimate in satisfaction and convenience. As I sit here with my pants feeling too tight, already regretting this food decision, it hits me…
Today is Meatless Monday!
Augh! I feel like a failure. Just one week after committing to Meatless Monday, I completely forgot all about it. I won’t lie and say I never eat frozen pizza, but normally it’s a spinach and mushroom or a veggie. What made me veer off of my chosen path tonight and opt for the sausage-pepperoni-supreme? I can’t say. But, I can see what this means. I can see that I will have to plan well for these next few weeks leading up to Christmas if I want to uphold this commitment during the crazy “this is America on Christmas speed” time of year!
November 30, 2009
Mmmmm. Veggie Burger!
I did it. I signed the Meatless Monday pledge.
Being from the South, it’s not unusual for me to throw dried white beans in a pot with a little onion, garlic and onions, partner it with some cornbread, and call it dinner! Eating meatless is not something I’m a stranger to. But, like most southerners from my generation (remember, I’m a boomer), sometimes I just naturally start thinking “meat” when it’s time to figure out the dinner menu. Discovering “Meatless Monday” has made it easier for me to literally “forget” the meat. Now, if your household includes a bunch of burly guys, going meatless may be a little more challenging than it is for me and my daughters. But, consider this: a meatless dinner every now and then usually means less time bent over the stove on a weeknight, it’s good for the earth, good for your health and its almost always cheaper! Personally, I love anything that’s a little more budget-friendly right now.
Here’s the part where you get to turn up your nose: for dinner this Monday night we had a veggie burger and a fresh salad. I first became aquainted with veggie burgers several years back when I was trying to drop some pounds with Weight Watchers. The rest of the family would be chowing down on grilled burgers, and I would stoically munch my veggie burgers. Veggie burgers are not bad, folks! Paired with a fresh salad, or some roasted potatoes they go a long way toward satisfying my occasional thirst for fast food burgers.
Regardless of whether you decide to brave the world of veggie meat substitutes, Meatless Monday is still a practice worth cultivating. Going meatless just one day a week has all kinds of benefits to you and the earth. Consider this for starters:
• Going meatless just one day a week may keep your body healthier, lower your weight, and possibly lower your cholesterol to reduce your risk of heart disease
• Reduce your carbon footprint. According to World Watch magazine, “recent analysis by Goodland and Anhang finds that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions.” Hmm. That’s a mouthful.
Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative in association with the John Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Health. Their goal is to reduce meat consumption by 15% for healthier population and a healthier earth. Check out the Meatless Monday website for more information on the impact that going meatless may have, meatless recipes and related articles.
P. S. – The veggie burger made for a really QUICK meal, something I’m often in need of on a week-night. Next week perhaps I’ll be more creative with Meatless Monday. Stay tuned. Also, I had this idea brewing…. maybe a Meatless Monday supper group once a month? What do you think?
November 23, 2009
Last Thursday night I stopped by Organic Harvest, a small, locally owned organic grocery in the south of town. I was late coming home from work and desperate to find an easy dinner that I could pick up and take home; preferably something already prepared. Preferably NOT a fast-food hamburger! I was pleased and surprised to find that this little family-owned grocery has added a small, all-organic cafe, apparently serviced by a part-time chef who has worked for Whole Foods, among others. A beautiful spinach and mushroom quiche sat in the glass case and called my name. My wish was granted. I bought the quiche, some organic pears and a slice of date bread, hopped in my car and headed home. Dinner was served. But, that is not what this story is about.
Also in the glass case was a bowl filled with roasted root vegetables. I looked at them wistfully. In an earlier post, I lamented over my lack of knowledge concerning Butternut Squash. Looking at that bowl full of beautiful veggies, in all their fall color, made me want to revisit the humble Butternut Squash. So I did. And more.
Butternut squash, it turns out, is not as vexing as it first appears. The kind folks over at Eating Alabama sent me a fab recipe for their own butternut squash soup. (thank you, guys, the soup turned out terrific!) The soup was not difficult and turned out to be delicious. But, still I yearned for a quick and easy prep method for this autumn staple.
Tonight, I roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash together. It was really, really good. But, I had to pretend to myself that the squash was local, when in reality it came from Michigan. (Again.) But, as I gain confidence in cooking seasonally, I’ll make more of an effort to find locally grown varieties. I simply tossed cubed squash and sweet potatoes lightly in olive oil, seasoned with fresh rosemary, and added a light sprinkling of sea salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. 30 minutes at 400 degrees to nirvana. Lordy, it was good!
Being on a root vegetable binge, I also decided to experiment with turnips. This is hard to believe, since I am from the south, but I have never (as far as I can remember) eaten a turnip. So, I bought 2 turnips (which turned out to be plenty for me and the other 2 people at my table), tossed them in a saute pan with fresh garlic, minced onion, butter and olive oil. I had peeked inside a cookbook by Maya Angelou and came across a recipe for turnips that called for cloves and butter. I figured if it was good enough for Maya, it was good enough for me. I sauteed the turnips, garlic and onion until the turnips were fork tender, then poured in a bit of white wine and sprinkled with ground cloves and sugar. Oh yeah! I think I’m getting the hang of root vegetables!
November 19, 2009
Backyard salad isn’t completely accurate. My salad is actually in my front yard. I’m experimenting with a small lettuce patch to see if there is enough sun in this spot to make veggies grow. This little patch of dirt is right next to my driveway. I built up a small bed and filled it with good dirt, although I didn’t have any compost. Butter-crunch lettuce, Romaine and Red Leaf lettuce is planted there. It was a little late in the season when I stuck it in the ground, but decided to risk it anyway. With my huge $14.00 investment, I figured there was nothing to lose. I water it sort of regularly and feed it Miracle Grow in place of the compost. And, I hope for the best.
Parley is in a small concrete pot, and I planted one spinach plant in the lettuce bed, just to see what happens. So far, the spinach is pretty sad. The parsley, however, is sprightly, and the lettuce is bright green and healthy looking. Every day I go out and sweep the leaves away from the base of each plant. I am amazed at how delicate the leaves are. They are sweet and fragile. Those little plants make me smile each day as I am getting in the car to head out for work.
I am praying that the first frost doesn’t come for quite some time, at least not until I can harvest at least one dinner salad from my little plot. I was afraid the rabbits would come and nibble, enjoying my salad before I had a chance to taste it, but so far this hasn’t happened. I did spread Cayenne pepper around the bed to keep those little furry guys away, but I really think I’ve just been lucky. Today I went to the grocery and bought Romaine and Red Leaf lettuce. I hated doing that, knowing that oh, so soon, I could have my own fresh lettuce! If the cold weather holds off, we may be enjoying a very fresh and very local salad at Thanksgiving. I love this.
November 16, 2009
Can you “green-up Thanksgiving”, which in my opinion is one of our most over-indulgent holidays, and still have fun? That’s the topic of a post that I’ve been working on. I had several ideas on how to make Thanksgiving Day more green while preserving our tried and true traditions. I had some really good ideas.
But, as I thought about it, and researched heritage turkeys, organic turkeys and free-range turkeys, something occurred to me. The truth is this. I don’t want to cook a turkey at all. Oh, I want to eat a turkey. But, not being much of a cook, I really don’t want to go to all of the trouble of cooking a turkey. There are only 5 people in my little family, so while I really, really want that turkey, slaving away in the kitchen all day just isn’t what I want to do with one of my few days off work. You know? And, the fact that the more I thought about a sustainable Thanksgiving Day, the more overwhelming it seemed. It made me feel blue, that it seemed to be taking so much planning and researching and worrying, just to come up with a sustainable Thanksgiving meal.
Thinking about this blog, I brought myself back to the original premise of writing this, it’s about learning, and making conscious choices. And sometimes, we’re just not ready to take some of those steps. But, as long as we’re still taking steps forward to sustainability, it’ll be OK. Or, at least better. And better is good.
With those thoughts in mind, here’s how I plan to handle our Thanksgiving this year:
1. I’m buying a pre-prepared turkey like we always do. Whether its from Honey Baked or some other company, that’s just how its going to be. We buy one turkey per year. Maybe next year I’ll be more industrious.
2. We’ll serve our traditional foods, cooked in a better way. In order to keep peace with kids, we’ll be serving up our same old casseroles. (Probably pulled from “Holiday Ideas from Kraft” circa 1962). But, I’ll try to prepare them a little better. Organic cornmeal, free-range eggs and local sweet potatoes anyone?
3. Bring on the local fare. I’d like to introduce at least one (maybe two) new recipes that are completely local, and seasonal.
4. Drink Wine! We consume a lot of wine at Thanksgiving. It will be fun to find some new, organic brands.
5. Decorate Sustainably. Nice plates will be on the table, along with cloth napkins. No paper plates for us. Holidays have always been about nice china because my mother has been the hostess for at least 50 of the last 55 years, and she’s all about presentation. But, that is one tradition that is sustainable. Actually I’ve done away with paper plates altogether, and cloth napkins are on my Christmas wish list. (In case any one’s wondering, tee hee)
6. Of course, we’ll be recycling, that goes without saying.
Thanksgiving will be here soon, but our menu plans may definitely change or expand before the big day. I’ll be researching some local resources and recipes. If you have ideas or tips for a simple, green Thanksgiving celebration, I’d love to hear about them.
November 12, 2009
Butternut Squash, the pumpkin wannabe
In the South, squash is synonymous with yellow. As in, crook-neck. We eat it in the summer. We stew it with onions. If you’re an adventurous cook, it’s grilled or even roasted. Sometimes it even gets turned into a casserole. It is small and manageable, unlike it’s cousins, the Butternut and Acorn squashes.
I am attempting to eat locally or at least seasonally whenever I can (translated as when it’s convenient). Believing in this concept is easy, cooking it is a a bit more of a challenge, particularly for someone who is as cooking challenged as I am. Walking through the grocery Sunday I encountered all manner of appetizing produce, from Chile, Mexico, even Canada. Until I got to the Butternut squash, which by the way, were NOT with the other real squash, ie; crook-neck. They were smooth and hard-looking and way back in my mind I’m thinking they are in season. Ignoring the fact that the label says they’re from Michigan, (which in my book, may as well be Canada in terms of distance), I picked one out and like an orphaned puppy, I brought it home. Now what?
The label had instructions for microwaving it. Nuke it. Sounded fast, but less than appetizing. Like Dr. Frankenstein studying a cadaver, I found my sharpest knife and sliced the beast in half. It was beautiful. Smooth and very orange, but not sweet-potato orange, more yellow orange, almost like a pumpkin, but not quite. Then I spied the seeds. OMG, it’s a pumpkin wannabe. It even smelled pumpkin-ish, but buttery. Hence, the name I suppose. Dutifully, I followed the mico-wave method. 8 minutes until tender. Then, my creative side took over. Peeling it neatly, I cubed it up and sprinkled it with olive oil and a little Tony’s Cajun seasoning. I figure any veggie is good roasted! And, it’s fast. I ran it in the oven, but maybe I just didn’t leave it long enough. It never took on that almost crispy but just roasted look of most veggies. And, it tasted fair. But, I know there is a better way.
Do you know how to cook these autumn squashes? If you have the magic touch for something quick, easy and tasty, please share! I’ll be happy to prepare it and share the bounty! (Or at least the credit).
October 9, 2009