Saturday, August 27, 2016

Healthy Trail Mix

Trail mix is a great snack because it packs a caloric punch, but doesn’t take up a lot of space. When car traveling, biking, gardening, or just spending a day away from home, trail mix can easily fit into a backpack or purse and give you the energy you need when your resources run low. But, not all mixes are created equal, some are just sugary snacks that provide little besides sugar and fat, so rather than buy something you can easily craft your own healthy snack. Trail mix is supposed to provide your body with the calories and nutrients necessary to keep you moving. A bit of sugar is not bad, but don’t overdo it.

There are a few items that are a must in any good trail mix:
·         Almonds
·         Dark Chocolate
·         Oats
·         Unsweetened Fruit

Our recipe is going to have more nuts (as we are competing in a contest with nuts.com) but I find the protein in nuts makes a trail mix stick better and give more energy, especially when I am out gardening or riding my bike.  And if you are wondering where the herb is… it is the chocolate!


The first thing I did to make this mix was prep some oats. Oats are high in fiber and have been shown to help reduce cholesterol and protect the body from heart disease. When making your own trail mix, toast rolled oats in the oven on a baking sheet to cook, then add flavor with a few drops of vanilla extract or a sprinkle of cinnamon. I went one step farther and stirred mine with melted dark chocolate that I drizzled over the oats while they were warm then gave a quick stir to create little morsels of oat and chocolate. You need only a small amount of oats in a blend because they give large amounts of energy.


Next thing I wanted was nuts, I went with peanuts, cashews, pistachios and the almonds. Stay clear of salted varieties that might make you feel extra thirsty out on the trails. I opt for dry roasted peanuts, unsalted cashews and Pistachios. Pistachios are a nut that has all the good cholesterols and fats you need for heart health and for feeling full which helps you eat less. For the Almonds I actually went with dark chocolate and coconut covered almonds.  I get the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate and the vitamin E in the almonds. The reason I use dark chocolate is because unlike milk chocolate or sugar-coated candies, dark chocolate has a strong, rich flavor and a little bit goes a long way.


Along with these I like the natural sweetness of dried fruits.  A dried fruit concentrates the natural sugars so there is no need to get sugar dusted or coated fruits.  The added vitamins and minerals along with the energy from the natural sugar (fructose) is very satisfying and the calories provide lasting energy instead of a quick high.  I am choosing two super fruits cranberries and goji berries.  Goji is the English translation of the Chinese word gouqi.  They are actually called wolfberries and are in the nightshade family, but is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Adding superfruits is a strong energy and health related addition to trail mix.

My husband has diabetes and superfuits give him the sugar regulating energies his body needs and keeping them unsweetened means we are not adding too much sugar to his diet.

For fun I am adding a few peanut M&M and chocolate covered expresso beans. Just enough that you get a bit of a surprise in each handful, but not so much that it ruins all the healthy benefits of the remaining ingredients.


So let’s blend:

Dark Chocolate and Fruit Trail Mix

1 cup cashews
½ cup dark chocolate oats
½ cup cranberries
½ cup goji berries
½ cup peanuts
¼ cup pistachios
2 Tbls peanut M&M
2 Tbls. coconut dark chocolate almonds


Blend it all in a big bowl by hand, then transfer to individual containers or bags for easy grab and dash.  Snack-size zip locks or single serve reusable plastic work perfect.. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Transplanting or Moving plants

Now is the time to move plants

If you are considering moving any of your perennials or herbs now is the time.  They need at least 3 weeks to reestablish good root growth and you want that to occur before any signs of frost so August is the month to do it.  I moved 8 plants from the community garden to the new back yard last fall and all of them thrived this spring except one (the lemon balm died?!?). 

This was when we moved and I prepped the bed and moved my plants at the end of August beginning of September so they would be hardy enough to make it through the winter. As you can see they are much larger than the plants I put into the garden this spring, so that establishment of worked well.

July 2016
Why Move A Plant?
There are many reasons for moving a plant. It may have outgrown its location. It may need more or less sun than it receives in its current location. It is overtaking plants around it.  Or even it looks out of place with the others near it.  Whatever the reason, the degree of difficulty depends on the size of the plant.  The mint plants here are crowding out each other and cross pollinating, so they have to be separated.  That is the task I am undertaking.

Mints obscuring the flamingos!

How to Move A Plant
For small plants, such as annuals, it’s just a matter of using a garden trowel to dig around the root ball and gently raising the plant (with root ball intact) out of its hole. For a larger plant, especially a well rooted perennial, you will need a shovel to dig around the plant and get deep enough to extract the root ball without leaving too much behind.  That cutting and tearing of the roots causes root shock and will set the plant back, which is why you need 3 weeks of good weather to help it recover before bad weather sets in.  Make sure you have already dug the hole for the new location, and used some of the soil from its current location to fill in the new hole. It’s a shock to the plant’s root system when transplanted, so the new hole should have “familiar” soil.


Step #1 – Prepare the New Hole
Dig out the soil where you want to plant.  Make the hole 1.5 to 2 times bigger than what you expect to place in the hole.  If the ground is hard, such as clay soil, you might want to dig out 3 times the size to give the plant more room to spread in future by loosening the soil now when there is no plant to work around. 
Then make a “new” soil, by combining what you remove with a top grade composted soil and some organic mater, leaf mold from the compost bin is great or you can use peat moss.  This time of year I have lots of leaf mold from last year’s leaf raking.  Refill the hole half way, to the expected right size for the transplant, and add some of the “old” soil to the bottom of the hole. 


http://www.ftjcfx.com/image-7695309-12327087-1441006749000
Step # 2 – Dig Up the Plant and Place in the New Hole
Using your sharp shovel (in other words, not a blunt end hovel like one you’d use for edging) dig down into the soil around your plant all the way around.  Do not yank or pull on the plant, just dig all the way around.  Place the shovel point underneath once the soil is loosened and pop out the root ball, you may have to cut through roots so be prepared.


Lift the plant from the bottom of the root ball and gently place it in the new hole. If the neck of the plant is level with the ground, fill the hole with the remaining soil mixture. If the neck of the plant is not level with the ground, adjust by removing soil or adding soil. Once the hole is filled in with the soil mixture, immediately apply water.

The second plant, to go against the fence, turned out to be much larger than I realized.  It was heavy and hard to lift and the ball was twice the size of the hole I dug.  I set the plant on the ground and dug another hole and then divided the root ball in half.  The roots were so thick I needed to cut them with garden shears to create two plants.  This can increase the shock to the plant so I carefully watered them a couple times that day and the next.


I generally place water in the hole before I bring over the plant and then again after I plant the plant and firm up the soil.  If the soil sinks around the plant be sure to add more.  You do not want roots exposed to the drying sun.  Apply water everyday for a week, so that the roots regenerate. After one week, apply an organic fertilizer or water with compost tea.


Step #3 – Observe Plant for Signs of Stress
The plant will experience stress after being transplanted. Signs of stress may include droopy leaves, yellowing leaves, dry leaves, and pale stem/branches. Insects and pests like to attack a plant when it’s stressed, so beware. Keep an eye on the plant to make sure it recovers and begins to thrive. About 3 weeks after transplanting, the plant should have resumed its normal appearance.
 

I find mints get very droopy but only for a few days.  If it persists longer, I start looking for causes and may add more of the native original soil around the plant or water less or more frequently depending on the feel of the soil.  If the soil is dry and crumbly I add more water and if it is soft and spongy I use less to allow it to dry out.  Remember that plants breathe through roots so a saturated soil can suffocate them.


All things working and your plant should be a happy camper in about 3 weeks.



It rained for days after the transplant so the plants were very happy and so were the weeds!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Plants to Honor Mary

In the Spring I presented a garden theme idea of a Garden of Mary.  Now on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, which was first celebrated in 529 AD, I thought we could learn a few more plants whose names were changed to Honor Mary.

Our Lady's Herbs


          Spearmint was known as Our Lady's Mint. 

Marjoram was Mother of God's Flower. 



          Bee balm and lemon balm were both called Sweet Mary. 
 
Lemon Balm
Catnip was Mary's Nettle.  

Sage was Mary's shawl. 

Dandelion was known as Mary's Bitter Sorrow.








A group of herbs became known as Manger Herbs because they made a bed for the Infant Jesus when he was born. 
Sweet Woodruff

·        Sweet woodruff and yellow bedstraw were called Our Lady's Bedstraw 
·        creeping thyme was Mary's Bedstraw. 
·        Mints and pennyroyal were also said to have been used in the manger. 








This information came from a hard to locate book entitled Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Legends & Meditations, by Vincenzina Krymow.

I have never been able to locate this book, but I have read excepts and paraphrases of it from other blogs and articles.  If anyone knows where I can get a copy, please let me know.  My library, normally the best at locating the obscure and rare, has been unable to obtain a copy real or digital.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Kohlrabi Slaw - Weekend Recipe

We are out at an event Saturday in Batavia - Green Fair on the Fox. Part of the "Green Theme" is to get involved in changing our habits to be more green.  The ideas is to "Change ONE" thing you do to be more green.  Once you do one, you can add another and another and....

Here are a list of suggestions:

  • Line dry laundry 
  • Print double sided 
  • Use cloth napkins 
  • Install a programmable thermostat 
  • Compost food and yard waste 
  • Turn off lights when you leave the room 
  • Replace your light bulbs with CFL bulbs 
  • Turn your water heater down a couple degrees 
  • Use low flow toilets and shower heads 
  • Replace plastic with cloth grocery bags 
  • Use upcycled rags instead of paper towels 
  • Plant a garden 
  • Switch to natural cleaning products 
  • Reduce meat consumption

We have grown a garden and are composting our food and yard waste.  We even save our grease for recycling through the Village. 

In our garden is a little known vegetable called Kohlrabi.  A friend of mine in Seneca, IL gets me kohlrabi plants of the variety Kossack, which get large but do not get woody like some larger kohlrabi do.  We love growing them as they can go in early and later in the summer.  They also are a no maintenance plant.  You plant them and later you harvest them.  Occasionally you water them, but sometimes you do not even need to do that.


Kohlrabi is an underused vegetable.  People do not grow it and if they do they are not sure what to do with it.  I developed this slaw recipe to show how tasty it was to the uninitiated.  It seems to be our favorite way to eat the vegetable, although this year I will also be fermenting it, as this is my new kick.

Kohlrabi Slaw with Four Spice Meat Rub on Pork Chops


Kohlrabi Slaw

2 small kohlrabi
1 cup radish
2 tablespoons herbal or plain vinegar
2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise or salad dressing

Directions:
Peel two small kohlrabi, if young just cut off the eyes. Shred the kohlrabi and radishes. You may use a food processor for this. I use a mandolin or a cheese grater.  Mix vinegar, sugar, Soup & Salad Seasoning and fresh chopped parsley in a glass bowl. Whisk in olive oil.  Add mayo. Pour over shredded veggies and toss. Chill for 30 minutes or more and serve.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Mushroom Muffalatta Salsa - Weekend Recipe

We have several high end and ethnic grocery stores in our area.  One of them sells olives in an olive bar.  I got a container with a mixture of all the olives available in the bar that were already pitted to use in the recipe.  If this is not possible where you live, get a can of black ripe olives and a jar of pitted large green olives or Kalamata olives. The recipe will still be quite tasty.


We made this several times in July, serving it to party guests and at the Garden Club meeting.  In the process I found my favorite version was when we grilled the peppers and mushrooms before chopping them into the blend.  The sweetness of the grilled peppers and the smokiness of the mushrooms really added great flavor components to the dish. 

One batch was made with sautéed peppers, mushrooms and olives that hubby had left over from making breakfast omelets. This was sweet and savory at the same time. 

The best part about the recipe was that no version was bad.  They were all tasty, all popular with others, and all disappeared in a day.



Mushroom Muffalatta Dip / Salsa

¾ to 1 cup Olives, pitted (can be brined or olive oil cured), chopped fine
1 red sweet pepper, chopped fine
3 to 4 button or bebe mushrooms, chopped fine
1 Shallot, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 to 2 Tbls. fresh flat parsley, minced
2 teaspoons oregano, minced (or 1 tsp dry)
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbls. Wine or herbal vinegar

Directions:
You can hand chop the vegetables or use a food processor.  You do not want to make this into a paste, you want to see the chunks.  I hand chopped the olives, peppers and mushrooms and herbs. 
Place chopped olives, peppers, and mushrooms in a bowl.  In a smaller bowl combine minced herbs, olive oil and vinegar.  Whisk together.  Pour over other ingredients and combine well.  Allow to meld in refrigerator for an hour or more before serving.

Serve with sliced bread or crackers like a crostini.




Optional preparation method: to make this into a sandwich spread, run the olives, vegetables and mushrooms in a food processor, then add herbs, oil and vinegar and blend until you create a paste.  Spread on sandwiches.  Will keep up to a month in the refrigerator.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Sun Healing Milk Bath - Bath Blend of the Month

Did you know Cleopatra’s beauty was attributed to her love of milk baths?  Milk contains lactic acid, which is packed with skin softening properties that leave skin feeling smoother and more resilient. The lactic acid in milk acts similarly to the alpha hydroxyl acids found in expensive skin creams, which dissolve proteins that bind dead skin cells together.  Milk baths are also great for soothing burns and skin after spending too much time in the sun!

Milk baths are best with powdered milk.  Add two cups of powdered milk to your bath while it’s filling.  Herbs and honey can be added to give additional benefits.  The recipe below has herbs to soothe, soften and protect skin form the ravages of summer sun.


Sun Healing Milk Bath
2 cups powdered milk
1 Tbls Thyme, lemon or common
1 Tbls. Sage
1 Tbls Marjoram
1 Tbls Rose petals
1 Tbls Basil leaves
Place the milk in the water while filling the tub.  Place the herbs in a bag and swirl through the water while filling tub, then allow to soak in the water while you bathe.  The herbs will kill germs, soften skin and reduce inflammation. Soak and relax!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Where are the Monarch's?

Article originally published on the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab blog.

On March 9th 2016, just days after we’d heard the good news that monarch numbers had rebounded to cover just over 4 hectares of forest in the mountains of central Mexico; a huge winter storm hit their wintering sites and the surrounding area. The storm began with rain and was followed by hail, snow, and sub-freezing temperatures. The freezing temperatures killed many monarchs and the strong winds caused trees to topple over, losing monarch habitat. Because the spring migration from Mexico just started, the full population was in the storm's path.
courtesy of agardenbydesign.blogspot.com
The storm caused immense destruction, but it was hard to tell how this would impact the monarchs and their habitat. However, the storm clarified the importance of a large, robust monarch population. If it had hit two years ago, when the monarch population was at its lowest level ever (under one hectare), it is not clear that the population could have recovered. 


See the recent Monarch Conservation Science Broadcast of the MJV/NCTC webinar series for a discussion of the importance of a robust population. If we can say that anything is “lucky” about such a destructive event, we are lucky that the population did so well in summer 2015.

courtesy of Kim Smith

Right after the storm, monarchs were spotted traveling north. Journey North received their first reports on March 14th, and while the numbers spotted by citizen scientists during the spring migration were low, monarchs did move into their northern breeding grounds, and by June 16th, the migration was approaching its northern extent. For maps of the migration this year visit Journey North’s website.

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project data confirm the low numbers reported by Journey North volunteers. We are seeing numbers that rival those of 2013, which resulted in the lowest number of monarchs ever seen in Mexico. However, we know that the population did rebound from the low numbers a few years ago, and that, with our help, they can do it again. And the population is still building this summer. Monarchs are around, just not in the numbers that we’ve seen in the past; we’re starting to hear more positive reports from people throughout the breeding range who have seen their first monarch adults, eggs, or larvae of the year.  

So let’s continue to do what we can:
  • Create habitat for monarchs so the females don’t need to fly long distances between milkweed patches.
  • Join a citizen science project to help us document the state of the population. 
  • Consider supporting the Monarch Joint Venture, or other organizations working to preserve space for the creatures with which we share this earth.  Support the Xerces Society which creates programs on pollinators.


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