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Joyful Rainbow Salad

26 May

IMG_1028I know… it’s hard to say “eat the rainbow” and NOT think of those tiny sugar pellet candies. This would be the healthy non-food coloring version, hence the word “rainbow” sandwiched between “joyful” and “salad.” Hit up your own garden or favorite farmer’s stand to create this quick burst of delicious energy.

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, chopped

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 bunch carrots, chopped

1/3 small red onion, coarsely chopped

1 jar green olives (pitted and stuffed with garlic)

1 jar kalamata black olives (pitted)

fresh basil and oregano to taste

1 tsp olive oil to coat

Directions:

1. Mix ingredients and enjoy!

2. May also add: radishes, broccoli, sugar snap peas, kale or other greens, feta cheese, balsamic or red wine vinegar–whatever inspires you!

For more food inspiration, check out these recipes. Yum!

Homemade Produce Wash: How to Get the Funk Off Your Fruit (and Veggies)

19 May
This pear is about to get a spa treatment.

This pear is about to get a spa treatment.

Obvious statement: I dig gardening and Farmers’ Markets. Always have, always will. I remember many instances eating strawberries and chives straight from my parents’ garden as a little girl. No rinsing or checking for bugs… maybe just a little air to blow the dirt off if I noticed any. Probably not my finest moment in food hygiene, but I definitely excelled at the Farm to Table experience in my younger years.

 

Now that I am a gardening adult, fully aware of the amount of manure I use in my garden, I like to make sure my food is actually clean before I eat it. The secret weapon: apple cider vinegar. Not only can it make your hair shine and improve your digestion, but this little wonder can clean your produce of dirt, bugs and bacteria. Woot, woot!

 

Here’s how…

 

Mix 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar (I prefer Bragg’s) for every 1 cup of filtered water you use. Place the produce in a bowl or your kitchen sink (make sure the sink is clean) and soak it in this mixture for at least 5 minutes. Scrub (with a designated produce scrub brush or your hands), rinse with water, pat dry and savor!

Organic or Bust?

17 Feb
Farmer's Markets are great places to purchase organically grown produce inexpensively (or grow your own for the best produce available).

Farmer’s Markets are great places to purchase organically grown produce inexpensively (or grow your own for the best produce available).

Eating organically grown fresh vegetables and fruits is the bee’s knees, no question. But does your produce always have to be organic? Eating conventional broccoli always beats eating a brownie any day of the week. If eating organic produce doesn’t fit your budget or isn’t available to you, here is a handy-dandy list for what fruits and vegetables are the cleanest (least amount of pesticide residue) and which are the dirtiest (most contaminated produce) and worth the extra organic cost.

 

Clean:

asparagus

avocados

cabbage

cantaloupe

eggplant

grapefruit

kiwi

mangos

onions

papayas

pineapples

sweet peas

sweet potatoes

 

Dirty:

apples

celery

cherry tomatoes

cucumbers

grapes

hot peppers

nectarines

peaches

potatoes

spinach

strawberries

sweet bell peppers

kale/collard greens

summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash)

 

Information adapted from EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.

Spring Garden Guide

3 Feb
Go forth and spread your seeds! Your vegetables seeds in case there was any confusion.

Go forth and spread your seeds! Your vegetables seeds… in case there was any confusion.

Let the gardening season begin! Yippee! I know it is hard to think about your garden plot when the ground is covered with snow and the temps are sub-zero, but the thought of a freshly picked juicy ripe tomato on a BLT puts a smile on anyone’s face and a song in my heart. *sigh* While it is far too early to start planting outdoors in Nebraska, it is never too early to order seeds and create your gardening guide for rows of tasty (and might I add super inexpensive and healthy) produce come spring and summer. I can smell the bacon cooking…

 

February

Preparation: Now is the time to start ordering/purchasing seeds or attend seed swaps in your community. Seeds are good for 3-4 years, so share the good lovin’ if you have plenty left over. This is also the time to consider your gardening space (community, backyard, raised beds, containers, etc) and your chemical-free means for controlling pesky pests while keeping your produce–and all of the big and little people who eat it–safe.

 

March

Preparation: Time to play in the dirt and by dirt, I mean manure that will add nutrients to your soil for the best possible growing conditions. That poo is the holy grail for hearty, healthy produce. Also, plant seeds for transplant plants such as cabbage, celery, eggplant, leeks, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Depending on the variety, you will want to start the process 6-8 weeks before they are to be transplanted outdoors in the garden. If you plan on buying the plants, then no worries darling.

Outdoor Planting: Plant asparagus crowns, collard green seeds, onions, pea seeds, radish seeds, spinach seeds and turnip seeds.

 

April

Outdoor Planting: Plant leek plants, swiss chard seeds, broccoli plants, cabbage plants, cauliflower plants, lettuce seeds, kale seeds and beet seeds.

 

May

Outdoor Planting: Plant carrot seeds, potato plants, cucumber seeds, pumpkin seeds, eggplant plants, pepper plants, tomato plants and summer squash seeds.

 

Truth be told, I am not a master gardener by any means. My experience comes from trial and error through my own garden and through gardening advice from my parents who have organically gardened for over 30 years. Yes… they are the cat’s meow.

 

For more regional gardening information, check out the UNL Extension program, your local nursery and community garden, and organizations such as City Sprouts, North Omaha Tool Library and Common Soil Seed Library at the Benson Public Library.

Sweet Relief

18 Nov
Uber Happy Mountain yoga in Utah

Happy Mountain Yoga in Utah

Do you daydream about traveling to a secluded cabin with a good book, fireplace and bowl of chili? Or playing frisbee on the beach with your family after you’ve buried your smartphone in the sand? How blissful would it be to take one moment to just LIVE in the moment? What if you had the best my-mouth-hurts-from-laughing-I’m-gonna-pee-my-pants 5-minute ticklefest? I partook in that with my niece and nephew this weekend and it was pure Happy Therapy. And it also got me thinking… what did I enjoy as a kid when I didn’t carry all of my self-worth in how many hours I worked and how “busy” I was?

I cross-stitched, read, danced everywhere, played outside, colored, built pillow forts and laughed. What did you do?

I propose a pinky-swear. A pinky-swear to invest at least 30 minutes per week stepping into “rejuvenation time” and embracing it for what it truly is–not a selfish act, but a self-care act. You cannot be fully present, healthy and loving towards others if you are not fully present, healthy and loving towards yourself. Ahhh… I hear the choir singing.

Here are some activities that have soul and heart healing benefits, proven to reduce stress, improve heart health, increase neurological pathways and are down-right awesome.

  • Flowing Movement: yoga, dancing
  • Touch: massage therapy, hugging, tickling, playing an instrument
  • Arts and Crafts: knitting, painting, drawing, jewelry-making, cross-stitching
  • Nature: walking, hiking, gardening
  • Reflection: reading, meditation
  • Breathwork: deep breathing, singing, laughing

Okay, Action Jackson, let’s take a deep breath right here, right now. Yes, you might be “shoulding” all over yourself at the THOUGHT of putting your work down and taking time for yourself because you’re just too busy, but humor me for one minute. Ready? Read this paragraph first and then close your eyes and continue with the activity. Sitting comfortably, pay attention to the beating of your heart, the tension in your muscles and the thoughts racing through your mind. Inhale through your nose for two seconds and then exhale out your mouth for two seconds. Continue to breathe, extending each inhalation and exhalation by one second until you reach five seconds. Feel your heart beat slow down and your muscles relax. Acknowledge any thoughts that come into your mind and allow them to leave. No judgements or self-criticism; just sweet, beautiful, releasing breaths.

~Steph

Fresh Herbs Any Thyme

23 Sep
My very own green goddesses.

My very own green goddesses.

I love going out to my garden and picking fresh cilantro for guacamole or basil for homemade pizza sauce. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have fresh herbs all year long to dress up your favorite dish? Here are some tips for year round herbs that trump grocery store dried varieties any day of the week.

Indoor Garden. Many herbs like oregano, marjoram, chives, basil, cilantro, thyme, mint, rosemary and lavender do wonderful indoors if started from seed or a starter plant. Invest in good potting soil and a nice clay pot (plastic doesn’t work well). Keep these green beauties trimmed, well watered and cozy in bright direct light and warm temps above 60°. If you are looking at bringing the outdoors in, it is best to transplant your herbs in September before the first frost hits. Cilantro and basil do not work well as transplant herbs, but the others do just fine. Again, place them in clay pots with good potting soil and slowly acclimate them to lower light levels before moving them indoors for good.

Dry Out. My dad dried basil last winter and it worked beautifully! All you need is some string and brown paper bags. First, clean and pat dry the herbs keeping leaves on the stems. Once herbs are dry, tie the stems together, place them in a paper bag and hang them upside down to dry for 4-6 weeks. Pick the dried leaves off the stem and place them in a tightly sealed container. Do not crush the leaves until you are ready to use them in your recipe. Crushing them will release their aromatic oils which adds all of the flavor and aroma to your tasty dishes.

Freeze In Fat. Freezing your herbs in a fat such as olive oil helps preserve the lovely oils that add so much flavor to your wintry stews. For this method, you’ll want to pick the leaves off the stems, wash and dry them in a salad spinner or pat dry with a paper towel. Place the leaves in a food processor with olive oil (1/3 cup olive oil for every 2 cups of leaves). Process the herbs until they are finely chopped and place 1 cup of the herb-oil mixture into a 1-quart zip-top bag and lay the bag flat in the freezer so the mixture will freeze in a nice, even layer. Use within 6 months by cutting off as much of the herb oil you need for pestos, soups, stews, salad dressings, hummus and more.

Garden Summer Lovin’ for a Delightful Fall Harvest

26 Aug
Newly planted Red Winter Kale on my garden's North side.

Newly planted Red Winter Kale on my garden’s North side.

I am a novice gardener. I plant, water, weed and let nature do its thing. So when I see a vine full of  sweet Cherry Tomatoes or a bountiful Basil bush, I geek out. I think it’s the Bee’s Knees. It’s true. I have a bit of a love affair with my garden… I tell my plants their beautiful, shower their feet with chicken poop and manure chocolates, but nothing compares to the nourishment I get in the end. I think I first became enamoured as a little girl, eating strawberries straight from the patch and selling our pumpkins on the highway after Nebraska Husker Football games.  This is why I’m so excited for my first Fall harvest! I probably planted a bit too late this summer, but who cares? I got nothing but love.

If you want to join in on the late summer planting party for a delish Fall harvest, I put together a handy-dandy veggie list for us Midwesterners and Great Plainers (is that even a word?!). Choose whatever your little heart desires and give it a go: arugula, beets, broccoli (transplants), Brussels sprouts (transplants), cabbage (transplants), cauliflower (transplants), carrots, chinese cabbage, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, peas, radishes, spinach, swiss chard and turnips.

I want to know about your experience. What is the best time to plant for a Fall harvest? What are your favorite vegetables to plant?

For more fabulous health and wellness tips, visit Stephanie Bell Wellness on Facebook or Twitter.