Monday, June 18, 2012

Eat. This. Now.

Or, more accurately, drink this now.

So, I had this idea.  In the past few months, I've come across a few different places that offer some sort of peanut butter coffee.  It sounded absolutely delicious, but I've been trying to eat a bit healthier lately. But the idea kept on in my head.....I wanted peanut butter iced coffee, and I wanted it bad.

Enter PB2.  I'd heard about it from the blogosphere a while back, but was never inspired to actually order some.....until now, that is.  I needed something that would flavor my iced coffee, but wouldn't have too much fat (like trying to make a PB sauce with actual PB) or sugar (like this stuff, which sounds wonderful but would be too sweet for me).  PB2 is a powdered peanut butter with less fat, calories, sugar, and sodium than regular peanut butter.  I've seen people out there make a peanut sauce with it - I figured, why not use it to flavor drinks, too?

So into my cup went:

2/3 c coffee
1/4 c skim milk
1 tbsp PB2
1 tsp sugar

and out came delightful, wonderful, peanut butter-flavored iced coffee!

This drink has a subtle peanut butter flavor and isn't very sweet at all.....for those of you looking for a richer drink, I would suggest adding another tbsp of PB2 and some more sugar to taste.

The nutritionals for this decadent drink?

Calories: 42.5
Fat: 0.75 g
Sugar: 4.5 g
Sodium: 75 mg
Protein: 4.5 g

Definitely a delicious summer drink.....I think I'll be making this every morning!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Developing my green thumb, part 2

And now for what is definitely one of my favorite parts of being outdoors during the summer: the food garden!

Last year, we went for a relatively simple herb garden, attempted a few plants (like squash, which flowered but gave us no fruit), and grew a bunch of tomatoes.  This year, I felt I had learned a lot from last year's attempts, and I was ready to try a few more ambitious plants.

Because we have such a small plot of land for a garden, I wanted to save that space for the "real" vegetables.  So I moved our herbs up to a box, and made another box of heirloom carrots (more on that in a second).  Here's our herb and veggie setup:

In the herb box (top left) are: basil, dill, chocolate mint, rosemary, onion chives, and Greek oregano.  The oregano is a favorite - nice and spicy!  Below that picture are our strawberries - we don't have enough to actually do anything with them, but they're nice for a treat.  The box on the bottom, which looks a little sad in the picture, is for growing the carrots - they are just tiny sprouts in the pic, but they're coming up a bit more now.

The vegetable garden has: garden peas (back row, can't see them very well yet but they will get huge and start climbing up the trellis), fingerling potatoes (next row up, they are much taller now), onions, broccoli (just 3 - we lost one to slugs before I figured out how to fix that), lettuce, and kale.  The kale looked better in this picture than it looks now - we have an ant problem that seems to be just at the kale, but I think I've fixed that, too.

Thus far, we've just had a few strawberries and a salad with the lettuce.  The rest of the veggies aren't ready yet, but we're excited for when they are!

Now, I said I'd come back to the carrots.  They are a special kind of heirloom carrot (Paris Market), which we ordered from SeedSavers.  The reason for this is, we tried to grow carrots last year and got nothing.  This year, I found a variety that will grow well in carrots - it's short and stumpy, kinda like a radish.  Hopefully, when we're done, they'll look like this:

Weird, right?  I hope they work out and taste awesome - I'm pretty excited about them.

The other things we've got growing are all on the deck, in medium and large pots by their own.  Here's the montage:

They are, clockwise from top left:  green pepper, red pepper, Sweet 100 Cherry, Early Girl (a hybrid - gotta get lots of tomatoes somehow!), Pink Brandywine, yellow cherry, and Black Krim.  We went for a mixture of colors and sizes with the tomatoes - most are heirloom and should taste wonderful, but we did pick a few hybrids to make sure we have some tomatoes at the end of the season.  Not in the picture are the Gold Medal seedlings that just came up, as well as the Mountain Gold VFF-resistant tomato plant we bought last week.

I'm really hoping that by planting a few weeks early this year, we will have lots and lots of tomatoes and veggies to eat throughout the season.  Although gardening is kinda fun, it's much more fun when there's actual food to show for it.

And now I will leave you with a funny garden story:

Last winter, when everything froze and the snow fell in October, I decided I wasn't willing to really work on the garden anymore.  I left everything in the ground over the winter and just waited until spring to pull everything up.  When I was tilling this spring, I came across a scraggly-looking oregano plant in the corner of the garden.  It didn't look too hot, but still had leaves on it, so I figured I'd stick it in a pot and see what happened.  I wish I had a picture so you could see how sad it looked when I pulled it up - but here it is now (actually, it looks even better now than it did when I took this picture):

Apparently, the lesson of gardening is to be as lazy as possible in the winter, and you might have some bonus plants come spring!  This year, I plan to cover all the herb pots with burlap and leave them out for the winter - it seems most of them can over-winter as long as they're covered, and if we have a mild winter again, we may not have to buy any more herbs next year!

I promise to post recipes and updates about the garden this year - hopefully we will have a little more time to devote to our little garden, and we'll get a lot more out of it this summer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Developing my green thumb, part 1

OK, it's finally time for the long-awaited garden post!

This year, spring arrived a bit early, prompting us to start gardening in mid-April.  Sure, we had to move some plants over to the shed for a few nights, and we devised an elaborate covering method for the plants in the ground (using boxes and big rocks), but it was well worth the effort - I think we may actually get food from our garden this year!

First, here's the "good" part of our landscaping setup:

My apologies for the shoddy putting-together of the photos - I hardly have time to put anything together, so this will have to be good enough.  Anyway, this part of the hill is what I worked hardest on last year - the weeding to be done this spring was minimal, and Brendan's dad helped us with putting down the mulch.  We had some beautiful color from the phlox (the pink flowers you can see in the pictures), and everything else seems to be coming along nicely.  I still have no idea what most of these plants are - but that's another post for another day.

And now for the other side: the not-so-nice part of the landscaping:

As you can see, it's a bit of in progress?  Last year I would have said "mess," but the truth is, I've actually done a lot of work over in this area this spring.  This was the corner I never got to last year, and when I started this year, it was an unidentifiable mass of green stuff - mostly weeds.  I just finished weeding last week, and since these pictures were taken, mulch has been put in up to the hibiscus.  We plan on waiting until the hibiscus plants flower, then transplanting some of the ones in the back (the ones that have migrated over time) to the big gap in the middle of the two bushes.  We think that the previous owners of our house had a plan to build a path between the bushes - but we have seen some people cutting through our property as it is, and don't want to encourage that by building an actual path.  A "wall" of hibiscus plants should give us some privacy, which is especially great since our neighbor recently cut down ALL the trees on the side of his property facing ours (and, well, parts that were the town's property, too).

My two favorite plants in our hillside are actually plants that haven't flowered yet this year.  See the ugly pale green plants in the bottom-right corner of the second-to-last picture?  Those are rose campions, and while I think they mostly look like a weed until they flower, they are beautiful when they come out:

And the tiny little green shoots that you can barely see around one of the bushes?  They don't look like much, and also look like weeds when they start coming up, but they are blazing stars:

Those two come out in late summer, but we are also planning on adding some fall color at some point this year.

So there you have it - our humble landscaping garden.  Definitely still needs some work, but I'm proud of all we've accomplished with it this year.  That's enough pictures for this post - but I promise to be back shortly with a post about the actual FOOD garden - my pride and joy!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My favorite food gardening resources

My apologies again for not posting garden pictures - apparently, while I had planned on taking pictures of our beautiful garden, Mother Nature had some other ideas, and it's been raining all week.  I hope to have the time and the right weather to take some shots tomorrow - the peas, potatoes, and tomatoes are all growing quickly now, and I am happy to say I haven't killed anything except one broccoli yet!

For now, please enjoy some of my favorite food-gardening blogs, resources, etc - you never know when you'll need a good resource for troubleshooting your garden!

Better Homes and Gardens

An oldie but a goodie!  I go here all the time for gardening tips and inspiration.  If you have more time (and money) than I, you could use their decorating tips to help design an architecturally beautiful garden - as for me, I just look up how to grow tomatoes and whatnot.  But they have great recipes for what you're growing, too, which will be great when the bountiful produce comes in a few months.


This spring, Brendan and I bought mostly Burpee plants - so it's only fitting that I go there to find growing directions.  As the ridiculously nerdy scientist I am, I made a spreadsheet of all the plants that we're attempting to grow, complete with time until we get fruit and what to do as they keep growing.

The Kitchn - Gardening

I definitely suggest going here for ingenious ideas, ways to be green, and other generally cool things.  The second post on their page right now is about growing green onions on your windowsill, which is an idea I absolutely LOVE because it keeps me from having to buy green onions over and over again.  It looks like their top post right now is about reusing celery, which sounds similar, so lots of great ideas over there!

OK, that's it for now!  If you want to find something more specialized or quirky, may I suggest checking out the list on Apartment Therapy's blog round-up post?  Seems like a lot of good ideas over there, too.

Back soon with actual garden pictures, I promise!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Please tell me it's spring

I may have taken another inadvertent break (this time precipitated by a solid 1.5 months of depressing results in lab), but I'm back!  Part of the reason I've been gone so often lately is that somehow, while I've been slaving away trying to do RT-PCR, it has become spring - and spring means growing time, and growing time means lots of post-work hours spent in the garden.

Coming up this weekend will be a big gardening post - we have lots of new veggies planted, and our landscaping is looking great, especially for this time of year.  I'd also like to do a little recap of the last 2 months of work on the exercise/diet plan (spoiler alert: it's going really well!).

I hope you are all having a wonderful week - happy weekend for everyone who's counting the minutes until 5pm!  I'll be back in a bit, when I have some time to take pictures of all the food that's growing at our house right now.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Two Easter goodies I'll be trying WAY before Easter

I know, I know, it was just Ash Wednesday a few days ago, and already I'm looking forward to Easter?

Well, I'll confess - I've already eaten two Cadbury eggs (weeks ago, when they first came out), and I have one sitting on my kitchen counter, taunting me :)  I probably would take any excuse to eat more candy, but I do really enjoy Easter food in general - colorful, happy, full of veggies.

So far, I've got two things on my list:

Chocolate Covered Peeps

I have made these before with my family, but I don't think Brendan has had them.  Sure, they sell them chocolate-dipped now too, but it's so much fun to actually do the dipping yourself.  And they're nowhere near as many calories as a Cadbury Egg, so hopefully I can eat more than one :)

Easter "Chick" Eggs

These are just too cute.  And have to be the simplest things ever to make.  I'll make these one day when we need a healthy snack or something to go with sandwiches for lunch.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent intentions

I hope you are all having a lovely.....Vacation Week?  I guess this is a New England thing, but apparently schools here have one week of vacation in February and one in April - at home, ours was always 2 weeks in March.  Anyway, everyone at work is gone this week, and I'm going a little loopy here all by myself!

I'm not Catholic, but my boyfriend is, and my Dad's side of the family is, too.  Brendan and I have been going to Catholic church since he got out of the hospital, so I'm tuned in to the Catholic traditions a bit more.  Lent was never something we "celebrated" at my (Lutheran) church at home, but I thought it probably isn't a bad idea!  I could give up any of the typical things people give up....

...but instead, I would like to do something more positive with my 40 days.  So for Lent this year, I'm giving up negativity and pessimism.

I find that I often beat myself up over little things - things I can't control, or things that really aren't that big of a deal.  As someone who struggles with anxiety, and as a perfectionist, it's hard not to!  But it holds me back and keeps me from doing what I am capable of, and that is what I'd like to change.  Here's my plan for Lent - hold me to it!

Week 1: Be open.  I'd like to talk to people more, try to make small talk (yes, I'm the awkward type and don't usually "chat" with people), and smile often.  Be open to interactions with people, and be aware of any negative thoughts that creep in - remember these for next week!
Week 2: Replace negative thoughts.  I will be mindful of the thoughts that arrive in my head, and if negative, make an effort to replace them.
Week 3: Catch up with a friend.  I miss my friends from high school, college, and grad school - the ones I have kept up with are few in number, but very precious to me.  I haven't chatted with a few of them for a while now - I will make an effort
Week 4: Calm. Down.  When faced with adversity, I typically panic.....the negative thoughts flood in and I go into a spiral of doom that's hard to get out of.  If this happens, I will try to repeat my mantra (sounds silly, but repeating "It's ok" in my head really does help), and picture myself calmer....hopefully this can become a habit!
Week 5: Challenge myself physically.  As of the end of March, I will have been going to the gym regularly (at least 3x/week) for 6 months, and making a good habit of it (5x/week or more) for 3 months. I will have just completed a 5K race and will be looking toward a 5-miler, but I think it will be about time to step it up a bit!  I'll think about what this will entail when I get a little closer, but trying a new class, making myself work harder in the classes I do, etc. should do it.  Accomplishing something harder physically will make me see my progress more clearly.
Weeks 6-7 Challenge myself intellectually and spiritually.  Two goals for these weeks: 1) Read 1 new paper a week for work, and 2) Do at least 3 random acts of kindness.

In conjunction with these small goals, I will also be doing the "40 Day Challenge" at my gym, which involves metabolism evaluations, nutrition counseling, and fitness challenges.  I want to keep up my progress at the gym and try to figure this food stuff out!  I have a sneaking suspicion that my birth control isn't helping with this weight loss thing, but I will wait to test out that hypothesis until later.

So that's it for today, but I'll be posting about yummy Easter food soon!  You'll notice I didn't give up chocolate for Lent.....I don't think I'd be able to avoid Cadbury eggs for 40 days!