Monday, December 28, 2009

Aussie Available for Adoption: Sugar in Florida

(This is a picture of Sugar in Tallahassee...she's up for adoption)

I'm totally in love with our adopted Australian Shepherd (Kaleb), and so is Jack. He gives us something to laugh about and enjoy every day, but takes his job of being our canine companion very seriously. He's his happiest when he's all but attached to our persons 24/7.

We can't imagine a better fit for our family than Kaleb. That doesn't mean I don't still look at the remaining Aussies Awaiting Adoption, though. I'm not only in love with our fella, but I love the breed. I'm sure there are some challenging individual dogs out there that may not have been nearly the best option for our family, even with this breed, but I often run across many that seem by their descriptions to be great dogs.

So I'm going to periodically post listings I see for some of these, in the hopes that some folks who have the time and attention to devote to an Aussie of their own might consider adoption as a real option. Some are purebred and some are mixes, and all are special dogs. For us, adoption was ideal. There are always unknowns going into it, but the experienced rescue organization folks are skilled in helping match the right person to the right Aussie.

Here's today's beautiful girl, Sugar, in Florida. If you'd like to read more about her, here's her page and more pics. She's just the sort of Aussie we'd be looking at if we were looking to add another fabulous furball to our family right now ...maybe she's meant to be a part of yours :)

Florida too far? Here's a map link to more states so you can find a wonderful Aussie for adoption in your neck of the woods...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chaya/Mayan Tree Spinach

We read about this plant only this summer, and ordered a start, which was pretty small. At different points it looked a little puny, but even so it withstood the heat really well.

It turns out that this plant should reach a quite tall and broad shrub size. We're not sure how long that'll take. It's not the sort of plant that can be pruned to a formal hedge shape, but since we're not exactly formal hedge folks, we're hoping to propagate some more through cuttings to achieve a loose, informal grouping that can be used as a cut-and-come-again source of edible leaves.
I did find out (since I'd forgotten) that the leaves are NOT edible raw...there are toxins that shouldn't be eaten, but, as with some other types of subtropical plants, they are neutralized if the leaves are cooked. And like so many other tropical leaves, they are described as tasting "like spinach" when cooked. We haven't gotten to that point yet. Let's see how this one weathers We'll also see how it does as the temps dip, and whether frost kills it back. Many of our plants we lost last year came back from the roots (except ALL the papayas and coco plums, wahhh), so we're hoping that's the case with this one if we go down that same road this year.

We'll probably put several layers of cardboard down around it this year before the heat sets in, to help keep the bermuda from choking it out. It does not like standing water or damp roots, so it's in an area that dries out fast.

I'll report back when we taste-test it one of these days. It is said to be hardy in zone 8 and warmer. If it's hardy AND tastes good, it's a keeper :) Will keep you posted....

A Few Plants A-Thriving

Kaleb's enthusiastic about romps in "the jungle"...

Here's the side lot, facing the back swale. Moringa tree is to the left, some seedlings being clustered at its trunk in case of frost, pigeon pea bush to the right, forefront is a cranberry hibiscus/false roselle badly in need of a good prune. Jack's letting it recover from being transplanted first.

What we initially mistook for hips really proved to be the buds prior to flowering. The leaves of this plant are edible raw or cooked, as are the flowers. The leaves have a bright lemony flavor some compare to sorrell (I've never had sorrell)

We have about ten or so each of the moringa trees and the pigeon pea bushes planted out. The 5 gallon buckets we started with three years ago (for seedlings) are now clustered under and around these because the weather here in the last couple days has dipped to nighttime lows in the mid-thirties. There are various tree and shrub seedlings in the buckets, and while they are (imho) rather an eyesore, grouping them in clusters near buffer plants seems to help them through the lower temps. I was out there today checking on some of them and among the buckets we still have some tamarinds, malangas, guavas, etc. The papayas, which are more tender at least at the height of four feet that ours are, have been moved to the interior corner of our back lanai, out of the wind and protected on two sides. We lost ALL our papayas last year, so these are from this year's seeds and we hope they'll survive. We don't even try covering everything this year when it's that cold. If the forecast says below freezing, we'll blanket the small citrus and that's about it. We have old cardboard boxes saved for cutting down and putting around the bases of some of the other plants, but mostly Jack uses them around the bases anyway to cut down on weed burden.

We've never grown the pigeon peas before, and I had no idea they'd be blooming right in December and putting out peas! Here are some of the pods that just matured, before picking them. Again, I'm not used to Florida yet...can't believe I can pick this in December...

Here's the faithful guard of The Jungle. He's next to some pigeon peas and cranberry hibiscus, with a chaya plant just behind him (in the forefront). I'm reallyyyy hoping the chaya makes it if there's a freeze. It's the plant that at first glance seems to be a thistle.

Here's the chaya closeup. It's another of those plants, I think originally from Mexico or thereabouts, that is supposed to thrive in this climate. It has multiple uses and this is the size after having ordered a small starter plant this summer. I believe it can be propagated by cuttings and the leaves are edible, though we have yet to try it. We got it because of its usefulness as an edible cut-and-come-again green that can form nearly a hedge. I don't know yet if it's edible raw.

More to come, but my computer's slow at downloading, so I'll call it a night for now. Please send pictures of snow...I miss a fireplace but otherwise have no complaints, since it gets chilly enough at night here for my liking :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My New Toy!

Here's a zucchini in the new manual spiral slicer...this is on the skinnier strand setting Zucchini was the first to be tried, then a Daikon radish

Mix 'em up with a tad of olive oil, pinch of sea salt, squeeze of lemon, and grind of black pepper...and of course garlic...
I can't believe these are raw and vegetable and not really pasta...they have a great flavor. I'm going to let them stay in the fridge till dinner tonight. I can't wait to get my hands on some different things to try spiraling...turnip, rutabaga, beet, sweet potato...wonder about carrots...oh yes, pumpkin!
Hooray for flourless raw veggie pasta! My world has just opened up...with diabetes, pasta has been off the table for a long time now. more :)
Jack just gave the "noodles" his fork of approval.
Just had to share before heading to bed after a long night's work. Hope your day is a happy one!
Update...I just had a bowful of these with some more garlic and some softened sundried tomatoes. It was great! I bet a quick blending in the blender of a couple pieces of sweet pepper, sundried tomato, garlic would be great mixed with finely diced veggies for a "spaghetti sauce" and poured over these noodles.
Other things I could also spiral...celeriac, cucumber, fennel bulb?? oh the possibilities. After sitting in the light dressing of olive oil and lemon, salt and garlic for the day, they were softer. There's no way these taste like actual grain pasta, but they are wonderful and light and easy to eat, and something about the strands makes them easy and fun to eat.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Open, Sesame!

My newfound love of sesame continues. This is a variation of the beanless zucchini hummus I recently learned to make, the main ingredient besides the zucchini being raw sesame butter/tahini (the kind with just the ground seeds and not other ingredients). This time I substituted part of the olive oil with some dashes of sesame oil and hot chili oil, and added black pepper and flax seeds before blending them with the few other ingredients, namely lemon juice and garlic.

This recipe is so easy, it literally takes two minutes to make, and it's easy to have something completely raw that eats like a meal, depending on what you use to dip it with. Any raw veggie works well for dipping...tonight I had cauliflower. I topped it with chili flakes and after taking the pictures above (bad lighting, sorry), also topped it with more sesame seeds. Why I love them so much right now I do not know, but who cares? They're wonderful!

Some like it!
Then I made another really quick raw goodie...and again with the sesame seeds. I can't say these are completely raw, though...the seeds are the toasted kind. But the banana and the sunflower nut butter are raw...that's all there is to it. Top the slices of banana with the nut butter (preferably raw) and dip to coat with sesame seeds. SO good :)

As you can see, I am really suffering through this raw eating experience ;-) Green smoothies chock full of whatever dark leafy greens I want to put in there, topped off with frozen blueberries and a couple of bananas and blended to a cold thick pourable milkshake consistency, are split between Jack and myself. A small portion of fish or lean meat, if desired, with some raw veggies in different variations such as the zuke hummus shown here, or some gorgeous emerald spinach tossed for a few seconds with just-cooked salmon and eaten up. Any fruit out-of-hand, or a fruity smoothie ice cold for a sweet tooth.

Or seedy things, like these banana bites.
we're suffering ;-)
P.S. I'm feeling very, very good these days. I hope you're all safe and happy during these holidays. Eat well, and hug the ones you love. And invite in others to the comfort of home. It's a better gift than anything storebought.
Blessings to you and yours!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Raw Pumpkin Sushi Rolls

OK, I know I just lost the Deep South and Interior Farms portion of the readership with that title :) Who knew I love sushi rolls? I was very resistant for years until one day a friend decided to treat me to some (back then it more of a dare). It was unfamiliar territory, and I prefer salmon or avocado as the main ingredient inside mine. Old hat to most folks, but it was all new to me. I'm sort of a few decades behind whatever the current rage is...

But the kicker for me was tastebuds fell head over heels with the combination of wasabi (for the uninitiated, it's a powerful Asian horseradish that can't adequately be described beyond "green," "potent," and "WOW") and soy sauce..mixed together and into which edibles all wrapped in substantial bites of rice (sometimes), a dry crisp seaweed sheet, and maybe rolled further in sesame seeds...are dipped. Into the sauce. Till they soak some of it up.

And your mouth goes POW. And then repeat.
Well, if it's an acquired taste, it didn't take me long to acquire it. Oh. My. Gosh...I love wasabi. I must have brain explosions of happy chemicals as a result of eating it, and it may be the closest substance in my life I probably need a 12 step program to address (heh heh) It's also about the only time I eat soy sauce, since I avoid most other soy like the plague. But anyway...

I used to visit a family-owned restaurant off and on when I lived in Memphis (it's no longer there now) and they served made-on-the-spot sushi rolls back when it was more of a novelty (well at least in Memphis it was). I liked the combination of avocado, minced carrot, cream cheese, minced shallot inside the seaweed sheet then rolled with rice around the outside and finally toasted sesame seeds. My body must have wanted the iodine or something in that seaweed, or maybe the wasabi, but several of my trepidatious friends, after trying these, became addicted, too. We called them "Robbyn rolls," and I wish I knew how to make them like Andy did. Andy barely spoke English and was from an undisclosed nation in Asia, but chose the name Andy for his English moniker, and he was the master touch for our veggie roll get-togethers. Thankfully they were inexpensive, so it was a fun way to while away some social time with friends over pots of hot green tea.

Well, I've failed miserably at making sushi, but I still keep trying.

Here's my latest attempt, but the NICE thing about this is that I was trying to find something that would hold together well but not have the consistency of carrot. Carrot's just not my favorite texture in a veggie roll. Enter the idea of pumpkin. Winter squash would work fine, too. I thought it might pair well when ultimately dipped in the wasabi/soy.

I peeled a piece of calabaza, which is simply a tropical pumpkin, and shredded it on one of those box shredders...I don't have a food processor and my blender would make mush of it. Instead of rice, I diced some cauliflower really fine, and layered it on a sheet of seaweed, cauliflower first and then the shredded pumpkin. Then I topped that with toasted sesame (I don't have any raw), and rolled it up and let it sit a minute. I put too much filling in this time, so they came out fat and bulky, but at least this time they held together all the way through this stage.

I sliced them carefully and turned them on their sides. But there is no way they were secure or small enough to hold together to dip. So I mixed up some soy sauce and wasabi (found in the ethnic section of the regular supermarket) and dribbled some over each roll, to soak into the filling (not the wrapping, or it would collapse). They held together well enough for me to pop them into my mouth and chew, so hey, I've improved!Ok, YES. YES YES YES. It worked! It's not going to replace the really great fillings that normally come with ones made by a pro. But the textures worked, the flavors worked, the taste was great!! (But I say that meaning that ONLY with the wasabi/soy mix does it taste right...otherwise, not so much)

Can we say YAYYY??? All of it was raw but the sesame seeds. It would taste even more wonderful with a little cream cheese inside. But that'll hafta wait...

I can SO handle eating this again :) And I just found a fun use for our pumpkins, woo!

I've included pictures of my victims (the ingredients). While not the most artistic, my tastebuds and wasabi-craving brain receptors did not complain :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Quickie Update

The week flew by. Happy Hannukah to all :) We kept things simple.

I've been trying to get my sleeping schedule back to some semblance of normality. Eating "high raw" (a high percentage of only raw foods) is going well with the only real bumps being some flubs with hamburgers on my work days...I really am trying to stay away from those. But I had run out of the leafy greens and the fish both, so I planned better when shopping this time around.

Jack and I both watched a documentary about some people who went to Gabriel Cousens' center and spent a month eating raw food only, and reversed their diabetes. The CD couldn't have come at a better time, since I was needing some direction. Correction...we, Jack and I both, were needing some.

I did vary from the smoothies and tried two recipes in the last couple days. One was raw "popcorn" using raw cauliflower cut up and tossed with nutritional yeast (which has a cheesy/nutty flavor) and savory spices like sea salt, cayenne, and paprika. We did like that for munching. It doesn't do well refrigerated, though, because the seasonings turn to mush.

The other recipe I LOVE is one I saw on a video. Supposedly it's a beanless hummus. It's made with raw zucchini, tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, pinch of sea salt and cayenne and cumin. [[later edit...I forgot to mention garlic...lots of garlic! ]]] OH MY. I forgot the cumin and even so it was SO SO SO good. A beautiful pale green, and we sliced raw veggies and cherry tomatoes and used them as "chips." I'll definately be using that again. SO easy in the just blend the ingredients together. Jack loved it, too.

I think his body is in shock. He's eaten more greens IN his food in a few days than he usually has in a month ( or maybe more). I fix us smoothies in the blender daily, and vary the fruit and the greens that go into them. But I love the frozen blueberries and have started freezing the bananas in chunks because it gives a great texture and sweetness that masks any strong flavors that might be unfamiliar for us starting out. We eat a lot of kale, parsley, romaine, collards, and will try turnip greens coming up...all in the smoothies, cleverly disguised (haHA) :)

I've not lost any more weight. Since that's my secondary focus at first, I'm not panicked. I do feel so much better overall it helps keep me from getting discouraged. I do eat a lot of what I think of as "oily fish"...salmon, and tinned kippered smoked herring, whitefish, the like. My body seems to be having a party with all those omega-3s.

We ordered Cousen's book about reversing diabetes. We're getting serious about it. So far we're resisting the urge to get too much "health store stuff" because of the cost and the fact we need something that works for us for the long term.

There's more to write, but I'm sleepy and just wanted to check in here.

What's going on in your world?? :) Hope your days and weekend are great :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Raw's Going Great

I'm doing better each day, and this is quite an education for me. It will impact what we focus on growing, and teach me better, further in, how to plan around what's seasonal. At present, I'm far too dependent on storebought produce. This is due to some factors situationally, because we've decided to hold off on putting much more labor and time into permanent beds on this property, but from all the seeds and seedlings Jack nurtured over the past two years, we have a mini Moringa forest going next door, tons of things in buckets yet, and mostly small trees of many sorts (mostly fruit) in the ground in hopes they'll survive the milder months better that way. Trees aren't yielding immediate harvests, as they're longer-term plantings, so we're short on the harvestable things presently.

But moringa is on the docket, as it's plenteous and now we need to learn how to best harvest and use it. I anticipate this week using it in nearly all the smoothies.

I'm sleeping WELL.

I'm eating WELL.

It seems this raw food experience should be a more difficult transition, but so far, it is just great!

Up this week, besides the moringa, will be starting sprouts. And making vegetable "sushi" rolls. Anything to get my wasabi fix :)

For the daily updates, ad nauseum, on the raw experiment, it's here at my Raw Green Blender Queen journal page.

I'm off to blend :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Do You Make Of This?

I have a question for those of you who know about growing corn...

(yes, I know it's December now, and fully winter here in the ol' Western hemisphere. And the corn growing season is done, here in Florida, too...I think??...but we had this prodigal plant make it till now because of our warm temps...don't be hatin'...I need your advice!)

This is an ear of a South American type of corn planted from a seed I got from a rare seed company some time back. It was definately planted at the wrong time this year, just before the weather turned cooler. I think Jack only had planted three seeds, and one of the resulting stalks just kept on going despite the dips in temps.

It turned out to be a beautiful black purple, and even the husks stain my fingers purple...the color is deep and gorgeous. I do have some questions...I know there's somebody out here who'll have some answers :)

1. I may have picked this too early. How can I tell? The tassells had turned brown, so I guessed at it, but I don't know how to tell.

2. Why are so many of the kernels missing? There was only one other corn plant that survived, and it looked pretty puny. Does this have something to do with it? Or could it have been soil infertility? The soil was top dressed with composted manure, but underneath the soil was hard sand.

3. The few developed kernels seem to be fairly big. Why did they develop, and others did not? I did not notice any sign of insect damage either outside or inside the husk.

4. If we grew more of this, how would we best select and preserve the seeds for future plantings? Do we husk them and let them dry, and if so, at what stage and how would they be stored?

There's the closeup of the developed kernels (aren't they gorgeous?) and the ones that never made it.

5. These husks as well as the cob and kernels have a rich coloration that comes off on my hands when handling them. How would I make a dye of any or all of these, and is there a particular mordant I'd have to use to keep it from fading or running?

6. Last but not least, we heard that in some South American countries people make traditional drinks with their purple corn. Have any of you tried anything like that? Can the cobs be boiled and the liquid used as a sweetener, if they are sweet? These are genetically pure seeds and I wouldn't have the same hesitation using all parts of them as I might with some of the other corns.
As always, thanks for sharing your insights! We'd rather learn from the collective wisdom than try to muddle about a few more seasons.

This Is the Color of a Green Drink

This picture can't do justice to the color of these blended veggies. This is a gorgeous and delicious way to get those greens. I had no idea I'd be able to stomach it this turned out like a slightly thick homemade cranberry puree and very bright with a pleasant sweetness.

For the basic stats on my 30 day experiment, the weight and such tallies are over here.

The one surprising thing I'm learning, since I've never really done raw blended things before, is that it really doesn't take big quantities of anything. In fact, I could have cut the quantity to one third instead of having a lot leftover to eat/drink later. With the price of produce (which we're still having to buy, but someday won't, hopefully), I only have to use a few stems of this and that, and it really is going to last longer than I'd anticipated.

I used one fresh beet (scrubbed) and its those ruby red stems. I also used raw collard leaves, parsley, and kale, and blended in some raw chunked sweet potato, some pear, and a banana. To help with blending, I wet it all with the storebought 100% juice cranberry, which has a mix of apple and white grape juice, I think, instead of cane sugar. Anyway, this came out a lot sweeter than I'd thought, and I actually liked it...I had prepared myself to drink it no matter what it tasted like, anticipating holding my nose and getting down a few good gulps. This drink has a copious amount of greens in it...all raw. I'm pretty surprised! There's enough left over for about three hearty servings later, if I'm even hungry.

This is the first blender I've owned, ever...just got it yesterday. All the produce showing in the pic, minus one banana and the lemons, were what I blended just now.

I need to wear an old shirt when blending. I have some splats from the beets that make me look like I sustained some chest trauma, ha :)

I just finished a very large glass of this concoction, and I need to adjust my quantity...I need only a third, which now that I'm thinking about it would mean I'd get several meals off the amount I just made.

I don't know the exact $$ amount, but with this being so fiber and nutrient-dense and so filling, I'll be surprised if I can empty the veggie bin in my fridge before some of this needs to be made into soup. Let's see!

At any rate, look, Ma...I ate my greens :)