meatless mondays: fresh from the farmer’s market…

Only one more day until the official start of SUMMER!  I started celebrating early this weekend, despite the rain and gloomy weather.  In the morning moments of sunshine, I headed out to my favorite farmer’s market.  If it isn’t going to act like summer outside, then I can at least pretend by shopping and eating like its already summer.

My best friend in NYC was out and about in her warm, sunny city (I’m jealous) and was inspired to make gazpacho.  She asked me to send her my recipe, which made me realize that I had yet to share it here.  It also planted the seed and made me crave it,  so I mixed up my first batch of the season!  On Sunday morning, I set out to collect my ingredients.

I must admit, I was a little disappointed with the early summer market pickings.  I got what I could and stopped by my food co-op to supplement where necessary. This recipe will turn out even more delightful once the heirloom tomatoes start to ripen.  I was lucky enough to get a few from a greenhouse farmer.   Here is my market bounty and what I made with it:

 

 

Recipe:  Mango Gazpacho

3-5 large tomatoes (preferably a variety)
2-3 mangoes (peeled and cored)
1 cucumber
1 red pepper
1 small red onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed (or more if you like it spicy)
2 garlic cloves
juice from 1/2 lemon (more to taste)
1 tablespoon vinegar (balsamic, rice, apple, or white)
salt and pepper to taste

Optional:
tomato juice or water to thin
sriracha or other hot sauce for extra spice
watermelon, green onion, carrots, or any other fruit/veggie that sounds good

Finely dice ingredients and mix in a bowl. If you like it soupy/saucy, you can take half of the vegetables (before all of your hard dicing work) and puree them in a blender or food processor.

Serve cold.
Top with a good balsamic, truffle oil, or just eat it up!
Hint:  It tastes better if you make it ahead of time and let it mingle.

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ho hum and a bottle of rum…

Well hello there stranger!  So nice to see you again.  I’m sorry its been so long.  And really, its not you, its me.  I went on a wonderful all-inclusive vacation and just haven’t been able to get into the swing of things upon my return.  I’ve had a case of the post vacation blahs. 

My lax Mexico attitude carried over into my every day life, attempting to sabotage my hard-earned weight loss and healthy sense of being.  Combined with erratic weather, I felt like a mess in a dress.  Ok, maybe not that bad, but certainly off balance.

I couldn’t seem to properly grocery shop, eat right, cook balanced meals, practice my regular exercise routine, lose weight, maintain adequate sleep, or write.  I DID seem to be able to socialize a lot, eat out a ton, and drink too much wine and beer.  I even drank rum, a liquor I usually avoid (note: it was in Julie’s special punch at her party where I socialized a lot, ate a ton, and drank too much wine, beer, and rum 😉 ).  

I’ve spent the last week trying to snap out of it with healthy home cooked meals, riding my bike to work, doing yoga, and going to bed early.  I think its working.  I actually passed up cake at work today and am attempting to write this rambling post.  I functioned on 2 cups of coffee this morning instead of my regular 3+.  Hey, I’ll take my achievements where I can get them!

When I have the blahs, there are certain things I can exert control over, like diet, exercise and sleep.  They really are the foundation of my sanity.  Things like the weather are obviously not within my scope.  And let me tell you that this spring, the weather has kicked my butt. 

I remember this feeling from Seattle.  Seasonal Affective Disorder, affectionately known as SAD.  I’m not sad, I’m just blah.  After over 2 months of almost solid rain, you would be blah too, and if not, then I want some of what you are on!  Kidding,  jokes!

It’s hard to go for a run when its 38 degrees, windy and rainy.  It’s also hard to motivate when its 98 degrees with 85% humidity and a heat index over 100.  Both have been the case in the past 2 weeks here in Chicago, seriously. Sometimes its nearly happened in the same day.  Maybe the crazy rapture people are on to something?   

For a full month, I’ve been pulling out the summer clothes, organizing my closet, packing away my sweaters and heavy coats, and then pulling everything back out of storage again.  My closet looks like a war zone.  Add to that the various clothing sizes that I insist on keeping in anticipation of losing more weight or *gasp* gaining weight back, and it looks like I’m running a thrift store out of my bedroom.  Don’t even get me started on the piles of shoes… When my closets are unorganized, my life feels chaotic too.

Bring on normal summer weather please!  Sun-filled brunching on a deck,  breezy bike rides to the farmer’s market, and comfortable afternoons at the beach!  Fresh fruit, crisp salads, iced tea, and herb gardens! Sun dresses, flip flops, outdoor music and festivals! (with coats, boots, gloves, and sweaters all neatly tucked away in bins in the back of the closet)

Can I just have some solid, consistent summer weather that doesn’t require carrying an umbrella, winter gloves, and a beach blanket at the same time?  Patience grasshopper!  Its only the beginning of June.  

Can I get rid of the fat clothes?  Yes I can!  **I have control over that part of the equation 🙂 

Can I recommit to my weight loss plan and still have a fun summer?  Balance is possible.  I have the tools and motivation to succeed! 

Can I write a coherent post explaining my absence and write something of substance?  Um, maybe next week when its sunny and 70 and I’ve had a good night’s sleep.  See you then! *End Rambling*

its not easy being green…

It may not still be Earth Week,  but in my household, we try to practice a more environmentally friendly lifestyle on a daily basis. Some things are easier than others. Last week, I shared a list of simple things you can do. Today, in preparation for my annual spring clean, let’s talk about chemical cleaners.

Oh Kermit, you said it the best. It’s not easy being green, especially in all aspects of our daily lives. I have struggled with my cleaning products over the years. There are just certain things that I have been conditioned to believe make things “clean”. Particular scents and presence of bubbles also equate clean in my mind. Too many “Scrubbing Bubbles” commercials as a child? Or the dizzying aroma of Mr. Clean?

Why should we care? What difference does a few cups of bleach or a shake of powdered detergent make? Well, lets talk about phosphates for a moment.

Phosphates enter waterways from human and animal waste,  laundry water waste, cleaning agents, industrial waste, and fertilizer runoff, just to name a few. These phosphates become detrimental when they over fertilize aquatic plants and cause stepped up eutrophication, a recognized pollution problem.  Phosphates stimulate the growth of plankton which messes up the whole biodiversity of our water ecosystems, including toxic algal blooms.

Bodies of water are being aged at a much faster rate than geological forces can create new ones. All those organisms and animals that rely on that water are negatively impacted. And the humans who need to drink that water? Um, ya, eventually they will be effected too.

My mother in law introduced me to a wonderful line of natural cleaning products from Shaklee. I use their Basic H and Basic G concentrates to make all kinds of alternative cleaning sprays.  They are non-toxic and very affordable considering how far a bottle goes.  The Basic H is so gentle and safe, it can even be used to clean fruit or pets, plus a thousand other things.  The Basic G is used in place of bleach as a germacide without the fumes.

You don’t have to go out and buy special products though.  There are tons of natural cleaning products waiting to be made, right in your very own cupboard.

Environmentally friendly cleaning ideas:

Drain opener:  Instead of drain cleaner, pour about 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, then 1/2 cup vinegar. The resulting chemical reaction can break down fatty acids, allowing the clog to wash down the drain. After 15 minutes, pour in boiling water to clear residue.  Do not use this method after trying a commercial drain opener–the vinegar can react with the drain opener to create dangerous fumes.

All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and use whenever you’d reach for your usual not-so-safe cleaning agent to spray down countertops, bathroom walls, mirrors, etc.

Microfiber cloths: An alternative to paper towels or a linty rag is a microfiber cloth.  They lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for several years. My favorite is the Miracle Maid, or as my husband calls it “the magic cloth”.

Stainless steel cleaner:  Super hot water + microfiber cloth + a little elbow grease for a streak free, no residue shine!

Fruit/veggie sprays– Mix Basic H or vinegar with water in a spray bottle.  Just spray onto edible item, rub a few times, and rinse clean.  So much less expensive than the kind you buy at the store!

Fragrant Room Sprays– Step away from the can of spray and unplug that deodorizing wallflower.  You can make your own inexpensive and naturally delightful room spray with essential oil and water.  Just put a few drops of your favorite natural oil into a spray bottle, add water, and spray away.  Stock up on a variety of oils:  rose, lemon grass, peppermint, ylang ylang, lavender, rosemary, orange essence, or whatever appeals to you the most. You could also use an essential oil burner to emit the scent of your choice, burn a stick of incense or some sage, or light a soy candle.  Why spray chemicals into the air you breath?

Borax, a natural mineral cleaner, is also a favorite natural cleaner of those in the eco-know.  Mixed with lemon juice, it can make your toilet shine!   Toss some in with your funky mildew-y towels to make them fresh as can be.  There are tons of uses for it listed all over the internet.  I am just getting around to trying it.  Step by step, slowly but surely, I am making these changes.  I’ll let you know what I think.

I know most of this information isn’t new to anyone, but sometimes we all need a gentle reminder to lessen our chemical “spills”.  If nothing else, use less product and more elbow grease.  Your sexy summer biceps will thank you!

random acts of kindness to the earth…

Happy Earth Day!

I hope that everyone lives their daily lives in an environmentally conscious way. Of course none of us are perfect, but we should all do what we can.

Simple changes, even little ones, can make a huge impact on our world. I try to adopt new habits and make small adjustments, continuing to progress slowly. Its less painful that way. We can’t all go out and be “No Impact Man“, but we can be more mindful of our decisions and the effect they have.

Last year I made the conscious effort to quit using regular toxic cleaning products and soaps (more to come on that next week). I’ve known the effect of phosphates on our water shed, but for some reason, I couldn’t let go of that fresh soapy smell. Fortunately many mainstream companies have gotten on board and it is easy to find suitable environmentally friendly products. Beware of greenwashing though. Research your products to make sure they truly are eco-friendly.

I’ve found that I love the natural scent of eucalyptus or sandalwood more than artificial “fresh linen”. I’ve also rediscovered my love of Dr. Bronner’s magic soap. I was on a lavender kick for a while but now its all about the almond scent again.

Here are a few simple, every day things you can slowly adopt:

  • Add vinegar to your washer to get your gym clothes extra clean. It works better than adding extra soap or using harsh detergents or color safe bleaches. Use less soap in general. Most of use twice as much of these highly concentrated detergents than we really need. Old habits die hard.
  • Wash and rinse your clothes in cold water. Hot water isn’t necessary.  The heat of the dryer will kill anything remaining on your clothes.
  • Turn the water off while you are brushing your teeth.
  • Turn lights off as you leave the room. Use Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs. They are more expensive but can save a lot in electricity costs over their lifetime. Plus they use about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and lasts up to 10 times longer.
  • Pee in the shower. Seriously. It saves toilet paper and water. Brazil even had a campaign to save water/toilet flushing, by peeing in the shower or showering with a friend…but just not both at the same time 🙂 (click here for a giggle) This suggestion is only for the occasions that you are actually planning to take a shower…don’t just randomly use your bath tub as a toilet!
  • Don’t flush anything down the toilet except what is supposed to go down. Avoid throwing tissues, cotton swabs, tampons, wrappers, condoms, etc down the drain. They just have to be fished back out. More chemicals will also need to be added to clean the water with these products mixed in. Just put them in the garbage where they belong and take it out more often.
  • Recycle the cardboard from your toilet paper roll (you know you just toss it in the regular bathroom garbage…) This assumes that you are already recycling, right? Right!
  • Use cloth napkins. Pack them in your lunch. Keep one at work. Use it a couple of times before you wash it. I go to Pier 1 or Cost Plus and buy single napkins in different pretty designs. They usually have clearance items for $1. We use different colors so we know which one is ours and leave them out on the table until they need washed.
  • Carry reusable bags and USE THEM. Avoid plastic bags altogether. Try to get in the habit of using them at clothing stores, drugstores, and convenience stores, not just the grocery store. My favorites are Envirosax and Bag The Habit. I like these small compact bags because I can leave them in my purse, coat pocket, or glove box. Less expensive single bags are available pretty much everywhere you shop.
  • Don’t buy bottled water. Carry a stainless steel bottle with you and refill it. If you like sparkling water, buy a Soda Stream and make your own!
  • Compost your vegetable waste or start a worm bin. The rich fertile soil you get in return is a reward in itself!
  • Turn off lights and unplug vampire appliances and chargers when not in use.

What little (or big) things do you do? Please share!

Just by adopting a few of these easy habits, you can make a difference in the future of our world. Practice random acts of kindness to the Earth. Whether its good karma that comes back to you, clean water from your tap, or just the knowledge of knowing you helped to do your part, its all worth it!

Happy Earth Day!