Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes · Uncategorized

2 Summer Salads For Using Up Tomatoes

It’s August in New England, which means tomatoes are busting out all over. Every year we scale back the number of plants we put in, but we are blessed with a very sunny raised bed alongside our house that simply churns out tomatoes, basil, lettuce, eggplant, peppers and zucchini, so we are once again in abundance! Last year we added rhubarb, and it grew like crazy. I’ve already made one strawberry-rhubarb crisp this  year, and am going to have to harvest and freeze a bunch more before the first frost. I’ve learned a lot about the proper ways to harvest and grow rhubarb so it comes back healthy every year, and I’ll post more about that soon!Today I’m sharing two easy salads that only require you to pick up a couple ingredients in addition to tomatoes — primarily the mozzarella and feta cheese — assuming you are growing your own basil, lettuce or cucumbers. Both salads are crowd-pleasers that keep well at cookouts and on buffet tables, and taste refreshing, not heavy or overly filling. Dig in and get your summer greens!

To make the Greek Salad:

Wash, dry and chop your lettuce, or just buy a box of fresh organic mixed greens, which is what I usually do. Place in a large bowl then top with sliced fresh tomatoes of any variety, diced red onion, Kalamata olives, sliced and halved cucumbers and crumbled Feta cheese. 

Drizzle with the dressing of your choice, or make your own Greek salad dressing by shaking together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 minced garlic cloves, a squeeze of half a lemon plus 2 TBSP red wine vinegar. You can add more zip by swirling in some Dijon or other mustard, and you can make it creamier by stirring in a spoon full of Greek yogurt. Yum! Just add to a jar and shake to emulsify.

To make the Caprese Salad: 

On a serving plate, drizzle some good olive oil in a zig-zag pattern. Lay down half-moon tomato slices, top with a basil leaf, then finally place a slice of fresh mozzarella on the stack. Season with a little bit of pepper (fresh cracked is best tasting, but any kind is fine) and then drizzle with good balsamic vinegar over top. Serve!

Both salads will keep in the fridge for a few days, too, which is great for lunch. The caprese salad in particular travels well if you pack the slices tightly in a shallow container, and it’s that rare healthy item that my entire family will eat, so it’s going to be on rotation in our house for as long as our tomato plants are producing! I love anything that extends the feeling of summer, even when vacations and beach days are winding down and school is starting up.

Are you in Boston between now and Labor Day? Check out the 2017 Fermentation Festival happening this weekend at the Public Market! Join Boston Ferments from 10 am to 4 pm at the market, above the Haymarket MBTA station (orange and green lines) or on foot/by bike at the corner of Congress and Hanover streets. There will be demos, book signings, make-your-own-sauerkraut, food tastings, a libation garden and more!

FermentationFestival2017

Boston Ferments is an all-volunteer group of fermentation and pickling enthusiasts based in the Boston area, and willing to share starters for fermented foods, like yogurt, sourdough and kombucha. Why fermentation? Fermented foods — those made by converting sugars to acids, gases or alcohol — have preserved nutrients and are easier for the body to digest. Many cultures have traditionally fermented foods, from kimchi, pickles and miso to sauerkraut, kefir and tempeh. Eating fermented foods can introduce beneficial bacteria (“probiotics”) to your system, easing digestion and immunity. A proper balance of gut bacteria and digestive enzymes helps us to absorb nutrients in food more readily, and can contribute to better overall health. Fermented foods also last longer than canned food, making them very budget friendly, too.

Find out more at bostonferments.com, and have a great weekend!

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Vanilla Pear Protein & Greens Smoothie

Happy Tuesday! This weekend was gorgeous, and we got a chance to spend time with lots of friends. From birthday parties to cookouts and just having some “girls time” with my Georgia, it was so much fun, and also relaxing.


G and I are in party prep mode, gathering together the final decorations and favors for her goodie bags … and I’m in denial that she’s turning four! Life with a preschooler is so much more fun than having an infant in my book. There’s no diapers, formula, strollers or baby carriers to lug, and no contending with teething, packing baby purees, having to find a quiet place to nurse, or booking activities around naps. However, there’s LOADS of tantrums over not getting their way, ups and downs with food pickiness, shifting preferences around which parent they want, and rigidity about favorite toys, movies, stuffed animals, sock color, hair style, you name it — which is aggravating but also an awesome glimpse into their emerging personality. I know lots of people find infants simpler and more portable, but I personally have been eager to have an independent walker, talker and day-tripper, so now that she can hang, I’m packing our agenda!


The only downside, though, is that if I’m not careful I don’t end up eating anything good all day. Combined with my frenetic office culture — which, like most workplaces, seldom offers time to break for lunch — I’m relying more and more on smoothies for sustenance on the go. I’m actually drinking one right now while I work from home and wait for the plumber to fix our dead hot water tank!


I typically make a double batch every weekend, and my favorite is a healthy green smoothie with fruit, veggies and filtered water. Soon I’ll be sharing my Sunday afternoon routine for making a big batch with Georgia so we are ready for lunches on the go all week! Sometimes, though, I need a little extra energy to feel full or recover from a midday yoga class, so I’m starting to test some of the different protein powders on the market. Today, I’m sharing a Vanilla Pear Smoothie that I made using Vega’s Protein & Greens Powder. 


Vanilla Pear Protein & Greens Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pear, sliced into chunks
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • 1 packet (30g) protein powder (or 1 scoop from a large container)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

You can substitute the water/almond milk combo for 1 cup of coconut water or a full cup of either filtered water or the milk of your choice.

DIRECTIONS

Adding the liquids first, then the spinach then the fruits and protein powder and ice, blend on high until smooth. Add more ice if you are using a fresh rather than frozen banana.

I like to store this in my favorite Shake and Go Bottle by Contigo — because they seal tight, are totally spill proof, hold a ton (24 ounces) while still fitting into my purse or car cup holder, and they have an easy-to-clean mixing ball inside to shake up the contents when you’re ready to drink. Plus, the price is right and they are sold at Target — at $6 each, I can buy two or three so I always have one clean. They even make one with a powder storage compartment on the bottom for $12 that holds up to two servings!

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The stats on Vega

The Vega powder has 20 grams of plant-based protein (pea, hemp and brown rice), non-GMO, gluten-free, sugar free, and 110 calories, or 1 Weight Watchers point. It has 4g carbs and 1g fiber, and can also just be mixed into 8 ounces of cold water or non-dairy milk. Other flavors, such as chocolate, are available. I found that it keeps fine in the fridge for four or five days, and a good shake re-mixes it well.

Why protein powder?

I haven’t shared this on here yet, but all summer I’ve been undergoing physical therapy for some lingering issues related to my labor with Georgia — in particular, some spasming muscles in my pelvic floor and a stubborn separation of my abdominal muscles, likely caused by being extremely petite, having a comparatively big baby, and pushing for two hours. Part of the PT is restorative therapy and behavior modification — which I’ll happily share more about later — but the latter phase, which I’m in now, is all about strengthening the core to support all the therapy we’ve done to retrain my abdominal wall and pelvic floor to hold my internal organs in and support my lower back and hips properly. This means I’m doing A LOT of strength training every day, sometimes twice a day, and need to take in adequate nutrients from quality foods to prepare and recover.


Protein powder is helpful if you are ramping up workouts after an interval of not exercising regularly, or while recovering from an injury — both, in my case. They can also help support healthy bones, blood, cartilage and muscle if you are mostly vegetarian or vegan, although protein powders are by NO means necessary for ensuring adequate protein intake while eating a plant-based diet. Protein powders are also typically not enough to fully satisfy your daily protein needs — they are definitely meant as a supplement.

What are the main downsides?

Well, in addition to the fact that you do not NEED a powder in order to replace nutrients from food, protein powders can be gritty or chalky in your shakes and smoothies — especially if you are used to straight up fruit and veggie smoothies — and, of course, they can be costly.

My verdict on Vega? I thought it was tasty, not chalky, minimally gritty, and overall very easy to blend into my usual smoothie, and filling. As someone who is used to drinking fruit and vegetable based smoothies with no added juice, sugar, ice cream, etc., the texture was creamier and sweeter than I’m used to — but that’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. Overall, I’d recommend. A great way to try protein powders is to pick up a $2 single-serving packet in the fitness & supplement aisle to try. That way you don’t have to drop $40 on a huge tub of something you aren’t yet sure you’ll like. I found Vega at Target, and I know Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have loads more, as well as Amazon and numerous brick-and-mortar health stores.

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What Else I’m Trying

Next up, I’m going to try Aloha’s Vanilla Bean protein powder, and Trader Joe’s Organic Vanilla protein powder. Mark really likes the Trader Joe’s fast-dissolving chocolate whey protein powder for exercise recovery, so I’m hoping their vanilla flavor is tasty and budget-friendly.

Most protein powders are whey, soy or hemp, and those are in descending order of protein content. You can also evaluate what type of sweetener each powder contains; I prefer stevia, dislike artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, etc.), and like to see a sugar content of zero on that nutrition label if possible. While there are lots of factors to consider, it basically comes down to price, protein source/dietary restrictions, and flavor/texture. I’ll let you know what I discover!

What’s YOUR favorite protein powder? Do you use one? Why or why not?

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