Monday, April 15, 2013

Celebrating our bride-to-be

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A shot of Stephanie, her lovely mother Luci, and me at her first bridal shower this weekend.  
Isn't our bride-to-be simply radiant?

May is just around the corner!  Such fun times!


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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Descanso Gardens and Tomatomania!

Descanso Gardens is one of those wonderful places to visit in the L.A. area.  It is a large, mature, and beautiful garden nestled in the beautiful community of La Canada Flintridge, just a couple miles away from where I grew up in North Glendale.  I hadn't been there in so long, I was really looking forward to our visit today.  We actually planned our visit there because Tomatomania was going to be set up for their annual sale of tomato plants.  We have purchased our plants from them for at least five years now and have had great growing success!  They set up each spring in various locations in the L.A. area, and it's always an extra bonus when they set up somewhere beautiful like Descanso Gardens or  the Arboretum. They have so many interesting and unusual varieties available, and the staff puts on helpful workshops and will advise you which plants to choose.

Today I was so excited to awake to such beautiful sunny weather!  It was so pretty, it felt like a true spring day, and I was ready for an outing.  We actually ventured out for a double date with our longtime, dear friends Don and Roxane.  We are so thankful for the long, enduring friendship we have had with them.  We have too many memories with them to even mention (beginning with our first apartments first married in the same building together -- the Ricardos and the Mertzes -- such fun!). They are like family to us and we are very fond of them and their four boys.  It's not often we get to have an opportunity to do something fun like this together as couples, so I was especially excited for the to get to have lunch and go to Descanso with them.   Don was the one who first inspired us to grow tomatoes MANY years ago after we first tasted his homemade salsa from his own tomatoes.  Now, I think we inspired him with our Tomatomania varieties (last summer we dumped boatloads on them) and he and Rox wanted to come along to the sale this year.

First, we had a great alfresco lunch at Berolina -- a big fresh salad, a grilled portabello panini, and of course a slice of princess cake.  :-)  We then ventured over to Descanso, picked out our tomato plants (I think we each bought a dozen), and then decided we could spend some time in the gardens.  We had such a delightful time walking the grounds and admiring all the spring blooms and color.  Here are some photos from our beautiful day.

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All excited to grow our selections! Glad our guys are great gardeners!

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Breathtaking tulips in many colors all in bloom

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So many to choose from!

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It's magical (& fragrant) walking through the lilac garden

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Rox snaps a "later gram"

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sourdough Recipes

I'm in love with the sourdough process!  About 3 months ago, I made my own starter.   It is now thriving and I find myself using it a few times a week.  "Souring" is an ancient practice and helps make your whole grains more digestible and nourishing.  What has really been helpful is the Sourdough A-Z e-book I purchased from www.gnowfglins.com.  The technique is well explained and it includes many wonderful recipes.  I haven't even tried traditional bread yet as I've been having so much fun with muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc. I use freshly ground whole wheat flour in my starter.

So far, my favorite recipe is sourdough waffles!  Words cannot express how delightful they are.  They are so light and crispy like the Belgian kind at my favorite bakery. I love to slather them with butter and real maple syrup, hot off the waffle iron.  And they are the easiest/healthiest things to make- just add some starter to eggs, coconut oil, salt, a little sweetener (I like maple syrup), baking soda, and the batter is ready to go.    I freeze any extras in baggies and just pop them in the toaster to eat.  I really would maintain my starter forever just to be ensured a constant supply of these.  :-)

The sourdough waffle recipe is here.

I've also been experimenting with sourdough pizza dough.  I've made pizza dough three times -- it keeps getting better with each attempt but I'm not there yet.  :-)

This morning I made English muffins.  They were absolutely delicious!  And so fun to make.  I made the dough last night with starter, raw kefir, and flour.  This morning I shaped and griddled the muffins in my cast iron skillet.  They turned out quite pretty, I just had to share.  The recipe can be found here.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kefir smoothie

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My Drew takes a smoothie to go on his way out the door every weekday morning.  He always leaves around 7:00 am for either work or school.  I usually make enough smoothie for two people, and either Emma or myself drink the rest.

I make the smoothie about the same everyday in my capable Vitamix:

-1 frozen banana, cubed
-a handful of frozen pineapple chunks or mango chunks
-a handful of frozen berries -- either the organic antioxidant blend from Costco that I LOVE, or a mix of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc.
-small handful of fresh spinach
-1 Tbsp. organic flax oil
-around 1/2 cup milk:  raw milk, full fat canned coconut milk, fresh almond milk
-around 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice or a couple whole peeled oranges
-ice

Even though the raw smoothie is bursting with wonderful enzymes and vitamins, too much sugar (even natural sugar) can cause your glands to work overtime to handle the hyperglycemic response of all that fruit.  Protein slows down the response and eases the sugar into your system.   Sometimes I put a little hemp protein powder in, but I can't really put a good dose of it in without altering the flavor and texture of the smoothie.  And for Drew the smoothie needs to be more pink than green, you know?  :-)  (He doesn't know that I put flax oil in either...shhh).   I don't like to use any processed weird dairy protein powders (super yuk).  If I use raw milk there is a some protein, but why not add a probiotic along with that protein too?

Today I decided to add some raw unflavored kefir to the smoothie.  1 cup of kefir has 8 g. of protein!   The smoothie turned out fabulous!  I personally enjoy drinking the kefir plain, but in the smoothie it is absolutely delicious.  The tang  and creaminess is great.  You can either cut out the original milk in the recipe or not.  I added about 3/4 cup kefir to the above recipe, using coconut milk as well.

In case you're wondering what in the world kefir is, or even how to even pronounce it (some say KEY-furr and some say KEFF-urr, it's actually Kuh-FEAR) here is an interesting article on the benefits of it.  Say it how you wish, kefir it is basically the dairy cousin of kombucha.   Instead of a scoby, kefir "grains" are used to ferment milk.  The complex symbiosis of more than 30 microflora form a grain-like structure of proteins, lipids, and sugars.  So kefir is a fantastic probiotic.  And in its unpasturized form you also get all the wonderful benefits of raw dairy.  And yes, you can make your own kefir as you can make kombucha (uh oh... that sounds like something I'd do...watch out!).   

You can buy Organic Pastures raw kefir at Sprouts market. 



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