Monthly Archives: April 2010

Ode To Tea

Ode to tea
Well, I dipped my hand into the random number generator of joy and picked out our winner of the Yogi Tea Giveaway.
Huge congrats to Christina who loves her tea ON ICE:

I love iced tea during a hot afternoon, fresh from the sun!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the giveaway. I really enjoyed all the comments from fellow tea fans. My favourite teas are Earl Grey and Rooibos, both with milk, sometimes even at the same time (Dragonfly has a nice Rooibos Earl Gray).
Congrats again to Christina. I’ll be in touch with more details!

Yogi Tea Giveaway Reminder!

The Yogi Tea motherload

Hey all! Just a quickie to remind you that today’s the last day to enter a chance to win some free Yogi Tea! To participate, check out this post and leave a comment. I’ll pick a winner at random on Wednesday, April 28th.

Now, I’m off to bed with a cuppa rooibos. Good luck!

London Marathon 2010

London Marathon - Mile 18

No, that’s not me running the London Marathon. That’s one of the elite male runners at mile 18. Tim and I went to London last Sunday to watch the London Marathon and cheer on our friends, Mike and Matt, who are about as “elite” as it comes as far as I’m concerned.

This was Mike’s THIRD marathon and Matt’s FIRST. Incredible. What blew my mind was how refreshed they seemed after the race. Here they are at Livebait before digging into some classic English Fish & Chips (appropriate recovery food for two guys from Tennessee).

Matt and Mike Post Marathon

This was my first time watching a marathon as a spectator and I would definitely do it again. Needless to say, this mass display of sheer determination was inspiring. Something like 36,000 people ran the London marathon. If each one of them trained for an average of 5 hours per week for 15 weeks, that means 2.7 million training hours went into this event. That’s a lot of work, and a lot of people getting seriously FIT. I’ve never felt the need to run a marathon before, but after watching the race, I’ve got the buzz. Training begins once I sort out my ankle. It will happen!

Throughout the event, Tim and I took the tube around to watch runners at Mile 18, Mile 20, and Mile 24(ish). The transition was fascinating. By mile 24, people were looking pretty wrecked, but most of them where still running. They are all my heros.

We also got to catch some of the elite runners at Mile 18. VERY cool. These people are FAST. Here’s a video of a pack of elite women cruising by – look at their stride!

I could barely catch the elite men they were running so fast:

And here is everybody else, just as impressive, kicking ass at Mile 20:

What a great day out, full of inspiration and good friends. Though I’m not sure that Gordon Ramsay would agree – apparently he dropped out of the race at Mile 20. What’s an event in London without a bit of celebrity drama?

Simple, Delicious, Fennel and Orange Salad

Fennel and orange salad

Until yesterday, my favourite way to eat fennel bulb was sliced and roasted, either on its own or on a pizza. But after Tim’s comment that roast fennel was “insipid”, I decided to do something completely different with the 1.5 fennel bulbs sitting in the fridge.

Fennel salads are nothing new, and I found a ton of them to choose from on the internet. I wound up going for this Fennel, Orange and Walnut salad for its simplicity and the availability of ingredients in my cupboard. Fennel, orange, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and walnuts combine to form a wonderfully tangy, crunchy, slaw-like experience. Sweet from the orange, earthy from the walnuts, and a subtle hint of anise from the fennel. This may be my new way to eat fennel, at least now that spring has sprung.





Fennel, Orange and Walnut Salad





2 fennel bulbs
2 oranges
1/2 lemon, juice of, only
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
7 whole walnuts, cut in small pieces, toasted if you like





  1. Remove the tough outer leaves of the fennel, cut off the tops and discard; cut each bulb in half and cut out the cores (and discard them too).


  2. Lay each fennel half in turn on cutting board (cut, flat side down) and slice as thinly as possible (I used a vegetable peeler for this); transfer to a large mixing bowl.


  3. Slice one orange in half (horizontally) and juice one of the halves, setting juice aside.


  4. Slice the remaining 1 1/2 oranges horizontally; remove the peel from each slice, then separate the individual sections (you should end up with thin triangles) which then are added to the fennel slices.


  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, reserved orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.


  6. Pour over the fennel and oranges and mix well; allow to marinate at least 30 minutes and preferably one hour in the refrigerator.

  7. Just before serving, sprinkle the walnut pieces over the salad and mix well.








Speaking of spring, I had a wonderful walk yesterday around the farm. We’ve had beautiful weather lately, and I can’t believe I’ve been wasting these beautiful mornings cooped up in the gym. I decided to skip my usual swim for a long walk around the farm to check out the wildflowers and get some fresh air. At 6:30am, there was a slight frost on the ground, but plenty of flowers and surprisingly, even a few people (hard core photographers and fisherman as far as I could tell). Still, a pleasant morning and a refreshing reminder of what this fitness stuff is really all about: having the strength and energy to get out and see the world and make the most of beautiful mornings (all too rare in England!).

Snakes Head Fritillary


  • Walk: About 5 miles or so around the farm and beyond.

  • Breakfast: Muesli with fruit and yogurt.

  • Snack: Wild garlic frittata and avocado.

  • Lunch: Wild garlic frittata with fennel and orange salad.

  • Snack: Apple with greek yogurt

  • Dinner: Black bean tostada with guacamole and lots of raw veggies.

  • Dessert: Grapefruit.




Breakfast

Muesli with fruit and yogurt

Breakfast muesli

Lunch

Wild garlic frittata with fennel and orange salad

Wild garlic fritatta with fennel and orange salad

Snack

Apple with greek yogurt

Apple with greek yogurt

Dinner

Black bean tostada with guacamole and lots of raw veggies

Black bean and pumpkin tostada

Wild Flowers for Earth Day

Snakes Head Fritillary

Every day is Earth Day on Clattinger Farm. But these days, even the farm is extra special as the Snakes Head Fritillaries are coming into bloom.

These flowers used to be fairly common in Britain but are now quite rare as they are quite sensitive to pesticide spray and other nasty human infringements. We are fortunate enough to live on a farm that has never been sprayed, so the fritillaries thrive and fill the fields with these purple bells. It’s fairly amazing! Yet slightly scary that they can withstand this morning’s frost but can’t handle our pesticides. Scary thought.

Happy Earth Day!

My eclectic interview on Novelists, Inc.

Freelance writer and Web designer Monica Shaw.jpg


What does food and fitness have to do with an organization for multi-published authors? According to Novelists, Inc., many writers need help with health and fitness, or at least that’s what they told me when they interviewed me for their blog. Among their questions was this:

What do you wish writers would do to take care of themselves?

In retrospect, I could probably write a whole essay on this topic, which makes my response seem somewhat meager:


Like many writers out there, I work from home, and it’s all too easy to spend the entire day just sitting in front of a computer, giving my fingers a workout but nothing much else. I encourage writers, and anyone else who works from home, to plan some moving-around time into the day. The easiest way is to go outside and take a walk. Research continues to show that exercise helps people be more productive, reduce stress and improve concentration. I could be stuck on a problem for hours, then I’ll go for a walk or a swim and by the time I’m done, the solution to the problem seems plain as day.



But maybe there’s a bigger story here. Not just about writers, but for anyone working from home. In a lifestyle that seems to have so many freedoms, why is it still so hard to move around, eat healthy food, and stay fit and healthy?

I’m only just figuring out the answer to this in my own life. I know it has something to do with an inherent desire to be idle and vague hesitance to leave my comfort zone.

So what can real people who work from home do to stay fit? It’s easy to say “take a walk”, but how do you actually get motivated to get up from the office chair, put on shoes, and go outside?

I don’t have the answers, alas. But I do have the answers to some other questions over on Novelists, Inc. Check out the interview, where I talk about writing, Writer’s Residence, websites, and my previous life as a wannabe mathematician.

Interview: Freelance writer and web designer Monica Shaw

Wild Garlic and Potato Frittata

Wild Garlic Frittata

A few weeks ago I was introduced to wild garlic, courtesy of our weekly organic box from Riverford Farms. Having no idea what to do with this strange new food, Tim did what any reasonable person should do with a mystery vegetable: turn it into risotto. (By the way, Tim has mad risotto skills – maybe one day he’ll write a recipe for us, but until then, we’ll have to settle for this drool-worthy photo.)

As much as I love risotto, it’s not exactly everyday eating. So I was really excited to find some wild garlic inspiration over at allotment2garden, including wild garlic pesto and wild garlic, potato, feta and pine nut quiche.

Both recipes were tempting, but I only had enough wild garlic for one of them, so I adapted her quiche into a wild garlic frittata. I pretty much followed her recipe word for word, but instead of a quiche crust, I just put a layer of potato at the bottom of the pan (inspired by my mom’s sweet potato crustless quiche technique). I also skipped the pine nuts because I didn’t have any. Instead, I ate the frittata with some fresh avocado and salad, though I’m sure pine nuts would have been top-notch.

The frittata was awesome, and was actually better the next day, heated up in the oven with some super-sweet tomato slices on top. I’d like to try this again but with sweet potato or pumpkin. So bring on the next bag of wild garlic. (If I was really cool, I’d go hunting in the hedgerows for wild garlic myself, but it’s too easy not to when I can buy a bag for £1.50.)

One added note about the frittata – it was IDEAL food for after the morning’s workout. I did all kinds of crazy compound exercises and my muscles were in serious need of repair fuel. The frittata, full of happy potato carbs and high quality egg protein, totally recharged me. So thanks to mangocheeks for the recipe. I highly recommend you check out her blog at allotment2garden for more delicious food, beautiful photos and amazing tales for her garden.


  • Gym: Hard. 20min warm-up on elliptical. Stretch. 3 sets 10 reps lunges w/ 4kg dumbell rotation. 2 sets 10 reps dumbell presses with 8kg weight then 1 set 6 reps with 10kg weight. 3 sets 10 reps squats with 2kg arm raises. 3 sets of Planks. 3 sets 10 reps back extensions. 10min in the pool with the kickboard.

  • Breakfast: Fruit, yogurt and muesli

  • Lunch: Wild garlic and potato frittata

  • Dinner: Coconut cashew curry with cauliflower, carrots, asparagus and tofu



Breakfast

Fruit, yogurt and muesli.

Fruit, yogurt and muesli


Lunch

Wild garlic and potato frittata.

Wild garlic fritatta

Inspired by allotment2garden: Wild garlic, potato, feta and pine nut quiche.

Dinner

Coconut cashew curry with cauliflower, carrots, asparagus and tofu.

Coconut cashew curry

Inspired by 101 Cookbooks: Cashew Curry.

Yogi Tea Review and a Bonus Freebie!

skitched-20100420-091648.jpg

Take a look at my Bircher muesli photoset on Flickr and, beyond the obvious cereal motif, you’ll see another theme: tea.

I am an avid tea drinker, and Yogi tea has been a long time favourite every since I was introduced to their Bedtime tea several years ago. Someone must have made me a cup, because I definitely wouldn’t have purchased this stuff on my own. I’m a bit of a tea purist, preferring straight up black, green, liquorice, or rooibos to crazy blends. More importantly, it annoys the hell out of me when companies put health claims in the title of their branding. But when I tried the Bedtime tea, I was an instant fan.

Did it “promote restful sleep”? I don’t know about that, but it tasted nice and was a good caffeine-free tea option for the evenings. I also thought it was cute that their tea boxes always had a picture and description of a single yoga pose to compliment the intension of the tea (favourite was the “elimination” pose on the “Get Regular” tea).

Fast forward to a few weeks ago – Yogi got in touch and offered me some tea. Sure, why not? I was pretty chuffed that they were willing to ship the tea to the UK, and also send some tea to my sister Stephanie, a fellow tea fan, in Chicago.

The package they sent contained the MOTHER LOAD of Yogi tea. True to form, health claims were everywhere, and I was more than a little skeptacle.

The Yogi Tea motherload

The box contained three types of tea:

  • “Stress Relief” (made with Kava, caffeine free)
  • “Blueberry Slim Life” (made with green tea)
  • “Skin Detox” (also made with green tea)

My initial thoughts before trying the tea:

“Well, the green teas are probably made with poor quality green tea that they’ve masked with other flavours and a catchy name. I don’t even know what my skin would feel like if it WERE detoxed. And as for stress relief, well, drinking tea is always quite relaxing so this claim I’ll buy.

Stephanie was drawn to the Stress Relief tea, too. She’s been crazy busy lately. We recently launched a new business (anyone need a screencast?) and on top of that, she’s been horse training, working, and studying in the evenings. She tested Yogi’s Stress Relief after a long day to see if it really did the job:

The morning started at 7AM and now it’s 9PM and I am just about to start some school work. I spent the day at a horse clinic which involved lots of new exercises with the horse. Needless to say, I am exhausted but somehow my mind is racing and I can’t seem to relax and concentrate on my school work. My muscles are tense and overworked…what a day!

What do I usually do to relax? I love to drink some tea and watch one of my favorite television shows. It doesn’t always work, though, so tonight I tried Yogi Kava Stress Relief tea to try to unwind.

The tea is made from Kava Root, Carob Pod, Sarsaparilla Root, Cinnamon Bark, Ginger Root, Cardamom Seed, Stevia Leaf, Barley Malt, Hazelnut Flavor, Cinnamon Oil, and Licorice Flavor. My reaction upon my first sip was that the sweetness of the Stevia leaf really comes out and combines strongly with the cinnamon and cardamom. The flavors work well together. After the sweetness passed, the after taste was pleasant, a bit earthy, and the other flavors were more noticeable.

So here I am an hour later…I must say I feel pretty relaxed.

Was it the tea itself, or the simple act of resting that helped Stephanie relieve the stress of the day? Who knows. But we both agree that the Kava is definitely drinkable and, like many of Yogi’s teas, very earthy. If you dig on licorice, fennel, or similar teas, you’ll like this. And people with a sweet tooth will appreciate the Stevia. And since its caffeine free, it’s great for the evenings and I admit – the tea, along with my usual nighttime ritual of reading in bed, does help me de-stress and wind down.

What about the other teas? Well, despite my purist nature when it comes to green tea, I actually really like the Blueberry Slim Life. No, it hasn’t caused me to lose weight, but it smells really good (like blueberries!) and is a refreshing change from my usual hot-black-tea-with-milk. Drink this if you like blueberries. Don’t drink this if you’re looking for an easy weight to “slim”. It won’t work.

What’s this about a freebie?

I like Yogi Tea. Maybe you will too?

Yogi Tea has kindly offered to give one of my readers a box of their tasty tea.

To win the tea, all you have to do is leave a comment and I’ll pick a winner at random on Wednesday, April 28th.

What’s your favorite tea? How do you enjoy your tea? Are you a tea or coffee person? Or are you an iced tea fan? How are you today? The comment can be about anything. Just have fun, and have a great Wednesday!

How to roast a whole pumpkin

Roasted whole pumpkinI’m still reeling from my recent pumpkin discovery, and I just discovered the easiest way to deal with a whole pumpkin: roast it whole.

The instructions are simple: turn the oven on to about 200 C / 390 F. Poke a few holes in the top of the pumpkin so it doesn’t burst (not sure if this is necessary but why risk it?). Put the pumkin in the oven. Put a baking tray at the bottom of the oven to catch any juices that might ooze from the pumpkin. Cook until a knife inserts into the pumpkin easily, about 45 minutes.

When it’s done, all you do is slice it up and remove the seeds which, btw, are super easy to get out once the pumpkin is cooked. I used my pumpkin in some rockin’ black bean and pumpkin enchiladas with quick mole sauce. Tim went the simple route and had a wedge of pumpkin with some of the mole poured on top.

Enchilada inspirado:



Here’s what else was going on yesterday, beyond the pumpkin:


  • Gym: 2000m swimming, freestyle, ~55min


  • Breakfast: Bircher muesli with yogurt and banana

  • Knee consultation: Got my MRI results back of the knee. No tendonitis. One small cyst but nothing serious. The usual prognosis: get stronger.

  • Lunch: Cottage cheese and tomato on toast with chives and mint. Plus tons of raw veggies on the side.

  • Snack: Pears, nuts and a little greek yogurt

  • Dinner: Black bean and pumpkin enchiladas with quick mole sauce and steamed spinach



Breakfast

Bircher muesli with yogurt and banana. Note to self: Dorset muesli is much better on its own with yogurt than soaked for Bircher. I will return to my usual Bircher muesli recipe next time.

Lazy bircher muesli

Lunch

Cottage cheese and tomato on toast with chives and mint. Plus tons of raw veggies on the side.

Cottage cheese and tomato on toast with mint and chives.

Snack

Pears, nuts and a little greek yogurt

Pears, nuts and Greek yogurt

Dinner

Black bean and pumpkin enchiladas with quick mole sauce and steamed spinach

Pumpkin and black bean enchiladas with quick mole sauce

Falafel the (mostly) traditional way

Falafel with salad and couscous

There are loads of recipes out there for falafel, but many of them use tinned chickpeas. However, the traditional way to make falafel is with uncooked beans, soaked in water, then ground to a pulp with onion, spices and parsley, then formed into patties and deep fried until crisp.

Mark Bittman has a traditional recipe for falafel in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. The recipe (posted below) is good, but a little finicky. When he says to “pulse the [soaked] beans until smooth” in a food processor, he really means “run the food processor as long as you can without burning out the motor”. You want to pulse the beans for as long as your food processor can handle, scraping the sides along the way. It’s a lot like making nut butter – pulse and scrape, pulse and scrape.

The other change is in the cooking. Bittman’s recipe follows the traditional technique of deep frying, but when I tried this, the falafels were WAY too oily. They do need some oil to make them tasty, but an oil-sponge is not what I was after. I discovered that a thin layer of oil in a non-stick pan works just as well, and I was even able to make a couple larger falafel “burgers” that I look forward to trying on a bun with all the fixins.

When I finally got the hang of it, the falafels were awesome – really tasty with couscous, lots of fresh salad, greek yogurt and spicy tomato sauce. Not only are they healthy balls of beany goodness, but they’re also super cheap to make as Leigh shows us on Cheap Healthy Good. Just a $1.98 for the whole batch – how awesome is that? Leigh’s blog post has some more useful notes on Bittman’s recipe and is well worth reading if you’re looking to make falafel the traditional way.

Now, a short break from ball talk to Monday’s breakdown of food and fitness:


  • Gym: 20 minutes of uphill run/walking, stretch, 3 sets – 6 reps – 60kg leg presses, 3 sets – 8 reps – 20kg assisted pullups, 2 sets of 20 lunges w/ 5kg freeweights, 3 sets – 8 reps – 10kg dumbbell rows, 10min row machine, stretching and some sit-ups on the balance ball

  • Breakfast: 50g muesli, 100g Yeovalley Natural yogurt, 1/2 banana, ~10 grapes, coffee

  • Lunch: Peppers stuffed with couscous and butter beans with baked mushrooms and tomato sauce and purple sprouting broccoli (leftovers unite!)

  • Snack: Apple slices with cottage cheese

  • Dinner: Falafel and couscous with lots of salad, greek yogurt and spicy tomato sauce




Breakfast

50g muesli, 100g Yeovalley Natural yogurt, 1/2 banana, ~10 grapes, coffee

Muesli with yogurt and fruit

Lunch

Peppers stuffed with couscous and butter beans with baked mushrooms and tomato sauce and purple sprouting broccoli (leftovers unite!)

Stuffed peppers and mushrooms with purple sprouting broccoli

Snack

Apple slices with cottage cheese

Apples and cottage cheese

Dinner

Falafel and couscous with lots of salad, greek yogurt and spicy tomato sauce

Falafel with salad and couscous




Falafel




1 3/4 c dried chick peas
1 small onion, quartered
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 “scant” tsp cayenne pepper (I used a little less than 1 tsp and it came out quite spicy!)
1 c chopped parsley or cilantro (I used parsley)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Neutral oil (I used grapeseed)






Soak chick peas in lots of water for 24 hours.

Drain chickpeas. Add to food processor with garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, cayenne, parsley, salt, black pepper, baking soda, and lemon juice. Pulse until as smooth as possible. Be patient! Let the food processor do its thing. You can pour 1 or 2 tablespoons of water in if necessary, but try to keep mixture as dry as possible (I didn’t need to add water when I made this). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Put a thin layer of oil in a nonstick pan and put it on a medium-high heat is the way to go.

While the pan is heating, form the falafel mix into patties, as small or as large as you want. Pan-fry until golden brown on both sides, adding more oil to the pan if the falafel starts to stick.

Serve with your favorite falafel accoutrements. Some tasty suggestions: pita bread, couscous, salad, tzatziki, spicy tomato sauce.