HungryGirlGardens

As you may know, I have never been very diligent about caring for plants.  I like plants that can take care of themselves, because there is maybe a 50% chance that I will take care of them.

But, I bought a house that already had a beautiful yard, and I am trying my best not to mess it up.  My best still may not be very good, so it’s lucky that my husband is trying even harder.  The timing is not ideal for this undertaking, given the extreme drought conditions in California and the Level 3 water use restrictions, but we are being creative.

As it turns out, gardening is kind of great for a few reasons.

1.  It can be really, really, really good exercise.  We had about 30 cubic feet of gravelly sand delivered in a pile in our driveway, which we (by which I mean mostly Colin) shoveled into a wheelbarrow a little at a time and trucked to the back of the yard where we raked it across 75 square feet.  According to my new Jawbone UP, I got 26,000 steps that day.

17733250880_45829b86fe_z

2.  You can grow things that you then get to eat, assuming you (or more likely your husband) take care of them and they don’t die.  Such as:

IMAG0639

Olives!

IMAG0640

Figs!

IMAG0644

Approximately a jillion pomegranates!

IMAG0645

Tomatoes!

IMAG0647

Tomatillos!

IMAG0648

Zucchini!

3.  You can grow things that you can’t eat, but that look and smell amazingly pretty.  Such as:

IMAG0651

Hydrangeas!

IMAG0650

More hydrangeas!

IMAG0649

About a million roses!

IMAG0652

A gargantuan lavender!

It looks lovely now, but check back in August after another horrifically hot and dry summer and we will see what remains.  Until then, happy gardening!

Yamadillas, Yamadillas

I did not invent the Yamadilla, though I really wish I did.  I will admit I was skeptical when I first heard of this exotic dish, but I gave it a shot because it’s vegetarian, full of vitamins, and takes less time to make than ordering takeout.  As it turns out, Yamadillas are pretty delicious and satisfying, and they went over surprisingly well with my husband and our friends, too.

So what is this Yamadilla, you ask?

Yamadillas

17921382281_b518d0fe99_z

This is the Yamadilla before you put the top tortilla on, to show you what the inside looks like.

Ingredients

  • 2 small to medium yams, raw, skin on
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • 1 can of Trader Joe’s Cuban Black Beans, drainedCorn tortillas
  • Crumbled feta
  • 1/2 an avocado, sliced
  • Cilantro, for garnish
  • Greek yogurt, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Pierce the skin of the yams a few times with a fork and microwave on high until soft, about 6-10 minutes depending on the size of the yams and the strength of your microwave.
  2. Let them cool slightly before slicing them open, scooping out the flesh into a bowl, and mashing with a potato masher. Discard the skins.  Stir in the cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder.
  3. In a small pot, heat the black beans on the stove until warmed through.  I like Trader Joe’s Cuban Black Beans because they already have seasoning, peppers and onions cooked into them, but you can use regular black beans and add your own seasonings and veggies.
  4. Warm the tortillas in the microwave.  Place them on a small plate in a stack of about 4 to 6, and cover with a damp paper towel.  Heat on high for 30 seconds, flip them over, re-cover with the paper towel, and heat for another 30 seconds.
  5. To assemble a yamadilla, spread a large spoonful of the mashed yams on a tortilla.  Spread a large spoonful of beans on top and sprinkle with feta, avocado, and cilantro.  Place a second tortilla on top, cut into quarters, garnish with Greek yogurt and enjoy!
  6. Bonus points if you make this while singing “yamadillas, yamadillas–yaaaamadillas” to the tune of the 80’s hit Rock Me Amadeus.  This is something that seems unavoidable in my house with even a passing mention of yamadillas.

Homemade Almond Cookie Hand and Lip Scrub

So in addition to being into food and fitness, I am also a little bit of a beauty junkie.  Not the kind that posts pictures like this to my Instagram feed, but the kind that has a drawer full of free Sephora samples and 20 different kinds of nude pink lipsticks and sheer pale pink nail polishes that you can’t even really see that I’m wearing but still I want more.

This DIY hand scrub takes about 5 minutes to make out of things you may already have in your kitchen, smells amazing, and leaves your hands and lips feeling soft, smooth and moisturized.

Homemade Almond Cookie Hand and Lip Scrub

17892293316_e3336f177b_z

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, soft enough to scoop but still solid
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vitamin E oil (I used Trader Joe’s brand)

Instructions

  1. In a small jar, mix the coconut oil with the honey until smooth.  Add the brown and white sugar and mix just until it forms a uniform paste.  Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and vitamin E oil.
  2. Hint: The vitamin E oil is not edible, so if you want to see what this tastes like, do so before you add it.  Keep in mind that once you taste it, you might want to eat the whole jar.  You have been warned.
  3. Gently rub the mixture over dry skin using small circular motions.  Rinse off with water and pat dry.  Enjoy your pretty, lovely smelling skin!
  4. Store in the fridge for up to a few weeks.

Breaking: Science says the Quality of Your Diet is Related to Long-Term Weight Gain

In a large-scale study that confirms basic facts we all already know, researchers confirmed that eating lean protein, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables helps people avoid gaining weight in the long term. Eating refined carbs, red meat and processed meats is associated with long term weight gain.

These findings are not a surprise, but its always nice to have more evidence that healthy eating doesn’t require crazy restriction or adherence to fad diets.  Also, the study was partly based on data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which I participate in and which has found out some really interesting things about women’s health over the years.

So in honor of Cinco de Mayo, get your veggies and lean protein in and give this recipe for Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream from Cooking Light a try.  It’s one of my favorite easy weeknight meals–bonus points if you have some whole-grain chips and fresh salsa on the side!

ancho-chicken-tacos-ck-x

 

Falling Off the Fitness Wagon

So as you may or may not have noticed, I haven’t written a single post in the last two months.  The last time I wrote anything was the first week of March, which not coincidentally was the same week my husband and I put an offer on a house.  The offer was accepted, which was wonderful, but our lives and bank accounts as we knew them were immediately consumed by a huge, black, swirling vortex of paperwork, phone calls, packing, shopping, moving, repairs, decorating, gardening, etc, etc, from which we are only now beginning to emerge.

My workouts, which were already drastically reduced to careful pilates and light biking while my hip recovered, disappeared completely.  At some point I lost my Fitbit, never to be found again.  I tried to eat healthy, but frequently whatever food was easily accessible at 10 pm after spending 3 hours looking at refrigerators at Home Depot on a weeknight was what went into my belly.  I was exhausted and I wasn’t taking care of myself, which is why I got sick twice, less than a week apart, first with a nasty cold and then with some horrible kind of bronchitis.  I got my poor exhausted husband sick too, both times.  He is still recovering.

I’m really not trying to complain about my beautiful new house or to make excuses for myself.  It’s just that it’s very hard not to lose your routine when your life changes dramatically.  Add to that a lot of new stress and serious demands on your free time, and fitness just might not happen, and fitness blogging won’t, either.  Realistically, I know this is normal and okay.  It’s really, really natural to have ups and downs in your healthy lifestyle.  Still, it felt bad, and made me feel bad about myself, and in general added a heap of extra anxiety to the mountain of stress I was already acutely feeling.

But, I am finally, finally feeling better, and like I might actually have enough time to spare for a few minutes of a pilates DVD and a bike ride.  I did both of these things today for the first time in a while, which felt really good, if somewhat painful and difficult because I am in pretty terrible shape.  I bought a Jawbone UP to replace my Fitbit, which hasn’t come yet but which I am quite excited about.  I planted a summer vegetable garden (it remains to be seen which plants are hardy enough to survive my historically neglectful treatment).  I am planning to sign up for 35 mile bike ride in Napa in August, as long as my ortho specialist thinks it’s okay.

I fell off the wagon for a while, and although I know that’s fine and normal and okay, it sure feels good to be back.

Smoky Chicken and Bean Chili

As a result of a very long ago, very unfortunate cooking failure of mine involving chicken and dumplings, my husband is extremely skeptical of anything I make that is called a “stew.” I first described this dish to him as a stew, and when he narrowed his eyes at me in suspicion I revised my language and called it a soup instead. After he tasted it and liked it despite his misgivings about its purportedly stew-like nature, he decided it was really more of a chili anyway.

So there we are. This soup/chili gets its smoky flavor from smoked paprika, one of my favorite spices.  It’s very easy to make and pretty tasty garnished with avocado, sour cream (or greek yogurt) and cilantro.

Smoky Chicken and Bean Chili

16701273515_6d865c3815_z

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of an onion, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • Avocado, for garnish
  • Greek yogurt or sour cream, for garnish
  • Cilantro, for garnish

16513214848_9d7a3a2a31_z

Instructions

  1. In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil.  Add the garlic, onion and celery and saute for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and celery begins to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, paprika, pepper flakes, and cumin and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the chicken breasts to the pot and submerge in the liquid.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through (depending on the size of the chicken breasts, this could take 10-20 minutes).
  4. Remove the chicken breasts with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.  Shred the chicken using a fork, and return it to the pot.  Add the kidney beans and simmer for another 5-10 minutes or so.
  5. Garnish with avocado, greek yogurt or sour cream, and cilantro, and enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Coconut Almond Cookies (gluten free)

I made these cookies for my friends when they came over for Girls night.  They were partly based on a recipe posted on my workplace wellness program website, and as usual also included an odd assortment of things in my pantry that needed to be used up, so I was more or less expecting them to turn out weird and maybe not so delicious.

THEY WERE SUPER DELICIOUS.

My friends are very kind and have suffered politely through many of my gluten free baking experiments. But they pretty unanimously loved these, and I know they weren’t lying because I made a lot and they all managed to disappear by the end of the night. So unless someone fed 30 cookies to Tybee, I think they were a hit.

Chocolate Chip Coconut Almond Cookies

16697595532_66ae7c1d37_z

 

Ingredients

(makes about 30-36 cookies)

  • 2 1/2 cups almond meal
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prep 2-3 nonstick baking sheets with baking spray (my favorite is Trader Joe’s coconut oil baking spray).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond meal, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat the eggs until they are doubled in size. Add the melted coconut oil and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the dry ingredients slowly until combined, then add the shredded coconut, almonds and chocolate chips.
  4. The dough may be a little gooey at this point, so you can pop it in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to chill.
  5. Place 1-inch balls of the chilled dough on the baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges and tops are lightly golden brown. Let cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack using a spatula. Enjoy!