kale-ing me softly

I love kale. Kale is trendy right now, so I dislike admitting that I am one of many obsessed with this vegetable. But hey, a trend never kaled anyone, and besides, this food-craze is entirely justified. Kale is versatile, delicious (I mean it!) and very nutritious. Let’s take a look at what kale has to offer.

  • lowers cholesterol (particularly if steamed)
  • lowers risk of bladder, colon, breast, ovary and prostate cancer
  • provides comprehensive support for the body’s detoxification system
  • contains at least 45 different flavenoids (what the heck’s a flavenoid?! I didn’t know either! It seems that flavenoids have anti-oxident and anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce chronic inflammation and oxidative stress.)
  • it contains loads of vitamin A, K, C and manganese (manganese — another mystery element I knew nothing about. It seems we need small amounts of it in our diet each day. It contributes to healthy skin and bones, and helps regulate blood sugar, among other things.)

There’s probably more, but that’s a good starting point. You can read more here. I recognize that this blog post is edging into dangerously boring territory, but bear with me; I am just getting to the good part: the recipe!

Kale recipes abound! Sometimes the sheer multitude of them makes me fear I’ll kale over with indecision; which one to make?! Well, here I have for you the one you need to make. It is, in fact, the only one I ever make, these days, although now that I know that steamed kale has special health benefits, I might start steaming it every now and then.

This recipe calls for one bunch of kale. I always buy organic kale (apples are another produce item I always buy organic), as it is relatively high (high = higher levels of pesticides) on the list of contaminated fruits and veggies. If you’d like to learn more about this, check out the Environmental Working Group. They test for pesticide residue on crops and then rate each crop on a continuum of contamination — check out the list here.).

Onward!

KALE SALAD

ingredients:

kale

olive oil

lemon juice

salt and pepper

garlic

Parmesan cheese (the kind in a can)

one hard-boiled egg

process:

Grab one bunch of kale and remove the leaves from the stems. Shred the leaves (or chop them, if that’s your thing; I prefer to rip with my hands) until they are about one inch squared (bite-size).

Douse the kale liberally in olive oil. I use a lot; probably four tbs, or even five. The kale should be pretty drenched.

Next, begin to massage the kale. Yes, this sounds ridiculous, and you might feel ridiculous. The point is to sort of soften the kale by massaging the oil into it. Massage until you are sure you feel completely ridiculous. Just kidding. Massage until the kale starts to get a bit wilted; one minute should do it.

Next, douse the kale in lemon juice. Juice from one lemon should suffice.

Grab some salt, and sprinkle the kale with just a pinch.

Garlic is next. Now, we all have a different threshold of tolerance for garlic. Mine is high, although I have (a few times) made this recipe and overdone the garlic to such an extent that I a) was the only one who would eat the kale salad b) regretted eating the kale salad because all I could taste was garlic for 24 hours and my tummy just. didn’t. feel. right. It did knock my head cold out of the park, though (raw garlic is good for that).

For the modest garlic consumer, I would suggest two cloves for this recipe. If you’d like it to have a bite, a kick, and the ability to repel vampires, up the ante a bit. Do what you feel.

Crush the garlic, add to the kale.

Sprinkle the kale with about a quarter cup Parmesan.

Next, take one hard-boiled egg, chop it up, add to kale. I never do this step, but this is the way the recipe was introduced to me. I like it just as much without the egg, so I usually omit.

Mix all the ingredients together until they are well-incorporated. Serve and enjoy!

Theo, 19.5 months old, loves this salad. He gobbles it down and asks for “mo, meas!” (I’m teaching him manners. Meas=please but no one else knows that unless I tell them. Some day his please will be intelligible to the world at large and that will be a good day. For now, I relish his desire to append a bellowed “MO!!!” to “MO!!! … MEAS!!!”. One must start somewhere.

Kale salad chronicles:

Tonight while Theo was happily munching the little kale fragments we sprinkled on his high chair tray, he suddenly winced and said “hot!” (accompanied by vigorous waving of hand near mouth and much dramatic flair). “Hot” is actually one of his favorite words of the moment (along with “messsss!’, said with much gusto while making messes and observing them); he likes to pretend everything is hot, even if it is, like, a chunk of pineapple or a bite of ice cream (two real life examples). So sometimes hot doesn’t really mean hot, in Theo-talk. In this case, I think he’d stumbled upon an unincorporated piece of garlic in the salad. It actually was hot, as in, spicy. If the prospect of this frightens you, make sure you do lots of stirring of the salad before serving.

I would like to note, however, that the garlic did not stop my son from finishing all the salad on his tray. He didn’t even throw any on the floor! Victory.

 

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what i made (much delayed)

PROLOGUE:

The blog post below was written back in April, and I am just now getting around to finishing it and posting it. I am once more off of Facebook (don’t worry grandparents; Theo pictures forth-coming via blog and email), and plan to take a nice long break… I might even (gulp.) delete my Facebook account at some later date.  Now my interest in the blog is renewed, and I am (seriously) hoping to start posting regularly again. So, enjoy this post from April, and stay tuned for more, please (or, as Theo would say, “mo, meas!”).

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Deep in the proverbial heart of each human, there lurketh the crafting instinct. I’ve been pretty well out of touch with my inner crafter as of late, but then I got inspired to try it out after 1) making friends with people who craft and make cool stuff 2) I gave up Facebook for Lent. In place of Facebook browsing, I searched for blogs about re-purposing and up-cycling stuff from around the house. And thus, my inner-craftess, previously buried, was inspired, and free to emerge.

After a bit of Googling ’round the internets, I stumbled upon a most helpful site: Brit and Co. On this site, there were hundreds of nifty ideas listed, including an entire post about fun ways to re-use old T-shirts. I immediately started to kick myself for gently nudging (read: forcing) Eric to part with his sizeable stash of old T-shirts recently. I did, however, happen to have one T-shirt from the give-away pile still hanging around the house.  The text on the shirt reads something like “Buck’s Diner – Bad Food, Lousy Service” (’nuff said). Tacky text, yes, but it is a nice rich maroon color, and I thought it’d be a good color for my first project or two.

First on the list: a knotted headband.  I have a bajillion baby hairs (read: pesky hairs 1.5 inches long, all over my head, and of course most visible at my hairline) flying around my head these days, due to massive post-baby hair loss, and the ensuing re-growth. These baby hairs (apt name) are rebellious; they resist taming and make me look like I had too many margaritas, took up a pair of gardening shears and started to attempt a haircut… with no mirror. In the dark. With one hand tied behind my back. Anyway, I have been informed by a kind but blunt Vietnamese hairdresser at the Supercuts in Ogden (a five star establishment, I assure you) that I currently have almost no hair, but in two years, my hair will look normal once more. Sort of.

ANYWHO. Back to the headband.

The construction is pretty simple, and while it took me a bunch of tries to get the knot just right, I enjoyed the process. I made two of these this weekend: one for myself and one for the baby girl of a friend.

tacky t-shirt transformed!

tacky t-shirt transformed!

 

Today I completed my second project: a nautical necklaceI found both projects on Brit and Co. (Side-note: I was wondering about the distinction between repurposing and up-cycling; if you care, check out this link.) For the necklace, the maroon shirt was put to use once more, and this is what I came up with:

 

not-ical hard at all!

not-ical hard to make!

EPILOGUE:

I wore that headband constantly for like two months. It was very handy for swiping the dreaded mess of short hairs off my sweaty brow while chasing after Theo all day. And I wore it for all things active, including running and yoga. It made bad hair days more manageable, as I was able to cover a whole lot of weird hair bumps (we all get them sometimes) in seconds and look quasi-polished. All that to say, I loved the headband. However, it is no more, and I will forever grieve the loss. Jokes. But really, I do miss it, and plan to make a replacement one of these days. The fabric became misshapen after constant wear and it started to look mighty goofy, with a big loose looking strand of T-shirt fabric bulging at the back of my head. Still, it had a good life, and I am happy to memorialize that life here.

I never really wore the necklace out and about (other than for the above photo!)… and I think I actually threw it out in my pre-move mass purge of un-useful stuff. However, I want to try out other styles of home-made necklaces that I might actually want to wear. The nautical style didn’t really float my boat.

hummus recipe

Hi! I would like to share a recipe for one of my family’s favorite things to eat: hummus! Theo loves the stuff, and has been known to reek like garlic for days after I make a batch of hummus. One night when he was about 7 months old, I was nursing him and I kept smelling something… potent. “Is it Theo?”, I wondered. “What on earth is that smell?!” I knew I had just changed his diaper and the likelihood of it being full so soon was not good. I wondered and wondered and then I put him to bed. The next day when I retrieved him, the smell was there, once again. All of a sudden, I pinpointed it: garlic! The kid was saturated in the stench of the stuff. Gross, but not gross enough to discourage me from offering him hummus on a regular basis.

Theo enjoying a bowl of homemade hummus.

Theo enjoying a bowl of homemade hummus.

This recipe is easy and makes a large batch. Enjoy!

2 cans chickpeas

3 cloves garlic

2 tbs lemon juice (fresh-squeezed or juice from bottle), depending on preference. Give it a taste after adding a few so you can adjust it to your liking.

1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

dash chili pepper

dash cumin

handful of fresh, washed organic spinach, kale, or other greens

Put all ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate and eat with veggies, chips, crackers, on salad, on sandwiches, etc.

Theo will eat this stuff for every meal if I let him (and sometimes, if he won’t eat much else, I let him). It makes a fantastic mess, yes, and that’s a pain, but it is hilarious to see his face smothered in green hummus and of course I love to see him eat and enjoy healthy food!

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making toothpaste!

Last weekend we made our very first batch of homemade toothpaste! It was fun to tinker with the recipe I found online, and make it our own. The results are surprisingly great, and it is nice to know that we are using a toothpaste without any potentially harmful chemicals.

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Here is the recipe we ended up with, after modifying the one I linked above:

6 tbs coconut oil (virgin, organic)

6 tbs baking soda

20 drops peppermint essential oil

2 tbs xylitol (sweetener purported to help prevent tooth decay)

I had originally planned to use stevia as a sweetener, but the xylitol is much cheaper and I had read that it is good for teeth. After some further research, it seems like that claim is not one with lots of hard science backing it, so I think we’ll stick with stevia next time.

The recipe is inexpensive (much cheaper than store-bought toothpaste) and very easy to make! I recommend it.

a new era?

When I was single, my approach to feeding myself was as follows: realize there’s no food to eat in pantry/fridge, go to grocery, randomly grab stuff I felt like eating right then (and presumably til next grocery trip), buy that stuff, and cobble meals together from what I bought as the need arose. I’d go to the store two or three times a week, grabbing snacks, veggies, fruits,  and grains (I was a vegetarian (borne of laziness) at that stage, occasionally choosing meat when out at restaurants but sticking to stuff like quinoa, cheese, yogurt and lentils for protein at home).

Back then, I didn’t often think to tally how much I was spending per month. I didn’t try to conceive and stick to a budget plan. I just bought, and hoped things would work out okay. Usually, things often did not work out okay, as my mother can attest, since she was the one (in my university days) who I needed to call for help with cash flow from time to time (another subject entirely). Sorry Mom! 

I digress. The point here is that when I was single, there was little planning when it came to meals; only purchasing, and hoping that what I picked would feed me till I could make it to the grocery store next. The fly-by-seat-of-pants approach, if you will (I find myself wondering about origin of this expression; find one here). And to be honest, not much changed when I got married (though I did start to prepare and cook more meat-centered meals). In fact, I pretty much continued with this approach up until a month or so ago (after about 2 years of marriage and the birth of our son).

However, the seat of those flying pants has worn clear through. Gotta get some new ones. See, we’ve been on a pretty strict monthly budget for a while now, and after tallying up our spending, realized we weren’t really sticking to it. We weren’t wildly out of budget, but we were over-spending. Now it is obvious to me that part of the reason we were not able to stick to it is that we were not determining a meal plan before heading to the store. I was still using the spontaneous grab-and-go method (though I did think up meals for the week while shopping, or on my way to the store). We were sometimes running out of healthy options for meals about halfway through the week, and then I had a massive insight that isn’t really an insight at all, cause it is glaringly obvious: plan meals ahead of time, buy the stuff for those meals only (allowing room in the budget for stuff like milk and snacks), and you will not run out of food halfway through the week. Who knew?!

In the course of learning about meal planning, I have discovered an entire internet UNIVERSE devoted to the topic.  It is amazing, in the truest sense: both bewildering and perplexing. There are oodles and oodles of noodles blogs about what to eat and how to eat it and how to make it and where to buy it. People post entire meal plans online and take pictures of, like, everything they eat!!! It is weird and surreal and overwhelming and surprisingly helpful (when my head is not hurting from rifling through all the options). I do not picture myself joining the ranks of men and women posting every bite they take on the world wide web… but I have found a few blogs that have healthy recipes fit for toddlers (and moms and dads) and I plan to continue drawing ideas from those as I fumble along the path of planning.

Now that I have started to PLAN, I am learning that while planning takes time, ultimately, it saves time (and time is money, baby, though babies do not make money or time).

More on this topic another time. Until then: readers, do you have any meal-planning tips?

sign of the times

It’s been a long, long while since I posted anything on this blog. Why? Well, I’m not sure. Perhaps the severe winter weather we’ve been, well, weathering, temporarily froze my inspiration. In any case, I hope to start posting some stuff on a somewhat regular basis (don’t you admire the certainty of that language: “hope to start…” and “somewhat regular”).

We are currently in a fun stage of development with our son Theo, who is now 15 months old. Yes, there are tantrums from time to time (read: flailing limbs during diaper changes) and the word “no” (or shall I say, “NONONONONONO!!!”) has become a mantra of sorts for Theo.

Eric snapped this one mid-meltdown

Eric snapped this one mid-meltdown

However, aside from the more trying moments, I am loving this time. Here are a few highlights.

1.) Signing!

A few months ago, it seemed that Theo was frustrated a lot of the time. He would gesture and howl and emphatically attempt to draw our attention toward… something we usually could not determine. I talked to a friend with older kids, and she suggested sign language as a way for Theo to learn to communicate his thoughts and desires before he is able to use words for these things. It had been my intention to incorporate sign language months ago, but it wasn’t a real need yet, so I kinda let it fall by the wayside. However, as the need for communication increased toward the end of Theo’s first year, we started to introduce some signs. The results have been so encouraging! Theo learns the signs (if it is for something he actually cares about and has interest in) within a day or so after they’re introduced. It has alleviated his frustration and provided a strong bridge of communication between us. It is also super duper cute! Here is a list of the signs we basically have down at this point:

1 bath

2 car (most frequently signed)

3 eat

4 shoes

5 ball

6 banana

7 bird (another most frequently signed)

8 more

9 bye-bye

10 hat

11 book

12 all done

signing "bird"

signing “bird”

Theo signs “car” approximately 30 times a day, and often climbs up to our big window to look out at the cars parked on the street, while passionately shaking his fists up and down. If Eric and I are talking and the word car happens to be spoken, Theo looks up at us and immediately starts to do the sign. It is neat to see him make connections, notice words and find a way to take part in the conversation.

Birds, along with cars, are another one of Theo’s biggest interests. As we drive or walk around Calgary, Theo is always noticing birds, and pointing them out to us. Sometimes he notices designs that resemble birds, or even just sees trees, and starts to say and sign “bird”. When Theo signs “bird”, he also says “bir!!!” (exclamation points warranted, believe me), which leads us to the next fun aspect of development:

2 Words!

Theo is acquiring a spoken vocabulary, which is something I have looked forward to since he was born! Though he said “mama” many months ago, that was pretty much it for quite a while. Now there are all kinds of words popping up each day! Admittedly, most of them start with a “b”, and sound a lot alike… but Theo uses them within context and he knows darn well what he is saying (and we do, too!). Here is a list of words we’ve noticed as of late:

1 bear (“beh”)

2 bird (“bir”)

3 bath (“baa”)

4 banana (“ba”)

5 ball

6 apple (“puh”)

7 Dada or Pa

8 no

9 lamb (“namby”)

10 spoon (“poon”)

Sometimes Theo sits in his car seat in the back of our car while we are driving somewhere and sings “nononono” to himself (or us). It’s cute, though of course all that no-ing gets a bit tough to handle at times. At this stage, Theo is more than capable of letting us know when he does not want to do something, or if he does not like us interfering with what he is doing. While I know there’s much talk about the “terrible twos” and so on, my goal is to keep in mind that this stage is a natural part of development. Theo is learning that he is a separate person, and that’s a good thing.

Another good thing is the way that Theo is learning to identify and make animal sounds, which leads us to our third fun thing.

3 Imitations and Animal Sounds!

The age of imitation has begun. Sometimes it is downright hilarious! If I attempt to deter Theo from rifling through the trash can (he’s drawn there like a bee to honey) and say “yuck”, Theo makes a guttural sound in the back of his throat; his version of “yuck”. If I give him a kiss, he clicks his tongue to make a kiss sound. If Eric waves his hand in front of his face while changing a diaper, Theo does it, too. He’s learning about the world and forming reactions to it, mostly based upon what he sees modeled in our behavior, which is both exciting (his capacity for learning is so immense!) and a little scary (read: those moments when I have “sharp words” for another driver, or the occasional potty-mouthed utterance).

Animal sounds are another fun development as of late. Theo loves to roar like a lion, snort like a pig, bok (“bah-bah-bah”) like a chicken, woof like a dog, and meow like a cat. He also does a pretty spot-on horse impression.

All that to say, our son is a budding genius. Have a good day!Image

Bird, Chicken Coop, Creek

As the Papa in the family, part of my job is to provide an extra dose of delight by ensuring that some of the more delightful moments in life don’t pass by unnoticed. This page of photographs is designed with that purpose in mind.

Black-capped Chickadee in Middletown, Virginia

The "Chicken Coop"

The So-Called Chicken Coop

Creek

Creek