Sunday, August 25, 2013

What to do with all of those vegetables and running update!

This is our second year with a summer share from a local farm.  I love committing to a share, but I have not been as crafty as I thought I would be about preserving and/or using everything this year as it has been a little busy with the newborn.  Our farm sends out a weekly electronic newsletter with tips and ideas to get the most of your share and the most recent one referenced ideas for those that might be feeling overwhelmed with how much is coming in the recent weekly baskets.  Phew- I'm not the only one! So, although it is still a work in progress, here are some of the tips that have worked for us:

Greens: In the beginning of the season, there were so many greens! Spinach, kale, lettuce, bok choy etc.  I think my husband would have thrown a salad at me if I made one more.  I used as many as possible in green smoothies with frozen and/or fresh fruit.  I found that spinach is perfect in green smoothies- I don't even taste it.  I can only taste the fruit.  Kale & lettuce flavors stood out more in my breakfast drink but it used the stuff up once the house was on a salad strike.

Beets: I am not a huge fan of beets.  I have tried pickling them in the past, which works to preserve them if you like beets.  In my case I just ended up with jars of beets sitting around the house for too long.  This year, I followed a simple recipe from the farm to make beet chips.  Thinly slice the beets, toss them in olive oil and salt and put them on a parchment lined baking sheet and in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  I learned a lesson the hard way to watch them carefully, especially if sliced by hand and not evenly sliced.  Some of mine burned really bad in one batch and were not tasty for eating!

Herbs: Pesto freezes really well.  I used up my basil by making up a batch of pesto and scooping it into ice cube trays, top each cube with some olive oil, freeze and then store in a freezer bag.  Other fresh herbs such as cilantro and parsley came with instructions from the farm that we could cut them up, wrap in foil and then place the foil packets in a freezer bag or container for use later on.  Done and Done!

Cucumbers: Holy cucumbers!  Those things must grow like weeds because we have a lot of them.  I do not have a pressure canner but I found a recipe that gave processing time for the pickle jars to be submerged in boiling water.  We had fresh dill and garlic from the farm, stuffed some into the bottom of the jar, sliced cucumbers on top and then poured a mixture of boiled water, pickling salt and vinegar on top before sealing.  We just opened our first jar this week and I have to admit that they taste pretty good. 

Zucchini and Squash:  These vegetables also come in an abundance.  We use as many as possible in stir fry dinners and they are also a perfect vegetable for roasting.  I also love zucchini and squash for baking.  It is easy to find zucchini bread recipes out there or you can try these Lemon Zest Zucchini Muffins and make an extra batch for the freezer.  Baking and freezing is great because the day will come when I don't want to bake something or don't have time and it's awesome to have something ready to go.  If you don't feel like baking right now, that's ok too.  I used a mini-chopper (a food processor would work great- I have not invested in one of those yet) to shred and my Vitamix to puree squash and zucchini for future baking.  I just put the puree or shredded vegetables into freezer bags and into the freezer.

Tomatoes: I found this recipe for quick marinara sauce using the Vitamix and it inspired me to make a quick tomato sauce with what I had on hand to go into the freezer.  The Vitamix seriously pulverized quartered tomatoes in seconds.  I modified the recipe by adding a bunch of basil leaves that I needed to use, red wine vinegar and probably way too much garlic, but it tastes great- I think!  I would recommend adding some tomato paste to the mixture to thicken the sauce once it is out of the blender and simmering on the stove.  I haven't found the perfect ratio of it just yet though.  One batch was too runny for my taste and another just tasted of too much tomato paste.  I am still working on it, but I now have sauce in freezer bags and in the freezer for later use.

Green Onions: I saw something on the internet about being able to keep your green onions growing in a sunny window sill for use in cooking....I was skeptical, but it works!  Mine are sitting in mason jar on the kitchen window sill and they keep growing.  I just keep a small amount of water in the bottom of the jar.  Need onions? Just grab the kitchen shears and snip some off to throw into anything!

Share: Last but not least, sharing is always fun! Bring some of those good veggies to family and friends.  Who doesn't love that?

Next year I hope to make even more out of the share!

On the running front, I am still hovering around 11 miles per week, which is ok.  I edged out my "long" run from 3 miles to 3.5 miles this week.  This week also included my first post partum run where I felt strong at the end! Woohoo.  I was a bit disappointed when I looked at my pace once I finished as it had felt faster, but that's ok.  Hills that were bringing me to a walk a few weeks ago are being conquered so there must be progress!

Any tips for using up the summer produce?  Do you ever have a run that feels awesome and then you learn it was slower than you thought?

Have a great week!
Sunday, August 4, 2013

On Asking for Help....

I am terrible at asking for help, but over the last couple of weeks I learned that really good things can happen if I speak up and ask for it on occasion.  I don't know what my hesitation is.  I would not expect anyone else to not ask for help.  In fact, I like it when friends and family ask for my help.  Who wouldn't want close friends and family that trust you enough to ask for your help? So, what is my problem? I. Don't. Know. 

This all starts with a few weeks of regular newborn sleep, a lot of feedings, diaper changes etc.  I learned quickly that the whole "rest when the baby rests" doesn't really work on the second little bundle because you also need and want time with the big sister....and the laundry I guess :)  Before I continue, I feel compelled to clarify that my kids are healthy.  I am the luckiest girl in the world to have two beautiful girls and I am in no way trying to complain, say that I have things tough or have the world's busiest schedule. I don't- far from it and I know this.  I personally know women with 3, 4 and even 9 kids.  My own grandmother had 15!!!! I know friends that have beautiful children with serious health complications. I know how lucky I am and never want to forget it.  Phew.  I feel better now that I said that.

That said, I was feeling a little burned out.  It turns out that our second little girl is not quite as laid back and calm as our first.  She cries and screams a lot....way more than usual baby fussiness.  I have been to the doctor and thankfully nothing is wrong.  She's just "colicky," which as explained to me by the doc, is something babies usually grow out of by 3-4 months old.  As any mom would know, it breaks your heart to hear your little one scream endlessly.  Sometimes a car ride would help, sometimes not.  Often, a walk in the stroller would help.  Sometimes it wouldn't.  I felt guilty about leaving her with anyone else, even Dad, even for a few minutes.  I have wonderful family that kept asking if I needed anything....did I need to get out for a walk on my own or go read a book for a while? (seriously, wonderful family).  9 out of 10 times I said no.  I felt like I couldn't justify needing anything.  There are people who need food.  People who need healthcare, medicine and a roof over their head.  Who am I to complain about needing anything?

Then about a week ago shortly after my husband got home from work and at the end of one of the newbie's crying spells, a crystal clear sentence came to my head.  "I need 30 minutes of child free exercise time...everyday."    I was hesitant to say it out loud.  I felt like a bit of a spoiled brat, but I said it anyway.  His reaction? "Well, yeah." As in, like "D'uh." Total agreement. I told you I have wonderful family!  Done. Supported.  Awesome.

Since that conversation I have taken that time almost everyday.  My running mileage is creeping up from only 4 weekly miles a couple of weeks ago to about 10 miles this week, which were made up of 2-3 mile runs, and some strength circuits.  The baby still cries...a lot, but endorphins do wonderful things for my mind set.  That is one of the many things I love about running.  My 30 minutes will creep up too as sleep schedules iron out, feedings space out more and I tackle the transition back to work.  She is only two months old this week....and already 2 months old this week :) 

So, I feel that there is really nothing special about this story.  I am not doing anything of merit here, but I wanted to throw it out there because I know so many wonderful people who juggle a lot for their families, friends, co-workers, employment etc. and the thought of asking for time for themselves doesn't even enter their mind.   Or if it does, they likely feel selfish for it.  Well, I learned over the last couple of weeks that it isn't selfish.  I am a better mom, wife, friend and person just by logging a few sweaty miles.  I handle things better.  I smile more.  I let more roll off my back when things get a little crazy.  The weeding and laundry might never get done but it's ok.  I think my kids are better off with my glow of endorphins!

Have a great week.  And please, ask for some time for yourself! Read a book, get a glass of wine, go for a run...whatever it is- it's important!