500 Days of Salad
What's in Your Salad?

I usually have a large salad as one of my main meals each day.  Sometimes it's in a bowl, sometimes it's in a tortilla, but the idea is that it's mostly green, fresh and raw.

It's part of the Girlbert's Pursuit of Ultimate Health with Minimal Effort Plan. 

Summer (record-setting!)  heat, having to handwash every dish I use, Boyfriend's preoccupation with Things Concerning How We Pay Our Rent, and my continuing monthly chemo regimen have me pretty well convinced that cooking or juicing three squares a day just isn't in the cards for us.  So, one big bowl, a multitude of delicious, raw ingredients, maybe a knife and a cutting board - totally do-able!

And why not pass on a little of what I've learned from my Summer of Salad-Making, to you?  Let's face it - most of us don't eat enough salad.  We know it, but it seems an impossible hurdle, considering how programmed we are to cook every meal.

Instead of looking at it as, "I have to make a salad to go with dinner," why not look at it as, "what should I put with the salad we're having for dinner?"  Make the salad the centerpiece - give it a little weight with some grains or beans, spruce it up with some colorful veggies or fruit, and suddenly it's a meal.  And when done right, it's plenty filling, but doesn't keep you up all night with your body straining to digest a heavy meal.

So - get creative!

First, stock up on salad fixins you like, or would like to try.  I try not to do the same thing too many times in a row, if ever, to keep myself from getting bored.  I just pick up lots of salad greens (I love mixing arugula into my salads) and veggies when I do my grocery shopping and keep lots of things in my fridge to choose from.

And I've gotten over thinking that I have to cut up a million different kinds of vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, onions, etc, for every salad.  That's way too overwhelming!  The point is, lots of greens for the fiber and vitamins; and a couple of veggies for color, flavor, and interest.  And a fun way to mix in veggies without having to chop, peel, worry about the size, etc?  Shred veggies like carrots, peppers, cucumbers, radishes and zucchini with a cheese grater!

Go easy on the dressing - just lightly toss the greens and veggies to coat before adding additional ingredients.  I usually stick with a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, for every two people or three to four cups of greens.  Lemon or lime juice is a nice raw substitute for the vinegar.  And use sesame oil (topped with sesame seeds) for an Asian flair.

To make it a meal with enough weight to satisfy, I add quinoa or rice, and beans like garbanzos, black, kidney, or Great Northern (white) or edamamae.  Toss these in just after dressing the salad, so they don't get too weighted down with dressing.

(TIP: Save time by using canned beans or frozen edamamae (thawed, of course).  And I usually make a big batch of quinoa or rice at the beginning of every week and add to green salads as I make them.  If I'm going to used beans and rice, I mix them together in a separate bowl first, so they're thoroughly mixed before adding to the greens.)

If you must add in some meat or tofu, might I suggest small pieces, thoroughly incorporated, to assist your tastebuds in savoring all parts of the salad.  Otherwise, old habit may find you skimming the meat off the top, and being too full to eat much greenery, which is not really the effect we're going for!  And to keep with my "Cooking to a Minimum Theme", might I suggest adding something simple, such as canned tuna or shrimp or smoked salmon?  Or boil some eggs at the beginning of the week and dice into your salads throughout the week.

But don't forget about fruit, too.  I love to add in tasty surpises like shredded apples, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, dried cranberries, figs (fresh or dried - yummy!), even orange slices.  But don't add them until after you dress the salad - they're yummiest "naked"!

Finally, stick with whole, raw foods and top with corn, avocado, a scoop of guacamole or hummus, or some nuts or seeds, too.  I try to stay away from too much dairy, but can't resist topping with goat, feta or parmesan cheese on occasion.  Variety is key for your taste buds and your health!

For those of you still rolling your eyes - maybe you have children who have an aversion to all that which is green and uncooked.  Where do you think they get that from?  (hmmmm...)  Try getting them to help you shop or help you in the kitchen (both is best!).  If they're still hesitant, resist loading up on cheese, croutons and dressing to get the greens down.  Try fresh fruit instead.  Who doesn't like blueberries?  Grapes?  Oranges are fun in salads!  Encourage them to try multi-colored versions of traditional salad fare: bell peppers come in purple (FUN!); sunny-yellow lemon cucumbers intrigued me the first time we were introduced; and tomatoes come in orange, yellow, and crazy shades of red - some even have STRIPES!  And if all else fails, top your greens with fun things like Goldfish crackers, crispy Asian noodles, some whole grain pasta, organic cottage cheese or tortilla chips.  They're better than the alternative: BACK, you fatty, oil-laden croutons!

Tue, 09/28/2010 - 10:29pm | Blog Post, cooking, food, health, nutrition | 1 comments | Leave a comment
What Did You Do Today?
Guarded Garden

I woke Saturday morning, made myself some tea, and went out on my deck to admire the baby fruits ripening on their vines in my container garden.  At least that's were they were yesterday... but they were GONE!  Cucumbers and tomatoes absconded, drooping leaves, broken stems.  So sad!

I initially suspected the turkeys, they usually mow my flowers and herbs this time of year, but it was a little too clean.  Fruit was carefully picked off the plants, and not a trace of waste.  Something with hands was at work...

So I got busy on crafting a proper raccoon deterrent.  I'm going to leave the following note, in case they can read:

(Not-so-)Dear Thieves,

I'll see your vegetable-vandalizing and plant-pummelling and raise you one super-raccoon-blocking, thief-thwarting, plant protecting, Girlbert's-own-hands-crafted Garden Guard!

I'm not afraid to use the hose, if I catch you, either!



Sat, 08/21/2010 - 7:23pm | animals, Blog Post, rant, wildlife | 2 comments | Leave a comment
Hurdles, Schmurdles
Looking Right At 'Em!

One year ago it was unknown when I would be able to get back to it.

Six months ago I worried that every hurdle I overcame would put me, nose-first, into another.

Three months ago my Ninja Neurolgist told me he didn't see why not - he'd fill out the paperwork and send it in.

Two months ago I had to postpone it because of travel plans.

One month ago I had a date - nothing could stop me now!

Three weeks ago I realized nothing could stop me, but myself.

Last week, another hurdle, I wondered if I would never be ready.

Yesterday I passed that darn driving test. (At the right DMV!)

Today I know I can generously clear anything else in my path.

Sat, 08/21/2010 - 12:29am | Blog Post, positivity | 4 comments | Leave a comment
Talking to Myself
First Harvest!

Last week was rough.  Beside it being a chemo week, I had the added bonus of an extra empty bank account, extra horse expenses, all of our computers being down for maintenance, a Boyfriend meltdown, more calls from creditors, and now a sick Boyfriend.  Boo hoo, right?

So what to do when I felt well enough, but futz in my garden and yard?  Good news is, I still know my way around a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow!  I raked and moved leaves, turned compost and tended to my fledgling garden. 

So Girlbert, how does your garden grow?  Funny you should ask!  I've harvested two, count 'em, two, tomatoes, but the little tomato plants hold the promise of more, with several green fruits to ripen, and more forthcoming, as evidenced by the many yellow flowers opening on the stems.  Some of the lemon cucumbers are nearly ready to harvest, too.  There's a baby bell pepper, and the very tiniest acorn squash trying to find a spot to settle down and grow.  And my herbs seem to be flourishing in our recent heat wave - basil goes with everything!

But I have no idea what I'm doing, despite all the advice I've received (thank you, gardening friends!), books I've collected, and information I've gathered online.  There are lots of spiderwebs, one split tomato and one with a wormhole, lots of dead leaves, and something ate my first (and highly anticipated!) cucumber already.  Sometimes I think, "Will I ever enjoy the fruits of my labor?  Will anything come of all of this hard work?"

Not that it's all bad.  Those two tomatoes?  Really. Yummy.  And I love hanging outside, with the plants.  And the trees.  And the nature.

So I water my little plants when they seem thirsty.  I carefully remove the spiderwebs, any wilted or half-eaten fruit, and brown leaves.  And I admire them for their perserverance.  I encourage them to do more. 

This week I caught myself telling them, "Grow, little ones, grow!  Bloom, little flowers, bloom!  Grow tall and strong, reach for the sky!  You have great things to do!"

Or is it the other way around?

Thu, 08/19/2010 - 9:13pm | Blog Post, nature, personal growth | 0 comments | Leave a comment
Highly Regarded
Me and My White Horse

I'd been thinking about it for months.  Maybe even a year.  Then the day came and went, and I didn't even acknowledge it, at least not the way I should have.  I told a handful of people, "My old grey horse, Reggie, turns 30 today."

Reggie is my grand old lesson pony, left in the fabulous care of a dear friend in Colorado when I moved to Califonia in 2008.  It broke my heart to have to leave him, but it would have been selfish to uproot him and haul him halfway across the country at his age. 

I'd intended to write something sigificant, something memorable, something that would adequately capture the essence of the little grey horse that could.  But every time I sat down to tackle the task I realized just how much there was - just how big this little grey horse really is.

So many stories, so little internet!

Nearly eleven years ago, I had just arrived in Colorado and was in desperate need of a good "baby beginner" lesson mount for my newly established Premier Riding School.  A friend of a friend of a friend told me about this 19 year-old grey Arabian gelding, registered with the Purebred Arabian Horse Association as High Regard.  He was described as having "a lot of use left in him" and the owner was looking to give him to a good home so that he "didn't go to waste".  I'd like to say I rescued him from a nearly abandoned barn, regretfully leaving his stablemate behind, but I realize now that he saved me.  Because he quickly established himself as the safest, most trustworthy, most well-trained lesson horse I've ever had the privilege to call my own.  He became the anchor of my riding lesson program.

Reggie was the horse that endured bouncing, pulling and mixed signals as students learned the basics of horsemanship and balance.  Not that he was a dead-head or without flaws, but I quickly learned not to judge this rough, fleabitten, arthritic, old gelding by his cover.  He was smart.  Too smart, sometimes.  He was sensitive and opinionated (ask my vet!).  And he was funny.  As in, he laughed at his own jokes.  This little grey horse was unmatched in the humor department, and he reminded me to lighten up when I needed it.  So, I laughed with him.

He understood his job, and took it very seriously.  He didn't just carry people around - he safely instilled confidence in the most timid of riders, but knew when a student had turned a corner and was ready to take it to the next level.  He taught me how to teach people to ride.  Over the years I watched him humble countless riding students when they needed it, including advanced show riders and adults.  Just try getting on him with any inkling in your mind that you know more than he does.  Sometimes an advanced adult rider wouldn't be able to get him to trot.  At all.  He was his own version of, "So you think you can ride?"

But he was so much more than just any lesson horse.  I spent at least an hour a day with Reggie, usually six days a week, for seven years.  He was my business partner and my friend.  He taught my students every bit of horsemanship, from the ground up.  I used to tell people, "he teaches the lessons, not me!"  He didn't just teach students to ride, but to listen, as well.  Myself included.

But wait, there's so much more:  Reggie has touched the lives of so many, please complete his story, from your perspective, in the comments below.  Whether it's a whole story, or just a quick sentence, Reg and I want to hear from you!  Spread the word...there's a PRIZE involved - ten notecards with Reggie's face on them to my favorite comment before August 15, 2010!

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 9:39pm | Blog Post, friends, horses | 11 comments | Leave a comment