Garden Doings

I actually did a lot of planting in the garden this week, and MLG came and did one major job, but we had such a sudden hot spell that everything looks a little shell shocked right now, so I couldn’t get too many good pictures. But I’ll share a bit of what’s happened this weekend.

I bought quite a few plants. I worked for a couple of hours getting them all planted while MLG (master landscaping guy) worked on digging a huge hole through a major rock field. He got the sideways dogwood planted, and used all the rocks to make a nice surround for it. I think it is going to be just the perfect place for this tree, and I have high hopes that it will actually bloom next spring! (You can see it in the back, past the “sun bed.”)


Some pretty columbine that are performing very well this year. They are still in pots because I read that columbine need to be replaced after a few years. Does anybody know if this is true?


Noah checks out the front bed. So far so good with this one. Noah has not trampled one plant here, and the tomatoes are starting to take off. I felt like a kindergartener when my green beans actually started coming through the ground! So exciting!


The thing I am currently most please about is ground cover! After my local nursery girl’s recommendation that I try elfin thyme, I am finally having success at getting ground cover to grow between my paver stones!


And this is the most successful I’ve ever been with corsican mint. It is my favorite ground cover. I buy it every year, and every year I fail with it. I’ve tried it in all different types of locations, but ultimately it dies. So to see it actually covering ground–that’s exciting!


And finally, the most exciting new addition to my garden is some TRANSCONTINENTAL plants! I was beyond excited when Lori offered to send me some lily of the valleys. They are the perfect addition to my shade bed. And how fun to know that they came from a friend on the other side of the country.


Here’s a shot of Noah relaxing on his couch.


Diet and exercise update:  It was so hot I actually didn’t want to go to the gym, even to swim. But yesterday evening I went for a swim after going to a party (an outside party, in 104 degrees–crazy Californians!) It was so enjoyable that I went again after church today. The pool was practically empty both times–crazy Californians! Oh, and also, I am trying to establish a new habit. I have never been able to make myself exercise consistently in the morning. But I thought, since I get up at 5 every morning, why not try to get a walk in before it heats up? I can still have a quiet time and enjoy my coffee before getting dressed to take a walk. So far, 6 days in a row. It takes 21 to establish a habit!

I am still doing very well with my dieting. Slow but sure. As of Saturday morning, all the vacation weight is back off. That makes a total of 20 pounds lost since the end of November. I’ll take it! I’ve been eating a LOT of salads since the weather heated up. And have had my new favorite veggie several times–rutabega fries! And I am still enjoying the protein smoothies. I made a new one that was most delicious yesterday: 1 cup of low fat plain yogurt, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, 1/4 cup of egg beaters, a handful of spinach, and sweetener of choice. I might have added just a little water to get the blender started. Yummy and thick and satisfying.


Smoothies and Pizza. Almost the same. But not quite.

How the heck are smoothies and pizza the same? Well, I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot–ever since I wrote that post about building a better pizza. I make a smoothie almost every day. Because I’m not tired of them yet, and I don’t have to think too hard about what to eat, and because they keep me satiated for a good long time–at least until my afternoon coffee break snack!

But here’s how they are the same. Both pizzas and smoothies are quite palatable. Both of them have an infinite variety of ways to make them. They both have many many different add-ins and add-ons that make them oh so tasty. And that is where they can become a problem for the person who is either losing weight or trying to maintain their weight loss. All those little add ins add UP. And this was the problem that I had with smoothies in the past. I would add in a bit of this and a bit of that, or follow a super sounding recipe. And pretty soon I had 400 calories in a cup. 400 calories that didn’t seem to keep me full for too long. And that doesn’t work for me. That’s why I made the declaration that I would rather chew my calories. And for the most part, I wrote off smoothies.

But then when I was reading Shelley’s archives, and I decided to try the Me Diet, I gave them one more try. This time, though, they had to meet certain requirements. I wanted to have 20 grams of protein (most protein powders have this in ‘one serving.’) and only be 170 calories. 20 grams of protein is 80 calories. This doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for add-ins. But if you are creative, you can make some very tasty smoothies. My favorite is still the chocolate mint extreme formulations ultra peptide. I add one scoop of the powder to leftover coffee and 4 ice cubes. Instant peppermint mocha frappuccino  for 170 calories! That particular protein powder has more calories because it has a little more fat than most protein powders.

My friend Lori left a couple of good recipes to try in the comments. And Cammy shared her recipe for a strawberry cheesecake protein smoothie on her blog. I LOVE that one. Sometimes I buy strawberries and put them straight in the freezer so I can make it. I also used Cammy’s directions for ‘kale cubes’ to make some spinach cubes. You don’t have to do this, but if you are like me, and your greens go bad before you can add them to your smoothies, go ahead and put them in the food processor with a little water and pulverize them, and then freeze them in ice cube trays. (Warning: its hard to get those green stains off your ice cube trays!)

I made a chocolate banana smoothie the other day using 2 banana cubes, 2 spinach cubes, a scoop of chocolate protein powder, and some water. This one was closer to 200 calories.

And you can buy unflavored whey protein powder. I think it usually has 24 grams of protein for about 110 calories. I’ve found it in the ‘bins’ at the grocery, so I can buy just a little bit at a time. This gives you a little more wiggle room for the add ins.

When I first bought my Magic Bullet, I wasn’t a huge fan of it. But now that I am drinking smoothies regularly, I LOVE that it comes with multiple glasses and lids. I am using all of them all the time! (You can find them at Costco too.)

Oh, and here is my best tip for making smoothies the ultimate traveling companion. If I am going somewhere, and I don’t want to drink my smoothie right away, I will go ahead and make it, and then put it in the freezer for a while. How long I want it to stay cold and frosty will determine the amount of time I leave it in the freezer. I just love this. I can bring my smoothie with me and have it waiting for me, cold and frosty, as soon as I finish my workout at the gym. Don’t forget to pack a straw!

A Very Good Idea

Had this idea the other day and had to share it with you.  My good friend is having some facial surgery (no, not the kind we all are thinking about.  She has a mass inside near her nose, and we are all praying that it is not cancer.)  So I was thinking about what I could fix her to eat that would be a treat, and I realized that she probably wouldn’t feel much like eating for at least a few days afterward.  And i came up with the idea of pre-made smoothies.

This idea started with my practice of making frozen banana cubes.  I know I’ve talked about these before, but I don’t think too many of you have taken me up on this idea.  So I thought maybe a picture essay might entice you.

You have to start with extra ripe bananas.  Sometimes they are on sale real cheap at the store, and sometimes I just buy the ripest ones and let them sit on the counter for a few days.  If they are really ripe, they will be the sweetest, of course.  Which is what we all want, right?  Really, in a lot of our healthy recipes, we are using bananas as a sweetening agent instead of sugar, so if they are not really sweet, they don’t work as well.

I start by peeling the bananas and putting big chunks in a bowl.  I use a potato masher from the dollar store (cost $1.00) and mash the living daylights out of them.  I don’t want too many chunks, and I like them nice and liquidy.  This is pretty easy to do IF THEY ARE REALLY RIPE.

Then I pour the liquid bananas into an ice cube tray and stick them in the freezer.

And voila!  Frozen banana cubes.  These are good for any number of things.  Ready to add to smoothies, or used as is to make ‘soft serve fake ice cream.’  (I really like them combined with a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt.  That really does taste like the “original tart” froyo that I love so much.)  They are good to add to recipes.  And probably my favorite way is to thaw one and a half cubes to use as a topping on my protein pancakes (that I make with walnuts in them–banana nut protein pancakes–yumm!)

Okay.  End of frozen banana cube commercial.  Now for the VERY GOOD IDEA!

I just made a variety of smoothies and put them in the ice cube trays, and then packed the frozen cubes in some disposable plastic boxes.  All my friend’s husband will have to do is to partially thaw some cubes and then throw them in the blender or food processor to provide a fresh delicious frosty smoothie for my friend.

I made her some “Apple Blackberry Sour Cream Pie Smoothies” and a “Pumpkin Pie Smoothie.”  (Those are two of her favorite pies!  And yes, I realize I am doing exactly what I criticize other people for–naming food items after things that they are not…)  Not pictured are the Strawberry Banana Smoothies and a mixed fruit/almond smoothie.  No green smoothies for her.  She said she’s not that adventurous yet.  Even though I don’t make smoothies that often for myself, I have most of the ingredients on hand.  I used flax seed meal, almond meal, vanilla protein powder, eggbeaters, almond milk, yogurt, leftover whey from my strained yogurt (I think this makes a delicious addition to any smoothie,) and of course a wide variety of fruits.  I had quite a smoothie production going on on Saturday morning!

I think this is a nice alternative to making meals for someone who is ill or post-op.  I am going to send a box of almond milk and some written instructions with the cubes.  They don’t need almond milk, but in case she wants to lighten them up, she can use almond milk or water, or maybe even some seltzer water.

Its also a good way to store extra or leftover smoothies.  Then you have something for a little treat when the mood strikes.