The other night while out for dinner with my fiancé, I spotted a soup special on the menu board that intrigued me. The chef had combined chickpeas with tomatoes and basil. Sure, that sounds like a winning combo, but for some reason it had never occurred to me to combine them as a soup. I took this as a challenge.
Beans & rice are a staple food for many around the world, and I can remember a time when a younger version of me practically lived off the stuff. They’re inexpensive and packed with nutritional benefits. Not to mention that legumes and rice together are a complete source of protein.
This is a more grown up version of beans and rice, using quick-to-cook lentils along with brown rice and Mexican-inspired spices to give it an out of this world flavor.
Soup is easy to make, and it’s a great comfort food that can be made ahead and stored for several days in the refrigerator just waiting to be warmed up for a quick meal. This is a definite favorite in my house, and I love to use whatever vegetables I have on-hand to supplement the base ingredients.
Just use this as a starting point from which you can go anywhere you want to. Have some leftover zucchini? Dice it and toss it in at the final step!
How about a light, refreshing, yet totally filling meal that is every bit as tasty as pasta without the simple carbs that will leave you feeling bloated? This steamed zucchini noodle recipe is good enough to use with any standard pasta sauce, but it is even more amazing when you couple it with my raw tomato basil sauce.
Who says you can’t have a creamy, flavorful meal that isn’t high in fat, calories, or processed junk? My creamy cauliflower roasted vegetables with brown rice is a meal that will leave anyone satisfied. It is one of the dinner meal options in my soon-to-be released 7-Day Body Vacation food plan (more on that in a future post).
For now, let’s get to the food.
This dish is seriously delicious. It doesn’t use any actual cream and very little fat (in the form of heart-healthy olive oil). The cauliflower transforms into a velvety delight that really rounds out a light but filling meal.
Don’t have time to make breakfast? Before you skip the most important meal of the day or reach for those instant oatmeal packets, give my Refrigerator Oatmeal a try. All it takes is a couple of minutes the night before and you’ll have breakfast on demand ready to eat with your morning coffee!
A smartphone app that makes it possible for me to help animals in need without spending any money? I’m all over it.
A few months ago, a friend brought to my attention an app that supports your choice of dog rescues. It earned an indeterminate amount of money through ads within the app itself, and though I used it several times I was always a bit wary of the lack of financial transparency.
Yesterday I was introduced to a new app called ResQwalk and those concerns were immediately alleviated. Available for iPhone and Android users, the ResQwalk app not only allows you to choose from lots of rescues, by default it sorts the list by location, showing you rescues that are closest to you. It also allows you to mark several rescue groups as favorites, and select one each time you start a walk.
Once you begin a walk, you have the option of pausing it at any time. That came in handy for my trip this morning. I started at my favorite doughnut shop (Revolution Doughnuts, heeeeeeey!) and walked to the nearby MARTA station, which was about half a mile away. Then I walked the station platform until the train arrived, and paused the app while I rode to my stop.
Once I stepped off the train, I started the app again and walked another half mile home. When I walked through the door, I had walked 1.26 miles and donated a little money to a charity I strongly believe in. Even better, the app updates weekly with the number of miles walked and number of dollars raised for each organization, so the transparency issue is solved for me as well.
Here’s the pitch: I would love for each of you with a smartphone to download the ResQwalk app and use it daily. Use it when you walk the dog. Use it with you go for a jog. Use it when you walk to the mailbox, or even when you walk in circles in the living room.
As I mentioned, there are lots of hardworking charities from which to choose, all of which no doubt need the money. I’m sure you can find one that is important to you. If you would like my suggestion, I support Full Circle Farm Sanctuary in North Carolina.
Whatever you do, do something. It’s easy, takes seconds, and costs you nothing.
Late last month I wrote about sending in my first samples for soil testing. The results arrived in my email inbox a few days ago.
Soil is the soul of the garden.
Good soil contains nutrients, organic matter, and beneficial microbes. It stores water and oxygen to be delivered directly to the roots of our precious edibles and ornamentals, and it protects those roots from big temperature changes that could freeze or burn them.
The latest landscape feature at our urban permaculture home spins me right round, baby. If you are too young to get the reference, make yourself useful and grab my Geritol® while I talk about it.
The topography of our suburban lot is as typical as you can imagine. It’s flat from the street to the fence at the rear of the property. The feature that makes it a dream for teenage lawn mowers across the country makes it less-than-ideal for permaculture purposes. Let me explain…
One of the foundations of a permaculture design is water. You want to keep as much of that good stuff on the property as possible, slowing its movement when heavy rains would normally cause it to make a beeline for the nearest storm drain. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, including rain barrels, heavy mulching, and swales, but the easiest way to slow its journey is to give it a few twists and turns.
Think back to the last time you were on a long stretch of road, so straight you could see the curve of the earth ahead. You’re all alone on that road, so of course your foot gets a little heavy on that pedal.
Then you get to a few hairpin curves in the road. What do you do? Slow down, of course. The same principle applies to water. If you want it to have more time to soak in before it leaves your land, you need to give it a reason to stick around.
So now that you understand why flat land is no bueno for permaculture, you will better understand the mechanics behind the brand-new hugel hoop I just completed in the front yard. A hugel hoop is the perfectly-named creation of the folks at Our Fertile Earth in Jacksonville, Florida, based on the centuries-old composting process known as Hügelkultur.
Hügelkultur is a method that mimics the natural decomposition and composting process that happens in the woods. Felled trees and branches line the base of a ditch, and are covered with wood chip mulch, leaves, and other fine debris. The lot is then covered with soil, creating a hill or mound. The mound can then be planted, the buried materials act as a water sponge while they decompose and add nutrients to the soil.
In a hugel hoop, the process is used to form a large ring around a tree, beyond the root line. This creates an ongoing food supply for the tree while simultaneously creating a water collecting basin at the tree’s base.
The photo above shows the hugel hoop in-process. The right side has been dug and filled with limbs and mulch.
I dug a trench about ten inches deep around our peach tree. The bottom was then lined with branches, followed by enough wood chip mulch to create a mound about six to eight inches above ground level. I soaked the ring thoroughly, giving the wood a chance to drink up all of the water it could.
On top of the mulch was added a layer of shredded leaves, which were then covered with the dirt I removed from the trench. At this point, the hoop is rather substantial and ready for planting. It should be protected with a layer of straw before watering everything in to help keep the soil in place while everything settles.
Below is a basic design sketch of the planting scheme for this area. As you can see, there will be a lot of herbs (5 different types), as well as edible annual flowers that will be used to adorn salads throughout the season.
Photos of the completed hoop coming soon!