30 April 2012

Garden Month!

The April showers have gone, and the May flowers are on their way!  Actually, I saw a lot of flowers in April too.  The winners of that beauty contest are definitely the Holland tulips.  I've been learning so much about growing things, and I'm really excited for my garden this year.  Therefore, I'm declaring May to be Garden Month on windsandwater.  Stay tuned for really exciting things!
But in the meantime, what was I supposed to be working on in April?
  • Work out 3.5 times a week on average. I did pretty well here.  Not perfect, but okay.
  • Watch a couple more TED talks.  Instead of TED talks, I've been doing Spanish lessons over my lunch hour.  I'm counting it.
  • Work on my garden.  Double dug a large section!  Plus I transplanted all of my sprouts and started a ton more.  It's going to be a great garden year.
  • Paleo Swedish Meatballs!  Absolutely delicious.

  • After Easter, Kyle and I planned a night of pizza and beer to celebrate the ability to consume cheese and beer again.  It happened, and it was awesome.  And I felt like crap for almost three days afterwards.  Turns out you can't just go from no carbs to tons of carbs.  Lesson learned.
  • Earth Day celebration!  We got over 150 new or expanded gardens signed up in this area. It's so exciting!  So many people will be growing their food this year.

And here's what May is going to bring:
  • More Spanish lessons at lunchtime, because...
  • I'm going to Ecuador for a week!
  • But I'm going to keep giving you blogs with a gardening theme.
  • We're also going on a mini hiking trip with friends!  
  • Speaking of friends, one of mine just got a new job, so we're going to have a celebration for him!  It will probably involve fondue.
  • Bottle wine.  I have a carboy of elderberry wine that's been sitting in my house for quite a while.  The pressure keeps changing, but I think that might have more to do with the barometer than the wine.  It's time to bottle it so I can get a new batch going.
That's a full month!  I'm finally going to get some traveling in AND see a long-lost friend.  May is going to be a month of celebration, travel, and fun.  And since May is also Garden Month, it's going to be full of learning, new growth, and DIRT.  Lots and lots of dirt.  Here's a sneak peak at our double-digging efforts:
I can't wait to show you all my garden!

27 April 2012

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm still learning about coconut flour.  It's not like any ingredient I've ever used before.  I was really hoping to find a sugar-free recipe, but this was the closest I could find.  These cookies were more like a lovely chocolate chip shortbread.
They weren't very sweet, but I think I've become less tolerant to sweet foods, so that worked out pretty well.
Coconut flour is very absorbent, so it needs a lot of liquids (usually eggs) to soak up.  I tried to make this without any sugar at first.
However, I tasted the dough right before I added the chocolate chips, and it was very bland - it didn't seem very cookie like at all.  Just trying the dough made me thirsty though.
I ended up adding 1/3 a cup of agave nectar instead of 1/2 cup of sugar.
The agave nectar didn't sweeten it too much.  I would make this again and skip the sugar, and just let the chocolate chips sweeten the cookies.
These cookies don't expand when baked, so they can be placed as close together as you want.
They have a faint coconut taste and a shortbread texture. 
These cookies were tasty, but they made me thirsty!  I think that Chocolate Orange Torte is going to become my go-to Paleo dessert, however.  You know, just on days when that sweet tooth is bugging me. That torte was absolutely delicious - and I'm not just talking "delicious for being a Paleo dessert."  I'm talking hands-down, favorite, moist, chocolately, delicious torte.
But I digress...

From Chocolate and Carrots:
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • dash of salt
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the coconut oil, vanilla extract, eggs and almond milk together.
  4. In a larger bowl, stir the sugar, coconut flour and salt together.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Scoop by the tablespoon, roll into a ball with your hands and flatten out.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly brown.

25 April 2012


This is my favorite Saturday morning brunch.  It's easy, it's filling, it's Paleo, it's versatile, and it's delicious.  So easy (**lame joke alert**)...a caveman could do it?
This is how I like my omelettes:  very little egg, very many fillings.  You can't go wrong with bacon.  Ever.  Obviously peppers, because they go in everything that I make.  Mushrooms, too. 
Herbs make everything better.
Some people say the egg : filling ratio is important for the whole thing holding together.  I say, who cares about it holding together if I can mask any fissures with cheese?
Things get messy.  I hope you're ready for that.

It all looks so innocent at first.  Just your average, run-of-the-mill omelette.
But suddenly it gets real.  This omelette feels like it is 90% fillings.  What was I just disdaining in the conventional egg : filling ratio?  Why did I not listen to convention? 
This omelette is not for the faint of heart...or spatula. 

Step 1:  Loosen the omelette from the pan.
Step 2:  Try to slide it all over to one side for easier flippage.
Step 3:  ...
Step 4:  Cover everything in cilantro and asiago so no one can tell what happened!
Look!  It's the perfect omelette!  I had no troubles at all whatsoever.  Everything went exactly according to plan.
Hey, it's not like anyone complained that their omelette tasted more like scrambled eggs.

23 April 2012

Earth Day

Earth Day (Sunday) was a gorgeous, sunny day.  It was the perfect day to kick off Cadillac's 100 YARDen DASH - a 'dash' to begin or expand 100 gardens in the Cadillac area.  This event was put on by a group I am a part of (Transition Cadillac).
The last number I heard was around 150, which not only exceeded our goal, but also exceeded the number of signs that were available!  And this was only the kick-off - registration has not closed yet!  If you live in the greater Cadillac area, you can register your garden here!  There are workshops scheduled throughout the summer - the one I'm most looking forward to is a seed-saving workshop - and at the end of summer, we're planning a big harvest meal.  Last year we had a 100 mile radius potluck where everyone brought a dish made of ingredients that had been grown within 100 miles of Cadillac.  Pretty cool stuff!
How often do you see chickens in the park? 
We also had a local beekeeper bring a small hive with him.  See that tall box to the far right?  Those are bees, people.  You want to tread carefully over there.
And of course live music from the Earthworks Collective!  I just love Rachel Davis and May Bernard - they are both so adorable, and they have wonderful voices.  So now that the growing season has finally been kicked off, you can look forward to post on transplanting things later this week (and also get a sneak-peak at my garden)!  Hopefully I can get the garden double-dug this week and do some real planning.

Happy Earth Day!

20 April 2012

Grand Rapids Weekend Extravaganza

6 - 11pm, artists take over (last weekend).  ART.DOWNTOWN.  It's a yearly event.  Sometimes it was a regular venue, sometimes it was an abandoned building, but it was art, and it was local, and it was awesome.  And it was everywhere.
I took home free seeds in exchange for claiming what I will become (this photo is full-sized, if you want to see what other people will become).
My brother did the same.
We checked out the tulips in Holland, as they'll be done by the time the Tulip Festival rolls around.  That warm week we had in March really screwed up the ecology of the area.
We went to the Gerald R. Ford museum - it was Free Museum Day!  The Ford museum was...a place.  There are more interesting museums, but they weren't open until noon :)
The zoo captivated my interest just a bit more.
This is the least sad photo of the bears that I took.  While I appreciate the diversity of species in the world, and the ability to see animals that I otherwise would not have (or probably want) the chance to see in the wild...zoos, like ciruses, are really quite sad.
The spider monkey discovered his reflection.
We also met up with my cousin and his wife at Brewery Vivant.  They did not, however, join us for the beer tour.
This brewery is small, local, and pushes strongly for recycling.  They are LEED certified, and they reuse almost all of the grains used in brewing.  They also compost all the restaurant scraps.
Just one more reason to drink beer!

18 April 2012

Elana's Mango Chicken

Fact:  if it weren't for Elana's Pantry, dinner would be a bland affair.
Fact:  dinner that involves curry, fresh ginger, sea salt and garlic is not bland.

Fact:  dinner last night was delicious.

I'm newly discovering the wonderful combination of fresh ginger, curry and coconut milk.  I'm newly discovering the superpowers of coconut and  coconut oil.

I'm lately in love with this song by Ximena Sariñana (and I have to admit the draw of the exotic name as well).

For the mango chicken recipe, go here.

For the pictures, stay here.

How many pictures do I have of onion being sauteed in oil?
And of course onion loves spices.
And I love peppers in everything.
If I made this recipe again (and I will), I'd skip the water.  Just don't do it.  Keep the coconut milk and mango though.  It's hard to make mango chicken without the mango.
I have a feeling I was supposed to brown the chicken before I added it to the pan.
People, this pan is at capacity.  It has reached its maximum number of occupants.  If this were a movement named Occupy Pan, we might need some police involvement.
Whoa!  Flavors bursting left and right!  Someone needs to settle this crowd down.  My teeth and taste buds were totally up for the job.
And can you say leftovers?  My favorite kind of recipe.

16 April 2012

Let's Get Candid

Last week was really busy and stressful.  Kyle, gem that he is, offered to make the salmon cakes I had planned on making.  And I, looking a gift horse in the mouth, said "Okay, but only if you take photos."  The salmon cakes were delicious.  The photos are non-existent.

But let's not have an "oh, shit" moment here.  That's not pretty.  Let's take this opportunity to get candid.

I am planning an epic vacation!  I realized I haven't had a real vacation in SO long, and it has been a rough year in terms of emotional stress in my life.  I have been taking care of the people I love without allowing myself some time to recuperate.

ECUADOR!  Expect me to be gone for a full week next month.  Blog status pending :)

I went on an epic mini-vacation!  We went to Grand Rapids this weekend.  It was such a fantastic weekend.  Expect to hear more later.  With photos.

I did my taxes...a couple weeks ago.  But I'm finally sending them in now.  Oops.

I feel like I'm accomplishing big things.  There were a lot of activities that were pending car purchase, and now that that's over with, I can get so many other things checked off my list.  #1, buy sunglasses.  I bought some.  They're awesome, and not falling apart like my old favorite pair.

I ate Paleo foods all weekend in Grand Rapids, and I don't think anyone even noticed I was sticking to a crazy diet.  And even better, I ate very tasty things all weekend. 

Okay, so I think I recovered from that well.  Now I'm going to kick back and enjoy my evening.  Real posts forthcoming!

13 April 2012

Vase Gem Magnets

Okay, here's the magnet project I've been putting off and finally got done :)
Seriously, these are SO thrifty and easy.  And customizable!  All you need are some glass vase gems (I got them at the dollar store), a few magazines, and magnets.

Okay, take one vase gem and use it like a magnifying glass.  Anything on the page that you think might make a good magnet - use a vase gem to know how the picture will distort.
Draw a circle around the vase gem and cut the picture out.
 Add some glue to the vase gem.
Put the cut out picture on the back, curling it to stay flush with the vase gem.
Let the glue dry!  Then flip over your gems and check out how awesome they are.
So awesome!  Now all you need to do is glue some magnets to them and stick 'em on your fridge!
I really love the passport magnet!  I also like the animal print magnets.

11 April 2012

Mushroom Soup

Paleo Mushroom Soup, to be precise.  As are all my foods these days.
I more or less made this up as I went along.  I'll try to remember what I threw in there.  According to Kyle, the good smells wafting through the house were enough to make a grown man cry.  I must have been doing something right.

3/4 c. diced onion
3/4 c. diced bell pepper
1/2 c. diced celery
3 c. chopped mushrooms (I used white button and baby bellas)
[you wouldn't be out of line to throw some chopped carrots in here too]
2 c. diced ham
enough chicken stock to cover
cayenne (per your preference)
2 tbs dried dill
1 tbs Penzey's Arizona spice mix
dash of spicy southwest seasoning
1-2 tbs lemon juice

Obviously you'll need to play with the seasonings a little bit.  I'm not exactly sure what is in the Penzey's mix - the reason I used it is because it smelled like it would taste great with the soup.  I guess in general, I used spices in the southwest/chipotle/adobo direction. 

So saute up the onion and pepper(s).
 When translucent, add the mushrooms and celery.
When the mushrooms are cooked, add the stock, ham, spices and lemon juice.  Simmer for about half an hour.
The smell reminded me of pea soup from my childhood, but it tasted great.  It's a pretty thin soup, but there are so many chunks of stuff in it - every bite is full of tasty soup goodness.