Spring Garden

The idea of having a beautiful garden lush with edible and non-edible treats is both exciting and frightening. I have always had pots of herbs so figured, how hard could it be? Tell that to the fig tree my husband rescued from near death at our old place in Virginia. It turns out that even low maintenance plants need at least a little TLC. Fast forward a few years and we are back in California. This is supposedly the land of "you can grow anything" so I figure if I can't raise a decent garden here, I might have to toss in the towel. A few hours of research and a couple spreadsheets later, I have an extensive 4-bed multi-pot plan for a full-fledged feed-the-family-for-months garden plan. Reigning in the urban garden dream, I settle for starting with one raised bed. The hubby built this gorgeous bed for me and filled it full of beautiful dirt that my research revealed to be the perfect combination of soil and nutrients for sustaining plant life in a raised bed. The little man and I plant lettuce, onions, parsley, basil, mint, jalapenos, poblanos, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and strawberries. Garden Bed Standing back to admire the fruits of my labor, I realize how anticlimactic the act of gardening is. If you require instant gratification, this is not the hobby for you. Every morning the little man and I head out to the back yard and give our precious plants a drink. I think I'm doing great until I notice that my basil (normally a no-brainer plant for me) is looking a little sad and my parsley has seen much, much better days. As if that wasn't enough, the strawberry plants aren't sprawling like the website said and 1/4 of their leaves are brown. Depressed but undeterred, I continue watering my little garden. Like a completely sane and normal person, I also begin talking to them. I figure if nothing else works, maybe I can talk them into growing - I try positive reinforcement: "That's a good plant. Keep on growing." which is quickly replaced with desperation and begging, "just give me 1 freaking tomato!" Needless to say, I was beginning to think that tossing in the towel and turning the darn thing into a sandbox might be a better use of the wooden box. On day one billion and three (that might be a small exaggeration, but it is an accurate description of how I felt), I decide to beg one last time. "Aaaaaahhhhh! A tomato!" Finally, after all that waiting, mother nature provided a small spark of hope that all may not be lost. Tomato I bring my little man over and we marvel at the tiny little green bulb sprouting from the end of a branch. I honestly don't know who was more excited - me or my toddler. To add fuel to my excited fire, I notice ... more tomatoes! There's probably 6 or 7 already sprouting and I can tell that another 20+ are going to start popping any day now. Tomato 2 Walking around, it dawns on me that the lettuce plants have tripled in size. Aren't they gorgeous?! Red Lettuc And check out my strawberries! At the rate I'm going, we're going to have an awesome salad headed our way. Strawberry Strawberry 2 Sadly, my cucumber and eggplant plants aren't giving me quite as promising vibes. So, I'll continue to talk and beg and water in the hopes that they will eventually send their nutritious goodness my way. I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that the pepper plants share some of their fruit with our home. Given this awesome progress, I have decided to have the hubby build another raised garden bed for me this weekend. At 8 months preggers, if I don't get this thing going now, I'm not sure when it'll happen. Stay tuned for progress updates - you know, when I actually have something edible. In the meantime, if you want a bucket, or 6, of lemons, let me know. We have two lemon trees that even my off-green thumb can't slow down! Lemons

Green Berry Smoothie

Green Berry Smoothie_1 No. There is no such thing as a green berry (at least not that I know of). The grammar freak inside of me is having a minor meltdown right now over the misplaced modifier - "green." I considered revising the name to "Berry Green Smoothie" but foresaw the "berry" being mistaken as a descriptor of the amount of "green" in the beverage and decided against it. This is neither a smoothie made from green berries nor is it a very green smoothie. Rather, it is a smoothie made with greens and berries - spinach and strawberries, to be exact. If I wasn't determined to give the poor drink a short and, hopefully, memorable name, I might have used the ever descriptive "Spinach and Strawberry Smoothie" title, but golly that sounds boring. So, Green Berry Smoothie it is and ever shall be. In my opinion, and to further the confusion, this delicious concoction of fruits, veggies, oats, and juice tastes like none of the above. For the spinach haters in the crowd, this is probably a good thing. Green Berry Smoothie_3 Now, I love my smoothies super thick (otherwise I'd order a juice - duh) and boy does this one check that box. Thick and almost creamy, a gift from the frozen banana to our taste buds, you can sip on this bad boy through your entire mid-morning meeting - or dig into it with a spoon. It gets bonus points for filling power, preventing the otherwise unavoidable nod-off halfway through the boss's presentation on ______. This particular ingredient combo is well on its way to becoming a staple in my smoothie rotation. Look at all those beautiful ingredients! Green Berry Smoothie_Ingredients Thank you California for providing fresh berries year-round - though the ones in spring do have a little special something that even the best year-round berry farmers can't pack in to their off-season greenhouse growths. Green Berry Smoothie_Ingredients 2 I obviously piled my glass to overflowing - that's just how I roll. But, should you be in a sharing mood, the recipe below makes a full 24 ounces so you could always split it down the middle to share with your BFF, significant other, or one lucky other meeting attendee.

Green Berry Smoothie

A fantastic mid-morning pick-me-up.

  • 1 banana, sliced and frozen
  • 5 – 8 strawberries (depending upon size), hulled
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach (about 1 ½ cups)
  • ½ cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup ice
  • ½ cup apple juice

Place ingredients into blender in order listed.

Press smoothie button. If you don't have a smoothie button, blend to preferred thickness.

Pour into a cup.

Top with strawberries, chia seeds, and coconut, if desired.

Papaya Breakfast Boats

Papaya Banana Boat When I was in grade school, once a month or so my mom would take me to get my nails done. We would go to this nail salon in a strip mall by our house and stop in at Jamba Juice for a smoothie on our way. This always made me feel so “adult” and is probably a large contributor to my adult addiction to these frozen beverages (er, meals?). Sidenote: My favorite smoothie place as an adult happens to be in Austin, TX (JuiceLand: www.juiceland.com) with Daily Juice (www.dailyjuice.com) coming in a close second. Despite my love affair with green smoothies and acai bowls, sometimes I need to jazz up my morning routine (or just don’t want to wake up the whole house – my son is scared of our BlendTec). Parfaits are a delicious option, especially when topped with homemade granola. The natural progression from parfaits in a bowl is, logically, parfaits in a papaya. Or, as I like to call them, Papaya Breakfast Boats! Seriously easy to put together and yummy to eat, I fill mine with coconut greek yogurt, slivered almonds, halved blackberries, a sprinkling of shredded coconut, and a dash of chia seed. I wanted to top it with a drizzle of fresh, local honey but couldn't get the lid off - where's the hubby when you really need him?! Papaya Banana Boat 4 Then I sit at my kitchen table and pretend I am on a tropical island. Sipping on my homemade vanilla soy latte, lazily eating my way through the papaya’s soft and sweet fruit, it is almost possible to believe the daydream is real. If it’s a weekend morning (and I’m not 8 months pregnant), you just might catch me sipping on a glass of bubbly because seriously, papaya, coconut, and bubbly are a deliciously rockin’ combination. Bonus, one papaya is enough for two meals. I bundle the second half in saran wrap, stick it in the fridge, and repeat the next morning. Other favorite toppings: banana chips, honey, walnuts, pecans, blueberries, strawberries, fresh banana slices, cacao nibs, granola, and crushed graham crackers. I'm thinking our next brunch (or maybe our Summer Solstice Party) will include a Papaya Breakfast Boat buffet. All I have to do is cut the fruit in half, remove the seeds, and set out a bunch of fun toppings. Plates are optional. Ok, now I want to have a party! I'm excited just thinking about it! Papaya Banana Boat 2 Papaya Banana Boat 3

Papaya Breakfast Boats

A simple, fast, and delicious way to start the morning.

  • 1/2 of a small papaya
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt, coconut flavor
  • 1 tablespoon raw slivered almonds
  • 8 blackberries, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon shredded coconut
  • 1/4 teaspoon chia seeds

If the papaya is whole, cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds from one half. Wrap the other half in saran wrap and store in the fridge for tomorrow's breakfast.

Fill the papaya with the yogurt and top with the almonds, blackberries, shredded coconut, and chia seeds. For an extra hint of sweetness, drizzle fresh, local honey over the top.

Sit down in a cumfy spot with a cup of coffee (or glass of bubbles!) and let your imagination take you to a sunny, tropical island.

Scrape the flesh of the papaya into the yogurt for a well-rounded bite every time.

When done, toss the skin in the trash, the spoon in the dishwasher, and your purse on your shoulder - then head out to conquer the world.