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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Adventures





 Spring has sprung here in Winchester. It has crept through the Valley in the form of lolling sunny mornings, smooth hyacinth filled breezes, and the buds of dazzling jeweled tulips in bright yellows and royal purples. The longer days have made room for lazy walks, cool morning hikes, and premature gardening. My beds have come together nicely, and my produce is sure to be bountiful this year.

 In honor of the Lord’s delightful weather, I thought I’d do a piece on my adventures of late. This year my beds will include more broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, string beans, sweet peas, lots of strawberries, Brussel sprouts, fresh oregano, thyme, apple mint, parsley; and hopefully some peppers and lavender. The strawberries quadrupled this year and took the better part of a morning to prune. Other beds were easier to clean out and hold mostly herbs and spices. However, I’ve set one aside for cabbage for the next two weeks just to be sure the weather holds out one.

Last Saturday I went on a hike along with some friends that was held by the women’s ministry of our church. We drove a short distance to Front Royal and hiked a stint on the Appalachian Trail.

What fun we had! 

 The trees were just waking from their short winter slumber, their branches reaching out with dustings of buds and flowers. The trail was alive with mosses, new sprouts, tracks from critters, and the graceful if fleeting site of deer through the brush. 

Our hike leader was fabulous, Miss Kathy pointed out lots of cool facts on the ecosystem surrounding us, the different uses of some of the trees (one was a spice tree that was used in the colonial era for apple and spice cakes as well as teas). We also ran across wild raspberry bushes and strawberry patches making their spring debut. Upon further inspection of the trail, we found wild onions and parsley. Altogether, the hike was exhilarating and very refreshing after being cooped up indoors for so long. 


For more pictures from my hike check out my events pages and for more of my garden check out the garden page. 
Thanks so much for stopping by!

Virginia Belle

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Clean College Cuisine

Okay, I’ve been bad, I’ve been absent, unavailable, indisposed, MIA, not attending my blogging duties. Call it what you will. I’m sorry! I’ll make more of an effort for you guys. I promise! Thanks for staying loyal.
Now that I’ve gotten this off of my chest, let me tell you what I’ve been tinkering with of late.

Eating healthy is a topic that has become an important concept in my home. To make a long story short I was battling with an unseen and ugly health crisis that left me uncomfortable, tired, and feeling like there was no way out. I still struggle with this problem, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.
Firstly, I found that my diet plays an important role in how I feel every day. Eating a healthy, high fiber low-carb diet, with lots of fruits and veggies has made a huge impact in my life (doesn’t mean I don’t cheat every once and a while though).
Adding exercise and a boost of vitamins to my routine have made a difference too.
The added bonus was the compliments I received for my weight loss as well my newfound love affair with food. Controlling what I put in my body led to curiosity and experimentation; when things started tasting good I was ecstatic;
 “I can eat right and it’s YUMMY”!
I’ve had friends ask me for suggestions on how to eat smart on a college friendly budget. It got me thinking. Though I don’t live in a dorm room I do frequently run into the trouble of finding quick, easy lunches and snacks to put together so I can opt out of the drive-thru window. Not only did it aide me in my health quest it also put extra cash in my pocket. I noticed that I had been spending more money on eating out then I would have if I’d been eating in. Thus, weekly trips to the grocery store ensued to stock up on what I needed.
Below is a list of items I buy on a regular basis.
 *Tip: When buy fruits and veggies make sure you know whether they are in season as it affects both taste and price. Oranges and pears for example are fall/winter fruits and the prices drop dramatically during this time. Berries and melons are spring/summer fruits (that taste a whole lot better from a local market). Peaches and grapes usually do as well. Broccoli, artichokes, beans, snap peas, and tomatoes are spring/summer fare that are delicious from local farmers! Zucchini, yellow squash, and corn are usually best around late summer/ early fall.
Consider stocking your dorm with quick and easy (healthy!) snacks:
·         Fruit such as apples, oranges, bananas, peaches, pears, grapes, strawberries, berries, plumes
·         Fresh veggies like celery, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, cauliflower (pick up a bottle of Ranch and have a little fun with it)
·         An assortment of nuts (I prefer walnuts myself, almonds are great too)
·         Keep lemon slices around for water
·         Cheese (be wary of this though, I wouldn’t buy cheese sticks but instead look for block cheese that hasn’t been so processed)
·         Low fat yogurt ( I love nuts and raisins or even fresh berries in mine)
·         Raisins
·         Fat free popcorn
AND LASTLY: keep it all pre-prepared and ready to go in small, reusable Tupperware containers. By keeping things pre-prepared in tubs, you are more likely to grab for it when you open the fridge.

Other entries I’ve posted have some great tips for fresh foods prepared fast and healthy (see Cabbage Craze and Tongue Tingling Salsa).

Tips for keeping perishables fresh longer are to rinse them in cold water and dry. Then wrap in a paper towel (for some reason Viva works best) and place back in the green baggie you purchased it with, place in the veggie drawer of the fridge.
Another great tip I learned from my mama is a useful one and pretty self-explanatory. Celery is mainly made up of water, so if it begins to age place it in a glass of water in the fridge and, ‘viola!’ instant freshness!

Let me know what some of your favorite fresh fast foods are, I’d love to hear!
Virginia Belle

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ultimate Breakfast Shake


The Ultimate Breakfast

College kids, on the runners, workout freaks, health nuts, or just plain gimme me something new-ers; UNITE!
I am an avid fan of vitamins. And healthy eating. You may notice my blog is associated with recipes for baking: cookies, muffins, cupcakes, and breads (to come) but come on, let’s get real here. If I (or anyone) ate this way, everyday, I’d LOOK like a muffin. Or a Cupcake. Or even a fat piece of cake, dripping out of the sides. This can’t be tolerated!

Health is IMPORTANT.

It’s becoming a bit of a movement here in the good ol’ US-of-A.  
In another post, I’ll address why vitamins are important to me. And reveal the ONLY thing I will take. Yes, I will only trust one company with my vitamin consumption (ADVOCARE!). For good reason, there’s just too many of them (vitamin supplements) out there. And they have some leeway (in the FDA) with what they can add to their supplements. (SCARY)

Thanks to a good friend of mine (whose blog I’ll link to this post) I came across a tasty recipe for mornings. *Advocare buddies, I know you’re going to cringe here, so I’ll mention that you SHOULDN’T indulge in this treat if you are on the 24-Day Challenge or trying to lose weight. And, at Advocare we really try and only mix water with shakes; it’ll mess up the balance within the shakes if you add milk.
So here’s my recipe (taken from the skeleton of Jake's:)


Ultimate Breakfast:
1 packet ADOVCARE MUSCLE GAIN (vanilla for this one)
1 ½ cup milk (please don’t cringe too much guys- I’ll be trying it with water next time and let you know how it goes)
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup oatmeal
¼ cup nuts (walnuts or almonds only!)
½ tbsp milled flax seed (good for your digestive tract)
½ cup blue berries
Zest of ¼ lemon
½ cup of ice

Add the muscle gain, nuts, and oatmeal to your blender. Pulse to grate the oatmeal and nuts down till the mix becomes smooth. Add milk and olive oil. Pulse again, then add blue berries, ice, and lemon zest. Pulse again and enjoy!

This is just super for springtime; the berries and lemon complement each other so well!
Let me know what you think, and feel free to post recipes of your own favorite shakes too.
 Thanks,
Virginia Belle

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cabbage Craze

One of my favorite veggies is by far the cheapest 
          and can be added to just about any meal…Almost.   
 
Behold the under appreciated super veggie: cabbage! By now, your nose must be wrinkling and you might possibly be thinking ‘but that smell’! Like artichokes, cabbage has a less than desirable rap. It’s bitter raw, smelly cooked, and leaves traces of its malodorous journey through both the kitchen and the digestive tract. My hope is that by the end of this post your feelings towards this mean green cancer- fighting machine will forever be altered.
Cabbage is an interesting little guy. It is perhaps one of the cheapest veggies in the super market (a small head cost me less than 30 cents) and usually lasts me around 2-3 weeks if properly stored. Work your weekly meal plans around this guy and watch your wallets bulge and waistband sag! Nutritionally, cabbage contains an assortment of vitamins and minerals: vitamins A, C, K, Folate, Choline, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, and fiber; all the while only containing an astonishing 19 calories per cup! Rumor has it, cabbage also takes more calories to digest then it is worth (meaning it actually causes you to burn calories). Cabbage is a great substitute for a regular, boring salad and leaves you feeling full rather than wanting more. Certain properties in cabbage are known to assist in fighting cancers (such as breast and lung). To store it properly wash head of cabbage thoroughly after purchase, dry with a paper towel, and wrap in a clean dry paper towel before placing it back into its original plastic produce aisle bag. Store it in the refrigerator preferably in the veggie drawer.
My wonderful mother was puttering in the kitchen one afternoon and decided to throw a few healthy ingredients together for a quick pico de gallo (a Mexican salad if you will). The outcome was a delicious, nutritious blend of tomatoes, green chilies, and chopped cabbage that can be added to chicken, ground beef, or any taco filling you desire, in less than 5 minutes.
Ingredients:
·         Taco filling of your choice (chicken, beef, sausage, fish)
·         1 can Rotel with green chilies
·         1-2 cups chopped shredded cabbage
·         1 medium jalapeno
·         Fresh chopped cilantro
·         Dash of cracked black pepper
·         Dash of lemon juice/zest
Directions:
·         Chop and shred 1-2 cups of cabbage as well as 1half of the jalapeno. Place both in a reusable container.
·         Drain 1 can Rotel keeping about 1/3 of the liquid. Pour both tomatoes and liquid into container with cabbage.
·         Place lid on container and shake. Refrigerate up to 1 week.
                                                    Tip:
My favorite things to add to this are black beans, meat, and a pinch of cheese.


Another great way to enjoy cabbage is cut into wedges over the grill. This is a summer time favorite at La Casa de Nance and is served nicely alongside other vegetables like zucchini or even a good steak. Last summer my mother and I visited her parents in Phoenix. One night before leaving we had a summer time feast of fresh artichokes, raw zucchini slices, grilled cabbage, tomato salad, and fresh squeezed lemonade. It was the best vegetarian buffet I’ve ever had!
What you’ll need:
·         1 head cabbage
·         Olive oil
·         Cracked black pepper
·         Garlic powder
   ·         Aluminum foil
 Just:
·         Chop cabbage into wedges
·         Drizzle with olive oil
·         Add a dash of cracked pepper and garlic
·         Fold in aluminum foil and grill for roughly 10 minutes.
Enjoy with any BBQ plunder!
Virginia Belle 

P.S. What is your favorite way to eat cabbage?