Spring Cleaning- Digestion style

Lots of us have been busy cleaning house for spring.  Opening those windows, airing out the rugs, scrubbing walls and woodwork...  I've been doing a bit of that around here, too (though, admittedly, I don't much care for house cleaning).  Spring cleaning when you're a pet owner takes on a bit of a different form, however, since you're constantly contending with their shedding!  I've resigned myself to dust-bunnies for the next month. Don't judge.

Lately, I'd resigned myself to a dirty house, but also a "dirty" digestion system.  By and large, I try to eat well.  I don't eat fast food, am gluten-free and largely dairy-free, and try hard to sneak in extra veggies wherever I can.  (My recipe for sloppy joes may just contain more veg than meat!)  Inevitably, though, we all fall off the bandwagon sometimes.  Despite our best intentions.  I've been slacking on my fruit and veg intake, reaching for the bag of chips, and letting myself eat desserts and candy far too often lately.  Well, it's all finally caught up to me.  I feel like my digestive system is a "before" picture from a Roto-Rooter ad.  So, this week, I'm cleaning up my act.  Time for a little internal spring cleaning.

I sometimes hesitate to use the term "cleanse", because it so often conjures up images of strange tinctures, expensive supplements, and being chained to a bathroom for a week.  I've done cleanses like that.  They're hard.  They're hard to complete, as you're depriving yourself so fully of your normal routine and the food you love.  I also believe they're hard on the body.  Our little ol' liver can only process so many toxins in a day (especially when it's been chronically stressed by alcohol, coffee, sugar, and food additives), if your body is releasing (due to the cleansing) more toxins than the liver can process, they're simply re-absorbed into the body.  Seems pretty counter-productive to me. (especially while you're making yourself miserable by eating nothing but some weird "lemonade")
But I digress...  Everyone's body functions differently.  These highly-regemented cleanses may work really well for some folks.  Me, on the other hand, I'm a bit more delicate.  My body needs to be treated a bit more gently.

When I "cleanse", it's with real food.  The plan is basic:  if it's a vegetable, fruit, or gluten-free whole grain, I'll eat it.  If it's none of those things, it doesn't go in my mouth.  Sugars and fried foods are no-nos. I also cut out my morning cup of coffee to replace it with fresh lemon juice in hot water.  I find the taste refreshing, the warmth comforting, and the lemon juice first thing in the morning gives the liver a jump-start to tackle the barrage of toxins in a day.  In fact, I drink the lemon and water throughout the day.  I feel like it makes my insides smile.

For breakfast, I might make a hemp-protein smoothie with fresh carrot or green juice and fruit.  Or maybe I'll cube up some sweet-potatoes and have some hash and eggs (organic & cage-free, of course).  (See?  Cleansing can taste good!)

Lunch is often a green salad (spring greens and spinach pack a vitamin punch) loaded with veg of all sorts (whatever I'm in the mood for).  I also try to add some chickpeas or black beans and/or some nuts and seeds for a bit of protein, maybe some avocado for that delicious healthy fat.  If I'm not in the mood for salad, I might eat some leftover quinoa and sauteed veggies.


Dinner is fairly wide open.  Veggie stir-fry with brown rice?  Sure!  A quick curry?  Absolutely! (Turmeric, cinnamon, and coconut milk are all super-healthy detox ingredients)  Salad?  If you're in the mood.  Soup?  Hey, why not!  Brown rice risotto?  Sounds good to me! When I cook, I use olive and coconut oils.  I try to cook veggies only to the point of al dente, to retain their greatest nutrient power.  I try not to use nightshades in excess (that's tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant), as they can be difficult to digest.  As for meats, I go vegan for the first 2-3 days (which is not unusual for me, anyway).  After the first few days, I simply try to listen to my body.  Is it asking me for animal protein?  When I do eat meats, I try to choice natural/organic meats that led a happy life and don't contain hormones or antibiotics.  When cleansing, I also try to eat outside my norm when it comes to meats.  I might go for a buffalo burger patty instead of beef, or venison if I can get it.

As for snack time (because we all need snacks... especially when our bodies are working hard and we're eating vegan), I try to choose raw veggies, or a piece of fruit, or a handful of almonds (soaked overnight is best, as they're easier to digest).  I've also been totally addicted to these crunchy roasted chickpeas.

Most cleanses prescribe a fist-full of pills multiple times a day.  While I don't take anything too fancy, I do know my body, and I know that it sometimes needs a little extra help moving things along.  So while I'm cleansing I take psyllium husk fiber, and a gentle herbal laxative (I've had good luck with both marshmallow root and senna leaf containing formulas).  Again, if you're working so hard to eliminate toxins, it doesn't do much good if they sit around in your colon, only to be reabsorbed!

I'm now at the beginning of Day 3 of my cleanse.  And BOY, did I need it!  The sugar and salt cravings the last 2 days have been a bear!  I find that maintaining a positive intention and attitude helps.  Instead of concentrating on how much I want the thing I can't have, I try to think about how out-of-whack my body must have been and how much better I'll feel on the other side.

If you're looking for some reputable resources on real-food cleansing (and eating!), check out these folks:

The Food-Lover's Cleanse - a 2-week plan full of amazing foods that you will truly want to eat, and that your body will thank you for.  I use this plan heavily for inspiration.

http://www.joyoushealth.ca/blog/ - Joy is a certified holistic nutritionist, and has lots of great advice on eating to make your body joyful.  She's also got a great way of adding in the science that I love!

http://www.drweil.com/ - Dr. Andrew Weil has been a trusted voice in the holistic health community for years.  His site is a treasure trove.

www.cleanprogram.com - this site may be trying to sell you a program, but there's lots of great info in their "resources" section

www.101cookbooks.com - Heidi doesn't necessarily talk about cleansing, per se, but her site is full of gorgeous natural food recipes, and the photos to make you want to cook them!

*Disclaimer:  I'm not a healthcare professional.  I'm not an expert on any of this.  I'm simply trying to share what I've learned works for me.  If you need professional advice, go get it.  ....just not from me.


The Book that Started it All

There are moments in life that, for one reason or another, really seem to stick with you.  I suppose you could call them "life- changing".

For me, the Fourth grade was one of them.  I so clearly remember Mrs. Horton's reading corner in our classroom.  The selections on her bookshelf shaped my life.  Especially this one:

I'd always been taught not to litter, and to enjoy the beauty of nature, but this was my first real introduction to the perils facing the planet.  I'm sure that I rivaled the kid in Jerry Maguire on the annoyance scale with all of my new-found facts, but it spurred a passion for the rest of my life.

Originally published in 1989, "50 Simple Things" was one of the first books to "spread the gospel" to the common folk about the green movement, and its urgency.  Now a 5 million copy bestseller, with a new, updated, 21st century version, it continues to inspire, and be relevant.

And now, through the wonders of the internets, the original (out of print) 1989 edition is available, in its entirety, for Free!

So, Happy Earth Day.  Here's a gift.


Spring in Wisconsin

It snowed over the weekend.  In the middle of April.  Spring is a fickle mistress here in Wisconsin.  About the only way to deal with it is a hefty dose of patience.   And a sense of humor.

Via A Way to Garden


Cream City Cookies for a Cause

We're at it again!  Cream City Green is partnering with some of our favorite folks at Burp! and #MKEfoodies for a great cause.  You may recall that little event we hosted last fall that kindled a great friendship with Peef and Lo.  So, when Lo approached me about pitching in on another event, I surely couldn't say no!

May 21, 2011
1-4 pm
Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a not-for-profit organization committed to raising funds to support research for new and improved therapies for pediatric cancers. Through local bake sales, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer provides inspiration and support for individuals, communities, and businesses to help fight pediatric cancer.

On May 21, we'll join hundreds nationwide in holding a bake sale to raise funds for pediatric cancer research.  To sweeten the pot, the Glad Products Company has pledged to match all funds raised for Cookies for Kids' Cancer during the month of May (up to $225,000)!

Coupled with this fun announcement is a plea for help.  We need volunteers and bakers!  We're also rounding up items for the silent auction, if you're a crafter/artist/business owner.  If you'd like to help, just leave a comment, and I'll get in touch.

If you can't bake or volunteer, then just Save the Date!  It's sure to be a fun event.  Best Place is beautiful, and we #MKEfoodies are a pretty darned friendly bunch!  (And don't worry, there's already plans in the works to accommodate our vegan and gluten-free cookie loving friends!)

Wave "hi" to Lo, and we'll see you on the 21st!

Can't make it, but still want to donate?  Click here.


Waiter, there's Bacon in my Popcorn!

There are cultures on this fine earth that believe the pig is an unclean animal and should not be consumed.  I don't know if they're right or wrong, but I do know that they're missing out.  Of all the meats, pork has an amazing ability to transform into wondrous things... prosciutto, carnitas, ham, sausages, and, of course, bacon.

Bacon has magical powers.  This is no secret.  It was the power of bacon that compelled me back to being omnivorous after a dozen years as a vegetarian.  As the saying, and the t-shirt goes, "Bacon makes everything better".

I guess it's no surprise, then, that when brainstorming ideas for an appetizer/desert to bring with me to Paul and Lori's recent Soup Night, I turned to bacon.  Actually, in this case, the bacon was a happy accident.  I'd decided that I wanted to make some sort of gourmet flavored popcorn to share with my foodie friends on the inspiration of Roots Restaurant.  So I set to googling "gourmet popcorn recipes"...  Eventually, I came upon this.


And so the Nueske's bacon came out of the freezer (because no Milwaukee kitchen is complete without a stash on-hand), the bourbon supply was re-upped, and Bourbon Bacon Popcorn was made.

And then eaten.

All of it.

The Power of Bacon compelled me.

Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn (adapted from sarahsprague.com)

5 quarts fresh plain popcorn
1 cup chopped pecans
3/4 lb bacon (applewood-smoked is awesome) - fried crispy and chopped into bits
1 cup butter (for extra bacon-y goodness, replace up to half the butter with an equal amount of bacon drippings)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 teas. sea salt
1/2 teas. baking soda
6 oz. bourbon 

Preheat your oven to 250º.
Melt butter over medium heat.  Mix in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt and then stir until boiling at the edges. Lower the heat slightly and let boil until the caramel is 250º or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, add baking soda and bourbon. Once fully incorporated, stir in bacon and pecans
Divide mixed popcorn between 2 lightly-greased 9x13 or jelly roll pans.  Pour caramel evenly over corn.  Mix to coat. (Use a greased rubber spatula to keep from going crazy.)  Place in oven and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 - 15 minutes.
Remove caramel corn from oven, spread on parchment or wax paper to cool.  Break into pieces.  When completely cool, store in airtight container. Store in refrigerator -- there's meat in there!


A Lesson in Blogging

To my Faithful Readers:  (all 5 of you)

I never really figured that anyone outside of my friends and family would care much about or read my meanderings here on the blog.  I never had a particularly grandiose vision.  Nor did I imagine that I'd somehow become a "professional blogger" due to my efforts here.  I simply wanted a place to share some random musings from my life.

Because I never figured anyone would care, I made the blog public and left commenting open to anyone.  In recent days, however, someone has taken to posting some unkind words here.  Therefore, I've decided to begin moderating all comments before they're posted.

I generally try to abide by the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything" rule.  I hope for others to do the same.  At the same time, I do enjoy a spirited debate.  Wanna disagree with me?  Great!  Let's Discuss!  ...of course, in order to have a conversation of well reasoned arguments, we need to know who each other are....



Dirt Cheap Decor

Confession:  I watch a lot of HGTV.  Probably more than is healthy.  One of the things that always makes me laugh/be jealous is when they show the "5 months after moving into our first home" shots, and everything looks professionally decorated and staged.  Let's be honest, buying your first house pretty much decimates your bank accounts.  (Especially when you have unexpected demolition and mold remediation projects pop up!)

Needless to say, my decorating budget has been pretty skimpy for the new house.  (Personally, as much as part of me wishes that I had a home that could be featured on Design*Sponge, I enjoy the journey of homeownership.)

I've been staring at this blank wall in my living room for more than nine months.

Kindof depressing, right?

Thanks to a recent visit from Emily, my partner-in-crafting-crime, in idea was spouted:

Instead of shelling out a couple hundred bucks for a large-scale art piece, or enough frames for a proper photo-collage, why not make a stretched fabric canvas to bring in a pop of color and pattern?  Brilliant.

The breakdown:
2 pieces of 1x2" moulding and a package of L-brackets = $5
1 yard of upholstery fabric (with 40% coupon, of course!) = $12
An hour and a half's worth of time (spread out over 2 weeks, because I'm lazy) = free

I had a couple of tin ceiling tiles that I had picked up at Hobby Lobby many moons ago (on sale of course!), and moved a few other things around....


No more depressing college-y living room wall!

And yes, those books on the bottom of the bookshelf are Time Life Series home repair books.  Copyright 1983.  Courtesy of my dad.


Quick Tuesday Eye Candy/Inspiration

I just saw this via twitter, and had to share:
originally here
It speaks the truth we all tend to forget, no?

Thanks to @MidwestPhoto for sharing and inspiring my afternoon!


Gluten Free Goodness

Despite the fact that I've been eating gluten free for almost a year and a half, I had homemade GF Pizza for the first time last night.

For reasons I don't entirely understand, gluten free baking has always been off-putting to me somehow.  Maybe it's a fear of failure.  Maybe a reluctance to change the way I've been doing things since I was 12.  Whatever the reason, since making my dietary shift, I haven't done much baking.
Until a few weeks ago.

Sarah over at Celiac in the City shared her grandmother's recipe for Monster Cookies.  Because they're a flour-free cookie, they're naturally gluten-free, and, hence, less intimidating for yours truly.  They are "omg"-inducingly good.


I've made them twice in the past month.  They're that good.  My first batch was for a Super Bowl party.  And I may or may not have stood in the bulk candy aisle and picked through the m&ms for the green and gold ones.  This last time, I decided to make them a little healthier, since I seem to be incapable of eating less than six of these buggers in a day.  I added dried cranberries, golden raisins and chopped pecans and omitted the m&ms.  I also shorted the sugar - omitting all the white sugar and increasing the brown sugar by a quarter cup.  This less-sweet cookie was actually more to my liking, as I've become sensitive to sweets.

Flying high on my recent cookie success, I decided that I should try my hand at GF Pizza!  I go to Transfer fairly often for their delicious GF pizzas, but I'm trying to curtail my restauranting budget.  I've had a recipe for Gluten Free Pizza Crust in my recipe box for ages.  Unfortunately, I don't know the original source - my mom clipped it from a newsletter for me.  I was glad I finally tried it.

The texture was slightly dense and chewy, but in a pleasant way.  The edges had a delicious crispness.  I topped my crust with what was on hand - jarred pasta sauce, caramelized onions and baby portabella mushrooms, parmesan cheese, and black olives.

Gluten Free Pizza Crust
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/2 cup milk, skim  (I used rice milk)
1/2 teasp. sugar
2/3 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 teasp. xanthan gum
1/2 teasp. salt
1 teasp. Italian Seasoning (I used 1/2 tea. each dried oregano and basil)
1 teasp. olive oil
1 teasp. apple cider vinegar
Corn meal and rice flour (to prevent sticking)

- Preheat oven to 425*
- Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm milk for five minutes.  In food processor, blend the rest of the ingredients, including yeast mixture, until ball forms.  Dough will be soft
- Put mixture into greased 12-inch nonstick pizza pan
- Liberally sprinkle corn meal onto pizza sheet and press the dough into the pan with your hands. Sprinkle with rice flour to prevent sticking.  Make edges thicker to contain toppings.
(I used corn meal, but didn't need any rice flour to prevent sticking.  I think next time I'll omit the corn meal as well.  Don't be scared that the dough is a little hard to work with.  It'll come out just fine!)
- Bake pizza crust for 10 minutes.   Remove from oven and add sauce and toppings.  Bake another 20 - 25 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.  (Mine was ready in just under 20 minutes.)


Snowed In

Well, like most of the midwest, Cream City Green got clobbered with a blizzard over the past few days.  I must admit, as a former Yooper, the prospect of 12 - 20" of snow in and of itself doesn't phase me much.  But even by my hearty standards, this was a heckofa storm.

Before I bought my current house, I was living in a duplex with a three-car garage and a side drive.  With all that driveway to contend with, my dad got me a snowblower.  I don't use it much here in the new house, with all 35' of street frontage, but it sure was nice to have yesterday!

Here's what I saw when I opened the drapes on Wednesday morning:

Even Cream City Pooch was having a hard time locating the steps:

We had some pretty serious drifts along the side of the house, too:
Those are full-size windows, by the way.
And, yes, for those of you paying attention, a rain barrel is on the wish-list for this summer!

The storm helped to point out some areas of the house that need some better weatherproofing.
I'll be replacing this door (moving it, actually):

And it looks as though the (detached) garage could use a bit of weatherproofing, too!

I actually love when Mother Nature makes us all stop in our tracks for a day or two.  It reminds us all of how fickle our lifestyle really can be.  I also love the way neighbors band together during snowstorms.  Yesterday, I spent nearly four hours clearing the alley and chatting with neighbors that we had never met.  We're already discussing barbecues and block parties for the warmer months!

As a parting note, I feel I should mention ...  Global Climate Change (or Global Warming, as most folks call it) is indicated by overall increased earth temperatures.  In temperate to cold climates, like ours, however, it is indicated by stronger and more frequent storm events and not necessarily by a decrease in annual snowfall or cold days.  
That's right.  Counter-intuitive as it may seem, yesterday's blizzard may well have been a symptom of global warming.

I hope you all got dug out, and enjoyed your day off.
Now I'm off to find another blanket and cup of coffee.....


Excited for New Neighbors

Here at Cream City Green, we're very excited about the new pub going in around the corner from us.  The Riverwest Public House will be Milwaukee's only cooperatively owned bar.  Slated to open in March, the Public House will occupy the former Sayleece's space at 815 E. Locust.  While we never had any problems with the patrons from Sayleece's, they did tend to make the neighborhood noisy and raucous when entering and leaving the bar.  We're hoping that the neighborhood clientele of the Public House will be a bit more conscientious of the neighborhood.

More importantly, though, we're excited about this concept, and about a new great neighborhood hangout and music venue.

The concept of the Public House is modeled after traditional English public houses - a place for the community to gather, share stories and gossip, laugh, and arrange mutual help within the community.  According to their website, the mission of the Riverwest Public House is "Building Community, one drink at a time!"  They'll be providing a "welcoming social meeting place", providing "a variety of affordable local, organic and/or delicious beers, ciders and spirits", and will "raise funds to propagate other cooperatives through the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance".

You can find out more about the Riverwest Public House on their website, including info about become a coop member and benefits thereof.

It's businesses like these that make me love living in the city... in THIS city!



Organization dichotomies

Over the last year or so, I've been trying to become a more involved member of the citizenry.  I was raised to know that giving your time and talents to others is important and good.  But as I've become more involved in the environmental community, I've realized something.  Organizations seem to come in one of two flavors:  button-down and businessy, or patchouli-loving hippie-dippie.

It's a frustrating divide, as I've always seen myself as being a bit of both.  It's also frustrating, because it leads to duplication of effort and missed opportunities for collaboration.  One group seems to have the lion's share of the money, and the other group seems to have the people-power.

I'm not taking sides, or advocating for one type of activism over another.  Both have their merits.  My point is simply this:  if these two types of environmental organizations could find more common ground, we'd all win.  More would get done.  ...and isn't that what everyone was after in the first place?

Admittedly, I don't have a solution here.  I wish I did.  The best I can say for now is that those of us who know how to walk with a foot on either side of the divide need to step it up.  It may be an uphill battle to get our voices and new ideas heard within an organization, but we are duty-bound to try.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.  Ready?  GO!


Welcome back to the New Year!

Sorry I've been so derelict in this blogging enterprise.  It's a new year now, and I'm resolving to write more. (Lucky you!)

The latter half of 2010 was a doozy for me, personally.  There were joyous moments, to be sure, but on the whole, I'm very happy for this fresh start.

As many of you are heading back to "real life" today, as the holidays come to a close.  I hope that they were a restful and joyous time for you and your loved ones.

To start our year on a courageous footing, I want to share a song that my friend Lori shared with me a few weeks ago, as certain things in my life were coming to a head.  It gave me courage and solace when I needed some.  So, if you need a little of those things in your life today, I hope this little song can provide.