Liquid Kale

One-of-the-four-kale-plants-I'm-growing-at-The-Beach-91st-Street-Community-Garden

My vegetable garden is flourishing. I planted tomatoes (no-brainer), basil, dill, cilantro, peppers, chives, eggplant and kale.

The kale has exploded, thriving with minimal care! Kale is a hearty green containing high amounts of vitamin A and C. It’s rich with antioxidants including beta carotene. Kale is high fiber and a great source of calcium, potassium and magnesium. Researchers have also discovered chemicals in kale that may inhibit cancer cell growth. So yeah, this veggie is a superfood that everyone is still obsessed with.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been enjoying kale salads from the bounty of my garden.  I’ve tried different types – kale with chickpeas, tomato and feta, with eggs, peppers and onions, and with red beans, olives, cabbage and quinoa. At this point, I’m running out of creative kale salad combos.

Eager to try something new, I decided to venture into the smoothie zone. I’ve had kale smoothies before but never made one myself.

I adapted a recipe from thelemonbowl.com. I omitted the yogurt to reduce my dairy intake, replacing with coconut milk, which makes this recipe vegan.  And I changed the proportions a bit.

The kale blueberry smoothie tasted refreshing and delicious!! The cinnamon is key. Overall though, it wasn’t too sweet or sugary which I enjoyed. If you want more sweetness, omit the kale stems which adds bitterness. I was too lazy too and included the whole leaf.  Also it’s less organic waste.

Ingredients-for-the-kale-bluberry-smoothie

Vegan Kale Blueberry Smoothie

Ingredients:
(makes 2, 6oz. smoothies)
1  banana
1 cup chopped kale
1 ½ cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup coconut milk
6 ice cubes
1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a little more for garnish

Directions: Add ice to the blender and pulse for 5-10 seconds. Slice bananas and loosely chop the kale. Add all ingredients and pulse for 20 seconds. Pour into a glass and top with a few  blueberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Drink and enjoy!

Breakfast-is-ready!

If you didn’t plant kale but you’re now having kale FOMO, do not fret. You can plant this versatile crop anytime of year except right before and during the frost. Buy some plants from the garden center. I got mine from my favorite local garden shop, Lisena (12-5 Cross Bay Blvd, Broad Channel, NY 11693). Or try seeding directly into the soil (one inch deep). In two weeks,  thin the sprouts so the seedlings are spaced 8 inches apart. Water regularly but don’t overdo it. The kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are the size of your hand. Snap or cut the greens starting from the base. Leave the top intact so the plant can regenerate and continue to grow, extending the harvest.

For more on gardening and recipes visit the glorifiedtomato.com and follow on instagram (@theglorifiedtomato) for all things food, gardening and Rockaway summer related!

 

tagged in breakfast, garden, gardening

Time to Start Anew

My husband and I gut renovated our house five years ago. I documented the construction from start to finish here on the blog.  It was the biggest project I’ve ever been apart of. Mentally and physically it was so intense for the both of us. It feels like a dream now. I can’t believe we went through it all.

During the process of the rebuild, we accumulated a tremendous amount of tools, wood, paint, sinks, plaster, you name it. To put things in perspective, we had 4 sledge hammers, 10 shovels, maybe 50 screwdrivers, two table saws, four hanging fixtures and enough screws to build a whole new house. And that’s a small list of things compared to all the equipment. We could seriously open up a second-hand hardware store. The tools slowly made there way from the upstairs where we renovated the rentals first, to our apartment on the first floor, and ended up in the basement, essentially untouched for the past two years – now that we’ve got everything [almost] done.

Maggie and Or sorting through the mess

This past week, we had planned to finally  tackle the “hoarder situation” in the basement. Our friends Maggie and Or stayed with us for several days to lend a hand. What great friends we have! The situation was monumental and overwhelming. Having Maggie and Or to assist us in deciding what to throughout and what to keep was a huge help. It was easier for them to make the call, as they were detached from all the stuff.

While cleaning, I kept thinking of Marie Kondo, “Let’s spark joy through tidying”. And how I wasn’t feeling any joy. I was feeling complete chaos!

After a while though, I got into a groove and started  “thanking each object for the service it provided” and putting it into the contractor bag, or out front in the free pile. We were making progress finally.

While cleaning out under the porch, where most of the clutter lurked, we made a discovery, “Is that some kind of… fur?” Or said. It was, in fact, fur. The fur of a dead possum! We felt really bad, he looked so peaceful, despite being covered in a layer of dust and paint chips. I hoped the little guy didn’t get trapped down there, leading to his death, gesh.

And here lies Toxy

My husband had to scoop the animal up with a shovel. He was about to put it in a garbage bag but just couldn’t. We decided it was only proper to bury Toxy*.  The group of us went to the side of the house where Matt dug the grave. We said a few words and buried Toxy. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust. Maybe it was pure exhaustion from the long day or the bizarre experience of finding the dead possum, but we all started laughing uncontrollably.

The cleaned out space is bigger than we remember now that we can actually walk through

We still have a little more cleaning and organizing to go but the worst of it is over. We couldn’t have done it without our dear friends Maggie and Or who helped us dig out of the basement trenches, making room for a new chapter of who knows what!

*Toxy, named  after what looked like toxic dust and paint covering his adorable corpse.

Roller skating is really hard.

I’ve wanted to buy a pair of skates since my roller skating birthday party, over two Rockaway summers ago. I would go down the “rabbit hole” of online shopping, trying to find the best quality, and style (style being top priority) for the best price. I’d save searches but in the end, never purchased a pair.

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This year, I went online and just bought whatever!

I had the vision of my maiden voyage. I’d gracefully glide along the boardwalk passing all my favorite spots – La Fruteria were my friends would admire my moves. I’d twirl on the dance floor at Low Tide with my ladies, then to Rippers for a beach juice or two. Hungry from all the roller skating, I’d ride up to 106th for a delicious Arepa – well deserved. My hair would be blowing in the wind. My skin sun-kissed.  I’d have my daisy dukes on, and white striped socks, just like Farrah Fawcett. Beach-goers would be giving me the thumbs up, as I stylishly zoomed by.

Boy was I delusional. Roller skating is really hard. And I’m pushing 40, what was I thinking?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The reality unfolded like this: The package arrived just as my husband and I were heading to Rockaway Beach Bakery for our late morning coffee. I couldn’t resist trying on my new skates. I put them on and road the four very bumpy streets to Tracy’s, clenching Matt’s arm the whole way. He was so pissed, “This is absurd, you’re going to hurt yourself.” My husband went back to the house to get my flip flops for the way home,  so I didn’t break my neck.

After that mishap I was determined to improve. My first ride on the boardwalk was during Rockstock Festival. I was shaky, clinging to the handrail on the boardwalk. The picture was not even close to my Farrah Fawcett fantasy. But my friends and other Rockaway folks at the festival were cheering me on. All positive vibes.

My first ride on the Boardwalk During RockStock Festival

Since then, I’ve been skating about three times a week, each time improving. A few of my friends have expressed interest in joining me and we’re even creating a Rockaway roller skating girl gang! Riptide Rollers? The best spot to practice is the hockey rink on 108th. I was flying! I even did a turn and almost went backwards. The boardwalk is a little bumpy. The bike path linear to the boardwalk is smoother but that’s less fun, I can’t “strut my stuff” down there.

Summer is here and it’s the perfect time to roller skate on the catwalk — I mean boardwalk! If you want to join our roller skating gang, email me (pdigioia[at]rockawave.com). We’re just starting to organize. All are welcome (even inline-ers, lol!)

roller gang

Our first roller-gang meeting. (Left to Right) Olga Krieger, Erin Silvers, columnist of Zingara Van Adventures, Paula DiGioia. Bethany Scott and Melissa Draugsvold roller-gang members absent from photo. Photo by Sasha Okshteyn.jpg

tagged in exercise, summer

Garden Friend, or Foe?

A few weeks back, my co-worker Mark Hogan told me he crushed a snail in his garden by mistake. We both felt bad for it. (Ugh… that crunching sound.)  Since then, I’ve noticed tons of snails in my own garden. Now I’m so worried about stepping on them when I’m weeding. But then I thought, how harmful are all these snails?

Land snails (terrestrial molluscs) are herbivores mostly. They eat a range of host plants – fruit trees, vegetables, roses, and other flowers. Ok, so this doesn’t sound good. They also feed on rotting organic waste and dead animals like worms, bugs and even other snails.

common land snail

In turn, land snails are food for many small wildlife such as squirrels, birds, mice, beetles, flies and centipedes. Snails are slow moving and low on the food chain. They’re an easy source of protein for many, including us.

After a bunch of reading on the garden-verse, I came to this conclusion: if you have an ecological balance in your garden and you don’t see plant damage, there’s no need to get rid of the snails. Let nature run its course. But if you do see troubled vegetation and know snails are the cause, then you need pest control. There are effective natural measures – laying down grit or ash around plants or a beer trap are common organic ways to tackle gastropod infestation.

We had a new visitor to the garden last week. Matt and I were out at dusk and noticed a bizarre little thing swarming around the walkers low plants (which by the way, are in full bloom and looking gorgeous!). Was this creature a friend or foe of the garden?

Matt thought it was a hummingbird but I said it was too small to be a bird. I thought it was some type of wasp or hornet – it has two bright stripes on it’s back which seemed “bee-like”.  Matt said it’s head was too flat for a bee and thought maybe it was a moth … we googled.

To our surprise we were both kind of right!  The mystery garden bug is a Hummingbird Moth, specifically, a Nessus Sphinx.  It moves and sounds just like a hummingbird and sips nectar with its long thin “tongue” but it is in fact a moth. The insects tail fans-out and appears like birds feathers. The moth is large, 1 1/2 inches with two stripes meant to mimic a wasp. It’s a defense display.  It’s as if a hummingbird, wasp and moth fell into a vat of Ghostbuster ectoplasm and emerged as a trihybrid!

Nessus sphinx photo credit wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Hummingbird Moths are pollinators, therefore a friend of the garden. But there’s a twist! The larvae of this bizarre bug is the hornworm and any gardener knows they are a foe of the garden. There are many hornworms that feast on host plant before metamorphosis, most noted is the tomato hornworm (very bad.) But Nessus Sphinxs’ larvae live and  feast on cherry and cayenne pepper plants, honeysuckle and hawthorn. I’ve definitely seen the latter two in Rockaway.

This moth was a fun surprise to see and I’m hoping this year as the garden expands I’ll discover more garden creatures, friend or foe.