Berry Love

Let’s just get one thing straight. I LOVE BERRIES. SO MUCH. More than any 22 year old girl should. In fact, I was supposed to go strawberry picking¬† for the first day of the season yesterday morning with my mom, but she forgot she had a hair appointment and canceled on me. I didn’t speak to her until today.. and I only released the silent treatment because it’s Mother’s Day.

Back to berries – they are my favorite. So with the advent of summer, I looooove celebrating them by putting them in a delish smoothie. However, the Fresh Girl wouldn’t be fresh if she didn’t have some way to spice a boring old smoothie up. I hinted at this in my previous guide for hiding your vegetables, but here’s a great recipe below (sorry – you’ll have to do a little culinary experimentation of your own… I don’t really measure!):

  • a hefty handful each of any kind of berries you have in the house – my favorite combo is blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
  • half of a (very) ripe banana – the more ripe, the stronger the flavor
  • a scoop of plain or vanilla yogurt – regular or Greek; Greek will pack more protein with usually less sugar (read your labels)
  • a hefty splash of milk – any kind you like; I usually use skim
  • a BIG handful of spinach – yes, you read that correctly! Trust me, you will NOT taste it. AT ALL. The worst that happens is that your finished smoothie may have an undertone of green. If you think you have a “big” handful, grab another – it’s not enough.
  • a good scoop of ice – this is a smoothie after all!
  • optional, but highly recommended: 1 scoop of protein powder

Blend on high, pulsing if necessary to un-stick the ice for at the very least 30 seconds.. pour in a tall glass (or as Sugar does, drink it straight from the blender) and stick a straw in it. Best if served after a tough morning workout. Enjoy!

If you have but 5 minutes…

…take this tiny chunk of time to check out whatsbeautiful.ua.com. Just to be up front, it’s geared towards ladies (sorry guys).. and it could be that kick in the pants you (and your fitness regimen) so desperately need with summer right around the corner. Seriously – go to the link and input a goal. Even if you don’t stick with the site, your goal will now exist at least in the back of your mind!

Enjoy and stay fresh!

In Honor of Earth Day…

…I’m going to temporarily kill the variety of thefreshgirl and talk about gardening.. again. In honor of today (Earth Day 2012), here’s a green idea to take and turn into your own as we move forward to the summer months. We all know that with summer comes summer BBQs and outdoor partaaays. Why be that lame person who shows up with a crappy bottle of wine or a lame-o bag of potato chips as your hostess gift or contribution to the party? 10 minutes of pre-planning right now can kick that old habit and have you looking like the put-together, organized pro that you are. Read on:

Take 10 minutes next weekend and plant some herbs.. a large amount of one kind of herb will do. This will require you to first obtain a pack of seeds at any local garden store – you can even find a good selection at your local Target. Stop rolling your eyes because you don’t want to go find/buy some seeds… you can get a pack when you are already at Target buying $60 worth of stuff that you don’t need. While you’re there, pick up a pack of inexpensive small planters..

Armed with your your little seeds that cost a buck or two a pack, find a good spot in your yard or fill one of your new planters with dirt. You can either read the planting directions on the back, or plant as I do: lazily. I find that you can generally throw a bunch of seeds in a pot and cover with dirt; Mother Nature handles the rest as long as you keep an eye on the watering.

Fast forward just a few weeks. It is now the end of May. You are invited to your first BBQ! You are so popular, you! You congratulate yourself on planting a bunch of _______ (insert the herb you planted here) as you’ve realized you do NOT have to run to the liquor store to spend $7.99 on a cheap bottle of wine that will probably taste like pee anyways.

Here’s what you do: pick some of the herb that you planted and make something super simple out of it. Did you plant cilantro? Make guacamole to bring with tortilla chips. Basil? Make a pesto dip and serve with sliced french bread or crackers. Rosemary? Make rosemary bread (it’s not as scary as it sounds) and slice into hearty but finger-friendly pieces to serve with olive oil flavored with some salt, pepper, and garlic. Dill? Make homemade potato salad. Make whatever you want! But do incorporate your herb because you’re going to do one final QUICK step to wow the pants off your party people. Take 5 minutes to transplant a few stalks of the herb into a different small pot. Give it to your host. They will be so surprised. And you, friend, will look so thoughtful, green, and… you guessed it – fresh!

The Spinach Diaries

In taking one giant step towards freshness, I have successfully grown my own spinach (and cilantro). I didn’t do much more than water it every few days for about 6 weeks and at first it was pretty teeny..

baby spinach

baby spinach

But then things started to get wild..

not-so-baby spinach

not-so-baby spinach

.. and all I had to do was water and watch. Just to point out that basic gardening can be done by almost anyone, you can clearly see that one of my pots has very orderly spinach, planted according to the directions, yet the other.. well, I became bored with gardening and really just threw all the seeds in and covered them with dirt. The funny thing is.. the one I was lazy with did much better than the first one. Yesterday morning I came in from a run and proceeded to pick the biggest leaves for a fresh spinach omelet..

harvest day

harvest day

..and it was seriously delicious. I believe my exact words were: “Oh my gosh.. this tastes like candy”. Not to leave the cilantro out of the loop, here’s a quick shot with its keeper, Mr. Owl:

mr owl

mr owl and the cilantro

Yum! And to think that one pack of seeds cost less than a bag of spinach or a bunch of cilantro from the grocery store. Consider taking 10 minutes out of your day to plant something to enjoy during the warm months ahead… basil, rosemary, parsley, and most other herbs are easy and can then become staple herbs for your meals. Tomatoes and other vegetables require a little more of a watchful eye, but are still pretty simple. Good luck and stay fresh!

HidingYourVeggies101

I LOVE VEGETABLES. I do. It’s weird really.. I would rather eat broccoli than ice cream most nights (but *disclaimer* not every night). I mean, I’m growing spinach and I am thrilled every time I check on its progress. Weird, right? But enough about me. Some of us were not raised quite so Amish in our childhood that we enjoy eating vegetables, so here’s a great tip on incorporating them into your diet: find ways to hide them!

Now, to be clear, I do not mean “hide them in the depths of your freezer until freezer burn sets in and you can toss them” or “hide them in your dog’s food bowl”. And, even if you do like veggies like moi, you can surely use more in your everyday meals – I know I can. The following tips I give for you to use as your own or to use as a jumping off point in a step towards eating better and eating fresh:

  • Make some noodles according to the package directions – for an extra oomph, try any brand of tricolor rotini or my personal favorite Trader Joe’s Organic Vegetable Radiatore (about 2 bucks for a 12 oz bag). During the last 2-3 minutes of cook time, pour in some frozen peas. They’ll cook right up by the time your pasta is done. In the event of multitasking gone wrong and you miss your 2-3 minute window of opportunity (this maaaay have happened to me recently), you can pour the peas straight into the empty colander before you strain the pasta and it will cook while the pasta is cooling off. Add some olive oil/tiny bit of sea salt and/or parm cheese to taste and you now have a serving of veggies in an otherwise carb-loaded and bland dinner. YUM.
  • I can’t believe I am even acknowledging this, but I understand that some people actually buy those blue boxes of mac and cheese in the grocery store. While the sight of the box makes me gag because the cheese is BEYOND FAKE AND UNNATURAL, it seems that this is especially popular among kids from my generation (i.e. the poor college kid or post-college kid type). If there is one thing I can get you to do, it is to try hiding frozen peas or even carrots (HECK THEY’RE THE SAME COLOR AS THE FAKE CHEESE) in your mac and cheese. I highly doubt you will be able to even taste the vegetables with the cheese covering them.
  • Make a sexy salad.¬† Seriously – get creative! I put grapefruit and avocado in my salad the other night. When you’re so focused on the crazy flavors in your salad that you’re not used to (read: NOT your everyday tomato and cucumber), you hardly notice the leafy greens that make up the foundation of your salad and help to fill you up.
  • Grill it out. C’mon, doesn’t everything taste better on the grill? With summer right around the corner, chop up some in-season vegetables, create a foil tent, seal it shut, and throw it on the grill. One of my favorite combos is onion, summer squash, and tomato with a little bit of Italian marinade or fresh herbs from the garden with olive oil. It will taste infinitely better than any frozen package of vegetables that you nuke in the microwave for 4-5 minutes and end up putting in the dog’s food bowl anyways.
  • Hide spinach in your smoothies. YOU CAN’T TASTE IT and people will think you’re insanely healthy/cool because your post-workout or morning breakfast smoothie is slightly green in color. It’s not gross. It’s pretty.
  • Like grilled cheese? You can hide spinach in that, too. I put a lot in mine because I happen to love spinach, but you can put it as little or as much as you like. My grilled cheese go to? Whole wheat Tuscan pane from TJs (about 2-3 bucks a loaf), mozzarella cheese from TJs (about 3-4 bucks a ball), and spinach (1-2 bucks for a bag – or grow it in your yard for FREE). It’s a grown up grilled cheese and it’s freakin delicious.

This is just a brief list from my vast arsenal.. try these out as you like and please feel free to share any that work for you or your family. thefreshgirl is always looking for fresh ideas on being fresh!

Freshening Up Old Sheets… into New Curtains

I’ve been meaning for weeks, no months, to get around to making my boyfriend “Sugar” – the nickname his college lacrosse team gave him – some curtains for his bedroom. I knew it was at least possible, since my mom has made a lot of the curtains throughout our house and I’m not embarrassed by them or anything. The only catch was that I just didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on some nice fabric when I didn’t know if my sewing skills still existed from 7th grade Home-Ec class ohhh roughly 10 years ago…

Well, I learned my cheapness frugality from my mother, who suggested using some old sheets as test curtains. “Well, that’s an awesome idea!!”, I thought to myself. After all, I had tons of old sheets from college, since for some reason I found it necessary to buy a new color every year. I thought the only slight difficulty would be the fabric type – jersey (aka T-shirt material). Super comfy, but super stretchy and I wasn’t sure how my shears and the sewing machine would like that. I figured to make it a little sturdier and frankly better looking, I’d do 2 ply with green and creme. Well, if you read my previous blog, you would know that with me… it always turns into a little more than it needs to be…

Step 1: Find sheets. Splendid! I’ve found a brown sheet, green sheet, and cream-colored sheet. Sugar hates green so that’s out.. but wait, oh crap – this brown sheet is fitted. Green it is! I’ll just hide it with the cream-colored one over top.. he’ll neeeever know..

Step 2: Measure (twice) and cut (once). I already knew my measurements and planned the cut so that the big hem of the sheet would hang at the bottom of my curtain. No need to fix or hem the bottom because it’s already done. Since the green would be the bottom layer of my curtain, I cut the cream-colored sheet about 2 inches shorter so that the green would show through with a nice layering effect.

Step 3: Spend 10 minutes remembering how to insert the bobbin correctly. Spend another 5 minutes trying to remember the correct path of the thread through the 810249 slots, holes, and turns of the sewing machine. Spend 5 more minutes trying to get the machine to run, then realize you did not turn it on. Proceed to sew the veeeery top of the sheets together (bad sides together), then invert and press with an iron to get a nice even top edge.

Step 4: Wonder why it has taken 2 hours to sew one straight line. Become slightly annoyed at how taxing measuring and pinning is.

Step 5: I decide to leave 1.5 inches of space between the top hem and the top line of the space where the curtain rod would go through – with the expectation that there would be some lovely ruffling going on once it’s up. Siiiigh, a tiresome decision, as I had to then measure 1.5 inches from the top hem all the way across (parallel to the top edge of the curtain) then pin, then sew.

pin pin pin

Step 6: Sew another straight line parallel to the top hem/parallel to my second line of stitches to close off the bottom of the space where the curtain rod would go. I chose 1.5 inches.. it seemed like a pretty standard amount of space for a curtain rod to fit through, based off of going through my house measuring other curtains with my purple plastic ruler from the 3rd grade.

sew sew sew some more

Step 7: Finally done! I admire my handiwork for quite some time. 3 long rows of stitching and 3 hours later is advanced work (not). I am vair crafty and used green thread for my top thread and white for the bobbin. I planned my sewing so that the green thread would show on the cream fabric and the white thread on the green sheet, making for some rather chic stitches.

Making your own curtains is seriously easy and seriously fresh. I would be the first to tell you that sewing is not one of my great talents in life.. but if you find some sheets that you aren’t using anymore, you can create something fully functional in just one afternoon. The only expense would be finding a curtain rod but, lucky for Sugar, I had one of those from college too that I handed over with the curtains later that evening. This project literally cost me $0 and just a few hours of my time.. how fresh is that?

From Frosh to Fresh

Welcome to thefreshgirl – the humble beginnings of my journey of delving into the fresh life. With a steady job finally under my belt, my last blog “B.S. – bachelor of science or bullsh*t?” just stopped working for me. Or I stopped working for it.. or, well, both really. With a renewed focus on all things fresh – food, exercise, baking, DIY projects… – I’ll be starting over. So, in the style of one of my favorite Amanda-Bynes-guilty-pleasure movies, welcome WELCOME to thefreshgirl!! May you enjoy reading about my journey that will definitely involve me making fun of myself as I learn to love and appreciate Mother Nature for all she’s worth.