You want to be healthy? Try gardening.

I know this is a bold statement, but growing your own food actually makes you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally healthier. More alive. Fulfilled. And grounded. I promise I am not making this up.

We live in a time and place where everyone is BUSY. There is so much noise in our lives. There is enough work to always be connected, lots of social media to be glued to your phone all day every day, and then there is the rest of our lives. It can get really congested super fast, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, empty, and exhausted.

I used to commute every day on the bus to my 9-5 downtown. I would immediately connect on my phone when I got on the bus, spend all day in meetings, attempting to answer emails while sitting in them, and then reconnect on my bus ride home. By the time I entered the house, I had been inundated with screens, lots of data – some important, some that just filled my brain with too much white noise, and I hadn’t spent a minute just “being present” or taking in my surroundings. I was tired and felt disconnected from my real life.

Everyone talks about being present and living in the now. Spending hours “pinning” inspirational quotes about being more creative, working less, getting healthier, living life to the fullest, and taking chances. I am definitely that person. I could pin as many inspirational posts as I wanted to, but it wasn’t until I actually stepped away from the noise that I truly started to become more creative, get healthier, and felt like I was really living, all by taking the chance and time to grow my own food. Get my hands dirty.  

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Suddenly I was making time before and after work to get outside, take in the fresh air, and root myself in the earth. Believe it or not, this extra time each day pulling weeds, picking berries, cutting greens for my lunch salad, grabbing a few zucchinis to share with co-workers, filled my mind with joy, made me think more creatively, and actually helped me to be a healthier person physically and mentally. I don’t have my phone with me when I am in the garden. I am completely and totally present in the moment. Even better, I actually see results from my hard work. 

When you grow food, you think in an entirely new way about food. For years I struggled with food and my body. Always trying new diets and never loving the way I looked. When I started growing food, watching it from seed to sprout, harvesting it and making something delicious with it, I viewed it as nourishing, wholesome, and literally felt better in my body after eating it. Before I knew it, I was snacking on green beans, and carrots, and savoring fresh raspberries for dessert (with ice cream of course). I began to love cooking, which triggered a whole new hobby. And now, for the first time, I feel so mentally healthy in my relationship with food and truly appreciate and value my body. I am stronger from working in the garden and I am happy because I give my body good fuel to have more energy and good health for myself and my family. 

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I know I am making all of this sound really easy. The cool thing, it is. There are always excuses – I don’t have a yard, I don’t have a green thumb, I don’t have space. Good news – you don’t have to have any of those things to grow something. Yes, you do need sun and water. So if you have those two things, then buy a container and fill it with a few seeds of your favorite vegetable or herb. Grab another one for fresh flowers. Start here. If you need help, ask me or a friend. And for all you parents, there is nothing cooler than seeing your kids learn through the garden – touching, tasting, and even growing their own veggies, but that is a post for another day.

So take a small chance and try to grow something. I promise you will feel more present, happier, more inspired to cook and eat real, good food, and a little more rooted in the earth you live on. Take a break from the noise, and enjoy the peaceful moments of living outside. Remember to stop and smell the roses, literally.

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How to use zucchini

It is that time of year and the zucchini is flowing. Do you have a basket full of this bumper crop? Tired of the same old zucchini bread? I think it is time for some inspiration!

Check out my top 3 zucchini recipes, made easy.

#1 Zucchini Ribbons with Almond Pesto from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

This is a new family favorite – delish and takes 10 minutes to make. No cooking required. Plus, there is a chance you have all these ingredients sitting in your kitchen right now. DSC_0019

Ingredients
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and cooled – I just bought roasted almonds
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed – I added a few more
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed (about 4 medium, thin and longer if you can find them) – I just used a 10″ zucchini
*I added tomatoes because I have a bunch ready to harvest!

Directions 
Grind almonds, Parmesan, garlic and red pepper flakes in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Add the lemon juice, salt and olive oil and pulse a few times until incorporated.

Peel the zucchini with a vegetable peeler and place zucchini ribbons in the dressing-coated bowl. Toss the ribbons gently (your hands work best) attempting to coat the zucchini as evenly as possible. Serve at room temperature.

#2 Zucchini + Egg Muffins from the Simply Real Health Cookbook 

Perfect for entertaining or grabbing breakfast while you run out the door! A great dose of protein and veggies. And once again, you may already have all these ingredients in your kitchen. DSC_0019

Ingredients
10 organic cage-free eggs
1 zucchini, grated or shredded with excess moisture squeezed out (use a paper towel)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup goat cheese, grated parmesan, or other artisan cheese of your choice (optional)
1 tablespoon freshly chopped herbs – I used chives, basil, and parsley straight from the backyard
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with baking cups or grease the pan.

In a bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Pour batter into muffin tins and bake until cooked through for approximately 20 minutes. Broil for the last minute to get a nice brown crust.

#3 Greek Yogurt Zucchini Bread from Sally’s Baking Addiction

I know, I said “the same old zucchini bread recipe”, BUT this is definitely NOT the same old zucchini bread recipe.

It is flavorful (can anyone say orange zest?), moist (greek yogurt to the rescue), and healthy (at least I feel no shame enjoying a couple of slices of this deliciousness).

Check out the recipe here.

A few notes:

  • I highly recommend adding the walnuts and raisins. If you have a sweet tooth, add dark chocolate chips.
  • I did not have agave on hand, so I used 1/2 cup sugar.
  • I used coconut oil and it was perfect.
  • Definitely add the orange zest and don’t be afraid to pile it on.
  • I baked two loaves for 40 minutes on convection bake and they turned out just right.

Go get those zukes out of the garden or gladly accept one offered to you and enjoy every bite.

Extra! Just before sitting down to write this blog post, a friend sent me an email with a bunch of tips and ideas for using zucchini. I guess this is top of mind for everyone?! Check out these helpful articles:

How to turn 11 Zucchini into a Week of Meals 
Put That Cucumber Down – Pickle This Instead 
The Most Flavorful Zucchini is Also the Simplest Make-Ahead Side 

What are you making with your zukes?