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Spicing it up

Friday, April 26, 2013

Variety is the spice of life, as they say, so that is what you're getting in this blog...a little bit of this & that.

My spice grinder (aka repurposed coffee grinder) works here with the adapter/converter, which is a very good thing. I like to mix up my own spice blends and spent an afternoon recently grinding away. I needed to replenish my chili and Italian seasonings, mixed up some pumpkin pie spice (note to self, skip the all spice next time), created the ground versions of some herbs and spices (garlic, cumin, nutmeg, ginger). And now that it is spring I am planting my herb & veggie "garden" again, although everything has to be in pots. It's a good thing too since I am running out of some of my dried herbs and need to replenish.

Did you know that when you dry your own herbs they last longer than the store bought? At least it seems that way to me. Mine still have a good smell and flavor which I don't remember ever having from store bought before I started growing my own.

I'm excited this year, I found cumin seeds at the store so I can try to grow my own. With some veggies/herbs there is a lot more variety here than in SE Michigan...there were over a dozen varieties of beets for example. And in other things...nothing, or next to it. A single or very few varieties of eggplant and pumpkin and corn; no tomatillos, no watermelon, no catnip. I will be home in the US in June so I will have to pick up some seed packets to bring back with me.

A few of my spices, most of which I grew myself:

I love these little spice jars, they have the magnets on the bottom so I can keep them out and always see how much I have. I need more of them, I have again as many spices stored on a shelf and would prefer to have them out where I can get at them easier.

My search for steel cut oats has ended. I find regular oatmeal back when I first moved here. There are several varieties of the "flacons" for various types of grains. They are like the old fashioned oats and take a while to cook, and even more "old fashioned" than we are used to having grown up on Quaker. They are kind of chewy.

But I haven't been able to find steel cut oats anywhere so I have been having my son mail them to me which is much too expensive to do long term. Finally last month I went into the organic food store and found "gruaus d'avoine"...whole grains of oats. Just like steel cut oats before they are steel cut.

So I run them through my spice grinder and voila! My own steel cut oats! Sort of. Good enough for me anyway.

AND...I figured out how to make them in the slow cooker. The first few times I tried I cooked them overnight on low but they would burn on the sides and stick to the crock pot and the top would be all crusty...yuck. I'd lose at least a third of whatever I made. Finally, with the new crock pot I bought here, I tried just leaving it on the "warm" setting instead...and it worked beautifully. Life is good. Now if I could only find my White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter here too...

I started training in karate again a few weeks ago. My style is not taught here, the class I've been going to is in Shotokan. It is similar enough to Tang Soo Do that I recognize many of the techniques, they are just executed differently. Which is weird, especially since the class is (of course) in French, so I end up staring a lot and am generally a beat or two behind everyone else. Several people from work attend this particular school, and the class is small, so I will continue with it for a while to see if I want to stick with this style. I've always wanted to learn kung fu, which is also available here, but mostly so I could legitimately use an old on-line id bestowed by my kids when they were small, "kungfumomma".
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I haven't run in the last month, waiting for the knee twinges to go away. I think this weekend I am ready to try a run and see how it goes. I want to get back to running the HMs. I am changing one of my goals to move up a moon level as a Half Fanatic and I want to improve my "speed", although even my fastest is still pretty darn slow.

Over Christmas I read the book Running for Women. It had some good advice for exercises, which is why I'm keeping it for now, but other than that I had some issues with the book. There were several perfect gems like..."Muscle weighs more than fat"...ummm, a pound is a pound the last time I checked. Or "Runners should not do yoga because they will become too flexible to run well"...what? Or "Always wear sunglasses so you won't get wrinkles"...OK, sunglasses yes, but giving wrinkle avoidance as the reason?

And my biggest gripe is that all the women profiled in the book, included the author, spent time bemoaning their fate in growing older and how it slowed them down to previously unimaginable the slowest of them running a 10 minute mile.

Poor women. So sorry, but if I was a new runner reading this book I would be unimaginably discouraged because these women were all so fast and now suffering the horrid fate of...still running a hell of a lot faster than me. So not motivating.

Good thing I am not a new runner and only compare myself to myself.

Back to the garden. I can't dig in the ground here so my garden will be all in pots this year. I planted all my seeds 2 weeks ago, and then replanted them this week because the wind blew over my greenhouse rack. I have all the usuals...tomato, eggplant, varieties of peppers, zuccini, onions, chives, garlic, lettuce, spinach, lots of herbs, papaya and pomegranate (gotta try something new!) and more than I am not remembering right now. I have catnip & tomatillo seeds ordered since they are not available here in France and I hope to be able to still get peanuts when I go home in June.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    What a lovely bit of this and that in your blog! I need to try steel cut oats in the slow cooker. I use it for everything else!

    I envy your gardening skills and your super organized spice "rack"

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    1789 days ago
  • AWOOD1973
    Sounds like you are enjoying life, in all aspects!! Way to go!
    Love the spice grinding that you are doing, and those jars are too cool!!!
    1790 days ago
    1790 days ago
    Does Customs let you bring in foreign seeds?
    1791 days ago
    Good to hear an update! Cool shoes about doing your own spice grinding.

    I did shotokan karate many, many moons ago. I really liked it. The emphasis is on staying very low to the ground and punch, one kick and end it! Not like Tae-Kwon Do's big high flying kicks or kung-fu's spinning sweeps and turns....either way, enjoy the different techniques and learn from them what you can grasshopper!
    1791 days ago
  • FROSTY99
    That is quite a garden you are growing in pots. Hope the 2nd time is a charm!!
    My DH likes to grow different things in pots-we now have a 20 ft tall avocado tree he started in a pot!! Also a lemon and a loquat tree are doing well - the loquat is going to have to go though, I don't want the mess. Looking forward to the lemons and avocados.
    1791 days ago
    If we ever get spring around here, I'll be planting my herb; love 'em!

    Just make sure that the spices you are storing outside of the cupboard are kept away from heat and light. Those two situations will effectively shorten the shelf live of your prized blends!

    1792 days ago
  • TANYA602
    You've inspired me to get more involved with the decisions about what goes into our garden - I usually leave it to DH. But herbs could be a whole new adventure! I'm laughing at the running book - I'm reading one on weight lifting for women. According to that book, I can expect to put on weight due to the muscles I build. aagh! I'm also a believer that a pound is a pound. What an argument that I can't even begin to wrap my head around! Should I be wearing sunglasses while I lift to avoid wrinkles?!
    Have a great weekend!
    1792 days ago
    where ifn the world did you get the spice jars .... they are so cool.
    1792 days ago
    This is very interesting to me since we've begun growing spices indoors. So far I have a bumper crop of basil, some oregano and parsley. The plants are outgrowing their pots and seed pods have formed so I should investigate drying them.

    Following the trail I see a home & garden team in your list. I think I should investigate that as DH & I get serious about organic gardening.
    1792 days ago
    Great blog! Love the spice jar idea, love that you grow so much of your own and mix so much of your own too.

    The comments about the running book are spot on. I have tried to read several marathon books, but they are mostly geared to people who are already super human gazelles, not actual/recreational runners. I did find one called something like "the non-runners marathon trainer" which was a bit more realistic for the rest of humanity.

    1792 days ago
    1792 days ago
    They're called oat groats up here (Canada), and I LOOOOVE them, eat them all the time. You can cook them whole, same way you would the steel cut except with a bit more water, they tend to kind of split open as they absorb--firm texture and less slimey than cut oats. :)
    1792 days ago
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