Make your own paradise

A few years ago, while my wife and I were on vacation in Hawaii, we happened upon a beautiful little produce stand that sold smoothies made with organic fruit grown on-site (Laulima Farms in Hana, Maui). We spent some time hanging out there, talking to the people who worked on the farm and to the locals who stopped by.

I really fell in love with the place. I was enamored with the fact that they grew their own food, and that it was organic; that they made it fresh to-order for anyone who stopped by; in a blender powered by a bicycle! And on and on.

Over the years I’ve thought about that place and how fortunate those people were to be a part of it. Eventually I decided that instead of being envious of how good they had it, I would do whatever I could to make my home my own personal paradise.

I realized that back on that island farm, the fruit didn’t magically appear. The bamboo produce stand with hand-painted signs didn’t either. Ditto for the bike-powered blender. Those things took time and effort to plan, grow, build and refine.

So we started building our own paradise with small luxuries; a small bed for herbs in our back yard. A potted basil plant in the kitchen. Having fresh herbs literally footsteps away from your food prep area is great! It makes me smile every time I snip a handful of herbs for a meal or gently touch the leaves just to release their fresh fragrance.

Every year we improve upon our paradise plan, or attempt to and learn from our setbacks. The fruits of our labor are here to greet us every day. It’s nice to think about it that way instead of always wishing I were a long flight and a hemisphere away from my every day life.

Tomato Soup Recipe

Ingredients

6 medium tomatos (you can use canned as well). Note: I’m skipping the step of de-skinning the tomatoes because the I’m eventually going add them to our blender which will make skins and seeds smooth.
extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
2 stalks of celery, chopped. Note: I’m only rough chopping everything because . Since these ingredients will end up being made smooth, I’m saving time on the cutting board by not dicing/mincing.
2 or 3 carrots, chopped.
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, skinned and chopped
1.5 cups of chicken broth or bullion. My wife made some chicken curry soup with root vegetables the day before I executed this recipe, so I was lucky to have “real” broth.
1 handful fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half (optional; we had some in the fridge so I threw it in)

Nice to have

Sourdough bread. With crispy, crunchy crust. I want some right now.

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Quarter the tomatoes and place them on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Place them in the oven to roast for 15 to 20 minutes.

In the meantime, heat up some olive oil in a saucepan and throw in the chopped celery, carrots, onion and garlic. Cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until the carrots are soft.

Add the roasted tomatoes, chicken broth and butter. Simmer for another 20 minutes.

Spoon the ingredients from your saucepan into a food processor container. You will have to do it in two rounds because there won’t be enough room in your bin for everything at once. Fill the food processor container to about halfway full and run it on high until the soup looks smooth.

Pour the pureed batch into a saucepan and add the remaining chunky ingredients to the blender bin. Add the handful of fresh basil leaves and creme to the bin and puree it all together.

Vegetables on deck for chopping
We like to keep potted basil on the windowsill so it's always handy.
Quartered tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil are ready for the oven.
Softening up the vegetables while the tomatoes roast in the oven.
Added roasted tomatoes from the oven to the saucepan to simmer.
This is what it looks like after everything has been pureed together in the Vitamix blender. Ready for a sprinkle of ground pepper and a slice of sourdough bread!

Watermelon Juice


We have a small family, so the general life cycle of a harvested watermelon from that garden has been: We eat half of it on the same day it is picked, store the rest in the fridge & it occupies valuable casserole-sized space for an eternity.

Also, every time I eat one I think: If only I could skip the seed picking and just drink the juice. Love the juice!

The combination of lack of storage space, hatred of waste and love of the idea of drinking watermelon juice gave me the motivation I needed to try an experiment.

We had recently received our new Vitamix blender. I decided to see if it was capable of crushing up all the watermelon seeds to a point that they were ‘drinkable’. It did.

The seeds gave the juice a slight bitter taste, but the overall taste was great. Our four year old also enjoyed it enough to ask for a second glass.

Watermelon Seeds

Before making it, I did some quick research to make sure that the seeds weren’t harmful and was happy to find that they are in fact nutritive. Watermelon seeds contain Zinc, an anti-oxidant which may protect against accelerated aging, and are high in protien (~30%). According to the USDA, there are 28.3 g of protein in 100 g of dried watermelon seeds. That’s amounts to around 1 cup of kernels (dried).

In some African and Asian cultures they are consumed as a snack.

How to make watermelon juice

What you’ll need

  • 1/2 small Watermelon. Makes about 30 ounces, almost 4 servings.
  • Knife
  • Blender
  • Cheesecloth (to strain out the seeds if you don’t have a “superblender” like a Vitamix that can pulverize them)

Of course you could also grow or buy the seedless variety of watermelon.

Instructions

  • Halve a small watermelon and drop chunks of it, minus the rind, into the bin.
  • Put the lid on (duh).
  • Start the blender in Variable mode, low speed.
  • Slowly turn the speed dial up to max (10).
  • Flip the switch from Variable to High.
  • Let it run for a 1 minute, 30 seconds to give it time to atomize the seeds.
  • Pour over ice, or blend ice in with it.

Enjoy!

Night Running

The days are getting shorter, so my evening runs are getting darker each time. We live in the country, there are no street lights along my running route. In this area, one must rely on retina-rods and moonlight.

Last night as I was running along the side of the empty road, I heard voices ahead of me. My eyes focused on a gray blob about twenty yards ahead. I continued to  jog towards it, expecting people to eventually materialize.

A smaller shape broke off from the main blob and sped towards me. Some kind of animal. A big dog. It ran directly at me, jumped up, and went for my face. I used my forearm to block it. I staggered sideways into the ditch by the side of the road, tripped and landed in the grass. Big dog licked my neck.

I was was disoriented. It was all darkness, fur and licks. Now people were yelling close to me. The owners. They pulled the dog off; a big, friendly Golden Retriever. I got up, we exchanged “Sorry” and “I’m Oks” and “hahahas” and continued on our paths in opposite directions.

The moral of the story is this: If you have a plan, as I have since I was 7 years old, for what you will do when you get attacked by a dog; it probably won’t work.