The Spring foraging season is in full swing and that can only mean one thing: ramps are here! I have also been foraging nettles, wintercress, Virginia water leaf, wild mint, violets, and dandelion greens, but ramps hold a special place in my kitchen and my heart. This wild onion, that tastes like a strong onion-garlic hybrid and looks like a big-leafed scallion, is available for foraging for just a short period of time in the Spring. Ramp season, then, is a celebration of this season and creates an opportunity for flavors that can only happen during this time of year. If you are unsure about plant identification, where to find ramps, or how to ethically harvest them, start by reading this to learn more before you forage. In addition to finding ramps in the wild, some stores, such as health-food stores, are carrying fresh ramps in the produce section. If you are in the city or aren't ready to forage on your own, this may be an option instead. For either of the recipes, feel free to sub in a few cloves of garlic for the ramps if you just can't seem to find any.
Each season, we (ethically) harvest a few bunches to use in various dishes, such as pesto, chimichurri, kraut, kim chi, frittatas, and just about anything that lends itself to a pop of allium-scented goodness. They are also delicious mixed into hummus, salad dressings, and even mayo for a perfect dipping sauce or sandwich spread.
This year, I experimented with two new sauces where I could incorporate ramps: Zhoug and Mint Chutney. Zhoug is a Middle Eastern green sauce, sort of their version of a chimichurri, that is made with lots of fresh herbs and aromatic spices. My recipe was inspired by the recipe for Zhoug found in Jerusalem: A Cookbook, from Yotam Ottlenghi and Sami Tamimi--this is one of my favorite cookbooks that I own and cannot recommend it enough! Zhoug is chunky and spicy, making it the perfect condiment for falafel, pita, yogurt, lamb meatballs, or some glorious combination of all of the above. I'm digging zhoug with eggs, yogurt, and sourdough pita for breakfast, personally.
Mint Chutney is an Indian condiment that you may be familiar with from Indian restaurants, where it is typically served with samosas, naan, and a variety of other dishes that need cooling flavors to balance out their warm, spicy flavors. I love that I can also use my wild-foraged mint and homemade yogurt in this chutney as well! At home, you could serve it with any Indian-themed dish or meal, and I am certain it would jazz up frozen samosas if you aren't wanting to deep-fry your own at home.
Both of these sauces come together in a snap and can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks or, if you prefer to make a larger batch, can be frozen for longer-term storage. If you don't typically cook Middle Eastern or Indian food, don't let that stop you from trying these sauces. Hopefully, this will inspire you to start cooking some dishes for these cuisines, but if not, they also can compliment just about any food you might already be making. Next time you have a plain dish, such as eggs, rice, or potatoes, toss either you ramp-y zhoug or mint chutney on top and you have just created something flavorful and totally different. Happy foraging!
Zhoug with Ramps (Middle Eastern Herby Green Sauce)
Makes 1 cup
Modified from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped--tender stems included
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped--tender stems included
4 ramps, chopped (or sub 2-4 cloves minced garlic)
2-4 fresh green chiles--can sub dried chiles that have been soaked in hot water to soften (vary chile type and amount based on your heat preference)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp sea salt
Big pinch freshly-ground black pepper
1 tsp honey
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse several times to break up the large chunks and blend until relatively uniform, while leaving it with plenty of texture. It should not be smooth and runny, but thick and chunky. If you have trouble blending it, add more olive oil until it purees easily.
Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Transfer to a glass storage container and refrigerate until ready to use. This will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge or several months in the freezer.
Indian Mint Chutney with Ramps
Makes about 2 cups
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped--tender stems included
4-6 ramps, chopped--if you don't have ramps, sub 2 cloves garlic and 1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tsp chopped hot pepper (use more or less depending on your heat preference)
2" fresh ginger, minced or grated
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp honey
1 Tbs tamarind paste--if you cannot find this, add an extra tsp each of lemon juice and honey
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh black pepper
2-4 Tbs water
In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, place the cumin, coriander and cardamom pods. Toast for several minutes, until the seeds become fragrant and just begin to brown. Remove from the pan and transfer to a spice grinder or mortal and pestle, removing the cardamom pod and only leaving its seeds behind. Grind the spices and set aside.
In a blender or food processor bowl, add the mint, cilantro, ramps, hot pepper, ginger, yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, tamarind, salt, pepper, water and toasted spices. Pulse several times to break up larger pieces, then switch to puree. Blend until very smooth and uniform, adding a few more tablespoons of water or olive oil if the mixture needs to be thinned for smoother blending.
Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Transfer to a glass storage container and refrigerate until ready to use. This will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge or several months in the freezer.
For dairy-free folks, you can sub shredded coconut for the yogurt here. Before starting your chutney, soak 1/4 cup finely shredded, unsweetened coconut in enough water to cover it, for about 30-60 minutes. Once ready to make your chutney, drain the coconut and add it to the chutney instead of the yogurt, yielding a creamy, rich consistency without the dairy. You may need to up the lemon juice for more acidity, so adjust the amount as needed.
Southern-Style Ham Salad
If you don't know what ham salad is, then you are probably from the North. Having grown up in Missouri, however, I have eaten my fair share of ham salad, usually at a church potluck or family dinner. I've probably mentioned before that I am a big fan of anything made into a "salad," essentially being any protein or vegetable chopped up and mixed with a mayo-based dressing, and ham salad is no exception. This is made similarly to a tuna or potato salad, where ham is the star of the show, creating a savory, salty dip for crackers or a spread for sandwiches. What makes this unique is that the ham is chopped very finely (I use a food processor to do the chopping here), so the texture is much finer and more uniform than, say, a chunkier chicken salad. My version is also different from those I grew up with, because we are using organic avocado oil mayonnaise, as opposed to super-processed soybean or canola oil mayos, and the ham is naturally-raised, not from a feed lot. I really do love re-creating my childhood favorites using real food ingredients!
I have made this before, but it struck me to whip up a batch this week after we had lots of leftover ham from our Easter dinner. I suppose you could go out and buy ham just to make this dish, but something about it just screams "the perfect use for leftovers." Either way, this recipe is made with ham from a roast, not deli-style sliced ham. You need that firm, roast-like texture to create this spread rather than using thin, flimsy deli ham pieces.
I use dill pickles here, but if sweet pickles are your thing, feel free to sub them in for the dills. Some people also throw hard-boiled eggs into their ham salad, so feel free to do so, especially if you have extras you are trying to use up. If adding hard-boiled eggs, just adjust the mayo and seasonings as needed to keep the texture creamy and the flavors in balance.
Not only is this an awesome way to use up leftovers, but it is also super high in protein and it makes a quick lunch or snack for just about anyone in the family. I served mine with sourdough crackers (using the easy and delicious King Arthur Flour recipe here), but you could easily spread this on some softer-style sourdough bread to make a sandwich or use as a dip for cut up veggies.
Southern-Style Ham Salad
Makes about 4 cups
2 heaping cups (about 1 lb) roast-style ham, diced
1/4 cup white onion, diced
1/2 cup celery (about 2 stalks), diced
2 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium dill pickle (about 2 Tbs), chopped
Optional: 2 tsp jarred pimento peppers
1/4 cup good quality mayonnaise--you can add another Tbs or two if your salad is a bit dry, depending on the fattiness of the ham you use
2 tsp brown or dijon mustard
1 tsp pickle juice
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika powder
Big pinch black pepper, to taste
In a food processor, pulse the diced ham several times and then continue to blend it until it is very finely chopped, just before it becomes a paste. Remove from the food processor and set aside in a mixing bowl.
Add the onion, celery, parsley, pimento (if using) and pickle to the food processor and blend until finely chopped. Mix in with the chopped ham.
Stir in the mayonnaise, mustard, pickle juice, garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper. Stir well to combine and create a cohesive mixture. Taste for seasoning and add a bit more mayo if your ham was on the dry side.
Serve right away or refrigerate until ready to use. This will keep for up to a week in the fridge.
Serve with crackers, soft sourdough bread or veggie sticks of your choosing.
Everyone's routines are being thrown off right now due to the COVID-19 crisis, and that is not just the routine from school and work. Physical activity and workout regimens are also being tossed out the window my many, as all of the gyms are closed and even public places, such as parks, where people would normally get their physical activity, are no longer available to use. While many people may be letting the setback keep them sedentary during this time of isolation from others and limitations on using certain spaces, such as gyms, this does not have to be the case. In fact, I encourage everyone to use this "extra" time on their hands, either from working at home, lack of- or underemployment, or other changes to their life that has made their schedule more flexible, to spend even more time on physical activity than they usually do. This decreased amount of work or even normal time constrains from meetings or obligations offer you more time to focus on your health than you might normally have, and that can be a silver lining to all of this. Certainly, I am not suggesting we all spend our extra time at home just working out or running tons of miles. Build in that screen or reading or napping time to your daily routine, as sometimes extra rest and, yes, even some distraction, can help relieve some stress. But R&R and eating comfort food cannot be the only outlet for letting go of worry right now; good self-care can actually look like getting plenty of daily exercise, making yourself healthy meals from scratch, sleeping extra at night and, if possible, spending lots of time outside.
This increased focus on self-care will look different for everyone, depending on where you live or other lifestyle and family factors that may pose challenges to more physical activity. However, nearly everyone can do some form of exercise even just in their apartment if necessary. Do not let the lack of a gym or even a strong daily routine keep you from getting the physical activity your body truly needs. This is especially true right now, as exercise can improve your immune function and decrease stress, both of which could benefit us all at this time. My biggest suggestion is to create a daily schedule for yourself, especially if life isn't giving you its own right now, and try your best to stick to it. Include a set time for physical activity, but also meal times, waking and bed times, socializing virtually times, and even some tv/veg time for good measure. Keeping daily rhythms is so important to anchor you to time and keep things more normal for yourself, but also the best way to ensure you keep a routine of self-care to actually keep yourself healthy right now, rather than just turning to comfort. Plus, putting activity into your schedule helps it actually happen, rather than relying on motivation or "feeling like it," both of which are extremely subject to change depending on mood. Scheduling it prioritizes it.
With that, I am going to tell you what I have been doing from my home (and land) to stay active everyday, to hopefully give you some ideas and inspiration on how you can make something similar work for you. I will also offer some alternatives to help adjust the exercises to your space or situation if needed. My goal has been to include about an hour of dedicated physical activity, either intense or restorative, into my daily schedule. All of these exercise regimens are in addition to all of the gardening, building, wood chopping and other physically-demanding work at our homestead, so I am staying pretty busy and active right now...I suppose it all balances out that extra movie watching and baking going on, too! I am typically a "gym person," and I very much love and miss going to the gym to lift my heavy weights, so altering things has been a challenge. If you have a home gym and work out there, then you are very lucky and nothing has changed for you there, but for everyone else, we may have had to start from scratch. Here are a few ideas for how you can stay active while in isolation (dare I say, captivity), using my weekly routine as a possible template.
My At-Home Workout Regimen (for Right Now)
2 Days per Week: Weight-Lifting Exercises
As I noted above, I usually go to the gym for weight lifting three times a week (where I have been coaching classes for the past few years, actually). Since I cannot do this right now, I wanted to maintain a weight-bearing exercise practice while at home. Luckily, I have a couple of dumbbells and a kettlebell, but you certainly could do many different exercises simply by using body weight only, or by using items around the house (cans of food, buckets of water, heck, I have been using logs in my yard!) in lieu of free weights.
I have been hitting each muscle group about twice per week, mixing it up with different exercises that focus on hamstrings, quadriceps, biceps, triceps, chest, glutes, shoulder, back, etc. The workout structures have typically been: begin with about 10 minutes of warm up doing calisthenics, light body weight movements, jogging, etc. then, 3 sets of 15-20 reps, with about 1-2 minutes rest between sets. I have doing higher reps because of using lighter weight or body weight rather than my usual weights at the gym. If I am able to do something more intense, such as pull-ups on a branch or lifting a heavy rock or log, I have been doing more like 4-5 sets of 5-8 reps, with 2-3 minutes rest between. I also like to throw some isometric (holding a movement essentially in the middle of the range of motion) exercises in addition to plyometric (moving) exercises. I finish it all of with a cool down of walking for a few minutes, stretching and mobility movements, and deep breathing exercises to get my central nervous system calmed back down.
Some bodyweight exercises that you could do in your home or yard include:
Of course, there are so many more body weight exercises out there for you to choose from, and these are just a few of my favorites. Don't be afraid to use stuff around your house to use for overhead press, bicep curls, tricep extensions, flys, lateral raises, squats, deadlifts, and different row variations, especially if you want to mix it up with your body weight routines.
If you are new to weight training, especially with body weight moves, I like the websites Nerd Fitness and Breaking Muscle to learn more about movements to perform and creating a workout routine with them
If you are looking for more functional, or natural, type of movements to include in your weight-bearing routines and in your exercise regimens in general, I highly recommend the MovNat resources. They have a website with lots of information, online videos to demonstrate the moves, and you can even sign up for their weekly newsletter that give you three free workout routines per week using their style of exercise. The founder, Erwan Le Corre, also has a book out that is packed with information if you wanted to take a deep dive into the world of Natural Movement right now. In that same vein, I also like to incorporate movements from Darryl Edwards' Animal Moves book and fitness deck into my workouts. These are not only great functional movements, but they are also super fun to perform, which really helps with motivation. If you want assistance with creating a workout routine, the fitness deck he created can be very helpful.
1-2 Days Per Week: High-Intensity Interval Training
This are probably my favorite workouts to do at home because they really get you working hard and sweating, and that always makes me feel great to get done at home for some reason. If you are unfamiliar, a high-intensity interval (HIIT) workout is comprised of short bursts of intense activity with periods of rest in between. This is much of what Crossfit (TM) workouts are comprised of, in addition to weight lifting. Think sprints rather than a long run. For these, I will usually put together a workout that has two or three different short HIIT routines within it. I also begin these with warming up thoroughly, such as jogging, drills like high knees, leg and arm swings, etc. The HIIT workouts typically look like 40 seconds of work with 20 seconds of rest (:40/:20), picking 5-6 exercises to do in this fashion, for three rounds (that is about an 18 minute workout right there). If you are new to HIIT, you can also start with a 30 second work/rest split instead (:30/:30). Other HIIT regimens include 10 to 1 reps (ten rounds, each round decreasing in the number of reps until the last set is just one rep); 21-15-9 reps (a classic Crossfit routine), AMRAP (as many rounds as possible of a given exercise in a set amount of time); EMOM (perform an exercise every minute on the minute, resting until the minute is up); and Tabata, which is my favorite, 8 rounds of an exercise, all out, with a 20 second/10 second work/rest split. Sprint and hill sprint workouts are perfect HIIT workouts if you can get outside right now, with a typical workout being 8 or so rounds, sprinting for 15-20 seconds, with 1-2 minutes rest in between sets. As with the body weight routines, I also like to throw in some isometric moves like planks, hanging from a pull up bar or branch, boat pose, wall sits, etc. into my HIIT workouts. This is one to be sure to cool down properly from, as it gets your nervous system rocking and you want to bring it all the way back down before moving on to your next thing, especially if it just sitting.
Some examples of HIIT exercises you can perform at home, using the above routines, are:
Again, there are lots of possibilities for creating a HIIT workout, but I feel it is extremely important you get at least one of these in per week. They are so good for you, take up much less time than many other workouts, and can generally be done in the home if necessary. Nerd Fitness, mentioned above, has other great ideas for these exercises, as does Crossfit's website under their "At Home" tab.
1-2 Days per Week: Running or Hiking
I like to throw at least one, maybe two, days of some longer, slower cardio-focused exercise into my week. Not only do I find it helpful for endurance and weight maintenance, but it can also be really nice and relaxing just to zone out and listen to music or watch nature during a longer, less intense stretch of exercise. This has typically looked like about 30 minutes of running or an hour of hiking, but you could start wherever you are at physically. I am lucky that my husband built some trails in the woods by our house, but even road running would be fine. If parks or trails are open within a short drive, take advantage of getting outside as much as possible. If you don't like running, try hiking, biking, or going for a longer walk for other great options in this category. On a walk or hike, if you have some ways to add other movements such as jumping, climbing, or carrying, that adds a whole new layer of movement to this activity and can make it more intersesting. Even canoeing, one of our favorites, wold be a great exercise to include that takes some more endurance but mixes it up (and keeps you away from other folks!).
Longer cardio workouts like running are probably the hardest to do at home if you are totally unable to go outside. Hopefully, however, even a walk or run around your neighborhood is accessible to you. If not, just try to stay active around the house with cleaning or active projects as much as you can, and aim for getting the other types of workouts into your weekly routine instead.
2 Days per Week: Yoga or Restorative Movement
This is where I add a little yin to balance out all of the yang exercises I do on the other days in the week. I really believe in "off" days in a workout schedule and active recovery from hard workouts, which is where these days come in. This part of my routine is not any different, as I was already doing this at home. I tend to prefer practicing yoga or similar moves at home, but classes can also be fun and relaxing. If you are used to going to a yoga class as part of your physical activity routine, then you are probably looking to continue this at home right now.
I practice yin yoga, which are long-held poses aimed at releasing connective tissue and focusing on restoration rather than power or intense exertion and flexibility. There are lots of videos online, such as Yoga with Adrienne, to follow along with so that you can practice at home. Alternately, Freeport Yoga and Yoga Journal also post yin yoga (and other types as well) routines on their website that you can do on your own. Many yoga studios are putting their classes online right now, so you can search for one in your area to support during this time, in addition to keeping yourself healthy. Heart and Bones Yoga now has an online studio that you can join, all from the comfort (or confinement) of your own home; I highly recommend her work, as it focuses on alignment and sustainable yoga poses for every body.
If yoga isn't your thing but you are looking for work around mobility, alignment, and restorative movement, I could not recommend the work of Katy Bowman enough. Katy's work is around "nutritious movement," and she has several books (I have them all....), a blog, and many online videos, some free and some for purchase, that you could use if you want to go down this path for movement. She has also launched an online studio and is currently offering a discount due to so many needing help with continuing their moveement from home. She also has a podcast, and I am kind of a fangirl of hers, as she is so inspiring about how to get more movement into your daily life. This is great information for movement all of the time, not just for when you are stuck at home.
This is just what I have been doing to help spark some ideas and inspiration for you. If you have taken a break from intentional exercise since staying at home in the last few weeks, there is no shame in that at all, and everyday is a new chance to get back on that wagon. Change the movements mentioned above to suit your preferences and modify these ideas to fit your schedule, needs and current fitness level. Don't be afraid to try to put together a few workouts and see how they go for you, then make adjustments where you need to. If that is too intimidating, check out some of the online classes/videos/studios I mentioned to take some of the pressure off trying to figure out what to do. Most importantly, just do something everyday to stay active, especially when you are out of your normal routine, even if it is just a long daily walk alone or with someone in your family. This not just so you can stay physically fit during this time, it is also to keep you sane! Stay safe and healthy, and try to have some fun with it, making the most of a totally weird and terrible situation.
Brine & Broth
I am a gut health-focused nutritionist and online health coach based in Southwest Wisconsin. My recipes and philosophies center around traditional, nutrient-dense foods that support robust gut health.