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Embrace Random Acts of Kindness

December 27, 2019

One of the most inspiring things for me about the holiday season is seeing people be a little kinder and more generous toward each other. Throughout December, I’ve seen more smiles, received countless “hellos” from strangers, and observed people openly sharing food, money and other goods with neighbors or those less fortunate. Then that generosity sometimes fades as we become absorbed by the daily grind

As we head into 2020, I’ve made it my personal mantra to “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” The quote, an uplifting twist on the more disturbing phrase, “commit random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty” is widely attributed to Anne Herbert, a California woman who wrote her version on a restaurant placemat. Decades later, that quote is even more relevant in this age of divisive politics, bullying, road rage, and unchecked social media rants. News headlines can be flat-out depressing, and while I’ll still pay attention to local, national, and world events, no matter how despondent they might be, I’m determined to practice resiliency through kindness. Here are a few ways to spread senseless acts of beauty:

Brighten someone’s day with a compliment. When walking past a neighbor’s house as they work diligently on a garden or yard project, let him or her know how lovely it looks.

Smile! We all can’t be happy all of the time, but when you are, share that good aura with a smile. Maybe a person will return the gesture, or maybe not, but chances are you’ll make someone’s day a little brighter.

Thank people working in often-unappreciated jobs. Thank the retail clerks you encounter or the janitors at your workplace. Show gratitude for anyone who performs a service that makes our lives a little easier.

Reward service industry employees with a generous tip. Restaurant servers, bartenders, airport skycaps, bellhops and others in the hospitality industry receive the majority of their income from tips. When possible, make a server’s day by giving more than a standard tip.

Go beyond the “leave a penny.” Most gas stations and convenience stores have the “take a penny, leave a penny” cup. Maybe add some spare dimes or quarters—that could add up to help a motorist a little short on gas who is trying to get to work, or a person who needs just a few cents extra for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. Plugging spare change into a vending machine can also pay it forward to the next person with a free item.

Pick up trash. Despite all of the “Keep America Beautiful” campaigns and public awareness efforts, there will always be litter. Trash also blows off of trucks and out of overflowing garbage cans. While taking walks, jogging or bicycling, carry a bag to pick up and properly dispose of trash on the streets or in our parks. Even picking up stray debris in front of your home can make a difference.

Don’t take things personally. This inadvertently plays into random kindness, as every one of us will encounter a person at some point who challenges our attempts to be kind. Our reactions to people and situations can affect whether we commit random kindness, or if we use words or actions that turn to violence. People we see while going along our daily business might do ignorant things like cut us off in traffic, stop abruptly in a crowded pedestrian area to check their phones, open a car door into our paths while we’re bicycling down the street, let an unleashed pet run into ours or our pet’s space, refuse to hold a door open for us when we’re behind them . . . the list could go on and on.

Sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to confront strangers who commit these acts and call them every four-letter name in the book, or flip them the one-finger salute, but that causes situations to escalate quickly and unnecessarily. Take a deep breath and try to remember that the person likely didn’t wake up in the morning with the sole intention of bringing misery to your day. It could be that that person is having a bad day and isn’t thinking clearly, it might be because that person isn’t in the moment nor has awareness that he or she is committing an offense—or that the person truly is self-absorbed and uncaring. But chances are that we’ll never encounter that person again, and that fleeting brush with his or her ignorance eventually becomes just a blip on the day’s radar. Put it behind you and, to quote another famous phrase, keep calm and carry on.

Wishing everyone joy and kindness in 2020!

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

 

Discover Our City of Neighborhoods

November 28, 2019

Events like the Christkindlmarket, Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival, Santa Cycle Rampage, Mitten Fest, and other community festivals that get people outdoors, even during Wisconsin’s cold winters, remind us that Milwaukee is a City of Neighborhoods with immigrant identities woven into the fabric of our culture. Do you know the stories of our neighborhoods? How did Pigsville get its name? Where was Milwaukee’s “Little Italy”? What does “Harambee” mean?

We collaborated with historian John Gurda and Historic Milwaukee, Inc. to create an interactive companion to the popular book Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods. Check it out through the Milwaukee Community Map.

Once you have accessed the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop, find the “City of Neighborhoods” layer under the section called Basemaps. Fill in its circle to turn it on, then click on each neighborhood shape to see a preview paragraph on its story and each colorful poster created by Jan Kotowitz. You can toggle on/off “Our Water Stories” layers on top of this basemap to see which neighborhoods feature different water-related projects.

Michael Timm
Michael Timm is a writer, editor, and game designer who worked seven years as a hyperlocal journalist and holds a master’s degree from the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. Passionate about connecting and engaging general audiences with stories hidden in plain sight, he manages Reflo’s Milwaukee Water Stories program where he piloted a place-based app, co-created a digital role-playing game inspired by Milwaukee’s water history, and curates the Milwaukee Community Map.
Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions
As a Milwaukee nonprofit organization, Reflo’s mission is to become a leader in sustainable water use, green infrastructure, and water management in urban environments.
Milwaukee Community Map
The Milwaukee Community Map is a free and amazing tool that uses the power of Google Earth to visualize stories never before experienced in one place. The data informing these stories is shared by community, public, and private entities and curated around the theme of “Water & Community.” The nonprofit Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions curates the map. Funding was provided by Brico Fund and in part by Wisconsin Department of Administration, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office for Coastal Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act, Grant #NA18NOS4190091.

Healthier (and Easy!) Thanksgiving Side Dishes

November 22, 2019

Whether the main attraction on your Thanksgiving table is turkey or Tofurky, the wow factor really comes from creative side dishes. Yet some of the classics like green bean casserole or macaroni and cheese can have significantly amounts of fat, calories, and sodium. Sure, it’s fun to splurge for a special occasion, but if you or your dinner guests still want to eat healthier on Turkey Day, here are a couple of side dishes that are sure to please.

Green Bean Sauté (adapted from Colorado Collage)

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 T. butter (or Earth Balance for a vegan version)

1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced

½ tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 T. finely chopped parsley

1 T. balsamic vinegar

Cook green beans in rapidly boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, immerse in ice water, drain again, and set aside. In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add reserved beans, salt, and pepper. Cook until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with parsley and vinegar and toss to combine.

Lemon Couscous with Fresh Spinach (adapted from Colorado Collage)

2¼ cups vegetable broth

¼ cup unsalted butter (or Earth Balance, for a vegan version)

1 10-ounce box uncooked couscous

3 T. fresh lemon juice

3 large green onions, thinly sliced

1 small bunch fresh spinach, washed, stemmed and thinly sliced

3 T. chopped fresh chives

In a medium saucepan, combine vegetable broth and butter. Heat to boiling. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork and stir in lemon juice, onions, spinach and chives. Serve hot or cold.

Creamless Potato Gratin with Herbs (adapted from Food & Wine)

1½ T. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the cake pan

1 large shallot, minced (about 1/3 cup)

1½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme

½ tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

2 pounds medium Yukon gold or red potatoes, very thinly sliced

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400° and oil an 8-inch round cake pan, preferably of dark metal. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and oil the paper.

In a medium saucepan, heat the 1½ tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the thyme, rosemary, and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat until reduced to ¾ cup, about 10 minutes.

Arrange an overlapping layer of potato slices in the cake pan. Season with salt and pepper and spoon a small amount of the reduced broth on top. Repeat the layering process with the remaining potatoes and reduced broth, seasoning each layer lightly. Pour any remaining broth on top. Cover the pan with a sheet of oiled parchment paper and then a sheet of foil.

Bake the gratin in the center of the oven until the potatoes are very tender, about 1 hour. Remove the foil and paper and bake until the top is dry, about 10 minutes.

Turn the broiler on. Remove the gratin from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Invert the gratin onto a heatproof plate. Carefully remove the parchment round. Broil the gratin 6 inches from the heat until the surface is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Discover Jones Island History

October 28, 2019

Today Jones Island is home to an industrial port and sewage treatment plant, but it was once home to a vibrant fishing village where an immigrant community of Kaszubes filled the swampy land for fishing shanties, homes, saloons, and even a school. Learn more about the dramatic historic transformations along our freshwater coast by checking out the video below:

Explore more by accessing the Jones Island “Deeper Dive” by opening the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop. Fill in the circle button by “Jones Island” and then click the points of interest to explore different historic features in the interactive map.

Michael Timm
Michael Timm is a writer, editor, and game designer who worked seven years as a hyperlocal journalist and holds a master’s degree from the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. Passionate about connecting and engaging general audiences with stories hidden in plain sight, he manages Reflo’s Milwaukee Water Stories program where he piloted a place-based app, co-created a digital role-playing game inspired by Milwaukee’s water history, and curates the Milwaukee Community Map.
Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions
As a Milwaukee nonprofit organization, Reflo’s mission is to become a leader in sustainable water use, green infrastructure, and water management in urban environments.
Milwaukee Community Map
The Milwaukee Community Map is a free and amazing tool that uses the power of Google Earth to visualize stories never before experienced in one place. The data informing these stories is shared by community, public, and private entities and curated around the theme of “Water & Community.” The nonprofit Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions curates the map. Funding was provided by Brico Fund and in part by Wisconsin Department of Administration, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office for Coastal Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act, Grant #NA18NOS4190091.

Save Energy This Winter

October 23, 2019

After what seemed like an all-too-brief summer, winter is on its way again. It’s easy to use a lot of energy during Wisconsin’s blustery days, but by developing some simple energy saving habits, we can reduce our impact on the planet and stay warm, without emptying our wallets.

Take advantage of nature’s heater: When the sun is shining, keep shades, blinds and drapes open during the day to capture the sun’s warming heat. Close window treatments on gloomy or overcast days.

Plan your baking: Turning the oven on for baking one loaf of bread, or for one pan of lasagna still heats up the entire oven. Make the most of that heat by baking more than one thing at a time. Baking a couple of meals or items at once will save energy and provide dinner for a few days, eliminating the need to cook after a long, busy workday. Once your baking tasks are completed, open the oven door and let that excess heat warm up the home. If you have just one small item to warm up, like a couple slices of leftover pizza, use a toaster oven, electric skillet or the stovetop.

Little leaks, big losses: Heat escapes quickly through gaps, leaks and worn weather-stripping around doors and windows. If drafts are detected, replace foam weather stripping and seal windows with rope caulking, which can be peeled off in spring when it’s time to reopen the windows. Block air from creeping under the door with draft stoppers, which sell for about $10. Or make your own by filling a repurposed long sock with sand, rice or kitty litter, and tie or sew the opening end closed.

Adjust the thermostat: While sleeping or away from home, simply turning the thermostat back a few degrees from its normal setting can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating.

Maintenance: Keep furnaces clean and unblocked, and check air filters monthly. Dirty filters can cut down on the unit’s efficiency.

Dress for the season: Resist the urge to crank up the heat during a polar vortex and put on an extra sweater, slippers or thick socks.

Switch the ceiling fan’s blade rotation: Most of us don’t pay attention to which direction the ceiling fan is spinning, but the blades’ rotation can actually save money on your winter heating bill. Hot air rises, so reversing the fan’s blades to a clockwise rotation will help push that warmth back down into the room.

For additional tips on enjoying a warm, cozy and energy efficient winter, visit www.energy.gov/energysaver/fall-and-winter-energy-saving-tips.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. 

 

Discover Historic Water Recreation

September 26, 2019
     With the onset of autumn, there’s still time to enjoy our beaches along Lake Michigan. Did you know that Bradford Beach, Lincoln Memorial Drive, Veterans Park, and the Summerfest Grounds were all constructed on what used to be lakebed? They were all filled in with land.
     In the late 1800s and early 1900s, before Milwaukeeans went down to our lakefront beaches in droves, they congregated in and along the Milwaukee River upstream of the former North Avenue Dam. Check out the video overview above to see where there used to be swimming schools along the river’s banks.
     To explore more, access the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop. Toggle on the “Historic Water Recreation” Deeper Dive, then click on the features of interest to learn more. There are also nifty place-based links to video segments of A City Built on Water, the film by John Gurda and Claudia Looze:
https://vimeo.com/345366041
Michael Timm
Michael Timm is a writer, editor, and game designer who worked seven years as a hyperlocal journalist and holds a master’s degree from the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. Passionate about connecting and engaging general audiences with stories hidden in plain sight, he manages Reflo’s Milwaukee Water Stories program where he piloted a place-based app, co-created a digital role-playing game inspired by Milwaukee’s water history, and curates the Milwaukee Community Map.
Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions
As a Milwaukee nonprofit organization, Reflo’s mission is to become a leader in sustainable water use, green infrastructure, and water management in urban environments.
Milwaukee Community Map
The Milwaukee Community Map is a free and amazing tool that uses the power of Google Earth to visualize stories never before experienced in one place. The data informing these stories is shared by community, public, and private entities and curated around the theme of “Water & Community.” The nonprofit Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions curates the map. Funding was provided by Brico Fund and in part by Wisconsin Department of Administration, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office for Coastal Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act, Grant #NA18NOS4190091.

Discover Historic Waterways

September 10, 2019

Before Wisconsin became a state in 1848, it was territory mapped by federal land surveyors preparing for public land sales. Surveying the land into a grid of square townships and subdivided plots encouraged speculation, settlement, and development following widespread displacement of Native Americans. The Milwaukee area was initially surveyed in 1835, with more work in 1836 and 1837. (Ever notice how there are major arterial streets roughly every mile apart? This is a legacy of the surveyors’ gridlines.)

The maps and field notes from these surveys provide invaluable historical context about Milwaukee’s geography, hydrology, and ecology prior to urban development. Thanks to the mapping team at MMSD, who adapted a digital layer from the maps held by the Wisconsin Commissioner of Public Lands, you can now explore where surveyors noted historic waterways in our area. You’ll notice many more tributaries into the three major rivers, as well as areas denoted as wetlands, marsh, or swamp. Over time many of these areas were filled with land and many of the river channels straightened.

Access the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop, then toggle on the Basemaps section and fill in the circle by “Historic Water Maps.” There are two layers. The first is from the 1830s federal land surveys described above. The second is from roughly 60 years later based on USGS surveys. Can you find where waterways used to be near your home or neighborhood?

Michael Timm
Michael Timm is a writer, editor, and game designer who worked seven years as a hyperlocal journalist and holds a master’s degree from the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. Passionate about connecting and engaging general audiences with stories hidden in plain sight, he manages Reflo’s Milwaukee Water Stories program where he piloted a place-based app, co-created a digital role-playing game inspired by Milwaukee’s water history, and curates the Milwaukee Community Map.
Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions
As a Milwaukee nonprofit organization, Reflo’s mission is to become a leader in sustainable water use, green infrastructure, and water management in urban environments.
Milwaukee Community Map
The Milwaukee Community Map is a free and amazing tool that uses the power of Google Earth to visualize stories never before experienced in one place. The data informing these stories is shared by community, public, and private entities and curated around the theme of “Water & Community.” The nonprofit Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions curates the map. Funding was provided by Brico Fund and in part by Wisconsin Department of Administration, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office for Coastal Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act, Grant #NA18NOS4190091.

Catch Some Quality Z’s

August 29, 2019

Most of us occasionally have trouble sleeping. Your brain refuses to shut off as you think of that work task that didn’t get completed, the unexpected furnace repair that throws a wrench into the household budget, or the mean-kid bully that makes your child not want to go to school. After a night of tossing and turning, looking at the clock and thinking “if I doze off now, I’ll get at least four hours of sleep . . . “ we end up staggering through the following day feeling drained and foggy. We’ve all been there, but for some of us, chronic sleep loss is a regular problem.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults routinely sleep fewer than six hours per night. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School states that sleep deprivation can “affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.”

Obviously, that’s not good. Yet in a world where we’re often expected to be superhuman and be all things to everyone, how can we slow down and get the sleep we physically and mentally require? There are natural ways to help the body relax and prepare for a restful full night’s sleep.

  1. Use the bed for its main purpose—sleeping. Avoid working, eating, watching TV or turning on a laptop or other gadgets. Meditate or read a book (an actual paper book, not an e-book) until you feel tired. Resist the urge to check the smartphone one more time. News or any other updates will still be there in the morning. Make technology work for you, not the other way around.
  2. Speaking of gadgets, keep them out of the bedroom altogether. A National Sleep Foundation survey found that nearly all participants who had difficulty falling asleep used televisions, computers, video games, or cell phones within the last hour before going to bed. Light from these devices stimulates the brain, making it harder to wind down. Sleep experts advise putting gadgets away an hour before bedtime to fall asleep quickly and sleep more soundly.
  3. Stay active: aerobic exercise four times a week can improve sleep quality.
  4. Cut back on other stimulants: Reduce or eliminate food and drinks that contain caffeine— coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate, by mid-afternoon. Make dinner your lightest meal (eat like a king at breakfast, a prince like lunch, and a pauper at dinner), and finish any food intake a few hours before bedtime. Skip spicy or heavy foods, which can keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion.
  5. Skip the naps and instead strive for a full night’s sleep. Short power naps are beneficial, but long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep. Sleeping in the daytime can confuse your internal clock, meaning that you may struggle to sleep at night.
  6. Keep your sleep environment on the cooler side, rather than too hot.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only.  If you continue to have disrupted sleep, it could be the cause of an underlying health condition. Be sure to check with a healthcare professional regarding appropriate treatment.

Sheila Julson is  freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. 

 

Refreshing Homemade Ices Teas to Cool Down Hot Summer Days

July 30, 2019

There are myriad kinds of tea—black, green, white, oolong, pekoe, jasmine, Earl Grey, plus countless herbal teas, or tisanes. The regions of origin, processing methods and blends can also affect the final taste, so exploring the world of tea can be a magical experience full of exotic flavors and fragrances. And don’t forget the apparent health benefits of tea, like the high antioxidant levels found in green tea, or studies showing black tea may reduce risk of stroke. Herbal blends that do not contain tea are generally caffeine-free.

When chilled, few beverages compare to sipping a dewy glass of iced tea on the patio or porch on a hot summer day. Grocery stores carry an overwhelming selection of bottled tea; some are good, while others are loaded with synthetic additives, but making your own iced tea is easy, economical and requires no glass or plastic packaging.

To brew tea, the average ratio is one tea bag per one cup of water. If using loose-leaf tea, one teaspoon equals about one tea bag. You can always adjust to suit your taste. Heat your desired amount of cold water in a teapot or stainless steel pan. When the water just starts to come to a boil, remove it from the heat. A common misconception is that tea water should be boiling, but that can destroy tannins and other desirable compounds of the tea; green tea in particular should be steeped in hot but not boiling water. Green tea leaves are not oxidized like black tea leaves, so water that’s too hot can scorch the leaves and alter the flavor.

Add your tea bags or tea ball to the hot water and steep for three to five minutes. Steeping longer can produce a bitter flavor. Place a generous volume of ice in a ceramic pitcher or any vessel that can handle temperature changes. Remove tea bags/ball from the tea and pour it over the ice. There you have it—basic fresh brewed tea. Now it’s time to jazz it up.

Iced Southern Sweet Tea (from Joy of Cooking, 2006 edition)

Steep 6 bags of black tea (orange pekoe) in 4 cups of water using the method above. After steeping and while the water is still hot, add 1 cup of organic sugar and stir until dissolved. Add 2 to 4 cups of water and chill. Serve over ice and garnish with lemon slices or fruit.

Citrus tea

Steep 5 black tea bags in 2 quarts of hot water using the method above. While the tea is steeping, juice two lemons and one lime and set aside. Stir in ¼ cup of locally soured honey to hot tea. Pour tea over about five cups of ice; add lemon and lime juice and stir. Serve over ice and garnish with lemon and lime slices.

These are just a couple of possibilities. You can also experiment with flavored herbal teas, or steep spearmint leaves, dried hibiscus flowers or lavender along with the tea. Try flavorings like muddled blueberries or cherries in your tea; the possibilities of nature’s bounty are endless.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings -Milwaukee magazine. 

June Farmers Market Finds

June 25, 2019

Let me count thee ways to enjoy summer in Milwaukee:  Summerfest, myriad music, ethnic and food festivals; free park concerts; beer gardens, art fairs, Milwaukee County Parks pools, bike trails . . .  okay, I’ve already lost count. And then there’s the neighborhood farmers markets, which have become so much more than a place to support our local farmers and get fresh, health produce, flowers, and artisan foods.

Now well attended social gathering spaces, farmers markets are another place to meet our neighbors, enjoy live music and build communities.

Most area farmers markets are now open and operating in full swing. Although our state has experienced a wet, chilly spring, you can still find locally grown lettuce, spinach, asparagus, and strawberries.

This light summer salad calls for three ingredients now available in late June at area farmers markets: mint, fresh cilantro, and spinach. Despite the long ingredients list, it comes together easily for a healthy, hearty meal. It can be made vegetarian or with beef or chicken stock to please omnivores.

 Warm Lentil & Goat Cheese Salad (adapted from Vegetarian Step-by-Step, Parragon Books)

Serves 4

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

2 t. cumin seeds

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 t. grated fresh ginger

1 ½ cups lentils

3 C. vegetable stock

2 T. fresh mint

2 T. chopped fresh cilantro

2 red onions, thinly sliced

8 ounces fresh spinach, washed and patted dry

1 t. walnut oil (or nut oil of your choice)

2/3 C. soft goat cheese, crumbled

¼ C. plain Greek style yogurt

salt and pepper to taste

lemon wedges

Heat 1 T. of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds, garlic, and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Stir in lentils and return to heat. Slowly add the stock until the lentil mixture, stirring continuously, until stock is absorbed. This will take about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in herbs. Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 T. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add onions. Cook until soft and lightly browned, stirring frequently.

Put spinach in a bowl and toss with walnut oil. Divide spinach among four individual serving plates.

Mash goat cheese with yogurt and season with salt and pepper.

Divide the lentils among the plates. Top with the onions and add a dollop of the goat cheese mixture. Garnish with lemon and serve with bread or crackers.

***

Local asparagus makes a brief appearance every year, like a celebrity who lies low and does the occasional brief yet spectacular project, gaining praise and fanfare. The harvest window for asparagus in Wisconsin is short, but I’ve lucked out this past week and found it at a couple of markets around Downtown and the South Side of Milwaukee. Arugula, like most leafy greens, is also in season in June, and some farmers grow mushrooms indoors year round and sell them at area farmers markets. Be sure to also check your farmers market for locally sourced honey produced by area beekeepers.

Asparagus & Mushroom Salad(adapted from Everyday Vegetarian Cooking, Hinkler Books)

Serves 4

6 ounces asparagus spears

1 T. stone ground mustard

¼ C. orange juice

2 T. fresh lemon juice

1 T. lime juice

1 T. orange zest

2 t. lemon zest

2 t. lime zest

2 garlic cloves, crushed

¼ c. of honey

pepper, to taste

14 ounces of button mushrooms, halved

6 ounces rocket arugula

1 red pepper, cut into strips

Trim away tough ends from asparagus and cut in half diagonally. Place in a saucepan if boiling water and cook for one minute or until just tender. Drain and plunge into cold water. Set aside.

Blend mustard, juices, zest, garlic and honey in a saucepan. Season generously with pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and add mushrooms. Toss well and let cool.

Remove mushrooms from sauce with a slotted spoon and set aside. Return sauce to heat, bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to low. Let simmer for about three minutes or until thick and syrupy. Cool slightly.

Oss the mushrooms, red peppers, and asparagus, together and serve over a bed or arugula. Drizzle with the sauce and serve.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines.