Mediterranean Frittata

We have some major construction going on at my house, so I offered the workers a homemade lunch in lieu of their usual fare (picture a bag with golden arches…you know the rest.)  I had no idea what I would whip up on such short notice, but then all I had to do was rely on my recent trip to the farmers market for inspiration.  I collected farm-fresh eggs, roasted tomatoes, Swiss chard, goat cheese and parsley for one of my favorite ‘kitchen sink’ recipes: the frittata.  You always know it’s a hit when they ask for seconds, or in this case – thirds.  And it’s incredibly easy.  Serve for lunch or dinner with a garden salad and heaven awaits.

MEDITERRANEAN FRITTATA

9 free-range eggs
1/3 C organic low fat milk
1 med. onion
1 TB garlic, minced
1 TB olive oil
1 C spinach, chard or kale
1 C roasted or sun-dried tomatoes (drain excess liquid)
2 TB chopped parsley
1/4 C chopped Kalamata olives
1/3 C  feta or goat cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 TB flax seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Beat eggs with milk and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Chop all veggies.

Sauté olive oil with onion and garlic for about 1-2 minutes, but don’t brown.  Add all veggies and cook over medium for about 4 minutes.  Add Italian seasoning.

Prepare ceramic baking dish (pie shape or oblong) by spraying with oil and coating with freshly ground flax seeds.

Add veggies to egg mixture, along with cheese. Pour into prepared dish and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until center is set. For additional browning, broil for 3 minutes until golden.

Storing Fresh Produce

A lot can happen from the time produce is picked off the vine or pulled from the earth. Some fruits and veggies go to a packing house; others are cooled and transported an average of 1200 miles before reaching the consumer.

According to the folks at “Ideal Bite,” the average cost of food per American family jumped 36% between Jun. 2000 and May 2008, so every lil’ bit you can save helps.  Since I know you are all shopping at your local farmers’ markets, here are some hints on how to preserve the freshness and nutritional values of your perishable produce:

Store at room temperature

  • apples               lemons            pineapple
  • bananas            limes               pomegranates
  • grapefruit         mangoes          papayas
  • watermelon     persimmons    basil (in vase with water – cut stems every other day)
  • garlic                dry onions       potatoes (put in paper bag and keep in drawer – avoid light)
  • tomatoes          eggplant          peppers

Ripen on counter first, then to refrigerator

  • avocados         nectarines        pears
  • kiwi                 peaches            plums

Refrigerate

  • blueberries       cherries            strawberries (put in Tupperware with paper towel – do not wash first)
  • apricots            grapes              figs
  • raspberries       blackberries     artichokes
  • green beans      herbs               Brussels sprouts
  • carrots              cabbage           peas
  • radishes            corn                 spinach/lettuces (wash first, then store with holes in plastic bag)
  • cauliflower       celery              leeks
  • beets                 broccoli           mushrooms (put in paper bag in produce drawer)

General: store fruits and vegetables separate.  Some fruits let off the gas ethylene, which speeds ripening during the process.

Check out the Oliso Frisper Foodkeeper, a vacuum sealer for all types of food that uses reusable plastic bags.

I use  Evert-Fresh reusable bags which truly have a lasting affect on the produce .

In order to maximize the nutrients you receive, it is best to consume your fresh (organic) produce within two days of purchase but these tips can help extend their life span.  General rule of thumb is to wash all produce – even citrus – just before eating, with exceptions above.

When Life Gives You Apples

…I would say make applesauce but that’s so obvious.  So let’s look at how how delicious and healthful they are, in many iterations.  Of course, I always promote the whole food first.

‘Tis the season for this heart-healthy fruit in Northern California, beginning with the harvest of Gravensteins, to over 7,500 varieties today.  Commercially we have access to about 100 types, but if you scour the farmers’ markets you can find some pretty unique selections – all of which have great nutritional benefits.

Health Bennies
Apples are super high in fiber, providing 15% of our daily value when eaten with the skin. (If eating the skin make sure the apple is organic, as this is one of the fruits which absorbs pesticides the most. (Source: www.FoodNews.org) Apple skins are loaded with antioxidants – such as quercetin – in the form of a phytonutrient.  Quercetin provides cardiovascular protection, helps prevents cataracts and has anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic and anti-viral properties.  It also prevents ulcers, kidney stones, and herpes simplex.   The fiber in apples latches onto LDL (the Lousy cholesterol) and moves it out of our bodies.  Eating just two apples a day can reduce cholesterol by up to 16%!

In addition to high fiber, apples are a good source of vitamins A, C and K. Vitamin K combats osteoporosis like calcium-rich foods and keeps cell damage at bay.

Right now you can find luscious apple varieties at your local farmers markets. The best way to store apples is in the refrigerator for about seven days.  We’ll review tips on keeping other produce soon but suffice it to say, the longer you wait, the less the nutritional bennies will wait for you.

Fun Facts
Here are some silly teasers for your kids or your friends (the big kids):
•    Apples float because 25% of their volume is air.
•    An apple tree must grow four to five years before it will produce an apple.
•    The “Delicious” apple variety is the most widely grown in the U.S.
•    The apple belongs to the rose family.
•    In ancient times, apples were thrown at weddings instead of rice or birdseed.  No wonder the bride had to change her clothes:)

Chicken Apple Curry

Here’s a tasty, seasonal dish which is light on the waistline but heavy on flavor.

Chicken-Apple Curry
Serves 4-6

4 cups cooked cubed free-range chicken (turkey or pork can also be used)
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped organic raisins or currants
1/2 cup diced celery
1 1/2 cups diced, unpeeled organic apples
1/4 cup organic butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tbsp. Sucanat or brown sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
1 1/2 cups free-range chicken broth
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Spring onions, diced, for garnish

Method:
1.    Heat butter in skillet, add onions and cook until transparent.
2.    Add apples and raisins; sauté 5 minutes.
3.    Add celery and cook 2 more minutes.
4.    Combine seasoning and flour and blend in.
5.    Add chicken broth, lemon juice, and stir until thickened.
6.    Simmer 2-3 minutes stirring all the time.
7.    Fold in chicken, mix well.
8.    Garnish with spring onions.
9.    Serve on a bed of brown rice with apple chutney and fresh cucumber salad.

Eat That, Digest This

Here I am newly indoctrinated into the blog world and I’m already taking short cuts.  It’s not for lack of subject matter – believe me!  But a respected food professional has so succinctly encapsulated what I espouse to that I decided  to go with imitation as flattery vs. reinventing the wheel.

A recent article in the SF Chronicle food section was written by Marion Nestle, nutrition professor, author and recent pet food private eye (tho not so private.)  Marion’s article focuses on eating a variety of whole foods in small doses for nutrients and optimal balance.  Please note the ingredients of that sentence. First let’s take variety: for example, not eating the same thing for breakfast every day so as to assimilate as many nutrients as possible.  One of my teachers used to say: “our bodies need everything, all of the time.”  In other words, with an assortment of foods we can obtain a medley of vitamins and minerals without reaching for a capsule to fill the void. But that doesn’t mean overdo it…

Which brings us to portion control.  Yes, size does matter.  In America we have ‘grown’ accustomed to everything BIG, which has continued to plague our waistlines and our health.  It all hearkens back to my mantra (with a nod to Michael Pollan) of eating (whole) food, not too much, from a sustainable source.

When these practices are applied – along with a healthy dose of exercise – we can realize balance in both our diet and our overall well being.  Our energy is restored, our weight is maintained, and our supplement or prescription drug costs are diminished.

Healthy Hints

Welcome to Cook4Seasons!

Your resource for fun facts on nutrition, health, farmers’ markets, the environment…and delicious recipes which celebrate the seasons.  My premise is ‘SOUL’ food: Seasonal, Organic, Unrefined and Local ~ and I will continually prompt thee to get thyself to the nearest farmers’ market on a regular basis.

Some examples from my treasure trove of topics will include:

  • support your local farmer
  • the benefits of wild vs. farmed salmon
  • how to store fresh produce
  • why diets don’t work
  • foods for the brain

I will also highlight seasonal foods and provide nutritional components, identify sustainable fish, and compare organic vs. conventional produce.

It is my intention to feed you with enough information to whet your whistle, while being mindful of busy schedules and internet overload.  The framework will be simple, timely and user friendly.  And I’ll always provide you with links to additional resources.

Of course these formats are only as good as their audience, so I highly encourage input from you. I’d love to know what subjects are of interest and how I can keep you coming back for more tasty tidbits. Comment soon – and often! Within weeks you’ll see the evolution as we explore new horizons together and give fresh meaning to the term “whole foods wellness.”

Once you sign up to receive these healthy hints, just leave the research to me and you’ll be on your (easeful) way to optimal health for your body and your mind.

Thanks for jumping on the bountiful bandwagon.  Until we eat again…

Karen

Eat Your Sunscreen

Most of you know that the skin is the largest organ in our body, but may not consider this when creating a daily eating plan.  The skin covers approximately 25 square feet and weighs six pounds.  It is our protective outer boundary, which coats and defends us against infection and germs. It helps regulate our body temperature and plays a major role in transmitting messages of pain and pleasure.

The skin regenerates itself every 27 days but requires proper care to maintain its vitality.  That’s where we come in.  One of my teachers claimed to never use anything on her skin that she wouldn’t eat.  She is a big fan of unrefined coconut oil for maximum hydration and wrinkle prevention.  Here are some other foods that nourish our outer bodies, ourselves:

Mushrooms – in the diet mushrooms have anti-cancer and immune boosting properties; on the skin shiitake and matsutakes are considered to have natural hydrating components as well.  Dr. Andrew Weil now has a line of skincare under the Origins label which includes mushrooms.

Green tea – soothes the skin after overexposure to the sun, and calms rosacea and other irritations.

Vitamin A foods – anti-viral, anti-inflammatory which aid in fewer breakouts.  Found in carrots, peppers, papayas, and apples.

Zinc – for cell reproduction and repair. Found in oysters, raw nuts and seeds, wheat germ and organic poultry.

Ginseng – used to enhance memory, increase endurance, lower cholesterol and boost circulation.  On skin, it helps with elasticity.

Healthy fats – like those found in raw nuts, avocados, cold-water fish all of which help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins D, E and K.

Soy (non-GMO) – valued for its protein and anti-oxidant rich content, soy has also been found to have anti-cancer properties for the skin.  But some people have intolerances, so be sure to read labels first.

Vitamin C – helps keep the skin plump.  Eat broccoli, grapefruit, oranges, tomatoes, kiwis and strawberries to your heart’s (or skin’s) content.

Lemongrass – soothes and calms the nervous system and is good for digestion, which keeps the body and skin well balanced.

Anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables (don’t we always include these:) – they protect the skin from dulling effects of free radicals, caused by environmental stressors, smoking and drinking.  Load up on dark, leafy greens, blueberries, beets, grapes, yams and tomatoes.

It’s nice to know we can nourish ourselves from the inside out and have visible results!

Blender Salmon Souffle

Salmon Blender Soufflé
~ Serves 4

A great and easy way to incorporate salmon without breaking the bank!  If you use flax seed to dust the dish, you’ll get a double dose of Omega 3s.

8 ounces smoked salmon or 7.5 oz. can wild salmon
6 free-range eggs
12 oz. organic cottage cheese
2 TB lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ C chopped red onion
¼ C fresh dill
Butter
Bread crumbs or ground flax seed

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter and dust 1 quart soufflé dish or 4 (8-ounce) ramekins. Coarsely chop smoked salmon and put aside, or if using canned salmon, thoroughly drain the salmon. In a bowl, clean bones and skin from salmon. Break it into fine pieces with a fork. Set aside. Place all remaining ingredients in a blender container. Cover and blend at medium speed for about 30 seconds. Blend at high speed for another 10 to15 seconds. Stir the egg mixture into the bowl with the salmon. Pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish or spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins including an equal amount of salmon pieces in each. Bake for 45 minutes to 50 minutes on a cookie sheet, until puffy and delicately browned. Don’t open oven door for at least 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Go Wild with Salmon

We’re still in the throes of summer and I always look forward to putting that piece of wild salmon on the ‘barbie.’  But at $25+ per pound, it takes a lot more consideration if I want fresh King salmon from Alaska.  As most of you know, the current state of the salmon season from California to Washington is in peril. This time of year usually provides a bounty of the fish to satisfy our need for fresh sources of heart healthy Omega 3s.  But several factors have canceled the season here which challenge us to look for alternative types of salmon or other fish to savor.

Now if you’re thinking that Atlantic salmon is your answer – think again.  Due to overfishing wild Atlantic salmon is now extinct, meaning the only type available at market is farmed.  Typical farmed and wild salmon have distinct variations in how healthy (or not) they are for our bodies and for the environment.  Let’s take a look at some of these considerations:

Choose your poisons: Farmed salmon is nearly ten times higher in PCB’s and other toxins than the wild variety.  The fishmeal that is fed to farmed salmon is more contaminated than even livestock feed, according to a study by the European Union.

Pollution contribution: Farmed salmon are raised in open cages, thousands of them in net-pens linked together in the ocean.  The fish pass fecal matter into the sea around them, contaminating the water with as much raw sewage as a town of 65,000 people.  A parasite known as sea lice also becomes a problem with the pens in such close quarters. Antibiotics and other chemicals are then used to treat the disease, all of which can leach into the ocean and infect other wild fish.

It takes a village: Over three pounds of small fish are needed to produce just one pound of farmed salmon.  These fish are an important food source for lots of other ocean life, such as bass, whales, sea birds and seals. Wild salmon eat fish that have feasted on red algae, providing the natural ruby color in their flesh.  Farmed salmon gets its color from red dye.

Un-health food: In addition to the other toxins that have plagued the farmed salmon, the wild variety provides more than three times the amount of Omega 3s than its counterpart.  Wild salmon are not only drug and antibiotic-free, they also have lower levels of harmful saturated fats. According to the U.S.D.A., farmed Atlantic salmon contain 200 percent more fat than wild Pacific pink and chum salmon. Aren’t we eating it for the health benefits?

The news is not all bad when you consider the options for variety in the wild salmon family.  Coho, pink, sockeye and Arctic Char are delicious and affordable alternatives to the renowned King.  When in doubt, ask your local fishmonger the origin of the salmon you choose.  Other options include wild halibut which is local in the West and in season, and California sea bass (not Chilean.) For more help on determining additional safe fish to buy go to www.seafoodwatch.org

Berries

On the menu today: Berries

It’s that time of year when plump, ripe berries of all colors are calling my name to bring them home and make them into pie, crisps or puree.  I have so many recipes for berry creations (one to follow) there simply aren’t enough meals in the day to indulge my collection.

berries

What makes berries good for you? Natural antioxidants and fiber support the body’s defenses and help to keep it running smoothly. Fresh fruits like berries provide these ~ plus food energy and good carbohydrates.  They are also low in fat and contain a multitude of vitamins and minerals. When selecting your fruits, consider including the following choices. According to the USDA, these are high in antioxidants and all are in the top 20 of the top 100 antioxidant-rich foods:

1. Wild blueberries
2. Cranberries
3. Blackberries
4. Raspberries
5. Strawberries

But not all fruit is rated equal. Many of you have heard me on a soapbox about the pesticide load in conventional strawberries.  This is due to the fact that they have such thin skin, and are so close to the ground…thereby real ‘suckers’ of toxic sprays. On occasion, residues are found to exceed even current legally allowable tolerances, the safety of which has been called into question by Consumers Union and other reputable groups, especially for children. Strawberries are #1 of 12 foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found . Therefore, if you want to avoid pesticide-associated health risks, consider only those strawberries which have been organically grown.

Mixed Berry Crumble (Serves 6-8)

When grinding the nuts, be careful not to go too long or you’ll end up with nut butter.  Sometimes I blend almond meal (Trader Joe’s) with the hazelnuts for better texture/flavor. If you can’t find Sucanat,  use light brown sugar.

Crumb Crust/Topping

1 cup hazelnuts or almonds (about 4 oz.)

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/3 cup Sucanat (natural cane sugar – available at Whole Foods)

3/4 cup organic unsalted butter (1.5 sticks), chilled and cut into small pieces

Filling

1/3 cup Sucanat

1.5 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot

2+ pints berries of your choice (I mix all types)

Preheat oven to 350º.  To prepare crust/topping, roast nuts in medium baking pan for approx. 10 minutes. If using hazelnuts, rub off skin and let cool.  Increase oven temp. to 450.

In food processor, grind nuts until fine – approx. 10 seconds.  In large bowl, mix nuts, flour, and sugar.  Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter into flour mix until coarse crumbs for,m.  Using fingers, evenly press half of the crust into bottom and sides of an 8 or 9-inch tart pan.

To prepare filling, mix sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl.  Fold in berries and spoon into crust, spreading evenly.  Sprinkle with remaining crumb topping and pat down gently.

Bake until topping is golden and filling is bubbly ~ approx. 30 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.  Serve warm.