Eating for Health

It’s nice to hear positive news every now and then, especially when it comes to money and our health.  Yesterday the NY Times published an article about our first lady, Michelle Obama, committing to eating healthy and spreading the good word. How encouraging that someone with such visibility and influence is taking a leading role by influencing everyone from our children to those who need it most.

The day before, our friend in real food, Michael Pollan, solicited readers to share thoughts on ‘smart eating’ and has received over 1,900 responses to date!  Comments range from “Cook every meal at home using real ingredients and you will be eating healthy,” (which I will expand upon in ‘how to save food $ at home’); “Food rule : enough is too much,” to “Don’t eat anything you can buy at a gas station.” Click to continue reading »

More Reasons to Buy Organic

Sorry for missing a week. I was enjoying the good life in Hawaii and haven’t quite mastered the remote blog mechanics just yet.  But more on that later!

Periodically I will jump back on my soap box to eschew the virtues of eating organic and sustainable foods.  This morning the New York Times provided yet another compelling article which highlights the hazards of melamine – found in much of the human food chain – especially imported from China.  In summary, this dangerous chemical is infecting many of our staples, which is of even greater concern to young children.

Of course we know about this product from the pet food recall last year which killed thousands of dogs and cats.  But melamine seeps its way into our own agriculture through conventional fertilizers, and can affect not only the beef we consume, but the milk from cows and eggs from chickens who eat contaminated feed.

Bottom line (again) is to stick with trusted food sources which are locally grown. Personally, I am not feeling too confident about many of China’s assurances these days…and my body is my temple.

>> Just in time for Turkey Day – check out this Sam Fromartz’ post on how to order local items, from fresh greens to the big bird.

Are You A Green Foodie?

Like many people, I subscribe to several blogs and every now and then, I actually read them:) OK seriously, I do, and today I’d like to share one of my favorites: The Daily Green.  It covers a range of my favorite topics – food, the environment, green issues, and recipes – everything except pets (a future blog.)  Inside today’s edition there’s a quiz for my fellow devotees committed to living green and ingesting organic. It tests your knowledge on a variety of food sources and briefly touches on the Slow Food movement. Even if you’re inching your way towards sustainable food (bravo!) I think you’ll find it educational and hopefully inspiring.  Afterall, that’s why we do this.  It’s delicious fun!

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:)

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

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.