Archive for August, 2009
Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
I’ve said this before, but I’ll admit it again. Being a nutritionist doesn’t stop me from having a full-on sweet tooth. That’s my thing, that’s my issue, that’s my problem, that’s what I’d want if I was stranded on a dessert (Fruedian spelling slip) island.
Stranded with Brad Pitt? No thanks. Stranded with something sweet? Count me in! Stranded with a maple tree and some sap buckets? Yeah!
Pancakes and pure maple syrup — yep, that’s my downfall.
They’re just maple syrup holders. A reason to eat pure, organic, grade A, Vermont maple syrup.
Knowing full-well I’d be better off topping my pancakes and hot cereal with something other than liquid sweetness, I’m always up for a healthier option. Once again, Ali, from Whole Life Nutrition has come to the rescue, inspiring me to try something new. She just did a post on blueberry syrup and it looks divine. I, however, picked up another big bag of fresh Colorado peaches in my CSA box on Monday.
what you need
6-7 ripe peaches, pitted and chopped in small chunks
1 cup water (a little less if you have very juicy peaches)
2 teaspoons agar-agar *
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
what you do
Wash and chop the peaches. I put the chopped peaches in a large strainer like this, over a larger bowl. I squished (sophisticated culinary term) out some of the juice into the bowl, pressing and smooshing the peaches into the strainer. Pour water and collected peach juice into a medium-sized sauce pan. Add agar-agar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a strong simmer and stir frequently for 5 minutes until agar-agar has fully dissolved.
* Agar-agar is a thickener made from seaweed. You could use arrowroot powder for the thickening agent, or skip it altogether. I like using agar-agar because it’s high in iodine and I feel like I need a dose now and then for thyroid health.
Add peaches, cinnamon and honey and continue simmering and stirring for another 10 minutes, until sauce thickens and water is reduced. It should be the consistency of applesauce.
You have to stir frequently so you might as well keep yourself busy. Stand facing your kitchen counter, about 3 feet away (maybe a little more depending on how tall you are). Okay, here’s the disclaimer. Read this and swear to me you’re not going to do something stupid. Ask your doctor if it’s okay for you to do push-ups against the kitchen counter. Don’t slip on the floor, chip your tooth, hurt your shoulder or whatever else is possible. Make sure you have decent shoes on, your floor isn’t wet and you’re not standing on a banana peel.
With your feet at least 3 feet from the counter, bend over and grasp the edge. Now you’re at a 90 degree angle similar to Uttanasana Forward Bend demonstrated in this illustration. The only difference is you’re grasping the counter top and your feet might be farther away from the cabinet. The farther away, the harder the push-up. Also, the easier it is to slip and hurt yourself (see above disclaimer, read it again). Using core strength (imagine velcro-ing your belly button to your spine from the inside — work your abs), do a series of strong push-ups. Don’t sag. Start with 10 push-ups, rest, stretch back into Uttanasana Forward Bend and then stir your peach syrup; do 10 more push-ups, rest, stretch back into Uttanasana Forward Bend and continue to stir your peach syrup. And on you go. Think of how much strength you build just hanging around in your kitchen waiting for stuff to happen. Seriously, I do iron-chef-girl yoga all the time.
Serve your peach syrup warm over pancakes or let cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for later use. This is great over ice cream, hot cereal (wonderful over hot teff or GF oatmeal), buckwheat pancakes, French toast, or waffles.
Whew, cooking is hard.
Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
I just picked up my Grant Farms CSA box full of goodies last night and (yippee) I found some UFO squash stashed between the potatoes and kohlrabi.
Pattypan, sunburst or scallopini – whatever you call them, these little gizmos are tasty and fun. If you want your dinner guests to say, aaahhhh, how cute when you bring out the plates, serve up some stuffed sunburst squash-ettes. And kids love nothing better than eating little yellow flying saucers or erupting volcanoes for dinner.
squash volcanoes (warning – launching pad recipe)
what you need
2 or more sunburst squashes
cooked brown rice *
Italian sausage (optional) *
onion, finely chopped
assorted veggies (throw in some finely diced carrots or celery if you’d like)
oil or butter for sautéing
small amount of broth (vegetable or chicken) *
sea salt, fresh ground pepper, Italian seasonings
* I almost always have some cooked brown rice and a container of chicken or vegetable broth stashed in the refrigerator for times like this.
* These are great with a small amount of cooked Italian sausage added to the mix, but it’s not necessary. I just happened to have some in the fridge, so I threw it in with the brown rice.
what you do
Carefully cut the more rounded end off the squash to make an opening, keeping the “lid” intact. The “flatter” end is the bottom. Gently clean out the interior part of the squash without cutting through the skin. Try to keep the chunks you dig out large enough to chop into pieces (don’t pulverize it). Set aside the part you’ve cleaned out. With the open end facing up, set the squash in a baking dish and add an inch or so of water to the dish. Make sure to include the lids. Cover with foil and bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes.
While squash is baking, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil (or butter) in a good-sized skillet. Add onions and other veggies, stir gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure to include the squash you cleaned out, chopped and set aside when you did the prep work. Add garlic, sauté another 30 to 60 seconds. Spoon brown rice into the skillet and add a few splashes of broth to moisten the mixture, continue cooking for a couple more minutes. Mix well and season with Italian spices, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. You can also fold in some Parmesan cheese at this point if you’d like it more “cheesy.” Mixture should be moist, but not drippy.
* If you decide to use meat, add the cooked meat when you add the rice so the flavors blend and everything is heated to the same temperature.
Once squash has precooked, carefully take it out of the oven (don’t spill hot water on yourself). Using a hot-pad, transfer squash to a cookie sheet, gently fill with rice mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and return to oven for another 15 or 20 minutes.
This recipe isn’t precise, all of your amounts depend on how many squash volcanoes you’re making. Adjust accordingly.
Stay tuned as my share box was overflowing this week.
Hmmm — what should I make next? Squash frittata? Apple crumble? Or potato-crusted salmon?
Is this fun, or what?!
Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
I love beets.
But you already knew that if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time.
Now, thanks to some researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK, I have documentation that this deadly serious vegetable is a performance-enhancing substance. In fact, there are forty pages worth of scientific documentation on just that subject in the August 6th issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology. If you’re interested.
Yes, the beet root is not only well-suited for a starring role in an offbeat Tom Robbins’ saga, but it also has important implications in mitochondrial respiration.
Deadly serious? By all means.
Do you care? Probably not.
But that’s never stopped me before. Here’s the scoop. To make a long and very convoluted story short, researchers have determined that beet root juice, which contains inorganic nitrate, decreases human oxygen requirements during sub-maximal exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise.
So, how did they figure this out?
The researchers rounded up a compliant study group of males, aged 19-38 years old (only guys that age would agree to this). Half the group drank 500 mL per day of beet root juice, while the other half drank black currant juice, which has little nitrate content. They were hooked up to metabolic equipment to measure pulmonary gas exchange, their BP and heart rates were monitored, and capillary blood samples were collected during several days of exercise testing and juice drinking.
Well, guess what? The beet root drinkers showed significantly improved exercise tolerance and muscle oxygenation. I doubt you have to be a 19-38 year old male to benefit in this way by eating beets or drinking beet juice, but I’m happy to let them be the guinea pigs.
Ah, but here’s my take on it. Don’t wait for beet root capsules to be sold at your favorite supplement store (just wait, it will happen). Instead, eat the whole beet and enjoy it. You’ll be able to run faster and farther. Seriously.
Well, maybe it just won’t hurt as bad.
The above photo was my lunch. I sautéed onions, garlic, celery, carrots and beets in a little coconut oil for about 6-8 minutes. I added some leftover cooked brown rice and a few splashes of chicken broth and stirred occasionally for another 5 minutes or so, until rice was hot and veggies were lightly cooked.
Now I’m going to go run (maybe I’ll just walk) my dog 16% more efficiently than if I hadn’t eaten beets. That might be a bit of a leap, but you get the idea.
Other beet-obsessive posts I’ve written include:
Gluten-free, chocolate beet cupcakes (just trust me)
The beet goes on — dairy-free, beet ice cream (yeah, I know, I know)
Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume and the deadly serious beet
Tips on storing and using both the beet root and the greens (raw or cooked)
Seasonal foods nutritional profile of beets
Off and running,
Thursday, August 13th, 2009
I’m on a roll with these organic Colorado peaches from my CSA fruit share. Just like with the cherries, I can hardly decide what to do with them next. I started with two good-sized bags on Monday and I’m afraid they’ll be gone by the weekend.
These muffins have a subtle, off-beat (as in quirkily good) taste, followed by full-on peach power. Of course, they’re gluten-free, but for those of you who eat wheat cooties, I’ll also make an attempt to adapt backwards so you won’t miss out.
gluten-free peach pecan mesquite muffins (drool)
what you need
2 cups Pamela’s GF Flour Blend (baking mix)
1 cup diced peaches, juice and all (2 medium-sized peaches, unpeeled)
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon mesquite flour * (optional – if you don’t use any, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
what you do
In medium sized bowl, whisk together Pamela’s Mix, mesquite flour and cinnamon. Set aside. In a separate (and larger) bowl, whisk eggs and honey until well combined. Gently stir in the peaches. Add the dry ingredients and stir by hand until well blended. Fold in pecans and spoon into lined or greased muffin pan, 3/4ths full. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 to 22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes 1 dozen muffins.
* Since I never bake with regular flour, I can’t make any guarantees, but if you want to give this a try with wheat flour, you need to use a leavening agent (approximately 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per cup of traditional flour). Decrease the flour as I’ve found 1 cup of traditional flour equals about 1 and 1/4 cup of GF flour. For more general tips on exchanges and baking with GF flour, check here. I imagine you could also use a traditional banana bread recipe and substitute chopped peaches for the bananas.
* Mesquite flour is a bit pricey, but it’s worth it for the exotic fun factor and the taste. I love the stuff. You don’t need much – in fact, a little goes a long way, so it lasts for months (store it in the freezer). Mesquite has a sweet, chocolatey, coffee, cinnamony taste. Or something like that. I can’t quite pin-point it, but it smells absolutely divine. It gives baked goods a nice cinnamon color — it’s beautiful flour. Plus, mesquite is high in fiber and protein and is a good source of calcium, iron, zinc, and potassium. It also helps balance blood sugar levels. Ground mesquite pods were a staple for Native Americans and indigenous people of the southwest.
Hmm, what’s next for my peaches? Goat milk peach ice cream? Or peach cobbler?
Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
Those of you who are CSA members know all about the whim of the farmer, right? Well, I’ve been totally whimmed lately.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Not at all. If I was a farmer and worked out in the fields all day long, I’d express a little whimsy whenever I dang-well pleased.
But, here’s the deal. I’ve been waiting for those little flying saucer squashes to appear because I have a fun recipe all ready to post, but nooo, it’s not happening. I figured sunburst squash would be coming our way because I was given 3 as a gift when I was snooping around the farm taking photos for my last post. Someone must have found a few in their big red boxes. I have the evidence.
Alright, who got those little scalloped thingies? I picked up my delivery last night and it wasn’t me.
There you go. It’s the whim of the farmer.
Aaah, but peaches are in season in Colorado right now! Luscious, drippy, sweet, unbelievable peaches. I was still getting cherries when peaches starting making their CSA rounds. At first, I was all pouty when I got the tail-end of the cherry run two weeks ago on Monday and everyone from Tuesday on got the start of peach season. Until I was forced (literally forced) to make cherry-pecan streusel and homemade cherry-vanilla ice cream. Bummer.
Onward. We’re in the midst of peach season. Yippee!
peach salsa – the perfect complement to fish
what you need (adjust according to your whim, this is a launching pad recipe)
2 peaches, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
1/3 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup diced onion (mild onion or scallions)
1/4 cup chopped jicama (optional)
juice of 1 small lime
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
sea salt to taste
what you do
Mix together, taste, adjust to your liking and be thankful you live in Colorado where they grow the best peaches around.
Go forth and Eat A Peach
Sweet Melissa (and all this time I thought that song was written for me)
Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
Although I find the subject of food politics fascinating, I’ll spare you (sort of) my comestible ranting and stick to some of the more fun aspects of farming, food and healthy living.
But first, a little background.
Okay, I admit it — I drive an SUV. I was born and raised in Colorado, what else would I drive? I ski, hike, backpack and own a 130 pound furry dog. I’m not trading in my 4-wheel drive Pathfinder for some little foo-foo, plug-in car.
Having said that, I also care about the environment. Second to cars, the way our food is produced and distributed uses more fossil fuel than any other segment of the economy. And according to some of the experts who study this stuff, our Standard American Diet (SAD) contributes over one-third of the greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere. Not to mention what that diet does to our general health.
Food travels an average of 1500 miles before it lands on our dinner plate. Most of the time we have no idea where it came from, who grew it, or how it made its way into our homes. Other than the short trip from isle 14 at the supermarket and into the kitchen.
So, to do my part, I’m keeping my 9 year old SUV “clunker” and instead of taking the $4500 in government subsidy money and trading it in on a new car, I’ll make an effort to eat as much locally grown, seasonal food as possible. Is “cash for kale” part of any of these government stimulus packages? That might fit nicely into all three of these bills currently stirring up debate in Congress; climate change, food safety and health care. Oooh, as tempting as this political thread is, I’ll resist jumping on my soap box (or fruit box, in this case) and move on to the fun stuff.
Those of us who belong to the Grant Farms CSA program know where a good part of our food comes from. At least 26 week’s worth, but most of us don’t know the finer details. Here’s a closer look, complete with photos I took last Saturday while indulging my hippie-girl roots and painting flowers and peace signs on the farm-tour buses.
. . . and eat your veggies.
Grant Farm’s Jane and Maggie – peace, love, Bob Dylan and sparkly farkle.
You’d never guess who the lady-bug painting expert was. These farm boys are gentle souls (right, Josh?).
This organic lettuce was grown with care by Andy Grant, Ricardo (lettuce scientist extraordinaire) and the gang at Grant Family Farms. It’s harvested at its peak and packed carefully into the CSA delivery boxes by Uriel (above) and his coworkers for pick-up by us, the lucky shareholders. Even knowing the basics of the process, it’s hard for me to imagine how much work actually went into growing and getting that bunch of lettuce into my hands. To be honest, I have no clue, but I can see the pride in Uriel’s eyes and the spirit behind his smile and that gives me a hint.
This is Carmen, carefully dishing out summer squash while flashing her mega-watt smile. There’s a whole assembly line of cheerful, hard-working people putting together our CSA share boxes. Visiting the farm, touring the distribution center and meeting the people who grow, care for, harvest, organize and distribute the food makes it taste all the more delicious.
And Alonzo — a delightful smile to match a pleasant attitude. Now, don’t you appreciate that squash a little more knowing where it came from? And doesn’t that make you smile too? Go ahead, I dare you. Look into these faces and try not to smile. See, it’s impossible (snicker, snicker).
Good people, good energy, good food.
Okay, I don’t want rant (too much) and I don’t want to preach (too much), but by purchasing locally grown food from folks like this who care about the land and value the goods they’re producing, we become an important part of that community — a cog in the health and sustainability of the cycle. They need us and we need them.
It’s a privilege. Thanks, Andy and gang!
Peace, love and veggies!
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