Sunday, July 31, 2011

Digest for Week-endng 30 July 2011

With all the work I do on my computer, I decided I wanted to start caring more for my eyes on a daily basis. And then I expanded this to include all my muscles from the neck up, which I’ve all but ignored most of my life. Three of this week’s posts talk about working the muscles in our heads and what the benefits are of doing this. I talk about one of the main challenges we face when eating out, and alternatives for making some of the foods we crave gluten-free.

A Workout for the Eyes

If you’re staring at a computer screen all day, here are some exercises that will help strengthen the eyes and offer relief from eyestrain.

A Workout From the Neck Up

Like the rest of the body, the muscles in the face and neck need work to stay toned and strong. Here are some simple exercises to help with that.

A Case of Vanity

Keeping our faces looking youthful as we age is not necessarily about keeping our skin firm and wrinkle-free. There’s a lot to consider that’s going on below the surface.

Portion Distortion

We don’t have to fall victim to the astronomical portion sizes when we eat out.

Gluten-free Pancakes

It’s fairly simple to turn a traditional pancake recipe into its gluten-free cousin. Here’s what I sometimes use that works like a charm.

Satisfying a Pasta Craving

There are a number of options for gluten-free pasta when the craving hits. Here is one of my favorites.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Satisfy a Pasta Craving

After posting a gluten-free pancake recipe yesterday, I thought about other areas of my diet where I’ve reduced gluten. One biggie for me is pasta. I very rarely eat pasta anymore but when I do crave it, I’ll look for wheat-free alternatives. I’ve tried rice pasta, quinoa-corn pasta, or compromised with soba, which is buckwheat and wheat. I’ve decided, though, that my favorite type is bean threads. I fell in love with them years ago when I had them for the first time in a noodle soup.

Bean threads are an Asian noodle that’s typically made with mung bean and sweet potato or potato starch. They are transparent, thin angel-hair like noodles. They’re easy to prepare; simply cover them in boiling water and let them stand for about 20 minutes. And unlike regular wheat pasta, the noodles do not get mushy or starchy, nor do they stick together. They’re light and maintain a nice texture. I haven’t tried serving them with a typical tomato-based pasta sauce, but this time of year, I often prepare them with mixed vegetables and in the autumn and winter, I use them in soups.

The brand I’m using now is called Saifun from Dynasty. They’re made with mung bean and potato and come with three very generous dried bunches of noodles that can be prepared individually. Where can you find bean threads? They are sometimes found in the Asian section of big grocers, Whole Foods (where I bought the noodles in the photo), or Asian grocery stores.

If you’re having a craving for pasta, try them, they do the trick for me…

If you’ve bean threads before, what types of dishes do you prepare with them?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bob's Red Mill Pancakes

If you’ve ever considered cutting back on or eliminating gluten in your diet but think that you’ll feel deprived, here is a gluten-free recipe for pancakes that will make you forget all about traditional pancake mixes. For the batter, I used a recipe that I previously posted that used whole-grain spelt and buttermilk. This time, though, I substituted Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free flour and xanthan gum. I also used almond milk in place of the buttermilk. The results were amazing and I’m thinking I may never make another gluten-containing pancake again.

Gluten-free Pancakes

1 c Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free Flour

¾ t xanthan gum

1 T organic sugar

½ t baking powder

½ t baking soda

½ t salt

1¼ c milk (dairy, almond, etc.) You may need to adjust for desired batter consistency

1 T melted butter or grapeseed oil

1 egg, beaten

1 t vanilla

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Combine the milk, butter or oil, egg, and vanilla and add to the dry mixture. Mix until the flour is completely incorporated. If the batter is too thick, add more milk. Add nuts or fruit if desired.

Let the batter sit for 10 minutes, then drop ¼ - ½ cup servings onto an oiled pan that’s been heated to medium. When the batter is set around the edges and begins to bubble, flip, and cook until the bottom is lightly brown and the middle is no longer raw.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Portion Distortion

I don’t eat out much because I enjoy cooking and I like knowing what’s in my food; however tonight, I met a friend for a lovely meal of sushi. We shared the plate in the picture and each had a small bowl of miso soup. When we were finished, we both agreed that it was a perfect amount of food, we were perfectly satisfied, and felt great.

When I got home, I picked up a recent issue of Nutrition Action from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and there was an article entitled Extreme Eating 2011, which described some of the menu items served in some of the more popular restaurants in the country. Not only could these dishes be shared with a friend, they should be split among large families; or better yet avoided altogether. Here are a few of them.

The Cheesecake Factory’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake - I absolutely love the atmosphere at the Cheesecake Factory and I enjoy their seared tuna salad. However, their Red Velvet Cheesecake, is made from two layers of red velvet cake, two layers of cheesecake, cream cheese frosting, shaved chocolate, and a tower of whipped cream - all for 1,540 calories and 59 grams of fat. This is equivalent to a half gallon of ice cream.

IHOP’s Monster Bacon ‘N Beef Cheeseburger - This sandwich includes two beef and bacon patties (the bacon is chopped up and mixed right into the ground beef), American and provolone cheese on a Romano-Parmesan bun. It weighs in at 1,250 calories, 42 grams of saturated fat and 1,590 milligrams of sodium.

Applebee’s Provolone-stuffed Meatballs with Fettuccine - The provolone-stuffed meatballs are simmered in a marinara sauce and served over fettuccine in a cream sauce. This hearty meal clocks in at 1,520 calories, 43 grams of saturated fat, and 3,700 milligrams of sodium.

I could go on, but I won’t and here are a few points I would like to make about menu items like these:

I don’t necessarily mean to single out any restaurants or any one particular menu item. But these are examples of what is commonly found across the country and what I find fascinating is that even when people know the nutrition information for a meal, it’s been found that it often has little influence over people’s decisions.

  • Just because these restaurants are serving enormous portion sizes, it doesn’t mean we are obligated to eat them.
  • We need to be aware that yes, these ARE enormous portions sizes and they are not meant to be eaten by one person in a single sitting.
  • These examples above all lack fruit and vegetables, i.e., fiber, minerals, phytonutrients/antioxidants.

All the more reason that cooking your own meals is a great way to stay healthy because you can use healthier ingredients, you can better control portion sizes, and you probably wouldn’t eat as much.

What are some of the struggles you face when you eat out? Please share them here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Case of Vanity

After yesterday’s post about maintaining a youthful look by exercising our facial muscles, today I wanted to share an article I read last year on NPR about what causes our faces to sag as we age. Not only does it have to do with our muscles losing their tone but our bones droop as well.

As we age, our cheekbones can drop, making our eyes look more deep set and hollow and our jawbones can deteriorate and recede. This also means that a face-lift to fix sagging skin will not hide sagging bones. Have you ever noticed that taut skin on someone may still not make them appear young, depending on their age.

How does this happen? Our bones are not static. They are living, dynamic structures that are constantly being remodeled. The texture also changes as we get older, from hard and smooth to more rough. And although the article offers little advice for preventing this from happening, it does suggest that keeping our teeth is one effective way to prevent sagging bones since the socket of a lost tooth will disappear. That means, brushing, flossing, eating a balanced and healthy diet, and drinking lots of water to keep our teeth and gums healthy.

And although I haven’t found any evidence to back up the theory that exercising our facial muscles will help preserve the structure of our bones, I’m going to bet my money on this being true. Since we already know that weight bearing exercises help maintain bone density, I predict that exercises that stimulate movement around the bones in our face will help to maintain their integrity. And if I find any evidence for this, I will report back. In the meantime, in the name of vanity : ) I’ll do my facial exercises and brush/floss regularly. I hope you do too…

P.S. The book Face Culture by Frederick Rossiter discusses this topic. I’m going to search for it at the local libraries…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Workout from the Neck Up

Yesterday’s post about eye exercises made me realize that most of us probably ignore our muscles from the neck up. We’re so focused on toning our arms, legs, buttocks, and abdomens and we neglect our faces. Yet, as we age, our facial muscles begin to sag, which can contribute to lines and wrinkles and make us look older.

No matter how good our diets are, our facial muscles won’t stay firm unless they’re conditioned. In addition, exercising our heads is a good thing because like the rest of the body, working these muscles is also thought to relieve swelling, especially in the eye area, and stimulate the lymphatic system to detoxify this part of our body.

And, so, here are several facial exercises designed to work the three groups below:

Neck and Throat

Lips and Cheeks

Eye and Forehead

I did all of the exercises in about 10-15 minutes and can say that by the time I was finished with my lips and cheeks, my face was tired! This is a good indication of how little I work these muscles. One nice thing is that many of the exercises can be done anywhere. Of course, like the eye exercises from yesterday, if you’re on a subway or train, you may want to hold up your magazine or newspaper or people may get the wrong idea ; )

There are additional eye exercises here to supplement those from yesterday as well. I’m going to try these daily to see if I notice a difference. Especially the exercises for the neck and throat since I’ve noticed in yoga class a bit of sagging going on with the skin on my neck. I’m also thinking that many of these exercises would be a wonderful way to treat a headache or relieve stress from sitting or working too long in front of the computer, since our head, neck, and even shoulders are often involved and the exercises are stimulating blood flow to these areas. When is the last time you thought about working the muscles in your head and neck?

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Workout for the Eyes

Do you spend a lot of time on the computer? For me, some days, it’s more hours than I would like to admit. And over the course of the day, I sometimes notice my eyes getting dry, tired, achy, or blurry. Over time, this can put a strain on the eyes and affect my vision. Another of the many reasons I love to escape to my yoga class!

If you’re experiencing the same thing, there are things that you can do to alleviate the affects of staring at the computer screen (or the cell phone or the television). Just as working out is important for keeping our muscles toned and in top shape and our bodies healthy, our eyes need to be exercised to keep them performing at their best and the surrounding muscles strong.

One simple trick you can use is to frequently look away from the screen at something further in the distance to keep your focusing sharp. This blog also describes five simple exercises you can do every day to keep your eye muscles and focusing power strong. I’ve tried them all and they’re quick and can be done anywhere (except while driving of course!). I’m also thinking that it might look a little strange if you were seen doing the figure eight exercise on the train or subway. It’s definitely a workout for the eyes, but if feels like it may look a little freaky : ) Try them, though, at your desk, or in the comfort of your home.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Digest for Week-endng 23 July 2011

It's been a hot week here and this week's posts discuss why and how to keep your body cool and healthy when the temperature soars. In addition, understanding that "healthy food" is good and that occasionally treating yourself is a good thing make it more likely you'll embrace a healthy lifestyle.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean boring, tasteless, and unappealing. It’s just the opposite!

Have you ever fallen off the wagon by having that piece of cake or slice of pizza and felt that your efforts to stay healthy had been sabotaged? It’s not that way at all.

Here’s some information about watermelon you may not have known.

Here’s a salad idea from a restaurant that takes the work out of eating a salad for you.

It’s so important to take care of yourself on these hot days to avoid heat-related illnesses. The CDC offers some tips.

Here are some refreshing ideas to try besides salads to help you stay cool in the summer heat. I actually made the watermelon gazpacho yesterday (with tomatoes) and it was delicious!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cold Soups and Smoothies to Stay Cool

With the heat wave, I feel compelled to write more about ways to stay cool. Besides drinking lots of water and eating fruits and vegetables in salads, there are more cooling options to include local produce into your diets while at the same time, reducing the strain on the power grid and keeping the house cool.

For example, try a cold soup! I love creamy cucumber or gazpacho in the summer. Here are several chilled soup recipes from Eating Well Magazine. While some initially require cooking, there are some that are completely raw. Today, I will try the watermelon gazpacho with the yellow watermelon I have in the fridge. It looks and sounds delicious!

Another alternative is a cool smoothie. For breakfast or sometimes lunch, I will whip up the following:

1 c water

½ frozen banana

½ c frozen blueberries

sprinkle of cinnamon and ginger

¼ avocado

1 scoop protein powder (optional)

1 handful baby greens

Whip everything up in the blender. Add more water if you’d like it thinner. You can also substitute nut or any type of milk for the water and add a bit of coconut oil, nut butter, or coconut milk as the fat source instead of the avocado. For a lighter snack, you can omit the protein powder and avocado.

What are your favorite chilled foods (besides ice cream : )

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beating the Heat

It would be an understatement to say it’s hot here. It has been in the upper 90’s for a few days and it is expected to be a couple more before we see some relief. It’s important everyday to stay hydrated, but it’s even more important on days like this because we more easily lose fluids through sweat. And along with those fluids we lose salts like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Left unchecked, dehydration in the extreme heat can lead to heat exhaustion or even worse, heat stroke.

The CDC has an Extreme Heat Prevention Guide that can prepare you for the rising temperatures and explains how to recognize heat related illnesses. Some of the obvious things we can do to prevent being affected by the heat are:

  • staying indoors in the air conditioning,
  • earing light, loose-fitting clothing,
  • keeping outdoor activities to a minimum in the middle of a hot day, and
  • wearing sunscreen and protective clothing if you are out in the blazing sun (I like using an umbrella if I need to walk in the sun. You'd be surprised how well it works to keep the heat and rays off!

In addition, it goes without saying that you should stay properly hydrated. Even on days when the weather is less severe, we should drink half of our body weight in ounces of water. This goes doubly on super hot days and we may require more if we’re sweating. To replace electrolytes, it’s a great idea to eat hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables, and foods like watermelon and celery that have a very high water content and are high in minerals may actually be more effective at restoring hydration. Here are 30 hydrating foods to include in your diet with this extreme weather.

I hope you’re all staying cool!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fresh Chopped Salad

I went into New York City today for an afternoon seminar and stopped for lunch at Fresh & Co. on 7th Avenue. Of course the restaurant was packed with people. They were serving up sandwiches, fresh soups, personalized pastas and chopped salads.

It’s a brilliant idea, really. You order the type of salad you want, a server puts it together in a bowl, then you move onto the next station where someone pours the salad onto a cutting board and using a rocker blade, chops it into small pieces. Then it gets transferred into a large bowl, gets tossed with dressing, and goes back into the original bowl.

I’ve had custom-made salads before, but the chopping step is a great idea because it eliminates the need for cutting while eating. As I wrote in a previous blog, I’ve been experimenting with ways to cut and prepare vegetables and I frequently chop them small either for sautéing, adding to other dishes, or putting in salads. I think it’s a great way of getting more vegetables into your diet or even getting kids to eat more of them.

By the way, just as the name says, today’s salad was super fresh and very tasty and the weather was scorching today, so it was a perfect light meal. I would go back there again for a quick lunch.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cool off With Watermelon

Imagine my surprise when I purchased a Sugar Baby watermelon from Rosedale Farms in Simsbury, CT, brought it home, sliced it open and found yellow flesh inside! I was shocked and delighted since I had never before tried yellow watermelon. The difference in taste to pink/red flesh fruit was very subtle, but as I’ve read, it was sweeter with an almost honey-like flavor.

If you normally buy whole watermelons, here is a useful piece of information. Watermelons kept at room temperature, ~70°F produce more of the carotenoids lycopene and beta-carotene than fruit stored at 41°F or 54°F. In one study, the researchers found an 11-40% increase in lycopene and a 50-139% increase in beta-carotene compared to the fruit stored in the cold.

Of course, once the fruit has been cut, it should be wrapped or placed in a sealed container and refrigerated to maintain its freshness and to avoid drying out. The good news about this is that another study found that minimal processing–meaning cutting, packaging, and refrigerating–had no effect on the nutritional content of the fruit even after nine days. This is good news and means that keeping your watermelon at room temperature before it is cut will help to increase it’s nutritional value and it can be preserved by storing it chilled after cutting. I was happy to read this since I like to make watermelon slush as a cool treat this time of year.

Enjoy sweet, juicy watermelon while it’s in season. By the way, besides red and yellow, watermelons can also produce orange or white flesh; I’ve never seen either, though. Have you? How did they taste?

You can read more about this and additional information on watermelon at The World’s Healthiest Foods.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's About Balance

Are you one of those people who knows you could be eating healthier but haven’t gotten around to making the changes necessary to clean up your diet? Maybe you think it’s too much work, or you won’t like the food, or you’re afraid you’ll be deprived and never be able to eat your favorite foods again. For the most part, these are misconceptions.

As I mentioned yesterday, good-for-you foods can be incredibly tasty and satisfying and I the long run, will make you feel better. Your palette will also change over time as you grow accustomed to eating healthier and you will slowly lose the taste for the salty, fatty, sugary foods that are making you feel tired, irritable, depressed, and sick. And in the time it takes to open a box, cook the noodles, tear open a packet of powdered cheese and mix it in, you could have prepared a tasty and filling salad full of flavor or put a dish of vegetables in the oven to roast. When we make up our minds to do it, we just do it.

How about the idea that we can never eat our favorite foods again? My philosophy on this is that life is about balance. It is meant to be enjoyed and savored and treating yourself to something you love is good for the soul. As you move into a healthier diet, you will likely find that you will want your unhealthy favorite foods less and less and may even reserve them for special occasions. For example, the cake in the picture was for my grandson’s 5th birthday. And as you’d expect, the cake on the inside tasted as good as the outside looked–it was actually decorated by an artist. Of course I had a piece (maybe two, I don’t remember). But I didn’t deprive myself of the experience of tasting this delicious cake.

Tonight, I learned how to make pot stickers with a friend and I enjoyed some of those as well. But ninety-five percent of the time, I would classify my diet as clean. One good way to manage your treats is to have them outside the home. If you want ice cream, go out to an ice cream shop and have a cone or cup, don’t come home with a half-gallon. Same with other sweets, or pizza, or whatever else you crave. This way, you’re not tempted to eat it all the time.

What are your strategies for maintaining a healthy diet? Please share them here!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Loving Healthy Food

Does this look like diet food to you? Would you think you could eat this if you were watching your weight or trying to lose weight? If you answered no to both questions, you’ll be surprised to know that the ice cream in the dish is almost 100% fruit. It’s made with blueberries and bananas with some spices and an additional ingredient.

When we think about healthy food, we think about boring, tasteless, unappetizing dishes. Maybe it used to be that way, but those days are gone. Today, healthy eating involves bright vibrant color, different textures and real flavor that can be savory or sweet, spicy or mild, cool and creamy, or warm and gooey, crunchy, or chewey.

If you know you need to make changes to your diet because of health issues, know that you don’t have to think about deprivation or a lack of satisfaction. Expect that the changes you make to your diet will provide you with the much-needed nutrients your body needs to heal and when you see and feel the difference they’re making in your life, you’ll appreciate and want them even more and you’ll want to find interesting and new ways to eat them more regularly. In fact, here’s a great raw food resource that demonstrates how amazing raw foods can be.

So have your ice cream and eat it too. You can if it’s made with blueberries and bananas.

This ice cream was part of my 10-day detox. If you’re interested in knowing more about it, please contact me!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Digest for Week-endng 16 July 2011

This week’s posts begin with food for the body and how to get the tastiest most nutrient-dense produce around and then move into brain food that can nourish your mind in the morning and set the tone for your entire day.

Less is More When Growing Food

There are many reasons why the nutrients in our food supply are dwindling. Here are a few and what you can do to deal with it.

How to Always Have a Tasty Tomato

It’s almost impossible to find a tasty tomato when tomato season is over, but here are a few ways to make sure you’ve got them on hand year-round for cooking.

It’s in the Way that You Use It

I talk about the benefits of vegetables a lot, but in the end, we have to like what we’re eating. Here’s a way to make that happen.

Move Your Brain

Getting your blood pumping in the morning is as much a benefit for your brain as the rest of your body.

Tune into the Silence

Do you use these tools in the morning to ease into your day in a positive frame of mind?

Get Inspired with Video

There are some great, soothing, uplifting, inspiring, thought-provoking videos online that are perfect for starting the day off on the right foot. Or, you can make your own with some of your favorite quotes…

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Get Inspired Through Video

Yesterday, I listed some ideas about how begin your day on a solid note by feeding your brain with positive thoughts and ideas through reading, writing, meditating and listening to soothing and inspirational music. Today, I’m posting a video that includes inspirational quotes set to calming music.

Videos like these always uplift my spirit and at the same time put me in a calm and contemplative mood, so watching them in the early morning can be a form of meditation as well if you’re not into sitting quietly. There’s a quote by Berthold Auerbach that says, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Just as music can have a tremendous influence on the impact of a movie, it’s actually brilliant to have music as the background for words meant to guide us into the highest forms of ourselves.

Do you have a collection of favorite inspirational quotes that you refer to often? You can set them to music in your own personalized inspirational video. The instructions and resources to do it are here and are free! Then you can watch your own early morning videos and share them with your friends.

If you do decide to make a video, please share it with us. I’d love to watch it!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tune in to the Silence

It’s early morning, I’ve just returned from a walk that fired up my muscles and brain and I’m sitting watching the sun stream in the window. The only thing I can hear is the ticking of the clock on the wall. Why is it that I never hear the clock tick in the afternoon?

I’m a morning person; it is my favorite time of day because of the stillness and the quiet. It is the best time to hear myself think or to hear myself not think–to just be still and go within. It’s thinking without words, quiet observation–without the ego trying to label, qualify, or judge everything. What else would we benefit from while in this non-thinking state?

  • Guided meditations that will help you focus on and visualize positive experiences;
  • Reading something inspirational that that could potentially fire up a new pathway in the brain and lead to a new, great idea;
  • Uplifting, soothing, or energizing music to make your spirit happy (okay, this is not silence, but it still works);
  • Writing down your thoughts, goals, plans, and ideas in a journal since writing them down is another step closer to bringing them to life;
  • Dumping the contents of your brain on paper is also an effective way to arrive at breakthroughs regarding problems or blocks you may be having. It’s another form of detox that doesn’t require a day of liquids ; )

If you use the still of the morning to start your day off fresh and clear, it will help you ease into the day, allowing it to unfold in a positive, less stressful way. Even if you’re not as “tuned in” to the silence of the clock ticking.

P.S. I love how the light cast a heart on the book in the picture above. Just had to include it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Move Your Brain

I’ve been doing a lot of work on the computer lately, which means I’ve been sitting sometimes many hours per day. Even with a ninety-minute Bikram yoga practice almost daily, it’s not enough movement for me. In fact, over the last several months, it’s gotten more difficult for me to sit for hours at a time and I’ve begun to stand at my workstation. I’m actually standing now as I write this post.

So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to at least get in some walking during the day to get my blood moving. This week, my brother’s dog is here while his family is on vacation and I’ve used this as an opportunity to walk in the morning and then later at night. The dog keeps me at a good pace (unless he stops to sniff something) and we can do a mile in about 15 minutes.

One thing I’ve noticed from these short walks, is how much better I feel afterwards, especially early in the morning, since I’m practicing yoga later in the day. In the past, I’ve always worked out early in the day and forgot how powerful it is for putting me in an energetic, positive frame of mind. Yet, even the short walk, early when the streets are quiet and the only sounds are the birds chirping is making a huge difference.

This entry from Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way ~ A Year of Creative Living, sums it up nicely:

In periods of intense pain, I walk it out. In times of elation, when I can’t embody my emotion properly, I walk it out. I walk to meditate and “hear,” and I also walk to pray and “speak.” It is on my long solitary walks that the Universe gets an earful from me and visa versa. Walks are the generators for me of what I call my “alpha ideas.” These alpha ideas are the ideas that seem to come from a higher source than myself, suggesting better solutions to my creative or daily problems than my ordinary thinking does.

I agree, my brain thinks differently when I’m on a solitary walk and this doesn’t end when the walk is over. My brain is awake and charged up and ready for a good day. So, if you’re getting up and rushing off to work, think about giving yourself enough extra time to move and get your blood pumping before you take off. It will make all the difference for how your day unfolds, particularly within your mind. And as we know, our thoughts create our world~

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's In the Way That You Use It

I talk a lot about the benefits of eating an abundance and a variety of fruits and vegetables. But let’s face it, there are probably a few out there that you may not like so much and simply avoid. For me, believe it or not, one of them is broccoli. I will not eat it raw and it’s OK when steamed with lemon and a bit of butter, but I have to make a conscious effort to buy and prepare it.

Another vegetable over the years that I’ve tolerated but not really had a taste for is radishes. I love the bright red/pink skins and the fact that they’re juicy, but biting into one or having chunks of them in my salad doesn’t excite me all that much. However, for whatever reason, I’ve discovered that I adore radishes when they’re sliced paper-thin. In fact, I could eat an entire plate of them when prepared this way.

What’s the difference between a whole or chopped versus slice of radish? The only thing I can think of is the combination of taste and texture with some foods makes all the difference. I’ve found this with other vegetables as well, such as cabbage and even zucchini which I love raw now. The bottom line is, any ways that I can find to enjoy my vegetables more, I’ll try them and I’m frequently experimenting with vegetables now to find the best ways to eat them. This may be a good strategy to get your kids to try new vegetables as well.

I guess I should get to work on the broccoli! ; )

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Always Have a Tasty Tomato

I don’t know about you, but years ago, after having enough tasteless tomatoes out of season, I decided to not buy them in the winter or early spring. This worked really well for me as I learned to adapt over these months with other fruits like oranges (they’re in season, but travel a long way to get to me) or canned tomatoes (which I no longer buy). There’s also the option of buying chopped tomatoes or sauces in tetrapaks, which I occasionally buy if I absolutely need tomato.

This article on explains why tomatoes out of season are not worth the purchase or the consumption and why, if you’re living in a temperate climate, you should consider not eating them out of season. Some of what they say ties into yesterday’s post about quantity versus quality of crops. However, with a little planning, there are a couple of ways of getting tasty tomatoes (not suitable for salad though) for at least a portion of the winter.

Buy tomatoes in season when they are ripe (or grow your own) and:

Freeze them whole. This is a trick a friend told me about that is the quickest way to store tomatoes. It works well if you want to use them later to make sauce or add them to soups. During the thawing process, they can be chopped and added to your recipe with the juices. Here’s a video that explains the process.

Blend or grind them into a raw sauce and freeze them this way. Then you can defrost and add the liquid directly to your dish. You can also can them instead. I’ve never done this before, but would love to hear from someone who has. Here’s a site that shows the step-by-step instructions.

Make your own sauce and freeze or can it. This is the old standby if you have the time to make the sauce. Although, in the middle of the summer heat, the last thing we want to do is run the stove for multiple hours at a time. This is why I like the second option better, since I can warm up the house with the stove in the colder months.

Do you preserve tomatoes for the winter? If so, what’s your favorite way to prepare them?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Less is More When Growing Food

Maybe you’ve heard recently that many of the fruits and vegetables produced have experienced a decline in their levels of nutrients. In fact, reports from both the U.S. and U.K. governments revealed that the levels of iron, zinc, calcium, selenium, and other nutrients have experienced a double-digit decline in the last few decades. The primary cause, I’ve read in the past, has to do with the depletion of soil nutrients making them less available for plants.

The report I just read by Brian Halweil entitled Still No Free Lunch: Nutrient levels in U.S. food supply eroded by pursuit of high yields, explains that the issue is much more complicated than soil alone. For example, much has to do with the new breed of crops that have been engineered to produce higher yields. Today, three times more corn can be harvested per acre than in the 1940’s.

And while the overall nutrients produced per acre may not have changed, the nutritional value per ear of corn has gone down since there are less nutrients available per plant. In fact, the higher the yield, the lower the protein content. This is true for many high-yield crops, including wheat, tomatoes, and broccoli, and beans. For example, high-yield soybeans have less protein and a lower oil content, and tomatoes have lower levels of vitamin C, lycopene, and beta-carotene. On the flip side, growing organic can increase the density of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, and reduce the amounts of starches, sugars, and water, although this produces smaller fruits and vegetables.

Next is the heavy use of fertilizers and irrigation that lead to atrophied roots on the plants that cannot take up as many micronutrients. There’s no reason for aggressive growth of roots if the nutrients are on the surface of the soil. Also, because of the abundance of nutrients from fertilizers, the plants will put more energy into producing starch and low-quality storage proteins rather than producing protective phytochemicals and absorbing nutrients. On the other hand, organic matter in the soil helps to buffer water and possibly nutrients against extremes in either. The heavy use of pesticides also discourages the synthesis of phytochemicals as well and weakens the plant.

It’s not all positive with regard to growing organic versus conventional and the author gives an example that may produce conventionally-grown strawberries with higher levels of antioxidants than organic berries grown nearby.

Then there’s the fact that so much produce travels thousands of miles to get to your store, which means it’s picked early. Apples and apricots picked early have little or no vitamin C and unripe blackberries have only ~25% of the anthocyanins as ripe berries.

So what do we do to ensure we’re getting the most nutrition possible from our produce?

Buy local - This will ensure you’re getting the freshest fruits and vegetables produced from a small farm. You can always ask your local farmers about their growing practices.

Buy in season - Produce purchased in season is easier to find local.

Eat whole foods - Many of the high-yield crops go into processed and fast foods. By eating whole foods and cooking from scratch as much as possible, you’re more likely to get an abundance of nutrients.

Grow your own if possible - Nothing tastes better than a tomato that’s just been picked from your backyard. When you’re living at the source of your food, you have the freshest produce available. You can also choose the growing methods, i.e., organic versus conventional.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Digest for Week-endng 9 July 2011

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July if you celebrated and are enjoying a beautiful summer! Here in New England, we’ve been blessed with gorgeous weather! Here is a recap of this week’s posts:

Filtering Your Water on the Go

If you’re on the go a lot and don’t want to constantly buy or cart around extra water, these water bottles are a great solution!

Be Clear About It

What do you do with those sturdy, zippered bags that package sheets and blankets? Here are a few ideas.

A Superfood Called Salba

If you like adding seeds to your diet, you may like to try this…

Raw Chocolate - The Ultimate Superfood

Who doesn’t love chocolate, but if you want to get the most out of it for it’s nutritional benefits, eat it raw.

Berries, Berries Everywhere!

Get them now, while they’re in season, local, and fresh! Here’s what they’ll do for you.

The Creamy Goodness of Avocados

This is one fatty food you definitely want to include in your diet. Read why here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Creamy Goodness of Avocados

Do you love avocado? I do! And despite the bad press they’ve gotten because of their high fat content, there are lots of good reasons to eat them. Here are some for you to consider:

  • They’re a rich source of antioxidants, including the carotenoids alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein;
  • They're loaded with vitamins and minerals as shown here;
  • They’re high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat prevalent in olive oil that helps to lower the risk of heart disease;
  • They contain omega-3 fatty acids and help to control inflammation;
  • When added to nutrient-rich salads, they help to boost nutrient absorption from the other vegetables, such as lycopene found in tomatoes;
  • They’re a good source of fiber and low in carbohydrates, so they help to stabilize blood sugar levels;

Their mild flavor and creamy texture goes well with just about everything! Mash and spread them on toast, add them to salads, use them as mayonnaise on sandwiches, eat them with eggs, and mix them into salsa and gazpacho (you’ll boost the absorption of all that veggie power!). Here is a recipe for a gazpacho that I love to make during the summer. It’s quick, cool, and easy and loaded with flavor, fiber, and health promoting goodness!

For more information, check out The World's Healthiest Foods. How will you eat your avocado today??

Friday, July 8, 2011

Berries, Berries Everywhere!

If there’s one food you should definitely be eating right now, it’s berries. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries are all plentiful this time of year and are the perfect fruit to add to your diet for many reasons:

They’re loaded with fiber - The insoluble fiber in strawberries and blueberries actually slows down digestion, keeping you feeling full longer, which can help with weight loss and keeping your blood sugar levels steady.

They’re low in calories - A full cup of berries has less than 100 calories so you can eat them to your heart’s content (within reason, of course!).

They’re a rich source of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, K, folate and manganese and it’s much more fun getting your nutrients from something that tastes great!

They’re high in antioxidants - Blueberries in particular are ranked among one of the top antioxidant containing foods from phenols and the anthocyanins that give their skins the blue/red color. Studies have shown that the antioxidant power in blueberries have a positive impact on memory and that the levels of antioxidants are even higher in organic versus conventionally grown berries.

They have a low glycemic load - As mentioned above, helping to slow digestion is a benefit of eating berries. Blueberries, raspberries and blueberries all have a glycemic load of 5–anything with a value under 10 is considered low–meaning that they are beneficial for keeping your blood sugar steady.

They’re versatile - They can be added to fruit or vegetable salads, smoothies, deserts, drinks, sauces, salsas, jams and preserves, and eaten plain. There’s no end to what you can do with berries.

Here’s a recipe for raspberry scones that I made with fresh-picked raspberries last year!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Raw Chocolate - The Ultimate Superfood

Chocolate is probably one of my favorite things to write about. Like most people, I absolutely love it, although I do actually know someone who does not like it! Imagine… Seriously though, the health benefits of chocolate are many, and like most things, the less processed it is, the better.

The raw cacao bean is a true superfood. It is actually a seed from the fruit of a tree and it is complex. It has over 500 chemical compounds, including theobromine, which is a cousin of caffeine, and phenylethylalanine, which are compounds that are released in our bodies when we fall in love. The association between chocolate and love is no accident. It truly does contain feel-good chemicals.

Cacao is one of the highest sources of magnesium around so it’s great for the bones as well as muscle relaxation, digestion, and heart function. It is also a source of tryptophan, which is the starting material for serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter, so it’s a valuable food source for the brain. It’s also loaded with antioxidants to protect your cells from the oxidation of living…

To reap the benefits from raw cacao, simply add the beans, nibs, or raw powder to smoothies, yogurt, salads, or other raw dishes. You can even eat the beans whole. This recipe for raw protein balls can incorporate raw cacao powder as well.

Now that I've got you interested in eating chocolate in the raw, a great resource for additional information on cacao is David Wolfe’s book Superfoods. You’ll also find some great recipes inside using raw chocolate!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Superfood Called Salba

You’ve probably read or heard about the nutritional benefits of seeds: pumpkin (pepitas), sunflower, sesame, hemp, flax and chia and maybe you include some of them in your daily diet. Well, here is another seed that you may not have seen before that is a nutritional powerhouse too. It’s called Salba.

Salba looks like a white chia seed and can actually form a gel similar to chia when they’re soaked in water, which makes them a good thickener for raw recipes. So what’s so special about it? Well, according to the Salba website, gram for gram, Salba has:

  • 30x more antioxidants than blueberries,
  • 3x more iron than spinach,
  • 6x more calcium than milk,
  • 15x more magnesium than broccoli,
  • 50x more folate than asparagus,
  • 25x more dietary fiber than flax seed, and
  • 8x more Omega-3s than salmon (although this is plant based Omega-3, not the same as what is found in fish)

I am always a little leary of making these comparisons simply because we may be comparing apples and oranges (such as with the salmon, for example), or nutrients may be more bioavailable in one food versus another, but it gives you an idea of what it’s got going for it.

Because of its mild flavor, it can be added to just about any dish to boost it’s nutritional value. I added it to my raw lentil hummus recipe and I never knew it was there. And there are lots of recipes on the Salba website to get some ideas. To easily get them into the diet, sprinkle them (either whole or ground) onto cereal, in yogurt, on salads, in grain dishes, soups and in sauces. They can even be added to dips like guacamole.

Depending on where you’re living, you can find them at places like Whole Foods or The Vitamin Shoppe, or you can check out the store locator for your state. Here's to your health!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Be Clear About It

I’m always trying to minimize the amount of waste I produce whether it’s with food, personal care products, home goods, etc. It keeps the clutter away and helps reduce the strain on landfills. As a result, I’ve always been surprised by the packaging for linens. You know, those heavy, clear plastic bags with the zippers? I can never bring myself to throw them away. To me, they’re just begging to be reused. Here are some things I store in them:

Personal care products - They make great travel bags for shampoos, lotions, and toothpaste. They pack well and are clear so there’s no fumbling around for what you need. I also keep one in my yoga bag for keeping my shower supplies organized.

Electronics - Between the cell phone charger, computer cord, IPOD and ear buds, and USB connections that I carry around with me everyday, it’s so much easier to have them in one place where I can see grab for them easily. These clear bags work like a charm.

Seasonal bedding - The larger bags are always perfect for putting away blankets or comforters for the winter so that they stay clean and dust-free.

Greeting cards - Some of the small bags are the perfect size for storing your collection of greeting cards that may get out of hand.

Random items - Do you have a drawer of “stuff” that you just don’t know how to organize? These bags are great for “organizing” your collection of knickknacks if you want to get them out of the drawer and into a box. They can easily be retrieved when needed.

How about you? What do you do with these bags? Toss them? Reuse them? Share here!!