Category Archives: produce


Replacing The Mighty Avocado

A Journey in Taste and Texture

Whether you have a general aversion to avocados or just an aversion to their cost — the price of avocados increased 125 percent in 2017 — you have plenty of healthy ingredient substitutions that not only save you money but diversify the taste and texture of a variety of dishes, guacamole included.

Guacamole

Don’t let an avocado shortage slow down your guac game. For each avocado used in your guacamole recipe, substitute one cup of steamed, blended spring peas, organic edamame or chopped asparagus. Check out our recipe for Sweet Pea Guacamole below.

Sauces, Dips and Spreads

Avocados give sauces and soups a unique, creamy texture few ingredients can replicate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the same consistency without avocados–you just need to apply a little creativity.

  • Create the satisfying freshness of your favorite avocado dressing using Greek yogurt, cilantro, and an optional tablespoon or two of sour cream. For every avocado called for in the dressing recipe, substitute ½ cup Greek yogurt and 1 cup of loosely packed cilantro leaves (minced or processed in).
  • Hummus makes a great substitute for avocado dip on its own, but you can add an avocado-esque touch with a few extra ingredients. To every ½ cup of chickpea hummus, add ½ cup steamed organic edamame, ¼ cup loosely packed parsley leaves, ¼ cup basil or cilantro, 1 teaspoon of lime juice and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.
  • Avocado toast went from fad to foodie staple almost overnight. Take the concept a step further with a clever, spreadable substitution, such as a chunky cashew spread. Soak cashews for a few hours and blend until coarse with a little water or stock and your secondary ingredients of choice, such as pesto, steamed squash, nutritional yeast, fresh herbs or chipotle peppers.

Salads

With their lush consistency and laid-back taste, avocados complement just about any salad. No avocados, no fear! Try sliced peaches (briefly steamed), seared artichoke hearts or farmers cheese (for creaminess) in your next salad for an exciting new texture.

Southwestern Food

Southwestern-style cuisine and avocados go hand-in-hand–they contrast the spiciness and hearty textures of tacos, salsa, corn salads and other rustic dishes beautifully. Next time you need avos in tacos or other Southwestern dishes but come up short, try roasted sweet potatoes, roasted chayote squash, queso fresco, roasted cauliflower or oven-fried plantains instead.

 

 

Sweet Pea Guacamole
Print
Ingredients
  1. • 2 cups (1 pound) shelled spring peas, steamed for 2 minutes and cooled to room temperature
  2. • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  3. • ½ cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
  4. • ¼ cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  5. • 2 ½ tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
  6. • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  7. • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little more, if needed
  8. • ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded
  9. • ½ teaspoon sea or kosher salt, plus more to taste
  10. • Pinch of cumin
  11. • Pinch of crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
Instructions
  1. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process until nearly smooth.
  2. Adjust the consistency and seasoning as needed with olive oil and kosher salt.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Food Storage Tips

There’s nothing worse than having to throw out food because it’s gone fuzzy or mushy. It’s even worse when it’s something that you purchased organic because that means you paid an even higher price for it.  With proper food storage habits you can make sure that your food lasts as long as possible.

It’s easy to wind up with an abundance of fresh produce for a number of reasons:

  • it was on sale
  • you’ve just visited the farmer’s market and it looked inviting
  • you have a CSA share and have limited control over how many tomatoes they give you (when tomatoes are in season of course)
  • you have a home garden and discovered the awesome power of a single zucchini seed.  

Whatever the reason for having a bountiful supply of fresh food (or even dairy, eggs, and foods of that nature which can also spoil), it’s important to know how long it can be stored for.  It’s also a great idea to understand proper food storage.   After all, knowing which things go in the refrigerator, what has to be wrapped, and the best way to wrap it, can be the difference between eating what you paid for or creating expensive compost.

Buying organic

As you go through this infographic below keep in mind that there are a significant number of items which need to be purchased organically.

  • The Dirty Dozen:those 12 fruits and vegetables which need to be purchased organically in order to avoid pesticide residues) – This list changes annually, be sure to revisit it every year  
  • Dairy products: All dairy should be organic in order to avoid the artificial hormones (rBGH), antibiotics, and pesticide and GMO-laden feed that is part of conventional dairy  
  • Eggs:  Whenever possible eggs should be sourced from someone who has free range or pastured hens, in order to produce the healthiest egg.  Farmer’s markets can be a great source for this, or ask around.  Many more people are beginning to raise chickens at home for the eggs.  When it’s prime season, at one egg per chicken per day, they may have extras to sell

Storage

One final note, I really don’t like to wrap food in plastic.  Plastics, containers and wraps, are comprised of chemical compounds that are hormone disrupting.  For more information about why plastic, and especially BPA, are harmful for you watch my interview with Lara Adler.  For storage if you must wrap use plastic, place wax paper over the food first and then wrap over that.  If at all possible try using glass or steel containers. 


Source: Fix.com

On My Mind Monday 04.15.13

on my mind -- what's in the news

 

It’s never the same two weeks in a row. A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health. Here’s what’s on my mind.

My cell phone is what’s on my mind at the moment.  At the end of last year I upgraded my phone and went from a simple SMS cell phone to a smart phone.  It’s been a learning experience and while I like it I have often been reminded of the classic Groucho Marx comment:  “This is so simple that a child of five could do it.”  “Quick, someone fetch me a child of five.”  However a smart phone is a useful tool and one which I’m grateful to have.  One of the biggest reasons I like it is because now I can keep a number of health and food related apps at my fingertips.

(more…)

Eating More

I recently got asked the question, “How do I eat more fruit and veggies, I don’t think I’m eating enough?”  That’s a good question.  And one that’s faced by a lot of people.  Especially parents who are trying to encourage their children to eat a healthier diet.

One of the best ways I have found to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables is to have them on hand and convenient.  This means they are not in your fridge just rotting in the bottom of your crisper drawer.  I frequently encourage people to cut them up, prepare and make containers.  Set them out on the shelf in your fridge and it’s a grab-and-go snack.  They can either be sorted by type of food or you can make “snack packs” with an assortment.  Either way if you’re in the mood to munch and you open the fridge door to see a convient snack right there you may find yourself eating more healthy choices.

Another way is to add veggies to other foods.  You would not believe what gets added to my homemade spaghetti sauce.  Add shredded veggies to a lasagna.  Double the veggies in your omelette or frittata.  What about soups?  Loaded with pureed veggies, especially if it’s a creamy style soup base is an easy way to boost your veggie intake without trying very hard.  The trick is to make sure that you put in things that will not overwhelm your soup.  Sharper tasting foods such as cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc) or onions may not appeal to some.  Mucilaginous textured foods such as okra may not appeal to others.  Experiment and be mindful of what you are adding in.

Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables.  I can’t stress this enough.  A tomato in season and from a farmer’s market (if possible) tastes like the most delicious, amazing thing.  A tomato in the middle of winter with a waxy coating tastes like cardboard.  When foods are in season, and hopefully local, they are picked close to ripeness.  Otherwise they may be picked early, stored, and then force ripened with ethylene gas.  This forced ripening does not allow the flavor to come through, it just makes it look ripe.  If you’re eating unappealing, non-tasty fruits and vegetables it does not encourage you to want to eat more.  As a side benefit, you really appreciate things when you can only have them in season.

Make different choices when you eat out.  There are tasty ways to add more veggies to your diet when you are eating out which allow you to still enjoy your dining experience but avoid getting bogged down by the simple carbs and other unhealthy choices.

Skip the juice and eat the fruit.  Did you know that it takes an average of 4 oranges to make 8 ounces of orange juice?  That’s a lot of sugar and those extra calories add up pretty quickly.  It would be pretty difficult to eat four oranges in one sitting.  However each orange you eat comes with a significant amount of fiber which helps to slow down the glycemic effect.  The same is true for other juices.  Switch your juice to water (add a few slices of fruit for flavor if you like) and eat the fruit instead.

Keep a food journal.  An 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper folded into quarters gives you 8 spots to write down what you eat each day.  If you’re looking to increase things like water consumption (always a good idea) and fruits and veggies set a goal for yourself and then keep track of it.  By looking back over the week you’ll be able to see if you’re meeting your goal and where you can make changes to increase your consumption a little at a time.

Small changes add up over time.  By making one or two adjustments you may soon find yourself eating more healthy fruits and veggies.

News Review…or…it’s On My Mind Monday

in the news | photo: mconnors

I’m always looking up information about food, health, and what’s in the news.  Just as an experiment this is a posting of what’s I’m reading right now, some of which may or may not turn into a blog post, but all of which is of interest to me.  I’d be curious to know if any of this is of interest to you.  In no particular order (other than this is what’s open across my browsing window) here’s what’s on my mind:

The little county that could get CA to rethink methyl iodide – I’ve written about this before.  Essentially CA agreed to let agricultural companies use a known carcinogen (so effective that it is used in laboratories to reliably cause cancer) on strawberry crops.  In spite of massive protests CA went ahead and approved it anyway.  Turns out the fight is still on.  This gives me hope that this awful carcinogenic chemical will be banned.  Until then I have essentially fought back the only way I know how.  I purchase no strawberries from California at all, even the organic ones.

Public Park Helps Feed 200,000 People Every Month –  I love this.  What a great solution to help feed those who are hungry and also make effective use of public lands.  This ties in to a video I shared on my Facebook Page about Suburban Homesteading/Urban Victory Gardening.  Looking at the info I see it’s the same guy, John from Growing Your Greens.  I’ve subscribed to his YouTube channel and am looking forward to more good info.

Low Vitamin D Ups Diabetes Risk in Kids – One more reason to check your vitamin D levels.  I think sometimes people tune out the vitamin D message believing that they are getting enough from their milk.  Sadly that’s often not enough, especially if you are drinking skim milk.  Vitamin D is important for so many different reasons and across different populations.  Are you over 65?  Check your vitamin D.  Is it wintertime and you live in a Northern latitude?  etcetera etcetera etcetera.  Check your vitamin D.  I’m not saying everyone needs to supplement, but it’s easy to check and if you are low you probably do need to supplement.  Always get the 25 hydroxy test rather than the 1,25 dihydroxy – it’s a better indicator of your vitamin D status.

Apple Juice Made In America?  Think Again – This one surprised me.  Because I know we have so many apple orchards in the US I just assumed that our apple juice was made here.  Turns out it’s not.  Given that so many children drink it (and the recent fungicide contamination of orange juice) I’m even more convinced that getting our food from abroad is not necessarily a good idea.  I believe the best thing is to get to know your farmer, buy locally, and grow your own.  I’m blown away by the idea that apples which are grown in China can be juice and fossil fuels expended to bring a liquid product (very heavy) all the way around the world to us, and somehow it’s cheaper.  There is something very very wrong with that equation.

Programmed To Be Fat? – This looks like a fascinating program and I am going to try to see if I can borrow a copy through my local library.  Given the increasing number of obesogens in our environment (I wrote an article some time back called Is Your Plastic Making You Fat?) and  the rising toxicity levels for newborns this is an issue that really needs to be looked at and worked on.   We are poisoning ourselves, our environment and destroying our future.

Goats being used, instead of pesticides in Eastham – I love this.  What a great way to solve a problem.  Instead of throwing chemicals at the issue of weeds, use goats.  The goats are happy, they get fed, the town gets less toxic chemicals in their environment, the residents have less exposure and, presumably, less potential for illness.

Food And Money

The USDA is predicting an increase in all foods for 2011; depending on the item it is expected to range from 2% for things like sugars and cereals to as high as 5.5% for dairy products.  If you are interested you can see the chart here.  Part of the increase is due to the higher costs for corn and soybeans.  Remember, it’s a cycle, what we eat needs to eat.  I actually anticipate that the costs for meat will be much higher than currently predicted due to more people deciding to purchase meat and dairy that is organic to avoid the GMO contamination of corn and soy.  These are two of the most heavily GMO crops but our government doesn’t identify that so the only way to avoid it is to purchase organic.

There are a number of ways that you can save money on your food bill in the upcoming year:

Plant a vegetable garden.  Using your space for edible gardening can be attractive and save you food dollar costs.  During both World Wars Victory Gardens were planted in every yard and public park all across the United States.  It’s a concept that I think many people are rediscovering.

 Even if you buy a tomato plant at the garden center and plant it in a pot you will still get far more produce than if you purchase your tomatoes at the grocery store.  And believe me, they’ll taste better.  We’ve just re-arranged our side yard and brought in a load of organic dirt, working on creating a better vegetable garden.  We’ve also put in herbs and a few fruits in the yard.  

Here are a couple of books that I think are great for backyard vegetable gardening

Mel Bartholomew is the authority on getting the most out of the smallest space. If you have any gardening space available, even just one square foot, you’d be amazed at what you can grow.


Rosalind Creasy shows you how to incorporate beauty and function in your garden by making your landscape edible.


If you live in an apartment or don’t have access to a plot of ground you can consider container gardening.  Even one  reasonable size container can grow a lot of tomatoes and basil or peas and mint or…read the book.


And there seems to be an increase in folks growing food on rooftops and terraces.


If you shop at warehouse stores frequently the prices are good but the quantities are huge.  Don’t buy more than you need, after all 50 pounds of potatoes is a lot, especially in a family like ours with just three people in the house.  Just because the price per pound is low, if you wind up throwing out rotten potatoes (or anything else) you’ve just lost money.  If you really want the item consider saving money by asking family, friends and/or neighbors if they want to share these items with you.  This way you’ll both save money and there will be less waste.

And speaking of waste…


According to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, Americans, on average, throw away half of their food.  Half!  That’s a mind-boggling concept.  Knowing, really knowing exactly what is in your pantry is a great start, learning how to be mindful of it is the next step.  Jonathan has a lot of great information on his blog to help you avoid food waste.  Don’t want to read the book (although I highly recommend it)?  There’s an app for that — yup, a company called UniByte has created an app to help you better manage your food purchases so you will waste less.


If you do wind up with food waste, and some of it is inevitable such as potato peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds, and the like, consider composting.  This is also environmentally friendly in that the food scraps become usable dirt instead of going to the landfill where they cannot be used to grow more food.  

A little off the beaten path but for those who have access, inclination, and a sharp eye there is always the idea of foraging.  According to my friend Merriweather it is important to remember a couple of key points:

1.  Know what you are foraging.  Many edibles have an inedible counterpart that looks almost the same.  He points out that these inedibles wind up in either the “kill your kid dead” or “keep you on the toilet sick” category so it’s important to be very sure of your identifications.

2.  Forage responsibly using appropriate tools to cut and dig rather than ripping and shredding.  This allows the plants to continue to grow and is the best way to forage.

3.  Make sure you have permission. Here in Texas, and probably elsewhere, plant rustling is against the law.  Getting a huge fine for public trespassing or theft is not going to help your grocery bill any.

While Merriweather sadly does not yet have a published book there are some great foraging books out there:


     

     

     


And last, but certainly not least, another way to save money at the grocery store is to learn to make your own.  One of my favorites is making my own granola which definitely saves money over the store-bought versions.  You can make your own pudding, soups, muffins, snacks, spice mixes, beverages, pickles, jams and much much more.  Currently I am fermenting kimchi on my kitchen counter, starting another batch of kefir and have just finished making another batch of bean sprouts.  These require very little hands on time and save quite a few dollars while providing healthful foods for my family.  Making your own has a number of benefits:

1.  It will save you money
2.  You will avoid extra packaging and commercial waste
3.  You will avoid additives, preservatives and chemicals (which you don’t need in your diet anyway)
4.  Often when you make your own you make smaller batches so you are less likely to waste it

So here’s to a new year, a new grocery budget, and new possibilities for your health.

Green Tomato Chutney

Green Tomatoes | Medved’ | Wikimedia Commons

QuantumVegan just harvested about fifty pounds of tomatoes.  That’s a LOT of tomatoes.

When we lived in Vermont that kind of a harvest was sure to mean we were getting green tomatoes.  The growing season is so short there tomatoes don’t always have time to ripen.  So you come up with lots of good ways to use green tomatoes.  There’s green tomato pie, green tomato salsa, the ubiquitous fried green tomatoes and more.

Luckily green tomatoes have lots of nutrition, as I posted before, including lycopene.  If you’re getting close to the end of your growing season and you’re looking at a large crop of green tomatoes, here’s my favorite way to use them up; green tomato chutney.  It goes very well with cheese and crackers, it is excellent with cold roast meats, delicious as a side to a spicy vegetarian lentil dish, it’s very versatile condiment to have in your pantry.

This recipe is based on one from Fancy Pantry which appears to be out of print.   find it to be a good book with lots of wonderful recipes and well worth having.  But in the meantime here’s my version:

Green Tomato Chutney

4 pounds green tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
4 pounds green apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 C. yellow onions, minced
2 C. raisins
3 cloves garlic minced
3 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1 1/2  C. raw apple cider vinegar
3 T. minced fresh ginger
2 T. mustard seed
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. red pepper flakes

In a large stock pot mix together tomatoes, apples, onions, raisins, garlic, cane juice crystals, salt, and vinegar.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
Continue to boil for approximately 30 minutes continuing to stir frequently.  The fruits will begin to soften and meld together.
Add the spices.
Boil for another 10-15 minutes until you reach the consistency you want.
Ladle into hot sterile jars and seal according to directions.
Bath for 10 minutes remove and let cool.

This recipe needs to settle to allow all of the flavors to come together.  Let it sit in a cool dark space for at least a month before opening.

Makes about 6 pints.

Strawberry Contamination

Recently it has come to my attention that the State of California has approved methyl iodide for use as a pesticide on strawberry crops.


Methyl iodide is a potent carcinogen, it is used to induce cancer in lab animals because it is so effective.  Back in 2007 dozens of well respected scientists (many of them Nobel winning scientists) urged the EPA to ban this substance because it was such a dangerous chemical.


I find it disturbing and appalling that any organization, governmental or otherwise, would knowingly approve use of a substance virtually guaranteed to cause cancer in consumers.   I plan to watch this issue closely and, if methyl oxide is approved, will no longer be eating strawberries from California.  I will then be watching further to see if they approve it for other crops which I will then also no longer eat.  


The State is now seeking public comment on the issue before they implement it, you have until June 14th to let them know how you feel.  Please take a moment to stand up for your rights as consumers to non-carcinogenic foods.


Photo courtesy of Henning 48 | Wikimedia Commons

The Turnips Are Coming, The Turnips Are Coming

With the fall season fast approaching root crops are coming into season. Turnips are a great root vegetable and can be very versatile in the kitchen.

Turnips are a member of the brassica family which means they are related to cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts and others. Although there is an old fashioned tradition of cutting turnips into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, I think they are far to tasty to be put to this use; far better to eat them. One of the wonderful things about turnips is that you not only eat the root, but also the greens.

The root is a great source of fiber, calcium, potassium and is an excellent source of vitamin C. Turnip greens are high in fiber, folate, iron, vitamin C, and calcium. They are also an excellent source of manganese (an antioxidant which is important for bone health and digestion), vitamin K (important for bone health and coagulation of the blood), and Vitamin A (an antioxidant which contributes to eyesight, tissue and skin health and may help lower your risk for cancer). So all around they are an excellent choice to have in your Fall/Winter pantry. To take advantage of all of that nutritional goodness, turnips can be cooked in a variety of ways: sauteed, mashed, baked, boiled, the list goes on.


My very favorite cookbook for greens is “Greene on Greens” by the late Bert Greene who was a Food Columnist for The New York Daily News. In it he writes about the tonic power of turnip greens,” It must have had some therapeutic effect, for turnip foliage was brewed into potions, restoratives, and pick-me-ps from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century with vary report of it’s good pharmacy. Even today in the deep South, a cup of turnip green “pot likker” is still reputed to be the best cure for hangover ever invented.” While I’ve never tried pot likker as a cure for hangover I do know that when I get turnips I like to use the greens to add extra flavor, texture and nutrition to whatever I am making.

As the weather gets cooler, soup becomes a weekly item on our family menu. Warm and comforting, it’s an easy meal and a great way to use turnips and their greens together. This recipe is based on Bert Greene’s Mixed Turnip Chowder. I simply substituted a leek for the onion, added turnip greens and a couple of cloves of garlic. If you can’t get rutabagas you can increase the turnips and potatoes to make up for them.

Mixed Turnip Chowder

2 T. unsalted buttermilk
1 leek rinsed and finely chopped
1 large rib celery finely chopped
1 pound turnips peeled and diced
1 ½ pounds rutabagas peeled and diced
2 medium potatoes peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 quart vegetable broth
salt and pepper
1/8 t. mace (note: I don’t use this)

Melt the butter, add the leek and garlic and cook a couple of minutes
Add the celery and cook a few minutes longer
Add the root vegetables and broth
bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer
Simmer about 20 minutes
Remove half of the vegetables and 1 C. broth
Add greens to the remaining soup in the pot
Blend the removed vegetables and broth until smooth
Return to the pot and add salt and pepper
Simmer another 5 minutes and then serve

Enjoy!

photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Turnip_2622027.jpg


http://www.healthvitaminsguide.com/minerals/manganese.htm
http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2704/2
http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminK/
staying healthy with nutrition, Elson Haas – pp 95, 108-109
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turnip
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Greene_(cookbook_author)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_o%27_Lantern
Greene on Greens, pp 185, 387

Blueberry Season Is Here…

…and there is nothing more wonderful than having fresh blueberries to eat.  Just by themselves they are a wonderful snack.  In a fruit salad they are delicious.  Baked into a myriad of treats such as muffins, cobblers and pies they are indescribably delicious.


Recently I went with some friends to a local pick-your-own place where there were over 5 miles of blueberry bushes.  The berries were plump, juicy and very flavorful.  With three adults and four kids the picking went fairly quickly and everyone came home with a quite a few berries.   Blueberries freeze quite well if you want to save some for later.  There’s nothing quite like blueberry pancakes in the middle of winter from blueberries that you picked fresh during the summer.

Blueberries are native to North America and related to cranberries, another distinctive North American fruit.  They are high in antioxidants; anthocyanin which is beneficial for collagen especially as it relates to capillary and vascular support, and ellagic acid which is helpful in protecting against cancer.  Blueberries are also rich in vitamin C, manganese and are a good source of fiber.  Studies show them to be effective in helping to protect against Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD), colon cancer, and ovarian cancer.

One of my favorite ways to eat them is in pancakes, simply take your favorite pancake recipe and add blueberries to the batter after it has been put into the pan.  Another favorite is blueberry muffins.  A quick search of the internet will reveal plenty of recipes that call for fresh blueberries but here is my muffin recipe which is always a hit at our house.

Blueberry Muffins

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon. baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
1 egg
1 cup Sucanat
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 – 1 1/2 C. blueberries (depending on how berry-y you like them)

Sift together dry ingredients 
In a separate bowl beat egg, add oil and Sucanat
Add vanilla and add-ins
Add dry ingredients and mix well
Spoon into two well greased loaf pans
Bake 375°F for 15 minutes

Enjoy!


If you live locally in the Houston area, here’s a link to an article about the farm I visited to get my blueberries.

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net