Category Archives: produce

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


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

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Gazpacho – A Delicious Summer Soup

Gazpacho is a cool, delicious summer soup.  Originally from the Andalusia region of Spain, it’s a chilled version of summer salad in soup form. I’ve even seen it referred to as liquid salad. That term always struck me as a bit silly. It’s either a soup or it’s a salad. Except, as it turns out, if it’s gazpacho. Then it’s sort of both.

The original version calls for bread cubes, preferably a little stale, however I don’t think they’re necessary. There are also versions that include chopped ham but, again, I don’t think you really need that. I love gazpacho with just the vegetables. It’s so easy to make, very refreshing, and a great way to get a heaping serving of veggies into your day.

This version came about when my daughter and I were  trying to figure out what to make for lunch one hot Texas summer day. Rummaging through the fridge we realized that we had all of the ingredients on hand to make gazpacho.  With the temperatures rising into the 90’s this cool, flavorful soup was a great idea. 

The texture of gazpacho is rather a personal preference. My daughter prefers it extra chunky, I prefer a smaller dice.  You can also lightly blend all of the ingredients together to make a smoother style soup.  Additionally, traditional recipes call for you to remove some of the vegetables and puree them to make it the soup-y bit. We chose to use the shortcut method and simply added some tomato juice. Any way you make it it’s delicious.
  1. 1 cucumber
  2. 2 large tomatoes
  3. 1 small vidalia onion
  4. 1 sweet bell pepper
  5. 2 stalks of celery
  6. 1 zucchini or yellow squash
  7. 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  8. 1/4 C. red wine vinegar
  9. salt and pepper to taste
  10. Diced avocado
  11. chopped cilantro
  1. Dice all vegetables through zucchini
  2. Add garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper
cover with
  1. tomato juice (we didn't measure - just poured until it covered the veggies)
  2. place in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours
to serve
  1. ladle into a bowl
  2. drizzle with olive oil
  3. garnish with diced avocado and chopped cilantro
  4. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

More delicious summer recipes

Here are a few more fabulous summertime recipes


Organic Gardening

It’s beginning to take off.  First we started with the White House Organic Garden. 

Now we have the People’s Garden.

It seems like the concept of organic gardening is “taking off.” Believe me, this is a good thing. Organically grown food has no pesticide residue because pesticides aren’t used. Organic farming methods produce lower levels of pollution and conserve soil and water resources. Organic fruits and vegetables have more nutrients because the soil isn’t depleted by use of chemical fertilizers. In my book these are all compelling reasons why organic needs to become the norm rather than the exception.

In one of the classes that I teach I tell people about the benefits of buying organic. I understand that for a lot of people it’s a difficult decision and one that involves your wallet. One resource that I encourage them (and you) to take advantage of is the Environmental Working Group’s Shopping Guide to Pesticides which tells you which are the 12 biggest pesticide laden fruits and vegetables and which are least likely to be affected. This printable guide can help you make better decisions at the grocery store.

Of course big agribusiness isn’t too thrilled about public organic gardening but then again I wouldn’t expect them to be. I do, however, expect this trend to continue; it’s better for all of us, for the environment and for future generations.

Be well.

National Sweet Potato Month

February is National Sweet Potato Month.  And what a delicious choice for a featured food.  Sweet potatoes are versatile, nutritious and easy to add in to your diet.

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is sometimes confused with a yam which comes from a completely different plant family.  It’s also only distantly related to traditional potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene and a good source of vitamin C, both of which are anti-inflammatory antioxidants.  They are also a good source of fiber with 3.14 g per serving (a single sweet potato averaging about 77 g).
Most people are used to thinking of sweet potatoes candied with marshmallow and brown sugar on the Thanksgiving table, or perhaps baked into a sweet potato pie or just baked and served with butter.  But there are a lot of different ways to serve them across many different cultures.  In Korea they are used to make dangmyeon, a cellophane noodle, while in Japan it’s frequently used in tempura.  In Africa sweet potatoes are dried and then served with a peanut sauce in a dish called Amukeke.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post we like to eat them in potato pancakes.  Another favorite i our house is sweet potato fries but we don’t do that too often because we don’t eat a lot of deep fried foods.  
Recently KatieR  had a great idea which calls for using a dehydrator to make sweet potato chips.  You cut the potato into the desired thickness, brush with a thin coating of olive oil, sprinkle with your favorite spices, such as curry powder, and dehydrate until done.    If you don’t have a dehydrator you can use your oven set to it’s lowest setting and bake until you reach the desired crispness.
I think the next time I go to the grocery store there will be a couple of extra sweet potatoes in my basket so we can give this a try.  If you try it too let me know what spices you used and how it turned out.

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Kitchen Questions

My friend Helene had a couple of questions for me:

1.  “My cookies require fresh ginger….the last root I bought turned out to be very fibrous…..little strings and after the cookies were made they look like they are full of cat hair. taste delicious…look unappealing….on the Food Channel I noticed them mincing ginger and there were no hairs at all…how can I tell if the ginger I am about to buy will be smooth?

I too have frequently had a problem with fibrous shredded ginger.  But since all ginger is fibrous the answer lies not in finding one that has no fiber but in finding the right tool to shred your ginger.  I used to use a box grater but it wasn’t great.  The best is a rasp-type file.  The story is that a woman who was frustrated by her inefficient lemon zester one day grabbed her husbands’ microplane rasp and found that it did an excellent job.  

My local Sur la Table has one very reasonably priced at $10 but I’m sure you can find them at any upscale cookware store.

2.  “Potatoes and squash are on sale this week…I have 3 bags of potatoes, a cold basement, lots of boxes and newspaper….could you discuss cold storage for produce for those of us in NE climate?

It’s much easier to store foods for long harvest in colder climates.  The process is known as cold storage, or root cellaring.  According to my favorite source book Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables, “Second-crop potatoes are best for storing…they should be cured before storing to give them a chance to heal surface nicks and toughen their skins.  Spread them out in a protected place where the temperature is 60-75 degrees F.  They should not be exposed to rain, sun or wind during curing.  After a one-week to two-week curing period, potatoes are ready for storage…for winter keeping, put your potatoes ina  cold damp spot…[they] keep best at 36-40 degrees F with high humidity, around 90 percent.”

Squash also need to be cured (except for acorn squashes) and recommended storage is warmer and drier than for potatoes, an unheated side room or attic can be ideal.

I highly recommend the Root Cellaring book as well as Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long. Both of these books have a lot of excellent information, presented in an easy-to-read-and-understand format. I believe that they are very good resource books for anyone interested in food storage.

If you have any questions about food, nutrition or holistic health just let me know…the answers may appear here on the blog.

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Picking Produce

I was having a conversation about picking produce with my Aunt today.  We talked about how difficult it is sometimes to get a good fruit or vegetable if you don’t know what you are looking for.

Right now citrus is readily available and very inexpensive near me.  We’re consuming a lot of it, including making lemonade or limeade.

One way to tell if you are getting a good, juicy piece of citrus is to look at the skin.  The smoother and less dimpled it is the juicier the fruit.  You also want to look for unblemished fruit although discolorations in skin color are not necessarily blemishes.  Oranges or lemons with green patches on the skin can still be ripe.  You also want a firm fruit, not squishy (although be kind to other purchasers and don’t squeeze too hard).

For grapefruits you want a thin-skinned fruit.  Thicker skins will feel spongier and will yield less fruit.

For a delicious and easy dessert try the following:

broiled grapefruit
preheat your oven to broil
wash grapefruits and cut in half
put in a baking pan (I usually get four into an 8 x 8 pan)
sprinkle with sucanat
add a pinch of cinnamon if desired
broil for 3-5 minutes until sugar is melting into fruit

And for the most delicious lemon/limeade try this:

juice of 4 limes (or 5 lemons)
mix with 1 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
stir well until crystals are dissolved
add 6 C. water

This juice is wonderful, you know you’ve got a hit on your hands when your high school aged child and her friends ask for it rather than other beverage choices.

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