September, 2008

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Where Have You Bean?

Monday, September 29th, 2008

One of my favorite protein sources has just gotten some respect, as in really good press.  The legume, or in more familiar terms – the bean – has an entire cookbook dedicated to it’s heritage, preparation, and recipes which will entice even the leery ‘musical fruit’ lover (see ‘romantic’ note below.)

“Heirloom Beans” is a hot new publication by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo, whose passion for indigenous New World food inspired the creation of his book.  In a quest to find lost varieties of heritage beans, Steve ‘searched the Americas’ for interesting and rare selections that he could bring back home and cultivate.  After discovering many nuances and flavor profiles previously unknown, Steve’s mission took on a whole new life – and it pretty much became his life.

Well, good for us on many levels. As you will read in the book, beans are a super food. They are a wonderful source of plant protein, high in fiber, low in fat.  It’s the soluble fiber which helps cholesterol move out before it has time to be absorbed.  And it’s the high fiber which slows down the rise in blood sugar, making beans a favorite choice as ‘medicine’ for people with diabetes.  Beans are also high in iron, calcium, vitamin B-complex and a slew of other minerals.  They help reduce blood pressure (as in good for the heart) and are said to promote ‘balanced’ sexual activity (I’m not exactly clear on this term but perhaps that’s why Steve labels them ‘romantic.’)

Bottom line is – they taste good!  Heirloom beans have different textures and complex flavors over their mass-produced counterparts. If you have the time, it’s best to pre-soak them to ‘turn off the music,’ so to speak, before cooking. (But according to Steve, his beans are fresher which will reduce the soaking time.) And now with over 100 succulent recipes to choose from, you can make beans a ‘regular’ part of your daily diet. (See next post for an appetizer!)

To purchase a copy of “Heirloom Beans,” I always recommend your local bookstore first, or you can find it at Amazon.  To buy the beans, visit Rancho Gordo’s website for a complete listing of varieties and shipping details.

Mediterranean Frittata

Friday, September 26th, 2008

We have some major construction going on at my house, so I offered the workers a homemade lunch in lieu of their usual fare (picture a bag with golden arches…you know the rest.)  I had no idea what I would whip up on such short notice, but then all I had to do was rely on my recent trip to the farmers market for inspiration.  I collected farm-fresh eggs, roasted tomatoes, Swiss chard, goat cheese and parsley for one of my favorite ‘kitchen sink’ recipes: the frittata.  You always know it’s a hit when they ask for seconds, or in this case – thirds.  And it’s incredibly easy.  Serve for lunch or dinner with a garden salad and heaven awaits.

MEDITERRANEAN FRITTATA

9 free-range eggs
1/3 C organic low fat milk
1 med. onion
1 TB garlic, minced
1 TB olive oil
1 C spinach, chard or kale
1 C roasted or sun-dried tomatoes (drain excess liquid)
2 TB chopped parsley
1/4 C chopped Kalamata olives
1/3 C  feta or goat cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 TB flax seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Beat eggs with milk and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Chop all veggies.

Sauté olive oil with onion and garlic for about 1-2 minutes, but don’t brown.  Add all veggies and cook over medium for about 4 minutes.  Add Italian seasoning.

Prepare ceramic baking dish (pie shape or oblong) by spraying with oil and coating with freshly ground flax seeds.

Add veggies to egg mixture, along with cheese. Pour into prepared dish and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until center is set. For additional browning, broil for 3 minutes until golden.

Storing Fresh Produce

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

A lot can happen from the time produce is picked off the vine or pulled from the earth. Some fruits and veggies go to a packing house; others are cooled and transported an average of 1200 miles before reaching the consumer.

According to the folks at “Ideal Bite,” the average cost of food per American family jumped 36% between Jun. 2000 and May 2008, so every lil’ bit you can save helps.  Since I know you are all shopping at your local farmers’ markets, here are some hints on how to preserve the freshness and nutritional values of your perishable produce:

Store at room temperature

  • apples               lemons            pineapple
  • bananas            limes               pomegranates
  • grapefruit         mangoes          papayas
  • watermelon     persimmons    basil (in vase with water – cut stems every other day)
  • garlic                dry onions       potatoes (put in paper bag and keep in drawer – avoid light)
  • tomatoes          eggplant          peppers

Ripen on counter first, then to refrigerator

  • avocados         nectarines        pears
  • kiwi                 peaches            plums

Refrigerate

  • blueberries       cherries            strawberries (put in Tupperware with paper towel – do not wash first)
  • apricots            grapes              figs
  • raspberries       blackberries     artichokes
  • green beans      herbs               Brussels sprouts
  • carrots              cabbage           peas
  • radishes            corn                 spinach/lettuces (wash first, then store with holes in plastic bag)
  • cauliflower       celery              leeks
  • beets                 broccoli           mushrooms (put in paper bag in produce drawer)

General: store fruits and vegetables separate.  Some fruits let off the gas ethylene, which speeds ripening during the process.

Check out the Oliso Frisper Foodkeeper, a vacuum sealer for all types of food that uses reusable plastic bags.

I use  Evert-Fresh reusable bags which truly have a lasting affect on the produce .

In order to maximize the nutrients you receive, it is best to consume your fresh (organic) produce within two days of purchase but these tips can help extend their life span.  General rule of thumb is to wash all produce – even citrus – just before eating, with exceptions above.

When Life Gives You Apples

Monday, September 15th, 2008

…I would say make applesauce but that’s so obvious.  So let’s look at how how delicious and healthful they are, in many iterations.  Of course, I always promote the whole food first.

‘Tis the season for this heart-healthy fruit in Northern California, beginning with the harvest of Gravensteins, to over 7,500 varieties today.  Commercially we have access to about 100 types, but if you scour the farmers’ markets you can find some pretty unique selections – all of which have great nutritional benefits.

Health Bennies
Apples are super high in fiber, providing 15% of our daily value when eaten with the skin. (If eating the skin make sure the apple is organic, as this is one of the fruits which absorbs pesticides the most. (Source: www.FoodNews.org) Apple skins are loaded with antioxidants – such as quercetin – in the form of a phytonutrient.  Quercetin provides cardiovascular protection, helps prevents cataracts and has anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic and anti-viral properties.  It also prevents ulcers, kidney stones, and herpes simplex.   The fiber in apples latches onto LDL (the Lousy cholesterol) and moves it out of our bodies.  Eating just two apples a day can reduce cholesterol by up to 16%!

In addition to high fiber, apples are a good source of vitamins A, C and K. Vitamin K combats osteoporosis like calcium-rich foods and keeps cell damage at bay.

Right now you can find luscious apple varieties at your local farmers markets. The best way to store apples is in the refrigerator for about seven days.  We’ll review tips on keeping other produce soon but suffice it to say, the longer you wait, the less the nutritional bennies will wait for you.

Fun Facts
Here are some silly teasers for your kids or your friends (the big kids):
•    Apples float because 25% of their volume is air.
•    An apple tree must grow four to five years before it will produce an apple.
•    The “Delicious” apple variety is the most widely grown in the U.S.
•    The apple belongs to the rose family.
•    In ancient times, apples were thrown at weddings instead of rice or birdseed.  No wonder the bride had to change her clothes:)

Chicken Apple Curry

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Here’s a tasty, seasonal dish which is light on the waistline but heavy on flavor.

Chicken-Apple Curry
Serves 4-6

4 cups cooked cubed free-range chicken (turkey or pork can also be used)
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped organic raisins or currants
1/2 cup diced celery
1 1/2 cups diced, unpeeled organic apples
1/4 cup organic butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tbsp. Sucanat or brown sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
1 1/2 cups free-range chicken broth
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Spring onions, diced, for garnish

Method:
1.    Heat butter in skillet, add onions and cook until transparent.
2.    Add apples and raisins; sauté 5 minutes.
3.    Add celery and cook 2 more minutes.
4.    Combine seasoning and flour and blend in.
5.    Add chicken broth, lemon juice, and stir until thickened.
6.    Simmer 2-3 minutes stirring all the time.
7.    Fold in chicken, mix well.
8.    Garnish with spring onions.
9.    Serve on a bed of brown rice with apple chutney and fresh cucumber salad.

Eat That, Digest This

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Here I am newly indoctrinated into the blog world and I’m already taking short cuts.  It’s not for lack of subject matter – believe me!  But a respected food professional has so succinctly encapsulated what I espouse to that I decided  to go with imitation as flattery vs. reinventing the wheel.

A recent article in the SF Chronicle food section was written by Marion Nestle, nutrition professor, author and recent pet food private eye (tho not so private.)  Marion’s article focuses on eating a variety of whole foods in small doses for nutrients and optimal balance.  Please note the ingredients of that sentence. First let’s take variety: for example, not eating the same thing for breakfast every day so as to assimilate as many nutrients as possible.  One of my teachers used to say: “our bodies need everything, all of the time.”  In other words, with an assortment of foods we can obtain a medley of vitamins and minerals without reaching for a capsule to fill the void. But that doesn’t mean overdo it…

Which brings us to portion control.  Yes, size does matter.  In America we have ‘grown’ accustomed to everything BIG, which has continued to plague our waistlines and our health.  It all hearkens back to my mantra (with a nod to Michael Pollan) of eating (whole) food, not too much, from a sustainable source.

When these practices are applied – along with a healthy dose of exercise – we can realize balance in both our diet and our overall well being.  Our energy is restored, our weight is maintained, and our supplement or prescription drug costs are diminished.

Healthy Hints

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Welcome to Cook4Seasons!

Your resource for fun facts on nutrition, health, farmers’ markets, the environment…and delicious recipes which celebrate the seasons.  My premise is ‘SOUL’ food: Seasonal, Organic, Unrefined and Local ~ and I will continually prompt thee to get thyself to the nearest farmers’ market on a regular basis.

Some examples from my treasure trove of topics will include:

  • support your local farmer
  • the benefits of wild vs. farmed salmon
  • how to store fresh produce
  • why diets don’t work
  • foods for the brain

I will also highlight seasonal foods and provide nutritional components, identify sustainable fish, and compare organic vs. conventional produce.

It is my intention to feed you with enough information to whet your whistle, while being mindful of busy schedules and internet overload.  The framework will be simple, timely and user friendly.  And I’ll always provide you with links to additional resources.

Of course these formats are only as good as their audience, so I highly encourage input from you. I’d love to know what subjects are of interest and how I can keep you coming back for more tasty tidbits. Comment soon – and often! Within weeks you’ll see the evolution as we explore new horizons together and give fresh meaning to the term “whole foods wellness.”

Once you sign up to receive these healthy hints, just leave the research to me and you’ll be on your (easeful) way to optimal health for your body and your mind.

Thanks for jumping on the bountiful bandwagon.  Until we eat again…

Karen