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The Big A: Antioxidants
Charlton Goodwin | 07/06/2016
Let’s talk antioxidants, shall we? I, for one, had wondered for years what in the world antioxidants were. They sounded ...
Let’s talk antioxidants, shall we? I, for one, had wondered for years what in the world antioxidants were. They sounded so refreshing when I would hear about them on a commercial advertising something really fresh, like cranberries. And they sounded so healthy because the commercial was about…well…cranberries. But many curious minds may often ponder what antioxidants actually do.
The cells in our body are made up of millions of molecules, which undergo a lot of stress from our body’s day-to-day survival functions. This natural stress causes our cells’ molecules to become damaged, thereby releasing free radicals. Free radicals are unpaired electrons that get broken off of their original molecule. Once released in the body, free radicals bounce around, damaging other cells and creating a cascade of more and more free radicals. This oxidative damage from free radicals in the body can be the trigger for a lot of abnormalities, such as premature aging, hardened arteries and even an increased risk for cancer.
So where do antioxidants come into play? Well, antioxidants are molecules that can stop this whole chain reaction by donating one of their own electrons to the free radicals. This tames the free radicals and prevents them from continuing to bounce around the body, causing damage. And NO, the antioxidant does not become a free-radical in this situation. It’s a win-win! How perfect!
So where can we get these antioxidants? The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. You’ll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues. The body cannot produce these micronutrients on its own and thus, we must supply ourselves with these antioxidants.
Here are some good sources of antioxidant vitamins:
Beta-carotene and other carotenoids: apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon
Vitamin C: berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mango, nectarine, orange, papaya, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, tomatoes, and red, green, or yellow peppers
Vitamin E: broccoli (boiled), avocado, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach (boiled), and sunflower seeds
Hopefully this gives a pretty fair overview of what antioxidants are. There is so much that can be touched on regarding this fascinating subject, but I will leave it at this for now. Feed your body with foods rich in antioxidants. Your future self will thank you.
4 Tips to Drink More Water
Summer is here, which means the temperature and humidity are on the rise in South Carolina. With such scorching, sticky weathe...
Summer is here, which means the temperature and humidity are on the rise in South Carolina. With such scorching, sticky weather, it’s extra important to pay attention to hydration during summer months. We’ve all heard the adage, “drink 8 glasses of water a day.” But is that really enough?
According to the National Institutes of Health, the Daily Reference Intake for water for adults is between 2.7 to 3.7 liters per day. That means you should really be drinking 11 to 15 cups every day!
Here are 4 tips for getting more H2O into your diet.
- Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. A good portion of the water you lose each day is insensible water loss, which means it is lost through breathing or evaporation from the skin. Even though you might not realize it, you’re actually losing a lot of water while catching Zs. To get a jump-start on replacing that lost water, drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.
- Buy a glass water bottle. There’s no need to buy disposable water bottles every time you reach for a drink. The new trend right now is glass water bottles, which are sturdy, reusable, and do not contain any BPA. Keep it on your desk throughout the day to remind you to keep sipping all day long.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. You don’t just have to drink your water to keep hydrated. Fruits and vegetables naturally contain high amounts of water that your body can use to hydrate. Some fruits and veggies with notably high water contents are watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, celery, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
- Jazz up your water. Tired of drinking plain, old water? Add sliced fruits or herbs to infuse a light, refreshing flavor to your water. Or opt for a sparkling water, like seltzer or club soda, for a bubbly treat that is just as hydrating as regular water. Find more ideas to jazz up your water here.
Easy Bean Tostadas
I recently learned that July 3 is Eat Beans Day, so what better excuse to whip up a tasty, healthy bean-inspired recipe!
I recently learned that July 3 is Eat Beans Day, so what better excuse to whip up a tasty, healthy bean-inspired recipe!
Beans are a nutritional powerhouse. They are naturally fat and cholesterol free and are full of antioxidants, fiber, and protein. Studies suggest that eating beans may reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers. Beans also have a low glycemic index, which means they take longer to digest and will not spike blood sugar levels. Additionally, beans are a great source of many different nutrients.
A half-cup serving of beans provides:
- 23-45% daily value (DV) folate
- 11% DV iron
- 24-36% DV fiber
- 14-16% DV protein
- 10% DV potassium
One of my favorite ways to prepare beans is in tostadas. Tostadas are a filling, meatless meal and they come together in a flash. They are perfect for busy nights when there isn’t much time to cook. We eat them a few times a month at my house, and we never get tired of them!
Traditionally, tostadas consist of a fried tortilla, topped with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and pickles. You an also add sliced avocado, sour cream, etc. for extra toppings. With fried tortillas, cheese, and sour cream, tostadas might not sound like the healthiest weeknight dinner. But, with a few simple changes, it’s easy to lighten up this recipe.
For example, instead of frying tortillas, bake them until crispy in the oven. Sub part-skim or low-fat cheese in place of full-fat cheese. Then, instead of sour cream, try swapping in a low-fat, plain Greek yogurt.
Here’s my lightened-up tostada recipe:
6 small tortillas (corn or flour)
1 can low-fat refried beans
1 to 1½ cups low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups lettuce, shredded
1 cup tomato, chopped
¼ cup dill pickle relish
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ cup low-fat, plain Greek yogurt
- Preheat oven to 350F. Place tortillas on cookie sheet and brush lightly with oil. Bake tortillas for 4 minutes on each side or until crispy and lightly browned.
- Heat refried beans on stove top.
- When all the toppings are prepared and tortillas and beans are cooked, assemble tostadas. Spread refried beans on tortillas. Then sprinkle with cheese, lettuce, tomato, relish, avocado, yogurt, and hot sauce.
- Serve immediately.
Tips for Eating Organic Affordably
Laura Pyatt | 06/30/2016
Originally published in the May issue of The Stew, a newsletter from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.
One of my favo...
Originally published in the May issue of The Stew, a newsletter from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.
One of my favorite activities is having friends or family over for a night of cooking, drinking, and eating together. Making and sharing food together creates a community that brings people closer, plus it’s just so darn fun.
However, cooking for a large group of people can be expensive, especially if you want to buy organic. I believe eating good food and sharing good company over food should not be cost-prohibitive. From my time working at the Durham Co-op Market and shopping on a shoe string budget when I was younger, I have figured out some more affordable ways to purchase nutrient-dense, organic food without breaking the bank.
I refuse to sacrifice quality (or a night of fun) because I don’t have enough money. When purchasing quality food on a budget, make sure to go for the products with less packing. That means they are less processed and usually less expensive. If your local co-op or grocery store has a bulk section, you are in luck! The bulk section is AMAZING; since you can buy just what you need, you’ll save lots of money. Usually a spice jar of cumin costs around $5, but if you purchase a few tablespoons in our bulk section, it runs less than a dollar.
Plus, purchasing in bulk aligns with our Co-op Basics Program. It is a line of everyday low price items that include many staple products you may normally stock in your pantry. The Basics include dried beans, grains, pasta, peanut butter, toilet paper, and more. Check your local co-op’s brand or their savings circular for similar deals. Buying these staple items at the Co-op will keep your costs low, since we do our best to keep the prices low!
Finally, eating seasonally is a great way to get high quality ingredients that don’t cost too much. If I buy strawberries now (since it’s strawberry season), they are way cheaper than if I bought them in November. In November, I should buy Clementines, since that’s their season! Currently, local NC strawberries are on sale at the Co-op, two 1-pound containers for $5. In November, they’d cost double that! We can keep the price that low since they are abundant this time of year, and the distributor saves on shipping costs, since they come from right down the road!
My favorite seasonal, organic, and budget-friendly dish to serve to people WHILE they are cooking is salsa. We all need a little something as we are preparing a big meal together, and salsa is a great crowd-pleaser to snack on. Plus, it’s full of fresh vegetables, so it won’t fill you up too much before dinner. I chop up all the vegetables before my dinner guests arrive. The salsa tastes best if you leave it sitting on the counter for an hour to let the flavors marry before you start snacking. Also, if you purchase a jar of salsa at the store, it usually run about $5 and only serves around 4 people. My salsa costs $6.60 TOTAL and serves at least 10. You may even have left-overs.
4 ripe tomatoes (~1 lb)
½ bunch of cilantro
½ onion diced finely (~1/2 lb)
1 jalapeño diced finely
2 cloves of garlic diced finely
Spices: salt, cumin, and chili powder
Total Price (these are based on the Durham Co-op Market’s current prices, subject to change with sales): $6.60 for a GIANT bowl of salsa.
Organic tomatoes are $2.99/lb= $2.99
Organic Limes are $0.79 each= $1.58
Organic Cilantro bunches are $1.39= $0.69
Organic Onions are $1.39/lb= $0.69
Jalapenos are $3.99/lb= $0.20
Garlic and spices= $0.45
The fun thing about this recipe is that you can add whatever seasonal fruit and/or vegetable to the salsa that you wish! I suggest mango for some sweetness, or cut kernels straight off an ear of corn for some crunchy texture! Serve with Late July Tortilla Chips.
Choosing the Best Organic Produce
We’ve all heard about organic foods and have seen them boldly advertised in grocery stores. But what’s the deal wi...
We’ve all heard about organic foods and have seen them boldly advertised in grocery stores. But what’s the deal with organic fruits and vegetables?
Organic foods are raised without the use of many synthetic products, like pesticides and hormones, and the government has strict guidelines farms must meet in order to be labeled USDA Certified Organic. The movement has become so popular in recent years, organic farming has grown to a $43 billion dollar industry, according to the USDA.
Organic foods are useful for several reasons. For consumers wary of ingesting chemicals from the foods they eat, organics are a good chemical-free alternative. Next, organics cannot by law contain any genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, which some consumers prefer to avoid. Lastly, organic farming practices can be better for the environment.
On the downside, growing organic foods requires more labor and more pricey government certifications, which means organics usually cost more at the grocery store. In addition, organic produce may not be available in all stores.
So what do you do if you want to eat organic but can’t switch your entire diet over to organics?
Every year, Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes data from pesticide residue testing done by the USDA. Based on the results, the EWG makes a list of the produce with the most pesticide residue and the produce with the least residue.
This means, if you want to start making the switch to organic, consider using this guide to decide when to select organic and when to stick with conventional:
Choose organic when possible:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
Stick with conventional:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas, frozen
The EWG has a pocket guide to these lists available for you to print and keep in your wallet here.
And remember, if the organic options are not available or are a bit too pricey, it’s always better to go with conventional produce than no produce at all! Either way, be sure to rinse all produce well before consuming.
It Pays to Meet Healthy at Work!
Hannah Walters | 06/23/2016
Picture this: You arrive at work on Monday morning and your boss has surprised the staff with donuts and coffee for the ...
Picture this: You arrive at work on Monday morning and your boss has surprised the staff with donuts and coffee for the weekly staff meeting. Later that day, you attend a lunch meeting at a partner organization. On the menu: pizza, cookies, and soda.
Sound familiar? This type of scenario is not uncommon in many workplaces. Meetings and events often involve food, and unfortunately the foods and beverages served are typically high in calories and sugar, and low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like pizza and donuts as much as anyone. But, while once considered an occasional treat, these types of food have become far too routine in many of our diets. With two-thirds of South Carolina adults overweight or obese, and nearly half of our waking hours spent at work, South Carolina businesses have an important opportunity to create healthier work environments for employees.
Adopting a healthy meeting and events policy not only supports the health of employees; it sends the message that health is important to your organization, and sets a positive example in the community and state. Also, of note, studies show a strong relationship between the physical and social environments of the workplace and the health behaviors of employees. I know I feel a sense of relief knowing that any meetings or events that I attend at Eat Smart Move More SC will support my efforts to eat healthily–rather than derailing my diet!
What does a healthy meeting policy look like? Best practices typically include offering water and other no-calorie beverages, serving fruits and/ or veggies with every meal, providing physical activity breaks for meetings lasting longer than one hour, and hosting meetings in smoke-free facilities. The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity has a great toolkit with other ideas to get you started.
Importantly, having healthy meetings doesn’t have to mean spending more money. While some healthy foods may be more expensive, many caterers and restaurants can make small adjustments (like grilling or baking rather than frying, substituting mayo- or cream-based sauces for a healthier alternative, etc.) that don’t cost more money and still taste great. Also, reducing portion sizes, ordering less food, and reducing waste, may end up saving money by reducing overall food purchases.
I encourage you to invite your CEO or HR director to join other South Carolina businesses by adopting a healthy meeting and event policy. Email me at Hannah@eatsmartmovemoresc.org if you’d like more information. Already have a healthy meeting policy? I’d love to hear from you, too!
What's in Season in SC This Summer
This week marks the first day of summer. Summer officially arrives on June 20, and with it comes bountiful summer produce!
This week marks the first day of summer. Summer officially arrives on June 20, and with it comes bountiful summer produce!
Juicy peaches and perfectly ripe tomatoes are a great reason shop at your local farmers’ market or produce stand this summer. (You can find your nearest farm stand or market here!) Seasonal, local produce is picked at peak ripeness and has the best flavor and highest nutritional quality. Not only that, fresh produce bought locally can also cost less than conventional produce in the store, and you’re supporting a local farmer! With so many fruits and veggies in season during summer months, it’s easy to meet the recommended 5 servings a day.
According to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, here’s what’s in season this summer:
- Beans- snap, pole, butter bean
- Yellow Squash
My personal summer favorites are watermelon and squash. I like to add chopped watermelon on top of salads with feta cheese and vinaigrette dressing. It’s an unlikely combo, but sweet watermelon with tangy feta is a summertime winner! For squash, I like to slice zucchini and yellow squash into medallions and sauté them in olive oil with red onion, garlic, and fresh dill. It’s a simple but tasty dish that I cook regularly throughout the summer.
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture has a great app to help you keep track of what’s in season. First, select the season to view what produce is available that time of year. Then, click on an item to view all of the local farms and markets selling that produce. Certified SC Grown also has a Pinterest page full of recipe ideas for all the different types of produce.
Use #LetsGoSC to share your own recipes and healthy living ideas on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.
7 Healthy Picnic Ideas
Nothing says summer like a picnic! In honor of National Picnic Day on June 18, it’s time to pack a cooler and a blanket ...
Nothing says summer like a picnic! In honor of National Picnic Day on June 18, it’s time to pack a cooler and a blanket and head outside. Here are some light, healthy ideas for you to serve at your next picnic.
For a quick and easy picnic, some fresh finger-foods are the perfect snack. They’re easy to prep ahead of time so you can simply pack them in a cooler.
- Fruity guacamole and chips: Avocados offer heart-healthy fats in addition to great taste! Stir in chopped pineapple or mango into guacamole for a sweet twist using the recipe below.
- Fresh veggies and hummus: Baby carrots, celery sticks, and cucumber rounds pair great with hummus. This combo is packed with protein and takes care of one serving of vegetables for the day.
If you’re looking to fire up the grill, there are many healthier alternatives to the traditional hotdogs and hamburgers for your main course.
- Shrimp: Shrimp are naturally low in calories and are great summer fare. It’s easy to make peeled shrimp into kebabs with veggies and pineapple, or you can wrap unpeeled shrimp in an aluminum foil packet to throw on the grill.
- Grilled chicken: Grilled chicken breasts are much lower in saturated fat than hamburgers. Marinate the chicken in a sealable, plastic bag with your favorite vinaigrette dressing. Once cooked, serve the meat as a sandwich on a whole wheat bun with all the traditional toppings.
- Quinoa salad: Quinoa is an ancient grain that cooks in a flash and is full of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Toss cooked quinoa with feta cheese, chopped cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and vinaigrette dressing. Serve this cool, healthy salad as side with your grilled picnic meal. (Unfamiliar with quinoa? Read more about it here.)
Every picnic deserves something sweet! Instead of cupcakes or cookies, try these dessert ideas instead.
- Fruit kebabs: Skewer your favorite summer fruits for a healthy, sweet treat. Watermelon, grapes, pineapple, and strawberries all make great kebab options. Serve with yogurt as a dip.
- Refreshing fruit popsicles: Blend fresh (or frozen) fruits with a splash of juice, yogurt, or milk. Pour into popsicle molds or small cups and freeze. Berries are always a great choice for popsicles, but get adventurous with your flavor combos, like strawberries and mint or mangos and coconut water.
With your menu planned, you’re ready to pack up some lawn games and bug spray and head outdoors. Enjoy your healthy picnic with family and friends!
Fruity Guacamole Recipe
yield: 1 batch
Juice of one lime
¼ tsp salt, or to taste
dash of pepper, or to taste
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
¼ cup red onion, chopped
½ cup mango or pineapple, chopped
1. Remove skin and pit from avocados. Place avocado in bowl.
2. Mash avocado together with lime juice, salt, and pepper until smooth, using a fork.
3. Mix in cilantro, red onion, and fruit. Serve with tortilla chips or chopped veggies.
Container Gardening in 4 Easy Steps
I love the idea of having a vegetable garden. I like to imagine picking fresh tomatoes for my salads, getting exercise from wo...
I love the idea of having a vegetable garden. I like to imagine picking fresh tomatoes for my salads, getting exercise from working in the yard, and then sitting back to enjoy the greenery. Unfortunately, my small apartment doesn’t allow me to have the garden of my dreams. Luckily I do have a patio, and that’s all the space I need to start my own container vegetable garden.
A container garden can be a great alternative to its large, traditional cousin because it takes up little space and can be grown on a windowsill, doorstep, or patio. It can add a pop of color to outdoor spaces while being less time consuming to maintain. Not to mention a container garden can produce fruits and veggies for you all season long. Even if it’s only composed of a few pots, a container garden can still produce a lot of food for cheap; for every $1 invested starting a garden, you can get back around $25 in produce.
If you’re like me and don’t have the space or materials for a large garden, here are a few simple steps to follow when creating your container garden.
- Pick your planters. Garden stores have many options for planters- from pots, to window boxes, to rail planters. Think about where you want to locate your container garden, and choose which planter will work best. It is important to select containers that drain well in order to let extra water out and keep from overwatering your plants. Always check the underside of your pots to make sure there are drainage holes. If you don’t want to buy new planters, you can recycle old buckets after punching some drainage holes in the bottom. Once you’ve gathered your planters, fill them up with moist potting soil.
- Select your plants. Plants that don’t sprawl and produce continuous fruit are best for container gardens, but all plants require differing amounts of light for optimal growth. Some container plants, like tomatoes, peppers, and squash, grow best in full sun. Others, like lettuce, cabbage, greens, and herbs, will grow in partial sun. Consider where you want to place your container garden, and then choose plants that are suited to that environment. You can start your garden from seed, or you can use starter plants from the store. SNAP benefits are even eligible for purchasing seeds and edible plants to help get a garden started.
- Start planting. Follow the directions on the seed or starter package to determine the depth and spacing of your plants. Fill up your containers, and then give them a gentle watering. Check back regularly on your garden to water and weed as needed. Gardening is a great way to get children excited about the foods they eat, so let your kids get their hands a little dirty in the planting and maintenance of your garden.
- Get cooking. Allow your fruits and veggies to grow and ripen before harvesting them. Then research recipe ideas and experiment with new ways to eat your favorite veggies. Consider hosting a sampling party with your family or friends to share your garden’s bounty.
3 Great Ways to Use Herbs and Spices
It’s hard to beat fresh basil on top of pizza and cinnamon in oatmeal. But did you know that, besides adding wonderful f...
It’s hard to beat fresh basil on top of pizza and cinnamon in oatmeal. But did you know that, besides adding wonderful flavor to foods, herbs and spices are great for your health, too? That’s right, herbs and spices are excellent sources of powerful antioxidants.
Antioxidants are essential tools in fighting cell damage in our bodies and are believed to be useful in fighting memory loss, aging, and some chronic diseases. Oregano, turmeric, cinnamon, and peppermint are just some of the many herbs and spices packed with antioxidants.
Herbs and spices are a great way to ramp up the color, aroma, and flavor of the foods you cook. So where can you find them? Fresh herbs are the most fragrant, and it’s easy to find pre-cut fresh herbs in your local grocery store’s produce section. Small herb plants are also sometimes available in grocery stores. These plants are perfect for growing in window planters or hanging baskets for easy, herbal goodness all year round.
- Preserve herbs in the freezer.
Fresh herbs can be a bit pricey, so don’t let any go to waste. One handy way to preserve extra fresh herbs is to chop them up, distribute the herbs in an ice cube tray, and then fill the remaining space with water. Pop the tray in the freezer, and you have single portions of herbs ready to be mixed into whatever you’re cooking.
- Dried herbs & spices pack a punch.
Dried herbs and spices are convenient options when fresh products are not available. When substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs in a recipe, use only a third of the listed fresh amount because dried herbs are more concentrated in flavor. Dried herbs do last much longer than fresh, but even they should only be stored for a few years to ensure the best flavor.
- Add them to your drinks.
Herbs aren’t just limited to cooking- you can also add them to your drinks. Consider drinking an herbal tea or try adding peppermint or basil to your ice water for a refreshing, nutritious beverage. Get more ideas on how to create flavored waters here.
- Preserve herbs in the freezer.
Nothing says summer like vibrant, refreshing watermelon: Outrageously colorful, yielding and sweet at the center and crisper a...
Nothing says summer like vibrant, refreshing watermelon: Outrageously colorful, yielding and sweet at the center and crisper and mild towards the rind, and packed with cooling, hydrating juice.
It’s hard to beat wedges of chilled melon fresh from the fridge, but watermelon’s generous size and seasonal abundance are compelling reasons to get creative with it. Experimenting with bold flavor combinations and an expanded roster of techniques and recipes can transform your summer eating.
Here are the basics on choosing and using watermelon, followed by a selection of creative recipes to expand your summer repertoire.
- Choose melons with deeply colored, unblemished skin. It’s fine if one side is paler than the rest; this indicates the part of the melon that rested on the ground while it was ripening on the vine.
- A fresh, lightly sweet aroma is a sign of ripe watermelon. When tapped, it should sound taut and hollow if ripe.
- Seedless varieties are popular in today’s market, but seeds are so easy to remove that you should let ripeness be your guide when selecting a melon.
- If you purchase a piece of a cut watermelon, look for firm, solid flesh with deep color and no cracks.
- Before storing or cutting whole watermelon, rinse the exterior well under cold running water.
- Whole watermelon will keep at room temperature 7 to 10 days. Once cut, watermelon is best eaten as soon as possible but can be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.
- Watermelons flavor goes particularly well with lime, mint, basil, red onion, fresh cheeses, chiles, strawberries and neutral spirits such as vodka and light rum.
- Use watermelon in just about any recipe you would cantaloupe or honeydew, or try substituting it for other recipe with high-water vegetables like cucumber or tomatoes.
Watermelon consists of an awesome 90 percent water, so it’s no surprise that it makes an ideal base for drinks. Refreshing Watermelon Agua Fresca is light and delicious and packs pure summer flavor. Incredibly popular, gorgeously hued Watermelon Lemonade is terrific for a crowd; you can even make it do service through cocktail hour by adding a shot of vodka to each glass. And you can enjoy two of summer’s favorite fruits in these Strawberry Watermelon Coolers, packed with flavor and lightened by lots of ice and sparkling water.
Sides and Salads
Mix up your grilling routine with Grilled Watermelon with Olive Oil and Sea Salt; heat caramelizes the outside of the melon, resulting in a particularly complex flavor heightened by a hit of coarse salt. It makes a surprising side dish for spicy meats, as do Watermelon and Strawberry Salad with Chile Vinaigrette and Watermelon and Arugula Salad, both which are filled with fabulous seasonal flavors. Either salad makes an ideal dish for picnics or potlucks.
Watermelon shares the stage with a favorite summer catch, halibut, in Halibut with Watermelon Salsa, a brilliant recipe that uses watermelon both as a marinade and as a topping. Seafood is also the star in Shrimp, Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad, an easy choice for cookouts. (This recipe also works wonderfully with boneless skinless chicken breast.) And healthful, awesomely colorful Black Bean, Corn and Watermelon Salsa will turn any simple grilled item from tofu to burgers to steaks into a celebration of watermelon.
Snacks and Desserts
Watermelon is the key to a bevy of satisfying, almost effortless summer treats. Watermelon Granita is one of the easiest, iciest refreshers around, perfect for an intermezzo between courses or as a light dessert. Grape and Watermelon Freezer Pops are a fabulous alternative to commercial popsicles and low in added sweetener.
…Don’t Forget the Rind!
Want the satisfaction of using all your melon? Try watermelon rind in this mildly flavored Strawberry-Watermelon Water with Basil, a terrific way to boost your water intake, or make a version of a southern favorite with the recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rind with Radishes.
I’m not one to branch out and try new things. I like to stay in my comfort zone and not waste money on new things that I...
I’m not one to branch out and try new things. I like to stay in my comfort zone and not waste money on new things that I may not like. But, I haven’t been able to ignore this thing called Quinoa. It’s plastered all over Pinterest and Facebook, and the pictures look scrumptious! I thought, “hmm…I may as well give it a shot.”
First, I did my research, because I knew absolutely nothing about it. Here’s what I found out:
- It’s pronounced keen-wha.
- All of the experts say quinoa is packed with protein and full of nutrients like amino acids, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, and fiber.
- Quinoa comes in different colors. The most common is white, but there‘s also red and black.
- Tired of rice? Substitute rice for quinoa.
- Quinoa must be soaked before cooking because of a natural coating that tastes bitter. Packaged quinoa from the grocery store probably doesn’t need to be soaked, but check the packaging first.
How to Cook and Serve Quinoa
Cooking quinoa is quick, easy, and similar to cooking rice. If your quinoa has not been pre-soaked, then soak 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups water for 5-10 minutes. Drain, rinse and pour the quinoa into a pot. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and a half teaspoon of salt. Bring it to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Quinoa can be eaten on its own as a side dish, with a bit of butter or oil, salt, and pepper, or other seasonings. You can also make a breakfast dish by mixing your cooked quinoa with dried fruit, cinnamon, milk, and maple syrup or honey. I’ve read that you can serve quinoa with chili, stir-fries, beans, or curries. Quinoa is a good source of protein for vegetarians, and can be used as a main course in meat-free burgers, stews, or salads. Some people even bake with it! You can easily find a quinoa recipe on Pinterest or by doing a search on the Internet.
My Quinoa Experiment
Before I tried quinoa, I asked my health-nut friends about it. I wanted to know about the taste and texture. They told me it tastes nutty and reminds them of grits. They said the magic word – grits!
Rather than searching Pinterest for an elaborate recipe, I decided to take the simple route and purchase a box of quinoa and use the recipe on the box. You usually can’t go wrong with box recipes, right?
It didn’t take long to cook, and it smelled quite tasty. I couldn’t believe I was looking forward to trying it! This Southern girl likes her rice, but lima beans over quinoa wasn’t bad at all. My friends were right about the texture – it’s very close to grits. I’ll definitely cook quinoa again, and I encourage you to give it a shot, too.
Wildly Good CSAs
Linda Watson | 05/06/2016
I’ve long supported local farmers by shopping at farmers’ markets and choosing local at the grocery store, but jo...
I’ve long supported local farmers by shopping at farmers’ markets and choosing local at the grocery store, but joining a CSA took my support to a whole new level. CSA means food subscription group, even if it officially stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When you join a CSA program, you support a farm with a micro-loan, which helps pay for seeds, feeds, salaries, and more. In return, you get utterly fresh food direct from the farmer. You may share the risk and reward of farming, too, getting a smaller bunch of collards after a cold snap or bonus tomatoes during a peak harvest. Usually you pick up the week’s bounty at a certain time and place, but some CSAs deliver.
We’re lucky in the Carolinas to have a wide variety of CSAs. I joined Edible Earthscape’s CSA to research my book Fifty Weeks of Green. Jason and Haruka Oastis were running about the only winter CSA that was still taking members. I enjoyed it so much I joined again the next year with a friend.
Why I love belonging to a CSA:
- Plentiful, top-quality produce. Every week feels like Christmas as Jason opens the week’s box and describes each bundle before handing it to me to put in a cloth bag. Farmers tend to fill their CSA boxes first and then offer the rest for sale at the market. No worries about getting to the market too late for carrots or sugar snaps.
- Unusual and beautiful vegetables. Jason and Haruka started farming in Japan, so they grow taro roots, burdock, and a host of Asian greens. Sometimes their salad mix includes flowers.
- The weekly email. Learn what’s in each week’s share and mull over any choices. (Which salad green: arugula, mizuna, or wasabina?). Get recipes and farm news.
- Fewer decisions. My grocery list shrunk and menu planning was easier because I just cooked what I received. It nearly eliminated the label reading that can go with eating 10%-plus local diet.
- The parties! I love going to potlucks at the Edible Earthscapes and coming early to help plant. Some members host other potlucks. Most dishes include food from that week’s share. We go from being supporters to being friends.
Questions to ask before joining:
- Does this CSA offer food I will eat? Find out what will be in a typical box and, if possible, what variety is ahead for the season. Look for a selection that looks tasty and that you will actually cook. You can find CSAs for vegetables, fruit, flour, eggs, dairy, meat, fish, or a mix. Local should be a given, but look for other key words such as organic, pesticide-free, non-GMO, or pastured.
- When will it run? Most CSA sessions range from 8 to 30 weeks. Some farms run multiple sessions, so you could sign up for the spring, spend summer at the beach, and sign up again in the fall if you enjoyed being a member.
- How much food will you get? Some CSAs offer full shares or half shares. Wild Onion Farms offers a free-choice or market-style CSA, where you prepay an amount and use your credit within a year.
- What does it cost? Home cooking with local ingredients is wildly affordable compared to eating out, but the upfront cost of a CSA can take a bite out of your budget. You might pay $200, $500, or even $1000 depending on the type of food and length of the session.
- Where will you pick it up? Common choices include at farmers’ markets, restaurants that the farms supply, and even grocery stores or co-ops with a local focus. For busy people, paying a little extra for home delivery may be a good investment.
- How is the delivery handled? With some CSAs, you swap an empty box for a full one every week. With others, you bring your own box or bags. CSAs that offer highly perishable food may provide coolers and chill packs.
- Are any bonuses included? Will there be community events such as potlucks, farm tours, or farm work days? Harland’s Creek Farm offers a CSA cookbook and menu plans. Some CSAs offer cooking classes.
- What happens if you go on vacation or move? Some CSAs build in a few skipped weeks. In general, expect to have someone else pick up your box or to have it donated to a food bank. One year, I split a share a friend, which gave us flexibility.
When you join a CSA, you get fresh, local food while creating a stronger community and more resilient foodshed. I hope you will try supporting agriculture in your community in this direct and convenient way.
Get more great tips from Linda to help you eat well and wildly affordably at cookforgood.com. Her monthly newsletters are awesome or buy her fabulous book, Wildly Affordable Organic!
The Picky Eater's Healthy Grocery List
Anjali Shah | 05/05/2016
One of the most common questions I get asked is what to buy at the grocery store. I’ve found that having a list is SUPER...
One of the most common questions I get asked is what to buy at the grocery store. I’ve found that having a list is SUPER important when grocery shopping, because it helps me to stay focused and not be tempted by all of the unhealthy treats in the store!
I’ve also found that one of the biggest challenges to healthy cooking is not having the right ingredients on hand. Because by the time you’re ready to cook, you’re already hungry, you realize that your fridge is empty, and the last thing you want to do at that time is grocery shop.
But with a little bit of planning, and my handy, healthy grocery store list – you can just get what’s on the list and that’s it! Then you’ll have all of the ingredients you need to make any of my tasty, good-for-you recipes, and you won’t waste time wandering the grocery store aisles either. Stocking up on balanced, healthy foods is key to not being tempted to get takeout when those dinner-time-hunger-pangs come calling. And, since I use a lot of the same ingredients for most of my recipes, these items won’t ever go to waste.
5 Tips for Eating Mindfully
I think about food a lot. Partly because it’s my job, partly because I have two growing boys and feel responsible for pr...
I think about food a lot. Partly because it’s my job, partly because I have two growing boys and feel responsible for providing them with mostly wholesome meals (with an occasional treat). To succeed with the latter, I make a meal plan for the upcoming week considering our activities, what’s in my freezer, what’s languishing in the crisper or what we’re craving. I shop, prep, cook and clean. But I’ve realized I often spend meals standing up, multitasking while helping my kids with their own plates or starting the kitchen clean up. Recently I’ve started making an effort to devote time to thinking about what I’m eating as I am eating and engaging in my meal more than just consuming. Being more mindful and intuitive. Here are five tips to try.
- Eat When You’re Hungry
This sounds like common sense! (And it is, but that still doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.) Consider how hungry you really are before you reach for that snack or food on your plate instead of being guided by the clock. I try to drink water, sparkling water or fruit– or vegetable-infused water at my desk throughout the day not only to stay hydrated but to also keep those hunger pangs (disguised as thirst) at bay. I also keep snacks — a granola ball, dried fruit bar or piece of fruit — in my bag for when I do need to nosh if lunch feels far away.
- Take it Slow
Sometimes meals feel like a break between meetings or something to cram in before you run out the door in the morning instead of a chance to refuel your belly and recharge the brain. If you give yourself time to enjoy the meal, you will probably feel more satiated, registering that you enjoyed some yummy food (and if you’re lucky, some great company, too). While it may be tough to squeeze an extra ten minutes in your morning schedule, plan for breakfast so you don’t spend time cooking in the morning. Make these banana muffins on the weekend for weekday mornings, or stir together oats with milk and fruit the night before for a heat-and-eat breakfast the next day. For dinner, let the slow cooker do the work for you, so that you have time to sit and enjoy the meal instead of scrambling around cooking and cleaning after a long day. Check out our awesome collection of slow cooker recipes for ideas.
- Savor that Treat
While we often have a big bowl of seasonal fruit and a steady supply of bananas that are great ways to end a meal, I’m a big believer in enjoying “treat” foods every once in a while. My go-to is chocolate-covered raisins or an easy chocolate chip bar cookie. I’ve learned that indulging in a small portion of cake, ice cream or even some salty chips can achieve something important for the food-obsessed: satisfy a craving. If you avoid a little ice cream (which is easy to dole out in small portions and then put the rest of the container away), you may overeat some other food, trying to compensate for that one taste you really want or need. And when you savor that taste, often that little portion is enough: a handful of chocolate-covered raisins is so sweet, I can enjoy it and not want any more sweets.
- Enjoy the Silence (of Your Device)
If you catch up on e-mails, read the newspaper (guilty!) or check out a blog while you’re eating lunch, you probably won’t remember lunch. And a review of studies on awareness while eating has shown that distracted eating (from TV or computers) likely causes us to eat a little more at that distracted meal and can result in increased calorie intakes at later meals or snacks. Instead of reading or watching TV during a solo meal, use the time to enjoy what you’re eating. Focus on flavors and textures of the dish or enjoy the view out the window. If it’s a family meal, engage in a conversation discussing the day, talking about certain dishes that are loved (or not!) at the table.
- GIY (Grow it Yourself)
Our little garden in the back yard has been the stealth mindfulness tool for me. I didn’t realize it, but growing even a miniscule part of our family’s food supply has made me consider our food more thoughtfully — from the care involved in growing an edible green to the prep of a just-picked pepper or the consistent watering of the tomatoes during summer. If a raised bed scares you (or you have no idea what that is), start small with container gardening for herbs. If you want to do more, check out this post on planning a garden. My kids like to help in all the tasks — especially the watering and harvesting. And then when we enjoy the garden pesto, we can all discuss the flavors and what else we want to do with the condiment. It connects me and my kids a little more at meal times, where I hope we’re making memories and not just barreling through our evening meal towards bath time.
- Eat When You’re Hungry
Ace Your Meals with Asparagus
Although asparagus is available almost year-round now, it’s always exciting to see the spears — green, white, or p...
Although asparagus is available almost year-round now, it’s always exciting to see the spears — green, white, or purple — in the produce section at spring. This is when this vegetable is at its best. With so many ways to prepare it, asparagus also wins points for its good nutrient profile and ability to partner with many flavors from chiles and sesame to fresh lemon. Here’s how to make the most of this versatile vegetable.
Nutrition Notes on Asparagus
Asparagus spears are a great vegetable choice with plenty of nutrients to offer for few calories. Just four large spears of asparagus contain less than 20 calories and provide a good source of iron, folate and vitamin A while supplying almost 45% of daily vitamin K needs. What’s more, asparagus is a natural source of the savory, satisfying, almost meaty fifth flavor umami.
Selection & Storage
Forget the idea that the thinnest asparagus spears taste best. You want the freshest spears — either thick or thin — that feel firm and have straight stalks with tightly closed tips. Asparagus should be a consistent color from top to bottom. And make sure that if you’re buying several bunches, you choose ones that are similarly thick or thin to ensure even cooking times for your recipe. Eat fresh asparagus as soon as possible though it can be kept in the refrigerator for three or four days. For best results, stand the spears in an inch or so of water in the bottom of a container, and cover with a plastic bag. Alternately, wrap the stem ends in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag.
Prep School, Plus Recipes
Once you are ready to prepare asparagus for cooking, simply take a stalk in your hands and bend until the woody end snaps off. Cook just the tender upper portion of the spears, and compost the ends or use them to make vegetable stock. Here are some of our favorite ways to use those spears:
- Don’t even cook them! Use a veggie peeler to shave thin ribbons to make a quick Lemony Asparagus Salad. (Thick-stemmed asparagus are best here.)
- Roasted asparagus (without oil!) is an easy side dish for spring entertaining. Or make a big batch during the weekend for quick meals later in the week. Leftovers work well in omelets or quinoa or rice bowls.
- The star of the season shines when puréed in Creamy Spring Asparagus Soup.
- Lightly steamed asparagus is wonderful with just a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Or chop and add to tuna, shrimp, chicken or egg salads.
Keep stalks crisp, tender and bright green by blanching asparagus. Then serve with a dip, as a simple side, as a fresh twist on a potato salad, or the perfect springtime risotto.
What is your favorite way to enjoy asparagus?