Produce

Quit Wasting Fruits and Veggies With These 7 Tricks!

It’s such a terrible feeling! You have a plan for your food. You open the fridge and WOAH! You throw it away and eat chips or some other less-healthy choice instead. But who has time to go shopping every 2 or 3 days to ensure they’re produce is always fresh??

Well here are some tricks that will keep your produce delicious (and edible!) much longer! You’re going to want to write these down…

Bananas

We all love banana’s, but they can go bad quickly. Hopefully you already know that when they go bad we can peel them and throw them in the freezer for smoothies or banana bread, but if you want to enjoy your bananas fresh wrap the stem in plastic wrap. This keeps the amount of gas they expel that causes them to ripen at a minimum which means you can enjoy a delicious banana another few days!

Celery

You tried to get ahead of the game and prep, but now your celery is limp and soft! Well no worries – stick them in a bowl of water, and they come right back to life! You can avoid this tragedy by wrapping it in tin foil before storing it in your refrigerator. This will keep your celery nice and crunchy up to a month long!

Carrots

Carrots too often will become soft and lose their crunch, but fear not! Rehydrate them in water for a little bit – overnight if necessary – and they spring back to life! Carrots and celery both can be chopped ahead of time and placed in a bowl or tupperware in water to store for 2 or 3 weeks without losing their crunch!

Mushrooms

Eating healthy is difficult enough, but it can seriously break the bank if the food you are buying is going bad before you can eat it. Mushrooms keep fresh the longest when stored in a paper bag instead of a plastic or styrofoam container!

Lettuce

Keep your veggie drawer lined with paper towel. This soaks up any extra moisture that makes many greens go limp and steals their crunch away. Also, when storing lettuce or herbs in a bag or container put a piece of paper towel in to soak up any extra moisture and they will last MUCH longer! If your lettuce has already started to look pretty sad, rip off the brown parts and give it an ice bath! As little as 30 minutes can be enough to bring it right back to life.

Berries

Nature’s candy is notorious for growing fuzz in your refrigerator – especially if you bought it on sale! Prevent growth of mold by giving your berries a vinegar bath after purchasing them! Use 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water. After you giving them a bath in this mixture you can rinse with water to get rid of any remaining vinegar taste.

Avocado

Most people know that adding salt and fresh lime juice will extend the life of guacamole, but here’s one you might not have known about: When making guacamole keep the seeds from the avocado to put in the guacamole. This helps to keep it fresh several more hours or longer! Don’t plan to eat it today? Cover your leftover guacamole or avocado with plastic wrap and you’ll be able to feast again tomorrow.

Now you know! And knowing is half the battle. Now you’ve got to go shopping and put these tricks into action before you forget! You may literally save hundreds of dollars a year – or more!

An Apple A Day!

Get ready to go apple picking! Fresh apples boast a higher antioxidant content than supermarket apples that have often been in cold storage for months. Fun facts: There are more than 7500 varieties of apples and it takes the energy of 50 apple tree leaves to produce just ONE apple!

Apples contain pectin which acts as a prebiotic and can improve gut health; our microbiome. Apples are loaded with vitamin C, K and potassium which is mostly concentrated in the SKIN! An average apple has 5 grams of soluble fiber which can reduce intestinal disorder, improve cholesterol, and control insulin levels. Even better, the fiber makes apples filling. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples are linked to reduced risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Some studies have shown regular apple consumption can reduce symptoms of respiratory diseases like asthma. However, not all apples are created equal! Granny Smith is one of the most nutritious with its extra high-level of disease fighting phytonutrients. Unforuntalye, according to EWG (The Environmental Working Group) apples are found to be the most pesticide laden fruit. The skin of an apple contains 90% of the pesticides, but also 50% of the nutrients. Aim to buy organic. If not organic, be sure to wash well with a vinegar water solution.
*Purchasing tip: Braeburn apples are reddish-green in color. Try to find the ones that are most red which means they were exposed to sun and thus an extra supply of phytonutrients!

You know, I’ve never really been a fan of the saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”…always felt that was a bit cruel. There’s more than one way to prepare your apples! That sounds better now doesn’t it…

Try eating fresh cut apples with a tasty apple dip! Mix plain Greek yogurt (1 cup) with peanut butter (1 TBSP), and a little Stevia if you need it sweeter, for a protein packed addition to make a more balanced snack. Out of peanut butter? This recipe works well with a powdered peanut butter too!

For a softer option chop it up, sprinkle on some cinnamon and microwaving for 1.5 minutes for cooked apple to eat or use as a topping.

A waldorf salad makes for a quick, healthy lunch! Combine chopped chicken, apples, celery, grapes, and walnuts with some greek yogurt, honey, and lemon juice & zest to serve over lettuce greens. Get the recipe here!

When apples are no longer in season, check out the Vacaville dried granny smith apples! At certain times of the year they can be found at Costco, otherwise you can check out their website. The ingredient list follows: granny smith apples. BAM! Perfect. Wouldn’t it be awesome if all foods just contained the food you wanted?

Last but CERTAINLY not least, is our very own recipe for Oatmeal Apple Pie! You’re definitely going to want to try this one out as it is perfect for fall

Oatmeal Apple Pie
Prep Time – 45 minutes
Servings – 4

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup oat bran
2 large apples, cored &chopped
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
4 scoops vanilla protein powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups water
1 tsp vanilla extract
Stevia (optional) to taste
Skim milk (1 cup per serving)

Instructions:
In a large bowl combine oats, oat bran, protein powder, salt, vanilla extract and water. In a separate bowl, mix the apples, applesauce, cinnamon, and Stevia (optional). There are two ways to proceed. You can either combine the applesauce mixture and oat mixture together and bake, or for a layered effect you can pour the applesauce mixture into the baking dish first, then pour the oat mixture on top. In both cases, bake in an 8×8-inch dish coated with olive oil cooking spray for 35 minutes at 350 degrees F. Serve in a bowl with 1 cup skim milk poured over top!

Fall Harvest Breakdown! (read before Fall Farmer’s Markets!)

Fall is starting to show its face and so is the fall vegetable harvest!

“Winter Squash” is designated by a hard outer skin, unlike summer squashes like zucchini and yellow squash. Winter squash varieties include spaghetti, butternut, kabocha, delicata, acorn and more! Boost your immunity and health with winter squashes because they are high in fiber and vitamin C content! Just 1 cup of squash provides about half the daily recommendation! This week we’re hooking you up with some of the easiest ways to include squash into your weekly cooking regimen and prep.

Spaghetti squash can be prepared as simply as slicing it in half, cleaning out the seeds, and placing it face down on a lined baking sheet in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes. It’s done when you can poke a fork into the skin. Allow to cool slightly, fork your spaghetti like strands right out and chow down! You may not even need to dirty a dish 😊 Get a little fancy by brushing on some olive oil and sprinkling salt/pepper on before baking or serve your spaghetti strands with a little marinara, parmesan, or this writer’s favorite – chili!

Delicata squash (del-eh-ca-ta) is a little less intimidating in size compared with other squash, and these are known for making delicious baked squash “rings”. There are many who have missed out on this delicious squash because it is not widely carried in supermarkets and they just don’t recognize it at the farmer’s market. Simply cut the squash into 1/2” rings (the skin is edible!) and scoop the seedy center out. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay rings on a metal (lined is ok) pan and bake at 425 for approximately 10 minutes per side. Keep flipping as needed. You’ll finish with browned/caramelized rings that are reminiscent of sweet potato fries but even better! If you haven’t seen, heard, or tried delicata squash yet, definitely ask at your local farmer’s market!

Butternut squash is known for its creamy roasted taste and variable use as a puree. Since the aim this week is to make eating winter squash as simple as possible, toss your whole butternut squash into the slow cooker and cook for 4-5 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. When done, you’ll be able to cut right through the skin, scoop out the seeded middle, and have cooked squash ready to puree, add to soup, or incorporated into a pasta dish! If you are a little more adventurous, peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, core the center, and cube it up (toss with olive oil and salt/pepper) for roasting in the oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. So delicious even on it’s own! Butternut squash lends well to a variety of flavors from cinnamon and nutmeg to cardamom and/or curry spices to Mexican spices!

Kabocha squash. Wait, kombucha now kabocha? Green kabocha have a nutty, earthy flavor while the red kabocha tend to be a bit sweeter. Cut the squash in 1” wedges like you might do for a cantaloupe (the skin is edible when cooked), toss with olive oil/salt/pepper and roast 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Jazz up your roast with infused olive oils if you like! Once roasted the squash can be eaten as is or used for purees. If your kabocha is a little too tough to cut raw? Try this method: http://sweetsimplevegan.com/2017/02/how-to-roast-kabocha-squash/
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Now if you are part of a CSA or just prefer to grab whatever type of produce is on sale that week, it’s important to note that these different types of squash are often interchangeable in recipes! The main differences in squash come down to water content, sweetness, and texture. Don’t fret, just do a quick online search. One easy way to incorporate squash, for even the pickiest of eaters, is to find muffin, pancake, and quickbread recipes that use squash! Nobody will be any the wiser 😉

Identify your squash here! http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/a-visual-guide-to-winter-squash-varieties-article

Junk Food Disguised as Health Food

Health Food might be the largest growing industry with regards to groceries on the shelves. It seems like every week there is some new product out there making outrageous claims and taking up residence on the fancy shelves nearby the organic produce…that’s how you know it must be good! Right?

Well let’s talk a little bit about some wolves in sheep’s clothing, junk food disguised as health food, and foods that were designed for one specific population or usage but are being used too generally by the public and regarded as “healthy”.

Clif Bars: Perhaps these bars have pictures of cliff-hanging rock climbers on them because you’ll need to participate in that level of adventurous activity to burn off all the sugar lurking in these! The “Crunchy Peanut Butter” flavor has 17g of added sugars (see label: first ingredient is brow rice syrup. A sneaky way to say added refined sugar.)! Although the rest of the ingredients are not too bad these bars are not an ideal way to spend 250-300 calories. Instead try an RX Bar. They contain no added sugar and any sugar in the bar comes from natural sources like dried fruit.

Slim Fast: “Meal replacement” shakes took the dieting world by storm during the 1990s and 2000s. They’re quick, easy and promise convenient, steady weight loss. However, we now know that they are more likely to leave you hungry continuously because chewing is an important process for feeling satisfied from the food you eat, AND check out this number from Slim Fast’s flagship Chocolate Milk Shake: 18g added sugar in the only 190 calorie shake! That’s nearly half the calories from processed sugar. Not only will you still be hungry, but you are in for a sugar crash!

Sabra Hummus: Read your hummus label carefully! Chickpeas, Lemon juice, EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), Tahini. That is all it should contain aside from added spices for flavor. Sabra and many other varieties of hummus in the grocery aisles are made with vegetable oil which is significantly less healthy than EVOO, and contain preservatives like potassium sorbate. Additionally while many people think of hummus as a high-protein snack it only packs 2 g per 70 calorie serving, which is ok! Not everything you eat needs to be high protein, but it is important to know what you’re in for.

Whole Wheat: Many people think of “whole wheat flour” or “whole wheat bread” as a health-food, but standards for what passes as “whole grain” are quite low. Most of these products are just about as “healthy” as white bread or white flour. Most “whole wheat” is just as processed and refined, has a nearly identical glycemic index, low fiber content, and likely has sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and/or hydrogenated oils. *Hydrogenated or Partially-hydrogenated oils (mono and diglycerides) are essentially Trans Fats that don’t have to be labelled. AVOID THEM. Nature’s Own is one popular bread brand out there with many ugly ingredients lurking within the label. Instead search for a “sprouted” whole grain bread like Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 or Angelic Bakehouse bread (both found many places now including Costco!).

Peanut Butter: Peanuts. Mashed. That is what makes peanut butter. Maybe salt if you like. Unfortunately though, most peanut butters have added sugar and palm oil or some other oil added. Instead of always choosing foods based on the pretty front label drawn up by their marketing team, start choosing based on the backside of the label mandated by the FDA. It is also important to note that peanut butter is predominantly fat which makes it a satisfying snack that gives you energy, but it doesn’t really fall under the category of a “high protein” food.

Sports Drinks: One 32 oz classic Gatorade contains about 52g of sugar! Keep in mind that Gatorade was designed for elite athletes competing at a very high level for sometimes several hours in the heat (originally from Florida). This drink is not designed to quench the average thirst of the average person. Many forms of Gatorade have unsavory additives and artificial flavors or colors, and even G2 which boasts about half the sugar achieves this by adding an artificial sweetener. We’ve suggested avoiding artificial sweeteners in the past, but if you’re going to choose a product that contains them, at least make sure it doesn’t ALSO contain 20g of sugar for goodness sake!

Try this electrolyte recipe instead:
http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2017/06/16/water-outperforms-sport-drinks.aspx

Diet Myth-Busting!

This week we are busting diet myths! First up, it’s…

EAT LESS, WEIGH LESS.”

While that CAN be true in some cases, usually people don’t want to lose weight – they want to lose fat! So, if you are comfortable depriving your body the nutrients it needs, feeling hungry all the time, and losing muscle, water and bone density – then this is the diet for you! In order to maintain muscle and proper body functioning (especially for people involved in strength training several times a week like our Ellipse members!) you need to eat at least a certain number of calories in the proper ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Now of course if an average person was eating 3,000 calories a day sure, cutting their calorie intake a little will probably help them lose some weight. For most of us however, when we “diet” we tend to cut out entire macronutrient categories (*cough cough* carbohydrates), and slash caloric intake below a baseline level needed to ensure your body doesn’t enter “starvation mode”.

LOW-FAT, LOW-CARB, SUGAR-FREE, DIET, LITE”

These are marketing terms dreamed up in a corporate office to sell cheap (in quality and ingredients, not always in price) products to the incredibly large market of people desperate to lose weight. We’ve discussed the downside to artificial sweeteners in the past, but products with these labels tend to be highly processed, and are often just junk food disguised as a guilt-free indulgence – however, they are anything but. Low or Fat-Free products often have added sugar to make it taste good enough to eat (see the classic example of fat-free frozen yogurt)

EAT SMALLER AMOUNTS FREQUENTLY TO BOOST METABOLISM.”

The truth is the number one way to boost your metabolism is by increasing the amount of muscle you have – that’s about it. Constant digestion has a negligible effect on your metabolism and might even do more harm than good for your teeth and intestines. Eating a healthy snack (think: Veggies and Hummus, Fruit and Greek Yogurt or Peanut Butter, etc) between meals however can help you to stay more satisfied during the day and prevent overeating at meal time.

EATING PROTEIN AND CARBS SEPARATELY AIDS IN WEIGHT LOSS.”

This one is patently UN-true because in fact the best way to ensure efficient digestion of protein is to pair it with a high-fiber carbohydrate. Many of the healthiest protein options come pre-paired with carbohydrates already like beans, nuts, seeds etc.

EATING FAT MAKES YOU FAT!”

This one is very important because many people striving for a healthy diet almost totally abstain from dietary fat, which is to their detriment because many vitamins (A, D, E and K) REQUIRE fat to be absorbed into the body. Also adding small amounts of healthy fat (EVOO, Coconut Oil, etc) to vegetables makes most people much more likely to eat them, and help you feel full! (Think: apple = still hungry vs. apple + peanut butter = energy + satisfaction)

DON’T EAT AFTER 8 PM!”

This might be good advice, but not because late night calories are really any worse than daytime calories. Most of the time late night snacks are our worst ones. High fat, high sugar snacks that don’t actually serve any purpose to sate hunger. Try not to go more than 5 hours without eating during the day to avoid being famished late at night, and try to contain your eating hours roughly within a 12-hour window – that alone might help you save a couple hundred calories per day!

Consider these myths BUSTED

All About Herbs!

Last week we talked about a lot of unusual produce you might find at the Farmers’ Market or grocery store (read here if you missed it!), but herbs are another great item to source from your local market or store. When it comes time to discuss vitamin and mineral content of foods or antioxidant rich sources herbs are often forgotten, but they can be a great source of all three!

Some herbs are perennial, some biennial or annual, but for the most part they tend to offer their best harvest in the summer and early fall. Even with herbs that will survive a snowy winter, it’s important to harvest before the frosts start to settle in. You can extend the life of your herbs by freezing them on the stem or chopping and placing in a bag – or even freezing in ice cube trays with water! Usually it is suggested to make use of them within 2 months, but to extend their freezer life a little try freezing them in olive oil! This ensures preservation of their flavor up to 3 or 4 months and makes them very convenient to use in soups or while sauteing vegetables.

MINT

Mints are incredibly hardy perennial herbs which make them very easy to grow. They spread so willingly, in fact, that many people choose to plant them in a large pot, and then plant that pot in the ground so they don’t take over an area!

Mints have one of the highest antioxidant capacity of any food! Try adding fresh mint to salsas and salads or toss it in your water for a refreshing flavor! You can also steep the leaves for 5 – 6 minutes in hot water for fresh mint tea.

Click here for a fresh Summer Roll recipe containing fresh mint!

OREGANO

Oregano is another perennial that is easy to grow (and split to share with a friend!). It’s known not only for its common use in Italian foods and on pizza, but also for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties! Oil of Oregano is a fantastic natural immune booster when antibiotics are not available or necessary.

Try this different take on classic pesto using oregano and spinach!

BASIL

An annual herb, basil is best harvested by pinching off a few leaves from a few different stems to encourage the plant to fill out vs getting tall and spindly. Traditional basil uses include pesto, marinades, bruschetta, and soups. Basil is another great addition to fresh spring rolls or tossed into a fresh greens salad. Try steeping 3 basil leaves in 1 cup of boiling water to create a tea to relieve an upset stomach or digestion!

Here’s another Summer Roll (*not fried spring roll) recipe to try – so fresh you can even cut out the dipping sauce if you’re concerned about the extra calories!

CILANTRO

This annual herb is often confused as a perennial because it reseeds so easily. Cilantro, in addition to being abundant with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, is also known to combat heavy metal toxicity in the body and aid in digestion. Unfortunately however, about 15% of the population has a gene that causes them to detect aldehyde chemicals which are found in both cilantro and soap. If you find that you fall into this group and you dislike cilantro, swap out parsley in any of your favorite recipes that include cilantro. Those in Wisconsin will even find, with the heavy frosts, cilantro can sprout up on it’s own from the prior season. When growing, the green leaves can be harvested as cilantro. Let it flower and go to seed and you have grown spicy coriander seeds! Cilantro is used in many Mexican or Asian dishes such as guacamole, salsa, and cilantro lime rice.

DILL

Like Cilantro, dill reseeds easily, but is a biennial since a plant will only live two years. Toss seeds just about anywhere, and you’ll have fresh dill available readily for years to come. Dill tastes great in fresh in salads, greens, and as flavoring for roasted or grilled vegetables!

Click here for grilled carrots with lemon and dill!

There are many, many herbs out there worth mentioning, but some easy perennials that have a wide variety of uses are Rosemary, Thyme and Sage! Plant all kinds of herbs and try using something brand new to you – your tastebuds will thank you!

Ad-veggie-venture! (Conquering Mysterious Produce)

Gardens are overflowing and the Farmer’s Markets are full of produce, ready to fill your vitamin and mineral needs! I’m sure we all snagged up the strawberries over the last couple of weeks. Maybe you got some early lettuce or beans…but what about all those mystery fruits and veggies?? We all see unknown produce and simply pass on by without giving it a second thought. The next time you see something unfamiliar, buy it! Make it a mission to learn 1 or 2 ways to use it. You will probably like it, AND you’ll have something new to incorporate into your regular meal/snack rotations to keep it from getting boring. As an added bonus, you will introduce your body to vitamins and minerals that you may not currently be getting! Let’s get started:

Yu Choy (yow – choy)

Go past any Asian stand at a farmer’s market and you’ll likely find Yu Choy. This Chinese green is most identifiable by their yellow flowers, which are edible! Yu Choy (or rapeseed) are primarily grown to produce canola oil, but also have a sweet taste that make it perfect to sautée, stir-fry or add to soups. Yu Choy’s flavor is a sort of cross between spinach and mustard greens. Grab a pound of Yu Choy, stir fry in some oil and garlic and then steam in ¼ cup of chicken broth for about 3-3.5 minutes until the stems are softened. Say Nǐ hǎo to something new!

Kohlrabi (cole – RAW – be)

In German “Kohl” means cabbage and “Rabi” means turnip; this green or purple bulb like vegetable is commonly eaten in German speaking areas and in Vietnam. However, it is slowly becoming more mainstream here in the U.S. The bulb can have the green skin cut off (knife or vegetable peeler) and the inside, sliced or cut into sticks and served alone or with a dip like hummus. It has a nice, crisp taste with a slight cabbage flavor. Some may be surprised to learn that the greens on the top of kohlrabi can be used like kale or collard greens. Look for smaller size bulbs to ensure they are not “woody” as often found in the larger grown vegetable. Use kohlrabi in other ways too, such as pureed in soups, roasted, or steamed. Any time you get a veggie where you can eat the root and the greens you’ve got a bargain!

Golden Beets

You might have noticed we’ve included a few root vegetables in this post, in large part because unless it is a carrot or potato most people tend to steer clear of this category. What a shame! Because the roots are generally the major source of absorption for vitamins and nutrients from the soil, these veggies (beets, rutabagas, ginger, etc) pack a big nutritional punch! Geosmin, a compound produced by microbes in the soil, is what gives beets their earthy taste and seem to polarize so many into beet lovers or beet haters, but even beet haters may be pleasantly surprised by the flavor of golden beets! These golden beauties have been described to taste like sweet corn when cooked, and are well-known for their high fiber, potassium, iron, and folic acid. One bonus is they don’t “bleed red” and stain your clothes or teeth. Beets also have the highest sugar content of any vegetable, which is why they can be found in some desserts (like beet brownies!). Beets can be enjoyed roasted, poached, or boiled.

Jicama (HE – ka – ma)

Although you won’t find jicama grown locally as it needs 9 months frost free, you can generally find it in most supermarkets. It’s traditionally grown in Mexico and South America. Also known as a Mexican turnip, Jicama is in the legume family and the brown, bulbous root vegetable we are used to seeing is just that – a tuberous root at the bottom of a large vining plant. Jicama is most commonly enjoyed raw and tastes like a savory apple, a crunchy, juicy, and slightly sweet snack. Just cut the skin off (it’s too thick for a vegetable peeler) and cut into sticks or slices. Other ways to enjoy jicama are stir-fry (like water chestnuts), julienned into spring rolls, and even diced into salsa or a coleslaw!

Fennel (FEN – null)

Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet – closely related to parsley, carrots, and dill. It is fully edible, from its bulb to the leaves, and has high concentrations of phytonutrients which make it an antioxidant powerhouse. Fennel has been repeatedly studied for its ability to reduce inflammation and fight cancer. Many associate the taste to black licorice, however if black licorice isn’t your thing, when the bulb is chopped and sautéed (many like it sautéed with onion) or braised, that licorice-type taste almost fully dissolves into a complementary side dish primarily for fish or other seafood. The stalks can be used in soup and the leaves can be used as an herb. Search pinterest or google some recipes and give it a shot!

Venture into the Farmers’ Market or grocery store with a little extra confidence this week, and proudly request some new produce with the correct pronunciation and a sense of accomplishment! When it comes to diet, one particular principles with regards to exercise is extremely applicable: if you are bored, you won’t stick with it very long. Explore new fruits and veggies to boost your vitamins and minerals, make your meals more enjoyable, and wow your friends and family!

Until next time…Happy Harvesting!