Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stumbling along...

I recently joined StumbleUpon and am having way too much fun hitting the Stumble! button just to see what comes up next. You might guess I like websites that pertain to cooking, sustainable living, and health, and are well designed. Here are a few that I stumbled upon today:
Table of Condiments that Periodically Go Bad
rVita provides information about Integrative, Complementary, and Alternative medicine, treatments, and practitioners
Garden Girl Urban Sustainable Living
Practically Edible The Web's Biggest Food Encyclopedia
fork a gorgeously designed online gardening magazine
The Victory Garden the Emmy award winning PBS series

Dinner is ready, so I'll stumble along now...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Coconut Milk Yogurt?

Kokusnuss, in Hälften gebrochen; Coconut, brok...Image via Wikipedia
Yesterday I was thinking "Why have I not seen yogurt made from coconut milk? There is coconut milk ice cream..." and today I stumbled upon a recipe! It looks a bit complicated, but for those who can (as in canning can), it might not be that difficult. There may be other resources for recipes, but this is what I found. Scroll down the page for the recipe...oh, and I bet a yogurt maker would make things a lot easier.

Oh, you may also be able to find coconut milk yogurt at a store near you! Eugene, Oregon based company Turtle Mountain has a line of dairy-free (and soy-free) products that I'm just going to have to check out. The yogurt is sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice, even the plain, but it probably is worth it as a sweet treat every once in a while.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Eat Wild!

Find local, grass fed meats and more on Eat Wild. They have strict criteria for the farms they list, including stress-free, free-roaming environments for the animals. The website also provides a page with references, to answer those questions such as "But what about the environmental impact of raising cows?"

Enter your zip code on Sustainable Table website and find listings of local vendors who specialize in organic and/or sustainable edibles.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fresher Fruits and Veggies

As I've mentioned before, I LOVE my biweekly delivery of organic veggies. Even though we order a small box, we often find some of the veggies go bad quickly and end up in the compost pile.

I found this great list on produce care, courtesy of Door to Door Organics. I suggest printing it out and posting on the fridge as a reminder how to tend to your precious produce! Of course, it's best to eat the veggies when fresh, so make sure you're eating your daily dose. Eat Local, a website out of Portland, Oregon, has some information on preserving locally grown/raised products.

Citrus is best kept at room temperature of 60-70 degrees and used within two weeks.
Berries and cherries are best kept covered in the fridge. Don't wash until you use them - too much moisture in the package speeds spoilage. Use within 2 - 3 days. Same for cranberries but they can be stored for a week.
Apricots, peaches, pears, nectarines and melons should be ripened before refrigeration. Cut portions should be covered before refrigerating. Use all within 3-5 days except melons, which should be used as soon as possible after ripening.
Apples are best kept in the fridge stored loose - they need to breathe to stay crisp. Use within a month.
Avocados and bananas are best stored and eaten at room temperature, but can be refrigerated after ripening. To speed ripening of green bananas, place them in a paper bag in a drawer, cupboard or other dark place with a wrinkled apple. If they still don't ripen after one week, they have been transported at a low temperature, and you might as well make chutney out of them. I place unripe avocados in a paper bag to speed up the process.
Eggplants, mature onions, winter squash, rutabagas and sweet potatoes are best kept moderately cool - no lower than 50 degrees.
Potatoes need a colder area of 45 - 50 degrees. A cool dry dark place is best. Use within a few weeks. However, they will keep longer.
All other fresh vegetables belong in the refrigerator:
Keep tomatoes uncovered and green beans and lima beans in their pods, or, if not in their pods, in plastic. They'll last 3 - 5 days in the fridge.
Keep corn in it's husk in the fridge. Eat as soon as possible because its sugar quickly turns to starch,causing it to lose its flavor.
Carrots, radishes, turnips, beets and parsnips should be stored in plastic once the leafy tops are removed. They'll last two weeks in the fridge.
Most other fresh vegetables store well in the crisper bin, but usually need plastic to avoid dehydration.
Broccoli, brussel sprouts, scallions and summer squash will last 3 - 5 days in plastic bags in the crisper. Spinach, kale, chard and collards have the same crisper life, but should be washed and drained thoroughly before packing in bags.
Lettuce, Salad Greens, Peppers and Cucumbers should be washed and stored in the crisper.
Cauliflower, Celery and Snap Peas don't have to be washed - use within a week.
Cabbage has a long fridge life of up to two weeks.
Asparagus is delicate and should be used within 2-3 days.

Walk There!

An avid, walking commuter when I lived in the City, my walk to work was 1.7 miles and if I didn't stop at the farmer's market, I could get to work in a little over 20 minutes. I was fit and I was fast, no leisurely lolly-gagging for me — I was all business. Walking wasn't exercise for me, it was transportation without the crowds, the public transportation delays, the heat (and smells) of the subway tunnels in the summer. I would arrive to work invigorated, arrive home relaxed.

After reading about Walk There!, a new guidebook on walking routes in the Portland Metro area, I've become inspired to walk again. The website lists 50 treks through the metro area including lunchtime strolls, city cruises, and history walks.

A fun tool I like to use to plan my dog walks is Google Maps. Just click "Directions," then enter your starting point and your destination. A driving path is highlighted, but just click on a point on the line and drag it to plan a more pedestrian friendly path. The distance is noted on the left of the screen.

Another cool site, MapMyRun.com allows you to plan your route (for walking, running, or biking), enter your stats in a box on the lower left corner of the page, and it calculates your speed, your pace, and calories expended. The info can then be saved to a training log. And the best part? It's free to register!

Walking has all of the benefits of jogging, without the stress on your knees and ankles. Whether it's commuting to work or just a trip to the neighborhood store, hang up those car keys and start walking!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

11 Best Foods

Nutritionist Jonny Bowden, contributed a list to the wellness blog on the New York Times website of the 11 best foods you should be eating but aren't. Here is a revised version of the list (I added some comments/recipes of my own).

1. Beets: Think of beets as red spinach, Dr. Bowden said, because they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.

How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power. For a simple single-serving salad, wash and peel one beet, and then grate it on the widest blade of a box grater. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.
You can eat the leaves and stems, which are also packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Simply cut off the stems just below the point where the leaves start, and wash thoroughly. They're now ready to be used in a salad. Or, for a side dish, sauté the leaves, along with a minced clove of garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil, in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook until the leaves are wilted and the stems are tender. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, and sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese.

2. Cabbage: Loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes.

How to eat: Asian-style slaw or as a crunchy topping on burgers and sandwiches.

Fabulous Summer Slaw
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (or mixed with apple cider, sometimes I think I use more vinegar than you're supposed to)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or 1/2 if you are using powdered)

1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dry herb/spice of choice (caraway seeds, poppy seeds, celery seeds)
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the oil, vinegar and mustard. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss in the dressing. Refrigerate several hours before serving, it's even better overnight.

3. Swiss chard: A leafy green vegetable packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes.
How to eat: Chop and saute in olive oil.

Green Eggs
Makes about 2 servings
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups washed, chopped chard
4 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce, such as sriracha

In large frying pan, sautée onions and garlic in oil until soft. Do not brown garlic. Add greens to pan and continue cooking. Lower heat and cover with lid until greens are soft. In small bowl, scramble eggs, adding to soft, cooked greens. Keep stirring the mixture to cook thoroughly and keep eggs fluffy. Flavor with salt and pepper. Serve with hot sauce.

Use silken tofu for a vegan alternative to the scrambled eggs. Use approximately 1/4 cup of chopped, silken tofu per egg, flavored with turmeric or curry powder.

4. Cinnamon: May help control blood sugar and cholesterol.
How to eat: Sprinkle on coffee or oatmeal.

5. Pomegranate juice: Appears to lower blood pressure and loaded with antioxidants.
How to eat: Just drink it. Find a brand that does not have any added sugars.

6. Dried plums: Okay, so they are really prunes, but they are packed with antioxidants.
How to eat: As an appetizer. Wrap a paper-thin slice of prosciutto around each dried plum and secure with a toothpick. Bake in a 400°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the plums are soft and the prosciutto is crispy. Most of the fat will cook off, and you'll be left with a decadent-tasting treat that's sweet, savory, and healthy.

7. Pumpkin seeds: The most nutritious part of the pumpkin and packed with magnesium; high levels of the mineral are associated with lower risk for early death.
How to eat: Roasted as a snack, or sprinkled on salad.

8. Sardines: Dr. Bowden calls them “health food in a can.'’ They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins.
How to eat: Choose sardines packed in olive or sardine oil. Eat plain, mixed with salad, on toast, or mashed with dijon mustard and onions as a spread. (I just like them straight out of the can).

9. Turmeric: The “superstar of spices,'’ it may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
How to eat: Mix with scrambled eggs or add to any vegetable dish.

10. Frozen blueberries: Even though freezing can degrade some of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, frozen blueberries are available year-round and don’t spoil; associated with better memory in animal studies.
How to eat: Blended with yogurt or coconut milk as a smoothie, add some ground flax seeds for added fiber and omega 3s. I like to add them to my oatmeal, with some cinnamon and walnuts.

11. Canned pumpkin: A low-calorie vegetable that is high in fiber and immune-stimulating vitamin A; fills you up on very few calories.
How to eat: Mix with a little butter, cinnamon and nutmeg. I think adding this mixture to applesauce sounds delish, as a perfect side to grilled chicken or pork chops.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Not so crystal clear

Step away from that bottle of flavored 'nutrient' water. I'm not naming names, but there is a product that I must admit is a favorite in this household, that is made with an ingredient that might not be so good for you. Looking at the label*, I noticed an ingredient called 'crystalline fructose' and did the next obvious step: I Googled it. Crystalline fructose is pretty much what it sounds like, a crystalized version of fructose, most often derived from corn. Is this just a powdered version of high fructose corn syrup? Fructose.org reports this crystalized product and HFCS are not the same. But they also report that the press and scientists have been giving fructose, and HFCS, a bad name. According to fructose.org, the FDA claims HFCS is "as safe for use in food as sucrose, corn sugar, corn syrup and invert sugar."

Now we've all heard the uglies about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), it's link to diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, and how it suppresses leptin, the hormone that tells your brain when you are full. Is crystalline fructose the same thing? Inquiring minds want to know. (By the way, one 20oz bottle is actually 2.5 servings, with 13 grams of sugar per serving. Drinking an entire bottle of this product is still less sugar than an entire can of cola. Have you seen what actual serving sizes of soft drinks really are? Sometimes it's less than a can, ya'll.)

I am just going to say don't drink it. Not a fan of straight water? Make your own flavored water drink by adding a few slices of fresh citrus (lemon, lime), crushed berries, mint leaves, ginger, or my personal fav, slices of cucumber (so refreshing in the summer). Experiment with your favorite fruits! Just don't forget to leave out the sugar.

Some interesting related (and not-so-related) information:
A 2006 article from The New York Times
From the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Another from JCEM
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
American Chemical Society (2007, August 23). Soda Warning? High-fructose Corn Syrup Linked To Diabetes, New Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 5, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2007/08/070823094819.htm

I found this link to MexicanSugarSkull.com when looking for an image for this blog.

*I looked on the website for the product in question and wasn't able to find any additional nutrition information.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Safe sunning

Gone are the days of slathering on the orange gelee or baby oil and baking in the sun for hours. Sunblock is everywhere now that the ozone layer is not. Environmental Working Group's Cosmetic Safety Database, Skin Deep, has once again announced their top ten picks for best/safest/most effective sunscreens. They also feature a list of more common brands that are zinc oxide, paraben, or oxybenzone free. These are ingredients often found in sunscreens. According to the EWG and the NIH, oxybenzone, also known as 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone and benzophenone-3, is used as a UV blocker but may cause an allergic reaction in the skin when (or even when not) exposed to sunlight. Zinc oxide also has been found to be an allergic agent in some, but can pose greater health concerns when inhaled, so best not to use an aerosolized sunscreen product with this ingredient. Paraben is a preservative that is found in a multitude of items such as food and cosmetics and may be an endocrine disrupter.

As if all of this isn't bad enough, sunscreens have been found to cause coral bleaching in reefs where people tend to vacay.

So, grab your sunglasses and a big floppy hat, don a caftan made of UV fabric, and sit under that giant golf umbrella when you hit the beaches this holiday weekend!

More, cool info:
NIH Household Products Database
European Food Safety Authority
Environmental Health Perspectives