Sweet potato hash..a great way to stock up on beta-carotene

Fall is definitely in the air, and fall vegetables are showing up at the market.  I find it just amazing that just as the weather begins to turn our bodies naturally begin to crave warmer, heartier foods.  And it is so fitting that the harvest provides us with foods like winter squash and pumpkin.  Both of these vegetables happen to be high in a very important nutrient called beta-carotene.

Beta-carotene belongs to a group of pigments called carotenoids that can be red, yellow, or orange.  It is found in many fall fruits and vegetables and is considered a ‘provitamin’ because the body is able to convert it to the active form of vitamin A.

We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucous membranes, a hearty immune system, and healthy eyes and vision.

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Eating beta-carotene in our diets is a very safe and effective way to get vitamin A.  Caution should be used in taking vitamin A in supplement form, as it is fat-soluble and can be toxic in large amounts.  Eating vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene is very safe because the body converts only what it needs.

Carotenoids are antioxidants, which help protect our cells from damage by free radicals.  Some studies have even suggested that those who consume at least four daily servings of beta-carotene rich fruits and/or vegetables have a lower risk of developing cancer or heart disease.

So come on down to the market this week and stock up on the following beta-carotene rich foods:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Pumpkins
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes

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Sweet Potato Hash

(dairy-free, gluten free, grain free)

Adapted from The Neelys, www.foodnetwork.com

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1-inch cubes*

3 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil, divided*

1/2 red onion, chopped*

1 red bell pepper, chopped*

1/4 cup green onions*

2 cloves garlic, chopped*

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

¼ tsp Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley*

 

Directions

Add the potatoes to a large saucepan of salted boiling water and simmer until tender. Drain and dry completely with paper towels.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red onions, bell peppers, and garlic, and saute until tender and lightly golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the green onion and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and remove to a bowl.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet, and then add the drained and dried sweet potatoes. Cook in a single layer, stirring occasionally, on medium heat until they are tender, about 6 minutes. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the potatoes are golden and crisp, about 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with the smoked paprika and gently stir in the onion mixture and parsley.

*Available NOW at the market

Nutrition Facts (per serving for 6): Calories 130; Total Fat 7g; Saturated Fat 1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 135mg; Total Carbohydrate 16g; Dietary Fiber 3g; Sugars 4g; Protein 2g

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s cold season…boost your immunity with FOOD!

With back to school and the cooler weather coming, everyone seems to be coming down with a cold.  There are lots of immune boosting supplements, and I do take some too, but there are lots of foods that actually help boost immunity too!  If you’re going to go for a supplement though my favorites are elderberry (I am planning on trying this recipe to make your own elderberry syrup) and lots of probiotics!  Did you know your gut flora plays a big part in your immunity??

So here is my post for this week, and my recipe of course.  Its a really yummy, crunchy and simple fall salad.

With back to school and the change of seasons both in full swing, cold and flu season is also upon us.  You may wonder why we tend to get sick more as the seasons change.  There is actually no scientific evidence that shows that rapid changes in body temperature (getting too hot or too cold) causes us to catch a cold.  It is more likely that bacteria and viruses just spread faster when people start spending more time close to each other indoors.  And since the kids are just getting back in school, they are all cooped up together too, greatly increasing their chances of getting sick from one another.

There are many different things we can do to increase our chances of staying healthy, from eating regular, well-balanced meals and drinking plenty of water, to getting our blood flowing daily through exercise.  There are loads of supplements on the market touting all sorts of immune-boosting claims.  But even better than supplements are the immune boosting properties of many of the foods we eat every day.  Here are just a few that you should know about (and eat!) this season:

  1. Yogurt.  We talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but I will mention again that the probiotics found in yogurt do wonders for keeping the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.  One strain (Lactobacillus reuteri) even appears to stimulate white blood cells that help to fight off infection.
  2. Garlic and Onions contain an ingredient called allicin, which helps fight bacteria and infection.  Studies have shown that people who eat garlic are less likely to catch a cold, and also reduce their risk of certain cancers. IMG_2561
  3. Fish.  Shellfish such as clams, oysters, crab, and lobster are high in selenium, which helps white blood cells manufacture cytokines, a protein that assists in eliminating flu viruses from the body.  Fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and mackerel help reduce inflammation, which protects the lungs from respiratory infection.
  4. Beef is high in zinc, an important mineral in the development of white blood cells.
  5. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and other orange vegetables are high in beta-carotene, which your body converts into Vitamin A.  Vitamin A is very important in the production of connective tissue for skin, which is our body’s first line of defense against foreign invaders.
  6. Melons are high in vitamin C, which increases production of white blood cells and an antibody called interferon that coats the surface of cells to prevent invasion of viruses.

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Apple Slaw

(dairy free, gluten free, grain free)

From www.cookieandkate.com

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil*

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey*

1 lime, juiced

1 small purple cabbage, cored and sliced into small stripes (about 2 cups)*

8 radishes, stems and ends removed, finely sliced and coarsely chopped*

2 medium organic Granny Smith apples, or other tart, crisp apple*

Loose 1/2 cup chopped cilantro*

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

In a big bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing: olive oil, mustard, honey and lime juice.

Toss the chopped cabbage, radish and apple into the bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly toss the chopped ingredients with the dressing. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Cover and chill in the fridge for an hour. Mix in the chopped cilantro right before serving.

*Available NOW at the market

Nutrition Facts (per serving): Calories 229; Total Fat 14g; Saturated Fat 2g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 168mg; Total Carbohydrate 27g; Dietary Fiber 6g; Sugars 19g; Protein 3g

And one more photo…I was photographing the food I was eating for dinner last night, and so my son had to take a photo of his dinner too.  Came out pretty good, I think.

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The Scoop on Dairy

This week at the market, I made grilled cheese.  I made a whole bunch of different combos, which included several different local raw milk cheeses, tomatoes, basil, pickles, scallions, roasted red peppers, and of course great local bread (not all in the same sandwich!!). It was so much fun that I think that I should open a grilled cheese stand at the market and use all the local market products to cook up all kinds of amazing creations.  Isn’t that a great idea??

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So here is the article that went with grilled cheese this week:

Do you eat dairy products?  There is and has always been much controversy over whether consuming dairy products is healthy.  Frankly, I don’t think anyone could give a definitive answer, and I think it probably depends a lot on the person.  Some people digest dairy very well, others not so much, and still others don’t digest it well but eat it anyway!

Though some people do have a true allergy to milk protein, most people who say they are “allergic” to dairy simply have a lactose intolerance, which means there bodies, either genetically or due to age, do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase.  These people usually have a hard time digesting milk, and sometimes cheese and yogurt to a lesser extent.  Yogurt is usually somewhat easier to digest because some of the lactose is broken down in the fermentation process.

Some believe that dairy products are an important part of a healthy diet.  Others proclaim that it is just plain weird for humans to drink the milk of another animal after infancy since no other species does this.  Either way, it is true that dairy products are a good source of protein, fat, calcium, and vitamins A and D, but there are certainly other sources of these nutrients in the diet. So who’s right?

I think the jury is still out on the subject, but want to mention that the milk we drink today is much different than the milk our ancestors drank, also known as raw milk.  Raw milk is milk from pastured cows that is in its original state; unprocessed, unpasteurized, and unhomogenized.  This type of milk contains all of the fat as well as all of the vitamins and nutrients that are killed when milk is pasteurized, or heat-treated, which all milk on the grocery store shelves are today.   Just a few of the beneficial components in raw milk that are lost to pasteurization are:

  • A complete spectrum of amino acids, the building blocks of protein
  • Immunoglobulins; antibodies that help our bodies fight off bacteria and viruses
  • Lactobacilli bacteria that can help people who are lactose intolerant digest milk
  • Fat soluble vitamins A and D (which are added back after pasteurization)
  • Enzymes

So why are we all wasting our time drinking pasteurized milk?  Good question.  Well, for one, pasteurization kills any bacteria living in raw milk that could make you sick, but unfortunately kills a lot of the good properties of milk too.  Since raw milk is not treated in any way, it is very important to know that the cows that produced your milk were healthy and that all precautions were taken during the milking, chilling, and storage process.  Secondly, it is very hard to get raw milk in New York. Sales of raw milk are only allowed on the farm, directly to the consumer, which means that you can’t find raw milk at any store or even at your farmers market.  Unfortunately, many people believe that the risks of drinking raw milk are greater than the benefits, and therefore make it very hard to obtain.

And now the good news: though it might be difficult to get raw milk, it is much easier to get raw cheese, which has many of the same benefits as raw milk.  New York State requires the aging of raw milk cheeses for a minimum of 60 days, which would kill off any pathogens and make it safe for consumption. So look for raw cheese at your local farmers market, and tell me, what’s your take on the dairy controversy?

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Cooking for the Jewish holidays

I have to admit I haven’t been very big on cooking for the Jewish holidays in several years.  But our close friends came over this year with their kids and we had second night of Rosh Hashana, which was so nice.  Of course it’s always a little hectic with young kids in the house, but it felt good to be celebrating by just having a nice, yummy dinner with friends.  And there really is not much I enjoy more than cooking for others.  At first I couldn’t even remember what the traditional dishes were, and my friend and her kids are vegetarian, and she and I both have some dietary limitations.  After a little thought, here is what I came up with for the menu:Brisket (my nana’s recipe)

Gluten Free Spinach Noodle Kugel (recipe below)

Chickpea Stew (recipe below)

Green Salad

Cheese and Crackers

Fresh vegetables and homemade ranch dip

Bread

Apples and Honey for dessert

I figured with the cheese, crackers, veggies, dip, and apples, there would definitely be something for the kids to eat.  With 3 year olds you never can tell what they will be willing to eat on any given day.  I knew my son may or may not eat the brisket and kugel, and he ate neither.  He tried the brisket but didn’t like it, and would not try the kugel.  However, we had leftover kugel for dinner tonight, and once we mentioned that it was similar to mac and cheese he did try it, and liked it, for a few bites that is…

Anyhow, I wanted to share the kugel and stew recipes with you.  I gave them a bit of a makeover as I went along, and they came out quite good.

Hope everyone who celebrated had a wonderful time with friends and family, and wishing you all a sweet new year!

Unfortunately I cannot share the picture of the kugel, it just didn’t capture the deliciousness at all.  But really, what dish that contains sour cream, cottage cheese, eggs, and butter could be bad??  Yum.

Gluten Free Spinach Noodle Kugel (vegetarian, gluten free)

Adapted from Saveur Magazine, Sept 10, 2011

Serves 8–10

Ingredients

1 cup sour cream

¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

3 eggs, lightly beaten

10 oz. gluten free noodles (I used Tinkyada brown rice fusilli)

Kosher salt, to taste

Ground black pepper, to taste

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large yellow onion, minced

1 10 oz bag baby spinach

Directions

Heat oven to 350°. Whisk sour cream, cottage cheese, 5 tbsp. melted butter, and eggs in a casserole dish; set aside. Bring a 4-qt. pot of salted water to a boil; cook noodles until al dente. Drain; stir into cheese mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

While the noodles cook, heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions; cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized, about 8 minutes. Transfer the garlic and onions to a bowl and return the skillet to the stove.  Add the spinach to the skillet and wilt the spinach over medium high heat.  Add a little water if necessary to prevent scorching.  When just wilted, transfer the spinach to a colander to drain.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze as much water as possible out of the spinach and chop well.  Stir the spinach, onions, and garlic into the noodle mixture, and bake, covered for 20 minutes.  Remove the cover and bake until browned and bubbling, approximately 25 more minutes.

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This stew was a true knockout, so much flavor, and super simple to make.  I used fresh tomatoes because my friend can only eat low-acid tomatoes, but using a can would be even easier.  If you want to use fresh, blanch them for a minute in boiling water, peel the skin off, core, chop, and toss ’em in!

Chickpea Stew (vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free, grain free)

Adapted from www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com 

Ingredients

1 tbsp coconut oil

2 medium yellow onions, diced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tbsp curry powder

½ tsp cinnamon

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with their juices

2 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 medium zucchinis, diced

1 quart chicken or vegetable stock

1 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped

1 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped

½ cup golden raisins

1/3 cup dried apricots, quartered

½ lemon, juiced

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

In a large stock pot, heat coconut oil and sauté onions and garlic until translucent.  Add curry powder, cinnamon, and a few splashes of stock and cook until spices are well incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, chickpeas, and zucchini and just enough stock to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer approximately 30 minutes uncovered, until some of the liquid has evaporated.

Place the raisins and apricots in a shallow bowl and cover with warm water. Soak for 20 minutes or until the fruit is rehydrated and plump.  Add to the pot along with the cilantro, parsley, and lemon juice.  Cook another 10 minutes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Back to school..back to lunch packing

As everyone is gearing up for back-to-school, I know many parents are bracing themselves again for another year of lunch packing.  Packing lunches can seem like a daunting task because, well, it’s kind of like delivering the mail…it never really ends.  Sure, we get summer break (unless you have to pack for camp) and weekends off, but most days parents are in the kitchen trying their best to fill lunchboxes with a variety of foods that will stay fresh, be healthy, AND actually get eaten by their kids.  Well, believe me, you are not alone! I just happen to read a lot on the subject, and I have collected a few tips and links here that might just help turn your lunch packing frown upside down.

planetbox lunch 5.3

planetbox lunch 5.3 (Photo credit: velostricken)

  • Use a great container.  There are so many cool, eco-friendly lunch boxes out there right now.  You can go simple with a divided Ziploc container, or get really fancy and check out my favorite, the Planetbox .  Either way, when food is all in one container, it not only looks more appealing to kids but also saves time because they don’t have to open up a lot of little containers in the limited time they often have to eat.  Not to mention it cuts down on waste.
  • Pack a balanced meal.  Lunches should contain a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein.  There are many creative ideas to get you out of the sandwich rut; for some inspiration check out 100 Days of Real Food, who posts pictures of her daughters lunches daily on Facebook, or my friend at Tribeca Nutrition’s Pinterest board with her girls’ lunches too.
  • Stock the pantry.  Be sure to stock up on staples weekly at the farmers market or store so you have enough to pack during the week.  Some great pantry staples for lunch include nuts or nut butters, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, dips such as hummus, whole grain bread or crackers, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Variety! Even the pickiest eaters have a few different things they like to eat.  Be sure to switch it up day to day, and try serving same foods in different ways (making apple slices with nut butter into a little sandwich one day and serving a whole apple with a nut trail mix another).  I also will slide a couple pieces of less liked foods into my son’s lunch from time to time.  I’m not really sure if he actually eats them, but at least he is exposed to them, which is the first step in accepting a new food.
  • Make it look pretty.  As we all know, we eat with our eyes first.  When food is laid out in a divided container, it looks more appealing, as well when there are lots of colorful foods together.  Try combining two colorful foods like orange slices and blueberries.  Cut vegetables into fun shapes or stack them on a mini skewer to make them more fun to eat.  Vegetables, fruit, and sandwiches can also be cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.
  • Leftovers are your friend.  Leftovers can easily be made into a new dish for lunch.  Think roasted chicken into chicken salad, or leftover rice into a cold rice and edamame salad.  Leftovers can also be frozen in individual portions that can be put in the fridge to thaw the day before.  Think soup, muffins, or waffles.

Hopefully these tips will help inspire you lunch packers a little bit, and ease you back into another year of packing.   Wishing all the kids and parents a great year of school ahead!

And here’s a nice kosher recipe for the High Holidays week…just kidding.  I am terrible and forgot and cooked bacon at the market on Rosh Hashana.  I am a terrible jew.  Who loves bacon…

Here is the link to the recipe for Swiss Chard with Red Onions and Bacon from Deliciously Organic.

Red Chard growing in the garden of Slow Food N...

Red Chard growing in the garden of Slow Food Nation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was delicious, but there wasn’t much chard to be had at the market this week, so I substituted some baby Red Russian kale, a little baby chard, and beet greens.  I think it would have been better with just chard, because kale is tougher than chard and I couldn’t really get it too soften up enough for my liking without adding a little liquid.  I did add a little water in the end, but it never got soft enough.  I think it was partially the kale’s fault, and partially the wind, which was blowing the stove’s flame all over the place.  Ah, the joys of cooking outdoors without knowing if your ingredients will be available.

Stay tuned though, I actually have a non farmers market post brewing.  I cooked up some deliciousness for Rosh Hashana and wanted to share a couple of recipes.  Have a nice weekend!