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Fermented Food Frenzy

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

untitled (11)  Fermented foods are getting lots of attention these days.  Research has suggested that there are benefits to consuming the happy bacteria in fermented foods, including probiotics. The bacteria appear to improve digestion, boost immunity, and possibly even help with weight management. Exactly how remains unclear and how much be eaten in order to reap these potential benefits.  Regardless, it may be worth incorporating a few fermented foods into your diet, such as tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and kimchi. Pickled fruits and vegetables provide probiotic benefits as well but only in foods pickled in brine, not vinegar, and in unpasteurized pickled products.

 

Brine Pickled Carrot Sticks

Makes 1 qt

2 pounds carrots, peeled and into sticks that are no more than about 1 inch wide

4 cups water

¼ cup kosher salt

1 sprig fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 dried hot chile

1 tsp cracked black peppercorns

Boil the salt, water, bay leaves, black peppercorn, and chile for a minute or so. Then, turn off the heat and let this cool to room temperature. Once the brine has cooled to room temperature, pack the carrots and the thyme sprig into a clean Mason jar and pour the brine over them, making sure the jars all get some of the spices.

Pour leftover brine into a plastic bag and tie off.  Push the bag into the jar of carrots to ensure that the carrots are completely submerged in the brine. If the carrots come in contact with air, the carrots will spoil with mold.

Put the jar into a cool, dark place for at least 3-4 days but typically not longer than 2 weeks. The temperature should be about 55-70oF.  The longer carrots ferment, the saltier and tangier they will taste.

Remove the bag of leftover brine from the jar.  Screw a lid onto the jar and place in refrigerator where they will keep for about 6 months.

A game of tag each day keeps the doctor away

Monday, May 11th, 2015

untitled (10)   Man, I love the game of tag. And I’m not talking about tagging myself in Facebook photos.  I’m talking about that classic game that involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to “tag” or touch them with their hands. Once tagged, that player is now “It” and responsible for chasing someone else down to tag.  Growing up without playing tag is, to me,  like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower – simply sacrilegious.  While traditionally thought of as a playground game for children, there are so many benefits to this simple game that it’s a great way for the entire family to get moving.  

Requiring no equipment, no teams, and no score keeping, tag can be played quickly and almost anywhere without preparation. The start and stop motion of the game also results in tremendous aerobic benefits and improvements in speed, agility, and endurance.  The fast pace of the game can be tiring in just 15-20 minutes. And, the fun of the game satisfies even those who dread the chore of just running.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 1 hour of physical activity each day for children and adolescents.  Adults need 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity. Get some of those needed physical activity minutes from a family game of tag.  Get creative and make safe zones or bases. Try some of the variations below to mix it up:

 

Categories. The “It” chooses a category. Players can avoid being tagged by sitting down on the ground and shouting an item that fits in that category just before being tagged.  For example, if the category was “fruit”, a player would avoid a tag by sitting on the ground and saying “apples”. Players are safe as long as they are on the ground but they can only sit on the ground for 10 seconds and can only shout a category and sit on the ground when “It” is 10 feet away or closer.

Freeze Tag Just like regular tag except that when someone is tagged, they are frozen and can’t move. There are many variations as how to get unfrozen – getting tagged by another player that isn’t “It”, having someone crawl between their legs, etc. Once someone has become frozen three times, he or she becomes the new “It”.

Bumper Tag Just like regular tag except that instead of tagging with hand, the “It” must tag with his or her hips.  Remind players that all that is needed is a little bump. Nobody should be purposefully knocked to the ground.

Blob Tag Requires multiple people. When tagged, the player joins hands with “It” to create a large blob.  Once the blob has 4 people, it can split into groups of two only and may split into groups of two any time thereafter.  The person left without being tagged is “It” and the game starts again.

Fainting Goat Tag In this version, the “It” is called the Shepard.  Whoever the Shepard touches becomes the new Shepard.  The other players are “goats” and they can fall to the ground to avoid being tagged but they are only safe on the group for up to 10 seconds. The goat can only fall to the ground when the Shepard is 10 feet away or closer.

Dead Ant Tag Requires at least 6 players. In this version, once tagged, the player must lay down with both hands and feet sticking straight up, like a dead ant.  In order for the dead player to come alive, four people must tag one limb each. Once a person has been a dead ant three times, he or she is now “It”.

Shadow Tag Instead of tagging the person, “It” tags someone by stepping on the shadow of other players. When a person’s shadow is stepped on, they are frozen until another player steps on their shadow.

Hug Tag Just like regular tag except that players can be safe from being tagged if they are hugging someone else.  They can only remain in a hugged position for 5 seconds.

Werewolf Tag One player is selected to hide. The other players search for the player.  When one of the players finds the hiding player, they scream out “WEREWOLF!” The werewolf comes out of hiding and chases after all the other players.  If caught, that person becomes a werewolf as well.  The last person not tagged becomes the werewolf for the next round.

Heeeeeee-kah-mah!

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

jicama  Try something new from the produce section this week and get crazy with jicama! Jicama (pronounced HEE-kah-mah) is a root vegetable of Mexican origin that can now be found in most grocery stores.  To eat, first remove the thin brown outer skin.  The white inside has a crisp, crunchy texture and mild sweet starchy taste, like an unripe pear or sweet potato. Most often served raw, here are three recipes to get you started.  Jicama is also excellent cooked, such as in stir fries. 

Ham and Jicama Wraps – divided evenly, wrap 6 jicama or celery sticks with 3 slices of ham. Serve with 1 tsp whole grain mustard for dipping.

Creamy Herb Dip with Vegetables – serve raw vegetables, such as jicama sticks, snap peas, carrot sticks, or thinly sliced beets with a creamy dip. To make dip, blend together 5 oz goat cheese, ½ cup plain low fat yogurt, 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill, 1 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, 1 tsp lemon juice, ¼ tsp salt.

Strawberry Mango Jicama salad – make a fruit salad of sliced strawberries, chopped mango, chopped jicama, chopped fresh cilantro, and lime juice. 

Parsnip – pasty but tasty!

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

parsnip  The parsnip – that pale and pasty relative to the carrot and the celery root.  They remind me slightly of a Vermonter’s legs during the winter months.  But, don’t let this straggly appearance fool you.  This winter vegetable has an intense, sweet, herbal flavor that lends a unique taste to dishes.  Parsnips pair well with pork, other root vegetables, and dark leafy greens.  When roasted, they caramelize on the outside and turn creamy within. Parsnips can also be used in baked good to give a spicy sweetness.

When buying parsnips, keep in mind that the small ones aren’t necessarily more tender. Choose fairly big ones (less peeling!) that are sweet-smelling, firm, and free of blemishes or soft spots. Avoid ones with a sprouting top. Parsnips will keep for weeks when stored in a crisper in a ventilated plastic bag.

To cook, first peel and trim as you would carrots. If you find one with a woody core, remove the core with a paring knife.  Parsnips are softer and quicker cooking than carrots.

So head to the store, grab yourself a bag of pale Vermonters’ legs, and give one of the following recipes a try!

 

Beef Stew with Potatoes and Parsnips

¼ cup all purpose flour

2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion, diced medium

4 garlic cloves, chopped

¼ cup tomato paste

1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise

1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into ½ by 2 inch pieces

1 tbsp white vinegar

 

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, season flour with salt and pepper. Coat beef in flour, shaking off excess. In a large heavy ovenproof pot, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium. In batches, brown beef on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon oil, onion, garlic, and tomato paste and sauté until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Add beef and any accumulated juices, potatoes, parsnips, 1 ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until meat is fork-tender, 1 hour. Stir in vinegar and serve.

 

 

Spiced Parsnip Cupcakes

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp ground cardamom or 1 ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp fine salt

¾ cup packed light-brown sugar

2 large eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tbsp vanilla extract, divided

2 cups grated parsnip (from 1 large peeled parsnip)

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

 

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, eggs, oil, 2 tsp vanilla, and parsnip. Stir in flour mixture.

Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners. Divide batter among cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

In a large bowl, with a mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, and remaining vanilla until combined. Spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

To store, refrigerate cupcakes in an airtight container, up to 2 days.

Thinking outside of the can – with orange juice concentrate

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Orange juice concentrate has been a staple in the freezer section of grocery stores for decades. The product, which is made by removing some of the water from orange juice, has uses far beyond just reconstituting it back into juice. The orange flavor is three times stronger in frozen concentrate, making it a great way to add a lot of flavor without a lot of liquid. This potent flavor booster can be used as a glaze for meat and fish, as a fast marinade or dressing, and more.  For best flavor and nutritional value, choose a brand with a “100% juice” label. This will ensure that you are buying only orange juice without any additives or extra sugar.

  • Mix with tahini and toasted sesame oil to create a salad dressing
  • Stir into sliced carrots sautéed with grated ginger
  • Whisk with soy sauce to make a marinade for pork or other meat
  • Blend with strawberries and yogurt for a smoothie
  • Stir into whipped cream and serve over pound cake

Carnivores

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

carnivore  Are carnivores doomed?  Red meat has earned a bad reputation in parts of the health community and media but is this a deserved pooh-pooh?  What is it about red meat that makes it so bad supposedly?

Research studies that try to find links between diet and disease have shown a repeated association between the intake of red meat and two major health conditions, heart disease and cancer. In these studies, those people that ate larger amounts of red meat tended to have a higher risk for both conditions.

Regarding heart disease, some of the proposed elements in red meat that are to blame are saturated fat, cholesterol, carnitine, choline, and/or heme iron content.  Studies have shown that an increased intake of each of these is related to an increased risk for heart disease; however, current thinking is leaning more heavily on excessive sugars and omega-6 fatty acids as the dietary factor most likely causing heart disease. 

There are two proposed explanations for the increased risk for cancer seen among meat-eaters.  Meats naturally contain nitrite and nitrate, both of which are believed to be carcinogenic.  Heterocyclic amines (HCAs), compounds which are formed on cooked meat and poultry, is the other component that could be to blame. HCAs have been shown to be carcinogenic in animals.

Bottom line: For whatever the reason, eating large amounts of red meat doesn’t appear to be the healthiest thing to do.  Most food eaten should be plant foods.  Limit your intake of red meats (beef, pork, and lamb) to no more than 18 oz (cooked weight) per week and completely avoid processed meats (ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs, and sausages.) Use the following tips to decrease the HCAs in your meats and poultry:

  • Marinate and then remove the marinade mix before cooking the meat and poultry.
  • Microwave for about 1 ½ – 2 minutes and pour off the juices before cooking on the grill to decrease the grilling time.
  • Try seafood instead of meat or poultry.  Seafood won’t have as many HCAs.
  • Keep meat and poultry moist. Drier and more well done meats contain more HCAs.
  • Bake, roast, or stir fry. These cooking techniques make less HCAs than grilling.
  • Flip frequently. Turning meat and poultry over every minute can cut HCAs down by 75-90 percent because the surface temperature stays lower.
  • Toss the pan drippings because they can contain more HCAs than the meat or poultry itself.
  • Cook in liquid by boiling, steaming, poaching, or stewing.  These techniques create no HCAs because the temperature never tops the boiling point of water.
  • Eat vegetables which make no, or very few, HCAs

Sugar pie honey pie

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Americans have a sweet tooth and its getting them in big trouble, health-wise.  Unfortunately, food manufacturers continue to manipulate this sweet tooth by adding more and more sweeteners to increase their sales.  According to a recent survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, most of the added sugar in our diets (about 30%) comes from sweetened beverages such as soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks.  This comes as no surprise.  The percentage of calories that come from sweetened beverages has nearly doubled since the 1970’s and these drinks have long been the target of public health campaigns, including most recently the soda tax.

Yes, decreasing the intake of sweetened beverages would be beneficial at reducing the contribution of added sugars to the diet. But are we missing the bigger picture?  If 30% of calories come from the added sugars in drinks, this means that a whopping 70% of added sugars comes from foods, such as candy, breakfast cereals, and desserts. Sweeteners are also creeping into other foods as well, such as such as crackers, tomato sauce, and salad dressings.

Ingredients on a food label are listed in descending order by weight.  Avoid choosing foods that have a sweetener within the first few ingredients in the list or have multiple sweeteners in the ingredient list.  This handout can help identify the various sweeteners used by food manufacturers.

 

What’s most scary on Halloween – the haul!

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

halloween-trick-or-treat-bags-cat  The average trick-or-treater will return home on Halloween night with a haul that adds up to 7000 calories. To put that number into perspective, consider these other calorie comparisons:

  • 1 pound of body fat = 3500 calories
  • An apple contains about 60 calories
  • The average daily calorie needs for an 8     year old child is 1300-1400 calories
  • The calories in a “fun-size”      candy bar (those smaller versions that tend to be given at Halloween) is     about 100 calories
  • Each one of these activities will burn     100 calories:
    • Pushing a stroller, 35 minutes
    • Walking your dog, 26 minutes
    • Physically playing with your kids, 23      minutes
    • Raking leaves, 23 minutes
    • Elliptical Trainer (moderate      intensity), 20 minutes
    • Weight Lifting (moderate intensity), 15      minutes
    • Running, 9 minutes

It’s a bird….it’s a plane….it’s MORINGA!

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

moringa Step aside chia seeds.  Your time saving the world from their nutritional woes is over because there is a new nutrition superhero in town.  Moringa oleifera (marketed by some brands as Moringa Zinga) is quickly rising in popularity after being featured by Dr. Oz on his talk show.  Moringa, also known as the horseradish tree, drumstick tree, sujuna, ben tree, or ben oil tree, is an edible tree native to Africa and Asia.  Almost every party of the tree can be used for food, offering a large amount of versatility when incorporating into the diet.  Beyond this versatility, why the hum to add moringa to your diet?  According to the National Research Council, moringa contains, gram for gram, 4 times vitamin A of carrots, 7 times the vitamin C of oranges, 4 times the calcium of milk, 3 times the potassium of bananas, and 2 times the protein of yogurt.  This high nutrient density has earned the plant the nickname of the “miracle tree” or “mother’s best friend.”

Bottom line: The miracle tree may offer a promising nutritional content but without any quality clinical trials, the validity of health claims are hard to measure.  If you are considering adding moringa to your diet, view it more as a multivitamin, and consult a health care professional for further information.

Dietitians NEVER eat bad food. Ever. Right?

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

oreos   I heart double stuff Oreos. And – are you ready for this – I also eat them. Shocked?? Many people are often quite shocked to hear that a dietitian would consume Oreos and, that said dietitian would also admit to this in written print. It is true that Oreos are a pretty sugary, processed, nutritional zero of a food, one of those types of foods often referred to as “bad” or “junk” food. That being said, allowing oneself to include foods such as Oreos in the diet, is a key element to healthy, functional eating because there are no bad foods, only bad amounts.  Whole foods with minimal processing tend to be more nutrient dense and should make up the vast majority of the diet. If this is the case, adding the occasional less nutritious food won’t throw off the overall average intake. For example, a bad amount of Oreos would be to eat them many times a week or in large quantities, particularly if not physically hungry.  Teach your child this tidbit of nutritional wisdom to help them understand the concept of moderation.