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Archive for the ‘Healthy Cooking’ Category

Veggie Soup for the Soul

I’m recovering from a cold and even took a day off work yesterday (rare, unless it’s for cancer treatment!). Luckily, our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares started this week also, so I had a fridge full of fresh organic veggies and farm fresh eggs. I also had some spices on hand, which seems to make me feel better when I’m sick. So, I made some easy healthy veggie soup to ease my throat, my fever…and my tastebuds…

I am calling this “Kale Egg Drop Soup” or “A-Good-Soup-For-When-You-Have-A-Cold Soup”:

– Chicken or Vegetable Broth
– Kale or other greens
– Garlic
– Spring onions
– Ginger
– Eggs (especially if they’re farm fresh)
– a little Jasmine rice
– As many herbs as you’d like…I used Rosemary, a Chipotle spice blend, Old Bay seasoning, an Indian spice blend, Cardomom, and a little Cinnamon
– Curry powder
– Salt and Pepper

Wash the kale and remove stems. Chop the spring onions, garlic, and ginger. Throw everything (except the eggs) into a big pot and add the herbs and spices according to taste (hopefully your cold won’t prohibit you from tasting a little bit!). Once everything has been simmering for a while and the kale is cooked, crack open a couple of the eggs and drop them into the soup. Stir everything and eat once the eggs are cooked, or allow everything to simmer for awhile and make your kitchen smell (if you can smell!) aromatic. This is easy enough to make while you’re sick and it helped me feel better quickly!

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3 Foods You Should Be Eating, But Probably Aren’t (Part I)

In a couple more weeks, we will be starting our 2012 New Year’s Resolutions. In my online research on becoming healthier and overcoming cancer, I’ve learned about many different foods to try to incorporate into one’s diet to improve health. This post (and the next one), I’m dedicating to some foods I’ve learned about that you may want to try incorporating into your diet. Although I should specify that I’m not a nutritionist, there is a lot of positive information out there regarding these foods, which you should explore further if interested.

1) Kefir – a cultured, yogurt-style drink

Kefir is a smooth, slightly sour drink that tastes like yogurt. The name originates from the Turkish word “keif” which means “good feeling”. Hopefully this drink will have you feeling good. This beverage is easily digestible and contains many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, B2, B12, D and K, and calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. It also contains probiotics, and is responsible for improving immune function and digestion issues. It can possibly improve IBS, as well as other issues, such as high cholesterol, allergies, metabolic disease, and possibly even cancer. Kefir is now commonly sold in grocery stores and is often paired with other flavorings, such as blueberry or pomegranate. I have recently seen Kefir in both Bloom and Trader Joe’s, and both versions are delicious. Kefir can be sipped from the bottle, used with cereal, or as a substitute for yogurt or sour cream in recipes. I have read you can even freeze it and turn it into ice cream.

2) Raw Honey – the real stuff

No, we’re not talking about the stuff in the plastic honeybear containers at your local Food Lion. Make sure it says “Raw” and that it’s real honey. Much of what we see in our typical grocery store is NOT the good stuff. Fortunately, Trader Joe’s sells raw honey, that has been shown to be real in this study. Real raw honey has good bacteria and contains a wealth of nutrients, including B vitamins. Honey may promote better blood sugar control and improved insulin sensitivity, and is certainly a healthier sweet alternative to white sugar, especially for diabetics and those with metabolic syndrome. Honey also improves immune function, which results in better health overall. There seem to be certain unusual compounds in real raw honey that are not found anywhere else, but may be partly responsible for the medicinal purposes of honey. For children, try buckwheat honey instead of cough syrup to improve cough symptoms. In your daily diet, try a tablespoon with your tea or coffee, as a sugar substitute in baking, or on bread in place of jelly.

3) Beets

Now, everyone know what beets are, but do you know how good they are for you?
Beets contain a great deal of fiber, which is good for weight loss and digestion. These colorful root vegetables contain powerful nutrient compounds, such as carotenoids and phytonutrients called betalains that help protect against heart disease and maybe even cancer. Some of these contain strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification functions. Certain studies even indicate that beets may have anti-tumor properties. Try marinated beets or a warm soothing borscht during your next meal.

Turkey Leftovers Idea: Turkey Coconut Curry

Turkey Coconut Curry

Turkey Coconut Curry

It was our fifth day of turkey leftovers and I longed for something different. I didn’t have much time, between work, errands, and the gym, but craved something tasty. I decided to try the turkey in a coconut curry simmer sauce. This was also a way to use up a variety of vegetables that have been sitting in our fridge for a week. This recipe can be very flexible and is a good way to use what you have on hand, as long as you have coconut milk, curry spices, and some vegetables, along with your meat.

Since I had a very short time to make supper, I used a jarred Taste of Thai simmer sauce (red curry flavor), and added my own spices to make it taste more like the real thing. Of course, if you’d like to make the simmer sauce from scratch, use a can of coconut milk, curry powder or paste, and items such as ginger, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir. These can be purchased at your local Asian market or other specialty store.

  • Coconut curry simmer sauce. To save time, I used Taste of Thai jar sauce, which contains coconut milk, curry spices, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir
  • Turkey leftovers, separated into bite-sized pieces
  • Curry spice or paste, for added flavor
  • I also used my Penzeys Spices Turkish Seasoning, to add some kick
  • Pinch of Red pepper flakes (if you like a little heat)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (I use Kerrygold because it’s from grassfed cows, is more nutritious, and tastes SO good)
  • Vegetables. I used cherry tomatoes split in half, julienned radish, sliced leeks (delicious in this sauce), and sliced mushrooms. Many other veggies would work, such as eggplant, onions, garlic, peas, carrots, broccoli…
  • Herbs. Fresh basil is great for this, but I used fresh thyme because that’s what I had on hand.

I melted the butter in a skillet and sauteed the fresh vegetables for a few minutes. Then I added the turkey pieces and the simmer sauce. I then added the spices to taste. 15 minutes later we had a quick, tasty but unusual meal that used our leftovers!

Healthy, Wealthy Olive Oil

As most of you probably know, olive oil is very good for you due to its polyphenols and antioxidants, has been used for thousands of years, and is part of a healthy diet. I suggest trying to find a good source of pure extra virgin olive oil as part of your lifestyle. Purchasing an inexpensive bottle of olive oil from your typical grocery store may not be as beneficial as you think.

We get our olive oil directly from an agriturismo we stayed at last year in Tuscany. They grow their own olives and press their own organic olive oil. We know these people and this is as much “old-world style” as you can get nowadays, short of having your Italian great-grandma hand-pressing your olives…

First of all, olive oil is better stored in a dark bottle. Otherwise, even a high quality olive oil’s taste and health benefits will diminish as light damages the oil. If you do buy your olive oil in a clear bottle, at least try to store it in a dark part of your pantry, or keep it in an opaque or dark bottle at home.

You may or may not be aware that there are frauds and conspiracies pertaining to olive oil manufacturing. Italy and other olive oil producing countries are aware that the pure oil is in high demand, especially by Americans, and is big business. There has been fraudulent activity where manufacturers substitute or dilute this high quality oil with canola, soybean, or sunflower oil and color it with chlorophyll to give it that olive oil color. Even a quick read on Wikipedia can tell you that we need to be careful with our olive oil purchases, if we’re relying on it for healthy eating. To read more about this, check out this New Yorker article or this NPR interview.

As the Wikipedia article states at the bottom, there are a couple home tests that one can perform to “test” the purity of your olive oil. The easiest one seems to be to put it in your fridge, and see if the oil becomes thicker or more viscous after a while. If it doesn’t, I would become suspicious and shop around for a better olive oil.

Turkey for You, Turkey for Me…

The holidays are upon us. In fact, it is time to pick up my Thanksgiving turkey at Full Quiver Farm on Saturday morning. We put a deposit on this fresh pastured turkey months ago, so it is exciting to actually see the goods. The pickup day is an event at the farm – with tours of the farm and the opportunity to buy other fresh farm items. It will be my first time visiting this particular farm (our CSA farm is a closer one, only located 5 minutes away from us). It is forecasted to be a beautiful Fall weekend, with many bright leaves still on the trees in Southeastern Virginia, chilly air, and sunshine. That, I think, is the perfect weather for visiting a farm. I’m ready to get on a heavy sweater and boots, and head over!

Benefits of a Pastured Turkey, as opposed to a typical turkey from the grocery store:

– The turkeys are fed naturally on a pasture, producing a low-stress healthy bird that contains higher amounts of Omega 3s, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), and vitamins. All are necessary for a healthy body, and fight against inflammation and cancer. Pasture raised turkeys are also lower in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

– No antibiotics or hormones are added to the poultry, providing healthier meat that doesn’t mess with one’s hormones, digestive systems, immune system, etc.

– They are supposed to have a richer more flavorful taste (I guess we’ll find out on Thanksgiving – I’ll let you know!)

– They are produced in an environmentally conscious manner, using only manure and compost as fertilizer, not harsh chemicals that get into the land and the water supply. Turkeys aren’t then shipped hundreds or thousands of miles on a diesel truck, thus being even more environmentally friendly.

– They help promote our local agriculture and ecomony

It’s a win-win! We get a healthy, tasty bird and we keep the local farmers in business!

I am THANKFUL for the opportunity to try a different type of bird this Thanksgiving! And if anyone has any suggestions for brining/cooking this turkey, let me know!

Herbal Vinegar Holiday Gift Idea

While I’m on a roll with creating Christmas gifts for my family and friends, I’ll talk about the herbal vinegars I’ve recently prepared. I actually got this idea from my mom, when I received a similar gift from her a couple years ago.

I have had several lovely dark glass bottles left over from the imported olive oil we buy from a beautiful agriturismo we stayed at in Tuscany, Italy. I didn’t want to waste these attractive bottles, so decided to recycle them to store herbal vinegar to give as gifts.

If you grow your own herbs, that is a plus, but “fresh” herbs from the supermarket will work also, as long as they are still on the stem. If something else was previously in your glass bottles, make sure you soak and air dry the bottles thoroughly. Insert several herb twigs in each bottle. I used basil, dill, and thyme, but other herbs such as rosemary and chives would be great also. Various types of vinegar can be used. I used apple cider vinegar, because my neighborhood grocery store sold large containers of this. Other vinegars, such as red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and even plain old white vinegar could work. It is up to you to create your own unique combination of vinegar and herbs.

The vinegars should be stored for a few weeks before giving them out, to allow for the herb flavor to be infused in the vinegar. You may also create handwritten or computer designed tags with a brief description to tie around each bottle, so your recipients know what is in them. Also, it is a nice finishing touch to buy pourers for each bottle, so that your friends can elegantly drizzle some vinegar on their salads or other culinary creations. A simple yet tasteful gift!

Goji Berry Christmas Gifts

I’ve gotten an early start (for me) with my Christmas gift-making this year. Although I do my share of online shopping, I like to make a certain percentage of my Christmas gifts each year, both for economic reasons as well as creative reasons. Plus, many people appreciate a gift that the giver took the time to actually make. One of my gift ideas for this year, which I am not actually “making”, but am putting some creative effort into, is Goji Berry Plants.

If you have any friends or family members who like to garden and enjoy healthy eating, a starter Goji Berry Plant may be the perfect idea. It is unusual (I don’t know anyone personally with a Goji Berry Plant in their garden), but they are apparently quite hardy to grow in most gardening zones (zones 4-9) and may even be adaptable to other zones. I ordered some plants from Garden Harvest Supply, and soon after received several plants that resembled twigs with roots in the mail. I’ve planted these five “twigs” in some potting soil in terra cotta pots and kept them indoors, so far for 10 days. Goji Berry Plants like a lot of sun. My living room doesn’t provide full sun, but there is  plentiful ambient sunlight from all of the tall windows. I water them each day, because they like to be kept moist, especially as they’re establishing. They are sprouting like crazy, each at slightly different rates. Since it is only November 1, I hope that by Christmas gift-giving time, they will look like attractive little plants. I will add an instructional tag with each plant and tie each pot with a ribbon. My friends can then decide to either transplant them into larger 5 gallon pots or plant them outdoors in the ground. Read more instructions on growing Goji Berries here.

Goji Berries have a lot of health benefits, including large amounts of antioxidants. They have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, eaten raw, in teas or juice. Apparently both the berries and the leaves can be used. Not a bad plant to have around when one is fighting cancer!

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