Monthly Archives: October 2016

Cancer Fighters: Cruciferous Vegetables

 

Ocean Air Organic Farm

Ocean Air Organic Farm

When I read the news this morning, the headline that caught my eye was “The Fountain of Youth May Well be Broccoli”  I was intrigued since I had decided to write about cruciferous vegetables & their cancer fighting properties. Apparently a new study lists broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers & edamame as having anti-aging properties when given to mice. Next will be human clinical trials. Regardless of the outcome, we know from earlier research that 70% or more of the studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables protects us against cancer. So, start eating more broccoli 🙂 

Here is a Facebook post from Dr. Low Dog that explains the benifits of these vegetables:

Tieraona Low Dog, MD
October 24, 2016

Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide. According to the American Cancer Society, every year approximately 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and among those 40,000 will die. Breast cancer is often thought to be only an issue for older women. Surprisingly, of the women that are estimated to die from breast cancer approximately 6.2% of those women are under the age of 45. Clearly, breast health is an issue that women of all ages should address. The proper intake of vitamins and minerals is essential to overall health and therefore, important for breast health. Some of these vitamins and minerals are found in food that is commonly part of a healthy diet. For example, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (such as cauliflower, radishes, kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, etc) contain vitamins C, E and K and are rich in nutrients, including several carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin). These vegetables also contain folate, are a good source of fiber and contain chemicals called glucosinolates. During digestion glucosinolates are broken down into biologically active compounds that have been tested for their anticancer effects. Over a decade ago, a study described results suggesting that women who ate greater amounts of cruciferous vegetables had a lower risk of breast cancer. More recently, one of the compounds derived from glucosinolates of the cruciferous vegetables was found to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells by blocking key signaling pathways known to be required for cancer progression. These results are promising and encourage researchers to continue to explore the anticancer affects of cruciferous vegetables, especially for breast cancer.

As you see, adding these vegetables into your diet will give you many nutritional benifits. Cruciferous vegetables are in the Brassicaceae family of plants. Here is a list from Gardening Know How  I have added comments & links to recipes next to each vegetable.

  • Arugula: I had to acquire a taste for arugula, but now it is one of my favorite salad greens. I want to try Arugula Pesto next. Huffington Post: Arugula Recipes So Good You’ll Forget Other Lettuces Exist 
  • Bok choy: Martha Stewart: Bok Choy Recipes Bok Choy & Tofu stirfry are a favorite in my house.
  • Broccoli: I believe every child calls broccoli “trees”. My teenage grandson’s still do! For a new way to cook them, here is a link to AllRecipes: Broccoli Casserole Recipes. Check out the Broccoli & Stuffing Casserole for Thanksgiving 🙂
  • Broccoli rabe: I like to roast these with potatoes. Eating Well: Healthy Broccoli Rabe Recipes
  • Broccoli romanesco: This is a very strange looking vegetable, and very deicious. Brit+Co: Go Green With These 10 Rich Romonesco Recipes
  • Brussels sprouts: I told my husband that I love brussels sprouts. He grew 20 plants! Have you ever bought them on the stalk & spent hours taking them off & cleaning them? Well, it is worth it 🙂 Real Simple: 11 Easy Recipes for Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage: I am always looking for something new to do with cabbage. I like it raw & cooked. New York Times Cooking: Cabbage recipes 
  • Cauliflower: I tend to use the same recipes for Cauliflower all the time. Here is a chance to try something new. PureWow: 19 of the World’s Best Cauliflower recipes
  • Chinese broccoli: This is a new one for me. Good link to learn how to buy & cook it. Steamy Kitchen: Chinese Broccoli (Gai Lan) Recipe
  • Chinese cabbage: Chinese cabbage is the same as Napa cabbage. I really like this in salads. SheKnows: 10 Napa Cabbage Recipes
  • Collard greens: I have to admit that I have only steamed them. I need a new attitude towards them 🙂 Saveur: 11 Dishes to geet You excited About Collard Greens
  • Daikon: I am not a real fan of the little red radishes. The first time I had raw daikon shredded onto a salad I loved it. Daikon replaces those little red guys in my dishes. Epicurious: Daikon Recipes
  • Garden cress: I don’t know this one. I read that it is a little on the peppery side, similar to horseradish.  Cressinfo: Cress recipes
  • Horseradish: The first time I tried horseradish I was a teen out with my new boyfriend. I globbed it onto a sandwich & about choked on the first bite! Humiliation! I still don’t like it 🙂 Here are some ways to use it: Horseradish.org: Horseradish Recipes 
  • Kale: I am so over kale! AllRecipes: Kale Recipes
  • Kohlrabi: I like this in a mixture of root veggies raosted togther. Martha Stewart: Kohlrabi Recipes
  • Komatsuna: Another new one for me. Komatsuna is a Japanese mustard spinach. Best Living Japan: Komatsuna Recipes
  • Land cress: Land Cress is related to watercress & is also peppery. According to this website, it is fiery! Cook with Home Organics: Land Cress!!!! 
  • Mizuna Mustard – seeds and leaves: I discussed Mizuna in a previous post. It reminds me a little of arugula. I have made pesto with it, used it in salads & substituted it for spinach in a quiche. Very tasty. Early Morning Farm: 7 Ways to Use Mizuna
  • Pak choi: This veggie is very much ike Bok Choy. I use it in the same way. Here is a good recipe; tofu can be used instead of the chicken. Taste: Honey Chicken With Pak Choy
  • Radish: Ah, the little red guys 🙂 Real Simple: 13 Tasty Radish Recipes
  • Rutabaga: Another root veggie that I use in my roasted veggie mix. AllRecipes: Rutabaga Recipes
  • Tatsoi: This is one of the many Asian greens we grew this past year. It was added to our mixed salad greens. Has a mustardy flavor. Food52: Tatsoi is the New Spinach (Haven’t You Heard?)
  • Turnips – root and greens: I have a bunch in the frig just waiting for me to cook. Bon Apetit: 18 Turnip Recipes for an Underrated Root Vegetable
  • Wasabi: This is a link to everything you ever wanted to know about wasabi! World of Wasabi
  • Watercress: Another peppery cress to add to your salad. Martha Stewart: Watercress Recipes

some-days

 

I hope that you found some new vegetables & recipes that you are going to try. I have! Until next week…Mary 🙂

 

Resources

Cookware Safety

This is the time of the year that we do more baking & cooking. The weather is milder & the holidays are coming closer. Time to think about Thanksgiving dinner & Christmas cookies. What kind of cookware do you use?

Cookware safety has been a popular topic since Teflon & aluminum were declared unsafe. Many newer, safer, forms of coated pots & pans have emerged since then. Rather than review each one, there are far too many, I will look at the cookware & bakeware that are considered the safest.

I have noticed that cast iron is making a comeback. It has become so popular that it is driving up the prices! People are searching thrift stores for the older cast iron cookware thinking that it was made better back in the day. Lodge Cast Iron Cookware is the oldest brand, since 1896, & is still available at reasonable prices. I have several of their cast iron skillets & love them. Cast iron bakeware is fantastic too. My next purchase will be a cast iron muffin pan.

Seasoning them is not complicated & gives you a natural non-stick surface. Once they are seasoned, the trick is to never use soap on them. I rinse mine with plain running water & use a soft brush to remove pieces of food. I then put it on the stove top at a medium heat for it to dry. While it is still warm I coat it with either olive or coconut oil. Once it is cool I put it away & it is ready for the next meal. 

Cast iron can be pre-heated to high temperatures for use on the stove top & in the oven. I have used it on gas stoves & now on my electric stove. Works the same with both. When pre-heating at a medium heat, this allows it to heat evenly. Cast iron also retains the heat longer than other pans.

One concern I have heard about is what types of foods shouldn’t be used with cast iron. On the Lodge website it has a Q&A page. Here is the answer to that question: Foods which are very acidic (i.e. beans, tomatoes, citrus juices, etc.) should not be cooked in Seasoned Cast Iron until the cookware is highly seasoned. The high acidity of these foods will strip the seasoning and result in discoloration and metallic tasting food. Wait until cast iron is better seasoned to cook these types of foods. Lodge Enameled Cast Iron is not affected by acidity and can be used with all foods.” I avoid this problem by cooking acidic foods in my stainless steel pans 🙂

If you have more questions about cast iron, check out this website….Foodal’s Guide to Choosing the Best frying Pan

The rest of my cookware is plain old stainless steel. It is safe. It has no toxic coating & it is nonreactive to foods. Clad or all clad stainless steel means it has an aluminum core between stainless steel sheets. I prefer the pans with a heavier gauge bottom. They heat more evenly.

The Smart Consumer: The Best Stainless Steel Cookware Sets has the best article about which brands are the best & why. The prices for sets range from $43 to $400. It also has information at the bottom of the page about what to look for when purchasing your stainless steel.

For baking I use stainless steel baking sheets & bread pans. I always use parchment paper on my baking sheets. Easier cleanup. I grease the bread pans with coconut oil. Works perfectly.

The two complaints that I have heard are: everything sticks to it unless you use a lot of oil & it is a beast to clean. I don’t have those problems. I have found that if you pre-heat the pan with a small amount of oil in it first & cook the food slowly at medium heat it won’t stick. If you stir fry then pre-heat the oil at medium heat first, then put on the higher heat needed. Make sure you “stir” as you “fry”; keep the food moving 🙂 If something sticks then soak the pan during your meal. By the time you are ready for cleanup it will be a breeze to clean. If the food is crusted onto the pan, use some baking soda in the water & allow it to soak. Never use steel wool pads or anything abrasive that will permanently scratch your pans. I think most people are in a hurry & use too high of heat when cooking. 

Ceramic, & enamel cookware. Mother Nature Network: What’s the Safest Cookware states that “These are generally safe options. Health concerns about using ceramic and enamel stem from components used in making, glazing or decorating the cookware, such as lead or cadmium. In the U.S. both of these highly toxic substances have been phased out, or at least limited in cookware manufacturing. This is not a place to ignore labels; if it says “Not for food use,” don’t use it for food!” I have noticed labels on cookware that state “not for food use”. Each time it has been at one of the dollar type stores. Read the labels!

Stone Frying Pans: Top 10 Best Ceramic Cookware Reviews of 2016 “Long story short, ceramic cookware is 100% safe, toxin free and environmentally friendly. It is among the healthiest cookware we recommend. When you go ceramic you can be certain that there are no harmful Teflon chemicals in the cookware.” Very good article. Click on the link above for their “healthiest cookware” for more information.

CorningWare has glass cookware & bakeware that is safe on the stove top & in the oven. Pyrex made glass frying pans & pots years ago, called Vision Ware. They no longer do. The newer version was prone to breaking or exploding on the stove top. Not good. I have always liked CorningWare. Oddly enough, I no longer have any. My pie pans & my lasagna pan are all glass by Pyrex  This is because they were my mothers 🙂

EcoWatch: 4 Types of Nontoxic, Eco-Friendly Cookware That’s Safe for You and Your Family talks about safe, nontoxic, eco-friendly cookware. One of the eco-friendly nonstick pans is by GreenPan. “Healthy cooking is not only about the foods you use: it is also about the right cookware.  The patented Thermolon™ non-stick technology is heat resistant up to high temperatures. This means that GreenPan™ has an extra safety feature; if you overheat your pan, even up to 450/850, no toxic fumes will be released and the coating will not blister or peel.” Sounds intriguing. 

Silicone bakeware. I have no experience with these. The best, informative article I found is in Leaf: The Dangers of Silicone Bakeware by Michell Powell-Smith. “Silicone bakeware is a popular solution for all sorts of baking needs, ranging from pan liners to muffin cups, from bundt pans to novelty cake pans. Silicone bakeware is durable, non-stick, brightly colored and quite flexible. Is it safe, though? This is a question on many consumer’s minds, ranging from professional bakers to the occasional home cook. Take a look at the information and make your own decisions about which forms of bakeware best suit your needs and whether you want to use silicone bakeware in your own kitchen.” Before you panic, read the article. It is not as negative as the title sounds. It has some very good information.

Foodal: Choosing the Best Nonstick Cookware 2016  This is an excellent website to help you choose “safe” nonstick cookware. I found this part very interesting: “A BRIEF DISCUSSION ABOUT PTFE AND PFOA COATINGS AND NONSTICK. Over recent decades, nonstick cookware has admittedly garnered a bit of negative attention, due to fears about emissions of toxic chemicals. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is more commonly known by the Dupont brand name Teflon, and has been in use since the 1940s. Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) is another associated chemical, which is used in the process of making Teflon.

In recent years, questions have been raised about whether PFOA can be harmful to human health, but because the chemical basically burns off during the manufacturing process, no data exists to show that using Teflon coated pans is in any way dangerous. After a great deal of research, even Good Housekeeping has given the go ahead for the safety of most nonstick coated pans, as long as they are used properly. This includes avoiding heating over 500°F, never preheating a pan empty, and making use of proper ventilation. In addition, high-heat processes such as searing and broiling should be performed in cookware that is not nonstick coated. The type of cooking fat that is used for these processed is an important consideration as well.”

On this same website: “Wondering if there is another option for nonstick cookware other than a chemical coating? There is! Hydroelectrically treating aluminum allows it to become more durable and useful, creating a nonstick type of cookware that is not coated using PTFE or PFOA.” There are quite a few options for hard-anodized cookware.

One last word on Teflon & PFOA. The American Cancer Society: Teflon and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)  “Should I take measures to protect myself, such as not using my Teflon-coated pans? Other than the possible risk of flu-like symptoms from breathing in fumes from an overheated Teflon-coated pan, there are no known risks to humans from using Teflon-coated cookware. While PFOA is used in making Teflon, it is not present (or is present in extremely small amounts) in Teflon-coated products.” If you have or choose to buy chemically treated nonstick cookware & bakeware, remember the following. Do not use at high temperatures because it will emit a chemical gas, it may also crack & peal. And lastly, do not use metal utensils or anything abrasive to clean with. Damaged cookware can leak chemicals into your food. 

I hope that the information has been helpful. I had one favorite tiny non-stick pan that I fried one egg in. Loved it! I saw the same size pan in cast iron & decided to try it. I like this one even more. Try something new. Add a new set or just one pan to your holiday shopping list!

Until next week…Mary 🙂

Soup Season!

MHollander

MHollander

 

Here, in the Pacific Northwest, we are in the midst of a series of cold storms. This is the beginning of our rainy season. The wind is howling, the rain is coming down in horizontal sheets, the surf is over 20 feet, & all I want is a bowl of nutritious hot soup!  Hence the subject of this weeks post 🙂

I am always interested in the origins of foods. It gives a history to the dishes I make. From Food Timeline:Food historians tell us the history of soup is probably as old as the history of cooking. The act of combining various ingredients in a large pot to create a nutritious, filling, easily digested, simple to make/serve food was inevitable. This made it the perfect choice for both sedentary and travelling cultures, rich and poor, healthy people and invalids. Soup (and stews, pottages, porridges, gruels, etc.) evolved according to local ingredients and tastes. New England chowder, Spanish gazpacho, Russian borscht, Italian minestrone, French onion, Chinese won ton and Campbell’s tomato…are all variations on the same theme.

Soups were easily digested and were prescribed for invalids since ancient times. The modern restaurant industry is said to be based on soup. Restoratifs (wheron the word “restaurant” comes) were the first items served in public restaurants in 18th century Paris. Broth [Pot-au-feu], bouillion, and consomme entered here. Classic French cuisine generated many of the soups we know today.

Advancements in science enabled soups to take many forms…portable, canned, dehydrated, microwave-ready. “Pocket soup” was carried by colonial travellers, as it could easily be reconstituted with a little hot water. Canned and dehydrated soups were available in the 19th century. These supplied the military, covered wagon trains, cowboy chuck wagons, and the home pantry. Advances in science also permitted the adjustment of nutrients to fit specific dietary needs (low salt, high fiber, etc.).”

Before I talk about the recipes for homemade soup that I use, lets look at some canned soups that are available. When lunch rolls around, we are usually in too much of a hurry to spend an hour making soup.


There are healthy canned soups that are delicious! The criteria I used for these examples: the can is BPA free, has healthy ingredients & is easy to find. 

Minestrone or Lentil Soup

Trader Joe’s: No BPA in these canned soups. Organic Black Bean Soup, Organic Lentil Soup, Organic Split Pea Soup. 

Trader Joe’s claims the following for all products under the “Trader Joe’s” brand name: The finest quality, natural ingredients.
NO artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
NO genetically modified ingredients
NO MSG
NO added Trans Fats

Organic Quinoa, Kale & Red Lentil

Amy’s Kitchen: No BPA in any of their canned goods. This site lists 30 of their soups with all the nutrition information including a list of ingredients. 

Organic Creamy Butternut Squash

Pacific Foods:  Not a can, in a carton. This is my favorite brand for soups. They have 37 Soups! Some are low sodium. Check out their site.

Imagine Foods: Another soup in a carton. Very tasty!

Health Valley Organic Soups: No BPA. Their soups have no salt added. check the ingredient list because they do add a bit of sugar.


 

A few days ago I wanted to use the Delicata squash I had on hand. I decided to use it in a soup. I found this wonderful recipe on Cafe Johnsonia’s website. This recipe is so good that I served it as soup the first night with chopped scallions over the top & then served it over brown basamati rice the following night. You can also use it as a curry.

Coconut Lentil Soup with Lemongrass and Ginger: Author: Lindsey Johnson

Prep time:  15 mins, Cook time:  30 mins, Total time:  45 mins

Serves: 4-6  A healthy vegan soup made with red lentils, coconut milk, and butternut squash. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups red lentils (or yellow split peas), sorted and rinsed well
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cups vegetable broth (can also use chicken broth or water), add less for a thicker soup Used “No Chicken Broth” with 6 cups of water.
  • 2 cups diced pumpkin or butternut squash I used the Delicata. Next time I will add another cup.
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk Trader Joes has a BPA free canned one. So does Native Forrest.
  • 1 Tablespoon lemongrass paste I used fresh, chopped, lemongrass from my herb garden.
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated (use a microplane) I keep slices frozen & just chopped them up for this recipe.
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder (or to taste, some powders and pastes are spicier than others)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves***, fresh or frozen (or strips of lime zest)
  • salt, to taste
  • a little sugar Didn’t use.

I didn’t bother with all the garnish.

  • fresh cilantro, garnish
  • sliced green onions, garnish
  • sliced green or red Thai chiles, garnish
  • hot cooked rice, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place lentils, onion and vegetable broth in a 3-4 quart pot. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until lentils start to soften, about 15-20 minutes. Add the diced squash, coconut milk, lemongrass paste, ginger, garlic, and kaffir lime leaves. Season well with salt, to taste. Bring back to a low simmer and cook until the lentils have completely broken down and squash is tender. Taste and adjust any seasonings as desired. Add a pinch of sugar.
  2. To serve, ladle soup over hot, cooked rice and garnish as desired.

***Kaffir lime leaves are thick, dark green and shiny on the top, porous and pale on the back. A leaf has two connecting leaves which I call ‘double leaves’. Tear a leaf to smell the distinct aroma. Fresh kaffir lime leaves keep well in a refrigerator for at least 2 weeks. Dried leaves are also available at markets. Many Asian markets now have fresh leaves. If the recipe calls for kaffir lime leaves and you can’t find any, skip the leaves. Don’t substitute. The fragrance is so distinct that it is irreplaceable.” From: Thai Table


We have had a lot of squash from our garden. I have used this recipe 4 times already! I like to serve it with roasted pumpkin seeds as a garnish.

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup: Recipe By:FutureChefShay

“Mellow acorn squash is roasted and blended with other ingredients to create a smooth and delicious soup.”

Prep: Cook:

Ingredients

  • 2 acorn squash, halved and seeded I have used different squash, dependng on what I have on hand. 
  • water, as needed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter Used olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock Used “No ChickenBroth”
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Put squash into a baking dish with the cut side down. Pour enough water into the baking dish to cover the bottom. 
  3. Bake in preheated oven until the flesh of the squash is easily pricked with a fork, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool until squash can be handled. Scoop flesh into a bowl and set aside. This can be done days before. You can also puree it & freeze in a canning jar for when you are ready to make the soup. You can also use canned pureed squash.
  4. Melt butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, carrot, and garlic in melted butter until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour chicken stock into the pot; add the squash.
  5. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Pour mixture into a blender no more than half full. Cover and hold lid down; pulse a few times before leaving on to blend. Puree in batches until smooth and return to pot. I have an immersion blender that I use to puree with.
  7. Stir half-and-half, nutmeg, and cinnamon through the blended soup; season with salt and pepper. Thin the soup with water if desired.

This last recipe can be served as a soup or a stew. I got the recipe from my daughter. It is my all time favorite soup/stew.

Vegetarian Tortilla Stew : from AllRecipes

Serves 4…Ready in 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 (19ounce) can green enchilada sauce                  

1 ½ cup water                                                         

1 cube vegetable bouillon  I use a “No Chicken” cube  

½ teaspoon Garlic Powder

¼ teaspoon Chili Powder

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans (drain, rinse) I use 4 cups of cooked beans.

½ (16ounce) can diced tomatoes I use the whole can. I prefer the canned roasted tomatoes.

1 cup frozen corn

½ cup chicken or vegetarian chicken (optional) I use seitan.

4 (6 inch) corn tortillas cut into strips

1 Tabsp. Chopped fresh cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

In a pot, mix the enchilada sauce and water. Dissolve the bouillon cube in the liquid, and season with the garlic powder, chile powder and cumin. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Mix in the beans, tomatoes and corn. Simmer until heated through. Mix in chicken and tortillas and cook until heated through. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper to serve.


I am always on the lookout for easy, healthy quick bread or muffin recipes to go along with the soup or just with a cup of coffee! I also want recipes that I can freeze; to keep us from eating them all in one day 🙂  I made these yesterday. Very moist & dense. 

Maple-Sweetened Banana Muffins from Cookie + Kate. Take a look at her soup & stew recipes too.

“These whole wheat, maple-sweetened banana muffins are so fluffy and moist, I bet no one can guess they’re healthy muffins. They’re easy to make, too, with basic ingredients and only one mixing bowl! Feel free to add mix-ins of your choice, like chocolate chips or toasted nuts. Recipe yields 11 muffins.” I added walnuts which made 12 muffins.

Prep time:  Cook time:  Total time: 
 
INGREDIENTS
  • ⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil I opted for the coconut oil.
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey I used the maple syrup
  • 2 eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
  • ¼ cup milk of choice (I used almond milk…me too)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 1¾ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned oats, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 1 teaspoon turbinado (raw) sugar or other granulated sugar, for sprinkling on top Left off the sugar.
 INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius). If necessary, grease 12 cups of your muffin tin with butter or non-stick cooking spray (my pan is non-stick and didn’t require any grease).
  2. In a large bowl, beat the coconut oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add eggs and beat well. Mix in the mashed bananas and milk, followed by the baking soda, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon.
  3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined. If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a small amount of oats (about 1 tablespoon), followed by a light sprinkling of sugar (about 1 teaspoon). Bake muffins for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan. Enjoy muffins as is or with a spread of nut butter or regular butter.

NOTES: Recipe adapted from my maple-sweetened pumpkin muffins with oats.
MAKE IT EGG FREE: I’m confident that these muffins will turn out well with flax eggs! ***see below how to make fax eggs.
MAKE IT VEGAN: Substitute flax eggs for regular eggs, use dairy-free milk like almond milk and use maple syrup instead of honey.
MAKE IT NUT FREE: Use a nut-free milk.
STORAGE SUGGESTIONS: These muffins keep well in the freezer. Store them in a freezer-safe bag and defrost individual muffins as needed.
CHANGE IT UP: You could really go crazy with add-ins here! Fold in mini dark chocolate chips, chopped dried cranberries or crystallized ginger and/or chopped nuts like pecans or walnuts. You could top them with my maple glaze from my pumpkin scones recipe if you want to make them more decadent!
SERVING SUGGESTIONS: These muffins would be fantastic with homemade pecan butter or coconut butter.

***  Minimalist Baker: How to make a Flax EggEasy to do & works well in baking.


I hope you enjoy the recipes or simply heat up a can/carton of healthy soup. Below, I have included websites with lots of wonderful soup recipes. I am sure you will find a favorite!

Until next week….Mary 🙂


More Soup Recipes!

Updates: EWG.org & a “Visual Wisdom Challenge”!

About half of the emails I receive are about personal care products, water safety, & the “dirty dozen”. I always recommend the website, The Environmental Working Group for information. I like this website because they call out the manufacturers that continue to use ingredients that are unsafe & they applaud those who have taken steps to make their products safer for the consumer. Very balanced views.

Let’s take a closer look at this website & the information that they provide. 

Who are they? The Environmental Working Group’s mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, we drive consumer choice and civic action. We are a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.  

We work for you.  Do you know what’s in your tap water? What about your shampoo? What’s lurking in the cleaners underneath your sink? What pesticides are on your food? How about the farms, fracking wells and factories in your local area? Do you know what safeguards they use to protect your water, soil, air and your kids? Which large agribusinesses get your tax dollars and why?  What are GMOs? What do they do to our land and water?”

If you have an interest in the latest news on the ongoing fight with Monsanto, toxins in our products etc. then check out these links on the website:

  • News “EWG keeps you up to date with analysis of the latest news, interviews with experts and more.” The articles are up to the minute & relate to issues that concern most of us.
  • Key Issues: This section looks at key issues by categories: Food, Energy, Water & more. The information here is also up to the minute. Worth taking a look at. 

Their Research tab has up to date information on toxins, food, water, consumer goods & more.

The part of this website that I use & recommend the most is: Consumer GuidesHere are some of the guides & links to them.

  • EWG’s Food ScoresYou can search for food products by manufacturer & EWG rates the product by nutrition, ingredient & process concerns. This way you can decide if you want to continue using the product. This is a very helpful guide.
  • EWG’s Skin Deep: Cosmetics Database: You can search for more than 62,000 products to see what ingredients they contain & if they are safe. This database includes sun products, makeup, fragrances, hair & nail products for men, women & children.
  • EWG’s Shopper’s guide to Pesticides in Produce: This is where you find the downloadable, free, guides for the “Dirty 12” & the “Clean 15”. These guides are kept up to date yearly. The 2016 guides are available there. Not everyone wants to be 100% organic but they do want to limit the amount of pesticides in their foods. These guides can help you make that decision.
  • Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors: “12 Hormone-Altering Chemicals and How to Avoid Them” The list includes BPA, Dioxin, Lead, Arsnic & Mercury. Each listing has a paragraph explaining what it is & how it can be avoided.
  • EWG’s Updated Water Filter Buying Guide  &  5 Reasons to Skip Bottled Water  The water filter guide is extremely useful. It helped me to decide on a counter top filter. I think you already know why you should not use bottled water, but if not, EWG has a good article explaining why.
  • Consumers Guide to Seafood: “Which fish are richest in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lowest in mercury contamination and sustainably produced? Get a downloadable guide here. There is a seafood calculator that is really helpful. You put in your weight, age, gender, heart disease (yes or no) & it calculates what fish you can safely eat & how often. Try it out! 
  • EWG’s 10th Annual Guide to Sunscreens: A bit late for this year, unless you plan on a trip to sunnier climes during this winter 🙂  Included is a list of tips on how to keep your skin healthy with or without the sunscreen. Keep this link handy for next year. 
  • Good Food on a Tight Budget: BETTER FOOD, LOWER COST: Stretching your dollars to get a month’s worth of healthy, filling food is a challenge. EWG assessed nearly 1,200 foods and hand-picked the best 100 or so that pack in nutrients at a good price, with the fewest pesticides, contaminants and artificial ingredients. Enjoy!” I am impressed with this link. It is a must read for everyone. Food can be expensive & this site will help you understand which foods are a good buy: fruits, veggies, grains, protein, dairy, cooking oil & staples. It also includes recipes!

Check here for the rest of the guides:  Consumer Guides.

Please take time to look over this website & make sure you bookmark it for easy access. It is chocked full of good, researched, information.


There were several articles last week about a study that concluded that fitness & food apps can cause weight gain instead of good health. I read the pro & cons of this topic & didn’t really agree. I think that any visual aid we use to eat healthier & to exercise is positive. I can also see how focusing on food & exercise in extreme can cause problems, and set us up for failure.

On one of my go to websites by Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, I found this interesting way of putting aside the apps & using our visual sense to show us what is a healthy way of eating.

What is a “Visual Wisdom Challenge”? Dawn Jackson Blatner’s website,  NUTRITION WOW, is having this challenge. She says: 

“The world of nutrition has gotten so complicated.
It’s time to SIMPLIFY.

Stop measuring out food, weighing portions, counting calories, calculating macros, using app trackers, etc., etc.Instead use a better, simple tool…YOUR EYES.

If we slow down & just LOOK at our food, our eyes can give us great food wisdom.”

Her challenge is simple:

“VISUAL WISDOM CHALLENGE
For the next 7 days, LOOK at each meal before you eat it, then ask yourself:

1) Do I have my RATIOS right at this meal?
If yes, eat & enjoy! If not, work to get them closer. A PERFECT PLATE has these RATIOS: ***Click on “Perfect Plate” for a printable guide.
a little grain + a little protein + lots of produce w/ a topper of healthy fat.

2) Am I seeing the results I want?
If yes, keep doing what you’re doing. If not, it’s time to downsize the grain & protein and pump up the produce.

Simple, but powerful. This simple exercise would serve us well when we go out to eat at a friends, a party or a restaurant. 

PS: Watch me use Visual Wisdom. VIDEO HERE!  She is so sweet! But I do not agree that macaroni & cheese would be a “grain” 🙂 

Again, please take time to go through her website & sign up for her newsletter. She has some wonderfully simple ideas to help you eat healthier. Don’t miss her Recipes 🙂


I have to comment on a news report I saw last evening. This is not intended to be a judgement of this woman, as we will never know the entire story, but as a way to insert a note of caution.

A woman, who calls herself an extreme vegan, is being charged with child endangerment for feeding her 11 month old, nuts & fruits only. The child is malnourished & developmentally behind for his age. Her other two children were vegan as well. The children were removed from her home & are now with their father, who is not vegan. The 11 month old improved almost immediately with a more balanced diet.

This is a good example of why any diet you choose to eat should be well researched. No matter what you choose, it should be balanced by including protein, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fats/oils & some dairy. Each individual food item contributes its own array of vitamins, minerals & nutrients. Along with that, you should be aware that individuals require different amounts of each nutrient, vitamin & mineral, depending on age, gender & activity. The outcome of this story shows how a healthy, balanced diet, can change a persons health very quickly.

Please don’t take what you feed your body lightly.

Until next week……Mary 🙂

Autumn Vegetables to Try.

We all get stuck on a handful of vegetables that we alternate between. Usually it is broccoli, carrots, potatoes, lettuce etc. Autumn is a good time to change that by introducing new vegetables & fruits into your repertoire. Oldway’s, one of my favorite websites, sent out their newsletter declaring October as Vegtoberfest: Putting More Plants On Your Plate  It fits right in with today’s post.

Vegtoberfest is a month-long campaign to get YOU to eat more plants, and to share your personal story behind going “veg” for the month. To participate in Vegtoberfest this October, you do not have to already be a vegetarian or vegan; in fact, you don’t even have to go completely vegetarian for the entire month if you don’t want to. You just have to put more plants on your plate!  Click on the link to join the program 🙂

 

 

 

I am going to highlight a few vegetables & fruits that we tend to overlook this time of year & include links to recipes.

Vegetables:

  • Artichokes: If you have friends from out of state you already know that artichokes are a “California thing”. Your friend will invariably ask “How do I eat this?” We have 4 artichoke plants. The first season this year gave us 85 artichokes! Luckily we love them. We are now having a fall season which brings smaller artichokes. I like them best when they are small. You can eat close to 90% of the artichoke when they are about the size of a lemon. I still prefer them steamed but we did enjoy them roasted.

How to Cook & Eat an Artichoke from Simply Recipes: Great aticle with steps on how to cook it & how to eat it 🙂  I add cloves of garlic under a few of the leaves. If you have smaller artichokes there is no need to cut the tips off. 

Need a New Artichoke Recipe? We Found Some of the Best! from the Huffington Post This has 30 recipes! I can’t wait to try some of them.

  • Brussels Sprouts: They look like tiny cabbages because they are thought to have been cultivated from the cabbage. You should look for fresh Brussels Sprouts that have tight leaves. You can buy them still on the stalk & they do last longer that way. I like them steamed but my favorite is roasted. Ours are not quite ready yet but I am seeing them in the market. 

Brussels Sprouts Recipes That Will Change Your Life from PureWow: Wow! Never thought I would find so many recipes for these.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts from food network: This is how I do mine, but I add a dash or two of Tamari Sauce to the oil. You can sprinkle Parmesan cheese or Nutritional Yeast over them before serving.

  • Fennel: Fennel has the aroma of licorice and anise. Fennel is an invasive plant in the wild. You will see it’s ferny leaves & smell the licorice scent when you brush up against it. The bulb, stalks, seeds, and leaves are all edible. My neighbor is Portuguese & he grows a bed of Fennel for his sisters to cook with 🙂

Fennel Recipes You Will Make Over & Over Again form the Huffington Post: “You’ve seen it before, in the supermarket or the farmers’ market — it’s white, bulbous with green stems and has frilly dill-like fronds. It’s fennel! Many people aren’t that familiar with it, because it just looks so alien. But fennel is actually a wonderful vegetable with a sweet, anise or licorice flavor that’s strongest when it’s raw but much more mellow when it’s cooked.” We are going to plant fennel for next year. Love trying new things.

Braised Fennel & White Beans from Food: Easy recipe.

  • Japanese Sweet Potatoes: These are similar to our sweet potato. They are dense & white inside. The peeling is somewhat bitter so you should peel it before cooking, although I have left the skin on & didn’t notice the bitter taste. It has fewer carbs & calories than a white potato & is high in antioxidants. Much healthier than a Russet. 

Gourmet’s Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes with Scallion Butter Recipe from Serious Eats: Very tasty.

Roasted Japanese Sweet Potato from ThisWeekforDinner: Simple recipe. They can be served the same as our sweet potato.

  • Pumpkin: Not the Jack-o’-lantern you carve, but the cooking pumpkin which is more dense, less watery, easy to cut & more flavorful. They are sometimes called “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins”. I like pumpkin soup.

19 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes from allrecipes: “That vibrant orange color tells us something about pumpkin’s health properties. Yes, it’s an excellent source of beta carotene, the powerful antioxidant. Our bodies translate beta carotene into Vitamin A, which is thought to protect us from certain cancers and other diseases, too. Vitamin A is also key for keeping your eyesight keen. Pumpkins are also a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. The seeds, meanwhile, are packed with fiber and protein; they are also an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron, and monounsaturated fat.

In the kitchen, treat pumpkin as you would any winter squash. Try it in healthy soups, stews, chili — even pancakes.

Pumpkin Bread  from Once Upon a Chef: I would use 1/2 the sugar, and use coconut oil rather than butter. You can use fresh baked & pureed pumpkin instead of canned if you want.

  • Rutabaga: This root vegetable is a cross between the wild cabbage & a turnip. It was originally used as feed for cattle. It became food for humans when it’s nutrition & sweetness was discovered.

Roasted Rutabaga & Mashed Rutabaga from foodnetwork: Easy & tasty. 

Turnip & Rutabaga Recipes from Martha Stewart: Good site as it starts with “Turnip & Rutabaga Basics” 🙂 She also has recipes for parsnips!

  • Shallots: It is like a small onion with cloves. It is popular in dishes because it is sweeter & milder than an onion.

Cooking With Shallots: 3 Simple Shallot Recipes from Mother Earth News: This starts with information about shallots.

Whole Roasted Shallots and Potatoes With Rosemary from FOOD: This sounds very simple & tasty. I will have to try it. My husband is growing potatoes & I always have a basket of them wondering what to try next 🙂

Fruits:

  • Asian Pear: Very juicy & crispy with a mild flavor. They are hard when ripe unlike our typical pear. You can eat them as is or add them to a salad.

Asian Pear Slaw from Epicurious: I think you could use these pears in a Waldorf salad instead of apples. They are hard & crisp. Worth a try.

Asian Pear, Persimmon, and Almond Salad from CUESA: Two of my favorite Fall fruits!

  • Kiwi: Kind of an ugly fruit: brown & hairy 🙂 But when you taste the strawberry like green fruit inside, you smile! 

California Kiwi Commission’s recipes: All you want to know about Kiwi’s.

  • Persimmons: You will see 2 different kinds of Persimmons in the market: Fuyu & Hachiya. 

“The Fuyu persimmon is an improved variety that benefits from a trifecta of qualities; it lacks a core, seeds, and tannins (tannins equate to an astringent persimmon). Fuyu persimmons have a squat and rounded beefsteak tomato like shape and are capped with an indented leaf on their stem end. Fuyu boasts pumpkin colored tones in both skin and flesh and when ripe possess layers of flavor reminiscent of pear, dates and brown sugar with nuances of cinnamon. Their texture varies from crisp and succulent when young to more tender as they mature. Fruits are ready for harvest when skins are deep orange and unlike most other persimmon types have no astringency and are ready to eat when still firm”. Recipes near the bottom of the page. This is my favorite of all fruits! I haven’t seen them at our local markets, so we are going to plant a Fuyu tree 🙂

Hachiya persimmons are rounded, slightly elongated and acorn-shaped, coming to a blunted point at their non-stem end. When fully ripe the fruits are a beautiful deep orange. Another indicator of ripeness is that the fruit should feel like a water balloon when resting in your hand. The skins are thin, similar to a tomato. The flesh is even deeper orange in color and more striking then the skin. When ripe the flesh is jellied in texture. The flavor is candy sweet and possesses nuances of baking spices, raisins and brown sugar. Recipes near the bottom of the page.

  • Pomegranates: “Late October, early November is the season for pomegranates, pinkish red orbs filled with crunchy, juicy seeds (known as arils), bursting with flavor. You can get them at most supermarkets, but if you live anywhere near where they are grown, it’s best to get them at a local farmer’s market. Here you are most likely to find the ripest pomegranates – the ones whose peels are beginning to crack open, their plump, ripe seeds expanding beyond the peel’s ability to contain them.” This site shows you how to cut & de-seed these wonderfully nutritious fruits: How to Cut & De-Seed a Pomegranite from Simply Recipes. 

6 Easy Ways to Enjoy Pomegranates  from Sunset: Simply throwing them in a salad works too 🙂

Healthy Pomegranate Recipes from EatingWell: The pear, quinoa sald sounds really good.

  • Quince: This is a fruit I know next to nothing about. I have eaten it only when prepared by someone else. It is not a fruit to be eaten raw because it is sour & gritty even when ripe. I will look for it & give it a try this year.

Quince: The Tough Fall Fruit With a Secret Reward from Kitchen: “Around this time of year I feel like it is both my duty and my pleasure to write a missive on quince. Do you know quince? It’s a fall fruit that grows in a manner quite like apples and pears — but its similarities end there. Quince is a tough fruit, not well known, and often hard to come by. But it has the most amazing sweet and secret reward. Here’s how to get at it.” Includes recipes.

Quince Recipes from Simply Recipes: Lots of good ways to use Quince.

I hope that this post gives you the incentive to try new vegetables & fruits this season……Mary 🙂

***Confession: While on vacation we hit a Trader Joe’s to stock up on our favorites. I saw a package of Trader Joe’s “Five Seed Almond Bars”; they are like biscottibiscotti. I was so excited I didn’t read the label or the ingredient list 🙁  When we got home & were ready to enjoy these tasty tidbits with coffee, my husband read the ingredient list (like I taught him). FISH OIL!!!! Not good for a vegan. YUCK!

Always read the ingredient list. Had I read the front label I would have been suspicious.

 

 

Resources for seasonal produce

San Diego Farmer’s MarketsLook at the menu on the left under “Buy Local”. Lots of good information.

San Diego Harvest CalendarThis site has a list of produce & what month you can find it.