Posts filed under ‘Eating’

Exercise in its Many Forms

It has been proven, very likely with you as your own best test subject – if you don’t like the type of exercise you choose, you’re unlikely to follow through and continue to do it. That said, there are umpteen ways to get a dose of heart- and limb-healthy energy into your day, so you should be able to find something that makes you happy. Let’s talk!

Walking  is still one of the best forms of exercise. It’s easy on your body and you don’t need a gym membership to make it happen. It makes me a little crazy to think of all the people who get in their cars and drive to the gym to exercise when they could just walk out their door and have their workout in front of them. All you need is a decent pair of shoes, which you should have no matter what type of exercise you choose.

Cycling is even better for those with joint and muscle problems. If you are overweight, it’s even easier for your joints to handle cycling than walking. Of course, this requires the bicycle, but you can find pretty good equipment at bike swaps, garage sales and online. Buy something inexpensive to start and upgrade as soon as you know you’re going to stick with it.

Yoga has now been proven to lower blood pressure, help with weight loss, reduce stress (which causes a whole host of other health issues) and may calm an irregular heartbeat. (http://tinyurl.com/3l3x8vk for the article on this particular issue.) It’s great because it helps you get limber, makes you focus on your breathing to keep you aware and also requires very little investment. A yoga mat and comfortable clothes are all you need, although blocks and a strap are sometimes handy.

Tai Chi Chih is the beginning step for those interested in martial arts. It teaches you control and is gentle on your body, which makes it great for those who don’t intend to take up more vigorous forms of exercise. No equipment or special clothing necessary and you can do it indoors or out, depending on the season and the weather.

Swimming is a great summer activity. There are outdoor pools and, if you’re lucky, lakes to tempt you. It’s gentle on your body and the only “equipment” you need is a suit. With this exercise, you use your own body’s weight to firm and tone your muscles.

Hiking is like walking, but the irregular ground uses your muscles in a more complete way, making you more stable overall. Plus, hiking allows you to get away from city noise and pollution and truly reconnect with yourself, and maybe your dogs.

Jogging is a wonderful way to burn calories and get zen at the same time. I never believed it until I started jogging, but it truly puts you in a “zone” where you feel at peace and pretty darn happy. If you are feeling strong in your walking routine, you can start by adding in a minute or two of jogging for every five minutes of walking. This is called doing intervals and is a great workout as well. Eventually you will work your way up to running longer distances until you are comfortable with where you are. Try to find dirt or gravel paths to lessen the impact on your joints.

Trail Running is a blend of hiking and jogging, and would be my favorite form of exercise if I were in a little better shape. You get that magic blend of great workout, beautiful scenery, softer ground and the runner’s high. What more could you want?

Of course, there’s kick boxing, climbing, all kinds of martial arts and even dancing, so no matter what, you should be able to find something that makes you happy and keeps you going.

June 1, 2011 at 6:06 am Leave a comment

Food of the Month: Raspberries

That sweet-tart burst of spring goodness found in raspberries is something I wait for all year. As soon as truly fresh berries appear in the grocery store, I’m there with bells on. Berries are on the pricier side and they are high in pesticide use, so I decided to grow my own, and nothing is easier to grow than raspberry canes.

Purchase raspberries at a garden center such as Rick’s or find a friend with runaways. Some varieties will produce two or more crops in a season. I favor these because I like to eat raspberries for as long as I can and freeze the rest.

Choose a location in full sun where you can get at the row from both sides to make it easier to harvest. Raspberries need a little room to spread since many types fruit on second year canes and that cane dies once spent. You need a space where you can leave them in place for a year and let the new canes move in to replace the spent canes. In the spring, once you see signs of life, you can prune out the dry, brown canes to leave room for the new growth and air flow through the patch.

Raspberries require little once established. To get them going, prepare your bed with 2-3 inches of rich compost, tilled in to 12″ or as deep as you can get it. Plant the canes before they have tons of leaves and keep them well-watered while they are establishing themselves. After two or three weeks, you should be able to start watering less, but make sure to keep them well-watered through their first summer.

After the first year, raspberries will be fairly xeric. Even with a winter as dry as we had, I only watered them two or three times and they have come back with a vengeance this spring. You will want to give them a little extra water once the canes start to bloom and set fruit to increase production.

Nutritionally, all berries are packed with life-affirming goodness. Raspberries are particularly high in vitamin C and manganese. According to the website World’s Healthiest Foods,

“As an antioxidant food containing ellagic acid, raspberries help prevent unwanted damage to cell membranes and other structures in the body by neutralizing free radicals. Ellagic acid is not the only well-researched phytonutrient component of raspberry, however. Raspberry’s flavonoid content is also well documented. Here the key substances are quercetin,   kaempferol, and the cyanidin-based molecules called  cyanidin-3-glucosylrutinoside and cyanidin-3-rutinoside. These flavonoid molecules are also classified as anthocyanins, and they belong to the group of substances that give raspberries their rich red color. Raspberries’ anthocyanins also give these delectable berries unique antioxidant properties, as well as some antimicrobial ones, including the ability to prevent overgrowth of certain bacteria and fungi in the body (for example, the yeastCandida albicans, which is a frequent culprit in vaginal infections and can be a contributing cause in irritable bowel syndrome).

Interesting to see what might be delicious and generally helpful to overall health at the same time.

Enjoy raspberries in salads, cold summer soups and light desserts. Following is one of my favorite recipes. For a cocktail party, make bite-sized meringues drizzled with the sauce.

Meringues with Raspberry-Cardamom Sauce

8 servings

Begin at least a day before you plan to serve the dessert and you can bake the meringues up to a week ahead.  Don’t make them on a humid day as moisture prevents meringues from drying properly and staying crisp.  Use a 3 ½-inch round cookie cutter or a 3 ½ inch round can/glass to trace the bases.

Meringues

1-½ c. sugar

2 T. cornstarch

6 large egg whites, room temperature

¼ t. cream of tartar

Position 1 oven rack in bottom third of oven and the other in top third; preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using 3 ½-inch diameter cookie cutter as template, heavily trace 4 circles on each parchment sheet.  Turn parchment over so that marked side faces down, but shows through.

Whisk sugar and cornstarch in medium bowl to blend.  Using heavy-duty or handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat whites in large bowl until foamy, about 1 minute.  Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.  Add sugar mixture, 1 T. at a time, beating until whites are very stiff and glossy, at least 4 minutes with heavy-duty mixer and 6-8 with handheld.  Scoop enough meringue into pastry bag fitted with medium star tip to fill ¾ full.  Pipe small dot of meringue under parchment in each corner of baking sheets.  Press parchment onto dots.

Starting in center of 1 marked circle, pipe meringue in continuous spiral to fill circle completely.  Pipe 1 meringue circle atop edge of base circle, forming standing rim.  Repeat, piping 2 more circles atop first, forming meringue cup.  Repeat with remaining circles, filling bag as needed.

Bake meringues 3 hours without opening oven door (sides of meringues may settle slightly).  Turn off oven; let meringues stand in closed oven overnight to dry completely.  (If making ahead, store airtight in single layer.)

Sauce

¾ c. seedless raspberry jam

½ c. sugar

1/3 c. water

1 16-oz. package frozen unsweetened raspberries (do not thaw) or 2 packages of fresh raspberries

1 t. ground cardamom

Fresh mint, thinly sliced

Whisk jam, sugar and water in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves an jam melts.  Boil until sauce thickens and is reduced to generous ¾ cup, whisking often, about 7 minutes.  Add berries and cardamom; stir gently.  Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Assembly (If you freeze the vacherins, the meringues will be tender and chewy rather than crisp.)

Place each meringue on a small plate. Spoon raspberry sauce over.  Garnish with mint to serve.

June 1, 2011 at 6:04 am Leave a comment

Fresh Eggs are Divine

Today is our day to get fresh eggs. They come from happy chickens who live east of the Springs and they are completely organic. They are fed some organic feed, which is good because a lot of feed is made from soy and that means GMOs if it’s not organic. The chickens get to be out in the sunshine, scratching in their yard. It’s a much happier arrangement than being crammed into a box with other chickens and barely enough room to move, let alone scratch (except each other).

The first delivery of eggs were the peewees from the hens who are just starting to lay. That happened in time for Easter and I know a bunch of happy families who dyed these tinier versions for their celebrations this year.

These fresh eggs also taste and look better. Store-bought eggs tend to have rather watery looking yolks that flow across the white when you crack it to make an over-easy, like they are tired. The eggs from my friend, however, have yolks that are bright orange (wakes you up)  and stand up firmly in their belief that they are the best darn eggs in the world. I’ve been making egg salad every week for a month now and it’s just delicious, not to mention the Sunday morning omelette. Mmmmm.

If you haven’t tried fresh eggs, you should. It’s well worth it and the easiest animal protein to digest. Several studies have now shown that cholesterol from eating eggs does not significantly contribute to serum cholesterol and plaque build-up in arteries, yet does offer tons of nutrients, protein and healthy fats so necessary for brain and muscle function.

The simple egg, as you crack it, the moon turns into the sun, and it’s obvious I’m getting tired as I wax poetic. Off to the next food adventure!

May 4, 2011 at 9:01 pm Leave a comment

Nurture Non-edible Plants for Great Edibles

Yes, that’s right – it helps to have an integrated landscape. Some people call this permaculture and the principle is simple: If you integrate many different plants into your garden, mixing annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs and edibles, it does many things.

First, those beautiful flowers attract beneficial insects and help preserve the bee population along with other pollinators. Beneficials, like ladybugs, will more effectively reduce your aphid population than any amount of pesticide and they’re cute too.  All plants that give you fruit from a flower such as tomatoes, squash and beans, require pollinators to create that fruit. Plus, if you have a neighbor with a beehive, you can get the freshest honey with all of its nutrients intact, made from the pollen of your plants!

Next, you can landscape to use water more wisely and create a more interesting look. Installing swales will catch the water when it does rain. You can put in plants that like more water at the base of the swale and those that can take it drier on the top, maximizing your rainfall. Additionally, plant lots of groundcover which will act as living mulch and its roots will stabilize the soil so that it doesn’t run off when it rains.

There are a few notable perennial edibles:  fruit trees, berries, asparagus and rhubarb. Plant these and, once they are established, you will be rewarded with fresh food from early spring through the summer, depending on what varieties you choose to plant. Plus, they look really great in the landscape. Both rhubarb and asparagus die back, but when they are in full regalia, they are an architectural addition to any garden landscape.

Then there is the care of what you already have. Today, even with gale force winds, I was out cleaning up the dead plant matter from last year and getting things freshened up to thrive this spring. Now the yard looks fresh. Air and water can reach the plant roots. I’ve top-dressed with some aged chicken manure from a friend’s little chicken ranch. I’m ready to see what else I want to add to my palette. It’s still early enough that I was able to whack off the dead stems just above the new growth and not damage much. What did get a little shorn will fill in quickly now that longer, warmer days are coming.

Thinking in terms of the whole picture is a great way to landscape and enhance your edibles.

April 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

The Sunchoke that Ate My Garden

Sunchokes are related to sunflowers and blossom as such.

The Mighty Sunchoke

I dug in the garden today, March 11, because it was close to 70 degrees here in Colorado Springs. Glorious to spread compost – there’s a worm party in my pile! I put a light layer of organic fertilizer in there as well.

As I’m moving down the row, I get to the place where the sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) grow. I keep trying to quell them, but they insist on coming back every year.

As usual, I dug down and found a bigger patch than ever! After half an hour of digging and sifting, I probably pulled out 30 pounds of those suckers.

The sunchoke is a vegetable that provides a bit of a quandary, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First, the good news: Sunchokes look like a cross between ginger root and a potato. The flavor is potato-like, but a bit more earthy. It does not need to be peeled and can be eaten raw or cooked. They are delicious sliced and sauteed in a little bit of butter, but you can also boil and puree them with broth and spices or roast them in the oven.

The quandary comes in the form of gas, and I don’t mean petrol. Sunchokes can cause a digestive reaction that is uncomfortable for some, but not everyone, and it seems to depend on how they are cooked. My personal experience is that if I eat them once in a while, and cook them pretty well, there’s no issue. I assume there are no guarantees that everyone will react the same way.

So, now I have approximately 30 pounds of sunchokes ready to do something with. That’s, of course, way more than I will be able to use, so I’m going to try to pawn them off on my friends and garden centers.

One more bonus – sunchokes are in the sunflower family, so they get tall and get a really beautiful sunflower on top in the late summer. It’s an architectural plant that looks great in the garden, in the right spot, maybe as a windbreak for your more tender annual edibles.

Enjoy!

March 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm Leave a comment

National Nutrition Month

Realizing that it’s national nutrition month and realizing that people need to be able to stomach nutrition (pun intended), here’s a way to improve your diet without stressing about reading labels and counting calories.

We all know that eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is good for you. Did you know, however, that it’s the colors in produce that signify what types of nutrients they contain? For instance, orange generally means you’ll get a good dose of vitamin A; green is often a signal for vitamin K.

What this means is that you can eat by color and not have to think so hard. The more colors you have on your plate the more nutritious your meal will be.

Here’s a delicious soup recipe that incorporates tons of colors.

Potato Bean Chowder

2 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
½ c. chopped celery
½ c. chopped green bell pepper
¼ c. chopped red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 ¼ c. water
2 c. (½-inch) cubed peeled baking potato
1 c. canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 t. ground cumin
1/8 t. black pepper
4 c. vegetable broth
1 (16-oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (16-oz.) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 ½ T. grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the onion and next 4 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
Add water and next 8 ingredients (water through navy beans), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese

Yield: 9 servings (serving size: about 1 ¼ cups)

March 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

One-Bowl Dinners

Almost everything makes me think of food. I can be walking the dogs and wondering how long until my next snack. Someone can mention their landscaping and I wonder what they might be growing that’s edible. Sometimes I’m even planning the next meal as I eat the one in front of me.

That said, the latest thing that I have my mind on is One-Bowl Dinners. Eating is a sacred act and one that has been largely ignored, even when we’re in the middle of a meal. We eat in our cars, at our desks while we are on the computer, or while we do homework. We eat energy bars instead of a real meal comprised of real food.

One-Bowl Dinners, on the other hand, are designed to get you to relax and focus on the food and the nourishment it provides. You eat in the company of others, but the meal itself is eaten without speaking. It gives you the opportunity to explore non-verbal communication with your table mates and really focus on food that is prepared from real ingredients with care so that it is infused with good energy as it comes from the kitchen to your bowl.

In the next month, a One-Bowl Dinner will be coming to Adams Mountain Cafe, presented by Jessica Patterson of Root Down and Grow with a little help from yours truly. These dinners sell out, so watch for details and get ready for a party in your mouth and body!

March 4, 2011 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

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