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Fall Foods for the Whole Family | 08.24.2014
Fall is back-to-school time as well as harvest time for a variety of super nutritious fruits and vegetables. Why not send your kids back to the classroom full of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants their bodies will need to stay healthy as cold season sets in?
Squashes are among the cheapest and easiest fall fruits to prepare, and they pack a powerhouse of nutrients, including potassium, carotenoids, folate, and fiber. Best of all, they are both kid friendly and baby friendly, being a great food for infants.
To prepare squash, simply split any variety (acorn, butternut, pumpkin, spaghetti) down the middle with a large knife, scoop out the seeds, place the halves flesh-side down in a pan with ½-inch of water, and bake at 350 degree for 45-60 minutes. The squash is done when a knife sinks easily into the flesh. To serve, scoop out the flesh and add butter and cinnamon to taste.
A high-quality butter from pastured animals will add Vitamins A and K2 to your dish as well as a healthy dose of saturated fat. Wait a minute, did I use healthy and saturated fat in the same sentence? Yes! Research is chipping away at the myth that saturated fat is bad, when in fact both saturated fat and cholesterol are essential for growth and development. See westonaprice.org for a wealth of information on the benefits of fat and other nutrient-dense foods—or do a Google search for the recent spate of articles in the news!
Spaghetti squash can be a fun food for kids since it looks like, well, spaghetti! After baking, scrape out the flesh with a fork and serve with butter, salt, and pepper, or with a little pasta sauce and Parmesan cheese.
Fall is also harvest time for that universal symbol of education, the apple. Making homemade applesauce or apple butter can be a fun project for the whole family, and can spare your kids the high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners added to commercial products.
To make your own applesauce, simply cut apples into 1-inch chunks (no need to remove the skin—it has lots of nutrition!), sprinkle with cinnamon, and steam for about 10 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Place steamed chunks into a food processor and puree with a few squeezes of lemon juice. You can also add a tablespoon or two of virgin coconut oil for extra flavor and nutrition.
For apple butter, place 10-20 sliced apples in a slow cooker with an inch of water (again, no need to remove the skin). Sprinkle with a generous amount of allspice and cinnamon and cook on low for 8-10 hours, checking periodically to make sure there is enough water in the bottom of the cooker to prevent burning. Puree the apples with the remaining water using a stick blender (or transfer to a food processor), adding a tablespoon or two of vanilla extract as you blend. If it’s too thick, add small amounts of water until you achieve the right consistency.
Cori Hart is the local chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, committed to reintroducing nutrient-dense foods into the Standard American Diet. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Healthy Homemade Snacks | 08.29.2013
Kids and adults need refueling — or to satisfy a food craving now and then — in the course of a day. Preparing healthy snacks ahead of time can help you and your family make easy, healthful choices when hunger strikes.
In fact, developing a repertoire of healthy snacks provides the opportunity for you to boost nutrition while satisfying hunger. If your preschooler ordinarily won’t touch fruit, for example, offering her a banana smoothie or apple slices with yogurt dip when she comes home from school famished might just convince her.
If your high schooler hasn’t gotten his share of calcium today, a yogurt parfait or some string cheese can be added to his tally during the course of the day.
Snacks for Energy
Keeping energy levels up requires frequent, healthful nourishment. Kids, in particular, need to eat often because they have smaller stomachs and quicker metabolisms than adults. For energy, choose snacks that are high in complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, and combine them with protein foods, like nut butters, cheese slices, and low-fat yogurt. Nuts are also good for a quick energy boost. Fruits, which are easily digestible, can provide energy in a flash, too.
Of course, there are times when energy isn’t what you’re looking for. Some snacks can actually help you sleep better. For bedtime snacks, choose those with healthful carbohydrates, such as fruits and whole grains, and calcium, such as milk or cheese. (Dairy is also a good choice because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that’s thought to be sleep inducing.)
Avoid foods that are high in sugar, because these can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate, making it harder to nod off and stay asleep. And a little protein is fine, but too much can interfere with sleeping because it takes longer than some foods for your body to digest. Good bedtime options include a whole grain cereal with milk, a glass of warm milk with fruit, and cheese and whole grain crackers.
Snacks also provide the perfect opportunity for exploring unfamiliar foods like fruits (pomegranate or persimmon, anyone?), nuts and nut butters (expand your horizons beyond peanut butter!) and cheese (that local Gruyere or Edam), for example.
Here are some ideas for snacks that deliver great flavor and nutrition:
* Air-popped popcorn: Sprinkle generously with nutritional yeast, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, a natural Ranch dressing mix, or pop in coconut oil (a staff favorite!).
* Fruit kebabs: Include fruits like berries, melon, and pineapple. Serve with a dip, such as softened cream cheese sweetened with just a drizzle of honey and a drop of vanilla. Or slide on cheese slices (cut into fun shapes, like stars or hearts for young kids). Try rolling a banana in peanut butter and chopped nuts and freeze for a healthy popsicle!
* Dips: Kids and adults alike love to dip, so serve up some hummus or white bean dip alongside some fresh veggies or whole grain crackers.
* Quesadillas: Use whole grain tortillas to make quesadillas packed with cheese, beans, corn and tomatoes. Add cooked tempeh cubes or leftover cooked meat or poultry pieces, if you wish.
* Homemade cookies: Cookies are hard to resist and some are more nutritious than others, so think about choosing recipes that include more wholesome ingredients like oats, dried fruit, and nuts.
* Extra-ordinary nut butter and jelly sandwich: Transform the usual PB&J by using a variety of nut butters and fruit spreads (rather than high-sugar jellies). Use whole grain bread. Or simply serve a nut butter with fruit slices on rice cakes or whole grain crackers.
* Fortified fruit crisp: Make a fruit crisp (sweetened with just a little honey or maple syrup), topped with wheat germ or granola and a dollop of yogurt.
* Smoothie sensations: Use any combination of fruit, yogurt, milk, soymilk, and fruit juice to make instant snacks in your blender. Add protein by including a spoonful of peanut butter (especially good with banana, and vanilla yogurt!). Add extra heft and calcium by including some milk powder. Toss in a couple of ice cubes to make the drink frothy.
* Squirrel food: Make your own trail mix with an array of nuts and seeds, dried fruits and, if you like, whole grain cereal. Add a few chocolate or carob chips to for a sweet treat.
* Ice pops: Pour unsweetened fruit juice and/or leftover smoothies into molds or ice cube trays. Include fruit, like raspberries or blueberries, and yogurt for a dairy boost. You can even blend in a little peanut butter for protein.
* Perfect pitas: Make your own pita chips: Cut into triangles, brush with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a little something (like Italian seasoning, garlic powder, or nutritional yeast). Bake until lightly browned. Dip in hummus. Or stuff pita bread with scrambled eggs or tofu salad.
* Fruit pinwheels: Spread cream cheese or nut butter on soft, whole grain tortillas. Add fresh fruit slices (or dried fruit pieces), then roll and slice.
* Fruit and veggie muffins: Substitute applesauce for some or most of the sweetener in any muffin recipe. Banana can often be substituted for eggs and it’s easy to ‘smuggle in’ zucchini or carrots for a produce boost.
* Fruit leather: Cut very ripe fruit into pieces and puree in blender or food processor. Add honey or maple syrup to citrus fruits (no need to sweeten other fruits). Pour into a cookie sheet that’s lined with waxed paper. Spread to edges. Bake in a warm (140 degree) oven for about four hours.
* Mini sandwiches: Whether or not you serve tea (an herbal iced tea would be nice!), offer mini sandwiches because they’re special. Cut whole grain bread slices with a cookie cutter, top with hummus and a cherry tomato (or cream cheese and a cucumber slice), and serve open faced.
Find it at the Co-op: Watch our endcaps and Co+op Deals for savings on lunch items.
Save time at the Deli Café: If you need a lunch in a flash for you or your kids, our deli can quickly create a custom bagged lunch of sandwiches (see our kids’ sandwich menu!) or other healthy foods. Call ahead and we’ll have it ready for you!
Preserving Tips: Dehydration | 08.15.2013
No added ingredients necessary! Air circulation and heat—from the sun or a dehydrator—are all you need to dry many fruits and veggies for storage. The dehydrated product is easy to store, too.
Here are a few tips:
• You can make simple drying racks out of untreated wood and screen. The racks, which can be stacked, are designed to keep the food off the ground and allow air to circulate underneath.
• Placing cheesecloth on the screen under the produce will help absorb the moisture.
• When drying produce in the sun, also cover with cheesecloth to protect from insects and birds.
• You can purchase a dehydrator, which evaporates the moisture. These are made up of stackable trays that sit over a heating element. Stovetop dryers are also available. (While our ancestors would dry produce in the warming oven of a wood stove, using your oven isn’t an energy savvy method of dehydration, no matter how low the setting.)
• Don’t dry food in the microwave; the food will usually burn before it dries.
• To make fruit leather, dry thin sheets of fruit purée.
• Another simple dehydration method is to string and hang herbs, onions, and garlic.
• To dry veggies, blanch them first, then dry in the sun or a dehydrator.
• Store dried produce in an airtight container in a dark place.
For more information on dehydrating, check out the Yellowstone County Extension Service and download their preserving guides.
Dehydrating Vegetables (pdf)
Dehydrating Fruits (pdf)
Solar Cooking | 04.10.2013
Nature has provided no better way to cook our food than with sunlight. That may sound like a pretty sweeping statement, but for almost everyone I know who has done a bit of solar cooking over time, the agreement would be nearly unanimous. Generally, the food just tastes better! A simple pot of brown rice or a chicken, for example, receive a unique transformation with a dash of sunlight added. You have to taste it to believe it.
I have solar cooked for twenty-three years and taught and demonstrated it nearly as long. I enjoyed it from the first time I did it.
I believe it is a gift literally “from on high” waiting to come into our experience to transform life. It already is doing just that in many parts of the world where countless daily lives are so much better for the entry of solar cooking.
There’s a touch of fun in taking a pot of food and putting it in a homemade or manufactured solar cooker and knowing that the only “fuel” involved for cooking is sunlight. Plus there’s no heat added to the kitchen, nothing added to the utility bill, no toxins for the environment, and delicious food added to the table!
There are very simple homemade cookers that can be constructed in 30 minutes with a dollar’s worth of materials and a Reynolds oven bag to insulate your pot while it’s in the cooker. You can see the easiest-to-make, the Box-Corner Cooker.
While this particular homemade cooker works well in mild to warm weather, there are more sophisticated designs which can provide for cooking even in freezing weather. I have done a lot of cooking in Minnesota and Montana in temperatures hovering around zero.
Generally speaking, if I have bright sunshine, I can solar cook.
A number of manufactured units are on the market, at least three made domestically. The “Sun Oven” is the most widely known followed by the Solar Oven Society “Sport“. Solarcooking.org is a vast resource to help you find your way into the world of solar cooking is. Almost every facet of solar cooking is covered in detail:
– endless ideas for constructing your own unit
– learning many of the finer points of cooking by sunlight
– seeing how this cooking method is transforming lives in many developing nations
– how you can help make the solar revolution real in the lives of others you may never see.
Youtube.com provides hundreds of videos related to solar cooking, to give you another huge resource. Many other online information resources are just a few clicks away when you plug “solar cooking” into a search engine.
Solar cooking is, I believe, a step into the future of food preparation that is available today. Make sure you don’t miss your opportunity to taste the future of food right now. Happy cooking!
Gregory Lynch believes every person should know the value of self-sufficiency. He will be demonstrating solar cooking techniques (weather permitting) at our Earth Day event on Friday, April 22 from 11am-2pm.
Making Your Own Stock | 01.02.2013
Soup stock is the foundation for many of the tastiest soups, and it’s a flavor enhancer for many a dish too. But canned and packaged stocks are generally high in sodium and may include artificial ingredients, like monosodium glutamate (MSG). You can find healthier and organic varieties at your co-op, but if you use stock frequently in your cooking, it can get expensive. Despite what you may think, making your own stock requires minimal effort, costs little money, and will keep you, well, stocked for months.
There are a million and one uses for a good homemade stock, including:
- Making your own soups and stews
- Adding depth to homemade pasta sauces
- Using in place of water or butter to infuse rice, couscous, or other grains with flavor
- Braising greens and other vegetables
- Deglazing pans to make gravy
- Substituting for wine in any recipe
The most versatile stocks are chicken and vegetable stock, but the possibilities don’t stop there. Beef stock, fish stock, chili stock, ginger stock—the list is limited only by your imagination. For the sake of simplicity, file away this basic how-to for chicken or vegetable stock and improvise from there.
What you’ll need:
- 1 pound chicken bones (if making chicken stock); reserve the bones every time you roast a local, pastured chicken and freeze in a plastic bag until you’re ready to make stock
- 1 pound assorted vegetables: carrots, celery, onions, garlic, or other root vegetables, washed and chopped into large pieces
- 1-2 dried bay leaves
- A few handfuls of fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, or whatever else you have on hand, washed and added to the pot, stems and all
- 2-3 tablespoons whole spices: black peppercorns, coriander, caraway, fennel, etc.
In a large soup or stockpot, add all the ingredients and cover with 12-16 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 3-4 hours. The liquid should reduce slowly; if it seems to be drying out quickly, add more water and turn down the heat.
After 3-4 hours, strain the stock, discarding all solids (it’s okay if a few whole spices escape the strainer). You should be left with 8-10 cups of stock. Season to taste with salt or just wait to salt until you use it in a recipe. Divide stock into one-cup portions in small plastic bags or containers and freeze (this way, you can thaw just as much as you need).
Just one Sunday afternoon spent making a batch of stock can save you $20-25 on the store-bought variety over the course of a few months. And you’ll have a healthier, more flavorful ingredient to use in your kitchen—no bones about it.
Reposted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop.