Category Archives: meal planning

Wellness Wednesday: Sweetheart Quinoa Breakfast

A few years ago I had a friendly waitress let me in on a little secret; cook quinoa directly in the coconut milk for “breakfast quinoa”.  Add some seasoning such as cinnamon and, voila, a simple breakfast substitute.

Well sourced quinoa (often from fair trade channels in countries such as Bolivia) is good for a.m. protein, at 8 grams per cup.  It is also a “complete protein” which refers to the whole form and that fact that it consists of an adequate proportion of essential amino acids.  Appropriate protein and healthful fat sources incorporated into the a.m. meal is thought to help support appropriate hormonal regulation through out the day.

To make your sweetheart (and you yourself are also a sweetheart!) a special Valentine’s day themed breakfast, consider making this and adding antioxidant rich dark cherries, raspberries, or strawberries.  Although not in season for all this time of year, organic berries can typically be found in the frozen food section or freeze dried fruits have seemed to pick up in popularity.

I would also suggest cacao nips and coconut flakes!

*Note:  Freeze dried fruits are great for travel and not candied in the way dried fruit options are.

Wellness Wednesday: It’s Winter in the U.S. Are You Missing Fresh Produce?

I’m going to let you in on a nutrition “do”…  when it comes to produce, quality most certainly matters!  So what’s the “do”?  Quite simply, seek education of the options, weigh them, then make the commitment to select the best options.

There is a plethora of things that can affect nutrient composition and density ranging from the mineral composition of the substrate it was grown in, the time it was picked as compared to the degree of ripeness, to how long it transported before getting to your plate.  These variables matter.

If you are dependent on super markets or corner stores to provide your produce, then you might find it challenging to pick the best options, particularly over cooler winter months.  Therefore, it’s good to have an idea of what is in season.  It will likely cost less and may be available through local sources which could be indicative that it was picked riper and shipped much less in distance.

According to Fruits & Veggies More Matters, winter is a great time for options such as certain cruciferous options such as Brussels sprouts, Collard greens, and Kale.  It can also be prime time for Sweet potatoes, Squash, Turnips, Dates, and Pomegranates (n.d.).  No wonder these are staple to holiday meals!

The Fresh Everyday Produce website also highlights Oranges, Grapefruit, and Cranberries (2012).  Finally, one other special mention is Greatist blog post “The Best Winter Fruits and Vegetables to Eat This Winter” for highlighting by cool or warm climates (Breene, 2013).

You may also consider what you can grow on your own.  An article on Off The Grid News highlighted different ways to grow Broccoli, Cabbage, and Cauliflower all year long without a garden (Cash, n.d.).

Modern technology is also on our side.  With the explosion of aeroponic and aquaponic methods paired with the local food movement, at home options are popping up every where and growers are investing in the systems to “up” the quality of what is available in grocery settings as well.

Personally, I’m partial to the Tower Garden.  Have you seen these things?  Available for outdoor or indoor use, the aeroponic system grows fresh produce faster, uses less water, and requires less space as compared to traditional farming methods.  Also, when given the right low-maintenance care, it can produce much more abundance for the dollars you put in as opposed to purchasing in stores.  Add one to your living environment and you might just make friends with those neighbors!!!

Nourishment through adequate nutrition from whole food sources is imperative for all seasons and it’s easy to get off track in winter.  Hopefully you can now say you know more about the what, where, and how to stay on track in terms of fresh produce.

References:

Breene, S. (2013, Dec 9). The Best Fruits and Vegetables to Eat This Winter. Retrieved from Greatist: http://greatist.com/health/seasonal-winter-produce-guide.

Cash, P. (n.d.). 3 Vegetables You Can Grow All Winter … Even Without A Garden. Retrieved from Off the Grid News: http://www.offthegridnews.com/survival-gardening-2/3-vegetables-you-can-grow-all-winter-even-without-a-garden/.

Fresh Everyday: What’s in Season. (2012). Retrieved from Fresh Everyday Produce: http://fresheverydayproduce.com/in-season/.

What Fruits and Vegetables Are In Season During Winter? (n.d.). Retrieved from Fruits & Veggies More Matters: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/whats-in-season-winter.

Other Mentions:

Wellness Wednesday: 5 Ways to use Jarred & Frozen Fresh Foods in Winter!

Many generations have relied heavily on “canning” food and I am not referring to metal canned items lining shelves in an average modern grocery store.  Yes, mason jars reigned.  Once upon a time, preserving food in this way from the various harvest seasons allowed for produce to be enjoyed across the cold, non-harvest months.

Thankfully, consumer trends have seemed to revive a likening for the jars.  Some of this is fashion, however also, at least I feel, a returned interest to classic and “clean” recipes (and packaging methods) has further instigated.

Somehow, I have turned into my grandmother and became a collector of what I deem “re-usable” glass jars.  Pickle jars are often fantastic, but I have re-used the jars from coconut oil, mustard, and tomato products stored in glass among other things.  I had so many greens last summer and fall that I started chopping them up into jars and freezing them for winter.  At one point, I counted 17!

NOTE – be careful which jars you freeze as some designs are not good for this and will break in the freezer…  I have learned this the hard way!  Therefore, for any foods that take more preparation, please use good, sturdy mason jars such Ball or Kerr.

This all brings me to my point…  Jarred or stored away foods are great for winter recipe planning.  Now, if you are like me and have an abundance of frozen greens, you have great sustenance for smoothies or soups.  However other “good ideas” are fruits, jarred tomatoes or juice, stocks, and purees (my CSA actually puts pureed squash in freezer bags for winter share deliveries).

In fact, using the correct preservation methods, you can make a fair amount that is shelf stable versus frozen or refrigerated.  It’s a great way to get in a few of the things you might miss over the winter months (or will pay an arm and a leg for at a grocery store).

My top 5 are:

Tomatoes – I can use about any type of prepared tomato (diced, stewed, juiced, etc) for a hearty cooked dish; soups, curries, stews & chili’s, & layered baked dishes just to name a few.

Pickled Anything & Krauted Foods – Did you know that the term “pickles” is not just for cucumbers?  Thankfully some savvy farm to table restaurants are reviving this notion and so should you.  Just about any farm, fresh vegetable can be pickled.  If you have followed my posts for a while, it is incredibly easy to pickle using vinegar and water with desired herbs and seasonings.  Making a Kraut isn’t all that hard either and how about the probiotic boost it will give you!

Fresh Herbs – There are some technical methods online for “how” to do this, but I typically just freeze them in small packs in order to use as needed.  If you have a wonderful indoor growing system, then this may not be useful, but if you don’t have room for one, freezing the excess in summer and fall is a good back up plan.

Greens – You guessed it.  Why let those fresh nutrient rich options go to waste?  Frozen, they can be used in most any stove-top dish; stir-fries, soups, sautés, etc.  I have even thrown excess lettuce in the freezer to later add to smoothies.

Fruit Preserves – This is a guilty pleasure and not something I would recommend for your daily plan.  I probably go through less than ½ a dozen jars of preserves a year and they are small.  However, it’s a winter treat that I can use for oatmeal crisps, with nut butters, drizzled over banana “ice cream”, or simply by the spoon.