Weeks Ten CSA Challenge – Working Girl

This week I started a part-time job instructing “Business Planning for Entrepreneurs.” Classes start September 17th, and I need to build a new 12-week curriculum before that date. Heading into an office other than the one at my home and adding extra hours of work to my schedule made this week’s challenge an easy choice. I needed to make meals that wouldn’t consume too much time in the preparation and would provide leftovers that could become lunches for the week.

Another great first this week…my niece took her first horse ride! No more ponies led by others. Amanda took the reins.

Reins

The ride was beautiful and on the way back to the barn, we saw a beautiful sunset! Life in the country rocks.

Sunset

Week ten CSA included: beets, collards, carrots, onions, yellow squash, bell peppers, hot peppers, jalapeño pepper, corn, garlic, zucchini, and tomatoes.

Week Six Challenge:

Think outside the casserole and make dishes that satisfy for a meal as well as serve up well reheated for a lunch.

RECIPES, LINKS, REVIEWS AND DISCOVERIES

Stuffed Green Pepper

Recipe: Stuffed Peppers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: My first stuffed peppers without meat and they were refreshingly good. I still like meat, but more and more lately I don’t get really hungry for it often. The yellow squash and the zucchini baked inside the peppers really were a great match to the pepper.

 

Vegie Burgers

Recipe: Spicy Black Bean and Corn Burgers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: These were so good that I made a quadruple batch and froze them as patties for future lunches and dinners. To the large batch I did add an extra can of whole black beans I didn’t mash and I went really light on the flour. They held together fine without it. Also VERY good with Sweet Chili Sauce.

Beets

Recipe: Roasted Beets

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-beets-recipe.html

Review: When roasting beets you really can’t go wrong. The thyme added a little something extra. My local grocery didn’t have goat cheese. Yes, I can’t believe it either. So I had to substitute for feta. Good, but not as good as goat cheese.

 

Chicken-Rice Soup

Recipe: Chicken and Rice Soup

Link: My brain

Review: I buy my chickens locally these days. They roam free at Barry’s Barnyard. They feed in a pasture…protected from predators in a huge wire and wood enclosure. Chickens raised this way taste better in my opinion. But until I used a slow-cooked chicken carcass I made for dinner to make soup, I didn’t know how much better they were. For years I thought I had gotten my grandma’s recipe wrong because my chicken noodle just didn’t have that special something hers had. But using the free-range chicken for the soup made the difference. It tastes exactly like grandma’s soup.

Recipe: Cut up a good-sized onion and scallion, about 5 whole carrots, celery if you like. Rinse the whole chicken inside and out. Season lightly inside and out with Borsari. Mix together some of the onion and carrot and celery and place inside cavity. Place mixed veggies in bottom of slow cooker and place chicken on top of them breast side down. Make about 2 cups of chicken bullion and pour into slow cooker, add about two cups more or water. Turn cooker to low and cook for about 4 hours. I start checking at four hours because cooking time will range with the size of the chicken being cooked.

When chicken is done, lift and serve.

 

Pour the veggie and bullion mixture left from slow cooking into a stockpot. (Remove some of the fat from the top of the mixture to reduce calories if you like before transferring it to the new pot.) Pick the carcass for meat and add the meat to the veggie and bullion mixture. To be really authentic to the recipe, remove the larger chicken bones, snap them in two and add them to the mixture. Now is the time to add any extra produce you may desire. Collards worked great, but anything you like with chicken will be good. Add a bay leaf to the mixture and cook on low temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Remove bones and add noodles or rice (cooked separately in advance) to the pot and cook for about ten more minutes. ENJOY and thank Mrs. Nevada Elizabeth Smead Gray.

Weeks Ten CSA Challenge – Working Girl

This week I started a part-time job instructing “Business Planning for Entrepreneurs.” Classes start September 17th, and I need to build a new 12-week curriculum before that date. Heading into an office other than the one at my home and adding extra hours of work to my schedule made this week’s challenge an easy choice. I needed to make meals that wouldn’t consume too much time in the preparation and would provide leftovers that could become lunches for the week.

Another great first this week…my niece took her first horse ride! No more ponies led by others. Amanda took the reins.

Reins

The ride was beautiful and on the way back to the barn, we saw a beautiful sunset! Life in the country rocks.

Sunset

Week ten CSA included: beets, collards, carrots, onions, yellow squash, bell peppers, hot peppers, jalapeño pepper, corn, garlic, zucchini, and tomatoes.

Week Six Challenge:

Think outside the casserole and make dishes that satisfy for a meal as well as serve up well reheated for a lunch.

RECIPES, LINKS, REVIEWS AND DISCOVERIES

Stuffed Green Pepper

Recipe: Stuffed Peppers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: My first stuffed peppers without meat and they were refreshingly good. I still like meat, but more and more lately I don’t get really hungry for it often. The yellow squash and the zucchini baked inside the peppers really were a great match to the pepper.

 

Vegie Burgers

Recipe: Spicy Black Bean and Corn Burgers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: These were so good that I made a quadruple batch and froze them as patties for future lunches and dinners. To the large batch I did add an extra can of whole black beans I didn’t mash and I went really light on the flour. They held together fine without it. Also VERY good with Sweet Chili Sauce.

Beets

Recipe: Roasted Beets

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-beets-recipe.html

Review: When roasting beets you really can’t go wrong. The thyme added a little something extra. My local grocery didn’t have goat cheese. Yes, I can’t believe it either. So I had to substitute for feta. Good, but not as good as goat cheese.

 

Chicken-Rice Soup

Recipe: Chicken and Rice Soup

Link: My brain

Review: I buy my chickens locally these days. They roam free at Barry’s Barnyard. They feed in a pasture…protected from predators in a huge wire and wood enclosure. Chickens raised this way taste better in my opinion. But until I used a slow-cooked chicken carcass I made for dinner to make soup, I didn’t know how much better they were. For years I thought I had gotten my grandma’s recipe wrong because my chicken noodle just didn’t have that special something hers had. But using the free-range chicken for the soup made the difference. It tastes exactly like grandma’s soup.

Recipe: Cut up a good-sized onion and scallion, about 5 whole carrots, celery if you like. Rinse the whole chicken inside and out. Season lightly inside and out with Borsari. Mix together some of the onion and carrot and celery and place inside cavity. Place mixed veggies in bottom of slow cooker and place chicken on top of them breast side down. Make about 2 cups of chicken bullion and pour into slow cooker, add about two cups more or water. Turn cooker to low and cook for about 4 hours. I start checking at four hours because cooking time will range with the size of the chicken being cooked.

When chicken is done, lift and serve.

Pour the veggie and bullion mixture left from slow cooking into a stockpot. (Remove some of the fat from the top of the mixture to reduce calories if you like before transferring it to the new pot.) Pick the carcass for meat and add the meat to the veggie and bullion mixture. To be really authentic to the recipe, remove the larger chicken bones, snap them in two and add them to the mixture. Now is the time to add any extra produce you may desire. Collards worked great, but anything you like with chicken will be good. Add a bay leaf to the mixture and cook on low temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Remove bones and add noodles or rice (cooked separately in advance) to the pot and cook for about ten more minutes. ENJOY and thank Mrs. Nevada Elizabeth Smead Gray.

Unbeetable

nutrition.jpgWhen I was a kid, there weren’t many vegetables that I liked. Purple, bloody beets with their mineral-rich taste from a life underground did not stand a chance of making my “will eat” list.

But children grow, tastes change, and around college everyone has to experiment. It began innocently at the salad bar. There they were, the cut, canned beets of my youth lying sad and neglected in their stainless steel crock beneath the sneezeguard. Somehow, I couldn’t leave them there like that, filled to the rim, neglected by all. So I put three slices atop my salad and drown them under a deluge of ranch dressing. To my surprise, I was was not able to choke down a bite of beets dripping with buttermilk, mayo, vinegar and herbs. But I actually liked the beet’s earthy flavor – what I could taste of it. I knifed back some of the dressing to reveal more of the beet’s flavor and tried another bite. I was hooked.

At my first job, a friend took me to a Russian restaurant and ordered me a bowl of borscht. With the first spoonful, I was hopelessly lost in my love for the beet. This newest root vegetable experience moved beets from my salad menu to my main course.

Over the years, I have become a bit of a beet connoisseur. Red beets, golden beets, Chioggia (striped) beets, mixed beets, baby beets…I would roast them all in carefully hand-shaped aluminum foil pods with just enough olive oil that the oven’s heat would transform them to fresh-cooked beet-fection! Beet salad, beet pasta, beet glazes, beet pastries, beet tarte, beet chips, smoked beets, even beet brownies were all made and devoured. Okay, by now you likely think me a freak of beetkind, so I must assure you that I have enjoyed many other interests and foodstuffs over the years. Beets are not my life, but they do hold a culinary fascination.

Since delving into the world of actual nutrition contained in the goodies I consume, I have come to not only love, but to respect the beet for what it brings to the table.

Beyond the beet’s prescribed nutrition labeling:

–       Rev the juicers this St. Valentine’s Day because beets (and especially beet juice) contain boron, a trace mineral that increases sex hormone levels in both women and men.

–       Pee assured of your stomach acid level. If you eat beets and then notice a festive pink color to your urine, you are low in stomach acid. A girl-power tinged stream means that your digestive system is not working to its full power. It is an indication that your GI track may be letting you down in the metabolization and assimilation departments, not taking full advantage of the nurturing minerals and vitamins in the foods you feed it.

–       Beets can be a recovering sugar-addict’s best friend. The beet root is filled with the sweet stuff (about 20% sugar, 75% water and 5% pulp). Beets are a simple carb (digested quickly) and that is glycemic index bad news (64 out of a 100 rating). But since beets are nutrition- and phytochemical-dense they stand out from their snack-cake cousins for those who are not compromised in insulin production.

–       You are now entering beet-tox!  Red beets are rich in betaine, which is good news for your cardiovascular health and liver. Without getting into dizzying scientific nomenclature, the detoxification properties of betaine lessen your chances of peripheral vascular disease, stroke, heart disease, and even liver disease by lessening the fatty deposits that accumulate there. And if beets made you tink pink, keep eating, because the betaine in beets actually raises stomach acid levels.

–       Beet cold season. The high concentration of vitamin C in red beets helps you dodge the common cold. Beyond the sniffles, the red beet’s combo of vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants called betalains, has been studied to help in the areas of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic inflammation.

–       A beetroot juice a day keeps the high blood pressure away. The journal Hypertension published by the American Heart Association established that 500 ml of beetroot juice lowered blood pressure an hour after consumption and the effects lasted up to 24 hours – thanks to the beet’s high nitrate levels. Nitrates (nitric oxide) has also been shown to increase the efficiency of your mitochondria, boosting energy levels, endurance, and oxygen-levels in the blood vessels.

–       Skip the turkey but keep the sense of well-being. Yes, beets conjure the dreamy, mind-calming effects brought on by foods like Thanksgiving fowl and chocolate because they also contain tryptophan. The betalains found in red beets have been used in some treatments of depression. And though so far, only rats have been put to the test, but the uridine found in beets and molasses have been shown to improve mood disorders.

–       Those green-loving Brits have even begun using surplus sugar beet crops to produce biobutanol, an alternative bio fuel source.

–       The beet’s high levels of potassium, magnesium, niacin, folic acid, iron, lutein, zeaxanthin, and more could keep me here all day touting beets benefits. But all this typing has made me hungry for beets. How about oven roasted beets with crumbled Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor goat cheese…oh yeah, that’s the spot.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

A couple weeks ago, I was feeling sorry for myself because my knee and elbow seem to have plateaued in the healing process. Since self-pity is unattractive and gets you nowhere, I started to ask myself what more I could do to kick-start the healing process.

The question rattled around my brain, until one morning about a week ago. I awoke with an image of a food pyramid and some vague recollection of the phrase “inflammatory foods.”

I headed to my file cabinet and under “things to investigate” I found it…Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 9.35.19 PM

I studied the food pyramid. Despite working hard for years to improve my diet, my intake had little resemblance to Dr. Weil geometric devising. So I sat down and drew a poignant pyramid of my current eating.

chuck's

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laugh if you must…or even see yourself…but this pyramid shows a great improvement over my past eating. Still, agreed, there is a long way to go.

Perhaps I was stalled out on my healing because I was stalled out on my eating. Since sugars and processed grains are some of the biggest bogeys on the inflammatory foods hit list.

Trying to piece together a strategy, I researched inflammatory foods to discover which should go first. But each pithy top-six, top-twelve, or top-ten worst inflammatory foods list seemed to contradict another and leave out a whole universe of potential offenders.

So I looked a little further. Excuse me if my research was not exhaustive and if the results have any whiff of dubious new age shamanism. There seems only a small body of research to endorse the science of the Inflammatory Food (IF) Rating, other than the science of its component pieces. However, if trying an eating regimen that is balanced and can cause no harm may bring any healing, I will set aside my doubts and tuck in.

The IF Rating system was proposed by Monica Reinagel, MS, LN, CNS and IF ratings were first published in 2006 in The Inflammation Free Diet Plan. IF Ratings incorporate twenty factors that affect a food’s inflammatory potential, including: amount and type of fat; essential fatty acids; vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; glycemic index; anti-inflammatory compounds, and serving size.

The rating system is anything but simple, but if a food is rated with a negative number, its inflammatory properties trump its anti-inflammatory properties. But since the scale seems large and – at times – difficult to place mentally, a quick chart will help here.

Food’s IF rating                     Degree of inflammatory/anti-inflammatory properties:

200 or higher                        Strongly anti-inflammatory

101 to 200                               Moderately anti-inflammatory

1 to 100                                     Mildly anti-inflammatory

-1 to -100                                 Mildly inflammatory

-101 to -200                           Moderately inflammatory

-200 or lower                        Strongly inflammatory

A quick browse of the Internet led me to a link where you can look up a food’s IF rating. http://inflammationfactor.com/look-up-if-ratings/ To me, the online look up system could use some streamlining, but it seems comprehensive, if not entirely complete.

Then I found another link to an app called the “IF Food Tracker” for the iPhone or iPad. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/if-tracker/id356816950?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4 Not enough reviews to really gauge if this app is field tested enough to warrant its $5.99 download price, but it is quite intriguing. It seems to track caloric as well as anti-inflammatory consumption as well as provide the IF rating for a wealth of foodstuffs.

I realized I was falling down the rabbit hole. I could research for months and still not have any decisive data or the ultimate electronic tool. Sometimes too many variables can impede action. I had decided that an anti-inflammatory food plan could only improve my eating habits and might have bonus healing benefits. Now I just needed a plan and to move forward.

I studied Dr. Weil’s pyramid. Yes, it was limited, but from it I could construct a weekly menu to follow. I could refine the menu each week and research other foods to bring into the mix as I progressed.

So I made my menu and began eating it. Despite one regrettable smoothie experiment, I must say, I really liked my meals. And wonder of wonders (sarcasm intended) whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables really kept me comfortably filled up from one mealtime to the next. Only downside was that all those beans and vegetables sent me floating to the health food store for some alpha-galactosidase enzyme to relieve the bloat…and other flatulent results. On the upside, the storeowner told me that our bodies produce the enzymes needed to digest the food we eat. Since I had slammed into the change rather than phasing in the new foods, my body was unprepared and I was ripping – I mean reaping – the whirlwind. However, as my new food choices became a lifestyle, my enzyme production would adjust and the active ingredient of Beano would no longer need to be ingested.

While eating Dr. Weil’s way, I noticed that I had an incredible decrease in sugar cravings. I had been certain that bottoming out on sugar eating would send me on a Bugs Bunnyesque crack-up. But no looney tune cavorting, facial tics, or wild ravings were elicited. This seems miraculous as previously sugar was so primary in my diet. I did notice that after I had a diet soda to alleviate a headache, I craved sugar and baked goods for about six hours. Now, there is something to consider.

I also didn’t shame myself once in my eating in the past week. I didn’t stress about the calories added to my regular soy yogurt and Kashi breakfast by the addition of some acorn squash, chia seeds, diced almonds and flax oil. Instead, I contentedly envisioned the lubrication and healing that these foods would bring to my body and took comfort in the fact that their addition would leave me well sated rather than searching for snacks until lunchtime.

I had one other realization today while hiking with the dogs…neither the extreme uphill climbs nor the downhill jogs gave even a flicker of warning pain in my knee. Was it a fluke, a placebo effect or a week of anti-inflammatory eating? There is no way to be sure. But, I know that whatever you call it, it was a direct result of recasting myself as proactive hero from helpless victim.

SUPER YUMMY meals and foods discovered in week one:

Quinoa with crispy sage and crumbled walnuts

Soy yogurt with Kashi, diced almonds, flax oil, chia seeds and acorn squash

Edamame hummus and vegetables

Bob’s Red Mill 13-bean chili with ground chicken and bunches of hot peppers (I am considering making this again with fish or tofu)

Bob’s Red Mill 10-grain hot cereal with sour cherries, bee pollen, macadamia nuts, and (sigh) a little brown sugar

Peanut/Coconut Butter

raw cocao powder