Energetics of Flaxseeds: More Than A Seed

Did you know that Charlemagne himself was a huge fan of flaxseeds?  He was so impressed with the versatility of the flaxseed (it can be used as food, medicine, and as a source of fiber in linen) that he created and passed laws that required its cultivation and consumption.

The earliest farming and consumption of flaxseed happened in Mesopotamia around the Stone Age. There are even records of it being used in Ancient Greece. The botanical name for flax is linum usitatissimum, which means most useful.  A most apt name for this multitasking seed.

Varieties

There are 2 main varieties of flaxseeds.  Flaxseeds are a bit larger than sesame seeds and they have a hard outer shell. Flaxseeds can be purchased as whole seeds, ground into a meal, or as oil. Flaxseeds are available all year round.

Yellow and Golden flaxseeds are used mostly for culinary uses.  When buying flaxseed at the store, this is the variety available.

Brown flaxseed is used mostly in the production of paint (as an oil additive) and linen.  It is also used as cattle feed.

How to Choose and Store

Flaxseeds are usually stored in either bulk bins or are prepackaged. If you platoon buying bulk always make sure that the store has a quick turnover of inventory and that the bins have a good seal. Always check to make sure there is no moisture gathering as that can lead to rotting and mold.

To extend the shelf life of your flaxseed I suggest buying it whole.  Whole flaxseed stay fresher longer than pre-ground seeds. Whole flaxseed needs to be stored in an airtight container and put in a cool, dark, dry place (like the fridge). If stored properly flaxseeds will stay fresh up to 3 months.  If you wish to extend the life, you can store them in the freezer for up to 6 months.

If you are buying flaxseed oil make sure you get cold-pressed or organic.  It should be stored in an opaque bottle and stored in the fridge.

How to Properly Use Flaxseeds

Always grind flaxseeds before serving.  In order to allow the digestion and absorption of nutrients from flaxseeds, they need to be ground to break their hard shells. You can find flax seeds pre-ground or you can buy whole seeds (which have a longer shelf life) and use a coffee grinder at home.

Nutrition

Flaxseeds are a great source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. ALA is an easy to use form of energy for the body, it inhibits inflammatory compounds,  and is also essential for proper skin function. Diets rich in ALA are associated with a lower risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Flaxseeds are also a great source of lignan phytoestrogens, this is a phytonutrient that is converted into 2 hormone-like substances, enterolactone and enterodiol.  These hormone-like substances demonstrate a number of protective functions against breast cancer.  Flaxseeds are a good source of dietary fiber, containing both insoluble and soluble fiber. Therefore, they have been found to have a laxative effect decreasing constipation and increasing the number of bowel movements. Flaxseeds are also a good source of free-radical-scavenging manganese and copper, as well as bone-building phosphorus.

Energetics

Flaxseeds are neutral, so they are neither warming or cooling, and they have a sweet flavor.  Flaxseeds can be used as a laxative or to relieve pain and inflammation.  They influence the spleen-pancreas and colon. As a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds are great for boosting immunity and cleaning the heart and arteries of plaque.

Blueberry Lemon Breakfast Quinoa

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Rinse quinoa in a fine strainer with cold water to remove bitterness until water runs clear and is no longer frothy.
  2. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat until warm, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir quinoa and salt into the milk; simmer over medium-low heat until much of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir maple syrup and lemon zest into the quinoa mixture. Gently fold blueberries into the mixture.
  3. Divide quinoa mixture between 2 bowls; top each with 1 teaspoon ground flax seeds to serve.

Source

 

Energetics Of Winter Squash: Go Beyond Pumpkins

It’s that time of the year again, supermarkets and farmer’s markets are teeing with squashes of all varieties. These squashes are more than just for decorating your porch in October or your table at Thanksgiving, they are super yummy to eat as well!

The squashes that we know today originated from a wild squash that grew in an area between Guatemala and Mexico.  This wild squash was held in high regard by many Native Americans, so much that it was buried alongside their dead to provide nourishment on the final journey.

Varieties

Winter squash is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, a relative of both the melon and cucumber. Winter squashes come in array of sizes and flavor, but they share a hard protective skin, sweet flesh, and a hollow inner cavity that contains seeds.  Not only the flesh great to eat, but you can save the seeds and roast them for a delicious and nutritious snack.

Hubbard Squash

Hubbard Squash

Butternut Squash is shaped like a large pear, has cream-colored skin, deep orange flesh, and has a sweet flavor.

Acorn Squash has dark green skin speckled with orange patches, pale yellow flesh, and has a unique flavor combination of sweet, nutty, and peppery.

Hubbard Squash is a large squash that can be dark green, grey-blue or orange-red in color, and this squash is not as sweet as other winter squashes.

Turban or Buttercap Squash is green in color with speckles or stripes, orange-yellow flesh, and has taste like hazelnuts.

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha is the generic name used for a variety of Japanese winter squashes that are becoming popular in markets around the states.  Their taste are similar to sweet potatoes and are richer and creamier than other winter squashes.  Unlike the other winter squashes, you do not need to remove the skin of kabochas, the skin gets soft and tastes great.

Spaghetti Squash is a large rounder squash that is yellow in color with a thin but surprisingly hard outer shell.  The flesh is also yellow in color, but after cooking it has a texture similar to strands of spaghetti. The flavor is lightly sweet, so it makes a great low carb substitute for pasta.

Pumpkin is an underappreciated squash, as 99% of pumpkins purchased in the states end up rotting on people porches as jack-o-lanterns.  Although, the variety of pumpkin sold to be used to carve these Halloween decorations tend to be too stringy to eat.  The best pumpkins for cooking are sugar pumpkins, as they are sweet and the flesh is not as stringy.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

Winter squashes is available starting in August through March, but the peak season for them is October and November.

How to Choose and Store

To find the best tasting winter squashes, look for ones that are firm, heavy for their size, and have dull rinds.

Avoid any squashes that have a soft or glossy rind, as that may be an indicator that the squash may be watery and lacking in flavor, and those that have water-soaked or moldy areas.

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

Winter Squash is a hearty vegetable and stores easily.  If stored properly they will remain fresh for 3-4 weeks.  Always store uncut winter squashes in cool, dark places away from heat or bright lights.  They should never be put I the fridge or other areas with extreme cold.  If the squash is already cut store in an airtight container or plastic storage bag with the excess air removed, then put it the crisper area of your fridge.  To get the most vitamin C out of your squash you should eat any cut squash within a few days.

Nutrition

Sugar Pumpkin

Sugar Pumpkin

Winter squash has the most concentrated source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) of all vegetables. ALA is an omega-3 essential fatty acid that is very good for heart health.  The deep yellow and orange colors of the winter squashes are a reflection of its carotenoid phytonutrients—alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin—content. In addition to the phytonutrients, winter squash also is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, antioxidants that benefit overall health, including heart health.  The vitamin A in winter squash is not just an antioxidant, it is an important nutrient for lung health, as it is essential for the growth and development of the tissues that line the lungs.

winter-squash-nutrition-facts-copyWinter squash is also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, B1 and B5, niacin, manganese, copper, and tryptophan.

Energetics

Winter squash is warming in nature.  It influences the spleen-pancreas and stomach, reduces inflammation and burns (fresh squash juice is applied to relive burns), improves qi-energy circulation, and alleviates pain.  Squash and its seeds can be used to destroy worms, though seeds are the most effective. For parasitic worms, eat a small handful of the seeds of a winter squash once or twice daily for 3 weeks. Compared to summer squash, winter squash has higher amounts of natural sugars, carbohydrates, and vitamin A.

 

 

 

Pumpkin Tacos

Pumpkin TacosIngredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups cubed fresh pumpkin (or any squash)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning (see below)
  • 12 flour or corn tortillas, warmed
  • 3/4 cup diced fresh tomato
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced ripe avocado
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the pumpkin in the heated oil 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in the vegetable stock, spices and garlic.
  3. Cook until the pumpkin cubes are easily pierced through with a fork, 5 to 7 minutes.  Adjust spices to taste.
  4. Fill warm tortillas with pumpkin; top with tomato, onion, avocado, and cilantro as desired.

 

Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, cayenne, oregano, basil, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container.

(Recipes courtesy of AllRecipes.com)

 

 

Energectics of Tangerines: The Perfect Snack

photo credit: Sharon Gerald via photopin cc

photo credit: Sharon Gerald via photopin cc

The Tangerine is one of the most popular varieties of the citrus fruit. What many people may not realize is that the tangerine is actually a branch of the mandarin family of oranges.  Tangerines are the perfect lunch mate or snack, as they are small in size and its skin is very easy to peel.

How to Choose and Store

There are a few varieties of tangerines. There is the honey tangerine, followed by the sunburst, and the fallgo. These types are not very popular in stores, unlike the Dancy or the Fairchild. The Dancy’s rind is deep reddish-orange, thin, and easily removed. The juice is rich and sweet. Dancy Tangerines are available from mid-December through January.   The Fairchild tangerine is the “First of the Season” tangerine and is known for its “zipper skin” (easy to peel). The Fairchild has an orange rind with a bright orange interior. The texture will vary from smooth to somewhat pebbly. Fairchild Tangerines are available from mid-October to mid-January.

photo credit: Sharon Gerald via photopin cc

photo credit: Sharon Gerald via photopin cc

Tangerines are winter season fruits. However, one may find them in supermarkets all over the year, thanks for advanced storage techniques. A ripe tangerine is firm to slightly soft, heavy for its size, and pebbly-skinned with no deep grooves, as well as orange in color. Avoid fruits with spots, excessively softened or feel “hollow” in hand. Once at home store, it is best to store them in a zip pouch and place in the fridge. They will keep for up to a week this way. As always, try to eat them as early as possible in order to enjoy their rich flavor and to get full benefits of nutrients.

Energetics

Tangerine NutritionTangerines are a valuable source of flavonoid anti-oxidants like naringenin, naringin, hesperetin, vitamin A, vitamin C and carotenes; in fact, several times higher than in the oranges. They also contain low amounts potassium, magnesium and vitamins B1, B2 and B3. Tangerines contain Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which both help keep your eyes safe from oxidative stress and macular degradation.

Tangerines are a general tonic for weak digestion and poor appetite, and they help regenerate body fluids. They help cool and moisten those who are dry and overheated from disease processes, physical activity, or hot weather.  Tangerines are good for treating inflammatory and highly acidic diseases, such as arthritis, as well as high fevers.  Their high level of vitamin C benefits those with weak gums and teeth.

The peel of the tangerine has qi-stimulating, digestive and mucus resolving properties.  The inner white lining of the peel when placed directly on the eyelid, helps dissolve eye cysts.

Tangerine BeefTangerine Beef

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds beef tri-tip steak, trimmed of excess fat
1 tangerine
4 scallions, sliced, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons orange preserves
Directions

Pierce the steak with a fork several times on each side. Remove a 2-inch strip of zest from the tangerine, halve the fruit and squeeze the juice into a resealable plastic bag. Add the zest, scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, ginger, garlic, pepper flakes and 1/4 cup water to the bag and mix well. Add the meat, seal the bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the broiler with a broiler pan in place. Remove the steak from the bag and reserve the marinade. Pat the meat dry and place on the preheated broiler pan. Cook, without turning, until the meat is golden brown and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 130 for medium-rare, about 10 minutes. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before slicing; reserve the drippings.

Meanwhile, boil the marinade in a small pot over medium-high heat until slightly thickened. Stir in the orange preserves and the drippings from the meat. Slice the meat against the grain and top with scallions. Serve with the sauce.
Source

Tangerine Beef

Energetics of Persimmons: A Winter Fruit

It is that time the year again, persimmon season. Their harvest starts in November and goes through February. Persimmons are consumed world wide, from Asia to South America. Like tomatoes, they are considered a fruit but are on fact a berry.

Persimmons are delicious fresh, dried, raw, or cooked. One way to consume very ripe persimmons, which can have the texture of pudding, is to remove the top leaf with a paring knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Riper persimmons can also be eaten by removing the top leaf, breaking the fruit in half and eating from the inside out.  Dried persimmons, or hoshigaki, are a great way to have a nutritious snack.

 

Best Way to Choose and Store

Persimmons are categorized by astringent and non-astringent. The two most common types found in the US are the hachiya and fuyu. The hachiya is the most common, heart shaped and very astringent.  The astringent nature is due to the high tannin content which is lessened as it is ripened, therefore it must be ripe to be edible.

photo credit: amira_a via photopin cc

photo credit: amira_a via photopin cc

The Fuyu is flat and can be eaten firm or soft.  The fuyu is less astringent and contains less tannins and loses the tannins quicker, therefore can be eaten firm but becomes sweeter the softer they are.

So just remember, Hachiya;  heartshaped and eaten soft.  Fuyu; flat and eaten firm or soft .

Before ripening, persimmons usually have a “chalky” taste or bitter taste. To soften or ripen a persimmon, place it in a well lighted place for several days, or place in a paper bag.  For even speedier ripening add an apple or banana to the bag which exposes the fruit to ethylene gas.  Or the fruit to extreme cold which will also result in ripening.

Energetics

Persimmon NutritionPersimmons have high levels of dietary fiber, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and manganese, but lower levels of copper and zinc. hey also contain vitamin C and provitamin A beta-carotene.  Persimmon fruits contain phytochemicals, such as catechin and gallocatechin. These phytochemicals increase plasma antioxidant activity (ability of plasma to scavenge free radicals), brachial artery dilation (blood vessel expansion), and fat oxidation. Persimmons also contain betulinic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as a more recently discovered potential as an anticancer agent, by inhibition of topoisomerase.

Persimmons cool heat (especially lung heat), builds body fluids, moistens the lungs, removes phlegm, tonifies the spleen-pancreas, and soothes mucous membranes in the digestive tract to relieve gastrointestinal inflammation.  They are used to treat heat and/or dry conditions, thirst, canker sores, and chronic bronchitis. Partially ripe persimmons, which are mildly astringent, are used in treating diarrhea, dysentery, hypertension, and spitting up, coughing up, or vomiting blood.

 

Persimmon Curry SoupCurried Persimmon Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 lb. peeled Fuyu Persimmmns
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 5 cups chicken stock (Reduced Sodium)
  • 1/2 tsp. Curry Powder
  • Lemon
  • Cilantro

 

Step 1: Gather 3 ½ pounds of persimmons together and bathe them.  After they’re washed, remove the four leaves that sit atop the persimmon’s crown.  Take a knife and cut away at the persimmon’s sides like you would an orange, saving as much flesh as possible.  Next, remove the core and cut the persimmon into slices and set them aside.

Step 2: Mince ½ cup of onions as well as one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger.  Add them to the pot along with ¼ cup of reduced sodium chicken stock and let the smell engulf your kitchen.  Take your 3 ½ pounds of persimmons and add them to the mixture, letting the mixture reduce.

Step 3: When the persimmons begin to stick to the bottom of the pan due to a lack of liquid, add another ½ cup of chicken stock to the mixture.  Follow this step several times, allowing the persimmons to become soft and the mixture to become somewhat thick in consistency.  Add curry powder to the mix 30 seconds before you remove the soup from the heat.

Step 4: Remove your mixture from its pan and place it into a blender (provided it has cooled somewhat).  Blend until you’re satisfied with the texture, pour your soup into a bowl and garnish with a sprig of cilantro and a few drops of lemon.

Source

Curried Persimmon Soup

Energetics of Beets: Beet Roots

Beets were first cultivated by the ancient Romans, and the invading tribes were then responsible for introducing them throughout Europe, where they were used as animal fodder.   It wasn’t until the 6th Century that beets became popular for human consumption.

Beets are a two-in-one vegetable, as you can eat both the leaves and root!  The root is what people general are referring to when they say beets and the leaves are known as beet greens.  In fact, for a time the beet greens were the preferred portion of the plant to eat, which comes as no surprise for they are delicious and nutritious.  Today I am going to be concentrating on beet roots!

 

 

Varieties

The three varieties below represent the bulk of beets found in the market today.

Table beets are the most popular variety of beets and are most commonly found in local markets.  These beets come in many colors including red, yellow and white speckled with pink.  Red beets contain a health-promoting phytonutrient called betacyanin, which is not found in yellow or rainbow colored beets.

Sugar beets are specifically used for the production of refined sugar and alcohol.  These large white beets are not generally eaten as a vegetable.  Their sugar content is more than twice that of red beets and they lack many nutritional benefits.

Mangelwurzel, also called fodder beets, are used for animal fodder.

How to Choose and Store

yellow beetsBeets are available throughout the year, but their peak season runs June through October.

Select the best tasting beets by looking for medium-sized beets with firm roots, smooth skin and deep color.  Avoid beets that have spots, bruises or soft, wet areas, all of which indicate spoilage.  Shriveled or flabby beets are aged, tough and fibrous.

The best way to store fresh beet is in the fridge.  Cut off the stems and place in a plastic storage bag prior to refrigerating.  Do not wash your beets before refrigeration.

 

Nutrition

Beet Nutrition Facts Beet roots contain a unique class of phytonutrients called betalains.  It has only been found in a few foods and of those foods beets are the most commonly consumed. Betacyanin a red pigment concentrated in red beets, and betaxanthin, the yellow pigment found in yellow beets are just two examples of betalain phytonutrients.   Betalains have many antioxidant properties, especially in the liver and intestines.  Beets are also heart-healthy, in that they have high levels of fiber, folate, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C.  Other beneficial nutrients in beets are free-radical-scavenging manganese and copper, energy-producing iron, bone-building phosphorus, and sleep-promoting tryptophan.

Energetics

Beets strengthen the heart, sedates the spirit, improves circulation, purifies the blood, benefits liver, moistens intestines, promotes menstruation.  Used with carrots for hormone regulation during menopause.  Treats liver stagnancy and liver ailments in general, as well as constipation.  Also treats nervousness and congestions of the vascular system.

Note: The greens contain oxalic acid, and in high doses, inhibit calcium metabolism.

Red Flannel Hash

red-flannel-hash-vertical-aIngredients

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped cooked corned beef
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked beets
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional, and use gluten-free Worcestershire sauce if cooking gluten-free)
  • 1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Directions

 

1 Heat butter in a frying pan (cast iron preferred) on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook a couple minutes, until translucent.

2 Add the corned beef, potatoes, and beets. Stir in the pan to combine, and spread out evenly in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium. Press down with a metal spatula to help brown the mixture. Don’t stir, but just let cook until nicely browned on one side, then use a metal spatula to lift up sections of the mixture and turn over to brown the other side. If the mixture sticks to the pan too much, just add a little more butter to the pan where it’s sticking.

3 When nicely browned, remove from heat. Sprinkle in some Worcestershire sauce, if using. Stir in fresh chopped parsley, if using, and sprinkle on freshly ground black pepper to taste. There should be enough salt from the corned beef, but if not, add salt to taste.

Serve plain or with fried or poached eggs.

Source

 

 

Energetics of Cauliflower: Surprisingly Colorful

photo credit: Cauliflower via photopin (license)

photo credit: Cauliflower via photopin (license)

Cauliflower is an extremely versatile vegetable.  Delicious and nutritious whether roasted, boiled, fried, steamed, or eaten raw!  It gets its characteristic white coloring form the thick green leaves that cover the head from sunlight, thus preventing the production of cholorophyll that makes vegetables green.  Although, due to natural mutations there are colorful cauliflower as well.

 

Varieties

Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family and comes in three main varieties.  The first variety is white cauliflower, which is the most widely available and most common in grocery stores. The second variety is the colored variety in light green, purple, and orange.  This variety is newly developed and is becoming easier to find in grocery stores.  The last variety is the broccoflower, a recently developed cross bred of cauliflower and broccoli.  Its curd (compact head) is green and looks less dense than cauliflower, and it has a milder flavor.

How to Choose and Store

When looking for the best tasting cauliflower, look for heads that are clean with creamy white, compact curds and that the curd clusters are not separated.  Cauliflower with many thick green leaves tend to be fresher. Size does not affect taste, so choose one that best suits your needs.

Avoid cauliflower heads that have brown spots, dull coloration, or small flowers.  These are indications that the cauliflower is old and no longer fresh.

Cauliflower is a sturdy vegetable, and can keep for a while if stored properly.  To store your whole head of cauliflower put it in a plastic storage bag, squeeze out as much air as you can, and store in the fridge.  It will last up to 7 days if stored correctly.  Do not wash cauliflower before storing it, or it will spoil quickly.  If you are storing a partial head of cauliflower place it in a container with a well-sealed lid, or plastic bag and refrigerate it. For optimal nutritional benefit, eat any cut up cauliflower within a few days.

Nutrition

cauliflower-nutritionCauliflower is a great source of heart healthy folic acid, potassium, magnesium, niacin, vitamin C and vitamin B6. It is also a good source of fiber, the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, phosphorus, manganese, and tryptophan.

Cauliflowers, and many other cruciferous vegetables, contain compounds that are shown to stop enzymes from activating cancer-causing agents and they increase the activity of liver enzymes that disable and eliminate carcinogens.  These compounds include glucosinolates and thiocyanates.  Cauliflower also contains enzymes that help with the detoxifying process; these include glutathione transferase, glucuronosyl and qionone reductase.

Interestingly enough, new studies show that cutting cauliflower into small pieces enhances the activation of an enzyme called myrosinase, an enzyme that boosts phytonutrient concentration.  To get the most nutrition out of your cauliflower, let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before eating for cooking. Heat will inactivate the effect of myrosinase, which is why it is important to let the cauliflower sit for a while before cooking.

Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower SoupIngredients:

2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (about 3 slices)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 yellow onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)

2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely chopped (about ½ cup)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 head cauliflower, trimmed and coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade

¼ cup heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚. Arrange the prosciutto slices in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes or until crispy. Let cool slightly, then crumble the prosciutto into pieces and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large pot melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and nutmeg, stir well to coat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

3. Add the broth to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pot and simmer the soup until the cauliflower is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

4. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade attachment (or use an immersion blender). Return the soup to the pot and add more broth if it’s too thick. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Divide the soup among bowls, garnish with the prosciutto and serve immediately.
Source

 

Energetics of Broccoli: Even More Nutritious Than You Thought

photo credit: found_drama via photopin cc

photo credit: found_drama via photopin cc

Many parents know broccoli as one of the “green monsters” of dinner time, a tough contender with young ones.  This cruciferous vegetable has quickly become one of the United States most popular veggies, thanks to it’s unique flavor and incredible nutritional value.

Varieties

Broccoli is part of the cruciferous family which includes cauliflower, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, cabbage, and brussel sprouts. There are five main varieties of broccoli.  The most popular variety is the green broccoli, which is the common type found in grocery stores and restaurants.  This type has light green stalks topped with clusters of dark green, purplish florets. The next variety is broccolini, which is just baby broccoli that is a cross between broccoli and kale.  It is best served raw. There is a type called broccoflower, that is a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower.  It resembles cauliflower more than broccoli.

photo credit: krossbow via photopin cc

photo credit: krossbow via photopin cc

There is also a variety called broccoli raab.  This variety has an intense flavor that is a bit bitter with pepper undertones.  This broccoli has more leaves and a longer stem than green broccoli, the stem is also more tender.  Unlike green broccoli, the stem of broccoli raab can be eaten up to 2 in from bottom of the stem.  The last variety of broccoli is broccoli sprouts.  These sprouts have risen in popularity due to their high concentration of phytonutrients.

How to Choose and Store

When shopping for broccoli, look for tightly closed florets clusters that are dark green or purplish in color.  The darker the green coloring the more chlorophyll, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, and the darker the purple coloring the more flavonoids. Stalks and stems should be firm, and any leaves still attached should be vibrant and not wilted. Avoid broccoli with florets that are not compact or uniformly colored. They should not be yellow, bruised or have yellow blossom, as that can be a sign that they are overly mature.  Also avoid broccoli if the stalks are too wide, woody or hollow, and be sure to check fo rareas that may be spoiled or have a sour smell.

If broccoli is not stored properly it can start getting limp, yellow and bitter.  The best way to store broccoli is to put it in the fridge and wrapped tightly in a plastic storage bag (try to squeeze out excess air). Do not wash broccoli before storage to avoid spoilage. Broccoli can last up to 10 days in the fridge, whole. If you have a partial head of broccoli use the same storage process as whole broccoli, but it must be eaten within 2 days to keep its nutritional value.

Broccoli is in season year round, but it’s peak flavor happens during the cold months, when the frost helps develop a sweet flavor.  During the hotter months broccoli is less tender and needs to be cooked an additional minute or two.

Nutritional Facts

Broccoli nutritionBroccoli is an important addition to everyone’s diet, being a concentrated source of dietary fiber, folic acid, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin E, phosphorus, niacin, manganese, zinc, tryptophan, magnesium, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also known to be very heart healthy, due to its abundance of flavonoids, such as quercetin. Broccoli is also known for promoting bone health, as one cup of steamed broccoli has 74 mg of calcium and 123 mg of vitamin C.  It is due to it’s high vitamin C content that broccoli can boast a better absorption rate of calcium than dairy products.

Broccoli and other leafy vegetables are found to contain antioxidants in the carotenoid family called lutein and zeaxanthin.  These are found in large quantities in the lens of the eye, but it will decrease in the aging process. Consuming vegetables with these antioxidants are shown to help lower the risk of cataracts.

photo credit: KatLevPhoto via photopin cc

photo credit: KatLevPhoto via photopin cc

Broccoli contains phytonutrients, which are thought to have many anticancer properties. One group of these phytonutrients is the isothiocyanates, that recent research shows promotes the deactivation of tumor growth (especially in estrogen-sensitive breast cells). Another phytonutrient found in broccoli is glucorphanin,  which converts to sulforaphane in the body and boost the liver’s detoxification  enzymes, helping to clear potentially carcinogenic substances more quickly.  This over abundance of phytonutrients are also shown to eradicate Helicobacterpylori, the bacterium responsible for stomach ulcers and have been found to increase a person’s risk of stomach cancer three to six-fold.  While mature broccoli has an amazing amount these phytonutrients, broccoli sprouts are found to have 10 to 100 times the phytonutrient power!

Pregnant women should be aware that broccoli plays an important role in the development of  the fetus’s nervous system!!!!  Broccoli is an excellent source of folic acid and a B-vitamin that is essential for proper cellular division and DNA synthesis, and without folic acid the fetus’s nervous system cells do not divide properly.  Deficiency in folic acid during pregnancy has been linked to many birth defects like spina bifida.

Energetics

Broccoli is a diuretic, brightens the eyes, and benefits rough skin. It is used in the treatment of summer heat conditions, eye inflammation and nearsightedness.

Caution: Broccoli has five goitrogenous chemicals which disrupt the body’s ability to use iodine.  Avoid in cases of thyroid deficiency and low iodine.

Roasted Broccoli and Feta Salad

Roasted Broccoli and Feta SaladIngredients:
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 ounces baby arugula (about 3 large handfuls)
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Add the broccoli florets and cherry tomatoes to a rimmed sheet tray. Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat completely. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the broccoli is tender and lightly golden brown.

Toss with arugula and crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Serve immediately.

Energetics of Leeks

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photo credit: Kyle Strickland via photopin cc

The leek is a member of the onion family but has a sweeter, more subtle flavor than an onion. It can be eaten raw or cooked but the green tops are usually not eaten.

Leeks don’t just taste great nor does it just enhance the flavor of other dishes.  Because it is packed with so many essential nutrients, eating leeks also have a string of health benefits when eaten in moderation.

Leeks, known scientifically as Allium porrum, are related to garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions. Leeks look like large scallions, having a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk of superimposed layers that flows into green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves. Cultivated leeks are usually about 12 inches in length and one to two inches in diameter and feature a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of shallots but sweeter and more subtle. Wild leeks, known as ramps, are much smaller in size, but have a stronger, more intense flavor. They are available for a short period of time each year and are often widely sought out at farmers markets when they are in season.

With a more delicate and sweeter flavor than onions, leeks add a subtle touch to recipes without overpowering the other flavors that are present. Although leeks are available throughout the year they are in season from the fall through the early part of spring when they are at their best

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How to Select and Store

Leeks should be firm and straight with dark green leaves and white necks. Good quality leeks will not be yellowed or wilted, nor have bulbs that have cracks or bruises. Since overly large leeks are generally more fibrous in texture, only purchase those that have a diameter of one and one-half inches or less. Try to purchase leeks that are of similar size so as to ensure more consistent cooking if you are planning on cooking the leeks whole. Leeks are available throughout the year, although they are in greater supply from the fall through the early part of spring.

Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for between one and two weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture. Cooked leeks are highly perishable, and even when kept in the refrigerator, will only stay fresh for about two days. Leeks may be frozen after being blanched for two to three minutes, although they will lose some of their desirable taste and texture qualities. Leeks will keep in the freezer for about three months.

Energetics

Nutrition_Facts_Leek Leeks can steady the blood sugar levels in the body.  When consumed at least twice a week, the ascorbic acid contained in leeks along with Vitamin B6 and manganese help slow down the body’s absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract. These nutrients aid in the proper metabolism of sugar thus helping the body maintain its sugar level.

Leeks have also been proven to decrease bad cholesterol in the body and instead raise High Density Lipoprotein or good cholesterol.  Maintaining this would ensure that a person would not develop the formation of plaques in the blood vessels that later on, can lead to atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.

Aside from helping people avoid stroke, diabetes and other heart ailments, leek is an excellent source of iron and folate.  Iron is an essential vitamin that synthesizes hemoglobin and carries oxygen throughout the body.

Because of its rich iron content, leeks help fight anemia and prevents birth defects especially those that are related with the brain and spine.  And because leeks are also rich in Vitamin C, the iron is quickly absorbed by the body

mushroom-leek-and-fontina-frittata-940x560Ingredients
SERVINGS: 6
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium leeks, whites and pale green parts only, chopped
8 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced
12 large eggs
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup shredded Fontina cheese, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Preparation

PREP: 30 MINTOTAL: 1 MIN

  • Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 350°. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add leeks; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until softened and all liquid has evaporated, 8-10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk eggs, crème fraîche, and parsley in a large bowl; mix in 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Pour the egg mixture over the mushrooms, shaking the pan to evenly distribute mixture. Cook the frittata, without stirring, until its edges begin to set, about 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cheese over eggs and transfer skillet to oven. Bake frittata until golden brown and center is set, 25-30 minutes.

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Energetics of Parsnips:

Parsnips and rutabagas are both root vegetables, or “underground” vegetables, like carrots, potatoes, and beets. They are in season late fall and winter, generally ready to be harvested after the first frost has set in.

Parsnips resemble carrots, but are ivory or yellowish in color, with a curvier form.

Parsnips are high in vitamin C, E, and K. They are also a good source of folate, thiamine, panthothentic acid. They also contain B vitamins including riboflavin, niacin, and B-6. Parsnips provide the body with energy.

Roasted Parsnips and Carrots

Roasted Parsnips and CarrotsIngredients2 pounds parsnips, peeled
1 pound carrots, unpeeled
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or parsley

DirectionsPreheat the oven to 425 degrees F.If the parsnips and carrots are very thick, cut them in half lengthwise. Slice each diagonally in 1-inch-thick slices. The vegetables will shrink while cooking, so don’t make the pieces too small. Place the cut vegetables on a sheet pan. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss well. Roast for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetables, tossing occasionally, until the parsnips and carrots are just tender. Sprinkle with dill and serve hot.

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Energetics of Pineapple: Taste the Tropics

photo credit: Zombie Normal via photopin cc

photo credit: Zombie Normal via photopin cc

Have you ever wondered how the pineapple was named?  Early European explorers believed they looked like pinecones with the flesh of an apple. Fresh pineapples were once reserved for the elite class, who saw the pineapple as a sign of prestige since they were so expensive. Now, the pineapple is commonplace in most grocery stores.

Pineapples are actually a composite of many flowers whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core.  Each fruitlet can be identified by the rough spiny marking on the pineapple’s surface.  Pineapples grow in tropical climates and unlike other popular tropical fruits, they grow on the ground.

Best Way to Choose and Store

First of all, pineapples do not ripen after they are harvested, therefore you have to make sure you but one that is ripe already.  Rip pineapples have the best flavor and have the highest concentration of nutrients. When choosing which pineapple to buy look for one that has a sweet smell and that is stiff, but does give a little when squeezed. Also, the leaves on top should be fresh and green. Pineapples soften and become juicier after they are picked, but the softness does not effect the sweetness.  Size is also of no consequence to ripeness or nutrient value, it is only the amount of edible flesh that differs.

pinea[[leAvoid pineapples that are very soft and have a sour odor, and they should have no soft spots or bruising.  These indicate that the pineapple is past it’s prime, and starting to rot.  Avoid green pineapples, as they are very fibrous and lack sweetness and nutrients.  Pineapples with dry brown leaves will have a sour taste.  Underripe pineapples should also be avoided, as their acid content is  very high and can damage teeth.

Overripe pineapples should be avoided at all costs! As the flesh darkens in color it indicates the formation of free-radicals!

Pineapples can be stored at room temperature or in a fridge.  Pineapples do not last long in room temperature at about 3 days, but are more flavorful!  Pineapple stored in a fridge lasts about 5 days, but is affected by “chill injury” and losses many flavor compounds.  Never store in plastic bags, they ethylene gas that pineapples produce will cause the pineapple to start rotting very fast.

Energetics

Pineapple nutritionPineapples contain bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme, that is known to help with digestion and decreasing inflammation and swelling.  Pineapples are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant, defending all aqueous areas of the body against free radicals that attack and damage normal cells. Pineapples are also an excellent source of the mineral manganese, which is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses.

Pineapples remove summer heat, dispels wind dampness, supplements the spleen, engenders fluids, increases digestion, destroys parasitic worms, thirst quenching, and a diuretic.   They are used in the treatment of sunstroke, lack of strength in hands and feet, indigestion, vomiting, abdominal distention,  low blood pressure, vacuity fever with thirst, difficulty urinating, anorexia, diarrhea, and edema.  For the best medicinal results, pineapples should be eaten alone.

Caution: Not to be consumed by those with peptic ulcers or skin discharges.

Ham and Pineapple Pita Pizza

A simple and nutritious  dinner idea!
Ham and Pineapple Pita Pizza
Ingredients
4 pitas
8 ounces sliced deli ham
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 8-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
Preparation

1. Heat oven to 425ºF. Place the pitas on a baking sheet.2. Layer the pitas with the ham, mozzarella, and pineapple.3. Bake until the pitas are crisp and the cheese has melted, 10 to 12 minutes.

4. Enjoy!

 

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Pizza