Find out the latest health and organic news from our resident dietitian, Rebecca, along with recipes, tips and more!
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This red stalked vegetable is often thought of as a “pie plant,” and it does make a delicious tart pie filling. However, rhubarb is compatible with a lot of foods. Therefore it can be added to a vast array of dishes. Rhubarb blends well in all kinds of desserts, plus the tart characteristic of the vegetable make it a great addition to savory meals. Most recipes involving the vegetable require cooking or soaking the stalks in honey, this helps cut the naturally sour nature of the plant to make it a delectable balance of sweet and tart.
Peak season for rhubarb is April – June. When shopping for the vegetable at your local grocery store look for thin, red, crisp stalks. Rhubarb keeps well, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for up to a week. Next time you’re trying to dig up a new recipe for a get together try incorporating rhubarb. From cakes, crisps and pies to chutney, sangria and salad this vegetables adds a lively unique flavor to any dish.
You’ve likely seen these large banana looking foods hanging out in your produce section at the store. They range in color from green to black, and unlike bananas each color can serve a different purpose for cooking. Black plantains are not rotten they’re actually the sweetest option of plantain which is often used for baking and desserts. Green plantains are starchy with a slightly sweet taste when cooked. They can be used like a potato. Adding them to a soup, stew or curry dish works great. Green plantains also make the best plantain chips. Yellow and black plantains have a sweet taste when baked or fried. They are much less starchy than their green counterpart.
Don’t be fooled by the fruit like look. Plantains must be cooked to be enjoyed and to reap their many nutritional benefits. This unique food is gluten free, in fact it’s a staple in many grain free breads, muffins and tortilla recipes. Watch the Clearly Organic blog for some easy ways to incorporate plantains into your next recipe.
The season for producing pure maple syrup spans the gap between winter and spring. Most maple syrup comes from regions where large amounts of snow are melting throughout March. This melting snow helps to nourish thirsty maple trees so they yield copious amounts of sap. It takes 40-45 gallons of sap to produce about one gallon of pure maple syrup.
A common question many maple syrup farmers get is; what’s the difference between light colored and dark colored syrups? Maple syrup is Graded solely by its color, and the difference in color is primarily related to what time of year the product was made. Grade A maple syrup is made at the beginning of the season. It’s considered a light aromatic syrup that is traditionally pancake syrup. Grade A Dark Amber is made later in the season when the weather is warmer. It’s considered a good option for baking since its flavors are more robust. Grade B is the darkest and it’s made at the end of the season just before the maple tree begins to bud. It has a strong bold maple flavor. All pure maple syrups contain beneficial naturally occurring nutrients, and pure maple syrup is never refined so you won’t see anything else listed on the ingredient list. Next time you’re at the store pick a bottle of pure maple syrup and enjoy the flavors of the season.
Just a pinch of vibrant fresh herbs can add unique flavor and color to any recipe. Many chefs consider herbs the secret to transforming a normal dish into an extraordinary meal. The challenge many everyday cooks run into is knowing how to appropriately use herbs. It’s also worth noting that if a recipe calls for dried herbs one can easily choose to add fresh herbs if desired. Dried herbs are more potent and concentrated than fresh, so you will use less. When transitioning to fresh you’ll likely use three times as much. Therefore, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon dried oregano you would need 1 tablespoon fresh, since there are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon. Here are some tips on how to pair and incorporate herbs into your kitchen.
Basil- a natural partner to tomatoes, peas and zucchini; great in pesto, pastas and sauces
Thyme- eggs, potatoes, poultry and squash
Flat Leaf and Italian Parsley- potato and egg salad, tabouli
Rosemary- fish, lamb, chicken, roasted potatoes, soup and stews
Dill- carrots, potato and egg salad, cottage cheese, fish, green beans
Mint- fruit salad, tabouli, tea and water
Cilantro- chicken, salsa, tomatoes, most Mexican and Caribbean cooking
Chives- potato and egg salads, dips and tomatoes
Poaching is a great way to transform a simple egg into a decadent indulgence. Once you perfect the technique you can easily enjoy poached eggs at any meal time. Here is a guide on how to poach an egg.
The most classic way to enjoy a poached egg is a traditional Eggs Benedict, but once you master the art of poaching you’ll fall in love with adding this perfect protein to other dishes. Salad, pasta, risotto, sweet potatoes and soup are also great foods that get even better when topped with a poached egg.
As the tulips start to sprout from the ground they cause us to take note of the delightful transition into Spring. It’s refreshing to see all the sights and sounds of Spring budding around us. It’s also refreshing to see a new lineup of fresh fruits and vegetables at your local grocery store. The extra sunshine and warm weather brings in a whole host of new foods to pick from to liven up your meal plan.
My favorite spring veggies are sugar snap peas. They add a nice crisp crunch to a salad and they are sweet and delicious eaten by themselves. Asparagus is also another family favorite, it goes great scrambled with eggs in the morning. Other seasonal foods include arugula, rhubarb, strawberries, radishes and all varieties of sweet peas. Next time you’re at the store take advantage of the quality and freshness of Springs seasonal produce.
Balsamic vinegar is a flavorful reduction made from grapes. It’s often used as a tangy addition to salad dressing, but it can also be valuable in many other ways during the cooking process. Here are a few unique ways balsamic vinegar can be that secret ingredient to liven up your next recipe.
Have you ever stopped to take a closer look at the health benefits of green tea? This tea has been around for centuries and it has been used medicinally to help counteract many adverse health issues. Green tea is well known for its antioxidant content. Antioxidants help reduce the risk of disease by helping to flush out the free radicals in your system. Free radicals can come from our daily exposure to things like car exhaust, UV rays and industrial fumes. Our bodies need antioxidants, from our diet, to help fight off oxidative stress.
By drinking 1 to 2 cups of green tea, without sugar, per day you can start reaping its health benefits. As you think green for the week of St. Patrick’s Day try starting a new routine of enjoying green tea. This may not be your traditional St. Paddy’s day drink but it has a lot to offer.
A debate is currently being waged on what it means to be considered a “natural” food. We see this claim posted proudly on the front of many packaged foods. So what are the requirements for a food company to say that they have an “all natural” product? According to the main agencies that regulate food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the natural claim can be posted on anything that is deemed ‘minimally processed’. This vague phrase leaves the door wide open for interpretation, allowing a multitude of packaged products to claim they are “natural”.
When Consumer Report conducted a survey of over 1,000 Americans they found that most people attributed the word ‘natural’ to mean no artificial ingredients, artificial colors or genetically modified foods (GMO’s). However, that is not necessarily true especially in regards to meat products. One fool proof way to ensure you are limiting GMO’s, artificial flavoring, colors and processing is to consume organic products. Certified Organic foods contain 95%-99% organically grown ingredients. When you see the 100% Organic label you can be confident the food is organically grown or contains all organic ingredients. Take a minute next time you’re at the store to watch for some of these labels.
When you think of adding beans to a recipe your mind often defaults to the various canned varieties of beans that are readily available at most grocery stores. In fact, you might even walk right by the bagged dried beans on your way to pick up a can of beans for your next chili recipe. The best part about dried beans is that they are the most nutritious and inexpensive food you will find sitting on the shelves at your store.
If you’ve never tried cooking with dried beans it’s worth experimenting with when making your next batch of soup. All dried beans require is time. They are easy to use and pack a little more nutritional punch than their canned counterpart. Dried bean have significantly less sodium than canned beans. They also have slightly more folate, iron and potassium. Canned and dried beans are similar in calories per serving and protein content. The main benefit to canned beans is their undeniable convenience.
Cooking with dried beans at home is no more trouble than filling a pot with water and letting it simmer joyfully on your stovetop all afternoon. Cooking a pot of beans on an afternoon when you are home anyway can be a relaxing and resourceful way to meal prep. Just be sure to give your beans plenty of time to reach their desired tenderness. Soaking beans in advance is also a great way to trim down the cooking time. One pound of dried beans yields about 5 cups of cooked beans. Making plenty of beans for soups, salads, burritos and much more. Extra beans not used after soaking can be stored in the freezer, that way you will have delicious and nutritious beans whenever you need them.