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Find out the latest health and organic news from our resident dietitian, Rebecca, along with recipes, tips and more!

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Lifestyle Change

Lifestyle changes can take many forms. They can be conscience decisions to change an aspect of your life, like your exercise or eating habits. They can also be sparked by a change in your circumstances that ultimately leads to a shake up in your daily routine. I’ve recently been going through a lifestyle change. My husband and I had a baby on May 21st of this year. Our little girl has enriched and blessed our life beyond measure. However, much like everyone warned me, kids change everything! I don’t wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to go workout. In fact, I’m lucky if I get to the gym. I also don’t have as much time to prepare meals and snacks. I use to love recipes full of unique ingredients and spices, now I much prefer something simple.

 

I say all this not to join the band wagon of “kids are the reason we eat poorly and don’t exercise”. I mention these struggles to point out that I am finding a new way to enjoy my traditional activities of daily living with my little girl. Dinner preparations may be scaled back and simplified for awhile, but cooking with local organic food is something I wish to instill in my child. Therefore, finding easy family friendly recipes is my new passion. You’ll likely see some of these options appear on the Clearly Organic blog. I look forward to sharing this journey and lifestyle change.

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Smoothie Time

Smoothies are great any time of year, but I find myself pulling out the blender far more often in the summer months. Between the availability of seasonal fruit and the cool refreshment of a hydrating drink summer is prime time for smoothie making. Classic smoothie ingredients include yogurt, fruit, juice and ice. However, there are lots of unique items that you can blend in to add flavor and a nutritional boost.

My favorite thing to add to any smoothie is greens. Spinach, kale and even turnip greens add fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals. They may turn the liquid a shade of green or brownish but when blended with fruit and a little orange juice the drink still tastes sweet and refreshing. Other unique smoothie ingredients include oats, wheat germ and almonds. They can add thickness and texture making nuts a nice substitute for yogurt if you’re wanting a dairy free smoothie. Depending on the season avocado, coconut, pumpkin, ginger and any spice for that matter can be mixed in to add thickness and flavor.

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4th of July Favorites

This patriotic holiday is a great time to enjoy all the fresh seasonal fare that midsummer produce has to offer. Blueberries, cherries, sweet corn and melons (just to name a few) are at the peak of flavor and freshness in the beginning of July. So now is the time to incorporate these seasonal foods, and the many other delicious options, into your July 4th celebration.

Here are some ways to add seasonal produce into traditional recipes. Instead of the typical coleslaw, potato salad, hamburgers and hot dogs try these unique spins on family favorites at your next backyard barbecue. All of these recipes can be found on the Clearly Organic website.

Strawberry Slaw

Melon and Mint Salad

Mango Avocado Salsa

Herbed Quinoa Burgers

Picnic Pasta Salad

 

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Summer Snacks

During the warm summer months it’s natural for your body to start craving fresh new meal options. The last thing you want to do on a hot summer day is spend time in an over heated kitchen. Summer months can also lead to more snacking, because the seasonal fare tends to be more water based and light. So, here are some delicious, easy summer snack ideas.

  1. Frozen red grapes and banana slices. These two fruits honestly taste like popsicles when they are enjoyed frozen. You can freeze a ripe (but not over ripe) banana whole with the peel on, or slice in advance and place in a sealed container. Red grapes simply need to be washed, patted dry with a paper towel then placed in a ziplock bag in the freezer. These are great alternatives to sugary desserts, especially for kids!
  2. Cottage cheese and berries. A half cup of cottage cheese goes great mixed with a 1\2 cup of fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and even pineapple!
  3. Avocado toast. Summer is prime time for avocado. 1/2 an avocado sliced on toasted sprouted grain bread is an excellent way to refresh in the summer.
  4. Cantaloupe and prosciutto. A perfect happy hour snack! Cut a cantaloupe into chunks then wrap a thin slice of prosciutto around a piece. It’s a great blend of natural carbohydrate with protein.
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Grilling Fish

The lingering smell of cooking on the grill is one of my favorite signs of summer. There is a classic lineup of foods that we consider grill items. Hamburgers, hotdogs, steak and brats belong on any grill during the summer months. Another delicious and nutritious item for the grill is seafood. However, fish can scare off the novice grill master because of its tendency to stick to the grates or overcook. Here are some tips to avoid both of these common issues.

  1. Make sure your grill is clean and well oiled before you begin. Clean off the grill grates with a wire brush before and after cooking fish. Before starting your grill brush the grates with olive oil using a rag dipped in oil to ensure that its well coated.
  2. The best cuts of fish for the grill are a 1 inch thick piece of salmon, arctic char, swordfish or halibut. Large shrimp (or prawns) go great on the grill as well, smaller shrimp can also be placed on a kebab stick and grilled. This will prevent the smaller shrimp from falling in between the grates. Some fish like flounder and tilapia may be to thin to place directly on the grill, so place them in a greased foil basket.
  3. Since fish is more delicate than your typical grill meat its best to grill the fish first then brush on your marinade. The flesh can break down and possibly fall apart if marinated first. A post grill marinade will keep the texture intact and still deliver loads of flavor.
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Rhubarb

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.

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Plantains

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.

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Pure Maple Syrup

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.

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Cooking With Fresh Herbs

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

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The Perfect Poached Egg

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.

  1. Heat water in a 2 quart nonstick sauce pan with a lid. Add enough water to come up 1 1/2 inches on the sides of the pan. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons white vinegar, then bring contents to a simmer over medium heat. If you have a thermometer 190 degrees is the ideal temperature for poaching.
  2. Crack one fresh organic egg into a small ramekin. Stir the simmering water in one direction with a spatula then carefully lower and add egg in the center of the lightly whirl pooling water. If poaching more than one egg crack eggs into separate ramekins or add the eggs to the simmering water one at a time.
  3. Turn off the heat to the pan and cover sauce pan. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Don’t open lid or stir water at this time. Simply let the egg sit.
  4. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon. If you are enjoying your egg right away, immediately transfer it to the desired serving method. If you are making your poached eggs ahead of time for a salad topper or another desired recipe, transfer the eggs into an ice bath and refrigerate up to 8 hours. Simply reheat in warm water before serving.

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.

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