Archive for the ‘Kitchen Tips’ Category

Autumn and the Harvest

Cranberry Harvest – Image by Tony Libby

Autumn’s crisp blue sky and the brilliant reds, yellows and oranges of the trees make it a special time of year.  Fall is also harvest time when the growing season ends and mature crops are gathered.  The cranberry harvests on Cape Cod are a sight to behold. CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and Farmer’s Markets are winding down and farmers put their fields to bed and get some much-needed rest from the busy season.



This year, think about eating locally as much as possible throughout the fall and winter.  Stock up on fresh fruitsand vegetables at the Farmer’s Markets, mostly root vegetables, apples and cranberries in New England,  and store them in your basement or cold storage area.

Canning and freezing are great ways to extend the life of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have a garden, you probably already know how to make and can fresh tomato sauce, applesauce, jellies and jams with the abundance of summer fruits. Herbs freeze well too, so gather some before the first frost. “Fresh” herbs are a welcome surprise to winter dishes.

Eating locally all yearlong is getting easier with winter CSAs and winter Farmer’s Markets.  Many communities now offer them.

Eating organic food grown locally is important for many reasons – its fresher, more nutritious, supports local farmers and requires less oil because it is not transported far and grown organically.  As Barbara Kingsolver says in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, (a wonderful book about her family’s experience eating only seasonal and local food for one year – I highly recommend it.),  “If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. …  Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast.”

Celebrate autumn and the harvest this year and enjoy great food all year-long.


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Join the Blue Zones!

Have you ever wondered why some people live well into their 90’s and even 100’s with their mind and body relatively intact? Well, Dan Buettner of the National Geographic did too and in 2004, he identified five areas of the world, which he calls Blue Zones, where people reached age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.

  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica

Dan and his team of scientists studied the lifestyle that explained their longevity and well-being and found 9 shared characteristics. According to the Blue Zone project, the 9 Blue Zone lessons, or Power 9®, are:

  1.  “Move Naturally – The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron or run marathons. Instead, their environments    nudge them into moving without thinking about it.
  2.  Purpose– Why do you wake up in the morning? Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life         expectancy.
  3. Down Shift– Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. The world’s longest-lived people have routines to shed that stress.
  4. 80% Rule“Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawans say this mantra before meals as a reminder to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full.
  5. Plant Slant– The cornerstone of most centenarian diets? Beans. They typically eat meat—mostly pork—only five times per month.
  6. Wine @ 5– Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers, especially if they share those drinks with friends. Moderate drinking is one per day for women and two per day for men.
  7. Belong– Attending faith-based services four times per month – no matter the denomination – adds up to 14 years of life expectancy.
  8. Loved Ones First – Centenarians put their families first. They keep aging parents and grandparents nearby, commit to a life partner and invest in their children.
  9. Right Tribe– The world’s longest lived people chose or were born into social circles that support healthy behaviors.”

Simply put, they eat primarily a plant-based diet, get regular gentle exercise including walking, fishing, gardening, have the support of a close group of friends and/or family, and have a strong sense of faith and purpose in their lives.

I recently attended a Blue Zone cooking class.  Beans are the basis of each of the Blue Zones, so for dinner I made the typical Costa Rican diet most consumed by centenarians – black beans, brown basamati rice, squash and avocado, which I doctored up with spices, shallots and Ponzu sauce (recipe below). This easy, healthy and delicious meal offers all that you need – complete protein, high fiber, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Even my meat-eating husband enjoyed it!

Ponzu Sauce – 1/3 cup organic tamari, 1/3 cup lemon and 1/3 cup mirin (rice cooking wine) with a dollop of honey. Use to liven up anything!

Visit the Blue Zone website for more information and take the vitality quiz to calculate your healthy life expectancy!

The Blue Zone project has the right recipe for a long and healthy life!


For more green living tips, visit




Food Waste/Food Loss/Solutions

As a child, I was required to clean my plate. “Think about all the starving children in Africa.” my mother repeatedly said. And so I gobbled up my dinner. Even though that philosophy changed when I was raising my kids, “Keep mealtime happy; they take what they need.”, I still hated wasting food.

According to a National Geographic article, “One-Third of Our Food is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done”, more than 30 percent of the food we grow, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten. Globally it is rising to 50% as developing nations struggle with spoilage and Western nations simply throw food away. In general, “the richer the nation, the higher its per capita rate of waste.”

Think about your restaurant dining experiences. Restaurants usually serve overly large portions, which most people don’t eat. They either leave the food or ask for a doggy bag. Doggy bags make sense except the food, along with other leftovers, is often thrown away. So then is the doggy bag packaging, usually made from non-biodegradable Styrofoam. With elaborate buffets in restaurants and on cruises, consumers help themselves to excessive and unhealthy portions often not eaten. At the end of the buffet, the leftover food is dumped.

The National Geographic article states that food retailers usually have in-store losses of 43 billion pounds of food a year. They over order to avoid running out of a particular product and potentially losing customers. Consumers over buy because food is relatively cheap and designed to be seductively packaged.

Consumers also take the “use by” date literally (brainwashed?), even though the stamps were “designed to communicate peak freshness and have nothing to do with food safety.” Again, out goes the food and back to the store to buy more.

Uneaten food goes beyond the obvious waste.  It also wastes exorbitant amounts of fuel, agricultural chemicals, water, land, and labor needed to produce and transport the uneaten food. Those wasted toxic chemicals used to produce food seep into our waterways and deplete the soil of beneficial nutrients. And if that’s not bad enough, food waste is the number one material taking up landfill space where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

Yikes – It’s time to go back to the era of cleaning our plates!

Next week’s blog – Food Loss/Solutions


Information compiled from of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done” and

For more green living tips, visit

Sustainable Food Storage

I’ve just discovered the most wonderful product called Bee’s Wrap. Handmade in Vermont by a young mother and her team, it’s the perfect alternative to plastic wrap for food storage. Bee’s Wrap is made from organic cotton muslin infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. The anti-bacterial properties of beeswax and jojoba oil keep the food fresh and allow the wraps to be used over and over.

Use Bee’s Wrap to wrap sandwiches, cheese, baked goods, bread, a half avocado, cucumber or lemon, or to cover a bowl of leftovers. It is not recommended for meat. With the warmth and pressure of your hand, the malleable sheet easily molds around the food to create a seal. To reuse, clean with a mild soap and air dry. With proper care and usage, it should last up to a year.

Bee’s Wrap comes in five sizes – small, medium, large, bread, baguette, and an assorted 3 pack.

Not only do food and plastic not go together, plastic wrap is not easily recycled. Here is at last a clever, easy, reusable and safe alternative for food storage. Congratulations to this creative young entrepreneur!

Minimally and attractively packaged, Bee’s Wrap can be found on line at and at natural food stores and specialty shops all over, even internationally. For you readers on Cape Cod, Farm Fare Market at 68 Tupper Road in Sandwich carries them.

For more green living tips, visit


Celebrate with a “Green” Thanksgiving!

As we give thanks for family, friends and delicious and abundant food this Thanksgiving, take a moment to appreciate this beautiful earth we live on too.  Why not make your Thanksgiving a “green” one and try the ideas below.

Image by Ilrena
  • For your holiday dinner, support local farmers who grow organic produce. The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Local food by contrast is usually transported 100 – 200 miles, has fewer pesticides and can be picked when ripe.  It is obviously fresher and better.  Farm stands and supermarkets have an abundance of local winter squash, carrots, potatoes, greens, herbs, apples, and pumpkin. Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags.
  • Try a locally grown, free range organic turkey available at local farms and Whole Foods.  Fresh turkeys are unbelievably moist and delicious and not treated with antibiotics and growth hormones.  You won’t believe the difference.  For the vegetarians at your table, try a Tofurkey (available from Trader Joe’s).  It come with its own vegetarian gravy and is really good!  If possible, use organic cranberries for your cranberry sauce – cranberries are a heavily sprayed crop.  Heart healthy salmon makes a delicious Thanksgiving dinner too!
  • Add freshly baked local artisan bread and rolls.
  • Consider serving organic wine along with your meal. Organic wine is made from certified organically grown grapes, meaning grown without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Conventionally grown grapes are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and the chemical residues can end up in the wine.  Organically grown grapes are better for the soil, the plant and the wine drinker.
  • China, silver and cloth napkins are obviously better for the environment than paper plates and plastic utensils.  They look better too!  If you are expecting a big crowd and need to opt for disposable, get the biodegradable and compostable plates and utensils.
  • Thanksgiving dinner generates a lot of leftovers and food waste.   According to, “at least 28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted each year – more than 100 pounds per person.” Careful planning and portion control is a good way to avoid waste. Leftovers are inevitable however, so consider donating them to a local food pantry or homeless shelter.                                                                                                                                                                   Use Less Stuff created a handy list of approximate per person food portions for Thanksgiving dinner:
    • Turkey- 1 pound
    • Stuffing- ¼ pound
    • Sweet potato casserole- ¼ pound
    • Green beans- ¼ pound
    • Cranberry relish- 3 tablespoons
    • Pumpkin pie- 1/8 of a 9 inch pie
  • After the big feast, don’t forget to recycle cans, cartons, plastics and bottles and compost kitchen scraps.

With your healthy and “green” holiday feast, you won’t feel so badly about overindulging!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Red Palm Oil

I use a variety of oils. Olive oil for salads, salad dressings and even washing my face like they do in Greece; grape seed oil for sautéing and roasting; coconut oil for cooking, baking, moisturizing and swishing; avocado oil for dressings and face washing. Depending on the recipe, pumpkin seed and walnut oils are delicious alternatives in salad dressings too. All are tasty and nutritious, but not the powerhouse of the oil I’ve recently discovered, red palm oil. Red palm oil has been a staple in indigenous cultures for 5,000 years. According to ancient legends, red palm oil was a sacred food, revered for its healthful properties and entombed with the pharaohs of Egypt for their enjoyment in the afterlife.

Health Benefits

The high beta-carotene and lycopene content give red palm oil its color and numerous health benefits. The same antioxidants are found in tomatoes and carrots, but there are even more in red palm oil. The carotenoids help support the immune system, protect the skin from UV rays and improve eye health, as well as guard against osteoporosis, asthma, cataracts, macular degeneration, arthritis and liver disease. It’s high in Vitamin A and contains rare tocotrienols and tocopherols of the Vitamin E family. Studies funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) have shown that tocotrienols can help reduce the effects of stroke by protecting the brain’s nerve cells. Tocotrienols also improve blood flow to brain cells, which can help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. With red palm oil, cholesterol levels and blood pressure are improved. It’s also a potent anti-cancer food.

Cooking with Red Palm Oil

In addition to its many nutritional benefits, red palm oil is a stable oil meaning it has a high smoke point and remains nutritionally rich when cooked or heated. Its buttery taste makes it perfect for sautéing, baking, cooking or as a popcorn topper. Fried eggs are especially tasty when fried with red palm oil instead of butter. I’m a firm believer in eating a variety of nutritious foods for optimum health. Nutritionists say with fruits and vegetables, try to eat every color of the rainbow daily. Variety is important for oils too – no one oil does it all. And, it’s fun trying different ones for different applications. Go ahead and give this powerhouse oil a try. You can find red palm oil at Whole Foods or other natural food markets. Make sure to buy organic, raw, unrefined red palm oil. Once refined and processed, its color and nutritional benefits are destroyed. Information compiled from: and   For more green living tips, visit

Are Frozen Dinners Worth the Convenience?

We live in a busy, fast-paced society where taking the time to prepare a delicious and healthy meal is not always possible.  Pre-prepared foods and frozen dinners offer a quick and easy alternative, but at what price?

Typical frozen dinner

Most frozen meals are loaded with sugar, sodium, and preservatives with low vegetable and fiber content.  Though we need sodium in our diet, about one teaspoon a day or 2300 milligrams, for fluid balance, muscle strength and nerve function, most of us get far more than that with our consumption of frozen and processed foods.  We are all well aware of the dangers of too much salt and sugar!  The right kind of salt is important too.  Click here for more information about salts.

Certain frozen dinner brands, and specific meals produced by those brands, are worse than others.  Hot pockets, chicken potpies, and turkey and gravy dinners are among the worst.  Usually organic frozen meals are better, but it’s important to take the time to read the labels carefully, as with all processed foods.  Just because a product says “natural” doesn’t mean it is, even with frozen veggie burgers. Be on the lookout for salt’s various disguises like sodium alginate, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and sodium benzoate, as well as added sugars under the name of high fructose corn syrup or natural cane sugar and unhealthy fats.

As Oscar Wilde said, “everything in moderation including moderation”, so the occasional frozen dinner won’t hurt you.  There is no substitute however, for a fresh, home cooked meal seasoned properly with healthy herbs, enhanced with a small amount sea salt, and prepared with love.

For more green living tips, visit


Information compiled from:,


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