fresh produce

Juicing for Health

I’m happy to say I’ve started juicing again…you know I’m talking about fruits and veggies, right?  Summer is a perfect time to juice, when the goal is to enjoy the warm weather while showing off glowing skin…in a bathing suit.  Not there yet?  Adding fresh juice to your daily routine might be able to help.  If you’re new to juicing, or need a reminder of all the benefits, let me share why juicing may be right for you…

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  1. Juicing is the easiest, quickest, and most efficient way to absorb all the nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables.  The process of heating food destroys nutrients in varying degrees, depending how you cook them.  Eating raw vegetables in the amount that’s ideal can cause digestive upset.  Juicing produce yields micronutrient-rich liquid that’s doesn’t require much effort from our digestive system.
  2. Juicing is easy.  Yes, juicing does take some prep work.  But after you select and clean your produce, it takes little time or effort.  And your meal is totally portable, able to be enjoyed on the go.  I love my Breville juicer (Juice Fountain Plus, recommended to me by Joe Cross) because it’s quick to assemble, extracts all the juice possible from fruits and veggies, is easy to take apart, and a cinch to clean.
  3. Juicing is tasty.  Freshly juiced produce is absolutely delicious!  If you’re new to juicing, it can be a little daunting to figure out what combo makes a tempting, nutritious concoction.  But after consulting the many tasty juice recipes out there, you gain the confidence to know which produce to use, and perhaps even try out your own recipes.  I recommend The Big Book of Juices by Natalie Savona for ideas and guidance.  With more than 400 recipes, you’ll never get bored. I love the nutrients list and benefits rating for each recipe, as well as the index in the back that suggests which juice recipes are helpful for what’s ailing ya.
  4. Juicing is sexy, because it makes YOU sexy.  With skin-glowing nutrients, cleansing properties, and slimming qualities that make a difference people can see…how can you not feel great about how great you look?

Although juicing does awesome things for your body, you do need to keep a few things in mind….

  1. Juice is not nutritionally complete.  There is very little to no protein, and no fat, in juice.  You need both in your diet.  I use juicing to complement my diet as a vitamin-rich snack or a detoxifying elixir.  The only time I use juice to replace meals is when I’m doing a cleanse, and in this case, I’m purposefully giving my digestive system a break from protein and fat.
  2. Fruit and sweet vegetables contain sugar.  Too much sugar, even from healthy sources, is still too much sugar.  If you’re trying to watch your weight or have blood sugar issues, use sweet veggies and fruit sparingly.  I use a carrot, beet, or apple (or half of one) for a touch of sweetness to greens-laden juices or to tone down strongly flavored vegetables like cabbage.  Adding lime or fresh ginger is a great low-sugar way to add depth to your juice or “cover up” strong vegetable flavors.  If you do use sweet produce to juice and want to keep calories/sugar on the light side, drink a small glass instead or dilute your juice with water or club soda.
  3. Use organic produce as much as possible.  Juicing requires a lot of produce…which means you’re consuming a lot of produce.  So make sure what you’re ingesting is free from pesticides and chemicals!  The worst offenders are on the Dirty Dozen list, so definitely choose organic for those.
  4. Fresh juice has a quick end date.  Freshly juiced beverages have a small window of time in which to drink them.  It’s best to drink fresh juice right away, but if you want to make juice for later, here are a few tips:
  • Store juice in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate.  Make sure the juice fills up the entire jar to reduce oxidation.
  • Freeze the juice for later use.  Pop in a couple cubes of juice, frozen in an ice tray, when you’re making smoothies, shakes, and other cold beverages.
  • Taking juice with you but not drinking it right away?  Add a teaspoon of vitamin C powder or squeeze of lemon to the container to keep juice from turning brown.

Happy Juicing!

Fresh Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Fresh Spiced Cranberry Sauce

When I was a kid, I thought all cranberry sauce came out of a can in one big can-shaped jelly mold.  I thought it tasted OK, but something about it was weird and unnatural.  Then many years later I discovered that cranberry sauce could look like, well, sauce.  And it tasted so…delicious.  After that day, I just couldn’t bear to buy the jelly-roll-thing-in-a-can again.

While homemade cranberry sauce does take longer to make than opening a can, I think it’s totally worth it.  And my taste buds agree.  If you’re in a real pinch, or simply will faint if you have to make one thing more thing for the holidays, you could add the spices to a store-bought can of whole cranberry sauce (please stay away from the jelly!).  I promise not to say anything, as long as you pledge to try this recipe later.  OK, now that we’ve done the pinkie swear thing…..

This would be a great sauce to accompany any white meat, which you probably already guessed.  But I encourage you to try it with other foods too, such as swirled into oatmeal or yogurt, dolloped onto vanilla ice cream, or stuffed into baking apples.  I bet you could come up with some fun ways to use it for holiday hors d’oeuvres too.

Recipe for Fresh Spiced Cranberry Sauce

makes about 1½ cups of sauce

  • 1½ cups filtered water
  • ¾ cup sucanat (dehydrated, freshly squeezed sugar cane juice with a natural molasses flavor)
  • 1 (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries – Equals 3 cups
  • ½-1 teaspoon (packed in) freshly grated orange peel – I really enjoyed the stronger taste of orange, but if you only want a hint, try ½ tsp
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger root
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional) – It’s great without, but cardamom is such a warm, holiday-ish spice, it’s perfect for this time of year
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour water and sugar into medium pot and heat to a boil, stirring.  Add cranberries and bring to boil again.  Simmer, covered, until cranberries pop and mixture thickens a little (about 15-20 minutes).  Turn off heat.  Stir in rest of ingredients.  Let sit until cools.  Transfer sauce to glass container and chill in fridge until thickens (don’t worry, it will firm up!).

Have a tasty holiday season!

Pineapple-Mint Ginger Water

Pineapple-Mint Water with Ginger

Water is essential for our bodies, great for our skin, and should be our #1 go-to beverage choice.  But sometimes plain water is just a tad…well, plain.  Normally, I add citrus to my water, which satisfies my tastes.  This recipe goes beyond simple citrus, however, and becomes a tropical fiesta, infusing plain-Jane water with the sweetness of pineapple, freshness of mint, and slight zing of ginger.  The best thing is, when you finish your glass of water there’s have a pineapple snack waiting for you!

You can easily adjust this recipe to fit your needs.  I had this recipe in the fridge for two days after it had steeped, and it tasted fantastic the whole time.  Although the pineapple wasn’t as sweet as it was before soaking in the water, it was still tasty enough to eat. 

Recipe for Pineapple-Mint Water with Ginger

makes about 3 cups

1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into chunks or slices

small handful fresh mint leaves (about ¼ loose cup)

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced, or cut into small pieces

filtered water

You’ll also need:

a mason jar or glass carafe with a 3½ cup capacity

Add pineapple, mint, and ginger to jar or carafe.  Fill with filtered water.  Let steep in the refrigerator overnight or 8-12 hours.  To serve, stir mixture and strain water into glass.  Add portion of pineapple/mint/ginger if desired.

maple-kissed walnut spread

Maple-Kissed Walnut Spread

After a month of mornings craving non-traditional breakfast foods–pasta, sandwiches, stir-fried vegetables, salad–this week has been all about standard American breakfast fare.  One particular craving I’ve had is for bagels and cream cheese.  A couple of times a year, my husband and I go to a local bagel shop and share an Everything bagel with vegetable cream cheese and a Cinnamon-Raisin bagel with walnut cream cheese.  With my hankering in mind, I decided to recreate the latter spread at home.  I was delighted that the result was super-yummy even though it’s less sweet than the one from the bagel shop.  I think it’s even more delicious because I didn’t get that sick feeling halfway through from all the sweetness.  Ok, I’m probably prejudiced that mine is better.  Just see for yourself.  While this recipe isn’t something I’ll make on a regular basis, it’ll be perfect for those lazy weekends when my husband and I would normally take a trip to the bagel shop.  Hmm, now I just have to recreate that vegetable spread….

I chose Neufchâtel cheese because it has a third less fat than traditional cream cheese, but tastes just the same in my opinion.  In the directions, I don’t add the maple syrup until the end.  This is because I tried a version with only maple syrup, and the result was a bit lumpy, like cottage cheese.  Not quite what I wanted!

Recipe for Maple-Kissed Walnut Spread

makes enough for at least 4 bagel halves

4 oz. organic Neufchâtel cheese, softened at room temperature

1 tablespoon raw honey, softened (or use liquid honey)

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts – I used roasted nuts

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

dash cardamom

1 tablespoon Grade B maple syrup

Place Neufchâtel cheese in small bowl.  Add honey and mix, then add walnuts and spices and mix thoroughly.  Once spread is nice and creamy, add maple syrup and stir until mixture is a light brown color throughout.

peanut butter popcorn

Vanilla and Cardamom-Scented Peanut Butter Popcorn

If popcorn could take part in high school popularity contests, this recipe would win the titles Most Likely to Succeed, Best All-Around, Most Popular, and Tastiest.  Ok, that last one isn’t a real category (or at least I hope it isn’t!) but truly, this is the ultimate crowd-pleaser.  I got my inspiration from The Kitchn, and tweaked the recipe by eliminating the processed sugar, switching out vegetable oil for the superior coconut oil, and adding my fave spice, cardamom.  After tasting the finished result, I knew I had hit the jackpot, but I wanted some second opinions.  So at work, I enlisted a group of taste-testers, which wasn’t hard, to see if this recipe was as good as I thought.  Their reactions sealed the deal:

“Oh. My. God.  This is delicious!”

“What is this?  This is A-MAZING!”

“I can’t stop eating it!”

“Can I have more?  Please?!!”

Even the chefs were impressed.  And they aren’t easily impressed.  But don’t just take my word for it, or the word of many still-salivating fans.  Try it out for yourself.  I predict you’ll become a hungry-for-more fan too.

Recipe for Peanut Butter Popcorn

Yields approximately 16 cups

Popped popcorn from basic recipe (using ½ cup kernels)
½ cup honey – I usually recommend raw honey, but in this case use liquid honey, an unfiltered one if you can find it (more nutrients!).
¹⁄3 cup brown rice syrup
½ cup organic peanut butter – Either smooth or crunchy works.  Make sure the only ingredient listed in your PB is peanuts!
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
sea salt to taste

Directions

  • Double and triple check your popcorn for any unpopped kernels.  Breaking a tooth on a kernel that’s covered in identically colored sweetness is not so sweet.
  • Mix honey and syrup in a medium-size saucepan and heat over medium to medium-high heat.
  • Once it begins to boil, remove from heat and add peanut butter, stirring until melted.  Add vanilla, cardamom, and a pinch or two salt and stir.
  • Divide popcorn into two large bowls for better coating.  Drizzle PB mixture over popcorn and gently mix.  I suggest doing this gradually so you can control the amount of coating.
  • Sprinkle with more sea salt to taste.  I highly recommend using the coarse kind here, it imparts pleasant bursts of salt that cut through the sweetness.
  • To dry out the mixture, spread popcorn in single-ish layer on baking sheets.  Bake at 300°F for 5-7 minutes.  If you like a chewier treat, bake for 5 minutes.  If you’d rather have a crunchier, drier version, bake for 7-10 minutes until popcorn’s beige color turns light brown.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before using a spatula to transfer popcorn to bowl or container.  Don’t wait too long though, the popcorn will weld itself to the baking sheet!