Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Farmer’s Market Fermenting

How often do you throw away fruits and veggies that have gone rotten in the fridge? For me, it’s way too often. This is one of the reasons I am becoming more active in preserving my food. Drying, jamming, and freezing are all methods I have used that, in the end, save me time and money. Lately I have become more interested in lacto-fermentation. It sounds intimidating but is immensely easy and healthy. To learn more about fermentation, I recently interviewed Chef Ernest Miller, the Master Food Preserver at The Farmer’s Kitchen.

There are only 3 ingredients required for a basic lacto fermentation; salt, water and vegetables. You can also add spices to the mixture to give more flavor and color. Simple lacto-fermentation involves cutting your vegetables (some people crush them to release juices), adding your spices, mixing, stuffing the mixture into a clean ball jar, and pouring brine over the top. After that, it is just a matter of letting the healthy bacteria do its job (see below for a simple starter fermentation recipe from Chef Miller).

One of the most intriguing aspects of fermenting to me is the nutrient boost the food gets. According to Chef Miller, it is even better that eating the vegetables raw because the fermentation process adds vitamins and minerals, numerous beneficial enzymes, and probiotics that aid in digestion. Your veggies actually get healthier! And they last up to 6 months. Almost any vegetable can be fermented – I love the creative aspect of combining vegetables and various herbs and spices!

To get started, try fermenting beets, onion, garlic, carrots, ginger, peppers, beans and cabbage – alone or in various combinations. Add herbs like ginger, dill, basil, and oregano and try spices like red pepper flakes, mustard, and caraway seeds. Get creative! You will love the results.

Stay tuned to the Pure website and Facebook page next week for the launch of my video on fermentation with Chef Miller.

- Veronica

Farmer’s Kitchen Basic Vegetable Fermentation Recipe –yields 1 qt.

  • .5 oz. canning, pickling, kosher or sea salt

Spices are optional and may be changed to suit your tastes:

  • 1.5 tsp. caraway seed
  • 1.5 tsp. yellow mustard seed
  • 1 tsp. celery seed
  • 1.5 lbs. cabbage, shredded (about 1 head of red cabbage or choose another vegetable)

Procedure: Trim or chop vegetables. Toss with salt and spices. Pack firmly into a clean jar. Be sure the cabbage is deep enough so that the jar rim is at least 4 or 5 inches above the cabbage. Place a clean weight on the cabbage (like a small jar) to keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. Add brine (1 oz. of salt to 1 quart of water). Cover the jar with a clean dishtowel or paper towel and secure with a rubber band or twine. Store at 70º to 80ºF while fermenting in a cool place out of direct sunlight.

At temperatures between 70º and 80ºF, kraut will be fully fermented in about 2 to 3 weeks; at 60º to 65ºF, fermentation may take 5 to 6 weeks. At temperatures lower than 60ºF, kraut may not ferment. Above 80ºF, kraut may become soft. Fully fermented kraut may be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for several months.

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Bee Pollen

I am intrigued by bee pollen. Its reputation is strong and long in the natural food world. In fact it’s been touted for thousands of years as an herbal powerhouse, providing benefits from anti-aging and longevity, to immune-system support and weight loss. There is currently not enough research to support all of these claims, but if we look at the makeup of this superfood we can make some sound assumptions. For me, something created by nature, not in a lab, with such a rich history shouldn’t be ignored.

Bee Pollen is the pollen from a large variety of plants that sticks to the legs of the bee as they drink the nectar of the flowers. The bees then bring the compacted pollen granules back to the hive and it is used as nourishment for the worker bees. It is a perfectly balanced food and contains almost all of the nutrients we need to survive. Forty percent of the pollen is complete protein. The other sixty percent consists of carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and antioxidants like vitamins C, A, B, and E, nutrients we know help prevent cancer, inflammation, disease, and aging. Bee pollen also contains substances shown to have antimicrobial properties which slow the growth of bacteria and viruses.

There are some interesting case studies that show groups of people who have exceptional health and vitality after consuming bee pollen for many years. To me, it would be interesting to see some additional research to dig into this further.

In the meantime, I plan on including bee pollen into my diet. Of course, it is not recommended for individuals who have bee allergies or for pregnant/nursing women. Always discuss added supplements with your doctor. For interesting ways to add bee pollen to your diet see below.

- Veronica

Bee Pollen should be introduced slowly to your diet. Start with a granule or two and work your way up to 1 Tbsp per day. To preserve nutrients, avoid adding heat or cooking bee pollen.

  • Blend into almond milk with honey and vanilla for a creamy, delicious shake
  • Sprinkle onto cereal
  • Stir into yogurt
  • Scatter on top of salads
  • Add a pinch to smoothies
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Rhubarb the Vegetable

Next time you sink your teeth into a slice of rhubarb pie, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you are eating your vegetables! Rhubarb is, indeed, a vegetable even though the US decided in 1947 to classify it as a fruit to save on import tariffs. Either way, it is a unique and delicious addition to your diet.

To me, Rhubarb and Grandma go hand in hand. My grandma excelled at all things rhubarb – sauces, pies, stews, you name it. When we moved into our last home there was an old rhubarb patch out back. I wasn’t very familiar with cooking with rhubarb so at first I tried to remove them and replace with other plants. I soon realized that rhubarb is extremely hearty. It refused to go away, so I made my peace with rhubarb and learned that cooking with it is simple and delicious.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a stubborn rhubarb patch, rhubarb is very inexpensive and can usually be found year round. Originally, rhubarb was used by the Chinese as a healing plant – not surprising since there are all sorts of studies documenting rhubarb to be a high antioxidant food with disease-preventing abilities. Rhubarb is also high in vitamin C which is helpful as we go into cold and flu season. It provides calcium and vitamin K for bone building and neuron protection, and complex B vitamins for energy. It is also high in fiber and low in carbohydrates. Just be aware that you should never eat the leaves as they are toxic to humans.

Rhubarb is best known for use in pies and sauces, but is also great in stews, baked goods, and soups. It adds a nice complimentary flavor to almost any dish. I like to make an all-purpose sauce that can be used as a side dish, a marinade, a dessert, or even a jam. See my favorite simple rhubarb sauce recipe below, and keep enjoying this great little fruit… I mean, vegetable!

- Veronica

Orange Rhubarb Sauce Recipe
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 lb. rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
1 tsp. fresh ginger
2 large oranges peeled, sectioned and muddled
1/2 cup walnuts
mint leaves
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Boil the water and cook rhubarb, oranges, ginger and honey on low temperatures until the rhubarb is soft and the liquid has boiled down. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and add walnuts cinnamon and cloves. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Dry Your Favorite Herbs


One of my favorite activities on a cool, fall day is to preserve herbs from my garden for use all winter. Drying your own herbs is very simple. It can be done with an oven and a cookie sheet. It is cost-effective since buying dried herbs at the store can be expensive, and gives you the peace of knowing exactly where your herbs came from and how they were handled. It also gives you the freedom of mixing different herbs together, and you can dry other items like citrus peel which can be used to flavor drinks and foods

The goal of drying herbs is to remove their moisture so they won’t rot, while preserving their oils for optimal flavor and color. There are two primary ways of drying herbs; air-drying and dehydrating. Air drying works well for delicate herbs like thyme but can be a long process for heartier and thicker herbs like basil. I generally don’t use this method because I live in a humid area and don’t have much time or patience for air drying.

I like to dehydrate my herbs using my oven. In the beginning, it can take some trial and error to figure out the best dehydrating times for various herbs, but it won’t take long to become a master!

To use your oven, set it to its lowest temperature. Use an oven thermometer to figure out exactly how low you can get it. Most articles will say to dry at 180 degrees but I prefer to dry at 120 degrees because I feel the lower temperature retains more nutrients and oils. If you cannot get your oven this low, leave the door open just a crack (you can prop it open carefully with a heat-safe magnet to keep it open just a tiny bit). I always do this on a cool day so my oven heat can be used to also heat the house!

Put your herbs flat on a cookie sheet; if you’re using multiple cookie sheets, layer them in the oven, crisscrossed. Check on them often and stir them to be sure they are dehydrating well. I know that the herbs are done when they crumble in my hand. Different herbs will need different times. Usually, dehydrating takes between two-to-six hours depending on the herb. The added bonus of oven-drying herbs is that your entire house will smell amazing!

— Veronica

What to Dehydrate?

What herbs do you love and cook with most? I have had great luck with dehydrating the following herbs:

Basil

Mint

Thyme

Rosemary

Parsley

Oregano

Don’t stop at leafy herbs though! Try these as well:

Onion slices (150 degrees)

Citrus peel (orange, lemon, and grapefruit are all great options)

Bell Pepper slices (150 degrees)

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

High Energy Back to School Foods

The fall routine is in full swing at our house. Early mornings, fall sports and vamped-up work projects have us all running. This year I have one in high school, one in middle school and one in elementary school; 3 kids, 3 buildings and 3 sports + piano. It’s crazy! Now that the novelty of starting school has worn off, I am faced every morning with moans and groans of tired kids. My neighbors have college-aged kids that burn the midnight oil and try to balance school, work and fun. How can we all keep our energy up?

It seems like the busier we get, the harder it is to eat right. Convenient food is crucial and sometimes junk food is just too easy for all of us to grab. What are the right choices?

I want delicious, I want easy and I want high energy. That means foods with B vitamins, vitamin C, natural fruit sugar and fiber. Pure Bars are perfect for our busy fall schedule, but there are lots of other great choices, too. Below are some other easy, delicious and convenient foods that will keep us all going strong.

Source

— Veronica

5 High Energy Foods

Oatmeal: High in B-vitamins which give energy, complex carbohydrates, and fiber for sustained fuel. Oatmeal is a comfort food and not intimidating, especially for kids. Try some with cinnamon, maple syrup, sliced apples, and warm almond milk.

Oranges: With cold and flu season right around the corner, the Vitamin C in these fruits will help keep immune systems tough. Natural fruit sugars and fiber give sustained energy. PLUS, they are delicious, so kids will eat them!

Sunflower seeds: Feeling like a crunchy snack? Step away from the potato chips and instead munch on these little gems which are packed with B vitamins, protein, fiber and antioxidants.

Nuts: Filled with minerals that help your body create energy like phosphorous, magnesium, and copper, nuts also provide healthy fats which keep your brain and heart strong.

Water: Not a food but so often the culprit when you feel tired. I always carry a reusable water container in my car and make sure my kids have one for school. Dehydration can cause you to feel sluggish or depressed, and can cause headaches.

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Balance Training

I’ve always said, “Life is about balance.” Lately, I’ve been reading more about the importance of adding balance to your workout, literally. There are some fancy names for this like proprioception and kinesthetic awareness, but essentially, it involves activities that make you hold a position requiring balance. Why is this important? Our sense of balance is one of the first abilities we lose as we get older. In fact, balance naturally starts to decline after we reach the age of 25, making us much more prone to knee, ankle, and back injuries, as well as injuries from falling. It also makes exercise more difficult. Balance training counteracts this and keeps your athletic ability strong.

Balance training strengthens your core muscles and your stabilizer muscles, all of which support movement, though they are not the primary muscles involved in the movement. For example, if you stand on one leg and squat down, your quadriceps are primary muscles involved in that movement; however, your leg shakes and twitches to keep balance – those are all of the stabilizer muscles helping the quad do its job! The more you strengthen these stabilizer muscles, prominent in the ankle, knee, lower back, and core, the better athlete you will become, and you will be less prone to injury from balance issues.

The best feature about balance training, I think, is that it is very easy to add to your workout and makes it less monotonous. You don’t even need a gym or fancy equipment. See below for ways to improve your balance.

Source

— Veronica

Activities to Improve Balance

Yoga moves are great for strength and balance. Try the Tree Huggers Pose shown above

Bosu Balls (half of a big blue workout ball) are a fantastic balance training tool. Do simple exercises like leg squats
and pushups using the ball instead of the floor.

Balance boards

Stand up Paddle Boarding

Slacklining

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Sustainable Wood

I love the look of wood. One of the reasons we bought our current home is because it has a lot of wood in and around it; wood decking, wood paths, and wood floors. Over time, some of the outdoor pieces have needed replacement. Instead of buying treated lumber, we are replacing our boards one at a time with untreated cedar.

Cedar is grown in the North/Northwest US and Canada. It is naturally resistant to mold, mildew and fungus. It repels bugs, and does not warp with changes in the weather. Because of this, it is a very popular choice for outdoor decks and furniture. Untreated, it may not last quite as long as treated wood, but is so much better for the environment, because it is free of the toxic chemicals used to treat lumber. I love Cedar for all the above reasons, but also for the sweet smell and beauty as it ages from a rich tan to a fine grey color.

Replacing our decking with cedar got me thinking about the most sustainable wood choices. Some other good choices include bamboo, as it can be grown and harvested quickly, cork, because it can be harvested without damaging the tree, reclaimed wood because it is local and recycled, and locally-harvested species which cuts down on transportation impact.

Source

— Veronica

Learn more about local and sustainable wood

http://www.sustainablewoods.com/index.php

http://www.bmra.org/about-bmra

http://www.fscus.org/productsearch/retailers/?category=1

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

High-Protein Vegetables

The question I get asked most as a vegetarian is how do I get protein? We are so trained to think of only meat or animal products as protein sources, yet plants provide an amazing amount of protein per calorie. This means I can eat a lot of veggies and get a lot of protein (and fiber and antioxidants not found in meat) with few calories. | To me, that is a great deal!

Here are some of my favorites:

Calories Fiber Protein
Lentils ½ cup cooked 115 8g 9g
Brussels sprouts 1 cup cooked 56 4g 4g
Corn, 1 large ear cooked 120 3g 4g
Green beans, ½ cup cooked 114 8g 6g
Cauliflower ½ cup cooked 30 3g 3g
Kale 1 cup sautéed 36 3g 3g
Peas 1 cup steamed 134 9g 9g
Potato 1 medium baked 161 4g 5g
Swiss Chard 1 cup sautéed 35 4g 3g

— Veronica

What to do with all those veggies?

Now imagine a dinner plate filled with some of the above choices like ½ cup of green beans, ½ cup of lentils, 1 ear of corn, 1 baked potato, 1 cup of Swiss chard and 1 cup of cauliflower. It would definitely be a filling meal! You would consume:

575 calories

30 grams fiber

30 grams protein

Pretty cool, right? And that doesn’t count the magnitude of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in your meal! The USDA RDA (recommended daily allowance) of protein for adults is about 40g-70g depending on your weight. One meal of veggies gets you almost there!

Vegetables are the gateway to healthy living. I find the more vegetables I eat, the more I crave them. Sometimes I will eat three or four different veggies for a meal. Whether you eat meat or not, pile your plate high with vegetables and reap the amazing benefits!

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Solar Dryer

When my husband installed my new solar dryer this week (fancy name for outdoor clothes-drying rack), it made me giddy. He stared at me curiously as I jumped up and down with delight. I have wanted a solar dryer for so long and finally took the time to get it done. Aside from the nostalgia of crisp, bright clothes flying in the wind, I always knew it would save money and be better for the environment.

The dryer is the second most gluttonous energy appliance in the house (next to the refrigerator). Electric dryers cost around 30-40 cents per load and gas dryers about 20 cents per load. The typical gas dryer pumps between 5-7 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air per load – ugh! If every American family sun-dried just one load a week, we would collectively save at least 550 million pounds of carbon dioxide from being omitted into the air; two loads would double that number, and so on. It is amazing to think what a huge difference a simple, small change can make.

For me, drying the clothes out in the sun just makes me happy! It builds a wonderful memory, and sets a good an example for the kids, too.

— Veronica

Source 1
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Source 4

Veronica’s Tip of the Week

Veronica Bosgraaf, Pure Bar Founder

  • Always clean the lint catcher; 30% more energy is used by a dryer with a dirty lint screen.
  • Use your temperature or moisture detector setting rather than time setting. This can save up to 15% energy use
  • Use a high spin setting on your washer to get clothes as dry as possible before putting into the dryer
  • Dry your lightweight items separate from heavier items since the lightweight items take less
    time, or hang small items like undies and thin shirts on an inside rack which keeps them nicer,
    too, since the dryer is hard on your clothes.

Read Veronica’s Blog or follow Pure on Twitter

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Radishes | Win a Culinary Experience in NYC!

When Grandma showed up at the cottage with radish sandwiches, I immediately started thinking about what to fix the kids (because, of course, I knew that they wouldn’t touch radish sandwiches). However, never ceasing to surprise me, they loved them! Maybe it was because grandma is synonymous with yummy things or because they sensed that I thought they wouldn’t try them (always good to prove Mom wrong). Whatever the reason, the kids not only ate them, but liked them – so much, that they asked me to get Grandma’s recipe.

Radishes will always remind me of summer and MY Grandma. She loved them and would eat them raw with salt – her own version of a spicy potato chip. Every time we went to her house, she had sliced radishes, sweet pickles, and olives on a platter for us to snack on (so much better than candy and chips). I guess when I think about it, I loved radishes as a kid, so why wouldn’t mine?

The nutritional value of radishes is stellar. With only 19 calories and 2 grams of sugar, one cup of sliced radishes will serve as a good source of important vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and riboflavin – and they are a very good source of fiber, calcium vitamin C, folate and potassium. What a perfectly balanced food!

Thanks to Grandma, we are eating more radishes this summer. See her recipe below to get your family eating nature’s perfect chip.

— Veronica

Veronica’s Tip of the Week

Veronica Bosgraaf, Pure Bar Founder

7 Large radishes, sliced thin

1/2 stick softened butter

2 Tbsp. chopped herbs (thyme, chives or rosemary) –optional

Radish leaves, lettuce or arugula

Sea Salt

Sourdough bread (or bread of choice)

Mix herbs into softened butter to create herb butter. Spread butter onto bread, layer the radishes, sprinkle with salt and top with lettuce, radish leaves or arugula (I prefer arugula). Finish with a second slice of bread and butter, or enjoy open-faced.

Read Veronica’s Blog or follow Pure on Twitter

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Ditch Toxic Household Staples

For years, I cleaned with name brand cleaners because I thought they were safe and effective.  When I started to research this, however, I realized that most of these cleaners contain dangerous chemicals and cost way more than natural and safe products.  Below are a few of the biggest offenders and simple ways to replace them to save money and maintain a healthy home environment.

 

Antibacterial cleaner:

Regular soap and water kill bacteria effectively yet companies have created a germ free frenzy by marketing harsh cleaners as “antibacterial” and convincing us we need them.  Many of the chemicals in antibacterial cleaners have been shown to disrupt hormone levels, cause thyroid dysfunction and breast cancer.  They have also of course contributed to super bugs that are resistant to common antibacterial drugs.

Furniture Polish:

Do we need to polish our furniture?  Nowadays most wood furniture is covered with a varnish so we really only have to remove dust.  Many furniture polishes contain ingredients that have been linked to lung and skin cancer.  Stop spraying this gunk around your house for all to breathe – there are safer and easier ways to remove dust and keep wood nice!

Pesticides:

Pesticides are designed to kill living things; therefore, they aren’t very good for humans either.  Most commercial pesticides contain carcinogens.   Spraying your house for insects and your lawn for weeds is toxic to you too and especially your kids and pets that tend to be closer to the floors and lawns where the chemicals are.  Yikes!  Avoid this at all costs.

Fragrance:

Just about every cleaner and detergent has fragrance, a mixture of chemicals that gives things their fresh smell.  These items plus the sprays and plug in “fresheners” can be adding toxic fumes into your home.  Most of these fragrances contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen which can be very irritating to your skin and lungs, and phthalates which have been shown to cause birth defects, cancer and reproductive problems.  Ditch the fake smell and discover easy, natural ways to be fresh as a flower!

— Veronica

Veronica’s Tip of the Week
Veronica Bosgraaf, Pure Bar Founder

Instead of Use
Antibacterial cleaner Plant-based soap, vinegar, baking soda
Furniture Polish Slightly damp dust cloth, linseed oil
Fragrance Baking soda, ground coffee, essential oils
Pesticides Keep crumbs swept up and food enclosed to discourage bugs. Use lemon or orange essential oils to repel spiders and ants in the home. For the lawn, use only natural and organic fertilizers and pest control. View Pesticides Newsletter

See more ideas on our Pinterest page!

Read Veronica’s Blog or follow Pure on Twitter

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Kayak, Kayak

What I love about Kayaking is that, while you don’t have to be a superhuman athlete to do it, the effects it has on your body can make you feel like one!

Most kayakers average 400 strokes per mile and 1500 strokes per hour at an easy pace – that burns around 400 calories per hour. This low impact exercise tones your arms and upper back through repetitious strokes, while primarily strengthening your larger core abdominal and back muscles. It also improves coordination and balance which is very important as we get older.

Beyond the physical rewards, though, are the emotional benefits. Kayaking has a meditative quality about it; the rhythmic swish of the paddle, the immersion in nature. Sitting low leaves me feeling as one with the water and surrounding environment. To me, the stress relief is unmatched.

Most cities have locations to can rent kayaks. Some even offer services that drop you off and pick you up at the end of a ride. What a great family activity for this summer!

— Veronica

Veronica’s Tip of the Week
Veronica Bosgraaf, Pure Bar Founder

Veronicas 5 favorite summer activities:

  • Kayaking
  • SUP (Stand-up Paddleboarding)
  • Slack-lining
  • Biking
  • Outdoor yoga

See more ideas on our Pinterest page!

Read Veronica’s Blog or follow Pure on Twitter