Category Archives: Info & Good to Know

Maca

macaMaca Root is a nutritionally dense super-food that contains high amounts of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and all of the essential amino acids. It is rich in B-vitamins, which are the energy vitamins, and is a vegetarian source of B-12.

Maca is rich in bioavailable dietary minerals calcium and potassium (with low content of sodium), and contains the essential trace elements iron, iodine, copper, manganese, and zinc as well as fatty acids including linolenic acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acids, and 19 amino acids.

Maca is used for  enhancing energy, stamina, athletic performance and memory. It has been said to help balance our hormones and due to an overabundance of environmental estrogens, most people’s hormones are a bit out of whack.  Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which are the “master glands” of the body. These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when in balance they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian and testicular glands. Instead of providing hormones to the body, maca works as an adaptogen which means that it responds to different bodies’ needs individually. If you’re producing too much of a particular hormone, maca will help regulate the production downward. However, if you’re producing too little, it’ll regulate the production upward. Hormones regulate many things in the body including mood, growth, sexual development, and tissue function. Hormones also play a role in many diseases, like cancer and depression. Maca root has been shown to be beneficial for all sorts of hormonal problems including PMS, menopause, and hot flashes.  It has been reported to have aphrodisiac properties, be a fertility enhancer and is best known for improving libido and sexual function in men and women.

Maca is an exceptionally hardy root plant native to the Andean mountain plateaus of Peru. A member of the brassica family, maca is grown at altitudes of 14,000 feet in poor volcanic soil and an extreme climate of freezing cold, fierce winds and intense sunlight, where no other crops can survive. Herbalists believe that resilient plants are especially valuable; from an herbological perspective, maca’s resiliency knows no equal. Ancient, native Peruvians used maca for thousands of years as both a food and a tonic. They believed maca increased energy and stamina, improved fertility and enhanced libido.

Maca hypocotyls may be gold or cream, red, purple, blue, black, or green. Each is considered a genetically unique variety, as seeds of the parent plants grow to have roots of the same color. Recently, specific phenotypes (in maca, ‘phenotype’ pertains mainly to root color) have been propagated exclusively to ascertain their different nutritional and therapeutic properties.  Cream coloured roots are the most widely grown and are favoured in Peru for their enhanced sweetness and size.

Darker coloured maca roots (red, purple, black) contain significant amounts of natural iodine that may avoid the growth of goiters resulting from consumption of the lighter coloured maca. Black maca is considered the strongest in energy and stamina-promoting properties, being both sweet and slightly bitter in taste. Red maca is becoming popular with many people, and has been clinically shown to reduce prostate size in rats.

The nutritional value of dried maca root is high, similar to cereal grains such as rice and wheat. The average composition is 60-75% carbohydrates, 10-14% protein, 8.5% dietary fiber, and 2.2% fats.  In addition to sugars and proteins, maca contains uridine, malic acid, and its benzoyl derivative.

MacaX6Powder-1000pxBuy only certified organic Maca Root and read the label – high protein count is a great indicator of optimal growing conditions and careful processing.  Maca root is a food, for it to be effective and to achieve results, proper dosages should be followed. In keeping with original ancestral Peruvian dosages, you should mix 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of Maca into smoothies, yogurt, herbal teas, fruit juices, etc.maca-root-powder Or if you are using our MACA POWER& Vegetarian Capsules take 2 to 6 500mg Capsules per day or as directed by your health practitioner.  It is best store Maca Root Powder in dark dry cupboard. Some people store it in the refrigerator but this is not necessary but some feel it keeps the powder fresh and the consistency lighter.

Fennel

ImageThe edible herb called fennel belongs to the Apiaceae family, which also includes carrots and parsley. It is native to Europe and related to certain herbs that have fragrant flowers widely referred to as seeds, such as anise, cumin and dill. Although some people use fennel for its scent or claimed medicinal properties, the plant is a well-known ingredient in cooking and food products, too. Edible fennel is available in bulb, leaf, seed and stalk form, and cooks use it as a flavouring agent, garnish, herb or vegetable in dishes. You can consume the different parts of the plant in various ways, explains the Herb Society of America, such as by cooking the stalk to use as a vegetable, eating the stalk uncooked, adding the raw leaves to salads or preparing tea from fennel leaves or seeds. The actual nutritional properties of fennel may vary based on such factors as added ingredients, cooking method and the variety used.

Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a very good of dietary fiber, potassium, molybdenum, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and folate. In addition, fennel is a good source of calcium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, iron, and niacin.

Like many of its fellow spices, fennel contains its own unique combination of phytonutrients—including the flavonoids rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides—that give it strong antioxidant activity. The phytonutrients in fennel extracts compare favorably in research studies to BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), a potentially toxic antioxidant commonly added to processed foods.

The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole—the primary component of its volatile oil. In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer. Researchers have also proposed a biological mechanism that may explain these anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. The volatile oil has also been shown to be able to protect the liver of experimental animals from toxic chemical injury.

In addition to its unusual phytonutrients, fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant, able to neutralize free radicals in all aqueous environments of the body. If left unchecked, these free radicals cause cellular damage that results in the pain and joint deterioration that occurs in conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The vitamin C found in fennel bulb is directly antimicrobial and is also needed for the proper function of the immune system.

As a very good source of fiber, fennel bulb may help to reduce elevated cholesterol levels. And since fiber also removes potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon, fennel bulb may also be useful in preventing colon cancer. In addition to its fiber, fennel is a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is necessary for the conversion of a dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign molecules. At high levels, homocysteine, which can directly damage blood vessel walls, is considered a significant risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Fennel is also a very good source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for stroke and heart attack.

Just a super food!

Kyla’s Healthy Holiday Baking 2012

IMG_9345Each year I like to made a little treat box or container of my baking for friends and family. This year I only added two new recipes and altered or played with a few goodies from last year.  As I mentioned before I recently discovered coconut sugar and have been experimenting with it with great results.

Coconut sugar, derived from the flowers of the coconut tree, is an organic, sustainable natural sweetener that shows promising results for people who suffer from chronic illnesses or conditions such as diabetes, gallstones, cancer, heart disease, obesity or simply want to reduce sugar intake. This sugar has a low glycemic index (approximately 35) and is also a nutrient powerhouse, filled with lots of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Coconut sugar is minimally processed, unbleached and contains no preservatives.  Sounds good to me!

IMG_9316So the recipes I altered are the Almond Butter Cookies ,  Gluten Free Short Bread and Raw Vegan Rum Balls, all worked great subbing in the Coconut Sugar.  For the short bread this year I rolled the dough out and cut small but thick rounds and with half pressed a dried cranberry on top and the other half a sprinkle of coconut sugar.  These were a definite hit!

The other two recipes I put together are below.  Also look for my two other Holiday experiments: Coconut Milk Bailey’s Irish Cream and Home-Made Healthy Clamato Juice.  Click here for Holiday Baking 2011.

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Dark Chocolate, Cranberry, Pistachio and Tangerine Zest

Baking sheet, flipped over and covered with tin foil or parchment paper
1               pound Dark Chocolate, chopped
1/8          cup Raw Cacao Pieces
2/3         cup Raw or Shelled Roasted Pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3         cup Juice Sweetened Cranberries, coarsely chopped dried
1              large firm Tangerine, zested with a citrus zester (can use an orange here too)
Coarse ground sea salt

In a double boiler melt chocolate over simmering water, stirring frequently – this is standard chocolate melting procedure, I fortunately have a “warming zone” on my glass top oven and can slowly melt chocolate in a pyrex bowl.  There are few methods to melt chocolate, I suggest Googling it. Just be careful not to burn your chocolate, melting it on the stop in a pot will likely burn it!

Once your chocolate is melted, pour onto tin foil or parchment paper -lined pan and spread with a rubber spatula until it is about ¼ inch thick.

Sprinkle with zest first, then with pistachios and cherries and finished with cracked sea salt.

Allow toppings to settle a bit before transferring to your refrigerate to harden hardened.  Once hardened, break into pieces and serve.  Can be stored in the fridge or freezer.

IMG_9319Flour-less Pistachios Sugar Cookies

Oven 325 degrees
Two parchment paper lined baking sheets
Food processor
2              cups Raw or Roasted Pistachios
1              cup Coconut Sugar
2              large Egg Whites
1              teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2              drops Green Food Coloring   *Optional
¼            cup coarse chopped Pistachios and/or Dried Juice Sweetened Cranberries

Grind pistachios in your food processor until a paste. Add coconut sugar and grind some more.  Add remaining ingredients and process until you have a thick and sticky batter.

For a small, bite sized cookie use a teaspoon and drop onto your prepared cookies sheet.

Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a little sugar and chopped pistachios or a cranberry and gently press.  I like to do half and half.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden on the edges.  Allow to cool on a cooling rack before eating or storing.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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Saffron

Started working with Saffron this weekend! I’m going to post two recipes I’ve adapted from others I have researched and of course, made healthier and gluten/dairy free.  So far I’m loving Saffron!

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Saffron, is native to Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece.  The word “saffron” comes from the Arabic word for “yellow” It contains a carotenoid dye, crocin, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. Its recorded history is attested in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical treatise compiled under Ashurbanipal, and it has been traded and used for over four millennia. Iran now accounts for approximately 90 per cent of the world production of saffron. Because each flower’s stigmas need to be collected by hand and there are only a few per flower, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.

Not all Saffron is created equally, Saffron is graded via laboratory measurement of crocin (colour), picrocrocin (taste), and safranal (fragrance) content. Determination of non-stigma content (“floral waste content”) and other extraneous matter such as inorganic material (“ash”) are also key. Grading standards are set by the International Organization for Standardization, a federation of national standards bodies.  The world’s finest samples, the selected most red-maroon tips of stigmas picked from the finest flowers, receive absorbance scores in excess of 250. Market prices for saffron types follow directly from these ISO scores. However, many growers, traders, and consumers reject such lab test numbers. They prefer a more holistic method of sampling batches of thread for taste, aroma, pliability, and other traits in a fashion similar to that practiced by practiced wine tasters.

Despite such attempts at quality control and standardisation, an extensive history of saffron adulteration—particularly among the cheapest grades—continues into modern times. Adulteration was first documented in Europe’s Middle Ages, when those found selling adulterated saffron were executed under the Safranschou code. Typical methods include mixing in extraneous substances like beets, pomegranate fibres, red-dyed silk fibres, or the saffron crocus’s tasteless and odourless yellow stamens. Other methods included dousing saffron fibres with viscid substances like honey or vegetable oil. However, powdered saffron is more prone to adulteration, with turmeric, paprika, and other powders used as diluting fillers. Adulteration can also consist of selling mislabelled mixes of different saffron grades. Thus, in India, high-grade Kashmiri saffron is often sold and mixed with cheaper Iranian imports; these mixes are then marketed as pure Kashmiri saffron, a development that has cost Kashmiri growers much of their income.

Saffron’s aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange colouring to foods. Saffron is widely used in Persian, European, Arab, and Turkish cuisines. Confectioneries and liquors also often include saffron. Common saffron substitutes include safflower which is often sold as “Portuguese saffron”, annatto, and turmeric. Saffron has also been used as a fabric dye, particularly in China and India, and in perfumery.  It is used for religious purposes in India, and is widely used in cooking in many ethnic cuisines: these range, for example, from the Milanese risotto of Italy or the bouillabaise of France to biryani with various meat accompaniments in South Asia.

Saffron has a long medicinal history as part of traditional healing; several modern research studies have hinted that the spice has possible anticarcinogenic (cancer-suppressing), anti-mutagenic (mutation-preventing), immunomodulating, and antioxidant-like properties. A 1995 study suggested that saffron stigmas, and even petals, have been said to be helpful for depression. Early studies show that saffron may protect the eyes from the direct effects of bright light and retinal stress apart from slowing down macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.  Other controlled research studies have indicated that saffron may have many potential medicinal properties. The active components in saffron have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as antiseptic, anti-oxidant, digestive, anti-convulsant.

This novel spice is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.

It is also rich in many vital vitamins including vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-C that are essential for optimum health.

Squash

The winter squash group includes pumpkin, acorn, butternut, spaghetti squash, ambercup, buttercup, hubbard, kabocha, banana, carnival, sweet dumpling, golden nugget, autumn cup…ect.  Winter squash, like other richly colored vegetables, provide an excellent source of carotenes.  Generally, the richer the color, the richer the concentration.  They also offer a very good source of vitamins B1 and C, folic acid, pantothenic acid, fiber, and potassium.  Winter squash are also a good source of vitamin B6 and niacin. Studies have shown that, due to their carotene properties, winter squash exert a protective effect against many cancers, particularly lung cancer.  Diets that are rich in carotenes (especially pumpkins) offer protection against cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.  Studies have also shown that pumpkin seeds are helpful in reducing symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).   We think about winter squash as a very starchy vegetable – about 90% of its total calories come from carbohydrate, and about half of this carbohydrate is starch-like in its composition. However, recent research has made it clear that all starch is not the same, and the starch content of winter squash brings along with it some key health benefits. Many of the carbs in winter starch come from polysaccharides found in the cell walls. These polysaccharides include pectins – specially structured polysaccharides that in winter squash often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan. An increasing number of animal studies now show that these starch-related components in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.

Seeds from winter squash make a great snack food, just like pumpkin seeds. If you scoop the pulp and seeds from inside the squash and separate out the seeds, you can place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 160-170°F (about 75°C) in the oven for 15-20 minutes. By roasting them for a relatively short time at a low temperature you can help minimize damage to their healthy oils. Linoleic acid (the polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the same monounsaturated fatty acid that is plentiful in olive oil) account for about 75% of the fat found in the seeds.

Since summer squash (zucchini, cucumber…ect)  have a high water content, they are not as nutrient-dense as the winter varieties.  Summer squash still provide several nutritional benefits.  They are low in calories and provide a decent amount of vitamin C, potassium, and carotenes.     Studies have shown that juice made from summer squash is equal to juice made from pumpkins, leeks, and radishes in their ability to prevent cell mutations.  Summer squash are especially beneficial during the summer months due to their higher water content.  They protect against dehydration and the carotenes help to protect against the damaging effects of the sun.

Squash is a vegetable that might be especially important for us to purchase organic. Recent agricultural trials have shown that winter squash can be an effective intercrop for use in remediation of contaminated soils. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (pahs), including pyrene, fluoranthene, chrysene, benzo(a)anthracene and benzo(a)pyrene are unwanted contaminants. Pahs are among the contaminants that can be effectively pulled up out of the soil by squash plants. When squash is planted as a food crop (as opposed to a non-food crop that is being planted between food crop seasons to help improve soil quality), the farmer’s goal is definitely not to transfer soil contaminants like pahs up into the food. But some of that transfer seems likely to happen, given the effectiveness of squash in mobilizing contaminants like pahs from the soil. For this reason, you may want to make a special point of purchasing certified organic squash. Soils used for the growing of in certified organic foods are far less likely to contain undesirable levels of contaminants like pahs.

Acorn Squash

Easily found in supermarkets. As its name suggests, this winter squash is small and round shaped like an acorn. One of my favorite baking squashes, it’s easy to slice into halves and fill with butter. A small acorn squash weighs from 1 to 3 pounds, and has sweet, slightly fibrous flesh. Its distinct ribs run the length of its hard, blackish-green or golden-yellow skin. In addition to the dark green acorn, there are now golden and multi-colored varieties.

Available year round

Ambercup Squash

A relative of the buttercup squash that resembles a small pumpkin with orange skin. Bright orange flesh has a dry sweet taste. Peel it, cube the flesh, roast it, and serve like cut-up sweet potatoes. Has an extraordinarily long storage life.

Available June to November.

 Autumn Cup Squash

A hybrid semi-bush Buttercup/kabocha type dark green squash. Rich flavored flesh and high yields. Fruit size 6 inches with a weight of about 2 to 3 pounds.

Flesh is yellow/orange meat that is stringless, dry, and sweet.

Available September through December.

 Banana Squash

In shape and skin color, this winter squash is reminiscent of a banana. It grows up to two feet in length and about six inches in diameter. Its bright orange, finely-textured flesh is sweet. Banana squash is often available cut into smaller pieces.

Available year-round – peak season lasts summer through early fall.

 Butternut Squash

Easily found in supermarkets. Beige colored and shaped like a vase or a bell. This is a more watery squash and tastes somewhat similar to sweet potatoes. It has a bulbous end and pale, creamy skin, with a choice, fine-textured, deep-orange flesh with a sweet, nutty flavor. Some people say it is like butterscotch. It weighs from 2 to 5 pounds. The oranger the color, the riper, drier, and sweeter the squash.  Butternut is a common squash used in making soup because it tends not to be stringy.

Available year-round – peak season lasts from early fall through winter.

 Buttercup Squash

Buttercup Squash are part of the Turban squash family (hard shells with turban-like shapes) and are a popular variety of winter squash. This squash has a dark-green skin, sometimes accented with lighter green streaks.

Has a sweet and creamy orange flesh. This squash is much sweeter than other winter varieties. Buttercup Squash can be baked, mashed, pureed, steamed, simmered, or stuffed and can replace Sweet Potatoes in most recipes.

Available year-round – peak season lasts from early fall through winter.

 

 Carnival Squash

Cream colored with orange spots or pale green with dark green spots in vertical stripes. Carnival Squash have hard, thick skins and only the flesh is eaten. It is sometimes labeled as a type of acorn squash.

The delicious yellow meat is reminiscent of sweet potatoes and butternut squash and can be baked or steamed then combined with butter and fresh herbs. Also great in soups.

Available year-round – is best late summer through early fall.

Delicata Squash

Also called Peanut squash and Bohemian squash. This is one of the tastier winter squashes, with creamy pulp that tastes a bit like corn and sweet potatoes. Size may range from 5 to 10 inches in length. The squash can be baked or steamed The thin skin is also edible.

The delicate squash is actually an heirloom variety, a fairly recent reentry into the culinary world. It was originally introduced by the Peter Henderson Company of New York City in 1894, and was popular through the 1920s. Then it fell into obscurity for about seventy-five years, possibly because of its thinner, more tender skin, which isn’t suited to transportation over thousands of miles and storage over months.

Available year-round – is best late summer through early fall. 

 

 Fairytale Pumpkin Squash

French name is “Musquee de Provence.” The fruits are flattened like a cheese but each rib makes a deep convolution. The Fairytale Pumpkin is a very unique eating and ornamental pumpkin. It’s thick but tender, and the deep orange flesh is very flavored, sweet , thick, and firm. It is 115 to 125 day pumpkin and takes a long time to turn to it’s cheese color. The distinctive coach-like shape and warm russet color make it perfect for fall decorating too.

This pumpkin is usually used for baking.  Cut it into pieces and bake in the oven.

Available September to November.

 

 Gold Nugget Squash

A variety of winter squash, which is sometimes referred to as an Oriental pumpkin that has the appearance of a small pumpkin in shape and color. It ranges in size from one to three pounds. Golden nugget squashes are small, weighing on average about 1 pound. Both the skin and the flesh are orange.

Gold Nugget Squash may be cooked whole or split lengthwise (removing seeds). Pierce whole squash in several places, and bake halved squash hollow side up.

Available year-round – is best season is late summer through early winter.


Grey and Green Hubbard  Squash

The extra-hard skins make them one of the best keeping winter squa

shes. These are very large and irregularly shaped, with a skin that is quite “warted” and irregular.
They range from big to enormous, have a blue/gray skin, and taper at the ends. Like all winter squash, they have an inedible skin, large, fully developed seeds that must be scooped out, and a dense flesh. Hubbard squash is often sold in pieces because it can grow to very  large sizes. The yellow flesh of these tends to be very moist and longer cooking times in the oven are needed. They are generally peeled and boiled, cut up and roasted, or cut small and steamed or sautéed. It’s perfect for pies.

Hubbard squash, if in good condition initially, can be successfully stored 6 months at 50 to 55 degree F. With 70% relative humidity. Less rot will develop in the Hubbard squash if stems are completely removed before storage. Hubbard squash and other dark-green-skinned squashes should not be stored near apples, as the ethylene from apples may cause the skin to turn orange-yellow.

Available year-round – peak season is early fall throughout winter.

Kabocha Squash (Also known as a Ebisu, Delica, Hoka, Hokkaido, or Japanese Pumpkin)

Kabocha is the generic Japanese word for squash, but refers most commonly to a squash of the buttercup type. This squash has a green, bluish-gray or a deep orange skin. The flesh is deep yellow.

Kobocha Squash may be cooked whole or split lengthwise (removing seeds). It has a rich sweet flavor, and often dry and flaky when cooked. Use in any dish in which buttercup squash would work.

Available year-round.

 Spaghetti Squash (also called vegetable spaghetti, vegetable marrow, or noodle squash)

A small, watermelon-shaped variety, ranges in size from 2 to 5 pounds or more. It has a golden-yellow, oval rind and a mild, nutlike flavor.

The yellowiest Spaghetti squash will be the ripest and best to eat. Those that are nearly white are not very ripe. Although it may seem counterintuitive, larger spaghetti squash are more flavorful than smaller ones.

When cooked, the flesh separates in strands that resemble spaghetti pasta.

To prepare spaghetti squash, cut the gourd in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, then bake or boil it until tender. Or, wrap it in plastic wrap and microwave on high for 10 to 12 minutes. Once cooked, use a fork to rake out the “spaghetti-like” stringy flesh (all the way to the rind), and serve.

Spaghetti Squash can be stored at room temperature for about a month. After cutting, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days. Spaghetti squash also freezes well.

Available year-round – season early fall through winter.

 Sweet Dumpling Squash

This small, mildly sweet-tasting squash resembles a miniature pumpkin with its top pushed in. It has cream-colored skin with green specks. Weighing only about 7 ounces, it has sweet and tender orange flesh and is a great size for stuffing and baking as individual servings. Sweet dumplings are tiny but great for roasting and presenting whole.

Available throughout the fall.

Turban Squash

Named for its shape. Turban Squash has colors that vary from bright orange, to green or white. It has golden-yellow flesh and its taste is reminiscent to hazelnut. Has a bulblike cap swelling from its blossom end, come in bizarre shapes with extravagant coloration that makes them popular as harvest ornamentals.

It is popular for centerpieces, and its top can be sliced off so it can be hollowed and filled with soup. A larger variety of the buttercup squash, the turban has a bright orange-red rind. Its flesh and storage ability are comparable to the buttercup squash. Use in recipes that call or pie or sugar pumpkin.

Available year-round – season is late summer through early fall.

A New Year

I woke up early this morning and realized, its been just about two months since I have posted any new recipes.  My only excuse is its been a very busy December and January leaving little time to cook, let alone type.  I did however create a few keepers over the holidays and will work on getting them up this week.

So far my 2011 has gotten off to a nice start;  now, the days are getting longer,  sunshine appearing more often and yesterday I even noticed the tips of late Winter flowers peaking through.  I’m really looking forward to putting away the soup pot, dusting off the BBQ and sharing my collection of Spring and Summer recipes!

Lots of Love,

Kyla

Sprouting

Sprouts have many valuable attributes in relation to human health. Back in the 1920’s, an American Professor named Edmond Szekely put forward the concept and way of life of Bio-genic Nutrition

He classified sprouted seeds and baby greens as the most beneficial foods and recommended that they make up 25% of our daily food intake, calling them life-generating Bio-genic foods which he claimed offer the strongest support for cell regeneration.

In our daily life, various factors transpire to create free radicals within our bodies.

Free radicals are highly unstable oxygen molecules needing an electron to stabilise their entropy (chaotic state).

By stealing electrons from healthy cells the causal effects of this are the breakdown of vital biological structures and the alteration of DNA and RNA (a process called per oxidation).

Once this has occurred, the affected cell will only reproduce the altered version.These superfoods are a powerful source of antioxidants (minerals, vitamins and enzymes) which assist in protecting against this damage.

A healthy body is alkaline (i.e not acidic).Bio-genic foods have an alkalising effect on the body.

Raw foods contain oxygen and regular consumption of raw bio-genic foods with their abundant oxygen is valuable to health.

Double Nobel Prize winner Dr Otto Warburg found growth of cancer cells were initiated by a lack of oxygen and these cells, along with viruses and bacteria, could not live in an alkaline and oxygen rich environment.

Bio-genic foods are a good source of essential fatty acids (the average western diet is generally deficient in these) which play a major role in the immune system defences and are one of the highest food sources of fibre.

When these superfoods are grown to the chlorophyll rich two leaf stage, it has been shown they have been effective in overcoming protein-deficiency anaemia.

Some women have found that daily consumption of these superfoods has given relief from hot flushes and supported hormonal function.

The supply of vitamins (B complex and C) existing in seeds can be increased by the sprouting biochemistry over several days by 100% to 2000%.

This biochemistry modifies the array of minerals in sprouts so that they are in a chelated form which is more easily assimilated in the body.

It also denatures protein into the amino acid building blocks so that we can digest them in half the time of cooked foods.

 

A Brief Overview on How to Sprout

Sprouting: A Brief
Overview on How to Sprout

Basics of Sprouting

  1. Obtain seed for sprouting. Store in bug-proof containers, away from extreme heat/cold. Seed should be viable, and, to extent possible, free of chemicals.
  2. Basic steps in sprouting are:
    • measure out appropriate amount of seed, visually inspect and remove stones, sticks, weed seed, broken seeds, etc.
    • rinse seed (if seed is small and clean, can usually skip this rinse)
    • soak seed in water for appropriate time
    • rinse soaked seed, put in sprouting environment for appropriate time
    • service seeds (rinse) in sprouting environment as needed
    • when ready, rinse seeds. Store in refrigerator, in sprouting environment or in other suitable container until ready to use. If not used within 12 hours, seeds should be serviced (rinsed) every 24 hours in refrigerator. Best to eat as soon as possible, as freshness is what makes sprouts special!

Jars and Cloth: Two Suggested Sprouting Methods
Jars: use wide-mouth, glass canning jars, available at many hardware stores. You will need screen lids – cut pieces of different (plastic) mesh screens, or buy some of the special plastic screen lids designed for sprouting. Sprouting in jars is quite easy: simply put seed in jar, add soak water, put lid on. When soak is over, invert jar and drain water, then rinse again. Then prop jar up at 45 degree angle for water to drain. Keep out of direct sunlight. Rinse seed in jar 2-3 times per day until ready, always keeping it angled for drainage.

Cloth: soak seed in flat-bottom containers, in shallow water. When soak done, empty seed into strainer and rinse. Then take flat-bottom bowl or saucer, line bottom with wet 100% cotton washcloth, spread seed on wet cloth. Then take 2nd wet cloth and put on top of seed, or, if bottom washcloth is big enough, fold over wet seeds. Can add additional water to washcloths 12 hours later by a) sprinkling on top, or b) if very dry, remove seed from cloth, rinse, re-wet cloth, put seed back between wet cloths. Cloths used should be 100% cotton (terrycloth) or linen, used exclusively for sprouting, and of light colors. Cheap cotton washcloths (and cheap plastic bowls) work well and will last a long time.

Comparison: Jar vs. Cloth Methods
Jar method is more versatile; can grow greens in the jar (e.g., 6-8 day old alfalfa greens), and the jar is less likely to mold than cloth for sprouts that require more than 2 days. However, the jar method needs a convenient drainage system (otherwise mold can develop). The cloth method can withstand some direct sunlight (direct sunlight in early stages of sprouting can cook the seed in jars), and needs no drainage system. The methods require roughly the same time, though 2nd service of cloth is very fast. Almonds, buckwheat give better results in cloth.

Other Methods of Sprouting:

  • Plastic tube – variation on jar method; opens at both ends – easier to remove long sprouts like greens from tube than from jar.
  • Sprouting bags – cotton or linen; also plastic mesh. Soak seed in bag in water, then hang up inside plastic bag (forms a little greenhouse).
  • Trays: very good for growing greens. Might need drainage system.
  • Clay saucer: used for mucilaginous seeds like flax, psyllium, etc.
  • Commercial sprouters: wide variety available. Often fairly expensive; most don’t work as well as cloth/jar methods!

What is the best time/length to eat sprouts?
Ultimately you will answer this question by experimenting – growing sprouts and eating them at different ages/lengths. My preference is to eat sprouts (except almonds, pumpkin seeds) when the growing root is, on average, the length of the soaked seed. Almonds and pumpkin seeds are discussed below.

A note on times: the sprouting times given below are based on cloth and/or jar method, and reflect an average time. The soaking times can be increased or decreased somewhat (except for buckwheat), with little or limited impact on the results. If you are using a different method, especially one of the commercial sprouting units, the times here will not apply and you will have to monitor your sprouts to decide when they are ready.

Grains and Similar Seeds

  • Amaranth: Soak 2-4 hours, sprout 1-1.5 days. Method: cloth. Very tiny seeds, likely to flow through screen in jar method; line strainer with sprouting cloth to retain seeds. Sprout can be very bitter. Might be able to grow as greens, if you can get appropriate variety of amaranth.
  • Barley: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1.25-1.5 days. Method: cloth or jar. Use only unhulled barley; “whole” hulled barley and pearled barley won’t sprout. Chewy, somewhat bland sprout. Hulls are tough; people with stomach or intestinal ulcers might find hulls irritating. Can be used for grass also.
  • Buckwheat: Soak 15-20 minutes only; sprout 1-1.5 days. Method: cloth. Use hulled, *raw* buckwheat groats. Kasha is usually toasted, won’t sprout. Raw buckwheat is white/green to light brown; toasted buckwheat is medium brown. Unhulled buckwheat (black hulls) are for greens, not general sprouting. Don’t soak longer than 20 minutes as it spoils readily. Monitor moistness, rinse or change cloths every 12 hours to avoid spoilage. Good sprout, mild flavor. Sprouts much faster in warm/hot weather.
  • Corn group:
    • Field corn: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 2.0+ days. Method: jar or cloth.
    • Popcorn: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1.5+ days. Method: jar or cloth. Blue mold can be a problem, esp. with field corn. Sweet corn seeds (if you can find them) will sprout also. Field corn sprouts, if long enough, are tender but bland/starchy tasting. Popcorn sprouts are very sweet, but the hull doesn’t soften much in sprouting – very hard to eat. Not worth the trouble; suggest eating raw sweet corn (including raw corn silk, which is delicious) instead.
  • Millet: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1-1.5 days. Method: cloth or jar. Hulled millet – most seeds will sprout, but some ferment, producing very sharp taste. Unhulled millet best sprouter, but hull is very crunchy and sprout is rather bland. Best used in recipes.
  • Oats: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1.25-1.5 days. Method: cloth or jar. Must use unhulled oats; so-called “whole oats” or oat groats won’t sprout. Good sprout, mild flavor similar to milk. Thick hull makes it difficult to eat; best used in recipes (see sprout milk recipe). Can grow as grass also.
  • Quinoa: Soak 2-4 hours, sprout 12 hours. Method: cloth or jar. Very fast sprouter. Must rinse seeds multiple times to get off soapy tasting saponin in seed coat. Very fast sprouter; can grow as greens. Strong flavor that many find unpleasant. Small seed, line strainer with cloth. White and black quinoa are available.
  • Rice: Soak 12-18 hours, sprout 1.0+ days. Method: cloth or jar. Only brown, unprocessed rice will sprout. White rice, wild rice are dead and won’t sprout. Standard long grain rice doesn’t sprout. Short, medium grain brown rice, also brown basmati (but not Texmati) rice will sprout. Before root appears, rice can be eaten but difficult: bland, chewy, *very* filling. Once root appears, rice sprout is very bitter. The only rice I suggest sprouting is: Lundberg Farms “Wehani” rice, a specialty rice (sprout 1.5 days). It is least bitter – less bitter than fenugreek – of possible use in recipes.
  • Wheat/rye group:
    • Rye: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1-1.5 days. Method: cloth or jar. Nice sprout – good flavor. Rye harvested immature or handled improperly can have strong, unpleasant flavored. If it molds, discard (ergot mold possible).
    • Triticale is a cross between rye and wheat; used to be available from Arrowhead Mills, but haven’t seen it in market for some years.
    • Wheat, including Kamut and Spelt: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1-1.5 days. Method: cloth or jar. Hard Winter wheat better than soft Spring wheat. Wheat can get excessively sweet at 2+ days of sprouting. Spelt has nice texture, but spelt and kamut are more expensive than ordinary wheat. Wheat, rye, kamut, spelt, triticale can be used for grass also.

Other Seeds

  • Almonds: Soak 10-14 hours, sprout 1.0 day. Method: cloth Use only unblanched almonds. Sprout+storage time should not exceed 2 days or sprouts may turn rancid. Best to peel sprouts before eating (peeled have incredible flavor). Peeling is tedious, reduced by blanching in warm water (15-30 seconds in hot water from faucet). One of the very best sprouts!
  • Cabbage, Kale: Soak 6-14 hours, sprout 1+ days. Method: cloth or jar. Very strong flavor, best used as flavoring in mixtures. Can also be grown into greens. Seeds relatively expensive.
  • Fenugreek: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 18 hrs or more. Method: cloth or jar. Slightly bitter, best used as flavoring additive in mixtures. Hindi name: methi. According to “The Yoga of Herbs” by Lad/Frawley, fenugreek sprouts are good digestive aid and good for the liver. Hard seeds are common in fenugreek.
  • Mucilaginous seeds: flax, psyllium, chia These can be sprouted as flavoring additive in mixtures (alfalfa, clover, or mustard); to sprout alone requires special clay saucer method. Sprouts are not so good tasting, not worth the trouble for most people.
  • Mustard: Soak 6-14 hours, sprout 1.0+ days. Method: cloth, jar, or tray. Good flavoring additive for other sprouts. Available in 3 forms: black, brown, yellow. Brown seeds are smaller and harder to handle in mixtures; yellow or black recommended for mixtures. Can grow as greens also.
  • Pumpkin: Soak 8-14 hours; sprout (if you must) 1.0 day. True sprouting by pumpkin seeds (developing root) is quite rare. Bacterial spoilage and rancidity are problems when you try to sprout them. Best to simply soak them, then eat. Pumpkin seeds as sold in the market are not hulled – the variety grown has no hulls on its seeds.
  • Radish: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1.0+ days. Method: cloth, jar or tray. Very hot flavor! Use sparingly in mixtures as flavoring agent. Can be used for (hot!) greens also.
  • Sesame: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1-1.5 days. Method: cloth or jar. Must use unhulled sesame seeds for sprouting; hulled seeds can be soaked to improve flavor and digestibility. A black sesame seed (considered superior to white seed in Ayurveda) is available; haven’t found it in unhulled form. Sprout+storage time should not exceed 1.5 days; sprouts continue to grow in refrigerator and start to get bitter at 2.0 day mark, and can be very bitter by 2.5 days. A small bowl of sesame sprouts, with a bit of raw honey on them, is very nice.
  • Sunflower: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 18 hours. Method: cloth or jar. Use hulled sunflower; unhulled are for sunflower greens only. Need to skim off seed skins at end of soak period, when rinsing. If you leave them in, they will spoil and your sprouts will spoil quickly. Has a nice, earthy flavor; very popular.

Legumes

  • Alfalfa, Clover:
    For greens: soak 4-6 hours, sprout 6-8 days. Method: tray or jar.
    For use when short: soak 4-14 hours, sprout 1-1.5 days. Method: jar or cloth.
    Alfalfa and clover are most commonly grown as greens. A good non-traditional use for them is as flavoring additive in mixtures, for ex: lentil, alfalfa, radish is nice (alfalfa counteracts “heat” of radish). Alkaloid levels can be very high in alfalfa. Need alfalfa seed with very high germination rate (over 90%) to successfully grow greens in jar – else unsprouted seeds will decay and spoil greens.
  • Garbanzo group:
    • Garbanzos, standard: Soak 12-18 hours, sprout 1.5+ days. Method: cloth or jar.
    • Kala channa: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1.5 days. Method: cloth or jar.
    • Green channa: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1.0 day. Method: cloth or jar. Garbanzos, also know as chick peas or ceci, are common in commercial mixtures. They sprout easily but they also spoil easily (bacteria or mold). Kala channa is a miniature garbanzo, sold in (East) Indian food stores, that sprouts reliably – try sprouting it instead of standard garbanzos. Green channa is similar, naturally green, and sprouts very quickly. Green channa has stronger flavor; best to eat with turmeric or ginger.
  • Large beans: Anasazi, Black, Fava, Kidney, Lima, Navy, Pinto, Soy, etc. Except for soy, these are irrelevant to the sprouter – raw flavor is truly horrible. Also, serious toxicity/allergy/digestibility issues with these raw beans. Except for soy (edible raw if grown long enough), these beans must be cooked to be digestible, hence are not of interest to the raw-fooder.
  • Lentils, brown/green and red. Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1.0 day. Method: cloth or jar. The brown/green lentils come in a variety of sizes; the smallest sizes generally sprout faster than the larger. Red lentils are usually sold in split “dahl” form; for sprouting you must buy whole red lentils. Red lentils are red inside and brown outside; their Hindi name is masoor (brown masoor). Lentil sprouts have a spicy flavor and are very popular. Might find hard seeds in lentils from India.
  • Mung bean group:
    • Mung beans: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 18 hrs – 1 day. Method: cloth or jar.
    • Urid/urad: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 18 hrs – 1 day. Method: cloth or jar.
    • Adzuki beans: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 1.0 day. Method: cloth or jar.
    • Moth beans: Soak 8-14 hours, sprout 12 -18 hrs. Method: cloth or jar. Urid (also spelled urad) is a black shelled mung bean, available in Indian stores. Stronger flavor than regular mung. Hard seeds common in mung and urid. Moth is a brownish bean, similar to mung, available in Indian stores. Very fast, reliable sprouter, with mild flavor – similar to mung. Discard “floaters” when sprouting moth. P.S. there is a mung bean that is yellow inside, in Indian stores, but so far have only found split (dahl) form.
  • Peanuts: Soak 12-14 hours, sprout 1.5 days. Method: cloth or jar. Must use unblanched peanuts; recommend removing skins to improve digestibility. Spanish variety peanuts have loose skin, can remove most before soaking. Other peanuts – soak 1-2 hours then peel off skins, return to soaking in new, clean water. With peanut peeled you will probably observe high incidence of (bright) yellow mold – possible aflatoxin.
  • Peas, Blackeye: Soak 12-14 hours, sprout 1 day. Method: cloth or jar. Flavor is too strong to be eaten alone. Makes good flavoring additive for mixtures, if used sparingly.
  • Peas, (Field): Soak 12-14 hours, sprout 1.5 days. Method: cloth or jar. Be sure to buy whole peas, not split peas (split won’t sprout). Yellow peas are slower to sprout, and have stronger flavor than green peas. Flavor too strong when raw for many people. Insect problems common with peas in storage (beetle infestation); store in bug-proof containers. Can be grown as greens also.
  • Note: if purchasing kala channa, green channa, urid/urad, red lentils, etc. from Indian store, be sure to obtain the whole seeds, and not the split (dahl) or oiled form of the seeds.

Some Sprouting Seed Mixtures of Interest:

  1. mung/adzuki, fenugreek
  2. mung/adzuki, urid, dill seed
  3. lentils, blackeye peas, alfalfa, radish
  4. sunflower seed, moth, fenugreek
  5. alfalfa/clover, radish/mustard (for greens)

Experiment and develop your own favorite mixtures!

Soak Instead of Sprouting:

  • Herb seeds: fennel, celery, caraway, cardamom, poppy, etc.
  • Filberts: soak 12 hours; makes crisper, improves flavor.
  • Pecans: soak 8 hours; long soaks can make mushy.
  • Walnuts: soak 12 hours; flavor changes – you might like or dislike.
  • High fat nuts (brazil nuts, macadamias) may benefit some from soaking, but difference (soaked vs. unsoaked) is small.

Staple Foods for Sprouting:

  1. (first tier) wheat, almonds, sunflower, sesame, mung/adzuki, rye
  2. (2nd tier, obstacles) oats, barley, buckwheat, rice, lentils*, other legumes*
  3. (flavoring) fenugreek, mustard, radish, kale, cabbage * see question on legumes below

Easy for Beginners:

wheat, sunflower, almonds, lentil, mung

Indoor Gardening (grown indoors, in soil):

  • Grasses: wheat, barley, oats, rye, kamut, spelt, triticale, and others.
  • Vegetables: amaranth, mustard/mizuna, fennel, kale, cabbage, etc.
  • Legumes: peas, snow peas
  • Other greens: buckwheat, sunflowerWhat are hard seeds?
    Seeds that are hard, like rocks, and they stay that way during soaking and sprouting. Hard seeds are a sort of natural insurance in the sense that if planted in soil they will eventually sprout – late in the season or next season. Hard seeds may be a threat to certain types of dental work, esp. porcelain crowns (porcelain on gold crowns are stronger and hard seeds are less risk; metal crowns are stronger than natural enamel). To minimize hard seeds, suggest you soak seeds as in the cloth method: in shallow water, in a large container with a flat bottom. Then at the end of the soak stage, you can visually inspect the soaked seeds and remove those that are still hard. This technique is not 100% foolproof, but if done carefully, will substantially reduce the number of hard seeds. The method will work with any seed, but fenugreek seeds are so small that picking out the hard ones is quite difficult.

    • Livingston et al. (Nutritional and Toxicological Aspects of Food Safety, pgs. 253-268), citing research by Malinow, report negative health effects in animals and humans from consumption of alfalfa sprouts. They believe that consuming large amounts of alfalfa sprouts is risky.
    • Cousens (Conscious Eating, pg. 372) , citing relevant client cases, reports no harmful effects from consumption of moderate amounts of raw alfalfa sprouts.
    • Readers are encouraged to check the above references and decide for themselves on this issue. An alternate, experimental approach is to hold your diet constant for a few days, then add alfalfa sprouts to your diet, and observe the effects (if any) of the alfalfa – that is, listen to your body.

  • Anything wrong with sprouted legumes?
    If you can digest them without the production of a lot of gas (flatulence), there’s nothing wrong with them. Legumes are very high in protein, hard to digest, and cause gas for many people. Gabriel Cousens (Conscious Eating, pgs. 70, 372, 490) recommends that consumption of sprouted legumes (except alfalfa, next question) be minimized. Ann Wigmore (Rebuild Your Health, pg. 73) tells us that flatulence gas is toxic and harms your entire system. From an Ayurvedic viewpoint, legumes aggravate the vata dosha; individuals with vata body type or a vata disorder should minimize legumes. Ayurveda suggests eating turmeric or ginger with proteins (legume sprouts) as a digestive aid. A number of other herbs/spices can serve as digestive aids and/or counteract the vata effect of legumes. Among legumes, mung and adzuki beans are considered easiest to digest.

    What about toxins in alfalfa sprouts?
    Alfalfa sprouts contain saponins, a class of alkaloids (7.93% on dry weight basis, sprouts from commercial sources) and L-canavanine sulfate, an amino acid analog. Saponin levels are at their maximum when sprouts are 6-8 days old (most common time for eating); L-canavanine sulfate is present in the seed and decreases as the sprout grows. The issue of whether these factors are significant is subject to debate.

    Don’t Sprout: Sorghum (potentially toxic levels of cyanide in seed coat)

    Oat Sprout Milk – Special Version
    The following makes around 3 cups of delicious oat/almond milk.

    Start with: a little more than 1/4 cup dry sprouting oats, and, optionally, 1/8 cup Lundberg Farms Wehani rice. Soak 12 hours, then sprout for 1.5 days. Separately, soak 15-20 almonds for 12 hours, then sprout for 1.0 days (should be ready about same time as oat sprouts).

    Rinse oat(/rice) sprouts, put in blender with 2 cups good quality water, blend. Best to add 1 cup water, blend on medium for 30 seconds or so, then add second cup of water and blend on high for another 30-45 seconds. Now strain the blended liquid through a steel mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth (or similar).Discard hull pulp, rinse blender clean, put base milk back in blender. **

    Peel the sprouted almonds (might blanch first with warm water), rinse, put almonds in blender. Add 1 tablespoon of raw honey (or other sweetener, optional) to blender. Now add flavoring, one of: vanilla bean (about 1/2 inch or so), cardamom seed (decorticated or powder, 1/4 tsp), or cinnamon (1 rounded tsp). Run blender on medium speed for a few seconds to mix/grind, then turn down to low speed and let blender run for 5+ minutes to homogenize. (The almonds are not strained out but retained in the milk for full flavor and nutrition.)

    Note that the recipe up to ** is the basic milk recipe; can use recipe, substituting other types of grains, seeds, or nuts for the rice, to yield other types of oat sprout milk. Sprouting/soaking details will vary with grain, seed, or nut used in place of the rice.

Author Contact:
Thomas E. Billings

http://chetday.com/sprouts.html

Guide to Eating and Buying Organic Foods

Not all of us can or want to afford to go 100% organic every time we shop. The best solution is to focus on those foods that come with the heaviest burden of pesticides, additives and hormones. According to the Environmental Working Group, consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest.

If consumers get their recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies from the 15 most contaminated, they could consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally grown produce ingest less than 2 pesticides daily.

EWG has been publishing guides to the “dirty dozen” of most pesticide contaminated foods since 1995, based on statistical analysis of testing conducted by the USDA and the FDA. The latest guide is now available. The “dirty dozen” list only reflects measurable pesticide residues on the parts of the foods normally consumed (i.e. after being washed and peeled). Below you will find the listed 12 along with a few more recommendations for foods other than fruits and vegetables that are best bought organic. Also included are safer alternatives to those foods that contain similar valuable vitamins and minerals.

It’s important to remember that the dirty dozen list provides no information about antibiotics or hormones, or about the impact of producing food on the surrounding environment.  This list of foods is purely some of the most important foods to buy organic, when taking a more holistic approach.

The Dirty List
Meat, Milk, Coffee, Celery, Peaches, Strawberries, Apples, Blueberries, Nectarines, Bell Peppers, Spinach, Kale, Cherries, Potato, Grapes, Lettuce/Leafy Greens, Carrots, Pears and Tomatoes

Meat: For overall environmental impact, meat is the king of foods, even if it’s not likely to be laced with pesticide residue, though a recent USDA Inspector General report found that the government is failing to even test meat for the harmful chemicals the law requires. While beef muscle is typically clean, beef fat is a different story altogether, with 10 different pesticides having been identified. Pork meat can be contaminated, but pork fat is more contaminated, with as many as 8 pesticides. For chicken, the thigh is most contaminated.

Raising animals with conventional modern methods often means using hormones to speed up growth, antibiotics to resist disease on crowded feed lots, and both pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow the grain fed to the animals. Additionally, it takes many times the water and energy to raise one meal’s worth of meat than it does one meal’s worth of grain.

Consumers looking to avoid meats raised with these substances can seek out certified organic meat. To meet standards, this meat can come only from animals fed organic feed and given no hormones or antibiotics. Searching out cuts from grass-fed animals ensures that you’re eating meat from an animal that was fed a more natural diet, and looking for a local source of meats lets you question the farmer directly about the animal’s diet and the farmer’s method of raising it. It cuts down on the environmental cost of transportation, too.

Milk: Pesticides and other man-made chemicals have been found in human breast milk, so it should come as no surprise that they have been found in dairy products, too. Twelve different pesticides have been identified in milk, and milk is of special concern because it is a staple of a child’s diets.

Organic dairies cannot feed their cows with grains grown with pesticides, nor can they use antibiotics or growth hormones like rGBH or rbST. The overall impact of the herd is lessened when you choose organic milk.

Coffee: Many of the beans you buy are grown in countries that don’t regulate use of chemicals and pesticides. Look for the USDA Organic label to ensure you’re not buying beans that have been grown or processed with the use of potentially harmful chemicals.

Go a step or two further, and look for the Fair Trade Certified and Rainforest Alliance (or Bird Friendly) labels to ensure that your purchase supports farmers who are paid fairly and treated well. And look for shade-grown (Rainforest Alliance- or Bird Friendly-Certified) varieties for the trifecta; that way you know the coffee is being grown under the canopy of the rainforest, leaving those ancient trees intact, along with the wildlife – particularly songbirds – that call them home.

Celery: Celery has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals that are used on conventional crops.

Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include broccoli, radishes and onions.

A perennial entrant on the Dirty Dozen list, 64 pesticides detected in residue on this veggie make celery rank No. 1 in the 2010 analysis, up from No. 4 in 2009.

Peaches: Multiple pesticides are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards.

Alternatives include watermelon, tangerines, oranges and grapefruit.

Peaches, No. 1 on the Dirty Dozen list in 2009, rank No. 2 in 2010; 62 pesticides have been detected in residue on peaches.

Strawberries: If you buy strawberries out of season, they’re most likely imported from countries that use less-stringent regulations for pesticide use.

Alternatives include kiwi and pineapples.

Up from No. 6 in 2009, strawberries rank No. 3 on the 2010 Dirty Dozen list. Why? 59 pesticides have been detected in residue on strawberries.

Apples: Like peaches, apples are typically grown with the use of poisons to kill a variety of pests, from fungi to insects. Scrubbing and peeling doesn’t eliminate chemical residue completely, so it’s best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Peeling a fruit or vegetable also strips away many of their beneficial nutrients.

Alternatives include watermelon, bananas and tangerines.

Down from No. 2 in 2009, apples still rank among the dirtiest fruits and vegetables, with 42 different pesticides having been detected as residue.

Blueberries: New on the Dirty Dozen list in 2010, blueberries are treated with as many as 52 pesticides, making them one of the dirtiest berries on the market.

Nectarines: With 33 different types of pesticides found on nectarines, they rank up there with apples and peaches among the dirtiest tree fruit.

Alternatives include, watermelon, papaya and mango.

Bell Peppers: Peppers have thin skins that don’t offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They’re often heavily sprayed with insecticides.

Tests have found 49 different pesticides on sweet bell peppers.

Alternatives include green peas, broccoli and cabbage.

Spinach: New on the list for 2010, spinach can be laced with as many as 48 different pesticides, making it one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetable.

Kale: Traditionally kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested this year.

Alternatives include cabbage, asparagus and broccoli.

Cherries: Even locally grown cherries are not necessarily safe. In fact, in one survey in recent years, cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries. Government testing has found 42 different pesticides.

Alternatives include raspberries and cranberries.

Potatoes: North America’s popular spud re-appears on the 2010 dirty dozen list, after a year hiatus. North America’s favorite vegetable can be laced with as many as 37 different pesticides.

Alternatives include eggplant, cabbage and earthy mushrooms.

Grapes: Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically only imported grapes make the 2010 Dirty Dozen list). Vineyards can be sprayed with different pesticides during different growth periods of the grape, and no amount of washing or peeling will eliminate contamination because of the grape’s thin skin. Remember, wine is made from grapes, which testing shows can harbor as many as 34 different pesticides.

Alternatives include kiwi and raspberries.

Lettuce and Leafy Greens: Leafy greens are frequently contaminated with what are considered the most potent pesticides used on food (51 of them), though they dropped off the 2010 list.

Alternatives include cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

Carrots: Off the list in 2010, carrots have made the Dirty Dozen list in previous years because of the 26 different pesticides that have been detected in food residue.

Can’t find organic? At least be sure to scrub and peel them.

Pears: As insects become more resilient to the pesticides used on pears, more and more chemicals are used (28 of them), though pears have dropped off the 2010 Dirty Dozen list. The safest bet is to go organic.

Alternatives include grapefruit, honeydew melon and mangos.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes, on the Dirty Dozen list in 2008, and the Clean 15 list in 2009, rank neither among the dirtiest nor the cleanest in 2010.

It’s still true that the thin skin of tomatoes can allow pesticides to enter the fruit, so it’s always a good idea to buy organic when possible, even if the popular food is no longer among the worst actors.

What if Buying Organics Just Isn’t In Your Budget?

Here is a list of fruit and vegetables so clean of pesticides you don’t have to buy organic. (Of course, buying local and organic is always a good choice for the health of farms and farm workers, regardless of the residue left on the end product.)

Pesticides Free Foods
Onions, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Mango,  Asparagus, Sweet Peas,  Kiwi, Cabbage, Eggplant, Papaya, Watermelon, Broccoli, Tomatoes and Sweet Potatoes.

Onions: Onions don’t see as many pest threats, which means less pesticide spraying.

Choose: Look for onions that are firm, have a distinctive “oniony” smell that’s not overpowering, and show no visible signs of damage or soft spots. Store in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator.

Avocado: Avocados have thick skins that protect the fruit from pesticide build-up.

Choose: Look for avocados that are still somewhat unripe and firm to the squeeze; they’ll ripen nicely on your kitchen counter in a couple of days. Store at room temperature. Although you’ll be using only the meat of the avocado, it’s always a good idea to rinse them before you slice them open.

Corn: Corn may take a lot of fertilizer to grow, but you’re unlikely to end up with any pesticides on the kernels.

Choose: There is nothing — we mean nothing like fresh corn on the cob from a local farm stand in late summer. Buy it fresh and local, and boil it that day for the best results.

Pineapple: You won’t be eating the tough pineapple skin, which protects the fruit from pesticide residue. As with all your produce, you should rinse the pineapple before cutting.

Choose: Although tempting, this is one fruit that you won’t want to choose if it has a strong, sweet smell. This usually means that the pineapple is overripe and has even begun to ferment. Like all other fruits, avoid any that have soft spots, and in the case of pineapples, damage to the rind. Store in the refrigerator crisper.

Mango: Sweet mango flesh is protected by its thick skin from pesticides. Still, you’ll want to rinse under water before cutting open.

Choose: Depending on the variety of mango, look for those that are bright in color such as red, yellow, or orange. It should have a distinctive “fruity” smell. If there’s no ripe-fruit aroma, steer clear. Mangoes should be slightly firm but yield to your touch somewhat — the softer the mango, usually the sweeter it is. If the mango is too soft, there’s a good chance that it will be rotten inside. Store in the refrigerator crisper.

Asparagus: Asparagus face fewer threats from pests such as insects or disease, so fewer pesticides need to be used.

Choose: Look for firm spears with bright green or purplish compact tips. Plan on a 1/2 pound per person, and for more uniform cooking, select spears of a similar thickness. Store in the refrigerator vegetable crisper and give them a good rinse before using (even if you’re going to boil them).

Peas: Sweet peas are among the least likely vegetables to have pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group’s latest survey of government data.

Choose: If you’re not growing sweet peas un your garden, then look for full, green pea pods at your local farmers market, farm stand or grocery store.

Kiwi: Kiwi peel provides a barrier from pesticides. Give them a rinse before cutting.

Choose: Here’s where your nose plays an important part when choosing fresh fruit. Sniff out kiwis that smell good. They should be plump and yield to a squeeze like that of a ripe pear. Steer clear from those with moist areas on their surface or any skin bruising. If unripe kiwi are all that are available, simply take them home and place them in a paper bag at room temperature with other fruits that need more time, such as bananas or pears. Store in the refrigerator crisper.

Cabbage: Cabbage doesn’t hold on to so many pesticides because a ton of spraying isn’t required to grow it. What it does hold onto is beta carotene: It’s a superfood!

Choose: Look for cabbage heads whose leaves are tight and be sure the head is heavy for its type, and firm. For most cabbage varieties, you’ll want to make sure the outer leaves are shiny and crisp. Savoy is the exception to this rule, as it forms a looser head and the leaves grow crinkly naturally. You’ll want to avoid any with leaves that show signs of yellowing. Bok choy should have deep green leaves with their stems a crisp-looking white. Discard the outer leaves of a cabbage before using. You can wash and spin most cabbage leaves just like you do salad greens. Store in the refrigerator crisper.

Eggplant: Maybe it’s the thick skin, but eggplants are among the least likely to be contaminated by pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Choose: Look for firm and glossy eggplants to know they’re ripe and undamaged. Because they grow to various sizes, choose one proportionate to the dish you’re preparing.

Papaya: Pesticide residue stays on papaya skin, but be sure to give them a wash before slicing open.

Choose: Papaya colors usually range between yellow and green. Look for those that are slightly soft and show no signs of bruising or appear shriveled. If they’re not fully ripened, you can toss them in the brown bag along with your unripened kiwi fruit, peaches, and pears. Once they’re ripened, store in the refrigerator crisper.

Watermelon: With that rind, watermelon has a natural defense against the onslaught of any chemical.

Choose: Look for a firm whole melon without any soft spots.

Broccoli: Conventional broccoli doesn’t retain so many pesticides because the crop faces fewer pest threats, which means less spraying.

Choose: Look for tightly bunched flower buds on the broccoli stalks that are immature. In other words, try not to buy them if their little yellow flowers have opened. Color-wise, the broccoli should be deep green and the stalks should be firm and not rubbery. Before use, wash in a cool water bath and change the water a couple of times in the process. Store in the refrigerator crisper.

Look for broccoli at fall farmers’ markets, and if you’re pinched for cash, don’t fret about choosing a non-organic variety; broccoli generally doesn’t end up with pesticide residue.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes were on the 2008 Dirty Dozen list of foods with the most pesticide residue, but the latest update finds them cleaner than most. Why? The Environmental Working Group isn’t sure.

Choose: If you aren’t growing your own, look for fresh in-season tomatoes at local farmers markets and farm stands. Look for glossy, firm skin — and don’t hesitate to try a delicious heirloom variety that might not look like a typical tomato!

Sweet Potatoes: Not only are sweet potatoes unlikely to be contaminated with pesticides, they’re also a superfood, packed with Vitamin A and Beta Carotene.

Choose:It’s hard to go wrong choosing a hardy sweet potato. Just make sure it isn’t beaten up or rotting, and choose a size that matches the meal you’re preparing.

Sources:
http://www.thedailygreen.com/
http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/
http://www.grist.org/article/2010-04-15-usda-inspector-meat-supply-routinely-tainted-with-harmful-residu

Quinoa

Quinoa pronounced ‘keen wah’ is a frequently neglected and relatively unknown superfood. It is high in protein, calcium and iron, a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins.  Although not a common item in most kitchens today, quinoa is an amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked.

Most commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. It is a recently rediscovered ancient “grain” once considered “the gold of the Incas.”

Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. Not only is quinoa’s amino acid profile well balanced, making it a good choice for vegans concerned about adequate protein intake, but quinoa is especially well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health-building nutrients. Because quinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, this “grain” may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Cooking

A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta). As an alternative, one can use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa, treating it just like white rice (for both cooking cycle and water amounts).

Vegetables and seasonings can also be added to make a wide range of dishes. Chicken or vegetable stock can be substituted for water during cooking, adding flavor. It is also suited to vegetable pilafs, complementing bitter greens like kale.

Quinoa can serve as a high-protein breakfast food mixed with honey, almonds, or berries; it is also sold as a dry product, much like corn flakes. Quinoa flour can be used in wheat-based and gluten-free baking.

Quinoa may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value. Germination activates its natural enzymes and multiplies its vitamin content. In fact, quinoa has a notably short germination period: Only 2–4 hours resting in a glass of clean water is enough to make it sprout and release gases, as opposed to, 12 hours overnight with wheat. This process, besides its nutritional enhancements, softens the grains, making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.

Sources:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa