Vegan Valentine Treats!

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody!  We found a couple of yummy treats to share with loved ones that might be better solutions to the classic box of chocolates with extra tips that’ll help keep you and your family on track to a healthy new year.

Heart Shaped Bites

Heart Shaped Cookie Cuts

{Photos courtesy of Help Ornament My Eden.}

Replace the white bread for whole grain bread & add almond butter to make it complete.   Kiwi’s are in season right now and also make a perfect heart.

Visit the frozen aisle

 

Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie

{You can find this delicious, creamy recipe here at allrecipes.com.} 

Since strawberries are not in season, frozen is a great alternative since most frozen foods are picked at their nutritional peak and preserved with only losing a small percentage of its nutrients.  ***Remember to replace the sugar (the recipe calls for 1.5 tsp.) with 1 to 2 dates.  The dates will amp the nutritional value while giving you the sweetness :)

For a little Indulgence ;)

 

vitamix nutella

 

 
{Video, recipe and photo from Vitamix.}

 

We hope your day is full of love, laughter, vitamins, kisses and hugs!

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Berkley Springs’ Ice House Artist Co-op Book Event

Last week we attended a book event hosted in Berkeley Springs‘ beautiful Ice House Artist Co-op.  We had a great time meeting wonderful people & talented authors.  If you’re ever in the area, the co-op is a great place to stop by, especially after receiving a relaxing spa treatment available a couple of blocks away  :-)

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Located in the heart of the historic town, the gallery provides a friendly atmosphere for talented artists to display their craft.  Here’a bit of info. pulled from their website:

The Ice House Artists’ Co-op Gallery was opened in April, 2000 in conjunction with the efforts of the Morgan Arts Council who owns the Ice House and is transforming into a responsive and creative arts center. The Artists’ Co-op relies on the volunteer support of its members, and the friendly help of the docents. The artists pay a monthly fee to staff the co-op. 20% of each sale is returned to the Morgan Arts Council for use of their gallery space.

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Fruityland’s Reader of the Month

We’ve mentioned this in the past that sometimes the workload of a small family company like ours can be daunting… until we connect with our readers.  Ellyssa Simpson is nothing short of that inspiration.  Her perseverance, energy and attitude has us revitalized and calling her Fruityland’s Reader of the Month!

Elly Reader of the Month

While I was visiting some schools in North Carolina, I had the pleasure of meeting Ellyssa and her exceptional mom, Tiffany. I was impressed with their communication regarding nutrition and how great both of them looked despite Ellyssa’s condition.  ‘Elly’, as her mom calls her, developed type 1 diabetes when she was twelve months old. She is now 5 and looks great! I know many parents have the same difficulties as Tiffany does, so I asked her what has worked for her and if she had any recommendations for other parents.

“Elly eats a balanced diet and I think that has been important with her good health today. She enjoys fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains, so I know that helps too. She has been taught that eating is a priority and she cannot play or have privileges unless she has eaten all of her meal, so I have never had issues with her and eating. She takes multivitamins and probiotics, but no other medications other  than  insulin.

Her exercise routine is whatever she wants to do that day, bike riding, playing on the playground or just playing tag with me or her dad in the house. Basically, her exercise routine is just being 5 :)

Elly uses an omnipod insulin pump and a dexcom G4 glucose monitor. We have been using this equipment since February 2013. Prior to that she was on insulin shots and took a minimum of 4 shots per day.  Her A1c and control have greatly improved since we started using the pump and cgm.

As far as advice for other parents, I can only say this: you are your child’s best advocate. You have to educate yourself to make the best outcomes for your child’s health. Your child’s doctor and diabetes educators are the first line of care, but it is ultimately you who takes care of your child from day to day, and education is key to doing that. Diabetes is unpredictable and sometimes things just happen. Don’t spend time beating yourself up if something goes wrong with your child’s care. Just allow the mistake to be a teaching moment and vow not to make that mistake again :)

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Are there any parents with a diabetic child that would like to share their experience and wisdom?  Please leave a comment below or drop us a note.  We love to hear & learn from our readers.  By the way, we’re posting a special recipe that came all the way from Italy that might be your family’s summer favorite.  Until then!

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Luna’s Mediterranean Fennel Soup

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Beautiful and ancient, fennel has a subtle sweet licorice flavor and crunchy texture that has been all the rage since ancient Greece. Today, research is showing that a substance found in fennel, anethole, blocks tumor necrosis factor (TNF).  What does that mean for us exactly?  Quite a lot actually.   Tumor necrosis factor is linked with many immune disorders such as :

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • psoriasis
  • asthma

The pharmaceutical industry has been extremely invested in developing TNF inhibitors.  So much, in fact, that the global market for these inhibitors grew from 13.5 billion to 22 billion from 2008 to 2009.  The great news is that we can skip the bill and scary side effects of these synthesized drugs by incorporating more foods that naturally have TNF inhibiting properties.  Cumin, tumeric, green tea, and echinacea all seem to behave similarly by inhibiting TNF.

Fennel’s TNF inhibiting awesomeness is just the cherry on top in addition to its anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogen, antimicrobial qualities.  Now that you’ve developed a new found respect for that unsuspecting, but gorgeous, bulb, here’s my Iraqi mother-in-law’s recipe that’ll make you wish you had made more.

Luna’s Mediterranean Fennel Soup ingredients:

2 potatoes

2 small purple (or white) onions

a few small fennel bulbs (or 1 to 2 large ones)

dash of salt and pepper

water (sorry, the cook laughed when I asked her for measurements! – they run an old-school style kitchen here)

1 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil (optional)

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Recipe:

Cut vegetables into large chunks

Add all ingredients to boiling water

Cover and cook until tender (about 20 to 35 minutes)

Blend

 

Top with Golden Garlic Crispy Bits: In a small pot, heat 1 to 2 tbs. of vegetable oil that’s suitable for high heat.  Add thinly sliced garlic slivers (4 to 6 cloves) making sure you “deep fry” the garlic by tilting the pot so that the garlic is immersed in the oil.  Remove garlic when it starts turning a golden brown.   Sprinkle over your newfound winter soup and enjoy!  :)

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Kanye West, Pomegranates & the Latest Diet Trend

You wouldn’t end a friendship if they liked Kanye West.  Arguably you should could, but you know better.  You know that ending that friendship would mean you’d also lose their (usual) insight-fullness, kindness and the love and laughter that comes with being around that person. Yes you hate Kanye, but focusing on that single aspect would distract you from everything else, good and bad, that makes up your friend’s character.  After all, we’re complex beings.

And so is your body…

People’s personalities are complex and their physiology is arguably more so.  To illustrate this, it was only until the end of last year that a team of scientists humbly published an attempt to estimate the number of cells in the human body… a whopping 37.2 trillion.

A possible 37.2 trillion cells, reacting, communicating and fulfilling sophisticated jobs simultaneously throughout the day, that we’re just beginning to understand. Take adipose (fat) cells for example, that vary in type and behavior.  Some make up healthy brown fat and others collect under your abdominal muscles, coating and suffocating organs like a ticking time-bomb.  Fat isn’t only responsible for sabotaging bathing suit season but also takes part in the regulation of hormones such as insulin and those that tell the brain whether or not you’re full.

 With our busy schedules and limited memory space, it’s no surprise that the loudest, simplest messages are enthusiastically accepted, published and repeated over and over again.  Moving, crowd-pleasing speeches follow that same formula; simplify the problem, single out a villain to carry the blame, give a simple solution and promise immediate results.  Does this sound like the latest diet trend to you?  Nobody ever followed the person who started with, “There is a problem indeed!! But unfortunately it’s complicated! So now let’s get riled up and analyze those tedious details and we’ll take it from there!  WHO’S WITH ME?!”  The only thing following that speech is uncomfortable silence.  In this case, it might mean you’ve already stopped reading  :(  For those of you who are still here with impressive stamina:

Food is also complicated.
Macronutrients (fiber, protein, fat, and carbohydrates) dominate health and nutrition media because they are extremely important.  They are crucial to providing us with energy in a system called the metabolic system. However, an increasing amount of research is pointing to the promise of better health through micronutrients including phytonutrients.

While macronutrients are critical for our metabolic system (obtaining, processing, using and storing energy), micronutrients are critical for a lot of other functions.  Your metabolic systems is one of many systems and overall health is accomplished by ensuring that all of your body’s systems are balanced and working properly.

For example, antioxidants are important since free radicals are constantly being produced in our cells.  Another important example is the immune system.  Macronutrients might play a marginal role in your body’s immune system while micronutrients are critical and central to an efficient, functioning immune system.  If you’re reading this, you probably already know that these imbalances are thought to be the root cause to most modern diseases such as cancer.

Ignoring the details and the Whole Truth.

If you’re still reading this, your patience by now is probably wearing thin.  ‘BUT What IS the connection between pomegranates and Kanye West??!’, you might be asking.  We evaluate people around us and hopefully take all of their qualities into consideration.  Why not apply the same principle to something as comprehensive as nutrition?

Sugar, a subcategory of macronutrients under carbohydrates, is a specific chemical found in food.  It’s today’s new villain.  We thought we had identified fat as the monster but after our waistlines continued to grow, we needed a new suspect. Like the boogieman, it hides in unsuspecting places, tempts us with ice cream, and casts a powerful spell over us.  There is a lot of truth in this message but sugar is only one characteristic within a food.  Remember that good friend who liked Kanye?  Judging a food based on a single component is a one dimensional way of thinking that could be detrimental to your health, specifically to all of those complicated systems that depend on diverse nutrients in large, frequent quantities to work properly.

A healthy compromise: Whole Analysis

Pomegranates, for example, have A LOT of sugar!  Seeds from 1 whole pomegranate have almost 40 grams of sugar.  Equivalent to about 1.25 cups of ice cream.  However, pomegranates are also full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that boost not just one system but many systems.  Pomegranates is one of a handful of foods that have an extremely important phytochemical. The high fiber content also slows down the rate of sugar absorption, making it difficult to compare to refined sugar.  Cutting out sugar from your diet will certainly make you lose weight and even cutting back on fruits can give you a boost in the beginning.  If your looking to reduce the sugar in you and your family’s diet, having half of a pomegranate will give you the benefits and take the sugar amount to less than 20 grams.

Table sugar, on the other hand, has no nutritional value whatsoever.  Absolutely no redeeming qualities.  None. This is a complete/whole analysis of table sugar.  Pomegranate is considered to be The most antioxidant dense fruit.  Judging it then based solely on it’s sugar content might rob you of all the other qualities pomegranates have.

Applying this evaluation method to the latest diet trend will empower you and not leave you and your family vulnerable to incomplete, misleading information.  The key is whole, critical analysis.

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Tuesday Tip(s): Beans, Kale & Saute Onions

Things have been crazy for us here on the farm.  We’re in the middle of finishing our house and if anyone has any experience with this, you know how chaotic things can get towards the end!  Last minute changes, plumbing, unexpected surprises, and Moroccan-style tiling has our house upside down, full of loud banging, flying cement, plaster and curious cats (just the cement and plaster are flying, the cats are safely on the ground – most of the time).

Long story short, I’ve been too busy to write a new post but here are 3 quick cooking techniques that have revolutionized my health.

1. Raw tenderized kale

One of my absolute favorite dishes that I never get tired of, here’s a great 25 second video that shows you how to do this.

**Since tenderized kale shrinks down significantly and processed fats (in this case olive oil) should be kept to a minimum, I normally use 1 tsp. per 1 to 2 servings.  2 tablespoons for the the amount of kale used in the video is way too much but this technique is an invaluable one!!

2. Saute onions… in water??!

Yes, it’s doable and delicious.  Maybe you don’t want to do this for a decadent weekend meal but this is an easy way to improve you and your family’s health daily without compromising on taste.

** This video from Jane Thompson starts the saute with a little bit of water in the very beginning while I personally start with a hot dry pan and wait until the onions begin to stick.  I think both ways work and it’s something you can easily experiment with.  The secret is to use very very little water.

3. How to boil perfect beans

I’ve tried A lot of recipes to get the perfect beans and this way has never failed me.  Of course cooking time depends on the type of bean and how old they are but this is the only thing that varies in this perfect how-to.  You can read the entire article here from The Kitchn.

** Number 5 is key to your success!

{Photo courtesy from The Kitchn's How to Cook Beans on the Stove}

{Photo courtesy from The Kitchn’s How to Cook Beans on the Stove}

Instructions

1. Soak the beans overnight. The night before you plan to cook (10-14 hours), soak the beans to reduce cooking time and help them cook more evenly. Empty the dry beans in a bowl. Pick through the beans and discard any shriveled or unappealing beans. Cover the beans with a few inches of water and leave them on the counter.

2. Drain the soaked beans. The next day, the beans will have absorbed much of the water and nearly doubled in size. Drain the beans from their soaking water and rinse them gently under water.

3. Transfer beans to a cooking pot. Transfer the beans to a Dutch oven or other heavy cooking pot. Add the aromatics, if using.

4. Bring the beans to a boil. Cover the beans with an inch of water. Bring them to a boil over medium-high heat.

5. Reduce to a simmer and cook. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and bring the beans to a very gentle simmer. You should barely see the water moving. Leave the lid off for firm beans meant for cold salads and pasta dishes. Cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar for creamier beans for soups, casseroles, and burritos. (Learn More: Leaving the Lid On Vs. Off When Cooking Beans)

6. Cook the beans. Cook the beans for one hour, and then begin checking for doneness. Depending on their age, size, and variety, beans can take anywhere from an hour to three hours to cook through. Be patient. Keep the beans a gentle simmer and taste frequently as they start to become tender. Add more water as needed to keep the beans submerged, and stir occasionally.

7. Add the salt when beans are just barely tender. When beans are tender but still too firm to enjoy eating, add the salt. Adding the salt too early can keep the beans from becoming tender. Continue simmering until the beans are as tender and creamy as you like them. Add more salt to taste.

8. Cool and store the beans. Cool the beans in their cooking liquid and transfer to refrigerator containers, still with their cooking liquid. Beans will keep for one week refrigerated or can be frozen for up to three months.

Additional Notes:

Dry vs. Canned Amounts: One pound of dry beans makes about five cups of cooked beans, equivalent to about 3 cans of canned beans.

Cooking Beans for Soup: If you intend to use your beans in a soup, it’s best to slightly undercook them here and then finish cooking them in the soup itself.

The Cooking Liquid: Don’t pour it down the drain! Unlike the slimy liquid from canned beans, this cooking liquid is full of flavor and good nutrients. Once you’ve scooped up all your beans, this liquid makes a great base for soups and quick sauces.

Let me know how these come out for you and if you guys have any tricks and tips of your own you’d like to share!  See you next Tuesday!  ;)

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