The Decline of Processed Foods

Clearly it’s been a busy fall around these parts but I sure haven’t forgotten about my favorite corner of the Internet. Last night my local grocery store had an incredible sale on plum tomatoes: 3 pounds for $1! That was the only sign I needed to know it was time for endless bowls of fresh soup. I dashed to the store after dinner, my mouth watering at the thought of several dozens of juicy tomatoes just waiting to simmer on my stove, and of course, share with you.

You can imagine my heartbreak, then, when I was met with empty crates at the produce section. The only hint of the juicy, ripe tomatoes were the bruised, and squishy remnants I encountered sitting sadly at the bottoms of the bins. I humbly gathered the last three pounds I found scattered across the store and headed home undefeated.

I’d say it’s no coincidence that Treehugger has an insightful post today about the decline of processed foods in our grocery stores. It’s true: packaged foods strain our overburdened landfills, contribute significantly to cruel animal agriculture practices, and harm our bodies with additives. Earlier this year, the Washington Post published a story on the falling profits of companies like Jell-O and Oscar Mayer.

Now that explains why I was left with the twice-picked over tomatoes. Not a problem for me, though, if it means we are eating healthier and protecting the Planet at the same time 🙂 And since I did manage to round up the last bits of tomatoes, stick around for my recipe later this week.

Have you had a hard time finding produce these days?

Sweet Potato is Your Fall Bae

Crunchy leaves. Later sunrises. Fall is here to stay, no doubt about it. I’m not going to lie and say I’m super pumped about the sudden chill–summer is my favorite season. It’s in my blood. I’m a desert rat what can I say?

If I had to pick one thing to be excited about for the cooler days ahead, though, it would surely be hanging out in the kitchen warmed by an oven cooking a delicious meal. And what might be inside that oven, you’re probably wondering, that could be so delicious?
Subtle yet dazzling. Muted but bold. What could it be?
Sweet potato, that’s what! This fall you’ll want to eat as much of it as you can get your hands on. Here’s why:
The nutritional value of this root vegetable is out the roof. Every vitamin you could imagine, sweet potato’s got you covered. A few of the benefits you’ll gain from eating one of these babies–potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and Fiber. That alone makes up for the summery fruit you’ll be missing in colder days.
They are incredibly versatile. I mean just think about the possibilities. Sweet potato chips, mashed sweet potato, sweet potato curry…the list goes on! Whatever you’re in the mood for, sweet potato will be there for you. This brings me to my last point…
How can you resist this face?

How can you resist this face?

They ooze warmth. Indeed, sweet potato is best served warm. They very act of preparing it to eat requires you to heat it in some way, whether over the stove, or in the oven. However you choose to prepare it, eat it right away. Sweet potato will warm your frozen heart in no time.
What are your favorite ways to prepare sweet potato this fall?

Free for My Readers

As we enter into our last week of Fruits and Vegetables month, I’m offering my EGuide free to my treasured readers through the end of September. At just 13 pages long, it’s designed to help you answer the fundamental challenges of plant-based eating: simple and adaptable preparation methods, selecting between fresh and frozen, tips for snacking on produce and a few more topics.

Email me at: mitali (dot) shah (dot) 17 (at) gmail (dot) (com) and I’ll send you the PDF.  I’m excited for your feedback after you have a chance to check it out.

Email me at the address above for your PDF copy

The Radical Radish

During Fruits and Vegetables month, and all year long, produce like avocados, strawberries, and kale always find a place in the spotlight. There’s no doubt about it: their acclaim is well-deserved given the powerful punch of nutrients they deliver. Today, though, I’d like to shine the limelight on an equally healthy yet decidedly an underdog in the produce department: the radish! Read on for 3 reasons the radish is totally radical:

It’s a root vegetable. This means that you’ll be able to find it year-round if you live in a temperate climate. In the right conditions, root vegetables grow at any season, which means you’ll have an easier time finding it in your local grocery store.

It’s packed with nutrients. In a one cup serving of radishes, you’ll get more than 25% of your daily Vitamin C needs.  The leaves of this root are also packed with anti-oxidants, so be sure to add those into your salad. Eating radish ensures you’ll have nothing to throw away because you can benefit from both the stem and root.

You're talking about us?

You’re talking about us?

It comes in many varieties. You’ll find white, purple, and red radishes, each with its own taste. I love radishes for their strong flavors. Dice a couple up and sprinkle throughout your favorite salad combination. There’s no need for much dressing when you’ve got radishes to spice up your salad.

The next time you’re looking for a flavorful side dish with no prep, slice up some radish! Though they may be the underdog, radishes are totally rad, dude!

In Pictures: Savor Summer Fruit Every Season

While I may not be able to wear my white dresses anymore, the end of summer doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy fresh berries all year long. Maybe you just picked up a few pints of blueberries on sale at the supermarket or enjoyed one last trip to the farm and picked your own; the thought of surviving cooler months without juicy berries too much to bear.

Well, you’re in luck because in a few easy steps you’ll be able to enjoy your fresh summer pickings all year long!

This is my favorite way to freeze fruit like berries and pineapple. Sure, it does require an extra step or two beyond simply throwing them in the freezer, but I really think the end result is worth it. This method of freezing your fruit allows you to remove as much or as little as you need without getting stuck with a solid block you need to thaw to separate. It’s perfect for mixing fruit into smoothies, oatmeal, muffins, and just plain snacking!

I’ve used strawberries in this example but the method is pretty much similar for other fruit you’d like to freeze. Here are the four easy steps:

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1. Chop the stems off your strawberries. I prefer to chop the tops off first before washing them because then the dirt/pesticides from the top doesn’t mix in with the rest of the berry.

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2. Wash and dry your berries. The important part here is that you thoroughly dry your berries after washing them. I dab them gently with a paper towel to absorb any remaining water. The better you can dry them off, the fewer ice crystals they’ll form when you freeze them.

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3. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place strawberries on the pan and take care to leave space between each one.

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4. Freeze berries on pan for 3-4 hours. Be sure to keep the baking pan flat when you lay it in the freezer. Once berries are frozen, remove them from the pan and store them in a freezer-safe bag. Store bag in the freezer.

After each piece has room to freeze separately, you can put them all in the same bag without fear that it’ll turn into one huge blob. You can freeze blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries with the same method–just no stems to chop off first. With fruit like pineapple, chop it up into bite-size pieces and place each piece on the pan to freeze.

In a few easy steps, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying summer fruit every season!

Select the Best Fall Produce: Insider Tips from Sunnyside Farm

To continue our celebration of Fruits and Vegetables Month, I had a chance to catch up with Valerie Fowler of Sunnyside Farm in St Mary’s County, Maryland. Eastern Market is DC’s oldest, continuously operating farmer’s market and Valerie and her family have had a stall here since its opening, in 1873!

As we welcome Fall and the colorful fruits and vegetables the season brings with it, Valerie shares her advice with us on selecting the best squash from your local farmer’s market.

Here’s what Valerie says about shopping for fall vegetables:

Acorn Squash
Acorn Squash decorates the local farm stands in the fall. This vegetable has a hard, thin outer skin. It has the shape of an acorn with ribs. It is typically about 8 inches long and 5 inches in diameter. The orange/yellow interior flesh is firm and sweet with a nutty flavor. These squash come in many colors (dark green, white, orange, and colorful variegated varieties) To select acorn squash – pick one that feels heavy for its size, usually from 1 to 3 pounds. The skin should be smooth and free of any soft spots. There should be a partial orange color where the squash laid on the ground, which tells us that it was mature when picked.

The farmer typically picks the squash when the vines begin to dry up. However, The shopper does not see this part of the process. An overripe squash has the signs of being too orange in color (unless the squash is naturally an orange color), lighter in weight and the interior may start to have a dry, stringy inside. Due to the thick skin, the winter squash keeps longer than the thin skinned summer squash. Winter squash easily stores for 1 to 3 months at about 50 degrees. Since most households do not have this optimum temperature for storage, it is best to use the winter squash within a couple of weeks after purchase. Try to store in a cool dry area. You can cut up and store raw or cooked squash in a container in the refrigerator for a several days. Cooked acorn squash (chunks or mashed) can also be frozen for several months.”

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Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a winter squash that is found on many farmer’s markets in the fall. The ripe exterior color is beige. The texture will be smooth and feel heavy for its size when you pick it up. There should be no green color on the outside if the butternut it is ripe. The skin should be a dull beige, firm to the touch with no soft spots. The interior flesh is a deep orange color.

It should be stored in a cool, dry area. Just like the acorn squash, a ripe butternut squash will last one to three months. Best to eat within a few weeks of purchase to guarentee you catch the flavor at its prime. It can be stored in fridge either raw or cooked –just like the acorn squash. Or, place cooked squash in freezer bags or air tight container in the freezer for up to several months.”

If you have a chance to visit Eastern Market in DC, be sure to visit Valerie and sample some of her fresh and delicious produce. For more information about Sunnyside Farm and Eastern Market in Washington, DC, visit this page here.

Thank you so much Valerie, for taking the time to share with us!

A Surprise Unveiled

Earlier this week I mentioned I’d be revealing an exciting addition to my blog in honor of Fruits and Vegetables Month.

And here it is:
 E-Guide Cover
An E-Guide! Available on Etsy as a digital download, this guide was written to help my readers who are just beginning their plant-based journeys. It’s designed especially for those of you who want to eat greener not just for your health, but to protect our Planet’s precious resources as well, and aren’t sure where to begin.
It’s a very short guide at just 13 pages and it’ll be a quick read. My intention is for it serve as a reference for incorporating fruits and vegetables into your meals each day. It’s something I hope you come back to when you need help deciding whether to buy canned or frozen produce, organic or conventional fruits and vegetables, and tips for snacking on them.
Connect with me if you’d like to know more about the E-Guide.
My treasured readers can visit this post here for a sneak preview of what’s in the E-Guide.  Even if you don’t like kale, these basic prep methods will serve you well with other leafy vegetables.
Coming up later this week, I had a lovely chat with a farmer local to me here in DC about selecting fall produce.  Though her tips didn’t make into this short guide, I’m so excited to share them with you later. Stay tuned!