4 Items to Always Have in the Kitchen

Putting together a meal can be a struggle when you’re caught in the fast pace of our busy lives. To be sure I’m never without the the basics for a healthy meal no matter the time of day, here are four essentials I always have on hand:

oatmeal to the rescue

oatmeal to the rescue

1. Oatmeal: Instant or old-fashioned oats are perfect for breakfast, or even lunch and dinner when you’re really in a pinch. Oats are ideal for busy mornings because all you need to cook them in is water. You can dress up your oatmeal with whatever you have on hand; berries, dried fruits, nuts, or seeds. Full of protein and fiber, oatmeal is your best bet when you’ve got just a minute to get out the door.
2. Frozen vegetables: Some days you come home and all you see in your vegetable compartment is a wilting bunch of green onions. Keep a bag of frozen spinach, broccoli or mixed vegetables in your freezer so that you always have a vegetable on hand.
IMG_2928
3. Beans: Beans combined with a frozen vegetable from above come together to create a healthy, filling meal when dinner is the last thing on your mind. I like to have both canned and dry on hand, but canned beans are especially nice to have when all you can think about is satisfying your growling tummy after 10 hours in the office.
4. Grains: My favorite grain is quinoa because it’s filling and tastes yummy all on its own. White or brown rice is an excellent substitute if you prefer. Grains are a blank slate to serve up with some spices, a can of soup, or a side of sweet potatoes.
A final bonus is that you can stock up on each of these items when they’re on sale.
There you have my four essentials for plant-based living. Which items are you sure to have in your kitchen each day?

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!

Fruits and Vegetables around the Web

Continuing along in our month-long celebration of Fruits and Vegetables, here are three stories I found interesting from around the Internet:

David Festa, Vice President of the Environmental Defense Fund, blogs about how eating fruits and vegetables saves the Earth.

Nicholas Bakalar of the NYT’s Well blog reports that children throw the away fruits and vegetables they are given at lunch. How can we make them more appealing to kids?

Larry Schwartz writes on Salon about the 24 fruits and vegetables that will help you live longer.

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:

IMG_2796.JPG

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.

IMG_3170-0.JPG

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.

IMG_3171.JPG

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.

IMG_3175.JPG

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.”

IMG_3153.JPG

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!