Harvest for health


I got really excited when I read this research study a couple of weeks ago.  I think it sounds such a lovely idea.

Its a new type of therapy for cancer patients - vegetable gardening.  In the study at the university of Alabama, breast cancer patients were paired with a master gardener. They then worked together to plant a small garden in the patient's yard or in a Earthbox - a gardening container on wheels that can be kept on a porch or patio or just by the front door. The garden was planted with vegetable seedlings.  The idea behind the study was that the gardening project would encourage increased activity to plant and maintain the garden, and  then increase their vegetable intake by eating the fruits (or veggies!) of their labor.  I also think it would be good to increase the patient's self efficacy from having managed to try something new.


I'd love to see us at Ceres be able to expand to incorporate this.  At Ceres, our clients (mostly cancer patients) can have free food for 12 weeks and then another 12 weeks for a donation. It would be perfect to set them up with a garden at the 12 week time point and encourage them to grow their own organic vegetables so that when their food delivery ends, they will have learned how to cook and prepare their own vegetables.

There are horticultural therapy programs around the US and UK.  And if you've grown your own fruit and vegetables before you know what a labor of love it is - and more importantly - how exciting it is to eat your own home grown produce within minutes of harvesting it.

Anyhow - back to the study…. it was a year long feasibility study in 12 adult and child cancer survivors. The gardening intervention was well received and 90% of the subjects saw improvements in measures of strength, agility and endurance.  In addition, fruit and vegetables servings consumed each day increased in 40% and increases  of >30 minutes/week of physical activity were observed in 60% of the subjects. 

I'd love to see it also studied in groups - where neighbors work together and so you get that community spirit on top of it all.  Or at Ceres, our clients could work together with the teenagers in our garden…..

What do you think? Do you find vegetable gardening therapeutic?  How excited are you to eat your own produce?


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New favorite cookbook - Oh She Glows

Photo Credit: Angela Liddon
My new favorite cookbook - The Oh She Glows Cookbook - is definitely helping me have 100 happy days.  I'll count it today as my Day 14 of #100happydays - but truly, I could count it for just about everyday.

The cookbook only came out this month and I had pre-ordered.  Its just a lovely book.  It is vegan but I think it has an appeal to everyone. The dishes are delish and will suit all palates.

First off though, it looks like a "proper" cookbook.  So often vegan or  plant based cookbooks aren't so appealing in their layout and design but this one is beautiful with gorgeous photos of every dish.





I started flipping through the pages and adding stickers to the recipes I wanted to try - but quickly ran out of stickers! It would have been easier to mark the couple that didn't appeal to me!

There are more than 100 recipes, 90 of which are gluten free. They are higher in sweeteners and oil than I typically use, but easily adaptable to reducing those levels if you so wish.  There are considerations for other food allergies too, with soy free, grain free, and nut free recipes as well.

I've really enjoyed cooking from the book. We had friends stay the weekend so I made the ultimate nutty granola clusters and they were a huge hit.

Other dishes I have tried include:

  • raw buckwheat breakfast porridge
  • taco fiesta potato crisps - with walnut taco meat
  • chakra caesar salad with nutty herb croutons
  • perfect kale chips
  • lightened-up crispy baked fries

and today I'm giving the "present glo bars" a try.  I'll let you know how they turn out.
Photo credit: Angela Liddon
Walnut, avocado and pear salad with marinated portobello caps and red onion
I highly recommend this book - for vegans, vegetarians, omnivores or whatever.  It'll make you happy.
Here's the link to it on Amazon

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French Laundry gardens

We celebrated my friend's 40th birthday with lunch at the French Laundry last Sunday. It was a wonderful day.


Before lunch, I went into the garden and took some photos of their produce.  Here are the garden photos to whet your appetite for the food photos.


It was lovely walking around and seeing all the different varieties of vegetables that we were going to eat.   Lots of color and different shapes and sizes.  I particularly loved all the different sizes and color of the eggplant/aubergine, and the long pointy tomatoes.


Food photos up next! Such creativity.
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Prescriptions for Fruits and Vegetables

A few weeks ago, New York City Deputy Major Linda Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced a Fruit and Vegetable prescription program.  This allows doctors in and around New York City to prescribe fruit and vegetables to at-risk families.


More than 140 New York City farmers' markets are now accepting "health bucks" which have been prescribed to obese and overweight patients and their families.  The program provides patients $1 in health bucks for each day for each member of their family over a period of four months.  So for a family of four, they would get $120 in fruits and vegetables a month.


Each month patients check in with the doctor/hospital to have their prescriptions renewed and their weight and body mass index evaluated.  They also receive nutritional counseling.

The prescription program was started by Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit that connects low-income people with local, farm fresh foods.  The program started at test sites in Massachusetts, Maine, California and Rhode Island.  It has now expanded to seven states.


Let's hope doctors use this program to its fullest and it spreads across all states. Money to buy healthy fruits and vegetables and also education on why it is important and how to cook with it.  Sounds great.
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July Harvest continues

The yum continues!  This has been a fabulous month for our home grown fruit and vegetables.


Delicious juicy nectarines!
Top of the list this month has to be our nectarines.  They are large and juicy and picking one perfectly ripe from the tree and enjoying its flavor is like a slice of heaven.  It feels like such a luxury to eat perfection twice a day!

But that doesn't take anything away from all our other goodies.

This month - in fact this evening- we've polished off the apricots.  We've enjoyed them most of all cooked with a little water and a single cardamom pod (removed before eating) and some cinnamon and cloves. The spices complement the fruit so nicely.  I was amazed at how the cardamom brought all the flavors together.

Apricots
The tomatoes are coming along well now.  Here they are prepared with some fresh basil, balsamic vinegar and Kite Hill Cassucio cheese which is a non dairy, vegan cheese made using traditional cheese making techniques, but using almonds and macadamia nuts.






Yes, our new collapsible bucket came out again for the harvest and was quickly filled up!


But I'm sad to say that our one failing this month was the padrone peppers. We had been enjoying them so much but couldn't keep up and have now learned our lesson. If you let them grow large, their heat grows exponentially!  I prepared one each for us to top a yummy mushroom risotto when my friend was here for  the weekend. I was the first to taste it - and gosh - was it powerful! To think that when they are small, they are quite delicate and you can eat them whole, seeds included.  Be warned - at 3 inches long - don't try eating them at all! Phew!


Yes, the red cabbage, purple potatoes and cucumber also continue. How many rainbows can two people eat????

Roll on August and lets see what yummies that brings. What's been your favorite this month?
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Summer Rolls with Cashew Dipping Sauce


I made some summer rolls using brown rice paper and nori seaweed.  Adding the nori seaweed sheet really stabilizes the rolls so they are less floppy and easier to roll - and eat.  Just put the moistened rice paper rounds down first and then cover with the nori sheet. Then pile on the veggies and roll it up.



I stuffed them full of lots of raw vegetables and then made a cashew dipping sauce to go with it.

Here's the recipe for the cashew dipping sauce:

1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup cucumber, chopped
1/2 small red pepper, deseeded
Dash of gluten free tamari
Squeeze of lime juice

Place all the ingredients in a blender and process briefly. Add water a little at a time to make a smooth sauce, of the consistency you prefer.

Yes, it's getting hot here! Up to 90 degrees today so cold food rule!



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Lentil Cottage Pie

One of the dishes I made for the choir retreat this weekend was a lentil pie with potato topping.  It is similar to a cottage or shepherds pie that are popular in England - but is vegan.  I hadn't made it before, but was really pleased with how it came out.  So I thought I'd share the recipe.



The recipe makes enough for 10 people and it can all be prepared the day ahead.  Then you just need to heat it in the oven for 30 minutes, and its ready to serve. Or you can make it in advance and freeze it. The perfect dish for entertaining when you want to not be in the kitchen on the day!

Ingredients:

2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, diced
1 head of celery, chopped
300g/10 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp dried thyme
3 cans cooked green lentils or 500g/1lb dried green lentils
100 ml red wine
500 ml water
3 tbsp tomato puree

Topping - Barries Mash
5 large sweet potatoes
Non dairy milk
Bunch Fresh thyme

Clean the potatoes and bake them in the oven until soft (approx 45 - 60 minutes).

While the potatoes are baking, dry fry the onions, carrots, celery together in a large pan, until soft and golden.  No oil is necessary. If the vegetables start sticking to the pan, add a little water - 1 tablespoon at a time.  Use a lid to keep the moisture in.

Add the mushrooms and cook with the lid on for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the herbs and add either drained and rinsed canned lentils or the dried lentils.   Pour over the wine and stock.  If using canned lentils, cook for 10 minutes.  If using dried lentils, cook for longer, according to package instructions (normally about 30 minutes).

When the lentils are cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the tomato puree, and season to taste.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove and let cool for a while, until you can handle them.  Scrape out the potato flesh from its skin, keeping the skin for the topping.  Mash the potato flesh well, adding non dairy milk until it is the consistency you like for mash.

Chop up the skins of the potato with the leaves from fresh thyme.

The front two smaller versions didn't have potato skins on top
To assemble the pie, put the lentil mixture in a dish. If there is a lot of liquid, don't add it all. You can always have some as a sauce/gravy to serve.  (The amount of liquid will depend on whether you use cooked or dried lentils and how much they absorbed. There should be some liquid but not excessive liquid.) Top with the mashed potato.  Sprinkle the chopped potato skins over the mash.

The dish can be frozen at this time (when cooled). Defrost before baking. To serve, heat the oven to 190C or 375F and bake for 30 minutes. The potato skins will crispen up as it bakes.


The idea of using the potato skins on top of the mash came from an old recipe I used to make from my aga cookbook. It was called Barries mash.  It's a lovely way to add crunch to mash - and in this recipe, is a great alternative to the usual grated cheese put on top to crispen things up. Instead, the skins get crispy and it add a lovely texture.  I'd never done it with sweet potatoes before, but it works well.

This recipe is vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, no added oil.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Just wanted to wish you a Happy, Healthy (and plant-focused) Thanksgiving.


I am currently in England have a wonderful time with family.  Hope you are sharing this special time with special people in your life too.
R x


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Food coupons for fruit and veg

How refreshing!  Publix supermarket - (a supermarket in the south of US which we used to go to when we lived in Florida), have been offering money off coupons at their stores for produce!  I don't think I've ever seen that before.


Normally the food coupons you get stuffed in your Sunday newspaper give money off highly processed foods.  But these latest coupons are for any fruits or vegetables, including organic produce.


A great way to encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables and less processed foods.

I hope some other supermarkets follow their example.  Well done Publix.
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Restaurant review - The Counter

We went to Corte Madera on Saturday and tried out a new(to us) restaurant - The Counter.  It is in Corte Madera Town Center and I highly recommend it.  It has food to suit just about every one.


It is basically a burger bar - a build your own burger bar.  You have a menu with lots of components for burgers and you select the ones you want:

First off, the burgers aren't all beef.  They have veggie/vegan burgers - which is what I had - Gluten free too and hand made at the restaurant.  It was brown rice based with a good flavor.  Other options for burgers are turkey, chicken and the special on Saturday was Halibut, which my hubby had.  The meat is hormone and antibiotic free.

You then chose the size of burger you want - 1/3, 1/2 or 1lb.

Next comes cheese options, if you so desire.  12 different cheeses, including goat cheese and brie!

And then it's toppings.  Four are included in the price.  The choices include things like asparagus, sprouts, roasted corn and black bean salsa, tomatoes, onions, carrot strings, lettuce, artichoke hearts,olives, cranberries etc.  Yes, plenty of healthy choices.  There are also some premium topping for $1 more - including guacamole, avocado, fried egg, sun dried tomato or bacon.

Next up is a sauce such as harissa, balsamic vinaigrette, BBQ, mayo etc.

And finally you choose a bun such as multigrain, pretzel, gluten free, or no bun at all and the burger is served in a bowl with organic lettuces.

The meal was delicious. I had the vegan gluten free burger in a bowl with organic lettuce, asparagus, corn and black bean salsa, sprouts, and roasted red peppers.  No cheese.

If all this choice is too much (there are 312,210 different combinations!), they do have some signature burgers already decided for you!


Yes, you can have a very unhealthy meal with a whopping 1lb beef burger with cheese and egg and onion rings and fries etc, but you can also select a healthy delicious option too.

The Counter is a franchise - the Corte Madera restaurant was the first one - so check out other locations and see if there is one near you.  I was pleasantly surprised and we both really enjoyed our lunch.
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Eat a rainbow a day

Do you eat a rainbow a day?

Eating a diet that includes lots of different colors is linked to lowered risks of obesity and chronic disease.  The natural colors of foods are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and incorporating different colors into your food plan offers more than just macronutrients and antioxidants.  The colors are connected to specific functions inside the body too.

  • Red foods like tomatoes and watermelon contain the antioxidant lycopene, shown to play a role in reducing the development of certain cancers and may by important for warding off heart problems.  
  • Orange foods like carrots and sweet potatoes are great sources of beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor. When we eat orange beta carotene, it converts into Vitamin A in the body.  Eating orange fruits and vegetables can help our immune system and eyes to function better.
  • Yellow and green foods are packed with phytonutrients like lutein for eye health, chlorophyll to protect cells from damage, and folic acid, an essential nutrient for growth and development.  
  • Blue and purple foods are excellent sources of brain-protective antioxidants.  Eating blue berries and purple grapes can keep the mind sharp and focused.

Take a look at the chart above and see which color you don't normally eat on a daily basis and consider buying some of that color this week when you go grocery shopping.(The above chart includes brown in the rainbow! Not a usual rainbow color, I know - but useful for us to consider adding whole grains and legumes to each day.)

It's great if you can "eat a rainbow" each day - with at least one fruit or vegetable from each color of the rainbow.  See how well you normally do and try to improve it.  It would be fun to try and see how many colors you can combine even in one meal - can you get 5 colors or more in your next meal?


May your week be color full!
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Healthy Cooking for children

After posting Jamie Oliver's TED talk on the blog last week, I had a comment back from Jennifer that said:

"This video clip is so moving. Thank you for it, Ruth. What would be the 10 meals that you would teach children to cook that would save their lives?" 


I felt the answer deserved more than just a comment back and so here are some of my suggestions. Remember, children naturally love healthful foods. Their genetic makeup is designed to consume nature's bounty without any coaxing or effort; they naturally like fruit and vegetables.  The following aren't full meals necessarily as salads can be added for appetizers and fruit for dessert etc, but they give you some ideas.

Breakfasts: I would definitely teach the children about healthy green smoothies, especially as it's an easy way to get green vegetables in us at breakfast time.  To begin with, it's important to not go too heavy on the strong flavored green leafy vegetables until they get used to the green taste, so adding more fruit for the first week or so helps, for example a banana or a couple of dates. I make my smoothies with only fruit and vegetables - no milk or yoghurt or anything else.

Photo by jules:stonesoup

1.Mango spinach smoothie.  A bag of frozen mango and a few handfuls of spinach blended up together, with a little water to get the consistency that you want.
2. Applesauce smoothie - 3 apples, a banana, a bunch of parsley and some root ginger and water.
3.Lettuce smoothie - 3 cups of lettuce, 2 pears,half a pint of blueberries and water.

Lunches:  Often school lunches include processed meats and cheese, but there are many other healthy meals like soups and salads or cold left overs that kids can take in attractive containers to school.


4. Raw almond nut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, plus orange or apple slices.
5. Whole wheat pita bread pocket filled with hummus, salad and nut/fruit dressing and some pineapple or seasonal fruit.
6. Carrot cream soup made with carrots, zucchini, onions etc and raw cashews for the creaminess. Kids often like soups cold so they can take it as is or warmed and in a thermos.

Dinners: Dinners a typically a good meal to start with a salad with some beans, mushrooms, onions, seeds, nuts and berries.  The following are suggestions after the salad or to accompany the salad.


7. California Creamed Kale.  Kale is such a high-nutrient green vegetable that you can add to soups or serve chopped.  In this recipe, the kale is lightly steamed and then served with a soy milk and cashew cream
8. Healthy potato fries.  Potatoes, cut into fries,  are mixed in apple juice and left for 5 minutes, then the juice drained and they are baked in the oven for about 20 minutes.
9. Pita-bread pizza.  Using whole wheat pita, no salt tomato sauce, mushrooms, broccoli, onions and soy cheese.
10. Squash Fantasia - Baked dish made with apricots, raisins, orange juice, butternut squash, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Small portions of organic, white meat or eggs can be added to any of these - using meat more as a condiment or flavoring rather than the focus of the meal.

And not forgetting Dessert - how about non-dairy ice cream - made by freezing bananas and then when frozen, blending them in a high powered blender. Yummy on it's own, but even better when other fruit is added to the blender too, like strawberries or raspberries or blueberries or else almond butter, or cocoa or......  Tastes like soft scoop ice cream.



Gosh, this could go on for ever, but I hope this gives some ideas.  What would you suggest? What are your kids favorites?

If you are looking for more information on how healthy eating for kids can protect  them  from diseases, check out Dr Fuhrman's book "Disease-proof your child - Feeding kids right".
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Happy St Patrick's Day

Photo by SweetOnVeg
Instead of wearing green today, for St Patrick's day, why not eat green instead!

Photo by Muffet
There are so many yummy green vegetables out there - gorgeous, vibrant colors, packed with vitamins, phytochemicals, enzymes, minerals etc.   So make a point today to add green to your diet instead of or as well as your attire!

Photo by zbigphotography
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What's wrong with what we eat?

A call to action talk by Mark Bittman, New York Times Food writer, on "What's wrong with what we eat" and how it is affecting the planet.  What will you do?


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12 ways to eat more vegetables

Remember - March is National Nutrition Month and time to "shape up your plate".  So today, I'll offer some suggestions of how to increase your intake of vegetables.  I think vegetables are the most important part of our diet.  They give the body so many nutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and impact the body in many ways - so it's always good to try and eat good quality vegetables.


Here are 12 ideas you may want to try to increase your veggie intake and move towards eating a plant based diet:

  1. Eat a salad at both lunch and dinner.  For one of these meals, you can make the salad the main entree, and for the other, you can have it as an appetizer or a side dish.
  2. Substitute raw vegetables for crackers or bread. For example, cut up carrots or cucumber or celery or bell peppers and serve those with hummus or cheese.  Or instead of bread for a sandwich, put the filling on a slice of lettuce or kale or collard greens and wrap it up like a tortilla wrap.
  3. Join a CSA - community supported agriculture - and get a box of vegetables from a local farmer every week.  Some weeks you'll have something you've never tried before, so it'll encourage you to be creative and try new recipes and ideas.
  4. Prepare more than one days worth of vegetables at a time. For example, if you are roasting vegetables to have with dinner one night - roast a full large pan and save the others for adding to soups or stews or reheating later in the week.
  5. When you plate your meal, give yourself double the amount of vegetables you normally would, and then select a smaller portion of something else - like meat - to compensate.
  6. Drink your vegetables.  I ingest a large portion of vegetables by using them in green smoothies. The smoothies taste like fruit instead of vegetables so this method is great for  everyone - even those who say they don't like vegetables.  It's also an easy way to get vegetables into breakfast.
  7. Add extra vegetables to soups. If you are making your own soups or using prepared soups, just throw in a few more veg - like a handful of spinach, some mushrooms, some sun-dried tomatoes.There are lots of choices.
  8. Chop up vegetables to add to your grain dishes, for example cut up peppers, cucumbers, fresh leafy herbs, onions, chives, and add them to your rice or quinoa dish.
  9. Make a salad dressing out of veggies - blending an avocado with cucumber and lemon juice, for example.
  10. Keep a bag of raw veggies cut and cleaned in the fridge for quick snacks when you are hungry.  Take the bag in the car with you when you drive if you are going to be late having a meal.
  11. Try growing sprouts indoors by a window.  It's fun to watch them grow and then add them to salads and sandwiches.  They are a great source of enzymes and so help digestion.
  12. Plant a vegetable plot in your garden - doesn't matter how small - can even be a single plant pot. You can also grow vegetables indoors if you don't have a garden.When you grow your own veggies, you'll enjoy them even more, knowing the care you've given them.
Photo by Zdenko Zivkovic


Do you have other good suggestions? 

Now go eat some veg!
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March is National Nutrition Month

March has been named "National Nutrition Month" by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly ADA) with the aim of spotlighting the importance of healthy eating habits, better food choices and maintaining a physically active lifestyle.  The focus of this year's nutrition month is  "get your plate in shape".



So I'm letting you know about this on the last Monday of February, to give you some time to prepare for getting your plate in shape for the beginning of March on Thursday.

Why not select some goals for the month of March to improve your diet?  Think about healthy eating ideas such as:

  • adding more fruits and vegetables; 
  • eating less meat and dairy; 
  • reducing your salt intake; 
  • reduce sugar and processed foods; 
  • try new foods and recipes
What do you think YOU could do for yourself to create a healthier diet?

Photo by Alex E. Proimos
During March, I'll be posting some ideas for you to consider.   But take some time this week to decide on your first goal for Thursday.  That way, when you go food shopping, you can buy what you need.  What will that one change be that will start you on the path to a healthier diet?

If you need a little more motivation, check out my previous blog post about trying something for 30 days.
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Meatless Monday

How often do you eat meat ? Everyday?  More than once a day?

Take a look at this short video and see what going meatless on Mondays can do for YOU and the ENVIRONMENT.


It's easy to just start with one day - like this coming Monday - and see how it goes..then commit to doing it every Monday and then........

You can sign up to receive meatless recipes every Friday, so you are all ready for Monday. Give it a try!
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