Organic mandarin oranges are in full swing and they are a favorite fruit around many homes. How could they not be? They’re tasty, easy to eat, and loaded with vitamins. Organic mandarins may be truer than their conventional counterparts. Most of the organic citrus we eat in this country is from California, Florida, Texas or Arizona. Spain, however, is the second leading producer in the world of mandarin oranges and the main supplier of mandarin oranges and juice moving through international markets. So it makes sense that the a study about the benefits of mandarin oranges originates from there.
According to a report from The Organic Center, a team of Spanish scientists grew conventional and organic oranges on the same farm, using the same irrigation methods and variety of tree. The study was carefully designed to eliminate or control other sources of variation in the nutrient and sensory quality parameters addressed by the team.
The conventional blocks of oranges were treated with up to nine herbicides and four insecticides. Weeds were controlled in the organic trees with cultivation, and insects were controlled with neem oil and pheromone traps. Interestingly, the team reported few differences between the conventional and organic oranges at the time of picking, although the organic fruit was marginally smaller.
So what effect did organic farming have on the fruit and juice it produced? The scientists found that organically grown mandarin oranges produced juice that is more intensely colored, had a superior aroma and taste, contained higher levels of all eight minerals studied (in three cases by 50 percent or more), had a 40 percent higher concentration of total carotenoids (Vitamin A), and contained 13 percent more Vitamin C!
So how do you know if you are buying a mandarin orange? One easy way to tell is that mandarin oranges have a bright orange skin that is easy to peel, and inner segments that are easily separated. Common varieties are Satsuma, Clementine, Dancy, Honey and Pixie.
Recipe courtesy of Anna Smith Clark
Featured in 2011 With Caroline Casey
1 loaf or 18 appetizer servings
1 lb Chicken Breast – plus
1 oz Lean veal
8 oz Lean pork
14 oz Fatback
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup Applejack, calvados, or brandy
1/4 cup Organic Nation Gin (Strong Juniper Taste)
1 tablespoon Olive oil
4 oz Chicken livers – trimmed
1 tablespoon Pureed garlic
2 med onions minced
1/4 cup Cognac
2 1/2 Bay leaves
2 teaspoons Ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon Freshly-grated nutmeg
3 teaspoons Eggs (small)
2 teaspoons Juniper berries ground
1/2 lb Bacon – sliced
4 Bay leaves – for garnish
4 dried figs – sliced in half
1/4 cup Cognac
Two weeks prior to making this recipe start by placing the dried figs in to a sealable container and add Cognac. Place in refrigerator. They will marinated and create a syrupy liquid.
Trim veal or chicken and pork of excess fat and tendons. Skin fatback. Cut into 1-inch cubes and pass through largest hole of a meat grinder. Transfer to a large bowl. (You can grind smaller if you like a smoother consistency. Stir in salt, pepper, and applejack and gin. Cover with plastic wrap touching the mixture and refrigerate at least 1 day or as long as 3 to marinate.
After marinating, heat olive oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Sauté livers until well browned, about 1 minute per side. Remove from pan and set aside to cool. Add onions and garlic until they are well sweated. Reserve onions and garlic with liver.
Add brandy and bay leaves to same skillet. Scrape bottom of pan to loosen brown bits and cook over low heat until warm, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool and remove and discard bay leaves.
Combine the liver and garlic along with 2 cups marinated ground meat, allspice, nutmeg, and brandy. Stir to combine. Transfer to a food processor, add eggs, and puree until a smooth paste is formed. This paste will bind the pate. Place puree in a large bowl, add remaining ground meat, and combine well. (Using your hands combine this dense mixture well)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a 9- by 5- by 3-inch glass or ceramic loaf pan, place two bay leaves at the bottom of the pan, then line the pan with bacon slices so they overhang lengthwise, about 3 inches on each end.
Spread about a cup of pate evenly over the bacon about half way in the pan. Take the sliced marinated figs and place them down the center of the pan about an inch apart. Fold overhanging bacon over the top. (The pate may rise slightly over the top of the pan. That’s OK.)
Tap pan against a counter to firmly pack. Cover with 2 layers aluminum foil, tucking edges under to completely seal. Place inside a larger pan and pour in boiling water until it rises halfway up the sides of the pate. Bake 2 hours 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Cover with wax paper. Cut cardboard to fit and cover the pate to protect it. Top with some 3 pounds of weights (canned goods or milk cartons are good, anything that has some weight to help compress) and refrigerate overnight. This will compact the pate and makes it easier to slice.
To serve, loosen pan dipping bottom in warm water and run a knife along inside edges. Invert onto a serving platter. Cut into 1/2-inch slices and serve on lettuce leaves.
Serve with mustard, pickled onions, pickles, cornichons, additional marinated figs with their syrup, fresh bread, or whole grain black bread.
With the New Year many of us think about eating better and improving our health. Now is the perfect time to enjoy those hearty winter vegetables. They’re not only tasty but have incredible health benefits as well.
Leafy greens like kale are rich in sulforaphane, which has anti-cancer properties and boosts the immune system. Sulforaphane also helps the liver produce enzymes that detoxify cancer-causing chemicals and kills colon cancer cells. When prepping kale, remember, chopping and cooking increase antioxidants. A light steam is best.
Argali is another delicious veggie choice. Its nutty flavor has helped it build a strong following and with eight times as much calcium content as iceberg lettuce, more vitamin C than any other salad green and the same cancer-fighting powers as broccoli.
Root veggies are also great for you. Sweet potatoes have almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, 42 percent of the recommended vitamin C, four times the RDA for beta carotene and, when eaten with the skin, sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal. Parsnips are another great option. They are high in fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamins C, E and B6, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and zinc.
The list goes on and on, which makes a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so surprising. The nationwide study of fruit and vegetable consumption found that only 26 percent of adults eat vegetables three or more times a day! Public health officials had hoped the result would be double that. Amazingly, the amount of vegetables consumed has barely changed since 2000. This seems even more surprising considering the record growth of farmers’ markets across the United States. In 2009, total U.S. organic consumer product sales grew 5.3 percent to reach $26.6 billion. Fruits and vegetables made up 38 percent of that growth. Packaged salads also hold the #1 spot for all organic produce items sold.
We have a long way to go but little by little, I think we can make a difference this year. Below are some of my personal favorite tricks for increasing my veggie intake. So, grab a carrot and let’s crunch our way to better health.
-Add bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms or tomatoes to your eggs and omelets.
-Dip slices of sweet potatoes in a mixture of egg substitute and nutmeg and bake on a lightly greased pan in a 425° oven for 20 min. for tasty sweet potato fries.
-Pile spinach leaves, tomatoes, peppers and onions on pizza.
-Try veggie lasagna.
-Add fresh broccoli, green beans, corn or peas to a casserole or pasta.
-Add lettuce, tomato, onion, sprouts and cucumber to sandwiches.
-Order salads, vegetable soups or stir fried vegetables when eating out.
-Choose beans, coleslaw, and corn on the cob or a side salad instead of french fries.
-Snack on raw veggies like baby carrots, pepper strips, broccoli and celery.
-Make fruits and vegetables visible by having fresh fruit on the table or counter top and cut carrots or celery in the fridge.
-Pick up ready-made salads from the produce shelf for a quick salad anytime.
I love to snack, especially around the holidays. These days I’m trying to choose healthy treats to munch on. One of my favorites is roasted pumpkin or squash seeds. These little guys are both delicious and nutritious. Did you know that 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds contains 92% of your daily value of magnesium? So, next time you cut into that gorgeous winter squash, don’t forget to save the seeds! The rest is simple:
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
-Salt (or your favorite seasoning blend)
Remove seeds and rinse using a colander. Let dry. Lay seeds on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 250° F. for 1 hour. For final browning, increase to 400° F. for 5 extra minutes. Toss in olive oil and add salt or your favorite seasoning. Cayenne, curry, or even cinnamon and sugar work well. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!
Another favorite winter snack is sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are one of nature’s unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene. Low in sugar and high in antioxidants, these guys can be prepared all sorts of ways: baked, boiled, steamed, and mashed. Here’s my favorite snack-friendly recipe (can be used for yams and other tubers as well):
Baked Sweet Potato Chips
adapted from vegweb
1 large sweet Hannah or Japanese sweet potato
A teaspoon of olive oil
Heat oven to 350º F. Peel sweet potato and slice thin, as if for a thick potato chip. Put the chips into a plastic bag with about a teaspoon of oil (more or less), and shake to coat. Lay sweet potato in a single layer in the pan, sprinkle with garlic salt. Bake for 20 minutes, turn, sprinkle opposite side, and bake for another 10 minutes.
I know, I know. We’ve heard it before: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But what’s the most important part of breakfast? According to my friend, nutritionist and natural chef Jenny Brewer - it’s protein.
A recent study conducted by Nutrition Research Journal compared the effects of eating a protein rich breakfast (eggs) to one containing equal calories but mostly carbohydrates (bagels), found that those who ate protein for breakfast consumed 300 fewer calories over a 24-hour period AND felt more full.
A win-win if you ask me.
There are lots of ways to get protein in the morning. Nuts are one of the quickest and easiest sources. For a breakfast that’s as simple as it is satisfying, I like to combine almonds with oatmeal, chopped dates, and flax seed. Or, if you prefer a grab-and-go breakfast, here are two protein rich recipes that you can make ahead of time and will last for several days.
No-Bake Power Bar
Adapted from a recipe at liftforlife.com
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins, finely chopped
1 cup shredded unsweetened dried coconut
1 cup almonds, blanched, chopped or slivered
1/2 cup nonfat dried milk powder
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2 teaspoons butter
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup unrefined brown sugar
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1 teaspoon orange or lemon extract
2 teaspoon grated orange or lemon peel.
Toast the sesame seeds in a frying pan for about 7 minutes, until golden, then grind coarsely. Toast the oats in a 300º F oven in a 10-inch by 15-inch baking pan for 25 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching. Mix the seeds, apricots, raisins, coconut, almonds, dry milk and wheat germ. Add hot oats into dried fruit mixture; mix well. Butter the hot baking pan; set aside. In the frying pan, combine honey and sugar; bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat and quickly stir in the peanut butter, orange extract, and orange peel. Immediately pour over the oatmeal mixture and mix well. Quickly spread in buttered pan and press into an even layer. Cover and chill until firm, at least four hours or overnight.
Swiss Chard and Bean Frittata
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)
7 large egg whites, lightly beaten
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped organic jalapeño pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (optional)
4 chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups torn organic Swiss chard or spinach
1 1/2 cups chopped organic yellow onion
Preheat broiler. Place egg whites, eggs, salt and black pepper in a large bowl, whisk. Stir in jalapeño, mint (if desired), olives and beans. Heat the oil in a large well-oiled iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add Swiss chard and onion; sauté 3 minutes or until Swiss chard is tender. Pour the egg mixture into pan; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 10 minutes or until almost set. Place skillet in broiler and broil egg mixture for 4 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure you have a good sturdy oven mitt when removing the pan, as it will be extremely hot! Let sit for 5 minutes or cool to touch and serve with salsa.
Featured in Canning and Curing
Kraut is surprisingly good in stuffing. The acidity brightens the other flavors and the adding texture is a welcome addition. I developed this recipe a couple of years ago on a whim and was just thrilled with the results. You can use any of our krauts but I like Horseradish Leek and Apple Fennel best.
Makes 11 cups
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 lb horseradish leek sauerkraut, chopped
3 T butter
1 ¼ cups vegetable, turkey or chicken broth
1 large egg
1 lb Beckmanns stuffing mix
Salt to taste
Heat 2T butter in skillet over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened 7 to 9 minutes. Add ¾ cup broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in sauerkraut (including all juice) and remove from heat. Add vegetable mixture to stuffing mix and toss to combine.
Generously butter a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with remaining tablespoon butter.
In medium bowl, whisk egg and remaining 1/2 cup broth together. Add egg/broth mixture and gently toss with stuffing mix to combine. Salt to taste. Transfer to baking dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and place baking dish on rimmed baking sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees on lower-middle rack for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes or until top is brown and crispy. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Notes to Cook:
*The horseradish flavor mellows considerably in the cooking process.
*I am of the “never put stuffing in a turkey” camp preferring to make this a stand-alone dish. In addition to tasting better this way, I now have an extra dish for the vegetarians in my family.
*Adding an egg to the broth gives the stuffing richness and body. If you prefer, add 2T broth to the mixture to replace the egg.
* Beckmann’s stuffing mix is locally produced, can be found at many farmers markets and stores in N. California and I think a good alternative to making your own.
* Yes, cooking kraut reduces the probiotic health benefits but I like to think that what we lose in nutrition, we make up for by feeding the soul.
Well, the dog days of summer are here and the weather will soon start turning cooler. If you haven’t started your outdoor entertaining it’s not too late to begin. September offers many opportunities for produce to play a roll in your Indian summer social calendar.
Corn, portabella, and zucchini on the grill
Honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon for breakfast, or fruit salad
Grapes for snacking
And, of course, carrots, cucumbers, and peppers – for dipping
But your veggies don’t have to be a mere vehicle for a dip. They can take the driver’s seat too.
Here are some easy, great tasting vegetable dips to serve at back-to-school party, a football tailgater, or a gathering of friends listening to the latest podcast of An Organic Conversation.
Lets start with basil. Often used as a seasoning to enhance the flavor of vegetables, just think of the possibilities when put front and center in a dip. This high protein spread is simple to make and has all kinds of uses: a fantastic addition to a grilled veggie platter, a wonderful sandwich spread, or even rolled up in steamed chard leaves as an appetizer.
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons tahini
1/2-cup fresh basil leaves
Puree all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until creamy. Add additional oil, if necessary, for desired consistency.
Late Summer is when the colored peppers are grown in the US and more reasonably priced. Serve this tangy recipe with toasted pita bread or on your favorite veggie burger. It is sure to become a new favorite topping.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus
16 ounces chickpeas
6 ounces roasted red bell peppers
1 jalapeno, seeded, diced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1-tablespoon chipotle pepper in adobo
1/4-cup extra-virgin olive oil
Mix all ingredients, except olive oil, in food processor until pureed. Slowly add in olive oil to finish. Let stand for 1 hour prior to serving.
Next up is the often under appreciated beet. Rich in folate and antioxidants, this root veggie has all sorts of uses. As a dip, it can be a sweet, refreshing alternative to hummus. Truly a creative addition to any meal! Plus, it only takes a few minutes to make.
Beet Root Spread
1 beetroot, cooked
2/3 cup unsweetened yogurt
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
3 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp chili
Pinch of salt
Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Serve chilled with crackers.
If you buy a bunch of beets then either make a double version of this recipe or try them raw – peeled and tossed into a salad. Or you might like them lightly cooked with a bit of onion, olive oil, and your favorite herbs. The sweetness will surprise you. Also, don’t throw the leaves and stems away as they are packed with vitamins and minerals and are a perfect start to a vegetable stock or broth.
So little summer, So many dips!
A survey called Fresh Trends taken by a produce industry newspaper found that even though consumption of fruits and vegetables has increased in 2008 and 2009 there are still many items that folks still aren’t sure how to choose or ripen at home. The study found that only 24% of those surveyed knew how to ripen nectarines or plums at home and 19% knew how to ripen a mango at home. Obviously, you want to get the most of your produce purchases so here a few tips to help you out:
The ripeness of mangos can be determined by either smelling or squeezing. A ripe mango will have a full, fruity aroma emitting from the stem end. Mangos can be considered ready to eat when slightly soft to the touch and yielding to gentle pressure.
Ripe fruit are fragrant and give, slightly, to the touch. Look for fruit with smooth unblemished skin. Avoid extremely hard or dull colored fruits and soft fruit with soft, wrinkled, punctured skin.
Plums should be plump and well colored for their variety. If a fruit yields to gentle pressure, it is ready to eat, however, you can buy plums that are fairly firm, but not rock hard and let them soften at home. They will not increase in sweetness, as they do not gain sugar after they are picked. Ripe plums will be slightly soft at the stem and tip, but watch out for shriveled skin, mushy spots, or breaks in the skin.
Ripening At Home
The best way to ripen a mango, nectarine or plum is at room temperature, on the kitchen counter for approximately 2 -3 days (slower or faster ripening time is determined by the temperature in your house). If you wish to accelerate the process place in a paper bag overnight with other fruit to create more natural ethylene gas.
Once ripened they each can be refrigerated for a few days, but should be used shortly thereafter.
There is growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can adversely affect people, especially during vulnerable periods of fetal development and childhood. This is why buying organic produce can positively impact your family’s health. Here is a look at a few of the differences in growing practices and pesticide residues of conventional and organic farming.
The most serious disease of raspberries is gray mold, caused from rain when fruits are at their ripest. Conventional growers can use fungicides for this problem, but there are no organic fungicides available for organic growers to combat this problem. They have to be more proactive, choosing a location with good soil, and arranging crop rows to take advantage of sunlight and breezes. Other techniques are trellising, removing spent canes, thinning, controlling weeds, cover crop mowing, and a tight picking schedule to reduce the presence of overripe fruit.
A recent report reviewed the current data comparing pesticide residues on organic and conventional produce. It found that conventional vegetables are 6.8 times more likely to have one or more detectable residues, and about a dozen pesticides are routinely present in fresh produce at levels that pose significant risks. The average conventional cucumber contained 2.7 different pesticides.
Honeydew melon is a long-season crop, more so than other melons. Longer time in the field makes melons more susceptible to insects and leaf disease, which can translate into more pesticides being used. Organic growers know that excess nitrate fertilizers can bring on bugs and mildew so they are careful to use compost and other slow-release sources of nitrogen. Instead of potent fungicides that conventional growers use, organic growers use botanical oils from jojoba and neem and even baking soda to combat disease. They also use biological sprays that employ competitive micro-organisms, which are harmless to us, but are lethal to the bacteria and fungal diseases that plague hot and tired melon plants.
Have you ever seen beautiful plums turn ugly with a soft brownish mold? It’s brown rot. In the spring, when plum trees bloom and set fruit, rain and cool weather encourage brown rot spores to enter the twigs where the fruit forms. Conventional growers spray synthetic fungicides; organic growers spray naturally occurring minerals and biofungicides (which have safe bacteria) to compete against the fungal spores.
Cucumber beetles are the scourges of zucchini growers. They feed on the leaves and spread disease from one plant to another. Some conventional growers use traps that contain a combination of cucurbitacin juices and carbaryl (a toxic insecticide) as a control method. Organic growers use floating row covers as a barrier between insects and plants, heavy mulch to deter egg laying in the soil, and they plant perimeter trap crops to attract beetles away from the zucchini. They also use natural predators like soldier beetles, wasps and bats. Did you know that 150 midwestern brown bats can eat to up 38,000 cucumber beetles?
Thompson Seedless Grapes
It’s tempting to pluck a grape and pop it in your mouth, but don’t. Grapes are heavily sprayed. An Environmental Working Group study of government data revealed that imported and domestic grapes rank in the top 10 for residues. California grape growers are reducing their use of the more toxic pesticides, but plenty are still being used. Late season grapes are often treated with sulfur dioxide gas to increase storage time; organic growers can’t use these. Your best bet is buying organic and washing your grapes to rinse off any dirt and residues. Don’t worry about the frosty color on the grapes—that’s natural, it’s called bloom.
As Bartlett pear season begins, you may start thinking of ways to keep them around for late fall and winter entertaining. After all, these beauties only last so long and they can make a quick yet elegant dessert or salad accompaniment when you are short on time and the holidays roll around. Have you ever thought about pickling pears? Why not? Folks have been pickling forever and it is not as hard as you might think. Check out this recipe from Washington State University:
8 cups sugar
4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
8 cinnamon sticks (2-inch pieces)
2 tablespoons cloves, whole
2 tablespoons allspice, whole
8 pounds pears
Combine sugar, vinegar, water and cinnamon; add cloves and allspice that are tied in a clean, thin, white cloth. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered about 30 minutes. Wash pears, remove skins, and the entire blossom end; the stems may be left on if desired. To prevent peeled pears from darkening during preparation, immediately put them into cold water containing 2 tablespoons each of salt and vinegar per gallon. Drain just before using. Add pears to the boiling syrup and continue simmering for 20-25 minutes. Pack hot pears into clean, hot pint jars; add one 2-inch piece cinnamon stick per jar and cover with boiling syrup to 1⁄2 inch from top of jar. Adjust jar lids. Process in boiling water bath canner for 20 minutes. Yield 7-8 pints
These may get your culinary juices flowing to try some new salad ideas, or give them as a gift for special friends.
If not pears, what about putting up some tomatoes? There is nothing like that summer tomato taste to cure the wintertime blues. Still a little hesitant to can or pickle? Why not freeze some tomatoes for sauce? Try this technique from Alice Henneman. It’s easy and yields great results.
Select firm, ripe tomatoes for freezing. They may be frozen whole, sliced, chopped or puréed. Additionally, you can freeze them raw or cooked, as juice or sauce, or prepared in a recipe. Thawed raw tomatoes may be used in any cooked-tomato recipe. Don’t try to substitute them for fresh tomatoes, however, as freezing causes their texture to become mushy. Tomatoes should be seasoned just before serving rather than before freezing.
Wash tomatoes before cutting. To wash, wet each tomato with water, rub its surface, rinse it with running water, and dry with a paper towel. Cut away the stem scar and surrounding area and then chop. Soap or detergent is neither recommended nor approved for washing fruits and vegetables because they can absorb detergent residues.
To freeze whole tomatoes with peel, wash and cut away the stem scar as described above. Place tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Tomatoes don’t need to be blanched before freezing. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes from the cookie sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly. To use the frozen tomatoes, remove them from the freezer a few at a time or all at once. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink. Skin will slip off easily.
To extend the time frozen foods maintain good quality, package foods in material intended for freezing and keep the temperature of the freezer at 0 degrees F or below. It is generally recommended frozen vegetables be eaten within about eight months for best quality.
Come January you’ll be glad you took the time to preserve a little bit of summer.