For The Love Of Food

by | Feb 17, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week McDonald’s comes up with a game changer, Dr. Oz proves once again that he’s a scumbag, and science gives us a few more reasons to eat fish.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato), Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Summer Tomato Live – Episode #2 – Darya’s Healthstyle

by | Mar 10, 2011

Thanks to all of you who participated in the latest episode of Summer Tomato Live, your questions were great and I had a blast.

The recording of the show is above, and you’ll notice quickly that I had to re-record the audio since I had some trouble during the recording. Sorry about that, I’ll get this technical stuff right eventually.

We still have samples of Zürsun cranberry beans as well as a free Foodzie Tasting Boxes ($20 value) for the first 150 people that sign up for Tomato Slice by March 15. For more info about the show and newsletter read this. US shipments only.

Subscribe to Summer Tomato Live ($3.99/mo)

The next live show is scheduled for Wednesday, March 16, at 6:30pm PST, and the topic is Habit forming and habit breaking. The following episode will be about healthy vegetarian and vegan diets, which I’ll try to make interesting for omnivores as well.

The episode will also be available soon on iTunes.

Today’s show notes:

Sponsors:

My go-to recipes:

My tricks for cooking without pasta:

Time saving tricks:

Exercise tips & alternatives:

How to:

Recommended healthstyle gear:

Let me know if there are any other links you’d like me to include.

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Summer Tomato Live – Episode #1 – The Four Hour Body [video]

by | Feb 16, 2011

Last night was the first episode of Summer Tomato Live where we discussed the new best-selling book, The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. Thanks everyone for watching and submitting your questions, the show was a huge success and we had a great conversation.

[note to self: get haircut]

The entire show is available above. Normally the videos will be available a week after the live broadcast, but for this first episode I want to give everyone a chance to see what the show is about in case you’re interested in subscribing.

I’ve partnered with Foodzie and Zürsun Heirloom Beans to provide free samples of Zürsun cranberry beans (great for Slow Carb Dieters) as well as a free Foodzie Tasting Box ($20 value) to the first 150 subscribers. Spaces are filling up quickly, so sign up soon if you want the bonuses (for more info about the show and newsletter read this). US shipments only.

Subscribe to Summer Tomato Live ($3.99/mo)

The next live show is scheduled for Wednesday, March 2, at 6:30pm PST. The reason I’m choosing a different day of the week is so that Tuesday night karate class or any other regularly scheduled activity won’t be a barrier to subscribing. If this system doesn’t work for you, please let me know. If a fixed day is better for most people, we can try to make that happen.

Wondering what the next show is about? Me too! Please vote for the next Summer Tomato Live topic (if you’re reading this in an email, please click over to the blog post to vote in the poll):

[poll id=”8″]

Poll closes Friday at midnight PST.

Show notes from episode #1:

The book: The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, a #1 New York Times best-seller.

Slow Carb Diet: How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise (note: In the book there is one extra rule than is listed in this original post, “Don’t eat fruit.”)

Recommended pressure cooker: Fagor Splendid 6-Quart Pressure Cooker

Useful links:

Please add any tips or suggestions you have about the show in the comments. Thanks!

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Holiday Gift Ideas For Healthy Foodies

by | Dec 6, 2010

Photo by Jenah Crump Photography

Foodies are fun to shop for, it’s so easy to make us happy.

Offer me an evening of tasty food? I’m psyched. Get me something to cook you delicious food? I’m just as psyched. It’s win win.

Shopping for a foodie who wants to be healthy is just as easy. We’re not about deprivation, so we’re mostly talking about education materials and gym accessories. And of course, more cooking supplies.

This is my list of top healthy foodie gift ideas for 2010. Some are new, and some are old standbys that never go out of style. I tried to cover a variety of price points, I hope you enjoy.

Holiday Gift Ideas For Healthy Foodies

1. Foodzie tasting box, 3-month subscription ($55)

In my opinion, this is the coolest foodie gift idea I’ve seen in years. If you aren’t familiar with Foodzie, it’s an online marketplace for the best artisan food producers. The only problem with Foodzie is that they have so much delicious sounding foods all the time that making up your mind can sometimes be impossible. This solves the problem by sending you a few samples each month, giving you a little taste of everything. If you find something you love, you know where to find more. If an item doesn’t float your boat, no big loss it was only a sample anyway. It’s the best of both worlds.

US shipments only.

2. iPod Nano ($139)

To be honest I was never an Apple fan until they released the iPod Mini. Not that I had anything against the regular iPod, but the only situation I could imagine wanting all my music on the go was at the gym. Regular iPods were still too big, but the Mini changed everything. I’ve had almost every generation Mini and Nano since the original. They’ve all been good but none compare to the current Nano, which is by far the best compact MP3 player I’ve ever used. It’s small, useful and affordable. The perfect gift.

3. The 4-Hour Body, by Tim Ferriss book ($14.51)

I’ve been fortunate enough to get an early copy of Tim Ferriss’ latest masterpiece, The 4-Hour Body. His first book, The 4-Hour Work Week changed my life by helping me build a food and health writing career while simultaneously completing a PhD in neuroscience. His second book explores the art of bodyhacking. It’s both fascinating and informative. And ladies, I highly recommend getting a copy of this for your man ;) ;)

4. Fagor pressure cooker, ($69.99)

My pressure cooker was my first piece of cooking equipment that really changed what I thought possible. I never had much of an opinion about beans so always bought canned ones if I needed them. But when I discovered the huge difference in taste and texture I got from dried (especially heirloom) beans, I knew I was on to something. The only problem was that beans take forever to cook… unless you have a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker can seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually really simple and was a huge help in building my current healthstyle. This same pressure cooker was $120 last year, so this is a great deal!

5. Crock-Pot Touch Screen slow cooker, ($77.68)

I actually don’t have much experience with slow cookers, but that’s all about to change. After a lot of researching to figure out the best brand, we just settled on getting this Crock-Pot brand slow cooker. I’m really excited about the idea of throwing a meal together in the morning and having it ready when I get home from work. A perfect gift for the start of winter, and another item where the price point used to be $120.

6. Kindle e-reader, ($139)

This isn’t technically a foodie gift, but continuing education (books) is a key component in health and longevity. After getting the latest Kindle, it has been really hard for me to justify going back to reading paper books. It’s even hard to justify the iPad. The newest Kindle is beautiful, lightweight and the only device I’ve seen comprable to a paperback book. The iPad is cool for lots of reasons (Angry Birds anyone?), but it’s much heavier and more distracting if reading is truly your goal. Also, when you wear polarizing sunglasses you cannot see the iPad screen in the vertical orientation. That’s annoying because I love reading outside. And iPads start at $500.

If you want 3G (recommended), the price point is still only $189 for the Kindle. I used mine to download some sci-fi while on the beach in Hawaii. The future is now!

7. In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart, by Alice Waters cookbook ($18.48)

What I like about this cookbook is it doesn’t just teach you recipes, it teaches you to riff in the kitchen. By giving you the basic techniques to do simple things, you learn to develop that sense for what needs to be done next to make a dish great. You’ll finally be able to understand your grandmother’s recipes that call for a pinch of this and a dash of that.

8. Riedel wine glasses, ($37.45)

Fancy wine glasses used to be something you give at a wedding, but how often do those ugly crystal goblets really come out of the cupboard? All the cool kids are using Riedel glasses now, and if you’re anything like me you want to start your collection as soon as possible. This is a great starter kit for the blossoming foodie off at college. Riedel makes glasses for every grape varietal, but this set gives you glasses to cover your basic reds and whites.

9. Breville automatic tea maker, ($249.95)

One of my missions in 2010 was to cut back on caffeine, and tea was my solution. Being the foodie that I am bagged tea wasn’t an exciting enough option to get me to switch from my beloved Blue Bottle Coffee, but loose tea was really intimidating given the need to vary water temperature, steep time etc. This automatic tea maker was the answer to my problems, and I can now make any tea with just two button presses. Oh yeah, and it works with an awesome magnet system that feels like it’s right out of a sci-fi novel. Highly recommended!

10. Bradley electric smoker ($304.95)

I’ll admit, smoking isn’t the healthiest way to prepare food. But it sure is tasty! And I figure that if I’m going to be eating bacon, making it myself is certainly the way to go. I was trying to decide between recommending this and the sous vide. And though sous vide makes some of the finest food in the world, it does require a bit of expertise (and costs a lot more). This smoker on the other hand is simple and straightforward, and we haven’t messed up a single dish yet.

11. Labradoodle Toaster

The gift that keeps on giving. This puppy has sealed the deal on 2010 being the best year of my life.

Toaster

(but you shouldn’t eat him)

Have you received a fantastic foodie gift? Share below!

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For The Love of Food

by | Jan 29, 2010
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

For some reason the New York Times was brimming with great food and health articles this week. I particularly like the expose of meaningless food labels and the article on the wonders of the pressure cooker. And if you feel like giggling, find out why Stephen Colbert thinks being skinny is un-American.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

For The Love of Food


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Manifest Density
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Economy

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Last Minute Foodie Gift Ideas

by | Dec 14, 2009
Photo by danesparza

Photo by danesparza

Sometimes the stars just do not align for getting your holiday shopping done early. I know I haven’t started mine yet. But there are still plenty of easy-to-find, yet super valuable gifts out there for your favorite foodies.

Personally I try to avoid giving gifts that require guessing someone else’s taste or style. Instead I rely on things that are either super useful, completely novel or just ridiculously cool.

At this stage of the game your best bets are things you can order online and have delivered in the next week, gift subscriptions, or books that you can find just about everywhere.

Here are some of the coolest tricks I have up my sleeve for 2009.

Last Minute Gift Ideas That Aren’t Lame

1. Artisan foods from FoodzieFoodzie_Facebook_Logo

Decadent food is one of the easiest ways to make someone happy. But Summer Tomato readers know that I do not take my indulgences lightly. If I’m going to eat something that isn’t healthy, I want it to be beyond awesome–the healthy food I eat is just too delicious to bother with anything less.

That’s why Foodzie is so cool. If you don’t live in San Francisco, New York or LA, finding high-end artisanal foods can be a challenge. But now thanks to Foodzie, anyone can have Bacon Jam or Single Malt Scotch Bars delivered to your doorstep. Just be sure to order in the next day or 2 or your orders won’t make it before Christmas without extra shipping costs.

2. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]0143038583&fc1[/amazon-product]

As you might imagine, I’ve read A LOT about nutrition and have tried almost every diet myself. One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned in this research is that while the content of your diet is certainly important, how you think about and approach food is one of the most influential factors in your long-term health and happiness.

By far the best book I’ve read on food philosophy is Michael Pollan’s landmark work The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This book is remarkably well-written, meticulously researched and an overall pleasure to read. It is also the perfect gift for the curious yet unconvinced soon-to-be healthy eater.

If you are still looking for more, check out his practical guide for following these principles, In Defense of Food.

3. How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]0764578650&fc1[/amazon-product]

For someone who has decided to start cooking but doesn’t know where to begin, this book has everything you need to know. Mark Bittman is the brilliant author of the New York Times food column, The Minimalist, that includes fantastic 2-3 minute cooking videos also available as a podcast.

Bittman demystifies the kitchen by explaining basic cooking concepts and fundamentals in this classic cookbook. There is even a vegetarian version for those who aren’t interested in the perfect roasted chicken.

4. Splendid Soups, by James Peterson[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]0471391360&fc1[/amazon-product]

The only other cookbook I consider indispensable is Splendid Soups, by James Peterson. Soup is pretty close to perfect food, especially during these cold, stormy winter months. Soup is also perfect for dinner parties and potlucks, since it stays warm all night and doesn’t require a set “dinner time.”

I recently re-ordered this cookbook for myself (my last copy actually belonged to a former housemate) even though I have most of my favorite recipes memorized. I’ve benefited so tremendously from this book, I just feel better if it is always in my kitchen.

5. Cuisinart Hand Blender[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]B0006G3JRO&fc[/amazon-product]

This makes a great bundle gift with Splendid Soups, since a purée is often the last step in soup-making magic. Though it is possible to make a wonderful soup in a regular blender or food processor, it is exponentially easier if you have an immersion hand blender. You can also use an immersion blender for smoothies and other blended foods, like hummus.

The Cuisinart hand blender is especially awesome because it comes with attachments that transform it into either an electric beater or a mini chopping food processor as well.

For $50 this is some of the best value you can get out of a kitchen gadget.

6. Fagor Pressure cooker[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]B00023D9RG&fc1[/amazon-product]

My pressure cooker is the one special piece of cooking equipment that I cannot live without. The reason is that the first time I tasted beans made from scratch I knew I could never go back to canned. But beans are such an essential part of my healthstyle that the 1-4 hr cook time is a bit too inconvenient to be practical for real life.

Enter the pressure cooker. A pressure cooker cuts bean cooking time down to under half hour. It’s also great for grains and a ton of other foods. Fagor is the only brand I recommend bothering with. You don’t want to mess around with high-pressure cooking unless you are sure about your gear.

7. Audible membership

I rave about Audible every chance I get. If you’ve never heard of it, think Netflix but for audiobooks. While a monthly audiobook subscription isn’t for everyone, for those of us with commutes or jobs with extensive manual/technical (aka mindless) work, Audible is a godsend.

Though audio is still not my favorite way to “read,” it is perfect for those books in which I only have a passing curiosity. If I find a book I love (which happens often), I will buy a hard copy as well. Sometimes I listen to a book more than once. Rarely am I disinclined to finish one.

Audible is a great way to finally read all those food and health books you’ve been meaning to get to.

Have I mentioned I love Audible?

8. Zagat subscriptionzagat_twitter_bigger

Yelp is great if you want to find the best tailor near your house or need a place to get your pets groomed, but I never use Yelp for restaurant recommendations. There are very few people I trust in food taste, and in my experience Yelp reviews reflect the typical American appetite for cheap, big and cheesy. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

When I’m curious about the best Korean food in SF or if I’m traveling to a city I’m not familiar with Zagat is where I turn. I never hesitate to renew my subscription and recommend it to anyone looking for reviews by people who actually know what they’re talking about.

9. Bialetti stovetop espresso maker[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]B0001WYDP0&fc1[/amazon-product]

I’m something of a coffee purist, and of all the home brew methods I’ve tried (most of them) the Bialetti stovetop espresso maker is my favorite. It’s relatively inexpensive and has the added charm of being a little old-school.

This is how everyone makes coffee at home in Italy.

10. CSA membership

Busy people have trouble finding the time to buy fresh fruits and vegetables every week. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture brings fresh, seasonal produce to you. The idea behind a CSA is that you subscribe to a farm or collection of farms and pay a certain set price (varies by farm) for a box of their goods. For your fee you are provided with a week or two worth of fruits and vegetables of the season.

Buying someone a subscription to a CSA is a great way to encourage healthy eating and support local farmers. All CSAs are a little different, so you need to find ones in your area and contact them to work out the details. Most deliver to your house or a nearby pick up point and allow some filtering for your particular food preferences.

There are also meat and dairy CSAs, which you will become more interested in after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Visit Local Harvest to find CSAs in your area.

Good luck with your shopping and happy holidays!

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How To Eat Healthy When You Have No Time

by | Dec 7, 2009
Photo by liquene

Photo by liquene

I’m always pretty busy, but these past couple weeks I have been especially slammed with work. I have a big thesis committee meeting coming up in lab that I want to be very well-prepared for. I also launched a 25-page free healthy eating guide last week, all amidst my 30th birthday and Thanksgiving in different cities.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I do it all (I stay focused and work hard), but some of you have asked an even more interesting question:

How do I have time to eat healthy?

The most truthful answer is that I always have time to eat healthy, because it is not something I consider optional. Healthy eating doesn’t really take any more time than unhealthy eating, it just requires a little more foresight. Luckily I have automated my healthstyle so that healthy eating is actually easier for me than eating junk.

However, when time is especially strained I do make a few adjustments to save on prep time and clean up.

Here are a few tricks I’ve been using to have healthy meals in under 15 minutes.

8 Quick Healthy Eating Tips

  1. Focus on single vegetable meals. If I were asked to make the quickest meal I could think of, I would grab a bunch of kale, a clove of garlic, some sea salt and maybe some pistachio nuts, put them in a pan and cook them for about 7 minutes. You can do this with chard, spinach, fennel, broccolini or any other green vegetable. For protein and carbohydrate I throw in some beans or lentils at the end. These aren’t the most creative meals in the world, but they are healthy, filling, quick and delicious enough to make friends jealous. I could live on these dinners for weeks at a time, and they only leave one pan to clean.
  2. Count on legumes. As mentioned above, it is important to have something other than vegetables in your meals or you will get really hungry. Nuts are a great addition to anything, but the most bang for your buck is beans and lentils. I make huge batches of these once or twice a week and throw them in virtually everything I cook. A pressure cooker makes legume preparation a piece of cake. If I’m really in a hurry I will just dress some legumes with vinaigrette, maybe throw in some herbs or fruit and call it lunch.
  3. Eat salads. I also add beans and lentils to salads to make them more substantial. It takes less than 5 minutes to slice up some Napa cabbage, toss in some beans, cut up a pear and sprinkle on walnuts with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a quick lunch. Salads don’t require cooking and I just eat it out of the bowl I make it in.
  4. Scramble eggs. By far the fastest cooking protein you can get is eggs. Scrambling 2-3 eggs takes about 2 minutes. Saute some spinach with a little garlic (you can use the same pan if you cook the greens first) and you have a healthy homemade meal in under 10 minutes. This works for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  5. Eat breakfast for dinner. Eggs aren’t the only food that can break the typical American meal pattern. If cooking at night really isn’t an option, sometimes I will just double up on my normal breakfast of muesli, fruit and plain yogurt and have it for dinner. Sure I’d rather eat leafy greens, but intact grains are sure better (and faster) than the burrito place down the street.
  6. Cook in large batches. In addition to legumes I also make intact whole grains in big batches and freeze them in single servings. These can be thawed in the  microwave in 1-2 minutes and added to any meal (stirfry, salads, soups, etc.) to make them more satisfying. During the autumn and winter I also rely on roasted winter squash like kabocha for additional vegetables/carbohydrates. My favorite is to cut a kabocha squash in half, remove seeds, rub the inside with olive and sea salt and roast, face down for 30-45 minutes at 400F. Three or 4 slices of winter squash make a plate of greens a lot more interesting. Store your cooked squash in a tupper and add it to various meals throughout the week. I like kabocha, red kuri and delicata squashes because, unlike butternut, you can eat the skin (no peeling).
  7. Have a reliable takeout option. The only trouble I sometimes run into is not having enough ingredients in the house to make a solid meal before heading out. For times like this I rely on a local artisan market, Bi-Rite, that has awesome healthy prepared foods. I’ll pick up a pint of lentil, chickpea or quinoa salad from their deli fridge and a piece of fruit, then I’m good to go. It is worth it to hunt down a place like this near your home or work that you know you can count on to pick something up in a pinch. Whole Foods has great prepared food options if you can find one near you.
  8. Carry fruit and nuts. The worst case scenario is that you get stuck outside the house with nothing but vending machines within walking distance. If you always have trail mix or nuts in your bag you can usually put off a meal until you can find something healthy. Don’t leave home without it.

What tricks do you use to eat healthy when you have no time?

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Quick Fix: Summer Squash, Peppers & Zürsun Heirloom Beans Recipe

by | Oct 21, 2009
Squash, Peppers and Beans

Squash, Peppers and Beans

A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone from Zürsun Idaho Heirloom Beans and was immediately intrigued. I’m regularly approached with requests to review (aka endorse) products and my answer is almost always the same,

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

Companies that contact health bloggers like me are usually selling energy bars, supplements or some other kind of “functional food”–the exact same junk I’m always reminding you not to bother with. Not only do I think this stuff is useless, I actually consider it dangerous and contrary to your health goals.

If it has a health claim on it, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

But heirloom beans and lentils are not junk food, and I jumped at the opportunity to sample what Zürsun had to offer. A few days later I received a shipment of assorted beans and lentils and have been thoroughly enjoying them ever since.

Heirloom beans are special, and if you’ve never tried them I highly recommend you do. The flavor and texture of high-quality beans does not compare to the cans you get at the grocery store.

To prepare, I soak my beans overnight then cook them 10-12 minutes in the pressure cooker (this is the one I use) with a bouillon cube–preferably beef flavored, but any will do. A big batch of beans can last weeks if you freeze it in 2 or 3 portions.

What has been the most surprising to me is how fantastic I’ve felt since I’ve started eating legumes nearly everyday. Though beans are famous for causing digestive problems, I have not had even the slightest issue with dried heirloom beans. I’ve read that this is probably due to the overnight soak, but I haven’t seen the science to back this claim.

My energy levels have been especially high (even for me!) and the past few weeks have been some of the best times I’ve ever spent in the gym. Oddly, I also weigh less than I have in my adult life (I was so surprised I double checked the calibration on the scale at the gym).

I don’t know if I can attribute all this amazingness to the beans, but I can tell you they have made for some tasty and satisfying meals.

I’m happy :)

My favorite bean so far has been the fawn bean. Zürsun calls these “rice beans,” probably because they are long and slender. Fawn beans are very versatile and I used them in salads, stir fries and on their own.

For me the simplest way to eat beans is to toss them in a pan at the last minute when cooking my usual vegetables. This makes for a simple, delicious, one-pan meal perfect for a busy week night.

In this recipe I used some of the season’s last zephyr squash and some Basque frying peppers. It might have been better with cilantro, but I only had basil so that’s what I used. It turned out delicious.

Summer Squash, Peppers & Zürsun Heirloom Beans

Serves 1 main course or 2 sides. Total time ~15 minutes.

Ingredients:

Zursun Beans & Lentils

Zürsun Beans & Lentils

  • 1 cup cooked Zürsun fawn beans
  • 2 medium zephyr squash or zucchini, cut in half and into 1/2 in. slices
  • 1-2 Basque frying peppers or 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cippolini onion or shallot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Chopped basil or cilantro

Heat a pan on medium flame and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add onions and peppers and cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add squash, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the squash turns bright colored, has stopped sweating and is starting to gently brown on the edges, 4-5 minutes.

When the squash is nearly done, clear space in the center of the pan and add the garlic in a single layer. When it becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds), mix it in with the rest of the vegetables.

Add the beans to the pan and mix. Continue to cook until the beans are heated through. Do not allow the beans to sit long enough to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Toss in herbs and serve immediately.

This dish is great on its own or as an accompaniment to fish or light protein. You can also use also use this same basic recipe to cook any standard vegetables with beans or lentils. I made it one day with beet greens and it was awesome.

Do you ever cook beans together with vegetables?

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How To Get Started Eating Healthy: Stock Your Freezer

by | Apr 15, 2009
Rice Balls

Rice Balls

There are many places you can turn when you’re feeling lazy or are too busy to cook a fresh meal, but instead of reaching for the take-out menu I prefer to turn to my freezer. For one thing, even the taqueria directly downstairs from my apartment cannot whip up something as quickly as I can. And their grilled veggie burrito (not to mention the carne asada burrito!) is substantially more expensive than anything I would make–I’m sure you can guess which is healthier too.

(This post is part four of the series How To Get Started Eating Healthy. Part one is Stock Your Pantry, part two is Essential Groceries and part three is Seasonal Shopping.)

Your freezer is an invaluable resource for storing foods that are best made in large batches. Frozen fruits and vegetables from the grocery store can also come in handy when you are in a pinch. Below is my personal list of freezer essentials, but please add your own in the comments and tell us how you use them:

  • Frozen rice balls The single most essential item in my freezer is my giant bag of frozen brown rice balls. When I first explained the best way to make rice, I mentioned that I prefer to make a large batch and freeze it in individual servings. This is a trick I learned from a former housemate that always cooked traditional Japanese food (thanks Kiyoshi!). He used white rice, but I think this method is even more valuable for whole, intact grains since they are not particularly easy to integrate into your meals unless you make them yourself. Whole grains take quite a while to cook, but if you make a lot and freeze them you only need to cook grains occasionally. In addition to rice, you can also freeze other grains like barley and steel cut oatmeal.
  • Cooked legumes To know me is to know that I love beans and lentils. Legumes are some of the healthiest food you can eat, and are among the best sources of protein on the planet. The only problem is they can take a long time to cook. Lentils cook pretty quickly (~20 minutes), but I like to make beans in large batches in the pressure cooker and freeze the rest in 1-2 tupperware containers that I thaw at my leisure. Lentils can be frozen as well.
  • Green legumes In addition to beans I have cooked myself, I also keep a stock of shelled, frozen soy beans and petite green peas in the freezer. These cook in just a few minutes and are delicious tossed with nuts, garlic and fresh herbs. My recipe needs some serious updating, but if you want an example of what I mean check out my Edamame and Peas Quick Fix.
  • Frozen fruit I always have a few bags of frozen wild organic blueberries for the days I run out of fresh fruit for my cereal. They thaw pretty fast (sometimes I put them in the microwave for 30 seconds) and are pretty tasty. They are great in oatmeal and pancakes as well.
  • Walnuts I keep my walnuts in the freezer to prevent the unstable omega-3 fatty acids from going rancid. Other nuts likely store well in the freezer too but tend to be more stable at room temperature than walnuts, which are particularly high in omega-3s.
  • Soups I love soup and cook it often. If you have ever browsed through James Peterson’s book Splendid Soups, you know why. The problem with soup is there is only one of me and the recipes tend to serve at least 4 people. Unless you want to eat the same thing all week long, freezing your left overs is your best bet. An added bonus is that you end up with a freezer filled with your favorite creations that can be eaten on lazy days.
  • Bread I do not eat bread often, but love to have it in the house just in case. But I never buy regular, sliced grocery store bread that is full of preservatives, dough conditioners and other bizarre ingredients that belong in the lab. Instead, I like to go to my local bakery (Acme or Tartine), get a fresh loaf, cut it up into single servings and freeze it in gallon freezer bags. You would be shocked at how nicely frozen bread reheats in an oven set to 325. Alternatively you can take it out a day early and thaw it in the fridge.
  • Meat Most of you already know that meat stores well in the freezer, but you can also store scraps and bones to make your own stock. Conveniently, you can also freeze your homemade stock.
  • Sauces During the summertime my local markets are practically giving away basil. It is such a wonderful herb, I cannot help making big batches of pesto all season. Leftover sauces can be frozen and taken out in winter when your favorite flavors are harder to find.
  • Spices I have recently started grinding my own spices, but like many things it is easier to do it in large batches. Extra spices store well in sealed containers in the freezer.

Your freezer is a great resource and I encourage you to be creative. It can make healthy eating much easier by giving you quick access to healthy foods, and also spares you from monotony when you cook in large batches.

How else can your freezer help you eat healthy?

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Holiday Gift Ideas For the Health Conscious

by | Dec 8, 2008

Know anyone who is trying build healthy habits? Want to give yourself a leg up on your New Year’s resolution? Here are some simple gift ideas for anyone wanting to embrace a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, by Walter Willett. This is my favorite nutrition book. Dr. Willett, a physician and Harvard nutrition scientist, presents a comprehensive guide explaining the basics of nutrition science and why few things are as important as what you choose to eat. His recommendations are based on solid science, but everything is explained in clear, simple language and is easy for anyone to understand. This book will change the way you think about food and nutrition.
  2. Subscription to Cooks Illustrated magazine. It is almost impossible to have a healthy diet if you are eating out for most of your meals. Cooking at home can be a pleasure, but to many people it is a source of fear and anxiety. Cooks Illustrated is a resource that demystifies cooking and makes it virtually idiot proof. Their staff tests recipes over and over in “America’s Test Kitchen” so you don’t have to. The result is the easiest, most reliable method for making almost any meal.A bonus of subscribing is that they also offer product and appliance reviews. I often find myself browsing their website with my online subscription, but they also have a beautiful print magazine if you prefer to peruse recipes on the go. Because of Cooks Illustrated I feel like I can cook just about anything I set my mind to, even things I have never tasted before. I couldn’t live without my Cooks!
  3. Braun Hand Blender. This is the magic kitchen appliance. If you or someone you know is not the type to buy every single piece of fancy kitchen equipment, this is the perfect item. Its many attachments make it so you have a blender, food processor and mixer all in the palm of your hand. Everything you need rolled into one tiny device!
  4. CSA membership. Busy people have trouble finding the time to buy fresh fruits and vegetables every week. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture brings fresh, seasonal produce to you. The idea behind a CSA is that you subscribe to a farm or collection of farms and pay a certain set price (varies by farm) for a box of their goods. For your fee you will be provided with a week or two worth of fruits and vegetables of the season. All CSAs are a little different, so you need to find ones in your area and contact them to work out the details. Most deliver to your house or a nearby pick up point and allow some filtering for your particular food preferences. For the truly dedicated, there are also meat and dairy CSAs.
  5. In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. Michael Pollan is a journalist and UC Berkeley professor who has spent the past several years figuring out the best way to eat in the Western world. This book distills everything he found, and his advice is surprisingly simple: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. In Defense of Food is a quick, easy read that is both entertaining and filled with valuable information.
  6. Wii Fit. I’m not sure if a video game can really be exercise, but it sure beats sitting on your butt watching T.V. I cannot deny that on cold evenings when I have worked too long at home to squeeze in a workout I have resorted to my Wii to get the blood pumping. Wiis are not easy to acquire (I have had success with Wii Alerts), but if you can get your hands on one they are easily worth the money.
  7. Pressure cooker. You probably do not eat enough legumes. People have weird ideas about beans and assume they are accompanied by foul smells, but home-cooked beans are an entirely different species. A pressure cooker can make it so you have a week’s supply of your favorite beans in under half an hour. What’s not to love?
  8. Full body massage. The latest research suggests that stress may be as bad for you as red meat. Luckily getting rid of stress can be one of the best experiences of your life. Everyone loves a trip to the day spa. A full body massage is the perfect gift for that person who has everything.
  9. Lunch box. Eating out for lunch every single day is not an option if you want to be healthy. But that does not mean you have to be a nerd. REI makes a great, affordable lunch cooler that is both stylish and functional. Want more of a selection? Browse the offerings at Amazon.com through the link on the sidebar.
  10. Email subscription to Summer Tomato. It’s free and comes with a 25-page healthy eating guide! Get to know what fruits and vegetables are in season, learn about the latest nutrition research and discover simple and delicious recipes for health straight from my brain to yours. This is the ultimate gift for the ultimate connoisseur! (OK, I admit this is kind of a cheap gift. I recommend it, but you should probably get one of those real gifts I mentioned too ;)

Good luck shopping and happy holidays!

Check out my 2009 healthy gift ideas

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