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Foodist Approved: Butter Sage Mashed Sweet Potatoes

by | Nov 12, 2014
sweet potatoes with butter and sage

sweet potatoes with butter and sage

This year, for the first time, my husband and I are hosting his fam for Thanksgiving dinner. To me the side dishes are more important than the turkey. The turkey is just a vehicle for scooping up all those luscious accompaniments.

Of course, the marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes from my childhood will not be making it onto our menu (sorry, Mom!). I’ve been busy experimenting in the kitchen to create my own take on the traditional sides.

I’ve crafted a healthier (and more satisfying) version of sweet potatoes that brings out the natural sweetness by highlighting it with the heart-warming flavor of butter and sage. No added sweetener needed.

Since I’m a nursing, working momma, the side dishes can’t take a ton of time. If you cook the sweet potatoes in advance, this dish can be assembled in 15 minutes.

This is a foolproof side dish that everyone will love.

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Don’t Be Afraid of Thanksgiving

by | Nov 25, 2013

Photo by St0rmz

When I was a teenager Thanksgiving was my least favorite holiday. Not only did I hate that it was centered almost exclusively around food, it also signified the beginning of a holiday season filled with cookies, cakes, pies, pastries and all my other sworn enemies.

Thanksgiving meant needing to ramp up my willpower not just for a day, or a four-day weekend, but for the next six weeks. I was terrified.

For anyone who consistently worries about their weight, Thanksgiving can be scary. Fear of falling off the wagon, undoing all the work you put in over the summer, and ending the year worse off than you started is pretty close to your worst nightmare.

It’s daunting. But it doesn’t need to be.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Nov 18, 2011

For The Love of Food

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

Lots of talk this week about the pros and cons of local foods. Also, congress says pizza is a vegetable, heritage turkeys are the greatest thing since bacon and coffee/tea may reduce your risk of mercury exposure from 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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Thanksgiving Healthy Eating Tip: Slow Down

by | Nov 14, 2011

Photo by Photo Monkey

Worrying about carbs, calories and diets is one of the most unproductive things you can do on a holiday that celebrates thankfulness. Instead of giving you a list of healthy side dishes or tips on how to cut out calories, this Thanksgiving I offer just a single piece of advice: slow down.

The actual content of your Thanksgiving dinner matters very little in the grand scheme of things. A few hundred calories here or there can make a difference when projected over weeks and years, but for one meal the impact is negligible. Your body will adjust naturally and you’ll burn off those extra calories the next day, so don’t worry about it.

But for people trying to get healthy or lose weight, not worrying about food can feel very strange. There is always the fear that if you aren’t vigilant and conscious of what and how much you eat you may gorge yourself stupid and all your hopes of fitting into your favorite jeans by the end of the year will be ruined.

Overeating is certainly a possibility when food anxiety is a constant force in your life, but Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to start getting over it. Really. It may seem counterintuitive that such a food-forward holiday can be stress free, but let’s not forget that the real point of Thanksgiving isn’t turkey or pie, but being thankful.

Since most of us won’t be harvesting our own meals this year (hats off to anyone who is), it is silly to pretend this particular dinner requires more thankfulness than any other meal we eat. Turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce are tradition, but do not necessarily reflect our 21st century needs and values.

With the emergence of modern media, there are other essential pieces of our lives that we can no longer afford to take for granted. Free time is one. Exercise is another. But most important of all these is our real, human, non-Twitter relationships, particularly those with family and friends. It is far too easy to neglect these basic elements of our existence when we have so many other obligations and distractions, but failure to nurture them can severely affect our overall quality of life.

If you care about your health and want to keep your eating under control on Thanksgiving, why not focus your attention on strengthening relationships and spending time with the people you care about? Instead of worrying about yourself and what you want to accomplish, ask people about themselves and discuss mutual interests.

Let food be part of the celebration, but not the purpose of your day.

Once food is no longer the center of attention the only thing you need to keep in mind is to eat slowly–it is pretty tough to overeat if you are biting and chewing at a snail’s pace.

Slow eating helps you eat less food and appreciate it more. It also helps you make wiser food choices, since decisions about what to put on your plate are made less impulsively.

But slow eating does require some conscious effort. If you are in the habit of shoveling food in your mouth without taking time to put down your fork and chew (or breathe), it is easy to slip back into this pattern. Also, if people around you are all guzzling their food in a fury, you might feel a natural compulsion to keep pace and match their eating speed.

I’ve written before about how to become a slow eater, but at large family dinners some of these tactics can be particularly useful. Start by actively trying to keep conversations engaged while you eat. Chewing and talking are (hopefully) mutually exclusive, so the more you converse the longer it will take you to get through your meal.

Making an effort to put your fork down between bites is another effective way to slow your pace at the dining table. To give your hands something to do between bites, reach for your glass and take regular sips of your water (it is best not to rely exclusively on wine for this tactic) or wipe your lips with your napkin.

And don’t forget to chew.

Trying to eat slowly is much easier than trying to summon the will power to skip the mashed potatoes and biscuits. And slowly savoring the foods you love is far more enjoyable than inventing a clever recipe to replace the sugar or fat in your pumpkin pie.

Spend time with people, enjoy your meal and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

How do you approach health and food on Turkey Day?

Originally published November 23, 2009.

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Farmers Market Update: Holiday Weekend

by | Nov 29, 2009

Leeks and Beets

Leeks and Beets

Probably my single favorite thing about Thanksgiving is that no matter what, it is always on a Thursday.

This simple temporal restriction gives us three full days to recover from too many mashed potatoes and that extra slice of pie we really didn’t mean to have. It also gives us time to stock up on healthy foods for the following week.

The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market tends to be relatively empty after a holiday, which is nice for regular shoppers. I used this opportunity to sleep in a little and stroll slowly through the market once before going back and making the bulk of my purchases.

As expected, peppers, tomatoes and all other remnants of summer are now virtually non-existent, while signs of winter are undeniable.



Mandarins, lemons and oranges are widely available, and today I found the first pomelo of the season.

Pomelo are like huge grapefruit with thick skin, except they are not sour. I first learned to appreciate these fruits in Thailand, where vendors will cut and clean them for you right on the street. These big green pomelo with pink flesh are probably my favorite variety (but don’t hate me if I change my mind 2-3 times this season as new ones come out).

Early Pink Pomelo

Early Pink Pomelo

Meyer Lemons In Basket

Meyer Lemons In Basket

As much as I love citrus though, it is still tough for me to get too excited about it when pears, apples and persimmons are so unbelievably perfect.

Fuyu Persimmon

Fuyu Persimmon

In the vegetable world, the rockstars this week are roots, stalks and hearty leaves. I’ve been loving Tuscan kale (the dark, bumpy variety), chard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, fennel and Brussels sprouts.

Celery, leeks, beets, onions and sweet potatoes are also worth playing around with this time of year.

Organic Celery

Organic Celery

Taylor Gold Pears

Taylor Gold Pears

And of course, I’m still obsessed with winter squash. With nothing but olive oil and sea salt, roasted red kuri squash tastes like pumpkin pie only better.

Lastly, it seems that the weekend after Thanksgiving is also the best time to go to the farmers market if you happen to be Super Mario.

If you live in SF, it is worth a trip to the Ferry Building just to see these GIGANTIC porcini mushrooms. I wouldn’t even know where to start with one of these bad boys, but I can’t help but marvel at them with a twinge of envy.

Giant Porcini

Giant Porcini

Seriously, what could you do with a mushroom like this besides grow super big or get a 1UP? If I had a few of these I could definitely save the princess.

Chantarelles, trumpet mushrooms and several other normal-sized fungi varieties are also in season.

Did any of you make it to the farmers market this week?

Today’s Purchases:

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Thanksgiving and the Beginning of Fat Season

by | Nov 19, 2008
Photo by VirtualErn

Photo by VirtualErn

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for all we have. And as Americans, we love to use this as an excuse to gorge ourselves stupid.

I mean, what self-respecting holiday doesn’t involve a feast?

We are thankful for that turkey! And for the ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, stuffing, biscuits, pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, and anything else that happens to be within eye sight.

Okay, maybe some of us are not thankful for the obligatory vegetable casserole, but we know Grandma will be mad if we don’t take at least a little scoop, so we find a small corner of the plate and plop some on. We are grateful for Grandma too, after all.

Yet deep down we all know this is not an isolated meal, but rather the beginning of a feast that lasts from the third Thursday in November until January 1. Holiday parties and family gatherings will start popping up week after week, and all the while the short days and cool weather thwart our best intentions to go for a jog.

Once Thanksgiving comes it will be six long weeks before we again remember to dust off our gym memberships and emerge from our cookie-induced daze as the reality of our new pants size starts to sink in. Yikes.

Health-wise, the holidays are difficult for us all. But don’t worry, I am not going to ask you to forego Thanksgiving dinner. Instead I have a few pieces of advice to keep this Season of Fat in perspective.

Thanksgiving Healthy Eating Tips

  1. Try not to graze. Thanksgiving dinner itself is really not so bad. As much as I sometimes wish it were, this holiday is not Carnitas Day. Usually the most significant sources of calories during the holiday season is the casual eating we do outside of mealtime. When you aren’t in a sit down meal mentality, it’s easy to lose track of how much you are really eating. Avoid the midday chip bowls, artichoke dips and cookie platters, and you are on your way to minimizing the health risks of Thanksgiving.
  2. Beware of the most dangerous foods: breads, sweets, dips, creams, chips, potatoes and cheese. These are the foods that pack in the calories with little nutritional value and minimal satisfaction. It is frighteningly easy to suck down 500 extra calories of chips and onion dip. In fact, you have probably done it. You do not even want to know how many calories are in pumpkin cheese cake (hint: possibly more than in your entire dinner). It is okay to eat these foods, just do not eat them blindly.
  3. Watch your portions. When it comes to snacks, it is easier to be aware of your portions if you take the amount you want to eat and put it on a separate plate. Better yet, just eat structured meals. Trust me, it is way easier to eat less when you are seated and focused on your meal. If not-so-healthy foods are part of your actual meal, help yourself to a normal-sized portion, enjoy it and do not go back for seconds. Eat these foods slowly, savor every bite, and you will not feel deprived.
  4. Eat a balanced meal. Make an effort to have at least half your plate filled with vegetables. No, mashed potatoes do not count (sorry). Even if the vegetables have some sort of cheesy sauce on them, at least they have fiber and nutrients and are low energy density. It is harder to stuff yourself with pie when your belly is full of veggies. The rest of your plate can be turkey, stuffing, potatoes and all the other stuff traditions are made of. Piling your turkey on top of your stuffing is cheating, by the way.
  5. Stay hydrated. Overeating (which you should avoid, but may not succeed at avoiding) can cause dehydration, and thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Drink water throughout your festivities.
  6. Enjoy yourself. The best part about the holiday season is being able to spend it with the people you care about. Your friends and family should be the focus of your holiday, not the food on your plate. Spend the day and meal talking with loved ones and savoring your food rather than silently wolfing it down. If you eat slowly, you are much more likely to eat proper portions and enjoy the food you do eat.

Happy holidays and be healthy!

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