Sunday, August 30, 2009

When to Harvest and How to Cure Pumpkins and Winter Squash

Spaghetti squash stems shrivel and dry when ripe.

Some pumpkin stems turn very dark green when ripe. Others shrivel and turn light brown.
Cure in the sun for 10 days to harden skin and extend shelf life.

Is it Time to Harvest my Pumpkins and Winter Squash?
Although we've grown a few pumpkins in the past, this is the first year we had the room to experiment with winter squash and expand our pumpkins patch. They have been really fun to watch grow but I wasn't sure when to harvest them. After all, they are called "winter" squash and I always thought they should be pulled out of the ground right before winter sets in. Well, that may be true in Vermont but here in California, some of these vegetables are ready to harvest, especially if you planted them early in the spring.

I pulled out "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible" by Edward C. Smith to get some expert advice. According to Smith, the two indicators that tell you winter squash are ripe are: (1) the stems begin to shrivel and dry and (2) the skin is so hard that you can't cut it with your thumbnail (although he warns that pumpkin skin may remain a bit soft even when ripe). The stems of my spaghetti squash definitely shriveled and became light brown. The stems of our pumpkins and some of the other squash however, turned a dark green. The stems of my friend's pumpkins, which were larger and of a different type, shriveled and became light brown, similar to our spaghetti squash. I also looked at the seed packets to see how many days until maturation to make sure I had left them in the ground long enough.

Harvesting and Curing
When harvesting, leave a good bit of the stem on the squash and pumpkins, at least an inch. Smith warns not to carry them by the stems or they may break off. He didn't have to warn me. The stems are full of spines and it hurts to carry them that way.

Just like we did with garlic, we need to cure the pumpkins and winter squash if we want to extend their shelf life. But unlike the garlic which we kept in a ventilated shed out of the sun, you want to put the pumpkins and the winter squash in the sun for 10 days.

I'm definitely not going to store all of them so you'll be seeing some pumpkin recipes real soon! Good luck with your harvest.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vegetarian Stuffed Patty Pan Squash with Curried Ricotta, Dates, Apples and Walnuts

Hollow out the middle of the patty pan squash.

Comparing the Fat Content of Ricotta Cheese
This stuffed patty pan squash recipe can be made with any type of ricotta cheese depending on your nutritional goals and of course, how pleasing the dish is to your palate.

While developing this recipe I experimented with both low fat and part skim ricotta cheese. The low fat version was quite delicious but lacked a bit in appearance. Part skim ricotta had a bit more structure as you would expect with a little over twice the fat content. If I were making this for me and my husband, I would make it with the low fat cheese. If I were entertaining and more interested in appearance, I'd use the part skim. It's still pretty low in calories and saturated fat.

I would not recommend using the fat free ricotta unless your doctor has you on a strict, no fat diet. I tried it years ago in a lasagna recipe and it was tasteless and had no texture. I haven't used it again since. I also wouldn't make the recipe with whole milk ricotta because of the very high fat content, especially when you can get almost that kind of smoothness with the part skim.

Let me share the nutritional content of all four so you can compare and decide, depending on your requirements, which ricotta you will use when you make this recipe or other recipes requiring ricotta (like lasagna, manicotti or stuffed shells).

Nutritional Content for 1/4 Cup Ricotta (Precious Brand)
Fat Free - 45 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 15 g cholesterol, 6 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates and 0 g of fiber. Provides 20% daily value of calcium.
Low Fat - 50 calories, 2.0 g fat, 1.0 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates and 1 g of fiber. Provides 15% daily value of calcium.
Part skim - 80 calories, 4.5 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates and 0 g of fiber. Provides 15% daily value of calcium.
Whole milk - 110 calories, 9 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates and 0 g of fiber. Provides 15% daily value of calcium.


Vegetarian Stuffed Patty Pan Squash [serves 2]
2 patty pan squash, 3 1/2 inches wide
1/2 cup low fat or part skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons peeled apple, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sweet curry
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon raw walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the tops off the patty pan squash and with a small spoon, hollow them out being careful not to pierce through their bottoms. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix ricotta, dates, apples, curry and salt. Fill the squash and put in an oven proof casserole dish with about 1/4 cup of water in the bottom. Cover and bake for 40 minutes or until a fork can pierce the sides of the squash. Remove from oven, top with walnuts and parsley and serve.

Per serving using low fat ricotta: 129 calories, 2.8 g fat, 1.1 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 6.2 g protein, 22.5 g carbohydrates and 3.6 g of fiber.

Per serving using part skim ricotta: 159 calories, 5.3 g fat, 2.6 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 5.2 g protein, 22.5 g carbohydrates and 2.6 g of fiber.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Making Home Made Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing and Bread Dipping Sauce using a Ceramic Garlic Grating Bowl

Garlic grater bowl used to serve bread dipping sauce.

Grate garlic, make salad dressing all in one bowl.

Ceramic garlic grating bowl by Architectural Ceramic Design.

Home Made Salad Dressing
I like making my own salad dressing. It usually has a mere handful of ingredients and I know that it's fresh. Most ready made dressings have a long list of ingredients, many of which don't even sound like food. Let's face it, you've got to put a lot of things in a salad dressing to keep it from separating and to make sure it lasts a long time after opening. It's not uncommon for people to have 4 or 5 opened jars of salad dressing in their refrigerator for months, sometimes years!

A Garlic Grating Bowl, How Clever
I went to a silent auction a few months back with the usual hand-made soaps, bottles of wine, restaurant gift certificates and the like. Among these generously donated items were two small ceramic bowls with little inset edges at the bottom for grating garlic. How clever, I thought. You can grate your garlic or ginger and still have room to add the rest of your salad dressing ingredients! With 200 harvested heads of garlic in my cellar, I often grate a clove or two into my salad dressing. I immediately concluded that I had to have both of these bowls (one for me and one for my daughter Linda who is a salad dressing maker extraordinaire). I quickly put bids on both bowls and, throughout the evening, I kept upping my bids until I proudly went home with both garlic grating bowls.

Bread Dipping Sauce - Oil is a Healthy Alternative to Butter
Instead of fussing with garlic bread, I now grate a clove or two of garlic, mix it with some extra virgin olive oil, a bit of balsamic vinegar and some spices. I serve the dipping sauce in the same ceramic garlic grater bowl I made it in with a hot loaf of bread. One tablespoon of olive oil only has 1.9 g of saturated fat and no cholesterol where butter, bread's usual friend, has 7.3 g of saturated fat and 30.5 mg of cholesterol. Studies have shown that consumption of olive oil, typical in a Mediterranean diet, can lead to improved health and longevity.

If you are interested in buying a ceramic garlic grater bowl, just Google "garlic grater" and you'll find a number of similar bowls. The one which we are very happy with is made by Alan and Donna Podesto from Cloverdale, California. The company name is
Architectural Ceramic Design


Quick Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing [serves 4]
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon raw local honey
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Grate garlic in small ceramic grating bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour over salad, toss and serve.

Per serving: 103 calories, 10.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 0 g protein, 3.3 g carbohydrates and 0 g fiber.

Bread Dipping Sauce [serves 4]
1 or 2 cloves of garlic (to taste)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

of Sonoma County, . The garlic grating bowl is $16 and their website shows larger grater bowls for making marinades - also very clever.
Grate garlic in small ceramic grating bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Serve dipping sauce in ceramic bowl with a hot loaf of whole grain, crusty bread.

Per serving: 123.5 calories, 14.3 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 0 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates and 0 g of fiber.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vegetarian Brown Rice Sushi with Roasted Eggplant, Peppers and Shitake Mushrooms

Sicilian eggplant, banana peppers and fresh shitake mushrooms.

Vegetables in large, shallow roasting pan.

Sushi being rolled on a bamboo mat.

A Sushi Dish that Appeals to All
This delicious, warm sushi roll has broad appeal. Besides the traditional raw fish lovers, this is a good sushi option for vegans and vegetarians. It is also a sushi alternative for pregnant women who are avoiding raw fish.

Brown Rice Sushi
The first time I had brown rice sushi was at a restaurant in Palo Alto that was actually named "Brown Rice Sushi". I was quite excited to think that I could eat one of my favorite foods and not have to eat white rice. It's not that I don't enjoy white rice, in fact I do. But from a nutritional point of view, I always opt for whole grain. Even though white rice is often fortified with many of the vitamins that were stripped out during the manufacturing process, cooked brown rice has much more fiber, about 4 grams per cup. White rice only has 1 gram per cup. We should all aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day for optimal health and this recipe provides over 11 grams per roll. Fiber helps keep weight under control and can lower the risk of certain cancers, help prevent heart disease and diabetes while maintaining the health of the digestive tract. Besides being high in fiber, brown rice is also a very good source of magnesium, manganese and selenium. Although I know brown sushi rice exists, I've always just used short grain brown rice for making sushi and it comes out fine.

Oven Roasted Eggplant
Although eggplant is not a nutrient powerhouse, it is low in calories and high in fiber. Instead of the popular deep purple, elongated pear shaped "globe" eggplant, I like to use some of the smaller, lighter colored or streaked varieties available. They tend to be less bitter. I used 2 small streaked Sicilian eggplants also known as "zebra" or "graffiti" eggplants, when I developed this recipe. The long, thin Japanese or Chinese varieties would be really good to use also. One of the things to be careful about, when cooking with eggplant, is its affinity for oil. If you were to fry a slice of eggplant, it would soak up oil like a sponge so avoid fried or tempura eggplant in restaurants. They will be very high in fat and in calories. In this recipe, the vegetables are tossed in just a few teaspoons of sesame oil mixed with a few other seasonings and roasted with jalapeno and banana peppers, and shitake mushrooms. This gives the dish lots of flavor and not many calories.


Vegetarian Brown Rice Sushi with Roasted Eggplant, Peppers and Shitake Mushrooms [makes four 8 piece rolls]
For the Sushi
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice
5 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 teaspoon sea salt
For the Marinade
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoons unrefined sesame oil
2 teaspoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
For the Sushi Roll
2 small eggplants (1 pound), cut into thin strips
3 red or green banana peppers (3/4 pound), cut into strips
8 fresh shitake mushrooms (1/4 pound), cut in half
4 small jalapeno peppers, cut in half
16 basil leaves (optional)
4 sheets Nori

Cook rice according to directions. While rice is cooking, prepare vegetables. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a shallow, 12" x 14" roasting pan and set aside. Prepare the marinade by combining garlic, sesame oil, agave syrup and soy sauce. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers and shitake mushrooms with the marinade until they are evenly coated. Spread all of the vegetables evenly in the lightly greased roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes, turning them after 15 minutes. Remove roasted vegetables from oven and set aside. When the rice is cooked, prepare the sushi rice. Heat vinegar, sugar and salt until it dissolves. Fold into the cooked rice while fanning it until it's sticky and no longer wet. To prepare the sushi rolls, place a sheet of Nori on a bamboo mat. Put 1/2 cup of rice over the Nori starting one inch from the bottom. Place one fourth of the eggplant, banana peppers, jalapenos, shitake mushrooms and basil leaves over the rice. Using the sushi mat, roll from the bottom up. After the bottom edge is over the filling, squeeze it gently with the mat and then roll to the top. Wet the top of the Nori and complete the roll. The moisture will seal it. Cut the roll with a very sharp knife into 8 equal pieces. Serve with extra soy sauce if desired.

Per roll: 235 calories, 3.8 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 8.5 g protein, 43.4 g carbohydrates and 11.3 g of fiber.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vegan Apple Cinnamon Smoothie with Chia Seeds and Goji Berries - Full of Omega 3 and Antioxidants

Gravenstein Apple Fair
Sunday my husband and I really enjoyed the annual Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol, Ca. There were apple dishes everywhere - apple pie, apple cobbler, apple fritters along with baskets full of ripe, delicious, unadulterated Gravenstein apples. Needless to say, except for the basket of apples, none of these dishes were exactly healthy. "But hey, it's a fair" (that's what I heard several people say as they were stuffing deep fried apple fritters covered with powdered sugar into their mouths). Today I want to introduce another apple recipe that will give you all the pleasure of our new crop of apples without the guilt. In fact, you can feel that you are doing something incredibly wonderful for your body and health. This smoothie provides all the health benefits of omega 3 and nutrient rich chia seeds and hemp milk as well as goji berries packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants.

Goji Berries
This "super-food", also known as wolfberries, seems to be all the rage. Perhaps it's because it is said to have antioxidant levels, measured in ORAC units (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity Scale) many times that of other more popular berries. Or maybe it's because its marketers claim that it is very high in fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C and protein. Traditionally, goji berries have been used in China and Tibet to treat inflammatory conditions and to improve eyesight. They are said to contain high concentrations of carotenoids, like beta carotene and zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin protects the retina of the eye and decreases the risk of age related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly. I could not verify the exact concentrations of some of the nutrients in goji berries as the data was somewhat inconsistent depending on the company selling these pricey jewels. Although I paid around $16 per pound for organic, wild Tibetan Goji berries this morning at Whole Foods, I only use a quarter of a cup in this recipe so it cost very little to get this added goodness. Whether or not we believe all the incredible "hype" around these berries, their dark, rich color certainly indicates a high concentration of phytochemicals and I want to introduce them to you in a simple, cost effective way. The goji berries give this rich and creamy smoothie a very nice flavor and color which complements the apples and cinnamon.

Omega 3
This recipe provides over 3 grams of omega 3 per serving. If you substitute soy milk or other dairy or non-dairy milk products for the hemp milk in this recipe, you will still get around 2.5 grams of omega 3. This fatty acid is said to support cardiovascular health, strengthen your immune system, reduce inflammation and help prevent depression and joint pain. It is needed for proper brain development and is especially important during pregnancy.


Apple Cinnamon Smoothie with Chia Seeds and Goji Berries [serves 2]
2 tablespoons raw, organic chia seeds
4 tablespoons dried goji berries
3/4 cups filtered water
1 1/4 cups Living Harvest Hemp milk (or your favorite dairy or non-dairy milk)
2 medium apples, cored and quartered
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 medium banana
1 cup crushed ice

Soak chia seeds and goji berries in the filtered water and let set for 30 minutes or more. Put the soaked chia mixture, including the soak water, in a high speed VitaMix blender. Add the milk, apples, cinnamon, banana and crushed ice and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 262.5 calories, 7.8 g fat, 1.3 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 4.3 g protein, 52.3 g carbohydrates, 11.5 g fiber, 3.1 g omega 3 and 4.3 g omega 6 fatty acids.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Warm Whole Grain Couscous Salad with Garbanzo Beans, Feta and Cherry Tomatoes

A Great Source of Fiber and Vegetarian Protein
Couscous is a tiny pasta that's common in Algerian and Moroccan cuisine. It reminds me of pastina, the Italian equivalent that I grew up with. I love the "lightness" of couscous and have been on the outlook for a "whole grain" version of this pasta for years. I was thrilled to find whole grain couscous at Trader Joe's this weekend. I quickly scooped it up and couldn't wait to try it. Whole grain pasta always contains more fiber and other nutrients than its highly processed counterpart. To get at least 25 grams of fiber per day needed for optimum health, you really shouldn't waste many meals with processed and refined foods. This whole grain couscous recipe packs over 11 grams of fiber per serving (almost half of your daily requirement) with most of it coming from the whole grain couscous and garbanzo beans. It also provides 15 grams of high quality protein per serving. Garbanzo beans contain all 9 essential amino acids.

Warm Whole Grain Couscous Salad with Garbanzo Beans, Feta and Cherry Tomatoes [serves 4]
For the Couscous
1 1/3 cups whole grain couscous
1 1/3 cups filtered water
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
For the Dressing
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
For the Salad
1 15 oz can, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons scallions, finely sliced, green and white parts
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled (more or less to taste)
Salt to taste

Bring water, salt and olive oil to a boil. Stir in couscous and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes until the water is absorbed and then fluff with a fork and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and garlic for the dressing and set aside. Place the prepared couscous in a bowl and combine with garbanzo beans and dressing. Gently stir in scallions, parsley, tomatoes and feta cheese. Adjust the salt, if needed, and serve immediately.

Per serving: 391 calories, 10.8 g fat, 2.6 g saturated fat, 8.3 g cholesterol, 15 g protein, 61 g carbohydrates and 11.4 grams of fiber.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Protein - Are Vegetarians Getting Enough? Are Meat Eaters Getting Too Much? Best Sources of Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Protein

Beans are an excellent vegetarian source of protein.

But Where do you Get Your Protein?
This is probably the most frequent and annoying question posted to vegetarians. It is a myth that a vegan and vegetarian diet is deficient in high quality protein. Vegetarians can easily get their daily requirements by eating a variety of foods high in plant proteins (see "Examples of Protein Content in Common Foods" listed below). Lacto-ovo vegetarians get additional protein from eating dairy and eggs.

How Much Protein do we Need?
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams per kilogram, or 0.36 grams per pound, of adult body weight. According to this, a 130 pound female would need about 47 grams of protein per day. A 180 pound man would need about 65 grams. Since unprocessed plant proteins are slightly less digestible, the recommended protein intake for vegans whose diet is mostly from whole foods like grains, beans and vegetables, is 0.9 grams per kilogram, or 0.4 grams per pound. This uplift is not necessary if their diet includes tofu or meat substitutes which are highly digestible. Protein requirements increase during periods of growth and for pregnant and lactating women.

Can we get Too Much Protein?
The short answer to this question is yes. Eating too much protein causes a build up of ketones. This causes the kidneys to work extra hard to remove these toxic ketones putting undue strain on the kidneys. This also causes excess loss of water and calcium. Studies show that excess plant protein results in less kidney damage that excess protein from meat or milk.

As you can see from the list below, it is easy to consume excess protein if you are a meat eater. A few eggs in the morning, a cheese burger for lunch and a 6 ounce chicken breast for dinner would add up to over 100 grams of protein without even counting the protein obtained from the other grains or veggies eaten along with it. This is more than double the requirements for a 130 pound female. I shutter to think what the popular high protein Atkins diet has done to people's long term health. For a remarkable book that discloses the implications of a diet high in protein and fat, read "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II. I believe it's one of the most important books ever written about nutrition and health.

A vegetarian or vegan who eats grains, tofu, nuts and beans can easily meet their daily requirements for protein. I do feel, however, that raw food vegans will have to make sure they are sprouting beans and grains and eating enough nuts and seeds to get sufficient protein.

Personally, I feel the healthiest diet consists of lots of raw fruits and vegetables, some cooked grains and beans, some goat yogurt and an occasional egg or fish dish.

Examples of Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Protein Sources
[Sources, and manufacturers information]
1 cup raw broccoli, 3 g
1 cup raw kale, 2 g
1 medium baked potato, 3 g
1 large ear of corn, 5 g
1 cup cooked white mushrooms, 4 g
1 cup grilled Portobello mushrooms, 5 g
1 cup cooked spinach, 5 g
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans, 14 g
1 cup red kidney beans, 17 g
1 cup cooked lentils, 18 g
1 cup raw sprouted lentils, 7 g
1 cup cooked soybeans, 22 g
3 oz. extra firm tofu, 9 g
Eggs, Dairy and Nondairy Milk
1 oz. cheddar cheese, 7 g
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese, 13.5 g
1 hard boiled egg, 6 g
1 cup 2% milk, 8 g
1 cup low fat yogurt, 13 g
1 cup Silk plain soy milk, 7 g
1 cup Hemp Bliss original flavor hemp milk, 5 g
1 cup Rice Dream rice milk, 1 g
Nuts, Nut Butters and Seeds
1 oz. almonds, 6 g
1 oz. pine nuts, 4 g
1 oz. walnuts, 4 g
2 tablespoons chia seeds, 4 g
2 tablespoons whole flax seeds, 4 g
2 tablespoons Nutiva hemp seeds, 11 g
1 oz. pumpkin seeds, 7 g
1 oz. sunflower seeds, 6 g
2 tablespoons raw almond butter, 7 g
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter, 7 g
2 tablespoons raw sesame tahini, 6 g
Grains and Grain Products
1/2 cup cooked pearl barley, 2 g
1/2 cup cooked oatmeal, 3 g
1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 4 g
1/2 cup cooked brown rice, 2.5 g
1/2 cup cooked white rice, 2 g
1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 4 g
2 oz. cooked whole grain pasta, 7 g
1 cup sprouted wheat, 8 g
1/4 cup dried apricots, 3 g
1 large apple, 1 g
1 avocado, 3 g
1 medium banana, 1 g
1 cup blueberries, 1 g
1 medium orange, 1 g
1/4 cup raisins, 1.5 g
Beef, Poultry and Seafood
3 oz. 85% lean ground beef, 22 g
3 oz. roasted chicken breast, 27 g
3 oz. canned light tuna fish, 22 g
3 oz. wild Atlantic salmon, 22 g

Monday, August 10, 2009

Raw Garden Salsa with Cherry Tomatoes - Rich with Lycopene

Shopping in my garden for salsa ingredients.

Raw garden salsa with optional fresh corn.

Summer's Bounty
One of the best things about summer is the abundance of vine ripened tomatoes. You know, the ones that actually taste like tomatoes unlike the ones we buy in the winter at the local grocery store. And then there are the cherry tomatoes. You can't pick them fast enough. I love "shopping" in my garden and this morning I picked a basket of cherry tomatoes, some basil and a few small jalapenos. To this I'll add the garlic I've already harvested and I've got most of the ingredients for today's raw garden salsa. This recipe is low in calories and saturated fat and has no cholesterol.

Nutritional Benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are packed with vitamin C. One cup provides about half of your daily requirement. Since this vitamin is very heat sensitive, this raw salsa will preserve its vitamin C content. Tomatoes also contain lots of vitamin A, K, potassium and manganese. They are a very good source of fiber and are most noted for their high content of lycopene. This well publicized carotenoid is known to have high antioxidant and cancer fighting properties.

As a strong antioxidant, Lycopene has been shown to help prevent heart disease. This phytochemical has also been associated with the reduction of numerous types of cancers such as prostate, lung, pancreatic and intestinal cancers. Because carotenoids are fat soluble, they are more effective when eaten with high fat foods. I've added a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to this salsa recipe for that purpose. To get a similar effect, and an added taste treat, you can substitute half a chopped avocado for the olive oil. Some studies show that cooked tomatoes have more of an affect in reducing prostate cancer although raw tomatoes also showed some benefit.

How to Serve
For a completely "raw" appetizer, serve with zucchini slices or raw chips (see my April 14, 2009 post for raw jalapeno corn chips), or buy your favorite healthy chip. I like to serve Trader Joe's "hemp tortilla chips with black sesame seeds".This salsa also makes a great topping for grilled salmon or you can try adding it to your favorite taco or burrito recipe. Or, if you're in the mood for pasta, mix an extra tablespoon of olive oil into the garden salsa and throw it on top of hot whole wheat fusilli.


Raw Garden Salsa with Cherry Tomatoes
[serves 4 without corn or 6 with the optional fresh corn]
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved depending on size
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
2 tablespoons scallion, finely sliced (white and green parts)
1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped, about 1 tablespoon
2 packed tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
2 shakes of black pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or 1/2 chopped avocado)
1 cup fresh corn kernels, about 1 large ear - optional

Gently mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve.

Per serving (without corn, 4 servings): 50 calories, 3.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 0.5 g protein, 4.4 g carbohydrates and 1.0 g of fiber.

Per serving (with corn, 6 servings): 55 calories, 2.7 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 1.2 g protein, 7.8 g carbohydrates and 1.3 g of fiber.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Grilled Zucchini and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich - What To Do with a Giant Zucchini

Slices of the giant zucchini filled the entire grill.

This Could Happen to You
My daughter-in-law's sister lives nearby. The other night she sent me an email. "I've left something at your door", she wrote. I've eaten all that I could but no one else in the family eats zucchini. I thought you'd know what to do with it". I went to the door and there it was, leaning up against the side of the house. It's August and I shouldn't be shocked as these things can get this big this time of the year. It was chopped off at the top where the poor dear tried to eat her way down the mutant zucchini that her neighbor left for her. At least two feet of it remained. I cut it in a few sections so that I could fit it into the refrigerator as I needed a day to figure out what to do with this thing.

The next day, after much deliberation, my husband Doug and I decided we should try to grill it. We just bought a big Webber BBQ and Doug is really handy at this type of cuisine. I had some nice roasted red peppers, goat cheese and red onions in the house and fresh basil in my garden. We picked up a fresh loaf of seeded sourdough at the local bakery. After carving off some of the bottom which seemed a bit tough, I cut the zucchini into 26 thick slices. Luckily the seeds had not yet matured so the inside was still fleshy enough to eat. The skin wasn't too thick either. The giant slices, each measuring at least 4 inches in diameter, filled the entire BBQ and Doug patiently brushed each slice with a 1 to 1 mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil with some garlic powder and salt. He flipped them over several times until they were nice and brown. Finally, the moment of truth came and as luck would have it, the slices were tender enough to eat!

We brought the warm zucchini slices into the kitchen and prepared the first sandwich. A little spicy mustard was spread on one slice of bread and soft goat cheese on the other. I put down a layer of roasted red pepper, then three slices of zucchini, a slice of red onion and a few leaves of fresh basil. A little freshly ground black pepper to top it off and the sandwich was complete and turned out to be very delicious. More importantly, we saved this poor overgrown zucchini from the compost pile. Of course we still have 20 more slices to eat before I can comfortably declare victory.

Be Prepared
We were lucky to save this one. Many of these baseball bat sized zucchini simply are too tough to eat. But if you have neighbors with gardens, you'd better be prepared. Either you must keep your doors locked and stop answering the phone until the fall or keep a few sandwich ingredients around and the BBQ handy. It wouldn't hurt to watch over the fence and remind your neighbor that there's a nice, tender, young zucchini ready for picking.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Vegan Gravenstein Apple and Blackberry Crisp

Gravenstein apple tree.

Gravenstein apples at Andy's Market in Sebastopol, Ca.

Blackberries on the West County trail, Sonoma county.

The Celebrated Gravenstein Apple
When I moved to Sebastopol in 2008 I was quickly introduced to the Gravenstein apple and the many traditions surrounding it. In the early 1900's, apple farming and the processing of apple products were becoming a major industry in Sonoma county. Sebastopol continues to celebrate the importance of this wonderful fruit. In April, the town has an Apple Blossom Festival and in mid August, next weekend in fact, there is a two day Gravenstein Apple Fair. Unfortunately, this delicate and versatile apple is becoming extinct. In 1945 there were 14,000 acres of Gravensteins growing in Sonoma county. Now there are less than 1,000. I developed this recipe to celebrate the Gravenstein apple while we are still lucky enough to have them available. Since they don't travel well and are very perishable, there's a good chance that many of you will not be able to get Gravensteins so feel free to substitute any baking apple in this recipe. For those of you who can get this wonderful fruit (in California, Nova Scotia and Germany), go out and support your Gravenstein apple farmers by purchasing lots of apples and enjoying this mouth-watering crisp.

Blackberries are in Season
Besides seeing Gravenstein apple trees everywhere in Sebastopol, you will also find an abundance of blackberry bushes. There's a trail near our home known as West County trail which goes for miles and is lined with this wonderful and healthy berry. Locals can also find them in small berry farms, like Sebastopol Berry Farm, who have been growing and selling organic berries since 1986. I thought it would be fitting, since both of these local fruits ripen about the same time, to make a healthy dessert using them both. This dish is low in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol and is high in fiber and omega 3 fatty acid.

Vegan Gravenstein Apple and Blackberry Crisp [serves 6]
For the crisp
3/4 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons Sucanat or organic brown sugar
2 small packets stevia extract (optional for added sweetness)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons of vegan earth balance margarine or vegetable oil
For the fruit
4 cups peeled and sliced Gravenstein or baking apples
1 cup fresh blackberries
2 teaspoons Fruit Fresh produce protector (or 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
1 tablespoon Sucanat or organic cane sugar
1/4 cup chopped raw walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine the oats, Sucanat, stevia, flour, cinnamon and margarine. If you want added sweetness and do not want to use stevia (a zero calorie, herbal sweetener), you may add another tablespoon of sugar or your favorite low calorie sweetener). Mix with your fingers or with a fork until the mixture is course and looks like a crumble. Set aside. In another bowl, mix apples and blackberries and sprinkle with Fruit Fresh and sugar. Stir in walnuts and place fruit mixture in an ungreased 8" x 8" pan. Cover evenly with the crisp mixture and bake for 45 minutes. Crisp should be bubbly and slightly browned. Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes and serve.

Per serving: 190 calories, 7.7 g fat, 1.6 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 3.1 g protein, 29.4 g carbohydrates, 4.0 g fiber and 0.6 g omega 3 fatty acid.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Walnuts

Chocolate zucchini bread served with ice cream

Zucchini and shredded apple mixed with dry ingredients

Chocolate zucchini bread with walnuts.

Got Zucchini?
If you've got a garden, you are probably drowning in zucchini by now as I am. That's why I keep coming up with more and more ways to use up this prolific little vegetable. What can be better than making a delicious and healthy chocolate loaf that can be served for breakfast with cream cheese or jam, served as a decadent dessert with a scoop of your favorite ice cream (the picture shows a scoop of mint chocolate hemp milk ice cream by Tempt) or just eat a slice as is.

In case you've missed them, check out my other zucchini posts:
- Vegan lemon basil pesto on raw zucchini spaghetti - April 20, 2009.
- Roasted baby squash on whole wheat pasta - June 1, 2009.
- Raw zucchini spaghetti and walnut meatballs - June 16, 2009.
- Zucchini corn pancakes with homemade organic low sugar plum jam - July 8, 2009.
- Raw zucchini soup topped with raw goat milk feta - July 20, 2009

Another Delicious Way to get Omega 3 Fatty Acids
My last several posts have talked about the importance of omega 3 fatty acids and how to get them. This vegetarian recipe provides 1/2 gram per slice! It gets its high omega 3 content, all ALA, mostly from the walnuts, but other ingredients contribute as well, like the omega 3 enriched organic eggs and olive oil. Even the zucchini contains some.

Dark Chocolate
Besides the omega 3 content, this recipe provides a double dose of flavonoid-rich chocolate, first with the raw cacao and then with the chunks of 70% dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is known to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing blood pressure and preventing blood clots. The flavonoids in chocolate, called flavonols, also have strong antioxidant properties.


Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Walnuts [makes 12 slices]
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 omega 3, organic cage free eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup Sucanat or organic cane sugar
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons raw cacao or unprocessed cocoa
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 large zucchini)
3/4 cups shredded baking apple (about 1 medium apple)
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
2 tablespoons 70% dark chocolate mini chunks

I usually let the prepared mixture sit in the pan for 5 or 10 minutes before baking so you don't need to preheat the oven yet.
Grease the sides of an 8.5" x 4.5" pan and put parchment or wax paper on the bottom. In a bowl, beat together olive oil, eggs, vanilla and sugar. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cacao. Add the zucchini and apple to the flour mixture and beat well with an electric beater until the zucchini and apple shreds are coated (see above picture). Beat in the egg mixture and then stir in the walnuts and chocolate chunks. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and let sit while the oven is heating up. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When heated, bake the loaf for 50 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Carefully cut around the edges of the pan with a knife and turn over to remove the loaf from pan. Peel off the wax paper and put the loaf on a cooling rack.

Per serving: 190 calories, 9.8 g fat, 1.9 g saturated fat, 35.4 g cholesterol, 4.4 g protein, 22.7 g carbohydrates, 3.3 g fiber, 0.5 g omega 3 and 2.5 g omega 6 fatty acid.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Baked Atlantic Salmon with Roasted Onions and Cherry Tomatoes on Wilted Spinach

One Serving Provides Over 2 g of DHA and EPA
On Friday I posted an article on the best fish and vegetarian sources of the omega 3 fatty acids, ALA, DHA and EPA. Since salmon was an excellent source of EPA and DHA, the omega fatty acids most beneficial to your health, I thought I'd start the week by sharing a healthy and delicious salmon recipe.

Besides being rich in omega 3, this dish is high in protein. Salmon also provides a significant amount of niacin, vitamins B6 and B12 and selenium. Being very low in mercury, salmon can be enjoyed often. The spinach in this recipe is also a nutrient powerhouse being a very good source of vitamins A, C, E, K, thiamine, riboflavin, B6 and folate as well as the important minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese.

This recipe is best when thick slices of salmon are selected. Wild Atlantic salmon was used in calculating the recipe's nutritional information. You can use farmed Atlantic salmon (it actually contains more DHA and EPA) but be sure the fish are farmed responsibly: not given antibiotics, growth hormones or artificial coloring, not genetically modified, not fed animal bi-products or grown in crowded pens. As I wrote on Friday, Whole Foods has very high standards for their farmed fish. Wild King salmon is also a nice thick and juicy fish to use in this recipe but it's been difficult to find lately. Coho is typically pretty thin and drier than the other types of salmon so I don't recommend using it for this dish.


Baked Atlantic Salmon with Roasted Onions and Cherry Tomatoes on Wilted Spinach [serves 2]
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 packed teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt plus a pinch for the spinach
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons lemon zest
12 ounces Atlantic salmon cut into two thick fillets
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
10 ounces fresh spinach
2 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place onion, tomatoes, olive oil, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, garlic and lemon zest in a shallow roasting pan and mix thoroughly. Rub the salmon fillets in the mixture until coated with oil and seasoning, remove from the pan and set aside (the vegetables will initially roast without the salmon). Spread out the onion mixture in the pan and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the salmon fillets on top of the roasted vegetables. Put 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice over the fillets. Place the pan back in the oven and cook for another 15 minutes or until the salmon flakes. While the salmon is cooking, place the spinach, water, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a covered pan and steam for a few minutes until the spinach wilts. Drain well and divide the spinach onto two plates. Cover the spinach with the roasted onions and cherry tomatoes and top each plate with a baked salmon fillet. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 384 calories, 15.5 g fat, 3.0 g saturated fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 40 g protein, 21.6 g carbohydrates, 6.3 g fiber, 3.5 g omega 3, 2.4 g DHA and EPA, and 0.8 g omega 6.