home.health.love

A balanced and easy approach to healthy living.


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Waste Not, Want Not

A year ago, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported that as a nation, we waste  40% of our food. The average family plays a role in this. Often, we over-buy food or forgot what we have in the fridge and it goes bad.

But, we also willingly discard perfectly edible food, and we do it all the time! Think about the last time you made broccoli or cauliflower: chances are, you used the florets, but threw out the stems. Or the last time your family didn’t get around to finishing the salad greens you bought before they started to wilt. Perhaps you got rid of those, too? Do you ever throw out fruits, like apples or bananas, that get soft and brown after a while?

When you do this, you’re throwing away nutrition and money (hey, you paid for that broccoli stem!). The goods new is: there are lots of ways that you can actually use veggie stems, wilted greens, over-ripe fruit, and other produce you are used to throwing away.

Read on for a variety of ideas to save food and save money:

  • Stir-fry or steam veggie stems: Instead of discarding stems, slice them and include them in a stir-fry, either alone or with other veggies you enjoy. If, for example, you’re using broccoli, then why not use both the stems and the florets?  Along with those from cruciferous veggies, stems from leafy greens, like kale, collards, and spinach, are great in stir-fries, too! You can also steam stems like you would other parts of the vegetable. TIP: add stems to stir-fries first; once tender, add in your other vegetables. Also: for thicker stems, like broccoli or cauliflower, make sure to cut the stems into thin pieces, so that they cook quicker.

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    Sauteed kale stems. I added these to quinoa for a yummy meal.

  • Make veggie broth: Keep a Ziploc bag in your fridge or freezer and use it to store parts of vegetables you usually discard: onion ends, carrot tips, herb stems, mushroom stems, parts of any root vegetable, etc. After you’ve collected a bit, use the veggie cuttings to make a tasty broth for your favorite soup! Just throw veggie cuttings into a pot, bring to a boil, and then simmer for an hour or more.
  • Sauté wilted greens: Bought too many salad greens  that are starting to wilt? No problem, put them in a pan with some olive oil, add seasoning of your choice (even just salt and pepper is great), sauté for a few minutes, drizzle with lemon juice (optional) and your going-bad-greens are now a tasty wilted-greens side dish! This works with any leafy green: romaine, arugula, spinach, kale, you name it.
  • Make chips: Another tasty treat you can make with your wilted greens is to drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle seasoning and bake…voila, the healthiest chips you can make! Kale, spinach, swiss chard—any green can be baked into a chip and eaten as a snack, pizza topping, burrito filling, or added into a salad!
  • Freeze for smoothies: If you have fruit that’s getting a little too ripe or soft for your taste (bananas, berries, plums, peaches, nectarines, mangos, etc.), store them in a closed Ziploc or other container in the freezer and use them to make smoothies.
  • Flavor water or seltzer: Something else to do with fruit that’s getting old and going soft, is to chop it into pieces, add to a pitcher of water or seltzer, and then put in the fridge. After a day or so, you’ll have fruit-flavored water (and by drinking the make-at-home kind, you save yourself about $2 for every 16oz, which is approximately how much Hint and other such fruit-flavored water drinks cost).

With these tips you will save money, and enjoy the satisfaction of using what you already have, rather than throwing it away.


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For Summer’s Sake, Stop Cooking!

Many of us are in the habit of cooking dinner for our families. But, dinner doesn’t need to be a cooked meal, and summer’s the best time to avoid heating up the kitchen in already-high temperatures! Besides for the hot weather, here are other reasons not to slave over a hot stove: 1) it can be quicker and easier to prepare a meal, and 2) when you don’t cook, your food maintains most of its nutritional content.

So, here are some no-cook or (low-cook) ideas for filling and nutritious summer dinners:

Entree salad:

I often like to base my non-cook meals around a hearty salad. Salads can be tasting and filling when they have a protein included, like canned beans. (I always buy the organic kind from a company that does not use BPA in their cans, such as Trader Joe’s and Eden Organic.) Other ideas for an easy protein to add to your salad: sprouts (you can grow your own!), baked tofu, tuna, canned salmon, nuts (slivered almonds, crushed walnuts), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), and cheese (goat, feta). Some easy-cook protein options are hard-boiled eggs and quinoa (it’s a grain, but it’s also a complete protein!). To fill out the meal, you can always add a side: a piece of whole-grain bread, a chilled soup. Easy and super healthy!

Summer Slaw:

An alternative to salad is making a slaw! When people think of “slaw,” they usually think “cole slaw,” or shredded cabbage with a mayo- or buttermilk-based dressing. Cabbage is super healthy, but slaws can also be made from all sorts of other shredded veggies and fruits, including broccoli, carrots, and kale. Further, the dressing does not have to be a heavy, dairy-based sort. Actually, lots of Asian dressings based on soy or peanuts work really well with slaws, as do tahini-based ones and different kinds of vinaigrettes. Like an entree salad, a slaw can be a meal in and of itself, or add some soup and another side if you desire.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, then I will now: slaws are super easy because you can already buy the ingredients shredded. Shredded cabbage, carrots, and broccoli are available in most supermarkets, and I’ve seen shredded kale, too.

Here’s a quick and easy slaw primer: combine shredded vegetable of your choice, with favorite nut or seed (pumpkin, sunflower, slivered almonds, and/or sesame), with favorite dried or fresh fruit (craisins, raisins, dried apricots, grapes, etc.), and an optional pungent (like scallions). Top with your favorite dressing.

Below is a dressing I found in a Moosewood cookbook (Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day) that I like to use to make a tasty broccoli slaw (gets compliments every time).

Ingredients:

1 bag broccoli slaw (store-bought, approx. 12 oz)

Seed or nut of choice (sunflower seeds, slivered almonds)

1-2 cups Craisins, raisins, or fresh grapes

Optional: sesame seeds, scallions

2 tbs toasted sesame oil

2 tbs soy sauce

4 tsp honey

6 tbs lime juice (fresh, about 2 limes; or use store-bought)

salt, pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Combine sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and lime juice in a container with lid; add salt and pepper. Close lid and shake to mix ingredients.

2. Put shredded broccoli in bowl. Add ingredients from step 1 to shredded broccoli.

3. Top with chosen dried or fresh fruit, nuts, sesame seeds and scallions, to your taste. Mix together. Preferably, let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

Need more inspiration? I found  a bunch of yummy slaw recipes on the kitchn.

Chilled soup:

Yum. Summer is the season for my favorite soups. I love gazpacho (there are so many kinds!), and other chilled soups, like chilled strawberry soup, cucumber, or pea. Some soups you usually eat hot can be tasty when chilled, such as a corn-based, zucchini, or butternut-squash soup. Serve with a side of multi-grain bread with a spread of chumus or canned salmon salad and you are on your way to a filling meal!

Fresh Veggies and dips:

Why not? Cut up carrots, celery, cauliflower, zucchini, and/or pepper and offer it all up with a variety of dips: chumus, guacamole, tahini, nut butter (I like almond and cashew), or whatever floats your boat. Such dips are high in protein and very filling. Offering up a variety of dips makes it more fun and will likely increase the amount of veggies your kids/partner will consume.

Squash:

Ok, this one involves cooking, but you can plan ahead. Bake a few butternut squash halves drizzled in olive oil  in advance (say, on a Sunday evening), and then serve squash for a couple of dinners over the next few days. Basically, I love butternut squash topped with a protein. Top with tuna/salmon salad or egg salad; sprinkle with some feta or goat cheese; and/or add some nuts/seeds and dried fruit. You can eat it cold or heat it up a little before serving.

I hope these ideas can get you started on the no-cook bandwagon. What are some of your favorite no-cook dinners?


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‘Tis the Season for Berries

Woohoo! Summer weather is finally hear (at least for those of us living in the northeast!). One of the benefits of summer is that there are lots of tasty fruits that are in season, including berries! And, by “in season,” I mean “cheaper”! I’ll give you lots of tips on buying berries cheaply, below.

But first, let’s talk nutrition. Berries are a nutritional powerhouse. Low in calories, great in taste, but high in vitamin C, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and minerals (potassium, magnesium, folate, calcium), which means they fight inflammation and are cancer-inhibiting. They also help to regulate blood sugar levels. I often see them included on super-food lists.

But…berries are pretty expensive to buy, as many of you probably know. So if you’re going to buy them fresh, the next few months are the time to do it, and do it often, because they are priced cheaper than when they’re not in season. In fact, this is the time of year you are likely to find all sorts of berries on sale in your local supermarket. At the Stop and Shop near my house in CT, organic strawberries are perpetually on sale throughout the summer, and blueberries and raspberries are often marked down, as well. So, shop the sales when you can (Wholefoods and other health food stores have sales every so often, too). I’ve found that for organic berries, Trader Joe’s has the lowest (non-sale) price, while Costco and other big-box stores have some of the best deals on conventional berries. Also, try out farmers markets in the spring and summer–they may have good deals, especially if you come at the end of the day, when you might be able to negotiate a better price. But, don’t bring them home and let them sit there: it’s really best to eat them within a couple of days, before they start losing nutrients.

Note: If you buy the conventional type, you should consider soaking them in a special pesticide wash designed to remove some of the pesticides, as strawberries and the other berry types contain lots of pesticides (their thin skins make them highly absorbent). The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List (which analyzes pesticide residue in common fruits and vegetables) ranks strawberries at #2, blueberries at #13 and raspberries at #21 in terms of most pesticide residue.

Another tip for buying berries on the cheap (and year-round) is buying them frozen. In fact, some researchers have argued that frozen fruits/veggies may have as much or more nutritional content as the fresh version. Why? Fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing are usually processed at their peak ripeness, a time when they are most nutrient-packed. By contrast, produce destined to be sold fresh are picked before they are fully ripe, which gives them less time to develop a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. (For a really great overview of the pros and cons of frozen vs. fresh, click here).

One thing you should know about frozen produce is that it is often blanched before being frozen, to arrest bacterial growth and general food decay. This always seems to be the case for vegetablesBut, GOOD NEWS: fruits on the other hand are not always blanched. I’ve read that Trader Joe’s frozen fruit is not blanched first, and though I haven’t confirmed this yet, I believe the same about the Wholefood’s 365 brand. If you have a favorite brand, I’d encourage you to contact their customer service department and ask about the freezing process. Makes sense to use the brands that don’t blanch first, right?

Another benefit to frozen is that you can buy bags of mixed berries to enhance nutritional variety.

The cheapest frozen berries I have found are at Costco (conventional, but some stores carry and organic bag of mixed berries) and Trader Joe’s (has many organic varieties at the best price for non-bulk). And, of course, when there is a sale in your local store, stock up, since frozen doesn’t go bad…at least not very quickly. It’s best to eat them within a few months, though, because nutrients in frozen produce to eventually degrade.

So, let’s bottom line this: Fresh, I believe, is still best! Buy in-season to reduce cost (and decrease carbon emissions). Shop sales, and frequent the store with the best prices. Try out farmers markets, which are plentiful during the warmer months. Frozen is a great back-up, more affordable, and year-round option. 

Okay, so now you are wondering, what the heck do I do with frozen berries? Here are some ideas:

1. Easy-peasy smoothies: I don’t even want to call this a recipe. Get out your blender.Combine a fresh or frozen banana (I buy a bunch of bananas, let them ripen a bit, chop them in half or thirds, then freeze them) and a handful of strawberries. If you like, add in some other berries to taste (blue-, rasp-, whatever). Pour in a liquid base, such as OJ, apple juice, coconut or almond milk. Optional but super worth it: add in a handful of greens, such as spinach, kale, or whatever you have. You probably won’t even taste it. Then blend!!! If you prefer added sweetness, add agave, honey, or coconut nectar. If you want it thinner, add more of the liquid base. Consider including a protein or greens powder for added nutrition.

2. Defrost and eat plain: that’s it. Don’t do anything, just eat. My mom taught me this trick. I don’t mind the consistency, though some people do. She takes out a bowlful of berries the night before and leaves them in the frig to defrost so they are ready for eating at breakfast.

3. Make sorbet! There are tons of easy recipes on the web, but here’s one that my friend Cara of Stamford Treats made and served at a recent event, it was delish! Super easy: blend 1 lb frozen mixed berries, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup Rose’s lime juice, and a enough coconut milk to make the mixture soft enough to blend. That’s it!

4. Use in baking: it’s better not to cook berries because you lose some of the nutrients, but hey, everyone likes a berry-muffin or cake once in a while.

5. Sprinkle on your cereal, yogurt, waffles, pancakes (or whatever!): I take the berries out in the morning and let them defrost for a little while. Then I sprinkle them on my cereal or yogurt. You can also remove some berries from the freezer the night before, and keep them in your refrigerator overnight so they are ready for breakfast time!

With all of these tips, I am sure you will become a berry good eater! Enjoy!


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Ode to Lentils

Lentils are a great food for so many reasons. They should be a staple of any vegetarian diet, but are a great addition to any food repertoire. They are a low-fat, low-cholesterol, nutrient-rich substitute for meat.

Here is what makes them so special:

  1. They build your iron stores! A cooked cup of lentils contains 37% of your daily nutritional value. Apart from fortified cereals and soybeans, lentils have the most iron of any non-meat food source (see Table 1 to compare). Many women have low iron stores (12% of young women!), which can result in anemia. Vegetarians are particularly vulnerable to low iron, because they don’t eat meat, which is a great source for iron, but even meat-eaters suffer from low iron levels! (Other iron sources: all varieties of legumes, nuts, dark leafy vegetables, tofu.)
  2. Unlike other legumes, lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking.
  3. They are less gas-producing than beans.
  4. They cook very quickly, quicker than other legumes! Boiling them takes about 15-20 minutes.
  5. According to a Harvard study women who ate beans and lentils at least twice a week had a 25 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who ate them just once a month. (Source)
  6. They taste great when sprouted!
  7. They make a great toddler/kid food!
  8. Many varieties add different flavors and colors to your dishes: orange, green, brown, black, etc.

Below re two of my favorite recipe for making lentils is. The first is a great side or vegetarian main dish or lunch salad. It was featured in the August 2005 issue of Gourmet Magazine. It’s super easy and tasty. I have served it to company on many occasions and always get compliments.

Lentil Salad with Tomato and Herbs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried lentils (preferably small French lentils)
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 3/4 lb tomatoes, diced (2 cups)
  • 4 large scallions, thinly sliced (3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, or to taste (I usually start with 2 tbs. and then add more)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan with lentils, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, 15 to 25 minutes.
  2. Drain in a large sieve, then transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Toss hot lentils with tomatoes, scallions, dill, basil, vinegar, oil, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste.

Easy…right??? By the way, you can adjust this recipe by including whatever herbs and veggies you have in your frig. If you don’t have any fresh herbs, it still tastes great with the dried versions or none at all! 

Lentils with Rice (Mujadara)

Here is another favorite: a one-dish meal for a weeknight dinner, which can be prepared ahead. This recipe is adapted from one presented on Good Morning America. It’s so easy, that after making it once, you won’t need the directions anymore.

Ingredients:

  • 1-3 medium yellow onions, peeled
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 3 1/2 cups cold water or broth
  • 1 cup rice of your choice (sometimes I use quinoa)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • OPTIONAL: Other seasonings of your choice: cumin, turmeric, curry, paprika, etc.

Preparation:

  1. Dice 1-2 onions.
  2. Heat a large frying pan and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the diced onions. Saute until quite brown and set aside.
  3. In a 4-quart covered pot place the lentils and water/broth. Bring to a boil, covered, and then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the cooked onion to the lentils, along with the rice and salt. (Add any optional seasonings.) Cover and simmer 20 minutes until rice and lentils are soft. If a bit of water remains unabsorbed, remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes and it will soak in.
  5. OPTIONAL: Slice the remaining onion into rings. Heat the frying pan again and saute the rings in the remaining olive oil.
  6. OPTIONAL: To serve, top the lentils with the sauteed onion rings.
  7. Accompany with plain yogurt, sour cream, or tzatziki sauce. Consider adding a lemony green salad, with tomato wedges on the side.

I sometimes make this recipe when I already have cooked rice or quinoa, in which case I cook the lentils alone according to step 3; when done, I put the lentils in the frying pan with the sauteed onion and additional olive oil, add the cooked rice, and saute it altogether for a few minutes.

Enjoy!


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Your Kid Likes Veggies?!?

Friends of ours often comment on my daughter’s penchant for veggies. She’s almost 23 months and has been enjoying veggies since she was six months old. She requests them for snacks and meals. At least half of what she eats in a given day consists of raw fruits, vegetables, and sprouted legumes. When she sees me eating a salad, she sticks her hand in the bowl, pulls out some leaves, and munches away.

I’m excited to share the strategies I’ve used for almost two years now to encourage my daughter’s interest in whole foods, particularly raw veggies and sprouts. I’ve learned that starting early and being consistent are key. Every child and family situation is different, and what works for ours may not work for another, but perhaps some of these strategies will work for your little ones:

1) Expose baby to veggies in utero and during infancy : I ate lots of veggies throughout my pregnancy (after morning sickness subsided, of course!) and while I was exclusively nursing her. I believe that exposing her in the womb and then through breast milk to various flavors  of fresh, whole foods, helped her develop taste buds that are keen on veggies, fruits, and legumes. If you don’t have boobs (i.e. dads and soon-to-be dads), encourage your partner’s healthy eating by making her veggie dishes and salads she will enjoy–the benefits will trickle down!

2)  Baby’s first foods should be veggies, then fruits: When it comes to first foods, start with veggies (and bananas are great, too). There is no rule that says that you need to start kids on cereal first. In fact, Dr Sears, and more and more pediatricians recommend avocados as the perfect first food. Why not let your infants start their exploration into food and flavors with the healthy, whole, from-the-ground stuff instead of the highly processed stuff? If I were constantly fed cereals, I probably wouldn’t develop much of a taste for veggies, either. Carbs are just too addictive.

My daughter’s first foods were avocado and banana. The great thing about these two foods is that they are not only nutritious, but are soft enough to be eaten raw (for full nutritional value) by an infant. After eating these for a month or so (while still nursing), we introduced her to other veggies, like cooked butternut squash, carrots, and peas. Then we went on to pea shoots, baby greens, lentils, quinoa, and some fruit.

Some people swear that kids should be exposed to veggies before fruits, because once they taste the sweet fruity stuff, they won’t want to go back. I agree for the most part, though I believe that bananas are an exception. They are an excellent first food for any baby. Bananas continue to be one of my daughter’s favorite foods and I am TOTALLY ok with that!

3) Eat the way you want your child to eat: Modeling is so crucial. Demonstrate the healthy eating habits that you want your child to acquire. When we have dinner as a family, there’s nearly always a raw salad on the table, plus cooked veggies or legumes. Your child will mimic your habits, good and bad, so try to make them good!

4) Lead with veggies: Whenever it’s time for a meal or a snack, I offer veggies first (assuming it’s convenient to do so). If you offer a sandwich, pasta, or other processed food first, they’ll definitely say yes to that, fill up, and you can forget the veggies!

5) Make it interesting and fun: Lately, to keep up her interest, I’ve been giving my daughter her veggies along with a healthy dip, like humus, guacamole, or salsa. She is really enjoying exploring different dips and loves sticking her cut veggies into the gooey stuff. If you prefer to cook, lightly saute your veggies in different sauces and flavors. Do you have other creative ideas? Share them in the comments section, please!

6) Encourage her savory tooth instead of her sweet tooth: Sweet foods tend to be worse for you and more addictive than savory foods, so I rather my kids enjoy the latter when they’re in the mood for a treat. The treats I keep in the house for my daughter (and for her parents 🙂 ) are chips. I’m not talking Frito-Lay. I buy the kind you find in a health food aisle: non-GMO, often organic, always baked (never fried), and usually made out of lentil flour, corn and/or a mix of whole grains. My favorite brands are Food Should Taste Good, R W Garcia, and Mediterranean Snacks.

7) Don’t proactively offer sweets…: Our culture associates special occasions with high-sugar and high-fat foods. I think I speak for the vast majority of people when I say that a birthday is not a birthday until some cake, cookies and other treats have been eaten. But no child is born with the belief that special occasions and treats must go together: this is a product of nurture, not nature! Your child doesn’t know that she’s meant to have cake or ice cream on her first birthday, so why go out of your way to encourage it? The need to eat unhealthy to celebrate is OUR need–i.e. the parents’ need–not the child’s need! So celebrate with some fruit, yogurt, or whole grain baked good, instead–your kid will not know any better. Better yet, just have a healthy meal, find a way to incorporate a candle, sing happy birthday, open presents, and call it a day. I actually baked a gluten-free carrot-chocolate cake for my daughter’s first birthday party that got rave reviews from guests. She didn’t even look at it, so I didn’t offer it to her, and she still had the best time.

8) …but don’t deprive your child–give them a treat when they ask for it: I don’t proactively offer sweets (per #7), but if my daughter asks for a treat–usually when we are at a social affair where we are surrounded by junk food and desserts–she often gets it. You’re shocked, right? Yes, most times my daughter asks for a food, I give it to her. Sometimes I’ll try to distract her from her request. But, if she insists, I give her what she wants. My only exceptions are candy and gummies (because they’re made of pure corn syrup), and dried fruit (because these stick to the teeth, and until she lets me help her brush her teeth, she ain’t getting any!).

Here is my reasoning: If you say no, your child will only desire it more (this is a universal truth). And, I’d prefer my child to explore foods under my watchful gaze, so I can impose limits, than let her get older and start exploring on her own. The good news: because I’ve followed the strategies listed here, half the time she doesn’t ask for treats when she sees them. And when she does, I offer her some, and she ends up eating just a small portion! So it’s a win-win.

9) Keep fruit juices and sugary drinks out of the house or hidden: It’s no secret that kids these days are addicted to sweet drinks, especially juices, that have a high sugar content. If you don’t keep juice, candy, or other sugary treats around, your child won’t be used to seeing them, and won’t start to believe that there is anything special about them. They won’t know to ask for them if they don’t see you consuming them! We have some cookies and ice cream, which we break out when she’s asleep 🙂

It’s been so gratifying to watch my daughter become a healthy eater. Granted, she’s still an only child and young enough that I still have control over her environment a  majority of the time. As she spends more and more time away from her parents and with her peers, I’m sure I’ll encounter new and different challenges around eating healthy. But, hopefully, by the that time, at least some of her good habits will have stuck 🙂

What are your own tips to encourage healthy eating?


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How to enjoy your sprouts!

This post is a follow-up to my recent post, “The Miracle of Sprouting,” where I discussed how sprouting works, the amazing nutritional benefits of sprouting, and six easy steps to making your own sprouts–quickly and cheaply!

(Here’s one more nutritional fact, I couldn’t help myself 😉 : 1 oz. of broccoli sprouts have the same amount of antioxidants as 3 lbs. of broccoli! source).

In this post, I will share some ideas of how you can enjoy your sprouts. At the end, I’ll tell you where you can buy seeds for all sorts of wonderful sprouts!

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  1. Pop-’em: eat them plain, as a snack. The bean sprouts–especially mung bean and chickpea–are crunchy, so kids will enjoy them, too. My daughter happily eats sprouts for any meal, including breakfast! She pops them in her mouth like candy. She enjoys them so much, I’ve started to hide my sprout jars because when she sees them on my counter, she demands to have some, even when they are not ready. Tell your kids they are like “nuts” or baby “puffs!” They won’t know that what they’re eating is essentially a multi-vitamin!
  2. Sprinkle them on top of a green salad for a crunchy, nutty addition.
  3. Make a sprout salad using one or more varieties with some salad dressing. This can be eaten as a salad course or a side dish.
  4. Use them as an ingredient in a sandwich or a burrito wrap, vegetarian or not. I especially enjoy them in a sandwich that also includes avocado, pepper, and/or carrot ribbons.
  5. Add them to your stir-fry, either while cooking, or just before serving, as a garnish. I recommend doing the latter, since cooking reduces the nutritional content of live foods. But, hey, that’s how some of you will enjoy eating them! If you prefer cooking them, I recommend adding them a minute or two before the stir-fry is done, so that they have the least exposure to high heat.
  6. Make sushi or spring rolls! I got this idea from Jennifer Cornbleet’s book, Raw Food Made Easy (a book my mom bought me  when I barely new anything about raw-fooding!). There’s no real recipe for this, except that sushi requires nori sheets and spring rolls require a leaf to wrap up the ingredients (think: romaine, cabbage, green leaf, etc.). Along with your sprouts, you can add sliced avocado, sweet pepper, cucumber, carrot (grated or in ribbons), herbs (cilantro works great), scallions, and anything else you like. Layer your ingredients along the short end of the nori sheet, and roll toward the opposite end. Add a dressing or sauce–like teriyaki, soy/tamari, peanut, miso, carrot ginger, or anything else you enjoy–in the nori roll, or on the side for dipping. Don’t bother cutting the roll into pieces, because ingredients will fall out. Eat it like a hand roll. A few rolls make a tasty raw lunch!
    Ingredients placed on nori sheet, on short side.

    Ingredients placed on nori sheet, on short side.

    Rollin' it up!

    Rollin’ it up!

  7. Make a pate or chumus out of your sprouts! Making a paté out of your spouts (or chumus, if it’s chickpeas), involves putting a few basic ingredients into your food processor, along with your sprouts: minced onion or garlic (or both), lemon juice, herbs of your choosing (cilantro and/or parsley are great choices), salt, seasoning (cumin is great for this, but also paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper, curry etc.) and some olive oil. If you’re making chumus, then replace the olive oil with tahini. For exta flavor, you can also add in some say sauce/tamari/nama shoyu (all variations of the same thing). Experiment with different proportions and different herbs and spices! Make it your own! You really can’t go wrong, since you can always adjust the taste if it’s not quite right. If you’re not feeling quite daring just yet, here are recipes from the web to inspire you: Jennifer Cornbleet’s paté (sub in any legume for the walnuts) or Vegan Baker’s Raw Sprouted Chumus.

I’d love to hear if you’ve used these ideas or if you have any new ones to add!

Before I sign off: For those of you looking to expand your sprouting repertoire, the best site out there is sproutpeople.org. They sell  seeds for leafy sprouts (clover, alfalfa), bean sprouts,  broccoli and brassilica sprouts, exotic sprouts, and sprouting nuts and grains. For each type of sprout, they have specific instructions and some how-to videos. They also have sprout mixes that taste really great. And, finally, they have lots of “equipment” like sprouting jars and lids, as well as all sorts of sprouting devices.

Mesh screen lids for sprouting jars, made by Sproutpeople. Image courtesy of Sproutpeople.

Sproutpeople’s French mix (their most popular one): Clover, Arugula, Cress, Radish, Fenugreek, Dill. Image courtesy of Sproutpeople.

Enjoy!


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The Miracle of Sprouting

Warning: this post may blow your mind.

What if I told you that YOU can grow some of the most nutritious foods quickly and easily right in your own kitchen? Foods that researchers have found to contain incredible disease-fighting properties, as well as very high levels of protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and phytochemicals. In other words, foods that carry more health benefits that most of the vegetables you have in your fridge right now.

Now, sit down, because it gets even better.

What if I told you that all you needed to accomplish this amazing feat was a glass jar, water, and a piece of cloth? And, that all it would take is a few minutes a day?

You’d think I was crazy, right? But, I’m not, and this is for real.

I’m talking about sprouting. Sprouting is one of the easiest ways you can dramatically boost your family’s nutritional intake. And you can do it yourself–cheaply and easily.

Let me first tell you about the health benefits of sprouting. Then I’ll tell you how to do it. And, finally, I’ll end with some ideas about how to consume your favorite sprouts.

Health Benefits:

Sprouts are one of the richest source of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants of all fresh food.[1]

Why are sprouts so nutritionally dense? Because, during germination the nutrients stored in the seed are released to fuel the growth of a full-grown plant (remember high school biology class?). Once germination begins, complex biochemical changes take place in the seed. Enzymes are produced to break down proteins, starches, and fats into simple compounds. These simple compounds are then used to make new compounds.[2]

The wonderful results? Sprouting increases the vitamin value and anti-oxidant content of the seed[3]  by as much as 20 times! [4] And, it’s not just the vitamin content that’s increased. For instance, one study demonstrated that broccoli sprouts contain special cancer and other disease-fighting agents that are lacking in full-grown broccoli.[5] Another study found that sprouts such as alfalfa, clover, soybean, and flaxseed play an important role in the prevention of menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease.[6]

I could go on for days, but need I say more?

How to sprout:

You can sprout almost any bean, seed or grain.  Most of these are very easy to sprout, though the technique does vary from seed to seed.

From my experience, the easiest things to sprout are beans, such as mung beans, lentils, and chickpeas. These beans are easy to find in health food stores and even super markets. Their sprouts are also tasty, crunchy and fun to eat for adults and kids. If it’s your first time, I recommend starting with mung beans, which you can find packaged or in the bulk aisle of most health food stores, including Whole Foods.

Equipment:

Glass jar, quart size (e.g., pasta sauce or mayonnaise jar; if you’re fancy, you can purchase a mason jar)

A square of cheesecloth, mesh screening, coarse kitchen towel, or sprouting jar lid (I use, and re-use, cheesecloth)

Ingredients:

Mung beans, lentils, or chickpeas

Water

Preparation:

  1. Fill jar about an inch high with beans (they will expand). Fill jar with water until a few inches from top. Loosely cover jar with piece of cheesecloth, screen or towel. Let sit overnight or for 8-12 hours.
  2. Drain water and rinse beans a couple of times with fresh water. Then pour out all of the water. Beans will remain damp.

    Soaking lentils and chickpeas overnight,

    Soaking lentils and chickpeas overnight.

  3. Place jar in a horizontal position on your counter. It’s best to prop up the bottom of the jar with a folded towel to encourage excess water to drip out.
    Day one, lentils and chickpeas: propping jars up with towel.

    Day one: lentils and chickpeas; jars propped up with towel.

    Day one: mung beans

    Day one: mung beans

  4. Continue rinsing and draining the beans 3 to 4 times a day. Don’t worry if you have to go to work or go to sleep, they will be ok. Just rinse at least 2 times a day when you get a chance (am and pm).
  5. After a day or so, you will see your first sprouts! You can eat the bean once the sprout is a mere ¼ inch thick. But, the more you let it grow, the more nutrients you will get. Let the sprout grow until desired length, for a few days. (I like my mung bean sprouts to be about ½-¾ of an inch.). Optional: when the sprout is close to the desired length, some people place the jar near a window for half a day to “green” their sprouts (i.e. stimulate chlorophyll production). Keep rinsing during this process.

    Lentils: end of second day. I will let them continue to sprout for another half day or so.

    Lentils: end of second day. I will let them continue to sprout for another half day or so.

  6. Store sprouts in the refrigerator (you can keep them in the same jar). This will stop the sprouting process as well as the rotting process. Try to eat them within a few days, no more than five.
Day 2.4: Lentils are ready to go into the fridge! Chickpeas will stay out for another day or so. Most of them have grown little nubby tails and some have actually sprouted, so I will let them go a little longer (sorry it's hard to see in the photo).

Day 2.5: Lentils are ready to go into the fridge! Chickpeas will stay out for another day or so. Most of them have grown little nubby tails and some have actually sprouted, so I will let them go a little longer (it’s hard to see in the photo).

Day 2.5: Mung bean sprouts ready to eat!

Day 2.5: Mung bean sprouts ready to eat!

That’s it! You can enjoy sprouts in many different ways. I will discuss ideas in my next blog post and share some more tips about sprouting. In the meantime, sprouts can be enjoyed as is: pop them in your mouth like nuts—kids will love them too! Try sprinkling them on your salad. Make a raw paté or chumus.

More on all of this next time. 🙂

Happy Sprouting!


[1] Shipard 2005.

[2] Chavan and Kadam 1989.

[3] Ramesh et al 2011.

[4] Shipard 2005.

[5] Schwartz et al, 2010, 2011.

[6] Kurtzer and Xu 1997.