What the hell is a persimmon?!?

Borrowed from wikimedia.org

I get my produce from a good friend of mine that works for a local organic produce distribution company.  I am super lucky to be able to call him with a list and then to pick up a box of the freshest and healthiest produce around.  I often give him specifics and then ask him to grab a variety of fruits that are available so I get some variety and often a few surprises.  This week was one of those weeks with a surprise: two beautiful looking persimmons.  I was surprised that I even knew what they were.  I have never purchased, eaten, nor seen a recipe that called for persimmons.  I have always known they existed because I have heard of them and I’ve seen them in the store.  I didn’t even know that they were a fruit until I looked them up on the internet yesterday.

To start this persimmon loving post, I am going to tell you about my experience eating the first persimmon of my entire life.  I knew I was going to write about this so I did a bit of a mindful eating exercise so I could best share this with others who have, undoubtedly, also never eaten a persimmon.  First off, a persimmon looks kind of like an under-ripe, swollen tomato.  Even the left-over sepals and petals (the leaves and stuff) on the fruit look like they are swollen compared to that of a tomato.  When I cut it open, I found that it had two tiny  pits.  I smelled it, and was completely underwhelmed.  It didn’t really have much of a smell to me, other than a generic smell of “freshness.”  As I ate my persimmon, I noticed that the texture of the flesh was sort of a cross between a mango and a cantaloupe, and the skin was similar to an apple.  The flavor was completely unremarkable.  It was super mild.  It vaguely reminded me of some other flavor, but I CANNOT figure it out.  It drove me nuts for a bit until I finally decided that it wasn’t important and will come to me eventually.  In conclusion, it was an OK experience.  I doubt I am ever going to have a craving for a persimmon.

Borrowed from gardencoachpictures

 

Now that we have completed what I can only describe as a completely uninspiring account of this new-to-me fruit, I will share with you the incredible health benefits of the persimmon.  First off, there are a number of persimmon varieties, but it seems the most popular is a variety native to Japan (this is the one that wound up in my produce box).  This first, most obvious benefit of the persimmon is the amount of Vitamin A that is present.  You can infer this by noting its color.  Also, due to its color, is the presence of lycopene which has been shown to reduce risk both for prostate cancer and stroke.  I’m also pretty impressed with the amount of potassium that is present.  You need potassium to keep your heart, kidney, muscles, digestive system and nerves in working order.  I wish I had known about persimmons back when heaps of bananas were being forced on me to help deal with leg cramps back in my dancing days.  The last component of persimmons that I would like to highlight is the fiber content.  There are 6 grams of dietary fiber in the average 2.5 inch diameter sized fruit.  Diets high in fiber are excellent for preventing colon cancer.  There are a number of other health benefits of high-fiber diets, but I have always been on an anti-colon cancer crusade.

I also read some information that stated persimmons had anti-tumor properties, but I was unable to verify this information.  It is safe to say, however, that there are cancer preventing properties due to the high levels of Vitamin A & C and the presence of lycopene (all are antioxidants).

OK!  Thanks for journeying with me into the wonderful world of persimmons.  They are clearly SUPER good for you, but I didn’t think it was that amazing to eat.  It rather makes me go “meh.”  Perhaps I need to find a good recipe to try!

Borrowed from rayabelna.com

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Bread: A Year in the Making

It’s not the most beautiful loaf, but it makes one hell of a sandwich!

It’s a two-for week!  I’ve been doing A LOT of baking lately and I thought you all might like my whole-grain bread recipe.  I have been working to make the perfect loaf for almost a full year now, and I think that I have finally mastered the best recipe for sandwich bread.  I have  tried a number of flour, yeast, and vital wheat gluten combinations in order to come up with the right size, flavor, and nutrition.  The following recipe is a combination of my own ideas, the Whole Wheat Bread recipe from The American Family Cookbook (1974), and the Classic Wheat Bread recipe from my Cuisinart recipe booklet.

Whole-Grain Sandwich Bread

– This recipe is done with an 11 cup food processor, but you could adapt it to do by hand.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup warm water (105-115 degrees; I find that heating water in a 4-cup measure for 30 seconds in the microwave is perfect)
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups spelt flour (you can likely use any types of flour that you like and get that same result)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, in 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5-6 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
  • 1/3 cup full flavor molasses (add great flavor and a TON of potassium)
  • 1 cup cold water

Steps

  • In a 4-cup measure, dissolve the yeast and sugar.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes (it should be ready by the time you are ready to pour it into the flour mixture)
  • Insert your dough blade into your food processor, process the flour, salt, butter, and vital wheat gluten on dough speed until thoroughly combined
  • Add molasses and cold water to the yeast mixture, mix well
  • Pour liquid down the feed tube as fast as the flour will absorb it (you may have to smack the side of the food processor to help it along, or stop it and scrape the sides)
  • Add small amounts of water (about 1 tablespoon at a time) through the feed tube until the dough is really able to start forming a ball, be careful not to add too much liquid, as too moist a dough can lead to dimpling once it cools
  • Once the dough has formed a ball and is cleaning the sides of the food processor, let it work for another 30 seconds or so to give it a good knead
  • Grease a large bowl, place your ball of dough (which you may have had to squish back together after removing from the food processor) in the bowl then flip it over to bring the greased side to the top
  • Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour or two (dough needs to at least double)
  • Punch down and shake onto a lightly floured surface
  • Roll out into an oblong shape (about the length of your bread pan)
  • Roll up like a jelly roll making sure to really get a tight roll to prevent large pockets of air from forming (this makes for giant holes in your bread)
  • Once rolled, turn the ends under and squish your loaf really well to get any air pockets out, then put into a greased and floured bread pan (I use a 10-inch pan)
  • Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour or two (you want the top of the loaf to be out of the pan at least an inch)
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes (the bread should sound hollow when tapped)
  • Turn bread onto a wire rack to cool
  • Rub some unsalted butter all over the top to give the bread a nice, soft crust

This is another recipe you can make adjustments to in order to suit your tastes.  It is incredibly nutritious and is FULL of flavor.  I hope my year of bread making proves to be useful to you!  Please ask questions if you need some help.

Delicious and Nutritious Granola Bars

Today was granola bar making day at my house.  Don’t be confused, it does not take all day, but it does come at least once a week.  My husband takes his lunch to work every day and was still stopping at McDonald’s on a fairly regular basis.  As it turns out, he wasn’t taking enough to eat each day and was becoming EXTREMELY hungry before getting home in the evening.  So in an effort to save my husband from heart disease and colon cancer (as well as save my money from disappearing), I went in search of a recipe to curtail his hunger.  I stumbled upon a recipe for granola bars on the Parents.com website and have adapted it for some increased health benefits and sweet tooth quenching.  So here it is:

Super Great Granola Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granola (I buy it in bulk, but you could make your own)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (today I used 7-grain cereal)
  • 1/4 cup spelt flour (just to mix things up from the typical wheat flour)
  • 1/4 cup flax meal (for the Omega 3’s; I buy whole flax and grind it up because it’s cheaper)
  • 1 cup dried fruit, finely chopped (I use a mixture of raisins from the bulk section because they don’t have any added sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup grape seed oil (used for its high content of polyunsaturated fat, Vitamin E, and Omega 6)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Splash of pure vanilla extract
  • Dark chocolate chips (dark chocolate is said to have antioxidant effects, I just add however many chips looks right)

Steps

  • Heat oven to 325 degrees
  • Line 8×8 pan with foil, coat with oil (you might be able to not use foil, but I haven’t been brave enough to try)
  • Stir granola, oats, flour, meal, and fruit
  • Whisk egg, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla
  • Mix dry and wet ingredients, add chocolate chips to your preference
  • Press into pan with your hands
  • Bake 30 minutes, or until browned
  • Cool on rack and then cut into squares

This recipe is a great afternoon snack when you just need a quick pick-me-up or are having a crazy craving for sweets.  Feel free to be creative with your ingredients and share your adaptations with us.

Enjoy!

***Weight Watchers Update***

My mom made a few tweaks to this recipe and found that a serving (approx. 1″x1″ square) is 4 points.  Here are the changes:

  • Substitute almond butter for grapeseed oil
  • Kind Healthy Grains Vanilla Blueberry granola
  • 4 tbs dark chocolate chips

Two Months Down and 400 Pounds of Tuna To Go!

Canning.  A topic that is near and dear to my heart.  I am so very close to being done with this season’s round of canning: just 400 pounds of tuna and a few more pints of tomatoes to go.  I have been working on this for nearly two months now.  I love canning, but I am so looking forward to sitting back and enjoying my home-canned bounty.  Mmm. Mmm.

I believe home canning to be an essential part of my nutritional lifestyle.  It keeps me connected to my homesteading background and connected to where my food comes from.  I can food I grow, food my family grows, and food from local farmers and fisherman.  There really is nothing more satisfying for me than to see my food go from the land to my table (especially when the whole process is by my own hand).  My child is too young now (although he does point to the stove and say “cook”), but this is a skill that I fully intend to pass on to all my children because I believe that this is an essential skill and brings a smile to so many faces; particularly when sharing.

I get very excited when people ask me questions about canning.  I think everyone should know how to do this.  It is truly not all that complicated, and once you do it, is no longer intimidating.  I know some people have a tremendous fear of pressure canning because of possible explosion (which is highly unlikely), but you can start off doing foods that require only boiling-water bath to cut back on the fear.  I tend to do very large batches of whatever I am canning to get me through to the next season, but a person can do small batches just to have a little fun.  Think pickled mixed veggies, mango salsa, and jams.  You can really do small batches of anything, but those would be the most fun.

Home canning can also be fairly inexpensive.  You can find supplies at the local Bi-Mart, on Craig’s List, and even re-sale shops.  There is really no need to buy brand new jars because they last FOREVER.  Just make sure you have no chips or cracks and you are good to go.

Right now is a pretty good time to try your hand at some home canning as the growing season is ending and you may find produce at lower prices.  I recommend getting your hands on Putting Food By.  This is my canning Bible.  I learned to can from my grandmother and mother, but I’m on my own now so I need a reference once in a while!  This book is chock full of information and great recipes.

By trying out new recipes, you are opening yourself up to a wider range of nutritious foods that you might not otherwise eat.  Having canned goods in the pantry inspires us to try new meals rather than stick with our regular weekly menu.  Canning is a great activity for kids, too and you can very easily turn it into a lesson in nutrition without them even knowing 🙂

Share your questions.  I have many lessons that I have learned the hard way and would be happy to share.  I love canning many different things, but have a very severe hatred of applesauce…8 hours of work for 7 pints of applesauce.  I may or may not have flung applesauce across the room that day.  Also, share your experiences.  I still have a lot of learning to do as well.

I hope this post has inspired someone to venture out into the wide world of home canning!  Here’s to summer’s goodness all winter long!

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Foods to Fight the Cold and Flu

Borrowed from scenicreflections.com

I did not sleep more than a couple of hours last night because I and my 16 month old son have come down with the common cold.  Poor little guy couldn’t breathe so he couldn’t sleep.  The humidifier is doing a great job now and he is napping.  In my downtime I decided to do a little refresher on foods that help out the immune system and fight infection.

The best advice (as with any health problem) is to prevent the illness.  Our immune systems function optimally when we have diets chock full of fruits and veggies.  However, especially for those of us with small children, we can’t prevent everything.  In that case, its time to ramp up the nutritional arsenal.  The first thing we need to do, as just about everyone knows, is increase our intake of clear fluids.  Water, tea, juice, and broth-based soups should do the trick.

Now, foods to eat a lot of:

  • Garlic
  • Citrus
  • Onions
  • Ginger
  • Yogurt
  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Coconut oil
  • Other herbs and spices such as turmeric, curry, cinnamon, cayenne, basil, and oregano

I wouldn’t suggest eating A LOT of coconut oil due to the saturated fat content, but do enjoy a little of it.  A person could make quite a delicious soup after sauteing some garlic and onion in coconut oil.  I would also suggest sticking to the greek-style yogurt while recovering from sickness to avoid high sugar intakes, but regular yogurt will still provide positive benefits.

Try an Indian-Style Raita for some immune boosting support:

2 cups greek-style yogurt

1 cucumber

1 apple

Dill (or other spice you enjoy)

Chili powder or cumin for a spicy garnish

Whisk the yogurt until smooth, add your choice of herb, mix in chopped cucumber and apple, dish out your serving and garnish as you desire.

Borrowed from talimpu.com

Here’s to rapid recovery from the cold bug!

References: http://www.nih.gov, http://www.livestrong.com

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One Rule: Variation and Moderation

I do believe in snacking, but you can’t argue with the simplicity of this!
Borrowed from http://cdn.blogs.babble.com/family-kitchen/

How many diets are out there?  I have no idea, and I really have no way to know, but there are A LOT.  I have followed three: the Atkin’s diet, the Candida Cleanse, and Eat Right 4 Your Type.  This fad diet portion of my life began when I was 13 years old.  Yikes.  I eventually stopped following fad diets and became a vegetarian.  I remained a vegetarian for 10 years and only began eating meat again when I was pregnant and tempted by orange chicken.  Muy Delicioso.

At this point in my life, I do not label the way I choose to eat as a specific “diet,” but  I do have one rule for eating: variation and moderation.  Believe it or not, the first time I was introduced to this simple and logical idea was in my first nutrition class in college.  Our professor would repeat this mantra nearly every class, and it has stuck with me for all of these years.  Specific medical considerations aside, the only “diet” I support is variation and moderation.

It has been my experience, and science will support me in this, that fad diets do not result in long-term results.  They are (mostly) designed to help people lose weight rapidly and spend little, if any, time addressing complete nutrition.  I know that many of us need to lose weight to be healthier, but simply being thin does not mean you are healthy.  I have been thin at the detriment to my health, and I have no desire to ever experience that again.  I want to feel great every day and enjoy all the food that I eat.  Fad diets place too many rules on how to eat and contribute to people ascribing value judgements to the food that they eat.  This is not healthy.  True, a bag of chips and a soda are “bad” for you, but enjoying these unhealthy snacks infrequently will not completely undo the positive benefits of a daily diet of varied, whole, healthy foods.

In sum, I believe that eating should be joyful and free of value judgements.  Food should make you feel healthy, energized, and even inspired.  We don’t need diet plans to tell us what and when to eat it: we may just need to learn how to listen to our bodies.  Let’s all be happy and healthy, not malnourished and hungry.

Do you have any nutritional rules that you follow?  Have they been helpful or harmful?