Perfect Pumpkin

Now while pumpkins are plentiful is the time to start buying and baking–because pumpkin has so many health benefits not known to the general public.

About 10 years ago now my husband and I were in the middle of trying to adopt a greyhound. Our love and desire to have a greyhound become part of our family was huge. After most tracks in this country stopped racing greyhounds, local agencies formed to help people/families adopt the retired greyhounds. The one we were trying to get had really bad teeth (potential of hundreds of dollars of care) and she also had problems with her stomach also due to the poor diet given to racing dogs. Time and again at meetings we heard stories of how the foster families and forever families were always using pumpkin with their greyhounds. Pumpkin will bulk up their stool, settle their tummies, and boost nutrition. Unfortunately, because of where we were living at the time, which lacked the appropriate space for this particular greyhound, we did not adopt her.

I’ve never forgotten how much I learned about pumpkin–here’s what I know:

  • It’s rich in vitamin A
  • One cup of cooked pumpkin is 49 calories
  • High in antioxidants that may reduce your risk of chronic disease
  • It’s high in beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C–boosts immunity
  • The nutrients in pumpkin are good for your eyesight
  • Nutrient dense, low calorie, may produce weight loss
  • Antioxidants lower risk of cancer
  • Is packed with fiber
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Versatile foodstuff that you can add to anything–wraps, salads(cooked) veggies, stews, soups and more

Some people may not know this but pumpkins are a type of squash. Pumpkins and squash belong to the same family called Cucurbitaceae.  Every year I bake up two dozen squash and pumpkin, then let cool, place in freezer bags and freeze. We then are able to eat squash every single month, almost, until the next year’s season. If one or both of us is feeling ill I will make up a pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin risotto does the trick every time. Here is the recipe–Pumpkin Risotto

I also roast all my pumpkin seeds for snacks and to add to bird food.

When you’re done with your pumpkins instead of throwing them into the garbage, where they’ll just clutter up a landfill, choose to break them up and set them out in a place where the birds and other small animals can get to them.

As we head into the season of sickness I would also like to add this article that has natural health remedies such as pumpkin, ginger, rice, and sweet potatoes that help manage diarrhea, nausea, and flu-like symptoms.

Until next time– stay healthy and happy!

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Seasons of Change

Just one more day and fall is here. Where we live we can tell when the season is changing by the changes in our local traffic. Also the upper edges of the bluffs in our area start to show their fall colors and the produce at the market changes from tender sweet fruit and vegetables to the kind better stored in root cellars and processed into canning jars. While there are still green beans at Farmer’s Markets, they’re not as tender as they were in June. Our last haul included half a dozen acorn squash and several zucchini with the last of summers cucumbers. This growing season marks the second year of our seasonal only eating. What does seasonal eating mean?

Seasonal eating means purchasing and eating food around the time the food was harvested. Which for us means, we eat asparagus in the spring and then will not eat it again until next spring. Same for tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and sweet corn. I have processed and frozen green beans, zucchini, beets, and squash to eat this winter. The reason we do this is two-fold: for one we want to eat food that is freshly harvested and preferably very local to us (grown within 50-60 miles of us), secondly we find this is a wonderful way to support our local farmers. Essentially they grow it and we are there come harvest to buy it and eat it. And we buy a lot of it. We eat as much sweet corn as we can handle. This year that mean approximately 100 ears were eaten by two people in this household. I ate over 11 pints of strawberries (each time picked fresh that morning) and about the same amount in raspberries plus I had 35 ripe peaches and 15 ripened pears. Together my husband and I ate 5 bunches of asparagus, 10 bunches of fresh carrots, 2.5# of green beans, 15# new potatoes, 10# of fingerlings,10# of fresh beets, 12 bunches of fresh spinach, 12 bunches of fresh lettuce, lost count on the cucumbers, and 20 peppers of various color. I alone have eaten 50 tomatoes since July. Now as the season changes we’ve begun consuming apples, squash, and zucchini.

All total from the first week of June until the first week of September we spent approximately $25.00 a week (roughly $350.00) on local produce in two different Farmer’s Markets. Prices are never lower for produce then when they are being harvested. During the summer months our meals consist of lots of fruits and vegetables and very little meat (1 maybe 2 meals a week with meat), and almost no unhealthy snacking. So we save a lot of money throughout the summer.

Prior to eating seasonally we would purchase substandard tasteless produce that was not local to us all winter long. Now–we store some of summers bounty up for winter eating and then come fall we’re buying squash, apples, and zucchini that we will also enjoy all winter. Through out the winter months we will not buy any produce in the store except lettuce and bananas. No matter how bad I might want a tomato in my winter salad, I will not buy any tasteless ones out of season.

Pictured is our favorite tree on the south shore of Devil’s Lake right behind the snack shack. One or the other of us has been photographing this tree since 2005.

Like the seasons of growing and harvesting food each one of us is in a season of our life. I am currently in mid- fall where a lot of my foliage has changed color and some of it may now be lying on the forest floor. There are still bits of rare green here and there but for the most part fall has been declared.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about and that perhaps you and your family might consider seasonal eating. Thank you for stopping. Below are two informative sites that discuss seasonal eating, why it’s better for you and your local community, and lastly how eating seasonally can save you a lot of $.

Eating Seasonally Food Guide

Why eating seasonally is better !

 

The Month of September means–

Baking several loaves of banana bread (and freezing them), visiting the apple orchard for the first time and trying Paula Reds, and surprises like my new guinea impatiens blooming again. This pretty sherbet colored impatiens has been blooming off and on all season. It has outperformed EVERYTHING I planted this year. In the last 8 days, we’ve had between 20-30 inches of rain (depending on where you are located in this county). Everything is wet, saturated, and in most cases ruined. Luckily because of where we are located– second-floor apartment on a hill, we were not flooded. Summer is almost gone and then we will settle into fall with more apple picking and squash baking and then eventually await the spring seed catalogs. Where does time go? It’s lost somewhere between intent and actual doing–never to be held, never to slow down, never to be captured. Always lost.

Meet Me at the Farmers Market–a book review

Here’s what I had to say about this incredible book–

A very well thought out children’s book that is full of sweet and delightful illustrations that are both entertaining as well as informative for children and adults alike. I especially enjoyed the fun references to food and the friendly characters that seem to come to life in this children’s storybook. I highly recommend this book for both children and adults.

I requested this book from the publisher because of the subject matter. Along with what I wrote above I found this book to be entertaining and a perfect way to get your kids to engage with farmers markets, local food or food of any kind. I enjoyed this book so much and I felt that the children in my area would also enjoy it –so I went ahead and donated two copies to our local library and purchased one for the children’s lounge at the church I belong to.

10 Book Reviews Reviews Published Professional Reader

Happy Reading!!

Buddha Bowls by Kelli Foster–a book review

One of my favorite cookbooks this summer has been Buddha Bowls by Kelli Foster. Here is a current book review I completed on this fabulous cookbook–

I’ve been looking for a cookbook like Buddha Bowls by Kelli Foster for a long time. I needed recipes with pictures, easy instructions, fairly easy ingredients to obtain, and fairly quick and painless preparation. Buddha Bowls has it all and then some. Every time I fix a meal from this cookbook I am asked for the recipe. Out of all the cookbooks I own and have cooked from this cookbook has had the most compliments. Most of the dressings are now my go-to dressings, and whenever I need a power lunch or a meal with perfect presentation and taste–Buddha Bowls by Kelli Foster is my go-to cookbook.

 

 

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley and the publisher for an honest review.

Professional Reader

10 Book Reviews

 

Eat like your grandparents did!

ourgrandparents

I was inspired to write this blog post mainly because this week I’ve witnessed dozens of epiphanies from people who’ve been dieting since January. Obviously, we all know several people who jump on the dieting bandwagon the first month of the new year. What some of us may not have known — is that it would seem come the new school year many of these same people begin questioning their diets. If I saw one, I must have seen a dozen people come to the following revelation >>> They’ve decided to try eating in moderation because some book told them to. So add moderation as a trend to the trendy diets for the people we know who are on diets 11 months out of the year.

I’m really not trying to be snarky about any of this. Dieting is serious stuff. Dieting, constant dieting and changes in your body, can and will do serious damage. Dieting is always temporary. Temporary until the dieter falls off the wagon temporarily, temporary until the next trend comes along, or temporary until the dieter quits for good. Quick weight loss plans are quick temporary diets. Unfortunately, the damage dieting can do may not be as temporary as the diet itself.

The plain fact of the matter is dieting leads to disaster–every single time. This is a fact that is backed up by doctors, therapists, dieters, and healthcare practitioners. Nowadays there are diets that eliminate food, bread, dairy, meat, grain, plants, supplements, air, etc. You get my drift. I know at least one person on each one of these “diets” and some that are on a different diet train month after month after month. Hey, do what’s best for you but know this– it’s been proven that trendy diets do more harm than good. It’s clear to see that naming which diet, diet plan, or supplemental drink you’re on via social media is trendy, but in the long-term none of it will do your body good.

Slowly but surely most people come around to the idea that if they eat in moderation, eat whole foods, and exercise they will lose weight and improve their health. Diet gurus, MLM’s, influencers, and bloggers have really done a number on people. I see people all the time throwing out big boxes of meal plans, diet books, shakes, supplements, kits, and so on. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars of stuff. Yes, they lost a couple of pounds, maybe even 20 or 30 pounds, but they starved something somewhere in their body to do it. It’s a fact that once they stop whatever they are doing they will put the pounds back on and probably continue to keep putting them on. Which will reaffirm to them they should be dieting or that said diet was working.

It’s your mind that you have to put on a diet, not your body. You need to learn about nutrition, food, and what each thing that you put into your mouth does or doesn’t do for you. You need to learn about portion size, about eating whole foods and what whole foods are, and how to buy, store, and prepare nutritious foods.

Fifty years ago common sense informed people that eating in moderation was the only way to diet. In the last thirty or so years people have written most common sense off as old wives tales(apparently) and instead have spent millions of dollars trying the latest fad. And now? The latest fad is to eat in moderation. Go figure.

It’s also sad that people have to buy dozens and dozens of books to teach or reteach themselves how to feed their bodies. Has society really and truly strayed that far away from the obvious answers?

If you need to buy books then at least buy books by licensed nutritionists and registered dieticians. Your family doctor is great for everything health related to your specific health needs, but if he’s like mine will be the first to tell you he didn’t study nutrition in med school. Again–I repeat, when it comes to nutrition seek out licensed nutritionists and registered dieticians. That means you don’t look for or take advice online from— commission based sales representatives, MLM distributors, motivational speakers, or doctors, med school students, or armchair doctors before consulting your physician.

Take what you can from any information you find whether online or at the doctor’s office–whatever directly and safely pertains to you. In every “fad” or “trendy” diet there is some good. For instance you will learn about portion size, or exercise, or how to cut out bad carbs, or to drink more water, and eat a variety of different fruits, veggies, and foods. All this is good information until the fad or trend tells you to stop doing this or stop doing that (which has nothing to do with moderation). Moderation works! Consult your physician so that he or she can give you the full picture on your health and then ask to speak with a licensed nutritionist or registered dietician before trying any of the popular diet fads or trends discussed online 24/7.

Though I may not have ever gone on a “diet” I have spent the last twenty years on a 1600 calorie a day meal plan.  This isn’t a fad or trend diet meal plan, but one that is set up for my age, weight, and health concerns. I limit sugar, I don’t drink anything with caffeine, and I keep my carbs at 800 calories of carbs a day. I walk briskly 3 x a week, and stretch and do yoga 3x a week. Every day I eat 3 fruits and try to eat 3-4 veggies. I don’t eat processed food. I do eat bread. I do eat meat approx. 3-4 times a month. I drink half my body weight in water every day. I’m by no means perfect and I haven’t always eaten this way.

Full disclosure– thanks to genetics I have the potential to balloon up to 250-300#– maybe more. I have many things in common with my paternal grandmother; including her body shape (pear) and ability to pack on the pounds.  I have never ever been on a diet. I am not skinny. I weigh 35# more than I should, but it’s not due to eating unhealthy. In fact, 99% of it is due to not being able to be as active as I need to be due to a back issue. I’ve been eating whole foods in moderation for over a decade and have never weighed more than 168#. I deal with arthritis in my feet and Fibromyalgia issues daily which also limit my ability to walk, hike, and ride a bike as much as I’d like to. I get a lot of advice on what foods and drinks to avoid based on my issues. Time and again I hear–don’t eat dairy. First, I am not allergic to dairy nor am I lactose intolerant. It is my strongest desire with the issues I deal with to have good strong bones. I drink 12 oz of organic milk every day. I also eat 2-3 slices of organic cheese a week, and during the summer months enjoy the heck out of a good ice cream cone 1-2 times a month. I experience zero inflammation from dairy. There is a link between lactose intolerance/milk allergy and inflammation–I found a great article on this which is below:

Inflammation and  dairy

Metabolism Basics

Why Dieting is Harmful by a Fitness Expert

Five Reasons Not to Diet in 2018

Diets Don’t Work–so why do we keep trying them?

If you take anything away from what I’ve just written I hope it is that I am very concerned about all this trendy dieting. I totally understand people want and need to lose weight. I totally understand all the emotions connected with people and their weight/body image, and health. I worked in healthcare for twenty years starting as a certified nursing assistant and retiring in healthcare management. I worked with certified nutritionists and registered dieticians all the time developing meal plans for clients throughout the twenty years I worked in healthcare. These are the people to go to, consult with, and work with for weight loss and better health.

I think there are a lot of well-intentioned people on the internet that try something and enjoy good results and then want to pass that information along to others. Whether by selling others shakes or powders or supplements. I certainly don’t begrudge them trying to help people, while also trying to support their family with extra income.

That said– it is wise to consult your physician, naturopath,  or nurse practitioner before trying any new diet or supplement being sold or shared online. As I stated before your doctor may not be able to advise you on nutrition based on what he/she learned in med school, but they will be able to tell you whether a new diet or supplement is a good idea based on your health, current meds, and any information they can glean about said new diet or supplement.

Until next time–give whole foods and some of these nutrition books a try–(Amazon links, but not affiliate links)

Basic Nutrition

Good Calories Bad Controversial Science

The Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook-1000 recipes for choosing, cooking, and preserving whole foods.

My love affair with heirloom tomatoes

To be truly honest with you when I was growing up I’m not sure what kind of tomato we were growing. I suppose they could have been heirloom? Maybe they were started from seeds grandma saved? There was no Walmart’s or Home Depot’s back in those days, so our only source besides seed saving was purchasing plants from local greenhouses.

I’ve loved tomatoes since I was eight years old and never throughout the last forty-five years has my appetite for them waned. Up until a few years ago, I’d never had a home garden. Which meant any tomatoes I would be eating would either come from a grocery store or a Farmer’s Market. I never enjoyed grocery store tomatoes, but I ate them nonetheless. Because (ahem) I love tomatoes.

In the last three years, I started seeing Heirloom tomatoes pop up at the farm stand and a time or two at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. When I say pop up I mean scarce and rare, but it happened. I remember buying one for $4.00 about three years ago and thinking “boy that was worth every penny I spent.” But that’s a lot of money. The last two years I’ve waited patiently for the farm stand we visit every week to have them. Usually, right at the end of the season, they’ll have a half dozen heirlooms sitting at check out waiting just for me. I pay about a $1.00 a pound for these. This year the farmer saved just one big red one–the nicest one he could find just for me. I’ll take them bruised, soft, and overripe. It doesn’t matter to me. While eating the heirloom this year I vowed never to eat another tomato for the rest of my life unless it was homegrown and an heirloom tomato. No more store bought ever again.

Until you’ve tasted an heirloom tomato you have no idea what you are missing. Their taste is more than just sun-kissed, or warm and fleshy. Heirloom’s taste like the very best homemade pasta sauce you’ve ever tasted –authentic and flavorful. Nothing sold in grocery stores for the last thirty years can compare.  There are also taste differences between the different colors of heirloom tomatoes. I prefer the red ones which are quite acidic, whereas the yellow ones are very mild.

For tomatoes to qualify as Heirloom tomatoes there seed must be at least 50 years old.  I found out a lot of information here about heirloom tomatoes.

I’ve found a place online that I am going to order heirloom plants and seeds from and I am going to try to grow my own. If successful I will be delighted, and if not well–I’ll wait for the farm stand to save me a few precious tomatoes at the end of their growing season. It’s a small price to pay to be able to eat a real tomato.

Here’s an almost current picture of my container garden all wrapped up for winter!

We bungee strapped a couple more blankets around the middle of each tree hoping to keep the roots from getting cold. I read that keeping the roots from freezing is the secret to over-wintering container shrubs and trees. Fingers crossed. I brought both the rosemary bush and the last geranium inside to overwinter because both plants performed better than any flowers or herbs I’ve grown yet and I’d like them to have another chance next spring.

I’ll be sharing this post over at the lovely blog A Stroll Thru Life for Marty’s 398th Inspire Me Tuesday!

Tomato Tortellini Soup

I’ve needed this soup lately. This fall has been a bit trying. We live in an area that up until six months ago was fairly quiet. Suddenly construction started around us everywhere. There has been construction on the interstate that starts up at midnight and goes on until we get up. While I realize this is the only time some of these repairs can get done– we get no sleep during these times.  Most of the construction has involved machinery that digs down deep into the cement, tears it up, chews it up, and then a truck backs up (beep, beep, beep) and collects it. Then during the day, there is construction from 6am until 6pm right across the street. On the weekends the property manager for us has been trying to have the driveway and parking lot fixed, so you guessed it over a month now of construction right outside our door. My husband sleeps right through it, me not so much. Six months of this and I’ve reached my limit. Here’s hoping for finished construction projects and long cool nights of sleep in my future.

Here’s the recipe for the Tomato Tortellini Soup 

There is nothing better after a long day of work on little sleep than a good hearty tomato soup. You will love the Tomato Tortellini, it’s easy to make and yummy.

This month has been busy already with processing squash to eat this winter, visiting nearby lavender farms, zoos, even a corn maze, and of course visiting local apple orchards and buying lots, and lots of apples for eating and applesauce.

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I hope your fall is going great!

Fall food from the farm stand

Well it’s that time of year again when we head to the local farm stand and buy up approx. 20 acorn squash to freeze. I cut each acorn squash in half, remove the seeds, place on a cookie sheet (8 halves fit on mine) and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees or until skins are loose and squash inside is tender. I used to brush with butter while cooking but that gets pretty messy. Once the squash is cooled down enough to handle I scoop it out into freezer bags (1- 1-1/2 cups in each), press out air, seal, date, and place into the freezer flat.  Reheat a portion or two on the stove top when ready to eat, add a bit of butter and pepper, and enjoy! While at the farm stand we  bought some of the last of the heirloom tomatoes to be found. After eating them I made a promise to myself to never buy grocery store tomatoes ever again. From now on heirloom tomatoes only. I found a great site online that will ship me some heirloom tomato plants come springtime- here.

We also bought some apples, new potatoes and sauerkraut and I fixed my husband a meal of baked apples, new potatoes, sauerkraut and local organic pork sausage. Great fall food!

Compost scraps from a broasted chicken dinner made a colorful photo. I’ve also put up 14 bags, with 2 cups each, of shredded zucchini- so zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, and zucchini pancakes are in our future.





Until next time–Happy Fall!

Blueberry Buckle Recipe–and processing produce tips!

This week- a few things I did today as I enjoyed my day off!

It’s blueberry season here in Wisconsin and I just happened to have got my hands on 3 pints of fresh berries. I froze some for smoothies, so now we have fresh strawberries and fresh blueberries for smoothies this winter.

My husband purchased a bunch of beets at the Farmer’s Market this past Friday so I processed them today. Total time was one hour- I put them in a pan of water –medium setting 1-1/4 of an hour and then turned them off. I then let the water come down from a boil to warm and ran cold water in the pan and slipped the skins right off. They were put into freezer bags and we will be eating July beets 5-6 different times this coming winter. I would pickle them (my favorite) but hubby doesn’t like pickled beets very much.



There’s a story behind the peppers. About 7 weeks ago our neighbor, who travels a lot, asked me to take over her pepper plant due to her not being around enough to water it. We were at our max limit for weight on the deck so we kept it downstairs by the front door. It should be noted this plant had been planted in big box potting soil with Miracle Grow added and sold from a big box store. When I took it over it was about 1-1/2 feet tall, scrawny and dry. Thinking it would die I never did get a before picture but 7/ 7-1/2 weeks later it’s loaded with peppers of all sizes. I have grown peppers on our deck in containers–even now that I think of it I’ve successfully grown cucumbers. But it was hard between bugs and wind and limited full sun areas, neither of them do well on our deck. But hey maybe I’ll start a garden by our front door? I just cut up and take out the seeds from the peppers and freeze the cut up slices for future pizza’s and stir fry’s right away. Our first harvest yielded 7 peppers, I took 3 and I gave my neighbor 4 and plan to split the bounty with her each week to her delight.

Update- after the initial 7 small to medium sized peppers all the rest (5) which were quite small developed bottom rot. I used my soil tester to determine what was lacking in the soil and discovered the soil was severely lacking calcium. It should be noted this isn’t the first time that plants I bought from a big box store, planted in the wrong type of soil mixed with Miracle grow, developed rot on their fruit. The soil is dry even after watering because the soil mixture does not retain any moisture beneficial to the plant. So the plant is constantly in a state of over- watered or under-watered and each time you do water all the nutrients (and there probably isn’t much to start with) wash out the bottom. Hence this pepper plant was really deprived of the calcium it needed to produce healthy peppers.

Here’s the promised recipe for the blueberry buckle