Farmer’s Market Find: Raw, Local Honey

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The whole row of flowers was buzzing with bees today!

I just happened to be at the Ferry Plaza during their Tuesday farmers market, so I browsed a little and ended up getting raw honey. I actually had been searching for raw honey with pollen. Honey has been revered in Eastern cultures for thousands of years. In Ayurveda, honey is used for many ailments and preventive measures. Raw honey with pollen is prescribed to those suffering from allergies to scrape mucus and to build resistance and immunity. Of course, thousands of years ago, there wasn’t a concept of industrial farms, adulterating food with additives and fillers,or pesticides. Also, honey was never radiated or cooked. Actually, all of this only happened in the last 150 years. Unfortunately, there is now the issue of Colony Collapse Disorder where worker bees are mysteriously disappearing from their hives. The issue of CCD goes beyond just consuming honey. Bees pollinate other many other food (apples,  lemons, chestnuts) and are very vital to our food supply ecosystem.

There is a significant difference between honey produced on large industrial farms and honey produced on small, local family farms. Sadly, bees are treated like livestock on industrial farms. They are forcefully fed corn syrup, not nectar from wildflowers. Shocking. The honey found in most grocery stores comes from China and is adulterated with other substances. In other words, most of the time you are not getting pure honey. That is a huge reason why honey from large, industrial beekeepers is so cheap. The benefit of buying local honey is that you can trace it back to the beekeeper and know that the honey is pure. Pure, raw honey is full of antioxidants and enzymes that are good for your health. You can ask questions about beekeeping and honey cultivation. Also, most small beekeepers take care of their bees, do not use deadly pesticides or treatments and let their bees swarm and drink nectar. In the end, you get pure honey.

Sure, honey produced on small farms that use sustainable and ethical practices will be much more expensive. But then again, how much honey do you really need to consume? An 8 ounce jar of honey lasts us for a full year, if not more.Snyders Honey at the Ferry Plaza Tuesday’s market. Their hives are located at Crystal Springs Reservoir south of San Francisco. Super local. 

Gina and I at the Fort Mason Farmers Market. Gina sells Snyders Honey along with her family’s olives and olive oils.

For more information about bees and CCD check out the film  Vanishing of the Bees. You can also sign a petition to tell the EPA to get to the bottom of CCD.

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January Rules

The holidays were really fun- going from one party to another, learning how to make cookies from scratch, participating in cookie swaps, decadent dinners, brunches, and exciting Club Dine In! events. My favorite was Irvin’s dessert party. Irvin, a passionate baker and blogger, throws an annual grandiose dessert party. He bakes all of his desserts from scratch and asks his guests to bring only their sweet tooth. Irvin had 21 desserts, all displayed beautifully with name cards. I tried to take only bite-sized servings of the desserts I really wanted to try, but I decided that everything was sooo worth it. My favorites were the Red Velvet Cake with Whipped Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting and  Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Marshmallow Sour Cream Topping.

I baked cookies from scratch! Pistachio+Muscovado Sugar+Egg Whites+Meyer Lemon

I don’t feel that guilty about my indulgent ways in December and have set goals to get back on track to healthy eating and living. Instead of making large, undefined resolutions such as “losing weight” I’ve decided to go to the gym at least four times a week, limit desserts to once a week, and appreciate food more. I’ve also decided to clean up my act a bit more by participating in January Rules. Remember, the October: Unprocessed challenge? Andrew Wilder at Eating Rules has come up with another challenge: January Rules. This challenge is much more lax and asks you to follow only three rules. I already follow these rules normally, especially #2, but I need to more vigilant.

  1. When you eat grains, eat only 100% whole grains.
  2. Don’t eat high fructose corn syrup.
  3. Don’t eat hydrogenated oils, trans fats, or anything that’s been deep-fried.

Also, once a week, go ahead and “cheat.” Eat anything you want. I encourage all of you to kickstart 2011 with joining me on January Rules. Follow the hastag #januaryrules on Twitter for inspiration, motivation, and ideas.  Follow me on twitter for more frequent ideas on how to satisfy your sweet tooth, make unprocessed choices, and pretty pictures of food and other musings.

 

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Healthier Social Eating: The Holidays

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With so many holiday parties, gatherings, shopping, work, school and kids, eating well, resting, and working out could easily drop off your radar.Though, at this time of the year, it is really important to take care of yourself to prevent health goal relapse and catching a cold or the FLU.  Follow these simple tips for maintaining balance and prevent guilt from overeating.

This is a modified list to Healthier Social Eating: BBQ’s

1. Sleep Well and Rest Enough
If you are tired, lethargic or sleepy, you might  tend to load  up on junk food and caffeine for an energy “boost.” Loading up on empty calories and caffeine will only make you hungrier and cause you to crash after the sugar high starts to wear off. Extra caloric intake (without extra caloric output) will lead to weight gain over time leading to obesity. Sleep deprivation also lowers your immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria and viruses. Also, inadequate sleep has been linked to depression, lowered cognitive (brain) function, higher blood pressure, and irritability. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night for optimal health and happiness.

2. Eat Regular Meals and Have Healthy Options Available
Many people tend to skip their regular meals in favor of eating at holiday parties and gatherings. Typically, parties tend to only serve junk, cheap, or highly processed food, even if it is in a sophisticated form. A gourmet cookie is still  made of sugar, butter, and flour. And, brie is still a high, saturated fat cheese, even if it’s topped with cranberry sauce. Do not walk into a party hungry, as you will end up eating  the party food  and drinking high caloric drinks to replace dinner. Instead, fill up on healthy, satisfying food beforehand party and only eat the really amazing food at the party.  If it is a potluck party, bring healthy alternatives to desserts, crackers, and cheese. Look at everything that is offered and choose only the items you really want to eat. This way you can fill up on the healthiest foods first, without worrying about bad calories, sugar, and fat.


3. Think Before You Drink
A drink that is not a glass of water has calories and sugar. Drink at least eight ounces of water or so that your thirst is quenched and stomach already feels a little full.  You will  less likely  chug the alcoholic drink to quench your thirst. Is that chocolate martini or eggnog rum drink really worth 500-700 calories (equivalent to a meal)? Make your choices worthwhile and sip on a glass of wine or beer.


4. Mix and Mingle
Choose three or four items you really want to eat, and then step away from the food table so you’re not tempted to graze. You will be less likely to keep mindlessly refilling your plate if you are in the middle of an interesting conversation and standing on the other side of the room from the food. Being with friends and family and having a great time at  the party also contributes to overall good health. Focus on the people at the party instead of the food and drinks.

5. Make Room for Dessert
Cookies, cookies, and more cookies are on everyone’s mind during the holidays and parties are dedicated to just desserts. If you have been good about sticking to your health goal, then a cookie or piece of yule log is nothing to feel guilty about. Don’t let a relapse turn into a downward spiral. In the long run, a piece of dessert is not going to harm you if you follow a healthy, clean diet. It’s pretty clear that sugar is toxic and should be consumed as treats, not regular snacks. Instead of saying “there’s always room for dessert,” actually leave room for it. Eat a little less of everything else so you can have a piece of that cake, cookie or pie. Desserts typically take a long time to make, therefore spend time eating the dessert instead of devouring it at once!


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Indian-Spiced Pumpkin Latte

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When I hear the words Fall or Autumn, these images pop into my head:

Also, I am more inclined to use my oven to make vegetable roasts, poultry, and pumpkin pie. This time of the year, I like to try out new jams and experiment with anything that has pumpkin in it, except for pumpkin lattes at cafes. I remember paying $5 for a small pumpkin latte a few years ago and I threw it out after 5 sips. I couldn’t stand the flavors and haven’t been so inclined to mix pumpkin with espresso since then. However, Satish has a homemade espresso everyday and almost everyday I am tempted to make a specialty drink. However, he likes to keep it rather simple when it comes to his basic staples (coffee, cereal, rice) and prefers that I leave the experimenting to myself. I have waited a whole year to buy pumpkins, pumpkin purees, pumpkin spices, and pumpkin butter and I have been determined to make the best use of all my newly acquired pumpkin products. So when I woke up to rainfall yesterday morning, I knew that it was the day to make a pumpkin latte.

Indian-Spiced Pumpkin Latte

Serves 2.
Ingredients:
2 cups  milk, organic preferred
2 tablespoons Pumpkin Butter*
1-2 teaspoons sugar, unrefined, unprocessed preferred**
1/8 teaspoon cardamom powder, fresh if possible
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
3-4 strands of saffron,  soaked in 1 tsp water for 15-30 mins (optional)
2 shots espresso or 1/2 cup brewed coffee***
1/4 cup milk to create a foam with espresso machine  (optional)

1. Add milk, pumpkin butter, cardamom powder, soaked saffron with its water, and ginger in a saucepan. Gently whisk to combine all of the ingredients and make sure the Pumpkin Butter is mixed in well (no lumps). Taste the mixture and add sugar if needed.

We prefer to use Fair Trade coffee and espresso grounds. Shouldn't all coffee be Fair Trade?

Organic milk is humane, healthy, hormone-free and tastes pretty phenomenal.

Whisk and taste. Add sugar or anymore of other spices to your liking.

We prefer to use unrefined, unprocessed sugar. Mascobado is less sweet than refined white sugar.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil on  medium heat. Remove from the stove, and give the saucepan a whirl. While the mixture is coming to a boil, make the espresso or coffee. Also, make the foam using the milk steamer on your espresso machine or a foamer. Keep an eye on the mixture, though.

The scent will be strong and colors rich.

Pour in the steamed milk on top for extra velvety richness.

3. Pour into two mugs and add espresso on top. Add foam from steamed milk on top if desired.

**If using store bought pumpkin butter, read the ingredients! Simple, unprocessed pumpkin butter has the following ingredients: pumpkin, spices, apple cider or lemon, and sugar.

**The pumpkin butter is really sweet, so hold off until adding sugar until you taste all of the ingredients. Also, white sugar is highly processed and I encourage you to try alternatives, such as unrefined Muscovado sugar.

***Read why Fair Trade coffee is a better option and how you can help poor farmers by making the better choices here. This latte can be made completely Fair Trade by using Fair Trade coffee, sugar, and spices.

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Farmer’s Market Find: Stevia!

I cooked a lot last week, almost every single day!  (I usually cook every two days). This week, I have a super tight schedule and I don’t want to think about making meals like I did last week (Saag Paneer, Roti, Chicken Curry, Baked Stuffed Tomatoes, French Toast, Pizza, Salads, Lentils). We have a ton of leftovers too. So I kept it light at the FM today and really restrained myself from going “gaga” over all the fresh, colorful summer  produce. It was truly melon madness at the market- at least 10 different types were spotted. The most surprising and unique find was Stevia! Stevia is a native South American plant grown in desert like conditions. The sweet plant does not thrive in moisture and is 30-45 times sweeter than table sugar and has been touted as safe for those who want a healthy alternative. I am going to experiment this week to see how I can use the leaves, as it’s typically found in powder and liquid form at stores. It can’t get more natural than having Stevia leaves! I don’t normally add sugar to anything I make, except in the occasional homemade lattes and chai. If you have tips, suggestions, or opinions on Stevia let me know!

Stevia! - $2 Hollie’s Homegrown

Look at the beautiful colors! - Happy Boy Farms

Piel de Sapo, super sweet! -$3 Happy Boy Farms

No fog today!!! It was a good day for a picnic, but it was still chilly in the Marina.

Padron Peppers, I used these last week in Saag Paneer and Chicken Curry -$4 Happy Boy Farms

Eat Safe!

Farmer’s Market Finds:
-Heirloom Tomatoes, mixed salad greens with edible flowers, Padron Peppers, Butterball Potatoes- $11.50 Happy Boy Farms
-Stevia Leaf Stem and marigold- $2.50 Hollie’s Homegrown
-Squash blossoms- $2 Serendipity Farms
Total: $16

*I will make one grocery run this week to pick up organic chicken breasts typically costing me $8

Are All Sugars Equal?

If you haven’t heard it by now, you must have been living in a cave for the last few years. Sugar is bad for you. Actually, they say it’s the reason why you are obese, have diabetes, and are fueling the multi-billion dollar health industry. However, does that mean that the juicy, plump peach is the culprit? A large peach does have 15 grams of sugar per serving. Or is it the pint of ice-cream you just downed? After all, sugar is sugar, and your body breaks it down all the same- right?

Let’s logically think about this for a minute. There are different types of sugars and your body does process them differently. There are refined/artificial/processed sugars, and there are fruit sugars. And then, it’s all about how you consume the sugar.

Sugar from fruit is called fructose. It is a simple sugar that is metabolized quickly and easily by the body. Simple sugars, like fructose, are not a problem for people who are active and healthy.  Fruits are staples of a healthy lifestyle and delightful to the senses. Of all the natural foods available, fruits are the most attractive, delicious and enjoyable. Taking from “Food Rules” by Micheal Pollan, “Eat sweets as you find them in nature.” Meaning eat the fruits whole, not processed or juiced. Fruit juice is often made from concentrate with added refined sugar and does not contain any fiber, which leaves you consuming more calories and unsatiated. Whole fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, fiber, and water.

 

Snacks from Nature, loaded with good nutrition

People do not become overweight or unhealthy from eating fruit. It’s the other types of sugar, found in other places that is the contributing culprit.

Table sugar (refined sugar) comes from two primary sources: sugar cane (60%) and sugar beets (40%) in form of sucrose. Sugar refining is the process of extracting out the sugar (sucrose) from the plant materials and then removing other unwanted materials from the extracted raw sugar. In the repeated processes of washing, boiling, centrifuging, filtering and drying, nearly all of the plant’s nutritional elements are lost. What remains in this so called “raw sugar” product is 95% sucrose along with nutritionally insignificant minerals. If sanitized by steaming, this “raw sugar” can be marketed as turbinado. Turbinado sugar is just a couple of steps shy of the final bleaching process. Bleaching agents such as lime and carbon dioxide are added to make white crystals known as table sugar. The table sugar is then further “purified”  and whitened by being filtered in a water-added liquid state through charcoal made from animal bones. This process removes even more minerals. “Pure” sugar refers to chemical purity, devoid of all nutritional and other elements, and not to a wholesome quality. Brown sugar is this table sugar that is turned brown by the reintroduction of molasses.

The Way We Consume Sugar

Refined sugar is in almost EVERY manufactured food product in the U.S. This sugar is, hands down, America’s number one food additive. Sugar is hidden in many of the things people buy at the supermarket. For instance, a tablespoon of ketchup contains a full teaspoon of sugar. Breads, soups, cereals, cured meats, hot dogs, lunch meat, salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, crackers, mayonnaise, peanut butter, pickles, frozen pizza, canned fruits and vegetables, tomato juice, and a host of other products all contain added sugar. Food that doesn’t even need the added refined sugar. The obvious offenders are desserts, candies, soft drinks, and ice-cream. People are consuming sugar without even knowing it! Be wise by avoiding processed food.

 

Manufactured Snacks with no nutritional value

 

When you have sweet attack, reach for that piece of fruit instead of the more processed foods high in sugars and other carbohydrates. A well rounded diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and protein is the best bet for overall health.

Stay tuned for more on Sugar.

***I highly recommend you reading “Food Rules An Eater’s Manual” by Micheal Pollan. It will positively change your lifestyle. It’s super easy and fast to read.