LESSONS FROM THE SHAMROCK

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine went on vacation and asked me to take care of one of her plants. She loved this plant—it’s called an oxalis (a.k.a. a shamrock). I know this sounds ridiculous, but after one day, I fell in love with this plant!

Her oxalis plant had greenish leaves divided into sections and each section looked like a 3-leaf clover. It also had tiny white flowers. What I love about this plant is that it moves—the leaves respond to light and darkness. In the light, the leaves are open and extended; in the dark, they collapse and fall in. It is so much fun watching this plant in action! You have to check out this video to see what I’m talking about.

http://plantsinmotion.bio.indiana.edu/plantmotion/movements/leafmovements/oxalis/oxalis.html

I loved watching nature unfold (or fold) right in front of me! The oxalis listens carefully to its environment and responds to it.

We can learn a great lesson from this plant by responding to our internal environment, too: INFORMATION FROM OUR BODIES. We need to rest when we’re tired, eat when we’re hungry (NOT eat when we’re NOT hungry), and drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Moving our bodies will give us energy; stretching will keep us less IMG_1094stiff. So often, we ignore the messages our bodies are telling us. We need to pay attention and respond!

After my friend came back home, I went out and bought my own oxalis. My plant has 3-leaf clovers with deep reddish/maroon leaves and tiny purple flowers. It’s the ultimate slice of nature sitting right in my kitchen.

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IRIS’S BLACK BEAN DISH

Thank you, Iris, for giving me this simple, delicious black bean dish. I loved it hot, cold or room temperature!  This is a great side dish OR you can make it as a vegetarian meal and serve it with brown rice or your favorite grain. 

ingredientsIMG_1084

1 onion, finally chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 yellow or red bell pepper, finally chopped

olive oil

1, 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

kosher salt

freshly ground pepper or cayenne pepper (optional)

1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

directions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions, garlic, pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add rinsed beans. Stir to combine. Season with oregano, salt, freshly ground pepper (or cayenne). Cook for several minutes so that beans are heated through. Add vinegar, stir, and serve.

NOTE: This dish is also delicious served at room temperature.

(This recipe was created by my friend, Iris!)

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SALAD 101

Some of my clients only seem to enjoy eating salads when they’re out in a restaurant.  They find making them at home to be tedious and for some reason, their salads seem to be BLAH. Eating a lot of greens is a wonderful way to pour nutrients and phytochemicals into your body,  so I’d like to give you a few pointers so that you can enjoy delicious salads at home.

  1. Keep your greens dry. So often, we buy a giant container of mixed greens, spinach or arugula, only to find that there were a few wet leaves in the mix that caused rotting of a good portion of the salad.  To avoid this, open the container, pick out the wet leaves,  and store the remaining dry ones in reusable green bags. I use Debbie Meyer GreenBags and love them! The greens stay fresher longer and I can re-use the bags. You can also put a paper towel in the bag to absorb any additional water.  You will have crisp greens ready at your fingertips:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015Y7B57U/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
  2. Be creative! Add things to your salad that you love. I love adding some fruit into my salads. In the summer, I add strawberries and blueberries. In the winter, I add apples, pears or grapes. You can add leftover cooked vegetables, any protein that you like,  or sprinkle your salads with beans. Aged cheeses, like Parmesan or feta,  go a long way—you will be surprised how little you’ll need to make a huge IMG_1073difference! Make your salads colorful! Add sliced yellow peppers, red spiralized beets, and/or orange carrots. You can include green avocado, orange slices and/or yellow corn.
  3. Season it! This is a game changer. Sprinkling a bit of salt on your salad will make your salad come to life. Flavors will pop and everything will taste better. I learned this trick when I lived in Italy for eight years. It was also reinforced when I read the cookbook, “Salt, Fat Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” by Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton. Salt enhances sweetness and blocks bitterness.
  4. Toss it! Pouring dressing on salad in a bowl and pushing it around with your fork is no way to eat a salad. Get a large wooden salad bowl so you have room to toss. I bought this one from amazon and love it.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Q312WXN/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

5. Top quality olive oil is the key. I am not a fan of salad dressings because many of them are full of chemicals. Olive oil, instead, is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. If you get a good brand, and choose extra-virgin, you might pay a bit more for it, but it will be worth it! For some tips on what to look for, check out this link:

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/how-to-buy-olive-oil-beginners-guide

In summary, having just a few tools—good storage bags for salad greens, and a wooden salad bowl to toss, will make salads easier to create.  Adding colorful ingredients that you love, a sprinkle of salt and some high quality extra-virgin olive oil,  will make home salads taste spectacular!

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WATERMELON SALAD WITH FETA AND MINT

Every summer, I love ordering a watermelon salad when I am out at a restaurant. It is so delicious and refreshing, that I thought that I should try a recipe at home. This one is a hit! I love the combo of the olives and feta with the watermelon. I soaked the onion in ice water for 10 minutes to take out the bite. Just perfect!

ingredients (serves 12)download.jpg

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon Tabasco

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

One 8-pound seedless watermelon, scooped into balls with a melon baller or cut into 1 ½-inch chunks (10 cups), chilled

½ pound feta cheese, crumbled

1 ¼ cups pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped (optional)

1 small sweet onion, cut into ½-inch dice

1 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves

directions

In a large bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, salt, Tabasco and pepper. Add the watermelon, feta, olives and onion and toss gently. Garnish with the mint and serve.

(recipe found on http://www.foodandwine.com)

 

 

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JAPANESE-STYLE CUCUMBER SALAD

I am growing cucumbers in my vegetable garden and they’re starting to come in! Therefore,  I searched for some new recipes and found this little treasure!! Clean, crispy and light. LOVE!!

ingredientsMGTCucumberSalad

4 mini cucumbers or 1 English cucumber

¼ teaspoon iodized salt, divided

1 medium carrot, peeled

2 teaspoons mirin

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce

½ teaspoon sesame seeds

instructions

Thinly slice cucumber (about ⅛-inch thick) and spread on a cutting board. Sprinkle half the salt onto cucumber slices. Turn slices over and sprinkle the rest of the salt on top.

Let sit for 10 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler to create carrot ribbons.

In a small bowl, whisk together mirin, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Using clean hands, squeeze water out of cucumbers and place slices in a large bowl. Add carrot ribbons. Pour dressing over vegetables, then sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Cooking note: One teaspoon agave nectar can be substituted for 2 teaspoons mirin.

(recipe found in “Food & Nutrition”, July/August, 2019)

 

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SHADES OF GREEN CHOPPED SALAD

I know I’ve been posting a lot of salads lately but it’s summer time and it’s been hot!! I played around with this salad–I added less dried fruit and more cucumbers. It’s perfect for this warm weather!

ingredients for chive dressing

1 small clove garlicdownload.jpg

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon crème fraîche

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon chopped chives

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pinch sea salt and black pepper, plus more to taste

ingredients for salad

1 Granny Smith apple, chopped

1 Hass avocado, chopped

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ English cucumber, chopped

¼ cup chopped pistachios

¼ cup golden raisins

¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese, room temperature

1 pinch salt and black pepper, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish (optional)

directions

Chive dressing

  1. In a blender, add in the garlic, Champagne vinegar, crème fraîche, honey, chives, salt, and pepper. Blend until combined.
  2. With the blender still on, through the top, stream in the olive oil. Blend until combined. Taste for salt and pepper. Set aside.

Salad

  1. Toss the apple and avocado in the lemon juice so they don’t oxidize. Then, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and toss with the chive dressing. (You may not have to use all of the dressing.) Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with some chopped chives. This salad can be made up to 3 to 4 hours in advance. If you are making the salad in advance add in the room temperature gorgonzola when you serve the salad.

(Adapted from a recipe found on https://food52.com)

 

 

 

 

 

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“VIOLET, YOU’RE TURNING VIOLET, VIOLET!”  

In 1971, when I was 8-years old, the movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, came out. One of the most memorable scenes of the film was when Violet Beauregarde, turned purple. If you are having a memory lapse, Violet was the little a79541866607632a1d9de93c06724ba1.jpggirl who was obsessed with chewing gum. In the movie, she grabbed a unique piece of gum, that wasn’t fully tested. This gum was a three-course meal and when she got to the best part, the blueberry pie dessert, it all went downhill, as poor Violet started turning purple and filled with fluid. She had to be rolled off and pumped. I was horrified.

I can make the case, as someone who is passionate about good nutrition, that the gum was just processed food gone awry. Now, 48 years later, I am just as horrified but for a different reason: Our supermarkets are filled with isles of processed foods, marketed to children, and engineered to light up your brain and to get you addicted. Most people don’t binge on roasted chicken or grilled asparagus but they certainly can on things like Teddy Grahams, Cheez-Its, Animal Crackers, or Doritos. There are chemicals, dyes, and additives in all of these. I have a suspicion that if you ate an entire bag of Flamin Hot Nacho Cheese Doritos, finished the bag, and then started turning a reddish-orange color, you might just think twice about eating them again!

Just saying…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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