Monday, November 23, 2009


Thanksgiving is just around the corner and as folks begin to plan their holiday menu out comes a wonderful fruit that only seems to make an appearance once or twice a year, cranberries. These deliciously tart fruits are grown on low shrub in bogs. They're grown commercially in the Northern US and Canada with most of the crop being turned into juice, craisins (dried cranberries) or canned "sauce."

It is believed that Native Americans shared the berries with the starving Pilgrims in Massachusetts and this may explain part of it's appearance on our Thanksgiving table.

Many folks are familiar with the use of cranberries as a treatment for urinary tract infections. A recent study, published this year, 2009, in the Scandinavian Journal of Nephrology and Urology, found that "daily consumption of concentrated cranberry juice can significantly prevent the recurrence of symptomatic UTIs in children." It is important to note that this would be 100% cranberry juice with no added sugar, not cranberry juice cocktails which tend to be more popular.

It is unfortunate that cranberries don't play a larger role in our diet. These luscious red berries are high in fiber, a great source of vitamin C and also provide a lot of manganese and vitamin K. They are high in anthocyanins, anti-inflammatory antioxidants, and they appear to have health benefits ranging from improving cardiovascular health to improving brain function to helping fight H. pylori and E. coli bacteria in the body.

This year for Thanksgiving we're having our traditional cranberry orange sauce which everyone loves. Now that we live in Texas we're going to add a new tradition and make a cranberry salsa. I bought a large bag of cranberries and will keep the extra (they freeze really well) to use throughout the winter in cranberry muffins, cranberry scones, to use in salads, I even put some in oatmeal with maple syrup for a tangy breakfast treat.

If cranberry makes an appearance on your Thanksgiving table, try making your own sauce instead of purchasing the over-processed jellied mass they sell in cans, it's not a lot of effort and it's so much tastier.

Cranberry Orange Sauce
1 C. water
3/4 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
3 C. cranberries
1 orange chopped fine (I use a cuisinart)
generous pinch cinnamon
nutmeg (I use a nutmeg grater and shave several times so I don't have a measure for this)

bring the water and cane juice to a boil, stirring until crystals are dissolved
reduce to a simmer, add cranberries, orange, and spices
cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop
remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before serving

Cranberry Salsa

2 C. fresh cranberries
2 bell peppers
3 spring onions, minced
1/4 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
3/4 C. fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of one lime
generous pinch sea salt
1 t. crushed red pepper

Put cranberries and peppers into a food processor and chop well
put mixture into a bowl and add remaining ingredients
toss well and let sit at least 2 hours before serving for flavors to blend


Sunday, November 15, 2009

refilling your well

Most of us have very busy lives. We frequently find ourselves over-scheduled, constantly feeling like we are behind the eight-ball. The to-do list gets longer and longer and we wind up feeling more and more stressed. In the course of our busy lives many people do not take time for themselves.

My friend Vicki has a business teaching folks about self-care. I believe it is a sign of the times that there is a need for a business like that because so many of us have lost the skill of taking time for ourselves, for downtime. We need to learn to acknowledge and take joy in those small moments, such as 15 quiet minutes to drink a cup of tea. With Vicki's help I've been working on finding and being more mindful of those small recharging moments. She calls it "refilling your well."

Recently I was able to treat myself to the luxury of an entire day spent with my good friend, Doris. Talk about refilling my well, this was an amazing treat, I felt almost giddy at the end of the day because we had so much fun. Doris and I tend to have very full schedules; between family obligations, household responsibilities, volunteer commitments, and work it's not that easy to find time to get together. To have an entire day together was an amazing treat.

We are both avid foodies. Living in the Houston area there is certainly no lack of places to go and things to do that involve food. We started off with a visit to the Chantal Outlet's once-a-year warehouse sale. I was able to get some really adorable ramekins; I'm working on a new custard recipe that I promise to share as soon as it's ready. I also managed to pick up a few holiday presents while we were there.

Our next stop was Penzey's Spices which is an indulgence. It's fascinating to see and smell all the different spices from around the world, talk to the friendly folks who work there to learn about different uses for everything. I love using good quality herbs and spices in food. These are booster foods that add scent, flavor, and micronutrients. They help make a meal so much more satisfying. It's always hard to resist the lure of their wares, I did, however, manage to restrain myself to only what I really needed to replenish.

After Penzey's we went to Canino's Farmers Market, a great semi-outdoor market with an enormous amount of produce and fruit as well as nuts, including fresh Texas pecans. Walking up and down the aisles trading recipe ideas back and forth we were thrilled by the variety of fresh food available. Finally we finished with a stop at Pizza Fusion a new and amazing pizza place. I definitely plan to go back and sample other wares on their menu.

When you look at it we basically did our food shopping together and then stopped for lunch. While we might have spent a little more time on these errands than if we raced around by ourselves, checking off a list of chores, this no longer felt like a chore. I believe that food shopping, or any activity really, becomes more enjoyable when you are able to do it with someone else, you have time to talk and you share ideas. We both went home at the end of the day feeling like we had accomplished something, reconnected and recharged.

Look for opportunities to recharge your life. They don't need to be big ones, just mindful ones.

Be well.

photo courtesy of

Saturday, November 7, 2009

horrible commercial

The more this commercial comes on the more I don't like it. It's the one with the fish sticks where the little girl is talking negatively to her mother about the minced fish in her fish sticks.

I know that the little girl is cute and that the commercial is, at first glance, intended to be humorous. So what bothers me about it? Several things really. There's the attitude of the child, the shocked expression of the mother and the mother then soothingly capitulating to the child by offering her the brand being advertised. Finally the little girl chortling about how flaky her new fish fillet is.

I've been reading "Born to Buy" by Juliet Schor. In it she talks about the vast majority of food purchases being driven by children. How the manufacturers are deliberately pushing the idea of stupid parents, promoting the idea that the children need to be in charge, and spending enormous amounts of money on psychologically marketing to the children. This commercial embodies everything that the book is talking about.

As a Nutrition Educator I also look at the fact that this is a really unhealthy product. According to information I found online (since I can't bring myself to buy a box just to have the ingredients and nutrition facts) one serving has 250 calories with a fat content of 15 grams and a very high sodium content of 350 mg plus sugar -- who eats sugar with fish? The ingredients list has pollack, enriched flour breading mixed with hydrogenated oils, TBHQ, MSG and other chemical ingredients. If you want to feed your child fish buy fresh cold water fish for them; it's far healthier and will provide more essential fatty acids to help their development. If they insist on breaded fish you can bread it yourself at home without all the chemicals and make a far healthier version.

If they eat over-processed, junky fish they'll have a harder time learning to eat healthful, whole food style fish. Do your kids a favor and buy them the real thing.