Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Seductively Healthy Valentine’s Dinner

What can you do to make a special Valentine’s Day dinner for your sweetie? Make it hot, make it healthy, and make it easy!

Studies show that spicy foods can raise your heart rate, cause flushing, and generally mimic some of the effects of sexual stimulation. For centuries, chiles and other heat-inducing ingredients have been added to love potions and other sensual aids to increase desire.

What’s a better aphrodisiac than showing someone that you love them enough to prepare deliciously healthy foods? Pomegranates, those exotic fruits containing a multitude of sensual, fleshy seeds inside a thick rind, not only offer a luscious crimson color but also come packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Try this fabulously different recipe on your honey for Valentine’s Day. It’s sweet, spicy, inherently healthy, and couldn’t be easier to prepare or clean up.

Piri-Piri Pomegranate Chicken
“Piri-Piri” is an African term for hot and spicy. Control the amount of fire by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper. This recipe is presented as mild-to-medium heat.

Olive oil
1 cup parboiled brown rice
1 cup water or broth
2–3 pieces chicken
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses*
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. cayenne
Salt, to taste
18-20 Brussels sprouts, trimmed with shallow “x” cut into stem end
1-1/2 cup baby carrots, halved
1 cup oyster mushrooms, sliced thickly
Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray or wipe the inside of a 2-quart Dutch oven and lid with olive oil.

Pour rice into pot and add liquid. Stir gently to coat grains and smooth into an even layer. Set chicken pieces on top in a single layer.

In a small bowl, mix together ketchup, honey, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Drizzle 1/2 mixture over top of chicken. Drop in Brussels sprouts and carrots and add the remaining mixture. Top with mushrooms and pomegranate seeds. Cover and bake for about 45 minutes or about 3 minutes after the aroma wafts from the oven. Serves 2.

You can use any combination of boneless, bone-in, skinless, or skin-on chicken pieces in this recipe.

* Look for pomegranate molasses in Middle Eastern markets or specialty or health food groceries.

Elizabeth Yarnell is author of the award-winning cookbook, Glorious One-Pot Meals: A new quick & healthy approach to Dutch oven cooking. Visit her at

Organic Chocolate Marshmallow Cream Cupcakes

Making some delectable chocolate goodness for your loved one could be the perfect route to the heart!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Here are some great drink recipes from Jay Esopenko and Melissa Gugni, owners of Drink. Event Bartending in San Francisco, to celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Love Potion #12

2 oz. organic 100% pomegranate juice
1 1/2 oz. Square One™ organic vodka
1/2 organic blood orange, squeezed
1/2 lime, squeezed
1/4 to 1/2 oz. simple syrup (50% raw sugar–50% water, dissolved)
Cranberries for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake vigorously for 10 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Float 3 fresh cranberries for garnish.

Raspberry Bliss (non-alcoholic)
6 organic raspberries
2 sprigs of fresh organic thyme
1/2 organic Meyer lemon
1/2 oz. simple syrup (50% raw sugar–50% water dissolved)
3 oz. sparkling water

Remove the leaves from 1 sprig of thyme and add with 5 raspberries to a shaker. Muddle. Add lemon juice, simple syrup and ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling water and garnish with the remaining raspberry and the remaining sprig of thyme.

Earthbound Farm’s Famous Maple Almond Granola

4 1/2 cups (18 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shelled, raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups slivered or coarsely chopped raw almonds
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A Dark Amber
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup raisins

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Place the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the maple syrup and oil and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
3. Spread the granola on a roughly 12 by 17–inch rimmed baking sheet. Bake the granola until it begins to brown, about 25 minutes, then stir it with a flat spatula. Let the granola continue to bake until it is light golden brown, dry, and fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Stir the granola at least once more as it bakes and watch it carefully during the final minutes because it can burn quickly.
4. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack, add the raisins, and stir to combine. Let the granola cool completely. Transfer the granola to an airtight container. It can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 month or frozen for up to 6 months. You can serve the granola straight from the freezer. It doesn’t get hard and it thaws almost instantly—just pour on some milk.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are You a Chocolate Lover?

During the Valentine season, chocolate sales increase immensely. Teach your kids and others around you the importance of buying Fair Trade chocolate. Log onto to get the details!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cookin' Couscous

Couscous has been popular among many different cultures, one of the first written recipes for couscous is found in a 13th century Hispano–Muslim cookbook, which references the recipe as "known all over the world.” Many people think of couscous as Middle Eastern or Mediterranean in origin, but it is really from Western Africa, where details of cooking and making couscous date back to the 10th century. Today, couscous remains a staple in Moroccan, Tunisian, and Algerian cuisine.

Couscous is a relative and increasingly popular newcomer to the American family table and menus. The increasing interest in the U.S. in vegetarian and ethnic cuisines accounts for much of this new exposure. Couscous is pasta that is made from semolina (coarsely ground durum wheat). It is considered an unrefined carbohydrate, which is a great source of energy for the body. In addition, couscous is also low in fat, a good source of fiber, and contains some protein.

Couscous has a subtle taste that is slightly nutty. It is a great substitute for rice with many meals and is a nice accompaniment to many different cuisines.

Age to introduce: 10–12 months (cooked)

Toddler Treat:
Sand Castles

Just the name of this side dish is cool enough for a little kid to give it a try, and the great taste will keep ’em digging in.


  • 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots blend

  • 1 box (5–6 oz.) of couscous

  • 1 (14 oz.) can vegetable broth

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 small ramekin or small glass cup (this will be the mold for your castle)


Cook peas and carrots according to the package directions. Prepare couscous according the package directions, but substitute the same amount of broth for the amount of water called for on the package. Add additional water to the can of broth if package instructions call for additional liquid. After fluffing the couscous with a fork, add the olive oil and the peas and carrots mixture to the couscous and mix gently.

To make the sand castles: Simply spoon the couscous mixture into the ramekin or glass cup and pack the mixture down using the back of the spoon. Place a dinner plate over the top of the ramekin and turn the plate over, gently remove the ramekin. Voilà, a sand castle!
Makes 4 servings.

Couscous for the Family

At the market: Couscous can be found in the rice or pasta section of grocery stores. It is also commonly sold in the bulk section of stores, too. Couscous is available in plain, flavored, and organic varieties. Common brands of couscous include Near East, Kasbah, and Rice Select.

The most-typical type of couscous is the tiny-grain form. Israeli couscous, or pearl couscous, is a larger version. If you'd like to give Israeli couscous a try, you'll find it in a specialty market.

Storage: Store couscous in a sealed container or box in the pantry.

Preparation: Couscous is a terrific rice substitute, and it prepares in about one-fifth the time. Most packages include cooking directions, but here is the basic preparation guideline. Boil water or stock. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand about 5 minutes. Remove cover and fluff with a fork. Serve.

Hint: Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the couscous to prevent it from being too dry.

Here are some quick ideas to add couscous into your family meals:

Endless variations
After fluffing the prepared couscous with a fork, you can add a few simple ingredients to take couscous from bland to gourmet. The possibilities are endless, but here are few simple suggestions:

  • Chopped black olives, chopped cashews, and halved cherry tomatoes

  • Roasted peppers and chopped fresh chives

  • Chickpeas, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and chopped cilantro

  • Lentils, green peas, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin

  • Chopped marinated artichokes and crumbled feta cheese

  • Black beans (rinsed), cooked corn, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and chopped cilantro

Make a couscous bed

If you are grilling fresh fish or shrimp, serve it on a bed of citrus-infused couscous. Make couscous according to the package. After you fluff it with a fork, add 2 tablespoons of orange juice, a can of mandarin oranges (drained), and 2 tablespoons of chopped chives. Garnish with slivered almonds or pine nuts.

Couscous and Fresh Spinach
An excellent accompaniment to grilled lamb, beef, or portobello mushrooms, this dish is the ideal mix of sweet, salty, and crunchy.


  • 1 (6 oz.) box couscous

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/4 cup raisins

  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts

  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, lightly chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Make couscous according to package directions, adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fluff couscous with a fork. Add the raisins, pine nuts, spinach, garlic salt, and cinnamon. Cover for 3–5 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Serve.

Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Visit them at and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter. Fresh Baby Baby Food Kits and other products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Family Dinner: Quick and Easy

Everyone enjoys homemade meals, but few of us have the time to devote to home-cooking. Preparing your own food allows you better control over the quality of ingredients that go into each meal. Cooking at home gives you the option of selecting high-quality fresh organic ingredients for you and your family. Takeout and pre-package meals are generally much higher in fat, salt, and calories than their distant-relative: the old-fashioned home-cooked meal.

So, put on a little music, do a little planning, and get in the habit of cooking at home! Here are few tips to get you started:

  • Invest in a slow cooker. This is fabulous piece of equipment for busy families. You can prepare your main dish in the morning and come home to a delicious, ready-to-eat meal.

  • Buy a few cookbooks that focus on simpler cooking techniques, such as 30-minute meals, slow cooker recipes, or five ingredients or less. These types of books are geared toward getting meals on the table quickly and easily. Look for books that offer shortcuts, prewritten shipping lists, and menu ideas.

  • Plan your menus and make a grocery list. These two steps require finding spare time, but they will save it in the long run.

  • Buy prewashed veggies in the produce section of stores. The clean and prep is often the most time-consuming part of cooking.

  • Buy “no cook” items like apples, pears, avocadoes, tomatoes. A fruit plate or veggie salad makes a terrific side dish.

  • Make extra for leftovers—leftovers make great lunches and snacks. If you’re making a family favorite, double the recipe and freeze a portion for next week.

  • Set aside time on the weekends to make foods in advance and freeze them. Connect with a friend, double the recipes, and split up the meals for both families.

  • Share the burden. Team up with a friend and have a family dinner at their house one night and switch to your house on another. For a different twist on the same concept, divide up the menu between families and share the work.

  • Don’t schedule your kids’ day out so heavily that it intrudes on time to prepare dinner. Instead invite the kids into the kitchen and teach them a few things about cooking — it’s a life skill that they will certainly thank you for some day!

  • Keep it simple. There is no need to strive for gourmet every day. It is often the simpler dishes that have the best flavors too.

Aside from having the benefit of knowing that fresh, organic ingredients are going into your meals, you will spend valuable time in the kitchen and around the table with your family—even if it is quick and easy!

Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Visit them at and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter. Fresh Baby Baby Food Kits and other products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Healthy Habits: Juice and Kids

It may surprise you to hear that overconsumption of juice can contribute to obesity. A recent study of small children found that those who consumed more than 12 ounces a day were more overweight than other children. While this study is not conclusive evidence, it is worthy of mention.

It is not uncommon for children to want to drink juice all day long. For children, juice can be a refreshing drink, but drinking too much is not good. Along with a potential link to obesity, juice can replace healthier foods, cause diarrhea, and promote tooth decay.

One-hundred percent fruit juice in moderate servings can be perfectly fine for your child. Keep in mind that most recommendations about juice are actually limits, though, and you usually don't have to give your child any juice at all.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has made the following recommendations about juice:

* Children under 6 years old should not drink more than 4–6 ounces of juice per day.
* Older children, 7–18 years old, can drink 8 to 12 ounces of 100% juice each day.
* Juice should not be introduced until your infant is about 6 months old.
* Use only 100% fruit juice.
* No unpasteurized juices should be given to children of any age.

Juice should not be considered a substitute for your child's need for fresh fruit. When compared to fresh fruit, juice lags behind nutritionally. One-hundred percent juice does contain some vitamins and minerals, but far less than whole fruit. Whole fruit also contains fiber, which is not present in juice.

If you have a picky eater, pay special attention to the amount juice this child drinks. He or she may be filling up with juice, leaving no room for healthier foods.

If you think your child may be drinking too much juice, you can reduce the amount slowly by diluting servings with water.

And remember, water and milk (cow, soy, or rice) are healthy drinks for your child.

Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Visit them at and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter. Fresh Baby Baby Food Kits and other products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Organic Wines

Increasing efforts are being made in one kitchen to the next to eat more consciously. Organic sales continue to rise and consumers are becoming more educated on healthier food options, with organic stealing the scene. In fact, it’s not uncommon to sit down to an entire meal of organic ingredients, and now, even organic wine is joining the party.

Wine is often overlooked when purchasing organic. The majority of wines are still subject to harsh chemicals and pesticides during the growing process for many reasons from cost efficiencies to the myth that organic wines are less flavorful. However, the next time you find yourself in the wine aisle or at your favorite wine bar, it is important to keep in mind that organic viticulture is on the rise and an increasing variety of fine organic wines are available for you to enjoy!

What makes a wine organic?
According to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, a wine is organic if it “is made from organically grown grapes and without sulfites.” Unfortunately, this stipulation makes it nearly impossible for any wine maker to boast an organic product, particularly because nearly all wines contain minute quantities of sulfites to preserve the wine.

Sulfites are a natural by-product of the fermentation process—fermenting yeasts generate naturally occurring sulfites in small amounts ranging from 6 to 40 parts per million (ppm). After grapes have been harvested, some winemakers will add additional sulfites to wine as an anti-oxidant and preservative through many different stages of the aging process to maintain consistency.

Some people experience allergic reactions to sulfites; however, when added properly, sulfites are not toxic to humans or the environment. Many feel that they are imperative to preventing oxidation and bacterial spoilage of wine.

The levels of sulfites added varies. In the U.S., wines can contain up to 350ppm. In Australia, the limits are 250ppm for dry wines and 300ppm for sweet wines (one-tenth that permitted for dried fruits). Organic winemaking standards suggest no more than 100ppm in all finished products, while most organic wines contain less than 40ppm.

From grapes to groves to growing practices: The best places to find organic wines. When looking for organic wines, it is helpful to keep some key points in mind. First, because nearly all wineries use at least trace amounts of sulfites in the preservation and aging process, it is most important to look for companies using organically grown grapes or environmentally responsible, pesticide- and herbicide-free farming and harvesting practices. This is often advertised on the back label.

Secondly, if you are concerned about sulfur and sulfites, wines grown in cool climates usually require less added sulfur and reds usually have less than whites. Cask wines need more than bottled wines, and wines with screw caps usually have less than wines using corks.

There is not a particular grape or varietal that is more conducive to organic growing practices. Any grape treated and grown organically is a good base for organic wine and many aficionados would argue that the flavor—unharmed by harsh chemicals and growing practices—is more fruitful and rich than that of a wine made from nonorganic grapes. Instead of searching out certain types of grapes, make sure to check the back label for organic call outs such as “fermented with organic yeasts,” “natural fertilizers or no synthetic growth regulators,” wineries that promote biodiversity, or “no chemical additives.”

Organic Options
As organic becomes more mainstream and wineries nationwide begin to adopt organic farming practices, choices for organic wines are increasing. Below are a few suggestions.


Bonterra Merlot 1999 (organically grown), $16.00

Frey Syrah 2001 (organic), $11.25

Frog’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1999 (organically grown, but not certified), $35.00

Topolos Piner Heights 1999, $18.00

Pares Balta 2002 Mas Petit Cabernet Sauvignon-Garnacha, $17.95

Bonterra 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, $21.99

Chateau Pech-Latt Domaine De L’Olivette 2002, $15.99


Bonterra 2004 Chardonnay, $19.99

Summerhill Estate Winery 2003 Pinot Blanc, $16.95

Chapoutier 2004 La Ciboise Coteaux du Tricastin Blanc, $14.90

Pares Balta 2004 Blanc des Pacs, $16.95
Private stores only

Lotusland 2002 Gewurtztraminer Stone’s Throw Vines, $15.90
Private stores only

For those looking to learn more about the organic wine-making process, check out the wineries listed below for more information and tour schedules:

“The oldest and largest purely organic winery in the United States.”

The Organic Wine Company

An importer of organic wines from around the world including producers in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, and California’s finest.

Four Chimneys Organic Winery
“America’s First Organic Winery, Since 1980”

“Wines of distinction. Organically grown grapes”

Hallcrest Vineyards
“Established in 1941 with the intent to prove that the Santa Cruz Mountains were the ideal soils and climate for producing premium California varietal wines, Hallcrest Vineywards has a long running history of producing fine wine from the Santa Cruz Mountains.”

Author, Courtney Ludden

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Feeding Your Green Baby

If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, making organic baby food is a great way to go. Consider the green facts:

Organic fruits and vegetables are the best choice for making baby food. They are the most natural ingredients, and organic foods drastically reduce harm to the environment.

Less waste—
When you make your own baby food, there are no jars, labels, or metal lids to dispose or to recycle.

No factory required —Just a little energy to steam foods and run a blender is all you need to make your baby’s meals! Did someone say near “zero” greenhouse gases?

Your baby’s food does not need to trucked to you from a factory thousands of miles away. Instead, you can simply buy organic produce from your local farmers market and get started.

Healthy—Homemade baby food is safe and nutritious. Baby food jars are often lined with bisphenol-A, a controversial hormone disruptor that should be avoided. In addition, homemade baby food has no preservatives, additives, or chemicals—it is pure and natural goodness.

Homemade Baby Food and Healthy Meals in Less Than 30 Minutes per Week

To prepare: Wash, peel, and cut fresh fruits or vegetables, then stovetop steam or microwave in less than 10 minutes. Create a very-smooth texture with a blender or food processor. Add a little water, if needed to reach pudding-like texture. Pour into baby food storage trays, cover, and freeze overnight. Pop cubes out and store in freezer in an airtight container or freezer bag. Frozen baby food cubes last up to 2 months.

To serve:
Select frozen baby food cubes from the freezer place in a dish and thaw or warm. Stir food before serving and check the temperature. If you want to thicken something, use baby cereal, yogurt, or mashed banana. For thinning, use breast milk/formula, 100% juice or low-sodium soup stock.

Making healthy meals: You can mix different baby food cubes together to create tasty, healthy meals. You can also add yogurt, melted cheese, ground nuts, or mashed pasta/rice to introduce new flavors and textures. Here are a few ideas:
• Green peas and sweet potatoes
• Butternut squash and mashed banana
• Broccoli, cauliflower, and melted cheese
• Peaches, pears, and oatmeal baby cereal
• Black beans, corn, and rice
• Strawberries, apples, yogurt, and ground pecans

The bottom line:
Making baby food is a great gift to give the environment and your baby. Plus homemade baby food tastes great. Who knows? Your baby may even grow up to like the taste of Brussels sprouts and mangoes!

Apple Purée

6 medium golden delicious apples

Step 1: Prep —Wash, peel, core, and cut apples into one-inch slices.

Step 2: Cook —Place apples in a microwave-safe dish. Cover. Cook 5 minutes and let stand for 5 minutes. Cook an additional 5 minutes. The apples are done when they can be pierced easily with a fork.

Step 3: Purée —Place apples and cooking juices into a blender or a food processor. Purée to a smooth texture.

Step 4:
Freeze —Spoon into So Easy Baby Food Trays or ice cube trays. Cover. Place in freezer 8 to 10 hours or overnight. Remove cubes from trays, place in storage container or freezer bag, and return immediately to the freezer.

Makes 24 (1-oz.) servings. Stays fresh for 2 months in the freezer.

To serve, select frozen apple cubes from the freezer, defrost, and warm—check the temperature and feed.

Age to introduce: About 6 months.

About the authors:
Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of 5 children and founders of Fresh Baby ( ). They are the creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats, available at many fine specialty stores and national chains, including Target and Whole Foods Markets.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Great Organic Beauty Site

Puresha offers cult and niche organic skin care products sourced from all over the globe. They only stock products that have naturally derived and organic ingredients and believe that organic doesn't have to mean that you compromise on luxury. They also gift wrap every order using eco-friendly packaging.

Puresha has a great reputation that is growing very quickly. They were voted by stella magazine as one of the top 50 fashion and beauty websites.

Take a look today!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Organic Money Saving Tips

Making the effort to buy organic products is a healthy choice, but it can have an undeniable impact on our budgets. To save you time, energy, and money, we offer the following tips for buying organic on a budget.

Comparison Shop.
You may be able to find less-expensive alternatives at different stores. Many major chains are coming out with their own organic brands, such as O Organics™ at Safeway and ShopRite Organics at ShopRite.

Cook More.
The more convenient the food is, the more expensive it is. For example, buying an organic frozen dinner may save you time in the same way a conventional frozen dinner would, but it costs quite a bit more than its nonorganic counterpart and much more than a homemade meal. Buy organic items that are lower in price (such as produce), and make your own dishes from scratch.

Stock Up. Stock up on your favorite items when they go on sale. Or try something new that is on sale or is priced well, and you may find a new favorite!

Buy in Bulk.
Buying in bulk will keep costs down. Look for many pantry staples often available in bulk, such as beans, legumes, rice, flour, nuts, chocolate chips, and much more. Many local co-ops have extensive organic bulk sections.

Organic Coupons.
Keep an eye out in the Sunday paper and grocery circulars for coupons and, again, stock up to take best advantage of the savings!

Shop in Season. Shop farm stands and farmers’ markets for the freshest, most-delicious produce while supporting local farmers. Purchasing in season produce from your grocer may also keep costs down.

Be Selective. Decide to only purchase organic milk and produce. See the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” for the most-contaminated produce and tailor your decisions based on these.

Eat With Friends.
Last but not least, make it fun! Choose some like-minded friends and get together to each prepare an organic dish—a great way to add variety to your organic diet while keeping your own purchases down. Get together for a weekend potluck—or, during the week, arrange a food swap to minimize cooking and maximize eating organically.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

To Salt or Not To Salt

It’s no wonder that salt has gotten a bad reputation lately. We hear salt blamed for everything from heart problems to excess weight to that uncomfortable bloated feeling. We see the term “low-sodium” so often applied to diet plans or products that we believe we must avoid or at least decrease our salt intake in order to be healthy. But is this really true?

Not exactly.

After all, salt is essential for healthy digestion, balancing internal fluid levels in the body to prevent swelling and proper functioning of the nervous system.

And did you know that adequate salt levels are a factor in getting a good night’s sleep and preventing muscle cramps?

Without salt, calcium absorption is hindered, leading to osteoporosis. Salt even plays a vital role in sexuality and a healthy libido.

But here’s the catch: we’re not talking about regular, old table salt.

Table salt, the kind that is ubiquitous in shakers on restaurant tables and in pantries across this country, has been so processed and refined that it is devoid of nutritional benefits. Further, it can contain additives such as aluminum, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and other desiccants to keep it smooth-flowing and clump-free.

Even though iodine, a necessary nutrient to prevent hyperthyroidism and other diseases, has been added to table salt for almost a century, it is usually available in adequate amounts through other foods we eat because it is present in the soil where our food is grown. In the U.S., only the Great Lakes area has iodine-deficient soils that might warrant iodine supplementation for those communities. Most of us do not need iodine added to our daily salt.

Common table salt can contribute to heart disease, overload internal organs, and exacerbate hypertension. Some researchers believe it is actually toxic to humans and animals. Some even call it a poison.

Sea salt, on the other hand, can contain some 80 or so minerals and trace elements that contribute to overall health as well as fulfilling the body’s need for beneficial sodium.

Each sea salt tastes unique according to where it is harvested. Salt connoisseurship is a fun, new hobby that is catching on as awareness grows of the vast differences between industrially manipulated table salt and the restorative properties and savory flavors of sea salts.

Simply substituting sea salt for your regular table salt can result in a multitude of health benefits. You may find that you use less salt overall to achieve a pleasing taste because sea salt typically has larger crystals and a more intense flavor. Use it in cooking, on raw produce, on popcorn… anywhere you typically crave a salty sensation. It is especially pleasant when added at or near the end of the cooking process, or at the moment of serving.

Here is a great recipe to try out with sea salt. Just remember to have a light touch as you can always add more salt when you’re eating the meal but you can’t remove it if you’ve added too much during the preparation stage. Try making the recipe without adding salt, and then simply sprinkling your favorite sea salt over all just before eating.

Chicken Piccata


1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. broth or stock or water
2–3 pieces chicken
Sea salt
1 shallot, minced, or 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp. capers, drained
1 lemon
1/2 acorn squash*, cut into1-inch chunks
2 cups broccoli florets, fresh or frozen


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray inside of 2-quart Dutch oven and lid with olive oil.

Rinse rice in a strainer under cold water until the water runs clear. Pour into pot with broth or stock and smooth into an even layer. Rinse chicken pieces and place in pot next. It is ok if they are slightly submerged. Lightly salt and pepper chicken. Then sprinkle with minced shallots or garlic, parsley, and capers. Cut lemon in half at the equator and slice one half into rounds. Top chicken with a layer of lemon rounds.

Drop in squash and lightly season with sea salt and pepper. Top with broccoli. Apply another light seasoning with sea salt and pepper and squeeze the juice from the other half of the lemon over all, taking care to remove the seeds.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Wait until you smell the aroma escaping from the oven, wait 3 minutes, and then check the chicken for pinkness. If it is at all pink, put the lid back on and the entire meal back in the oven for another 5–10 minutes. Serves 2.

*You may use any kind of squash you like or substitute another vegetable. No need to peel the squash as the peel will come off easily once it is cooked.

Elizabeth Yarnell of

Monday, January 12, 2009

Broccoli: Eat it Weekly!

Broccoli has been around for more than 2,000 years. Initially it was eaten primarily by the Italians, with the Romans taking the lead.

Historically, broccoli has not been a popular veggie as many cultures did not care for its taste—with the U.S. being one of those cultures. Broccoli started being planted in gardens in the U.S. in the 1700s, though it has only been commercially produced in the U.S. since the 1920s.

Broccoli's popularity has risen to an all-time high and our palates seem to have changed with broccoli acquiring new fans all of the time—perhaps due in large part to its newly identified status as a superhero of the vegetable kingdom. Labeled a ”Super Food” by Dr. Steven Pratt, coauthor of The New York Times; bestselling book Super Foods, broccoli is a vegetable that should be seen on your plate in great frequency (at least once per week).

When it comes to nutrition, broccoli has a lot to offer. The stems of broccoli are similar tasting to asparagus and the florets are like cauliflower. A cup of cooked broccoli offers as much calcium as two ounces of milk, as much vitamin C as an orange, and is very rich in vitamin A. Broccoli also contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. It is also high in fiber and low in calories.

By including broccoli regularly in your diet, you can help reduce and prevent ailments such as cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and high blood pressure, and it may help lower blood cholesterol. The nutrients in broccoli also build strong bones, boost the immune system, and lower the incidence of cataracts and birth defects. In addition, broccoli's wealth of the trace mineral chromium may be effective in preventing adult-onset diabetes in some people.

Age to introduce: 8–10 months (cooked and pureed).

At the market: Good-quality broccoli should have fresh-looking, light-green stalks of consistent thickness. Look for bright-green or purplish-green heads. Don't purchase broccoli with yellow flowers and enlarged buds. These are signs of overmaturity.

Storage at home:
Store broccoli, unwashed, in loose or perforated plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up 3–5 days. Wash broccoli just before using it.

Here are a few easy ideas for adding broccoli in your meals:

1. Crunchier coleslaw: Replace some or all the green cabbage in your coleslaw recipe with shredded broccoli stems. To shred, use a coarse-size grater or the shredding disc on a food processor. Your slaw will stay crunchier longer than cabbage and is more colorful, too.

2. Brighten up a crudité: Blanch broccoli or and add it to a crudité platter. Blanching the broccoli will soften it slightly for easy eating and bring out the bright-green color. To blanch, place broccoli in boiling water for 60 seconds. Drain and rinse with cold water until cooled. Serve with your favorite dip.

3. Don't forget the stems. Many cookbooks suggest only using florets, but the stems are tasty and high in fiber. Instead of tossing them out, julienne them and add them to recipes.

4. Add broccoli to a soup recipe. Almost any traditional vegetable, chicken, or beef soup recipe will get a boost from broccoli. Simply cut the stems and florets into bite-sized pieces and add during the last few minutes of cooking.

5. Add an Asian touch to the old standby, steamed broccoli. Just before serving, toss the broccoli with a tablespoon or two of sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds as a garnish.

6. Impress your guests with an outstanding sauce. Simply put steamed broccoli into the blender or food processor along with vegetable broth, a little olive oil, and seasonings to create a delicious sauce over brown rice, baked potatoes, polenta, or pasta.

Toddler Treat:
Broccoli and Rice Casserole
Many toddlers know broccoli as "trees.” Simply steamed, it is a perfect finger food. While broccoli is terrific in its native "tree" form, it is also yummy chopped, julienned, or puréed. Our Broccoli and Rice Casserole is a great example of what can be done with puréed broccoli. If you don't feel like making the rice called for in the recipe, stop by a Chinese restaurant and buy a quart to go! (By the way, brown rice is better for you than white rice.)


2 cups chopped broccoli
3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2–3 cups of cooked brown or white rice
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)


Preheat oven to 350° F. Steam broccoli until tender (about 3–4 minutes in microwave or on stovetop). Place broccoli, soup stock, oil, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and process to a smooth puree. Place rice and cheese in an ovenproof dish. Pour broccoli mixture over the rice and cheese. Toss mixture gently to blend ingredients. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted. (Instead of using the oven, you can heat this dish in the microwave for 3 minutes, stir, and cook 3 more minutes).

Refrigerate leftovers for 3–5 days or can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Visit them at and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter. Fresh Baby Baby Food Kits and other products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Adding More Flax Seed to Your Family’s Diet

Flax seeds are rich in Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and fiber, nutritional beneficials it is likely your family could use more of. If you have never purchased flax seed, it is located in the baking section of most supermarkets. It is available as whole seeds or ground—finely ground flax seed yields the most nutritional benefits. Whole seeds can be ground using a blender or a coffee grinder. Here are few quick tips for adding more flax seed into your family meals.

Add 1/4 cup ground flax seed to your favorite pancake mix, and for extra flavor add 1 tablespoon of vanilla.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup of ground flax seed on your favorite homemade or frozen pizza. Cook according to normal directions.

Breads: Brush dinner rolls with olive oil, sprinkle the rolls with ground flax seed, and warm them in the oven.

Add flax seed (1 tablespoon – 1/4 cup) to your favorite bread crumbs and use this mixture as a coating for tofu, fish, poultry, or pork, or as a topping for casseroles, stuffed mushrooms, and more.

Sprinkle ground flax seed on hot vegetables just before serving OR sprinkle ground flax seed on a salad and toss with dressing.

Breakfast: Add a teaspoon of ground flax seed to yogurt, oatmeal, or granola.

Dessert: Sprinkle ground flax seed on vanilla pudding, ice cream, or apple crisp.

About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children, and founders of Fresh Baby, creators of products such as homemade baby-food kits, baby-food cookbooks, baby-food and breast-milk storage trays, breastfeeding reminders, and child-development diaries. Visit them online at and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips, and activities for developing your family's healthy-eating habits!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fishing for Organics

As the organic marketplace continues to grow, government and environmental agencies, farmers, and conscious consumers continue to look for ways to classify products of all kinds as pesticide- and chemical-free. Fish are no exception. Possibly one of the most difficult to classify and, arguably, one of the most heavily contaminated foods available, seafood in general has recently become the subject of much debate in the world of organic.

What’s the Problem?
Unlike vegetables and land-based animals, controlling a wild fish environment is nearly impossible. Whereas farmers and ranchers can make sure that chickens, pork, and beef are fed antibiotic-free grain, and fruits and vegetables remain pesticide-free, there is no way of ensuring the diet of wild fish. Additionally, farmed fish often claim organic because the fish are fed organic meal and are kept in an antibiotic-free environment; however, they run the risk of contamination from feces and feed and the occasional “escapee” fish that risks harming natural populations.

Buyer Beware

After the recent studies showing high contamination levels in a variety of different seafood, buyers rushed to purchase wild fish over farm-raised—where it was believed many of the contamination issues were rooted. However, with wild fish out of season for extended periods of time, the organic label gave the perception of a healthier option over conventional, farm-raised fish. Fish markets and health food stores nation wide began selling “organic” fish—everything from salmon to snapper—even though it was never USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) approved to do so. Sometimes the organic or natural label signifies more responsible fish farming practices, such as frequently flushed tanks and the use of entirely organic plant feed. However, oftentimes, it is simply another country or third party claiming that the fish is organic-approved.1 Beyond that, what fish eat plays an important part in whether or not they can be considered for any sort of organic qualification. For instance, catfish eat only plant-based foods while carnivorous salmon feast on other fish; therefore, in order to guarantee an organic product, the actual fish food itself must also be organic.

Going With the Flow
Trying to keep up with the growing demand for organic products, the fish industry hopes the USDA will begin to reconsider the possibility of a fish-friendly USDA organic label. Early attempts to do so never came to fruition. Currently, fish products labeled organic (with no official regulation) sell for roughly $1.00 to $2.00 more per pound and are often purchased before farm-raised-labeled fish when wild fish is not in season. 2 However, given the broad spectrum of seafood growing environments and types, it is not likely that the USDA will develop a system any time soon.

What Can I Do?

In light of the current state of overfished oceans and contaminated seas, it is increasingly important to know exactly where your fish is coming from. Using the commonly scrutinized salmon as an example, “the largest survey yet of pollutants in salmon has found that farmed fish have higher levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and other organocholorine compounds than do wild-caught salmon.” 3 Traditionally, certain areas of the Pacific are thought to be cleaner than the Atlantic; hence, the high demand for wild Alaskan salmon. There are environmentally conscious farms springing up throughout the world. Many farmers are using ocean-based pens, which incorporate the forceful, natural ocean currents to flush away waste and that contain fewer fish as opposed to tightly crammed, man-made ponds that breed disease.4 Ultimately, being a conscious consumer and supporting responsible fish-farming practices when possible will be the best thing you can do to ensure you’re getting the healthiest fish on the market.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Organic Farming

Texan farmer that has been farming organically for the last 15 years. Learn why!