Chili Peppers

Chili Peppers

Mention chili peppers and most people will have a strong and immediate response, positive or negative. While I will admit to being pretty far left on the mild-to-hot scale, I absolutely love the way a little bit of heat will intensify the flavor of my favorite foods. There are hundreds of pepper varieties, some sweet and others hot, and they all provide great health benefits - some even claim chili peppers will improve your completion when used in face creams! For more pepper fun and tasty recipes, check out below!

Did you know:

-Chili peppers have been part of the human diet for thousands of years, as far back as 7500 BCE in some areas!

-Evidence suggests birds are immune to the "heat" in chili peppers and can peck away at even the ghost pepper pain-free!

-November is National Pepper Month

Breakfast: Aleppo Pepper Omelet

Lunch/brunch: Chorizo Poblano Peppers

Dinner: Pepper Hummus Pasta

Meatballs

Meatballs

Meatballs are one of my favorite cold weather foods. They can be heavy or light, and come in almost any flavor profile you can imagine. While no one really knows who started the meatball craze, they've been around since at least the first century. Meatballs are generally a crowd-pleaser, an attribute which is not shared by the larger -though otherwise identical - meatloaf. So great is the appeal of the meatball that there are historically documented misuses of their power (I'm talking to you, Spanish Inquisition party planners)! Check out the fun facts and recipes below for more meatball awesomeness.

Did you know:

- Swedish and Italian varieties are among ethics's most common in the U.S., but cultures all around the world, including several in Africa and Asia, lay claim to having invented the meatball. 

- Turkey boasts more than 80 distinct meatballs

- The world record for Largest Meatball weighs in over 1,100 lb. and is held by a group in Columbus.

Breakfast: Apple and Maple Breakfast Meatballs

Lunch: Buffalo Chicken Meatball Salad

Dinner: Falafel

Carrots

Carrots

Carrots will always hold a special place in my diet, mostly because they're my longest lasting vegetable relationship. As a kid, I could always count on finding carrot sticks, and a little ranch dip if I was lucky, at the top of my lunch box each day. Their satisfying crunch and hint of sweetness made the perfect companion to a soft peanut butter and honey sandwich. Low cholesterol and saturated fat, not to mention the long list of nutrients from vitamin A to Thiamin, make carrots a healthy and well-received snack for all ages. For more carrot facts and recipes, check out below!

Did you know:

- The world's longest carrot was about 20 feet long.

- Carrots come in many colors, including purple and red, but the orange carrot is most often found in our grocery stores after being made popular by the dutch in the 16th century.

- The Weta bug, an exceptionally large cricket-like bug, is known to enjoy a crunchy carrot. 

Breakfast

Carrot Pancakes

Lunch

Summer Carrot Salad

Dinner

Carrots with Cinnamon Chicken

Broccoli

Broccoli

Yay for broccoli! Nearly 200% of the recommended vitamin C, loads of fiber, and few calories, make this a welcome addition to many health-conscious plates. Many experts also agree broccoli has cancer fighting powers and will help to protect both your heart and DNA from damage. Check out these fun facts and recipes below.

Did you know

- President George H.W. Bush was gifted 10 tons of broccoli by California farmers after stating he did not like broccoli

- The record for broccoli-eating is currently 1 pound in 92 seconds

-Thomas Jefferson was the first to grow broccoli in America

Breakfast

Green Muffins and Ham

Lunch

Cold Broccoli Salad with Salmon

Dinner

Twice Baked Broccoli Potatoes


http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6039/10-Fun-Facts-You-May-Not-Know-About-Broccoli.html

http://www.organicauthority.com/broccoli-nutrition

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is one of my favorite summer melons. Its lightly sweet and refreshing taste, not to mention bright and inviting orange flesh, are the perfect addition to any afternoon picnic. With loads of vitamins A and C, the cantaloupe can even help keep those pesky colds at bay in the off-season! Check out our fun facts and recipes below for more!

Did you know?

- Cantaloupe has been cultivated for thousands of years, there are even records of it from ancient Greece and Egypt

- An average-sized melon (about 5") has less than 200 calories, TOTAL!

- What we know as the cantaloupe is actually a variety of muskmelon. True cantaloupe does not have the pale "net"

Breakfast

Cantaloupe Scones and Yogurt

Lunch

Cucumber, Melon, and Spinach Salad

Dinner

Grilled Chicken with Cantaloupe Salsa


https://thehumblegardener.com/fun-facts-about-cantaloupe/

http://www.softschools.com/facts/plants/cantaloupe_facts/1566/

Avocado

Avocado

In the spirit of St. Patrick's day, today's ingredient is the awesome avocado. While I admit to a slight bias (they always hold one of the top slots on my "cannot resist" food list), avocados are considered by many to be a superfood. More potassium than a banana, more protein than any other fruit, no cholesterol, and 75% of its fat is unsaturated - I'm sold! Check out our fun, and festive, avocado recipes and facts.

Did you know:

Avocados do not ripen until they're off the tree

The hass avocado (one of the most common in grocery stores) is named for the mailman in whose back yard it was discovered in the 1930's

Avocado trees will not fruit when planted alone. Unlike some trees, they need another to pollinate

Breakfast

Avocado Omelet

Lunch

Avocado Salad Sandwich

Dinner

Chicken with Avocado & Spinach Sauce


https://greenblender.com/smoothies/2098/avocado-facts
https://www.avocadocentral.com/nutrition/31-nutrition-facts-and-tips

Eggs

Eggs

As my mother is known to say, eggs are a great start to the "perfect breakfast." Eggs have had a confusing reputation, though, and were even found on the bad list in the not too distant past. They had all sorts of negative effects - high cholesterol and heart disease to name a few. Luckily, new research has shown eggs are, in fact, a healthy and desirable addition to polite society. The cholesterol found in eggs is now agreed to be the "good" cholesterol, and, large amounts of protein and essential nutrients combined with only about 70 calories per egg, have succeeded in repairing the egg's tarnished reputation. For more egg fun, check out these recipes and facts below!

Did you know

Eggs will float when they are no longer good to eat. Gently drop an egg in a water-filled dish if you're unsure of its freshness

Most eggs are laid between 7:00am and 11:00am

In 2010, a hen in England laid an egg weighing about 3/4 pound with 5 yolks!

Breakfast

Savory Scramble

Lunch

No Mayo Egg Salad

Dinner

Fried egg with beans and Spinach


http://articles.latimes.com/2013/mar/19/science/la-sci-chicken-lays-giant-egg-20130319

https://sampson.ces.ncsu.edu/2013/09/egg-trivia-facts-3/

http://www.incredibleegg.org/egg-nutrition/nutrient-label/

Weeds and Wildflowers

Weeds and Wildflowers

With spring and summer come plants. Whether wild, weed, or cultivated, they share growth, color, and aroma which are synonymous with sunshine and warm weather. Many of these beauties are not only nice to look at, but also tasty! Colorado is home to a host of wild edible greens and flowers which range from sweet to sour in flavor. One of the most recognizable on the list is the Cattail. Nearly every part of this plant can be safely eaten and enjoyed, some people even roast the tops and eat them like ears of corn! The Prickly Rose, a bright magenta colored flower, boasts vitamin C (3 hips are supposed to have as much as an orange!), and is used in teas and salads.

We also have a few whose names will sound more familiar, like wild onions, garlic, and mint. Don't be surprised when they look a little different from what you find in the grocery store though! For a list of common Colorado wild plants to include in your pantry, check out this link or stop in your local library for an edible plant guide. Foraging through the yard, or while out exploring, can be a lot of fun, but be sure you can identify the plant before you snack - not all of our flora are safe to eat. Happy hunting!

 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Warmer weather always leaves me craving fresh tomatoes, and, while the snow is sure to make another appearance or two, our days of 70 degrees lately have me reaching for those delicious fruits already. Or vegetable. The classification of tomatoes has been debated for a while now - and even warranted a Supreme Court ruling in 1887. Botanically it still counts as a fruit, but is generally accepted as a vegetable for everything else. Try these recipes and fun facts below!

Did you know?

Approximately 150,000 tomatoes are thrown each year in the world's largest tomato fight - La Tomatina

There are over 7500 varieties of tomato grown around the world

We absorb more of the nutrients in tomatoes when they're cooked than raw

Breakfast

Tomato and Avocado Omelet

Lunch

Bruschetta Chicken Salad

Dinner

Garlic and Tomato Pasta

Making Yogurt

Making Yogurt

As promised, a how-to for making your own delicious yogurt. The recipe is fairly simple: milk and starter culture, but which milk and culture to use may take some experimentation. You can make yogurt using nearly any milk you like. I'm a fan of whole milk, but my mother uses 1% or skim, and a friend swears by almond and coconut milks. I say, use whichever milk makes you happy, but keep in mind you'll need specific starters for non-dairy options.

Once you have the milk nailed down, it's time to choose a culture. Do you want to use a yogurt maker? Should the yogurt be very thick, or more loose? Tangy or mild? Choose a Thermophilic culture for use with a yogurt maker, and Mesophilic culture if you will not use a yogurt maker.

If you want to have your yogurt taste exactly like your favorite brand, you'll need to use a little of the store-bought variety as your starter. This is a quick and easy way to "get your feet wet," but you can't continually reuse the starter. You can probably get a few batches in before starting over though, so it's still worth the effort in terms of money saved and processing avoided.

Should you want to make a clean break from store-bought yogurts, there are many companies which sell starter cultures both online and in store. You can choose the single use starters, which will behave similarly to our first option in that you'll need a new starter culture every batch or every few batches. Heirloom cultures, on the other hand, can be used indefinitely by saving back a little yogurt from each batch to serve as the starter for the next batch. I use a heirloom culture and love it, but it does require some diligence. Should I forget to save back or properly store the starter for my next batch, I start over with a new starter.

Thickness and flavor are little less black and white. Traditionally, Greek yogurts are more tangy, Bulgarian more mild, and several others can be found along the tartness scale. You can also play with the incubation time to affect flavor: longer = more tart. Thickness is generally more to do with the culture type, and whether you allow some of the whey to drain before eating. Piima is fairly thin, while Viili is much thicker. My personal favorite is the heirloom Bulgarian culture. This comes out thick and creamy, with just a little tartness.

Down to business: start with about 2 1/2 cups milk. In a large pot, bring the milk to 190F being careful not to allow it to boil. Stir A LOT, nearly constantly. Remove from heat and allow the milk to cool to 100F (check and stir periodically to avoid the occasional "skin" that can form). Whisk in your starter (about a cup if using store brand, 1/2 cup or so if heirloom), then pour the milk into your incubator. Set the timer according to the incubator instructions (usually between 6 and 10 hours). When the yogurt has incubated, chill and either drain to thicken more or serve as is. A little berry puree and some honey is one of my favorite flavorings!

Yogurt

Yogurt

It seems like every time I walk by the cheese and yogurt section at the grocery store, there's another new yogurt in the cooler making wild claims about what it can do for me. Don't get me wrong, I love yogurt, but I'm reminded of the adage about taking things with a grain of salt when I see some of the miracles being promised. While I admit we don't yet know all the health benefits of some foods (yogurt included), there are a few things we do know: you can expect some digestive benefits when consuming yogurt with certain live bacteria cultures, greek yogurt tends to  have more protein than other varieties, and it can be a healthy substitution for many other foods in your diet. This being said, all yogurts are not equal, and some may be no more healthy than your favorite frozen dessert. How is this possible? It's all in the processing. Check out these facts and recipes below for more yogurt ideas!

Did you know:

- Several of the yogurt brands in grocery stores have added sugars, thickeners, or secondary pasteurization processes that kill the bacteria in their products. This means that many, if not most, of the benefits in having eaten the yogurt are lost and you may as well have eaten ice cream.

-Making yogurt at home is an easy and inexpensive way to be sure you're getting the most from your yogurt (recipe and how-to next week).

-Heirloom yogurt cultures can be used indefinitely, some strains began to be used for starters thousands of years ago.


Breakfast

Greek Yogurt Parfait

Lunch

Chicken Salad Pita

Dinner

Souvlaki with Tzatziki

 

Spinach

Spinach

Spinach! I love spinach, for so many reasons. Admittedly, one of those reasons is a gruff sounding cartoon sailor...but hey, it works. Recent studies have shown the depiction of spinach a miracle food may not be altogether wrong. It has been shown to provide protection against inflammation for your digestive system, help to increase bone health, and even provide some protection against aggressive form of prostate cancer! Check out more fun facts and spinach recipes below!

Did you know:

-Spinach is native to Persia (modern day Iran), and made it's way to the U.S. in 1806 after traveling to China (7th century) and Europe (12th century).

-Two U.S. towns claim to be the "spinach capital of the world," and celebrate spinach with the Alma, Arkansas festival in April and a Popeye statue in Crystal City Texas.

-Popeye is given credit by the U.S. spinach industry for driving a 33% increase in our spinach consumption in the 1930's.

Breakfast:

Spinach Frittata

Lunch:

Baby Spinach Salad with Grilled Salmon 

Dinner:

Sautéed Spinach


Oranges

Oranges

There are few things I remember from my 5th grade nutrition class, but among them is the knowledge that oranges = vitamin C. While an orange does have about as much vitamin C as the average person needs in a day to fight off dangerous afflictions like scurvy (it's not just for old-time sailors, read more), this isn't all it brings to the table. Significant amounts of  fiber, folate, and  vitamin B1 are also found in oranges. Find more fun facts and recipes for oranges below!

Did you know:

-One orange has as much fiber as 7 bowls of cornflakes

-The orange is not named for its color, rather from a sanskrit word "naranga," based on the Tamil word for fragrant (naru)

-Only about 20% of the oranges grown today are eaten as oranges. Juices, extracts, and preserves consume the other 80%

Breakfast:

Orange Muffins

Lunch:

Orange and Avocado Salad

Dinner:

Steak and Cilantro/Orange Salsa


Potatoes

Potatoes

Potatoes have gotten a bad rap in recent years as merely filler food, but with an average 4 grams of protein, 20% of your daily vitamin C, and 1.5 times the potassium of a banana, potatoes are much more than just alright. Whether you like them baked, mashed, or roasted, get ready pass the potatoes guilt-free as part of your next delicious and healthy meal. Try our tasty recipe ideas and fun facts below!

Did you know:

-You won't "lose all of the nutrients" if you peel a potato. The majority of nutrients are in the potato itself

-Americans eat an average 110 lbs. of potatoes each year (and that's still half what Europeans eat)!

-Potatoes turn green from light exposure, and may have a bitter taste if the green is not cut away

Breakfast:

Country Potato Breakfast Bowls

Lunch:

Potato Cakes and Simple Salad

Dinner:

Shepherd's Pie


Edamame

These immature soy beans are sweeping the healthy snack community, have you tried them yet? (Don't worry, until my son brought them home from a birthday party two years ago, I'd never heard of Edamame either).

Ignore, for a moment, the words soy and beans while I convince you that green and healthy food isn't always bad. First, they don't require a lot of work to taste good - steamed with a little salt and pepper is delicious! Second, Edamame is a source of complete protein (has all 9 amino acids, just like eating meat) and provides 20-25% of the average adult's recommended intake. Third, and most important, my kid will eat them. Not only will he eat them, he will eat them without catsup. To explore the magic of this healthy treat for yourself, check out these recipes and fun facts below!

Did you know:

-Most of the Edamame found in stores has been steamed and then frozen - it's ready to eat!

-The entire Edamame bean is edible (pod and all)!

-We have evidence of Edamame as a domesticated food source nearly 1000 years ago.

Breakfast: Vegetable Frittata with Edamame 

Lunch: Spinach and Arugula Salad with Edamame

Dinner: Chicken Stir fry

Snack: Edamame Dip



Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Very few things make us feel quite so nice as warm cookies. When those cookies happen to be our giant Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies? Well, let's just say I've never seen a plate of vegetables disappear so fast as when one of these are on the line!

What is gluten and why is gluten-free so special, you ask? Gluten is the product of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, found in some cereal grains (like wheat). It causes the chewy/elastic texture we love so much in our breads. For someone with gluten-intolerance (celiac disease) or gluten-sensitivity, eating gluten can cause a range of problems - stomach discomfort, trouble absorbing nutrients, and intestinal damage to name a few.

But you aren't gluten-intolerant or sensitive? While a completely gluten-free diet is not recommended for those who don't have trouble with the proteins, there's no harm in enjoying some of the fun flavors and treats made with gluten-free foods! Check it out for yourself with the information and recipes below.

Did you know:

-One in 141 people (or less than roughly 1% of the population) have celiac disease.

-Gluten-intolerance and wheat allergy are not the same thing, and, luckily, many children (about65%) outgrow a wheat allergy by age 12.

-North American varieties of wheat contain more gluten than those grown in Europe

Breakfast:

Pear and Bacon Casserole

Lunch:

Chicken Salad Pita

Dinner:

Cookie-Crusted Beef

Dessert:

Strawberry Cookie Parfait



Gnocchi

Gnocchi

What is Gnocchi, exactly? Gnocchi are small Italian dumplings, usually made of potato, and served as a traditional starch or pasta. They've been around for hundreds of years (even before there were potatoes in Europe) and have been made out of everything from bread crumbs or semolina, to mashed vegetables. What can you make with gnocchi, one might ask? Pretty much anything, because they're just that awesome. They go well with pasta sauces, in soups/stews, or they can be prepared just as you would regular diced potatoes. Check out these recipes and fun facts below for more gnocchi news!

Did you know:

-The ridges in gnocchi (how they get so much yummy sauce to stick to them) were traditionally made by rubbing the dough against a cheese grater.

-One to one, potatoes have more potassium than bananas.

-Potatoes were originally domesticated in Peru and Bolivia, they didn't make it to Europe until Spanish explorers came across it in the 1500's.

Breakfast:

Gnocchi Bowl

Lunch:

Roast chicken with pesto and gnocchi

Dinner:

Hearty Chicken and vegetable soup with gnocchi (add some ground red pepper or minced serrano for a little heat!)

Dessert:

Baked apples and gnocchi



Pasta's Predecessor: The History of Gnocchi. Retrieved from http://www.saveur.com/article/food/history-of-gnocchi

Potato History | The History of Potatoes | Potato Fun Facts. Retrieved from https://www.potatogoodness.com/potato-fun-facts-history/

 

 

 

 

Blueberries

Blueberries

Blueberries are known as Little Blue Dynamos, and for good reason. These tiny berries can fulfill nearly a quarter of your daily vitamin C needs, and provide more than 3g of fiber, in just one 80 calorie serving. They are also high in manganese, which is thought to promote healing and bone health in addition to helping your body to better process certain nutrients - cholesterol and carbs watch out!

With all of the awesomeness that is the blueberry, you're probably wondering how you might fit a few into your already busy day. Try these recipes and tips below to experience your own day with blueberries!

Did you know:

-While blueberries are grown in many places around the globe, North America grows 90% of world's supply.

-Native Americans used blueberries to soothe a cough.

-July is National Blueberry Month

Breakfast:

Blueberry Coconut Scones & Lemon Blueberry Parfait

Lunch:

Grilled Chicken Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette

Dinner:

Blueberry-stuffed Pork Loin - great with green beans and fruit salad!

Dessert:

Easy Blueberry Napoleons



Thompson, C. (n.d.). The Health Benefits of Blueberries. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/blueberries-nutritious-things-come-in-small-packages_  

Health Benefits of Blueberries - U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. (n.d.). http://www.blueberrycouncil.org/healthy-living/health-benefits-blueberries/