Monthly Archives: August 2011

Produce Spotlight: Champagne Grapes

Champagne Grapes are a beautiful little fruit, but their name can be deceptive. No, they are not used to make champagne and they are not from the Champagne region of France! So, why “Champagne Grapes”? Stories vary, but they were either photographed with a flute of champagne or named after their resemblance to tiny champagne bubbles. Champagne Grapes were originally known as Corinth Grapes, as they are one of the oldest varieties of grapes produced and were originally grown on the Island of Zakynthos (or Zante), off the coast of Corinth, Greece. And, if you didn’t already know, dried Champagne Grapes are commonly known as Currants! Ever heard of Zante Currants? Well, now you know.

Growing up, my great-grandmother made a fabulous Currant Butter Tart! The recipe has been passed down for over a hundred years now in my family! After college, I spent a summer on a mission trip in Latvia and Poland, and they sold Black Currant Juice in little glass bottles. It was fabulous! And all this time, I had no idea that Currants and Champagne Grapes were the same fruit!

I can’t help but add my first memory of currants: watching Anne of Green Gables! Remember Marilla’s Famous Red Currant Wine that Anne mistakenly gives to Diana instead of the Raspberry Cordial?! Well, here’s a snippet from the scene along with Marilla’s  recipe, if you dare!

“[Marilla meets with Mrs. Barry and Rachel after Diana got drunk]
Mrs. Barry: Marilla, I don’t believe a word. Anne Shirley is a conniving, manipulating child and she’s pulled the wool over your eyes.
Rachel Lynde: I always warned you about making that current wine, Marilla. You said it wouldn’t have the least effect on anyone. Well, I ask you.
Marilla Cuthbert: It isn’t meant to be drunk three tumbler-fulls at a time! And if I had a child that was so greedy, I’d sober her up with a darn good spanking!
Mrs. Barry: Oh! So it’s my Diana’s fault, is it?
Rachel Lynde: It’s the demon liquor’s fault. And as I told you for years, if you didn’t insist on making that current wine…
Marilla Cuthbert: [Marillla quickly then cut in furious anger] My current wine is famous all over the island, Rachel Lynde, as you very well know. And the Reverend Allen himself is not opposed to taking a bit when he comes calling. And as for Christian virtue: making a little wine for a refreshment is far less sinful than [then shouted extra loud, speaking] meddling in other people’s affairs!
Rachel Lynde: [in shock] Oh!
[Marilla leaves]
Marilla Cuthbert: [to Mrs. Allen] Of all the unreasonable, pig-headed, self-important women that I have ever met – she is the worst!”

Champagne Grapes can be eaten straight off the vine, cooked into sweet treats (like the Cream Scones with Champagne Grapes recipe on this week’s meal plan), made into juice or wine, or added to savory dishes (like the Champagne Grapes and Shrimp Salad Sandwiches orPan-Seared Scallops with Champagne Grapes and Almonds). Any way you eat them, they are delicate and sweet! Bon Appetit!

Exercise Any Time and Any Where!

A recent Good Morning America Health clip gives some examples of how to exercise anywhere, using a park bench or your natural environment as your fitness center. Check it out here.

I was inspired, so while running my 3 miles downtown today, I stopped by an empty park bench and did some tricep dips and push-ups! Great way to break up the run!

New studies show that even 15 minutes of exercise can increase your life expectancy by up to three years! This doesn’t mean you should reduce your exercise if you’re already doing more than 15 minutes. In fact, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults work in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week (i.e. jogging or running) each week.”

Rodale (“where health meets green”) also posted an article on “7 Easy Ab Exercises You Can Do Just About Anywhere.”

Don’t forget to pre-hydrate, hydrate, and rehydrate! Water is essential to maintaining your core body temperature.

Produce Spotlight: Lemons

I can’t help but smile when I see the sunshine of lemons sitting on my table or in my fridge! We all know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” And that’s a great use for lemons; but lemons can be used for so many more things. Lemons are an amazing and beautiful fruit, nutrient dense and full of benefits for your body. Lemon juice is a natural antibacterial and high in Vitamin C, which can boost our immune systems while assisting in calcium absorption. It’s also great for reducing phlegm and stomach irritation. Here are some ideas to get you started. The possibilities are endless!

Whole Fruit:

  • A bowl of whole lemons makes a beautiful centerpiece.
  • Or you can add them to the bottom of a large vase and top with a flower arrangement.
  • Smell a lemon if you have a sweet craving you’re trying to curb!

Wedges and Slices:

  • Add to water for an alkalizing effect.
  • Add to punch for added flavor.
  • Add to hot tea with honey to help a sore throat.

Juice (the Inside):

  • Make lemonade, of course!
  • Add to your favorite recipes: works well with savory and sweet dishes.
  • Add to your washing machine or dishwasher to help whiten clothes and rinse dishes.
  • Add to cut fruit (like apples and bananas) or other produce (like potatoes and avocados) to slow down oxidation (what turns them brown).
  • Combine with water and use as a natural face cleanser (watch the eyes!).
  • Lighten up your hair!
  • Lemon Juice, Vinegar and Water make a great all-natural all-purpose household cleaner.
  • Lemon Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar and Salt Water (equal parts) makes a great spray for your next grilled pork or chicken cookout (sprinkle meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and spray with solution throughout grilling process)!

Peel (the Outside):

  • Add zest to dishes for extra bright touch to your meal.
  • Drop down the garbage disposal to remove those unpleasant odors.
  • Dry excess zest and save for future recipes.

Leftovers:

  • Rub the inside of the used lemon on  your cut boards to naturally cleanse.
  • Or add baking soda to the inside of the used lemon and rub on your elbows as a natural exfoliator.
  • Set a bowl of halved and juiced lemons out as a natural air freshener.
  • Put small pieces of lemons in cracks where bugs get in as a natural repellant.
  • Rub on your hands and wash them with salt to remove garlic, onion, and fish odors.
  • Finally, throw the used lemons in your compost or add them directly to the soil below plants that grow best in acidic soils, like azaleas, rhododendrons and hydrangeas.

Helpful Sources:

Another Step in the Journey: Is It Time to Go 100% Organic?

Growing up, my parents fed us pretty healthfully. Don’t get me wrong, we still ate Little Debbie Snack Cakes occasionally, but we always had fruits and vegetables readily accessible. Most of what we ate was made from scratch at home.

Through the years, I’ve taken Nutrition courses and done personal study. It was only in the last few years that I started looking into what “organic” meant. My study of the “organic” lifestyle began after watching Food, Inc. a couple years ago. I had no idea there were that many chemicals added to our foods: pesticides, fungicides, insecticides (notice the Latin suffix “-cide” which means “killer”).  On top of the killers, we add growth hormones and excess antibiotics to our livestock. None of this is natural or necessary. After watching Food, Inc., we decided that when we bought meat, we would buy “all-natural” meats (aka, no hormones or antibiotics).

Then I watched Supersize Me, which really made me lose any desire to eat fast food ever again. We started eating less meat (even the “all-natural” kind) and filling up on fresh produce. This past winter, we found Milk and Honey Organics(a local produce delivery service) and switched to mostly “organic” produce.

I’ve tried various diets and studied a myriad of nutrition methods, read The China Study, researched Raw Diets, Vegan Diets, Vegetarian Diets, Lacto-Ovo-Pesco-Vegetarian Diets, and the list goes on. There are studies for everything, and you have to decide what’s right for you on this matter. One Scripture passage that keeps coming back to my mind is Acts 10 and 11, when God tells Peter in a vision, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat. …What God has made clean, do not call common.” Also, Jesus fed fish to the disciples in John 21 and ate fish in Luke 24.

I saw The China Study’s research and was intrigued at the seemingly direct correlation between vegan diets that allow seafood (not bottom-dwellers) and the decreased risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, etc. I’ve seen people with diseases healed by eating Raw or Vegan diets; and I’ve seen those on Raw and Vegetarian diets recently switch back to eating a more balanced diet that includes meat because of lack of energy, anemia, cholesterol levels or moodiness.

The hard part is that there are too many factors to control in many of these studies. There are some countries that only eat meat and vegetables, especially starchy vegetables, and yet they’re not overweight or malnourished and they’re not seeing the rates of heart attack, stroke, and cancer that we see in America.

So, is there a good, better, and best with food and nutrition? It seems to me that a good rule of thumb is balance: “all things in moderation.” Though the phrase does not come from the Bible, the thought is there in I Cor. 9:22, “all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.” Also, in Genesis 9:3, God tells Noah, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” The key is eating a balanced, nutritious, sustainable diet, not following some short-lived fad diet.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been watching more and more documentaries about food and nutrition. I watched Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution and saw communities in France make steps towards 100% organic diets. As a result, they saw decreases in miscarriages, deformities, diseases, and other abnormalities. Then I watched Food Matters, and saw the nutritional research behind an organic lifestyle and the importance of vitamins and minerals.

The more I think about it and study it, the more I want to be 100% organic. I see some definite benefits to it. And since we’ve been eating more organic, we’ve noticed an increase in energy and a decrease in sickness and even allergies. Plus, say we’re wrong and organic isn’t necessary, at least the lack of chemicals in our systems won’t hurt us. So, I asked Bryan if he was ready to take this step with me and he said yes. We’re going to do our best. It won’t happen overnight; it may never be 100%; but, it’s something we want to try to do eventually if possible.

What does this practically mean for us?

  • Only buying what we need (since organic products are more expensive)
  • Not buying processed items (or genetically modified items)
  • Not eating out as much (there are very few organic restaurants in our area; this will also help our budget)
  • Only buying organic meat (this is one step further than all-natural)
  • Possibly limiting our menu items (as not all things are readily available in organic yet)
  • Making more things from scratch at home
  • Ordering bulk organic flour, sugar, etc.
  • Sticking to the meal plan and shopping list (studies show that “the average household goes to the grocery store 2-3 times per week, shops 90 minutes a week in the store, and spends $1.89 each additional minute he or she is in the store. They also know that because few shoppers use lists, 66% of purchases are unplanned, and often unnecessary” ~Brent Honshell, M.M.)
  • This doesn’t mean that we will not eat non-organic food ever. We know that the Lord will protect us as we serve Him, so if we go out to eat with friends or co-workers, or are invited to share a meal in someone’s home, it won’t be something that is asked or even brought up.
  • It’s certainly not something to be paranoid about. We’ll do our best to make informed choices, but we won’t flip out if we eat something that isn’t 100% organic.
  • It’s not an alter I’m willing to die on. If someone thinks the entire organic movement is a big conspiracy theory, targeting individuals that are willing to spend more to get what they believe to be more nutritious, I’m not going to argue with them. It’s just not worth it.

It’s better to eat conventional produce than to avoid eating produce at all just because it might have been treated. Conventional produce still provides adequate nutrition levels. We just believe organic offers a higher quality of nutrition and, therefore, want to choose it as often as possible. I believe eating a balanced “organic” diet, rich in vitamins and minerals, is the best thing, even if it’s not always feasible. The first step was balance. The second step was nutrition. The next step for us right now is eating as organic as possible. We may or may not do this forever, but for now, we believe it’s a step worth taking.

Also, one other point I must make is that just because something says it’s 100% organic does NOT necessarily make it healthful for you. If you have to choose between a 100% organic triple fudge sundae or a conventionally grown apple, the apple is going to provide more nutrition. So, it’s not about eating 100% organic junk food. It’s about being good stewards of our bodies for the glory of God to the best of our abilities.

Which step are you on? Are these steps even necessary? Or are there other, better steps to take? Should we go 100% organic or just do our best to eat balanced meals? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Turning 30′s Not So Bad…

Dark Chocolate Squares and Pumpkin Walnut Muffins with Golden Flaxseed and Cream Cheese Icing

Today was the end of my 30th year of life! I thought it would be more dramatic, but it really wasn’t. My husband and I both got the day/night off work and he brought me a dozen beautiful yellow roses from the Fresh Market!

Yellow Roses from Bryan

We celebrated with a few couples who are close friends this evening. We had a book exchange (white elephant style…minus the gag gifts) and everyone brought healthful hors d’oeuvres. It was SO much fun! I made little tent cards for people to label their dishes. Here’s a recap of the food:

Hors d'oeuvres Plates and Fun Napkins

Plenty of Organic Coffee!

All Natural and Organic Sparkling Juices

Tent Cards for Labeling Dishes

What a Beautiful, Healthful Array!

Veggies and Hummus

Caprese Skewers on Rosemary Branches

Grapes and Cheese Tray

Mini Turkey and Ham Subs with Creamy Mustard Dill Sauce

And a recap of the guests: Dave & Rachel, Rick & Jan (& baby Andrew), Nate & Leigh, and Bryan & me. Bryan created a great easy listening and light jazz playlist, which really set the mood for a relaxing time with friends. And the book exchange was fun too (though, there wasn’t much stealing, swapping, etc., with such a small crowd).

Dave & Rachel

Rick & Jan (Note: the Coca Cola in this picture is the original recipe with cane sugar instead of corn syrup)

Andrew - the life of the party!

Nathan - sorry, Nate, I couldn't get a serious picture of you. :)

Leigh (she's with Nate)

Me & Bryan

Book Exchange - everyone put your books in the middle!

Bryan with his new book - courtesy of Dave

Finally, I’ll close the eve of my 30th birthday with a few favorite quotes I found and picture of me and my man:

“Time and Tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of thirty” -Robert Frost.

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes” -Frank Lloyd Wright.

So happy together...

Campfire Lunches – Fun Idea For Kids

My friend Gina found this idea in a magazine and shared it with me. Halved grapes make the fire ring, pretzels make the sticks, and cheese and carrots are cut up to make the flames! Fun and nutritious for youngsters and the young at heart!

picture courtesy of Gina Ogden

Fresh Fruit Sorbet Formula

Summer’s Not Complete Without Fresh Fruit Sorbet! And here’s an easy recipe that will help you mix and match your favorite fruits into frozen treats!

http://common.scrippsnetworks.com/common/snap/snap-3.1.1-embed.swf?channelurl=http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/channel/xml/0,,55787-VIDEO,00.xml&channel=55787

(The video above is powered by Flash. If unable to view, check it out on Food Network here.)

  • 2 lbs. fresh fruit (peel and pit stone fruits; hull berries), washed & roughly chopped
  • 8 oz. sugar
  • 1 oz. lemon juice (that’s 2 Tbsp.)
  • 1/2 oz. vodka (that’s 1 Tbsp.)
  • 1 pinch kosher salt

Process all ingredients in food processor till smooth, then chill completely before adding to ice cream maker. Follow ice cream maker instructions and store in freezer.

This is Discipling…

A dear friend posted this video on Facebook and I had to share it. Makes one think…

This is Discipling from The Foursquare Church on Vimeo. As shown by Kelly Tshibaka at Foursquare Connection 2011.