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Boosts Your Lycopene, Antioxidants, Vitamins & Attractiveness

By Dina Eliash Robinson

Artists As Gardeners

Our famous friends, musicians and travel journalists Joanne (Giovanna) and Tony DiBona, are keeping us supplied with some of the most delicious organic vegetables and herbs, plucked from their garden, fresh and fragrant, whenever we visit each other. Suspecting that there was more than green thumbs involved in the mystery of a garden yielding evermore edible riches year after year—even during its gardeners’ absences while they are touring with their troupe of musical performers or away on assignment as travel writers, photographers and video producers. (You can find their work at http://www.romanholidaymusic.com and http://www.getthepicturetravel.com/—weeventually solved the mystery by watching the gentle care with which they tended each sprig and plant, selected each fresh ingredient just at the right time of its prime for saladstomato and the mouthwatering cooked meals the prepared: The secret ingredient was, and is amore.

 Only love (in this case, I suspect, it is the passionate Italian kind) could elicit such grateful reciprocity from the various species of tomatoes, peppers, other veggies and flavorful herbs overflowing the DiBona garden. Aha! I said, and have ever since been wooing my produce with that powerful ingredient, while preparing meals mindfully, with grateful affection for the living plants that nourish and heal us. Although we might not attain the level of stamina our younger friends have as they hike and cycle up mountains, swim with whale sharks and Galapagos tortoises and traipse around the cultural sights of Europe, Asia, Alaska, we are at least hopeful and have fun building up our own oomph! .

Lycopene Magic

The last basketful of tomatoes pressed upon us recently as we were leaving Villa DiBona, were extraordinary in several aspects. They were round, medium to smallish size (about two or three times the size of cherry tomatoes), deep red—almost Burgundy wine color—inside and out, unusually robust in flavor, but most notably, their skin was quite a bit thicker than that of any other tomato we have tasted. Since Tony had planted various strains—among them Beefmaster, Better Bush Hybrid and Celebrity—he attributed their evolving into such “super tomatoes” to his compost-fed soil and San Diego’s gentle, sunny climate.

Improvised Recipe: Blessed with a sensitive palate, I could taste the bold surge of flavors even in the raw tomato, although their intensity (and nutrients, of course) multiplied in the stewed tomatoes. But since my taste buds are also partial to strong flavors, I sauté fresh, chopped garlic in olive oil first, adding and cooking w:pastathe tomatoes with a little spring water, thus releasing the fat-soluble lycopene’s bioavailability. (More about this later.) Still not ready to leave well enough alone, I tear up several fresh basil leaves and add to the mix, sprinkle a shake of cayenne pepper, simmer for 30 or more seconds and serve over pasta, with a dollop of goat cream cheese on top—a pretty decoration until it melts and is blended into the dish. You’ll find no need for salt—and if you keep portions reasonably small, this rich tasting, healthy dish won’t bust your waistline.

Lycopene Story

While luxuriating in the sensuous complexities of this (mistakenly believed to be simple) dish, my mind shouted Lycopene! as it tapped into a vivid memory of Faraj, a Persian friend we had in New York City years ago, whose passion for food equaled that for his profession as an antiques dealer. Not satisfied with merely being a fine gourmet cook, he went into the business of buying tomato peels by the ton from companies that produced canned or jarred sauces, paste, juices and other peeled and preserved versions of this luscious fruit. (Yes, fruit, not a vegetable as most of us think of it and use as.)

Having been raised in the Middle East, the enterprising young man was well aware of tomato’s many health benefits as a source of antioxidants and vitamins—especially Vitamin C—in addition to lycopene. But choosing to trade in the peels, which were undervalued and often discarded in the 1970s, turned out to be a smart move. Faraj arranged to have the tomato peels dehydrated, compacted, packaged and shipped to Hong Kong, where he contracted a natural healing products lab to process them into Lycopene supplements. He then set up a network of distributors who sold these capsules to vitamin and health food stores around the world.

Love Apple—Not For Sex Alone

Known in ancient Greece and other Mediterranean countries as Love Apple, for what was believed to be its powerful aphrodisiac qualities, the tomato was soon discovered to also be a source of antioxidants which protect DNA and other cells from dangerous free radicals, as well as a treasure-trove of vitamins—as we mentioned above, especially Vitamin C—and various other health benefits.

In fact, a recent issue of The Harvard Health Letter quotes Dr. Edward Giovannuci, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, that “… lycopene may have specific properties that protect the cell in a way other antioxidants may not.” Dr. Giovannuci—along with a team of Finnish researchers reporting in the journal Neurology—also sees evidence of lycopene lowering the risk of strokes. Adding more health benefits, lycopene, as a micronutrient, has been found to provide protection against prostate and various epithelial* cancers (* i.e. of tissues that cover the body and internal organs).Tomato sauce

While supplements do help to boost lycopene levels, it is far easier for the body to absorb it from foods. And as Dr. Giovannuci points out, since it is fat soluble, lycopene’s optimum bioavailability can be obtained by adding olive oil to cooked tomatoes. He also assures us that while there is no need to overdo it (a little goes a long way), there is no evidence of potential toxicity from a lycopene-rich diet.

There is, however, one caveat: My research shows that the “nightshades” family of plants—which includes tomatoes, as well as peppers, eggplants and potatoes (though surprisingly not sweet potatoes and yams)—tend to increase the negative effects of arthritis. Sufferers, therefore, should either eliminate nightshades produce from their diet, or indulge very rarely, in small amounts and only consume the plants that seem to trigger the leas discomfort or harm to their condition.

To paraphrase the adage about ‘all good things…’ not only is moderation advised, but since we are omnivores, a well-balanced diet is also of utmost importance.

 

 

 

31 Jul, 2015

Tasty Treats Play Tricks On Kids

Posted by: Catharine Kaufman In: Kids Kornercopia

 

By Catharine Kaufman—a.k.a. The Kitchen Shrink

Most parents realize sooner or later that while threats and bribes tend merely to strengthen kids’ resolve to hold out for takeout pizza and other fast food, a little cunning and subtle tricks will get them to eat their veggies without Dinner Table Battles. Years of experience with my two finicky daughters and their Dad, the even more difficult-to-please Big Kid, have taught me some culinary deviousness that has helped eliminate mealtime drama and food waste and saved my sanity.

"Illustration from Jolene, Adventures of a Junk Food Queen by Catharine Kaufman"

“Illustration from Jolene, Adventures of a Junk Food Queen by Catharine Kaufman”

Even now, with college-age girls and my food-wiser mate, I stick to the most successful deceptions, which still disarm the family’s resistance to being fed nourishing and well-balanced meals. Since they probably won’t read this column, I can let you in on the secret: Even the most immature and junk-food-corrupted taste buds can be fooled by edible disguises—just as theatrical costumes and makeup help audiences savor make-believe plays.

I’m sure you’ll agree that, since force-feeding is illegal and sending kids to bed hungry merely helps them skip their veggies, the only safe way to get the proper quantity and balance of nutrition into your kids’ stomachs is through this or some other forms of shameless trickery.

For example, instead of cajoling or coercing youngsters to eat their fresh fruits and vegetables, Jeff Dunn, former Coca-Cola executive turned nutrition guru and “carrot king” at Bolthouse Farms, urges parents to use the same marketing tactics that attract kids (and too many grownups, too, alas) to junk food. While the success of this suggested “training programs” might take some time, at least you are now getting some help from—of all places—the fast food industry, since even its leaderships are beginning to see the handwriting on the wall: “adapt or lose your profits.” So the chains are adding fresh salads, low-fat dressings, chicken breast and other healthier fare to their menus as fast they can and making sure everyone knows by spending lavishly on TV commercials and colorful menus displayed on eye-catching banners inside and outside their establishments.

The Name Game: Take a cue from the merchandisers of Crayola crayons and create fun and funky names for various fruits and vegetables to

amuse preschoolers—such as “wild blue yonder blueberries,” “put-put-plums,” “sweet-water watermelons,” “stringer string-beans,” “green flow
er broccoli,” “cream-flower cauliflower,”
(or, thanks to the new hybrids: “purple– or yellowflower cauliflower”), etc. Horticulturalists have been onboard for a while with ‘fun’ monikers like “cotton candy grapes,” “sugar-snap peas,” “donut

"Illustration from Jolene, Adventures of a Junk Food Queen by Catharine Kaufman"

“Illustration from Jolene, Adventures of a Junk Food Queen by Catharine Kaufman”

peaches” and “chocolate peppers.”

Brain Freeze: Wean kids off the lure of ice cream trucks and gelato parlors by freezing certain fruits (such as bananas, grapes, berries and stone fruit—i.e. sliced peaches, nectarines, mangoes—etc.)—and serving them sprinkled with cinnamon, chocolate or nuts; or made into summer treats that surpass any store-bought confection. For example: purée and mold fresh fruit into popsicles; or blend them into Smoothies topped with whipped cream and sprinkles; create dairy-free sorbets with fresh fruits and coconut water or almond milk; chill fruit and chocolate budding for snacks; and let your imagination create other favorites for the warm summer months.

Dip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah: Accommodate kids infatuation with dipping and playing with their foods by melting either sweet or savory fondues of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate or organic cheeses, with companion dippers ranging from dried apricots, bananas, figs and strawberries, to raw or lightly steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets, boiled tiny fingerling potatoes, carrots or asparagus spears.

Masquerade:

  • Mashed potatoes—a universal kid-favorite—can be disguised as a Green Monster treat by mashing it with butter-and-garlic-sautéed spinach, kale or broccoli. (It can also be proclaimed a St. Patrick Day treat—even regardless of the calendar.)
  • Mashed and buttered cauliflower—flavored with fresh garlic to kill a cold or flu virus or merely for its delicious kick—or baked for a minute or two in a toaster oven with grated cheese, turmeric and herbs, is sure to become a quick-to-disappear snack.
  • Puréed green (string) bean soup served cold is often a hit with kids when prepared according to the FreeRangeClub.com recipe (which is listed with proper measurements under ‘Soups’ on this site.)

To give you an idea of what it is, here is a short summary of its ingredients and cooking instructions: Sautée in olive oil chopped onions and garlic; add fresh green beans, mix in and sauté for 1 minute; add water; season with fresh or dry parsley and basil, sweet paprika, turmeric, ginger and salt; cook until green beans are al dente (i.e. cooked but crunchy); take the soup off the heat and cool for 5 minutes; in a blender, whip up a mixture of apple cider vinegar, honey, fresh yogurt and raw egg (don’t worry, the latter will cook instantly in the still hot soup); pour mixture very slowly into still hot soup so egg and yogurt don’t curdle; and let it cool completely. (Adults prefer the soup as it is, but most kids like the ingredients puréed.) Chill soup in the refrigerator and serve as is or with croutons. Soup will stay fresh for a week to 10 days—in fact, its flavors will deepen and be even more delicious every day.

  • Mashed potatoes mixed with mushrooms sautéed with olive oil, chopped onions and garlic (as is or whipped to smoothness in food processor to hide ingredients) is a child favorite, thanks to its umami flavor.

For more ideas, call or e-mail us at dinatalk@gmail.com.

 

 

 

27 Jul, 2015

Laughter Helps The Veggies Go Down

Posted by: lrobinson In: Uncategorized

By Dina Eliash Robinson

Our FreeRangeClub.com (FRC) partner and nationally syndicated food columnist, Catharine Kaufman—known and celebrated as The Kitchen Shrink—raised and fed healthy fare to her two previously vegetable-averse daughters (and, in no small measure, her then junk-food-addicted ‘Big Kid’ spouse, Larry), by fooling their taste buds with the creatively disguised foods she describes in her recent column, “Tasty Treats Play Tricks on Kids” (http://freerangeclub.com/kids-kornercopia/tasty-treats-play-tricks-on-kids/), as well as by performing stand-up comedy routines she improvised to distract them. Her efforts to “help the medicine (i.e. wholesome nutrition) go down,” while skipping Mary Poppins’ prescribed “spoonful of sugar,” have paid off over the years, with the family kept in the pink and preferring to eat and cook healthy fare.

Catharine’s ‘routines’ became so popular with not only her family, but with the neighborhood kids and her daughters’ school chums who often crowded the Kaufmans’ dinner table, that she eventually gave in to their suggestion and wrote a book about her zaniest character. The result was “Jolene—The Adventures of a Junk Food Queen,” a humorous book for kids of all ages, with hilarious illustrations (by the brilliant John Martinez and Hayden Mills) bringing the story and everyone in it to vivid life.

With a fresh run of “Jolene….”, we are now able to fill orders for the book, which sells for $19.99, with free shipping. The book can also be purchased from Amazon.

IMG_20150820_0001

17 Jul, 2015

Sweet & Sour Kale Delight

Posted by: Dina Eliash Robinson In: Side Dishes:Healthy Extras for Pleasure

Ingredients (all organic preferred to avoid toxic pesticides & other residues):

Kale= 1 bunch of kale— “Rainbow Kale” (with the colorful spines & stems, is tasty, healthy & more delicate, while the very dark green & ‘wrinkly’ or ‘puckered’ “Dino (i.e. dinosaur) Kale” packs a somewhat more powerful nutrition wallop. But both can be made the same way, as described here.

= 1/2 a medium size red (preferred) or yellow onion

= 2-3 cloves fresh garlic

= 1/4 or 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

= 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

= 1 tablespoon honey

= 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

= 2 tablespoons dried parsley (or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped parsley)

= 1-1/2 tablespoons dried basil (or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped basil)

= 1/3 teaspoon sweet red paprika

= a knife-tip or sprinkling of cayenne pepper (to taste)

= salt (optional)

= 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

= 1/4 teaspoon or less dried thyme

Cooking Directions:

= First, prepare all ingredients & put them into separate containers:

  • Immerse kale in a big bowl of cold water mixed with 4-5 squirts of liquid Castile Soap (preferably Eucalyptus-infused soap for more effective removal of dust & other garden dirt). Wash well & transfer kale to colander & rinse with cold water. Discard soapy water, wash bowl, refill with clean cold water, immerse kale in it & rinse well. Wash & rinse colander, transfer kale into it, & while the excess water is dripping down, remove the hard ribs (stems) from the leaves & tear the larger pieces for easier cooking.
  • [NOTE: For safe-to-eat fresh salads, as well as for cooked dishes, it is advisable to wash all leafy vegetables (spinach, lettuce, cabbage, Bok-Choi, etc.) the same way.]
  • Chop onion & garlic & place them into separate bowls
  • Cut up fresh herbs & put them together in a bowl. If you mix fresh with dry herbs, they can all be placed in the same bowl.
  • Portion out the spices separately on a plate (in case you need to adjust individual quantities), then blend them together.
  • Pour Apple Cider Vinegar in measuring cup, add honey & stir until honey is completely blended (dissolved in liquid)

= In a soup pot, sauté chopped onion in olive oil (on very low heat, since olive oil is a low-heat fat) until onion pieces turn glassy.

= Add chopped garlic & sauté for about 5 seconds.

= Add kale & stir well to coat with olive oil, onion & garlic.

= Add 1 or 2 cups of spring water & stir.

= Add the herbs, spices, Worcestershire sauce & stir well.

= Simmer on Medium heat until kale is cooked to your liking—but not overcooked or mushy—making sure there is always enough water in pot to prevent burning.

= Stir in Apple Cider Vinegar & honey mix—& keep stirring ingredients thoroughly. Simmer for one more minute or less. (Add water if needed, to prevent burning & to allow some sauce, in case you want to serve the kale with mashed potatoes or pasta.)

= Remove from heat. Serve. Cool what is left over & refrigerate. It keeps fresh, with deepening flavors, for 7-10 days.

= This dish makes a great addition to omelets or scrambled eggs, as well as a reheated side dish for any meal or as saucy topping on starchy foods.

NOTE: Besides being a nutritious “super food,” Kale in general, but this dish in particular is also an excellent digestion aid and systemic cleanser.

Tags:

Baked ChickenIngredients: (all organic ingredients suggested for optimum flavor & nutritional value)

1 pound of chicken ‘tenders’ (the soft inner part of breast—boneless)

2 whole legs—skins removed & drumsticks cut from thighs

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dry parsley

½ tablespoon dry basil

½ tablespoon dry tarragon

¼ teaspoon sweet red paprika

pinch of cayenne (or other hot spice)

pinch of powdered ginger

¼ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon coriander

pinch of thyme

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

1 & ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon smoky barbecue sauce (we use “Bella’s Rich & Smokey BBQ Sauce” when available)

2-4 handfuls of breadcrumbs (to add texture & crunchiness)

Cooking Directions:

 (Note: To prevent salmonella or other bacterial contamination when coking raw fish, fowl or red meats, (a) rinse them well with cold, running water in a clean sink & transfer to a clean bowl; (b) make sure you wash hands, containers, cooking implements, sink, etc. whenever they come into contact with the raw fish, fowl or red meat, & before touching anything else—using a pair of tongs or big fork might be helpful, as long as you wash them afterward with soap & hot water.)

 

  • Cut chicken parts into 2-3 inch pieces (cut at least 2 pieces off the drumstick & thigh to reduce their thickness & allow faster baking)—leave parts in the bowl until ready to be transferred into marinade bath.
  • Turn on oven & set at 400 degrees.
  • Coat a baking dish (Pyrex glass or stainless steel—avoid aluminum) of the appropriate size with ½ cup olive oil & set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, prepare the marinade bath consisting of the remaining ½ cup of olive oil & the rest of the above-listed ingredients (herbs, spices, balsamic vinegar, smoky sauce)—& mix thoroughly.
  • Place chicken parts into marinade bath & coat each piece well with the mix.
  • Remove pieces one by one (with tong or fork) from the marinade & arrange in baking dish—without crowding, although they may touch.
  • Pour leftover sauce over chicken, spreading it evenly.
  • Shake & distribute breadcrumbs evenly throughout the contents of the baking dish.
  • Place baking dish into the oven & bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then turn heat down to 350 degrees.
  • Bake chicken until breadcrumbs turn rosy—but test 2-3 times during the next 50 minutes—or longer, if needed)—test small pieces with a fork & thick pieces by cutting into them & parting the meat to make sure they are done.

 

Catharine’s Book

Jolene loves junk food. She loves it so much she wears red licorice in her hair—and pink taffy underwear! The Munch Bunch calls her "The Junk Food Queen." Then, one night in her dreams, she meets a bunch of cool characters who take her on an incredible, edible journey into a world of juicy fruits, super salads and yummy smoothies.
Book acclaimed by The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation - which uses it in its fundraising drives.

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Catharine Kaufman, the Kitchen Shrink, appears in a series of five videos. In the first video she is seen interviewing Dr. Lisa Loegering, MD, a pediatrician, concerning children's eating habits. The other four videos take place in Catharine's kitchen, as she instructs her two daughters, and two of their friends, in the preparation of various dishes.

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