Farmacy

Just got back from the farmer’s market. I bought a few things that are different for me. Turnips, spaghetti squash, poblano peppers. And fresh pears! You may think I’m nuts being excited about pears, but these are just off the tree – they are water-crisp! I didn’t know pears could taste this good. Apples, too, from their local orchard of apple trees. Ten different kinds of apples at the stand this morning. Back in the summer I bought Opalessence apples from them – if you ever find them you have to try them.

It’s the last day of the farmer’s market season for me. So sad.

On a happier note, isn’t it great that sometimes just a tweak to our diet can bring health where there was pain and discomfort? I’m just grateful for that today. 🙂 I injured my knees recently and had to take a break from hiking, and it reminded me of all these years I had knee pain before I realized I was gluten-sensitive. And it’s been such a relatively easy transition. Crazy, but I actually enjoy the challenge of some limitations to my diet. How boring it would be if I could eat everything and anything. And I love helping friends and family find good food to eat that benefits their bodies. So I hope this blog can do that for you!

Worth thinking about…

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

https://i2.wp.com/4.bp.blogspot.com/-mz_ti_m_iEE/TVvxzj_ESaI/AAAAAAAAFR4/O4S09oxla-w/s1600/bz%2B02-08-11%2BFARMACY.jpg

Enjoy your weekend!

Fresh Lean Eggplant Parmesan and Finding a Farmer’s Market

I love my farmer’s market. We have a few in the area within 1/2 hour drive, but the closest is also the most convenient (open Saturdays) and has the BEST produce! My favorite stand will be operating until November selling apples, winter squash, and greens along with whatever is still in season. This is what we bought last week.

This is more than I usually get because I needed to make a large pan of roasted veggies to bring to a birthday party for my dear father-in-law who turns 89 this year! Also, my older daughter and her family came from Vermont for a visit  for a few days so I wanted to make sure I had enough healthy vegetables on hand. My grandson is now eating table food – it was this Italian nana’s first opportunity to feed him real food! Tu mangi! (You eat!)

Now we’re working on finishing up those veg – we still have eggplant, cabbage and okra in the fridge. Okra? Not quite sure what to do with that, but I had to try it. But I do know what to do with eggplant! This is my lighter version of Eggplant Parmesan. Forgive me, but measurements are totally estimates. There is so much leeway with this type of recipe because of differences in sweetness and size of the tomatoes and eggplant, so you just have to taste as you go along and adjust.

The way to assure a good result, even without exact measurements, is to use ingredients that are as fresh as possible. You really can’t go wrong that way. Find a farmer’s market in your area. Go here – this should help.

Ingredients:

About 20 meaty tomatoes (I use what I grow – Brandywine)

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

About 20 fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 large eggplant

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin or coarsely grated

Freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese

Salt and pepper

Directions:

In medium saute pan, saute onion and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil until soft. Set aside.

Prep tomatoes – wash, dry and core tomatoes. Cut them in half horizontally and, with your index finger, slide out the seeds. Place tomatoes into a wide saucepan on medium high heat and cover for about 10 minutes so that peels will slip right off. Remove the lid and, using tongs, begin pulling skins off the tomatoes. Then use a stick blender to blend the remaining tomato pulp to desired consistency. Alternately, you could just mash with potato masher – your choice.

Add sauteed onion and garlic to tomatoes. Boil, stirring frequently, until reduced to good sauce consistency. Stir in chopped fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Cup off top of eggplant and peel. Cut about 1/4″ slices. “Fry” on cast iron pan lightly painted with olive oil at medium heat. This could be tricky. Too high, and the eggplant will burn before getting soft. Too low, and it will take forever! You just have to experiment. Keep turning them over and moving them around if you have hot spots like I do. Continue “frying”  until slices are lightly browned on both sides. Remove to a plate as soon as each slice is done. Continue until both eggplants are cooked. You should have a nice mound of slices.

You hardly need any oil with a well-seasoned pan. This isn’t an old-fashioned version, saturated with oil. The oil on the pan will keep the eggplant from sticking, but it’s actually direct heat and trapped steam that do the cooking.

Now to assemble: First spread some sauce in bottom of 9×9 baking pan. Then place eggplant slices to cover bottom of pan. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Distribute mozzarella on eggplant slices. You can go easy here, because there will be more layers of cheese. You could also sprinkle just a bit of Parmesan or Romano cheese at this point.

Ladle some sauce over all.

Repeat until pan is full or you run out of ingredients. If you have just a small quantity of ingredients left over, fill a lunch-size casserole dish with them and bring to work for a special lunch! End your layers with mozzarella cheese, then tomato sauce.

Bake uncovered at 350 for about 20 minutes. Open oven and sprinkle parmesan cheese over all and bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is lightly golden.

Enjoy every bite of this! Seriously, this was the best eggplant parm we ever had – just because of the freshness!

Now what do I do with okra? Any suggestions?

10 Tips for Increasing Vegetables in Your Diet

What’s not to love about vegetables?

  • They provide alkalinity to balance all the acid-forming carbs and proteins we eat.
  • They provide fiber.
  • They fill you up without adding a lot of calories.
  • They provide phytonutrients, i.e. antioxidants, plant sterols, enzymes.
  • They provide variety of color, texture and taste in a daily diet.
  • They provide water.
  • They help you keep, um, regular. 😉
  • Deeply colored vegetables are powerhouses of vitamins and minerals.

This only scratches the surface, I’m sure, of the benefits of vegetables.

The question is: How can we get more of them into our diets?

Some practical ideas:

1. Make a list of all the vegetables you can think of and keep it on you while you shop. I keep this list in the Notes section of my cell phone.

2. Keep a current inventory of all the vegetables you have in the house (fresh, frozen and dried) on your refrigerator at eye level, and use it to plan menus. Check them off as you use them. Don’t go shopping again until you’ve used them all up!

3. Buy fresh and locally grown, preferably at a farmer’s market – they taste better so you’ll be more likely to eat them!

4. When you go out to eat, try a vegetarian restaurant. They tend to be more creative with their use of vegetables. So many restaurants focus so heavily on meat and starch offerings that they overlook what can be done with veggies. And while you’re there, ask for their take-out menu to bring home. I have many take-out menus I keep in a file. They give me ideas when I don’t know what I’m in the mood for.

5. Make green smoothies.

6. Try three new vegetables every week.

7. Salads don’t have to be made from lettuce. Experiment!

8. Plan on filling at least 1/2 your dinner plate with vegetables. Plus salad on the side.

9. Add them to breakfast – veggie omelets and frittatas, over-light egg on cooked greens, huevos rancheros with plenty of fresh salsa.

10. Have more lettuce and tomato in your sandwich than meat or cheese. Also, try adding thinly sliced cucumber and onion, avocado, sprouts. For that matter, have a veggie sandwich!

Tip Number 2 has been the most profitable thing I’ve done to use more veggies. I mean well, but when my fridge is packed with fresh veggies, things get shoved to the back and I forget they’re there! Now when I think, “What am I going to make for dinner?” I go to that list, choose a few vegetables, then add a protein and maybe a carb.

Personal note: The weight control aspect of consuming a lot of vegetables is what I appreciate most right now. I have struggled to maintain a healthy weight my whole adult life, and for many earlier years, didn’t succeed. So I really appreciate how intentionally incorporating many veggies into my diet has helped in this area. I feel so much better now!

I think mostly it involves a change in thinking.  For years, I thought, “Ok, dinner. Uh…chicken and brown rice. Oh, yeah, and broccoli.” But now I consider vegetables first when it comes to meal planning, pack vegetables for snacks at work, and plan my meals to be at least 1/2 vegetables. That includes breakfast, too, since I have a smoothie just about every day loaded with kale or other greens.

So I encourage you to incorporate some of these practices into your food lifestyle. You will not be sorry!