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Monday, November 23, 2015

A Month of Squash

Our butternut squash harvest this summer was more than expected. Even after giving many away we still ended up with over 50. That comes to eating about one squash per week, so needless to say I am looking for butternut squash recipes - got any?

So far, this is what we have made:

Butternut Oven Fries
These are delicious. I peel and cut the squash like french fries and place on a baking sheet coated with olive oil. A few sprinkles of olive oil on the top and these go into the oven at 400 degrees F. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the fries are soft. Remove from oven and add salt. You can also add other spices like paprika and chili powder. Eat as you would French Fries with Ketchup! Low calorie!

Chili with Squash
To your favorite chili recipe just add a cup of peeled cubed squash.  Its delicious with black bean chili. Here is my blackbean chili recipe.

Curry Soup
This recipe is similar but not identical to the Squash Curry Soup we make. So the vast number of recipes for pumpkin or squash soup gives us many options.

Butternut Risotto
It's easier and quicker than it seems. Here is my recipe:
2 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
2/3 cup arborio rice
1 T powdered vegetable broth
32 oz water
1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated (optional - mix with Parmasan cheese)

Put oil and onion in a soup pan and cook until translucent. Add rice and squash, stir. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 10 minutes or until squash is soft. Add more water if necessary. When squash is soft, remove cover. Stir on low heat until water evaporates. Add cheese and stir.

Now this is just one month of squash, I need 11 more.  Although I know we will enjoy these recipes multiple times I am still going to need help. What are your favorite vegetarian recipes for butternut squash?

Oh, and did I mention that butternut squash is high in vitamin A? This is one of the best vitamins for your body during the autumn season. Squash also has vitamin C and magnesium is low in calories and high in fiber. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Rember to Eat Lignans for Memory

Remembering to eat foods high in lignans, like broccoli, flax and berries is important for keeping your memory sharp. Several small studies have suggested that phytoestrogens from plants can play a role in maintaining mental abilities, and now two larger studies support those claims.


Lignans are polyphenols found in plants such as seeds, whole grains, legumes (such as soy), fruits and vegetables. Flaxseed also has a high amount of lignans. They are part of a family of phytochemicals called phytoestrogens.  They are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, but the studies on reducing risk of various cancers can be conflicting. Read more about lignans here.

In the first study the dietary intake of phytoestrogens over the previous year was determined for 403 postmenopausal women.

Cognitive function, which mainly involves memory and mental abilities, was determined using a questionnaire called the “mini mental state exam.”  Decreased scores on this test are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other age-associated memory problems.

Analysis of the data showed that higher dietary intake of lignans (but not isoflavones) was associated with better cognitive function in postmenopausal women.

The group who ate more lignans had a 49 percent higher rate of intact cognition, whereas the isoflavone group had only a 12 percent higher rate of intact cognition. This effect was more pronounced in women with a longer postmenopausal time span (20 to 30 years).

A more recent study looked at ingestion of several antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, β-carotene, lutein, flavonoids and lignans. This larger,  5-year study involving 2613 persons aged 43-70 year at baseline again showed lignans, much more so than any of the other antioxidant group stood out as improving cognition at middle age. 

Phytoestrogens found in plants have a chemical structure similar to that of the hormone estrogen, allowing them to have some similar effects in a woman’s body. A number of mechanisms are proposed for the action of phytoestrogens on the ability to think clearly. These include the ability of phytoestrogens to promote the health of the blood vessels, to act as antioxidants and to interfere with signalling mechanisms within the cell. Among other things, improving mental capacity is one reason why some women choose estrogen replacement therapy. Increasing dietary consumption of lignans may be sufficient for this purpose.

Lignan Structures

Higher Dietary Intake of Lignans is Associated withBetter Cognitive Performance in Postmenopausal Women. Franco, O.H., et al. The Journal of Nutrition. 135:1190-1195, 2005.

Diet and cognitive decline at middle age: the role of antioxidants. Nooyens AC, Milder IE, van Gelder BM, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, van Boxtel MP, Verschuren WM, Br J Nutr. 2015 May 14;113(9):1410-7. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515000720. Epub 2015 Apr 8.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Weekend in Sonoma

We did a mini vacation last weekend in Sonoma County California, an area known for its wine, beer, and food. We were not disappointed. I was looking for a trip where I could get to the ocean, do a bike ride, and some hiking – after all, you have to balance all that eating and drinking with some exercise, right?
Redwood Tree
 The weather was perfect, warm and sunny (I’d heard September was a great time to visit). We rented bikes in Healdsburg and took a loop through wine country, taking it easy on the wine since we were on bikes. This was definitely the way to see the valley and from now on I will look for a place to rent a bike on any vacation we take. I felt pretty safe on the loop we took but many of the roads in the area are very windy, hilly and without a shoulder – not a place I want to ride.

We drove to the Armstrong Redwoods Park and did a short hike through the tallest trees in the world. Hiking in redwoods is much different than hiking in Colorado because it’s dark! Not so much sun reaches the ground in a redwood forest. We also did a short hike in Annadel Park which was much more open but lots of moss and lichen growing on the trees.

coast line at Jenner
An afternoon was spent at the beach near Jenner relaxing, walking and watching the seals. We drove the classic California Highway 1 to Bagoda Bay and stopped for fish tacos and a wine tasting. This area is a beautiful rocky area but with nice sandy beaches too.

I hadn’t realized that the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau defines various wine growing areas in the US calling them American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). These AVAs are distinguished by geographic features but also different growing climates and soils that define the types of grapes that grow best in that particular AVA. In Sonoma County there are 16 different AVAs and over 400 wineries. We didn’t try all of them, but of the one’s we tried we were not disappointed.

Sonoma County is also known for its Farm to Table fare (something we are well versed in coming from Boulder County). If you go make sure to seek out a restaurant that specializes in Farm to Table.
We also hit the big Micro Breweries; Lagunitas, Bear Republic, and Russian River for beer tastings. There doesn’t seem to be as many smaller microbreweries in Sonoma as there are in Colorado. In Longmont alone I believe there are 8 microbreweries. But we did find one small one; Cooperage, that had some good beers. 
Lagunitas Brewing Company for lunch

On the drive back to the airport we had unfortunately, just a few moments to spare and stopped at the Seed Bank Store which sells rare seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. Wish we’d had more time to spend there, it was quite an interesting store.  Here is their website.

So there you have it - 5 days of wine, beer, food, beach, hiking, cycling and a few minutes resting at the pool. Oh, and one more interesting thing - we saw fennel growing along side the roads everywhere. Apparently fennel is considered an invasive weed in California! Wow, and I baby mine in the garden! You can read about fennel on BLM land here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Beauty Benefits of Peppers

Beauty Benefits of Peppers

Peppers come in all sizes, shapes and colors and we love them all. This time of year many of them are ripe and you can find a wide variety at farmers markets. Peppers even come in different flavors from sweet to hot. But you’ve been wondering, haven’t you; what are the beauty benefits of peppers?

Nutrients found in Peppers:

Peppers are high in:
Vitamin A, a nutrient that is important in cellular turnover in the skin.
Vitamin C which is important for production of collagen. In fact, one bell pepper provides more than your daily minimum requirement for vitamin C.
Antioxidants such as flavonoids that help repair cellular damage in the skin.
Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine which is important in neurological health. Deficiencies in vitamin B6 are linked to dermatitis and some types of cancer.

Any of these properties not only make peppers a good food to eat for healthy skin but you can also use peppers mashed on the face for a food facial, a good farm to skin treat! To see more about how to use food in a facial see Farmers Market Peach Facial. I wouldn't use a hot pepper for a facial though.

Hot peppers contain capsaicin, and related compounds called capsacinoids.  This is the family of chemicals that cause the heat in a hot pepper. Capsaicin and the related capsacinoids are analgesic, meaning they have pain relieving qualities even though they are also an irritant. The capsacinoids appear to affect the nerves that signal pain. It has been used to relieve the pain of arthritis, psoriasis, diabetic neuropathy, shingles and more. You can find topical ointments that contain capsaicin, or you can make your own compress or poultice from hot peppers. However, do not use on broken skin, near the eyes or near mucus membranes.

To make a pepper poultice or compress for a sore back or joints follow these instructions:

Grind one hot pepper (jalapeno or other) in a food processor. Add a teaspoon or so of oil (olive or other) to get a good consistency.
Wet a rag or cloth bandage in the hot pepper mixture and lay on skin or wrap around if it is a joint area. Leave on as long as necessary. You can also wrap this in plastic wrap to keep in place and keep off of furniture.

A compress is very similar but instead of applying the mashed pepper to the skin you are using more of a tea or extract soaked in the pepper extract. The most common way of doing this with hot pepper is to make a vinegar of cayenne.

Add 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper to 8 oz of cider vinegar. For this you can use dried, powdered cayenne or a fresh hot pepper that has been mashed.
Boil, then simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes.
Soak a rag or bandage in this vinegar and apply to skin. Again, you can cover this with plastic wrap to keep it from seeping out.
Remove if it becomes too hot or uncomfortable to the skin.

For more on the science of how hot peppers help with pain read this from Science Daily.  


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Healing Herbs, Tina Sams

Healing Herbs, A Beginner's Guide to Identifying Foraging, and Using Medicinal Plants
Tina Sams
Fair Winds Press, 2015

Healing Herbs, Tina Sams

Tina Sams is a modern day Village Herbalist with a vast knowledge of herbs found in gardens, field and forest.  She is a teacher, mentor, and someone good at bringing people together to share information and educate others.  Many of her projects, such as The Essential Herbal Magazine, are collaborations that she encourages among herbalists as is Healing Herbs where you will find many contributions from other herbalists.

After explaining the various methods of using herbs, Tina has broken this book up into 20 different herbs; 20 different herbs that everyone should know.

For each herb Tina includes background information on the herbs, medicinal benefits and recipes for food, medicine, skin care and/or crafts. The book makes herbs easily approachable with its casual style and is great for both the beginner and experienced herbalist. A great one to keep close for reference.

You can get yours here.


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