Whole Foods and Healthy Eating

Eating healthy is always a challenge. There are an amazing array of foods out there that provide all kinds of temptation. Over the next couple of months I’m going to share in my effort to eat more healthy and strive for a diet closer to whole foods.

What is a whole foods diet?

When eating whole foods the goal is to limit the amount of processing that has gone into the food you are eating. A good example of a highly processed food is the Twinkie. The Twinkie has 37 different ingredients, including artificial colors, (yellow and red dye), artificial flavors, and partially hydrogenated oils, which contain trans fat.

Most of the time the goal is to have fewer then 5 ingredients in any food bought at the store. Now, that is more of a guideline then a hard and fast rule. Salsa for example has many ingredients, but very few highly processed ingredients. The most difficult thing is finding good tasting food, without having to food companies and food scientists artificially changing flavors to hide cheap or bad tasting ingredients.

My wife and I have started on this journey a few years ago, and have realized  one big thing. This is a lifestyle choice, and not just a diet to lose weight. This is a life long commitment. The reward though is a healthier life, a better feeling body, and the knowledge that eating foods that taste good and are actually good for you.

With any change in eating habits compromise is something we all need to live with. Even though I try to eat as healthy as possible I will on occasion have food from a fast food restaurant, or eat cake from a box at a birthday party, or even just enjoy myself at a work potluck and not worry about what all the ingredients are. This is part of goal to consume healthy foods for the majority of the time, and not worry or become anxious about the times when you indulge in something that tastes good, but isn’t good for you.

To start this series of posts I’m going to share one of my new favorite recipes that is easy to make, delicious to eat, and fairly quick to make. One of my favorite go to websites for recipes is Budget Bytes. This blog is written by a lady who not only knows that eating healthy shouldn’t be expensive, but should also taste good. I would encourage you to browse some of her recipes if you get a chance.

Parsley Pesto Pasta

This recipe is great in the fact that it’s highly flexible and can incorporate all kinds of additional ingredients.

whole foods parsley pesto pasta

One great thing is this recipe can me made vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free very easily.
We had some fresh cherry tomatoes and parsley from the garden and found this recipe would help us use up some of the garden bounty.

fresh cherry tomatoes

Ingredients you’ll need:

1 lb. of pasta. ( I used spaghetti noodles for this when I made it.)
1 bunch parsley
½ cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp lemon juice (a fresh lemon is great and you can use the lemon zest!)
2 cloves garlic
salt to taste
olive oil as needed

I started the water boiling for my pasta first and while that was starting to heat up I got the pesto sauce going. Now with the sauce you could add in sunflower seeds, pine nuts, or any other nut if you wanted a bit more of a true pesto taste. This would also increase the protein if you make the recipe vegetarian/vegan.

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Since the parsley I had wasn’t very much I added in some fresh basil as well.

fresh basil

Along with fresh garlic and lemon juice.

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And whiz it all up.

pasley pesto sauce

After the pesto sauce is done and the noodles are boiling it was time to heat the tomatoes up with a little sea salt and olive oil.

heating cherry tomatoes in a skillet

To top it all off I fried up some eggs and added it to the top of the finished product.

frying eggs

parsley pesto pasta

This was a delicious meal and the entire thing was made with real ingredients, some even straight from the garden. Eating whole foods can be fun, taste good, and healthy. It’s all about finding the right combinations.

Feel free to leave a comment below, or on the Facebook page about some of your favorite whole food recipes, or even some life stories of whole foods.

Enjoy!

– Jason Snell

 

Harvesting Honey Fall 2015

The time of year where everything becomes pumpkin flavored is upon us and the temperature has started to drop. While checking my hives and starting to get them ready for winter I noticed that one hive still had quite a bit of honey in it. I was fairly conservative earlier on in the summer when harvesting due to a heat wave that really decreased nectar flow. Since I felt the bees could spare a few more frames of honey I decided I wanted to harvest some more of that sweet, delicious, golden nectar.

Since I’m a bit frugal and don’t want to shell out the several hundred dollars for a honey extractor I use a Honey Spinner to extract my frames of honey.

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The bees  actually filled the frames up very nicely and had the honey all capped off.

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Once I had my honey spinner all set up I made sure to have my other supplies ready to go. One of the most important things I have found for honey extraction is a clean wet towel to wipe hands and equipment off with. Honey is sticky, it’s messy, and it’ll get everywhere. Another good thing to have on hand is some isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol will help solved propolis.

One other important tool is a capping knife. The honey won’t spin out if the caps are left on. If you don’t have a capping knife a fork can also be used to remove the caps, it just won’t be quite as neat. The goal is to remove enough of the cap to let the honey out, but not cutting too deep into the wax comb.

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The best way I have found for cutting caps off the cells is to use the knife at an angle. It also helps if the wax is built out to the edge of the frame. When the wax is below the frame it can be hard to get an even cut. The tip of the knife can also be used to break open any cells that the initial cut missed or wasn’t able to get to.

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A clean area is always necessary and a clean surface to place tools is nice as well. I have a small tv tray table I use to place the container I cut the wax into and to put my wet towel and knife on.

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Once the caps are cut off I was able to place the frames into the honey spinner. The honey drips slowly, but it can fall out of the open honeycomb on to the floor, so move quick unless you have a pet dog near by to help with clean up :).

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I use my cordless drill to spin the frames in the Honey Spinner. I have found that the newer Li-Ion batteries work best to keep a constant speed on the spinner.

Beekeeping Tip: No matter which type of spinner you use to extract honey it’s important not to go too fast. The wax in the frame can come loose in large chunks or even the entire side of the frame. This is called blowout and can clog up your spinner with wax. Slow and steady is the key here.

I have a screen on the bottom bucket to catch any wax or debris from the frames but lets the honey leak through. The end result is delicious raw honey straight from the hive. I’ve got to say that raw honey like this tastes amazing. The honey in the store is a pale imitation to the real stuff.

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Something of interest is that taking a teaspoon of raw honey a day can help some people with seasonal allergies. The amount of pollen in the honey is small but is supposed to help your body recognize it when you breathe it in. If you suffer from pollen allergies you can try finding some local raw honey and eat a little each day. I have known some people who feel much better during the summer doing this.

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Honey is an amazing substance, and I’m glad to enjoy the surplus my honeybees produce. I feel though that it’s important to always leave enough honey for the bees to use during the winter. The health of the hive always overrides my desire for that sweet golden honey.

Next year the harvest will be different, I now have some Flow Hive frames, so we’ll see how well they work out.

– Jason Snell

Zesty Roasted Hatch Chili Pepper Salsa

One of my favorite times of the year has finally arrived. Hatch Chili Pepper season!. In Hatch, New Mexico the Hatch Chili Pepper is grown and around August/September time they become available in the store. I really enjoy the flavor of the peppers, and I find that they’re best after they’ve been roasted.

hatch chili peppers

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving book has a great Zesty Salsa Recipe. I use Hatch Chili Peppers in place of the the jalapeno or other spicy peppers.

Things you will need:

Tomatoes: Peeled, cored and seeded.
Hatch Chili Peppers
Onions
Bell Peppers
Apple Cider Vinegar
Sea Salt
Garlic
Cilantro

And of course: clean jars, lids and rings

As with any canning recipe the size of the batch can be adjusted as long as you keep the proportions the same. Peppers and onions are low acid vegetables and too many of them will increase the risk of botulism occurring in the salsa. One of the most important ingredients is the vinegar to keep the acidity up to a safe level.


Now Hatch Chili Peppers have an outer skin that is tougher than most peppers. To get the great roasted flavor, and to remove the skin the peppers need to be charred a bit. I normally rinse my peppers and place them on my gas grill for several minutes until the outer skin has started to turn dark and blistered. I like to keep a little heat in my peppers so I throw them on whole without removing the seeds.

Another way to char the peppers is to use the broiler in an oven or to even heat them on a skillet on the stove. The primary goal is to loosen the pepper’s skin.

hatch chili peppers on the grill

Salsa Tip: The heat from the peppers comes from the seeds and the veins inside the pepper. To adjust the heat level of your salsa to a lower level just remove some or all of the seeds and scrape the inside of the peppers. It’s very important to wear gloves if you are handling peppers to reduce getting burned. And as always wash with plenty of soap and water if you do get pepper juice on your skin.

To remove the skin from tomatoes bring a pot of water to a boil and then gently drop the tomatoes into the boiling water. After 15-60 seconds most tomatoes will start to show cracks in the skin. At that point remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and place them in a large bowl full of ice water. Leave the tomatoes for a minute or two to cool down and then use your fingers to slip the skins off. At this point you can also use your fingers to remove the core and seeds.

Don’t forget to check on your peppers and turn them as needed. I have forgotten and ended up with some very blackened peppers.

chopped peppers and onions

Dice up the garlic, onions, and bell peppers.

diced peppers and onions

Dice up the cored tomatoes, and combine all the ingredients.

diced tomatoes

Next take the peppers off the grill or out from under broiler once they are done.

roasted hatch chili peppers

Here comes the fun part, removing the outer skin. I have found laying the peppers on a cutting board and using a knife and fork is the easiest way to peel the skins off. I use the dull side of the knife to hold the top of the pepper and then use the tines on the fork to gently remove the charred peeling.

roasted hatch chili peppers

At this point you can also remove or keep the seeds to modify how hot your salsa will turn out.

roasted hatch chili peppers

I kept about half of the seeds for this batch.

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Once the peppers are all ready dice them up and add them with the rest of your ingredients in a large pot. Bring the salsa to a full boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened. At that point it’s ready to go into the jars if you want to can it.

empty jars

Ladle the salsa into each jar with 1/2 inch head space. This will allow enough room for the salsa to vent during the canning process.

canning hatch chili pepper salsa

Make sure to wipe the rims if any salsa splashes on to the jars.

canning hatch chili pepper salsa

Place the jars into a water bath canner for 15 minutes at a full boil for half pint jars. Adjust for altitude if needed.

canning hatch chili pepper salsa

Once 15 minutes have passed turn the heat off and remove the lid. Wait 5 minutes and remove the jars from the water bath canner.

roasted hatch chili pepper salsa

Now yummy delicious hatch chili pepper salsa all year long! This salsa works great with chips, tacos, nachos, or even as a topping on burgers.