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One nutrient in particular that we tend to not associate with fruits and vegetables is protein. Protein within our bodies is found essentially everywhere; in our muscle, bone, skin, hair, and makes up many enzymes that play key roles in vital chemical reactions. Protein from our diet is important in many ways, as there are certain building blocks of protein (amino acids) we must get from food as our bodies cannot make them on their own.

Protein from our food comes either from animal sources or from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products tend to have most of the essential amino acids, while other sources must be eaten together and in variety in order to get all of the amino acids needed to make new protein! Getting enough complete protein from non-meat sources can be made easy following a few basic combination rules. Listed below are just a few ways to incorporate farm-fresh produce into your next protein-rich meal:

Legumes (lentils, peas, beans) + Grains, Nuts & Seeds

  • Stir-fry vegetables with green snap peas, served over brown rice, sesame seeds garnish
  • Hummus, with fresh cut vegetables, served with whole wheat pita bread

Grains (wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, rye, quinoa) + Legumes, Dairy

  • Grilled mozzarella, basil and fresh tomato, served on whole wheat bread
  • Cornbread & root vegetable chili with beans

Nuts & Seeds (almonds, peanuts, sunflower, cashews) + Legumes

  • White bean zucchini bread topped with almond butter
  • Baked tofu on mixed salad, peanut-coconut dressing

Need some other suggestions? Try this recipe for an herbed yogurt dip, pairs great with fresh-cut vegetables, multigrain crackers or used as a dressing for meats or salad greens!

Minty Yogurt Dip

(Recipe adapted from jamieoliver.com)

As the growing season winds down, fresh herbs can be used to revive some of your favorite recipes. This easy yogurt-based recipe incorporates fresh mint and also packs a powerful protein punch!

Ingredients (Serves 6)

4 sprigs of fresh mint

1 lemon (zested & juiced)

½ clove garlic

1 C. plain Greek yogurt

Sea salt & black pepper to taste

  1. Pick and finely chop mint leaves on a chopping board, discarding stalks, add to mixing bowl.
  2. Zest ½ lemon and squeeze juice of whole lemon, add to bowl.
  3. Peel and finely chop garlic, add to bowl.
  4. Add yogurt, salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Mix all and taste for spice!

*Serve with cut, fresh veggies or your favorite whole-grain cracker & enjoy.

Nutrition Info (per serving):

Calories – 31

Fat – 2g

Protein – 1.2g

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Recently I had the privilege to work at the St.Joes farm as part of my University of Michigan Dietetic Internship. It was an amazing rotation, in large part due to the sunshine, fresh air and periodic cherry tomato treat. During my rotation I found that an essential part of organic farming is weeding, and while there I did quite a bit of exactly that. Crouched down in a bed of beets and carrots my eyes quickly became trained to identify the encircling zombie miscreants that I would yank out knowing full well they would return in a few days.  However, one of those irksome weeds, in my opinion, is more forgivable than the rest; it’s not one I want to see choking out a purposefully planted bed of vegetables but instead, chopped up and in my salad. The weed I’m talking about is actually a wild succulent called purslane (Portulaca oleracea). In addition to plaguing gardens, invading yards, and squeezing through the cracks of sidewalks, this resilient plant also happens to be a superfood. And I don’t use that term lightly, purslane is uniquely nutritious in that it has the highest amount of heart-healthy ALA omega-3 fats of any edible plant and the highest amount of melatonin (antioxidant) of any tested fruit or vegetable; it’s also packed with micro-nutrients and is most nutritious when eaten fresh.

Continue reading to know more than you probably ever wanted to about purslane:

Identification & Storage

Purslane is a garden floor creeper with smooth reddish stems. The leaves are thick, firm and fleshy with no hair and clear sap. Purslane is best stored in the fridge in a jar with a bit of water. Once plucked purslane only keeps for a few days so use it up right away.

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Origins

According to the Purdue University Horticulture Department purslane may have been cultivated more than 4,000 years ago. It is believed to be native to Persia, Africa and India, and was introduced into Europe in the 15th century as a salad herb. The plant became an integral part of the diets of ancient Greeks and Romans. Over time the seeds spread to the Americas but didn’t really catch on as a regular ingredient in the cuisine as it did in Asia, the Middle East and throughout the Mediterranean countries.

Nutritional significance

As mentioned above, purslane contains the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids of any leafy vegetable. Researchers that measured the fatty acid content of purslane found that the leaves contain up to 2.5 milligrams of fatty acids per gram, with 60% in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a heart-healthy, inflammation-lowering omega 3. Purslane seeds contained up to 170 milligrams of fatty acids per gram, 40% of which was ALA. According to the American Heart Association one should strive for around 1.8 to 2 grams of ALA a day. Therefore a 3.5-ounce serving of purslane is a source for about 20% of that amount. It should be noted that there are three types of omega-3 FA’s: ALA, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); ALA is the most common form in the Western diet and is gotten from plants and vegetable oils. EPA and DHA come from fish and, in the case of DHA, fortified foods; these two forms are especially low in the Western diet. While there has been research showing that ALA has cardio-protective effects, especially in populations with low fish consumption, it’s the EPA and DHA that have the most potent health benefits. The conversion of ALA to the EPA and DHA forms is very poor and therefore while purslane is an amazing source of ALA omega-3’s it should not be taken in place of, but rather in addition to, EPA and DHA forms.

Another unique property of purslane are its high levels of melatonin, possibly the highest among all fruits and vegetables…by a lot. Melatonin has many important functions, as an antioxidant it scavenges for free radicals and it also reduces the immune systems inflammatory response. Research has also shown that it acts in synergy with other antioxidants found in purslane, a detail which highlights the importance of getting your antioxidants through plants rather than through supplements. Given the plants high concentration of melatonin and n-3 fatty acids, which act via similar mechanisms to inhibit cancer cell growth and reduce tumor cell proliferation, along with its overall stellar antioxidant profile, research shows that purslane may offer protection against cancer, cardiovascular disease and a number of other chronic diseases.

In addition to all this, this little plant contains the highest content of vitamin A among green leafy vegetables. It also contains vitamin C and B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, and pyridoxine and provides some of the highest levels of dietary minerals such as potassium (494 mg/100 g), magnesium (68 mg/100 g), calcium (65 mg/100 g), phosphorus (44 mg/100 g), and iron (1.99 mg/100 g).

Ok, enough flattery! Lets talk about the best ways to get all this goodness into your body.

Culinary uses

Before using purslane I like to rinse it really well and depending on where I’ve plucked it up from I may soak it briefly in a bowl with a bit of vegetable wash and then drain it before consuming. I’ve used purslane fresh in salads and cooked into frittatas and recently I tossed it with some other herbs in a simple olive oil potato salad that worked really well. It’s tasty, with a slight lemony flavor and a nice crunchy texture. As mentioned above, it is most nutritious when eaten fresh so try adding it to smoothies or pestos. It is also often boiled in soups, sautéed with spices, or dried and used in tea. Most important is not to overthink it! It’s a mild herb and can complement a range of dishes.

Below I’ve included a few links to recipes featuring purslane so you can scavenge for it on your way home and try it tonight:

Greek salad with heirloom tomatoes and purslane:

http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/greek-salad-with-heirloom-tomatoes-and-purslane.html

Ikarian Potato Salad with Purslane:

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/ikarian-potato-salad-with-purslane

Purslane Stew-Istanbul

http://www.deliciousistanbul.com/blog/2014/09/06/end-of-summer-purslane-stew/

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If you’re looking to get really into “urban foraging” I suggest you google Wild Edible Plants (WEP) to find which other nutritional powerhouses are going incognito in your area.

Fun(ish) facts

Purslane is reported to have been a favorite food of Mahatma Gandhi as well as Henry David Thoreau! So…there’s that…

GREEN TOMATO SALSA VERDE

(Adapted from newyorktimes.com)

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As the summer winds down and the tomato season comes to an end many gardens are jam packed with delicious green tomatoes. To help you best utilize these green gems we have posted a delicious healthy and easy salsa recipe that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. For more information about cooking with green tomatoes and the health benefits please check out our post Just off the Vine.

Ingredients:

1 lb green tomatoes

2 jalapeno peppers (de-seeded for milder salsa)

½ medium white onion, chopped, soaked in water and drained

½ c roughly chopped parsley (can be substituted with cilantro)

Juice of ½ a lemon (can be substituted with lime)

Salt to taste

Instructions:

  • Preheat broiler and line baking sheet with foil. Place green tomatoes stem side down on baking sheet and broil for 2-5 minutes, until charred. Using tongs to turn tomatoes over and broil for another 2-5 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the heat and let cool. Remove the blackened skin from the tomatoes and core them. Cut each tomato into quarters and blend roughly.
  • Add remaining ingredients to blender and blend to a coarse puree.
  • Transfer to a bowl and lightly salt to taste. Thin out with water if desired. Let stand for 30 m to let flavors develop. Finally, serve with your favorite salsa chips or crackers.  Hope you enjoy!

 

 

This week at the Farmer’s Market we had an amazing turn out and unfortunately ran out of recipe cards for our recipes. So therefore I am posting one of our wonderful recipes so you can recreate it at home. I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 pints of tomatoes

1 cup roughly chopped basil

¼ to ½  cup EV olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

½ red onion

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

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  • Half tomatoes and set aside

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  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Peel and crush garlic cloves and thinly slice red onions. Mix both with a light amount of olive oil and spread on roasting pan. Roast for 10 m, until browned.

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  • Add EVOO, basil and roasted garlic to blender and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Mix all ingredients together in large mixing bowl and serve!

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We look forward to seeing you next week on Wednesday at the hospital atrium from 11-1pm!

 

Now for the fun stuff . . . it is summer after all. Read below for some light, healthy, and refreshing dessert ideas to enjoy at the beach, around the pool, or any time with friends!

 chia

Coconut Mango Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

14-ounce can of coconut milk

6 teaspoons of chia seeds

5 tablespoons of shredded coconut

5 tablespoons of maple syrup

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 refrigerated mango

Directions:

Whisk the coconut milk, chia seeds, shredded coconut, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a bowl.

Let the bowl sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Mix again, then cover and refrigerate for at least three hours.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt  

ice cream

Ingredients:

4 cups of frozen strawberries

3 tablespoons of agave nectar or honey

½ cup vanilla yogurt

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Directions:

Add the frozen strawberries, yogurt, lemon juice, and either agave nectar or honey into the bowl of a food processor until smooth and creamy.

Place in freezer until serving time.

Melon Flowers

melon

Ingredients:

Watermelon

Cantaloupe

Directions:

Using metal cookie cutters, cut flower shapes and circles out of the fruit.

Place the circles in the center of the flowers.

Stick lollipop sticks in the melon flower.

Midsummer is the ideal time to stop by your local farmers market for fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes are at their peak during this time of the year and can be easily prepared into a healthy and simple delicious meal. Green tomatoes, in particular, are a great substitute for your favorite tomato recipes. Below are a few delicious takes on tomatoes with links. Also, be sure to stop by St. Joe’s Farmer’s Market at the hospital on Wednesday from 11-1pm! We will be serving some delicious samples of recipes made with our farm’s juicy sun ripened green and red tomatoes.

Recipes

Green tomatoes can be prepared in many different ways. These recipes are healthy, delicious, and totally worth trying with green or red tomatoes. Click on the recipe links below for delicious takes on this summery favorite!

(1) Grilled Green Tomatoes with Creamy Basil

(2) Green Tomato Fresh Herb Crostini

(3) Green Tomato Relish

Tips when cooking Green Tomatoes

Unlike red tomatoes green tomatoes tend be firmer and  more sour. Some tips to transform these tough sour creatures is to grill/bake/broil or even pickle these tomatoes. Grilling/baking/broiling softens the tough exterior, brightens the flavor, and increases this tomato’s sweet & sour appeal. Moreover, it can be helpful to core the center when preparing a recipe.

Nutrition Information

Although not completely ripe, green tomatoes are high in vitamin C and can have approximately 43 milligrams of this vitamin which is roughly half your daily requirement. Moreover, vitamin C is great for improving your immune system and can help you fight off colds, flu, or other illnesses. Green tomatoes are also great for the health of your teeth, gums, bones, and skin.  Moreover, they contain tomatine, an alkaloid that can help protect your body against bacteria, fungi, viruses and insects and may even be anti-carcinogenic. Tomatine is only readily available in green tomatoes. Additionally, green tomatoes are high in vitamin A,which is great for the health of your eyes and helps you produce white blood cells. So eat up!

Per serving: Calories 93; Fat 6.1g (sat 1.6g, mono 3.9g, poly 0.5g); Protein 2.1g; Carb 8.7g; Fiber 2.4g; Chol 6mg; Iron 0.9mg; Sodium 243mg; Calc 53mg.

 

Collard Chips

(Recipe adapted from veggiesdontbite.com)

While we still love our kale chips another healthy, tasty dark leafy green that shouldn’t be ignored are collard greens! Not only does this crispy green chip pack a smoky bite, it is also rich in fiber, as well as, vitamins A and K.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400. Wash and cut collard greens into shreds.

Put collard shreds in a deep mixing bowl and sprinkle the shreds with oil (if using), salt, pepper, paprika and cumin. Mix to coat.

Spread collard shreds out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and cover with parchment paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until crispy.

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