Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We MADE Marshmallows!

It snowed and we didn't have any marshmallows. We made homemade marshmallows. My favorite part was when they stuck together like a big pizza dough on a plate. My mom let us eat that part. She toasted some and some we just ate plain and in hot cocoa.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Acorn Squash with Caramel and Fleur de Sel

Flavorful and yet still packing a pretty healthy punch, these tasty wedges will be a welcome addition to a Tart's Holiday table this year.


2 acorn squash, cut into wedges, seeds reserved
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 tablespoon Southern Comfort liqueur or spiced dark rum
2 heaping tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
reserved squash seeds
fleur de sel

1 - Clean and cut squash, reserving seeds.

2 - Brush cut side of wedges with olive oil and roast in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, pulling out once midway to flip and rearrange wedges and cover with liqueur and butter mix (below).

3 - While squash bakes, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter until just melted. Combine with Southern Comfort (or rum) and drizzle over squash midway through cooking time. If squash looks dry, brush with additional olive oil as needed.

4 - Cover a small, heat-save dish with foil and set aside.

5 - Clean and rinse seeds, pat dry. Place a small amount of extra virgin olive oil (1/2 teaspoon will do) in shallow pan and add seeds. Stir over medium-high heat until just seeds are beginning to brown.

6 - Add sugar to pan and stir until disolved and bubbly.  As it begins to melt, add in remaining 1/2 tbsp of butter. Continue stirring; you will need to work quickly to keep caramel from burning. Remove from heat and pour vanilla extract over caramel. Scrape caramel and seeds onto foil-lined plate and sprinkle with a small amount (a sparse pinch) of fleur de sel. Break up seeds slightly and allow to cool. You can break them up more, as needed to distribute after they are completely cool.

7 - When cooked through and soft but beginning to brown, remove squash from oven and arrange on serving platter. Top each piece with caramel and seeds. Serve immediately. If you are timing this with other dishes, the squash can be made ahead and reheated just before serving but wait to add the seeds and caramel until ready to serve.

Recipe makes twelve servings. Per serving:

*Nutritional data calculated using ingredient compilation program for 2,000 calorie diet and is deemed close but not exact.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Eggs Italiano, Eggs Florentine

Better than Eggs Benedict

By replacing the traditional meat component in Eggs Benendict with 
Creamy Sautéed Spinach with Garlic and Parmesan, there's no need to add any egg-yolk and butter based Hollandaise sauce.  This breakfast delivers full-flavor, a satisfying texture and energy that will get you up and going in the morning (and keep you going for hours).  The nutritional stats are great, too.


1/2 of a Spelt English Muffin, toasted
1 cup Creamy Sautéed Spinach with Garlic and Parmesan
1 egg, poached

1 - Toast muffin and pile high with creamy spinach. 

2 - Heat 1/2" water in pan with lid, when simmering, drop in egg (I add about 1 tsp vinegar here to keep egg from breaking up and scattering all over pan). 

3 - Cover egg pan with lid and cook to desired doneness.  Layer on top of spinach and muffin and enjoy!

Makes one serving.  Nutritional info per serving:

* Nutritional data created using ingredient compilation program for 2,000 calorie diet and is deemed close but not exact.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Save the Carcass!

With the holiday season about to hit the ground running, we will all have more than our fair share of temptations and nutritional challenges.

There's some good to come out of all of this as we will get to spend quality time with those that we love. Even better will be the look on their faces when you ask if they are throwing away the carcass and, if so, can you keep it?

Roasting the carcass with carrots, celery and onions prior to simmering in a pot of water all day is not only a great way to make use of every part of the animal; it will render up some stock with some serious nutrient qualities that will help warm you all winter long.

Remember the days when Granny’s soup was the best cure for a cold? That’s because Granny used the bones when she made stock and the vitamin and mineral content of her soup beat the pants off of anything you can purchase premade in a store.

Of course, I’ve long learned that telling people that food is good for them isn’t a great selling point if you want them to try it so I’ll also add here that there are very few, if any, pantry staples that will add this much life to just about everything you cook. We use stock for cooking rice, pasta and virtually every grain we use. Quinoa, kamut, barley—you name it, they all turn out fantastic flavor when cooked in “the good stuff.” When someone is sick in this house, it’s a breeze to pull some stock out of the freezer and whip up some seriously tasty soup. And we all know that soup really is good for the body and the soul.

So, please, I beg of you….save the carcass! What will you do while it simmers away the day? Clean your house, wrap holiday gifts and listen to Christmas music. Or, catch up on you DVR’d television and let me know what’s going on this week on Parenthood and 30 Rock. Just kidding, I’m already caught up.

Here’s how it’s done: How to Make Stock From Bones

Let the Holiday Season begin!

The Country Tart

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why Not Share with Someone You Love!

Just last week I was speaking with an aquaintance and he shared that his wife and he often shared entrees when they went out to dinner. Surely we've all heard this before but it never hurts to be reminded that there are ways we can occassionally enjoy those foods that might not be the healthiest selections without feeling as though we've committed a crime against our waistline.

Typical of what might be found in a restaurant sandwich, this one is full of flavor but made with white bread and it is high in the sodium department.  By splitting this with a friend, you save yourself a whole bunch of fat and sodiumand that is something to feel good about if the lunch company wasn't enough. 

Keep in mind that this sandwhich also has a lot of great things to offer.  Since it's always said that Americans have a diet too high in meat and animal products, incorporating more vegetarian fare into our lives is rarely a bad thing and this sandwich is a satisfying way to enjoy a meat-free meal.   

Grilled Portabello Foccaccia Sandwich

9 ounce package of portabello mushrooms (2 large mushrooms)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
4 ounces roasted red pepper (I used the stuff in a jar; approx 1/4-1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon white chia seeds
1 cup fresh baby spinach
2 ounces brie cheese (I used one with truffle flakes)
1 ounce avocado, thinly sliced


1 Preheat the grill (note, you can cook these indoors but it won't be nearly as flavorful; remember, eating healthy and finding enjoyment means drawing flavor, in layers, wherever you can). Preheat your broiler for perparing the remainder of the sandwich while portabello cooks.

2 – In bowl or this inexpensive salad dressing maker, mix together garlic, balsamic, soy sauce and mustard.  Pour over mushrooms. 

3 – Clean and slice portabello into 2" thick slices. Mushrooms have a very high water content and will shrink considerably when cooked. Lay these in a single layer in a shallow baking dish (a 9 X 19 works great for this)

4 – Slice foccaccia open lengthwise to expose bread inside for building sandwich.  You should be left with two perfectly square pieces for building upon.

5 – Place portabello slices on preheated grill and grill on high, flipping once or twice, for 15 to 20 minutes or until much of the water has cooked out and mushoom pieces are crispy but not burned; pull out of oven and set aside.  Note: you can return unabsorbed balsamic and soy mixture to salad dressing maker, add equal part extra virgin olive oil and shake for a flavorful salad dressing that will last several days in the refrigerator.

6 – On top slice, layer with thinly sliced brie cheese and place under broiler, watching constantly.  

7 – Using blender or food processor, purée red pepper until smooth.  Add in chia and pulse once or twice more.  Chia will thicken this mixture AND provide omega-3s along with additional calcium, iron and fiber.

8 – Assemble: Spread red pepper and chia mixture on bottom slice of sandwich.  Layer with thinly sliced avocado and then baby spinach.  Top with mushrooms, and top layer of foccaccia.  Cut in half and share with someone you love!

Using a mandolin to slice an entire apple very thin not only wastes less of the apple but offers a satisfying sandwich accompaniment.  Right now apples are in season and, I promise, taste far better than any stale, greasy potato chip!

Nutritional Info: per serving; serving = ½ of sandwich:

* Nutritional data created using ingredient compilation program for 2,000 calorie diet and is deemed close but not exact.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I've Found the Motherload

Of Of chestnuts, that is. I've had this seven year obsession where I've been coveting thy neighbor's chestnut tree. I wasn't sure what kind of tree it was but I was fairly certain it was some sort of edible chestnut and not of the inedible and often confused for horse chestnut or buckeye trees.

The Universe always seems to answer my requests in her own time and since my requests are often in the form of food--from the scavenged to the viand--I usually have patience for the arrival of said gifts. A girl has her limits, however, and for two months each out of the last seven years I have passed this house daily and cringed as I have observed these nuts left to rot before being mowed over; completely unappreciated. Several years ago, I played the sleuth, found the home owners in the County tax records and sent them a lovely letter offering to clean up their spiny mess in exchange for some chestnuts. As every creepy stalker's letter should, mine went unanswered and my desperation continued to mount. Shall I knock on their door? Well, I have and no matter how many cars were in the driveway, these people have either not wanted to be bothered or just don't answer their front door. When someone knocks on my front door, I know them to be either selling something or delivering a package so I really am in no place to be put off by this. Besides, I just want their chestnuts. Very badly.

As I passed by on Monday, a real, live, lady was in the driveway. I didn't notice her as I stopped my car in the middle of the road to grab a chestnut and one of the leaves for positive tree identification. The woman caught glimpse of me, asked me if I wanted some more, and then told me to come back and collect some anytime. A car came up behind me and when I had returned moments later, this woman had vanished. She may not exist at all and perhaps years of obsessing over this tree caused me to dream sequence this occurrence. Either way, the theft that followed yesterday afternoon did not seem so roguish even if I was parked along the road, car still running as I filled a box rapidly with my leather glove covered hands.

It turns out the tree is a Chinese Chestnut* and it is edible and, seemingly, all mine.

Spiny fruit removed, a shiny brown chestnut is exposed that simply needs roasting and eating.  Chestnuts have a softer, meatier nut with a high moisture content than other more familiar nuts in the beech family (such as hazelnuts) so you will need to cut a small X in the flat side of the nut with a very sharp knife or a commercial chestnut piercer.  Roast in a 375 degree oven about 15-20 minutes or until the nuts are fragrant and the outer shell is beginning to crack and peel away from the nuts. Like eating pistachios, you still have to work here to peel the shell off to eat.  I also very much enjoy these peeled and sautéed in a bit of butter. 

Some other uses for chestnuts are for Holiday stuffing such as this Apple Chestnut Quinoa Stuffing for roast duck. This weekend I am eager to put my newfound treasure to a new use and try my hand at a sformato di castagne or Italian style savory chestnut pudding. This recipe has been on my to do list for years but with chestnuts being so expensive and difficult to come by in my neck of the woods (until now!) I've been unwilling to use what little I had for experimentation.

I'll be sure to tackle it, camera in hand, and let you know how it goes.

I am grateful to the Universe for answering my requests for edible provisions and I plan on paying this favor back and then some. I am hoping my phantom benefactor will again appear so that I can thank her for her generosity and officially introduce myself. I hope she will accept my offer to clean up after that tree in exchange for these delicious gifts.

Thank you Lady Universe. Persistence and patience do pay off and, as the Italians say, Vale la pena--"it's worth it."

Have a happy, healthy week everyone. ~

The Country Tart

*The American Chestnut has been all but destroyed by a blight that occured around the turn of the last century. There are only a handful of trees left in all of North America and these are studied as scienific marvels due to their unexplainable blight resistance.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Granola That's Better than Candy

The problem with most granola bars is that they are full of sugar, fat and, sadly, often lacking in flavor. Even worse is that when you compare their nutritional labels with that of a Snicker's bar, you see that there isn't much difference in the fat and calorie department.

I began trying to figure out a homemade answer to this back in March but the process was slow-going. Part of the empty calorie issue that I kept finding with all of the granola recipes that I encountered was in the binding. More simply, they need something to hold them together and sugary syrups, rice syrup or honey seem to be the most commonly used granola glues.

I read somewhere about using prune puree in baking to replace fat and thought, why not glue some granola together with ground up prunes? So, I went to work. My first successful effort was in this Cherry Chocolate Granola Bar though my kids weren't instantly won over on the ground prunes.

Eventually, I decided to try making a date paste that the kids all gave the thumbs up in this recipe for Chocolate Date Granola Bars. And then, after tinkering even more, I found out I could sneak the prunes back in when I masked it with cocoa powder and natural peanut butter in the Chocolate Peanut Granola Bar recipe.

What, besides antioxidant-rich chocolate, makes these bars healthful?  I don't deny that they are high in calories or fat; but the fats are beneficial and these can either be used as a meal replacement, a hardy snack or cut one in half and replenish lost nutrients after a workout (or a long hike!).  Here's a little more about some of the good stuff inside:

Prunes: with more antioxidant value than any other fruit, plus lots of digestive-friendly fiber, prunes are a food we all should be eating more of.

Chia seeds: high in fiber, calcium, and iron these little nutritional powerhouses were used by Aztec warriors and it's believed that they were used as far back as 3,500 B.C.  They're full of heart and brain healthy Omega-3s. 

Pumpkin Seeds: high in iron, zinc, manganese and a bunch of other nutrients, pumpkin seeds are noted for decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke due to their high magnesium content.

Sunflower Seeds: are so full of natural anti-aging nutrients that they are like little fountains of youth. They are very high in vitamin E, magnesium, and heart healthy polyunsaturated oils.

Oats: How can we forget oats? Oats, even rolled, are still a whole grain with all the good stuff in tact. The soluble fiber found in oats make them not only great for our bad cholesterol level but also for keeping our heart healthy. Their whole grain goodness brag of phytonutrients that have antioxidant value as well.

A lot of granola and energy bars have added vitamins, minerals and fiber to make them look healthier than they are. The nutrient values shown on the links above are 100% food-derived nutrients, the way nature intended. And I promise, these taste really good. See? Real food really IS better!

Wishing you the best,


For additional ideas for using Oats in Everyday Cooking see this week's edition of SERVING up a SMILE.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

OK, I Admit It!

Several weeks ago, after promising that I would, I tried to photograph every meal so that you could see what a week of balanced living in the life of the Country Tart looked like. I ate balanced, I took tons of photos, but I just couldn't do it! I am not organized enough to come up with seven days worth of food photos at this juncture! Don't worry, I'll get it together by the time the book goes to publishing, but, in the meantime, I have finally watched Sugar: The Bitter Truth and here I sit...on one hand, I am pleased that what my body always seems to tell me (and what I preach about from my own experience) has foundation from folks with far more credibility than my been there, done that claims. On the other hand, I am nauseous and needed to share the wealth!

Really, if you get the chance, I highly recommend that you check out this video! I admit that I was pissed off already. This doesn't change that. Just sharing a little of the "why." Really, it's eye-opening and worth watching.

All the best,
Lynn, aka, The Country Tart

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Vote for the Balanced Days, Balanced Lives Book

It seems a new pic was desired to go above a writeup about my involvement with the NutriMirror Balanced Days book (that mentions the book that I am currently authoring). The instructions were, "a new pic of Lynn, something with food in it, that’s best." It was a time-sensitive thing and I am proud to say that, with the assistance of a tripod, my four year old Tiny Tart took these pics. Posting here and on NM...give a shout-out if you have a preference!





Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Week Ahead in Menus

For something a little fresh and new, I have decided to lay out a week ahead in menus. Besides, so many dinners this week have been inspired by others so it's always great to share the wealth.

Monday - Venison Cheesesteak Subs on Whole Wheat Hoagie Rolls w/ Oven Roasted String Bean "fries". S'mores made with dark chocolate & dried cranberries. Entertainment: very bad John Denver impersonations (it's campfire night at the Matava house!).

Tuesday - Grilled Fish Po Boys on whole wheat hoagie rolls w/ baby spinach & tomato. Grilled fresh asparagus. Fresh berries.

Wednesday - WWLMD? Joe works late so she'll most likely eat Quinoa topped with Black Beans and Veggies. Perhaps a poached egg.

Thursday - Chilaquiles de Frijole (my old standby favorite comfort food) with Sylvia's Calavasitas Con Maiz (my new favorite comfort food) w/ avocado, chipotle peppers in adobo and Mexican sour cream.

Friday - Shrimp Tacos w/ Baby Spinach, Mexican Sour Cream and Salsa Verde (thanks Fitmama77!). Some ice cream might be in order [note to self: pick up some Ben & Jerry's today!]

Saturday - Grilled Pizza

Sunday - Mother's Day Brunch in the morning so dinner will probably be very light and non-fussy. Such as fresh fruit over quinoa or cereal w/ some almond milk.

There you have it! Any left over meat will be sliced thin and made into sandwiches for the girl's lunches during the week. I eat quinoa topped w/ beans and veggies most days for lunch; sometimes lunch is simply  beans smashed with salsa into a "burger" that sits atop a sprouted grain bread with avocado. This week looks so tasty, I'm getting hungry already.

Have a fantastic week everyone.

~ Lynn, aka, The Country Tart

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Natural Bounty: From the Woods to My Plate

Ahh, the elusive turkey. My husband has been in the woods beginning at 4:00 AM, each day this week, courting this plays hard-to-get beast. I say beast because this 21.8 pound bird one was a true fighter; feathers squared-off and nicked from battling other toms. Unlike the black spurs of a youthful bird, his were white; fear not, this bird lived a long, happy life, terrorizing many others in his role of bird boss and I am certain there are toms and jakes everywhere that can feel a little more free to roam the woods in search of a little romance with the lady birds today. I am guessing there are also some lady birds (known as hens) that are glad that big old bully is no longer feeding them bullish pick up lines.

Joking aside, I know there are many people out there who have an extreme disgust for hunters and are frightened by photographs of them posing with their kill. No offense is intended with these photos. I can certainly appreciate one’s choice for veganism and other less extreme lifestyle choices, the bulk of Americans are a meat-eating people and, sadly, we are very far removed from the source of most of what we eat.

Life is very dear and in our home, we eat very little meat or animal product that is not harvested by my husband or one of our friends. Among the creatures you will currently find in our freezer are venison, rabbit, woodcock, snipe, quail, rockfish, flounder, and tautog. When my husband returned home with the turkey yesterday, we had a mournful celebration where we smudged the animal as we symbolically breathed the great warrior’s last breath.

As we were hovering over him in the back yard, admiring his beauty, we were unaware that a hen had been roosted in a tree above our heads. Suddenly, with an explosive movement that sounded as I would imagine a train bursting through the trees would, the hen dive bombed us to get a better look of the fallen tom. We jumped as she flew within feet of us.  It was surreal and yet somehow presented us with this overwhelming feeling of interconnectivity to the planet and every little thing that roams or sprouts upon it. Sometimes it is really difficult in this technological suburban age to slow down and really appreciate the magic of it all.

It is miraculous to sit in my wooded back yard and celebrate with my husband and children that we have been provided for many antibiotic and hormone free meals and that our food had the freedom to roam in its' natural state. It is pleasing to me that my young children have a deep appreciation for life and what had to occur for them to have meat on their plate. I am proud of my husband for his skill and ability to provide for us. Dinner was delicious last night and my connection to my family and the natural world is strong today. This, to me, is the makings of a very blessed life. I am eternally grateful.

From the woods to my plate: Joe grilled a breast of the bird for tonight's meal.  The rest of the bird has been vacuum sealed and frozen and will provide several meals throughout the year.  The legs and bones will provide the makings of a rich, vibrant stock that will flavor meals for months. 

Casual but delicious grilled turkey deserved an equally hassle-free side like these quick and easy oven roasted potato wedges (click for recipe).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

High as a Kite

[Content removed as a result of strong persuasion by legal counsel.  Man, you gotta hate censorship.]

The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, I feel all giddy and hoppy. There are many years of my life that I spent trying to find a high, one way or another, with french fries or wine or beer or cookies or various substances. Now I eat so nutritiously that highness simply eminates from my soul.

It takes some faith. See, we can get a green log (balanced eating via NutriMirror.com) with supplements and so-so foods but that doesn't mean that we are healthy. We can even lose weight that way. But if you really wanna feel good, I mean REALLY WANNA FEEL GOOD than the drugs I'm-a pushin (as a Tava) are whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, seed and nuts and, yes, real, wet, unflavored WATER.

See, I don't believe you when you tell me that you just aren't hungry enough to eat more than 1000 calories per day. Oh, I empathize plenty, because I, too, have been brainwashed by the dieting industry. But I know darn well I didn't become morbidly obese (really, my BMI was 37) by not having an appetite. I also learned the hard way that years of starvation did not help my weight loss journey (I made up the calories elsewhere).

When I found NutriMirror, I threw caution to the wind. I began eating high fat, high caloric items that didn't seem to do a whole lot for my food logs like chia, hemp seed, flaxseed oil, raw nuts. I stuffed myself with fresh, bright, colorful fruits and veggies and began to really find pleasure in foods that love me back. I am convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that those high-fat seeds and nuts have added years to my life AND life to my years.

Sure, Jenny Craig meals are quick. Lean Cuisines are easy. But they do not love us back, I'd bet my tiny hiney on it. If you think you do not have time to eat real food, I urge you to peek at my TIME Series from the past three weeks of SERVING up a SMILE. The handy-dandy chart in this week's alone should speed up healthy eating, even if you do not have time to read the column.

Do you have to eat fresh foods to be nutritionally balanced or lose weight? No. You don’t have to happy and vibrant and full of super-human energy either. It’s a matter of choice, really. We can choose to feel OK or we can choose to feel FANTASTIC. I choose fantastic. I choose water. I choose foods that love me so much it hurts.

Have some faith in fresh food. Take the leap, bring a jug of water to work and leave the Crystal Light at home. Give yourself one week of eating minimally processed foods. Just one week, for the sake of your body, I beg you to give it a try! Take my drug, ingest my drug, take a walk in the fresh, Spring air.

You, too, will be high as a kite! Really, it is SO possible to love the foods that love you back. I hope you give it a try. You’ll be hopelessly addicted & I will be one happy pusher.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eat Your Fat!

There's Joe, offering up some sort of healthy fat source he's brought home (white perch).

Recently I made a decision to expand my knowledge and return to school. I am currently taking a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant certification course and, when that is completed, I will be taking a Weight Management Consultant certification course.

I have never been much of a student and managed to graduate with a bachelor's degree without ever opening a book. There's irony to be had in the fact that I am reading text books from cover to cover and receiving only certifications but no matter I am definitely learning a lot and my confidence in the knowledge I am retaining is strong.

I am finding the text to be fascinating and while it bores my poor husband to tears, he engages in conversation about gastric protease, intrinsic factor and bacteria function in flatulence anyway--because he's a good man.

The current chapter I am on is all about digestion and I find it to be very exciting.

For example, did you know what the purpose of sodium is in the body? It floats about in the body's fluids (then called electrolytes) where it helps to regulate crucial body functions such as heartbeat and muscle contractions.

And then there's the topic of fats.

Healthy, unsaturated fats offer an array of benefits to our bodies. They are rich in antioxidants and omega-3s and have shown in studies to be beneficial to lowering cholesterol and disease risks. Saturated fats and trans fats do the opposite so limit and/or avoid (see The bottom Line on Fat and Cholesterol from the Harvard School of Public Health). Plus, the omega-3 fats have been linked to brain growth and development (our brain IS made up of 2/3 fatty tissue, really!).

As the study I linked to above suggests, we should be getting our omega-3s daily. I have been eating chia, flaxseed, hempseed and having grown up along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, I am a seafood baby through and through and eat fish omega sources at least once per week.

But what my nutrition textbook is teaching me on fats I had not a clue about. For example, many of the nutrients that we work so hard to get enough of each day are wasted without adequate fat in our digestive system.

Our mouths are warm and the temperature begins to melt fat the moment it lands inside to assure that we get that stuff down the hatch. The stomach leaves fats out of it's digestive processes almost entirely because it is needed later on for proper nutrient absorption. When bile is released into the small intestine, the fats begin to emulsify or thicken. Ever try to make homemade gravy? You cant just mix flour into chicken broth and get gravy. You have to have fat (butter, oil, pan drippings) to open up those starch molecules and convince them to absorb the liquid to thicken. Fat does the same thing in your intestines, thickening up some of the mineral and nutrients for the proper absorption of these minerals. This is especially important for all of the essential nutrients that cannot be made in the body (but are necessary for cell function and life).

Too much fat in the intestines slows down digestion and absorption. Oh, that's why you can't go potty. But... What happens when there is not enough fat in the small intestines?

So glad you asked! Since fat actually regulates digestion, too little actually speeds up digestion to the point of poor absorption. Not to be gross but since Jim's already accused me of toilet humor anyway (guilty), if you see food in your stool, there's a really good chance that you are digesting too quickly. Why bother getting green if your body isn't going to absorb the wholesome goodness anyway? (There are some digestive diseases and disorders that can effect digestive speed but those are things you should speak to a physician about). Oh, and because they take longer to digest, you feel fuller longer. Plus, your brain is happy so you feel all warm and toasty from being loved back by your food.

Should we be eating a good amount of healthy fats?  After reading this chapter, this gal's changing her efforts to YES, YES, YES!

Eat healthy fats. Some healthy fats to consider:

raw* pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
raw* walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts
raw* sunflower or sesame seeds
flaxseed (must grind)
flaxseed oil (wisk it w/ balsamic + garlic and pour over salad)
extra virgin olive oil
canola oil
fish/ shellfish
peanuts, peanut butter

*raw, uncooked nuts and seeds have higher concentrations of healthy fats and omegas that have not been burned off through exposure to high heat.

Eat healthy fats! Enjoy feeling great! And gosh darn-it, love the foods that love you back!

~ Lynn

Monday, March 29, 2010

Qualified Nutrition Info

Through my own searches, by reading blogs and via the receipt of emails and Country Tart comments, I receive a lot of links to "check out" for sites related to consumer health. There's a lot of good info out there. Unfortunately, there's more bad than good and it really takes a discerning eye to determine the quality of the source.

In a former life, I actually got dressed and went to a desk each weekday, and assisted consumers in locating quality health information on the web. As a consumer health educator (under an National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, grant) one of my many duties was to complile resources for consumers and healthcare professionals.  Try and get the image of me typing naked from my home office out of your head so that you can still enjoy that cup of coffee you just poured.

I just compiled this list for a NutriMirror user and it occured to me that Country Tart readers may benefit from this list as well. Below you will find a variety of food and nutrition links.

I still question everything (even when it's been given a review by reputable professionals as these pages have) but before you go and make major life changes based on any info found on a web page, make sure you know who is posting the info and where they obtained it. Whenever possible, I try to site sources and only report on things that I can back up with some sort of evidence-based study, report or journal. True, I am no dietician, but it is through personal research of quality-filtered sources that I have been able to turn my own health around. 

When conducting your own searches, be sure to check WHOIS databases to determine who owns the site. It's important to remember that ANYONE can post health claims on the internet and there's no laws enforcing that these claims must be informed or accurate.  Make yourself an informed consumer for the sake of your own--and your family's--health. The more we know the better off we'll all be.

National Academies Press

USDA National Agriculture Library

My Pyramid.gov

USDA Nutrient Data Page


Food and Agriculture of United Nations (World-wide dietary guidelines available here)

CDC's Nutrition Links Pages (links for health professionals and consumers)

NAT Tools for Good Health (NAT is provided as a public service by the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at the University of Illinois)

FDA Info on Food Labeling Updates

Perinatal Network Summer 2005 Edition (A publication which ran an article I wrote back in '05. See pages 6 and 7).   Yeah, this is just a personal plug.  But the info is still relevant and it has some great links~

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Sentimental Journey Back to Groats

I often think about the way we humans ate, up until very recently, and it frustrates me to compare that with the way we eat now.  It wasn't always this way. I really believe we've just strayed the course a bit and that we can make it back.  It's so much more than simply "learning to love the foods that love us back," like I always suggest.  It's learning to really love food in general--all over again. 

When was the last time you stopped to really chew and savor that meal from the drive through.  If we had to stop and try and find enjoyment in it, I am certain it would not taste nearly as good. 

One of my own greatest pleasures is watching my own children find enjoyment in food; a fresh, ripe strawberry that splatters juice onto their clothing, blueberries right off of the bush and still warm from the sun, crisp beans they've snagged out of the produce bag on the way home from the farmer's market.  When they begin pulling watermelon's out of the fields here in July, my children cheer.  And though we have a somber, private ceremony when their father brings home a deer in the fall, they also can hardly contain their excitement for they know that Papa will be cooking up some butterloin for dinner--and to the four people that live in my house, little is better than the taste of a fresh venison butterloin. 

My friend Kel of Kel's Closet posted the following story a few days ago and has granted me permission to repost. The story brought me back to the kitchen of Judy, a mentor to young Kel, through the eyes of a foodie before her own time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Taken Back in Time by Kel

I recently purchased Buckwheat Groats.

Groats, as defined by The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook are minimally processed whole oats with just the outer hull removed.

I followed the instructions for making them. Rinse, brown in some oil, then add 2 parts water to 1 part groats and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

This is not a tale of groats gone bad. Rather, I found I had stepped into the Groat Time Machine.

The only reason I had ever heard of groats was that 30 years ago (yikes) I babysat for a family, and the Mom used to make groats weekly. They were a staple to her diet. There was always a container of them in the refrigerator.

As I cooked my groats, I found the aroma to be so familiar. I was taken back to Judy's kitchen. She was way before her time. She was clean eating before there was such a thing. She cooked almost everything from scratch. Her children did not know what the inside of a McDonalds looked like (or the outside for that matter.) Well, it is possible that they were taken out by their grandparents, but if they were? It was a sworn secret.

If they were indulged by their grandparents with ice cream, there was a "cocktail" of vitamins I had to give them. I don't remember the list, but I do remember that acidopholus was there. Judy did buy them ice cream, but it was not the soft serve variety that their grandparents were allowed to treat them to.

She was well known for her dinner parties. Every one loved to be invited. She would host parties for 8 to parties of 50. I was her "sous" chef. I did a lot of the prep work, chopping onions. I remember cleaning out artichokes - raw- so that she could make marinated artichoke hearts. I had purple hands from peeling beets, and red ones when strawberries were in season. I did most of the baking. I can say honestly, I learned to bake in her kitchen.

She always had popcorn at the ready for a snack, and served it with real butter. She had a stash of dark chocolate.

The way she cooked was so beyond what I had at home. My mom was a great home cook, but there was just something special about Judy's meals.

As I toasted the groats today, the aroma hit me and I had to laugh. Here, 30 years later, I am cooking groats just like Judy did. When they were done, I topped them with half n half, and maple syrup. Just like Judy did. They were nutty and chewy just like I remembered. Her kids loved these.

I find myself wishing I had paid more attention to the way she ate and the recipes she prepared, knowing that now, I am eating the way she did.

Way before her time, she was, and I think NOW is the time to get more people eating the way she did.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fit for a Cowboy.

Well, we all know how I do love a cowboy so, and these vaquero beans from Rancho Gordo were so stinkin' cute that I can't imagine anything better to serve to my imaginary cowboy dinner guest.  I first spoke of them in the post: A Good Friend Will Ship You a 6 lb Box of Beans. Since that time, my dear sister-in-law shipped me additional beans (actually purchased before she knew I'd gotten beans from Kel) and, well, I've been afraid to cook them.

Truthfully, I just didn't want to mess with that great bean pattern. Since I had two bags, I decided it was time to try them. It was a simple preparation, basically, I just threw them into the crock pot with 3-4 times water, some sautéed onion and garlic and some smoked pork chops that had been deglazed with some red wine. They were creamy yet firm and not all of the "cow" cooked out of them--though they now were cows of a more chocolate appearance, still beautiful, hearty and with a really great flavor.

These are the second of the Rancho Gordo beans heirloom beans that I have tried, the first being a cannellini bean that I prepared with my sister-in-law's recommendation of chicken stock and rosemary. Really good--in fact, I have never eaten a bean that was a creamy as those. Rancho Gordo's got it goin' on. Yeee Haw ~

Friday, March 5, 2010

Refusing to Wake Up on the Old and Cranky Side of the Bed

Here I am on my 35th Birthday.  Be sure to glance at the bottom for
a peek at six earlier birthdays.  Here's to getting better with age!

I haven't been blogging much and though I spare you the details: between two weeks of crippling snow (and kids at home) and then a ten day, family-wide illness, it feels great to be back. I turned thirty five yesterday and I woke up in a mood suitable for the most curmudgeonly old coot at the old folks home.

I tried to put on a happy face but it just wouldn't take. So, after dropping my oldest off to school, I headed to one of my favorite little spots on the face of the earth and walked along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, bag in hand, wind and rain in my face, and scoured the beach for pieces of sea glass.

The weather was cold and wet and the forty-five minute drive there depressing. Further enhancing my melancholy was my iPod which was set on shuffle but could have been made into a play list entitled Put the Gun to My Head. My friends keep telling me I have a depressing iPod. Now I get it. I should be a miserable soul with the sappy, old music I listen to.

The front porch at the Whitehaven Bed and Breakfast, where I sat as I waited to board
the three-car Whitehaven Ferry, which I took on my journey South toward the Bay.

After what seemed like a very slow ride I arrived and moments later my boots hit the sand. I walked along, reaching down every so many feet to pick up interesting items. A rocky surf and some unfavorable weather left the beach loaded with treasure as I was the only person willing to walk through the icy, salty wind during the slack tide.

Even in the cold, the salt air instantly gave me a lift and I felt like a new person. I am always amazed at the magic that exists at that exact spot where the land meets the sea. I am equally giddy about all things that glitter and shine in the sand. With the sun tucked deep behind misty clouds, bits of shells, rocks, glass and pottery still managed to light up the shoreline and bring out the child inside.

The day's take: pretty and colorful pieces of sea glass along with
some pottery, sea brick, drift wood and oyster shells.  Oyster shells never
have the same magic about them once you return home but the allure 
of the saline-coated, bivalve fragments gets me everytime, nonetheless. 

A short time later, I kicked the sand off of my boots and stepped out of the piercing wind and back into my warm car. Refreshed and renewed, I turned on the car and was happy to discover that even my iPod had received an attitude adjustment. Never mind that it most likely had something to do with a stiff, frost-bitten finger that hit the "genius" button. I headed up the rode with a happy assortment of cowboy tunes, all the while looking forward to the rest of the day. You just can't go wrong with an assortment of cowboy tunes.

The remainder of my day included lunch at a non-kid-friendly establishment with my husband, a visit to the ice cream shop for some seasonal Tax Crunch ice cream with the kids, an attempt to go bowling, a trip to the emergency room for some stitches for my youngest (who attempted to bust up a bowling ball with her chin), followed by take-out pizza and tiramisu with my family. Even with the ER visit thrown in, it turned out to be a pretty good day.

My loot: A Townes Van Zant CD that has been on my Amazon Wish List for
years!  Also pictured, my labradorite ring, a personal gift  from Robert Redford. 
Hey, it's my fantasy :-)  Not pictured: Scent-locker hunting boots and
Carhart overalls. There you have it: makings of one happy country girl.

I have spent a lot of years of my life not taking the best care of myself. Now I fill my body up each day with the foods that allow me to feel my best. I know that I am getting my daily nutritional needs met from food because I log all of my meals at a free food journaling website known as Nutri Mirror.  I exercise several days per week under the skilled guidance of a personal trainer, Maria Coccodrilli, who stresses the importance of eating well as a complement to my workouts. The pictures do not lie; what you see is not some half-baked, pudged-up, faked-out or exaggerated before and after. Illustrated here is a chronological record of many years of my life, birthday after birthday, weight fluctuation after weight fluctuation. I no longer diet. Dieting is what I did when I struggled to lose weight. Today I am in balance.

I believe I am entitled to a birthday wish. My wish is to anyone out there who has struggled to begin taking steps to become healthy. You do not have to turn your world upside down.   Begin by making some healthy changes you can live with. When those click, add a few more. Evolve into good health at your own pace.  It's a big wish, I know, but I know you can do it.  And if it isn't too much to ask, I hope that I never get too old to take pleasure in finding sparkly things in the sand. ~

I've come a long way, baby.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Good Friend Will Ship You a 6 lb Box of Beans

...but a REALLY GOOD friend will surprise you with a 6 pound box of heirloom beans. And a bag of crimson popcorn!

My friend Kel surprised me today with a bangin box of heirloon beans from Rancho Gordo. Their site has some of the coolest beans I have ever seen and a bunch of mouth watering recipes that I can't wait to try.

I especially can't wait to cook the beans on the far right (also pictured at the bottom) that the girls are saying look like miniature cows. And you all know how cute a miniature cow is.

I had to try the crimson popcorn already :-) Very good; it pops up small but light and fluffy and very, very white against little hints of the crimson germ.

I know this is a very public thank you but for those of you who do not know, Kel (of Kel's Closet, check it out, it's a cool fashion blog) is not purchasing a single article of clothing for herself for an entire year and yet she just shipped me a box of heirloom beans. Kel and I have never actually met or even spoken on the phone. We met though our food journaling site NutriMirror.com and she just graciously shipped these beans to me because she knew I would love them. And I do.

So thanks Kel. I owe you one. I'll think of this as an early Birthday present--and certainly one of the most memorable packages I have ever received!

Cheers, friend!



Friday, January 1, 2010

Posting in my Jammies

Cous Cous and Wild Rice Salad

Just sitting here thinking of all of the things I need to be doing. I am about to log off of the computer for a while but as it is the first official day of a new year and new decade, I am also hopeful for changes in the year to come.

This past year I lost 50 pounds and learned more than I ever imagined about eating in balance and how to nourish my body and mind. I had the great fortune of stumbling upon a free food journaling site NutriMirror.com which allows me to still carry on my love affair with food while becoming healthy and learning the fine art of moderation.

As if the gift of good health isn't enough, in September of last year, the kind people at NutriMirror gave me a forum to post my weekly food column SERVING up a SMILE, which is delivered each Tuesday.

The icing on the cake is the formal annoucement that I, along with my good friend Kel (of Kel's Closet) have been commissioned to author books for NutriMirror. My book will be (of course!) about Loving the Foods that Love Us Back. Kel is a hell of a lifestyle expert and her book about living in balance will surely be a must read.

Both of Kel and I were giddy contributors in NutriMirror's first book Balanced Days, Balanced Lives which is due out in March 2010. Pictured above is a sneak peek at the one of the recipes that I contributed for baked apples; as seen through the eyes of their talented food stylist team m.o.m.(no, I do not really bring THAT to my husband in bed!). Also see m.o.m. on flikr.

With all of the positive changes in the air, I cannot help but be optimistic about 2010. It is amazing what can be accomplished when one has obtained good health!  I am excited about food in ways that I have never been before.  Expect some bright, colorful and new ideas to be coming out of the Country Tart's kitchen.

Today's recipe is the Cous Cous and Wild Rice Salad (click for recipe) pictured above. Nutrient-rich, colorful and what a happy way to welcome in healthful changes in the upcoming year.

So, I have a book to write. I also have laundry to put away. Since it's nearly 3:00 in the afternoon, I think I'll start by getting dressed.

Happy New Year everyone.

All the best,
Lynn, a.k.a., The Country Tart