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I recently got some very exciting news—the part time job that I had been interviewing for finally came through with an offer! I’ve been on the lookout for something part time since beginning grad school this past September. I had been “burning the candle at both ends” by working 40 hours and taking on night classes with tons of reading and assignments. So starting next week, I’ll be in a new work environment, with my hours scaled back to a much more manageable 20 hours per week. The caveat? I’ll also be scaling back on my paycheck. Definitely expect to see some low-budget healthy recipes from me in the future! I’ve always been fairly budget conscious, but I’m really going to have to start thinking thrifty from now on. That being said, I don’t believe in scrimping too much on the important things in life! Which is why I go to the best gym in the world, buy fewer quantity of higher quality clothes and products, and try to use the best (organic, local) ingredients when I cook. To be able to keep my quality of life in check along with my budget, I’m planning on organizing more cheap social activities like potluck dinners, and taking advantage of the deals that are offered daily on sites like Groupon and Eversave.* I’m also planning on preparing lots of meals at home and getting creative with ingredients so I can lower my overall grocery bill without sacrificing great taste.

I know that a lot of people (myself included, until this new job opened up) don’t always have the opportunity to spend lots of hours in the kitchen and planning meals, which is undoubtedly the cheapest way to eat. There are a few strategies for eating on the run that I’ve worked out in the past month or so, while juggling full time work and school. Whole Foods has generally been my go-to spot for cheap and healthy prepared meals. Forget that “whole paycheck” nickname – this grocery store has a lot of really good options if you know where to look. If you’re navigating the world of prepared food items, here are my suggestions:

  • Skip the salad bar. Unless you’re a serious pro with picking out the lightest salad choices, and can effectively steer yourself away from the heavier tantalizing toppings, these salads tend to really add up when it comes time to weigh in. Same goes for the foods in the hot bar.
  • 2 for $5. Whole foods has a whole section of small serving packaged foods that are only $2.50 a piece. There are gourmet salads with dried cranberry, goat cheese, and pecans; mini roasted vegetable or turkey sandwiches; and whole grain pilafs with ingredients like quinoa, kamut, and brown rice. There is a ton to choose from, and mixing and matching these healthy foods in healthy portions is a great way to pick up a quick lunch or dinner for only $5.
  • Prepared foods section. The prepared foods in the glass case at Whole Foods is a total gem. Every week, there are at least one or two prepared foods on sale. The counter staff will let you try samples of their different options, which I’ve always found to be delicious. I personally like to get a grilled marinated chicken breast – today I bought one (on sale) for about $2.20 and paired it with a half-pint of kale salad (mixed with cranberries, walnuts, and tomatoes) which cost me another $2. There’s even a microwave in the dining area to heat this up. You can’t beat a meal of lean protein and fresh greens for $4.20!

Disclaimer: I’m not a secret employee of Whole Foods, and no one bribed me to say any of this. I just love the budget-friendly options that I’ve discovered there.

*Speaking of Groupon, I recently went berserk and ordered 3 of their recent deal—a $60 gift certificate to Studio 9, for just $30. Studio 9 an awesome, yet pricey salon, and I am in love with it, so I jumped at the offer—without reading the fine print, which says only one per customer! If any of you out there are interested in this great deal, please shoot me an email at Jean.Zove@yahoo.com. I’m selling them for the same price I bought ($30). Their services are excellent and this is a great deal!

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Fall is my favorite season! I love the red, orange, and yellow foliage in my neighborhood, wearing sweaters and jeans, and, of course, all of the great seasonal produce and flavors. Apples, squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes are some of my favorites – gorgeous in color, full of vitamins, and easy to prepare.

I keep a constant supply of apples in my kitchen, which I’ve been peeling and chopping to add to oatmeal every morning – a sweet and easy way to sneak in a whole serving of fruit. Apples are a great source of vitamin C, and pectin, a soluble fiber. Below is a recipe for oatmeal, as well as one of my other favorite fall recipes – super simple Tofu Pumpkin pie. Also, check out this great Butternut Squash Soup recipe from the Whole Foods website (a great resource). All of these recipes are easy, and full of the nutritional benefits that Autumn has to offer.

Easy Apple Oatmeal

Peel one apple (firmer types like Cortland or Macintosh work well), chop into small pieces

Add to a bowl with ½ cup Quick cooking plain oatmeal, 1 cup water, 1 tsp cinnamon

Microwave for 3 minutes

I’ve been adding chopped pecans, raisins and little bit of Agave nectar, a natural sweetener with low glycemic impact – yum!

Keep reading for a great Tofu Pumpkin Pie Recipe! Read the rest of this entry »

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Chef German Lam of Glam Foods was at Healthworks Chestnut Hill on Monday featuring some healthy, easy and delicious summer time recipes. The following recipe is one that he prepared at the club on Monday.  Try it out, don’t let the veggies scare you, it’s good! Raw food diets are very popular these days because many think that raw foods contain higher levels of nutrients and good bacteria.  But for you carnivores, this dish works just as good as a side to some fresh fish or grilled chicken.

Visit Plums and Roses for details on a Healthworks member discount on cooking lessons with German Lam. Also, Check out German on Chronicle.

Ingredients

½ head of Celery

¼ bunch of Asparagus

1 each Carrots

¼ lbs Snow Peas

1 ea. Red & Yellow Peppers

6 ea. Mushrooms

¼ bunch Cilantro

¼ bunch Scallion

3/4 cup Raspberry Vinaigrette (Whole Foods has a great one, or make your own!)

¼ cup Soy Sauce

¼ cup Sesame Oil

½ cup Orange Juice

¼ cup Sesame Seeds

Methods

  1. Wash all vegetables, herbs and dry them. Slice celery thin on the bias cut, cut off 2 inch of asparagus stem, slice asparagus on the bias cut, peeled and julienne carrot with Japanese mandolin slicer, slice pea pods in bias cut. Soak all the cut vegetables in cold water for 5 minutes. Strain vegetables.
  2. Julienne slice peppers, slice mushrooms.   Combine and whisk raspberry vinaigrette, soy sauce, sesame oil and orange juice. Chopped cilantro and scallion.
  3. Marinated all the vegetables and garnish with herbs and Sesame seeds.

Leave your comments:

Did you try this dish at the Chestnut Hill food demo?

Did you make the recipe? How was it?

Do you practice Raw Foodism?

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Walk into Whole Foods or any supermarket that caters to local foods, and you may be confronted with coiled green veggies the size of a big coin, usually advertising themselves with a sign saying something like “Buy Local!” or “New England delicacy!” Ever wonder what the fuss is about?

Behold the fiddleheads.

Fiddleheads are technically unfurled fronds of a species of ostrich fern. They get their name because of their shape—literally like the top of a fiddle. And they really are northerners, New England locals. The season for picking them starts in May and continues through early July. Since they aren’t cultivated for mass production, they are only available in these couple of months.

Thus they will grace the produce isle only for several weeks.

Delicious and cautious is how one could describe them. Delicious, because these “veggies” are very versatile in cooking and have a unique texture and flavor—somewhere between asparagus and okra. You can sauté them, steam them, use them in soups, braise them, and marinate them to your liking. Cautious, because they have a very specific growing and eating season. You can only eat them before they fully unfurl, which renders them inedible. And you must blanch them first—boil quickly in salty water and throw in cold water afterward—to get rid of some bitter acid they have in them when raw.

Fiddleheads have all the benefits of dark green veggies—they are low in calories, high in fiber, crunchy in texture, and are a good source of vitamin A and C. But the taste is something else—so good, in fact, that fiddleheads have something of a cult going among locals who seek them out when in season to get the freshest pick.

Fiddleheads love Maine in particular, where you can find them being sold by the van load on the side of the road. And told enthusiastically by a local producer on how to cook them right lest you forget to boil that bit of bitter acid and get turned off these weird-looking, delicious ferns.

There is no better judge than your own palate though. So go get yourself some and make your own conclusions while you consume your own unique piece of New England.

Isn’t it cool that we have something growing that omni-producing California doesn’t?

 

Julia Timakhovich

Please Visit: Healthworks Fitness

(Images: from Flikr, Appaloosa)

 

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In Michael Pollan’s latest book, In Defense of Food, he suggests sticking to the perimeter of a market while food shopping if you want to avoid processed foods.  For the most part he’s right – except if you shop at Russo’s in Watertown.  To be fair it is more like a farm stand without the farm than a supermarket.  There are no paper products in sight — just food everywhere.  Their wholesale business, selling to Whole Foods among other area stores and numerous restaurants, helps keep the retail prices pretty reasonable. 

But don’t go there just for the prices – go for the selection.  There are foods from all nations as the signs indicate.  They carry varieties of egg plant, hot peppers, sweet potatoes (including purple as well as yams from Japan) and beets of all colors to name a few.  In addition you’ll find pea tendrils, potato leaf, plantains, baby bananas, and an assortment of Middle Eastern breads.  There is a limited selection of meats and the dairy section is well stocked with products from local vendors.  Plenty of cheeses, cold cuts, prepared foods, an in-house bakery, and cut flowers.  And of course there are the seasonal fare: ramps now, soon they’ll have fiddle head ferns and other wonderful surprises throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

The first time you go plan to take your time walking through or you might miss the treasures to be found above and below the produce displays like nuts, dried fruits, condiments, pastas, jams, jellies, juices, etc.  Don’t take my word for it, go to their website, www.russos.com , and believe them when they say they are the food lover’s food store.  Holiday menus are available for those who are too busy to cook.  Russo’s is located at 560 Pleasant Street, Watertown, Ma, (617-923-1500).

 

 

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You may be wondering if it’s better to buy local or organic produce. Many people choose organic as a way to avoid pesticides and support a method of agriculture that protects the environment. However, shipping organic asparagus to New England from South America in the middle of the winter undermines many of the environmental benefits of organic farming. Many experts believe that the petroleum used to truck organic vegetables thousands of miles across the country may contribute more to global warming than conventional pesticides do.

At the grocery store you are often confronted with many conflicting choices. It can be frustrating when no one product offers everything you want for your family’s health and the well-being of the planet. You have to choose between conventional tomatoes raised in a Massachusetts greenhouse or organic tomatoes from Mexico. Maybe you’re craving a green salad but all the organic lettuce on shelf was grown in California. Or perhaps someone told you never to eat conventional strawberries (“they absorb pesticides like a sponge”) but you can’t afford the premium price.

First, take a deep breath. There is no need to get worked up over a carrot. The best course of action is to educate yourself about the relative risks and benefits of your staple foods. Some conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are known to absorb more agriculture chemicals than others, and many people choose to minimize their consumption of them. For example, you could choose to abstain from apples altogether (conventional ones can carry a fair amount of pesticide residue) or pay an extra dollar a pound for organic varieties. The Environmental Working Group has published a ranked list of 45 common fruits and vegetables based on each item’s pesticide load. Peaches, apples and bell peppers appear at the top as the most commonly found with chemicals while avocados and onions land at the bottom. The complete list is available on their website: http://www.foodnews.org/

It turns out that the conventionally grown local tomato doesn’t tend to carry agricultural chemicals very much at all (the EWG ranks it #30). But things may get a little more complicated once more local vegetables start turning up the supermarket and farmer’s markets open for the season. What do you do if you find out that your favorite local pick-your-own apple orchard isn’t certified organic? Don’t turn your back on the small business owner. Ask the farmer what kind of methods he or she uses. Many responsible growers forgo the use of toxic or persistent pesticides but choose not to get USDA certified. Several New England farmers practices “Integrated Pest Management,” an environmentally sensitive approach that uses a combination of techniques to manage pests with minimal hazard to people and property. About 15 farms in Massachusetts are members of the “Certified Naturally Grown” network of growers who maintain high standards of production overseen by a not-for-profit certification agency. Purchasing certified organic is the best way to ensure that a crop is grown without toxic or persistent pesticides, but it’s important to note that many non-organic growers use these substances sparingly or not at all.

For a couple of weeks in June, you’ll be faced with the option to buy either locally grown strawberries (not certified organic) and organically grown ones from California – and both look juicy and delicious. Personally, I’d pick the local strawberries. For me, the pleasure of eating a locally grown berry, which is available for such a limited time, is just wonderful! But everyone has their own set of criteria for buying food, and you have to make your own judgment call about what’s most important for you.

Some local farms deliver produce to Whole Foods Market stores the day it is picked which translates into better tasting and more nutritious meals. We post the farm name and location on all items grown in New England and can often tell you a bit about the farmer. Please do not hesitate to ask questions while you are shopping. Making educated choices at the grocery store can have a positive impact on your family’s health, the livelihood of family farmers and the well-being of the environment. Bon Appetit!

Lauren Klatsky

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