All Posts tagged food

Traditions worth repeating

By Dr. Sara Stefan, DC, CCWP, fCBP

June is Dairy Month. June mean mosquitos and might be what you think of as the start of summer. June probably conjures up a lot of ideas and musing for you. To me, June is my mom’s birthday that always coincides with strawberry season.

As a kid, every year we would pack up the cardboard strawberry flats, a bucket of warm, soapy water and a few rags and we’d pile into the car to drive to the local strawberry patch. It was the one time of year where going to Clintonville meant something special was happening. Even back then, my parents were insistent upon getting there as soon in the morning as possible. You know, you have to “beat the heat”. So we’d bumble down the road in our trusty minivan and jump out onto the grassy, uneven terrain of the field turned parking lot. From there we would scour the horizon until our eyes landed on the tractor pulling the wagon full of people. We would be crossing our fingers that it wasn’t too far away since we could barely contain the excitement and the idea of warm, sweet strawberry juice running down our chins. (My mom was smart. She came prepared with the aforementioned bucket of water for post-picking cleanup before piling back into the car in a strawberry induced haze.)

The tractor ride was one of the best parts. It would chug and jerk and if you weren’t paying attention, every once in a while it would feel like you were almost about to fall off. Or maybe that was just me – the scrawny little kid in a hand-me-down tee shirt and jelly shoes with just enough meat on my bones to keep me from bouncing up and off the trailer. Then, all at once, the driver would stop and everyone would scramble off in search of the worker who assigned you your row where you would begin your search for the world’s best strawberry. “Work from this flag, down. Take the flag with you and put it where you stop. Don’t leave any ripe berries and stay in your row”. I was a rule follower even back then so it was a simple nod of the head and get to work. If you pick strawberries like I do, you’ll pick for a few minutes, get a bit in your bucket and a sense that not everyone is watching you (especially the workers!) and you’d sneak your first berry. I can almost taste and feel that first fresh berry of the season on my tongue. Warm from the sun. So juicy you have to eat it all in one bite, and so sweet you realize that any other strawberry you’ve eaten in the last 6 months was nothing like this, not even comparable.

Fast forward 25 minutes or so and your feet are a little achy. Your back might be a little tight. And the sun shining down upon your back probably has you feeling more than a little warm, even though it’s only 8:30 in the morning. If you’re lucky, the berries that year are big, plump and the truest color of red you’ve seen in person. You pick around the leaves and find cluster upon cluster of berries and pretty soon, your flat is filling up. Mom looks over, sees what you have and declares, “I think we have enough.” You know what that means? That means fresh strawberry pie and homemade strawberry jam and fresh berries for every meal for the next three days. YES! It also means you better pick a few more and stuff them into your face before you put your stake in and head for the edges of the field.

Once you hop back on the tractor and get back to the farm house, it’s time to find out how much your strawberries weigh. Slide the box down and feel the cardboard grate against the well-worn wooden countertop. Who picked more? Mom gets out cash to pay the older woman who smells like my grandmas, and reality sets in. Strawberry picking is over and it’ll be a whole year before you get to do this same routine all over again….bummer.

The good thing is you still have all the fruits of your labor, literally. The other good thing is that year after year, this annual tradition becomes part of your DNA. You probably don’t realize it as it’s happening, but this is the sort of thing that fires you up while simultaneously calming you down. Every year now, when mid-June rolls around, I scope out the calendar and the weather to see what day I can get out and pick. It is exciting. And then when we start to pick, a sense of child-like wonder comes over me and time slows down a little bit (except for last year when we were racing to finish picking before a hellacious storm brewed not far in the distance. We did end up beating it. We pulled onto the highway just as it started to downpour. Not sure what all the folks out in the fields did or how they missed the thick, grey clouds rolling in).

It’s these types of memories and experiences that I want to leave with my kids. I need to realize that we might be setting our own, new traditions right now, and I don’t even realize it. What is happening today that might leave an indelible mark that they’ll never forget? I guess my point in telling you this long story about something so mundane as picking strawberries is best summed up in a quote by  BJ Palmer, the developer of Chiropractic,: “We never know how far reaching something we may think, say or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow.” We are obviously in the middle of an odd time right now. What isn’t always obvious, though, is that life is made up of series of memories and events. Cherish the moment right now and create positive, character building events. Start new traditions if you want or build upon the old, trusty ones. Either way, love the people around you, find the best in life, and live the life of your dreams.

Oh, and by the way, a cup of strawberries provides vitamin C, manganese and also contains folate (vitamin B9) and potassium. Strawberries are rich in antioxidants and plant compounds that may have benefits for heart health and blood sugar control, among many other benefits.  Whatever you choose in this next season, make it impactful and fun. Create memories and friendships. And as always, stay healthy, my friends! Enjoy!

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MSG – The Dirty Truth

Here’s the story of an ingredient named MSG

A cooking rut. Have you ever been in one of those? You know, where you are uninspired to make anything, let alone something new, in the kitchen? I just got out of one. And I’m here today to tell you all about the recipe that has me fired up again. Want to know what the game changer was? You’ll never guess. A homemade condensed cream of mushroom soup. One to replace the red and white and gold Campbell’s version that rolls around in your cart. Why would you want to make that when it’s so easy to purchase, you ask? Well, let me tell you why this simple recipe is far superior to the one at your local grocery store.

Pre-made grocery items like a condensed soup have a lot of ingredients in them. Ever try to read labels? I have years (and years and years) of chemistry in my background, and I still struggle to pronounce the many ingredients. We’re talking fillers, stabilizers, preservatives and three nasty letters – M. S. G. And that right there, my friends, is why I choose the hard road to make my own food.

It might help make food taste better, but MSG is a scary ingredient. MSG is an excitotoxin. Long story short – it causes so much excitement in the neurons in your brain that it kills them. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to keep my brain cells. One mentor of mine has connected the dots and links MSG and aspartame (we’ll discuss fake sugars more some other time) to neurodegenerative disorders. These disorders include Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and more.  Serious business.

If MSG were only in a few, not so common products we eat, I wouldn’t be so concerned. The problem lies in how universally abundant it is. You probably remember the signs hung proudly at Chinese restaurants that state “our food contains no MSG”. They might be right. But they’re probably wrong. That’s because MSG has dozens of aliases. Here are a few:

-Glutamate -Monosodium Glutamate -Monopotassium Glutamate -Yeast extract -Hydrolyzed protein (any protein that is hydrolyzed) -Glutamic Acid -Calcium Caseinate -Sodium Caseinate -Gelatin -Textured Protein -Yeast Nutrient -Autolyzed Yeast -Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten

And even more these “often contain MSG or create MSG during processing”:

-Carrageenan -Natural Pork Flavor -Bouillon and Broth -Soy sauce extract -Maltodextrin -Citric Acid -Protease -Natural Flavor & Flavorings -even the vague word Seasonings and many, many more.

My homemade condensed cream of mushroom soup didn’t contain any ingredients like that. It might have been a bit tedious in terms of the number of steps, but it was really pretty simple and utilized my Vitamix (which always makes me happy). I used it to make a homemade green bean casserole for when my parents came over for dinner on Sunday. I made up the recipe for the GBC as I went, using the homemade soup, some sautéed shallots, fresh steamed green beans and a few other ingredients. It was the most complimented dish on the table. The whole pan was gone, nearly licked clean. The key to the recipe? The soup. No MSG or other questionable ingredients. No worries of health concerns, long term or short. Only pure, delicious, nutritious goodness in whole food form.

So now that I’m out of my cooking rut, it’s time to make another batch of condensed soup and use it to recreate some healthier versions of casseroles and whatnot that I had as a kid. First up: a tator tot casserole using grass fed beef, tons of added veggies and topped off with veggie tots. I’m excited.

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