Thursday, July 26, 2012

Get Inspired to Eat Better

By Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

I have a confession to make: I LOVE "bad" food. Fast food, candy, french fries, bread, you name it. Over the past two decades, I've conditioned my taste buds to branch beyond standard American fare and enjoy a wide range of vegetables, vegetarian and ethnic fare, wild game, seafood, etc. But when I'm traveling or life gets busy, those old standbys are easy to turn to. That's fine, once in a while, but I definitely feel better when I'm eating well. One of the best things you can do to keep your diet healthy is to continually get inspired. Here are some of my favorite ways to do that:

* Be dazzled by fruits and vegetables. Key in on the produce aisle while shopping and also check out farmers markets and farm stands to keep your diet produce-heavy. Experiment with new ingredients and fresh herbs. Plan your meals around plants.

* Surround yourself with local, vegetarian, and healthy cookbooks, preferably with lots of great photos. Poke through them when dinner gets dull.

* Join foodie mailing lists and blogs such as,,,,,, and of course the Co-op Buzz Blog and newsletter! (Got a favorite blog? Share it in the "Comments" section!)

* Subscribe to healthy foodie magazines like EatingWell, Whole Living, and Vegetarian Times.

* Share food and recipes with friends and family who enjoy real, healthy food.

How do YOU stay inspired to eat good food? Share your tips in the "Comments" section below.

Bon appétit!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Salt: A Chef’s Perspective

By Audrey Burghard, Health and Wellness Coordinator at the Co-op

A couple weeks ago when Chef Mike and I were waiting in the hall to do a presentation to the AntiCancer group at Concord Hospital, we struck up an interesting conversation. I have the opportunity to hang out with Mike occasionally when we are working together on classes or cooking demos, and it’s fun to learn from him.

We were outside the room with our cook table ready to go, and I looked at a jar of sea salt. I proudly told Chef Mike that I don’t cook with salt and let people salt their food as needed at the table. I have always heard that salt is “bad” and we get too much of it in our diets. In many ways I’m a typical consumer and believe things that I hear.

I was pretty surprised by Mike’s response. He told me that he would fire me if I worked in his kitchen and made that statement about salt! Those of you who have met Chef Mike know that at times he can be direct. I on the other hand, I completely appreciate his honesty and wanted to hear more! I said to him, “Well, it’s a good thing I don’t work for you, but will you tell me more about salt then?” Chef Mike went on to tell me that people (including me) are misled about salt. Salt is what gives food a good flavor, and in the case of most meat, it is critical in cooking meat properly. Salting things before or during the cooking process brings out flavor and helps meat retain moisture. When meat is salted before cooking, it brings juices to the surface. When the meat is cooked those juices create the browning that we all like. The brown or seared surface traps moisture in.

In summary, here is Mike’s message about salt: Use salt for flavor in your food! When we salt things at the table, it just makes food taste salty. When it’s cooked in, it makes food flavorful. That makes a lot of sense to me, but you decide.

The role that salted food plays in our health has become a controversial topic. Conventional wisdom says to reduce salt, especially if you have hypertension. However, a growing group of experts and studies suggest that modest amounts of salt added to homemade food has much less of a negative impact, if any, on cardiovascular health compared to processed food jacked up with a variety of manufactured sodium substances. Of course, if you know you are salt-sensitive, you may want to go lightly.

As for what kind of salt to use, we all know that there are many kinds to choose from. Consider sea salt (with or without added iodine), kosher salt, grey salt, pink salt, Himilayan, Celtic, and the list goes on. Chef Mike says simply, “kosher.” So, consider taking your salt shaker off the table and putting it near the stove. When salt is used properly, your foods should be plenty flavorful, and you won’t need to reach for the shaker. It’s up to you to experiment with how much to use. Let me know what you think, and how you use salt!

In health,

DIY Veggie Burgers

By Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Veg Burger Cooking

Homemade veggie burgers are a delicious way to celebrate seasonal produce and fresh herbs. Inspired by some delicious recipes, my husband and I now wing it with whatever is on hand. If you can, make extra to refrigerate or freeze and re-heat later in the toaster oven or skillet. They're also perfect for wraps and as salad toppings. Pick one or two items from each category, or branch off to try even more ingredients.

Grated Zucchini (raw)
Grated Summer Squash (raw)
Sliced Mushrooms (sauteed)
Chopped Celery (sauteed)

Minced Garlic Cloves (raw)
Finely Chopped Onions (raw)
Spices: Whole Cumin Seeds, Turmeric Powder, Coriander, Crushed Red Pepper, Black Pepper
Herbs: Rosemary, Basil, Thyme, Oregano/Savory, Dill, Parsley, Sage (fresh, if possible)

Chickpeas (cooked, mashed)
Black Beans (cooked, mashed)
Black-Eyed Peas (cooked, mashed)
Pinto Beans (cooked, mashed)
Canned Salmon (drained)... ok, it's not veg, but it's yummy
Crumbled Feta
Crumbled Tofu or Tempeh

Sticky Carb
Precooked Rice
Precooked Quinoa
Shredded Potato (partially cooked, then grated)
Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
Mashed Winter Squash or Sweet Potato (cooked)

1 or two eggs
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together, form into patties (2-3 inches in diameter, 3/4 inch thick). In a skillet, cook in olive oil on medium heat, about three minutes per side or until golden and cooked through.

Chickpea-Quinoa Burger
Need a more specific recipe to get started?
Here are some of my favorites from EatingWell & Whole Living:
Zucchini Potato Latkes
Bean Burgers with Spicy Guacamole
Salmon Rosti
Chickpea Brown Rice Burger

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fresh Tomatoes!

By Audrey Burghard, wellness coordinator 

Summer time is great for fresh tomatoes. Here is one of my favorite recipes to have on hand for several applications. You can use this salsa in or on eggs, on chips or nachos, on a taco salad, or in a burrito with beans and rice. This salsa has respectable nutritional value and tastes great! When you have these kinds of items ready in the fridge, you will be less likely to go out to eat or resort to pre-packaged foods. You can increase the “heat” in this salsa by increasing the peppers, and if you don’t like cilantro, you can take it out.
Fresh Salsa
5 to 6 large tomatoes, diced (I also remove the seeds and slimy part J)
1 large Vidalia onion, diced
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, diced very small (omit if you don’t like spicy foods)
1 Tbls olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
Juice from 1 lime
1 small can of diced green chilies
1 to 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
Cilantro leaves, chopped fine, to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix everything up and store refrigerated in airtight container for up to a week.

Yours In Health,