Sunday, March 18, 2012

An Appetite for Spring

The start of Spring doesn’t just mean we can now justify complaining about the weather (you know you did starting March 20th), it is the exciting start to a vibrant produce season! You may have received the hint from bundled asparagus spears taking over the produce displays at your local supermarket that the season has indeed changed, now aren’t you curious to know what else will be taking the place of those winter root vegetables on your plate?

Spring Produce

Some of the produce you will be seeing this season includes rhubarb, chives, bamboo shoots, asparagus, Chinese vegetables, lettuce, radish, and spinach. Berries will be beginning to make an appearance by the end of the season.

Why eat seasonally?

If you are eating according to season, you are probably eating locally as well. Besides the obvious benefit to the environment, if your food isn’t traveling far, you will be saving money and will get a bigger nutritional bang for your buck. You will enjoy your produce at the peak of ripeness, so your taste buds will thank you as well.

What do I do with…?

  • Rhubarb-Low in calories, yet high in dietary fiber and vitamin C! Try this Rhubarb-Cherry Sauce recipe on your favorite meat dish. Alternatively, experience the sweeter side of this vegetable with a Rhubarb Crisp (
  • Radish-This root vegetable is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, meaning it provides the same cancer-protective actions. All varieties of radishes are low in calories and high in vitamin C, and the leaves contain up to six times more vitamin C, as well as provide calcium. Try out this simple Cucumber Radish Slaw to accompany your next meal ( .
  • Asparagus-A member of the lily family, these spears are surprisingly rich in protein compared to other vegetables. Also an excellent source of potassium, vitamin K, folic acid, vitamins C and A, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B6. Roast asparagus and drizzle with a little olive oil and salt, or steam and serve with lemon vinaigrette for a light salad. Incorporate asparagus in a variety of dishes, including pastas, stir-fry, omelets, and salads. Start with keeping it simple with this Oven Roasted Asparagus Recipe
  • Lettuce/Spinach-A general rule-of-thumb is that the darker the lettuce, the greater the nutrient content. In general, all varieties are high in vitamin K, A, C, and folic acid. Spinach is known for its alkaline producing effects on the body, as well as its high lutein content, which promotes healthy vision. Try this Spinach Salad with Dried Cherries recipe for a gentle transition into lighter spring fare.

Check out this link link for more fabulous spring recipes!

For more information about what’s in season in the Puget Sound Region please visit here 

My favorite SEED

It’s NOT a grain. Really? Yes, seriously. 

Not related to wheat at all, this nutrition superstar is related to Swiss chard and spinach (please tell me you saw that coming, right?) Does it really matter to argue about it? No – because typically it can substitute for any grain in a recipe.

It’s pronounced keen-wah, far off from those inebriated sounding attempts of kin-ow and key-noah.  

This “new” (have you been living under a cheeseburger?)  food comes from the Andes Mountains of South America. It is thought to have served as a source of sustained energy for the Incas, and one of the few staple crops that was grown at these altitudes.

Nutrition highlights

Here comes the dietitian in me…

·         Complete protein – meaning that it contains the nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are those nitrogen containing building blocks that form proteins.
Over 20 exist, however there are 9 that must be obtained from the diet (your body cannot make them, hence they are “essential”). Phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, histidine, leucine, lysine. So what is so exciting about this complete protein thing? Typically you need to seek various food groups throughout the day* in order to obtain all nine essential amino acids so your body can form complete proteins. However quinoa delivers all nine within a single bite! Not only is quinoa a complete protein, quinoa is relatively high in protein. One cup cooked provides approximately 8g of protein!

*Side note- the notion that you must select complementary foods (beans and grains for example) within a single meal is inaccurate; rather you need to seek various complementary foods within a single day.

·         Hypoallergenic – It doesn’t contain gluten, so it serves as a wonderful alternative for people sensitive to gluten or are gluten-intolerant. For a girl like me with a gluten-intolerant gut, this is great news!

·         Headache and cardiovascular benefits- Quinoa is high in magnesium, which acts as a vasodilator. Therefore it is thought to provide relief from headaches (migraines), as well as serve up some cardiovascular benefits (via reduction in blood pressure).

·         Full of fiber- One cup cooked provides approximately 3g of dietary fiber. Fiber takes longer to digest, therefore keeps you satiated for an extended period of time, resulting perhaps in decreased caloric intake (equating to weight loss- ahh yes there goes the light bulb). Beyond that perk, fiber helps to normalize blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and improve colon health. Are you clueless as to whether you should be impressed with this 3g per cup number I am handing you? Well your friend white rice has less than 1g per cooked cup. For reference, men (age 50 and younger) should be consuming approximately 38g, and women about 25g of dietary fiber daily. If you are incorporating quinoa into a diet packed with fruits, vegetables and legumes, this is definitely achievable.  Please up your fluid (water) intake if you decide to overemphasize fibrous foods in your diet stating now. 

Culinary highlights

This little guy is just too easy to get along with, you can’t not let him park in your cupboard permanently! 

·         Versatility- Quinoa leaves a lot of room for creativity, thanks to its versatility. It’s light and nutty, and will pick up any flavor you add. You can enjoy quinoa in any meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even dessert. What other food can do that?  (And no - chocolate doesn’t count.)

o   Breakfast- Add blueberries, strawberries, honey and cinnamon to cooked quinoa for an energizing breakfast .

o   Lunch-Add quinoa to a bed of greens for extra protein and fiber. Or serve as a side: My favorite way to cook is to cook in vegetable broth, add a variety of spices (coriander, cumin, cayenne) salt, and light acid (red wine vinegar, balsamic, lemon or lime juice). Try this recipe as a side for lunch

o   Dinner – Serve meat entrĂ©e over quinoa, or create a mixed dish full of veggies for a one-dish meal. Try this one-dish meal ( .

o   Dessert-Layer chilled quinoa, yogurt, fresh raspberries, hint of mint and honey for a dessert parfait. Or use quinoa flakes or flour for any baked goods.

Check out my recipe for quinoa muffins here

Baked quinoa banana bread?  Yes please! Yes please!

·         Convenience – Unlike most grains which take nearly an hour to prepare, quinoa takes about one-quarter of the time!

Basic Quinoa Cooking Instructions:

Rinse thoroughly in a fine mesh strainer (there is a protective coating called saponin on the outside that would leave a bitter taste if left un-rinsed). Next place in a saucepan, fill with 2:1 ratio of liquid:quinoa. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, place lid and leave in peace for 15 minutes. Once all liquid is absorbed, let sit for 5-10 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with fork and serve as desired.

Versatile, healthy, and unbelievably easy – quinoa is a favorite of mine and I encourage you to give it a try! Find it at Whole Foods and PCC in the bulk section; Costco, QFC and Safeway in packages near grains (it’s a seed, remember?).


 Energizing Quinoa Breakfast

A healthy start to your day, full of fiber to keep you powered for hours without weighing you down! 


2 cups water

1 cup quinoa

½ tsp cinnamon

1/8-1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tablespoon honey

½ cup berries (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry or strawberry)

1 tablespoon hempseeds


Place water, quinoa and spices in saucepan and stir gently. Turn heat to high until just bubbling, then cover and reduce to simmer for approximately 15 minutes. After cooking time is complete and water has been absorbed, remove lid and fluff lightly with a fork. Add honey, berries and hempseeds and stir gently to combine. May be enjoyed warm or cold. Serve over yogurt if desired.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes total

Yield: 4, 1 ¼ cup servings. 

Original recipe by Tarynne L. Mingione, 2012.

An Appetite for Summer

ITS HERE! The most exciting event of the year (no, I am not talking about the Nordstrom Anniversary sale), it’s the start of summer! While the weather takes its time to transition, I am pleased to present to you an alternative reason to keep wearing your eager smile: summer produce! This is perhaps one of the most generous seasons, offering a rainbow of fruits and vegetables exploding with honeyed and tart flavors. 

Summer Produce

This is a rough prediction of when you can expect to see the following produce in season:

You may have noticed that cherries, currants, raspberries, and strawberries are already brightening up grocery bins. Next month (brace yourself) apples, apricots, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, figs, huckle/goose/logan/marionberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums will be all be begging to be placed in your grocery bag. Broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, onion, peas, tomato and zucchini will be irresistibly fresh beginning in July that even the “veggie-hater” surrenders. Corn, peppers and melons can be welcomed around the same time as the hydroplanes (August). Herbs also thrive this season, starting in June and extending through September, and include basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, and tarragon.

Summer Favorites

  • Zucchini: This popular summer squash has an incredibly high water content, translating to a very low calorie content but also with the benefit of potassium, carotenes and vitamin C. When selecting, bigger does not mean better (perhaps more fibrous) and go for the ones that are heavy for size with shiny coats. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and wash immediately prior to use. Grate and use to liven up salads, incorporate into breads or muffins, or splash with a little oil and place on the grill. For more ideas, explore these Summer Squash and Zucchini Recipes
  • Tomato-There are over a thousand varieties of this fruit (in a botanical sense, the chef would argue that in a culinary sense tomatoes are vegetables). Low in calories, yet high in vitamin C, lycopene, and dietary fiber! Lycopene has been shown to be protective against a variety of cancers (including breast, colon, lung and skin), particularly prostate cancer. The lycopene content is relatively stable during cooking and processing, so feel free to enjoy straight off the vine, cooked or canned. Eating tomatoes with oil may increase absorption. Select tomatoes that yield to slight pressure, and store in room temperature until ready to be used. If you just can’t wait to eat your unripe tomatoes, place in a paper bag with an apple or banana (the ethylene gas will speed up the ripening process). Grilled, baked, roasted, raw, in salads, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas, burgers, or the star of salsas-the possibilities are endless! Check out Sunsets 27 Juicy Tomato Recipes, Martha Stewarts 50 Tomato Recipes, or for a quick salsa combine chopped tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, cilantro and lime and starting dipping!
  • Blueberries-Aka Antioxidant superstars have been a favorite long before history was even recorded. There are over 30 species of these native berries, ranging in size, color and flavor depending on the region in which they are grown. The anthocyanidins are responsible for the antioxidant properties this fruit exhibits, as well as the signature “blue” pigment. These compounds have been shown to be protective against oxidative damage of the brain, age-related macular degeneration, and improve vision. The soluble and insoluble fibers found in blueberries also assist in treating diarrhea or constipation. Store covered in the refrigerator and wash blueberries only immediately before eating. If you have picked or purchased more than you can consume, spread washed and drained berries on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until completely frozen prior to transferring to a plastic bag. Enjoy by the handful, in smoothies, on crepes/waffles/pancakes, in cereals, yogurt, or as little surprises in baked goods. For an overwhelming number of other ideas, explore these  Blueberry Recipes.
Check out where you can pick your own here