Archive for October, 2010

Fresh Squeezed OJ – in October?!

I look forward to something special every October – delicious fresh squeezed orange juice.  Everyone thinks of fresh squeezed juice as a summer luxury, but it doesn’t have to be.  Every October, Costco sells big boxes of oranges for a low, low price.  Oranges are not on the dirty dozen list because of their thick skin, so I feel free to buy the non-organic variety.  However, throughout most of the year, oranges are expensive and not very good quality here in PA.  Oranges are available all year round because they are grown throughout the world and different oranges have different growing seasons.   Here is a list of orange variety by region and their availability.

Variety Region Availability
Navels Florida Oct – Dec
  California Oct – Jun
  Texas Oct – Jan
  Australia Jul – Oct
  South Africa Jun – Sep
Valencias Florida Feb – Jun
  California Jun – Dec
Juice Florida Oct – Jun
  California Sep – Apr
  Texas Oct – May
  South Africa Sep – Oct

I am not an orange connoisseur, but I do know that the South African Midknight Seedless Oranges that Costco sells in October make the most delicious fresh squeezed orange juice.  I am salivating just thinking about how fresh tasting it is.   For $12, I got a big box and have been enjoying a glass of fresh OJ every morning since then.  I think that I’ll be able to get through a second box before they are no longer available.  While everyone is enjoying fresh-picked apples, I’ll be drinking my juice.

Step it Up

 A new research study came out this week that highlights Americans as taking significantly less steps per day than other countries.  For a nation where 63% of its inhabitants are overweight, is this really a surprise to anyone?  I will add one concern to this study.  It only profiled 1136 Americans.  That seems like a pretty low number to base comprehensive study results on, but it still is a good opportunity to talk about getting people walking.

I wondered how many people know how many steps they take per day.  I own a pedometer and have a pretty good idea of my average number steps on days where I don’t consciously exercise and the average number of steps I walk or run.  Another opportunity that many people are not taking advantage of is company –sponsored step challenges.  My friend’s company started these years ago.  Employees who wanted to participate received a pedometer.  They recorded their daily steps over a determined period of time and winners got prizes.  My husband’s company did the same thing 2 years ago, and finally, my company started it too.  We use www.virginhealthmiles.com, and our pedometers have a USB connection that uploads our steps so no cheating is involved.  Working for a company with more than 100,000 geographically-disperse employees can make these challenges less motivating because you don’t know your competition.  What I like about the website is you also have the ability to create your own challenge.  Currently, I have a challenge in progress.  12 of my immediate co-workers are involved.  It’s full of trash-talking, bragging, and other motivational language to get us all moving.  Who doesn’t like that competition?

 Back to the statistics….on average Americans take ~5000 steps a day.  Why is this so concerning?  Well, I’m  sure that many of you already know that we should be taking 10,000 steps a day to support optimum health.  10,000 steps equal about 5 miles.  If you are like me and you drive to and from work and sit a desk all day, walking 5 miles a day just doing what you have to do is nearly impossible.   To walk 10,000 steps a day, you actually need to exercise.  You don’t need a hard workout.  You don’t need to go to the gym.  You just need to walk.  Walk with your dog, your husband, your child.  Better yet, walk with your iPod and set your own pace.  If you feel inspired, spend the $10 and buy a pedometer.  Challenge yourself to walk 10,000 steps a day.  You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel just by walking.

Frito-Lay Are a Bunch of Wimps

I was appalled as every other environmentally friendly person out there about Frito-Lay giving up on their combustible bag because of noise complaints.    I was planning on blogging about it but decided that it has been blogged to death already.  I will add one comment to this news.  I actually read a blog entry from a woman who refused to eat her beloved Sun Chips because of the noisy bag and is thrilled that with the return of the quieter bags she can eat them in peace.  I think that I actually felt nauseous with disappointment on that one for a few minutes.

Pumpkin – a Super Vegetable

Summer has come and gone.  We pulled out long sleeves and long pants and even wore sweatshirts yesterday.  Days are growing shorter, and we are forced to spend more and more time indoors.  I will miss daylight until 9pm, fresh fruits and vegetables from our garden, and hot days dipping my feet into the baby pool while Gavin splashes around.  I do look forward to the coziness of fall, especially the food. 

This weekend, I felt inspired to make one of my favorite fall dishes – Pumpkin Black Bean Soup.  Did you know that pumpkins are a super vegetable ? One serving provides well over your 100% daily allowance of beta-carotene.  Beta-carotene is known for protecting us against a variety of cancers and heart disease.  It is also chock full of carotenoids which protect your body against free radicals.  Free radicals are unstable atoms that are missing an electron.  If you remember from Chemistry class, electrons are those little things circling around the center of an atom.  Atoms are always striving to be stable, which can only happen when they have the right number of electrons.   These free radicals may steal an electron from another atom causing that atom to become a free radical.  This chain reaction can lead to the damage of a cell.  (That’s about the extent of my Chemistry knowledge.) While these free radicals do naturally occur in the body, the environment can also contribute to them.  Pollution, smoking, pesticides can all generate free radicals.  Carotenoids attract free radicals, making them stable atoms again.  Having a diet rich in carotenoids helps to prevent cell death and destruction, thus protecting us from diseases like cancer.    

Pumpkin is also a rich resource of Fiber and Iron.  I think that we all know why Fiber is necessary in our bodies.  Not everyone knows the importance of iron.  Hemoglobin is formed by iron.  Do you know what hemoglobin is?  Hemoglobin is found in our red blood cells.  Oxygen binds to it, and as our red blood cells move throughout our bodies, that oxygen is deposited to all of our cells, keeping them healthy.  If you do not have enough iron in your body, you won’t have enough hemoglobin.  I’m sure you can guess where this is leading.  Low hemoglobin counts means that your body can’t transfer the necessary amount of oxygen.  This condition is also known as anemia, which has the symptoms fatigue, paleness, irritability and increased heart rate.  Yes, you can take iron supplements which have their own negative side effects, but the most effective way to get enough iron is through our diet.

I’m hoping that I have sold you on why pumpkin should be incorporated into our diets.  The problem with pumpkin is that most of us only think of pumpkin as a baking ingredient.  When I think of pumpkin, I think of pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin bar.  All are delicious, with the exception of pumpkin pie (in my opinion), but they are all desserts.  I learned of the super powers of pumpkin while taking a nutrition class a little over a year ago, and since then, I have been on the lookout for pumpkin recipes for main dishes.  I tried a pumpkin pasta recipe once, which turned out to be very disappointing, but then I stumbled on to this soup recipe.  It is delicious!  It’s filled with hearty vegetable broth, black beans for protein, and pumpkin for all the aforementioned health benefits.  It’s simple and easy to make and makes for fabulous leftovers.  By the way, I cannot take credit for this recipe.  As with all of my cooking adventures, this recipe came from someone else.  I have no idea whom, but thank you to who everyone created it.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

2 (15 oz) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes

4 cups of vegetable broth

2 cups of canned pumpkin

½ cup of chopped red onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 tbs cumin

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

Oil

  1.  Puree black beans, tomatoes and a little bit of the broth in a food processor or with a blender.
  2. Heat the oil in a soup pot.  Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and let simmer for 45 minutes.