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Monday, March 09, 2009

When Fresh Isn't Best

Hello Neighbors & Happy Monday!

We have all heard over the last few years that for our health and for the health of the planet we should buy food grown close to home when it is in season. Support local agriculture and reduce our environmental impact. I am in agreement with this to the extent that I can be in the high elevation Rocky Mountains. But to be honest, we go through some pretty dark months here where fresh produce is scarce and food grown locally does not exist. But just because the earth is in hibernation it does not mean that my nutritional needs and goals hibernate. Here are a few substitutions I've found when "Fresh Isn't Best" --- let me know some of your ideas for filling the seasonal gap between harvests.

Tomatoes: Right now our local grocery store does carry fresh tomatoes. But they are mealy and lack flavor, moisture and color. In fact, some are hard as softballs. I've found that canned tomatoes, even on green salads, are an acceptable ingredient. In fact, some studies indicate that canned tomatoes (reduced sodium) contain increased amounts of lycopene over fresh tomatoes. Lycopene is considered a strong cancer fighter and those who ate lots of tomato products have a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Canned tomatoes often go on sale and can be stored until the "use by" date. Stock-up as much as your pantry allows and you can enjoy the health benefits of tomatoes year-round.

Substitute 2 (15-ounce) cans drained, diced tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes in this recipe:
Tomato-Basil Saute'

Berries: One of the best bargains in the supermarket and big-box stores is frozen berries. Fresh berries, even in our global marketplace, have a short-lived season. Yet both strawberries and blueberries are considered top anti-oxidants in the biological fight against free radicals. Certainly we want to include them in our healthy diets. Look for bags of frozen berries in the freezer section. Avoid the canned frozen berries that are preserved with sugar syrup. The bagged berries are flash-frozen close to the point of harvest making them as close to fresh as possible. Add frozen berries to your blended protein drink or top yogurt or cottage cheese with thawed berries. Delicious!
Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Lemons and Limes can be quite expensive this time of year in my area ($1.29/lemon!), yet I find many of my recipes call for lemon. In addition, I use lemon juice in my herbal tea for it's cleansing properties and fresh taste. In most cases bottled lemon juice (I prefer ReaLemon by Mott's Inc) will take the place of freshly squeezed lemon juice. It is more economical and efficient to use with just a squirt from the bottle. If the recipe depends on the flavor of lemon or lime zest I'll splurge on the real thing. But for now I'm happy with bottled lemon and lime juice.

Peppers & Onions are hit-and-miss this time of year. And peppers are getting very expensive often topping $2 a piece. Who can afford that? Yet I look at the orange and yellow and red peppers knowing they are loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C. Am I not worth it? Sure I am but like everyone else, I have a budget. Canned roasted red peppers are a good substitute for the fresh. Look for those canned in water, not oil and keep refrigerated after opening. A little goes a long way in enhancing the flavor of your recipe. In the freezer section you will also find frozen chopped peppers, onions and pepper & onion mixes. These are great for saute' recipes or in soups and save time as well as money. While still frozen remove the measure you need for your recipe, reseal the bag and return to the freezer for next use. No chance of spoilage or waste and you have saved time and money.

I hope some of these ideas are useful to you. These days we can all use a break at the checkout and some nutrition on our tables. Let me know what tricks you employ to save money and live your healthy LivingAfterWLS way of life.

Learn more budget saving ideas from the Neighbors


Stacy said...

I am a tomato lover, but HATE canned tomatoes...

I have actually considered trying to grow tomatoes in the house, but I don't think it would work.

Lisa said...

Pickling and fermenting are great ways to preserve fresh foods for the colder months.