The colors of October

I love October! Okay, I admit it is my birthday month, which at this age is not such a great thing. But the weather…oh, October weather! The clear warm days, the cool crisp nights. The colors and flavors of fall.  Fall to me means the orange of pumpkins and winter squash, Fuyu persimmons and mandarins starting to color up.

The Fuyu persimmons are delicious just eaten like an apple. Unlike the Hachiya persimmons, which have a pointed end and must be dead ripe soft to eat, the Fuyu, with a rounded end, are delicious whether they are crispy or soft.  I peel them myself, as the peel is a bit tough, then slice them for a delicious treat.  They also can be used in all types of recipes. Try replacing them in recipes calling for mangoes; they make a fabulous salsa for example.

Here is the link to my California Mediterranean Diet website recipe for persimmon salsa:

Then there is the pomegranate harvest. Adrian has planted several different varieties of pomegranates and this year they are starting to produce. The Parfianka is a variety that has large seeds (arils) that are easy to separate from the pulp. They also have a very soft small seed, so they are not as chewy as other pomegranate seeds. The Wonderful is the type that we have been growing for years, and they have such deep red flesh, full of those wonderful phytochemicals that protect against heart disease and cancer. He makes delicious juice from these. It is a time consuming process but it is unlike any other pomegranate juice I have ever tried.

Here is a link to my post on how to make pomegranate juice:

© 2011. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any content in the article without the written persmission of the author is prohibited.


Breakfast in the fall

I must admit if there is one packaged food I do not understand it is instant oatmeal. It is very expensive, a waste of packaging material and  the flavored versions are very sweet with minimal amounts of real fruits. All oatmeal (except old-fashioned steel-cut oats) is pretty close to “instant” when you have a microwave oven.

In the winter we cook old-fashioned oats in the microwave with water, and add dried fruit or whatever fresh fruit is in season. In the summer we often roast them lightly in the oven or microwave, add dried nuts and fruit, and serve them cold with milk or yogurt (This is called muesli in Switzerland and our whole family loves it).  Usually we make a huge batch of this and store it in the pantry in a jar. When Evan left to serve in the arctic ocean in the Coast Guard, Adrian sent him off with 13 pounds of this muesli and it was gone within a few weeks. There is no mail service in the arctic to send him more, so when he comes home to visit we need to make a big batch.

This is how I make apple cinnamon oatmeal which is a favorite fall breakfast:

I spoon the amount of dry oatmeal I want (about 1/3 cup) in a ceramic or glass bowl. I add some chopped almonds or pecans, and half of an apple which I have peeled, cored and chopped. I add about a Tablespoon of raisins if I want extra sweetness. Sometimes I also add some wheat germ or ground hemp seeds for extra protein and vitamins. I add about 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (you can add a pinch of salt also) and enough water to almost cover the oats.

This is how it looks in the bowl:

Now I put it in the microwave and zap it for 1 minute. I take it out, stir it, zap it for another minute and take it out of the oven. I stir it and let it sit on the counter for a minute.

It looks like this now:

If you like it softer, add more water and cook it longer. I like texture…

Finally I top it with non-fat Greek yogurt, but you can also use milk, vanilla yogurt or anything else you might want to top it with, or nothing at all.

Nutrition tip: Oats and apples are both good sources of soluble fiber which can lower cholesterol levels. Almonds are also a good source of fiber and have some protein. Non-fat Greek yogurt has 3 times the protein of regular nonfat yogurt.  All the fiber and protein makes this a very filling breakfast so it should hold you over until lunch.

© 2011. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any content in the article without the written persmission of the author is prohibited.

Mediterranean Fish Recipe

I started this recipe with some fish I purchased at the Sacramento Natural Foods Coop. It was a Pacific Cod filet that was caught in the Pacific Northwest. The piece I chose was about 3/4 of a pound for the two of us, but a larger piece of fish would work just as well in this recipe. I checked the cod carefully for bones and pulled a few out using some needle nosed pliers.

I put a splash of olive oil and about 1/2 cup of white wine in the bottom of a rectangular ceramic baking dish.

I took 4 large tomatoes and chopped them up. You should have between 4 and 8 cups of tomatoes depending upon your preference. I had about 6 cups of tomatoes for the 2 of us. There is no need to remove the tomato skin. I also chopped up a large onion.

I picked a good sized handful of parsley and basil from the garden.

I removed the large basil stems and chopped these herbs up. Then I grabbed about 1/2 cup of pitted kalamata olives.

The olives were also chopped coarsely, and the herbs and olives were added to the tomato and onion mixture.

Finally I added about 3 Tablespoons of drained capers and a Tablespoon of olive oil and I mixed it all together..

I poured this vegetable mixture over the top of the fish, then placed it into a 350 degree oven.

After 25-30 minutes the fish should flake easily in the middle. That means it is done. Mine looked like this.

I mixed together about 1/2 cup of bread crumbs with 1/4 cup of crushed cornflake crumbs, 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese. I sprinkled this over the top of the fish.

Now I put it under the broiler for just a few minutes until the breading had turned nice and toasty brown. It was ready to serve. I served it with brown rice.

© 2011. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any content in the article without the written persmission of the author is prohibited.

Drying Apples

Our little farm keeps us busy and well fed. We are getting to the end of the summer harvest season now, but I can still run out there and grab a few tomatoes, or a pepper, or some squash and cucumber to make dinner.

We have a Winesap apple tree which we planted when we first moved here over 20 years ago. The apples are not the best for eating but are good to cook with. Today Adrian picked the first batch of apples.

As you can see a lot of the apples have holes in them. We are organic! That means slice around the worms. He slices them thinly in a little apple slicer which cores and peels them at the same time. It slices them very thin, which is perfect for drying.

He then soaks them in some “fruit fresh” which is a natural acid solution which keeps the apples from turning brown. Then he brushes them with maple syrup, and sprinkles them with cinnamon. Finally he places them on drying racks in our little table top dryer and plugs it in.

When the apples have gotten very dry we remove them from the trays. They should be very crispy.

To keep them crispy we store them in mason jars with desiccant packages we have saved from other foods, shoes, anything we buy that has a package of desiccant in it. You know..those little bags that say “do not eat”! Just make sure the package will not leak into your food.

These apples are delicious. What a tasty treat for kids and adults alike. Great mixed with some toasted almonds for an afternoon snack. We also add them to oatmeal when we cook it to make apple cinnamon oatmeal without buying that packaged sugary stuff.

Nutrition Note: A recent Dutch study suggested that eating white fleshed fruits and vegetables such as apples may reduce the risk of stroke.  Apples contain quercetin,  which is a flavonoid, one of the multiple compounds in fruits and vegetables that are antioxidants associated with reducing inflammation and damage to the body that may lead to chronic disease. Apples are also very high in the soluble fiber pectin, which has been shown to reduce absorption of cholesterol and to stabilize blood sugar.

© 2011. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any content in the article without the written persmission of the author is prohibited.

Killer Tomato Sauce


I have been making tomato sauce from the garden for over 30 years, but only recently did I come upon this method and I think it is the best. Why? Well it is easy for one thing. Just pop it in an oven, sit down to read a book or play with your kids or whatever, and get up every 15 minutes or so to stir it. The other reason is that the slow oven cooking caramelizes the sugars that are naturally present in the tomatoes giving a sweetness and intensity that you just cannot get with a stove-top tomato sauce. You will soon notice on this blog that I use a large roasting pan often to make my favorite easy meals. If you do not have one yet, I highly recommend a dark, steel roasting pan. To tell you the truth, I have had mine so long I do not know who the manufacturer is but it is indispensable in my kitchen.

I started with this harvest of tomatoes. The rain was really coming down so we needed to salvage them before it was too late and they rotted. A lot of them are cracked and a few are also not as ripe as I would like. The beautiful convoluted ones are called Costoluto Genovese.

Adrian is removing the core of the tomato with a knife. This is a Cherokee Purple tomato, they often have a bit of green around the top.

I put them in boiling water for a minute or so to blanch and help with removing the skin. I  took them out of the water with one of my favorite kitchen tools which is this Asian style handled strainer.

After they cool a bit we removed the skin and broke the tomatoes into rough pieces with our hands. Adrian is doing this over a bowl. We usually catch all the juices and scrape out most of the seeds into a bowl and discard them. I think the seeds make the sauce bitter. We put the chunks of tomatoes in another bowl ready for making the sauce. This can be done ahead of time and they can be refrigerated.

I chopped some onions in very large chunks. I also peeled some whole garlic. It is not necessary to chop the garlic at all.

Oops, time to run out to the garden with a flashlight to grab some herbs. At least I caught a glimpse of the sunset….

I grabbed some of this fresh thyme and also some oregano. I kept the stems whole, no need to chop them.

I  put some extra virgin olive oil into the pan. Then all these big chunks of tomatoes, onions and whole cloves of garlic, along with the stalks of herbs, were thrown into the pan. Sometimes I have added chunks of red bell peppers or eggplant also. I put the pan into the very hot oven…400-450 degrees is good.

After 15 minutes, I opened the oven and gave it a stir. As you can see the vegetables have released a lot of liquid. I continued to open the oven every 15 minutes or so, giving it a stir, and then closed the oven. Eventually the liquid evaporated and it started browning around the edges.One more stir, then I gave it another 10-15 minutes or so and it was done. This step should take 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

It should look like this.

Here I am pulling the stems of the herbs out of the sauce. The actual herbs will have dissolved into the sauce and flavored it. How easy is that?

I put it in a bowl and hit it with a hand blender until it is my desired level of smoothness. Notice the whole garlic clove in there. It will puree easily. The stick hand blender is another one of my indispensable kitchen tools. But you could cool it and put it in a food processor or a regular blender.

This is it, the final sauce. It is delicious on pasta or as a base for soups. It also can be used on pizza…

I froze some to use later. Believe it or not that huge pile of tomatoes cooked down to about 2 quarts of delicious concentrated extract of tomato…

Nutrition Tip: Tomatoes, especially tomatoes that are cooked and eaten with some oil, like these, supply lycopene which is a phytochemical known to be a powerful antioxidant. Research suggests that diets high in lycopene may reduce the risk of certain cancers, especially prostate cancer. One thing I know for sure is it tastes great so eat up!

© 2011. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any content in the article without the written persmission of the author is prohibited.