Living Lite

Rose Park Farmers Market Opening Day

April 30, 2017

On Wednesday, May 3, at 3:00, the Rose Park Farmers Market finally opens for the year. It's an event I look forward to every spring. The Market is a place for neighbors to gather, for children to taste freshly picked fruits and vegetables, and for shoppers to buy all the produce they need for the week. Rose Park, established in 1918, is a treasure in Georgetown.  "Throughout the year, Friends of Rose Park raises funds to improve and maintain the Park's landscape, playgrounds, and recreation areas in addition to hosting free events for the community," according to the website.

This Wednesday, you'll find kale, spinach, asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes, leeks, pears, apples, herbs, flowers, and more. There are also pizzas made in a wood-fired oven, Maine lobster, high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegars, baked goods, cheeses, spices, and more. Right now, asparagus is abundant, so try one of my favorite asparagus recipes, and make enough for several meals.

Buying fruits and vegetables from the Farmers Market, where the produce is picked at peak ripeness, giving it superior flavor and nutrients, is a way to ensure your family eats 5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily.

See you at the Market!

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Four Tips for Choosing the Right Olive Oil

April 23, 2017

My clients regularly ask me how important using olive oil is. Of course, we have all heard about olive oil's health benefits. But there is still understandable confusion. I'm regularly asked, "How does olive oil compare to other oils? How does it work? What kind of olive oil is best? How much should I use?" My answer: It depends...

These are important questions as more and more science is finding that the nutrients in olive oil, called "polyphenols," are responsible for its superior health benefits. Increased longevity, reductions in cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and various cancers, are among the benefits, confirmed a 2015 review of studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition. But olive oils can vary significantly in their polyphenol content. There are four times more phenolic compounds in high quality extra virgin olive oil versus low quality or refined olive oil - 232 mg vs 62 mg per kilogram of oil - so it is important you choose the right olive oil.

"99 percent of olive oil's health benefits are related to the presence of the phenolic compounds, not the oil itself," said Nasir Malik, NIH Scientist.  "And without the polyphenols, you might as well use the less expensive canola oil."

Surprisingly, when tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, polyphenols were low in most commercially available olive oils. They also didn't live up to international quality standards defining extra virgin olive oil. These standards require an acidic pH, necessary to protect the nutrients. And the olive oils' pH had degraded - even in the highest end gourmet shops - according to studies conducted at the University of California at Davis Olive Center.  

That's because olive oil's polyphenol content diminishes, and its acidic pH degrades over time, as days, weeks, and months go by after harvest. Other factors play a role, too: the harvesting methods, the age of the trees, the ripeness of the olives, the processing, and the storage. Since time, heat, and light affect polyphenol content, choose olive oil that:

  • Is no more than one year old (look for the harvest date on the label),
  • Is in an air-tight, dark glass, or tin container,
  • Is stored in a cool environment, and
  • Smells and tastes like olives, which could be fruity, grassy, or peppery.

Is olive oil better for your health than other oils? The answer is yes, according to a new study in Nutrition & Diabetes. For one, "The risk of type 2 diabetes reduced by 13% with increasing intake of olive oil up to 15 to 20 grams per day (3 to 4 teaspoons)," according to the study.  When refined olive oil, or other oils, were compared, extra virgin olive oil (which was high in polyphenols) was more beneficial for the prevention and management of diabetes. It was associated with lower fasting blood glucose, and a lower Hemoglobin A1C, a three-month average of blood glucose and an important marker for diabetic complications.

Other studies have found high polyphenol olive oil improves health in many ways:

  • Increasing levels of good cholesterol (which helps clear artery-clogging fat from the bloodstream),
  • Improving artery wall health and functioning (important for healthy blood pressure, blood flow, reducing blood clots, and the risk of cardiovascular disease), and
  • Reducing oxidation and inflammation processes involved in many diseases from infections to cancer.
  • Varietals EVOO-2016 CRUSH: (Photo by: Georgetown Olive Oil) Varietals EVOO-2016 CRUSH: "The olive oil color is determined by the variety of olive from which it is made"

To take full advantage of your olive oil's flavor and health benefits, save your recently harvested, high quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on vegetables, salads, or anything! When cooking with high heat, i.e., stir frying, use canola oil or nut oils instead, as they can be less expensive, and have higher smoking points so can tolerate higher temperatures without burning.

My favorite vinaigrette: Mix 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil with 1 or 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. The proportion of olive oil to lemon juice depends on how tart you like your vinaigrette. You can also add a smidge of mustard or herbs. Serve!

One shop in Georgetown which consistently sells high quality olive oils is Georgetown Olive Oil Company. It is locally owned and operated at 1524 Wisconsin Avenue. The shop displays rare-to-find information, such as the oils' date of harvest, provenance, and detailed descriptions. And you can taste any of the oils at any time. I highly recommend this cozy and friendly specialty shop where they clearly understand what makes a great olive oil!

For more detailed information on olive oil, read my Washington Post article: "Most Olive Oil is not as Healthful as You Think" 

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My Favorite Asparagus Recipes

April 16, 2017

Spring has always seemed more like the new year to me than January first. Perhaps my inspiration comes from longer, warmer, sunlit days, delicate vegetables and fruits, like asparagus and strawberries, finally popping up, flowers blooming everywhere, neighbors venturing out of winter hibernation with their first happy greetings of the year, and sounds of their children playing in the street. Celebrations are occuring all over the city showing off our beauty and splendor to the tourists. In fact, I think I'll make my New Year's Resolution today! And it'll be easy - preparing batches of veggie salads, at least weekly, to help me and my friends shed some of our winter "padding." Making delicious veggies your main course at dinners (lunches, too) helps manage your weight easily.  salads and soups

Asparagus is one of my major harbingers of spring. Here I'd like to share some of my favorite asparagus recipes excerpted from my book, Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes: 50 New Reasons to Cook In Season!, where you'll find dozens of other seasonal recipes:

Chilled Asparagus in a Creamy Tarragon, Shallot and Roasted Walnut Vinaigrette

Salad of New Potatoes and Asparagus with Lemony Garlic Herb Mayonnaise

Pasta with Pesto, Roasted Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

Asparagus Salad in a Vietnamese-Style Dressing

Puree of Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

Chef Janis McLean’s Asparagus Frittata


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