Friday, January 28, 2011

January 28th is National Blueberry Pancake Day!

A day devoted to celebrating the blueberry pancake sounds delicious – but what is the origin of this auspicious occasion? Well, we're not sure…but who cares? A party for the blueberry pancake is warranted.

It's a traditional comfort food that delivers its maximum pleasure at breakfast but also makes an indulgent and easy dinner – an inspired idea when you're short on entrée selections.

And, made with good, natural ingredients and sporting a nutritious helping of fruit, pancakes can be genuinely healthy. So celebrate! Blueberry pancakes are truly deserving.

In a previous post, A Passion for the Pancake, we extol some of the many virtues of all types of flapjacks. You'll find the good the better and OMG when it comes to this celebrated dish. We've also got the last word on making the perfect pancake every time.

Give this dish festooned with healthy blues its due! Here's why:

  • Tossing wild blueberries into your batter (or arranging them on the B side, a la Kenny Shopsin) gets you into the good habit of adding fruit to your meals.
  •  Blueberries, best if wild, means you're getting a serving of powerful antioxidants. 
  • Breakfast is a recommended way to start the day, and with this dish you won't be skipping.
  • They signal something special is in the air and delight kids and adults alike.

Happy Blueberry Pancake Day. Here are some classic and deliciously uncommon ways to celebrate:

Woman's Day has Low Fat Blueberry Pancakes.

The Examiner recommends Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes.

Buckwheat Banana Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce is from the Wild Blueberry Association.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Are You Eating Fake Blueberries?

Revealing Video Uncovers Consumer Deception


A revealing video made by the Nonprofit Consumer Wellness Center points out a frightening consumer deception in some popular brands that sell products such as muffins, breads, and cereal. These popular brands named in the video are faking their fruit – they don't contain blueberries, despite pictures on the front of their packaging, and in some cases claims in writing, that they do contain blueberries.

Instead, the products contain "blueberry bits", "blue crunchlets" or out-and-out faked blueberries made from artificial colors, partially-hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup, chemically provided with a blue color. While it sounds shocking, it's information that can be found with a little digging – into the ingredients list – where in these particular cases no blueberries are listed among the many sugars and artificial ingredients and colors.

While some products advertise fruits in their products that simply don't exist, others admit it in fine print according to the video, but the goals for these big brands appear to be the same – convincing the consumer that they are buying blueberries to inflate prices, then making chemically colored bits more cheaply to expand profits.

What can the consumer do? Rely on trusted brands that use real blueberries – they do exist. And most importantly, read labels. Look for artificial colors, like Red # 40 and Blue #2, needed to provide that blue-like color to their sugars and petrochemicals used to fake their fruit – they usually show up at the bottom of the ingredients list.

Of course real blueberries, especially wild blueberries, are incredibly nutritious and contribute big benefits to a healthy diet. Add them yourself by buying them fresh or frozen from trusted brands to be sure you are getting the real nutrition and powerful antioxidants they provide in their natural, authentic form.

The video, The Blueberry Deception, can be seen in its entirety below. Natural News also provides a sample letter you can send to these companies to tell them to get real and drop the deception.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Study Finds More is Better for Heart Health

A heartening new study for those concerned with cardiovascular health made news this week. The study from University of Oxford found that those who consumed eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day were 22% less likely to die from heart disease than those who consumed three or fewer servings.

The research all but turns the fruit and veggie mantra from mythical home remedy to scientifically proven health advice, especially when it comes to the heart. According to the report, on the strength of the study doctors reportedly feel, "it may erase and remaining doubts concerning fruits and veggies, and cardiovascular health." 

Add a Serving, Reduce Your Risk

While the recommendation is for eight servings, researchers have shown that every serving of fruits and vegetables above three reduces the risk of dying of heart disease by 5%. It's an encouraging aspect of the research for those who feel overwhelmed by the recommendation of eight servings a day. While eight may seem like a lot, the bottom line is: more is better. And, what some of us may not know is that three ounces of fruit is a serving, so eating a large apple, orange, banana, or 3/4 of a cup of blueberries means you've knocked two servings off your list, making eight a little more achievable. 

As one report points out, even diet organizations like Weight Watchers don't count the calories from fruits and veggies – they are essentially free caloric intake. In addition, eating more fruits and vegetables probably means you are not eating those things that are detrimental to your health. These foods take up lots of room in your stomach, and the effect on weight can contribute to heart health as well.

There's simply no downside to adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. It's a win-win no matter how you slice it, dice it, sprinkle it or peel it.

Watch the video and read the article about the connection between heart health and fruits and vegetables.

Do it for your heart! We've got 31 ways to get fruits and veggies into your diet.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Veggie Love: Maine Author Makes Color Delicious

If a whole new way of life based on tasty veggies and fruits, bright colors, and prevention and recovery from disease sounds like something you'd like to embrace in the new year, getting to know Meg Wolff is a perfect start.

Wolff is a local author who will be appearing at Portland, Maine's Longfellow Books on Thursday, January 20th, discussing her latest book, A Life In Balance: Delicious, Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health. She is a cancer survivor and devotes her time to promoting healthy foods and recipes that contribute to wellness and disease prevention. A blog planted the seed for A Life in Balance, a vegetarian cookbook which includes a wealth of recipes from the author and other well-known authors and chefs that present macrobiotic and vegan cooking in delicious and accessible ways. 

Plants That Change Your Life

Wolff's recipes range from black bean and cornbread casserole to pasta dishes, but plants are at the heart of this Maine resident's guidelines for eating toward health and healing. She feels strongly that a diet based on whole plant foods – that means eating primarily whole grains, beans & vegetables, no processed foods & sugar – is the path to healthy living, and credits her largely macrobiotic lifestyle to better health following two grave cancer diagnoses. Part of her message is that diet can dramatically increase your quality of life, especially for those with a life-threatening disease, and plants, rich as they are in healing compounds that fight cancer, are the conduit.

They also make for delicious, colorful dishes that are hard even for confirmed carnivores to resist. Of course, we love Wolff's passion for wild blueberries; blues grace the cover of her new book, and she is an advocate of using them in delicious ways, including in fruit salads, cakes, and vinaigrettes. You can read about her anticancer breakfast at the Huffington Post. It features a breakfast staple – oatmeal – and it's no surprise she suggests topping it with Maine wild blueberries (or sunflower seeds for protein).

Get a Taste of the Plant-Based Life

If you have a casual interest in going plant-based, you can start with Wolff's blog – its spectrum of foods and science-based information about health will reel you in. You can also get your plant-based diet fix from her website if you're interested in dipping your toe in the plant-based life: start with Squash & Carrot Ginger Soup, Gingered Chickpeas, and some painless principles for making polenta and sautéed veggies. All are so delicious and robust with hue, you'll consider your new year's resolution for a rainbow-colored plate all but achieved.

Meet Meg Wolff at Longfellow Books in Portland on January 20th.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Embrace the Brrr! 5 Summer Fruits to Eat Frozen This Winter

Winter chill getting you down? Embrace the deep freeze! Self Magazine has advice that hits the spot when we find ourselves looking out at a sea of white and pining for summer's fresh food. They remind us that we never pay more for frozen, no matter the time of year, and because frozen fruits are picked at their peak of ripeness, not before, we reap the benefits of all the nutrition and all the flavor. 

And that's not all: quick frozen fruit preserves the integrity of the individual fruit, too, making it ideal for recipes and a perfect substitute for fresh in most cases. So there's really no need to despair when the snow flies. Frozen fruit will rescue you from the depths of winter. Consider frozen the perfect winter palliative – add it to desserts and entrées, snacks and salsas, and you'll instantly feel like you're in the islands.  

Get your fruit on this winter! Take advantage of these off-season fruits in their delicious, nutritious frozen form:

Wild Blueberries
This Grilled Chicken Breast with Wild Blueberry Grape Sauce calls for 2 ½ cups of antioxidant-rich wild blueberries and frozen works perfectly. It's a great way to get a taste of the summer harvest while getting your fruit servings.

Raspberries
Livestrong.com has Razzle Dazzle Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes that are super easy and super fun to bring a little summer to the winter blahs. The recipe calls for fresh, but frozen raspberries are easy to work with. Just thaw for 20 minutes in a strainer before using.

Mango
Mango chutney and salsa is the perfect complement for curries, grilled meats, and barbeque. Just substitute fresh for frozen chunks in your favorite salsa recipe. Dole has great recipe ideas for mango that will get your through the winter. Try Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa for a dinnertime warm up.

Peaches
Frozen peaches are an excellent choice for desserts during the winter when fresh peaches are expensive and difficult to find. Use them right from the bag for most recipes or thaw and drain for recipes like Peach Pie. Try this Peach gallette, here from Myrecipes.com for a different take on the classic pie recipe.

Did you know Wild Blueberries has a thriving Facebook community?
Connect, find recipes, and get the latest info about all things wild and blue!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Skin Superfoods: Eating Rx for Your Largest Organ

The connection between weight and diet is clear—a couple of days of overindulgence and you can see it on the scale and feel it in your waistband. But even though the relationship between diet and healthy skin is just as strong, it's easier to discount – it's just not as tangible.

Our skin is our largest organ, and the most visible indicator of our health and our age. Skin aging and loss of skin's youthful, healthy glow can happen more subtly over time. Retinol treatments and spa facials can cost a month's salary and prove ineffective, but luckily, the food we eat can improve an array of skin characteristics such as sun damage, acne and wrinkles.

According to a recent WomansDay.com article called 9 Superfoods for Beautiful Skin, certain superfoods in particular can combat specific skin problems, such as sun damage, acne or lines and wrinkles. For instance, avocados are the food to turn to for elasticity; if sagging is your bête noire, eat plenty of tuna.

It is perhaps no surprise that blueberries are a true superfood when it comes to skin. Packed full of antioxidants, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are well known to protect the skin against sun damage, and WomansDay.com cites blueberries as particularly effective against sun damage, owing to its anti-aging properties. Blueberries are particularly rich in flavones, which have an anti-inflammatory effect, making them popular anti-aging food. They play a role in the longevity of cells, and younger healthier cells means younger, healthier skin. 

Wrinkles Banished with Color

As important as disease prevention is, on a day to day basis, wrinkles are often the thing that causes us regular anguish. Besides the skin superfoods listed in article discussed above, there is also evidence to suggest that the colorful eggplant, along with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, is a great source for preventing skin aging. The eggplant is touted as a healthy skin food in The Color Code, Dr. James Joseph's groundbreaking book that urges us to eat across the rainbow to maintain health and prevent disease.

According to the book, preventing wrinkles means essentially eating the same diet recommended for good health: one heavy in vegetables and fruits along with foods like legumes, yogurt, eggs and nuts. Not surprisingly, food culprits when it comes to skin are foods that should be eaten in moderation anyway: whole milk, red meat, butter and sugary foods.

Eggplant, like wild blueberries, is rich in antioxidants, and it's antioxidants that fight oxidative stress, which is linked to chronic diseases and aging. (In fact, the eggplant is a fruit, not a vegetable, and is classified as a berry.) Studies indicate that getting foods with antioxidants should be eaten at every meal – not just once a week. Eggplants fill the bill sometimes, but for other sources look to berries, greens, tomatoes, and things like tea and garlic.

In recent years, studies into oxidative stress have furthered research into antioxidants by allowing scientists to examine the performance of specific foods against oxidative stress in the body to determine those that are highly effective, including berries and eggplant. Researchers have also determined that health benefits go beyond the vitamin components – it's actually the antioxidant power of polyphenols providing the healthy benefits. Polyphenols, found in foods like berries, appear to inhibit the production of inflammatory mediators, protecting the skin from wrinkles and from the signs of aging. That's why health powerhouse and superfood blueberries are always on the top of the list when it comes to skin health and anti-aging. 

Skin-tastic Eggplant Ideas

Now that you are face to face with your large purple doorstop, what do you do with it? The easiest eggplant solution: slice, dredge in skim milk and breadcrumbs and bake. Just be careful to avoid oil so as not to defeat the benefits. Beneficial phenolic compounds are found in the skin of many fruits and vegetables, including eggplants and potatoes, so in most cases, don't peel it. Here's a few more delicious strategies for making the most of your eggplant:

WebMD has a Grilled Eggplant, Pepper, and Goat Cheese Sandwich that's veggie rich as well as tasty.

Food52.com offers award-winning Criss-cross Pan-fried Eggplant that will give your skin a glow.

Eggplant Rolls with Spicy Tomato Sauce from epicurious.com is a spa for your tongue and your skin.

Give your skin a boost from Sicilian-Style Eggplant Caponata courtesy of Whole Foods.

ThatsFit.com has a Grilled Whole-Wheat Pizza with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Feta that sounds indulgent, but skips the meat, provides the benefits of whole wheat, and features lycopene-rich tomatoes.


Incorporate wild blueberries into every meal from breakfast to dinner. Search a wild database of great wild blueberries recipes.

Dry Skin Prevention for Winter: CNN.com provides some help on how to bare your winter skin.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Maine Chef Brings Seafood Pie to Grocery Store Shelves

Local Brand Features Sustainability as Primary Ingredient 

Chef Sam Hayward is as famous for Fore Street, his downtown Portland, Maine restaurant, as he is for his commitment to local foods. Now he has succeeded in bringing a taste of both closer to kitchen tables around the state with his traditional recipe for seafood pie, featuring sustainably-caught Maine seafood – Maine shrimp, Maine scallops, Maine lobster and rock crab. This seafood pie is now available under the product line Maine Fresh, and is being are sold at Hannaford stores.

Hayward's Maine Fresh seafood pies,
available in shrimp, scallop, crab or lobster,
can be found at Hannaford stores.
True to Hayward's commitment to using as many local ingredients in his food as possible, this traditional pie recipe, a result of years of careful perfecting, is a wealth of the state's local foods, including its seafood and lobster, cream, sea salt and vegetables. Hayward told the Portland Press Herald that herbs, diced vegetables, flour used for the pastry, and shiitake mushrooms used in the lobster pie will eventually be sourced locally as well. 

The Maine Fresh project is a partnership between the for-profit the Cobscook Bay Company and the non-profit Cobscook Community Learning Center in Maine's Washington Country. In a marriage of local food sustainability and support of local programs, part of the proceeds from Maine Fresh benefit the Center, which supports arts and educational programs in the county. The center represents an asset in an area of the state that provides a bounty of local food but is also challenged economically.

Hayward is known for his early leadership in Maine's local food movement and for helping to put the state's thriving culinary scene on the national map. As a James Beard award winner and chef at Fore Street, a restaurant that stands as a jewel in a Maine town crowned "foodiest" by Bon Appétit in 2009, he takes advantage of as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible, tapping Maine farmers, fishermen and foragers for the ingredients that make up his highly-praised dishes. He is known for making inspired use of local wild blueberries, too – in traditional crisps and pies and in dishes that are more unusual, like berry-infused goat cheese mousse. 

Read more about Sam Hayward’s Maine Fresh seafood pie.
Learn about Fore Street.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Don't Resolve. Rethink.

This week, most of the chatter about New Year's resolutions is about how terrible we are at keeping them. But there's another side to the failed resolution story.

While some eschew joining the resolution bandwagon altogether, still others are motivated by the promise of a new year and the change it can offer. And, while many resolutions do get broken, according to the American Psychological Association, people are 10 times more likely to succeed with their goal if they make a New Year's resolution.

So, while experts maintain nearly 60% will quit their resolutions after six months, that means 40% succeed in achieving long term change.

Even if you are ardently anti-resolution, the new year begs for a review of what has passed and what is to come. Rather than run off to the gym and buy five pounds of leafy greens first thing, start off the year with a little reflection first. Begin with pen and paper: 

What is working?
It's easy to forget about healthful changes we’ve made and ignore positive habits we maintain. What have you been successful with in 2010? What efforts have proven fruitful over the past several months, regardless if those efforts were consistent? The new year is also an excellent time to review what invigorates and motivates us. Do you take particular joy in your noonday walk with co-workers? Feel nourished by the Sunday meals with family? What activities make you feel your best? Most productive? Most stress-free? Those are building blocks for future wellness. 

What must change?
Often, we know we fall into behavior traps that erode our health and wellness, but it's easier to enter into a state of bad habit denial. Articulating the behaviors, habits and outside stressors that wreak havoc on our life is the first step. Consider what part of your life is ripe for change, and where change can be most beneficial. 

What's doable?
Evaluate your resolution style and get real about what's just lip service and what you are willing to achieve. Will you really turn into a body building maven this year? Will you make dinner for your family every night regardless of the challenges of your work day? Decide what changes you feel truly committed to and what changes will just lead down the road to disappointment.


Making Change in 2011: Our 5 Favorite Resolution Tips

1. Be Led By Your Left Brain.

To jump start a new healthy habit, leave your emotional self behind and follow the plan. Make a nightly salad or drive to the gym because that's your new schedule—don't get bogged down about whether it's working. Try letting your intellect take over for the first few weeks, then evaluate your progress after those weeks are over to decide if your new habits are fruitful, rather than letting your emotions sabotage you. 

2. Prove You Can.

Lose ten pounds by March! Run a marathon by February! If you have a track record of failure, remember it's human nature to get excited about lofty goals and then fall into the trap of "I knew I couldn't do this." Instead, prove to yourself that you are not goal averse. Set them small and achievable, just for that reason. Eat one piece of fruit a day (not 10), workout two days a week (not 7) and you'll be invigorated when you find you can be successful. 

3. Think Zebra, Not Horse.

Sometimes tackling a problem straight on doesn't get to the heart of the matter as well as coming at it sideways. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, don't focus your resolution on what goes into your mouth. Instead, resolve to make January seed purchases for your vegetable garden, or resolve to buy more local foods. Did you know that each year, Americans waste an estimated 160 billion pounds of food? In your efforts to improve your diet, you might resolve to reduce the waste that comes out of your kitchen by eating more widely, meal planning, or buying frozen. 

4. Use the 10% Rule.

Resolutions are always about going whole hog—that's why they are notorious victims of early burn out. Confronted with daily workouts your body fails; you can't meet your oversized goals. Instead, resolve to commit to incremental change. Increase your workload no more than 10% each week. Eat just 10% less this week, change what you eat just 10%. Then do it 10% the next week. This year, embrace a little change and piecemeal your way to success instead.

5. Eat Your Servings.

If you are going to make a single change this year, resolve to get your servings of fruits and vegetables. You can start with wild blueberries, not just because they are our favorite fruit, but because they cover the best of healthful eating: they provide color, potent antioxidants, low calorie fiber, and health benefits for your blood vessels, eyes, brain and skin, just for starters. And because they are sweet and delicious on so many foods, they serve as a perfect example of big change in a small package.

Learning to Cook in 2011? All You Need Are These Three Foods

According to the New York Times, those who cook spend only 6.8 minutes more preparing food than those who don't. Author Mark Bittman contends that with three basics -- chopped salad, rice and lentils, and stir fries -- you can cook and eat healthy for a lifetime. They represent meals that are super fast, super easy, and inexpensive, and they can be made with accessible food (especially when you take advantage of frozen).