Thursday, December 29, 2011

Time to Eat Healthy? Our 5 Best Resolutions for 2012

According to a Consumer Reports survey, of those of us who are trying to lose weight – and there are many – 74% eat more fruits and vegetables. Eating more fruit and veggie servings is effective for weight maintenance and it's the very best way to tackle poor health as well. No wonder it's catching on for those with weight concerns. Other strategies from the survey included portion control (71%) cutting back on sugar (69%) and replacing a snack with an activity (45%).

Fruits and vegetables don't just provide vital nutrients, they are full of satisfying fiber and provide more food volume for fewer calories. They also take up space on your plate where less nutritious, more caloric food would be. Eating fruits and vegetables doesn’t just help weight: it contributes to disease prevention and longevity. If you are taking a hard look at your health in the coming year, scrutinizing your fruit and veggie intake is the way to begin.

Are you resolving to be healthier in 2012? Here are our five all-time best strategies for achieving your goals once and for all. It's no surprise that fruit and vegetable servings are at the heart of each one.

Our 5 Best Healthy Eating Resolutions for 2012

1) Cook. Bad eating habits can be tied directly back to the food we don't cook ourselves. Less than 60% of us make our meals in our kitchens even though we know it's the key to healthy eating. This year, resolve to learn the basics and put them into practice. Fruits & Veggies More Matters has 10 healthy ways to cook with fruits and veggies to get you started.

2) Take advantage of frozen. For those relying on the availability of fresh, nutritious food to keep their diet healthy, frozen is the savior of modern culture. Why? It’s whole, nutritious food that's there any time of year. Keep your freezer stocked along with your pantry so good food is always at the ready.

3) Add color. Healthy eating means putting a rainbow on your plate. Eating across the color spectrum means you are naturally getting the variety of nutrients your body needs. And, foods with concentrated color are foods with high amounts of powerful phytonutrients. Eat dark leafy greens, red tomatoes, purple cabbage, blue blueberries, orange carrots, and yellow squashes, and you’ve conquered the color spectrum.

4) Add one. This year, add one serving of a fruit or vegetable to every meal. Here’s a post from 2010 that will help you add a serving every day for an entire month. F&V has a similar pledge you can take to promise yourself just one extra fruit or veggie a day: one small step that delivers a giant step for the health of humankind.

5) Less processed, more whole. Populations with diets based on whole foods tend to see lower rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other health problems. The more we stay away from processed food and eat food with no labels, no claims, and under three ingredients on their ingredients list (or better yet, with no list at all) the healthier we’ll be, and the longer we’ll live.

Resolve to be Healthy in 2012! Fruits and Veggies More Matters has more Realistic Resolutions for healthy eating.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Final Day of 12 Wild Days of Pure Blue: The Ultimate Gift!

We’re wrapping up our 12 days with a gift more important than any under the tree, and it’s a lot more useful than a partridge in a pear tree.

It’s one you give yourself: the gift of good health. By focusing on your health now, increasing your servings of fruits and vegetables, eating foods with powerful concentrations of disease-preventing antioxidants, and keeping calories low and nutrition high, next year you’ll feel better, look better, and be healthier inside and out.

Day 1: The Gift of Health

This year, give the gift of good health – to yourself.
  • Slash your cancer risk by eating lots of bright, colorful foods that are high in phytonutrients. 
  • Eat richly colored greens and blues to protect your body against inflammation and, in turn, protect your brain from aging and memory loss. 
  • Eat high antioxidant foods for the benefit it provides to your heart. 
  • Consume low glycemic index foods to moderate glucose levels to limit your risk of diabetes. 
  • And, prevent weight gain, skin damage and wrinkles and low energy, and shield yourself from cold, flu and other illnesses at the same time. You can do it by eating foods with high concentrations of nutrients, eating real, whole unprocessed foods, and eating broadly and conscientiously across the color spectrum. 
Give yourself the gift good health – today, and every day of your long, healthy life.

Happy, Healthy Holidays from Wild About Health!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wild 12-Day Countdown to Blue Continues! Day 2: Eggnog


No drink has assumed such exclusive ownership of the holiday season the way eggnog has. Its beloved rich taste is suitable for high society, and no wonder. Historically, eggnog was a drink for the aristocracy, since only they had copious amounts of dairy and eggs from their expansive farms along with a way to refrigerate them. Even today, a sip of eggnog during the holidays makes you feel a little opulent.

It can also warm your cockles, thanks to its boozy embellishments. Traditionally made with liquor, eggnog can contain brandy, rum, whiskey or bourbon, or sometimes a combination of these. Alton Brown’s eggnog recipe uses only bourbon, while Martha Stewart recommends bourbon, dark rum and cognac. But non-alcoholic eggnog loses virtually nothing in translation. You don’t have to stop with drinking it, either. Eggnog is a shoe-in for holiday treats like creme brulee and bread.

However, if your familiarity with eggnog is limited to opening a carton, you don’t know real eggnog, says Time Magazine in their Brief History of Eggnog. According to the article, “Sugar-laced supermarket versions can’t hold a candle to the homemade goodness, especially since the US Food and Drug Administration permits that the drink can be made from as little as 1% egg yolk. That often borders on “milknog” or egg flavoring.”

So, if you are after the real eggnog, it is imperative that you find some farm-fresh eggs and make your own. While usually made with sugar, eggs and milk (along with some spices) some recipes use cream to make their nog even richer. Of course, calories in eggnog can be sky-high, especially with the added alcohol. If you are using cream, indulge and still be sociable without glugging an eight-ounce glass. Opt for a shot glass or espresso cup just to get the taste, then move to something else less filling. Other health-wise alternatives include using low-fat, soy, or rice milk.

Day 2: Wild Blue Eggnog 

Blueberries provide the inspiration for many holiday drinks, and eggnog is a perfect foil for the festive fruit. There are plenty of ways to add the thrill of wild blueberries to your eggnog.

This recipe from epicurious.com uses frozen blues boiled and made into a puree for a wonderful blue take on the classic recipe. They recommend biscotti as a delicious accompaniment.

Other more conservative nods to blue include adding a few semi-frozen berries swirled into the glass to create a beautiful swish of blue, followed by cream topped with a few more on the top. Or, instead of a sprinkle of nutmeg, use a sprinkle of colored sugar—in blue. It’s a wonderful way to pay homage to a superfruit.

To your health!

More Eggnog Recipes

You can find just the right eggnog recipe to suit at Eggnogaholic.com. And Eggnog World has pound cake, latte, and cheesecake recipes that feature eggnog, and that's just for starters.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

12 Wild Days of Pure Blue, Day 3: Give It Away


It’s the true meaning of Christmas, and this year, demand for help is up. Charitable organizations need money, time, and in-kind donations more than ever. Hopes for most organizations rise at this time of year – they depend on seasonal generosity  to be a reminder for those to give so they can keep up with demand.

The multitude of appeals can be overwhelming sometimes, but givers need only to choose the charity they feel an affinity toward, and give. If you don’t have a favorite charity, check local organizations to see where the plea to meet need is loudest.

Here are 10 ways to give, combined, just for fun, with a touch of blue.

Day 3: Something Blue (or Otherwise) to Give

* Angel Trees. For some it’s a holiday tradition to have an item on the Christmas list for an anonymous recipient. Shop knowing your gift will be appreciated. Wrap it, if you like, in blue and gold.

* Meals on Wheels. Volunteer or decide to include cards or cookies (or blueberry stollen) to be delivered along with meals to local participants in this relied-upon program.

* Humane Society or Shelter. While wild blueberry dog treats might be appreciated, check with the shelter to make sure you are giving what they need. Treats and chew bones might be easy to come by, whereas dog beds or cold hard cash might be higher on the list.

* Local Food Bank. Volunteer some time on your holiday, and make giving usurp the receiving this day. Or, give food and stave off blues for those who visit.  Again, ask for your food banks needs – cereal counts may be high, for example, while veggies may top the list instead.

* Moveable Feasts. Take your turkey and blueberry compote and some loot to a deserving family this year.  Take the initiative and make this transaction mano-a-mano, or sign up for a formal program, such as Adopt a Family.

* Nursing Homes. Bring your blueberry blintzes and sing Blue Christmas! Your time is always welcome even if food is plentiful – there are many elderly that don’t have family visitors and welcome a little cheer.

* Children’s Hospitals, Social Services and Agencies or Nonprofits. Consider the organization that helps you all year and decide to show your appreciation. Something as simple as delivering a blueberry pie for local firemen working on Christmas Day can do wonders to brighten the holiday.  

* Soldier Care Packages. Some are home this year, but some are still away, and it’s the perfect time of year to think of the red, white, and blue for those serving who can’t be home this time around.

* Volunteer. The Salvation Army welcomes those who want to wear blue or any color, and shake the bell for a cause.

* Attend an Event. Buy a ticket to a charity event, school performance or an arts organization. Supporting a nonprofit can be as simple as showing up for what they have to offer. The blues, perhaps?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12 Days of Wild Blues, Day 4: Memorable Holiday Morning

Blueberry Griddle Cake by norwichnuts, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by norwichnuts

The stockings have been hung, the cards have been delivered. Christmas morning signals, among other things, an end to the chaos. It conjures a house filled with torn tissue paper, strewn boxes, and children dressed in pajamas busying themselves with gifts. Alongside them, weary parents remind them to pause for a moment and eat breakfast.

Wild Blueberry Pancakes are made for Christmas morning. They are comforting and indulgently sweet, and they invite family members to hover around a griddle. They also require a little more time than most run-of-the-mill mornings have to give. For many, December 25th is the one chance they’ll get to sit down and share a morning meal, and pancakes in classic wild blueberry style fit the bill.


Day 4: Blueberry Pancake Breakfast

There are blitzes, coffee cakes, and scones, and all do their part to showcase this little blue fruit. But breakfast is for pancakes, after all. When it comes to delicious, the taste of those tender disks covered with syrup just can’t be replicated. Here are some options for your holiday morn:
  • Martha Stewart has first-rate Buttermilk Blueberry Recipes that are amenable to bananas as an alternative to wild blueberries—but why? 
Gifting pancakes? Visit Blueberry Bliss for a wild blueberry pancake mix, or Stonewall Kitchen, which has very giftable pancake and waffle mixes and wild blueberry syrup. The ultimate wild blue combo!

Monday, December 19, 2011

12 Wild Days of Blue: 5 Golden…Retrievers? Don’t Forget the Dog

Have you ever arrived at Aunt Florence’s door at Christmas only to realize you neglected to include a gift for her beloved rat terrier? Not this year. Dogs are human, too. Or, at least we like to think they are. And that means good nutrition is important for fighting disease and staying healthy for them just as it is for us.

A dog’s genetic makeup is like a wolf’s – historically, they got their food from the wild by eating berries, just like early man. Antioxidants and whole ingredients are important for preserving good health, and healthy treats show Aunt Florence that you care about her beloved fuzzball.

Day 5: Healthy Wild Blueberry Dog Treats 

For healthy organic treats for the dog this year, we start in Biddeford at the Growling Gourmet. They make handcrafted treats for dogs using organic ingredients, without sugar, salt, wheat, corn or preservatives. For purposes of the 12 Days of Blues, their crowning achievement is their Maine Blueberry Dog Treats, chosen for their high antioxidant content. Combining blues with rolled oats, molasses, and flax seed makes a satisfying treat. Fido may want to try Carrot Cinnamon or Sharp Cheddar treats as well.


We end at Barkwheats Bakehouse in Stockton Springs. Barkwheats is a B-Corp, a corporation whose mission is to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. They use buckwheat flour milled on a buckwheat-only mill, which means treats are guaranteed gluten free, and their ingredients include parsley, sea vegetables, pumpkin, blueberries, sage, chamomile, lavender & honey – all carefully chosen for their important nutritional properties. Our choice is Peace Berry, a flavor that uses wild blueberries to deliver powerful antioxidants to support your dog's immune system.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Wild Days, Day 6: Berry Good Holiday Munching


For Day 6 of our 12 Wild Days of Blue Countdown, we offer up a favorite holiday recipe with a berry twist. Yes, it’s Chex® Mix, and while the snack may sound a little retrograde (according to their web site, the famed party mix has been popular for 50 years), it’s still undeniably good, especially given a contemporary twist. If handfuls of pretzels and cereal just don’t have enough ho ho ho, trade up with recipes like Cajun Kick, Lemon Rosemary Mix or White Fantasy Clusters – it’s not your grandmother’s party mix.

chex mix by hellosputnik, on Flickr
Is it health food? It is not. But with moderation rather than denial as your guide, you can use these tips to keep calories in check: cut the butter requirement in half (it won’t really affect the recipe) and trade out the nuts and replace them with baked crisps or fat-free bagel chips. Then, bulk up the carby mixture with healthy dried berries. It’s an ingenious way to cut the calories from the nuts and pretzels and improve the flavor. That’s why our Day 6 pick is a berry holiday Chex® mix that is easy, pleasing and, predictably, blue.

Day 6: Holiday Berry Party Mix

Start with this Sweet Party Chex® Mix with Berries, which offers sweet and salty in an addictive combination, and the addition of dried berries provide a glamorous zing of holiday color. Food.com has the recipe, which calls for a little brown sugar, nuts, pretzels, famous bite sized Chex® (both rice and corn), and 1 cup each of the following dried berries: cranberries, blueberries and cherries. It will make a holiday bowl superbly appetizing, at least until it’s empty.

If you’re seeking something with a little chocolate, Pillsbury offers Buckin’ Blueberry Chex® Mix, and this exhaustive list of recipes at Chex.com will have you mixing up Snickerdoodle, Muddy Buddy, and Chocolate Banana Nut before you can say Ebeneezer. Party on!



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day 7 of 12 Wild Days of Blue - The Countdown Continues!


Books are favorite items for the holiday shopping list, and curling up with the right one is just another way to get a dose of blue this season. Day 7 of our countdown ushers in some of our favorites of the year, and adds a couple of literary wild cards for the person that has everything blue.

Day 7: Good Reads

First up, we revisit Meg Wolff’s A Life In Balance: Delicious, Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health (Down East Books 2010). Her latest book provides the map for starting a life of better health and nutrition based on a plant-based diet. Bright colors and a wealth of fruits and vegetable preparations will please the palate and make a major contribution to wellness and disease prevention.

Gail J. VanWart is a Maine writer who is currently the fourth generation to maintain her native wild blueberries farm in Maine. Life Raked In (Out Of The Blue, 2011) condenses such a life’s harvest into a selection of poems, recipes and thoughts on life inspired by this perspective from the fields, a unique take on the wild blueberry life.

You may know Maine writer and food aficionado Kathy Gunst from her blog or her recently published book of the same name, Notes from a Maine Kitchen from Down East Books. She takes on the seasonal bounties of Maine using the calendar as her guide. The book provides a wonderful opportunity to give the gift of regionally-inspired food made from locally-sourced ingredients.

For the person on your list who prides themselves on being just a little odd, Maine’s own humorist Tim Sample and writing partner Steve Bither reveal what’s wild and wacky about their state in this third edition of Maine Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities, and Other Offbeat Stuff (Globe Pequot, 2011). One highlight includes the largest blueberry in the country, or as we fondly know it, Wild Blueberry Land in Columbia Falls, the blue geodesic dome  that is part bakery and part theme-park and wholly a piece of Maine wild blueberry culture.

If putting local foods on your plate is your mission, Lisa Turner will help with Eat Local, published by Down East Books. She has collected over one hundred recipes from Maine’s top chefs, farmers, home cooks, and some from her own kitchen, including her mother-in-law’s own Blueberry Buckle – a gift of true blue.
Finally, for the last word on the contribution of this little blue fruit to our everyday lives, comes Virginia Wright’s Wild Blueberry Book from Down East Books. It’s a charming and comprehensive primer of blueberry knowledge that provides an insider look from farmers, growers, scientists, and festival workers, as well as the region's best recipes.


Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Wild Days of Pure Blue Counts Down to Day 8


A filled punch bowl is the center of a holiday spread. It beautifies a table and acts as a destination point for guests who want to try a pour for themselves. Wild blueberries work wonderfully in punch. They are not overpoweringly sweet or sour, so they provide just the right taste with a bright, colorful look. That’s why Day 8 features wild blueberries as part of this distinctively delicious delivery system that will bowl your guests over at your holiday gathering.

Day 8: Wild Blueberry Lime Punch

This Wild Blueberry Lime Punch is the definitive holiday grog. It provides a little sparkle and a little blue. Frozen wild blueberries provide the color and taste along with woodruff syrup, a popular German syrup made from woodruff that adds a fruity taste. It can be found in a well-stocked bar.

For some fabulous alternatives, you can try out these holiday punches from Martha Stewart, which include Blood-Orange Punch, Sparkling Shiraz Punch, Lemon Drop Champagne Punch, and Mulled White-Wine Sangria. Substitute blueberry juice when the recipes calls for either cranberry or pomegranate for a unique taste that is surprisingly mellow, with the alcohol or without.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

12 Wild Days of Pure Blue - Day 9


What is a culinary walking tour? Nothing less than an adventure in the state’s foodiest city. The holiday season is a perfect way to explore Portland's Old Port, a place known for its food artisans and Maine inspired-culinary delights. Whether you live in Portland, are taking a shopping trip there, or have friends and family in the area who want to explore the city where local food reigns, it’s a unique opportunity to learn more about a seaside town’s history and discover the chefs, brewers, and bakers that make it famous for eating.

Day 9: Old Port Culinary Walking Tour

December is an ideal time to uncover the food secrets lurking in the shops and fish houses of Portland. It’s decked out for Christmas, and tour spots tend to have a holiday slant to their offerings. Tours are planned through December 23, and resume on the 27, where they go through the new year.

Culinary tours can be made by trolley or by foot, but December tends to focus on foot tours. The sweet-toothed can even center their attention solely on chocolate – tours include the town of Freeport as a food tour hot spot for chocolate as well.

Are there samples?  Absolutely. A culinary tour would not be the same without them. Wild blueberries make an essential appearance here – wild blueberry preserves served with a scone is a featured sampling, along with local cheeses, lobster, chocolate make with Maine potatoes, and Maine-crafted ales. That’s why an Old Port Culinary Walking Tour fits the bill for our palate-pleasing Day 9 pick for the 12 Wild Days Countdown. So put on your walking shoes and have a foodie holiday!

Don't live in Maine? There are food tasting and cultural walking tours all around the country. Find one in your city or a city you are visiting for the holidays, and get a taste of the local offerings.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 Wild Days of Blues - Day 10


The holiday season means putting good health and nutrition on hold until January. But when you have delicious confections like those from Cranberry Island Kitchen, having a treat or two isn’t naughty. It’s very nice!

Cranberry Island Kitchen, located on Danforth Street in Portland, offers homemade gourmet baked goods with real, wholesome ingredients, including homemade butter, local eggs, and organic vanilla and spices. And, they are all wonderfully inspired by the sea.

For gifting, a stylish blue tin filled with scallop or clam shell-shaped homemade whoopee pies is a pure delight. Personalize yours by choosing your own filling – choices range from champagne to rich chocolate. Even their enchanting lobster shortbread sport a fashionable wreath during the holidays! A most satisfying catch.

Gourmet Blueberry Whoopie Pies.
Photo courtesy of Cranberry Island Kitchen.
Day 10: Gourmet Blueberry Whoopie Pies

Such exquisite Maine-inspired confections brings us to Day 10: Cranberry Island Kitchen Gourmet Blueberry Whoopie Pies.Yes, those are fresh Maine blueberries baked into the scallop-shaped butter cake and filled with a classic whoopie pie filling. Give them by the dozen – they are destined to be a Maine classic.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Wild Days of Blues - Day 11


Maine’s wealth of balsam combined with deeply-rooted family wreath-making businesses make the state a national treasure during the season. It’s no wonder the “Wreaths Across America” program, which for the past 20 years has sponsored a nationwide effort to place fresh evergreen wreaths at the graves of fallen U.S. servicemen and women, was begun here in Harrington, Maine 20 years ago.

In December, northern Maine bustles with the business of wreaths. One well-known Maine wreath business, Whitney Wreaths, offers Spirit of Blue wreaths – not in homage to the berry, but to honor Maine servicemen, known as the men and women in blue.  A portion of the proceeds goes to Spirit of Blue.

The Wild Maine Blueberry Gift Pack wreath
from Down on the Farm showcases decorative wild
blueberries and comes with Wild  Maine Blueberry Truffles.
Day 11: Wild Maine Blueberry Wreath

It’s clear that when you buy a fresh evergreen wreath, you are celebrating Maine. So why not add a touch of the state’s famous fruit? No reason, says wreath businesses like Sprague Nursery  in Bangor, and Wreaths of Maine in Waldoboro. But it was this wreath from Danforth, Maine’s Down on the Farm that provides our Day 11 pick: the Wild Maine Blueberry Gift Pack wreath. This handcrafted balsam fir wreath includes a choice of either Wild Maine Blueberry Truffles or a Wild Maine Blueberry assortment created by Savour Chocolatier to transform it into a unique gift package. A perfectly sweet way to add a little blue to your holiday.

Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Wild Days of Blues Countdown Starts Today!


We’re counting down the holidays with 12 days of pure blue!

By highlighting a wild blueberry, blueberry, or super healthy fruit-related holiday item every day until December 24th, we’re providing plenty of ways to have a Blue Christmas, Chanukah or any day that celebrates the season.

Grab the sleigh reins, Santa, because off we go!

Day 12: Winterport Winery’s Blueberry Wine

Winterport Winery a Maine winery/business located in Winterport (that’s a bit north of Bucksport) has a mouth-watering fruit wine selection that’s fitting for tasting, coiffing, or giving. They offer a selection of award-winning fruit wines with the added charm of being a family business started by owner and winemaker Michael Anderson. They specialize in wines that slant toward indigenous offerings, such as apple and blueberry flavors.

And, their interest in combining wine with food is evident in their establishment of Pairings, a joint venture with Penobscot Bay Brewery (the brewery can be found on-site) where they spread the knowledge of pairing food with wine and beer through educational seminars and tastings around the state.

Their fruit-forward choices make perfect home-grown hostess gifts for the holidays, or something special to share when the bustling is done. You might try a Sparkling Apricot Wine when you want something effervescent, or indulge in Berry Chocolate, a raspberry-blueberry wine with a velvety chocolate finish.

Our choice to kick off 12 Wild Days of Blues: Blueberry Wine (Dry). It’s one of two blueberry wines offered by the winery. This one has a cherry red color and is dry but smooth, and pairs wonderfully with a rich chicken or ham dish, pasta, or a selection of mild cheeses.

Find Winterport Wines at many local merchants, or, depending on your location, have them shipped to you or a lucky gift recipient.

The 12 Days of Blues Countdown - You Can Help! How will wild blueberries and good fruit health be part of your holiday season? Let us know and you could be part of our 12 Days of Blues Countdown to the Holidays. All you need is a great idea for how something a little bit wild and a little bit blue – whether it’s a gift idea, recipe, or any holiday inspiration – will play a part in of your holiday celebration. Then, let us know about it at editor@wildblueberries.com.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why Go to Market in the Winter? 5 Reasons Besides the Veggies

Mississippi Honey by NatalieMaynor, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  NatalieMaynor 

This week, the Portland Press Herald’s Natural Foodie provided us with a timely reminder of the local proliferation of farmers markets in our state. If you live in Midcoast Maine, you already know that the area excels when it comes to indoor markets. It’s where you’ll find Brunswick’s Fort Andross, for example, with its 56 vendors selling their wares. According to the article, the inspiring 1,000 shoppers it attracts on Saturdays has served as a model for others as winter markets respond to public demand for year-round local, fresh foods.

Winter Farmers Markets Go Beyond Veggies 

It’s not a surprise that Maine has experienced an indoor market boon. The Department of Agricultural Resources says there's been a 400% increase in the number of winter markets since 2009. It’s becoming a weekly must for shoppers wanting to load up on vegetables to maintain nutrition throughout the winter months, and a way to find inexpensive, delicious fresh food that helps provide income to sustain local farmers. What more could you want in a shopping experience?

Actually, there IS more to farmers markets during the winter season. We did a little digging of our own and found local markets offer much more than squash and potatoes (although they have those too!).


5 (Other) Reasons to Visit Winter Markets
  • Holiday supplies. Local markets are a surefire way to get in the spirit of the season. They almost always have vendors offering holiday wreaths, poinsettias and holly during December.
  • Party fare. Local cheesemakers can help you make a party plate for a gathering that will blow your guests away. We love Hahn's End, available at the Bath Winter Farmer’s Market. They offer artisan cheese made with raw cow’s milk aged in their aging cellar in Phippsburg. Pick up flowers and some local wine, and you’re done.
  • Honey. Sweet gold from the bee is so popular that there’s a new business in Portland dedicated to it. You’ll often find honey at farmers markets in the winter. Try Tom’s Honey & More at the Portland Winter Market.
  • Gifting. Winter farmers markets are gift central during the holiday. Crafts and homemade foods are thoughtful for local friends and family, and they are especially unique to those who live away. Markets bulk up on ideas for gift baskets in December, such as teas, canned jams, relishes and salsa, and other non-food items. Find hand-braided sweaters from Braid a Rug at York's Winter Gateway Farmers Market, along with handmade jewelry from Catrina Marshall Creations, and soaps and lotions from Maine Herb Farm.  
  • Organic meats. If you are looking for a reason to head to a market on a cold Saturday morning, an array of organic and farm-raised meats, poultry and duck is one. Try all-natural angus beef, beef jerky, and mother-fed, free-range rose veal from Eastern River Cattle Company, all raised on a 118-acre farm in Dresden. Track them down at the Brunswick Winter Market, where you’ll also find holiday turkeys, chicken sausage and turkey pie from Maine-ly Poultry. If you’re looking for poultry that’s less evolved, you’ll find farm fresh eggs at most winter markets – nothing beats them.
Read more about how indoor markets keep local food handy all year and get a list of markets in southern Maine.

Not in Maine? Find a winter market in your area at Local Harvest.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fruits & Veggies – Cold & Flu Season’s Honored Heroes

While some of us usher in the holiday season with joy, others will be lamenting its inevitable companion, cold and flu season. Colder air means sealed up windows, recirculated air, and closed spaces where germs flourish, and there seems to be little escape from them when they arrive.

But while germs are falling on us like a Christmas Eve snow, they are more apt to cling to some and bypass others. What makes the difference? Food. It’s our best defense against poor health, and that translates directly into our day-to-day susceptibility to viruses. Healthy eating is our armor against life-threatening disease, just as it is against the pesky cold, and fruits and vegetables top the list of cold and flu resisters.

Here are some guidelines for armoring up for the coming season.

Boost Your Immune System. A consistent intake of high nutrition means you are getting vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, which offers tremendous help in fighting off viruses. Start by getting 4-5 servings of fruits and veggies every day. It will help you resist colds and flu, and if they come, your body fights them off quicker and gets you back on your feet in days, not weeks.

Go Frozen. It may be the best thing that has ever happened to nutrition. Today, freezing fruits and vegetables when they are at their peak preserves taste and nutrition – as much as if they were fresh, and possible more. There’s no reason not to eat frozen any time of year. Fruits like berries are sky-high it immune-boosting nutrition and antioxidants. It’s like your own daily flu shot against winter germs.

Choose Phyto Foods. Dr. James Sears, a regular on NBC’s The Doctors, and friend of Wild About Health, offers this advice in Parenting for cold and flu season: eat foods packed with phytonutrients. Phytos are found in deep-colored fruits and veggies such as blueberries, tomatoes and spinach. The color intensity signals immune-boosting power. Try these phyto-intense recipes that combine phytonutreint-rich wild blueberries with an array of favorites.

Eat Citrus. Oranges and grapefruits are not only available all winter long, but they are less expensive in the winter months. These fruits are notoriously high in vitamin C, and while the research into the vitamin C-cold connection is inconsistent, what is certain is that these fruits offer a wide variety of phytonutrient compounds, and they have antioxidant and immune boosting properties.

Opt for Real. We tend to reach for supplements to maintain our health in the winter, but remember that foods with vitamins and nutrients will trump vitamins in pill form every time. Why? It may have to do with synergy. Fruits, for example, offer combinations of nutrients – including not just vitamins, but minerals, flavonoids, and anitoxidants. These nutritional components work together and work with other foods to provide the immune system boost that provides the prevention.

Lean on Greens. The irony is that we eat less of the foods we need most in the winter. Colder months mean less fruit and vegetable intake. It may be the desire for comfort food combined with holiday eating, which often translates into lots of meaty, sweet, high-fat dishes. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Regularly eating a dinner that has leafy greens like spinach and kale as the primary ingredient will boost your defenses. Leafies are full of the vitamins and antioxidants your body pines for during cold and flu season. Try these 10 get-your-greens recipes from BlissTree.

More To Cure 

Want more foods that will have you striding confidently through flu season? Check out this list of foods that prevent cold and flu from Livestrong.com. You can also view this slideshow from WebMD that breaks down the basics about how to fight flu with food.