“Netted Gems”

The orange ones protect your eyes!  Yep, that’s right, the orange colored fruits and vegetables are rich in beta-carotene which is converted to Vitamin A in our bodies to help protect our eyes. And the orange flesh-colored cantaloupes are no exception to this rule. 1 cup of cantaloupe provides 120% of our daily recommended amount of Vitamin A.

Why do we need Vitamin A? When we eat foods rich in Vitamin A, they become part of a protein known as Rhodopsin. This protein converts light into a signal that is sent to our brain to create an image, which allows us to see in dim light or at night. It also helps our eyes adjust to darkness – think dark movie theatre!

Vitamin A Deficiency: So knowing that Vitamin A helps us see in the dark, it makes perfect sense that a deficiency in this important nutrient could make it difficult for us to see at in the evening, a condition known as night blindness. This ailment makes it extremely challenging for drivers to see at night!

Vitamin A also strengthens our eyesight by nourishing our corneas and helps prevent xerophthalmia or dry eyes.

History: I like to give students a little bit of history on foods grown locally, so that they have a better idea of where their food is coming from. For example, the burpee company introduced these “netted gems” in the 1880’s and Colorado has been growing them since that time. Although cantaloupe is grown all over the state, the majority are grown in the Rocky Ford region (about an hour southeast of Pueblo). This area has been coined the “sweet melon capital of the world,” because they also grow another extremely popular summer melon – watermelon. Consider doing some research on locally grown cantaloupe in your area (if applicable) and share with your students.

Now is a great time to have students prepare recipes using these netted gems as they are in-season right now and taste so sweet and juicy – yum!

Personally, I just like to cut up cantaloupe and eat as is (I could literally eat a whole cantaloupe in one sitting – it tastes so sweet!), blend it by itself to make cantaloupe juice or even freeze it to make a cantaloupe sorbet. However if you want to introduce students to new and different ways to use cantaloupe, here are a couple of recipes to try.

Cantaloupe Creamsicle Smoothie

 Cantaloupe Creamsicle Smoothie

Image courtesy of: http://www.kitchenfrau.com/creamsicle-smoothie/

Servings:  3

Ingredients:

  • ½ medium cantaloupe
  • ¼ cup plant-powered milk (I prefer soymilk because it makes it creamier, but you can also use almond milk.)
  • ¼ cup fresh pressed orange juice – no sugar added and not from concentrate.

Directions:

  1. Thoroughly wash and dry (if possible use a fruit and vegetable wash) the cantaloupe rind before cutting it. This may help reduce your risk of food poisoning.
  2. Then cut and dice your cantaloupe. This article does a good job of explaining the necessary steps to cut a cantaloupe http://www.onceuponachef.com/how-to/how-to-cut-a-melon.html.
  3. Add diced cantaloupe to a blender and then add plant milk, and orange juice. Blend until desired smoothness. Some like it smooth and even juice-like, while others like it a little thicker.

Nutrition Facts: Here is the nutrition label for this recipe.  As you can see, per serving this recipe provides 104% of your daily recommended amount for Vitamin A and as an added bonus, it provides 85% of your daily recommended amount for Vitamin C. Plus it is a good source of potassium and contains iron.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3
Per Serving % Daily Value*
Calories 52
Total Fat 0.6g 1%
Saturated Fat 0.1g 1%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 25mg 1%
Potassium 311mg 7%
Total Carb 10.9g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 9.8g
Protein 1.6g
Vitamin A 104% · Vitamin C 85%
Calcium 1% · Iron 3%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet
Recipe analyzed by  Very Well

If you have a little bit more time, here is another fun, simple recipe to make with students.

Cantaloupe Sorbet

Cantaloupe-Sorbet-4-527x794

Image courtesy of: http://thekitchenmccabe.com/2014/06/23/cantaloupe-melon-sorbet/

Servings:  4-5

Ingredients:

  • ½ medium cantaloupe (approximately 2 cups)
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions:

  1. Thoroughly wash and dry (if possible use a fruit and vegetable wash) the cantaloupe rind before cutting it. This may help reduce your risk of food poisoning.
  2. Then cut and dice your cantaloupe. This article does a good job of explaining the necessary steps to cut a cantaloupe http://www.onceuponachef.com/how-to/how-to-cut-a-melon.html.
  3. Place diced cantaloupe onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place in freezer. Freeze for a few hours to overnight.
  4. Place frozen cantaloupe, lemon juice, honey and water into a food processor. Blend until it has a sorbet or ice-cream-like texture.
  5. Serve immediately.

I use this recipe as a starting point and then add other ingredients to make it even more spectacular. Try replacing the water with 6 ounces of blueberries or check out an additional recipe at the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/CFVGA/

 

 

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Cauliflower, the New Comfort Food

In 1621 the pilgrims celebrated their first fall harvest. They held a ceremony to show gratitude for their good fortune and to give thanks. Over time this tradition became known as “Thanksgiving”. What you might imagine this to look like is quite a bit different than the stereotypical “Turkey Day” image of grandpa napping on a couch with a full belly, pumpkin pies, apple pies, pecan pies, stuffing, cranberry sauce, biscuits and a large juicy bird on the table and a football game.

While the original Thanksgiving was a gathering of family and community, their dining table looked a little different than what we are now accustomed to. The table they feasted at in 1621 had less overindulgence, less refined carbohydrates and saturated fat, and a wider variety of local and seasonal fruits and vegetables. I want to zoom in on one particular item on their Thanksgiving table, cauliflower.

Mark Twain said “a cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education”. That’s because the cauliflower plant actually is in the same family as cabbage, along with kale, collard greens, brussels sprouts and broccoli. These are cruciferous or brassica vegetables. One of the most significant characteristic of vegetables in the Brassica family is that they contain glucosinolates, a phytochemical in some plants that releases a pungent taste when chewed.  

Cauliflower can be found in white, green, purple and orange varieties, each one offering different nutrients, dependent on their color.  In general cauliflower contains:

  • Glucosinolates
  • High amount of vitamin C
    • A powerful antioxidant that protects the immune system
  • Potassium
    • Keeps your heart beating and muscles from cramping
  • Manganese
    • Important for metabolism, bone development and wound healing
  • Vitamin K
    • Needed for bone development and helps stop bleeding when you have a cut
  • Fiber
    • Aids in healthy digestion and makes you feel full
  • Omega-3
    • Cauliflower is one of the best vegetable sources of omega-3. It’s important to fight of inflammation, regulate cholesterol levels and have been shown to help with helps keep our minds sharp.

Fun Fact: Romanesco Cauliflower is a great example of sacred geometry in food. Sacred geometry is a term used to describe patterns we see repeating themselves over and over in nature. They are the building blocks or seeds of nature. Pinecones or nautilus shells are other good examples of this. This has got to get your students excited about cauliflower because. . . well, it’s really cool!

romanesco-cauliflower

How To Cook It:

The recipes below provide a twist on traditional Thanksgiving recipes. Imagine Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes or stuffing… no thank you. But what if instead of the heavy bread and eggs for the stuffing or the potatoes for the mash, we lightened it up with cauliflower? Changing an unhealthy habit into healthy choices is made easier when we just tweak what we already know and love. This is a way to help your students add more vegetables in their diet and get excited about what they are eating.

Here are some other ideas on how to use cauliflower:

  • Cauliflower pizza crust
  • Cauliflower buffalo wings
  • Cauliflower hash
  • Cauliflower tots
  • Cauliflower tacos (see recipe in previous beet article here)
  • Cauliflower fried “rice”

You can also throw it into an omelet, drizzle some oil on it and roast it, puree it into soup, toss it in a stew or curry, or make a sauce and to dip it in and eat it raw.

Mashed Cauliflower

mashed-cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 heads cauliflower, florets, rough chop
  • 1 cup of vegetable stock per every cup of cauliflower
  • 3 tbs plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

(Optional) chives, rosemary or parsley for garnish or 2 tbs chopped and mixed in

Directions:

  1. Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a saucepan, add the cauliflower and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer until cauliflower is tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a small amount of the oil on a pan and lightly sauté garlic on low heat until it begins to brown. Set aside.
  3. Reserve cooking liquid and transfer cauliflower to a food processor. Add yogurt, garlic and seasonings and blend until smooth. Slowly add in the oil and then the cooking liquid until you reach desired creaminess.
  4. (Optional) Mix in fresh parsley or chives.
  5. Serve and eat.

Cauliflower Stuffing

Cauliflower Stuffing.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, florets rough chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, dice
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup polenta, dried
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 tbs rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tbs parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp sage powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Put cauliflower florets into food processor and pulse until it is small and rice-like.
  2. Bring vegetable stock to a boil. Add the cauliflower, salt, pepper and sage and bring to a low simmer. Allow to simmer until it becomes tender and reaches a porridge like consistency, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, add the vegetable oil. Over medium heat, add the onions, carrots and celery. Once these have softened, add the mushrooms, garlic, rosemary and parsley for an additional minute or two.
  4. Once the cauliflower has finished cooking, add the polenta and stir for about 3 minutes. Then, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  5. Serve and eat.