Why should you pick-your-own?


This weekend I took my kids to Springs Farm to pick our own strawberries. This has been our tradition each spring since we’ve lived in Fort Mill. Why would we go out into the hot sun, spend hours plucking strawberries off of the vine, getting dirty in the process when we can go to the grocery store and easily pick up a pint?

Here are the top five benefits to picking your own produce:

  1. Instill Healthy Habits – Research show that when children are involved in food preparation, including growing, picking, preparing and cooking, they are more likely to eat healthier foods. A study published in ScienceDaily found that children who grew up eating fresh-from-the-garden produce were more likely to prefer the taste of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Burn Calories – The process of picking your own berries is great exercise! We spent an hour combing the fields finding the biggest, juiciest, brightest berries. We burned approximately 270 calories in the process, which earned us our bowl of strawberry ice cream made with the fresh berries! Check out this article on Livestrong about the calories burned through gardening.
  3. Science Lesson – Harvesting fruit teaches children that food doesn’t come from the grocery store, restaurant or fast food window. Picking your own produce sets the stage for having a conversation about how food grows and is a wonderful science lesson.
  4. Save Money – We paid only $9.00 for an entire gallon of pick-your-own strawberries. The same farm sold pre-picked berries for $15 and buying just a small container in the grocery store costs $4 for a small pint! By cutting out the middle man and going straight to the source, budget conscious families can save money.

  5. Memories
    – Spending quality time with your children, doing an activity you both love, will create loving, fond memories for years to come. Even if they complain about it or fight the entire time now (your kids are probably better behaved then mine. Mine decided to have a throw down in the middle of our beautiful day of picking strawberries. Check out the picture of my daughter hitting my son with the fruit basket. I took this picture so they can see how ridiculous they look when they fight) they will look back at these moments fondly……and the years pass too quickly.

 

There are so many ways to enjoy strawberries, including just straight from the vine, but I thought I would share a savory strawberry recipe with you today for Spinach Strawberry Salad. Spinach and strawberries go hand-in-hand. You’ll be surprised that kids actually like the mild taste of spinach and this antioxidant filled salad is a great way for kids to get their fruit, veggies and healthy fats all in one!

 

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of baby spinach (10 oz)
  • 1 pint of fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. almonds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and onion. Cover, and chill for one hour.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Healthy Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

This weekend my home town, Fort Mill, celebrated with their 2nd annual strawberry festival. My son sang with the school choir at the festival (well, actually he lip synched because he felt embarrassed) and my daughter had her picture in The Herald while petting a sheep at the petting zoo.

Between the strawberry recipe contest and the fresh strawberries sold on site, the focus of the event is all about the strawberries. Fort Mill is home to Springs Farm, which has the BEST strawberries. I feel so lucky that we have a strawberry field right across the street from our neighborhood. This weekend we plan to “pick-our-own” strawberries, and I will blog about the experience, but today I wanted to provide you guys with an amazing homemade strawberry ice cream recipe.

We picked up a gallon of freshly picked strawberries and set out to make our own homemade ice cream. I love ice cream, but most store-bought ice cream is either full of fat, calories or chemicals. They get their flavor from extracts rather than fresh fruit, so their nutritional value is minimal.

My homemade strawberry ice cream recipe is extremely simple with only four ingredients and the focus is on the fruit

And when you hear the health benefits of strawberries, you will want the focus to be on the fruit. Strawberries have the 3rd highest level of antioxidants among all U.S. foods, including spices, fruits and vegetables (based on common serving sizes.)  The polyphenols in strawberries also play a major role in regulating blood sugar. Strawberries also have anti-inflammatory properties, which contributes towards their role in lowering one’s risk of developing heart disease and cancer. One cup of strawberries has only 43 calories, 136% of daily value for vitamin C and 3 grams of fiber. Give this delicious recipe and try and let me know what you think.

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 4 cups strawberries
  • 1 can fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Directions

Freeze the ice cream canister for several hours prior to preparing the ice cream. Hull the strawberries and puree with a hand blender. Combine milks, strawberry puree and vanilla extract. Pour into ice cream canister and prepare according to your manufacturer’s instructions.

Day 66: Ten Reasons to Get Your Apple a Day

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” How many times have you heard that little rhyme? I guess the cliché is so popular because it’s true. I could write a new blog post everyday with the health benefits of apples, but if I had to boil it down to the top ten headlines, it would look like this: 

1. Apples protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons

Two new studies from Cornell University found that apples protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons. The study showed that the chemical quercetin, a flavanoid that has also been shoed to prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells, protected rat brain cells when approached with oxidative stress in laboratory tests.

2. Apples reduce your risk of asthma and improve your pulmonary health 

A recent study in Australia found that apple and pear intake was associated with a decreased risk of asthma and decrease in bronchial hypersensitivity. 

3. Smoke? Better eat your apples

In a case control study in Hawaii, it was found that there was a 40-50% decreased risk in lung cancer participants with the highest intake of apples, onions and white grapefruit. Check out An Apple a Day Keeps the Lung Cancer Away blog post for more info.

4. Decrease your heart attack risk by eating more apples 

The Women’s Health Study found that women ingesting apples had a 13-22% decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.

5. Eat apples to reduce your risk of Type II diabetes 

A Finnish study of 10,000 people found a reduced risk of Type II diabetes associated with apple consumption. This is attributed to the quercetin, which is a major component of apple peels.

6. Don’t peel that apple!

Apples, and especially apple peels, have been found to have potent antioxidant activity. In fact, apples have second highest level of antioxidant activity than any other fruit. These antioxidants can greatly inhibit the growth of livery cancer and colon cancer cells. Another study, at Cornell University showed that phytochemicals in the skin of an apple inhibited the reproduction of colon cancer cells by 43%!

7. Apples have the highest portion of free phenolics

What is free phenolic and why is this important? A phenolic is a huge class of biochemically active substances most of which belong to the flavanoid group. “Free Phenolic” means that these compounds are not bound to other compounds in the fruits and the phenolics are more available to absorb into the bloodstream. All you need to know is this, they are really, really, really good for you! 

8. Eat Apples. Lose Weight 

Researchers from the State University of Rio de Janeiro found that women who ate apples lost more weight on a low-calorie diet than women who didn’t eat fruit. And get this, one apple has more fiber than an entire bowl of bran cereal! With only 80 calories and 5 grams of belly-filling fiber, an apple is a dieter’s best friend. Check out this blog post about The New Apple Diet, which talks about a study that demonstrated that people who eat an apple 15 minutes before lunch consumed almost 190 fewer calories then when they didn’t have the apple! 

9. Kick arthritis and osteoporosis with apples

Apples are one of the best dietary sources of boron, which is a bone-building mineral. The Journal of Applied Nutrition recently published a study that demonstrated a high probability that there is a connection between not having enough boron in your system and having symptoms of arthritis.   

10. Apples can reduce breast cancer risk

Cornell researchers found that apple consumption can reduce breast cancer tumors. In their study with a group of rats with a known mammary carcinogen they found that the number of tumors was reduced by 25, 25 and 61 percent in rats fed, respectively, the equivalent of one, three or six apples a day. 

Check out All About Apples for more information on the health benefits of apples. 

Nothing says fall like a fresh, crisp apple, so after conducting research on the benefits of apples, I was excited to go pick my own apples from the local apple orchard. I visited Windy Hill Apple Orchard in York, SC. You can visit www.pickyourown.org to find local pick your own apple orchards in your area. 

Come back and visit my blog tomorrow for the Top 5 Ways to Get Your Apple a Day blog post, which will be filled with five great apple recipes and more information about my experience at the apple orchard and picking our own apples. In the meantime, check out my recipe for awesome apple museli: 

Apple Museli

Ingredients

  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp almonds
  • 2 tsp honey

Instructions

Combined oats and milk in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in apple, almonds and honey.

Do you like apples? How do you enjoy eating them? Please share!

Day 51: Strawberry Shortcake – Marshies in the Well

So, I took a little hiatus. OK, a long hiatus. I’m sure you can relate to life getting a little overwhelming at times. One of my loved ones had a health scare that really threw me for a loop and sent my life into a whirlwind that rearranged my priorities in life, unfortunately pushing my beloved blog down to the bottom. My passion for this blog hasn’t died, it just has been stuck down at the bottom of my to-do list for too long. But if anything, that health scare taught me not only do we need to live our life to the fullest, enjoy each day and treasure our time with our loved ones for every moment we have with them, but also that our health is important and we need to treasure it. Good health is one of those things that we take for granted until we don’t have it. So, I’m back now, with a renewed passion for eating healthy and ensuring that every morsel of food I put in my body contributes to creating a health body, heart and mind.

With that being said, I’m kicking off my return to the blog with one of my top favorite foods in the world. Strawberries! I’m so excited to blog about strawberries because we have a local farmers market, about 2 minutes from my house, Springs Farm, and we get to pick our own strawberries!

This is a dream for someone like me who loves food and enjoys every aspect of selecting, making, preparing and eating it! I take my kids to the strawberry field every year and we pick a huge gallon of strawberries (eating some during the process) and we come home and make our own strawberry ice cream & jam.

Strawberries are great for getting picky kids to eat their fruits & vegetables because they are so sweet, they are like natures candy. To add to the incentive, you can always encourage them to eat strawberries like their favorite character, Strawberry Shortcake. I loved Strawberry Shortcake when I was little, but true to my form of not understanding music lyrics, I thought that her theme song for the cartoon was “Strawberry Shortcake – Marshies in the Well” and it was “Strawberry Shortcake – My She’s Looking Swell.” Hence the blog post title – Ha! Oh well, at least she got me to eat strawberries!

Not only do strawberries taste great, but they have amazing health benefits. Strawberries have been shown to protect cells against cervical and breast cancer. You can thank the ellagic acid in strawberries (also in blackberries, raspberries & blueberries) for inhibiting the growth of cancerous tumors. The ellagic acid is really amazing because it not only kills the cancerous cells, but it somehow does this without changing the healthy, normal cells. This is something that even the most advanced medical science hasn’t been able to achieve. Strawberries also have potent antioxidants.

Have trouble remembering where you parked? (I know that I do!) Well, eat up, because strawberries have been shown to protect your brain and memory. Strawberries also contain COX-1 and COX-2, which have been shown to help prevent pain and inflammation, especially due to arthritis.

To top it off, strawberries have only 50 calories for an entire cup and deliver a whopping 3 grams of fiber and 85 mg of vitamin C.

If you are lucky enough to have a strawberry farm near you, go out and pick your own strawberries and it will give you such a sense of satisfaction to know exactly where your food is coming from. If you have kids, it provides a great lesson for where food comes from and how we should eat more natural foods that come from the earth, rather than pre-packaged, processed foods that come from the grocery store.

I just called Bush-n-Vine today and I’ll be able to pick my own peaches and blueberries in about three weeks! You can go to PickYourOwn.org to find a local farm near you! Do you ever “Pick-Your-Own”? If so, what local fruits and vegetables do you have near you?