Summer Squash and More in this Week’s CSA Box

This week’s CSA (community-supported agriculture) box arrived at Food Network Kitchen stuffed with fresh summer produce, and we couldn’t be more excited to start cooking! Fresh summer squash was the real star of our box, with multiple varieties making an appearance. The seasonal offering has been popping up on restaurant menus everywhere, and now, with plenty in our kitchen thanks to Mountain View Farms, we can enjoy the tender vegetable in crisp salads, cold soups and more.

While unpacking our box, like many of you at home, we started to wonder what separates the pattypans from the zucchini of the world. Do they all deserve the same culinary treatment? After doing some quick research, we identified the two varietals of squash in our box as zucchini and zephyr (the two-toned one) squash.

Zucchini has a habit of growing … and growing … and growing, but don’t be tempted to set any world records with your squash. The best zucchini are small, firm and have a mild taste and moderately tender flesh — just like the one in our box. To use your squash, pull out your spiralizer to make a noodle substitute, or toss it in a pan with olive for a quick saute at dinner.

As for the beautiful zephyr squash, it is similar in toughness to the scalloped-edge pattypan squash, so it benefits from a longer cooking time. Use it in soups rather than salads, or roast it at a high temperature, because this summer variety will hold up under the pressure.

Here’s a peek at some of the other items in our CSA box this week:

Fresh onions: These onions, like green garlic, arrived from the farm uncured and with the woody stalk still attached. All this means is they are fresh and have a shorter shelf life (about 10 days) than the cured, papery-skinned variety you see at the grocery store.

Carrots: This is a good lesson in the beauty of fresh-from-the-farm vegetables. The knobby carrots add a little character, and taste just as good as the perfectly shaped ones.

Cilantro: This polarizing herb is the perfect, refreshing garnish to some, but tastes like soap to others. If you like it, add it to pestos, or chop it and use it to top guacamole or a banh mi sandwich.

Red leaf lettuce: This frilly green is a fairly good source of vitamin A, but has a short shelf life of about one week — all the more incentive to start making those refreshing salads immediately upon its arrival.

Cucumbers: Depending upon your CSA, you may find yourself with one cucumber or many, which can drastically change how you will use this vegetable. Just one cucumber will make a refreshing salad with a simple vinaigrette, but many means it’s time to pull out the pickling jars.

Scallions: Less pungent than an onion, scallions make a crunchy addition when added raw to salads. Or, for a little tang, toss them in a stir-fry.

Red cabbage: This densely packed head of cabbage makes a colorful slaw, is hearty enough to withstand braising and is the perfect way to add color to a summer DIY sauerkraut project at home.

Kale: This curly kale is tougher than lacinato kale, but is still delicious. Remove the leaves from the stalk, and consider blanching your kale in salted water before sauteing if the leaves taste bitter.

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Tips for Exercising in the Heat

Don’t let the summertime heat and humidity ruin your exercise enthusiasm. Following these simple rules to help make outdoor workouts a success.

The Risks

Feeling the burn in hot conditions can increase your risk for injury, dehydration and heat illness. Issues can range from minor fatigue and muscle cramping to a more serious case of heat exhaustion. The worst-case scenario is a condition referred to as heat stroke, where the body loses the ability to cool itself. (This is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention.) The good news is you can protect yourself by following these five rules.

Rule #1: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Around-the-clock hydration is imperative for folks who exercise multiple days a week. Water is ideal for moderate activity, but consider choosing a sports drink with calories and electrolytes for more vigorous activities lasting longer than 60 minutes. The American Academy of Sports Medicine recommends 8 to 12 fluid ounces of water 10 to 15 minutes before exercise and 3 to 8 fluid ounces every 15 to 20 minutes for workouts less than 60 minutes. For guidelines on longer-duration workouts, visit the American College of Sports Medicine website or download the Selecting and Effectively Using Hydration for Fitness brochure.

Rule #2: Check the forecast.

Check the projected weather conditions for your workout days. Pay special attention to the ultraviolet index and slather on the sunscreen when needed. In addition to checking the temperature, one of the most-important things to pay attention to is the humidity level. The more humid the air, the more difficult exercising can be. On extremely humid days, aim to exercise early in the morning or later in the evening, times when levels will likely be lower.

Rule #3: Plan your route accordingly.

There’s nothing worse than getting stranded or lost in the heat. Map out safe and reasonable distances on very hot days, and if conditions are dangerous, consider canceling or shortening the duration of your workout accordingly. Plan ahead for water stops and restroom breaks where applicable. Use apps like My Run Keeper or Footpath to map out your course ahead of time.

Rule #4: Don’t forget to recover.

It’s vital to end steamy outdoor workouts with proper fuel and fluids. By doing so your muscles and energy stores can prepare for your next outing. Weight loss from sweat needs to be replenished at a rate of 20 to 24 fluid ounces for every pound lost, and make sure to take in some recovery foods to help tired muscles.

Rule #5: Be sure to cross-train.

Workouts should be something you enjoy — indoors or outdoors. There’s no need to be handcuffed to one type of activity in the summer months. Consider kayaking, standup paddleboarding or beach yoga. Changing your workouts with the seasons will help you stay engaged too.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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Nutrition News: Healthy Food Pairings, Subsidized Obesity, Small Meals Overrated

Underwriting obesity
Is the American government underwriting your weakness for junk food? A new study appears to confirm what health advocates have been saying for a while: that federally subsidized crops — corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, milk and meat — are key ingredients in the foods that account for the most calories in the American diet, fueling the U.S. obesity crisis. At the very top of that list, The New York Times reports, are “grain-based desserts like cookies, doughnuts and granola bars.” Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that people who consumed the most federally subsidized foods were 37 percent more likely to be obese, the Times notes, and were “significantly more likely to have belly fat, abnormal cholesterol, and high levels of blood sugar and CRP, a marker of inflammation.” The study’s authors say they hope their findings help policy makers re-examine how they allocate subsidies.

A fine pair
Want to make the most of the healthy foods you eat? Pair them up for maximal effect. Today.com offers a few flavor- and nutrition-boosting healthful food combos. Team avocados with leafy greens (or tomatoes or carrots) to increase nutrient absorption by 200 to 600 percent, dietitian and fitness specialist Wendy Bazilian advises. Dress your salad with olive oil to boost carotenoid absorption. Pair mango with leafy greens to help with iron absorption and get a hit of vitamin C. Bazilian also suggests adding herbs and spices to fatty foods to reduce triglycerides and to meat before tossing it on the grill to curb the generation of harmful compounds. And adding citrus — a twist of lemon, a splash of orange — to green tea, she says, is not only yummy but also “increases the absorption of the catechins by up to five times!”

Common diet wisdom not so wise?
It is an oft-repeated piece of dieting advice that eating frequent small meals throughout the day is better, in terms of curbing your appetite, than consuming three square meals per day. But, writing in the Washington Post, nutritionist Carrie Dennett suggests that research doesn’t actually support this claim. “In fact, several randomized, controlled-feeding studies — some of which specifically measured appetite — conducted at institutions in the United States and other countries in the past decade tell a different story,” she writes. “In a few of these studies, smaller, more frequent meals helped curb appetite. But mostly, the opposite was true.” Dennett says the hunger we may feel between meals — and the fullness we feel after a big meal — are key signals telling us when to eat and how much. Plus, she notes, hunger “enhances our enjoyment of the meal to come!”

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

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How Do We Love Watermelon? Let Us Count the Ways

There are few summer pastimes more satisfying than nibbling a cool slice of watermelon right down to the rind. And while we completely support enjoying the juicy, low-calorie pink fruit in its raw, unadulterated form, we can also get behind soups, salads and desserts that highlight its incredible range and versatility. From sweet shaved ice to spicy watermelon gazpacho, here are seven fresh uses for that ripe watermelon chilling in your fridge.

Gingery Watermelon Petit Fours
Looking for a lighter alternative to quench your after-dinner sweet tooth? Try dousing juicy watermelon squares in a ginger syrup, then letting the watermelon soak for a few hours before topping each square with a dollop of honey-laced cream cheese.

Watermelon-Raspberry Breakfast Pops
The beauty of these 110-calorie ice pops is that they’re healthy enough for breakfast but indulgent enough for dessert. Simply combine watermelon and raspberries — in our opinion, two of summer’s finest fruits — with coconut milk (for richness) and lime juice (for tartness) in your blender. Once frozen, they can be rolled in toasted coconut or cocoa nibs for added flavor.

Watermelon-Strawberry Sangria
While we can’t wholeheartedly label alcoholic beverages “healthy,” we think this thirst-quenching sangria is one of the better options to reach for the next time the need for a buzz arises. The combination of orange liqueur and cold rosé amplifies the vibrant pinkish hue — and the extra fiber you get from the pureed watermelon and strawberries? Consider it a bonus.

Tomato and Watermelon Salad
The combination of juicy beefsteak tomatoes and sweet cherry tomatoes creates a fresh base for ripe, cubed watermelon. You’ll want to use cold, cut-up watermelon straight from the refrigerator — but whatever you do, don’t chill the tomatoes. According to Alex Guarnaschelli, “The contrast of temperatures will give the salad an extra-fresh taste.”

Watermelon Gazpacho
Tyler Florence’s summer spin on classic tomato gazpacho is equal parts savory, sweet and spicy. Top each bowl with feta cheese, dill and a few juicy cubes of watermelon for restaurant-worthy presentation.

Watermelon-Cucumber Salad
There are few salads more refreshing than this hyperseasonal medley of watermelon and cucumber. Toss in some chopped cashews and goat cheese crumbles for a well-rounded side dish. You can even use it as a sweet-and-salty slaw on top of fish or chicken tacos.

Watermelon Granita
Let this three-ingredient granita stand as a testament to the simple, laid-back feel of summer dining. Rake off a few spoonfuls of the fruity ice to enjoy after dinner. There’s no need to feel guilty about it either: One serving contains just 143 calories.

Don’t stop there. Check out more refreshing watermelon recipes from our friends:

Creative Culinary: Watermelon Mint Cooler
Devour: 6 Sweet Ways to Booze Up Your Watermelon
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Watermelon & Mixed Berry Pizza
Swing Eats: Watermelon with Feta, Mint, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt
FN Dish: All the Ways You Can Spike Fresh Watermelon

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Moving Interoperability Forward by Engaging Small, Rural, and Critical Access Hospitals

As I announced at our recent Annual Meeting, hospitals across the country continue to make progress toward the goal of ensuring that health information flows where it is needed the most. Today, almost all U.S. non-federal acute care hospitals have certified electronic health record (EHR) technology and 82 percent are electronically exchanging laboratory results, radiology […]

The post Moving Interoperability Forward by Engaging Small, Rural, and Critical Access Hospitals appeared first on Health IT Buzz.

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Market Watch: Basil

Fresh herbs are flourishing at the local markets. Head out and grab some basil to make these exciting and unexpected recipes.

Basil Facts
Basil is rich in nutrients like vitamins A and C, plus it contains phytochemicals — good-for-you plant-based compounds. Since you probably don’t eat cups of herbs at a time, using small amounts daily in a wide range of recipes allows for the nutrients to stack up.

Basil options are more diverse than you might think. Look for beautiful bouquets of common varieties like “sweet” or “Christmas” for tomato sauce and salads. Try cinnamon basil on fruit salad or spicy Thai basil with noodle and rice dishes. The deep-purple leaves of opal basil make a showstopping pesto or pizza topper.

What to Do with Basil
Basil can be stored like flowers in a small glass of water on the counter for a couple of days. You can also store leaves loosely wrapped in a plastic bag with some paper towels in the veggie drawer of the fridge.

Stack those aromatic leaves on sandwiches, toss them into salad greens, or mash them into hummus, pesto and guacamole. Basil can also be used for dessert, incorporated into frozen treats like sorbet and ice pops.

Recipes to Try
Basil-Lemon Ice
Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil
Watermelon, Chili and Basil Ice Pops
Grilled Swordfish with Lemon, Mint and Basil
Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad
Orange and Basil Biscotti

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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Grilled Meat: Good or Bad?

Summer is all about grilling, but many folks are concerned about firing up red meats such as beef and lamb. Here’s the low-down on grilling meat.

The Good
Grilling is a quick and easy way to whip up a weeknight dinner or entertain friends and family. There are many lean cuts of meat that are easy to grill, including lamb tenderloin, strip steak, flank and rib eye. Nutritionally, red meats like beef and lamb are packed with protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins such as niacin, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12.

Marinating meat before grilling helps tenderize and add flavor. Studies have also shown that marinades with little or no sugar also help protect meat from charring and have been shown to reduce heterocyclic aromatic amine (HAA) formation — compounds that have been linked to cancer.

The Bad
If you love the flavor of charred meat, you may want to reconsider. Charring causes the formation of HAAs, which has been linked to cancer in animal studies. Further, cooking meats over open flames where fat can drip and produce smoke — think grilling — can lead to the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs have also been linked to cancer formation.

Grill to perfection and greatly reduce HAAs and PAHs by monitoring your grill’s heat level and the doneness temperature of meat, poultry and fish when cooking.
Luckily, there are ways to minimize the production of HAAs and PAHs, including:
• Don’t press burgers down onto grill grates, where juices can drip and flare.
• Cooking meat over a medium flame (as opposed to a high flame) will help prevent the formation of HAAs while still allowing the internal cooking temperature to be reached.
• Before cooking, remove meat from the marinade and shake off excess. Use a paper towel to pat dry and help promote even browning.
• Avoid sugary glazes and sauces, which can burn easily. If you want to use them, baste the meat the last few minutes on the grill.

The Verdict
Grilling meat is a quick and delicious way to get a meal on the table, however, certain guidelines should be followed in order to help ensure maximum nutrition and minimum cancer risk.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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