While you’re watching the debate tomorrow night, enjoy a
handful of almonds. No matter how you feel about politics, you can’t go wrong
with a simple, nutritious snack that pays homage to those who came before. You
may remember that during an Obama speech to the DNC in 2016, Matt Yglesias
tweeted, “Tonight, Obama’s going to eat seven chocolate-covered almonds.”
We all snack at different times and for different reasons. Rather
than trying to eliminate snacking, why not enjoy eating something you can feel
I’m not sure whether the chocolate-covered almonds
referenced are cocoa dusted or almonds covered in candy. Of the two, cocoa
dusted is the healthier choice. Healthier still are raw almonds.
Seven raw almonds contain 49 calories, 1.8 grams of protein,
1.7 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 4.3 grams of fat. They also have
21 mg of calcium and 61 mg of potassium. For comparison, a banana has 5 mg
calcium and a tablespoon of whole milk has 17. A banana also has 358 mg
potassium, 90 calories, and .3 grams of fat. A tablespoon of whole milk has 22
mg potassium, 9 calories, and .5 grams of fat. Almonds also provide a good
supply of vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium. While they may seem high in
calories, some of those calories are not absorbed by the body.
The brown skin of almonds is high in healthy antioxidants. In
fact, vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect your cells from
oxidative damage. Studies have linked higher vitamin E consumption with lowered
rates of Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease.
Magnesium lowers blood sugar levels and reduces insulin
resistance which may help prevent Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. A
sufficient amount of manganese is required to keep blood pressure in check. As
if that weren’t enough, almonds can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Almonds fill you up, protect your cells, help preserve your
memory, and give you satisfying crunch. Sounds like a pretty good snack, no?
Whether you’re enjoying the debates, binge watching, or
taking a hike, almonds are a great choice when you want a snack between meals. Just
a handful will do!
Forget fancy bags, boxes, cans, and cartons, the best food
is everywhere! I can take a quick walk through my neighborhood and see clover,
dandelions, sunflowers, begonias, garlic, and marigolds. All are edible. Even
the tiny blooms appearing on the arugula in my garden can add a unique zing to a
Because I live in a small southern city, I don’t forage for
food. Too many lawns are maintained with chemicals and I don’t want to
inadvertently find out how many neighbors are armed. But I grew up in a
different environment. We ate wild strawberries from the yard, honey from bees
that lived under our front porch, poke that appeared by the fence, persimmons
from a tree by the red barn, wild blackberries on the Whitaker Forty, and
huckleberries from Gaither Mountain.
Every blueberry I eat reminds me that I prefer smaller,
darker huckleberries. We picked buckets full and ate them by the handful or in
cobbler, jelly, and jam. Okay, now I want a biscuit. Yet, I digress.
There are also gems on my back porch I can safely consume. After
I harvest the last of the season’s basil for pesto, the flowers will make a
great garnish for pasta! Mint flowers make will make the iced tea and mojitos I
serve alongside feel festive.
Speaking of pesto, garlic stems can serve as the base for
pesto or be sautéed in butter as a side dish that enhances everything on the
plate. If you let your garlic fully flower, the flowers have a mild garlic
flavor perfect for salads.
Rosemary flowers can be mixed right in to a dish along with rosemary
leaves. They don’t have as much oil in them, so you’ll need a greater ratio to get
the equivalent level of flavor.
I would probably use cilantro flowers. I can’t say for sure
because I seem to kill the plants every year before they get to that point. Every.
Single. Year. But if you are a more skilled cilantro cultivator, you don’t have
to let the blossoms go to waste.
My back yard holds other culinary treasures. If you can beat
the bees to it, there is clover with its mild licorice-flavored heads and edible
tender greens. Some days there are day lilies with their bright melony petals. And,
of course, there are dandelions.
As summer wanes, I’ll enhance the back yard options by
planting a fall garden. Swiss chard, mâché, spinach,
and sugar snap pea seeds have already arrived, but I still need to harvest some
carrots and green beans before I’m ready to make the switch.
Several years ago, I had a neighbor who taught at a
neighborhood elementary school. He used to marvel that many of his students had
never taken a walk through the woods or grown a plant. Many of them walked to
school oblivious to the food growing all around them.
Of course, they aren’t the only ones. It’s easy to grab a
bag of chips or cookies and forget there’s better food out there. In fact, the
best food is everywhere!
How can my family get enough protein when meat shelves are empty? If you have a vulnerable family member and are ordering groceries, you may experience shortages before those who are walking into stores. That means you may already have many items missing from your grocery orders. As meat processing plants reduce output, shortages may grow. Getting enough protein can require persistent and creative shopping as well as cooking. Luckily, there are many meatless sources of protein.
I’m a little too young to have fully experienced the hippie era, but I felt its influence. My first awareness of vegetarian protein choices came from odd people who wore headbands, tie-dye, barefoot sandals, and drove white vans you wouldn’t dare let your children near now. My parents, on the other hand, happily waved goodbye when a VW bus picked me up in front of their business. But that’s a different story.
Rice and Beans The most popular protein choice of my antiestablishment friends was rice and beans. The combination of these two shelf-stable foods can provide 7 grams of protein per cup. Even rice and beans have sometimes been hard to obtain in the past month, but can be purchased in large quantities when available without worry that they will spoil before you use them.
My sister has vegetarian friends from the Middle East who introduced her to lentils. She loves to put them in curry and soup. And her favorite gluten-free pasta is made with red lentils.
Lentils One-half cup of cooked lentils contains 8.84 grams of protein. They are also a source of potassium, iron, and fiber. You can buy them dried to pad the pantry for times when meat is scarce. You can also buy lentil-based snack chips as an occasional crunchy treat and serve them with hummus for a high-protein treat.
Hummus is made from garbanzo beans and has been one grandson’s favorite since he was less than two. He loves it with pita or pretzels. It can also be used as a sandwich spread.
Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas) Garbanzo beans don’t have to be made into hummus. I like to put them in salads. They can also be roasted or added to soups and stews. One-half cup of cooked chickpeas has 7.25 grams of protein.
Like other beans, you can find them canned or dried. You can also buy them as a preground hummus base. All of those options can be stored without refrigeration for a long period of time.
One of my everyday foods is a handful of almonds. I like them raw rather than roasted or roasted and salted. They’re delicious paired with dried fruit and yogurt. They add a different sort of crunch to salads and one pot meals. And almond flour can lighten the crumb of gluten-free baked goods.
Nuts Almonds provide a whopping 16.5 grams of protein per one-half cup and are a good source of vitamin E. Some studies indicate the vitamin E content may improve memory. Almonds have a shorter shelf life than the foods mentioned above, but can be stored in the freezer to extend their use. Almond butter is also a pantry friendly choice.
Almonds are not the only nut that’s high in protein. Pistachios, walnuts, cashews, and the legumes that are called nuts, peanuts, are also high in protein.
My family loves breakfast for dinner and breakfast tacos any time of day. The staple of those favorites is eggs. Eggs have been easier to get than meat during lockdown. They can stay in the refrigerator longer and they’re often available at local farmers’ markets.
Eggs One egg has 6 grams of protein and all 9 essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body plus iron, vitamins A,D,E, & B12, folate, selenium, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline. That makes them a near-perfect food.
If you’re allergic to eggs, quinoa is a versatile gluten-free high-protein option that is readily available dried for long shelf-life. I keep quinoa in my pantry most of the time. I also use quinoa/rice blends for variety.
Quinoa One cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. It also contains magnesium, iron, and manganese and is rich in fiber.
While they can’t sit on the shelf or in the refrigerator as long, milk and cheese are favorite protein supplements for those who aren’t allergic. Organic milk typically has a longer shelf life. Yogurt without sugar and flavorings is a healthy choice that serves up probiotic bacteria as well as protein. You may also want to consider soy products like tofu and edamame.
It is likely that we will face periodic shortages of many products for the next year or two. Keeping your pantry stocked with several meatless protein options will give you the best chance of ensuring that your family can get enough protein when the meat shelves are empty during the coming weeks and months.
If you experience symptoms resembling an allergic reaction after eating, there could be something fishy going on. A recent advisory from the FDA reminds us that even fully cooked fish can harbor toxins if it has not been handled properly.
It’s no secret that fish and seafood taste better when they’re extremely fresh. I live more than seven hours from the nearest ocean. While there are restaurants here that overnight fish in, it never compares to simply prepared red snapper or mahi-mahi caught and cooked within a couple of hours.
Not only do fish taste better when fresh, some require conscientious handling to prevent toxins from forming. Albacore, amberjack, anchovy, Australian salmon, bluefish, bonito, kahawai, herring, mackerel, mahi-mahi, needlefish, saury, sardine, skipjack, wahoo, and yellowfin tuna are all susceptible to the formation of scombroid toxins when not properly stored or preserved.
Simply buying vegetables and berries will show you that the cold chain is suspect in many grocery stores. It would take more than the fingers on both of my hands to count the number of times in the past year I’ve gotten spoiled greens, sugar snap peas, or berries purchased within the best by or sell by date and used immediately. Okay, not used, but opened and thrown away.
With vegetables and fruit, this is an annoyance. With fish, it can be dangerous. When bacteria grow in the dark meat of susceptible fish, they can form scombroid toxins. The bacteria are killed by cooking, but the toxins remain.
Scombroid toxins can cause allergic-like responses. The symptoms usually begin about an hour after consumption and include nausea, vomiting, flushed face, cramps, diarrhea, and headache. Other symptoms include itching, hives, fever, pounding heart, and a burning sensation in the mouth. Severe reactions can include dropping blood pressure, racing heart, and wheezing. Symptoms of scombroid poisoning are generally treated with diphenhydramine and ranitidine, but please consult your doctor if you believe you have been affected or have any severe or lingering symptoms.
There are no accurate tests to determine the presence of toxins in fish, but if it tastes metallic or peppery, it’s an indication that something fishy could be going on. If the chef indicates the preparation is not heavy on pepper, it may be best to discontinue eating and choose another option.
I hate throwing away food, especially food I just bought. Nonetheless, I’ve had to become increasingly vigilant in monitoring my purchases. In fact, I now limit what I buy from one large grocery brand because I am concerned about its cold chain.
Oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna are a great source of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which have been shown to reduce inflammation. They are high in protein and are a source of vitamin D and riboflavin. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish per week as party of a healthy diet.
The FDA’s recent advisory is a good reminder, but not an ominous warning to avoid all fish. You can lessen the risk of potential problems by carefully choosing the source when purchasing fresh fish and following storage recommendations afterward.
Writing this is making me hungry for some baked halibut encrusted with pistachios and parmesan or smoked salmon with dill sauce. Actually, I’d enjoy a sardine on a cracker about now. Maybe I’m just hungry! Or maybe, there could be something fish going on….