Friday, March 31, 2006

Solanum Lycopersicum

This is a beautiful tomato from my farm. This plant was planted 4 months ago and has produced some fruits just this week. Too bad I'm still on my fast so I can't taste the gorgeous fruit.

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is technically a fruit - the ripened ovaries of a plant, as are squash and peppers. Researchers have traced the tomato to South America and are thought to have originated in the west coast making its way to Central America. After the conquest of South America by the Spanish, the tomato was distributed to Europe and the colonies in the Caribbean and the Philippines. From the Philippines it traveled to Southeast Asia then to the entire Asian continent. The tomato is not only a delicious fruit used in many dishes around the world but is highly nutritious as well. Tomatoes are high in antioxidants that help prevent heart decease and several forms of cancer. The most potent cancer fighting component in tomatoes is found in the gene that makes a tomato red. This gene contains the antioxidant lycopene which is found in all red tomatoes, the redder the tomato the higher the concentration of lycopene. Tomatoes are also high in vitamins C & A, potassium and fiber.

Antioxidants "neutralize", or render harmless, oxygen free radical molecules. Free radicals in our body are precursors of cancer, atherosclerosis, cataracts, and age-related muscular degeneration as well as premature aging. Free radicals are highly reactive toxic by-products of bio-chemical reactions that occur both as a part of normal cell metabolism and when our bodies are exposed to smoking, pollution and other damaging environmental influences. Antioxidants also helps to prevent formation of oxidized LDL, the 'bad' cholesterol in blood, which contributes to the build up of plaque that narrows, stiffens and constricts arteries and can lead to heart attacks.

Our bodies do not naturally produce lycopene so we must get it from other sources. Lycopene is found in pink grapefruit, watermelon, mango and tomato.

Unlike some fruits and vegetables that are nutritionally better when eaten raw, tomatoes are better eaten when cooked. Processing tomatoes decreases its water content making a product that has more lycopene per unit than a fresh tomato. Cooked tomatoes increase the concentration of lycopene so the best way to get a healthy dose of antioxidants from tomatoes is to cook them into sauces. Since tomatoes are lipophilic, which means their nutritional value is increased when cooked in some fat, add a little olive oil or cheese in order for your body to better absorb the lycopene and other vitamins. Yum!

The flavor of the tomato needs to develop by ripening on the vine. Tomatoes are bland when plucked from the vine when it is still green or unripe. Most grocery bought tomatoes are plucked green for a longer shelf life. Purchase tomatoes that are vine-ripened and organic. Storing tomatoes in the fridge will also cause it to loose flavor. The best is to keep tomatoes in a basket at room temperature; it will last for about a week. I've kept mine for a lot longer that way. Over ripe tomatoes are excellent for sauces.

Monday, March 27, 2006

3rd Day Lemonade Diet

Today is my third day on the lemonade diet and I am sick of spicy lemonade! I'm on my 15th glass so far. Its not so much the hunger, which is satisfied by yet another glass of lemonade, its not the chili pepper that gets stuck in my throat and causes me to cough... its the dull and endless monotony of having only one thing to drink several times a day for days on end. All I've been thinking about is what I'm going to eat when this diet ends in 7 days. Brined Pork Roast with White Beans, Shrimp and Bacalao with rice, Waffles... It doesn't help that I peruse other food blogs and surf the net for recipes. But I prevail with grim determination.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Master Cleanse

I started the Lemonade Diet today. For those not in the know, the diet is actually a detox cleanse that thoroughly removes toxins from your system. Feeling great and healthy are the after effects of the cleanse, not to mention loosing about 10 pounds if one is overweight. The diet/cleanse calls for organic ingredients. You'll need non-iodized sea salt, lemons, maple syrup, cayenne, filtered water and a laxative tea. Thank goodness for the organic lemons and non-iodized sea salt available at the Organic Market. I was able to find organic Maple syrup at Rustan's Supermarket. The original recipe for the Master Cleanse Lemonade called for organic sugarcane juice which was what I wanted to use. The only source I had for organic sugarcane juice had just sold all their canes so I had to get the Maple syrup. The Master Cleanse is a detox cleansing program where no solid food is eaten for a minimum of 10 days (click title for detailed info). Lemonade with a dash of cayenne is packed with nutrients and, apparently, will sustain you for 40 days if you wanted to go that far. The Cleanse will remove toxins from your body, in the process removing all symptoms of decease and sickness. It promises no lose of energy and no hunger pangs. Although this diet can be done with regular supermarket ingredients, its advisable to use organic ingredients.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Earth Day

Today at 2:26 am the sun crossed the celestial equator, making today's day and night of equal length. This event is called the Vernal Equinox. Beginning tomorrow the days will be longer than the nights. Meaning, summer is here! I will start my day at 9am with a 2 hour class of Tai Chi. Then I'm off to the farm to seed and plant some veggies. Planting today is believed to produce a greater yield of fruits when harvest time comes.

Today is also the day that Earth Day is celebrated by the United Nations and other countries around the world (for more info click on title). It's founder is John McConnell and it was first celebrated in San Francisco. Earth Day is a day of reflection and renewal of our commitment to the earth. Now, more than ever, we need to do our part in supporting environmental causes and issues.

It's funny but when I surfed the web on more info about Earth Day I went on sites that said Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 by the USA. The sites also claimed that a former New York mayor was the founder of Earth Day. Strange.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Saturday Market Finds

My sister has moved in, temporarily, and so I've been enjoying the pleasure of her company and will continue to do so for a month. This morning we strolled over to the Salcedo Market, which is a block away from my condo, and went looking for lunch. Didn't find anything interesting, the same usual stuff - paella, inihaw, lechon, and the like. Then just as I was giving up we came to a stall selling authentic provincial food. I was so excited I bought way to much food. Dishes were Bicol home cooking. I got a dish made with ground santol rind with shrimp and pork, manta ray in gingery spicy coconut milk, a sweet pork with spicy coconut milk and Bicol's most famous dish - laing. Actually all the dishes had hot chili and coconut milk. I particularly liked the santol and manta ray dishes. I don't much like sweet dishes...
Here are pictures of my two favorites and a vegetarian lumpia with seaweed my sister was eating.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Recipe: Nasi Lemak (Indonesian Rice)

I made this for an Indonesian luncheon I hosted. It turned out really well. The original recipe did not include coconut oil and called for white rice. I served it with pork curry but this would go well with any grilled food.

1 kilo brown or red rice
1 can coconut milk
2 stalks lemon grass, cleaned and trimmed to fit in pan
2 inch ginger, minced
1 tbsp salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil

Wash the rice. Add the water and the rest of the ingredients, except oil. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to lowest setting and leave it to cook until rice is tender.

Remove lemongrass stalks. Fluff rice with a fork. Put rice in a bowl and mix in the virgin coconut oil.

* Pour in enough water to cover the rice by 1/2 inch. You may also use all coconut milk in place of water.