Roanna Martin

"make [food] simple and let things taste of what they are." {Curnonsky}


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Just Rotating Away…

 I have been quite occupied recently- with events such as the GoRed Day (so beautifully documented by my fellow intern Emily) and working on my masters thesis.

I don’t remember if I’ve shared with my blog readers or not, but my masters thesis is looking at the relationships among families having home food gardens and preschool children’s intake of fruits and vegetables, and their weight status. The data is finally coming in, and my time has been filled by playing around with STATA- a statistical software that speaks a completely different language than what I’m used to. Let’s just say that I’m learning a lot, and I’m also glad that I didn’t choose a computer or math-related field of study! 

The plan is to present my research at the Experimental Biology conference in Boston at the end of April, and I am submitting my abstract for the conference tomorrow. I have a few more weeks to finish up writing the rest of my thesis, so my laptop and I are becoming even more acquainted than ever before. Exciting results are pending- kiddos in the study who had a home food garden ate more dark green and deep yellow/orange veggies!

Thesis work aside, I am also currently doing a community rotation at WIC- Women, Infants, and Children, a “federally funded program that provides healthy supplemental foods and nutrition services for pregnant women, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children under age five in a supportive environment.”

Since this is a nationwide program, I am really excited that my internship was flexible enough that I am able to complete my WIC rotation at the Community Action Program of Lancaster.

 

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Since I’m originally from Lancaster, I’m able to live with my parents for a few weeks and get to know some dietitians in the area (and spend some time with my 6 adorable nieces and nephews). One of the most exciting things is that I have been able to use my Spanish skills on a daily basis.

Contrary to popular belief, there are actually more Latinos than Amish in Lancaster County, according to a December 19, 2010 article in the Sunday News. Many are bilingual, but a number of the clients that I have seen in the past week prefer to use Spanish, and I love being able to communicate directly with them without the use of a translator. To be sure, my vocabulary needs a little augmentation, but if I don’t know a specific term I can at least describe it enough to get the point across. 

I will try to post soon a bit more about some of the things I am learning, but in the meantime if you want to find out more about WIC, you can check out the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) information, or my friend Mary’s blog on her WIC rotation in West Virginia.

A quick summary of interactions with clients: we encourage mothers and their children to eat more fruits and vegetables. Honestly, that’s really what it comes down to! 

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As a side note, people often do a double take when I tell them that I am currently a student at West Virginia University- but then I explain that I am originally from the Lancaster area, and then it makes a bit more sense. I like being able to spread some Mountaineer Pride to my home state!

 

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Sprouts Harvest

 

So, after Day 5, came the day of harvest. I started a rotation at a rehab hospital yesterday, so that took priority over blogging yesterday and today- so sorry for those of you who were expecting the “sprout series” to wrap up earlier!

The tower was beginning to teeter, pushed askew by the  muscular mung bean sprouts at the bottom.

The Toppling Tower

The Toppling Tower

Here’s what each tray looked like immediately prior to harvest, which was exactly 6 days after the seeds were first place on their trays. There wasn’t a lot of broccoli left- I had snitched quite a bit to put in salads, wraps, and soups 🙂

Broccoli

Broccoli

At this point in time, the alfalfa is probably my favorite of these three varieties. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor which is delightful to just eat plain. (Boring, I know, but I can’t always be gourmet!)

Alfalfa

Alfalfa

And these big guys. 

Mung Bean

Mung Beans

To save space in my refrigerator, I just put all of the sprouts in the same container. I think this is probably about 3 cups of sprouts. Including what I harvested earlier, I estimate that I got a little less than a quart of sprouts from 3 3/4 tablespoons (a wee bit less than a 1/4 cup) of seeds. That’s a pretty good yield for 6 days!

Mixed Sprouts

Mixed Sprouts

Tonight I wrapped a whole wheat tortilla with a generous spoonful of garlic hummus around a handful of sprouts, sauteed chicken strips, and some steamed kale. Delicious and simple dinner for 1!

Vegetable Christmas Tree

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Vegetable Christmas Tree

I hope that everyone had a wonderfully merry Christmas! I just wanted to share a little masterpiece that I put together for my family’s celebration. The only problem is that everyone thought it was too pretty to eat- although my almost 7-year-old niece was only too happy to eat the yellow pepper star 🙂

I started with a simple styrofoam cone covered with aluminum foil, and then inserted broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, and yellow peppers using toothpicks. Thanks to Pinterest for the inspiration!


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December 5: World Soil Day

Soil. Ground. Dirt.

It’s really all about the dirt. The brown stuff that we walk on, brush off our shoes before we go inside, and even scold our children for playing in. (Side note:  I grew up playing outside on my parent’s farm. I was not scolded for playing in the dirt, unless I was wearing my going-away clothes. Once I even made cookies out of mud and my cousin ate them. Literally. I learned to embrace soil at a young age).

Humans grow and are nourished by food, and food is grown in and nourished by the soil. Therefore we, as humans, owe some respect to this beautiful brown substance.

M.S. Swaminathan, an Indian geneticist, states it this way:

“Soil anaemia also breeds human anaemia. Micronutrient deficiency in the soil results in micronutrient malnutrition in people, since crops grown on such soils tend to be deficient in the nutrients needed to fight hidden hunger. (…) Managing our soil and water resources in a sustainable and equitable manner needs a new political vision.”

In 2010, the National Nutrition Month theme for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the ADA at that time) was “Nutrition from the Ground Up”. I was a big fan of that theme.
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By treasuring our soil, we are preserving a precious resource. One of the ways that we can accomplish this is through recycling our food by composting. Fruit and vegetable scraps, paper, even lint from your dryer can be turned back into soil through natural biological processes.
When I moved into an apartment for grad school, I knew that I wanted to avoid throwing food scraps into the trash and the resulting greenhouse gases produced by such actions. So, I began researching options for composting in a small space, and I ended up with a vermicomposting system. Basically, it’s a plastic tub with worms in it where I throw my fruit and vegetable scraps for the worms to eat and produce worm castings, which are incredibly nutrient rich.
The other day I decided to empty out all of the chocolate brown goodness into my garden to prepare it for next year’s growing season.
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This is what the remains of my summer garden looked like:
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I emptied the few remaining beets out of my garden, and proceeded to work the worm castings into my soil.
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And here’s the finished product.
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If you notice, my Swiss Chard is still thriving because of the mild weather thus far. I tear off a leaf or so and cut it up in my meals- I love having fresh greens in December!


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Morgantown Farmers’ Market

Where’s the place to be in Morgantown on a Saturday morning at 8:30? At the corner of Spruce and Fayette streets, of course! The Morgantown Farmers’ market runs from 8:30 to noon, and typically starts off long lines of customers streaming in front of the stands. For the earlier part of the summer the market was held at an alternate location while a pavilion was constructed.

 

On September 22nd, the Morgantown Market Place officially opened for business, and market hours were extended until 1 PM for the Grand Opening. The day kicked off with a ribbon cutting ceremony. There was a great crowd, and even Monti the WVU Healthcare mascot was there to cheer on the market. The grand opening saw the highest customer total ever. Jim Manilla, Mayor of Morgantown, spoke during the dedication of the building.

 

According to market manager Lisa Lagana, “The Grand Opening was a huge success thanks to so many supports especially WVU Healthcare for sponsoring the event, the City of Morgantown for letting us use their facility & equipment, the Morgantown Parking Authority for setting up all of the equipment whenever needed, and Main Street Morgantown who helped pull the whole event together.”

 

It was a busy day under the pavilion, full of delicious flavors and great sounds. There was a cooking demonstration by Marion Ohlinger, chef & owner of the Richwood Grill.  He used market goods to create a surprise menu, which included breakfast burritos (breakfast sausage, goat cheese, and eggs), steak, and goat fajitas (goat meat, onions, and peppers).

Featured musicians of the day included The Short Brothers who kept customers dancing throughout the morning and One Bullet Barney, who kept the energy going with their electric punk blues.

 

Other featured events from the day included a vendor demonstration of wool spinning, a live bee hive, and a “Green Morning” workshop by the Morgantown Municipal Green team. WVU Healthcare offered free blood pressure screening, free reusable market bags, and a “talk-to-a-nurse” station.
 

In celebration of WVU’s Transportation Week, the WVU Transportation & Parking Authority came to the Market as our non-profit to promote sustainable & healthy ways of traveling.  A bicycle rack is provided at the market for customers who choose to use pedal power to get around town.

 

Although the pavilion is up, the project is not yet technically complete. A culinary station has yet to be installed. As a future dietitian, I’m especially excited about this as a way for exposing customers to new foods. There will be a second opening when the station is complete, with a “Taste of the Town” demo featuring 4 different chefs from Morgantown who will coordinate to use fresh market ingredients to create samples for customers.

 

Phase 2 of the market project will probably include solar panels, but that is still down the road. The Grand Opening also received some great publicity from the Channel 12 News

The Morgantown Market is one of my favorite Saturday morning activities here in town, and if you live anywhere in the area, it’s definitely worth checking out!

*Note: This post was also published at wvfarm2u.org.


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“Making Everyday Choices for a Healthy, Sustainable Diet”

I recently came across an excellent handout on a sustainable diet through the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (HEN DPG), of which I am a member. HEN is a special interest group within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, formerly known as the American Dietetic Association.

This handout was compiled by Mary Meck Higgins, a Human Nutrition Specialist and Registered Dietitian working with the Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service. I think she does an excellent job of highlighting some of the principles helpful in promoting personal health as well as the health of the planet. She reminds us of the importance of personal choice- we can’t expect the government or big industry to solve the world’s sustainability problems. These entities are shaped primarily by consumer demands. So how are you, as a consumer, going to respond?

 Her suggestions are organized into seven categories:

  1. Choose nutrient-rich foods: Base meals on whole grains, fruits, legumes, and dark green, red, and orange vegetables. Choose fat-free or low fat dairy, lean red meats, and poultry without skin to reduce calories and saturated fat intake. Vary your protein- try non-animal sources. Choose water most of the time, and cook at home often. For more specific recommendations for your age, gender, and body size, visit myplate.gov.
  2. Eat locally produced foods when available: Choose foods that are in season. Visit a local farmers market or farmstand, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or try growing something of your own.
  3. Buy from businesses with sustainable practices when possible: This can affect not only the health of the environment, but local economic vitality. Support local restaurants who purchase from local producers. Choose certified sustainable seafood products. When you buy tea, coffee, or chocolate, choose at least some that is certified fair trade.
  4. Minimize avoidable food losses and waste: On average, households in the US throw away at least 14 percent of food purchases. Store perishable foods appropriately. [An example: since I shop for myself and I don’t eat a loaf of bread very quickly, I often store it in the freezer and simply pull out a slice or two and toast it to prevent waste]. Even excess milk can be frozen if you won’t drink it by the expiration date! Instead of peeling potatoes or apples, simply wash them well and eat the peels. Extra fiber, less scraps. Speaking of scraps, try composting them! For a variety of reasons, restaurants often generate a sizable amount of food waste- another reason to cook and eat at home.
  5. Limit energy use: Of the energy consumed in the U.S., nearly 20 percent is used for food production, transport, processing, packaging, distribution, storage, sales, and household food handling. Limit how often you drive to the grocery store. Better yet- walk or bike to get a bit of exercise at the same time! Wash with hot water, but rinse with cold water. Let your dishwasher air dry instead of using the heated dry cycle. 
  6. Limit water use: Conserve water when preparing food by keeping an empty pitcher to capture water from the faucet while waiting for it to heat up. Use this to water plants. Use water-efficient kitchen appliances. Turn off the faucet in between rinsing dishes.
  7. Minimize packaging and wrapper waste: Carry a reusable water bottle instead of buying packaged bottled water. Keep your reusable grocery bags in the car so you remember to actually take them with you to the grocery store! Eliminate packaging when possible: purchase whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Instead of buying small packages of food (i.e. individual yogurt cups), try buying a larger container and separating the amount you plan to eat out into smaller containers.


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Salsa Making

I spent the labor day weekend with my family, and came home to West Virginia with about 3 dozen pints of salsa.

Delicious. Fresh. Summer in a jar.

My mom and one of my best friends and I spent about 4 hours picking, chopping, stirring, mixing, cooking and canning on Saturday.

Here are the ingredients for a tested recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation

  • 7 quarts peeled, cored, chopped paste tomatoes
  • 4 cups seeded, chopped long green chiles
  • 5 cups chopped onion
  • ½ cup seeded, finely chopped jalapeño peppers
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups bottled lemon or lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons oregano leaves (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (optional)

We started by gathering the necessary produce- including picking peppers straight off the plant.

We cleaned the onions outside, on a wooden board placed right over the compost bin.

The next step was to chop everything. Be sure to wear plastic gloves when chopping hot peppers- capsaicin is a potent compound!

After removing the skins from the tomatoes by submerging them in boiling water for about twenty seconds and then dropping them into ice water, we removed the pulp and seeds with our fingers and cut the tomatoes into chunks.

Chopping peppers by hand keeps a slightly chunkier texture, although we used the food processor for onions to minimize the tear-inducing effects of this powerful vegetable.

For a bit of background on why cutting onions makes you cry, onions and other members of the allium family, are odorless until they are cut or bruised. Slicing open an onion causes an enzymatic reaction that releases a distinctive-smelling sulfur compound. Pyruvic acid is also formed, contributing to the pungent odor of an onion and irritates tear ducts.

Combine ingredients in a large pot, except cumin, oregano and cilantro, and heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture boils. Then reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the spices, and simmer for another 20 minutes. Pack into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe, and put on canning lids, and process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath for altitudes less than 1000 ft.

For more detailed instructions on water bath canning, refer here.

Salsa is a great way to add flavor to many dishes- including omelets, rice, tacos, and baked potatoes.  Two tablespoons of this salsa is only about 9 calories, and 75 mg of sodium. Compare that to the 20 calories and 160 mg of sodium in 1 tablespoon of ketchup (or 40 calories and 320 mg sodium in 2 tablespoons if you eat that much), and you can see that salsa is a  great choice nutritionally.