The Oldways Table Blog

Celebrating health,
happiness, heritage,
and delicious,
nutritious food.

January 29, 2015 | Oldways Table

Each year, Oldways begins Black History Month by helping communities celebrate the healthy foods and cuisines of African heritage with African Heritage & Health Week.

Celebrated February 1st-7th, African Heritage & Health Week commemorates the flavors and healthy cooking techniques that were core to the wellbeing of African ancestors from Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and the American South.  February is the perfect time to honor and explore this healthy culinary history.

African Heritage & Health Week was designed to raise awareness about the health benefits and exciting flavors of traditional African heritage cuisines, and to invite people everywhere to taste these traditional foods, whether at a restaurant, a special community event, or at home with friends and family.

Over the last three years, individuals and communities have enjoyed wonderful events, including Oldways supported:

  • African Heritage Potlucks at homes, community centers, schools and churches
  • Church presentations about the African Heritage Diet and free material distribution
  • African Heritage Dinners on college campuses
  • Group outings to Ethiopian, Ghanaian, Senegalese, Caribbean and other African heritage restaurants

This year, communities are celebrating in the same ways, including:

  • A presentation at the National Geographic Museum in D.C. by African Heritage & Health Advisor Tambra Raye Stevenson
  • African heritage potluck lunches and dinners in Dunn Loring and Alexandria, VA
  • A community potluck in Houston, TX hosted by A Taste of African Heritage teacher Danessa Bolling
  • An African heritage food tasting at Appioo Ghanaian Restaurant & Bar in Washington, DC
  • Local restaurant visits in Fayetteville, LA, St. Louis, MO, and Powdersville, SC

Oldways invites you to join the African Heritage & Health Week celebration by coordinating your own unique gathering in your local community!

Here are a few ways to celebrate in your area:

  • Schedule a potluck party the week of Feb. 1-7.  Invite your friends and family to your home or a community space for an African heritage potluck lunch or dinner.  Ask each guest to do a little homework and to bring a healthy traditional dish with African roots.  Encourage them to browse through Oldways' African Heritage Diet recipes for cooking inspiration, like Oldways’ Callaloo Soup (a savory leafy greens stew from the Caribbean) or Accara (golden black-eyed pea fritters found in West Africa).  Request a complimentary African Heritage Diet Pyramid from Oldways to hang up at your party.
  • Invite a group to join you for dinner at a local African Restaurant the week of Feb. 1-7.  Call and make a reservation and let the restaurant know why you are coming.  They may want to celebrate this special week too and share the news with other patrons.  And don't forget to look at our African Heritage Dine Around page for restaurant recommendations in all 50 states.  If there is a restaurant in your town that is not on our list please let us know and we will be sure to add it.
  • Print or request African Heritage Diet 101 Brochures to distribute materials at your workplace, church, library, local grocery store, or school.  If you’re comfortable talking in front of a group, give a short presentation about the African Heritage Diet Pyramid using Oldways’ resources and free Continuing Education Course.
  • Check out our List of 2015 Events to find events are already happening near you!
  • Get Social:  If you belong to social networks we encourage you to share news about African Heritage & Health Week in your online communities.  Please use the hashtag #AfricanHeritage and don't forget to connect with Oldways on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
  • Donate to the African Heritage & Health programs, to help bring culturally-inspired nutrition education to more communities!

Other ideas?  Tell us what you are thinking!  Email Program Manager Sarah McMackin at sarahm@oldwayspt.org for questions, event announcements, and/or material requests.

Oldways is happy to send African Heritage brochures and/or posters to bring the celebration to life and help all that attend learn more about African Heritage cuisine.

Share Your Photos: We love being able to see how different communities celebrate African Heritage & Health Week through photos!  Snap some shots of your group enjoying their favorite dishes, and we’ll feature them on our African Heritage & Health Week List of 2015 Events.

We look forward to celebrating African Heritage & Health Week with you and your community!

-Sarah

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January 27, 2015 | Oldways Table

It’s always important to seek positive changes as a New Year begins to unfold.

Here at the Oldways Vegetarian Network (OVN), as we scan the horizon for signs that plant-based diets are gaining momentum, it’s thrilling to see what’s happening from coast to coast on the restaurant scene. A recent report from the National Restaurant Association, based upon their survey of more than 1,000 professional chefs, includes vegetarian appetizers and fruit and vegetable sides for kids among the top trends for 2015.

Vegetarian and vegan options are popping up on menus everywhere, as are restaurants that serve only plant-based meals. Chefs are playing with the potential of plants as never before and creating award-winning dishes they are proud to showcase. Hats off to them for furthering a world where anyone can delight in what’s on the menu.

Feeling restless?  The Huffington Post offers this tantalizing list of the Top 25 Vegetarian Restaurants in the World

Here’s a look at some restaurants in the US where the Oldways team has enjoyed memorable plant-based meals. Be sure to call ahead to make reservations. And let us know if you have some favorite plant-based eateries to share.

Miller Union, Atlanta, Georgia
This restaurant has opened in an industrial part of town – the Westside – yet it fills your plate with deep rooted, rural beauty. Chef Steven Satterfield creates beautiful dishes using locally raised Southern food with a twist. Consider black-eyed pea and benne seed hummus or root vegetable and Vidalia hash.  Vegetarian plates, put together upon request in the kitchen, offer fabulous greens, roasted veg, and lots of color and flavor.

Oleana, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Chef Ana Sortun, master of the tantalizing flavors of Turkey and the Middle East, serves up delicious, innovative food, including apple fattoush and chickpea terrine. Request a number of small plates, or order from the vegetarian tasting menu. And dip into the outstanding wine list. You’ll find the wait staff to be very knowledgeable and helpful.

Oxheart, Houston, Texas
Located on the fringes of downtown in the former Erie City Ironworks building, this restaurant is easy to miss. But once you summon the courage to walk through its funky, unmarked front door, you’ll find a lovely room, an enchanting menu, and people who love serving 4-7 course dinners, with or without wine pairings.  Chef Justin Wu knows how to make vegetables exciting with dishes such as cured and smoked butternut squash coated in pea tendrils, or winter beets marinated in tangelo juice, umeboshi, coconut, and shiso.  Ask to sit at the Chef’s Table and you’ll be able to watch the kitchen staff assemble their works of art.

True Bistro, Somerville, Massachusetts
You can count on great food and wine and a relaxing atmosphere at this charming, intimate vegan restaurant. Our favorites include the roasted beet salad, the smoked potato-kale cake, the corn crusted oyster mushrooms, and the Vietnamese crepe. Chef Stuart Reiter also offers legendary meals to celebrate holidays such as Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day.

Vedge, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
All vegan all the time, this elegant City Center restaurant is a must visit for anyone who loves fabulous food. We’ve been lucky enough to eat here twice, and would return in a heartbeat. Chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby push root vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu to the limit.

We’re still dreaming about the roasted rutabaga salad and the portabella carpaccio.  And don’t miss The Dirt List.

Le Verdure, New York, New York
Looking for a good, quick meal in the big city?  Sample the delicious food at this casual, counter-style restaurant within celebrity chef Mario Batali’s Italian marketplace. Le Verdure serves fresh, seasonal vegetarian fare from their chalkboard menu. Perch on a bar stool, have a glass of wine, and take in the beauty of the nearby produce section and all the action around you as people shop for food or sit down to enjoy it.

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January 22, 2015 | Oldways Table

Few things feel as frugal as tucking leftovers into the freezer.  Who among us isn’t looking to stretch food dollars or count on a meal all ready to go, needing just a quick reheating?

But, even with the best of intentions, we often lose our way when navigating the frozen terrain behind the freezer door. What are those unrecognizable solid things in plastic bags? How long have they been in there?  Are they safe to eat?

Like any tool designed to make your life easier, your freezer can save you time and money, but you have to know how to use it.  Here are some guidelines to help you develop a warmer relationship:

Seal all food before freezing it. Dehydration, or freezer burn, attacks the color, flavor, and texture of food that is exposed to air as it freezes. Use containers, bags, and paper designated specifically for freezing when storing leftovers.   (Regular weight aluminum foil, waxed paper, and thin plastic bags won’t do the job.)  Store liquids and soups in rigid, stackable plastic containers with airtight lids, and fill them to within an inch of the top of allow room for expansion. When using plastic freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing.

Rewap bulk quantities. When you want to keep meat, poultry, or seafood for more than two weeks, remove items from their store packages as soon as you get them home, and wrap them in freezer paper or heavy-duty aluminum foil, seal with freezer tape, and wrap in freezer-weight plastic bags.

Label everything. No exceptions. Use an indelible marker and a strip of freezer tape to label each package with the name of the item and the date you are freezing it. And when you go looking for something to eat, use the oldest items first.

Create a system. Put unfrozen meats, vegetables, and fruits in a single layer on the freezer shelf as close to the freezing plates or coils as possible.  Leave room for air to circulate around the food, which will bring its temperature down quickly and help preserve its texture and taste.  Once it is frozen, layer or stack your packages and free up the shelf for new arrivals. Did you know that when your freezer is 75 to 85 percent full, it runs more efficiently than when it harbors just a tray or two of ice and a package of frozen peas?

Check the temperature.  Invest in a freezer thermometer, widely available for $10 or less. Your freezer should be at 0° F or below. If it gets up to 10° or above your food will be only partially frozen.

Don’t re-freeze! Freezing buys you time, preserving foods that would otherwise spoil. As soon as you thaw them, the clock starts ticking.  We checked in with several food pros on this topic.  Here’s what they told us:

“I don't generally re-freeze - with the exception of soups.”Melissa Clark, food columnist for the New York Times and cookbook author

 “I think that the whole thing about re-freezing is that you never remember how long you defrosted it for the first time and then you add those additional days and it goes way beyond what is safe and fresh.  I don’t usually re-freeze.” Joan Weir, chef, restaurateur and cookbook author

“I believe this is mostly a quality issue; although if you do not handle an item with good food safety technique, it can pose safety concerns.  When you thaw and refreeze foods, you damage their cell structure, which can contribute to poor texture and taste.”Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian

Wondering how long something can keep in your freezer? Check out this helpful table.

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January 19, 2015 | Oldways Table

As we go into a new year, it’s fun and refreshing to switch out some old habits for new ones. On the top of the list for many people is organizing the many aspects of their lives – from health and wellness to their career. We’ve found that putting order to one area in particular – the kitchen – is a good place to start as it can help save time and money at home and in the grocery store. (Who knows, with a little more change in your pocket and more time to spare, you may be motivated to tackle your other New Year’s resolutions, too!).

Here are 17 of our favorite tips and savvy shopping secrets:

Kitchen Tactics:
- Take time to organize your pantry and cupboards, fridge, and freezer. Decide how to organize your food so you’ll always know what you have on hand.
Keep similar products together, for example cereals and grains; oils and vinegars, and spices and herbs. You’ll find that when things have a designated place you’ll be able to keep things organized more easily.

- Keep a running tab on your food inventory. As you use something up, add it to your shopping list. If your budget can handle it and space will allow, always keep one item in use and have a back up in storage. Store older items up front so you’ll use them before newer ones.

- Keep kitchen counters clean and clear of clutter that can be distracting when you’re cooking. Keep utensils and other items that you use frequently at hand in a main drawer, cupboard or on your counter near your stove so you’ll know exactly where they are when you need them.

- Embrace your freezer. Freezers works more efficiently when full, so stock up on bulk and frozen foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, when on sale. Make extra portions of meals and freeze them for later use.

- Store foods in an airtight containers whenever possible – air can dry out and spoil many foods. These containers can also help avoid cross contamination between foods as well as prevent nasty spills or accidents in cupboards and in your fridge.

- Plan Your Weekly Meals - Ten to fifteen minutes each week is usually all it takes to get your weekly shopping list and menu plan in order. Once you have a few meal plans under your belt you can rotate them, giving you variety throughout the month.

When planning your menus, let your ingredients work in different dishes. For example, chicken can be the main focus of one meal, and left overs can be added to a soup or top a salad.  (Leftovers are terrific for lunches and snacks, too!).

Shopping Strategies:
- Check out your store’s website before your trip and search for weekly specials or coupons for items that you use or need based on your shopping list. (Alternatively, you can read the printed circular when you arrive at the store.) Avoid the temptation to buy something if you don’t need or use just because it’s on sale  – you’ll more than likely not use it.

- Avoid shopping when you’re hungry or tired – either can lead to expensive or unhealthy impulse buys.

Comparison Shop:
- Learn to read labels, ingredient lists and understand how unit pricing works. You’ll be able to comparison shop and find the healthiest items for your budget. Having a calculator on hand can help you determine the best buy.

- Look for store brands and compare with their national brand alternative. You’ll find in most cases they’re less expensive and are similar in nutrition value. Store brands are usually made by the same manufacturers as the well-known brands, but you’re not paying for advertising and special packaging).

- Look up, look down – most often, pricier brands are placed at eye level, with less expensive options above or below

- Buy in-season fresh produce, but only purchase what you think you’ll use in 2-4 days.

- Buy canned and frozen produce. Eat your fresh produce first and then fill out your week’s menu with your canned and frozen items. Select low-sodium versions, and look for ones without sauces or butter added. 


- Buy whole grains, coffee, nuts and seeds in the bulk aisle whenever possible. You’ll save money and have less packaging waste. Items such as nuts and grains can be frozen, so if they’re on sale, stock up and store in your freezer to use later in the month.

- Pantry items, such as canned tuna, canned tomatoes, low-sodium stocks, as well as frozen vegetables, are ideal to stock up on when on sale, too.

- Buy frozen fish in place of fresh fish. It’s usually less expensive and more convenient – you won’t worry about it spoiling in the fridge and it’s always ready when you are.

- Check expiration dates on perishables such as yogurt, milk, cheese. Buy only what you think you can use by the expiration date – that gallon of milk on sale is no bargain if it spoils before you can use it all.

With a little preplanning and a few shopping strategies you’ll find your time in the kitchen and in the grocery store will be more pleasurable and efficient. We hope these tried-and-true tips will be inspiring and helpful to you in the New Year.

For more ideas, tips, and recipes check out our Oldways Nutrition Exchange Toolkits.

-Deborah
 

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