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The Expert Guide to Eating Fresh Foods in Winter

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For so many of us, the winter months mean our gardens are done for the season and our local farmer’s markets are selling nothing but Christmas Trees and preserves. This means fresh food has to travel to get to us. Of course. This is the modern age where we can have strawberries in December. But how long are they going to stay fresh? The shelf life of these fresh fruits and vegetables has diminished before we’ve even purchased it.

So let’s get smart about how to buy and handle our fresh food to reduce waste (spoiled, rotten food) and naturally preserve its healthy nutrients during the winter months. For top notch information, I’ve called on nutrition and lifestyle experts to guide us through best practices for extending the shelf life of our fresh foods during winter.

1. Buy foods that travel well and store well

Organic gardening expert, Christy Wilhelmi, Founder of Gardenerd recommends buying winter squash such as pumpkins, delicata squash, acorn squash, butternut squash; and root crops such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, and even radishes last along time.

Side note, Reduction Rebels – I’m planning on decorating a baking pumpkin this year for Halloween and then using it for a Thanksgiving pie. That’s the kind of fresh lifespan you can get from winter squash.

2. Use Natural Ingredients to Preserve

Nutrition and health expert, and licensed and Board Certified Professional Wellness Coach, Jackie Keller from NutriFit uses natural acidifying ingredients, like lemon juice, citric acid and vinegars, to add shelf life to foods.

The acidifying technique works because lowering the pH value (acidity level) of the food helps prevent the formation of harmful microorganisms that promote food decay. Essentially, the acidic ingredient acts as a preservative.
It can be done with a spray bottle, or with a acid “bath” – which simply means putting the juice of 1 lemon in a bowl of 1 quart of water, and dipping the food to be preserved in the bath. Drain in colander or on a rack to air dry.

3. Have You Tried Fermenting?

I knew nothing about fermenting until I got the lowdown from Luke Sniewski, a Lifestyle Coach for LEAF Lifestyle :
Fermentation is a traditional method of preserving food so food is not wasted. The process is simple. Grab a mason jar. Shred and cut your favorite vegetables. Stuff them into the jar while adding a little sea salt intermittently. Add a little water on the top (or juice some celery) to make sure the veggies are completely covered with water. Seal the jar to keep it in an oxygen-depleted environment. Keep the jar in a warm place for 7 – 10 days. You can then store the jar in your fridge to slow the fermentation process down.
Recommended portions: Eat a quarter or half cup with 1 – 2 meals daily.
Benefits: The fermentation process not only preserves foods, but also produces bacteria beneficial to human health and improved immune function. Remember that the best fermented veggies come from the best raw ingredients, so make sure to go organic when you can.

Precautions: Whether adult or child, it is recommended that those people new to fermented foods add them into their diets slowly since their guts and digestive systems will not be used to the bacteria. Even a small spoonful to test the waters before working up to a quarter or half cup serving works fine during the acclimation process.

4. The Right Recipe Can Make a Healthy Difference

Food and mom blogger Jessica Fisher from Life As Mom and Good Cheap Eats wrote Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook (NYM Series), (affiliate link) full of 200 freezer-friendly meals that you can make ahead and that will keep for an incredible amount of time. These are not your typical casseroles full of canned soups and preservatives, but rather quite healthy options with fresh ingredients.

Jessica was generous to share with us one of her most popular and healthy recipes!

Easy Stovetop Ratatouille

Recipe © 2013 by Jessica Fisher and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press

 A traditional French vegetable stew , ratatouille is summer captured in a bowl. There is great debate over the proper preparation of ratatouille; this simple version is mixed in one pot and simmered on the stovetop. This vegan dish is good served hot or even at room temperature. Provide lots of sliced baguette for soaking up the juices. Avoid overcooking the vegetables, so that they are not soggy when reheated. Serves 6 to 8cookbook

Packaging: Plastic containers with lids

Ingredients

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1⁄4-inch-thick half-moons

1 small yellow squash, sliced

1 eggplant, peeled and cubed

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

Two 14.5-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes with juices

1 1⁄2 teaspoons herbes de Provence

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

1. In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until the onions are translucent.

2. Add the peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and mushrooms, and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the tomatoes, herbes de Provence, and salt. Stir to combine. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender.

Freezing instructions:

Divide the ratatouille into meal-size portions in plastic containers and chill in the refrigerator before freezing.

To thaw and serve:

Thaw the ratatouille in the refrigerator. Reheat in a saucepan. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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I’d love to hear how you eat fresh and healthy in the winter months.

I’m Cristin Frank (AKA Eve). I love all things frugal and crafty. My mindset is always on upcycling, repurposing, reducing waste and saving money – and Eve of Reduction is my roadmap. You might also want to check out my book, "Living Simple, Free & Happy."

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2 Responses to The Expert Guide to Eating Fresh Foods in Winter

  1. Uluru Travel October 22, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Dark leafy greens, such as kale, chard and collards, thrive in the chill of winter when the rest of the produce section looks bleak.
    Uluru Travel recently posted…Outback Quad Adventures: Outback Thrill SeekerMy Profile

  2. stacy@ paleo fast food November 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    Thanks for this good information. Its important to have fresh foods during the winter months.
    stacy@ paleo fast food recently posted…Paleo Pizza ChallengeMy Profile

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