Food Preservation: Saving the flavors of summer

Neal and I recently had the wonderful opportunity to have a dietetic intern with us here at MUS Wellness for two weeks. Our intern this year was Anna Goodrum, originally from Amery, Wisconsin, and a 2016 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Anna came to Montana with a strong interest in sustainable food systems and rural health. She will complete the Montana Dietetic Internship (MDI) program in May, after which she aspires to have a career in community nutrition. Please welcome Anna Goodrum, dietetic intern and guest blog writer:

Labor Day has come and gone, and as the increasingly colder nights begin to set in, many of us, myself included, prepare to say goodbye to the plethora of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables that spoil us during the summer months. It can be a long wait until fresh garden tomatoes are available once again, but fortunately for us, humans have many creative ways of preserving food, and we’ve been practicing these methods for thousands of years.

Fermentation and canning are two methods that are both easy and efficient ways of preserving that fresh taste of summer year-round. Let’s take a closer look at each method:

Fermentation:

Fermentation is a great first step into food preservation. It requires minimal equipment—just a mason jar or other container, salt, and chopped vegetable of choice—and is simple to do; all you need is a little bit of patience. Fermentation is essentially the breaking down of food matter over time by means of microorganisms. Microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria eat the sugars in the food and create a waste byproduct.  The byproduct produced varies, but usually is an acid, gas, or alcohol. A common (and favorite) example of this is beer, in which the byproduct produced from the microorganism (yeast) is alcohol.

Fermented food produced at home contains millions of active microbes. These active microbes, known as probiotics, have a number of nutritional benefits. Our gut microbiome has become a hot topic in the scientific world recently and for good reason. While much more scientific research is needed, there is evidence that our gut microbiome affects multiple aspects of our overall health, from cholesterol levels to brain activity. In addition, associations between fermented dairy products and weight maintenance have been observed, along with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. For more about the gut microbiome, listen to our most recent podcast!

All the potential benefits of fermented foods are exciting. However, it is not to be forgotten that we are dealing with bacteria, and proper food safety is vital to promote beneficial bacteria and minimize harmful bacteria. Always make sure your utensils, prep area, and jars are clean.  Make sure to follow the recipe carefully and add the appropriate amount of salt. Generally, salt, as well as anaerobic and acidic conditions, favors the growth of desirable bacteria while inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Below are two great beginner recipes that go a little bit more in depth about the fermentation process.

Canning:

Unlike fermentation, in which we want certain microorganisms to proliferate, canning uses heat to kill all microorganisms, allowing the food to be shelf-stable (without refrigeration). Canning requires a bit more equipment and knowledge than fermentation, but is still quite affordable and easy to learn.

There are two canning methods: boiling water canning and pressure canning. The type of canning method used depends on the acidity level of what you are canning. High-acid foods such as fruits and pickled products use the boiling water method. Low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats, fish, and beans require a pressure canner. I suggest starting off with boiling water canning because the equipment required is less of an investment. A boiling water canning kit will run you $20, whereas a pressure canner costs around $70-80. Plus, jams and pickles are great stepping stones into canning and can be made with the boiling water method. You can easily get creative by adding different spices, herbs, and flavors. Check out some yummy canning recipes below:

Boiling Water Method

Pressure Method

Important Note: Elevation affects the time duration of boiling water canning. Elevation affects the pressure amount of pressure canning. Be sure to read your recipe carefully to make proper adjustments!

Interested in learning more? See the great beginner resources below.

The MontGuides are easy to follow, condensed information on canning. Both include guidelines for elevation adjustments.

Historically, acidity levels of tomatoes have been high enough for boiling water canning to be the appropriate method. However, today’s tomatoes may be grown with a lower acidity level and may need to be pressure canned. If you do not wish to buy a pressure canner, read How to Acidify Tomatoes.

Finally, you can look forward to a Montana Meals video coming soon about freezing fruits & veggies; another great preservation method for keeping the flavors of summer going all year long!

Have fun trying out these recipes!

Anna

Reference:

Marco, Maria L, Dustin Heeney, Sylvie Binda, Christopher J Cifelli, Paul D Cotter, Benoit Foligné, Michael Gänzle, Remco Kort, Gonca Pasin, Anne Pihlanto, Eddy J Smid, and Robert Hutkins. “Health Benefits of Fermented Foods: Microbiota and beyond.” Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 44 (2017): 94-102. Web.

 

Wellchat Episode VI: The Amazing Microbiome

Episode 6: Special guest Anna Goodrum, Dietetic Intern with the Montana Dietetic Intership (MDI), joins Cristin and Neal for a discussion about the latest human microbiome research and how probiotics and prebiotics play crucial roles in our health.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Training Seasons

“I’m always training for something.”

My dad told me that when he played sports as a child and adolescent, there were four distinct seasons: football, basketball, track, and baseball.  He, and many of his peers, played all four all the way through high-school. The sports just changed with the seasons.

These days, this kind of sport rotation is less common, with many competitive sports lasting almost the entire year. There is also more pressure for kids to specialize in a single sport at an earlier age in order to be competitive or perhaps even win a scholarship in college some day.

However, there is some evidence in the scientific literature that suggests that this paradigm has some potential pitfalls, and that the most important thing for youth sport development is not specialization, but rather proficiency in the more broad aspects of athletics such as sprinting, jumping, agility, strength, power, and cardio-respiratory fitness. Sadly, athletes that specialize too soon are often at higher risk of burnout and injury before they even reach their prime. Above all, it seems that having fun and developing an appreciation of the games we play might have the most bearing on longevity in a sport.

I think the same concepts can be applied to adults when it comes to physical fitness and exercise. Keep in mind, when I talk about training, I’m just using a word that means preparing. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to be in training. I’m always training for something, and personally, I feel mentally and physically best when my training seasons rotate.

For example, this year my training seasons have looked like this:

  • January/February: Training for MSU Master’s Mile. Training focus: strength and speedwork.
  • March-June: Training for Ride Across Montana. Focus: lots of bike volume.
  • July: Rest, recovery, and play.
  • August-October: Training for Montana Cup, my favorite cross-country race, and a couple of big hikes. Focus: trail running, hiking, speedwork, and strength.
  • November-December: Off-season/Ski Prep. Focus: general strength and conditioning plus sport-specific ski training.

For me, changing the training focus and stimulus every few months (with the seasons) keeps me fresh and motivated. I’m seldom bored or stale with my training. To be fair, it helps that I enjoy a lot of different activities, and I look forward to preparing for each one.

If you’re really into a single sport, that’s fine too. You can still change things up with cross-training and strength training. Athletes that play one sport usually divide their year into distinct categories each with separate training focuses:

  • Off-season: general strength and conditioning. High volume, low intensity.
  • Pre-season: Sport specific conditioning and skills. Moderate volume, higher intensity.
  • In-Season: Skill development, sport specific practice, competition. Low volume. Moderate to high intensity.
  • Post-season/recovery: rest, restorative activities.
    • Here’s a good example of a post-season phase from an elite athlete. One of my peers in grad-school was an Olympic distance runner. Every year, after his last track meet in the late summer, he would do nothing but play basketball for a month.  He was still being active, but he wasn’t in formal “run” training. He was just having fun and staying fit. After his month of play, when his cross-country season began in the fall, he was refreshed and ready to resume formal training.

I’m always training for something because it keeps me motivated and focused. What are you training for? Remember training=preparing. Pick your next season or event, put it on the calendar, and get after it. If you’re a hunter, you can start training now! If you’re a skier, you can start training now! If you want to drop ______ pounds by Thanksgiving, you can start training now! If you want to run a winter marathon in a warm location, you can start training now! The freedom to choose our goals and go after them is one of our greatest gifts.

Best wishes for your next season!

Neal

 

 

Power Bite Video: Weird Veggies

As fresh summertime produce continues to roll in, it’s a great time to branch out with some new recipes including some yummy, and sometimes not so common, vegetables.

For those of you participating in our online incentive program, you can get a jump on a couple of new challenges that will roll out next week (8/14), including watching the following video, and thinking about some new recipes to include in your weekly meal plan.

The latest Montana Meals video features four “weird” vegetables that may not be part of your usual veggie repertoire: kohlrabi, eggplant, tomatillos, and garlic scapes. Although sadly we are now past prime kohlrabi and garlic scape season, you can still pick up some great tips, and be well prepared for the next time you find these options!

https://vimeo.com/228099713

After knowing what to do with these weird veggies when you bring them home, the next step is to decide how exactly you want to prepare them. To help, here’s a roundup of some tasty recipes that use the four veggies described in the video. Happy Eating!

Eggplant

Grilled Eggplant & Tomato Stacks

Stuffed Eggplant

Baba Ganoush

Eggplant Caponata

Spicy Eggplant & Cauliflower with Basil

Kohlrabi

Roasted Kohlrabi

Crispy Apple & Kohlrabi Salad

Kohlrabi & Potato Puree

Kohlrabi Carrot Fritters

Kohlrabi Salad with Cilantro & Lime

Tomatillos

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Chicken with Tomatillos and Cilantro

Roasted Tomatillo Chicken Soup

Nuevos Huevos Rancheritos

Tomatillo Guacamole

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scape Pesto

Grilled Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scape Salad Dressing

White Bean & Garlic Scape Dip

Double Garlic Soup

 

Become a MUS Wellness Champion!

Can you relate to any of the following statements?

“I care about the health & happiness of my coworkers.”

“I have an idea for a wellness activity that we should offer on our campus.”

“I loved participating in the Take Control program, and I wish more of my colleagues knew about it!”

If one or more of the above statements sounds like something you would say, we need you! We are currently recruiting Wellness Champions on all of our campuses for the 2017/2018 year.

New Wellness Champion application

Returning Wellness Champion application

Wellness Champions are enthusiastic supporters of health & well-being in the workplace, regardless of where they are personally on the path towards optimal well-being. In other words, to be a Wellness Champion for MUS, you don’t need to be an ultramarathoner who exercises everyday and only eats perfectly balanced meals; you just need to be someone who cares about your colleagues and wants them to lead the highest quality of life possible!  

Formal “duties” of a Wellness Champion include:

  • Keeping up to date with current Wellness program offerings.
  • Reminding your coworkers of the opportunities offered through Wellness, and promoting participation. As much as your MUS Wellness Team tries to get the message out about the programs we have available, inevitably, emails are overlooked, blog posts go unread, posters go unseen. Word of mouth remains one of our most powerful tools of communication! We cannot tell you how many times someone asks about the Take Control lifestyle management program or our Ask-an- Expert program because a coworker mentioned something about it.
  • Assisting in the implementation and coordination of wellness initiatives as able. Examples may include reserving a space for a Wellness-related activity, volunteering at an information table, or suggesting topics of interest. Wellness initiatives vary from campus to campus, and again, your level of involvement will depend on what your schedule allows. Some campuses have a group of Wellness Champions who meet on a regular basis and plan activities.
  • Representing coworkers by collecting ideas and feedback about the program. Although we consider all feedback that we receive from MUS plan members, we specifically solicit opinions from our Wellness Champions on occasion.
  • Being respectful of others’ privacy and compliant with confidentiality standards

Before you dismiss the idea of becoming a Wellness Champion because you feel swamped already with job responsibilities, keep in mind that serving effectively as a WellChamp can mean as little as reminding your coworkers that a WellCheck is coming up, and encouraging a new employee in your office to participate in the MUS Wellness Incentive Program. Or, it can mean leading a campus walking group, or organizing a monthly social event, or writing a brief grant proposal to gain funding for a campus-specific program. The beauty of serving as a Wellness Champion is that you can define what being a Wellness Champion looks like to you, and we are here to support your efforts!

As a Wellness Champion, you will receive:

  • Bi-monthly email newsletters from MUS Wellness
  • Additional email communications with pertinent updates regarding changes to the Wellness program or Benefits Plan
  • Exclusive webinars for Wellness Champions during the year
  • Special swag item for MUS WellChamps only!
  • Recognition as a Wellness Champion
  • Opportunity to offer feedback, and participate in pilot programs for Wellness

Previous WellChamps — Take note that we’ve added more structure and additional benefits to the program, so we encourage you to re-up as a Wellness Champion to be part of the best WellChamp year yet!

A person’s work environment can have a tremendous impact on overall health & well-being. Becoming a MUS Wellness Champion gives you the opportunity to make a real difference in your workplace, and have a positive impact on your coworkers. Sign up to be a 2017/2018 MUS WellChamp today!

New Wellness Champion application

Returning Wellness Champion application

Video: MUS Wellness Success Story

Last month, Limeade paid us a visit to chat with a few of our employees about MUS Wellness. Here’s how it turned out:

Your MUS Wellness team feels privileged to work for and with such amazing people like the ones featured in this video. This is just a small sampling of what’s happening all over Montana! As always, thank you to our MUS employees for committing to your personal health & well-being as well as to the culture of wellness on your campus!

Be Well!

Running Relaxed.

I just put the final touches on tomorrow’s “Running Relaxed” webinar, and I can’t wait to share it! One could make an easy argument that my involvement with this whole Wellness thing has its roots in running. Finding a passion for running at a young age led to much self-discovery, many life-lessons, and certainly an interest in how our bodies work and perform.

During the webinar, as the name implies, we’ll be focusing on how to run more relaxed. I believe that a relaxed runner is a better runner, for several reasons. More relaxed runners:

  1. Waste less energy
  2. Run more comfortably
  3. Run faster, farther (because they’re comfortable and conserving energy—see #1 & #2)
  4. Inspire others to run, because they look good doing it

The neat thing is, many of the tips and principles we’ll discuss are applicable at any speed, so whether you’re sprinting or running a 12-minute mile, you can learn to be more relaxed, more efficient, more comfortable, and just plain good-looking. I hope you can join!

Neal

Everybody stay Cool!

Here’s an article we re-post around this time every year. When the temperatures go from mild to scortching in a hurry, it’s always important to review safety tips for exercising outside in the heat. Here are a few tips:

  1. Adjust your schedule. Try to avoid the afternoon sun and heat. In Montana, we have the advantage of lower humidity, and relatively cool mornings and evenings. Start the hike early, or if you can, save the run, walk, or bike till dusk—the sun still sets after 9pm, so there’s plenty of time to do a night session. Midday your only option? Head to a gym for a cool indoor workout.
  2. Hydrate! The most important preventative measure to avoid heat related illness is to stay hydrated.  Proper hydration means consistent fluid intake throughout your day. Waiting until you feel thirsty is usually too late! If you are losing a lot of sweat through exercise, consider a sports drink containing electrolytes and a small amount of carbohydrate during and/or after exercise in order to replace nutrients lost through sweat.
  3. Wear appropriate gear. Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and moisture-wicking clothes (shirt/shorts/socks) are must-haves when going out into the heat.
  4. Take it easy. Your body can and will adapt to the heat, but it takes time, usually around two weeks. So if you’re not used to the heat, lower the intensity and/or duration of your exercise to avoid exhaustion. If you feel like you’re overdoing it, set aside your pride and shut it down. Heat exhaustion is a serious condition and can take several days or weeks to recover from.

Want to learn more about heat illness?  The Mayo Clinic has a nice article about the warning signs, and more about how to avoid heat illness.  Click here to learn more.

Stay cool y’all.

Neal

P.S. I’ll have more RAM reports and photos soon. Right now I’m trying to get a little R&R!

RAM Report #2

Sunday, July 2, 10pm

Greetings from Glendive! Since my last report, we’ve had some long challenging days, but we’ve made it to the Yellowstone, and should be arriving at the North Dakota border sometime Monday afternoon!

The last few days haven’t been quite as “easy” as the first few. Longer distances, hotter temps, unfavorable winds, and the cumulative wear and fatigue have made the miles seem a bit tougher. Yesterday was particularly tough—a 130 mile slog from Lewistown to Jordan. I stopped at Winnett about 50 miles into the ride at the only restaurant in town, the Kozy Korner, apparently famous for its homemade pies. I opted for coffee and a bowl of Wilcoxson’s ice cream. It cost a whopping $1.50. Later, with about 30 miles to go and the afternoon heat bearing down on us, we found an oasis in Sand Springs that served real milkshakes. I know it’s circumstantial, but it might’ve been the best milkshake I’ve ever had. The milkshake, plus copious amounts of ice water and sports drink, saved the day. So I have to give credit to ice cream and milkshakes for getting me through Saturday. I know Cristin won’t mind in this situation.

To deal with the headwinds we’ve faced yesterday and today, my riding buddy Chris and I have been taking turns drafting off each other. We use mile markers, and yesterday, we switched on the even ones, for 2-mile intervals taking the wind, and then drafting. Today, we were so tired, and the wind so relentless, that we started switching every mile.

I know some of you have been participating in the “Solidarity Challenge” this week through the Incentive Program, and I want to say thank you! There have been several times when the going-got-tough that I’ve thought of those of you who’ve taken up that challenge, and I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Know it’s time to rest. My body has to muster enough energy to make it about 70 more miles. I’ll be making quick stops Monday at Dawson Community College at the Eastern Agricultural Research Center in Sidney, before finishing on the Yellowstone River in North Dakota! I be reporting as usual via Twitter (@montanamoves).

Fingers crossed for a tailwind!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Neal