Snoping Snopes

It recently has come to my attention that an article I wrote about imported garlic was snoped. I guess that means that it has gotten enough readership to draw some attention, which is good, but after reading the snope I feel the need to defend my original article in this blog post. I am disappointed to say I tried to post this in comments on their site and was blocked which reduces my respect for snope, a group I have always considered a reputable source for information.

To Snope: I appreciate you calling attention to an error in my blog post about Chinese garlic. I should have clarified that removal of all root mass does not mean garlic is from China, but it does suggest that the product is IMPORTED garlic, and the majority of garlic imported into this country is from China. I have changed the content of my article to clarify this.

In your snope you state that the garlic shown in the Christopher Ranch marketing photo has all of the roots removed, proving your point that American garlic can have the roots removed also. I contacted Christopher Ranch about the photo,and they told me they did not make the photo. It was made by ANUK ( a video newsletter for the produce industry) and may in fact be Chinese garlic.

In another part of your snope, you quote my conversation with the representative from Christopher Ranch saying that American growers don’t pay to completely remove ALL of the root material from garlic. You then show several Farmer’s Market examples of garlic with the “roots removed”. However when I look at some of your photos, I see garlic with root material still on some of the heads. Some roots are just clipped very short, not completely reamed of all root material as in my example of typical Chinese garlic (the bottom of the head will be completely white when all root material is removed). Large American commercial growers will snip the roots close to the base, but will not ream them out as shown in my photograph.  I grow and prepare my own garlic, including some for sale at the Farmer’s market, and can tell you that to get the bottom to look like my imported garlic example is very time consuming. But yes, you are correct, a few small Farmer’s Market growers may on occasion process garlic that way.

With regard to your comment on theories as to why the root mass is removed from imported garlic, I feel well supported in my statement that it is to remove all soil from the product. While the US regulations are hard to find on the internet, they do require imported garlic from China to meet phytosanitary standards certified by the exporting country. I could not find the US or China phytosanitary standards for garlic online but I could find them for Canada and they clearly state that no soil can be present on garlic imported to Canada from any country except the US. The only way to completely remove all soil from a garlic head is to completely remove the entire root mass from the head as shown in my example.

With regard to the contamination of Chinese garlic issue (I will not address the picture of pesticide spraying as that is not from my blog post) I call your attention to an extensive report from the USDA addressing food safety issues associated with all imported foods from China including information on contamination of garlic.

I further call your attention to the fact that the majority of garlic imported into the US is imported from China, and the US garlic industry no longer exports much product due to Chinese competition.

From the above facts one can then infer the following: Canada, and possibly other countries will not accept any garlic with root mass containing soil for import. If a grower is planning to export garlic, they will need to meet the strictest standards of countries accepting imports and this means removing all soil from the bulb of their products. The only way to remove all soil from garlic is to completely remove all root mass from the bottom of the bulb, leaving the bottom white and denuded of all stubble. This process is very labor intensive and thus expensive and not required for sale in the country of origin. Thus heads of garlic with every bit of root stubble removed are highly likely to be imported garlic from China.

I appreciate the work you do in promoting truth and accountability on the internet. As a Registered Dietitian, I try to fully research any nutrition or food related topic I write about. In this case, the rather nuanced nature of a complicated topic requires a high level of research and even then may be open to interpretation. I do stand behind my original thesis which is this:

When shopping for garlic, if one sees heads of garlic displayed in which every head of garlic has all stubble and root material removed from the bottom (essentially a white bottom) that garlic is probably imported. And most imported garlic is from China. Therefore, there is a high probability that garlic is from China. And garlic from China has a high probability of being contaminated with pesticide and/or bacterial residues.

I agree fully with your final comment that the best way to know the source of your garlic is to buy it directly from a farmer, through a Farmer’s Market or CSA, or to grow your own.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any content in the article without the written persmission of the author is prohibited.

Making Lye Cured Olives



We harvested our olives this week, and followed the usual tradition of picking the best olives for preserving and the rest for pressing into olive oil. The majority of the olives we grow are Sevillano olives, which are perfect for preserving using a traditional lye cure, or for making Spanish style fermented olives. They can also be cured using a water extraction process, which I explained in another post several years ago.

Curing olives leaches out the bitter compounds that make the raw olives inedible. These bitter phenolic compounds are more concentrated in green olives and decrease as the olives mature. The phenols in olives give the “peppery bite” found in many high quality extra virgin olive oils and are the primary source of the many health benefits attributed to olive oil including reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, inflammatory disease and Alzheimer’s.

We definitely like some bitterness in our olive oil, and thus prefer to harvest and press our olives green. A touch of bitterness in brined fermented olives is fine too, but all olives require leaching of the majority of bitter compounds prior to consumption, and in green olives treatment with lye is the most rapid and effective way to do this. The traditional black olives most Americans grew up eating are green lye cured olives that are then treated with iron and an oxidation process to create a black olive. Green lye cured olives have the familiar mild olive flavor that most of us grew up with. They are also like a blank slate that can then be jazzed up with a variety of flavorings depending upon your preferences.

The University of California guide to preserving olives is a dependable resource for making a variety of olives. Over the years we have tried many of their recipes, but the lye cured olives are always the most popular. The recipe in their guide along with these visuals will guide you on the steps in the process.

The first step is the olive harvest. For preserved olives, harvest carefully to prevent bruising of the fruit.


olive-harvest w

The 2015 Olive Harvest

Olives for oil are stripped from the trees onto cloths placed on the orchard floor. For preserved olives picking by hand and gently placing into a collection vessel will lessen the risk of bruising. On occasion I have picked through the “oil olives” after harvest looking for the nicest fruit and preserved those but I examine them carefully to avoid bruised olives.

You also should inspect the olive carefully for any spots which might indicate the presence of the olive fly. Do not preserve the fruit with spots.olives-with-flyw


Olives with olive fly damage. Each of these has a spot from the fly and are unacceptable for making preserved olives but can be used for olive oil.

If you have any doubts about whether the spots you see on your olives are from olive fly, cut them open and examine them. Often the damage on the inside is much worse than what might appear on the exterior.

the-cracked-olive-with-damage w

Olive fly damage inside the olive

If you are harvesting olives from trees that have been neglected it may be difficult to find any olives that are acceptable. We prune yearly and spray our olives several times with an organic kaolin clay compound (brand name Surround) to discourage the moths. Even with all this care, most of our olives have damage on them.

bucket-of-fresh-picked-olives w


Basket of carefully selected Sevillano Olives ready to cure

Once you harvest the olives you should treat them soon, preferably within 24 hours. Don’t chill the olives, just store them at cool room temperature until you begin processing.

The lye that is used to cure olives might be sold as a product for making soap, or as a drain cleaner. It sounds scary, as in strong concentrations it is a caustic base which can burn you if splashed on your skin or swallowed. But lye is used in a variety of processed food products that you might routinely eat, including hominy, soft baked pretzels and peeled mandarin oranges. It is even on the list of substances allowed in organic food production. Lye (sodium hydroxide) is a compound that is only harmful when in a very high concentration. Just as the acid you might add to your pool can burn you when taken straight, but can be completely safe to swim in when diluted, so the caustic base of lye can burn you when concentrated but when diluted is not harmful. When your olives are made properly, the residual amount of lye in the final product should be negligible.

Find a source of lye that is 100 percent lye. I found this lye at a local hardware store.


100 percent lye sold as drain cleaner

Read the directions on using lye in the UC guide for making olives carefully prior to beginning the lye curing process. It is very important that you read these precautions as exposure to concentrated lye can cause burns to the skin or blindness if splashed in the eyes. Remember to always protect your hands with gloves and your eyes with goggles before beginning to work with the lye solution. Be gentle during the process so you don’t splash the liquid, and don’t worry. I am uncoordinated but have been doing this for years and have never splashed it on myself.

Fill a food safe plastic bucket or other lye resistant container with enough water to cover your olives completely. I had about 3 gallons of olives, and I used 3 gallons of water. Add 3 Tablespoons of the powdered lye to each gallon of water. For this 3 gallons I used 9 Tablespoons of lye. Do not add water to lye, you should only add lye to water. Stir gently to dissolve the lye.

adding-lye-to-water w

Adding lye gently to the water.  Notice the eye and hand protection. Long sleeved shirts, long pants and shoes are recommended, and goggles are preferred over glasses too so I was somewhat negligent here! mixing-lye-and-waterw

Stir to dissolve lye in the water

Once all the lye has been added the temperature of the liquid might warm up. Check the temperature with a thermometer, and don’t add the olives until it has cooled down to cool room temperature (below 70 degrees).

Now carefull add the olives to the lye bath, again gently to avoid splashing. I put them in a glass measuring cup, then gradually tipped the cup to pour them into the solution.adding-olives-to-the-lye-bucketw

 Gently add olives to the lye bath

The olives must be protected from contact with air as this will cause discoloration. Cover the top of the olives in the bucket with a wet dish cloth. Then place a plate, a bowl or something else (I used a strainer) on top of the cloth to hold them under the liquid.

cover-lye-with-a-moist-towel-to-limit-air-exposure (1w)

A wet towel is used to hold the olives under the lye solution while curing. Put a plate or bowl or strainer on the cloth to hold the olives under.

The UC guide says to stir the olives every few hours while curing, but I only stirred them once and they seemed to cure well.

The olives are finished curing when one of the larger olives is removed from the water, rinsed and cut and the cure has softened the olive and turned the flesh green all the way to the pit. testing-lye-penetrationwThis olive is not fully cured. Note the white ring close to the pit. Cure the batch longer if your test olive looks like this.

Usually after about 12 hours my Sevillano olives are ready. Sometimes theoretically the olives may require a separate new lye cure but that has never been my experience. You can read more about that in the UC Guide.

tannic-acid-in-the-lye-water-after-curing w

When the olives have been cured, you will note the lye bath has become very dark from all the compounds leached from the olives.

Once the test olive has been adequately penetrated by the lye, your lye cure is finished. You must now remove the lye from the olives. First drain the liquid from the olives by pouring them into a large strainer or colander. It is safe to pour the lye solution down the drain at this time. Return the olives to the bucket, cover the olives well with cool water, then drain them and rinse them in the strainer several times to rinse off the surface lye. During this whole process you should still be careful about avoiding any contact of the lye with your skin or eyes. Once they are rinsed the residual lye is no longer concentrated enough to be caustic.

You now will begin the process of soaking and rinsing several times per day to gradually remove the lye from the olives. Put the olives back in the bucket, cover them with water, put a clean wet cloth over the top, and let them soak for a few hours. Rinse off the water in the strainer or colander and repeat this process several times per day for at least 3 days. This process leaches the lye from the olives. The water should be completely free of any color when the olives have been adequately cleaned of the lye. The olives will no longer feel soapy or slippery. At this point you can taste an olive and should not note any soapiness or lye residue. 

Congratulations, you have successfully lye cured your olives!  Your olives are now a blank slate for flavoring. There are so many ways to flavor these plain olives. To eat some in the next few days, flavor them with a simple marinade. A good starting marinade can be made with 1 quart of water, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 Tablespoons of vinegar, several sliced cloves of garlic, and some hot pepper slices or flakes to taste. For some variety, rosemary, thyme or bay leaves can be added to the brine or 1/4 cup of lemon juice can replace the vinegar, and sliced lemon rind can be added. The olives are usually ready to eat after 24 hours of soaking in the marinade.


 Marinated olives with lemon, garlic and hot peppers

Olives you are not planning to eat in the next few days must be preserved for long-term storage. Preservation requires either salt or vinegar brine and refrigeration. I prefer salt as it is easier to remove with soaking and leaves me with a bland olive to flavor later.

Salt brining for storage is a multiple step process. First make a lighter brine using 3/4 cup salt per gallon of water. Soak the drained olives in this brine for about 1 week. Then drain the olives and soak them in a stronger brine of 1 1/2 cups of salt per gallon of water for 10-12 days, Now drain them again and store them in the final freshly made brine of 1 1/2 cups salt per gallon of water. Store the olives in the refrigerator int he brine and use them within 2 months. I consider the olives a seasonal treat to enjoy over the holiday season and usually finish them by New Years Day.

Home cured olives in strong salt brine ready for the holidays! 

Don’t forget to plan ahead when you want to eat these olives because they are salty! A day or two before you want to eat some olives, soak them in water in the refrigerator to remove the salt.  You can then eat them plain or flavor them by soaking in the marinade discussed previously.


© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any content in the article without the written persmission of the author is prohibited.

Canning Lessons

For a large part of my lifetime, canning looked to be a lost art. With the easy and inexpensive proliferation of processed foods and the emphasis on the (sometimes incorrect) nutritional benefits of fresh over frozen over canned, the need for learning this once essential skill had faded. As a gardener with a large fruit orchard, I have always felt a need to can as a means of preserving the bounty when my freezer gets filled beyond its limits. On occasion, it has become more than that, almost an obsession, and the line between enthusiastic canner and prepper becomes blurred.


Is this the pantry of an enthusiastic home preserver, a prepper, a hoarder?

I plead guilty to all charges.

Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in lost homestead arts, and canning is among them. Manufacturers of canning jars (Ball and Kerr are the two most commonly seen brands) have seen an upturn in sales of their products over the last few years. While once uncommon, supermarket magazine shelves now carry a variety of magazines or quarterlies devoted to canning. And of course, the internet is loaded with thousands of food bloggers displaying “food porn” pictures of their beautiful array of home preserved foods.

In the age of the internet, any person with a PC, even those with minimal knowledge of safe food preservation practices, can post recipes for canned foods. At a recent conference I attended, for example, one canning specialist noted that over 1/3 of Americans who can are using recipes for canned tomatoes that are deemed unsafe by the USDA. Tomatoes can be a low acid product, and if one does not add a source of acid prior to water bath canning them, there can be a risk (though slight) of botulism contamination. Botulism is a deadly toxin, and even if the probability is low, the risk when it might occur is unacceptably high.

For readers interested in taking the leap into home canning, I encourage you to connect with the Master Food Preservers in your area. The Master Food Preservers are taught a curriculum of safe food preservation developed in association with the University of California. I was excited to see that the Sacramento Master Food Preservers are offering classes in our area. They even have a class tomorrow night, and the cost is only 5 dollars, so I rushed to write this post to promote that class. If you are able to find the time, and are interested in becoming an expert in home food preservation, you can even sign up to take the full course to become a Master Food Preserver yourself.

Online resources for safe home food preservation are those associated with the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the University of California (I am using a UC publication for making olives today!) and the canning jar company Ball. If you buy a pressure or water bath canner, they also typically come with a booklet containing directions and recipes.

As we become more aware of the benefits of eating locally grown, in season foods, the benefits of home food preservation for extending the seasons become clear. I urge you to give home canning a try. It is a simple process, it saves money, it is great for the environment (less trash from packaging, less refrigeration costs) and the rewards of looking a shelf of beautiful foods you have preserved yourself are priceless.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Creamy Zucchini Pesto

The summer garden in our climate yields bumper crops of zucchini, basil, tomatoes, peppers and cucumber. We eat everything tomato: Caprese and Greek salads, spaghetti with meatballs, pizza, pasta with marinara, BLTs. Jars of sauces and salsa are put away for the winter. Peppers are dried for paprika, or roasted and peeled and tucked into the freezer. Cucumbers are pickled or chopped and preserved as relish.

But zucchini, oh zucchini, what do we do with you? Despite vowing to plant less every year, we always seem to find ourselves overwhelmed when we take a little stroll out to the garden.

another zucchini that got away

Another giant zucchini

(“Where did that one come from? I swear it was not here yesterday!”)

How do zucchini grow so fast? And what the heck does one do with all these zucchini at one time?  2 cups of shredded zucchini in a loaf of zucchini bread will barely touch the windfall.


A typical daily harvest of zucchini from the summer garden

Then there is the basil. It wants to be cut, over and over again, so that it does not set flower and die. But every time we trim the tops of the basil, it responds by branching out and rewarding us with even more of the fragrant leaves that beg to be cut, again and again.pesto ingredients

Zucchini and Basil

(This could be the start of something good)

Necessity is the mother of invention when cooking from the summer garden, and in this case an invention that is more than the sum of its’ parts. Pesto made with only basil is so flavorful it can be overwhelming at times, but using less leads to a somewhat dry pasta dish. Shredded and sautéed zucchini can yield a rich concentrated pan of creamy zucchini deliciousness, but one that is admittedly mild in flavor.  Mixing the two together is a great way to make a creamy, flavorful sauce for pasta, while maximizing healthy veggie intake by including all of that zucchini in the dish. Don’t be shy about using some of your larger, less than perfect zucchini for this recipe.

This sauce can also be frozen to enjoy some of that bounty of zucchini and basil in the winter.

Here then is the recipe for:

Creamy Zucchini Pesto.

For the sautéed zucchini:

6 cups coarsely shredded zucchini

¼ cup finely chopped onion (optional)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Put the shredded zucchini in a large strainer and sprinkle it with the salt, mixing the salt in well with your hands.  Now let the zucchini sit to drain, pressing it down every once in a-while to push out any liquid. Let it sit for ½ to 1 hour, if you have the time. If not, you can just let it sit for a few minutes. The longer it sits, the more liquid you will remove from the zucchini. It your zucchini is especially watery It can also be placed in a dish-towel, which is then twisted up and squeezed hard to remove liquid.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, if using it, and saute in the pan for a few minutes until soft. Now add the zucchini to the pan.

raw zucchini in pan-1

Cook the zucchini over a medium low heat, stirring every few minutes until it is very condensed and is starting to brown. This will take 20-30 minutes or so depending upon the size of your pan and the temperature. 6 cups will cook down to about 2 cups at this point.

cooked zucchini in pan-1

Sautéed shredded zucchini

(This also makes a great side dish sprinkled with a touch of parmesan cheese) 

Turn off the heat and let the zucchini cool while you prepare the pesto.

For the pesto:

2 ounces (about 1/3 cup) chopped or shredded parmesan cheese

2 large or 3 small cloves of peeled garlic

¼ cup toasted nuts or seeds (you can use almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds. I used sunflower seeds).

3 cups basil leaves (removed from the stems, washed and spun dry)

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.

Put the garlic in a food processor. If the cheese is chopped in large pieces, add it to the food processor as well. If you are using shredded cheese, don’t add it yet. Pulse and scrape down with a spatula until finely chopped.

Adding nuts to the food processorAdd the nuts to the food processor and again process until finely chopped. I used roasted sunflower seeds in this batch.

Now add the basil leaves and process until finely ground. Gradually add the olive oil through the feed tube and continue to blend the mixture until it is a coarse paste, stirring down with the spatula several times. Add the zucchini puree to the food processor.Adding the shredded zucchini

Sautéed shredded zucchini being added to pesto mixture in the food processor.

Process the mixture until it makes a nice sauce.  If you are using grated cheese, now is the time to mix it in as well. (Consider your preferences when processing the sauce. If you like more texture, process for less time but if you like a very creamy smooth sauce, process longer).

completed pesto

The final zucchini pesto sauce

This makes enough sauce for 6 very generous servings (about 2 ounces of dry pasta per serving). Cook the pasta in boiling water until done and drain it. Reserve a bit of the hot pasta water to add to the sauce to heat it and loosen it. If you like your food very hot, you might also want to heat the sauce for a few minutes in the microwave or on the stove before adding the pasta to it. I put the sauce in a large glass bowl, big enough to hold all of the pasta and sauce, and add the hot pasta water to the sauce.(I use about 1/2 cup of the water or so, but it depends upon how cooked down the zucchini is). Then I heat it slightly in the microwave. Do not boil or overheat the sauce though!

Add the pasta to the sauce and mix it all together. Serve with a sprinkling of additional grated parmesan cheese if you like. I like to serve this dish with a side salad of fresh garden tomatoes dressed with a light olive oil vinaigrette.

the final pesto dish

Fettucine served with creamy zucchini basil pesto 

Nutrition Analysis per serving for sauce only (makes 6 servings):

180 calories, 8 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams protein, 15 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

A Chainsaw Alternative for the Less Robust Amongst Us.

I am not sure how it happened, but we have a division of labor in our orchard chores and I have evolved into the head orchard pruner.  Most of the time, I prune the trees myself, using a variety of hand tools including pruning shears and loppers. When the going gets tough, I will call in my son or husband.  I am not a large, nor a strong woman, and I also have a variety of aches and pains associated with older age and overuse. At times I have carpal tunnel, shoulder pain, neck pain,.. you get the drift. After a bout of tackling some of our 150 plus citrus and orchard trees everything seems to flare up. And when the branches I want to cut are more than a few inches in diameter, there are long bouts of struggling and a few choice words as I tackle to get them cut with hand pruning saws, loppers, whatever it takes. Because I don’t like to ask for help.

When I finally break down and ask for help, eventually the guys will get out their burly chainsaws and as I stand there pointing out which branches to cut they will make short work of what I have struggled with for far too long. I have always been tempted to get myself a smaller one of those darn chainsaws but they are heavy and expensive and to be honest they scare me. So this orchard pruning struggle has gone on for over 20 years now and it has only gotten worse as I have gotten older and my trees have gotten larger. Sigh….

This week, my son found a solution to my problem that is so exciting I just have to share it. This is what he brought to me (I love that kid!).


It is a battery-powered reciprocating saw otherwise known as a sawzall, with a pruning blade.

Check out the diameter of the cut it made in seconds.

example of a cut

This tool is fabulous! It weighs about 7 pounds with the rechargeable battery and it is very easy for me to operate. At a little over 100 bucks for the saw, and another 15 for a pack of the special Diablo pruning blades, it is less expensive than a chainsaw too. I just can’t believe I spent all these years struggling to find this tool. It really will be a lifechanger for me.

Okay, enough sharing for today. I need to go outside and cut some stuff!

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

3 Ingredient Creamy Lime Pops

Citrus season on Burgeson Family Farm always starts with the lime harvest. Before the very hot summers have faded to the crisp days of autumn we treat ourselves to cool lime-centric drinks on the porch in the evening: gin and tonic, greyhound and margarita cocktails and sparkling water on ice with generous wedges of lime plucked from the tree just minutes before. When I walk by the trees, laden with fruit, it is almost impossible for me to resist grabbing a lime, scratching the aromatic rind and inhaling the intoxicating aroma. We load our car with bags of limes to sell at the farmer’s market and farm stand at Garden Earth Farms, our sister farm in Santa Rosa, and the drive to deliver is like 2 hours of aromatherapy.

limes with flowers

Limes on the trees at Burgeson Family Farm. Note the bees are at work pollinating a new crop which will be ready in the spring. It is uncommon for us to have 2 crops in one year but it looks like it will happen this year.

This is the pop recipe that “started it all”, the pop obsession in our family. Lime pops are so cool, creamy and tart; it takes only 3 ingredients and minutes to make the mix, and to me they are more satisfying and delicious than a key lime pie.  This recipe will work with any limes, either the small little Key limes with their intense acidity and aroma and multitude of tiny seeds, or the big juicy seedless Bearss limes, or even store bought supermarket Mexican limes.

key and bearss limes

Key limes on the left and Bearss limes on the right

(Many people think that only key limes are yellow but all limes will turn more yellow when they are very ripe. Note the Bearrs limes are actually more yellow than the Key limes.)

If there is a farmer in your area growing limes, I urge you to  buy some at least once to make this, or your cocktails, with them.  Most of the limes in the grocery stores are shipped from Mexico, and they are far from freshly picked. The oils in the zest of a freshly picked lime add so much to the flavor of this recipe. You may want to keep one on hand to “scratch and sniff” for a pick me up.

3 Ingredient Creamy Lime Pop Recipe

For this recipe you need only 3 ingredients:

Limes (4-5 large ones or about 10-14 small ones)

1 can of sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces) (I use organic)

1 ½ cups of non-fat Greek yogurt (I use organic, usually either Straus, Clover or Wallaby because I have actually seen their farms and “happy cows” as I travel about Northern California)

Finely zest the rind from the limes. I love this little tool, a microplane grater, for making a very fine zest:

microplane grater rind

You should have 2 Tablespoons of zest. Note the beautiful fine zest this tool makes.

a fine lime zest

Squeeze the juice from enough limes to make ½ cup.  This handy citrus juicer makes that task a breeze.

juicing limes

Put the juice and zest in a bowl. Stir in the condensed milk.  Add the Nonfat Greek yogurt and mix well. I use a hand whisk. You can also whip it in a blender which will make the mixture fluffy and the pops will be more light and creamy once frozen.

whisking ingredients

(I like to mix it in a measuring cup with a pour spout for easy pouring into the molds).

Note: These are high in protein and low in fat (see the analysis below). If you would like the recipe to be even higher in protein and lower in sugar and fat, you can add more of the Greek yogurt. That can be done according to your taste, as it will make them tart.  They also will be a bit less creamy.

Pour the mixture into the popsicle molds. This recipe will make 10 popsicles of about 1/2 cup each.

filling pop molds

If you don’t have molds you can use small paper cups, but I urge you to consider buying some popsicle molds. They are the most used piece of kitchen equipment we have purchased in a long time. For more about popsicle making and molds take a look at this other blog post I have on pops.

Put the popsicle sticks in the molds.

insert sticksDon’t shove the sticks all the way to the bottom. That will leave a short stick for eating. The mixture should be thick enough to suspend the sticks at the right depth. If not, freeze for awhile and then insert the sticks about halfway into the molds.

Now put the molds in a flat spot in your freezer and patiently wait for at least 4-6 hours for them to freeze completely all the way through. The sticks must be completely frozen in the middle of the pop.

To remove the popsicles from the molds put some very hot water in a glass. (I heat the water in the glass for a minute or two in the microwave). Dip the pop in the hot water for 10-20 seconds or so, until it slightly releases from the sides of the mold. Now squeeze the mold a bit to loosen the pop, hold the pop with the handle facing down and slide it out of the mold. If it does not come out easily, do not pull too hard on the stick or it might come out of the pop. Instead, heat it in the water again until it releases easily.

You can refreeze the pops on a tray until they are very hard, so they don’t stick together, then store them in a container or plastic bag in the freezer. They theoretically will last a long time, but practically speaking, it is doubtful they will be around all that long. They are that good.


Creamy Lime Pops

Nutrition Analysis per Pop (Makes 10):

152 calories, 6 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat,

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Creamy Fruit Pops

finished pops 1

Who doesn’t love ice cream cones and ice cream bars? The cold creamy texture is such a treat on a hot summer day. In our household we love ice cream, and we were buying too much fancy organic ice cream for both my budget and my sensibilities as a dietitian. ½ cup of premium ice cream has as much saturated fat as many of us should be eating in an entire day, and who eats only ½ cup? Certainly no one in my family.

Another concern that I had about eating so much ice cream is that it was displacing other desserts that might be higher in healthy antioxidants (ie fruit). It is pretty clear by reading the ingredient labels and by tasting, that most ice cream, even those with fruit flavors, contain a nutritionally nominal amount of fruit.

Fruit and fruit juice pops are a great way to have a cold treat on a hot summer day while increasing our daily intake of fruit. But I will be honest, sometimes I like a creamy treat, and fruit or fruit juice pops, while tasty at times, are just too icy to replace ice cream to my palate. I want something more like an ice cream cone or ice cream bar.

This summer we developed a method for making creamy pops that have displaced almost all of the ice cream we were eating. There are endless variations on our theme but the common ingredients that contribute to the creamy texture are a seedless fruit puree of some type and sweetened condensed milk. Sweetened condensed milk  is a “magic ingredient” for creamy ice cream without making a cooked custard base or even using an ice cream maker to churn. America’s Test Kitchen uses it for a simple chocolate ice cream recipe in this YouTube video. Why not take the creaminess provided by the condensed milk and apply it to a healthier fruit popsicle, a kind of hybrid popsicle/ice cream bar?

In most cases besides fruit and condensed milk, we add a bit of vanilla yogurt or Greek yogurt. If we are being decadent we might fold in a touch of whipped cream. Ground nuts, nut butter, low-fat cream cheese and whey protein powder have also occasionally made an appearance. You really can let your imagination go wild.

Here are the general directions for making:

Creamy Fruit Pops

To make creamy fruit pops, you first must purchase popsicle molds. We have tried several types and they all work fine. Adrian likes the Zoku classical popsicle molds.They come with their own reusable plastic sticks.

I prefer the molds I purchased at Cost Plus which use the traditional wooden popsicle sticks.

I hate drippy frozen pops so I also tried push-up type popsicle molds and recommend them for all those messy eaters out there (yes, that would be me!)

Next, you make smooth puree of fruit. We typically use berries, apricots or plums. Cook the fruit in a glass bowl in the microwave or on the stove until it has broken down into a mush. Using an immersion or stand blender to grind the cooked fruit can speed this process along. The puree will look like this raspberry puree, which is smooth but has a lot of seeds.

cooked puree with seedsWe like our pops to be very smooth, so we strain out the seeds and skins from the puree. We use a fabulous attachment for our Cuisinart citrus juicer called a Power Strainer. cuisinart with attachmentIt pushes the fruit puree through small holes leaving the seeds behind.

strainer in actionWe use it all the time for tomato sauce and fruit purees. Unfortunately it is no longer being made and we will probably cry if it ever breaks. I did find that you can buy it used on Amazon. Alternatively a hand strainer such as this model is a worthwhile investment for making smooth purees and sauces.  Even a stainless colander type strainer with a spoon or a pestle can be used to remove the seeds. You can also just leave the seeds and skins in for more fiber if you would like.

A typical ratio for the mix is 3 cups of fruit puree , ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk and ½ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt. I like organic sweetened condensed milk and organic yogurt so I try to use this whenever possible. Mix this up and taste. If it is not sweet enough or creamy enough for your preference, add more condensed milk (an entire can is 1 ½ cups which is quite a bit but we have used this amount on occasion, especially with lime and lemon pops). If it is not tart enough, or you want more of a yogurt pop, you can add more yogurt. For 3 cups of fruit puree we typically use between ½ and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, and between ½ and 1 cup of yogurt (either nonfat Greek or vanilla yogurt). If you prefer more of an “ice cream”, decadent pop, you can fold between ½ and 1 cup of cream whipped to soft peaks into the mixture. Another way to get a more rich or creamy pop is to add nut butter or finely ground nuts to the mixture (about ¼ cup or so).

We like to blend the ingredients to a fluffy texture in a blender on high speed to aerate, but whisking with a hand whisk or using a mixer would also work. This is the final raspberry mixture.

raspberry pop mixNow pour your mixture into the molds, insert the popsicle sticks, pop them in the freezer and wait for at least 4-6 hours or more until they are firm.To unmold either let them sit for a few minutes out at room temperature to soften, or hold them between your hands to warm up, or dip in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds to soften the outside to un-mold. Don’t pull too hard on the stick before the outside is soft, or try to remove them before the center is frozen, or the stick will come out leaving you a pop in the mold without a stick!

finished raspberry popYum, a creamy raspberry yogurt pop.

These pictures show preparation of a variation which is a creamy raspberry fruit pop with a swirl. When filling the molds, the raspberry is alternated with spoonfuls of the swirl ingredient. Once the pop is filled, a knife is swirled through the two flavors lightly.

The raspberry mixture was 3 cups raspberry puree, ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk and ½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt.

The cream cheese swirl was made by blending 4 ounces of low-fat cream cheese with 1 cup vanilla yogurt and ¼ cup of sweetened condensed milk.

filled popsicle moldThis is the swirled cream cheese/ raspberry mixture in the Zoku Classical molds before freezing.

The toasted hazelnut swirl was made by toasting ½ cup hazelnuts in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until lightly toasted. They were then ground to a paste in the blender, and blended until smooth along with ¼ cup of sweetened condensed milk, ½ cup nonfat greek yogurt and ½ cup of vanilla yogurt.

filled mold swirl popsThis is the swirled raspberry hazelnut mixture in the Cost Plus molds.

The popsicle sticks were then added and the pops were placed in the freezer.

popsicles tucked away in freezerFinally the pops were dipped in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds and un-molded.

Here is an array including cream cheese swirled, hazelnut swirled, and raspberry yogurt pops.

raspberry popsA mix of cool raspberry and raspberry swirl pops.

What a welcome treat on a hot summer day!

We have made blackberry, plum, raspberry, grape, blueberry and apricot. We have also made key lime, orange and lemon (using just the juice and rind with condensed milk and yogurt or whipped cream). Our main ingredients are always what we grow or what is in season. I still have not tried peach, but for those of you with peach trees and a bumper crop I urge you to give that a try. We have added peanut butter, cashew butter, hazelnut butter and whey protein powder.  Every pop has been tasty, or so it seems, as none are left in the freezer!

As you can see, ingredient amounts are really left to your imagination. Just use what you like, add what you have, taste the mixture before you freeze it and go from there. Good luck with your creations and happy summer!

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

The California Mediterranean Diet: What to Eat

As I have stated in previous posts a “California Mediterranean Diet” as a symbiosis of the healthy foods and eating patterns associated with the old food ways of the Mediterranean, with the new and modern creativity and environmental consciousness of California cuisine. The vibrant immigrant culture of California has led to an explosion of unique spices, flavors and cooking styles that are being applied to the locally grown Mediterranean ingredients to form a uniquely tasty and healthy cuisine. Many studies have shown benefits to a Mediterranean style eating plan. The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine most recently published a Spanish study which supported the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean Diet in reducing heart disease in a high risk population.  As in previous studies discussed elsewhere on this site, this study showed that a diet based on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fish, as well as liberal amounts of fat from olive oil and nuts, is associated with good health. California has a Mediterranean climate, and produces over 50 percent of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. By eating these locally grown foods, residents of California can enjoy the health benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet  while also supporting local agriculture and limiting the environmental impact of their food choices. Below is a rough guideline of the California Mediterranean Diet when planning menus for adults. The ranges show the minimum and maximum amount of food in each category. Younger more active men need higher amounts. Less active, older women need lower amounts. In addition the amounts vary from day to day to allow flexibility with menus but this provides a rough outline of the average intake I recommend. This is not a diet prescription for any specific medical conditions or for weight loss. If you have a specific medical condition requiring diet modification I urge you to make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian for further guidance. Note:  The California Mediterranean Pantry list on this site contains specific recommendations for brands and types of foods marked with * . These are the foods to eat every day and the approximate amounts per day:

Slide13    Vegetables*: 5-12 servings per day:

A serving is 1 cup raw or ½ cup of cooked vegetables. Onions, garlic and tomatoes should be used frequently. California grown fresh or frozen vegetables (or canned in BPA free cans) should be chosen over imported products.

Slide12Fruits*: 3-6 servings per day.

A serving is ½ cup raw fruit such as berries, 1 medium piece of fruit or ¼ cup of dried fruit. It may include up to ½ cup of natural fruit juice (such as pomegranate or citrus) as one serving of fruit per day. California grown fruit, either fresh, frozen, dried or canned in BPA free cans should be chosen over imported fruit.


 Nuts or nut butter*: ½ to 2 ounces daily (almonds, walnuts, pistachios and peanuts are all grown in California and are very healthy nuts to consume)


 Whole grains*: 3-8 ounces per day

 An example of 1 ounce is 1 slice of whole grain bread or ½ cup of cooked grain such as brown rice, oats, whole grain pasta etc.

yogurtMilk products: 2-3 servings per day:

A serving is 1 cup milk or 1 cup yogurt or 1 cup Greek yogurt. Locally produced Organic or grass fed sources of dairy products are recommended.

Slide16   California Extra Virgin Olive oil*: 1 to 4 Tablespoons per day

These are the foods to eat on a weekly or almost weekly basis and the amounts per week:

Slide14   Legumes (cooked dry beans and peas)*: 3 -6 cups per week

Slide18  Fish: 6-15 ounces per week (wild or sustainably raised, fresh or frozen)

chicken    Chicken:  6-15 ounces per week ( Preferably Organically grown or cage free vegetarian fed and grown without antibiotics or growth additives)

The following foods are not necessary but can be eaten weekly in the following amounts if desired:

cheese 2Cheese: 0-3 ounces per week (organic or grass fed dairy preferred)

oil and margarine  Non-hydrogenated soft tub margarine, mayonnaise, canola and/or grapeseed oil: 0-3 Tablespoons per week * (non GMO canola oil preferred)

butter  Butter: 0-2 Tablespoons per week (organic or grass fed dairy preferred)

red meat 3Red Meat: lean cuts of grass-fed beef, lamb, pork: 0-8 ounces per week

eggs Whole Eggs: 0-3 per week (free range or organic, vegetarian fed preferred )

chocolate  Dark chocolate:0-3 ounces per week

sugars and sweeteners   Sweeteners (honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, organic sugar):

  0-7 Tablespoons per week

The foods listed below are foods to eat less frequently than once a week. They are foods eaten mostly for entertainment, not nutritional value. They are not a necessary part of the diet but would be fine to have on occasion if desired: Fatty cuts of meat such as pork shoulder, ribs, bacon, sausage, salami, marbled beef steaks, etc. Ice cream Homemade baked goods (cookies, pies, cakes, etc.) and other baked foods/breads made with white flour and sugar Candy Cream Gravy, cream sauces There are a lot of foods I do not recommend eating so I did not bother to list those but they are mostly processed foods such as: fast foods, foods with artificial flavors and colors, baked goods made with shortening, sodas…you know…junk food.

Slide36Packaged processed snack foods are not part of a California Mediterranean Diet!

Slide35Processed, nitrate-preserved meats, and packaged meals are not part of a California Mediterranean Diet either!

Vitamin Mineral Supplements: Women over 50 may benefit from Calcium Citrate (The most easily absorbed form of calcium): 1000 mg (or less depending upon current dietary intake of calcium sources) per day with Vitamin D. Men and women over 50 may benefit from B complex (mostly for B12) If fish intake is on the low end of the range consider omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil). 1200 mg total EPA plus DHA per day. (If you have any medical conditions or are taking any prescription medications check with your doctor or dietitian before starting any supplement regimen)

Another important part of a Mediterranean Diet is how and where the food is eaten. Food should be savored in a pleasant setting and with the company of family or friends.

© 2014. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any of this content without written permission of the author is strictly prohibited.

Pomegranates: How to get the seeds and how to make pomegranate juice

Pomegranates are such a beautiful, nutritious fruit that it is a shame that so few people get the chance to enjoy them. Many are intimidated by the process of removing the seeds, and obtaining juice from the seeds is even more overwhelming. But the delicious reward for your endeavours is unequaled, and it really can be a relatively clean and painless process if done correctly.

Often the pomegranates you buy in the store have been picked before they are fully ripe. The best pomegranates are the ones that are so ripe they have started to crack. Obviously at this point they do not store well but this is when the color is the darkest and they are the most sweet. We try to pick our pomegranates right before they crack. Unfortunately when I picked today for the market on Tuesday, we had waited so long most of them looked like this.

I won’t be able to sell this pomegranate but it will make great juice and it will be easy to open!

We use most of the pomegranates we grow to make juice. We love to
mix the juice with tonic water, or spirits such as vodka or tequila to make
cocktails. It also can be boiled down to make pomegranate syrup to use in

We tried using citrus presses and other easy methods to make
the juice, but we have found that the skin and pulp impart bitter flavors to the juice
so we have gone back to using a somewhat laborious method which involves
first removing the seeds from the pomegranate, then getting juice from the

Here is how tp get the seeds from the pomegranate:

First remove the skin from the top and bottom of the
pomegranate. Cut around the circumference but only through the skin, not
deep enough to cut the seeds. This will prevent the task from becoming a big
juicy mess!Cut around the circumference of the pomegranate both top and bottom but do not cut through the seeds, only through the skin.

Now peel off the skin. Notice the seeds are whole.This is because they were not cut with the knife.

Peeling off the top and bottom to reveal the lovely seeds inside.

There can be some pomegranate spray, so I usually do this step and the steps afterwards holding the pomegranate under a bowl full of water.  The water contains almost every bit of spray. If I do this while watching TV rather than outside or in the kitchen, I cover the sofa with an old sheet as an extra precaution.

Now cut from top to bottom in about 5 or 6 locations around the perimeter of the pomegranate. Again, these are shallow cuts that only cut the skin, not the seeds.

Now  break the pomegranate apart along the natural segments, and remove the seeds from each segment. This is less messy if it is done under water.

Note the natural segments of seeds that have separated from the skin and membrane.  Gently scrap away those seeds from the membrane and let them drop into the water.

The white pulp will float to the top and the seeds will sink to
the bottom of the water. Now skim the pulp off the top of the water,
and strain the seeds, and they are ready to go.

If you dry the seeds on a cloth and then store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator, with folded paper towels on the top of the seeds, they can last for weeks. You can sprinkle them on salad, on your yogurt and oatmeal or just grab handfuls for snacks.

If you want to take it to the next level, you can make juice.

Here is a huge soup pot filled with pomegranate seeds ready for making juice.
Adrian often does this job while he is watching TV. He covers the sofa with a sheet because he prefers to not use the water, so it can become a somewhat messy job. Check out that sheet.The juice can be made with either raw or cooked pomegranates. We have found it is somewhat sweeter if we cook them. If you are planning to make juice and do not have a juice press, you should heat them to get the maximum yield. Put a small amount of water in the bottom of the pot, smash them down slightly with a potato masher to release more liquid, put on the cover, and slowly heat the pomegranates, stirring occasionally, until they have come to a simmer and have broken down but have not boiled, and the juice has been released. Then let them cool.

These are the pomegranates after heating and cooling. They are now ready to be pressed.

Cooked pomegranate seeds ready to be made into juice.

The seeds are then placed into a juice bag which we purchased, along with our little tabletop press, at The Beverage People, which is in Santa Rosa. It is an Italian Fruit Press and is made by Ferrari. You can also use a large piece of muslin if you are planning to squeeze the juice by hand.

The pressing-1Pouring seeds and juice into tabletop press

Before we had this tabletop press, we used a large old wine press we had, and before that we just used muslin or a cloth bag and squeezed by hand. The little tabletop press is by far the best way to go when you have a lot of pomegranates and are planning to make juice every year.

If you are doing this by hand, just place the pomegranate seeds in a fine mesh strainer and let the juice run out freely. Then put the seeds in a muslin bag or in the middle of a large muslin piece and twist the top until the juice is squeezed out of the bag. Continue to twist and squeeze the bag or fabric until you can get as much juice out as possible. You can get about 3/4 of the juice out without using a press. We got about 1 cup of juice per pound of seeds squeezing by hand. This is the seeds from 2 large pomegranates.

We put the bag of pomegranate seeds in the press, gradually
screw it down to create pressure on the seeds and the juice runs out of the
spout into our collection device.

The juice-1This may be the best pomegranate juice you have ever tasted!

From there we pour it into bottles and freeze or can it to use year round.

Nutrition Note: pomegranates are high in phyto-nutrients
associated with a reduction in disease. Much of the strongest research has suggested that eating pomegranates or drinking the juice can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. The research on reducing the risk of prostate cancer has been especially promising.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

California Summer Farro Salad

The finished saladCalifornia Summer Farro Salad

This salad showcases a unique method of preparing zucchini for salads by shaving and salting it. Every fresh ingredient in this recipe is in season right now, making this salad a showcase of healthy California summer produce.  Serve California Summer Farro Salad as a light main course for lunch, or add some grilled chicken or fish, or perhaps some cooked dried beans or other legumes for a heavier, higher protein dinner.

For the farro in this recipe I use the 10 minute farro from Trader Joe’s.  I empty the whole bag in 6 cups of boiling water with ½ teaspoon salt and cook it boiling and uncovered for 10-15 minutes until it is tender, then drain it. The whole bag makes about 4 cups, which is the right amount for this recipe.

Unprocessed farro can take a very long time to cook, whereas quick-cooking or pearled farro will take less time to cook and will be less chewy when done. Read the directions for whatever product you plan to use and cook it accordingly.

In the last 5 minutes of cooking the farro for this recipe, add the chopped kale or chard if you are planning to use it.

Ingredients for Salad

  • 4 cups warm drained cooked farro (½ teaspoon salt used in cooking water) with
  • 1 cup of washed chopped greens such as chard or kale.added to the farro during the last 5 minutes of cooking (these greens are optional but add color, flavor and nutritional value)
  • 2  Tablespoons California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 cups (about 3-4 medium) zucchini, shaved, salted with ¼ teaspoon salt, mixed and drained according to these directions (It will be about 2-3 cups after salting, draining and pressing)
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped fresh tomato
  • 1 cup chopped red and/or green bell pepper
  • ½ cup sliced pitted Kalamata olives
  • ¼ pound low-fat feta cheese, crumbled.

 The salad dressing ingredients:

  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (this is the juice of about 2 large juicy lemons)
  • ½ cup California extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large fresh cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped.
  • Leaves from 2 large sprigs of fresh oregano, finely chopped (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • Leaves from 2 large sprigs of fresh mint, finely chopped (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • ¼ cup of finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons of anchovy paste
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper


  • Mix all the dressing ingredients together and set aside
  • Cook the farro (and kale or chard if using) and prepare the zucchini (the zucchini must sit after salting for at least ½ hour)
  •  Once the farro is cooked, drain it and immediately stir in the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Let the farro sit until it is no longer hot. Lukewarm is fine.
  •  Add all the other salad ingredients to the farro.

All the ingredients ready to mixCalifornia Summer Farro Salad Ingredients

  • Pour the salad dressing over the ingredients and mix well. Serve right away, or refrigerate for up to 2 days before serving.

zucchini and farro salad_edited-1A Healthy Sized Serving of California Summer Farro Salad

© 2013. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any of this content without written permission of the author is strictly prohibited.