Green Sharlene

Eat to Beat the Heat

If the dog days of summer have you looking for ways to keep your cool besides spending all day at the movies, look no further than your plate. What we choose to eat affects our bodies in many ways, including regulating our internal thermostat. Paying attention to what your body naturally craves during the warmest months can help you feel your best as the mercury climbs. Our bodies reflect what’s going on outside, so choosing cooling foods is one of the best defenses against getting over-heated.

Salty, spicy foods tend to heat the body, while dark greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, and foods with high water content, like cucumber, celery, and watermelon—a family favorite—are cooling. My family and I are currently on a mission to find the best local watermelon, and I must say, we’re enjoying the hunt. The kids like to make popsicles and use cookie cutters to create fun shapes, and watermelon slices are the ultimate hassle-free dessert. Grandma has been known to enjoy a watermelon martini, so we’re all getting creative and enjoying a summer favorite.

As we move through the warmest part of the year, remember to hydrate. It is so important to drink lots of water. Start your days with a big glass of water with a great breakfast then continue to hydrate between meals. We tend to eat lighter when it’s hot outside and that gives your body a break so it doesn’t have to work as hard to digest your meal.

During triple-digit days, I like to avoid using the oven and stovetop completely, so I’m always thinking about new ideas…what can make with no heat in the house? The kids love making smoothies, a perfect quick, healthy breakfast or afternoon snack, and I like to experiment, adding herbs for extra flavor and nutritional kick. Fortunately, living in the middle of an incredibly rich and diverse agricultural region, gives us plenty to work with. When we do cook in the heat of summer, it happens outdoors, which means we’ll roast a whole chicken & cook a batch of rice in the outdoors for the week, and we grill vegetables and fruit. We’ll cook a batch of beans on the porch in the slow cooker. Everything cooks outside. Our current go-to favorite salad is fresh peaches with whole-leaf basil and walnuts, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a dash of cinnamon. No cooking at all with this treat.

Having a garden is one of the best ways to eat seasonally, and take advantage of fresh, ripe, cooling foods. It’s also an easy way to involve children in meal planning and preparation. My kids are getting more involved with planting, harvesting and cooking, and I love watching their appreciation for real food bloom. Our garden is currently bursting at the seams with zucchini—hello, zoodles—and fresh tomatoes and herbs, and I’m making good use of our the walnuts from last fall’s harvest. With peaches, plums and apricots for dessert, we have healthy, nutritious options right in our own backyard.

It’s pretty easy to eat healthy, not to mention local, during the summer. As appetites generally shift with the seasons, I want to make sure we’re offering our restaurant guests an enticing selection, which is why we created the Green Sharlene options that offers lighter choices, such as the Green Sharlene monthly salad and the Green Sharlene omelette. We’re featuring spaghetti squash, and zoodles on occasion in place of pasta. Let us know what you think of these healthier options. Listening to your body and thinking fresh and local will not only help you stay cool, and feeling great. 


Green Sharlene

Spring Inspiration

I'm always happy when spring arrives; it’s like a promise of renewal after a long winter. It’s also the beginning of colors—in the garden, in the produce aisle, and at the local farmers markets. Everything is lighter, brighter, and popping with new flavors this time of year.

We’re so fortunate to live in an area where we’re literally surrounded by farmland. It makes it easy to eat seasonally and plan menus based on what local farmers have to offer. I get great joy from buying direct, seasonal, locally-grown foods because it’s tasty, healthy and it’s good for our local economy.  I like the relationship with our local growers and our food. Farmers make choices on how they can grow more sustainably, and this provides us with healthier foods and a healthier planet when they grow without harmful and very expensive chemicals. People are growing more and more interested in how and where our foods are coming from, and that is a good thing for our health and knowledge of our bodies.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables, picked at the peak of freshness, offer higher nutritional content an out of season, unripe foods. While it’s true that you can often find just about anything you’re looking for at a large grocery store, regardless of the time of year, that isn’t always a good thing. There’s a reason out-of-season produce looks and tastes so bland. It’s been picked early and shipped very long distances. 

Did you know that eating seasonally also helps to support our bodies’ natural cleansing and healing abilities? Leafy greens and vegetables like dandelion greens, spring onions, and spring garlic are great healing foods which detoxify the liver and cleanse the blood. By making conscious healthy eating habits, I have personally improved on my own health and well being, weaned myself off of BP medication (while consulting with my doctor), and I feel so good.

I look forward to all changes of the seasons and the flavors of each season’s harvest. After enjoying a winter of hearty slow-cooked soups and stews full of the earth tones of root vegetables, it is now time to spring into an explosion of color and crunch with sweet and fragrant ingredients. Some favorites are asparagus, spring onions and garlic, peas, lemons and cherries. Just like the weather, everything gets lighter and brighter. We all love quick and easy dishes, and with a few things from the garden and a bottle of your favorite olive oil you can toss together your favorite vegetables and herbs with pasta, local rice or beans for a perfect, healthy weeknight dinner.  Toast some fresh bread, and try a spread of mashed peas with butter, lemon and fresh herbs.

I was lucky to be brought up to think about the importance of eating fresh, local and in-season. My mother planted those seeds in me. She always cooked and we didn’t eat out, we ate at the dinner table. Dining out wasn’t in our family budget, and Mom didn’t believe that fast food was good for us. (she’s a smart cookie) Though I didn’t think it was cool at the time, I am so grateful now, that she fed and taught us well. I’m striving to teach my own children how important it is, to make good food choices, and make time together growing, preparing and enjoying real food. After all, the gift of health and enjoying each other are some of the greatest things we can give our children, and spring is the perfect time to begin the lesson.

The importance of eating with the seasons really can’t be overstated. Flavor and freshness are paramount, and living in California allows us to keep things close to home, whether it’s your favorite farmers market or your own backyard. In fact, roaming the aisles at the farmers market, or even scouting the produce section at your local grocery store can inspire you to get creative when you try things you’ve never cooked with before. For instance, I have no idea what I’d do with the stinging nettle I saw recently at the Yuba City Midweek Farmers Market, grown by farmer friend Lacie, of Robertson Family Farm. I’m going to search for recipes, experiment and find out. After all, I am Green Sharlene, as in always green with learning and getting out of my comfort zone to try something new. Why not challenge yourself to try one new ingredient every week and see what you come up with?


Green Sharlene