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Darina Allen: Ferment to be — recipes for World Microbiome Day – Irish Examiner

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In Ayurvedic and Chinese healing traditions, the dialogue between the gut and the brain has long been recognised.
Learn how to cook with Darina’s top recipes
Celebrate World Microbiome Day on June 27.
In our crazy world, many of us know far more about the lives of celebrities than we do about the source of the food that we and our families eat. Nonetheless, we have become increasingly paranoid: can’t eat this, can’t eat that. Meanwhile, in supermarkets, free-from and supplement aisles are gaining more space.
For the past year and a half, we’ve lived in a climate of fear. Covid-19 has made us even more paranoid about bacteria, microbes, viruses. We sanitise from morning until night, carry little vials in our handbags, and worry endlessly that there are bacteria waiting to pounce. Scientists and microbiologists are becoming ever more concerned. In our sanitising frenzy, we may also eliminate many beneficial bacteria that help protect us. 
Humans have co-evolved with microbes, bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea since time began. They are everywhere, on plants and animals, in water, soil, food, and all over us humans. Most are beneficial, a few are pathogenic. They are also in the soils and oceans of the world, on every surface, there are trillions on the human body, on our skins in our mouths and 90-95% reside in our gut microbiome. 
In Ayurvedic and Chinese healing traditions, the dialogue between the gut and the brain has long been recognised, however, Western medicine failed until relatively recently to appreciate the complexity of how the brain, gut and microbiome communicate with each other.
The scientific study of the gut microbiome is relatively new. A growing body of research worldwide, with much done in UCC in Cork, has proved beyond any doubt that the biodiversity of our gut microbiome, has a profound impact not just on our physical but also on our mental health.
World Microbiome Day 2021 focuses on the potential of microbiomes for a sustainable future. It’s all about biodiversity, the greater the variety of fresh organic food we eat, the more healthy and diverse our gut microbiome becomes. Once again, it’s not rocket science, gut microbes love real food. They are totally confused by fake food so let’s cut ultra-processed food totally from your diet and concentrate on sourcing as much seasonal produce as possible with lots of fresh vegetables for roughage. Nature provides what we need year-round. Let’s learn how to recognise beneficial and edible food in the wild, incorporate them into our diets. They carry the antibodies of our area and have maximum nutrients because, unlike many other foods, they have not been manipulated to produce maximum yield at minimum cost, which is sadly the primary focus in mass food production these days to the detriment of our overall health.

Biodiversity is the key: eat as wide a range of seasonal and chemical-free range of foods as possible. So, concentrate on boosting your gut-biome. Local honey, local pastured eggs from organic free-range hens, local organic meat from free-ranging grass-fed animals and organic raw milk also boost our microbiome. Fermented foods are another must have — sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, water and milk kefir. Try to make your own, they’ll be infinitely more complex than most of what you can buy. Thick unctuous yoghurt preferably made from organic milk and collagen-rich homemade home broths. In fact, all real food will stimulate and delight the almost 2kg of microbes in our gut and you’ll feel the better for it both mentally and physically.

Ballymaloe Cookery School homemade yoghurt

recipe by:Darina Allen

Ballymaloe natural yoghurt is made from the rich milk of a small Jersey herd – rich, creamy and delicious with added nuts and fruit

Ballymaloe Cookery School homemade yoghurt

Preparation Time

14 hours 0 mins

Cooking Time

10 mins

Total Time

14 hours 10 mins

Course

Side

Ingredients

  • 600ml fresh milk

  • 2-3 tsp live yoghurt or natural bacillus

  • runny honey

  • Medjool dates

  • thick cream

  • almonds, unblanched

Method

  1. Heat the milk to 90°C in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Allow to cool to 42°C. Gently stir or whisk in the yoghurt.

  2. Leave in the saucepan or pour into a deep terracotta bowl or a wide mouth flask works brilliantly. Cover and put into a warm draught-free place until set. This usually takes about 14 hours. The cooler the temperature, the longer the yoghurt will take to set, but too high a temperature will kill the bacillus and the yoghurt will not form (over 50°C).

  3. The simple aim is to provide steady even warmth to allow the bacillus to grow. Remember to keep back 2 tablespoons of yoghurt as the starter of the next lot.

  4. To enjoy a yoghurt snack, for each person half-fill a pudding bowl or glass with yoghurt.

  5. Stone dates and chop them roughly. Put a few on the top of each helping of yoghurt.

  6. Spoon a good dollop of thick cream over the top, then trickle over 1 teaspoon of runny honey.

  7. Scatter a few more coarsely chopped almonds on top. Pistachio nuts are also delicious and perhaps a few shredded mint leaves.

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{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “Leave in the saucepan or pour into a deep terracotta bowl or a wide mouth flask works brilliantly. Cover and put into a warm draught-free place until set. This usually takes about 14 hours. The cooler the temperature, the longer the yoghurt will take to set, but too high a temperature will kill the bacillus and the yoghurt will not form (over 50°C).”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “The simple aim is to provide steady even warmth to allow the bacillus to grow. Remember to keep back 2 tablespoons of yoghurt as the starter of the next lot.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “To enjoy a yoghurt snack, for each person half-fill a pudding bowl or glass with yoghurt.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “Stone dates and chop them roughly. Put a few on the top of each helping of yoghurt.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “Spoon a good dollop of thick cream over the top, then trickle over 1 teaspoon of runny honey.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “Scatter a few more coarsely chopped almonds on top. Pistachio nuts are also delicious and perhaps a few shredded mint leaves.”

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“recipeCuisine”: “”
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recipe by:Darina Allen
Ballymaloe natural yoghurt is made from the rich milk of a small Jersey herd – rich, creamy and delicious with added nuts and fruit
Preparation Time
Cooking Time
Total Time
Course
Ingredients
600ml fresh milk
2-3 tsp live yoghurt or natural bacillus
runny honey
Medjool dates
thick cream
almonds, unblanched
Method
Heat the milk to 90°C in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Allow to cool to 42°C. Gently stir or whisk in the yoghurt.
Leave in the saucepan or pour into a deep terracotta bowl or a wide mouth flask works brilliantly. Cover and put into a warm draught-free place until set. This usually takes about 14 hours. The cooler the temperature, the longer the yoghurt will take to set, but too high a temperature will kill the bacillus and the yoghurt will not form (over 50°C).
The simple aim is to provide steady even warmth to allow the bacillus to grow. Remember to keep back 2 tablespoons of yoghurt as the starter of the next lot.
To enjoy a yoghurt snack, for each person half-fill a pudding bowl or glass with yoghurt.
Stone dates and chop them roughly. Put a few on the top of each helping of yoghurt.
Spoon a good dollop of thick cream over the top, then trickle over 1 teaspoon of runny honey.
Scatter a few more coarsely chopped almonds on top. Pistachio nuts are also delicious and perhaps a few shredded mint leaves.

Yoghurt with Honey, Dates and Almonds
unsweetened natural yoghurt, very cold
runny honey
Medjool dates
thick cream
almonds (with the inner brown skin left on i.e unblanched)

1. For each person half-fill a pudding bowl or glass with yoghurt.
2. Stone dates and chop them roughly. Put a few on the top of each helping of yogurt.
3. Spoon a good dollop of thick cream over the top, then trickle over 1 teaspoon of runny honey.
4. Scatter a few more coarsely chopped almonds on top. Pistachio nuts are also delicious and perhaps a few shredded mint leaves.

Penny Allen’s milk and honey kefir

recipe by:Darina Allen

Milk kefir is a probiotic drink a bit like a slightly effervescent yoghurt, great as a marinade to tenderise meat; or add spices to make lassi

Penny Allen’s milk and honey kefir

Servings

6

Preparation Time

12 hours 0 mins

Total Time

12 hours 0 mins

Course

Side

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp milk kefir grains

  • 250ml milk

  • honey to taste, vanilla or spices

Method

  1. Put your grains into a glass jar. Add the milk and stir gently with a non-metal spoon. Cover the jar with a clean cloth and put it somewhere out of direct sunlight.

  2. Let it sit for 12-24 hours until it reaches the desired sourness. Stir from time to time. This helps it to ferment evenly. Taste it after 12 hours.

  3. When the kefir has reached the desirable taste, strain the kefir through a plastic sieve into a bowl. You might need to help it through with a plastic spoon. You will be left with the kefir grains in the sieve, ready to be reused. Don’t be tempted to wash them.

  4. You can now make the basic recipe again. As the grains multiply you can make larger batches.

  5. To the strained kefir you can now add something like honey, a vanilla pod or spices to add flavour.

  6. If you want to take a break from brewing kefir just put the grains into a fresh cup of milk and put it in the fridge. This will slow down fermentation for a few days.

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“name”: “Penny Allen’s milk and honey kefir”,
“description”: “Milk kefir is a probiotic drink a bit like a slightly effervescent yoghurt, great as a marinade to tenderise meat; or add spices to make lassi”,
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,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “Let it sit for 12-24 hours until it reaches the desired sourness. Stir from time to time. This helps it to ferment evenly. Taste it after 12 hours.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “When the kefir has reached the desirable taste, strain the kefir through a plastic sieve into a bowl. You might need to help it through with a plastic spoon. You will be left with the kefir grains in the sieve, ready to be reused. Don’t be tempted to wash them.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “You can now make the basic recipe again. As the grains multiply you can make larger batches.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “To the strained kefir you can now add something like honey, a vanilla pod or spices to add flavour.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “If you want to take a break from brewing kefir just put the grains into a fresh cup of milk and put it in the fridge. This will slow down fermentation for a few days.”

}

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recipe by:Darina Allen
Milk kefir is a probiotic drink a bit like a slightly effervescent yoghurt, great as a marinade to tenderise meat; or add spices to make lassi
Servings
Preparation Time
Total Time
Course
Ingredients
1 tbsp milk kefir grains
250ml milk
honey to taste, vanilla or spices
Method
Put your grains into a glass jar. Add the milk and stir gently with a non-metal spoon. Cover the jar with a clean cloth and put it somewhere out of direct sunlight.
Let it sit for 12-24 hours until it reaches the desired sourness. Stir from time to time. This helps it to ferment evenly. Taste it after 12 hours.
When the kefir has reached the desirable taste, strain the kefir through a plastic sieve into a bowl. You might need to help it through with a plastic spoon. You will be left with the kefir grains in the sieve, ready to be reused. Don’t be tempted to wash them.
You can now make the basic recipe again. As the grains multiply you can make larger batches.
To the strained kefir you can now add something like honey, a vanilla pod or spices to add flavour.
If you want to take a break from brewing kefir just put the grains into a fresh cup of milk and put it in the fridge. This will slow down fermentation for a few days.

Penny Allen’s Sauerkraut

recipe by:Darina Allen

This rich Sauerkraut is easy to make and delicious, perfect to add to soups and stews or as a delicate topping on crusty bread

Penny Allen’s Sauerkraut

Servings

6

Preparation Time

120 hours 0 mins

Total Time

120 hours 0 mins

Course

Side

Ingredients

  • 800g cabbage or 500g cabbage plus 300g mixture of any of the following: grated carrot, turnip, celeriac, onion

  • 3 tsp sea salt

  • 1l Kilner jar or similar receptacle

  • 1 small jam jar to act as a weight inside the lid of the 1l jar

Method

  1. Wash the cabbage. Take off any damaged outside leaves. Quarter the cabbage, core it, and then finely shred each quarter.

  2. Mix the cabbage and the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Using your hands, scrunch cabbage and other vegetables with the salt until you begin to feel the juices being released. Continue for a few minutes. Pack a little at a time in your Kilner jar and press down hard using your fist — this packs the kraut tight and helps force more water out of the vegetables. Fill the jar about 80% full to leave room for liquid that will come out of the vegetables as it starts to ferment.

  3. Place a clean weight on top of the cabbage (a small jar or container filled with water works well). This weight is to keep the vegetables submerged under the brine. This is the most important thing to get your ferment off to the right start. (Under the brine, all will be fine!)

  4. Sit the jar on a plate just in case some brine escapes while it is fermenting. Place on a countertop and allow to ferment for at least 5 days. Ideally, leave it for 10 days to 2 weeks. As you eat the kraut make sure the remainder is well covered in brine by pushing the vegetables under the brine and sealing well. It will keep for months, the flavour develops and matures over time. Once you have opened it, it’s best to keep it in the fridge where it will last for months.

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,

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“text”: “Mix the cabbage and the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Using your hands, scrunch cabbage and other vegetables with the salt until you begin to feel the juices being released. Continue for a few minutes. Pack a little at a time in your Kilner jar and press down hard using your fist — this packs the kraut tight and helps force more water out of the vegetables. Fill the jar about 80% full to leave room for liquid that will come out of the vegetables as it starts to ferment.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “Place a clean weight on top of the cabbage (a small jar or container filled with water works well). This weight is to keep the vegetables submerged under the brine. This is the most important thing to get your ferment off to the right start. (Under the brine, all will be fine!)”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “Sit the jar on a plate just in case some brine escapes while it is fermenting. Place on a countertop and allow to ferment for at least 5 days. Ideally, leave it for 10 days to 2 weeks. As you eat the kraut make sure the remainder is well covered in brine by pushing the vegetables under the brine and sealing well. It will keep for months, the flavour develops and matures over time. Once you have opened it, it’s best to keep it in the fridge where it will last for months.”

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recipe by:Darina Allen
This rich Sauerkraut is easy to make and delicious, perfect to add to soups and stews or as a delicate topping on crusty bread
Servings
Preparation Time
Total Time
Course
Ingredients
800g cabbage or 500g cabbage plus 300g mixture of any of the following: grated carrot, turnip, celeriac, onion
3 tsp sea salt
1l Kilner jar or similar receptacle
1 small jam jar to act as a weight inside the lid of the 1l jar
Method
Wash the cabbage. Take off any damaged outside leaves. Quarter the cabbage, core it, and then finely shred each quarter.
Mix the cabbage and the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Using your hands, scrunch cabbage and other vegetables with the salt until you begin to feel the juices being released. Continue for a few minutes. Pack a little at a time in your Kilner jar and press down hard using your fist — this packs the kraut tight and helps force more water out of the vegetables. Fill the jar about 80% full to leave room for liquid that will come out of the vegetables as it starts to ferment.
Place a clean weight on top of the cabbage (a small jar or container filled with water works well). This weight is to keep the vegetables submerged under the brine. This is the most important thing to get your ferment off to the right start. (Under the brine, all will be fine!)
Sit the jar on a plate just in case some brine escapes while it is fermenting. Place on a countertop and allow to ferment for at least 5 days. Ideally, leave it for 10 days to 2 weeks. As you eat the kraut make sure the remainder is well covered in brine by pushing the vegetables under the brine and sealing well. It will keep for months, the flavour develops and matures over time. Once you have opened it, it’s best to keep it in the fridge where it will last for months.

Chicken bone broth and stock

recipe by:Darina Allen

This guideline recipe produces 6 pints of rich, flavoursome stock and broth which will keep for several days in the refrigerator

Chicken bone broth and stock

Servings

12

Cooking Time

3 hours 0 mins

Total Time

3 hours 0 mins

Course

Side

Ingredients

  • 2-3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both giblets from the chicken (neck, heart, gizzard)

  • 1 onion, sliced

  • 1 leek, halved

  • 2 outside celery stalks or 2 lovage leaves

  • 1 carrot, cut into chunks

  • a few parsley stalks

  • sprig of thyme

  • 6 peppercorns

Method

  1. Chop up the carcasses as much as possible. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about 3.4l cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon.

  2. Simmer very gently for 3-4 hours. Strain and remove any remaining fat. Do not add salt.

  3. For the broth, continue to cook for a further hour or so.

  4. Add a tablespoon of wine vinegar which helps to extract even more minerals and helps to breakdown the cartilage and other connective tissues in the bones of the chicken, which helps speed up the formation of gelatine in the stock. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze in convenient containers.

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“name”: “Darina Allen ”
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“2-3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both giblets from the chicken (neck, heart, gizzard)”
,

“1 onion, sliced”
,

“1 leek, halved”
,

“2 outside celery stalks or 2 lovage leaves”
,

“1 carrot, cut into chunks”
,

“a few parsley stalks”
,

“sprig of thyme”
,

“6 peppercorns”

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{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “Chop up the carcasses as much as possible. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about 3.4l cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon.”

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,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “Simmer very gently for 3-4 hours. Strain and remove any remaining fat. Do not add salt.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “For the broth, continue to cook for a further hour or so.”

}
,

{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“text”: “Add a tablespoon of wine vinegar which helps to extract even more minerals and helps to breakdown the cartilage and other connective tissues in the bones of the chicken, which helps speed up the formation of gelatine in the stock. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze in convenient containers.”

}

],
“recipeYield”: [
“12”
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“keywords”: “Recipe Occasion Store cupboard”,

“cookTime”: “PT180M”,

“totalTime”: “PT180M”,

“recipeCategory”: “Side”,
“recipeCuisine”: “”
}

recipe by:Darina Allen
This guideline recipe produces 6 pints of rich, flavoursome stock and broth which will keep for several days in the refrigerator
Servings
Cooking Time
Total Time
Course
Ingredients
2-3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both giblets from the chicken (neck, heart, gizzard)
1 onion, sliced
1 leek, halved
2 outside celery stalks or 2 lovage leaves
1 carrot, cut into chunks
a few parsley stalks
sprig of thyme
6 peppercorns
Method
Chop up the carcasses as much as possible. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about 3.4l cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon.
Simmer very gently for 3-4 hours. Strain and remove any remaining fat. Do not add salt.
For the broth, continue to cook for a further hour or so.
Add a tablespoon of wine vinegar which helps to extract even more minerals and helps to breakdown the cartilage and other connective tissues in the bones of the chicken, which helps speed up the formation of gelatine in the stock. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze in convenient containers.
HOT TIPS
The Ballymaloe Cookery School Field Café and Gardens
The Ballymaloe Cookery School Field Café has reopened for the Summer season. Serving delicious savoury and sweet treats — a killer affogato with our own homemade ice cream and coffee from The Golden Bean Roastery. Open Monday to Saturday from 10am – 4.30pm. Have you visited the Ballymaloe Cookery School gardens? 10 acres of formal vegetable, herb and fruit gardens, glasshouses, topiary border, shell house, pond garden, Celtic maze.. tickets are available in the Farm Shop.
The Tin Roof Food Truck
If you’re in the sunny South East, check out The Tin Roof Food Truck in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. They have a green area and picnic tables and have a food truck serving toasted sandwiches, sausage rolls, and great coffee. They also have new season’s Wexford strawberries and new potatoes on sale.

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Health and Lifestyle

Mount Laurel police asks public's help in finding child – Courier Post

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MOUNT LAUREL – Police are asking the public’s help in finding a 6-year-old girl who was allegedly abducted by her non-custodial mother.
The girl, Grace Craytor of Pennsauken, was last seen around 7:10 p.m. Monday with her mother, Kristina Maletteri, at Lifetime Fitness in Mount Laurel, according to township police.
The girl’s father, who has a full custody order for Grace, had invited Maletteri to swim with the child during a supervised visit at the facility at Church and Fellowship roads, said a police account.
 “At some point, Ms. Maletteri is said to have taken her daughter and left the area without consent,” the account said.
Maletteri is known to drive a 2017 silver Audi Q3 with New Jersey license plates “S64MPY.”
The missing child is 46 inches tall, 70 pounds, with blonde hair and hazel eyes, police said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Mount Laurel police at 856-234-8300 or the confidential tip line 856-234-1414, extension 1599.
Tips can also be emailed to Lamaro@mountlaurelpd.org.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
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Health and Lifestyle

Healthy Snacks for the Office – How to Pack Food for Work – menshealth.com

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Our product picks are editor-tested, expert-approved. We may earn a commission through links on our site.
Allow these experts to help pack your lunchbox.
Buh-bye, vending machine. Here are four easy ways to boost your energy at work. Plus, three moves to make any lunch meeting extra appetizing.
Combine carbs and protein for long-lasting energy, says Marisa Moore, R.D.N., an integrative dietitian. Mix roasted, lightly salted sunflower seeds and dried blueberries in a small jar for a snack that’s sweet, salty, and crunchy. Bonus: The unsaturated fats in the seeds will keep you feeling full.
A favorite of Cara Harbstreet, R.D., of Street Smart Nutrition, is protein- and omega-3-rich tuna or salmon (StarKist makes packaged versions) spread on sliced cucumbers or mini bell peppers. Drizzle with your favorite hot sauce for a tiny yet protein-packed meal.
Jordan Mazur, R.D., director of nutrition for the San Francisco 49ers, suggests these key ingredients: shredded rotisserie chicken for lean protein; pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds,dried tart cherries, and dark chocolate chips for a healthy trail mix; and antioxidant-rich blueberries or grapes.
Don’t go more than three to four hours without eating, to help keep your blood sugar steady. You can avoid mindless snacking by setting an alarm to get up every hour instead of reaching for the chips, says Kelly Hogan Laubinger, R.D
As we head back to the office, those DIY outdoor lunches can still be the thing to do.
TRY A HEARTY SALAD IN A JAR, says Moore. Build it from the bottom up: Start with a vinaigrette, then add chickpeas, carrots, tomatoes, olives, and cucumbers. Add feta to the top for a salty, tangy finish. Close, and shake when ready to eat.
REINVENT YOUR SANDWICH. Slapping protein and a salad’s worth of greens between whole-grain bread works well, too: Try sliced turkey or canned tuna, topped with sprouts, cucumbers, leafy greens, avocado, and tomato.
MAKE A HEALTHY CHEESE BOARD, says Harbstreet. Go with hard cheeses like cheddar and Gouda and a soft cheese like cottage. Pair pita bread or crispy crackers with jerky or low-sodium deli meats. Then toss in pistachios and blueberries.
This article appears in the October 2021 issue of Men’s Health.

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Health and Lifestyle

Alyson Chu named Mrs. Winter Garden America – West Orange Times & Windermere Observer

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Alyson Chu has created a healthy lifestyle for herself and her family, and she wants to share it with others. The West Orange County resident accepted the Mrs. Winter Garden America title in October, and, through her platform, is partnering with Shepherd’s Hope and its new Healthy Eating Active Lifestyle program.
Chu will compete Feb. 25 and 26, 2022, at the Westgate Resort Orlando for the title of Mrs. Florida America 2022. She is the first person to hold the Mrs. Winter Garden Florida title.

 Email: [email protected]
 Instagram: @_alysonpaige_ 
 Facebook: Alyson Chu
 LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/alysonchu
Contestants are nominated by members of the pageant committee.
“Someone from the committee had known about me in the community and reached out … and (wanted) me to apply and be considered for the role,” Chu said.
She went through the application and interview process before the title was bestowed upon her. She is one of about 20 contestants vying for the crown at the state level.
As Mrs. Winter Garden, Chu is available to speak to organizations and community groups sharing her story and her platform of healthy living. She already has spoken to students at Maxey Elementary School about healthy eating and staying active, as well as a group of senior citizens at the West Orange Neighborhood Center.
Chu said she did her own research after accepting her title, wanting to select an organization that allowed her to give back to the community but also aligned with the healthy lifestyle she has embraced. She reached out to Healthy West Orange, which directed her to Shepherd’s Hope.
“I went to go tour their facility about a month ago, and I was so taken aback by all the services they offer and all the new projects they offer,” she said. “The biggest thing for them is making more people aware that they’re located there and the services they offer.”
Her goal is to raise awareness of Shepherd’s Hope’s HEAL program, which promotes eating healthy and staying active. It is slated to start in the new year.
“HEAL addresses your mind, body and soul,” Chu said. “Examples are eating healthy foods, growing healthy foods, exercising (and) practicing mindfulness. Another part is mental health, and I’m proud to be working with Victoria’s Voice.”
This foundation was started after the death of Victoria Siegel, the 18-year-old daughter of David and Jackie Siegel, who died of a drug overdose in 2015.
Chu said she is excited about this next chapter in her life and the opportunity to help others. She has lived in Central Florida since 2007, and she and her husband Ryan, moved to Winter Garden in 2016. They have a 3-year-old daughter, Aliyah.
“We definitely fell in love with the sense of community the city has to offer,” she said.
The Mrs. Florida America Pageant is a part of the Mrs. America Organization.
The 2022 pageant is Feb. 25 and 26, when Brittany Carson, the 2021 Mrs. Florida America, will be on hand to crown her successor. Carson, a native Floridian born and raised in Central Florida, is an advanced practice nurse practitioner caring for critical patients in the emergency room setting. Her platform is child safety and drug prevention.
Sponsorship is key to being a successful pageant contestant. Chu has several sponsors but is looking for others who can support her platform and her bid for Mrs. Florida America.
“If anyone would like to support my cause, please email me,” she said. “I have some great opportunities that showcase local businesses that help support a healthy lifestyle. I will be working with Shepherd's Hope organization, and a portion of the sponsorships will be helping families in need by expanding outreach and providing healthy meals.”
She also has been working with local farms creating healthy food baskets and giving them to families in need, she said.
“I wanted to do this because I wanted to create a legacy for my daughter to know me as more than just her mommy, but someone who wanted to help give back to her community and help others in need,” Chu said. “I want to continue to show my daughter what it means to live a healthy lifestyle and build a strong foundation.”
 
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Amy Quesinberry is the community editor of the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She was born and raised in Winter Garden, grew up reading the community newspaper and has been employed there as a writer, photographer and editor since 1990….
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