Vitamin D: What It Is and How To Get It

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important vitamin used by our bodies to assist in the absorption and use of the bone-building mineral calcium. Persons that are deficient in vitamin D are at greater risk of having bones that are soft, weak, or misshapen. Emerging evidence is also suggesting that vitamin D may play an important role in other bodily processes, including modulating cell growth, boosting the immune system, and reducing inflammation.

Our bodies obtain Vitamin D in three ways. The most common is for our bodies to make it from a substance that our skin produces after it is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) B rays. However, several factors can interfere with this process. One is the use of sunscreen, which blocks UVB rays from reaching our skin. Another is the onset of winter, a time when the sun’s rays are weaker, there are fewer daylight hours, and more of our skin is covered by bulky clothing.

In the absence of sunlight, our bodies must obtain vitamin D from either dietary supplements or certain foods. In the case of supplements, my preference is take them only under a doctor’s supervision, since taking too many risks vitamin toxicity and other negative side effects. Supplements can also interact with other medications.

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Ricotta Tartines

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Early last summer my 16-year old daughter introduced me to tartines, those classic French open-faced sandwiches that suggest a vibrant fruit tart but with vegetables. I had taken her to lunch at a nearby café to celebrate the start of her summer vacation. As she scanned the menu, she pointed to a section labeled “Tartines” and mentioned that her high school French class had talked about them a few weeks earlier. She then launched into an enthusiastic explanation of how they are made.

I was reminded of that day a few weeks ago when I was browsing recipes in the New York Times and ran across a David Tanis column on the subject. In Grilled Cheese? Try a Tartine Recipe Instead, Tanis describes tartines as similar to a small pizza made of toasted bread, cheese, and any number of savory toppings. He also observes that tartines are a popular menu item in tiny neighborhood cafes and bistros in Paris presumably because of their convenience.

This got me to thinking about how tartines could be a great weekday option for busy families. They can be prepared on the fly and customized to fit both the time of day and individual preferences. Cleanup is minimal since they require the use of only a few dishes. Most importantly, everyone can participate in their preparation, even the kids.

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Late Summer Vegetable Sauté

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Ask most people what makes their favorite food appealing, and they’ll describe its delicious flavor or rhapsodize over its mouth-watering aroma. For many, food’s appeal is measured largely in terms of taste and smell.

Texture, on the other hand, usually receives less attention. It’s true that a few foods are touted for their creamy consistency, with yogurt being one such item that comes to mind. But, really, when was the last time you were tempted to eat a food (processed snacks aside) based on how it felt rather than tasted?

Take fresh corn, for example. Every year as piles of freshly picked ears start to appear around the country, lovers of all things corn find any number of ways to highlight its seasonal sweetness. Joe Yonan of the Washington Post finds it goes perfectly as the headliner in a simple pasta sauce. Melissa Clark of the New York Times uses it to flavor ice cream. Even my favorite radio foodie program, the Splendid Table, re-aired a story recently explaining the genetic basis for why different strains of corn display differing levels of sweetness.

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Creamy Corn Soup

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Corn is one of those vegetables that shines in any number of recipes. Whether eaten straight from the cob, seasoned with only some salt, pepper, and butter, or mixed with other colorful ingredients to make a summery salad, corn is a true culinary star.

Yet despite this virtuosity, I have never seen corn play the leading role in a soup. Of course there’s corn chowder, a chunky soup that most would agree is hard to resist. But that’s an ensemble performance in which the corn has to share the stage with potatoes, milk and often a bit of bacon. No, the soup I’m talking about is one where corn is the soloist, the lead performer, the headliner in a one-person show of edible hits. And in this particular performance, it seems that corn is a perennial no-show.

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Roasted Carrots with Labneh

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No doubt about it, week night dinners in a household with kids are always stressful. You’re tired, you’re transitioning from day to evening activities, and the kids are clamoring for something to eat, preferably from one of their favorite food groups, somewhat white, mostly white, or entirely white. At times like that, it’s understandably tempting to abandon your resolve to eat healthier and ply them with french fries and a soon-to-be paler version of Kraft’s iconic mac & cheese in exchange for a bit of peace and quiet.

But before you give in to that impulse, consider the following option. Why not do as the Romans do (and the Spanish, and the French, and the Greeks, among others) and serve up a small plate of something healthy that your kids can nibble on while you go about the business of preparing the evening meal? Read More