Find Your Blue Zone

There might not be a magic pill to help you live longer, but it turns out there might be a few magic places that can offer just that.

The average human’s life expectancy is about 72 years. Here in Washington State, we’re fortunate to have one of the best life expectancies in the country, averaging 82 years. As exciting as those numbers are, there are several other places across the globe that average 90–100 years.

They’re called Blue Zones—five areas identified as the healthiest places for people to thrive, where residents live longer and without medication or disability.

Diet, nutrition and exercise have a lot to do with it—including a relatively stress-free lifestyle. While living stress-free might be a lifelong journey, there are plenty of other notes you can take from Blue Zone destinations. See the five recipes below adapted from The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People.

Greek Potato Salad

Ikaria, Greece

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds medium red potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh oregano leaves, minced
  • 1 small head red leaf lettuce, cored and chopped
  • 2 cups arugula, chopped
  • ½ cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced lengthwise (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Steam the potatoes in a large saucepan by placing them in one to two inches of water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until potatoes are easily pierced. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large salad bowl.
  2. Mix seeds, oil, vinegar and oregano, and add a third of the mixture to the potatoes. Cover bowl and place in fridge to cool. Set the rest of the dressing aside at room temperature.
  3. Add the lettuce, arugula and mint leaves to the potatoes once cooled, and toss. Add garnish of your choosing (recommended: chopped almonds, scallions), eggs plus salt and pepper to taste.

Tofu Stir-Fry

Okinawa, Japan

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 12 ounces firm tofu
  • 1 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup bean sprouts
  • ½ cup diced onions
  • 1 cup spinach or kale, roughly chopped
  • Shichimi pepper or Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

Preparation

  1. In a large sauté pan, warm the sesame oil over medium-high heat and then brown the tofu on both sides, three to four minutes. Set aside.
  2. In the same pan, stir-fry the garlic, bean sprouts and onions over medium-high heat until brown, two to three minutes. Add oil to pan, if needed.
  3. Add the reserved tofu, spinach and soy sauce to pan and cook until greens are wilted, about 2 minutes. Toss all ingredients together while cooking to combine. Serve with rice.

Sardinian Flatbread

Ogliastra, Sardinia

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups semolina flour
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • Sprinkle fresh chopped rosemary
  • Salt

Preparation

  1. Combine the two flours with about a teaspoon of salt.
  2. In a small cup, dissolve the yeast in about 1/4 cup of the warm water, and let sit until bubbly. Add the yeast mixture to the flour with the rest of the water. Mix until dough is smooth, then cover and let sit one hour. Knead for five minutes and cover for another hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Spray two flat baking sheets with oil.
  4. Knead the dough once more and divide into eight equal balls. Roll each ball out as thinly as you can to fit the baking sheets, and bake each for five minutes in the preheated oven. The breads should blister but not yet brown.
  5. Remove from the oven and pile one on top of the other. Place a board or flat tray on top and let sit until cool.
  6. To prepare for serving, return each bread to the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Remove from the oven, brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh chopped rosemary and salt, and return to the oven for a few minutes. Let cool, break apart and serve.

Kale, Spinach and Coconut Soup

Loma Linda, California

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup sliced yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 10 cups kale, roughly chopped
  • 5 cups spinach
  • 3 cups arugula
  • Two 13½-ounce cans coconut milk
  • 32 ounces vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Preparation

  1. In a large pot, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until transparent.
  2. Add half of the kale, spinach and arugula and cook until the leaves begin to wilt. Add the remainder of the greens to those already in the pot, and continue to cook until all the greens have wilted and reduced in volume. Take care not to overcook the greens; you only want to wilt them. Overcooking them will reduce the nutritive value of this soup.
  3. Add both cans of the coconut milk, stirring to incorporate into the greens. Cook about three minutes.
  4. Working in batches, transfer some of the greens and coconut milk mixture to a blender. Begin to blend on low and gradually increase the power. Through the feeder, add the vegetable broth and continue to blend until completely smooth. Feel free to use more or less, depending on whether you want a thick or thin bisque. Transfer the blended mixture into a large container. Mix in the nutmeg, add salt to taste and serve immediately.

Costa Rican Black Beans and Rice

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons corn, canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups drained and rinsed canned black beans or drained and rinsed cooked black beans
  • 1½ cups long-grain white rice, cooked and drained without salt but according to the package directions (about 3 cups cooked rice)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons seeded and minced habanero chili (optional)

Preparation

  1. Warm the oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about three minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds.
  2. Pour in the beans and a cup of water. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a full simmer, stirring gently to keep the beans intact. Gently stir in the rice, salt and pepper until combined, about two minutes. Stir in the cilantro and habanero, if desired, before serving.

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