Swapping Out Refined Sugars — May 18, 2021

Swapping Out Refined Sugars

One of the best places to start swapping refined foods for more natural products is by swapping out refined sugars—such as white and brown sugars—and cutting back our sugar consumption to the ten  percent of our daily calories as suggested by the FDA’s daily recommended values.

Refined sugars can affect out health in many ways, including…

  • affecting pancreas and liver
  • causing allergies, both seasonal and food allergies
  • feeding fungus, bacteria, viruses, and other parasites that stress the whole body
  • radically lowering the body’s immune system

A new term that I have had to learn ever since my husband was diagnosed as having diabetes is “glycemic Index.” From what I have learned over the last few months since this diagnosis, the glycemic index shows how much glucose is released by a particular food over a two to three-hour period. The more quickly a food releases glucose  the higher that food is according to the glycemic index.

Foods that rank lower on the GI scale release glucose slower and more steadily, without causing a sudden spike of glucose in the blood, which in turn results is a large release of insulin, resulting in the excess glucose being stored as fat instead of causing us to have more energy….not to mention often resulting in a rapid drop in blood sugar and making us hungry.

So recently I have been trying to find the best natural sweeteners that I can use,  both for baking or cooking, as well as adding to my morning coffee.

I have been trying to find sugar that will be easier for to digest and process, and have the most health benefits….something to replace the “regular” sugar that I normally use…the sugar that  actually comes from genetically modified beets and GMO corn…which means they’re processed in and of themselves.

Some of the best natural and “healthier” sweeteners that I have found to be recommended include…

  • Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame-K or Ace-K)…
  • Agave
  • Apple Juice
  • Amazake
  • Aspartame
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Black Strap Molasses
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Coconut Palm Sugar
  • Date Sugar and Dried Dates
  • Equal
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Lactitol
  • Maltodextrin
  • Lactose
  • Maple Syrup
  • Maltose
  • Organic Sugar
  • Raw Sugar
  • Refined Table Sugar
  • Saccharin
  • Splenda
  • Stevia
  • Sucralose
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar Alcohols or Polyols—such as maltitol, maltitol syrup, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol
  • Sugar Cane Juice
  • Sweet N’ Low
  • Turbinado

Join me in this next set of posts about some of these sugar options, and which ones we should keep on our grocery list and which ones we should completely cross off…and then wait for my Muffins and Magnolias Master Grocery List in the Making…

It will be sweet…

Making the Perfect Iced Tea Even More Beau-tee-fuller… — May 16, 2021

Making the Perfect Iced Tea Even More Beau-tee-fuller…

Even though homemade iced tea is an essential part of summer…(and thank goodness summer will soon be here)…there are times when just plain tea is boring.

Times when you want something more…something more tasteful…something more satisfying…something more flavorful.

Here are some great ways to “kick it up a notch” and enjoy your perfect glass of iced tea ever more perfecter.

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Apricot…Add lemonade concentrate and apricot nectar to tea…Stir until it blends. Server over ice and enjoy

Blackberry…Purée 2# blackberries in blender or food processor. Strain through fine sieve. Discard pulp and seeds. Stir into the tea. Serve garnished with 1/4C crushed mint leaves and a couple of blackberries

Blueberry… Bring 1# fresh or frozen blueberries and 1/2C lemon juice to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out the juice. Stir 3/4C sugar and the blueberry mixture into the tea.

Cherry…Add limeade concentrate juice to the tea…Serve over ice with lime wedges and cherries.

Citrus…Boil your tea with one stick cinnamon and 6Tbsp honey or sugar. Remove the cinnamon stick once the tea has cooled down. Add lemon juice and sliced lemons and oranges.

Green Tea…Brew your tea using green tea teabags instead of black…duh?!

Jolly Rancher…Brew the tea along with four Jolly Ranchers, any flavor.

Lime...Add 1-1/2C sugar and the juice from six limes per four cups brewed tea. Use fresh mint or raspberries for extra flavor and a cute garnish

Orange...Place one sliced orange in the bottom of a pitcher. Add 1tsp vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. Pour the tea into the pitcher while still hot so the sugar dissolves and top off with water.

Peach…Add 11oz peach nectar.

Raspberry…Mash together 1# raspberries. 4C water, 3/4C sugar, 1tsp lemon juice, and 1tsp basil. Pour mixture into large saucepan. Cook for five minutes. Remove from heat. Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out the juice. Add mixture to your prepared tea.

Strawberry…Boil 4C fresh or frozen strawberries, 1-1/2C sugar or sweetener of choice, and 1-1/2C water. Lower the heat. Simmer 15min. Cool slightly. Pour syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a gallon pitcher. Pour the tea into the pitcher with the syrup. Stir. 

Is Sun Tea Really a Safe Tea? — May 14, 2021

Is Sun Tea Really a Safe Tea?

Back in the years that I was growing up…and back in the backwoods where I’m from…there was always a big glass jar or pitcher of tea sitting on the back porch waiting to be enjoyed.

In fact, the very idea of sun tea, at least to me, brings back memories of childhood summers full of time spent at my grandparents, sitting out on our back porch sipping iced tea and shelling lots and lots of black-eyed peas and butterbeans, picnics and pool parties, summer holidays such as the 4th of July pool, family reunions on the beach.

And since all you hear about these days is “green living” and “energy conservation,” making iced tea using this method simply makes sense.

And even though making sun tea may seem like common sense and too simple to write a blog post about, there are some tips to take in mind…especially as the weather is thankfully getting warmer and school will finally be out for summer, thank goodness.

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The Tea

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Although you can use any type of tea—green, white, black, herbal, loose leaf, tea bags, and so forth—to make sun tea…black tea is the commonly used type of tea made for brewing iced tea.

Luzianne and Lipton both make teabags that are supposedly “blended for ice tea”…suggesting that these teas have a better taste and texture when used to make iced tea than all the other stuff on the shelf.

But more delicate teas—such as green and oolong—and higher-quality loose-leaf teas also often taste better than using the hot brew or cold brew methods discussed earlier because the water temperature is so low that there is little risk of over-steeping the tea.

The debate between using teabags or loose leaf tea is as common as the debate between orange juice with pulp and orange juice without pulp.

Many people claim that loose leaf tea is fresher and more flavorful…or see the process of making tea as more of an art form or self-care ritual.

Personally I am a strong advocate of pre-packaged tea bags. They are faster, cheaper, more convenient, more portable….and honestly I want to know that my tea won’t have any hidden surprises like flowers or leaves or whatever when I finally do sit down to enjoy it…kinda like going to all the trouble of making homemade chicken salad and finding bones in it. I don’t dare to make chicken salad with chicken that still has the bones in it…and I don’t dare to make tea with loose leaf tea, or at least iced tea.

It is also said that the quality of loose-leaf is superior because the tea is still whole and unbroken, as opposed to being whatever is left over whenever the tea makers have finished sorting through the leaves.

Not only that, using loose-leaf tea allows you to use as much or as little tea as you like…which I believe is actually not a problem in making tea with teabags as long as you get your water temperature and steeping time where you end up with tea that tastes exactly like you want it to.

Another benefit to using loose leaf tea is perhaps that you can blend different types of tea. Personally I think that the people who create teabags are far smarter than I am and know which blends and which flavors to group together to make the best tea…unless it comes to sweetening tea or using fruit afterwards to make it even more tempting…(more on this later)…

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The Method

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Tea leaves and teabags will both release their flavor into liquid—regardless if that liquid is hot, cold, or somewhere in between. Steeping is the process of making tea with hot water. Infusion is the process of making tea with cold water.

Steeping your tea in hot water will allow the tea to release its flavor faster than infusing your tea in cold or lukewarm water, resulting in a more intense flavor and deeper color.

The main advantage of making sun tea is that you can make a large batch of iced without having to turn on your stovetop. Not only that, but since the water temperature is so low, there is little risk of over-steeping the tea…meaning that more delicate—such as green tea and oolong—and higher-quality loose-leaf teas will taste better in the long run.

Also making sun tea will keep the tea at eye level so that you can easily check your tea to see if it’s finished brewing by simply looking at its color.

To make sun tea, first fill a large glass pitcher or jar with water. Then add your tea—four teabags per quart…eight teabags per gallon of water. Cover. Set the container out in the sun. As the sun warms the water, the tea will slowly release its flavor.

Let the tea steep for at least two hours…until the tea is the color and flavor that you prefer.

As far as storing your iced tea, it’s best to store iced tea in a glass or stainless-steel container, not a plastic container. Keep your iced tea in the fridge, covered tightly with a lid. This will keep the tea from fermenting or breeding bacteria.

If you add sweetener to your iced tea…(duh, I’m from Mississippi…is that even a question)…the CDC recommends drinking it within eight hours, but unsweetened tea is actually still good to drink for three to four days, even though it will start losing its flavor after the first 24 hours.

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Is Unsweeted Tea Really Even an Option?

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While many people actually enjoy unsweetened tea, in Mississippi, or if you’re from Mississippi, or any of the other states in the true Deep South, we will look at whoever asks us whether we want our tea sweetened or unsweetened as totally strange.

Simply put, we honestly believe that tea with nothing added to it is simply colored water…not fit to drink. At least add sugar or some type of sweetener to give it some flavor.

Speaking of sugar, don’t you hate it when a restaurant only serves unsweetened tea and tells you that you can sweeten it yourself. Don’t they know that sugar simply doesn’t dissolve in cold liquids.

Because you are not heating up your water, most sweeteners will not dissolve in your tea.

So the best way to sweeten your tea is with liquid sweetener—such as maple syrup…(think of the movie Elf)…agave nectar…or honey. These options will all dissolve, even in cold water.

How much sweetener you use depends on how sweet you like your tea. Start by adding ¼C at a time and keep adding more until you get it exactly how you want it.

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Simple Syrup

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Another way to sweeten your tea is to make a simple syrup.

Simple syrup is a common ingredient many refreshing summer cocktails—including mojitos, mint juleps, daiquiris, Tom Collins, whisky

sours, and Ramos gin fizzes—and works well in any chilled drink calling for a dash of sweetness.

Simple syrup will dissolve in cold liquid and will blend in smoothly and easily, unlike the grains of sugar that collect at the bottom of a glass of iced tea.,

Sure, you could buy simple syrup at a liquor store or gourmet store…but at $5 to $8 for a small bottle…why buy it when you already have sugar and water at home in abundance and will only take a few minutes to make.

To make your own simply syrup, simply combine 1C sugar and 1C water in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then let the mixture before decanting into a clean container with a tight-fitting lid.

The simple syrup will stay good for several weeks if kept in the fridge.

Other things to consider when making your simple syrup.

Swapping the granulated sugar for brown sugar is great for making rum drinks because it will give your syrup, but using brown sugar is not so good for gin-based cocktails because using brown sugar will give the clear liquid a brownish tint.

To make a thicker, heavier syrup, use 2C sugar and 1C water.

To make simple sugar without having to heat it up, combine equal parts ultrafine…aka superfine or caster sugar—not confectioners or powdered—in a bottle with a tight-fitting lid or cork, then shake the mixture vigorously…then allow the sugar to settle and shake the mixture again briefly.

Adding aromatics—such as fresh mint leaves, lemon or lime zest (ad/or juice), vanilla pods, or fresh peeled and sliced ginger root—to the hot mixture once the sugar has dissolved will give your simple syrup even flavor and zip. After making sure that the “aromatics” are completely submerged in the syrup, remove the pan from heat and allow the mixture to steep for about thirty minutes. Then filter out and discard all solids and pour the syrup through a tightly woven mesh strainer.

Regardless which sweetener you do end up using, always wait to add the sweetener after removing the tea bags and just before serving.

Store finished tea in the fridge for up to one week….

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But Is Making Sun Tea Actually Safe?

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So if sun tea so easy and allows you to make so much at one time, why do most people not make it this way any more?

Perhaps because we’ve forgotten just how easy it is?

Or perhaps we’ve been scared away from making tea this way because it supposedly increases the amount of bacteria commonly found in fresh water, Alcaligenes viscolactis.

In order to kill off this bacteria, the temperature of the tea supposedly should reach no more than 130°…the ideal temperature for encouraging growth.

Perhaps the safest way to make sun tea would let your water sit out in the sun for a couple of hours before adding the teabags into the water.

But if you ever see ropey-looking strands or any other unusual-looking particles, you probably need to not take chances…throw this batch of tea away, clean your container out thoroughly and try again.

Many people try to minimize this risk by first sterilizing the tea bags—pouring enough boiling water over the tea bags to get the tea bags completely wet.

This Method of Making Sweet Iced Tea Might Be Even Sweeter — May 10, 2021

This Method of Making Sweet Iced Tea Might Be Even Sweeter

Cold brew tea doesn’t only taste great, cold brewing also has many more benefits…such as ensuring that you end up with perfectly smooth every single time.

Cold brewing also is much easier because you don’t have to worry about your tea becoming too bitter because you have used the wrong water temperature or let the tea steep for too long….which is especially great when you are making black tea.

Tea often turns bitter when the tea has released too many of tannins…(discussed in the first post of this series about Making the Perfect Iced Tea.

Cold brewing brings out the flavors of the tea more gently and causes the tea to release fewer of the tannins…making the tea less bitter.

Also you will probably need less sweetener with the cold brew method of brewing tea as opposed to the hot brew method because. the tea will maintain more of its natural sweetness.

However, cold brewing does require more time and planning ahead.

So let’s talk about HOW to make the best cold brew iced tea before we start adding sugar and spice and everything nice…to make the tea actually interesting.

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The “Recipe”

The “cold brew method” is the easiest and simplest method of making tea and there probably doesn’t even need to be a “recipe” per se for making cold brew iced tea of coffee.

Simply put three tea bags or one teaspoon of loose tea for every one cup of water into a container, such as a large Mason jar…add your water…shake or stir until all the leaves are saturated with water…close the lid…and finally stick in your fridge for as long as you’d like.

You can steep the tea leaves for as few as four hours, but letting it steep overnight will yield the best results.

Once you are ready to drink or serve your tea, simply strain the leaves, add ice and whatever “other stuff” you’d like…(more on this later)…

Making the Perfect Iced Tea…Some Like It Hot — May 7, 2021

Making the Perfect Iced Tea…Some Like It Hot

Making iced tea using the hot method is great because it allows you to drink the tea right away…unlike the cold brew method.

Like anything else you could possibly make, perfect iced tea can only be made with perfect ingredients—in this case, only two ingredients—water and tea—so it’s more important than ever that your ingredients be absolutely perfect.

As far as the water, only use filtered tap water or spring water.

As far as the tea, , loose-leaf will yield a more full-bodied tea.

How much water and tea you use depends on which tea you are making…as well as how strong or weak you want your tea to turn out.

Brewing tea using the “hot method” is quick, easy and efficient….simply combine hot water with loose-leaf and tea and then let it steep before straining the tea and refrigerating to cool.

Brewing tea using the “hot method” also allows you to create more variations because you actually get to taste the tea as you are making it and adjust how much water you add and how long the tea steeps. However, brewing tea using the “hot method” will bring the bitterness and acidity of the tea…meaning that you may have to use more sugar or sweetener.

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Simmer the Water

Bring half of the water to a simmer…not an actual “boil.” How hot you want your water to be will depend which type of tea you are making.

For white tea, you want your temp to reach 175–185°F…For green tea, you want your temp to reach 180­–185°F…For black tea, you want your temp to reach 200­–205°F…For herbal tea, you want your temp to reach 212°F.

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Steeping the Tea

Once your water has reached the right temperature, add your loose tea or tea bags. Then let the tea steep for anywhere from four to ten minutes, depending on the desired strength.

Because your tea will become more watery as the ice melts and it cools down, you will need to steep your tea longer than you would hot tea.

If you’re making less than four cups of tea, use two tea bags or two teaspoons of loose-leaf tea for every single cup of water you are using.

If you’re making more than four cups, use eight cups of water and eight tea bags four tablespoons of loose-leaf tea.

As far as which tea to use, you want to be sure to use only high-quality tea…so choose the same quality of tea that you use to make hot tea…whether you are making black iced tea…green iced tea…herbal iced tea…or fruity iced tea.

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Finishing Making Tea

Once your tea has strained for the appropriate amount of time, remove the tea bags or strain the tea. This will depend on if you’re using tea bags or loose tea.

If you are using sugar or sweetener to sweeten your tea…(which actually isn’t even a topic of debate where I’m from…if you don’t sweeten the tea, then we will not drink it)…add the sugar or sweetener while the tea is still hot.

Refrigerate until chilled. To keep your tea from turning cloudy, let the tea cool down to room temp before refrigerating.

Join Me for a Tea Party — May 5, 2021

Join Me for a Tea Party

Hard to believe that school will soon be out and it will be officially summer…amd summer family-friendly parties, poolside get-togethers and other fun afternoon treats…

And along with these, the dreaded summer heat…especially here in Texas.

Being from Mississippi, there is one thing required on such hot summer days—

ICED TEA!!!!!

But for years, every time I tried to make my own iced tea, I was sorely disappointed and homesick.

So I started asking my Southern counterparts and doing reseach as to how to make my own iced tea taste as good as the iced tea I so enjoyed when I was growing up.

And I learned that there are four basics methods for preparing the perfect iced tea—the how brew method, the cold brew method, tea concentrate, and sun tea…and about a billion different ways that you can sweeten it or flavor it or both.

So let’s take a step back in time and put a foot back in the Deep South…and make some sweet iced tea.

By the way, where I’m from, we’d probably laugh if you asked whether we want out tea sweet or unsweet…I didn’t even know that unsweetened tea exist until my husband joined the military and we left our roots in Mississippi…

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Health Benefits

There are four basic types of tea—green, black, oolong and white. Let’s take a look at the specific advantages of each type of tea…

Black Tea…Black tea is probably the tea that is most popular and most consumed…as in such varieties as English breakfast, Darjeeling, and Earl Gray among others. Black tea contains catechins and polyphenols that have many health benefits…including making it easier for asthmatics to breathe by expanding the air passage, keeping kidney stones from forming, preventing breast cancer, and reducing cholesterol levels.

Green Tea…Green tea contains the highest levels of the antioxidant known as EGCG…meaning that green tea helps burn fat, discourages the growth of cancer cells, encourages the growth of healthy skin cells, helps prevent clogged arteries, improves cholesterol levels, minimizes your risk of stroke, reduces stress on the brain, and regenerates skin cells.

Oolong Tea…Oolong is the best tea to grab if your main objective is to lose weight because it helps dissolve triglycerides, dietary fat that’s stored in cells.

White Tea…White tea has the mildest flavor of the four traditional teas…and can help prevent cancer properties, boosting glucose tolerance in diabetics, and reduce LDL cholesterol levels.

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What’s Next

Now that we have a basic understanding of the four main tea types, let’s dig a little deeper by looking at the different methods that can be used to make the perfect tea…as well more fun and exciting teas that are available—such as herbal and flavored teas as well as some recipes that you can make with tea…(never thought about the fact that you can not only drink tea, but also eat it, have you?!)

Mango…The Most “Dangerous” But Definitely Delicious Fruit of All — April 29, 2021

Mango…The Most “Dangerous” But Definitely Delicious Fruit of All

Since having two surgeries on my hand all because of a mango, I am rather hesitant to cut one…but I do miss all the great things that you can make with them.

So I have learned that the best way to dive into a mango is definitely not with a wine glass…but instead to first cut long 1/4″ vertical slices 1/4 inch away from the middle to separate the flesh from the pit and then to cut the flesh into a grid-like pattern and scoop it out of the rind.

As far as use, mango contains more sugar than many other fruits…so you probably should limit how much mango you eat in a day to two cups per day.

But some of the many delicious ways that you can easily include mangos in your diet include….

  • beverages
  • chutney
  • curries 
  • granola
  • ice cream
  • jelly
  • muesli
  • pickles
  • rice dishes
  • smoothiesmang
  • salads
  • salsas
  • sorbets

In the next few posts, let’s take a look at some of these ideas for using this rather “dangerous” but delicious fruit.

Mango…The Why —

Mango…The Why

  • Mangos are not only delicious and low in calories, but they also have contain lots of nutrients…such as vitamin K, which is important for helping your blood clot effectively, helping to prevent anemia, and helping to strengthen your bones…vitamin C, which is important for forming blood vessels, producing healthy collagen, and helping you heal…In addition,
  • One cup sliced mango provides…
  • Calories: 99
  • Protein: 1.4 grams
  • Carbs: 24.7 grams
  • Fat: 0.6 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 2.6 gram
  • Vitamin C: 67%DV
  • Copper: 20%DV
  • Folate: 18%DV
  • Vitamin B6: 11.6%DV
  • Vitamin A: 10%DV
  • Vitamin E: 9.7%DV
  • Vitamin B5: 6.5%DV
  • Vitamin K: 6%DV
  • Niacin: 7%DV
  • Potassium: 6%DV
  • Riboflavin: 5%DV
  • Manganese: 4.5%DV
  • Thiamine: 4%DV
  • Magnesium: 4%DV

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Health Benefits

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Mangos also provide important health benefits, such as…

CancerMangos contain many antioxidants…including polyphenols and beta-carotene, the antioxidant that is responsible for giving the mango its yellow-orange color. Antioxidants are important for fighting off any free radicals that could which potentially could lead to cancer—including leukemia and cancer of the colon, bone, lung, prostate and breast cancer. These antioxidants can also stop the growth or destroy cancer cells.

Digestive Health…Mangos contain enzymes that help break down large food molecules so that they can help stabilize your digestive system—such as helping to convert difficult starches and complex carbs into into glucose and maltose…as well as the water and dietary fiber needed to help with digestive problems—such as constipation and diarrhea. In fact, eating a mango a day keep chronic constipation away more effectively than taking a fiber supplement with the same amount of fiber.

Eye Health…Mango contains nutrients that are important for maintaining your vision…such as two very important antioxidants—lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are important for helping your eyes to not absorb excess light and shielding your eyes from both the sun and harmful blue light. Mangos also contain vitamin A, which is important for preventing dry eyes, nighttime blindness, and even more serious issues, such as corneal scarring.

Hair and Skin Health…Mangos contain several nutrients that are important for promoting healthy hair and skin…such as vitamin C which is important for making collagen, a protein that gives elasticity and structure to your skin and hair, gives your skin its bounce and combats sagging and wrinkles…as well as vitamin A, which encourages hair growth and the production of sebum, liquid that helps moisturize your scalp as well as protect your skin and hair from the sun…and the antioxidants called polyphenols, which help protect hair follicles against damage from oxidative stress .

Immunity…Mango contains nutrients that can boost your immune system…including vitamin A and vitamin C…both of which help your body produce more disease-fighting white blood cells, help these cells work more effectively.

Mango…The What — April 27, 2021

Mango…The What

tropical fruits composition on pink background

In some parts of the world, mango is called the “king of fruits.”

In the last three months I have learned perhaps why.

You see, I cut my hand mid-January and have had two surgeries to reattach the tendons in my left ring finger…all because I tried to pit the mango with a wine glass and the wine glass broke.

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What Really Is a Mango?

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Mangoes are a drupe, or stone fruit, which means that it has a large seed in the middle.

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Where are Mangos Grown?

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Mangoes grow on  evergreen trees that are native to India and Southeast Asia…where they have been cultivated for thousands of years.

Today mangoes are commercially grown in countries with the right climate…including Brazil, Spain, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Mexico.

Almost half of the world’s mangoes are cultivated in India alone.

In fact, India has declared mango as its “official national fru.it”..(by the way, the United States does not have a national fruit).

Here in the United States, they are grown in South Florida and the California, and Hawaii.

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The Which

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There are hundreds of types of mango varieties out there…each with a unique taste, shape, size, sweetness, skin eating quality, color, and flesh color—the flesh can range from pale yellow, gold, or orange…the shape can be round, oval, or kidney-shaped…the size can range anywhere from two to ten inches long…the weight can vary anywhere from five ounces to five pounds…the color of the skin can be green to yellow, yellow-orange, yellow-red, or blushed with various shades of red, purple, pink or yellow when fully ripe…the texture of the fruit can be soft, pulpy, juicy texture similar to an overripe plum or much firmer texture, like an avocado or cantaloupe.

Candied Fruit…Waste Now, Want Always — April 23, 2021

Candied Fruit…Waste Now, Want Always

Waste not, want not…how many times have we heard this expression.

Yet if you’re like me and subscripe to a fruit delivery box service such as Imperfect Foods, belong to a local food co-op, and buy fruits and veggies but find yourself not eating them before they go bad…you might consider candying them in order not to have to throw them out.

Candied fruit is delicious in fruitcake, pancakes, cakes and cookies…great for garnishes…indulgent when dipped in chocolate…or can simply be eaten on its own.

And candying fruit actually does not take as much effort as you might think that it would…

Candying fruit involves blanching your fruit in warm water to tenderize it and then simmering it in simple syrup for a while.

Fruits that you might consider candying include grapefruits, dates, ginger, kumquats, oranges, lemons, cherries, figs, berries, pears, bananas, strawberries, and pineapple. You might also consider candying vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes.

Fruit that you candy yourself will…or at least should be…naturally delicious, chewy, and plump treats…not the overprocessed, rubbery, artificially-colored and artificially-flavored.

After all, isn’t that the underlying goal of most diet plans these days in the first place?!

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Prepping the Fruit

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Choosing the fruit…As with anything else that you might cook or eat, the best results will depend on the ingredients that you use. Organic fruit will be free of pesticides and give you the best results. Also make sure your fruit is fresh and ripe, not over-ripened and old.

Before you start prepping the fruit you need to wash your fruit thoroughly.

Apples and kiwi…Cut into 1/4″ slices.

Grapefruit…Cut into small strips for faster, more even cooking.

Melons…Cut into bite-sized chunks.

Oranges and Lemons…Orange peels are great for candying as is, chopping and adding to a recipe, or dipping in chocolate and then giving for gifts. First remove the top and bottom from the orange. Then set the flat end of the orange on a cutting board. Next slice off the peel, using a sharp paring knife or potato peeler…following the curve of the orange as best you can and avoiding cutting into the flesh. You don’t have to bother removing the white pith of the oranges because any bitterness found in this pith will become translucent and sweet during the blanching step of the candying process. Finally cut into 14“–1⁄”2 chunks or slices.

Pineapple, apricots and watermelon…Cut the rind into small pieces.

Small fruits, such as cherries or strawberries…Candy these whole.

Tropical fruits, such as pineapples, papaya and kiwi….These can be candied in slices, chunks, or even whole….depending on what you will be using them for.

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Blanching the Fruit

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The first “real” step in the candying process is to blanch the fruit.

You do this by placing the cut fruit into a large saucepan filled about halfway with cool, fresh water…making sure that all of the fruit is completely submerged and then bringing it to a rolling boil and then letting it boil for about twenty minutes.

You may need to repeat this blanching process several times, depending on which fruit you are cooking.

Once the fruit is tender when you bite into it—yet not too mushy or soggyremove the pan from the eye and pour the fruit into a colander to drain.

Cherries and pineapples typically are tender after only one round of blanching… oranges and lemons typically require three…grapefruits, six to eight.

Now allow your fruit to dry completely before putting them in the sugar-syrup.

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Making Simple Syrup

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  1. Combine sugar and water in a large, heavy saucepan or stockpot. The ratio of sugar-to-water ratio should be 3:1…three parts water to one part sugar…3C water for every 1C sugar.
  2. Mix the sugar and water together thoroughly.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Let boil over medium heat for two or three minutes, stirring constantly. The syrup is ready when it reaches 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer. This temp is called the “thread stage”…and will end up in your making candy, not syrup.

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Simmering the Fruit

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Once you have made the simple syrup and blanched the fruit, you’re ready to mix your fruit into your simple syrup.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Be sure to stir the fruit into the syrup so that all sides are completely covered.

Simmer the fruit for 15-30 minutes, stirring occasionally…until it appears translucent but not falling apart, has a tender texture, tastes delicious and you can easily bite through it.

The amount of time you will need to let the fruit simmer depends on which fruit you are candying and how large or small your fruit pieces are. Keep taste-testing until you are content with how it appears and tastes. This could take anywhere from fifteen to fifty minutes…(I know…I hate recipes that are vague too)…

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Drying Your Fruit

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Once the fruit has finished simmering it, you need to let it dry.

First line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set a wire rack on top. Then remove the pan on heated fruit from the stove and scoop out your fruit with a slotted spoon and spread out the pieces until they are flat on the cookie sheet, using a wooden spoon.

Allow the fruit to cool and dry completely.

After the fruit has completely cooled and dried, you may want to sprinkle sugar on top of your fruit. This will add additional sweetness and texture…as well as create a more attractive sugar-coated appearance.

Even so, you may want to skip adding this additional sugar if you are planning on baking with the candied fruit.

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Storing

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Candied fruit tastes the freshest right after making it, but you can store candied fruit in the fridge for up to three weeks in its sugar syrup in an airtight container or jar.

Before using the fruit, scoop it out of the syrup and let it sit for a few hours so that any extra syrup will drip off, making it much easier to use your fruit.

You could freeze the candied fruit, but this is not usually necessary because the candied fruit will stay good for as long as two years if kept in a cool dry place. Just know that the sweetener sometimes crystallizes in the freezer. Before using candied fruit that has been frozen, put the defrosted fruit in warm Karo syrup.

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Using Your Candied Fruit

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Both the candied fruit and the sugared syrup are great for cooking with. Your candied fruit can be used to make pies, biscotti, fruitcake. The syrup is great for sweetening drinks and pouring over ice cream or using as a glaze on a bundt cake….( more on this coming up)…