Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Leaf Season All Year Round

I find the idea of eating three cups of mustard greens or collard greens still repulsive, but my Mom would be so glad that I actually do eat them now instead of feeding them to the dog while she wasn’t looking.

Why did I even consider adding these leafy greens that I once found repulsive to my diet?

Mainly because leafy greens are packed with important and powerful nutrients,

Also because most leafy greens are available fresh all year round…making adding them to your weekly menus quite an easy task.

 

 

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Nutritional Value

All leafy greens are typically low in calories and fat…high in protein per calorie…and contain such important nutrients are dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, manganese,  vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron, and antioxidants.

Health benefits of adding leafy greens to your diet include…

  • Alzheimer’s disease…leafy greens can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease
  • Antioxidants...leafy greens contain the antioxidants need to fight the effects of free radicals in the body…which reduces your chances of getting such major illmesses as cancer, heart diseasem  high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
  • Blood.,,,leafy greens have been shown to helping your blood clot normally….leafy greens also stimulates production of antibodies and white blood cells
  • Bones…leafy greens have been shown to imporove the health of your, bones by helping prevent osteoporosis and boosting bone strength
  • Diabetes…leafy greens have been shown to lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 14% 
  • Eyes…leafy greens have been shown to improve your eyesight…leafy greens also help prevents eye disorders such as muscular degeneration and cataracts….they can also lower your risk of developing night blindness.
  • Immune System…leafy greens Help strengthen the immune system
  • Skin…leafy greens have been shown to maintain skin elasticity

In fact, the Department of Agriculture recommends that adults consume at least three cups of dark green vegetables each week.

 

 

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Varieties of Greens

 

Thankfully, there are several varieties of leafy greens out there…so that you don’t have to feel obligated to simply eat the “required”  bowl of bagged salad every single night, night after night…

These options include…

1.Beet Greens

  • Leaves…green…veins of the leaves correspond to the color of the beet root
  • Scales…Beets with round, scaly areas around the top surface will be tough, fibrous, and strongly flavored.

2.  Boy Choy

  • Leaves…smooth, dark green leaf blades that form a cluster similar to mustard greens or celery—resembling Romaine lettuce on top and a large celery on the bottom.
  • Flavor…light and sweet
  • Texture..crispy, crunchy

3. Butterhead Lettuce

  • Also called…butter lettuce, Boston, bibb (limestone)
  • Leaves…soft and smooth like buttee

4. Cos Lettuce

  • Leaves…dark green, long, narrow
  • Taste…..sweet and tangy
  • Texture…crispy and crunchy texture

5. Cress

  • Leaves…tough, fibrous stem and small green leaves
  • Taste…peppery taste
  • Varieties…watercress, upland cress, curly cress, and land cress

5. Dandelion Greens

  • Leaves…the green leaves from the so-thought-of “weeds” in your yard…stiff leaves with pointy, fine “teeth.”
  • Taste…sharp bitter flavor
  • Uses…a classic French bistro salad, salads with roasted beets

6. Endive

  • Color…off-white center with loose, lacy, dark green outer leaves which curl at the tips
  • Leaves..loose, lacy, dark green oval-shaped outer leaves which curl at the tips
  • Taste…slightly bitter
  • Texture…soft and satiny
  • Uses…salads and soups
  • Uses…scoop-like shape makes for serving small appetizers

7. Escarole

  • Color…various shades of green
  • Head…loose, elongated heads
  • Leaves…broad, wavy leaves with smooth edges
  • Other Names…Batavian endive, scarole, broad-leaved endive
  • Taste…darker green leaves are lightly bitter and spicy; but the paler interior leaves are milder
  • Uses…soups and beans…popular in Italian cuisine.

8. Frisee

  • Color…pale green
  • Leaves…feathery leaves tinged with yellow and green
  • Other Names…curly endive, chicory, chicory endive, curly chicory
  • Taste…bitter

9. Iceberg

  • Leaves…tightly packed leaves on dense, heavy heads
  • Water Content…contains more water than most other leafy greens

19, Kale

  • Nutritional Value…high in fiber
  • Taste…earthy, slightly grassy taste
  • Uses…salads, soups, pasta, and smoothies
  • Varieties…include curly, baby, and lacinato

11. Lacinato Kale (a.k.a. Dino Kale)

  • Other Names…Tuscan kale or black kale
  • Leaves…very dark blue-green or black-green leaves
  • Taste…earthy and  nutty flavor

12. Leaf Lettuce 

  • Color…can be either green or red
  • Leaves…large, frilly-edged
  • Taste…mildly sweet and delicate taste
  • Uses…sandwiches, burgers, popular lining for hors d’oeuvres platters

13. Mâche

  • Other Names…Field salad, lamb’s lettuce, corn salad, field lettuce, fetticus
  • Taste…mild and slightly sweet flavor
  • Leaves…very small
  • Notes…expensive, very delicate, will bruise easily

14. Mizuna

  • Leaves…petite elongated leaves with spiky edges similar to miniature oak leaves
  • Origin…Japan
  • Other Names…Japanese greens, spider mustard, xue cai, kyona, potherb mustard, and California Peppergrass
  • Taste…peppery

15, Oak Leaf Lettuce

  • Color…reddish-purple
  • Leaves…very similar to leaf lettuce, but with more of an oak leaf shape
  • Taste…super-mellow, sweet

16. Radicchio

  • Color…burgundy-red leaves with white ribs
  • Other Names…Chioggia, red chicory, red leaf chicory, red Italian chicory
  • Taste…mildly bitter with a subtle spicy undertone
  • Texture…quite firm but still tender
  • Uses…in salads, as a cooked vegetable, and grilled or roasted and mixed with other grilled vegetables

17. Romaine

  • Nutritional Value…particularly rich in folic acid and vitamin K
  • Taste..light, almost grassy taste
  • Texture…a satisfying crunch
  • Uses..Caesar salads, wraps

18. Spinach

  • Color…dark green leaves
  • Leaves…smooth, sturdy, deep green
  • Taste…mild, lightly herbal
  • Uses…salads, wraps, and smoothies

19, Sweet Potato Greens

  • Taste…lovely, almost sweet flavor with no discernible bitterness
  • Uses…soups or stews

20 Tatsoi

  • Leaves…small and rounded much like little spoons, hence its other name, spoon cabbage
  • Other Names…Tat soi, spoon cabbage, rosette bok choy
  • Taste…mildly peppery and sweet, with only the faintest hint of cabbage flavor.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Mr. Potato Head’s Other Produce-Bin Buddies

So far we have looked at two types of potatoes—waxy potatoes such as the Russet, and all-purpose such as the Yukon Gold.
There are two more categories of potatoes that I would like to look at…waxy potatoes and sweet potatoes.
So what are the characteristics of a waxy potato?
  • fine-grained, dense flesh
  • generally smaller and rounder
  • high moisture level
  • high sugar content
  • hold their shape well during cooking
  • low in starch
  • more moisture
  • smoother texture
  • thinner skin

Waxy potatoes are best for boiling, steaming, frying,roasting, and making casseroles—such as potatoes au gratin and scalloped potatoes.

Let’s look at five different categories of waxy potatoes—fingerlings, new potatoes, red potatoes, purple potatoes, and yellow potatoes.

 

 

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1.Fingerlings…Fingerlings are basically an elongated variety of new potatoes.

  • Flesh…ranging from red orange to purple, yellow or white
  • Shape…thin, finger-like shape
  • Size…ranging from 2″ to 4″
  • Skin…thin, tender skin…colors ranging from red to orange to purple or white
  • Three varieties of fingerlings that you might find are…

LaRette

  • Flavor…nutty
  • Texture…silky

Red Thumb

  • Flesh…pink flesh
  • Skin…bright red skin

Rose Finn Apple

  • Skin…pink, often knobby skin
  • Flesh…golden buttery yellow
  • Flavor…earthy flavor

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2. New Potatoes

  • Technically, any potato picked before the height of maturity,, before its sugars have fully converted to starch.is a new potato.
  • Uses…Because new potatoes are so small, they are simply boiling whole and eating unpeeled…as in a roast…that food that we all probably hated growing up and absolutely love now that we have grown up ourselves…kinda like a rite of passage…
  • Shape…small and round
  • Skin…thin and tender..various colors
  • Taste…sweet,
  • Uses…boiling, steaming, roasting…not for baking….

 

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3. Purple Potatoes

Purple potatoes are named purple potatoes because why…gee, could it be their skin…since the other two varieties of potatoes that we will talk about are the white potato and the yellow potato…

A few of the characteristics of the purple potato…

  • Flavor…earthy, nutty flavor
  • Flesh…lavender
  • Skin…deep purple
  • Uses…grilling, roasting

One variety of purple potato that you might find available is the Purple Viking…

  • Flavor…meaty, slightly sweet and buttery
  • Flesh…white
  • Size…small
  • Skin…dark purple
  • Texture…creamy and moist texture.
  • Uses…roasting, boiling, casseroles and gratins…but not for soups….

 

 

 

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4. Red Potatoes,

Red potatoes are are typically small, smooth, and round,,,,and as you c an probably figure out, have a red skin.. These potatoes have  creamy moist texture and subtly sweet flavor.

These are the potatoes that you want to use whenever you are roasting, boiling, or steaming.

Three common varieties of new potatoes are…

  • Adirondack Red
  • Flavor…lightly sweet
  • Flesh…pink to red flesh that’s either opaque or in a starburst pattern
  • Skin…red
  • Texture…moist, meaty and waxy
  • Red Bliss
  • Flesh…creamy white
  • Skin…bright red
  • Taste…slightly bitter
  • Texture…firm, moist and waxy
  • Rose Gold
  • Skin… rose-red skin
  • Flesh…yellow
  • Taste…mild and earthy
  • Texture…firm and moist

 

 

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5. Yellow Potatoes

Our final category of potatoes is the yellow potato. Two types of yellow potato are…

  • Carola
  • Shape…oblong
  • Skin…yellow
  • Flesh…yellow
  • Flavor…strong, classic potato flavor with earthy and buttery notes
  • Texture…firm, creamy and waxy texture
  • Austrian Crescent
  • Skin…yellowish, tan smooth skin
  • Flesh…yellow flesh
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are to dinner fare what hash browns are to breakfast fare…and in this post, we’re gonna learn how to make the best mashed potatoes ever.

The perfect mashed potatoes are rich, super-creamy, and thick…and flavored with butter, sour cream, garlic and Parmesan cheese.

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Which type of potatoes should I use?

The best variety of  potato to use when making mashed potatoes is Yukon Gold….(that’s why I put mashed potatoes in this section on Yukon Gold potatoes…go figure)…because they give your mashed potatoes an even creamier texture….

 

 

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Should I Cut or Peel My Potatoes? 

First of all, whether or not you peel the potatoes before cutting them is purely a matter of preference. Some people like the texture that the skin adds,while other don’t…Just remember that the skin is where all the extra nutrients and flavor.s are.

Regardless if you peel them or not, you will need to cut your potatoes into evenly-sized chunks, about an inch or so thick.  You do not want to boil whole potatoes Now transfer the potatoes  to a large stockpot full of cold water until all of the potatoes are cut and ready to go.

 

 


How do I cook my potatoes?

Place the potatoes In a 6-quart stockpot, and cover with enough cold water that the water line sits about 1″ above the potatoes. Add 1Tbsp salt. You do not want to boil or heat the water before addiong the potatoes because they might not cook evenly.

Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat down to medium-low. Cook about 15min…until you can stick a knife into the middle of the potato with almost no resistance.

Draining and steaming to finish helps pull out any remaining water for a fluffy final texture. …Whether or not you cook them without peeling them first is a matter of personal preference.

So carefully drain out all of the water.

Return the drained potatoes into the hot stockpot. Set back on the stove over low heat.  Gently shake the pan for about a minute to release some of the steam and moisture from the potatoes.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Set them aside until you are actually ready to mash your potatoes….this will make sure that all the liquid is evaporated.

 

 

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Now what do I do?

Heat 1/3C salted butter, 1C milk, and 2tsp salt together either in a small saucepan or in the microwave until warm…but avoid boiling the milk.  Set aside until ready to use. This keeps the potatoes hot and absorbs better. 

Return the potatoes to the hot stockpot. Place back on the hot burner, but first turn the heat down to low.  Using two oven mitts, carefully hold the handles on the stockpot and shake it gently on the burner for about a minute to help cook off some of the remaining steam within the potatoes. 

Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, strong wooden spoon, or electric beaters until smooth, adding a little extra milk if needed…but be careful not to over beat or they will become gluey.

Add warm milk mixture, a little bit at a time, to the potatoes until they reach the desired consistency is reached.

Stir in 3 cloves garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, 1/2C sour cream, fresh herbs, onion, shredded cheddar, cooked bacon bits, chives…whatever you want.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Pan-Frying 101

 

2. Brining the Chicken…Typically when I frychicken, I cook approximately 3-3 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces….So let’s get started…
Soaking your chicken in some sort of brine will help the breading stick to the food better…and add moisture and flavor. Once you prepare the brine, simply add the chicken to the liquid and stick in the fridge at least thirty minutes, and even overnight.

 

4. Heating Your Oil…When frying chicken, it is important that the oil can be heated to a high temperature without burning. Peanut, canola or vegetable oil are your best options…Avoid using olive oil or butter.

 

 

 

5. Cooking Your Chicken…Gently place your breaded chicken skin side-down in your heated pan, being sure not to overcrowd the pan.

Replace the lid onto the pan. Cook the chicken about ten minutes, using your tongs to turn the chicken a few times while it cooks.

Remove the lid. Cook ten minutes more, uncovered…until the chicken is cooked through and the outside is a deep golden brown.

 

If you are using a probe thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the chicken, the magic number is 165 degrees.

Remember to bring the oil back up to 350 degrees before you add the next batch of chicken.

 

 

 

Once your chicken has finished frying, place the hot chicken on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little salt for extra flavor.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

When done well, you should end up with a hallmark of great fried chicken—perfectly tender meat with plenty of that crunchy, dark brown crust that all of us Southerners so adore.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

What’s Next?

As much as I hate it, and as much as my ADHD adult mind would love to wander off on yet some other tempting tangent or two, especially during this holiday season of overeating and overcooking and overbaking…

We’re still faced with the fact that my husband has just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and that we both need to start eating better.

This has actually become a top priority, if not THE top priority, in our lives right now.

And I have made planning our meals around the Raw Foods Pyramid my plan on attack.

Mainly I am doing this so that I won’t have to cook…no, wait…that’s so not true…

But it is true that the real reason I use huge recyclable cloth bags when shopping is so that I can safely cram more into each bag and, as a result, make fewer trips from my car into the house…not to save the environment.

My pursuit of a “raw foods diet” so far has involved learning to eat more unprocessed, organic, and uncooked foods….foods such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, sprouted grains, and beans—none of which can have been heated above a certain temperature, usually somewhere between 104 and 118 degrees.

I have also been becoming more aware of which foods have been refined, pasteurized, homogenized, or produced with the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

I have been learning about the raw foods dfiet by starting at the base of the Pyramid—those low calorie, nutrient dense foods that we should probably all eat more of in the first place and slowly working my way to the higher-calorie, less nutritious foods at the top of the pyramid, those foods that we should eat very little of, if any at all.

The three bottom tiers of the Raw Foods pyramid—water, leafy greens, and fruits and vegetables—are grouped together in the one category called “Production Foods.”

Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far…

Getting Healthy

Facing the Facts and Fiction on Fats

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Despite the common misconception that all fat is bad for you and that fat should be eliminated completely our of our diets, our bodies actually require fat in order to stay healthy.

Fat is actually an important nutrient in a healthy diet, just like protein and carbohydrates.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested a diet rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids—the healthy  fats—can help reduce the risk of getting heart disease, the most common cause of death in Western countries today, and also lower both your cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

 

Actually when choosing diet to keep or ditch in our diets, not only must we ask “How much fat does a particular food item contain,” but also “What kind of fat does this food item contain?” 

Rather than adopting a low-fat diet, it’s more important to focus on limiting harmful “bad” fats and eating more beneficial “good” fats. This is because “bad” fats increase your risk of certain diseases…while “good” fats can protect your brain and heart health, help you manage your mood, help you stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, boost your energy and well-being, help you manage your weight, lower your cholesterol levels, and help your body absorb vitamins.

There are four different types of fat…

  1. Trans fatty acid
  2. Saturated fats
  3. Unsaturated fats 
  4. Omega-3

The first two types of fat—trans fatty acids and saturated fats—are the dangerous type of fat you don’t want in your diet because these fats increase your levels of LDL while decreasing your levels of HDL (more on this to come later), cause you to gain weight, clog your arteries, and affect your health in many other ways also.

  • Good sources of the “good” types of fat that you should think about incorporating into your diet include
  • Avocados
  • Butter—grass-fed butter, ghee (clarified butter).
  • Fatty fish—salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines
  • Fish oil
  • Flax
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
  • Oils…olive, canola, peanut, cold-pressed coconut, sesame, soybean and safflower
  • Olives
  • Peanut butter
  • Seeds—sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
  • Soymilk
  • Tofu
  • Walnuts

The last two types of fat—unsaturated fats and Omega-3—can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, lower your levels of LDL while increasing your levels of HDL, prevent abnormal heart rhythms, lower triglycerides associated with heart disease and fight inflammation, lower blood pressure, prevent hardening of the arteries. These fats may also help to make you feel more satisfied after a meal, reducing hunger and thus promoting weight loss.

Sources of these “bad” fats that you should eliminate from your diet include…

  • Anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Butter
  • Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough
  • Fried foods
  • Ice cream
  • Packaged snack foods—crackers, microwave popcorn, chips
  • Red meat
  • Stick margarine
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Whole-fat dairy products

More tips for adding more healthy fats to your diet

  • Aim for a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and beans
  • Consume dairy products in moderation
  • Eat fried or processed meals only occasionally
  • Eat more avocados—such as avocado sandwiches, salads, and guacamole
  • Eat more nuts—such as adding ing nuts to vegetable dishes, using them instead of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish, or making your own trail mix
  • Eat more olives—tapenade, dips
  • Eat two or more servings of fatty fish each week
  • Learn more about following a “Mediterranean diet”
  • Limit how much red meat you put on the menu
  • Make your own salad dressings
  • Substitute beans, nuts, poultry, and fish for the red meat that you just crossed off your grocery list
  • Switch from whole milk dairy to lower fat versions.
  • Use canola oil for baking
  • Use olive oil for stovetop cooking…rather than butter, stick margarine, or lard