Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Cream of the Crop…Fruit

Cherries

Even though organic cherries can be quite expensive, it’s important to that you buy organic cherries because cherries maintain an average of five pesticides, including iprodione, a chemical that may cause cancer.

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Grapes

Since grapes contain such high levels of pesticides, you should also assume that non-organic wine will expose you to these high levels of pesticides also…and not only that,organic wines contain fewer sulfites, chemical preservatives that can trigger asthma-like symptoms.

Because grapes tend to mold, attract insects and ripen too quickly,, farmers typically use pesticides on their grapes.

And because grapes are so simple to grab right out of the bag and munch on without taking the time to wash them, not only are you munching down on the grape, but also an average of five pesticides per grape.

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Nectarines

Nectarines are another fruit that you should always buy organic.

Nectarines, especially imported nectarines, contain a high level of contaminants. In fact, studies havce shown that about 94% of the nectarines in a given sample contained anywhere from two to fifteen different pesticides.

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Peaches

 

Peaches are known to contain high levels of pesticides….in fact more than 99% of non-organic peaches have been shown to contain detectable pesticide residues, typically of four different pesticides.

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Strawberries

Of all the fruits found in your local grocery store or farmers market, strawberrie are the most important fruit to buy in organic form…in fact, if you can’t find organic strawberries, don’t buy any at all.

This is because strawberries are probably the most pesticide-contaminated food out there.

The Environmental Working Group has found that over 99% of strawberries contain at least two or more pesticides…many of them containing up to forty different pesticides.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Meet the Meat

First on our scope of what groceries you should start buying organic…and which ones you can save money on and buy the “normal stuff,” let’s take a look at meat…(I know, any vegetarian or vegan readers are gonna cringe when I finish this post)

But at least buying organic meat will be better for the environment, health, and animal welfare.

 

 

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What does “organic” mean as far as meat?

In order for meat to be considered organic, at least the following three requirements must be met…

  • 1.  animals must be raised without antibiotics and hormones
  • 2. animals must be given proper veterinary treatment whenever necessary
  • 3. animals must have access to the outdoors, sunlight, and clean water

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Beef

Organic beef not only helps you avoid the extra additives and chemicals especially the growth hormones given to livestock to make them grow larger faster—found in non-organic beef, the beef actually is a better quality.

Buying organic beef also is leaner and has higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.

In order for beef to be considered organic, the cows must graze in open pastures for at least 120 days per year…instead of being cooped up indoors without any grazing time in pastures at all, which is typically the case.

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Chicken

There is much debate as to whether or not organic poultry is better than “conventional” poultry as far as nutrition, but regardless there are plenty enough reasons to buy organic, including…

  • is better for the animals because in order for chickens to be classified as organic, they must be allowed access outdoors
  • is also better for the animal because they cannot be injected with the antibiotics given to “typical” chickens to to help boost flavor and add moisture
  • is better for the environment because antibiotic-laden run-off is poisonous to wildlife
  • prevents antibiotic-lader run-off from making its way into your water supply
  • the meat typically contains less salt, preservatives and other additives

 

 

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Pork

Pigs are conventionally injected with vaccinations, hormones and pharmaceuticals in order for themX to get fatter in a shorter period of time.,,,(by the way, please make sure that I don’t get any of these myself)…which means that you could possibly be affected by these hormones and pharmaceuticals yourself.

Not only can eating organic pork—including bacon, sausage, and deli meats—help you avoid these hormones and pharmaceuticals, is can also keep you from being exposed to chemical preservatives—such as nitrate and nitrite—which have been linked to gastric cancer and birth defects.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Grapes…The Why

Like all other fruits, grapes contain several beneficial nutrients—such as fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

For example, one cup of grapes provides more than a fourth of the RDI for vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin vital for blood clotting and healthy bones…as well as vitamin C, necessary for bone and connective tissue health.

Another nutrient that you find in grapes are polyphenols, the antioxidants that give grapes and certain other plants their vibrant colors and give added protection against disease and environmental damage.

Below are some of the ways in which the nutrients in grapes may boost your health.

But before we get started, let’s look at the nutritional value of one cup of grapes…

  • Calories: 104
  • Carbs: 27.3 grams
  • Copper: 10% of the RDI
  • Fat: 0.2 grams
  • Fiber: 1.4 grams
  • Manganese: 5% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 8% of the RDI
  • Protein: 1.1 grams
  • Riboflavin: 6% of the RDI
  • Thiamine: 7% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 6% of the RDI
  • Vitamin C: 27% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin K: 28% of the RDI
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Anti-Bacterial

Eating grapes boosts your immune system and protect you from certain diseases—such as the flu, chicken pox and yeast infections—because grapes contain “stuff” that helps fight against harmful bacteria and viral infections.

For example, grapes are a good source of the vitamin C that most of us already know is great for your immune system..

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Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation defends the body against cell injury, irritation, pathogen invasions, and helps rid the body of such damaged cells.

However, having too much inflammation can lead to serious side effects—such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and pulmonary disease,

Grapes are one of the foods containing polyphenols that you can add to your diet to keep this from happening.

Antioxidant

Grapes contain hundreds of antioxidants such as vitamin C, manganese, beta-carotene, melatonin, resveratrol, quercetin, lutein, lycopene and ellagic acid.

These antioxidants are primarily found in the seed and the skin of the grape…and have been shown to do such great things as…

    • helping protect cell membranes from free radical damage
    • increasing our blood levels of glutathione, a critical antioxidant
    • increasing the ratio of reduced-to-oxidized glutathione
    • lowering biomarkers of oxidative stress.
    • lowering the levels of oxygen reactive molecules in our blood
    • preventing certain oxygen-related enzymes—such as xanthine oxidase and catalase—from becoming overactive
    • protecting against chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
    • reducing oxidation of fat
    • repairing the damage to your cells caused by free radicals, harmful molecules that cause the oxidative stress that can lead to several chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease

Red grapes, more specifically contain higher numbers of antioxidants because red grapes contain anthocyanins, the antioxidant that gives them their bright color.

Another important antioxidant found is grapes is resveratrol, another antioxidant, that protects against heart disease, lowers blood sugar and protects against the development of cancer.

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Blood Pressure

Grapes have as a low glycemic index which means that it has great blood sugar benefits—such as helping to control your blood sugar balance, insulin regulation, and insulin sensitivity.

In addition, one cup of grapes contains 288mg of potassium, 6% of the RDI, which is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and preventing your risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Potassium also help reduce the negative effects of having too much sodium in your diet.

If you’re considering adding grapes to your diet in order to improve your blood pressure, it’s probably best to choose either Concord or red grapes because their rich color indicates that they contain many flavonoids, such as resveratrol, which help lower your blood pressure, improve the fluidity of the blood, and relax the arterial walls.

 

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Bones

Grapes contain many nutrients necessary for maintaining bone health—including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, vitamin K, and vitamin C. In fact, one cup of grapes contains over 25% RDI for vitamins C and K.

Vitamin K is important because it increases the effectiveness of osteocalcin, a protein involved in bone mineralization, and promotes healthy calcium balance. One study shows that women who consume at least 110mg vitamin K each day are 30% less likely to break a bone than women who consume a lesser amount.

Copper found in grapes is essential for enzymes involved in the synthesis of bone components.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Fish…The Why

 

Fish is a great source of the important vitamins—such as…

Vitamins

  • B-complex vitamins—niacin, B12, B6…which have been associated with healthy development of the nervous system
  • Vitamin A…which is needed for healthy vision as well as for healthy skin
  • Vitamin D…which is essential in the calcium absorption needed for bone health and growth

Minerals

  • Calcium…which is needed for bone development.
  • Iodine…which helps maintain thyroid gland function
  • Iron…which is important in red blood cell production
  • Zinc…which is needed for cell growth and immune system health

Omega-3s which…

  • alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • halt mental decline in older people
  • help ease movement by the body, reduce your risk of heart disease, and strengthen the mind
  • reduce depression, the risk of heart disease, and tissue inflammation
  • regulate blood flow
  • keep our heart and brain healthy

In fact, the healthiest fish are those that contain the most omega-3—such as salmon, trout, sardines, tuna steak, mackerel, and herring.

Fish has been shown to have all sorts of awesome benefits for you as far as health goes…

So let’s find out the facts about how fish can make a difference to your health…

 

 

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Brain

Eating fish regularly can keep you smarter, longer…keeping your brain from slowing down as fast as it would had you not been eating fish regularly.

Fish does this by helping you maintain the grey matter in the brain, the tissue in our brains that contain the neurons in charge of processing information, storing memories, and regulating emotion and memory,

This will lower your chance of getting such brain malfunctions as Alzheimer’s disease.

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Depression

The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish can help improve symptoms of depression and increase the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

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Heart

 

Fish is also great for your heart and circulatory system. In fact, eating fish regularly can reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from heart disease by 36% by…

    • decreasing your risk of abnormal heartbeats
    • helping to lower  “bad,” cholesterol levels
    • improving blood vessel function
    • lowering cholesterol-building lipids in the blood
    • lowering triglycerides
    • lowering your blood pressure
    • lowering your heart rate
    • slowing down the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque

 

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Insomnia

Eating fatty fish—such as salmon and herring—can improve both sleep and daily functioning because of its vitamin D content. One serving of cooked salmon contains the recommended amount of intake of vitamin D per week.

 

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Vision

Finally, eating fish regularly can help you maintain your vision by strengthening the retina…which in turn prevents age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision impairment and blindness among people age 50 and older, by as much as 53%.

 

….The American Heart Association also recommends increasing the intake of Omega-3 through diet with food rather than supplements

….The American Heart Association also recommends increasing the intake of Omega-3 through diet with food rather than supplements

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Fish…The What

  1. Fish is another food high in antioxidants and other nutritional value, but it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed at the fish counter.

    You want to buy the tastiest, healthiest, and most sustainable choice…but truth is, they all look the same to the normal grocery shopper, right?!

    First we’re going to take a look at the types of fish typically found in a large grocery store.

    Then we’re going to look at the nutritional value of fish.

    And finally some recipes to make with each option…

    So let’s get started…

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    Catfish
    Being from Mississippi, I grew up eating catfish at least twice a month…since most of the catfish sold in the United States are farmed in the Mississippi Delta.
    But this was typically “wild” catfish, which often has a more muddy and stronger flavor than farmed catfish.
    Best for…sautéing or frying

     

     

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    Cod

    Cod has a mild flavor, making it great for a variety of cooking methods—such as sautéing, poaching, steaming, and baking.

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    Haddock
    Haddock…firm, mild flesh that is especially popular in Scotland….and is best for frying and deep frying—(fish n chips, go figure)…

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Halibut

Halibut is typically cut into filets that are firm, meaty, and mild with a low fat content….best for baking.

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Salmon

There are two different types of salmon—Atlantic and Pacific. You will usually find Atlantic salmon at your local grocery store because it is farmed and is available year-round. Atlantic salmon has a meaty texture and mild flavor that is best for grilling, roasting, or broiling.

Pacific salmon—such as sockeye or king salmon—are caught in the wild….making fresh Pacific salmon only available between late spring and early fall (although frozen can be found year-round). Pacific salmon has a stronger flavor than Atlantic salmon and is best for grilling, broiling, or roasting.

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Snapper

Typically you will only find red snapper when you are shopping for snapper…even though there are many different types of snapper that have not been recognized by the FDA.

Snapper can be served either whole or as filets. Be careful when ordering snapper at a restaurant, it will probably be served tail and perhaps head in tow.

Snapper is best for roasting or grilling.

 

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Swordfish

Fresh swordfish is available fresh and typically sold in steaks. It has a slightly sweet flavor and meaty texture that is best for grilling.

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Tilapia

Tilapia has an oily texture and muddy flavor that is bland enough that even those who hate the taste of fish can endure.

Tilapia is best for baking, braising, or poaching.

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Tuna

Most of us have been eating canned tuna since we were born…so I really don’t feel a need to elaborate here.

But it was only recently that I cooked a tuna steak…and man, oh man…ditch the can…

Tuna steaks are typically cooked by either grilling or pan frying.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Eggplant Parmesan

top view photo of vegetables
Photo by John Lambeth on Pexels.com

The perfect Eggplant Parmesan boasts of perfectly cooked eggplant slices perfectly layered with the perfect amounts of mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, and tomato sauce….the ultimate comfort food of Italian cuisine…wonderfully cheesy and tomato-y without weighing you down with too much water or oil.

 

 

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Ingredients

2 large eggplants

1tsp salt

1/4C olive oil

1tsp minced garlic

28oz diced tomatoes

1-1/4C grated Parmesan cheese

1½C flour

4 eggs

1-1/2# mozzarella

1 large red onion, chopped

½tsp crushed red pepper flakes

¼C finely chopped basil leaves

3C panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp pepper

1Tbsp Italian seasoning

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Prep Work

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

 

 

 

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Getting Started

Heat 1Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat.

Add the minced garlic, basil, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

Simmer for 15 minutes,.

Remove from heat.

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Prepping the Eggplant

 

 

 

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Cooking the Eggplant

Mist the tops of the eggplant with some olive oil or cooking spray.

Place eggplant slices in the oven. Cook 20 minutes at 425°F, turning the slices over at the half-way point…until nicely browned.

Remove from oven.

Let cool to touch.

 

Once baked or fried, lay the cooked,  lay the slices on wire cooling racks. This will keep your eggplant from getting as soggy.

 

 

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Breading the Eggplant

Set up three  bowls===one for the flour, another one for the egg, and a third one for the breadcrumb mixture.

Pour flour into the first bowl.

Whisk the eggs until smooth. Place in the second bowl.

Stir together the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, 1tsp salt, and Parmesan cheese in the third bowl.

Let the bowls sit out while you are waiting for your eggplant to absorb the salt.

Working one at a time dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour, then dip in the beaten eggs, and then dredge in the breadcrumb parmesan cheese mixture.

Set on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices.

More information about the breading process can be found in my previous post…Dreading the Breading.

 

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Layering the Dish

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9×13 pan.

Place a third of the eggplant rounds in a single layer over the sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Repeat this process three times…kinda like making lasagna.

Sprinkle the top of the dish with the cheese.

 

 

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Baking the Dish

Cover with foil.

Bake on a rimmed baking sheet for about twenty minutes…until the cheese is bubbly and brown on top.

Remove from oven.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve hot, topped with more chopped fresh basil.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Baked Eggplant

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Eggplant…The Why

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Brain Power

The skin of the eggplant can make you smsrter and keep you that way by…

  • acting as an antioxidant
  • facilitating blood flow to the brain
  • helping to carry nutrients into your brain cells
  • helping to prevent memory loss and other age-related mental decline
  • moving waste out of your brain cells
  • protecting brain cell membranes from damage
  • serving as an anti-inflammatory

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Cancer

Eggplant contains polyphenols, anthocyanins, and chlorogenic acid….all of which help prevent and fight existing cancer by…

  • acting as a anti-inflammatory
  • blocking the enzymes that help cancer cells spread.
  • preventing new blood vessels from forming in an existing tumor
  • serving as an antioxidant

 

 

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Cholesterol

The fiber found in eggplant…(2.4 grams per 1C) may help control cholesterol levels.

Eggplant also contains chlorogenic acid, a key antioxidant that lowers the levels of “bad” cholesterol and reduces your risk of liver disease.

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Eye Health

Eggplant contains two specific antioxidants—lutein and zeaxanthin—which are hrlp prevent age-related macular degeneration and vision loss.

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Heart

As far as the heart, eggplants can lower your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease because of the fiber, antioxidants, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and many other nutrient that it contains

Eggplants…

  • act as an anti-inflammatory
  • help prevent heart-threatening plaque from buildup up around the walls of your arteries.
  • relax artery walls

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Weight Control

Eggplants can contribute to weight management because of their fiber content and low calorie count. The fiber found in eggplant supposedly helps you feel fuller for longer.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Eggplant…The What

Eggplant has had an interesting part in folklore around the world for many centuries,. For example, eggplant in India, the eggplant was believed to cause people to go insane….yet according to the Kama Sutra eggplant is erotically stimulating when rubbed onto the penis…male organ. or whatever yuou wanna call it, so much so that is causes a month-long erection.

The poor eggplant was also accused of causing health problems—such as liver problems, inflammations of the mouth, leprosy, fever, headaches, and even cancer. 

As far as to whether eggplant is a vegetable or fruit…kinda like with the tomato….it’s actually neither.

Technically eggplant is a berry…but at the same time as being a berry, it is also related to the tomato and potato…which makes it even more confusing.

Eggplant has a spongy, absorbent that makes it the perfect base for all sorts of dishes from all sorts of different cuisines around the world….(more on this later)…

As far as how eggplants are grown, they are tropical plants with a typically spiny stem, large leaves that can grow to eight inches,  and white or purple flower that grow up to four feet tall.

And when you think about eggplants, you probably picture this glossy purple long and egg-shaped thing…

But actually eggplants, like we learned with just like we learned with pumpkins, can be a variety of sizes and shapes and colors, including…

  • black…as the Burpee Hybrid
  • dark purple…the typical eggplant…which is a long football shaped vegetable that is about…that can range anywhere from 4 12″–10″ long and 2 123 1wide
  • green with white stripes,,,Louisiana Lon Green
  • multicolored…such as white at the stem and then bright pink, deep purple or even black on the actual vegetable
  • orange and the size of Ping-Pong balls
  • purple…ranging from faint purple-pink to reddish-purple and dark purple
  • white…smaller and egg-sized…also known as Easter white eggplants, garden eggs, Casper or white eggplant
  • yellow and round

So let’s start looking at why how to add eggplant to New Year health resolutions..

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Dark Chocolate…The How