Let’s Go Ape Over Bananas — November 23, 2020

Let’s Go Ape Over Bananas

Bananas chopped up in a bowl

Of course we all know what a banana is…

In fact, we all seem to go apes over bananas…so much so that in the United States, each person eats about eleven pounds of bananas per year…making it Americans’ favorite fresh fruit.

Bananas in fact are a favorite fruit worldwide…having first been grown in Southeast Asia, they are now grown in many warm parts of the world.

The perfect banana is wonderfully sweet with firm and creamy flesh.

Contrary to your grocery store produce aisle may have you to believe, there are actually several different types of bananas—varying in color, size and shape.

The most common type is the Cavendish, a type of dessert banana. These bananas are green when unripe…and then yellow as they mature.

Banana plants vary in height…anywhere from ten to twenty-six feet. The leaves are arranged spirally and may grow to be about nine feet long and two feet wide. The leaves of the banana tree are easily torn by the wind, resulting in the familiar frond look.

Bananas can also vary in taste from starchy to sweet, and texture from firm to mushy…depending on what variety you choose and how ripe the bananas are.

Greener, less ripe bananas are more starchy…whereas yellow bananas taste sweeter because they contain more sugar.

The actual bananas are gathered into bunches…made up of anywhere from three to twenty tiers. The bunch itself can weigh anywhere from sixty-five to one hundred pounds.

Some of the edible varieties, ranging in color from yellow to red, pink, purple and black…varying in both flavor and texture…include… 

  • Blue Java Banana…Blue Java bananas are also known as the ice cream banana due to their sweet vanilla flavor and extreme creaminess. They feature a beautiful blue peel and a white flesh. They’re actually pretty hardy and can grow in colder regions….
  • Blue Java. Also called “ice cream” bananas because they’re said to taste like vanilla ice cream, these have a bluish-silvery peel that turns pale yellow when ripe.
  • Cavendish. The most widely exported banana in the world, the Cavendish has a sturdy peel that travels well. Almost all bananas sold in the United States and Europe are this variety.
  • Goldfinger. This newer variety from Honduras has a sweet and slightly apple-like flavor.
  • Gros Michel. Also known as Big Mike, this was the top-exported banana until much of the crop was wiped out by a fungus in the 1950s. It’s similar in taste and size to Cavendish and still available in some places.
  • Lady Finger Banana…Lady Finger bananas, also known as baby bananas, are sweeter and smaller than Cavendish bananas. They’re usually around three inches in length and feature a creamy texture and sweet flavor with notes of honey.
  • Manzano. Also called “apple bananas,” these short, chubby fruits have a hint of apple and strawberry. They’re fully ripe and taste best when the skin turns black. Manzano is the most popular dessert variety in the tropics.
  • Mysore. This small fruit is the most important banana crop in India. It has a thin skin and a hint of tartness.
  • Praying Hands. You’ll recognize this variety by the two adjacent “hands” that grow fused together, giving the fruit its name. It’s less sweet than other types and has a subtle vanilla flavor.
  • Red. The thick skin of red bananas starts red or maroon but turns yellow-orange when ripe. The flesh is sweet and tinged with pink or orange.      
Pity the Poor Pit — November 12, 2020

Pity the Poor Pit

Avocados darken quickly when exposed to the air, so work quickly with the avocado has been cut.

Adding lemon juice will keep the avocado from turning brown so quickly.

Refrigerate avocados once they have been cut open.

This is a process called oxidization.

Even though the avocado is still edible, it looks disgusting.

If you do not want to use the entire avocado after you have cut it open, brush the exposed flesh with lemon juice…cover tightly with cling wrappressing it as close to the flesh as you can, and refrigerate.

As far as cutting into the avocado, hold the avocado on a cutting board and cut lengthwise around the pit. Next remove the pit. Then scoop out the flesh out by using a glass…(look it up…most useful thing I’ve found on the entire internet this entire year).

Make Mine a Tall — October 29, 2020

Make Mine a Tall

But there are times when the smallest cup just won’t do…

And there are times when the smallest pumpkin in the PSL just won’t do either…

So let’s take a look at the tall menu…

This is the size pumpkin typically used to carve Jack o’ Lanterns, and if you’ve carved your share of these pumpkins over the last thirty years as I have, you think of these pumpkins, and probably all pumpkins in general, as one huge stringy mess widh a dry, flavorless “taste”…just sitting there begging to be carved lavishly, to be placed in a corner where they will eventually rot and have to be thrown away, or at best being used as a soup tureen.

Make Mine a Tall

This category includes pumpkins that weight from eight to twenty-five pounds, and the most common varieties include…

Fairytale

  • Best for…cooking or baking pumpkin pies.
  • Size…about 15″ around and 6″ high
  • Weight…twenty to thirty pounds
  • Skin Color…dark green turns to an orange color when ripe
  • Shape…flat
  • Shelf Life
  • Texture
  • Flesh Color…bright orange
  • Vertical Ribbing…,deep

Make mine a Venti

(15 to 25 pounds)

The following are some of the most common monster-sized pumpkins—such as the world record pumpkin that weighed over 2,300 pounds

These are the great big huge ones that are proudly shown by their owners at county fairs and international pumpkin harvest festivals…where the pumpkins compete for bragging rights—such as a award, ribbon, cash prize, and notoriety.

These pumpkins are really now grown to be eaten because these pumpkins often lack the flavor of smaller pumpkins.

These pumpkins are really not good for carving either because scooping out the pulp can be a chore.

But they do make eye-catching displays on porches and in public places.

Some of the most common otf these pumpkins are,,,

  • Atlantic Giant
  • Big Max:
  • Big Moon
  • Dill’s Atlantic Giant
  • Mammoth Gold
  • Musquee de Provence.
  • Prizewinner
The Other PSL — October 28, 2020

The Other PSL

By now if you’re anything like me, you’ve already spent half a paycheck on PSL’s, and your Starbucks membership has jumped from silver to platinum, completely hurdling over silver status.

But today I want to talk to you about another trend of this season…the other PSL…

 

…the Pumpkin Sales Lot…

The first time that I ever went to a “pumpkin patch” worth even mentioning was back when my girls were about five and seven…

That was about twenty years ago.

Up until that day I assumed that all pumpkins were orange and round, maybe even plastic since neither my parents or my husband for some strange reason never bothered to buy and carve the expected jack o’ lantern each Halloween…

We were doing good to simply put the tree up before New Year’s Day and take it down by Easter, right?!

Anyway, there I stood in that great big field of all shapes, colors, and sizes of pumpkins…and there I was with them wanting one of each different type…a white one, a green one, a blue one, a tall one, a squat ones, and obviously an orange one…

I felt the same way that I did when I lived in Germany and would travel places where the only words that I knew were numbers and the only phrases that I could say were…

“Where is the bathroom?”

“How much does it cost?”

Actually that’s the only three things that we need to know if it gets right down to it, right?

Anyway, here I was standing on American soil, speaking my native language, and all I could do was say “two” and point out what I wanted and ask how much it cost?

Flash forward thirty years…

Here I sit, fifty years old, getting ready to take the “resident four year old” to a huge pumpkin patch in the morning.

Hoping not to feel like a foreigner in my own country out in the country looking totally stupid by thinking that all pumpkins had to be orange and round…

So this year I’m brushing up on my pumpkin recognition skills, or at least taking this “cheat sheet” with us.

To keep things simple, I have grouped the most common pumpkins into three obvious, or at least obvious to any true PSL, categories—the tall, the grande, the venti, and the trenta.

And made a quick list of the characteristics of the most common varieties of each size that you are likely to see…

(I had originally planned on doing this as one post listing pumpkin varieties within each size group, but that article would have been longer than the “resident four year old”‘s  Christmas wish list and that of my two college aged daughters…so doing this in three segments)…

So looking at the smallest group of pumpkins first, let’s see what your options are…

  • Size
  • Skin Color
  • Shape
  • Shelf Life
  • Texture
  • Flesh Color
  • Vertical Ribbing

The Tall (2 to 8 pounds)

This category—the smallest available “cup”— probably are best suited for decorating the porch or front steps. even though these smallest pumpkins have a great tasting, buttery flesh that makes the very best pies, cookies, baked treats, soups-, and almost any other recipe originally calling for squash.

But if you don’t feel like taking the time to prep two dozen different pumpkins, you could always simply carve it, paint it, or hollow it out and stick a flower into it…

1.Baby Bear

  • Best for…pies, roasted pumpkin seeds…also makes an attractive bowl for serving soup, stews, and chili
  • Size…one to two pounds
  • Skin Color…deep orange
  • Shape…flattened

2.  Baby Boo

  • Best for…decorating because it’s supposedly inedible
  • Size…typically the size of your palm
  • Skin Color…bright white; which tends to turn yellow if exposed to direct sunlight
  • Vertical Ribbing…deep

4.  Baby Pam

  • Best for…pies because of its sugary, starchy, string-less, dry flesh
  • Size…three to four pounds
  • Skin Color…deep orange, yellow if immature
  • Texture…very smooth

5. Casper

  • Best for…pies and baking
  • Skin Color…bright white
  • Shape…more round than squat
  • Vertical Ribbing…slight ribbing

6.  Kakai

  • Best for…Although these pumkins are edible, they are better known for their blue seeds, which can be roasted
  • Size…five to eight pounds
  • Skin Color…gray with orange stripes or ribbing

7. Lakota

  • Best for…its butternut squash-like flavor.
  • Size…five to seven pounds
  • Skin Color…red with green and black markings
  • Vertical Ribbing… light

8. Long Island Cheese

  • Size…six to ten pounds
  • Skin Color…pale yellow or orange
  • Shelf Life…up to a year
  • Flesh Color…bright, deep orange
  • Vertical Ribbing…light

9.  Lumina

  • Best for…baking
  • Skin Color…bright white
  • Texture…smooth
  • Flesh Color…bright yellow

10.  Marina Di Chioggia

  • Best for…having a sweet flavor that makes it a favorite for cooking
  • Size…six to twelve pounds
  • Skin Color…green
  • Shape…squat
  • Texture…thick and warty​ skin
  • Flesh Color…yellow/orange

11.  Musee de Provence:

  • Best for…snacking because it actually has a rich, sweet, creamy, taste…often sold in slices in French markets
  • Skin Color…pale orange-yellow
  • Flesh Color…yellow-orange
  • Vertical Ribbing…deep and distinct

12.  Tiger

  • Size…about 5″ around and 3″ high
  • Skin Color…yellow with orange mottling
  • Shape…flat with recessed stem
  • Vertical Ribbing…deep at the top, then fading at the bottom

13.  White Ghost

  • Skin Color…pure white
  • Shape…squat
  • Flesh Color…bright yellow

14.  Winter Luxury

  • Best for…baking
  • Size…up to six pounds
  • Skin Color…unique netted-looking pale orange
  • Shape…round
  • Shelf Life
  • Flesh Color
  • Vertical Ribbing

Other varieities of  these smaller pumpkins that you might encounter include…

  • Baby Boo (white)
  • Jack-Be-Little (standard orange miniature)
  • Jack-Be-Quick (taller, darker orange)
  • Munchkin (uniform, attractive orange fruit)
  • Sweetie Pie (small, scalloped, medium orange fruit)
  • Lil’ Ironsides F1
  • Magic Lantern
  • Lil’ Pump-Ke- Mon F1
  • Merlin F1
  • Howden
  • Howden Biggie
  • Gold Rush
  • Mystic
  • Spooktacular
  • Tallman
  • Early Autumn
Perhaps If Eve Had Read the Nutrition Label of Apples to Adam, They Would Have Dared to Eat Two of Them — June 22, 2020

Perhaps If Eve Had Read the Nutrition Label of Apples to Adam, They Would Have Dared to Eat Two of Them

apple on a tree

  • We’ve all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but do you know where this expression came from..what nutrients this nutritional powerhouse contains that are so good for you, what ailments this “miracle food” can help either prevent or help manage.

 

  • ***************
  • An Apple a Day
  • This expression supposedly originated in 19th-century Wales, where the original phrase was “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread….then changed to “an apple a day, no doctor to pay”…”an apple a day sends the doctor away”;
  • Funny how certain words can mean different things during different timeframes…kinda like the word “gay” meaning joyful and glad back in the Roaring Twenties to what the word means today, right?!
  • **************

    Nutrition

     
    Calories 100
    25 grams
    Sugars 10.39
    Dietary Fiber 4 grams
    0.17 g
    0.26 g
    Vitamins Quantity%DV
    Vitamin A equiv.

    0%

    3 μg

    0%

    27 μg

    29 μg
    Thiamine (B1)
    1%

    0.017 mg

    Riboflavin (B2)
    2%

    0.026 mg

    Niacin (B3)
    1%

    0.091 mg

    Pantothenic acid (B5)
    1%

    0.061 mg

    Vitamin B6
    3%

    0.041 mg

    Folate (B9)
    1%

    3 μg

    Vitamin C
    6%

    4.6 mg

    Vitamin E
    1%

    0.18 mg

    Vitamin K
    2%

    2.2 μg

    Minerals Quantity%DV
    Calcium
    1%

    6 mg

    Iron
    1%

    0.12 mg

    Magnesium
    1%

    5 mg

    Manganese
    2%

    0.035 mg

    Phosphorus
    2%

    11 mg

    Potassium
    2%

    107 mg

    Sodium
    0%

    1 mg

    Zinc
    0%

    0.04 mg

    Other constituents Quantity
    Water 85.56 g

    Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.

     

     

    ************

    Fiber

    Apples are high in fiber—both insoluble and soluble. A single medium-sized apple contains about four grams of fiber…17%DV.

     

     

     

    Fiber helps manage blood pressure, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, helps you stay “full” and as a result helping you lose weight, lowering blood sugar levels and boosting digestive function.

     

     

     

    Insoluble fiber provides bulk in the intestinal tract and helps food move quickly through the digestive system…soluble fiber helps prevent cholesterol from building up in the lining of blood vessels, meaning that it can help prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    ***********************

    Vitamins and Minerals

    The two key vitamins and minerals in apples are vitamin C and potassium.

     

     

     

    Vitamin C, which as we already know, can really boost the immune system and help defend the body from infections and diseases…as well as protect the health of your heart.

     

     

     

    Potassium, which may benefit heart health when consumed in high amounts.

     

     

     

    Apples also provide 2–4% of the RDI for other vitamins and minerals—including manganese, iron, copper, and the vitamins A, E, B1, B2, and B6.

    Antioxidants

    Apples contain many different antioxidants, including…

     

     

     

    Catechin…a natural antioxidant also found in green tea that has been shown to improve brain and muscle function.

     

     

     

    Chlorogenic acid…another natural antioxidant also found in coffee that has been found to lower blood sugar and cause weight loss.

     

     

     

    Quercetin…an antioxidant also found in many other plant foods that has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anticancer, and antidepressant effects.

 

Beta-Carotene…The Why — June 13, 2020

Beta-Carotene…The Why

 

 

 

 

Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, an eye disease that leads to vision loss in older adults…There has been much debate as to whether or not adding beta-carotene to your diet will help prevent vision loss and lessen the effects of AMD. Some researchers believe that  taking high doses of beta carotene…in addition to other nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper…may reduce the risk of advanced AMD by twenty-five percent.

Cancer...According to the National Cancer Institute, the antioxidants found in beta carotene may help lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in post-menopaulsal women.
Cognitive functionBeta carotene also may slow down cognitive decline. Studies have shown that those who have been taking beta carotene supplements regularly, for at least fifteen years, are much less likely to experience cognitive decline.
Lungs…High levels of beta-carotene can also help precent damage to the lungs because of its antioxidant content. Research has shown that those with higher beta carotene blood levels help reduce the decline of FEV1, a measurement how much air you can breathe out at one time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skin…Beta carotene has been shown to help prevent skin damage and contribute to maintenance of skin health and appearance because of its antioxidant properties.

Making the Perfect Raspberry Muffins — April 27, 2020

Making the Perfect Raspberry Muffins

Cream of the Crop…Veggies — February 10, 2020

Cream of the Crop…Veggies

Now that we’ve taken a look at which fruits you should be buying in organic form, let’s consider veggies.

The following veggies are ones that you really should be buying in organic form…

 

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Celery

More than 95% percent of the celery sampled by the EWG contained up to 13 chemicals….so this is another vegetable that you should buy as organic.

 

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Corn

Even though the EWG considers to be a low-pesticide crop and tests have shown that less than 2% of sweet corn has any pesticide residue, you really should consider buying organic corn.

Why?

Because much of the corn grown here in the United States is produced from seeds that have been genetically modified….and many of us are trying to avoid foods that contain GMOs…and even the USDA doesn’t consider foods that are grown from GMO seeds to be classified as organic.

 

 

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Collard Greens

Collard greens, even though considered on the hardier vegetables, contain high levels of pesticides.

 

 

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Cucumbers

Cucumbers rank among the list of the top ten vegetables that are grown with the highest amount of pesticides.

Not only that, most cucumbers sold in grocery stores have had synthetic waxes applies on their skins—kinda like apples—and this wax, even though it is applied to preserve moisture, often contains a large number of pesticides.

So always buy organic cucumbers…or at least take the time to peel them before using.

 

 

 

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Hot Peppers

Hot peppers, or simply peppers in general, are always best to buy in organic form because they all have been shown to have high levels of pesticides.

 

 

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Kale

Over 92% of conventional kale samples tested positive for two or more pesticide residues…some containing over eighteen different pesticide residues.

A major pesticide to be concerned about when considering whether or not to buy organic kale is the fact that it has been shown to contain DCPA (Dacthal), a substance that has been banned in Europe for at least ten years and is classified as a potential human carcinogen by the EPA.

Sixty percent of these samples tested had traces of this particular pesticide.

 

 

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Potatoes

You would think that potatoes would be hardy enough not to have to buy in organic form, but nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, conventional potatoes have been shown to have more pesticides than any other crop. since they require nutrient-rich soil and are often grown with artificial fertilizers.

Making the Perfect Elote…(Mexican Street Corn) — December 20, 2019

Making the Perfect Elote…(Mexican Street Corn)

How to Pick the Very Best Apples — October 2, 2018

How to Pick the Very Best Apples

Regardless which apple you are picking your apples from—Honeycrisp, Empire, Golden Delicious, Ambrosia, Spartam Mitsu, Jonagold, Ida Red , Fuji, Granny Smith…

And regardless which recipe you will be making with the apples that you have chosen…

There are always certain things to keep in mind when picking apples.

These things to keep in mind when picking apples include…

 

1.Quantity…Avoid those pre-bagged bags of fruit. They think that they are doing you a huge favor bagging the fruit for you so that you won’t have to inconvenience yourself, right?!

Wrong!!!

How long does it take to bag fruit, in the first place??!

Exactly?!

They just want to fund a way to sell apples that are still in good enough shape to be sold in a bag with more of the motley crew, but would never make it to the cart if you actually had to  pick that apple up with your own hand.

 

 

2. Season…It is important to buy your fruits and vegetables while they are “in season” in order to find the best quality.

Fruits and vegetables that are available “out of season” have been typically traveled quite a while from where they have been grown to where they are being sold, meaning that these fruits and vegetables usually, if not always, lacks the flavor of fruit in season.

We are now in the peak few months of apple pickin’ season—August until October.

After October, most of the apples that you will find available have been harvested in October and stored so that there can always be a supply of apples available, but these are hardly ever as good as the apples that you can find now…

 

3. Maturity…Another factor to consider when selecting apples is maturity, how ripe the apple actually was when it was picked from the tree.

Maturity is important because once an apple has been taken off the tree, that apple will not continue to ripen.

If the apple is not actually ripe when taken off the tree, the apple will not have a good flavor, texture, or color.

If the apple is not actually ripe when taken off the tree, the apple will not have the same storing capability and the skin will start looksing wrinkled after being kept only a short time in storage.

 

 

4. Texture…To tell if an apple will have a good texture, simply pick it up and make sure that it feels firm , and not squishy.

Another way to check the texture of the apple and make sure that the apple is ripe would be to flick the apple near the stem and listen for a dull thud.

 

5. Blemishes…Check the apple for any markings—such as bruising, blemishes, holes where insects may have entered, and any other -obvious signs of decay.

 

6. Weight...Pick the fruit up. If it’s heavy for its size, then you have successfully found yourself a good piece of fruit.

 

7. Color…Even though color is not always the best indicator of great produce, color can still be important.

Buy only apples that are brightly colored., not dull.

Brightly colored fruit has absorbed lots of sunlight, important for developing the  flavor of the fruit.

Dullness may indicate that the apple ss past its prime..

 

 

8. Smell…Smell the apple to make sure it smells fresh, not musty.

Note that not all apples will smell the same. The scent of the ale will vary between one variety and another. For example, Gala apples will have a stronger fragrance than most other varieties. Just make sure that the apple doesn’t stink.