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.      
Mastering Ministrone — November 19, 2020

Mastering Ministrone

So now that we’ve bought the perfect pot, found the perfect recie, bought the best veggies, sliced and diced, and so forth…

Now what?

1.Constantly keep an eye on your soup while it is cooking. This will allow you to  adjust the spices and cooking temperature as needed.

2. Cook on low heat. Don’t think that cooking your soup at a higher temperature will ensure that everything will actually get cooked instead of being raw or hard when you are ready to serve the soup.

Doing this will instead turn your meat into tough, hard-to-chew pieces…not to mention possibly ruining the bottom of that expensive soup pot that we all went out and bought after reading a previous article, right?

Instead bring your soup slowly to a boil and then allow the soup to simmer for the rest of the cooking time.

This will allow the ingredients to maintain their structure and integrity, while at the same time combining all of the ingredients into a flavorful soup.

3. Cover or not?…Depending on the finished product that you want,  leaving the soup uncovered or covering the soup with the lid is a matter of personal  reference. Leaving the lid off will make the soup base evaporate faster, creating a thicker and more flavorful soup.

4, Dig in Deep…There are many soup recipes out there that  require taking some of the soup as it is cooking and blending it and then adding it back into the soup in order to thicken the soup. Using an immersion blender will reduce the risk of your getting burned and make this job easier and neater.

Here is a list from Good Housekeeping of some of the most highly recommended immersion blenders available…

5. Use your brain when using grains…Pasta and grains that are called for as ingredients will often overcook. Avoid this by cooking them separately and then adding them into the soup just before serving.

Making the Perfect Avocado Salad — November 17, 2020

Making the Perfect Avocado Salad

  •   Bowl of avocado salad The perfect avocado salad is simple—fresh avocado, thinly sliced red onion…different from standard guacamole in that it has way more depth of flavor and creamy chunks of avocado.

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Ingredients for Salad

  • 3 large avocados…peeled, pitted and diced
  • 2C English cucumbers…chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2C cherry tomatoes or 1 large ripe tomato, chopped
  • ½C radish, halved, cut into ⅛-inch thick slices
  • ½C red onion, cut into thin slices
  • 2tsp minced jalapeno pepper
  • 1/3C corn
  • 2Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 3/4tsp salt
  • 1/8tsp pepper

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Ingredients for Salad Dressing

  • 2Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4C olive oil
  • ¼C lime juice
  • 1Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2Tbsp honey

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Instructions

  • Make the Dressing…Stir all of the dressing ingredients except for the olive oil. Now very slowly drizzle in the avocado or olive oil, constantly whisking to break the fat into small droplets. This will help create a thicker salad dressing.
  • Combine salad ingredients…Stir your salad ingredients together in a second bowl.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the avocado salad.
Making the Perfectly Rockin’ Guac — November 16, 2020

Making the Perfectly Rockin’ Guac

The perfect guacamole is simple to make and like anything else that you make requires using only the freshest, highest quality ingredients—the perfect avocado…the perfect onion…the perfect tomatoes…and the perfect seasonings—such as cilantro, jalapeno pepper, lime juice, garlic and salt.

The perfect guacamole should be plain and simple….the perfect blend of high quality ingredients melded together beautifully.

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The Avocados

The perfect avocados for making guacamole should be ripe, but firm….not soft and mushy avocados.

You can know that you are picking the best avocados by only choosing those that still have the stem attached. Avocados with the stem still attached are less likely to have brown spots on the inside.

If you gently press one end of the avocado, it should be firm, yet have a slight give to it.

Here is a tried and true guacamole recipe that’s easy to make, uses fresh ingredients and is loaded with flavor. 

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The Ingredients

3 avocados, ripe

1/2 small onion, finely diced

2 Roma tomatoes, diced

3Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2tsp salt

1 lime, juiced…(Note that using fresh limes instead of bottled lime juice will make a huge difference)…

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Instructions

Slice your avocados in half. Remove the pit and skins. Put the flesh of the avocado in a mixing bowl.

Mash the avocados gently with a fork until you get them as chunky or smooth as you’d like.

Add the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno pepper, garlic, lime juice and salt.

Place any leftover guacamole in a storage container…(yeah, right…as my house there is never any leftover guacamole)…Pat down firmly with a spoon so it’s nice and flat on top. Add about 1/2″ cold water on top. Place the lid on the storage container. Stick the container in the fridge.

The water will help keep the guacamole from oxidizing  and turning brown as quickly.

Once you’re ready to devour the rest of the guacamole, drain the water off the top and stir.

Making the Perfect Chili — November 15, 2020

Making the Perfect Chili

The perfect chili will depend on your own person preferences…beans, not beans…beef of chicken…plain or served as chili dogs… burgers topped with chili… (usually without beans)….chili fries…chili mac…or Frito pie and flavored to perfection…(more on this later)…

As we all probably know by now, especially if you live in Texas, chili is a type of spicy stew that not only is great to serve alone…or as

And speaking of chili, chilii made in New York City may taste good…and chili made in Texas may be better…the best chili is made in your own kitchen because you are the boss, and you can choose what ingredients you actually like best, not what somebody thinks you’ll like.

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THE INGREDIENTS

The recipe that you actually end up using for your chili will probably vary from one person to the next…based on where you live and what you actually want to be in your chili…(such as beans or no beans)

Since the perfect chili is a matter of person preference, instead of simply giving you one single recipes for the perfect chili, let’s consider some of the ingredients that you could use in chili…so that you can tweak the recipe until you find the perfect chili that is perfectly perfect for you and your family.

 

 

 

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THE MEAT

Beef…Most of us like our chili to be good and hearty…probab ly stockpiled with lots of meat…chili con carne…as most of us already know, you can always substitute ground turkey for the ground beef.

Chicken,,,one of my favorite meals is white chicken chili…kinda like my favorite lasagna contains white sauce and chicken…instead of the typicaxl ground beef and red saucer.

No Meat…my daughter has decided to embrace the vegetarian era…meaning that I often have to disappointment my Mississippi husband by making meals that do nit contain any meat…

Pork…Chili can also be made with pork…such as chili verde…a ‘green chili that is made from chunks of pork.

 

 

 

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THE PEPPERS

Chili peppers, often in the form of chili powder…which we will talk about later)…is commonly used to spice up your chili.

What makes chili peppers so hot is an ingredient called Capsaicin, the same stuff that’s used to make pepper spray, many pain relief creams, insect-repellentproducts…(yum)…

 

Remember that the white part of the pepper is where most of this capsaicin…especially the seeds.

Five types of  chili peppers rhat you can consider using are…

  • Bell pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Habanero pepper
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Poblano pepper
  • Serrano pepper
  • Thai prepper
  • Wax pepper

As far as if the word is actually “chili” or “chile,” there is no clearcut answer. “Chili ” is typically what most of us call it here in the US, but “Chile” is the the word more often used in Mexico and several other Latin American countries.

Other people prefer to use the word “chile” whenever referring to the pepper, and chili to talk about the stew.

 

 

 

 

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THE VEGETABLES

Vegetables, other than tomatoes, can also be good ingredients in your chili—vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, corn, squash, and beets…which is why I thought I could get by with a chili recipe while talking about the raw food pyramid, while talking about leafy greens, while talking about smoothies, while talking about antioxidants…if that made any sense)…

 

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THE  BEANS

The use of beans in chili has been debated for a very, very long time…especially here in Texas.

In fact the society that “governs” most of the chili cookoffs so populat around America have banned the use of beans in their cook-offs.

Here in Texas. supposedly we eat our chili without beans…(sorry…that doesn[t include me…I like my chili as heartless…I mean hearty…as possible).

While everyone else supposedly like their chili with beans, any type of bean—including

  • black beans
  • blacked-eyed peas
  • great Northern beans
  • kidney beans
  • navy beans
  • pinto beans
  • white beans

As far as chili beans, these are actually pinto or kidney beans that have already been spiced…which will obviously change the taste of the chili from what it would have been if you had used them by themselves.

When using beans, be sure to rinse them first to to remove the extra salt and starches.

 

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THE TOMATOES

 

The use of tomatoes…just like the use of beans…whenever making chili has been a topic of debate for a very, very lnog time.

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THE SPICES

What actually makes chili chili…at least to me…is the spices that you add…

Without the perfect blend of spices, you simply have another meat dish that contains tomatoes, vegetables, and perhaps beans…

NOT chili!!!

The spices that you use are what give chili its complex flavor.

Recipes exist with all sorts of different spice blends to flavor the chili….but the four most common spices are when making chili are…

  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • Other spices that I’ve seen in chili recipes include cayenne pepper, cinnamon,  dry mustard, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and onion powder.

Any by the way, chili powder is not actually a spice in and of itself…and you can make your own without making a special trip to gT

 

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THE TOPPINGS

Toppings that you can add to your chili once it’s finished cooking include…

  • Cheese—such as Monterey Jack, cheddar
  • Cilantro
  • Crackers—such as saltine crackers or oyster crackers
  • Croutons
  • Diced avocado
  • Diced red or green onion
  • Jalapenos
  • Lime wedges
  • Sliced green onions
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla chips
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THE MENU

Foods that go great when served with chili include cornbread,  tortillas, tamales, rice, and pasta.

 

 

 

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THE RECIPE

Meat

  • 2# ground beef or turkey

Vegetables

  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped

  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion -diced
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and finely diced

Spices

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder…OR…2Tbsp cumin, 1/4tsp cayenne pepper -optional, 1tsp oregano, 1/2tsp paprika
  • 2Tbsp sugar or brown sugar
  • 1Tbsp garlic powder or 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp pepper

Tomatoes

  • 2Tbsp tomato paste…OR…8oz tomato sauce
  • 28oz diced tomatoes with juic

Beans

  • 19 oz kidney beans canned, drained & rinsed

Other

  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth…OR…beer
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Toppings as desired

Cook for 6-7 minutes.

Just thought that I would throw that in there before you smart making chili for tonight’s dinner…it would be much better if you make it today and serve it tomorrow.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.

Add the onion. Cook five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the beef, onions, garlic and some of the chili powder…cook for about seven minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Drain any fat.

Add remaining ingredients…making sure to stir until well combined.

Bring the liquid to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low or medium-low.

Simmer uncovered for at least twenty minutes….again stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon…the lower your cooking temperature and the longer you cook your chili, the more flavorful it will be.

Simmering you chili uncovered will allow the chili to naturally thicken without having to add cornstarch or flour.

Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for at least five minutes before serving.

Top with cheddar cheese, green onions, cilantro or other favorite toppings.

Leftovers…assuming there are any…will last from three to five days.

Freezing Chili…Chili can be frozen either in single sized portions for lunches or in freezer bags for a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Remember…If all else fails, you can always run back to Kroger or Albertson’s or Tom Thumb…or order from Instacart…to get some canned chili…people have been doing this since 1908 when chili first started being canned and sold in New Braufels, Texas…
Making the Perfect Avocado Toast — November 14, 2020

Making the Perfect Avocado Toast

Of course guacamole is the most common food that uses avocados, but another food commonly made with avocado toast.

When I first heard of avocado toast, I thought to myself…this is a food trend that will not last more than a year…and there is no way in Hades that I am ever going to even try it.

But I have found myself eating this reguarly.

It seems almost like common sense to be able to master the skill of avocado toast—toast your bread, smoosh up some avocados, smear onto your toast…how hard can that be?

Kinda like if you’re making cheese toast you toast your bread with cheese on it…and if you’re making cinnamon toast, you put cinnamon on it.

But there is one great difference between these two types of toast and avocado toast.

There is a plethora of avocado toast recipes out there—some simple, others more complex

Why?!

Because avocado toast is a great jumping off point for your endless possibilities…a blank canvas for a plethora of flavorful seasonal toppings.

Healthy 5 Minute Avocado Toast

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The Bread

Sure…you could use any kind of bread you just happen to have on hand…

But our goal is not to just make avocado toast…Our goal is to make the PERFECT avocado toast.

So as you can probably figure out, ordinary bread makes ordinary avocado toast…great bread makes great avocado toast.

The best type of bread to use for avocado toast will provide a sturdy base and a crisp texture to contrast with the creamy texture of the avocado.

Look for a crusty, sturdy, thick-sliced, whole grain or sourdough bread that will offer the  best flavor and substance to hold all of your avocado and whatever other toppings that you choose.

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The Avocados

Just like the bread, the perfect avocado toast requires the perfect  avocados…ripe but not over-ripe Hass avocados that yield a bit to a gentle squeeze, but are not mushy or stringy on the inside.**************Classic Avocado Toast 2 slices of bread ½ large ripe avocado Salt and pepper to taste 2tsp lemon juice Optional ingredients

  • Toast the bread until browned and crisp. For an extra pop of flavor, lightly rub each slice of bread with the cut side of a halved garlic clove as soon as it comes out of the toaster. Lightly brush the toast with oil.
  • Mash the avocado directly on the toast…Mashing up your avocado will make it creamier and more luxurious.
  • Mash your avocado in a bowl before spreading it onto your toast, instead of trying to do on the surface of the bread. If you try to mash the avocado on top of the bread instead of a bowl, you could poke holes in your toast.
  • Cut the avocado in half. Remove the pit. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh into a bowl. Use a fork to  mash it up until mostly smooth with a few chunks. If the avocado is too chunky, the avocado will fall off of the toast. Top toasted bread with mashed  avocado mixture. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle desired toppings on top.

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Options

Bacon and Eggs…1 egg, scrambled…1-2 pieces crispy bacon

Everything Bagel…carrot, peeled into ribbons…Everything seasoning…diced red onion…capers…chives

Goat Cheese and Chives…2Tbsp goat cheese, crumbled…1tsp chives

Roasted Chickpea & Harissa…roasted chickpeas…harissa…feta… microgreens

Smoked Salmon and Red Onions…2 thin sliced smoked salmon… 2Tbsp thinly sliced red onions

Sushi…cucumber, peeled into ribbons…pickled ginger…sesame seeds… scallions…sliced nori, optional

Tex-Mex…pico de gallo…Cotija cheese…pepitas…pickled red onions…cilantro

Tomato Basil…1/4C halved cherry tomatoes…2Tbsp basil vinaigrette

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Other Toppings to Consider

  • Bacon
  • Beans
  • Eggsfried, poached, or scrambled
  • Fresh greens…baby spinach, baby kale, arugula, mixed greens, sprouts, microgreens
  • Fresh herbs…basil, cilantro, parsley, dill
  • Fried egg or tofu
  • Hot sauce
  • Hummus
  • Jalapeno
  • Leftover roasted veggies
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Pesto
  • Pickled red onion
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Sliced veggies…cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, radish
  • Smoked salmon…(lox)
  • Spices…pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika
  • Tahini  

Let’s take a look at some fun options…

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).

Avoid the Average Avocado — November 7, 2020

Avoid the Average Avocado

storing avocadosIf you are going to make above average food, you must first buy above average ingredients.

So let’s see what it takes to avoid your average avocado.

What should you look for when shopping for an avocado?

The avocados that you find in your typical grocery store are green and hard as rocks.

The characteristics that you should look for when you are shopping for above average avocados include…

  • An even, unblemished texture
  • Flesh that yields when pressed gently
  • Heavy for their size
  • No dents, blemishes, bruises or soft spots
  • Those with some space between the flesh and skin
  • Uniformly hard or soft over its entire surface

Two more points before moving on…plan on buying your avocados a few days before you use them and letting them ripen at home…(more on this later)…

And remember that it’s always better to choose a bright-green avocado that aren’t soft than an overripe one.

Holy Guacamole Might Be Even Holier Than We Once Thought — November 5, 2020

Holy Guacamole Might Be Even Holier Than We Once Thought

When you think about avocadoes, the first thing that pops into your mind is most likely guacamole. And when you imagine avocados, you probably think about a bright green, leathery skinned, egg-shaped creature that is about five inches long and weighs about six ounces….and know that you can expect a large pit that is about two inches in size. Lately the avocado has been classified as a superfood that has become an incredibly popular food among health-conscious individuals. Let’s take a look at the nutritional value and health benefits that 1/2C avocado provides…

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Fat

The typical avocado consists of about 75% fat…or six grams…which may seem like alot…and might make you think about excluding avocados from your diet…unless you’re eating at a Mexican restaurant. But wait… Most of the fat found in an avocado is monounsaturated fat…which is actually “healthy” fat that can provide many health benefits—such as reducing inflammation, preventing cancer, helping you lose weight, keeping your blood sugar levels, supporting skin health, and boosting the immune system.

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Vitamins 

Avocados also contain at least twenty different vitamins and minerals.

  • Vitamin B5: 14% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 13% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 17% of the DV
  • Vitamin E: 10% of the DV
  • Vitamin K: 26% of the daily value (DV)
Avocados also contain trace amounts of vitamins A, B1, B2, and B3.

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Potassium

Avocados are very high in potassium. In fact, 1/2C provides 14%RDA…four perfect more than the same amount of banana, which most of us think of as being the fruit that contains the highest amount of potassium food.

Potassium is important for keeping your blood pressure in check and for preventing heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

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Fiber

Avocados also contain fiber…In fact, one-half cup of avocado provides seven grams of fiber…27%RDA…of which about 25% is soluble and 75% is insoluble. Fiber can contribute to weight loss, reduce blood sugar spikes, and help prevent many diseases.

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Health Benefits

Anti-Inflammatory…Avocados contain vitamin E…which is important for lowering inflammation in your body….and preventing Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis.
Bone Health…Avocados contain vitamin K…a vitamin that is important for maintaining healthy bones, slowing down bone loss, and helping you get the most benefits of calcium. Cancer…Avocado may be beneficial in cancer treatment and prevention because of their folate content. Folate has been shown to help lower your risk of certain cancers—such as prostate, colon, stomach, pancreatic, and cervical. Folate also can help protect you from the side effects of chemotherapy. Depression…Depression is often caused by low levels of folate…a mineral that is important for keeping your blood flowing freely to your brain. Keeping blood flowing freely to your brain is important for regulating mood, sleep, and appetite. Avocados contain high levels of folate…and might be a good addition to your self-care plans during this crazy coronavirus/stressful election time. Heart… Avocados can lower your risk of heart disease…which is one of the most common causes of death in the entire world for many reasons..such as
  • increasing HDL, the “good” cholesterol by up to 11%
  • lowering LDL cholesterol by up to 22%
  • reducing blood triglycerides by up to 20%
  • reducing total cholesterol levels significantly
Vision…Avocados are high in antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which prevent eye problems such as cataracts…and protect the tissues in your eyes from UV light damage. Weight Loss…Avocados can help you feel more satisfied while you’re eating and lower your desire to eat for at least the over the next five hours…helping you naturally eat fewer calories and making it easier for you to stick to healthier eating habits.
We All Deserve To Take a Vacation — November 3, 2020

We All Deserve To Take a Vacation

nutritional value, smell, flavor, and availability….including many that I never even heard of before doing research for this post.

In the next few posts we will be looking at both the ordinary tropical fruit that you regularly see in your local grocery store and then the more exotic fruits that you probably will have never tasted…much less heard of.

The common tropical fruits that we will consider adding to our cart include bananas, mango, pineapple, avocado, papaya, guava, dates, papaya, coconuts, and pomegranate.

More exotic tropical fruits that you may have never even heard of before include rambutan, durian, jackfruit, pitaya, passion fruit, wax apples, durian, sapota, cherimoya, pitahaya, mangosteen, breadfruit, banana passion fruit, longan, pulusan, goldenberry, and tamarillo.

So let’s begin our journey, shall we?!

We can even take off our damn face masks…(at least long enough to eat them).