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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oregano

Oregano:

About:

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a memeber ot the mint family.  It is sometimes called "wild marjoram" with sweet marjoram being a close relative.  Oregano is an important culinary herb used for the flavor of its leaves, which can be more flavorful when dried than when fresh.  It has an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste, which can vary in intensity.  Good quality oregano may be strong enough to almost numb the tongue.  Oregano adds a warm, balsamic, and aromatic flavor to many dishes.  The name "oregano" is translated  as "mountain joy". 

Uses:

Oregano's most prominent  modern use is a staple herb of Italian-American cuisine.  It's popularity in the U.S. began when soldiers returning from W.W. II brought back with them a taste for the "pizza herb", which probably had been eaten in southern Italy for cneturies.  In Italy it is most commonly used with roasted, fried, or grilled vegetables, meat , and fish.  Oregano is also widely used in Turkish, Palestinian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Syrian, Greek, Portugese, Italian, Spanish Philippine, and Latin American cuisine.

History:

Oregano is native to northern Europe.  It has been recognized for its aromatic properties since ancient times with the Greeks and Romans holding oregano as a symbol of joy and happiness.  Greek and Roman brides and grooms were often crowned with a laurel of oregano.   France has cultivated oregano since the Middle Ages and it has become an important herb in Mediterranean cuisine. 
Oregano was hardly known in the U.S. until the early 20th century when G.I.s returning from Italy brought back word of this fragrant and delicious herb.  

My Story:

My first exposure to oregano was as a kid, when my cousins taught me how to make a mini-pizza.  We often had grilled cheese sandwiches, especially on Fridays and during Lent.  Well, here's how they would turn it into a pizza.   Just add a slice or two of fresh tomato and sprinkle with some dried oregano, grill as always, and you had the taste of pizza.   Pizza grilled cheese sandwiches were always a treat, even to this day. 

Nutrition:

Oregano is an excellent source of vitamin K; a very good source of manganese; and a good source of iron, fiber, and calcium.


Health Benefits:

In the myths of folk medicine Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments.  Oregano contains polyphenols, including many flavones.   The volatile oils in this spice include thymol and carvacrol which have been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria.  Oregano contains numerous phytonutrients which function as potent antioxidants that can prevent oxygen based damage to cell structures throughout the body.  

According to the Natural Medicine Comprehensive  Database oregano is used for the following illnesses and conditions, usually in the form of oil of oregano:

Cold                 Muscle pain                 Acne
Dandruff          Bronchitis                    Toothache
Bloating           Headache                     Heart condition
Allergies          Intestinal Parasites       Ear ache
Fatigue            Repelling insects          Mensral cramps




Season:

Oregano is available throught the year.

Selecting and Storing:

When possible choose fresh oregano over dried for its superior flavor.  Choose oregano with a vibrant green color and firm stems.  Avoid dark spots or yellowing. 
Fresh oregano should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel.

Dried oregano should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a dark, dry place where it will last up to 6 months.








So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


How to Enjoy Oregano:

  • Garnish your pizza with fresh oregano
  • Add to sauteed mushrooms and onions
  • Add a few sprigs to a container of olive oil to infuse the oil with the essence of oregano
  • Fresh oregano is an aromatic addition to omlets and frittatas
  • Sprinkle chopped oregano on homemade garlic bread
  • Add oregano to salad dressing
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

April Fruits and Veggies in Season

April Fruits and Veggies in Season

Here are the fruits and vegetables that are in season during the month of April:

Fruits:

Pineapples                    Mangoes


Vegetables:

Zucchini                      Rhubarb                               Artichokes                     Asparagus
Spring Peas                 Broccoli                               Lettuce              





These fruits and vegetables are in season Year-Round:

Fruits:

Apples                        Avocadoes                            Bananas                         Dried Fruits
Lemons                      Papayas  


Vegetables: 

Beet Greens               Bell Peppers                         Bok Choy                        Broccolini
Cabbage                     Carrots                                 Celery                              Celery Root
Leeks                          Lettuce                                Mushrooms                      Onions
Parsnips                      Shallots                               Turnips


Try to buy fresh produce in season for best quality and value.



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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kale

Kale:

About:

Kale (Brassica oleracea/Acephala Group) is a vegetable with green or purple leaves in which the central leaves do not form a head.   As a Brassica vegetable, it is in the family including cabbage, collards, and Brussels sprouts.  Kale is a cruciferous vegetable and in fact has been called the "queen" of the cruciferous vegetables because of its health attributes.  The leaves of the kale plant have an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food.

Uses:

Kale freezes well and tastes sweeter and more flavorful after being exposed to a frost.  Tender kale greens can provide an intense addition to salads, particularly when combined with other strongly flavored ingredients as dry roasted peanuts, soy sauce, roasted almonds, red capsicum flakes, or a sesame-based dressing.  When combined with oils or lemon juice, kale's flavor is noticeably reduced.  When baked or dehydrated, kale takes on a consistency similar to that of a potato chip.  Curly kale varieties are usually preferred for chips.  The chips can be seasoned with salt or other spices. 

History:

Until the end of the Middle Ages, kale was one of the most common vegetables in all of Europe.  Like broccoli, cauliflower, and collard greens, kale a descendant of wild cabbage thought to have originated in Asia Minor and brought to Europe by 600 B.C. 

My Story:

Kale was one of the vegetables that Grandma made.  I loved it even as a kid.  My Mom didn't make it very often.  For a very long time kale was something I would only see as a garnish on platters or in restaurants.  As an adult, I rekindled my love for kale, and now I have it in the house almost all the time.   I try to have some every day.  For me it's a great example of something that is good and good for you.

Nutrition:

Kale is high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium.  Kale contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, much needed micronutrients, and cancer-preventive nutrients called  glucosinolates.


Health Benefits:

Kale, as do broccoli and other Brassica vegetables, contains sulforaphane (especially when chopped), a chemical with potent anti-cancer and anti diabetes properties.  Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane, however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying does not result in significant loss.  Kale is also a source of indole-3-carbi8nol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.  Kale has been found to contain a group of resins known as bile acid sequestrants, which are shown to lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat. 

Season:

Kale can be found in markets throughout the year.  It is in season from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring.

Selecting and Storing:

Choose kale with firm deeply colored leaves and moist, hardy stems.  The leaves should look fresh, be not wilted, and be free from signs of browning, yellowing, and small holes. 
Store kale in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days..  Do not wash kale until you are ready to use it.  


So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Simple but Good:


Roasted Kale Chips:

1 1/2 lb bunch of kale
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs pumpkin seeds
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Rinse kale and pat dry with a paper towel (it must be dry to crisp).  Remove any stems.  In a large bowel toss the kale, olive oil, and pumpkin seeds.  Rub leaves with fingers to coat with oil.  Arrange leaves on baking sheets and add salt and black pepper.  Bake for 7 - 8 minutes until crisp.  If necessary bake another 2 - 5 minutes to be sure the leaves are crisp.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Oranges Revisited

Oranges Revisited:

About:

The orange or sweet orange is the fruit of the citrus sinensis.  The orange is a hybrid possibly between "pomelo" and the mandarin which has been cultivated since ancient times.  The orange has become the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world.  The United States leads  the  world in production of oranges.  Florida produces the most oranges followed by California, Texas, and Arizona.  Oranges are assumed to have originated in southern China, northeastern India, and perhaps Southeast Asia.   As of 1987 orange trees are the most cultivated fruit trees in the world.    Oranges are widely grown in tropical and subtropical climates.  The orange tree is an evergreen, flowering tree.  Oranges are classified in 2 general categories - sweet and bitter.  Sweet oranges are the type most commonly consumed.  Bitter oranges are often used to make jam or marmalade.  their zest serves as the flavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau

History:

Oranges are assumed to have originated in southern China, northeastern India, and perhaps Southeast Asia.  They were carried to the Mediterranean possibly by Italian traders after 1450 or by Portuguese navigators around 1500.  Prior to then oranges were valued by Europeans mainly for medicinal purposes.

My Story:

I remember  when first moving to Florida the orange groves in our area with rows upon rows of orange trees.  We live near the Indian River which is a large citrus growing area.  I can remember seeing the groves with so many oranges on the ground and walking up to the house on the edge of the grove and knocking on the door to ask if we could take a few oranges.   Another benefit of living in a citrus growing area is the  fragrant smell of the orange blossoms.  Not far from here is an orange juice production plant and the squeezed skins are cooked to produce a mash that is fed to livestock. 


Uses:

Oranges are peeled, segmented and eaten out of hand or utilized in fruit cups, salads, gelatin, and numerous other desserts, and as garnishes on cakes, meats, and poultry dishes.  Oranges are squeezed for their juice and slices and peel are candied as confections.

Varieties:

Citrus sinensis is divided into 4 classes each with distinct characteristics:  common oranges, blood or pigmented oranges, navel oranges, and acid less oranges. 
Valencias - a late season fruit that is popular when the navel is out of season. 
Harts Tardiff Valencias - a variety imported from the Azores Islands
Hamlin - small, smooth, not highly colored, seedless and juicy with a pale yellow juice.
Most of the oranges grown in California are the "Washington Navels" and Valencias.   The "Washington Navel" is valued for its ease in peeling and separating, and is the most popular for eating out of hand.   The Valencia Orange, however, is the most important species in California, Texas, and South Africa.  It was the leader in Florida until just recently when the Hamlin took over.  The Hamlin orange is a small, smooth, not highly colored, seedless, and juicy.  While the fruit is only poor-to-medium in quality the tree is high yielding and cold tolerant.  The Valencia is an excellent juice orange but is also very good out of hand. 
Other orange varieties include  the Honeybell, a cross between the tangerine and grapefruit. Then there are  Temples, which are juicy and spicy sweet. They are easy to peel, section easily,  and excellent for eating out of hand. Honey Tangerines are available from mid January through March.  They are plump, juicy and mild.  They're easy to peel and section.  Another orange that is becoming popular is the Blood Orange with its reddish fruit.  It is commonly grown  in the Mediterranean, but not so much in Florida because the re coloration rarely develops except during cold weather.   In California it is only grown as a novelty.   Oranges can be stored for three months at 52 degrees.

Nutrition:

Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of dietary fiber.  They are a good source of B vitamins including vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, and folate, vitamin A, calcium, copper and potassium.

Health Benefits:

 The vitamin C in oranges is the primary water soluble antioxidant in the body, disarming free radicals and preventing damage in the aqueous environment both inside and outside cells.  Additionally, oranges are eaten to allay fever, for asthma, to prevent kidney stones, to lower cholesterol, to prevent diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure.   The roasted pulp is prepared as a poultice for skin diseases.  The fresh peel is rubbed on acne and used in exfoliating facial scrubs.


Selecting and Storing:

Choose oranges that have smooth textured skin and are firm and heavy for their size.  Avoid those that have soft spots, or traces of mold.
Oranges can be store at room temperature or in the refrigerator.  Either way they will last 2 weeks.


So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good

Orange Peel Cookies:
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 whole orange with peel - chopped, seeded, and pureed.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the shortening and sugar, and mix until light.  Stir in vanilla, milk, and ground orange.  Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Mix until combined.  Let dough sit for 15 minutes, then drop teaspoon sized drops onto greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees F. for about 7 -10 minutes or until done.
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Escarole

Escarole:

About:

Escarole along with curly endive (chicory) is a traditional herbaceous leafy plant that is in the daisy (Asteraceae) family.  Escarole is related to Belgium and curly endive, but has broad slightly curved leaves with a milder flavor than either of them.  Its taste is almost indistinguishable from radicchio. 

Uses:

Escarole along with curly endive is used mainly in salads, but can be lightly cooked and eaten as a vegetable or in soups.

History:

Escarole originated in the Mediterranean area and has been recognized for thousands of years through the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian civilizations.  

My Story:

When I was growing up in Brooklyn,  escarole or "'scarola", as we would say it,  was a code word for a pretty girl.   In the grocery store we would say, " Man, did you see that 'scarola' on aisle 3?  Madonna!  She's nice!

Nutrition:

Escarole is high in folic acid, fiber (an entire head contains 16 grams of dietary fiber), vitamins A and K.  It is a good source of minerals like manganese, copper, iron, and potassium.

Health Benefits:

The manganese in escarole is used as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dimutase.  Potassium is an important intercellular electrolyte which counters the hypertensive effects of sodium.  Current research suggests that high insulin and fiber content in escaraole helps reduce glucose and LDL cholesterol levels in diabetes and obese patients.  

Season:

Escarole is available year round from Florida, and during the winter, fall and spring months from California.  You can find it locally in most areas in May and June. 

Selecting and Storing:

Select heads with green outer leaves and white to yellow centers.  The butt end should be white to light brown.  The leaves should be free from wilting and decay.
Store escarole tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Simple but Good

Escarole and Bean Soup:

1 head escarole, rinsed well ( it can be sandy!)
1/8 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 can cannellini beans (15 ounces), drained.
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp hot red crushed pepper flakes
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Cut off about an inch at the base of the head of escarole.  Then cut the head into 1 - 1 1/2 inch strips.  Set aside.  
In a saucepan heat the oil and brown the onion and garlic.  Add the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Add the escarole and stir until wilted.  Add broth and beans, stir, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add parmesan just before serving. 


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Broccoli Revisited

Broccoli Revisited:

About:

Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family whose large flowering head is eaten as a vegetable.  The word "broccoli" is the Italian plural of the word "broccolo" referring to the flowering top of the cabbage plant.  It most closely resembles the cauliflower which is another variety in the same species.  Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable.

Varieties:

 There are three common types of broccoli  including the most familiar which is the Calabrese broccoli from Calabria in Italy with its large green heads and thick stalks.   Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many small stalks.  Purple broccoli is sold in southern Italy, Spain and the UK and has a head like cauliflower but with tiny heads.  There is also what is called broccoli rabe.  Another name for it is rapini.  It has small heads like broccoli but is actually a turnip.

Uses:

Broccoli can be boiled, steamed, roasted, baked, or eaten raw.  It can be prepared countless ways.  My favorite is steamed and then sauteed in olive oil, garlic and onion. 

History:

Broccoli has its roots in Italy.  In ancient Roman times it was developed from wild cabbage , a plant more resembling collards than broccoli.  Thomas Jefferson first brought broccoli  seeds to Monticello from Italy.  He was not particularly fond of broccoli.  It wasn't until the Italian immigration of the 1920's that broccoli became more popular here in America.  The Italians knew the proper way to cook it.


My Story:

One of the dishes my Grandma Schiera would make was broccoli and macaroni.  She made it soupy with lots of oil and garlic.  My father told me that one time a cousin was eating over and asked what those floating  little green pieces were.  My father answered  that they were pieces of the broccoli, but his cousin insisted  they were bugs that came out of the broccoli when it was cooked.  My father did not like broccoli and macaroni for a long time after that.

Nutition:

Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, chromium, and folate.  It is a very good source of dietary fiber, pentothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin B1, vitamin A, potassiumj, and copper.  It is a good source of magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin and serlenium.

Health Benefits:

 One of the compounds in broccoli is a potent modulator of the innate immune response with anti-bacterial, anti-virus, and anti-cancer activity.  Broccoli has anti-inflammatory benefits, antioxidant benefits and pro-detoxification componenets.   Broccoli is usually boiled  or steamed, but may be eaten raw.  Researchers found that boiling reduces the anti-cancer compounds, but  steaming, stir frying, or microwaving has no significant effect.  Steamed broccoli is better for binding with bile acids which help the body eliminate cholesterol.   An average of 1/2 cup of broccoli per day or 2 cups twice a week is enough to show benefits.  Broccoli research has shown decreased risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer and overian cancer. 

Season:

Broccoli is a cool weather crop that is planted in the spring or fall.  It is available all year, but peak season is March through November.

Selecting and Storing:

 Look for firm, clean stalks with tight bluish green florets, that are compact and not bruised.  Check the stems to make sure they are not too thick or hard.  Those tend to be woody.  You can peel off the outer skin of the stems and then slice it up to cook and eat with the florets.  Broccoli should have little or no fragrance.  Broccoli will keep up to ten days if refrigerated and kept moist in an airtight plastic bag.  Once it starts to get spongy you can slice off some of the bottom of the stalk and soak the broccoli in ice water to firm it up and extend the life.

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Simple but Good:


Broccoli with Farfalle:

1 lb farfalle (bowtie) pasta
2 heads broccoli trimmed to florets (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tbs butter
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and cook stirring occaisionally.  After 5 minutes add the broccoli to the pasta and cook another 4 minutes.  Drain the pasta and broccoli reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  
Meanwhile in a large skillet heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 5 minutes.  Add the broccoli, pasta, salt, pepper and toss.  Add some of the reserved water if necessary to make a light sauce.  Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. 
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Fresh Produce in Season





Fresh Produce in Season:



When it comes to produce, a worthy goal is to buy healthy fresh produce in season at a good price.  When in season produce is at its best quality and available at its best price.  

In just a few days we will be beginning spring.  Here is my list of in season spring fruits and vegetables:

Spring Vegetables

Artichokes                            Collard Greens                             Red Leaf Lettuce
Arugula                                 Fennel                                          Rhubarb
Asparagus                             Fiddlehead Ferns                         Snow Peas
Belgium Endive                    Green Beans                                Spinach
Broccoli                                 Jicama                                         Spring Greens
Butter (Bibb) Lettuce            Mustard Greens                           Sugar Snap Peas
Cauliflower                            Pea Pods                                     Vidalia Onions
Chives                                    Radicchio                                    Watercress

Spring Fruits:

Apricots                                 Limes                                          Pineapple
Grapefruit                              Mango                                        Strawberries
Honey Dew                           Oranges


Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Organic:

These fruits and vegetables tend to retain chemicals from the growing process.  Wherever possible buy these Organic:

Butter (Bibb) Lettuce             Red Leaf Lettuce                         Strawberries
Collard Greens                      Spinach

Fruits and Vegetable to Eat Often:

These fruits and vegetable tend to be particularly nutritious.  Eat them often:

Arugula                                    Collard Greens                           Vidalia Onions
Asparagus                                Mustard Greens                          Watercress 
Broccoli                                   Red Leaf Lettuce                         Honey Dew
Butter (Bibb) Lettuce              Spinach                                        Strawberries
Cauliflower                             Spring Greens

So.....Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.



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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ginger

Ginger:

About:

Ginger (Zingiber officinate) is a flowering plant in the family Zingiberaceae whose rhizome (underground stem), ginger root is widely used as a spice or a medicine.   Ginger produces a hot fragrant kitchen spice.  Young rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste.  Young rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste.   Mature ginger rhizomes are fibrous and nearly dry. 


 










History:

Ginger is indigenous to southern China, and was spread eventually to the Spice Islands, other parts of Asia, and subsequently to West Africa and the Caribbean.  Ginger was exported to Europe via India during the 1st century A.D. as a result of the lucrative spice trade.  India remains the largest produce of ginger today.  From 1585 Jamaican ginger was the first oriental spice to be grown in the New World and was imported back to Europe.  


Uses:

You ginger rhizomes are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or just cooked as an ingredient in many dishes.  They can also be steeped in boiling water to make ginger tea, to which honey is often added.  Sliced orange or lemon fruit may also be added.   Juice from the ginger root is often used as a spice in Indian recipes, and is a common ingredient in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and many south Asian cuisines for flavoring seafood, certain meats and vegetarian cuisines.   


Health Benefits:

Ginger has a long history of being very effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress.  In herbal medicine ginger is regarded as am excellent carminative (a substance that promotes elimination of intestinal gas) and as an intestinal spasmolytic (relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract).  Modern research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, an ability to inhibit formation of inflammatory compounds and direct anti-inflammatory effects.  Ginger's anti-vomiting action has been shown useful in reducing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Ginger has been shown to be very effective in preventing symptoms of motion sickness especially seasickness. One study showed ginger to be more effective than Dramamine, and over-the-counter and prescription for motion sickness.  
Gingerois, the main active ingredient in ginger may also inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells.  Lab studies have shown that the active phytonutrients in ginger kill ovarian cancer cells by inducing programmed cell death and self-digestion. 
Ginger can help promote healthy sweating, which often helps fight colds and flu's.   Other uses include pain relief from muscle soreness and arthritis, menstrual pain, upper respiratory tract infections, cough and bronchitis.  It is sometimes used for chest pain, low back pain, and stomach pain.

Season:

Ginger is available year round.

Selecting and Storing:

Wherever possible choose fresh ginger over dried.  Select firm, smooth, and free from mold roots.  Mature ginger is the more widely available type.  It has a tougher skin and requires peeling.  Young ginger is usually only available in Asian markets, but does not need to be peeled.  Ginger is also available crystallized, candied, and pickled.
Fresh unpeeled ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.  Unpeeled ginger stored in the freezer will keep for up to 6 months.  

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Ways to use Ginger:

  • To make a spicy lemonade, combine freshly grated ginger with lemon juice, cane juice or honey, and water.
  • To enhance a rice side, sprinkle grated ginger, sesame seeds and nori strips.
  • To make a great ginger salad dressing, combine ginger, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic.
  • To spice up your vegetables, add freshly minced ginger.
  • To tweak your sweet potatoes,  add ginger and orange juice and puree. 

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pineapple Revisited

Pineapple Revisited:

About:

Today the pineapple ranks second only to the banana as America's favorite tropical fruit.  This member of the bromeliad family is called a multiple fruit.  One pineapple is actually dozens of individual flowers that grow together to form the entire fruit.   Pineapple season runs from March to June, but they are available in the market all year.  The pineapple symbolizes hospitality.  Pineapple shapes are often put in entrance ways.  During Colonial times a fresh pineapple was used as a centerpiece at a festive meal.  The fruit would be served as a dessert at the end of the meal.


History:

The pineapple is native to southern Brazil and Paraguay and spread throughout South America.  Eventually it reached the Caribbean and was discovered by Columbus in 1493 and brought to Europe.  The Spanish introduced the pineapple into the Philippines and Hawaii. John Kidwell is credited with introducing the Pineapple industry to Hawaii.  The pineapple is named for its resemblance to the pine cone.

My Story:

When I was in college a classmate's father, who had been stationed in Hawaii during W.W.II, used to tell a story about a pineapple.  He and a buddy were frequently on guard duty manning a large anti-aircraft gun.  One day they got to talking to a native who offered to show them how to make a good drink.   The Hawaiian took a pineapple, chopped off the top, and scooped out the insides.  He then filled the hollow pineapple with water and replaced the top with the instructions to taste the water in about three days.   Well,  the soldiers didn't think too much about it.  Then after a few days in the middle of the night they were bored and went looking for the pineapple.  They took a taste and it was indeed very good.  After consuming the contents of the pineapple they were so drunk they managed to set off the gun they were guarding, which launched a full scale response.   When they were finally brought before their commanding officer, his question was if they knew how much money they had cost the government. 

Uses:

The pineapple can be consumed fresh and cooked, canned, or juiced.  Pineapple is found in various cuisines and is used in desserts, fruit salad, jam, yogurt, ice cream, and candy, and as a complement to meat.

Nutrition:

Pineapple is a rich source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber.  It is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C.  It is rich in B-complex group of vitamins like folates, thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and minerals like copper, manganese and potassium.

Health Benefits:


Pineapples are low in calories and have several health promoting compounds, minerals, and vitamins.  Raw pineapple is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C.   Manganese is a mineral critical to the development of strong bones and connective tissue.  Bromelian found in pineapples helps to break down protein and so the pineapple is considered an aid to digestion. It is also considered an effective anti-inflammatory.  It also has anti-clotting and anti cancer properties  At least a half cup of pineapple a day is said to relieve painful joints common to osteoarthritis.  An old folk remedy for morning sickness is fresh pineapple juice.  Studies have shown that consumption of pineapple regularly helps fight against ingestion and worm infestation. 


Selecting and Storing:

Select pineapples that are heavy for their size and free of soft spots, bruises, and darkened "eyes".   The pineapple does not ripen after it is picked. Smell the pineapple for a sweet fruity smell.  The more scales on the pineapple the sweeter and juicier the taste.  Your pineapple can be left at room temperature for one to two days.  This will actually help it become softer and juicier.  After two days you can wrap it in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for three to five days.

To Peel a Pineapple

To peel a pineapple cut off the top and base so the fruit will stand.  With a sharp knife carefully peel off the skin.  Quarter the pineapple cutting it from top to bottom.  Remove the core if desired,   Cut the quarters into pieces.


Planting a Pineapple Top:


Remove the top of the pineapple with no part of the fruit attached.  Peel off about one inch of the leaves from the base and plant the top in potting soil.   It may take as long as 2 years but a stalk will grow out of the center of the leaves and a new pineapple will grow on the stalk.

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good:

Pineapple Grilled Pork Chops:

1 can (8 ounces) pineapple rings, juice drained and reserved
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
4 pork chops
1 pinch ground black pepper

Mix together the drained pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, and garlic powder in a large plastic bag, and smash the bag a few times with your hands to mix the marinade and dissolve the sugar.  Place the pork chops into the marinade, squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it and refrigerate overnight.  Reserve the pineapple rings.  
Preheat outdoor grill to medium heat and lightly oil the grate.  
Remove the chops from the marinade and grill until brown (about 5 - 8 minutes per side).  Brush the chops several times with the marinade and let it cook onto the surface of the meat.   Discard excess marinade.  While the meat is grilling place the pineapple rings on the grate and grill to create marks.  Serve chops topped with the grilled pineapple rings.
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