Posts Tagged ‘fruit’

Washing Produce

April 18, 2016

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The annual produce “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists have been updated, and there are a few changes in rankings. Below are the latest results, and our take on what to do about it to keep you and your family safe from toxins and contamination.

The Dirty Dozen: These are the fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticide contamination, as stated by the Environmental Working Group ( EWG):

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Sweet Bell Peppers
  11. Cherry Tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers

The Clean Fifteen: The following are the groups foods that have the lowest level of pesticide contamination:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen Sweet Peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papaya
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Honeydew Melon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Cauliflower

It is interesting to note that a large portion of the Clean Fifteen are encased in nature’s own packaging which gets peeled and eliminated before consuming.

While the recommendation is to purchase organically grown varieties of the Dirty Dozen, there are also some precautions that can be taken to make the conventional versions safer to eat. These tips are common protocols that should be used on all produce, regardless of the method of farming.

Wash your produce. This may seem like a no-brainer, yet I see people that are sampling unwashed items at the farmer’s markets all the time, and someone once told me that if I wasn’t watching, they wouldn’t bother washing the salad greens at all. Shudder!

Rinse produce under cool running water. Extra sandy items can be soaked in a strainer set into a bowl of water, or a salad spinner, and then rinsed under running water afterwards to rid it of debris. This will help any “sand” settle to the bottom of the bowl, making it easier to rinse off. Harder produce can be brushed with a produce brush to remove excess dirt. While some people add soap, the FDA does not recommend it, citing that it is just adding even more chemicals to the cocktail. A little vinegar or lemon juice has an astringent effect which can aid in the cleaning process naturally. Just be sure to wash the items afterwards to avoid an unpleasant taste.

Be sure to start with clean hands so you don’t end up spreading the bacteria on them to your food.

Even if you are going to peel the produce, wash the outside well before cutting. If there is bacteria or pesticides on the outside, you will draw them through the food on your knife, essentially distributing it throughout the food.  This includes things like lemons and limes, which often get tossed into drinks, rind and all.

Dry it. Gently wipe the produce with a clean towel to dry it and have one more opportunity to wipe off any excess dirt or chemicals.

Avoid bagged salad mixes and commercially cut fruit: Those pre-bagged and pre-cut salads, vegetables and fruit are a great convenience, but with that comes added risk. The more people and machines that touch your food, the more risk of contamination there is. Many food-borne diseases are actually a result of food handling. If you must buy packaged produce, please take extra time to wash it according to the processes outline above.

While rinsing your produce is not a 100% effective in preventing food borne illness, it is the best protection we have to reduce the risks. And in this case, the benefits of eating a plant based diet, and a rainbow of fruit and vegetables drastically out weighs the risks.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: How To Pack A Mason Jar Salad

January 21, 2016

 

How-Make-Mason-Jar-SaladAhh, mason jars; Pinterest’s vessel of choice. While we are totally tired of seeing them as mugs, vases and other types of kitchsy decor, we still love them for what they were originally intended to be used for, which is hold food. They are recyclable, don’t have any BPA’s or other harmful chemicals in them, and can go into the freezer, refrigerator and microwave when the metal top is removed.
The glass jars are the perfect vehicle for storing soups and sauces, and grains. They also allow you make a salad complete with the dressing and not let it get soggy. You can actually pack a few lunches in advance, and store them in the fridge until you are ready to eat them. The trick is the order in which you layer the ingredients in the jar.

First, add the dressing. It might be a tablespoon or two, or even more, depending on how much dressing you like and how big the salad is.

Next, layer the heaviest ingredients on top of it, that will not absorb the dressing. This means items like carrots, cucumbers, celery, and beets.

Add any grains, pasta or beans on top of that.

Next up is the protein layer, containing any chicken, meat, fish, hard boiled eggs, tofu or cheese.  Don’t add these yet if the salad is going to sit for several days. We recommend adding it within 24 hours of eating for best, freshest results.

Any soft vegetables and fruits such as avocado, tomatoes, or berries go on next. Again, if you are keeping the salad for several days, add these at the last minute. Avocado or apple should be soaked in lemon juice to avoid it turning brown.

Add any nuts, croutons or seeds in the next layer, followed by a hefty helping of clean and well dried greens. Screw on the lid, pop it in the refrigerator and anticipate lunch!

Chopped Salad

When ready to eat the salad, give it a little shake and dump it into a bowl. The lettuce will be on the bottom, and the other items on top of it. The dressing will mix in as it is poured. Enjoy!

Photo: top: POPSUGAR

bottom: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: How To Salvage a Burnt Cake

December 1, 2015
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Don’t cry over a burnt cake.

You know the old saying about how the cobbler’s kids going shoeless or something like that? Well this baker’s dessert game at home has been suffering. The other night, I popped a simple bundt cake into the oven and forgot about it. Since it needs to bake for 1 and 15 minutes, I knew it had a ways to go when I remembered it. The question was, how far? The answer: a little less far than I thought. The first sign was when the cake came out of the pan with a chunk missing. Ok, I thought, I will serve it sliced. Nope, that wasn’t the solution. It was a little dark all around.

The inside, while perhaps just a tad drier than I would have liked, was acceptable. What to do?

Way too lazy to make another one, I was determined to make this one work. (Note of apology to any of my dinner guests who might be reading this. You were worth a better cake. Really, you were.)

I ended up slicing the cake, and used a biscuit cutter to cut circles out of the inner cake. I discarded the dark, outer crust and pretended it never existed. I used the cake to sandwich whipped cream and drizzled it with chocolate sauce. I had purchased some icecream and strawberries to puree into a coulis, but never actually got that far.( I really was a lazy hostess!) I am going to assume that all is well that ends well, as there wasn’t a bite of cake left after the meal ended.

The moral of the story: Be resourceful. There is a solution to every problem. Next time this happens to you, cut the good parts into an interesting shape, or chunks, and top them with icecream, whipped cream and fruit, or a great sauce. Layer them in a cup parfait style, or soak the cake in sweet wine or liquor for a take on trifle. Your guests might just think you made something extra special, on purpose. Oh yeah, don’t forget to smile when you serve it!

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Storing Produce

June 9, 2015

 

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Summer time is produce time. Our cravings turn to green market fresh vegetables, and cool juicy fruits which grow at this time of year. What happens when the abundance of the season gets wilted and moldy before we have a chance to enjoy it?

Here are a few tips to keeping produce fresh:

Buy the freshest fruits and vegetables you can find. The farmer’s markets are a great source, since the produce is local and comes to us directly from the farm, rather than traveling for a week before it gets out on the floor of the grocery store. The fresher it is at the time of purchase, the longer it will last.

Keep produce dry. Many experts suggest washing and thouroughly drying fruits and vegetables, and storing them wrapped in paper towels to absorb any additional moisture. Strawberries can be either be washed and hulled before storing in an airtight container, or can be laid on paper towels in a single layer in the refrigerator, for those lucky enough to have the real estate.

Certain foods give off ethanol, which causes food to ripen. Keep those ripe bananas away from other fruits and vegetables, to keep them from over ripening and molding. Avocados are a prime candidate for going from rock hard to mush, missing that window when they are at their peak.

One bad apple, (or tomato, berry etc.) can spoil the whole bunch. Pick through and toss any soft or moldy items and rinse the rest well to keep it from spreading.

When the week is nearing an end, and there are lots of leftover vegetables sitting in the refrigerator ready to “kick the bucket” at any time, try making soup. Saute a diced onion in butter or olive oil. Add diced vegetables, and quickly brown them. Cover with broth ( vegetable or chicken) and simmer until they are soft. Season with salt and pepper, and herbs of your choice. Puree until smooth, and enjoy!

Photo:  Glasshouse Images

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It’s a Wash

November 20, 2014

You know those pesky labels affixed to your fruit, that sometimes leave a little goo behind when removed? What if they had a more practical use than just providing info to the checkout clerk?

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Scott Amron has developed Fruit Wash labels, which dissolve into an organic fruit cleanser that helps remove wax, pesticides, bacteria and dirt. The labels would include all of the pertinent information regarding the fruit’s origin and PLU code, but be environmentally friendly, as well as hygienic.

The labels are not available yet, and the developer is currently seeking investors.

photo courtesy of Amron Experimental 

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Measuring Apples

October 14, 2014

 

Still life with applesAutumn is apple season, and our thoughts turn to pies, tarts and other uses for these delicious fruits.

Many recipes call for chopped or sliced apples, measured in cups. But how many apples make a cup?

A larger apple, once peeled and cored will yield more than a smaller one. An easy way to estimate how many apples it will take to make a cup, is to use the assumption that 1 pound of apples will equate to about 3 cups, once they are prepared.

According to the good folks at King Arthur Flour, an apple loses about 30% of it’s weight when peeled and cored. It may take more small apples, or less large apples to net out a pound, but that pound should roughly yield about 3 cups.

This beauty is our signature apple tart in process!

This beauty is our signature apple tart in process!

To simplify it even more, there are roughly 3 average sized Granny Smith apples to a pound. Add an extra for smaller apples. When in doubt, but 1 or 2 more than you think you might need. You can always use the leftover fruit for a snack, or chopped into a salad for sweetness.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Fruit Ice

June 24, 2014

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Summer is here and the days are starting to heat up. It’s more important than ever to drink lots of water to keep cool, and stay hydrated. This trick adds a little fun and flavor to your water pitcher, by freezing pieces of fruit right into the ice cubes.

In a large ice cube tray, place slices of lemon, lime,orange or other fruit into the wells of the tray. Add water and freeze until solid.

The end result are beautiful fruit filled ice cubes that add a hint of taste to your water as they melt.

Delicious and nutritious! Yum!

photo: Glasshouse Images

http://www.glasshouseimages.com

 

Eating Outside the Box

March 7, 2013

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I pride myself in being a generally healthy eater, trying to concentrate on fresh, whole foods that are low in fat and refined carbohydrates. Not my whole household does the same.

When B was a baby, she ate everything I gave her. She loved scrambled eggs, fish, tofu, fruits and vegetables. Stir-fried broccoli from the local Chinese restaurant was greeted with smiles and kicking feet. Then, something changed.

It started innocently, with a chocolate chip cookie baked as a distraction during the days that followed 9/11. She eyed it tentatively at first, then gave it a cautious lick. As a big grin swept over her face, she realized she discovered something delicious. Still, sweets were offered in only in moderation.

Next, there was the hotdog, offered unwittingly by a parent on a play date. Little by little, she was introduced to the fried, the processed and the heavily sweetened. Little by little, she balked at the healthy foods being served to her, and morphed into an average kid, with an average palate.
Now heading into her teens, her poor habits are exacerbated by her ability to go into the kitchen and help herself. I am the enabler, making sure the cupboards and freezer are stocked with foods she likes.

Last night, when I saw the wrappers from the afternoon snacks in the trash, I offhandedly voiced my concern, stating that she was going to end up diabetic if she didn’t clean up her act.

Today after school, B asked me if she is really a candidate for illness, even though she is active and far from overweight. The sad reality is that she is headed in that direction. It was a wake-up call for both of us.
Article after article discusses how sugar, and an unbalanced diet could lead to all kinds of health risks, from diabetes to cancer. Just because those Pop tarts are organic, and the granola bars whole grain and trans fat free, doesn’t mean they are healthy.

By the time we reached home, she had outlined her new eating plan.

Scrambled eggs for breakfast tomorrow, instead of a toaster pastry. Perhaps moving onto oatmeal later in the week.

I have been instructed to stock up on pears, grapes and bananas, as well as cashews, carrots with dip, and the ingredients for an afternoon smoothie to be eaten as snacks or dessert.

Dinner will be a challenge, but if we focus on the foods she likes, it’s a start.

In essence, it’s time she starts eating outside of the box. Literally.

What can we offer up to the pickiest of eaters that comes from the earth, not a package? I intend to find out.

We have all heard of Meatless Monday. Perhaps we need to coin “Try it Tuesday”, “Whole Grain Wednesday” or “Thirsty Thursday”? Even a day called “F$2k It Friday” could exist, because sometimes you just to kick back and have some pizza after a long week.

Let’s see how we do. Can she change her eating habits? Can I avoid buying food in a box? Can I get creative with the foods she likes, in order to make her fresh, healthy dinners that she can enjoy? Time will tell, and I will of course tell it here.

Stay tuned, as we set out to eat outside the box.

Produce De-coded

July 23, 2012

Did you ever wonder what those little stickers on your fruits and vegetables were for? They provide price information, and carry a code which indicates how your produce has been farmed.

Stickers bearing a 4 digit code beginning with a 3 or a 4 means that the produce was conventionally grown, utilizing chemical pesticides.

Stickers with a 5 digit code beginning with the number 8, denotes that the food has been genetically modified, indicating that genes have been manipulated to produce a larger or more colorful fruit or vegetable. They may also have been sprayed with chemical pesticides.

Stickers bearing a 5 digit code beginning with a 9, are placed on organic produce, ensuring that it has not been chemically treated.

The stickers are adhered to the produce with an edible, non-toxic adhesive, although the stickers themselves are not edible.

Always wash your produce well, regardless of how it was grown, and remove the stickers and glue before eating.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Unrecipe of the Week

January 28, 2012

Ahh, the glamorous life of a fashionista! I just returned from a week away from home, doing presentations in Scandinavia.  Sounds wonderful, until you realize that every night after work, we got on a train or a plane, skipped dinner and went to bed late, only to wake up and do it all over again. Lunch was served at 11:15, and tended to be a stand up affair.

After finishing my final presentation in Copenhagen, I opted for a short walk and a quiet seated lunch before heading to the airport. I am a little embarrassed to admit that where I ended up was Hard Rock Café!  The real surprise was the delicious salad I had there. It was a light and healthy blend of lettuce, fresh fruit and grilled chicken that they referred to as the “anti Cobb”.  Here is our take on this yummy salad:

Indigo Jones’ Anti Cobb Salad:

shredded lettuce

sliced Granny Smith apples

diced mango

sliced avocado

sliced strawberries

orange sections

dried cranberries

diced roasted chicken breast (optional)

Layer the fruit in rows over the shredded lettuce. Toss with balsamic vinaigrette and enjoy!!!

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
Whisk together 2 parts olive oil and 1 part balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

photo: Glasshouse Images

 

 

 

 


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