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Foods you'll love to cook.

Philosophy of feeding: Dealing with germs

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Spinach…tomatoes…cookies?  Is there anything in the store that’s safe to eat?  Actually, whether it comes from the store or your own back yard, common everyday precautions need to be taken.  In the case of anonymous food created in unseen facilities somewhere in the world, ever more stringent care is necessary (it is interesting to note that in the case of the cookie dough recall, no lives were lost, the 66 cases of infection were spread over 28 states – AND THEY ALL ATE UNCOOKED COOKIE DOUGH!  Baking would have killed the bacteria).

On a morning TV show, the topic was germs.  One guest was a lady who took some extraordinary measures to ensure the cleanliness of her home and workplace after the hospitalization of her two children due to an infection.  When the expert reported on what was found in her home, it was all she could do not to break down in tears.  You had to feel for this woman.  After all her efforts at home and work, bacterial and viral colonies were found throughout.  What was she to do?

You had to applaud her efforts, but one thing was never considered.  How about her children’s immune systems?  Being children, they were probably given rounds of antibiotics for any number of childhood illnesses.  Were the beneficial bacteria necessary for defense ever replaced?  Antibiotics kill everything.  It is of prime importance that beneficial bacteria be replaced EVERY time.  Chlorinated water and daily stress can also decrease their numbers so supplementing daily or at least 3 – 4 times a week would be helpful.

“The best offense is a good defense” is an old saying but it is still very true.  Germs have been, are now, and shall be with us.  We live in a symbiotic relationship with the beneficial ones that help keep us healthy and in a constant battle with the others that are trying to kill us – who shall win is up for debate.  Bugs, germs, whatever you may want to call them, are a part of life.  When it comes to the kitchen though, you might be surprised how often you could be an unwitting agent working on behalf of the enemy.  Too much scrubbing, disinfecting, and spraying can sometimes do more harm than good since the good bugs are being killed along with the bad.

Bacteria and virus – their travel plans
The bottom of your purse, your shoes, keyboards, your hands, cell phones, ATM machines, elevator buttons, door knobs, your kids, the list could go on and on.  You could get all paranoid and try living in a plastic bubble or you could take some proactive steps to reduce your exposure:

  • You were not the first one there
    We live on a planet with billions of other people.  There is a very good chance someone touched something before you did.  Wash your hands regularly and use wipes or gels when you can’t (they do NOT replace regular hand washing).
  • Watch where you put your purse
    If you put your purse on the floor, someone’s shoe was probably there.  People wear shoes into the bathroom.  Do you need a diagram?  If you can’t keep your purse off the floor, then keep it off the kitchen counter and off your desk.
  • Kids are germy people
    Children get everywhere, touch anything, and then their hands go right into their mouths or all over shared toys.  Regular washing and using a chlorine bleach/water soak once a week on the toys helps.

The food in your kitchen
Surprisingly, you could stand a better chance of finding bad germs in your kitchen sink than in your bathroom!  Meats can contain E.coli bacteria, eggs can harbor salmonella, and that shopping bag was probably on your car seat.

The FDA advised consumers to throw the products away.  It said cooking the dough was not recommended because consumers might get the bacteria on their hands and cooking surfaces.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) Reporting by Nicole Maestri; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

  •  Tests were done on various types of cutting boards and one result was that wooden ones were best because the surfaces tested cleaner.  Later on they realized the reason for that was because the germy solution they tested had soaked into the boards.  The recommendation was changed to safer boards which could be placed in the dishwasher.
  • Keep a roll of freezer paper handy.  Before preparing meats and fish, cover the counter with the freezer wrap.  Then use disposable gloves to handle the meat.  When everything is done, dispose of the paper, gloves, and clean anything you may have touched like cupboard doors and drawer pulls.  Wash the sink and faucets.  Use chlorine bleach to disinfect sponges and dishcloths.

Wash your hands before and after handling any food.  Ensure that all food preparation surfaces and utensils are clean before you start.  These steps seem simple enough but are often forgotten.

Good guys – bad guys
Well, good or bad is largely a matter of perspective.  Bacteria and viruses behave a little differently but as far as living with them goes,they are basically the same.  The term good or bad depends on how they interact with us: if they help; good. if they don’t; bad.  The challenge is to keep the numbers balanced in your favor.  The tips listed above are by no means a complete list but do provide a good place to start.

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We do not receive financial gain from, promote, or endorse product brands in posts.
Links are provided so that you may investigate for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Private and group classes are available – in the comfort of your own home (Dallas/Fort Worth area only). Email foodscool@yahoo.com to reserve.

You are invited to read my healthy living articles on Examiner.com

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Home baking now available from Launa’s All Tarted Up Bakery

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May 25, 2012 at 10:42 pm

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Friday’s food: Olive oil

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A bottle of olive oil ready for your enjoyment

Central to the Mediterranean diet/style of eating, this luscious liquid has graced the tables of many of history’s notables such as Plato, Aristotle, Julius Caesar and Christ.  Pretty good company.

Records dating back as far as five thousand years ago in Crete show that olive oil has been enjoyed by countless millions throughout the centuries in that area of the world.  Ancient crushing and production methods are still used today near areas with modern plants to produce high quality oils with Greece, Italy, southern France, Spain and Portugal (and now also in California) all vying for first position.

Traditionally, olives are beaten off the tree limbs onto sheets spread on the ground.  They are then taken to a press where they are crushed and the oil is extracted.  The oil is classified in the USA as:

Extra Virgin: first pressing without heat/steam – up to 1% acidity
Superfine Virgin: first pressing without heat/steam – 1 – 1 1/2% acidity
Fine Virgin: first pressing without  heat/steam – up to 3% acidity
Virgin: first pressing without heat/steam – between 3% and 4% acidity
Pure olive oil or olive oil:  this could be any of a number of things – the olives did not have to be top quality, it could be a blend of various grades, and it could be the result of steam/heat used in a second pressing to extract the last bits of oil.

Light” “extra light” have nothing to do with fat content or calories…those terms refer to the taste of the oil.  It means that all the potential goodness of this monounsaturated oil has been removed.    Here’s some nutritional information.   These oils are useful for frying and other cooking uses but still should not be used for deep frying or high temperature cooking because of the low smoke point.  So while you can certainly cook foods with them, expect smoke if you like to really crank up the heat.

People who love olive oil often like the ones with a more assertive flavor such as those from Tuscany, Italy.  The French one is milder while the Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, Tunisian and Californian are somewhere in the middle.  For best taste, drizzle it on food just as it is served.  Want to use it but not crazy about the taste?  Mix it 50/50 with unsalted butter or another oil and gradually increase the amount of olive oil while you decrease the proportionate amount of other fat.

This oil can go rancid fairly quickly – especially the more expensive, better quality ones (of course!).  To get around this, you can buy really good quality oil in small bottles, or poke a hole in a pure vitamin E capsule and squeeze it into the bottle of oil (E is an antioxidant – helps to preserve).  You can also pour the oil into a wide mouthed container and store it in the fridge.  It will get a little solid, but returns to liquid quickly at room temperature.

No-Mayo Potato Salad
A delicious version for those who don’t like or can’t eat mayonnaise – quantity for 1 serving (potato is about the size of your hand).
Best served room temperature and improves overnight – zap a few seconds in microwave to reheat.

1 potato, 1/2 tennis ball sized onion, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Chop the onion into small dice or slice very thinly.  Place in a bowl.  Either by microwave or by boiling, cook a whole unpeeled potato till a knife inserted comes out easily.  Stab the hot potato in one end with a fork and use the fork to hold potato while scraping off the skin (if organic, do not peel) and cut into slices about 1/2” thick.  Add to bowl.  Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with vinegar, salt, pepper and toss well.  Taste and add more oil or vinegar if necessary.  The potato will soak up just about all the vinegar and oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let cool, adjust salt/pepper if necessary and sprinkle with parsley.

Mozzarella & Tomato Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
The sweet sour balsamic kick really perks up this classic dish – quantities are for 1 serving.

1 ripe and flavorful tomato, 1/2 tomato sized quantity of fresh mozzarella, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, Italian seasonings and Parmesan cheese to taste, salt, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Wash and core tomato.  Slice crosswise into 4 or 5 slices.  If using 1 large ball of cheese, slice into 4 or 5 slices.  If using mini cheese balls, leave whole.  Combine the vinegar, olive oil, and seasonings in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Layer alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella (or arrange tomato slices and decorate with small cheese balls).  Drizzle tomato and cheese with dressing.  Top with a few grinds of black pepper and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Image attribution

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We do not receive financial gain from, promote, or endorse product brands in posts.
Links are provided so that you may investigate for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Private and group classes are available – in the comfort of your own home (Dallas/Fort Worth area only). Email foodscool@yahoo.com to reserve.

You are invited to read my healthy living articles on Examiner.com

Become a fan of FoodsCool on Facebook

Home baking now available from Launa’s All Tarted Up Bakery

Written by FoodsCool

December 23, 2011 at 10:39 pm

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Friday’s food: Turkey

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As you gather with family and friends this holiday season, you’ll enjoy cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and pumpkin pie.  Holding court at a place of honor will no doubt be a fowl that very nearly became America’s national bird.  Year after year you willingly brave the crowds to find the perfect turkey to grace your holiday meal.  But have you ever wondered why?  Click here for more on that.

The white feathered bird commonly associated with holiday (especially Thanksgiving) feasting has gone through some major changes (where you buy the bird and whether it is a heritage bird makes a world of difference).  Unfortunately, heritage turkeys cost substantially more per pound than the mass-produced grocery store type.  This is due, in part, to the fact that taking special care of food animals requires much more hands-on work, plus close attention to their living conditions and food.  All of these factors impact the selling price.  You also have to consider the environmental cost and the regular use of antibiotics in the food supply of  factory-farmed birds.

The bird which is today commonly recognized as the commercial turkey bears little resemblance to the original wild turkey.  That bird is believed to have originated in Mexico and, upon being introduced to the Old World, became quite popular.  The “wild turkey” of today is actually the Bronze variety which fell out of favor once the broad-breasted, tender white-feathered variety became available.

It is generally agreed that, for those who choose to eat animal protein, it is better to opt for white meat over red.  This lean protein also provides other nutritional benefits:

  • Studies now show a clear difference between intake of red meats (like beef) and intake of white meats (like turkey) with respect to certain activities in our digestive tract. One particularly interesting study has determined that formation of N-nitroso compounds in the large intestine is much more likely to occur from high intake of red meats like beef than from high intake of white meats like turkey. Since excessive formation of N-nitroso compounds is associated with increased risk of colon cancer, this finding points to a special benefit that may be provided by turkey and other white meats in comparison to red meats.
  • Turkey has recently been shown to fall into a group of high-protein foods (including tuna and egg whites) that can help keep post-meal insulin levels within a desirable range.
    World’s Healthiest Foods

But Thanksgiving is not the only time you can add this protein to your meal options.  It is available at major grocery stores as sausages, patties, ground, and as parts like legs, breasts and thighs.  In many recipes, it is possible to substitute dark or light meat turkey for pork.  Just remember that the leaner the cut, the drier the final product may be.

This video provides absolutely no help, nor will it ensure turkey happiness for your or your diners.  It does, however, give us a chance to share a little chuckle…

 

Feel a little sleepy after that Thanksgiving meal?  Don’t blame the turkey.  That dozy feeling has more to do with the volume of food you ate (fatty foods especially – and a lot of refined carbohydrates don’t help) than the Tryptophan.  Many other foods have significant levels of this amino acid and yet are not known for sleep inducing properties.

Turkey ideas from The Food Network

Turkey ideas from Jennie-O

Do you have a favorite turkey recipe?

Image: Microsoft Corporation

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We do not receive financial gain from, promote, or endorse product brands in posts.
Links are provided so that you may investigate for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Private and group classes are available – in the comfort of your own home (Dallas/Fort Worth area only). Email foodscool@yahoo.com to reserve.

You are invited to read my healthy living articles on Examiner.com

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Written by FoodsCool

December 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm

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Friday’s Food: Cranberries

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Native to North America, cranberries (or “crane berries” after the birds which frequent the bogs) have been enjoyed by Native Americans for generations.  They were originally called i-bimi (bitter berry) because they are quite tart.   Pounded into a paste, they were mixed with pemmican.   As a supplement, the berries are used to support urinary tract health and are available in capsule form.  Cranberries are an important commercial crop in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Wisconsin and the season is late fall into early winter.

Your introduction to this nutritious berry was probably that sweet jellied side dish served at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Some swear it must be served as jelly, while others demand that it be a loose berry compote.  Either way, it has become an expected part of the holiday meal.  But holiday cranberry sauce is just the beginning.  Dried berries may be added to cookies and trail mix.  You can store a bag or two (or many) in the freezer to jazz up muffins and baked goods all through the year.

Starbucks bliss bar youtube video:

A recipe for oatmeal cranberry white chocolate chunk cookies, many other yummies, and a downloadble recipe book are available from Ocean Spray.

Fresh cranberries are available at your local grocery store.  Pick up a few bags and store them in the freezer.

Image info and attribution.

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We do not receive financial gain from, promote, or endorse product brands in posts.
Links are provided so that you may investigate for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Private and group classes are available – in the comfort of your own home (Dallas/Fort Worth area only). Email foodscool@yahoo.com to reserve.

You are invited to read my healthy living articles on Examiner.com

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December 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm

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Friday’s food: Potatoes

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Different potato varieties. – The potato is the vegetable of choice in the United States. On average, Americans devour about 65 kg of them per year.

All white potatoes are collectively known as Irish Potatoes even though they originated in the Andean mountain region of South America.  Researchers estimate that they have been cultivated for about 4,000 to 7,000 years  by the native people of that area.

When they hear the word “potato”, people usually think of the white russet or perhaps the red creamer (also with white flesh), but white-fleshed potatoes are somewhat of a minority.  Even the now popular Yukon Gold variety with its buttery golden goodness is but a tiny glimpse of the orgy of tastes and colors potatoes provide.  Some stores now carry variety packs of fingerlings (3-4 inch size) and I’ve found  bags of gorgeous purple-blue delights.  Just think of the Mardi Gras potato salad you could make with broccoli florets and some tuber ingenuity!

A popular food staple for thousands of years, most of the potatoes consumed in the USA are salted French fries and chips.  Even the otherwise healthy baked potato is drowned in artery clogging fats.  Once you learn how healthy this vegetable is, you just may re-think how spuds could be a part of your healthy eating plan.

Whether mashed, baked or roasted, people often consider potatoes as comfort food. It is an important food staple and the number one vegetable crop in the world. Potatoes are available year-round as they are harvested somewhere every month of the year.

The potato belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family whose other members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos. They are the swollen portion of the underground stem which is called a tuber and is designed to provide food for the green leafy portion of the plant. If allowed to flower and fruit, the potato plant will bear an inedible fruit resembling a tomato.
World’s Healthiest Foods

Since the popularity of the low-carb-high-protein diet, potatoes have been sidelined and considered an empty white starch.  New research methods have identified 60 phytochemicals and vitamins in 100 wild and commercially grown varieties.  Some even compare favorably with broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts when you look at nutrients that help fight cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and certain cancers.

“Potatoes have been cultivated for thousands of years, and we thought traditional crops were pretty well understood, but this surprise finding shows that even the most familiar foods might conceal a hoard of health-promoting chemicals.”
IFR Food Scientist Dr. Fred Mellon

Potatoes and their high concentration of B6 support a wide variety of body functions:

Vitamin B6 plays another critically important role in methylation, a chemical process in which methyl groups are transferred from one molecule to another. Many essential chemical events in the body are made possible by methylation, for example, genes can be switched on and turned off in this way. This is particularly important in cancer prevention since one of the genes that can be switched on and off is the tumor suppressor gene, p53. Another way that methylation helps prevent cancer is by attaching methyl groups to toxic substances to make them less toxic and encourage their elimination from the body.

Methylation is also important to cardiovascular health. Methylation changes a potentially dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign substances. Since homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls greatly increasing the progression of atherosclerosis, high homocysteine levels are associated with a significantly increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Eating foods rich in vitamin B6 can help keep homocysteine levels low. In addition, diets high in vitamin B6-rich foods are associated with overall lower rates of heart disease, even when homocysteine levels are normal, most likely because of all the other beneficial activities of this energetic B vitamin.

A single baked potato will also provide you with 11.7% of the daily value for fiber, but remember the fiber in potatoes is mostly in their skin. If you want the cholesterol-lowering, colon cancer preventing, and bowel supportive effects of fiber, be sure to eat the potato’s flavorful skin as well as its creamy center.
World’s Healthiest Foods

Much like tomatoes and corn, 16th century Europeans did not take to potatoes right away (except for Italy and Germany).  Belonging to the nightshade family, they were thought to be poisonous and some people even thought that they brought on leprosy.

When they are exposed to bright lights, potatoes can develop green splotches (solanine toxin – some sources consider it deadly in certain quantities).  Symptoms include cramps, diarrhea, headache, and fever – just cut off and discard all green skin and discolored flesh before cooking.

An 18th century Frenchman named Parmentier is credited with promoting the root vegetable in the French court.  Also, a member of the Royal Society (A British group) is credited with inventing a thick soup of potatoes, barley, peas and vinegar which became very popular with German peasants.  Potatoes did not become a popular food crop in America until the 19th century.

A blight set off the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-46 which claimed almost three quarters of a million lives.  This caused hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens to emigrate in order to survive and many settled on the eastern coast of North America.

Although the USA leads the world in potato consumption, they are in some of the most unhealthy foods.  With just a little effort and a few substitutions, you can re-tool your recipes and create healthier meals for yourself and your family.

Since the skin is the source of so much fiber and many nutrients, prepare meals that include the skin whenever possible.  Look for organic selections to reduce exposure to pesticides.

A baked potato can be the backbone of a nutritious, satisfying and very inexpensive meal.  Open it up completely and smother it with a low fat chili, pasta sauce, beans or stew.  Or try tossing on some cooked broccoli and spoon over some sharp cheddar cheese sauce.  Sprinkle on a tiny bit of cayenne pepper for added punch.  You are sure to develop some potato favorites of your own.

Potato Image Attribution

French fry image: Microsoft Corporation

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We do not receive financial gain from, promote, or endorse product brands in posts.
Links are provided so that you may investigate for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Private and group classes are available – in the comfort of your own home (Dallas/Fort Worth area only). Email foodscool@yahoo.com to reserve.

You are invited to read my healthy living articles on Examiner.com

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Written by FoodsCool

November 11, 2011 at 11:08 pm

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Friday’s food: Pomegranates

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A Pomegranate
Open and ready for eating

Best not wear white.  OK, you can…but be prepared for splatters…and every one is so worth it! Since ancient times, this nutritious Middle Eastern fruit has been enjoyed in both sweet and savory preparations but pomegranates really shine when eaten out of hand – sort of.  Click here for more historical details.

Pomegranates also fit easily into the “Mediterranean Diet” style of eating: lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, olive oil, you know…stuff you’re already supposed to be eating regularly.

Why all the talking in riddles?  Well, getting those little seeds (arils) out intact for enjoyment can be a bit of a riddle in itself.  To reduce the chance of ruby-red juice stains, some people cut it in half, submerge in a bowl of water and pick out the arils.  Another effective method is to:

  • Over a bowl, score the peel into four sections from blossom to stem.
  • From blossom end, gently pry the fruit open following the cut edges.
  • Place the section peel side up in your palm and “spank” it firmly with a wooden spoon.
  • Continue with remaining sections and pick out any bits of membrane.
  • Be careful – spanking your hand can sting a bit!

Add arils to salads, use as a delicious garnish or recipe ingredient, or just eat them straight out of the bowl.

Juicing a pomegranate is quite another situation altogether.  You could use a reamer if you don’t mind looking like you escaped some gruesome murder scene.  Here is what one author suggests:

Place the whole, unpeeled pomegranate on a hard surface.  Press the palm of your hand against the fruit, then roll gently to break all the juice sacs inside…prick a hole and suck out the juice; or poke in a straw and do the same.
Elizabeth Schneider – Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables

Or you can buy a bottle of juice.

For more info, suggestions, and recipe ideas, visit the POM Council.

Grocery store bins are full to overflowing since fall to early winter is pomegranate season (juice is available year round in most stores).  Get yours today.

Image attribution

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We do not receive financial gain from, promote, or endorse product brands in posts.
Links are provided so that you may investigate for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Private and group classes are available – in the comfort of your own home (Dallas/Fort Worth area only). Email foodscool@yahoo.com to reserve.

You are invited to read my healthy living articles on Examiner.com

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Written by FoodsCool

November 4, 2011 at 9:32 pm

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Friday’s food: Pumpkin

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Not just for Halloween

Well, you can hardly swing a hobgoblin these days without hitting a pumpkin.  Take a drive though any neighborhood, and you’ll find a pile of them in front of groceries, nurseries, and at some charity patches.  So why all this fascination with orange gourds?  Click here to find out more about the history of Jack O’ Lanterns, and why you associate them with Halloween or All Hallows Eve.

Pumpkins, related to cucumbers, are thought to have originated in America and made its way around the world by way of explorers, and those seeking new homes on shores far away.

Modern day squash developed from the wild squash that originated in an area between Guatemala and Mexico. While squash has been consumed for over 10,000 years, they were first cultivated specifically for their seeds (seeds are an article for another day ~ FoodsCool) since earlier squash did not contain much flesh, and what they did contain was very bitter and unpalatable. As time progressed, squash cultivation spread throughout the Americas, and varieties with a greater quantity of sweeter-tasting flesh were developed. Christopher Columbus brought squash back to Europe from the New World, and like other native American foods, their cultivation was introduced throughout the world by Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Today, the largest commercial producers of squash include China, Japan, Romania, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and Argentina.”
World’s Healthiest Foods

When sorting through all those gourds, consider what you’re going to do with them before making a purchase.  If you want to make pies or other sweet/savory foods, steer clear of those big ones and head for the produce shelf where the softball to cantaloupe sized ones are set out.  Those big ones are best left for carving and decoration.

If you want to try your hand at making pumpkin pies or other meals from fresh instead of canned, it is pretty easy.  You’ll need a dish, microwave, and a fork or skewer.  Wash the pumpkin and zap on high for two minutes. Remove from the oven and stab it deeply all over with the skewer or fork – it has to be completely covered with holes.  Zap it again for another two to four minutes.  Wrap it in foil and let stand for about 5 minutes.  Cut it open, remove seeds and scrape out pulp.  For more detailed instructions, click here for Carroll Pellegrinelli’s tips.

As far as health benefits go, they are currently being researched for anti-cancer properties, they help support men’s health regarding the prostate, their folate helps reduce the possibility of birth defects, and winter squash also supports the lungs, colon and heart.

They’re also easy to prepare.  You can roast the in the oven, zap them in the microwave, steam them, or add peeled chunks to soups and stews.  The mild, slightly sweet flesh blends wonderfully in either sweet or savory applications.

Here’s a recipe for non-dairy/no egg pumpkin pie that uses silken tofu instead of  regularly used ingredients.  For more recipe ideas, click here – and no, they are not all desserts.  Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe?

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We do not receive financial gain from, promote, or endorse product brands in posts.
Links are provided so that you may investigate for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Private and group classes are available – in the comfort of your own home (Dallas/Fort Worth area only). Email foodscool@yahoo.com to reserve.

You are invited to read my healthy living articles on Examiner.com

Become a fan of FoodsCool on Facebook

Written by FoodsCool

October 28, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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