How do I harvest and store tomatoes?

It’s reaching the end of the season and you are pulling off the remaining tomatoes from your plants. What do you do with them? First, if you have green tomatoes that you need to remove as well, there is nothing better than fried green tomatoes.  I’ll share a recipe in a couple days.

If you are lucky, you may have more than you can possibly eat fresh. To keep them fresher, and avoid them getting mealy, store them stem side down at room temperature, not touching each other.  The only time I put mine in the fridge is if they are deteriorating.

There are lots of options to preserve tomatoes from a number of interesting sources. Of course, there is always the blanching, removing the skin and canning your tomatoes, but I’m kind of a lazy harvester.

Try freezing them whole! Wash and dry them, stick them in a Ziploc bag, suck the air out of an open corner, and then quickly zip it shut. It’s almost as good as vacuum packing! I know it sounds crazy but if you defrost them, the skin just pops right off and you can use it like you would a canned tomato, but without all the canning mess.

If you like tomato paste, I read that you can puree a tomato, pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze it. After they are hard, you can drop a few cubes into a freezer bag and microwave them as you need them!

So many ways to preserve your tomatoes without chemicals and enjoy your home grown harvest longer! 

Restaurant calorie counting

I think it’s great that chain restaurants are voluntarily or involuntarily posting the calorie content of their meals so you can make healthy choices. I’ve been eating out a lot lately so find this very useful. Unfortunately, Tufts University did some research in Boston and found that the actual calorie content was an average of 18% higher than labeled.

Did you know that the FDA allows a 20% variance on calorie labeling for packaged foods? That’s a pretty big amount. For packaged foods, research showed them to be 8% higher.

That kind of difference can really make or break a diet. It can even cause weight gain if you’re not careful!

So what do I do? Should I trust the calorie counts on my food? What I do is look at it as being all relative. I know I want to go to a certain restaurant, so I just pick the lowest calorie plate that I think I’ll enjoy! Most salads will show up on the lower side, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat salad. There are other items that could be similar in calories. Something like broiled fish with a side of cooked seasonal vegetables.

I wouldn’t ignore the calories either. You may be surprised at what you are taking in! This should help you steer clear of what I like to call “the heart clogger special”. Keep your eyes open!

Healthy loaded latte

Did you know that coffee is loaded with antioxidants? Recent findings showed that coffee, along with dark chocolate are good sources of them…….a winner for those of us who are hooked!

But what happens when you add stuff to your coffee? Does it change the healthy benefits? The latest testing from the Journal of Nutrition show that latte lovers need not worry! Milk does not effect the antioxidants found in coffee. For those of you old fashioned coffee drinker who add sugar and non-dairy creamer, well….that’s another story. These additions appear to reduce the compounds.

The best way to get the benefit is to drink coffee black. For us latte lovers, I’m happy to report, even with milk, we still reap the rewards!

Recipe for Tequila Chicken

I had very little in my kitchen but wanted a low fat healthy meal with a lot of taste. This meal turned out to be so easy and so incredibly good I just had to share it!

Chicken breasts
Tequila
Chopped tomato
Salsa

Marinade chicken in tequila for a few hours. If you do not have a few hours, you can pour it over just before cooking. Place chicken in a casserole dish and sprinkle with diced tomatoes. Spoon salsa on top and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes depending on size of the breasts.

I prefer heirloom tomatoes, especially purple Cherokee and I just came across a new salsa called Hannah I bought at a farmers market in Colorado Springs.  It’s made with natural products, no preservatives, no additives, is vegan/vegetarian, gluten free and fully certified.You can get it in Whole Foods in Colorado or buy online at http://www.parsnaturalfoods.com/. The flavor is phenomenal!

Buttered popcorn causes Alzheimer’s?

I’m not big on using scare tactics to keep an audience. Too many people only hear the initial line and run with it. CBS News ran a story boldly stating buttered popcorn causes Alzheimer’s.  In reality what was suspected to cause Alzheimer’s is the artificial butter flavoring used in microwave popcorn. The chemical called Diacetyl has been known to be a health issue for years but more recent studies indicate it is more harmful than originally thought.

The chemical is naturally in fermented items such as certain alcoholic beverages and cultured dairy products. You will find the manufactured chemical used in flavorings for a buttery taste or smell. Some items include microwave popcorn, artificial vanilla, margarines, candy, some baked goods, pet food, cooking spray, and interestingly enough, the chemical is used as a mosquito repellent!

The original concern was for people who inhaled the chemical like workers at manufacturing plants or kitchen workers in restaurants. Inhaling the chemical could cause major irritation of eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, potentially causing severe respiratory damage. Updated recommendations for handling the chemical came out a couple years ago to help employees.

The new discovery is that regular exposure could have a toxic effect on the nervous system which they believe could result in Alzheimer’s. Now before you panic, remember that the evidence of respiratory damage was found in people who work daily with the product and the experiment suggesting the Alzheimer’s connection has not had any proof beyond a test tube.

What are my thoughts? I believe agencies can’t realize hazards of a chemical until it has been out and used for a number of years. I’ve always felt that all natural is the best way to go. Butter over artificial in my book. Add to that, I also believe that eating a wide variety of food reduces your chances of toxicity of any kind. You can overdose on a lot of natural chemicals, so eating just one thing in moderation and expanding your eating pallet is the way to go. You shouldn’t have to worry about a single item in your diet like one bag of microwave popcorn if you only eat it say once a month. And as always……read your food labels!

I hope this raises your awareness but eases your mind.

 

 

 

 

Brown bananas

My favorite past time in the summer is to eat all the fruit I can get my hands on.  Unfortunately, it spoils faster in the heat too. I love bananas and found out something not long ago I’d like to share. Making banana bread was the only outlet I used to have for my browning bananas. There is one way to extend their lives. If you have bananas that are starting to speckle and you know you won’t be able to eat them all before they are brown, put them in the fridge. I know everyone tells you they turn browner if you do this, but it’s really only the skin that browns faster. The inside stays white, and deteriorates slower than if  you leave it at room temperature. Just peel off the brown peel and reveal a nice cold, still good banana!

 

Fishy parasites?

As you know, I’m a big fan of eating a lot of fish, but the other day I heard something a little unsettling. An article in Emerging Infectious Diseases states tapeworms are on the rise (3X higher) because of the increase in people eating fish. Of course cooking fish will kill the parasite, but when it comes to sushi or under-cooked fish, the chances of getting a parasite is higher than you think! Worm parasites are so prevalent that most people have had them but probably only suffered a stomach ache for a day or two before it passed. I won’t go into the worse case scenario like a 25 foot tapeworm living in your stomach lining, but focus on the good news.

Sushi restaurants in the US are required to freeze their Sushi fish for a week to kill the parasite, plus most purchase sushi grade meat which has been thoroughly inspected for parasites. Rules for at home…..don’t make your own raw sushi, and completely cook your fish. That should virtually eliminate your chances.

Fish types to watch…….cod, trout and wild caught salmon (except king). Safer fish is blue fin, yellow fin and big eye tuna. When you buy grocery fish, find fish that has been through candling. This is a process that is used to remove parasites.

All in all, there really is not a lot of concern over these parasites and bad infestations are still considered fairly rare. Plus the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risk of getting a tapeworm.

Whew! I really didn’t want to give up my sushi!