When I found out that today (February 22nd) was National Cook a Sweet Potato Day, I got really excited. It’s about time this delicious, nutrient-packed tuber got some attention other than in November. Packed with healthy carbs, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients, sweet potatoes are perfect for your plate year ‘round. With at least 16 varieties grown in the U.S., including one of my favorites, the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato, I can’t imagine ever get tired of this vibrant veggie.
Bake, microwave, roast, saute, grill, fry and boil are just some of the ways to cook a sweet potato. Eat them “as-is” with simple seasons or mash flesh to use as an ingredient in soups, side dishes, smoothies, baked goods and more. So, are you wondering just exactly how to COOK a SWEET POTATO? Read on the find out the basic methods and get some of my favorite recipes: Continue reading →
When life hands you lemons, make Preserved Lemons! Although back in 80-degree weather in January (!), a super cold spell last weekend required harvesting of citrus off the Meyer Lemon trees . . . including a bumper crop coming from my aunt in Houston. While making lemonade, lemon curd, lemon preserves and other citrus-y staples are a sweet way to use an abundance of the fruit, I was looking for something to use in savory dishes.
The Buddha’s Hand may just be the strangest citrus fruit known to man and it’s definitely one of the oldest, dating back to the ancient Far East. While this citrus fruit resembles a lemon that exploded and tried heal itself, this strange fruit with splayed extremities is definitely not a deformity – it’s designed just the way Mother Nature intended! She is so creative!
Also known as the Fingered Citron, and aptly described as a “lemon with fingers,” this freaky fruit is prized for its sweet floral fragrance and mild zest. Inside the fruit there is no flesh or juice to speak of — it’s all yellow rind and white pith. So, don’t try and buy the Buddha’s Hand isn’t for traditional snacking or juicing, it’s more an aromatic ornamental.
However, the strange citrus IS actually edible, the sweet smelling rind can be used anywhere you would add lemon, lime or orange zest to a recipe. Ideas for consumption of Buddha’s Hand include using fresh zest in salad dressings, on fish, or in baked goods. The rind can also be sliced and used to infuse liqueurs, water, and vinegar. Frieda’s Produce also suggests using the bountiful rind to make candied citrus – the white pith is not bitter at all, so it requires no pre-soaking or pre-boiling like traditional candied peel recipes.
Buddha’s Hand, rich in Vitamin C, is also used as a healing agent and alternative to modern-day prescription medicine. Possible Health Benefits of Buddha’s Hand include:
Boosts for Immune System
Relief from Gastrointestinal Issues
Quelling of Nausea
Reduction of Menstrual Discomfort
Lowered high blood pressure
If you are lucky enough to score a Buddha’s Hand, display it at room temperature for a few days and enjoy the fragrance. Then, try it as a zesty way to add flavor to a recipe. I think you’ll like my Creamy Greek Yogurt Buddha’s Hand Dressing that can be used on salads, fish, and veggies:
Directions: Soak diced shallot in cold water for 5 minutes. Drain and allow to dry on paper towel. Add shallot and zest to small bowl and add lemon juice and salt. Let sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add olive oil, vinegar, thyme, garlic and yogurt. Whisk until combined and use to dress vinaigrette salad greens, on fish or as a sauce for vegetables.Makes ½ cup dressing.
What is a Starfruit? The Starfruit (also known as Carambola) is an oblong yellow fruit with five deep ridges running lengthwise — so crosswise-cut slices resemble adorable stars. An edible, thin waxy skin covers the golden flesh within that has a mildly sweet-tart flavor and crispy texture. Native to Sri Lanka and the Moluccas, and has been cultivated in Southeast Asia and Malaysia for almost 1,000 years.
How do you eat it? Just slice it and serve, the skin is edible. However, some people prefer to peel it before eating. This five-pointed fruit is a fun way to dress up salads, cocktails and dessert trays. You can also use it to add a stellar touch to smoothie bowls and they are delicious poached. I’ve even seen some people use them to add a festive touch to the top of pies, upside down cakes and other baked goods!
Excuse the hideous post-run hair and bad lighting but this is what a starfruit looks like before cutting.
What are the Health Benefits? Starfruit is a great source of vitamin C and fiber. They also provide hydration and healthy complex carbs to fuel your body and brain. It also contains important flavonoids including quercetin, epicatechin, and gallic acid. However, Starfruit (carambola) has high levels of Oxalic acid which could cause kidney stones or renal distress in those with or predispose to kidney disease. Additionally, like grapefruit, starfuit can interfere with the absorption of certain drugs. Anyone taking medication or that has kidney disease should seek the advice of their doctor before eating this exotic fruit.
How to Select and Store: Depending on the variety, Starfruit will be a light greenish-yellow to deeper gold when ripe. There may be some dark brown along the five ridges and this is perfectly fine. Flesh should still be quite firm to the touch. Store at room temperature until ripe and then refrigerate in covered container. Star fruit may also be stored in the freezer for approximately three months. To prep for freezer, cut the fruit vertically into star-shaped slices and spread out on sheet pan in a single layer to freeze individually. After hardened, transfer starfuit to a heavy-duty, zip-top storage bag.
What is a Jackfruit? Friends don’t let friends eat this weird fruit alone. Why? Simply because it’s jaw-dropping humungous and is known as world’s largest tree fruit. I highly recommend not walking under the tree that grows this monster-sized, greenish-yellow, bumpy-skinned, as they can weight up to 80 pounds!
Jackfruit tree – photo from Wikipedia
How do you eat it? So, what can you do with a Jackfruit other that gawk at it or use it as an impromptu piece of workout equipment for a weight-loaded carry – haha! Well, you can eat it, make recipes with it and stockpile it in your freezer! The ripened fruit has been described to taste like a combination of mango-banana-melon. But, interestingly enough, the unripe fruit is very popular with vegans and vegetarians as a meat substitute in stir-frys, tacos, sandwiches, pasta sauces and more! Some say the taste and texture of Jackfruit is similar to pork, while others say it’s a chameleon that takes on whatever the predominant flavors of the recipe. The seeds have been likened to chestnuts.
Jackfruit Flesh – photo from Friedas.com
What are the Health Benefits? Jack fruit is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin b-6, potassium and even some protein (about 3 grams per sliced cup). About 1 cup of sliced fruit also has 157 calories and 1 gram of fat.
How to Select and Store: Choose Jackfruit with bright green or yellow color, depending on ripeness, and a fragrant scent. Leave on counter to ripen. It should yield slightly when pressed. Wrap cut fruit tightly in plastic and store flesh in container. Refrigerate up to 7 days and freeze for up to 2 months.
I must say, I slayed yesterday’s tempo run and I think it was the dragon fruit smoothie I made for my afternoon snack. Just like the perfect run, where speed comes without too much suffering, can be elusive . . . so is the dragon fruit. You don’t see this beautiful tropical fruit very often, mainstream markets don’t usually carry them – so if you ever do see one, snatch it up! The Dragon Fruit, also known as a Pitaya, Strawberry Pear or Mood Flower, is the unusually striking fruit of a cactus – don’t worry, there are no thorns or stickers on it! There are different varieties – pink or yellow exterior and white or magenta interiors speckled with tiny edible seeds. Despite their showy appearance, the taste is quite mild, similar to a kiwi – I have found the yellow variety to be the sweetest.
Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit: First of all, like most fruits, dragon fruit is hydrating and provides healthy complex carbohydrates to fuel to body and brain. Dragon fruit is also surprisingly high in phytonutrients. Rich with beneficial antioxidants, this pretty (and pretty powerful fruit) a serving contains 10% Daily Value of vitamin C, polyunsaturated (good) fatty acids, a bit of protein, carotene, and several B vitamins that are essential for the optimal metabolism of carbohydrates.
I recently came into a huge windfall of dragon fruit from Frieda’s Produce, so I ate all I could simple by slicing open and digging out the flesh with a spoon! I’ve also sliced the fruit and put on my salads, in my yogurt and used in salsas. They keep for about a week in the fridge (wrap in plastic wrap to extend the life) and can also be cut up or pureed to freeze. Later this week, before I go into freezer storage mode, I’ll be making Dragon Fruit Chia Jam. Stay tuned for that!
Today, I’m sharing that smoothie I hinted at, the one that made me run fast – haha! My recipe for a Dragon Fruit Coconut Smoothie Bowl is a nourishing sweet treat that is a quick fix for breakfast, a pre or post workout snack or healthy dessert. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. If you can’t find the fruit fresh, I’ve noticed that many upscale grocery stores sell it in the frozen fruit section.
Dragon Fruit Coconut Smoothie Bowl
1 cup dragon fruit flesh (fresh or frozen)
12 ounces almondmilk/coconutmilk (the carton kind from refrigerated section like Blue Diamond)
1 tablespoon cacao nibs (I like the ones from NOW Foods)
Additional dragon fruit for garnish
To prepare, add dragon fruit, unsweetened coconut milk, and protein powder to blender. Process until smooth. Pulse in enough ice until desired consistency achieved. Pour into bowl (or tall glass) and top with shredded coconut, cacao nibs and additional dragon fruit if desired. Serves 1
July 4th festivities will be firing up through the week . . .and I bet your grill is too! It’s no coincidence that July is National Grilling Month considering 200 million Americans own a grill and 72% plan to put a gas or charcoal grill to use on Independence Day (HBPA data). Personally, I enjoy the freedom from cooking in the kitchen and, while it’s traditional to throw down some burgers, dogs or steaks on the grates, my recipe for Sticky-Sweet Shrimp, Pineapple & Kumquat Kebabs gives you the liberty to let your creative food flag fly.
While I’ve skewered up shrimp, pineapple and kumquats, it’s your inalienable, edible right to use the proteins, fruit and veggies you like best on a kabob. However, I highly recommend the kumquats, grilling makes them even more fabulous. However, in the USA, this fruit (that is like a mini orange with edible skin) is in season from November through July – so hurry up and grill some! If you can’t find kumquats, you can substitute orange wedges.
Nutritional and Health Benefits of Kumquats:
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a serving of eight whole raw kumquats (including peel) has 108 calories. This same serving size is an excellent source of dietary fiber, providing 9.9 grams — more than 25% of the Daily Value for men, and nearly 40% for women. Kumquats are also a great course of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, riboflavin and even calcium (providing almost 10% of the adult daily needs).
A diet high in dietary fiber is beneficial to the health of your heart and gastrointestinal tract. Eight raw kumquats provide 9.9 g of dietary fiber. The amount of fiber recommended daily by the Institute of Medicine is 25 g for women and 38 g for men. Dietary fiber also controls blood glucose and insulin concentrations and reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant and is necessary for the health of blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and bones. According to the USDA, eight raw kumquats have 66.7 mg of vitamin C. The National Institute of Health has set the daily recommended amount at 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Adequate vitamin C is also necessary for proper wound healing.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes vision and is necessary for the health of teeth, skeletal tissue and skin. Eight raw kumquats have 441 IU of vitamin A. According to the Institute of Medicine, men need 3,000 IU of vitamin A daily and women need 2,333 IU. Vitamin A also functions as an antioxidant, protecting your body from free radical damage.
Kumquats provide the B vitamin, riboflavin, which is a component of various enzymes involved in energy metabolism. Eight kumquats provide 0.137 mg of riboflavin. The daily amount of riboflavin recommended by the National Institute of Medicine is 1.1 mg for women and 1.3 mg for men.
Calcium is essential for nerve transmission, muscle contraction and for formation of teeth and bones. The USDA National Nutrient Database shows that eight kumquats have 94 mg of calcium. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults consume 1,000 mg of calcium daily.
The little secret that pulls this super easy kabob recipe together is brushing on Stubb’s Sticky Sweet Bar-B-Q Sauce – seriously, why you make your own barbeque sauce when you can buy Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q sauce (available in six different flavors) down at your local market?! The Sticky Sweet Bar-B-Q Sauce is my current infatuation of the moment – it’s got real southern flair, is rich and thick and loaded with brown sugar and gooey molasses. Plus, I really appreciate how this product and the other sauces, marinades and rubs make it easy to add flavor to a meal while avoiding the fat, calories, or artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors or preservatives often found on the condiment aisle.
Looking for a side dish to serve with this tropical take on BBQ skewers? My recipe for Coconut Macadamia Fried Ricemakes a pleasing pair-up – it’s been a frequently requested dinner on it’s own at my house.
As far as selecting your shrimp, you can grab a bag from the market, but I prefer to get mine from SizzleFish.com because I really trust their commitment to bringing me a responsibly sourced, perfectly-portioned seafood products with no additives or yucky stuff. additives – plus all their products are healthy, high-quality perfectly portioned and have an athlete’s lifestyle in mind! From these shrimp to Coho salmon to halibut and more, their products are vacuum-sealed in individual serving size packets, nestled in dry ice and shipped straight to my door for ultra convenience — I always have a lean protein on hand in the freeer to make a quick and easy dinner!
Get the recipe for Coconut Macadamia Nut Fried Ricehere!
Powerful good, those purple foods! No, no, not chemically-colorfied candies and goodies, but natural, wholesome fruits and vegetables from Mother Nature’s edible rainbow. If you’ve been passing up purple foods in the produce section, judging them too weird or trendy, it’s time to circle back! Load your basked from the prolific selection of purple foods available today including healthy-diet darlings like purple sweet potatoes (one of my favorite), purple cauliflower, purple carrots and long-time favorites such as purple grapes, eggplant, plums, berries and more.
Fittingly it’s a “P” word that makes purple foods so healthful – polyphenols! Purple fruits and vegetables are filled with polyphenols, important plant-based micronutrients which researchers say may help prevent degenerative diseases (like certain cancers) and protect your heart and overall cardiovascular health. One of the most abundant polyphenols in purple foods is a sub-classification named anthocyanins. Also found in foods like cocoa, nuts, olive oil and tea, anthocyanins are health-promoting, natural chemical compounds that aid in cell protection and healing. Nutritionists recommend include purple fruits and vegetables into your diet at least 4 to 5 days a week alongside dark green, orange and yellow foods for maximum benefits.
I love the Purple Asparagus from Friedas.com, it’s noticeably sweeter than it’s green siblings.Developed in Italy, the the large spears are purple-burgundy toned with a a creamy white interior.
Another one of my favorite foods with the good-for-you purple hue is a purple sweet potato. This dark tuber is royally delicious and once reserved only for the feasts of Incan kings in Peru. These days, purple potatoes reign supreme in the supermarket and, according to the USDA, can have in excess four times the antioxidant power of traditional white potatoes. Plus, potatoes of any color are such a great source of nutrition for athletes including complex carbohydrates to provide energy for workouts and potassium, iron, and other nutrients to help keep a hard-working body in balance. Eat them just like you would any other potato!
I also like to spiralize a purple sweet potato (or finely slice) my purple sweet potatoes and make healthy string fries. The easy recipe is featured below along with a few other links in my recipe collection that are popping with the power of PURPLE! Enjoy!