Foods You Should Never Store in the Fridge

Keep out the refrigerator

According to the Food and Drug Administration, your refrigerator should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, preferably between 35 and 38 degrees. At this temperature, any bacteria present on or in food can only develop very slowly, so keeping food this cold is a good way to prevent cooked or prepared food from spoiling for as long as possible. (Freezing food virtually stops bacterial growth, but it also significantly changes the texture of many foods).

Still, keeping some foods that cold isn’t a good idea or even necessary. Cold can stop the ripening process of fruits (including the fruits we think of as veggies), and in a few cases, the temperatures in your refrigerator can break down the cell walls in fruits or vegetables, turning them mealy. Many fruits and veggies keep best when kept cool—50 to 60 degrees is ideal—and prefer warmer rather than colder conditions, if you can’t provide that ideal.

Important note: The guidelines for vegetables and fruits listed below apply to whole, intact items. Once they get overripe, develop even one soft spot, or the skin is broken, they need to be eaten, cooked, or refrigerated/frozen ASAP.

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The “Certified Organic” Deception

The-Certified-Organic-Deception

(article by Samantha Sargent)

Natural and organic cosmetics and skin care products are becoming more and more popular, as more of us are addressing our state of wellbeing. Whilst I feel this is a wonderful shift in culture, it can also be quite confronting, confusing and deceiving. If you have recently jumped on the wellness train, and gone through the process of detoxing your bathroom cabinet, then it’s highly likely you’ve come across words such as organic, natural, biodynamic, certified organic, vegan, wild crafted and naturally derived.

But, what do all these words mean?

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Delicious Autumn Goodness with Squashes

squashes

The autumn season means cooler temperatures and heartier meals. Mother Nature in all her wisdom, has seasonal foods for a reason, and that reason is have natural harvest cycles of produce that  support our bodies, health and wellbeing during the various cooler, cold, warm and hot seasons. In the present autumn season, our bodies start to naturally crave heartier and more warming foods, and squashes are a great addition to your fall and winter menu plans.

Brimming with nutrients, both the meat and seeds of squashes offer delicious and nutritious meal options the whole family will enjoy.

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Quick Reference Hot Pepper Guide

Quick Reference Hot Pepper Guide

Hot peppers, like sweet peppers, are loaded with flavor and amazing health benefits. They are also incredibly easy to grow (hint for you container gardeners out there) as well as being incredibly versatile and delicious in recipes. Some hot peppers lend a subtle “heat” as well as flavor, while others deliver a more intense “heat”. Continue reading to view exactly what each pepper looks like, as well as their heat quotient.

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How to Store Dried Fruits and Vegetables

How to Store Dried Fruits and Vegetables 2

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of drying produce or you’re just getting your toes wet to the process, knowing how to properly store your freshly dried fruits and vegetables is critical in preserving your yield, and preventing mold and insect contamination. If you’re new to dehydrating fruits and vegetables, you may want to first read my article “4 Easy Ways to Dehydrate Produce”. Once you’ve taken a few attempts at dehydrating produce, you’ll want to master these easy techniques of storing your freshly dried goodies.

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5 Foods You Can Grow from Organic Store Bought Produce

(article by Christina Sarich)

Mother nature is right under our noses, along with the ability to grow our own food, even if we live in an urban area. Growing the following 5 foods in containers or a garden won’t feed your whole family, but it is a great way to start making your own food and developing food sovereignty in a world where the GMO monopoly seems to grow stronger every day.

If you would rather eat food without pesticides, and questionable ingredients, there is no better way than to grow your own.

Just be sure to buy organic produce since many conventionally grown crops won’t reproduce. Here are five foods that you can start growing the next time you go to the grocery store:

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Avocado Facts

Avocados were once thought to be somewhat unhealthy because of their substantial levels of fat, but, these days, avocados are widely regarded as one of the most healthy fruits available and can be used to substantially revitalize your personal health. Even though they are largely believed to be vegetables, avocados are in fact a fruit.   Avocados are generally produced in tropical climates such as Mexico, Hawaii and Florida, but can be grown in temperate climates like California and Texas, too.

Avocado Varieties

The Hass avocado, thanks to it’s ability to grow year long, is the most common avocado in the world and comprises for 80% of the market. Other types of avocado varieties include Gwen, Fuerte and Bacon, but, most chefs tend to prefer the Hass variety, due to it’s rich buttery flavor, which makes it highly versatile in the world of cuisine.

Avocado Nutrition Facts

The health benefits of avocados are numerous.  Avocados offer an excellent source of monounsaturated fats and are also very high in dietary fiber. They’re packed with B vitamins in addition to vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K, and, they contain 60% more potassium than bananas.

The healthy and balanced fats in avocados play an important role in absorbing carotenoid antioxidants from other healthy foods. Research shows that, unless the key nutrients present in vegetables and fruits are consumed along with healthy fat, the body has a tough time absorbing the carotenoid antioxidants.  To reiterate, your body MUST consume adequate amounts of healthy fats, in order to properly and fully assimilate the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants from food.  For this reason, the healthy fats present in avocados play an important role in providing your body with healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as facilitating the transport of  vital disease-fighting, health-boosting nutrients to your body.

Proskins Slim

How to Pick an Avocado

When choosing an avocado, you want to pick ones that are heavier than they look.  This indicates that the fruit includes a tremendous amount of moisture.  The avocado should be soft enough to yield to slight thumb pressure.  If it yields too much, then its overripe.  Additionally, the skin of the avocado should not have any tears or bruises.

The prime season for avocados is late winter to early spring, however, Hass avocados are usually available year-round.  Within the last few years, avocado prices have increased somewhat.  Generally, you should expect to spend any where from .50 cents to $1.50 each, depending on the size, and variety of the avocado.

Avocados are commonly used to make guacamole, but don’t just limit your avocado intake to dip.  This buttery rich fruit is delicious cubed in salads, sliced on sandwiches, as a creamy base for soups, added to steamed veggies, and mixed into smoothies.

How to Open an Avocado

1. Wash the avocado

2. Cut in half lengthwise down to and around the pit

3. Twist and separate the two halves

4. Remove the pit

5. Spoon the avocado from the skin

Bon Veggie Appetit!

Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Gina 'The Veggie Goddess' Matthews

Recipes to Make Your Own Produce Wash

Fresh produce should make up a large part of your healthy nutrition lifestyle.  But you do want to be sure that your produce is as clean and free from contaminants as possible, before consuming.  Ideally you want to grow or purchase organic produce.  With organic produce, you could get away with a 20-30 second thorough cold water rinse and scrub before eating, however even with organic produce, a quick soak or spray with a homemade produce wash is recommended, as there are many hands touching and transferring your produce, and of course all these hands carry their own germs.  And if your produce is not organic, you’ll want to be even more vigilant about cleaning and preparing them.

If your produce is not organic, it is best to remove the skin or peel of the fruit or vegetable, as this is where most of the chemical pesticides, insecticides and herbicides are located.  Even though these chemicals can and do permeate past the peel or skin of fruits and vegetables, it is most concentrated here, and no amount of washing and soaking is going to completely remove this residue.  However, you can make your own homemade produce wash, and by knowing how to wash and soak your produce using these homemade washes, you can eliminate a good deal of chemical, toxin and bacteria residue.

These homemade produce wash recipes work just as good, if not better than commercial produce washes, and you can make them a whole heck of a lot cheaper.

Homemade Produce Wash Recipes

The “Juice Man’s” Homemade Produce Wash Recipe

Put 4 Tablespoons of salt into a bowl or sink, filled with cold water.  After the salt dissolves, add the juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon.  (1-2 Tbsp lemon juice)  Add your produce and soak for 5-10 minutes.  Rinse thoroughly with cool tap water, and be sure to towel dry greens, so they don’t go limp.

Dr. Mercola’s Produce Wash Recipe

Dr. Mercola recommends soaking your produce in a sink of cold water, with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide added to it for 10 minutes.

Home Recipe #1

In a clean spray bottle, add the following:

1 C cold water

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar

To use, shake to mix before each use.  Thoroughly spray your produce with your homemade wash spray, and let sit in a clean sink or bowl for 5 minutes or so.  Rinse well with cool water.

Home Recipe #2

1-3 drops of Lugol’s iodine, in a sink or bowl filled with cold water.  Soak for 5-10 minutes, and rinse thoroughly.

Home Recipe #3

In a bowl or sink filled with cold water add:

1/4 C distilled white vinegar

2 Tablespoons salt

Soak for 5-10 minutes and rinse thoroughly.  Alternately, you can turn this into a spray mixture, by adding the 1/4 C vinegar and 2 Tbsp salt to 1 C cold water.  Shake to mix before using.  To use as a spray, saturate your produce with mixture and let sit for 5-10 minutes.  As always, rinse thoroughly.

Home Recipe #4

In a spray bottle filled with cold water add:

EITHER 1/4 C white vinegar or lemon juice

Shake to mix before using.  Spray on produce and let sit for 5-10 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly.

Home Recipe #5

In a bowl or sink filled with cold water, add 10-15 drops of grapefruit seed extract.  Soak 5-10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.  To make as a spray, add 20-30 drops grapefruit seed extract to 32 oz water in a clean spray bottle.  Shake to mix before using as a spray.

Additional Tips

* Always avoid buying any produce that is brown, bruised, or with broken skin or peel.

* Never soak or spray mushrooms, as they are highly porous, and only need a wipe down with a wet paper towel, before using.

Bon Veggie Appetit!

Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Gina 'The Veggie Goddess' Matthews

How to Buy, Store and Use Fresh Herbs

Herbs not only add flavor and color to a dish, they are also quite nutritional as well.  And to get the most of all three – flavor, color and nutritional value, you want to ideally use fresh herbs over their dried counterparts.  Now, many people do use fresh herbs, but they could use some pointers when it comes to purchasing herbs, storing herbs and preparing and using herbs.  So, read on to turn your “Herbs how?” into “Herbs know-how!”.

How To Buy Fresh Herbs

* Choose herbs that both look and smell fresh.  Don’t be shy.  Open up the plastic box and take a sniff.  Some herbs are stronger smelling than others, but they all should be aromatic.

* Avoid any herbs that have no aroma, or have leaves that are wilted, browned or yellowing.

How To Store Fresh Herbs

* Herbs with sturdier stems (such as rosemary and sage) can be refrigerated in their original packaging for 7-10 days.

* Basil, parsley, cilantro and other delicate herbs need more careful storage.  Remove any ties or rubber bands, and snip off the roots or ends.  Wrap the herbs loosely in a damp paper towel and store in a ziploc bag with a few holes poked in it for air.  This will keep those more delicate herbs fresh for up to 5 days.

* Basil can actually be stored at room temperature for a few days.   Trim the stems and place in a jar of cool water on your countertop.  It will start to turn black if it gets too cold.

* Don’t wash herbs before refrigerating them.  The moisture will make them spoil.

* If you can’t use up all the herbs before they go bad, freeze them in recipe-size quantities.  Just clean and pat dry your herbs, then wrap a few sprigs in plastic wrap and place in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer.

* You can also puree’ herbs in a food processor with some extra-virgin olive oil and freeze the paste in an ice cube tray.  Your herb-cubes can then quickly and easily be added to your dishes one serving at a time.  No waste and all taste!

Puritan's Pride: Spices - 5 for 2 -  250X250

How To Prepare Fresh Herbs

* When you’re ready to use your fresh herbs, rinse the sprigs under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels.  You can also spin them dry using a salad spinner.

* For fresh herbs with tough stems such as thyme or rosemary, hold the stem with one hand and run your other hand along it to strip off the leaves.

* Long-stemmed fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro just need the lower stems cut off.  When fine chopping either of these herbs for your recipes, it’s fine to chop the upper stems along with the herb leaves all-together.

* With any of these mentioned herbs, once you’ve removed the stems, gather the herb leaves together into a pile and chop with a non-serrated knife, or snip with kitchen shears.  Herbs with more tender leaves, such as basil, can also be torn rather than chopped.

How To Use Fresh Herbs

* When adding fresh herbs to potato salad or other cold dishes, give the flavors some time to develop by allowing the dish to set in the fridge before serving.

* When adding fresh herbs to hot dishes, always add towards the end of the cooking time, or toss-in just before serving.  Fresh herbs lose a lot of their punch when heated.

* As a general rule, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of dried herbs for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs (approximately 1/3 as much).  Always start sparingly and add more to taste.  It’s always much harder to undo an over-seasoned dish.  If you do choose dried herbs, try to purchase freeze-dried varieties, as they’ll retain their freshness, aroma, color and nutritional value longer.

Limp Herb Tip: To refreshen limp-looking herbs, slice and inch or two off the bottom of the stems, and place in a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes.

5 Quick and Easy Herbal Eats

Dill Dip – Mix equal parts of soy sour cream and plain soy yogurt, and add-in fresh dill, a dash or two of fresh lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper to taste.  Serve with veggie sticks or baked chips.

Rosemary Mustard – Stir together your favorite grainy mustard with some finely chopped fresh rosemary, a pinch of grated orange zest and a dash of orange juice (optional).  Stir well, and use as a dip for pretzels or as a sandwich spread.

Basil Butter – Combine softened vegan margarine with minced fresh basil.  Mix extra-well.  Spoon into a small bowl and refrigerate for several hours to allow flavors to blend.  This goes especially well spread on ears of corn, as a baked potato topping or spread on a fresh loaf of Italian or French bread and sliced and toasted in the oven.

Parsley Croutons – Toss some crusty bread cubes with extra-virgin olive oil, minced fresh parsley, sea salt and black pepper.  Bake in a single layer at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or until just crispy.

Minted Berries – Gently mix sliced strawberries with a tablespoon or two of real sugar, balsamic vinegar (rasberry infused is best), lemon juice and some torn fresh mint.  Let sit for 30 full minutes to allow all the ingredients to absorb together, and for the flavors to develop.  Eat as is, or spoon over some coconut or rice milk ice cream, Italian ice or your favorite vegan cake recipe.

Using fresh herbs is easy, once you know how.  And, once you get used to all that extra flavorful goodness, you won’t be so ready to just resort to using the dried kind.  That’s what you call real herbal essence!

Bon Veggie Appetit!

Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Gina 'The Veggie Goddess' Matthews

Your Must-Read Guide on Buying Organic

Long gone are the days when buying organic was reserved for obsessive health nuts.  Even just a few generations ago, everything purchased at the market was fresh and devoid of chemical and preservative saturation.  The onslaught of chemicals and preservatives in our food supply has resulted in very obvious health consequences.  So obvious in fact, that you don’t need to be one of those “obsessive health nuts” to see the disastrous results of eating processed and fast food.

People are demanding a return back to nature-made food choices.  In fact, 3 out of 4 Americans now say they make regular organic food purchases.  Organic choices that are free of chemicals, preservatives, genetic modifiers and hormones.  Unfortunately, purchasing organic can mean paying a bit more at the checkout.  In the long-run, this is still always cheaper, because you are not having to pay for the high and constant cost of being sick, or riddled with disease and other ailments that a poor chemical diet results in. 

Being sick is costly.  But, this can be easier said than done for those on a tighter budget.  So, if you are diligently trying to eat healthier and make more organic food choices, which are the most crucial to make?  Well, the answer depends on what you are buying.  Below you will find a good rule-of-thumb to follow when it comes to asking yourself the question “Should I buy the organic version of this?”

Produce – The Top 12

According to the Environmental Working Group (a non-profit food safety organization) just by avoiding the top 12 most contaminated fruits and veggies, you can lower your pesticide exposure by a whopping 90%!  The group ran nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on a wide range of produce, and determined how contaminated different fruits and veggies tend to be.  Peaches, for example, topped the list of “must buy organic”. 

A conventionally grown peach contains on average 42 different pesticides!  You wouldn’t spray Raid bug killer on your produce, and say “I’ll just wash it off” before eating it, so just imagine 42 various forms of bug killer agent soaked into your supposedly fresh fruit.  You can wash and scrub it till your fingers hurt, all that pesticide residue is saturated through and through, and that is what you are putting into your body.

On the other hand, a conventionally grown yellow onion has barely any detectable pesticide residue, and even though buying all your produce organic is the obvious best choice, you can comfortably skip buying this in the organic section.  Below is the group’s list of produce you want to absolutely buy organic, and which produce you can safely purchase conventionally grown.

Top 12 Must-Buy Organic Produce Choices

(listed in order of most contaminated to less contaminated)

1.  Peaches

2.  Apples

3.  Sweet Bell Peppers

4.  Celery

5.  Nectarines

6.  Strawberries

7.  Cherries

8.  Pears

9.  Imported Grapes

10.  Spinach

11.  Lettuce

12.  Potatoes

Top 12 Ok-To-Buy-Conventional Produce Choices

(listed in order of least contaminated to more contaminated)

1.  Onions

2.  Avocados

3.  Sweet corn

4.  Pineapples

5.  Mangoes

6.  Asparagus

7.  Sweet Peas

8.  Kiwi Fruit

9.  Bananas

10.  Cabbage

11.  Broccoli

12.  Papaya

For Pescatarians (vegetarians who eat fish & seafood)

Seafood can never be classified or labeled as “organic” because the U.S. government can’t regulate the open seas.  That being said, “wild” fish is the optimal way to purchase your seafood.  Farm-raised fish swim in their excrement, and are injected with dyes to make them appear healthy (especially farm-raised salmon), and are even, incredibly enough, fed a grain-diet to help plump them up, just as a farmer feeds corn to cattle and pigs, to plump them up.

Fish don’t ever eat grain.  This completley disrupts their system, and produces unhealthy consequences in the fish.  And, just as you would be eating the injection and disease residues of conventionally raised cattle, poultry and pigs, you would also be consuming the disease residues contained in farm-raised fish.  You can log-on to http://www.seafoodwatch.org for more info on the safest fish to eat.

Packaged Goods – Not Worth The Cost

If you’re looking to be frugal with your dollar, you can completely skip purchasing organic, conventionally packaged foods.  Especially things such as crackers, cereal, etc.  Conventionally packaged food goes through so much processing, that everything from beneficial nutrients to harmful pesticides is completely removed.  In this case, it is definitely a marketing tactic aimed towards the health-conscious consumer.

Eating as close to nature-made as possible, and purchasing organic foods is obviously the most beneficial to your health and well-being.  From a marketing stand-point, “organic” has become a marketing catch-phrase, and is used to help sell everything from produce to pretzels.  The high-priority area to try and buy as many organic selections as possible, is your produce.  Organic means natural and nature-made, without man’s adulteration, and ultimately means natural health and well-being.

Bon Veggie Appetit!

Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Gina 'The Veggie Goddess' Matthews

How to Keep Your Produce Fresh Longer

No matter what diet or nutrition plan you follow, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is a “must do”.  Fruits and vegetables provide our bodies with essential vitamins and minerals that keep our systems functioning smoothly.

The challenge we often face when purchasing produce, is keeping it fresh as long as possible, minimizing wasted food and money.  The two keys to maximizing the life of our produce, is to not over-buy, and proper storage.  While it’s tempting to buy 10 lbs of fresh strawberries because the price is right, unless you know that you’ll be consuming those fresh strawberries within 3-5 days, chances are you’ll wind up throwing away them.

Below are some quidelines for proper fruit and vegetable storage.  Following these storage guidelines, you’ll ensure putting more of your produce onto your plate and less in the garbage.

Root Vegetables – Root vegetables include carrots, radishes, beets, potatoes, Chinese and Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, etc.  The first step in extending the shelf-life of root vegetables, is to cut off their tops.  You also do NOT want to store these vegetables in your produce crispers, as these vegetables prefer slightly warmer temperatures.  The best place to store these vegetables, is to place them toward the front, of the shelf top of the crisper drawer where the temperature is about 6 degrees warmer.  This will reduce rot-inducing moisture loss, by 85 percent.

Berries – All types of berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, etc) fare better in chilly temperatures.  As with root vegetables, you do NOT want to keep berries in your crisper drawers.  Berries do best placed farthest back on a shelf, and keep them dry and in open containers.  This means keeping them in their plastic or basket containers.  Do not put them into baggies or closed containers without vent holes. To maximize their shelf-life and freshness, they need to be kept dry and exposed to circulating air so they don’t get too moist.

Brown-Bag Produce – Some produce store best in loosely closed brown paper bags, such as a lunch bag.  These include cucumbers, green beans and mushrooms.  The porous paper absorbs and retains just enough moisture to prevent both over-hydration and the wrinkles that dehydration causes.  To maximize the shelf-life of theses vegetables, keep them in loosely closed brown bags, and towards the farthest back of a shelf.  Do NOT place in crisper drawer.

The Fruit Crisper – Most fruits emit ethylene gas, a plant hormone that speeds deterioration of other produce.  To minimize its ill effects, store non-tropical fruit (the biggest ethylene producers) in their own crisper drawer, separate from any vegetables.  Also be sure to promptly discard any damaged fruit, as it emits the most of this otherwise harmless gas.  A special note about melons: They can be kept in the same drawer, but all melon varieties should be protected by wrapping in plastic.

The Vegetable Crisper – With the exception of vegetables previously mentioned that need shelf or brown bag storage, all other vegetables should be kept in their own crisper drawer, shielding them from the damage that fruit-emitted ethylene gas can cause.  And to make these vegetables last 20 times longer, line the crisper drawer with dry paper towels and place veggies directly on top.  This reduces spoilae that can occur if the humidity control of the crisper is less than optimal.

Plastic-Bag Produce – To ward off the overripening of corn and squash as well as maximize their freshness and shelf-life, you will want to keep them in tightly tied or sealed plastic bags, and on top of a shelf not in a crisper drawer.  The plastic barrier also prevents these vegetables from absorbing the taste-altering odors that other produce emits.

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Make Your Own Produce-Preserving Refrigerator Egg

To extend the freshness and shelf-life of your produce even longer, you can make your own produce-preserving refrigerator egg for cheap.  Go the the dollar store, and pick-up some plastic Easter eggs, or, you can just use a plastic baggie.  Fill the plastic egg or baggie approximately half-full with zeolite powder.  Zeolite is a volcanic ash that absorbs rot-causing ethylene gas, that is emitted naturally from harvested fruits and vegetables.  Keep one zeolite egg or baggie in each crisper drawer, and one on the back shelf of your refrigerator, and your produce will stay fresh up to 4 times longer.

Zeolite lasts about 2-3 months, at which time, you want to dump the old zeolite powder into the trash, and replace with some fresh zeolite.

Don’t let your dollars or produce go to waste.  Just follow these easy storage guidelines, or print this page out and keep it on your fridge for easy reference.

Bon Veggie Appetit!

Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Gina 'The Veggie Goddess' Matthews