Produce of the Month Feed

Produce of the month: Cherry tomatoes

Grapetomatoes_406Anyone who has ever visited my kitchen knows that there is always a big bowl of tiny tomatoes on the counter. (Just not right now because I ate 'em all.) They're great for when the hungries strike or to grab a handful and dump into a salad or pasta dish.

I am most definitely not deficient in lycopene -- that's for sure.

One of my favorite ways to use them is to oven-roast them with a tiny scattering of salt. Put them on a rimmed cookie sheet at 400 degrees until they get all good and shriveled. They're great as a warm salad tossed with fresh basil leaves and balsamic vinegar or smooshed on top of chicken breasts or in pasta.

My usual way of "processing" them is to wait until they've cooked down a bit and then smash them with the back of a spoon, but I have been scalded/stained by boiling tomato pulp one too many times.

Then I discovered a genius video from The TV in the office isn't hooked up to cable or satellite, but I did buy a Roku on Black Friday, and it allows me to watch cool channels like CNN International, Ustream and Chow.

As soon as I stock up again on tomatoes, I'm going to try this trick -- it sure beats slicing a pint of tomatoes one by one.


Produce of the month: Jicama

Take me out to the ball game for jicama.

Like scrunchy socks, shoulder pads and Wang Chung, jicama was a big deal in the '80s. I hadn't thought about the vegetable in years until we went to a Marlins game in their new ballpark. I bought a fruit cup, and amid the spears of watermelon, pineapple and mango were jicama sticks. I also found it in the hummus and veggie snack at the ballpark.

My regular grocery store doesn't carry jicama because the produce guy says when they do have them, no one buys them and they sit there like a lonely, tuberous dork until they rot. I did finally find one at Whole Foods.

Jicama is really versatile. Behind its homely brown exterior is a crunchy, slightly sweet and firm flesh that is great cubed or sliced in salads, or sliced into dippable sticks.

It's low in calories and high in water content and fiber -- the slightly sweet taste comes from inulin, a fiber found in the flesh. A cup of jicama is only around 50 calories and around 6 grams of fiber.

I cut the whole thing in half and then cut it into inch-wide slabs. Then I cut off the skin with a paring knife -- using a vegetable peeler won't really work because the skin is thick. After you have the slabs you can slice them into sticks.

Jicama is great on its own (or dipped into ballpark hummus). I enhanced its Mexican heritage with a sprinkle of chili powder and True Lime powder.

Produce of the month: Strawberries

StrawberriesfloridaI love strawberries. The strawberry has been part of my Shrinking Sisters blog header for a few years now. I chose the strawberry because they're cheery and colorful and so darn healthy.

And right now, there's an absolute glut of strawberries. The warm winter in Florida produced a bumper crop of berries so prices are low and supplies are high. 

Strawberries are high in vitamin C, a great source of fiber and low in calories since they're so full of water. A cup of whole strawberries is only 45 calories, with 3 grams of fiber. And they're also a low glycemic fruit, if you're into that.

Strawberry muffins
Since strawberries are so plentiful, we might as well have fun with them, eh? I found a great recipe for Strawberry Yogurt Muffins on the new Shrinking Kitchen website. Each big juicy muffin is around 125 calories and really tasty. I used spelt flour instead of all-purpose because that's all I had (really!). I also sprinkled a few sliced almonds on top to be fancy.

Produce of the Month: Dinosaur kale

Dinosaur kale

After I watched Forks Over Knives on Netflix, I watched the companion video on the Engine 2 Diet, where author Rip Esselstyn visits a couple of families to show them how to green up their eating and make some "plant-strong" recipes. One of the recipes called for dinosaur kale, which had me intrigued so I bought some last week.

It's a darker green and larger than the garden-variety kale. Must have been what Fred Flintstone's pet ate in the back yard.

Whole Foods has an ANDI scale in its produce department, which rates foods on their nutrient density, or Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. The scale goes from zero to 1,000 and this baby scores 1,000.

Also known as Lacinato or Tuscan kale, it has deep green, dimply looking long leaves. I stir-fried some the other night with a little olive oil and caramelized onion, and dino kale has a slightly sweeter flavor than the curly variety, so if you've never had kale before or find regular kale too "kaley," give this one a try.

Friday finds: Chip maker, green hummus, twitterdiet partying, HealthBuzz

Consider this a big ol' salad bowl of Shrinking Sisters info today.



I was watching the Dr. Oz Show last week and saw a cool new product -- the Mastrad TopChips kit, which consists of a mandoline slicer and a silicone tray. You slice your fruits and veggies paper thin, then place them on the tray and microwave, making chips. I ordered one from Amazon and it just arrived this morning, so I grabbed an apple to try it out. They came out a little more like dried apple slices than crispy chips but they were still good and a fun way to stretch an apple. Carrot chips didn't work at all, but I have a high-powered microwave and may have to lower the temp a little to get the right drying effect. Sweet potato crisps will be my next experiment.


While at a Whole Foods Engine 2 Challenge Wednesday night, one of the employees mentioned green garbanzo hummus, as it doesn't have any added oil -- just tahini, garbanzos and spices -- so I gave it a try and was really impressed. More impressive -- it only has 39 calories per ounce, which is about half the calories as regular hummus. The brand I got was Nature's Healthy Gourmet, a Florida company that sells its product at Whole Foods.



Last night I had the pleasure of co-hosting a Twitter party. For the most part, I don't do Twitter parties because they're usually sponsored by a company and the conversation keeps getting steered toward how awesome that product is with hashtag spam. But Rebecca Regnier's #twitterdiet parties on Thursdays and Sundays at 8 p.m. are geared toward people talking about weight loss and how we can keep each other accountable. So next time you find your handles twitching for evening Doritos, fire up the laptop and join the party.


 And, finally, here's this week's HealthBuzz!

Produce of the Month: Campari tomatoes

Campari tomatoes
Who needs a candy dish?

I'll bet you were thinking: November ... Produce of the Month ... why the heck is she writing about tomatoes?

Sure I could go all brussels sprouts or gourds but I am in love with Campari tomatoes, especially this time of year. All those juicy heirloom tomatoes are gone, and grocery stores are full of those tasteless, gas-bag hockey puck barely red tomatoes from my fair state of Florida. But look a little harder and you'll find plastic clamshells of Campari tomatoes, either from the U.S. or Canada.

Huge difference!

Campari tomatoes got their start in European greenhouses, then Canada started growing them and now they're being grown in the United States, too. And since they're grown in greenhouses, they're free of pesticides (as best as I can find). They're also consistently sweet, juicy, ripe and really flavorful.

They're about the size of a ping pong ball -- smaller than a salad tomato and bigger than a cherry tomato.

I keep a bowl of them on my kitchen counter all the time, and will often eat one as a snack. My favorite way to snack on them is to slice them and sprinkle them with "fancy-pants" sea salt flakes and True Lime powdered lime juice. Or you can cut them in half and stuff 'em with a teaspoon of hummus.

Kids love 'em too. My 11-year-old niece frequently will chow down on a handful of them when she comes over.

And hey, if you're craving an autumnal veggie, check out Roni's Green Lite Bites post on butternut squash. Turns out I was doing it all wrong. I was even tossing out the seeds when I could have been roasting them!

Oh, what else ...

Check out my review of Marzetti Simply Dressed salad dressing over on Shrinking Sisters Reviews. The Pomegranate variety is really good and low in fat, too.

And here's this week's HealthBuzz

Diets in Review discusses Turkey Trots (if I don't find one near me, I'll do my own trotting), fall veggies and a great sounding salad recipe.

Produce of the Month: Collard greens

(OK, it hasn't been monthly in months, but we'll give it a go again because we love fruits and veggies!)


The last time I bought collard greens they were a gigantic sandy mess, full of tough stems and big, dirty leaves -- yeesh, you'd think that they grew in dirt or something!

But recently, I've noticed these wonderfully wrapped and stacked leaves of organic collards in the grocery store so I figured I'd give them another try. What a huge difference!

The organic greens were pretty clean -- all they required was a little swishing in water. The leaves were a bit smaller, and therefore, more tender than larger, older leaves. Even the stems were worth throwing into the pan.

No ham hocks or bacon fat were harmed in the making of my collards. Instead, I heated some olive oil, browned some minced garlic, tossed in some red onion for flavor and color and then added the collards, which I sliced crosswise. I also didn't cook 'em to death so they stayed a gorgeous green.

The stats on collards

(Per 1 cup serving):

  • Calories: 49
  • Vitamin C: 58%DV
  • Vitamin K: 880%
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Calcium: 226mg (yeah!)
  • Protein: 4g

(Stats from The World's Healthiest Foods)

Here's this week's Health Buzz:

Produce of the Month: Broccoli (with comedy bonus!)

Had to share this clip from last night's episode of The Office. Kevin's New Year's resolution is to eat more vegetables. Michael, who wanted everyone to really make good on their promises, "helped" Kevin:

Too extreme?

fresh broccoli I happen to love broccoli -- not so much raw, though. When my mom put out a vegetable tray over the weekend, there were florets of raw broccoli and cauliflower in it. I tried to gnaw on the raw broccoli but wasn't loving it. So I microwaved it.

Make vegetables work for you -- cook 'em if you don't like them raw. Or try them raw instead of cooked -- sugar snap peas and snowpeas are great that way.

And if you can't find fresh, go for frozen. Many times the nutritional value is higher than the fresh stuff that's been languishing in the produce department for days. Frozen chopped broccoli can be added to omelets, pasta sauce and even meatloaf.

But, yeah, those broccoli stems can be a hard sell. Most people enjoy the "fluffy parts." I wouldn't suggest munching them like Kevin did, but if you peel them, discard the woody part and slice them very thinly, they make a great addition to stir-fries.

Produce of the Month: Candy corn!

caramel chocolate candy corn

Oh, I know, candy corn isn't technically produce, but Sunday is Halloween and I've been obsessing about these flavored candy corns from Brach's.

Chocolate, caramel, caramel apple? That sounds awesome.

Have I bought any? Not a one.

Here's my strategy for Halloween candy this year. I usually go grocery shopping on Sundays, so I am waiting until the very last minute to buy candy this year. And then I'll buy the kind of candy that kids love and parents hate -- something obnoxiously sour or blue or sticky.

And that candy will probably not be surrepticiously squirrelled away by their parents either. I don't know about you, but I've had a Now 'n' Later pull out more than one crown in my lifetime.

And this year, my son is officially retired from trick-or-treating so there won't be the excuse of "Mom and Dad have to sort through all the candy to remove the offending ones with peanut products" (he's allergic).

Because where did those Snicker's and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups go? 



Produce of the month: Broccoli rabe

Oh, ha, ha. Silly me. I reintroduce Produce of the Month and then I don't post one since May.


Really, I've been eating my produce -- just not writing about it.

Here's one for ya: Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini. Here's a review from my son:

"Mom, there's something awful in this dish. I'm not eating it."

So, yeah, foods with a bitter undertone can be a hard sell for the kids. But I happen to adore this veggie. Along with the bitter bite is a sweet nuttiness (like me!). A few stats:

  • A cup is only 20 calories.
  • It's a good source of vitamins A, C and K.
  • It also contains calcium and iron.
  • It's full of phytonutrients.

My favorite way to prepare broccoli rabe is to saute it with garlic and olive oil. Just wash and trim a bunch of rapini and chop it into chewable pieces. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan and when hot, put in as much chopped fresh garlic as you can stand. I like the garlic to get pretty browned. When it is, put in the broccoli rabe and saute until it's cooked to your liking. A dash of salt and you're done.