Avocados – a few tips

Just Ripe Avocado

We love avocados…here are a few tips which, hopefully, help you select and preserve left overs.

How to tell if an avocado is ripe:

If you gently squeeze the avocado, the skin should give just a little. Another method is to remove the brown stem and check the color underneath:  If the color is yellow it is not yet ripe – if it is GREEN it is ripe and ready to eat – but if it is brown it is over ripe. 

How to preserve left over avocados:

I have tried numerous tips to keep avocados from turning brown after being cut and exposed to air. When air hits the avocado, it turns brown in a short time…not too appealing. So what to do to extend the life? Without much success I’ve tried leaving the pit in, wrapping in plastic, placing an onion with the avocado in a plastic bag and who knows how many other tips. UNTIL…yes one more try, using water to keep the air from the avocado worked!

(Case 1):  In this example, let’s assume I’m making a simple avocado spread. First I would cut the avocado in half lengthwise, discard the pit, scoop the fruit out of the skin with a spoon, place in a small bowl, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice over the avocado, then mash with a fork.

If I only use some of the spread I’ll want to reserve the rest…here’s what to do:

(1) Place the avocado spread in a container (one which can be tightly sealed)
(2) Level the spread
(3) Gently pour water over the spread; be sure to cover all of the spread with about 1/2 inch of water to seal it from air exposure
(4) Tightly close the container lid
(5) Place in refrigerator

Avocado covered with water
Avocado covered with water

The next day, open the container, pour off the water, stir the avocado spread and there you have it, fresh looking! I tried keeping the spread for two days and it was fine, however I didn’t want to push my luck. Below is the result…FRESH AVOCADO, no brown!

Fresh looking acocado
Fresh looking avocado

Now go eat that YUMMY avocado spread the second day!!

Yummy avocado spread!
Yummy avocado spread!


(Case 2):  In this example, we have cut the avocado in half lengthwise. We took out the pit, scooped out half of the avocado and slices it for a sandwich. Now what to do with the left over half of the avocado. 

Cover the left over half of the Avocado with water
Cover the left over half of the Avocado with water

(1) Just take the half, turn it upside down (skin side out) in a bowl.
(2) Cover with water
(3) Place in refrigerator (I’ve only tried it for 24 hours)
(4) When ready to use, drain water 
(5) Pat fruit of the avocado dry with a paper towel
(6) Scoop out and slice
After 24 hours preserving in the refrigerator, below is what you have. Better than throwing it away! Let me hear how this method works for you. 

Avocado after removing from water
Avocado after removing from water
Scoop out avocado
Scoop out avocado
Slice Avocado
Slice Avocado

The result…FRESH AVOCADO, no brown! 

Roasting Plum Tomatoes

Roasting Plum Tomatoes Plant-Based

Just call me a tomato snob! I really miss our home-grown heritage tomatoes during the colder months in Pennsylvania. Usually after October any store-bought slicer-type tomatoes are just so dull and not even worth purchasing. Of course you may choose to can tomatoes to savor their fresh taste. But I’ll talking about using tomatoes in sammys and on  salads. 

So here are two tips around this flavor challenge. If you have more tips, we’d love to hear from you!

(1) We have found that store-bought cherry tomatoes are still rather tasty during this season. We use in salads and in some soups.

Cherry Tomatoes at the Market
Cherry Tomatoes at the Market

(2) We have found roasting store-bought Italian Plum Tomatoes will get us through the winter. They are inexpensive and accessible but still rather flat tasting during the winter, that is, until roasted. After roasting they are taste busting gems! I roast plum tomatoes in my toaster oven about once a week; wrap left overs in the parchment paper which they were roasted on and store in the refrigerator so they are handy to grab.

Plum tomatoes
Plum tomatoes

TOMATOES (PLUM) – ROASTED:  Juicy caramelized tomatoes – use to enhance sauces, in salads, on sandwiches or just pop into your mouth for a tasty nutritious treat. It’s easy to make small batches in a toaster oven. They are particularly yummy in the colder months when store bought tomatoes are so tasteless.

Serves: 8 tomatoes || Prep Time: 10 minutes || Cook Time: 30 minutes
8 fresh Italian Plum Tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon salt substitute
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


Preheat toaster oven 400°F. Cut fresh tomatoes in half lengthwise, cut out stem. Place halves in a medium sized bowl, pour tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes. Stir until all surfaces are coated. Sprinkle with dried basil, salt substitute and garlic powder; gently toss. Place halved tomatoes, cut side up, on parchment paper; roast for about 30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts
Calories 26  Calories from Fat 0, Total Fat 0g, Saturated Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 9mg, Total Carbohydrate 6g, Fiber 1g, Sugars 1g, Protein 1g

CoachBJ Roasting Plum Tomatoes
CoachBJ Roasting Plum Tomatoes

No-chicken Tomato Rice Soup

Ladle No-chicken Tomato Rice Soup

NO-CHICKEN TOMATO RICE SOUP: Terrific looking, delicious, healthy…nutrient packed soup. Note the pieces of tofu, what do you think they look like – right…chicken! We learned this trick from a chef who made a similar type soup, we asked her to share her secret for making tofu with that unique texture. So we are sharing her tip with you. Freezing tofu for 24 hours changes the texture to look similar to cut up cubes of chicken.

Serve this soup to anybody, they won’t know the difference and they’ll love it just like we do. It’s so good for your heart heath!

Fresh Home Grown Tomatoes
Fresh Home Grown Tomatoes
Roasted Onions in Microwave
Roasted Onions in Microwave

Serves: 10 || Prep Time: 30 minutes || Cook Time: 4 minutes medium pressure or 2 hours on stove

6 cups water (reserve 3 cups to add after cooking if your pressure cooker is 5 quarts or less)

5 cups veggie stock (homemade or commercial no salt added)
1 (14-ounce) package extra firm tofu (prepare a day ahead, freeze first, then drain and press)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 roasted onions, roasted in microwave, then diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 (optional) parsnip, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup brown rice, rinsed (do not pre-cook)
1/2 cup dried corn
1/4 cup fresh basil, cilantro or parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 (14-ounce) can diced or stewed tomatoes or homegrown tomatoes

Freeze extra-firm tofu for 24 hours, thaw then press out water with a tofu press or between paper towels. Dice tofu into small cubes about 1/4″. In the meantime roast onions in a microwave; that is, place whole onions with skins into a covered microwaveable container in a microwave and roast for 6 minutes (otherwise, roast onions ahead of time in the oven). Cool onions, peel skins then chop onion into small 1″ pieces. Prepare vegetables.

Pressure cooker: Place all ingredients into the pressure cooker. Cook on medium pressure for 4 minutes. Take off the hot burner, let rest for 10 minutes then release pressure. Add the reserved water or more for desired consistency.

Stovetop: Prepare vegetables. Place all ingredients into a large soup pot, bring to a boil then simmer for 2 hours; occasionally stir.

Serve over your favorite leafy greens.

Cup No-chicken Tomato Rice Soup
Cup No-chicken Tomato Rice Soup

Nutrition Facts
Calories 173 Calories from Fat 16, Total Fat 2g, Saturated Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 179mg, Total Carbohydrate 26g, Fiber 5g, Sugars 3g, Protein 9g

Make Life Easy – Using a tofu press to press out excess liquid from tofu makes your life so easy!

Tofu Press
Tofu Press

The Last Piece of This Season’s Watermelon

Gleaning Watermelons

Life moves along so quickly these days…a hot summer turns into a colorful autumn. It is October but today we ate the last piece of local summer’s watermelon, we extended the summer with this last piece of sweet summer. We will soon be moving onto this season’s beautiful food from the fertile Franklin County valley in PA. 

We have learned how to pick ripe watermelons while gleaning for The Gleaning Project of South Central PA. Consumer’s demand in our area is for seedless watermelons, hence that’s what growers grow. The rounder ones (female) are the ones we gathered during our field time, on the other hand, the larger oblong seeded-watermelons (males) are needed to fertilize, so we also gathered those.

It’s always a good exercise day when we are gleaning watermelons, when gleaners arrive on the site they stretch before lifting and are warned – safety first. Thus we do a lot of safe bending, twisting and lifting in the fields. Enjoying nature, exercising and gathering food for the less fortunate is truly a breath of FRESH air! Support our growers by purchasing local vegetables and fruits.

Gleaning Watermelon
Gleaning Watermelon
Beautiful Sweet Watermelon
Beautiful Sweet Watermelon
The Last Local Watermelon
The Last Watermelon of the Season – Grown Locally

So today we cut open our last local watermelon. And BOY was it sweet and delicious! Enjoy each season.

The Last Bites of Watermelon
The Last Bites of a Seasonal Watermelon

Delicata Squash – I’m in Heaven!

Delicata Squash

Fresh Winter squash are showing their faces at farmer’s markets, vegetable stands and grocery stores in the area. It’s that time of year. I’m in heaven – Delicata Squash!  Just to hold them in the palm of my hand is exciting, just my size. This gem  is characterized by a cream colored delicate rind with green stripes.

There are so many  varieties of winter squash to pick from, but, so far, Delicata has become my overall favorite!  Why, you ask? Well let’s see:  Foremost, they are so easy to prepare, my favorite method is roasting; you can eat the “delicate” skin, no peeling, yipee; when roasting they become caramelized, so creamy and naturally sweet but not too sweet; they have a somewhat nutty flavor too; perfect size for a single serving (about 6-7 inches long) and they fit perfectly into my energy-efficient toaster oven; the green striped skin is just beautiful, with golden-orange colored flesh; this delicate squash could easily be eaten as a dessert, it’s that tasty…need I say more. 

Various Winter Squash at the Market
Various Winter Squash at the Market- DELICATA on the far left.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love many types of winter squash, they each have their own attributes and purposes. But today it’s time to roast a Delicata. Perhaps another day I’ll cover other preparation methods. 

I’m going to use it as a single serving for my lunch. So here’s the simple roasting process for a Delicata Squash:

  1. Preheat toaster oven for 5 minutes 395 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Scrub squash
  3. Place parchment paper on the oven tray
  4. Place Delicata squash on the parchment paper
  5. Roast for 20-25 minutes or to your liking, turn mid-way. (I love to eat the brown crusty portion of the roasted skin.)
  6. Cool, cut in half, scoop out seeds and stringy flesh (seeds can be roasted too but that’s another post)
  7. That’s it, eat flesh and skin – DELICIOUS


Roasted Delicata
Roasted Delicata
Delicata Squash - cut in half after roasting
Delicata Squash – cut in half after roasting
Scoop out seeds
Scoop out seeds
Eat flesh and skin of the Delicata Squash
Eat flesh and skin of the Delicata Squash

Newsletter – HEA OCT 2017

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Soup

View the Healthy Eating Adventure (HEA) Newsletter OCT 2017. See what’s been happening in our organization during the last few months – smiling faces of the Wilson College’s adventure goers, recipe from CoachBJ, Tom’s In The News article, Dr. Liz’s Corner article, information on our next adventure at SHIP and more.

HEA Newsletter Oct 2017



Pennsylvania Apples

PA Apples

FALL is in the air, that means Pennsylvania APPLES! Did you know that PA is the 4th leading state in the United States which produces APPLES? Furthermore, Franklin County is the 2nd top producer of apples in PA (after Adams County). Aren’t we lucky to live in this fertile valley and have fresh fruit available many months of the year! Beautiful orchards lined with rows of apple trees grace the landscape.

Rows of PA Apples
Rows of PA Apples
Beautiful PA Fall APPLES
Beautiful PA Fall APPLES

Apples are raised to use for the fresh market as well as for processed products. For us Pennsylvanians, fresh locally grown apples can be found in September and into the winter months.

Many varieties of apples are available…today we will be making applesauce with Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Cortland. But use any variety which satisfies your taste buds. I like to mix one sweet type apple, like Golden Delicious, with various other apples to give the applesauce more complexity. Of course there are a variety of methods to cook apples but the day the video was shot I had purchased a number of bags of seconds so I used a large slow-cooker (crock pot) to cook up a batch of applesauce.

Directions to cook applesauce in a crock pot:

  • Scrub, quarter and core apples (I do not peel to retain more nutritional value and I don’t mind if the applesauce is not totally smooth; but, if you wish, peel to make silky smooth applesauce.)
  • Cut into similar sized chunks, place in the pot, do not add water (add spices is you wish)
  • Cook for 4 or more hours on slow. (To make apple butter, it takes 10 hours or longer.)
  • When the apples are breaking up and have a mushy texture, it’s time to blend with an immersion blender to make applesauce.

Watch the video to see how easy it is to make and freeze applesauce to have fresh eating all year round. The video is a few years old but I still use this method. ENJOY!

Roasting Chick Peas

Roasting Chick Peas

We LOVE to snack on roasted low sodium CHICK PEAS (garbanzo beans)! Nice and crunchy like nuts without all the calories. Our toaster oven makes roasting so easy, quick and energy efficient too.

[A spin off is that we always have aqua faba (brine from chick peas) on hand to use as a leavening agent in baked goods…it keeps well in the refrigerator for about a week or freeze extra.] 

Roasted Chick Peas
Roasted Chick Peas

The process for roasting Chick Peas is simple:

  • Just pre-heat your toaster oven 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes or roast in your regular oven.
  • Take a can of low sodium chick peas and save off the aqua faba (brine) to use as an ingredient in baked goods.
  • Do not rinse the chick peas, place them in a single layer on the roasting tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Sprinkle on your favorite seasoning, we like garlic and cayenne pepper.
  • Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning mid-way. That’s it!

Tom and Zipper had fun making this video…Zipper was hungry.

A downside is that they are so good that we gobble up the roasted Chick Peas in a hurry and have to made more! ENJOY!!