QuickTip Tuesday: Cutting Up Fresh Pineapple

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I got such a great response after my post about choosing avocados, that I thought you might like something about fresh pineapples. I remember the first time I peeled and cut a pineapple. It was kind of intimidating, but I had watched someone do it before I made an attempt.
Here’s some simple instructions for cutting up a pineapple.
*Forgive my horrible photography. My husband is a photographer, but he was asleep when I did this.

By the way, did you know the pineapple is the international symbol of hospitality? Hundreds of years ago, sailors would place pineapples on their porch railings to signify that they were at home, and welcoming visitors.

First, you want a sharp, large knife. I know some people are scared of larger knife blades, but using a knife that is too small can be more dangerous than using a large knife on a large food product-like a pineapple.

Slice off the top and bottom of the pineapple.

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Next, set the pineapple up on one of the cut ends, and move your blade from top to bottom, removing the rough outer skin. Repeat all the way around the pineapple.

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You’ll most likely leave little brown pock marks of skin, but that’s okay. Making it perfect will also make a lot of wasted pineapple goodness.

Once you’ve taken the skin off all the way around, you’ll want to cut the fruit away from the core. You can very plainly see a circle in the middle of the pineapple. That’s the core. Just cut the fruit away from it and then cut up your golden treasure any way you want. I usually make mine into little irregular cubes.

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You’re done. Enjoy your harvest. You can eat it raw- delish! Or you can grill the pineapple with shrimp, chicken or smoked sausage- Yumm! Or you could saute it with honey and put it over vanilla ice cream… Or you could parcel it into tinfoil packs with smoked sausage and cook that in the grill or oven. The possibilities are nearly endless and all delicious!

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Foodie Friday: June Menu

Ah, June… The month of my 2nd daughter’s birthday, my dad’s birthday and Fathers Day. It’s a great month. The weather gets hot and dry around here. We do a lot of grilling and *hopefully* we’ll get a decent little kiddie pool to dip our toes in.

June will be a pretty busy month for me. I’ll be working on a research proposal for grad school, working full time (as usual) teaching a co-parenting class, a canning workshop, a 3-part series in diabetes meal planning, and volunteering at a diabetes camp. I’ll also be taking an online class. It’s going to be great! But, I’ll probably be crunched for time. Good thing I have a top notch dinner menu planned for the month.

I’ve heard from friends and family that they just don’t have time to cook every night. People have asked me if I actually cook all the things on my menu. Let me tell you, I do cook most of it. I sometimes decide I no longer feel like having what I planned and I  might choose to prepare something different, but I do cook 6 nights a week most weeks. BUT I promise, my week night meals never take more than 30-45 minutes to cook because ain’t nobody got time for that!

Here’s my June menu. I hope you enjoy it as much as I know I will! As always, you can find recipes on the June 2016 Menu Pinterest Board.

Printable: june 2016 menu

June 2016 Menu

Sunscreen

With the official start of summer just a few weeks away, you are probably making plans that include spending a lot of time outdoors. It’s important to protect your skin!

You don’t think twice about putting on your seatbelt in the car, wearing oven mitts when taking a casserole out of the oven or wearing a face shield when welding. These things are protective equipment. Think of sunscreen the same way. Proper use of sunscreen will help protect your skin from painful burns, possible long-term skin damage and even skin cancer.

The shelves at your local discount or drug store are loaded with many different types of sunscreen, including lotions, creams, sticks and sprays. They also come in a variety of sun protection factors such as 15, 30 or even 50 SPF. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a minimum level of 30 SPF.

But what do these numbers really mean and can we trust we are getting what is being advertised on the label?

SPF indicates protection against the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that cause sunburn. If your skin normally begins to burn after 10 minutes in full sun with no protection, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 should mean you can stay out in the sun 30 times longer. However, sunscreens really don’t work that way. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied regularly be to most effective. Be sure to follow package directions.

A recent study by Consumer Reports, shows more than 40 percent of sunscreens tested did not live up to their SPF claims. Some products claiming an SPF level of 50 on the label actually tested at an SPF level of 8. The key thing to keep in mind is the combination of the proper use of sunscreen and protective clothing.

Sunscreen should be used in conjunction with protective clothing, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to help ensure the best protection. In order for your sunscreen to be most effective, apply enough to cover all exposed skin at least 15 minutes before going outside. For adults, this is about an ounce, or the equivalent of a shot glass. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

When shopping for sunscreen, look for a broad-spectrum, water-resistant product that protects against both UVB and UVA rays, with a minimum SPF of 30.

Remember, sunscreen can do only so much. Seek shade when possible and wear a hat and long sleeves when in the direct sun. These are the best tools for protecting yourself from harmful rays.

Guest Post: Composting by Cody Linker

Compost is a natural dark brown humus-rich material formed from the decomposition or breakdown of organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings, vegetation, vegetable food scraps, and twigs. Bacteria, worms, fungi, and insects need water and air to use the organic materials as food and decompose them.

The benefits of composting are many. Adding organic matter to the soil helps loosen up harder clay, and adds good nutrients to the soil, acting as a fertilizer. It provides a great way to dispose of biodegradable kitchen waste without putting it in a landfill. It helps the garden grow. It’s good for the environment.

What can be Composted?

• Most yard waste such as grass clippings, leaves, twigs, excess vegetation
• Non- fat containing food scraps
• Twigs or chipped branches
• Coffee grounds, tea leaves

What cannot be Composted?

• Large branches
• Fatty foods and grease, meats, dairy products, fish
• Bones
• Synthetic products such as plastics
• Diseased plants
• Weeds and vegetables that produce abundant seeds
• Pet or human waste

So if you are growing a backyard garden, you should be composting. Never done it? No problem.

There are factory-made compost bins on the market that sell for anywhere from $50 up to $300. These work great, but you can easily make your own for a fraction of the cost.

Bins can be made in various sizes and with a variety of materials. The following easy steps describe compost pile construction:

1. Construct a confining perimeter with 3’ to 5’ diameter and 4’ high. Materials may be concrete blocks, railroad ties, wire mesh, boards, old pallets, other fencing material, barrel, or garbage can with holes for air

2. Layer green (wet) and brown (dry) vegetable matter (1 part green to 3 parts brown)

3. Wet thoroughly, then sprinkle with water periodically

4. Turn every week to speed the decomposition process

Compost Bin Styles

1. Garbage can or barrel – with holes in bottom and in rows about 4-6 inches around sides.
2. Commercial – many varieties usually about the size of a 30-gallon garbage can, found at home supply stores.
3. Three bin turning units are made so that the compostable material can be easily transported from one bin to another, thus reducing the time to produce the compost. They can be made out of a variety of materials.
a. Concrete blocks
b. Wood with wire sides
c. All wood
4. Holding units (for easy passive composting) can be made from many materials, require no turning and are thus slower to produce compost.
a. Wood pallets
b. Concrete blocks
c. Posts and chicken (or other type) wire
d. Posts and snow fence

I personally recommend a barrel style compost bin that can be turned like this one: Image result for barrel composter

It’s going to be far more convenient. Turning compost is essential no matter how you look at it, and using a turning barrel is going to be much easier than turning your compost with a shovel in a stationary box. If you are uncomfortable building the frame, you could just use a barrel with a hole cut in to insert the material and roll it on the ground.

Pretty simple. But you can find easy to follow building plans on the internet.

QuickTip Tuesday: Checking if Avocados are Ripe

It really makes me cringe when I see people in the grocery store squeezing avocados to check ripeness. Every time someone does this, a fairy dies the avocado bruises. I have more than once picked up an avocado that had been squeezed too many times and had it completely come apart in my hand from all the abuse. So, if you aren’t supposed to squeeze them, how can you tell if they are ripe? I’ll tell you. Hold the avocado gently in one hand. Take the middle finger or ring finger of your other hand and press slightly on the blossom end (that’s opposite of the stem end). If it gives at all, it’s ripe. Don’t press hard and stick your finger through the thing. It doesn’t take much pressure at all.

BONUS TIP

Fool Proof Guacamole
I love me some guacamole. But I’ll warn you, I like it spicier than you will get at a Tex Mex restaurant.

2 ripe avocados
1 tsp garlic salt
2 tbsp medium chunky salsa
1 tbsp lime juice
2-3 dashes hot sauce

I mash my avocados with a fork. I like a few bigger pieces in there. I don’t want it to be totally smooth. Then I sprinkle all the other ingredients in and mix well. If it’s not salty enough, add more garlic salt. If it’s not garlicky enough, add garlic powder. If it’s not spicy enough, add more hot sauce. Too spicy? Add a little more lime juice. Make it yours!

Eat it with chips, veggies, quesadillas, tacos…. Or with a spoon. No? Just me then? Okay.

Foodie Friday: Summer Time and the Picnic’s Easy

My five year old, Amelia, loves picnics. She is asking at least once a week if we can eat dinner picnic style in the backyard. I say no too often, but when I do say yes, we have a blast! Here are a few keys to a proper pre-school picnic:

  1. Picnic foods must be easy to eat. Not necessarily all finger foods, but nothing that has to be cut with a knife.
  2. Picnic foods must be fun! We can have a stuffy, boring dinner inside at the table. When we eat outside, the food must be exciting.
  3. Make it as cute as possible, otherwise you’re just sitting outside in the dust (Oklahoma…it’s windy and dusty) fighting bugs off your lunch/dinner.
  4. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Life is messy.

Here are some fun picnic foods to try with those people in your life who you are crazy about:

  • Pickle Roll-ups. My good friend BaLinda introduced me to these little babies a few years ago. Be careful, they are addictive!
  • Pasta salad. Who doesn’t like pasta salad? You could serve it in little plastic cups with lids or little jelly jars, if you’re feeling southern-fancy.
  • Campfire ham sandwiches. Grill ’em and eat ’em or bake ’em and take ’em. Who could say no to  this?
  • Pressed sandwiches– for the more sophisticated picnic goer.
  • Fruit kabobs– They’re colorful. They’re fun. They’re irresistible!!

Now that we’ve got the food, let’s talk about where we’re going to eat. Pick a spot that makes you happy. You want to really enjoy what you see, hear and smell. It could be a nearby park, by a pond, stream or lake, or in your own backyard. Just make sure it’s pleasing to you and your crew. If you don’t have a cutesy, perfect picnic blanket and picnic basket set, don’t even worry about it! Paper plates and plastic forks work just fine. Any old heavy blanket will do, or you could set up a picnic table. We have a little bistro set on our back patio and my kids are content with that.

Here’s a picture of my table- just because I love it and I want you to oooh and aaahh over it!