A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Alligator Pear – a.k.a Avocado

Who doesn’t love the cool, creamy taste of guacamole or thin slices of avocado on a turkey sandwich? There’s just something about this fruit’s flavor that helps make a regular meal Great!  Smooth and buttery, avocado is considered one of the healthiest fruits with nutrients like vitamin K, fiber, potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and copper.
A few slices of avocado in salad, or mixing some chopped avocado into salsa will not only add a rich, creamy flavor, but will greatly increase your body's ability to absorb the health-promoting carotenoids that vegetables provide.

Try to planting a seed in your home or garden. After peeling an avocado, take the seed that’s in the middle and plant it in your garden or a good sized pot indoors. Be sure to water the soil regularly, and in about three weeks, you will start to see leaf buds growing.

Here is a list of 10 health benefits of avocado found at this site.
Prostate Cancer Prevention - Avocados have been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer.
Oral Cancer Defense - Research has shown that certain compounds in avocados are able to seek out pre-cancerous and cancerous oral cancer cells and destroy them without harming healthy cells.
Breast Cancer Protection - Avocado, like olive oil, is high in oleic acid, which has been shown to prevent breast cancer in numerous studies.
Eye Health - Avocados have more of the carotenoid lutein than any other commonly consumed fruit. Lutein protects against macular degeneration and cataracts, two disabling age-related eye diseases.
Lower Cholesterol - Avocados are high in beta-sitosterol, a compound that has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. In one study, 45 volunteers experienced an average drop in cholesterol of 17% after eating avocados for only one week.
Heart Health - One cup of avocado has 23% of the recommended daily value of folate. Studies show that people who eat diets rich in folate have a much lower incidence of heart disease than those who don't. The vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, and glutathione in avocado are also great for your heart.
Stroke Prevention - The high levels of folate in avocado are also protective against strokes. People who eat diets rich in folate have a much lower risk of stroke than those who don't.
Better Nutrient Absorption - Research has found that certain nutrients are absorbed better when eaten with avocado. In one study, when participants ate a salad containing avocados, they absorbed five times the amount of carotenoids (a group of nutrients that includes lycopene and beta carotene) than those who didn't include avocados.
Glutathione Source - Avocados are an excellent source of glutathione, an important antioxidant that researchers say is important in preventing aging, cancer, and heart disease.
Vitamin E Powerhouse - Avocados are the best fruit source of vitamin E, an essential vitamin that protects against many diseases and helps maintains overall health.
If the taste alone isn’t enough, the health benefits should give you a reason to slice an avocado every now and then. Try using avocado in the following recipes to get started.

Cold Avocado Soup

I like using Greek yogurt in this recipe since it adds to the creaminess and provides protein. Use less milk for a healthy dip to serve at your next social event.
Ingredients – 6 servings

1 large English cucumber, peeled and diced
2 1/4 cups Lowfat (1%) or Skim Milk
1 1/2 cups Plain Non-fat Greek Yogurt
1/3 cup lime juice; about 4-5 limes
2 large avocados, peeled, quartered, pitted
1 small red onion or chives, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 Cloves of Garlic – try roasting beforehand for great flavor
1/4 cup basil chopped – use dried herbs if you have to
1 Tablespoon Cumin Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Cayenne Powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions

In a blender, combine cucumber, milk, 3/4 cup of yogurt, and lime juice and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Add half of each of the following ingredients: avocado and onion, basil, and salt and pepper to taste and blend. In a medium bowl, (do not use metal) add remaining avocado, onion, basil, and additional salt and pepper to taste, plus 1 teaspoon of lime juice. Garnish each bowl of soup with avocado mixture and a dollop of remaining yogurt and diced tomatoes. Make sure you have leftovers for a quick weeknight meal.


Avocado Smoothie
Yes, you read this right; avocado in a smoothie….it is fruit after all!

Ingredients – 2 servings

1 small ripe avocado, halved and pitted
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup non-fat vanilla yogurt – I use plain non-fat and add vanilla liquid stevia
1 Cup Frozen Strawberries, Bananas, Blueberries, or other favorite frozen fruit
*Add some honey if are really craving something sweet

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend to a sweet and creamy smoothie.
The beauty of smoothies is how you can customize them to your liking. As I mentioned in a previous post, peanut flour is a great smoothie addition; I’d recommend peanut flour, cocoa powder, skim milk, yogurt and frozen bananas blended with avocado for a personal favorite. Low-fat Coconut milk is another great smoothie ingredient; try some mixes to see what you like best.


One-Pot Quinoa Avocado Creation
Ingredients – 4 servings

3/4 medium onion, chopped – I buy frozen chopped onions and just dump as much as I see fit when cooking a meal
3 or 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped – I love garlic!
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup frozen corn kernels
1 Red Bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added diced tomotoes
3 tablespoons dried oregano, cilantro, and basil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1.Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Spray with Pam, add onion, garlic, and bell pepper, and sauté until lightly browned.

2.Mix quinoa into the saucepan, stir for 30 seconds to lightly toast, and add broth. Add all listed herbs, spices, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes,

3.Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and tomatoes.
Use a knife to twist the seed out of the middle.
The best way to peel an avocado is to cut the avocado lengthwise, producing two long avocado halves that are still connected in the middle by the seed. Next, take hold of both halves and twist them in opposite directions until they naturally separate. At this point, remove the seed and cut each of the halves lengthwise to produce long quartered sections of the avocado. You can use your thumb and index finger to grip the edge of the skin on each quarter and peel it off, just as you would do with a banana skin. To preserve, mash and place the avocado in the freezer. This will keep it fresh for several months; thaw when ready to use.

Try these quick serving suggestions when you’re not in the cooking mood:
  • Use chopped avocados as a garnish for black bean soup
  • Mash chopped avocados with your favorite salsa for a rich-tasting salsa-mole
  • Spread ripe avocados on bread as a healthy replacement for mayonnaise when making a sandwich
  • For an exceptional salad, combine sliced avocado with cilantro, grape tomatoes, fresh chopped turkey breast, and mozzarella. Add some bits of fresh cooked bacon to add depths of flavor
  • Add chopped avocados in many of your rice, corn, or veggie meals during or after cooking to enhance flavor

So there you go, there’s no reason to not know what to do with an avocado in your home. Let the hard ones ripen in a paper bag on the countertop until soft and use as you please. Stay happy, stay healthy, eat avocado….and Just Add Cayenne.

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