Menu Munching: Avocados

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“The best is an orchestra.”

At a recent event for writers, a gentleman shared a story about his grandfather who said that people should be like an orchestra, each complementing one another in harmony to make the world a better place for everyone.

I thought about this when I received an email this week asking me about the hype around super foods. If you look at the list of super foods, you’ll see that they’re fruits, nuts, veggies, beans, whole grains, fish, and spices – essentially and simply an orchestra of naturally existing, non-processed, complementary foods which when eaten make for better health.

It’s not that they’re super. It’s that we unfortunately have fallen away from eating them, and our bodies are craving them. For some folks, it’s the cost. The fact is that the natural foods are a lot more expensive than processed. For others it’s the maintenance. Fresh foods don’t last as long, so they need to be eaten quickly and replaced more regularly which requires more trips to the store. For many it’s that our lives are busy, and we need food which have longer shelf-lives because we’re simply not home to eat the fresh food in the fridge.

The fact, though, is that our bodies need certain vitamins and nutrients to function optimally, and eating a wide variety of fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, beans, fish and spices provides what our bodies need in ways that processed foods simply cannot.

In the email, the question was specifically about avocados and why the hype and how to incorporate it into one’s diet.

Avocados are high in fiber, nutrients like potassium, vitamin K and folate, and the good monounsaturated fats our bodies need, so yes, people are advocating it as a super food. Like all the foods on the list, though, it needs to be a part of a healthy varied diet to have any benefit. If you’re eating unhealthy all the time, simply adding avocado to your menu isn’t going to make your body super.

As an addition to a healthy diet, though, avocados can add variety if you’re in a food rut. You can add them onto salads and sandwiches, make soups with them, stuff them, put them into smoothies, and you can even add them to cake recipes. For most folks, avocados mean guacamole, though, so I’m going to focus on that today.

Guacamole often gets a bad rap because it’s most always associated with the tortilla chips people tend to eat with them. It’s the tortilla chips that are unhealthy; not the guacamole. Guacamole is actually a combination of super foods: avocado, garlic, onions, citrus juice, jalapeno peppers, and sometime tomatoes. So, eating it is a good thing, though one should eat it as a veggie dip or a sandwich spread as opposed to a tortilla chip dip.

Making Guacamole:

1. Purchase good avocados: You want avocados which are dark green, soft to your touch, but without any brown, overly soft spots. When you go to the store, though, the avocados are almost always unripe. So, look for ones which are green with no brown and/or soft spots in them, firm to the touch and heavy in your hand. When you bring them home, put them into a paper bag, and check them after a day or so. When they’re ripe, they’ll be soft when you press into the skin with your finger. If you have the time to wait, you can also simply leave the avocados in a bowl on your counter, and they’ll ripen over time.

2. Prepare the avocados: Avocados are easy to cut. You simply cut in half around the pit and twist. When the avocado is ripe, the seed will simply slip out with very little aid from a spoon or knife. If the pit is sticking to the avocado flesh, it’s a clear sign that the avocado isn’t ripe. When avocados are ripe, you can put a spoon around the edge between the skin and the flesh and the avocado flesh will simply fall out of the skin. If the flesh is sticking to the skin, it’s either unripe or overly ripe.

3. Decide on the ingredients: Guacamole is usually a combination of avocados, citrus juice, garlic, onions, and jalapeno peppers with folks sometimes adding tomatoes, too. You can decide what you want to use. Since I don’t always have fresh jalapeno peppers and onions in the house, I often use dried red pepper flakes and onion powder. I also prefer to use Meyer lemons over lime juice, and since my children don’t like tomatoes in their guacamole, I don’t include it. You can decide whether you want to use all fresh ingredients or some dried like me. You can choose whether you prefer the taste of lime or lemon juice. You can decide whether to be a purist or to add tomatoes or even experiment with other additions. Some folks like to add herbs like basil to their guacamole. Most add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Begin with a basic recipe: A basic recipe I follow is:  Put the flesh of two avocados into a large bowl. Begin with 2 tablespoons of squeezed citrus juice, 2 tsp of minced garlic, and 1/8 tsp each of onion powder, black pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes. Mash the ingredients into the avocados so everything is combined but the avocados are still chunky. Taste and see what you need to add more of to your liking. If you’re using all fresh ingredents, start with 2 tsp of minced onions and seeded, jalapeno peppers and then see if you need to add more or not.

 

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