10 Tips For Keeping Produce Fresh Until Your Next Trip to the Grocery Store

Caroline Lange wrote . . . . . . . . .

Filling the fridge for the long haul is a game of strategy, a balancing act of things to eat now and things to eat later, ideally with a range of flavors and textures for optimal versatility. This… can feel like a lot to consider, especially if you’re also trying to use everything in its prime.

First, double-check which fruits and vegetables you should—and shouldn’t—be refrigerating, and make your grocery list with some attention to what will last the longest in there (the fridge, that is). Then read on for 10 tips for keeping your produce practically perfect (or, you know, good enough!):

1. Store your produce DRY.

A little humidity is a good thing for produce—but wet is bad news. Some moisture will keep produce perky; too much moisture can promote mold or mushiness. Make sure you thoroughly dry anything you’re washing before putting it away. There are a few exceptions to this rule: Scallions like to be stored upright, roots-down, in water at room temp—and they’ll keep growing that way forever as long as you freshen the water every now and then. Asparagus is more like a bouquet of fresh flowers: Trim the ends, set in a glass of water, and refrigerate until ready to use. Storing whole carrots in a covered container of water will keep them firm; same for halved stalks of celery. Change the water every two or three days.

2. When in doubt, bag it.

A plastic bag (reuse them, please, or just use the bag your produce came in) will help prevent the moisture in your veg from evaporating, which means the stuff that usually goes limp after a few days won’t. It works for hardy greens, too: Remove the thick stems, then tuck into a plastic bag or reusable lidded container.

3. Swaddle your herbs.

Storing herbs is its own meditation on being patient and gentle. Start by removing any twist-ties or rubber bands from your herb bunch. If your herbs are very dirty, wash them first (otherwise, consider washing as you use them so as to introduce as little extra moisture as possible). To dry, use a salad spinner or roll up between two layers of clean, dry dish towels. Gently bundle the now-dry herbs in a dry paper towel. Place the bundled herbs in a resealable plastic bag (you can put multiple bundles of herbs in the same bag) or a plastic container (like a plastic shoebox or even just a quart container).

4. Isolate gassy produce.

Some fruits and vegetables—like apples, ripe bananas, pears, and potatoes—produce a gas called ethylene that accelerates the ripening process of other fruits and vegetables. For this reason, if you want to ripen something quickly, stash it with your store of apples. But if you’re trying to prolong lifespans, keep everybody as separate as you can. That means: Let bananas have their own spot, don’t store potatoes and onions together, and keep apples in a designated part of the fridge.

5. Transfer ripe fruit to the fridge.

Some fruit you want to keep out at room temperature so that it can ripen—avocados, pineapple, mango. But once it’s ripe, move it right over to the fridge, where you can essentially press pause on the ripening process. This is a short-term solution—everything will go bad eventually—but it’ll buy you 2 or 3 extra days with that perfectly ripe avo.

6. Freeze!

Want to really press pause? Toss your produce in the freezer! Let fruit reach the desired stage of ripeness, then peel and cut into pieces if necessary and freeze in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet tray until solid. Break up the frozen pieces and store in a resealable plastic bag or freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. You’ll want to chop and blanch most vegetables before freezing (and remember, not everything freezes well).

7. Keep citrus and ginger in the fridge.

You know how every stock photo of a kitchen has a bowl of lemons out on the counter? Looks nice, that’s for sure, but those lemons aren’t gonna last. Citrus will be happy (firm, juicy, not shriveled) for ages longer if you keep it in the fridge. Same for ginger (and fresh turmeric root, if you’ve got it).

8. The softer it is, the sooner you should use it.

Make an action plan based on which produce has the shortest life. Prioritize lettuces, spinach, and other soft greens; cucumbers; peppers; cherry tomatoes; broccoli and cauliflower. Save your potatoes and sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, fennel, and even hardy greens like kale and collards for the last days before you head back to the grocery store. Related: If your produce has leafy tops (like beets or carrots), remove them from the vegetable and, if you want to eat them, store them separately.

9. Learn the coldest parts of your fridge.

Generally, the top few inches of the fridge are prone to temperature swings (read: accidental freezing). Keep your most delicate produce (like herbs and lettuces) away from that top section and in the middle of the fridge to avoid frozen-then-thawed arugula (truly horrible).

10. Give everybody some breathing room.

If you’re only going to the grocery store once per week, it follows that your fridge is going to be pretty full. But try your best not to cram your crisper drawers. Produce, like you and I, enjoys a little personal space. That space allows the fridge to work more efficiently: With air circulating around the produce, moisture evaporates and public enemy number one, a.k.a. mold, is held at bay. You’ll also be able to better see and use what you have.

Source: Bon Appetit

Peruvian-style Beef and Green Bean Stir-fry

Ingredients

2-1/4 lb green or runner beans, cut diagonally into 1-1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for deep-frying
14 oz potatoes, cut into batons
14 oz beef tenderloin (fillet), cut into 1/2 x 1-3/4-inch strips
1 red onion, sliced
2 yellow chilies, seeded, membrane removed, and sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and sliced into half-moon crescents
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and pepper
2 cups cooked white rice to serve

Method

  1. Add the green beans to a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 1 minute until just tender. Remove from the pan and plunge into a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
  2. Half-fill a large pan or deep-fryer with vegetable oil and heat to 350°F/180°C, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds.
  3. Drop the potato batons carefully into the hot oil and cook until crispy and golden. Drain well on paper towels.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons oil to a very hot wok, add the beef strips and stir-fry until browned and medium-well done, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the onion, yellow chiles, green beans, and garlic and stir-fry for another 2 minutes, then finish by adding the tomatoes and chopped parsley. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve on plates with the fried potato batons and cooked white rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Peru – The Cookbook

Why Stress-Baking and Cleaning Make You Less Anxious

Sara Harrison wrote . . . . . . . . .

Micah Bucey is surprised by how well guided meditations work over Zoom. Bucey, an associate minister at New York’s Judson Memorial Church, usually leads in-person meditations once a week. But since the coronavirus outbreak, Bucey’s gone digital. “I actually am quite taken by how intimate Zoom feels,” says Bucey, who now leads about 30 participants through guided breathing and meditation every day. “I feel a little bit more vulnerable as a facilitator, because people are actually sitting in front of a screen and my face is on that screen, not 20 feet away in a room.”

Bucey’s is one of dozens of online offerings meant to help Americans handle the stress of Covid-19. Sure, we had worries and anxiety before. But the era of coronavirus has brought with it a whole new set of fears about running out of food, masks, and ventilators, plus escalating economic woes and concerns about the well-being of loved ones. To help people cope, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is offering an online Morning MeditOcean, during which jellyfish soothingly undulate across the screen. Chefs are creating quarantine cooking shows, and #quarantinebaking has become so popular that Amazon is sold out of popular brands of flour and chocolate chips.

But these are more than desperate attempts at self-soothing. It turns out that homekeeping and self-care activities like meditating, cooking, cleaning, and even just stocking the pantry can help stop cycles of anxiety and depression by changing how the human brain self-regulates. Here’s why stress-baking or cleaning feels so good, neurologically speaking.

When humans perceive a threat or stressor, our amygdala—a small region of the brain associated with facilitating fear, anxiety, and emotion—jumps into gear and becomes more active. This activation can have physical consequences, too. Sometimes people who are anxious report feeling short of breath or have an increased heart rate. That’s because the amygdala is also involved in regulating our blood pressure, breathing, and heart. So when the amygdala gets going, those systems do too.

But while that part of the brain is ramping up activity, the prefrontal cortex, which normally regulates emotions, is getting deactivated and working less. So while our emotions and the systems associated with them are getting triggered, the systems that keep them in check are slowing down.

From an evolutionary perspective, this anxiety-response system was vital. “If you’re not afraid of tigers, you’re not going to last very long,” says Fadel Zeidan, associate director of the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Mindfulness. Zeidan says that while these systems are crucial in certain contexts, like, say, a global pandemic, they can become destructive. “The media is overwhelming. We’re in friggin’ lockdown,” he says.

Some people can process those environmental stressors pretty well, but for other people, these triggers cause their amygdalas to run wild. Their brains can become fixated, ruminating on worrying thoughts, without the prefrontal cortex regulating those intense feelings. Those brains need a reset: a way to get the prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain regulating that fear response.

Mindful meditation sessions like the one Bucey leads, which teach participants to focus on their breathing or on specific words or actions, can be one way of getting back to normal brain regulation. As meditators focus on their breathing, they train their brains to stop ruminating on stressful thoughts. If their focus starts to shift to worries, practitioners are taught to notice those thoughts, then recenter their focus on their breath. “You’re stabilizing the mind by enhancing cognitive control, and then you’re also teaching yourself how to self-regulate emotions,” says Zeidan, who studies mindful meditation. “And that’s critical.” The more the brain is trained to focus, the better it becomes at this task.

This is different than just sitting and breathing for a while, which will also feel nice and relaxing. Zeidan’s studies show that while simply breathing will slow the body’s respiratory rate, it won’t change any mechanisms in the brain. Mindful meditation can. Zeidan used an MRI machine to examine meditators’ brains before and after meditating. Even after one session, he found that meditation reduced subjects’ anxiety by reactivating the prefrontal cortex and other higher brain areas that regulate emotions, while deactivating the amygdala and other regions that facilitate those emotions.

“What we see is that mindfulness can dramatically reduce anxiety and stress after just one 20 minute session, even if you’ve never meditated before,” he says. That nice feeling won’t last forever, but it’s a start. The more meditation people do, studies show, the more effective it is. Eventually, with regular meditation, Zeidan says people can lower their baseline anxiety. But it takes time. He compares learning mindfulness to making an omelet: The recipe isn’t that complicated, but it takes years of practice to do it perfectly.

Mindful meditation is a great way to start turning those cognitive mechanisms around, “but you can’t spend the whole day meditating,” says Jacqueline Gollan, a clinical therapist and professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University. Gollan includes meditation in a larger therapeutic strategy called behavioral activation that employs pleasurable activities as a way to motivate people. The promise of doing something enjoyable as a reward pushes patients to tackle the stressful but necessary things they have to do, like going to work or, during a pandemic, reading the news.

Activities like taking a bike ride or stress-baking a pan of cookies give people a sense of accomplishment and control. While they’re exercising or cooking, they can focus on the smaller tasks at hand and take a break from stressors like social media or the news. Gollan says these activities don’t have to be big projects. Just opening the window and enjoying the breeze, or taking a break with a good cup of coffee, count too.

Studies suggest that behavioral activation can help reregulate brain activity much the way mindful meditation does, by engaging the prefrontal cortex. “In a lot of ways, behavior is the method of changing brain function,” says Gollan.

Many people already find repetitive chores like washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, or chopping vegetables to be a kind of meditative practice, their own way of quieting the mind. Culinary therapies for grief and anxiety have started appearing across the country, and some evidence is emerging that it does work, though the neuroscience is still not well examined. Julie Ohana runs a practice called Culinary Art Therapy, where she uses cooking to help clients improve communication, manage stress, and improve self-esteem. She wasn’t at all surprised to recently find that her local grocery store in Michigan was completely out of flour and yeast. “The idea of cooking, and baking in particular, really requires a certain level of mindfulness, of putting aside everything else that’s going on around you and being present in the moment,” Ohana says.

Right now, being forced to focus on kneading, mixing, and measuring is particularly important. And there’s a certain practicality to this kind of mindful task. “We all need to eat,” Ohana says. “Why not really put your all into that dish you’re cooking and really get everything out of it that you can?”

Gollan agrees, though she thinks there is another impulse behind #quarantinebaking: avoidance. All those cooking projects and Marie Kondo-inspired clean-outs can also be procrastination schemes that people use to put off doing things they don’t want to, like keeping up with email or checking the latest Covid-19 developments. Avoidance patterns can start off harmlessly, like watching a little TV, cooking a nice dinner, or having a beer to relax. But those behaviors can devolve into binge watching or over-indulging.

Feeling good is important, but people can’t just focus on the things they want to do. “The world doesn’t work like that all the time,” Gollan says. Gollan says behavioral activation is about achieving balance and getting people to use those moments of enjoyment as motivation to follow the structure they need, like using an end-of-day baking project as a reward for doing the laundry, or holding off on an extra round of videogames until after a work call is finished.

For Micah Bucey, his morning Zoom meditation has become more than a moment to breathe. Now, it’s a way to structure the day: something he has to get up for each morning. It’s also a forum, where he makes time for people to talk about their fears and to share practical solutions and resources. It’s a way to feel empowered during a scary time. “I meditate and I pray not because I think it’s affecting some god out there,” he says. “I meditate and pray because I know it will have an effect on me. It gives me a reminder that I have the tools to deal with that anxiety, to deal with that fear, in different ways.”

Source: WIRED

Intense Form of Radiation Slows Disease Progression in Some Men with Prostate Cancer That Has Spread

The trial, called ORIOLE (Primary outcomes of a Phase II randomized trial of observation versus stereotactic ablative radiation for oligometastatic prostate cancer), and led by Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers since 2016, compared the effectiveness of SABR versus “wait and watch” observation in recurrent cases of oligometastatic prostate cancer.

“It has been a longstanding question, especially important now in the era of immunotherapy, whether any type of radiation, and SABR specifically, can stimulate the immune system,” Tran said. “Our trial offers the best data to date to suggest that SABR can cause a systemic immune response.”

Oligometastatic cancers are those that have spread from a primary tumor to one to three sites within the body. Of the estimated 1.3 million men worldwide newly diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, some 20% have metastatic disease, although it’s unclear what percentage of those overall have oligometastatic cancers. Prostate cancer is the third most common cancer and the most common cancer among men in the United States, resulting in about 30,000 deaths annually. Metastatic prostate cancer is incurable, and men with recurrent hormone-sensitive cancers may prefer to delay one of the standard treatments, an antihormone therapy called androgen deprivation therapy. It often causes unpleasant side effects, including erectile disfunction, loss of bone density leading to fractures, loss of muscle mass and physical strength, fatigue, weight gain and growth of breast tissue among other things.

A report on the study is published in the journal JAMA Oncology.

Among the 54 men enrolled in the trial, the disease progressed within six months in seven out of 36 (19%) of participants treated with SABR, compared to 11 out of 18 participants (61%) undergoing observation alone. The risk of new cancers at six months was also lower, occurring in 16% of those receiving SABR compared to 63% of those under observation.

There were no significant differences in clinically meaningful side effects or in reports of pain related to the treatment between the two groups, the study found. The average age of the men on the ORIOLE trial were 68-years old, and most participants were Caucasian.

Analysis of immune system white cells in blood drawn from the patients indicated that SABR treatment was associated with an expanded population of T cells, suggesting that the treatment stimulated a full-body immune system response to their cancers, according to the study leader Phuoc Tran, M.D., Ph.D., professor of radiation oncology and molecular radiation sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Tran co-directs the Kimmel Cancer Center’s Cancer Invasion and Metastasis program with Andrew Ewald, Ph.D., and Ashani Weeraratna, Ph.D., aimed at studying the process by which cancers spread, to expand and develop better treatments for patients with advanced cancers.

The findings suggest SABR might be usefully paired with other immunotherapies to treat recurrent oligometastatic prostate cancers, but Tran cautioned that any potential benefits of such combined therapy will need to be tested in future clinical trials.

The research team also detected a set of tumor mutations in genes known to be important for suppressing cancer development in some patients that correlated with a higher risk of cancer progression even among those undergoing SABR. “This may be a molecular signature which is indicative of the underlying biology of the patient’s cancer,” said Tran.

The biomarker could help clinicians know “which patients are going to benefit the most from a metastasis-directed therapy like SABR” compared to a systemic treatment such as chemotherapy, Tran explained.

The ORIOLE results also suggest that SABR treatment may remove or affect signals that promote the development of micrometastases in recurrent oligometastatic prostate cancer, rather than just “resetting” the clock on the disease until metastases grow large again, said Tran.

Source: The Johns Hopkins University

Pilates May Be Good Medicine for High Blood Pressure

Pilates exercises can do more than help strengthen your abs — the moves may also lower high blood pressure and reduce artery stiffness, new research suggests.

Pilates is a workout program that focuses on core strength, flexibility, body posture and controlled breathing.

The new study included 28 obese women, aged 19 to 27, with high blood pressure (“hypertension”). The participants were non-smokers, had no chronic diseases, and did less than 90 minutes of regular exercise a week.

For the study, half of the women completed 12 weeks of mat Pilates sessions supervised by a certified instructor. The other 14 women made up a non-exercising control group.

The women in the Pilates group did three one-hour sessions a week, which included 10 minutes of warm up and stretch, 40 minutes of general mat Pilates exercises, and 10 minutes of cool down. The training intensity increased over the 12 weeks.

By the end of the training period, the Pilates group had significantly reduced arterial stiffness and blood pressure, including central (aortic) pressure, the investigators found. But the study did not prove that Pilates actually causes blood pressure to drop.

The study, published April 1 in the American Journal of Hypertension, is the first of its kind, according to study author Alexei Wong and his colleagues. Wong is assistant professor in the department of health and human performance at Marymount University, in Arlington, Va.

“We hypothesized that mat Pilates might decrease the risk of hypertension in young obese women. Our findings provide evidence that mat Pilates benefit cardiovascular health by decreasing blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and body fatness in young obese women with elevated blood pressure,” the researchers wrote.

“Because adherence to traditional exercise (both aerobic and resistance) is low in obese individuals, mat Pilates training might prove an effective exercise alternative for the prevention of hypertension and cardiovascular events in young obese adults,” the authors concluded.

High obesity rates among young adults are a major public health issue. Exercise is an important factor in preventing and managing heart health risks, but obese women tend not to stick with traditional workout routines, Wong’s team noted in a journal news release.

Source: HealthDay


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