All About Avocados

Avocado Health Benefits

Who’d have thought avocados would be so good for you? Now, I’m used to hearing about how fatty they are, so I’ve always been careful about avocado intake. But it turns out they do have other benefits.

Readers, how do you like to eat avocados? My favorite is guacamole (of course!), and I also like them in salads and on sandwiches, as long as they’re seasoned or covered in dressing. I always thought they were pretty bland by themselves.

Has anybody had a chocolate-avocado dessert? I heard chocolate and avocados was a thing now, but I’ve never tried it; it seems a little weird.

(I would have reposted this article, but the Food Revolution Network doesn’t let you repost on this site.)

Earth: Paleozoic, Part 6

Great Dying
 
Somewhere in the north of great Pangea,
The recently-formed supercontinent,
Strong forces stir beneath the planet’s crust,
Magma rising slowly to the surface.
The ground heats up under animals’ feet.
The earth starts to tremble and crack apart.
 
Molten lava is sprayed into the air
From these cracks, which glow with Earth’s inner fire,
Illuminating the fracturing ground.
The lava oozes onto Earth’s surface,
Blanketing a far-reaching area,
Burning plants and animals to ashes.
 
Around the world, a rain of deadly ash,
Fallout from the volcanic eruptions,
Falls from the sky like burning, toxic snow,
Suffocating and scorching animals,
Smothering plants with hot, fiery dust,
Making of Earth’s surface a blazing Hell.
 
Even the atmosphere becomes deadly,
As the air fills with sulfur dioxide,
Which turns the rain to acid; when it falls,
It burns whatever plants and animals
Managed to survive the lava and ash.
Now the land and air are barren of life.
 
The oceans are barren of life as well,
As they are heated, stripped of oxygen.
Water turns to hot, smothering poison.
Pink algae are the only life that grows
In the deep now; the ocean blushes pink,
And methane rises up from the sea floor.
 
The methane traps the sunlight in the air,
Cooking the atmosphere and the planet
Even after the lava and ashes.
Now Earth is gray, lifeless, and poisonous
And will stay that way for millions of years.
Only a few survivors still remain.

Kicking Myself

My Fourth of July weekend started with a bang, and not a good one. I was in a car accident yesterday afternoon. I was on a narrow country road, and a tractor was coming from the other direction. I drove to the right to give the tractor more room, and I ended up driving into a ditch. The car fell onto its side, luckily not the side I was on.

I wasn’t hurt, and the car escaped with a few scratches and a loose wheel. But I was terrified I would be fired, since it was one of the company cars that I drove into a ditch. I was so scared of being fired that today at work, when I realized I’d forgotten to get a signature and fee for a food license from a client, and our secretary told me off for it, it seemed like the icing on the cake. I felt dizzy; I seriously thought I was going to faint.

Luckily, I didn’t faint. Even better, I’m not going to be fired. I also got the signature and fee from the client. But I’ve been kicking myself for my mistake all day. My counselor suggested that I forget about it and just do better next time. It’s good advice, but I have a tendency to magnify my mistakes and beat myself up over them.

Does anyone else have this problem? I have a feeling that I’m not alone.

Earth: Paleozoic, Part 5

A lobe-finned fish swims in a shallow sea,
Breathing in air from under the water.
But this fish travels up to the surface,
To breathe the oxygen-rich atmosphere,
To feel the air above the limpid sea,
To see the sun shining on the green land.
 
Its stubby fins propel it through the sea,
Until it reaches water choked with mud
In a dismal swamp. It cannot swim now,
So, with its fins churning the mud, it walks,
Feels the soft sea bottom beneath its fins,
And slowly heads for the nearest shoreline.
 
Inch by inch, step by step, it moves forward
Through the dark, murky waters of the swamp.
Its head surfaces; it gulps the fresh air.
Soon the rest of its body surfaces,
And now the creature steps onto dry land,
Ready to walk beneath the forest trees.
 
Other walking fish step onto dry land,
Following the first brave adventurer,
That gave up swimming and began to walk.
Their descendants will make the land their home,
Only going back into the water
To lay eggs, birth a new generation.
 
Their descendants will be amphibians.
Their fins will evolve into sturdy limbs,
Lungs will become more sophisticated,
And skeletons will become heavier,
Enabling them to colonize more land,
And soon give rise to other tetrapods.
 
But these tetrapods do not exist yet.
Giant amphibians rule over Earth,
New top predators on land and in sea,
Preying on giant arthropods and fish,
Clinging to the soil with their large, clawed feet
Waving or dragging their muscular tails.

Potato and Green Bean Salad

A nice, summery side dish taken from weightwatchers.com

Ingredients:

24 oz fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

8 oz green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces

6 Tbsp fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup shallot(s), finely chopped

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp chopped fresh or 1 Tbsp dried tarragon

3 Tbsp chopped fresh or 1 Tbsp dried dill

3 Tbsp chopped fresh or 1 Tbsp dried chives

Put potatoes into a large pot. Fill pot halfway up with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until almost tender, 6-8 minutes. Add green beans and cook until potatoes are tender and green beans are crisp-tender, about 2-3 more minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again.

Meanwhile, to make the dressing, whisk together broth, shallots, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large serving bowl. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking, until blended. Stir in tarragon, dill, and chives.

Add potatoes and green beans to bowl and toss gently until the vegetables are coated with dressing.

Earth: Paleozoic, Part 4

Giants of the Forest

The first animals to colonize land
Are insects, arachnids, myriapods
Their ancestors crept out of the ocean.
Now, they crawl or fly through the lush forests,
Breathing in large amounts of oxygen,
Which makes them grow to an enormous size.
 
Giant millipedes crawl beneath the trees,
Feeding on mosses and on leaf litter,
Segment by segment passes on the ground,
Seeming to flow over leaves and tree roots,
Slithering back and forth along their trail,
A lengthy, black serpent with many legs. 
 
Sea scorpions hide on the ocean floor
And at the bottom of rivers and lakes,
Using the spines upon their legs to move
And gather food from the brackish water.
Land scorpions scurry under the trees,
Capturing other insects with venom.
 
Enormous griffinflies and dragonflies
Hover in the sky, beat transparent wings,
Stirring up a breeze in the humid air.
They lay eggs upon the water’s surface,
Swoop down on smaller insects for their prey,
Look down on other insects from up high.
 
These share the forest with other creatures,
Creatures that inhabit the Earth today.
Spiders spin webs, silken traps for their prey.
Cockroaches and termites swarm on the ground.
Six-winged insects fly in the warm air.
Ancestors of grasshoppers feed on plants.
 
Beetles and flies evolve close to the end
Of the era, but they are much smaller
Than other arthropods which came before.
The climate is dryer, the forests die,
Less oxygen is pumped into the air.
The age of giant arthropods is done.

Earth: Paleozoic, Part 3

Fish and Sharks

New animals evolve under the sea:
Sleek animals of bone or cartilage.
New animals hungry for flesh and blood,
Or feeders on green algae and seaweed.
Streamlined, fast-swimming creatures of the deep:
Fish have appeared in the ancient oceans.

Many jawless fish hunt prey or scavenge.
Lampreys feed on the blood of other fish,
Hagfish devour the underwater dead.
They share the sea with eel-like conodonts,
And ostracoderms with armored bodies,
Undulating gently with the currents.
 
Over millions of years, jawed fish evolve:
Armored placoderms, with paired pelvic fins,
Bottom-dwellers, living in shallow seas.
And armored spiny sharks, with bonelike scales,
And chimaeras, ghost sharks, with fused jawbones.
Not real sharks, but still aquatic hunters.
 
Through the sea, the real sharks hungrily swim,
Moving side to side, eyes upon their prey,
Or smelling their prey’s blood in the water.
The fastest fish flee from the predators,
But the unlucky victims are swallowed
By wide-open jaws lined with pointed fangs.
 
The sharks, over time, have new prey to hunt:
Bony fish with their harder skeletons.
Ray-finned fish, which will be so numerous
That they will spread from seas to freshwater,
And lobe-finned fish, with thick and stubby fins,
Which will crawl onto land in the future.
 
Yet now the lobe-finned fish stay in the sea,
Preying on smaller fish, preyed on by sharks.
Sharks, top of the underwater food chain,
The fiercest predators to swim the seas.
Hunt or be hunted is now the main rule
For contact between predator and prey.

Earth: Paleozoic, Part 2

The Green Land

Though the seas are crowded, teeming with life,
The land is barren rock and sand and dirt:
Silent and grim and inhospitable,
Until, suddenly, out of the water,
Come tiny green algae cells, forerunners
Of an invasion of the land by plants.

Algae and mosses and tall, tree-like ferns
Send their spores over the bare land to sprout
And stake their claim, invading so quickly
That in millions of years, forests have formed
Of horsetails, club mosses, and tree-like ferns
Waving their fronds in the tropical air.
 
The forests breathe, filling the atmosphere
With fresh, pure, life-giving oxygen
That will cause changes in land animals:
Expansion of their lungs and their bodies.
Soon, giants will walk under the tall ferns,
Or fly above the dense, green canopy.
 
The air is warm and wet under the fronds
Of giant ferns and horsetails, and beneath
The branches of smooth scale trees and club trees.
Down in the ancient, living, breathing swamps,
Spores float, land, and sprout, but where it is dry,
The plants send out a new invader: seeds.
 
Seeds growing in cones, borne upon the wind,
Give rise to ever-newer forms of plants,
The hardy gymnosperms: hard wooden trunks
And needles for leaves, both adaptations
To possible disasters which may come
Upon this green land, ancient paradise.
 
Disasters which may scorch and dry the land,
And bury the ancient forests in dust,
Crushing them down, over millions of years,
Into black lumps of rock, to burn in fire.
But at the present time, the forests live,
Stretch up to the sky, shade the land, and breathe.

Earth: Paleozoic, Part 1

The Ancient Seas

The ancient seas surround one continent,
A giant landmass, ancient Gondwana.
On sea and land, the sun beats down and warms
The planet’s surface, where little changes.
But beneath the waters, life is thriving:
Diversity which will not come again.

Under the oceans, the trilobites rule.
Their kingdoms are the floors of shallow seas.
Crawling upon the sandy sea bottom,
They hunt down worms for prey, or filter-feed
On plankton, algae, tiny forms of life,
Found buried in the sand, or floating free.

Throughout the water, the jellyfish swim,
Drifting lazily in the open sea,
Or through forests of sponges and corals,
A living, breathing aquatic garden.
They wait for prey to swim within their grasp
And capture them with stinging tentacles.

Graptolites are anchored to the sea bed,
Or float with currents through the deepest seas,
And ten-armed sea lilies and feather stars
Sway and wave their arms on the ocean floor,
Filtering food from the upswelling waves,
Gathering plankton from the deep water.

Brachiopods inhabit shallow seas,
Hiding within their unhinged shells, sharing
Their habitat with ancient ancestors
Of oysters, chitons, octopi, and snails,
And with the backward-swimming nautiloids,
Floating free within their chambered shells.

Creatures of solid shell and carapace,
That crawl or swim or rest on the sea floor
Or soft-bodied creatures that drift and sway
With the swelling, sweeping ocean currents.
All call the sea their home, this ancient sea:
A life-filled, underwater paradise.

Ginger: The Miracle Spice

All about Ginger

I’ve always loved ginger, but I never realized it had so many great health benefits!

Baked Black Beans with Sausage and Rice

Most of this recipe came from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything: The Basics. The sausage was my own idea.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
6 cloves minced garlic
3/4 cup of black beans, picked over and soaked the night before
1-1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 12-oz smoked sausage
Salt and pepper

Put the oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion, pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften.

Stir in the beans, add enough water to cover them by about 2 inches, and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary to keep the beans submerged, until the beans are softening but still hard in the middle, 45-60 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roughly mash about half of the beans in the pot with a fork, the back of a spoon, or a potato masher. Cut the sausage into pieces and add it to the pot, along with the rice, salt, and pepper. Stir well to combine. The beans and rice should be covered by 1 inch of liquid. If there’s not enough water, add more to the pot. If there’s too much water, spoon some of it out and save it to add later.

Transfer the pot–uncovered–to the oven and cook until the rice and beans are tender, about 1 hour, adding water (or the saved cooking liquid) 1/4 cup at a time. Taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.