Category Archives: Food Knowledge

JoAnns Food Bites celery Curtis Stone

Crazy for Crispy Celery

Earlier this year, Chef Curtis Stone developed a 9-course tasting menu centered around celery, for his restaurant Maude in California.

He created a celery salad; reduced celery juice for an apple sorbet and braised some stalks for a celeri barigoule.

Celeri Barigoule – a traditional Provencal dish of artichokes braised with onions, garlic and carrots in a seasoned broth of wine and water. Early culinary cooking, the artichokes were stuffed with mushrooms, however, modern cuisine no longer uses mushrooms. Some preparations are stuffed with spinach, carrots and cheese.

Celery has a crunchy texture, slightly bitter, earthy flavor which has long been served as a cooling accompaniment to hot wings.

celery wings

Although not my favorite vegetable in the garden, celery has some wonderful nutritional benefits.

Celery and Nutrition

Before the 16th century, celery was used exclusively as a medicinal herb.  Now, it is one of the most popular vegetables in the Western world.

Full of antioxidants and low in calories, only about 16 calories per 100 grams, celery is great snack for anyone on a diet regime.

Its leaves are rich in Vitamin A and beta-carotene, which are good for a healthy skin and night vision.

Considered to be a functional vegetable because it contains lots of non-soluble fiber, also known as roughage.

A very good source of minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium, manganese, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.


Celery in the garden

Grown in bunches that consist of leaved ribs surrounding the tender, choice heart.

Pictured is the most common variety, pale green Pascal celery.  The Golden variety is grown under soil or paper to prevent chlorophyll from turning it green.

  • Ideally, planting should be in full sun, 8-10 hours daily; however, it is NOT heat tolerate.
  • In the United States, it is a summer crop in the north and winter crop in the south.  Be sure that temps will stay between 55 and 70ºF throughout the growing period.
  • They like fertile soil and constant moisture.
  • From seed, start indoors for the best success rate, 8 to 10 weeks before the average last frost date for your area.
  • The National Gardening Association claims soaking seeds in warm water overnight prior to planting will reduce germination time.
  • Transplant seedlings 10 to 12 inches apart, direct sow seeds ¼ inch deep. These will need to be thinned to 12 inches apart when they reach about six inches high.
  • Mulch after planting and immediately water.

Celery requires soil that is moist and well fertilized. Make sure to monitor plants closely.

Tie growing celery stalks together to keep them from sprawling

Celery in the kitchen

celery kitchen

When buying celery, choose firm bunches. The leaves should be bright green and crisp.

Store celery in a plastic bag, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Leave the leaves and the stalks attached until ready to use.

Wash thoroughly and trim off root end.  The leaves are edible and are great in soups, stews or salads.

The ribs (stalks) are typically ate raw, but are common in the “holy trinity” of cooking,  a Mirepoix

  French cooking says mirepoix – combination of celery, onion and carrots.

  Cajun cooking says holy trinity – combination of celery, onion and bell pepper.

Quick kitchen tips for celery:

BLANCH – 3 minutes

BOIL – 3-5 minutes

STEAM – 3-5 minutes

SAUTE – 3-5 minutes

Not recommended for roasting or grilling.

For later use:  Cut up celery stalks in 1-inch pieces.  Blanch in hot water for 3 minutes.  Remove and immediately place in ice bath to stop cooking process.  After 30-40 seconds, remove from ice bath and place on a paper towel to dry.  After drying for 5-10 minutes, place flat on a cookie sheet and set in freezer.  Allow to freeze overnight.  Place pieces in air tight zip lock bags and store in the freezer until ready to use.

The tops and wilted leaves can be stored (without blanching) in freezer bags and added, still frozen to a pot when making stock.

The cooking applications for the celery stalk are numerous.

What are the ways YOU cook with celery?











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Eliminate Processed Foods

7-Day Eliminate Processed Food Challenge-Follow Up

On May 12, I started a 7-day challenge to eliminate processed foods from my daily caloric intake.

Read the challenge info here

eliminate processed foods

On the letter grade scale   – I would give myself a C.

If you recall…my challenge rules were as follows:

  1.  No refined grains, only 100% whole grain
  2.  No refined sugar
  3.  Ingredient list must be real foods, no chemicals, no words I cannot pronounce
  4.  No deep-fried foods
  5.  Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, my ONE cup of coffee daily.
  6.  Heavy on fruits and vegetables

I definitely did not have any deep fried foods at all in the 7-days.

I limited my beverages to water and one cup of coffee each day.

I did have 2 teaspoons of white sugar for each coffee; however, I did not consume any additional refined sugars beyond my several teaspoons.

Since I have always liked vegetables; consuming them each day was rather easy.

However, for my fruit requirements – I only managed two apples for the entire week!

Dietary Recap

Here is a brief summary of my 7-day challenge.

Friday, May 12 – coffee, hard-boiled egg sandwich on white-wheat bread (yes it contains enriched bleached flour), Gluten free chicken breast, baked – macaroni & cheese, broccoli

Saturday, May 13 – coffee, BLT on white-wheat bread with just 1/2 teaspoon mayo, Chilean Sea Bass, organic brown rice, lettuce, home-made pesto sauce

Sea Bass

Sunday, May 14 – coffee, 1 egg, buttermilk (frozen) biscuit, one sausage patty (processed), 1 apple, several slices of REAL cheese, bowl of popcorn

Monday, May 15 – coffee, 2 hard-boiled egg salad with 1 Tablespoon ranch dressing, Gluten free chicken breast, macaroni & cheese (processed), baked potato slices

Tuesday, May 16 – coffee, turkey & ham sandwich (meat from the deli, but has no processed ingredients), pasta, Italian pork sausage, field greens, bread.

Wednesday, May 17 – coffee, turkey & ham sandwich, small bag of Lay’s chips (processed), then dinner fell apart

Went to our house property and was unable to prepare a dinner, so we ate Captain D’s fish for dinner.

Thursday, May 18 – coffee, boiled egg sandwich, way too tired to eat a dinner.


Where I did an excellent job was my new regiment of walking at least 6,000 steps every morning.

I did this four of the seven day challenge.

My goal is to walk 10,000 steps each day; however, with both arthritic knees, a baker’s cyst and plantar fascitis – I am surprised I could accomplish 6,000 steps.

I did ache each night, but it was not unbearable.

Tracking My Progress

I will continue to use My Fitness Pal to track my progress.

This app easily allows you to add food, water and statistics with just a few clicks.

I can slide my phone into my pocket, as I go out to do my morning power walk and the phone will track my step count.

Its accuracy could be questionable but it is very close.

The app tells you how many calories you have left after each item has been entered.

One of my favorite app settings is the “add frequently paired foods” section.

When I enter my coffee each day, the app will allow me to add the sugar and cream I have with the coffee, without having to add each line item manually.

My Fitness Pal

How did you do in the 7-day challenge?   Do you want to eliminate processed foods from your daily diet?

Take it one day at a time.


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processed food chips

7 Day Eliminate Processed Foods Challenge

I started this food blog because

                I LOVE food.

                I love cooking food,

               eating food and

               shopping for food.

I think my lust for this necessity of life, has led me down a path of occasional laziness.

Yes, even foodies can be lazy sometimes.

couch potato joanns food bites

Partially to blame for my laziness is the evil, PROCESSED FOOD INDUSTRY.

eliminate processed foods

The Food & Drug Administration has determined processed foods as being:

    a. Anything that has been modified from its raw form

    b. Any substance has been added to the food, such as sodium-containing additives, which makes the product less healthy.


Shocking Facts about Processed Foods

More than 75% of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed foods, not the salt shaker.

          Research has shown, the increased consumption of processed foods by Americans over the last 50 years, directly relates to increased rates of heart disease and diabetes.


According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we should consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day.

All those sugary and salty processed foods stimulate dopamine in your brain.

Your body reacts the same way, as if you were consuming an opiate drug.

F0od companies know this … and purposely engineer their products to have this effect; so you will keep buying more.



OMG, Is That in my food?

Cellulose, which is actually ground-up wood pulp, is often used as an anti-caking agent in bagged cheeses.

Sodium bisulfite, a toilet bowl cleaning chemical, is also used in potato chips.

Hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are chemically engineered products, which the FDA has deemed UNSAFE.

Sodium Nitrite is prevalent in most processed meats to delay oxidation. During the process of cooking these meats, sodium nitrite can combine with other compounds forming a carcinogenic N-nitroso compound. Two large cancer research studies concluded when ingested, these compounds are associated with cancer,

processed food chips

Now, I am as guilty as anybody else, I love potato chips, snacks and fast food, but I have got to make a change.

My goals:

  • to sleep better
  • to lose some weight
  • to feel better

My 7-Day Eliminate Processed Food Challenge

Starting today, I am going to try my damnest to eliminate all processed foods, for 7 days.  Then, I will evaluate how I did.

Lisa Leake-100 Days of Real Food Fast & Fabulous-joanns food bitesLisa Leake’s amazing book 100 Days of Real Food: Fast & Fabulous: The Easy and Delicious Way to Cut Out Processed Food

will guide me through this challenge.  Click link to purchase your own copy.

But I am a realist…I know I have to take baby steps.  I will fail if I take a full elimination dive.



Read my review of Lisa Leak’s fantastic book

My Challenge Rules

1. No refined grains, only 100% whole grain

2.  No refined sugar

3.  Ingredient list must be real foods, no chemicals, no words I cannot pronounce

4.  No deep-fried foods

5.  Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, my ONE cup of coffee daily.

6.  Heavy on fruits and vegetables


Six simple rules to this 7-Day Eliminate Processed Food Challenge.

Do you want to join me?  Comment below:

100 Days of Real Food















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5 Ways the Potato Can Be Healthy Food

Making a Potato Healthy

Recent research has determined THE POTATO can be healthy.  At only 110 calories for one medium russet potato, they are high in fiber, calcium and potassium.  If cooked properly, they can help lower blood sugar levels.

The key to lowering blood sugar, while still enjoying the fluffy, creamy potato, is to accompany your ‘tater with “spud buddies.”  Coined by America’s Test Kitchen, “spud buddies”  are blood sugar helpers which prevent rapid glucose absorption.

A List of 5 Spud Buddies

1.Add avocado as a GOOD FAT.  

Avocado potato

Place sliced avocado on top of a baked potato instead of butter or sour cream. Photo courtesy of


2.Include an ACID

Drizzle malt vinegar over cooked red potatoes. Add a bit of your favorite herb to create a great side dish.

potatoes healthy

3.Serve with a good protein, such as beans

potato green bean salad

Cooked red potatoes with green beans, sprinkled with bacon. Photo courtesy of


4.Cook – then cool

After cooking, cool completely before eating them; the starch turns into a  “resistant starch.”  Resistant starch does not allow the small intestine to absorb the sugars from the potato.  Resistant starch stimulates the good bacteria in your gut.  The body treats the spud more like a fiber and promotes colon health.

potato salad

A cold potato salad with celery and hard-boiled eggs is a good example of eating potatoes cold.

5.Add HEALTHY ingredients

In the south, traditionally, mashed potatoes are made with milk or cream and lots of butter.  Consider adding a small amount of GOOD FAT, olive oil to your dish BEFORE adding any liquid, to eliminate excess use of cream.  Also, cook with the skins ON. Once cooked and slightly cooled, the potatoes will be easier to peel.  Once cut to size, thoroughly rinse to get rid of excess starch.

Try revamping my Creamy Parmesan Mashed Potatoes – Recipe is here

Creamy Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

JoAnn’s Food Bites: Creamy-Parmesan Mashed Potatoes


Healthy Potato Guide


  • Great for baking, making french fries or hash browns.
  • Best harvest time is early spring to late fall
  • Very high in starch
  • Low water content
  • Fluffy inside


  • Great for potato salads, soups or stews
  • Low starch content
  • High moisture content


  • Best “all around” potato
  • Moderate starch level
  • Great for soups, stews but best for mashed potatoes
  • Creamy, buttery texture


















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joanns food bites - lycopene - tomatoes

Should We Worry About Lycopene in Our Food?

At a loyal reader’s request, I am taking a look at Lycopene in our food and if it can benefit a healthy lifestyle.

Subscriber, Renee G said, “LYCOPENE: I would love to know what foods have it, how the body uses it, and if there is research showing effects on skin cancer rates.”

What is Lycopene?

(Lie-co-peen) – is a chemical compound that gives some vegetables and fruits, their vibrant color.  Found in watermelons, pink grapefruits, apricots, guava, papaya, and red oranges; and particularly high amounts in tomatoes and tomato products.

joanns food bites - lycopene - tomatoes

In North America, 85% of dietary lycopene comes from tomato products such as tomato juice or paste. One cup of tomato juice provides about 23 mg of lycopene. Processing raw tomatoes using heat, such as in the making of tomato juice, tomato paste or ketchup;  actually forms a compound much  easier for the body to use.  Supplements are about as easy for the body to use as natural lycopene found in food.

Lycopene is not just found in red vegetables, but is critical in the process of photosynthesis for plants, algae and other  photosynthetic organisms.  A natural step in pigment development and also protects these organisms from excessive light damage.

Lycopene and our bodies

Humans cannot produce it naturally, but must eat fruits, absorb it, and process it for use in the body.

However, ideal consumption occurs from cooked tomato paste and was shown to be at levels 3.8 times than from fresh tomatoes.  The chemical is altered by the temperature changes involved in processing, to make it more easily absorbed by the body.

In a 1995 landmark Harvard study, a group of epidemiologist, monitored the dietary habits of 48,000 men over a period of six years.

Research found that of the 46 fruits and vegetables evaluated it was only the tomato-based foods that were beneficial in lowering the risk of prostate cancer, and lycopene was implicated as the active ingredient. Those men who ate ten or more servings of tomato-based products per week had a 34 percent lower risk of contracting prostate cancer.

The doctors concluded these results because of two factors in lycopene:

  1.  It  acts as an antioxidant in the body, protecting cells against damage from the free radicals formed when body cells burn oxygen for energy.
  2. It is easily absorbed into our bodies, then stored in discrete places, such as the prostate gland and testes, which makes it a particular benefit in men.

Research has been inconclusive in determining if lycopene can help lower the risk of breast cancer in women; however, data suggest the intake of dietary lycopene can play a role in the prevention of ovarian and cervical cancers, especially in postmenopausal women. (see footnote 1)

According to the Mayo Clinic, the use of lycopene, together with other nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E could be a possible way to protect skin from sun damage.  Although benefits have been seen in small studies, more research is needed before a firm conclusion.  No conclusive research has been completed to determine whether or not lycopene can prevent skin cancer.

Overall Benefits of Lycopene

It has long been proven that eating five serves of fresh fruit and vegetables each day can improve your health on various levels.

Some believe by increasing your lycopene levels, you can reduce the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

As an antioxidant, lycopene is widely recognized as reducing blood LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) in human;  however, due to lack of substantial evidence the Food & Drug Administration rejected a request in 2005 by the pharmaceutical industry to allow “qualified labeling” for lycopene and the reduction of various cancer risks.

You can read the FDA report by clicking here.

However, claims, “Increasing your intake each day, with fruits and vegetables that are high in lycopene can also have the added benefit of preventing deadly strokes, particularly in men. Many studies have been tested, and the outcome shows that males with a high level of lycopene in their blood were 55% less likely to become a stoke candidate.”

Be aware that most studies warn the potential to eat too much lycopene is real.  An overabundance level can have negative affects on our immune system.  Illnesses involving fever or infection can be aggravated by too much lycopene in the body, preventing your body to naturally heal itself.

Also, eating too much lycopene can alter the pigment of your skin, causing it to take on an orange tint; however, high doses much be taken, over an extended amount of time.

joanns food bites lycopene fruits vegetables

Americans are not setting a good example for future generations to eat healthy.

Bottom Line on Lycopene

It is found naturally in several foods

  • Watermelons
  • Pink Grapfruit
  • Apricots
  • Red Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Tomatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Parsley
  • Basil

When eating any kind of fruit or vegetable, the health benefits far outweigh the negative side-affects.

When cooking with vegetables high in lycopene, add olive oil! Antioxidant absorption will be faster.

Regardless if scientist have PROVEN the exact benefits of lycopene, the fruits and vegetables which make lycopene naturally have substantial nutritional value.

As you can see in this dietary report card, Americans do not consume enough fruits and vegetables.  We need to set a better example for our children and for our own health.

joanns food bites lycopene

How often do you eat fruits and vegetables?




  1. Cramer DW, Kuper H, Harlow BL, Titus-Ernstoff L. Carotenoids, antioxidants and ovarian cancer risk in pre- and postmenopausal women. Int’l J. of Cancer 2001; 94:128-134
    Goodman MT, Kiviat N, McDuffie K, Hankin JH, Hernandez B, Wilkens LR, Franke A, Kuypers J, Kolonel LN, Nakamura J, Ing G, Branch B, Bertram CC, Kamemoto L, Sharma S, Killeen J. The association of plasma micronutrients with the risk of cervical dysplasia in Hawaii. Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prev 7:537-544, 1998















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Poached eggs in 7 steps

Don’t Screw The Poach-ing; Poach Eggs in 7 steps

Poached eggs, why are they so hard to get right?

Ah, yum, a perfectly poached egg is delicious on a piece of toast, or egg-cellent as eggs Benedict.  I enjoy topping off a simple, green salad with a poached egg, allowing the runny yolk to serve as my salad dressing.

First, we need to understand the process of POACHING….

What is Poaching?

Poaching is to cook food gently in liquid, just below the boiling point.

The amount and temperature of the liquid required, depends on the food being poached.  Meats and poultry are usually poached in stock.  Eggs are usually cooked in lightly salted water.  I add just a small amount of vinegar to the water – which we will discuss later.  Some chefs believe the vinegar is not necessary and implore a “swirling method,” to their process.  More on that later.

Poaching produces a delicate flavor in foods, while imparting some of the liquid’s flavor to the ingredient being poached.

How to Poach Eggs

The process is NOT as simple as cracking open an egg and sliding it into simmering water.

When poaching is done RIGHT, the egg white coagulates and protects the yolk.

The challenge is to keep the white from scattering and to make sure the yolk flows out when cut into.


STEP 1 – Fill a large skillet, preferably a 12-inch, nonstick with a tight fitting lid, with water.

Fill the skillet nearly to the rim.  A saucepan can be used; however, for a novice, the skillet will make it easier to slide the eggs into the water and then remove it with a slotted spoon, once cooked.


STEP 2 – Add salt AND vinegar

By adding 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar to the water, the eggs will be seasoned as they cook.

The vinegar also helps the proteins in the whites to set more quickly, which reduces the risk of the white scattering all over the pan.

Make sure to only use WHITE vinegar, as dark vinegar (balsamic) might give the eggs an unattractive discoloration.


STEP 3 – Heat the water

Bring the water to a hard boil, on high heat.

The eggs will be poached using residual heat, but you need to start by bringing the water to a good rolling boil.  DON’T SKIP THIS STEP.

If the water is merely simmering, there will not be enough heat to cook the eggs properly.


STEP 4 – Crack eggs in small cups

Crack 1 or 2 eggs in a small cup.

poached eggs in cups

Photo by JJohnson

If you crack the eggs directly into the water, the first egg will cook faster, than the last egg and it is difficult to monitor which egg went into the pan first.

Because you can hold 2 teacups at one time (one in each hand) you can add the eggs at the same time, guaranteeing the same cooking rate of time.


Step 5 – Add Eggs

Simultaneously, lower lips of cups, or teacup, into the water and tip eggs into the water.

Because you broke the eggs into the more manageable cups, they are easier to lower into the water and slide the eggs out.

This method gives the eggs plenty of room to spread in the skillet.

poaching eggs sliding eggs into water

courtesy of

Some chefs swear by the swirling method.  The chef will swirl the boil water, vigorously, dropping the egg into the center of the “whirlpool.”

This is a difficult skill to master and will not produce a perfectly shaped poached egg – there will always be loose ends of the white trailing away from the egg. 


Step 6 – Cook covered, off heat

After gently placing the eggs into the pan, immediately cover and slide the skillet off the heat.  Poach the eggs until whites are cooked, but the yolks are still runny in the center, 3 1/2 – 6 minutes, depending upon the number of eggs in the skillet, to be cooked.

Removing the skillet from the heat is important because bubbles will cause the eggs to fray and blow apart so it is best to allow residual heat cook the eggs through gently.

Make sure to cover the skillet before moving it; the lid traps heat and ensures the eggs will cook properly. If you do not cover the skillet, the water will cool too quickly.


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Step 7 – Remove eggs

Using a slotted spoon, quickly and carefully remove all the eggs, one at a time, from the skillet…letting the water drain off.

Transfer to a large, paper-toweled lined plate.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, serving immediately.

Using the slotted spoon allows excess water to drain and placing the eggs on paper towels removes any last traces of water.

Removing poached eggs from water

courtesy of



Popularized by the restaurant Delmonico’s in lower Manhattan, Eggs Benedict is a traditional American brunch or breakfast dish consisting of two halves of an English muffin, each topped with some sort of bacon, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. 

Eggs Benedict with poached eggs

Courtesy of


Please let me know if you try this 7-step process to perfectly poached eggs.





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