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From blues and reds to whites and yellows, we’ve got the lowdown on potatoes.
Article By: Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein
Skinny on Potatoes

Potatoes are a year-round staple, whether you enjoy them in a cold salad at a summer potluck, mashed or roasted at the holidays, or as part of a traditional Irish meal around St. Patrick’s Day.

And that’s just because they taste good. Now consider their excellent nutritional profile: potatoes are fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free. A medium-size potato (5.3 ounces, about the size of a computer mouse) has half your day’s vitamin C requirement. Contrary to popular myth, most of the potato’s vitamins and minerals are not found in the skin. Instead, they cluster in a layer a little less than an inch under the skin. Therefore, removing the skin will not affect the spud’s nutrition. But don’t reach for the vegetable peeler just yet: If eaten with its skin, a potato has more potassium than a banana and is one of the best fiber options in the produce section.

Basic varieties
There are five basic types: yellow-fleshed, red-skinned, white, blue and Russet. They are categorized by color and by starch: less starch yields a firmer potato. The following chart outlines the differences between each variety.

The Potato Rainbow
Yellow-fleshed
These dense, creamy potatoes, typified by the Yukon Gold variety, are moderately starchy, and so make excellent mashed potatoes and au gratins. They are flavorful, slightly sweet and perfect for steaming, boiling, stir-frying and pan-frying (as in hashed browns or hash).
Red-skinned
Often called “new potatoes,” these spuds have a vibrant red skin — and some, a mottled red skin. They have a mild, earthy taste and are the least starchy of any variety, so they’re best roasted with olive oil and herbs. Because they hold up well, they’re also great in potato salads.
White potatoes
Perhaps the most versatile potato, these are available in round little balls or long fingerlings (not named for fingers but for little German fish). They should not be confused with larger Russets; white potatoes, like Irish creamers, are always small with a creamy white or pale beige skin. Use them for salads, mashed potatoes, oven fries and any dish that requires boiled or steamed potatoes.
Blue potatoes
Closely related to the original potatoes from South America, blues are actually available in a range of colors: blue, violet, purple or lavender. These fairly starchy potatoes have a nutty, earthy taste. They are good roasted or mixed into doughs (bread, muffin or even tamale).
Russets
Sometimes called Idaho or baking potatoes, Russets are the starchiest (and thus the fluffiest) potatoes and have thick, netted-brown skins. They make fluffy mashed potatoes and classic baked potatoes as well as great French fries. Their skin is so thick and chewy that these are the only potatoes that can be turned into potato skins. Because of their dry, starchy texture, they are also the only potatoes that can create gnocchi or potato noodles.

Best-ever mashed potatoes
Here’s a shock: the microwave actually makes the best mashed potatoes.

1. Wash (but do not dry) 4 or 5 medium Russet or yellow-fleshed potatoes. Do not prick or peel them. Place them in a large, microwave-safe bowl with a lid that has an open vent hole — or cover the microwave-safe bowl with plastic wrap and then poke a small hole in the wrap.

2. Microwave on high for 8 minutes (total) without disturbing.

3. Remove from microwave — be careful of hot steam — take off the lid or plastic wrap, and mash with an electric mixer at medium speed or a hand-held potato masher adding some skim milk, fat-free chicken or vegetable broth, a little butter or olive oil and/or some Dijon mustard and herbs.

 

  © 2012 Weight Watchers International, Inc. © 2012 WeightWatchers.com, Inc. All rights reserved.
WEIGHT WATCHERS and PointsPlus® are the registered trademarks of Weight Watchers International, Inc. and are used under license by WeightWatchers.com, Inc.

There is no better reason to cook organic then for the main fact that it is so much healthier for you. Organic foods are free of man-made chemicals, poisons, and pesticides. The best food choices for your health are simple and fresh organic foods that are cooked to maintain their vital nutrients. When you eat organic, you are supporting not just your own health but also that of the eco-systems where the organic produce was raised.

Unlike commercial farms that typically focus on one or two commodities that strip the soil of vital nutrients, organic farms tend to grow a variety of crops. This helps to maintain the health and diversity of the soil. Organic farming methods make for sustainable agriculture that protects people (consumers and workers), environments, and wildlife from the harmful impact of dangerous chemicals. By supporting organic farming we create awareness in our community about the health and social benefits of green cuisine.

‘Certified organic’ means that the food item was grown in compliance with organic standards as set by one of the organic regulatory agencies.

Consider cooking more meals with ingredients that are cultivated with cleaner resources that require less maintenance. Fish caught in the wild use fewer resources and as long as they are caught in an ecologically sound way (i.e. one that prevents the incidences of by-catch), the process will not disturb natural ecosystems. Fish that are farmed in pens, like salmon, pollute the ocean environment with their own waste. Cultivating vegetable matter requires fewer resources on average than, say, producing meat, which requires immense amounts of water, grass, land, and labor.

Food is a gift from the earth to our bodies – we need it to stay alive, to play, to work, even sleep. When we choose quality, fresh, live food, we can accomplish extraordinary things every day. When we eat natural food grown with sunshine, we are putting long lasting ‘clean’ energy and life into our bodies.

Most people readily associate green cuisine with cooking vegan or vegetable foods, but green cooking is more about cooking in a sustainable and socially responsible manner. Are you a pasta lover? If you use water, vegetable broth, or chicken stock to cook rice or pasta, try not to waste the excess by throwing it out-leftover broth makes an ideal base for a soup. You can even pour it into your houseplants which are as eager for organic nutrients as we are. The same goes for leftovers that can be fed to plants or composted just as easily.

Today you can use your outdoor space to create a level of self-sufficiency by growing your own herbs and vegetables. You don’t need to be an expert gardener or have a massive garden or greenhouse to start making use of your own green fingers. Even apartment-dwellers will be amazed by how much green food can be grown in a relatively small space. All you need is a window-box, sunshine, and plenty of positive dedication-bon appetit!

When you purchase organic beef and other varieties of sustainable meat, you can rest assured that these are free from antibiotics or synthetic hormones, and that the animal grown to produce the meat was not fed genetically modified feed. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.

Many people claim that organic food tastes better, and that they feel a noticeable boost in their overall health and energy level when the majority of the food they consume is organic. Great nutrition means maximizing on the freshest and most pure ingredients, drinking clean water, and listening to the feedback that your body gives you. It means eliminating or minimizing preservatives, synthetic chemicals, refined sugars, refined (empty) carbohydrates, saturated fats and acidic foods. It means being kind to ourselves and giving our bodies food that it can easily digest, only in quantities that it requires and which gives us the greatest possible energy for our busy and demanding lives.

Buy, cook and eat healthy, local, organic foods.

Consuming organic and/or fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains and water every day is the best advantage that you can give your body and your family.

Diane Bixler

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