The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 9, 2014

Cheryle Finley: Popularity shows avocado may be the new apple

CARTHAGE, Mo. — When my daughter, Sarah, and I hosted a taco bar for some friends and family this past week, I couldn't do without guacamole.

I'm a big fan, which is funny because I'm not a fan of cilantro and most guacamole recipes call for a large quantity of cilantro. But, when combined with avocado, I don't mind the cilantro as much as I do in, say, pico de gallo. Obviously, the taste of the avocado trumps anything else you might add to it.

An article I read on said that the Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo take turns as winner of top avocado-consumption day, which makes sense. But when it continued to say that in 2012 both days were topped by the Fourth of July, it made me scratch my head. Really? Being green, it makes sense that avocados are popular fare on St. Patrick's Day. Just how popular are these fruits? Consider that 1.6 billion avocados were consumed in the United States in 2012. That's a big pile of avocados.

An interesting avocado fact? They mature on the tree and only ripen once they are off the tree. They can stay on a tree for as long a 18 months, with the tree preserving the avocado until they're ready to be removed. Major cost factors in producing avocados? Labor and water. They are picked by hand; workers use a device with a pouch and clipper on each end to reach the up-high fruit. With this pole, the avocado is cradled in the pouch, then a string is pulled on the pole to clip off the stem neatly from the top of the fruit.

Retailers can request avocados from among five stages of ripeness. Stage 5 is tender enough to use for guacamole. Stage 4, or firm ripe, is "slice-ready" or mashing ready in one day. Stage 3 is breaking or preripened and ready in two days. Stage 2 will be ready in three days if kept at room temperature. Stage 1 is hard and may need special attention. If you need to speed up ripening, place this nutrient-rich food in a paper bag with a banana or apple and check daily for progress. Stages 4 and 5 will keep up to one week if held at 36 to 40 degrees.

When judging the readiness of an avocado for eating, don't rely on the color, and pinching with your fingerprints can leave bruises. Cup the fruit in your palm and squeeze it gently. It's ready when it's still rather firm yet gives in to gentle pressure.

Touted as containing "good fat," the avocado can help reduce cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. Some folks will scoop the meat right out of the thick shell and eat the avocado plain. Others like the taste but not the soft, slick consistency, so they have to eat the avocado mixed with something else. Either way, you are getting the benefits of healthy eating, along with the pleasing taste that offers defense against some cancers and helps maintain overall health. Maybe the avocado should be swapped with the apple to help keep the doctors away.

If you were able to attend Saturday's Taste of Home Cooking School, I hope you had a good time. I certainly did. As usual, Jamie Dunn did a great job showing us some great recipes as well as sharing cooking tips we can use everyday. The most interesting tip? Use an empty water bottle as an egg separator. It works as slick as can be and is good enough for a magic act or perhaps just entertaining your family.

Here's a tip that has nothing to do with food, other than the fact that Fern shared it with me at the cooking school: If you, like most of us, have trouble removing your driver's license from your billfold, use a piece of tape to make a tab on the short side. Attach the tape to the side, then fold it over and back to the other side, leaving about a half inch of the tape stuck to itself to make a tab. You don't want your license falling out all the time, so it makes sense that the pocket for it is small enough to fit it tightly. This idea keeps your license secure but accessible.

I'm looking forward to Saturday when I will have a "Best of Cheryle" cookbook signing at the Carthage Public Library from 1 to 3 p.m. I hope to get to visit with lots of friends. If you preordered a cookbook, I would love to sign it for you at the event.

To start off today's recipes, from we have what is boldly called perfect guacamole. I cut back on the cilantro, added lots of tomatoes and just one serrano pepper. That's the great thing about guacamole: You can fiddle with the ingredients until you get a mix that's really perfect for you.

After asking both me and Shasta Hatton for a sugar-free banana bread recipe, Russell Presson has been on a quest to find a good one. I found what I think is a good one. It's a little different, including unsweetened orange juice as a recipe. It also is from I hope Russell tells me what he thinks and whether or not I need to keep looking. He's tried several recipes but hasn't found just the right one yet. Maybe this is it. The brownie dessert is from the Taste of Home Cooking School magazine we got Saturday and is just a sample of the wonderful recipes we now have access to. What's easier than starting with a brownie mix? Have a wonderful week and happy eating!


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