Tastes That Run to the Exotic
It happens every time you walk through the produce department: A display of exotic produce catches your eye, and you wonder, “what the heck is that?” A label over the bin or basket reveals the name and price of the item but no suggestion whatsoever for using it.
Vinnie Latessa, produce director for Heinen’s grocery stores, solves the mystery surrounding three supermarket offerings.
Buddha’s hand. Buddhist monks are credited with bringing the item also known as the fingered citron from India to China. Today it is cultivated throughout Asia. “It has really no flesh, pulp or seeds,” Latessa explains. The value lies in an incredibly fragrant rind and pith that are sweet, not bitter like those on most citrus — a trait that makes for good candying and zesting. Buddha’s hand also can be sliced for infusing high-proof alcohols such as vodka and gin.
Dragon fruit. The showy fruit of a cactus native to Mexico, Central America and South America is most predominantly available in a magenta or yellow skin. Latessa compares the texture of the white flesh, which is studded with tiny, edible black seeds, to that of a kiwi and describes the flavor as “a cross between a kiwi and a pear.” That flesh can be eaten alone, sliced into salads and blended into smoothies and shakes.
Plantain. It may look like a banana ready for the quick-sale bin. But Latessa says this member of the banana family, believed to be indigenous to Southeast Asia, is treated more like a potato in tropical regions around the world — peeled and baked, boiled, fried, grilled or steamed as a side and/or snack. The flavor varies with the degree of ripeness, from starchy when green to less-sweet banana-like when black. “If they’re fully ripened, you can bake plantains in the skin for 40 to 50 minutes and serve them with salt, pepper and a little bit of butter,” he says.
A Valentine's Day with an Eye Toward Earth
As Valentine’s Day nears, gift-givers go red — with red roses, red greeting cards, red pajamas, you name it. But Carin Miller, an education specialist with the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, suggests going green by making a few eco-friendly gifting adjustments.
Give experiences. “Many people find themselves over-inundated with stuff,” Miller observes. She suggests giving tickets to a movie, theatrical production, concert or sporting event; membership to a museum or other cultural institution; or a weekend getaway.
Select simple greeting cards and candy in simple boxes. Valentine’s Day cards are notorious for their embellishments — stamped foils, glitter, crystals, ribbons, plastic accents. “Unfortunately, anything like that would not be recyclable,” Miller says. The same goes for the lavishly decorated boxes of chocolates. Those who eschew sending e-cards should stick to cards with designs and messages executed in ink. Ideally, candy boxes should be made of cardboard and decorated with nothing more than a removable bow. When recycling the boxes, remove interior plastic trays and individual paper candy cups. According to Miller, neither are recyclable.
Reimagine the floral tribute. Yes, those dozen roses can be composted — if the recipient composts or uses a composting service. But Miller points out that a potted flowering plant will last much longer, maybe years if it’s easy to care for and/or the recipient has a green thumb. If it’s purchased from a local greenhouse, that’s even better. “Anything that is coming from far away has a higher carbon footprint,” she says.
Trinket not. Miller advises thinking twice before buying plastic rings, balls, beads and other inexpensive items for goody bags to hand out at children’s parties. “It gets thrown in a drawer or thrown in the trash,” she says. Consider decorating a reusable plastic cup for each guest, complete with his or her name on it, instead.
Avoiding Training Injuries
This is the year I’m really going to get into shape, you tell yourself. That new fitness equipment you ordered (or received as a holiday gift) seemingly ensures it. There’s only one thing that can stop you now: an injury. At-home exercise injuries resulting in a trip to an emergency room increased by over 48% from the end of 2019 through the end of 2020, according to a Wall Street Journal article quoting Medicare marketplace MedicareAdvantage.com’s analysis of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data. Dr. Matthew Kampert, a Cleveland Clinic staff physician with a dual appointment in sports medicine and endocrinology, says that number can be reduced by:
Reading (and following) manufacturers’ directions. It’s particularly important if the equipment requires assembly. “If things are not put together appropriately, it [can give] way under use,” Dr. Kampert warns. Any deficit in explanations regarding how to use an exercise machine can be augmented by YouTube videos and online fitness publications. And a family physician can provide referrals to a certified personal trainer, physical therapist and/or exercise physiologist for in-person instruction. “Even if you have a functioning piece of fitness equipment, if you use it improperly, you put yourself at risk for injury,” he says.
Warming up. Cycle at a low intensity for 5 to 15 minutes when riding a stationary bike, walk at an increasingly brisk pace for 5 to 10 minutes before running on a treadmill, etc. “If the extremities are cold, they’re stiff and they haven’t been utilized, then a sudden movement — that’s how you can get a strain of the muscle,” Dr. Kampert says.
Starting out slow. Ideally, Dr. Kampert advises getting a physical assessment and exercise “prescription” before starting a fitness regimen. He generally recommends gradually increasing duration by 10%, followed by periods of rest that allow the body to recover and adapt to the load placed on joints, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. For example, if someone walks or runs a total of 10 miles a week (spread out over several days), he or she safely can increase the number of total miles by 1 mile the next week. “Focus more on duration and frequency before you move on to intensity,” he advises.
What to Build — a Patio or Deck?
That’s the question so many homeowners ponder as they gaze at a snow-covered backyard in late winter.
According to Pat Perrino of Perrino Builders & Remodeling in Chesterland, there are a number of other variables to consider before answering the question.
Price. “A deck is going to cost you a lot more money than a patio, generally, especially if you do Trex [a brand of composite decking material that virtually eliminates the maintenance of wood],” Perrino says. “The deck is probably three times the cost.” Patios, in contrast, can be constructed of a range of materials that accommodate any budget, from concrete finished and saw-cut to approximate the look of natural stone to the real thing.
Lay of the land. Perrino notes that a deck is better suited to a home on a lot with a grade change, particularly a dramatic one. Indeed, it may be needed to negotiate the drop from the first floor to the backyard of, say, a house with a walk-out basement where “you’re not going to be able to walk out your family room or your kitchen and be on solid ground,” he says.
Amenities. Patios are more amenable to incorporating outdoor kitchens, pizza ovens, fireplaces and fire pits — the features so many people desire in a world in which the backyard has become a true extension of the home. “They look more natural if they’re on a patio versus a deck,” Perrino says.
Aesthetics. Patios are generally easier to screen from neighbors’ view with shrubs and trees, at least initially. “[The deck] is off the ground,” Perrino explains. “You’ve got to wait for the trees to grow.” But pavers can shift, particularly if they’re not laid on a proper base. And hairline cracks eventually will appear in concrete. “You just live with them,” Perrino says of the cracks.