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Produce Review: Cherimoya

After waiting a week for it to ripen, I was ready to try another new exotic fruit: the Cherimoya!  I found a few at a local supermarket, and I was told by the produce manager that they only get in a few dozen within only a 14 day window.   My initial reaction was wow, what makes these so tough to acquire?

It turns out the Cherimoya are actually quite a difficult fruit to grow and maintain.  They’re found natively in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.  They only grow at specific altitude ranges (about 2,300-2,700 ft), require excellent drainage, and don’t tolerate hot/cold very well at all.  Perhaps their most interesting issue is that they require hand-pollination, so Cherimoya farmers will hand brush pollen onto the 30 ft Cherimoya tree’s flowers in order to produce Cherimoya fruit using paint brushes!  Whew, what work!

The fruit itself seems somewhat like a Cactus in color and texture but much like an Avocado you must wait until the fruit is soft to the touch to know if the fruit is ready to eat.  My Cherimoya’s green outer skin had turned mostly brown by the time the fruit was soft to the touch.

I noticed my Cherimoya didn’t have any fragrance as the whole fruit or when I cut it open.  The Cherimoya has many larger seeds inside of it.  Eating it reminded me of a seeded Watermelon, but as an added caution, unlike a Watermelon, the seeds (and skin) of a Cherimoya are poisonous and should not be consumed.

The taste was very faint, and there were no discernible prominent flavors.  Others describe the taste as a mix of various other flavors like pineapple and banana.  I would agree with the Cherimoya’s nickname “Custard Apple”, as the texture is very custardy.  However, I’m going to say that I wasn’t impressed with the flavor.  I’ve tried the northern cousin of the Cherimoya: the Paw Paw & had a similar review on it’s flavor… Perhaps my Cherimoya (& Paw Paw) still wasn’t ripe enough.

So if you’re able to acquire a Cherimoya, be sure to consult with a produce expert to ensure that you’re consuming your Cherimoya at its pique flavor and ripeness.  If anyone has any suggestions on how to get the most out of your Cherimoya, please feel free to let others know!

Below is a recipe that I found for a raw Cherimoya custard from Unconventional Baker:

Raw Cherimoya Custard Pudding

References:

http://foodfacts.mercola.com/cherimoya.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherimoya

An example of something you can color

Taking Care of Your Mental Health using Art

Believe it or not, I’m trained as an Art Therapist (in addition to being a member of Walker Tracker’s Help Desk).  I’m quite a fan of holistic health care, which I view as promoting wellness in all avenues of yourself.

I believe that mental health is an important piece of wellness, and I’ve noticed that there’s been a recent trend of “Adult Coloring Books”, which are books/magazines with intricate images to color that have been shown to decrease anxiety.  I’ve tried a few of the books, and I found them very similar to coloring mandalas, which are circles that have intricate designs inside them to color (coloring mandalas as a method of decreasing anxiety was my area of focus for my Master’s thesis).  Coloring intricate shapes has been shown to trigger the same psychological response as meditation, and do not require you to have any experience in art.  After you’re finished you end up with a one of a kind awesome image too!

You can always search online for “coloring mandalas” and find some fun images to color.  Just a few minutes of coloring could have beneficial affects on your mood.

If you’re looking for a slight twist on the coloring concept, you can also try Zentangle.  In Zentangle you’re given a square and bunches of doodles to choose from that are very similar to high school notebook style doodles to recreate inside of the box.  You can make the doodles as large or as small as you want.  You can also make them really detailed or simple.  I’ve included an example of my own Zentangle for reference.

This is an example of a Zentangle that this author made

In general, taking a little time out of each day to take care of your mental health can go a long way to maintaining overall well being & a positive sense of self.  What else do you enjoy doing that contributes positively to your mental health throughout the day?  I look forward to hearing from you all!

Some resources discussing the mental health benefits of coloring:

http://www.medicaldaily.com/therapeutic-science-adult-coloring-books-how-childhood-pastime-helps-adults-356280

Image from: http://mentalfloss.com/article/70978/10-intricate-adult-coloring-books-help-you-de-stress

Curry, N. A., & Kasser, T. (2005). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 22(2), 81-85. doi:10.1080/07421656.2005.10129441

Van der Vennet, R., & Serice, S. (2012). Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? A Replication Study. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 29(2), 87-92. doi:10.1080/07421656.2012.680047

 

mulligatawny

Recipe: Mulligatawny Soup – An Everything Soup for an Everyday Occasion

Mulligatawny Soup is an English soup with Indian roots, and it translates loosely to pepper-water.  Mulligatawny Soup can literally be anything & any ingredients, but most often curry/curry paste, chicken, legumes, coconut, carrots, and apples are used.  The consistency (at least in the kinds I’ve had) has been puréed.  This soup can also easily be adopted for other diets, simply swap ingredients that don’t work for you with others that do.  Mulligatawny soup is meant to be a soup you can make differently each time you make it!

So here’s a version of Mulligatawny soup from Pioneer Woman’s Site:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 whole Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, Cut Into Bite-Sized Pieces (could be easily swapped for faux Chik’in strips or another hearty veggie, like portabello mushrooms)
  • Salt And Black Pepper To Taste
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter (ghee could be used if you have that on hand…if you don’t know, ghee is a shelf-stable butter from India)
  • 1 whole Medium Onion (try a different color or variety of onion to jazz things up!)
  • 3 whole carrots (did you know that carrots have many different colors?)From: http://www.prouditaliancook.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/raw-carrots.jpg
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced Finely
  • 1/4 cup All-purpose Flour (this is used as a thickening agent, agar agar or guar gum serve the same purpose without the gluten)
  • 1 Tablespoon Curry Powder (or curry paste if you love curry!)
  • 32 ounces, fluid Chicken Broth (or veggie broth)
  • 2 cups Half-and-half (or full fat coconut milk from a can would work well)
  • 1 whole Granny Smith Apple, Peeled And Diced (this adds a surprising depth of flavor to the Mulligatawny soup…I’ve never had a variety without it)
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar (white Or Brown) More Or Less To Taste (or omit this entirely if you want)
  • 2 teaspoons Salt, More To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper (or a spice of choice or none)

 

To make the soup, you want to first cook your protein of choice thoroughly in a little bit of oil/butter (with chicken until the internal temperature is 165° F/ 75° C).  Remove the cooked chicken, and add your garlic and onion into the same pan as the chicken.  Cook until the onion starts to become translucent.  Add the flour and the curry and thoroughly stir in to incorporate.  Add the broth to de-glaze the pan (careful of the steam!).  At this point, add the harder veggies like carrots (or any other veggies that you want to add) to provide them a longer cooking time.  After 10 min or so (test the veggies to see if they are semi-soft/soft to the fork) add the cooked chicken, the other spices, half and half, and the apples.  Cook for another 5-10 min or until all veggies/fruit are tender.  Be sure to taste to see if you like how it tastes.

As an optional texture related final step, you can take out half of the soup, place into the blender, and blend until smooth.  Add the blended soup back into the other half.

Voilà!  You’re done!  Enjoy!

Women in Tech

On January 27th we took some of the team to a very special event here in Portland: SUPER: WOMEN IN TECH Live Storytelling. The night was made by the 6 incredible speakers who boldly divulged their stories to a room full of eager ears.  We listened, we laughed, we related and we all left feeling a bit more empowered.

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Check us out – pictured: some of our mighty crew.

The Walker Tracker team is made up of 70% women.

For those of you who may not know – that is a huge deal in a tech company.  To provide some perspective:  ¼ of people employed in computer and mathematical occupations are women and less than 20% of software developers are women.

Ok, this isn’t really new stuff – why are you writing this now, Taylor?  Because I have the privilege to be a part of a phenomenal team (where women are represented in all departments: sales, development, management and customer service), it is easy for me to be removed from the bigger discussion.  I recently sat down with my friend, Katie, who is a software developer for a medium sized firm in Portland.  She is the only woman on her floor.  Last week it was Portland StartUp week; I attended a presentation on Women in StartUps: Negotiating for Yourself.   The presenter told a story that stuck with me:  she was part of a StartUp venture where the men actually took over the women’s restroom because there were more stalls (the company was predominantly men). Something is telling me – it’s time to pay better attention.

So, if all I can get from you today is 2 more minutes – please take those and watch this trailer for CODE.

 

“CODE documentary exposes the dearth of American female and minority software engineers and explores the reasons for this gender gap.  CODE raises the question: what would society gain from having more women and minorities code?”

We encourage you to check out the full documentary.

https://www.codedoc.co

 

 

 

Here are some (of the many) opportunities for more information:

She’s Coding – http://shescoding.org

Tech Women – https://www.techwomen.org

National Center for Women & Information Technology – https://www.ncwit.org

WIT (Women in Tech) – http://www.womenintechnology.org

Check out the numbers for the largest software companies – https://www.cnet.com/news/women-in-tech-the-numbers-dont-add-up/

Produce Review: Fingered Citron/”Buddha’s Hand”

buddhas-hand

I pride myself on trying new/different fruit and veggies, and this week I tried a fingered citron, known more by it’s other name: “Buddha’s Hand”, for the first time.  Perhaps you’ve seen this odd yellow fruit in your local grocery store, but what is it & most importantly, what do you do with it?  The fingered citron is almost all rind and a substance called pith (the bitter white stuff that’s inside an orange peel for example), doesn’t have seeds, and has a very unique and strong smell that can be described as lemony, floral (some say lavender), and with slight vanilla notes.

pith

The Buddha’s Hand is actually prized more for its decorative shape and super-lemony fragrance than its taste, but it is completely edible.  I tried one of the fingers, and although it’s all pith inside, it has a mild lemon taste without the acid and bitterness present in other members of the lemon family.  The finger was oddly dry and spongy in texture.  You don’t expect fruit to not have fruit or juice inside!  However, the real “flavor-pizzazz” of this citron comes from the yellow rind, and the Buddha’s Hand can be used in place of lemon zest in any lemon recipe.  There are some recipes specifically tailored to using Buddha’s Hand: candied Buddha’s Hand, marmalade, waffles, and infused beverages.  In particular I wanted to share with you all a link to a recipe to make Buddha’s Hand Waffles (click here).

So next time you’re in the produce isle, why not take a look to see if you might spot a Buddha’s Hand?  Please let me know if you try one!  Till next fruit/veggie exploration!

~Abby

 

For more on the History of the Buddha’s Hand:

Visit One Green Planet’s Buddha’s Hand Site

For more ideas on how to use a Buddha’s Hand:

Visit the Smithsonian Buddha’s Hand Website

Photos from:

Fruit Maven

 

Revamp a Super Bowl Classic: Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”

The Super Bowl is fast approaching, and I thought it would be fun to share a veggie version of a Super Bowl snack staple: Buffalo Wings.  Cauliflower takes the place of the chicken in this variation.  Perhaps you can give this recipe a try this weekend and see what you think!

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”/Bites:

1 cup water, dairy milk, or soy milk
1 cup flour (any kind will work—even gluten-free!)
2 tsp. garlic powder (if you want a big garlic flavor substitute with garlic granules if you have them on hand)
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into pieces that are loosely “wing” sized
1 cup buffalo or hot sauce (personally I like Frank’s Original or Buffalo)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, melted butter, or melted vegan butter

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • Combine the water or soy milk, flour, and garlic powder in a bowl and stir until well combined.
  • Core the cauliflower to remove the green stalk base & green leafy sides.
  • Chop the cauliflower into loosely “wing” sized pieces.
  • Coat the cauliflower pieces with the flour mixture (this is a good step for kids to help with too!) and place in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 18 minutes.
  • While the cauliflower is baking, combine your buffalo/hot sauce of choice and oil/butter in a small bowl.
  • Pour the hot sauce mixture over the baked cauliflower and continue baking for an additional 5 to 8 minutes.

You can serve your Spicy Cauliflower Bites alongside an assortment of veggie sticks (carrots and celery are popular) and your dressing of choice for dipping (ranch and blue cheese are popular).

And that’s it!  I hope you enjoy, and please let me know how yours turned out.  I’ll be updating soon with my review of the recipe & pictures of my addition.

Credits:

-Photo from: Natural Grocer’s Blog Post on Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

-Recipe adopted from: Peta’s Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower ‘Wings’ Recipe Page

 

Our 2017 New Year’s Goals

Happy New Year to everyone from the Walker Tracker team!  As the old year ends and the new begins, many of us are thinking of what we hope the New Year will bring.  It’s a time of renewal, wonder, joy, and self-reflection.

It’s a long-standing tradition/association to try to better your New Year through committing to a resolution or two, to remind and encourage us to better our lives throughout the upcoming year.  Some of us here at Walker Tracker HQ really love to kick off the new year by setting personal goals or making resolutions.

Here’s what we had in common:

  • Make smaller resolutions throughout the year in order to avoid a large and perhaps unsustainable resolution.
  • Try to strike a better work/life balance
  • Our most successful goals involved equal parts: accountability, forgiveness, and setting the goal up for success

Read on for goals and resolutions from some of our Walker Tracker team:

David

David set 2 resolutions this year: to eat less sugar & eat cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and kale) at least 3x week. David said, “I’m (specifically making a habit of) looking at labels and trying to eliminate all extra sugar.”

When asked about his most successful goal he responded, “I successfully integrated walking in to my life; this was accomplished by getting a dog, Bella, who is in my face every morning at 5:45am.”

 

Ellen

Ellen prefers to take her goals one day/week at a time.  “I am working on taking it day by day and setting small goals that work me towards a greater goal or help to prepare me for what is to come.”

Ellen’s most successful goals have been smaller and more specific in nature: “(if you) stick to a budget of $40/week spending money for the month of January you are setting yourself up for a win. If you can stick to that for 4 weeks, you not only accomplished a goal of yours but you saved some money and then you can give yourself permission to extend your goal into the next month or change it up if it didn’t work.”

Ellen would like to visit Europe for her friend’s graduation from Oxford and the Mediterranean with her husband this Fall.

 

Blanca

Blanca also prefers “mini resolutions”.  “I choose something I know I can do and is actually useful to my own or others’ lives…setting milestone dates or action times really helps me stick to my goal.” Blanca specifically has had a goal of journaling before bed for reflection and gratitude.

Blanca’s most successful resolution ended up incorporating her entire family.  In a previous year, Blanca wanted to be more active outdoors during the Winter.  It became a family tradition to go cross-country skiing at the start of the New Year.

Blanca would like to travel to Eastern Oregon, in particular: Snake River canyon, the town of Joseph (where artisans meet ranchers) and Fort Rock, “…which is this amazing rock formation created by a raised ice age lake bed.”

 

Taylor

Taylor hopes to focus on the single word: balance, to help her achieve better balance for her health, wellness, and happiness.  She specifically cited an unhealthy habit she’d like to try to tackle in 2017: “checking my work email first thing when I wake up and last thing before I go to bed.”  She has now an enforced rule of, “no work/screen time 1 hour before bed & no work email (until she’s been) awake for at least 30 minutes.”

Taylor has found that “should” has been a detriment to successful resolutions.  When she feels that she “should” be doing something that, “really made everything in life a lot less enjoyable.”  So her most successful resolution is giving up “shoulds” in her life.

She’d like to visit Brazil, Panama, or Indonesia and just can’t decide which. Have you been to any of them? Help her choose by commenting below!

 

Stephanie

Stephanie chose to give up her car for the New Year, and to ensure this was successful, she drove her car to her parent’s house and left without it!  She decided to do this because, “Walking more and using public transportation is not only good for the planet but a great way to get to know my new city.” (as Stephanie recently moved here to Portland, OR)

Her most successful goal involved sending out greeting cards to family members, and buying a huge stack of cards at the start of the year really helped her maintain this throughout the entire year.

She’d like to be able to go to New York City this year.

 

Kristina

Kristina would like to focus on slowing down in 2017 as she feels like she’s, “always running from one thing to the next.” She’s going to try meditation to help with maintaining a less hurried lifestyle.

She has found that making a big list of resolutions at the beginning of the year hasn’t been the most helpful.  She feels that picking one thing to focus on is more helpful.

Kristina wants to visit (perhaps due to the chilly weather here) somewhere warm, like Hawaii and in specific, Kauai.  She would also like to visit the beach and do some snorkeling.

 

Torrence

Torrence has specific continual resolutions, “to become a better ally to people of color and to eat more vegetables.”

Torrence loves to visit the woods and in worldly travels, wants to go to Iceland.

 

Abby

I too wish to strike a better work life/balance as a “perma-goal”.

If you’ve set your own goals, feel free to comment below: What are your goals & and what has helped you stick with them? We look forward to helping you with your wellness goals in 2017!

Happy Thanksgiving from Walker Tracker

we challenge you to walk 10,000 steps on Nov. 24th

Happy Halloween!

Here at Walker Tracker, we love any excuse to celebrate. Birthdays, achievements, national coffee day… you get the idea, and Halloween is no exception. It’s not very often that you get to dress up and go to work and it’s not only acceptable but encouraged!
You may have noticed that your map has been haunted by ghoulish shades of black and red in honor of All Hallows Eve. Enjoy the fun colors while they’re here and

halloweenfinal
Happy Halloween from the Walker Tracker Team!

(80’s Jazzercize instructor, Pregnant Unicorn, Jack from the Titanic & The Queen of Halloween)

 

Planned Maintenance Window: October 22nd 9pm PDT

UPDATE: Infrastructure upgrade was successful. Thanks for your patience!

 

The Walker Tracker websites and mobile apps will be briefly unavailable for a maintenance window at 9pm PDT on October 22nd in order to upgrade infrastructure. We will post updates to our status page. Thanks for your patience.