Wordless Wednesday: Attempting a Black & White Photography Challenge This Week

The black and white photography challenge has apparently found its way to the blogosphere! I have seen a couple of friends taking up the challenge on Facebook but had yet to encounter the challenge on a blog until yesterday, when my friend Carol posted about it on her blog, Retired? No one told me! I completely enjoyed Carol’s day 1 photos, and I hope you’ll check them out too.

Carol has nominated me for the challenge as well, for which I will forgive her. Although I appreciate photographs and love to create graphics with them, I am not much of a photographer. So this really will be a challenge for me. Hang in there with me please, dear readers! I promise we’ll return to your regularly scheduled programming at the end of the week.

Black & White Photo Challenge: How It Works

So from what Carol posted, I gather the rules of this Black & White Photo Challenge are as follows:

  1. Share black and white photos daily for 7 days;

  2. There must be no animals or people in the photos;

  3. No captions, explanations, or other words to accompany the images;

  4. Nominate one person to participate each day of the challenge.

I must admit that I do struggle a bit with this last one. Much as I love the idea of a bunch of friends trying something different and having fun sharing the results with one another, it feels just a tad spammy to me – a bit like one of those old chain letter emails we used to get with the call to action that says, “Send this to everyone in your contact list within the next 15 minutes or you will be cursed!”

So please folks, if I invite you to participate in the challenge and you aren’t able to take it on right now, don’t feel bad about it. If you simply aren’t interested, just pass. And if you really want to take part, for goodness sake, let me know! I’ve got a few people in mind, but I’ll probably run out of names before I get to day 7. Any help would be most appreciated. Just drop me a line in the comments or message me on Facebook. Please be sure to include a link to your blog. Thanks!

Photos & Nomination for Day One

Black & White Photo Challenge - Day 01, Image 01

Black & White Photo Challenge - Day 01, Image 02

Today I would like to nominate my friend Barb Radisavljevic, who blogs at Paso Robles in Photos – among several other places. Barb loves to take photos when she’s out walking in her community, so I think this challenge will be right up her alley. I look forward to seeing what you do with it, my friend!

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Black & White Photo Challenge | I’m taking part in this fun blog challenge over the next week. If you have a camera or a camera phone and you like taking pictures, you’re sure to have fun trying it too! | 24 Carrot Diet
Black & White Photo Challenge – Day 01
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Original text and images © 2017 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter

This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

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Sweet Potatoes or Yams with Your Turkey This Thanksgiving? Do You Know the Difference?

Sweet potatoes have been part of the typical Thanksgiving menu for a century or more, although neither they nor regular everyday potatoes were present at the first Thanksgiving feasts on either side of the border. If you grew up in the United States, you probably remember eating candied yams or sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows alongside your turkey and cranberries. If you grew up in the American south, you may have also eaten sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving for dessert – instead of pumpkin pie. (And that rivalry between sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie is the stuff of a whole ‘nother conversation!)

Here in Canada, these dishes are not nearly as common as they are in the United States but sweet potatoes are still one of our Thanksgiving sides – usually just baked and served with a pat of butter. We also eat sweet potatoes with our Christmas dinner, and pretty much any other time we cook a turkey with all the trimmings. In fact for many Canadians, these are probably the only times in the year that we eat a sweet potato, more’s the shame!

But is it a Sweet Potato or a Yam?

The question of whether we’re actually eating a sweet potato or a yam is a confusing one. Let me share a personal experience with you to illustrate what I mean. Thanksgiving is celebrated in early October here in Canada, so we had our big turkey dinner a little over a month ago. And as every year, there was a bowl on the table filled with small, foil-wrapped nuggets still steaming from the oven.

“Do you want sweet potatoes?” my mother asked as she held the bowl out towards me. “Well, they’re really yams.” she added. “I made sure to get yams instead of sweet potatoes.” She then went on to explain that the yams were smaller, sweeter, and softer when cooked than sweet potatoes are. And they have a darker-coloured flesh.

Well, this was news to me!

In all my 50 years on the planet, we’ve never called those lovely, orange-fleshed tubers “yams” in our family. And I generally see this vegetable sold as “sweet potato” in the stores. Most of my friends call them sweet potatoes too, so I had always kind of assumed that “sweet potato” was more of a Canadian expression, while our American neighbours seem to prefer “yam.” (There is, of course, a completely unrelated African tuber properly called a yam, that has been available in North American grocery stores for several years now. If you’ve ever had those yams, you know they are very different from a sweet potato, whatever we choose to call it in Canada and the US.)

So why was Mom suddenly calling our sweet potatoes “yams”? And why was she talking about there being some sort of difference in the size, colour, and firmness of the flesh?

Sweet potato (not a yam)
Note the smooth skin and tapered end of the sweet potato
(Image: LauraLisLT/Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

 

What is a Sweet Potato?

The scientific name for the sweet potato is Ipomoea batatas. If you’re familiar with botanical names for popular flowers, you might recognize that sweet potatoes are related to morning glories. In fact, the resemblance between the flowers of the two plants is remarkable. Could you tell one from the other if you saw these two plants growing side by side?

The flower of a sweet potato plant
The sweet potato is one vegetable you might want to grow just for the flowers!
(Image: Deborah Hayes/Public Domain Pictures/CC0 1.0)

 

A morning glory flower looks very similar to the sweet potato flower
This second flower is a morning glory. Could you tell them apart?
(Image: ccipeggy/Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

 

Sweet potatoes are a New World vegetable. They were first domesticated about 5,000 years ago, probably in Central America. But today they are grown throughout much of the Americas. They are also cultivated in some parts of Africa, in India, China, and other Asian nations, and also in Polynesia and Australasia.

Although the common name implies that these are potatoes, the sweet potato is only distantly related to potatoes. The potato belongs to the nightshade family (Solanaceae,) along with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. The sweet potato belongs to the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae.) Both families are members of the order Solanales. That makes the two root vegetables sort of distant cousins. Sweet potatoes are also not related to yams, which are tubers in the family Dioscoreaceae. The yam is an Old World vegetable native to Africa and Asia, and is more closely related to grasses and lilies than to either potatoes or sweet potatoes.

What Does a Sweet Potato Look Like?

Sweet potatoes have tapered ends and smooth, thin skin. The skin can range in colour from copper or brown to red or even purple. The flesh of a sweet potato is usually orange, varying in saturation from deep orange all the way to yellow or beige. Sweet potatoes can also be found with flesh that is white or purple.

A sweet potato showing the deep orange flesh inside – just remember the colour can vary!
Sweet potatoes come in a wide range of colours – including purple!
(Image: National Cancer Institute/Wikimedia Commons/public domain)

 

By contrast, yams have coarse, scaly skin that is sometimes compared to a tree trunk. They are cylindrical tubers, usually with white flesh. They are found in some North American grocery stores, but you may need to go to an import store or specialty market if your grocer doesn’t stock them.

The yam is an Old World vegetable and is completely unrelated to sweet potatoes
This yam has a coarse, bark-like skin and a more tubular shape than a sweet potato
(Image: chrisad85/Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

 

Why Do We Sometimes Call Sweet Potatoes Yams?

There seem to be two main reasons for the use of the word “yam” when we are actually talking about sweet potatoes:

  1. This was the name the African slaves themselves applied to the vegetable. Whether they were introduced to the vegetable in West Africa via Europeans who had embraced it, or whether they first encountered sweet potatoes in the American south, the African people recognized a resemblance. Back home in Africa, they experimented with sweet potatoes as a substitute for foods such as cassava, plantain, and yams. In America, sweet potatoes were the closest thing to a yam and were used to make the foods the African people were used to making with yams.

  2. When a sweeter, orange-fleshed variety of the sweet potato was developed in Louisiana in the 1930s, this vegetable was marketed as a “yam” to set it apart from other sweet potatoes. The Louisiana crops contrasted with the drier, firmer fleshed sweet potatoes that were grown elsewhere in the US. This is why you’ll sometimes see people using “yam” to describe a sweet potato that has soft, moist, richly coloured flesh, and “sweet potato” for those vegetables whose flesh is firm, dry, and often more pale in colour.

Although we all have our preferences when it comes to the type of sweet potatoes we like to eat, you should know that the “yam” type of sweet potato is better suited to some recipes and the more firm, dry-fleshed sweet potato is better for others. Sweet potatoes that are softer are great for baking, mashing, and of course making a sweet potato casserole or baking a sweet potato pie. But those with a firmer flesh will make great sweet potato fries.

Sweet Potato Nutrition

Some folks say that the sweet potato is a superfood. If you look at its nutritional content, it’s not hard to see why. One average sweet potato, baked in its skin, contains 438% of our recommended daily intake for vitamin A. It also scores high for several other nutrients: 37% of vitamin C; 27% of potassium; 25% each of vitamin B6 and manganese; 15% each of vitamin B6, potassium, and dietary fibre; 10% of thiamine (vitamin B1.) Sweet potatoes also supply lesser amounts of magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, sodium, several additional B vitamins, and protein. Wow!

Baking is a preferred cooking method for sweet potatoes, as it increases the vitamin C content of the vegetable. If you prepare it by a different method, you won’t get as much of the vitamin C. But it’s still a nutritious vegetable. One baked sweet potato provides 103 calories (compared with 163 calories for a medium baked potato or 174 calories for 1 cup of potatoes mashed with whole milk.)

If you are eating sweet potatoes for their vitamin A and carotenoid content, choose those with the richer orange colour to their flesh. If you decide to experiment with purple sweet potatoes you’ll benefit from anthocyanins, the same flavonoids found in blueberries. White-, cream-, or yellow-coloured sweet potato flesh contains mostly beta-zea-carotene.

Do you include sweet potatoes in your Thanksgiving dinner sides? Or “yams”? How does your family like to serve them? Please share your traditions in the comments below. And to all my American readers who will be celebrating with family this week, Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Sweet potato or yam: do you know the difference? Whether you call them yams or sweet potatoes, the vegetables in your Thanksgiving sides are probably New World sweet potatoes and not Old World yams. | food history | sweet potato nutrition | 24 Carrot Diet
Sweet potatoes come in a wide range of colours, from cream or yellow through deep orange. There are even purple sweet potatoes!
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Graphic made in Canva using a public domain image by Pixabay user LauraLisLT

 

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Original content © 2017 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter

This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

Healthy Living Help: How Many Calories are in an Orange?

An orange in the toe of your stocking is a long-standing Christmas tradition. Even if Santa didn’t leave an orange (or a mandarin, as he did in our home) I’ll bet that your family ate more oranges around the Christmas season. Even today, the supermarkets are always loaded with oranges, clementines, lemons, and other citrus fruits starting early in December. And of course, the prices are often very attractive and the packages may also be larger than usual.

With all of that beautiful, sunny citrus fruit available when our Canadian weather turns grey and gloomy, it’s so tempting to indulge in oranges on a daily basis – or maybe even twice or more in a day! The question is, are oranges a healthy choice?

What is One Serving Size for Oranges?

According to Canada’s Food Guide, a serving size for fruits and vegetables is 1/2 cup, or 125 ml. This is the equivalent of 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruit, or fruit juice. For whole produce, the serving is generally one medium-sized fruit or vegetable – or whatever would fit in your hand.

Portion sizes in the UK are based on 80g of fresh fruit or a maximum of 150 ml fruit juice or smoothies per day. When eating whole oranges, a single serving is one medium-sized orange (for example, a Navel orange or Valencia orange) or two smaller oranges (clementines, satsumas, or other Mandarins.) Under the American MyPlate system, serving sizes are complicated. But the American Heart Association suggests a serving of one medium fruit, about the size of a baseball, or 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit or fruit juice.

Dietary guidelines for portion sizes may differ where you live. But it seems that a good rule of thumb is that a single portion of oranges is one handful of whole fruit or 1/2 cup of cut fruit.

Do Some Oranges Have More Calories than Others?

I was really curious about whether some types of oranges have more calories than others, and whether some have differing amounts of carbs, fibre, and other nutrients. So I checked out the USDA’s National Nutrient Database. I looked at Navel, California, and Florida oranges, as well as clementines and tangerines. Here’s what I discovered.

For 100 g of fruit, all the different orange varieties I looked at have roughly the same number of calories: about 86-87 calories. So the total number of calories per 100 g of these oranges is pretty much the same. Looking at the total carbohydrate and fibre values, all the oranges had fairly close values as well. Carbs are all around 12-13 g per 100 g, with roughly 2 g of dietary fibre.

The larger oranges did tend to have slightly higher values around the 2.5 g, whereas the tangerines and clementines have just under 2 g of fibre. For a single portion here and there, that’s probably not a major difference for the average person. But for anyone who eats a lot of oranges, or for elite athletes or individuals whose diet is restricted for health reasons, that tiny difference could be significant enough to affect the choice of what type of oranges you might want to enjoy with a meal.

When it comes to vitamin and mineral content, there did seem to be more variation between different types of oranges. Again, this is probably not something most of us need to be concerned with. But if you are trying to maximize or restrict intake of a specific nutrient, you might be interested in comparing the nutritional profiles for your favourite orange varieties side by side.

So are oranges a healthy snack? Absolutely! At only 62 calories, a medium-sized orange comes in well under the 100- or 200-calorie snacks that are held up today as an ideal. That one orange supplies 116% of your daily vitamin C requirement, 12% of fibre, and more modest amounts of vitamins A and B6, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. If you are a smoker, your body has a greater need for anti-oxidants like vitamin C. So oranges are an especially good choice for a snack or a fruit to eat with your lunch.

Orange juice has less fibre than whole oranges and may contain as much sugar as soft drinks
Doctors and dietitians are now recommend we cut out juices and eat whole fruit instead
(Image: pixel2013/Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

What About Orange Juice?

You probably grew up seeing images of a “complete breakfast” that included cold cereal, toast, milk, and that ubiquitous glass of orange juice. Fruit juice, especially orange juice, was a household staple. We looked on it as a way of getting our daily allowance of vitamin C and relied on orange juice so much for that one nutrient that we could hardly think of any other food that contained it.

We might have named a few other citrus fruits if pressed for an answer. But when you were growing up, did anyone ever teach you that some brassicas like broccoli and Brussels sprouts have more vitamin C by weight than oranges do? If you eat a lot of kale, you might be surprised that by weight, kale contains twice the vitamin C of oranges. And I have to include this last one because in my house, we really love sweet bell peppers: sweet yellow peppers contain more than triple the vitamin C of oranges by weight!

I know all of this isn’t directly related to orange juice. But when you think about how orange juice was really sold to us as a sure-fire way to get our vitamin C, it becomes clear that it wasn’t the only way. And in light of the current health concerns related to drinking juices instead of eating the whole fruit or vegetable, that morning OJ was probably being oversold.

These days, many doctors and dietitians are recommending that we cut juices out of our diet. Although the formal nutritional guidelines in many cases still include both fruit and vegetable juices, there is often a warning that we should only replace a single serving of whole fruit or vegetables with juice or smoothies each day. Because these drinks remove a lot of the important fibre content, they don’t fill us up as much. And in many commercial fruit juices, there is as much sugar as in the same serving of soft drink.

I don’t know about you, but given that information, I decided to think of juice as a bit of a treat. It’s something that I used to indulge in daily – especially my beloved Ruby red grapefruit juice! But now I only buy it now and again. I try to eat the whole fruit regularly instead, and I find that I really do enjoy a whole clementine or Navel orange much more than a small glass of juice.

Do you find that your family eats more oranges and other citrus fruits around the Christmas season? I know we always take advantage of the cases of clementines at this time of year. In our little town, we don’t have a lot of selection when it comes to oranges, so when the clementines come around we usually replenish our supply as often as we can. And because the stores tend to stock up on bags of Navel oranges, grapefruit and lemons, we do buy a lot of these around the holidays as well. What’s your favourite way to serve oranges? Drop me a little word about it in the comments below!

 

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How many calories are in an orange?
Eating oranges won’t spoil your diet
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Original content © 2017 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter

This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!