Mad for Malangas

Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member

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Brown, bumpy, hairy and delicious — yes, delicious.  The malanga is a cylindrical-shaped root, similar to the taro root.  A malanga can be cooked several different ways. 

Malangas can be pressurized in a pressure cooker, baked or fried.  Some people puree it, similar to mashed potatoes.  Malangas may be added to stews or soups.  It can also be boiled and served as a side dish with beans and rice.  If you like fried foods, you may want to try malanga fritters.   

For some customers at Whole Foods Market the malanga is an exotic, hidden gem. 

“I grew up in the Midwest. I never heard of or seen a malanga until I met my girlfriend who is Cuban,” Michael Donnelly said.   

Meanwhile others have grown up eating malanga since before they can remember. 

“My mom tells me malanga puree was the first food I ate.  She said I scarfed it down.  I still can’t get enough of it today,” Madeleine Vidal, a South Florida resident, said.

In fact, pureed malanga is the first solid food many South Florida babies eat.  Doctors say it is a very hypo-allergenic food. 

“It’s pretty safe to start with malanga because it doesn’t invoke allergies later on,” said Dr. Hector Rodriguez, a Miami physician from Wellmax Medical Center, who recommends parents mash the malanga only with water for their baby’s first feedings.

“In the Cuban culture they usually start with malanga.”

In fact, people in Caribbean, Central and South American countries have been eating malangas for centuries. 

The good news is malanga is always in season in tropical and subtropical climates. 

The year-round root has other benefits.  According to the Sarasota County Extension office, malanga is rich in thiamine and riboflavin.  It also contains some iron and vitamin C. 

So, whether you fry, puree or pressurize it, the malanga is a natural, year-round treat.

“It’s delicious.  I like to add a few drops of olive oil to moisten malanga puree when I mix it.  It really hits the spot,” Vidal added.

Avocados: A Quick and Easy Snack

Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member

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Alina Campos cuts her avocado with a plastic fork, scoops out the seed and sprinkles salt before digging in with a spoon.  She is eating a Hass avocado in Ft. Lauderdale’s Whole Foods Market dine-in area. 

“I love them and they are so good for you,” says Alina, who likes eating the Haas avocados because they make for a quick and easy snack.

She says she remembers eating the larger Florida-grown avocados with her family as a child.  Her parents sliced them and tossed them in salads so everyone could have a taste. 

“It was a treat to eat avocados.  We couldn’t get good ones all the time,” Alina says.

You will find a large selection of the “good ones” at Whole Foods Market.  The store not only carries the Haas Mexican variety avocados (which are currently from California), but it also carries the bigger Florida-grown avocados, also known as the “green skin” or West Indies variety. 

Whole Foods Market Produce Team Leader Derek Mejia says the large “green skin” avocados are milder in taste while the Mexican variety has more fruit oil content.  The Florida- grown avocados are also known to be lower in calories.  

Avocados are not only “quick and easy,” but they are also nutritious.  The fruit is a source of protein.  It’s loaded with potassium and has a high count of vitamins C and B6. 

Derek says picking a ripe avocado of any variety is easy: “Take it in your hand and feel for softness.  It should feel like a firm tomato.”  He says the Mexican variety should also have turned from dark green to a completely brown outer skin.

Avocados are much more than an ingredient in guacamole.  People at Whole Foods Market are eating avocados in all sorts of ways.

Derek eats avocados with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and a sprinkle of lime while a customer says he slices the fruit and sautés it in an egg and cheese omelet.  Other customers say their kids’ take pretzels and dip them straight into avocados halves.

Check out our site for more recipes with avocados.

Picking a Persimmon

Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member    

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Customers at Ft. Lauderdale’s Whole Foods Market are faced with what can be a tricky task—picking the right time to eat a persimmon.  The fruit has a short season in the fall. 

“The redder the better,” says Marcos Albuquerque, who grew up eating persimmons in Brazil, “I used to eat eight [persimmons] in one day.  I love them.”  He walks up to the register with a fistful of unripe persimmons.  He says he will wait until the fruits soften and turn from orange to a bright red color.

Once ripe, the skin will soften and the insides turn jelly-like.  Biting into a persimmon should taste juicy and sweet.  However, if eaten too early the fruit will taste extremely bitter and create a lip-puckering effect.

There are two popular varieties of persimmons: the Japanese Hachiya and the Fuyu.  Both varieties are rich in vitamins A, C and fiber.  They are available at Ft. Lauderdale’s Whole Foods Market.

The Hachiya is larger, slightly oval shaped with a pointy bottom.  This variety is great for baking and cooking.  Persimmon pudding is common in the Midwest with Hachiya persimmon pulp.

The Fuyu persimmon is rounder and flatter.  It is slightly less astringent than the Hachiya.   

Customer Tali Almagor says she will only eat the Fuyu variety: “This is the best kind.”  She tells the cashier at the register she ate Fuyu persimmons all her life in Israel.  Tali calls it Sharon fruit which is the more common name in Israel. Tali says she stocks up whenever she spots persimmons at Whole Foods Market.  

While some customers mix persimmons in a fruit salad, Heather Valentine eats the fruit like an apple.  She simply carves out the top leaf and cuts it in half.

Heather became familiar with the fruit when she spent two years living in Italy.  She says she picked the fruit from the persimmon trees in her backyard. 

Today she picks them from the display at Whole Foods Market.  When she gets home she says she plans to place the persimmons inside a container on top of her refrigerator to achieve a ripe juicy flavor.

Finding Love at Whole Foods Market

Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member

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Valentine’s Day is around the corner and customers at Ft. Lauderdale’s Whole Foods Market are finding love in surprising places — on the shelves, in the frozen aisle, behind the bakery counter. 

“I love it.  It’s heaven,” Marie Young pauses and closes her eyes as if imagining the taste of Hail Merry’s Miracle Tart. “It’s incredible.”  It was love at first bite for Marie. 

The dessert is raw, gluten-free and chocolaty.  It’s also available in other flavors such as Persian lime or coconut vanilla creme.  Marie says she does not eat animal products so the tart is perfect for her. 

Meanwhile, Kayla Jones finds love in a jar, “I can’t live without it.”  She walks up to the register with a can of 365 organic coconut oil in each hand.  “This is all I need,” Kayla tells the cashier. 

Kayla maximizes her purchase by finding multiple uses for a single product.  She says she not only cooks with coconut oil, but she also coats her skin with it every night. 

“It’s my moisturizer, cooking oil and conditioner,” Kayla explains she also heats the oil, then after it cools, she rubs it into her scalp and combs it through her hair before washing. 

While some customers find love in products, others say it’s the products that led them to find their love.

Jacob Cohen proudly boasts his hot chocolate brought him closer to his Valentine.  Jacob says he found the way to his new bride’s heart through her stomach.  He says when they first met he invited her to his place after a date for what he calls his famous hot chocolate.  The rest is history.

Today Jacob still combines Califia Farms Coconut Almondmilk with powdered organic cocoa.  “It’s rich and sweet at the same time,” he says.  Califia Farms Coconut Almondmilk is made using almonds, filtered water and coconut cream.  Jacob says the coconut cream really hits the spot.

What makes almond milk so special?  It’s also a dairy-free source of calcium.  For Jacob, it’s a source of satisfaction, “I can’t go back to anything else.”

Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member

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Most New Year’s resolutions are broken before the end of January.  However, customers at Whole Foods Market in Ft. Lauderdale are standing firm.  The most common resolution in the store is “eating healthy.”

TJ Teahan brings his groceries to the register.  He tells the cashier he is sticking to his New Year’s resolution of getting healthy.  TJ says he had quit smoking and drinking; he now substitutes water for alcohol. 

He says his inspiration came at what he calls a very appropriate time.  He was sitting in church listening to the celebration of Epiphany (which happens in early January).  TJ says that’s when he had an epiphany of his own.  

TJ decided to cut out sugar and begin eating right.  He says for him there is no other option because he’s been sick.  “I’m going to get through it.  I’m going to eat right.”

Eating right is also on the minds of many other people this time of year.  Whole Foods Market customers are not only thinking about it, but they are also doing it.  Here is how you too can take action and keep the momentum like TJ:

  • Follow the Whole Foods Market Four Pillars of Healthy Eating to stay focused.  The first pillar is eating food in its most pure form to get the most nutrients.  This can be anything from fresh tilapia to quinoa to a navel orange. 
  • Customers who follow the Pillars of Healthy Eating also eat a lot of foods that come from plants.  This means anything such as raw or cooked fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts or whole grains.  If it comes from a plant, then it should be a big portion of your plate.
  • The third Pillar of Healthy Eating is choosing to eat healthy fats such as peanuts, seeds or avocados.  This works best while minimizing or eliminating extracted oils and processed fats.
  • Lastly, these customers also look for foods dense in nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.  This can mean eating nutrient-packed kale or watercress to get the most out of every bite.

After many others’ resolutions have become a memory, TJ says he is just as committed to his resolution.

All Whole Foods Market stores in Florida have a Healthy Eating Specialist who assists customers with tips on how to eat healthier (specialists are not nutritionists; therefore they cannot provide medical advice).  The service is free.  Healthy Eating Specialists are also available for community presentations.  For more information contact Ft. Lauderdale store’s Healthy Eating Specialist, Mark Mattson.  Send an email to mark.mattson@wholefoods.com  or call (954) 565-5655 to schedule an appointment or store tour. 

Mark Mattson — Whole Foods Market’s Biggest Winner

Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member

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Students are laughing, learning and eating in their cooking class at Fort Lauderdale’s Whole Foods Market store.  Mark Mattson is teaching a class in the store’s Lifestyle Center.  He strains watermelon juice and mixes it with sparkling water to kick off the lesson.  Everyone gets a glassful.  His first recipe delights the students. 

What the students may not know is, at one point, their healthy-eating instructor, Mark, was so unhealthy he was considered obese.

Mark was a fun-loving, beer-drinking, chicken-wing-eating guy.

“My go-to meal on a typical day was two or three pieces of pizza and a can of soda,” he said.

Mark said he would simply make poor choices in diet. The consequences of the poor diet emerged in other areas.  “I was in pain a lot.  I could barely walk.  My whole body hurt.”

The struggle started when he was 8 years old.  Ever since then, he spent most of the rest of his life going up and down in weight. 

“I got to the point where I had one pair of pants that fit me,” Mark said, adding he hit his lowest point five years ago.   

At his heaviest, he weighed 238 pounds at 5 feet, 9 inches tall.   Mark was 40 years old and wore a size 40 pair of pants. 

He told himself it was OK for his pant size to match his age, as long as his pant size did not go over.  Today Mark laughs and calls it a “crazy rationalization.”

Mark had no idea his justifications were about to come to an abrupt end.  He was living in Michigan at the time during a freezing winter; he slipped, fell on the ice and ripped his only pair of pants. 

It wasn’t until the next day that Mark bought new pants and realized he was now a size 42.  His “crazy rationalization” could no longer work for him. 

This was not only what Mark called an all-time low, but it would also serve as a new beginning.  He made a resolution to do something about his weight and health.

After a medical checkup, he learned his cholesterol was an astounding 326.  Ideal cholesterol levels range from anywhere up to 200, meaning his cholesterol level was off the charts. 

At the time he was a department store team leader, also known as a manager, for Whole Foods Market.  He applied for a Whole Foods Market employee health incentive program.

As part of the program, Mark went away to a one-week special immersion program led by a medical doctor.  During that time Mark had the opportunity to eat healthy, exercise and, most importantly, learn about healthy foods.

Mark started incorporating healthy foods and exercise into his lifestyle.  He lost more than 40 pounds.  His cholesterol dropped to a healthy range.

“Now I pig out on fruits and vegetables,” Mark said, explaining he is still the same person inside. “I don’t deny myself foods, but I don’t indulge in them on a regular basis.”

He believes part of the reason he is able to successfully keep the weight off after five years is because he continues to practice moderation. 

“In order to make lifelong success you have to make permanent changes,” Mark said. 

When looking back at everything he has accomplished, Mark hesitates to celebrate.  He admits he does feel proud, but is quick to point out his weight is something he will always have to battle.

When asked if he fears gaining the weight back, Mark said that used to be a fear but not anymore. “I’ve learned to recognize triggers and not fall back into the same habits.”  He said he focuses his energy practicing all the knowledge he has gained.

Now Mark is inspiring others to make their own healthy choices.  He became the healthy eating specialist at Fort Lauderdale’s Whole Foods Market store in 2010. “I teach people to try new things by showcasing recipes that are easy, tasty and in season.”

Mark also reaches out to the community.  He visits schools to share his story.

His favorite foods are still beer and chicken wings, but now he eats less of them.  He has also added a new favorite food— kale.

Mark Mattson is Whole Foods Market’s biggest loser winner.

Three Simple Sides for Holiday Meals

Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member

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An easy side dish can help simplify a hectic holiday season.  While some customers at Whole Foods Market are planning elaborate holiday meals, others keep it simple with single-ingredient sides. 

Laura Simmons is buying sweet potato not only for her 10-month-old daughter, but also for her Christmas Eve dinner party.  She says there is not much difference in preparation.

“It’s so convenient.  It’s so fast.  If I were to put my baby’s sweet potato puree on the dinner table, the rest of my family wouldn’t notice the difference,” the mom says.

Laura dices the sweet potato before boiling it.  After it is tender, she drains and mashes it with a small amount of water.  She says it’s her daughter’s latest favorite food.

In fact, Laura says it’s her baby who inspired her to make the side dish for adults.

For the upcoming holiday meal, Laura will mash the sweet potato, but instead add milk, butter and a pinch of salt and pepper.      

Sweet potatoes are filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  

Another nutritious and simple side is boiled calabaza squash.  The calabaza squash is popular in the Caribbean and in Latin American countries.  It’s similar in taste to butternut squash.

Cutting calabaza squash could be difficult because of its extremely tough shell, but Whole Foods Market sells pre-cut chunks of calabaza squash in the produce department.  Once you purchase the pre-cut chunks, remove the seeds but leave the skin on.  Simply drop the pieces of calabaza in boiling water.  In the meantime, coat a pan with a small amount of olive oil and sauté garlic and onions.  Once the squash is tender, drain it and drizzle with the garlic and onion mix.

Another favorite Latin American (and Brazilian) side is yucca.  Yucca is a root and is somewhat similar to a potato.  Making a boiled yucca side dish is as easy as it sounds. 

While the yucca boils, sauté olive oil, garlic and onions.  Drain the yucca.  Once the mixture is ready, add lime juice, sprinkle cilantro and drip over the chunks of yucca. 

Whether you decide to cook sweet potato, calabaza squash or yucca, any of these will make for a simple, yet hearty, holiday dish.

Holiday Pies Make a Sweet Treat

Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member

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 A delectable dessert makes the holidays even sweeter.  Customers at Ft. Lauderdale’s Whole Foods Market are already taking advantage of seasonal pies. 

Don and Carol Clark are not waiting for the holidays.  They are buying six-inch pumpkin and cherry pies now. 

“I eat the pumpkin and he eats the cherry pie,” Carol tells the cashier at the register, “We don’t like to share.”

They say it reminds them of home in the northeast.  “This is how pies used to taste,” Don says.

The snowbirds willingly swap harsh winters for 70-degree temperatures, but remain steadfast on taste. 

“It can’t be too sweet and the crust needs to be crunchy,” Don says.

The bakery department at Ft. Lauderdale’s Whole Foods Market serves several holiday pies including sweet potato and chocolate pecan. 

The chocolate pecan pie is said to be so delicious that Bakery Assistant Team Leader Daniella Velez describes the taste using only one word—heaven. 

You will also find the traditional berry and apple pies available year-round. 

To ensure freshness, the pies are baked from scratch at a Whole Foods Market bake house 13 miles away. 

Ft. Lauderdale Whole Foods Market bakery team members bake a special pumpkin pie with no dairy or animal products.  The pumpkin pie is smooth, creamy and soft with a tender yet crispy crust.  It achieves the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  The vegan pie is always baked in-house and on demand.

The six-inch pies cost $5.99 while the nine-inch pies range from $9.99 to $14.99.

The desserts meet the same quality standards required of all products sold at Whole Foods Market.  That means no artificial colors, sweeteners, preservatives or hydrogenated fats. 

“The pies always taste fresh here,” Carol says she likes not having to read the labels to decipher what’s in her food.

Now Don and Carol only have to figure out what pies will make it to the Thanksgiving table.

You can also order holiday pies online.  We are also taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys, pies and sides until Sunday, Nov. 24. Visit our online ordering site today. 

A Harvest of Squash

Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member

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Autumn brings a new crop of winter squashes.  Customers at Whole Foods Market in Ft. Lauderdale are seeing different shapes, sizes and vibrant fall colors. 

“It feels like the seasons are changing.  I grew up with the oranges, reds and great yellows in the fall, so it makes me feel excited about the season,” customer Elise Alexander says, remembering her childhood days in Colorado. 

There are plenty of “oranges, reds and great yellows” at the store.  You will find a harvest of kabocha, carnival, red kuri and delicata winter squashes available through the holidays. 

The kabocha squash has a round shape and a flattened top.  It has a dark green, tough exterior.

The carnival squash is also round in shape.  It is cream-colored with bright orange or dark green ridges and spots.

The red kuri squash looks like a Halloween pumpkin with less defined ridges.

The delicata squash is small and narrow compared to other winter squashes.  The rind is usually light yellow with green streaks.

All squashes are sold by the pound and usually range from $1.69 to $1.99.

“I didn’t know that there was such a wide variety and that they were so beautiful,” customer Mike Melton told a cashier at the register.  Mike says the different squashes sparked his curiosity.  He began to learn about them.  He found them so interesting that he served a different winter squash with dinner each night last fall. 

You will still find acorn, butternut and calabaza squashes which are generally available year-round.

Elise stocks up on acorn and spaghetti squashes.  As she unloads her shopping cart at the register Elise explains she substitutes spaghetti squash for pasta.  She cuts the squash in half lengthwise, roasts it in the oven and runs a fork through it to separate the strands. 

“It looks a lot like angel hair pasta.  I make it with either a marinara or some kind of tomato-based sauce,” Elise says.

She says she likes cooking squashes because it’s a way to eat a low-carbohydrate meal that is still tasty. 

Not only are squashes carb-free, but also a source of fiber, beta carotene and vitamins A and C.

The number of ways to cook squashes is as plentiful as the varieties.  Customers say they boil, steam, roast, bake, sauté and even pressurize the squashes.

Elise figured out a way to entice the whole family.  She roasts acorn squash and keeps it simple, topping it with butter and sprinkling cinnamon.  Elise says it works for her two kids who are picky eaters, “They definitely do like them.”

Elise likes to eat in-season produce.  Her next task—figure out a way to cook the delicata squash for her kids.

Healthy Eating Story: Kisha Gordon

Written by Marianly Hernandez Primmer, Whole Foods Market team member

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Customers at Whole Foods Market, Ft. Lauderdale walk up to register six.  A bubbly cashier smiles as she greets them.  Kisha Gordon rings up item after item.  Kale, wheatgrass, turmeric—foods she never imagined tasting.

Kisha explains before working at Whole Foods Market she ate from fast food restaurants every day.  Her diet consisted mainly of burgers, tacos and fried chicken.  She didn’t eat fruits or vegetables at all. 

“The only time I ate sweet potatoes was in a pie at Christmas,” Kisha says.

As a cashier, she is coming face to face with new people and learning about new foods.  She says customers have broadened her horizons. 

“The more customers I talked to, the more people meet, the more things I get to know.” Kisha says she has begun to lean the benefits of a healthy diet. 

The 35-year-old began trying all the fruits and vegetables she told herself she never wanted to taste.  Then something happened—healthy food started tasting good and junk food started tasting bad.

“I’m starting to not like the stuff that I used to eat.  It doesn’t taste good.  I can taste all the bad in it,” Kisha says.

Today Kisha juices with celery, kale, carrots and apples.  She also reads nutritional labels on products, something she never did before. 

“I’m more conscious about what I eat,” Kisha explains, “Don’t get me wrong.  I eat cookies.  I snack.”

She hasn’t completely changed her habits; instead she takes it one step at a time.

Now she is doing another first.  Kisha goes for walks.  She also lost 15 pounds, which she believes is a byproduct of her healthy eating.

“I want to live longer.  I don’t want to be 80 years old and miserable because of something I could have prevented,” Kisha adds, “I know that at the end of the day, it’s worth it.”

This cashier believes it’s a small sacrifice for a big return.