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TIP OF THE DAY: Bouquet Of Crudités

At every party and dinner, we have a basket of crudités as a better-for- you option and for those with dietary constraints. For Mother’s Day, we’re adding some flower power with this Bouquet Of Crudités from Hidden Valley,

Hidden Valley serves them with their Original Ranch Dressing; we’re making a nonfat yogurt dip.

RECIPE #1: BOUQUET OF CRUDITÉS

Prep time is 15 minutes.

Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 2 orange bell peppers
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 2 mini orange, red or yellow bell peppers (or substitute 2 more conventional size)
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes (substitute radishes)
  • 6 snap peas
  • 6 six-inch bamboo skewers
  • Yogurt dip (recipe below)
  •  

    Crudites Bouquet

    Take an artistic approach to crudités with this vegetable bouquet (photo courtesy Hidden Valley).

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dip (recipe below) and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

    2. WASH and seed the peppers. Cut jagged edges into the tops.

    3. STICK the snap peas on the skewers to create the leaves. Insert the skewers through the bottoms of each pepper and put the tomato in the center as shown. Arrange in a flower pot, vase or on a plate.

     
    RECIPE #2: GARLIC-LIME-HERB YOGURT DIP & SAUCE

    This recipe can be served as a dip with crudités, pretzels and other snacks, or as a topping/sauce for grilled fish, meat, poultry, even burgers. You can also mix it with boiled potatoes, macaroni or shredded cabbage for a fat-free potato salad, macaroni salad or cole slaw.

    Or sweeten it and use it as a fruit dip.

    The recipe makes a small bowl of dip, or 4 sauce servings for a main course. You can use your creativity to mix and match the seasonings to your main.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt (you can substitute other plain yogurt, but Greek style is the thickest and creamiest)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, basil, chives or other favorite herb, minced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the yogurt, garlic, lime juice and ginger in small bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

     
    VARIATION: YOGURT DIP FOR FRUIT

    1. REPLACE the garlic with one teaspoon agave, honey or sweetener of choice. (Only lightly sweeten the dip: You want to appreciate the sweetness of the fruit, not overwhelm it.)

    2. REPLACE the herb with grated lime zest or other citrus zest (lemon, grapefruit).
     
    ___________________________
    *The Hidden Valley recipe combines 1/2 cup Original Ranch Light Dressing and 8 ounces softened fat-free cream cheese, chilled until ready to serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cider Tasting For Mother’s Day

    Hard Cider & Food

    Drier ciders work better with meats. Photo courtesy Angry Orchard.

     

    Skip the Pinot Grigio and taste some cider for Mother’s Day. It’s more novel than wine, and will suit any guest:

    Cider is equally popular among men and women, whereas beer is significantly more popular among men*. Cider is also gluten-free and less filling than beer.

    While many people think “autumn” when they hear “cider,” that is true for non-alcoholic cider, which is fresh-pressed.

    Hard cider is fermented for eight weeks after the juice is pressed. The cider then matures for several months, is blended, filtered and carbonated. So the “freshest” hard cider is on the market now, not in the fall.

    Another note: In the U.S., alcoholic cider is called hard cider and apple cider/apple juice (the terms are interchangeable in the U.S.) is simply called cider.

    In the U.K. it’s the reverse: “Cider” is hard cider.

    While most cider is made from apples, you’ll also find pear cider, known in the U.K. as perry.

     
    CIDER & FOOD PAIRINGS

    Hard ciders pairs with the same foods as beer and white wine. Styles range from very dry to sweet “hard apple juice.”

  • The sweetness of cider allows you to serve desserts with it, too, especially apple desserts (pie, crumble, bread pudding).
  • For nibbles, serve hearty cheeses and charcuterie.
  • For main courses, consider barbecue, chicken, pork and sausages (beer and brats, meet cider and brats); plus soups, stews and one of our favorite pairings, cheese fondue.
  •  
    TIPS

  • In recipes, you can substitute hard cider for wine.
  • Hard cider is best served chilled or over ice.
  •  

    CIDER TASTING PARTY: WHERE TO START

    1. Gather up a dozen brands or so, and invite friends over for a hard cider tasting. You’ll find hard ciders from the U.S. and England†. Get apple cider for the kids.

    2. For serious foodies, conduct a blind tasting. Serve them in order of alcohol content, lowest to highest. Either cover up the labels with paper (we used a removable glue stick) or place each one in a paper sandwich sack (the size of a take-out coffee bag, which you can get at the nearest deli [offer to pay for them and you’ll likely get them for free]).

    3. Mark each label or bag with a number, and provide each person with a tasting notes sheet. If your group is accustomed to evaluating beer and wine, you can adapt this professional scoring sheet. We put all the descriptors in the left column of that sheet onto one piece of paper, with one for each guest. For notes, we made up a simple sheet with designated areas for rating ciders 1 through 12 (or however many ciders you’re serving) on a second sheet.

    You can also print out this Cider Tasting Wheel.

     

    Cider Goblet

    You can use any glass you like for cider; this one is popular in Europe. Photo courtesy Crispin Cider.

     
    4. Decide on the food and how many bottles of each cider you’ll need for your size crowd.

    5. Start with small pours: An ounce each of 12 cider becomes 12 ounces in relatively short order. At the end of the comparison tasting, people can go back for more.

    6. Provide “dump buckets” so participants can toss what they don’t like. These can be large tumblers or other vessels (we’ve used short vases!).

    7. Have a great time.
     
    _____________________________
    *Beer is preferred by men in terms of market penetration (+10% for men), frequency (+35% for men), and servings consumed (+33% for men).
     
    †Magners Irish Cider is the only hard cider imported from Ireland.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Riced Cauliflower, Cauliflower Rice

    Cauliflower Risotto

    Cauliflower Rice

    Flavored Cauliflower Rice

    Top: No rice involved—this mushroom “risotto” was made by HealthyFellow.com from riced cauliflower. Here’s the recipe. Center: JoyLoop brand is sold at Good Eggs | San Francisco, perhaps the most wonderful food purveyor in the U.S. Bottom: In the U.K., CauliRice.com sells plain cauliflower rice, plus Indian, Mediterranean and Thai flavors.

     

    Cauliflower rice, also called cauliflower couscous, is poised for fame. There’s no actual rice involved; it’s a grain-free rice substitute made from cauliflower, that can be used in just about every rice recipe from plain boiled to fried rice to risotto.

    Cauliflower rice—cauliflower chopped in a ricer, became popular with the Paleo Diet, and it is takes time to make it from scratch.

    Fortunately, the Paleo Diet is making people more aware of it, and small producers have begun to cut and package it. It can be found minced or pulverized, fresh and frozen.

    Who invented cauliflower rice? There may be several different “inventors” who first pulverized a head of cauliflower. The Italian supplier who makes other cauliflower products for Trader Joe’s ended up with lots of leftover florets and trim. Rather than toss them, Trader Joe’s says, “We put our heads together and came up with a new product made from this extra cauliflower.”

    Cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse, a “superfood,” a term that evaluates foods based on their calorie density vis-a-vis their amount/types of nutrients. A member of the Brassica family, it is rich in immune-boosting antioxidants and vitamin C (also an antioxidant). It is low in calories and low on the Glycemic Index (GI). But there’s more:

  • Cauliflower contains more vitamin C per 100g than an orange.
  • It has a range of protective plant compounds (the antioxidants quercetin, beta carotene and caffeic acid) that help to reduce oxidative stress in the body, a key risk factor for cancer.
  • Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and helps to alleviate symptoms of other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
  • Its sulphur compounds support detoxification in the liver, and promote levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  • As with cauliflower mashed potatoes, you can pass it off to kids and adult finicky eaters as regular rice.
  •  
    WHERE TO BUY CAULIFLOWER RICE

    Now here’s the rub: Cauliflower rice is not yet available as widely as it should be. But it’s poised for fame and on its way: We recently spoke with a specialty food manufacturer who will be bringing it to market soon. In the interim:

     

  • Trader Joe’s imports it frozen from Italy. It was so popular that as of this writing, it is sold out and the retailer is waiting for a new shipment.
  • Joyloop Foods, in greater San Franciso, sells to some California retailers and online.
  • Paleo On The Go, a meal delivery service, packages it and sells it on Amazon.
  • You can buy Green Giant Cauliflower Crumbles in a Steam In Pack. Although the crumbles are larger than riced cauliflower, you can cook them al dente and rice them.
  •  
    And of course, you can make your own from a head of cauliflower.
     
    ______________________________
    *Brassica is the plant genus of cruciferous vegetables, nutritional powerhouses packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). They include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish/wasabi, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini, rutabaga and turnips, among others.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE CAULIFLOWER RICE

    Cauliflower rice can be buttered, sauced or otherwise made more flavorful by adding vegetables, herbs and/or spices. This recipe, from CauliRice.com, advises that homemade versions will taste more strongly of cauliflower and less like actual rice, but we have no issue with the homemade “rice.” Light seasoning, butter, etc. will mask any subtle cauliflower flavor.

    Prep time is 10 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Salt and pepper and/or other seasonings (herbs, spices)
  • Optional: cooking oil
  • Chopping board and knife
  • Food processor with an “S” blade, or a hand grater
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WASH the cauliflower and remove any leaves. Remove the main stem and set it aside for another purpose†. The fine stems that hold the florettes together need not be removed.

    2. CUT or break the florettes into chunks so they better fit into your food processor. Attach the ‘S’ blade and place the florettes into the processor bowl. Pulse until the cauliflower is the texture of couscous (course grains) or until all large lumps disappear. Do not over-process, as this will result in mushy cauliflower rice when cooked. If you have a particularly large cauliflower, or a small processor or hand grater, you may have to do this in batches.

    3. MICROWAVE for 3 minutes. Microwaving retains more moisture than dry-frying or oven baking, and is CauliRice’s preferred method. Place the cauliflower rice into a microwave-safe dish. Add a teaspoon of water—no more, or the cauliflower rice will become too wet. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or a lid. Cook for 3 minutes at 900 watts.

    4. LEAVE the cauliflower rice covered, and let it stand for another 2-3 minutes. It will continue cooking in its own heat. Add seasoning to taste and serve.

     

    Cauliflower Rice

    Trader Joe's Cauliflower Rice

    Top: Homemade cauliflower rice from TheKitchn.com. Here’s their recipe and a video. Bottom: Cauliflower rice from Trader Joe’s.

     
    _______________________
    †You can steam and slice or purée it, finely dice or slice and add to salads, add to soups and stews, etc. You can also stick it in the freezer and decide later.

     
    TO DRY FRY

    1. HEAT a tablespoon of your preferred cooking oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the cauliflower bits and spread evenly across the base of the pan. Cover the pan and cook for approximately 7-8 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. If you prefer a less crispy cauliflower rice, add a tablespoon of water to the pan about halfway through cooking—but be sure to cook this added moisture off before serving.

    2. Add seasoning to taste, and serve.
     
    TO OVEN COOK

    Oven cooking produces a drier, crunchier cauliflower rice that some people prefer, although it gives a less rice-like effect.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Spread the cauliflower pieces evenly across a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the cauliflower every 5 minutes or so.

    2. REMOVE from the oven, add seasoning to taste and serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mussels At Home

    One of our favorite bistro foods is Moules Marinières (mool marin-yair), Sailor-Style Mussels. The mussels are steamed in a flavorful broth, to which they add their briny juice.

    We recently had a pot of the classic dish at Restaurant Dominique in Greenwich Village—a handsome room with big windows facing charming West Village streets.

    We not only ate every mussel; we scraped the pot for every last bit of the divine broth. We can’t wait to go back for more mussels…and everything else on the classic bistro menu.

    There’s also a mussels restaurant in New York City that serves 21 different variations, from the classic (white wine broth with garlic, shallot, parsley) to cuisine-specific riffs.

    We’ve tried everything from Indian Moules (cinnamon, curry, garlic, star anise, white wine) to Mexican Moules (calamari, chipotle in adobo, chorizo, posoles), even Meatball Moules (meatballs, tomato, onion, garlic, pesto, Parmesan cheese).

    During our most recent mussels foray, we however, we were reminded of how cramped and noisy the restaurant is; not to mention that one needs to book a table days in advance. The next day we came across the following recipe from Chef Eric LeVine, for our favorite Moules Marinières: Thai curry with coconut milk and lemongrass.

    We were hit with a blinding revelation of the obvious: We can make this at home in short order. Mussels are $4 a pound, compared with a $25 restaurant serving.

    If you don’t like Thai flavors, find a recipe for what you do like. Here’s one for classic Moules Marinières, plus how to buy and clean mussels.

    Steamed mussels are low in calories and gluten free.

    RECIPE: MOULES MARINIÈRES (STEAMED MUSSELS)
    IN THAI CURRY BROTH

    Ingredients For 4 First Courses Or 2 Mains

  • 8 sprigs cilantro, separate leaves and stems and roughly chop both
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 small shallots, sliced thin
  • ½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon zest plus 1 tbsp. juice from 1 lime
  • Kosher salt
  • 15 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more to taste
  •  

    Raw Mussels

    Steamed Mussels

    Mussels In Coconut Curry Broth

    Top: Wild mussels from Good Eggs. Center: Into the pot (Le Creuset). Bottom: Voilà, let’s eat! (Photo chef Eric LeVine.)

  • 2 pounds fresh mussels (ours were from Prince Edward Island), scrubbed with beards removed
  • 1 small Thai or Serrano chile, thinly sliced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cilantro stems, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 shallot shallot, the coriander seed, chili flakes, lime zest and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Grind into a smooth paste.

    2. SCOOP 2 tablespoons of thick cream from the top of the coconut milk into a large saucepan. Add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic, shallots and ground paste plus the green curry paste. Cook for 4 minutes.

    3. ADD the remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook about 3 minutes. Taste and season as desired,

    4. ADD the mussels, first discarding any that are cracked or already opened. Stir, cover and cook, shaking the pan until mussels open. Stir in the chopped cilantro, sliced chile and lime juice.

    5. DISCARD any mussels that haven’t opened in the pot. Divide the contents, including the broth, among two or four bowls.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Brazilian Cheese Bread, Pão de Queijo

    On a recent trip to a churrascaria to indulge in the salad bar, our colleague Hannah Kaminsky discovered something more memorable than the jumbo asparagus and whole cloves of caramelized garlic: pão de queijo, Brazilian Cheese Bread.

    Not a conventional bread (no kneading required), pão de queijo (pow de KAY-zoo) is a Brazilian variation of gougères (goo-ZHAIR)—airy cheese puffs made from savory choux pastry mixed with grated Gruyère cheese.

    A key difference: Pão de queijo is made from gluten-free flour, either yucca (a.k.a. cassava or manioc) or tapioca flour. This makes pão de queijo gluten free, and also more dense and chewy (much like savory, baked mochi, Hannah notes).

    They’re delicious with beer, wine and cocktails.

     
    RECIPE: BRAZILIAN CHEESE BREAD (PÃO DE QUEIJO)

    Ingredients For 2 Dozen Puffs

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) sour* cassava flour or tapioca flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450F. Lightly grease two mini muffin pans.

    2. COMBINE the milk, oil, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally until large bubbles form.

    3. REMOVE the pot from the heat and add the flour, stirring until it is fully incorporated (it will be gelatinous and grainy). You don’t need to worry about over-mixing the dough, since there’s no gluten to toughen. Pause as needed to scrape down the sides of the blender to ensure that everything is thoroughly incorporated. Once the dough is completely smooth…

    4. TRANSFER the dough to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat at medium for a few minutes until it is smooth. When it is cool to the touch…

    5. WHISK the eggs in a small bowl; then mix into the dough on medium speed. Incorporate half of the eggs first, incorporate fully and add the second half.

    6. BEAT in the cheese with the mixer on medium. The dough will become very sticky.

    7. DISPENSE the dough into the muffin cups, filling 3/4 of the way to the top. Dip your spoon or scoop in water to prevent sticking.

    8. LOWER the heat to 350°F and bake for 25-30 minutes, until puffy and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes. Don’t be alarmed if some of the centers fall as they cool.

    9. ENJOY them warm and crisp. Leftover puffs can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week and re-crisped in a warm oven or toaster oven.
     
    *Use sweet (untreated) cassava flour if you can’t find the sour version. The sour style provides a nuance of dlightly fermented flavor.

     

    Brazilian Bread

    Brazilian Bread

    Cassava Flour

    Tapioca Flour

    Top and second: Brazilian Cheese Bread photos © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog. Third and fourth: Check natural food stores or Latin American markets; or order online.

     
    CASSAVA FLOUR VS. TAPIOCA FLOUR: THE DIFFERENCE

    Both cassava flour and tapioca flour are made from the cassava root. However, the process and end result differ.

  • Cassava flour, a staple ingredient Brazil and Portugal, is made from the root of the cassava plant by peeling, drying and grinding the whole root. Called polvilho in Portuguese, it can be either sour (untreated) or sweet (treated). It has more dietary fiber than tapioca flour, so has broader applications (for example, you can make cassava flour tortillas and other flatbreads that need the fiber to hold together).
  • Tapioca flour, also called tapioca starch, is obtained through a process of washing and pulping the whole cassava, not just the root. The wet pulp is squeezed to extract a starchy liquid; the water is evaporated, yielding tapioca flour.
  •  
    Among the gluten-free flour options, cassava and tapioca flours are most like wheat flour. Unlike almond or coconut flour, they have a mild, neutral flavor and are powdery like wheat flour—not grainy or gritty.

    They can be replaced for wheat flour on a 1:1 basis in many recipes. Note, though, that when mixed with liquid, the dough turns gelatinous and sticky. Keep a bowl of water and paper towels handy for rising your fingers and utensils.

    You can find these flours in health food stores and natural food stores such as Whole Foods Markets; and of course, online.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Korean Spaghetti & Meatballs

    Korean Meatballs

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/rice noodles indochine kitchen 230r

    Peacock Rice Spaghetti

    Top: Spicy Korean meatballs from Noodles & Company. Center: Cooked rice noodles from Indochine Kitchen. Bottom: Peacock Brand rice noodles, one of our favorites.

     

    March 9th is National Meatball Day. Suggestion: Try something different, instead of the very familiar Italian-American pork blend meatballs with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.

    How about a Korean interpretation of Meatballs & Spaghetti? The meatballs are flavored with spicy gochujang sauce (pronounced Go-CHOO-jang); the spaghetti is made from gluten-free rice noodles.

    The meatball and sauce recipes are from Executive Chef Nick Graff of Noodles & Company. THE NIBBLE put them together rice noodles to create the Meatballs & Spaghetti. The substitutions are:

  • Korean BBQ sauce instead of tomato sauce
  • Rice noodles instead of wheat noodles
  • Shredded basil or chopped cilantro instead of grated cheese
  •  
    Don’t want spicy Korean meatballs? Try this Italian-influenced veal meatball recipe.
     
    RECIPE: KOREAN MEATBALLS & SPAGHETTI

    Ingredients For 32 One-Ounce Meatballs

  • Korean BBQ sauce (recipe below)
  • Meatballs (recipe below, or use your favorite recipe)
  • Rice noodles (spaghetti or vermicelli—Peacock Brand rice noodles are available at Amazon, Walmart, Wegmans and retailers nationwide)
  • Garnish: black and white sesame seeds, fresh basil chiffonade or cilantro
  •  
    Ingredients For The Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  •  
    Ingredients For The Korean BBQ Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled & minced
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang sauce/paste (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the ground chicken and beef with the eggs, salt and white pepper. Portion and roll into 1 ounce-size balls (the size of golf balls) and place on an oiled sheet pan. Bake for about 20 minutes.

    2. MAKE the BBQ sauce. Place the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, gochujang paste and red chili flakes in a pan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile…

    3. WHISK the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl and add to boiling sauce. Stir until thickened. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the heated meatballs and toss to coat completely with the sauce.

    4. COOK the rice noodles according to package directions, while the BBQ sauce is coming to a boil.

    5 COMBINE the spaghetti, meatballs and sauce, garnish and serve.

     
      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Modern Oats Instant Oatmeal

    Two years ago we recommended Modern Oats, a packaging concept that places elegantly-flavored, gluten-free* oatmeal in stylish grab-and-go cups.

    All you have to do is add hot water to cover the oats in the coated paper cup. Put the lid back on, wait a few minutes and enjoy. No added sweetener, milk or microwave is required. The colorful designs give a boost to starting the day.

    Success has enabled the brand to expand the number of flavors to 10. The lineup now includes:

  • Apple Walnut
  • Chocolate Cherry
  • Coconut Almond
  • 5 Berry
  • 5 Berry No Sugar Added
  • Goji Berry
  • Just Oats
  • Mango Blackberry
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Vermont Maple
  •    

    Grab & Go Oatmeal

    Cheerful packaging adds to the enjoyment of these delicious flavored oatmeal cups. Photo courtesy Modern Oats.

     

    Suggested retail price is $3.50 per cup.

     

    Modern Oats Coconut Almond

    Coconut Almond, one of 10 flavors. Photo courtesy Modern Oats.

     

    MODERN OATS ARE GOOD OATS

    The rolled oats in the containers are grown by family farmers in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. They are minimally processed by steaming and flaking; you look into the carton and see what looks like “real oats,” instead of the small particles familiar to consumers of instant oatmeal.

    Not surprisingly, the oat flakes provide a textural differences that deliver a more solid bite (and, the company says, optimal absorption of nutrients).

    Modern Oats are produced in a 100% gluten free facility and are Certified Gluten Free, Non-GMO, Halal, Kosher, Vegan and 100% Whole Grain. (Whew: There’s no more room left on the carton for any more certifications).

    Bonus: Oats are the only major grain proven to help blood cholesterol†.

     

    If you can’t find the cups locally (here’s the store locator), buy them on the Modern Oats website.

    There’s a four-flavor gift-boxed set; an assortment of flavors makes a nice Easter gift for the nutritionally-focused.
     
    ____________________
    *To be certified gluten-free, they must be processed in a facility that does not also process grains with gluten. In the milling and processing process, oats are susceptible to cross-contamination; so not all oatmeal and other oat products are gluten free.

    †Eating three grams of soluble fiber from oats each day, as part of a diet that’s low in fat and cholesterol, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. This may reduce the risk of heart disease.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Good For You, Quick Sauces

    We’re still in “New Year’s Resolutions Month,” and today the tip is good-for-you sauces.

    Perhaps you’ve already been cooking dinner regularly; or perhaps you’re trying to do more of it to avoid sugar-, salt- and fat-laden take-out food.

    One of the easiest ways to complete a simple home-cooked meal is to cover it with purchased sauces. That’s no better for you than take-out, as reading the nutrition labels will prove.

    Here are 10 couldn’t-be-easier sauces that are good for you, and good on chicken, fish, grains, pasta, and so forth. Before you make a sauce from a can of soup, read the ingredients label—and see how easy these alternatives are:
     
    JUST POUR

  • Flavored Olive Oil. Drizzle basil-, rosemary- or other infused olive oil under the main food (chicken breast, fish fillet, pasta—see top photo) or drizzle it it around the perimeter of the plate (see second photo). Use a pour-top or a squeeze bottle for a thinner drizzle. With flavors from blood orange to garlic and hot chile, you can deliver lots of flavor while enjoying your government-approved two tablespoons of olive oil daily. Here are other ways to use infused olive oil.
  • Unflavored Olive Oil & Herbs. No flavored olive oil at hand? Sprinkle in some dried herbs before drizzling. We add both to a Pyrex measuring cup, stir in a pinch of salt and pepper, and pour.
  • Balsamic vinegar. Balsamic adds great flavor to just about anything. You can layer it on top of the oil. We use a small squeeze bottle and squeeze dots of balsamic on top of the oil (very arty!). You can also use a clean medicine dropper.
  • Pesto.You can also make pesto and keep it in the fridge. Then, 10 seconds in the microwave gives you a delicious hot sauce.
  •  
    LESS THAN 5 MINUTES OF COOKING

  • Tomato sauce: There are many riffs on quick tomato sauce, but they all involve cooking, usually for a minimum of 25 minutes. Here’s our quickest technique, using a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (or other quality tomatoes). Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a sauté pan and cook a clove of sliced garlic. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a minute or two. Add salt and pepper (or red pepper flakes) to taste, plus any herbs (basil, oregano, thyme). Voilà!
  • Vegetable purée. If you have leftover cooked vegetables, purée them into a sauce. Pop them into the food processor, purée, taste and add seasonings as desired (salt, garlic salt, pepper or other heat). Thin the purée to the desired consistency with a bit of olive oil or broth.
  •  
    PAN SAUCES

    The easiest sauce for pan-cooked food is to deglaze the pan.

    Another French technique typically combines butter or cream with other ingredients to make an on-the-spot sauce for the just-cooked dish. The sauce is thickened by the butter or cream—two ingredients we want to cut back on.

    So here we’re substituting chicken broth (or vegetable broth) and olive oil. The ingredients below are basic, and you should already have them in the kitchen. Feel free to add whatever else you have: capers, garlic and other herbs, lemon zest, minced onion, etc.—or to substitute flavorful balsamic vinegar for the white wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  • Quick Mushroom Sauce. Microwave 1 cup chicken broth and 2 tablespoons finely chopped dried mushrooms until hot. Stir to combine, and pour into a hot skillet. Simmer until reduced by half, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in 4 teaspoons of milk (or cream, if you will) to form a lightly thickened sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Quick Dijon Mustard Sauce. Follow the same recipe as above, but substitute 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard for the mushrooms.
  • Quick Herbed Tomato Sauce. Heat the skillet over hot heat; combine 1/3 cup chicken broth, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, ¼ cup canned crushed tomatoes and a generous pinch of tarragon or other herb in a small bowl or mixing cup. Pour into the hot skillet, simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce by half. Whisk in 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  •  
    NONFAT “CREAM SAUCE”

    You can turn any of these sauces into a creamy sauce with the addition of nonfat Greek yogurt. There’s a hitch, though: Yogurt curdles over heat and can’t be added to a hot pan. Instead, use this technique:

     

    Steak With Rosemary

    Grilled Salmon With Gremolata

    Steak and Gravy

    Spaghetti With Fresh Tomato Sauce

    Top: Pan-grilled steak atop a pool of garlic-infused olive oil. Photo courtesy Quinciple. Second: Grilled salmon on a plate rimmed with basil olive oil and a garnish of gremolata: finely chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. Photo courtesy Eddie Merlot’s. Third: Have fun with it: Use a squeeze bottle to turn your sauce into polka dots or zig-zags. Photo courtesy Strip House. Fourth: A can of San Marzano tomatoes becomes a quick sauce. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

  • Spoon the yogurt into a bowl and let it warm to room temperature.
  • Temper the yogurt by stirring in a tablespoon of the hot sauce—not enough to curdle it but enough to get the yogurt used to it.
  • Blend in the rest of the sauce.
  •  
    Bon appétit!
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Trim Your Cocktail Calories

    Red Cocktail Mint Garnish

    Herradura Agave Nectar

    Top: Fruit purée and flavored spirits cut the need for sugar in cocktails. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful. Bottom: Agave nectar is a superior alternative to simple sugar. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Right after the new year, we were listening to the four principals on a top morning news show discuss what they would give up for a better new year. Not one could give up drinking!

    Yet, everyone wanted to eat more healthfully.

    An obvious choice is to avoid sweet, sugared cocktails in favor of savory ones: Bloody Mary, Martini, Scotch and Soda and the like. But some people insist on a sweet cocktail.

    Mixologist Sam Fuerstman at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. has crafted a few lower-calorie cocktails, including a “no-guilt Gimlet” and a “cheat-free Margarita.”

    The recipes are below. Here are general tips for cutting cocktail calories:

  • Rethink simple syrup, the main cocktail sweetener, which is half sugar, half water (or worse, HFCS in a prepared mix product). Instead, use much-lower-calorie, low-glycemic agave nectar*. If you want a zero-calorie simple syrup, dissolve one part stevia or Splenda in four parts boiling water. It won’t be thick, but it will deliver sweetness.
  • Use flavor-infused spirits. They contribute flavor without extra calories, and are available in any flavor you could desire.
  • Avoid cocktails with high-calorie juices (e.g. alas, no Piña Colada).
  • Use fruit purée or freshly squeezed juice instead of store-bought juice, which may have added sugars. Take a look at Trop 50: nine different juices, including orange juice, with half the sugar and calories.
  • Use diet mixers instead of sugar-laden ones. Even if you don’t normally buy diet drinks, you can use diet tonic water, ginger ale, cola, cranberry juice, etc. in your drink.
  •  
    and…

  • Sip flavored spirits straight. They taste like a mixed drink; but remember that they’re 80 proof. To us, SKYY’s Pineapple Vodka is a low-calorie alternative to a Piña Colada. Make straight spirits more cocktail-like with crushed ice and a fruit garnish.
  •  
    *Agave nectar, also called agave syrup, has a natural sweetness that’s more elegant than table sugar. It’s never cloying or “sugary.” Its glycemic index is 32, half that of sugar (GI 60-65) and more than 40% less than honey (GI 58) and pure maple syrup (GI 54); it’s diabetes-friendly. A teaspoon of agave has 20 calories; sugar has 16 calories and honey has 22 calories. But since agave is 1.4 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, you don’t need to use as much (we use half as much).

     

    RECIPE: NO-GUILT RASPBERRY VODKA GIMLET

    This no-guilt gimlet has a double raspberry twist: raspberry purée plus raspberry-flavored vodka.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 tablespoon homemade raspberry purée
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 ounces raspberry vodka
  • Garnish: cucumber wheel, fresh raspberries, lime wedge or lime wheel, lemon curl
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURÉE the raspberries in a food processor or blender. Taste; if you need more sweetness, add a bit of Splenda or agave.

    2. COMBINE with the other ingredients. You can serve the drink on the rocks, or shake it with ice and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass.

     

    RECIPE: NO-PANIC POMEGRANATE MARGARITA

    Here, fresh fruit juice substitutes for the standard sugary Margarita mixes. Here’s how to make pomegranate juice from fresh pomegranates. You can also purchase pomegranate juice with no added sugar.

     
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • ½ ounce of fresh pomegranate juice
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • Coarse salt and optional lime zest for rim
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ZEST the lime before juicing it and blend with the salt in a shallow dish. Rub the rim of the glass with a slice of lime slice to make the salt mixture stick to it; then dip the glass rim into the salt and twist to coat.

    2. SHAKE the other ingredients with ice, and then carefully pour into the glass, taking care not to dislodge any salt. Serve over ice.
     

    RECIPE: SUGAR-FREE MINT GIN FIZZ

    Sprite Zero substitutes for the simple syrup in a Gin Fizz.
     
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 fresh mint sprigs
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 2½ ounces Sprite Zero
  • Ice
  • Garnish: fresh mint sprig(s)
  •  
    Preparation

     

    Pomegranate Margarita

    Mint Cocktail Garnish

    Top: Pomegranate Margarita with homemade pomegranate juice. Photo courtesy Tony Roma’s. Bottom: Fresh mint provides flavor and aroma that trumps the lack of sugar in this Gin Fizz. Photo courtesy Junoon | NYC.

     
    1. MUDDLE the mint sprigs in a glass with the lime juice. Add the gin and top with Sprite Zero.

    2. POUR over ice and garnished with a sprig of mint leaves.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Red Grapefruit, The Best Winter Fruit

    Grapefruit is a winter fruit, and we’re glad to have it.

    America is the world’s largest consumer of grapefruit, with large commercial groves in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. But the grapefruit’s ancestor, the pummelo (also pomelo, pomello and other spellings), comes from far away. It’s native to Malaysia and Indonesia.

    THE HISTORY OF GRAPEFRUIT

    In 1693, pummelo seeds were brought from the East Indies to the West Indies—Barbados—by an English ship commander, one Captain Shaddock. The grapefruit may have been a horticultural accident or a deliberate hybridization between the larger pummelo and the smaller sweet orange. The original grapefruit was about the size of the orange.

    Its name evolved in English to a descriptive one: The fruit grows on trees in grape-like clusters. The fruit was pretty but very sour and the thick took time to peel. For a long time, it was grown only as an ornamental tree.

    The grapefruit arrived in the U.S. in 1823, but it was not immediately popular for eating. The tart fruits had numerous tiny seeds and required a generous sprinkling of sugar.

    Growers learned how to breed selective fruits that were sweeter, and in 1870, the first grapefruit nursery was established in Florida.

    In 1885, the first shipment of grapefruits arrived in New York and Philadelphia, generated interest and helped to create the commercial grapefruit industry.

    Here’s a longer history of grapefruit.

    Most grapefruit grown is white grapefruit. But hopefully that will change: Red grapefruit (not pink) is where it’s at.
     
    HOW RED GRAPEFRUIT DEVELOPED

    The first grapefruits were white. Pink grapefruit, a mutation, was first discovered in 1906 in the groves of the Atwood Grapefruit Company in Manatee County, Florida.

       

    Sweet Scarlett Red Grapefruit

    Star Ruby Grapefruit

    Top: Sweet Scarlett red grapefruits. Photo courtesy Wonderful Fruit. Bottom: The yellow rinds often have a pink blush. Photo of Star Ruby grapefruits courtesy Specialty Produce.

     
    One day, a grove foreman peeled a grapefruit with the intention of eating it, and discovered that the fruit inside was pink! A local nurseryman was able to propagate the pink fruit, and it met with big success: In addition to a more pleasing color, the flesh tended to be sweeter.

    Another mutation gave us red grapefruit, which was originally discovered growing on a pink grapefruit tree in Texas. It was patented as Ruby Red grapefruit in 1929. Red grapefruit is known in agriculture as a “limb sport,” a mutation of one limb (branch) that has different fruit characteristics than the rest of the tree.

    A hit from the start, sweeter with alluring rosy red flesh, Ruby Reds are marketed under different names: Flame, Rio Red, Rio Star, Ruby-Sweet, Star Ruby, Sweet Scarletts, TexaSweet and others.

    While consumers call these different red grapefruits “varieties,” botanically it’s more accurate to call them different “selections” because they are all derived from one another as descendants of the original Ruby Reds. Each has different small attributes, tailored to succeed in different climates and soils.

    Otherwise stated, all of the different deep red grapefruits grown around the world—Rio Red in Texas, Star Ruby in South Africa, Flame in Florida, etc.—are not botanically different, but have been adapted to the the climate and soil in each region.

    Different selections also have different shades of flesh. For example, Florida’s Ruby Reds are deep pink, while Flame grapefruits have deep red flesh.

     

    Red Grapefruit & Avocado Salad

    Simple yet elegant: Rio Star grapefruit
    sections in an avocado half. Here’s the easy
    recipe
    . Photo courtesy TexaSweet.

     

    WHAT MAKES THE FLESH RED?

    Red and pink grapefruits contain lycopene, a phytochemical (antioxidant) found in tomatoes and some other red fruits and vegetables such as papaya, red carrots and watermelon. Red grapefruits have a greater concentration than pink grapefruits.

    Why are red grapefruits sweeter?

    It’s all in the weather. Sweet Scarletts, for example, are grown in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where hot days, cool nights and the unique terroir† merge to create the ideal grapefruit.

    Most red grapefruits are grown in Texas, since the The Texas climate produces the sweetest red grapefruits.
     
    DON’T LET THE SEASON PASS YOU BY

    Different regions are ready to harvest at different times; but in general, red grapefruit is available from October through March.

    We have been enjoying a box of Sweet Scarletts, and couldn’t be happier. They’re so sweet and lush, who needs ice cream?

     
    If you aren’t already a grapefruit lover, head to the store and bring some home. They’re sweet, juicy, and low in calories* (42 calories per 3.5 ounces of flesh). It’s one of our favorite great-tasting and great-for-you foods.
     
    HOW MANY DIFFERENT WAYS CAN YOU SERVE RED GRAPEFRUIT?

    Here are nine pages of red grapefruit recipes, from cocktails and appetizers through main courses, sides and desserts.

  • One of our favorite preparations is red grapefruit sorbet. Here’s a recipe from Emeril via Martha Stewart.
  • Red grapefruit sorbet is also delicious in a dessert cocktail. Fill a Martini glass or coupe with sparkling wine and add a scoop of sorbet. Garnish with some grated grapefruit zest.
  • Another favorite preparation: broiled grapefruit. It takes just three minutes: Sprinkle a half grapefruit with brown sugar, place on a cookie sheet and broil for three minutes. It’s ready when the sugar melts and gets crispy—the grapefruit version of crème brûlée.
  •  
    Many thanks to to Etienne Rabe, Vice President, Agronomy at Wonderful Citrus in California, for explaining the fine points of this “wonderful” fruit.
     
    ______________________________________
    *For those who closely monitor their nutrition, they’re high in the cancer-fighting antioxidant vitamin A; the free-radical-fighting antioxidant vitamin C; the vision-friendly flavonoid antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein, naringenin and xanthin; the dietary fiber pectin (which also lowers cholesterol); and potassium, which counters the negative effects of sodium; among other nutrients such as B vitamins. Red grapefruit also contains the powerful flavonoid antioxidant, lycopene, which protects skin from damage from UV rays and fights macular degeneration and several types of cancer.

    †Terroir, a French word pronounced tur-WAH, refers to the unique combination of geographic location, climate and microclimate, soil and temperature that creates the individual personality of an agricultural product. As in the growing of grapes for wine or beans for coffee, terroir dramatically affects the flavor profiles of the product.

      

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