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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.
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    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.
     
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    *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.

     
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    †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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    RECIPE: Creamed Spinach Without The Cream

    March 26th is National Spinach Day, honoring the most iron-rich vegetable, the reason Popeye was strong to the finish. Many people name Creamed Spinach as their favorite way to enjoy the vegetable—along with a juicy steak. It’s a steakhouse staple.

    To help tone down the richness a bit, some steakhouses are making their Creamed Spinach without cream. Chicken stock, flour and butter are substituted for the heavy cream or cream cheese.

    Executive Chef Eddie Advilyi from Angus Club Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan is one of the steakhouse chefs turning out Creamless Creamed Spinach (we’ve also had the dish at Benjamin Steakhouse). Chef Eddie shares his recipe with us:

    RECIPE: CREAMLESS CREAMED SPINACH

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound chopped spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base*
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (substitute black pepper)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup of melted butter
  •  
    _________________________________
    *Chicken base is a highly concentrated stock available in powder or cube form.

     
    Preparation

    1. BOIL or steam the chopped spinach and drain well.

    2. ADD the other ingredients. Mix until it becomes creamy, about 5 minutes.
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO ENJOY SPINACH

  • Pxali, Georgian spinach dip with walnuts
  • Savory Spinach Bread Pudding
  • Spanakoita, Greek spinach pie
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dip
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad
  • 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip
  • Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip
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    Creamless Creamed Spinach

    Ribeye, Creamed Spinach

    Fresh Spinach

    Top: Creamless Creamed Spinach at Benjamin Steakhouse. Center: Ribeye steak with Creamless Creamed Spinach at Angus Club Steakhouse. Bottom: Fresh spinach from Good Eggs.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SPINACH

    Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), is native to central and western Asia (think ancient Persia). It is a member of the botanical family Amaranthaceae, which also includes amaranth, beet, chard, lamb’s quarters (mache) and quinoa, plus numerous flowering house and garden plants.

    At some point, spinach was introduced to India and subsequently to Nepal. It arrived in China around 647 C.E., where it was known as “Persian vegetable.”

    It became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean, and in 827 was brought to Italy by the Saracens. It arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century, and in Germany by the 13th century.

    Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century and quickly became popular because it could be harvested in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce.

    Spinach was supposedly the favorite vegetable of Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), wife of King Henry II of France. Dishes served on a bed of spinach are known as “Florentine” after her birthplace, Florence. Florentine dishes are sometimes served with Mornay sauce, a béchamel sauce with cheese (usually Gruyère and Parmesan).

      

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    PRODUCT: Boulder Canyon Potato Chips With Healthier Oils

    March 14th was National Potato Chip Day, a good time to focus on what’s new in chips. We spent the day tasting Boulder Canyon chips fried in 100% better-for-you oils: avocado oil, coconut oil and olive oil:

  • Avocado Oil Chips: Canyon Cut, Jalapeno, Malt Vinegar & Sea Salt, Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper
  • Coconut Oil Chips: Kettle Chips, Sea Salt
  • Olive Oil Chips: Canyon Cut,
  •  
    They are variously made in standard cut kettle chips or “Canyon Cut,” with ridges. The potato chips are thicker (less breakage), very crisp, much less greasy and lower in sodium. We couldn’t stop crunching away.

    Find a retailer near you.

     
    ABOUT THE OILS

    Mass-market brands use different oils to fry their chips: canola, corn, cottonseed, sunflower or soybean oil, depending on price and availability. These are O.K., but are not better-for-you oils.

  • If you care about genetically modified foods, be aware that canola, corn, cottonseed and soybean oils are often made from them.
  • Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E antioxidants, but it’s also high in inflammatory compounds.
  •  
    On the other hand, avocado, coconut and olive oils are among the healthiest oils you can use.

    Yes, some of Boulder Canyon’s other chips use sunflower and/or safflower oil, but the new specialty oil chips are for consumers who care about the difference.

    The entire Boulder Canyon line is:

  • Certified gluten free
  • Non GMO
  • No MSG
  • No Trans Fat
  • Certified Kosher (by OK)
  • No Cholesterol
  • Low Sodium
  • Vegan
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    Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Chips

    Boulder Canyon Coconut Oil Chips

    Olive oil and coconut oil, two of the three better for you oils used by Boulder Canyon potato chips. Photos courtesy Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods.

     

    ABOUT BOULDER CANYON FOODS

    Since its inception in 1994, Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods has focused on premium snacks sold through the natural foods channel, where consumers were looking healthier alternatives to traditional snacks.

    The ingredients are top quality, non-GMO and minimally processed. The chips are cooked in small batches, in kettles instead of mammoth factory vats.

    A good community citizen, the company offsets 100% of its energy usage with Renewable Energy Credits. The purchase prevents as many as 3,421,989 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere annually.

    The company also participates in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, with a certification audit that the corrugated cardboard packaging used to transport and store products meets the standards of the Initiative.

    Here’s more about Boulder Canyon Foods.

      

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    RECIPE: Cabbage Slaw With Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

    Putting our money where our mouth is, our follow-up to Make Cabbage The New Kale is this recipe for an alterntive to cole slaw.

    Instead of mayonnaise, it uses a vinaigrette flavored with lime juice and cumin.

    RECIPE: CABBAGE SLAW WITH CUMIN-LIME VINAIGRETTE

    Who needs mayonnaise? This cabbage slaw recipe, from Quinciple.com, is a fresh take on the conventional cole slaw recipe.

    Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, cored and thin sliced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  •  

    Cabbage Slaw With Lime

    It’s this simple to make your own cabbage slaw. This mayo-free recipe is from Quinciple.com.

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the cabbage in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients and pour the dressing over the cabbage.

    2. TOSS well to coat. If you have the time, let the slaw sit in the fridge for a half hour to allow the flavors to meld.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Rebel Fish Salmon Fillets

    THE NIBBLE has always written about better-for-you foods. But each January, when people make their resolutions to eat better in the new year, we declare it Healthy Food Month.

    In January, we don’t tempt you with gourmet potato chips, artisan chocolates or lemon meringue pie. Instead, we show that it really is easy to find or make delicious foods that are good for you.

    Take salmon. We all should eat more of it; but buying fresh fish or defrosting frozen fish, then cooking it, takes time and planning. You have to cook the fresh or defrosted fish in a day, before it starts to go “fishy” and deteriorates.

    (NOTE: Do not thaw frozen seafood at room temperature; it enables bacteria to multiply. Instead, thaw it in the fridge, allowing one to two hours per pound; or defrost it in the microwave right before cooking).
     
    BETTER EATING WITH REBEL FISH

    We have become very fond of Rebel Fish, the first U.S. branded line of fresh salmon that comes prepackaged with seasoning packets.

    Always fresh, never frozen and of very high quality, the product should become an instant favorite with consumers. A scrumptious fish fillet can be cooked in 90 seconds. It’s all natural: no artificial flavors or preservatives.

    The founders of Rebel Fish believe that we would eat more fresh fish if it were easier to buy and prepare. They’ve made it super easy.

  • The salmon is packaged in an innovative way that preserves freshness. The shelf life is 7 days or longer.
  • The fillet rests in a plastic tray inside the outer carton. All one need do is roll back the plastic and place the tray in the microwave. It’s fool-proof.
  • It can be cooked on the stove top or in the oven, but you can’t beat the 90-second microwave technique.
  •  
    The result: moist, silky, flaky salmon that’s the best we’ve ever cooked at home. We don’t even use the seasonings. We prefer the fish plain (that’s how tasty it is), or with a touch of freshly-ground pepper.
     
    WHAT YOU GET

    Inside each Rebel Fish carton is a 6-ounce salmon fillet and a packet of seasoning that you can sprinkle on it. Choices include:

  • Barbeque
  • Cajun Blackened (our favorite)
  • Cilantro Lime
  • Lemon Pepper Herb
  • Maple Mesquite
  • Smoked Sea Salt
  • Thai Chili
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    Rebel Fish Packages

    Raw Salmon Fillets

    Grilled Salmon Nicoise

    Top: Each flavor is packaged in a different bright color. Second: What’s in the package? One six-ounce salmon fillet and a seasoning packet. Bottom: A 90-second cooked filet atop salad greens. All photos courtesy Rebel Fish.

     
    The only difference is the seasoning packet. Frankly, the blends are not our cup of tea—too complicated, with (egad!) added sugar. We, and likely most retailers, would prefer only one SKU (stock keeping unit*, more in the footnote at the bottom).
     
    The MSRP is $5.99 per serving. We’re more than happy to pay it.
    ___________________________
    *SKU, stock keeping unit, is a retailer identification that allows a product to be tracked for inventory purposes. Each size, flavor, etc. has a different SKU. Thus, the six different flavors of Rebel Fish require six SKUs.

     

    Grilled Salmon With Bowtie Pasta

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    Salmon With Mixed Vegetables

    Top: Salmon atop bow tie pasta. Middle:
    With a Mexican influence: corn kernels, diced
    bell pepper and crumbled cotija cheese. Bottom: With asparagus and baby potatoes. Photos courtesy Rebel Fish.

     

    WHERE DOES THE SALMON COME FROM?

    Rebel Fish salmon is raised in pristine Pacific Ocean waters. It is farmed rather than wild, but the fish are isolated and contained in a pure environment that nearly replicates the wild and may be even better: guaranteed food, clean water, space and habitat without predators.

    Conditions are ideal for producing premium salmon with great flavor and delicate texture. Farming ensures a reliable year-round supply of fresh salmon.

    Rebel Fish salmon are nurtured throughout their natural growth cycle to ensure their welfare, as well as to guarantee high quality. State-of-the-art, stress-free farming practices are both sustainable and healthier for the fish.

    The program is SQF certified, which assures wholesale buyers and retail customers that food has been produced, processed and handled according to the highest standards.

    SQF is a food safety program that is recognized globally for food safety certification, and is the only program that the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) endorses for food production, manufacturing, storage and distribution agencies.

    The brand’s parent company is Marine Harvest Group, the world’s leading seafood company and largest producer of farmed salmon, with top certification.
     
    SALMON NUTRITION

    Farmed salmon is as nutritious as wild salmon. In fact, a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that farmed salmon typically has more omega-3† fatty acids than wild salmon.

    Note that actual amounts can fluctuate as they are influenced by factors such as species of salmon, water temperature, type and availability of food, and stage of maturity. One big difference is that farmers can create consistent levels of omega-3s in their salmon by controlling the amount and composition of the feed to produce consistently nutritious salmon.

    Rebel Fish Salmon is an excellent source of protein and vitamin D that contains natural omega-3 fatty acids in addition to other critical vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, and vitamins A and B. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, at least twice a week to ensure you get plenty of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
     
    What about the name? The company says that it encourages consumers to “rebel against the ordinary” when it comes to meal preparation.

     
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    †Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that may promote brain development, heart health and may also reduce the risk of chronic disease. Seafood is a natural source of two healthy omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Since our bodies cannot make omega-3, it’s important to regularly include them in our diets. The American Heart Association recommends that adults have two servings of omega 3 per week to maintain optimal health benefits.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Drink Kefir, Delicious & Very Healthy

    Strawberry Kefir

    Green Valley Lactose Free Kefir

    Lifeway Frozen Kefir

    Top: Kefir as a midday snack or even a better-for-you dessert. Photo © Viktorija | Fotolia. Middle: Green Valley Organics makes lactose-free dairy products, including kefir, yogurt, sour cream and cream cheese. They’re a godsend to dairy lovers with lactose intolerance. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE. If you’re sensitive to cow’s milk, or simply prefer goat’s milk, turn to Redwood Hill Farms kefir. Photo courtesy LAFujimama.com. Bottom: Frozen kefir is an alternative to frozen yogurt with a higher probiotic content. Photo by River Soma | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Media attention is so interesting. In terms of “healthier options,” we’re blanketed with pitches for kale and quinoa, hummus and Greek yogurt, even juice bars.

    But we haven’t heard anything on probiotics in ages. In case you don’t remember: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help to promote digestive health and enhance the immune system. Five years ago, probiotics were the “it” food ingredient.

    Today’s tip is to take a look at kefir, a highly probiotic beverage that is also highly delicious.
     
    WHAT IS KEFIR

    Kefir, pronounced kuh-FEAR, is a tart fermented milk beverage. It is often called “drinkable yogurt,” although the recipes for yogurt and kefir vary (see below).

    In fact, kefir is even healthier than yogurt. It has been called “super yogurt,” since it is up to 36 times more probiotic than yogurt.

    Kefir is believed to have originated some 2,000 years ago among the shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains region—today’s Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In more modern times, it has long been enjoyed instead of milk, tea or other beverages in northern and middle Europe and the countries of the former USSR.

    As our “January Healthy Foods Month” winds down, we offer up kefir as a must-try. You can drink it at breakfast, lunch and snack time—or enjoy frozen kefir for dessert.
     
    MODERN KEFIR

    Kefir drinkers have benefited from the the explosion of the yogurt category over the last few decades. What was once only plain, rustic kefir is now a vibrant category of yummy, lowfat, probiotic smoothies, so satisfying that you can substitute them for milkshakes when you want a sweet treat.

  • You can find all the standard fruit flavors (banana, berry, peach and pomegranate, for example) as well as seasonal ones. Lifeway Kefir alone offers Cranberry, Eggnog, Pumpkin Spice and Watermelon flavors.
  • There are veggie flavors, too. Lifeway makes vegetable kefirs in Beet, Cucumber and Tomato.
  • There are conventional lines and organic brands.
  • For frozen yogurt lovers, there’s Lifeway Frozen Kefir.
  •  
    KEFIR AS A HEALTH FOOD

    Kefir is not only delicious, it’s therapeutic. It contains millions of live and active probiotic cultures that clean and strengthen the intestines and help the body with healing and maintenance functions.

    People have been touting the numerous healing effects of kefir since the early 18th century. It has been used to treat allergies, atherosclerosis, cancer, candidiasis, digestive disorders, heart disease, hypertension, HIV, metabolic disorders, nervous system disorders, osteoporosis and tuberculosis.

    While kefir isn’t the panacea many believed it to be, it is a very healthy food, chock full of beneficial bacteria and yeast.

  • It contains numerous vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes, including healthy doses of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins A, B2, B12, D and K.
  • Kefir contains a substantial amount of tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids that is known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Some people see it as a “calming” drink.
  •  
    But the reason most people seek out kefir is for digestive health: help from the millions of probiotic bacteria in each serving.

    Probiotic bacteria, which are live and active cultures, occur naturally in the digestive tract, where they help promote a healthy balance, good digestion and overall intestinal vitality. People with digestive problems need more of these cultures than their systems naturally contain.
     
    KEFIR FOR THE LACTOSE-INTOLERANT

    Raw kefir. Some mildly lactose-intolerant people can enjoy kefir, as long as it is is raw and not cooked (cooking destroys the lactase enzyme, which digests the milk sugar, lactose). Read the labels, and if you can’t find raw kefir in your regular market, check the nearest health food store.

    Lactose-free kefir. There’s lactose-free kefir for people with a higher degree of lactose intolerance. Green Valley Organics, a brand of lactose-free dairy products we can’t live without, makes not just kefir and yogurt, but cream cheese and sour cream.

    Goat’s milk kefir. For those who prefer goat’s milk, there’s Redwood Hill goat kefir. People who are mildly lactose intolerant can often tolerate goat’s milk products. Lovers of fresh goat cheese may like the affinity.
     

    THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN KEFIR & DRINKABLE YOGURT

    There are several differences between yogurt and kefir, including how each is made, the types of bacteria present in each, and the flavor and consistency.

    Of greatest interest to those who seek probiotics for digestive health, is that kefir and yogurt contain different types of probiotic bacteria, which perform differently. And, as noted earlier, kefir has up to 36 times more beneficial bacteria. Net net, kefir is better for digestion.

  • Yogurt. The beneficial bacteria in yogurt help keep the digestive tract clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria found in a healthy gut. They pass through the digestive tract and are called transient bacteria.
  • Kefir. The bacteria in milk kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract and team up with the beneficial bacteria that live there. Kefir also contains contains some yeasts.
  •  
    If you’d like to drill down into the details of the differences, a great source is CulturesForHealth.com. The website can also guide you to making your own kefit, yogurt, and other cultured products at home.
     
    MORE TO DISCOVER

  • All about probiotics in our Probiotics Glossary.
  • All the different types of yogurt and kefir products in our Yogurt Glossary.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: More Uses For Granola…& A Better For You Granola Recipe

    Yogurt Parfait

    Granola Salad Topping

    Spicy Thai Cole Slaw

    Granola Coated Chicken

    Granola Baked Apples

    Top: The original granola add-on: a yogurt parfait from Fruits From Chile. Second: Granola as a salad topping at Nuts About Granola. Third: Spicy Thai coleslaw with granola from Nuts About Granola (here’s the recipe). Fourth: Granola-coated chicken or fish, from SayWhatYouNeedBlog.com (here’s the recipe). Bottom: Baked apples stuffed with granola from Reynolds Kitchen (here’s the recipe).

     

    Granola was originally devised by a doctor in 1863, as a spartan breakfast food. It was packed with fiber, intended to help people with digestive problems.

    Granola was reborn in the second half of the 20th century as a sweet breakfast creal, packed with dried fruit, refined sugars and fats. Most commercial brands of granola don’t qualify as a “healthy alternative” (just read the nutrition labels).

    Even when natural sugars are used—honey or maple syrup, for example—the calorie and carb count is just as high. Although natural sweeteners are theoretically “better” than refined sugars, the body metabolizes them exactly the same way*.

    Thus, today’s tip is to look for a granola that is low in sugars; or to make your own with agave or brown rice syrup, natural sweeteners with low glycemic indices.

    Then, try new uses for your granola: as a crouton substitute on salads, as a coating for chicken or fish fillets, etc. You’ll find ways to use it in every meal of the day, beyond the already-mainstay granola snack bars, cookies, muffins and yogurt parfaits.

    Be sure to try it with vegetables, from sweet potatoes to roasted carrots and other sweet veggies (beets, squash, sugar snap peas, rutabaga) but not corn: It’s overkill.

    Here’s a recipe for homemade, sugar-free granola, plus a way to use it to make crispy chicken breasts or fish fillets.

    RECIPE: SUGAR-FREE GRANOLA RECIPE

    Making your own granola lets you control the type and amount of sweetener and fat, while enabling you to add your favorite flavors: cinnamon, dark chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, vanilla, etc. You can make it organic, raw, whatever you like. Best of all, there is no “correct” recipe. Use whatever you like, in the proportions you like.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, bake time is 20 minutes.
     
    Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole rolled (“old fashioned”) oats
  • ½ cup nuts, chopped or sliced
  • ¼ cup seeds (sunflower or pumpkin seeds, plus chia or flaxseed if you like them)
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or brown rice syrup
  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, other healthy cooking oil or butter‡
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract
  • 1 large pinch salt
  • Optional: ½ cup unsweetened dried blueberries, cranberries or other fruit†
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, mix well and toss to thoroughly coat the ingredients with the sweetener and fat.

    2. SPREAD the granola in a thin layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. That’s it!

    3. COOL, then store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Use it within 2 weeks.
     
    RECIPE: CRISP CHICKEN CUTLETS OR FISH FILLETS WITH GRANOLA

    Instead of Corn Flakes, coat your chicken or fish fillets with granola. This recipe from Viki’s Granola uses crisp panko bread crumbs to cut the sweetness; but if you’ve made your own lightly-sweetened granola, you can lessen or eliminate the panko. You may also want to use a granola without added fruit†, although chopped nuts add some nice crunch.
     
    Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/2 cup granola (Viki’s uses its Honey Granola)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1-1/4 pounds chicken cutlets (substitute fish fillets)
  • Canola or vegetable oil for frying
  • Preparation

    1. PLACE the beaten eggs in a shallow dish. Pulse the panko and granola in a food processor and place in a separate shallow dish. Place the flour in a third dish.

    2. SEASON the cutlets with salt and pepper. Place 1/8 inch of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. While the oil heats…

    3. DIP the cutlets first in the flour, then in the egg, then in the panko, shaking off the excess with each addition. When the oil is hot, add the cutlets.

    4. COOK until the bottoms are golden brown, about 3 minutes; then flip and brown the other side. Transfer to a platter lined with a paper towel.
     
    _____________________________________
    *There are natural, low-glycemic sweeteners: agave, glycemic index (GI) is 32, half that of sugar; and brown rice syrup, GI of 20. Agave is 1.4 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar and honey, so you don’t need to use as much. By comparison, the GI for honey is 58, pure maple syrup is 54 and refined sugar is 60-65.

    †You can keep your granola flexible by not adding dried fruit initially. It’s easy to mix it in when you want it.

    ‡Butter has recently been de-demonized as a bad fat. Margarine remains a demon.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: A Popcorn Bar For Healthy Snacking

    We’ve been getting daily pitches for Super Bowl snacks, none of which would pass muster with New Year’s healthy eating resolutions (crudités with yogurt dip instead of pizza and wings, for example).

    So we’ve decided to publish one of our favorite good-for-you snack (see below) that’s also lots of fun: the Popcorn Bar.

    Popcorn is a whole grain snack, and low in calories unless caloric toppings/mix-ins are added. But provide an assortment of healthy toppings along with the candy, and there will be something for everyone.

    WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR POPCORN BAR

    Better-For-You Toppings/Mix-Ins

  • Apple chips (our favorite is Bare Fruit)
  • Cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg (blend it yourself)
  • Chopped cilantro or other herb
  • Corn Nuts/Inka Corn
  • Diced jalapeño
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Mini pretzels or pretzel sticks
  • Nuts (pine nuts, peanuts, pistachios, slivered almonds)
  • Pepper or chile flakes
  • Seasoned salt
  • Seeds: chia, flax, pumpkin, sesame, etc.
  • Other spices
  • Trail mix
  •  
    Fun & Sweet Toppings/Mix-Ins

  • Candy: gummy bears, jelly beans, Junior Mints, mini
    marshmallows, mini peanut butter cups, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces
  • Chocolate-covered or candied nuts; candy-coated seeds
  • Coconut flakes
  • Chocolate chips and other baking chips (butterscotch, mint,
    peanut butter, vanilla)
  • Cinnamon sugar (blend it yourself: cinnamon, sugar and a bit
    of nutmeg)
  • Dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc.)
  •    

    Popcorn Toppings

    Popcorn Toppings

    Popcorn Bar

    Top: Popcorn bar; photo courtesy Brit.co. Middle: Candy-focused toppings for kids, courtesy Family Fresh Meals. Bottom: Popcorn bar from Popcorn.org.

  • Goldfish or other cheese crackers
  •  
    Plus

  • 3 cups of popped corn per person (it’s much better to pop the corn yourself and serve it fresh, than to buy it)
  • Bowls for ingredients and bowls for serving
  • Spoons for ingredients and for mixing them in individual bowls
  • Napkins
  •  
    RECIPE: EASY MICROWAVE POPCORN

    Plan on three cups per person. Instead of trying to make a mega-batch in the microwave, try no more than 1 cup of kernels at a time. Microwaves differ in power, so if you want to pop more than one cup at a time, do a test batch.

    Ingredients For 3 Cups

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable* oil
  • Brown paper lunch bag
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the popcorn and oil in a bowl and mix to coat. Add to bag and sprinkle in the salt. Fold the top of the bag over twice to seal in the ingredients.

    2. MICROWAVE on full power for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes, listening until you hear pauses of 2-3 seconds between pops. Remove the bag from the microwave. Even though there may be some unpopped kernels, to continue cooking risks burning the popped kernels.

    3. OPEN the bag carefully, releasing the hot steam; then pour into a serving bowl.
     
    *For an interesting twist, experiment with other oils you may have on hand: nut oils, sesame oil, etc.

     

    Popcorn Kernels

    It’s easy to make all-natural popcorn in the
    microwave with a brown paper bag. The
    result: additive-free corn. Photo courtesy
    Squawkfox.

     

    STOVETOP POPPING INSTRUCTIONS

    1. COVER the bottom of a 3- to 4-quart pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil (don’t use butter, it will burn). Place 3 kernels of popcorn in the pan, cover with a loose lid that allows steam to escape, and heat. When the kernels pop…

    2. POUR in enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan, one kernel deep. Cover the pan and shake to evenly spread the oil. When the popping begins to slow to a few seconds apart, remove the pan from the stove top. The heated oil will still pop the remaining kernels.

    3. COOL for at least 5 minutes before serving.
     
    WHY POPCORN IS GOOD FOR YOU

    It’s a pleasant surprise: home-popped popcorn is one of the healthiest snacks you can enjoy.

    It’s full of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help to neutralize the free radicals that contribute to aging. In fact, popcorn has one of the highest levels of polyphenols of any plant food.

    It’s also a whole grain, packed with fiber. If you use just a little butter or cheese, you’re adding a bit of cholesterol; but it’s just as easy to skip the cheese, use olive oil, and pile on lots of herbs and spices.

    Note that prepackaged, store-bought microwave popcorn is less good for you, made with chemicals and synthetics for flavoring and coloring.

    So pop it yourself—it’s easy enough!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Overnight Oats

    Overnight oats are trending. According to Pinterest, there were 5 million overnight oats pins in 2015, a whopping 211% increase over 2014.

    If your goal is to eat a better breakfast and more whole grains, here’s how it can be ready for you to eat each morning.
     
    WHAT ARE OVERNIGHT OATS?

    Overnight oats are a way of preparing oatmeal by soaking the oats overnight, instead of cooking them. Raw oats are soaked overnight in your choice of liquid: drinkable yogurt or kefir, milk or nondairy milk (almond milk is splendid), water, yogurt/water mix, whatever.

    The soaking turns oatmeal into a cold breakfast cereal, although you can certainly heat it.

    You can use rolled oats, steel cut oats, even instant oatmeal; although given that the latter is ready in a minute in the microwave, we’d focus on the first two.

    The mixture sits in a lidded jar oats overnight (or for at least 6 hours) as the oats absorb the liquid. When it’s time for breakfast the next morning, the oats are plumped up, soft and ready to eat, cold or heated, plain or with the toppings of your choice.

     

    Overnight Oats

    One of our favorites: strawberry overnight oats. Here’s the recipe from A Pumpkin And A Princess.

     
    You can eat the oats at home or grab the jar on your way out the door. It’s that easy!

    Add Your Own Touches

    You can customize the flavors with your favorite ingredients, by adding anything from nut butter to fruit purée to the jar. For example:

  • Apple Cinnamon overnight oats, add 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce plus 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Banana French Toast overnight oats, add ½ mashed banana ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon vanilla extra and 1 tablespoon maple syrup.
  • Almond Joy overnight oats, with coconut, chocolate chips and almonds.
  • Just About Anything Sweet. We’ve seen recipes for Brownie, Carrot Cake, Cinnamon Roll, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Mocha, Moose Tracks, Peanut Butter Cup, Peanut Butter & Jelly…and on and on. If it gets the kids to eat their oatmeal, go for it!
  •  
    Don’t like sweet? Experiment with savory recipes, from caraway seeds to red chili flakes.

     

    Plenti Oatmeal & Greek Yogurt

    Yoplait Plenti: Apple Cinnamon is one of six
    flavors with “overnight oats” in Greek yogurt.
    Photo courtesy General Mills.

     

    RECIPE: OVERNIGHT OATS

    There is no right or wrong ingredient or proportion: It’s how you like your oats. Here’s a guide for your first batch; you take it from here.

    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup liquid, or 1/2 cup each water and yogurt
  • Optional: peanut butter or other “custom ingredient,” e.g.
    1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon flaxseed meal or protein powder
  • Optional flavoring: cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, vanilla extract
  • Sweetener: agave, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, noncaloric sweetener, etc.
  • Toppings of choice: dried or fresh fruit, nuts and/or seeds, granola or other crunchy dry cereal
  • Lidded jar or other container
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX the oats and liquid in the jar with the optional peanut butter. Tamp down with a rubber spatula or a spoon so that all the oats get moistened.

    2. PLACE the jar in the refrigerator overnight. It’s ready to eat in the morning. If using peanut butter or other nut butter…

    3. BLEND the peanut butter briefly before refrigerating, just enough so that you’ll have swirls of it the next day. (We whisked it briefly.) When you’re ready to eat…

    4. ADD the sweetener, microwave if desired, and add your toppings of choice.
     
    TRY YOPLAIT PLENTI WITH OATS

    Yoplait Plenti has applied the concept of overnight oats to its yogurt cups, combining oats with Greek yogurt. There are 11 grams of protein and 16 grams of whole grain in every cup.

    The six flavors include Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry, Maple Brown Sugar, Peach, Strawberry and Vanilla.

    It’s a brand-new product, so if your grocer doesn’t have it yet, ask or keep checking.

    Learn more at PlentiYogurt.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Roasted Garlic, A Healthy Garnish

    Baked Garlic

    Roast Garlic

    A bulb of roasted garlic is a delicious
    accompaniment to grilled meats. Photo
    courtesy Sushi Roku Katana | West
    Hollywood.

     

    Originating more than 6,000 years ago in central Asia, garlic took the culinary world by storm, spreading from culture to culture. It is used in cuisines on all the world’s continents and is one of America’s most popular herbs*.

    A member of the onion genus, Allium (the Latin word for garlic), garlic’s cousins include the chives, green onions/scallions, leeks, onions and shallots. Its botanical family, Amaryllidaceae, comprises flowering plants, most grown from bulbs (including, not surprisingly, the amaryllis).

    Garlic is not only a delicious flavor to many people; it is also one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and may even fight Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

    Here’s more on the health benefits of garlic.

    The most common use of garlic involves crushing or mincing a few cloves and adding the raw garlic to a recipe. But you can cook entire bulbs or whole cloves of garlic as a side or a garnish to please your favorite garlic lovers.

    There are two principal ways to do this, each delivering different flavors and textures. Roasting an entire head of garlic is the simpler of the methods.

    Both produce a rich, sweet, mellow flavor that appeals even to people who don’t like the flavor of garlic in recipes.
    _________________________________________
    *An herb is a plant that is used to flavor or scent other foods.

    RECIPE: ROASTED GARLIC

    A head of roasted garlic is served as a hearty side with roasted meats and poultry.

  • You can scoop it from the head with a utensil, or squeeze it from the cloves onto bread or toasts—a different approach to garlic bread!
  • You can give each garlic lover his/her own roasted garlic head/bulb, or share a number of bulbs at the table.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. CREATE a “hinge” on the top of the garlic bulb/head by slicing horizontally into it. Stop before you cut completely through. Then close the hinge and wrap the entire head in aluminum foil.

    3. PLACE the packet in the oven and bake for at least 45 minutes. It’s ready when you can squeeze the bottom of the bulb and the sweet, caramel-colored garlic oozes out the top.

     

    RECIPE: GARLIC CONFIT

    Confit is a method of preservation whereby a food (usually meat, as in duck confit) is cooked slowly in fat. It is then submerged and stored in the fat, where it will last for months.

    You can adapt the technique to garlic. Using peeled garlic cloves instead of the whole bulb, the confit method develops a flavor similar to roasting, but is more conducive to using as a garnish.

    Use the garlic confit as a topping or side garnish for meat, poultry and grilled fish; with eggs; to top burgers and sandwiches; as part of a condiment tray with pickles; or any way that inspires you.

    The garlic-flavored oil that remains in the dish after cooking is a quick flavor booster in almost any recipe that requires oil—including a vinaigrette for the meal’s salad course, or bread-dipping, or marinades. We like to use it in mashed potatoes and to cook eggs.

    You can freeze or refrigerate the confit for future use, so don’t hesitate to make a large batch at once. Bring some to garlic-loving friends.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 225°F.

    2. PEEL the garlic cloves: First soak the unpeeled cloves in cold water for five minutes to loosen the skin. Slice off the root and tip with a sharp paring knife, then use the tip to lift off the papery skin.

    3. PLACE the peeled garlic cloves in an oven-safe dish with high sides, then cover completely with olive oil. You can also add aromatics to the oil—chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme—lemon zest, or chiles.

     

    Roasted Garlic

    Russian Red Garlic

    Top: Garlic confit, glistening cloves roasted in olive oil. Photo courtesy Apronclad.com. Bottom: Beautiful Russian Red garlic. Photo courtesy Chef Seamus Mullen | FB.

     
    4. COVER and bake for at least an hour, or until the cloves become soft enough to squish between your fingers. Remove from the oven and drain the oil into an airtight jar or other container. Store in the fridge.

      

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