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TIP OF THE DAY: Healthy Valentine Gifts

Kiklos Olive Oil

Hot Pickle Slices

Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge Soda

Sashimi Deluxe

25 Year Old Balsamic Vinegar

[1] For good health: extra virgin oil (photo courtesy Kiklos). [2] For low calories: artisan pickles, like a gift collection from Rick’s Picks. These Hotties for your hottie are just $6.99 (photo courtesy Rick’s Picks). [3] No calories: Chocolate seltzer or diet chocolate soda. [4] A healthy dinner: sashimi (photo courtesy Kabuki Restaurants). [5] For the gourmet: 25-year-old balsamic vinegar (photo courtesy Gear List)

 

Not everyone wants chocolate for Valentine’s Day, or cupcakes with red and white sprinkles.

Here are some delicious food ideas for the health enthusiast, the calorie counter, and anyone staying away from the sweets.

KIKLOS OLIVE OIL

Olive oil for Valentine’s Day?

While this is a delicious EVOO for salad lovers, we first thought of this as a gift for health enthusiasts.

The government recommends two tablespoons of olive oil a day as part of a heart-healthy diet—a practice that should start long before we’re at the age to worry about heart health!

They can take the form of salad dressing; but we actually like to drink ours.

The Koroneiki olives in Kiklos olive oil are grown in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece. The varietal is known for levels of fruitiness, bitterness, and pepperiness.

We found our bottle of Kiklos Greece to have buttery flavor with a bit of peppery kick (i.e., not earthy, green, grassy, or other olive oil flavors that some people might not to drink from the spoon. Everyone will like it.

Plus, the handsome bottle (photo #1) even looks healthy! For your Valentine, add a red ribbon or a few peel-and-stick hearts.

Buy it on the company website for $29; the bottle is 500 ml/16.9 ounces.

Check out this olive oil wheel for an overview of all the flavors and aromas of olive oil.
 
ARTISAN PICKLES

At upwards of of $10 per bottle, even the most avid pickle enthusiasts don’t eat artisan pickles as often as they like.

Look to your local farmers markets, or to online specialists like Rick’s Picks.

Rick’s Picks has a variety of gift boxes, but for a small Valentine gift, how about a bottle of Hotties spicy pickle chips (photo #2) for your own special hottie?

Crunchy, spicy, tangy and low in calories: Help make Hotties a go-to Valentine gift.

 
NON-CALORIC CHOCOLATE SODA OR SELTZER

Canfield’s Diet Chocolate Fudge Soda has long been a staple food for calorie-counting chocolate lovers.

We especially like to add it to nonfat milk for a diet egg cream, or add a small scoop of ice cream for a float.

It’s sold nationwide; but if you can’t find it locally, you can buy a six-pack of Canfield’s Diet Chocolate Fudge Soda on Amazon (photo #3). Tie a bow on it.

For those who don’t like artificial sweeteners, look for chocolate-flavored seltzers. In our neck of the woods, we can find White Chocolate Seltzer from Adirondack Beverages. We buy it by the case.
 
SASHIMI DINNER

There’s no better place to dine than a Japanese restaurant: no bread basket or dessert temptations.

There are different types of salads, the soups are low in calories, you can often get brown rice, and green tea goes better with the food than cocktails.

A deluxe sashimi plate is the best way to load protein with fewer calories (photo #4). Be sure to eat the yummy seaweed. Radish lovers: Enjoy that shredded daikon!

If you aren’t taking the giftee to dinner yourself, put the restaurant gift certificate (or any gift card) in a Valentine card.
 
BALSAMIC VINEGAR

For us, nothing says I love you better than a pricey bottle of super-aged authentic balsamic vinegar (photo #5).

A true gourmet looks forward to these precious drops, so dense they stand up by themselves, which are meted out with an medicine dropper.

This is not the vinegar with which to dress salads; it’s an exquisite accent to anything from filet mignon to the finest Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Other traditional uses are the season’s best tomatoes or strawberries, pound or angel food cake. You place droplets of balsamic on the plate, and dip the food into it. You never cook with it

Once you have your first taste, you may simply decide to drink droplets from the spoon!

 
These precious liquids are sold in 100 ml/3.4-ounce bottles.

  • A 25-year-old balsamic is in the $140-$180 range.
  • A 50 year-old is double that.
  • A 75 year-old is easily double that.
  •  
    Why so pricey?

    Someone has not only been paying the expense to store it under proper conditions, but has not earned a penny from it in 25-50-75 years.

    If you see bargain prices, no matter what the label says (“authentic balsamic from Modena, Italy”), with a a red wax seal and/or a fancy box, pass it by.

    Given the normal prices of super-aged balsamic, there’s a lot of counterfeiting around. Or if not counterfeit, it may contain a drop of 50 year old balsamic mixed in with, say, 12-year-old balsamic.

    The bottom line: Buy from a reputable, knowledgeable retailer.

    Authentic bottles are of the shape shown in photo #4, are numbered, and have the Consorzio seal. Here’s more about balsamic vinegar.
     
    TOMORROW: A MOST LUXURIOUS VALENTINE GIFT.

    And…it’s still a better-for-you gourmet gift.

    Most of it, anyway.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cook Sorghum For Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

    When we first saw the word sorghum, it was as a tween, in the reading of “Gone With The Wind.”

    There was no sugar available in the blockaded, war-torn South, so Scarlett O’Hara sweetened her coffee substitute, chicory, with sorghum syrup, a molasses substitute.

    For decades, we thought of sorghum as a sweetener. After all, it’s not something you come across in the American diet.

    That is changing, with the rise in demand for gluten-free whole grains.

    Sorghum is an ancient Old World whole grain that has been cultivated for millennia.

  • It’s an energy food that’s gluten free, cholesterol free and non-GMO.
  • It’s a good source of fiber and iron.
  • It has 5g of protein per serving.
  • Its neutral flavor can be paired with any foods; it can be substituted for rice or lentils in dishes like paella and biryani.
  • You can find whole grain sorghum, pearled sorghum, sorghum flour and sorghum-based flour mixes.
  • It cooks, freezes and reheats easily.
  •  
    You can also pop sorghum seeds. The result looks just like popcorn.

    COOKING SORGHUM: WHERE TO START?

    Click to the links featured in the photos, and/or pick up a sorghum cookbook.

    WHAT IS SORGHUM?

    Sorghum is a genus of plants in the grass family—the family that includes the other grains (see the list below).

    Seventeen of the twenty-five sorghum species are native to Australia. One species, Sorghum bicolor, native to Africa, has become an important crop worldwide.

    Most varieties of sorghum are drought- and heat-tolerant, and are especially important crops in arid regions, where the grain is a dietary staples for the poor and rural populations.

    Sorghum is not only used for food (as grain and sorghum syrup, similar to molasses), but is brewed into alcoholic beverages, used as animal fodder, and made into biofuels.

    Nutritionally, it is similar to raw oats. A serving contains 20% or more of the Daily Value of protein; the B vitamins niacin, thiamin and vitamin B6; and several dietary minerals, including iron (26% DV) and manganese (76% DV).

    HULLED VS. PEARLED GRAINS

    When you see a grain labeled “hulled,” such as barley or sorghum, it indicates a whole grain.

    Hulled means that the the three parts of the seed—the bran, germ and endosperm—are intact, or “whole.” A whole grain provides optimum nutrition—vitamins, minerals and fiber.

    Only the inedible outermost layer, the hull, has been removed. This is true for all grains for human consumption: We can’t digest the hulls.

    Pearled grains are processed, like white rice. The polishing (pearling) removes the nutritious bran layer. The flavor is more delicate, not earthy; and it cooks faster. But a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber are lost in the process.

    Here’s more about whole grains and their nutrition.
     
    WONDERGRAIN: A LINE OF PREMIUM SORGUM PRODUCTS

    In 2012 Patricia Alemdar was given a taste of crushed sorghum from Haiti, where it’s considered a medicinal food. Although she liked the taste, she didn’t really care for the texture.

    (The common variety of sorghum is too dense to be cooked whole, so it needs to be crushed.)

    After months of research and testing, she and her mother produced a better, premium version of sorghum.

    It didn’t have to be crushed to be eaten whole. It had the softest bite and fastest cooking time. They launched it in 2014, and branded it Wondergrain.

    It’s a delicious addition to our table! The line is certified kosher by OU.

    Discover more at Wondergrain.com.
     
    FOOD FUN: NAME THE WHOLE GRAINS!

  • Amaranth
  • Barley (but not pearled barley)
  • Buckwheat (Kasha®)
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Chia/Salba®†
  • Corn (whole grain corn or cornmeal, yellow or white)*
  • Farro (emmer wheat)
  • Flaxseed
  • Grano
  • Hemp
  • Kamut® (Khorasan wheat)†
  • Millet
  • Oats (oatmeal, whole or rolled oats)
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Rice: black, brown, red, wild
  • Rye (whole)
  • Spelt
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Triticale (barley/wheat hybrid)
  • Whole wheat
  • Wild rice
  • ________________
    *Grits are refined and are not whole grains.

     

    Sorghum

    Pearled Sorghum

    Sorghum Hot Cereal

    Sorghum Grain Bowl

    Sorghum Salad

    Roast Chicken With Sorghum

    Sorghum Squash Pilaf

    [1] Sorghum (photo courtesy Wondergrain). [2] Pearled sorghum cooks faster, but is not a whole grain (see the discussion below—photo courtesy Healthy Nibbles And Bits). [3] BREAKFAST: A bowl of hot sorghum (here’s the recipe from Clean Eating Magazine). [4] LUNCH: Sorghum grain bowl with beans and avocado (here’s the recipe from Street Smart Nutrition). [5] Sorghum salad with kale pesto (here’s the recipe from Healthy Nibbles & Bits). [6] DINNER: Serve chicken or fish with a side of sorghum (here’s the recipe from Bon Appetit). [7] Add some grated cheese to this sorghum and squash pilaf (here’s the recipe from Cooking Light).

    †Salba is a trademarked name for chia, Kamut® is a trademarked name for khorasan wheat.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Poach Your Proteins

    Poaching Salmon

    Poached Tenderloin

    Poached Chicken

    Poached Salmon

    [1] Poaching salmon is the easiest way to enjoy moist, tender fish, without cooking fish aromas. Here’s a recipe from Cooking Light. [2] Our favorite way to make beef tenderloin is to poach it. Here’s a recipe from Martha Stewart. [3] If you make chicken in a pot, or chicken soup with pieces of chicken, you’ve poached a bird. Here’s a recipe from Enki Village. [4] Our first poaching attempt was inspired by classic French dish (here’s the recipe from Buck Cooks).

     

    Poaching food is a topic that doesn’t come up much these days.

    The age-old moist-heat cooking technique simply submerges raw food in a liquid. The technique cooks the food without pulling the moisture from it: The protein is moist, never dry.

    The food cooks at a relatively low temperature (about 160°–180°F), which is especially good for delicate foods (eggs, fish) that might fall apart or dry out with other cooking methods.

    Heartier foods—an entire beef tenderloin or chicken—work equally well.

    Decades ago, when we tried to master the art of French cooking, we purchased a large, oblong fish poacher, a pan created to poach a whole fish.

    Cold poached salmon was a mainstay of French cuisine, served with dill sauce and marinated cucumbers. We loved it and ate it regularly, at the numerous classic French restaurants that graced New York City back then. It looked easy to make, and it was.

    But we subsequently discovered that serving it nicely takes a bit of training. The captains at the French restaurants new how to cut neat slices, avoiding the bones. Our salmon looked like it had been hacked by starving hordes. Sigh.

    We stuck the poacher in the cupboard (until, 10 years later, we learned to poach an entire beef tenderloin, a cinch tot slice), and stuck to poaching fillets. They require zero skill to serve.

    START POACHING TODAY

    Just about any food can be poached, poaches up moist and flavorful, and can be served warm or cold.

    Poaching proteins are an easy and healthy preparation; all your healthcare providers and trainers approve. Poaching has:

  • No added fat.
  • No unwanted aromas drifting through the house.
  • No “watching the pot” (or the grill).
  • Clean-up is easy: nothing sticks to the pan.
  •  
    Bonus:

    You end up with an extra dish, or part thereof.

    The poaching liquid becomes a delicious broth that can be served later, thickened into a sauce, or used in other recipes.

    WHAT’S IN THE POACHING LIQUID?

    The poaching liquid can include whatever flavors you want, from the base to the add-ins.

    Our wine editor, Kris Prasad, who taught us to poach a tenderloin, advised: “Toss in whatever you have: leftover wine, herbs, soy sauce instead of salt, a splash of balsamic, citrus juice or vinegar for tartness. Anything works.”

    The poaching liquid can be:

  • Water or stock/broth
  • Milk, as appropriate
  • Plain or blended with wine (including leftover sparkling wine), beer, dry vermouth, fruit juice
  • In terms of add-ins: Add in whatever flavors you like, from classic mirepoix—carrots, celery, onions—and fresh herbs, to the less obvious—cardamom, cinnamon sticks, star anise, whole nutmeg, etc.

     
    There are recipes galore online, and plenty of videos on YouTube, for anything you might want to poach.

    Don’t wait to try them: You may discover that poaching proteins is your favorite food discovery of the year.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat More Fish With Sashimi Salad

    If you want to eat more fish but don’t like cooking it, here’s an easy idea: sashimi salad.

    Just toss sliced fish over greens.

    Instead of opening a can or searing the fish tataki-style (briefly seared), sashimi salad is an easy alternative.

    A decade ago one of our favorite neighborhood sushi bars closed, taking with it one of our favorite foods, “marinated salmon”—was a mesclun salad with onions dressed in vinaigrette and topped with slices of salmon sashimi.

    It was deliciousness, low in calories, and had eye appeal: a culinary home run. We had it several times a week.

    When the restaurant was replaced by a cupcake parlor, we had to make it at home. Aside from fetching fresh salmon, it couldn’t have been easier.
     
     
    1. SELECT YOUR FISH.

    Ask for recommendations at the fish counter. The staff can also slice the salmon or tuna loins into sashimi-thickness slices.

    The typical sashimi slice is 2 inches by 1/16 inch, but you can have them sliced longer and thicker as you prefer (longer is also better to drape over a mound of salad, as in photo # 2).

    You can also consider the kaku-zukuri cut (“square slice”, photo #5) of 3/4-inch cubes (photos #1, #3 and #4).

    The sashimi sold in sushi restaurants in North America is flash-frozen, whether it is local or flown in from elsewhere. It is thawed before preparation. You can purchase flash-frozen fish in your supermarket, slowly thaw it overnight in the fridge and eat it the next day.

    You may also find live salmon and other varieties at Asian fish markets, where they can filet them for you.

     
    2. PICK YOUR GREENS.

    Are you in the mood for something more mild, like a mesclun mix; or a peppery arugula and watercress? A mixture is always a good idea.

    If you like crunch, consider shredded cabbage (cole slaw mix).

    We like onion in our salad. Japanese recipes use green onions (scallions); but you can add your allium of preference (the different types of onions).
     
     
    3. ADD OTHER VEGETABLES & FRUITS.

    Use whatever you have, or add whatever you like. We personally like:

  • Avocado
  • Baby beets
  • Blueberries and/or blackberries
  • Carrot curls
  • Cherry/grape tomatoes
  • Chinese vegetables: bamboo shoots, bok choy, napa cabbage, etc.
  • Diced honeydew
  • Edamame
  • Japanese pickles (oshinko and tsukemono, available online or at Asian food stores)
  • Lychees or rambutans
  • Mango or papaya
  • Orange or mandarin segments (particularly blood orange)
  • Radish slices, or shredded daikon (Japanese radish)
  • Seaweed salad or kimchi
  • Snow peas or sugar snap peas
  •    

    Sashimi Salad

    Sashimi Salad

    Sashimi Salad With Quinoa

    Sashimi Salad

    Square Cut Toro Sashimi

    [1] Mesclun with tuna cubes, at Kabuki Restaurants. [2] Conventional sashimi strips over a mounded salad, garnished with cherry tomatoes and tobacco, at Natsumi | NYC. [3] Double the nutrition: Sashimi salad over quinoa (or your whole grain of choice), at Sushi Samba. [4] Sashimi salad with wasabi & passionfruit dressing. Here’s the recipe from from Delicious | Australia. [5] kaku-zukuri, square-cut sushi; here, toro from Fish For Sushi.

     

    Shichimi Togarashi

    Nori Strips

    [6] Shichimi Togarashi, a blend of seven Japanese spices (photo courtesy Yahoo). [7] Nori strips, scissor-cut from nori sheets (photo courtesy Food Sharing With Little One).

     

    4. PICK YOUR DRESSING.

    Rice vinegar and/or lime juice with olive oil (and a splash of sesame oil if you have it) make an excellent basic vinaigrette for sashimi salad.

    You can also add salad oil to ponzu sauce.

    Here are some more-elaborate favorites:

  • Wasabi-passionfruit dressing.
  • Yuzu dressing.
  • Nobu’s sashimi salad dressing is simple: onion, rice vinegar, water, mustard and pinches of granulated sugar, sea salt and black pepper.
  • For something more lively, take a look at this mint cilantro vinaigrette.
  • This gluten-free ginger dressing uses tamari instead of soy sauce, plus green onions and a splash of sake.
  • If you like things spicy, check out spicy Korean sashimi salad, hwe dap bap, which uses gochujang, spicy red pepper paste.
  • Or, simply splash some sriracha into the vinaigrette. This fusion recipe combines soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil, lime juice and sriracha.
  •  
     
    5. PICK YOUR GARNISH.

  • Citrus zest or julienned strips
  • Crispy Chinese noodle or wonton strips
  • Nori strips (photo #7)
  • Scallions, finely-sliceds
  • Sesame seeds—black, white, regular or toasted
  • Shichimi togarishi, Japanese spice blend (red chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed)
  • Tobiko (flying fish roe), available in different colors (green, orange, red, yellow) and flavors, like wasabi tobiko
  •  
     
    6. BEVERAGE PAIRINGS

  • Green tea or black tea, hot or iced (but no milk and sugar in the black tea). We especially like Genmaicha, green tea with toasted rice that gives it a lovely, nutty; flavor.
  • Mineral water, especially sparkling with a high level of minerals.
  • Rosé, sparkling wine or white wine.
  • Sparkling water/club soda, plain or citrus-flavored.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: 12+ Good-For-You Snacks For The New Year

    Four days into the new year, we can’t stop nibbling on the empty calories.

    So we put this list together, as a reminder that good-for-you snacks taste good, too.

    These are some of our grab-and-go favorites. For the sake of brevity, we’ve left off the most obvious—fresh and dried fruits, crudités, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, lowfat/nonfat plain yogurt, pepitas, pickles, popcorn, sugar-free Jell-O and pudding, tuna pouches, etc.—to present other ideas.

    For total convenience, they’re all grab-and-go.

    Enjoy them with a low-calorie beverage: flavored water or seltzer, hot or iced coffee or tea, bone broth, etc.

    SAVORY SNACKS

  • Edamame warm or dried: Edamame are green soybeans. They have a powerhouse mix of protein, slow-digesting carbs and nutrients like folate, iron, magnesium and vitamin K. If you have a microwave at hand, heat frozen edamame. The ones in the shell are better for snacking: They take longer to eat.
  • Jerky: While this meat treat does have some sugar, it is packed with protein. Our favorite brand is Krave, which has tender meat and nine delectable flavors. If you want a shot of caffeine with your jerky, we’re fans of Perky Jerky, with several flavors each in beef and turkey jerky.
  • Leafy green chips: Look for them at health food stores, or make your own. You can buy snack packs from companies like Rhythm Superfoods (which has five flavors of kale ships, plus beet chips). Here’s a recipe for microwave kale chips. We also like to make cabbage chips). You can also make chips from collards and any leafy green tops you may throw away, like beet tops and broccoli leaves.
  • Nut butter packets: individual servings in almond, hazelnut and peanut butter from Justin’s. You can simply squeeze the treat from the packet, or get the Snack Pack dipping package with pretzel sticks.
  • Other Vegetable chips: You can find carrot chips, green beans and mixed veggie chips in plastic containers at many retailers. Seek, and ye shall find.
  • Pistachios in the shell: Nuts are a nutritious snack, but it’s too easy to wolf down more than the recommended one-ounce portion. Pistachios are the best, because it takes time to remove them from the shell. Plus, pistachios have only 3 calories apiece, about half the calories of most snack nuts (example: for 100 calories you get 30 pistachios or 14 almonds). For a full ounce (the recommended portion):
  • *Almonds: 20-24 almonds have about 160 calories and 6 grams of protein.
    *Cashews: 16 to 18 cashews have about 160 calories and 5 grams of protein.
    *Peanuts: 28 peanuts have about 170 calories and 7 grams of protein.
    *Pistachios: 40 to 45 pistachios have about 160 calories and 6 grams of protein.

       

    Crunch-Dried Edamame

    Pistachio Snack Packs

    Olive Snack Pack

    [1] Edamame, steamed warm or dried, are packed with nutrition (photo courtesy Sensible Foods). [2] Pistachios are the best nut for snacking if you want the shell to slow you down (photo courtesy Wonderful Pistachios). [3] Load up on snack packs of olives—black, green, plain, flavored (photo courtesy Gaea).

    *Walnuts: 14 walnut halves have about 190 calories and 4 grams of protein.

  • Olive snack packs: heart healthy with fiber, individual snack packs are available in black and green, plain or flavored. There’s no liquid, no mess.
  •  

    Healthy Sweet Snack

    Red Grapes

    [4] Justin’s sweet or savory snack packs combine different flavors of nut butter—almond, hazelnut, peanut—with banana chips or pretzels (photo courtesy Cooking Light). [5] Easy peasy: freeze grapes or banana chunks (photo courtesy Only Gluten Free Recipes).

     

    SWEET SNACKS

  • Apple chips: One of our favorite sweet snacks just happens to be good for you: crunchy apple chips from Bare Snacks, in three varieties (Fuji, Granny Smith and Cinnamon). Naturally sweet with no added sugar, a half-cup serving is 110 calories.
  • Flavored nut butter packets: Justin’s has squeeze packets and Snack Pack dipping snacks with banana chips and chocolate, honey, or maple nut butter.
  • Frozen grapes: High in fiber, vitamins and minerals, frozen grapes are like a bite of an ice pop. One cup, about 32 seedless grapes, has about 100 calories. Red and purple varieties have more antioxidants. Wash seedless grapes, let dry, and freeze on a baking sheet. Store in an airtight zip-top bag. Frozen banana chunks are another option.
  • No Sugar Added Fruit Leather: The Stretch Island Fruit brand has no added sugar, and 45 calories per snack pack. There are six different fruit flavors.
  • No Sugar Added Popsicles: These may be grab-and-go, but you have to eat them on the go or they melt. Still, they’re one of our favorite ways to enjoy a frozen treat for 15 calories. There are also Creamsicles (30 calories) and Fudgsicles (80 calories). More information.
  • Sugar-Free Caramels: Werther’s makes sugar free hard caramels in original, caramel chocolate and caramel coffee. But our personal favorites are the soft, chewy sugar-free caramels.
     
    If your favorite good-for-you snacks are missing here, let us know!
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