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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for NutriNibbles/Organic

TIP OF THE DAY: Fun Ways To Use Healthy Foods

Mmmm…a fun way to eat more veggies.
Photo courtesy Nature Box.

 

Trying to turn over a new leaf, eating more kale and other good-for-you veggies, without giving up flavor and fun?

One of the major paths to better eating is to eat less meat and more vegetables. Yet many of us are veg-averse. Even if we like them, there’s always something we’d rather have (think pasta, pizza or a burger and fries, where the only veggies might be slices of tomato and onion and a piece of lettuce).

The secret is to serve recipes where the veggies can be “disguised” (see our favorite ideas below). Bright colors also work. What doesn’t seem to work with many people today is Mom’s approach: putting a protein on the plate with a side of string beans and a side of broccoli. So get creative on how to serve the beans and broccoli.

We picked up this idea from NatureBox.com, an e-tailer that delivers wholesome snacks and blogs on tasty, better-for-you foods. The fun and tasty spring rolls were developed by Lori Yates, a Detroit-area recipe developer, food writer and cooking instructor. She contributes healthier recipes with lots of visual appeal to the NatureBox blog, such as Thai Tofu Pizza and Salmon & Crispy Chickpea Salad and on her own blog, Foxes Love Lemons.

 
These spring rolls are a better-for-you snack or first course. Crunchy veggies are rolled in rice paper wrappers and served with a spicy creamy dipping sauce. The sweet potatoes are raw and sliced thin, for a texture like jicama but with more flavor and nutrients. Prep time is 25 minutes.
 
RECIPE: KALE & SWEET POTATO SPRING ROLLS

Ingredients For 6 Servings (18 Rolls)

For The Spring Rolls

  • 18 rice paper wrappers
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves torn into large pieces
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Kernels from 2 ears of corn (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  •  
    For The Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup light sour scream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons hot sauce
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dipping sauce: Stir together sour cream or yogurt and hot sauce. Set aside.

    2. WORKING one at a time, wet wrappers for 15 seconds and transfer to damp towel. Place kale in center of each wrapper and top with some beans, corn, sweet potato and onion.

    3. BRING the bottom edge of the wrapper tightly over the filling, rolling from bottom to top until the top of the sheet is reached, being careful not to tear the wrapper. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Serve immediately.
     
    MORE WAYS TO EAT BETTER: FAMILY CONTEST

    Get everyone into the act, thinking about how to “healthify” family favorites. Provide “healthy cookbooks” for reference: Cooking Light, Giada’s Feel-Good Food and the Eating Well Healthy In A Hurry Cookbook. Give a monthly prize to the best idea.

     


    Another better-for-you dish: chili that’s heavy on the veggies. Photo courtesy Swanson.

     

    Some of our most popular switches:

  • Chili that is more veggie than beef or beans. Here’s a tasty recipe from Swanson that “disguises” the veggies among the bean.
  • Mashed cauliflower with olive oil and Greek yogurt instead of mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream. Many people just assume the mashed cauliflower is potatoes.
  • Pasta primavera, with at least 50% veggies (aim for whole wheat pasta).
  • Salad pizza,” piled high with six or more of your favorite veggies (and a whole wheat crust!).
  • Stir frys—check out the Everything Stir Fry Cookbook with 300 recipes!
  • Also see:

  • Sneak More Veggies Into The Pasta
  • 5 Ways To Sneak More Veggies Into Your Diet
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Tipsy Chestnut Cake ~ A Chestnut Loaf Cake

    This wintery cake combines chestnuts and red wine, and has no added fat. Contributing blogger and cookbook author Hannah Kaminsky, who developed the recipe, explains:

    “Infused with a generous pour of Cabernet from the start and doused with an additional slug of brown sugar-enriched wine syrup—soaking each nook and cranny with a strong dose of sweet red wine—this cake knows how to party.

    “Studded with large pieces of roasted chestnuts, it’s a seasonal treat perfectly for the cold winter months. Though the jubilant days of Christmas and New Year’s feel like a lifetime ago, the current series of snow days are an excellent excuse to batten down the hatches and drown your sorrows—not in a stiff drink, but a strong slice of this tender cake.”

    We also recommend it as a gourmet Super Bowl dessert.

     

    chestnut-cake-hannah-kaminsky-ps-230

    Chestnut loaf cake with no added fat. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    If you don’t want cake for “happy hour,” enjoy it as a snack at any time of day, or for dessert with a bit of whipped cream. Don’t forget—the cake is fat free.

    “Purely by accident,” explains Hannah, “the recipe became much leaner than intended by my inadvertent omission of any added fat. So while this isn’t diet fare, it is a better-for-you cake.

    “Happily, the texture doesn’t suffer one bit without the oil. I would have never realized my mistake if not for my recipe notes. I guess it’s obvious that not all of the wine made it into the cake!”

     

    roasted-chestnuts_histomil-230

    Chestnuts roasted in a specialty chestnut
    pan. Photo courtesy Histomil.com.

     

    RECIPE: TIPSY CHESTNUT CAKE

    Ideally, prepare the cake a day in advance to allow the wine syrup to thoroughly meld with the crumb. Since you need less than 1-1/4 cups wine, you can use up leftover wine—or serve the rest of a new bottle with the cake.

    Ingredients For 8-10 Servings

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder (recipe below)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) very coarsely chopped roasted chestnuts (fresh or canned)
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine (Such as Cabernet
    Sauvignon, Merlot or Pinot Noir)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    For The Crimson Wine Syrup

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • Pinch salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F with rack in the center. Lightly grease and flour an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan.

    2. WHISK together the flour, sugar, five-spice powder, baking powder and soda and salt in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Add the chopped chestnuts and toss to coat with the flour blend to prevent the pieces from sinking to the bottom of the cake. Set aside.

    3. MIX the wine, applesauce and vanilla in a separate bowl; then add to the wet goods into flour mix. Use a wide spatula to combine, stirring just enough to blend without over-mixing. It’s perfectly fine to have a few lumps remaining.

    4. TRANSFER the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top before sliding the pan into the oven. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until deeply browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. While the cake is baking…

    5. PREPARE the red wine syrup by combining the wine, brown sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. If you’’d like the wine to retain a bit of its alcoholic bite, cook just until the sugar has dissolved. Alternatively, allow it to simmer for 5-10 minutes for the alcohol to boil out.

    6. PREPARE the baked cake while it is still warm by poking it numerous times with a skewer. Go deep to allow the syrup to penetrate far into the crumb. Pour the hot syrup over the cake and let cool completely before removing from the pan. Although the cake tastes best the next day after soaking a bit, it’s quite delicious to slice and serve as soon as it’s cool.

    RECIPE: CHINESE FIVE-SPICE POWDER

    Like adobo, chili powder, curry powder, fines herbes, garam masala, herbes de provence, ras-el-hanout, togarishi, za’atar and other spice blends, ingredients and the proportion of ingredients vary based on the cook or the manufacturer. Some five-spice recipes include anise seed, black or white pepper, cardamom, galangal, ginger, licorice, mandarin peel, nutmeg and turmeric.

    Since five-spice powder is also used in other Asian cuisines and in Middle Eastern cooking, there are regional preferences as well.

    Blend together:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
  •  
    Store any extra spice in an airtight jar.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Add Turmeric To Foods

    Turmeric is a rhizome with edible roots that grow underground horizontally. It’s related to ginger, which it somewhat resembles in external appearance.

    Most Americans know turmeric as a deep gold spice that gives its intense color to curry powder. It’s been used for millennia to impart its color to foods. In the last century, it was used to give ballpark mustard its bright yellow color.

    Turmeric has a peppery, bitter flavor and a mild aroma with a hint of its cousin, ginger, a note of orange.

    More recently, turmeric has been discovered to be a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancinogen. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is extracted and used in clinical studies for arthritis and cancer. (More on turmeric’s health benefits.)

    HOWEVER: Turmeric can stain! It is also used as a dye. Don’t get it on your clothes, and scrub pots and pans immediately after cooking with a large does of turmeric.

     

    Turmeric root. Photo courtesy Malaysian Kitchen.

    WAYS TO USE TURMERIC

  • Beans: Add to bean and legume dishes.
  • Butter: Add to compound butter, drawn butter or other melted butter, to use on corn, lobster, etc.
  • Dips: Add to mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt based dips.
  • Eggs: Add a dash to deviled eggs, omelets and scrambles.
  • Marinade: Combine with lemon in a chicken marinade.
  • Meat: Add to burgers, chili, meat balls, meatloaf, Sloppy Joes.
  • Rice: Add turmeric when cooking rice, or afterwards as a seasoning.
  • Salads: Mix into tuna, egg and other protein salads; into macaroni salad and potato salad; and add a pinch to salad dressing for green salads. Try a brown rice salad with raisins and cashews; season with turmeric, cumin and coriander.
  • Soups & Stews: Add to stews, lentil soup, pea soup and other hearty soups.
  • Vegetables: Delicious with sautéed kale, spinach and other greens, sautéed onions and roasted cauliflower or potatoes and mashed potatoes.
  •  

    Ground turmeric. Add it to salad dressings
    and dips for crudités. Photo courtesy
    McCormick.

     

    Turmeric Tea

    Dr. Weil made a terrific ready-to-drink turmeric tea that unfortunately didn’t catch on. But you can buy turmeric tea bags or make your own tea by simmering a teaspoon of the powder in four cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain through a very fine strainer and drink it hot or iced.

    Add some ginger root for even more flavor and health benefits. You can also buy turmeric-ginger tea bags.

    RECIPE: MOROCCAN CHICKEN SALAD

    Try this creative roasted chicken salad recipe from Woodhouse Chocolate.

    Ingredients

    For the Dressing

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (you can substitute
    regular paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  •  
    For The Roasted Chickpeas

  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 6 cups mixed baby greens
  • 8 Medjool dates, each cut into 8 slivers
  • 12-16 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 roasted chicken
  • 6 slices cooked bacon, cut into 6 smaller pieces each
  • 16 sprigs of cilantro
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE dressing: Whisk together the ingredients. Heat the oven to 400°F.

    2. DRAIN the chickpeas and dry them on a paper towel. Discard any stray skins. In a small mixing bowl, toss the chickpeas with the olive oil until evenly coated. Lay them in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place them in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, or until a nice dark golden brown. While the chickpeas are roasting…

    3. COMBINE the salt, cocoa powder and paprika. When the chickpeas are done, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of this mixture evenly over the chickpeas, moving them around to coat evenly. Save the rest of the salt for the next time you roast chickpeas.

    4. REMOVE the meat from the chicken. Slice the breasts and shred the leg/thigh meat.

    5. TOSS the greens with dressing in a large bowl. Add dressing to taste. On 4 dinner plates, fan out the chicken breast slices. Drizzle a little extra dressing over the chicken. Divide the greens evenly on the plates. Artistically place the dates, bacon, tomatoes and red onion over the salad. (Add some more of the shredded chicken if you like). Sprinkle some roasted chickpeas over and around the salad and top with a few leaves of cilantro.
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Clementines

    Today’s tip comes from guest blogger Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog. Her recommendation: clementines, a small mandarin. Note that it’s a “mandarin,” not a “mandarin orange”; the two are separate genuses (more about that below). But even Produce Pete calls clementines and mandarins “oranges,” so do what you can to spread the truth.

    “I’m infusing every morsel that crosses my path with a bit of edible sunshine while the real thing plays hard to get,” says Hannah. “Grapefruits, oranges, lemons and limes are always close at hand, spilling out of the refrigerator fruit bin and lining the kitchen counters with a cheerful spray of neon colors. Their natural luminescence does wonders to lift spirits through the most gloomy of days. But it’s truly the bold, bright, astringent flavors that sustain me through winter.

    “This year, I’ve added a newcomer to that lineup: the petite yet powerful clementine. Cuties Clementines [in California’s San Joaquin Valley] were generous enough to ship an entire crate of these glowing orange orbs straight to my door.

    “Not to be overly dramatic, but what a revelation! Gone are the days of meticulously picking at the stringy pith of oranges before the segments become edible. The skin practically falls off of these juicy half-moons, nary a seed in sight.”

     

    Clementines are mandarins, not oranges. “Tangerines” are a made-up term for a mandarin in general—see why below. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Clementines from California are available from November through April. Not only are they naturally sweet and delicious; they’re also seedless, compact, and easy to peel. This makes them perfect for fruit bowls, backpacks, lockers, glove compartments, tote bags and even back pockets.

    You can use clementines anywhere mandarins and oranges are called for, from a breakfast yogurt parfait to sorbet to the clementine tart below.

     

    A clementine-matcha tapioca tart. Photo and
    recipe © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet
    Blog.

     

    RECIPE: CLEMENTINE & MATCHA TAPIOCA TARTLETS

    “Bursting with flavor, sweeter and more mellow than an orange but still plenty punchy, clementines sounded like the ideal pairing with matcha,” says Hannah, whose sweet spot (pun intended) is vegan desserts. She has published several books on the topic.

    “Cutting through the bitter powdered tea and balancing out the whole dessert, clementine segments top chewy tapioca pearls, cradled in the easiest mini tart shell you’ll ever slap together. There’s no need to break out the rolling pin: This crust is merely pressed into the pans and won’t slip or slide under the heat of the oven. There’s no need for pie weights.”

    The recipe is cholesterol-free and vegan (although you can use conventional milk and butter).

     
    Ingredients For 10-12 Tartlets

    Press-In-Pan Olive Oil Pastry Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons water
  •  
    Matcha Tapioca

  • 1/2 cup small tapioca pearls
  • 2-1/2 cups vanilla coconut milk beverage, plain non-dairy milk or cow’s milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon matcha powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy margarine or butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    To Finish

  • 4-5 clementines, peeled and segmented
  • Garnish: fresh mint leaves (optional)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 375°F; lightly grease 10-12 three-inch tartlet molds.

    2. MAKE crust: Mix together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and lemon juice, stirring thoroughly to incorporate. Drizzle in the water very slowly, adding just enough to bring the dough together without making it wet or sticky.

    3. BREAK off 2-3 tablespoons of dough for each tartlet and press it evenly across the bottoms and up the sides of the molds. Make sure there aren’t especially thick edges left around the base, so that the entire crust cooks evenly.

    4. BAKE for 10-15 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through the process to ensure even baking, until golden brown all over. Let cool completely before popping the shells out of the molds.

    5. MAKE the tapioca: Pour 2 cups of very hot water over the pearls and allow them to soak for 2-3 hours. This will soften them and prevent hard centers from remaining after cooking. Rinse with cold water and thoroughly drain.

    6. PLACE the soaked pearls in a medium saucepan along with the milk. Whisk together the sugar, matcha, cornstarch and arrowroot in a separate bowl and break up any clumps of matcha.

    7. ADD mixture to the pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Allow the mixture to come up to a boil, whisking periodically. Be sure to scrape along the sides and bottom to prevent sticking and burning. Once the mixture bubbles vigorously for a full minute, turn off the heat; then add the butter/margarine and vanilla extract. Stir until the butter/margarine has completely melted; then distribute the mixture between the baked tart shells, filling them to the top.

    8. COOL the tapioca filling fully; then top with clementine segments and optional mint leaves (if the leaves are large, cut into a chiffonade [finely cut strips]). Serve at room temperature or chill for 2 hours.
     
     
    CLEMENTINES ARE NOT ORANGES

    There are three basic citrus types—citron, mandarin and pummelo—from which all modern citrus derives via hybrids or backcrosses.

    While they look like small oranges and are often called “mandarin oranges,” mandarins are a separate species that includes the clementine, mineola (red tangelo), murcott (also called honey tangerine), tangelo, temple and satsuma, among others.

  • Oranges are from the order Sapindales, family Rutaceae, genus Citrus and species C. × sinensis.
  • Mandarins are from the order Sapindales, family Rutaceae, genus Citrus and species C. reticulata (clementines are C. clementina).
  •  
    Clementines alone have numerous sub-species, some more commercial than others (the Clemenules Clementine is the largest commercially grown variety). “Cuties” are a marketing name for clementine mandarins generally sold before Christmas. The same fruit is called a murcott or tango mandarin after the holidays. Why ask why?

    More Confusion

    Mandarins are also called loose-skin oranges—a usage which is both unfortunate and confusing given the numerous, highly distinctive differences between the two genuses. According to the experts at U.C. Davis:

  • In the U.S., where the name tangerine first came into common usage, mandarin (or “mandarin orange”) and tangerine are used more or less interchangeably to designate the whole group. Since mandarin is the older and much more widely employed name, its use is clearly preferable.
  • The term “tangerine” was coined for brightly-colored sweet mandarins that were originally shipped out of the port of Tangiers, Morocco to Florida in the late 1800s; the term stuck.
  • Presumably because of the orange-red color of the Dancy variety, which originated in Florida and was introduced in the markets as the Dancy tangerine, horticulturists have tended to restrict the use of the term tangerine to the mandarins of similar deep color. However, this is a usage of convenience only and the tangerines do not comprise a group of natural significance.
  •  
    The mandarin probably originated in northeastern India, home of the Indian wild mandarin, Citrus indica Tan. As with all agriculatural products, many hybrids followed. The King and Kunenbo mandarins, for example, originated in Indo-China and the Satsuma mandarin originated in Japan. The Mediterranean mandarin is believed to have been cultivated in Italy.

    The mandarin reached the Mediterranean basin in the early 1800s, and about 1825 in Florida. Thanks to the University of California Davis for providing this information. You can read more here.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: More Ways To Use Tofu

    Tofu is a nifty food. Some people don’t like the spongy texture and find it bland. But the great thing about tofu is that it’s adaptable to any flavor you cook with it.

    It’s also modest in calories—94 per half cup—with 10 grams of protein, zero cholesterol and just 1% carb, which is dietary fiber. There are large amounts of calcium and iron and nice hits of B6 and magnesium. It’s a gluten-free product.

    We’re neither vegetarian or vegan, but a few years ago we started to add more tofu to our diet as a New Year’s resolution to cut back on cholesterol-laden proteins and to eat more sustainably (animal methane is the #1 contributor to greenhouse gas).

    Now, we’re hooked. At Asian restaurants, we’ll typically choose a tofu dish over more “meaty” options.

    Don’t be afraid to experiment at home. Tofu is very easy to work with once you try it. As you learn the range of tofu styles available, you’ll discover how it can add a new dimension to your cooking.

    Tofu is:

     

    We love to snack on fried tofu instead of mozzarella sticks. Enjoy them with a fat-free Greek yogurt dip or with a ponzu sauce dip with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions. Photo by Sakurai Midori | Wikimedia.

     

  • Incredibly versatile. Beyond using as a protein, you can substitute tofu for caloric and cholesterol-laden staples like sour cream, heavy cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese and ricotta (try a tofu tiramisu).
  • Not just for Asian cooking. It can fit into any cuisine. As a start, try Italian dishes with tofu instead of other proteins —tofu parm instead of chicken parm, for example.
  •  

    Pudding without fat/cholesterol: Delicious
    tofu pudding substitutes for flan or panna
    cotta. Photo by Chris 73 | Wikimedia.

      Preparing tofu is easy. Drain off all the water and wrap the block in paper towels to blot; then slice it according to the recipe.

    There are different styles of tofu, and the recipes will specify the style of tofu you need.

  • Soft tofu is best used in dips, smoothies, desserts, and blended into lower-fat, cholesterol-free salad dressings. We love a mango smoothie blended with orange juice, honey, milk/soy milk and soft tofu; and a chocolate tofu mousse. Mash it with avocado or hummus for a snack or sandwich spread. Cut the tofu into small cubes for blending or mashing.
  • Medium Firm tofu works well in casseroles, soups and salads. Cube it as a protein-rich garnish for soups and see how good a tofu scramble is (you won’t miss conventional scrambled eggs in this recipe).
  • Firm and Extra Firm tofu are great meat substitutes and ideal for stir-frying, grilling, deep-frying, crumbled in chili, and much more. Marinate Extra Firm tofu in soy sauce and then chop it into blocks for conventional grilling or kebabs. Crumble Firm tofu and mix with ground turkey, onion and breadcrumbs for tasty meatballs. Create your own tofu burgers with mashed tofu, bread crumbs, chopped onion and seasonings.
  •  

    There’s no need to buy a tofu recipe book; but if you want to learn to make your own at home, this book, Asian Tofu, is a great resource.

    But you can start at HouseFoods.com, which has numerous recipes in every meal category.
     
    TOFU TIPS

  • BUY premium quality tofu. If you care about non-GMO foods, rely on a brand like House Foods, which uses only non-genetically modified soybeans grown in the USA and is Non-GMO Project verified.
  • STORE leftover tofu in a water-filled, airtight container in the fridge. It can keep for two to three days, but change the water every day or two.
  • FREEZE excess tofu in its original container or a freezer bag. To thaw, just leave it out on the counter for a few hours (don’t microwave it). Defrosted tofu’s texture becomes more spongy, great to soak up marinade sauces and great for the grill.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 5 Ways To Sneak More Veggies Into Your Diet

    Eating healthier in the new year, Part 2 (see yesterday’s Part 1):

    If you’re not a veggie lover—or simply don’t make the right choices—increasing your daily intake of vegetables may seem like a chore. But it pays off big time over the long run, and is worth your attention.

    According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits can help you ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure, prevent some types of cancer, avoid a painful intestinal ailment called diverticulitis, and guard against cataract and macular degeneration, two common causes of vision loss.”

    If you don’t already pack three or more servings of veggies into your daily food plan, here are five pretty painless ways to get with the program.

    1. ADD VEGGIES TO CAKE & MUFFINS

    That got your attention, didn’t it? If you regularly enjoy a piece of cake or a muffin, switch to carrot, pumpkin or zucchini bread (make them yourself to pack in the maximum amount of veggies); or a carrot muffin instead of another variety. Add some nuts for protein. Add mashed beets to chocolate cake and cupcakes: That’s how the original red velvet cake was created.

     

    Zucchini bread, like carrot bread and pumpkin bread, does include a serving of veggies (or partial serving, depending on the recipe and portion size). Photo courtesy Valerie Confections.

     

    Mind you, this isn’t “health food”; but it’s a better choice.

    2. ADD VEGGIES TO SANDWICHES

    Forget that tasteless slice of tomato until the real deal arrives with summer. Instead, add grilled vegetables: red bell peppers to replace that tomato, grilled summer squash or other favorite. Cucumbers don’t pack a lot of nutrition, but if you like the crunch, pile them on.

    Pickled vegetables are another delicious option. You can pickle them in an hour, and keep them in the fridge for easy access. Here’s how to pickle vegetables. You can also pickle fruit, like apple and pear slices.

     

    Not mashed potatoes, but mashed cauliflower!
    Photo courtesy FAGE Greek Yogurt.

     

    3. MASHÉD & PUREED VEGGIES

    Mash them! Cauliflower and broccoli make an impressive alternative to mashed potatoes. To get the best out of them, simply boil the florets in salted water for about five minutes, then blend with olive oil, salt and pepper.

    In fact, mashed cauliflower is a far more nutritious alternative to mashed potatoes. While it’s delicious as cauliflower, some of the veggie-averse might think it’s mashed potatoes. You can fool some of the people some of the time.
     
    *There is a famous quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” However, there is no record that Lincoln ever said this (here are the facts). However, it’s such a great quote, we have to attribute it to someone.
     
    PASTA

    It’s easy to “hide” vegetables in pasta dishes. You can dice them, steam them and mix them into the sauce; or simply toss them with olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

     
    Another great trick: Layer them into lasagna: In go bell peppers, carrots, green beans, asparagus and broccoli. Yummy, as well as good for health!

    And while you’re at it, switch the refined white flour pasta for whole wheat pasta. No one will complain.
     
    5. SOUP

    Even people who don’t like to eat veggies enjoy a bowl of vegetable soup. If you don’t have time to make your own, just steam chopped veggies in the microwave and toss them into store-bought soup to amp up the veggies in there. Or cook them in your choice of beef, chicken or vegetable broth (like College Inn or Swanson’s), tomato or vegetable juice.

    Get the most nutritional mileage from deep-colored vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, green beans and summer squash; and the cruciferous group, which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale, among others.†

    While you’re at it, add some protein-packed, fiber-filled beans.

    This article was adapted from an original article by Shubhra Krishan published on Care2.com.
     
    *The expanded group includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna (a variety of mustard green), radish, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi (also called rosette bok choy, spinach mustard or spoon mustard), turnip and wasabi (a type of horseradish).

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pacific Foods Organic Beans

    Proust had his madeleines; we had our mother’s baked beans: made in an old-fashioned glazed ceramic crock, topped with strips of bacon. They were so good, we have never been able to eat canned baked beans—overly sweetened and one-dimensionally bland.

    But thanks to Pacific Natural Foods’ new line of USDA Certified Organic beans in a carton, we now enjoy baked and refried beans at home as often as we like.

    With January 1st the day to make resolutions to eat better, they’re a logical Top Pick Of The Week to usher in the new year. Rich in plant-based protein (Pacific beans have up to seven grams of protein per serving) and fiber, beans are a better-for-you food.

    The line debuted last spring at Whole Foods Markets nationwide and expanded to select natural food stores and grocery chains. You can taste the quality and slow-cooked flavor and texture of the baked beans—the closest we’ll get to Mom’s (especially when we add crispy strips of bacon across the top).

     

    Baked beans with a garnish of bacon. Photo © Viktor | Fotolia.

     
    The refried beans are better than what we get most Mexican restaurants. Varieties include:

  • Organic Refried Pinto Beans (vegetarian or non-vegetarian [with added pork fat])
  • Organic Refried Black Beans (vegetarian)
  • Organic Refried Black Beans with Green Chiles (vegetarian)
  • Organic Baked Beans (vegetarian or with pork—but the pork amounts to a few tough bits)
  •  
    A bonus for those who are concerned about the BPA plastic lining of tin cans: the Pacific Natural Foods cartons have no such potential problem. They’re priced at $2.69 to $2.99 for a 13.6-ounce container.

     

    One of six varieties of baked and refried
    beans. Photo courtesy Pacific Natural Foods.

     

    HOW TO SERVE BAKED BEANS

    Franks and beans are a natural part of the American diet. But even better than that is your own version of “pork and beans.” Instead of the meager bits of pork fat tossed into cans of beans, make your own with leftover roast ham.

    Especially brought to live with a garnish of fresh herbs. We prefer basil, chives, cilantro or parsley.

    BAKED BEANS FOR BREAKFAST

  • With eggs any style: try them on a toasted English muffin, topped with a poached egg
  • On toast: on toasted or grilled baguette or rustic bread, with fresh herbs and optional shredded Gruyère (for breakfast or a light lunch)
  •  
    BAKED BEANS FOR DINNER

  • With sausages or roasted meats: chicken, duck, ham, pork
  • With hearty grilled fish: we like cod atop a bed of beans
  •  

  • With potatoes: In a baked potato or a nest of mashed potatoes (top with shredded cheese and fresh herbs
  • As a side: with a crisp bacon garnish, a garnish of sour cream and a square of corn bread or gratinée
  • Wildcard: on pizza, mixed with elbow macaroni or other short cut (a great way to expand a limited amount of leftovers), to thicken creamy soups
  •  
    WAYS TO SERVE REFRIED BEANS

  • Dips: bean dip and layered dip
  • Eggs: scrambled or an omelet with onions, chorizo, and a side of beans
  • Mexican dishes: burritos, fajitas, layered casseroles, tacos, quesadillas
  • Mexican lasagna: layer corn tortillas in a baking dish with beans, shredded cheese, ground beef or other meat, jalapeños and red chile sauce (“enchilada sauce”)
  • Sandwiches: including burgers and wraps
  • Mexican pizza: pizza crust or tortillas spread with red chile sauce, then topped with refried beans, sausage, black olives, chopped red onions, jalapeños and cheese; optional “taco garnish” of chopped tomatoes and lettuce
  • Sides: rice and beans (you don’t need Mexican main dishes in order to enjoy the sides); potatoes and beans; potatoes fried with onions, topped with chiles and Mexican cheese; by themselves topped with sour cream or Greek yogurt and cilantro
  • Stuffed peppers: stuff with rice or other grain and beans, top with cheese
  •  
    How would you use them? Let us know!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Winter Vegetable Kabobs

    Yes, we’re past Thanksgiving, but these “Thanksgiving Kabobs” work all fall and winter and are equally fun for Christmas dinner. They may even have people who don’t like to eat vegetables asking for more!

    Our friend Hannah Kaminsky of BittersweetBlog.com created “Thanksgiving kabobs” from all the classic Thanksgiving (and Christmas) accoutrements. They’re threaded onto portion-controlled, dippable skewers.

  • Serve them as a side with the main course; as a vegetarian meal atop a bed of mashed cauliflower, mashed potatoes or whole grains.
  • For a non-holiday dinner, you can add cubed turkey to the skewers for the a main course.
  • Serve them on a platter as an appetizer
  • Hannah adds cubes of sourdough or sturdy cornbread to evoke stuffing.
  • Sweet potato can substitute for acorn or butternut squash or pumpkin.
  • Trimmed green beans can be added.
  •  


    Photo © Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    “These kebabs are limited only by a lack of imagination,” says Hannah. She loves gravy for dipping on the side; the choice is yours.

    RECIPE: THANKSGIVING KABOBS

    Ingredients

    Quantities will vary depending on how many people you plan to serve and which vegetables/add-ins you choose.

  • Small Brussels sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
  • Butternut squash, cubed
  • Turkey cubes or vegan options, including seitan or tempeh
  • Large fresh cranberries*
  • Optional: mashed cauliflower, mashed potatoes, whole grain (barley, brown rice, quinoa, etc.)
  • Optional: Gravy
  •  

    If you regularly use skewers, invest in the
    steel variety. Unlike wood skewers, they
    don’t have to be presoaked and they’re
    sustainable: no trees are sacrificed. These
    are from Norpro.

     

    Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup†
  • 2 tablespoons olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch rubbed sage
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE wooden skewers by submerging in water for at least 20 minutes. This prevents them from burning (or worse, catching fire) while in the oven. If using metal skewers, skip this step.

     

    2. PREHEAT oven to 400°F and lightly grease a shallow baking dish that can accommodate the full length of the skewers. Thread individual vegetables on the skewers in any pattern or proportion you like. Just ensure that all your components are roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. Place the finished skewers in a single layer in the prepared baking dish. If you’re making enough for a big party, consider a second baking dish.

    3. WHISK together the ingredients for the marinade and brush it generously over the skewered “meat” and veggies. If you have any leftover marinade, reserve it to baste the skewers halfway through the cook time.

    4. BAKE for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetables, flipping after 10 and basting if desired. The vegetables should be nicely browned and tender when done. Serve immediately over hot mashed cauliflower, mashed potatoes or grains with a small bowl of gravy for dipping.
     
    *When selecting cranberries, look for particularly large berries and skewer them precisely in the center, as they have a tendency to wither and/or split while baking.

    †Hannah prefers Grade B maple syrup in this recipe.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cranberry Infused Vodka

    Your own holiday bottling of cranberry
    infused vodka. Photo courtesy Prairie
    Organic
    Spirits.

     

    Make cranberry vodka to bring as a house gift or place on your own bar. It will be ready in three to four days.

    It’s easy to craft your own cranberry vodka infusion. Instead of vodka, you can use silver tequila, genever, Plymouth gin or a London gin with a low level of aromatics.

    This recipe is courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits, which makes both organic gin and vodka (including cucumber-infused vodka) in Minnesota.

    The vodka is handcrafted with single vintage organic corn. The line is certified organic by the USDA, which ensures that no genetically modified seeds, chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides are used. The price: just $19.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

     

    RECIPE: CRANBERRY CLOVE INFUSED VODKA

    Ingredients

  • Whole fresh cranberries
  • Whole cloves
  • Vodka
  •  

    Preparation

    1. POUR 1/3 of the vodka into a pitcher or a measuring cup with a spout and set aside.

    2. FILL the empty bottle space with cranberries and cloves.

    3. TOP OFF the bottle with the reserved vodka and tightly securing the cap.

    4. STORE in the fridge or in dark, cool space for three to four days. Then, it’s ready to serve.
     
    MORE INFUSED VODKA RECIPES

    How about:

  • Espresso-Cinnamon for Valentine’s Day
  • Jalapeño-Horseradish-Garlic for Cinco de Mayo
  • Honeycrisp Apple for Mother’s Day
  • Lemon Lime for Spring
  • Orange-Tangerine for Winter
  • Strawberry Basil for Summer
  •  

    It’s easy to infuse vodka: Just add simple ingredient to the bottle. Photo courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits.

     

    Download the pdfs at PrairieVodka.com.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Gourmet Cocoa And Hot Chocolate

    Winter Hot Chocolate is a classic cocoa mix
    with a touch of vanilla. Photo courtesy Lake
    Champlain Chocolates.

     

    “Forget Christmas gifts this year,” said our friend Gerard, when he called to invite us to his annual party and gifting frenzy. “At this point in our lives, none of us needs another scarf, another basket of Kiehl’s products, another tzotchke, another random book.”

    “Can we bring some gourmet cocoa?” we suggested. “Sure,” he responded.

    That’s why we love food gifts. They can readily be consumed by the recipient, his guests or his family members.

    And you don’t have to go far to find something good. Any upscale supermarket has gourmet chocolate bars, fine olive oil and gourmet hot chocolate.

    We passed by all of them at Whole Foods yesterday, including these gifty hot chocolate canisters from Lake Champlain Chocolates (also available directly from Lake Champlain Chocolates). They’re just $10.50 for a festively-designed one-pound canister (one pound makes approximately 21 eight-ounce servings). You can package the gifts with some handmade marshmallows in the confections section.

     
    Lake Champlain’s hot chocolate is certified kosher by Star-D, and is Fair Trade Certified, which means that it’s a feel-good product, right for the holiday season.

    Fair trade certification allows farmers to receive higher prices than they would in the conventional market. It means that the farmers are paid a fair price for their product and are not exploited by middlemen who pay them less than their crop is worth.

    Read more about Fair Trade.

     

    25 WAYS TO GLAMORIZE A CUP OF COCOA

    From adding flavors—banana, cinnamon, chai, hot spices, mint—to liqueurs, we’ve got 25 ways to make an already delicious cup of cocoa even more memorable.

    Check ‘em out.
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COCOA & HOT
    CHOCOLATE

    December 12th is National Cocoa Day. What’s the difference between cocoa and hot chocolate?

    Most people use the terms interchangeably, but they’re actually different.

    Cocoa is a drink made from cocoa powder.

    Hot chocolate is a drink made from actual chocolate, usually ground or shaved into small bits. Chocolate has more cocoa butter than cocoa powder, so it makes a richer drink, all things being equal (the same type of milk, e.g.).

     

    Enjoy Peppermint Hot Chocolate for the holidays, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon. Photo courtesy Lake Champlain Chocolates.

     

    To make any cup of cocoa or hot chocolate richer, you can:

  • Use half and half, or half milk and half cream.
  • Stir in a pat of unsweetened butter—really! It’s a chef’s secret trick.
  •  
    Visit our Cocoa Section for brand reviews, recipes and more about man’s favorite chocolate drink.

    Or take our Cocoa Trivia Quiz.

      

    Comments

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