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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: It’s Time To Consider Less Salt

red-mound-230

Anglesey salt, sold here under the brand
name Halen Mon, is evaporated from Welsh
sea water. Note that the crystals are square,
not round. Photo by River Soma | THE
NIBBLE

 

What’s the deal with salt, and why is the government trying to limit it in prepared foods?

Everyone needs to eat a certain amount of salt. The body doesn’t produce sodium (salt), but it requires it in order to perform a variety of essential functions.

Salt helps to maintain the fluid in blood cells and is used to transmit information in nerves and muscles, among other functions.

HOW MUCH SALT IS TOO MUCH?

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium (salt) per day. That’s one single teaspoon.

But the average American’s salt intake is more than twice that: 3,436 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily. Here’s more information from the USDA.
 
It’s not from the salt shaker, typically, but from the large amounts of salt hidden in prepared foods—packaged foods, take out and restaurant meals.

Whatever the source, nine out of 10 Americans eat too much salt, according to The Centers for Disease Control.

 
Starting today, the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) is sponsoring its sixth annual Salt Awareness Week to gain worldwide recognition of the health risks associated with consuming too much salt. So today’s tip involves awareness and action.

A diet that contains more than that one teaspoon of salt per day is associated with high blood pressure, a potentially fatal condition that affects one in four Americans. While other factors, such as age, family history and race, play a role in your risk of high blood pressure, lowering your sodium intake can help significantly reduce the risk.

 
SALT IS “THE SILENT KILLER”

The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure will be, leading to heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.

According to Consensus Action for Salt and Health, high blood pressure is the leading global risk factor for mortality, resulting in seven million deaths per year.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Thanks to LoSalt, a leading reduced sodium salt, for these tips.

  • Get checkups for adults and kids. Think you’re too young to worry about high blood pressure? Our 22-year-old intern has it; fortunately, it was discovered at age 10 in an annual checkup and she learned to watch her salt intake at a young age. According to the American Heart Association, 97% of children eat too much salt, resulting in a predisposition to high blood pressure.
  • Find alternatives to salty snacks. If you wait until you’re 40, your habits will be very hard to break. Children learn from what their parents eat, and this creates a cycle that that is hard to stop.
  • Cut back on processed foods. More than 75% of our sodium intake comes from processed foods—canned, frozen and otherwise prepared; condiments, mixes, pickles, soups, tomato sauce and any prepared meals. Check the labels of products and look for low-sodium versions. Better yet, cook from scratch—dried beans vs. canned beans (which have added sodium), for example, and fresh herbs to add flavor usually filled by the far cheaper salt.
  •  

    seared-yellowfin-tuna-maldon-davidburkefromagerie-230

    It’s not the salt you can see, it’s the salt you can’t see, hidden in purchased foods (prepared foods, packaged foods, restaurant meals). Photo courtesy David Burke Fromagerie.

  • Cut back on salt in your own cooking. Use half as much as recipes require, and see how you feel. Augment with a product like LoSalt (more information below).
  • Cut back on restaurant meals. You’ll never know how much hidden salt is in each dish. Single items sold by fast food restaurants can typically have 2,000 mg of sodium. If you need to eat out for convenience, ask for your protein to be grilled without salt, or head for a plate of sashimi with low-sodium soy sauce or a squeeze of fresh lemon.
  •  

    TIP: WHEN USING LOTS OF SALT IN THE KITCHEN IS A GOOD IDEA

    Salt can be used to extinguish a grease fire. Pour salt on the flames; never use water. We keep a large salt server with kosher salt on our stove to add pinches in cooking, but also to help in a crisis. (Yes, we also have a fire extinguisher.)

    ABOUT LOSALT

    LoSalt, a tasty alternative in the reduced-sodium category, has 66% less sodium than regular salt. This is achieved by using a ratio of 33% sodium chloride and 66% potassium chloride.

    As long as you don’t need to avoid extra high levels of potassium (e.g. endocrine or kidney disorders), this natural ingredient is a good filler. Consult with your healthcare advisor to be sure it’s O.K. for you.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Flaxseed Mill

    Here’s another way to add “instant nutrition” to your foods, with no more effort than it takes to grind pepper.

    In this case, you’re grinding flaxseed. Why?

    This superfood adds noteworthy nutrition to food (see the health benefits below), so much so that a growing number of consumers have been clamoring for it. An estimated 300 new products with flaxseed were launched in the U.S. and Canada in 2010 alone (the last year for which data is available).

    Flaxseed is appearing in everything from crackers and breads to oatmeal and frozen waffles. The eggs that claim higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids come from chickens who eat flaxseed-enriched feed.

    At home, you can add freshly-ground flaxseed to just about anything: cereal, cottage cheese, dips, eggs, fish, meat and poultry, salad, smoothies, soup, yogurt. It’s easy to add to batter and dough: cakes, cookies, pancakes, pie crusts.

     

    blossom-flax-mill-230

    Better nutrition is just a few grinds away. Photo courtesy Blossom.

     
    The flavor is subtle and nutty. The mill can be kept on the table, right next to the salt and pepper.

    You can use any mill or spice grinder to grind flaxseed for recipes; but the point of a separate flaxseed mill is to use it consistently as you sit down to eat.

    Plus, the ceramic grinder in the Blossom mill (shown in photo) is specifically calibrated to grind tiny seeds, like flaxseed and sesame seed. It’s $24.30 at Amazon.com.

    Then, pick up whole flaxseed at any natural foods store or online.

     

    bobs-red-mill-golden-flaxseed-230

    Buy whole flaxseed at natural food stores.
    Photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill.

     

    FLAXSEED BENEFITS

    According to Web MD, flaxseed could be considered one of the most potent plant foods on the planet.

    An excellent source of protein, fiber and minerals such as magnesium and copper, its top three benefits are:

  • Fiber, both soluble and insoluble.
  • Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities.
  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects.
  • Studies show that flaxseed may help to reduce risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and diabetes. It’s also a great source of fiber.

    The tiny seed was cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 B.C.E.

     
    Flash-forward to the 8th century C.E.: King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it. (Hmm…was there a brother-in-law in the flaxseed business?)

    It’s time for a flaxseed revival. King Charlemagne would be pleased.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Look For Functional Foods

    riceselect-royal-blend-w-chia-230

    This rice mix adds high-nutrition chia seed to
    deliver more “functionality” with each bite.
    Photo courtesy RiceSelect.

     

    The first functional food we remember, long before the term existed, was Tropicana Orange Juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D. We quickly understood the benefit:

    Just by eating a particular food that had been fortified, we’d get a more nutrition. And maybe that would offset some of the empty carbs in all the snacks we ate. It’s so American: the promise of health without having to do more than eat.

    We’ve been noticing more and more functional foods coming onto the market. Some are truly enhanced, and others just hyping what’s always been there to make the product seem new and better. (Think back to the low-carb craze, when bottles of olive oil were labeled “Carb-Free!”)

    WHAT IS A FUNCTIONAL FOOD?

    Functional foods and beverages are everyday foods enhanced (fortified) with supplemental nutrition. The goal is to provide a health benefit beyond normal satiation and nutrition.

    It’s not a question of the type of food. Naturally good-for-you brown rice can be functionally enhanced with flaxseed, for example; but so can chocolate chip cookies.

     
    The effects of the functional additive can be long term (“added calcium prevents osteoporosis”) or short-term (“the electrolytes in sports drinks help the body re-hydrate more quickly”).

    There are actually two kinds of functional foods. Today’s tip is about the second category, modified foods:

  • Category 1: naturally occurring foods, such as cranberries, which help with urinary tract health; cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.), which contain specific antioxidants that help to detoxify carcinogens; fatty fish (omega-3s), oats (fiber) and the other foods that pop up on nutritionists’ top 10 lists.
  • Category 2: modified foods, where an added ingredient imparts the functionality. Examples include calcium added to orange juice or water for bone strength, or the aforementioned electrolytes and minerals added to flavored beverages to create “sports drinks.”
  •  
    Selecting products that have been nutritionally enhanced is a painless way to add more nutrients to your diet. Alas, no one has yet invented functional french fries; but before you pluck your usual brand of whatever from the store shelf, look around and see if there’s something more nutritious to try.

    Here are two we tried recently, and decided to keep them as part of our regular shopping list:

     

    Snack bars. If you snack on any type of bar, consider those that pack more protein. A Nature Valley Greek Yogurt Protein Bar contains 10g of protein; Cascadian Farm organic protein bars have 9g per serving. The USDA recommends .37 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This means at least 48 grams of protein for a woman who weighs 130 pounds. It’s easy to compare nutrition labels and switch when you find a product with, say, 20% more protein.

    Rice. RiceSelect’s Royal Blend with Chia (photo above) combines the company’s Texmati light brown rice and whole wheat orzo with chia seed, a superfood*. Packed with omega 3s, protein and fiber, the chia in one serving provides 18% of the recommended daily intake for calcium, plus manganese, phosphorus and protein. Serve it with chicken, fish or tofu and you’ve got a tasty, complete heart-healthy meal.

     

    nature-valley-greek-yogurt-protein-bar-230

    Grab a protein-rich snack bar instead of empty calories. Photo courtesy General Mills.

     
    WATCH OUT FOR HYPE

    Do a label-to-label comparison to differentiate reality from hype. In the boxed macaroni and cheese category, Horizon’s Super Mac exclaims 12g protein per serving! on the box front. Annie’s, which makes no special protein claims, has 10g per serving; Kraft has 11g.

    MORE FUNCTIONAL FOODS

    You may already be enjoying these functional foods:

  • Bottled water enriched with vitamins and minerals
  • Eggs enriched with omega-3 fatty acids
  • Yogurt and other foods enriched with probiotics
  •  
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ENHANCED & FORTIFIED

    Both terms mean that nutrients have been added to make the food more nutritious. But there’s a difference:

  • Enriched means that nutrients lost during food processing have been added back. The most familiar examples are white bread and pasta, where vitamins lost in processing the wheat are added back into the refined white flour.
  • Fortified means that vitamins and/or minerals are added to a food that are not originally part of that food. An example is adding vitamin D to milk, added protein and added fiber.
  •  
    *What’s a superfood? There is no government definition, but a superfood is a natural food source that is highly concentrated with a complex supply of quality nutrients. Bee pollen is the most famous superfoods, incredibly dense with thousands of phytonutrients (plant nutrients) including enzymes, bioflavonoids, phytosterols and carotenoids, free amino acids, Omega 3 essential fatty acids, naturally chelated minerals and whole vitamin complexes. The açaí berry is considered a superfood because of its extremely high level of anthocyanins (an antioxidant), vitamins A and C and omega 6 and 9 essential fatty acids, fiber and amino acids. Others include blueberries, dark chocolate, goji berries, green tea, pomegranate, soy and yumberry. According to a 2007 report from Datamonitor, “Superfood & Drinks: Consumer Attitudes to Nutrient Rich Products,” the superfood food and beverage market is expected to double by 2011 as consumers are paying more attention to diet and nutrition and increasingly seeking food and drinks with additional health-promoting benefits.
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Good Carbs Vs. Bad Carbs

    March is National Nutrition Month, so we’re opening with a mini-tutorial on carbohydrates.

    Most people will concur that “carbohydrates are bad for you.” But just as there are good oils and bad oils, there are healthful and bad carbs.

    COMPLEX CARBS = GOOD CARBS

    “Good carbs,” more scientifically called complex carbohydrates, are important in your diet. Their chemical structure and density of fiber require the body to work harder to digest them, so energy is released over a longer time (this is the definition of “low glycemic”). They are:

  • High in fiber, vitamins and nutrients—“nutrient dense,” meaning more nutrients per calorie
  • Low glycemic
  • Higher satiety (help you feel full with fewer calories)
  • Naturally stimulates the metabolism
  •  
    For the most part, good carbs are consumed in their “natural” state or close to it. They include:

     

    quinoa-lobster-davidburkekitchen0-230

    It’s easy to add good carbs to every meal—even in dishes more humble than lobster on quinoa. Photo courtesy David Burke Kitchen.

  • Beans and legumes
  • Fresh and dried fruits
  • Green vegetables
  • Whole grains (i.e. natural cereals): barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa, etc., including whole grains breads, cereals and pastas (see the full list of whole grains below)
  • Consume three to five portions of them daily.
     

    SIMPLE CARBS = BAD CARBS

    Now for the bad news. Many of the foods that are staples of the American diet are bad carbs. They are calorie-dense, not nutrient-dense. They include:

  • Refined flour: white flour biscuits, crackers, bread, pasta and pizza crusts; all white flour baked goods (which is the vast majority of cake, cookies and pastry), pretzels
  • Sugared foods: barbecue sauce (and other sauces), candy, desserts, flavored yogurt, fruit juice, jam, ketchup, soft drinks, sugared cereals and many prepared foods (read the ingredients label)
  • Sweeteners: brown sugar, beet sugar, cane juice, cane sugar (table sugar), confectioners’ (powdered) sugar, corn syrup, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, monosaccharides, raw sugar, sugar cane syrup, sucrose, turbinado
  •  
    Why are these carbs bad? They’re:

  • Empty calorics that convert to fat
  • Low in fiber and nutrients (calorie-dense, as opposed to nutrition-dense like good carbs)
  • High glycemic (bad for pre-diabetics and diabetics)
  • The high blood glucose levels generate fatigue
  •  

    6-15-07 200

    Green veggies are a great source of complex
    carbs, as well as other nutrition. This dish
    can be served hot or with vinaigrette, as a
    salad. Photo courtesy Ziploc. Here’s the
    recipe.

     

    WHOLE GRAINS: CHECK THE LIST

    Here’s an exercise for National Nutrition Month. The list below contains whole grains, some of which may not be familiar names. But they are available in natural foods stores and they are all delicious.

    1. PRINT out the list below and put a check at the left side of each whole grain that’s part of your weekly diet. Use one check mark for each time you consume the grain during an average week.

    2. REVIEW all the others, and select five whole grains you’d like to try. Check those grains on the left side of the list.

    3. BUY those new whole grains and plan to try at least one over the next five weeks.

    4. WORK more of the whole grains you already use into your meal plans. Replace potatoes and white rice.

     

  • 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.
    †Salba is a trademarked name for chia. Kamut® is a trademarked name for khorasan wheat.
    ‡Chia and flaxseed are best used sprinkled onto foods or mixed into recipes for extra nutrition.

    HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?

    Eat three or more servings of whole grain daily.

    The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in January 2011, recommends that all adults eat at least half their grains as whole grains. That’s at least 3 to 5 servings of whole grains; children need a minimum of 2 to 3 servings.

    Yet, the average American eats less than one daily serving of whole grains; some studies show that more than 40% of Americans never eat whole grains at all.

    But you, an educated, concerned consumer/parent/whatever, can do the right thing!

    For more information, visit WholeGrainsCouncil.org.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Vitamins Like Candy

    nature-made-gummies-230

    Gummie vitamins are as good as gummie
    candies. Photo courtesy NatureMade.

     

    We never looked forward to taking our vitamins, but we did so, dutifully, every day.

    We knew that there were gummie vitamins for kids, but never took much notice of the category.

    Recently, we were given a bottle of Nature Made’s Adult Gummies, Multi + Omega-3. Wow! We have now given up our gummie habit in favor of a daily vitamin fix.

    The only problem: One serving is just two gummies (we could eat a lot more than that). Unlike conventional vitamins, which are calorie-free, our Adult Gummies are 20 calories and 3g of sugar a day.

    And are well worth it!

    We may be late to the table, but we’re not the only adult who is made for gummie vitamins. Nature Made Adult Gummies are available in:

     

  • B-Complex Adult Gummies
  • Multi-Vitamin Adult Gummies
  • Calcium With D3 Adult Gummies
  • Multi-Vitamin Adult Gummies
  • Fish Oil Adult Gummies
  • Vitamin C Adult Gummies
  • Vitamin CoQ10 Adult Gummies
  • Vitamin D Adult Gummies
  • Vitamin D3 Adult Gummies
  •  
    There are dollar coupons for most of the varieties on the Nature Made website.

    Checking out the options, we also discovered the Vitafusion line of gummies. We’re not inspired to do a taste test, however, because the Nature Made taste just fine.

    If only all the medications we take could be in gummie form. We can dream, can’t we?

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 5 Ways To Eat “Mediterranean Diet” Healthy

    While our “day job” is to try lots of specialty foods and cook and bake alluring recipes, we aim to make the right choices when we’re not working.

    If we’ve been heavy on the healthful eating tips lately, it’s because we’re struggling even harder after the onslaught of Valentine chocolate.

    So today we’re passing along five Mediterranean Diet tips, adapted from an original article by Ashley Lauren Samsa on Care2.com.

    For about 30 years, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals have encouraged Americans to follow the “Mediterranean Diet,” a heart-healthy eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats.

    Substituting olive oil for butter, fish for meat, vegetables for starch, fat-free dairy products and a limit on carbohydrates is said to explain why Mediterranean dwellers have a lower incidence of heart disease. Here’s more from the Mayo Clinic.

    What if you’re young, healthy and have no family history of heart disease? Hedge your bets. You don’t know how your system will change as you age…and even if your kin live to 100, you may have a partner and kids to plan for.

     

    bottle-with-tree-flavoryourlife-230

    Olive oil can do whatever butter can do, and it’s better for you. Photo
    courtesy FlavorYourLife.com.

     

    1. SUBSTITUTE OLIVE OIL FOR BUTTER

    A few decades ago, journalists seized on the fat in the American diet as a no-no. A cascade of media proliferated and a generation of people grew up thinking fat is bad.

    That’s not the whole truth. Saturated fat (cholesterol and other sources) is bad. Monounsaturated fats (avocado oil, canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil and others) is good for you. The government recommends two tablespoons a day as part of a heart-healthy diet.

    Here’s more on the good fats. Here are tricks to cut down on cholesterol:

  • Sauté in heart-healthy olive oil, not valve-clogging cholesterol (butter or lard).
  • Replace the butter in sauces, glazes and marinades with oil. Look at adding a bit of highly flavored oils, like sesame oil and nut oil.
  • Cook your eggs in oil. We grew up on butter-fried or scrambled eggs in butter every morning—it was what our mother preferred. We love the taste of butter, but it was easy to make the switch.
  • Use olive oil instead of other salad dressings. Make your own vinaigrette with a 3:1 ratio of olive oil to vinegar. Use a quality vinegar—we prefer flavored vinegar or balsamic. We often add a pinch of dried mustard, which helps to keep the emulsion. You can add a small amount of Dijon or honey mustard, or a small amount of honey or the better-for-you agave nectar.
  • Mash potatoes in plain or flavored olive oil. Basil olive oil is our favorite for this!
  • Use olive oil as a condiment instead of a pat of butter.
  • Instead of butter with bread, serve olive oil, like Mediterranean restaurants do. A delicious, full-flavored oil is just fine served plain. If your olive oil is on the bland side, add spices add/or herbs.
  • Check out Italian olive oil cake recipes—they’re delicious (especially with fresh basil and rosemary—seriously!).
  •  
    Get past “generic” olive oil. It’s fine for sautéing, but doesn’t add good flavor for vinaigrette and condiment use. If you can afford better oils, go for them. The ones we use are so delicious, we relish the two tablespoons we drink at breakfast each day.

    Seek out an olive oil bar and taste the different varieties; also try flavored olive oils. If someone asks what you want for a birthday gift, ask for a bottle of basil olive oil (or the flavor of your choice).

     

    grilled-chicken-salad-230

    Grilled chicken atop a tasty salad. Photo
    courtesy Just Bare.

     

    2. EAT YOUR PROTEINS ON A BED OF GREENS.

    Get into the habit. Instead of a side salad, often an afterthought topped with too much dressing, plan for a salad-based meal.

  • Slice the beef, chicken, lamb, pork or other protein and serve it atop a salad of mixed dark, leafy greens and bright colored veggies, lightly dressed with olive oil, vinegar and/or lemon juice. Slicing the meat can also help to cut down on portion size. The recommended size is three ounces—the “deck of cards”—which seems very meager. It can look like more when it’s sliced, diced and added to vegetables or grains.
  • “Greens” should always include two colors in addition to green. It’s easy to add red cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, or radiccho; or yellow/orange cherry tomatoes, bell peppers or summer squash.
  • Alternatively, dice the meat into a chopped salad tossed with homemade vinaigrette. The flavors blend so much better, it’s no surprise that chopped salad is a menu favorite.
  • Place an entire fish filet on top of the salad.
  • Instead a sandwich of grilled chicken or steak, use a lettuce wrap.
  •  

    With this switch, you both reduce your carb intake and increase your vegetable intake. As an added bonus, you are intake more olive oil, too.

    3. REPLACE MEAT WITH FISH & VEGETARIAN MEALS

    Not only is the cholesterol in meat bad for you; breeding animals is the single largest cause of greenhouse gas. It also is responsible for pollution of the water tables and destruction of the rainforest to ranch cattle and grow feed for them. Not only are we a society of carnivores; as third world countries grow more affluent, they want more meat. The environmental impact is growing bigger each year, despite educational efforts and interest in sustainability.

    What can a meat lover do? Start by replacing two meals a week with fish, seafood or vegetarian dishes. There are many vegetarian and vegan favorites, from pasta primavera to bean-based chili and stir-frys. Pick up a cookbook of tempting vegetarian and vegan recipes, or look at the many online. Don’t be swayed by a preconception of vegan as “weird.” In the hands of good cooks, the food is so good you don’t notice there are no animal-derived ingredients.

    Fish are generally high in omega-3 fatty acids, another very powerful ingredient. This easy switch will keep you healthier as it helps the planet.

    4. TRY VEGGIE SMOOTHIES THAT TASTE LIKE FRUIT

    If you simply don’t like the taste of vegetables, blend them into sweet smoothies. Toss vegetables like carrots, spinach, kale or celery into a blender. Add a liquid like milk or fruit juice, along with yogurt or a banana and some nut butter (almond butter and sunflower seed butter are nice alternatives to PB). Flavor with cinnamon and honey.

    All you’ll taste are the banana, cinnamon and honey, but you’ll be getting all the benefits of the veggies.

    Smoothies can be made in advance and frozen. Toss one in your lunch bag in the morning to keep your food cold while it thaws, and it’ll be ready to drink by noon. (By the way, this is a great way to trick kids into eating more vegetables.)

    And…stay tuned for our Top Pick Of The Week, Veggie Blend-Ins from Green Giant. We couldn’t believe that a chocolate cupcake made with added spinach purée resulted in…a really delicious chocolate cupcake!

    5. SNACK SMART

    If you’re not the type to grab a banana or other piece of fruit, you’ve got choices that give you “snack satisfaction”:

    Popcorn, baby carrots or mixed crudités with lowfat or nonfat dip, Bare Fruit apple chips (our favorite—so sweet yet there’s no added sweetener) and dried fruit and nut mixes are easy and very tasty. There are books and websites of “healthy snacks.”

    As a fun challenge, print out a calendar page and research a different healthy snack for every day. It’s not as daunting as you think: garlic popcorn and jalapeño popcorn are three separate snack ideas.

    Here are some of our favorite healthy snacks for the office. Send us your favorite better-for-you snacks.

      

    Comments

    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

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