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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 Tip Of The Day

TIP OF THE DAY: Salad Topped Main Course

Here’s an easy way to get everyone to eat a few more veggies: Top main courses with a small salad.

Fried, grilled, roasted and sautéed proteins are all candidates to be topped with an alluring crown of vegetables and herbs—not a dinner salad or dressed lettuce, but something that looks great. Dress the salad very lightly with olive oil or vinaigrette.

The “salad topping” doesn’t preclude your ability to serve the side salad of your choice.

SALAD TOPPERS

Aim to mix at least three bright colors and ideally four: green plus orange, red or yellow. Different shades of green don’t count as different colors. We’ve also included green salad-friendly fruits.

 
THE GREEN GROUP

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli (including rabe and rapini)
  • Cucumber
  • Edamame
  • Green apple
  • Green beans
  • Green bell pepper
  • Green grapes
  • Green olives
  • Green onion tops
  • Green peas
  • Herbs (basil, dill, parsley, etc.)
  • Lettuces (everything from arugula to watercress)
  • Pickles/gherkins
  • Sugar snap peas, snow peas
  • Zucchini
  •  

    pan-sauteed-catfish-230

    Pan-sautéed catfish topped with a parsley and tomato salad. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

     

    THE RED GROUP

  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Raspberries or strawberries
  • Red apple
  • Red bell pepper
  • Red grapes
  • Red tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  •  

    chicken-cutlet-recipes-rabe-mozzarella-tomatoes-westsidemarketnyc-230

    Chicken cutlets topped with broccoli rabe and
    sundried tomatoes. The recipe is below.
    and photo courtesy Westside Market |
    NYC.

     

    THE ORANGE GROUP

  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Dried apricots
  • Mango
  • Orange bell pepper
  • Orange cherry tomatoes
  • Orange citrus segments
  • Zucchini
  •  
    THE YELLOW GROUP

  • Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Yellow bell pepper
  • Yellow tomatoes
  •  
    THE PURPLE/BLUE GROUP

  • Berries: blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries
  • Eggplant
  • Fruits: figs, grapes, plums
  • Red cabbage
  • Specialty varieties: purple bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, corn, potatoes, string beans, plus forbidden rice (black rice)
  • Thanks to Wendy Thorpe Copley, author of one of our favorite new books, Everyday Bento, for organizing lists of fruits and veggies by color. We’ll be reviewing her book shortly.

    RECIPE: CHICKEN CUTLETS WITH BROCCOLI RABE & MOZZARELLA

    This dish may look familiar: Italian restaurants frequently top cutlets with a bit of red and green. You can prepare this dish in just 15 minutes, plus 30 minutes cooking time. You can cut calories and cholesterol by eliminating the mozzarella.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, slightly pounded
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, steamed or sautéed
  • 2 ounces sundried tomato slivers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté garlic until golden, then discard.

    2. SPRINKLE chicken breasts with salt and pepper on each side. Dip chicken into beaten egg and then coat with breadcrumbs. Place chicken in skillet and cook until brown on both sides, about 5 minutes.

    3. PLACE cutlets in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray or greased with oil. Bake the cutlets for 10 minutes, top with mozzarella, rabe and tomato slivers. Continue baking until cooked through, another 10 to minutes or so.

    3. ARRANGE chicken on four plates and top with mozzarella and broccoli rabe. Garnish with tomato slivers and serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Marzipan Cupcake Decorations

    Just in time for St. Pat’s. Photo © Sprinkles
    Cupcakes.

     

    Marzipan as a cake decoration goes back hundreds of years. It was so popular as a confection, it was used for centuries in Europe to cover wedding cakes, or to create the decorations that topped conventional frostings.

    But times change, and there’s less marzipan decor these days. It’s time to go old school and decorate with marzipan.

    Marzipan, or almond paste, is a confection made from almond meal (ground almonds) plus a sweetener: sugar or honey. It is sold plain, enrobed in chocolate, and fashioned into fanciful animals, fruits, mushrooms and other delights.

    Some historians believe that the confection originated in China; others in Arabia. These are not contradictory: Arab traders brought many items back from China around the 8th century C.E., including pasta!

    With St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day on the horizon, consider using marzipan to decorate your cakes and cupcakes.

     

    Marzipan can be tinted any color and cut or molded into any shape. In fact, if your crew enjoys the culinary arts, have a marzipan decorating party for Easter instead of decorating Easter eggs; or host a decorate-your-own Mother’s Day cupcake party. Cut out red, white and blue stars for Independence Day.

    Here’s a video from Martha Stewart on how to decorate with marzipan.

    Get out the mini cookie cutters and other tools. Make palm trees for summer, create your dog in marzipan, even try a bust of mom or dad. It’s fun and very delicious.

    And maybe it’ll keep the kids entertained for an hour or two.

     

    For Mom. Photo © Sprinkles Cupcakes.

     

      

    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: A Boon For Messy Eaters

    Tie one on! say the father and son team behind DressTiez, and we couldn’t agree more.

    We fall into the category of unintentionally messy eaters. We don’t want to drip pizza, sauce and other runny foods down the front of our shirts and sweaters; but we invariably do.

    During our teen years, when crisp white shirts were the fashion, our dry cleaner told us to switch to dark colors. He couldn’t get the food stains out.

    THE WORK-AROUND

    Dark colors still show all the food we’ve dropped on ourselves and require just as much dry cleaning. But the results are happier: Our washed and dry-cleaned clothes are returned with no stains.

    We also learned to avoid eating messy foods—juicy burgers, fondue, powdered doughnuts, ribs, spaghetti—with anyone other than close friends and family.

     

    navy-folded-230

    DressTiez are an elegant solution for messy adults. Here, navy from the Classic Series. Photo courtesy DressTiez.

     
    With them, we tucked our napkin under our chin. With new acquaintances and business associates, we developed a technique, discretely holding the napkin to our chest with one hand as we used our fork with the other.

     

    red-bib-paisley-lining-230

    Red with a paisley lining, from the Designer
    Series. Photo courtesy DressTiez.

     

    If only DressTiez existed back then.

    This new product, a sophisticated-looking, waterproof adult bib, keeps your clothing immaculate. You can eat with the confidence that your clothes remain completely protected, no matter how drippy your victuals.

    The polyester bib with a Velcro closure is machine washable, but it’s even easier than that:

    Returning after a messy dinner of pizza and Caesar salad, we simply wet a nail brush, ran it across the soap and scrubbed off the dried pizza sauce, strings of mozzarella and drippy dressing with ease.

     
    THERE’S A COLOR FOR EVERYONE

  • Classic Series in black, charcoal or navy
  • Designer series in black, brown, green, navy, purple, royal blue or wine, with bright contrasting linings
  • Limited Collection, made with limited and vintage fabrics, in solid colors with patterned linings
  • Custom Series with embroidered expressions (Mangia!, Bon Appétit, Happy Birthday) and other design elements
  •  

    DressTiez are $29.95 each ($39.99 for the Custom Series) and are nicely gift boxed. They easily fit in a handbag or pocket.

    Our only wish is that the mesh drawstring bag provided to tote the bib were of a different design (we switched it out for one of the numerous zipper cases we had on hand).

    But this is a new company, and we wish them lots of success. We’ll do our part by forwarding the website to other messy users of our acquaintance.

    Get your DressTiez at DressTiez.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fast Decorating With Chips

    Need a quick dessert, but want a touch of both fancy and homemade?

    Grab store-bought cupcakes or cake and a bag of baking chips, regular or mini.

    They’re available in a rainbow of flavors/colors: butterscotch, cappuccino, caramel, cherry, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, mint, peanut butter, peppermint (white chips with bits of candy cane) and vanilla (white chocolate). We found them all on Amazon.

    Nestle’s makes a Winter Blend of dark chocolate and mint chips that’s perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.

    In the photo, peanut butter mini chips garnish a Crumbs chocolate cupcake filled with peanut butter frosting, topped with peanut butter and chocolate frosting.

     

    peanut-butter-mini-chips-crumbs-230sq

    Peanut butter-chocolate cupcake with a rim of peanut butter chips. Photo courtesy Crumbs.

     

    green-mint-guittard-amz-230

    Green mint baking chips from Guittard.
    Photo courtesy Guittard.

     

    Get ready for St. Patrick’s Day with mint green baking chips from Guittard.

     
    MORE TO DO WITH BAKING CHIPS (CHOCOLATE CHIPS OR ANY FLAVOR)

  • Top ice cream, pudding and other desserts.
  • Garnish the whipped cream atop desserts or beverages.
  • Add to trail mix and granola.
  • Toss a few onto cereal or yogurt.
  • Melt as a dip for potato chips, pretzels and fruit.
  • Add to crêpes, pancakes and waffles.
  • Toss into brownie, cake, cookie and muffin batter.
  • Add to a trifle with pound cake or ladyfingers, custard or whipped cream and fresh fruit.
  • Enjoy as a candy fix instead of something more caloric (1 tablespoon of Nestlé chocolate chips is 70 calories).
  •  

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Stuffed Peppers

    Stuffed peppers are enjoyed in cultures around the world. They’re a versatile food: for a first course, a light lunch or dinner or a side. You can stuff them with anything, including leftovers. And you can find them in “holiday colors,” from red and green for Christmas to purple, gold and green for St. Patrick’s Day.

    A large pepper* is hollowed out (removing the ribs and seeds), stuffed and baked. The same technique is applied to eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and other vegetables.

    In more recent recipes, small stuffed peppers are served as hors d’oeuvre and snacks:

  • Baby bell peppers, cooked or raw, are stuffed with soft cheese or other ingredients.
  • Jalapeño poppers stuff the bite-size chiles with a mixture of cheese, spices, and sometimes ground meat; they are then deep fried (recipe).
  •  
    *We find it easier to use shorter, wider peppers rather than taller, narrower ones.
     
    STUFFED PEPPERS AROUND THE WORLD

    Get inspiration for your own recipes from these:

  • India: Bharvan mirch stuffs bell peppers stuffed with cooked meat, potatoes and onions, seasoned with chili, cilantro, coriander, lemon juice and turmeric. Mirchi bajji, a street food, is a large green chile stuffed with a roasted, spiced flour mix, sometimes battered, and then fried.
  •  

    wfm_stuffed-pepper-230

    Stuffed peppers are a global favorite. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Markets. Try this recipe stuffed with quinoa.

     

  • Mediterranean: Greek food fans know that dolma are stuffed grape leaves; but peppers and other vegetables are stuffed in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. In Greek yemista, bell peppers are stuffed and baked with a rice and herb filling. In Tunisia, filfil mahshi are stuffed with spiced rice and ground beef or lamb.
  • Mexico: Chiles rellenos are made with roasted green Pasilla or poblano peppers stuffed with queso fresco cheese and sometimes minced meat, covered in an egg batter and fried.
  • Scandinavia, The Baltic States & The Balkans: Peppers are stuffed in a way familiar to Americans, with ground beef or pork, rice, vegetables and spices. In Bulgaria, stuffed peppers are usually eaten with yogurt.
  • Spain: Pimientos rellenos, a Basque specialty, stuff piquillo peppers with cod in a béchamel sauce, ground beef or Manchego cheese.
  •  

    Mediterranean-Style-Stuffed-Peppers-mccormick-230

    Peppers stuffed with lamb and feta. Photo
    and recipe courtesy McCormick.

     

    RECIPE: MEDITERRANEAN STYLE STUFFED PEPPERS

    The delicious stuffing features ground beef, brown rice, golden raisins and almonds seasoned with flavorful, aromatic spices. The recipe is also different because it slices the peppers in half, vertically, rather than cutting off the top to create a deep dish.

    Prep Time is 10 minutes, cook time is 1 hour, 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon oregano Leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or lamb
  • 1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins (you can substitute conventional raisins)
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 medium green bell peppers, halved lengthwise, stem and seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup crumbled reduced fat feta cheese
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT oven to 375°F. Mix rosemary, cinnamon, oregano and salt in small bowl. Set aside.

    2. COOK ground meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat, 5 to 7 minutes or until no longer pink, stirring occasionally to break up meat. Drain fat. Add spice mixture; cook and stir 1 minute.

    3. STIR in tomato sauce, raisins and almonds. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Add rice and egg; mix well. Arrange bell pepper halves, cut-side up, in 13×9-inch baking dish. Spoon beef mixture evenly into bell pepper halves. Pour 1/4 cup water into dish. Cover with foil.

    4. BAKE 45 minutes or until bell peppers are tender. Sprinkle filling with feta cheese. Bake, uncovered, 12 to 15 minutes longer or until cheese is lightly browned.
     
    RECIPE TEMPLATE: MIX & MATCH

  • Beans and legumes: black beans, white beans, lentils, etc.
  • Grains: barley, corn, rice, quinoa and breadcrumbs
  • Nuts & fruits: cashews, pine nuts or other nuts; apricot, currants, dried cherries or cranberries, prunes, raisins
  • Proteins: cheese; chicken, beef, pork or other meat, ground or diced; egg; sausage; seafood; tofu
  • Vegetables: anything and everything, cut small enough to cook evenly. Ideas: grated carrots, edamame, kale, mushrooms, onions, potatoes (diced or mashed), spinach, squash
  • Herbs: cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, oregano
  • Spices: cinnamon, cumin, curry
  •  
    Why don’t we include fish? While the Basque cod-stuffed pepper is very popular, and brandade (mashed cod in olive oil) works, we haven’t found other recipes that really sing. The delicate flavors of most fish (or shellfish) get buried.

    If you have a great recipe, we’d like to try it.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Rainbow Vegetables

    rainbow-baby-carrots-www.sprinkledsideup-230

    Baby carrots move beyond the familiar
    orange to purple, red and yellow. Photo
    courtesy Sprinkle Side Up. See her recipe for
    glazed rainbow carrots.

     

    In picking up supplies for our “diet Oscars menu,” we came across rainbow baby carrots—our first sighting—and rainbow cherry tomatoes, which have been available in our market for a few years.

    Although we’re months from peak produce season, it got us thinking of how delightful it is to come across a familiar food with a fun twist. Most of the veggies below are natural mutations (as was red grapefruit and many other foods); some are cross-bred; none are GMO.

    It’s not just about fun; there are nutritional benefits as well. Colored foods tend to be more antioxidant rich than pale and white foods. For example, orange cauliflower contains high levels of beta-carotene; purple cauliflower contains anthocyanin, an antioxidant that gives purple color to a variety of foods, including red cabbage and red onions. Green cauliflower just happens to have more protein than the other colors.

    So today’s tip is: Keep an eye out and treat yourself to whatever is new and different. Grocers know that customers want new options, so even if there’s no farmers market near you, keep looking.

    Then tell us what you found, and how you served it.

     

  • Bell peppers: Beyond the familiar green and red are black (purplish), orange, yellow and white bell peppers (photo). They all start out green, and ripen into the rainbow colors.
  • Colored cauliflower: Green, orange and purple cauliflowers are natural mutants of white cauliflower (which itself was bred to be whiter). Green cauliflower, also called broccoflower, has a lighter green cousin.
  • Romanesco: Also called Romanesque cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli and Romanesque cabbage, there’s a reason for the different names. Professional plant taxonomists can’t decide precisely where this exotic beauty belongs. A natural vegetable first discovered in Italy, it is one of the most beautiful vegetables imaginable (here’s a photo).
  • Eggplant: Beyond the familiar dark purple, also grows green (Thai eggplant), lavender, orange (Ethiopian, scarlet or Turkish eggplant), pink, and striped purple and white (graffiti eggplant) and white eggplant. The lighter colored eggplants tend to be less bitterness than the dark purple.
  •  

  • Purple green beans: These are a mutation where the skin of a regular green been grows violet. Alas, they are only purple when raw; cooking engenders the familiar green skin. But they sure are impressive crudités! (Photo and more information.) And don’t forget the yellow wax beans. A mix of green and yellow is interesting, and much more available.
  • Rainbow baby carrots: Shown in the photo above; the original carrot was white, like a turnip. The other colors—orange, purple, red, yellow—were mutants. Here’s the story.
  • Red leaf lettuce: There are quite a few varieties of red lettuce. Two of our favorites for “prettiest” are red fire lettuce (scroll past the green lettuce) and the beautifully spotted freckles lettuce.
  • Sweet red corn: Look for it during the summer corn season. (Photo.)
  • Swiss chard: Long familiar in green with red accents, check farmers markets to find it in vivid orange, pink, purple, yellow and white. (Photo.)
  • Tomatoes: Anyone who has visited a farmers market has seen the lush colors beyond red: brown, green, orange, purple, striped, yellow, white.
  •  

    multicolored-cherry-tomatoes-diannefritzpinterest-230s

    Cherry tomatoes photo courtesy Dianne Fritz.

     
    Isn’t nature grand?

      

    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: Make A Tartine

    Don’t expect dessert: You’re making a sandwich.

    Tartine is the French word for an open-faced sandwich with a rich spread or fancy topping; the word actually refers to a slice of bread. Tartine is the French diminutive of the Old French and Middle English tarte, derived from the Late Latin torta, a type of bread. (Yes, we’re culinary history geeks.)

    Beyond the occasional open face roast beef or turkey sandwich with gravy, open face sandwiches are no longer in fashion in the U.S.

    We have a vague childhood recollection of a variety of tartines served in the ladies’ lunch restaurants our grandmother frequented. Eaten with a knife and fork, they were in tune with those more gracious (and graceful) times. Our mother continued the tradition, serving them at home.

    But slapping another slice of bread on top of the ingredients for a conventional sandwich is more American: faster and more convenient to eat, if less elegant.

    Tartines remain a traditional sandwich type in the Nordic countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland and Russia, where they are eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack.

  • The Netherlands: The uitsmijter, often served as a hearty breakfast, is white bread topped with a selection of meats, cheeses, vegetables and sometimes an egg.
  •  

    brandade-potato-swiss-roastedtom-chocolatelabSF-230

    Brandade (here, a combination of mashed potatoes and cod), oven roasted cherry tomatoes, vinaigrette-dressed arugula on white toast. Photo courtesy Chocolate Lab | San Francisco.

     

  • Scandinavia: The Scandinavian open-face sandwich (smorrebrod in Denmark, voileipä in Finland, morbrod in Norway, smorgas in Sweden) tops a slice of buttered whole-grain rye with just about anything. A selection of proteins—bacon, caviar, herring, fish fillets, hard boiled eggs, liver pâté, meatballs, sliced steak, shrimp, smoked salmon—are complemented by herbs and/or vegetables, such as parsley, pickled beets, sliced cucumber, salad, tomatoes. Mayonnaise or a mayonnaise-based dressing is often included.
  • Breakfast tartines: Popular in Belgium and The Netherlands, these are most likely to make the transition to American kitchens. Some of us already serve bread or toast with chocolate spread, honey, jam, peanut butter and bananas or other sliced fruit.
  •  
    READY TO MAKE TARTINES?

    Suggested ingredients are below. Start with these tips:

  • Use large, thicker slices of quality bread—cut them in half before serving.
  • Toast the bread—it provides a sturdier “raft” for the sandwich.
  • Melt the cheese—even a slight amount of melting enhances the consistency of the sandwich.
  • Check out the leftovers—they’re perfect for tartines, because you don’t need large pieces or a large amount of any one ingredient.
  • Serve at room temperature or warmed.
  •  

    turkey-triplecreme-onionpeppermarmalade-chocolatelabSF-230

    Turkey, brie, onion-pepper marmalade
    roasted yellow bell pepper and fresh dill, with
    a side of pickled vegetables. Photo courtesy
    Chocolate Lab | San Francisco.

     

    TARTINE INGREDIENTS: MIX & MATCH
     
    Proteins

  • Bacon, prosciutto, serrano ham (we also like leftover roast pork)
  • Cheese: herbed goat or other cheese spread, favorite sliced cheese (like Emmental/Swiss) or crumbled cheese
  • Cold cuts, charcuterie/salume, hard-boiled eggs
  • Smoked salmon, gravlax
  • Seafood: crab, lobster, shrimp, sliced scallops
  •  
    Vegetarian Ingredients

  • Onions: caramelized onions or onion marmalade, chives, pickled onions, thin-sliced red or sweet onions
  • Fresh or marinated vegetables, sliced thin: avocado, beets, carrots (shredded or curled), cole slaw in vinaigrette, cucumber, radish, shaved fennel
  • Fruit: sliced apples, pears or other favorite
  • Grilled vegetables, pimento
  • Lettuce: arugula, baby spinach, iceberg or romaine (shredded), watercress
  •  
    Spreads

  • Compound butter (flavored butter)
  • Dijon, whole grain or honey mustard (or spring for some fancy mustards like walnut mustard and violet mustard—see the different types of mustard)
  • Flavored mayonnaise (add curry, dill or other herbs, hot sauce or chiles, relish or anything else to plain mayo)
  • Herbed yogurt
  •  
    Garnishes

  • Fresh herbs, minced
  • Capers
  • Dried blueberries, cherries, cranberries
  • Nuts: slivered almonds, chopped pecans or pistachios
  •  
    Some Of Our Family Favorites

  • Roast beef, tomato, avocado, red onion and baby spinach leaves, arugula or watercress on buttered whole-grain toast.
  • Caramelized onions and Gorgonzola or other blue cheese on rye toast, put under the broiler until the cheese just starts to melt, garnished with fresh chervil or other herb.
  • Ham, sliced roasted potatoes and Emmental or other hard cheese, on rye with honey Dijon; garnished with chopped chives and dried cranberries.
  • Smoked salmon, salmon caviar, goat cheese, red onion and marinated sliced cucumber on pumpernickel bread with a fresh parsley garnish.
  • Breakfast tartines of goat cheese and honey drizzle; smoked salmon, cream cheese and red onion; peanut butter and banana.
     
    Send us your favorite combinations!

      

  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Freeze-Dried Herbs In Everything

    The trick to adding more flavor to everything you eat, with negligible calories—and the ability to cut back on salt—are spices and herbs.

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HERBS & SPICES

  • Spices are the dried seeds, buds, fruit or flower parts, bark or roots of plants. They are usually of tropical origin.
  • Herbs are the leaves and sometimes the flowers of plants, usually grown in a climate similar to the Mediterranean.
  • Aromatics: In culinary terms, both herbs and spices fall into the category of aromatics. (Now you know what those Top Chef contestants were referring to!)
     
    Today we’re focusing on herbs.

    A few months ago we received a shipment of Instantly Fresh freeze-dried herbs from Litehouse, and have been happily adding them to just about everything.

  •  

    litehouse-herbs-chive-basil-230

    Two of the numerous freeze-dried, “Instantly Fresh” herbs from Litehouse.

     
    Litehouse freeze-dries every herb you could need for daily cooking: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, garlic, ginger, Italian herb blend, jalapeños, lemongrass, oregano, parsley, poultry herb blend, red onion, sage, salad herb blend, spring onion and thyme.

    What does all this choice mean? That you have some “herbing” to do!

    Whether you’re cooking breakfast eggs, making soup, mashing potatoes, broiling, roasting, sautéing or simply reheating or microwaving—think of what herb would brighten the dish.

    You don’t have to go exotic. A basic complement of basil, chives, garlic, oregano and parsley will do.

     

    slaw-cheesecake-factory-230sq

    Cole slaw, potato salad and protein salads
    (chicken, egg, tuna, etc.) all benefit from
    added dill, plus parsley. Photo courtesy
    Cheesecake Factory.

     

    WHAT ARE FREEZE-DRIED HERBS

    Freeze-drying is a dehydration process used to preserve perishables. The food is quickly frozen and the surrounding air pressure is then reduced. This allows the frozen water in the product to go directly from the solid phase to the gas phase, avoiding the liquid phase.

    The process delivers more of the taste, aroma and nutrition of fresh herbs, compared to conventional drying.

    And the unopened food can be stored at room temperature without refrigeration for years. The greatly reduced water content inhibits the action of microorganisms and enzymes that would otherwise spoil or degrade the substance.

    When freeze-dried herbs are rehydrated by contact with moisture (the liquid in the recipe itself or other ingredients in the recipe), they reconstitute into a close approximation of their former fresh selves.

     

    So your task this week is to look at everything you serve and match at least one herb to it (don’t hesitate to use two or more):

  • Bread: create your own bread dippers by adding herbs to olive oil and add a green herb to garlic bread
  • Main Dish: anything goes
  • Pasta: beyond the Italian basics—basil, oregano and parsley—try other herbs like dill, rosemary, thyme and sage
  • Pizza: ditto!
  • Sandwich/Wrap have fun with it!
  • Sauce/Condiment ditto!
  • Side Dish: once you sprinkle herbs onto potatoes, rice and vegetables, you’ll be hooked
  • Soup: what looks like a nice garnish really adds a flavor boost
  •  
    When you come across dynamite pairings, share them with us!
     
    FOOD TRIVIA

    Some plants yield both an herb and a spice.

  • Cilantro is the leafy herb of the same plant that gives us the popular spice coriander seed.
  • Dill weed (an herb) and dill seed (a spice) also come from the same plant.
  •   

    Comments

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