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Category Archives: food and culinary

What Is the Glycemic Index? Best Low Glycemic Index Foods

The glycemic index (GI) is a way to measure the impact specific types of food have on blood sugar.[1] GI values range from zero to one hundred. Food with a high GI value will make blood sugar levels rise (and fall) quickly, food with a low GI value will have a more slow and steady effect.

A GI value under 55 is low; foods that have a low GI value include beans, cruciferous vegetables, grapefruit, and tomatoes. A GI value between 56-69 is moderate; examples include pasta, green peas, sweet potatoes, orange juice, and blueberries. A GI value over 70 is high;[2] examples include refined sugar, potatoes, white bread, dried fruit, carrots, and watermelon.

Why Are Glycemic Values Important?

Paying attention to the GI values of the food you eat allows you to exert a level of control over your blood sugar; there are many reasons why this is desirable.

Persons with diabetes struggle with maintaining balanced blood sugar.[3] It’s a disease that’s reached epidemic proportions. Over 29 million Americans have diabetes, almost 90 million more are prediabetic. A diet centered around foods with a low GI value can help keep blood sugar under control.

You don’t have to suffer from diabetes to experience the benefits of regular, balanced blood sugar. Studies suggest consuming low GI food may help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer;[4] and that barely scratches the surface when considering the revelations uncovered by research into the effects of a low GI diet:

  • A low GI diet may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.[5]
  • A high GI diet is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.[6, 7]
  • A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in January 2016 suggests that following a high GI diet increases the risk of depression.[8]

The Relationship Between Blood Sugar and Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a primary source of energy for the human body[9] and there are two basic types — simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates, also known as monosaccharides or disaccharides, are digested quickly and have an immediate effect on blood sugar.[10] Common examples include refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup, as found in soft drinks.[11] In general, foods high in simple carbohydrates have a high GI value.

Complex carbohydrates, also known as oligosaccharides and polysaccharides, are metabolized more slowly and do not have a dramatic effect on blood sugar. Foods high in complex carbohydrates include whole grain bread, vegetables, and legumes. Complex carbohydrates usually have a low GI value and, additionally, accompany other nutrients (such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals) that further reduce digestion time.

What Is Glycemic Load?

It’s easy to think that all high GI value foods are best avoided since high blood sugar is associated with so many problems, but portion size needs to be considered as well.

For example, carrots have a high GI value but a typical serving of carrots only contains about 6 grams of carbohydrates; probably not anywhere near enough to upset the blood sugar of the average person.

This is where glycemic load enters the picture. The glycemic load provides a more thorough consideration of the impact food has on blood sugar because it takes into account the GI value as well as the grams of carbohydrates (fat and protein are not considered as they do not affect blood sugar) in a serving.[14]

Calculating Glycemic Load

Glycemic load is calculated by multiplying the GI value by the grams of carbohydrates in a serving and dividing by 100. A glycemic load value of 10 or less is low; 20 or above is high.[15]

Watermelon, for example, has a GI value of 72 although a typical serving of watermelon only provides 6 grams of carbohydrates; a quick calculation reveals a glycemic load of less than 5.

A can of soda, on the other hand, may have a GI value of 65 but if a single can provides 40 grams of carbohydrates that means the glycemic load is 26, which is very high.

Is it any wonder that steady, daily consumption of soda and other sugary beverages contributes to so many health problems?

Factors That Affect Glycemic Index Values

Keep in mind that the GI value is just a starting point and can be affected by a number of factors. Processing and refining, for example, will result in a higher GI value. A whole baked potato has a lower GI value than instant mashed potatoes; processed orange juice has a higher GI value than fresh squeezed.[16]

Eating different foods together can affect GI values. Research has shown that the negative effects of a high-carbohydrate diet are lessened when consumed with fiber.[17](Just to ensure there’s no confusion — no, eating a pound of lettuce won’t cancel out eating a pound of sugar.) The more ripe a fruit or vegetable, the higher its GI value. And, individual physiology–age, metabolism, health conditions–affect the way blood sugar is influenced.

Incorporating a Glycemic Diet Into Your Life

When constructing your diet, glycemic index and glycemic load values are great tools for guidance but need to be balanced with fundamentally sound principles of nutrition:

  • Eat a variety of real, whole, organic food.
  • Avoid junk food, refined sugar, and empty calories.
  • If you splurge, do so in moderation.
  • Quench your thirst with purified water.

Have you made a concerted effort to consume more low GI value foods and fewer high GI value foods? What tips can you share for designing a meal plan? What benefits have you noticed? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.

Is Agave Nectar Really Better Than Sugar?

Professional chefs, bakers and home cooks alike have been pleased to discover agave nectar, a sweet and pleasantly mild syrup made from the root of the agave plant (which, when fermented, becomes tequila). Marketed as an all-natural sugar substitute, at 32 dollars a gallon agave is turning an extremely good profit globally. But is agave better and healthier than sugar?

Origins of Agave

Agaves, a close relative of the aloe plant, are native to the southwest of the United States, Central America, as well as central and tropical South America. It is produced mainly in the Guadalajara region in Mexico, where it has been used by native Mexicans for centuries.

Commercial production of agave nectar began in the 1990’s, and since then bottles of this exotic golden syrup have been crowding the shelves of health food stores across the United States and Europe. Agave nectar can be found on the labels of many products from soda and ice cream to ketchup and granola. Now entering the mainstream culinary market, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and bars are serving agave in cocktails, smoothies, sauces, dressings and baked goods.

Agave Nectar: Health Benefits and Concerns

Despite many claims that say agave is a healthier sweetener, there are both pros and cons.

Benefits

  • Agave’s claim to fame is its low glycemic index (GI), which translates to less of an impact on blood sugar levels. Compared to table sugar, honey, maple syrup and date sugar, agave ranks the lowest with a GI of around 30.
  • Some agave products also boast a unique kind of fiber called fructans. This news appeals to diabetics because according to a study in Mexico, a diet rich in fructans may stimulate production of a hormone called GLP-1 which encourages the release of insulin.
  • Agave is also good news for vegans, since it is a sugar substitute that does not rely on any animals to produce it (unlike honey).

Concerns

  • Because of the way most manufacturers process the agave plant to obtain syrup, the end product has as much or more fructose than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

While our bodies depend on the glucose in complex carbohydrates for energy, fructose is a sugar that, if not used right away, gets stored as fat. HFCS has become the black sheep in the sugar industry because some believe that fructose is a leading cause of obesity in the United States.

There are a few small companies that are striving to make an agave syrup that retains as much nutrition as possible. Instead of heating the agave at high temperatures to extract and intensify the sweetness of the liquid, they use lower temperatures and rely mainly on enzymes to split the complex natural sugars. This second process creates the only true raw agave.

Is Agave Better Than Sugar?

At the end of the day agave is still a sweetener, which means it is not a health food. The real reason that agave is better than sugar is because you can use less of it due to the fact that it’s sweeter. However, keep in mind that not all agave is created equal. Here are some tips to ensure that you are using agave in the healthiest form possible:

  • Buy raw agave. This is the least processed type of agave, and bears the least resemblance to high fructose corn syrup. Keep in mind, however, that even raw agave contains high amounts of fructose.
  • Go for the darkest stuff on the shelf. The darker the syrup, the more nutrients remain.
  • Use sparingly. The healthiest way to use sugar and all sugar substitutes is in moderation.

Uses of Agave

Since agave can be up to three times as sweet as table sugar, you can use less in your cooking and dessert recipes. When baking with agave, for each cup of white sugar, you can use 2/3 cup of agave and reduce the other liquids by 1/4 cup. Because it mixes easily and has a mild and versatile flavor, it goes especially well with soft and hard drinks like tea, lemonade, sports drinks, smoothies, mint juleps and mojitos. Look for agave syrups in a range of flavors like maple, vanilla, blueberry, cappuccino and hazelnut.

3 Healthy Smoothies Perfect for the Holidays

It’s time to get out the blender and put it to work with these simple, delicious recipes for healthy, seasonal smoothies with an autumn twist. If you don’t already drink juices or blended drinks on a regular basis, smoothies are a great place to start. These simple blends are easy to love and even easier to integrate into your daily routine.

Here are a few tips on why smoothies are an easy way to incorporate some great nutrition into your daily diet:

  • Smoothies are one of those no-hassle treats you can whip up quickly, and with just a few ingredients you may already have on hand.
  • Drinking smoothies on a regular basis can be a really good habit to form, however you have to be smart about the ingredients you choose. Store-bought smoothies typically contain sweetened fruit juice, sugar and even ice cream, but making them at home with fresh fruit, vegetables and other ingredients can make for a very healthy snack.
  • Fewer than a quarter of Americans get enough fruits and vegetables, despite the USDA’s recommendations of at least five servings per day. With a smoothie, you can easily incorporate 1-2 cups of greens and 1-1.5 cups of fruit. “Drinking smoothies, especially for breakfast, is one of the easiest way to add some fruit to your diet,” says Joseph Price, PhD, a health economist and associate professor at Brigham Young University.

Fall Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree, frozen
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 apple, cored
  • Dried cranberries

Instructions

Combine all ingredients except cranberries in blender and blend until smooth. Top with cranberries.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Pumpkin isn’t just for pie or decorating your front porch at Halloween. It’s also a low-calorie food packed with nutrients.

  • One cup of cooked mashed pumpkin contains just 49 calories.
  • Pumpkin may be beneficial for prostate health and improving HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
  • Both canned and fresh pumpkin are healthy options, as are the seeds. Just steer clear of canned pumpkin with added ingredients, such as salt or sugar.
  • Pumpkin flesh gets its orange color from beta-carotene, an antioxidant belonging to a group of pigments called carotenoids. Beta-carotene may help reduce cell damage in the body and improve immune function. It may also reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease.
  • Colorado State University’s Shirley Perryman, M.S. also reports that beta-carotene could lower your risk for cataracts and macular degeneration. This antioxidant is converted to vitamin A in the body, an important nutrient for eye health.

Winter Green Ginger-Pineapple Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 cups frozen pineapple
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 1/4 cups water

Instructions

Combine ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. If you like an extra crunch, top your smoothie with 1/4 cup chopped nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, for a more filling meal.

Health Benefits of Spinach

  • Low in calories and high in vitamins, spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence.
  • One cup of the leafy green vegetable contains far more than your daily requirements of vitamin K and vitamin A, almost all the manganese and folate your body needs and nearly 40 percent of your magnesium requirement.
  • It is an excellent source of more than 20 different measurable nutrients, including dietary fiber, calcium and protein.
  • One cup of spinach has only 40 calories.

Strawberry-Mango Sunset Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 banana, peeled, sliced and frozen
  • 1 frozen mango chunks
  • 5 large frozen strawberries
  • Chia seeds

Instructions

Combine ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Health Benefits of Mango

Mangoes have been part of the human diet for over 4,000 years. The mango tree grows in the tropics and produces juicy, nutritious fruits. People eat mangoes alone or add them to fruit salads and salsas. Fresh mangoes are low in calories and contain beneficial nutrients. Available year-round, mangoes are a healthy addition to your diet.

  • Mangoes provide 2.6 g of dietary fiber in a serving of one cup.
  • Fiber provides short-term benefits, fostering proper digestion and prevents constipation.
  • Fiber also has long-term benefits. It can lessen your chances of developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and diverticular disease. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume at least 25 grams of fiber a day and men consume at least 38 grams. One cup of mango can help you reach that total.
  • Mangoes supply a healthy dose of vitamin A, which is necessary to support healthy eyes and proper bone growth. One cup of mango provides about 35 percent of the vitamin A your body needs daily for good health.

6 Hot Cooking Trends and How to Do It Yourself

The culinary industry is a fickle business due in part to the variable palates of its customers that change, not just from generation to generation, but from year to year. Kale, house-made soft drinks, bruschetta? So 2014. That’s according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual culinary forecast, which surveys 1,300 professional chefs to determine the hottest cooking trends 2015.

Some of the foods that have gained the most trendiness since last year’s survey include ethnic condiments (hello sriracha!), wild rice and, just in case you thought culinary trends were all about health foods, donuts.

This uncovers an interesting point: Are the hottest food trends meant only for the chicest professional kitchens, or are they more accessible than we think? For those in the culinary field, or those who wish tolearn to cook, here is a sampling of the National Restaurant Association’s list of the hottest cooking trends 2015, along with DIY tips and recipes.

1. Local Sourcing

First off, there is no official definition of “local” food sourcing. Hardcore locavores would put the radius from farm to table at 100 miles, but others use state lines as a guide. Local food has grown in popularity because people are beginning to question the potential hazards of long-distance food sourcing on the planet, our tastebuds, and our bodies (chemicals are sometimes added to fruit to make them last longer.) Many people also choose local food to support their local economy.

Note: Buying organic is not necessarily the same thing as buying local, however it is common to find local produce that is also grown organically.

Local Sourcing DIY

In order to find the freshest produce from their area, most foodies ride the farmer’s market circuit. There are several mobile apps to help with that endeavor, including Locavore, which allows you to pinpoint farmer’s markets and farms in your area.

For those whose schedules preclude a trip to the market, there are also local grocery delivery services that will bring farm-fresh goods from your area straight to your door with a simple click. These include Good Eggs, which is currently available in Brooklyn, San Francisco, New Orleans and Los Angeles, and Relay Foods, which operates in roughly 9 cities in the mid-Atlantic states. The market for these services is expected to surge to keep up with the rising trend in local food, so keep your eyes out for more providers in your area.

2. Environmental Sustainability

A lot of complicated factors go into making food more sustainable for the globe, and not everyone is in agreement on how to go about it. However, food waste may be the most pressing issue in the sustainability movement: In the United States, 40 percent of the food produced is never consumed.

Environmental Sustainability DIY

You can do your part with these life hacks for reducing food waste at home:

  • Keep cookies fresh by storing them with a piece of bread. Heads up: Your bread will get stale, but your cookies will be delicious for days.
  • Store apples in your crisper with a damp paper towel over them. Apples store better in a cool, slightly moist environment.
  • Don’t waste the dregs at the bottom of your peanut butter or almond butter jar. Toss some oats, berries, nuts and milk into the jar and stick it in the microwave for instant and delicious oatmeal.
  • Stale chips? Toss them in the microwave for a few seconds to crisp them back up.
  • Turn bad bananas into delicious banana bread.

And perhaps most importantly, whether it’s in a coffee tin at the side of the sink or in a hand-cranked barrel in the backyard, be sure to compost!

3. Healthy Kid Meals

In an effort to combat the childhood obesity crisis, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign aims to put child nutrition back into our national consciousness, and healthy meals onto cafeteria and dinner tables across America.

Healthy Kid Meals DIY

Here are some tips for prepping healthier meals for children from the Let’s Move campaign:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat like skinless chicken or extra lean ground beef for hamburgers or pasta sauces.
  • Substitute olive or vegetable oil for butter.
  • Mix vegetables into dishes, like adding peas to rice, or cucumbers to a sandwich.
  • Portions should be about the size of the back of a fist — a child’s fist for a child’s portion.

4. Gluten Free Foods

Gluten is the protein that helps hold food together, and is found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. Some people are allergic to gluten, others have a sensitivity to the protein, but any way you slice it, a gluten free diet is jam-packed with the fruits, vegetables, and proteins that do a body good.

Gluten Free DIY

Due to the rising popularity of gluten free cuisine, more “GF” labels are being added to food packages every day. However, one of the best ways to ensure that you are eating gluten free is to avoid pre-packaged foods altogether. Baked goods, in particular, are a fun foray into the gluten free world. Here are some common GF alternatives to traditional flour:

  • Almond flour (also called almond meal): This is a great alternative to flour in baked goods such as cookies and apple crisp.
  • Brown rice flour: This is probably closest to whole wheat flour in consistency and usage.
  • Buckwheat flour: The most misnamed flour on the block, buckwheat flour contains no wheat (and no gluten), and is best used in combination with other flours due to its density.
  • Coconut flour: This is another flour that is best used in combination with other GF flours, due to its tendency to absorb moisture. It adds a delicious flavor and aroma to your gluten free baking.

5. Ancient Grains

The rise of the paleo diet, which touts the eating habits of our hunter-gather ancestors, has brought acute awareness to the fact that what we eat not now does not resemble what we ate even 100 years ago. This is due to the industrialization and mass production of food in the 20th century, particularly grain. Ancient grains predate this period, and provide a rich source of vitamins and proteins with minimal processing.

Ancient Grains DIY

Here is a list of ancient grains (not exhaustive), along with suggestions for quick at home recipes:

  • Quinoa: This gluten free grain makes delicious hot cereal with almond milk and maple syrup.
  • Millet: This is an incredibly versatile grain that when ground makes a great binder for meatballs and meatloaf.
  • Sorghum: This makes a great whole grain flour for use in cookies and brownies.
  • Amaranth: Another gluten free all-star, amaranth flour is great in pancakes.
  • Teff: Teff polenta is a delicious alternative for those allergic to corn.
  • Freekeh: With an appearance like wheat berries, this grain is great cooked and tossed in salad.
  • Chia seeds: Chia seeds can be added to just about anything, but they are particularly tasty in puddings of any kind.
  • Farro: Farro is a great alternative to rice; next time you are making risotto, try it with farro instead.
  • Spelt: Spelt flour works well in combination with flaxseed meal, particularly in muffin recipes.
  • Kamut: Kamut kernels can be cooked pilaf-style, similar to wild rice.

6. Donuts!

Science suggests that both fat and sugar trigger reward centers in the brain. When combined in one food, it becomes downright addictive, which may help to explain the eternal popularity of donuts.

DIY Donuts: Apple Cider Donut Recipe

In the colder months, when the days are shorter, we crave more calories, which is why donuts are an annual fall favorite. Take a page out of New England’s book, and try these apple cider donuts.

Ingredients

  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup boiled apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Safflower oil

Instructions

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Beat sugar and butter with a mixer. Add eggs, and mix again. Add the buttermilk, boiled cider and vanilla and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture.
  3. Pour dough into a baking sheet that has been dusted with flour and lined with parchment paper. Stick in the freezer for a few minutes, then remove and cut donuts with a donut cutter. (You can use the round centers to make donut holes.)
  4. Heat the safflower oil in a large pot. Drop the donuts into the oil and cook on each side until brown.

5 Easy Recipes for Entertaining

Crispy Prosciutto Melon Bites

  • 1-2 packs of good quality prosciutto
  • ½ cantaloupe or honeydew diced into small chunks

Heat a medium pan with a touch of olive oil. Lay prosciutto sheets in the pan and cook for a 2-3 minutes per side just until slightly crisped. Remove from the pan and slice into bite size pieces. Working over a cutting board, top each piece of melon with a piece of salty prosciutto and secure with a toothpick. If making for a crowd, serve these adorable mini spears on a platter.

Sweet and Savory Stuffed Dates

  • 30 large dates, preferably Medjool
  • ¼ – ½ pound soft fresh goat cheese
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds

Using a small knife, make a small lengthwise incision in each date. Carefully remove the pits. Using a zip lock bag as your pastry bag stuff 1 tablespoons of the goat cheese into the cavity left by each date’s pit by. Arrange the dates, with the goat cheese side facing up, in the prepared dish. Sprinkle the slivered almonds evenly over the top and serve.

Spicy Cajun Crunch Snack Mix

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 pound bag of mixed nuts, salted

Heat a large sauté pan or wok to medium heat with oil. Add the spices to the oil and cook for a few minutes just to warm through. Add the mixed nuts and mix well, stirring constantly to coat the nuts well with the seasoning. Remove from the pan when the nuts begin to look and smell toasted. Enjoy warm or room temperature.

Spinach Parmesan Dip

  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (8 1/2 oz.) can water chestnuts, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Squeeze any excess liquid out of the spinach. In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, yogurt, Parmesan, garlic, water chestnuts, salt and pepper. Serve with whole wheat crackers, raw vegetables or blue and yellow organic corn tortilla triangles for a delicious gluten free option.

Turkey Sliders with Cranberry Mustard

  • 1 lb ground lean turkey
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup cranberry jelly
  • Mini buns, Hawaiian rolls or toast points
  • Crispy shallots or onions

Preheat a large sauté pan on high heat. In a large bowl, mix the turkey meat with the granulated garlic, dried thyme, dried oregano, dried lavender buds, black pepper and kosher salt and mix well. Heat a bit of olive oil in the hot sauté pan and shape the sliders into mini patties. Place the patties in the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes or so, depending on the size of your sliders, just until the turkey is cooked through and the juices run clear. To make the cranberry mustard, combine the Dijon and jelly together and mix well.

7 Cocktails You Should Know How to Make

#1. Martini

This classic (and endlessly classy) cocktail can be made with either vodka or gin, and has numerous variations, including:

  • Dry – no vermouth
  • Medium Dry – a dash of vermouth
  • Wet – one part vermouth
  • Dirty – a dash of olive juice
  • Shaken – shaken with ice instead of stirring
  • On the Rocks – served over ice
  • With a Twist – served with a lemon twist instead of olives

Each one of these variations changes the drink slightly. For example, vermouth, a fortified wine flavored with herbs and other botanicals, changes the complexity of a martini’s flavor profile. James Bond famously took his gin martini shaken, not stirred, medium dry, with a twist. Below is the recipe for a James Bond martini:

Martini Ingredients:

  • 2 shots gin
  • Dash of vermouth
  • Lemon rind

How to Make a Martini:

  1. Pour the gin and vermouth into a shaker about 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into chilled glasses.
  4. Peel a swatch of rind 1-2 inches long, twist it, and drop into the glass.

Preferred glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish options: Olives, lemon slice, or lemon twist

#2. Manhattan

A Manhattan is one of the O.G. cocktails that still retains its classy cool. Made of bourbon or rye whiskey, this cocktail originated in the 1870’s in (you guessed it) the Big Apple.

Manhattan Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots bourbon
  • 1 dash angostura bitters
  • ½ shot sweet red vermouth
  • Cherry

How to Make a Manhattan:

  1. Stir ingredients in a cocktail shaker about 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled glass.
  3. Serve straight up with a cherry.

Preferred glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish options: Cherry

#3. Old Fashioned

The name “old fashioned” harkens back to the very first cocktails of the 19th century, which were made of spirits of any kind, water, sugar and bitters. Today’s old fashioned cocktails are usually made with whiskey, though mezcal, brandy or rum can also be used. (Avoid mixing with clear liquors like gin and vodka.)

Old Fashioned Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots whiskey (rye whiskey makes for an especially good old fashioned)
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Orange slice
  • Cherry

How to Make an Old Fashioned:

  1. Add the sugar cube to the glass and dash the bitters on top.
  2. Add water and muddle until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add whiskey.
  4. Top with ice and garnish.

Preferred glass: Old fashioned glass (short tumbler-like glass, also called a rocks glass)

Garnish options: Orange slice and/or a cherry

#4. Whiskey Sour

This lip-smacking drink is refreshing, with a tangy bite. Optional egg white lends a delicious frothiness, though pineapple juice can achieve a similar affect.

Whiskey Sour Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots bourbon
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon simple syrup (make by melting one part water with one part sugar)
  • Dash egg white (or pineapple)
  • Orange slice
  • Cherry

How to Make a Whiskey Sour:

  1. Place all the ingredients (except garnish) in a shaker about 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Shake.
  3. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish.

Preferred glass: Rocks glass

Garnish options: Cherry and/or an orange slice

#5. Bloody Mary

This is a boozy brunch favorite, which is why it’s prudent to learn how to make at home (for those mornings when going out and waiting in line for a table at your favorite brunch place is simply not an option.)

Bloody Mary Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots vodka
  • 3 shots tomato juice
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dash Tabasco
  • 1/2 teaspoon horseradish (or to taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Lager float (optional)
  • Garnish goodies, such as olives, celery, cocktail onions, etc…

How to Make a Bloody Mary:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with 1/3 ice and shake well.
  2. Pour into a pint glass. Add a lager float, if so inclined.
  3. Garnish with a wide assortment of savory options!

Preferred glass: Pint glass

Garnish options: At a minimum, an olive is usually used, but this garnish-loving drink is also known to feature celery, lemon slice, picked green beans, cornichons, cocktail onions, and/or pepperoncini!

#6. Tom Collins

The name “Tom Collins” comes from the original brand that was used to make it, Old Tom Gin, however feel free to use your favorite gin brand for this drink.

Tom Collins Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots gin
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, plus rind
  • 1 Tablespoon simple syrup (make by melting one part water with one part sugar)
  • Carbonated water (to taste)
  • Cherry

How to Make a Tom Collins:

  1. Stir together lemon juice, gin, and sugar syrup in a tall glass 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Top with carbonated water.
  3. Add garnish.

Preferred glass: “Collins” glass

Garnish options: Lemon twist and/or a cherry

#7. Margarita

Making margarita mix from scratch is easier than you think. At its core, it involves just three ingredients: tequila, lime, and triple sec (or Cointreau). Add a little salt around the rim for a trifecta of flavors (sweet, salty, tangy). Variations can include pomegranate juice (or seeds), lychee, orange juice, or pineapple juice, but keep in mind this will change the sugar content significantly.

Margarita Ingredients:

  • 1 shot tequila
  • 1/2 shot Cointreau
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice, plus lime slice
  • Course grained salt

How to Make a Margarita:

  1. Rub the rim of the glass with lime slice and coat with rock salt.
  2. Pour all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 with ice.
  3. Pour into a highball glass and garnish.

Preferred glass: Highball glass or margarita glass

Garnish options: Course salt on the rim, lime slice

8 Brain Foods for a Healthy Mind

1 – Avocado

Avocados are one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. They contain fiber, potassium, vitamins A, C, D, E, K and all of the B vitamins. Avocados are also high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats known as omega-3 fatty acids, which can help keep your heart and brain healthy. Eating avocados can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Avocado Toast Recipe

  • ½ ripe avocado
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Toast the slice of bread in the toaster or in a pan. Scoop the avocado out of its peel and use a fork to mash it on top of the toast. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.

2 – Nuts

Eating a small handful of nuts each day is a great snack that is high in fiber, protein, unsaturated fat and a slew of vitamins and minerals. Each type of nut offers an array of nutrients. For example, cashews are high in zinc, iron and magnesium, which can aid in the improvement of memory loss and memory related diseases. Walnuts contain significant amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, which is one of the three omega-3 fatty acids that is essentially food for our brain and keeps our brains healthy active and alive from birth and throughout our life.

Spicy Cajun Nut Mix Recipe

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 lb. bag of raw mixed nuts

Heat a large sauté pan or wok to medium heat with oil. Add the spices to the oil and cook for a few minutes just to warm through. Add the mixed nuts and mix well, stirring constantly to coat the nuts well with the seasoning. Remove from the pan when the nuts begin to look and smell toasted. Enjoy warm or room temperature.

3 – Dark Chocolate

Not just any chocolate will do on this list, and specifically its dark chocolate that has most of the brain health benefits. For starters, the flavonoids in dark chocolate improve blood flow to the brain increasing your attention span, your reaction time, your problem solving skills and your memory. Additionally, eating dark chocolate releases endorphins in our brain reducing stress levels and pain in the body. Chocolate also contains high levels of tryptophan, which is a neurotransmitter of feeling happy.

Chocolate-Dipped Blackberries Recipe

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 pint black berries
  • Chopped walnuts, for garnish (optional)

Melt the chopped dark chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds or until smooth. Dip each black berry halfway into the chocolate then place on a plate. Sprinkle with chopped walnut pieces for extra crunch. Let the chocolate harden on the berries before serving.

 4 – Blueberries

According to a study at Tufts University, blueberries if eaten regularly can help with short-term memory loss. Other studies show that blueberries can also slow the aging process and age related diseases. In the short term, these magic berries can also help to improve your ability to learn and can improve your motor function and skills.

Blueberry Pudding Recipe

  • 1 package (6 ounces) blueberries
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon apple juice
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds

In the bowl of a blender add blueberries, coconut milk, agave nectar, apple juice and chia seeds. Blend mixture until blueberries are well pureed. Refrigerate pudding or serve room temperature.

5 – Salmon

Eating fish that is high in essential fatty acids is one of the best sources of protein and other nutrients for your body and your brain. Since the body does not make essential fatty acids naturally they must be consumed by our diet. Oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines contains the highest amounts of EFAs and DHAs. High levels of DHAs improve memory loss and can reduce the risk of all memory related diseases like dementia and basic brain atrophy due to the natural aging process.

Salmon Cucumber Coins Recipe

  • ½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill
  • 24 slices cucumber
  • 4 oz smoked salmon, cut into 24 pieces

In a small bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, capers and chopped dill. Place 1 teaspoon of yogurt sauce onto each cucumber slice. Top each with a piece of smoked salmon and a small sprig of dill and serve immediately.

 6 – Beets

Beets are not only high in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, fiber, folate, manganese and potassium but they have also been proven to increase blood flow to the brain. Eating beets can improve your overall mental performance and brain function simply because the nitrates in beets convert to nitric oxide in your body which helps you relax and dilates the blood vessels in your brain lowering your blood pressure.

Roasted Beets Recipe

  • 12 beets
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. Place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately toss with your favorite vinaigrette dressing and enjoy.

7 – Broccoli

Eating your green vegetables has never been more important then when relating it to your overall brain health. Broccoli contains high levels of Vitamin K and choline, which helps to strengthen your cognitive brain functions and improves your memory. Broccoli also contains a lot of folic acid, which can help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and can help keep you feeling happy and ward off depression. Additionally it is high in lignans, which has been shown to benefit our brains ability to perform its basic functions like thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining and learning words.

Oven-Roasted Broccoli Crisps Recipe

  • 1 head broccoli, washed and completely dried
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Cut broccoli into florets and place in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over broccoli with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Transfer to a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for at least 25 minutes or until the broccoli is crispy and crunchy, but not completely burned. There will be burned edges on some florets which is what gives these chips their irresistible crunchy texture and crispy, caramelized flavor.

8 – Whole Grains

These foods can come in the form of whole-wheat pasta, wheat and whole grain breads, brown rice, and oats. The reason that these foods are considered magical energy for the brain is because whole grains are low glycemic foods and will keep the blood sugar stable for longer than eating refined or white grains. Whole grains very minimally alter your glucose level in the body and will slowly supply glucose to your blood and brain overtime, helping you concentrate for longer and stay focused throughout your day.

Steel-Cut Oats and Banana Recipe

  • 1 cup Steel Cut Oats
  • 3 cups water
  • Pinch salt
  • Banana, sliced

Bring 3 cups water and salt to a boil then add 1 cup Steel-Cut Oats. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook stirring occasionally for 10 – 15 minutes (or to your desired doneness). Remove from heat and let stand covered for a couple of minutes. Spoon into a bowl and serve with slices of banana on top

5 Sweet Candy/Cookie Combinations

In the kitchen, it can be all too easy to stick to what you know and love. This is especially true when it comes to baking, where an experiment gone wrong can land you with a batch of rock-hard gingersnaps, bitter brownies, or cake so gooey you would need a spoon to eat it.

On the other hand, playing it safe means your results are reliable, but never a delightful surprise. Some of the most delicious foods out there came from bakers and chefs who tried something new, often by mixing things that they love. So we decided to experiment by putting two of our favorite things together: cookies and candy.

Between those two types of treats, there’s a seemingly endless list of possible combinations, and not all of them are going to be a match made in heaven. We tested a variety of cookie/candy combinations to take the pressure off busy home cooks who might not have time to bake and eat several batches of treats. (You’re welcome!) These are a few of our favorites.

1. Reese’s Pieces + Double-Chocolate Cookie

Why it works

Chocolate and peanut butter are always a winning combination when it comes to taste, but these cookies have a beautiful feel as well. The crunch of the candy shell followed by the buttery smoothness of the Reese’s Pieces adds a nice creamy texture to a type of cookie that can often taste a little dry. The option of boosting the peanut butter flavor with extra Reese’s Pieces or adding more chocolate in the form of chocolate chips also lets you customize this cookie to get the taste you like best.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or just a pinch if you’re using salted butter instead of unsalted)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine , softened
  • 1-2 cups of Reese’s Pieces
  • 1-2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional — change the amount of Reese’s Pieces accordingly, so you have about two cups total)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl — flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt — and set it aside.
  2. Combine the butter and sugar together in large bowl until fluffy. This works best with either a stand mixer or a handheld one. Then add the eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Gradually add the dry ingredients mixture, beating well as you go, but stop stirring when the ingredients are all combined, so you don’t overbeat the flour. Stir in the Reese’s Pieces and the chocolate chips, if you’re using them.
  3. Spoon out small rounds of cookie dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Each one should be about two teaspoons’ worth of dough.
  4. Bake for eight to nine minutes, or until the cookies look set but are a little soft in the middle. Be sure to let them cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before moving them to a rack. This recipe makes about four dozen cookies.

2. Heath Bars + Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie

Why it works

We’ve tried the recipe below with both Heath bars and the chopped peanut butter cups it calls for. Both are delicious, but we think the Heath bars have a stronger flavor than the peanut butter cups, so in this version of the cookie, the candy stands out more. The toffee complements the chewiness of the oatmeal and the subtle peanut butter flavor in the cookie beautifully. As a bonus, you get more texture contrast with the caramel crunch that comes every time you bite into one of these mini masterpieces.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (light brown works, too)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (not the natural kind where you have to stir in the oil)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (160g) oats
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped Heath Bars

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients — flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder — together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, use a whisk to stir the melted butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together until all the lumps are gone.
  4. Stir in the egg and then the peanut butter, mixing until everything is combined.  Finally, stir in the vanilla.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix them together with a large spoon or rubber spatula until they are just combined. The dough will be very soft and slick. Fold in the oats and the chopped Heath bars.
  6. Roll the dough into balls, about three tablespoons of dough each, and place on parchment paper on baking trays. If you have a cookie scoop, it’s very helpful with this recipe.
  7. Bake for about 11-12 minutes. The cookies will look very soft and under-baked, but take them out of the oven anyway. They won’t spread out all the way while baking, so lightly press down on each cookie using a spatula to help them flatten. Leave the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes, and then move them to a wire rack, so they can cool completely.

3. Peanut Butter Cups + Peanut Butter Cookie

Why it works

This cookie has two upsides: First, a delicious peanut buttery flavor. Second, thanks to a mini muffin pan, a cute style that looks like you spent a lot of time crafting these treats, when in fact you just bought a log of dough at the store, because you can do that with this recipe. We didn’t, but our test kitchen has a lot of time on its hands and a great deal of enthusiasm for its new stand mixer.

But even without the premade dough, the peanut butter cookie recipe we used is straightforward, so this is a quick and easy way to impress your date. Just make sure you freeze the peanut butter cups ahead of time — it makes them much easier to press into those fresh-from-the-oven cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (not the natural kind)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 40 miniature chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix together the dry ingredients — flour, salt and baking soda — and set the bowl aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg, vanilla and milk.
  4. Add the flour mixture little by little, and mix well. Stop stirring once the dry ingredients are fully combined with the wet.
  5. Shape into small rounds and place each into an ungreased mini muffin pan. Each round should be about 2 ½ teaspoons to 1 tablespoon, depending on your muffin pan.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees F for about eight minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into each ball. Let them cool and then carefully remove from pan.

4. Whoppers + Chocolate Chip Cookie

Why it works

This is a candy you don’t often see baked into desserts. Until we stumbled across these recipes, we didn’t know our love of chocolate malts could be turned into a cookie at all. The chopped up Whoppers add both an unusual taste and texture, and the malted milk powder ensures that the delicious malt flavor is present in every bite. As a bonus, the bottoms of the cookies are almost caramelized.

We loved both versions of this cookie, so it comes down to whether you prefer a rich chocolate cookie or a buttery, lighter-flavored cookie. If you want to go for a retro sweetheart look with the finished batch, put out a plate of these alongside a classic chocolate malt — one glass, two straws.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (or light brown)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped Whoppers candies (or any malted milk balls)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, malted milk powder, cornstarch, baking soda and sea salt together, and set the bowl aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, beat the butter and sugars until smooth and creamy, which takes about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat until combined.
  4. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Mix until they’re just combined.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips and malted milk balls last.
  6. Shape the cookie dough into tablespoon balls and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until they’re slightly golden brown around the edges (but not in the middle). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for two minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. M&Ms + Brown Butter Cookie

Why it works

M&Ms do a great job of adding color to baked goods, and all of the different seasonal options make these an ideal candy for customizing your cookies. Take Valentine’s Day, for example. Those pink, red and white candies just radiate true love, don’t they?

But as colorful as they are, M&Ms aren’t the most flavorful candies out there, so we like them in a brown butter cookie, which has a richer, deeper flavor than your basic recipe, thanks to the nutty aroma of that butter. The milder candy taste provides a delicious balance with the buttery cookie, and it brings out the best in both. The original recipe calls for pretzels to create a lovely salty-sweet combination, but we’ll be honest: We were testing out all sorts of different candies, so we threw in some Twix bars for their crunch and a hint of caramel. It was awesome.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flours
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of M&Ms
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of pretzels, Twix or another treat (you want to have 1 1/2 cups total between this and the M&Ms)

Instructions

  1. First, make the brown butter. Melt the butter in a saucepan, over low-medium heat. Constantly stir the butter.  The butter will begin to bubble and get a bit foamy, and after a few minutes, you’ll see its color change to amber. Once you begin to see brown specks in the butter, remove it from the stove, pour into a shallow dish and refrigerate for one to two hours.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the solid brown butter for one minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. This works well with either a handheld mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
  3. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar, and mix on medium speed until it’s nice and fluffy. Then mix in the egg and vanilla, making sure everything is evenly mixed.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt.
  5. On low speed, slowly mix the dry and wet ingredients until just combined. You don’t want to over mix the flour. The cookie dough will be quite thick.
  6. Add the M&Ms and mix for about five seconds until evenly disbursed, using either the mixer or a wooden spoon. Cover the dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and chill it in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to two days. Chilling is not optional with this recipe!
  7. Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator, and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  8. Once it’s been chilled, the dough may be slightly crumbly, but it will come together if you work the dough with your hands as you roll it into individual balls. Each ball of dough should be about one tablespoon.
  9. Bake for eight to nine minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. The cookies will look extremely soft when you remove them from the oven, but that’s normal. Let them cool for five minutes on the cookie sheet. (The cookies will deflate slightly as they cool down.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tips to Turn Your Favorite Foods Vegetarian

There are lots of logical reasons to eat vegetarian, and there are also lots of evolutionary reasons why we humans crave meat. However, there are creative and tasty ways to staunch your meat cravings and get the protein your body needs without actually eating meat. For those who have recently turned to vegetarianism, or have been vegetarian for a while and are looking for new cooking ideas, here is a run-down of six tasty and easy to prepare meat substitutes that will help turn your favorite foods vegetarian.

Meat Substitute #1 – Jackfruit

This amazing and relatively unknown fruit from India is high in protein, potassium and vitamin B, making it not only a convincing doppelganger for meat, but providing some of the same nutritional value.

How to use it: Pulled pork has been a hot trend in the professional culinary scene for a few years now because, well, it tastes amazing. Vegetarians can get in on the action (without clogging their arteries) by using jackfruit as a substitute in pulled pork dishes.

How to prepare it: The most important part of the preparation is finding green jackfruit. It is often sold in cans, a much better option than lugging home the giant, bulbous fruit itself. Go for the jackfruit in water or brine, not syrup.

  • Once you have some green jackfruit rinsed and cut into bite sized pieces, season it with barbecue spices.
  • Saute some onion and jalapeños if you like it spicy, and add the jackfruit to the pan.
  • Add about a cup of vegetable broth, cover, and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Remove the jackfruit from the saute pan and spread on a baking sheet, breaking up the fibers with a spatula so that it resembles pulled pork.
  • Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove and toss with vegan barbecue sauce.
  • Add it to a bun with a slaw of your choice and BAM! You’ve got yourself some vegetarian pulled jackfruit.

Where to find it: Asian or Caribbean stores, and some large supermarkets.

Meat Substitute #2 – Lentils

Lentils are part of the legume family, which also includes beans and peas. Legumes often mimic meat in their protein levels, texture and tastiness. Lentils, in particular, are a great sub-in for dishes that call for minced meat, and are incredibly low in fat yet high in fiber, iron and protein.

How to use it: Lentil burgers (grilled or pan-fried) make a quick, easy and nutritious dinner for the conscious diner.

How to prepare it: There are a few different ways to make a veggie burger with legumes, but here’s our favorite:

  • Cook lentils in vegetable broth, with 2 cups broth to every cup of lentils.
  • Stir fry some onion and spinach and season with cumin, salt and pepper.
  • Add to the lentils along with about a cup of breadcrumbs and an egg.
  • For a gluten free option, use cornmeal instead of breadcrumbs.
  • If you are going vegan, you can skip the egg, which just helps to bind the mixture a bit better.
  • Let the mixture cool and then form into patties.

Where to find it: Lentils are a common staple and found in most grocery stores.

Meat Substitute #3 – Marinated Mushrooms

Mushrooms have a meat-like texture when cooked and take on a lovely umami flavor when marinated in soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. They are packed with vitamin D, fiber, potassium, and selenium, a mineral rarely found in fruits and vegetables, but which is essential to healthy liver function. Shiitake mushrooms, in particular, are known for their meaty texture and savory flavor.

How to use it: Next time you need to put a little pizazz in your salad, try adding these marinated mushrooms. They are a great stand-in for chicken or other forms of protein typically found in a Cobb, Caesar, or Asian chicken salad.

How to prepare it: Mushrooms can be marinated in any combination of oil, vinegar, herbs and spices. Here’s our suggestion for Asian-style mushrooms, which use soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, minced garlic and salt.

  • About 2 lbs. of mushrooms will take about a cup of rice wine, 4 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oil and 3 cloves garlic.
  • Mix the marinade first and then add to a container with the mushrooms.
  • The mushrooms can be sliced or, if they are small enough, put whole into the container.
  • It is best to let these marinate over night. Due to the vinegar, these can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks (if they don’t get gobbled up first!)

Where to find it:Though button and crimini mushrooms are easily found, have fun experimenting with different types of mushrooms found in Asian supermarkets and health food stores. Try chaneterelles (known for their golden color) or porcini mushrooms, the smaller cousin to the portabello.

Meat/Cheese Substitute – Nuts

Nuts are incredibly versatile, and can add that extra zing of protein and healthy fat that you need to make a vegetarian dish a complete meal. Cashews, almonds and walnuts are perhaps the easiest to find nuts with the most versatility. Almonds have 6 grams of protein per ounce, and are also high in fiber, vitamin E and iron. Cashews are a particularly good source of essential minerals, such as zinc, potassium, manganese and iron.

How to use it: Cashew cheese in your vegan lasagna.

How to prepare it: Not only vegetarian, but vegan too, cashew “cheese” makes for a creamy, delicious substitute in savory dishes that usually call for copious amounts of dairy. Enter: vegan lasagna! Cashew cheese is ridiculously easy to make.

  • Soak raw cashews for a few hours in water (make sure the cashews are totally covered) and then drain.
  • Place in a food processor with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, to taste, and puree until smooth.
  • You may need to add water depending on how thick you would like your “cheese”.
  • Layer in between sheets of lasagna and meatless tomato sauce, and you’ve got yourself a quick and easy vegan lasagna.

Where to find it: Raw cashews can be found in most health food stores and some grocery stores. Note: You can make cashew cheese with roasted cashews, but they work better (and are more nutritious) in raw form.

Broth Substitute – Miso

For a long time, taste was put into four narrow categories: sweet, salt, sour and bitter. It was only about a century ago that a Japanese chemistry professor discovered a fifth taste: Umami. Umami is a pleasant, savory flavor that results from a type of amino acid commonly found in, you guessed it, meat and fish. But, lucky for vegetarians, it is also found in miso, a Japanese paste made of fermented soybeans. Used as a seasoning for a multitude of dishes, miso is also packed with protein, vitamin B2, vitamin E, vitamin K, iron and calcium.

How to use it: Miso provides just the right seasoning for folks wanting that savory taste in their meatless broth.

How to prepare it: Miso broth is easy to prepare and oh-so easy to customize to your palate.

  • Bring a cup of water to a boil, then add green onion and a handful of vegetables of your choice.
  • Simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, then add a heaping spoonful of miso paste.
  • Try the various kinds of miso paste (red, green or white) to see which kind you prefer best for your broth.

Where to find it: In the health food or Asian food section of most large grocery stores.

Flavor Substitute – Smoke Flavoring

If there is one food that could likely to break a vegetarian’s meat-less streak, it’s probably bacon. It is the smoky flavor (and smell!) found in bacon and other barbecue foods that brings vegetarians running. But, never fear, there is a way to add that smokey flavor to a wide variety of food — and we’re not just talking about vegan bacon. Grilling vegetables on a charcoal grill is a surefire way to get some of that smokey flavor in your life. But, try experimenting with ingredients such as smoked salt, smoked maple syrup (yes, it exists), and smoked paprika. Liquid smoke, essentially condensation from the steam of smoked wood, is another option, however it does contain carcinogens, so it is best to use sparingly.

How to use it: Smoked maple syrup baked beans.

How to prepare it: You can use any kind of beans you want with this recipe, but Great Northern beans or Navy beans work well. Add the beans to a pot, along with:

  • 2 tablespoons of smoked maple syrup
  • A third a cup of beer
  • A chunk of onion (about a quarter of the onion would suffice)

Simmer until the onion is softened and enjoy!

Where to find it: Smoked maple syrup is most successfully found online. Smoked salt can be found in specialty food stores, while smoked paprika can be found in most grocery stores.

The Health Benefits of Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a plant used in cooking and medicine, best known for its distinctive flavor and aroma. While frequently used as a seasoning, garlic is technically a vegetable. A member of the Allium family, it’s a close relative of onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. The benefits of garlic don’t end with adding flavor to food, it’s a legitimate superfood that has been used for an astounding variety of medical applications for thousands of years.

History of Garlic

Humans have consumed garlic as both cuisine and cure for over 7,000 years. The plant is native to central Asia, but its use and cultivation has spread around the world. Ancient Egyptians gave garlic to the laborers building the pyramids to boost stamina and prevent disease. In Ancient Greece, Olympic athletes would chew garlic before participating in the games. References to garlic can be found in Homer’s Odyssey, 5,000-year-old Indian medical texts, and the Bible. Garlic was used as food and medicine in the cultures of the ancient Romans, Chinese, Vikings, Phoenicians, Israelites, and Persians.

Now, garlic remains a popular food and flavoring. It’s a staple of Mediterranean, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The potential medical applications of garlic are even receiving renewed interest from researchers.

Garlic’s Nutritional Profile

At first glance, the nutritional capabilities of garlic may seem puzzling. If you look at the official nutrition facts for garlic, a typical serving of garlic (3-9 grams), provides no significant amount of the typically listed essential nutrients. It provides no noteworthy amount of fiber, protein, iron, potassium or vitamins A, D, E, or most of the B vitamins.

It’s a good source of selenium and contains small amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins C and B6, but there are better sources of these nutrients. You’d have to eat a lot of raw garlic to receive a substantial amount of these nutrients, and even though it’s delicious, I think very few of us are up to that challenge.

So what exactly is in garlic that makes it such a prized health-supporting tool in so many different cultures? Garlic owes its healing properties to the presence of several sulfurous phytochemical compounds. Fresh garlic contains a sulfoxide compound called alliin. When fresh garlic is chopped, crushed, or damaged, alliin is converted into allicin by an enzyme called alliinase. Allicin is responsible for much of the pungent scent of garlic. Its actual purpose is to act as a defense mechanism, protecting the plant from pests.

Allicin is unstable and further breaks down into other sulfurous compounds including diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, and diallyl tetrasulfide. Inside the human body, diallyl disulfide breaks down into allyl methyl sulfide, the chief cause of garlic breath. (Sidenote: for a natural way to reduce garlic breath, try sucking a lemon wedge, drinking green tea, or eating spinach or an apple. These foods all contain substances that mask or break down the garlicky odor.)

It’s these sulfurous compounds that give garlic its healing abilities. The pest-resistant properties of allicin still work when the compound is in the human body. This makes garlic a surprisingly good defense against harmful organisms like bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungus.

Diallyl disulfide also possesses antimicrobial abilities, as well as anti-cancer and heart healthy properties. The exact mechanisms behind the health benefits of garlic are not yet fully understood, but research is ongoing. We do know that garlic can be a powerful tool for supporting a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few ways garlic can help.

Health Benefits of Garlic

1. Garlic Supports Cardiovascular Health

Garlic is among the best foods for heart health. Studies have found that garlic reduces cholesterol and lowers lipid content in the blood. Experimental and clinical studies on the cardiovascular benefits of garlic have found it to have a positive effect on atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and thrombosis.[1] Garlic also seems to possess the ability to prevent blood clots. Tests are currently underway to examine the mechanism of this effect.

2. Garlic May Help with Hypertension

Researchers have found that oral administration of garlic can lower blood pressure in both human and animal studies. Amazingly, there was a measurable response after just a single dose. Chronic oral administration of garlic has a long-term positive effect. Allicin seems to have a relaxing effect on the smooth muscle cells of the pulmonary artery, allowing the artery to open more fully.[1] This doesn’t mean that you can switch to an all-bacon diet and expect to “garlic away” the consequences, but when combined with a balanced diet, garlic can substantially improve blood pressure.

3. Garlic Is Nutritional Support Against Cancer

Around the world, studies have found a correlation between a high intake of garlic and a lowered cancer risk. An increased consumption of garlic is associated with a reduction in cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, prostate, and breast.[2] The United States National Cancer Institute has said that garlic may be the most effective food for cancer prevention.[3]

4. Garlic and Diabetes

Garlic may also provide significant benefits to those suffering from diabetes. Experimental studies have shown that garlic lowers blood glucose levels and this hypoglycemic effect has been replicated in animal studies. Treatment for humans is less studied but looks promising. Garlic has been reported to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce insulin resistance. However, further study is needed to fully understand the effect garlic has on human blood glucose levels.[3]

5. Garlic Offers Liver Protection

Garlic is one of the best foods to help cleanse your liver. It can help mitigate the effects of fatty liver disease[4] and provides hepatoprotective effects from certain toxic agents. Studies have found that garlic can protect liver cells from acetaminophen, gentamycin, and nitrates.[3]

6. Antimicrobial Properties of Garlic

For centuries, traditional medicine has used garlic for its antimicrobial properties. Modern studies have found that the antibacterial properties of garlic are effective on salmonella, staph infections, clostridium (the cause of botulism), proteus, mycobacterium, and H. pylori. Garlic has even been suggested as a treatment for drug-resistant tuberculosis.[3]

Garlic’s action against harmful organisms doesn’t stop with bacteria. It’s antiprotozoal, antifungal, and even antiviral. In vitro studies have found that garlic is effective against influenza, cytomegalovirus, rhinovirus (the cause of the common cold), viral pneumonia, rotavirus, herpes simplex 1 and 2, and even HIV.[3] Unfortunately, these results are only confirmed in test tube studies. How the active substances of garlic react to viruses inside the human system remains to be seen.

Studies of cold sufferers have found that those who consumed garlic extract experienced milder symptoms and shorter illness duration than placebo groups, but the exact mechanism behind this phenomena is still unclear.[5] Further research is necessary to more fully understand the healing power of garlic.

7. Garlic Is a Powerful Antioxidant

Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage DNA and lead to poor health. Garlic contains potent antioxidants that fight these free radicals. When allicin breaks down, it produces an acid that reacts with and traps the free radicals. Researchers at Queens University in Ontario believe this may be the most powerful dietary antioxidant ever discovered.[6]