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Monthly Archives: November 2016

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.

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.

6 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

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.