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Monthly Archives: January 2017

6 Lemongrass Benefits to Support Your Health

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a perennial herb with a distinct, lemony aroma and flavor. It’s a staple of both Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Though the plant is native to India, it’s grown all over the world today. Lemongrass is a rich source of nutrients that offer many therapeutic benefits.

Benefits of Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a source of beneficial phytochemicals and specialized nutrients that support the body’s response to harmful organisms, boost the immune system, and promote overall wellness. Although the balance of nutrients may vary slightly from one variety to the next, in general, lemongrass provides antioxidants like isoorientin, orientin, caffeic acid, and chlorogenic acid; all of which help halt the damaging action of free radicals. Caffeic acid, in particular, may neutralize free radical action up to 85%.

1. Supports the Body’s Response to Harmful Organisms

Some of the phytochemicals found in lemongrass are resistant to harmful organisms. Two of which, geraniol and nerol, are effective against a broad spectrum of harmful organisms. Another, citral, targets candida, specifically.

Lemongrass may also be effective against entire colonies of organisms known as biofilms. A biofilm is a thin, slimy, continuous collection of organisms that adheres to a surface with the help of proteins and sugar. Dental plaque on teeth is a common example of a biofilm.

2. Promotes Normal Immune System Response

Lemongrass encourages a normal, balanced immune system response—not one that’s over reactive and ends up doing more harm than good. In that way, lemongrass may protect healthy cells and help soothe irritated tissue. Lemongrass contains twoantioxidants, geranial and nerol, that belong to a class of phytochemicals called monoterpenes. These phytochemicals influence the immune response. Citral also affects immune response by discouraging the body from producing cytokines—proteins that cause inflammation. Geraniol and citral also work in tandem to discourage the proliferation of malfunctioning cells, and encourage the body to detoxify itself of them.

3. Stomach Protection

Your stomach features a protective lining called the mucosal layer that prevents acidic, gastric juices from damaging the interior of the stomach. It’s not uncommon, however, for alcohol or over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin to upset this protective layer. According to Brazilian folk medicine, lemongrass essential oil may help protect the mucosal layer of the stomach.

4. Encourages Normal Cardiovascular Health

Lemongrass offers a multi-tier approach for supporting cardiovascular health. First, as a source of antioxidants, lemongrass may disrupt the oxidation of fat in the arteries.Second, the citral in lemongrass helps to relax overstressed blood vessels. And, lastly, although more research is necessary to quantify the effects in humans, the results of some animal studies suggest that lemongrass promotes normal cholesterol levels.

5. Deters Insects

Topical or environmental application of lemongrass essential oil has long been used as a mosquito deterrent. You’re probably familiar with the outdoor citronella candles designed to keep mosquitoes at bay. The citronella in those candles is usually sourced from theCymbopogon winterianus or Cymbopogon nardus varieties of lemongrass. In fact, the mosquito-deterring effects of lemongrass oil are comparable to many chemical repellants such as DEET.

6. Encourages Restful Sleep

Night owls rejoice! If you struggle falling or staying asleep, lemongrass can help. Studies have found that lemongrass may increase sleep duration, encourage dream remembrance, and promote restful sleep.

Tips for Growing Lemongrass

Lemongrass does best in regions 8-11, but you can still grow it indoors if you live in a colder region. Take a stalk of lemongrass and peel off the dry outer layers and discard. Place the skinned stalks upright in a tall glass or jar. Add about 1-2 inches of water to the jar to cover the base of the stalks. Place in a window or another sunny area to encourage root growth. Change the water frequently—about once a day—over the next month. Delicate roots should sprout from the end of the stalks. Once they reach 2 inches, they’re ready to plant.

To plant, dig a hole either in a container or the ground. Gently fill the space around the lemongrass stalk with soil, being careful not to break the roots. Make sure to keep the soil around the plant well hydrated, but not soaked. In 3-4 months, when the plant is well established, you can start harvesting. Cut fresh stalks as needed for tea or recipes. Keep your lemongrass well pruned to encourage consistent harvests. To store, peel off the tough, dry sheath around the harvested stalks, cut to size, and store in a plastic bag in the freezer until needed.

Using Lemongrass

Lemongrass is available fresh, dried, powdered, or as an essential oil. Your intentions will dictate the best form to select. Fresh lemongrass is best for cooking, extracts are commonly found in supplements, and the essential oil has many aromatherapy applications.

Lemongrass Tea Recipe

Lemongrass tea is an easy and excellent way to add lemongrass to your diet. To make a tea with fresh lemongrass stalk, roughly chop three whole stalks, pour 6 cups of almost-boiling water over the fresh lemongrass, and steep for at least 5 minutes. Add raw honey to taste if you prefer a sweet flavor. You can also use dry stalks if you smash them with a tenderizer first and steep for longer—about 10 minutes.

Beneath the Sugar Coating

The Great Sugar Rush

If you’ve been paying attention at the grocery store lately, you’ve certainly noticed that the shelves in the sugar section have been inundated with new products. The recent barrage of granules, crystals, flakes, and powders has made it challenging to distinguish one sugar from another. Granulated white sugar was once the only option available. Today, however, there is fierce competition from a throng of new products–evaporated cane juice, organic cane sugar, cane juice crystals, and a number of others with similar names. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to these new sugars as cane sugars.

Glazing Over The Truth

At the moment, a great deal of information is not available regarding cane sugars. There does seem to be a misconception that they are wholly better for you than white sugar, which is simply not true. Some manufacturers mislead consumers into believing that cane sugars are not processed when, in fact, all sugars derived from sugar cane go through some processing, the distinction being how much.

How Sugar is Processed

In the most simple terms, processing extracts the juice from the cane and evaporates the liquid so that just the dry, beige crystals remain. These crystals can be packaged as they are, as cane sugars, or they can be processed further to remove their color to become white sugar.

The whitening process, which is where much of the controversy surrounding sugar refining comes in, is typically achieved in one of two ways–chemical bleaching or carbon filtration. While the reasoning behind the objections to chemicals is fairly clear, there are also concerns about carbon filters because they are often made from charred cattle bones. Even though the bones are not incorporated into the sugar, the practice is somewhat disturbing, particularly to anyone who rejects using animals for food or clothing.

Special Effects of Cane Sugars

False assertions have been made claiming that cane sugars affect the body differently than white sugar. The truth is, both types of sugar have the same chemical composition and, therefore, the same effect on the body. This is especially important information for anyone with blood sugar issues who may be misled to believe that they can freely eat cane sugars without negative results.

The Sweet & Safer Side of Sugar

Despite the similarities, there are some significant differences between white and cane sugars. Traditional sugar cane plantations have been known for imprudent use of pesticides, chemicals, and fertilizers. Because sugar is a highly concentrated substance, any chemicals used in sugar production are going to be concentrated in the sugar itself. In addition, pesticides and fertilizers have a negative environmental impact and can affect soil viability and neighboring plants and water sources. Most brands of cane sugar are made from organically grown sugar cane and, therefore, are much safer for human consumption and the environment.

Sugar Solution

While there are still many unanswered questions regarding the differences between white and cane sugars, reducing the amount of chemicals in your body and the environment, is always a good thing. That is justification enough for giving these new sugars a try.

Organic vs. Local Food Which is Better?

One of the top ethical questions in the cooking world today centers on how we should nourish our bodies. In a world where more and more of our food is industrially produced using chemical enhancers and pesticides, many have turned to an organic diet. Organic products are grown free of chemicals and therefore taste better, richer and more like nature intended. However, chefs and restaurateurs might have to rethink their loyalty to organic produce. Sure, living in moderate climates such as California makes it quite easy for some restaurants and chefs to obtain organic produce from their farmer’s markets and local providers; but the same cannot be said for places further away from natural food supplies.

How Far Will You Go for Organic?

Fruits or vegetables that travel long distances to get to their destination not only use a lot of fuel to get there (which, of course is not very environmentally sound), but they are also generally picked before they are perfectly ripe and sold long after being harvested. The best solution, of course, is to buy local and organic whenever possible. In doing so, you get the best of both worlds: delicious, naturally-grown produce with no foreign toxic chemicals to be wary of, and food that was grown near to its selling point, thus reducing our carbon foot print, supporting our local communities, and eating in season.

Hard Choices: Organic or Locally Grown?

Unfortunately, the problem of ethical eating extends beyond the boundaries of southern California to more problematic climates. Take Montreal, Canada for instance. Here, cooking organically means having to purchase produce that’s been shipped from far away. Restaurants that want to purchase organic strawberries before local varieties are available have to resort to shipping strawberries from distant climates. Sure, the products might be pesticide free and meet FDA organic standards, but the issue of the carbon footprint that results from the shipping process needs to be taken into consideration.

As Michael Pollen so aptly remarked in the Omnivore’s Dilemma, “in what sense can a plastic box of salad on sale in a Whole Foods store thirty-five hundred miles and 5 days away from its origin truly be considered organic?” Reducing our carbon footprint has come to the forefront as one of the ethical dilemmas that one must consider when working in the food industry and is one of the reasons that eating local has been likened to the “new organic”.

Think Seasonal, Think Local

Older generations will tell you the pleasure they had growing up and waiting for tomato, rhubarb, or asparagus season. Today, more and more produce is available year-round; consequently, restaurants offer produce from around the globe. It might be time to step back and re-think our attitudes toward food. Perhaps, rather than simply serving the latest culinary trend, serving seasonal, locally-produced products should be enshrined as the backbone of a modern culinary approach.

7 Jobs for Food-Lovers Who Can’t Cook

Who says you have to be a great cook to be a foodie? If you love great food — eating it, discussing it, studying it or just being around culinary creations — you could turn your passion into your profession. There are so many food jobs that don’t require a chef hat or working in a busy kitchen for which you can still earn a great living and be around food, glorious food, all day long.

Come sample our menu of food careers to see if any of them whet your appetite. Then, find out how to break in and whip up a huge batch of career success.


Brewmaster

While this profession is more about drink than food, how cool would it be to make beer for a living? With more and more microbreweries and craft beer businesses booming, brewmasters are like beer scientists, overseeing the production process of man’s favorite beverage. The job involves a bit more chemistry and heavy-lifting than most food jobs, and requires a huge amount of time and hard work. But it usually pays off. Depending on the size of the brewery you work for, salary can range widely, with large breweries offering as much as $100k, according to Monster.com.

How to become a brewmaster

While formal education isn’t necessarily required since you can learn on the job or as an apprentice, there are programs of study at culinary arts schools across the country.

Brewmaster fun fact

Being a brewmaster isn’t all about knowing your ale from your lager. Be prepared to do a lot of equipment cleaning and maintenance, and follow formulas to the letter.


Butcher

If you really know your meat, you’ll appreciate the art of cutting it correctly. Being a butcher is in fact a culinary art, whether you own a butcher shop, work in an upscale steakhouse or head up a supermarket’s meat department. Of course, where you work will really dictate your earning power. PayScale reports that the median salary for butchers/meat cutters was $32,770 in 2014.

How to become a butcher

This profession is all about hands-on experience and on-the-job training. Depending on the complexity of the job (creating portions in a supermarket versus curing meats and preparing expensive cuts), training will vary. Butchers who follow religious guidelines may require certification and formal training through the organization that is certifying them.

Butcher fun fact

Butchering is an ancient trade, one that even formed its own guild in England in the 1200s.


Coffee purveyor

If the smell of roasted coffee is your definition of heaven on earth, than this career might be your cup of tea, or better yet, java. Also referred to as a coffee roaster, a coffee purveyor selects and roasts coffee beans to bring out their flavors, and prepare them for drinking. The career could involve choosing where the beans are grown to physically working the roasting machines to control the flavor, and the lightness or darkness of the coffee. PayScale reports that coffee roasters made an annual salary of $33,674 in 2014.

How to become a coffee purveyor

While there’s not a designated degree in coffee roasting, there are a number of educational options that could help prepare you for a career in this field. You could consider an agricultural studies if you’re interested in how coffee is grown, or perhaps if you’re more into the business side of things, a degree in supply chain management could help.There are also training and certificate programs via the Specialty Coffee Association of America, which include coursework for becoming a barista, coffee buyer, coffee roaster and coffee taster.

Coffee purveyor fun fact

According to The SCAA Chronicle, in 2013, the U.S. was the world’s single largest buyer of coffee beans, accounting for almost 25 percent of global coffee imports.


Food photographer

If you take the phrase “say cheese” literally, you might be someone who loves snapping photos of food. The good news is if you’re really good at it, you can do something with those skills beyond making your Instagram followers hungry. With the growth of digital media, food photography has become bigger than ever. While there’s no food photographer-specific salary data, photographers in general earn an annual median wage of $40,474 per year, as reported by 2014 BLS data.

How to become a food photographer

Although improved camera technology has made photography accessible to the masses, making it a career takes a bit more skill and creativity. Certainly some people are self taught, but serious food photographers typically go through formal photography training at an arts school or public university. A talented food photographer knows how to make someone smell, taste and feel a food just by looking at an image, and that really has to do with proper lighting, styling and staging.

Food photographer fun fact

Someone who works hand in hand with a food photographer is a food stylist (or some people do both). These people set the scene, and often manipulate the food so that it looks more appetizing.


Food scientist/agricultural scientist

If you want a food career that’s of a more academic nature, becoming a food scientist might be perfect for you. More and more, people care about the nutritional content of their food, and everyday you hear about food safety or product recalls in the news. That’s why food science is such an emerging field. The BLS reported an average yearly salary of $58,610 for food scientists in 2014.

How to become a food scientist

Expect to hit the books if you want to go into food science. The BLS points out that you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree to learn about food chemistry, food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering and food processing operations. Many people do go on to earn advanced degrees in areas like nutrition as well.

Food scientist fun fact

Food scientists do sometimes get to invent new foods, whether it’s a new Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, or a new type of apples — the delicious honeycrisp was invented by the University of Minnesota.


Graphic designer (food product packaging/logos)

If you have a knack for design and creativity, and a special love for food, how’s this for the perfect career blend: food product package design. Anyone who has ever gone grocery shopping could tell you that certain products just pop off of the shelves, and that’s largely because of the way they are packaged. Most designers or graphic artists typically don’t have this specific of a focus when starting out, but if you know you want to work on food-related designs, then you can tailor your portfolio to fit those needs.

How to become a graphic designer

Earning a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, possibly with a focus on user experience, is a good route to take into this profession. If you plan to work for a corporate brand or agency, employers will be looking at your credentials, as well as your portfolio/samples of your work. In addition, add a few marketing and business courses to your curriculum, as product design is just as much about consumer insights and brand messaging as it is about art.

Graphic designer fun fact

From Tootsie Roll wrappers and Pringles cans, to quirky Trader Joe’s labels and squeezable ketchup bottles, food packaging can be functional, fun and iconic. They also help create a brand awareness and recognition so that consumers can spot them right away.


Food writer

Let’s see… get paid to eat whatever you want in fine restaurants, and then write about what your meal was like? Sounds like a dream job for wordsmiths who happen to also enjoy dining culture. Make no mistake: Earning a healthy living as a food writer is challenging since there are only a handful of elite food critics, and many food writers may work as freelance contractors. However, there is more to being a food writer than just doing restaurant review. You could become a food writer to help supplement other areas of writing, or take it to the next level by becoming a recipe developer or writing about unique aspects of the food industry. PayScale says that the average salary for food writers is $47,684.

How to become a food writer

Depending on the nature of the food writing you’d like to do, developing an expertise in journalism and/or culinary arts could help you. For instance, if you write about fine dining, you’ll have to know about very unique culinary creations that might not be mainstream. If you’re writing about the business of food, you could be interviewing high-profile chefs and restaurateurs, who will expect that you’ve had formal journalism training. You could also take food writing courses and workshops to help develop your writing style.

Food writer fun fact

Many food writers do their work in “disguise,” so to speak, as they try out new restaurants anonymously so as not to receive the typical experience any other patron would.