Turmeric Tofu Scramble is Breakfast Gold!

Tofu ScrambleTurmeric tofu scramble is a quick and savory option for any day. But, with its gorgeous sunshine yellow, this dish is also festive enough for guests. With about 8 grams of plant protein, it provides stable, yet light nourishment to start your day. Serve it with the suggested sides and toppings below, or bundle it up in a whole grain wrap and take it to go.

Not only quick and nutritious, this dish is also what I refer to as ‘a turmeric delivery mechanism’. That’s right, per serving, the scramble gives you a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, the anti-inflammatory ‘spice for life’. Further, it uses all   three ways to get the most from curcumin by using the whole turmeric spice and includes both fat and black pepper to maximize bioavailability.

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Do This Before Your Holiday Baking!

Baking Soda and Baking Powder TestIf you shoved your baking staples to back of your cabinet since last holiday season, you may need this baking soda and baking powder test. Because, just like your other ingredients, baking soda and powder freshness counts. So, before you gather your ingredients and pre-heat the oven, do this quick test to make sure your gingerbread men emerge from the oven pleasantly plump and your cakes rise to the occasion!

Why You Should Test Baking Soda and Baking Powder Freshness.

Both lose their effectiveness over time, typically after anywhere from 6 months to 1 year after opening. But, if opened and stored under humid conditions, they may not last until the “best used by” date on the container.

What is the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?

The difference is that baking powder contains an acid, whereas baking soda does not. So, when using baking soda, an acid be added separately. Either way, when the acid interacts with the soda, carbon dioxide gas develops, giving your baked goods that pillow-like loft and airiness.

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Vegan Chili Cook-Off at Natural Gourmet Institute

Evezich NGI ChiliMy First Vegan Chili Cook-Off. Here’s What I Learned.

On a whim, I recently entered the vegan chili cook-off at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Never having entered a cooking contest before, I had a ‘nothing to lose’ mindset. Besides, Chef Barb was running the gig. So, even if I didn’t have an award-winning chili, the event was bound to have decent entertainment value.

Did I Use a Tried and True Chili Recipe?

Not exactly. While many people have a favorite chili recipe, I’ve always used the (clean out the fridge and) kitchen sink approach. But, I always start with the same foundation, then adapt with what I have on hand. Continue reading

Umami – The Fifth Taste and Culinary Lifeline

Umami FoodsUmami, the fifth taste, mystified even our greatest philosophers, Aristotle and Plato. Even they believed that there were but four tastes; sweet, sour, salty and bitter, according to NPR’s Jonah Lehrer. In fact, that was the belief of every philosopher, scientist and cook until the 1800s when French chef Auguste Escoffier changed everything.

Escoffier invented veal stock. When he did, he gave the world much more than just another starter for soups and sauces. Neither sweet, sour, salty nor bitter, its earthy savoriness changed cuisine forever. He gave us the fifth, but yet to be named taste, umami. Continue reading

7 Immune Boosting Tips for Athletes: Part 2

lisa-miller-cyclocross immune boosting

IMAGE CREDIT: DENNIS CRANE PHOTOGRAPHY

As discussed in Part 1, training and racing put unique demands on an athlete’s immune system. Luckily, immune boosting isn’t difficult or time-consuming. In fact, there are some very simple things you can do to keep your immune system in high-performance mode.

In this post, I’ll cover some very strategic actions, such as focusing on gut health. Because, let’s not kid ourselves. While an athlete’s muscles and cardiovascular system may get all the attention, the gut is running the show. In fact, it’s  estimated that 70-80% of our immune system resides in our gastrointestinal tract. So, stop treating it like it’s nothing more than a food processor and give it some TLC! Other tips are much more tactical, both my personal recommendations as well as research Dr. Greger shares in his new book ‘How Not to Die‘. Continue reading

The Athlete’s Immune System: Part 1

Tom Phillips Cyclocross Athlete immune system

Does your training plan address the needs of your immune system? Perhaps it should. You’ve trained for months, diligently following your plan, logging miles and / or time in the gym. You’re prepared to test your limits, land a PR and perhaps a spot on the podium. But, you’re probably NOT planning to get sick. However, if your training plan ignores your immune system, your post-race days could be filled with more than just memories, but also illness. In this two part post, I’ll explain why —and what you can do about it.  Continue reading

Honey Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussel Sprouts When the farmer’s market has Brussels sprouts on the stalk, one is coming home with me and roasted Brussels sprouts are suddenly on the menu. I can’t resist. There is something so novel and (literally) fresh about pruning the little cabbages from their stem. For an urbanite, it is close as we get to the ‘harvesting’ concept. That is, unless you are one of those people who have actually attempted and succeeded with urban gardening. That’s not me.  Brussels Sprouts Trunk

 

According to Rebecca Wood, author of The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Brussels sprouts become sweet and tender after a frost. So keep growing region in mind when purchasing. Most Brussel sprouts come from California’s mild coastal area. Deborah Madison, in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, recommends stronger flavors for sprouts harvested without a frost, such as mustard, capers, and lemon.

For the most flavor in Brussels sprouts from any region, select small sprouts with few yellow leaves. For best results, cut the sprouts in half or into quarters for bite-size pieces. They should all be cut about the same size for even cooking.

Prepped Brussel Sprouts

HONEY DIJON ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

This recipe is the Little Black Dress equivalent of Brussel sprouts recipes. It is classic and simple; a reliable ‘go-to’ recipe for weekdays or special events, which can not only be made in advance and reheat well, but can be dressed up in countless ways. It has just a hint of sweetness. So, you may want to increase the sweetener for some palates.

Try tossing in carmelized onions, roasted and chopped nuts, bacon, soaked current, chopped dried cherries or (of course) cheese to the roasted sprouts. You just might convert a skeptic with your creativity. And little will they know that with Brussels sprout’s glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, they are reducing cancer risk through with every delicious bite.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 trunk prepped (or 1 1/2 pounds) Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (1 tablespoon reserved for after roasting)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8th teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or fire cider or apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey (or maple syrup)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to the baking sheet.
  4. Roast the sprouts, stirring half-way through for even browning, until tender and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes, depending on their size.
  5. Return roasted brussels sprouts back in the bowl. Combine remaining tablespoon olive oil, vinegar and honey together and pour the mixture over the sprouts, tossing to coat evenly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Roasted Brussel Sprout Dish

Revised 10.22.16. Originally published 12.24.14.

No-Recipe Spaghetti Squash Dishes

The stringy flesh of spaghetti squash resembles traditional pasta in appearance. But, does it taste like spaghetti? Does it have that unique ‘toothiness’ of an al dente pasta? Of course not. But, with about one-fourth the calories and carbohydrates of traditional wheat pasta, it can be a very satisfying, grain-free alternative —and a novel, creative way to enjoy a carotenoid and antioxidant-rich meal.  And, like regular ‘noodles’ the spaghetti squash pulp is like a naked canvas for flavorings. Almost anything goes. Check out these 4 tips for making delicious spaghetti squash dishes and 5 ideas to get you started!

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Just like preparing traditional pasta, the process can be as free-form and improvisational as you want. No recipes needed. In fact, think ‘Operation Fridge Clear Out’. Cooking spaghetti squash is as easy as making regular spaghetti noodles. But, you just need to allow for longer cooking time, about 40 minutes at 375° F, either whole or cut in two. (For step-by-step instructions, see above link.)

Spaghetti Squash with OilSpaghetti Squash Strands4 TIPS TO DELICIOUS SPAGHETTI SQUASH DISHES

  • Preparation: drain off excess water. For the best and most pasta-like  results, place the strands in a strainer and press out as much excess water as you can. This step is optional. But, it’s worth the effort, especially if you are cooking the squash ahead of time and/or are not using a fat-based sauce, such as a marinara.
  • Dressing: go fat! Due to the high water content of spaghetti squash, I prefer fat-based sauces. Healthy fats in moderation will help modulate the blood sugar response and increase satiety as will adding in some protein. Or, indulge with a little browned butter. Try these!
  • Seasoning: go bold! Like regular pasta noodles, spaghetti squash provides is a neutral vehicle for any variety of flavors. But, unlike regular pasta noodles, the spaghetti squash pulp won’t absorb the sauce and its flavors very well. And, these noodles don’t have much flavor of their own other than a slightly sweet earthiness. So, go a bit more bold with your seasoning than you might with regular pasta.
    Try these seasonings!

    • Basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
    • Black pepper, Cinnamon, chili flakes, nutmeg
    • Garlic, onions, scallions
    • Soy sauce or shoyu
    • Tomatoes (sun-dried or paste)
  • Add contrasting textures. Fold different textures into the strands and on top of the dish. These variations in texture gives makes the dish chewy similar to al dente pasta. Try these additions and toppings!
    • sautéed mushrooms
    • Toasted, chopped nuts, such as hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts
    • Bread crumbs or panko (regular or gluten-free).
    • Beans, such as adzuki, black, garbanzo or kidney
    • Cheese, such as mozzarella, parmesan or Gruyère

Cacio Y Pepe Spaghetti SquashCacio y Pepe-Inspired Spaghetti Squash

Base: Olive oil and garlic
Seasonings: A generous amount of fresh ground black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms, roasted and shopped walnuts
Garnish: Italian parsley and basil

Spaghetti squash with mushrooms

Spaghetti Squash with Cinnamon-Nutmeg Vegan Cream Sauce and Nuts

Base: Cashew cream sauce
Seasonings: Cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms, toasted and chopped walnuts.
Garnish: Italian parsley

Spaghetti Squash with Indian Sauce

Indian-Inspired Spaghetti Squash

Base: Store-bought Indian simmer sauce (Maya Kaimal brand)
Additions: Garbanzo beans
Garnish: Cilantro or Thai Basil

Spaghetti Squash with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Southern Italy-Inspired Spaghetti Squash

Base: Olive oil, garlic and tomato paste
Seasonings: Red chili pepper flakes, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: sautéed onions, chopped or pureed sun-dried tomatoes
Garnish: Italian parsley or Basil

Spaghetti Squash with Pesto

Spaghetti Squash Tossed with Avocado Pesto and Kale

Base: Vegan avocado pesto
Seasonings: Lemon, garlic, black pepper and sea salt
Additions: Wilted kale
Garnish: Basil and roasted, chopped pecans

REFERENCES:

  • USDA National Nutrient Database
  • Page, Karen. The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2014.

How do you like to prepare spaghetti squash? Share a tip! Leave a comment below.

 

Don’t Make These Apple Season Mistakes!

How to Select the Most Nutritious ApplesCooling temperatures mean apple season, at least where I’m from (Washington State) and where I live (New York). So, those of us in harvest mode head to the farmer’s market or apple orchards in search of our favorite freshly off the tree varieties. Right?!

Actually, this is a mistake. Or, at least a missed opportunity. While in season, this is THE time to try buying, snacking, serving or baking with new-to-you apple varieties. Selected mindfully, veering onto the apple path less traveled could have game-changing health benefits compared to the same old, same old grocery store varieties. Here’s why.

WHAT ARE THE MOST NUTRITIOUS APPLES?

Let’s talk phytonutrients, those near-magical chemicals that plants produce in response to stress. Phytonutrients are a plant’s security detail, protecting them from threats ranging from UV rays to pesky predators. Sadly, apple growing in the United States has bred the phytonutrients out of most varieties of this beloved fruit.

As Jo Robinson (fellow Seattleite!) explains in Eating on the Wild Side, we’ve also bred out the diversity. In fact, “nine out of every ten apples we eat come from a mere dozen varieties. We’ve gone from fifteen thousand varieties to twelve in just three generations.”

However, while the ‘apple a day’ heritage remains, variety matters – literally and figuratively. Jo doesn’t leave us perplexed at the market. Rather, she recommends these 12 apple varieties as the most nutritious and phytonutrient-dense apple options. Here are some guidelines for selecting among these apples, according to your preferred flavors and intended use.

Most Nutritious Apple Varieties for Eating

  • Braeburn – A blend of sweet and tart
  • Cortland – Resistant to browning, great for salads
  • Discovery – Sharp and sweet
  • Fuji – Stores well for weeks
  • Gala – Fragrant and juicy
  • Granny Smith – A bit tart, firm texture
  • Honeycrisp – Honey-like sweetness
  • Liberty – Sweet
  • McIntosh – Crisp and juicy
  • Newtown Pippin – A blend of sweet and tart
  • Ozark Gold – A mellow blend of sweet and tart
  • Red Delicious – Sweet and mild-tasting

Most Nutritious Apple Varieties for Baking

  • Braeburn – A blend of sweet and tart
  • Discovery – Sharp and sweet
  • Fuji – Stores well for weeks
  • Granny Smith – A bit tart, long baking time
  • Idared – A blend of sweet and tart
  • Melrose – A blend of sweet and tart
  • Ozark Gold – A mellow blend of sweet and tart
  • Newtown Pippin – A blend of sweet and tart

Most Nutritious Apple Varieties for Applesauce

  • Cortland
  • Fuji
  • Gala
  • Honeycrisp
  • Idared – A blend of sweet and tart

5 TIPS TO GET THE MOST NUTRITION FROM APPLES

  1. The Most Color Wins! How to compare apples-to-apples —of the same variety? Go red. When you’re sorting through the bins, look for the most colorful apples, which generally means the most red. These apples will be the most phytonutrient-dense. These likely grew at the top of the tree or on outer limbs, with more sun exposure triggering much more phytonutrient protection than those grown on the interior or the low-hanging fruit.
  2. To peel or not? That was a rhetorical question. Because, if you don’t eat the peel, more than half of the antioxidants go in the garbage, disposal or ideally, the compost. In the case of the former, the soil gets all that magic, not you. That’s just sad. : (
  3. Go organic, when possible. Year after year, apples are the winner (or loser…) or runner-up on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of the most pesticide-laden produce. However, there are many farmers who don’t spray or minimally spray their orchards, but can’t afford the organic certification. So, if possible, have a chat with the vendor and ask about their growing practices.
  4. Go local, buy often and store appropriately. Apples love to chill out in the cool humid environment of your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. There, they will last up to ten times longer than they will out on the counter. And, buy them as you need them, ideally eating your apples as close to harvest as possible. Like most good things, their health benefits fade over time.
  5. Wash (as in scrub, not rinse). Always use a produce wash, or simply a vinegar and water or salt and water solution to remove any debris or traces of pesticide on produce. For apples, consider using a non-toxic soap to remove the wax on commercial apples. No matter what cleaning solution you select, put some elbow grease into it, scrubbing them with a brush. Simply running them under water isn’t enough.

What are your favorite apples? Leave a comment below!

SOURCES:

Robinson, Jo – Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014.

Wood, Rebecca – The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York: Penguin Books, 2010.

Washington Apple Commission

www.nyapplecounry.com – Accessed Oct. 1, 2016

 

 

Overnight Oats -Your Breakfast BFF

Overnight Oats ParfaitI know, I know… Overnight oats are hardly a culinary innovation. But, they’re the ultimate no hassle, no-cook, nutritious whole foods breakfast. Besides, who doesn’t love waking up with breakfast already made? —even if the breakfast fairy was you. And, simply layer your overnight oats ingredients into a parfait and you’ve got a colorful feast worth waking up for. But, for the ‘parfait look’ assemble the parfait after you’ve soaked the oats. Otherwise, just wake, stir and eat.

With endless ingredient options, think of it as breakfast arts and crafts. Keep just a few staples on hand you can have breakfast prepped in about five minutes. Include the little ones and have them make their own. Or, better yet, make one of them your personal overnight oats chef.  

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