Thursday, February 28, 2013

What To Do With Super Foods

Please welcome Valerie Johnston to the Taste and Savor Blog. Today she is sharing some super info on super foods. Hope you enjoy reading her post as much as I did! Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.

A “super food” is a food that people categorize as being extraordinarily healthy and good for the body. There are many different opinions about which foods should be counted as super foods and which should not, but the following ones are found pretty much across the board: beans, salmon, walnuts, tomatoes, yogurt, pumpkins, broccoli, soy, tea, spinach, turkey, blueberries, and oats.
These foods are all on the list for different reasons. Some have superior antioxidants while others may provide a great amount of vitamins or omega-3’s. However, these foods are all most definitely very delicious and nutritious; and, when prepared correctly, can add flavor and pizzazz to any meal.

Go a Little Crazy

Sometimes these super healthy foods can even be made into some super scrumptious desserts. One of the most fun ways to prepare these foods is actually by making up recipes. Some people might not feel totally comfortable making up recipes or throwing together crazy concoctions, but often trying new things is the most fun way to discover some of the greatest and best ideas.

One way to go about this process is to just let loose and go a little bit crazy. A person can take two or three of his or her favorite super foods and think of a great way to combine them. For example, people might want to take a popular recipe for granola bars and transform it into a delicious oat, walnut, and yogurt bar. By simply replacing some of the ingredients with super foods, they can create a delicious spin on an old classic treat.

If people feel more comfortable with their culinary skills, they might even want to branch out a little more and totally invent a meal that’s all their own. This is always a fun way to discover what individuals like, and probably also what they do not like. Not only can one do this on his or her own, but making new foods with someone else can also be a great date idea or a fun thing to try with the kids.

Super Healthy

Super foods are also a wonderful way to live a healthier lifestyle. Many people do not get nearly enough nutrition in their diets, and super foods can be a way to make up for their lack of healthy foods on a daily basis. By implementing more super food items into their diets, people are able to maintain a balanced immune and digestive system more easily than if they did not eat any of these foods at all.

Super Accessible

Another great thing the above super foods is that they are all very easily accessible and available for almost anyone. Just about everyone can make it to a local grocery store or farmer’s market, both of which are providers of most, if not all, of those specific foods. Also, they can all be found at relatively low prices. If they seem to be too expensive, though, one might want to consider searching for the foods at other stores and comparing prices.

Often times, specialty whole foods and organic stores will have a lot higher prices than the local grocery store. So, if one is comfortable shopping at an average grocery store, he or she could actually end up saving a lot of money and still getting high quality and delicious foods.

Super Snackable

A final bonus for super foods is their ability to be taken as individual products and eaten as snacks on the go. Walnuts, blueberries, and many other of these foods are very portable and do not require any preparation to be eaten. This is great for things like lunches or snacks at work or in the car. It is also very useful for kids, not to mention healthy for them too. For all these reasons and more, super foods truly are super.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Meatless, Luscious, Fun: Pasta Puttanesca for Dinner Tonight

My husband and I love this delicious and easy pasta sauce that can whipped up in a flash, and served on pasta, quinoa or our favorite grain. Puttanesca is from Italy, where it was invented in the mid 20th century by a restauranteur. (Even though the dish is attributed to Neapolitan "ladies".) Make it chunky and serve it as bruschetta on crunchy toasted Italian bread, or use as a pizza sauce.
No need to share the all the ingredients - anchovies can be a tough sell to family or friends. You won't taste the salty fish in the finished dish, but just a wonderful briny taste topping pasta.
20 Minute Puttanesca
1 TB Canola Oil
1 Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
4 Cups Canned Chopped Tomatoes
1/2 Cup Dry Red Wine
1 1/2 TB Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tsp Sugar
1 Tsp Each Sea Salt and Pepper
6 *Anchovy Fillets, Chopped (You can rinse the anchovies 
3 TB Capers
1 Cup Kalamata Olives, Chopped
4 Cups Cooked QUINOA
2 TB Chopped Parsley
Grated Pecorino Romano to Serve
Step One Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion and red pepper flakes over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, then the tomatoes and wine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Step Two Season with the balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Add the anchovies, capers and olives and simmer for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until warm. While the Puttanesca is simmering, cook the QUINOA according to package directions.
Step Three Toss the QUINOA with the pan of Puttanesca sauce. Serve garnished with parsley and cheese.
*Anchovies are a dividing food - either you love them or you hate them! But even if you are not an anchovy fan, try cooking them, as in this recipe. When the anchovies are heated they simply dissolve, leaving a luscious salty flavor.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Luscious, Meatless, Fun - Spicy BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

I love food that is just slightly spicy, that’s full of flavor, don't you?  So its not surprising that when I brainstormed the perfect menu for last week’s Angels on Earth luncheon, this recipe was my first choice. Cardamom and cayenne both play a role in making this soup – super savory!
When it's a cold day, full of sunshine, there’s nothing like soup to make me happy. This one is full of flavor, will fill you right up – and no one will notice that it’s meat free. This super easy and delicious recipe is also gluten free and vegan, so you can enjoy serving it to any of your friends or family members that are on restricted diets.
2 TB Olive Oil, Divided
1 Large Red Onion, Minced
1 Tsp Turmeric
2 LBs Butternut Squash, peeled seeded, and chopped
1 Cup Apple Cider
3 Cups Vegetable Stock
1 Large Red Apple cored, and diced
1 TB Lemon Juice
2 Tsp Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Ground Cardamom
½ Tsp Cumin
½  Tsp Cayenne (or to taste)
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Step One Cook the shallot in 1 TB of the olive until wilted about 2-3 minutes.
Step Two  Add squash, cider and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
Step Three Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 TB of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the diced apple and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
Step Four Using an immersion blender, (or food processor or blender), puree the squash until smooth. Add the juice, dark brown sugar and cumin, cardamom and cayenne. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with sautéed apples and serve.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Luscious, Meatless and Fun: South Indian Butternut and Squash Stew

I am having a “Crockpot” Renaissance. I wake up in the morning, scheming about what to plop in the pot so we can have dinner together at a decent hour during the week, (not to mention eating really deliciously and well.) So here’s one of my latest creations, one that I served up at a recent class of appreciative eaters! Not only is it gorgeous with brilliant colors of orange, yellow and red, it's a great way to make a meatless meal that is so hearty no one even misses the meat. The leftovers freeze great, and a pita pocket stuffed full with the stew and a little shredded Napa cabbage makes a super lunch the next day.

Make it as spicy as you like. The recipe is redolent with the warm aroma of Garam Masala, an Indian spice blend including coriander, turmeric, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon, but you can add more!  We are “pepperheads” in my family, so I add additional Garam Masala and a ½ Tsp of Cayenne to the big pot.

South Indian Butternut and Squash Stew

            1 Cup Dried Chickpeas, soaked overnight*
            2 ½ LBs Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
            2 Large Carrots, peeled and chopped
            1 Large Red Onion, chopped
            1 Cup Red Lentils**
            4 Cups Vegetable Broth
            2 TB Tomato Paste
            1 TB Grated Fresh Ginger
            1 Tsp Cumin
            1 Tsp Garam Masala
            1  Tsp Sea Salt
            ½ Tsp Turmeric
            1/4 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
            1/4 Cup Lime Juice
            6 Cups Cooked Basmati Brown Rice
            1/2 Cup Chopped Roasted Cashews
            1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro

Combine the soaked chickpeas through the black pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on low until the chickpeas are tender and the lentils have begun to break down, 5 to 6 hours.  Stir in the lime juice. (Why lime juice? I don’t have to add as much salt. Citrus juice is a great substitute for salt!) Sprinkle with cashews and cilantro and serve over the basmati brown rice.

*Quick soak method:
Place beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain when ready to use.

**Can’t find red lentils? Red lentils are a traditional “dal”, used in Indian cooking. “Dal” is the word used to describe lentils, peas and beans in India. I like them in this recipe, because they not only add golden color, (they turn from red to yellow when cooked), but they also break down easily, so the flavor incorporates beautifully into the dish. If you can’t find the reds – just use ordinary brown lentils from the grocery store. Your stew will still taste delicious!