Warming up to Healthy Eating- Lentil Soup

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Was last night the sixth holiday party we just attended? Yes, it surely was. Or perhaps it was the thirteen. I’ve lost count. While I relished every last friend, holiday/new year wish, hors d’oeuvre, cookie & cocktail with gusto, I am now carried away to a more sensible space. Here in Florida it’s a sometimes cold place we call January.

If you are like us and many others, who have spent the last month stuffed with stuffing and tipsy with holiday cheer, January brings with it a promising opportunity for replenishment, balance, and the only way to do that is by giving your body everything it needs to thrive. Lots of healthy foods and vegetables.

But to go right from cookies to carrots in 0 to 60 seconds seems crazy, we believe the body must be eased back into it’s normal patterns gently and reasonably. No fad diets, or pill will have you looking and feeling your best.

At Intelligent Gourmet, we know it’s not about losing weight – it’s about living your best life. That said, for many of us, part of becoming healthier, happier people involves undoing some of the less-great decisions of the last several weeks and, yes, losing weight. Unfortunately, changing your lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight (though one diet claims otherwise)

What matters is keeping your nutrition high, your calories controlled, and your exercise up!

Try working your way back into some better eating habits with a healthy soup packed with protein and vegetables. Here we share with you a recipe for a very versatile lentil soup that you can easily adapt to your families personal preferences and pantry inventory:

Ingredients

  • 1 # package of dried lentils (You can use any kind you like, red, green, brown and black beluga)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, (small diced)
  • 1 large carrots, (small diced)
  • 2 ribs of celery (small diced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic smashed
  • 1 12 oz package of winter squash cubes (available at most grocers)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • cayenne pepper
  • 4-6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 hand full of your favorite greens chopped, (kale, spinach, mustard, or chard)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • flat leaf parsley (for garnish)
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Start my heating some olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over moderate heat, (you do not want the olive oil smoking) Add the chopped, carrot, celery and onion and allow these vegetable to sauté slowly about 8 – 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Once the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent add in your chopped garlic, salt and spices, stir and cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add in your winter squash cubes of choice and toss to combine.
  3. Add 4 cups of your stock ( chicken or vegetable depending on if you are making this vegan or not), and bring to a boil.
  4. Add in your raw lentils ( Lentils do not need to be soaked like other beans but do rinse, Check the cooking time on the package, which can vary from one type to the next. Red lentils cook in as little as 15 minutes while the black ones can take as long as 45 minutes.)
  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until lentils are just tender but not mushy, and your squash is soft. (Add additional stock if you want a thinner soup adjust to your liking)
  6. When the lentils are just tender, add the chopped greens. (They’ll only take a minute or two to wilt remove the pot from the burner as soon as the greens are wilted and bright green.)
  7. Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, and a generous amount of chopped parsley. Adjust salt if necessary.

CHEF NOTE:

Change up your meal in any one of these 4 ways.

  1. You can trade 1/2 the stock with coconut cream for a creamy flavor.
  2. Season with smoked paprika, a touch of liquid smoke, and a ham bone.
  3. Add in a 14 ounce can of diced tomato for another variation.
  4. Serve with a tablespoon of greek yogurt on top.

Reduce Inflammation & Improve Your Digestion with Easy To Make Bone Broth


Remember how soothing chicken soup is whenever you have a cold? Well it turns out that broth, and especially bone broth (made from simmering bones and cartilage) really do have medicinal properties. I’m always on the lookout for foods that both nourish and heal your body, and while studying at the Institute of Integrative Health and Nutrition I was turned on to bone broth as a way of improving digestive symptoms such as bloating and pain.

Bone broth is experiencing a revolution right now, and for good reason. It can reduce joint pain and inflammation through chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, proline, arginine, and glycine which all have anti-inflammatory effects. It promotes strong, healthy bones through high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and additional nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation, and promotes healthy hair and nail growth thanks to the gelatin in the broth. It may even help you sleep better due to the calming effects of glycine. Wow. No wonder superstar Kobe Bryant is drinking it daily and it’s even gained a cult following in NYC!

Another important component of both broths are that they are rich in Humic + Fulvic minerals! What are those you ask and why should I want them?
Research is just beginning to show us the important role that fulvic minerals play and the information is amazing! These minerals like others support the body in a variety of ways including cellular health, brain health and digestion by helping the body absorb nutrients from food.
In a perfect world, our food would naturally contain high levels of minerals from the soil, but this is not usually the case with our modern food supply.

Ready to try this out? You can make bone broth at home (recipe below!) by simmering chicken, beef, or pretty much any type of bones in water for 6+ hours. At Intelligent Gourmet we use this recipe as a base in most of our stocks and it’s just plain delicious! No single theory of health is right for everyone, but we’ve seen bone broth work well for some people and not cause adverse symptoms for anyone, therefore we feel it’s safe to approve as a food that promotes digestive health.
Intelligent Gourmet’s Bone Broth Recipe

Ingredients

4-5.5 lbs. of Beef or Chicken bones (including joints, knuckles, necks etc.)
2 gallons Cold Water or enough to cover your bones (Why cold water? On a chemical level, it actually promotes the extraction of protein, helping to up the nutrient quotient of the stock.)
1 large Onion, coarsely chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 stalks of Celery, coarsely chopped
4 cloves of Garlic, peeled
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tbsp of Vinegar* (such as Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar)
1 bunch of fresh Parsley
Optional: Thyme + Rosemary (I like to add thyme, bay leaf, and whole peppercorns, with maybe a sprig or two of rosemary. If you’re adding herbs and veggies to the broth, be sure to add them toward the end of cooking, especially if you’re doing a marathon stock making session.)

*A Note on Vinegar: This is not an optional ingredient. Not only is it ideal to combine fats with acids like vinegar, when it comes to making broth the goal is to extract as many minerals as possible out of the bones into the broth water and vinegar really helps to leech all those valuable minerals out of the bones. Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar is a good choice as it’s unfiltered and unpasteurized.

Preparation

In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to-low and simmer for 6 to 24 hours (the longer you simmer it, the more intense the flavor). Add water as needed to keep ingredients submerged. Strain stock into a clean pot or heatproof plastic container and discard solid ingredients. Let cool and refrigerate overnight. Leave the solidified fat on the top while storing as the fat acts as a protective layer and delays the formation of bacteria. Immediately prior to use, bring the bone broth to a gentle boil. Makes about 12 cups.

You can use this broth as a base for soups like we do at Intelligent Gourmet, or you can drink it straight as a restorative concoction.

Interested in learning more about foods that promote healthy digestion? Here are a few I can recommend:

Bananas
While all fruits and vegetables are generally good for digestion, bananas in particular are great because they don’t irritate the stomach. That’s why they’re part of the “BRAT Diet” (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, dry Toast), which has been suggested for folks suffering from vomiting or diarrhea.

Water
Water (which most people do not drink enough of) is excellent for the digestive process as it helps move things through the intestines. Drink an extra glass of water in the morning and evening, or carry a refillable water bottle that you can sip from throughout the day.

Ginger, Turmeric, Peppermint
Spices and herbs like ginger, turmeric and peppermint are great for settling an upset stomach. Try drinking ginger or peppermint tea, or sucking on a peppermint lozenge.

Yogurt, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kimchi
Probiotic-containing foods like yogurt are good for the digestive system because they contain good bacteria that crowds out any bad bacteria that you may have in your gut. You want to look specifically for foods that contain live bacteria, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Asparagus, Oats, Onions, Lentils, Whole Grains
Prebiotic foods like asparagus contain a type of fiber that probiotics feed off of to multiply, so it’s good food for your good bacteria. Prebiotics are found in foods such as asparagus, onions, lentils and whole grains.

Soup

Need an Energy Boost? Try this Chia Juice!

Chia Juice Health Benefits

Did you know that “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength”? If that doesn’t deserve its own workout drink, I don’t know what does. But don’t buy one from the store – they’re loaded with sugar! Here’s what you need to know about chia seeds, including a delicious healthy recipe for a refreshing juice!

5 Fun Facts About Chia Seeds

  1. Chia seeds contain more Omega-3s than salmon, gram for gram.
  2. High fiber and protein content makes you feel full longer and slows the metabolism of sugars.
  3. Nicely balanced amino acids make the protein easy for our bodies to use.
  4. Contain 4 nutrients that work together to maintain good bone health: Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and protein.
  5. Lowers blood pressure and inflammation.

Chia seed drinks are quickly trending in high-end health food stores, but like most mass-produced bottled beverages, they’re high in sugar. I love adding chia seeds to my juices and smoothies for their healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium since the combination keeps your blood-sugar even for hours. Hello steady energy! While you can add chia seeds to anything, I love this refreshing, ultra-hydrating recipe.

Minty-Fresh Energy Boost Juice

  • ½ lemon
  • 1 cucumber
  • Handful of romaine, arugula, or watercress
  • Handful of mint
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • ½ green apple

How to Use Food to Rock Your New Year’s Resolutions

Broccoli,radish and feta salad with quinoa

This post is NOT about losing weight. In fact, that resolution isn’t even going to be mentioned, because you know why? I’m SICK OF IT! Aren’t you? Of course you can use food to lose weight (studies show it’s more effective to control your diet than increase exercise, if you have to choose), but let’s dig a little deeper this year and go after what we really want.

1. Resolution: Be Happier

It’s a simple one, but it’s what we’re really after with all the other resolutions isn’t it? Even when you have a great family, work you love, and live in a beautiful part of the country that hovers between 60 and 80 degrees in the dead of winter – you can still feel down more often than you’d like. Stop punishing yourself for being ungrateful – that’s not it. Unless you need to make real changes in your life (maybe you do!), these down times are chemical. And that means you can lift yourself back up with food.

There was an interesting study on PBS recently that linked inflammation with depression. Which means that an anti-inflammatory diet could significantly help symptoms of depression. Two especially powerful anti-inflammatory foods (or supplements) you can try are:

  1. Turmeric (curcumin)
  2. Omega-3 (fish, or fish oil)

2. Resolution: Be Healthier

Boost energy and fight disease this year by incorporating these 5 foods into your daily life. Yes, daily.

  • Lemons – Anti-inflammatory, inhibits cancer cell growth, increases “good” cholesterol levels, vitamin C.
  • Broccoli – Anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting rock-star, vitamin K & vitamin C combo builds healthy bones.
  • Dark Chocolate – 1/4th oz daily reduces blood pressure & bad cholesterol, and improves your mood!
  • Salmon/Fish/Flax Seeds/Walnuts – Omega-3 fatty acids help the brain work better, reduce bad cholesterol, and reduce risk for heart disease.
  • Spinach – Anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting, and eye-health-improving. Toss a handful in with your eggs every morning!

3. Resolution: Spend More Time With Loved Ones

Invite some friends over to cook a healthy meal together – and schedule these dinners as often as you’d like. We’re all so busy that if we don’t schedule in time with friends and loved ones, it never happens. So put a few dinner dates on your calendar. Here’s an idea: Make a game of it by inviting a friend to walk through your local farmer’s market with you, choose some “mystery” ingredients, and see what you can do with them when you get back!

Don’t like to cook, but still want the healthy dinner? We’ve got you covered. Just serve everyone Intelligent Gourmet!

A Zen Guide to Surviving the Season with Superfoods

Stress Busting Foods

All you want for the holidays is for your niece to get her two front teeth, for it to be white (but not polar vortex white), and to be as Zen as a yogi while wearing cute yoga pants. Well, I don’t have a direct line to the Tooth Fairy or Mother Nature, but I do know something about maintaining inner harmony using the power of food.

Add these stress-busting, energy-fueling superfoods to a meal or enjoy as a mid-gift-shopping snack and stay mentally balanced while maintaining your fab yoga figure.

Avocados For the Win

You can’t go wrong with a few slices perfectly ripened avocado. The texture is a mix between buttery and heavenly, and the heavy dose of vitamin B they offer perks up your alertness while taking down your anxiety levels. Try half of one with breakfast.

Go Bananas

Pair your morning cereal, organic pb and honey, or kale smoothie with a banana. Their mega-dose of potassium pumps up your energy while simultaneously reducing your blood pressure. Feeling wild? Try a fruit salad with both bananas and avocado (avocado isn’t just for guacamole anymore!).

More Milk, Please

There’s something to the tradition of hitting the hay with a glass of warm milk after all. High in tryptophan, milk is a natural way to calm down and yes, fall deeply into zzz’s. Or of course, drink it fresh from the fridge – either way, it’s soothing.

Carbs (Not Simple, Complex)

Tantalized by toast or riveted by rice? Don’t worry – we all are. Stick with complex carbs like whole-wheat bread and brown rise to raise serotonin levels and keep you happier than Dean Martin sipping eggnog and slurring carols.

Tuna, Salmon and Arctic Char

Consider eating these fish to take you to your adrenaline-free zone. The omega-3s in these fatty fish make staying calm easy. Yes, even when the printer biffed your holiday cards and your mother-in-law is writing Facebook posts about how she’s clearly been cut off of mailing lists.

Do You Cashew?

Zinc does a body good, and cashews are full of it. Blessed with the power of relieving stress and fighting off infections, a handful of cashews are almost as deserving of the title “savior” as someone else whose name comes up this time of year.

Orange You Glad…

When you’re stressed out (whether from debating about Pound Puppies vs. Pound Purries for your best friend’s kid, or from trying to cook the perfect holiday meal), your vitamin C levels drop. Grab one of these pulpy beauties to fight stress, and thus infections.

Dessert of Champions: Dark Chocolate

Sing it with me now: serotonin! I don’t expect you to skip sweets and treats – just do so wisely with anti-oxidant rich, mood-boosting dark chocolate. Try drizzling it over orange slices for a decadent mid-day pick me up or delectable dessert.

When you’re running full-steam ahead to make the Holidays happen, be sure to give yourself the gift of healthy food! Come by Intelligent Gourmet for a quick pick-me-up any  time you need it.

 

 

 

The Secrets to Happiness Revealed – and one is Broccoli?

Health benefits of broccoli

Two new studies came out recently on foods that make us not only healthier, but happier human beings. And yes, one of those foods is broccoli! We’ll get to the other one in a minute.

Eating broccoli, along with other fruits and vegetables, has been linked to “eudaemonic well-being” – also known as feeling a sense of purpose and engagement with life, as well as curiosity and creativity. Researchers in New Zealand found that study participants who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables reported higher levels of creativity, curiosity and what they called “psychological flourishing.” Participants scored higher in these areas when they ate more vegetables, and lower on days that included more fried foods and desserts.

The real question is: Do healthier diets create a sense of engagement and positivity? Or, does being engaged and positive lead to eating better?

Try it yourself and see what you think!

The other dietary staple making the recent news is yogurt.

Recent scientific evidence indicates that the bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts influence our emotions and even behavior. Depending on what types of bacteria are growing in your gut, you may crave more sweets or more fat, or even feel depressed.

In 2011, a study on depression was conducted to see if taking probiotic supplements reduced depression – it did. And, in 2013, UCLA produced a study reporting that women who ate yogurt every day experienced changes in the parts of their brains that process emotion.

It’s a little too early to say with certainty that you can toss your anti-depressants in favor of lactobacillus, but if you need a good-mood pick-me-up this week, try yogurt! And eat your vegetables.

Interested in other Good Mood Foods? Here are our previous posts on the topic.

Six Good Mood Foods to Chase Away Everyday Crankiness

The Best Diet & Fitness Regimen for Happiness

Foods to Give Spring to Your Step

Carbs, Comfort, and Cauliflower

 

Eat This Food Once a Week for a Better Memory and Healthier Brain

Fish and alzheimer's

Having a few more “senior moments” lately? Forgotten where your keys are a few too many times this month? Walk into a room and wonder why you came in? They happen to all of us, and we joke about them with our friends, but for those concerned about getting Alzheimer’s or dementia, these moments are no laughing matter. However, new studies on Alzheimer’s prevention are coming out with some interesting suggestions – one of which is to eat more fish.

UCLA resident radiologist, Dr. Cyrus Raji, lead research that found that people who eat fish regularly have bigger, stronger, healthier brains, which protects against Alzheimer’s and dementia.

How often do you need to eat fish to reap the benefits? Just once a week.

But there’s a catch to ordering the catch of the day: While any kind of fish is beneficial, the benefits tank when the fish is fried. Nix the fish sticks.

Cultures with more fish-heavy diets around the world, like the Japanese, have significantly fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease. But it’s not just the fish intake, it’s the entire lifestyle. Alzheimer’s has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes – which can all be controlled through diet and exercise.

Here’s one of my favorite fish recipes. You’ll be amazed at how delicious salmon is with a hint of vanilla!

Garam Masala-crusted salmon with mint-yogurt sauce

Ingredients: salmon fillets with skin on, 1 whole vanilla bean, extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), garam masala, Greek yogurt, mint, fresh greens, figs (optional).

  1. In a pan, heat EVOO with 1/2″ fresh vanilla bean, infusing the oil over medium heat.
  2. Coat a salmon filet in garam masala liberally, and place it in the pan, flesh-side down, with the oil and vanilla.
  3. Sear the salmon, then flip and finish cooking skin-side down.
  4. Pro-tip: You know the salmon is perfect when it begins oozing out white all over.
  5. Mix a tablespoon of Greek yogurt with fresh torn mint.
  6. Plate the salmon over fresh greens (with quartered figs if they’re in season), and top with a dollop of yogurt sauce.

Feeling Tired? It’s because you’re eating this

donuts

Feeling tired? Unmotivated? Blah? It might be a hormonal imbalance, it might be you’re trying to do too much, it might be stress, but it also might be something you ate.

UCLA researchers have found that sugary, high fat, and processed foods don’t just wreck your health and your waistline, they can cause fatigue, lack of motivation, and poor performance as well. The good news is that a splurge once in a while isn’t enough to do damage – it was only the subjects that ate junk food for 3 months straight that experienced obesity and cognitive impairments. It’s a good thing the subjects were lab rats!

But it begs the question – what happens to humans, especially children, who habitually eat high fat, sugary processed foods? This study at least indicates that the damage may be permanent, or at least very resistant to change.

If you’ve been eating a few too many fast food meals, try a whole foods diet for a week and see if you feel more energetic, motivated, and mentally sharp. Can’t take time to cook? At Intelligent Gourmet, we make healthy food as fast and as easy as take-out. And, we have kids meals too.

The Best Diet & Fitness Regimen for Happiness

Feeling out of sorts? Unfulfilled? Blasé? Bored? Depressed? Anxious? Frazzled? Sad?

Sure, you could take a pill for that and feel a little better – maybe – but I’ve got a better answer for you: Diet and exercise. Change your eating habits and your physical lifestyle, and you can completely change your outlook and your life! Mind and body work together to produce your emotions, and how you treat your body fuels everything that happens inside it. Don’t believe me? Try this for one week and report back:

Crunchy Chicken Tacos

Eating (and Drinking) for Happiness

Green tea is my coffee substitute of choice because, while caffeine can cause anxiety and jitteriness, green tea works as a stimulant and calms you down with an amino acid called L-theanine. One study showed that taking L-theanine before a test helped students stay calm.

Salmon, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, and flax seeds have some of the highest levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s help brain function, and as you know, your brain controls nearly everything. One study from Ohio State University found that students who increased their intake of Omega-3 fatty acids experienced a 20 percent reduction in anxiety.

Eggs, shellfish, tuna, and grass-fed lean beef are high in Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins. We need a wide range of B vitamins for our brains to function best, and when we’re not getting them, our brains can make us feel depressed, anxious, and irritable.

Avocados, legumes, bananas, fish and dark green leafy vegetables hare rich in vitamin B6, another B vitamin associated with improving mood and reducing anxiety and depression.

Yogurt and probiotics have been shown to reduce “behaviors associated with stress, anxiety and depression” in mice, according to a 2011 study published in Discover magazine.

For more tips on what to eat to improve your mood, click here! 

The thing about running quote

Exercising for Enthusiasm!

My favorite study reports that aerobic exercise is an effective treatment for many forms of depression. It’s not news – this study came out in 1999. Depressed adults who engaged in aerobic exercise actually improved as much as those on Zoloft. In 2006, another study was conducted that found that exercise led to a 30 percent rate of remission (which is as good, or better than, drugs).

You don’t have to take up one specific exercise – just pick one you enjoy. Jogging, swimming, long walks on the beach, hiking, tennis – anything that gets you moving!

For the best results, you need 3-5 workout sessions per week that last 45 to 60 minutes. Ideally, you should reach 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Foods to Give Spring to Your Step

Goji berries & cashews

Spring is a time of renewal – but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel run-down from time to time. Fortunately, adding the right nutrients to your diet can help you heal your psyche and your body from the inside out, and there are a few superfoods designed to do just that.

Mind

A healthy mind should be your first priority when dredging yourself up out of exhaustion into stable, positive energy. And the first step is to get those Omega 3 oils in there to support brain function with salmon, walnuts, almonds, and flax seeds. One of my favorite easy recipes is to pan fry salmon and top with ready-made mango salsa, served over a bed of greens. Try it!

Body

In order to feel balanced, your body has to find its own blood-sugar equilibrium. That means you can’t stress-eat carbs! Start your day with a smoothie that has hemp protein powder, yogurt, and your favorite fruits. The hemp protein will slow down the carbs as they run through your metabolism giving you sustained energy without spikes or crashes.

Spirit

Ultimately, health is all about how you feel, and to start feeling great, it helps to give your emotions a boost. Did you know Goji Berries are nicknamed “the Happy Fruit“? It’s one of the top superfoods in the world, not just for making you feel cheerful, but also for its extremely high concentration of antioxidants (which help you look and feel younger and more vibrant). You also need more Vitamin D (we all do); so if you can’t take a long walk on the beach every day, be sure to increase the amount of mushrooms in your diet. Yep, mushrooms are a great source of natural Vitamin D (ironic, since they grow in the dark).

Need a quick boost? Make your own Goji berry and walnut trail mix (maybe with cashews – because cashews are delicious – and dark chocolate chunks for an extra mood enhancer).

Photo by SweetOnVeg on Flickr.