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.
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Re-Vamp Your Breakfast Recipes, try a Quinoa Bowl

Why try a quinoa bowl for breakfast? Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it has all 10 essential amino acids, and a high fiber content. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 5 grams of satiating fiber, having it for breakfast will help to arm your body with the tools it needs to get through the day and stay fuller longer. As an added bonus, quinoa is packed with health boosters like zinc, calcium, iron, riboflavin, heart healthy fats and antioxidants that have been found to reduce inflammation.quinoa bowl

Recipe: Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
Prep Time: 5
Cook Time: 15
Yield: 2 bowls

Ingredients:
1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
3/4 cup canned lite coconut mylk + more for drizzling
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + more for sprinkling
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of dried unsweetened dark cherries
1 tablespoon of toasted pecans
1 tablespoon of toasted pumpkin seeds

Preparation:
Combine quinoa, coconut milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes until quinoa can be fluffed with a fork.
Divide quinoa into two bowls then cover with dried fruits, pecans, + pumpkin seeds and a few extra drizzles of coconut milk.

Chef Notes:  You can use a shelf stable organic Coconut mylk available at Aldi’s Markets. Or you can make your own Almond mylk but that’s for another blog.  Option to add  sweetener of choice,  we find it sweet enough with the coconut milk and fruit.

#Kidfriendly #addtoppingsofyourchoice #mixandmatchfruitsnutsandseeds #yearroundmeal

Nutrition: 302 calories, 10.3 g fat (4.9 g saturated fat), 99 mg sodium, 34.6 g carbs, 5.3 g fiber, 7.9 g sugar, 8.2 g protein

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

3 Simple Creamy Vegan Winter Soups

Broccoli Soup With Cream

It’s officially the Winter Holidays! And while Tampa remains a stubborn balmy 70 degrees, we’re almost dipping into the 60s this week. If you’ve lived around here long enough, I’m sure you’ll agree: It’s hat and coat time! But not only do we crave our winter wardrobes when the weather turns chilly (read: Less than 75), we crave soothing hot comfort foods. Here are three of my favorite hot soup recipes made vegan, low-calorie, and extra delicious. Oh, and the best part: They’re all major cancer-fighters!

You’ll definitely need an immersion blender…

All recipes serve 3-4 (or 2 if they want seconds!)

Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup

  • 1 head of cauliflower and 1 head of broccoli, steamed
  • 1 Tb Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • Add 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4th tsp grated nutmeg
  • Vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Non-Vegan options: Garnish with plain Greek yogurt or a sprinkle of extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Directions:

In a pot, saute 1 chopped onion until well browned in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Using an immersion blender, blend cauliflower, broccoli, and onion mixture together, adding vegetable broth until desired soup consistency is reached. Garnish with fresh parsley, or non-vegan alternatives.

Vegan Mushroom Soup

Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • 1 Tb EVOO
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 lbs mushrooms
  • 1 Tb dry sherry (or white wine)
  • 1 russet potato or 1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves only, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • To add depth of flavor, try adding a dash of balsamic vinegar!

Directions

Saute onion with olive oil in a pot until caramelized, add garlic. Deglaze with dry sherry and add mushrooms and potatoes. Add herbs and spices. Cook down until mushrooms are deeply browned (not burnt!) and potato pieces are soft. Immersion blend until soup has reached a desirable consistency. Since mushrooms produce a lot of moisture while cooking down, you may not need any additional vegetable stock, which is why it’s omitted. If extra moisture is required, use vegetable stock or white wine. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme (yep, just like the song says!).

vegan creamy tomato soup

Vegan Tomato Soup

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours beforehand
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 14.4 oz cans stewed tomatoes (or 4.5 cups)
  • 1/4 c coconut milk
  • Fresh basil, chopped with some more for garnish
  • Sugar, salt and pepper to taste (yes, sugar!)
  • Pepitas (optional garnish)

Directions

In a pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until they are soft. In a 2-cup measure (or deep pot – whatever you have handy), use your immersion blender to blend the cashews with 1/2 cup water until it’s creamy. Add into the onion/garlic pot with stewed tomatoes, basil, and coconut milk, and blend until creamy. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with garlic bread, or garnish with pepitas.

Negative Calorie Foods and Diet Freebies – Fact or Fiction?

vegan food tampa bay

Can you eat all the fruits and vegetables you want and still lose weight?

Are there negative-calorie foods that burn more calories to digest than they contain? 

Is there such a thing as a diet “freebie”?

Some weight loss plans will tell you that vegetables are “free foods” – as in, you can have as many as you want, not count them in your daily calorie total, and still lose weight. But is that right? Kind of.

It’s true that you’re very unlikely to eat so many vegetables that you’d gain weight from them, unless you dress them up with oil, butter, cheese, or sauce. The ratio of fiber and water to calories in non-starchy vegetables means that you’ll feel full on them faster, avoiding over-eating. But they still have calories. And, even with celery, you’ll consume more calories than you burn with chewing and digesting those stringy stalks. 

No, there’s no such thing as a freebie when you’re counting calories, even if it’s celery. That said, you are likely to lose more weight if you eat lots of celery (minus the peanut-butter), because of its filling-fiber to calorie ratio. 

Can a Vegan Diet Help You Lose Weight?

Olivia Wild, Natalie Portman, and Beyonce went vegan and lost weight – and Mike Tyson lost 100 pounds with a vegan diet. More and more celebrities are cutting out the animal products with visible results, and you’ll get the same results if you adopt a vegan diet the right way.

Doing Vegan Right

  • Avoid processed foods, including pasta and sugar
  • Balance your diet with healthy fats and protein from nuts, beans and lentils
  • Treat starchy vegetables like the carbs they are, and eat them in moderation (ie. limit your intake of baked potatoes smothered in butter-like vegan spread)
  • Include whole grains in your diet, like black rice, brown rice, barley, whole rye, buckwheat, quinoa, freekeh, etc.
  • Going vegan does not give you carte blanche to eat all the fat you want. Healthy fats in olive oil, nuts, and avocado are vital to your mental and physical well-being, but you can overdo them.

You don’t have to go vegan forever, unless you want to. But eliminating red meat and processed foods from your diet will help your brain chemistry re-set, making junk food much less tempting. 

Yes, adopting a vegetable-based diet is a great way to lose weight – but don’t do it for the “freebies.” Do it because it will help you look better, feel better, and live better. It’s the Intelligent Gourmet way! 

Pumpkin Power!

healthy vegan pumpkin soupPumpkin season is so packed with super-food goodness, I don’t know why we don’t eat pumpkins year-round. Did you know that just one cup of pumpkin contains half your daily recommended dose of fiber? It’s got antioxidants that prevent everything from wrinkles to cancer, contains more potassium than a banana, and is a great source of vitamin A and iron.

Pumpkin seeds are also incredibly good for you as a source of unsaturated fats and oils, zinc, and the amino acid tryptophan, which helps your body produce the feel-good chemical serotonin. In short, pumpkins make you look better AND feel better – but don’t help yourself to seconds on pie yet.

Whole V. Canned Pumpkin?

The argument against canned pumpkin is that the pumpkin goes through an intense heating process to pasteurize it for safe storage. Any cooking will, of course, destroy some of the nutrients, but considering that raw pumpkin just doesn’t taste the same (and I challenge anyone to make it into a pie-like substance), I’m going to say that it’s okay to cook this one. The canned version is usually sold with no preservatives or additives – so just be sure to look for “100% Pumpkin” on the label and check the ingredients list.

Canned pumpkin is also more concentrated, which means that one cup of canned pumpkin will actually have a higher density of nutrients than 1 cup of fresh cooked pumpkin.

Quick and Easy Vegan Pumpkin Soup

I love making a hearty Fall soup out of pumpkin using chopped onion, vegetable broth, ginger, nutmeg, salt and pepper – and, of course, a garnish of pumpkin seeds and crispy-fried sage leaves!

  1. Saute the onions in the pot first until they caramelize, then add the ginger and nutmeg, stirring until fragrant.
  2. Add 1 can of pumpkin (or the cooked meat of 1 small cooking pumpkin) and mash it together with the onion mixture.
  3. Pour in enough broth to get the creamy consistency you like best. Add salt an pepper to taste and cook for a few more minutes to let the flavors combine.
  4. While the soup is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet and fry a handful of sage leaves until crispy, sprinkled with a little salt.
  5. Serve the soup garnished with the crispy sage leaves and pumpkin seeds.

Keep Your Skin Gorgeous With Fall Flavors

cumin cinnamon spiced carrot fries

October is when everything seems to transform from the vibrant colors of summer to vivid yellows, oranges and reds – and not just the leaves on the trees, but the food too! Pumpkin, of course, is King, but butternut squash, carrots and sweet potatoes also hold considerable sway on the dinner table. What they all have in common is beta-carotene, which is not only a powerful antioxidant, but also breaks down in our bodies to become Vitamin A.

What does Vitamin A do? This very important vitamin helps keep eyes, skin and mucous membranes moist (read: beautiful skin), helps your eyes adjust to light changes, and neutralizes free radicals that cause tissue and cellular damage. While Vitamin A is extremely important, too much can be toxic. The good news is that when your body absorbs it from food (not pills), it only converts as much as it needs.

Considering how drying Fall and Winter can be on your skin, I say it’s okay to indulge in all the pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots and sweet potatoes you want – just as long as they aren’t always in desserts.

Recipe: Spiced Carrot Oven Fries

Carrot sticks just got a whole lot tastier. Chop your carrots into, well, sticks and toss them with a little olive oil, a pinch of salt, cinnamon and cumin (black and white sesame seeds optional). Spread them out on an aluminum-lined cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, until they’re lightly browned. If you love carrots, you’ll love this recipe; but even if cooked carrots aren’t your thing, I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Summer Superfood: Figs!

Grilled fig rosemary skewers

Figs are practically dropping off their trees by this time in summer – but don’t let the bounty overwhelm you. There are so many ways to use these melt-in-your-mouth fruits to sweeten summer salads, throw on the grill, make jam, or even add an exotic flavor to lemonade!

But first, let’s look at what these summertime superfoods can do for your health.

  • Figs are a rich source of fruit fiber, which not only helps with weight loss, but could also help reduce breast cancer risk.
  • Potassium-rich foods like figs help our bodies balance the salt we eat, helping to prevent or stop hypertension.
  • Figs are also a source of calcium , helping to prevent bone loss.
  • Black Mission figs have poly-phenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants, similar to red wine.
  • Figs contain B-complex vitamins like niacin and folates.
  • Dried figs are more dense with minerals including calcium, copper, potassium, manganese and zinc than fresh figs.

Now, what can you do with figs this summer? I like my figs sweet and simple. 

  • Try tossing fresh figs with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, then roasting them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Use to top a salad, or as an accompaniment to a cheese plate.
  • Fire up the grill and, using rosemary sprigs as skewers, grill your figs and let them infuse with rosemary flavor! This makes an outstanding dessert, especially when served with vanilla ice cream.
  • Blend fresh, ripe figs with lemon juice, sugar and water for a peach-colored lemonade that is as healthy as it is pretty.

SuperFood Breakfast Parfait

superfood parfait

Behold: The Breakfast of Champions! I’m serious! Whether you’ve got a tough day of work ahead of you, or you’re about to take final exams (or the LSAT), or you need a little extra fuel for your morning cardio workout, this quick and easy parfait has everything you need to rock your morning. Let’s take a close look at what’s in here –

While we love our Greek Yogurt (and what its pro-biotics do for our digestive systems), sometimes we make our parfaits with almond milk and hemp protein powder. Of course, you could do all three, but our vegan customers appreciate the flexibility of going without the dairy. Almond milk is packed with Vitamin E, protein and magnesium, and is derived from one of the healthiest nuts in the world, but is low in calories. For additional protein, one of my favorite additives is hemp protein powder because it contains all of the essential amino acids (which you can easily find in meat, but less easily with protein alternatives).

We’ve also included blackberries, rich in cancer-fighting, cell-renewing anti-oxidants, and walnuts. There are some foods that are so packed with health benefits, it’s better than taking a daily vitamin. Walnuts, in my opinion, are one of these true SuperFoods.

Walnuts have been linked to protecting against heart disease, strengthening the circulatory system, increasing sperm count in men trying to conceive, and – their age-old claim to fame – helping the brain function better with Omega-3s. Added bonus – walnuts have also been linked to helping people lose weight. In fact, this article calls it “the king of nuts,” because “A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut.”

Really, we could have packed the cup with walnuts and called it a day. Just kidding!

Combined, these superfoods give you the slow-burning energy you need to feel fantastic, at least until lunchtime.