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.

Turn up the Heat this Summer with Watermelon!

watermelon bites

Usually watermelon is your go-to for cooling down – but not after you read this:

Eating watermelon may lead to better sex.

Studies show that watermelon is the little blue pill of the vegetable world, improving blood circulation throughout the entire body – just like Viagra. The magic nutrient is citrulline, which converts to arginine once ingested, and arginine clears the way for blood to flow. Sure, it also helps with cardiovascular health and may help those with obesity and type two diabetes, but sex is a lot more… sexy.

Watermelon is also rich in lycopene, a heart-protecting anti-oxidant that also promotes prostate health. As if that weren’t enough, some scientific evidence points to lycopene helping with male infertility.

So this Fourth of July, tell your fella to eat watermelon – and you’ll really see fireworks!

Here are my favorite ways to eat watermelon:

Watermelon Agua Fresca

Take 6 pounds of seedless watermelon and cut into 2″ chunks. Blend in a blender in batches, pouring in about 2 cups of water to help with the process. Pour the blended watermelon through a strainer into a pitcher (this should yield about 8 cups). Mix in 1 Tb lime juice and 1 Tb agave nectar. Now, pour into glasses with ice, and garnish with mint leaves. It’s delicious!

Watermelon and Goat Cheese Party Bites

Use a cookie cutter to press watermelon into bite-sized rounds. Then place a mint or basil leaf on top, and using a pastry-bag, top with a dollop of soft goat cheese. Skewer with a tooth pick, and finish with a delicate drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

The watermelon bites pictured are topped with yellow heirloom tomatoes and drizzled with basil and hot chili-infused oil.

Carbs, Comfort, and Cauliflower

Intelligent Gourmet imageWhen you’re feeling down – whether because of hormones, a bad day, or too little sleep – you’ve probably noticed that you go straight to the carbs in your cupboard for comfort. For me, it’s pasta and wine. For you it might be cookies, or bread, or chips. Emotional eating is hard to curb because, well, it works. At least in the short term (you won’t be feeling so hot the next morning!).

Here’s why it works.

In the Psychology Today article “The Antidepressant Diet” by Dr. Judith Wurtman, she makes the case that we crave carbs to help regulate our emotions because carbs are integral in creating serotonin – one of the body’s feel-good chemicals (one with the added bonus of curbing food cravings and suppressing appetite): “Serotonin makes you feel emotionally stable, less anxious, more tranquil and even more focused and energetic.”

The best combination, according to her studies with her husband Dr. Richard Wurtman, is eating protein and carbs together. Protein is rich in tryptophan, necessary for serotonin production, and is absorbed best when there are carbohydrates in your system at the same time.

But there are carbs like pasta and sweets – and there are carbs like cauliflower. One is stripped of nutrients, the other helps fight cancer. Which would you rather have? Okay, probably still the pasta and sweets. Let me make a case for that cauliflower though.

Cauliflower is an incredibly flexible vegetable. Steam it in the microwave, add a little garlic and cottage cheese, then use an immersion blender and you have fantastic “mashed potatoes.” You can use it to make Gluten Free flatbreads, and I found a recipe for Cauliflower Pizza Bites on Pinterest this morning (check it out on my Intelligent Appetizers board).

Yes, I am giving you an excuse to give in to your emotional eating – but do it wisely. Your body is craving a protein and carb cocktail to make you feel better. By using Cauliflower as your carb, you won’t just feel better now, you’ll feel great tomorrow morning in front of the mirror too!

 

An Intelligent Gourmet Thanksgiving: Smart Appetizers

healthy thanksgiving recipes

While other nutrition and fitness blogs are probably giving out tips on how to avoid the upcoming eating frenzy at all costs, I have just three words for you: Go for it.

If that means making imperfect food choices, like grabbing seconds on that creamy green bean casserole topped with fried onions, well fine. I’ve even heard of dieters deciding to devote their entire day’s allotted calories to pie – and only pie. It’s Thanksgiving and if you need permission to enjoy all the goodies that you are blessed to have on your table, I give it to you.

However, our specialty at Intelligent Gourmet is taking the foods you love and making them healthier for you. So if you’d like to give thanks and feel great this holiday season, try this recipe to start off the festivities.

Intelligent Gourmet Appetizer: Blue Cheese, Agave Stuffed Radicchio

Ingredients:
12 Radicchio leaves
3 oz Blue Cheese
A drizzle of agave
36 almond slices

Preparation:
Fill each Radicchio leaf with a little blue cheese and drizzle with agave. Top with 3 almond slices.

Why it’s crazy-good for you:
Radicchio is high in antioxidants, especially dark red radicchio, which neutralize free radicals and fight cell damage. Its high fiber content promotes weight loss by helping make you feel full, and it also contains inulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Although honey would be delicious for drizzling, agave syrup has a far lower glycemic index and won’t spike your blood sugar.

Stay tuned, because next week I’ll give you side dishes, and the week after: the best turkey you’ve ever tasted!

Healthy Snacks Your Kids (and their Friends) will Love: Meatballs

At Intelligent Gourmet, we’ve been catering for years and have learned to please a lot of picky palates. And not just by serving ever popular Mac’n’cheese at every meal. We’ve developed recipes that will make you as a parent jump for joy, and make your kids ask for “more vegetables please!” Maybe not in those exact words.

MeatballZ (Z is for Zucchini!)

We grind our own meat here at Intelligent Gourmet, and while the turkey, chicken, or lean beef is going through the grinding process, we often include zuchini in the mix. Not only does it serve to keep the meat juicy (so you can use extra-lean beef without it getting dry) it imparts no flavor, and is a handy, hidden vegetable. Then we add garlic, salt, pepper, and any other spices to taste. But, if you don’t have your own grinder, go ahead and buy the pre-ground meat, then grind a zuchinni in your food processor and stir in. We recommend half and half.

Then you can form meatballs, burger patties, meatloaf, stuffing for bell peppers, or anything else you can think up.

For adult variations on meatballs, try adding:

  • Feta & spinach for a Greek inspired ball. Serve with tzatziki.
  • Minced ginger, garlic, scallion, and soy sauce for an Asian inspired ball. Serve with orange sauce, teriyaki sauce, or soy sauce.
  • Minced ginger, red onion, cilantro, garlic, parsley, coconut milk, and garam masala for an Indian-inspired ball. Try serving this with mango chutney.

 

 

 

And hey, if you find yourself heading to McJunkFoods for kids meals – take a look at our Healthy Kids Meals  instead. We deliver!