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.

Stay Healthy This Fall: Back to School Edition

Niman ranch beef

There’s nothing like the start of the school year – and all of those extracurricular activities – to disrupt our healthy eating habits. Fortunately, Intelligent Gourmet has your back with weekly meal plans and ready-to-drink juices that give your body everything it needs to feel fabulous for Fall. This month, we’re taking advantage of our new Niman Ranch meats and a cornucopia of in-season produce to bring you dinners like this one!

As much as I love vegetarian and vegan food, I’m very excited about the delicious meat products coming to us from Niman Ranch. Niman Ranch has become a standard-bearer for all-natural, humanely and traditionally-raised livestock. Their products are free of antibiotics and hormones, feed is strictly vegetarian, and animals are raised outdoors in pastures or deeply bedded pens. While eating animal products is a much-debated life choice, there are many health benefits associated with meat, like iron, zinc, and B vitamins – not to mention protein!

But let’s look at the other seasonal Fall ingredients on the plate. Sweet potatoes are one of Autumn’s best Superfoods, containing vitamin D, iron, vitamin C, B6 and Magnesium. All of these together add up to a powerful immune-system boost with stress-relieving effects (just in time to help the kids with homework). Mushrooms, of course, are also a great source of vitamin D.

Broccoli, a winter crop in Florida, is one of the most nutrition-dense vegetables on the planet. The cruciferous vegetable includes vitamins A and C, folic acid, fiber, calcium, numerous cancer-fighting and anti-carcinogen properties, and potassium – which means it helps prevent cancer and regulate blood pressure, supports the nervous system, and helps reduce cholesterol.

With so much to do and so little time, don’t let your schedule dictate your eating habits! Because, when you’re healthy, there is nothing you can’t handle.

 

 

Four Fabulous Fall Recipes

Pumpkin Recipes

Autumn is the time for harvest, which means some of the most delicious fruits, vegetables, and gourds are in season right now! So, even though the temperatures insist it’s still summer, let’s celebrate Fall in hopes that it will come in soon. Pumpkin Popsicles anyone? Just kidding.

Party-Sized Pumpkin Hummus 

For a healthy pumpkin dip perfect for Fall get-togethers, try this pumpkin hummus recipe. Just put everything in a food processor, except for the pumpkin seed and crispy sage garnishes. Serve with pita chips or your favorite vegetable chip!

  • 1 15oz can of garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 Cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tbs Tahini
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbs Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
  • Crispy sage for garnish (just heat olive oil in a pan and sautee the sage leaves until crispy)

Butternut Squash & Apple Salad

Instead of attempting to re-create the genius of this recipe by Balanced Platter, I’m just going to link to the original. It’s as easy as roasting butternut squash with onions and olive oil, then combining it with crisp fresh chopped apples, herbs, and apple cider vinegar.

Pop-Corn

Have you tried sprinkling plain popcorn with melted coconut oil, cinnamon and sugar? If you haven’t – this is a must-try for your next home movie night.

Sweet Potato Ginger Coconut Casserole

This is what happens when you put everything good about Fall in Florida in the oven and bake it. This mouth-watering recipe comes from Eating Richly: Combine 3 Lbs cooked, mashed sweet potatoes with 1 tsp grated ginger, 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp orange zest, and 1/4 cup orange juice and put into a casserole dish. Top with chopped pecans and crystallized ginger and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Need more Fall inspiration? We’ve got a Pinterest Board for that!

Seasonal Recipes for Fall

Out with the Pyramid, In with the Pie Chart

Remember that food pyramid they taught you in school? Since 1980, the U.S. government has issued new Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, off of which the food pyramid is based. In the 1980’s, when Carbs were King, you had grains and cereals at the bottom, but the pyramid has changed a lot with developing research over the past thirty years. In fact, the pyramid has disappeared in favor of a pie-chart. No, actual pie is nowhere on their chart.

The new Guidelines make an interesting read. They’re more individualized than ever before, with a brochure that includes headings like “Eat the right amount of calories for you” and “Be physically active your way.” As for the dietary suggestions themselves, you can sum them up with:

  • Eat less meat
  • Eat more seafood and beans
  • Stay away from sugar and added salt
  • Drink more water and less soda
  • Choose whole-grain cereals, breads, rice and pasta
  • Ensure fruits and vegetables take up half of your plate

However, the Guidelines still throw Coconut oil under the bus as a bad “solid fat” like palm kernel oil (ignoring recent studies on the many health benefits of coconut oil), and they treat all sugars – whether High Fructose Corn Syrup or Maple Syrup – as equally undesirable. The guidelines make no mention of artificial sweeteners, or alternative sweeteners like stevia or agave nectar, which is a shame.

Just for fun, here’s my idea of a food pyramid – Intelligent Gourmet Style!

Vegetables First Food Pyramid

What is your idea of a healthy plate, pie chart, or pyramid?

 

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.

Intelligent Musings on Muesli

Muesli

We’ve been making up big batches of Muesli in the Intelligent Gourmet kitchen this week because it’s so darn healthy! High in fiber, protein and whole grains, it’s a high-octane start to your day.

Let’s take a closer look at some of our “Super” ingredients. 

Coconut & Coconut oil: Promotes weight loss, supports cognitive function, promotes heart health and thyroid function, and strengthens the immune system.

Raw Cacao: High in anti-oxidants which help your body break down environmental toxins, and contains flavonoids which aid cardiovascular health and help prevent cancer.

Millet & Rolled Oats: Both have heart-protective properties, but millet in particular is high in magnesium which lowers high blood pressure. They’re also high in fiber; and fiber from whole grains helps prevent gallstones and possibly breast cancer.

Here are a few more reasons why our Muesli is a SMART way to start your day…

Certified Organic 100%
37% Fruits, Nuts and Seeds
20% of Daily Fiber per serving
7g of Protein per serving
28g of Whole Grain per serving
No Added Fat
No Added Sweeteners
Vegetarian
Wheat & Dairy Free
Cholesterol-free
Kosher

What’s your favorite way to enjoy Muesli? On yogurt? Swimming in almond milk? Or maybe on top of fresh summer peaches.

Slimming Summer SuperFoods

Blueberries

At Intelligent Gourmet, we love summer because that is when our favorite produce is in season! Right now, there are a few superfoods in the farmers markets that I think you’ll all want to know about because, in addition to being incredibly good for you, they can also help whittle down your waistline. Who doesn’t want help with that during bikini season? When you eat fruits and vegetables in their season, not only will they taste more flavorful, but their health benefits will be amplified by their freshness. So go out to your local market this weekend and indulge in food that tastes great and will help you look great too!

Raspberries – Low in calories and high in fiber, raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese, iron, and cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Lychees – A 2009 study in Japan found that lychee extract, oligonol, may reduce tummy fat in people with metabolic syndrome and improve overall health. They also contain high levels of polyphenols, promoting heart health.

Kale – Another low calorie, high fiber plant, Kale is the king of leafy-green vegetables, crammed with iron and calcium.

Blueberries – These berries contain the most antioxidants of anything you’ll find in the grocery store, and are high in fiber. But their main claim to fame is their anti-aging effects.

Watermelon – Of course, watermelon is one of the best superfoods for weight loss; it’s all water! Well, water, delicious sweet flavor, and tons of lycopene (which prevents hypertension). It’s also great for helping with circulation (if you know what I mean).

My best tip for using these to promote weight loss in summer is to keep a bowl of berries on your kitchen counter. Then, when you’re feeling snacky, just grab a handful as you pass by. Instead of feeling guilty for snacking, you’ll feel great that you’re doing something good for your body.

The Health Benefits of Pistachios

Pistachio
The health benefits of pistachios are remarkable, possibly outdistancing even the wonderful walnut and amazing almond. Here’s why we love’m!

Nuts are a Low-fat snack – I’m serious

Pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie nuts – and even though nuts are generally considered “high fat,” the fat they have doesn’t all convert to fat in our bodies. The fibrous cell walls of nuts actually make the fat in them difficult for our bodies to absorb, so we only take on a portion of what shows up on the nutrition label. But when you break down that cell wall, like with peanut butter, the fat becomes more available for absorption. Thirty pistachios are about 100 calories, perfect for snacking.

Pistachios are Skin Foods

High in Vitamin E, pistachios help your skin regenerate and heal, giving you a fresh-faced, healthy glow! Vitamin E also protects against UV rays and premature aging, as well as skin cancer.

Bright Eyes

Pistachios contain two carotenoids rarely found in nuts, zeaxanthin and lutein, which are powerful antioxidants for fighting free-radical damage. Lutein is normally found in dark leafy green vegetables, and protects the eyes from sun damage and oxidative stress, helpint to prevent cataracts, retinitis, pigmentosa and macular degeneration. Lutein is best absorbed when eaten with fat, so while you might have to add avocado to reap the full benefits of a salad, the pistachio has it all – in a nutshell.

I Heart Pistachios

Increasing good cholesterol and lowering bad cholesterol means that pistachios reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease. Another heart-healthy fact is that just 1 oz of pistachios carries as much potassium as your average banana (potassium is good for preventing heart disease and high blood pressure, as well as reducing anxiety and stress).

With all the health benefits of pistachios, it’s amazing that we don’t use them in more ways than eating straight out of the shell (it’s the best way, but still!). If you’re looking for more ways to use pistachios, check out this recipe for a pistachio-based dessert (that isn’t ice cream!).

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

Use Your Noodle: Summer Squash

Vegan Zuccini pasta bowl

When you’re craving pasta, but are gluten-free or vegan (or both), here’s an idea to satisfy your noodle-lust: Zucchini noodles! In this bowl, we’ve piled carrots, cabbage, spring onions and almonds, and drizzled it with a little oil-based dressing for a meal that is filling, delicious, and oh-so good for you!

Not only is making Zucchini noodles easy – just buy a julienne peeler, peel only the outer layers (stopping before you reach the seeds), toss the strings with a little salt and wait 15 minutes – the outer peel of the zucchini is where the highest concentration of anti-oxidants are stored. This may be the best way you can enjoy zucchini!

Health Benefits of Summer Squash (aka. zucchini)

The high dietary fiber in zucchini can help prevent colon cancer, but it’s also packed with vitamins A, C and folate – other powerful cancer fighters – and phytonutrients that are especially good for promoting prostate health. Summer squash is anti-inflammatory, and since it’s rich in manganese, is great for creating healthy, glowing skin (and healing wounds).

Rounding out the zucchini with cruciferous cabbage, beta-carotene-rich carrots, and protein and good fat-filled almonds not only provides a satisfying crunch, they’re also powerhouses of health.

With summer in full swing, there’s no excuse not to enjoy the fruits – and vegetables – of the season! Come by Intelligent Gourmet and ask us what’s fresh (hint: the answer is everything!).