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

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 Fathers Day Menu That’ll Keep Him Healthy & Happy

Father and Son vintage

Fathers Day tends to be red meat-heavy – hot dogs in the grill, fillet mignon, ribs – but wouldn’t it be even better to create a feast that helps Dad stay healthy? It’s no secret that dietary needs for men and women are a little different, so here is a party-ready menu full of SuperFoods that specifically support male health needs.

A Drink to Get the Blood Moving: Watermelon Agua Fresca
Watermelon promotes blood flow, helping the circulatory system keep circulating, which is great for heart health (and romantic evenings). To make watermelon agua fresca for four, combine 4 cups water with 4 cups chopped seedless watermelon, Stevia or agave nectar to taste, and the juice of 1 lime. Pour through a strainer to get rid of excess pulp, and serve chilled with ice.

A zinc-packed appetizer: Crabcakes
Crab, oysters, and lobster are high in Zinc, an antioxidant mineral that protects against cell damage that can lead to prostate cancer. However, the health benefits of crabcakes are outweighed by the calorie count if you cook them the traditional way. So, instead, use Panko breadcrumbs and just a little oil to sautee them. CookingLight has a great recipe with a spicy remoulade.

B-Vitamin-Boosting Turkey Burgers (with microgreens a slice of heirloom tomato, sautéed mushrooms and onions, and avocado)
You didn’t think we’d completely ignore the grill on Fathers Day did you? Turkey meat is high in protein, B vitamins and zinc, making it one of the healthiest meats for dad that isn’t seafood. Tomatoes, high in lycopene, help guard against prostate cancer; mushrooms contain selenium and potassium, which fight heart disease; and avocado contains phytosterols which are anti-inflammatory and keep cholesterol levels (and heart disease risk) under control. (If Dad’s a vegetarian, try a veggie burger made with quinoa, another great source of B vitamins.)

Beta-Carotene on the Side: Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges
No burger is complete without fries, and grilled sweet potatoes scratch that itch in the healthiest possible way. Beta carotene, found in all orange vegetables, combines with vitamins C and E to protect the body against cell damage.

Flavonoid-Full and Flavorful Dessert: Berry Pie
No, pie isn’t healthy, but you’ve got to give Dad something sweet on his special day – and berries almost make up for the buttery crust. Berries – whether blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or cherries – have powerful antioxidants that can help maintain and enhance strong brain function.

And, if you’re looking for a great Fathers Day gift to keep Dad in good health – why not give him a month’s supply of Intelligent Gourmet juices?

15 Fantastic Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Juices

Creamsicle orange juice

The more health studies and articles I read, the more one single fact becomes clear: Inflammation either causes or is part of nearly every serious health condition! High cholesterol and heart disease? Inflammation. Diabetes? Inflammation. Asthma, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, Obesity, and Osteoperosis have all been linked to – you guessed it – inflammation!

Fortunately inflammation can be lowered significantly through diet. Change your diet, and see if you don’t feel better after a week.

  • EAT: Avocado, nuts, and wild salmon are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Omega-3s reduce swelling and discomfort in the joints, while vitamin E helps with healing.
  • EAT: Brazil nuts, salmon, oatmeal and brown rice all contain selenium, a trace mineral that we don’t need a lot of, but deficiencies can lead to major problems. Surveys indicate that rheumatoid arthritis sufferers tend to have lower selenium levels in their blood. Selenium may reduce arthritis symptoms by controlling levels of free radicals. Skip the pricey supplement and eat one Brazil nut a day. It’s that easy.
  • JUICE: Pumpkin, carrots, and sweet potatoes contain Carotenoids – ie. they’re orange. When your body eats orange, it converts the plant pigment into Vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that fights joint discomfort (and cancer!). Juicing is the best way to help your body absorb nutrients from orange vegetables.
  • JUICE: Grapefruit, papaya, oranges, and mangoes are rich in Vitamin C. A study from Duke University shows that the right amount of Vitamin C reduces risk of rheumatoid arthritis. However, too much vitamin C accelerates joint damage from osteoarthritis. The USDA recommends 75mg per day for women and 90mg per day for men as the happy medium between the two extremes.
  • JUICE: Turmeric, the yellow spice that gives curry powder its color, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that Ayurvedic healers have used for centuries to relieve arthritis pain. Other curry spices, like ginger, work well with turmeric to further reduce inflammation.

Essentially, a diet of mostly fruits and vegetables with lean meats and good fats is anti-inflammatory. But, even within a healthy diet, there are anti-inflammatory superfoods. Change your diet, and you very well may change your life. Ask us about our nutrition packed, delicious, and anti-inflammatory juices!

True Confessions of a Cardiovascular Surgeon

Tomatoes at the farmer's market

Viral “confessions” rocked Facebook last month – the first tell-all was from a TSA Agent, but the second confession was one I found especially heartening. (Pun intended)

Last December, Dr. Dwight Lundell published an essay titled “Heart Surgeon Declares On What Really Causes Heart Illness” on the Tuned Body website. Now more than 200,000 people have his words plastered on their Facebook walls. It’s not that what he says is revolutionary – you’ll read the same information here on my blog – but the fact that a heart surgeon is questioning cholesterol drugs in favor of natural, nutritional healing is wonderful to see.

His findings (and if you read my blog, they’ll sound familiar) are:

  • A diet of natural, unprocessed food can prevent, and possibly reverse, heart disease.
  • Low-fat, high-simple-carb diets cause chronic inflammation, thereby destroying the walls of our blood vessels, and causing cholesterol stick to them and form plaque blockages.
  • The Western diet has excessive levels of Omega-6 acids from corn and soybean oils, whereas we should be eating far more Omega-3 acids (from nuts and fish).
  • To reduce inflammation, he recommends eating protein and complex carbs (ie. lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables).
  • Saturated fats aren’t the enemy – eat moderately and enjoy olive oil, grass-fed meat, and dairy: Dr. Lundell writes, “Mainstream medicine made a terrible mistake when it advised people to avoid saturated fat in favor of foods high in omega-6 fats.”

His theme is that cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease – inflammation does. And Inflammation can be caused, and controlled, through diet!

To read more about anti-inflammatory diets, check out my previous posts:

Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Joint Health

Women’s 5 Most Frequent Health Issues & Food Solutions

Living with Nuts

Health benefits of nuts

You might think the title of this post was inspired by the impending holidays, when many of us consider ourselves to be surrounded by nuts, but no – I’m talking about living LONGER with nuts! New research out of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School found that regular nut-noshers had a 20 percent reduction in mortality from *any* cause.

That means eating nuts can be linked to reduced risk for heart disease and cancer, among many other diseases. NPR’s report extrapolated another perspective from the findings: “Men and women who were regularly munching on peanuts or tree nuts like almonds, pecans and walnuts in their 30s and 40s when the study began were significantly more likely to reach their 70s, compared with folks who didn’t eat nuts.”

The researchers – none of whom read my blog, obviously – don’t know exactly why nuts are so beneficial. They suspect that it has something to do with how nuts affect the metabolism, helping to control blood sugar and food cravings, essentially helping to reduce weight – but they’re also interested in further study of how magnesium, fiber and protein (all found in nuts) work in the body. With all of the good fats and nutrients found in nuts, supporting everything from brain function (reducing stress and improving memory) to metabolism (supporting weight loss and steady energy flow), it’s pretty easy to figure out why nuts help people live longer, healthier lives!

Since the holidays are coming up fast, here’s a DIY gift idea: Make a batch of spiced nuts, put them in mason jars with ribbons and holiday-appropriate labels, and give a homemade gift that is healthy and delicious! For more Holiday DIY gift inspiration, check out my Pinterest board: Holiday-Healthy Gourmet Food Gifts.

Healthy Food Gifts

Want to learn more about what nuts can do for you? Check out what I have to say on pistachios, flax seeds & almonds, and walnuts.

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.

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