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!

5 Potluck-Perfect Healthy Holiday Party Recipes

Healthy party food

In the early days of Pinterest (what was that – all of 3 years ago?), when you searched for “Healthy holiday party recipes,” all you’d see is a Christmas tree made of broccoli and radishes. Healthy, but lacking in the vital ingredient of party food: Fun!

healthy holiday party food

 

How times have changed. Taking inspiration from some of my favorite Pinterest finds (Check out my new Intelligent Holiday Entertaining Pinterest Board), I’ve got you covered for all of your holiday entertaining needs – from Brunch to Lunch and Dinner Potlucks.

5 Potluck-Perfect Healthy Holiday Party Recipes

1. Artichoke-Dip Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust (Brunch)

Ingredients

  • Olive oil.
  • 3 Sweet potatoes, sliced into thin rounds (1/8th”) – May need more sweet potatoes or less depending on their size.
  • 5oz blanched spinach (or frozen spinach, thawed). Squeeze out excess moisture.
  • 1 can artichoke hearts (in water), chopped.
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced.
  • 1 Cup parmesan.
  • 1 Cup low-fat cottage cheese.
  • 4 eggs.

Preheat oven to 400F. Coat the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate with olive oil and line it with a single layer of sliced sweet potatoes, placed so they overlap. Brush the tops with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes, until browned. Reduce oven heat to 375.

Whisk together eggs, parmesan and cottage cheese. Stir in artichoke hearts, garlic and spinach. Pour into deep-dish pie plate. (There may be extra filling)

Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is puffy and lightly browned.

2. Christmas Tree Cucumber Tea Sandwiches (Lunch)

Using your favorite bread – sqaw, rye, or pumpernickel work great! – cut into tree shapes with a cookie cutter. Blend light whipped cream cheese (or your favorite vegan substitute) with chopped dill, a pinch of salt and fresh-ground pepper, and spread lightly on the bread. Cut a cucumber in half lengthwise and slice thinly (1/8th”), and arrange on the bread like the boughs of a Christmas tree. Finish with a light squeeze of lemon.*

*This works well with pita bread triangles, avocado hummus, and diced red pepper too!

healthy holiday party recipes

3. Skinny Grapefruit Margarita (Drinks)

For one cocktail, combine: 1 shot of blanco tequila, 1/2 shot Triple Sec, 5oz grapefruit juice, and a twist of lime. Sweeten if necessary with agave syrup.

4. Omega-3 Bites! (Dinner Potluck)

You can call them smoked salmon-avocado bites, but I love these good-fat, brain-fueling appetizers. Lay out 1×3″ strips of smoked salmon and spoon mashed avocado and finely diced cucumber (sprinkled with a little salt and pepper – dill too if you like) into the middle. Fold salmon over the filling and spear with a toothpick. Top with a tiny wedge of thinly-sliced lemon.

5. No-Bake Pomegranate Chocolate Clusters (Dessert)

Ingredients – makes 20

  • 1 pomegranate worth of seeds, rinsed and thoroughly dried (not like a raisin – just not wet to the touch)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Sweetened shredded coconut
  • Mini muffin pan & mini muffin liners

Put chocolate chips into a heavy-duty ziplock bag and heat in the microwave at 15-second intervals, kneading after each, until the chocolate is liquid. Snip off a corner of the bag, and drizzle a small amount of chocolate into a liner. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds onto melted chocolate, and drizzle more chocolate on top, topping with a pinch of shredded coconut. Repeat 19 more times, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Don’t feel like cooking this holiday season? Come by the store and check out our Holiday Menu!

The Do’s & Don’ts of a Pre-Thanksgiving Juice Cleanse

Thanksgiving Dinner

With the holidays looming around the corner, many of us are scheduling hair cuts (and colors), picking out our Hostess with the Mostest party dresses, getting our mani-pedis in, and perhaps a facial. But what we really need is stamina – holidays are hard work! – and that can only come from a healthy diet (no, not an IV drip of pumpkin spice lattes). At Intelligent Gourmet, it’s my mission to help us look better, feel better, and live better, all of which you can kickstart with a pre-Thanksgiving juice cleanse. But, don’t just drink any juice, because the wrong juice cleanse can send you into Thanksgiving craving the WHOLE PIE! Here are the do’s and don’ts of an energizing pre-holiday cleanse.

How clean is your juice cleanse?

Don’t…

Drink juices that are high in sugar. Many of the store-bought, mass-produced juices we’ve found have more sugar than a can of Mountain Dew in every bottle. If you drink 6 of those per day, you’ll feel energized alright – it’s called a sugar high! – but will come crashing down. And, your body’s insulin levels will skyrocket, making you crave real food to soak it up. That is not how you want to sit down at the turkey (or tofurky) table.

Do…

Drink juices that are lower in sugar and balanced with protein. We balance each day’s juice plan with some veggie-heavy juices that are lower in sugar, and some nut milk juices that are filling and satisfying. That way, you avoid sugar-high spikes, crashes, and the cravings that come with them!

Creamsicle orange juice

 

Don’t…

Jump in to a cleanse without proper preparation. While it may be tempting to start a cleanse the day after that Holiday Cookie Bake, shifting from unhealthy eating habits straight to a juice cleanse can result in some uncomfortable gastrointestinal moments. Ease in to your cleanse with a few days of a fruit, vegetable and lean protein diet – and ease out of it the same way.

Have you tried our latest seasonal juices? Come by to see what we have in store for the holidays!

 

 

The Trouble with Pumpkin

Healthy Pumpkin Recipes

This week alone I’ve seen pumpkin-flavored breakfast cereal, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin beer, pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin Danish kringle, and pumpkin croissants for sale. And then there’s everyone’s favorite: Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I love pumpkin! This time of year, I want to put pumpkin into everything too and eat it 24-7. But here’s the problem with “pumpkin” products: Pumpkin – as in, the actual squash – might not even be in them. That Pumpkin Spice Latte? There is no pumpkin on the ingredients list. And the ingredients are not good. A Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte contains: 380 calories, 49 grams of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, Annatto E160B color, “caramel color” E150D, “natural and artificial flavors,” 240 mg of salt, potassium sorbate E202, milk, espresso, whipped cream, and – the spices you know and love with a dash of sulfites.

That’s almost as scary as little girls dressing as Snooki for Halloween, am I right ladies?

If you’re buying pre-packaged pumpkin products, be sure to read the nutrition labels and check to see just how far down the list real pumpkin actually is. But, for my money, I want the real thing, with all of pumpkin’s wonderful health benefits intact.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin – and Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. “Superfood” may be an overused term, but in this case, it absolutely applies. Just one cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A, and they’re packed with cancer-fighting, eyesight-helping carotenoids, contain lots of fiber, and are very low in calories.

Pumpkin seeds are no slouch either – well worth the work of washing off the orange goo and roasting them in the oven after carving. They’re rich in zinc, tryptophan, and phytosterols, which lower cholesterol, boost your immune system, and even improve your mood.

Even pumpkin pie spice – the blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice – is very good for you. Cinnamon lowers cholesterol, ginger aids digestion, and all together, these spices present a compact and delicious way to consume antioxidants.

Unfortunately, creating that delicious pumpkin pie flavor also requires a lot of sugar – but there are ways to get the Autumn flavor you love without sacrificing your health, teeth, and waistline.

5 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes

1. Health-Boosting Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe: Care2.com posted this recipe that I just love – and it uses real pumpkin puree! She does recommend substituting coffee for roasted dandelion root, but the recipe will work either way.

2. Easy Pumpkin Oatmeal: Using your favorite oatmeal, include a tablespoon of pumpkin puree with pumpkin pie spice and agave syrup to the mix – and don’t forget to top it with walnuts! The good fats and fiber make this a real breakfast of champions.

3. Vegan Pumpkin Pie Pudding: GirlMakesFood blogger Alissa posted this recipe last year that uses maple syrup and almond milk with pumpkin, spice, and arrowroot (or corn starch) to create a healthy and vegan pumpkin dessert.

4. Coconut Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: Take 4 cups pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 2 Tb coconut sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, and 1/4th tsp salt, and mix them together, coating the seeds. Spread the seeds on a single layer on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 7 minutes. Stir and sprinkle with more coconut sugar, then bake for another 7 minutes – repeating 2 more times (for 1/2 hour total baking time). ***Try this recipe with curry powder instead of cinnamon and ginger also!

5. Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto: Sure, you could blend the pumpkin puree in with the slow-cooked quinoa for this risotto, but I love bringing some Italian flair to the recipe by using fresh wedges of cooked pumpkin instead, like this recipe does from the Times of Malta. Garnish with crispy brown butter-fried sage leaves if you’re so inclined.

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?

3 Firecracker-Hot 4th of July Appetizers

Hamburgers and hot dogs usually take center stage at Fourth of July barbecues, but these bite-sized healthy Fourth of July appetizers pack enough heat to outshine anything on the grill!

Watermelon bites, fourth of july recipe

Icy-Hot Watermelon Bites

These are easy to make a day ahead of time. You need:

  • Watermelon, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • Mandarin oranges, sliced
  • Sweet Thai chili sauce
  • Skewers

Drizzle sweet Thai chili sauce lightly over the mandarin oranges to give the cool watermelon a delicious kick!

Radish chorizo baguette appetizers, fourth of july recipes

Red, White & Spicy Toasts

Thin slices of chorizo and marmalade combine heat with sweet. You need:

  • A baguette, sliced thin
  • Marmalade
  • Radishes, sliced very thin
  • Cooked chorizo sausage, sliced very thin
  • Fresh pea sprouts or micro-greens for garnish

Fourth of july appetizer recipes, easy

Caprese Salad Skewers

These are one of my favorite party appetizers. Simply skewer mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil drizzled with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar!

 

A Healthy St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

Healthy St. Patrick's Day Dinner Ideas

The Irish aren’t known for their healthy eating – corned beef and hash is ideal for keeping you warm on a chilly, damp Irish evening, but I don’t think any of us here in Florida need all those calories (better to save the calories for all the Guinness you’ll be drinking). So I’ve come up with a healthy version of a St. Patrick’s Day dinner: Sausage & Colcannon.

Normally, Colcannon is made with fluffy mashed potatoes and cabbage. But, to cut down on the carbs and to increase the health benefits tremendously, substitute cauliflower for potatoes, and use your favorite chicken or veggie sausage.

Healthy Colcannon with Guinness Gravy

Combine:

Mashed Cauliflower: 1 head of cauliflower serves 3 generously. Chop your cauliflower into quarters and steam until tender. Puree with an immersion blender or food processor, adding salt and pepper to taste. If you want it creamier, add your favorite healthy “butter” or milk.

Onions & Sausage: Saute 1/2 onion, chopped, until caramelized. Add your favorite chicken-apple sausage, or veggie sausage, and cook until done. Set sausage aside, leaving the onions in the pan.

Kale or Cabbage: Add kale or 1/4th  of a head of cabbage to the onions and saute until tender.

Combine mashed cauliflower with onions and kale/cabbage. Serve with sausages over the top or on the side – with optional Guinness Gravy.

Guinness Gravy:

  • 1 can Guinness
  • 2 Tb Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Tb Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tb Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tb Flour

Whisk flour with half of the bottle of Guinness and pour into the skillet you used to cook the onions. Add the rest of the Guinness, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer until thickened.

 

5 Romantic Mistakes To Avoid This Valentine’s Day

Romantic Valentine's Dinner

One quarter of Americans dine out for Valentine’s Day – that’s 25 percent of the population! Talk about crowded. And you know how it usually goes – you drink champagne and red wine, eat a multi-course meal of heavy foods like blue-cheese salad, creamy lobster bisque, filet mignon, and a sinfully rich chocolate soufflé for dessert. Sure, that dinner sounds delicious, but afterwards you just want to curl up in a food coma.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not the way I like to end the night on Valentine’s Day!

Mistake #1: Choosing the Wrong Restaurant
Unless you have the date booked at a favorite small eatery with a quiet, romantic atmosphere, you’ll be trying to make your sweet-nothings audible over the persistent roar of the V-Day crowd. Wouldn’t it be more romantic to set the mood with candlelight and soft music at home?

Mistake #2: Dining Late
If you really want that heavy Valentine’s Day dinner, go for it. Everyone deserves to splurge once in a while. But, if you’d like to uh… have your cake and lick the icing off him later too, then plan to eat earlier in the evening. That way you have some time to recover from the inevitable food coma!

Mistake #3: Drinking Too Much
I love champagne to celebrate, and red wine – anytime! But when there’s just the two of you, it’s all too tempting to split the entire bottle of champagne, and then start pouring the red. While a little alcohol can be wonderfully relaxing and help set the mood, too much will lead to an early bedtime and headaches in the morning. So, instead of buying an entire bottle of champagne, buy a split (a half-bottle) instead. That’s just enough for a first-course toast.

Mistake #4: The Slippery, Butter-Laden Slope to Food Coma
Restaurants tend to add butter, cream and salt to everything, which is exactly what you don’t want on Valentine’s Day. The butter and cream will make you feel full fast, but on a multi-course meal, the food keeps coming whether you want it to or not! The result? Food coma. And all the sodium added to restaurant fare will cause you to retain water, which doesn’t feel very sexy.

Mistake #5: Eating All the Wrong Foods
Meat and dairy-based dinners won’t help your libido, but these foods will:

The Right Foods for a Romantic Evening

• Asparagus (raises your histamine levels and may help you climax faster)
• Celery (increases androsterone – a pheromone)
• Watermelon (dilates blood vessels, improving blood flow)
• Pomegranates (may increase testosterone)
• Avocado (its healthy fats are great for blood flow)
• Spicy foods (the active ingredient in hot chili peppers heats up your metabolism and gets your heart pumping!)
• End your romantic dinner with chocolate-covered strawberries and bananas – they’re light, packed with antioxidants, and you can have a lot of fun with a good chocolate drizzle…

Merry Christmas – and Let There Be Cookies!

Snickerdoodles with cardamom

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I know that Christmas just isn’t complete without something sweet, and cookies are too good to pass up! But, if you need a nutritionist’s blessing over your Holiday table to feel less guilty about indulging, here it is. While you can make healthier cookies using anything from vegan butter, to finely ground nuts, gluten-free flour, and agave nectar – even if you make your Christmas cookies with white sugar and shortening, the spices in them still have very healthy qualities. 

Why Christmas Cookies Are Healthy For You (kinda)

Gingerbread Cookies

Ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg combine to make gingerbread cookies rich, spicy, delicious – and healthy. A true superfood, ginger improves blood flow, prevents colon cancer, reduces inflammation, strengthens the immune system and fights respiratory problems brought on by winter colds. Cinnamon helps reduce bad cholesterol; cloves are packed with antioxidants and manganese (which helps you control your weight and improve your mood); and nutmeg contains trace minerals that strengthen the immune system, and antibacterial properties that help protect teeth and gums. You can even find nutmeg oil in some toothpastes.

Find a healthy Gingerbread Cookie recipe using spelt flour here.

Snickerdoodles

The main ingredient flavoring delicious, soft and chewy Snickerdoodles is cinnamon. Cinnamon reduces LDL cholesterol levels (which, in turn, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease), fights ulcer-causing bacteria and pathogens, is anti-inflammatory, and helps balance hormones in women.

Find a vegan Snickerdoodle recipe here.

Lebkuchen

This German Christmas cookie is made with a number of spices, candied citrus peels, hazelnuts and almonds. The combination of cinnamon, ginger and cloves is powerful enough to make them healthier than the average cookie, but when you add ingredients like flavanoid-rich orange and lemon peels, constipation-reducing dates, and protein and good fat-packed nuts, this cookie starts looking more like a breakfast bar you’d find in a health food store! If, that is, it weren’t for all the sugar.

Martha Stewart’s Lebkuchen recipe here.

Enjoy everything on your holiday table this year, and we at Intelligent Gourmet wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Find these recipes and more on the Intelligent Gourmet Holidays Pinterest Board

5 Foods to Cure Your Cold Fast

Mushroom health properties

This time of year, everyone seems to have their own fail-proof “cure” for the common cold. Some swear by eating whole raw cloves of garlic (you can smell them coming). Others say the Vietnamese chicken soup, Pho Ga, with lots of spice added is what you need.  An apple a day keeps the doctor away for many, and Mom’s traditional chicken noodle soup (or Campbell’s canned comfort-food) is a beloved standby.

While all of these “cures” have good reasons behind them (garlic is an antibacterial and immune system booster; chicken soup and apples have cold-fighting enzymes), there are even more powerful cold-fighters out there if you know where to look.

5 Super Cold-Stoppers

  1. Goji berries are not only packed with antioxidants, they also have cold-fighting and immune system boosting properties. They contain more iron than spinach, along with lots of vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, vitamin C and vitamin E.
  2. Coconut oil not only boosts the immune system for colds, but has antiviral properties. So whether your stuffy nose is the result of bacteria or a virus, coconut oil will fight both. (Tip: You can also use a dime-size amount topically on your hair to relieve dry, itchy scalp and make your hair shine)
  3. Mushrooms are one of the best food sources for vitamin D – when you can’t get out to soak up the sun yourself. Vitamin D enhances your body’s immune system response to viruses, bacteria and fungi.
  4. Wheat germ is full of vitamin E (an immune system booster), calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, omega-6 fatty acids, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  5. Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory, as well as a digestion aid, which means it will help you feel better as it helps heal you from the inside-out. Try adding some ginger and garlic to a vegetable stirfry, soup, or green juice.

The 2 Worst Foods For Your Cold

  1. When you have a cold, sugar is the worst thing you can eat. Sugar actually works against your white blood cells, making it harder for them to fight infections. Natural sugars, like those you get from apples and oranges are fine, but stay away from processed, pre-packaged foods (even OJ!).
  2. Alcohol has properties that can suppress your immune system, preventing your body from fighting off infection. Even though a Hot Toddy with brandy, honey, tea and lemon might sound like just what your throat needs, you should leave out the brandy (the other ingredients are great!).

Stay well this season!