Warming up to Healthy Eating- Lentil Soup

picture-for-blog-post-01-01-17

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.
Advertisements

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

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! 

Summertime Smoothies Are Here!

 

Watermellon Smoothie

Ice-cold blended smoothies made with the freshest ingredients and raw nut milk – it’s the chilly treat that our Tampa summer demands! Have you seen our debut smoothie menu?

smoothie image

While these ingredients are more than enough to make your mouth water, their health benefits go far beyond simply tasting great.

tropical island

Tropical Island: A Smoothie Stunner

Did you know that coconuts and coconut milk have fatty acids that help with weight loss? Coconut has also been linked to improving immune system function, reducing the risk of heart disease, and improving the health of skin and hair. Blackberries, of course, are packed with cancer-fighting and free-radical-quelling antioxidants; lime has vitamin C; and kefir has probiotics that aid digestion – but the real surprise in this smoothie is the pineapple. Pineapple is anti-inflammatory and is a rich source of beta-carotene (which helps keep your vision healthy).

Pink Smoothies # 1

Pink Drinks Detox: The Good Mood Smoothie

Beets are packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber, iron, beta-carotene, folic acid, and have even been called “nature’s viagra.” If that’s not enough to cheer you up, the good fats in avocado will stabilize your blood sugar and give your brain what it needs to see the world sunny-side up. And strawberries make everyone happy (well, everyone who’s not allergic!).

summerbliss

Summer Bliss Smoothie: The Hangover’s Over

You need electrolytes and potassium, stat! Hangovers are no fun, but the combo of bananas, flax and strawberries will beat back your boozy-blues with everything you need to face the day (and the light, and the noise…).

Stay tuned for more of our smoothie highlights!

 

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.

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!).

Is your New Year’s Resolution to Lose Weight? Here’s the Skinny on How We Can Help

At Intelligent Gourmet, our goal isn’t weight loss – it’s to help our clients eat clean, feel better, and, ok – yes, look better. That’s why we don’t focus on low-calorie or low-carb, because we look at food holistically. For example, nuts are high in fat, but they also help your brain work better with all those Omega-3s, which makes you feel good, emotionally and physically. Those low-fat cheese puffs and “Lean Cuisine” dinners don’t.

Image

But, your New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. You already know weight loss is not about a diet, but a lifestyle change. And you know there are no quick fixes. But we know you’re impatient, you don’t have time to make that crazy “fat flush soup” every week (or whatever the latest diet fad is), and after the slew of Holiday demands, you’re tired.

Here’s how we can help.

Cleanse for body and mind: Try our Intelligent Gourmet Juice Cleanse for 3 days to re-balance your body chemistry and kick-start your new healthier lifestyle.

Ready-to-Eat Diet-friendly meals: We specialize in low glycemic, low carb, low sodium, gluten-free, and most importantly “clean” pre-packaged meals. Don’t have time to cook? Can’t quite bring yourself to control portion size when you’re in the kitchen? Let us do it for you.

Image

Extremely Healthy Recipes: Every week, we post recipes right here that are low-fat, low-calorie, often gluten-free, frequently raw/vegan/vegetarian, and always extremely healthful. Then we tell you why what you’re eating is so good. Sure, you can’t cook all the time, but why not make a weekend family event out of an old-fashioned sit-down dinner (then live off the healthy leftovers for the week)? Roast a turkey or a whole chicken, and cook up our green beans (with vitamins K & A), wild rice dressing (B vitamins), and sweet potatoes (Beta-carotene and Vitamin C). Your whole family will think this new “diet” you’re on is great!

Tips, Tricks, and Expert Insights: From suggestions as simple as “add spinach to everything – your morning eggs, your lunchtime sandwich, your tomato sauce at dinner” to lists of super-foods, to teaching you how you can heal your body through food – Follow my blog via email, follow us on Twitter and Pinterest, and “Like” us on Facebook for daily reminders on how you can eat better, feel better, live better.

Happy New Year! And, here’s to a New You!

Is a Juice Cleanse Right for You?

 

Christmas isn’t even here yet, and already I’m thinking of New Year’s Resolutions – we all want to be healthier in 2013, right? But that doesn’t mean starting some crazy starvation diet as soon as the ball drops in Times Square. In fact, at Intelligent Gourmet, I advise against the short-term, extreme, gimmicky diets. Why suffer when you can have delicious, healthy food every day as part of your lifestyle?

Ok, ok, I know that many of you want to do something big to mark the start of a healthy new year. And, for you, I’ve developed the Intelligent Gourmet Juice Cleanse. It’s not easy, but it is rewarding. And, by day 3, you’ll start feeling amazing as a year’s worth of toxins leave your body.

Yes, at 950 to 1100 calories per day of cleanse, you’ll lose weight, but most people are surprised at how they feel emotionally during a cleanse. The moments of joy and peace you feel are testament to what we all know: the mind and body are connected. Do something good for the one, and you’ll be doing something good for the other. Our cleanse is more balanced than most, including not only super-food fruits and vegetables, but things like almond milk spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Even on a cleanse, life is too short not to enjoy your food!

From Holiday Excess to a New Year’s Cleanse – Not So Fast!

Before embarking on a cleanse, take stock of your year – what have you been eating lately? Cake and cookies? Christmas dinner with hot buttered rolls and more than a little booze? Pizza, hamburgers, fries, nachos – you get the picture. Do you smoke or take drugs? Believe it or not, starting a cleanse in the middle of a poor diet is not recommended. You have to ease in. Prepare your body by eating a healthy diet for 3 days beforehand.

Contrary to popular opinion, you can get health benefits from just one day of a juice cleanse. Or you can continue for a week, or even a month. The Intelligent Gourmet cleanse includes six 16oz juices in glass jars per day, numbered in the order to drink them. We recommend sipping water in between. Repeat for 3 days, then graduate to eating “clean” foods for the next 3 days, like fruits, veggies, and small amounts of whole grains, nuts and seeds. We also love super foods like chia, goji berries, blueberries, ginger, acai and cacao.

Kick-Start Your New Year Right

Three days of consuming a nutrient-rich, non-bulky, diet is enough to help re-set your brain chemistry, allowing you to eat in moderation more easily (as long as you stick to healthy foods) as you work on America’s #1 New Year’s Resolution: Losing weight.

Check out our cleanse and get ready for a New Year and a New You!