Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cooking With Herbs: Part 2

Here are some tips on three more herbs to use in cooking.  Marjoram is one I like to use, but haven't grown it yet.  Have you tried it?  How did it work?

Marjoram
Sweet and spicy, marjoram tastes and smells like camphor. Marjoram has dark green, smooth oval leaves (see photo below). It is used in a variety of dishes, but word of caution, it's flavor is easily lost with the addition of heat, so add it to foods at the last minute, after they have finished cooking. 

Try adding to salads and soft cheeses, use to flavor vegetables such as artichokes, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, or try in eggs, and with poultry.  I use this in my split pea soup, yum!
 From: organicheirloomplants.com
Oregano
Oregano is related to marjoram, it tastes more robust than marjoram.  Oregano has an intense pepperiness (is that a word?) and more distinct flavor. It comes in a variety of leaf shapes and sizes, and is famous on the tables of Italian restaurants around the world.  Different types of oregano include (but there are many more): Italian, Cuban, Greek Mountain, Hot & Spicy, Lemon, Mediterranean, and Golden.  Oregano is also high in antioxidant activity, and in ancient times was used to cure stomach ailments.

Oregano is often preferred in its dried form because as the herb dries, it's flavor becomes more intense.  Oregano is best used in pizza and tomato sauces, baked fish, lamb, stews, beans, marinades, and flavored oils and vinegars.
Italian Oregano from: itsnature.org
Parsley
Found in curly and flat-leaf varieties, parsley is fresh and spicy with a hint of pepper. The stems are actually more flavorful than the leaves of the parsley plant and are great used in cooking.  Parsley is good for digestion.

You see Parsley often as a garnish.  Parsley goes well with stuffing, omelets, salads, dressings, tabbouleh, and fish.
From: photo-dictionary.com



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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cooking with Herbs: Part 1


So, you may remember this post from last summer when I started my own herb garden.  It went way better than I expected!  I lost the dill pretty quickly, I think it never really got going, but the rest are still alive and well.  I brought them all in and put them on my huge window seal for the winter and recently took them back outside.

Part of having the herbs though, is knowing how to use them best.  I definitely have ones I use way more often than others (basil, cilantro), but I am continually trying to find ways to use them in my cooking.  So, for the next few days, I will post some info on different herbs, and how best to use them.  Share with me in the comments section how you use your fresh herbs!

Basil
Famous in pesto, basil has a spicy, fresh aroma and a flavor that combines pepper, clove, mint, and licorice into one. Many varieties exist (try sweet basil for a new option), but basil is usually a pointed, oval-shaped leaf. For best flavor, use very little basil in the cooking process, but add it to a finished dish. Tear the leaves, rather than chopping with a knife to prevent blackening. 

Basil combines well with garlic, olive oil, lemon, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, and rice.  Use in salads or in dressing for a fresh taste.  I love fresh basil as a finishing touch on pasta, or on top of pizza, YUM!
From: parkswholesaleplants.com


Mint
Mint is a very hardy and highly sweet smelling crop. It is best used fresh, but may be dried and added to dishes such as soups, stews, and stuffing. The leaves of the mint plant have a coarse texture and are ragged on the edges. They grow on stalks or in little clusters.  Mint has over 30 different species, including popular ones like spearmint and peppermint.  Variations of mint have been used to help with digestive issues, and even the common cold.

Mint is used frequently in Thai and Greek dishes.  It enhances the taste of carrots, eggplant, beans, grilled fish, lamb, in desserts, with chocolate, . It is also compatible with ginger, cumin, cardamom, and cloves. It is often used for enhancing iced teas.  Also, like the basil, try adding mint to salads and dressing for a new twist.


(I LOVE this picture!) From: Organicsoul.com
Thyme
Essential in Western and Middle Eastern cooking, thyme has a close tie to zahtar, a similar Middle Eastern spice. Thyme has a very earthy scent, and combines the tastes of clove, camphor, and mint into one.  Thyme works well fresh, but dried thyme does not lose its powerful scent or flavor and is wonderful to use too. Thyme is often found dried and tied with a string. Fresh thyme has woody stems and quite small leaves. 

Best known in long, slow-cooking recipes, thyme combines well with garlic, onion, red wine, basil, bay, lavender, marjoram, parsley, and savory.  Use it when cooking tomato-based or wine-based sauces, vegetable soups, and marinades for pork and poultry. It also works well with mushrooms, leeks, eggplant, corn, tomatoes, and dried beans.

From: finecooking.com


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Friday, January 11, 2013

Snacks: Fill in Those Gaps


 
Your body needs fuel every 3−4 hours. However, people tend structure their eating habits around their 9 am to 5 pm (or 8 am to 6 pm) schedule on most workdays. Breakfast is typically between 6 am and 7 am, lunch is around noon to 1 pm, and then dinner is served after work at 6 pm to 7 pm. That is about 6 hours between meals, which is way too long!  It is no wonder so many people are starving by each mealtime, overeat, and then feel extremely full (and possibly tired) for the next hour, only to do it all over again at the next meal. Also, studies have shown that people make worse food choices when they are very hungry.
Small, sensible snacks between meals can stem the tide of hunger and help people make more sensible food decisions. So what makes a good snack? Consider it a “mini-meal” and include a little protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, whenever possible.  No time?  Think small and easy then.
Here are some great snack ideas:
  • A small box of whole-grain cereal with fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Low-fat yogurt, sprinkled with high-fiber cereal or a few almonds
  • Low-fat cottage cheese with canned fruit (in juice, not syrup) or fresh fruit
  • A piece of fruit and string cheese
  • A small cup of edamame (boiled soybeans)
  • One small handful of your favorite nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, etc), or try 100 cal bags of Almonds
  • A small whole-wheat pita spread with hummus
  • Half of a turkey or peanut butter sandwich
  • A small 3-ounce can of tuna with four to six low-fat crackers
  • Two rice cakes spread with peanut butter
  • Apple slices or celery sticks with peanut butter
  • Whole-grain, soy, or whole food-based granola or meal replacement bars, such as fiber one bar
  • Carrot Sticks with Hummus
Even if you do not want to pack meals for work, consider keeping some healthy snacks on hand for those mid-morning and mid-afternoon hunger pangs.  Prep all your snacks on the weekend to make the mornings easier.  Also, don't forget to continue drinking through the day.  Plenty of water while at work will help with over eating at meal times. 


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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Surprising Benefits of Exercise! (Get Moving!)



Increased Mental Capacity
Research links physical activity with slower mental decline. Exercise increases blood flow to all parts of your body, including your brain, and might promote cell growth there. Exercise — particularly if it starts early and is maintained over time — is beneficial in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.


Improve healing
Injuries and wounds take longer to heal as people age. Regular exercise by older adults may speed up the wound-healing process by as much as 25 percent.


Increased Life Expectancy
Benefits are greater among those that are most active, but are also evident among those who reported moderate activity, according to the CDC.

Picture from here


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Friday, January 4, 2013

Tips for Eating Breakfast at Work

If you are not hungry first thing in the morning and instead like to have breakfast once you get to work, here are some helpful tips:
  • Bring something from home, such as: 
  •     -Premade oatmeal to heat up (try steel cut oats, recipe here)
  •     -Greek yogurt with berries
  •     -Egg Muffins (recipe here)

  • If ordering a breakfast sandwich at work:
    Choose whole-grain bread rather than a roll or bagel
    Hold the cheese
    Add vegetables, whenever possible
    Consider substituting egg whites or egg substitute on occasion to save on calories and cholesterol 
    • Consider oatmeal, which is usually a cheaper option at most cafeterias/restaurants, and it is filling and a low-calorie option, depending on the amount and number of toppings:
      Limit sugar, raisins, honey, and nuts
      Try cinnamon for added nutrients and no extra calories 
    Pic from here

    • Avoid fast-food chains, when possible:
      Know that the average bagel with cream cheese is a whopping 550−600 calories, and many breakfast combos can top out at or more than 1000 calories, half or more of the daily caloric needs for an average adult
      Avoid foods that are loaded with high-calorie extras, such as French toast or pancakes with syrup and butter, when you must eat at a fast-food chain
      Order basic sandwiches (egg on English muffin) or cereals (oatmeal) 
      • Buy a morning smoothie or freshly squeezed juice:
        Make sure it is not loaded with extra sugar (check nutrition info if possible!)
        Ask if you can choose the ingredients yourself
        Try including vegetables in your juice order, such as spinach (you wont even taste it!)
        Make sure to eat something within 1−2 hours of waking to prevent the temptation of overeating at the next meal. Studies have shown that going without food for more than about 4 hours leads to a decreased metabolism. Consider the last time you ate before breakfast!


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        Wednesday, January 2, 2013

        Ring in the New Year with Wellness and Healthy Habits



        If you haven’t made New Year’s resolutions, it isn’t too late!  Here are some suggestions for setting those New Year’s resolutions so they are accomplished, and not abandoned!

        Make SMART goals!  One giant goal to say, “lose 50 lbs” or “exercise more” is nice, but how are you going to do that?  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed.  When setting goals, try to think about these five things, and you will be able to achieve your goals.

        First, specific goals, instead of “exercise more” try “I want to exercise for 15 minutes, 3 days a week for 1 month” and after one month, you can set another goal.    Instead of “lose 50 lbs”, what can you do help that?  How about a goal to eat three or more vegetable servings each day, or drink a certain amount of water each day?  Being as specific as you can will help you better reach your goals because you know what you are reaching for!

        Next, measurable goals.  You have to be able to measure the goals you set.  If you say “eat better”, what does that mean?  How do you know when you have accomplished it?  How about “eat 25 grams of fiber each day” or “eat two fruit servings each day”.  You can easily see each day if you were able to meet that goal!

        Third, attainable goals.  Don’t set yourself up for failure!  Pick goals you will able to accomplish.  If you have not exercised at all the last 6 months, to set a goal to “exercise 2 hours every day”, even though it is specific and measurable, it may not be attainable.  Set something for yourself that you will be able to hit, even if not right at first.

        Fourth, realistic goals.  This is similar to attainable goals.  Like our example above, if you set a goal to exercise 2 hours each day, even though you have trouble fitting in 30 min, it really isn’t realistic.  Set something that works with your daily routine.  If you only drink 8 oz of water a day, setting a goal to drink 80oz, is not realistic.  Think 16-24oz a day at first.  Think about making small goals and working up from there.  This will help you stay organized and make your life easier!  Once you hit that goal, remember to set another and be continually improving those healthy habits!

        Finally, timed goals.  When goal setting, you want to give yourself a time frame, a time to hit your goal by, or re-evaluate.  With our exercise example, you could say “to exercise 20 minutes, 3 days a week for 1 month”.  When you get to a month, you can re-evaluate, and maybe increase the amount of time, or the days for the next month.  It is easy to forget about the goals we set, or even procrastinate, when we have a year to complete them in.  Try setting goals you are working towards in a shorter amount of time, and I bet you will see better results!

        So, as you are making New Years resolutions, remember to make them SMART!  By keeping your goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timed, you will see results, and make strides in improving your health and wellness!  Here is too 2013 as your healthiest year yet!



        I thought this was great!  Credit goes to bengallagher.com :)


        Hope you got your daily dose of nutrition today, and thanks for reading! If you enjoy the blog, please share using the buttons below, or in the box to the right. Also, we would love to have you join us! Join this site in the "followers" box to the right. "Like" the blog on facebook, and follow me on twitter (@jennasteprd), tumblr, and pinterest using the the boxes on the right. Thanks, and have a great day! ~jenna