Category: Food

Stock Your Pantry With These Healthy Staples

When hunger pangs arrive and you head to the kitchen to prepare a meal or a snack, it helps to have healthy foods on hand so that you can fill up without filling out your clothes.

Sugary or fattening foods may be popular snacks, but consuming too many of these items can cause health implications, including weight gain, that could last for years. Although health experts tout certain “super foods” that are essential for the body, there are run-of-the-mill foods that are far less glamorous but pack their own healthy punch and are much more readily available.

When making your next shopping list, be sure to add these items.


* Rice: Starchy rice is a versatile food that can accompany many meals. Whether served as a side dish or on its own or with some broth in a soup, rice can help satisfy hunger and keep the stomach feeling full. Brown rice is a healthier option than processed white rice. Rice is also gentle on the stomach for people who need to consume bland diets due to any gastrointestinal ailments. Another advantage to rice is that it stores well and will not go bad, so you can stock up.

* Low-fat yogurt: Yogurt can be enjoyed as a snack any time of the day. Rich in calcium and healthy probiotics, yogurt can even replace certain ingredients in recipes, including creams and sour cream. As a dessert, yogurt is a better option than more fattening puddings or ice cream. Thicker varieties of yogurt can help you feel fuller, longer.

* Unsalted nuts: An excellent protein-rich snack, nuts can be the go-to food when you need a nutritional pick-me-up. Although they tend to be high in fat, much of the fat content is unsaturated fat that is rich in omega acids necessary for cardiovascular and neurological health. Nuts can be sprinkled on salads or served with cheeses to make meals more satisfying.

* Canned or dried fruits: Fruits that are packed in natural fruit juices are just as healthy as fresh produce. However, they can be stored for longer periods of time without spoiling. Many people do not consume the recommended servings of fruit, and having canned or individually packaged fruit cups available makes it easy to include fruit in your diet. Fruits are full of required vitamins and are a natural fiber source to keep digestion in check. Dried fruits can be added to nuts to make a healthy trail mix. Raisins, for example, are a great source of iron, which helps the blood transport oxygen.

* Beans and legumes: These foods are high in protein as well as fiber, generally in a low-calorie package. Beans and legumes can replace meats as a protein source in many meals when the goal is to reduce caloric and fat intake. Beans can be used to thicken sauces or make foods more hearty, helping to stretch them further.

* Vegetables: Whether fresh or frozen, vegetables are a must-have staple. Vegetables are ripe with vitamins and minerals, and pack a lot of punch with very low calories and fat. People need not worry about filling up on vegetables, and they’re one of the snacks that can be eaten in abundance without worry of racking up a lot of calories. Aim to have half of your plate filled with vegetables at every meal, which will keep you full.

* Lean protein sources: Fish, poultry and lean cuts of meat are often the basis for meals. They can be kept and enjoyed in moderation. Rich cuts of pork and beef may be flavorful but are high in saturated fats.

* Lemons or lemon juice: Rather than seasoning foods with salt and butter, lemon juice is a tasty flavoring that lends itself well to many types of foods. Lemons and limes contain limonene, furocoumarins and vitamin C, all of which help reduce your risk of cancer.

* Cranberry juice: In addition to being an antioxidant, 100 percent cranberry juice helps fight bladder infections by preventing harmful bacteria from growing. The juice can be consumed on its own or diluted to add a splash of flavor to water.

* Figs: Many people underestimate the nutritional value of figs. Figs can be eaten fresh off of the tree. Think about adding mashed figs to batters for healthier breads or even desserts. A good source of potassium and fiber, figs also contain vitamin B6, which produces mood-boosting serotonin, lowering cholesterol and preventing water retention.

There are many healthy and versatile foods that can be stored in the pantry without spoiling. They make for quick snacks and help keep you feeling fuller, longer. HM131804

Throw a Hauntingly Good Halloween Party

Halloween is a special day that delights children of all ages and helps adults feel like kids at heart. Few people want the fun to end once trick-or-treating is over. By throwing a Halloween party, revelers can continue celebrating well into the evening.

When hosting a Halloween party, it helps to determine who will be in attendance before making any plans. Parties that include children should be PG in nature, and hosts should find the right balance between scary and fun. While you want to have a certain measure of the macabre, make sure you don’t send young guests home with nightmares. Reserve gruesome decorations and details for adult-only parties.

Halloween parties do not necessarily need to be ghoulish to be fun. Try a glittery gala masquerade party or decorate exclusively in orange and black. Classically eerie parties may feature ravens and crows, or they can be subtlely spooky with red candles and heavy curtains.

Many people can’t wait to dress up for a Halloween party, even picking out their costumes months in advance. Still, not everyone feels comfortable donning a costume. To welcome all guests, don’t make costumes mandatory. One way around this is to set up a Halloween Disguise Table full of accessories that anyone can borrow and use to alter their appearance. Goofy glasses, strange hats, adhesive mustaches, or masks can be fun. If someone didn’t feel comfortable dressing in full costume, he or she may be more apt to pop in a set of plastic fangs or put on a spinning bow tie.

Food is an integral part of any party and can enhance Halloween soirées. Candy is a pivotal component of Halloween and you can play off that theme at your party. Set up a candy bar full of appropriately hued candies of all shapes and sizes. Put them on display in clear glass or plastic canisters so they add to your Halloween décor.

Some people like to get creative with Halloween cuisine, crafting foods into items that may look like parts of the body or other symbols of the holiday. Cookie cutters can turn sandwiches, desserts, biscuits, and many other foods into different shapes. However, foods also can be made a tad more spooky simply by renaming them or presenting them in interesting containers. Why not serve punch out of a fish aquarium? Other beverages can be housed in jugs or old bottles and labeled “potions.” Use laboratory instruments, such as petri dishes, vials and beakers, to serve snacks.

A Halloween party makes for a fun night, and there is no limit to what hosts can do when planning their scary soirées.


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Is Chicken Soup the Ultimate Cold Medicine?

There are many treatments for the common cold. Perhaps no solution is more utilized than a hot bowl of chicken soup. People have chased away chills and sniffles with rich broth and savory vegetables for centuries. But is chicken soup really the miracle medicine upon which so many rely?

Chicken soup has long been touted for its ability to treat a cold. As far back as the 12th century, Jewish philosopher and physician Maimonides recommended it for colds. Although it would seem that chicken soup being good for colds is simply an old wives’ tale, there is really something substantial to the claims.

Any hot liquid or beverage can soothe throats that are sore from coughing or a postnasal drip from colds. Liquids in any form can help prevent dehydration and slow down runny noses, which exacerbate congestion and sinus pain. In 1978, researchers published a study in the journal Chest stated that sipping chicken soup or even just hot water could help clear clogged nasal passages.

Another benefit to chicken soup is its nutritional value. Most recipes for chicken soup include many different vegetables — from carrots to celery to leeks to even leafy greens, like spinach. The inclusion of the vegetables helps increase the nutritional value of the soup, particularly the antioxidants in the meal. Antioxidants, such as vitamins and minerals in produce, can help improve the immune system response of the body. According to WebMD, adding fruit and vegetables of any kind to your diet will improve your health. Some foods are higher in antioxidants than others. The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. You’ll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables — especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues. Therefore, be sure to add these colors to your cold-fighting soup.

Additional studies have shown that chicken soup is a great cold reliever. In 2000, researchers at the University of Nebraska exposed neutrophils, white blood cells that fight infections, but also may cause inflammation, to diluted chicken broth. These cells slowed their movement, which would help reduce some symptoms of colds. Although a family recipe was used for the study, other soups were tested, and most store-purchased chicken soups worked the same way.

The majority of the symptoms from colds are caused not by the cold virus itself, but by the body’s response and fight against the invading virus. Many of these effects, like clogged noses and headaches, are some sort of inflammation. Therefore any food that can reduce inflammation may have cold-fighting benefits as well.

Although chicken soup may not eliminate all cold symptoms, it has enough beneficial properties to alleviate many complaints from colds. TF129474

Favorite Halloween Foods

Halloween is a season of colors, from the orange pumpkins sitting on doorsteps to the purple and black bats hung from windows. However, Halloween also is known for its culinary delights, particularly the sweet treats that are served at parties or handed out to trick-or-treaters.

Many different foods have become synonymous with Halloween, with some not available any other time of year. Certain foods are enjoyed simply because they are fun, while others are tied to customs honoring the dead. Below are some of the more popular foods come Halloween and a little history behind them.

· Chocolate: Chocolate is big business around Halloween. According to a recent survey from the National Confectioners Association, 72 percent of all money spent on Halloween candy is spent on chocolate. Chocolate has been popular for centuries, but chocolate’s history is even lengthier than many people may know. Cocoa beans were harvested by ancient Olmec Indians as far back as 1500 B.C. Original uses for cocoa beans were in bitter drinks, similar to coffee. It would take centuries more for cocoa beans to be combined with milk and sugar to create the chocolate we know today. J.S. Fry & Sons and Cadbury Brothers were early purveyors of that type of chocolate.

· Candied apples: Candied apples are usually dipped in toffee or caramel. Other apples may be dipped in a melted sugar coating, similar to the recipe used for lollipops and pulled-sugar treats. It’s believed candied apples were created in 1908, when they were meant to be a display item to entice customers into candy shops. Candied apples are popular in the fall, when they’re easier to make because that’s when apples are in abundance. In addition, the layer of candy surrounding the apple sets better in autumn weather than in the humidity of the summer.

· Candy corn: Candy corn is most often found around Halloween in North America. The candy was created to look like kernels of corn. However, each candy kernel is three times larger than a real kernel. Candy corn was created in the 1880s by George Renninger of the Philadelphia-based Wunderle Candy Company. The Goelitz Confectionery Company began production at the turn of the century, calling their product “Chicken Feed.”

· Soul cakes: Early origins of trick-or-treating can be traced to customs for commemorating the dead. Individuals, mainly in Britain and Ireland, would go door-to-door “souling” for cakes baked with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and raisins. For each cake they received, recipients would offer prayers for families’ departed relatives. Some people have kept the tradition alive and bake these biscuit-like cakes.

· Pumpkin pie: Pumpkin pie makes its debut in the fall when most pumpkins are ripe for the picking. Pumpkins became popular for cooking in England in the 17th century and were likely brought over to America by the pilgrims. Early pumpkin pies were savory, full of spices. Today’s pies are more sweet but still feature the familiar flavors of the past, including nutmeg and cloves. Pumpkin pie can be enjoyed around Halloween, but it usually takes center stage during Thanksgiving celebrations.


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Key to Cooking with Pumpkins

Autumn is ripe with vibrant colors and scenery. One of the more vivid sights this time of year are the bright, orange pumpkins that adorn walkways and front porches of homes and businesses. Not only are pumpkins ideal for decorating, but they’re also great to eat.

Some people who plan to carve jack-o-lanterns mistakenly believe the same type of pumpkin can be used in their favorite recipes. But what carving pumpkins have in visual flair, they usually lack in flavor and substance. Instead, would-be pumpkin cookers should look to other varieties if they plan to serve pumpkin on the menu.

Pumpkins are available from September through December, but they peak in October. Many smaller pumpkins are better and sweeter for cooking. Mini pumpkins, sugar, cheese, and pie pumpkins are varieties commonly used in recipes. The big jack-o-lantern pumpkins have stringy, watery flesh and will provide little to no pulp for cooking.

Select a pumpkin as you would any other type of squash. Look for a firm pumpkin with no bruises or soft spots. The pumpkin also should have a deep orange color. Store pumpkins in a cool, dark area until ready for use to prolong freshness. Wash the exterior of the pumpkin in cool water before cutting to remove any dirt and bacteria on the surface of the pumpkin so it won’t be transferred to the pulp of the pumpkin.

Slice the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and any stringy material. Rinse and save the seeds for planting or roasting. Put the pumpkin pieces in the microwave to cook or you can steam or bake them until the pulp is soft and the pumpkin falls off of the skin. Cool the pumpkins, then puree the pulp until it’s smooth. You may want to strain the pureed pumpkin with a cheese cloth to remove any excess water before using in a pie recipe. Baked breads may benefit from the extra moisture.

Pumpkins are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. They’re also low in fat and calories. Pumpkin puree can replace the oil in some baking recipes, much as you would use applesauce.


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How to Pick the Best Apples & Pumpkins!

Although scores of people cite summer as their favorite time of year, autumn also is a beloved season. Cool breezes and crisp air seem tailor-made for afternoons spent enjoying the great outdoors. The pleasant autumn weather and awe-inspiring foliage may be the reason so many festivals and outdoor events are scheduled this time of year.

Apple- and pumpkin-picking are popular fall pastimes. Neighborhood orchards open their doors to the public, allowing men, women and children to scour their fields and trees for the perfect finds. Heed these picking tips to make the experience even more of a success.

Apples

Many orchards that have open picking seasons plant dwarf apple trees to make the picking process easier, particularly for young children, so there’s no need to bring along a ladder. You should still be able to find plenty of apples close to the ground.

A good farmer will know when certain varieties of apples are ripe, and he or she will likely cordon off trees that are not ready for picking. Ripe apples will be crisp and firm. Keep in mind that apples ripen from the outside of the tree inward. Those are the ones usually picked first, anyway.

Try to get to an orchard earlier in the season. If you wait too long, the trees may be picked of most of the best fruit. Depending on where you live, apple-picking season may begin in mid-September and continue into mid-October.

Apples can bruise, so don’t toss them into baskets when picking. Also, wait to wash apples until right before eating to prevent moisture-related spoilage. Apples keep best in a cool location.

Pumpkins

Pumpkin patches are often found in close proximity to apple orchards. Picking pumpkins to eat or decorate the home is a popular autumn activity, one that families often enjoy together.

When visiting a pumpkin patch, dress accordingly. That means wearing shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, as the patch may be muddy. Layer clothing in case it is a chilly day. Breezes are more pronounced in open fields.

Pumpkins are “long-keepers,” which means if they are uncut or not damaged, they can last for several weeks. This means you can pick pumpkins at the same time as apples. When selecting a pumpkin, look for one that is completely orange. After picking, a green or yellow pumpkin may never ripen to orange.

Bring along a small wagon and knife so that you can cut the vine, if necessary. Pumpkins are heavy, and a wagon will come in handy, especially with youngsters in tow.

Ripe pumpkins should not dent easily. Examine your pumpkin for holes or insects, which could indicate internal rot that greatly reduces the shelf life of the pumpkin. Remember, carving the pumpkin reduces its life expectancy, so be sure to reserve that task until close to Halloween.

If you desire a pumpkin to turn into a baked treat or other dish, you will need a type of small, sweet cooking pumpkin known as a “sugar pumpkin.” The meat of this pumpkin is much less stringy and more smooth than decorative pumpkin varieties.

Autumn is the season for apple- and pumpkin-picking. This is a great way to spend an afternoon outdoors with the family. If possible, visit an orchard on a weekday, when the crowds will be much smaller than during prime fall weekends.


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Grill a Mediterranean Pizza Pie

Taken from the new edition of the Griller’s Handbook (by Broil King), this recipe provides an excellent base for grilled pizza, with options to change toppings for your flavor preference:

Mediterranean Thin Crust Pizza

Ingredients

1 pizza crust (thin homemade or thin premade)

1 boneless chicken breast (pre-grilled)

200 grams feta cheese

Kalamata olives — remove pits

Sun dried tomato

Red onion

Fresh basil

Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Crushed chopped garlic to taste

Directions

Lightly oil pizza crust on both sides using olive oil.

Place chicken and vegetables on pizza dough as desired.

Sprinkle generously with crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette, and sprinkle chopped fresh basil over pizza to taste.

Broil King recommends its Stone Grill Set, which is specially designed for pizza. Place it in the center of your barbecue’s cooking grids. Turn all burners to high and preheat grill to 400-600*F. Reduce temperature to medium/medium-high to maintain a temperature around 450*F.

Using a well-floured pizza peel, slide the uncooked pizza onto the pizza stone.

Check the pizza frequently — depending on thickness of crust, this will take between 8 and 20 minutes.

Pizza is ready when cheese has melted and bottom is browned. Remove from pizza stone with the wooden pizza peel.

Allow stone to cool completely before attempting to remove from grill.

More recipes and information can be found online at www.broilkingbbq.com.


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Tips for Grilling the Perfect Burger

Hamburgers are a staple at backyard barbecues. Though burgers are a relatively simple food, mastering the technique to grill burgers is no small feat, as there is more to great grilled burgers than simply firing up the grill and dropping down a patty.

· Choose fresh ground beef that has a decent percentage of fat. The fat-to-lean meat ratio should be around 20 percent fat to 80 percent meat. Spend a little more to get freshly ground meat that has not been previously frozen.

· Don’t overwork the burgers with a lot of handling. This will warm up the fat in the burger, which causes it to emulsify and could make the meat rubbery.

· Reconsider adding a lot of herbs, spices or add-ins to the burgers, as such items can detract from the flavor of the meat. Extra herbs and spices also may require extra mixing, which can lead overhandling.

· Push a dimple into the top of the burger, which will help prevent the burger from expanding upward and out while cooking and rounding out in the process. The dimple will keep the top of the burger flat, which facilitates easy topping.

· Make sure the grill is hot. Burgers do well with high heat and will cook relatively quickly.

· Resist the urge to push down on the patty with your spatula. This will cause the juices to spill out and may result in a dry, tough burger.

· Let burgers rest before serving. This lets the juices redistribute throughout and makes for a moist and tasty first bite.


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Master Magical Marinades

Grilled foods boast inviting flavors that put many diners on the lookout for second helpings. Quite often the magic behind grilled meals lies in the marinade used to give foods that flavorful kick.

Marinades can be used to enhance the flavor of meats, vegetables and poultry. While marinades add flavor, they also may be responsible for some other benefits in grilled foods.

Marinades add flavor

Defined as a savory acidic sauce in which food is soaked to enrich its flavor, marinades help break down fiber and tenderize certain foods. The base of many marinades include vinegar, lemon juice or wine, and marinades can be enhanced with spices, oil and herbs.

It’s important not to let foods sit in marinades for too long, as any alcohol, acid or salt in the mixture can chemically “cook” the food in a process known as “denaturing.” Adhere to timing recommendations when using store-bought marinades, and keep such guidelines in mind when using homemade marinades as well. Many may tell you to let foods sit no longer than four hours. Marinades with citrus juices may require even less time for flavor to penetrate.

The timing of marinade use also will depend on the foods being marinated. Delicate items, such as seafood, may change with regard to texture or color in a matter of minutes.

It’s important to always marinate foods in the refrigerator. Food left sitting out on a counter – even when it’s in a marinade – invites the growth of bacteria. If a recipe calls for marinating at room temperature, continue to marinate in the refrigerator, but extend the length of time you marinate. This helps to prevent foodborne illnesses.

When marinating, use plastic or glass containers so the marinade does not cause a chemical reaction, which may occur if you marinate foods in metal containers. Discard all marinades for raw meats and poultry when the time comes to cook the foods, as leftover marinades may contain bacteria that makes them unsafe to reuse on other foods.

The nutritional benefits of marinating

In addition to flavor, marinades may improve the nutritional value of grilled foods. In 2008, researchers at Kansas State University discovered that marinating meat in antioxidant-rich spice blends can reduce the risk of forming heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, by more than 80 percent. HCAs are harmful, cancer-causing compounds that form when food chars over an open flame at high temperatures. Marinades must be rich in spices to have any HCA-busting properties.

Marinades are a secret weapon in the creation of tasty, tender and healthy foods. They come in quite handy when grilling, and add an extra dose of flavor when cooking over high heat. TF167209

Tips for Safe Home Grilling

Millions of grilling enthusiasts take to their backyards each year to cook delicious foods over an open flame. Grilling is embedded in the history of many cultures, and to this day many people feel nothing beats the savory flavor characteristic of grilled meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables.

Although many people safely enjoy outdoor barbecues every day, accidents can happen. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, roughly 6,000 grill fires take place on residential property every year in the United States alone. Many grilling accidents can be prevented with some safety precautions and a little common sense.

When grilling, place the grill in a safe location. Grills should be at least 10 feet away from the house when they are in use. Also, keep the grill away from wooden overhangs or other structures attached to the house, such as garages and porches.

Before using a gas grill, inspect it to make sure there are no gas leaks. Ensure hoses are properly connected and that the grill looks in good repair.

Use propane and charcoal grills outdoors only. Never bring such grills into your house, even if it seems like there is ample ventilation. Potentially fatal carbon monoxide can build up quickly.

Keep children and pets away from the grill area. Grills can be knocked over easily, and kids and pets may burn themselves if they bump into a hot grill.

Clean the grill regularly. Grease and fat buildup forms in the tray below the grill and can be quite flammable. By brushing off the grates after each use and periodically removing food and grease buildup, you can prevent flare-ups that may ignite the grill.

Always tend the grill while cooking. Walking away for even a minute may lead to accidents.

Store unused propane tanks upright at all times to prevent leakage. Keep them outdoors and beyond the reach of children. Never smoke near propane cylinders and never move a lit grill.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy in the event of a flare-up. A hose may not prove effective on a grease fire.

It’s also important to emphasize food safety when grilling. Invest in a food thermometer so you can test the internal temperature of foods and prevent foodborne illnesses.

Grilling is a great and flavorful way to cook. But safety must remain a priority when grilling.


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