All Posts By Serena Ball

Rhubarb, Beyond Pie

by in Farmers' Market Finds, In Season, April 27, 2017

One of the few truly seasonal foods, rhubarb is available now through the summer. Long red and green stalks of rhubarb are often used as a fruit – think pie, jam, and sweet-tart sauces – but it is actually a vegetable.

Rhubarb facts

Perennial rhubarb plants must be subjected to a hard freeze in order to grow and flourish in the spring. Hearty Midwestern and Northern gardeners are rewarded for making it through the winter when rhubarb is one of the first plants – along with asparagus – to emerge from their gardens. Read more

6 Ways to Use Spring Herbs as Healthy Greens

by in Healthy Tips, In Season, March 9, 2017

Little flecks of green parsley make plates look pretty, but antioxidant-rich herbs are more than just a garnish. Using handfuls of herbs instead of pinches can pack more nutrition onto your plate. Basil contains the antioxidant beta-carotene and may decrease the immune response to allergens. Mint has phenolic compounds with strong antioxidant activity, along with vitamin A, folate and potassium.

Here are easy ways to use big bunches of basil, mint, parsley, arugula and other herbs as healthy leafy greens.

Make classic herb sauces from around the globe

Pureeing fistfuls of parsley, cilantro, garlic, and olive oil is the basic recipe for the classic Argentinian steak sauce chimichurri; try it on our Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak. An Indian chatni or chutney contains similar ingredients with the addition of fresh mint like in Curry Rubbed Swordfish Steaks with Fresh Green Herb Chutney. Italian Blanched Basil Pesto includes bunches of basil along with parsley, olive oil and cheese. Liberally drizzle any or all of these zesty green sauces over eggs, vegetables, or whole grains.

Slice and dice up spicy salsas

The addition of tomatoes, mangos or avocados to the classic herb sauce makes for a colorful salsa. Cilantro combines with garlic, avocado and tomatillos in our recipe for Avocado Salsa Verde. When making pureed-style salsas, add another couple handful of herbs for extra nutrition, and to use up bits of herbs that may otherwise become food waste. Even a chunk-style Mango Salsa is delicious when the amount of fresh herbs is doubled. Read more

5 Nordic Foods to Add to Your Diet

by in Food & Nutrition Experts, Food News & Trends, February 21, 2017

Nordic food is hot. It’s healthy too. A recent study in The Journal of Nutrition found that a Nordic diet — rich in foods like whole grain rye, unsweetened yogurt, wild berries, root vegetables, herbs and fatty fish — can lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, and even lead to weight loss. While you may not make it to restauranteur Claus Meyer’s new Great Northern Food Hall in New York, the popular Minneapolis’ Fika Café or Broder Söder at the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation in Portland, OR, you can certainly discover these delicious ways to enjoy the new Nordic diet.

Canned or jarred fish

Pickled herring anyone? While not typical lunch fare, a Swedish smorgasbord would be incomplete without it. In the Nordic Diet study, people ate two to three servings weekly of fish. And eating fish more often is as easy as opening a jar of pickled herring from IKEA stores or most supermarket deli sections. Herring are mild tasting fish that are often pickled in a vinegary onion and black pepper brine, and are addictive on dark rye crackers topped with red onions, fresh dill and a bit of sour cream. And don’t forget canned sardines, which are harvested in the frigid waters of the Norwegian fjords; these trendy tins are packed with immunity boosters. Norwegian salmon is also an appealing choice; add it to potatoes and greens in our hearty-and-healthy Salmon Hash.

Pickled vegetables

The old technique of pickling vegetables is new again. This is evidenced by the whopping $14 price tag found on a jar of pickled seasonal veggies – and by their appearance on restaurant charcuterie platters. Participants in the Nordic diet study ate a lot of cukes and cabbage. Both would be perfect in this quick pickle recipe. Read more

3 Immunity Boosters to Add to Meals

by in Food & Nutrition Experts, Healthy Tips, February 2, 2017

Cold and flu season is tough, and you may need help to make it through unscathed. Whether you’re hunkered down on the couch with a case of the sniffles, or just trying to avoid any sick days, these easy ways to add immunity boosters to your meals may help keep you healthy.

Turmeric

Long part of Eastern medicine traditions, this spice contains a component called curcumin which can help decrease inflammation. This antioxidant may help soothe inflammation caused by symptoms like sore throat and stuffy nose. Spoonfuls of turmeric may also help shorten the length of a cold by bolstering the immune system.

If you can find fresh turmeric root (similar to ginger root) in a store’s produce department, snatch it up. As with most foods, the whole plant contains the most potent components, but the dry, powdered spice is a powerful alternative. Add turmeric to a wide variety of drinks and dishes: your morning mango smoothie, cinnamon oatmeal with raisins, chicken noodle soup or cooked greens will all benefit from the flavor of this vibrant orange spice. Roasted vegetables or orange vegetables pair perfectly with turmeric. It’s an ingredient in most curries and also adds warm, earthly flavors to eggs and fish.

Sardines

Yes, really. This sustainable fish packs loads of healthy omega-3 fats (1100-1600 mg per serving) into its small size. These EPA and DHA fats may help decrease inflammation during colds. Sardines also contain the nutrient selenium which is essential for immunity. And a single serving of sardines contains over 27% of the daily recommendation for vitamin D, another immunity booster. Read more

Vermouth Is New Again

by in Food News & Trends, January 22, 2017

If you ever snuck a swig from that dusty bottle of vermouth in your grandfather’s liquor cabinet, you may have decided vermouth is not for you. But it’s time to give vermouth another taste. Not only is the herbaceous cocktail ingredient totally on-trend, but the low alcohol-by-volume (ABV) of vermouth makes it a low-calorie sipper to help keep your healthy new resolutions.

A fortified wine (yes, it’s a wine,) vermouth begins as red or white wine, that is then fortified with brandy. Up to 40 botanicals are also added to make each brand a unique cocktail-in-a-bottle. Botanical aromatics range from cinnamon, cardamom and anise to grapefruit floral and rhubarb.

‘Vermouth’ comes from the German word Wermut, meaning wormwood, and was originally created for its medicinal properties. Bitter, aromatic wormwood remains a signature ingredient in most vermouths, however subtle. Sipping a vermouth aperitif or digestive is popular way to enjoy it. Of course, it’s also essential in the Negroni and the gin martini – shaken, not stirred!

There are three basic categories of vermouth:

Dry
Along with the sub-category of extra-dry, dry vermouths begin as white wine and are not sweet. They often contain flavors of fresh green herbs, fennel, nutmeg, bitter orange, lemon, grapefruit and light floral. A popular brand is Noilly Prat Original Dry.

Sweet Blanc
These vermouths also originate as white wines and have a touch more sweetness than dry, however, they are not sweet sippers. Blancs are aromatized with tart apple, citrus, stone fruit blossom, elderflower, thyme and toasted butter. Look for Dolin Blanc.

Sweet Rosso/Red
With beginnings as red wine, these sweeter bottles contain rich aromas of cola, cinnamon, prune, spice, licorice and vanilla toffee. Martini & Rossi’s Rosso is popular.

Read more

3 Easy Ways to Organize Your Kitchen

by in Healthy Tips, January 13, 2017

Those shiny new appliances you received as holiday gifts need spots in your kitchen, so it’s time to organize. Here are three tactics to get you started, without being overwhelmed by the task.

Declutter, then donate

Decluttering can be daunting, especially if your entire household’s stuff ends up in the kitchen. So focus on tossing out extras of the following items; you’ll be energized by the fact that you will have a couple of bags to donate in no time.

  • Matching dishes – Two plates, two bowls, two glasses for each family member. Use disposable when you need extra for a party.
  • Silverware – Again, two spoons, forks, and knives for everyone. They can wash dishes, right?
  • Reusable water bottles – Each family member needs only one. Done.
  • Kitchen utensils – Toss anything cracked. Nasty bacteria builds up in tattered spatulas. If it pains you to part with that cool doohickey from your dear neighbor, think how much joy someone else will have from finding it at the resale shop.
  • Plastic food containers – They should all have lids, and all fit neatly inside each other. Toss the misfits.
  • Pots and pans – You don’t need six sauté pans. Here’s the pots you do need and how to organize them.

Read more

Which Sparkling Wines Are Worth Your Holiday Jingle?

by in Healthy Holidays, December 19, 2016

If you think bubbly means big bucks, think again. When adding some sparkle to the holidays, it’s not necessary to spend all your Christmas cash. Sparkling wines can be found in a range of prices, with many festive varieties priced at $20 or less. How they are priced has a lot to do with how they are made. And that leads us to ask: How do they get those bubbles into a bottle?

The short answer: secondary fermentation. Sparkling wines begin much in the same way as white wines, but at the point at which white wine is bottled and sold, sparkling wine undergoes secondary fermentation with the addition of yeast and sugar. For higher-priced sparklers such as Champagne and cava, the subsequent secondary fermentation and aging occur in wine bottles in accordance with the méthode Champenoise. Instead of using bottles, vintners of prosecco and other more value-priced wines use stainless steel tanks to contain the buildup of carbon dioxide during secondary fermentation.

The cool thing is you can actually taste and see the difference in the final bottle of bubbly. Bottle-aged sparklers generally taste more nutty and yeasty and have tinier bubbles. Tank-aged wines are usually fruitier and can have large, bursting bubbles (although careful crafting in tanks can also produce tiny bubbles). All bubbles are a result of the carbon dioxide produced during secondary fermentation.

Value-priced sparklers can be found around the globe. Quality quaffs are available from cold climates like Germany, Austria and New York state, as well as from warm locales such as Australia and New Mexico. Three of our current favorites are: Read more

Scalloped Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms

by in Healthy Holidays, Healthy Recipes, November 24, 2016

Layer after layer of warm cheesy potatoes — it’s pretty much a classic definition for comfort food. Here, buttery yellow-skinned potatoes and thickly sliced mushrooms are drenched in a 10-minute cream sauce and sprinkled with rich blue cheese.

In past decades, scalloped potatoes were on the dinner rotation with other casseroles. But these Scalloped Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms have been updated for modern tastes, and they feature a few tricks that make them lighter than the cream-drenched “covered dishes” of the past. Here’s what I stirred up:

Yukon Gold Potatoes
These thin-skinned potatoes taste buttery even without the addition of any dairy. Leaving the skins on ups the flavor and nutrition.

Blue Cheese
Your grandma probably didn’t add blue cheese to her hot dish; using this umami-rich cheese packs intense flavor throughout the recipe, with the use of only a half-cup of cheese.

Baby Bella Mushrooms
Also known as “cremini,” these meaty mushrooms are sliced thick to give them solid structure, making the scalloped potatoes hearty enough to serve as a meatless meal. Also, mushrooms contain vitamin D, which may help improve your mood as daytime sunshine becomes sparse. Read more

Greek Pizza with Pourable Crust

by in Healthy Recipes, October 1, 2016

Yes, you really can make and bake homemade pizza crust in less than 30 minutes! The trick is whipping up a pourable crust: Eggs, milk and salt combine with a cup of flour to produce a mix that can be poured right into a rimmed baking dish. Leavening is provided by the two protein-rich eggs. The final baked crust is chewy and satisfying.

For this pizza, I was going for a Greek theme, so I went for toppings like roasted eggplant and bell peppers; my cheese of choice was feta, and I grabbed a can of artichokes from the pantry. For a bit more flavor from Greece, I added mint and lemon as fresh toppings. (You’ll love the way a few squirts of acidic lemon juice brighten up the hearty flavors of fall all season long.)

While eggplant is often thought of as a summer vegetable, I love it when the weather gets cooler too. Its sturdy structure melts into stews and baked pastas, providing almost-creamy texture; plus, it beefs up the nutrition of nourishing autumn dishes with fiber, copper, folate, magnesium and potassium. Eggplant also contains flavonoids (antioxidants), which may fight against viruses and damaging bacteria. So it could be smart to add eggplant to your menus right as cold-and-flu season gets going.

Whatever you add to your pizza, just don’t ever try tossing this crust into the air before baking it! Read more

Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

by in Uncategorized, September 4, 2016

Many people know that a bowl of oatmeal is one healthy way to start the day. But why? There’s a lot of nutrition packed into that bowl of goodness, including whole-grain oats, spicy cinnamon and usually fruit and nuts on top. I set out to create a quick bread that had all the nourishment of a bowl of oatmeal — but that would be easy to slice and take with you. Here’s what I mixed up:

Oats — All dry oatmeal varieties, from quick oats to steel-cut oats, are whole grains. They are also full of fiber — soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower cholesterol when consumed in the amount of about two bowls of oatmeal per day.
Walnuts — These nuts have more of the essential plant-based Omega-3 fat AHA than any other nut. An ounce of walnuts also has 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.

Apples — In season now, apples are packed with the flavonol quercetin. This plant-derived antioxidant acts as an antihistamine and may protect against heart disease.

Cinnamon — This spice may help keep blood sugar levels in check in people with diabetes, although not every study has shown this.
Eggs — Yes, eggs. I always add an egg or two to a pot of oatmeal to make it extra creamy. In this bread, eggs are added to increase the protein and vitamin D content. If you’re not really a “morning person,” vitamin D may help improve your mood. One egg has nearly 10 percent of the daily value for vitamin D — and may help you put on a happy face at any time of day. Read more