All Posts By Toby Amidor

Nutrition Expert at FoodNetwork.com

Vinegar 101

by in Healthy Tips, August 11, 2011

vinegars
Vinegar made our list of top 10 healthy flavor boosters. With so many varieties available, choosing the right vinegar to compliment your dish can get confusing. These vinegar basics will get your taste buds on track.

Vinegar Fundamentals
The word vinegar originates from the French word vin aigre, which translates into “sour wine.” Vinegars are made by introducing bacteria into a fermented liquid like wine, beer or cider and converting it into acetic acid (that’s the sour flavor you taste in vinegar). As for nutrients, most varieties of vinegar contain about 3 calories and not much else.

Vinegar has been used for thousands of years as a cooking ingredient, condiment and preservative (like for pickles!). The acidity in vinegar makes it a great addition to marinades—the acidity helps break down the protein fiber and softens the meat. Vinegar can also be used to balance out the flavor of dishes and cut down bitterness.

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30 Days of Zucchini

by in Healthy Recipes, Healthy Tips, August 5, 2011
zucchini
We've got 30 reasons to fall in love with zucchini.

Whether you’re a sweet or savory zucchini-lover, we’ve got your covered. Check out these 30 creative, healthy recipes and fun zucchini facts.

  1. Create a sensational Tuscan Vegetable Soup with zucchini, spinach and tomatoes.
  2. Bake a loaf of lightened-up zucchini bread. Make a double batch and freeze for later.
  3. Slice zucchini into sticks and dip in homemade, creamy hummus.
  4. Cook Ina’s scrumptious Zucchini Pancakes.
  5. Did you know: zucchini is part of the squash family and is technically a fruit.
  6. Need a light and airy snack? Ellie’s Zucchini Parmesan Crisps will do the trick.
  7. Store zucchini in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Read more

What’s In A Hot Dog?

by in Healthy Tips, August 4, 2011
hot dog
Hot diggity -- do you really know what's in your 'dogs?

Hot dogs are a classic barbecue food, but is there such a thing as a healthy frank? Learn the dog-gone facts about this summer favorite and decide for yourself.

How’s It Made?
Hot dogs are also known as frankfurters, wiener dogs, franks and tube steaks. They’re one of the most widely-sold sausage products in the United States. Hot dogs are made from finely ground cured beef or pork (or both), which are pumped into casings that are twisted and formed into links every 6 inches. The franks are then cooked, passed through hot water or steam, and then hung for smoking (sometimes they’re smoked and then cooked). There are various other techniques that have been developed, but you get the picture. Read more

Herb of the Month: Basil

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, August 1, 2011
basil on pizza
Basil on pizza, one of the many ways to use this versitle herb.

In parts of Italy, men sport a sprig of basil on their lapel if they’re looking for love. Although an interesting fashion statement, we’ll enjoy basil as part of our healthy eats instead.

Basil Basics
The herb basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae) is part of the mint family. It seems to have originated in India about 4,000 years ago. The ancient Greeks called it the “King of Herbs.” The herb gained popularity in England in the 16th century and was brought to the Americas by English explorers.

Basil can be found in different shapes, sizes, and colors — there are over 60 varieties. The most common are large-leaf Italian sweet, purple opal, Thai, lemon, tiny-leaf and African blue. Sweet Italian (a.k.a. sweet Genovese) is probably the one most recognized. The bright green leaves are rounded, have a pungent flavor that’s a cross between licorice and cloves.

The main producer in the U.S. is California, but basil is also grown commercially in India, Israel, Mexico, Yugoslavia, Italy and Morocco.

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Which is Healthier: Fruit Cobbler vs. Fruit Pie

by in Healthy Tips, July 28, 2011
fruit cobbler and pie
Pie versus cobbler: who wins this food fight?

Summer is all about fruit-filled desserts. When faced with the choice of cobbler or pie, which would you choose? Read the pros and cons of each and YOU vote for the healthier winner.

Fruit Cobbler

Pros:
Cobblers are a combo of fruit filling topped with a crust made of biscuit dough, traditional pie crust or a pour-on batter. Typically, the topping is made from milk, sugar, and flour. It’s easier to control the ingredients in the crust-topping of a cobbler than it is with pie; if you don’t want your cobbler too sweet, you can choose to cut down on the sugar. You can also use less of the topping, since it doesn’t have to cover the entire top of the cobbler.

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Supplement Savvy: Minerals

by in Healthy Tips, July 26, 2011

vitamins and minerals
We told you about popular vitamin supplements and now we’re covering minerals. Folks like to pop certain mineral pills when they can be easily obtained through food. Are these mineral supplements really worth the investment?

Be Advised
Many individuals mindlessly down vitamin and mineral supplements like candy. Many people don’t realize that supplements of any kind interact with various health conditions, medications, herbal supplements and even one another. Furthermore, taking megadoses (very large amounts) on a regular basis can be toxic to your body. That’s why it’s important to consult a physician or registered dietitian before choosing your supplement regimen.
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In Season: Eggplant

by in In Season, July 25, 2011
grilled eggplant Food Network Magazine’s Hoisin Eggplant.

Grilled eggplant is a summer favorite, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy this scrumptious delight. Check out these fun eggplant facts (did you know it’s a fruit?) and healthy, delicious recipes.

When, Where, & What?
Eggplants (Solanum melongena, Solanaceae) are part of the nightshade family along with peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. They were originally named after eggplants found in Europe that resembled an egg in shape and color. Eggplants only became acceptable to eat in the U.S. about 50 years ago; prior to that, folks believed that eating it caused insanity, leprosy and cancer.

Eggplants grow on vines, similar to tomatoes, and can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They can be white, purple, black or green and vary in length. Their shape can be spherical, curved, or long and narrow. The most common eggplants have a deep purple skin with a teardrop shape and are about 8 to 10 inches long.

Eggplants have a spongy flesh, meaty texture, and slightly bitter taste (the skin is especially bitter). Female eggplants contain more seeds and are more bitter, while male eggplants contain less seeds and have a slightly sweeter flavor. To determine the sex of an eggplant, check  the bottom: a female will have a deep indentation shaped like a dash while a male eggplant will have a shallow, round indentation.

The largest producers of eggplants in the U.S. include Florida, New Jersey and California. They’re also grown in Mexico, China, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and Japan. Popular varieties include Black Beauty, Rosa Bianca, Classic, Orient Express, Black Italian, Japanese, Lavender and Cloud 9. Eggplants are in peak season from July through October.

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Hot Topic: Clean Eating

by in Food News, July 20, 2011
woman eating tomato
How clean is your diet?

Clean Eating is a term that’s been thrown around a lot lately, only it’s not necessarily understood. We’ll explain what it is and if it’s advisable to eat this way.

What Is It?
Although you’ll find Clean Eating “diets”- it’s more of a way of living than a temporary weight loss solution. The term Clean Eating is relatively new, but it dates back to the 1960s when the natural health food movement looked down on diets filled with processed foods.

Author Terry Walters helped fuel the Clean Eating movement into mainstream America. According to the author of Clean Food and Clean Start, it’s all about consuming natural, unprocessed foods. Her philosophy is:

  • Eat a varied diet
  • Eat a rainbow of colors
  • Enjoy food and mealtime
  • Eat locally grown and seasonal food
  • Eat all 5 tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami)

This means eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables and lean proteins (a.k.a. real food) instead of fast food or highly processed, packaged foods, and giving new foods a try that you may not recognize at the farmers market— a lot like Dana’s Market Watch series.

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Okra 5 Ways

by in Uncategorized, July 16, 2011
smoky okra
Food Network Magazine's Smoky Okra on skewers.

Not sure how to prepare okra in a healthy way? Fried okra is a classic, but this green-hued veggie can also be prepared with few calories and fat added. Here are 5 mouthwatering recipes to get you started.

Pickled
Pickling is an easy way to preserve the summer goodness of produce. Prepare the pickling mixture and just sit back and relax—that’s all there is to it.
RECIPE: Pickled Okra

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In Season: Plums

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, July 12, 2011
plums
Plums in many colors.

Finally…plum season has arrived! This juicy stone fruit is only in season a short period of time. Be sure to enjoy it while it lasts.

What, Where, When
The plum (Prunus domestica, Rosaceae) belongs to the rose family with cherries, peaches, and apricots. There are hundreds of plum varieties grown throughout the world. Common varieties include French, Italian, Imperial, Greengage, Long John, Castelton, and Fellenburg.

Plums grow on trees in clusters, have smooth skin and a pit in the center. Plums can be oval or round in shape. The skin can be deep purple, red, green, blue, or multicolored. The flesh can be orange, red, purple, yellow, or white. Plums also vary in taste—some are sweet while others are tart. They’re available from July through October.

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