Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Most Unusual Blues

Move Over Yogurt – These Wild Blueberry Ideas Give Fruit a Whole New Meaning 

“Wild blueberries? I’ll eat them with absolutely anything,” said one dyed-blue-in-the-wool Wild About Health reader. If you agree – and if by everything you mean everything, this is the post for you.

Wild blueberries lovers, these are our halcyon days. In our quest for good health, adding fruits and vegetables to our meals is high priority. Those deeply colored wild blueberries are the go-to food for enhancing our health and disease prevention efforts. They are high in antioxidants, they have a low glycemic index, and they are low in calories. They are also deliciously, complexly sweet and tangy.

As a result of the good news surrounding blueberries, specifically wild (wild offers more concentrated nutrition per berry), there’s a swell of interest in eating the fruit – but not in the traditional way. Wild blueberries are popping up in some unexpected places, and they seem to be a new mainstay in a wide array of foods, drinks, and snacks.

So, move over yogurt, step aside pancakes – we love you, but these new traditions in blues will blow your mind (without blowing your commitment to healthy eating).

7 Unusual Ways to Use Your Blues 

The Blueberry Bagel Debate

A discussion of blueberry uses that are out of the ordinary must start with the Great Blueberry Bagel Debate. Loved or hated, all bagel aficionados have an opinion. On the one hand, this choice of bagel can have a tendency to be blue of hue – for some, disturbingly so. While some blueberries remain discretely nestled in the bread, others turn bagels vastly different from the expected earth tone. Depending on the maker, the blueberry bagel has been accused of being cakey, and toppings like lox and capers can seem like a difficult fit.

But for others, the delicious bagel consistency mixed with the sweetness of blues is pure breakfast food bliss, and cream cheese is the ideal pairing. It’s simply the only bagel choice for some bagel lovers, whether they have a berry affinity or not. Read more about the blueberry bagel debate. Then, go ahead and make your own homemade Blueberry Bagel, if you are so inclined.

(Nutritionally) Potent Potables 

For the occasional imbiber, blueberries are a clever, inventive, multipurpose bar ingredient. Blueberries are no stranger to vodka, for example – they provide a twist to the norm with the added attraction of the “wild” mystique of their origin. Recently, jumping on the blueberry bandwagon, Hangar One announced the release of Maine Wild Blueberry Vodka. It’s a trend that may have its roots with the local Cold River Vodka, an 80-proof vodka made by steeping Wyman’s wild blueberries in alcohol for several days, then filtering it off. They use just a small amount of sugar to achieve this aromatic bouquet and subtle flavor. Try it, along with their recipe ideas, such as Blueberry Melon Martini, for yourself.

Infused vodka shines, but there’s no end to blueberry uses when it comes to cocktails. They are perfect for the holiday season, which necessitates special recipes and lots of color. Wildblueberries.com offers some brand new additions to their drink database that will add a spark to your next gathering. Fortify yourself with an Atlantic Blue with Wild Blueberries or a Lemon Cream and Wild Blueberry Sabayon. You can also rock your guest’s world with Wild Blueberry Woodruff Lime Punch or Wild Blueberry, Elderflower Mint Soda.

Blueberry Vinegar 

If you are looking for a unique way to use your blues, this one not only fits the bill for your kitchen, it also makes a wonderful homemade gift during the holiday season. Making blueberry vinegar is simple, and its taste and versatility pays off in spades. Blueberry Vinegar can be added to many recipes that call for vinegar to add a unique twist of flavor: try it on salads, as marinade, or have it handy to sprinkle on fish or chicken while you cook. It offers big taste at approximately 4 calories per serving, too.

Try making your own Blueberry Balsamic Vinegar, or buy some from a local Maine company if you prefer.

Blueberry Soup 

This slurpable summery treat, which can also be served in winter (buy frozen wild blueberries for easy cooking), fits the bill for savory, elegant and unique. Ladle this Chilled Wild Blueberry Soup from Moveable Feasts into bowls, garnish with sour cream or crème fraîche and top with a mint leaf, and you’ve got a bowl of exquisiteness. Or try this smashing Maine Wild Blueberry Soup which calls for Pinot Noir (weigh it against Moveable Feast’s white wine) and a bit of honey.

Blueberry Swizzle Sticks 

We love this idea for its creativity and for the surprising addition it provides to a drink. Wild blueberries create the basis of this swizzle stick drink stirrer that makes a fruit drink more fabulous. Assembly is simple: place blueberries on a wooden skewer and freeze. Then place them in your guests’ drinks at your next wing-ding. You can find the “recipe” here, where you’ll also find some other unique serving ideas for wild blues. They include out-of-the-ordinary notions such as crushing frozen wild blueberries into vanilla frosting to create a beautiful purple color for your cakes that amplifies the flavor and the fun.

Blueberry Wine

It may not be the first thing you think of when you think of blueberries, but it’s not the last, either. Blueberry wine conjures the crush of flavorful berries and mellow, sweet subtle of flavors that makes perfect sense. If you are adept at making wine, blueberry is a particularly pleasurable option. The wine-making process can take up to several months however, so depending on your schedule, buying it might be easier.

If you are local to Maine, you might try Bartlett Winery in Gouldsboro or Blacksmith’s Winery in Casco. They both make a practice of using native fruits. Also, Maine Mead Works offers HoneyMaker Blueberry Mead made with wild blueberries and wildflower honey from Maine, which is described as having a cherry-rose color and a clean, honey-like aroma with berry notes – berry irresistible.

Hot & Spicy Sauces 

This unusual marriage is made in heaven. The piquant spice of the hot pepper, matched with the sweet tang of blueberries is a taste that thrills the palate and compliments myriad foods. This hot-sweet flavor combination may sound like a one-time treat, but it can quickly become a daily delight. It works with potatoes, sandwiches, chicken, burgers, even scrambled eggs. The Sensitive Pantry has the right idea with this recipe for Blueberry Chili Hot Sauce. You can also start your culinary experimentation with this recipe from Food & Wine, or this simple, sweet Hot Spiced Blueberry Sauce that works for vanilla ice cream as well as for chicken on the barbie.

A similar taste profile can be created with a creatively unusual Blueberry Mustard, something threatening to become a table staple (see evidence here and here for starters), and no wonder. Easy to make and keep on hand for your midnight Dagwood, it’s lovely enough for a homemade Christmas gift for friends. Complete the package with your own jar and label.

Try this simple Spicy Blueberry Mustard recipe from Helium. It calls for just three ingredients: blueberries, mustard and honey…pure condiment delight.

Hungry for more? Endless Simmer will sate your appetite. They have 100 ways to use yours blues – an impressive list that we’ve referred to here before. These ideas are less unusual than they are simply fabulous. Our favorite discovery? Blueberry Mint Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Turkey Still Frozen?

Quick, Last Minute Solutions for a Healthy, Pain-Free Thanksgiving
We know Allison Fishman is a proponent of wild blueberries, learning to cook, and having plenty to chew on your plate. We love all three, so who better to weigh in on a healthful, always delicious Thanksgiving? Try a taste! She offers up Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts & Raisins on this segment of Access Hollywood. It’s healthier, tastier, and totally calorie-busting.

In her capacity as Skinny Cook extraordinaire, Fishman is a Contributing Editor at Cooking Light, and they have some meal-saving last-minute cooking ideas for the holiday to help keep you sane in the kitchen. It includes a list of best holiday recipes, sensational sides, and turkey ideas if you are still considering what tasty twist to put on your bird. (Consider Maple-Cider Brined Turkey with Bourbon-Cider Gravy. So gobble worthy!)

Thanksgiving novice? Don’t worry. Cooking Light also has help for your first wing ding, including turkey tips and general culinary guidance. They also provide some of the Most Common Cooking Mistakes that amateurs and chefs alike can learn from. Our favorites include learning the art of low fat cooking, and the common misstep of zapping butter in the microwave to soften it – to the dismay of your cookies and cakes.

Pie emergency? Real Simple lends a hand with Thanksgiving 911. These tips help you out with holiday bugaboos like not knowing the first thing about carving a turkey to avoiding the ripped pie crust nightmare.

Having a feast with no beast? No problem. We've got you covered with Cooking Light's perfect Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu. With Mushroom and Caramelized-Shallot Strudel as the main course no one will even miss the bird.

Avoid the nibble trap! Cooking Light also does the math when it comes to how many calories you consume just by tasting. The truth hurts. From the 75 calories gained from licking a bowl at 10 AM to the noontime mindless pecan crunching (49!) your diet is toast. Read the facts and weep. Then, resolve to keep the sampling to an absolute minimum. Thanks, we think.

Maine-based blog Plating Up goes all out with their Citrus-Scented Roast Turkey recipe that heralds from Isle Au Haut, and then they turn around and outdo themselves with their Roast Turkey with Black-Truffle Butter and White-Wine Gravy recipe.

Let fruit & veggies shine! Fruits & Veggies More Matters has a quick and easy health reinforcer in 5 Ways to Take Fat & Calories Out of Your Holiday Menu that make health efforts quick and easy. They also give up their 5 Ways to Add Fruits & Veggies to Your Holiday Menu to augment your golds and blues – yes, it does have to do with Green Bean Casserole!  The holidays wouldn’t be the same without it.

The final flourish: Let Martha help you with your finishing touch with these table settings. Out of these 54 easy-to-achieve ideas ranging from a pine cone turkey placeholder to a cornhusk votive, you’re bound to find something that fits your fête.

Hey, what about that frozen turkey? First step, don’t panic. Read this from Real Simple, and cross check USA Today. Then, cancel those back-up reservations.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Have a Not So Traditional (Healthy) Holiday

Joanna Dogloff of the Huffington Post says that the typical Thanksgiving dinner has a whopping 2,796 calories. That might even sound a bit conservative, if Thanksgiving happens to be your favorite holiday. Fit Sugar alleges that the typical Thanksgiving meal actually comes in at 4,500, a number that truly puts the "gob" in gobble.

We know we have a tendency to overdo on Thanksgiving, but our typical holiday staples are actually quite healthy. Turkey meat is a low fat, high protein food, and favorite sides like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and carrots are fat-free, cholesterol-free, and high in vitamins and fiber. Thanksgiving is not inherently fattening and nutritionally void – it’s the appetizers, gravy, caloric drinks and choices like forgoing the greens for some extra potatoes that kill our calorie count. So how easy is it to get out of the Thanksgiving fat trap? Actually, pretty easy.

And now is the time to do it. It's the year to fashion a not-so-traditional holiday meal – one that takes your principles of healthful eating that are in play the rest of the year into account. True healthy eaters think health 24/7. It’s part of their life. Higher fruit and veggie content, and lower fats and sugars become a way of eating, not a diet or a struggle. Just because it's November 24, that shouldn't obliterate your healthy habits. This year, it just stands to reason that the traditional holiday meal has evolved from artery-clogging carb fest to a bounty of fruits, veggies, healthy proteins, and portions that are in perspective.

Make Health Your Tradition
  • Fruit & Veggies More Matters has done some of the hard work of re-aligning your Norman Rockwell portrait and airbrushing in a more contemporary version of head of household – a healthy, vibrant you. They suggest 5 Ways to Take Fat & Calories Out of Your Holiday Menu. Can’t wait for those Garlic Mashed Potatoes? Go for it, they say! Use low-fat or non-fat milk instead of heavy cream and trade butter for low-fat sour cream.
  • F&V's commitment to a Not So Traditional Holiday also provides us with these Seasonal Dishes that Fit the Nutritional Bill. They include Sweet Potato-Apple Salad, Turkey & Cranberry Stew, and kid-friendly Fruit Pizzas that work all season long. They offer plenty of holiday hints and how-to’s such as shopping on a budget, getting the kids involved, and avoiding the post-meal sugar slump. Thanks F&V!  
  • Huff Post's Joanna Dogloff offers her alternative to the calorie-packed 2700 calorie meal with one that comes in at just 750 by including some light alternatives that are equally as delicious. You can also check out her simple ways to have a healthier holiday. They include smart work-arounds such as starting with a veggie-heavy first course, and making gravy an option, not a requirement. 
  • New York Times blogger Tara Parker-Pope weighs in with Holiday Main Courses for Vegans – it begins with Curried Lentil, Squash and Apple Stew and ends with Pumpkin Tiramisù. Top that. 
  • Finally, if you’re seeking a way to fill up on fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, taste, and one of the most powerful nutrition-per-calorie foods, misson accomplished: add wild blueberries to your holiday spread – they’ve got the color, taste, and tradition that is worthy of your best holiday table. Enjoy!
Got a favorite tip for a healthy Thanksgiving? Tell us!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Wild Blueberries Should Be Part of Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Beat the Beige, Give Turkey Its Tang & Give Thanks for Wild Blues
Wild blue turkey head by tibchris, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  tibchris 

You may think harvest season marks the one time of year when wild blueberries truly get their due. But if your idea of wild blues is stuck in August, it’s time to change your thinking: November is the wild blueberry’s heyday.

With homemade food in the spotlight and new recipes to impress the family on the radar, wild blueberries steal the show at a Thanksgiving spread. Maybe it’s because they are one of few blue foods that appear in nature. Or maybe it’s because they make everything a little more fun. Bring wild blueberries to dinner and you’ll put a smile on your host’s face, and you’ll be a hit at the kids’ table as well. When all the gobbling is over and the tryptophan kicks in, you’ll be thankful you did. Here’s why:

Taste. There’s nothing comparable to the sweet-sour-spicy taste of wild blueberries. They work well with just about any Thanksgiving dish and provide the ideal yin to the generous yang that makes up the usual Thanksgiving suspects like turkey, tubers, and stuffing.

Tradition. The best Thanksgiving dish puts a subtle twist on tradition, and wild blueberries fit the bill. Indigenous to Maine and eastern Canada, their presence provides a nod to native American foods. In fact, there are only three native North American fruits – Concord grapes, wild blueberries and cranberries – so you’d be remiss to leave out this essential berry.

Ease of cooking. Wild blueberries are a busy cook’s dream. They are smaller and more compact than their cultivated counterparts, and that helps them hold their shape for whatever you put them through. And, thanks to IQF, freezing preserves their individuality (not to mention their nutrition). They are great for baking, boiling for sauces, they work cold and warm, and they garnish as well as they cook.

Health benefits. Total indulgence is so yesterday. Today, there’s a trend toward maintaining healthy eating so even during the holidays your nutrition doesn’t go to pot. That’s where wild blueberries excel.  High in antioxidants, low in calories, and high in fiber, they satisfy the palate and nourish the body while still tasting like an indulgence.

Color. Seeking out colorful foods for Thanksgiving is a must. Because of the abundance of earth tones as a result of turkey, potato, stuffing, onions and other foods that are on the beige part of the spectrum, a spark of color is crucial to bring a Thanksgiving plate to life. Enter wild blueberries, a rare opportunity to add high-octane color to a piled-high platter.

Cranberries optional. If some members of your clan don’t care for the traditional cranberry sauce, wild blueberries save the day. Their flavor is a unique brand of sweet due to a wonderful natural flavor variation that is a result of a combination of several different varieties of plant that create this indigenous crop. Or keep the cranberries – they pair extremely well with blues, enhancing the taste of both in pies, sauce, and stuffing.

Cost. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, Thanksgiving dinner will be 13% more expensive this year than it was last year. The price of turkey alone is up .25/lb. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd, keeping costs down is key. The best advice? Think big. Buying ingredients in bulk helps, and oversize bags of frozen blues are economical and never go bad if they are unused. Avoiding pre-packaging is another way to stretch the food budget, and wild blueberries are a perfect unprocessed ingredient – it’s a frugal gourmet’s dream.

Plan Your Holiday Menu! How Will You Use Your Blues?

Cranberries and blueberries make a stellar taste combination. Impress the fam with this Cranberry and Wild Blueberry Pie. Or mix it up with lip-smacking Blue Cranberry Sauce, or some Homemade Cranberry Blueberry Sauce.

Looking for a Cranberry Sauce alternative? This Szechwan Crispy Duck with Chinese Wild Blueberry sauce creates a fantastic flavor profile. Using turkey instead of duck works equally well to show off these two tastes. Or make this very scoopable Wild Blueberry Salsa. Even Betty Crocker recommends adding cherries and blueberries to their Cranberry Stuffing recipe to vary the taste.

Done with traditional pie? Think outside of the circle – Wild Blueberry Grunt is a fun alternative to pumpkin pie, or you can impress the relatives with your culinary know-how by making Wild Blueberry Crème Brûlé.

Finally, if you're looking for a meal opener or a great bring-with hors d'oeuvre, you’re covered with
Goat Cheese Tart with Caramelized Onions and Wild Blueberries – delicious and perfectly portable.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Three Keys to Anti-aging You Should Know About

How Nutrition Can Unlock the Door to Age-Related Disease Prevention
New and Old by LadyDragonflyCC -Amazing October Colors!, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  LadyDragonflyCC

The more we know about the aging-nutrition connection, the more theory becomes immutable fact: "Dietary choices are critical to delaying the onset of aging and age-related diseases, and the sooner you start, the greater the benefit," says Susan Moores, RD, of the American Dietetic Association. Not only is nutrition our secret weapon when it comes aging, the opposite is also true – what we eat can cause aging. So, if you are still searching for the fountain of youth, stop the exploring and start eating, because the jury is in: we can use food to speed aging, or to slow it. The choice is on your plate.

In fact, some experts assert that the disease and deterioration that we often consider the natural process of aging is not natural at all, and is, in fact, completely preventable. While aging may not be entirely preventable through nutrition – there are other environmental or biological factors at work – nutrition is clearly a major key to the prevention of the signs of aging and age-related disease.

How does this magical fountain of youth operate? Nutrition works at a cellular level, where the aging process originates. Deep in the cells of our bodies three factors are at work – they overlap and interact with each other, but they are all at the core of preventing – or hastening – the aging process.

The Anti-aging Keys

1. Inflammation

Anti-aging is synonymous with anti-inflammation. Chronic inflammation at the cellular level is at the heart of many degenerative age-related diseases, and controlling it could be the key to delaying the aging process.

Inflammation is an immune reaction on the cellular level. It is our body’s natural defense – the result of a reaction to environmental toxins, irritation, and infection. In a sort of biological conundrum, inflammation protects our bodies and deteriorates it as well. It is the root cause of many chronic and common diseases of aging, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The good news is that researchers have found that diet has a significant effect on inflammation. It can minimize inflammation and as a result, delay the aging process. Colorful fruits and vegetables, omega-3 and low glycemic foods, for instance, have been named as part of an anti-inflammation diet. Some diets can cause inflammation, too, essentially producing an immune system that is out of control and putting aging in high gear. We could call it the Aging Diet – one characterized by high-carb, low-protein foods, refined sugar and polyunsaturated fats.

2. Oxidation

Inflammation is caused by free radical damage, and the well-known evils of free radicals are due to oxidation. Simply stated, oxidation occurs when the body produces by-products, referred to as oxygen free radicals. The result is a kind of rusting of the body, and when this rusting is applied to humans and not iron, it results in aging and diseases such a cancer. Free radicals are produced inside our bodies, and occur as a result of food, environmental pollutions and everyday things like air, water and sun. As we age, we become more susceptible to the long-term effects of oxidative stress (or too many free radicals) and inflammation on the cellular level. As E.R. Stadtman, a NIH researcher explains, "Aging is a disease. The human life span simply reflects the level of free radical oxidative damage that accumulates in cells. When enough damage accumulates, cells can't survive properly anymore and they just give up."

How do we defeat the aging evil of oxidative stress? That’s where antioxidants (think anti-oxidation) come in. The antioxidants eliminate the damage that free radicals cause in our bodies. Some foods are high in antioxidant content and some contain powerful substances called phytonutrients that some believe are capable of unlocking the key to longevity. Phytonutrients are members of the antioxidant family, and are responsible for ridding the body of free radicals, and as a result, slowing the rusting, or the aging, process. That's one of the reasons that a diet of high antioxidant foods is your first defense against aging.

3. Blood Flow

Blood flow is key #3, and is affected by inflammation and oxidation. Blood vessels are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress and inflammation, and keeping them healthy cannot be understated when it comes to preventing age-related disease. Blood flow to the heart protects the heart muscle from damage, and prevents restricted blood vessels, which helps the brain, and every organ in the body.

Low blood flow is a major factor in aging; its relationship to aging and its diseases are permanently intertwined. Enter nutrition to change the equation. According to Steve Pratt, author of Superfoods Rx, some foods lower inflammatory markers, cause basal dilation and lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. They work on the capillary level to keep microcirculation working well, and that affects the heart, the brain and eyes and prevents the diseases of aging that attacks them.

Anti-aging Targets: Brain, Heart & Eyes

Maintaining our brain, heart, and eyes top the list for those concerned about preserving health and youthfulness as they age. If these things are healthy, chances are, you're healthy, too. Perhaps it’s not surprising that usually, these three body parts work in tandem and are subject to the same forces – inflammation, oxidation and blood flow.

Brain. Isolating Alzheimer's disease is one step toward achieving the ideal: anti-aging. If we can preserve brain function, along with body function, we can delay the aging process.

Researchers have discovered that one of the risk factors of deteriorating brain function appears to be how the body handles glucose. Studies of the genetic code of those with Alzheimer's disease appear to suggest it is connected to cholesterol metabolism. Also, high antioxidant foods possess anti-inflammatory benefit to the brain, which researchers have found increases cell signaling pathways. We know nutrients are a contributor in combating oxidative stress, and oxidative stress is a major cause of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Heart. Thanks again to the anti-inflammatory effect of some foods, good nutrition can have a major impact on aging by preserving the function of one of our most important organs, the heart. By decreasing inflammation in the arteries surrounding the heart, we can keep the heart functioning longer and better. Nutrients in some foods that are high in antioxidants protect the heart muscle from damage by acting as anti-inflammatory agents. Nutrition reduces cholesterol levels and by reducing build-up, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke. And, many studies into the compounds of fruits like wild blueberries indicate supplements can help regulate blood pressure and combat atherosclerosis.

Vision. According to an interesting new study, anthocyanins from blueberries may protect critical eye tissue from premature aging and light-induced damage. The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, indicates that cells treated with blueberry extract improved the viability of cells exposed to light which experienced premature aging.  The conclusion of the author of the study was that "blueberries, or other kinds of fruits that are rich in anthocyanins, have the potential to prevent age-related macular degeneration and other retinal diseases related to RPE cells.”
Such examples of the vision-nutrition connection is part of a major boon in research into the benefits of dietary prevention when it comes to aging and diseases of aging. Researchers continue to find links between nutrition and healthy eyes. Studies indicate the vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables slow the progress of age-related vision loss, and while the exact nutrients and in what combinations is still unknown, researchers have concluded that the big three keys – anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation and blood flow, are at the heart of maintaining vision. Because some foods with anthocyanins, for instance, work on the capillary level to keep microcirculation working well, that has a positive affect on eyes, tired eyes, and vision diseases that occur with age.

Open the door to anti-aging. Still exploring, Ponce de Leon? Try exploring your kitchen instead. When you use nutrition to decrease inflammation, decrease oxidation, and enhance your blood flow, the aging brain, heart, and eyes will have a new lease on long, disease-free life.

Read about how foods can accelerate the aging process.

Watch the video from The Canadian called Anti-Aging linked to Blueberries and Salmon.

Read about the research into the benefits of wild blueberries, a top anti-aging food.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Venison - Loved or Loathed?

Whatever Camp You're In, this Meat has Legs as the New Healthy “It” Food 

It’s the season when many people take to the woods to get their deer. Deer meat, or venison, is for some a beloved part of meals that sustain them through the winter. For others, the flavor (or source) is not to their taste.

But if you aren’t sure about venison, there are some convincing reasons to jump aboard the bandwagon. No need to don your flame orange: some evidence suggests hunters and non-hunters alike are embracing venison as part of seeking out natural, chemical-free proteins. For meat-eaters, venison could have legs as a trendy new health food. In fact, Chef Brad Farmerie of the popular New York restaurant Public declared it in the New York News as the new "it" food. He grills, sears, and smokes ten thousand portions a year, he said.

On the fence about venison?  Consider some of this meat’s advantages.

Plenty of Health Benefits

It's no wonder venison is a favored red meat for health. In addition to being low in fat and cholesterol (it has just a fraction of the fat found in beef), it has the added benefit of being wild. That means that unlike farm-produced animals, deer from the wild are resistant to disease and not subject to antibiotics or steroids, making the meat an attractive alternative to commercially-raised beef.

Another reason for ordering up venison is for its high amounts of iron, zinc and vitamin B12, which is helpful for a healthy heart, among other benefits. It also has fewer calories and fat than chicken, a popular protein for healthy eaters, and a higher concentration of nutrients, making it an excellent meat choice. (Whole Foods provides the whole health breakdown of venison.)

An Underrated Flavor 

It’s common to hear those who don’t care for venison declare its taste strong or gamey. It’s true that in comparison to beef the taste is quite different, but that’s because it has a taste all its own. Downeast Magazine describes venison as having “a wonderful woody, almost fruity flavor that is truly fantastic.” The trick is not to taste-test against other more common proteins, but to give venison's unique flavor characteristics a chance independently. And, if you purchase farm-raised venison – you can do so through a local farm, through the mail, or at a local Whole Foods, for instance – it will taste much milder than wild.

A Healthy Protein for Cooking

For purposes of preparation, venison is often best kept simple to capitalize on its flavor. Try it by itself with a little olive oil and sea salt, for example. You can also grind it for use as burgers, in lasagna, or in chili. Because it is very lean, some cooks even add a little beef to ground recipes just to replace a bit of the fat. It's also great on the grill, with marinade (it doesn’t require much), or as skewers for a tasty, healthy combo with some favorite veggies.

Venison Medallions with Sauteed Apple Slices and
Wild Blueberry Sauce creates a perfect  flavor  profile.
There are a variety of delicious, low-fat, high-nutrient meals that put venison to good use. For example, Emeril Lagasse has Venison Stew and Tex-Mex Venison Chili. Epicurious offers Roasted Venison, and Whole Foods has plenty of venison serving ideas – you can also find their recipe for easy venison jerky.

Venison & Wild Blueberries: A Perfect Flavor Match

It’s always open season on health, and the flavor of nutritious wild blueberries and proteins are perfection on a plate. The sweet, tangy complex flavor of the berry creates a fabulous flavor profile when matched with fish, beef, or chicken. But with venison, the match is truly heavenly. The unique robust flavor of the meat works perfectly against wild blues. Try this recipe for Venison Medallions with Sauteed Apple Slices and Wild Blueberry Sauce to see for yourself. It’s an ideal fall pairing for a would-be venison convert!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Is Cheating Healthy?

The popular “4-hour Body” originator Tim Ferriss says that setting one day aside to totally indulge when you are dieting is the key to staying motivated and maintaining your metabolism. Is a “cheat day” necessary to achieve a healthy weight? Or does planning for a Saturday splurge just mean we’re cheating ourselves?

While some evidence suggests this metabolic boost does help spur on weight loss, the idea is dogged by a few good-health disconnects. The need for a cheat day automatically implies a regimen of food restriction. Dieting, characterized by short-term, sometimes tortuous limitations of food –  and often nutrition –  is no fix for bad eating habits. The road to long-term weight maintenance and disease prevention involves embracing consistent habits that incorporate new, better ways of eating every day.

Ways to Keep Your Cheat

Are you are born cheater? When it comes to eating healthy, some people are just meant to break the rules. If walking the line of healthy eating sounds like a stone cold bore, here are a few ways to get your cheat on, in a good way.

The Good Cheat. When you cheat, indulge in foods that you love and are good for you. Love the sweet extravagance of strawberry pie? Always had a soft spot for sauces, dips and melty things? Don’t deny your desire to indulge. Healthy eating is a rainbow of opportunities to love real food again. Start cooking, choose foods you love, eschew processed salt-sugar-fat non-foods and find recipes that capitalize on nutrition while still keeping the delish.

The Lite Cheat. Incorporate the cheat by regularly eating things you love as one part of an overall healthy diet.  One of the myths of healthy eating is that it’s bland, boring, and repetitive. That’s just old school thinking. Sure, a constant diet of carrot sticks can set you up to fail. Instead, use fruit and veggie servings to your benefit. How? We talk about delicious, nutritious food here all the time. Join us, buy a good cookbook, and learn about how to capitalize on foods that have a potent nutrition-to-calorie ratio, and start cheating your way to health, weight maintenance, and disease prevention.

The Unnecessary Cheat. Change your taste for processed foods and eliminate the need to cheat. Our desire for fat, sugar, and salt only increases the more we subject our bodies and our minds to it.  David Kessler, in his book The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, explains that foods created with a magical recipe of high fat, high salt, and high sugar alters the brain’s chemistry in ways that compel us to overeat. They override our body’s signals that tell us we’re full, and they trigger cravings. Administered in intermittent doses, this combination can have a powerful affect on the brain that can mimic addiction. But you can break the chain. Stop the regular intake of this dangerous combination and you’ll lose the taste for it, Kessler says. Given a little time, you can start craving the nutrition your body really needs instead.

The Bigger is Better Cheat. Often, cheats are cheats not because of what we eat, but how much. There’s nothing more indulgent than simply putting away a whole lot of food. But here’s something we tend to forget: while 1/2 cup of rice is 300 calories, a 1/2 cup of spinach is only 15 calories. That’s why a diet can make us feel like we aren’t getting enough food and energy. If you are switching from a poor diet marked by processed, fatty foods to a diet of nutrient-rich foods, you aren’t – and you need to eat more. So, give yourself license to chew: eat as many of the good, healthy foods on your list as you want. Bulk up on frozen fruit and wild blueberries, shovel on the greens, go crazy with beans, and heap on the lean proteins.

Cheat-worthy Recipes

Remember your ace in the hole is always a food that is full of high-powered health and disease prevention and is also terrifically tasty. Wild blueberries are an ideal case in point. You can pretend you're cheating when you eat them, but in fact, wild blueberries are a complexly delicious, nutritious, antioxidant-rich, low-calorie stand-in for a favorite forbidden food.

No matter what your cheat style, here are some wild cheats that fit the bill. Get extravagant with Wild Blueberry Cheesecake Tart with Nut Crust, get a chocolate fix with Fudge Cake with Wild Blueberries, and head for the comfort of Skinny Cook Allison Fishman’s Wild Blueberry Cobbler With Buttermilk Biscuits.

Need more? Epicurious plays “splurge day” recipes against “every day” recipes that include healthy comfort foods that you can incorporate into your healthy eating plan, including Mac and Cheese and Pizza.  And, WebMD has Turkey Tamale Pie that is hearty and veggie-heavy.

Thanksgiving…the ultimate cheat. From creamy onion tart to coconut butternut soup, New York Times Well blog says forgo the bird and indulge in wonderful flavors of veggies.

Got a favorite cheat? Share it with us!