Vermont Offers Year-Round Freshness with Winter Farmers’ Markets

January 28, 2016  
Filed under Food

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MONTPELIER, Vt. – Vermont is a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement, and it boasts more farmers’ markets per capita than any other state in the country. Fresh produce, crafts, baked goods, meats, and specialty foods are available nearly year-round. If you’re visiting Vermont between November and April, check out these winter farmers’ markets. Find more exciting Vermont events at www.VermontVacation.com

 

BENNINGTON FARMERS MARKET

Through April 16

Baptist Church on East Main, Bennington, VT

First and third Saturday, 10am-1pm Read more

Cocktail Walks

April 28, 2015  
Filed under Feature Stories, Food

A representative of WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey talks rye at Hotel Vermont. (Photo courtesy of Vermont Farm Tours)

A representative of WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey talks rye at Hotel Vermont. (Photo courtesy of Vermont Farm Tours)

Get an inside look at Vermont’s emerging craft spirits scene

From soils to speakeasies, cocktails are a terrific representation of place, and some of the most evocative cocktails in the world are coming out of Vermont. Cocktail Walk introduces enthusiasts to the distillers and bartenders who are turning the Green Mountain State into a cocktail destination.
Chris Howell, founder of Vermont Farm Tours, created Cocktail Walk in 2013 to showcase the array of spirits produced in Vermont, as well as the bartending talent in Burlington and Winooski. Cocktail Walk now runs every other week. Each two-hour Cocktail Walk features a Vermont distiller and visits three restaurants for cocktails and food. The distiller is along to talk shop, and the bartenders discuss their creations and share recipes. The pace is relaxed, with time to eat, drink and catch up with friends.
It starts with dirt
A well-crafted cocktail may be the ultimate expression of terroir—the taste of place. And that taste is shaped first by the soil. Vermont is known as a cheese mecca, but the same soils that underlie the flavor of the state’s best cheeses also grow the grains, fruit, and botanicals that make Vermont’s finest spirits. In the hands of a talented distiller, a bag of rye—and the resulting whiskey—tells the story of the dirt and weather that shaped it.
An increasing number of Vermont’s 19 and counting craft distillers are embracing the notion of terroir and sourcing locally grown ingredients. Some, like WhistlePig in Shoreham, have even started growing their own (rye). Others, like Caledonia Spirits in Hardwick, are using local wood (white oak) for their aging barrels. Still others, like Vermont Spirits, harvest their own botanicals (juniper for their gin).
Ingredients matter
A good cocktail must have quality ingredients. Vermont sets itself apart not only with the sheer number of top-quality spirits made in state, but also with a cornucopia of locally produced herbs, tonics, and bitters—like Urban Moonshine, a medicinal bitters and tonic manufacturer in downtown Burlington.
Thank your bartender
If a cocktail is born in the soil, it is baptized at the bar. Cocktail Walk’s bartenders are assigned a different Vermont libation for each event. From there, the show is theirs. And they do impress—from Scott Christian’s (Bluebird Tavern) passion for prohibition-era cocktails to Mike Dunn’s (Misery Loves Co.) knowledge of the botanicals in Barr Hill Gin, Cocktail Walk’s bartenders consistently craft drinks as dynamic as they are delicious.

For more information, visit www.vermontfarmtours.com/cocktailwalk.html

Tasteful: Good morning granola bars

March 27, 2015  
Filed under Food

By Jan Kenney

I recently decided to re-think granola bars. They sounded healthy, they pack well, and they taste pretty good. However, after reading the nutrition information on the side of the box, and the price tag, I nixed that idea. But then I got to thinking, “How hard could they be to make at home?”
Turns out they aren’t hard or time-consuming at all. And the bonus is that I get to control what goes into them. I don’t need all of the preservatives that the packaged variety contain. I can control the sodium. Organic ingredients are an option. They can be gluten- and dairy-free. And I can cut them into whatever size suits.
I prefer the ‘squishy’ version of granola bars over the hard, crumbly kind, ones that were not too sweet and didn’t fall apart. Then I got out my cookbooks and searched the Web and began experimenting.
The homemade bar that I have based this recipe on is from the Smitten Kitchen (smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/02/thick-chewy-granola-bars/. )
I have made some modifications to fit my taste and nutritional preferences. I added powdered milk because I figured I could sneak some calcium in. I also added a little bit of coconut oil for flavor, but also because it seemed to help the bars adhere together better.
The fun thing about granola bars is how flexible they can be. One can add crushed up pretzels, the last handful of Rice Krispies, cinnamon chips, pumpkin seeds, dates, dried banana chips – its your choice.
Now that I’ve made them a few times, I can make a batch in about 35 minutes, and 20 of those are baking time.
They’ve been a hit at our house. I hope they make mornings at your house easier, too.

Soft Granola Bars
(With thanks to the Smitten Kitchen for inspiration)
Ingredients
3 cups oatmeal (old fashioned or quick)
1 cup of oatmeal finely ground in blender or food processor
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 to 3 cups of add-ins*
2/3 cup of peanut butter or other nut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or maple extract)
1/2 cup of honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup dry milk (optional)
3 Tablespoons water
1/4 cup of coconut oil

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper.
Mix together the dry ingredients. Place the remaining ingredients in a microwave-friendly bowl and heat for 1 minute or until peanut butter is soft. Stir and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix until well blended. (If there is dry oatmeal still at the bottom of the bowl, add a little more honey/syrup.)
Spread everything into your prepared pan. Firmly press the mixture down and into the corners of the pan with a rolling pin or a wooden spoon. Putting a piece of plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with baking spray over top before packing can help if sticking is a problem.
Bake the bars for 20-25 minutes, until they are starting to brown around the edges. They can bake for another 10 minutes if you like them crisper.
Let cool to luke-warm. Cut into bars or squares. Let them cool completely, then wrap individually or store in airtight container.
*Suggestions: dried cranberries, dates, apricots, coconut, crushed pretzels, Rice Krispies, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pecans, dried apples, chocolate chips, dried pineapple, Bran Buds, flax, sesame seeds, raisins, wheat germ.

Just in Time for the Holidays Table Manners & First Impressions

January 15, 2015  
Filed under Food

Etiquette is all about learning proper social skills — from how to make first impressions in interviews and during social events, to graceful dining habits that are vital signposts to success in today’s very competitive business environment,” says Fiona Cameron-Williams, International Protocol Consultant to the United Nations International School in Queens, NY, and President of FCW Hospitality and Private Residence Consulting, Inc.

Cameron-Williams believes that table manners play an important part in making a favorable impression, be it at a business meeting, on a first date or during a social gathering. “They are visible signals of the state of our manners and therefore are essential to personal and professional success. The point of etiquette rules is to make you feel comfortable, not uncomfortable.”

Here are some suggestions:
Simple table manners
Pass food from the left to the right. Do not stretch across the table, crossing other guests, to reach food or condiments.
If asked for the salt or pepper, pass both together, even if a table mate asks for only one of them. This is so dinner guests won’t have to search for orphaned shakers.
Set any passed item, whether it’s the salt and pepper shakers, a bread basket or a butter plate, directly on the table instead of passing hand-to-hand.
Never intercept a pass. Snagging a roll out of the bread basket or taking a shake of salt when it is en route to someone else is a no-no.
Always use serving utensils to serve yourself, not your personal silverware.
In a restaurant
As soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it and put it in your lap. Do not shake it open. At some very formal restaurants, the waiter may do this for the diners, but it is not inappropriate to place your own napkin in your lap, even when this is the case.
The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Don’t clean the cutlery or wipe your face with the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose!
If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Never place your napkin on your chair.
At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted; nor should it be folded. The napkin must also not be left on the chair.

At a private dinner party
The meal begins when the host or hostess unfolds his or her napkin. This is your signal to do the same. Place your napkin on your lap, completely unfolded if it is a small luncheon napkin or in half, lengthwise, if it is a large dinner napkin.Do not shake it open.
The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal.
The host will signal the end of the meal by placing his or her napkin on the table. Once the meal is over, you too should place your napkin neatly on the table to the left of your dinner plate.
For more etiquette suggestions and information, visit www.fionacameron-williams.com.

Fit to eat: Fruits & Vegetables— Do You Wash Them or Not?

December 1, 2014  
Filed under Food, Places I’ve Played

Stuart-Offer---Headshot-CMYK

By Dr. Stuart Offer

My wife Leslie and I are traveling around the U.S. in our motorhome. Recently, we spent a wonderful day at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Wash. The market was enormous with indoor and outside displays of every imaginable food. There were numerous fruit and vegetable stalls selling their produce, some of which was in the form of cut fruit sold in cups and fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. My first impression was “Wow, what a beautiful and healthy display of foods.” However, knowing what I know I also had the thought, “Does the public know of the dirty little secret about fresh produce that could make you sick or even kill you, and yes even from organically grown produce?”

The dirty secret — much of this produce can be contaminated.

So, should you wash your produce? The short answer is an absolute yes. Let’s face it nobody likes to get a mouthful of sand and grit when eating a salad, however there are many more reasons to wash your produce than this. Many of us may just carry on the traditions that our families did from the past, washing or not washing. For those who never wash, here is some information that may make you reconsider.

There are three reasons to wash your produce: contamination from soil; microbes; and pesticides. As I said, no one likes biting into a gritty salad, and the problems connected with microbe-contaminated produce have been well publicized. Pesticides are designed to be toxic and their effects on people are well understood, so it’s best to avoid them when you can.

Federal health officials estimate that nearly 48 million people are sickened by food contaminated with harmful germs each year, and some of the causes might surprise you. Although most people know animal products must be handled carefully to prevent illness, many don’t realize that produce can also be the culprit in outbreaks of foodborne illness. In recent years, the United States has had several large outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated fruits and vegetables including spinach, tomatoes and lettuce.

Fresh produce can become contaminated in many ways. During the growing phase, fruits and veggies may be contaminated by animals, harmful substances in the soil or water or poor hygiene among workers. After produce is harvested, it passes through many hands, increasing the contamination risk. Contamination can even occur after the produce has been purchased, during food preparation or through inadequate storage.

The FDA has some very good guidelines and recommendations when it comes to produce. Here is what they recommend: 

Buying Tips

Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.

When selecting fresh-cut produce such as half a watermelon or bagged salad greens, choose items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products.

Storage Tips

Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs and mushrooms) in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below.

Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled.

Preparation Tips

Begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.

Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded. The bruised and damaged areas are where bacteria thrive. 

All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking. The more water the better here. 

Many precut, bagged produce items like lettuce are pre-washed. If the package indicates that the contents have been pre-washed, you can use the produce without further washing.

Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first. For instance, if your melon has bacteria on the outside of it and you do not wash it, then cutting into the melon will introduce the germs into the flesh of the fruit. 

Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended. The effectiveness of detergents and commercial products have not been proven and can leave residue on the produce. Yuck, who wants detergent on their strawberries?

Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. 

Drying produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.

Also, keep in mind that packaged fruit and vegetable juices are required to be pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. Farm stand and cider mills that sell fresh juice by the glass are not required to be pasteurized or have a warning label. Also, make sure that fresh cut fruit, such as melon, is stored under 40 degrees or packed on ice. The FDA has recommended the young, elderly or people with weakened immune systems avoid any unpasteurized juices or cut fruit that has not been stored properly. 

One final piece of advice ­ be diverse. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This is not only nutritionally beneficial but may help limit exposure to any one type of pesticide residue.

Fit to Eat: Don’t Cook for Two

September 18, 2014  
Filed under Food

By Dr. Stuart Offer
For many years, I have traveled to all corners of Vermont coaching and teaching people about nutrition. The area from which I get the most requests for help is meal planning.
I love cookbooks and over the last few years I have seen many new books appear with names such as “The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook” and “Cooking for Two.” Personally, I think these books are the worst idea when it comes to meal planning and cooking for busy people, and who these days is not busy?
Instead, let’s talk about the benefits of cooking for four, even six, (let’s call it “cooking large”) when there are only two of you, maybe only one of you.
I love to cook, but I don’t love cooking seven nights a week. I feel a better idea is cooking once, then using the food to create a few meals from the leftovers. This way, I don’t feel so much pressure when I want to make a masterpiece dinner because I know I will get more mileage out of it.
I often cook and prepare one or two big meals per week that will later need only small amounts of put-together time for the remaining meals that week.
My wife Leslie and I are Kansas City certified BBQ judges — we travel to judge-sanctioned BBQ competitions. That being said, I enjoy grilling and barbequing big time. I love to cook massive amounts of food on my grill that I can eat all week long.
One of the big advantages when I cook large is I can shop once, often taking advantage of sales and specials, and prep and clean up once instead of multiple times. Although there is nothing like meat on the grill, veggies and fruit are some of my favorite foods to grill at very high temperatures and eat as leftovers. High heat from the grill will carmelize the sugars in the fruits and veggies (yes, even veggies) and give it a very unique and delicious flavor compared to cooking at lower temperatures.
I come from the school of thought that any grilled veggie can benefit from some salt, pepper and granulated garlic. I also believe any fruit cooked on the grill is better with a little sugar and cinnamon. Below is my favorite ratio of salt, pepper and garlic for veggies, as well as cinnamon sugar.
What I love about grilling produce is it is so easy. There is really no recipe, just a procedure that works for everything. I preheat my grill until screaming hot, then I coat each side of the food with a favorite cooking oil, sprinkle with a light coat of seasoning and grill for two to three minutes per side – the length of time will vary based on whether you like things softer (cook longer) or crunchier (cook shorter). Usually everything is done when you get grill marks on each side.
My favorite things to cook: corn on the cob (husk the corn and grill it naked); zucchini; yellow squash and onions cut in ¼ inch slices. Other favorites are cauliflower cut into ½ inch “steaks,” tomatoes, peppers of any type from sweet to spicy (cut these into large pieces so they lay flat) and avocado (cut in half, remove pit and grill the cut side down with the skin on then spoon out the flesh). Fruits include any stone fruit (peaches are my favorite), fresh pineapple and banana (cut banana in half the long way, coat cut side with cinnamon sugar and grill on both side until grill marks form). These fruits make a wonderful dessert, with a little low fat ice cream or in any savory dishes.
Once you have a pile of these, they can be used either at room temperature or warmed up. For the follow-up meals, try putting them into a salad, fill a sandwich, or think tacos and egg dishes such as scrambles or frittatas —great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
As you know, I am always trying to get you to eat more fruits and veggies, so here is a great way to make that happen. By the way, this also works for meat, poultry and seafood.
Garlic Pepper Salt
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Cinnamon-Sugar Blend
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Below is an incredibly simple dish that can be made in minutes for breakfast, lunch or dinner
Dr. Stuart Offer is a Vermont health coach and educator currently traveling throughout North America.

Al Fresco Summer Dining in Vermont

August 6, 2014  
Filed under Food

August 2014

By Phyl Newbeck

Summer in Vermont is fleeting so you’ll want to maximize your time in the great outdoors. One way to do that to go on a picnic! Whether it’s an afternoon on the beach, a hike to a scenic overlook, a family get-together or an evening at an outdoor concert, food just tastes better when it’s spread out on a blanket or a picnic table. Enjoy the summer. Dine out while you can!

If you know you’re going use a picnic table, you might want to bring an old plastic-coated cloth that’s easy to wipe down. That way you don’t have to worry about what previous guests – or seagulls – have left on the table. If you’re planning on staying at ground level, a good blanket will provide a little separation between you and the grass or sand. For an outdoor concert, you may want to bring a light, portable chair, but recognize that many venues ask those with taller chairs to sit in the back so they don’t block the views of others.

It’s beautiful outside,but you’re likely to be sharing your space with a few flying creatures, some of whom may think that you are the perfect picnic meal. Mosquitoes are fiercest in the early morning and late evening. Citronella candles can be very romantic, but you won’t want to carry them for long distances so bug repellent is probably something you should think about. For daytime picnics, you’ll also want to remember your sunscreen.

Glass containers aren’t recommended since they’re fragile, but if you do bring along some Chardonnay, don’t forget a bottle opener.

The length of your trip to the picnic site will obviously impact how much or how little you bring. If you’re not going far, a cooler will ensure that food doesn’t spoil and drinks stay cold. A hard-covered cooler has the advantage of doubling as a small table. If you’ve got farther to go, a big knapsack or Adirondack pack basket will do the trick. It’s best to avoid plastic bags unless you enjoy spending your time chasing after them as the wind blows them hither and yon.

Katherine Vanderminden of Village Roots Catering in Pawlet thinks a cold quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and maple balsamic is a perfect picnic dish for a day at the lake. She also favors homemade hummus or black bean dip with vegetable sticks and low salt corn chips. For longer treks, she likes to make venison jerky and will also pre-cut fruit for a healthier snack. Vanderminden cautions picnickers to avoid pasta salads, which dry out quickly, and mayonnaise based salads, which can spoil in the sun and heat.

It’s always safest to pack soft food like fruit or dessert in separate plastic containers. For sandwiches, there is reusable packaging made of cloth with one waxy side for the food and a Velcro clasp to cut down on the use of plastic bags and aluminum foil. One tip for avoiding soggy sandwiches is to put the driest material like meat or cheese closest to the bread with the lettuce and tomatoes in the center. If possible, buy sturdy, re-usable plastic utensils since lighter ones are more likely to break.

Not surprisingly, Director of Vermont State Parks Craig Whipple considers state parks ideal locations for picnics. A tab on the State Parks website even provides a list of prime locations. Whipple suggests the top of Mt. Philo as a great place to spread out a blanket and dine al fresco, but notes that many people prefer the shores of various ponds, lakes and reservoirs. Some parks have sheltered areas which are ideal for large groups of people and convenient for getting out of the weather.

FIT TO EAT: Food and Fractures

June 19, 2014  
Filed under Food

By Dr. Stuart Offer

Osteoporosis is a condition in which your bones are too porous and thin, making them weak, brittle and easier to fracture. According to the national Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis. Another 34 million people are at risk for the condition. Osteoporosis will cause about one half of all women over age 50 to break a bone at some point in their lifetime. One-third of those who suffer hip fractures will require nursing home care, and one-fifth will die in the first year after the fracture. Men — don’t stop reading! Although not as large a problem for you, you too are at risk, just a slightly lower risk.

Needed Nutrients

Your bones need a healthy mix of nutrients to prevent osteoporosis. The good news is this may be as simple as swapping out a few things you are eating too much of and switching to some other things. Osteoporosis and the associated fractures have been shown to be preventable with the proper diet and weight bearing exercise. Muscle loss and balance also become worse as we age, so we have a greater risk of falls.

Your first line of defense against osteoporosis is adequate calcium and Vitamin D intake. However, the story does not stop there. The acid base balance of your diet is a very important factor as well. Acid in the bloodstream causes the breakdown and loss of not only bone, but muscle too. Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, do not cause the problem. It is the acidity resulting from the metabolic breakdown of certain foods. The foods that turn your bloodstream more acidic are grains, like bread, cereals, rice, pasta, crackers, tortillas, cookies, doughnuts, cupcakes and similar foods. When these foods are metabolized, they release sulfuric and other acids into the bloodstream. These grains are also contributing to the increasing overweight and obesity issues of so many Americans.

In contrast, fruits and vegetables get broken down into bicarbonate when they are metabolized, so they add alkali to the body, and this helps neutralize acid. So when your diet is relatively low in fruits and vegetables compared to grains, it is a net acid-producing diet. Protein from animal sources also produces more acidity than does protein from plant sources such as beans and legumes.

Most of you have heard you need calcium for strong bones. Again this is only part of the story. Getting enough calcium is not sufficient, you also need adequate amounts of Vitamin D, which is essential for the absorption of calcium and improves not only bone strength, but muscle strength in our legs as well, lowering the risk of falls and lowering the risk of a fracture if you do fall. Most people, especially in northern climates, get too little Vitamin D. The most important source of Vitamin D is sun exposure, which increases the body’s production of the vitamin. There is very little Vitamin D in the foods we eat, so this is one area where a supplement may be needed. Sources of Vitamin D can be found in salmon and other fatty fish, fortified milk and other fortified food products.

There’s been some confusion about the best strategy for getting enough calcium, and many experts have had second thoughts about the rush to calcium supplements (see related story page 17). As with all vitamins and minerals, you should try to get most of your calcium through your diet. Over the past few years, some controversy has surfaced regarding issues and risks with consuming dairy, however there is one thing for sure, dairy is high in calcium. Other good sources of calcium include kale, broccoli, sardines, soybeans and black-eyed peas.

Weight bearing exercise

Weight bearing exercise is critical for improving and preventing osteoporosis. Walking is a perfect activity. Your body weight will help stimulate bone growth. If you are working out at a gym, choose a machine such an elliptical or treadmill preferably to a bicycle, where you will be sitting. Salt is also an enemy because it causes calcium leaching and bone loss. For optimum bone health, you should also get adequate amounts of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and Vitamin K.

As I have said many times, there is no better strategy for overall good health, as well as strong bones, than eating a wide and varied selection of fruits and vegetables. These should amount to at least 50 percent of the calories you consume. Osteoporosis is another reason to cut back on all of those unhealthy, overweight-producing grains.

Here is a super healthy recipe with all the “right stuff.” Kale is the shining star here.

 

Pan-Seared Salmon with Kale & Apple Salad

Ingredients

Four 5-ounce center-cut salmon fillets (about 1-inch thick)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

1 bunch kale, ribs removed, leaves very thinly sliced (about 6 cups)

1/4 cup dates

1 honey crisp apple or apple of your choice

1/4 cup finely grated pecorino

3 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring the salmon to room temperature 10 minutes before cooking.

Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the kale, toss to coat and let stand 10 minutes.

While the kale stands, cut the dates into thin slivers and the apple into matchsticks. Add the dates, apples, cheese and almonds to the kale. Season with pepper, toss well and set aside.

Sprinkle the salmon all over with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Raise the heat to medium-high. Place the salmon, skin-side up in the pan. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn the fish over with a spatula, and cook until it feels firm to the touch, about 3 minutes more.

Divide the salmon and salad evenly among four plates.

Cheers for the Health Benefits of Red Wine

May 15, 2014  
Filed under Food

By Dr. Stuart Offer

There are times I think people view me as the “food police.” Mostly, I get this impression when someone sees me at the supermarket and they abruptly turn their shopping cart and head in the opposite direction. Sometimes when I meet people in the supermarket, the first thing they say is “look I have healthy food in there.”

I am not the food police, really, and nothing could be further from the truth. My reality is I eat mostly healthy food, but I also eat my fair share of not so healthy food. I like to follow the 80/20 rule, if I am lucky the 90/10 rule. Eat 80 percent healthy food, and take it easy on myself for 20 percent of the time. This 20 percent allows me to stay motivated for the remainder of the time. That being said, I want to tell you about the health benefits of something you will have no problem wanting to consume — red wine. There is no badge needed to enforce this recommendation.

Red wine has been shown to have some amazing health benefits, but before you go out and buy a few cases, let me first tell you what a healthy dose of wine is. If you already drink red wine, do so in moderation and it is recommended that if you don’t drink, do not start for the health benefits alone. According to “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010,” published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation for healthy adults, which means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65 and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.”

The limit for men is higher because men generally weigh more and have more of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women do. A drink is defined as 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer, 5 ounces (148 mL) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of 80-proof distilled spirits. If you drink too much, you will not attain all of the health benefits and could end up with potential health problems instead.

Red wine has many healthy components such as polyphenols and procyanidins, but the shining star of red wine is a chemical called resveratrol, which contributes to many of the health benefits. Many drinks and foods have resveratrol, red wine just has more of it. The following plants and drinks are rich in resveratrol: red wine; grapes; blueberries; raspberries; bilberries and peanuts.

Resveratrol is a compound found in some plants. Plants produce resveratrol to fight off bacteria and fungi. Resveratrol also protects plants from ultraviolet irradiation. Red wine contains more resveratrol than white wine because it is fermented with the skins (white wine is not). Most of the resveratrol in grapes is in the seeds and skin. The positive effects of these chemicals are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and they also reduce the stickiness of blood platelets, raise our omega-3 fatty acids and improve certain healthy enzymes.

As you may be aware, red wine has been widely publicized for its heart-healthy benefits, however the more I dove in to the research, the more I learned that red wine’s health benefits go far beyond the heart. It may surprise you that red wine can reduce the risk of depression and prevent colon cancer (by reducing the rate of bowel tumors by approximately 50 percent). Red wine also has anti-aging properties as seen in the longer life spans enjoyed by the people in Sardinia and southwest France. A team from Loyola Medical Center found that moderate red wine intake can reduce the risk of developing dementia. The investigators explained that resveratrol reduces the stickiness of blood platelets, which helps keep the blood vessels open and flexible. This helps maintain a good blood supply to the brain.

Red wine can reduce the risk and help prevent blinding diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness among Americans age 50 and older. These diseases are caused by an overgrowth of blood vessels (angiogenesis) in the eye. Red wine can stop the out-of-control blood vessel growth in the eye that causes blindness.

Red wine also offers protection from prostate cancer. Moderate drinkers experienced a 6 percent reduced risk. Finally, red wine may have some benefits for insulin sensitivity, helping to prevent type 2 diabetes. Red wine may protect the brain after a stroke, improve lung function and help with preventing lung cancer.

That is quite an impressive list. Red wine has not been my go to libation of choice, however after writing this article, I may just rethink that. By the way, if you are thinking of resveratrol supplements, don’t bother. Research finds supplements do not have the same value as drinking red wine.

Dr. Stuart Offer is a Vermont health coach and educator currently traveling throughout North America.


Lentil stew with oranges

The flavors of this lentil dish are brightened with citrus, then deepened with Pinot Noir (a great way to use up any left over wine)

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces Spanish chorizo sausage, thinly sliced (low fat is best or other sausage of your choice)

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 1/4 cups brown lentils, washed and drained

1 cup dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

5 small oranges

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup chopped fresh dill

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook for 5 minutes or until just browned on both sides. Remove from pan; set aside.

2. Sauté the onion over medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the lentils and cook over high heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are quite tender.

3. Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from 2 of the oranges. Remove the peel and pith from the remaining oranges and slice the flesh into 1/4-inch rounds. Add the chorizo to the lentils and stir in the orange juice. Season with the salt and pepper. Remove from heat and gently fold in the dill and orange rounds.

Tip: This stew can be served cold, too. Combine leftovers with fresh greens for a healthy lunch. To save time, you can substitute 1/2 cup store-bought orange juice for the freshly squeezed.

FIT TO EAT: Manage Your Food, Manage Your Energy

April 9, 2014  
Filed under Food

By Dr. Stuart Offer

There is an energy crisis in the USA. I am not talking about oil and gas, I am talking about human energy. This is the energy needed to wake up in the morning refreshed, get through your work or play day and get home without feeling burned out and exhausted.

Having great energy means being able to maintain a comfortable level of energy throughout the day without having your energy level “rollercoaster,” going through wide swings of big highs only to be followed shortly after with equally dramatic crashes. Having great energy is also being able to call on short bursts of high energy during a crisis without exhausting all of your energy reserves.

One of the best ways to manage your energy is to manage your body’s blood sugar. If you have Type-1 or Type-2 diabetes, you are all too familiar with blood sugar. If you do not have diabetes, this could be new information. Your blood sugar is simply how much sugar is contained in your blood vessels. Our body likes to have a medium level of blood sugar to feel best and too much or too little will have negative effects.

The foods that have the most negative effects on our blood sugar level are those with added sugars of any type, or eating refined grains, such as non-whole grain wheat, white rice, white pasta, etc. Refined grains are called fast carbs because they are digested very rapidly, converted to sugars and then quickly absorbed into your blood vessels. High blood sugar can make you feel energetic, awake and pretty good for a very short time. However, this comes at a stiff price in the dreaded quick blood sugar crash. Just as a temperature thermostat in your house works to control the room temperature by turning on the air conditioning when the temps get high, your pancreas does something similar to control your blood sugar. When the pancreas senses a rapid rise in blood sugar, it will over-release the hormone insulin, causing an equally quick and severe crash in your blood sugar.

Low blood sugar has a number of negative effects on you. When your blood sugar is low, your body instinctively thinks food is scarce and in response releases other hormones. Two of these hormones are glucagon, the hormone that gives you a strong hunger drive, and cortisol, your primary stress hormone (think fight or flight). The end result is that you feel sluggish, moody, irritable, agitated, jittery, hungry and generally stressed out. These types of feelings are not helpful when you need to get things done and deal with people and demanding situations. The time frame from blood sugar peak to valley is about 1.5 to 2 hours. When in a blood sugar low, we often grab the first thing we see to eat, usually some sugary drink, refined carb snack such as a donut, bagel, snack bar or meal such as pasta — repeating the same cycle all day long.

What I have described for you is what makes up a typical American’s eating plan. At the end of the day, this type of eating takes more energy out of you than it puts into you. The way to avoid and make this better is to eat foods that maintain an even, slow release of sugars over a long period of time, four to five hours. The best way to do this is to eat whole grains and to avoid as much added sugars as possible. In addition, eating protein and or fiber with meals and snacks will slow down the absorption of sugars. If you feel like something sweet, try a fruit. Although high in sugar, the fiber will slow down the absorption of sugar.

Another common issue I see that puts you on a blood sugar rollercoaster is skipping meals. Often people skip breakfast thinking this is a good way to lose some weight. This strategy backfires in a number of ways. First, you maintain a low blood sugar state for a long period of time, making you feel cranky and hungry. Next, it will slow your metabolism, allowing your body to burn even fewer calories. If you just need to have something sweet, try a low calorie sweetener. I have found xylitol with the brand name Xyla to be the healthiest and best tasting low calorie sweetener. Xylitol will not raise your blood sugar and release insulin.

When nutritionists talk about anti-aging foods, they’re referring to foods that help prevent conditions such as osteoporosis, inflammation and cancer. This smoothie is loaded with long-term-health boosters. The berries and green tea are potent sources of antioxidants, and the ground flaxseed is full of inflammation-fighting omega-3s. It also contains yogurt, a source of bone-strengthening calcium and immune-supporting probiotics. Blend it for breakfast, and the vitamins, protein and fiber will provide lasting energy for whatever comes your way.

Energy Smoothie

Makes one 14-ounce smoothie

1/2 cup frozen organic blueberries

1/2 cup frozen organic strawberries

1/2 cup chilled green tea, unsweetened

3/4 cup plain low-fat organic Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or chia seeds (no need to grind these)

Natural sweetener or Xylitol to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on medium speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Garnish with fresh berries and serve. Note: For a nondairy alternative, you can substitute cultured soy for the yogurt. You can also substitute other fruit.

Dr. Stuart Offer is a Wellness Coach & Educator.

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