A Michelin-Starred Veggie Stock

The truth is that lots of the world’s top Michelin-starred chefs turn up their noses at the idea of cooking for vegetarians. “Some chefs don’t see the fun in working with vegetables. But I really enjoy the challenge of creating a vegetarian dish, especially when it wins over meat lovers,” says Heiko Nieder, the head chef at The Restaurant in Zurich’s Dolder Grand Hotel, and the founder of its annual Epicure Food Festival for fellow Michelin-starred chefs (over the course of his career, he’s been awarded four stars). A fan of getting creative with veggies, he also designed an entire vegetarian tasting menu at The Restaurant, something that is extremely rare for ultra-fine dining.

One of Chef Nieder’s favorite healthy, vegetarian options on the menu is a “high-end-version of your grandmother’s vegetable soup.” To kick up the flavor without adding any fat, he uses herbs — parsley, bay leaves and thyme — and two types of mushrooms, his favorite veggie to cook with. “They make vegetable stock taste special and give it an unbelievable depth,” he says. Here, he topped the ultra-flavorful broth with tomato, basil, celery and parsley. “It’s not necessary, but it makes for a beautiful presentation and adds to your vegetable intake,” says Chef Nieder.

Make it all fall and winter, and prepare to win over vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

Vegetable Stock

Courtesy of Chef Heiko Nieder at The Restaurant

2 1/2 pounds tomatoes
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound button mushrooms
2/3 pound celery
2/3 pound onions
2/3 pound celeriac
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley
2 sprigs thyme
5 bay leaves
12 cups water
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

Finely chop vegetables and saute in a large stock pot for 15 minutes.

Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool 30 minutes, then pass through a sieve. Top with additional vegetables and herbs, if desired.

Photos courtesy of Fabian Haefeli

Sarah Z. Wexler is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. She has written for Food Network Magazine, Bon Appetit, Saveur, O, The Oprah Magazine, New York Magazine, Esquire, and Glamour, among others. 

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Nutrition News: Next-level healthy eating, diet and gut health, embrace moderation

Next-level healthy eating
You’d think eating foods that are good for you would be enough, but it turns out you can actually do more. Writing in The Washington Post, dietitian Cara Rosenbloom reveals eight ways you can take healthy foods up to the next level. For instance, if you add black pepper (even just a sprinkle) to curry, you boost the anti-cancer benefits of the antioxidant curcumin. If you drink wine with fish, you may elevate the levels of Omega-3 fats in your blood, which may help protect against heart disease. And when you eat an apple, cucumber, potato, peach or kiwi, leave on the peel, where most of the antioxidants, vitamins and fiber are stored. “In the case of apples, a major component of the peel is quercetin, which is an antioxidant associated with a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes,” Rosenbloom explains. There are five more tips where those came from.

Is your diet messing up your gut?
If you are restricting calories too much or steering clear of a food group, registered dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield warns in U.S. News & World Report, you may be wreaking havoc on your microbiome, which is key in maintaining a strong immune system and regulating hunger and mood. The best thing you can do to boost your gut health is to feed the bacteria a variety of foods, like plants, that “they love to eat,” Scritchfield advises. She notes that, by contrast, dieting is among the worst things you can do for your gut health: When we starve ourselves, we starve the bacteria in our gut. What’s more, Scritchfield counsels, you definitely don’t want to get into a food “rut,” because eventually this will lower the “microbial diversity in the gut.” The best part? Scritchfield says coffee, wine, tea and chocolate are actually good for your gut. She doesn’t have to tell us twice!

Everything in moderation
No such thing as too much of a good thing? Actually, dietitian and Healthy Eats blogger Toby Amidor observes in U.S. News & World Report, when you consume large amounts of some healthy-in-moderation foods, you may impede your ability to absorb their nutrients, restrict diet variety by crowding out other foods or overdo it on the calories. She shares eight foods it’s best to measure out in order to maintain control over your portion size. They are: almonds (suggested portion: 23 per snack), salad dressing (two tablespoons), avocado (1/4 per serving), peanut butter (two tablespoons per meal, one per snack), granola (two to four tablespoons as a topper), oil (two teaspoons to saute a few vegetables; one or two tablespoons for a pound or so of meat), pasta (one or two cups cooked), and juice (six fluid ounces). Keep your measuring cups and spoons at the ready.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

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6 Lightened-Up Sweets for a Healthier Halloween

Halloween is not the night to restrict your diet, but that doesn’t mean your evening of revelry should be quashed by a sugar coma. If you’re hosting a party this year, skip store-bought sweets and opt for homemade goodies instead. Don’t hesitate to whip up everyone’s favorites — cookies, candies, even a cocktail or two. But a few mindful alterations (and moderation) can save you from a sugar hangover the next morning. Here are five festive recipes that are sure to hit the spot without going overboard.

Spider Bites
Sandra Lee’s homemade chocolate-peanut butter clusters are incredibly quick and convenient — and at a glance, they’ll raise the hair on the back of your neck. The recipe calls for creamy peanut butter; for an extra fiber boost, use all-natural PB.

Spiced Pumpkin-Raisin Cookies
Normally, a Halloween dessert spread consists of a heaping bowl of store-bought candy, but these homemade pumpkin-raisin cookies are geared toward a more mature crowd. Simply add pumpkin puree and allspice to classic oatmeal-raisin cookie batter for a comforting fall spin.

Sweet and Spicy Pepitas Popcorn Balls
If your guests are partial to kettle corn, give them a lighter version to nibble on. Food Network Magazine created an updated spin on the crunchy fall treat simply by mixing freshly popped popcorn with a little bit of caramel and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Orange Sherbet Cups with Blackberries
Try finding a Halloween treat that’s more refreshing — or more festive — than this one. Play up the orange-and-black motif by hollowing out some orange halves. Then, fill each half with a generous spoonful of your favorite orange sherbet. Complete the sinister look by topping each “cup” with fresh blackberries.

Mexican Pumpkin Punch
It isn’t a party without a cocktail, and as alcoholic beverages go, this one isn’t too bad. Plus, it comes with the bonus of seasonal pumpkin flavor. Simply combine pumpkin puree with brown sugar, cinnamon sticks and water, then garnish with pineapple chunks, pecans and a splash of rum, if desired. You’ll save calories and fat by taking cream and sugary juices out of the equation.

Pumpkin Caramels
Sure, you don’t want to eat these chewy caramels every day if you’re trying to be a more health-conscious eater. But Halloween comes only once a year, and what would it be without a classic confection to sink your teeth into? One piece contains 92 calories but just 2 grams of fat, so use moderation and you won’t wake up with a stomachache the next morning.

For more spooky treats, check out these recipes from our friends:

A Mind “Full” Mom: Mini Pumpkin Pie Cookies
Creative Culinary: Halloween Mummy Cupcakes with Espresso Chocolate Cake and Vanilla Buttercream
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Twix Bar Brownies
Devour: 5 Horror and Sci-Fi TV Show-Themed Halloween Bites
The Mom 100: Mummy Cupcakes
Foodtastic Mom: Bourbon Bacon Pumpkin Seeds
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Mini White Pumpkin Milk Fudge with Dry fruit Filling
Taste with the Eyes: Three Truly Gruesome But Tasty Halloween Recipes
Mom Loves Baking: Pumpkin Cupcakes
Swing Eats: Spooky Halloween Buckeyes
Pinch My Salt: Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes
FN Dish: When Food Gets in Costume: Edible Takes on Creepy Halloween Things

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DIY Healthy Halloween Treats

If you’re spooked by the overwhelming amount of highly processed junk coming into your house this time of year, try making some of your own treats. While these are certainly sugary confections, you control the quality of the ingredients and the amount of sugar, which helps make things a little less scary. Here are two no-fail recipes that the kids can help create.

Festive Dark Chocolate Lollipops
Makes 12 lollipops

You can use premade lollipop molds, but it’s even more fun to pour chocolate pops freeform. These impressive treats literally take only minutes to make! Get the kids in the kitchen to help decorate.

5 ounces dark chocolate
Halloween sprinkles and other edible decor

Line a sheet pan with a nonstick baking mat and arrange lollipop sticks in a row about 6 inches apart. Melt chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler. Pour a heaping tablespoon of melted chocolate over the top quarter portion of each lollipop stick. Decorate as desired and allow to set for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy immediately or wrap in plastic and use within 3 days.

Per serving (1 piece): Calories 63; Fat 4 g (Saturated 2 g); Cholesterol 1 mg; Sodium 0 mg; Carbohydrate 8 g; Fiber 1 g; Sugars 6 g; Protein 1 g

Fruit Juice Gummy Bears
Make this classic kid favorite with fruit juice. You can buy silicone molds online for less than $8, and this recipe will make hundreds of standard-sized candies. Go for antioxidant-rich real fruit juices like pomegranate, apple or grape.

1 cup 100% fruit juice
1/4 cup sugar or honey
6 envelopes unflavored gelatin

In a small saucepan, combine juice and sugar; bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle gelatin evenly into juice mixture and whisk well until liquid is smooth and glossy. Pour into molds and transfer to the freezer for 20 minutes or until set. Remove from molds and store in the refrigerator.

Per serving (20 pieces): Calories 23; Fat 0 g (Saturated 0 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 6 mg; Carbohydrate 4 g; Fiber 0 g; Sugars 4 g; Protein 2 g

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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Exploring The MIND Diet

Diets come and go, but the MIND Diet has the potential to cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in half and keep the brain more than seven years younger. The author of The MIND Diet, nutrition expert Maggie Moon, M.S., RDN, claims this approach to nutrition “is heart-healthy and a solid foundation for healthy eating for just about anyone.” So what exactly does the MIND Diet entail?

The Origin of MIND
The MIND Diet is a cross between the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet. “MIND” stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The diet was developed by researchers at Rush University who created a nutrition plan shown to help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by more than one-third. In this prospective study, 923 people between the ages of 58 and 98 were followed for four-and-a-half years while following the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet and the MIND Diet. Those who adhered to the MIND Diet the most reduced their risk for Alzheimer’s by 53 percent compared with those who did not adhere closely to the diet. Even those who partially adhered to the MIND Diet were still able to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 35 percent compared with those who did not follow the diet.

The Diet
The original diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, Ph.D., a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University in Chicago, and her colleagues, who identified 10 “brain-healthy food groups” that were brimming with antioxidants, resveratrol and healthy fatty acids. These foods included berries, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, fish and beans. According to the researchers, strawberries and blueberries were shown to be the most-potent berries in terms of protecting against Alzheimer’s and preserving cognitive function.

The MIND Diet is a well-laid-out meal plan with recipes that promote these “brain-healthy foods.” The goal is to earn a top score of 15 by eating at least three servings of whole grains, one serving of vegetables and one glass of wine each day. According to Moon, “The MIND Diet includes a glass of wine a day — no more, no less. Wine is a polyphenol-rich food that was linked to better cognitive function in 447 older men and women who were part of the PREDIMED trial.” You’re also eating leafy greens nearly every day, nuts most days of the week, beans about every other day, berries and poultry twice a week and fish once a week, and using olive oil as your main cooking fat.

There is also a list of foods to limit, as they aren’t great for brain health. These include butter, margarine, pastries, whole-fat cheese, red meat and fast food. Eating certain foods and avoiding others earns you one point each, adding up to a total possible score of 15. If you don’t hit 15 points, don’t worry! Moon claims, “Scoring 8 out of 15 still had significant benefits, and reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 35 percent. So even moderately following the guidelines can help.”

Chicken Curry Salad with Ginger, Almonds & Grapes
MIND foods: Poultry, vegetables, nuts, leafy greens
Serves: 8

2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup almond slivers, toasted
1/2 cup mayonnaise (recipe below)
1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast
5 teaspoons mild curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
One 6-ounce cup plain strained yogurt (like Greek or Icelandic)
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1 medium red onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and small diced
1 1/2 cup seedless grapes, halved or quartered
2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wash, dry and prep all fresh produce. Spread almond slivers in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 8 minutes (check after 5 minutes), until lightly browned.

2. On medium heat, combine chicken broth and 3 cups of water in a medium pot. On low heat, add curry and ginger powder to a small saute pan, stirring occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside. Meanwhile, pat chicken breasts dry with paper towels. When liquid is simmering, add chicken (it should be covered by the liquid), adjusting heat to maintain a simmer if needed. Cook, uncovered, for 7 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pot and let rest on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes.

3. While chicken is cooking, make the mayonnaise (see directions below), if making, and set aside in refrigerator.

4. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, lime juice, honey, curry and ginger powder mix, and fresh ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Add in onion, bell peppers, grapes and almonds, gently stirring to coat (I used a soft spatula for this part).

5. When chicken is cool enough to handle, dice into bite-size pieces (about 1/2-inch squares). Gently fold chicken into main salad mixture, using a soft spatula or gloved hands.

6. Taste it. If it needs adjusting, seasoning to taste with salt, pepper and lime juice. For my tastes, I ended up adding another tablespoon of lime juice just at the end.

Make Your Own Mayonnaise

1 pasteurized egg yolk (I like Davidson’s Safe Eggs)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolk, lemon juice and mustard together until smooth and homogenous. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, constantly whisking to keep mixture smooth. See, super easy, and tastes so much better than store bought.

Recipe and photos courtesy of Maggie Moon and The MIND Diet

Per serving: Calories 280; Fat 20 g (Saturated 3 g); Carbohydrate 14 g; Fiber 3 g; Protein 14 g

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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Quick Weeknight Pho Ga

The star of pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup sold throughout the country at modest stands or tables on the street, is its rich and deeply flavorful broth, made by simmering beef or chicken bones for many hours.

When there aren’t hours available, a shortcut version of this healthful, balanced meal in a bowl can be on the table in about 20 minutes. The key to giving store-bought broth extra flavor is to first char and toast the “aromatics” — that is, the onion, ginger and dried spices — under the broiler. Be sure to place the onion wedges over the dried spices so they don’t burn, which would make them bitter.

Traditional pho is served with all the additional ingredients, such as the greens, fresh herbs, sprouts, lime, and chile peppers (whole or sliced, depending on their size) or Sriracha, for each diner to add to taste.

Quick Weeknight Pho Ga
Yield: 4 servings

One 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices
One 2-inch piece cinnamon
2 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
2 small onions, each cut into 8 wedges
3 garlic cloves, smashed
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch strips
4 ounces rice noodles
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 bunch watercress
1 cup cilantro sprigs
1 lime, cut into thin wedges
Sriracha or chile peppers, to taste

Coat a small baking sheet pan with cooking spray. Place the ginger, cinnamon, star anise and cloves on the pan, and top with the onion. Place under the broiler until the onion begins to char, about 6 minutes; turn and cook another 2 minutes.

Combine the broth, fish sauce, and broiled ginger, spices, onion and garlic in a soup pot, then bring to a boil. Gently boil 6 minutes. Using a small strainer, scoop the solids out of the broth and discard.

Add the chicken to the broth and reduce the heat to medium. Cook 3 minutes, add the noodles and cook another 3 minutes, until noodles are soft and chicken is cooked through.

Use tongs to transfer the noodles to four bowls; ladle the soup and chicken over the noodles.

Place about 1/4 of the bean sprouts and watercress in each bowl, and pass the cilantro, lime and chile pepper for diners to add to taste.

Per serving: 281 calories, 31 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 942 mg sodium

Marge Perry is an award-winning  food, nutrition and travel writer and teacher whose work appears regularly in Rachael Ray Every Day, AllRecipes, Newsday, and on her blog, A Sweet and Savory Life. In addition, Marge is a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and an Adjunct at New York University, where she teaches food writing.

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Cauliflower Piccata

For this piccata recipe, roasted cauliflower steaks are cooked in a delicious sauce of butter, wine, parsley, lemons and capers. To me, the pairing of bright lemon and briny capers is almost magical; spooning it over tender cauliflower finished with a generous serving of parsley is an easy way to maximize vegetable intake.

This cauliflower piccata is a vegetarian showstopper, a beautiful main dish perfect for holidays yet easy enough to enjoy for weeknight dinners. To create cauliflower “steaks,” remove the outer leaves and the bottom portion of the stem. Then slice the cauliflower into 1-inch-thick slabs. Depending on the size of your cauliflower, you may have only three to four steaks per head. For a main dish, serve the cauliflower steaks with egg noodles or roasted potatoes — and extra piccata sauce.

Cauliflower Piccata
Yield: 2 servings

1 head cauliflower
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with olive oil.

Remove outer leaves and bottom portion of stem from cauliflower, then slice into 1-inch slabs. Depending on the size of the head, you will have 3-4 steak slabs and the rest will be florets. You’ll roast those along with the slabs.

Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until edges are crisp and slightly browned.

As the cauliflower roasts, melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 4-5 minutes, until crispy. Add in the wine and cook for another 3-4 minutes, deglazing the pan and scraping up any bits of crispy shallots. Add in the lemon juice, vegetable broth and capers, and cook another 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened.

Remove cauliflower from the oven, divide among two plates and top with sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Per serving: Calories 300; Fat 24 g; Cholesterol 48 mg; Sodium 700 mg; Carbohydrate 7 g; Fiber 3 g; Protein 6.5 g

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.” 

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