Are you looking for a heart-friendly meal plan? The Mediterranean diet might be just what you need!
The Mediterranean diet is based on traditional healthy ingredients, recipes, and cooking styles used in Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy. Studies have shown that people living in these countries are much healthier than Americans and have significantly lower risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more. Furthermore, the Mediterranean diet is a go-to diet if your goal is weight loss!
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Similar to other healthy eating plans, this diet is based on fish, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It limits the use of saturated fats, making olive oil one of the central ingredients and allows an occasional glass of good wine.
A Mediterranean Diet Plan
While there is no strict eating plan to stick to, there are general guidelines that can be adjusted to personal preferences. In a nutshell, the Mediterranean diet recommends increasing the intake of plant-based ingredients and decreasing the intake of red meat and processed foods.
It should be noted that, besides the following lists of allowed and banned foods, attention should be paid to ingredient proportions and amounts. In addition, the Mediterranean lifestyle includes eating with friends and family, as well as regular physical activities. In other words, besides eating high-quality foods, you should take care of your overall happiness and well-being!
The Mediterranean Diet Food List
List of allowed foods:
Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, herbs, spices, as well as fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil can be consumed on a daily basis.
Chicken and other poultry meat (turkey and duck), dairy (cheese and yogurt), and eggs should be consumed in moderation, whereas red meat is allowed only occasionally (few times a month).
List of forbidden foods:
All processed and refined foods such as added sugars, sweetened beverages, processed meat, refined grains, refined vegetable oils are strictly forbidden. Here is a more detailed list that will help you stay away from unhealthy foods:
- Anything that bears the label ‘low-fat’ or ‘diet’ indicates highly processed foods.
- Added sugar: table sugar, chocolate bars, candies, ice cream, soda, etc.
- Unhealthy trans fats like those found in margarine.
- Refined grain products including pasta and white bread.
- Refined oils like regular vegetable oil (corn, sunflower oil) soybean, cottonseed, canola oil, etc.
- Processed meats including sausages, hot dogs, burgers, etc. Bacon is considered too high in fats and should also be avoided.
The good news is that fulfilling foods such as pasta (preferably whole grain), rice, and potatoes are acceptable in the Mediterranean diet.
People living in Mediterranean countries are known to avoid red meats but take as many as 7-9 servings of fruit daily!
Bread made of whole grains are also allowed. In fact, bread is considered one of the staple foods in the Mediterranean region and is eaten plain or drizzled with olive oil, like in Spain. However, bread is never smeared with margarine or butter!
Nuts are very healthy and highly recommended but bearing in mind they’re high in calories, their intake should be limited to a handful a day. This refers to raw nuts only; toasted, salted, or candied nuts are on the blacklist!
The Mediterranean diet substitutes refined vegetable oils and butter with healthier fats like olive and canola oil. These oils are rich in healthy fats that reduce bad cholesterol levels and keep the heart healthy. Make sure that your olive oil bottle reads “extra-virgin” on the label. Other ‘good’ fat sources are olives, avocados, and avocado oil.
Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and salmon are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, the method of preparation makes a big difference. Avoid fried fish and opt for grilling. It is not only healthier but also less messy.
Spices and herbs like basil, rosemary, mint, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper, can be used in unlimited amounts. They will not only add flavor but also extra nutrients. Restrict the use of salt. If you must use it, opt for healthier options like Himalayan, Celtic, or sea salt.
When it comes to dairy products, opt for low-fat options such as fat-free yogurt, skim milk, and low-fat cheese (mozzarella is the safest option). Even better, try substituting dairy with plant-based milks like rice and almond milk.
And finally, avoid red meat whenever possible. When you do eat it, opt for lean varieties and restrict the amount to a fist-size per portion.
When it comes to drinks, water is recommended in high amounts. Plain, unsweetened coffee and tea are also acceptable. The Mediterranean diet also allows alcohol in moderate amounts. A glass of wine a day can help reduce the risk of heart attack. However, this is completely optional and can be disregarded if you are not a fan of alcohol or have health problems that could be worsened by alcohol intake.
A Weekly Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan and Recipes
Breakfast: Flax and Apple raisin Oatmeal
Lunch: Oriental Tuna Salad
Dinner: Tasty Salmon Cakes
Breakfast: Maple Almond Granola Bowls with Greek Yogurt and Berries
Lunch: Veggie and Humus Sandwich
Dinner: Colorful Pasta Sala
Breakfast: Homemade Granola
Lunch: Broccoli Lasagna Roll-Ups
Dinner: Sunshine Greek Salad
Breakfast: Slow Cooker Vegetarian Omelet
Lunch: Seafood Casserole
Dinner: Fresh Sweet Potato Salad
Breakfast: Whole Grain Zucchini Bread with Honey and Walnuts
Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup
Dinner: Roasted Pepper Pizza
Breakfast: Whole Grain Banana Blueberry Pancakes
Lunch: Cilantro-Lime Sardine Salad in Avocado Halves
Dinner: Lemon Grilled Chicken
Breakfast: Spinach and Feta Omelet
Lunch: Easy Turkey Skillet
Dinner: Grilled Leg of Lamb
Healthy Mediterranean Diet Snacks
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The above mentioned meal plans include ideas for the three main meals. However, the point is not to allow to get hungry so, you’ll need to eat snacks between meals. Opt for a piece of your favorite fruit, handful of nuts, unsweetened Greek yogurt, granola with nut butter, carrots, etc.
The Mediterranean diet is more than a restrictive meal plan, it is a healthy lifestyle that will keep you satiated and healthy!
Veganism looks more glamorous than ever! Stars like Beyoncé and Kylie Janner make vegan lifestyle seem not only right but also attractive. Are you considering crossing the line? Then you should know that your love for animals is not enough to become vegan.
The transition to veganism is not easy and doesn’t happen overnight. You’re not just quitting meat; you’re quitting all animal-derived products. Your organism will react and demand ‘regular’ food. I will hit you with cravings and wake you up in the middle of the night with severe hunger pangs.
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The first step towards veganism is gathering information. Unlike celebrities, you (probably) don’t have a personal chef to cover all your vegan needs. That is why you will need answers to essential questions like:
– What to eat?
– Where to buy vegan food?
– How to cook vegan food?
This post will cover not only these basic questions but also turn your attention to issues like avoiding vegan junk food, as well as finding suitable sources for proteins and vitamins.
What is Veganism Exactly?
Veganism is a type of vegetarian diet that excludes meat, eggs, dairy and other animal-derived products such as honey. However, the term ‘vegan’ can have a much broader meaning.
Many vegans also avoid foods that are processed using animal products like white sugar (contains animal bones) or foods that are grown in a way that endangers certain animal species like some types of coffee.
In addition, most vegans refuse to use products tested on animals, as well as animal-derived products that are not food, such as fur, leather, and wool.
What Do Vegans Eat, Actually?
What is left after you get rid of meat, eggs, and dairy? A vegan diet includes fruits & veggies, as well as all grains, beans, and legumes.
In addition, there are many vegan versions of popular foods like vegan cheese, meat, ice cream, burgers, hot dogs, and mayonnaise, which allow an infinite number of variations.
Let’s not forget to mention soy products (especially tofu and soy milk) which are widely used among vegans. Furthermore, most breads and pasta are vegan, as is rice and French fries!
How to Become Vegan?
So, you’ve made up your mind about becoming vegan. Where to start from
#1 Find your own pace
Experienced vegans claim that going vegan overnight is the worst way to do it. Start small and go step by step. You can remove one animal product at a time or start off as a vegetarian before switching to vegan. Another option is to first become reducetarian, i.e. start reducing the intake of animal-derived products or restrict their use to weekends only.
Allow your organism to adjust to vegan foods before you make the final cut. For instance, have a vegan smoothie before your regular breakfast or eat an apple after dinner. Next step, start substituting animal products with vegan versions.
Chia Matcha Overnight Breakfast Smoothie
Pineapple Mango Vitamin C Booster Smoothie
Antioxidant Cherry Fruit Salad
Even if you have made a complete transition, it’s OK to give yourself a break from time to time. Don’t feel guilty if you have an occasional slice of cake or fried chicken. Forgive yourself and be patient.
#2 Expect lots of questions
Many people will regard your change of lifestyle as a threat to theirs. You will be asked lots of questions and hear many dissuasions. There are two options here – you can either state clearly that you’re doing this for your own reasons or simply make the transition quietly. This second option will reduce the stress and allow you to focus your energy on adjusting to the new diet instead on explaining why on earth did you go vegan.
#3 Find good protein sources
Speaking of people asking questions, the most frequently asked one is “Where do you get your proteins from?” Proteins are extremely important for our bodies. They’re the building blocks of life. However, despite popular belief, animal products are not the richest sources of proteins. Natural soy, seitan, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts, hemp seeds, and quinoa are perfect plant-based protein sources.
Sloppy Vegan Joe
Vegan Red Beans and Rice
Lentil and Quinoa Chili
Zesty Lemon Macadamia Nut Cookies
Hemp Ranch Vegan Pasta Salad
Moreover, vegetables like cauliflower, asparagus, and broccoli also provide a lot of proteins. Let’s not forget about the various vegan protein powders you can use. To conclude, the large number of vegan athletes out there is the best proof that vegans DO consume enough proteins on a daily basis.
Asparagus and Mushroom Vegan Quiche
Vegan Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
Fully Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Peanut Butter Protein Buckeyes Recipe
#4 Find good calcium sources
Knowing that dairy products are the best sources of calcium and vitamin D, there seems to be another problem you need to solve. Well, first of all, we get most of vitamin D from the sun so that’s covered.
Here is another fun fact: the pasteurized milk most of us consume is not that rich in calcium. When scientist insists on drinking milk for calcium, they mean raw milk in which high heat hasn’t destroyed most of the nutrients.
Finally, how to make sure your bones remain stronger if your switch to a vegan diet? The list of naturally calcium-rich foods includes leafy greens like kale and bok choy, soy beans, almonds, and figs. Add calcium-fortified foods like plant-based milk, cereals, and tofu to your shopping list as well. All of the above mentioned foods are also rich in vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium.
Vegan Kale and Artichoke Dip
Banana Almond Meal Muffins
Three-Step No Bake Chocolate Coconut Cashew Bars
#5 Avoid the trap called “Vegan junk food”
What’s the point of going vegan if you eat only French fries, rice, pasta, and white bread? These four starchy food items are the most common choices for newbie vegans, along with processed foods with low nutritional value. Eventually, you will end up being hungry and overweight.
Focus on ingredients that will provide enough proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Translated into simple words, eat more fruits and veggies!
Creamy Vegan Potato Salad
#6 Go easy on soy
You will miss meat and that’s OK. Just don’t make soy a central ingredient in your diet. No matter how bad red meat might be for your heart, eating too much soy is worse. Soy-based meat substitutes are often highly processed and contain lots of sodium and preservatives. The best sources of soy are the fermented soy products like tempeh and natto. Besides being rich in vitamin K and probiotics, these products facilitate the digestion and absorption of soybean proteins. Again, be cautious; no matter how healthy they are, fermented soy products are quite high in calories so make sure to consume in moderation!
Miso tempeh Chili
#7 Consider supplements
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally only in animal foods, so you’ll need to invest in B12-fortified foods and supplements. This vitamin keeps the nervous system and blood cells healthy. Deficiencies can lead to fatigue, weakness, constipation, too much weight loss, nerve problems, and mental disorders like depression. Consider stocking up on some nutritional yeast. It usually comes fortified with B12 and has multiple uses in the kitchen. It adds flavor & saltiness to various dishes (think vegan mac and cheese) but is also used as a thickener for soups and stews.
Tasty Grain-Free “Cheese” Crackers
Vegan Pho with Spiced Tofu
Another nutrient you’ll need to supplement is iron. Unlike animal-based iron which is easily absorbed by the body, plant-based iron is less readily absorbed. That is why in addition to iron-rich foods like sunflower seeds, legumes, dried raisins, and leafy greens, you should also take supplements, as well as vitamin C-rich foods (citrus, red peppers, and broccoli), which facilitate iron absorption.
Vegan Thanksgiving Wraps
Vegan Broccoli Raisin Salad
Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
Consult your doctor before you include supplements in your diet or even better before you even start the transition to a vegan diet.
#8 Shop like a vegan
Be prepared to change the entire way of doing shopping. You’ll be visiting regular grocery stores and supermarkets less and spend more time touring health food stores & farmer’s markets. Don’t be shy to talk to the staff and ask for advice, new products, or lower prices.
No matter what you might have heard, veganism is not an expensive way of life. Many staples like grains, beans, and nuts are quite cheap, especially in health food stores where they’re sold in a bulk. Most fruits and veggies are also affordable, especially if you buy them frozen.
To save a few more bucks, you can shop at farmers’ markets an hour before closing, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or search for daily deals and discounts online.
You will also need to develop a habit of checking the product labels. Some products may seem vegan but contain animal-derived products. For instance, many breads and granolas contain whey, which is made from milk, whereas gummy bears contain gelatin! You never know what’s hiding in your food, so do your homework and learn all the tricky substances before you go shopping.
#9 Cook like a vegan
Remember that you’re not alone. If you have no vegans or vegetarians in your immediate surroundings, join some vegan/vegetarian groups on social media. You can ask the members for tips, advice, and vegan recipes anytime.
Buying a vegan cookbook can also be of great help. Alternatively, browse for vegan cooking websites and apps. Go through various vegan recipes and save the ones that seem interesting, but make sure to gather a number of quick and easy recipes as well.
You can also take your favorite dishes and transform them into vegan meals. For instance, make spaghetti sauce without meatballs or replace the meatballs with a vegan substitute. If you are the only vegan in the family, the thought of cooking two meals every day might sound discouraging. There’s no need to worry! You can cook the same meal in two separate pans. For instance, cook pasta and meat stir-fry separately. Add the meat to the pasta just before serving for your family and cover your own pasta in a store-bought, meat-free spaghetti sauce. However, be prepared that the vegan versions of your favorite dishes will look and taste differently.
Simple Vegan Meatballs
Some of the vegan recipes you make might taste less than delicious the first time. It is wise to lower your expectations when eating a veggie burger the first time. Don’t give up. Give these foods another chance once you get accustomed to new tastes. Or try preparing the same recipe using different product brands or cooking techniques. Try replacing the quinoa in your burger patty with rice or try grilling the burger instead of frying it.
Jalapeño Chickpea Lentil Burgers with Sweet Mango Avocado Pico
Don’t be afraid to explore. In the course of becoming vegan, you’ll discover a range of new ingredients. Make it your goal to buy a new vegan product every time you go shopping and incorporate it in a new vegan recipe. Eventually, you’ll find your diet richer and more varied than ever.
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#10 Eat out like a vegan
Today’s vegans live in a vegan-friendly world. Not only is there a large number of exclusively vegan restaurants, but even regular restaurants include vegan items on their menus. Even fast food places and cafeterias offer vegan options! Turing vegan is a great excuse to tour the restaurants in your city. Check out ethnic restaurants like Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Thai to taste the various vegan dishes they offer. Veggie tacos? Sure. Indian curries? They’re vegan too. Italian pasta? You got it!
Vegan Indian Sweet Potato Soup
Vegan Seven Layer Mexican Dip
Kung Pao Lentils
Fresh Herb Tabouli
Going vegan is an adventure where you get to learn new things every day. Enjoy it!
Summer is almost over and it will be dearly missed. But aren’t you looking forward to a delicious fall? The season of warm and cozy delights is ahead of us! Boy, are we eager to start making pumpkin, ginger and, above all, cinnamon recipes.
We’d better start preparing.
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Cinnamon Time Travel
Can anyone imagine Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas without this fragrant spice? Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the bark of the cinnamon tree. It is one of the healthiest and tastiest spices in the world, widely used in both sweet and savory recipes.
Let’s go back in time and find out more about its origins.
Ancient Egypt. The use of cinnamon goes back to the ancient Egyptians, who used it as medicine and embalming agent. Due to its multiple uses and scarcity, cinnamon was valued more than gold and was offered to monarchs and gods.
The Bible. The Bible mentions cinnamon several times, most commonly as a perfume for clothes and bed sheets, as well as anointing oil. This oil was made from the bark, leaves, or twigs of the cinnamon tree.
Ancient Greece. Greeks were the first to mention the term ‘cassia’. The word is found in one of Sappho’s poems dating from the 7th century BC. Herodotus claimed that cinnamon grew in Arabia, together with other valuable plants like myrrh, incense, and labdanum, protected by winged serpents.
Ancient Rome. Pliny mentions cassia being used to flavor wine, adding that it was as expensive as a ten-months’ salary! This means that the spice was reserved for the rich only. The legend has it that Emperor Nero burned a year’s worth amount of cinnamon at the funeral of his wife.
The Middle Ages. The cinnamon traders kept the source of cinnamon a secret to Europeans. Gullible European peoples believed all sorts of strange stories like the one that cinnamon was collected in nets from the Nile or that giant birds collected cinnamon sticks from an unknown land. These stories circled until the 11th century, when it was discovered that the spice is native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
The Renaissance. By this time, Chinese and Europeans also came to widely use cinnamon, as both a healing agent and a spice. As a result, cinnamon’s value increased and it became one of the most popular trading goods.
Whoever traded with cinnamon had enormous power. Venetian traders were the first to hold a monopoly on the trade in Europe, distributing cinnamon from Alexandria. Their dominance was disrupted with the rise of the Ottoman Empire, which motivated Europeans to search alternative routes to Asia.
In the 16th century, Ferdinand Magellan was searching for spices on behalf of Spain and found a cinnamon species in the Philippines that was similar to the cinnamon found in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The Dutch became main traders in the 17th century after expelling the Portuguese from Sri Lanka. In the 18th century, the British took control of Sri Lanka from the Dutch.
The Difference Between Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon
Not all cinnamon is created equal. Since the cinnamon tree is now growing all over the world, over 250 different cinnamon species have been identified. However, there are two main types widely used: Ceylon cinnamon (often referred to as ‘true’ cinnamon) and Cassia (also called ‘fake’ cinnamon).
Both kinds of cinnamon have a somewhat similar, spicy taste and smell due to the presence of cinnamaldehyde. Other than that, they’re quite different in taste, appearance and especially in their medical properties
Ceylon and cassia come from two different but related cinnamon trees. Ceylon cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka and Thailand and is rarer. That is why this variety is more expensive and harder to find in grocery stores.
Cassia cinnamon is also known as Chinese or Saigon cinnamon. It is cheaper and more widely available. This is the kind of cinnamon we buy and use regularly.
Appearance & taste
As far as taste is concerned, Ceylon cinnamon is said to have a milder, sweeter, and more citrusy taste than cassia, which is deeper and spicier. The Ceylon variety is also lighter brown in color. When it comes in the form of sticks, Ceylon cinnamon is multi-layered, thinner, and softer than Cassia.
Of the two varieties, Ceylon cinnamon is definitely the healthier one. Cassia cinnamon contains high amounts of compounds called coumarins (1000 times more than the Ceylon variety!). These compounds are potentially toxic and when consumed regularly, they can cause serious health issues like liver damage.
Buying and Storing Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon oil and powder can be found in specialty and health food stores, as well as online.
Check the label to determine which type of cinnamon you’re buying. If there’s no indication of the type, it is probably cassia cinnamon. You can also check the price; if it’s higher than usual, it’s probably Ceylon cinnamon.
Cinnamon sticks will keep for a year, whereas the powder has a shelf life of six months. Store cinnamon in tightly sealed glass containers and keep in a cool, dry, and dark place. For longer shelf life, cinnamon can be stored in the fridge. In that case, check the smell before use. If it doesn’t smell sweet, throw it away.
You can also purchase cinnamon sticks and grate fresh cinnamon yourself using a small hand-held grater.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
When talking about health benefits of cinnamon, we’re thinking about the real, Ceylon cinnamon. Consuming just a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon a day has the following health benefits:
– Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants that reduce oxidative damage and slow the aging process. In fact, cinnamon contains over 40 such compounds and ranks #7 on the list of most powerful antioxidant foods on the planet, as well as #1 on the list of top antioxidant spices!
– The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects, which help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, brain problems, and more. These compounds also help relieve pains and severe allergic reactions.
– Cinnamon is very efficient in protecting the heart by lowering high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and high triglyceride levels. It also acts as a blood coagulant and increases blood circulation.
– Cinnamaldehyde has an ability to inhibit tumor growth, causing the cancerous cells to self-destruct. Moreover, cinnamon has been shown very efficient in cancer prevention, especially in reducing the risk of colon cancer.
– Cinnamon is known for its antidiabetic effects as well. It helps lower blood sugar levels, improves sensitivity to insulin, a hormone vital for balancing blood sugar levels, and reduces the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a sugary meal.
– The antioxidants in cinnamon protect the brain against age-related and neurodegenerative brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases by activating the neuroprotective proteins in the brain.
– Cinnamon is a natural antibiotic, anti-microbial, antiviral, and anti-fungal agent. It boosts the immunity and protects against bacteria that affects the skin, digestive tract, and causes flu.
– The anti-fungal properties cinnamon has can help stop the occurrence and growth of Candida in the digestive tract by boosting the immune system and fighting candida-causing yeast in the digestive tract.
– Cinnamon fights bacteria in the mouth that could cause tooth decay, cavities, bad breath, or mouth infections.
– Cinnamon helps fight common allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation. It also boosts immunity and helps regulate the digestive system, which may be helpful after consuming food allergens. Cinnamon can also help relieve asthma attacks.
– Applying cinnamon oil directly to the skin can help with various skin conditions including rashes, irritations, acne, redness, swelling, infections, pain, and allergic reactions. Due to its pleasant smell, cinnamon essential oil is also used in beauty products like perfumes and shampoos.
Cinnamon health precautions: Cinnamon does not cause any allergies, especially if used in small amounts (as it usually is). However, when combined with too many cinnamon-based supplements, it can cause certain health issues, especially in pregnant women, diabetics or those who have liver problems.
Make sure to check the recommended dose of cinnamon extract/supplement on the label or consult with your doctor. When using cinnamon oil on the skin for the first time, apply a small amount on a limited surface to check for possible reactions or irritations.
Cooking with Cinnamon
Due to its delicate flavor, cinnamon is used in almost all cuisines of the world. It is added to both sweet and savory recipes, from cinnamon rolls and cinnamon toasts to popular Middle Eastern and Asian specialties like lamb, curry, rice and more!
One of the biggest advantages of cinnamon is that it can be used to sweeten various dishes without added sugar. It contains no calories or sugar, which makes it a healthy addition to many recipes including tea, coffee, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, and baked goods.
Whole cinnamon sticks can be added to various liquids like mulled wine, to give them a distinct flavor and infuse them with nutrients.
Cinnamon oil has a similar flavor to the powder, only a bit stronger. It is suitable for use in ice creams, teas, condiments, baked goods, candies, and soft drinks. Look for diluted, food grade cinnamon oil approved by the FDA.
Due to its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, cinnamon can also be used as food preservative, without the need to add artificial chemicals. In this process, the use of cinnamon also prevents discoloration of fruits and veggies as a result of oxidation.
Tasty Cinnamon Recipes
Glazed Cinnamon Buns
There’s nothing better than the smell of cinnamon buns baking on a chilly Sunday morning! Tip: To make sure your buns rise perfectly, put the pan with the dough slices in a 200 degrees F oven for one minute. Then, turn the oven off, close the door, and leave the buns for about half an hour inside. They’re done when they double in size!
Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
This traditional light & flaky cinnamon rolls recipe is complemented with a creamy pecan filling and a sweet glaze on top.
These super-soft cookies are made from a cake mix. They’re rolled in cinnamon sugar and baked to golden perfection. Tip: Adding a ¼ cup ﬂaked almonds to the mixture will contribute extra texture to the recipe.
Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake
A delicious cake made with sour cream as a secret ingredient inside the batter and a crunchy pecan streusel as frosting on top. Tip: Let the cake cool on a wire rack. This way, the circulation of air around the pan will prevent the cake from ending up soggy at the bottom.
Swiss Cinnamon Roll
Perfection comes as an apple-and-cinnamon blend in this simple cinnamon rolls recipe. Tip: To easily change the flavor of the dessert, replace the cinnamon filling with almonds. Add flaked almonds over the parchment with the sugar and a few more over the apple butter filling.
Cinnamon Swirl Bread Pudding
The classic bread pudding is reinvented with the addition of cinnamon swirl! Tip: If you want to impress a hungry crowd, sweeten the buttery bread pudding with a 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips instead of the raisins.
Glazed Cinnamon Cookies
These sweet and spicy bites have a nutty, cinnamon ﬁlling rolled up inside a sugar cookie dough and a drizzle of sweet glaze over the top. Tip: To complement the sweetness with a tangy note, add four tablespoons of chopped dried cranberries, dried cherries, or raisins to the filling.
Cinnamon Meringue Slices
Crispy, sweet pastries topped with spicy and slightly chewy meringue produce a delicate treat that pairs beautifully with your morning cup of coffee. Tip: Take this delight to another level by preparing chocolate meringue! Just replace the cinnamon with cocoa (use 1–2 tablespoons cocoa powder).
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Cinnamon Nut Crescents
How to turn plain crescent rolls into sweet, nutty, cinnamon-ﬁlled delights? This recipe will reveal the secret! Make sure to serve them warm and they’ll disappear in no time! Tip: to make these rolls attractive, top them with a simple glaze. Just combine ½ cup confectioners’ sugar and 4 teaspoons milk in a small bowl. Stir until smooth and lightly drizzle the glaze over the tops.
These tasty cookies are ﬂavored with spicy cinnamon, ground almonds, and a twist of lemon. Pair them with a warm cup of coffee or a glass of milk. Tip: To make Italian stuffed peaches, process 3 crinkles, 1 tablespoon each sugar, and softened butter in a food processor. Halve and pit 2 peaches, spoon the filling into the peach halves, and place in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of red wine or grape juice and bake at 350˚F for about half an hour.
Breakfast for many people is one of the most important meals of the day. As a matter of fact, if you want to supply your body with sufficient energy for the day, it is important to take a well balanced breakfast and this calls for proper planning on your side. There are particular foods you should avoid as a part of your breakfast but on the other hand there are those you must have if you are to eat healthy. This article will discuss 7 must have foods for your breakfast plan. These include the following:
Eggs top the list of delicious and healthy foods you should and must take for your breakfast. Eggs can help lower the overall calorie intake during your next meals, keep you feeling full, and steady your insulin and blood sugar levels. In addition, egg yolks offer zeaxanthin and lutein, two oxidants which can help prevent eye disorders such as macular and cataracts.
Eggs can also be great for liver and brain health, thanks to the presence of a nutrient known as choline. Eggs are also a good source of high-quality protein. Their versatility makes them suitable even for people who’ve need to eat breakfast on the go. Just boil your eggs and enjoy as you rush to work
- Whole grain options
Eating whole grains has many health benefits for your body. They are also easy to prepare and will also go very well with eggs and other options. For example, you can grab a whole grain toast, whole grain granola or whole grain cereals which take only a few minutes to prepare.
Whole grain foods have healthy fiber which will help the body system stay normal, thus making them beneficial right from early in the morning. Whole grain foods also enhance digestion.
- Fresh fruits
Most fresh fruits, including berries, are very healthy and ideal for breakfast. Berries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, both of which have great benefits to the body. For example, antioxidants help prevent cell damage, thus keeping the body strong and youthful. Vitamins on the other hand strengthen your body’s immune system.
Berries are inexpensive and you can eat them fresh during the season. You can also consume frozen berries by adding them to your yogurt or low-fat milk and make your favorite smoothie.
Coffee is a very healthy beverage and can help kick-start your day. It’s rich in caffeine which will help enhance your alertness, mood, and mental performance. Caffeine also helps increase your metabolic rate as well as the fat burning process by a great rate.
This beverage will be a good part of your breakfast especially if you are seeking to lose weight. Additionally, coffee is a good source of antioxidants which help reduce inflammation, decrease diabetes risk and protect cells lining the blood vessels. Caffeine also helps improve circulation.
There are various types of nuts which you can include in your breakfast to make it healthier and satisfying. By nature, nuts are nutritious, tasty, and satisfying and help prevent weight gain. Some of the healthiest and most nutritious nuts include almonds, ground nuts, and peanuts.
They have nutrients which help lower the risk of a heart disease, decrease inflammation, and reduce insulin resistance. They are also high in potassium, magnesium and monounsaturated fat which is healthy for the heart.
- Probiotic yogurt
Probiotic yogurt is undoubtedly an excellent addition to your breakfast. Yogurt offers probiotics which are good in eliminating bad bacteria from the digestive tract. Yogurt boosts the digestive system, especially the sugar-free formulas as they are healthier. You can mix yogurt with whole grain granola, fresh fruits or eat it on its own.
- Green Tea
This is one of the best and healthiest beverages to drink especially for breakfast. Like coffee, green tea contains caffeine and therefore helps improve your mood and alertness. It is also a good drink for raising your metabolic rate. Drinking green tea can help prevent diabetes, reduce insulin levels and blood sugar. It is also rich in EGCG, an antioxidant that keeps the heart, nervous system, and brain in good shape.
With these 7 superfoods, your breakfast will always be healthy and tasty. There are also other foods such as protein shakes and flaxseeds which strengthen your body and help improve your performance. For more healthy foods, visit cookingdetective.com
Good nutrition is crucial for improving your performance and helping you recover faster after a training session. Optimal nutrient intake before exercise increases endurance and energy levels. Accordingly, the intake of right foods after exercise help your body refuel and reduces muscle damage.
Even though there is a wide range of conflicting info on fitness nutrition out there, all nutrition experts agree that your pre-workout and post-workout diet must represent a balance of the best nutrients.
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Balanced nutrition means consuming the right micronutrients in the right ratio. Even though this is directly connected to the individual and the type of exercise, there are general rules that apply to everyone.
The timing is also of crucial importance; when you eat the meal is as important as what that meal contains.
Best Pre-Workout Nutrients to Focus On
To get the most of your training, make sure to consume a complete meal comprised of protein, fat, and carbs.
Everyone who is physically active must know how important proteins are for the overall performance. Consumed before a workout session, individually or in combination with carbohydrates, proteins increase muscle protein synthesis. What is muscle protein synthesis or MPS?
MPS refers to removal and reparation of damaged proteins in the muscles and forming new, stronger ones. In other words, MPS is a regeneration of the muscle tissue which begins the moment you start exercising. This is especially important for those seeking to increase muscle mass because, without MPS, the muscles won’t grow.
Simply put, fat is fuel. However, this is only true provided that fat comes from the right sources such as avocados, coconut oil, as well as grass-fed butter and meats. Fat is the first to be consumed by the organism for production of energy. In addition, fat contains high levels of calories, which in terms of exercising translates into body fuel.
To sum up, fat provides you with extra energy and strength, especially during low to medium-intensity exercise.
Carbs contain glycogen which is stored in the muscles and liver. These glycogen reserves are the main source of energy for the muscles, especially during short-term, high-intensity sessions.
However, bearing in mind that the glycogen supplies in the body are limited, during longer training they get used up. In that case, the performance decreases. That is why, in order to renew the glycogen reserves, athletes turn to the so-called ‘carb loading’ i.e. consuming a diet high in carbohydrates.
How Long Before a Workout Should You Eat?
As mentioned before, timing is the key. Ideally, you should consume your complete meal (protein, fat, carbs) 2–3 hours before the training session.
However, this is not always manageable. If there’s no time to get a complete meal 2-3 hours before, you can still eat 40-60 minutes prior to exercise but in that case, your meal should be smaller. In addition, the meal should also be simpler, i.e. easier to digest; otherwise you might experience stomach discomfort during the session. Avoid fats and focus mainly on carbs combined with some protein.
The Best Pre-Workout Recipes
2–3 hours before workout
Kung Pao Chicken and Vegetables
Whole grain bread sandwich
Avocado and Bacon Egg White Omelet
Less than 2 hours before workout
Mocha Banana Protein Smoothie
Slow Cooker Nutty Banana Blueberry Oatmeal
Ancient Grains Cranberry Dark Chocolate Granola
40-60 minutes before workout
Healthy No Bake Coconut Lime Fruit and Yogurt Tarts
No Bake Apricot Oat Protein Bars
What About Supplements?
Athletes are no stranger to supplements. These products are used to boost strength, energy, and performance, as well as to increase muscle mass. Supplements are especially important but are most effective when used in addition to a healthy, balanced diet.What are the best pre-workout supplements?
Creatine is probably the most commonly used supplement due to its ability to increase muscle mass and reduce fatigue at the same time. However, most experts claim that creatine is much more effective after workout instead of before. The recommended daily dosage is 2-5g (0.07 to 0.17oz.)
Caffeine increases power and strength, improves performance, decreases fatigue, and facilitates fat burning. Besides in coffee, tea, and energy drinks, caffeine also comes in a form of supplements with similar effect. If you decide to take caffeine, do so an hour (or even sooner) before your training session.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that increases the reserves of carnosine in the muscles by boosting muscles’ endurance and capacity. It has especially effective for short-term, high-intensity training. It is recommended to consume 0.5 to 1g (0.03oz.) before a workout.
BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) increase MPA and decrease muscle damage. The recommended daily dosage is 5g (0.17oz.), one hour before the training.
Don’t Forget to Hydrate
Good hydration is the last important element needed to improve your performance. The ideal amount of fluid is 15-20 oz. in a period of four hours before a workout. If there’s not enough time, you should try to consume at least 10 oz. half an hour before the training session. The perfect combination is water with sodium, a combination that provides ideal fluid balance in the body.
Best Post-Workout Nutrition
Consuming the right nutrients after a workout is just as important as what you had eaten before in order to maximize the benefits of the workout. When choosing the best foods to eat post-workout, bear in mind that they should be easily digestible in order to facilitate their absorption in the body.
During a workout, the bodies use up the glycogen reserves and the proteins are broken down.
Consuming the right nutrients after a training session (proteins and carbs) helps restore the glycogen reserves and reduces protein breakdown, increasing muscle growth and recovery at the same time.
Best Pre-Workout Nutrients to Focus On
Consuming proteins after a workout provides the necessary amino acids that help rebuild the broken down muscle proteins and build new muscle tissues. The recommended post-workout protein amount is 20-40g (0.70 to 1.40 oz. depending on body weight), immediately after the session.
The best protein-rich foods to consume after a training are protein powder (both animal-based and plant-based), protein bars, meat (chicken and fish, especially oily fish like tuna or salmon), dairy (cottage cheese, Greek yogurt), and eggs.
Carbs help restore the used up glycogen in the muscles. They are especially important for people who exercise on a more regular basis and for those that practice endurance sports like cycling, skiing, and swimming. These sports cause the body to spend more glycogen than weight training (bodybuilding).
When carbs are taken in combination with protein, they also stimulate the production of insulin. This hormone regulates the metabolism of proteins, carbs, and fats by promoting the absorption of glucose from the bloodstream and converting it into glycogen.
The ideal protein-carb ratio is 1:3, whereas the recommended post-workout carb intake is 0.5–0.7 g per pound of body weight, half an hour after workout.
Not all carbs are created equal. What you are looking for are complex carbs which can be found in vegetables like leafy greens, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, fruits (especially banana, berries, and pineapple), rice and rice cakes, oatmeal, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, and unsweetened chocolate milk.
Despite popular belief, even though fats slow down the absorption of nutrients, they do have positive effects after a workout. Fats promote muscle growth and do not affect the glycogen synthesis in the muscles. However, fats are not as important as proteins and carbs in the post-workout period and their amount should be limited.
Focus on good, natural fats like those found in avocados, dried fruits, nuts and nut butter.
How Long After a Workout Should You Eat?
Since the body’s ability to rebuild protein and glycogen is higher after a training session, it is best to eat as soon as possible, i.e. within 40-45 minutes after a workout. After this timeframe, the results are decreased by 50%.
The good news is that the effects of what you eat before exercising extend to after you finish the session. This means that even if you are unable to eat a complete meal within 45 minutes after a training, the benefits of your pre-workout meal still apply
Drinking large amounts of water before, during and after the workout is crucial. During exercise, the body loses water and electrolytes through sweat so, recovering them will affect your performance and recovery. Ideally, you should restore fluid balance within 12 hours after a training session.
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The Best Post-Workout Recipes
Here are a few examples of quick and simple recipes to make after your training session:
Herb-Roasted Chicken with Vegetables
Avocado Toast Egg-in-a-Hole
Maple Mustard Glazed Salmon with Sweet Potato Mash
Oriental Tuna Salad
Tuna Steaks with Pineapple Salsa
Banana Pecan Baked Oatmeal
Blueberry Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Hummus and Herbed Baked Pita Chips
Healthy Peanut Butter Chunk Oatmeal Bars
Stuffed French Toast with Almond Butter and Banana
Passion Fruit Greek Yogurt with Cashews and Honey
High-Protein Strawberry Banana Shake
Protein Blueberry Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
Every cook, whether beginner or not, knows how important onions are. With their sweet and earthy flavor, these alliums form the base for various dishes in almost all cuisines around the world. Besides flavor, onions are also well-loved for their wide availability throughout the year, as well as their long storage life.
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However, once you delve into cooking, you’ll find out that onions have over a dozen varieties: shallots, scallions, spring onions, red onions… The more varieties you discover, the more confused you become. Which type of onion is the best for sauces? Which one to incorporate in your meaty dishes?
One of the most common onion varieties is shallot. Surprisingly, there’s a great number of recipes that call for shallots. When you decide to buy them, you will probably feel even more confused: they look like garlic but taste like sweet onions. On top of that, they are quite hard to peel. So, what are shallots exactly? Can they just be replaced with onions? Are there any other suitable shallot substitutes you can use?
This article will answer all your questions related to shallots.
What Are Shallots?
Shallots is a type of onion, more specifically, a botanical variety of the species Allium cepa. Its closest relatives are garlic, chive, leeks, and Chinese onion.
It originated in Central or Southwest Asia and reached the Mediterranean region traveling through India. The name “shallot” comes from Ashkelon, a city in Canaan, where Ancient Greeks believed shallots originated.
Shallot’s skin varies from golden brown to gray to red. Most shallots have a white flesh that is sometimes broken up by magenta or green lines.
When peeled, they separate into cloves like garlic. Shallots are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes.
The so-called Western shallots are the most common type sold in the US supermarkets. They are rounder, smaller, thinner, and lighter in color than regular onions and often referred to as “false shallots” or “Jersey shallots”. Their skin is pinkish-orange, whereas the flesh is light purple.
Asian shallots are even smaller and with a deeper purple color. The French gray shallots, also known as griselles, are pear-shaped and offer a rather subtle flavor. They are also called “true shallots”.
As far as size is concerned, shallots can be small, medium, and jumbo. As a rule of thumb, smaller shallots taste milder and, according to experienced cooks, better.
Compared to onions, shallots have sweeter, milder, and more complex flavor, with a slightly garlicky twist. The longer shallots are stored, the more intense their flavor gets.
In case you were wondering, they make your eyes tear, though not as much as regular onions. All members of the allium family contain sulfur-based compounds, which are released upon cutting the plant’s cells, react with the atmospheric oxygen and make you cry.
Just like other types of onions, shallots can be eaten raw (usually in salads and dressings) or cooked (fried or roasted), in addition to being pickled. This makes them easy to incorporate into various recipes.
Historically, shallots have been used both for their aromatic and medicinal properties in Asian, French, and Mediterranean cooking.
Finely diced shallots are especially popular in French cuisine, where they’re often combined with wine or butter to provide the flavor base for sauces like Béarnaise, Bercy, and Beurre Blanc.
It is safe to say that shallots are indispensable in Asian cuisine. In the southern regions of India, they are commonly added to curries and different types of sambar, a lentil-based dish. Indian restaurants often include shallots pickled in red vinegar in their menus.
Iranians love grated shallots with yogurt, usually as a side dish to kebabs or as part of torshi, a sour dish comprised of various vegetables under vinegar.
Shallots are also widely used in many Southeast Asian dishes like fried rice. Chinese cuisine offers shallot chips, whereas in Indonesia, they’re pickled and added to various traditional dishes.
Buying and Storing Shallots
Shallots are available throughout the whole year, but their peak season is summer, i.e. from May to September. They can be found fresh and green in the spring, as well as dry, freeze-dried, and dehydrated throughout the whole year.
Like garlic, fresh shallots are sold in clusters but when selecting the best samples, think of onions. Ideally, shallots should be firm and compact, without visible damages. They should have their skin on and it should be smooth and shiny. If you see sprouted shallots, avoid them, since sprouts are an indicator of age.
If kept in a cool, dry, and dark place with plenty of air circulation, shallots will last for up to one month. If you place them in a clean pantyhose and hang them, they can last up to two months.
In case your shallots sprout, don’t worry, you can still use them. Just remove the bitter green sprouts or, if you are a fan of stronger flavors, include the sprouts into your dishes.
Shallots can be chopped and frozen up to three months. It should be noted though, that once you thaw them, they will not be as crunchy as fresh ones.
Health Benefits of Shallots
The health benefits of shallots have been known and appreciated for thousands of years. In Indian medicine, they’re often prescribed as a remedy for a sore throat, combined with jaggery and sugar. In Ayurveda, shallots are believed to have a cooling effect, which makes them suitable for alleviating inflammation, muscle pains, water-retention, and swelling.
Even though they’re smaller in size and milder in taste, shallots contain more antioxidants (flavonoids and phenols) than other members of the onion family! This makes them very efficient in reducing oxidative damage and fighting various chronic diseases.
Shallots also contain sulfoxides, which give them antibiotic, antidiabetic, and fibrinolytic properties. This means that shallots are great for fighting viral and bacterial infections, controlling blood sugar levels, preventing insulin resistance, preventing the formation of blood clots, and reducing LDL cholesterol levels.
Shallots and other onions contain vitamins A, B6, and C, essential minerals like potassium, as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that benefit the blood vessels, digestive organs, muscles, and skin.
Shallots vs. Onions – Can They Be Used Interchangeably in Recipes?
After interviewing some of our users and fellow cooks, we have found that almost all of them tend to stock up on onions and garlic but only a few keep shallot reserves in their kitchen. The reasons for this range from simply forgetting to buy shallots to the fact that their price is slightly higher. There’s also their size, which makes them harder to cut, and the fact that they’re somewhat finicky to peel. In other words, shallots are not considered an essential ingredient in the kitchen.
That is why knowing how to substitute shallots is very important. Onions are the most available substitute for using but you need to be careful. Swapping onions for shallots in the same amount will result in a dish with prominently oniony flavor.
Also, it should be noted that onions can replace shallots only in cooked dishes. Raw onions in a dressing don’t taste so good (and will result in bad breath). Also, this swap is not applicable for recipes that call for more than a ½ cup of shallots. This amount implies that shallots play an important role in the recipe and replacing them might ruin the whole dish.
So, what type of onions are the best substitute for shallots? Well, any onion can substitute for a shallot, depending on the person you ask. Most coking experts voted for yellow onions. Small white onions, also called pearl onions, can replace shallots as well. On the other hand, sweet onions are considered too sweet, whereas red onions are too strong. However, all onion types have a common trait – when cooked, they get softer and lighter in taste.
To recreate the shallot flavor, add just a pinch of garlic powder to the onions you decide to use. However, bear in mind that garlic is stronger in taste than shallots so be careful not to add too much. You can also add fresh garlic. Just crush a clove and add only the liquid that comes out.
As a rule of thumb, one onion replaces three shallots. Since shallots are smaller, make sure to chop the onions into pieces that are smaller than usual.
Shallots tend to melt when cooked but that’s not the case with onions. To help mellow the onions’ flavor further, cook them down before adding to the dish.
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Shallots vs. Scallions
Shallots and scallions are often mixed up. If you want to test this theory, just send your husband to buy one of them J It might have something to do with their names or the fact that they’re the two mildest and most versatile members of the allium family
However, these two are quite different in appearance. Scallions are actually green onions, sold in bunches in the grocery stores. Scallions are in fact ordinary onions, only harvested while immature and still cylindrical, hence their slender, leek-like appearance.
Scallions are most often used raw to add a pungent note to egg dishes and salads, or simply sliced into thin rings as a garnish. When it comes to cooked dishes, they’re most often added to soups, stir-fries, and quiches for subtle flavoring. Combined with garlic and ginger, scallions form a base for sauces and broths.
Are scallions a suitable substitute for shallots? Yes, scallions are mild enough to serve as a substitute for shallots. Make sure to only use the tops, without the bulbs, and add them later in the cooking process to avoid overcooking.
Other Substitutes for Shallots
When used as shallot substitutes, leeks are very similar to scallions, i.e. only the tops are used. However, since they take longer to cook than scallions, leeks should be added earlier in the cooking process. Alternatively, leeks can be sautéed over medium heat to soften before adding them to the recipe.
Garlic scapes, i.e. the flower buds of the garlic plant, look much like green onions but with long, twisting tails. In terms of taste, they are somewhere between onions and garlic. In terms of flavor, they taste somewhat sharper than shallots so, when you use them as a substitute, reduce the amount required in the recipe by about 1/4.
Delicious Shallot Recipes
Shallots make a great addition to stir-fries, sautés, salads, soups, side dishes, and casseroles, and is very often paired with garlic.
Combine them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme to create marinades and sauces for your meat dishes.
Raw shallots pair well with fresh fruits like pineapple or vegetables like jalapeno to produce healthy salsas.
Here are more ideas to use shallots when cooking:
Tangy Mustard Pork Chops
Spinach Chicken Roll-Up
Garlic Parsley Potatoes
Corn and Bell Pepper Sauté
Veal with Blackberry Sauce
Mushroom Herb Risotto