Smart Snacking Meet our new favorite chip alternative

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Oh poor Brussels sprouts­–you’ve been unfairly maligned, treated badly with overcooking and cast as a vegetable villain in many a TV show.

But Brussels sprouts, it’s you who are getting the last laugh with your new makeover:  absolutely delicious Brussel Bytes ($6 for 2 oz.).

These raw, gluten-free, vegan and non-GMO snacks come in three zesty flavors: Cheezy Herb, which gets its cheesiness from cashews and nutritional yeast, Tamarind Apple, which has a touch of sweetness and Chili Pumpkin Seed Crunch, which enlists cilantro, cumin and apple cider vinegar for kick. Himalayan crystal salt, high in trace minerals that do a body good, also shows up in all varieties, but none taste overly salty.

Sequoia Cheney, the CEO of Wonderfully Raw Gourmet.

We like eating Brussel Bytes straight out of hand or crumbling them up to add texture and crunch to a salad or warm grain bowl. Brussel Bytes are available nationally in Whole Foods and various other stores, as well as on Amazon.

Sequoia Cheney, the CEO of Wonderfully Raw Gourmet—which makes Brussel Bytes along with several other tasty raw snacks—was inspired to start a raw foods company after being diagnosed with Type II diabetes. She decided to try to reverse the diabetes with food, and says that today she is completely medication free.

“To make our Brussel Bytes we start with fresh, organic Brussels sprouts sourced from farmers we have worked with for years, ” she told us. “We season them and gently dehydrate them to preserve the bioavailability of the nutrients.”

Like their cruciferous cousins, cabbage and kale, Brussels sprouts are a very good source of vitamins C, B6 and K, as well as potassium, folate and manganese.

Since Brussel Bytes launched last year, the response has been greater than Cheney could have ever imagined. “We get letters and emails from folks telling us how much they love our Brussel Bytes,” she said.

Pick up a package and you just might be penning a love letter to Brussels sprouts too.

Upgraded Grains Here's how to get more nutritional bang for your buck from your grains

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Wanna make the most of those whole grains in your diet? Go sprouted.

Chances are, you’ve already tried one of the many popular sprouted breads on the market today, like two of our favorite brands Alvarado Street Bakery and Ezekiel 4:9, made with sprouted wheat berries, sprouted barley, sprouted spelt and more.

But do you know why these sprouted grains are so good for you?

Turns out that sprouting grains unlocks their nutrition, increasing the levels of vitamin C, folate, fiber and more that your body can absorb from them. It also makes grains easier to digest for those with sensitivities to grain proteins like gluten.

Sprouted whole grain flour ups the nutrition in these coconut pancakes.

And quick science lesson: sprouting happens when whole grains are soaked until they begin to germinate so that a small sprout pokes out from the grain seed.

You can expand your repertoire beyond bread by sprouting grains at home, including brown rice, quinoa and oats. Just rinse and soak them in water—leave them in a bowl on the counter covered overnight before cooking as usual.

If you’re not up for sprouting your own grains, you can still enjoy flours and many other products made from sprouted grains—like pastas, chips and even cookies.

And remember while sprouted breads are considered “flourless,” since they are made with milled sprouted grains rather than with traditional flour, that doesn’t mean they are gluten free. If you are allergic to wheat or gluten, continue to steer clear of these products.

For a homemade taste of sprouted grains, try this deluxe pancake recipe.

Sprouted Coconut Pancakes

Serves 4
2 pasture-raised eggs
1 1/2 cups organic coconut milk
3 tablespoons organic coconut oil
1/4 cup pure Grade B maple syrup (plus more for on top)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sprouted whole wheat or spelt flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons pasture-raised butter (for pan and topping)

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and continue whisking in milk, oil, syrup and vanilla.

2. Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and whisk all together.

3. Heat a heavy frying pan, greased with a little pasture-raised butter. When pan is hot, pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan.

4. When bubbles appear on the surface, about two minutes, flip the pancake and cook the other side for another two minutes or until center of pancake is cooked.

5. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Sweet Thing EKG Project cleans up baked goods

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When it comes to sweet indulgence, Gina Cavallo and Emily Farley want you to have your double chocolate chip cookie and eat it too.

These gals behind EKG Project call their sweet treats Paleo-friendly, but we like to think of them as friendly to anyone concerned about what is going into his or her mouth.

All EKG Project desserts are gluten-, grain-, dairy and soy-free, yet they’re incredibly delicious (the treats were voraciously devoured in our office). “We believe that food choices shouldn’t be ‘the lesser of two evils’,” Cavallo told us.

EKG Project founders Gina Cavallo and Emily Farley.

While making something tasty and free of so many standard baking components sounds about as complex as nuclear fission, the two actually do it by keeping things simple. They rely on natural, minimally processed ingredients such as organic extra virgin unrefined coconut oil, sustainably harvested sea salt, naturally extracted baking soda and non-GMO beet sugar. Those double chocolate chip cookies ($5.25 each), for example, use a dreamy mix of organic raw cacao, coconut flour and non-GMO chocolate. The mini doughnut cupcakes ($2 each) harness organic applesauce for sweetness and moisture and organic cinnamon for flavor.

“We’ve both battled physical internal issues, such as IBS and blood sugar inconsistencies, for years,” said Cavallo. “But once we cleaned up our diets, the majority of these problems vanished. We know that what you put in and on your body matters. So, we use the cleanest ingredients we can find.”

The best news? Anyone can get in on this sweet goodness: EKG Project was born in New York, but they are now shipping nationwide. Maybe Valentine’s Day this year calls for a dozen chocolate doughnuts ($5 each) in place of flowers?

The Case For Nuts Crunch your way to better health

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They’re good for your heart and brain, and a great source of healthy fats, protein, fiber and minerals. Remind us again why you aren’t eating more nuts?

If all that isn’t enough, how about this: Scientists found that eating nuts is associated with a lower risk of death from cancer, heart disease and all other causes, according to a meta-analysis of multiple studies incorporating more than 350,000 participants. And you don’t have to, well, go nuts; eating just one serving a week resulted in a 4% lower risk of death.

If “But they’re fattening!” is the reason you’ve sworn off these crunchy super foods, think again: Studies show that regular nut eaters have lower instances of obesity. Why? They’re filling, for sure; and scientists also suspect that nuts may suppress the desire to eat (You know that feeling that you’re full but you still want dessert? That’s desire, not hunger).

Add a handful of nuts to pump up the healthfulness of your baked goods.

So which nuts should you eat? They’re all good, so choose the ones you like best (even better, eat a variety). Almonds offer some calcium, walnuts are rich in antioxidants and omega-3s, cashews have iron and zinc, hazelnuts bring the folate, macadamias are high in magnesium and potassium. An ounce a day (or 2 tablespoons of nut butter) is plenty to reap the benefits.

Nuts make a great snack on their own, of course—and here are some other tasty ways to add them to your diet:

1. Wake up your oatmeal. Add crunch to your morning bowl. Try walnuts + raisins + cinnamon, or dried cherries + pistachios + a splash of vanilla, or toasted pecans + chopped apple + apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice. The added protein, fiber and fat will keep you sated longer than oats alone.

2. Grab some granola or muesli. Prefer a cooler breakfast? Find a great brand of nutty granola (here’s one we like), or make your own.

3. Bulk up a smoothie. Instead of sketchy protein powder, blend a tablespoon or two of wholesome nuts or nut butter into your fave smoothie.

4. Snack smart. Nuts (or nut butter) and fruit are a classic combo for good reason. Spread almond butter on apple or pear slices, or go tropical and pair a small banana with a few macadamias.

5. Add crunch to salad. Instead of greasy croutons, sprinkle toasted nuts on top of your greens. Do it right before serving, after your salad is dressed, to keep them crunchy. (Try this one, which is simple enough for a weeknight but dressed-up enough for a dinner party.)

6. Healthify “creamy” soup. Add some nuts (cashews work especially well because of their creamy texture) when simmering butternut squash, carrots or other vegetables for soup. When you blend it, the soup will turn lusciously creamy, without any actual cream.

7. Sweeten up your day. Craving a treat? These wholesome “brownie bites” are no-bake, so they’re ready in minutes. (Freeze extras for future chocolate “emergencies.”) Or simply pair a few squares of dark chocolate with a small handful of nuts.

Handle with care:
Because nuts are loaded with oils, they can turn rancid easily. Here are some tips for shopping for and storing them.

  • Get what you need. Nuts can be pricey, so be careful to buy just what you need.
  • Buy fresh. Bulk bins are a great place to buy nuts, as long as you know the store replenishes a lot. Whole nuts will stay fresh longer than chopped, sliced or slivered.
  • Stay cool. Put nuts into airtight containers and store in the fridge (up to six months) or freezer (up to nine months).

Souped Up Marco Canora's Brodo is your key to perfect bone broth

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When it comes to bone broth—the Paleo-beloved elixir credited with health benefits from a healthy gut to stronger bones to more radiant skin, consider chef Marco Canora the anointed prophet and his new book, Brodo: A Bone Broth Cookbook, the bible.

While a pot of simmering bone broth is an age-old culinary fixture, Canora has brought awareness to broth at Brodo, his tiny Manhattan broth dispensary that opened last winter, as well as through multiple media appearances.

Canora told us that when he made sipping a cup of bone broth a daily ritual, his health was transformed. “I experienced innumerable health benefits from a more stable metabolism to greater resistance to colds and illness,” the chef enthuses.

Marco Canora’s new book has recipes for broth, soup and more.

Flipping through the book is as satisfying as a bowl of good soup. Canora lays out clear instructions on how to make flavorful, nutritious broths that can be served year-round as well as incorporated into recipes (think mushroom risotto and a silky Thai coconut soup). There are also instructions for trying out a broth-centric mini cleanse.

Below, get the surprisingly simple recipe for Golden Chicken Broth. If you can boil water, you can make this broth: No fussy roasting of bones, and you should be able to find all of the ingredients at your local grocery store. Just be sure to seek out organic (and preferably pasture-raised) chicken and you’re good to go. You can drink this elixir straight up in place of your afternoon coffee or fancy up your canvas with freshly grated turmeric, or a shot of ginger juice, as Canora recommends.

Golden Chicken Broth

This is the gold standard of broths, the comfort food extraordinaire. Let it be your gateway broth. Chicken bones are the most readily available animal bones. There’s a good chance your regular grocery store has them—if you don’t see them in the refrigerated cases, ask the butcher. This broth has a light, fairly neutral flavor, making it the most universally applicable—sauces, soups, stews, braising, risottos—and ideal for sipping in warmer months.

Makes about 6 quarts
3 pounds chicken feet
5 pounds chicken wings
7 pounds chicken backs and necks
3 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
6 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
5 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
Fine sea salt

1. Place all the chicken parts in a 16-quart pot and add cold water to cover by 2 to 3 inches. Bring it to a boil over high heat, about 1 hour, skimming off the foamy impurities every 15 to 20 minutes.

2. As soon as the liquid boils, reduce the heat to low and pull the pot to one side so it is partially off the burner. Simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes, skimming once or twice.

3. Add the onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, and parsley and push them down into the liquid. Continue to simmer for 3 to 5 hours, checking once or twice to make sure that the bones are still fully submerged.

4. Use a spider skimmer to remove the solids and discard. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer. Season with salt to taste and let it cool.

5. Transfer the cooled broth to storage containers (leaving any sediment in the bottom of the pot) and refrigerate overnight. Spoon off any solidified fat. Store the broth for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months.

Ripe For a Citrus Comeback Healthy reasons to bring grapefruit back to your diet–and a recipe starring the fruit!

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The picture of a healthy breakfast is constantly changing—from savory oatmeals to kale-and-egg dishes to superfood bowls and smoothies. But one old healthy breakfast standby has been sadly snubbed in recent years: grapefruit.

In 1976 Americans enjoyed about 25 pounds per year, but by 2013 consumption rates dropped to a mere 2.5 pounds a year, plummeting by 70 percent. The drop can be partly linked to drug interactions with grapefruit. But assuming you don’t have any medical reason not to partake (check with your doctor about possible interactions) there are tons of good reasons to eat grapefruit.

Watch: How to cut up a grapefruit.

Half a grapefruit contains more than 50 percent of your recommended daily amount of vitamin C, keeping your immune system strong during cold season without as much sugar as other citrus fruits. In fact, grapefruit actually helps improve your body’s insulin resistance. In addition, research shows that grapefruit can reduce cholesterol levels.

Don’t miss the rainbow of varieties from ruby red to pink to the large lime-skinned pomelo. You can eat grapefruit straight up or juice it, of course, or make this Winter Fruit Salad at the beginning of the week and serve it with breakfast or as a light dessert. We like it with pink grapefruit, but any variety will work nicely.

Winter Fruit Salad

Serves 2
1 organic grapefruit, peeled, sliced and seeded
2 organic kiwis, peeled and sliced
1 organic apple, chopped
1 handful of mint, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Local honey (optional)

1. In a large bowl, mix fruit with mint and lime.

2. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered up to five days.

Optional: Drizzle the honey on top for added sweetness.

Hot Stuff Cacao takes hot chocolate to the next level

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Grownups may not get snow days off of work, but that’s no reason to miss out on one of winter’s greatest pleasures: hot chocolate.

This winter, skip the pre-packaged powdery hot cocoa mixes that come brimming with sugar and barely a whisper of chocolate and go straight to chocolate’s source by using raw cacao powder.

Unlike cocoa powder, which is processed at high temperatures, cacao powder is made by milling un-roasted cacao beans. The process results in a phytochemically diverse superfood that boasts living enzymes, antioxidants, magnesium, zinc and iron. Raw cacao even contains more antioxidants per 100 grams than the famed goji berry.

Warm up with a cup of Raw cacao hot chocolate.

In addition, raw cacao has a deeply, darkly round chocolate flavor and contains theobromine, which packs an energy punch without the jitteriness of a caffeine.

We like sourcing our raw cacao from trusted organic brands like Big Tree Farms and Navitas Naturals.

Blessedly, whipping up a frothy mug of hot cacao is no harder than making regular hot chocolate. Use cow’s milk (preferably grass-fed), or sub your favorite dairy-free milk, such as almond or coconut. A spoonful of maple syrup easily mixes into any milk you choose and adds just a hint of sweetness. Try our recipe below for your chocolatiest (and healthiest) winter yet.

Raw Cacao Hot Chocolate

Serves 1 
1 cup grass-fed cow’s milk or dairy alternative
1 tablespoon raw cacao
1 teaspoon maple syrup
sea salt to taste

1. Place all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently.

2. Keep stirring to ensure all the ingredients mix together smoothly.

3. Remove the pan from the heat before it reaches the boiling point.

 

Counter Intelligence Organize your space to simplify healthy cooking

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“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” –Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up ($10).

Every day you take steps to make yourself a healthier eater and cook, so let’s organize your kitchen countertop for that person, the one you’re becoming. The end result will be a calmer, less cluttered, friendlier space you’ll want to use more often. (And as you probably know, people who cook at home more frequently are healthier.)

Here’s how to do it:

1. Divide what’s on your counter into two sections: Items you use every week and ones you don’t. Put the ones you don’t on a nearby table; we’ll get back to them in a sec. For the ones you use every day: Group like items together.

2. If you have a utensil container, go through it and toss anything that’s worn out (we’re looking at you, splintery wooden spoon and cracked silicone spatula). Pull out anything you don’t use at least weekly and put it on the table. Clean out the container and put the in-good-shape, oft-used items back in.

3. Do you use measuring spoons a lot? Take them off their rings and put them in a small mug on the counter, next to the utensil holder. No more sifting through drawers to hunt them down, and no more washing a whole ring of spoons after just using the ¼-tsp. measure.

Put fruit, not chips and cookies, on your counter.

4. Organize your edibles. Do you keep snacks, cereal or other foods on your counter? Stash the less-optimal items (ahem, 100-calorie packs of pretzels) in a drawer or the pantry; instead, place a bowl of in-season fruit where you can see it. Why? What you see is what you eat. In one study, researchers at Cornell found that people with healthy items on their counters weighed up to 20 pounds less than others who kept cereal and soda there.

5. Next, get your appliances sorted. What do you use every week: Toaster? Blender? Coffee maker? If there are any appliances living on your counter that you don’t use at least once a week, stash them somewhere else.

6. Now, address the sea of oils and other bottles next to the stove. If you have oils that have been there for more than six months, toss them; after that, at best their taste can alter unpleasantly and at worst, they can go rancid.  Go through the other bottles (vinegars, hot sauce, etc.) and take out anything you don’t use weekly. If you haven’t used an item in more than two months, toss it. Place anything you’re going to keep on a tray or a large cake stand. This corrals them into one spot, keeps you from placing more and more items on the counter, and makes cleaning up a snap.

7. Back to all those items on the table. These have been living on your kitchen counter and you don’t use them even once per week. For each item, ask yourself if you love it, is it truly useful to you? Are you keeping it because it might come in handy one day? If you can’t remember the last time you used it, if it was a gift you don’t adore, and/or if you bought it for a specific recipe and don’t have another use for it, toss it or give it away. Instead of thinking it as wasteful, know that the item has served its purpose and now it’s time to let it go.

8. Take a moment to wipe down the counter before putting back what you’re keeping. Then take another to appreciate your clean, organized, uncluttered space. Now, don’t you feel like cooking something delicious and healthy?

Veggies, On Fleek How to make tasty vegetables from artichokes to zucchini

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When was the last time your mouth started to water just from looking at a Jerusalem artichoke? Yeah, same with us…maybe never.

So we’re ecstatic that chef Michael Anthony, in his new cookbook V is for Vegetables, finds several ways to make this knobby root absolutely scrumptious: pureed in a silky chowder, sliced raw in a crisp salad and roasted until tender in the oven (recipe for Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes & Brussels Sprout Leaves below).

It’s just one example of how Anthony transforms both familiar and uncommon vegetables into truly mouthwatering dishes in the book. Though he’s built a notable reputation for elevating farmers market ingredients to gourmet status at New York restaurant Gramercy Tavern (he was 2015’s James Beard Outstanding Chef), the book’s recipes are totally cookable and not too “chef-y.” They were created and photographed in a home kitchen, so there’s an intimacy to the presentation: it’s more of a splash-sauce-on-it kind of book than a glossy showpiece.

Chef Michael Anthony’s new book deliciously tackles veggies from a to z.

Organized alphabetically by vegetable, the encyclopedic book includes recipes for 60+ veggies in multiple forms: salads like warm red cabbage with sweet potatoes, soups like celery root with chestnut, light appetizers such as pickled baby carrots and hearty mains like a collard greens frittata. Some of the recipes, such as turnip and squash stew with chicken, include meat or fish, but each showcases veggies as the main attraction.

We appreciate Anthony’s helpful, illustrated prep tips along the way (we can now confidently tackle a kohlrabi), his penchant for root-to-stem cooking and his urging to buy vegetables seasonally and locally. If Anthony can’t source something locally, then he won’t be cooking it…which makes us pretty glad that Jerusalem artichokes don’t actually come from Jerusalem.

Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes
& Brussels Sprout Leaves

Serves 4
5 large Jerusalem artichokes
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 small sprig rosemary
1 tablespoon butter
3 cups Brussels sprout leaves (from about 1 pound whole)
1 shallot, minced
Fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Using a paring knife, cut the knobs off the Jerusalem artichokes. This helps them cook evenly. Cook the smaller cut-off pieces in the same pan with the large pieces and remove them when they’re soft.

2. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the large Jerusalem artichokes, salt and pepper, and cook until brown all over, about 6 minutes. Pop the pan into the oven and roast until the artichokes are tender, about 30 minutes. Roll them around every 10 minutes or so, for even roasting and browning.

3. Remove the skillet from the oven and put it on a burner over medium heat. Add the garlic, rosemary and butter and, using a spoon, baste the Jerusalem artichokes until they are lightly glazed and light brown all over, tilting the pan so the liquid pools at the bottom edge. Transfer to a cutting board and thickly slice crosswise.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprout leaves, salt and pepper, and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Add the shallots and cook for another minute, stirring. Add the roasted artichokes and cook until the Brussels sprout leaves are brown in places and crisp-tender, about another minute. Season with lemon juice and stir in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil.

V IS FOR VEGETABLES  recipes and images courtesy Little, Brown and Company. Photo Credit ©Maura McEvoy.
Copyright ©2015 by Michael Anthony and Dorothy Kalins, Ink, LLC

Liquid Yoga Tulsi helps your body ward off stress

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What’s the secret to living a stress-free life?

We don’t have a magic potion, but there’s an herb that comes pretty close.

Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is an herb that’s grown all over India, and one of the most potent adaptogens on the planet. Adaptogens are a class of herbs that include ginseng, reishi mushroom and schizandra berry, which act as powerful helpers when it comes to easing tension. They both protect your body from the negative effects of stress and help repair the damage.

Watch: The Benefits of tulsi

Scientists have found that the regular consumption of tulsi tea is comparable to the stress-relieving benefits of a regular yoga practice. This supportive herb has the same calming sensation to your mind as shavasana, the final resting pose in yoga class.

Research also shows that tulsi can lower blood pressure, boost immunity, reduce ulcers, treat allergies and help manage diabetes and cholesterol. In addition, it’s anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal— a triple threat to whatever ails you.

You can easily add this adaptogen to your daily routine with a cup of tea. Try this Organic India blend with cinnamon and rose, order loose tea online like this one from Mountain Rose Herbs or make your own tulsi chai. Tulsi is available in capsule form at your local health food store, too.

But if you’re more of a stress eater, stock your fridge with this fresh herb, which looks like a smaller version of regular basil and can be found in Asian markets. It’s not as sweet but makes an aromatic pesto to top pastas and soups.

Con Man Why are we obsessed with coconut aminos

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Prepare to clear a space in your fridge door: It’s time to meet coconut aminos.

With its dark hue, rich fermented flavor and deeply salty tang, this condiment could easily fool you into thinking it was soy sauce. But while traditional soy sauce is brewed from boiled soybeans, salt and roasted grains like wheat, coconut aminos are fermented from the raw sap of the coconut tree and unrefined sea salt. The gluten and MSG-free sauce has 65% less sodium per serving than soy, is low-glycemic and contains a broad-spectrum of amino acids, natural minerals and vitamins B and C, while still packing that desirable umami punch.

Coconut aminos add umami without wheat or soy.

While wheat-free tamari has long been the darling of the healthy-eating scene, it still contains soy; ditto for the ever-popular Bragg’s Aminos. With non-organic and genetically modified soybeans rampant and soy and wheat allergies on the rise, using coconut aminos is a smart swap that’s as easy as replacing one glass bottle with another. It’s no wonder that coconut aminos have also become a favorite staple among Paleo folks.

Aaron Birk, the Content Manager for Ultimate Superfoods, Inc., which makes Organic Ojio Aminos ($8) told us, “Our aminos are age fermented like wine. This ferments them without being acid-hydrolyzed as many common soy sauces are. Hydrolyzing soy protein creates MSG, which many choose to avoid.” Another widely available brand to look for is Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos ($6.85).

Coconut aminos are an equal opportunity condiment—try it on your vegan brown rice bowl with avocado slices, dashed over heirloom tomatoes in the summer, in salad dressing or as part of the secret sauce for your homemade Paleo beef jerky. And of course, it can be used anywhere you would normally reach for soy sauce or tamari.

Isn’t it time to go look for a spot in your fridge?

Good Gut Banish post-holiday bloat with this probiotic pick- me-up

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What’s one of the best ways to stick to your weight loss and wellness goals this year?

Mind your microbial gut health.

Research finds that everything from antibiotic use to environmental pollution can deplete your intestinal flora, which can either prevent or encourage disease and determine your ability to maintain a healthy weight.

And we’ve got a remedy that can quickly give your belly a boost.

Kefir (pronounced kuh-feer) is a tangy, yogurt-like beverage that you can easily add to smoothies, salad dressings or drink on its own. The name is derived from a Turkish word keyif, meaning “good feeling,” and it certainly earns that designation.

WATCH: How to make kefir at home.

Studies show that kefir has antimicrobial, antitumor and immune-boosting properties. This belly booster boasts higher and more varied probiotic activity than yogurt with a mix of both beneficial bacteria and yeast that support digestion.

Kefir is made when kefir “grains” (which are comprised of bacteria and yeast, not wheat or rye) are mixed with milk. You can find it in the milk section at health food stores or make your own by ordering starter grains online.

If you want another option besides cow’s milk, kefir is also made with goat’s milk or you can make your own coconut milk version.

Start your week with this simple, winter-inspired recipe from Drink Your Way to Gut Health by Molly Morgan, RD, which is filled with good-for-your-gut recipes.

Creamy Iced Chai

½ cup chai concentrate (such as from Oregon Chai)
½ cup plain kefir
3 or 4 ice cubes

1. In a glass, whisk together the chai tea concentrate and kefir.
2. Fill with ice, and stir. Serve immediately.

Hot In Healthy Here's how we ate clean in 2015

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Happy holidays from Clean Plates! Our goal with this publication is to turn you on to new products, recipes, cookbooks and trends that help make clean eating more fun and delicious. Below are some of our favorite posts that we think did just that in 2015. Thanks for subscribing—we look forward to keeping you up to date on what’s hot in healthy eating throughout 2016!

We went cuckoo for coconut: This year found us saying “see ya later” to avocado toast and saying hello to coconut toast. We were also loving coconut turned into bacon-like chips, and we even made our own coconut milk and cream.

Tiny teff was among the quinoa alternatives we discovered in 2015.

Animal fat made a comeback: In 2015, we embraced (a moderate amount of) animal fat, stirring butter from grass-fed cows—along with coconut oil, of course!—into our Bulletproof Coffee, cooking with high quality lard and ghee and snacking on paleo bars made from meat .

Plants pretended to be animals: Despite the aforementioned conscientious consumption of animal products, we never strayed from our plant-forward focus. And those of us who experimented with Peganism (paleo + vegan) were happy to learn that plant-based foods can make pretty amazing steak and mac ‘n’ cheese, in addition to the bacon mentioned above. We even found a fruit we could use like meat.

Quinoa got some competition: We still love the heck outta quinoa, but this year we discovered two new gluten-free grains—fonio and teff—that we’re loving in all sorts of sweet and savory preparations.

The Best Of Motivate Charge into the new year with 2015's best clean-eating habits

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The problem with resolutions is simple: they’re rarely simple enough. So instead of making grand pronouncements about your eating habits—Starting January 1, I’m making every single thing I eat from scratch (and no cookies, candy, or fried food ever again)!—we here at Clean Plates like to make little changes that, taken together, can add up to a major improvement in your eating habits. The following ideas, each of which we published in our Motivate edition 2015, are so fast and easy you can start them today—no need to wait until the new year.

Happy holidays from all of us at Clean Plates! We’ll be back in your inbox next year with 52 more can-do clean eating tips to get you motivated.

1. Add a shake of cinnamon to your morning coffee or oatmeal to balance your blood sugar.

2. Eat your banana peels instead of tossing them to boost nutrition while slashing food waste.

3. Fight post-workout pain with a dose of ginger.

Very appealing: Lemon peels pack a big vitamin C punch.

4. Amp up the health benefits of drinking green tea by choosing matcha.

5. Maximize the health benefits of your omelet by learning to buy the most nutrient dense eggs (and don’t toss those yolks!).

6. Swap cauliflower for carbs like rice, pasta and pizza crust to bump up your intake of fiber, vitamin C and more.

7. Incorporate lemon peel—not just juice—into drinks and dishes for a serious vitamin boost.

8. Fight fatigue by eating magnesium-rich foods, including nuts, spinach—and chocolate!

9. Soak your oats to help digestion and nutrient absorption.

10.  Foster healthy gut bacteria by snacking on Granny Smith apples.

11. Keep your greens fresher longer—and therefore eat more greens!—by poking holes in your storage bags.

The Raw Truth Add the Rawsome Vegan cookbook to your wishlist

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We have no plans to go 100 percent raw or vegan any time soon, but Emily von Euw of the gorgeous healthy recipe-focused blog This Rawsome Vegan Life is sure filling our heads with visions of maki rolls made with cauliflower rice and collard leaf “burritos” bursting with purple cabbage and mushrooms.

Her new book, This Rawsome Vegan Cookbook: A Balance of Raw and Lightly-Cooked, Gluten-Free Plant-Based Meals for Healthy Living ($20) was just published.

The cookbook is split into two chapters: raw and cooked recipes. “I love both these kinds of eating; raw recipes are hydrating, light and colorful while cooked foods are grounding, nourishing and hearty,” von Euw writes in the introduction. “A diet that’s a balance of both is definitely gonna make ya feel good. Real good.”

Emily von Euw, of the popular blog This Rawsome Vegan Life, shares more recipes in her new cookbook.

We love von Euw’s motto that she shared with us, “Do what works for you.” The book may be raw, vegan and gluten-free all rolled into one (whew), but it is thoroughly accessible and beautiful. If the resplendent photography doesn’t draw you in (doubtful), the young, creative and fun voice in her recipes for nutrient-dense, whole foods definitely will. Oh, and she’s also a college student. Count us impressed.

Plus, there’s no special equipment required to get down with this diet. “You’re gonna need a blender, an oven and this thing called a mandolin slicer, but that’s pretty much it,” quips von Euw in the introduction. “I am unbelievably lazy so I tend to use as little equipment as possible.”

Below is von Euw’s recipe for Beet Ravioli with Almond Thyme Pâté + Basil, which she calls “one of my favorite recipes in the book for REAL.” We think the cheery color and finger-friendly form makes these bites perfect for holiday parties. “These are decadent and beautiful, but secretly so easy to make,” says von Euw in the recipe headnote. “They’re more of an appetizer than a main course, so I’d suggest serving them with a large salad (or whatever else you want—I’m not your boss).”

Beet Ravioli
with Almond Thyme Pâté & Basil

For the almond Pâté
1 cup (170 g) almonds, soaked for 8 hours
2 tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
⅛ tsp Himalayan salt
2 peeled garlic cloves
2 to 3 tsp (2 to 3 g) fresh thyme leaves (or more, as desired)

For the ravioli
1 peeled beet
3 tbsp (8 g) chopped basil leaves
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

To make the pâté: blend everything together until smooth and thick. Adjust according to taste, adding more salt or thyme or whatever you desire. Scoop onto a cheesecloth (or parchment paper) and roll up into a cylinder shape. I like to add extra thyme leaves here to coat the outside of the pâté; it just looks pretty. Put in the fridge overnight, or if you REALLY want ravioli, for at least a couple hours.

Slice the beet as thin as possible on a mandolin slicer. Scoop 1 teaspoon or so of the pâté onto half of a beet slice and fold the other half over the pâté. It will hold itself in place. Taste this one and see if you want more or less pâté and assemble the rest of the raviolis accordingly. You should have leftover pâté, unless you want to make a ton of raviolis (by all means, go for it). Sprinkle with basil and thyme and enjoy!

Recipe and photographs excerpted from The Rawsome Vegan Cookbook by Emily von Euw, courtesy of Page Street Publishing Co. 

Starchy Stand In Try this vegetable as a sub for your favorite starchy foods

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From rice to pizza crust to mashed potatoes, cauliflower is the latest healthy substitute for many starchy dishes, particularly for those of the Paleo persuasion or for those who want to curb their carb intake.

But whether you’re looking for a lifestyle change or just some new inspiration for your lunch box, here’s the nutrition low-down that makes it worth the switch.

Take cauliflower “rice,” for example: It has 60 percent of your daily recommended dose of Vitamin C (white rice contains a fat 0) as well as double the fiber content.

Cauliflower also supports our body’s detoxification process (no need to drink all that juice) and is a cancer-preventing powerhouse. One study found that people who ate cruciferous vegetables just once a week reduced their risk of oral, colorectal and breast cancer by 17 percent, and kidney cancer by 32 percent.

Watch: How to Make Cauliflower Rice.



Cauliflower is also lower in calories: a cauliflower mash can be as low as 60 calories per serving, while a typical mashed potato serving is more than 200 calories.

So even if you swap cauliflower for carbs in just one meal each week, you could make a major impact on your health.

Before you dust off your food processor, here are a few tips for the time-crunched cooks among us:

1. If you can’t make the time to wash and chop cauliflower, you can buy organic “cauli-rice” from Trader Joe’s.

2. Keep a few bags of frozen organic cauliflower florets in your freezer for nights you don’t have time to run to the store.

3. Steaming cauliflower takes half the time of boiling potatoes, so you can have dinner on the table faster.

Tiny Measure The world's smallest seed is full of calcium and more

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If you’ve been to an Ethiopian restaurant, then you know teff. This tiny grain, technically the seed of lovegrass, is used to make the spongey flatbread called injera that’s used as both an edible plate and scoop for the spicy piles of greens, beans or meat.

But teff, a staple food in Ethiopia for millennia, is gaining ground in the world health arena as another super grain, and for good reason. Teff is high in both protein and calcium, which is quite unique in the grain world. (A cup of cooked teff has more than double the calcium as a cup of cooked brown rice.) It’s also high in resistant starch, a type of dietary fiber known to help manage blood sugar and burn fat more efficiently. Plus, it is gluten-free.

Watch: How to make teff porridge.

Teff has a mild, nutty flavor, which works great as a morning porridge with apples, dates and pecans. It cooks up quickly (in about 15 minutes) and looks like a grittier, darker polenta. You can easily add it to a stew for a thicker consistency with extra nutrients.

But the grain truly shines as a robust flour for fall and winter baking such as pumpkin bread, brownies and more. You can get creative by making your own injera and use it as a tortilla for burritos or as a plate for eggs.

Look for teff grains and flour at the bulk section of your health food store, or order them from companies like Bob’s Red Mill or Shiloh Farms.

Great Gifts Under $100 Five holiday presents for clean eating food lovers

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Looking for a holiday present for a food- loving friend or family member? Here are five fabulous ideas, all tasted and tested by the Clean Plates staff—and all for less than a Benjamin.

1. Ecoficus Fig Bombóns:
The family-run confectioner that makes these bite-size USDA organic treats grows diminutive calabacita figs, which they fill with almond praline and then coat with dark chocolate. Our office echoed with “oohs” and “aahs” when we tried the just-sweet-enough morsels. ($19 for 12)

2. Matcha Source ‘WhiskIt’ Kit:
If, like us, you’re obsessed with matcha and want to spread the love, consider this starter kit from L.A.-based Matcha Source, which has everything a person needs to give the green tea powder-based drink a try: a tin of smooth, pleasantly grassy matcha; a bamboo whisk; an attractive whisk stand; a matcha prep guide and a coupon for ordering more matcha. Visiting L.A.? Try Matcha Source at the company’s tea shop, Matcha Box. ($59-$72, depending on chosen tea)

A present with pizzazz: Flavored salts from Jacobsen.

3. New Moon Pantry Starter Kit:
Readers of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop will be familiar with Moon Juice products—they show up in such recipes as Sex Bark and Beauty Milk. Help your loved one emulate Gwyneth with this starter kit: a tote filled with New Moon products, including maca, tocotrienols, almond butter, pink salt, cacao and cardamom ($90).

4. Spiralizer:
This tool that turns just about any veggie into noodle-like strands wins our vote for kitchen gadget of the year; if your friends or family don’t own one yet, it’s time. There are numerous brands to choose from; we’ve had great success using the inexpensive Spiralizer that’s a top seller on Amazon ($30), as well as the Inspiralizer ($50).

ing maca, tocotrienols, almond butter, pink salt, cacao and cardamom. ($90)

5. Jacobsen Salt Co. Six-Vial Gift Set:
Help your favorite food lovers amp up the flavor in their lives with this selection of infused sea salts sourced from Oregon’s Netarts Bay. The big, crisp flakes in these vials are infused with natural flavors, including lemon zest, ghost chiles and cherry wood smoke, as well as more surprising flavors, such as coffee and vanilla. The packaging includes pairing suggestions (e.g. try the coffee salt with steak or brownies and the vanilla with caramels, cookies and— genius—scallops). ($30 for a set of six)

Cold Read Rearrange your fridge to optimize healthy habits

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We’ve all opened up our refrigerator’s crisper drawers and found some poor bit of forgotten produce wasting away. Out of sight, out of mind.

Not only is this hard-earned money gone to waste, but also a missed opportunity for a healthier meal.

Luckily, we have a solution: Take those vegetables and fruits out of their crisper-drawer purgatory and place them front and center, where you’re more likely to grab them first.

Before you remind us that crisper drawers are designed to keep produce fresh longer, think about it this way: That only applies if you actually use them. No crisper-drawer technology is going to keep your produce edible forever. If your greens (and reds, yellows and oranges) are out where you can see them, they have a fighting chance of getting eaten before they spoil.

Put produce where you can see it, not hidden in the crisper.

Make these simple swaps in your fridge to keep all of your food fresh, avoid cross-contamination and eat your healthiest:

Fruit and vegetables
Place vegetables and fruit in the middle of the fridge, with larger items toward the back and smaller ones in front, so you can see everything. Store vegetables in clear, covered, plastic storage bins to prevent ethylene-producing fruits (such as apples, pears and cantaloupe) from speeding their demise. Lettuce can stay in plastic clamshells or in a perforated bag.

Poultry, fish and meat
Keep poultry, fish and meat in the bottom drawer. It’s a particularly cold spot; plus, if anything spills, drips won’t contaminate other items in the fridge. (Just be sure to wrap everything tightly, and clean and sanitize the drawer frequently.)

Condiments
Group condiments together on the door, the warmest part of the fridge, since they’re less likely to spoil.

Eggs and milk
Keep eggs in their cartons and place them, along with milk, on a middle or bottom shelf, ideally toward the back, where it’s colder.

A final tip: Let it breathe
Don’t over-pack your fridge. It operates best if air is allowed to circulate.

Water, Water Everywhere Make a date to see the movie Runoff

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Kimberly Levin is a woman of many talents. As a biochemist, she did field research testing stream waters in her home state of Kentucky. Her work led her to discover and expose a textile factory that was dumping poisonous by-product into a tributary of Lake Cumberland, a place where many in the region get their drinking water. Now as a director, she has created Runoff, a film that takes inspiration from that period of her life.

“The discovery helped lead to the factory’s eventual closing but I was haunted by the fact that the plant was simply relocated to another community, and the problem became someone else’s,” Levin told us, “I became obsessed with the way people make choices when their backs are against the wall, when there is no ‘good’ choice in front of you.”

Watch the trailer for Runoff.

Runoff is not a documentary, but rather a nail-biting drama that examines how water is both the source of life and also, unfortunately, often a handy dumping ground for chemicals. The film (both terrifying in its themes and beautiful in its shots of raw bucolic splendor) focuses on a farm family pushed to the brink when they find themselves under brutal competitive pressure from agribusiness. Betty, the main character, must decide if she will dispose of chemicals into the neighborhood creek in exchange for a lucrative payout that will save her family when they are threatened from their land. The character-driven stunner just became available for streaming on iTunes, Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Watch the movie and we guarantee you will give water safety a second thought. But instead of just worrying about your water, you can take concrete actions, says Levin. She suggests starting by finding out what’s coming out of your tap—what’s in the water you drink every day. Visit your local water treatment facility and learn about how your water is treated. You may be surprised to find out what contaminants your municipal water treatment plant allows in your water and what they put in it to purify it. Consult this list from the EPA to learn about contaminants that may be found in your tap.

No matter the status of your water, get involved with the Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization that helps communities protect their right to clean water. Find a chapter in your area and help monitor and defend the health of your local watershed.

Inspired India This new Indian cookbook is a gem

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Long before bloggers were blogging and before you could get a paneer tikka masala in seemingly every town in America, Madhur Jaffrey was spreading the gospel of Indian cooking.

Her first cookbook was published in 1973, and since then her dozens of books have been racking up awards and showing us all how to take the lessons of her home country and translate them to our own kitchens.

For her newest book, Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking ($35), Jaffrey crisscrossed India (the country with the largest percentage of vegetarians in the world) and gathered recipes from home cooks.

Madhur Jaffrey has been called the Julia Child of Indian Food (photograph by Christopher Hirsheimer).

These are not the heavy meat and cream-laden curries you will see at a restaurant. Instead, they showcase the vibrancy and incredible diversity of Indian vegetarian cuisine. There is the sweet, sour, salty and coconut-enriched Kodava mushroom curry from southern Karnataka; a spinach dish stir-fried with garlic, cumin and fenugreek seeds; and cabbage fritters from the state of Andhra Pradesh held together with just a wisp of chickpea flour.

This massive book (it clocks in at 400-plus pages) is a reminder of why we still buy cookbooks even with an Internet saturated with recipes. It’s a lockbox of lush, beautiful and functional recipes that are guaranteed to work. Even the most die-hard cook is bound to pick up a few new ideas and techniques.

Jaffrey shared her recipe for fresh cucumber spears, sprinkled with lemon juice and dusted with spices, with us. They are the perfect last-minute addition to your Thanksgiving menu: crisp and refreshing enough to cut through a rich and heavy meal, and easy enough (no reheating needed!) to not create any headaches. If your menu is full-to-the-brim already, save the recipe for later—it’s the perfect revitalizer post T-day, and all year round.

Cucumber Spears
Kheeray Ki Phankay

Serves 4
4 cucumbers (ideally seedless cucumbers, labeled Armenian or Persian)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1⁄8 teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds
1⁄8 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons olive or peanut oil
1⁄8 teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
1⁄8 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
5–6 fresh curry leaves or small basil leaves

1. Peel the cucumbers and halve them lengthwise. Arrange them on a plate, cut side up. Dribble the lemon juice over them as evenly as you can manage. Now sprinkle the salt, cumin seeds, and chili powder over them in the same even manner.

2. Put the oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, a matter of seconds, add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds. Throw in the curry leaves and turn off the heat. Now tilt the frying pan and spoon the oil and spices evenly over the cucumbers. They are ready to be served.

Excerpted from VEGETARIAN INDIA by Madhur Jaffrey. Copyright © 2015 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Leftover Love Prioritize sweet potatoes on your plate pre– and post– Thanksgiving plates

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Leave your holiday lethargy behind and get help digesting all that stuffing and pie this Thanksgiving.

It’s time to get back to your roots by relying on the power of sweet potatoes, a crop grown in the Americas far before any Pilgrims showed up.

These orange tubers are loaded with vitamin B6, which helps your body break down carbohydrates, leaving you feeling more energized.

Watch Deliciously Ella whip up sweet potato brownies.

Sweet potatoes also have a low glycemic index, meaning they slowly release sugar into your bloodstream. And they contain minerals like manganese that help control blood sugar levels. Plus, the rich pigments of this potato called anthocyanins are influential antioxidants sure to boost your health in the midst of unhealthy indulgences.

So bake organic sweet potatoes to your heart’s content. When considering what sides to make this year, double down on these sweet, mighty roots and consider them not just during holiday meals but also throughout the year to help balance blood sugars and relieve starchy overloads.

Here are a few recipes to lift your leftovers to the next level:

Morning
Start your morning with these sweet potato pancakes.
Try this fall-inspired smoothie with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Afternoon
Load up on sweet potato topped with avocado.
Make your leftover mash into a sweet potato burger.

Night
Whip up this creamy dip and serve with crudité.
Turn baked potatoes into dessert.

You Don’t Know Jack Here's the newest meat substitute you need to know

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Eating more plant-based meals is a worthy endeavor (for both your body and the planet), but once you commit, you’ve still got to find something to eat for dinner.

If you feel like you’ve OD’ed on beans and tofu, it’s time to meet jackfruit. While jackfruit sounds more like something you would use as a morning oatmeal topper, it actually makes for the perfect filling for a vegetarian take on carnitas tacos.

Here’s the deal: When ripe, jackfruit is very sweet and has a flavor that approaches the taste of Juicy Fruit gum. But, when jackfruit is harvested young it has an incredible fibrous meat-like texture and consistency.

A single jackfruit can weigh well over 60 pounds.

Chicago-based Upton’s Naturals makes two flavors ($5) of jackfruit, a Chili Lime with sea salt, cumin and vinegar and a tangy Bar-B-Que. The heat-and-eat packs are now available nationally, including at Whole Foods.

Don’t let the idea of meat fruit squick you out until you’ve given it a try. We’re piling the sweet and smoky Bar-B-Que variety into a lunchtime pita with a side of crunchy coleslaw made with avocado mayo. The zesty Chili Lime works just as well as a topping for a roasted sweet potato as it does being mixed into a kale salad with beans and avocado. Another selling point for Upton’s jackfruit products is that unlike meat alternatives like tofu, seitan and tempeh, it’s completely gluten-, soy- and oil-free.

“Jackfruit is one of the most underutilized crops in the world,” says Nicole Sopko, the Vice President of Upton’s–in fact the company has forged special relationships with Thai farmers to bring the young fruit to market. Whether you are going vegan or are just incorporating more meatless meals into your weekly schedule, jackfruit is well worth adding to your rotation.

The Syrup Solution Fit more maple into your health regime

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Sweet news: A spoonful of maple syrup is good for you.

This natural sweetener contains antioxidants galore. So far, studies have uncovered 54 beneficial antioxidant compounds in maple syrup, which help fight inflammatory diseases like osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.

These beneficial compounds also act as natural skincare, helping to repair free radical damage. Maple syrup surpasses other sweeteners with its high levels of energy- and immune-boosting minerals like manganese and zinc.

Watch how maple syrup is made.

New research also reports that the syrup is an able warrior in the fight against drug-resistant germs. Lab tests found a concentrated extract of real maple syrup combined with antibiotics is effective at destroying bacteria called biofilms, which are commonly found in difficult-to-treat infections.

Scientists don’t recommend pouring the stuff over everything just yet, but rather using it as a sweetener when you can, perhaps to enhance a bowl of oatmeal or dress up butternut squash. You can try it in more savory applications, too, such as this maple pumpkin risotto or salmon glaze.

Just don’t use any old “syrup” (sorry, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth). Only “pure maple syrup” produced without additives like high-fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring will give you the nutritional benefit.

Even with all the goodness in this syrup, remember to pair sweets with a fat or protein when you can, and don’t overdo it. Try a dab of grass-fed butter on your pancakes to slow down your glycemic response and get the most out of these vitamins without the sugar crash.

My, My Mayo Love guac? You're going to crush on this.

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Ryan Cahill took a post-party conundrum and turned it into a brilliant new product: When he found himself with loads of leftover guacamole, he substituted it for mayonnaise in a potato salad and Avèyo, the avocado mayonnaise, was born.

Unlike so many mayos on the market, Avèyo ($4 for 6 oz. or $12 for three boxes) is made without any GMO ingredients, preservatives, soybean oil, sugar, emulsifiers or gums.

While wonderful avocado oil products have been hitting shelves (we like Chosen Foods avocado oil for high-heat cooking and the neutral-tasting Primal Kitchen Mayo for spreading on sandwiches), this is the first mayonnaise based on the whole avocado fruit rather than just its oil.

We’re putting this spread on everything.

As Cahill says, “This is a mayonnaise designed from the avocado up.” He starts with super-ripe California Hass avocados and blends them with vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and lime juice. The result is remarkably creamy and very tangy, but still fairly low in calories per serving (1 tablespoon is about 25 calories).

Avocados’ gloriously healthy fat stands in for the usual eggs and most of the oil, making Avèyo vegan-friendly too.

Avèyo pouches do need to be refrigerated, but they also freeze well. We’re mixing ours with ground turkey for turkey burgers, subbing it for regular mayo in an updated version of deviled eggs and using it as a straight-up dip for raw vegetables (get more recipes here).

If only our parties regularly led to such brilliance.