Epicurean Charlotte

Food & Wine Magazine


10 Smart Swaps to Make Baking and Cooking Better for You

reprinted with permission from brandpoint

Creamy sauces, cookies, casseroles, and cakes ... it’s natural to crave favorite comfort foods. However, it’s easy to overindulge on rich dishes and decadent desserts, especially if you’re hosting a gathering of friends and family. How can you enjoy amazing foods while bumping up the health quotient?

“Remember, when you’re cooking or baking, you’re in control,” says registered dietitian and nutritionist Lyssie Lakatos. “With a few smart ingredient substitutions and food swaps, you and your guests can enjoy favorite dishes and get more vitamins and nutrients.”

Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames, both registered dietitians, are known as the “The Nutrition Twins.” Together, they share their favorite strategies for cooking healthier, including clever ingredient swaps you won’t even detect in the finished dish.

When baking, eggs are a common ingredient. But not all eggs are created equal. Opt for Eggland’s Best eggs, which are locally-sourced from hens fed an all-vegetarian diet consisting of healthy grains, canola oil, and supplements like alfalfa and vitamin E. As a result, they have 10 times more vitamin E, five times more vitamin D, three times more vitamin B12, two times more omega-3s, 38 percent more lutein, and 25 percent less saturated fat compared to ordinary eggs.

Sour Cream
Swap full-fat sour cream for plain Greek yogurt in recipes, dips, sauces, and garnishes. Plain Greek yogurt tastes surprisingly similar to sour cream but offers higher levels of protein.

Butter in Cooking
Cooking smart means choosing healthier fats and using them in moderation. Instead of butter, try olive oil. While 1 tablespoon of butter has about 7 grams of saturated fat, olive oil only has 2 grams of saturated fat.

Butter in Baking
Oil can cause baked goods to get soggy, so a better butter alternative is applesauce or pumpkin purée for half of the called-for amount. The addition of applesauce or pumpkin purée reduces the fat content while keeping baked goods moist and delicious.

Bacon adds flavor to any dish, but a ton of fat. To get the flavor-boost of bacon without the excess fat, try using Canadian bacon, lean prosciutto, or turkey bacon. Whether beside scrambled eggs for breakfast or crumbled into a casserole, these tasty alternatives will surely satisfy.

Use less salt and add herbs to recipes to get succulent flavor. Whether fresh or dried, herbs satisfy the palate and add beauty of any dish. Have fun mixing and matching herbs to customize a recipe perfectly to your taste.

All those amazing glazes and desserts require sugar, but you need not rely solely on refined white sugar. For baked goods, lessen sugar and add vanilla or cinnamon to intensify sweetness. For glazes, try alternatives like maple syrup or fruit purees.

Classic comfort foods often require breading. For a healthy alternative to traditional white bread crumbs, try whole-grain breadcrumbs, rolled oats, or crushed bran cereal (or a mixture of them all!).

Rather than using entirely all-purpose refined white flour for recipes, try swapping half of the amount with whole-wheat flour. You’ll still get the desired consistency out of baked goods, but you’ll be eating more whole grains.

Iceberg lettuce is a popular option for salads and recipes, but to get more important vitamins (and more flavor), use arugula, collard greens, spinach, kale, or watercress instead. Insider tip: try buying a bag of mixed greens to enjoy a variety of nutrient-dense alternatives.


Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Want to start your day out with an indulgent, satisfying breakfast that features some of these smart cooking ideas? This recipe serves as a great breakfast and has vitamin-packed Eggland's Best Eggs, sweet potatoes, and turkey bacon. For more recipes, visit www.egglandsbest.com.

• 2 Eggland's Best eggs (large)
• 2 sweet potatoes
• 2 strips turkey bacon
• 1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese
• 1½ tsp salt
• ½ tsp pepper
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash and scrub your sweet potatoes. Place on a baking sheet, pierce each potato a few times with a fork, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes.

When the sweet potatoes are finished, slice them in half lengthwise and let them cool. Scoop a bit of 'meat' out from the sweet potatoes to make room for the filling.

In a small nonstick skillet over medium heat, place two strips of turkey bacon. Cook until bacon begins to brown and crisp up. Place a napkin on top of a small plate, and when the bacon is finished, place onto the napkin to let the grease soak out. Rinse the skillet and place back on the burner over medium heat.

Place the eggs in the skillet, and cook on medium-low for about 3 minutes. Be sure not to overcook the eggs, as they will continue cooking after removed from the heat and will be placed into the oven later on. Break the eggs into four equal parts. Place each into the hollow parts of the sweet potatoes, and sprinkle each with salt and pepper.

Break the bacon apart with your hands into small pieces, and sprinkle over the eggs, then sprinkle cheese over the top. Set your oven to broil on high. Place the potatoes in the oven and broil for three minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!

Pairing Bold Red Wines with Vegetarian (or Vegan) Food

by Madeline Puckette
reprinted with permission from Wine Folly

If you’re a vegetarian (or the person responsible for feeding one), you might be under the impression that wine pairing with vegetarian food is limited. Au contraire, that’s just not true! Contrary to what the carnivores would have you believe, vegetarian food offers equally delightful pairings and can even stand up against bolder red wines than many meat-based dishes. Since this is considered one of the biggest challenges with pairing vegetarian or vegan foods, we’ll tackle this head on and give you some inspiring new ideas for pairing bold red wines with vegetarian or vegan foods.


Start Thinking of Wine as an Ingredient
When you break down wine into its structural taste components (sweet, sour, bitter, etc.), it’s easier to treat wine as an ingredient that actively interacts with a dish rather than something you sip on the side. The goal of a great wine pairing is to balance these taste components with a dish so that, together, the pairing highlights key flavors.


Deconstructing the Taste Profile of Red Wines
So, since we’re attempting to pair a full-bodied red wine with vegetarian food, let’s identify the fundamental taste components of a bold red wine.

Acid: All wines lie on the acid side of the spectrum (with pH levels between approximately 2.7 and 4). Full-bodied red wines are typically somewhere around 3.6 pH, so fundamentally speaking, they are sour. You can use this sourness to your advantage by letting the wine act as a balancing force in the food and wine pairing.

Bitterness: The pigment and tannin in red wine add bitterness and astringency to wine, which has been shown to have a palate cleansing effect (it literally “scrapes” proteins off of your tongue, which is why some people describe red wines as having a “drying” sensation). The features of bitterness and astringency are important to note when pairing, because you’ll need to counterbalance them with the food.

Intensity Level: Yep, full-bodied red wines are bold. In order to complement bold wines, you’ll need to match them with foods that have the same or similar intensity, which is why roasted meats have been the go-to pairing choice thus far.

Base Flavors: Since wines are made with grapes, they usually have fruity flavors. Bolder reds typically range in the dark fruit side of the spectrum with plum, blackberry, blueberry, and black currant flavors. There are a few exceptions with more red fruit (raspberry, cherry, etc.) flavors, but for the most part, full-bodied red wines deliver dark fruit. These flavors will come in handy later when you’re thinking about flavor pairing with highlight ingredients, spices, and herbs.

Examples: Not all full-bodied red wines taste the same (um ... duh!). Here are a few examples of full-bodied red wines alongside some of their principle aromas and flavors:
 • Syrah: Blackberry, Plum, Black Pepper, Black Olive, Sweet Tobacco, Chocolate
 • Cabernet Sauvignon: Black Currant, Black Cherry, Green Peppercorn, Bell Pepper, Mint
 • Nebbiolo: Cherry, Rose, Licorice, Anise, Tobacco, Cocoa Powder


Wine Pairing Concepts

Now that we understand full-bodied red wines by their fundamental tastes, let’s identify the core components that a dish must have in order to create balance.

Complement sourness in wine with fat and salt.
When you make a simple salad dressing, you’re essentially adding oil (fat) and salt to vinegar to create balance. This is the concept behind balancing sourness in wine. You need some element of fat in the dish to counteract the acidity of the wine.
TIP: Dishes that are more acidic (sour) than wine will make the wine taste less sour (sometimes even making wines taste flabby). If you try a pairing with a food item that’s more acidic than the wine, just make sure you have enough fat in the dish to counterbalance the sourness of both the dish and the wine (otherwise, the wine will create an unbalanced taste). An example of a sour dish that has enough fat for both the wine and the dish would be lemon risotto.

Complement bitterness in wine with protein, umami, and fat.
The tannins and other polyphenols in red wine act as scrapers on your tongue to proteins and fat, which is why you’ll want a fair amount of proteins and fat in your dish to complement the wine. Additionally, if you have other bitter components in your dish (such as quinoa, kale, etc.), you might add a little sugar to counteract these tastes so that the primary flavors of your dish are protein, umami, and fat.

A note about bitter and sweet: While sweetness technically reduces our perception of bitterness, it’s usually not advised when flavor pairing with high tannin (bitter) wines. This is because it usually makes the wine come across as bitter and sour! That said, it’s possible to complement a bitter wine with some sweetness in a dish (for example, tangy BBQ sauce pairs really well with fruit-forward and smoky Lodi Zinfandel).


Choosing Ingredients

Now that we know what bold red wines need for balance, the challenge is finding vegetarian ingredients with enough protein, umami, and fat to create a balanced pairing.

Proteins: The base proteins in vegetarian food are packed with quality proteins but often lack the intensity of flavor for bolder red wines. So, you’ll want to modify these a bit to reach the desired level meatiness.
 • Tofu/Tempeh
 • Quinoa
 • Beans: White Beans, Pinto Beans, Black Beans, etc.
 • Alternative Meats: Soy Curls, TVP, and pre-made brands like Quorn and Gardein

Fat and Umami Ingredients: Once you have your protein figured out, you’ll need to increase its intensity by adding fat, salt, and umami. Here are some popular vegan ingredients that will do the trick:
 • Mushrooms, Mushroom Broth, or Bouillon
 • Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
 • Molasses
 • Soy Sauce/Tamari/Bragg’s
 • Nut butters and creams including Cashew Cream, Peanut Butter, and Coconut Milk
 • Nuts including Pepitas, Pine Nuts, Cashews, Peanuts, Blanched Almonds
 • Oils including Coconut Oil, Canola Oil, Refined Grapeseed Oil

Necessary Seasoning: Finally, in order to get your vegan or vegetarian meal to the same intensity, seasoning is your best friend. Here are some seasonings that will bode well with full-bodied red wines as well as deliver the taste intensity you’ll need:
 • Roasted Shallots or Onion Powder
 • Black Pepper & White Pepper
 • Cumin
 • Mustard seed and powder
 • Fennel seed
 • Vinegar
 • Smoked Paprika
 • Cinnamon or Allspice
 • Brewer’s Yeast (adds umami)


An Example: Napa Cabernet
Ready for a red wine-vegetarian-dish practice pairing? Let’s say I’m going to make a vegan food and wine pairing specifically for a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. In my made-up example, the Napa Cabernet has high tannin, high intensity, and flavors of black cherry, cocoa powder, red pepper, and cedar.

For pairing this dish, I really want a protein base with enough textural richness to cut through the smokiness in the wine. To do this, I’d look into creating a BBQ burger patty with pinto beans, crushed dried shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, oil, black pepper, and molasses (and the other ingredients needed to make it stick together). I’d definitely want to get this on the grill and give it some burn marks to give it more roasted notes. Then, to highlight the red pepper-y spice in the wine, I’d place a roasted red pepper on top of my patty, along with some melted cheddar cheese to give the dish more fat. Finally, put the whole thing on a charred bun with a piece of butter lettuce and some ketchup. Take a bite and a sip of wine, and go to hedonism heaven.


Last Word: Creating Meatiness without Meat

One of the biggest complaints to becoming a vegetarian or vegan is simply described as a “lack of meatiness” in a your diet. If you’re cooking in a traditional manner, this would be quite true. However, if you figure out how to create meatiness in vegetarian foods (both texturally and with umami), you can create some compelling pairings for full-bodied red wines. This is the secret!

Six Healthy Reasons to Eat More Real Cinnamon

by Margie King
reprinted with permission from GreenMediaInfo LLC

If you live in North America or Europe, that jar of “cinnamon” in your cupboard is probably not truly cinnamon at all, but a very similar spice known as cassia or “bastard cinnamon.” True cinnamon is usually labeled “Ceylon cinnamon” and comes principally from Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil, and the Caribbean. Cassia, on the other hand, is often designated as “Chinese cinnamon” or “Saigon cinnamon” and comes principally from Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Japan, and Korea.

Cinnamon is one of the oldest and most popular spices and has been used for millennia both for its flavoring and medicinal qualities. In ancient Egypt, it was used to fill body cavities of corpses as an embalming agent. In ancient Rome, it was considered so valuable that the Emperor Nero burned a year’s supply on his wife’s funeral pyre as proof of his devotion to her.

Ceylon cinnamon is more expensive and more difficult to find in North American, where most spices labeled cinnamon are actually the cheaper cassia. Sweeter, lighter, and more refined than cassia, true cinnamon is most suitable to flavoring desserts rather than more robust, savory dishes, which can handle the heavier cassia.

Besides flavor, the most important distinction between the two spices, however, is in their levels of coumarin, a natural compound that acts as a blood thinner when ingested.

Cassia has much higher levels of coumarin than true cinnamon. As such, patients on blood thinners like warfarin (trade name Coumadin) are often advised to limit their intake of cinnamon, although this generally applies to cassia more so than to real cinnamon.

Both types of cinnamon are excellent sources of the trace mineral manganese, which is an important activator of enzymes essential to building healthy bones as well as other physiological processes, including carbohydrate and fat metabolism.

Both are also very good sources of dietary fiber, iron, and calcium. The combination of calcium and fiber is thought to be helpful in reducing the risk of colon cancer and lowering cholesterol levels, in addition to relieving constipation or diarrhea.

Here are six reasons to make sure you’re getting your cinnamon every day:


Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Cinnamon has been shown to normalize blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics by improving the ability to respond to insulin. It does so in part by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties after eating, as evidenced by a study in which people ate about a cup of rice pudding with and without about a teaspoon of cinnamon. Adding the cinnamon slowed the rate the stomach emptied from 37 to 34.5 percent and significantly slowed the rise in blood sugar levels. Even less than half of a teaspoon a day is shown to reduce blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics.


Lowers Cholesterol
Diabetics can also reduce their risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease by consuming even one daily gram (about 1/3 teaspoon) of cinnamon. One 2003 USDA study found that after 40 days of eating between just 1 and 6 grams of cinnamon (about 2 teaspoons), type 2 diabetics were not only able to reduce their blood sugar levels by 18 to 29 percent, but also lowered their triglycerides by 23 to 30 percent, their LDL (bad) cholesterol by 7 to 27 percent and total cholesterol by 12 to 26 percent.


Supports Healthy Blood Clotting
Much research has been devoted to cinnamon’s effect on blood platelets, which contribute to clotting. It helps thin the blood and prevent unwanted clumping of platelets. It is so effective as an anti-coagulant that patients taking prescription blood thinners are warned not to take cinnamon in concentrated form such as supplements or extracts.


Fights Bacteria and Fungus
Ayurvedic medicine has long used cinnamon for its anti-microbial qualities to support the immune system and prevent colds and flu. It’s been proven to help stop the growth of bacteria, fungus, and the common yeast Candida. One study showed that it’s an effective alternative to chemical food preservatives, and just a few drops of essential oil of cinnamon added to refrigerated carrot broth prevented the growth of food-borne pathogens for up to 60 days.


Boosts Memory and Protects the Brain
Chewing cinnamon flavored gum or just smelling the sweet spice has been found to improve brain activity. Research led by Dr. P. Zoladz and presented at the 2004 meeting of the Association for Chemoreception Sciences, in Sarasota, Florida, concluded that cinnamon enhances cognitive processing and was found to improve test subjects’ scores related to attention, memory, and visual-motor speed when working at a computer.

A 2011 study suggested that it may have a role in reducing the kind of chronic inflammation that leads to various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumor, and meningitis.


Improves Digestion
In traditional Chinese medicine, cinnamon has been used for flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea. It’s also believed to improve the body’s ability to digest fruit, milk, and other dairy products.

Both cassia and real cinnamon are often labeled the same in North America. The true Ceylon version will be more expensive, and it will be a lighter shade of brown, a finer powder, and have a sweeter scent. When buying the sticks, known as “quills,” keep in mind that, generally, cassia will be thicker and the two ends will be rolled toward each other rather than being rolled in one direction only.

Margie King is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. A Wharton M.B.A. and corporate attorney for 20 years, she left the world of business to pursue her passion for all things nutritious. Margie is the author of Nourishing Menopause: The Whole Food Guide to Balancing Your Hormones Naturally. She is also a professional copywriter and natural health, beauty, and nutrition writer.

Why I Kicked My Keurig to the Curb

by Erin Chamerlik
reprinted with permission from GreenMediaInfo LLC

What busy person doesn’t love the idea of having a personal cup of coffee instantly with the push of a button? Many people are delighted when the Keurig machines show up in the workplace or doctor’s waiting room. I loved the idea. I bought one from Costco along with the handy unit to store those awkward K Cups. I, of course, insisted on the Newman’s Organic K Cups for my coffee choice. We stocked our hot beverage center with a variety of flavored K Cups. Then, that little voice in my head started asking questions.

I pushed those concerns away for the sake of convenience. After all, filling my own coffee filter with fresh ground coffee takes all of what ... two minutes? I’m a busy person, just like you!

I wondered, how fresh is the coffee in a K Cup? What toxins am I exposing myself to as the hot water forces the coffee through the little holes poked in the plastic cup? What is that lid made of that is poked at the top to allow the water to enter the cup? What chemicals are used in the flavored coffee selections? Is there a filter inside the plastic cup? What is it made of and how is it secured inside the plastic cup?

If you own a Keurig, please continue reading this post, because what I discovered is shocking and will explain why I’m kicking my Keurig to the curb.


Is Your Keurig Harboring Mold and Bacteria?
When I packed up my kitchen to move 500 miles south, I wanted to make sure that my Keurig was completely empty and dry before it went on the moving truck. IMPOSSIBLE!

Keurig.com states, “Once your Keurig home brewer has been primed, you cannot empty the water from the inside. The internal tank of the brewer cannot be drained.”

The microbiologist in me is disgusted at the thought. Back in the day when I worked in a hospital lab, we emptied all water reservoirs daily or they would grow bacteria and a biofilm could develop. You are familiar with biofilms if you’ve ever cleaned the goo out of a flower vase after the flowers have died. Biofilms are found wherever there is water and a surface to stick to (like your shower curtain).

The rubber tubing and the internal tank of the Keurig cannot be drained. It’s possible that bacteria and mold are happily living inside that hidden water tank where it’s nice, dark, and warm. Another mold-magnet is that black rubber ring on the bottom of the exterior water container. Look now—is there green or black slime? Ewwwww (biofilm!).

Donna Duberg, M.A., M.S., an assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University says, “Bacteria forms a slick biofilm when grown in moist, dark places, and so do molds.” No, your coffee bean’s antibacterial action is not enough to kill these microbes that are floating through the system. Duberg also points out, “There is research which shows that it is only about 50 percent effective in killing bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus mutans, and molds.”

Unfortunately, your water isn’t getting hot enough to kill all microbes that are living in your coffee system either. For that to happen, the water would need to reach boiling temperature and stay there for one minute. And, for heaven’s sake, wash your workplace coffee mug with dish soap and water. Researchers found that half of workplace coffee mugs were contaminated with fecal bacteria.

Can you clean the Keurig? The first step is to empty out the exterior water tank and look inside the tank. Does it feel slimy? Clean and dry that tank and run a few cycles of diluted vinegar through the Keurig. Good luck with that. One person said, “I could still smell a moldy aroma after doing quite a few vinegar cycles. There were also black, floaty things in my cup even when I just brewed hot water.”


Plastic K Cups Conundrum
The Plastic: The K Cup is a composite plastic, #7. Although this is technically BPA-free, the chemicals from the composite plastic are not safe, and they still have estrogenic activity. As long as I mentioned fake estrogens coming from the plastic in your K Cup, don’t make a bad situation worse by adding soy milk to your coffee! Men, would you like “moobs” with your mocha and soy?

The Cups Are Non-Recyclable: This is a big problem for the environment since we’ve seen an explosion in the use of single cup coffee makers, like Keurig, in the last few years. MotherJones.com reports that over 8.3 billion K Cups are discarded every year, enough to circle the earth 10.5 times!

The Lid is Polyethylene Coated Foil: Aluminum foil. Yes, we would like to avoid aluminum because of the connection with the biggies: Alzheimer’s Disease, anxiety, depression, autism, and Celiac Disease. Dr. Stephanie Seneff, PhD, recently gave a talk, “How aluminum and glyphosate (Roundup) collaborate to cause anxiety, depression, autism, and Celiac Disease.” You can still get MP3s and transcripts if you a year re interested.

The Filter: The filter is made of filter paper and what? I don’t know, but somehow it’s fused or glued inside the plastic cup.

Reusable K Cups: Although there are reusable K Cups called My K-Cup on the market, you’re still faced with the stagnant water situation and the hidden water tanks and tubing that can’t be cleaned. The reusable My K-Cup still needs to be filled every time you make a cup of coffee, and the filter needs to be cleaned with every use. There goes your convenience, but if you’re willing to risk the microbes, then this is better for the environment and more economical.

The Coffee: The flavored coffee K Cups are typically flavored with “natural” or artificial flavors. We know that food manufacturers use these names to hide ingredients that act like MSG, a neurotoxin. I help people get to the root cause of chronic migraines and headaches. Often, these MSG flavors are causing the problem. One Keurig K Cup user complained of nausea, fatigue, dizziness, and vomiting. “This all started when my work got a Keurig machine and I started drinking their tea regularly.” Another user reported, “I’ve noticed when I use the K Cups on a daily basis, my lips tend to get dry and numb on the outside.” One of my clients noticed a connection between skin rashes and the use of the Keurig K Cups with flavoring.


Well, Do You?
Do you care about the taste and quality of your coffee? Do you care about the environment and the workers in the coffee bean industry? Do you care about your health?

There’s nothing like a steaming hot cup of freshly brewed coffee made with quality coffee beans. Using the Keurig was easy, but the taste was marginal. I don’t consider myself a coffee connoisseur, but I love a good cup of coffee. Finally, I allowed myself to consider all the issues with the Keurig, and I decided to kick my Keurig to the curb.


Now That’s a Good Cup of Coffee
The coffee beans you purchase should look inky black and ideally, they’re Fair Trade, organic, and shade grown. Coffee beans should be grown and processed without the use of pesticides, herbicide, or chemicals.

According to Mercola.com, “Most people are not aware that regular coffee consumption can be a significant source of pesticides. According to the CS Monitor, conventional farmers apply up to 250 pounds of chemical fertilizers per acre!” Are you sipping pesticides with your brew? We know that pesticides are contributing to the growing rate of cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, and miscarriage.

Be sure to use non-bleached filters, as they’ve been bleached with chlorinated bleach.

Shade grown coffee is better tasting since shade-coffee beans ripen more slowly, resulting in a richer flavor. More importantly, they’re better for the environment and provide a healthier environment for the workers. When shopping, always look for organic, fair trade, shade grown coffee.