10 Ways To Get In On The Cauliflower Trend

Cauliflower is now the king of all vegetables. Not that we really need to keep score, but it’s true. Cauliflower has officially nudged kale off its throne and is enjoying the major buzz that kept kale on the top of superfood lists for so long.

I’m not really a big fan of the superfood concept. There’s not a vegetable on earth that doesn’t deserve that descriptor. I’m in favor of eating lots of different vegetables – in various forms – not just because they’re trendy.

Even so. Cauliflower deserves the attention. [And I predicted that cauliflower would be the new kale back in 2013.]

Long in the shadow of its bright green cousin broccoli, cauliflower was once dismissed for its pale color – which is often erroneously linked to a lack of nutrients. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, a category of plants named for their cross-shaped leaves. Cauliflower is joined in the cruciferous family by broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and yes, even our old friend kale.

What’s unique about cruciferous vegetables are the sulfur-containing compounds they contain called glucosinolates. That’s why these vegetables often give off a pungent smell when they’re cooking, especially when steamed.

It’s all worth it. These compounds are converted into indoles and isothiocyanates that have been found to inhibit the development of certain cancers. The evidence on the potential role of cruciferous vegetables in cancer prevention continues to grow.

You’ll never be short of ideas on how to prepare cauliflower. Recipes are trending on Pinterest and continuously featured on food blogs.  Do a search for cauliflower on Healthy Aperture and you’ll find more than 1,000 unique cauliflower recipes, including several that are featured below.

The unique thing about cauliflower is how it’s being cleverly converted into so many different things, from rice to pizza crust, and it’s going incognito in everything from pasta, soup and meatballs to smoothies and desserts. A real sign that the trend has gone mainstream is when I spotted a pouch of cauliflower crumbles at the grocery store – pre-shredded fresh cauliflower that’s ready to be steamed and transformed into something new.

Cauliflower, is there anything you can’t do?

If you haven’t explored cauliflower’s ability to take on different roles at your dinner table, here are 10 ways you can get in on the cauliflower trend:

mashed cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic  by Garlic & Zest

Mash it. This may be the original cauliflower transformation, which rose to popularity during the height of the South Beach Diet, which featured a recipe for mashed cauliflower as a lower-carb substitute for potatoes. Simply steam cauliflower with chicken broth and garlic, and mash until smooth. Add shredded cheese and herbs, if desired.

Seared-Cauliflower-Steaks-with-Red-Pepper-Walnut-Sauce2

Seared Cauliflower Steaks with Red Pepper-Walnut Sauce by Foxes Love Lemons

Steak it. Cauliflower steaks are great as a side dish – but they’re also meaty enough to be the main event on your plate. You’ll even find cauliflower steaks on restaurant menus, including Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant in New York, which serves the roasted vegetable steak on a bed of cauliflower puree. To make at home, cut cauliflower into 1-inch slices and roast, broil or grill. Try topping with an herb sauce like chimmichurri, pesto or gremolata.

Rice it. To make cauliflower rice, add fresh cauliflower florets to a food processor and pulse until you get small crumbles – about the size of rice grains. Then microwave in a covered dish or saute in butter until softened (but not mushy). Season as you desire, turn it into fried rice or use as a base for stir-fries and curries.

cauliflower crust calzone

Cauliflower Crusted Calzone by The Iron You

Crust it. This might be the most surprising use of cauliflower – a crust for your pizza. You start with your riced cauliflower, then cook and drain it well. Add to a bowl with a beaten egg, salt and other seasonings, along with grated cheese, such as mozzarella and Parmesan. Combine until it forms a soft dough, and then roll out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until browned, and then add your favorite pizza toppings.

Dip it. Pureed cauliflower makes a fantastic base for dips. Roast or steam and then puree until smooth. Try combining with Greek yogurt, and add all sorts of flavorings, like curry or buffalo. Or make a spinach dip, baked artichoke dip or hummus with pureed cauliflower.

Popcorn it. Turn cauliflower into a tasty treat by roasting popcorn-size florets until golden brown. Sprinkle with garlic salt, a pinch of cayenne and grated Parmesan cheese.

skinny cauliflower mac & cheese

Skinny Cauliflower Mac & Cheese by Damn Delicious

Pasta it. Pureed cauliflower can help fortify your pasta dishes with an extra serving of vegetables. Use in macaroni and cheese, combine with whole-wheat penne or layer in a vegetable lasagna. Swap in the creamy cauliflower in place of traditional Alfredo sauce for fettuccine.

Bread it. Bite into a cauliflower bread by using riced or pureed cauliflower. A quick online search will turn up recipes for cauliflower buns, muffins, tortillas, pancakes, waffles and a delectable-looking cauliflower-crusted grilled cheese. Use the technique for cauliflower pizza crust to make cheesy cauliflower bread sticks to dunk into marinara sauce.

Baked-Cauliflower-Buffalo-Wings-with-Creamy-Blue-Cheese-Avocado-Dip-600x895

Cauliflower Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Avocado Dip by Well Plated

Buffalo it. Instead of buffalo wings, make this famous party appetizer with cauliflower. Roast cauliflower florets with a drizzle of olive oil until browned, and then toss in buffalo sauce. Serve with toothpicks to dip into blue cheese dressing, along with celery sticks.

Roasted-Cauliflower-and-Leek-Soup

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup by Running to the Kitchen

Soup it.  A creamy bowl of cauliflower soup is a simple and satisfying way to enjoy this super trendy vegetable.   All you need to do is roast and blend and you’re in business.

 

whole-roased-cauliflower-4

Or instead of transforming cauliflower into another form, try it whole in all its glory.  A whole roasted cauliflower, slathered in an herb butter or drizzled with olive oil and spices, makes for a dramatic presentation at the table. Try this Garlic and Herb Crusted Whole Roasted Cauliflower from Connoisseurus Veg.

 

Article adapted from my original column for U.S. News & World Report’s Eat + Run blog.  All photos are featured on Healthy Aperture, with credit to the individual bloggers.

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2016 Natural Food Trends: A Look at the Highlights from Natural Products Expo West

The natural foods industry is bigger than ever.

That’s especially evident following the Natural Products Expo West that just wrapped up in Anaheim, California.

I didn’t have an opportunity to attend, but have been closely watching the news coming out of this major trade show.

The coordinators of the meeting announced six macro forces and related trends that are driving innovation in natural foods:

farmhouse-culture-gut-shots

Ancient Wisdom
Harkening back to the days of pre-industrialized foods and a simpler way of life, natural products companies are focusing on whole, nutrient-dense ingredients and a “closer to nature” approach to processing. Related trends include: Superfoods 2.0, fermented foods and beverages, and natural fats.

sustainable+seafood+black+cod

Transcendent Transparency
Transparency has moved from a marketing buzzword to an essential way of doing business, as consumers increasingly take note of ingredients, sourcing practices and manufacturing processes behind the products they purchase. Related trends include: ingredients upfront, traceable seafood, and transparent packaging.

wild zora

Snackification
The snackification macro force is symptomatic of an always-on culture that is constantly in need of fuel but that also increasingly demands snacks that are convenient, tasty and nutritious. Related trends include: savory snacking, vegetables reimagined, and global-inspired convenience.

The Rehabilitation of Science
The role of food and nutrition science is being reframed to embrace the spirit of natural products while addressing societal concerns in a pivot that moves toward rebuilding consumer confidence and meeting new consumer demands. Related trends include: clean energy, microbiome-positioned products, and beauty from within.

brothsamplepack_largeFeed me!
A global population of 10 billion will require a serious change in how we go about feeding the world. Natural products companies are rising to the challenge with innovative approaches to sourcing, plant-based nutrition and reducing food waste. Related trends include: next-gen plant proteins, repurposed ingredients, and “nose to tail” sourcing.

The Value(s) Shopper
Consumers are moving beyond price as their single purchasing filter as a new and complex world of values now influences purchasing decisions. Forward-thinking natural products companies are responding with mission-backed products and business models built around purpose. Related trends include: regenerative sourcing practices, sustainable packaging, and mission-based brands.

So what were some of the specific product trends?

Fermentation — from kombucha to kimchi (even kimchi shots)

Vegetables reimagined

Alternative protein — from crickets to plant-based proteins, especially pulses (peas, beans and lentils)

Grass-fed

3_CookingOils_Shopify

Full-fat — from dairy to beef tallow

Ancient grains and sprouted grains

Paleo and gluten-free — still going strong

Food wasteJicachips_AD_large

Wild game, meat jerky

Snack balls — could balls be the new bars?

Ginger and turmeric — especially in beverages, craft sodas

Tea, including matcha

Chips beyond potatoes, including jicama

Coconut water and beyond

Seaweed

Korean cuisine

Here’s a recap of posts from various trendspotters at Expo West:

New Hope Network

New Hope Network photo gallery

Food Business News

New York Times

Food Navigator

Food Navigator

Munchies

Kara Lydon

Foodtrainers

Root Simple

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Friday Food News

GUA BAOTAIWANESE CUISINE BECOMING A BIGGER PART OF US DINING LANDSCAPE
Via Eater

Taiwanese cuisine is becoming easier to find across the US. “It stems from the same trend that has inspired people from many cultures to open US restaurants: The ex-pats are homesick for the foods they know, and second-generation Taiwanese-Americans want to hold on to their culinary legacy,” said Cathy Erway, author of “The Food of Taiwan.” Taiwanese cuisine reflects the island’s history as a melting pot of east Asian influences, featuring Japanese-style ramen alongside omelets that trace back to China’s Fujian province.

KOREAN ICE CREAM CONES ARE A MUST-HAVE THANKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA
Via Bon Appétit online

Korean gai daan jai is gaining a following with US food lovers thanks to an onslaught of Instagram posts showing the eggy waffles being used as ice cream cones. Eggloo and Wowfulls in New York City both offer their take on the dessert, which incorporates toppings ranging from mochi to M&Ms.

ARTISANAL ICE CREAMS ARE ON THE RISE
Via DairyFoods.com

Artisanal ice creams that incorporate fresh, local and seasonal ingredients and bold and unique flavors are growing in popularity, and the National Restaurant Association named artisanal ice cream as the top trend for dessert menus this year. “I think the typical customer has become open to experimenting more with flavor profiles and ingredients, and ice cream shops are great places to test those boundaries and push them even further — hence, the proliferation of artisan shops,” said Natasha Case, co-founder and CEO of gourmet ice cream company Coolhaus.

 

poutineWHITE HOUSE CHEF TO PRESENT FORMAL TAKE ON POUTINE AT STATE DINNER
Via The Washington Post

For the state dinner in honor of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford created a canapé inspired by Canadian poutine. The potato wafers topped with cheese curds and smoked duck will be served alongside other dishes with a Canadian touch, including lamb chops made with Canadian whiskey.

RETAILERS AND STARTUPS TEAM UP ON ‘UGLY’ PRODUCE PROGRAMS
Via USA Today

Whole Foods Market has teamed with startup Imperfect Produce to start selling “ugly” produce at some of its Northern California stores next month. Whole Foods joins a list of food retailers who have had success selling “ugly” produce to consumers and reducing food waste, and other startups such as Hungry Harvest have capitalized on the demand among consumers and retailers. “All food businesses are consumer driven. If consumers ask for it, we will certainly provide it,” said Meghan Stasz, GMA’s senior director of sustainability.

CHEFS TURN TO BURNT FLAVORS FOR DESSIERTS THAT SMOLDER
Via The Washington Post

Charring brings depth of flavor and texture to dishes, including desserts. Chefs are adding smoky notes with burnt sugar, torched marshmallow and even burnt hay, which chef de cuisine Graeme Ritchie uses to infuse ice cream that accompanies a burnt caramel chocolate tuile dessert at Volt in Frederick, Md.

TOP CHEFS DONATE MEMORIES TO NEW L.A. RESTAURANT
Via The New York Times

Chef Timothy Hollingsworth wanted his new Los Angeles restaurant to reflect where he came from, so he reached out to some of the chefs that helped him grow over the years with a request for cooking equipment. Otium is now home to pots and serving vessels from ten top chefs including Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and David Chang. “By using these pieces, I’d be able to truly and directly share my influences with my guests, bringing the thoughtfulness behind cooking to the center of the table,” Hollingsworth wrote in his letter to the chefs.

EATING MORE PROTEIN MAY MAKE PEOPLE FELL FULLER LONGER
Via HealthDay News

An analysis of study data found eating protein does make people feel fuller faster, researchers reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Registered dietitian Erin Keane of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City cautioned the study does not prove eating more protein translates into greater weight loss.

 

Images:  gua bao by S Ma on flickr, poutine by SteFou! on flickr

 

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Are We Possibly Moving Toward Saner, More Sensible Diets? Let’s Hope So, America

Oprah announced that she lost 26 pounds eating bread every day on Weight Watchers, and sign-ups soared.

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly touted her success on The F-Factor Diet, a program created by registered dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot that embraces high-fiber foods including bread, and the book sells out.

The only registered dietitian on ABC’s “My Diet is Better Than Yours” won the weight-loss reality show with her balanced eating plan – beating other experts who recommended juice cleanses, a Paleo-like diet and intermittent fasting. Dawn Jackson Blatner won the competition because her contestant Jasmin Queen lost the highest percentage of body weight during the 14-week challenge. Her “Superfood Swap” plan, which focuses on enjoying favorite foods made with healthier ingredients, beat out the more extreme diets.

DawnPicMonkey Collage

photo credit:  Chad Rubel  from the #MyDietisBetterThanYours reality show watch party 

What’s going on? Could America be getting fed up with crazy, deprivation diets? Could we be entering a new era of saner, more sensible approaches? Let’s hope so. It’s about time.

That’s the topic of my latest post for U.S. News’ Eat + Run blog.

I especially liked the approach of Blatner’s Superfood Swap, which is also the name of her upcoming book. It’s about enjoying food. She wants you to embrace your cravings and continue to eat your favorite foods – just learn new ways to add a superfood twist. So instead of banishing the classic comfort food mac and cheese, make it just a little bit better with whole-grain noodles and swap in pureed cauliflower for some of the cheese.

“When you eat what you actually want, you can stick with it forever,” Blatner told me. “Embracing cravings instead of fighting them helps you avoid the on-again, off-again diet roller coaster.”  To get lasting results, Blatner says, don’t eat like someone else. “Most diet books try to make mini-mes and clone the author’s personal philosophy and beliefs,” she says. “This approach is about tuning in to what you want.”

 dawn4photo credit: Chad Rubel from the #MyDietisBetterThanYours reality show watch party

Finding nutritious ways to fit in the foods you love is truly the only way to lose weight, get healthy and actually enjoy eating for a lifetime.

Here’s more advice from Blatner:

Be someone new. To reach your goals, you can’t be your old self trying to engage in new behaviors. You have to become someone new.That means ditching everything you know about how you did things before and being willing to experiment with a new definition of yourself, according to Blatner.

Develop visual wisdom. Decide what you want to eat and then get ratios right on your plate: half vegetables, one-fourth whole grains and one-fourth protein for around 400 calories total. Her plan isn’t about strict calorie counting, but teaching you how to visually achieve a better balance. The general guide: 2 cups vegetables, 1/2 cup cooked grain, 1/2 cup protein, and 1 to 2 tablespoons oil or dressing or 2 to 3 tablespoons nuts, seeds or guacamole.

Focus on your food. Every time you eat, you need three things: a table, a plate and a chair. That means no eating while standing with the refrigerator door open, driving in the car or lounging on the couch. When you eat from a plate while seated at a table, you naturally eat less and enjoy it more.

Keep a food photo log. Rather than writing down everything you eat or using an app, take pictures of your food. “It’s more fun to take pictures, and it really helps you see what you’re doing,” according to Blatner’s Superfood Swap starter kit. “At the end of each week, take a look at all of the pictures. If you are losing weight and feeling great, these pictures represent what to keep doing. If you aren’t losing weight and don’t feel on track, look at the pictures and do something different next week. Gotta do different to get different.”

Embrace snacks. Build in a couple snacks throughout the day, but go for function over fun. Blatner says snacks should fill you up and serve as a bridge from one delicious meal to the next. The best combination is produce plus protein to keep you full. Ideas: green apple and almonds, clementines and pistachios, and celery and almond butter.

Go for quality. Focus on quality ingredients and fewer highly processed foods, or what Blatner calls CRAP, which is an acronym for chemicals you can’t pronounce; refined sugar and flour; artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners; and preservatives. She emphasizes whole, nutrient-dense foods – vegetables, beans and lentils, whole grains, fresh fruit, lean meats and sustainable fish, natural cheese, 2 percent yogurt and milk, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocado.

Consume what you want, except sweets, treats and alcohol. Eat and drink these things only in social, fun situations. Never at home, and never alone. That way you have to put in some effort and test how much you really want these items. For instance, Blatner suggests going out for a small cup of ice cream instead of keeping cartons in your freezer, or sipping a glass of wine at a bar instead of drinking wine alone at home.

Schedule your activity. Find workouts you enjoy, and plot them out each day on a monthly calendar. Blatner says that while about 80 percent of weight loss happens in the kitchen, the right exercise program is an important way to keep weight off and will help you feel youthful, strong and confident.

Together is better.  Just like Blatner teamed up with her contestant on the ABC reality show, having someone support you can be a powerful motivator. It can help with consistency and make the journey more fun. “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong,” Blatner says. So true.

I was fortunate to attend a watch party for the ABC-TV finale of “My Diet Is Better Than Yours,” that Dawn hosted in Chicago for family and friends.  I didn’t know she actually won until the show actually aired, but I certainly had my suspicions that she would come out on top. I was sitting in the audience next to Chad Rubel, who has done a great job chronicling the show on his site Balance of Food.  His photos are featured above — including the one I love the most of Dawn live-chatting with her winning partner Jasmin.

Below is the video I captured in the theater after Dawn and Jasmin were announced as the winning team.  It was a tremendous champagne celebration.  A huge victory for Dawn, and a huge win for sane, sensible nutrition advice.

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5 Best Things About the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

DGA_Link-Image-4x_2016-01-05-1

You heard the news.  The long-awaited  Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released yesterday.  The five-year process, along with the DGA committee itself,  has been plagued with controversy — which undoubtedly contributed to the delay.  The biggest debate was the interference of Congress who put a stop to the inclusion of environmental sustainability in the report — claiming that it was “out of scope.”

Now some folks are critical that the guidelines didn’t go far enough (such as not making declarative statements to “eat less meat”).  While others, primarily Paleo devotees and authors like Nina Teicholz who wrote The Big Fat Surprise, do not support the limit on saturated fat (less than 10% of calories per day).  They want us to eat more.  And then there are some cynical people who say we should ignore what the government says altogether — that’s why we’re all fat in the first place.

I say ignore that chatter.

Sure, you can find things to criticize.  But can’t we look on the positive side?  I think it’s important now to embrace the new recommendations and spend our energy on creative ways to translate and activate the guidelines to help improve public health.  I firmly believe that when the public sees the experts arguing, they’re even more likely to do nothing — which was the motivation behind the recent Oldways Finding Common Ground Conference.  Even though there are some loud complaining voices, the new dietary guidelines represent a consensus on the science. This was a rigorous scientific review process conducted by some of the top nutrition researchers in the country — so I’m on board.

You can find the detailed report on Health.gov and some tangible ideas to implement the guidelines on ChooseMyPlate.gov.  Here’s a snapshot of the five major guidelines:

DGA_Graphic1_tn-1

So let’s move on from the debate.  In my opinion, there are five great things about the new guidelines:

1.  We have a new plan the country can rally around.  Maybe now the public can focus on what really counts instead of chasing the next big diet trend.   New education efforts are underway, including MyPlate, MyWins that will help people put these guidelines into action.

2. The emphasis is on healthy eating patterns, or eating styles, instead of individual nutrients.  It’s been said many times before, we eat food, not nutrients.  So I like that the guidelines take a food-based approach. And it’s what you eat over time, the totality of your diet, that really counts — not a specific food or nutrient.   Although it’s true, as Marion Nestle says, the guidelines do switch back and forth from eating patterns to nutrients (such as limit saturated fat and added sugars to less than 10% of calories, and consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day), but there are multiple food sources of these nutrients.  A blanket statement to eat less of specific foods doesn’t really cut it.  There are lots of ways to achieve these targets.  Let’s give people a goal and ideas on how to achieve it — leave the options up to the individual.

3. There’s more than one way to eat healthy.  I like that three different eating patterns are highlighted in the guidelines,  a U.S.-style, Mediterranean and vegetarian.  One size doesn’t fit all, and it’s important to consider personal preferences and cultural backgrounds. During a  webinar I attended today on the new guidelines, Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, described the eating patterns as an “adaptive framework.”  You can fit together a healthy diet in many different ways, similar to a puzzle — which is the artwork on the cover of the report. Oh, I get it now.

4. The focus is on small changes.  The guidelines promote the concept of “shifts” or the need to make simple substitutions — that is, choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages in place of less healthy choices. It’s these little tweaks that can make a big difference.  Most Americans need to up their intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  So making these shifts at every eating occasion will get people closer to daily recommendations without feeling deprived.

DGA_Graphic3_tn-1

5. Fat and cholesterol are getting figured out. For once, the emphasis is on the type of fat we eat instead of the amount.  So that means keeping an eye on saturated fat, but not being as concerned about eating “low fat.”  I hope this means people will no longer fear all the wonderful good-fat foods, like nuts, olives and avocado.  And maybe the “saturated fat is back” message will die down.  It’s not really back.  Of course, butter, coconut oil and well-marbled steaks can still be enjoyed.  But they’re not “health foods.” The guidelines also dumped the 300 mg/day limit on cholesterol, which means eggs and seafood may be seen in a new light (which is a good thing).  However, the guidelines still say that dietary cholesterol should be “as low as possible” in a healthy eating pattern.

Here’s a look at what’s been written about the 2015-2020 DGAs:

New York TimesWashington Post

Time

CNN

NBC

NPR

CBS

LA Times

Forbes

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