Friday, October 17, 2014

Mushroom 101: How to Choose, Prep and Cook Mushrooms

Mushrooms are in season right now and are such a great way to add local produce into your weekly menu.  From mild flavored white button mushrooms to portobello's earthy flavor, there is a mushroom that can be added to most any style of cooking.  The following is a rundown of how to select, prep, and cook these amazing members of the fungus family.

Common Cooking Mushrooms

Beech mushrooms are petite with either all-white or light-brown caps. They have a crunchy texture that offers a delicately mild flavor that is both sweet and deliciously nutty.
  • How To Use Them: Cook beech mushrooms whole or slice them into sauces to compliment chicken or fish dishes. They also taste great with vegetables and in stir-fry. Add to soups, stews or sauces as a last ingredient to maintain crisp texture.
Button mushrooms, or white button mushrooms, are the most popular mushroom because they are the most inexpensive and the most widely available. They have a fairly mild taste and blend well with almost anything, although they don’t offer the more intense and dramatic flavor of other varieties.
  • How To Use Them: White button mushrooms can be sautéed or cooked in any way, or enjoyed raw in salads. Try them sliced and sautéed on pizza, or in pasta, quesadillas or cheeseburgers.
Crimini mushrooms, also known as baby ‘bellas or browns, are similar in appearance to white button mushrooms, but have a light-tan to rich-brown cap and a firmer texture. Criminis have a deeper, earthier flavor than white buttons.
  • How To Use Them: Criminis They can be sautéed, broiled, microwaved or cooked in almost any way. Their hearty, full-bodied taste makes them an excellent addition to beef, wild game and vegetable dishes.
Enoki mushrooms have tiny, button-shaped caps and long, spindly stems. They are milder in taste and crunchy. Before using, trim roots at cluster base. Separate stems before serving.
  • How To Use Them: Try enokis raw in salads and sandwiches. Or use them as an ingredient in soups, such as a stock made with soy sauce and tofu.
Maitake mushrooms are also called “Hen of the Woods.” They have a distinctive aroma and a rich, woodsy taste. To prepare maitakes, sauté lightly in butter or oil.
  • How To Use Them: Maitakes add a richer taste in any recipe calling for mushrooms. They can be a main dish ingredient or used in side dishes and soups. 
Oyster mushrooms can be gray, pale yellow or even blue. They have a velvety texture and a very delicate flavor. To bring out their flavor, sauté with butter and onions.
  • How To Use Them: Try oyster mushrooms over linguine, with sliced steak and with red peppers sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese.
Portabella mushrooms have a deep, meat-like texture and flavor. Portabellas can be grilled, broiled or roasted and served as appetizers, entrées or side dishes.
  • How To Use Them: The hearty taste and texture of portabellas make them a flavorful vegetarian alternative; they can be grilled and served as “burgers” on toasted buns.
Shiitake mushrooms have a meaty texture and are rich and woodsy when cooked.
  • How To Use Them: Shiitakes add a meaty flavor and texture to stir-fry, pastas, soups, entrées and sides.

How to Choose

Choose mushrooms with a firm, unblemished skin.  Reject any that are damp, soggy or withered.  Mushrooms should have an earthy, but pleasant scent.  If you are not going to use the mushrooms immediately, buy whole instead of sliced, to lengthen their freshness in the refrigerator. Mushrooms are a food that should be bought organic, when possible, as the skin is being eaten. Modern mushroom farming often uses synthetic chemicals to increase production.

To Prep Most Mushroom Varieties

Use a damp paper towel to wipe the mushroom clean.  Trim the end of the stem off, or break it off completely.  Unused stems can be used in making homemade beef or vegetable broth, to enhance the flavor.


There are dozens and dozens of ways to cook mushrooms (many are good for eating raw as well).  Here are simple instructions for grilling any of the larger varieties of mushrooms:  Brush cleaned mushrooms with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place on heated grill or grill pan and cook until tender (about 12 minutes), turning often.  For portobello, grill cap down for 10-15 minutes on a hot grill or grill pan. Turn over for the last 2 minutes of cooking.

[via The Nibble]

Best Herbs and Supplements for Stress Relief [Infographic]

Tired of living in the age of anxiety? Try one of these gentle, non-addictive remedies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

15 Delicious Recipes That Prove Pumpkin Is King of Fall

When it comes to favorite fall ingredients, pumpkin may very well be king. Double homage if it's tucked into a bowl of chili, and triple the points if it is slipped into some buttery dessert. No-knead pumpkin rolls and pumpkin muffins with eggnog will make your kitchen smell like fall and fuel your autumn spirit.

Here are 15 recipes that prove pumpkin is the best – a great way to enjoy the chilly weather for dinner, breakfast and dessert.

Pumpkin is one of those things that just keeps giving this time of year: You can transform their cheery orange faces into Jack o'lanterns, use the flesh of the pumpkin for recipes, and even toast the seeds for a delicious snack. Whatever your preference, you're bound to see a whole bunch of pumpkin at your grocery store this time of year.

Shopping for Pumpkin & Pumpkin Puree

Remember when shopping for pumpkin, make sure you choose the right kind for baking and cooking.

While some recipes ask for whole pumpkin, many recipes (especially pumpkin desserts) will call for pumpkin puree. This is something you could buy at a store, but it's also easy to make at home.

Pumpkin Muffins with Eggnog Cream Cheese Swirl

Recipes with Whole Pumpkin

Baked Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal

Breakfast and Dinner Recipes with Pumpkin Puree

Gluten-Free and Vegan Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin Puree Desserts

 [via The Kitchn]

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Farmers' Markets Are Good for Communities…Right?

Vegetables at the Dane County Farmers' Market. Photo courtesy of Bill Lubing.
Farmers’ markets practically glow with wholesome virtue: Shop here, they promise, and you can help build a sustainable, healthy food system!

But without the data to buttress those claims, it’s hard to know whether farmers’ markets are actually meeting those goals or how they can adapt to better meet their communities’ needs. Alfonso Morales, a professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wants to help change that.

Fueled by an increasing interest in local food, the number of farmers’ markets in the United States has more than doubled in the last decade. This rise in popularity has been accompanied by the implicit assumption that farmers’ markets are more sustainable than their fluorescent-lit, big-box counterparts. Their environmental advantages, advocates say, are clear. Food is transported shorter distances, which results in lower fossil fuel consumption. Farmers’ markets offer more diverse crops grown by more eco-friendly methods. Broaden the definition of sustainability to include social, health, and economic factors, and you’ll encounter claims that farmers’ markets promote healthy eating and a pedestrian culture, bring fresh produce to undeserved neighborhoods, foster entrepreneurship and a diversified agricultural economy, and create a social space that builds a sense of community.

Most people assume that farmers' markets help encourage sustainable agriculture. Morales' new project could help measure that effect.

Farmers’ markets might very well be doing all these things, Morales says, but we don’t know, and he admits that right now there isn’t even a consensus on how to evaluate these “sustainable” activities. “But even so, we have to make a way forward. And the way we make a way forward is though measurement.”

Those measurements are relatively easy for major supermarket chains, which have the staff and the budgets for exhaustive market research. Analyzing research data enables big retailers to respond to changing demographics and consumer preferences, ensuring that they stay relevant to the communities they serve. Farmers’ markets typically don’t have those resources. That’s where Morales’ project comes in.

Morales and his partners at the Farmers Market Coalition are working with managers at nine farmers’ markets around the country to ask, “What is it that’s relevant to them and their community?” They’ll help market managers figure out what data they need and how to collect and present it. Some of the data will help address all those assumptions about the environmental benefits of farmers’ markets, such as the average number of miles the food actually travels, the number of organically farmed acres represented at the market, and how diversified the market’s farms are. Other data will speak to a market’s impact on its community by looking at the number of small businesses started through the farmers’ market, whether it attracts foot traffic to nearby shops, and the number of vendors who are minorities or women. All this data collection will help reveal how each farmers’ market is affecting its community — and how it could be doing better.

Bill Lubing, the manager of the Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison, agrees that good data is essential when making decisions about how to move a market forward. “There are a lot of people with a lot of ideas,” he said, but a shortage of ways to evaluate those ideas. “More data is always better.” For example, because he ran the market’s newsletter for years before becoming manager, Lubing knows that links to recipes are very popular. Surmising that customers are sometimes stumped by the produce at the market (how do you tackle an entire stalk of Brussels sprouts?), he’s published a series of basic instructional videos, as well as more recipes. They’ve been a hit.

Morales argues that good data can do more than improve decision making. It can also help market managers advocate for the market with local business and government. For example, if a market wants permission to open a new branch in a public park in an underserved neighborhood, data showing the amount of produce purchased with SNAP benefits can help persuade the city that it’s a worthwhile use of space.

Morales, who worked as a market vendor in Chicago while doing research for his dissertation, believes that professors like him have an opportunity “to really engage with the community directly, and to try to empower people.”

Shopping at a farmers' market gives consumers a closer connection to their food–which is becoming increasingly popular. Photo courtesy of Bill Lubing.

The project’s immediate focus is local: to help individual managers make decisions that work in their particular communities. But if the project takes off (and it looks like it’s going to — dozens of markets beyond the original nine have asked to participate) it could generate enough data to start to draw conclusions about the roles of farmers’ markets in the United States as a whole. That’s exactly the kind of large-scale data needed to evaluate whether farmers’ markets are really helping create a more sustainable food system.

Regardless of how they stack up environmentally, Morales believes that farmers’ markets offer something that chain supermarkets can’t: a personal connection to a farmer and to food. “A relationship matters to people,” he said. Lubing agrees. Shopping at a farmers’ market “really has an emotional buy-in factor,” where you feel like you’re cheating on your local cheese maker if you grab a block of Cheddar from the grocery store in a pinch. “And people love that, people crave that.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Home Remedies for Headache Treatment

Headaches, including migraines, are extremely common. Because headaches can stem from a variety of causes, some headache sufferers seek treatment on a near-daily basis. Fortunately, there are several home-remedy treatments that can help alleviate migraine pain and other types of headaches.

Lavender Oil

Not only does lavender smell great — it’s also a useful home remedy for headaches and migraine pain. Lavender oil can be either inhaled or applied topically. Two to four drops for every two to three cups of boiling water are recommended when inhaling lavender-oil vapors as a headache treatment. Unlike many medicinal oils, this home remedy can also be safely applied externally without the need to dilute it. Lavender oil should not be taken orally.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint is a soothing home remedy that has been shown to benefit tension headaches. This fresh-smelling oil has vaso-constricting and vaso-dilating properties, which help control blood flow in the body. Headaches and migraine pain are often due to poor blood flow, and peppermint oil helps to open and close the vessels that promote flow. Peppermint home remedies also open up the sinuses so that more oxygen can get into the bloodstream.

Basil Oil

Basil, the strong-scented herb used as a topping for pizzas and pastas, certainly tastes and smells good. And for people in need of a natural headache treatment, the oil derived from basil plants can also be a useful home remedy. Basil works as a muscle relaxant, so it is especially helpful for headaches caused by tension and tight muscles.

Diet Fixes

One of the most useful home remedies for reducing headaches and migraine pain involves making changes to your diet. Certain foods have been shown to affect the frequency and severity of headaches and migraine pain, including dairy; chocolate; peanut butter; certain fruits, such as avocado, banana, and citrus; onions; meats with nitrates, such as bacon and hot dogs; foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG); foods containing tyramine, an amino acid found in red wine; and foods that are fermented or pickled. Keep track of these trigger foods and your reaction to them with a food diary.

DIY Scalp Massage

Do-it-yourself scalp massages can be an effective way to alleviate migraine pain, and they feel great. Researchers in Brazil showed that massaging the greater occipital nerve — the area in the back of the head, at the base of the skull — reduces migraine pain. Massage in general has been identified as a useful home remedy for headaches, especially reflexology (massaging reflex points on the hands and feet).


Feverfew, as its name suggests, is used to treat fever, but it’s most commonly known as an herbal headache treatment. This home remedy became popular in the 1980s, when a landmark study in Great Britain showed that 70 percent of participants had less migraine pain after taking feverfew daily. Since then, more studies have demonstrated feverfew’s benefit in preventing and treating migraine pain. One study showed improvement in migraine pain among people who took daily feverfew in combination with white willow, another herbal home remedy, which contains properties similar to aspirin.


Some headaches are caused by inflammation, which can be reduced by consuming omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed can help provide headache relief because it’s rich in omega-3s. Flaxseed can be used as a home remedy in several forms, including as an oil and ground or whole seeds.


Buckwheat’s usefulness as a home remedy for headaches and migraine pain comes from a flavonoid known as rutin. Flavonoids are phytochemicals, which are found in plants, and have been shown to contain antioxidant properties, which counteract damage to cells. In addition, researchers in Taiwan have demonstrated the effects of flavonoids on inflammation, a common cause of headaches.

Is Apple Cider Good For Weight Loss? And Four More Things You Need to Know

You probably have a bottle of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in your pantry right now. It’s a tasty addition to homemade pickles, marinades, salad dressing, and more - but is it good for you? Many of its supposed benefits are anecdotal, but some experts think that adding a little of this tangy vinegar to your life may have some health benefits.


Have you heard that apple cider vinegar will help you lose weight? There's not much formal research on the topic, but one study did find that people who drank apple cider vinegar daily lost a couple of pounds versus those who didn’t (both groups had a similar diet). The researchers suggest that vinegar may affect certain genes involved in breaking down fats thus improving digestion – which ultimately could lead to weight loss.

Blood Sugar

While apple cider vinegar most likely isn’t the weight loss magic bullet, it does appear to help with blood sugar control. Arizona State University’s Nutrition Program Director, Carol Johnston, PhD has been studying apple cider vinegar for years and believes it can have pronounced affects on blood sugar. Johnston says that the vinegar prevents at least some dietary starches from being digested and thus raising blood sugar.  It’s still advisable to focus on your overall diet if you have or want to prevent blood sugar issues – but adding ACV on salads might help too!


Vinegar is known to help kill pathogens, including bacteria and ACV has traditionally (not confirmed by research) been used for cleaning and disinfecting, treating nail fungus, lice, warts and ear infections. It’s even said that Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used vinegar for wound cleaning over two thousand years ago. Because vinegar is acidic, it has been used as a food preservative, and studies show that it inhibits bacteria from growing in the food and spoiling it.

Great Flavor Enhancer

ACV should be consumed! Use it in your food – from dressings, to dips, apple cider vinegar can be a great flavor addition to many dishes. Try alternating balsamic for apple cider vinegar to change the flavor and add more variety to your diet.  Add a punch to a fish dish with a splash of ACV on top!

Home Cleaning

If you don’t mind the smell, or are sensitive to chemicals try using ACV to clean your home. A mix of 1 part ACV and 9 parts water will clean just about any surface. It’s easiest if transferred to a spray bottle. You can also pour full strength ACV into the toilet, bath, babies tub, etc. and leave overnight.  Some appliances (coffee makers, etc.) can be descaled with ACV as well.

Monday, September 29, 2014

17 Delicious Apple Recipes for Fall

After you've stuffed yourself with Honeycrisps, Sweet Tangos, and Jonagolds at the farmers market, you should start thinking about ways to incorporate your favorite fall fruit into your daily meals. From puffed apple pancake for breakfast, to stuffed streusel apples for dessert, plus savory goodness like a roasted apple and winter squash soup, here are plenty of ways to get your apple fix this fall.

You can find apples to eat and cook with all year round, but you get the best variety in the fall. Apples are an incredible ingredient to use in recipes because they are inexpensive and are easy to work with. They also offer a wonderful sweetness to any recipe.

But before you go off gallivanting in the farmers market in search for apples to use in these recipes, you should know they are not all created equal. Some apples are best for baking, while others are best eaten on their own. Read this guide for finding the best apples for all your baking needs.

So which recipe will you make first? Will you delve into the apple loaf, or start of strong with an apple pie? Here are 17 recipes to get you started.

Apples for Breakfast 

Apples for Dessert

Apples for Lunch, Dinner, Snacks & More

[via the kitchn]