We Think You Should Steam Your Food. 

We want you to steam your food! 

We Think You Should Steam Your Food. 

Hey folks! Grant here.

Have you ever steamed bread? So many beloved bready things in the world—like Chinese steamed buns or Shanghai soup dumplings—are steamed instead of baked. However, as a culture, we got cemented into the idea that breads must be baked. We’re stuck in this notion that it’s not real bread if we don’t have the dark crust that comes from case hardening. But most people don’t realize that in baking bread you are steaming first.

If you bake bread in the Dutch oven, next time leave the lid on the entire time. If you really want to steam the bread entirely, mold a little dough along the lid to seal it. The bread will come out perfectly blond. It is soft, crustless bread. It’s every little kid’s dream.

Steaming is interesting to me. I’m particularly interested in why people boil food instead of steaming it. So many times I go to someone’s house for dinner and we all stand around the kitchen waiting for a huge pot of water to boil. Most of the foods they are making are going to be better off steamed, in a full humid steaming environment at 212 °F. Sure, if you are in a restaurant kitchen with lots of big boiling pots of water always going on a burner, it might be slightly faster to boil food. But if you are at home, boiling makes little sense. That’s why we did a video about why steaming is better than boiling.

We asked Dr. Douglas Baldwin to weigh in on the science of this for us. In the food science and high-end food world, he is a legend. (He is also the sweetest man in the universe.) Douglas is an insanely talented mathematician who has invented genuinely new areas in the industry. His book, Sous Vide for the Home Cook, was one of the first and still one of the best guides out there. He is genuinely obsessed with food and cooking, so having him work on a piece about the science of steaming vs. boiling was a natural here.

By the way, thinking about the science of cooking should lead you to choose the right tool. One that we use a lot in the ChefSteps kitchen is a Chinese spider. They are inexpensive and indispensable for safely scooping up foods out of boiling liquid.

If you’re looking for other useful tools like this, explore a restaurant supply store. Restaurant stuff is all metal and wood. It’s really kind of stunning. I like Dong Vinh here in Seattle, as well as the used section at Dick’s Restaurant SupplyEncore is an all-used restaurant supply store.

Keep cooking!
Grant

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9 Delicious Ways to Eat More Fiber

9 Delicious Ways to Eat More Fiber

By K. Aleisha Fetters | 

No chalky powders. No bland roughage. Just craveable foods that come with health benefits.

easy ways to get more fiberWhatever your health goals, fiber can help you get there.

In fact, simply increasing your fiber intake each day can help you lower your blood pressure, improve your body’s insulin health, and lose weight, according to research in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

And get this: It can often do so just as effectively as complicated diets designed to help you achieve those goals.

While the daily fiber goals for women and men over the age of 50 are 21 and 30 grams, respectively, most people eat only 15 grams per day, says Betsy Opyt, R.D., a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Naples, Florida.

And while increasing your intake of naturally fiber-rich foods, such as beans and whole grain breads, is a surefire way to achieve that number, they’re hardly your only option. Or the tastiest, for that matter.

Here, find three unexpected fiber-rich foods. Plus, knockout ways to prepare them and wow your taste buds.

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Fiber-Rich Food #1: Avocados

This tropical fruit has a reputation of being one of the best sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids—an essential fat that plays a protective role throughout the body, but that your body can’t make from scratch.

It even has more potassium than a banana. Potassium helps ward off muscle cramps and lower blood pressure.

But avocados are also rich in fiber. Just half of a creamy avocado provides more than six grams.

Ready to eat? There’s the obvious guacamole dip or the trendy avocado toast. But why limit yourself? Branch out and try any of these easy meal ideas.

easy ways to get more fiberBake avocado egg boats for brunch. Heat oven to 350°F. Slice an avocado in half, and scoop out some of the insides. Crack an egg into each avocado half, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with a side of fruit or salad.

Whip up a light and fresh pasta salad. Toss diced avocado with cooked whole wheat pasta, sliced cherry tomatoes, cooked chicken, and a little olive oil and lemon juice. Get the recipe for Lemony Pasta Salad with Chicken, Tomato, and Avocado here.

Make a vegetarian-friendly chili. Cook quinoa in a mixture of water, black beans, diced tomatoes, and spices. Top with avocado slices. Find the recipe for this incredibly easy one-pot meal here.

Fiber-Rich Food #2: Nuts

Nuts are a terrific source of fiber. Just one ounce of pistachios, pecans, or almonds has around three grams.

But nuts as a whole are one of the best foods for older adults. In fact, one review of 29 studies found that eating nuts is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.

Just make sure to eat mindfully and watch your portion sizes, since each ounce contains 160 to 200 calories, depending on the nut. And remember that one ounce of pistachios (49 kernels) is going to look very different from, say, almonds (23 whole pieces).

Sure, you can snack on nuts out of hand or toss them in salads. But if you’re feeling adventurous, we have a few suggestions.

easy ways to get more fiberRoast your own trail mix. Heat oven to 450°F. Toss ¼ cup unsalted almonds or other nuts with 1 teaspoon honey and ½ teaspoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 6 minutes. When the nuts have cooled, add fresh or dried fruit.

Create a quick peanut dipping sauce. Whisk together 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 1 tablespoon each rice vinegar, soy sauce, and water until smooth. For an easy weeknight meal, pair this sauce with No-Cook Peanut Chicken Summer Rolls.

Make a batch of cocoa energy bites. Mix chopped pistachios with no-sugar added almond butter, oats, chia seeds, vanilla extract, and unsweetened cocoa powder. Roll the mixture into balls and chill. Get the recipe for one of the best snacks you can make at home here.

Fiber-Rich Food #3: Berries

You know and love berries for their high amounts of vitamin C, which boosts immunity and helps repair tissue. But these antioxidant-filled sweet gems are also rich in fiber.

One cup of raspberries or blackberries, for instance, contains about eight grams—and only 65 calories. Blueberries have almost four grams per cup, and strawberries have about three.

Berries are wonderful fresh or frozen. In fact, they’re one of the best foods to keep in your freezer, according to nutritionists.

Try these berry-rich ideas to help hit your daily fiber quota.

Orange and Banana SmoothieMake a creamsicle-like smoothie. Blend frozen strawberries, orange juice, bananas, and plain 2% Greek yogurt. Get the recipe for this dessert smoothie that’s secretly healthy here.

Build a hearty quinoa breakfast bowl. Sprinkle blackberries over a bowl of cooked quinoa. Stir in some honey and plain nonfat Greek yogurt, and top with sliced almonds. Find the recipe for this high-protein breakfast here.

Toss together an Instagram-worthy salad. Top mixed greens with blackberries, chickpeas, and cauliflower. Drizzle with green goddess salad dressing. Get the recipe for this high-protein dinner here.

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Photos of avocado egg boats and trail mix: Jackie Q. Botto.

3 Reasons to Stop Drinking Diet Soda Today

3 Reasons to Stop Drinking Diet Soda Today

By Kevin Donahue | 

Stuck on the artificially sweet stuff? Here’s what you can look forward to when you put down the can.

3 Reasons to Stop Drinking Diet Soda Today You know regular sodas are sugar bombs. But that zero-calorie can of diet soda you crack open instead in the name of better health? It’s not as harmless as you think.

In fact, it might be the opposite.

No-calorie does not mean good for you, says Nathan Myers, R.D., a clinical dietitian at James J. Peters VA Medical Center in New York City. In fact, it doesn’t even mean you’ll have an easier time reaching your weight loss goals, which is why most people switch from regular soda to diet.

Here are three top reasons to break up with your favorite diet soda—right now! Plus, see ideas for healthier sips.

Reason #1: The Scale Will Tip in Your Favor

Ever since the very first no-calorie carbonated beverage—called No-Cal Ginger Ale—hit store shelves in 1952, marketers have spun fizzy drinks as a way to help weight-conscious folks reach their targets on the scale.

But as enthusiasm for diet soda grew, so too did Americans’ waistlines. And that caught the eye of health experts, who collectively wondered, “What gives?”

In recent years, researchers have focused on the role artificial sweeteners might play in the obesity epidemic, Myers says.

“Major studies show an association between diet beverage consumption and higher body mass index,” he notes. “This opposes the advice that consuming low-calorie beverages supports weight loss.”

But if no actual calories in diet soda are contributing to weight gain, what is?

Myers explains that researchers over the years have tried to answer this question with two major theories. The first, called “compensatory calories,” is when someone uses having a zero-calorie soda to justify other poor eating and drinking decisions. An example: “I’m having a diet soda, so it’s okay to eat these cookies.”

The second: addiction. Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar. Aspartame, for instance, is roughly 200 times sweeter than the natural stuff. The theory is that artificial sweeteners overstimulate taste receptors and make more nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables, less palatable.

“This second wave of research hasn’t reached the level of true consensus,” Myers says, but it has health professionals taking a hard look at artificial sweeteners.

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Reason #2: Your Risk for Serious Health Problems May Drop

Could soda cut your life short? Maybe.

Drinking two sodas per day—whether made with sugar or artificial sweeteners—was associated with early death from any cause, according to a new JAMA Internal Medicine study that followed 452,000 people over 16 years. In particular, diet soda consumption was linked to higher risk of death from circulatory diseases, including heart attack and stroke.

It’s not just your cardiovascular system that takes a hit. Another study found people who drink one or more artificially sweetened beverages a day were almost three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, compared with those who didn’t drink any.

And because diet sodas are tricking you into drinking and eating more, they’ve been linked to excess weight and related conditions like type 2 diabetes.

While the research behind diet soda and these health problems isn’t conclusive and is still ongoing, Myers says that your safest bet is to cut back on sugar and artificial sweeteners.

“Reduced consumption of foods and beverages with added sweeteners—artificial or otherwise—can potentially benefit everyone,” he says. “And especially folks over 50, who face the challenges of slower metabolism and increased risk of health issues like high blood sugar in the years ahead.”

Cutting down on artificial sweeteners might also rekindle a love of healthier foods, Myers points out.

“The nutritional quality of your diet may improve, as you cease drowning out the subtler flavors of nutritious foods,” he explains.

Reason #3: Your Bones Get Stronger

As we get older, our bones get weaker. Women over the age of 60, in particular, are at a greater risk for osteoporosis. Add in a daily glass of diet soda, and your chances only go up.

In an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, for example, women who drank diet or regular cola daily had nearly 4 percent lower bone mineral density in their hips, compared with women who didn’t drink cola.

Other researchers, looking at data from the Nurses’ Health Study, found each daily serving of diet or regular soda was associated with a 14 percent increased risk of hip fracture for postmenopausal women.

Here again, experts haven’t been able to determine how soda weakens your bones, although many suspect it’s related to the combination of added sugars, caffeine, and high phosphorus content.

Swap for These Healthier Sips

Want to play it safe? While your best beverage option is water, Myers has plenty of flavorful recommendations for those who want some variety.

“Naturally flavored carbonated water, or seltzer, is a popular option that can be free of both calories and sweeteners,” he says. He also recommends fruit-infused waters because they provide similar hydration benefits.

To make your own, add berries, citrus, cucumber, or mint to plain water. Another trick: Take a few frozen prunes—one of the best foods to keep in your freezer—and drop them into a glass of sparkling water.

“Diluted coconut water, unsweetened almond milk, and low-sodium vegetable juices also bring flavor to hydration with less than half the calories of traditional sodas,” Myers adds.

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Chefsteps 02

Time for breakfast!

Time to Make the Breakfast

Good morning!

I almost never eat breakfast. Too much food at the beginning of the day makes me sluggish. But if I go out for brunch, I always try the chicken-fried steak. It’s the gold standard of any brunch place.

My friend Carl is a chef whose dad owned a diner. He and I used to have chicken-fried steak-offs. We tried different kinds of beef and found out rib-eye is a waste of good steak. It’s too wet for chicken-fried steak. You want a tough, dry piece with that saltine-cracker crust.

Buy a super-cheap cut of beef. Pound it with a spiky meat hammer or a Jaccard meat maximizer. The old-school diners and butcher shops use blades to slice that cut of meat, which they call mechanical tenderization.

Then, use the standardized breading procedure. Give that meat a light dusting of flour, an egg wash, and then a layer of finely crushed Saltine crackers. Fry up the meat in a cast-iron skillet with about an inch of hot oil. It should take you about 3 minutes per side. Serve it with a Southern milk gravy, with sausage or not. When you make it right, that chicken-fried steak should be light and tender.

Chicken-fried steak, baby!

If you’re in the mood for some new breakfast ideas, we have some great new recipes on ChefSteps for you.

Back when I was 13, I did a job shadow in a hotel. That’s the first place I learned to make a big batch of hollandaise for the hotline every morning. And now we’ve made that hollandaise easy for you.

A couple of years ago, I started playing with boiling my omelettes. Daniel Patterson did this with scrambled eggs. It makes sense because the eggs instantly soufflé. Since  anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I took boiled scrambled eggs one step further and made omelettes. Now you can too.

People, stop cooking jam! Unless you need to make cases of jam that have to be shelf stable for months in your larder, start making freezer jam. It’s so bright in color and flavor. Once you have made it, you will never go back.

Of course, we have lots of breakfast ideas for you on ChefSteps already. Fluffy yeasted doughnuts, amazing chewy bagels from scratchKouign-Amann, and rich as f*$k biscuits—these are only the start.

Yes, some of our recipes do require a subscription to our ChefSteps Studio Pass for access. As Sam Sifton wrote in his NY Times newsletter, “Yes, you need a subscription to access these. In return, we won’t just keep working hard to bring you the best recipes in the world. We will get to keep working!” (Thanks, Sam!)

Remember, we love hearing from you. We have a forum for members on ChefSteps. And you can see our work on Instagram and Facebook. We answer questions and have inside information for ChefSteps Studio Pass members too. Talk with us.

If you are still thinking about breakfast, try this Irish mackerel breakfast from Jamie Oliver.  I’m always trying to get my wife to cook more. She LOVES this 5-ingredient cookbook that Jamie Oliver and his team published this year. I’m a huge fan.

When I want to go out for brunch in Seattle with friends, I usually tell people to go to Boat Street Kitchen. It’s still so great.

And finally, I just want to throw it out there—use fresh herbs in your breakfast right now. The herbs in my garden are going crazy: chives, tarragon, and marjoram. Use up your herbs before they disappear.

Keep cooking!

Grant

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Disclaimer

There are things, food, exercise and what not that are well worth sharing. I bought a Joule immersion cooker from Chefsteps, and I think it’s the best one available for us home cooks.

But I also want to note that I no longer support advertising out here. A lot of work for nothing.

So when I post the Chefsteps articles it’s because I think they are pretty cool. Same with the Silver Sneaker posts. I am a senior and just want to pass along some good advice. Once again, I don’t get anything for doing this.

I hope each time I have included the links to their sites and promotions.

The Chefsteps newsletters

We’re back.

Hey everyone. Grant here. 

Let’s talk. This last year was the toughest one of my career, but it was also the most clarifying. I took a break from ChefSteps to try out some other creative projects. I drove 12,000 miles through Mexico. And when I came back, our investor wanted to make some changes. We had to lay off most of our staff and ultimately, I had a breakup with my founding business partner. It was a hard time.

Then, after months of negotiations, Breville acquired ChefSteps. And honestly, I cannot think of a better partner. Breville is obsessed with making the best products possible to help their customers have amazing food moments in their kitchens. They see ChefSteps the same way I do.

You see, I came back because I had unfinished business with the community. My original mission was to create the cooking resources that I would have wanted to see when I was first learning how to cook. I wanted to build a brand that inspired people to kick ass in the kitchen. And, for the first few years here, we were doing that work. But then, when we launched Joule, our brand slowly became all about the sous vide machine. The stories we could tell became boxed in. We became afraid to take risks. That’s part of why I left.

So here we are, back to playing in the kitchen. I want to show you how to be amazing in the kitchen. How to get the results you want, but still be flexible. I want to make you feel like you can jazz your way to an epic dinner.

Making hollandaise by whisking in a copper bowl over a double bain? Nope. Instead, you should blend it for a brighter, fluffy hollandaise. Have omelettes grown boring? Boil one—they’re seriously better. And for a real treat, try a cryo-poached grape and blow minds at your next dinner party.

Of course, you still have access to everything we have ever done at ChefSteps, including our espresso class, how to make the ratatouille from the movie, and even a simple kale salad. Food doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to be good.

Today is also the time to introduce ChefSteps Studio Pass.

Historically here at ChefSteps, we have given almost everything away for free. Our site has not been riddled in advertising. We have not berated you with pop-up ads or click bait. We wanted to create a beautiful site that moved easily for you. Part of this was because when you advertise, the companies that advertise with you become your customer, and your community becomes the product you sell. That sounds gross to us. We wanted you to trust us when we say a product is great or a resource is the best.

That has garnered us a lot of love. It didn’t make us a lot of revenue.

So, we are now introducing the ChefSteps Studio Pass. This is your virtual key to our kitchen. We are letting you into our cooking studio in the heart of the Pike Place Market—online, at least—to see the creative science in action. ChefSteps Studio Pass gives you access to our chefs through behind-the-scenes videos, exclusive new cooking guides, scientific insights, and online Q&A sessions.

Here it is: ChefSteps Studio Pass. It’s $69 a year, which is a great deal for becoming epic in the kitchen.

Becoming a Studio Pass member means you will help us keep creating the content you most want. We want you to be amazing in the kitchen. We want you to blow your guests’ minds when they eat at your home. We’re a super lean team here, a ragtag band of dreamers, trying to invent the future of cooking. We hope you join us.

Every month we will be releasing a new editorial batch of activities and resources, so head to ChefSteps now to see October’s new activities. Plus, we have new resources like Meat Cuts, where you can learn everything there is to know about meat and how to cook it.

I am eager to hear what the community thinks. Tell us what you love. Tell us what is inspiring you. I look forward to creating more and more food for you.

It is good to be back.

Grant

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13 Best Foods to Keep in Your Freezer, According to Nutritionists

This is from the Silver Sneaker newsletter.

13 Best Foods to Keep in Your Freezer, According to Nutritionists

By Christine Byrne |

When it comes to healthy staple ingredients, fresh isn’t always best. These frozen foods deliver key nutrients—and help you save time and money.

freezer foodsImagining delicious, nutritious meals is one thing. Prepping said meals? Well, that’s another story entirely. Somewhere between buying the right ingredients and carving out enough time to chop, measure, season, and actually cook is where those good intentions slip away.

“Time is one of the biggest factors that influences our ability to make healthy decisions,” says Emily Kyle, R.D.N., owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition in Rochester, New York. “I love anything that takes the time barrier away.”

Enter freezer staples. While there’s no way to eliminate meal prep completely, having the right mix of frozen ingredients all ready to go is key for anyone who’s both hungry and busy.

First, food keeps far longer in the freezer than it does in the fridge or at room temperature. That means you can buy things in bulk, or do one big grocery trip to pick up staples for a whole month and stick them in the freezer for later. Fewer trips to the store means a lot of saved time and energy.

Second, many foods in the freezer section come already cut, cooked, or both. At the very least, it means you don’t have to waste time washing and chopping, or cleaning a knife and cutting board. At best, it means all that stands between you and dinner is a few minutes in the microwave, or a little more time in a pan or oven.

Not sure where to start when it comes to freezer staples? We asked Kyle and other nutrition experts about the ingredients they always keep in stock.

The Meal Builders

You’ll always have the foundation for a quick, healthy meal with these frozen options that deliver whole grains and lean protein.

Cooked Grains

Your favorite whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and barley, can now be found already prepared in the freezer section. Or you can cook a big batch of dry grains one day, freeze individual servings, and thaw them in the microwave whenever you want them.

“All you have to do is microwave a bag before enjoying your favorite quinoa bowl or easy dinner side dish,” Kyle says.

These whole grains, which contain all the parts and nutritional value of the original kernel, help you meet your daily fiber quota. For women 51 and older, that’s 21 grams of fiber per day, and for men, that’s 30 grams, according to the National Academy of Medicine. Hitting these targets helps keep your digestive system humming and cuts your risk for heart disease. Bonus: Whole grains are also one of the best carbs for weight loss.

Fish Fillets

Fish is a great source of lean protein. Fatty fish like salmon and trout also pack a particular type of omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which helps safeguard your brain health. In fact, some studies show higher consumption of omega-3 foods is linked to a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least eight ounces of seafood, including fish, each week. But fish can be expensive, and its life in the refrigerator is short. Frozen, individually packaged fillets are often less expensive, and they cut the possibility of spoilage and waste.

“Pull out frozen fish in the morning, leave it in the fridge to defrost, then cook it when you get home at the end of the day,” says Alissa Rumsey, R.D., owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness in New York. “I like to sauté or panfry fish, and add it into a soup, salad, stir-fry, or noodle dish.”

You can also make a delicious dinner with just three ingredients: salmon, Brussel sprouts, and lemon.

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Ground Meat or Lentils

Buy ground chicken, turkey, or beef in bulk, and divide it into smaller portions before freezing in airtight containers or bags. When you want to use a portion, transfer it from freezer to fridge in the morning, and it’ll be thawed by evening.

“When it’s completely thawed, prepare it as you like, and throw it on top of pasta dishes, salads, or stir-fries,” Rumsey says.

Ground meat is often overlooked in nutrition headlines, but these foods are prime sources of protein, a nutrient your body needs to repair cells, build muscle, and even fight infection. Watching your calorie and saturated fat intake? Look for lean ground meats.

Not a meat eater? Frozen lentils are terrific protein-packed vegetables that are incredibly easy to prep and can be used in place of meat in many dishes.

Meat or Veggie Burgers

“These are really helpful for quick weekday meals, as they take just a few minutes to defrost in a pan over medium heat,” Rumsey says. “They’re perfect to throw into a sandwich, or to break apart and toss with a salad to add a protein.”

Another idea: You can crumble the burgers up and mix them into tomato sauce to serve over pasta.

It’s easy to find protein-packed veggie burgers in the freezer section of your local store. Two popular options among dietitians: MorningStar Farms Grillers Original Veggie Burgers and Beyond Meat Beyond Burger. But you can also freeze your own homemade bean or turkey burgers—just cook a few extra the next time you’re firing up the grill.

The Nutrition Powerhouses

Struggle to hit your daily requirement of fruits and vegetables? These frozen options make it so much easier to get the produce—and nutrients—you need.

Bananas

Have you ever bought a bunch of bananas only to watch them slowly turn to black on your kitchen counter? Don’t let those ripe bananas go to waste! If you spot them turning brown, peel and freeze them before they turn totally black.

“You can toss them in the blender for a smoothie, or put them on top of oatmeal or yogurt,” Rumsey says. You can also let them thaw a little bit to use in recipes that call for mashed banana, like banana breads and muffins. Or slice and top them with a small dollop of dark chocolate spread before freezing for an easy grab-and-go treat.

Besides being versatile, bananas are a great source of fiber and potassium, which is an electrolyte that helps your heart beat regularly. They’re also easy to digest—a plus for anyone with stomach ailments.

Berries

“We know that raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are among the healthiest foods for us, but fresh berries can be pricey, especially when they’re not in season,” Kyle says. “Thankfully, frozen berries are available year-round and are often more affordable than fresh.”

Frozen at the peak of freshness, these berries still contain all of the important antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals their fresh counterparts offer. In fact, because fresh berries may lose some of their nutrients during transportation or on the shelf, frozen berries may be healthier.

Your heart, for one, may benefit. Women who ate blueberries and strawberries three or more times a week had a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack, compared with women who only ate the berries once a month or less, according to a large study in Circulation. Researchers credit flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that helps keep blood vessels open.

Kyle likes to stir frozen berries into yogurt, oatmeal, and pancake batter, or blend them into smoothies. Defrosted, they also liven up salads and salsas.

Cauliflower

“One of the most versatile vegetables, frozen cauliflower can be steamed, pureed, and more,” Kyle says. You can even put it into the food processor or use a grater to make cauliflower rice, which you can substitute for regular rice.

Her favorite trick? Roasting cauliflower straight from the bag, using just a little olive oil and some spices.

You can feel good about this timesaver, Kyle adds, because eating more cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli have been associated with lower risk for heart disease and stroke. They’re also thought to help tame inflammation.

Green Peas

Stocking up on frozen peas is a no-brainer, says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., a culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.

“Fresh peas often come with their shells still on, so they require quite a bit of prep work before you even start cooking,” she says. “Plus, frozen peas add a pop of bright green color to dishes, and they require basically no cooking.”

Try stirring them into pasta or rice dishes, like pasta primavera, pesto gnocchi, or lemony risotto. Just add the frozen peas during the last couple of minutes of cooking, and you’ve got an incredibly easy one-pot meal.

On the nutrition front, with just a half-cup serving of green peas, you’ll get four grams of protein and almost the same amount of fiber, plus a host of vitamins and minerals. And all for just 62 calories.

Prunes

Tart yet sweet, prunes—also known as dried plums—are one of Newgent’s go-to flavorings for drinks. Skip the ice cubes, and drop a few frozen wedges into a glass of iced tea or sparkling water.

Newgent also likes them for blended beverages. “I make a cocoa smoothie that has gut- and bone-health benefits thanks to frozen prunes, which I use instead of ice cubes,” she says. “Just blend milk, frozen prunes, and unsweetened cocoa powder, strain, and enjoy.”

The gut-health benefits come from three grams of fiber in just five prune wedges. And a daily serving of prunes may help slow bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women with low bone density, according to a study in Osteoporosis International.

Vegetable Blends

“Precut frozen vegetables can be added to any meal and only require a few minutes to steam on the stove or roast in the oven,” Rumsey says.

Buying vegetable blends is a great way to add flavor and nutrient variety without having to think about it. “I love to toss them into a stir-fry, grain bowl, pasta dish, or put them on top of pizza or a fresh salad,” she adds. “They’re especially useful in the winter months when fewer fresh veggies are in season.”

The Finishing Touches

With these foods in your freezer, you’ll be ready to make an appetizer, side, or meal topping in minutes.

Bread

“Keeping bread in the freezer means it lasts longer,” Rumsey says. That’s especially great news if you love buying bread or bagels from a local bakery. These fresh breads don’t have the preservatives that most store-bought sliced breads have, so they’ll go stale pretty quick at room temperature.

If you’re freezing whole loaves, be sure to slice them first. “You can take slices of bread right from the freezer and stick them in a toaster,” Rumsey says. “There’s no need to defrost first.”

Newgent also suggests freezing whole grain pita rounds to use in a pinch as a pizza crust or appetizer for last-minute entertaining. “They take up little space and thaw quickly,” she says. “Cut a pita into wedges, and serve with hummus. Or brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and thyme, and then bake into pita chips to serve with salads or to pair with a fancy cheese platter.”

Hash Browns

It’s easy to find ready-to-cook hash browns in the freezer section, and they really come in handy when you’re in need of a starchy side to a meal—breakfast or dinner. Take them right out of the freezer, and heat them in a pan with a little bit of olive oil until they’re crispy.

Nuts

“Nuts have plenty of unsaturated healthy fats, which can help protect against heart disease,” Newgent says. “But you’ll lose some of the power of those good fats if you keep them at room temperature for months and months. That’s why they’re ideal for the freezer.”

Because they’re small and high in fat, nuts thaw pretty quickly—about 15 minutes at room temperature, or less than a minute in a pan or the microwave. Sprinkle a small handful of nuts on everything from salads to rice pilaf for a boost of nutrition, crunch, and flavor.

Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly

SilverSneakers gives you free, unlimited access to more than 16,000 gyms and fitness centers across the nation, plus classes and tools designed to keep older adults strong and independent. Check your eligibility instantly here.

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Free weights or Machine

What, exercise! If you eat,  you have to burn off those calories.

Summer is slowing down and I am finding time for Jonesing Food once again.

For those that don’t know me, I am and old fart that takes pictures of homes for a living.

Free Weights Versus Strength Machines: Which Is Best?

By K. Aleisha Fetters |

Both have unique advantages for your unique body—and your unique fitness goals.

free weights vs. strength machinesExercisers have strong opinions about free weights and strength machines—specifically, which they think is best. But the truth is one approach isn’t the best 100 percent of the time.

Free weights, including dumbbells and kettlebells, allow you to move freely forward and backward, side to side, and up and down, explains Ryan Campbell, a training specialist at Anytime Fitness of Southern Wisconsin.

Strength machines, however, are typically fixed to an axis, meaning your body can only move in one predetermined path.

Which you choose comes down to this fundamental difference.

Let’s take a closer look at which is best in different circumstances, so you get the best results every time.

Round #1: Which Is Better for Beginners?

Machines are approachable, particularly for people who are new to strength training. You need to know how to set them up, but most machines include instructions on them.

“You just hop on and you go,” says Susan Niebergall, C.P.T., a personal trainer and strength coach. “It’s in most people’s ‘safety zone,’ and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

For newbies, she explains, getting in a basic workout can be as simple as choosing three machines and performing a circuit of three rounds. “That alone can help you leave the gym feeling good, more confident in yourself, and ready to take on more in future workouts,” she says.

With free weights, on the other hand, understanding form is crucial. “You need to learn good technique and how to properly brace yourself,” Niebergall says.

A great way to learn good form: Sign up for a few one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer to go over fundamental free-weight movements, including squats, lunges, presses, and pulls.

If you’re in a SilverSneakers class, your instructor will happily check your form. If you’re exercising by yourself at the gym, don’t be shy—ask one of the trainers walking around to quickly take a look at your form. At home, using your phone to video yourself exercising can be a great way to check out your form from all angles.

Winner: Strength machines

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Round #2: Which Is Better for Working Around an Injury?

Because machines allow you to move only in one specific path, they often target one or two muscles, letting the rest chill out. That can be good and bad.

Focusing on strengthening one certain muscle can be beneficial following injury or when addressing muscle imbalances. For instance, if you’re relearning how to properly activate your hamstrings or trying to shore up any weaknesses in them, machines will help you do that, Campbell says.

Machines are also great for letting you work around cranky hips, knees, or shoulders, Niebergall explains. You can strengthen the muscles that support them without overly stressing that joint.

The downside: When you zero in on just one or two muscles, you’re likely only developing one function of those muscles. A leg press machine, for example, strengthens your glutes so they can help you go from sitting to standing. But it won’t do much for the part of the glutes that helps you move from side to side.

Free weights, though, can adapt to your exact needs. Because there is no predetermined path with free weights, there’s more than one way to perform the move, Campbell says.

Let’s take squats as an example. Sure, there’s a difference between good and not-so-good form, but some people’s hips may do better with squats in a narrow stance or a wide stance.

For added resistance, some people may prefer the goblet squat, which require you to hold a dumbbell vertically at your chest, with both hands on one end of the dumbbell. But if that hurts your wrists, you can hold the dumbbell horizontally at your chest, with one hand on each end of the dumbbell.

To find your most comfortable position, you can simply adjust your feet or hands. The same holds true for other free-weight exercises. They are all modifiable to fit your exact body and goals, and don’t force your unique joints to move in ways that are painful.

Winner: Free weights

Round #3: Which Provides More Total-Body Benefits?

When you’re taking the stairs, getting up from the couch, or playing on the floor with your grandkids, there’s no axis supporting you. You are moving in all three dimensions, just like with free weights. Free-weight exercises train you how to coordinate various movements at once and treat your body as one functional unit.

“Over the long term, that is crucial for functional health, strength, and injury prevention,” Niebergall says. And since free weights get you on your feet and fighting gravity, they are also better at building bone density and strength, she adds.

However, for most people, the biggest benefit to moving multiple joints at once—and in real-life ways—is that it’s just so darn effective. “Most people are lucky if they are able to work out three to four hours per week,” Campbell says. “So, when you work out, you need to train the most musculature possible.”

Of course, you can mix and match strength machines so you’re hitting all the major muscle groups. But remember that these machines are training your muscles in isolation—you’re not coaxing your muscles to worth together in unison.

Winner: Free weights

The Bottom Line on the Great Debate

For overall strength, function, and health, free weights will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

But if you have a favorite strength machine, by all means keep it up. Just aim to mix in some free weights.

Also, if you’re new to strength training or want to focus on a given muscle, strength machines can be great tools for helping you reach your goals.

In the end, the best workout programs take advantage of both free weights and strength machines. Find your best combination with these resources:

Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly

SilverSneakers gives you free, unlimited access to more than 16,000 gyms and fitness centers across the nation, plus classes and tools designed to keep older adults strong and independent. Check your eligibility instantly here.

Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID and exclusive content by logging in to or creating your online account here.

Leg of Lamb Sous Vide

The holidays? Bah Humbug!! I am so tired of the same old Turkey & another spiral cut ham just makes me want to take a vacation. Prime Rib? Okay, but not this year.

Actually this is how I felt at Thanksgiving as I was wandering around the meat department of Costco. When what to my wondering eyes did appear? A nice big boneless leg of lamb.

Ah, lamb, a little bit gamey and a big bit tasty. Home went the lamb and then I discovered it was just the two of us for Thanksgiving dinner. So, Porterhouse steaks won out. Off to the freezer marched the limping lamb (that’s what happens when the bone is gone).

Time has passed, the Morlocks have risen and fallen and another 25 or so days have passed. It’s time to plan Christmas dinner.

A couple of the kids and a grandchild will be present so we decide this will be a simple dinner. Not days in planning, endless hours in preparation and weeks of cleanup to look forward to.

Now, where did I put the leg of lamb?

Now I enjoy a little lamb with my garlic. Here I cut about 4 cloves into wedges.

Then I attack the beast with my steely knife, even although it was already dead.

I stabbed it many times and in each slit I stuffed a wedge of garlic.

Then I applied the rub. I used dry mustard powder, salt, pepper, rosemary and some sage. I ground it up and patted the lamb down with it.

Ah, how to roast it I ask?  I’m not going to roast it says I.  I am going to throw it in a pot of hot water for many, many hours.

Souse Vide to the rescue. That handy little water heater that maintains and almost exact temperature for a very long time. I tried to Sous Vide artichokes once and it was a disaster. The bags opened, the chokes floated and I ended up pressure cooking the mess.

I decided to double bag my lamb.  If you have a Food-Saver or other vacuum freezer toy you know that you insert bag till it trips the sealer into operation. So, after I sealed the bags, I trimmed down close to the seal and sealed once more, giving me 2 seals on the same bag.

The 5 1/2 pound leg fit perfectly in a 12 quart food service tub (or use any pot big enough to hold said lamb). Attach Sous Vide and add water to cover and circulate. A small cooler would also work well.

16 hours later and a water temp of 135 degrees (medium rare) the bagged lamb is removed and is ugly (wet rub all over it & not a nice roasted look at all).

Remove the elastic web and use the juices from the cooked lamb to rinse off the rub. I had about 1 cup of juice so I added another cup of balsamic vinegar, strained and reduced the sauce.

Now I take the time to check out what the better half has been doing. Francene found this great idea of cooking (or I should say roasting) sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts together. A little tossing with olive oil, butter, garlic, salt and pepper then roasted at 375 degrees for 25 minutes (or when tender and tasty). They were yummy. Even our Jack Russell & a guest Chihuahua gave their approval.

Retie the lamb, pour our balsamic vinegar-meat juice glaze over the lamb and roast for about 10 minutes at 425 degrees.

Time to serve. The meat doesn’t need to rest so it can be carved upon removing from the oven and gives us a perfect medium rare from edge to edge with an attractive crust.

Stormy, our daughter in law, added a great cornbread dressing and cabbage with bacon side to round out our Christmas Eve dinner. Clean up wasn’t much more that washing a few dishes and letting the dish washer clean 2 baking sheets and one cooling rack. It doesn’t get any better than this.


Re Heat, Don’t Re Cook

We have tried so many different ways to reheat a good piece of meat and yet not overcook it.

A couple of Christmases ago Francene gave me a Panini pan and Panini lid as a present. The difference between a ribbed pan and a Panini pan is the inside of the pan and lid has also been coated.

The secret is to reheat the meat the same way you would cook a Panini sandwich. You preheat the cast iron until it starts to smoke, then turn the heat off, lay the meat in the pan, and place the lid on top of the meat.

The cast iron will give out heat quickly, and the meat will be warmed but not raised above the original temperature; 129 degrees in this example. Let meat sit between the cast iron pan and lid for 4 to 5 minutes.

As you can see here, we still have a rare steak, as the crust has been toasted and dried out (the absorbed moisture from the meat while in storage has been removed).