groupmeals

10 Foods that cure more than your hunger…

1. Bananas

Bananas can cure stress and anxiety. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels.  Bananas are one of the main foods that provides a healthy dose of potassium, which is a vital mineral that the body needs. Potassium helps normalize your heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and helps regulate your body’s water balance.  Also, with only 105 calories and 14g of sugar, a medium banana fills you up, provides a mild blood sugar boost and provides 30% of the day’s vitamin B6, which helps the brain produce mellowing serotonin, getting you through a crisis peacefully. So eat a banana and lose the stress!

 2. Raisins

Raisins can help lower high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, or even if you don’t, you should still make sure that your pressure stays in a healthy range and raisins can help you do that. About a handful of raisins contain 1 g of fiber and 212 mg of potassium, both recommended for the use of maintaining cardiovascular health including lowering blood pressure. To get the most raisins in your diet, it is often recommended buying the snack size packs. Due to their small size and the fact that raisins almost never go bad, they’re perfect for keeping them in your purse, glove compartment, or desk drawer and eating whenever you are in the mood for a quick snack!

 3. Apricots

Apricots help prevent kidney stones. Dried apricots contain fiber, sodium, citric acid, and potassium- all of which help keep minerals from accumulating in the urine and forming into kidney stones.

 4. Ginger Tea

Dozens of studies reveal that ginger as a natural remedy that can ease nausea from motion sickness and pregnancy. Rich in potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and C, Ginger root tea also contains many healthy essential oils. All of these put together, it is recommended to take 1 cup of tea to help relieve morning sickness and lower the risk of motion sickness.

 5. Basil

Eugenol is a compound found in basil, that studies have shown to help keep your stomach safe from pain, nausea, cramping, and diarrhea by killing off certain bacteria’s. In the same family as peppermint, it is easy to add to your diet. All you have to do is just toss a few leaves into your favorite dish and get ready to reap the benefits!

6. Pears

The high levels of pectin in pears make it very useful in helping to lower cholesterol levels. One medium pear has 5 g of dietary fiber and helps flush out bad cholesterol in the body. High Cholesterol is a major risk factor in heart disease, so save your heart and eat a pear!

7. Cabbage

Sulforaphane, a powerful compound in cabbage, has been discovered to fight against the bacteria that are cause for gastric and peptic ulcers, even before it has a chance to get to your stomach. Cabbage is only 34 calories per cup, provides 3 g of fiber, and has 75% of the day’s vitamin C. 

8. Potatoes

Potatoes, when cooked correctly and not loaded with other unhealthy ingredients, are actually very good for you. They are low in calories, high in fiber and they offer serious protection against cardiovascular disease, by keeping blood pressure at normal levels, and cancer. It has been found that eating a baked potato, the healthy way, is good for the heart, brain and skin.

 9. Honey

Honey is one of those amazing substances that not only taste good, but also is good for you in so many ways. Honey is a natural energy booster and contains antioxidants and has anti-bacterial properties. Studies have shown that when you substitute honey for regular sugar, it boosts immunity, improves blood sugar levels and has even been known to help with allergies.

 10. Cinnamon

Known for its use on many different sweets, cinnamon is a very important and useful spice to keep around the house. Due to the oils found in the bark of cinnamon, it has been found that regular consumption of this spice helps maintain blood sugar levels, acts as an anti-clotting agent and an anti-inflammatory.

The Best Farmers Markets in the US

Where do you buy your produce? Although the answer may be simple, the question opens the door to a deeper discussion about buying local and supporting the farmers of your region. Farmers Markets are sprouting up all over the country, and consumers are flocking to them to pick up the freshest goods they can find. We picked out five of our favorites around the US. 

The Union Square Greenmarket in New York, New York

In the most populated city in the US, you can still get freshly grown fruit and veggies in the heart of Union Square, a bustling shopping and dining neighborhood. It started back in 1976 with just a few farmers, but now has over 140 participating local farms. It’s open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.  

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco, California

By far the most famous, it is widely acclaimed for its diversity and quality of fresh produce and artisan food products. Though a bit on the pricey side, the variety and quality of produce is unmatchable. And if you arrive early enough on Saturdays, you may get a glimpse of San Francisco’s best known chefs as they shop for local produce! The main day to shop is every Saturday, from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, but shops inside the Ferry Building are open 7 days a week. 

Copley Square Farmers Market in Boston, Massachusetts

A farmers market is a special treat here with the harsh winters that Boston experiences. The Copley Square Farmers Market, located in the historic and upscale Back Bay area, is open May through November and features several dozen vendors selling local goods. Hours of operation are every Tuesday and Friday, from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm 

Green City Market in Chicago, Illinois

Operating as Chicago’s only “truly green” farmers market, the mission of Green City Market is to provide a marketplace for only purchasing sustainably grown food. The Green City Market is open year-round, but expands to include an outdoor area from May through October, every Wednesday and Saturday. Right by Lincoln Park, the market ensures that all produce is local and sustainable. The outdoor season opens every Wednesday and Saturday from 7am-1pm and the indoor season opens every Saturday. 

 The Portland Farmers Market at PSU in Portland, Oregon

“Bringing the best of the country to the heart of the city,” Portland Farmers Market is located right on the Portland State University Campus. It’s open every Saturday, and offers chef-featured cooking demos, classes, and live music.

The Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles, California

It’s not called the “original” for nothing. This farmers market opened back in 1934, and now hosts its own tours to visitors and locals alike. Aside from local produce, patrons can find old fashioned ice cream, poultry, and freshly-baked pies. There are even several amazing restaurants on the premises. The market is open on weekdays from 9am-9pm and on weekends from 9am-7pm. 

Santa Fe Farmers Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Santa Fe Farmers Market began back in the late 1960’s and now represents over 150 active vendors. Because of the city’s demand for fresh produce (which may be hard to find in a desert) the market began operating year round, and more farmers are extending their growing techniques to keep up. It’s open every Tuesday and Saturday, from 7am-12pm. 

Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans, Louisiana

If you want unique produce and super fresh seafood, The Crescent City Farmers Market is the place to go. Juicy peaches, okra and creole tomatoes are some of their summer specialties. They’re on a mission to provide sound economic development to the greater New Orleans area, as well as create a place for the community to congregate and interact.  The market opens every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at various locations in the city.

 

4 Wine Apps for Wine Enthusiasts

Have you ever entered a wine shop and suddenly felt overwhelmed in a swirl of regions, varietals, tannins, acids, and residual sugars? Choosing the perfect bottle of wine can feel like a lot of pressure, but now in the wonderful world of smartphones, there’s an app for that.

We’ve picked out four of our favorite apps to download now, whether you’re in the wine store or just love finding new wine events.

 1. Hello Vino

Aside from having a fantastic name, Hello Vino is a great app for finding a wine based on the meal that you’re having or by occasion. We like that it always seems to know what to drink with everything from Spaghetti Carbonara to take-out Pad Thai, and can pick a wine based upon your taste preferences. It’s kind of like having your own personal sommelier… except it’s free.

 2. Local Wine Events

Are you someone who likes to gallivant around to tasting events? (Who doesn’t  really?) Then you need to try the Local Wine Events app.  For $3.99, you’ll have all of the local wine tastings, fests and pairings events at your fingertips. They add over 1,500 new events to their database each week.

 3. Snooth Wine Pro

Snooth Wine Pro’s technology will wow you. You can take a photo of the wine label and they’ll pick it out from their giant database of over one million wine records. There, you can read ratings, critics scores, and can take your own notes about the bottle. It also syncs to Snooth.com, so you can access the info when you’re at your computer. The app also allows you to compare prices of wine merchants to get the best deal. Get it for $4.99.

 4. Wine Wherever

Travelers, rejoice. Wine wherever is here to help you find wineries and vineyards wherever you go, within 13 regions. Just use the map to find wineries close by, and make sure to take advantage of the coupons offered in each region. It’s also a great tool to have while you wine taste. You can use it to remember the wines that you enjoy most, with an extensive journal feature. 

[Written by Caitlin Heikkila]

Meatless Monday:Top 3 Vegetarian Restaurants in NYC

The best thing about New York City? You can get any kind of food any time you want, and vegan and vegetarian food is no different. I’ve picked out five of my favorite NYC restaurants to grab a veggie-filled meal, whether you’re a vegetarian or not. 

Dirt Candy

Dirt Candy is so delicious that there’s about a month wait to get a reservation… seriously. They’re serving up dishes where the veggies are the star, and in the most unique combinations. Don’t miss the smoked broccoli dogs served with broccoli kraut, and salt & vinegar broccoli rabe. I also like to finish with the Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu… sounds weird, but it’s not. 

[Broccoli dogs

‘Snice

When I want a sandwich, I’m going to ‘Snice. I always want to try something different, but usually end up going for the Smoked Tempeh Wrap. It’s filled with avocado, mixed greens, cilantro, tomato, and a spicy chipotle dressing. It’s just the right amount of smoky-spicy-fresh, and is so filling that you’ll forget it’s meatless. 

[Roasted vegetable panini

Blossom

Give me Blossom’s Cauliflower Risotto any day of the week and I’ll be happy. It’s rich and creamy with hints of lemon, and make cauliflower look like a veggie superstar. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming too, making it a go-to spot for a night out with veggie-eating friends. 

[Southern Seitan Sandwich with root beer float]

The Proper Way to Taste Wine

There are many different ways to taste wine and one could argue that wine tasting depends entirely on the preferences and sensitivities of the individual. Wine was made to be savored and unfortunately in the business of living we have forgotten to slow down and enjoy the finer moments.

Here are 5 easy steps to follow when tasting wine:

1. See

Begin your wine tasting session by looking at the wine. Observe it for color and clarity. One easy tip is to, tilt the glass and hold it up to a neutral or white background. Notice if the wine is clear or cloudy and look for the depth in colors. Often, the color of the wine can determine what to expect when you taste it.  For example, a cherry red versus a deeper red with hues of purple or blue.

2. Swirl

When you swirl wine, it breaks apart the aroma molecules making it easier to identify the aromas in the wine. Red wines in particular benefit from the aeration created by swirling.

3. Sniff

Sniffing or smelling the wine is another big flavor indicator. Some suggest that everyone has a dominant nostril that helps in smelling the aromas. Whether you believe in that or not, take a big whiff of the wine and try to identify the aroma or flavor categories. Common ones are fruity, flowery, spicy, and earthy. An easy tip is to open your mouth ever so slightly while inhaling to take in as much of the bouquet as possible.

4. Sip 

Finally, take a sip of the wine. It helps to first take a quick sip and swallow it. This prepares the palette for the wine. Then take a slower sip and hold the wine in your mouth for at least 20 seconds. Did the flavor of the wine change? Did it become sweeter or spicier? Could you feel the tannins on the side of your tongue? Go through this process thinking only about the wine. The tongue is often in a hurry to taste and acts as a gateway. Take your time sipping the wine.

5. Savor

As I mentioned earlier, wine is meant to be savored. Did the flavor of the wine stay on your palette? Think about the food you would want to pair it with. Slow down and enjoy the experience. Did you like the wine? Would you buy it?

Hope these easy tips will make your next wine tasting adventure a memorable one!

 

[Written by Seema Bhattiprolu]

3 Fall Cocktails To Try Right Now!

After a few months of light and refreshing summer drinks, Fall is the time to start adding heartier flavors, and frankly, getting a little boozier. That’s why we picked out some of our favorite Fall cocktails that will be sure to make you want to pick apples and jump into a pile of crunchy leaves.

Vanilla Pear Bourbon Cocktail

 

Nothing says Fall like Bourbon, right? This Vanilla Pear Bourbon Cocktail from Food 52 is one of our favorites because of its sweet-spiced-bitter flavor combo. The sweetness of the pear and vanilla balances out the bitter bourbon and spicy cinnamon and nutmeg. This one is great through the winter too.

 Pumpkin Punch

 

Pumpkin is the quintessential Fall flavor, so pair your pumpkin pie and apple cider doughnuts with this Pumpkin Punch, courtesy of Serious Eats. The secret? It’s made with cinnamon-infused rum for a spicy kick. We like this one for Halloween parties because it’s festive and perfect for your punch bowl. 

 Mr. October

 

A Brooklyn cocktail bar called The Jakewalk created an Autumn cocktail that tastes exactly like apple pie in drink form—the Mr. October. Tim Miner, the creator of the cocktail was on a mission to recreate that apple pie flavor, and it even got him into the New York Times.  Tim was kind enough to share his recipe so we can recreate it at home.

Ingredients:

1 ½ oz. Laird’s Bonded Applejack

¾ oz. Lemon Juice

¾ oz. Cinnamon Syrup

½ oz. Galliano L’authentico

2 Dashes St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram 

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker completely with ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top. Smile!

 

[Written by Caitlin Heikkila]

 

Marc J. Sievers' Chocolate, Basil & Merlot Truffles Recipe

Chocolate truffles are probably my favorite confection to make at home!  They are simple to make and can be flavored in so many different ways.  The key to making a truly delicious truffle is using really good ingredients, like Belgium or Swiss chocolate.  From there you can flavor the cream with herbs, spices, and even wine. 

My Chocolate, Basil, & Merlot Truffles are my newest version and boy oh boy are they delicious!  They have a creamy texture, a subtle spiciness from the basil, and a finish that stays with you as you sip wine or champagne.  Even though truffle making is simple, get ready for your guests to be impressed by your culinary skills in chocolate making!  Happy indulging! 

SECTION: Desserts

Makes 30 truffles

INGREDIENTS

  • Heavy Cream – 1/3 cup
  • Dark Chocolate – 12 ounces, finely chopped
  • Basil – 1/3 cup, roughly chopped, fresh
  • Merlot – 3 tablespoons, your favorite variety
  • Black Peppercorns – 1 teaspoon, whole
  • Honey – 1 tablespoon
  • Sea Salt – 1/8 teaspoon
  • Cocoa Powder – ½ cup, unsweetened

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small sauce pan set over medium heat, add the cream, salt, peppercorns, basil, honey, and merlot.
  2. Bring the cream to a full boil then remove from the heat and cover with a lid.
  3. Let the cream mixture steep for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place the chopped chocolate into a large glass bowl.  Set aside.
  5. After 15 minutes, bring the cream back to a boil.
  6. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the cream mixture over the chocolate.  Stir until completely smooth.
  7. Place the ganache into the refrigerator for 2 hours to firm up.
  8. Remove from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
  9. Using a 1-inch scoop or teaspoon, scoop out balls of ganache and place onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  After you have scooped all the ganache, roll each one by hand into a ball.
  10. Place the cocoa powder into a shallow bowl and roll each truffle through it to coat.
  11. Arrange on a serving platter, or place into an airtight container.  Truffles can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. 
3 Delicious Wines for under $10

I am not a big wine guy. There. I said it. Go ahead and throw rocks. I’ll wait. 

Done? Ok. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love drinking as much as the next guy.  And I know how to enjoy a bold Bordeaux with my ribeye and a fruity pinot noir with my duck breast. But when it comes down to it, I can’t swirl the glass, take a whiff, and with one sip be able to tell that the grapes were from Romanée-Conti, harvested off the vines on the north side of the valley during the Fall of 1990 because that year’s rainfall was perfect. That’s not me. And that’s probably not you either. 

While most of us aren’t sommeliers, we still want to drink like one without paying sommelier prices. Especially if you’re having guests over or just enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner, you shouldn’t have to shell out too much on a regular basis. And with the vast variety of choices out there, how do you find the best value buy? 

My suggestion? Go to your local specialty wine shop and ask. Chances are the staff at your local craft wine shop are the buyers themselves and have tasted the wine, from top end to value buys. They can also guide you to buy wines that fit your preference and occasion. Let them know if you’re drinking it tonight or saving it for later, if you’re pairing it with food, or just having friends other and sipping it as is. For overall value buys, here are a couple of tips from the good people at Gilly’s, a craft beer and fine wine shop in Rockville, Maryland: 

  • When picking value reds, go with either a cabernet sauvignon or a blend. These wines will be more forgiving and have a wider range of tastes. Avoid cheap pinot noir. Because  it’s hard and more costly to produce, good pinots are usually more expensive. So when you do pay for cheap pinot noir, you get what you pay for. 
  • Much like cabernet, chardonnay grapes are relatively low maintenance, which results in a higher yield, which results in the ability to make it good and affordable. 
  • When you’re in a wine shop, check out whether or not the store carries a variety of value wines under the same label. If so, chances are it’s a good buy. 
  • If you’re craving something bubbly, skip the champagne and go for prosecco or cava. Prosecco uses a less expensive process to produce, and the savings are passed on to you. 

Following those tips, here are my picks for delicious value wines for under $12.

Red: 

Hacienda Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (around $6.50)

This lovely bottle can be had for under $10. It’s what you’d call a “utility” player. It’s got a great mouth feel with fruity notes. You can cook with it, drink it on its own, or pair it with pasta or game meat like lamb or duck. With this price it’s something you can buy by the case and bust it out on all occasion. 

White: 

Astica Chardonnay 2012 (around $4.99)

Now this is the kind of wine that says “party!” Crisp and citrusy, this wine goes perfectly with hors d’oeuvres like smoked salmon, bruschetta, or savory tarts. With prices well under $10, you can keep the party going all night long. 

Sparkling: 

Poema Cava Brut (around $9.99)

When I was at Pinotxo Bar in Barcelona, every few seconds I’d hear the popping of cava corks. Cava is the Spanish version of champagne - only at a fraction of the cost. Perfectly balanced between dry and fruity, cava is meant to be enjoyed with food. Sautéed shrimp, fried fish, this lovely bottle of bubbly is great with any seafood. And with the price right around $12, you can have a celebration any night of the week! 

There you have it. Value wines are everywhere. Use those simple tips and broad guidelines to discover your own favorite. At these prices you can definitely afford to experiment and have a great time doing it.

Salut!

[Written by Mykl Wu]

Group Meal Spotlights: Bistro Etcetera, Federal Hill Pizza, & Quench

Check out this week’s Group Meal Spotlights on Bistro Etcetera in Port Washington, NY, Federal Hill Pizza in Warren, RI, and Quench in Rockville, MD.

Bistro Etcetera, Port Washington, NY Tuesday, October 1st     

[Mezze Plate]

Owned by Chef Karen Melanie, Bistro Etcetera is offering up some New American Cuisine along with a contemporary atmosphere to enjoy it in. 

[Crispy Chicken]

Their menu is designed with inventive interpretations and modern creations based on the very best traditions of American, Regional and International cuisine. Enjoy some of the areas finest food, wines, and cocktails while you catch up with friends and family on old times. 

Federal Hill Pizza, Warren, RI Thursday, October 3rd    

Starting out by selling their dough and shells in supermarkets throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, Federal Hill Pizza finally decided to open a restaurant in 2010.

[Gnocchi Pasta]

Federal Hill Pizza prides themselves in using only authentic and fresh ingredients. Using real Neapolitan pizza dough, which is best used for pizza, calzones, and doughboy; Federal Hill Pizza serves some of the best food in an area where people come from all over to eat at great restaurants.

[Pizza Margarita]

Quench, Rockville, MD Saturday, October 5th    

Offering the locals of Rockville specially crafted cocktails and scratch-made innovative American cuisine, Quench was named the best new restaurant in Maryland.   

[Mediterranean Lamb Salad]

Serving cuisine using local and organic ingredients when possible, Quench serves their plates in snack, small, and full portion sizes. Enjoy a laid-back luxury atmosphere and the comfort of a neighborhood bar all in one when dinning here.  

[Charm City Cookies]

Visit BlendAbout.com and “take a seat” at any of these group meals before they fill up! They’re a great way to meet new people and enjoy some delicious food at the same time.

Meatless Monday: The Top 3 Restaurants for Vegetarians in Chicago

Here are Marc J. Sievers’ Top 3!

The South Loop neighborhood in Chicago is bursting with restaurants with unbelievable vegetarian cuisine!  This is where I call home and explore culinary flavors from around the world on a daily basis.   While the city of Chicago itself is a food adventure, I stick close to home for some of my favorite dishes that I know will always satisfy my craving for downright delicious and earthy food.  Here are just a few of my favorites, each highlighted by a favorite dish.  Happy eating and drinking fab foodie friends!

1. Brasserie by LM 

[Savory Quiche]

Brasserie by LM is a modern French Brasserie serving traditional, affordable French food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It’s situated on Michigan Avenue with outdoor seating right across the street from the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park which is decorated with beautiful trees, flowers, and fountains.  It has a very relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere and does French rustic food perfectly.  My favorite vegetarian dish is the Savory Quiche.  Its base is buttery pastry, filled with eggs and goat cheese, and cooked to perfection, a true French quiche!  Try their Twisted Frenchie Martini that has flavors of elderflower liqueur, Chambord, and champagne, it’s a fabulous cocktail to sip while getting caught up with friends.  They also have a lovely Bordeaux by the glass which I have found somewhat hard to come by these days.  Brasserie by LM definitely has my stamp of delicious approval!

2. Kurah 

[Rose infused flan]

Kurah is a Mediterranean tapas and wine bar serving aromatic, flavorful small plates, cocktails, and an exotic wine list.  It’s brand new to the South Loop but has been getting rave reviews by locals from all over Chicago!  Kurah is one of those places that as soon as you enter the door, you know you are going to be in for a treat.  Its décor is warm and romantic, the staff is worthy of a five-star restaurant, and best of all its unique!  The food is all organic and has some of the most fragrant ingredients that have been paired and layered to take you on a true flavor roller-coaster.  Kurah offers many vegetarian dishes both hot and cold, but my favorite however was their Rose Infused Flan topped with a fresh fig dipped in dark chocolate and covered in pistachios. The flan was by far the best I have ever eaten, anywhere!  The flavors were delicate, sophisticated, and actually beautiful.  They also have an interesting cocktail list, from which I ordered the Blood Orange Manhattan done with bourbon, Grand Marnier, sweet vermouth, and a splash of orange bitters.  When taking your next trip to Chicago, you can also visit the Mediterranean by eating at Kurah.

3. The Burger Point

[Veggie burger on brioche with marinara sauce] 

The Burger Point serves up some of the best burgers in town!  Their food is cooked to order, nothing is ever frozen, and almost everything is made from scratch. For this reason it takes a little longer than you may be used to, but you will taste the difference that is well worth the extra few minutes!  They make the veggie burger patties from scratch, and they know exactly what they are doing.  It’s full of fresh ingredients, doesn’t fall apart as soon as you pick it up, and is the perfect substitution for any of their burger combinations.  My all-time favorite veggie burger in is the Jersey Shore.  It’s served on a freshly baked and toasted brioche roll smothered in homemade marinara sauce, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and served with amazing fresh-cut French fries.  This burger has it all, except for an orange tan and bad hair!  This little joint is located off the beaten path but well worth the taxi ride.