Mussels 101: How to Choose, store and clean

There are many perks in serving Mussels at the dining table: they are less expensive than other seafoods such as crabs or lobsters, and have a sweet taste that is beloved in cuisines worldwide. It is lean and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Cooked mussels are also visually stunning: the contrast of their orange meat and dark shells make a meal feel luxurious and special.

The majority of mussels that are in the markets today are farmed instead of wild. This is good news both for the environment and for cooks. Farmed mussels are the “best choice” when it comes to buying mussels because the methods used are responsible, chemical free, and may actually benefit the surrounding ocean habitat. Farmed mussels are typically grown suspended in sea water, rather than on the ocean floor. This means there is less sand and grit to clean off.

Here’s how easy it can be to prepare this fruit of the sea at home:

How to select: Choose mussels with closed shells, or shells that close when tapped lightly – this means they are still alive. Choose the ones that appear slightly glossy and have a fresh sea smell.

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How to store:
Fresh is best when it comes to seafood and we strongly encourage you to use mussels on the day you buy them if you can. Put mussels in a large bowl and cover them with a damp kitchen towel in the coldest part of your refrigerator until it is ready to use. Take note that mussels will release small amount of liquid each day, which should be drained.  Never store mussels in airtight containers because they are alive and you want to keep them that way.

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How to clean: Clean mussels only before cooking – the “debearding” process kills them. Discard any mussels that may have cracked shells, feels unusually heavy, or remain open even after being tapped gently on the kitchen counter. Scrub each mussel individually with a stiff brush under running water. Next, “debeard” the mussels. A beard is the byssal thread. It is a little brown tuft of fibers that the mussels use to attached themselves to rocks. To remove the beard, look at the crack where the two shells meet and you will see what looks like brown threads of seaweed. Remove by pulling town towards the hinge of the shell and outwards. Alternatively, use a knife to cut the beard off.

 

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Why paleo diet?

Paleo diet also known as the caveman diet has become an intriguing and popular lifestyle to adopt in recent times. Weight loss seems to be the #1 reason in adopting a paleo diet. Paleo diet is a diet based on the type of foods eaten by early humans which consist of mainly meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. The core of the paleo diet is to exclude grains, sugars and modern vegetable oils and replace them with higher-quality meat, fish eggs and vegetables.

To understand why the Paleo diet is so popular among the dieticians and experts , we first need to understand the origin of the paleo diet. Paleo diet was first introduced by the gastroenterologist Walter L Voegtin. He believed human beings are naturally carnivorous and that our genetic blueprint came from our ancestors of the Paleolithic era. Following a paleo diet like our ancestors is believed to keep us naturally healthy to the fullest level.

With the caveman diet, it is the most fundamental of all diets as it involves putting only natural food in our stomachs. Foods that are not loaded with sodium, hydrogenated oils, unnatural sugars and preservatives. When we start eating like a caveman, our bodies are flooded with nutrients and our livers are not overworked which helps us efficiently detox our bodies from toxic material. Naturally, our bodies are stronger and our skin revitalized. Our immune systems start working better , preventing us from falling sick and fighting off infections or diseases.

Paleo diet only promotes foods that provide minerals and nutrients that are vital to your body. Foods in the paleo diet are natural; from the soil, animal meat or grow on trees. The best thing we can do for our bodies is to feed it with natural and organic produce and this is the foundation of the paleo diet.

After years of eating junk and processed food, our bodies are inflamed from saturated fats and our immune system is not as great as it should be. Our bodies lack the necessary nourishment and are congested with toxins accumulated. Inflammation is one of the key drivers of cancers and heart disease. If we can prevent inflammation in our bodies, we can greatly reduce cancer rates and heart diseases provided we start eating better and more naturally.

The benefits of following a paleo diet:

Better Gut Health

Leaky gut syndrome is when our intestinal walls are breached and food or things end up leaking from the the walls. Sugar and processed junk causes inflammation within our intestinal tract and this is what causes leaky gut syndrome.

Fructose is limited 

The introduction of fructose corn syrup in food manufacturing is one of the drivers of obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Due to our body digesting this type of sugar differently, it is best to have it limited in our diets.

Reduced inflammation

The foods in a paleo diet are anti- inflammatory. The focus on omega 3 fatty acids is one of the reasons the diet is anti- inflammatory. Pasture raised animals have a better ratio of omega 3 to 6 ratios.

Weight loss

With the reduced intake of carbohydrates and junk food, unwanted fat gain is minimised leading to better weight management and weight loss to some. Moreover, paleo diets helps us shrink our fat cells as our carb intake is limited.

Reduce risk of diseases

Due to the focus on eating natural, organic foods & whole foods, paleo diet limits our risk for diseases as the foods we consume are nutritious, healthy and beneficial for the body.

 

 

 

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Why we love Scallions

When we want a hit of less-intense onion flavor, we find ourselves opting for Scallions. Scallions are long, with a white stem end that does not bulge out. The most ubiquitous in the onion family, it is sweet and herbaceous, with the familiar yet milder flavor of onion. It can be used raw or cooked.

Here’s 5 reasons why we love Scallions:

  1. Scallions add flavor and crunch to dishes. The entire vegetable is edible, with the exception of the roots.
  2. Scallions are an excellent source of Vitamin K – 1 cup contains 259 DV%. Vitamin K plays an important role in normal blood clotting.
  3. Scallions deliver several minerals, including iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, sodium and selenium. These macrominerals are needed in larger amounts by the body hence eating scallions helps contribute to the RDI of these macrominerals.
  4. Scallions are diet friendly. Consuming a stick of scallion only adds to 8 calories and 6.5cal of carbohyrates to your diet. It adds fiber to your plate in the amount of 0.7g or 3% of the RDI.
  5. Consuming scallions may offer you chemopreventive benefits. Evidence in the July-September 2004 edition of the “Asia Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention” correlates the intake of allium vegetables, such as scallions, with a reduced risk of several types of cancer. Additional research is required to confirm the usefulness of scallion as a cancer-fighter.
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Substituting a broiler with oven-bake function

An oven set to bake and an oven set to broil both use dry heat to cook food in different ways. You can substitute baking for broiling, but not the other way around. All that is needed is a few minor adjustments in cooking time and temperature.

How does Broiling and Baking work in your oven:
Broil: heat radiation directly on food underneath it.
Bake: heating element heats up the air inside the oven, creating an indirect, ambient heat to cook food.

broiling, broiled meat, broiled food, broiling, technique of broiling, oven broiled
As heat surrounds food during baking, instead of radiating on it, it takeslonger to reach the interior and therefore longer to cook. Here’s what we recommend when substituting a broiler for baking:

  • Set oven to 175C or 350F when bakign meat instead
    of broiling it. Lower the oven temperature to lower the temperature on the surface on the meat. This would ensure that your meat does not char on the surface and be left uncooked on the inside.
  • Bake meats for three to four times longer than you would broil them, depending on thickness. Steaks usually take 5 minutes to reach rare under a broiler, about 6 minutes to reach medium and 8 minutes to reach well done. So a baked steak needs about 15-18 minutes to reach rare, 25 minutes to reach medium and about 35-40 minutes to reach well done. (*this is on a basis that the steak is about 300-400g thick.)

Here’s 3 simple steps for broiling Beef:

Tips on Broiling, How to Broil Meat, Broiled Meat

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Iberico Pork Yakitori

The Japanese take pride in grilling the perfect Yakitori. The grilling technique not only highlight the original flavours of the meat but also display the chef’s skill in grasping the perfect heat for the meat. Prized and loved by chefs, this recipe calls for the prized Spanish Iberico Pork collar. With this recipe, you would be cooking your own Yakitori from now on.

Ingredients

10-12 5-inch bamboo skewers
400g Iberico Pork Collar, cut into bite-sized cubes
9 stalks of scallions
vegetable oil
150g fresh shitake mushrooms

Yakitori Sauce (Tare)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
1/4 cup water
2 tsp brown sugar

Directions

  1. Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.
  2. In a small saucepan, add mirin, soy sauce, sake, water, brown sugar and green part of 1 scallion. Bring o a boil over heat. Once the mixture is boiling, decrease the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half. It will take about 30 minutes and appear thick and glossy. Let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Cut the white and light green part of scallions into 1 inch pieces.
  4. Press down the skewer to pierce the pork pieces through the center, and alternate the pork with a piece of scallion and shitake mushroom.
  5. Grease the grate of the wire rack to prevent the meat from sticking on the grate. Place the skewers on wire rack.
  6. Set the broiler to high and wait until the heating elements are hot. Broil for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, brush the sauce on the meat on both sides and continue to broil for 3-4 minutes to caramelize the sauce.
  7. Transfer the skewers to a serving plate. Boil the sauce again to avoid contamination. Then, use a clean brush, brush the pork with the remaining sauce.
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Wild Alaskan Salmon is gold standard for nutrition

Would you buy a Wild Alaskan salmon for $19.90 per 200g? You would be paying twice the amount as compared to salmons found in supermarkets which is normally farmed salmon unless stated otherwise. It seems like such an extravagant price tag for food. But what we completely avoid to ask is why our Norwegian or Chilean Salmons are so much cheaper? Farmed salmons are available all year round. Farms can raise up to a “million” salmons at one time. Usually, farm pens are essentially open and there is enormous amount of diseases and parasites and laden waste is routinely allowed to contaminate the waters around the farm.

This is why large volume of antibiotics are used in farming to treat salmons exposed to diseases and parasites. Antibiotics are fed though medicated baths and food. Frequent consumption of food with antibiotics pose a risk to human health as we become resistant to antibiotic treatments.Wild caught salmon vs farmed salmo

Once you realise how different wild caught and farmed salmon are , you will see why opting for a cheaper fish isn’t a wiser choice. When it comes to wild caught salmon, there are vast benefits of consuming them. The most obvious benefit is nutrition. Wild salmons are out eating what they’ve been programmed to eat for millenia which are marine organisms that have the full range of micro-nutrients -fats, minerals, vitamins and micro-nutrients. Farmed salmons are fed with a lot of grain products such as corn, soy or genetically modified. You are what you eat and with farmed salmon , you will be consuming a lot of things that salmons aren’t naturally suppose to eat.

With farmed salmon, it contains higher content of Omega-6. A higher ratio of omega-6 is not necessarily healthier. Having an imbalance in dietary EFA’s towards Omega 6’s is going to cause inflammation in the body.  Inflammation is connected to a number of chronic diseases including heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and neuro-degenerative diseases. Therefore, if you are trying to improve the ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 in your body, farmed salmon is not helping. Wild caught salmon contain less fat, saturated fat and less sodium than farm-raised salmon. Less saturated fats in your diet will improve cholesterol levels in the blood and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Though we have to pay a higher price tag for better food, it eventually pays off when we receive all the nutritional benefits from these natural & healthy foods!

 

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Wild Caught Coho Salmon and Summer Veggies

Salmon is a prized fish because it is high in Omega-3, a essential fatty acid required for brain development and to reduce risk of chronic pulmonary diseases. This recipe is not only satisfying and convenient, it brings out the natural flavours of a Wild Caught Salmon.

Prep Time: 15min
Cook Time: 30min

Ingredients
4 x 200g Wild Caught Coho Salmon Fillet
1 yellow zucchini, sliced into half moons
1 green zucchini, sliced into half moons
400g of pumpkin, chopped into bite-sized cubes
2 shallots, 1 thinly sliced and 1 chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
3/4tsp dried oregano

Directions

  1. Pre-heat over to 200C. Cut 4 sheets of aluminium foil into 50cm lengths
  2. Toss zucchini, pumpkin, sliced shallot, garlic together with 1 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and divide among 4 sheets of foil, placing veggies in center of foil.
  3. Brush Salmon Fillets with 1 tbsp of olive oil, season both sides with salt and pepper then place one fillet over each layer of vegetables on foil. Drizzle lemon juice over Salmon.
  4. Toss together tomatoes, remaining diced shallots, thyme and oregano and 1 1/2 tsp olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper. Divide tomato mixture over salmon fillets. Wrap sides of foil inward then fold up ends to seal. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until Salmon has cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Carefully open foil packets and serve warm.
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The relationship between Omega-3 & -6

A healthy diet contains a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and some omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. In fact, some studies suggest that elevated intakes of omega-6 fatty acids may play a role in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

The human body can synthesize all the fatty acids it needs from carbohydrate, fat, or protein except for two – lineleic acid and linolenic acid, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids respectively. Both Omega-3 & -6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Both are known as essential fatty acids as both cannot be made from other substances in the body and must be obtained from food.

omegas

Omega-3 & 6 fatty acids are found in small amounts in plant oils, and the body readily stores them, making deficiencies unlikely. From both of these essential fatty acids, the body makes important substances that regulate a wide range of body functions: blood pressure, clot formation, blood lipid concentration, the immune response, the inflammatory response to injury and many others. These two essential nutrients also serve as structural components of cell membranes.

Omega-6

Omega-6 fatty acid is found in the seeds of plants and in the oils produced from the seeds. Any diet that contains vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, and other whole-grain foods provides enough Omega-6 fatty acid to meet the body’s needs.

There are several different types of omega-6 fatty acids, and not all promote inflammation. Most omega-6 fatty acids in the diet come from vegetable oils, such as linoleic acid (LA) — not to be confused with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. Linoleic acid is converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body. It can then break down further to arachidonic acid (AA). GLA is found in several plant-based oils, including evening primrose oil (EPO), borage oil, and black currant seed oil.

GLA may actually reduce inflammation. Much of the GLA taken as a supplement is converted to a substance called DGLA that fights inflammation. Having enough of certain nutrients in the body (including magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C, B3, and B6) helps promote the conversion of GLA to DGLA.

Omega-6 fatty acids may be useful for the following health conditions:

  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Allergies
  • Attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Breast cancer
  • Eczema
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Mastagia
  • Sclerosis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Precautions of Omega-6 intake

Do not take omega-6 if you have a seizure disorder because there have been reports of these supplements causing seizures. Several reports describe seizures in people taking EPO. Some of these seizures developed in people with a previous seizure disorder, or in people taking EPO in combination with anesthetics. People who plan to undergo surgery requiring anesthesia should stop taking EPO 2 weeks ahead of time.

Borage_Seed_OilBorage seed oil, and possibly other sources of GLA, should not be taken during pregnancy because they may harm the fetus and induce early labor.

Avoid doses of GLA greater than 3,000 mg per day. At that level, an increase in inflammation may occur.

Side effects of EPO can include occasional headache, abdominal pain, nausea, and loose stools. In animal studies, GLA is reported to decrease blood pressure. Early results in human studies do not show consistent changes in blood pressure.

Laboratory studies suggest that omega-6 fatty acids, such as the fat found in corn oil, promote the growth of prostate tumor cells. Until more research is done, health professionals recommend not taking omega-6 fatty acids, including GLA, if you are at risk of or have prostate cancer.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acid was first recognized during the 1980s when research began to unveil impressive roles for EPA and DHA metabolism and disease prevention. DHA is one of the most abundant structural lipids in the brain, and both EPA and SHA are needed for normal brain development. EPA and SHA are also specially active in the rods and cones of the retina of the eye. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal growth and development and they play an important role in the prevention and treatment of heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, and cancer.

Of the polyunsaturated fatty acids, the omega-3 fatty acids appear to reduce blood cholesterol the most. The effect was first noticed when researchers learned that Eskimos, despite high-energy, high fat, high-cholesterol diets, enjoyed relative freedom from heart diseases – especially atherosclerosis. Analysis of the foods common in their diets, which derive primarily from marine animals, revealed that they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA.

Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for brain memory and performance, as well as behavioral function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at the risk for developing vision and nerve problems.

Omega 3 Sources Infographic

The relationship between Omega-3 and Omega-6 in your diet

It is important to have the proper ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 in the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. Inflammation is essential for our survival as it helps protect our bodies from infection and injury, but it can also cause severe damage and contribute to disease when the inflammatory response is inappropriate or excessive.

Studies suggest that higher dietary omega-6 to omega-3 ratios appear to be associated with worsening inflammation over time and a higher risk of death among hemodialysis patients. Hence it is important to ensure that your diet consist of more omega-3 in proportion to omega-6. 

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The Green King: Kale

Of all super food, Kale is the king in the kingdom of Greens. It is one of the healthiest and most nutritious plant foods. Kale is loaded with all sorts of beneficial compounds, some of which have powerful medicinal properties.

Kale is a popular vegetable, a member of the cabbage family. It is related to the cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.

Here is 10 reasons why you would like Kale:

Kale is the most nutrient dense foods

A single cup of Kale has a total of 33 calories, and very little fat. A large portion of the fat in it is the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid.

Loaded with powerful anti-oxidants

Kale, like other leafy greens, is very high in anti-oxidants. This includes beta-carotene, vitamin C, as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols. Anti-0xidants are substances that help counteract oxidative damage by free radicals in the body. Oxidative damage is believed to be among the leading drivers of ageing and many diseases, including cancer. Flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol are found in relatively large amounts in kale. These substances have been studied intensely and found to have powerful cardioprotetive, blood pressure lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-depressant and anti-cancer effects.

Excellent Source of Vitamin C

Kale is much higher in vitamin C than most other vegetables, containing about 4.5 times as much as spinach. Kale might possibly be the world’s best source of Vitamin C. Vitamin C serves many vital functions in the body’s cells, and synthesizing collagen.

Kale helps lower cholesterol and reduces risk of heart diseases

Kale has substances called bile acid sequestrants that binds bile acids in the digestive system and prevent them from being reabsorbed. This reduces the total amount of cholesterol in the body. And over time, it reduces risk of heart diseases.

Best Source of Vitamin K

Kale is one of the world’s best sources of vitamin K, with a single raw cup containing almost 7 times the recommended daily amount. The form of vitamin K in kale is K1, which is different from Vitamin K2, which is commonly found in fermented soy foods and certain animal products. Vitamin K is an important nutrient that is critical for blood clotting.

Kale is packed with cancer-fighting substances

Kale is loaded with compounds that are believed to have protective effects against cancer. This includes sulforaphane, a substance that has been shown to help fight the formation of cancer at the molecular level.

It also contains a idole-3-carbinol, another substance that is believed to help prevent cancer. Studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables (including kale) may significantly lower the risk of several cancers.

Kale is very high in Beta-Carotene

Kale is high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into Vitamin A. Hence, Kale can be an effective way to increase the body’s levels of Vitamin A.

Kale is a good source of minerals

Kale is a good, plant-based source of calcium, a nutrient that is very important for bone health and plays a role in all sorts of cellular functions. It is also a decent source of magnesium, an incredibly important mineral that most people don’t get enough of. Eating plenty of magnesium may be protective against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Kale contains quite a bit of potassium, a mineral that helps maintain electrical gradients in the body’s cells. Adequate potassium intake has been linked to reduced blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease.

Kale has an edge over other leafy greens like spinach. It is low in oxalates, substances found in some plants that can prevent minerals from being absorbed.

Kale is high in powerful nutrients that protect the eyes

Carotenoid antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, are nutrients that can help prevent ageing and worsening of the eyesight. These antioxidants can be found in large amounts in kale.

Kale should be able to help you lose weight

Kale is low in calories and high water content, kale has a low energy density. Despite the low amount of calories, it does contain small amounts of protein and fiber. These are two of the most important nutrients when it comes to losing weight.

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Science of cooking hard boiled eggs

No rocket science needed to cook up some hard boiled eggs. When it comes to being successful in cooking hard boiled eggs, it is all about the time and temperature.

Place eggs in a pot of cold water. Turn on the heat and wait until water has almost come to a boil. Cover the pot, then turn off the flame. Let the pot sit with the cover on for the desired amount of time which depends on the consistency of the egg white and yolk preferred. (see below)cooking hard boiled eggs

The temperature of the egg at the start of the cooking process will affect the cooking time. An egg that is at room temperature at the start of the cooking process will require about 1 minute less cooking time for each time listed above.

It is not necessary to keep the water boiling as the proteins in eggs coagulate well below 100°C. Egg whites begins to thicken at 63°C and become solid at 65°C. The yolk begins to thicken at 70°C . The whole egg sets around 73°C. Heating eggs to 73°C will not cause eggs to be overcooked unless they are left in that temperature for an extended period.

After it is cooked according to the consistency you like, strain out the water and run cold water over the eggs to stop them from cooking further.

 

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