Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #133

Herb-Crusted Grilled Salmon Recipe, Spotlight on Salmon, Food Processors, Embracing Down Time, and Going the Distance with Exercise

With herb gardens in maximum bloom, now is the perfect time for one of my favorite grilled fish recipes—tons of flavor with a quick prep. How to use the time not spent in the kitchen? You might consider testing out the findings of two fascinating studies. One showed that making a point of spending idle time—doing nothing—is a great way to get creative juices flowing, while the other suggests devoting some time to daily physical exercise to keep your brain sharp. 

Herb-Crusted Grilled Salmon

  • Herb-crusted grilled salmon Herb-Crusted Grilled Salmon

    In a hurry for dinner? This fresh herb crust takes just a few minutes to make and there’s no marinating time required. I like to use salmon filet rather than steaks because they’re almost bone free, but select the freshest cut available at the store.

    Ingredients

    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the grill rack 
    • 1-1/2- to 2-pound salmon filet
    • 2 cups loosely packed fresh mixed herbs including parsley, dill, and basil 
    • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
    • 1/2 teaspoon each coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Directions

    Step 1

    Check the salmon for any hidden bones and pull them out with a pair of kitchen tweezers. Place the filet skin side down on an oiled grill rack. Set up your grill for direct heat.

    Step 2

    Place the herbs and garlic in a food processor and run until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and pulse briefly. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil and process until you get a paste.

    Step 3

    Use a spatula or your fingers to spread the herb mixture over the salmon. Grill until the flesh is firm and opaque, between 5 and 10 minutes depending on thickness; it should reach 145°F on an instant read thermometer.

    Yields 4-6 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: The Benefits of Salmon

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

The Benefits of Salmon

When it comes to the healthiest fish varieties, salmon is at the top of every list, thanks to its healthy omega-3 fatty acids; vitamins B3, B5, B6, B12, D, and E; and the minerals selenium and potassium—all contribute in different ways to boosting heart and brain health and combatting inflammation and cognitive decline. According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, when possible, it’s better to eat wild salmon for a number of reasons—environmental concerns, lower risk of contamination, and higher omega-3 fatty acid content, to name three. Both wild and farmed salmon have low levels of mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants. 

Because of depletion, only farm-raised Atlantic salmon is sold in US seafood markets—commercial fishing is prohibited. Farm-raised salmon from Norway is often an excellent choice because it’s raised in its natural habitat. If you buy farm-raised salmon, look for responsibly sourced fish certified by a third-party organization like the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Numerous species of Pacific salmon are available wild, such as chinook, sockeye, and coho. You might be surprised to know that Costco sells wild-caught salmon at reasonable prices. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Let Your Food Processor Do Its Job

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Let Your Food Processor Do Its Job

If you have a food processor, there’s no need to pre-chop small ingredients like herbs, garlic cloves, and ginger chunks by hand when they’re part of a recipe that’s made in the processor. Just give herbs a quick rinse and a pat dry with a paper towel and peel garlic and ginger before tossing them into the work bowl, then let the machine chop them before adding in your other ingredients. Larger and/or harder foods, like onions, can be quartered first to get more even mincing in the machine.   

For Your Best Health: Embrace Down Time

For Your Best Health

Embrace Down Time

Ever wonder what jump-starts creativity? For some people, it’s doing nothing at all. According to a University of Arizona study, creative people are more likely to make the most of their down time during a typical day by exploring their mind—this so-called idle time is especially fruitful because, often, one idea leads to another. 

History is filled with anecdotes of famous scientists, artists, and philosophers who enjoyed being alone with their thoughts, and those people often generated some of their best ideas during idle time, says Jessica Andrews-Hanna, PhD, an associate professor in the school’s Department of Psychology and senior author of the paper. “In today’s busy and digitally connected society, time to be alone with one’s thoughts without distraction may be becoming a rare commodity,” she adds.

Dr. Andrews-Hanna and her colleagues set out to research how thoughts naturally arise and unfold over time in unprompted contexts. They divided their study into two parts. First, they asked each of 81 participants to sit alone in a room for 10 minutes without any access to digital devices and, without any prompts, asked them to voice their thoughts aloud in real time. The recorded files were then transcribed and analyzed.

The researchers assessed the participants’ creativity through a divergent thinking test, a lab-based verbal test that measures a person’s ability to think outside the box. Participants who performed well had thoughts that flowed freely and were associated with one another, often indicated by phrases such as this reminds me of or speaking of which. “While many participants had a tendency to jump between seemingly unrelated thoughts, creative individuals showed signs of thinking more associatively,” says Quentin Raffaeli, lead study author.

They also found that creative people were more engaged in their thoughts when they were left alone without distractions like a cell phone. “Creative people rated themselves as being less bored, even over those 10 minutes. They also spoke more words overall, which indicated that their thoughts were more likely to move freely,” Dr. Andrews-Hanna says.

The second part of the study was in the context of a much larger span of time, the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people were alone with their thoughts more often. Over 2,600 adults answered questions through a smartphone app called Mind Window, developed by Dr. Andrews-Hanna and her graduate student Eric Andrews. Participants who self-identified as being creative reported being less bored during the pandemic. “As we become more overworked, overscheduled, and addicted to our digital devices, I think we need to do a better job in our homes, our workplaces, and our schools to cultivate time to simply relax with our thoughts,” Dr. Andrews-Hanna says.

The researchers are continuing their work using the Mind Window app. They encourage people to download and use it to help scientists understand how people across the world think in their everyday lives. “Understanding why different people think the way they do may lead to promising interventions to improve health and well-being,” Dr. Andrews-Hanna says.

Fitness Flash: Exercise: Going the Distance 

Fitness Flash

Exercise: Going the Distance 

A study done at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and CINVESTAV in Mexico City, Mexico, provides novel insight into the benefits of exercise, which should motivate us to keep moving throughout our lifetime, especially during middle age. Building on the knowledge that long-term exercise profoundly benefits the aging brain, the researchers wanted to better understand how it helps prevent the decline in memory function related to aging.

Among the first structures of the brain affected by aging are the hippocampus and adjacent cortices, areas essential for learning and memory. Deficits in cognitive ability are associated with reduced hippocampal volume and degradation of synaptic connectivity between the hippocampus and the perirhinal-entorhinal cortex. Increasing evidence indicates that exercise benefits brain function: physical activity can delay or prevent these structural and functional reductions in older adults. 

For the study, researchers analyzed the effects of long-term running on a network of new hippocampal neurons generated in young adult mice, at middle age. Using special tracing technology, they were able to show that running throughout mouse middle age kept those adult-born neurons wired.

“Long-term exercise profoundly benefits the aging brain and may prevent aging-related memory function decline by increasing the survival and modifying the network of the adult-born neurons born during early adulthood, and thereby facilitating their participation in cognitive processes,” said Henriette van Praag, PhD, corresponding author, an associate professor of biomedical science in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine and a member of the FAU Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute.

“Long-term running may enhance pattern separation ability, our ability to distinguish between highly similar events and stimuli, a behavior closely linked to adult neurogenesis, which is among the first to display deficits indicative of age-related memory decline,” said Carmen Vivar, PhD, corresponding author, Department of Physiology, Biophysics and Neuroscience, Centro de Investigacion y de Estudios Avanzados del IPN in Mexico. “Our study provides insight as to how chronic exercise, beginning in young adulthood and continuing throughout middle age, helps maintain memory function during aging, emphasizing the relevance of including exercise in our daily lives.” 

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #122

Chicken Piccata Recipe, Spotlight on Capers and Cutlets, Ward Off Prostate Cancer with Fruits and Veggies, Plus the Health Benefits of Physical Fitness

As the weather gets warmer, farmers markets—and maybe even your own garden—will soon be brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s especially welcome news after the release of research on the protective benefit of these foods when it comes to avoiding prostate cancer. After reading the second study in this newsletter, you’ll want to take a brisk walk right on over to the nearest market to fill up your larder. Fresh vegetables are a wonderful accompaniment to this delicious chicken dish.

Chicken Piccata

  • The Olive Oil Hunter News #122 Chicken Piccata

    The origin of chicken piccata is somewhat in dispute—some say that it was an Italian-American take on a classic veal recipe from the Boot. Certainly, it’s long been a mainstay on many Italian restaurant menus here in the US. No matter who claims credit for it, one thing is certain: it’s delicious and easy to make all in one pan. A side of your favorite pasta and a plate of spring asparagus complete the menu!

    Ingredients

    • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
    • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour, more if needed 
    • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
    • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
    • 1 cup white wine
    • 1 cup chicken broth, homemade or low sodium store-bought
    • 1 lemon, halved
    • 1/4 cup capers, plus 1 tablespoon of their brine
    • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 pieces
    • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

    Directions

    Step 1

    Slice each chicken breast horizontally into 2 or 3 thin cutlets. In a deep pie plate, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Heat a very large skillet and, when hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Dredge the cutlets in the flour mixture one at a time, shake off any excess, and place them in the pan. Continue until your skillet is full. Don’t crowd the cutlets: work in batches if needed, adding 2 more tablespoons of oil to the skillet before adding the next batch. When the cutlets have browned on the bottom (after about 5 minutes), flip and continue cooking for another 3 minutes (the thinner the cutlet, the less time each will take). Transfer the cutlets to a large clean plate near your stovetop.

    Step 2

    Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the garlic until fragrant and lightly browned. Add the wine and broth, and whisk the liquids to get up the fond on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and add back the cutlets (submerge them as much as possible) along with the capers and brine. Continue cooking until the liquid reduces by half and the chicken is cooked through. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon half and stir in the butter. Cook for 2 more minutes and sprinkle with the parsley. Cut the remaining lemon half into thin slices and serve along with 2 or 4 cutlets per person.

    Yields 4–6 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Greek Yogurt

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Capers: An unsung Mediterranean flavor booster

Chances are the only time you might have seen capers—apart from chicken piccata—is alongside chopped red onion on a smoked fish platter. But their salty, briny taste can enhance many dishes.

Capers are the green flower buds of the capparis spinosa, a prickly bush native to the Mediterranean region. They’re picked, dried, and then either pickled in brine—the way you’re most likely to find them on supermarket shelves—or packed in salt. Capers come in various sizes, from tiny nonpareils to large capotes.

Experiment by adding them to eggs, tuna salads, potato salads, and tomato sauces, especially those that also include green olives, like puttanesca. If you’re using the large capers, chop them coarsely before adding; otherwise, fold them in whole. Adding a teaspoon or so of their brine will intensify their taste. And always taste any caper-enhanced dish before you add any extra salt—you might not need it.

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Baking Pan Preps

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Cutting Cutlets Made Easy

Thinly sliced cutlets cook quickly and stay moist and tender. If you can’t find breasts already cut scallopini style or just want to save the extra cost that brings, you can easily prep chicken breasts yourself at home. First, give the cutlets a deep chill in the freezer for about 20 minutes—this makes them easier to slice. While you’re waiting, set out a platter for placing the slices and grab your raw-only cutting board and a sharp chef’s knife (remember: it’s a dull knife that’s dangerous). 

Working one breast at a time, place it on your cutting board and place the palm of one hand over the top of the breast. Very carefully, slice the breast horizontally in half if not very thick, or into thirds or fourths if thick (the first slice may be smaller in length than the rest, but should be the same thickness). Now you’re ready to proceed with your recipe.

For Your Best Health: Cutting Caffeine without Withdrawal Symptoms

For Your Best Health

Fruits and Vegetables May Ward Off Prostate Cancer

Two studies done at the University of South Australia and published in the journal Cancers found that men who eat micronutrient-rich colorful fruits and vegetables on a regular basis are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer; consuming these foods also speeds up recovery for men who undergo radiation treatment for the disease. The research was the first to evaluate blood concentrations of micronutrients and trace elements with respect to prostate cancer in men in South Australia.

Researchers compared levels of micronutrients in the blood of prostate cancer patients with the levels in a healthy control group and found that the cancer patients had low levels of lutein, lycopene, alpha-carotene, and selenium, and high levels of iron, sulfur, and calcium. In particular, they found that men with plasma concentrations lower than 0.25 micrograms/milliliter for lycopene and/or lower than 120 micrograms/milliliter for selenium have an increased risk of prostate cancer and are likely to be more sensitive to the damaging effects of radiation treatment, should cancer occur.

Foods rich in lycopene include tomatoes, melons, papayas, grapes, peaches, watermelons, and cranberries. Selenium-rich foods include white meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and nuts. Study coauthor Permal Deo, PhD, says eating foods that are naturally rich in lycopene and selenium is preferable to taking supplements, where the benefits are limited, according to previous studies. “Our recommendation is to adopt a Mediterranean diet enlisting the help of a dietitian because people absorb nutrients in different ways, depending on the food, the digestive system, the person’s genotype, and possibly their microbiome,” he explains.

Other risk factors, such as ethnicity, family history, and age, have previously been linked to prostate cancer. “There is strong evidence that being overweight and tall increases the risk of prostate cancer,” adds Dr. Deo. “Diets high in dairy products and low in vitamin E may also increase the risk but the evidence is less clear.” Vitamin E is found in plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

Fitness Flash: Develop your Core Principles

Fitness Flash

When Half Is a Lot Better Than None

We already know that physical activity has numerous health benefits, and leading health organizations recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week to get them. But now, an international team led by researchers at the University of Cambridge and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that there are still benefits to doing at least half that amount: just 11 minutes a day—75 minutes a week—of moderate-intensity physical activity, like brisk walking.

To explore the amount of physical activity necessary to have a beneficial impact on several chronic diseases and premature death, researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis, pooling and analyzing data from all the published evidence. This let them bring together studies that on their own did not provide sufficient evidence, and sometimes disagreed with each other, to provide more robust conclusions.

In total, they looked at results reported in 196 peer-reviewed articles, covering more than 30 million participants from 94 large study cohorts, to produce the largest analysis to date of the association between physical activity levels and risk of heart disease, cancer, and early death.

The researchers found that, outside of work-related physical activity, two out of three people reported moderate-intensity activity levels below 150 minutes per week and fewer than one in 10 did more than 300 minutes per week. They also found that beyond 150 minutes per week, additional benefits in terms of reduced risk of disease or early death were marginal. 

On the other hand, doing just half this amount came with significant benefits. Accumulating 75 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity brought with it a 23 percent lower risk of early death and reduced the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17 percent and cancer by 7 percent. For some specific cancers, the reduction in risk was greater: head and neck, myeloid leukemia, myeloma, and gastric cardia cancers were between 14 percent and 26 percent lower risk. For other cancers, such as lung, liver, endometrial, colon, and breast, a 3 to 11 percent lower risk was observed. Looked at another way, if everyone managed at least 75 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, around one in 10 early deaths, one in 20 cases of cardiovascular disease, and nearly one in 30 cases of cancer would be prevented.

Soren Brage, PhD, of the MRC Epidemiology Unit, says, “If you are someone who finds the idea of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week a bit daunting, then our findings should be good news. Doing some physical activity is better than doing none. This is also a good starting position: If you find that 75 minutes a week is manageable, then you could try stepping it up gradually to the full recommended amount.” As a reminder, moderate-intensity physical activity raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster, but you should still be able to speak during the activity.

Leandro Garcia, PhD, of Queen’s University Belfast, adds, “Moderate activity doesn’t have to involve what we normally think of exercise, such as sports or running. Sometimes, replacing some habits is all that is needed. For example, try to walk or cycle to your work or study place instead of using a car, or engage in active play with your kids or grandkids. Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active.”

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #119

Baked Potatoes & Béarnaise Sauce Recipe, Spotlight on Russet Potatoes, How to Prevent Curdled Eggs, Make Informed Choices Based on Salt Content, and Rewrite Your Goals for Greater Success

If you’re like me, you strive to make continual improvements in your well-being but you don’t want to feel deprived. That’s why I love to take favorite recipes and “healthify” them. This béarnaise sauce is the perfect example. By replacing half of the usual amount of butter with extra virgin olive oil, you get all the taste—I’d argue even more!—with the bonus of polyphenols. Another important pro-health step is cutting back on salt—you’ll be surprised at some of the types of packaged foods that researchers named the top culprits when it comes to adding sodium to our daily intake. I’m also sharing advice from a top team of health coaches on how to reframe your wellness goals to make them more attainable.

Baked Potatoes & Béarnaise Sauce

  • Baked Potatoes and Bearnaiise Sauce Baked Potatoes & Béarnaise Sauce

    This rich and flavorful sauce is traditionally an accompaniment for steak, but it’s also a wonderful break from sour cream on a perfectly baked potato—so satisfying it can be the entire meal! Note: Most béarnaise sauce recipes call for making it in a double boiler to avoid curdling the yolks from direct heat—two inches of water are kept at a simmer in the bottom pan while you whisk the ingredients in the top one. However, if you use a low heat and whisk constantly, you can make the sauce in a small saucepan over direct heat.

    Ingredients

    For the potatoes:

    • 4 large russet potatoes
    • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
    • A few pinches of coarse salt and twists of freshly ground black pepper

    For the béarnaise sauce:

    • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
    • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon fresh French tarragon leaves, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1 tablespoon water

    Directions

    Step 1

    To bake the potatoes, preheat your oven to 450°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a large piece of parchment paper. Scrub and pat dry the potatoes, then place them on the parchment. With the tip of a sharp paring knife, pierce the potatoes on all sides. Rub them all over with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Bake until the tip of the knife easily goes through them, about an hour.

    Step 2

    About 20 minutes before the potatoes are ready, make the sauce. Place the vinegar, shallots, tarragon, and black pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until the vinegar is reduced by half. Take the pan off the heat and let the vinegar cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

    Step 3

    Melt the butter and set aside. Whisk the yolks and water into the vinegar reduction and place over low heat. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens and nearly doubles in volume. Then slowly whisk in the butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time; repeat with the olive oil. Continue whisking vigorously until the sauce thickens but is still pourable. If necessary, the sauce can sit for 15 minutes or so; whisk gently before serving as needed.

    Step 4

    Plate the potatoes and make a large slash lengthwise in each. Top with dollops of the béarnaise sauce and serve the rest on the side.

    Yields 4 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Tapping into Hot Sauce 

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Russet Potatoes

As much as I love Yukon and red potato varieties, sometimes there’s nothing better than a toothsome russet! When cooked at high heat, these rather large, long, and oval potatoes become fluffy inside and their distinctive thick skin becomes deliciously crispy—eat it up because that’s where so many of its nutrients are. A large potato delivers 5 grams of all-important fiber and healthy doses of potassium, iron, and the vitamins C and B6. Russets are also great cut into even sticks and baked to make oven fries. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Cornstarch vs. Flour

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Double Boiler Hack

If you’re nervous about eggs curdling when making sauces or have a testy stovetop whose heat is hard to regulate, it’s easy to create a makeshift double boiler. Just place a metal or glass bowl over a saucepan filled with two inches of water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water and the water should be simmering, not boiling. 

For Your Best Health: Avoiding Long COVID

For Your Best Health

Salt Alert

Health authorities often say it’s the salt in packaged and/or processed foods rather than in your salt shaker that you need to keep track of. Knowing the items with the highest amounts of sodium will help you make better choices when shopping for convenience foods and, in turn, lower your salt intake. That’s important because salt is a risk factor for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. 

Researchers at the University of Toronto studied over 7,000 research subjects using the 2017–2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which consists of information on the health and nutritional status (including dietary recall information on foods consumed) of a nationally representative sample of adults and children in the United States. They identified the top 15 food categories that account for 50.83% of total dietary sodium intake. Some might surprise you and have you rethinking which of your favorite foods you’d be better off making from scratch: 

  • Pizza: 5.3%
  • Breads, rolls, and buns: 4.7%
  • Cold cuts and cured meats: 4.6%
  • Soups: 4.4%
  • Burritos and tacos: 4.3%
  • Savory snacks: 4.1%
  • Poultry: 4.0%
  • Cheese: 3.1%
  • Pasta mixed dishes: 2.9%
  • Burgers: 2.5%
  • Meat mixed dishes: 2.5% 
  • Cookies, brownies, and cakes: 2.4% 
  • Bacon, frankfurters, and sausages: 2.4%
  • Vegetables: 2.2%
  • Chicken nuggets: 1.5%

Said lead author Mavra Ahmed, MSc, PhD, “This data is important in light of the FDA Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals, which bring renewed focus on the importance of limiting sodium in the food supply and can help focus future efforts.” The research was supported by the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences, a science-focused nonprofit.

Fitness Flash: Get Help for Tech Neck

Fitness Flash

Rewrite Your Goals for Greater Success

According to the experts at Precision Nutrition, an international nutrition coaching and education company that certifies health professionals, we might be setting the wrong fitness goals.

Goals are important—they can help you feel in charge of your life, boost motivation, and encourage actions that lead to change. So what’s the problem? Too often we zero in on the end result rather than the behaviors that will get us there. To switch your focus, the team at Precision Nutrition suggests that, for each finish-line goal you want, you write out the skills or habits that will help get you there and the actions you can take to help build those skills. They outline three distinct types of goals and how to switch them up: 

Create behavior goals, not outcome goals. Behavior goals represent your commitment to practice a particular set of actions or tasks every day, as consistently and regularly as possible. Examples of outcome goals are losing 30 pounds or “getting a six-pack.” Examples of behavior goals are eating only until you’re satisfied (rather than stuffed) and taking a Pilates class twice a week.  

Create approach goals, not avoidance goals. Avoidance goals, like “don’t eat sugar,” seem straightforward but are counterproductive because telling yourself to stop doing something almost guarantees you’ll keep doing it. Approach goals are steps you take to build a good habit that will naturally replace the one you want to stop. Instead of telling yourself to eliminate all junk food, for instance, prepare healthy snacks, like fruit salad, that will be ready to munch on when hunger strikes and, for motivation, remind yourself of all the nutrients you’ll get as a bonus. If you want to stop stress eating, have a hobby or other stress reliever you can do at a moment’s notice instead.

Create mastery goals, not performance goals. Performance goals, like being able to lift more weight at the gym, can be fleeting. Mastery goals emphasize the process of getting a little bit better each day at a particular skill, and they often result in sustained motivation. So rather than trying to set a personal best at a race, for example, set your focus on running more efficiently and smoothly. 

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #113

Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe, Spotlight on Broccoli, Immersion Blender 101, How to Overcome Excuses for Not Exercising and Mastering Functional Fitness

Winter is a time of year when a thick and hearty broccoli soup can easily be dinner. Make a large batch, and you’ll have enough for a lunch or two as well. Winter is also when most of us need a little extra motivation to exercise. I’m sharing ideas as well as one aspect of fitness that may be new to you.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

  • Brocoli Cheddar Soup Broccoli Cheddar Soup

    This is a popular item at restaurants and the soup station at supermarkets, yet so often tastes gummy. My recipe is chunky and creamy at the same time, thanks to a simple roux technique and not over-blending.  

    Ingredients

    • 7 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
    • 1 large sweet onion, about 12 ounces, finely chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • Coarse salt 
    • 2 pounds broccoli, trimmed and cut into small florets (slice stems into discs)
    • 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
    • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
    • 2 cups milk
    • 10 ounces sharp or very sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Directions

    Step 1

    Heat a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat. When hot, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the onions, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt to help the onions sweat. Sauté until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook until it turns a brighter green, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Use a large slotted spoon to transfer all the veggies to a large bowl next to your cooktop.  

    Step 2

    Add the rest of the olive oil to the pot along with the flour and stir vigorously for 2 minutes to make a roux and cook the flour. Whisk in the broth, a half-cup at a time, letting the mixture come to a boil before adding the next half-cup. Repeat the technique with the milk and then stir in 8 ounces of the cheese. When smooth, add back in the vegetables. Continue to cook, partly covered, at a low simmer for 30 minutes or until the broccoli is tender. Stir occasionally to make sure all the broccoli gets submerged.

    Step 3

    Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a standard blender, blend the soup, stopping short of a full purée. Taste and season as desired with salt and pepper. Garnish servings with the rest of the grated cheddar and a drizzle of olive oil.

    Yields 8 to 10 servings

Food Pairings: The Power of Purple Potatoes

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Broccoli’s Bounty

Broccoli is on nearly every top 10 list of healthy foods, and science is still uncovering more of its benefits. Beyond its impressive list of vitamins and minerals, broccoli, like other cruciferous vegetables, has a phytochemical—or plant-based compound—called sulforaphane. Since the early 1990s, over 3,000 lab studies and over 50 clinical trials have looked at sulforaphane’s role in cancer prevention and even in cancer treatment. According to a review of research on broccoli and broccoli sprouts published in the journal Molecules, sulforaphane’s anti-inflammatory properties also show promise for easing arthritis and asthma, managing diabetes more effectively, and improving fatty liver disease. 

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Sweet spices for savory dishes

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Immersion Blender 101

I love a handheld cordless immersion blender for puréeing foods without having to transfer them to a standing blender or food processor. But not all models have the same power as those countertop workhorses. To make yours more effective, try these tips:

  • Precut any solid foods you’ll be blending into 2″ pieces or smaller.
  • Be sure any cooked foods are tender before blending.
  • The food to be blended should come at least an inch above the blade, and the blade should always be submerged, even when working it up and down. 
  • When using the immersion blender to homogenize small amounts of liquids for salad dressings or sauces, use a tall measuring cup if your appliance didn’t come with a special container.
Healthy Kitchen Nugget: The Truth About Nondairy Milks

For Your Best Health

How to Overcome Excuses for Not Exercising 

As many benefits as exercise has, people find even more excuses for not working out. Here’s some motivation from NIH’s National Institute on Aging:

No time? Get up a few minutes earlier and exercise first thing or combine physical activity with a task that’s already part of your day, like starting to walk to work.

Too boring? The only way to stick with a plan is to do activities you really enjoy. Also, try new types of exercise to keep it interesting.

Too expensive? All you need is a pair of comfortable, nonskid shoes to start walking and, for upper body strength training, your own body weight for moves like pushups or a pair of filled water bottles.

Too tired? That’s another reason to exercise early in the day when you have more energy. Plus, regular, moderate physical activity can help reduce fatigue.

Not convinced? Take a few seconds to read this list of exercise benefits whenever you need a little impetus to get going:

  • A lower risk of chronic conditions, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers
  • Easier weight control
  • Better cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
  • A lower risk of falling and better bone density
  • A lower risk of depression
  • Improved cognitive function and sleep quality
Healthy Kitchen Nugget: The Value of Variety

Fitness Flash

Mastering Functional Fitness

Your fitness and mobility levels are important signs of independence. They’re often assessed by what’s called functional fitness, the ability to carry out activities of daily living, or ADLs—being able to care for yourself, go shopping, get on and off the sofa with ease, and so on. Building and maintaining functional fitness is key to moving with ease now and staying mobile as you age. 

There are seven important movements we all draw on for those ADLs: pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, hinging, rotating, and balancing. Doing exercises that use those movements will make it easier to handle all your daily tasks. Many common strength training moves, like pushups and chest presses, pullups and rows, squats, wall sits, and lunges, replicate them exactly. Kettlebell swings and twists mimic hinging. Some core exercises, like the woodchopper and working with a medicine ball, help with rotation. And there are many moves to improve balance, like sidestepping and heel-to-toe walking. If you’re new to any of these exercises or want tailored guidance, consider scheduling a session with a personal trainer.

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