Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Roasted Grape Baked Brie Crescent Ring

This post is part of my partnership with Grapes from California. I hope you enjoy it!

Just the other day, I received a group text about our 4th annual Friendsgiving. I was immediately appreciative of the pre-planning, but then it occurred to me that our friendly celebration is just a few weeks away. (How did that happen?!)


With Friendsgiving (and Thanksgiving) just around the corner, I couldn’t help but think about what I wanted to contribute. I personally love a good appetizer, especially one that everyone can share in together, so I created one using some of the most delectable flavors of the season. Grapes from California, in particular, were an easy choice. They’re in season right now, and they’re an ideal ingredient because they’re nutritious and give recipes a natural boost of added flavor and texture. Brie cheese, walnuts, and honey were also an easy choice since they pair so well with grapes and fit right into the autumn season.


That said, here is a tasty appetizer that you should most definitely add to your holiday recipe list. This Roasted Grape Baked Brie Crescent Ring is easy-to-make (if I can do it, anyone can!), visually appealing (isn’t it pretty?), and crowd-pleasing (everyone loves grapes and cheese!).


Guys, it’s a winner all around, and I hope you and your family and friends love it as much as we do!



  • 3/4 cup red and green Grapes from California
  • 2 packages of crescent rolls (8 oz each)
  • 1/3 pound brie cheese, rind removed and cut into chunks
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoon finely diced walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon honey


Preheat oven 375 degrees F. Unroll both cans of dough and separate into 16 triangles. Line a round baking pan/pizza pan with parchment paper and then arrange the triangles in ring. You want the dough to overlap. The dough ring should look like a sun.

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Spread cream cheese around the center of the ring. Top with chunks of Brie cheese.


Slice grapes in half.


Place grapes on top of cream cheese and Brie.


Then, sprinkle the dough ring with walnuts and drizzle with honey.


Bring each dough triangle up over filling and then tuck the dough under the bottom layer (of dough) to secure it.


Repeat around the ring until entire filling is enclosed. (It’s okay if some filling shows through a little.)

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Bake ring for 20 minutes or until dough is golden brown and thoroughly baked.


Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Serve with fresh red and green Grapes from California!


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What Are Bojangles Ingredients? (Let Me Warn You.)

Today I’m launching a petition asking the restaurant chain Bojangles’ Famous Chicken & Biscuits to: (1) formally prohibit the routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention in the production of their meat, with a concrete policy and timeline, and … Continued

The post What Are Bojangles Ingredients? (Let Me Warn You.) appeared first on Food Babe.

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Should You Eat Less Protein?

High Protein Foods on wooden table. Top view

Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a subtle shift in the way the media discusses dietary protein, with many experts promoting lower intakes. The push for lower intakes hasn’t only come from the mainstream crowing about red meat and colon cancer. Many voices from the alternative health communities are urging a reduction in protein. Even the ancestral health community counts among its ranks protein skeptics.

Am I one? I’m not sure. In past posts, I’ve discussed how my own tastes have changed, going from eating high protein to more moderate amounts.

Today I’m addressing the standard arguments levied against high protein intakes. Hopefully, we can get to the bottom of the issue.

High protein diets stress the kidneys.

While it’s true that people with existing kidney damage or disease must limit protein intake, this isn’t the case in healthy people. Even type 2 diabetics with good kidney function can safely eat a long-term high-protein diet. If anything, higher protein intakes protect against kidney disease by making it easier to avoid obesity.

High protein diets exceed your capacity for ammonia detox.

Protein metabolism begets ammonia, a toxin. The liver usually converts ammonia into urea, which is safely expelled through the urine. The average human can handle about 230 grams of protein before ammonia-urea conversion tanks. After that, ammonia lingers. If your liver health is compromised, or your protein intake exceeds your ammonia detox capacity, ammonia toxicity can ensue.

Acute ammonia toxicity is neurotoxic, actually causing your astrocytes to swell. Rabbit starvation, which afflicted Arctic explorers living exclusively on lean protein (rabbits) and causes nausea, diarrhea, and eventually death, might derive from ammonia toxicity. A subtler, lower-grade ammonia toxicity likely exists in people with chronically-high intakes of protein. The dangers are mostly theoretical but based in physiology—ammonia is a toxin, and there is a limit to how much of it we can convert to urea.

High protein diets create toxins in the gut.

Sufficiently high intakes of protein can exceed the gut’s capacity to absorb it. The protein then passes on to the colon, where colonic bacteria ferment it and produce metabolic byproducts like ammonia, indoles, and phenols. As many of these compounds can have toxic effects, some have suggested that excess protein fermentation produces a toxic gut environment.

In one study, researchers gave subjects either a high protein diet, a low protein diet, or a normal protein diet. They analyzed the fecal water of each group for evidence of protein fermentation and ran a series of tests to determine the toxicity of each batch of fecal water. Surprisingly, while the high protein fecal water had elevated markers of fermentation, it was not toxic, and elevated protein fermentation metabolites actually correlated with lower cytotoxicity.

High protein diets give you cancer.

Vegans love citing the T. Colin Campbell research from the China Study, which appeared to show that high intakes of protein caused increased cancer deathsWhile adequate intakes of protein (from casein) promoted the growth of existing tumors in those rodents, it also protected against the mutagens that cause the initial appearance of tumors. Protein was protective against cancer until they had it, at which point it accelerated the cancer’s progression. Rodents on the low protein diet were more susceptible to getting cancer after aflatoxin exposure. Once the rodents already had cancer, low protein was protective against further growth.

More accurate: adequate protein protects against the initiation of cancer (and probably other maladaptive ills), but patients with cancer should limit it. That makes sense. Context is everything.

Extra protein just converts to glucose.

Through the process of gluconeogenesis, we can convert protein into glucose. This has led some folks to believe that eating “extra protein” is like eating a piece of chocolate cake. So, does a high protein diet spike glucose levels? Is eating more protein just like cramming in extra sugar?

In one study, type 2 diabetics ate half a pound of steak (50 grams protein) and nothing else for breakfast. Compared to the control group who just had water, 50 grams of protein had almost no effect on glucose levels, adding just 2 grams to circulation. In another older study, eating up to 160 grams of protein in a single meal had no effect on blood glucose.

On the contrary, high-protein diets have been shown to improve glucose control in the population most at risk from high-carb intakes: type 2 diabetics.

High protein is unnecessary.

Protein is the most expensive macronutrient. In the wild, it takes the most energy to acquire. In the civilized world, it costs the most money to purchase. If we don’t need large amounts of protein, it makes sense to reduce our intake.

Many people lifting weights and cramming down protein shakes likely are eating more protein than they need. The more advanced you are as a lifter, the less protein you need. Beginners gain weight like crazy; experienced lifters do not.

Advanced lifters are closer to their genetic muscle ceiling. There’s less room to grow, so they grow more slowly, and muscle protein synthesis actually declines. Plus, their muscles have become more resistant to exercise-induced breakdown. It takes more to damage them, and there’s less to recover from. Overall, experienced lifters are more efficient with their protein and can maintain nitrogen balance at 1.05 g/kg. If they want to gain muscle, 1.8 grams per kg (which is much lower than most people assume) seems to be the absolute ceiling for natural lifters. After that, the benefits level off, and you’re just wasting protein.

Interestingly, endurance athletes require more protein than bodybuilders to remain in nitrogen balance.

High protein diets increase IGF-1 signaling.

IGF-1 is an important compound that helps us build and maintain bone and muscle mass. We need it to thrive, yet excessively high levels of IGF-1 may increase growth of unwanted tissues like tumors and hasten the aging process.

That said, there’s no indication that IGF-1 increases the formation of tumors. As in Campbell’s rats, it’s likely that IGF-1 makes the organism more robust, but once cancer is present, hastens its growth. And the proposed link between elevated IGF-1 and mortality in humans hasn’t been confirmed. It looks like both high and low levels are bad.

High protein diets reduce longevity.

A study from 2014 had a somewhat paradoxical finding: higher protein intakes had a negative effect on mortality in 50-year-olds, a neutral effect in 65-year-olds, and a beneficial effect in those over 80. Let’s assume for a second that the links are causal—that higher protein intakes are the proximate causes of the shifting mortality risks.

When older people eat more protein, even (or especially) if it comes from evil red meat, they get stronger, build more muscle, improve their ability to take care of themselves, and even think better. The studies didn’t track mortality, but loss of muscle, strength, independence, and cognitive function typically precede death in senior citizens. If higher protein intakes can improve those parameters, they should also improve survival in the population.

Another wrinkle is that dietary protein—especially of animal origin—is the best source of cysteine, a crucial backbone we use to produce the endogenous antioxidant glutathione. A group of researchers recently proposed that a reduction in glutathione synthesis “underlies” the increased mortality linked to low protein intakes in the elderly. Glutathione protects our liver, helps metabolize toxins, and regulates oxidative stress; glutathione deficiency in older populations has been linked to neurodegeneration, heart attacks, and “accelerated aging.”

What’s the verdict?

I’d advise against a low-protein diet unless you have an express reason to do so. You’ll likely grow lethargic, lose muscle mass, gain fat mass, and be less resilient in the face of stressors and illnesses. Maybe it’ll buy you an extra year or two, but at what cost? Low-protein diets have been shown to:

Meanwhile, high-protein diets confer a few potential risks, which I’ve laid out above.

There are clear benefits to higher protein intakes (lean mass retention, muscle growth, fat loss, increased satiety) and legitimate concerns (reduced longevity, excess IGF-1, too much growth of unwanted tissues). How do we square all the evidence? How do we balance the effects?

Short term is fine: Brief bursts of very high protein diets while lifting heavy things can probably help you shed excess weight and retain lean mass. Recent studies find evidence of improved body composition and no evidence of any deleterious effects up to 4.4 g/kg for several weeks at a time. I’m not sure I’d continue eating that much protein for the rest of your life though.

Go high and low: Eat high protein one day, lower protein the next. If you’re trying to gain muscle, you probably need more protein on workout days. If you’re just maintaining, you can get away with far less.

Fast: When someone constantly eats, never going more than 5-6 hours between meals, that person never gives his/her body time to recover and prune damaged cells. Intermittent fasting imposes periods of zero protein and zero food, giving your body a dose of autophagy and a respite from mTOR/IGF-1 activation, and likely making higher protein intakes on feeding days safer.

Overall, I’d say using 100 grams per day as a baseline and going as low as you can without suffering the negative symptoms is worth exploring. It’s likely enough for the majority of people reading this, and if you cycle your protein or fast, you give yourself a chance at some nice autophagy and healthy growth. Plus, you can always increase your intake if you notice negative symptoms.

Athletes aiming for muscle growth and endurance athletes trying to avoid muscle loss may go up to 1.8 g/kg. Dieting athletes should probably go at least that high to preserve lean mass.

Be sure to check out past posts on conditions that determine if you need more or less protein.

Don’t forget my previous protein intake recommendations for different populations.

Now I’d love to hear from you.

How much protein do you eat each day? How do lower—or higher—intakes affect you?


The post Should You Eat Less Protein? appeared first on Mark's Daily Apple.

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Quick Weeknight Pho Ga

The star of pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup sold throughout the country at modest stands or tables on the street, is its rich and deeply flavorful broth, made by simmering beef or chicken bones for many hours.

When there aren’t hours available, a shortcut version of this healthful, balanced meal in a bowl can be on the table in about 20 minutes. The key to giving store-bought broth extra flavor is to first char and toast the “aromatics” — that is, the onion, ginger and dried spices — under the broiler. Be sure to place the onion wedges over the dried spices so they don’t burn, which would make them bitter.

Traditional pho is served with all the additional ingredients, such as the greens, fresh herbs, sprouts, lime, and chile peppers (whole or sliced, depending on their size) or Sriracha, for each diner to add to taste.

Quick Weeknight Pho Ga
Yield: 4 servings

One 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices
One 2-inch piece cinnamon
2 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
2 small onions, each cut into 8 wedges
3 garlic cloves, smashed
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch strips
4 ounces rice noodles
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 bunch watercress
1 cup cilantro sprigs
1 lime, cut into thin wedges
Sriracha or chile peppers, to taste

Coat a small baking sheet pan with cooking spray. Place the ginger, cinnamon, star anise and cloves on the pan, and top with the onion. Place under the broiler until the onion begins to char, about 6 minutes; turn and cook another 2 minutes.

Combine the broth, fish sauce, and broiled ginger, spices, onion and garlic in a soup pot, then bring to a boil. Gently boil 6 minutes. Using a small strainer, scoop the solids out of the broth and discard.

Add the chicken to the broth and reduce the heat to medium. Cook 3 minutes, add the noodles and cook another 3 minutes, until noodles are soft and chicken is cooked through.

Use tongs to transfer the noodles to four bowls; ladle the soup and chicken over the noodles.

Place about 1/4 of the bean sprouts and watercress in each bowl, and pass the cilantro, lime and chile pepper for diners to add to taste.

Per serving: 281 calories, 31 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 942 mg sodium

Marge Perry is an award-winning  food, nutrition and travel writer and teacher whose work appears regularly in Rachael Ray Every Day, AllRecipes, Newsday, and on her blog, A Sweet and Savory Life. In addition, Marge is a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and an Adjunct at New York University, where she teaches food writing.

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Cobbler Muffins

This post is sponsored by the Blueberry Council

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Frozen berries are always a staple in my freezer. Not only are they super convenient to put into everything from smoothies to oatmeal to muffins, but they are super foods as well. Flash freezing preserves most of the nutrition, and you can get a taste of the perfect summer berry all year round.

Frozen blueberries contain the same vitamins and minerals as fresh blueberries.  They are a good source of fiber, contain vitamin C (3.9 mg per cup) and are only 80 calories per cup. Plus, they’re naturally low in fat and sodium. Blueberries are one of the fruits highest in the flavonoid anthocyanin, the pigment that makes blueberries blue! Eat them up!

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I’ve partnered with the Blueberry Council for this post to showcase a recipe that uses blueberries directly from the freezer. There’s no need to thaw them at all – just stir them into these muffins and you have a breakfast or snack bursting with warm blueberry cobbler flavor.

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I used whole wheat flour and oats to boost the nutrition, and pecans for that autumn touch. While this recipe does call for good old fashioned butter, I added some applesauce to lighten it a bit.

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Begin by mixing the flour, oats, cinnamon, and baking powder together in a big bowl.

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Then in a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, butter, milk, and applesauce.

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Then pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold to mix evenly.

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And then stir in blueberries and pecans.

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You can have mini or standard sized muffins depending on your pan and preference.

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I did both!

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For mini muffins, bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. For standard muffins, bake for 30-35 minutes.

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You can even re-freeze this to thaw out for busy weekday mornings : )

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Cobbler Muffins


Ingredients (2 batches of muffins, either two mini, two standard or one mini and one standard )

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 stick salted butter, very well softened
  • 2/3 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep muffin tins with liners or grease with butter or oil.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, oats, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, butter, milk, and applesauce.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir well to combine.
  5. Stir in blueberries and pecans.
  6. Spoon batter into muffin cups, using heaping tablespoons for the mini muffins or filling to the brim for standard muffins.
  7. Bake mini muffins for 20-25 minutes, until tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Bake standard muffins for 30-35 minutes.
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Blueberry Cobbler Muffins

Thanks to the Blueberry Council for sponsoring this post! Check out a bunch of other recipes to make with frozen blueberries at the new Goodness Frozen website

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Episode 340 – Dr Steven Lin – Dentistry and Mouth Health