Is Agave Nectar Really Better Than Sugar?

Is Agave Nectar Really Better Than Sugar?

November 03, 2015 | By Johanna Sorrentino

Professional chefs, bakers and home cooks alike have been pleased to discover agave nectar, a sweet and pleasantly mild syrup made from the root of the agave plant (which, when fermented, becomes tequila). Marketed as an all-natural sugar substitute, at 32 dollars a gallon agave is turning an extremely good profit globally. But is agave better and healthier than sugar?

Origins of Agave

Agaves, a close relative of the aloe plant, are native to the southwest of the United States, Central America, as well as central and tropical South America. It is produced mainly in the Guadalajara region in Mexico, where it has been used by native Mexicans for centuries.

Commercial production of agave nectar began in the 1990’s, and since then bottles of this exotic golden syrup have been crowding the shelves of health food stores across the United States and Europe. Agave nectar can be found on the labels of many products from soda and ice cream to ketchup and granola. Now entering the mainstream culinary market, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and bars are serving agave in cocktails, smoothies, sauces, dressings and baked goods.

Agave Nectar: Health Benefits and Concerns

Despite many claims that say agave is a healthier sweetener, there are both pros and cons.


  • Agave’s claim to fame is its low glycemic index (GI), which translates to less of an impact on blood sugar levels. Compared to table sugar, honey, maple syrup and date sugar, agave ranks the lowest with a GI of around 30.
  • Some agave products also boast a unique kind of fiber called fructans. This news appeals to diabetics because according to a study in Mexico, a diet rich in fructans may stimulate production of a hormone called GLP-1 which encourages the release of insulin.
  • Agave is also good news for vegans, since it is a sugar substitute that does not rely on any animals to produce it (unlike honey).


  • Because of the way most manufacturers process the agave plant to obtain syrup, the end product has as much or more fructose than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

While our bodies depend on the glucose in complex carbohydrates for energy, fructose is a sugar that, if not used right away, gets stored as fat. HFCS has become the black sheep in the sugar industry because some believe that fructose is a leading cause of obesity in the United States.

There are a few small companies that are striving to make an agave syrup that retains as much nutrition as possible. Instead of heating the agave at high temperatures to extract and intensify the sweetness of the liquid, they use lower temperatures and rely mainly on enzymes to split the complex natural sugars. This second process creates the only true raw agave.

Is Agave Better Than Sugar?

At the end of the day agave is still a sweetener, which means it is not a health food. The real reason that agave is better than sugar is because you can use less of it due to the fact that it’s sweeter. However, keep in mind that not all agave is created equal. Here are some tips to ensure that you are using agave in the healthiest form possible:

  • Buy raw agave. This is the least processed type of agave, and bears the least resemblance to high fructose corn syrup. Keep in mind, however, that even raw agave contains high amounts of fructose.
  • Go for the darkest stuff on the shelf. The darker the syrup, the more nutrients remain.
  • Use sparingly. The healthiest way to use sugar and all sugar substitutes is in moderation.

Uses of Agave

Since agave can be up to three times as sweet as table sugar, you can use less in your cooking and dessert recipes. When baking with agave, for each cup of white sugar, you can use 2/3 cup of agave and reduce the other liquids by 1/4 cup. Because it mixes easily and has a mild and versatile flavor, it goes especially well with soft and hard drinks like tea, lemonade, sports drinks, smoothies, mint juleps and mojitos. Look for agave syrups in a range of flavors like maple, vanilla, blueberry, cappuccino and hazelnut.

Featured Recipe: Strawberry Mint Lemonade with Agave

Agave makes the perfect sweetener for drinks because it dissolves easily. This refreshing recipe relies on slightly less agave and more fruit sweetener (strawberries). You can adjust the amount of agave depending on your preferences, but remember: Agave is healthiest in moderation.



          • Juice from 5 lemons (makes about 1 cup)
          • 1 cup strawberries
          • 1/3 cup raw agave (more or less to taste)
          • 5 cups water
          • 1 bunch mint, washed and stemmed



          • Finely chop or lightly puree the strawberries. You can puree more or less depending on if you want smooth or slightly chunky lemonade.
          • Put all ingredients into a large glass container and mix well.
          • Serve with ice!


  • Agave, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agave
  • “Agave Nectar – What Is Agave Nectar?” http://whatscookingamerica.net/CharlotteBradley/AgaveNectar.htm
  • “Good Questions: What’s Your Take on Agave Nectar”, http://nourishedkitchen.com/whats-your-take-on-agave-nectar/

What You Need to Know About Kombucha

What You Need to Know About Kombucha

November 10, 2015 | By Johanna Sorrentino

Kombucha is sweet tea fermented with yeast and bacteria. It has a Japanese name, origins in ancient China, and an almost cult following in the United States.

Most people find kombucha either wonderfully enticing or absolutely disgusting. Followers of the kombucha movement laud the positive effects the beverage has on their bodies and many love the taste, but unless you’ve seen the light, the appeal of this drink remains a mystery. For those who love the stuff, are looking to convert, or are just squeamishly curious, read on to learn more about the drink’s origins, health benefits and mysterious life cycle.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is made by adding some of the kombucha starter culture to a mixture of tea and sugar, and letting it ferment for seven to fourteen days. A mushroom-like bacteria and yeast growth develops in the form of a pink gelatinous pancake (referred to as “the mother”) that uses the tea and sugar for food. A chemical reaction produces the resulting drinkable substance known as kombucha. Smaller organisms called “babies” break off from the mother and are often given or sold to others looking to start growing kombucha. The resulting drink is naturally carbonated with notes of yeast and vinegar. Again, it’s not for everybody.

The Rise of Kombucha Culture

Prior to the 1960s, kombucha was relatively unheard of in the United States. It grew in popularity among health foodies in the the latter half of the 20th century, but took a hiatus from the American market in 1995 when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a report linking kombucha consumption with the illness of a woman who drank a home-brewed version and suffered from metabolic acidosis (acid buildup in the body).

But this “live drink” didn’t stay dead for long. Another widespread health food craze kicked off around 2003, when many people were looking for both an alternative to sugary drinks and a way to boost their intake of probiotics.

Today, there are several companies manufacturing kombucha on a large scale (Coca Cola owns a big share of one), and there are even “kombucha bars” opening up in places like Norfolk, Virginia; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco. In fact, a study by the market research firm SPINS reports $127 million in sales of kombucha from June 2013 to June 2014.

Potential Health Benefits of Kombucha

Though there have been few formal studies on the health effects of the drink, fans ardently claim that drinking kombucha daily is excellent for liver function, promoting intestinal health, and boosting your immune system.

  • Liver Function: An animal study published in the journal Microbiology and Biotechnology in 2009 showed that kombucha’s glucuronic acid attaches to toxins known to cause liver damage and removes them from the body.
  • Intestinal Health: Low in caffeine and sugar (once the fermentation is complete) and high in vitamins and minerals, kombucha also contains friendly bacteria (like those found in yogurt) that are reputed to be good for digestive health.
  • Immunity: The growth of beneficial bacteria, like those found in kombucha, can help keep the gut healthy and give the metabolism the boost it needs to control free radicals.
  • Antioxidants: In addition to probiotic benefits, an antioxidant known as D-saccharic acid-1, 4-lactone (DSL) was found in kombucha as a result of the fermentation process. DSL can lower oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and discourage depression of the immune system.

How to Make Kombucha

You don’t have to be a professional chef or chemist to make kombucha. It can be expensive by the bottle, so many enthusiasts opt for the DIY route. Ardent home-brewers say preparing it in your own kitchen ensures optimal quality and taste. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Find a baby starter culture. Ask around your circle of friends or look online to see where you can find kombucha starters in your area.
  2. Add your baby, or scoby, to sweetened black or green tea in a large glass jar (make sure it is completely cooled). Kombucha tastes best when when the tea has been sweetened with refined sugar. Be sure to include any liquid that comes with the scoby. If the scoby does not come with at least 1/4 cup of liquid, substitute with distilled white vinegar. This will lower the pH and prevent any foreign molds or yeasts from growing.
  3. Cover with a sterile kitchen towel to allow air in, but keep flies and other insects out. Place in a cool, dark place.
  4. Allow this mixture to ferment for 7 to 10 days, after which time you will remove the scoby. You can either brew another pot of tea and start the process all over again, or put the scoby (with a little liquid) in the refrigerator for later use.
  5. Taste your kombucha. If you would like to add other flavors, such as fruit or ginger, infuse for another two days before straining or bottling. Other infusion ideas: Citrus, cayenne, mango, ginseng, lavender, elderberry, and pomegranate.
  6. Store kombucha in a cool place for another three days to allow for the natural carbonation process. Refrigerate and drink within 30 days.
  7. Remember, glass bottles work best for storing your kombucha.

Side Effects

While kombucha itself is considered safe to drink, there are a few important pointers to keep in mind:

  • When home brewing in nonsterile conditions, unhealthy bacteria can be introduced into the brew.
  • Drink in moderation. Metabolic acidosis is the unhappy side effect of excessive drinking.
  • THe CDC warns that home-brewers should not store kombucha in materials containing toxic elements that have the potential to leach, such as ceramic.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not drink kombucha for the same reason that they are not advised to eat mold-ripened soft cheese.
  • Let’s face it: kombucha looks really weird. When home brewing, the thing to be concerned with is mold on the scoby or a black scoby.

For Chefs

Aside from its possible health benefits and unique taste, kombucha is appealing to those who like to “do it themselves” when it comes to food and drink. Like micro beer, honey-based mead or artisan cheese, there is an art to making kombucha that attracts those interested in cooking things most people just buy.

As a chef, you may find yourself inspired by the taste, history, and creative and monetary potential of making and serving this strange and delicious beverage. For more food and beverage tips, tricks and hints, visit our Learn to Cook section.


  • “7 Reasons to Drink Kombucha Every Day,” http://draxe.com/7-reasons-drink-kombucha-everyday/
  • “A Strange Brew May Be a Good Thing,” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/25/fashion/25Tea.html?_r=0
  • “Getting Cultured on the Kombucha Craze,” http://www.spins.com/tapping-the-kombucha-craze/#.VjFhuOeA1pk
  • “How to Make Kombucha”, http://www.culturesforhealth.com/how-to-make-kombucha
  • “Kombucha Tea – How to Make Kombucha”, http://www.foodrenegade.com/how-to-brew-kombucha-double-fermentation-method/
  • “What Is Kombucha? Magical Elixir of Life or Hocus Pocus Tea?”, http://www.medicaldaily.com/what-kombucha-magical-elixir-life-or-hocus-pocus-tea-329098

3 Healthy Smoothies Perfect for the Holidays

3 Healthy Smoothies Perfect for the Holidays

It’s time to get out the blender and put it to work with these simple, delicious recipes for healthy, seasonal smoothies with an autumn twist. If you don’t already drink juices or blended drinks on a regular basis, smoothies are a great place to start. These simple blends are easy to love and even easier to integrate into your daily routine.

Here are a few tips on why smoothies are an easy way to incorporate some great nutrition into your daily diet:

  • Smoothies are one of those no-hassle treats you can whip up quickly, and with just a few ingredients you may already have on hand.
  • Drinking smoothies on a regular basis can be a really good habit to form, however you have to be smart about the ingredients you choose. Store-bought smoothies typically contain sweetened fruit juice, sugar and even ice cream, but making them at home with fresh fruit, vegetables and other ingredients can make for a very healthy snack.
  • Fewer than a quarter of Americans get enough fruits and vegetables, despite the USDA’s recommendations of at least five servings per day. With a smoothie, you can easily incorporate 1-2 cups of greens and 1-1.5 cups of fruit. “Drinking smoothies, especially for breakfast, is one of the easiest way to add some fruit to your diet,” says Joseph Price, PhD, a health economist and associate professor at Brigham Young University.

Fall Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Pumpkin smoothie


  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree, frozen
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 apple, cored
  • Dried cranberries


Combine all ingredients except cranberries in blender and blend until smooth. Top with cranberries.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Pumpkin isn’t just for pie or decorating your front porch at Halloween. It’s also a low-calorie food packed with nutrients.

  • One cup of cooked mashed pumpkin contains just 49 calories.
  • Pumpkin may be beneficial for prostate health and improving HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
  • Both canned and fresh pumpkin are healthy options, as are the seeds. Just steer clear of canned pumpkin with added ingredients, such as salt or sugar.
  • Pumpkin flesh gets its orange color from beta-carotene, an antioxidant belonging to a group of pigments called carotenoids. Beta-carotene may help reduce cell damage in the body and improve immune function. It may also reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease.
  • Colorado State University’s Shirley Perryman, M.S. also reports that beta-carotene could lower your risk for cataracts and macular degeneration. This antioxidant is converted to vitamin A in the body, an important nutrient for eye health.

Winter Green Ginger-Pineapple Smoothie

Green smoothie


  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 cups frozen pineapple
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 1/4 cups water


Combine ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. If you like an extra crunch, top your smoothie with 1/4 cup chopped nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, for a more filling meal.

Health Benefits of Spinach

  • Low in calories and high in vitamins, spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence.
  • One cup of the leafy green vegetable contains far more than your daily requirements of vitamin K and vitamin A, almost all the manganese and folate your body needs and nearly 40 percent of your magnesium requirement.
  • It is an excellent source of more than 20 different measurable nutrients, including dietary fiber, calcium and protein.
  • One cup of spinach has only 40 calories.

Strawberry-Mango Sunset Smoothie

Mango smoothie


  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 banana, peeled, sliced and frozen
  • 1 frozen mango chunks
  • 5 large frozen strawberries
  • Chia seeds


Combine ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Health Benefits of Mango

Mangoes have been part of the human diet for over 4,000 years. The mango tree grows in the tropics and produces juicy, nutritious fruits. People eat mangoes alone or add them to fruit salads and salsas. Fresh mangoes are low in calories and contain beneficial nutrients. Available year-round, mangoes are a healthy addition to your diet.

  • Mangoes provide 2.6 g of dietary fiber in a serving of one cup.
  • Fiber provides short-term benefits, fostering proper digestion and prevents constipation.
  • Fiber also has long-term benefits. It can lessen your chances of developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and diverticular disease. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume at least 25 grams of fiber a day and men consume at least 38 grams. One cup of mango can help you reach that total.
  • Mangoes supply a healthy dose of vitamin A, which is necessary to support healthy eyes and proper bone growth. One cup of mango provides about 35 percent of the vitamin A your body needs daily for good health.

4 Tips on How to Make a Great Smoothie

  1. Invest in a good blender or blender/chop/prep tool (like the nutria-bullet)
  2. Prepare frozen fruit ahead to save time. Cut and freeze on a baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag or container.
  3. Frozen bananas go a long way. Peel, slice, and freeze them. This go-to smoothie ingredient adds thickness without taking over other flavors.
  4. Add ingredients like milk, yogurt, water, or juice first to get the blender moving. Then, add lighter, drier ingredients, like leafy greens, followed by heavy ingredients like ice and fruit pieces.

Enjoy these smoothie recipes all year long and as often as you’d like. This is a great starting point, and remember to try experimenting along the way. Have fun with these combinations and try adding different ingredients to create your very own unique smoothie blends.


A Day in the Life of a Food Stylist

A Day in the Life of a Food Stylist

Food stylist

If you are a people person, have strong culinary technique and know how to problem solve on the fly, chances are you might make an excellent food stylist. That is according to Los Angeles-based food stylist Adam Pearson, who for the last decade has been styling the dishes seen in catalogs, magazines and cookbooks for such clients as Target, Crate and Barrel, and The Food Network.

I was in culinary school trying to figure out what I wanted to do after school, and I read about food stylists. I really felt like it was a good fit for me.

Problem solving in the food styling world means fusing culinary and design techniques in order to make recipes or food items look as enticing as possible. Because many stylists work as freelancers, salaries vary widely depending on where they live and the clients they work for. Payscale.com estimates that a food stylist with an associate degree just starting out in New York City makes a median salary of $43,000 per year.

To get an in-depth sense of the industry, and learn how to become a food stylist, we give you a day in the life of Adam Pearson.

Q: What is a food stylist?

A food stylist is a person who prepares food for the camera, photography or film. My jobs consist of mostly photography for cookbooks and editorial work.

Q: What do you do in a typical work day?

As a food stylist my job starts before the shoot day. Usually the client has sent recipes and art direction about a week before. This allows me time to source any out of the ordinary ingredients and figure out any prep work that might be able to be done before we shoot. If there is a lot of baking to do, we typically do that the day before.

The day of the shoot we get to the location or studio early; the majority of work I do is shot with natural light, so our day is over when the sun sets. Having an early start time allows us more time to shoot. Once at the studio we start prepping the first recipes to be shot. Clients arrive about an hour after us. We have a chat about the shot list for the day, go over the props, and then get to it. Total number of shots per day usually depends on the type of job: Cookbooks 8-12 verses advertising 2-6. Each type of job has different requirements and expectations.

I work directly with the photographer, art director and prop stylist. We set up and plate each of the recipes, taking time to get the food looking its best, making sure the props are perfect, then get approval from the client. When the shoot is over, we pack it all up and divide the leftover food. We try not to create too much waste.

I don’t often see the images again until they are in print.

Food Stylist Collage

Q. How did you become a food stylist?

I was in culinary school trying to figure out what I wanted to do after school, and I read about food stylists. I really felt like it was a good fit for me. Not knowing anything about it, I read what I could and started emailing local food stylists to see if I could assist or shadow them.

I sent about 10 to 15 emails and got one response! And it was a good one. I teamed up with an established stylist and for the next two years I followed him around the country from job to job learning the ins and outs of the industry. After two years of assisting, it was time I set out on my own.

There is no proper education or certification to become a food stylist. My best advice would be to go to culinary school, then try and find a stylist to take you on as an assistant. There are some stylists that teach workshops.

Q. What skills are required to be a great food stylist?

Confidence, people skills, the ability to problem solve and an eye for composition are a good start. You really need to know how to cook everything, from souffles to scallops and everything in between. I always say food styling is 10% technique, 10% managing clients expectations and 80% problem solving.

Q. What is the craziest thing you have ever prepared as a food stylist?

Off the top of my head, I’d say an eight pound suckling pig. It was a European recipe and trying to get a hold of a pig so small/young here in the States proved to be a challenge. Most butchers I called to source it thought I was crazy. It was a little sad, but delicious!

Q. Do you work solo, or do you have a team?

I’ve worked with no assistants and up to four on larger projects. Like in any kitchen, having a solid team makes the day smoother. I consider myself very lucky to have two awesome assistants. I’m not able to take them on every job; budgets dictate that.

Q. What type of clients do you work for?

Anyone who needs a food stylist and has a budget to book one. I work with authors and publishers, advertising agencies, PR agencies, production companies, major brands, fast food companies, small restaurants and major retailers.

Q. What advice would you give people who want to get into food styling?

Whether you have a culinary degree or just a strong knowledge of cooking, my advice would be to assist an established stylist. Food styling is different than working in a restaurant. When you assist you get the opportunity to not only learn to style food, but learn about all of the other parts of running a business like invoicing, bookkeeping, as well as building relationships with photographers and art buyers. It’s not an easy industry to break into, so don’t give up!

Ready to learn more? Culinary arts training such as Pearson’s can provide a firm foundation for a career in food styling. Some culinary schools offer specialized coursework in food styling essentials. If you plan to work as a freelancer, taking a few business management courses may help bolster your invoicing and bookkeeping skills. Explore your training options and learn more about this unique career.


  • Adam Pearson, interview with the author via email, October 2015
  • Salary Report, Food Stylist, New York, New York, http://www.payscale.com/

6 Hot Cooking Trends and How to Do It Yourself

6 Hot Cooking Trends and How to Do It Yourself

Cooking Trends Header

The culinary industry is a fickle business due in part to the variable palates of its customers that change, not just from generation to generation, but from year to year. Kale, house-made soft drinks, bruschetta? So 2014. That’s according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual culinary forecast, which surveys 1,300 professional chefs to determine the hottest cooking trends 2015.

Some of the foods that have gained the most trendiness since last year’s survey include ethnic condiments (hello sriracha!), wild rice and, just in case you thought culinary trends were all about health foods, donuts.

This uncovers an interesting point: Are the hottest food trends meant only for the chicest professional kitchens, or are they more accessible than we think? For those in the culinary field, or those who wish to learn to cook, here is a sampling of the National Restaurant Association’s list of the hottest cooking trends 2015, along with DIY tips and recipes.

1. Local Sourcing

Local Sourcing

First off, there is no official definition of “local” food sourcing. Hardcore locavores would put the radius from farm to table at 100 miles, but others use state lines as a guide. Local food has grown in popularity because people are beginning to question the potential hazards of long-distance food sourcing on the planet, our tastebuds, and our bodies (chemicals are sometimes added to fruit to make them last longer.) Many people also choose local food to support their local economy.

Note: Buying organic is not necessarily the same thing as buying local, however it is common to find local produce that is also grown organically.

Local Sourcing DIY

In order to find the freshest produce from their area, most foodies ride the farmer’s market circuit. There are several mobile apps to help with that endeavor, including Locavore, which allows you to pinpoint farmer’s markets and farms in your area.

For those whose schedules preclude a trip to the market, there are also local grocery delivery services that will bring farm-fresh goods from your area straight to your door with a simple click. These include Good Eggs, which is currently available in Brooklyn, San Francisco, New Orleans and Los Angeles, and Relay Foods, which operates in roughly 9 cities in the mid-Atlantic states. The market for these services is expected to surge to keep up with the rising trend in local food, so keep your eyes out for more providers in your area.

2. Environmental Sustainability

Environmental Sustainability

A lot of complicated factors go into making food more sustainable for the globe, and not everyone is in agreement on how to go about it. However, food waste may be the most pressing issue in the sustainability movement: In the United States, 40 percent of the food produced is never consumed.

Environmental Sustainability DIY

You can do your part with these life hacks for reducing food waste at home:

  • Keep cookies fresh by storing them with a piece of bread. Heads up: Your bread will get stale, but your cookies will be delicious for days.
  • Store apples in your crisper with a damp paper towel over them. Apples store better in a cool, slightly moist environment.
  • Don’t waste the dregs at the bottom of your peanut butter or almond butter jar. Toss some oats, berries, nuts and milk into the jar and stick it in the microwave for instant and delicious oatmeal.
  • Stale chips? Toss them in the microwave for a few seconds to crisp them back up.
  • Turn bad bananas into delicious banana bread.

And perhaps most importantly, whether it’s in a coffee tin at the side of the sink or in a hand-cranked barrel in the backyard, be sure to compost!

3. Healthy Kid Meals

Healthy Kid Meals

In an effort to combat the childhood obesity crisis, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign aims to put child nutrition back into our national consciousness, and healthy meals onto cafeteria and dinner tables across America.

Healthy Kid Meals DIY

Here are some tips for prepping healthier meals for children from the Let’s Move campaign:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat like skinless chicken or extra lean ground beef for hamburgers or pasta sauces.
  • Substitute olive or vegetable oil for butter.
  • Mix vegetables into dishes, like adding peas to rice, or cucumbers to a sandwich.
  • Portions should be about the size of the back of a fist — a child’s fist for a child’s portion.

4. Gluten Free Foods

Gluten Free

Gluten is the protein that helps hold food together, and is found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. Some people are allergic to gluten, others have a sensitivity to the protein, but any way you slice it, a gluten free diet is jam-packed with the fruits, vegetables, and proteins that do a body good.

Gluten Free DIY

Due to the rising popularity of gluten free cuisine, more “GF” labels are being added to food packages every day. However, one of the best ways to ensure that you are eating gluten free is to avoid pre-packaged foods altogether. Baked goods, in particular, are a fun foray into the gluten free world. Here are some common GF alternatives to traditional flour:

  • Almond flour (also called almond meal): This is a great alternative to flour in baked goods such as cookies and apple crisp.
  • Brown rice flour: This is probably closest to whole wheat flour in consistency and usage.
  • Buckwheat flour: The most misnamed flour on the block, buckwheat flour contains no wheat (and no gluten), and is best used in combination with other flours due to its density.
  • Coconut flour: This is another flour that is best used in combination with other GF flours, due to its tendency to absorb moisture. It adds a delicious flavor and aroma to your gluten free baking.

5. Ancient Grains

Ancient Grains

The rise of the paleo diet, which touts the eating habits of our hunter-gather ancestors, has brought acute awareness to the fact that what we eat not now does not resemble what we ate even 100 years ago. This is due to the industrialization and mass production of food in the 20th century, particularly grain. Ancient grains predate this period, and provide a rich source of vitamins and proteins with minimal processing.

Ancient Grains DIY

Here is a list of ancient grains (not exhaustive), along with suggestions for quick at home recipes:

  • Quinoa: This gluten free grain makes delicious hot cereal with almond milk and maple syrup.
  • Millet: This is an incredibly versatile grain that when ground makes a great binder for meatballs and meatloaf.
  • Sorghum: This makes a great whole grain flour for use in cookies and brownies.
  • Amaranth: Another gluten free all-star, amaranth flour is great in pancakes.
  • Teff: Teff polenta is a delicious alternative for those allergic to corn.
  • Freekeh: With an appearance like wheat berries, this grain is great cooked and tossed in salad.
  • Chia seeds: Chia seeds can be added to just about anything, but they are particularly tasty in puddings of any kind.
  • Farro: Farro is a great alternative to rice; next time you are making risotto, try it with farro instead.
  • Spelt: Spelt flour works well in combination with flaxseed meal, particularly in muffin recipes.
  • Kamut: Kamut kernels can be cooked pilaf-style, similar to wild rice.

6. Donuts!


Science suggests that both fat and sugar trigger reward centers in the brain. When combined in one food, it becomes downright addictive, which may help to explain the eternal popularity of donuts.

DIY Donuts: Apple Cider Donut Recipe

In the colder months, when the days are shorter, we crave more calories, which is why donuts are an annual fall favorite. Take a page out of New England’s book, and try these apple cider donuts.


  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup boiled apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Safflower oil


  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Beat sugar and butter with a mixer. Add eggs, and mix again. Add the buttermilk, boiled cider and vanilla and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture.
  3. Pour dough into a baking sheet that has been dusted with flour and lined with parchment paper. Stick in the freezer for a few minutes, then remove and cut donuts with a donut cutter. (You can use the round centers to make donut holes.)
  4. Heat the safflower oil in a large pot. Drop the donuts into the oil and cook on each side until brown.


  • “The Big Trend: Local Sourcing in Restaurant Menus”, http://restaurantschools.com/resources/the-big-trend-local-sourcing-in-restaurant-menus
  • “Buying Local Food, On Your Phone”, http://modernfarmer.com/2014/05/tech-helps-local-food-markets-work-kinks/
  • “Fat Vs. Sugar: Which Do We Crave More”, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131217-obesity-sugar-fat-science-diet-carbs/
  • Healthy Families, http://www.letsmove.gov/healthy-families
  • Locavore, http://www.getlocavore.com/
  • National Restaurant Association, “What’s Hot Culinary Forecast,” http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/Research/What-s-Hot
  • “Top 5 Food Trends to Watch in 2015”, http://www.theenergycollective.com/peterlehner/2181196/top-5-food-trends-watch-2015
  • “What Are Ancient Grains? And Why You Should Eat Them”, http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/what-the-heck-are-ancient-grains/
  • “What is Gluten?”, https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/what-is-gluten/
  • “Why Are We More Hungry in the Winter?”, http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2011/12/19/143950231/why-are-we-more-hungry-in-the-winter

10 Cocktails You Should Know How to Make

10 Cocktails You Should Know How to Make

Wondering which drinks to learn first? As with any culinary endeavor, it’s best to start with the basics. Here are 10 of the most classic cocktail recipes that everyone should know how to make at home, along with a list of ingredients, steps to make each one, and a serving glass suggestion. Note: Each of these recipes makes one cocktail; a shot or jigger equals about 1.5 oz.

#1. Martini


This classic (and endlessly classy) cocktail can be made with either vodka or gin, and has numerous variations, including:

  • Dry – no vermouth
  • Medium Dry – a dash of vermouth
  • Wet – one part vermouth
  • Dirty – a dash of olive juice
  • Shaken – shaken with ice instead of stirring
  • On the Rocks – served over ice
  • With a Twist – served with a lemon twist instead of olives

Each one of these variations changes the drink slightly. For example, vermouth, a fortified wine flavored with herbs and other botanicals, changes the complexity of a martini’s flavor profile. James Bond famously took his gin martini shaken, not stirred, medium dry, with a twist. Below is the recipe for a James Bond martini:

Martini Ingredients:

  • 2 shots gin
  • Dash of vermouth
  • Lemon rind

How to Make a Martini:

  1. Pour the gin and vermouth into a shaker about 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into chilled glasses.
  4. Peel a swatch of rind 1-2 inches long, twist it, and drop into the glass.

Preferred glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish options: Olives, lemon slice, or lemon twist

#2. Manhattan


A Manhattan is one of the O.G. cocktails that still retains its classy cool. Made of bourbon or rye whiskey, this cocktail originated in the 1870’s in (you guessed it) the Big Apple.

Manhattan Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots bourbon
  • 1 dash angostura bitters
  • ½ shot sweet red vermouth
  • Cherry

How to Make a Manhattan:

  1. Stir ingredients in a cocktail shaker about 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled glass.
  3. Serve straight up with a cherry.

Preferred glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish options: Cherry

#3. Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned

The name “old fashioned” harkens back to the very first cocktails of the 19th century, which were made of spirits of any kind, water, sugar and bitters. Today’s old fashioned cocktails are usually made with whiskey, though mezcal, brandy or rum can also be used. (Avoid mixing with clear liquors like gin and vodka.)

Old Fashioned Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots whiskey (rye whiskey makes for an especially good old fashioned)
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Orange slice
  • Cherry

How to Make an Old Fashioned:

  1. Add the sugar cube to the glass and dash the bitters on top.
  2. Add water and muddle until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add whiskey.
  4. Top with ice and garnish.

Preferred glass: Old fashioned glass (short tumbler-like glass, also called a rocks glass)

Garnish options: Orange slice and/or a cherry

#4. Whiskey Sour

 Whiskey Sour

This lip-smacking drink is refreshing, with a tangy bite. Optional egg white lends a delicious frothiness, though pineapple juice can achieve a similar affect.

Whiskey Sour Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots bourbon
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon simple syrup (make by melting one part water with one part sugar)
  • Dash egg white (or pineapple)
  • Orange slice
  • Cherry

How to Make a Whiskey Sour:

  1. Place all the ingredients (except garnish) in a shaker about 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Shake.
  3. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish.

Preferred glass: Rocks glass

Garnish options: Cherry and/or an orange slice

#5. Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

This is a boozy brunch favorite, which is why it’s prudent to learn how to make at home (for those mornings when going out and waiting in line for a table at your favorite brunch place is simply not an option.)

Bloody Mary Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots vodka
  • 3 shots tomato juice
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dash Tabasco
  • 1/2 teaspoon horseradish (or to taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Lager float (optional)
  • Garnish goodies, such as olives, celery, cocktail onions, etc…

How to Make a Bloody Mary:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with 1/3 ice and shake well.
  2. Pour into a pint glass. Add a lager float, if so inclined.
  3. Garnish with a wide assortment of savory options!

Preferred glass: Pint glass

Garnish options: At a minimum, an olive is usually used, but this garnish-loving drink is also known to feature celery, lemon slice, picked green beans, cornichons, cocktail onions, and/or pepperoncini!

#6. Tom Collins

Tom Collins

The name “Tom Collins” comes from the original brand that was used to make it, Old Tom Gin, however feel free to use your favorite gin brand for this drink.

Tom Collins Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots gin
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, plus rind
  • 1 Tablespoon simple syrup (make by melting one part water with one part sugar)
  • Carbonated water (to taste)
  • Cherry

How to Make a Tom Collins:

  1. Stir together lemon juice, gin, and sugar syrup in a tall glass 1/3 filled with ice.
  2. Top with carbonated water.
  3. Add garnish.

Preferred glass: “Collins” glass

Garnish options: Lemon twist and/or a cherry

#7. Margarita


Making margarita mix from scratch is easier than you think. At its core, it involves just three ingredients: tequila, lime, and triple sec (or Cointreau). Add a little salt around the rim for a trifecta of flavors (sweet, salty, tangy). Variations can include pomegranate juice (or seeds), lychee, orange juice, or pineapple juice, but keep in mind this will change the sugar content significantly.

Margarita Ingredients:

  • 1 shot tequila
  • 1/2 shot Cointreau
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice, plus lime slice
  • Course grained salt

How to Make a Margarita:

  1. Rub the rim of the glass with lime slice and coat with rock salt.
  2. Pour all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 with ice.
  3. Pour into a highball glass and garnish.

Preferred glass: Highball glass or margarita glass

Garnish options: Course salt on the rim, lime slice

#8. Sidecar


A sidecar is a delicious concoction most likely invented in London or Paris at the end of WWI. It is essentially a margarita, but with cognac instead of tequila.

Sidecar Ingredients:

  • 1 shot cognac
  • 1/2 shot triple sec
  • 1 and 1/3 Tablespoons lemon juice

How to Make a Sidecar:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Preferred glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish options: None

#9. Mai Tai

Mai Tai

Mai tai’s and Polynesian holidays go together like, well, rum and curaçao liqueur! Allow your mind to wander to the beaches of Maui while sipping on this tropical classic from the convenience of home.

Mai Tai Ingredients:

  • 1 shot white rum
  • 1/2 shot dark rum to float
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice, plus rind
  • 1 Tablespoon orange curaçao liqueur
  • 1 Tablespoon orgeat syrup

How to Make a Mai Tai:

  1. Place white rum, lime, curaçao liqueur and orgeat syrup in a shaker filled 1/3 with ice and shake.
  2. Pour into a glass.
  3. Float the dark rum on top and garnish.

Preferred glass: Highball glass

Garnish options: Lime peel, pineapple spear and/or cherry

#10. Cosmopolitan


A cosmopolitan, essentially a vodka sour, became a wildly popular drink in New York City in the mid 1990’s, and is still the drink of choice for many classy urbanites.

Cosmopolitan Ingredients:

  • 1 shot lemon-flavored vodka
  • 1 Tablespoon Cointreau
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice, plus lime wedge
  • 2 Tablespoons cranberry juice

How to Make a Cosmopolitan:

  1. Add all the ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish.

Preferred glass: Cocktail glass

Garnish options: Lemon slice or lime wedge

Bartending Basics: Home Bar Equipment

In the post-recession era of DIY, many people have chosen to do their entertaining from home, and that includes mixing their own cocktails. A cocktail at a bar can run anywhere from $6 at a decent happy hour to $13 (or more). However, by purchasing a few key gadgets and ingredients, you can make an array of cocktails that are as cheap as they are delicious. And what’s more, the process of experimentation helps you personalize cocktails to exactly your liking, be it straight-up, stiff, or on the rocks.

Here is a list of items that you’ll want to keep stocked in your liquor cabinet or home bar to make cocktail hour easy:

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Shot glass (standard usually measure 1.5 oz)
  • Tablespoon and teaspoon
  • Long spoon
  • Jar of Spanish olives
  • Cocktail skewers
  • Cherries
  • Lemons, limes, and oranges. *When using the rind for garnish, be sure to buy organic citrus.
  • Citrus press (handheld or electric)
  • Sugar cubes
  • Carbonated water
  • Muddler
  • An assortment of glasses for serving. The four most common glassware for cocktails include:
    • Stemmed glass (cocktail glass)
    • Tumbler-like glass (rocks glass)
    • Tall chimney glass (highball or Tom Collins glass)
    • Pint glass (for juicier cocktails like bloody mary’s)
  • Lots of ice!


  • Bloody Mary (Cocktail), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Mary_(cocktail)
  • Cocktail 101: Glassware Basics, http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2011/03/cocktail-101-glassware-basics-different-types-of-cocktail-glasses.html
  • Cosmopolitan (Cocktail), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmopolitan_(cocktail)
  • Manhattan (Cocktail), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_(cocktail)
  • Mai Tai, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mai_Tai
  • Margarita, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margarita
  • Martini (Cocktail), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martini_(cocktail)
  • Old Fashioned, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Fashioned
  • Sidecar (cocktail), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidecar_(cocktail)
  • Tom Collins, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Collins
  • Vermouth, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermouth
  • Whiskey Sour, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskey_sour

10 Best Cities to Start a Restaurant

10 Best Cities to Start a Restaurant

The American dining scene has made leaps and bounds since the recession. In fact, March 2015 marked the first time that consumers spent more at restaurants and bars than they did on groceries. With so many people heading out to eat, now could be a great time for chefs and restaurateurs to think about opening a new establishment.

For those interested in starting a restaurant, selecting the right city can be crucial. “It’s a lifestyle,” says David Bravdica, the founder and co-owner of Brava! Pizzeria in Denver, Colorado. “You have to be in with both feet.” Bravdica started his business with one mobile wood-fired oven five years ago, and has since grown to have four mobile ovens and one stationary restaurant location. He says the entire food scene in Denver has evolved over the past ten years from a steak and potato city to one that has embraced new cuisines of all kinds. “You go out to a nice restaurant on a Tuesday night and it’s packed,” he says.

Ryan Nelson sees the same thing in Indianapolis. The chef/owner of Late Harvest Kitchen and The North End BBQ says, “For years and years Indianapolis really supported chain restaurants, but about 5-6 years ago we started celebrating the small operators.” That shift in the food culture means farm-to-table establishments like Nelson’s are seeing success with menus based on seasonal ingredients that are sourced locally.

Skip to our runners up, ranked #11-15

Skip to the methodology


  • Population: 679,036
  • Unemployment: 4.9%
  • % Workers in food industry: 6.78%
  • Farmers markets in city: 11

Barbecue and Tex-Mex might come to mind when you think of El Paso, but this city supports a diverse range of restaurants. For a city its size, it also has a surprising number of farmer’s markets, which could provide new restaurants with an ample supply of fresh, local foods.


  • Population: 384,320
  • Unemployment: 6%
  • % Workers in food industry: 7.63%
  • Farmers markets in city: 6

Labor will cost a little more in New Orleans, but it’s still a good choice for a restaurant. Conde Naste Traveler calls the city a “foodie paradise.” Mardi Gras, of course, brings in plenty of tourists who need to eat, but many restaurants see strong traffic year-round from visitors and residents alike.

Explore culinary schools in New Orleans


  • Population: 644,014
  • Unemployment: 4.2%
  • % Workers in food industry: 5.46%
  • Farmers markets in city: 8

One big plus for Nashville is its cost of living, which is one of the lowest of all the best cities to start a restaurant. Its food scene is another reason chefs and restaurateurs may want to focus on Music City. Not only is Nashville barbecue considered among the best in the nation, but the city supports plenty of other cuisines and dining options as well.

Explore culinary schools in Nashville


  • Population: 809,958
  • Unemployment: 5.1%
  • % Workers in food industry: 6.28%
  • Farmers markets in city: 7

Charlotte saw a 26 percent increase in food and drink establishments from 2009-2013 and for good reason too. Thanks to a wave of innovative chefs, residents of the North Carolina city are saying goodbye to the chains and hello to food trucks, city markets and craft breweries.

Explore culinary schools in Charlotte


  • Population: 912,791
  • Unemployment: 3%
  • % Workers in food industry: 5.61%
  • Farmers markets in city: 10

Words like “booming” are used to describe the Austin food scene. As in El Paso, barbecue and Tex-Mex are a major presence in the city, but chefs are also experimenting with innovate dining concepts and new cuisines. Austin restaurant owners will benefit from Texas’s low cost of living, although labor costs are higher in the capital city than elsewhere in the state.

Explore culinary schools in Austin


  • Population: 619,360
  • Unemployment: 4.9%
  • % Workers in food industry: 6.07%
  • Farmers markets in city: 22

Perhaps nowhere in the nation has the “eat local” movement been embraced as it has in Portland. The city teems with farmer’s markets and fresh food options, and the region’s chefs have wasted no opportunity to use them. The only downside to Portland for restaurant owners is the city’s high cost-of-living.

Explore culinary schools in Portland


  • Population: 439,896
  • Unemployment: 4.3%
  • % Workers in food industry: 5.33%
  • Farmers markets in city: 6

The food scene in Raleigh is just starting to come into its own, which could make now the perfect time to consider starting a restaurant in the city. While award-winning chefs are opening up shop, the market is far from saturated and there is plenty of room for new chefs and restaurateurs to make their mark.

Explore culinary schools in Raleigh


  • Population: 848,788
  • Unemployment: 4.3%
  • % Workers in food industry: 5.57%
  • Farmers markets in city: 14

Nelson can rattle off a number of reasons Indianapolis is a great place to open a restaurant: low cost-of-living, low housing costs and lots of disposable income among city residents. What’s more, the city has ample space for new establishments. “We have all these open [retail] spots, so restaurants are seeing cheaper rents,” he says.

Explore culinary schools in Indianapolis


  • Population: 835,957
  • Unemployment: 3.8%
  • % Workers in food industry:5.96%
  • Farmers markets in city: 14

Columbus has a lot of things going for it. Ohio has the lowest maximum corporate income or franchise tax of the states represented on this list. In addition, the city’s cost-of-living is tied with Nashville as the lowest among the best cities to start a restaurant. And its low unemployment mean residents may have access to more money to spend dining out. Columbus isn’t a foodie destination yet but the emphasis in this sentence is on the “yet.”

Explore culinary schools in Columbus


  • Population: 258,703
  • Unemployment: 5.5%
  • % Workers in food industry: 6.17%
  • Farmers markets in city: 5

The smallest city on our list is also the best for starting a restaurant. Buffalo might seem like an unlikely contender to stand up against food heavyweights like Nashville and Portland, but this city has the perfect combination of an affordable workforce, reasonable unemployment rate and a lower cost-of-living. What’s more, Buffalo has an emerging food scene that means new businesses have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor and ride to the top of what could be the next hot spot in the culinary world.

Explore culinary schools in Buffalo

Honorable Mentions

While these cities didn’t make the top ten, they came close. Each has a vibrant food scene and a relatively low unemployment rate, but a relatively higher cost of living is one factor that pushed these five cities out of the top ten.

#15 – Denver

#14 – Cleveland

#13 – Las Vegas

#12 – Virginia Beach

#11 – New York City


We ranked 60 cities with populations greater than 250,000, based on 2013 population estimates from the U.S. Census. Each city was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following seven data points and the weights specified in parentheses.

  1. State corporate income or franchise tax rate (10%), U.S. Small Business Association, 2015
  2. Percent of the state’s small businesses classified as Accommodation & Food Services (10%), American Community Survey, 2013
  3. Metro area unemployment (10%), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015
  4. Average payroll per restaurant employee in each metro area (10%), County Business Patterns, 2013
  5. Percent change in the number of food service & drinking places in each metro area (20%), County Business Patterns, 2009-13
  6. Cost of living index (10%), Council for Community and Economic Research, 2015
  7. Culinary Culture (30%), based on three data points from the County Business Patterns and the Agricultural Marketing Service, 2013

For the Culinary Culture score, three factors were taken into account, and each city was scored on a 10-point scale for the combination of these data points. They are:

  1. The number of restaurants and other eating places per 100,000 people in each metro area (50%), County Business Patterns, 2013
  2. The number of mobile food services per 100,000 people in each metro area (25%), County Business Patterns, 2013
  3. The number of farmers markets per 100,000 people in each city (25%), Agricultural Marketing Service, 2015


  • The Next Big Scene, Keia Mastrianni and Sean Pressley, January 21, 2014 The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/south-park-magazine/article9094136.html
  • A Food Lover’s Guide to New Orleans, Anne Roderique Jones, January 27, 2015, Conde Nast Traveler, http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2015-01-27/food-lovers-guide-to-new-orleans
  • The Triangle’s growing food scene is attracting talented chefs, beverage pros, Andrea Weigl, September 6, 2014, The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com/living/food-drink/article10051172.html
  • Nashville’s Food Scene, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. http://www.visitmusiccity.com/visitors/food
  • Portland’s Food Rules, Cooking Light Magazine, http://www.cookinglight.com/healthy-living/travel/portland-food-scene/page2
  • Food and Drink, Austin Visitor’s Center, http://www.austintexas.org/visit/food-and-drink/
  • Interview with David Bradvica of Brava! Pizzeria, July 2015
  • Interview with Ryan Nelson of Late Harvest Kitchen and The North End BBQ, July 2015

10 Jobs for Food-Lovers Who Can’t Cook

10 Jobs for Food-Lovers Who Can’t Cook

Who says you have to be a great cook to be a foodie? If you love great food — eating it, discussing it, studying it or just being around culinary creations — you could turn your passion into your profession. There are so many food jobs that don’t require a chef hat or working in a busy kitchen for which you can still earn a great living and be around food, glorious food, all day long.

Come sample our menu of food careers to see if any of them whet your appetite. Then, find out how to break in and whip up a huge batch of career success.



While this profession is more about drink than food, how cool would it be to make beer for a living? With more and more microbreweries and craft beer businesses booming, brewmasters are like beer scientists, overseeing the production process of man’s favorite beverage. The job involves a bit more chemistry and heavy-lifting than most food jobs, and requires a huge amount of time and hard work. But it usually pays off. Depending on the size of the brewery you work for, salary can range widely, with large breweries offering as much as $100k, according to Monster.com.

How to become a brewmaster

While formal education isn’t necessarily required since you can learn on the job or as an apprentice, there are programs of study at culinary arts schools across the country.

Brewmaster fun fact

Being a brewmaster isn’t all about knowing your ale from your lager. Be prepared to do a lot of equipment cleaning and maintenance, and follow formulas to the letter.



If you really know your meat, you’ll appreciate the art of cutting it correctly. Being a butcher is in fact a culinary art, whether you own a butcher shop, work in an upscale steakhouse or head up a supermarket’s meat department. Of course, where you work will really dictate your earning power. PayScale reports that the median salary for butchers/meat cutters was $32,770 in 2014.

How to become a butcher

This profession is all about hands-on experience and on-the-job training. Depending on the complexity of the job (creating portions in a supermarket versus curing meats and preparing expensive cuts), training will vary. Butchers who follow religious guidelines may require certification and formal training through the organization that is certifying them.

Butcher fun fact

Butchering is an ancient trade, one that even formed its own guild in England in the 1200s.

Coffee purveyor


If the smell of roasted coffee is your definition of heaven on earth, than this career might be your cup of tea, or better yet, java. Also referred to as a coffee roaster, a coffee purveyor selects and roasts coffee beans to bring out their flavors, and prepare them for drinking. The career could involve choosing where the beans are grown to physically working the roasting machines to control the flavor, and the lightness or darkness of the coffee. PayScale reports that coffee roasters made an annual salary of $33,674 in 2014.

How to become a coffee purveyor

While there’s not a designated degree in coffee roasting, there are a number of educational options that could help prepare you for a career in this field. You could consider an agricultural studies if you’re interested in how coffee is grown, or perhaps if you’re more into the business side of things, a degree in supply chain management could help.There are also training and certificate programs via the Specialty Coffee Association of America, which include coursework for becoming a barista, coffee buyer, coffee roaster and coffee taster.

Coffee purveyor fun fact

According to The SCAA Chronicle, in 2013, the U.S. was the world’s single largest buyer of coffee beans, accounting for almost 25 percent of global coffee imports.

Food photographer


If you take the phrase “say cheese” literally, you might be someone who loves snapping photos of food. The good news is if you’re really good at it, you can do something with those skills beyond making your Instagram followers hungry. With the growth of digital media, food photography has become bigger than ever. While there’s no food photographer-specific salary data, photographers in general earn an annual median wage of $40,474 per year, as reported by 2014 BLS data.

How to become a food photographer

Although improved camera technology has made photography accessible to the masses, making it a career takes a bit more skill and creativity. Certainly some people are self taught, but serious food photographers typically go through formal photography training at an arts school or public university. A talented food photographer knows how to make someone smell, taste and feel a food just by looking at an image, and that really has to do with proper lighting, styling and staging.

Food photographer fun fact

Someone who works hand in hand with a food photographer is a food stylist (or some people do both). These people set the scene, and often manipulate the food so that it looks more appetizing.

Food scientist/agricultural scientist


If you want a food career that’s of a more academic nature, becoming a food scientist might be perfect for you. More and more, people care about the nutritional content of their food, and everyday you hear about food safety or product recalls in the news. That’s why food science is such an emerging field. The BLS reported an average yearly salary of $58,610 for food scientists in 2014.

How to become a food scientist

Expect to hit the books if you want to go into food science. The BLS points out that you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree to learn about food chemistry, food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering and food processing operations. Many people do go on to earn advanced degrees in areas like nutrition as well.

Food scientist fun fact

Food scientists do sometimes get to invent new foods, whether it’s a new Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, or a new type of apples — the delicious honeycrisp was invented by the University of Minnesota.

Graphic designer (food product packaging/logos)


If you have a knack for design and creativity, and a special love for food, how’s this for the perfect career blend: food product package design. Anyone who has ever gone grocery shopping could tell you that certain products just pop off of the shelves, and that’s largely because of the way they are packaged. Most designers or graphic artists typically don’t have this specific of a focus when starting out, but if you know you want to work on food-related designs, then you can tailor your portfolio to fit those needs.

How to become a graphic designer

Earning a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, possibly with a focus on user experience, is a good route to take into this profession. If you plan to work for a corporate brand or agency, employers will be looking at your credentials, as well as your portfolio/samples of your work. In addition, add a few marketing and business courses to your curriculum, as product design is just as much about consumer insights and brand messaging as it is about art.

Graphic designer fun fact

From Tootsie Roll wrappers and Pringles cans, to quirky Trader Joe’s labels and squeezable ketchup bottles, food packaging can be functional, fun and iconic. They also help create a brand awareness and recognition so that consumers can spot them right away.

Food writer


Let’s see… get paid to eat whatever you want in fine restaurants, and then write about what your meal was like? Sounds like a dream job for wordsmiths who happen to also enjoy dining culture. Make no mistake: Earning a healthy living as a food writer is challenging since there are only a handful of elite food critics, and many food writers may work as freelance contractors. However, there is more to being a food writer than just doing restaurant review. You could become a food writer to help supplement other areas of writing, or take it to the next level by becoming a recipe developer or writing about unique aspects of the food industry. PayScale says that the average salary for food writers is $47,684.

How to become a food writer

Depending on the nature of the food writing you’d like to do, developing an expertise in journalism and/or culinary arts could help you. For instance, if you write about fine dining, you’ll have to know about very unique culinary creations that might not be mainstream. If you’re writing about the business of food, you could be interviewing high-profile chefs and restaurateurs, who will expect that you’ve had formal journalism training. You could also take food writing courses and workshops to help develop your writing style.

Food writer fun fact

Many food writers do their work in “disguise,” so to speak, as they try out new restaurants anonymously so as not to receive the typical experience any other patron would.



A sommelier is an expert in pairing wine with food, which is why they’re often employed with fine dining restaurants. This job is not just about being up on vintages, good years and pricey wine lists. You’ll also have to be able to develop a good rapport with customers to learn about their preferences and budgets. Once again, this is the kind of job in which salary will vary depending on the location and type of restaurant, but PayScale reported an annual salary of $45,689 for sommeliers in 2014.

How to become a sommelier

While technically you don’t need to earn a degree to become a sommelier, there are training courses via wine and spirit organizations and societies. Some very high-end restaurant may look for evidence of formal training at a culinary school, but as long as you know your wines and work well with clientele, you can do well.

Sommelier fun fact

A good sommelier will not only make suggestions, but will offer a mini tableside wine class, sharing facts and tips about wine. In other words, sharpen up your conversation skills.



Even if winemaking is something your grandparents did in their basement when you were growing up, being a winemaker — also known as an enologist or vintner — is a lot more complex. Winemakers are almost like chemists, carefully mixing the ingredients to control each wine’s taste. They also must know a good deal about agriculture in order to get the best out of their crops.

How to become a winemaker

While you don’t need a full-fledged degree in winemaking to succeed in the field, that’s probably the best way to learn all of the necessary skills, unless you grew up learning the business in a family-owned winery. Otherwise, you can pursue a certificate program or even a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology. Areas with a big wine industry are where you’re likely to find work, such as California or upstate New York, buy it’s not uncommon for culinary schools and universities all around the country to offer wine-related programs.

Winemaker fun fact

While Italy and France are know for their wines, it’s definitely big business here in the U.S., with sales of California wine totaling $24.6 billion in 2014.

Garbage anthropologist


Here’s a career that’s sort of food related, but only in the sense that we tend to throw a lot of it away. A garbage anthropologist — an official title for a New York City Department of Sanitation professional — studies trash, and what it says about us as a society. Think about that next time you toss a bunch of brown bananas in the pail. In general, anthropologists make $57,420, as reported by 2014 BLS data.

How to become a garbage anthropologist

In order to do meaningful field work, research or teach anthropology, like most of the sciences, it’s necessary to pursue a master’s degree or higher.

Garbage anthropologist fun fact

William L. Rathje, a professor emeritus at the University of Arizona pioneered the study of “garbology,” when he began “the Garbage Project,” in which he and his students collected trash in Tucson and correlated it with census data.


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/home.htm
  • 10 Cool Jobs and What They Pay, Monster, http://career-advice.monster.com/salary-benefits/salary-information/cool-jobs-and-what-they-pay/article.aspx
  • PayScale, September 20, 2015, www.payscale.com
  • Specialty Coffee Association of America, www.scaaeducation.org
  • Meet Our Flavor Gurus, Ben & Jerry, http://www.benjerry.com/flavors/flavor-gurus#2timeline
  • Honeycrisp Apples, University of Minnesota, http://www.apples.umn.edu/Honeycrisp/index.htm
  • 2014 California Wine Sales, Wine Institute, May 19, 2015, http://www.wineinstitute.org/resources/pressroom/05192015
  • A city’s trash becomes a woman’s treatise: Anthropologist analyzes NYC’s garbage, Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/08/30/city-trash-becomes-woman-treatise-anthropologist-analyzes-nyc-garbage/.
  • You’re a What? Roastmaster, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/spring/yawhat.pdf

Holiday Bites: 5 Easy Recipes for Entertaining

Holiday Bites: 5 Easy Recipes for Entertaining

The holidays are supposed to be frantic, right? Well, with the right recipes and a little kitchen confidence, they certainly don’t have to be. These holiday appetizers are healthy, easy to make, and sure to please even the pickiest eaters.

Each of these hors d’oeuvres will use just a few ingredients to create wholesome and balanced nibbles that are delicious and easy to prepare. These sensible yet festive hors d’oeuvres will help remind you what a balanced snack looks and tastes like so that you can actually begin to incorporate these elements into your daily diet. These recipes should be easy for beginner chefs, while still having the look and feel of a high-end dining experience.

Crispy Prosciutto Melon Bites

Prosciutto Melon Bites

  • 1-2 packs of good quality prosciutto
  • ½ cantaloupe or honeydew diced into small chunks

Heat a medium pan with a touch of olive oil. Lay prosciutto sheets in the pan and cook for a 2-3 minutes per side just until slightly crisped. Remove from the pan and slice into bite size pieces. Working over a cutting board, top each piece of melon with a piece of salty prosciutto and secure with a toothpick. If making for a crowd, serve these adorable mini spears on a platter.

Sweet and Savory Stuffed Dates

Sweet and Savory Dates

  • 30 large dates, preferably Medjool
  • ¼ – ½ pound soft fresh goat cheese
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds

Using a small knife, make a small lengthwise incision in each date. Carefully remove the pits. Using a zip lock bag as your pastry bag stuff 1 tablespoons of the goat cheese into the cavity left by each date’s pit by. Arrange the dates, with the goat cheese side facing up, in the prepared dish. Sprinkle the slivered almonds evenly over the top and serve.

Spicy Cajun Crunch Snack Mix

Spicy Nuts

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 pound bag of mixed nuts, salted

Heat a large sauté pan or wok to medium heat with oil. Add the spices to the oil and cook for a few minutes just to warm through. Add the mixed nuts and mix well, stirring constantly to coat the nuts well with the seasoning. Remove from the pan when the nuts begin to look and smell toasted. Enjoy warm or room temperature.

Spinach Parmesan Dip

Spinach Dip

  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (8 1/2 oz.) can water chestnuts, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Squeeze any excess liquid out of the spinach. In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, yogurt, Parmesan, garlic, water chestnuts, salt and pepper. Serve with whole wheat crackers, raw vegetables or blue and yellow organic corn tortilla triangles for a delicious gluten free option.

Turkey Sliders with Cranberry Mustard

Turkey Sliders

  • 1 lb ground lean turkey
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup cranberry jelly
  • Mini buns, Hawaiian rolls or toast points
  • Crispy shallots or onions

Preheat a large sauté pan on high heat. In a large bowl, mix the turkey meat with the granulated garlic, dried thyme, dried oregano, dried lavender buds, black pepper and kosher salt and mix well. Heat a bit of olive oil in the hot sauté pan and shape the sliders into mini patties. Place the patties in the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes or so, depending on the size of your sliders, just until the turkey is cooked through and the juices run clear. To make the cranberry mustard, combine the Dijon and jelly together and mix well.

Serve the turkey burgers as normal sliders, or stacked open-faced on a toast point “bun” with Dijon cranberry sauce and crispy shallots or onions.


How to Turn Your Favorite Foods Vegetarian

How to Turn Your Favorite Foods Vegetarian

There are lots of logical reasons to eat vegetarian, and there are also lots of evolutionary reasons why we humans crave meat. However, there are creative and tasty ways to staunch your meat cravings and get the protein your body needs without actually eating meat. For those who have recently turned to vegetarianism, or have been vegetarian for a while and are looking for new cooking ideas, here is a run-down of six tasty and easy to prepare meat substitutes that will help turn your favorite foods vegetarian.

Meat Substitute #1 – Jackfruit


This amazing and relatively unknown fruit from India is high in protein, potassium and vitamin B, making it not only a convincing doppelganger for meat, but providing some of the same nutritional value.

How to use it: Pulled pork has been a hot trend in the professional culinary scene for a few years now because, well, it tastes amazing. Vegetarians can get in on the action (without clogging their arteries) by using jackfruit as a substitute in pulled pork dishes.

How to prepare it: The most important part of the preparation is finding green jackfruit. It is often sold in cans, a much better option than lugging home the giant, bulbous fruit itself. Go for the jackfruit in water or brine, not syrup.

  • Once you have some green jackfruit rinsed and cut into bite sized pieces, season it with barbecue spices.
  • Saute some onion and jalapeños if you like it spicy, and add the jackfruit to the pan.
  • Add about a cup of vegetable broth, cover, and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Remove the jackfruit from the saute pan and spread on a baking sheet, breaking up the fibers with a spatula so that it resembles pulled pork.
  • Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove and toss with vegan barbecue sauce.
  • Add it to a bun with a slaw of your choice and BAM! You’ve got yourself some vegetarian pulled jackfruit.

Where to find it: Asian or Caribbean stores, and some large supermarkets.

Meat Substitute #2 – Lentils


Lentils are part of the legume family, which also includes beans and peas. Legumes often mimic meat in their protein levels, texture and tastiness. Lentils, in particular, are a great sub-in for dishes that call for minced meat, and are incredibly low in fat yet high in fiber, iron and protein.

How to use it: Lentil burgers (grilled or pan-fried) make a quick, easy and nutritious dinner for the conscious diner.

How to prepare it: There are a few different ways to make a veggie burger with legumes, but here’s our favorite:

  • Cook lentils in vegetable broth, with 2 cups broth to every cup of lentils.
  • Stir fry some onion and spinach and season with cumin, salt and pepper.
  • Add to the lentils along with about a cup of breadcrumbs and an egg.
  • For a gluten free option, use cornmeal instead of breadcrumbs.
  • If you are going vegan, you can skip the egg, which just helps to bind the mixture a bit better.
  • Let the mixture cool and then form into patties.

Where to find it: Lentils are a common staple and found in most grocery stores.

Meat Substitute #3 – Marinated Mushrooms

Marinated Mushrooms

Mushrooms have a meat-like texture when cooked and take on a lovely umami flavor when marinated in soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. They are packed with vitamin D, fiber, potassium, and selenium, a mineral rarely found in fruits and vegetables, but which is essential to healthy liver function. Shiitake mushrooms, in particular, are known for their meaty texture and savory flavor.

How to use it: Next time you need to put a little pizazz in your salad, try adding these marinated mushrooms. They are a great stand-in for chicken or other forms of protein typically found in a Cobb, Caesar, or Asian chicken salad.

How to prepare it: Mushrooms can be marinated in any combination of oil, vinegar, herbs and spices. Here’s our suggestion for Asian-style mushrooms, which use soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, minced garlic and salt.

  • About 2 lbs. of mushrooms will take about a cup of rice wine, 4 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oil and 3 cloves garlic.
  • Mix the marinade first and then add to a container with the mushrooms.
  • The mushrooms can be sliced or, if they are small enough, put whole into the container.
  • It is best to let these marinate over night. Due to the vinegar, these can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks (if they don’t get gobbled up first!)

Where to find it:Though button and crimini mushrooms are easily found, have fun experimenting with different types of mushrooms found in Asian supermarkets and health food stores. Try chaneterelles (known for their golden color) or porcini mushrooms, the smaller cousin to the portabello.

Meat/Cheese Substitute – Nuts


Nuts are incredibly versatile, and can add that extra zing of protein and healthy fat that you need to make a vegetarian dish a complete meal. Cashews, almonds and walnuts are perhaps the easiest to find nuts with the most versatility. Almonds have 6 grams of protein per ounce, and are also high in fiber, vitamin E and iron. Cashews are a particularly good source of essential minerals, such as zinc, potassium, manganese and iron.

How to use it: Cashew cheese in your vegan lasagna.

How to prepare it: Not only vegetarian, but vegan too, cashew “cheese” makes for a creamy, delicious substitute in savory dishes that usually call for copious amounts of dairy. Enter: vegan lasagna! Cashew cheese is ridiculously easy to make.

  • Soak raw cashews for a few hours in water (make sure the cashews are totally covered) and then drain.
  • Place in a food processor with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, to taste, and puree until smooth.
  • You may need to add water depending on how thick you would like your “cheese”.
  • Layer in between sheets of lasagna and meatless tomato sauce, and you’ve got yourself a quick and easy vegan lasagna.

Where to find it: Raw cashews can be found in most health food stores and some grocery stores. Note: You can make cashew cheese with roasted cashews, but they work better (and are more nutritious) in raw form.

Broth Substitute – Miso


For a long time, taste was put into four narrow categories: sweet, salt, sour and bitter. It was only about a century ago that a Japanese chemistry professor discovered a fifth taste: Umami. Umami is a pleasant, savory flavor that results from a type of amino acid commonly found in, you guessed it, meat and fish. But, lucky for vegetarians, it is also found in miso, a Japanese paste made of fermented soybeans. Used as a seasoning for a multitude of dishes, miso is also packed with protein, vitamin B2, vitamin E, vitamin K, iron and calcium.

How to use it: Miso provides just the right seasoning for folks wanting that savory taste in their meatless broth.

How to prepare it: Miso broth is easy to prepare and oh-so easy to customize to your palate.

  • Bring a cup of water to a boil, then add green onion and a handful of vegetables of your choice.
  • Simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, then add a heaping spoonful of miso paste.
  • Try the various kinds of miso paste (red, green or white) to see which kind you prefer best for your broth.

Where to find it: In the health food or Asian food section of most large grocery stores.

Flavor Substitute – Smoke Flavoring

Smoke Flavoring

If there is one food that could likely to break a vegetarian’s meat-less streak, it’s probably bacon. It is the smoky flavor (and smell!) found in bacon and other barbecue foods that brings vegetarians running. But, never fear, there is a way to add that smokey flavor to a wide variety of food — and we’re not just talking about vegan bacon. Grilling vegetables on a charcoal grill is a surefire way to get some of that smokey flavor in your life. But, try experimenting with ingredients such as smoked salt, smoked maple syrup (yes, it exists), and smoked paprika. Liquid smoke, essentially condensation from the steam of smoked wood, is another option, however it does contain carcinogens, so it is best to use sparingly.

How to use it: Smoked maple syrup baked beans.

How to prepare it: You can use any kind of beans you want with this recipe, but Great Northern beans or Navy beans work well. Add the beans to a pot, along with:

  • 2 tablespoons of smoked maple syrup
  • A third a cup of beer
  • A chunk of onion (about a quarter of the onion would suffice)

Simmer until the onion is softened and enjoy!

Where to find it: Smoked maple syrup is most successfully found online. Smoked salt can be found in specialty food stores, while smoked paprika can be found in most grocery stores.


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