New study finds that extra-virgin olive oil can help preserve memory and prevent dementia

In a study published online June 21 in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, the researchers show that the consumption of extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and learning ability and reduces the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain — classic markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Temple team also identified the mechanisms underlying the protective effects of extra-virgin olive oil. “We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy,” explained senior investigator Domenico Praticò, MD, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at LKSOM. Autophagy is the process by which cells break down and clear out intracellular debris and toxins, such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.”

Read more: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170621103123.htm

I thought this study was super interesting.  We’ve known for a long time that there are health benefits to the Mediterranean diet, which is high in olive oil.

As the lead study author, Dr. Pratico, explains, the Mediterranean diet is believed to be healthy mainly due to its high monounsaturated fat content (“good” fat).  However, previous researchers have tended to focus on its positive effects on the heart and cardiovascular system.

This study, on the other hand, shows there is a completely different dimension to why olive oil may be so healthy–  not in relation to the heart, but to the brain.

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As someone who eats a lot of olive oil herself, I thought this was great news!  I would love to explore Mediterranean cooking a bit more, so here is another reason to.

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Homemade Peanut Sauce

This is a peanut sauce recipe that I modified, after following the recipe that came in this Hello Fresh kit.  (It goes over a great lime-marinated beef and broccoli stir fry).  I thought their version came out a little too thin and heavy on the soy sauce flavor, so here how I’ll make it if and when I make it again in the future:

(This will give you enough sauce to go over 2-3 servings of a stir-fry dish).

Start with 2 bulbs of scallions:

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Separate the white tips from the green stems– the greens can be used later as a garnish.

To start, lightly pan fry the scallion whites in oil, along with one chopped glove of garlic, until slightly browned.

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Then stir in:

5-6 tbsp of creamy peanut butter

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp soy sauce

Then, while gently stirring over low-medium heat,  add approximately 1/2 cup water (or until sauce reaches desired consistency.

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When I followed their recipe, it came out a little too watery for my liking.  But still tasted good!

End product:

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All in all, not a bad recipe, though one I would definitely tweak in the future.

Other peanut sauce ideas:

This one from Epicurious calls for lime juice and red pepper flakes.

I’m slightly skeptical– but curious– about this simple-looking one using crunchy peanut butter and hot sauce.

Last, this authentic recipe from She Simmers Thai Cooking that calls for coconut milk and curry paste.  (I think I’m the most excited to try out this one).

Happy cooking!

Zucchini, Onion & Chickpea Side Salad with Arugula (Hello Fresh)

I thought this was a creative little side salad idea from Hello Fresh.  It actually came out super tasty.

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I can’t give you the whole recipe here, but just so you get the idea:

You start out by sauteeing the chopped onion and zucchini in olive oil, because they take the longest to cook:

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Then you stir in garlic, vegetable stock, and paprika:

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Before ultimately adding the chickpeas and chopped arugula:

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I was really impressed by this dish; the flavors really came together.

It was served a side dish to the Spanish-style cod, which was very easy to make– you pop it in the oven at 500 degrees for about 8 minutes.

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My only real criticism of Hello Fresh, after having tried it a few times, is that the meals just don’t end up being very filling.  After eating a serving of this, I was hungry again within about two hours.

However, I just wanted to remember this dish because the favors came together really well, and it has the potential to really complement a larger dish.  If I was going to make it gain, I think I would try to mix in some couscous or something, along with some extra olive oil, to bulk it up.

So, that is my somewhat mixed review, but rest assured– this salad itself was incredibly tasty!

Cheese Tortellini with Melted Goat Cheese & Sauteed Broccoli Rabe

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In my last post, I described a pretty easy way to cook broccoli rabe (blanching it in cold water, and then sauteing it in olive oil).

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You can then use that broccoli rabe to make this dish.

It’s super simple:

You just boil the tortellini (I used an 8 oz package of fresh Bertoli tortellini, in the three cheese flavor):

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Then you drain the pasta in a colandar.

Next, slice a log of goat cheese into thin medallions and then spread them out evenly, stirring gently so that they begin to melt.

Then add the broccoli rabe, and voila!  You’re done.  Easy side dish.

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Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic

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Broccoli rabe (also known as “rapini”) is one of those vegetables I’ve been meaning to learn to cook for a long time.  I finally tackled it the other day before incorporating it into a dish with tortellini and goat cheese (that recipe is coming next!).

I have to be honest, it didn’t come out perfect on my first try, but I think I know what to do differently next time.

So here’s what I did, more or less following this recipe from Serious Eats (I omitted the chili flakes).

First, you trim off the stalks, before cutting the broccoli rabe into 3-4″ long pieces.

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Then, you blanch it– you quickly submerge it in boiling water for 2-3 minutes before transferring it to a skillet.  This helps soften it without making boiling the primary cooking method.

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Then, you just chop up one clove of garlic, brown it in a skillet with olive oil, and then add the broccoli rabe and saute until wilted:

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I left mine in the boiling water for a little longer (about 5 minutes) because I was skeptical about it becoming soft enough.  It ended up too soft, so next time I will definitely limit it to 2-3 minutes.

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By the way, here’s an interesting article from the Kitchn on the differences between broccoli, broccoli rabe, and Chinese broccoli.  Although they’re all technically part of the cabbage family, they aren’t as closely related as you’d think.  Broccoli rabe is actually more closely related to turnips than these other two veggies.  Hmm, strange.

And here is a recipe I might try next from the New York Times: Spaghetti With Broccoli Rabe, Toasted Garlic and Bread Crumbs

Kale salad: avocado, bacon, apple & pomegranate (a little b. good inspiration!)

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I think it must be a well-known fact by now that I am officially obsessed with this healthy, “fast” food chain we have on the East Coast called b. good.

Pretty much everything on the menu is super healthy, and they have a really interesting way of combining ingredients in a way you wouldn’t expect, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

To top things off, they source many of their ingredients from local farms and vendors.  When you go in to a store, you can see they actually have really pretty bulletin boards up listening where the food came from.  I just love it.

Any time I go to b. good, I just have to try something new.  Today was the “Local Apple & Bacon” Kale & Grain Bowl.

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Somehow, they actually made the kale taste really good.  It was raw, but it had been marinated in some kind of lemony vinaigrette, which made it soft.

The combo of avocado, bacon, and pomegranate was over the top!

Full disclosure: the person who made the bowl apparently left out some of the other ingredients, such as dried cranberries, scallions, and sunflower seeds.  Oh well– it was still pretty good, and filling.

I’ll just add those in when I inevitably try to make this at home!

Healthy Baked Broccoli Bites

This is a quick, easy, and tasty way to prepare broccoli!  Chop into bite-size pieces:

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Then coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper:

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Spread the pieces out on a baking tray, making sure they aren’t touching each other too much (you want them to bake, not steam each other).

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes.  (Start checking periodically after the 10-minute mark).

When the pieces begin to turn brown and crispy, they’re done! Enjoy!

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