How Good Nutrition Slows Cognitive Decline

Your brain needs a variety of nutrients in order to develop and function properly. Almost everything you consume will directly or indirectly affect your brain. There is much evidence to suggest that what we do for the brain now can have a big impact on how it functions in the years, even decades, to come. A healthy diet has the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. Thereby delaying or protecting against age-related cognitive decline. Nutrition gives the brain the tools and building blocks it needs to perform vital actions like thinking, making memories, and repairing cell damage.

In order to be sure your brain has all the nutrients it needs to work properly, eat a wide variety of whole foods. This includes good sources of protein, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fish, and other sources of healthy fats. A healthy diet that is low in fat and high in essential nutrients reduces the risk of memory loss, helps prevent strokes and boosts alertness.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
The healthy fats, omega-3s and omega-6s, found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit, provide many benefits. This includes improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such cognitive disorders such as dementia. Omega fatty acids are essential building blocks for the cell membrane of brain cells. They seem to reduce inflammation in the brain, as well as warding off the cognitive decline that often comes with age.


B VITAMINS
The B vitamins, particularly B12, B6, and Folate (B9), are critical for the cellular energy metabolism in the brain. B12 is important for a cell process called methylation, a basic chemical process that all cells, including brain cells, require to thrive. B12 also protects against age-related atrophy of brain cells and against damage to the brain’s white matter, which allows brain cells to communicate with each other. Without enough B12 in the brain, memory impairment sets in and gradually gets worse, leading to dementia. You can find Vitamin B6 in the highest quantities in potatoes, bananas, chickpeas, and oatmeal. You can find Folate in leafy greens, citrus fruits, peas, and beans.


PHYTOCHEMICALS/FLAVONOIDS
Phytochemicals are chemicals derived from plant sources that may help your memory. There are a number of types of phytochemicals. However, a key group that often acts as antioxidants is the flavonoids. You can find it in plant-derived foods like blueberries, apples, citrus fruits, and black and green tea. These compounds provide a multitude of health benefits to the body and brain. In addition, they play important roles in repairing damage in the brain by increasing levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce damage to cells in the brain.

ANTIOXIDANTS
The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage. Antioxidants and essential fatty acids help to protect your brain cells from everyday damage and age-related decline. Some studies have found that extracts from blueberries, strawberries, spinach, and blackberries have a strong antioxidant capacity. They may reverse the normal cognitive changes and memory problems that accompany the aging process.

CURCUMIN
Another type of flavonoid is a compound you may not have heard of, curcumin. You can find it in a common Indian spice and offers protection to the aging brain. Curcumin, nicknamed “The Spice of Mental Life”, is from the root of the tumeric plant. It benefits the brain by providing protection against neurological disorders. As an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-amyloidal agent, curcumin can improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.


VITAMIN D
In addition to supporting bone health, vitamin D serves important functions in brain health. It is thought to protect the brain against cognitive deficits that come with age. Vitamin D also influences certain proteins that help in neuron growth and development and is involved in many other important aspects of brain function like synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory.

The best way to preserve our mental health in the future is to nourish our brains in the present. How we eat now can dramatically affect our brains. More and more evidence shows that people who maintain good nutrition throughout life have less risk for cognitive decline and other brain diseases as they age. It’s never too late to reverse some of the effects of poor nutrition. Also, the choices you make today will influence your body and brain in years to come. This shows that changes in diet can enhance cognitive abilities, protecting the brain from damage and counteracting the effects of aging.

At Avanti Senior Living, the Avanti Green Kitchen offers meals with no grease or oil and no fried food. Meals include the freshest ingredients, no pre-made foods, taking into account the requests of the community. Find out more on the Avanti blog at: https://www.avanti-sl.com/

Content provided by Avanti Senior Living

Coffee Lovers Rejoice as New Coffeehouse Set to Open in Creekside

An equal love of coffee and spending time with friends and neighbors is the inspiration behind the new venture, Lovebeans Coffeehouse and Café, coming soon to Creekside Park.

Owned and operated by Beth Ferester & Company, one of the Woodlands most successful real estate firms, Lovebeans will give Woodlands residents a unique twist on their morning cup of joe.

Beth, along with her son Ryan at the helm, will bring their very own brand of coffee from Costa Rica to the Woodlands, when the coffeehouse opens early next month in the Crossroads Square shopping center, located just off Creekside Forest Drive.

“We were running our new Creekside office when we realized that the space next door had become available,” explains Beth, who has lived in the Woodlands for over 30 years and has seen first-hand the area’s exponential development over the last three decades.

“We love living and working in these beautiful surroundings and we treasure the sense of community here so we decided this would be the perfect opportunity to bring a coffee shop to the area.”

With the vision of creating a gathering place where friends and neighbors can meet in a casual, friendly setting, Lovebeans Coffeehouse was born.

“Lovebeans is coffeehouse eclectic with a splash of homegrown charm,” says Beth.

With a large indoor seating area as well as dedicated outdoor seating, the café will offer Woodlands residents a modern, yet warm and welcoming place to catch up, all while giving back to the local community.

Rustika Bakery will be supplying a variety of these lovely pastries for Lovebeans

By hosting regular events to support local charities, Lovebeans will serve as so much more than a coffeehouse; it is a venture that will benefit many people in the area.

“With a strong sense of community comes a strong desire to give something back,” continues Beth.

“We will be linking up with a number of local charities to host monthly events, as well as providing job and training opportunities for young adults in the Angel Reach program who may not otherwise be given the opportunity to work.”

How The Lovebeans Story Began

The initial concept for Lovebeans goes as far back as the late nineties when Beth’s son, Ryan Ferester, ran a small Zen Café in Costa Rica. During his time there, Ryan created an organic vegan chocolate spread. The spread became so popular that he decided to bring it to the American market under the name Love Bean Fudge Spread. The product can be found on the shelves of many natural food retailers, including Whole Foods.

The raw chocolate spread will be the flagship product on the shelves of Lovebeans Coffeehouse, with profits also going to local charities.

As well as a daily caffeine fix, Lovebeans will sell a wide choice of sandwiches and a range of delicious pastries from the renowned Rustika’s Café & Bakery in downtown Houston. The menu will also feature a selection of wine and beer.

And not to worry tea lovers – Lovebeans will be selling loose leaf TEEMA Teas from Thailand, with profits from each cup going back to the women who helped create the tea.

Catering to all tastes and food preferences, the café will have kid-friendly options with healthy breakfast choices, from overnight oats to nutrient-packed drinks, to kick start your family’s day.

“The Lovebeans menu will be constantly evolving and we will be doing our utmost to serve up seasonal, fresh, healthy food daily with plates to please every palate,” says Beth.

“We want Lovebeans to be a place where people love to gather with their friends and families and where they want to keep on coming back.”

Lovebeans Coffeehouse and Café will be ready to welcome its first customers in September 2019.

Web links:

lovebeanscoffeehouse.com

ferester.com

rustikacafe.com

teemateas.com

angelreach.org

 

Author: Jennifer Taylor

Jennifer Taylor joins the writing team at Interfaith following a career in journalism and public relations. Originally from Scotland, Jennifer moved to the Woodlands in 2012 having lived and worked in Asia for 5 years. She enjoys running, traveling and spending time with her husband and their two boys.

 

Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are culinary adventures that offer shoppers a chance to see, touch, taste, and learn about the variety of local, farm-fresh foods and goods produced around their region. Not limited to produce, the markets around The Woodlands and its surrounding areas also offer specialty foods and handmade crafts—perfect for gift buying season. Stop by one of the weekly markets in our area for the opportunity to mingle with the farmers who love to give tips on how to prepare their products. They all have a simple mantra: “Food tastes better when you see who grows it.” With samples galore, you can eat, drink and shop your way through the markets alongside families and other local community members.

The farmers market on Tamina Road was founded in 2016 and boasts 25–40 high-quality vendors consisting of local farmers and artisans. Located in the Magnolia area, in front of a 15-acre tree farm, all items sold at the market are handmade, handcrafted or homegrown within local boundaries. Owner and operator Jennifer Lobel founded the market to help drive business to the adjacent Culinary Courtyard, which is home to several brick-and-mortar, food-centric businesses. The market has far exceeded her expectations and has quickly grown to become a foodie destination, often acting as a catalyst for small businesses to expand right next door into the adjacent Culinary Courtyard.

The Courtyard is home to businesses like Victory Pie Co., a sweet and savory pie café that supports veterans—as well as the widows and orphans of veterans—with a portion of all profits from their fresh, handmade artisan pies. You can order online as well as pre-order holiday pies. While you are there, stop by The Toffee Cellar for some hostess gifts like cupcakes or beautifully wrapped toffee. Next door you will find a large variety of English specialty culinary in The British Depot. You can also check out the Chipper, a dine-in picnic table whose fish and chips are not to be missed. Top off your avocado toast with a bag of microgreens from Texas Eco Farms’ USDA-certified, naturally grown produce. If you’re craving more sweets, swing by Bamagirls and enjoy some lemon sugar cookies made with ingredients from other market shops including Red Chicken Ranch eggs, which also sells at Victory Pie Company during the week. Finally, not far away is the newest crowd-pleasing addition, Brick & Brews pizza, serves craft beer and wood-oven pizza using local ingredients.

You can find out who will be at the market each week by connecting on social media. To top it off, each week the market offers a signature, complimentary adult beverage, themed gift basket drawings and live music.

One of the most well-known farmers markets in The Woodlands is located in Grogan’s Mill shopping center and run by the Grogan’s Mill Village Association. This friendly market is open every Saturday from 8 to noon, and it was established in 2008 as a way to connect and give profits back to the community through college scholarships, the CISD school system, Good Citizen Awards and more. This market has more than 50 vendors ranging from artisan items to local produce. It also offers community involvement opportunities including learning CPR or hosting food drives for the Interfaith Food Pantry. Shopping for unique gifts is easy at The Woodlands Farmers market because you can find items like handmade children’s dresses at Petunia’s Bubbles or homemade pet treats at K9 Café. Mudworks Studio has you covered with hand-thrown pottery and A.S. Is Designs has handmade and portable wooden cornhole sets.

Enjoy a refreshing, all-natural iced KicPOP while learning about Houston Winery, a micro-winery downtown primarily featuring Texas grapes in its wine. Stop by and sample some cold-pressed Just Made juice while picking up seasonal local produce for your holiday meal from Atkinson Farms or Houston Organic Farms. If tasting your way through the market samples isn’t enough, there are rotating food trucks and live entertainment. Luckily, this market has a weekly newsletter sent out Fridays so you can map out your visit ahead of time.

The Woodlands is an excellent place to discover new experiences and foods without straying too far from home. Make an effort to stop in at one or both of these farmers markets, and you’ll be richly rewarded with sights, sounds, smells and tastes from near and far. Spice up your life—literally.

 

TRIS: Chef Austin Simmons, Cureight-or of Experiences

Gone are the days of having to drive into Houston for your foodie fix. If you are looking for an amazing dining experience, look no further than TRIS (formerly Hubbell & Hudson) on The Waterway. The experience at TRIS is so outstanding, in fact, that it should not be reserved for special occasions, but rather become part of your regular restaurant rotation.

Chef Austin Simmons, born and raised in Texas, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Austin. He was trained under Dean Fearing, James Beard Award winner, and later John Tesar at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. At a mere 24 years old, he was named the head chef at Hubbell & Hudson. Now, with the transition to TRIS, Chef Simmons has clearly established his culinary voice and is working on his legacy.

The restaurant, named after his daughter, is profoundly personal. Chef Simmons beams when he talks about his wife and young daughter, Tris, and his priority to carve out time for them in spite of his very demanding, chaotic schedule. Chef Simmons’ passion and purpose are driven by every personal interaction he has with a guest. “The best food comes from what you are passionate about,” stated Chef Simmons.

Food from the Soul

It is the busiest time of year in the restaurant business, and Chef Simmons is elevating the expectations of not only his food but of himself and his staff. Chef Simmons stated, “I try every day to come in 1% better than the day before.”

Reimagining favorite dishes and creating extraordinary cuisine out of ordinary ingredients are Chef Simmons’ trademarks. The food at TRIS highlights global, modern flavor, but stays true to the cuisine. Chef Simmons is not about chasing trends, but rather about the seasonality and diversity of the menu. Featuring local ingredients whenever possible, Chef Simmons has created an elevated dining experience that is approachable—not pretentious.

Clearly, his vision is working. TRIS, which opened in September, is always busy; Chef Simmons’ collaborative dinner series, CollaborEIGHT, sold out before TRIS even had a chance to advertise. What’s more, in this year’s Truffle Master competition, Chef Simmons’ grilled cheese beat out those of over 20 other chefs (including from teams headed by Michelin Star-winning chefs). Of course, Chef Simmons’ truffled grilled cheese is anything but ordinary.

It is evident by watching his attention to detail that he cooks from the soul and from the heart, and that feeling comes across on every plate. That same intention is put into every dish, from appetizer to entrée—proven by the fact that the delectable crab appetizer outsells everything on the menu 5 to 1.

The People Business

The food at TRIS is outstanding, but what really makes the experience unforgettable is the amazing service. “We are in the people business—food is merely the vehicle,” remarked Chef Simmons. In an industry where turnover is the norm, Chef Simmons is focused on recruiting and retaining top talent. He hires the right people and then invests in them.

Both the front and back of the house are highly skilled, expertly trained and put the customer first in every aspect. A key component is Chris Perry, the general manager who is constantly striving for perfection. TRIS is the only restaurant of its caliber on Open Table where the service is consistently rated as high as, or higher than, the food.

In order to keep innovating and to continue the development of his team, Chef Simmons designed a collaborative dinner series called CollaborEIGHT, which as was mentioned earlier, sold out before TRIS even began advertising. This collaborative series brings in locally and nationally acclaimed culinary talent and offers an eight-course dining experience for the guests—while also keeping things new and fresh for the chefs. The most recent CollaborEIGHT dinner featured Chef Manabu “Hori” of Kata Robata and an ingredient with which Chef Simmons has already demonstrated significant expertise: the truffle.

The diversity of the new menu at TRIS and the reasonable prices allow for a wider appeal, but the key lies in the quality and consistency of each plate. In spite of the remodel and new menu, TRIS has not raised their prices and remains remarkably affordable. The happy hour menu is composed of many lunch and dinner favorites, available for a steal.

A Truly Memorable Experience

For a truly spectacular experience, don’t miss Cureight, open only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Named one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants by Texas Monthly, Cureight is the only chef-tasting concept in North Houston. A restaurant within a restaurant, the concept features an eight-course meal, paired with wine, crafted by Chef Simmons. Cureight is even beginning to draw foodies from Houston to—wait for it—The Woodlands. The food is designed and prepared right in front of the guest, and it is Chef Simmons’ creative playground.

With TRIS and Cureight achieving consistent results, Chef Simmons is expanding to create superior culinary experiences on a larger scale. Simmons recently served over 650 individuals for a corporate event, while elevating favorite dishes and remaining true to the vision of food with soul. He hopes to be known as the leading provider of curated events and experiences.

“This is a performance-based business, and we are only as good as the last guest we waited on or meal we served,” stated Chef Simmons. It is no wonder then that many of the guests are recognized and treated as family by the team at TRIS. As Chris Perry remarked, “People come back because they know, regardless of when they come or what they order, [that] it is going to be good.”

Whether you visit TRIS for lunch, happy hour or unadvisedly wait for a special occasion, Chef Simmons and TRIS will definitely create a memorable experience that you will treasure.

Fairytale Pumpkin Pasta & Quail

  • 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup shallots, sliced
  • ½ tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 thyme sprigs 
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 3 lb Fairytale pumpkin, peeled, seeded, diced
  • 3 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ lbs Pappardelle or Tagliatelle Pasta 
  • 8-16 small semi-boned quail (if desired) 
  • Brown butter, toasted pumpkin seeds, chervil leaves & candied ginger for garnish

Yield: 8 servings

Cook the Quail 4 minutes on each side under a press on a flat-top with rosemary and thyme. Season with salt and white pepper. 

Melt 3 ounces of butter in a large 1 ½ gallon pot, over medium-low heat.

Add the shallots, garlic, thyme (tied in a cheesecloth sachet), salt and pepper.

Sweat the vegetables for 10 to 15 minutes, do not caramelize.

Shallots should be translucent but still, have a little crunch.

Add the pumpkin, and mix well. Add the stock, and bring up to a simmer.

Simmer until the pumpkin is fully cooked, about 30 to 45 minutes,

Remove the thyme, transfer the mixture to a blender, and process, in batches.

Add the remaining butter, in portions, to the soup, while blending.

Cook pasta at al dente, add to the sauce in a saucepan and reduce the sauce into the pasta until thickens. 

Garnish with brown butter, toasted pumpkin seeds, chervil leaves & candied ginger.

 

Photography Courtesy:  Derrick Bryant Photography.

Holiday Tables

Entertaining over the holidays is a wonderful opportunity to get your creative groove on. Creating a thoughtful, unique and festive environment helps your guests get into the holiday spirit. We went with Darcy Bass, Interior Designer and owner of Bass Interiors, to get some tips and tricks on making your table reflect that magical seasonal ambiance. The perfect place for curating that holiday charm is Picket Fences, a local home decor store based in The Woodlands that sells beautifully curated home items with endless inspiration. The store is notorious for its holiday-themed home décor and has been favorite of The Woodlands since 2001. From place settings to place cards, simple touches ensure your holiday table looks as inviting as the food on it. We’ve created a selection of perfect holiday looks for you to choose from to match your home’s unique atmosphere this upcoming holiday season.

Naturally Chic

Inspired by the natural beauty of The Woodlands, this nontraditional look can be easily put together using ideas right from your own backyard. For a rustic yet refined table setting, start by layering neutral textures as a backdrop. Tablecloths, runners, napkins and plates layered in diverse but neutral tones will add depth and interest to the table. We also found large woodgrain chargers to add warmth and fall fun, contrasting them with gold-dotted, stemless wine glasses and jewel-toned water glasses.

Accents inspired by The Woodlands, like pinecones and locally sourced miniature cacti, come together to create artfully arranged centerpieces that won’t break the bank. In this case we clipped some olive branches to top off a creative burlap name card. Darcy Bass says that using found objects like wooden beads can help personalize the table and set the mood. She also likes to pull in simple yet impactful pieces such as the Thankful sign, which presents a sweet gesture to the guests.

Classically Formal

You don’t necessarily have to own holiday china to create a formal place setting. Pairing versatile white china with monochromatic textures provides the perfect canvas for a classic table. “Pull out the formal crystal glassware and family heirlooms. You can mix and match vintage items with new ones, creating a sense of character and history,” says Bass. According to Darcy, mixing metals is perfectly okay and part of the fun; using metallic accessories as accents will elevate the setting to a more formal look and feel. Here we paired gold-beaded chargers with silver candles and brought our own antique silverware.

Create a more modern, approachable look by using fringed pom pom placemats and napkins rather than a formal tablecloth. You can also elevate your tablescape in a minimal yet elegant way by making up your centerpiece from monochromatic flowers and seasonal greenery; we bought white roses and placed them in an antique crystal vase, setting them beside a winter pine garland. Lastly, top off the look by accessorizing with a favorite ornament or miniature wreath that can also double as a party favor.

Blue Whimsy

Picket Fences has a delightful abundance of whimsical, holiday-themed placemats, napkins, place cards and accessories, and adding these to any tablescape immediately elevates the look into holiday territory. If you have vintage china or everyday dishes that you love, but that are not necessarily traditional holiday colors, don’t hesitate to use them; they become unexpectedly seasonal when combined with fall fruit and seasonal greenery. Adding fresh seasonal fruit to the table is a simple addition to the look while staying within budget. When styling for her clients, Bass often ties the look together by pulling in holiday motifs through ribbon and ornamental accessories. Multicolored miniature velvet pumpkins added a seasonal touch while adding texture and whimsy. We also found whimsical notepads and paper placemats and decided that the paper goods would be a great addition to the blue plates. And with that, the table immediately became whimsical and seasonally appropriate.

Children’s Fun

Help your little ones get in on the festivities by creating a playful and stimulating children’s table. Encourage their creativity and imagination with brown paper kraft rolls, available at most big box stores, topped with mini buckets of crayons and art supplies. At Picket Fences, we found disposable plates embossed with thankful words of encouragement, and we paired them with beautiful—and disposable—wood cutlery. Sprinkle the table with delightful holiday treats and sweets, and it’s simply a wonderful table for the little ones.

The Perfect Summer Menu: Tuna Tatakai

In the heat of the summer, we are always on the quest for lighter fare. Known for tantalizing beef and grilled meat, Churrasco’s may not be top of mind when thinking of light cuisine. However, the South American–themed restaurant on the Waterway also offers superb light dishes.

Today we are highlighting Churrasco’s mouth-watering tuna tataki. Refreshing is the perfect description for their fantastic, Asian-inspired tuna tataki! It is no surprise that this brilliant dish ended up on The Book The Woodlands’ Perfect Summer Menu list. In fact, it is so light and refreshing, you may even have room for their famous Tres Leches dessert!

Tuna Tataki

Ingredients:

  • Ahi tuna ceviche, ¾” cubes 5 oz
  • Citrus ponzu 2 Tbs
  • Guacamole 1 oz
  • Jalapeno mayonnaise 1 oz
  • Anguila sauce 1 oz
  • Sliced green onions 1 tsp
  • Fried onions 1 Tbs
  • Tostadas 1 ea

Steps:

  1. In a bowl, add ahi tuna cubes and citrus ponzu.
  2. Place tostada in the center of a round plate.
  3. Spoon jalapeno mayo on to the tostada and spread, leaving ½ inch border.
  4. Spoon guacamole over jalapeno mayo and spread.
  5. Pile tuna cubes in center of tostada.
  6. Garnish tuna with crispy onions and drizzle anguila sauce over tostada (as in picture).
  7. Top with green onions.

Enjoy your tuna tataki, part of our Perfect Summer Menu.

Janelle Romano joined the Interfaith team in 2018. She is originally from the Midwest, but has lived on the East Coast and in Mexico. Janelle relocated to The Woodlands four years ago with her husband and three children and they now consider Texas home. She is a graduate of both Purdue and Southern Methodist University and enjoys spending time traveling with her family and giving back to the community.

The Perfect Summer Menu

The Perfect Summer Menu

Avoiding dietary temptations and not succumbing to cravings can be difficult during a drive through the streets of The Woodlands; there is a multitude of superb, mouth-watering restaurants. We are providing The Book The Woodlands’ readers with an exclusive look behind the scenes at some of our (and undoubtedly yours as well) favorite restaurants in The Woodlands, giving you a glimpse in the kitchens and sharing an exceptional summer menu that will no doubt delight your palate. Whether you want to astound a few lucky guests or have a quiet, intimate evening at home, making one of these recipes is sure to impress!

Summer swimsuit or shrimp and grits from The Refuge? No contest—bathing suit cover-up it is, even in the Texas heat!

True Love’s First Kiss

Deep South Barrel charred for 90 seconds to bring out butterscotch flavors.

Fill barrel with Guatemalan Coffee to lace flavor.

Make chocolate bitters from Jim Beam 100 proof Bonded and Abuelita Chocolate Tablets.

Remove coffee from barrel, add bitters, Evan Williams Black Label Whiskey and Rebecca Creek Texas Whiskey.

Age for 2 months, then remove and filter.

Pour back into barrel and let it age for the remainder of the time.

Serve over ice or neat

Refuge Shrimp & Grits

Grits

  • Prepare grits using 4×1 ratio (4 C liquid to 1 C grits)
  • 2 C chicken stock
  • 1 C milk
  • 1 C unsalted butter
  • 1 C grits
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Bring chicken stock and milk to a simmer. Add butter and grits, stirring continuously until butter is melted. Simmer approximately 15 minutes until grits are al dente.

Add salt, pepper, and cheddar cheese, stirring until blended. Set aside.

Guajillo Chipotle Cream

  • 1 C guajillo chiles
  • 1 C chipotle peppers
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika

Add all items to food processor and purée. (Leftovers can be frozen for future use)

Final Steps

  • Prepared grits
  • 1 tbsp guajillo chipotle cream
  • 1 lb smoked andouille sausage (We make our own!)
  • 15 jumbo shrimp
  • 1/2 lb halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 2 1/2 C heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese

Add sausage, shrimp, tomatoes, guajillo chipotle cream, and butter to medium sauce pan over medium heat until shrimp is fully cooked. Remove shrimp and set aside. Add heavy whipping cream and reduce until cream clings to pan-about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add shrimp and parmesan. Put desired amount of grits on each plate and pour Sausage and Shrimp mixture on top.

Serves 4–6 people.

Photos contributed by Derrick Bryant Photography

Food Is Medicine

As a local wellness physician, my patients ask me on a daily basis which diet is best for them to either lose a few pounds or help prevent the development of certain chronic diseases, such as Type II Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, or even Cancer.

When discussing food plans, I try not to use the word diet, because the term diet always means there are a beginning and an end to their diet plan. Diets are short term. It is more important for us to teach and educate how to consume the proper foods for lifelong success and to personalize food plans based on healthy food options that can be sustained and enjoyed.

Healthy eating is the basis for a well-functioning body. Food is the source of energy for all of our bodily functions and when we consume foods that are highly processed, packed with preservatives, flavor enhancers, and modified chemicals, we begin to upset these delicate processes.  Over time this places our bodies under a significant amount of stress and leads to large amounts of inflammation and nutrient deficiencies.

So what should you eat?  I recommend choosing foods that are typically whole in nature that are cooked at home, rather than items that are placed into a box or processed. The more a food is processed, packaged and canned, the fewer nutrients you receive and more likely to end up consuming some preservative you’re unable to even pronounce.

These rules don’t just apply to parents, think about our children! Lead by example. Eating well sets a good example for your children. The importance of whole food nutrition in children’s health and development cannot be stressed enough. All children and even their parents will benefit from lowering their sugar and carbohydrate intake, especially from processed and junk foods.

We must instill good eating habits in them early as both childhood and adult-onset obesity continues to rise.

Let’s face it. We all love a good ol’ slice of cheese pizza! Every Christmas, our family loves to get together and watch Home Alone, while enjoying a slice with Kevin Mcallister. So instead of ordering out, we have decided to go for a much healthier option that’s not only low in processed ingredients but also fun for the entire family too!

So what’s this healthier option you ask…Cauliflower Crust Pepperoni Pizza! I know exactly what you are thinking and I thought the exact thought when someone asked me to try this recipe as well.

What’s great about this recipe is that it’s a healthy, low carb and gluten free option that taste wonderful. I promise! This pizza will leave you full, satisfied and guilt-free.

So why grain-free?  Unfortunately, the wheat and grains we consume these days are not the same as our previous ancestors ate. It has been modified over the years, leading to increased inflammation, higher glucose levels, and a greater prevalence of gluten sensitivity.

Even when it says wheat on the label, it’s usually bleached wheat and packed full of hydrogenated oils and other filler agents. This is why teaching my patients how to read food labels is such an important part of my practice.

The grocery store can be a scary place to visit, especially when you are transitioning to eating healthier. When you know exactly what you are consuming and can recognize all the ingredients going into your

meals, you are in a much better place.

There are a variety of reasons why a healthy diet is important, including disease prevention, maintenance of a healthy weight and quality of life.

Remember, eat for a long healthy life, not for the moment. Plan ahead, cook great meals together, and enjoy life!

Cauliflower Crust Pepperoni Pizza

Ingredients

1 Large Head of Cauliflower (you should have 8 cups of florets)

1 Egg

1 1/4 cup of Shredded of Mozzarella

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup of Ground Almond/ Almond Meal

Pinch of Granulated Garlic

Nitrate Free Salami

Salt, to taste

Preparation

1) Working in batches, pulse the cauliflower florets in a food processor until it is finely minced (looks like tiny rice pieces). Place it all in a large microwave-safe bowl with a microwave-safe plate on top. Pop it in the microwave for 20 minutes making sure to stir it halfway through.

2) Let the cauliflower and bowl cool to room temperature for about 15 minutes, then pop it in the fridge to cool completely. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and place a pizza stone in the oven (an upside-down cookie sheet works as well if you don’t have a pizza stone)

3) Using a lint-free kitchen towel and working in batches, squeeze out any excess liquid from the cauliflower. Discard the liquid and place the solids in a large bowl. Add in the egg, almond meal, 3/4 cup Mozzarella & 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt, and garlic and mix together well. Form a 12×12” circle on a large piece of parchment paper.

4) Carefully transfer the pizza onto the pizza stone (parchment included) and bake for 15 minutes. Then take it out, top with the sauce, remaining cheese and salami and put it back in for 10 more minutes.

5) When you take it out, carefully transfer it onto a wire rack (something that has venting on the bottom) and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Dr. Justin Hogan, M.D. completed his Internal Medicine training at the Tulane affiliated site of Baton Rouge General Hospital in Baton Rouge, LA. He is dedicated to continuing his education and pursuing training in the latest advances in his field. He is a member of the Texas Medical Association, World Link Medical, American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine and A4M. Dr. Justin Hogan is the owner and medical director at LVWellness & Aesthetics.  For more information visit lvwell.com.

Valentine’s Date Night In

A Homemade Recipe for Romance

I love to dress up and enjoy a delicious restaurant meal just as much as almost anyone I know and a decadent date night out is a treat my husband and I enjoy whenever we can. But, over the years, I’ve come to really value the intimacy and sincerity that a thoughtful, homemade meal at home by candlelight alone with your sweetheart can offer, especially on Valentine’s Day! Fewer distractions, no one is watching, time for actual conversation, and you can even eat in your PJs if you want! Cooking and entertaining is definitely a love language of mine as well as a way to unwind at the end of a long day. But even if you aren’t ready for your debut on “Top Chef,” a date night in doesn’t have to be daunting and can actually be a lot of fun! Our dining room table is my favorite restaurant in town, and yours can be too! All it takes is a little planning and creativity, so get your aprons ready and let’s get cooking!
When thinking about what makes a great romantic dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, a few things come to mind:

1. The company you are keeping (duh!),
2. A meal filled with a variety of tastes and flavors to tickle your taste buds
3. Nice ambiance
4. A pretty presentation for the food

For me, an appealing and satisfying meal is just as much about what is not on the plate as it is about what is. Somehow, if the “feel” of the night is on par, the food tastes better to me. A meal can be so much more than a quick nutrition fill up and if you are going to take the time to make it, take the time to savor each bite! Use this date night in as an excuse to slow down the rapid pace and live a little. For extra touches, I’m adding a nice linen table cloth, flowers, candles and some Valentine’s Day decorations to make my table extra festive! You don’t need to spend a lot of money to do this—grocery store flowers, a vase from home and some arts and crafts décor that even your kiddos can make provides some ambiance and a family activity for your kids. Cut out paper hearts on origami or wrapping paper that can be spread around the table with love notes on the back to brighten your day! If you want to go all out, whip out your best china, silver and crystal that all good Southern girls registered for but are often hesitant to use because it’s work to clean and heaven forbid anything breaks! Fine china was made to be used for special occasions just like this! Don’t have fancy china? Skip it and just use your everyday tableware. (Just no Chinet and Solo cups, please!).

Now let’s talk menu! When I think Valentine’s Day, I think of a steak dinner with a few courses finished with a decadent chocolate dessert served with some good wine or your favorite cocktail and that’s amore, folks!
Multiple courses might seem overwhelming to the average cook, especially when you are talking about just cooking for two. So, what I want to do is give you a few “jump starters” to mix in with your main recipes to create maximum flair without a lot of effort. The rest is just a little prep work that can be done ahead of time to make sure everything runs smoothly—called mise en place–a French word phrase that means “everything in its place. This means having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, and grated before you start cooking. Pots and pans are out and ready. Mixing bowls and tools you need are at arms’ length and the oven is pre-heated. It is a technique top restaurant chefs use to assemble meals quickly and effortlessly in the restaurant, and it works! Most of the meals I make, even the ones my husband thinks are really “fancy,” only take 20-30 minutes to cook—max. If the longest part of the meal prep is pre-heating the oven, it’s on my go-to list. Have your honey help you set everything out to lighten the load. Pre-heat your oven to the desired temp to get it ready before you prep the first course and you’ll be ready to go!

On the Menu Tonight

First Course

Amuse-Bouche, this French word literally means “mouth amuser” and is meant to be just a bite or sip of something to tease your taste buds for the rest of the meal without filling you up too much …it’s really a fancy word for a one-bite appetizer, but way more fun to say!

Carrot Ginger Soup Shot and Mini Grapefruit Mint Salad served with Champagne
Lots of flavors with hints of spice, citrus and a little sweetness—and time to pop the bubbly, of course.
Here comes my first “jump starter”—
Carrot Ginger Soup
Ingredients and Tools:
Small container of Carrot Ginger Soup from Hubbell and Hudson Kitchen
Two shot glasses
Microwave or a small pot to warm it on the stove
Instructions:
Find a store-bought/restaurant soup you love and get a small container to go the night before. Right before you serve the course, Heat it in a small pan on the stove or heat up the soup in the microwave. Watch it to make sure it doesn’t bubble over. Pour a shot of soup into a shot glass and serve.

Next—
Mini Grapefruit Mint Salad
Tools and Supplies:
A small ramekin or bowls for salad
A sharp knife for grapefruit and mint chiffonade
Cutting board
Spoon for honey
Ingredients:
A few fresh sprigs of mint, chiffonade
Half of a juicy ruby red grapefruit
A spoonful of honey

Instructions:
Cut grapefruit in half. Wrap up and save one half for breakfast the next morning and then peel the second half with a knife, cutting off most of the white pith so that you have the juicy part exposed. Cutting in between the skin on each segment, cut out about 4-5 segments for each person and then squeeze the remaining shell to get about a ¼ cup of juice in a bowl. Add a tablespoon of honey and stir to combine. Take two sprigs of mint and pull off the leaves. Stack the leaves on top of each other and roll together tightly like a little cigar. Using a sharp knife, cut along the length of the mint roll to make tiny ribbons of mint—this is called “chiffonade”. Mise en place time–The grapefruit sections and grapefruit honey dressing can be made ahead of time and kept in fridge over night to cut down on prep time but cut the mint fresh within an hour of the meal and keep it in a small container in the fridge so that it stays a nice bright green for sprinkling on top.

Second Course


Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Ravioli with a Sage Walnut Brown Butter Sauce
Delicious purply pink pillow of cheese filled pasta served with a fast, but elegant sage walnut brown butter sauce—Heaven on a plate! Don’t like beets or goat cheese? No problem. Find another pre-made ravioli flavor you like. The sauce will taste just as good, I promise!


Tools and Supplies:
Small/medium pot for ravioli
Small skillet
Cheese grater

Ingredients:
Jump starter #2: Roasted beet and goat cheese ravioli (find them at Whole Foods in the refrigerated cheese case—they have lots of options and there are even some gluten free versions)
Fresh sage—5-6 leaves
Handful of walnut halves
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (don’t think about it, just do it)
Freshly grated parmesan Instructions:
Place walnuts in a small dry skillet. Turn heat to medium low and roast, moving around about 5-7 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Once 7 minutes is up, remove walnuts to a paper towel. Make sure your pot of water for raviolis is filled and on the stove—you just need a small pot and about 2 cups of water—just enough to cover the raviolis. Bring water to a bowl. Turn skillet up to medium heat and add butter. Butter may start to bubble after a few minutes. Once it does, turn the heat down just a bit so it won’t burn, but just turns a little brown—“brown butter”. Toss the walnuts back in and then pluck a few leaves of sage off the stems and toss them whole into the melted butter—they will sizzle like they are frying. Turn heat off and remove from stove immediately. When water starts to boil, prepare the raviolis according to instructions making sure not to leave them in too long. They are done when they start to puff up and float to the top—usually about 4-5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or strainer to drain off excess water. Transfer them to individual plates for serving—it’s ok if a little of the pasta water gets in there; it will just add to the sauce. When sauce is finished, divide brown butter sauce between the two plates, making sure to get some of the toasted walnuts and fried sage on each serving. Top with a light sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan, add salt and pepper to taste and voila!

Main Course


Filet Mignon and Roasted Balsamic Asparagus topped with Truffle Butter
This is your splurge and will likely be where the bulk of your grocery bill will come from. You may think it sounds like a lot at the store, but just remember that it would be at least twice as much at a restaurant and this tastes just as good—if not better!
Tips for buying meat—I always look for organic grass-fed beef whenever possible. The price tag is higher, but you will taste the difference and it’s better for you. Meat should be red—if it looks a little brown, skip it—that means it’s been sitting out a while.
Tools and Supplies:
Heavy cast-iron skillet or a heavy bottom oven safe skillet with sides.
Mini-steak buttons from Sur La Table (in store at Market Street or available online; $19.95 for a set of 4); these will be your new best friends for beef
Knife for trimming asparagus
Cutting board (you can use the same one you used for mint chiffonade)
Small cookie sheet with foil for asparagus
Tongs to flip and serve filets
Steak knives


Ingredients:
2 filets (I usually get an 8-12 oz. for hubby depending on how hungry he is and a 6-8 oz. for me)
Truffle Butter—I get mine from HEB but you can find it online
Kosher Salt and Freshly cracked black pepper
Bundle of asparagus, trimmed
Good Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar—about 1 Tbsp of each

While your pasta course is cooking, place your cast-iron skillet on the stove and turn on to medium high heat. The purpose of starting the filets on the stove is to sear each side to give it a crust and then they are finished off in the pre-heated oven. (425degrees) Take your filets out of the fridge and season both sides with salt and pepper and place on a plate before you start your first course. It’s not long enough to hurt it, but it’s best to cook meat when it is not straight out of the fridge. You can actually also trim your asparagus ahead of time when you are prepping your herbs.
Once skillet is hot, gently place filets in with tongs and then let them sizzle. Resist the urge to try to move them around. In order to get that crust, they need to stay in one place. They are ready when you can easily lift it with the tongs without it sticking—usually about 4-5 minutes. Flip and sear the other side. While steaks are cooking, place asparagus spears on a small lined cookie sheet. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (don’t go too crazy—you just need a little) and add salt and pepper. Use your tongs to toss asparagus so they are coated. Place them in pre-heated oven on middle rack. When other side of filets is ready (about another 5 minutes), remove from heat and insert steak buttons in each filet. They need to go through to the middle—bottom middle of the steak to accurately read the temp, but not all the way through. Transfer the steaks to the oven and set the timer for 7 minutes on top rack. Now, how long the steaks cook after the 7 minutes is up to you—the steak buttons will tell you when they are medium rare, medium, medium well, so just watch carefully until the desired temp is achieved. Want yours medium rare and your sweetie wants medium well—just remove the rare steak when the button reads medium rare (in the middle of the temp range) and then place it on a plate wrapped in foil until the other is almost ready. Watch asparagus while steaks are cooking. When spears start to wither a little, they are ready to come out. Using the foil, wrap around the spears to keep them warm until steaks are ready. When steaks are at desired temp, remove them from the oven. Use tongs to help you remove the steak buttons from steaks. Have your truffle butter ready and top each filet with a small pat. Transfer steaks and asparagus to your dinner plates and serve.

Final course

Dessert – Hope you saved some room!
Some Like it Hot Carmel Brownies served a la mode with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
This is another jump starter—I’m a big fan of taking good pre-made items and “zhushing it up” to make it a little more special.
Now, if you can stand to make these the day before and NOT eat them or have anyone else in your house eat them, that is your best bet here!
Tools and Supplies:
Glass baker 8×8 or disposable aluminum brownie baker with lid
Non-stick cooking spray (baking kind or coconut oil is best)
Knife to cut brownies into squares or a large heart shaped cookie cutter to stay in theme
Ingredients:
Pre-packaged brownie mix–My favorite is the Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix
My zhushers:
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt


Chocolate covered caramel candies—I use Ghiradelli Chocolate covered caramels.
Prepare brownie mix according to instructions. Before pouring into baking container, add in zhushers (minus caramel candies) and mix well. Pour batter into a non-stick sprayed container reserving a little to pour on top. Add in caramels spacing them throughout container pushing them down into batter as much as you can. Pour remaining batter on top and spread evenly. Place brownies in pre-heated oven and bake for designated time (according to mix). Remove and let cool slightly before cutting. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you make these the day before, leave them covered with foil on your kitchen countertop so that they stay at room temperature. You can pop them in the oven (turn oven off) after you remove the steaks to warm them back up a little before serving.

I hope you enjoyed these recipes and test them out with your sweetheart soon! Remember, it’s not about everything being perfect. It’s about enjoying a night with someone you love and making memories!
Stay tuned for more entertaining and cooking tips coming soon!

Amerigo’s

Amerigo’s Grille and the owner-operator Kosh family are a study in culinary excellence and longevity. With a keen knack for the business and a penchant for Italian cuisine, Casey and Nancy Kosh recognized a need for true fine dining in The Woodlands. In 1989, with a newborn daughter, the Kosh family opened Amerigo’s.

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