From ice-cream flavours to biscuits, the matchaflavour has become the latest fad in the beverage and dessert industry. The flavour isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s rising popularity does warrant a closer look at the classic matcha green tea and its health benefits.
Right off the bat, anything matcha flavoured is unorthodox in appearance and taste - such are many things from Japan. But don’t let that fool you: matcha is a green tea powder that has been finely ground from tea leaves and has seen massive popularity in the west for its vast health benefits and taste (too many).
In Japan, matcha green tea was always a staple in tea ceremonies and usually consisted of “ceremonial grade” matcha powder that uses younger leaves and presents a subtler flavour. This form of matcha is the highest quality available in the market and has been known to range between USD$100 (BDT 8449) to USD$140 (BDT 11,884) per 100g. Price conversion rate: USD$1@ BDT 84.89.
“Premium” grade lives up to its namesake and offers high-end powder from carefully selected tea leaves that range slightly lower, at USD$50 (BDT 4244) to USD$80 (BDT 6791) per 100g. The most commonly used form of matcha powder is the “Culinary” grade that costs USD$40 (BDT 3395) and below per 100g. Price conversion rate: USD$1@ BDT 84.89.
Ultimately, the quality of matcha depends solely on the condition of leaves during harvest. Young healthy leaves with a good amount of exposure to sunlight are considered the best quality, as compared to mass-grown leaves that are grown in non-Japanese climates.
If you want to examine the quality of your matcha powder more closely, the colour and texture both play an important role. The more vibrant the green, the better; as it indicates the ripe young age of leaves and rich chlorophyll content before harvest. In Japan, Matcha is traditionally whisked by hand, but mass produced matcha brands may avoid this process to make the tea more accessible with varying quality.
The health benefits of matcha must have been impressive enough to gain worldwide popularity - and it is!
One of the biggest pluses of drinking matcha green tea is its high antioxidant content. All-natural, the plant is a rich source of catechins which is responsible for storing the nutrients. Needless to say, most teas boast antioxidants, but few are packed with as much as this one. It helps reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart diseases and reduces cell damage from oxidation.
Matcha also serves as one of the best detox options in the market; playing an integral role in metabolizing drugs, absorbing nutrients and ridding the body of toxins. In addition to all of this, studies have shown that it protects the liver’s health to a certain extent. The general improvement on the body’s regular functions can accredit the correlation of tea to general wellness. Matcha excels in this and packs far more pure content which partially explains its immense popularity.
Surveys have also shown that matcha is an excellent source of brain function enhancement. Specific improvements include better reaction time, memory and attention. It is also worth noting that matcha contains more caffeine than other green tea options. Unlike regular forms of caffeine, matcha contains a compound called L-theanine, which helps give the same alertness as regular caffeine, but doesn’t come with the same kind of crash, which is a huge plus. Do note that it only helps when matcha is consumed moderately.
Lastly, matcha has been shown to improve weight loss through increasing the body’s metabolism. A study has shown that the tea can assist with burning up to 17% of body fat through moderate exercise. Matcha green tea is the purest of its form, so matcha lattes and matcha related candies will not provide the same health benefits.
Is matcha better than other green teas? It is important to first clarify that not all green tea leaves that are finely ground are matcha. Although both stem from the Camellia Sinensis plant, the methods of preparation are radically different. While other green teas are generally placed in teabags and traditionally boiled in kettles, matcha is either whisked by hand or with an electric frother. This allows consumers to absorb the nutrients of the leaves directly, rather than through its essence from boiled water.
The tastes are also drastically different due to these processes. Traditional green tea is often depicted as light, refreshing and subtle in taste while matcha is far richer and potent. Different types of green tea leaves have had nutty and fruity notes - giving consumers a more diverse range of flavours, while matcha offers less diversity. To get rid of the bitterness, many companies have sun-dried and pan-fried the green tea leaves beforehand to remove any bitter taste when boiled. Despite matcha having less variety in this aspect, its taste is truly one of a kind and has been easily identified as a dominant flavour in the beverage and dessert culture.
With its astounding variety of benefits, matcha’s diverse range of health benefits make it an enticing option as the go-to tea, if not for the taste, at least for its impressive plethora of health benefits.
In the past year, many turned to baking as the world was faced with mandatory quarantine as the pandemic took over. Some pursued the hobby as a passion to pass the time, while others saw potential in making it into a viable business opportunity. Regardless of the reason, Sourdough Bread has become one of the most popular products made in the baking world. Is Sourdough Bread Gluten-free? Let’s discuss Sourdough Bread health benefits, recipes, ingredients, and affordability.
At its core, Sourdough Bread is slow fermented bread. Unlike other archetypes of bread, Sourdough requires no artificial yeast and is completely prepared by natural yeast and bacteria. The ingredients are extremely simple to prepare and require more time for fermentation than preparation steps. The sourdough starter (water with flour) is the first component to prepare; more flour and salt are added after. It’s by far the most organic form of bread and is a rather welcoming entry point for future bakers.
As a result of its purely natural fermentation process, the bread boasts a distinguishable scent and taste that has a tinge of sourness to it. When done well, Sourdough Bread also marries the two textures of all pastries nicely; soft and tender on the inside, while remaining crispy on the outside. Culturing the fermented mix can largely depend on the baker and the frequency of feeding the starter is flexible enough to produce a variety of results based on preference.
The complete lack of preservatives and simple method of preparation makes the Sourdough Bread, possibly one of the most versatile additions to any diet. Water, flour, and salt are easy to digest and the process of fermentation adds to a stronger immune system. The use of naturally cultured probiotics also helps improve gut bacteria and even avoid blood sugar levels to rise.
The pastry itself is also a hit with consumers who face gluten allergies, offering an alternative fermentation formula that can cater to this health condition that few other types of bread can offer. On its own, the bread does contain a significantly reduced amount of gluten when compared to its siblings but is not completely free from it.
Studies have shown that despite not being gluten-free by default, sourdough’s leniency towards digestion can make it edible for those who are deathly allergic to gluten. The fermented yeast and bacteria in the starter make it much easier for the body to break down fructan. Fructan is the component in many foods that causes indigestion, and more often than not, not gluten itself. If you are not a risk-taker, gluten-free recipes for sourdough are available, but are not commonly found in bakeries - the best chance is to DIY it.
The aforementioned ingredients listed should clue you in on how easy the bread is to make. With flour, water, oil, and some time; this recipe is the perfect introduction to anyone who is interested in picking baking up seriously. Fermentation isn’t a quick process and feeding during culturing is a must, but that means it is perfect for hectic schedules.
Especially when working from home, cultivating your Sourdough Bread is even easier as you are in a space to monitor its fermentation while being comfortably occupied simultaneously. This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons this particular dish has been such a hit specifically during lockdowns.
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It does seem like a dream-come-true situation that a dish could be packed with nutrition and easy to make - all while also being affordable. The result of a worldwide pandemic has resulted in a sudden shift within the economy, with large numbers of people either losing their jobs or getting massive pay cuts. Because of this, preparing enough Sourdough Bread for a week can simply be used to substitute the cost of artisanal bread for half the price. Besides Sourdough’s health benefits, its versatility can be a motivating factor to embark on this baking journey - capable of being used in sandwiches, stew, soup, garlic bread, and on its own.
As we come to the end of a collective year of pandemic firsts, Valentine’s Day is next up. And showing love and gratitude can feel more important than ever.
Perhaps during a regular year, you and your dearest might have gone out for a romantic dinner, or somewhere special like the theater, a concert, a horse-drawn carriage ride. Or maybe you’d have chosen to stay in and have a quiet evening ... but this year we’ve all had a lot of those.
If food is your love language, however, there are lots of ways to make this Valentine’s Day feel special without putting your health at risk or spending a lot of cash.
COOKING FOR 2 (OR A FAMILY)
Starting with the totally DIY: a home-cooked dinner for two. (Or more, if you have kids or others at home; this year, Valentine’s Day may well be a family affair.)
Is there a place you’ve vacationed that holds a special place in your hearts? A honeymoon in Thailand, an escape to New Mexico, a bike tour through Tuscany? Let that be the inspiration for your dinner. Plan a menu featuring your favorite dishes from that region: Recreate that pasta dish you adored in Lucca or those enchiladas from Santa Fe.
Or maybe there was a trip you were planning to take, and still hope to. Think about the meals you want to eat once you do get there: chakalaka and pap from South Africa, maybe, callaloo from Trinidad and Tobago, paella from Spain. Dive into a cookbook or a reputable website and make that your mission for dinner.
Another idea: Treat yourselves to a new kitchen appliance, and make Valentine’s Day the day to play with it. It could be an Instant Pot, say, or an Air Fryer, sous vide machine, pasta maker. Homemade pasta for Valentine’s Day? That seems pretty romantic to me.
For less work, order in something special from a local restaurant, maybe one you’ve never tried before that specializes in a cuisine you might be unfamiliar with.
Some local eateries might be offering Valentine’s Day take-out meals, or menu items for special occasions. For instance, if you are feeling splurgey and live in New York City, Michelin-starred Aquavit has a very upscale meal kit for two, featuring your choice of entree (think rack of lamb or arctic char), plus a bunch of sides, and desserts including chocolate cake with mascarpone and coffee cream.
Or get yourself a kit and unravel the mystery of a new kind of food together. Uncommon Goods has a Chinese Soup Making Kit, Brooklyn Brew Shop has a bunch of beer making kits, and MMTUM shop has a molecular gastronomy cooking kit if you really want to geek out with your partner in the kitchen.
Williams-Sonoma has kits for making everything from the famous Rainbow Explosion Cake from Flour Shop, to a Cocktail Infusion Kit, to a mozzarella and ricotta-making kit. Internationally focused TakeOutKit.com will send you the basics for making everything from Japanese Tonkotsu Ramen to Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup to Aji de Gallina from Peru.
CLASSES FROM CUPID
Many classes offered online are geared specifically towards Valentine’s Day.
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Sur La Table has an assortment of cooking classes geared towards Date Night, and the offerings around Valentine’s Day are robust. Choose from Sushi at Home, Italian Steakhouse and Cooking with Wine themed classes. Or learn how to make Pomegranate Kir Royales and Rack of Lamb with Polenta with celebrity chef Terrance Brennan. You’ll need to download the prep packet and purchase the ingredients to cook along.
Murray’s Cheese has expanded their selection of virtual classes, which include one on making cheese boards, and one on creating a “Most Decadent Valentine’s Day.” All the classes can be taken live or bought to view later. Cheeses and pairings such as sweets and preserves will be sent to your home ahead of the class.
If you and your boo are coffee fiends, there are some fun online choices. B Corp Counter Culture Coffee has online classes dedicated to making coffee experts out of coffee lovers. One, “Cupping,” helps participants develop their palate and learn the differences between coffee processing techniques, varieties, origins and even brewing variables. You need to have some equipment on hand, and they’ll send you the rest. Next time you head to your favorite coffee shop, you can go toe-to-toe with the baristas.
Eventbrite is a website that offers all kinds of events and classes on subjects ranging from Indian cooking to cocktail-making, and free workshops, too, such as one on how to make a chocolate lava cake.
At MasterClass, another online class hub, the classes are taught by the likes of Thomas Keller and Gabriela Camara, so they are pricier. But you are getting the definitive experts in their fields.
Your local cooking school or cookware store may also have some virtual (or possibly in person) options, and you can support a local business at the same time.
Finally, breakfast in bed is a very pandemic-proof way to celebrate the holiday, though you may have to flip a coin to see which one of you gets to lounge around waiting for the hot coffee to arrive.
One of the good things that came from the lockdown period in 2020 was how much time people had to pick up new hobbies - especially baking. Many upstarts have found much success in this hobby and some have even turned it into small businesses to survive pay cuts and job losses at the height of COVID-19’s spread. With more people refining their craft, ingredients start to play a more important role; and what better ingredient to pay attention to than chocolate? The ingredient is versatile and commonly used - here’s how to pick the right chocolate for baking.
Considered the most “authentic” version of chocolate, using this immediately contains between 90% to 99% of cacao which is a staple for cooking and baking. As its makeup consists of the least ingredients possible, this type of chocolate is suited to be an ingredient of its own when preparing batter.
The batter is usually prepared for cakes, brownies and cookies - intended to serve as the main flavour of your pastry. As this chocolate functions as a component, it is unadvised to serve this type of chocolate as a snack to be eaten by hand.
Still containing a respectable amount of cacao (35% to 55% for semisweet and 60% to 70% for bittersweet), both chocolates are considered the “dark” chocolate that can be eaten by hand or used for chocolate chip cookies, fudge and even more brownies.
Bittersweet chocolate contains slightly less sugar than semisweet chocolate, but both are extremely versatile and selected as a staple for many baking dishes. If you want your chocolate to have a significant amount of presence in your dish, while keeping the cacao notes intact, these are your go-to options.
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MIlk chocolate is still technically within the “true” chocolate territory, containing 10% cocoa. This type of chocolate contains cocoa, butter and sugar - making it more than just a chocolate ingredient.
It is commonly eaten by hand and better used as a standalone snack or an addition to the likes of trail mix, spreads and candy, but still goes with pastries for the sweet tooth like s'mores brownies and chocolate mousse. Milk chocolate still has its purpose in many pastries, but don’t expect the strong cocoa flavour than darker chocolates offer.
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To this day, some argue that white chocolate is not real chocolate, but it is made from cocoa butter which essentially comes from the cocoa bean. Whether it is authentic chocolate or not, white chocolate drastically deviates from the cocoa taste present in dark chocolates and has its own purpose in the baking world.
The lack of cocoa flavour gives it a niche of its own as it begins to complement stronger ingredients like citrus fruits, vanilla, coconut and berries. Red Velvet pies, cheesecakes and fruit tarts are common dishes that contain white chocolate.
So far, we have discussed the most famous kinds of chocolates that are used to prepare specific kinds of dishes. Pick the best chocolate for baking considering the type of dish you are going to bake. Happy baking!
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It’s almost second nature for many to indulge in the most decadent treats within our grasp as we anticipate bingeing for hours on end, but snacking healthily is a whole different thing. For some, snacking is more out of habit, while others yearn to have their cravings met. With these healthy snacks for Netflix Binge, you can almost go all out without having to worry about your waistline!
Potato chips are definitely one of the most common snacks out there that has the capacity to snowball weight gain, but this alternative deals with that issue while not compromising on flavor.
Zucchini chips are less common, but still commercially available online - containing less than a third (40 calories - per half-cup) of regular potato chips (150 calories - per half-cup). If you’re trying to avoid carbs, this crispy treat can help with that too. For DIY aficionados, adding salt and vinegar to zucchini slices, followed by dehydration are all simple steps that can give you similar levels of quality.
There aren’t any mainstream sinful snacks that blueberries and yogurt can directly substitute for, but it has more than enough to supplement your nutritional needs.
A dozen servings add up to only 38 calories which makes this perfect if you’re looking to fill up quickly. Blueberries provide tons of antioxidants while yogurt serves as a rich source of calcium and protein. Bear in mind that the yogurt can only serve as a healthy complement if chosen with as little sugar as possible.
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To some, this snack could be considered an abomination at first glance - but you’d be surprised how well this couple complements each other.
Apples are crammed with nutritional benefits like high fiber and antioxidant properties that do wonders for the gut and heart. Peanut butter on the other hand does admittedly count pretty high in terms of calories (still below 200 per serving) but is an excellent source of protein and even reduces cholesterol.
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This choice is possibly the least complicated option on the list, easily prepared in less than five minutes. Celery sticks are extremely light and easy to gorge on for hours while supplying your body with luteolin; an antioxidant that reduces inflammation.
Cream cheese is decadent in its own right, but 60 grams of it will not even hit the 200 calorie mark. If celery sticks aren’t your thing, carrot and cucumber sticks are decent alternatives that add their own nutritional benefits that complement your dairy counterpart perfectly.