The old saying “you can’t believe everything you read” shouldn’t refer to the black and white Nutrition Facts label printed on packaged food products.
While marketing words such as ‘all natural’ and ‘made with whole grains’ are often part of the manufacturer’s package design; each line listed on the Nutrition Facts panel is closely regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. But, it’s not always easy to translate milligrams into choices for healthier meals. That’s why the FDA recently announced a new and improved version highlighting the nutrients considered most important. Calories will be printed in bigger, bolder print and serving sizes will be in amounts usually consumed. The current Nutrition Facts label may identify a serving of pickles as ¾ of a spear. Who eats ¾ of a pickle?
“Our understanding of a ‘serving size’ has changed over the years. The new Panel now lists serving size as what is typically eaten in one sitting,” says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson registered dietitian Lori Zanini.
The serving size for soft drinks will increase from eight ounces to 12 ounces. Bagels and muffins will increase from two to four ounce servings.
One of the sweetest improvements to the Nutrition Facts label is adding a new line revealing how much sugar has been added to a product above and beyond the sugars naturally occurring in food such as milk and fruit.
“The new labels will help consumers looking at labels for things like yogurt, jams, or cereals know how much of the sugar comes from fruit or milk, and how much comes from added sugars,” said Michael F. Jacobson, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI first petitioned the FDA to put added sugars on Nutrition Facts labels in 1999.
Say goodbye to Vitamin A and C which will no longer be listed on labels because most Americans are already getting the recommended amounts.
Say hello to Vitamin D and potassium which will be listed for the first time and needed for bone and heart health, respectively. “Many people do not consume these nutrients in sufficient amounts,” Zanini said.
Let’s hope easier reading will lead to healthier eating. Registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix said, “Read it before you eat it.”
You can enjoy the thrill of the grill even when the weather won’t cooperate if you use a specially designed pan with raised grooves that create the grill marks.
Demonstrating how to cooks steaks on a cooktop at the Le Creuset L’Atelier in Charleston, chef Michael Ollier made sure the cookware company’s cast iron grill pan was good and hot before placing a pretty filet mignon on the grooves.
As the steak sizzled and beefy aromas filled the air, we waited. “Always bring patience to the grill,” said Ollier, who is the corporate chef for the Certified Angus Beef brand. Picking up the steak with tongs he showed a group of food writers the perfectly charred grill lines and then placed the cooked side down again but at the opposite angle to create a crisscross design. “Diamonds are a grill’s best friend,” Ollier joked.
Beef must meet strict standards to be called Certified Angus Beef including specifications for tenderness and marbling, the tiny white threads of fat that run through the meat which add flavor and juiciness. The US Department of Agriculture grades beef based on marbling. USDA Prime has the most marbling, USDA Choice is in the middle and USDA Select has the least marbling (its the leanest grade but can often be tough when cooked on the high heat of a grill).
Certified Angus Beef is classified as USDA Choice but chefs prize it for its consistent tenderness whether cooked medium-rare or well done.
“Everyone should have the same experience no matter how they order their steak,” said chef Craig Deihl of Cypress restaurant in Charleston. Deihl pairs the filet of beef with a red pepper puree or you can ask for some house made salsa verde to add a bracing counterpoint to the richness of the beef.
Ollier suggests chimichurri, a South American fresh herb, garlic and vinegar based sauce, “It’s fifty-fifty vinegar to oil so the acid works well to cut the fatty mouthfeel of beef.”
All this talk about beef fat and you’re probably wondering why this registered dietitian is writing about marbling. Well, here are some fast facts. The US Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we limit saturated fat (the kind found in beef, bacon and dairy) to less than ten percent of total calories. That means we get to enjoy a little. If the suggested portion size for beef is three ounces, it seems to me that choosing a tender juicy cut would add more satisfaction to a modest serving. A splurge on a big porterhouse steak can still be part of a healthy meal pattern if it’s an occasional treat, and enjoyed with grilled vegetables and a fresh salad. Skip the high fat Béarnaise sauce and go for the chimichurri.
“You might be surprised to find that 10 percent or less of the saturated fat in the American diet comes from beef, “said Shelley Johnson, registered dietitian with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. She said according to government food surveys, “Just 5 percent of calories in the American diet come from beef.”
All cuts of beef, regardless of grade, are a good source of zinc, iron and protein.
More Nutrition Notes: A 3-ounce serving of beef is about 170 calories, on average, yet an excellent source of six nutrients (protein, zinc, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6 and B12) and a good source of four nutrients (phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and choline).
Learning to make a basic vinaigrette is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Actually you don’t even need the 2! The ratio for making a vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid.
I like red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. But there’s a world of other vinegars to use including Champagne, White Balsamic, Apple Cider and Rice Wine vinegars…just to name a few.
Once you learn to make a basic vinaigrette you can get creative! Whisk in orange marmalade and add minced chives to make an Orange Chive Vinaigrette. Or why not start with Sweet Tea or Bloody Mary Mix? These recipes are from The Slim Down South Cookbook where you’ll find many more ways to Dress to Thrill with healthy and happy spring salads.
Sweet Tea Vinaigrette
Make the dressing up ahead and allow it to cool; otherwise it’ll wilt your salad. Store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Makes 6 servings Hands-On 10 min. Bring 1 cup sweetened tea to a boil in a saucepan over medium-low heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer 9 to 10 minutes or until reduced to ⅓ cup. Remove from heat; cool 20 minutes. Whisk in 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, ¼ tsp. honey, ¼ tsp. Dijon mustard, and a pinch of table salt. Whisk in 6 Tbsp. canola or olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Serving size 2 Tbsp. CALORIES 137; FAT 14.0g (sat 1.0g, mono 8.9g, poly 3.9g); PROTEIN 0g; CARB 3.3g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 28mg; CALC 0mg
Bloody Mary Vinaigrette
Whisk together ¼ cup spicy Bloody Mary mix, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1½ tsp. prepared horseradish, ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, ½ tsp. hot sauce, ¼ tsp. celery salt, and ¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Serving size 4 tsp. CALORIES 44; FAT 5g (sat 0.6g, mono 3.3g, poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 0g; CARB 1g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0.1mg; SODIUM 105mg; CALC 4mg
Let’s have some fun. Play with your food. Why not think of things a little bit differently to shake up meals to include festive ways to include more fruits and vegetables.
Crazy mixed up pizza topping idea: Ever thought of adding sliced fresh strawberries to DiGiorno pepperoni pizza? I did and it’s great! I shared the idea on NBC Atlanta & Company this week. Watch the VIDEO here!
Now that we’re exciting about new pizza topping ideas….let’s play Pizza Party Twister!
Follow the colors of Twister- red, green, yellow and blue and fill little bowls with colorful foods such as green edamame beans, yellow peppers, blueberries (why not?!) and red radishes. SPIN and choose your pizza topping. Even more creative topping and flavor pairing ideas from the chef at California Pizza Kitchen.
Puzzled by Pizza Portions? Here’s a great guide from the good folks at Nestle.
We’ve all heard of enjoying pizza with a side salad…..but what about pizza IN a salad? Pizza-zanella Salad is a take on the Italian classic Panzanella salad which stars leftover bread tossed in with fresh veggies. Just cut up leftover pizza and toss into any green salad for super delicious pizza flavored croutons! Bonus: you just made salad more fun and tasty.
It’s all Balancing Your Plate to include healthy side dishes when enjoying the deliciousness of pizza. Pizza by the way is a combo dish that includes grains, cheese which provides the nutrients in dairy (including calcium, potassium and protein), sometimes meats and many times veggies!
Pair your pizza with additional fruits and vegetables for a delicious and (bonus!) balanced meal.
Add even more veggies to the mix by tossing a creative side salad such as my recipe for:
Sweet ‘n Spicy Brussels Sprouts Slaw with carrots, golden raisins and sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds even sound fun.
Here’s the recipe:
Sweet ‘n Spicy Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Carrots, Golden Raisins and Sunflower Seeds By Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN, author The Slim Down South Cookbook.
Makes 12 servings (one half cup each
2 pounds Brussels Sprouts (about 6 cups trimmed and sliced)
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
½ cup shredded or matchstick carrots
¼ cup sunflower seed kernels (one tablespoon reserved for garnish)
¼ cup sweet n’spicy dressing
Trim ends off Brussels Sprouts and cut into thin slices.
Place in a large bowl.
Add raisins, carrots and sunflower seeds.
Dress with 1/4 cup of Sweet ‘n Spicy dressing, tossing well to combine.
Garnish with 1 T sunflower seeds.
Sweet ‘n Spicy Dressing
Makes 12 servings (1 Tbsp.)
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup honey
2 tsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. celery salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.
DIsclosure: I worked with the good folks at Nestle who bring us the great frozen pizza brands of CPK and DiGiorno to create this blog post. Thank you!
What ethnic cuisine do you feel like eating tonight? If you said ‘Italian’ then you’re in the menu majority.
Sixty-one percent of people polled by the National Restaurant Association said they choose Italian food at least
once a month when dining out, followed by Mexican and Chinese. While Italian
American classics such as huge portions of cheese-laden lasagna and chicken Parmesan are still popular, many menus have been modernized to reflect the style of dishes enjoyed in Italy.
After all, Italian ingredients including olives, olive oil, whole grains, seafood and vegetables are at the very heart of healthy Mediterranean diets.
“It’s great news that restaurants are lightening up Italian menus and featuring more authentic Italian dishes,” said Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Oldways, a non-profit food and nutrition education organization. “Now, Americans will get the true and healthy tastes of Italy and the Mediterranean Diet.”
Case in point is Carrabba’s Italian Grill. With over two hundred restaurants nationwide the restaurant chain recently introduced twenty new menu items. “It was time for a different way to approach Italian food,” said Jay Smith, head chef for Carrabba’s. “It’s lighter and brighter.”
So joining the classic chicken Parmesan is a new option called ‘Parmesan-crusted chicken arugula” which sautéed chicken breast crusted with panko bread crumbs and topped with fresh arugula, tomatoes and shaved Parmesan cheese with a lemon vinaigrette.
During a visit to the test kitchens of Carrabba’s in the Tampa headquarters of parent company Bloomin’ Brands, I had the opportunity to taste some of the new dishes, many of them featuring fresh vegetables.
Additions include wood-grilled salmon topped with tomato, cucumber and dill. Grilled chicken with a Chianti sauce is served with an arugula salad tossed with apples, grapes, and toasted hazelnuts.
“We wanted to find new ways to add vegetables to the menu,” said registered dietitian Maria Caranfa, who works on recipe development with Bloomin’ Brands’ chefs. “There’s grilled asparagus now wrapped in prosciutto and other small plates such as chicken with vegetables served in romaine lettuce wraps.”
Italian dining doesn’t have to be a special occasion feast. “Over fifty percent of the menu items at Carrabba’s are under 600 calories so guests can feel good about eating here on casual nights out,” said Katie Knight of Bloomin’ Brands.
Many dishes are served with a grilled lemon half so guests can up the flavor without adding calories. Small plates and platters meant for sharing have been added to the menu including a tomato caprese with fresh burrata mozzarella.
“You don’t have to be in the mood for pasta to enjoy Italian,” said Justin Cross of Carrabba’s.
But if diners are in the mood, chefs take pasta seriously here where it’s imported from Italy and cooked to order. “We are passionate how pasta is cooked,” said Smith.
They’re available now, but chefs were reluctant to put whole grain or gluten free pastas on the menu until they found acceptable products.
New school Italian it seems is moving closer to old world demand for quality.
There’s more than one fish in the sea, as the saying goes.
Relatively new to the U.S. seafood scene is a premium white fleshed fish called skrei, a wild caught Norwegian artic cod available only from January through April.
The name skrei (pronounced “sk-ray”) comes from the old Norse language for “the wanderer” because the fish is caught in cold winter months when it’s swimming to spawning grounds in northern Norway. “They swim against the current so they have more muscle and are very lean and have a delicate clean taste,” said chef Espen Larsen. “The meat has more body than other cod.”
Larsen, who owns the Culinary Academy of Oslo, visited Atlanta recently to teach the culinary and wait staff at Legal Sea Foods how to best prepare skrei and describe the fish to guests. One of the menu items sampled was pan-roasted skrei with fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts, olives and Meyer lemon. “You don’t want to over power the delicate flavor of the fish,” said sous chef Alexander Clyatt.
“The texture is awesome. Customers always ask about the flavor and texture of a fish and whether it’s wild or farm raised,” said server Lance Brady. “The more information the better.”
The fish is so revered in Norway that every part is utilized. The tongue is a delicacy.
“It’s only available for a short time seasonally,” said Larsen. “For me it’s like looking forward to other seasonal foods like spring asparagus.” Premium prices for the short-term treat means strict protection. “There are fish police who make sure regular coastal cod is not being mislabeled as skrei.”
The Dish on Fish
Whether you’re discovering your first bites of skrei, enjoying a favorite fish taco or lunching on tuna salad, adding more fish and shellfish to your diet is a healthy habit. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we eat at least two four-ounce servings a week. “The guidelines tell us we’re eating plenty of protein in the U.S. but we should shift the types of protein to include more fish,” said registered dietitian Jennifer McGuire with the Marine Fisheries Institute.
The camellias are blooming in my Atlanta back yard. Please say it’s almost time for Spring.
Let’s lighten up family favorite comfort foods including mac n cheese, honey grilled pork tenderloin and baked pears for dessert. Watch the recipes come together on Atlanta and Company. Watch the video by clicking on the show name.
Here are the recipes from my Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon. Order a copy clicking here or on the title of the book!
Crunchy Pecan Slaw
You’ll have slaw left over; keep it covered in the fridge, and serve it within a day or two.
Makes 10 servings
Hands-On 20 min.
Total 28 min.
1 head napa cabbage, cut into thin strips
1 Braeburn apple, cut into thin strips
½ cup sliced radishes
½ cup Sweet-and-Spicy Dressing
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
Toss together cabbage and remaining ingredients in a large bowl until blended.
Serving size 1 cup CALORIES 141; FAT 9.9g (sat 0.9g, mono 5.7g, poly 2.9g); PROTEIN 2.3g; CARB 13.7g; FIBER 3.7g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0.8mg; SODIUM 136mg; CALC 49mg
Makes 12 servings
Hands-On 5 min.
Total 5 min.
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. celery salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 days.
Creamy, cheesy, a crunchy topping, and plenty of carbs: No wonder mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. It’s even made appearances as a side on Southern meat-and-three plates. Not only is this version lighter, it’s got a little ham, too. Use elbow pasta if you can’t find cellentani, cork screw shape!
Makes 8 servings
Hands-On 30 min.
Total 1 hour
1 lb. uncooked cellentani (corkscrew) pasta
2 Tbsp. butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups fat-free milk
1 (12-oz.) can fat-free evaporated milk
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
½ cup (2 oz.) shredded 1.5% reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese
3 oz. fat-free cream cheese, softened
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground red pepper, divided
1 (8-oz.) package chopped smoked ham
Vegetable cooking spray
1¼ cups cornflakes cereal, crushed
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare cellentani pasta according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Gradually whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and evaporated milk until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Whisk in Gouda cheese, next 3 ingredients, and ⅛ tsp. ground red pepper until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in ham and pasta.
3. Pour pasta mixture into a 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Stir together crushed cereal, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, and remaining ⅛ tsp. ground red pepper; sprinkle over pasta mixture.
4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Note: We tested with Barilla Cellentani pasta and Cabot 1.5% Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese.
Tenderloins are one of the leanest cuts of pork with 120 calories per 3-ounce serving—about the same as a skinless chicken breast.
Makes 8 servings
Hands-On 21 min.
Total 3 hours, 21 min.
2 (1-lb.) pork tenderloins
¼ cup lite soy sauce
½ tsp. ground ginger
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
Garnish: fresh cilantro
Remove silver skin from tenderloins, leaving a thin layer of fat. Butterfly pork tenderloins by making a lengthwise cut down center of each tenderloin, cutting to within ¼ inch of other side. (Do not cut all the way through tenderloins.) Lay flat.
2. Combine soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a shallow dish or zip-top plastic freezer bag; add pork, turning to coat. Cover or seal, and chill 3 hours, turning occasionally.
3. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat. Stir together brown sugar, honey, and sesame oil in a small bowl.
4. Grill tenderloins, covered with grill lid, 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145°, turning occasionally and basting with honey mixture.
Preheat oven to 375°. Peel pears, and cut in half, cutting through stem and bottom ends. Scoop out core and some pulp to form an oval hole in center of each pear half. Place pears, cut sides up, in an 8-inch square or 11- x 7-inch baking dish.
2. Combine honey and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir in nuts and cranberries.
3. Spoon honey mixture into center of pear halves. Pour orange juice into baking dish.
4. Bake, covered, at 375° for 15 minutes; uncover and bake 12 more minutes or until pears are tender and thoroughly heated.
5. Place pear halves on individual plates; drizzle orange juice mixture evenly over pear halves. Spoon 1 Tbsp. yogurt onto each pear half, and sprinkle each pear with about 2½ tsp. Toasted Oat Topping. Serve immediately.
Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together ⅓ cup uncooked regular oats and 2 tsp. light brown sugar in a small bowl; add 1 tsp. butter, melted, tossing to coat. Spread mixture evenly on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 14 to 16 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring after 7 minutes.
If you’ve ever had the gut feeling that there’s more to eating well than counting calories and watching your cholesterol then you really should trust your gut. Research on the world within our intestinal tract shows that the mixture of microbes in the gut can make or break the body’s overall health. Referred to as the microbiome, the population of friendly bacteria that live in the gut aid digestion, help absorption of nutrients and boost immune function. “It’s the control center for human biology,” said Justin Sonnenburg, PhD co-author of The Good Gutand researcher at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. Sonnenburg and co-author wife Erica, also at Stanford, are leading the charge to place the microbiome at the center of the discussion about optimal health today. “We have more bacteria than cells in our bodies. We are more microbial than we are human,” said Justin Sonnenburg.
So what does a good gut look like? According to the Sonnenburgs and other researchers focused on intestinal health the quantity and variety of bacteria is key.
A poor diet lacking dietary fiber can wreck the microbiome’s health because fiber is what they feed on. Fiber in plant foods is considered a ‘prebiotic’ because it’s the preferred food for intestinal bacteria.
When they don’t get their ‘food’ from what we consume the bacteria can eat away at the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract and eventually perish. “Low fiber intake leads to reduced bacterial diversity in the gut,” said Erica Sonneburg. “It’s diet-induced extinction of the gut bacteria.”
The average American consumes about 15 grams of dietary fiber a day. The recommended amount for good health is between 25 and 35 grams per day.
“You have to feed your bugs, not just your body,” said registered dietitian Regan Miller Jones. “It’s yet another reason to eat more vegetables and whole grains.”
Fermented dairy foods such as yogurt and kefir with live active cultures as well as fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi help add good bacteria to the gut so are called ‘probiotic.’
“There’s an explosion of probiotics foods and beverages in the dairy aisle with beneficial live microbes,” said Erica Sonnenberg. “But keep in mind that probiotic supplement pills are unregulated and are often mislabeled. And what might work for one person might not work for others. It’s highly personalized.”
Another note of caution for fans of ‘detox’ regimens including colonics that ‘flush out’ the GI tract. Justin Sonnenberg said, “Colonic irrigation is not safe or effective for the health of the microbiome.”
Ok, Ok we all know that we’re supposed to eating less sugar. The average American consumes between 22 and 30 teaspoons of sugar per day and according to advice from the new US Dietary Guidelines it should be more like 11 or 12 teaspoons per day. Whoops! Time to cut the sugar habit in half.
US Dietary Guidelines advise we limit Added Sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories. So, if you’re an average adult consuming 2000 calories per day, that means 200 calories for added sugar – or about 12 teaspoons. This DOESN’t include the natural sugars in fruit and dairy. That’s good news.
Which I shared on NBC Atlanta & Company this week with happy, healthy host Christine Pullara. She was game for a blind fold taste test! Tune in here: SWEET NEWS
Sweet Treats with Healthy Taste
If you want to keep the sweet without busting your sugar budget try some of the delicious new products -such as Chobani SImply 100 Greek yogurt -sweetened with natural sweeteners such as evaporated cane sugar, stevia and monk fruit. Monk fruit is a tiny melon grown in Asia and is so super sweet that a tiny bit of it adds big sweetness to foods and drinks so it’s super low calorie. And it’s super to work with Chobani on nutrition education projects such as this!
Chobani Simply 100 Greek Yogurts are a great choice because they contain 75% less sugar than regular yogurt and because it’s Greek yogurt, they’re a great source of protein ( 12 grams per serving) and chicory root is added to up the fiber content to 5 grams per serving.
What’s the 100 stand for? 100 calories. (:
If you want some crunch in your yogurt snack Chobani Simply 100 Crunch contains a little ‘side car’ of dried strawberries and dark chocolate covered rice crisps. Sweet, crunchy and still 100 calories.
So Why is Sugar Limited in the Diet?
Here’s the sour situation. Consuming too much sugar racks up the calories which can ratchet up the extra pounds on the scale leading to obesity which increases your odds of getting diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Is sugar poison? NO! It’s just that too much sugar is just, well TOO much for our bodies.
Think of it like sunshine. A little sun is good and actually boosts our body’s ability to create healthy vitamin D. But, as we ALL know too much sun leads to sunburn which leads to skin cancer.
So, let’s get a little sun for good health and enjoy a little sugar for happy taste buds.
“When I got the position I made a list of ingredients I needed for the kitchen and I was told you can’t bring those in,” said Brandt.
No blue cheese, no cherries, no chia seeds and no imported citrus to name just a few of the foods tightly restricted by Ecuador’s biosecurity regulations for the Galapagos.
The goal is to prevent the introduction of invasive species and pests that could threaten indigenous plants, many vitally important to the islands’ world famous wildlife.
The Galapagos Islands have become a mecca for ecotourism attracting over 250,000 visitors a year who arrive with binoculars and cameras in tow ready to spot giant tortoises, sea turtles, penguins and unique birds including the blue-footed booby.
Galapagos National Park rules control the number of people and time limit spent in wildlife areas and you must stay at least six feet away from the creatures.
Birds don’t fly away when you walk by and curious cute baby sea lions hop towards you.
“They thrive because there are no predators here,” said Andrew Balfour, general manager of the boutique eco-property Pikaia Lodge where rooms include a copy of “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin.
Guests drink in the DNA Bar…
….and dine in the Evolution dining room.
“The magic of the Galapagos is that you see nature in an intimate way and see how the adaptation of the species is crucial from island to island,” says Balfour.
Chef Brandt, from mainland Ecuador, has enthusiastically learned to adapt to his new environment by getting to know local farmers, discovering wild cherry tomatoes and showcasing Galapagos seafood including tuna, grouper, octopus, and spiny lobsters.
On the menu is a seafood Carpaccio with peppers from chef Brandt’s kitchen garden and the crunch of yucca chips with seafood terrine. Some imported foods are allowed but restricted and undergo close inspection. Chef Brandt has to make his grocery list at least 9 days in advance,
Avocado, passion fruit, and oranges are grown here planted by early settlers.
Dairies produce milk but only fresh cheeses.
“So I’m trying to make my own aged cheese,” said Brandt.
He showed me a small wheel of yellow cheese. “I want to wait for two or three months more. It’s an experiment so we’re all learning about it.”
He makes his own red wine vinegar and ages the local grass fed beef so it’s more tender.
Traditional tastes of Ecuador at the Pikaia Lodge including a quinoa risotto and Arriba chocolate mousse with passion fruit chili coulis add a gourmet touch to Galapagos adventures. What’s a pikaia? It’s the first organism discovered with a spine. See the design with little dots in the dessert above? That’s a pikaia.
Weight loss regimens are a national obsession especially at the start of the New Year when fitness centers fill up with new converts and supermarket carts fill up with salad fixings.
Whether your goal is to trim a few pounds or overhaul eating habits for the long haul, here is a round up of fresh nutrition wisdoms from registered dietitians who specialize in health coaching.
It’s All About You
One size does not fit all fits all when it comes to nutrition. Changing what you eat can make you feel better and your jeans fit better but it can’t make you into a six-foot tall supermodel. So have realistic expectations.
“People, like dogs, come in differing sizes and shapes,” says registered dietitian Nancy Clark, author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “There are St. Bernards, greyhounds, Labs, poodles and Chihuahuas. Be proud of your ‘breed’, honor your genetics, and treat your body with respect,” says Clark.
Phone a friend. Registered dietitian Annette Schottenfeld, of Nett Nutrition says, “Walk with a co-worker. Meet new friends in dance class or team training at the gym. Stay connected with fitness friends to ensure you will show-up, motivate each other and share successes.”
Some Like it Hot
Fed up with cold rabbit food? “Rather than trying to eat more and more salads, cook vegetables the way Mediterraneans do by roasting or stewing them with olive oil, onion, tomatoes and herbs,” suggests registered dietitian Elena Paravantes, health editor of Olive Oil Times.
Learn by Example
Demand for home delivered kits of pre-measured fresh ingredients with easy to follow recipes is heating up nationwide. Mary Alice Shreve, registered dietitian with Atlanta based meal kit delivery service Peach Dish makes sure recipes feature healthful foods with seasonings that add flavor without relying on salt. How about a Super Foods Salad with kale and sunflower seeds or Red Quinoa Parsnip Stew? Shreve says, “It’s all about getting people back in the kitchen. If you can put olive oil in the pan you can handle these recipe.”
Add to Your Diet
Registered dietitian Toby Amidor author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, advises setting short term goals, “It’s very important to establish short-term benchmarks and achieve different ones every few weeks,” says Amidor. “Short-term goals should be positive. For example, eat a fruit during at least one snack time each day.”
On your mark, get set, go! The brand spanking new US Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) have just been released. They’re based on the latest and greatest food and nutrition research and are translated into advice on what we should be eating MORE of and what we should be eating LESS of to promote good health and prevent chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. US Health and Human Services Secretary Syliva Burwell says, “We can’t get broccoli to taste like ice cream but we can give Americans tools to choose healthier eating patterns.” That’s my favorite quote of the day!
Here’s a link to my sassy summary of the new DGA’s on WXIA Channel 11, Atlanta.
Go to www.choosemyplate.gov and you’ll find an easy summary and how-to follow for the new dietary guidelines which are good until until 2020, by the way. The guidelines are released every five years. A lot can change and a few things did this time, too.
Sweet call out– for the first time the advice on sugar is to limit added sugars to less than 10% of total calories. They are referring to the extra sugar added to coffee, tea, sodas or even to yogurts. They’re not talking about the naturally occurring sugars in dairy products and fruit. So keep an eye on the grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts Label on foods and drinks you buy. Bonnie Taub Dix, registered dietitian nutritionist, explains it really well here.
“Sugar: The guidelines suggest that added sugars should not account for more than “10 percent of total energy.” So what does that mean? Here’s the quick math: The average caloric recommendation equals 2,000 calories (even though that’s more than many of us need). So 10 percent of 2,000 calories equals 200 calories. Then 200 calories of sugar equal 50 grams (g) of sugar. One can of cola soda has 35 g of sugar. One bottle of water has zero grams of sugar.”Bonnie Taub-Dix, MS RDN
Cholesterol Gets a Pass- Sort of:
Dietary cholesterol, found in foods such as eggs and shrimp, is NOT associated with increased blood cholesterol levels, so the new DGA’s no NOT include a limit on dietary cholesterol. Enjoy your eggs as part of the list of healthy protein foods encouraged. How about celebrating with a low country shrimp boil from the Slim Down South Cookbook?
But, saturated fat, the kind in heavily marbled beef and in bacon, IS associated with increased blood cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease so the new DGA’s limit saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total calorie intake.
Bonne Taub-Dix to the rescue again, “Less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. The Nutrition Facts label can be used to check for saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.”
The recipes and road rules for slim and trim healthy eating in The Slim Down South Cookbook follow the new US Dietary Guidelines in a delicious and nutritious way.
How about starting with eating more vegetable based protein with a Slow Cooker Veggie Chili. A super food for the Super Bowl. Great for game day or any day!!!!
Here’s the recipe!
Slow-Cooker Veggie Chili
Corn, beans, and squash are known as the Three Sisters in Native American agriculture because they can be grown at the same time in the same soil. This tasty, easy recipe makes enough to feed you and up to 15 sisters.
Makes 16 servings
Hands-On 20 min.
Total 8 hours, 20 min.
4 medium carrots, diced (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, diced (½ cup)
1 medium-size sweet onion, diced (1¼ cups)
Vegetable cooking spray
2 (8-oz.) packages cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 large zucchini, chopped (2 cups)
1 yellow squash, chopped (1 cup)
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. seasoned pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1 (16-oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16-oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15.5-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like on a river cruise then hop on board and take off with me along the Rhone River on the elegant Scenic Emerald. Best part?
Well there are so many best parts…but if you’re like me you’ll really relax and enjoy the cruise from morning to night because Scenic is all-inclusive.
That means no pesky bills to sign for shore excursions or adult beverages.
Pop goes the Champagne from breakfast to bed time.
All aboard who’s going aboard!!!!
The first difference you notice is that the river ship glides along calm waterways instead of riding choppy seas often associated with ocean cruising.
These long sleek ships built to transport passengers along wide European rivers, past picturesque villages and vineyards are gaining momentum as a sought after vacation experience.
Virtuoso ranks river cruises in the top five 2016 travels trends.
On a seven-day cruise on the Rhone River in France aboard the Scenic Emerald, I discovered many delightful advantages of traveling by river.
The pace is leisurely with pastoral scenery in view from large windows or on open decks.
There’s an impressive display of crew navigation as the ship traverses river locks with only inches to spare on either side of the ship!
On the top deck you can chat with the Captain as he guides his Scenic “Space Ship” carefully through the locks.
Please don’t try to distract him.
Another bonus for travelers ready to explore, when docked in town you’re in walking or biking distance to most of the sights.
In Arles…..or Arlys…
…we walked in Vincent Van Gogh’s footsteps.
The wharf here inspired the artist’s iconic painting “Starry Night.”
The bakeries in Arles inspired me; where fresh strawberry tarts are a culinary work of art.
France on the Menu
On board the Scenic Emerald, meals feature the regional foods and wines of France with many of them produced in the Rhone River valley.
Menus are hyper-local with cheese selections changing to include varieties from the area we were cruising through that day.
Don’t know the difference between a goat’s milk Rigotte from Lyon and a cow’s milk Charolais from Burgundy? Join the cheese class with a dozen French cheeses to sample.
Adding to the laid-back luxury, wines and cocktails on Scenic cruises are all inclusive. Pop some bubbly for breakfast and end the evening with a cordial in your coffee. It’s all part of the gastronomic experience included in the fare.
For passengers craving a deeper dive into what’s for dinner, executive chef Tamas Kiss leads a tour through the bustling Les Halles market in Avignon.
He chats with butchers and bakers and offers sample tastes of local breads, cheeses, and produce of Provence.
“It was great to see the foods of summer,” says Kiss.
“But now it’s autumn and there are exciting new things like mushrooms and different olives in the market.”
Chef Kiss caps off the visit with a tasting of freshly shucked oysters.
Hey look! Someone found a pearl!!!
Meanwhile back on board the Scenic Emerald things are really cooking!
It’s literally all hands on deck to provision the ship as boxes delivered to the ship in Avignon are loaded into storage areas near the galley by all of the crew. Even the bartenders, housekeepers and piano player help in the ‘bucket brigade’ to get the groceries on board!
All of this exceptional teamwork leads to exceptional meals from beautiful buffets…
…to elegant dinners.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are highly anticipated adventures for the palate.
This Scenic culinary team is serious ……
…..without taking themselves too seriously!
Thank you Chef Tamas Kiss. You can take a little break now.
The menus are inspiring and exciting and miraculously appear from this tiny galley!
One evening we’re treated to dinner featuring dishes from the great chefs of France.
Your every whim from sushi to sensational desserts are on the Scenic menu.
Late night craving for BLT with fries? Whoops, that was for me after a night of dancing to the late night disco music. (:
From artichoke truffle soup to whole roasted lamb, menus are marked with indications to alert those with food allergies. Even more good nutrition on the “Vitality Corner” vegetarian menu with entrees such as bulgur risotto with mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and spicy basil salad.
As we celebrate the holidays and look ahead to January it’s time for the annual tradition of making predictions for the New Year.
Food and nutrition experts are part of the crystal ball gazing game. What will be in grocery carts and on restaurant menus in 2016? Here’s a sample of taste trends in the foodie forecast from those who know nutrition.
Clean Labels Spread to Fine Dining
“This year was marked by tons of major food companies, in addition to fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, announcing the ‘healthification’ of their menus through the banning of artificial ingredients or additives. In 2016, we can expect to see this effect ‘trickle up’ to fine dining sit-down restaurants where consumers are going to demand more than ‘locally produced’ or ‘made in house’ to signify a holistic approach to health.”
—Kelly Hensel, Senior Digital Editor, Institute of Food Technologists
Sweet New Interest in Bitter
“Bitter, once a flavor even foodies avoided, is now enjoying a place in the limelight. Bitter beverages, chocolates and greens like escarole, endive and frisee are getting more attention and will be showing up more on menus in 2016. If you’re new to bitter leafy greens combine bitter with sweet: Bitter greens go great with raisins, pears, roasted pumpkin or baked sweet potato.”
-Ashley Koff, registered dietitian for Earthbound Farm
Savory Yogurt Dishes
“Greek yogurt has been popular for quite some time, and manufacturers are now getting creative with flavors. Trends include mixing fruit with a savory twist like ginger and orange, feta and watermelon, as well as olive oil, seeds and spices. Greek yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse loaded with protein, probiotics to promote healthy gut bacteria, Vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D. New flavors will make this healthy food even more versatile: dip with crudités, use as sauce for chicken or fish.” -Tanya Zuckerbrot, registered dietitian, author the F-Factor Diet
Pulses on the Plate
The crop category for beans, peas, lentils and other legumes, pulses are moving from humble to hero status. In fact, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 the “Year of Pulses” recognizing the role of pulse crops in sustainable agriculture and healthy diets worldwide. Heart healthy pulses are gluten free and a good source of fiber, vegetable protein, B- vitamins, potassium, and iron.
Spice it Up
McCormick, the company famous for spices, shares an annual flavor forecast. For 2016 the six emerging flavor trends identified include hot and spicy flavors paired with tangy tastes. The company’s forecast report says, “Spicy finds a welcome contrast with tangy accents such as lime, rice vinegar, yuzu, tamarind, Meyer lemon, cranberry, kumquats and ponzu to elevate the eating experience.” Sambal sauce, a spicy Southeast Asian condiment is an example of this trend made with chilies, rice vinegar, sugar and garlic.
Win-Win for Taste & Health
Does it seem like advice on nutrition changes with the daily headlines? In a move to help clear up confusion about what to eat for good health in 2016, nutrition researchers met in Boston recently at a conference organized by Old Ways and Harvard University School of Public Health.. “At the end of the day, there are many different ways to eat well,” said Cynthia Harriman, Oldways Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies. “Whether you like your foods spicy or plain; whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or omnivorous; whether you live in Beijing or Boston — the good news is that there are many different foods and flavors that all lead to better health.” Bottom line: nutrition experts agreed that food can and should be good for human health, good for the planet and simply good and delicious.
If you’ve got a ‘foodie’ on your holiday gift list or someone who wants to become one in the New Year here are some simple, affordable and fun suggestions in the culinary category.
Watch the segment with Christine Pullara and me with all of the gift ideas on NBC Atlanta & Company right here!
“The designers in the housewares industry are truly ‘building a better mousetrap or cheese knife’ every day,” says Mary S. Moore, owner and founder of Atlanta based Cook’s Warehouse. “For instance the tofu press has totally changed and made effortless the process of removing moisture from tofu, from hours of squeezing to placing in a press and walking away. There are thousands of examples of this kind of ‘aha and/or duh’ innovation.”
Healthy eating begins with healthy cooking and the easier the tasks become the easier it will be to enjoy time in the kitchen preparing meals to help support weight management goals all year round.
Gifts for Healthy Cooking
Salad spinner- create a gourmet gift basket and fill the salad spinner with olive oils, mustards and vinegars for making vinaigrettes.
Slow cooker- one of the best ways to tenderize tasty cuts of lean meat in stews packed with tasty vegetables.
Non-stick pans – great for sautéing vegetables with just a little bit of oil.
Microplane grater – for zesting citrus and grating hard cheeses and whole spices.
Great gadgets – make fruit and vegetable prep a breeze and a lot of fun with produce specific gadgets such as a jalapeno corer, cherry pitter, citrus juicer, strawberry huller, avocado cuber, garlic peeler and ginger grater.
Specialty spices – more expensive spices like cardamom, vanilla, saffron, smoked paprika and curry powders are elegant gifts to add flavor without sodium and healthy antioxidants with no calories.
Immersion blender – make rich and creamy textured soups and sauces from cooked vegetables without the need for much or any cream.
Spiralizer- to make oodles of ‘zoodles’, these great gadgets turn vegetables such as zucchini into pasta-like swirls.
Cooking classes – great gift for the gourmet or the kitchen beginner.
Moore, who offers over 800 cooking classes per year, says, “Our most popular cooking class is Knife Skills 101. It’s a great building block and helps the student to become more confident in their abilities and feel more at ease in the kitchen.”
Fit for Fitness
Fitness sensors – they just keep getting better and better and even talk to your smart phone! Wearable digital fitness bands keep track of activity, food intake, and sleep patterns.
Fitness Gear – Clothes or equipment for an activity someone does or wants to try such as yoga or Pilates mat, yoga blocks, hiking poles, sports specific workout clothes and shoes.
Gifts for Gardeners
Little garden kits – Snip fresh herbs to add healthy seasonal taste to recipes. Small decorative containers of grow–your-own fresh herbs can sprout now on winter windowsills.
Big garden help – wrap up a brand new shovel, rake, or garden hose and attach vegetable seeds packets to plant in the spring.
The Ruffino Bruschetta Board by Noble Goods is hand crafted from walnut and is designed to beautifully display toppings for bruschetta such as olives, cheese, roasted red peppers and hummus. And introducing the perfect stemware for enjoying Champagne. Meet the Riedel Veritas Champagne Wine glass. Yes, even better than Champagne flutes for savoring the delicate nuances of Champagne.
The holidays are in full swing ushering in a parade of parties. Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. If your goal is to indulge without the bulge don’t forget to count the liquid calories in holiday cocktails.
The standard 1.5 ounce serving of 80-proof alcohol has 96 calories – before you add any mixers. Whether you’re drinking a beer or a Bellini; the higher the alcohol content, the higher the calories. For example: 80-proof vodka (40% alcohol; most common) contains 64 calories per ounce. 100-proof vodka (50% alcohol) contains 82 calories per ounce. Too much math? Just remember to drink a glass of water in-between cocktails to hydrate and moderate consumption.
Drinking in moderation is easier when cocktails are so delicious you want to sip slowly to savor the flavors. Case in point is a unique cocktail created by Ben Yabrow for the bar menu at Himitsu, a newly opened lounge in Buckhead.
Called the Toryufu and served in a tall flute this drink is a fragrant and sparkly mix of pear vodka with white truffle scented honey, grapefruit juice and tonic. You had me at white truffle.
Caterer Sean O’Keefe slows down the pace of holiday drinking by going ga-ga for garnishes in a whimsical set up for a build your own Bloody Mary bar. “Why not offer guests a choice of garnishes way beyond celery sticks?” says O’Keefe. “Anything that can go on a stick will work from hard boiled eggs to beef jerky or even tuck in a crab claw!”
By the way, the protein in those garnishes will help slow down the absorption of alcohol.
Dessert in Disguise
Martinis lined with chocolate sauce or Key lime pie martinis with graham cracker cookie crumbs on the rim are sweet and creamy and loaded with up to 400 calories in a five ounce drink. If you must imbibe say hello to your liquid dessert!
Now, about that pomegranate martini that sounds so heart healthy. Most studies looked at the effects of 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day for 45 days- not eight drops in a martini on a Friday night. Same goes for green tea infused vodka. There’s not enough in the mix to pack a health promoting punch. Enjoy the flavor. It’s a cocktail not a cure all.
Under 200 Libations
Martini (2.5 oz): 160 calories –This is a small martini by restaurant standards.
Red wine (5 oz):120 calories- Higher alcohol reds have more calories.
White wine (5 oz): 120 calories- Sweeter whites have more calories.
Champagne (5oz): 106-120 calories- ook for brut Champagne, lowest in sugar.
A great resource for counting calories in foods and drinks over the holidays and any day is the website of the Calorie Control Council. I am one of the nutrition advisors for the Calorie Control Council.
What are you making for Thanksgiving dinner this year? If your answer is “reservations”, you are among the 33 million Americans who rely on restaurants for all or part of their Thanksgiving feast. According to the National Restaurant Association, Thanksgiving has become the number two busiest day of the year for eateries. (Mother’s Day is number one.)
Whether you’re doing the cooking at home, taking a dish to a gathering or making restaurant reservations for Thanksgiving dinner Atlanta area chefs offer delicious ideas to add an inventive and healthy twist to menu traditions. Move beyond the green bean casserole and be inspired by the vegetable dishes chefs create with seasonal produce. After all the mission of the very first Thanksgiving feast was to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. The menu at 103 West includes a butternut squash soup garnished with fragrant truffle oil and the turkey dressing is made with Granny Smith apples and fresh rosemary. Seasons 52 serves caramelized Brussels sprouts seasoned with crispy bacon, garlic and Parmesan.
Salads are often overlooked in the parade of roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. A crisp and colorful salad perks up taste buds and lightens up the menu a bit. At Southern Art the kale salad is garnished with bourbon macerated mission figs, cherry tomatoes and pecans. The poached pear, watercress and endive salad at The Shed at Glenwood is topped with goat cheese and peanuts. Another inspiring salad idea for a Thanksgiving spread is 103 West’s Boston Butter Lettuce Salad with apples, celery, currants and toasted walnuts.
Modern Family Menus
From the head of the table to the kids’ table, there are bound to be a few folks at Thanksgiving gatherings this year who have unique dietary needs including vegetarian, vegan, nut allergies, gluten or lactose intolerance. So no doubt whoever’s cooking the meal will feel a bit challenged to please all of the pilgrims.
An easy idea for the big feast is to create a selection of ingredients so each guest can customize their plates depending on allergies or food preferences. For example, simply roast sweet potatoes and steam green beans then offer nuts, bacon crumbles, toasted breadcrumbs and shredded cheese on the side in little bowls. Just about everyone can enjoy a seasonal mix of roasted vegetables, even the kids who might claim to be “allergic” to parsnips and rutabaga.
Restaurants and caterers are used to adapting recipes for special dietary requests. Matthew and Lynda Phillips of ADAiRE Personal Chefs offer a list of gluten free side dishes on their catering menu for Thanksgiving. Need some ideas for the non-turkey eaters at the table? Vegetarians and everyone else would enjoy the lady pea and okra succotash or the Carolina gold risotto with autumn squash and sage featured on the menu at South City Kitchen.
While Thanksgiving is not a day for dieting, it’s certainly smart to up the flavor appeal of holiday favorites with creative recipes that help keep the calories down. Use smart swaps such as Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, sour cream or whipping cream in all kinds of recipes from salad dressings to pancakes. Chobani has a great offering of holiday recipes in Chobani Kitchen. I work with Chobani on some nutrition communications projects and love the fact that their Greek yogurt comes in 0%, 1%, 2% and now 4% milk fat varieties.
I love the seasonal flavors Pumpkin Spice and Cinnamon Pear as toppings on Pumpkin Pie!
Chobani’s yogurts for kids and tots in tubes and pounces are 25% lower in sugar than other yogurts marketed to children and since Greek yogurt is strained, Chobani yogurts for kids and adults is twice as high in protein as other kinds of yogurts. #client
Yes, you can indulge without the bulge.
Fill your plate with your personal holiday favorites first. Don’t waste your calories on foods you can eat all year long.
Turkey and all the trimmings may be the draw, but remember the main event should be sharing time with family and friends.
Start a new tradition by taking a walk with family and friends after the big meal and serving dessert after the stroll. You’ll feel better and dessert will taste even better.
Give thanks that even dietitians believe Thanksgiving is not a day to diet. You may not lose any pounds over the holidays, but if you maintain your weight you’re doing great.
Traditional pecan pie may have met its match because creative cooks are introducing new ways to showcase pecans.
They can literally be used from soup to nuts. Gathered at a culinary event in the Serenbe Farms community south of Atlanta organized by the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA) professional chefs rose to the recipe challenge.
Think beyond sugar laden pecan pies and pecan praline candies. “Europeans often ask me ‘why is it you take such a healthy product and turn it into such an unhealthy product?’ so I’m very interested in the recipes developed here,” said Bruce Caris, of the Green Valley Pecan Company and chairman of the NPSA.
The second culinary challenge- rather than relying on perfect pecan halves – invent sweet and savory dishes using pecan pieces and pecan meal. “We need to educate culinarians how to use the lesser known pecan ingredients,” said Christian Hallowell, executive chef for Delta Air Lines.
Pick up the Pieces
Some of the first recipes demonstrated by Leif Eric Benson, chef for Oregon’s Department of Agriculture included a soup of pureed pecan pieces flavored with chipotle peppers and roasted lamb with a topping of pecan pieces cooked with garlic and thyme.
Chefs, in a cook-off style contest worked together in teams at Serenbe’s Bosch Experience Center to create exciting new recipes with pecans and pecan products including pecan meal and pecan oil.
“Pecan pieces are very absorbent and pick up the flavors of spices when cooking,” said Benson.
Other inventive uses in the culinary world include using pecan meal as a meat extender or substitute. “Pecans can be used as a protein ingredient and we made a meatless all pecan pate today,” said Hallowell. “You roast and grind the pecan pieces to make a plant based protein dish.”
How about a pecan inspired cocktail? I made ginger ale from scratch using fresh ginger root, added sugar and fresh lime juice and then used Cathead Distillery Pecan Vodka to create a Pecan Mississippi Mule!
Trent Page, chef for Google at the company’s You Tube headquarters, created a recipe for a miso pecan vinaigrette salad dressing using pecan pieces and pecan oil.But, when making menu changes affecting thousands of employees, he’s aware allergies must be considered. “You have to be transparent in menu signage because tree nut allergies are very serious,” said Page. Here’s a great resource on tree nut allergies.
Of course we made dessert! Pastry chef extraordinaire Kami Smith of Dawn Food Products quietly worked her magic to create a pecan desserts including a sumptuous pecan bread budding!
Pecans, like other tree nuts including walnuts and almonds, are an excellent source of heart healthy fats, are rich in protein and a good source of fiber as well as other nutrients including vitamin E and potassium. What sets pecans apart from the rest of the nut pack is that they are the only nut native to North America and compared to other tree nuts have the highest concentration of antioxidants. Pecans are a win-win for taste and health.
The restaurant trend reports are tumbling in with predictions for what will be “in” on menus in 2016. Topping the charts are vegetable focused meals. The National Restaurant Association puts “locally sourced produce” in their top ten. And food industry trend specialist Andrew Freeman says, “People want less animal protein and are requesting that veggies are ramped up to their fullest creative potential.”
That taste trend has already emerged on Atlanta menus as vegetable side dishes multiply and vegetarian entrees get more chef love. Along side the meat centric South African inspired cuisine at newly opened Cape Dutch, chef Philippe Haddad offers a vegetable curry with South African spices and butternut squash ravioli with a peri-peri sauce.
Even if you begin your meal at Cape Dutch with a bite of Biltong, traditional South African beef jerky, registered dietitian Sharon Palmer author of Plant-Powered for Life says you can practice ‘flexitarian’ eating by ordering the vegetarian entrée.
“It is hopeful to see the trends going on where meat is now at the side of the plate and veggies are front and center,” says Palmer. “Chefs are in love with farmers’ markets and post the farms where their produce hails from all the time. This has made an impact on consumers. Look at what’s going on with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. They’re cool!”
Wine Pairing with Produce
A sea change from menus focused on meats and fish first to vegetables on center stage means morphing wine list suggestions too. At the Century House Tavern in Woodstock, known for locally sourced produce, general manager Jon Hayano suggests pairing the Butternut Squash Soup and Spaghetti Squash salad first course selections with brut Champagne.
“We often think of animal products such as cheese, red meat, and fish when it comes to wine pairing, but with plant foods you can also make beautiful pairings,” says Palmer. “Try pairing the seasonings and sauces with wine. A citrus sauce or Asian flavoring goes nicely with white wines; tomato and chili sauces pair well with red wines.”
Wine director and co-owner of Flyte World Dining & Wine Bar in Nashville Scott Sears, who is a vegetarian, says, “In general, when pairing wine with vegetable-based meals, you want a low-alcohol, low-tannin, not-overly-oaked, balanced wine.”
More Sip Tips from Sears:
-“Make note of the spice level. To balance the spice, select wines with a touch of sweetness to them, such as Riesling or Rose.”
-“Avoid highly tannic reds made from grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon to avoid the dry, course mouth feel tannin causes when it can’t bond with fat. Tannins can overly-emphasize any earthy favors present in the vegetable dish.”
-“The wine should add dimension to the dish without adding any elements that clash with the texture. Sparkling wine is a great option for just about any vegetable dish, as are bright, light, crisp whites.”
Freezing is “nature’s pause button” and preserves the taste, texture and nutrients in foods. Flash freezing at the time of harvest means fruits and vegetables are picked at the premium point for freshness and great taste. It also means nutrients are at their highest level. In fact studies show that some frozen fruits, including blueberries, are actually a bit higher in antioxidant and vitamin content as compared to fresh.
Frozen Foods Aisle Really Heating Up!
I was shopping recently for my favorite frozen foods staples (chopped spinach, lima beans, sweet peas, and individually quick frozen chicken breasts) and I was amazed at the selection and variety of frozen vegetables and vegetable blends including vegetable blends with beans and grains. So fast and easy to prepare! You know how long it can take to cook brown rice so I like buying the frozen precooked packages of brown rice to quickly cook up on stove top or in the microwave oven. I love butternut squash and buy it fresh all of the time to roast in the oven, but I also keep packaged frozen butternut squash which is cut up into cubes to add to soups or to prep quickly as a dinner side dish.
Also, a big improvement is that frozen vegetables in cream sauce or cheese sauce seem to be on the wane. And there’s a new wave in chef-inspired frozen entrees such as Lean Cuisine‘s line of delicious and nutritious culinary creations such as Chicken Pecan with white and wild rice, pecans, sweet potatoes, apples and cranberries. One of my favorites is the Sweet & Spicy Korean-Style Beef. To balance the meal just add some vegetables on the side such as broccoli florets or green beans. #balanceyourplate
Did you know that Lean Cuisine entrees have been pleasing palates for three decades? And guess what? Chefs and dietitians working together in the Nestle USA Culinary Center in Solon, Ohio have developed recipes to lower the sodium content from 1000 mg of sodium per serving to less than 600 mg per serving by adding flavors from herbs and spices. Now that is a win-win for taste and health!
Let’s Make a Pizza!
Frozen pizzas are one of the most popular items in the frozen food aisle. I like buying thin crust cheese pizzas and topping with lots of vegetables to create a fabulous and balanced pizza meal. Toss a side salad for even more good nutrition and great taste. Here are two ideas with DiGiorno Thin Crust Four Cheese pizza. #sponsored
Healthy dining advice on the pizza box tells us that one serving is one fifth of the pizza. Delicious by the way!
Taco Pizza – top with precooked ground meat seasoned with chili powder, salt and pepper or a taco seasoning mix, place green pepper slices on top of the meat and bake pizza according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped tomatoes, salsa, avocado slices and fresh cilantro.
Tuscan Pizza– top the pizza with fresh mushroom slices and bake according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped canned artichoke hearts, sliced black olives, thinly sliced deli ham (optional) , and lots of arugula.
Here’s a great resource from Nestle USA that reveals 7 Facts why Frozen is Fabulous for taste, health, easy meals, reducing food waste and saving money.
There are lots of recipes in The Slim Down South Cookbook that feature frozen ingredients including Tomato-Lima Bean Relish ( made with frozen lima beans ) and Sweet Pea Crostini, which is a hummus like spread made from frozen green peas, olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt and pepper. It’s an appetizing vibrant green color and a hit at parties. Top with feta cheese crumbles. For a holiday look and for vegans, top with pretty red pomegranate arils!