IMG_2439

Explore Ireland’s Countryside in Style

Irish Countryside Serves Up Local Fare and Active Outings

IMG_2457

It’s the weather that keeps the Emerald Isle so green, the gardens lush and the creamy dairy products so delicious.

IMG_2683

“It’s a soft day,” said Damien Bastiat general manager of Ballyfin hotel, an elegantly restored country estate set in the middle of Ireland.

IMG_2700

Bastiat was referring to a gentle mist of rain calling for a light jacket but not enough to require an umbrella.

IMG_2578

He led us on a tour to explore the walled gardens and expansive landscaped grounds including a climb up a stone tower built as an architectural folly.

IMG_2372

The formal kitchen gardens boast a gourmet grocery of vegetables, herbs, apple trees, and even artichokes.

IMG_2585

IMG_2584

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Irish producers are just starting to promote their own,” said Ballyfin executive chef Michael Tweedie.  His ‘garden to plate’ menus star farmhouse cheeses, and yogurt from Irish dairies, shellfish and sea salt from the coast, eggs from the estate and Thomas Salter’s free-range pork from a nearby farm.

IMG_2499

“It’s nice to meet the farmers and hear their stories,” said Tweedie.

Just the right touch of Irish butter or cream adds indulgence to lovely desserts at Ballyfin.

IMG_2489

More local tastes include braised lamb from Kilkenny with wild garlic, mint and peas.

IMG_2488

(Nutrition note: Irish sea salt is very salty so you only have to use a little to add flavor to foods. I bought the adorable little silver butter dish below at the Ballyfin gift shop. Had to have it. Helps you savor butter’s flavor even more.)

IMG_2483

To the Manor!

Step inside Ballyfin’s neo-classical manor house…

IMG_2355

IMG_2441

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….originally built in the 1820’s, and step back in time for cocktails in the Gold Room overlooking the lake or the library with a secret door that opens into the glass conservatory.

FullSizeRender-4

Guests can time travel to dinner by donning formal wear from the hotel’s collection of period costumes. I felt as if I’d burst into song. Must have been the song bird perched on my head.

FullSizeRender-5

More echoes of history: Ballyfin spent time as a boy’s boarding school.

IMG_2454

The hotel’s serene indoor swimming pool sits in what was the student’s (no doubt raucous then) dining hall. Ballyfin is truly a magical place where you can escape the world and enter your own surrounded by peace and grace.

IMG_2361

 

Irish Country Estates: Gardens and Guns 

IMG_2638
Clay shooting at Ballyfin. Pull!!!
IMG_1510
Walk this way…with a falcon at Ashford Castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a country estate experience without a few sporting activities?

Now let’s visit dreamy Ashford Castle. 

IMG_1475

IMG_1588
Crystal clear waters of Lough Corrib

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At stately Ashford Castle (a member of Leading Hotels of the World) on the shores of Lough Corrib in southwest Ireland in County Mayo guests can golf, fish, learn archery, shoot at sporting clays or try their hand (safely cloaked in a leather glove) at Ireland’s School of  Falconry.

 

 

IMG_1418

IMG_1413

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dating back to the 13th century, Ashford Castle with soaring turrets, stone towers and sunken gardens…

IMG_1518

is now brought to life for today’s travelers (who want luxury and technology) with a loving restoration led by Beatrice Tollman of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection. The restoration brought a new roof, new windows and interiors lavish with antique filled guest rooms and a luxurious spa and indoor swimming pool. Details of the decor are a joy to discover such as the tiny tassels on the canopy over the bed in my suite.

IMG_1507

IMG_1387IMG_1511

There’s a wine cellar to explore and taste a world of vintages and then join the guests for dinner in the elegant George V dining room where the table is set in luxurious style.

IMG_1542

…..or hide away in the casual and cozy ( yes!) Dungeon restaurant.

IMG_1674

 

IMG_1666

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a taste tour of the Irish countryside, sample woodland mushroom soup or the wild game terrine with plum gel and purple potato chips…and salmon of course!

A full Irish breakfast at Ashford Castle includes the luxury of baked ham served to you from a silver and mahogany trolley.

IMG_1569
Did I mention the ham cart? (:

Good thing there are 350 acres of land to explore on horseback, by bicycle or via running shoes before the next enchanting Irish meal. More salmon please…..

IMG_1545

But perhaps my most precious memories from my trips to Ireland are those of the friendly Irish people who laugh, tell a story and make you feel at home in their home.

IMG_2466
I’ll be back Ireland….or my name isn’t Carolyn O’Neil!

 

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_1129

Green Light for Tourism Ireland: Delicious Dublin

IMG_1335

There may be a touch of rain as you stroll the storied streets of Dublin, but the Emerald Isle is enjoying sunny times in tourism.

IMG_1333

Restaurants, hotels and attractions are teed up to greet visitors with their legendary Irish charm, including new enthusiasm for sharing Ireland’s culinary scene.

IMG_1081

A survey conducted by The Leading Hotels of the World found that 89 percent prioritize culinary experiences as a main motivation for travel, and Ireland is set to satisfy.  Survey here. 

There are lively pubs to enjoy folk music…

IMG_1310
I thought this place looked O’good.

…..a pint of Guinness, perfectly poured…

IMG_1222

with traditional Irish stew or Cottage Pie…

IMG_1216

Or Hey! even gluten-free fish and chips!

IMG_1326

One of the most popular taste tours in town is Dublin’s own Guinness Storehouse…..

IMG_1229

…..where visitors learn how the world famous brew was born and continues to be the best. And I had my first sip of Guinness ever. Honest.

IMG_1218
I really got into being a Guinness fan.

Cafes, bars and restaurants within the Guinness Storehouse (including a bar with floor to ceiling glass panoramic views of Dublin)

IMG_1221

……serve up food and beer pairings, of course. Including the perfect pairing of oysters and Guinness.

IMG_1209

Or maybe you’d rather indulge in chocolate dessert…..paired and made with Guinness. 

IMG_1217

But the big draw for those who go to for the gastronomy is the local-meets-modern cuisine created by Dublin’s innovative chefs.

Dynamic Dublin Dining 

IMG_1161
Cosmic Apple with Pistachio Dessert  at  Michelin Two-Star Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin exemplifies contemporary Irish cuisine.

Irish Art at the Table

IMG_1275

Art Afternoon tea in the elegant Georgian Drawing Room at The Merrion Hotel Dublin (a member of Leading Hotels of the World) surprises guests with intricate little cakes by executive pastry chef Paul Kelly designed to mimic paintings in the hotel’s extensive collection of 19th and 20th century Irish and European art.

IMG_1274

Kelly, a judge on Ireland’s TV series The Great Irish Bakeoff, paints and sculpts with confections to create edible works of art.

IMG_1096

Stepping into this hotel is a step back into Irish history. Originally built as four townhouses in the 1760’s, the Merrion preserves old world architectural charm with antiques and landscaped gardens enhanced by modern luxuries including a spa and swimming pool.

IMG_1244

At the hotel’s Cellar Bar you can tuck into Irish Halibut with Dublin Bay prawn broth, barley and peas for lunch and walk to nearby Trinity College or St. Stephen’s Green.

IMG_1139

IMG_1086

FullSizeRender-6

Return for dinner at two-star Michelin ranked Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud….

IMG_1155

…where Ireland’s beef, lamb, and seafood are globally inspired in dishes such as Turbot Poached in Aromatic Milk
 with Leeks, Ginger, and Yuzu Hollandaise. Now these are delectable lucky charms…..

IMG_1159

Modern-Day Dublin

IMG_1338

If you crave a contemporary perch in Dublin then head to the trendy Docklands district, the Irish home of Facebook and Google and The Marker, an ultra modern hotel (and member of Leading Hotels of the World) with hip lobby lounge, sleek brasserie and panoramic city-views from the roof top garden.

IMG_1344

Enjoy a sunset cocktail on the rooftop over looking the Dublin skyline and country hills in the distance.

IMG_1343

Then watch out! Things can change in seconds as clouds roll in and pelts of hail fall from the sky!

IMG_1345

But in the time it takes to enjoy that last sip of Champagne the Marker staff doesn’t miss a beat picking up cushions and guiding guests to the elevator where dinner waits below in the The Marker’s chic brasserie.

IMG_1352

Executive chef Gareth Mullins pleases palates seeking healthy alternatives such as a green salad with Broccoli sprouts, bee pollen and wheatgrass.

FullSizeRender-2

The menu also celebrates the rich tastes of Dublin Bay lobster with Irish country butter and locally raised Wicklow Lamb with delicious dots of a savory sauce of roasted onion and stout.

IMG_1354

Next post from the Emerald Isle adventure takes me into the Irish countryside for elegant and exciting outdoor pursuits. Oh, and several tastes of Ireland’s fabulous farmhouse cheeses.

IMG_1510
Where are my falcons????!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_5203

Wellness Travel is Healthy Trend

IMG_8311

Good-bye ‘fat farms’ and hello ‘soft wellness’ as more travelers choose vacation destinations that meet a revised definition of health. That includes spending more time connecting with nature. Above, my vacation is literally for the birds in The Galapagos Islands.

“It’s really changed,” said Jean Pickard, luxury travel consultant with SmartFlyer of Atlanta. “It used to be hard core where you worked out for a week. Now wellness travel has blossomed into going places to take a hike and have a nice lunch paired with wine. It’s a soft wellness.” Pickard was one of nearly five thousand travel  professionals who attended Virtuoso Travel Week, the annual conference of Virtuoso travel advisors and destination properties.

IMG_5287
Jean Pickard (right) met with representatives of travel destinations world wide at Virtuoso Travel Week.

Boom in Well Being

More travelers are literally taking the time to stop and smell the roses. That’s a healthy trend for spa-centered hotels such as the Evian Resort on Lake Geneva where some of the swimming pools in town are filled with (you guessed it) water from the Evian springs. “Guests wake up and the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing,” says Samuel Berne, of Evian Resort.

IMG_5202

Virtuoso, an international network of travel advisors and destination properties, predicts the wellness travel niche, representing 15 percent of global tourism, will reach $680 billion by next year.

“Simply defined, wellness travel encompasses physical, mental and social well-being, as well as spiritual health,” says Virtuoso’s Albert Herrera.

What’s on the menu has also changed with the wellness trend. “It used to be the vegetarian was the odd man out but now there’s not a table today where people are not watching what they eat including lactose free and gluten free,” said Roland Fasel, general manager of The Dorchester Hotel in London. “This all happened very quickly and you have to be ready to deliver with specific menus.”

Pickard is currently planning a trip to Japan for a client who doesn’t eat sushi and is gluten-free.

In Vietnam the question might be ‘where can I go for the safest street food?’

“It’s really a big deal. We tell the concierge the most important thing they can do is help guests with their food experience,” said Anthony Slewka-Armfelt, of the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi.

“If I’m into culinary it’s not just hotel menus, it’s providing information on what’s happening in the community,” said Chris Cahill, chief executive officer of Accor Hotels.

FullSizeRender
Wellness trends include savoring little luxuries such as lobster risotto at Rivea restaurant, menu from Alain Ducasse, at the Delano Las Vegas Hotel.

Sound Sleep

The quest for wellness includes a good night’s sleep. “Lack of sleep is no longer a badge of honor. My travel clients want to get away from sleep deprivation and it’s goes beyond bed linen thread count to classes in meditation,” said Pickard.

There are even places that offer ‘electronic detox’ where you check your phone and other devices at the door as a part of a wellness vacation.

I feel better already. Are you packed? Don’t forget your running shoes.

This article also published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Healthy Eating column.

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_5098

Endless Summer Produce

IMG_5094

It may be time for back to school for lots of families nationwide, but summer is still in full swing in farmer’s markets and the supermarket produce section.  Peaches, berries, summer squash and melons – all kinds of melons are ripe for the picking and deliciously nutritious.  I’ve shared a couple of recipes from The Slim Down South Cookbook below.

IMG_5076

Back to work after summer vacation often means busy weeknights. But that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to the fresh tastes of summer produce. Why not celebrate the fabulously fresh with the wonderfully easy to prepare microwavable frozen entrees such as Lean Cuisine Sweet & Spicy Korean-Style Beef? It comes with brown rice and vegetables and I added a cup of snow peas to balance the plate. The Lean Cuisine website is beautiful with lots of nutrition information to explore. “Freshly made, simply frozen” is a great way to describe the variety of entrees inspired by global cuisines and close to home comfort foods.

Nestle’s Balance Your Plate campaign provides great information on nutrition, portion control and creative combos for satisfying meals.  I added a parfait of fresh berries and a cup of steamed summer squash and zucchini with onions to a plate starring Lean Cuisine Roasted Turkey and Vegetables.

IMG_5083

You can add your own creativity to the table too. Lean Cuisine’s Vermont Cheddar Mac n Cheese is beautiful when you add broccoli florets. Or even if it’s a weeknight why not enjoy Lobster Mac n Cheese?  I bought a lobster tail for $6.99, boiled it in water (with some lemon juice added) for about six minutes until the shell turns bright red and the meat is translucent. Plunge the lobster tail in ice water to cool. Remove the meat from the tail by slicing through the center of the shell longwise and pull out the meat. Chop it up and add to the mac n cheese! Fancy but soooo easy.

IMG_5086

SUMMER PRODUCE RECIPES from The Slim Down South Cookbook: As seen on NBC Atlanta & Company with host Christine Pulara! 

Here’s the link to the TV Segment: CLICK HERE

IMG_5102

Grilled Watermelon with Balsamic Glaze

Adding a bit of savory blue cheese and salty prosciutto (optional) to sweet watermelon makes for a wonderful combination. Brush the watermelon wedges with a bit of oil to keep them from sticking to the grill.

Makes 12 servings

Hands-On 20 min.

Total 20 min.

3 (½-inch-thick) watermelon rounds, quartered

1 Tbsp. olive oil

⅛ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto

2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

Fresh basil leaves

2 tsp. bottled balsamic glaze

  1. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat. Brush both sides of each watermelon quarter with olive oil, and season with desired amount of salt and pepper. Cut prosciutto into thin strips.2. Grill watermelon quarters, without grill lid, 1 minute on each side or until grill marks appear.3. Transfer watermelon to a serving plate; top with blue cheese, prosciutto strips, and fresh basil. Drizzle watermelon with balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.Serving size 1 wedge CALORIES 44; FAT 3g (sat 1.2g, mono 1.2g, poly 0.2g); PROTEIN 7g; CARB 2g; FIBER 0.1g; CHOL 7mg; IRON 0.2mg; SODIUM 213mg; CALC 28mg

 

Tipsy Melon Salad

Cantaloupe is packed with vitamins A & C for eye and skin healthy, plus it’s is a good source of the B vitamin folate, which is critical for pregnant women. It’s high water content also makes it super hydrating for hot summer months.

Raspberry liqueur and vodka give this colorful spiked fruit salad its lighthearted moniker. Liven up a weeknight dinner party, or skip the booze if it’s a ‘school night’.

Makes 6 servings

Hands-On 16 min.

Total 1 hour, 16 min.

2 cups cubed honeydew

2 cups cubed cantaloupe

1.3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

⅔ cup sugar

½ cup vodka ( optional)

⅓ cup black raspberry liqueur (optional)

¹/₁₆ tsp. fine sea salt

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

1. Place melon cubes in a large bowl.

2. Whisk together lemon juice and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Pour lemon juice mixture over watermelon balls; stir gently to coat. Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours.

3. Gently toss melon. Sprinkle with chopped fresh mint. Serve immediately with a slotted spoon.

Serving size about 1 cup CALORIES 228; FAT 0.1g (sat 0g, mono 0g, poly 0g); PROTEIN 0.7g; CARB 41.5g; FIBER 0.7g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0.5mg; SODIUM 25mg; CALC 14m

Many thanks to Nestle and Lean Cuisine. It’s a pleasure working with you to help happy, healthy folks learn to Balance Your Plate!

BYP-LP_V7_03

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_2973

Mexico City Healthy Gourmet

 

IMG_3025

Demand for fried churros dusted in sugar and dipped into chocolate sauce begins at breakfast and continues all day at Mexico City’s historic El Moro churreria open since 1935.

IMG_2980

Street food carts at busy intersections in this sprawling city of nine million serve up sweet corn slathered in butter and crispy chicharron fried pork skins.

IMG_3107

Bustling food markets such as the Mercado Merced boast rows of colorful candies to exquisitely shaped marshmallows.

IMG_3110

But Wait!!! There’s Good Nutrition News too!

IMG_2965 But, there’s a healthy side to Mexican food emerging in this city’s exciting culinary scene. Fish flown in daily from the Pacific coast is simply grilled and presented on top of wilted greens and sliced golden potatoes with a side of locally foraged mushrooms at chef Jair Tellez’s newly opened Amaya restaurant and wine bar.

IMG_2957

“We serve good food and strange wine,” said Tellez, who offers an entirely Mexican wine list.

IMG_2973

A light dessert at Amaya is a sampling of Mexico’s unique fruits including bright pink prickly pear and dark orange mamey served with a touch of fresh cheese scented with anise.

Rooftop Vineyard in the City

IMG_3213

At Vinicola Urbana, a restaurant set in a demonstration vineyard planted on a rooftop, the Baja California grown wines are paired with traditional dishes for modern palates including squash blossom soup and yellow rice wrapped in nopales (cactus leaves).

IMG_3204

Mexico City’s Healthy Moves

IMG_3233

There’s a fitness trend in Mexico City. Central streets are closed to traffic and open to cyclists and pedestrians only on Sundays.

IMG_3246

The St. Regis Mexico City hosts yoga classes with skyline views and the bartenders mix up breakfast fruit smoothies including one with orange, papaya, agave honey and oatmeal.

IMG_3311

Quinoa salad with dried mango chips and an avocado topped pizza are popular menu items at the hotel’s J&G Grill.

FullSizeRender

“Many people who travel a lot like to take care of themselves,” said Manuel Aceves, a St. Regis Mexico City dining manager.

On the streets there’s healthy fare to find, too.

IMG_3050

A day spent with Eat Mexico Culinary Tours led our group to a woman on a street corner shaping and cooking blue corn tortillas filled with huitlocoche (corn fungus) and to a tiny shop specializing in Pavos (turkey) Tortas (sandwiches) made with roast turkey, avocado and chipotle salsa.

IMG_3423

Delicioso.

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_3347

Marvelous Mexico City Cuisine

IMG_2953
The vibrant art, historic monuments and architectural treasures of Mexico City continue to lure visitors in search of inspiring cultural experiences.

IMG_3407

Sampling the country’s culinary treasures is a portal to the past as well.

IMG_3007IMG_3003

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexico’s cuisine is influenced by centuries of food customs from the indigenous Mayan to Spanish conquerors.

IMG_3304

Today chefs leading the lively food scene in Mexico City add contemporary flair to taste traditions.

IMG_3347

Recently opened Fonda Mayora is set in a park filled residential neighborhood of Mexico City.

IMG_3328

Chef Gerardo Vazquez Lugo and his team of young chefs serve smoked oysters, roast pork stuffed with chorizo and pineapple ……

IMG_3353

…and grilled whole fish presented with black beans, tender blue corn tortillas and a fresh selection of green and red salsas.

IMG_3339

For the adventurous, there’s a sauce spiced with tiny ants. It’s the one on the left in the middle. The little dots are ants. Dig in!

IMG_3336

“Mexican food is a way to get right to the spirit of the country,” said Paco de Santiago with Eat Mexico culinary tours. It’s a taste discovery that defies the stereotypes. “There’s a myth that Mexican food means hard taco shells, sour cream and all spicy food,” said Eat Mexico tour guide Anais Martinez.


IMG_3005
One of the most sought after reservations in Mexico City is at intimate Pujol where internationally renowned chef Enrique Olvera celebrates Mexican ingredients using ancient and modern techniques.

Courses included octopus with ink tostado, smoked baby corn with coffee and chile mayonnaise, a lamb taco with avocado leaf adobo and avocado puree and a suckling pig taco with smoked tortilla, chickpea puree, coriander and red jalapeno. One of the showstopper dishes was a circle of richly bright ‘new’ mole sauce surrounded by a dark and intense ‘mother’ mole sauce made 990 days ago.

IMG_3001

“Mole sauces are made with over forty ingredients including tomatoes, onions, nuts and seeds and not always chocolate as many people think,” said Santiago.
Mexico City Markets

IMG_3093

 

IMG_3105

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best ways to leap into local cuisine is to visit a city food market such as the Mercado San Juan where Mexican avocados and limes are piled high, moles come in an assortment of flavors, tortillas are hand made and just caught Pacific coast seafood glistens on mountains of crushed ice.

IMG_3269

Chefs from the St. Regis Mexico City hotel lead guests on market tours including a lesson in choosing the freshest fish and a sampling of Mexican cheeses.

IMG_3292

“This one is like a Spanish manchego,” said executive chef Sylvain Desbois, who leads the hotel’s elegant La Table Krug eleven course Krug Champagne tasting menu.

IMG_3375

The dessert courses (yes there’s more than one dessert) include a salute to Mexican chocolate as warm chocolate sauce is poured over and into a sponge cake shaped like a cacao pod.

IMG_3389

Need more chocolate?

IMG_3164

The Mucho Chocolate Museum of Mexico City is a chocolate lovers dream come true with rooms filled with delicious displays about chocolate history, chocolate agriculture and chocolate cuisine over the centuries.

IMG_3155

Don’t miss spending a few moments of bliss in the little room with walls covered in fragrant deep dark chocolate.

FullSizeRender

I think I’ve found my new home in Mexico City! Truly a magical culinary destination.

IMG_3148

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_0998

Farmer’s Market Pizza!


carrots-radishes

Summer time is prime time for farmer’s markets offering an eye-popping selection of simply delicious fruits and vegetables bursting with fresh flavors.

IMG_4635

So why not dress your favorite easy to prep foods -hello family pizza night! -in summer’s vibrant colors and flavors? Why not sliced strawberries on a pepperoni pizza?

Sweet goes well with spicy. Read on…..

IMG_0998

On a recent trip to Chicago to appear on WGN-TV’s Lunch Break segment, I dined at The Girl and The Goat restaurant the night before my TV appearance and was excited to see that celebrated chef Stephanie Izard had garnished her super tasty goat empanadas with fresh strawberries. I ordered a sweet and spicy margarita called Ring of Fire to go with the dish. Perfecto!

FullSizeRenderIMG_4551

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK….back to pizza night, now that we know my culinary inspiration of strawberries with savory bites was spot on!  Click HERE: Welcome to WGN TV’s Lunch Break segment.

IMG_4573

Set up right in the busy WGN newsroom for the LIVE segment, food stylist Robert Haynes and I dressed the demo table for a segment called PLAY with YOUR FOOD, complete with a Twister game tablecloth. Spin the little arrow and if it  lands on yellow, you pick the yellow peppers to top your DiGiorno Four Cheese Rising Crust Pizza.

 

 

Spin and it’s red, pick the red peppers. Spin and it’s blue, well, just eat the blueberries!

IMG_4564

Farmer’s Market Finds Help Balance Your Plate

IMG_2744

Working with Nestle on their nutrition education Balance Your Plate campaign,

BYP-LP_V7_03

I presented ideas to add more fruits and vegetables to family pizza night with delicious, nutritious and fun ideas. How about pizza with your salad? OK, of course! But, what about pizza IN your salad? Pizzanella Salad is a super smart recipe from Nestle that’s a no-brainer to use leftover or just baked frozen pizza in a creative, exciting way. The pizza, cut up in bite size pieces, becomes the croutons with cheesy, tomato goodness.

A slice may be a 'portion' but a serving is how many YOU get to eat based based on age and activity level.
A slice may be a ‘portion’ but a serving is how many YOU get to eat based based on age and activity level.

Want to know more about mindful pizza portions? How many slices to eat? Well, of course that depends whether you’re a four year old or a forty year old! And depends on how active you are in your everyday life. Here’s a handy dandy pizza portion/serving guide from Nestle’s Balance Your Plate collection of nutrition resources.

And if you do want a salad with your slice of pizza ,  how about my recipe for Sweet ‘n Spicy Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Golden Raisins and Sunflower Seeds?  Here’s a beautifully balanced plate with California Pizza Kitchen’s BBQ Chicken Pizza and the slaw.

IMG_4571

So have fun with pizza night this summer and remember to think Farmer’s Market finds by adding seasonal produce to pizza!

Recipes Here:

Play with Your Food segment with registered dietitian Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN

July 2016 WGN-TV  LunchBreak Segment

 

Pizza-Nella Salad

Whether you’re looking for a new way to enjoy your freshly baked cheese pizza, or something other than its leftovers straight from the fridge, this salad helps to make that slice more satisfying, nutritious and delicious!

 Yield: 1 large entrée salad

Timing: Prep time = 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 slice (1/6 of pie) prepared DiGiorno 4 Cheese Rising Crust Pizza

½ cup grape tomatoes

¼ medium onion, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp olive oil

2 cups bite-size pieces Romaine lettuce

2 tbsp. basil pesto

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

 

Method of Production (Instructions)

Preheat oven to 450 deg F. On baking sheet, place tomatoes, onion and garlic, drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until onions are tender. Remove from oven and cool. Cut tomatoes in half.

 

Cut pizza into bite sized pieces. Mix pesto and red wine vinegar. In a large bowl, toss lettuce, tomatoes, onion and garlic, and pizza with pesto vinaigrette. Wait 10 minutes before serving, to allow bread to absorb dressing. Serve on a dinner plate, and enjoy!

 

Sweet ‘n Spicy Brussels Sprouts Slaw  with Golden Raisins and Sunflower Seeds

FullSizeRender

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.

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_3487

Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Elevates Taste and Health

Aspen Heights of Food & Wine

FullSizeRender-2

They come for the food, the wine and the wisdom.

IMG_3508

“A young chef adds and adds and adds to the plate. As you get older, you start to take away,” said French born chef Jacques Pepin, author of over twenty cookbooks and celebrated host of over 300 television cooking shows. The audience of loyal foodie fans for Pepin’s cooking class with daughter Claudine filled a ballroom at the St. Regis Hotel, just one of many culinary seminars featured at the 34th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Assisting her father in demonstrating how to make vinaigrette salad dressings Claudine Pepin advised, “Use a really good olive oil. You know the one you’re saving because it’s too good to use everyday? Well, throw that away because it’s rancid by now and go buy a new one.”

IMG_3605

Over five thousand food lovers and wine aficionados attend the festival to meet top named chefs and wine makers from around the world. Spirits have taken a more central role with the rise of interest in craft cocktails.

IMG_3603

Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem created food pairings including honey glazed salmon and pork ribs with ginger and peach to match sips of Glenmorangie single malt scotch and a citrus infused whiskey cocktail.

IMG_3645 IMG_3657

“Summer time is barbecue time and the spiciness goes with the sweetness and smokiness of the scotch whiskey,” said Samuelsson.

 

Fresh New Heights of Cuisine

IMG_3487 IMG_3461 IMG_3459

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aspen’s chefs know to put on a show when their rocky mountain town fills up with world-class foodies. “They literally eat it up,” said Matt Zubrod, executive chef of The Little Nell Hotel. “It’s a cool crowd who ask really good questions about food such as ‘where did you get the meat for this tartar?’”

IMG_3452
Executive Chef Matt Zubrod, Element 47 restaurant, The Little Nell Hotel, Aspen

Zubrod’s menu at the Relais and Chateau hotel’s Element 47 restaurant features plates as pretty as the Aspen scenery garnished with edible flowers and fresh herbs such as pineapple sage and chocolate mint and grown steps away from the tables. And just as the mountain air requires adding a layer of clothing with changing temperatures, Zubrod layers flavors in dishes, “Its evolved where I like to do a layer of pureed, then cooked and then raw of the same ingredient such as peas, corn or artichoke.”

FullSizeRender

Halibut cheeks are served on a layer of pureed ratatouille with fresh corn and fava beans.

 

IMG_3613
Nilou Motamed, Editor in Chief, Food & Wine Magazine enjoys the tasting tents and saying hello!

Health and wellness was in focus on a panel led by Food & Wine Magazine’s editor in chief Nilou Motamed who noted, “I think in the last ten years the conversation have moved from a message of moderation to where our food is coming from.”

 

 

 

Octogenarian Jacques Pepin replied,

“It can go to far if we wonder where every carrot is from. I’m not a doctor, I’m a chef, but my best advice is finish your food.”

Thank you Jacques, that’s the best view in Aspen.

IMG_3735

 

 

 

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
burgersimages

Why Summer is Food Safety Central

e5ce8373f1e3d904eb0dd2a4828f28e9

Summer time is prime time to relax in a hammock or at the beach but it’s certainly not the time to relax food safety concerns.

Due to a variety of factors, most notably the sweltering temperatures outside, the website foodsafety.gov, ramps up consumer education efforts and reports that the risk of food born illness increases during the summer months.

The infamous ‘danger zone’ where bacteria and other bad bugs thrive and multiply lies between 40 degrees and 140 degrees F.

burgersimages

So, leaving picnic or backyard barbecue foods out in the summer heat is tempting fate.

Generally food safety experts advise foods not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours, but when the mercury reaches 90 that time frame is shortened to no more than one hour.

The same goes for carrying groceries home in the car or transporting restaurant leftovers to your home refrigerator. Get all foods home in under an hour, or place them on ice in a cooler in your car.

Make sure not to invite a bout of food borne illness to your summer festivities, even if you have to politely remind your host.

Here are some important reminders from foodsafety.gov.

When bringing food to a picnic or cookout:

  • Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs.  Frozen food can also be used as a cold source.
  • Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches; summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood); cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products.
  • A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one.  When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter.
  • Avoid opening the cooler repeatedly so that your food stays colder longer.

When cooking on the grill:

  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
  • Keep perishable food cold until it is ready to cook.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly to their safe minimum internal temperatures
    • Beef, Pork, Lamb, & Veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 °F with a 3 minute rest time
    • Ground meats: 160 °F
    • Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165 °F
  • Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.

When serving food outdoors:

  • Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours.  In hot weather (above 90 °F), food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.

Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the cooler.  After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served – at 140 °F or warmer.

Leftovers:

If there is still plenty of ice in the cooler when you get home, and the food did not sit out at the picnic, the food is still safe to store in the refrigerator.

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_3136

Vacation Weight Gain Slight but Steady

IMG_3989

Vacation souvenirs from T-shirts to snow globes that prove you’ve ‘been there’ are lots of fun to collect over the years. Unfortunately for many adults picking up a few extra pounds on vacation is an unwanted souvenir of good times spent on holiday road. According to a University of Georgia study, the small but steady creep of weight gain most adults experience over the years often sneaks in when we relax diet and fitness habits on vacation.

The study of 122 participants between the ages of 18 and 65—average age of 32—found that folks going on a one- to three-week vacation gained an average of nearly one pound during their trips. A few actually lost weight and some in the group gained as much as seven pounds.

Guess it depends whether you choose the spa menu or an all-you-can-eat buffet vacation.

“If you’re only gaining a pound or two a year and you gained three-quarters of that on a one- to three-week vacation, that’s a pretty substantial weight gain during a short period of time,” said Jamie Cooper, an associate professor of nutrition in University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Previous diet studies have confirmed weight gain during the ‘turkey, gravy and all the trimmings’ holiday season, but this is the first to link weight gain to short-term vacations. So much for ‘the summer of fun’.

What about all of that summer walking, hiking, biking, swimming, tennis, golf and paddle boarding so many people enjoy during their free time away from work and home? Sorry, more sobering news: the weight gain occurred despite a trend for slightly increased physical activity during vacation.

 

“You might be a little bit more active but it’s not enough to compensate for the extra calories you might be eating or drinking on vacation,” said Cooper.

Another weight gain whammy: the study showed a decrease in physical activity in the weeks following vacation.

Hold the Pina Coladas

No big surprise but clearly a big impact on calorie intake, the study found participants ate and drank more when living it up on vacation. Alcohol consumption doubled from an average of eight drinks a week to 16 per week.

“One of the challenges people face is unless you’re diligent about weighing yourself before and after vacation, usually you’re not going to notice a pound of weight gain,” Cooper said. “People don’t realize it’s happening, and that’s why they don’t lose weight following a vacation.”

To help prevent body fat from taking a ‘stay-cation’ Cooper suggests weighing before and after a vacation or any long trip away from home, “If you’ve gained three pounds then work really hard in the next couple of weeks to take those three pounds off because if it stays on long enough it gets really hard to take off.”

Oh and have a good time!

Cooper noted there were some benefits to vacations. Study participants showed significantly reduced stress levels and a slight reduction in systolic blood pressure that lasted even six weeks post-vacation.

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_2817

Southern Vegetables Celebrated at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

IMG_2783
Rebecca Lang, author of Southern Living’s The Southern Vegetable Cookbook

 

“The larger the radish, the spicier it is. Who here is afraid of radishes?” asked Rebecca Lang, author of The Southern Vegetable Cookbook. Leading a sold out class on ‘Vegetable Versatility” at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, Lang saw there were no hands in the air. This was a room full of enthusiastic food fans eager to taste and learn veggie-centric cooking tips from chef Todd Richards of Atlanta’s White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails restaurant and visiting chef Digby Stridiron of the U.S. Virgin Islands. While Stridiron sliced into plantains and advised, “Buy the green ones in the market and let them ripen at home”, Richards passed samples of his English pea soup garnished with fresh pea tendrils and shared, “We try to use as much of the whole vegetable together.”

IMG_2820

In its sixth year, the four-day festival features chefs from the southern region and entertains guests with lavish southern themed dinners, cooking classes and wine, beer and spirits tastings.

IMG_2901
Cold beer and hot chicken!

Please note my food festival balancing act skills as I carried a Honeysuckle cocktail made with Cathead Vodka and chicken liver pate with a cup of ice in the middle to keep things cool!

IMG_2835
How it’s done.

Sure there’s plenty of BBQ pig and peach cobbler to please, but there’s a sizable celebration of the lighter side of the south, too.

IMG_2837

IMG_2893
Golden Lentil Salad, Odette

 

“Everyone things of pork first, but vegetables are the surprising foundation of southern foods, said chef Linton Hopkins of Atlanta’s Holman & Finch Public House, Restaurant Eugene and newly opened Linton’s in the Atlanta Botanical Garden. “I love vegetables and right now I’m excited about the in-season peas, especially lady peas.”

 

Even the Grilling Terrace at the Loews Atlanta Hotel -home base for the festival classes- put vegetables in the spotlight. Chef Rob McDaniel of the Spring House on Alabama’s Lake Martin smoked whole beets in a Big Green Egg to build a beet sandwich with celery and blue cheese slaw. “You can substitute eggplant or zucchini. Grilling is a great way to enhance vegetables because earthy and smoky flavors go really well together,” said McDaniel.

IMG_2817

New Southern Styles

No longer destined to be ‘cooked to death’ and coated in bacon fat, vegetables are elegantly prepared by southern chefs today. Instead of ham hocks, McDaniel prepares greens and beans with smoked turkey or chicken legs. The crisp and refreshing golden lentil salad served up in the tasting tents by chef Josh Quick of Odette in Florence, Alabama was garnished with a Gulf shrimp relish and tiny touch of ham.

 

Salt and sugar are still part of the recipe when cooking a ‘mess of greens’ but Arkansas chef Mark Abernathy of Red Door restaurant in Little Rock cautioned, “You can always add more salt and more sugar later. You can’t take it out. The sweet and salty flavors will concentrate as the greens cook, so have a lighter touch.”

IMG_2832
Chef Mark Abernathy gets excited about greens!

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_2705

Read all about it: New Nutrition Facts Label

 

13239356_10154102486110406_4906816577016542092_nThe 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?

ucm501515

“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.

Healthy Changes

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.

IMG_2705

“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.”

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_1975

Beef Marbling adds Satisfaction to Healthy Portions

 

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.

IMG_1976-1

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.

IMG_1968
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).

IMG_1911

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.

IMG_1948

Chef Ollier of Certified Angus Beef 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.”

 

IMG_1969

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.

IMG_1977

“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.

IMG_1974

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_1894

Dressed to Thrill! Salad Dressing Chic

IMG_1873

Don’t make another boring salad!

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.

IMG_1894

 

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.

IMG_1889
Lemon parsley vinaigrette in this mashed potato salad recipe! Inspiration is from Peru’s traditional potato dish called Causa.

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

 

 

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_0990

Play with Your Food!

Carolyn_Apr6_PlayWFood-02

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!

IMG_0998

Now that we’re exciting about new pizza topping ideas….let’s play Pizza Party Twister!

IMG_0999

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.

IMG_0990

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.IMG_1040

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.

FullSizeRender

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.

ENJOY!

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!

 

 

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_0350

That’s Today’s Italian!

IMG_0389-1What 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.

IMG_0361

“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.

IMG_0357

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.”

IMG_0379-1

That’s Italian!

IMG_0368

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.

IMG_0353

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.

IMG_0374

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.

 

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_0286

Catch this Norwegian Fish

IMG_0288
Norwegian chef Espen Larsen

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.

IMG_0314

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.”

 

IMG_0299

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.

IMG_0302

“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.”

 

Skrei is a featured fish on March menus at Legal Sea Foods in Atlanta.

The fish is so revered in Norway that every part is utilized. The tongue is a delicacy.
IMG_0294

“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.”

IMG_0312
Always fun to meet a new chef!

The Dish on Fish

IMG_0311
Espen and Legal Seafoods Atlanta chef Frank Judkins

 

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.

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_0187

Comfort Foods Lighten Up!

IMG_0204

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.

SlimDownSouth_final cover FRONT 091613

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

  1. 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

Sweet-and-Spicy Dressing

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

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 days.Serving size 1 Tbsp. CALORIES 43; FAT 2.4g (sat 0.2g, mono 1.5g, poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 0.1g; CARB 6.1g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 146mg; CALC 1mg

 

 Baked Smokin’ Mac & Cheese

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

 

  1. 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.

    CALORIES 453; FAT 12.1g (sat 6.8g, mono 2.3g, poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 26.8g; CARB 59.9g; FIBER 2.1g; CHOL 48mg; IRON 3mg; SODIUM 846mg; CALC 398mg

 

Honey-Grilled Pork Tenderloins

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

 

  1. 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.

    Serving size 3 ounces CALORIES 181; FAT 3.6g (sat 1g, mono 1.4g, poly 0.9g); PROTEIN 24.5g; CARB 11.5g; FIBER 0.1g; CHOL 74mg; IRON 1.2mg; SODIUM 337mg; CALC 12mg

 

Baked Pears with Toasted Oat Topping

Makes 6 servings

Hands-On 25 min.

Total 1 hour, 11 min., including topping

 

3 Bosc pears

2 Tbsp. honey

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

⅓ cup toasted almonds or pecan pieces

⅓ cup sweetened dried cranberries

½ cup orange juice

6 Tbsp. vanilla bean 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt

Toasted Oat Topping

 

  1. 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.

    Note: We tested with Craisins.

    Serving size 1 pear half with 2½ tsp. topping CALORIES 196; FAT 4.5g (sat 0.9g, mono 2.2g, poly 1.0g); PROTEIN 3.6g; CARB 39.5g; FIBER 5.2g; CHOL 3mg; IRON 0.8mg; SODIUM 14mg; CALC 53mg

 

Toasted Oat Topping

Makes ⅓ cup Hands-On 5 min. Total 15 min.

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.

Serving size about 2½ tsp. CALORIES 24; FAT 0.8g (sat 0.4g, mono 0.2g, poly 0.1g);

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
gut-microbiome

Feed Your Gut

Good for Your Gut

schockedimages

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 Gut and 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.

11312798_1001240009895272_3858870590852129417_o
Erica and 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.”

gut-microbiome

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.”

yogurtimages

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.”

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest
IMG_9724

Sweet News

Sugar, Sugar

IMG_9738

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

IMG_9724

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.

IMG_9727

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.

IMG_4086_2

 

 

 

 

Share this on: facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest