Category Archives: Food and Nutrition

Bone-gevity: Long Live Strong Bones

Build Bone Health by Banking Good Nutrition

Strong is the new pretty. (And my little piggy bank is pretty in pink)

Whether it’s spin classes to boost your cardio, yoga to strengthen you abs or working with weights to tone arms and legs….exercise does way more than burn up a bunch of calories.  It makes you look and feel good.

But did you know your bones benefit from work outs too? Yup, weight bearing exercises- like taking the stairs or playing a set of tennis-are super important for building bone health.

What you eat and drink can make or break your bone health, too. Bone is built and repaired with a terrific trio of nutrients including the mineral calcium, vitamin  D and protein. Dairy foods, including milk, yogurt, cheese,  cottage cheese and frozen yogurt are a fabulous package of all three of those needed nutrients.

How much is enough?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 3 servings of calcium rich foods every day for bone health.

Chocolate milk counts too!

The best sources of calcium are dairy foods, fortified breaks and cereal, canned salmon (with the bones), tofu and dark green leafy vegetables such as collards, kale and spinach. (By the way, you have to eat 10 cups of raw spinach to equal the calcium in cup of milk!)

An eight ounce glass of milk provides one -third of the vitamin D needed daily.

The Sunshine Vitamin (That’s why the pig is wearing sunglasses )

Our bodies can make vitamin D, but we need sun exposure on our skin. About 15 minutes a few times a week is advised.

Fascinating nutrition fact from history: Vitamin D was first added to milk in the 1930’s to help prevent bone weakening rickets in children. Then rickets became history!  Go Team Nutrition!

Bone Up on Bone Health

Today we worry about osteoporosis. If bones are starved of good nutrition, they become porous and brittle and that leads to fractures. The disease is called Osteoporosis and according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office an estimated 10 million Americans over the age of 50 suffer from this debilitating disease. But, osteoporosis can be prevented if we ‘bank’ enough nutrients in our bones during childhood, teen years and adulthood.

Delicious Dairy to Build Bone-gevity

Click on the name of the recipe to find what you need to make these delicious nutritious dishes! They’re all from the Southeast Dairy Association’s wonderful website! (Click here for more nutrition tips.) Here I am on the set of NBC Atlanta & Company for Mother’s Day and May as National Osteoporosis Awareness Month.

Blueberry Flax-Overnight Oats

Black Bean Mango Greek Yogurt Dip

Salmon Cakes with Lime-DIll Yogurt Sauce

So get in the kitchen and out in the sunlight to build stronger bones for life! #bonehealth #bonegevity #client

 

 

 

 

 

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Insta-Healthy Food Photos


Hey snap happy Instagrammers!  Looks like those food photos you stand on chairs to get just the right angle, add filters to enhance the drool factor and make your friends wait before digging in….are helping you stay healthier!

(Oatmeal cookies with dried berries, banana and peanut butter above, by the way.)

How so? Well, according to University of Washington researchers who studied Insta-food grams, keeping track of what you eat and how much acts as a online food journal.

PeachDish, home meal delivery kit fans, are ALL OVER Instagram sharing the beauty of their latest dish creations. As one of the registered dietitian nutritionists who works with PeachDish, I am happy to report that posting and sharing nutritious and delicious PeachDish meals on Instagram can be a great way to food journal.

I SEE WHAT YOU’RE EATING

And since you are sharing with the world, it’s not a secret note in your private diary. People are paying attention. Did YOU really eat that a whole bunch of donuts, cookies, nacho chips, fries ? Of course, you didn’t.

It was definitely a kale salad with a rhubarb infused vinaigrette.

 

MORE ON THAT INSTA-STUDY

This new study from University of Washington researchers  -presented at the 2017 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems- describes how some people turn to Instagram to track food intake or to be held accountable by followers in meeting healthy eating or weight loss goals.

The online Instagram community uses #fooddiary  and #foodjournal hashtags. #goodidea

EVERYBODY’S DOING IT!

“It’s more socially appropriate for people who are trying to track their diets to snap a photo of their plate when they’re out with friends — everyone’s doing it and it doesn’t look weird,” said UW human centered design and engineering doctoral student Christina Chung.

The interviewees ( there were 16 by the way) said support from other Instagram users ( !LIKE!) helped them stick to their healthy eating goals. It also encouraged them to be more honest about what they were eating.

What’s on your Insta-Plate?

Tips for Food Journaling. Writing or Snapping

  • Be consistent. Try to capture all meals, snacks and beverages. Yes, fries from someone else’s plate do count!
  • Keep track of quantities. It’s OK to splurge but keep portions sensible. If you crave a glazed donut, have one. Food journaling helps you keep track of how often you ‘splurge’!
  • On Instagram, review your grid. The last 9 photos are called your ‘quilt’. Do you see a pattern? This is a snap shot to help you assess meal patterns.
  • Reach out to support others on Instagram who are also using the photo-app to keep a food journal. #foodjournal #fooddiary

Are you ready for your close up?

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Healthy Happy Mother’s Day Brunch


Mother’s Day is one of the best days not to dine out! As a foodie who loves to sample all chefs’ creations, I am a huge fan of dining out. But not on Mother’s Day.

That’s when the crowds descend and the prices often ascend in the wake of taking mom out to brunch or lunch or dinner.

Here’s the link to my segment on Charlotte Today

 

 

So today’s post is dedicated to making Mom feel special at the family table. Or, if it’s a beautiful day taking brunch outside to the patio or porch. But you don’t have to lose any sleep over this Mother’s Day Brunch Menu.  The shopping, the cooking and the presenting are all super easy thanks to the good folks at ALDI, who’ve already thought about our moms on Mother’s Day.

Even Mother’s Day gifts!

If you’re a fan of ALDI you’re already familiar with the markets’ simple approach to grocery shopping. No coupons or club cards needed and a great selection of fresh produce, premium meats, wonderful cheeses, gourmet speciality products ( coffee! chocolate!) and award winning wines. If you haven’t shopped at an ALDI store, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that customers can save up to 50% on grocery bills* as compared to other markets.

*Based upon a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading national retail grocery stores.

Disclosure:  I’m happy to be working with ALDI, as a registered dietitian nutritionist spokesperson as we kick off a summer of celebrations. ( Memorial Day is next!)

OK let’s get cooking!

Mother’s Day Brunch Menu

Spinach, Broccoli and Turkey Egg Casserole 

Berry Breakfast “Cookies”

Mango Strawberry Sunset Smoothies

Mimosa Bar

Recipe Notes and Links: Why they get my vote for Mother’s Day

 

 

 

Spinach, Broccoli and Turkey Egg Casserole:  the recipe is literally as easy as browning  the Fit & Active brand lean ground turkey, placing in a quiche dish or round baking dis, adding broccoli florets, diced red pepper and SimplyNature organic baby spinach and the Fit & Active brand liquid egg. Bake covered for about 30 minutes, place Happy Farms crumbled feta cheese on top and bake uncovered for another 20 minutes. I added some diced red pepper to the top for a pretty garnish.

Another tip: spray the bottom of the dish with cooking spray so the egg casserole can be sliced and each piece lifts out easily.

Berry Breakfast Cookies:  These are really, really good and if you make a big batch, they stay fresh to enjoy the next day or two with coffee in the morning.  The ingredients are a healthy mix of Millville Quick Oats, SimplyNature organic coconut oil, bananas, peanut butter, Friendly Farms Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, and Southern Grove dried mixed berries.  I baked them on parchment paper, so the cookies don’t stick. No need to waste a morsel.

Mango Strawberry Sunset Smoothies: All you need is a blender and you whip up these pretty layered breakfast drinks with fresh mango, fresh strawberries and Friendly Farms Vanilla Nonfat Greek Yogurt. Tip: place the mango mixture on the bottom of the glass first, then slowly pour the strawberry mixture to float on top. Garnish with a pretty dice of the fresh fruit.

Did someone say Mimosa Bar? Let’s put the sparkle in Mother’s Day with ALDI’s award winning Chiare Blanc de Blanc Brut sparkling wine from Monterrey. Set up a selection of juices so guests can customize their mimosa with Nature’s Nectar raspberry lemonade, peach and mango blend or the classic combo with Nature’s Nectar premium not from concentrate orange juice. Cheers!  For a non alcohol version, add bubbles with sparkling water and garnish with a fresh strawberry.

For a fabulous and affordable selection of Mother’s Day gifts, check out ALDI Finds. Look what I found for my Mom ( or for my kids to gift to me).  A Hummingbird Feeder…..

…….and a lovely everlasting orchid, perfect for the Mother’s Day Brunch table in my dining room.

 

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy Mother’s Day!

Now, where’s that mimosa bar???? BONUS TV SEGMENT FROM GREENVILLE, SC. My MOM lives in South Carolina. (:

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Coming Clean about Clean Eating

Squeaky Clean. Clean as a whistle. Making a clean cut and a clean getaway. Coming clean. The word clean conjures up a streamlined approach to cutting through the clutter, telling the truth, as well as simplifying and often sanitizing life. Clean eating has joined the contemporary nomenclature to describe healthier, more nutritious food choices. Clean: Perhaps meaning that a food product has fewer total ingredients, all natural ingredients and all the information you need to know where your food is coming from is revealed. Clean infers transparency.

But, what does CLEAN really mean?

Clean Tastes: Sugar Snap Pea and Barley Salad from PeachDish

 

There is no official definition of ‘clean eating’ but the original intention of suggesting we move towards cleaner eating was to guide folks to choose minimally processed foods closer to the whole foods in nature. For instance, rather than a banana nut muffin, how about eating a banana and some nuts?

While chefs are creating wonderfully simple dishes starring seasonal fresh ingredients, cooking at home allows you to control every bite. Clean eating principles encourage us to cook more at home so you can see what you’re adding to recipes and control the amounts of added sugars, salts and fats.

The meal kit delivery service, PeachDish, takes you step by step, ingredient by ingredient – most sourced from local Southern farms – to create your own chef-inspired, cooked by you deliciously nutritious meals. How about Bulgar Wheat Salad with Arugula and Apricot with a sherry vinegar dressing?

Why this dish is a clear clean winner: bulgar wheat is a minimally processed whole grain, fresh arugula and shallots are raw, apricots are simply dried and therefore maintain the fiber and other nutrients, sliced almonds provide nut nutrition and the dressing is a simple vinaigrette with olive oil and sherry wine vinegar.

Before we can fully embrace clean eating by rejecting ‘processed foods’, we should know a bit more about what food processing entails and to what extent.

For instance, a slice of bread or bowl of pasta made with whole grains is a better choice because the external, fiber containing part of the grain hasn’t been milled away, as with refined white flour.

But, freezing foods, which is a process, does not decrease the nutritional content of foods. For instance frozen green peas are a wonderful source of vegetable protein, fiber and the heart healthy mineral potassium. I like to make a green pea hummus with a little olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and season with a dash of salt and pepper.

The US Department of Agriculture serves up some pretty specific definitions for food processing. So here goes:

USDA Definition

Processed food is defined as any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, packaging, or other procedures that alter the food from its natural state.

This may include the addition of other ingredients to the food, such as preservatives, flavors, nutrients and other food additives or substances approved for use in food products, such as salt, sugars and fats.

But there’s a spectrum of how MUCH a food has been processed.

Pretty processes. Smoked salmon is cured to create a delicious product. Capers are pickled.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, processed food range from minimally processed, to heavily processed.

  • Foods such as sliced fruits and vegetables, bagged salads and leafy greens and roasted nuts are all examples of minimally processed
  • The next category of processed foods includes canned foods such as beans, tuna, fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • Jarred pasta sauces, yogurt and salad dressing have added oils, sweeteners and preservatives, which makes them a processed food as well.
  • Examples of heavily processed foods include crackers, deli meat and granolas.
  • The most heavily processed foods examples include pre-packaged and/or frozen meals.

Remember that wine and cheese are ‘processed’ too.

I like to add fresh ‘clean’ toppings to pizza! Why not add sliced strawberries to pepperoni pizza?

So keep in mind that the catch-all-phrase ‘processed’ often connected to ‘poor’ choices, may in fact lead you to some pretty darn good choices, too.

CLEAN EATING TIPS for REAL 

  1. Eat Your Vegetables….and Fruit; whole, seasonal, fresh.
  2. Enjoy cooking at home to choose healthy ingredients.
  3. Limit added sugars. (including agave, honey, maple syrup)
  4. Limit saturated fats. (the kind in bacon, butter, coconut oil)
  5. Practice food safety in your home kitchen. (Clean utensils, plates and counters!)
  6. Perhaps, don’t clean your plate. Listen to your hunger cues and enjoy foods mindfully.

RECIPE for Sweet Pea Hummus, from The Slim Down South Cookbook by Carolyn O’Neil

2 (9-oz.) packages frozen sweet peas, thawed

3 garlic cloves, chopped

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/16 tsp. table salt

½ cup (2 oz.) crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese ( optional )

 

  1. Place peas and garlic in a food processor; with processor running, pour oil through food chute in a slow, steady stream, processing until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and salt; season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover and chill 2 hours.
  2. Spoon pea mixture onto toasted baguette slices or serve with sliced cucumber; sprinkle with cheese.

Happy disclosure: I’m thrilled to be working with PeachDish as one of the registered dietitian nutritionists who champion the great food and good nutrition in the meal kit delivery service available nationwide. Visit the PeachDish website to drool over the delicious meals and marvel at all of the terrific information about their tasty dishes. – Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN LD

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Binge Watching, Binge Eating

Late Night TV Binge Watching Leads to Late Night Snack Binging: What to do???

We’ve all been there. Binge watching a TV series into the night. Just one more episode. Just one more episode and I’m going to bed. But then another cliff hanger leads to another cliff hanger.

It’s late, it’s dark and no one is there but you and your TV screen friends. Dinner was hours ago and you’re getting a little hungry so let’s rifle through the fridge and pantry for something fun to eat.Something to help keep you company while the on-screen suspense mounts!

Could be cheese and crackers, could be leftover pasta, could be a large spoon diving into chocolate caramel sea salt sorbet.

 

You say to yourself, “These calories don’t count.” and “This is fun and who cares?!”

 

 

 

 

But, a few seasons of this bad habit and the pounds will find you.
OK, two bad things are happening here.

1. Not getting enough sleep

2. Consuming excess calories.

So when I watch a TV series now, I brew a pot of chamomile tea and sip it slowly while the drama unfolds.

 


Maybe with one small cookie. Usually not.

Here’s what happens next. The chamomile herb tea (I like Celestial Seasonings Chamomile or Sleepy Time Tea) makes you feel sleepy and lulls you into a comfortable calm that helps you realize you can wait to watch the next episodes tomorrow.

Calories cut and sleep regained!

Now that’s a happy ending.

 

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Spotlight on America’s Pig Farmer of the Year

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It’s not everyday you get to meet “America’s Pig Farmer of the Year” and I went all the way to a food and fact filled conference in Vienna ( it was really no trouble at all thank you!) to meet Brad Greenway.

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Brad Greenway, Ellie Krieger and Carolyn O’Neil at FoodFluence conference.

Brad, who is a pig farmer from Mitchell, South Dakota spoke to a group of food and nutrition communicators at a conference called FoodFluence held in Austria in February.

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Vienna Supermarket Sauerkraut Selfie

The conference attended by many of my registered dietitian nutritionist colleagues featured fascinating, inspiring and up to the minute food and nutrition topics including farming and sustainability issues.

The chandelier festooned room of the Hotel Imperial where we held our meetings was equally inspiring!

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Now back to what I learned about raising pigs today.

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Brad and his wife, Peggy, own two wean-to-finish pig barns.

 

 

The Greenways have  focused on doing what’s right for people, pigs and the planet on his family farm for the last 40 years. They also raise beef cattle and grow corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.

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Healthy pigs are happy pigs and happy pigs are healthy. That’s the bottom line. There’s no room and no tolerance for cruelty to animals in agriculture today. Brad Greenway addressed a few concerns people have about pig farming and now I understand why mothers are separated from their new borns and why the moms are kept away from each other after they’ve given birth.

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Brad explained that sows can experience some pretty intense pregnancy and postpartum anxiety and will get into fights with each other. Keeping the mothers separated from each other in crates, protects them from bigger pigs who may get really rough with another smaller mother. Kind of like the maternity ward with private rooms.

feeding pigs

Turns out piglets do much better in the warmer temperatures of the “nursery” where they’re kept and fed and cared for under the watchful eye of farmers and veterinarians who are specialists in raising swine. Also, just as human parents are cautioned not to sleep with newborn infants in the same bed to prevent the risk of rolling over on the little critter, the same goes for baby pigs.

Gestation & Farrowing Crates:

Animal Welfare Practices Explained

Source: US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance

-Allows pigs tube fed relative to their individual needs

-Reduces aggressive behavior (pregnant sows can get mean and will fight)

-Reduces piglet deaths (mothers can accidentally rollover on their piglets)

-Provides a cooler area for the sow and warmer area for the piglets

-Flooring keeps pigs dry which reduces the spread of disease

-Allows for more individualized and personal care for the sow

 

Brad with piglet

If you have more questions on how pig farming today is good for the pigs and the planet, here’s an excellent resource. The National Pork Board and its members such as Brad Greenway.

And guess what? Sorry Brad. It’s time to nominate the next American Pig Farmer of the Year! #realpigfarming #agvocate

nomations

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Montana Meatloaf Recipe

Montana Meatloaf: best. meatloaf. ever.

img_7188 Sometimes the best souvenirs are memories of uniquely wonderful dishes that add a delicious dimension to travel experiences.

This veggie packed meatloaf recipe created by Executive Chef Josh Drage of The Ranch at Rock Creek is beautiful when sliced revealing jewel like pieces of carrot and celery.

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Take a bite, close your eyes and ‘taste travel’ to the ranch lands of western Montana.

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Thank you to Gena Berry of Culinary Works for translating chef’s measurements into home cook lingo.

 

The Ranch at Rock Creek Montana Meatloaf

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Ingredients:

1 teaspoon, olive oil

1 shallot, minced

2 carrots, peeled, 1/2″ dice

3 stalks celery, 1/2″ dice

1 medium onion, peeled, 1/2″ dice

1 large egg

1/2 cup part skim ricotta

1 shake hot sauce

1 teaspoon, salt

1/2 teaspoon, black pepper

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped

¼ cup breadcrumbs

1 lb. lean ground beef

 

Directions:

In a large sauté’ pan, heat oil and sauté’ shallot until soft and starting to caramelize.   Add carrots, celery and onion and cook until just softened. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg with a large fork, stir in the ricotta, hot sauce, salt, pepper and sautéed vegetables to combine. Add the breadcrumbs and ground beef and gently stir until well mixed.

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Form the mixture into a slender loaf and bake on a sheet pan.

 

 

 

 

Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, until a meat thermometer reaches 160°, about an hour.

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Let the meat loaves rest a bit, then slice using a serrated knife into once inch thick slices. Serve with roasted new potatoes garnished with fresh thyme.

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More on the Ranch at Rock Creek.http://www.ranchatrockcreek.com  From trout fishing to taking a spin on the mountain bike parked outside your door, this getaway is the essence of ‘glamping’!

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Stay in the main house or tuck away into the tented suites complete with footed bathtubs and a fire pit to warm your feet next to the gurgling creek steps outside.

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This western Montana Relais & Chateau property is an outdoor lover’s western adventure and luxe lover’s fresh air pampering all under the same big sky.

 

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CLEAN EATING: 3 Diet Resolutions to Skip!

morning

It’s time to stretch on the spandex, hit the gym with folks who look like they’ve never been there before ( or in a long time )- bless their hearts.

In fact, YES, bless their hearts because no matter what it take to get back on board with health and fitness enthusiasm- good for you!!!

congratulations

But, here are my Top 3 New Year’s Diet Traps to avoid:

 

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#3. If I buy the foods on the 2017 Trend List I’ll be so much healthier this year. 

jackfruitNo, jack fruit probably won’t change your health. But, it might affect how much change you have in your wallet. Often, these ‘super fruits’ are super expensive.

January is citrus season.

lemons

Eat more affordable in season delicious and nutritious oranges, grapefruit and add flavor to cooking with freshly squeezed lemon and lime.

#2. I’m going to cook more at home and avoid eating out. 

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Well, that depends what you’re cooking.

Restaurant meals can be very healthy and in fact, in May 2017 all restaurant chains ( with 20 or more outlets ) have to provide Nutrition Facts information on menu items so you can see what you’re getting into when you order the deep fried calamari or double fudge brownie cake. Or that the hamburger you really want has fewer calories and fat grams than the entree salad you thought you should order. (:

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Back to cooking at home; good idea!

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Thank you Chef Josh Drage, Ranch at Rock Creek for best Meatloaf Ever!

Get everyone in the family to learn to add more vegetable to all meals, even meatloaf! This recipe from The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana is one of my all time favorites because the meatloaf includes big jewel like pieces of carrots, mushrooms, and leeks.

RECIPE FOR MONTANA MEATLOAF: Scroll down below! OK it’s written by a chef, so measurements are in weights. But the ratios work for smaller batches, too.

 

Learn to season with no calorie flavors such as salsas, vinegars, mustards, hot sauces, herbs and spices.

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Potato Salad from Peru is made with olive oil and lemon juice, not mayo.

The Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon is great place to start building your healthy cooking skills.

slsds_cover(My recipe below for Shrimp and Grits-(see recipe posted below).. is just one of many easy and delicious weeknight meals in The Slim Down South Cookbook.)

shrimpgrits

peach-dishAlso, jump into a fabulous new healthy food trend- home delivered meal kits such as Peach Dish, based in Atlanta featuring southern grown foods but shipped locally and nationally.I’m working with Peach Dish as one of their registered dietitians to provide nutrition information and healthy cooking tips.

Now drumroll…..my favorite New Year’s Diet Trap to AVOID!!!

#1.  This year I vow to NEVER eat ice cream or French fries EVER again!

Hey, good luck with that. Chances are by Super Bowl Sunday you’ll be knee deep in nachos.

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So, rather than making huge promises that will be a huge burden to keep, make small, measurable changes. For instance, when I enjoy ice cream after dinner I’ll serve myself two small scoops in a bowl and top with fresh strawberries or blueberries. I honestly love French fries, so I’ll allow myself to enjoy them once a week- especially if they’re really good! Try mustard ( no calories ) with fries, as opposed to ketchup (lots of sugar).

And as always remember that The More You Know, The More You Can Eat!

Happy and Healthy New Year Friends! Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN ( French fry lover, especially shhhhh dipped into Champagne.)

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Shrimp and Grits from Southern Living’s The Slim Down South Cookbook, by Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN

 

Makes 6 servings

Hands-On 25 min.

Total 30 min.

 

Parmesan Grits:

½ tsp. table salt

1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ tsp. freshly ground pepper

 

Creamy Shrimp Sauce:

1 lb. unpeeled, medium-size raw shrimp

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

⅛ tsp. table salt

Vegetable cooking spray

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1¼ cups reduced-sodium fat-free chicken broth

½ cup chopped green onions

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

¼ tsp. table salt

¼ tsp. hot sauce

2 cups firmly packed fresh baby spinach

 

1. Prepare Parmesan Grits: Bring ½ tsp. salt and 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in grits. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in cheese and pepper. Keep warm.

2. Prepare Creamy Shrimp Sauce: Peel shrimp; devein, if desired. Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and ⅛ tsp. salt. Cook in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove from skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Add oil; heat 30 seconds. Whisk in flour; cook 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in broth and next 5 ingredients; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. Stir in shrimp and spinach; cook 1 minute or until spinach is slightly wilted. Serve immediately over grits.

Serving size ½ cup grits and about ⅓ cup shrimp sauce CALORIES 235; FAT 6.1g (sat 1.9g, mono 2g, poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 19.1g; CARB 25.2g; FIBER 1.4g; CHOL 119mg; IRON 3.3mg; SODIUM 74

MONTANA MEATLOAF:

The Ranch at Rock Creek Meatloaf

Ingredients:
• 5# ground beef
• 1100g (2.5#) carrot
• 550g (1.25#) celery
• 550g (1.25#) onion
• 300g (10oz) shallot
• 500g (2 cups) ricotta
• 1 ¼ cup bread crumb
• 4 large eggs
• 20g (.75 oz) salt
• 5g (.2oz) black pepper
• 5g (.2oz) fresh thyme
• 5g (3 shakes of) Tabasco
Directions:
Sauté carrots, celery and onion until just softened.
Sauté the shallots separately and cook until sweet and almost caramelized.
Mix all ingredients in the stand mixer until just combined.
Cook off a test piece and check seasoning.
Split into two or three loaves making them long and slender, the same width all the way down.
Bake on sheets, leaving space between each loaf.
Bake at 325-350 degrees uncovered for 45 minutes.

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Easy Holiday Side Dishes

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It’s the holiday season with lots of festive get togethers. Hope you’re ready to put on your sparkle and get those parties!

But as an invited guest you may generously ask the host, “What can I bring?”

If their answer is “Why don’t you just bring a side dish?” I’ve got you covered.

Here are some great tasting crowd pleasing recipes that just so happen to be super easy to prepare. I created a buffet of EASY HOLIDAY SIDES for NBC Atlanta & Company.

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And if you shop at ALDI food markets, they’re super affordable too. Have you ever been to and ALDI? No frills, but all fabulous.

ALDI is a great place to buy holiday essentials like fresh seasonal produce and organics, dairy, gluten-free foods, USDA choice beef and bakery items, priced up to 50 percent less than at other traditional grocery stores.

Disclosure: I’m working with ALDI this holiday season to get the word out on their great food products, award winning wines and all you need for holiday bash. Find lots more tips, inspiration and recipe ideas at ALDI Holiday Hub. 

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Look at this Holiday haul! Everything including the wine!

First Side Up! Twice Baked Butternut Squash

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Cut a butternut squash in half, bake and then scoop out the insides leaving enough skin to create your ‘boat’. Mix mashed butternut squash with honey goat cheese, …well hold on…here’s the recipe from ALDI Holiday Hub website.

Twice-Baked Butternut Squash

SERVINGS: 8 | COST PER SERVING: $1.12† | PREP: 10 MIN | COOK: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 5 ounces Happy Farms Preferred Honey Goat Cheese Log, crumbled, divided
  • 1/4 cup Friendly Farms Half & Half
  • 2 tablespoons Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 5 ounces Southern Grove Dried Mixed Berries
  • 2 teaspoons Stonemill Pumpkin Pie Spice*
  • Stonemill Table Salt, to taste
  • Stonemill Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Southern Grove Chopped Pecans

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a large baking dish, place butternut squash cut side up. Add hot water, cover with foil. Bake until tender, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from oven, discard water, allow to cool. Scoop out tender parts of squash leaving skin intact.

In a medium bowl, combine squash, 3 ounces of goat cheese, half & half, melted butter, mixed berries, pumpkin pie spice, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Scoop mixture back into squash skin, top with remaining goat cheese and chopped pecans. Bake until mixture is slightly firm, approximately 10-12 minutes.

Change oven setting to broil.

Broil until cheese is browned, approximately 5-8 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Morgan, ALDI Test Kitchen

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How about these Tomato and Goat Cheese Santas? Stuffed with garlic and herb goat cheese, they are an adorable addition to any holiday party and are pop-in-your-mouth easy to eat and delicious! Top a hollowed out cheery tomato with a grape tomato half as the hat! OK…it’s my secret holiday mission to get folks to eat more fruits and vegetables during the holidays…and all year long!

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If you’re going to build and bring a cheese and meat platter to a party don’t forget to add the fresh fruit to add good taste and good fresh seasonal nutrition. The gourmet cheeses including a white cheddar with cranberry and a beautiful brie cheese are from…you guessed it…ALDI.

Pears are in season right now and add a naturally fresh sweet taste to cheese platters. A included Anjou (brown) and Bartlett (green) pears to my platter on Atlanta & Company. Thank you USA Pears!

Oh, and to round things out….how about a little indulgence with teeny tiny bites of cheesecake and wonderful chocolate covered gingerbread cookies, too. The wines, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Italian Prosecco are wines from ALDI’s award winning and super affordable wine collection.

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Ok let’s get to the party!!!! Happy Holidays everyone! And THANK YOU Mallory for your fab food styling skills! You made everything look sooooo great! More plaid please. (:

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Happy National Sandwich Day

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BLT with Avocado from Liza’s Kitchen in Panama City Beach, FL

Every food has its day and November 3rd has been designated ( not sure by whom originally) as National Sandwich Day.

What’s your favorite?

From hero to gyros, sandwiches are easy to eat and even easier to love. History or legends that became history tell us that John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich in jolly old England ‘invented’ what became know as the sandwich in the 1700’s. The story goes that he was an avid gambler and rather than leaving the hot pursuit of winning cards to take a meal, he ordered meat between two slices of bread so he could use one hand to keep the cards going  and one hand to fend of hunger.

The most popular sandwich in the US, according to a number of polls, is the …drum roll……. turkey sandwich, followed by ham and chicken.  But, sandwich lovers and sandwich crafters know no bounds of creativity.

Here are a few ideas to add style and good nutrition to the great sandwich.

Add blueberries to a grilled cheese sandwich. Why not? the sweet pop of the blueberries warmed on the griddle and matched with a melty gouda or white cheddar is delicious.

We all know the BLT, bacon, lettuce and tomato. But why not make a BLAT and add slices of ripe avocado to the stack. Avocados add a luscious creaminess and healthy fats to the mix.

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Pile your sandwich high with salads inside. The Chopped Chicken Sandwich with Crunchy Pecan and Apple Slaw is great way to enjoy veggies and fruit right between the bread.  Recipe is from my Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon.

 

 

Perhaps the Earl of Sandwich would have been even luckier at the tables with this healthy improvement over simply meat and bread.

 

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Personal Chef for Busy Weeknights (in your freezer!)

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Weeknights are often busy nights with after school activities, late hours at the office and let’s face it America….the stress of fighting rush hour traffic just to get home.  The dream scene of a home cooked meal made from scratch every night is just that…a dream scene…so why not rely on your freezer as your personal chef a few nights a week?

Whether you’ve batch cooked and frozen entrees on the weekend, when you had a little extra time….or you simply reach in and find a frozen entree prepared by chefs in their professional kitchens…the freezer really is your best friend.  I’m happy to be a spokesperson for Stouffer’s where dietitians and chefs work together to come up with recipes that really are the win-win for taste and health. Their meals are freshly made and simply frozen.

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Stouffer’s Lasagna Meat and Sauce

Stouffer’s Lasagna with meat and sauce is certainly a family favorite and guess what? One serving contains 18 grams of protein and only 300 calories.

There are no preservatives because the freezer does the preserving!

Oh and now the ingredient label reads like a recipe with vine ripened tomatoes, freshly made pasta and real mozzarella listed on the package. It’s Stouffer’s new “Kitchen Cupboard” commitment to simplify recipes to include ingredients we all can recognize (and immediately start getting hungry!).

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Farmers Market Fall Salad

OK, you’ve dashed in the door. The lasagna is baking in the oven. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, hug the kids, get them started on their homework and toss a salad. Don’t want another boring salad? Then, I say, don’t make one. I have two recipes for easy to make and easy to love weeknight salads from my Slim Down South Cookbook that help you balance your plate.

I work with the good folks at Stouffer’s on their #balanceyourplate nutrition campaign.  Did you know that the majority of American families don’t eat the number of fruits, vegetables and whole grains they should for a balanced diet?

So let’s fix that by fixing a well balanced dinner.

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It’s fall y’all! So toss in some of fall’s deliciously crisp apples into a salad. Apples are a good source of vitamin C , potassium and fiber.

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Arugula, grapefruit, grapes and avocado salad

Or if you like grapes, cut them in half and toss into a salad with avocado and grapefruit segments. I like to top with crunchy sunflower seeds for even more good nutrition.

 

 

Here’s another way to #balanceyourplate. While the Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat and Cheese is baking and starting to fill the kitchen with ‘I can’t wait for dinner’ aromas…..go back to your freezer and find frozen green peas to make a great sweet pea hummus.

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The kids ..and you…can dip carrot chips or whole grain crackers into the pea hummus ( another great source of fiber, potassium and protein) for a healthy snack to tide them over before you serve the lasagna and salad. Recipe: green peas in blender, a little olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper. Whirr, stir and serve. Smile.

 

So, using your freezer as a personal chef not only helps balance your plate, it helps balance your life because you’ll have more time to talk to the. kids, relax and enjoy those family meals on busy weeknights.

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Now, this is the way to celebrate good nutrition and great taste on any night!

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RECIPES FROM THE SLIM DOWN SOUTH COOKBOOK by registered dietitian, healthy foodie, Carolyn O’Neil

Farmers’ Market Fall Salad with Sweet and Spicy Dressing  

Hit the farmers market or your super market produce section for delicious seasonal vegetables. Can’t decide what to toss in a salad, toss it all in to celebrate your fresh finds.

Makes 8 servings

1 green apple, diced

1 red apple, diced

½ cup thinly sliced green onion

1 cup chopped baby kale

1 cup sliced Napa cabbage

1 cup sliced red cabbage

½ cup golden raisins

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Trim Your Tailgate

Hey Y’all it’s Fall!

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That means it’s time to start wearing boots, sweaters, leather and your team’s colors to sport at fall football tailgating parties.

It’s GO NOLES for me! Come on Florida State University ( where I received my BS in Foods & Nutrition, with minor in English). No I won’t tell you what year I graduated. Here’s a clue: bell bottoms and big hair were in fashion

img_6333But, woah! Flag on the field. No one wants to get ‘tailgate tummy’ by overeating (and over drinking) while hanging around with football friends at the tailgate. Ditto for football parties at home with fellow fans in front of the big screen.

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Smart Substitution Teams: Use Greek yogurt instead of (or halfsies ) sour cream or mayo based salads. I love the tart taste of plain Greek yogurt with fall salads with baby kale, shaved Brussel’s sprouts and good old cabbage that include the sweet taste of fresh apples and golden raisins.

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Smart Plays:  Choose bold flavors and smaller portions.  I really like succulent boneless, skinless chicken thighs on the grill. They’re smaller than chicken breasts, so even though they contain a bit more fat, they’re just the right portion for calorie control. You can prep before and take to the game or cook them up quickly during half time at home. My recipe for Honey Pecan Chicken Thighs from The Slim Down South Cookbook is delicious. And no bones to throw away when tailgating in the parking lot! I made tiny corn muffins with big flavor from pimento cheese, jalapeño and sun dried tomato garnish.

 

Think about Your Drink: 

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We love sweet tea in the South. And it’s a delicious thirst quencher for tail gating at home or away. But all of that sugar means all of those calories. So I like to brew Southern Breeze Sweet Tea at home, chill and bring to the game. ( or pour at home ). It’s delightfully sweet with zero calories and comes in regular, peach, lemon and raspberry flavors.

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Southern Breeze Sweet Tea boxes waiting in the wings to fly on NBC Atlanta & Company Click HERE to watch the segment.

I’m a spokesperson for Southern Breeze Sweet Tea and love that your brew this tea, it’s not like a messy (won’t dissolve) powder.

I jazz it up for parties ( Southern Breeze makers even want the recipe!) for a Cajun Lemon Sweet Tea. Brew Lemon flavor Southern Breeze tea, add a dash of Tabasco and top off with rum or vodka if you choose. It’s saves SOOOO many calories and tastes terrific. Garnish with sliced lemon.

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So rather than drinking your calories, you can enjoy a Pecan Sandie cookie for tailgate dessert.

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Fresh fruit on a skewer is another great way to get good nutrition into your game and it’s hand held easy.  Make sure to use hand sanitizers if you’re throwing the football around the parking lot before you dig into the tailgate buffet.

#Bonuspoints

Please follow my antics on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

@carolynoneil

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A World of Tastes in Your Kitchen

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The boneless, skinless chicken breast is the LBD of the healthy kitchen. Little Black Dress. You can dress it up for a night on the town with recipes inspired by the  south of France with white, wine, lemon and capers.

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Or you can go casual with BBQ sauce or an Italian inspired topping  of tomato, garlic and herbs.

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So let’s accessorize our breasts by taking chicken breasts on a world taste tour. You can watch the recipes come together by watching this segment on NBC Atlanta & Company.

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Click here to watch the segment.

The recipe suggestions are from my book The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!

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First, here are some tips from The Dish for preparing perfectly browned and tender boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

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A Simple Chicken Breast Sauté:

  1. Remove the excess fat and sinew from the boneless, skinless chicken breast.
  2. Place shiny side down on cutting board and cover with sheet of wax paper.
  3. Pound breast with wooden kitchen mallet or a rolling pin to even thickness.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat sauté pan and add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom.
  6. Add the chicken breasts, without crowding the pan.
  7. When a half inch of white shows on the sides of each breast, turn over with tongs.
  8. Cook until firm to touch and juices run clear. Set aside on clean plate.

 

Now it’s time to accessorize!

Lemon Caper Chicken – (After sautéing the chicken breasts and setting aside) Deglaze the pan with white wine, add rinsed capers, very thin slices of lemon, and minced parsley. Add chicken breasts back to pan to warm in sauce and serve with golden potatoes.

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Tomato Garlic Chicken – (After sautéing the chicken breasts and setting aside) Add chopped garlic to the pan, chopped tomato, tomato paste and red wine vinegar. Place chicken breasts back in pan to warm with sauce and serve with pasta.

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Taste of Thai Chicken –   (After sautéing chicken breasts and setting aside) Stir in sliced scallions and sliced shitake mushrooms, remove from pan and stir in tamari sauce (a slightly thicker soy sauce), rice wine vinegar and a teaspoon of peanut butter.

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Add the scallions and mushrooms back to the pan and the chicken breasts to warm. Serve with steamed brown rice.

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Green Chile Chicken- (After sautéing the chicken breasts and setting aside) Deglaze pan with chicken broth, add chopped scallions, minced jalapenos, long thin slivers of mild green chiles (such as poblano). Optional: whisk in a quarter cup of light cream to finish the sauce. Add chicken back to pan to warm and serve with black beans and rice.

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I’d love for you to have your very own copy of The Dish! Why not order the paperback edition on Amazon.com to keep in your world inspired kitchen?

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Green Light for Tourism Ireland: Delicious Dublin

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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.

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

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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…

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I thought this place looked O’good.

…..a pint of Guinness, perfectly poured…

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with traditional Irish stew or Cottage Pie…

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Or Hey! even gluten-free fish and chips!

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

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…..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.

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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)

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

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

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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 

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

Irish Art at the Table

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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…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…..

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Modern-Day Dublin

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Where are my falcons????!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Endless Summer Produce

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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Mexico City Healthy Gourmet

 

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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

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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).

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Mexico City’s Healthy Moves

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

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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.

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

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“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.

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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.

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Delicioso.

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Marvelous Mexico City Cuisine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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“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.


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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.

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“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

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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Need more chocolate?

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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.

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

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

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Farmer’s Market Pizza!


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

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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…..

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Farmer’s Market Finds Help Balance Your Plate

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

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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.

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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

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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.

 

 

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Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Elevates Taste and Health

Aspen Heights of Food & Wine

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

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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

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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?’”

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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.”

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

 

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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.

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Why Summer is Food Safety Central

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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.

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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.

 

 

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