Category Archives: Reads and Recipes

Southern Vegetables Celebrated at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

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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.”

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Chef Mark Abernathy gets excited about greens!

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.”

 

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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.

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“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.

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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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Play with Your Food!

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

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Catch this Norwegian Fish

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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.

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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.”

 

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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.

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“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.
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“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.”

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Always fun to meet a new chef!

The Dish on Fish

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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.

 

 

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Comfort Foods Lighten Up!

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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.

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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);

 

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Feed Your Gut

Good for Your Gut

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

 

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Let’s River Cruise 2016

This is how we roll…..on the river!

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If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like on a river cruise then hop on board and take off with me along the Rhone River on the elegant Scenic Emerald. Best part?

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Well there are so many best parts…but if you’re like me  you’ll really relax and enjoy the cruise from morning to night because Scenic is all-inclusive.

IMG_5712That means no pesky bills to sign for shore excursions or adult beverages.

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Pop goes the Champagne from breakfast to bed time.

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All aboard who’s going aboard!!!!

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The first difference you notice is that the river ship glides along calm waterways instead of riding choppy seas often associated with ocean cruising.

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These long sleek ships built to transport passengers along wide European rivers, past picturesque villages and vineyards are gaining momentum as a sought after vacation experience.

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Virtuoso ranks river cruises in the top five 2016 travels trends.

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On a seven-day cruise on the Rhone River in France aboard the Scenic Emerald, I discovered many delightful advantages of traveling by river.

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The pace is leisurely with pastoral scenery in view from large windows or on open decks.

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There’s an impressive display of crew navigation as the ship traverses river locks with only inches to spare on either side of the ship!

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On the top deck you can chat with the Captain as he guides his Scenic “Space Ship” carefully through the locks.

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Please don’t try to distract him.

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Another bonus for travelers ready to explore, when docked in town you’re in walking or biking distance to most of the sights.

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Scenic provides electric bikes for passengers to do solo exploring and get some exercise.
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Your castle or mine?

In Arles…..or Arlys…

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…we walked in Vincent Van Gogh’s footsteps.

IMG_5088The wharf here inspired the artist’s iconic painting “Starry Night.”

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The bakeries in Arles inspired me; where fresh strawberry tarts are a culinary work of art.

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France on the Menu

On board the Scenic Emerald, meals feature the regional foods and wines of France with many of them produced in the Rhone River valley.

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Menus are hyper-local with cheese selections changing to include varieties from the area we were cruising through that day.

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Don’t know the difference between a goat’s milk Rigotte from Lyon and a cow’s milk Charolais from Burgundy? Join the cheese class with a dozen French cheeses to sample.

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Adding to the laid-back luxury, wines and cocktails on Scenic cruises are all inclusive. Pop some bubbly for breakfast and end the evening with a cordial in your coffee. It’s all part of the gastronomic experience included in the fare.

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For passengers craving a deeper dive into what’s for dinner, executive chef Tamas Kiss leads a tour through the bustling Les Halles market in Avignon.

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He chats with butchers and bakers and offers sample tastes of local breads, cheeses, and produce of Provence.

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“It was great to see the foods of summer,” says Kiss.

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“But now it’s autumn and there are exciting new things like mushrooms and different olives in the market.”

IMG_5091Chef Kiss caps off the visit with a tasting of freshly shucked oysters.

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Hey look! Someone found a pearl!!!

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Meanwhile back on board the Scenic Emerald things are really cooking!

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It’s literally all hands on deck to provision the ship as boxes delivered to the ship in Avignon are loaded into storage areas near the galley by all of the crew. Even the bartenders, housekeepers and piano player help in the ‘bucket brigade’ to get the groceries on board!

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All of this exceptional teamwork leads to exceptional meals from beautiful buffets…

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…to elegant dinners.

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Breakfast, lunch and dinner are highly anticipated adventures for the palate.

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This Scenic culinary team is serious ……

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…..without taking themselves too seriously!

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Thank you Chef Tamas Kiss. You can take a little break now.

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The menus are inspiring and exciting and miraculously appear from this tiny galley!

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One evening we’re treated to dinner featuring dishes from the great chefs of France.

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Your every whim from sushi to sensational desserts are on the Scenic menu.

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Baked Alaska? Of course!

Late night craving for BLT with fries? Whoops, that was for me after a night of dancing to the late night disco music. (:

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From artichoke truffle soup to whole roasted lamb, menus are marked with indications to alert those with food allergies. Even more good nutrition on the “Vitality Corner” vegetarian menu with entrees such as bulgur risotto with mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and spicy basil salad.
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As the river flows …..

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so do the fabulous foods and wines on Scenic.

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Maybe just one more small glass of rose….
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2016 Healthy Food Trends

Look Ahead to Food 2016

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EXTRA EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT…OR WATCH THE CLIP HERE FROM ATLANTA AND COMPANY

 As we celebrate the holidays and look ahead to January it’s time for the annual tradition of making predictions for the New Year.

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Food and nutrition experts are part of the crystal ball gazing game. What will be in grocery carts and on restaurant menus in 2016? Here’s a sample of taste trends in the foodie forecast from those who know nutrition.

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Clean Labels Spread to Fine Dining

“This year was marked by tons of major food companies, in addition to fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, announcing the ‘healthification’ of their menus through the banning of artificial ingredients or additives. In 2016, we can expect to see this effect ‘trickle up’ to fine dining sit-down restaurants where consumers are going to demand more than ‘locally produced’ or ‘made in house’ to signify a holistic approach to health.”

—Kelly Hensel, Senior Digital Editor, Institute of Food Technologists

         Sweet New Interest in Bitter

“Bitter, once a flavor even foodies avoided, is now enjoying a place in the limelight. Bitter beverages, chocolates and greens like escarole, endive and frisee are getting more attention and will be showing up more on menus in 2016. If you’re new to bitter leafy greens combine bitter with sweet: Bitter greens go great with raisins, pears, roasted pumpkin or baked sweet potato.”

-Ashley Koff, registered dietitian for Earthbound Farm

Savory Yogurt Dishes

“Greek yogurt has been popular for quite some time, and manufacturers are now getting creative with flavors. Trends include mixing fruit with a savory twist like ginger and orange, feta and watermelon, as well as olive oil, seeds and spices. Greek yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse loaded with protein, probiotics to promote healthy gut bacteria, Vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D.  New flavors will make this healthy food even more versatile: dip with crudités, use as sauce for chicken or fish.” -Tanya Zuckerbrot, registered dietitian, author the F-Factor Diet

Pulses on the Plate

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The crop category for beans, peas, lentils and other legumes, pulses are moving from humble to hero status. In fact, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 the “Year of Pulses” recognizing the role of pulse crops in sustainable agriculture and healthy diets worldwide. Heart healthy pulses are gluten free and a good source of fiber, vegetable protein, B- vitamins, potassium, and iron.

Spice it Up

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STIR FRIED BEEF WITH SPICY ASIAN FLAVORS RECIPE HERE 

McCormick, the company famous for spices, shares an annual flavor forecast. For 2016 the six emerging flavor trends identified include hot and spicy flavors paired with tangy tastes. The company’s forecast report says, “Spicy finds a welcome contrast with tangy accents such as lime, rice vinegar, yuzu, tamarind, Meyer lemon, cranberry, kumquats and ponzu to elevate the eating experience.” Sambal sauce, a spicy Southeast Asian condiment is an example of this trend made with chilies, rice vinegar, sugar and garlic.

Win-Win for Taste & Health

Does it seem like advice on nutrition changes with the daily headlines? In a move to help clear up confusion about what to eat for good health in 2016, nutrition researchers met in Boston recently at a conference organized by Old Ways and Harvard University School of Public Health.. “At the end of the day, there are many different ways to eat well,” said Cynthia Harriman, Oldways Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies. “Whether you like your foods spicy or plain; whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or omnivorous; whether you live in Beijing or Boston — the good news is that there are many different foods and flavors that all lead to better health.” Bottom line: nutrition experts agreed that food can and should be good for human health, good for the planet and simply good and delicious.

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year!

 

 

 

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Foodie in the Family Gift Ideas

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If you’ve got a ‘foodie’ on your holiday gift list or someone who wants to become one in the New Year here are some simple, affordable and fun suggestions in the culinary category.

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Watch the segment with  Christine Pullara and me with all of the gift ideas on NBC Atlanta & Company right here!

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“The designers in the housewares industry are truly ‘building a better mousetrap or cheese knife’ every day,” says Mary S. Moore, owner and founder of Atlanta based Cook’s Warehouse.  “For instance the tofu press has totally changed and made effortless the process of removing moisture from tofu, from hours of squeezing to placing in a press and walking away.  There are thousands of examples of this kind of ‘aha and/or duh’ innovation.”

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Healthy eating begins with healthy cooking and the easier the tasks become the easier it will be to enjoy time in the kitchen preparing meals to help support weight management goals all year round.

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Gifts for Healthy Cooking

  • Salad spinner- create a gourmet gift basket and fill the salad spinner with olive oils, mustards and vinegars for making vinaigrettes.
  • Slow cooker- one of the best ways to tenderize tasty cuts of lean meat in stews packed with tasty vegetables.
  • Non-stick pans – great for sautéing vegetables with just a little bit of oil.
  • Microplane grater – for zesting citrus and grating hard cheeses and whole spices.
  • Great gadgets – make fruit and vegetable prep a breeze and a lot of fun with produce specific gadgets such as a jalapeno corer, cherry pitter, citrus juicer, strawberry huller, avocado cuber, garlic peeler and ginger grater.
  • Specialty spices – more expensive spices like cardamom, vanilla, saffron, smoked paprika and curry powders are elegant gifts to add flavor without sodium and healthy antioxidants with no calories.
  • Immersion blender – make rich and creamy textured soups and sauces from cooked vegetables without the need for much or any cream.
  • Spiralizer- to make oodles of ‘zoodles’, these great gadgets turn vegetables such as zucchini into pasta-like swirls.
  • Cooking classes – great gift for the gourmet or the kitchen beginner.

Moore, who offers over 800 cooking classes per year, says, “Our most popular cooking class is Knife Skills 101.  It’s a great building block and helps the student to become more confident in their abilities and feel more at ease in the kitchen.”

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Fit for Fitness

  • Fitness sensors – they just keep getting better and better and even talk to your smart phone! Wearable digital fitness bands keep track of activity, food intake, and sleep patterns.
  • Fitness Gear – Clothes or equipment for an activity someone does or wants to try such as yoga or Pilates mat, yoga blocks, hiking poles, sports specific workout clothes and shoes.

Gifts for Gardeners

  • Little garden kits – Snip fresh herbs to add healthy seasonal taste to recipes. Small decorative containers of grow–your-own fresh herbs can sprout now on winter windowsills.
  • Big garden help – wrap up a brand new shovel, rake, or garden hose and attach vegetable seeds packets to plant in the spring.

 Something Special

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The Ruffino Bruschetta Board by Noble Goods is hand crafted from walnut and is designed to beautifully display toppings for bruschetta such as olives, cheese, roasted red peppers and hummus.  And introducing the perfect stemware for enjoying Champagne. Meet the Riedel Veritas Champagne Wine glass. Yes, even better than Champagne flutes for savoring the delicate nuances of Champagne.

Merry Christmas and happy shopping!

 

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Modern Family Holiday Menus

 

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What are you making for Thanksgiving dinner this year? If your answer is “reservations”, you are among the 33 million Americans who rely on restaurants for all or part of their Thanksgiving feast. According to the National Restaurant Association, Thanksgiving has become the number two busiest day of the year for eateries. (Mother’s Day is number one.)

Whether you’re doing the cooking at home, taking a dish to a gathering or making restaurant reservations for Thanksgiving dinner Atlanta area chefs offer delicious ideas to add an inventive and healthy twist to menu traditions. Move beyond the green bean casserole and be inspired by the vegetable dishes chefs create with seasonal produce. After all the mission of the very first Thanksgiving feast was to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. The menu at 103 West includes a butternut squash soup garnished with fragrant truffle oil and the turkey dressing is made with Granny Smith apples and fresh rosemary. Seasons 52 serves caramelized Brussels sprouts seasoned with crispy bacon, garlic and Parmesan.

Winter Salads

Salads are often overlooked in the parade of roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. A crisp and colorful salad perks up taste buds and lightens up the menu a bit. At Southern Art the kale salad is garnished with bourbon macerated mission figs, cherry tomatoes and pecans. The poached pear, watercress and endive salad at The Shed at Glenwood is topped with goat cheese and peanuts. Another inspiring salad idea for a Thanksgiving spread is 103 West’s Boston Butter Lettuce Salad with apples, celery, currants and toasted walnuts.

Modern Family Menus

From the head of the table to the kids’ table, there are bound to be a few folks at Thanksgiving gatherings this year who have unique dietary needs including vegetarian, vegan, nut allergies, gluten or lactose intolerance. So no doubt whoever’s cooking the meal will feel a bit challenged to please all of the pilgrims.

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Watch Carolyn and Christine give thanks for naturally healthy Thanksgiving foods.

An easy idea for the big feast is to create a selection of ingredients so each guest can customize their plates depending on allergies or food preferences. For example, simply roast sweet potatoes and steam green beans then offer nuts, bacon crumbles, toasted breadcrumbs and shredded cheese on the side in little bowls. Just about everyone can enjoy a seasonal mix of roasted vegetables, even the kids who might claim to be “allergic” to parsnips and rutabaga.

Restaurants and caterers are used to adapting recipes for special dietary requests. Matthew and Lynda Phillips of ADAiRE Personal Chefs offer a list of gluten free side dishes on their catering menu for Thanksgiving. Need some ideas for the non-turkey eaters at the table? Vegetarians and everyone else would enjoy the lady pea and okra succotash or the Carolina gold risotto with autumn squash and sage featured on the menu at South City Kitchen.

 While Thanksgiving is not a day for dieting, it’s certainly smart to up the flavor appeal of holiday favorites with creative recipes that help keep the calories down. Use smart swaps such as Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, sour cream or whipping cream in all kinds of recipes from salad dressings to pancakes. Chobani has a great offering of holiday recipes in Chobani Kitchen.  I work with Chobani on some nutrition communications projects and love the fact that their Greek yogurt comes in 0%, 1%, 2% and now 4% milk fat varieties.

I love the seasonal flavors Pumpkin Spice and Cinnamon Pear as toppings on Pumpkin Pie!

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Chobani’s yogurts for kids and tots in tubes and pounces are 25% lower in sugar than other yogurts marketed to children and since Greek yogurt is strained, Chobani yogurts for kids and adults is twice as high in protein as other kinds of yogurts. #client

 Yes, you can indulge without the bulge.

  • Fill your plate with your personal holiday favorites first. Don’t waste your calories on foods you can eat all year long.
  • Turkey and all the trimmings may be the draw, but remember the main event should be sharing time with family and friends.
  • Start a new tradition by taking a walk with family and friends after the big meal and serving dessert after the stroll. You’ll feel better and dessert will taste even better.
  • Give thanks that even dietitians believe Thanksgiving is not a day to diet. You may not lose any pounds over the holidays, but if you maintain your weight you’re doing great.

 

 

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Pecans: Pecan Pie and Beyond

Pecans More than Pecan Pie

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 Traditional pecan pie may have met its match because creative cooks are introducing new ways to showcase pecans.

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Soup made with pureed pecans and chipotle peppers

They can literally be used from soup to nuts. Gathered at a culinary event in the Serenbe Farms community south of Atlanta organized by the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA) professional chefs rose to the recipe challenge.

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Think beyond sugar laden pecan pies and pecan praline candies. “Europeans often ask me ‘why is it you take such a healthy product and turn it into such an unhealthy product?’ so I’m very interested in the recipes developed here,” said Bruce Caris, of the Green Valley Pecan Company and chairman of the NPSA.

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The second culinary challenge- rather than relying on perfect pecan halves – invent sweet and savory dishes using pecan pieces and pecan meal. “We need to educate culinarians how to use the lesser known pecan ingredients,” said Christian Hallowell, executive chef for Delta Air Lines.

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Executive Chef Christian Hallowell, Delta Airlines

Pick up the Pieces

 

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Some of the first recipes demonstrated by Leif Eric Benson, chef for Oregon’s Department of Agriculture included a soup of pureed pecan pieces flavored with chipotle peppers and roasted lamb with a topping of pecan pieces cooked with garlic and thyme.

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Leif Eric Benson, chef for Oregon’s Department of Agriculture

Chefs, in a cook-off style contest worked together in teams at Serenbe’s Bosch Experience Center to create exciting new recipes with pecans and pecan products including pecan meal and pecan oil.

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“Pecan pieces are very absorbent and pick up the flavors of spices when cooking,” said Benson.

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Other inventive uses in the culinary world include using pecan meal as a meat extender or substitute. “Pecans can be used as a protein ingredient and we made a meatless all pecan pate today,” said Hallowell. “You roast and grind the pecan pieces to make a plant based protein dish.”

How about a pecan inspired cocktail? I made ginger ale from scratch using fresh ginger root, added sugar and fresh lime juice and then used Cathead Distillery Pecan Vodka to create a Pecan Mississippi Mule!

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Winning team: Trent Page, Google, Carolyn O’Neil and Keith Schroeder founder High Road Craft Ice Cream

Trent Page, chef for Google at the company’s You Tube headquarters, created a recipe for a miso pecan vinaigrette salad dressing using pecan pieces and pecan oil.But, when making menu changes affecting thousands of employees, he’s aware allergies must be considered. “You have to be transparent in menu signage because tree nut allergies are very serious,” said Page. Here’s a great resource on tree nut allergies

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Of course we made dessert! Pastry chef extraordinaire Kami Smith of Dawn Food Products quietly worked her magic to create a pecan desserts including a sumptuous pecan bread budding!

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Pecan Nut-rition

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Pecans, like other tree nuts including walnuts and almonds, are an excellent source of heart healthy fats, are rich in protein and a good source of fiber as well as other nutrients including vitamin E and potassium. What sets pecans apart from the rest of the nut pack is that they are the only nut native to North America and compared to other tree nuts have the highest concentration of antioxidants. Pecans are a win-win for taste and health.

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OK, now you can have a piece of pie!
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Wine with Your Veggies?

Wine Pairings for Vegetable Focused Menus

The restaurant trend reports are tumbling in with predictions for what will be “in” on menus in 2016. Topping the charts are vegetable focused meals. The National Restaurant Association puts “locally sourced produce” in their top ten. And food industry trend specialist Andrew Freeman says, “People want less animal protein and are requesting that veggies are ramped up to their fullest creative potential.”

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That taste trend has already emerged on Atlanta menus as vegetable side dishes multiply and vegetarian entrees get more chef love. Along side the meat centric South African inspired cuisine at newly opened Cape Dutch, chef Philippe Haddad offers a vegetable curry with South African spices and butternut squash ravioli with a peri-peri sauce.

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Even if you begin your meal at Cape Dutch with a bite of Biltong, traditional South African beef jerky, registered dietitian Sharon Palmer author of Plant-Powered for Life says you can practice ‘flexitarian’ eating by ordering the vegetarian entrée.

“It is hopeful to see the trends going on where meat is now at the side of the plate and veggies are front and center,” says Palmer. “Chefs are in love with farmers’ markets and post the farms where their produce hails from all the time. This has made an impact on consumers. Look at what’s going on with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. They’re cool!”

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Wine Pairing with Produce

A sea change from menus focused on meats and fish first to vegetables on center stage means morphing wine list suggestions too. At the Century House Tavern in Woodstock, known for locally sourced produce, general manager Jon Hayano suggests pairing the Butternut Squash Soup and Spaghetti Squash salad first course selections with brut Champagne.

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“We often think of animal products such as cheese, red meat, and fish when it comes to wine pairing, but with plant foods you can also make beautiful pairings,” says Palmer. “Try pairing the seasonings and sauces with wine. A citrus sauce or Asian flavoring goes nicely with white wines; tomato and chili sauces pair well with red wines.”

Wine director and co-owner of Flyte World Dining & Wine Bar in Nashville Scott Sears, who is a vegetarian, says, “In general, when pairing wine with vegetable-based meals, you want a low-alcohol, low-tannin, not-overly-oaked, balanced wine.”

More Sip Tips from Sears:

-“Make note of the spice level. To balance the spice, select wines with a touch of sweetness to them, such as Riesling or Rose.”

-“Avoid highly tannic reds made from grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon to avoid the dry, course mouth feel tannin causes when it can’t bond with fat. Tannins can overly-emphasize any earthy favors present in the vegetable dish.”

-“The wine should add dimension to the dish without adding any elements that clash with the texture. Sparkling wine is a great option for just about any vegetable dish, as are bright, light, crisp whites.”

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Frozen Food Aisle is Hot!

 

For those who are concerned frozen foods aren’t as nutritious as fresh; I say “Let it go!”

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That’s how we kicked off the segment on Atlanta & Company! Watch the segment here.

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Freezing is “nature’s pause button” and preserves the taste, texture and nutrients in foods. Flash freezing at the time of harvest means fruits and vegetables are picked at the premium point for freshness and great taste. It also means nutrients are at their highest level. In fact studies show that some frozen fruits, including blueberries, are actually a bit higher in antioxidant and vitamin content as compared to fresh.

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Nature’s Pause Button- Easy Frozen Flower Decoration

Frozen Foods Aisle Really Heating Up!

I was shopping recently for my favorite frozen foods staples (chopped spinach, lima beans, sweet peas, and individually quick frozen chicken breasts)  and I was amazed at the selection and variety of frozen vegetables and vegetable blends including vegetable blends with beans and grains. So fast and easy to prepare! You know how long it can take to cook brown rice so I like buying the frozen precooked packages of brown rice to quickly cook up on stove top or in the microwave oven. I love butternut squash and buy it fresh all of the time to roast in the oven, but I also keep packaged frozen butternut squash which is cut up into cubes to add to soups or to prep quickly as a dinner side dish.

Also, a big improvement is that frozen vegetables in cream sauce or cheese sauce seem to be on the wane. And there’s a new wave in chef-inspired frozen entrees such as Lean Cuisine‘s line of delicious and nutritious culinary creations such as Chicken Pecan with white and wild rice, pecans, sweet potatoes, apples and cranberries. One of my favorites is the Sweet & Spicy Korean-Style Beef.  To balance the meal just add some vegetables on the side such as broccoli florets or green beans. #balanceyourplate

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Did you know that Lean Cuisine entrees have been pleasing palates for three decades? And guess what? Chefs and dietitians working together in the Nestle USA Culinary Center in Solon, Ohio have developed recipes to lower the sodium content from 1000 mg of sodium per serving to less than 600 mg per serving by adding flavors from herbs and spices. Now that is a win-win for taste and health!

Let’s Make a Pizza!

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Frozen pizzas are one of the most popular items in the frozen food aisle. I like buying thin crust cheese pizzas and topping with lots of vegetables to create a fabulous and balanced pizza meal. Toss a side salad for even more good nutrition and great taste.  Here are two ideas with DiGiorno Thin Crust Four Cheese pizza. #sponsored

Healthy dining advice on the pizza box tells us that one serving is one fifth of the pizza. Delicious by the way!

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Taco Pizza – top with precooked ground  meat seasoned with chili powder, salt and pepper or a taco seasoning mix, place green pepper slices on top of the meat and bake pizza according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped tomatoes, salsa, avocado slices and fresh cilantro.

Tuscan Pizza– top the pizza with fresh mushroom slices and bake according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped canned artichoke hearts, sliced black olives, thinly sliced deli ham (optional) ,  and lots of arugula.

Here’s a great resource from Nestle USA that reveals 7 Facts why Frozen is Fabulous for taste, health, easy meals, reducing food waste and saving money.

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The Lady of the Refrigerator Thanks You!

There are lots of recipes in The Slim Down South Cookbook that feature frozen ingredients including Tomato-Lima Bean Relish ( made with frozen lima beans ) and Sweet Pea Crostini, which is a hummus like spread made from frozen green peas, olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt and pepper. It’s an appetizing vibrant green color and a hit at parties. Top with feta cheese crumbles. For a holiday look and for vegans, top with pretty red pomegranate arils!

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French Lessons: Enjoy Your Food!

French Lesson with a Southern Accent:

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With Liz McDermott and Beatrix Kondor. #girlsgoneworld #parisescape #joinus

How DO those French Women Stay So Trim? 

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First, introducing the best worst souvenir in Paris.

Yes, I bought the chef’s hat that says France!

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Now, let’s go to Paris!

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To Marche to Marche!

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Bustling with shoppers, even in the rain, the weekly street market stretching along the Avenue du President Wilson in Paris was an eye-popping spectacle of peppers and pastries, spices and seafood, flowers and fromage.

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While I’m not used to finding fresh rabbit and blue lobsters in my supermarket at home, seeing these foods and more in the open-air markets of Paris was a big part of the foodie fun during my recent trip to the City of Light.

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Visiting the Louvre and other must-see Parisian sites was on the list, but my travel objectives were motivated by mealtime.

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My first lunch was a leisurely paced three-hour tour of tastes in the elegant Le Gabriel restaurant at La Reserve Paris Hotel and Spa quite near the famed Avenue des Champs-Elysees.

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The elegant dining room draped in the soft light of a September afternoon…we knew we were in for something very, very special.

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Let the games begin!!!

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Our first treat….surprising savory bites of foie gras in dark chocolate. Oh and some caviar.

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Beatrix Kondor apparently happy with the Champagne pairing.

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Then the delightful dishes just kept on coming…..

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The highlight of the culinary adventure was experiencing chef Jerome Banctel’s specialty dish of cocoa marinated pigeon (or squab) with the bird’s little feet intact served with organic buckwheat pasta.

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Liz McDermott says, “We love an adventure!”

A cheese course preceded no fewer than three desserts including cloud-like marshmallows  with a tart sorbet of aloe and lime…..

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….a wild strawberry creation under an envelope of strawberry glee…

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…then a plate lined with hazelnut chocolate you scooped up with tiny brioche and sticks of meringue.

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Wait! If this is how those French women stay so trim, I’m moving here!

More simply sensational scenes from the jewel box that is La Reserve Paris Hotel and Spa.

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View into the Fitness Room

 

 

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How about a swim? #swoon
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Upstairs…
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…Downstairs.

 

City of Light Eaters

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Paris fashions help you focus on fitness goals. #pretty

 

As author of the best selling book French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano recommends bread, Champagne, chocolate and romance as key ingredients to a balanced diet and lifestyle.

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I was willing to put it to the test and while in France take some time to observe the eating habits of French women.

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A young woman who works at the Dior restaurant in St. Tropez told me that she was taught to eat slowly so that the meal is more satisfying. Dinner most nights might be a simple soup with bread, a piece of cheese and fresh fruit.

Portions are definitely smaller in France as compared to the U.S.

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And the fashion sense is grande!

 

But that’s a good thing because it allows for a variety of more tastes.

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The multi-course lunch Liz and I enjoyed with our new friend, Marie Dumarest-Petavi, at the one-star Michelin La Table restaurant in the Hotel Lancaster Paris left me feeling satisfied and energized, not stuffed and tired.

An ample two-ounce portion of beef was paired with mushrooms and sautéed red grapes.

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Our incredibly friendly waiter couldn’t wait to tell us he was a big fan of the Green Bay Packers!
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Beautifully tender beef with mushrooms and grapes is a modern art form in cuisine and design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the very special members of Leading Hotels of the World, The Lancaster Paris, was home to film legend Marlena Dietrich. You may stay in her suite of rooms if you want to feel like a movie star.

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Of course life in Paris comes with a hefty serving of walking and many days we racked up six kilometers on  Bea’s fitness app.

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Add to that the breath-defying 284 step climb up the Arc de Triomphe and running to catch Metro trains and Paris measures up as a great getaway for food and fitness.

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Low Country Shrimp Boil Skewers

Shrimp Boil Skewer PHOTOGRAPHED BY JENNIFER DAVICK; PROP STYLING: LYDIA DEGARIS PURSELL; FOOD STYLING: MARIAN COOPER CAIRNS
Shrimp Boil Skewer
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JENNIFER DAVICK; PROP STYLING: LYDIA DEGARIS PURSELL; FOOD STYLING: MARIAN COOPER CAIRNS

 

Recipe from The Slim Down South Cookbook by Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD

Shrimp Boil Skewers

Fall in love with the flavors of Fall! Warm up with a Low Country Boil featuring shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes. #lovethsouth #slimdownsouth

Get the flavor of a shrimp boil without the mess—or the calories! These skewers are perfect for a backyard party and already portioned for you.

 

Makes 24 servings

Hands-On 30 min.

Total 1 hour

 

24 (6-inch) wooden skewers

2 Tbsp. butter

¾ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

½ cup finely chopped sweet onion

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 medium ears)

½ to ¾ tsp. Creole seasoning

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

¼ cup Old Bay seasoning

24 baby red potatoes (about 1 lb.)

½ lb. smoked sausage, cut into 24 slices

24 peeled and deveined, extra-large raw shrimp (about 1¼ lb.)

 

  1. Soak skewers in water 30 minutes. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat; add bell pepper and next 2 ingredients, and sauté 4 minutes. Stir in corn and Creole seasoning, and sauté 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in parsley and vinegar.2. Bring Old Bay seasoning and 5 qt. water to a boil, covered, in a large stockpot. Add potatoes, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add sausage, and cook 3 minutes. Add shrimp; cook 3 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink and potatoes are tender. Drain.3. Thread 1 potato, 1 shrimp, and 1 sausage piece onto each skewer. Arrange on serving plates or a long shallow platter. Spoon corn mixture over skewers.

    Serving size 1 skewer CALORIES 78; FAT 3.7g (sat 1.6g, mono 1.5g, poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 5.3g; CARB 6.3g; FIBER 0.7g; CHOL 38mg; IRON 0.4mg; SODIUM 165mg; CALC 19mg

 

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Fine Tuning Cruise Fare


Ahoy there from the Sunny Med!

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Hello from the Nieuw Amsterdam, one of the elegant ships of Holland America Line, as we sail on a 12-day dream cruise from Venice to Barcelona with many exciting and beautiful ports of call.

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View of the Nieuw Amsterdam from one of the ship’s tenders. Port of Kotor in Montenegro.

On the Menu Out to Sea

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Small plates are making big waves in cruise ship cuisine. From tiny dishes of mozzarella with fresh tomato or hummus with feta cheese, dolmades and olives, an artfully arranged selection of tastes from breakfast to late night snacking is set out for passengers dining casually in the Lido Market on Holland America Line ships.

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There’s no shortage of comfort food favorites such as roast beef and mashed potatoes and vacation treat foods including burgers and fries.

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But gone are the serve yourself steam table vats and buffet style trays that passengers used to fill to capacity.

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How about a Mediterranean meze plate?

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Now at each step of the way from the salad bar to the hot entrees, members of the culinary team smile and place what you want on a plate and hand it to you.

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The salad bar is a fresh cornocopia of creative ingredients

Prettily packaged sandwiches such as chicken salad with arugula on freshly baked multi grain bread take the place of a deli concept where you’d typically stand in line.
There are three distinct dining advantages here.

-Fewer people handling the food improve food safety. -Portion control allows passengers to enjoy a wider variety of tastes and decreases food waste. -And because the culinary staff create and garnish the plates they look much better for your vacation food photography.

Foodies at Sea

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My recent vacation on the Nieuw Amsterdam to celebrate a rather big birthday served up a bucket-list Mediterranean itinerary and a peek into current cruise fare philosophy.

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So much fun to dress up at night and enjoy dressed up dishes.

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I took notice that menus afloat from the elegant Manhattan Dining Room to made-to-order thin crust pizzas on the pool deck reflect dining trends ashore.

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There’s a sushi bar in Asian inspired Tamarind and shared platters of salumi and pastas at Italian themed Canaletto.

Popup dinners such as a special evening of dishes from famed New York restaurant Le Cirque add more glamour to gourmet meals in the Pinnacle Grill.

Lobster salad with grapefruit is a Le Cirque classic.
Lobster salad with grapefruit is a Le Cirque classic.

Specials on the Distant Lands menu connect to the local cuisine of each port of call. While docked in Dubrovnik, I sampled Croatian foods onboard including pastry stuffed with seasoned beef, meatballs with coriander sauce and a flaky cheese pie called Burek Sa Siron.

Croatian traditional dishes served with view of Croatia!
Croatian traditional dishes served with view of Croatia!

Chefs’ cooking demos and mixology classes add extra entertainment for food lovers on board.  After completing a series of four mixology classes you get a diploma!

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Nice work guys!
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Of course I joined the class!!

Galley Ho!

A behind the scenes tour of the ship’s gleaming galley leads guests everywhere from the dishwashing to dessert stations.

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I learned that 137, 000 pounds of fresh vegetables are consumed by two thousand guests in a typical week.

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Oh, and nearly 1700 pounds of butter.

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“At the start of the week passengers eat a lot because they’re excited about all of the choices,” says Martin Van Winden dining room manager of the Niew Amsterdam’s Pinnacle Grill “Then we do see a decline in food consumption as the cruise continues.”

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The elegant Pinnacle Grill on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

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Ship Shape

Special diet requests and food allergy concerns are taken seriously with gluten free choices and creative vegetarian fare such as barbecue tofu with creamy grits one day for lunch.
While there’s a fabulous fitness center and spa on board, my chosen exercise was taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

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When you walk up and down from deck 2 to deck 11 a few times a day it’s a work out. Especially when realizing you’re looking for a place that’s aft when you’re at the stern so have to walk another five minutes. Then you forget something in your stateroom……we racked up a lot of steps!

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There were 2300 passengers on board for the 12-Day Mediterranean Romance Cruise on the Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam.

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Actually the liveliness of this shared community at sea added so much enjoyment to the journey.  Traveling with my friend Liz McDermott, we never felt that any space was crowded or had to wait for a drink! We even got to meet Captain Edward G. Van Zaane for a special tour of the bridge.

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Did you know there are no paper navigation maps anymore? But still a tradition of handsome Captains at sea.

Now, how about a recipe from Allen and Antonio, our favorite bartenders and the “professors” of the mixology class series on board? Bon voyage!

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Chocolate Martini

Garnish chilled glass with chocolate sauce in swirled pattern

Shake 1 oz Vodka with 1 oz Creme de Cacoa White in a cocktail shaker with some ice.

Strain and pour into the glass.

Enjoy and you’re on your way to earning your very own bartender certificate.

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Stay tuned as we set sail for more foodie destinations on shore in my next blog post.

A cruise is a great way to explore and discover the traditional foods, exemplary eateries and exciting markets in ports along the way.

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Liz and I stumbled upon one of the best lunches of our lives at the tucked away and affordable Dior restaurant in St. Tropez. More to come……

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Commonly Eaten Foods are Super Foods, too!

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How does a food become super? It’s amazing to me how many times I read about the powers of a new nutritious ‘super food’. It could be a tiny berry from the South America, a rare wild green foraged from the forest floor, sea algae selected by whales or an ancient grain discovered by archeologists. Are they super interesting? Yes. Could they be super high in antioxidants or other vital nutrients? Yes. Do they taste good? Maybe. Are they a practical part of our everyday diets and menu plans? No.

As a registered dietitian what matters to me are criteria that matter to the majority of us looking for good tasting healthy foods. These are the foods ‘super’ in a few important categories: super tasty, super easy to prepare, super nutritious, super easy to find and super affordable.

Here’s a video round up of Super Foods for All on NBC Atlanta and Company.

Super me and Christine Pullara, host of Atlanta & Company
Super me and Christine Pullara, host of Atlanta & Company

Super Food for All

From peaches and peanuts to rice and beans and foods we drink such as tea (green and black tea) there are many commonly consumed foods that provide great taste and health benefits. Taking a closer look at one example of what I consider to be a ‘super’ food let’s peel back the layers on the humble onion.

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First off, onions are fat free, sodium free and low in calories but provide a big flavor punch in a wide variety of recipes from all over the world. One medium onion -one cup chopped- contains only 64 calories. Nutritionally, onions are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and the mineral potassium, which is important for blood pressure control. Research has linked onion consumption to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. One of the natural phytonutrients in onions, called quercetin, has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties linked to fighting disease. Other vegetables contain quercetin too but since onions are often consumed in higher volumes on a regular basis in so many foods from soups to salads to sauces and stews, the onion is a more powerful vehicle for this healthy compound.

Onion World

Red, white, yellow or purple onions come in a huge variety of sizes and sweetness.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a vegetable with more versatility from raw to caramelized or pickled onions are unique in the vegetable kingdom,” says Kim Reddin who blogs as Onionista for the National Onion Association. “Onions are eaten all around the globe. In fact when I look at an onion I picture a map of the world.”

Just learning to cook? Reddin says novice culinarians at home or in school programs should grab an onion. “An onion is a great teaching tool. They’re inexpensive so you can use a lot of them to practice knife skills, how to sauté and other basic cooking techniques.”

Onion Myths

Yes, they’re tasty, healthy and a kitchen staple. But, they’re not ‘super’ at fighting the flu as falsely claimed. Based on a myth that dates as far back at the 1500’s placing a cut raw onion in a room will not attract germs in the room. And if the fear of bad breath steers you away from raw onions, try following it up with a bite of fresh parsley. “I wish they still garnished plates with a sprig of parsley,” says Reddin. “It’s not just a decoration you know. It was there as a palate cleanser and to aid digestion.” Parsley, the new super food?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Digesting Advice to “Avoid Processed Foods”

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I’ve decided to avoid giving nutrition advice that includes the phrase “avoid processed foods.” There are many popular terms we use to describe the foods we eat that beg for a better definition. Baking bread, making yogurt, canning tomatoes and turning cucumbers into pickles all require a process. So, you can see that throwing out the term ‘processed’ foods to refer to foods that are perceived to be ‘unhealthy’ doesn’t always apply.

In fact, certain food production processes can actually boost nutritional content such as adding calcium to orange juice or whole grains to pasta. Other processes such as freezing vegetables help to preserve vitamin content at the time of harvest. “The term ‘processed foods’ evokes a wide range of assumptions and beliefs about what is a healthy food,” says lead Connie Weaver, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Department Head, Nutrition Science, Purdue University. Weaver, a member of The American Society for Nutrition, contributed to a statement on the nutritional benefits of processed foods published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The statement concludes that making food selections based on nutrient composition and not extent of processing is a better way to determine nutrition adequacy.  For instance, compared to fresh tomatoes, which are higher in vitamin C, canned tomatoes have a higher concentration of disease fighting nutrients such as lycopene and beta-carotene.

Processing History

“Maybe processed food isn’t such a bad thing after all,” concludes food historian Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine & Empire: Cooking in World History. Here’s an excerpt from one of her articles in the publication Gastronomica discussing the mealtime merits of processing foods:

“So to make food tasty, safe, digestible, and healthy, our forebears bred, ground, soaked, leached, curdled, fermented, and cooked naturally occurring plants and animals until they were literally beaten into submission. They built granaries, dried their meat and their fruit, salted and smoked their fish, curdled and fermented their dairy products, and cheerfully used additives and preservatives—sugar, salt, oil, vinegar, lye—to make edible foodstuffs.”

Clean Eating

“Clean” is another popular term today meant to imply a ‘healthier’ food product or restaurant dish has very few ingredients. But, Julie Miller Jones, PhD, professor of foods and nutrition at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN points out that additional ingredients can improve a food’s health profile, “If we add more of an oat fiber called beta-glucans to oatmeal and other foods we can double the cholesterol lowering power.” Talk about cleaning things up.

Adding ascorbic acid (better known as vitamin C) helps preserve the freshness and safety of many packaged foods. But, when it comes to frozen vegetables, for instance, I say go for the ‘plain Janes’ and not the ones with added calorie and fat boosting butter and cheese sauces.

If you’re trying to find foods higher in fiber or a particular vitamin or are cutting back on the amount of sodium or sugar in your diet, the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods is still the best tool for seeing what’s inside. Label reading note: ingredients are listed in order of prevalence on packaged foods.

Nutrition education, it seems, is a process too.

WebMD recently posted a very helpful and comprehensive article examining the pluses and minuses of marketing foods with so-called “clean labels”.  Simplifying things in an attempt to cut through the clutter of consumer confusion can really complicate the situation.  I say if an ingredient has a scientific name I want to know, especially if it best describes the ingredient.  Again, Ascorbic acid is Vitamin C.

Want something that sounds more natural so you can be sure it’s safe? Well, don’t forget that snake venom is natural too and olive oil is a processed food. Which do you want in your salad dressing?

So on we go. The more you know, the more you can eat.

 

 

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Nantucket Oasis for Summer Food and Wine

 

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Nantucket Island, thirty miles from Massachusetts’s mainland, is a summer vacation oasis of grey-shingled cottages surrounded by green lawns, blue hydrangeas and pink roses.

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Sailboats bob in the harbor and sea birds soar overhead. The leisurely pace is a simple mix of bike rides and beach days. But, the summer fashions are lively with splashes of nautical stripes, Lily Pulitzer’s eye-popping prints and the iconic pink known as Nantucket red.

It's not pink. It's Nantucket red.
It’s not pink. It’s Nantucket red.

Happily, the island’s summer menus are as lively as the landscape and the lifestyle. Pineapple salsa and jalapeno cilantro slaw brighten up the fish tacos at the White Elephant’s Brant Point Grill. Dinner al fresco on the ocean view deck at Topper’s in the elegant Wauwinet Inn features an appetizer of marinated Jonah crab with pickled cucumbers, lemon drop melon, fresh dill and edible nasturtium flowers.

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“My favorite thing about food on Nantucket is that local chefs embrace the local farmers,” says registered dietitian Liz Weiss who is a family nutrition expert and co-founder of www.mealmakeovermoms.com. “The fish are locally caught and chefs pair dishes with farm fresh produce and herbs.”

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Liz Weiss and I in her fabulous kitchen in her Nantucket summer home. FYI: the island doubles as a ping-pong table.

At Topper’s I enjoyed a pristine piece of halibut served with squash, roasted eggplant, and Nicoise olive vinaigrette.

Weiss chose raw blue fin tuna with artichokes, basil and Bartlett’s Farm tomato preserve. She said, “There are so many farms here and I think local produce really brings out the best in seafood. It’s just more fun to eat.”

So what does a seafood-loving dietitian say about New England’s on-just-about-every-menu lobster rolls? “Well there’s usually a lot of mayo in the dressing and butter on the toasted roll, but I say it’s OK to splurge on vacation,” said Weiss. “You can always go on a longer bike ride.”

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A lighter version is available on the menu at the Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant where you can skip the roll and ask for the succulent lobster salad splurge served with a green salad.

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My stay at the White Elephant Village was a retreat within a retreat with elegant modern suite, a super comfy bed, sparkling pool and even more sparkling friendly staff. You can hop on a complimentary bicycle to explore the town or (my choice) greet the day sipping  coffee with a fresh baked pastry and pretending to read the New York Times in the spacious lobby.

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Who needs the beach? Must less sand at the White Elephant swimming pool. (:

Another Nantucket nutrition tip from Weiss – vacation time can be the best time to introduce kids to seafood. “I have found that picky eaters are more apt to try new flavors with the positive peer pressure and excitement in a restaurant.”

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Yes, that’s a white elephant at the White Elephant!

 

In the Pink

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Rose wines, more popular than ever this summer, are perfectly paired with seafood and the pretty pink color of lobster.

Liz and I enjoying sunset at Topper's at the Wauwinet Inn
Liz and I enjoying sunset at Topper’s at the Wauwinet Inn

“The dry roses of France are light and crisp and compliment the richness of lobster,” said Atlanta based interior designer Liz McDermott; another vacation friend and Nantucket fan.

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The pale orangey pink of Whispering Angel rose from Provence – which seemed to fill the majority of wine glasses at sunset on the island – was also a perfect match for the Nantucket red shorts, pants and sweaters worn by so many visitors enjoying this gourmet summer getaway.

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Greek Yogurt’s Got Protein Power


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Greek style yogurts are taking over the dairy aisle…and apparently the airline aisles! Photo above is my snack on Delta Airlines flight to Syracuse, New York. You’ll learn in a minute why on earth I was flying there in July!

The rich and creamy texture of these strained Greek yogurts combined with the win-win of their high protein and low fat content are driving demand as consumers seek foods that meet taste and health expectations.

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“Greek yogurt has two times the protein as compared to regular yogurt,” says Rob Post, senior director of nutrition and regulatory affairs for Chobani.

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Here’s Rob at dinner seated next to my registered dietitian colleague and nutrition writer Bonnie Taub-Dix. Dr. Post is one of the great minds who built the MyPlate nutrition icon at the US Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. 

Ah ha! I flew to Syracuse because one of Chobani’s two processing plants ( the other one is in Idaho ) is in the tiny western New York town of New Berlin.

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I was invited by Chobani with a group of other registered dietitians and nutrition writers and food bloggers to meet, greet and eat our way to better knowledge about the nuances of making Greek yogurt. That, of course, started down on the farm.

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Look at this state of the art ( the girls love the milking merry-go-round ) Rotary Milking Parlor at Sunnyside Farms in Scipio Center, New York.  600 dairy darlings are milked per hour in a ten minute round trip per cow. No antibiotics are used, unless an animal becomes sick and is then removed from the milking crowd. So, it’s in the dairy men and women’s plan of best practices to keep the cows healthy with good food (grass, alfalfa, corn, citrus pulp, canola seeds and more), plenty of clean water and fresh air. The dairy barn was open on the sides allowing  fresh breezes from the rural hills beyond to flow through the area.

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Rotary Milking Parlor- take a spin!

We also visited the impressive processing plant where Chobani yogurt is made, flavored with fruit, packaged, and shipped.

IMG_2799There are many steps along the way and each of them included above and beyond safety and sanitation oversight by professionals especially trained in each and every position along the way. Each of us suited up in factory fashions to ensure we weren’t dragging in any dirt. Spotless processing equals safe dairy; very very important in a world where listeria monocytogenes can be hiding.  Chobani pasteurizes their milk to above regulation temperatures to ensure any lurking bacteria are killed.  Go get ’em!

Protein Power Points

Greek yogurt even beats eggs in protein power and with fewer calories. One cup of Chobani Greek yogurt contains 22 grams of protein and 130 calories. Two large eggs contain 12 grams of protein and 154 calories.

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Muscles are beautiful. Now you’ve got my attention!

What’s so important about protein? More than just a muscle builder this major nutrient is the focus of important emerging research on weight control.

Heather Leidy, professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, leads studies measuring the impact of high protein diets (100-130 grams of protein per day) on weight management. “We see more weight loss and more fat loss”, says Leidy. “Protein improves appetite control and satiety. There can be a reduction in food intake of over 400 calories per day.”

Salad dressing with Greek yogurt dressing at The New York Pizzeria in New Berlin, NY. A Chobani staff favorite!
Salad dressing with Greek yogurt dressing at The New York Pizzeria in New Berlin, NY. A Chobani staff favorite!

Protein timing is critical too. Rather than consuming a huge steak for dinner, Leidy suggests eating about 30 grams of protein per eating occasion throughout the day. Snacks should provide protein too because they’re more satisfying for a longer period of time.
The kind of protein consumed impacts overall health, too. High quality protein foods containing all of the essential amino acids for building and repairing body cells are vitally important.

“Most people consume plenty of protein but we’re not really sure they’re getting high quality protein,” says registered dietitian and protein researcher Nancy Rodriguez of the University of Connecticut-Storrs.

“Animal foods such as dairy, eggs, meats, fish contain the twenty essential amino acids needed for numerous functions in the body.”

Savory Swaps
Yogurt is enjoyed mostly as a breakfast food with fruit or as a sweet snack but executive chef Tim Reardon of Chobani wants to help change that by popularizing savory yogurt recipes.

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“You can easily substitute half of the mayo in coleslaw or chicken salad or the oil in a salad dressing with Greek yogurt,” says Reardon.

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“As a marinade it tenderizes meats and adds moisture to baked goods,” says Reardon.

Hey look! A pizza recipe on a Chobani yogurt container!
Hey look! A pizza recipe on a Chobani yogurt container!

And by substituting Greek yogurt for mayo or oil or sour cream…..

you’re not only cutting calories in recipes, you’re adding good nutrition, too. 

You're welcome!
You’re welcome!
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