It’s the holiday season and time for you to sparkle too.
Enjoy yourself and know that weight loss is a rare bird during this season of indulgence. But you don’t have to gain any weight.
In fact, maintaining your weight should be the goal so that you don’t wake up on January 1st with a bigger New Year’s diet resolution than you had anticipated.
SLIM DOWN SOUTH COOKBOOK There’s a reason it’s called SLIM!
I have four tips and they spell out the word SLIM!
S- Savor the fresh flavors of the season (enjoy in season squash, apples, dark greens and citrus)
L- Linger longer ( take your time and be mindful of flavors )
I- Indulge a Little ( choose smart portions of splurge foods)
M- Make it Happen (go walking, say no to sugar sweetened beverages)
Please enjoy this video from NBC Atlanta & Company where I explain it all…plus an easy holiday appetizer. Mozzarella, Prosciutto and Mango.
The vibrant art, historic monuments and architectural treasures of Mexico City continue to lure visitors in search of inspiring cultural experiences.
Sampling the country’s culinary treasures is a portal to the past as well.
Mexico’s cuisine is influenced by centuries of food customs from the indigenous Mayan to Spanish conquerors.
Today chefs leading the lively food scene in Mexico City add contemporary flair to taste traditions.
Recently opened Fonda Mayora is set in a park filled residential neighborhood of Mexico City.
Chef Gerardo Vazquez Lugo and his team of young chefs serve smoked oysters, roast pork stuffed with chorizo and pineapple ……
…and grilled whole fish presented with black beans, tender blue corn tortillas and a fresh selection of green and red salsas.
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!
“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.
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.
“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
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Need more chocolate?
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.
Don’t miss spending a few moments of bliss in the little room with walls covered in fragrant deep dark chocolate.
I think I’ve found my new home in Mexico City! Truly a magical culinary destination.
Summer time is prime time for farmer’s markets offering an eye-popping selection of simply delicious fruits and vegetables bursting with fresh flavors.
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…..
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!
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!
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.
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.
So have fun with pizza night this summer and remember to think Farmer’s Market finds by adding seasonal produce to pizza!
Play with Your Food segment with registered dietitian Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN
July 2016 WGN-TV LunchBreak Segment
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!
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
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
“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
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?’”
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.”
Halibut cheeks are served on a layer of pureed ratatouille with fresh corn and fava beans.
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.”
Learning to make a basic vinaigrette is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Actually you don’t even need the 2! The ratio for making a vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid.
I like red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. But there’s a world of other vinegars to use including Champagne, White Balsamic, Apple Cider and Rice Wine vinegars…just to name a few.
Once you learn to make a basic vinaigrette you can get creative! Whisk in orange marmalade and add minced chives to make an Orange Chive Vinaigrette. Or why not start with Sweet Tea or Bloody Mary Mix? These recipes are from The Slim Down South Cookbook where you’ll find many more ways to Dress to Thrill with healthy and happy spring salads.
Sweet Tea Vinaigrette
Make the dressing up ahead and allow it to cool; otherwise it’ll wilt your salad. Store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Makes 6 servings Hands-On 10 min. Bring 1 cup sweetened tea to a boil in a saucepan over medium-low heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer 9 to 10 minutes or until reduced to ⅓ cup. Remove from heat; cool 20 minutes. Whisk in 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, ¼ tsp. honey, ¼ tsp. Dijon mustard, and a pinch of table salt. Whisk in 6 Tbsp. canola or olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Serving size 2 Tbsp. CALORIES 137; FAT 14.0g (sat 1.0g, mono 8.9g, poly 3.9g); PROTEIN 0g; CARB 3.3g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 28mg; CALC 0mg
Bloody Mary Vinaigrette
Whisk together ¼ cup spicy Bloody Mary mix, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1½ tsp. prepared horseradish, ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, ½ tsp. hot sauce, ¼ tsp. celery salt, and ¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Serving size 4 tsp. CALORIES 44; FAT 5g (sat 0.6g, mono 3.3g, poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 0g; CARB 1g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0.1mg; SODIUM 105mg; CALC 4mg
Let’s lighten up family favorite comfort foods including mac n cheese, honey grilled pork tenderloin and baked pears for dessert. Watch the recipes come together on Atlanta and Company. Watch the video by clicking on the show name.
Here are the recipes from my Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon. Order a copy clicking here or on the title of the book!
Crunchy Pecan Slaw
You’ll have slaw left over; keep it covered in the fridge, and serve it within a day or two.
Makes 10 servings
Hands-On 20 min.
Total 28 min.
1 head napa cabbage, cut into thin strips
1 Braeburn apple, cut into thin strips
½ cup sliced radishes
½ cup Sweet-and-Spicy Dressing
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
Toss together cabbage and remaining ingredients in a large bowl until blended.Serving size 1 cup CALORIES 141; FAT 9.9g (sat 0.9g, mono 5.7g, poly 2.9g); PROTEIN 2.3g; CARB 13.7g; FIBER 3.7g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0.8mg; SODIUM 136mg; CALC 49mg
Makes 12 servings
Hands-On 5 min.
Total 5 min.
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. celery salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 days.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
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare cellentani pasta according to package directions.2. Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Gradually whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and evaporated milk until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Whisk in Gouda cheese, next 3 ingredients, and ⅛ tsp. ground red pepper until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in ham and pasta.3. Pour pasta mixture into a 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Stir together crushed cereal, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, and remaining ⅛ tsp. ground red pepper; sprinkle over pasta mixture.4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Note: We tested with Barilla Cellentani pasta and Cabot 1.5% Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese.
Tenderloins are one of the leanest cuts of pork with 120 calories per 3-ounce serving—about the same as a skinless chicken breast.
Makes 8 servings
Hands-On 21 min.
Total 3 hours, 21 min.
2 (1-lb.) pork tenderloins
¼ cup lite soy sauce
½ tsp. ground ginger
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
Garnish: fresh cilantro
Remove silver skin from tenderloins, leaving a thin layer of fat. Butterfly pork tenderloins by making a lengthwise cut down center of each tenderloin, cutting to within ¼ inch of other side. (Do not cut all the way through tenderloins.) Lay flat.2. Combine soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a shallow dish or zip-top plastic freezer bag; add pork, turning to coat. Cover or seal, and chill 3 hours, turning occasionally.3. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat. Stir together brown sugar, honey, and sesame oil in a small bowl.4. Grill tenderloins, covered with grill lid, 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145°, turning occasionally and basting with honey mixture.
Preheat oven to 375°. Peel pears, and cut in half, cutting through stem and bottom ends. Scoop out core and some pulp to form an oval hole in center of each pear half. Place pears, cut sides up, in an 8-inch square or 11- x 7-inch baking dish.2. Combine honey and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir in nuts and cranberries.3. Spoon honey mixture into center of pear halves. Pour orange juice into baking dish.4. Bake, covered, at 375° for 15 minutes; uncover and bake 12 more minutes or until pears are tender and thoroughly heated.
5. Place pear halves on individual plates; drizzle orange juice mixture evenly over pear halves. Spoon 1 Tbsp. yogurt onto each pear half, and sprinkle each pear with about 2½ tsp. Toasted Oat Topping. Serve immediately.
Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together ⅓ cup uncooked regular oats and 2 tsp. light brown sugar in a small bowl; add 1 tsp. butter, melted, tossing to coat. Spread mixture evenly on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 14 to 16 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring after 7 minutes.
On your mark, get set, go! The brand spanking new US Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) have just been released. They’re based on the latest and greatest food and nutrition research and are translated into advice on what we should be eating MORE of and what we should be eating LESS of to promote good health and prevent chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. US Health and Human Services Secretary Syliva Burwell says, “We can’t get broccoli to taste like ice cream but we can give Americans tools to choose healthier eating patterns.” That’s my favorite quote of the day!
Here’s a link to my sassy summary of the new DGA’s on WXIA Channel 11, Atlanta.
Go to www.choosemyplate.gov and you’ll find an easy summary and how-to follow for the new dietary guidelines which are good until until 2020, by the way. The guidelines are released every five years. A lot can change and a few things did this time, too.
Sweet call out– for the first time the advice on sugar is to limit added sugars to less than 10% of total calories. They are referring to the extra sugar added to coffee, tea, sodas or even to yogurts. They’re not talking about the naturally occurring sugars in dairy products and fruit. So keep an eye on the grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts Label on foods and drinks you buy. Bonnie Taub Dix, registered dietitian nutritionist, explains it really well here.
“Sugar: The guidelines suggest that added sugars should not account for more than “10 percent of total energy.” So what does that mean? Here’s the quick math: The average caloric recommendation equals 2,000 calories (even though that’s more than many of us need). So 10 percent of 2,000 calories equals 200 calories. Then 200 calories of sugar equal 50 grams (g) of sugar. One can of cola soda has 35 g of sugar. One bottle of water has zero grams of sugar.”Bonnie Taub-Dix, MS RDN
Cholesterol Gets a Pass- Sort of:
Dietary cholesterol, found in foods such as eggs and shrimp, is NOT associated with increased blood cholesterol levels, so the new DGA’s no NOT include a limit on dietary cholesterol. Enjoy your eggs as part of the list of healthy protein foods encouraged. How about celebrating with a low country shrimp boil from the Slim Down South Cookbook?
But, saturated fat, the kind in heavily marbled beef and in bacon, IS associated with increased blood cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease so the new DGA’s limit saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total calorie intake.
Bonne Taub-Dix to the rescue again, “Less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. The Nutrition Facts label can be used to check for saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.”
The recipes and road rules for slim and trim healthy eating in The Slim Down South Cookbook follow the new US Dietary Guidelines in a delicious and nutritious way.
How about starting with eating more vegetable based protein with a Slow Cooker Veggie Chili. A super food for the Super Bowl. Great for game day or any day!!!!
Here’s the recipe!
Slow-Cooker Veggie Chili
Corn, beans, and squash are known as the Three Sisters in Native American agriculture because they can be grown at the same time in the same soil. This tasty, easy recipe makes enough to feed you and up to 15 sisters.
Makes 16 servings
Hands-On 20 min.
Total 8 hours, 20 min.
4 medium carrots, diced (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, diced (½ cup)
1 medium-size sweet onion, diced (1¼ cups)
Vegetable cooking spray
2 (8-oz.) packages cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 large zucchini, chopped (2 cups)
1 yellow squash, chopped (1 cup)
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. seasoned pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1 (16-oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16-oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15.5-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Traditional pecan pie may have met its match because creative cooks are introducing new ways to showcase pecans.
They can literally be used from soup to nuts. Gathered at a culinary event in the Serenbe Farms community south of Atlanta organized by the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA) professional chefs rose to the recipe challenge.
Think beyond sugar laden pecan pies and pecan praline candies. “Europeans often ask me ‘why is it you take such a healthy product and turn it into such an unhealthy product?’ so I’m very interested in the recipes developed here,” said Bruce Caris, of the Green Valley Pecan Company and chairman of the NPSA.
The second culinary challenge- rather than relying on perfect pecan halves – invent sweet and savory dishes using pecan pieces and pecan meal. “We need to educate culinarians how to use the lesser known pecan ingredients,” said Christian Hallowell, executive chef for Delta Air Lines.
Pick up the Pieces
Some of the first recipes demonstrated by Leif Eric Benson, chef for Oregon’s Department of Agriculture included a soup of pureed pecan pieces flavored with chipotle peppers and roasted lamb with a topping of pecan pieces cooked with garlic and thyme.
Chefs, in a cook-off style contest worked together in teams at Serenbe’s Bosch Experience Center to create exciting new recipes with pecans and pecan products including pecan meal and pecan oil.
“Pecan pieces are very absorbent and pick up the flavors of spices when cooking,” said Benson.
Other inventive uses in the culinary world include using pecan meal as a meat extender or substitute. “Pecans can be used as a protein ingredient and we made a meatless all pecan pate today,” said Hallowell. “You roast and grind the pecan pieces to make a plant based protein dish.”
How about a pecan inspired cocktail? I made ginger ale from scratch using fresh ginger root, added sugar and fresh lime juice and then used Cathead Distillery Pecan Vodka to create a Pecan Mississippi Mule!
Trent Page, chef for Google at the company’s You Tube headquarters, created a recipe for a miso pecan vinaigrette salad dressing using pecan pieces and pecan oil.But, when making menu changes affecting thousands of employees, he’s aware allergies must be considered. “You have to be transparent in menu signage because tree nut allergies are very serious,” said Page. Here’s a great resource on tree nut allergies.
Of course we made dessert! Pastry chef extraordinaire Kami Smith of Dawn Food Products quietly worked her magic to create a pecan desserts including a sumptuous pecan bread budding!
Pecans, like other tree nuts including walnuts and almonds, are an excellent source of heart healthy fats, are rich in protein and a good source of fiber as well as other nutrients including vitamin E and potassium. What sets pecans apart from the rest of the nut pack is that they are the only nut native to North America and compared to other tree nuts have the highest concentration of antioxidants. Pecans are a win-win for taste and health.
Freezing is “nature’s pause button” and preserves the taste, texture and nutrients in foods. Flash freezing at the time of harvest means fruits and vegetables are picked at the premium point for freshness and great taste. It also means nutrients are at their highest level. In fact studies show that some frozen fruits, including blueberries, are actually a bit higher in antioxidant and vitamin content as compared to fresh.
Frozen Foods Aisle Really Heating Up!
I was shopping recently for my favorite frozen foods staples (chopped spinach, lima beans, sweet peas, and individually quick frozen chicken breasts) and I was amazed at the selection and variety of frozen vegetables and vegetable blends including vegetable blends with beans and grains. So fast and easy to prepare! You know how long it can take to cook brown rice so I like buying the frozen precooked packages of brown rice to quickly cook up on stove top or in the microwave oven. I love butternut squash and buy it fresh all of the time to roast in the oven, but I also keep packaged frozen butternut squash which is cut up into cubes to add to soups or to prep quickly as a dinner side dish.
Also, a big improvement is that frozen vegetables in cream sauce or cheese sauce seem to be on the wane. And there’s a new wave in chef-inspired frozen entrees such as Lean Cuisine‘s line of delicious and nutritious culinary creations such as Chicken Pecan with white and wild rice, pecans, sweet potatoes, apples and cranberries. One of my favorites is the Sweet & Spicy Korean-Style Beef. To balance the meal just add some vegetables on the side such as broccoli florets or green beans. #balanceyourplate
Did you know that Lean Cuisine entrees have been pleasing palates for three decades? And guess what? Chefs and dietitians working together in the Nestle USA Culinary Center in Solon, Ohio have developed recipes to lower the sodium content from 1000 mg of sodium per serving to less than 600 mg per serving by adding flavors from herbs and spices. Now that is a win-win for taste and health!
Let’s Make a Pizza!
Frozen pizzas are one of the most popular items in the frozen food aisle. I like buying thin crust cheese pizzas and topping with lots of vegetables to create a fabulous and balanced pizza meal. Toss a side salad for even more good nutrition and great taste. Here are two ideas with DiGiorno Thin Crust Four Cheese pizza. #sponsored
Healthy dining advice on the pizza box tells us that one serving is one fifth of the pizza. Delicious by the way!
Taco Pizza – top with precooked ground meat seasoned with chili powder, salt and pepper or a taco seasoning mix, place green pepper slices on top of the meat and bake pizza according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped tomatoes, salsa, avocado slices and fresh cilantro.
Tuscan Pizza– top the pizza with fresh mushroom slices and bake according to package directions. Top the cooked pizza with chopped canned artichoke hearts, sliced black olives, thinly sliced deli ham (optional) , and lots of arugula.
Here’s a great resource from Nestle USA that reveals 7 Facts why Frozen is Fabulous for taste, health, easy meals, reducing food waste and saving money.
There are lots of recipes in The Slim Down South Cookbook that feature frozen ingredients including Tomato-Lima Bean Relish ( made with frozen lima beans ) and Sweet Pea Crostini, which is a hummus like spread made from frozen green peas, olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt and pepper. It’s an appetizing vibrant green color and a hit at parties. Top with feta cheese crumbles. For a holiday look and for vegans, top with pretty red pomegranate arils!
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.)
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.
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.
“Greek yogurt has two times the protein as compared to regular yogurt,” says Rob Post, senior director of nutrition and regulatory affairs for Chobani.
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.
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.
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.
We also visited the impressive processing plant where Chobani yogurt is made, flavored with fruit, packaged, and shipped.
There 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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
“As a marinade it tenderizes meats and adds moisture to baked goods,” says Reardon.
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.
Summer vacations often mean a time to let loose and have fun with no particular goals except to drink cold beers at the beach or pool and read the latest popular page-turner.
But I chose an escape from the ordinary that required hiking shoes, work out clothes, and swim suits actually designed for swimming.
As a gift to myself in advance of a really big number arriving on my birthday in July, I spent a week at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.
The menu is vegetarian, except for seafood choices at dinner, and there’s no alcohol served with meals. But this was not about deprivation.
Dinner is a perfectly portioned four-course affair with soup, salad, entrée and dessert.
One night the menu included spinach soup with toasted almonds and balsamic reduction, a roasted vegetable salad with walnuts, goat cheese and tomato oregano vinaigrette, Florentine lasagna with black lentil and yellow pepper sauce and lemon tiramisu with macerated berries.
“Great flavors allow us to enjoy food more while actually eating less, “ says Executive Chef Denise Roa, who oversees the Dining Hall and La Cocina Que Canta cooking school. All of the meals feature a bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs fresh picked from the property’s organic farm. “I believe that many people have forgotten or never experienced what food can taste like in-season and at its peak of freshness,” says Roa.
The guest chef at the cooking school during my week’s stay was Atlanta based Virginia Willis, author of the Lighten Up Y’all! Cookbook.
She led a group of eager guests through the garden to pluck cucumbers and edible flowers and then assigned us to re-create her recipes in the Mexican tiled kitchen.
I was on the Makeover Broccoli Mac n Cheese team. The recipe called for a calorie cutting one-to-one ratio of broccoli florets to whole-wheat pasta. Willis’ lump crab and celery remoulade recipe lightens up the dressing. “It’s OK to keep some of the ingredients you crave. I like to substitute half of the mayonnaise with low fat Greek yogurt and add some mustard and horseradish so there’s plenty of flavor,” advised Willis.
My fitness focused week at ‘the ranch’ is what I call a ‘slim-cation’ of satisfying, nutritious meals and busy days that began with an early morning mountain hike and included an entertaining mix of activities from Pilates and weight training to water aerobics and tennis lessons.
It helps to have a buddy at the Ranch. My good friend and registered dietitian colleague Janet Helm who blogs at Nutrition Unplugged was with me every step of the way as we hiked and tried new fitness finds including barre classes and pumped iron. Oh there was spa time too of course!
“Health is within everybody’s reach,” says petite and peppy 93-year-old Deborah Szekley, founder of Rancho La Puerta. “You just have to reach out.” During an inspiring evening lecture on aging, Szekley advised making a weekly schedule to plan and time for fitness and shopping for healthy foods. “I have maybe ten years left in my life and I’m excited about it. You have to value your time.”
They say it takes at least one week to establish new habits. I made an effort to drink more water, which wasn’t difficult in the desert heat; especially since there were water sources everywhere on the property and stations with iced herbal teas.
Each afternoon there was a tasting of fresh fruit smoothies at the new juice bar by the activity pool.
Did I lose weight? Maybe a little. But I gained a renewed spirit to prioritize my health for many more birthdays ahead.
Whether you’re tossing your own or eyeing the salad section on a restaurant menu, be wary of summer ‘blockbusters’. Many overly huge entrée salads aren’t a slam-dunk for summer slimming. Many weigh in around 1000 calories. Sides such as coleslaw, macaroni and potato salads are often loaded with mayonnaise. Mayo contains 100 calories per tablespoon. Opt for light mayo with 35 calories per tablespoon.
Most high fat salad toppings add about 100 calories per ounce. So chances are when you pile on the cheese, fried chicken, croutons, bacon bits and salad dressing you’ve probably eaten more calories than a large burger and fries.
Slimming Summer Menus:
Look for menus that take advantage of summer’s bountiful harvest of low calorie nutrient rich produce including tomatoes, cucumbers, field peas, peaches, basil, and all kinds of berries. Did you know that the vitamin C in fruit and veggies is essential for building collagen for healthy skin? Another summer beauty tip.
Avoid cream based cold soups and go for choices chock full of vegetables such as gazpacho. Fruit soups, from melon to strawberry are delicious and nutritious summer menu additions, too.
Instead of ice cream or gelato, you’ll save hundreds of calories per serving by choosing frozen desserts made with low fat or fat free milk.
Sugar free frozen desserts made with low calorie sweeteners such as Sucralose are bathing- suit-friendly options as well. But watch the toppings. Choose fresh fruit when possible and skip the crushed candies.
Think about your drink. Count 400 calories per 8 ounces of a pina colada, margarita, or fruit daiquiri. Look for the ‘skinny’ mixers made with no or low calorie sweeteners such as sucralose or stevia. Stay hydrated in the summer heat and treat your taste buds by adding a little pizzazz to bottled water with sugar free flavor drops made with stevia. Great info on all sweeteners can be found on the Calorie Control Council’s fact filled website.
Take advantage of the new innovation in computerized push button “free style” soda machines to easily find and select from a list of low and no calorie beverages choices.
At restaurants, don’t be fooled by the fire. Grilled meats and fish are often slathered with butter or oil so request that your order be brushed lightly with oil.
Leaner cuts of meat– such as a sirloin tip instead of a heavily marbled rib eye steak or pork roast instead of a pork chop- are lower in fat and calories but can be a challenge to cook. Sam Huff, chef and owner of Sam’s BBQ1 in Marietta, Georgia says, “Only rich folks ate high on the hog. Barbecue was for the tough meat cuts with long protein strands so poor folks had to figure out how to cook them slow and low.”
Another tip for tender meats is placing a pan filled with liquid in the BBQ cooker or under the meat on the grill. “It adds flavor and stops the dripping fat from causing flare ups,” say Huff. “I use whatever compliments. With pork I’d use apple juice, beef maybe some red wine and with chicken I use chicken stock.”
Dubbed the “grill sergeant,” Huff is one of five featured chefs at the annual Montana Master Grillers event held over Memorial Day Weekend at The Resort at Paws Up, near Missoula, Montana.
Billed as a 37,000-acre backyard barbecue, the weekend of Montana ranch meets fine food and drink includes activities such as fly-fishing, trails rides, and even a cattle drive.
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 some inventive ideas to add a deliciously healthy twist to menu traditions.
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. That way you have room for a bigger slice of pumpkin pie. Yes, you can indulge without the bulge.
The very first Thanksgiving’s mission was to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. Chefs turn to the season’s harvest for culinary inspiration. Salads are often overlooked in the parade of roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.
At newly opened Paces & Vine, chef Ian Winslade’s Tuscan kale salad with mandarin orange dressing, crystalized ginger and local radishes, is a great winter produce idea. The Thanksgiving to-go menu at Murphy’s, also under Winslade’s direction, features a winter salad of mixed greens, pears and walnuts as well as butternut squash soup with the flavors of apple and ginger cream. Sweet New Ideas
What Thanksgiving spread would be complete without sweet potatoes? Sweet potatoes are rich in healthy fiber, potassium and beta-carotene. Chef Carvel Gould suggests roasting sweet potato wedges and tossing them together with parsnips and rutabaga wedges cooked in a non stick pan with some garlic and shallots for about four minutes until their tender but still have some texture.
Chefs at Seasons 52 restaurants, who specialize in creating just-as-tasty but lighter, lower calorie dishes are serving maple-glazed roasted butternut squash with their Thanksgiving menu this year.
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 diet needs including a nut allergy, a gluten intolerance or are vegetarian or vegan. No doubt whoever’s cooking the meal will feel a bit challenged. Sous chef Cooper Miller of JCT Kitchen says, “We are used to special diet requests so we create a bunch of sides that anyone can enjoy without nuts, bacon or breadcrumbs. Then we throw in a few dishes loaded with all of those ingredients for those who want to splurge.” An easy idea for home entertaining: create a condiment platter of ingredients so each guest can customize their plates depending on allergies or food preferences.
Everybody’s happy on Thanksgiving.
How Not to Get Over Stuffed on Thanksgiving
• 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.
Carrots may enjoy a starring role on restaurant menus year round, but other less commonly consumed root vegetables take center stage in the fall. The slightly sharp flavors of parsnips, rutabaga, beets and turnips are a great compliment to hearty braised meats featured on cold weather menus.
“The parsnip has that dynamic light licorice flavor that lifts your palate with heavier dishes such as duck,” says executive chef Mike Deihl of Atlanta, currently the Southeast Regional Vice President of the American Culinary Federation.
Demonstrating his enthusiasm for the autumn harvest, Deihl prepared a salad of roasted parsnips, carrots and golden beets at the Taste of Atlanta food festival recently. “I call it my culinary fall trinity,” he says. “They’re roasted first to concentrate the flavors kind of like reducing a sauce.”
Roots on the Menu
A quick survey of online menus posted by Atlanta restaurants proves chefs are rooting for root vegetables this time of year. At Woodfire Grill braised pork shank is served with roasted parsnips and an apple cider glaze. An apple, walnut and rutabaga compote complements roasted duck at Babette’s. Creamy parsnip soup is on the menu at Canoe and braised baby beets with burnt honey vinaigrette is offered at South City Kitchen. An arugula salad at The Optimist is topped with pickled turnips and carrots.
“What I like about root vegetables is their flexibility. You can eat them hot, cold, room temperature, pureed, braised, stewed and grilled because they’re so strong and hearty,” says Deihl. “I’ve even made a golden beet sorbet!”
Grounded in Good Nutrition
While root vegetables come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors they’re all really good sources of dietary fiber, which promotes digestive health and is associated with lower rates of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Turnips and rutabaga are high in vitamin C. And as with most members in the produce aisle, root vegetables contain the mineral potassium, which helps support healthy blood pressure. Rutabagas and turnips are in the same cruciferous family as broccoli and cauliflower known for cancer-fighting antioxidant nutrients that help boost the immune system. So, while you’re enjoying the seasonal taste treat of root vegetables this fall know that you’re also adding some pretty powerful nutrition to boost your health to help ward off the winter chills ahead.
Shopping at your local farmers market is more popular than ever.
Farmers meet consumers one-on-one to sell their just-picked crops and suggest the best ways to cook them.
Friends and neighbors, often with their kids and dogs in tow, chat about the weekend and compare purchases.
Where are the fresh baked dog biscuits?
Crazy colored heirloom tomatoes! Purple potatoes!
Don’t know how to cook a Japanese eggplant? As the farmer!
Candy-striped beets! Sweet corn, peaches, okra and onions. Locally made goat cheese and honey! Asiago cheese bread!
The taste benefits drive shoppers to farmers’ markets but the health benefits of enjoying freshly picked fruits and vegetables are a big attraction, too. Add to that the good feeling of supporting local farmers and food producers with your purchases and farmers’ markets are a great place to shop.
Have lunch at the Famers Market too!
But, how do you choose the best peaches? The ripest tomatoes? And what do you do with that strange looking squash?
-Try to get there early! Look on line for list of farmers and food producers who attend each Farmers’ Market to help plan ahead. I go to the Peachtree Road Farmers Market on Saturdays. I get everything from ears of corn to cute earrings from the artisans there.
Chili Ristas and Turquoise Jewelry at Santa Fe Farmers Market
-Jump into the season: what’s seasonal now? If it is in season it will taste best and cost less
Chef Charles Dale power shops for tonight’s menu at the Santa Fe Farmers Market
-Talk to the farmers, if they grew it, they are happy to tell you how to cook it. Don’t be shy! Hey farmers are the new celebrities!!!
-Buy some ripe, and buy some not so ripe!!! That way the harder peaches or greener tomatoes will ripen up during the week so if you buy on Saturday, they’ll be just right on Wednesday. Actually, produce is so often so fresh at the market, it’ll stay fresh for a week. Then it’s time to go back!
-Imperfections can taste best, the “ugliest” tomato is likely to be an heirloom variety with more tomato flavor. Try varieties or vegetables you’ve never tasted before.
-Bring your own reusable bags to be earth friendly – but please folks – make sure they’re clean!!! Did you know that dirty bags can contaminate your perfect produce?
Goodies for dining and decor at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, nice hat.
– Have small bills in cash. It will be easier and faster to make transactions with the farmers and producers. Credit cards are a pain and they cost the farmer money. Be a friend to the farmer!
-Look for perishable foods such as cheeses, yogurts and sausages displayed on ICE! Food safety is important. And have a cooler with ice in the car to place perishable purchases.
Chef Demos teach kids ( uh, and all of us ) how great fresh foods taste!
-Create a Farmers’ Market Ready Pantry at home with staples such as whole-wheat flour, granola cereals, canola oil, olive oils, and spices to turn those fresh finds into fabulous dishes.
Ok, so the online power shopping you did this week was more fingertip than physical so you’re burning fewer calories than battling crowds at the mall. Stressful hours spent in airports or on the highway often mean grabbing fast food on the fly or snacking in the car to keep boredom at bay. The holiday season is here and presents many challenges to eat right and stay fit. So, this may not seem like the most ideal time to start a healthier eating plan- but it can be.
Ask yourself, “Is it really any different from the rest of the year?” Every season brings its own temptations from Super Bowl Sunday’s nachos and beer to Fourth of July’s fried chicken and ribs. The best time to learn slimming strategies is when the landscape is fat with indulgent food choices. Every Day’s a Holiday Research shows that the most successful dieters — those who lose weight and keep it off for the long haul — practice healthy eating and exercise habits all year long. They don’t make big New Year’s diet resolutions. Instead, set a time limit or portion limit. “I’ll eat fries only once a month.” Or “I’ll eat ice cream in a small bowl.” Or a holiday version, “I’ll enjoy a big dinner out with the relatives, but I’ll have a bowl of soup for lunch.”
Healthy snacks are a Tasty Trio: protein, whole grains and fruit or vegetable
Healthy Holidays There’s no time like the present to begin new healthier eating habits even if you’re headed to a party tonight. Help your hips survive the holidays.
Parties Galore and what they wore! Carolyn and her Atlanta gal pals ring in the holiday season.
1. Freshen up your food life. Keep fresh fruit and other healthy snacks such as whole-grain crackers, granola bars, nuts and fresh veggies on hand.
Sunbelt Bakery chocolate chip granola bars are only 140 calories – perfect portion size!
A handful of pecans or almonds before heading out to a party or dinner can calm your appetite so you don’t dive in the minute you arrive. Look for healthier options on restaurant menus. While a friend chowed down on the bone marrow topped with quail eggs at The Spence the other night; I was delighted with a lighter plate of ravioli stuffed with wild greens and served with a small amount of pulled pork.
2. Recognize barriers. It’s going to be tough to say no to holiday favorites like chocolate fudge and that creamy cheesy hot artichoke dip. Know your splurge foods and resolve to enjoy them in small quantities. Use a small plate to serve yourself. Research shows that your mind will think it looks like a lot more food than the same amount on a large plate.
Martini glasses are the perfect size for a perfect portion of yogurt topped with granola and fresh berries.
3. Enjoy the taste of eating right.Deviled eggs, steamed shrimp, roast beef and chicken on skewers often served at holiday dinner parties are all diet-friendly, lean protein choices. Feel free to add low-cal flavor with mustards, horseradish, cocktail sauce and salsas. Look for lighter versions of holiday faves such as low fat eggnog.
4. Start new habits. Keep a list of what you’re eating and drinking for a few days. Be as specific as possible on types of foods and amounts. This snapshot will help you keep track of overeating. Write down your physical activity. Did you take the stairs instead of the escalator at the mall? That counts, too!
5. Have a plan. Eat breakfast. Schedule time to take a walk or go to yoga class. If you’re going to a potluck, bring the salad or vegetable side dish. If it’s a three-hour car ride to Grandma’s, pack fresh fruit and a turkey sandwich so you don’t have to stop at a fast food joint. Save the calories to enjoy holiday treats when you get to Grandma’s. Successful long-term weight control is a balancing act.
Keep in mind that most people gain about one pound over the holidays.
That doesn’t sound like much, but if you don’t lose it,
Saturdays start early for farmers market fans who grab re-usable shopping bags, jostle for parking spaces and hit the stands.As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm and in this case it’s the best tasting pickings of fresh produce, herbs, flowers, artisanal cheeses, organic eggs and just-baked breads. It’s also the place your likely to learn about the foods you’re buying from the same folks who grew the vegetables or made the cheese. Overheard at the Peachtree Road Farmers Marketone recent Saturday; a woman attracted to a beautiful display of heirloom tomatoes but hesitant to buy asked the farmer, “How do I know which ones to pick?”He replied, “Well, it depends when you want to eat them. If you want them for today choose the really ripe red ones. If you want them for a few days from now choose the firmer ones that will ripen on the kitchen counter.”She smiled and began her personal harvest from the farmer’s selection.
More Farmers Markets
August is National Farmers Market Month and just released statistics from the US Department of Agriculture shows a 9.6 increase in the number of farmers markets over the past year. While Georgia can’t beat California’s 827 or New York’s 647 markets, the percent growth in the Southeast region beats the national average with 13.1 percent more farmers market listed in the 2012 edition of the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, compared to 2011. Marilyn Wright Yon, dietitian with the School Nutrition Program for Georgia’s Department of Education likes to visit farmers markets so much she seeks them out in other towns when on vacation, “You find amazing things and meet really interesting people.” She recommends bringing a small cooler especially if purchasing cheese, eggs or meats and says, “Buy something new to you to try. Ask how to prepare it if needed.”
Chefs and Farmers
Another crop showing up at farmers markets is the chef! Chef demos are often part of the entertainment and education for shoppers. The Peachtree Road Farmers Market and Morningside Farmers Market, for instance, feature local chefs and cookbook authors each week. Rebecca Lang, author of Quick-Fix Southern showed folks what to do with summer’s bumper crop of corn and tomatoes.
You’ll even see Atlanta area chefs leading private tours of the market.I saw Linton Hopkins, executive chef of Restaurant Eugene followed by an eager bunch of foodies as he introduced them to farmers and spoke about unusual varieties or especially tasty ones.Executive chef Thomas McKeown of the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead is a regular at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market too because he drops in to visit one of his favorite farmers, Cory Mosser of Burge Organic Farms of Mansfield, Georgia, “I use Burge’s produce in the hotel restaurant where we have a big commitment to supporting local farms.”During his recent farmers market recipe demo McKeown prepared local goat cheese mousse with heirloom tomato jam. He’ll be on Mosser’s farm cooking lunch for volunteers pitching in work the fields on Sunday August 19th, “It’s a crop mob. You’ve heard of a flash mob right?” explains McKeown, “Well this is an organized effort to help farmers with volunteer labor.”
Tips from Nutrition Experts who Love Farmers Markets
Marilyn Wright Yon, MS, RD:
Arrive early – right at the start of the market – if you want popular items like strawberries, blueberries, peaches, corn, peas or melons. These typically go fast when in season.
Bring change – small bills – for your purchases (some are taking credit cards now with their iPhones and the square thingy).
Bring your own bags/baskets to carry home as sellers can run out of bags.
Learn the seasons for your area so you are not disappointed if you do not find tomatoes and melons in May (at least in N Georgia) and decide to not return.
Visit all the vendors even if you think you are finished with your purchases. You may find something you would like to try the next week.
Debbie King, MS RD LD :
Take a quick walk around to see what’s available before making purchases
If your local farmer will take orders the day before it saves lots of time and if you are running late you know what you ordered will be there.
Buy your favorites but try one new veggie or fruit each week. Like garlic scapes,they are not just for table décor.
Ask other shoppers what they make with what they are buying. I was purchasing tomatoes this summer and anothershopper said she was buying tomatoes to make tomato jam.So when I got home I scoured the internet for good sounding tomato jam recipe and made it. It was a great idea as tomato jam is more like ketchup, so we have enjoyed yummy homemade ketchup on our veggie burgers this summer.
Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD LD: Atlanta!
-make sure to wear comfortable shoes, but make sure they’re cute. Lots of hunky farmers here. And guys shopping with their girl friends for Saturday dinner cooking dates. You want to look like you’re shopping for a dinner date, too.
-make sure to wear something casual but fashionable. Avoid shopping bags that clash with your color combo. Lots of other cute girls with designer sunglasses and trendy designs on their re-useable shopping bags. You are not going for the “Rebecca of SunnyBrook Farm” look either. Avoid braids and gingham, looks too theme-like.
-make sure to have lots of small bills. You don’t want to stress out the organic peach guy by handing him a twenty. Small bills especially important in the early hours of market when farmers and vendors haven’t collected a lot of small bills, yet.
-act like your bags are really heavy when you see a cute guy near the organic coffee vendor. It’s a long walk to the car.