Tag Archives: summer

Endless Summer Produce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grilled Watermelon with Balsamic Glaze

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

Makes 12 servings

Hands-On 20 min.

Total 20 min.

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

1 Tbsp. olive oil

⅛ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto

2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

Fresh basil leaves

2 tsp. bottled balsamic glaze

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

 

Tipsy Melon Salad

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

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

Makes 6 servings

Hands-On 16 min.

Total 1 hour, 16 min.

2 cups cubed honeydew

2 cups cubed cantaloupe

1.3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

⅔ cup sugar

½ cup vodka ( optional)

⅓ cup black raspberry liqueur (optional)

¹/₁₆ tsp. fine sea salt

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

1. Place melon cubes in a large bowl.

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

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

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

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

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Why Summer is Food Safety Central

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some important reminders from foodsafety.gov.

When bringing food to a picnic or cookout:

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

When cooking on the grill:

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

When serving food outdoors:

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

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

Leftovers:

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

 

 

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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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Summer Slimmers with Low Calorie Sweeteners and Carolyn O’Neil

Summer’s light and fresh menus serve up more foods cooked on the grill surrounded by salads. The problem is that “light and fresh” doesn’t always mean light in fat and calories.

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Here’s a video of Summer Menu Slimmers and Shockers on 11 Alive Atlanta and Company with host Christine Pulara and moi cooking up solutions with low calorie sweeteners. Even BBQ ribs and a margarita!!

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Here’s the recipe for Spare ribs with a skinny BBQ sauce slimmed down with Sweet n Low for summer from the super helpful The Skinny On Low Cal.org website.

OK back to the story…..on slimmers and shockers.

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These are beautiful salads chock full of summer’s slim-sational garden fresh ingredients.

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.
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Sweet pea hummus has more fiber and fewer calories than chick pea hummus. Plus it’s prettier! From The Slim Down South Cookbook. by Carolyn O’Neil
  • 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.

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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.

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Healthful grilling

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These are NOT lean steaks. Marbling means high fat and calories.

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.

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Sam Huff is a BBQ genius!

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.”

IMG_6209Dubbed 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.

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Such a natural. Saddle up cowgirl!

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.

 

Let the summer games begin!   Have a cookie!

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Here’s a yummy recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies sweetened with stevia.

Perfect with a bowl of sugar free frozen dessert topped with summer berries!

icecreamphotoHere’s to a Slim-sational Summer!!!

Thank you to the Calorie Control Council for the recipes and the foodie facts on sweeteners. I’m thrilled to be blogging for The Skinny on Low Cal this summer.

 

 

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Summer Slimmers: Watermelon

Thirsty for something sweet but trying to drink more water?  The summertime staple – a big slice of watermelon – can satisfy both desires. Watermelons contain 92 percent water so are true to their name. That’s why watermelon is one of the best foods to eat to keep you hydrated on a hot day.  
A sign of the season, watermelon salads are showing up on summer restaurant menus including watermelon with fresh mozzarella, almond mint pesto and green chilies at Two Urban Licks.  At Kyma it’s paired with feta cheese and fresh mint. 
The menu at Parish has featured grilled watermelon with heirloom tomatoes, mint and capers. Watermelon juice makes its way into refreshing cocktails, too.  
Frozen watermelon juice is refreshingly hydrating too. 
Seasons 52 has a recipe for a Watermelon Refresher made with light rum, fresh muddled watermelon and lime juice.

Hydration and Nutrition


Watermelon serves up way more than just water and natural sweetness.  With fewer than fifty calories per cup you can happily chow down on sweet, juicy watermelon during bathing suit season. Watermelon is a healthy choice for snacking too because its high water and fiber content help fill you up without filling you out.  
Summer camp, cookouts, catching fireflies, running in the sprinkler.
Childhood memories made even better when sharing watermelon.
It’s a lot of fun pick up a cold slice of watermelon and bite into summer’s sunny childhood memories so it fits in with modern nutrition advice to take your time while you eat and ‘be in the moment’ instead of mindlessly munching. 
Enjoying two cups of watermelon in chunks, sliced or cute little melon balls gets you a quarter of the way toward dietary advice to consume at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Seeing Red

Its red color is a clue it’s a leader in lycopene content, a pigment that’s a powerful antioxidant, which protects cells from disease causing damage.  Watermelon contains more lycopene than tomatoes. 
Heirloom tomatoes and watermelon- a delicious nutritious summer match! 
Watermelon’s also a good source of vitamin beta-carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A to boost eye health and the immune system.  Vitamin C, vitamin B6, and the minerals potassium and phosphorous are on the list of health benefits, too.  Registered dietitian, Elizabeth Somer, spokesperson for the National Watermelon Promotion Board  and author of “Eat Your Way to Sexy” says, “Where else can you get the wealth of nutrition, help keep your heart healthy, stay hydrated and satisfy a sweet tooth, all for so few calories?”

So, the next time you see a platter of bright red watermelon slices or watermelon chunks tossed into a salad you’ll know that this iconic symbol of summertime deserves more attention than a seed spitting contest.

Fruity Watermelon Facts 

o   The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of their ancient buildings. Watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife.

o   Southern food historian, John Egerton, believes watermelon made its way to the United States with African slaves as he states in his book, “Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History.”

o   Watermelon’s official name is Citrullus Lanatus, the same botanical family as cucumbers

o   Wash watermelons. According to the FDA, all melons should be washed in clean running water before cutting into the rind.

 

Mind the Rind: Always wash melons carefully before cutting.

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