Tag Archives: vegetables

Farmer’s Market Pizza!


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

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

Sweet goes well with spicy. Read on…..

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Farmer’s Market Finds Help Balance Your Plate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipes Here:

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

July 2016 WGN-TV  LunchBreak Segment

 

Pizza-Nella Salad

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

 Yield: 1 large entrée salad

Timing: Prep time = 15 minutes

Ingredients

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

½ cup grape tomatoes

¼ medium onion, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp olive oil

2 cups bite-size pieces Romaine lettuce

2 tbsp. basil pesto

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

 

Method of Production (Instructions)

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

 

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

 

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

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By Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN, author The Slim Down South Cookbook.

 

Makes 12 servings (one half cup each )

 

2 pounds Brussels Sprouts (about 6 cups trimmed and sliced)

1/2 cup Golden Raisins

½ cup shredded or matchstick carrots

¼ cup sunflower seed kernels (one tablespoon reserved for garnish)

¼ cup sweet n’spicy dressing

 

Trim ends off Brussels Sprouts and cut into thin slices.

Place in a large bowl.

Add raisins, carrots and sunflower seeds.

Dress with 1/4 cup of Sweet ‘n Spicy dressing, tossing well to combine.

Garnish with 1 T sunflower seeds.

 

 

Sweet ‘n Spicy Dressing

 

Makes 12 servings (1 Tbsp.)

 

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup honey

2 tsp. hot sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. celery salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

 

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.

 

 

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Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Elevates Taste and Health

Aspen Heights of Food & Wine

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fresh New Heights of Cuisine

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

Octogenarian Jacques Pepin replied,

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

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

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Fresh and Fit Diet Advice

13 to go

Weight loss regimens are a national obsession especially at the start of the New Year when fitness centers fill up with new converts and supermarket carts fill up with salad fixings.

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Whether your goal is to trim a few pounds or overhaul eating habits for the long haul, here is a round up of fresh nutrition wisdoms from registered dietitians who specialize in health coaching.

It’s All About You

One size does not fit all fits all when it comes to nutrition. Changing what you eat can make you feel better and your jeans fit better but it can’t make you into a six-foot tall supermodel. So have realistic expectations.

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“People, like dogs, come in differing sizes and shapes,” says registered dietitian Nancy Clark, author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “There are St. Bernards, greyhounds, Labs, poodles and Chihuahuas. Be proud of your ‘breed’, honor your genetics, and treat your body with respect,” says Clark.

Fitness Friends

Congratulations

Phone a friend. Registered dietitian Annette Schottenfeld, of Nett Nutrition says, “Walk with a co-worker. Meet new friends in dance class or team training at the gym. Stay connected with fitness friends to ensure you will show-up, motivate each other and share successes.”

Some Like it Hot

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Fed up with cold rabbit food?  “Rather than trying to eat more and more salads, cook vegetables the way Mediterraneans do by roasting or stewing them with olive oil, onion, tomatoes and herbs,” suggests registered dietitian Elena Paravantes, health editor of Olive Oil Times. 

Learn by Example

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Demand for home delivered kits of pre-measured fresh ingredients with easy to follow recipes is heating up nationwide.  Mary Alice Shreve, registered dietitian with Atlanta based meal kit delivery service Peach Dish makes sure recipes feature healthful foods with seasonings that add flavor without relying on salt. How about a Super Foods Salad with kale and sunflower seeds or Red Quinoa Parsnip Stew? Shreve says, “It’s all about getting people back in the kitchen. If you can put olive oil in the pan you can handle these recipe.”

Add to Your Diet

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Registered dietitian Toby Amidor author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, advises setting short term goals, “It’s very important to establish short-term benchmarks and achieve different ones every few weeks,” says Amidor. “Short-term goals should be positive. For example, eat a fruit during at least one snack time each day.”

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Goals should be measurable and pleasurable!

 

 

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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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Feast for the Eyes

toastingimagesBeautiful spring weather calls for beautiful meals under the canopy of nature.
They say we eat with our eyes, but looks like we should be eating for our eyes too. Nutrition researchers are gazing into our orbs to illuminate the link between nutrition and eye health. Important diet discoveries go beyond eating carrots to see well in the dark.

Carrots still rank high on the eyesight saving menu but other heroes, perhaps even more important, are emerging from the farm. Scientists have set their sights on green leafy and deep orange or yellow vegetables such as spinach, kale, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, pumpkin, squash, carrots, collard greens and turnip greens.

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The Lady of the Refrigerator dressed in a pumpkin. Fashionable and fabulous for eye health. Good looking and good for looking!
Pumpkin and the other foods listed above contain two natural carotenoid plant pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin. They are both potent antioxidants thought to protect the eyes against the damaging light waves that contribute to cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age related macular degeneration (AMD).

A study in the British Journal of Nutrition reports that lutein can reduce risk of cataracts by up to forty percent and a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology found that lutein may cut risk of AMD by thirty five percent. Lutein is also found in eggs, especially the yolk. So enjoy the whole egg for a whole lot of health benefits.

Peek a Boo! I see you!

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Lutein is important for the development of an infant’s eye sight (attention moms-to-be) and maintaining children’s vision health (eat your vegetables kids!).

Recipe note: since lutein and zeaxanthin are fat-soluble nutrients absorption is increased when consumed with a little oil. So it’s good to know that olive oil drizzled on the season’s fresh vegetables is good for your taste buds and your eyes. Yum! Here’s a delicious example from The Slim Down South Cookbook. The BLT Chicken Salad.

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Focus on Foods
Other powerful antioxidant nutrients associated with maintaining overall eye health are zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene.

Lutein/Zeaxanthin: kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, avocado, zucchini, peas, corn, Brussels sprouts, tangerines, dark leafy salad greens and eggs.

Beta-carotene: carrots, mangos, sweet potato, greens, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, kale, and apricots.

Vitamin C: papaya, citrus fruit, strawberries, tomato, mango, green peppers, and berries.

Vitamin E: almonds, wheat germ, whole grain breads, avocado, and greens.

Zinc: oysters, lobster, beef, poultry, pork, lentils, and whole-grain bread.

Source: USDA nutrient database.

Happily, many of the foods rich in nutrients good for our eyes are delicious additions to any meal and are beautiful to look at too.

Here’s the video!!! of Beautiful Ways to Present Beautiful Foods FOR our Eyes.

It’s all about placement on the plate.

Add Color and MORE….

 

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Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!

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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.

Here’s the How to Indulge without the Bulge segment for #HealthyThanksgiving I did for WGN TV with Chicago food stylist Connie Pikulas.

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Enjoy Winter Salads

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Look at these beautiful Brussels sprouts!

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.

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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.

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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.

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Rooting for Root Vegetables

 


handsimagesCarrots 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.”

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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

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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.

 

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All Fired Up for Memorial Day!

 

While charcoal and gas fed flames burn brightly year round in restaurant kitchens, Memorial Day weekend signals the official start of the summer grilling season. 

This year everything from wagyu beef to watermelon is hitting the grill….is that cabbage? 
Joys Dubost, Phd, RD is a joy and did you know she’s a competitive ice skater?
 “Grilling is one of the most popular preparation methods in restaurants,” says registered dietitian Joy Dubost of the National Restaurant Association, “ It’s partly because of its appeal to health-conscious consumers and its impact on enhancing the flavor of food items.”  Hey, we love a win-win for taste and health!

All Fired Up


At newly opened King + Duke restaurant in Buckhead, the dining room features a showcase of open hearth cooking where hickory wood fires are expertly tended by chefs grilling octopus, steaks and artichokes over high heat on one grill; while slow roasting chicken, rabbit and beets over calmer embers. 
See the steering wheel things? They rotate the grill up and down. 
Using what looks like a steering wheel, grates can be raised or lowered over the fires to control the heat applied to the food.  The menu describes the North Georgia Brook Trout as “boy scout style” which means sautéed in a cast iron pan over the fire. Carrots, kale, eggplant, scallions and the vegetables for ratatouille are roasted on the hearth.  King + Duke chef and restaurateur Ford Fry says, “Our executive chef Joe Schafer even makes his own charcoal. Just about everything is cooked over the fire here. It’s an art and a science but the flavors are worth it. ”  
King + Duke has really cool chairs, too.
Beverage director Lara Creasy even uses fresh grilled pineapple to make King + Duke’s Pisco Punch. 

Why Grilling’s Healthy

Grilling foods is considered a healthy cooking technique for a few reasons. Excess fats drip off of meats lowering the total fat and calorie content; the fire concentrates flavors and adds textural contrast so small portions are satisfying and the high heat caramelizes natural sugars in fruits and vegetables making them taste a bit sweeter.

Registered dietitian Katie Sullivan Morford, author of the blog Mom’s Kitchen Handbook, says there’s some concern about carcinogens in grilled meats and poultry, “The key is to avoid burning and charring. Some research has found that using marinades as well as serving meat with antioxidant-rich vegetables helps offset the damage.”
To over charr is to err when grilling. 
 Take these precautions and grilling can be one of the tastiest and healthiest ways to cook.

Bigger Can Be Better

This is a Porterhouse Steak. It’s a strip steak on one side of the bone and filet mignon on the other. 
While ordering a petit filet may seem like the smart menu choice for weight conscious diners, chef Dave Zino of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association suggests a new twist on portion control, “Why not order a larger steak for ‘planned overs’ in mind? Restaurant steaks are high quality beef and they’re fired at temps consumer grills can’t reach so are more flavorful.” 
Chef Dave Zino knows a lot about beef. 
Considering price per ounce on the menu, larger cuts are often more economical. Ask the server to box up the portion you want to take home, enjoy the portion you want for dinner and the next day you can make a sliced steak salad or sandwich for lunch.  Tasty tip from Dave: Enjoy leftover grilled meats cold because reheating can create an undesirable ‘warmed over flavor’ and make them less tender.

Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD is the co-author of Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! You can email her at carolynoneil@aol.com

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Nanjing Discovery: Books, Cooks & Looks

No bodyguards needed in Nanjing, but who doesn’t love a few escorts? 

Just as most tourists to Italy choose Rome or Florence as their first time destination, most pick Beijing or Shanghai for their inaugural visit to China.
But, my first trip to The People’s Republic of China led me to discover Nanjing.  Never heard of it?

Well, either had I until I began my research which started with randomly flipping through On Demand and finding a recent movie called “Flowers and War” starring Christian Bale about the horrible 1937 Nanking massacre of 300,000 Chinese by the Japanese during World War Two.

Nanking, now Nanjing, suffered atrocities ranking among the worst in human history. And now I was going there, coincidentally the very week the city would commemorate the 75thanniversary of the massacre. But, there’s more to Nanjing than dark history. 
Art class at East Beijing Road Elementary School, Nanjing

It’s a bright and beautiful place, boldly stepping into the future of China and the world, as I would soon learn.  Hey, there’s an H& M here and a Ritz-Carlton hotel under construction. Also, they’re super excited about being chosen as the site of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.

Nanjing Now

Known historically as the ‘southern capital’ of China, Nanjing (the capital of Jiangsu province) is a bustling city of eight million people and over 50 universities and colleges.

View from the backseat of cab. Nanjing at night.
Riding alone I made sure to have my intended destination
written on a card in Chinese.  I can fake Italian and French
but can’t fake Chinese. 

Surrounded by the longest city wall in the world, built during the Ming Dynasty in the 1300’s, Nanjing’s beauty is a contrast of silver skyscrapers, pretty pagodas, architecturally impressive tombs, tree lined streets, lakes, rivers and mountains.  

Nanjing is ready to welcome you! 

An evening cruise in a painted boat past temples, palaces, pagodas and dragons on walls all lit up with brightly colored neon lights on Qinhuai River took me back in time to old China as we sipped hot tea in the cold December night. 

So why was I there?

Look up, there’s a bar on the 78th floor. 

The 89-story Zifeng Tower, the tallest in the city, was the setting for the Sino-American Media Exchange I was invited to attend by Emory University in conjunction with Chinese hosts from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Conference tables and talks around them are high art in China. 

We stayed at The Intercontinental Hotel, located in the tower and my room was literally in the clouds on the 52ndfloor with Nanjing’s city streets far below.

Yup, that’s my view of Nanjing. Former President Jimmy Carter was apparently there this day.

From Kindergarten to College in One Day
Our days were focused on meeting students and teachers at schools from kindergarten to college. 

 Sissel McCarthy of Emory University with me and festive students at Jingling High School
Cutest kids at Nanjing Gulou Kindergarten founded in 1923  


What Do You Think That Is? 
I swore I wouldn’t eat anything that looked  like an eyeball


The evenings brought Chinese and U.S. journalists and academics together for extravagant dinners. The most memorable moments of Chinese hospitality and cultural exchange involved the sharing of food and drink. “We’re a city of books and cooks,” explains Nanjing native Liu Kang who is the Director of Chinese Studies Center at Duke University and Dean of the Institute of Arts and Humanities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Prof Liu Kang and I at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum
We climbed the 392 steps to the top and back down again.
A good thing to do to prepare for yet another glorious banquet!

We sat at huge round tables with a Lazy Susan set up in the middle to facilitate presenting and sharing dozens of dishes in a mind-boggling series of flavors, textures and colors. 


“The banquets were relentless, gorgeous, terrifying,” said Daniel Wagner, a financial reporter from Washington, D.C. “Everyone warned me not to stuff myself on the early courses. Nobody mentioned that all 20 dishes that come before the whole fried fish count as ‘early courses.'”

Daniel Wagner and Gary Xu favorites to win the Lazy Susan Chinese Banquet Contest

Added Wagner: “The food really helped me understand how similar to the Chinese we are, and how different. Similar because we all love gorging on delicious food; different because there is simply no excuse for sea cucumber.’”

Salted Duck shows up on every Nanjing table 

Nanjing’s Own Cuisine

Expertly carved vegetables

Nanjing’s unique Haui Yang cuisine may not be as well known as Szechuan-Hunan’s hot and spicy dishes or the shark’s fin soup of fancy Cantonese cooking and that’s what makes it an exciting taste discovery.

Fresh water fish in light soy

“The dishes are lighter with less oil and more vegetables (including sea vegetables), fresh water fish and shrimp, “ says Cecelia Yang of the Intercontinental Hotel, which boasts the highest restaurant in Nanjing on the 78th floor of the Zifeng Tower.

Food and Beverage Director Giuseppe Losciale oversees
the highest restaurant in Nanjing

Get Ready to Duck

Menus feature Huai Yang specialties such as precise angle cut vegetables, salted duck, duck blood soup and a Nanjing version of Peking duck.

Duck Blood Soup and Dynasty Wine 

Wondering about duck blood soup? Don’t ask me; I gave the wheel another turn.

Brave Barbara Ortutay readies her banquet worthy napkin for another spin of the Lazy Susan

“Each banquet was an adventure, I came ready to try anything at least once. Jellyfish, octopus tentacles, purple corn, duck blood soup. The duck blood had the consistency of silken tofu with a hint of foie gras, much lighter than the pork blood-sausage I’m used to from Hungary,” said Barbara Ortutay, a technology writer who lives in New York.

Nanjing Impressions is one of Sissel McCarthy’s favorite Nanjing restaurants because,
“You can watch them prepare the dishes at stations and learn a bit more about what you’re eating.”


Sissel McCarthy, professor of Journalism at Emory University says, “This is my third trip to China and while I’m not a hugely adventurous eater each time it gets easier because you recognize certain dishes. It’s challenging at the multi-course dinners so I let a few go by. I like the Nanjing cuisine because there are so many vegetables. But you’d better like salted duck.”  

Gan Bei!!
And you’d better like to toast. Every meal was punctuated by a series of toasts followed by “Gan Bei!” the Chinese phrase for ‘bottoms up’ as we were served (thankfully) thimble sized glasses of powerful white liquor to down in honor of our new friendships.

For some reason I don’t have any toasting shots, but I here’s what we call a “Banquet Aftermath” photo.

Tips on toasting in China: look your toastee in the eye, touch glasses together the whole time you are speaking, say something nice about them and how grateful you are to know them and thankful for their generosity and hospitality and then yell, “Gan Bei!” which literally translates “dry glass” and shoot the booze. By the way, the white lightning they call baijiu (which translates ‘white liquor’ or ‘white wine’) tastes and smells to me a bit like sweaty socks. It’s an acquired taste, but don’t worry, with all of the toasting madness you’ll acquire the taste quite quickly. 

An elaborate display for delicious dish we named “Squirrel Fish” 

Another side effect of the toast-a-thons according to Ortutay is the culinary courage it summons, “But I should have drawn the line at sea cucumber. I mean just look at it! Why I didn’t draw the line after the first time I tried it is still unclear. Probably the relentless rounds of baijiu, deceptive because it was served in doll-sized glasses.”

More Banquet Glory. This elegant meal was served at The Intercontinental Hotel

And the Chinese love red wine. They prefer French but China produces wine too. We had bottles from wineries called Dynasty and Great Wall. But, I wanted white wine, OK?  I made a mistake consistently requesting white wine at dinners and guess what kept showing up? Yup, more of that baijiu!  You get what you ask for, high maintenance American girl.

Of Jet Lag, Swimming and Corn for Breakfast
The Farmer’s Delight; part of the breakfast buffet at the Intercontinental Hotel, Nanjing


There’s a 13 hour time difference between Nanjing and Atlanta and I got kind of messed up the very first day because even though we left on a Monday, apparently we totally skipped Tuesday and I woke up to discover it was already Wednesday. I didn’t realize the effect of crossing the International Dateline. Oh well, everyone promised we’d get the day back when we returned home. Whatever. All I know is that I woke up most mornings at 4am Nanjing time ready to roll. Swimming helped and the hotel had a beautiful indoor pool where I swam laps at 5am in the quiet darkness. The pool and spa didn’t officially open until 6am but I just walked around the velvet rope thing. There were plenty of towels and I had my pick of lounge chairs.

Other American journalists used their early morning time to jog around the nearby Xuanwu Lake Park and told me about the well-marked trails and beautiful scenery.

By the time breakfast rolled around I was starving. Happily, the Intercontinental Hotel has a huge breakfast buffet with everything you can imagine. Everything! Want sushi? Korean kimchi? Indian food? French pastries? German dark bread? Omelet bar? Chinese dumplings? Noodle soups? Yogurt? Fruit? Cereal? It was like a cruise ship had collided with the United Nations.

Wonder what’s inside? You’ll just have to try these dumplings to find out. 

What really caught my eye was the collection of bamboo steamers on a table marked “Farmers Delight.”  Lifting the basket lids one by one revealed each contained a different steamed vegetable. Orange squash, purple yams, yellow corn.  Who needs corn flakes when you can eat corn on the cob for breakfast. A lot of folks did.  I had an omelet with vegetables and a side of bacon with a slice of that German bread.

Next Big Generation

It’s a rare sight in Chinese cities to glimpse reminders of poorer times. 

The history of China is peppered with famine and hardship. 
But today there are actually a lot of fat kids. Rates of obesity and diabetes are unfortunately increasing in China with the influx of western style fast food and less physical activity in a computer screen world. 

McDonald’s delivery guy in Nanjing


It doesn’t help that the Chinese rule “one couple, one child” has also spawned a lot of pampering of those kids and with two sets of grandparents there’s a lot of ‘have another treat’ going on.

So it was good to see elementary school kids demonstrating kung fu and high school students playing basketball during class breaks. School food was really healthy too.

Delicious lunch at Nanjing Lishui School. Tomatoes grown at the school! 
Lots of veggies at Jinling
She loves Taylor Swift

There was a varied selection of fresh vegetables simply prepared, rice of course and usually a soup with noodles. My favorite meal was lunch shared with six teenaged girls at Jinling High School. They smiled when I used chopsticks to eat slightly spicy chicken with peanuts as we chatted about their classes in applied mathematics, food likes (pizza and fried chicken!), exercise (ping pong and jogging) and going to college (most want to go to the U.S).  But things really got cooking when I asked them about music. One girl said, “I love Taylor Swift.”

And then when I followed up, “What about Justin Bieber?” they all immediately shrieked and giggled with the simultaneous outcry “We lo-o-o-o-v-v-v-e Justin Bieber!!!” Teachers, journalists and other dignitaries turned to see what was so exciting at our table and that’s when I knew that cultural connections are the strongest with shared interests – whether it’s music or math –at mealtime.  

Super smart kids at Jinling High School
I told them to stop studying so much so the American kids can catch up!
Things from Nanjing 

You’ve got a friend!
Yue helped me convert RMB prices into US dollars.
Bonus! It’s a sale day with 50% off!
I could figure that out. 

There’s really good shopping in Nanjing. The usual high-end stuff popular in big Asian cities such as Chanel and Gucci presides over the fancy shopping streets.  Or you can get into the bargaining swing of things at more touristy markets near the Confucius Temple to shop for silk scarves, Nanjing’s famous Yun brocades, and other Chinese trinkets. I love the hand made wooden carving of the see-no, hear-no, speak-no evil monkeys I bought from an elderly artisan at the Nanjing Folklore Museum. Since Nanjing was the center of the Ming Dynasty, there are lots of Ming vase themed things- I bought some key chains which are really nice looking. Was not in the market for an actual Ming vase.
But the most fun I had was shopping with my new Chinese journalist friend, Zhang Yue a reporter with China Daily in Beijing.

Zhang Yue, reporter with China Daily, looks even more petite
next a giant shoe outside the department store.

We went to a busy Chinese department store that was kind of like Bloomingdale’s with two whole floors of shoes and boots. We both bought coats in a hip section of the store. She got a cute beige wool coat with a flirty flouncy hemline and I got what I had my eye on all week!

Chinese girls were wearing these quilted down coats with fur collars and I found the one I wanted.
It’s knee length in ivory with a brown fur collar.

Ok I’ll tell you! Cost about $130

It will keep me warm this winter and remind me of Nanjing, the city of books and cooks and fashionable looks.

The coat I actually wore while I was in Nanjing everyday. It was cold in December.


Speaking of books……. 

 Pearl S. Buck, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author of The Good Earth (and many other books including an Oriental Cookbook) lived in Nanjing between 1920 and 1933 and taught English Literature at Nanjing University. Her house on the campus is a museum you can visit now. I signed the guest book, “Hoping your spirit of dedication to writing will follow me home.” 


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Nanjing Discovery: Books, Cooks & Looks

No bodyguards needed in Nanjing, but who doesn’t love a few escorts?

 

Just as most tourists to Italy choose Rome or Florence as their first time destination, most pick Beijing or Shanghai for their inaugural visit to China.
But, my first trip to The People’s Republic of China led me to discover Nanjing.  Never heard of it?
Well, either had I until I began my research which started with randomly flipping through On Demand and finding a recent movie called “Flowers and War” starring Christian Bale about the horrible 1937 Nanking massacre of 300,000 Chinese by the Japanese during World War Two.
Nanking, now Nanjing, suffered atrocities ranking among the worst in human history. And now I was going there, coincidentally the very week the city would commemorate the 75thanniversary of the massacre. But, there’s more to Nanjing than dark history.  Continue reading Nanjing Discovery: Books, Cooks & Looks
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Healthy & Tasty Air Travel Trends

Daughter Katie is a master travel ninja with great carry-on style and savvy.

 

Holiday air travel is notoriously challenging with throngs of passengers populating security lines, dealing with winter weather delays, jostling with fellow fliers to stow carry-ons, accepting an airline snack mix and eventually making it to their destinations.


Add hunger to the travel quotient and you’re really in for some unexpected turbulence. Happily there’s a renaissance in airport restaurant menus. I’ve been impressed with kiosks selling really good salads and sandwiches packaged to fly, sit down restaurants with freshly prepared foods and concourse newsstands with a nice selection of healthy snacks (even crudité of vegetables in the cooler with the bottled water.) And low and behold, if a sweet splurge is what it takes to make your travel day more bearable, A Piece of Cake has just landed on concourse A at Hartsfield –Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Now you can be the envy of the exit row while savoring a slice of red velvet cake with a carton of cold milk (fat free, there must be some digression). Atlanta based caterer Proof of the Pudding serves up on-the-go salads and sandwiches at two locations on concourse B and Wolfgang Puck’s (with locations in many US airports) kiosk is on concourse C.

The menus at E Bar on concourse E and A Bar on concourse A feature a terrific selection of cheeses and charcuterie with olives and whole grain crackers. Warning: fellow passengers will be impressed with your gourmet savvy so share a little.


Navigate Nutritiously

-Ask for OJ. The nutrients in orange juice help boost your immune system to give you a fighting chance to ward off cold and flu germs. Mix juice with sparkling water for a lower calorie thirst quencher.



– Snack Smart. Bag your own “sky trail mix” of nuts, dried fruit and granola. Sunbelt Bakery Granola is one of my favorites and is an excellent source of fiber. Healthy fats in nuts and stomach filling fiber in  dried fruit and cereals keep you keep going and if you make your own mixes they can be much lower in sodium than the airline’s salty snack mixes. Sodium plus sitting can lead to unwanted puffiness and ankle swelling.



-Easy Carry-on Cuisine. Granola bars and fruit & nut bars are easy to carry and even easier to eat when on the fly. Make sure to choose bars that just the right portion size; say under 150 calories. Sunbelt Bakery chocolate chip granola bars contain just 140 calories. 

– Concourse Cuisine. A salad is fine, but make sure it contains protein, such as chicken, turkey, ham, eggs or cheese to keep blood sugar on an even keel. Stress can drive blood sugar levels down way below normal.


Flight attendant! No, we are not dipping into our duty free vodka! 

– Alcohol at altitude. Your skin and your brain can get really dehydrated in a pressurized cabin. Alcohol accelerates dehydration. If it’s the end of long travel day and you want a drink to unwind, that’s fine. But make sure to double up on water with the wine.

Food on the Fly

Airport security rules prohibit liquids and “gel type substances” in carry-on luggage if over 3.4 ounces. (I always try to travel with a container of Greek yogurt but it usually ends up in the TSA trash.) Solid foods such as sandwiches, hard cheeses, crackers, fresh fruit and vegetables are allowed.

Holiday travelers take note that TSA rules state, “You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.” (Especially if it looks like a really good dessert.)

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Healthy & Tasty Air Travel Trends

Daughter Katie is a master travel ninja with great carry-on style and savvy.

 

Holiday air travel is notoriously challenging with throngs of passengers populating security lines, dealing with winter weather delays, jostling with fellow fliers to stow carry-ons, accepting an airline snack mix and eventually making it to their destinations.


Add hunger to the travel quotient and you’re really in for some unexpected turbulence. Happily there’s a renaissance in airport restaurant menus. I’ve been impressed with kiosks selling really good salads and sandwiches packaged to fly, sit down restaurants with freshly prepared foods and concourse newsstands with a nice selection of healthy snacks (even crudité of vegetables in the cooler with the bottled water.) And low and behold, if a sweet splurge is what it takes to make your travel day more bearable, A Piece of Cake has just landed on concourse A at Hartsfield –Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Now you can be the envy of the exit row while savoring a slice of red velvet cake with a carton of cold milk (fat free, there must be some digression). Atlanta based caterer Proof of the Pudding serves up on-the-go salads and sandwiches at two locations on concourse B and Wolfgang Puck’s (with locations in many US airports) kiosk is on concourse C.

The menus at E Bar on concourse E and A Bar on concourse A feature a terrific selection of cheeses and charcuterie with olives and whole grain crackers. Warning: fellow passengers will be impressed with your gourmet savvy so share a little.


Navigate Nutritiously

-Ask for OJ. The nutrients in orange juice help boost your immune system to give you a fighting chance to ward off cold and flu germs. Mix juice with sparkling water for a lower calorie thirst quencher.



– Snack Smart. Bag your own “sky trail mix” of nuts, dried fruit and granola. Sunbelt Bakery Granola is one of my favorites and is an excellent source of fiber. Healthy fats in nuts and stomach filling fiber in  dried fruit and cereals keep you keep going and if you make your own mixes they can be much lower in sodium than the airline’s salty snack mixes. Sodium plus sitting can lead to unwanted puffiness and ankle swelling.



-Easy Carry-on Cuisine. Granola bars and fruit & nut bars are easy to carry and even easier to eat when on the fly. Make sure to choose bars that just the right portion size; say under 150 calories. Sunbelt Bakery chocolate chip granola bars contain just 140 calories. 

– Concourse Cuisine. A salad is fine, but make sure it contains protein, such as chicken, turkey, ham, eggs or cheese to keep blood sugar on an even keel. Stress can drive blood sugar levels down way below normal.


Flight attendant! No, we are not dipping into our duty free vodka! 

– Alcohol at altitude. Your skin and your brain can get really dehydrated in a pressurized cabin. Alcohol accelerates dehydration. If it’s the end of long travel day and you want a drink to unwind, that’s fine. But make sure to double up on water with the wine.

Food on the Fly

Airport security rules prohibit liquids and “gel type substances” in carry-on luggage if over 3.4 ounces. (I always try to travel with a container of Greek yogurt but it usually ends up in the TSA trash.) Solid foods such as sandwiches, hard cheeses, crackers, fresh fruit and vegetables are allowed.

Holiday travelers take note that TSA rules state, “You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.” (Especially if it looks like a really good dessert.)

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Why French Fries are OK after 50.

Looks like eating more fruits and vegetables is the not-so-surprising secret to weigh control for older women.

Look at this sassy crowd in Aspen. Nice flowers and big glasses of  wine.
And notice the yellow caution tape near the burger and fries.

 Ladies, it’s just not fair.

It’s a common complaint as waistlines widen with advancing birthdays especially for post-menopausal women, ‘I’m eating the same but the numbers on the scale just keep creeping higher.’

What’s not the same, unfortunately, is the body’s metabolic rate, which naturally slows down with age. Add to that a lifestyle that’s often less active and you’ve got the math to prove that calories-in versus calories-out can tip the scales in the wrong direction.

 Sure, you can step up the exercise regime and vow never to order dessert again. But, according to a new study of nearly 500 overweight women in their 50’s and 60’s it’s what they were adding to their meals that ultimately helped them lose weight and keep it off.

Bethany Barone Gibbs, PhD, and colleagues at The University of Pittsburgh studied the eating habits of women who lost weight over the short-term (six months) and the long-term (four years).

Bethany Barone Gibbs, PhD University of Pittsburgh Department of Health and Physical Activity
She is adorable! Listen to her discuss this study in a podcast on website of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

The highly motivated dieters in the six-month group ate fewer desserts and fried foods, drank fewer sugar-sweetened beverages and ate more seafood.

Steamed shrimp with a squeeze of lemon: girl’s best friend.

Here’s Why You’ll Never Say No to Broccoli Again. 

After four years the women were still saying ‘no’ to pie and soda fairly often but the habit that emerged as the most powerful predictor for long-term weight loss was eating more fruits and vegetables followed by eating less meat and cheese.

We said eating LESS meat and cheese, Liz!
OH, well you look fabulous. I’m sure there’s an apple and carrots sticks in your Hermes bag. 

Good news for especially Southerners- they weren’t necessarily skipping fried foods.

 “People are so motivated when they start a weight loss program,” explains Barone Gibbs. “You can say, ‘I’m never going to eat another piece of pie,’ and you see the pounds coming off. Eating fruits and vegetables may not make as big a difference in your caloric intake. But that small change can build up and give you a better long-term result, because it’s not as hard to do as giving up French fries forever.” 

OK, we said still eating fried foods, not as the main event on the plate. This is enough fries to share with three women.
Meal Makeover: more fish, more fresh mango salsa and fewer fries. Don’t use the tartar sauce. Ask for more lemons.



During the four year study the number of times dieters ate out in restaurants declined, but Barone Gibbs chalks that up to the downturn in the economy not a sign that eating out less is linked to weight loss. Get it? The”I’m not eating out as much” trend wasn’t part of a diet plan, it was a fiscal plan.

Easy Add for Losing

The “How Women over 50 stay slim” weight control study published in the September 2012 issue of The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that adding just two servings of fruits and vegetables to a daily diet was linked to a three-pound weight loss four years later. This may not sound like much, but keep in mind that most folks gain weight every year. It turns out the small changes we can sustain over the long haul make the biggest difference in life long weight control.

So a perfect meal for me would be a big green salad, grilled fish with lemon and no yup, French fries.

Tips on Dining Out with the Forever Svelte Set

Stick with lean fish, seafood and animal proteins, simply prepared; always include mushrooms if possible– for their substantial meaty texture, enormous health benefits, and umami characteristics than enhance flavor of whatever they’re eaten with. 

And champagne of course…the bubbles fill you up!!!!


Gina Christman, Publisher of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyle Magazine


I like restaurants that offer half portions. I also like to order a broth based soup and share an entree. Or order salad and appetizer for my entree. Nothing revolutionary!
Chris Rosenbloom, registered dietitian and professor of nutrition emeritus, Georgia State University
Girlfriend, been cycling at Flywheel since March so weight is not an issue. Drag by butt there every other day so I can drink like a lush & eat anything I want. LOL Finally a plan that works for moi…
 Aida Flamm, fabulous fashion savvy world traveling furniture importer
Always have a green salad to start. Grilled food, no sauces, veggies instead of carbs, appetizer instead of entree andshared or two bite shot glass dessert. 

Kathleen Zelman, registered dietitian and Director of Nutrition for WebMD.

 You go girls! 

Does this tree make me look skinny?

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Eat With and For Your Eyes

Cherry Tomato eye’s view of train going by Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival, Atlanta

Food’s got to taste good and look good to win a cooking competition. Every contestant in a recipe contest or chef’s cook-off knows that. First we eat with our eyes, as the saying goes. The tomato cheesecake with an ice cream bun was so pretty and impressed the judges’ palates so much Donald Sargent of Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream was the big winner at Georgia Organic’s Fourth Annual Attack of The Killer Tomato Festival. 
Along with fellow Les Dames d’Escoffier member, Angie Mosier ( not pictured)  I got to emcee the
Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival
Put that on your resume! 
For the field of Atlanta area chefs and mixologists the food focus was on Georgia grown tomatoes of all colors, shapes and sizes yielding some crazy and creative bites and beverages for food lovers gathered at JCT Kitchen and around the west midtown complex. Tyler Williams of Abattoir whipped out the liquid nitrogen to create a frozen tomato Greek salad – a serving of tiny frozen balls that burst with flavor and ate like ‘dippin dots’ ice cream. 
Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene poured tomato gravy on pulled pork sliders and Drew Beline of NO. 246 presented elegant bites of roasted tomato and goat cheese tortellini in tomato brodo with small tomatoes and basil.


Eat For Your Eyes

Foods are more appealing when they look beautiful and nothing’s prettier than a summer tomato! But, looks like we should be eating for our eyes too. Nutrition researchers are gazing into our eyes to illuminate the link between nutrition and eye health.  Their important diet discoveries go beyond eating carrots to see better in the dark. Carrots still rank high on the eye-sight- saving menu but other heroes, perhaps even more important, are emerging from the farm. 
Scientists have set their sights on green leafy and deep orange or yellow vegetables such as spinach, kale, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, carrots, collard greens, yellow squash and turnip greens because they contain two natural carotenoid plant pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin. 
They are both potent antioxidants thought to protect the eyes against damaging light waves and free radicals that may cause cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  A 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition reports that lutein can reduce risk of cataracts by up to forty percent and a 2007 study in the Archives of Ophthalmology found that lutein may cut risk of AMD by thirty five percent. 
Pizza with arugula! Looking good for taste buds and eye health. 
Lutein is also found in eggs, especially the yolk.  Take note of that and skip the egg white omelets. 
Chef Carvel Gould of Canoe chose to perch a tiny quail egg on top of a biscuit with slices of fresh and preserved tomato for  her Tomato Fest entry. Talk about easy on the eyes! 
Cage free egg at Ecco restaurant, Atlanta. 
Recipe note: since lutein is a fat-soluble nutrient absorption is increased when consumed with a little oil. So it’s good to know that olive oil drizzled on summer’s fresh salads is good for your taste buds and your eyes.

Focus on Foods

Other powerful antioxidant nutrients associated with maintaining overall eye health are zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene.

The two leading causes of visual loss and blindness are cataracts and AMD, affecting more than 22 million Americans. Lutein is important for the development of an infant’s eye sight (attention moms-to-be) and maintaining children’s vision health (another reason to eat your vegetables kids!).  So make lutein a routine for good eye health throughout the lifespan! 

Happily, many of the foods rich in nutrients good for our eyes are delicious additions to any meal and are beautiful to look at too. How about those tomatoes?


Make Lutein a Routine! 
Lutein/Zeaxanthin: kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, avocado, zucchini, peas, corn, Brussels sprouts, tangerines, dark leafy salad greens. Also, eggs.

Beta-carotene: carrots, mangos, sweet potato, greens, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, kale, apricots. 

Vitamin C: papaya, citrus fruit, strawberries, tomato, mango, green peppers, berries.

Vitamin E: almonds, wheat germ, whole grain breads, avocado, greens.

Zinc: oysters, lobster, beef, poultry, pork, lentils, whole grain bread.

Source: USDA nutrient data base.

 


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Patriotic Plates: Red, White and Blue Nutrition

Show your colors for healthful eating

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
As the nation’s colors fly high over Independence Day-inspired menus, let’s take a look at how red, white and blue can help create a healthy plate.
The natural pigments in foods are colorful clues to the nutrients within. Called “phytochemicals,” these compounds found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and other plants provide a parade of protective effects such as curbing cancer, supporting immune function and improving heart, skin, brain and eye health. To tap into the benefits of this wonderful world of color, eat a variety of foods in every shade of the rainbow.
In Michelle Obama’s new book, “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America,” the first lady writes that encouraging Americans to eat more fresh produce is one of the main reasons she planted her vegetable garden. So, from the South Lawn of the White House to acres of growing foods for markets and restaurants across the Southeastern U.S., let’s taste the benefits of eating more reds, whites and blues.
Ravishing reds
Red fruits and vegetables contain the natural plant pigments lycopene and anthocyanin. Lycopene, which can be found in tomatoes, red peppers, watermelon and pink grapefruit, is associated with reduced risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Adding a little fat, such as olive oil, to a fresh tomato salad helps the absorption of lycopene and betacarotene. Anthocyanins in red fruits and vegetables are heart-healthy and act as antioxidants.
  • Beets
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Pomegranates
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Red apples
  • Red cabbage
  • Red grapes
  • Red peppers
  • Red potatoes
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
Wonderful whites
Forget the simplistic advice to “avoid all white foods.” White vegetables such as onions and garlic contain the chemical allicin, which helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and may help reduce risk of stomach cancer. Bananas and potatoes are good sources of potassium. Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and the phytonutrient quercetin.
  • Bananas
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Jicama
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Turnips
Other great whites
The white color of milk comes from the protein casein. White fish is good for you, too. While salmon and tuna get the big billing when it comes to nutrition because they contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats, white fish such as flounder, grouper, halibut and snapper are lower in total fat and are a great source of lean protein.
The red snapper with an aromatic herb and citrus broth served at the Optimist in west Midtown is a delicious and nutritious preparation. Enjoy it with a glass of white wine for added benefits. Red wine may have gotten the initial attention, but white wines contain heart-healthy effects, too, because it’s the alcohol content that seems to provide the protective punch.
Refined white flour may lack the dietary fiber found in whole-wheat flour, but if it’s enriched, you’re consuming more of other nutrients such as folic acid, which is important for heart health and prevention of birth defects. That’s why nutritionists say “make half your grains whole.” So if you like white bread with barbecued pork, that’s fine as long as you enjoy turkey on whole-wheat bread another time. Enriched white rice contains more folic acid than brown rice.
Brilliant blues
Blue-colored anthocyanin pigments in blueberries, blackberries, grapes, eggplant and raisins act as powerful antioxidants and may help reduce risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Other studies have shown that eating more blue foods or beverages made with them is linked with improved memory function and healthy aging.
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Eggplant
  • Grapes
  • Plums
Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” Email her at carolyn@corolynoneil.com.
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Veggies Culinary Stars in Aspen

What happened to the foie gras and caviar?

It seems top chefs are excited about vegetables. Three days of cooking seminars and wine tastings at the 29th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen – one of the world’s most exclusive and star chef studded culinary events in the world – enthusiastically embraced the beauty and benefits of Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, zucchini and kale.

Jose Andres, chef, cookbook author and owner of celebrated restaurants in Washington, DC’s including Jaleo and Zaytinya put his passion for cooking produce right up front with a seminar titled, “Sexy Vegetables.” Andres, known for his love of Spanish cuisine, zealously addressed a packed ballroom of enthusiastic foodie fans at Aspen’s St. Regis Hotel and expertly prepared eight vegetable dishes in under an hour including a radish and grapefruit salad with shrimp, watermelon and tomato skewers with a sherry vinaigrette, cucumber and tomato gazpacho with Spanish sherry and Brussels sprouts tapas with green apples and grapes. “Most people cook Brussels sprouts too long for 20 to 30 minutes,” Andres admonished, “Are we nuts? It should be two to three to four minutes! Don’t over cook them; it releases the sulfur smell and that is not sexy!”

Risotto for All Seasons
Sustainability expert and Connecticut chef Michel Nischan who is a culinary consultant to Atlanta’s Terrace Restaurant in the Ellis Hotel presented four risotto recipes –one for each season’s harvest of vegetables- featuring ancient grains called faro and spelt. Nischan, whose restaurant Dressing Room is known for local and organic menu items, centered on the health and taste advantages of eating with the seasons. He shared his definition of sustainability, “It means you give as much back to the earth as you take. For instance, composting leftover vegetable peelings creates more soil to plant more vegetables.”

Drink Your Salad


Andres, who was named 2011 James Beard Award Outstanding Chef, certainly knows about quality but he credits his recent 25 pound weight loss to focusing on quantity, “It’s really about the calories. Learning how much you personally should be eating.” Filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit is the latest diet advice from nutrition experts as illustrated by the USDA’s new My Plate icon. Filling your glass works too as Andres said about his gazpacho recipe, “You don’t eat the salad, you drink the salad!”

Aspen’s summer time vibe is lively with folks headed out hiking, biking, river rafting and fly fishing. The beauty of the wild flowers and Aspen trees spills over into the city’s cuisine. At The Little Nell Hotel, an epicenter for those devoted to dining, Montagna’s menu features great steaks and fabulous fresh fish but vegetables seem to rank just as high in the kitchen. A salad of greens, sliced radishes, fava beans and thin asparagus was so fresh it nearly leapt off the plate.

Wine with Vegetables


“Times they are a changing,” remarked registered dietitian Ashley Koff who noted that one of the Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs Joshua Skenes of Saison in San Francisco chose to feature a vegetarian dish of cauliflower and sea lettuce, “It was clear that the days of all animal all day are a thing of the past. As for what wines go best with your veggies, wine writer Mark Oldman helped me choose a delicious Spanish Rueda – the new “it” wine he said.” More than five thousand food and wine lovers converge to sample the best vintages and victuals each June in Aspen.

Isn’t That Jacques Pepin?

It’s a weekend where the majestic scenery of the Colorado Rockies is closely matched by culinary icon sightings. Jacques Pepin having lunch at Ajax Tavern with Atlanta chef and recent Bravo Top Chef winner Richard Blais. (Try the truffle fries!)

The French Laundry’s chef Thomas Keller having dinner at Aspen’s chic Cache Cache restaurant with chef Daniel Boulud of New York. My favorite food memory of the weekend- enjoying a grilled vegetable salad of marinated artichokes, butternut squash, Portobello mushrooms with arugula and chards of parmesan cheese at Campo de Fiori with Atlanta friends including winemaker Rob Mondavi and his wife Lydia of 29 Cosmetics. Taste, health, beauty and good fun. All that and plenty of vegetables being celebrated in Aspen this summer.
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