Monday, April 28, 2008

Penny and Pound Wise

What's a diet and health conscious penny pincher to do? With the a gallon of gas hovering around $4.oo; is there room in the budget for a pricey pomegranate smoothie or an organically grown heirloom tomato salad? If the downturn in the economy is taking a bite out of your food dollar- here are some tips from dietitian Alice Henneman, Extension Educator University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County - to help keep restaurant dining from becoming endangered.
Divide & Conquer
Whenever possible, make it a practice to divide a large portion at a restaurant in half BEFORE you start eating. You'll halve BOTH the calories and the cost of your meal!
Think "planned-overs" rather than "left-overs." Some people even make it a practice to ask for a "doggie bag" at the beginning rather than end of the meal. They remove half their food immediately so it's out-of-sight and remains out of their mouth!
NOTE: To handle take-home food safely, TWO hours from the time of serving is the maximum time perishable foods should be at room temperature, ONE hour if it's 90 degrees F or above. For best quality and safety, eat take-home foods in a day or two or freeze them for longer storage.
Penny-Wise AND Pound-Wise
When it comes to restaurant portion sizes, you can be penny-wise AND pound-wise. If you have a choice, order smaller servings sizes of foods such as burgers, fries, drinks, salads, soups and so on. They’re lower in calories and cost.
“Dine” during the Day
Some restaurants offer some of the same foods at noon as during the evening, only in smaller portion sizes and for less money. Want to eat at that fancy restaurant? Check their noontime menu!
If you love the illustrations on this blog you must know that they are the talented work

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What's in your fridge? I mean, on?

Sure there's plenty of food to watch on TV, but now you can watch TV where you reach for food....the refrigerator door!!! Thoughts???? Well, what I really need is a fridge with a full length mirror on the doors so I can take pause and reflect on my health and beauty goals before I enter the snack zone.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Caviar for Dessert?

Look closely now. These two enthusiastic food lovers are NOT dipping into a tin of beluga, sevruga or ossetra caviar. In fact, there's nothing fishy going on here at all.

It's dessert in the kitchen at the Chef's Table of Au Pied De Cochon restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel in Atlanta.

Chef Juan Carlos Buitron painstakingly created tiny "pearls" of fresh fruit flavored gelatin to mimic the tiny eggs so prized by caviar connoisseurs. In the foreground the brilliant yellow beads are made from mango and using mother of pearl tasting spoons the two women are getting ready to sample blackberry "caviar." What fun to play with your food and celebrate the intense flavors of fresh seasonal fruit? C'est formidable!!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Decoding Menu Speak

Reading restaurant menus to seek out dishes that meet your cravings and your curves isn't always easy.
Red flag words for dishes high in fat and calories include cream, butter, fried, sautéed and cheese sauce. Green lights for choices lower in fat and calories include grilled, broiled, primavera, salsa and broth. So, first look at how the dish is prepared. Is it deep fat fried or char-broiled? Does it come with a butter sauce or a fresh fruit salsa? Is it a broth based soup or made with heavy cream? Ok, these are some of the obvious clues. Now you’re ready for some advanced menu sleuthing.

What if the word “fried” is no where to be seen? “Crispy” can be a code word for fried. And “Silky sauce” a sign that butter is lurking. Even “poached” isn’t always the light way to go? Some chefs actually poach seafood in butter or oil, not the usual water based-broths. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the occasional tempura battered fried shrimp or side of creamed spinach. It just means that when you see them on the menu, you know it’s time to take pause. You can choose to either limit portions, or limit the number of times you order these higher fat choices.
Even “grilled” or “broiled” aren’t always innocent because the chicken or fish can be slathered in oil or butter while it’s on the fire. Make sure to request that your item be broiled “dry” or “lightly brushed with oil.” The server is your conduit to the kitchen.

Fat by any other name….
Aioli--translation: mayonnaise with garlic
Au Gratin- topped with cheese, butter and breadcrumb mixture
Beurre--butter’s French name
Bisque-most often a cream based soup
Béarnaise--watch the “-aise,” which indicates egg based mayonnaise
Crispy-code word for fried!
Crusted or Encrusted--coated with nuts, bread crumbs or potato, pan fried until crispy
Frito Misto—fried pieces
Pan Fried-may as well be deep fat fried

Leaning toward leaner….

Au Jus--pan juices often reduced with no fat added
Braise--slow cooked to tenderize meats or fish, often little added fat
Broth-fragrant water based sauce with infused flavors ie. chicken & lemongrass broth
Coulis--all hail the coulis, often a no-fat-added puree of vegetables or fruit
Flame seared--grilled over open fire, fats can drain off
Primavera – Italian for “spring”; indicates vegetables are major ingredient
Provencale- South-of-France style sauce with tomato and other vegetables
Relish- savory mix of fruits and or vegetables
Salsa- the classic is with fresh tomatoes, onion, cilantro and chiles, but can be made with fruit and even black beans, too.

Ask Questions If It Says:

Grilled--watch out for butter or oil slathered on during grilling
Roasted--watch out for extra fat used in roasting, ie.butter basted on roasted chicken
Poached--not always in water, watch out for poached in oil or butter
Sautéed -- butter or oil are used, chefs can limit amount if asked
Steamed- watch out for butter or oil added after the steaming

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Icelandic Food & Fun

People are pretty cool in Iceland. On a recent trip to Reykjavik for the annual Food & Fun Festival I was introduced to the culinary side of this island nation which lies half way between the US and Northern Europe. Chefs from the US and Europe and of course from Iceland competed for top prizes in cooking competitions and created wonderful dinners at restaurants around town. My first dinner experience was at Vox, an elegant contemporay styled restaurant in the Nordica Hilton Hotel. Salmon with green apples, lime aioli and salmon roe was followed by a course of poached halibut in dashi with grilled ginger cake. Duck breast with eggplant and garlic miso sauce was next and then onto a dessert of lychee pannacotta with pears. Certainly, the Vikings didn't dine this way even if they were catching salmon and halibut!
Ever since reading "Journey to the Center of the Earth" by Jules Verne I always wanted to visit Iceland. Today stories about Iceland center around its status as the world's most desirable country to live in as ranked by the United Nations human development index which blends figures for life expectancy, educational levels and real per capita income. Norway held the top spot for the past six years.
A lesson in fitness I learned while visiting Iceland is that you shouldn't let the weather get in the way of your outdoor pursuits. Even though it was mid-February with temperatures in the 30's people were jogging, riding bikes, and pushing baby carriages through the quaint streets of town. A taxi driver told me one day, "We live in a country where the weather often hates us and can be pretty harsh. So we cope by using our imagination and refusing to give in." Out door art abounds with colorful building exteriors and clothing is designed to laugh at the weather with its brilliant hues and cozy layers. Iceland even boasts its own line of warm and stylish fleece clothing called 66 Degrees North, referring to the city capital's geographic lattitude. And here is what surprised me the most.
Even though I felt as if I was transported to a world far far away, the flight on Icelandair to Reykkjavik was only four and a half hours from Boston. "We're truly the center of the world, well at least the North Atlantic" boasted Siggy Hall, Iceland's noted top chef and self proclaimed cheerleader for tourism. He added, "Iceland is easy! We speak English, we love food and fun and there's so much to do here whether it's winter, spring, summer or fall." In fact, Iceland's landscape is green in the summer. It's Greenland that that remains icy.

It's a land of geothermal power, salmon filled rivers, outdoor and indoor hot springs for soaking, plenty of local fish and lamb on the menu and clean Nordic designs in decor and fashions. One of the foods you can't escape and end up craving is Skyr, a rich and creamy yogurt made from skimmed milk. Skry, now sold in the US most notably at some Whole Foods, has been a staple of the Icelandic diet for centuries. They even make a "skyr-onaisse" spread for fish sandwiches and feature skyr in recipes from breakfast to dessert. The photo above left is a snap shot of DC food journalist Amanda McClements sampling one of the taste offerings at a "Food Installation" created by a Norwegian caterer who specializes in contemporary display art. The clear plexiglass sheet with holes to support those little Asian soup spoons was a real eye catcher. The spoons were filled with a citrus granita. Eye catching conversation starting party idea! The photo on the right captures a more traditional food find. This was my lunch the last day of the trip. Lobster bisque with bread and a Viking Beer. Outside the snow was piled high and the sun shown brightly in the clear blue Reykjavik sky.