Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fresh Start Diet Makeover for the New Year!

Fresh Start Diet Makeover for Year Long Healthy Weight Control –Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD

Every season brings its own timely temptations from Super Bowl Sunday’s snacks to Fourth of July fried chicken and ribs. So why not resolve to recognize these waist widening challenges and learn to apply some slimming strategies when the landscape is fat with indulgent food choices? Research shows that the most successful dieters- those who lose weight and keep it off for the long haul- practice healthy eating and exercise habits all year long.
There’s no time like the present to make a fresh start and begin new healthier eating habits. Here are some Fresh Start Diet rules to help you lose weight and improve your health in the New Year.

F- Freshen up your food life- Keep fresh fruit and other healthy snacks such as whole grain crackers, nuts, and fresh veggies on hand at home. A handful of almonds or walnuts before heading out to eat can calm your appetite so you don’t dive into the bread basket the minute you arrive. Stock your pantry with whole grain pastas, brown rice and your fridge with non fat milk, low fat cottage cheese and yogurts. Find “thin-dulgences” to feed your cravings; such as chocolate sorbet instead of chocolate ice cream or topping broccoli with a tablespoon of grated extra sharp cheddar cheese instead a gobs of cheese sauce.

R- Recognize barriers- OK, it’s going to be tough to say ‘No’ to food favorites like chocolate fudge and fried chicken. Know your splurge foods and resolve to enjoy them in small quantities. Use a small plate to serve yourself. Research shows your mind will think it looks like a lot more food than the same amount on a large plate. If you avoid making salads because it’s too much trouble to chop up veggies, buy precut salads. Or discover the joy of prepping fresh foods with a great new kitchen knife! Sometimes the barrier preventing you from eating less is the company you keep. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research reports that when college students watched a movie and ate snacks with someone slimmer, they typically followed their thin friend’s lead when she overindulged on buttered popcorn and candies. Social cues are powerful, so recognize that it’s not just what you’re eating but who you’re eating with that can affect your overall diet.

E- Enjoy the taste of eating right – Did you know that the deviled eggs, steamed shrimp, roast beef and chicken on skewers often served at parties are all diet-friendly lean protein choices? Feel free to add low-cal flavor with mustards, horseradish, cocktail sauce and salsas. Remember that some foods are actually allies in the weight loss war. Protein packed low fat dairy foods, broth based soups, veggies, fruit and whole grains fill you up with out filling you out. Having lunch out with friends? The menu at FIGO pasta, with eight Atlanta locations, is packed with figure-friendly items including a chicken soup with fresh chopped tomatoes. Entrée salads of mixed greens, arugula or spinach can be topped with chicken, salmon or sea bass and dressed lightly with lemon vinaigrette.

S- Start new habits- Keep a list of what you’re eating and drinking for a few days. Be as specific as possible on types of foods and amounts. Don’t know what a cup of mashed potatoes looks like? Get some measuring cups out and become familiar with portion sizes. This snap shot will help you keep track of over eating and while you’re at it- write down your physical activity. Did you take the stairs instead of the escalator at the mall? That counts, too! Make sure your goals to improve health habits are specific, realistic, action-based and measurable. If you love French fries or fried chicken, instead of vowing to ban them from your diet, agree to limit eating fried foods to once a week or once a month.

H- Have a plan – Start your day with a mission to be healthy. Eat breakfast. Schedule time to take a walk or go to a yoga class. If you’re going to a pot-luck supper bring the salad or vegetable side dish to make sure there’s something healthful on the menu. If you know that Friday involves a big dinner party, eat less on Thursday and walk more on Saturday. If your work schedule requires a three hour car ride to visit a client - pack fresh fruit such as easy to peel Clementine oranges and a turkey sandwich on whole wheat for the road so you don’t have to stop at a fast food joint. Save the calories to spurge on dinner out when you reach your destination. Successful long term weight control is a balancing act.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tis the Season for Splurging

Cookie Swap Party! Look Out These Sweet Tooths Are Serious!

This just in: University of Pittsburgh researchers observe that we eat more on weekends and during the holidays! What a surprise?! After studying two year’s worth of consumers’ eating behavior, professor of marketing J. Jeffrey Inman and colleagues found that both the quality (“This homemade fudge is fantastic!”) and quantity (“I’ll have some more homemade fudge, please!) of foods consumed during weekend and holiday meals is considerably different from regular weekdays. Inman suggests that Americans need special dietary advice for special occasion eating to help in the battle against obesity.
So today’s post serves up some smart tips on eating healthy and having a fabulous time during the holidays.

Trim the Trimmings
Go all out and deck the halls with boughs of holly, glitter, and lights, but when it comes to holiday food, accessorize with care. To shave calories, go easy when adding nuts, cheese, cream sauces, gravy, butter, and whipped cream -- additions that don't add much to the meal, but can add plenty to your waistline. Trim calories wherever you can so you can use them on the splurge foods you don’t want to miss. For instance, I ate a small salad for lunch because I knew I was going to Miller Union restaurant for dinner. Instead of steamed vegetables I savored each bite of Chef Steven Satterfield’s root vegetable gratin -deliciously rich with butter, cheese and crispy breads crumbs. And instead of saying “no” to dessert and in the spirit of holiday giving, I split the rustic apple tart and caramel-honey ice cream with a friend.

Smart Splurging-What the Diet Divas Do!

Even dietitians give the green light to enjoying holiday favorites and offer their own philosophies on navigating holiday dinner parties, traditional treats and big buffets. And guess what? There’s not one suggestion to eat celery instead of your favorite splurge. -“Start small and savor it all. The first few bites of a meal are the most enjoyable. So, start with a small portion and take time to enjoy it.” Marisa Moore, MBA, RD, President of the Georgia Dietetic Association

-“The idea of splurging in this society also smacks of guilt. When we understand that occasionally eating richer foods is part of normal eating, whether eating the foods is part of a celebration or just because we like the taste of something and want some of it, we can go with the flow, letting our bodies guide us in eating in a way that makes us feel great.” Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, Director and Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run, Ludlow, Vermont

-“I say splurge on a little something absolutely divine that can not be consumed in a reduced calorie version, such as the authentic Turkish Baklava that was sent to my office as a holiday gift last week. It was not in my day's "plan" and it was absolutely (eyes roll in the back of my head) incredible. I just made concessions the rest of the week to eating and exercise so that I could really enjoy it and that is the key part or else it's not worth it.” Carrie Zisman, MS, RD ,
-“Splurge on things you really, really, really love. Too often we eat things that are mediocre or even bad. How many times have you been halfway through a Christmas cookie and thought, ‘This just isn’t that good.’ Holiday buffets are frequently covered with high-calorie muck. Slice-and-bake sugar cookies with reindeer on them? Processed cheese log? Eeewww, why bother? Homemade toffee? French champagne? Now you are talking. Ask yourself, “is this worth the calories?” If so, dig in and savor it. If not, make use of that little cocktail napkin, or the friendly dog, and get rid of the offending food.” Sanna Delmonico, MS, RD, family nutrition expert,
-“A splurge does imply extravagance or decadence so acknowledge it, sit and savorAll the swaps where you leave out ingredients or downsize might actually be worse for us. Or we fill up on all the lower calorie items and end up eating what we really crave later and are too full to enjoy! Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, Director of Sports NutritionUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center

- “I agree that splurging is OK. If we only eat healthy foods all the time and feel guilty when we indulge then we are not living. Life should be enjoyed. Food is a large part of our lives. It is important to indulge occasionally in order to stay on track. If you don't indulge then you are holding yourself to a standard that will probably make you fail. We should set ourselves up to succeed.” Sarah Ludmer RD, Senior Nutritionist, Del Monte Foods

-“Eating healthfully is a lifestyle, which includes permission to step outside of the ‘healthy food box.’ Coming prepared to holiday events is your key to success. Never show up starving; eat a small healthful snack prior to dining out. Peruse the offerings and after waiting a minute or two if you still really want it, then it is more than an impulsive selection. A few bites of favorite foods should be enough to satisfy you. Feeling that you are controlling your choices will help you feel good during and after the meal.” Annette Schottenfeld, MBA, RD, Nett Nutrition, Inc.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Italian Lessons in Boston's North End

Salumeria Italiana on Richmond Street Open in Boston's North End for 40 Years

Walk the streets of Boston's North End and you'll find yourself thinking you're in Italy as you pop into the tiny shops specializing in cured meats, pastas, olive oils, breads,cheeses and all of the ingredients needed to cook authentic Italian meals including the Italian wines to go with them.

On a recent trip to Boston I joined a group of fellow foodies for an afternoon adventure led by Jim Becker of Food Tours of Boston. Jim knows the North End! At each stop he greeted the shop owners by name and told us the stories of how the family owned businesses began. It was a crash course in getting to know the neighborhood and nuances of Italian culinary habits with samples along the way. First stop was V.Cirace & Son on North Street ( now run by son and daughter Jeffrey and Lisa Cirace), a treasure trove of Italian wines from aperitivo to digestivo!

Jim's lesson in Italian libations included a primer on digestive health, "Italians don't like to complain of "agita" after a big meal. So they have a long tradition of sipping 'digestivo' after-dinner drinks that settle the stomach." They are often anise based or include bitter herbal concoctions. From grappa to aperola to lemoncello to averna ...seems there are almost as many types of digestivi as there are shapes of pasta! We samples a lovely lemoncello from the Amalfi coast of Italy called Sogna de Sorrento. It was not too sweet and very lemony.

Do You Know Balsamic Basics??

Jim Becker, guide with Food Tours of Boston, poses carefully with a pricey bottle of aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy. The red cap indicates it's been aged more than 12 years, the minimum number of years to be designated "aceto balsamico."

The Older the Better

There are lots of "balsamic" vinegars on the market. If they are inexensive chances are they are a mix of some balsamic and mostly red wine vinegar. OK..but not the real deal. The Reggio Emilia region of Italy designates the different ages of their balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia) by label color. A red label means the vinegar has been aged for at least 12 years, a silver label that the vinegar has aged for at least 18 years and a gold label that designates the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more.
The Modena region uses a different system to indicate the age of their balsamic vinegars (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena). A cream cap means the vinegar has aged for at least 12 years and a golden cap bearing the designation extravecchio shows the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more. Some of those bottles can be priced over one thousand dollars! A little drop will be enough to add power to a drizzle of olive oil on your salad.

One if By Land, Two if By Sea

You can take the Water Taxi to tour Boston Harbor. This stop next to the Fairmont Hotel, Battery Wharf is steps away from Boston's North End and right next to the Coast Guard station. And even if you forget to pack your walking/running shoes not to worry if you're a Fairmont guest. ( Or maybe you just didn't want to check an extra bag for your fitness gear!)

The Fairmont Fit program lends guests activewear and shoes to use in the hotel's spacious fitness center. Or you can hit the Harbor Walk and do your cardio along the waterfront or up and down the streets of the quaint North End. The aromas of bread baking, rosemary, basil and garlic wafting from restaurants along the way will inspire you to walk a bit faster so you can return in time for lunch!

Compare your Adidas borrowed from Fairmont Hotel's Fairmont Fit program with the Boston Celtic's Legend Larry Bird's Basketball Shoes. Look for this bronze plaque honoring the Bird in Quincy Market.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

You Can't Always Take it With You

Images from The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!
Illustrator Laura Coyle
Food on the Fly!

Air travel is true survival mode these days and that means more people than ever are packing their own snacks and even meals to help get them through the day. Since airline meals (at least the free ones) are disappearing too it’s even more important to have an in-flight food plan.

Navigate Nutritiously.
-Ask for OJ. The nutrients in 100 percent orange juice help boost your immune system to give you a fighting chance to ward off cold and flu germs floating in airport concourses or the cabin air on crowded flights. Ask the flight attendant to mix orange juice with sparkling water for a nutritious low calorie quencher. I love the fresh squeezed orange juice at Nature’s Table Bistro on Concourse E of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport.
- Snack Smart. Bag own “sky trail mix” of peanuts, almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries, and granola. Healthy fats and stomach filling fiber will keep you keep going and this combo will be much lower in sodium than the airline’s on board snack mixes. You want to cut down on sodium intake today, because all that sitting can lead to unwanted puffiness and even ankle swelling.
- Concourse Cuisine. If you are bored and have flipped through all of your magazines even before take off, you might be tempted to reach for food as entertainment. So, make sure to ask yourself if you are really famished. If it is in fact mealtime the good news is that most airports do have healthier choices today including freshly made sandwiches, salads, yogurt and even sushi. A salad is fine, but make sure it contains some kind of protein, such as chicken, turkey, ham, eggs or cheese to keep your blood sugar on an even keel. Stress can take a toll driving your blood sugar level down way below normal.

-This flight is making me thirsty! Buy bottled water on the concourse after security screening to drink while you wait and to take on board in carry-on. Or bring an empty water bottle or other container to fill up from an airport drinking fountain (after you’ve gone through security) to avoid paying for water at airport vendors.
- Watch the alcohol at altitude. You and your skin and your brain can really get dehydrated in a pressurized cabin. Alcohol can accelerate dehydration. If it’s at 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.
-If you happen to be on a flight that serves a meal, know that you can order a special meal ahead of time. Airlines request a minimum of 24-hours notice. Special meals usually include fruit for dessert.

Airport Security Food Police

Keep in mind that airport security rules prohibit “gel type substances” such as yogurts and liquids such as bottled water or other beverages in carry-on luggage you take through security check points. Solid foods such as sandwiches, hard cheeses, crackers, fresh fruit and vegetables are allowed. Just as security officials don’t like wrapped gifts, make sure food be seen through its packaging and falls under the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) guidelines for acceptable items. (And no snow globes! That’s on the TSA website too.)
Holiday travelers take note- you can NOT take these foods through airport security even if the home made jam is your Aunt Martha’s.
Cranberry sauce
Creamy dips and spreads
Peanut butter
Maple syrup
Oils and vinegars
Salad dressing
Wine, liquor and beer

But good news, if you’re bringing the cherry cream pie or caramel cake to the family gathering 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.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Now Let's Add Some Nuts

This beautiful caramel cake from Piece of Cake in Atlanta arrived yesterday afternoon. An autumn delight! There are a few more pieces missing today. Perhaps a sprinkling of toasted nuts would add a little more seasonal glamour.


There’s a nut war going on, and it’s more than the usual squirrel battle to gather the most food before winter sets in.
Growers of almonds, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts are clamoring to communicate the big health benefits in each bite.

Nuts (and seeds) are a healthy snack choice. Photo by CHRIS HUNT/AJC Special
Nuts as a category have emerged as one of the health heroes in the food world. Not too long ago nuts suffered from an image problem because of their high calorie content.
But today studies show that people who regularly eat nuts — about 1½ ounces a day, five days a week — are at much lower risk of having their arteries clog than non-nut eaters. (By they way, 11/2 ounces is a handful, not a can full.)
“Nuts have gotten a bad rap for being ‘fattening.’ The truth is nuts are nutrient powerhouses full of anti-oxidants, protein, fiber and minerals,” said registered dietitian Marisa Moore, an Atlanta spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
Nuts can also help keep your blood sugar on an even keel, and the most attention-grabbing news for calorie counters is that research also suggests that eating nuts may dampen your appetite, putting the brakes on your tendency to overindulge.
Not created equalJust in case you hadn’t noticed, the first three letters in nutrition happen to be N-U-T, but all nuts do not contain the same nutrient benefits. So the nut world is crowded with sales pitches based on nutritional profiles.
Almonds are a particularly good source of calcium, vitamin E and fiber.
Peanuts (technically a legume) serve up five times the amount of the heart- health-promoting B vitamin folate, compared with other nuts.
Pecans are a super source of anti-oxidants, ranking higher than most other nuts.
Cashews provide copper and hazelnuts manganese, both important micro-nutrients.
Walnuts are the best nut source of omega-3 fatty acids, important for heart health and other benefits.
Chestnuts, with only 69 calories per ounce, win as the leanest nut. Most nuts clock in at about 160 to 200 calories per ounce.
Pistachios win the biggest number in a 1-ounce serving. Forty-nine nuts go a long way to satisfying your craving for a snack. Moore points out another plus: “Pistachios in the shell are the perfect slow food snack. The time it takes to open pistachios gives your brain a little extra time to realize when you’re satisfied. This helps with both portion control and ultimately weight management.”
Case for mixed nutsSo, which nut should you snack on? Toss into salads? Crush to make a breading for baked fish? They’re all good choices for different reasons. So perhaps it’s best we refer to one of the hallmarks of good nutrition, which is to enjoy a variety of foods to get a variety of benefits. Sounds like mixed nuts to me.
Happily, you can find a variety of nuts on Atlanta restaurant menus.Here’s a sneak peek at two nutty dishes about to be introduced.
Bistro Niko (scheduled to open Thursday): Chef Gary Donlick’s French bistro-inspired salade de endives gets extra crunch and nutrition from walnuts and apples.
One Midtown Kitchen: New executive chef Drew Van Leuvan adds excitement to green pea ravioli with curried hazelnuts.
Nut notes● The protein in nuts puts them in the “meat” category. According to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, in meal planning, a half-ounce of nuts is equal to 1 ounce of meat.
● Studies suggest that most nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease. But it’s interesting to note that does not apply to Brazil nuts, macadamias and cashews, which are higher in saturated fats than other nuts.
● About 1 percent of the population is allergic to nuts.Always ask the server if nuts are used in recipes and if dishes can be made nut-free.
Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at carolyn@carolyn

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Boo! Halloween Food Safety Tips

What the Queen is Wearing This Halloween!
Halloween Food Safety Tips for Parents from the Funloving Folks at the FDA!

Uncle Sam, who will probably dress up as Uncle Sam again has this wise advice to keep the nation safe from pesky pests and other threats to food (candy) safety this Halloween.
Halloween Children shouldn’t snack while they’re out trick-or-treating. (Sure!)
Urge your children to wait until they get home and you have had a chance to inspect the contents of their “goody bags.” (Best to bribe or threaten them.)
Tell children not to accept – and especially not to eat – anything that isn’t commercially wrapped.
Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys. (They want large toys anyway or iTunes cards.)
Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. ( Who are your new neighbors? )
Throw away anything that looks suspicious (Such as candies made from tofu)
And follow these tips for Halloween parties at home.
If juice or cider is served to children at Halloween parties, make sure it is pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy harmful bacteria. ( I don't care if the 'natural' stuff looked good on the road side stand.)
Juice or cider that has not been treated will say so on the label. (Watch out for older kids or wild neighbors trying to "spike" the cider.)
No matter how tempting, don't taste raw cookie dough or cake batter. (Don't trust anyone who actually bakes their own cookies or cakes, anyway.)
Before going "bobbing for apples," an all-time favorite Halloween game, reduce the number of bacteria that might be present on apples and other raw fruits and vegetables by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt. ( No one said this Halloween party was going to be easy.)
"Scare" bacteria away by keeping all perishable foods chilled until serving time. These include, for example, finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frostings. ( And the same goes for that scary buffet you serve the kids wearing blindfolds such as peeled grape eyeballs and cold spaghetti guts.)
Cold temperatures help keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying. And don't leave the food at room temperature for more than two-hours. (They will be eating candy by then anyway.)
Trick or Treating Nutrition Tips: What's in Your Bag?
1. Make sure the little goblins have something "real" to eat before they head out on Trick-or-Treat candy grabbing mission. Even if you only have time for them to drink a glass of milk, that's a good base for early trick or treaters. Make it chocolate milk for Halloween fun. It contains a little more sugar but delivers the same 9 essential nutritients as white milk.
2. Go for the "fun packs" of candies, ie. portion controlled packages often limited to 100 calories. It's a good way to teach kids about proper amount of candy to eat in one sitting.
3. Brush your fangs! Candy caught in crevices can cause cavities. Sticky, gummy candies are the worst at getting stuck in between teeth. Chocolate has actually been shown to help curb cavities because it helps balance out acids in the mouth that eat into the tooth's enamel. But, brush your teeth!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spices Add Pinch of Delish and Dash of Health

It turns out that a pinch of red pepper or dash of curry powder not only turns up the heat to boost flavors in dishes, but it also can add a helping of health benefits, too.
Nutrition research supports new reasons to season dishes with herbs and spices, including cinnamon, ginger, oregano, red pepper and yellow curry powder. Blueberries, pomegranates and other deeply colored fruits may be famous for their high anti-oxidant content; but it turns out that some spices rank really high, too.

One teaspoon of cinnamon has the disease fighting anti-oxidant power of a full cup of pomegranate juice or half cup of blueberries. The specific kind of anti-oxidant compounds found in cinnamon called polyphenols have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and fight inflammation, which can increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Feel even better about the cinnamon sprinkled on your oatmeal? But don't try to use this spicy news to help justify downing one of those huge cinnamon buns at the mall. Controlling total fat and calories in your diet still reigns supreme as the most important rule in good nutrition. With that in mind, it's interesting to note that spices might come to the rescue there, too.

Red chile pepper gets heat from a powerful antioxidant compound called capsaicin. Spicing up your meal with red pepper flakes or hot chile sauces may also help increase satiety so you eat less. Other studies found red peppers, even milder sweet red peppers, boost your metabolism so you burn a few more calories. Other studies suggest that some seasonings such as cayenne pepper, chili powder and paprika may help curb hunger pangs and boost the metabolism, making it a bit easier to stick to a weight control diet.
Executive chef Piero Premoli of Pricci restaurant in Atlanta adds a touch of heat to vegetables, seafood, pasta dishes and risotto, and jokes, "I put it on my cereal in the morning!" For Pricci's menu this month featuring recipes from Sicily, Premoli prepares swordfish with a glaze of Sicilian Marsala wine with pickled calabrese red peppers, white balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic. "This dish is a classic mix of hot and sweet. The cuisine of Sicily is known for its use of chiles, heat and spices," Premoli said.

Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy to soothe an upset stomach. Now research focusing on one of its active ingredients, gingerol, suggests it may work like anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Is your mouth burning from the wasabi served with sushi? Pick up that piece of fresh ginger on the plate.

Oregano has the highest anti-oxidant levels of the dried herbs because of its rosmarinic acid content. Used heavily in Mediterranean cuisines, oregano has antimicrobial powers that can help fight bacterial growth and may help inhibit the bacteria associated with ulcers.

Yellow curry powder is a blend of turmeric, also spelled turmeric, and other spices. Curcumin, the bright yellow pigment in turmeric, helps fight heart disease and may boost brain health, possibly protecting against Alzheimer's disease. You may associate curry primarily with Indian or Thai cuisine, but Premoli shares the secret to his sauce for Pricci's seafood with linguine: "I add a hint of cumin-based red curry, something I learned from a chef in Liguria."

More spice, less fat, sugar and salt

Of course, one of the best ways that spices can contribute to the enjoyment of a healthy diet is by taking the place of other seasonings that are high in fat, sugar or salt. Herbs and spices are classified as calorie-free and salt-free.
So the oregano in Greek and Italian dishes, cinnamon in the recipes of Morocco, chiles in Mexican cuisine and turmeric in the curries of India and Thailand not only enhance the fragrance and flavor of foods, but they also play a significant role in the overall nutrition of meals.

What's a spice? A spice may be the bud (clove), bark (cinnamon), rhizome (ginger), berry (peppercorn), aromatic seed (cumin) or flower stigma (saffron) of a plant.

What's an herb? An herb is generally defined as the leaf of a plant (rosemary, oregano, thyme, coriander) in cooking, but any other part of the plant, often dried, can be a spice.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Last Flight: The Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton, Buckhead

Sadly The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton, Buckhead has closed. Too "fancy" for modern times? Too "old fashioned" for today's foodies? Perhaps, these elegant ocean liners of fine dining just can't compete in an age of jet travel and noisy bistros. Who knows? But, the memories are treasures to savor. And I'm so glad I can say that I was there. From Guenter to Joel to Bruno to Arnaud. Once even dining with Julia.... I was there.

An evening spent at The Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton, Buckhead is the kind of rarified culinary experience where chances are you won’t be saying, “Oh, I just had something like that last night.” That is unless of course you just flew in from Paris, where a new definition of Mediterranean cuisine is being forged as assertive young chefs venture across the Sea to borrow flavors from North Africa and the Middle East. Witness the elevation of legumes in Dining Room Chef Arnaud Berthelier’s Black Truffle Studded Loup de Mer with a Chick Pea-Clam Froth. And odds are when the parade of dishes in the six to seven courses of the Tasting Menu begin to arrive, it won’t prompt a response, “I’ve made something like this before.” Unless a table side presentation of Roasted Lobster with artisinal hand rolled pasta with a lobster Bolognese fragrant with preserved lemon, basil and Medjool dates is a specialty you like to whip up on weekends.

Yes, this is something very special and should be approached with the giddiness of expectation that there will be several I-never-would-have-thought-of that discoveries and just as many delightful I-had-no-idea surprises tonight. The Jerusalem Artichoke Soup promised a shaving of truffles, but generously delivered a complete shingling of jet black truffles to ooh and ah over before even lifting a spoon.

Perhaps that’s why the doorway to this elegant yet cozy restaurant on the second floor of the hotel (best approached by climbing the grand staircase in Cinderella fashion) allows just a small peek into the plush world of soon to experienced pleasures as you’re greeted by the reigning diplomat of the Dining Room, Maitre D’ Claude Guillaume. Tall and handsome with the formality of a footman tempered by a wink of “delighted to see you”
he welcomes my guest and me and motions for us to cross the threshold. Entering the room it feels as if you’ve begun a journey and you just know this must be First Class Cabin. Taking in the décor while being escorted to an alcove banquette, covered in posh club-meets-modern greens, it’s time to really check things out. Look at all of the interesting people already on board; they’re chatting and sipping and laughing with the waiters guiding their tour. Then what better way to prepare for take-off than to be settled in for the evening and immediately asked if you’d care for a glass of Champagne? Did they think my dress was couture and these were real diamond earrings? Oh, this was going to be a great flight.

The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead is in its twenty first year of winning awards and securing the highest ratings a restaurant can garner including the Five Star from the Mobile Travel Guide and AAA Five Diamond Award. Three highly rated chefs have led the culinary team here through the years, Guenter Seeger, Joel Antunes and Bruno Menard. And with Menard’s departure in June for an opportunity in Japan the speculation of who would be next to break gourmet ground at the Dining Room was fueled by a three month long international search for candidates. Talk about a reality show search for excellence and ingenuity.

After preparing an 11 course audition meal that wowed the search committee with its fragrance, flavor infusions and use of spices, French born, Arnaud Berthelier, won the right to wear the top toque at the Ritz Buckhead and so began his continental shift away from the Asian influences introduced by Antunes and emphasized even more by Menard. The Dining Room’s menu now, while not completely turning its attention away from Asia, leans decidedly toward the cuisines that ring the Mediterranean region.
Three dishes that capture the new style of The Dining Room with Berthelier’s bold combinations of flavors and textures, often many on one plate include the
Four Story Hill Veal Breast, grapefruit, fennel and Black Truffles,
Silverstone Ranch Lamb Loin Garam Masala Crust, Sweet Potato Licorice Puree, Pear Polenta, Lemon Milk Froth and Grouper in Yuzu Juice stuffed with Tomato Confit, Lemon and basil, Basil Yuzu reduction and Lemon paparadelle pasta.
One interesting note on the pasta, I’ve never seen it presented this way. A long ribbon of yellow pasta (the lemon) with green zebra stripes (the basil) was rolled into a coil resembling a fruit roll up. I didn’t want to cut into the tight coil because I wanted the sensuous mouth feel of the paparadelle, so I took my fork and unwound the whole thing ending up with the long flat noodle of my dreams. Dipped into the citrusy Yuzu juice and capturing the bursts of tomato confit with a bite of glistening grouper the paparadelle easily won in the aforementioned delightful I-had-no-idea surprises category.

A Ritz-Carlton veteran, most recently Berthelier was executive chef at the Ritz-Carlton at a seaside resort in Egypt and he was chef for The Dining Room’s at both the Ritz-Carlton Naples and St. Thomas. Before that his culinary resume was built in Europe by working in eight one-, two- and three-star Michelin restaurants including Alain Ducasse’s le LouisXV in Monte Carlo and Le Saveurs in London working along side Joel Antunes. Who knew then they’d both end up with a second matching resume entry, Chef of the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead??

Another element in the evolution of The Dining Room as Berthelier joins the team, is an emphasis on more table side service. Don’t expect flaming desserts but, the art of table side presentation from carving meats to presenting foamed sauces in front of the guest sets the Dining Room a part from other restaurants as well. “It went away because people didn’t care but it’s back,” says Guillaume whose European hotel school training included skills in tableside service which he teaches to the wait staff, “It’s just like a painting. We add the frame at the table. It’s an elegant way to present food, not just delivering a plate to a guest.” Meant as a selection for two to enjoy, the Lobster with Garganelli pasta, for instance, arrives table side on a rolling cart in a glass covered bowl. The waiter then removes the lid and the fragrance of the lobster Bolognese and preserved lemons precedes the pleasure of watching him divide the delicious spoonfuls of pasta and succulent lobster onto the plates which finally arrive in front of you. Anticipation is part of pleasure, too.
And look out, here comes another cart! Cheese carts, dessert carts, and isn’t that a bottle of some amazing Bordeaux and a crystal decanter being wheeled over to that table for two we really can’t see in the back of the room? “When I first came here I found this beautiful French Christofle silver cheese cart was not being used.” Guillaume says he polished it up, sprayed WD 40 on the wheels and today it proudly presents The Dining Room’s ever changing selections for the cheese course. So, I would say that the service is definitely formal but it’s not stuffy, because the waiters seem to be part well, waiter and part psychologist. They have to know who’s in a good mood. Oh did you see that woman over there just opened up a birthday present and it was a diamond and sapphire bracelet!! They have to know when to lie low. Oh, I think that CEO is here to tell the other guy he’s firing a whole division tomorrow. But, for me, I just wanted them to be efficient and a bit entertaining. This is a three hour cruise, you know. When discussing the new emphasis on table side service our waiter joked that, “We bring a fish tank into the dining room and then Claude will throw in a line to catch your dinner.” I’ve always enjoyed eating out in fancy places with great food as long as you don’t have to behave yourself! And the Dining Room feels like it can be that kind of place. I’m not talking rock star misbehavior but, it is nice to know the Dining Room staff is aware most guests are there to have fun with all of this fabulous food and wine; there’s no need for so much decorum you’re afraid to ask “Now, what is this again?”

One member of the Dining Room team who clearly loves to entertain guests by sharing interesting stories about far away places, the mysteries of nature and family secrets is the lovely and very young ( she’s 24) Sommelier Chantelle Grilhot. We first meet upon that initial champagne pouring welcome with the presentation of a Cremant Grand Cru Libert 1995, “It’s 100 percent chardonnay grapes.” she whispers with a knowing smile as she does when introducing each of the wines selected for the Tasting Menu. When you finish a course and you see her coming with another bottle, you know this will be a liquid clue as to what dish the chef is delivering next. “I take you now to the Loire Valley of France with a Vouvray 2004.” She talks about the limestone influence and mineral nuances and I look forward to pairing this with the Ahi Tuna with Jicama, Watermelon and Jalapeno Gelee.
Later Chantelle is back “We go now to South America to the country of Brazil” and surprisingly this is the dark opulent red wine Miolo, Quinta do Seival with the aroma of chocolate covered cherries that will go beautifully with the Lobster Garganelli.

Now the Dining Room experience is not for the faint of heart- there’s a carpaccio of foie gras nestled next to broiled squab- and I can’t help but think that these slices of raw liver remind me of something a coroner deals with for toxicology tests. And if you’re flight of feet and like to dash and dine this is not your place, either. No wonder there’s a small decorative pillow tucked behind me on the banquette- it’s for lumbar support! This is dining for the long haul. That said, make sure your dining companions are ready to converse for at least two, often three or even four hours and enjoy it. I never knew the charming story of how my friend met her husband, even though I’d known them for two years.
On our fourth or was it fifth course my friend observed, “You’ve got to tell people to pace themselves.” In all honesty the waiter did warn us! And just when you think the flight is about to end and dessert arrives you learn that this is a slow descent because the waiter announces “Ladies, please enjoy your pre-dessert. We present three small tastes of Kenyan Coffee Tart, Tahitian Bean Ice Cream, and Chocolate Gelee with Chocolate Souffle.” Meanwhile, the room is really buzzing now and we overhear a snippet of conversation of two young women with their aunts or perhaps a wedding planner, “Will you be responsible for your bridesmaids’ hair and makeup?” I think the answer was yes. I was distracted by the arrival of the main dessert, a “Citrus Composition” of Naval Orange Sabayon, Mardarine Sorbet with a very unusual and totally memorable Satsuma and Orange Blossom Salad. Yes, then there was a table side tea service followed by a selection of hand made confections and we felt we had become part of this canvas which was anything but a still-life. The only thing missing, which we didn’t miss was a table hopping chef. No, he waits until the flight has landed. On departure we walked to the door where adorable Chef Arnaud Berthelier with a puckish smile in a tres moderne short sleeved chef’s jacket, quietly asked us how we enjoyed dinner and said good-bye. Still aloft from the experience of an exhilarating culinary journey, we rode the elevator down and returned to Earth.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What Do Dietitians Do on a Typical Day?

The day began at WXIA TV NBC sipping bottled water with TV doctor and Oprah pal Dr. Mehmet Oz ( he's really friendly and actually even more handsome in person) and ended at the St. Regis Hotel drinking a silky 2007 Estate Chardonnay with fabulous Napa winery owner Janet Trefethen of Trefethen Family Vineyards.

The middle of the day found me talking "vegetarian"menu development with the wonderful staff of Good Measure Meals, a fresh gourmet delivered meals program. Eggplant torte, Acapulco Chile and Vegetable Lasagna dishes are wowing taste buds of vegetarians and non-vegetarians ( we'll call them Flexitarians!) as Good Measure Meals rolls out their 5 week ( breakfast, lunch and dinner) menu plans for clients who want to eat great, lose weight and do NONE of the work!! Good Measure Meals dietitians did all the work figuring out exactly how many calories in each menu and making sure that all the needed nutrients were there from protein, fiber and all the vitamins you need. The chef makes sure that all that nutrition meets taste bud requirements!

Oh..while I was interviewing Dr. Oz he asked, "Is it OK if I eat something while we chat?" He had been on a wild whirlwind schedule that morning....of course! He dove into a carton of Greek yogurt and small container of fresh blueberries. Meanwhile, lurking in the hallway....a WXIA producer with a package of donuts covered in powdered sugar with plans to spring it on him during a taped interview. You guess how it all turned out!

Oh, then it was off to lunch at Nan's Thai Fine Dining paired with Trefethen wines. My first Janet sighting of the day!! The Trefethen 2008 Estate Dry Reisling paired perfectly with the crispy calamari with three chili sauce. Red snapper with green mango salad with its slightly sweet and salty flavors was lovely and lively with the 2007 Estate Chardonnay. Janet remarked on their subtle winemaking approach ( read: no heavy oaking), "We think of our Chardonnay as a beautiful woman. She's lovely on her own and maybe needs a bit of mascara or hint of lipstick. But we would never cover her up with a lot of make up or we'd never find her."

What did Dr.Oz say about healthy dining out? His advice was to be a regular at your favorite places so you can get to know everyone in the dining room and in the kitchen, "If they know you and know what you like and how you liked things prepared it's easier for them and for you! Everyone loves regulars!" Good for business and your health, I guess.

By the way, when I told Dr. Oz I was having lunch with Janet Trefethen, he said, "I love Trefethen wines!" I'm sure he'd have enjoyed our lunch ........just what the doctor and dietitian ordered!

(Photo: Janet Trefethen (center) surrounded by fabulous fans. Notice the pearls by Dolma Jewelry owned by cute Ashley on the left. That's me in the back and my sister Alison on right of Janet)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Cleaning in Food and Nutrition

A wonderful welcome to Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, North Carolina. Executive Chef Johannes
Klapdohr is so enthusiastic about the natural bounty of the seasons he creates floral fantasies of organic veggies to wow food loving guests.
How's that New Year’s Diet Going?
Fall's Great Time to Refresh Resolutions

So how are you doing on those resolutions to eat healthier that you may have made back in January? If the answer is “Oh yeah, I kind of lost steam and got a little side tracked” you’re in the majority. Turns out that you need to treat every day as New Year’s Day and give yourself the option to start all over again. So with summer fading and fall on the horizon let’s hit the reset button to launch a fresh start.

Fall Cleaning: Start at home with a clean sweep of the fridge and pantry and a vow to toss more salads and toss out the potato chips. Stocking a kitchen with a cast of figure friendly vegetables, fresh fruit, lean meats, whole grains, and fat free or low-fat dairy is the best foundation for sticking to a weight loss diet. Have some fall fun at a local farmers market and take advantage of autumn harvests of gorgeous greens, late season tomatoes, tender carrots and crunchy apples.

Since the average American eats out at least four to five times a week with certain age groups such as those in their 30’s dining out up to 30 times a week, you’ll have to make some healthy changes in your restaurant habits if you want to see a smaller number when you step on the scale.
Know Which Flavors are Free – There are plenty of ways to jazz up steamed vegetables, grilled fish and other menu choices you might otherwise garnish with a high fat sauce. Lemon juice, salsa, steak sauce, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, soy sauce and vinegars are low cal or no cal options for adding flavor without fat. If you’re watching your sodium intake go easy on soy and steak sauces.
Read Between the Lines – Menu descriptions don’t always tell the whole story about the added fat in a dish. If it says “crispy coating” it probably means fried and always ask the server about how the sauces are made. For example, is it a “light” tomato sauce because it’s made cream and color is lighter? It can happen!

Skip the extras- It’s not the craving for pizza that ‘done your diet wrong’, it was the decision to add extra pepperoni or a double cheese that send the fat and calories over your limit. Watch out for extras such as fried croutons on salads, bacon slices on burgers and cheese sauce slathered on steamed broccoli. Think of these high calorie additions as accessories to use sparingly.

Go Green
No matter where you’re dining, resolve to add more vegetables to your menu choices. Even it means asking to Biggie Size the lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles on your fast food hamburger; you’re adding more veggies to your diet. This adds low cal or no cal nutrients to your daily intake and the fiber in cooked vegetables and salads helps you feel full.

Find Farms on the Menu-
The good news is that eating healthier has never tasted better because a growing number of chefs today are enthusiastic about featuring the most flavorful farm fresh produce on their menus.

Carvel Gould, executive chef at Canoe in Vinings buys as much as possible from local farmers and has recently added raised bed gardens to the landscaping around the restaurant, “You should see the eggplants!”

Executive Chef Johannes Klapdohr of the Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina is so passionate about sharing his fresh finds with guests that menus include enticing descriptions such as “Brussels sprouts surprise” and “lifecycle of peas.” Farmer David Taylor of Lakemont, Georgia even finds his name on the menu at Madisons restaurant at the Old Edwards Inn right next to the eggs and salad greens he supplies.

Want to Eat More?
Well, then you’ll have to move more. Whether it’s a morning jog before breakfast, a lunchtime yoga class or dancing after dinner, exercise not only helps you maintain the weight loss you achieved. It allows you to eat more without regaining.

How DO you Stay So Slim??

Savvy Secrets from Smart Diners

Losing weight is one thing. Keeping it off is another issue. Too many dieters end up back where they started. The sad statistics are that most folks will regain the weight they worked so hard to shed if they don’t adopt lifelong strategies for weight control management. So what are the savvy secrets for staying slim? Turns out is has more to do with what’s on your mind before you think about what’s on your plate. Dr. John Foreyt, professor of psychiatry and Director of Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston says, “The keys to long term weight control are problem solving on a daily basis, predicting challenges and then planning for them. People may say they want a detailed prescribed meal plan, but what they need is nutrition know-how and the problem solving skills to use any day of their lives.” He concludes that it’s the power of mind (read: willpower and motivation) that keeps the trim people trim and boy do they work at it, “They are eternally vigilant with daily or weekly weighing, they monitor calorie intake and they’re highly active exercising at least 60 minutes a day.”
According to Dr. Jim Hill’s research from the National Weight Control Registry (a database of more than 5,000 people who've lost more than 30 pounds and kept the weight off for at least a year) their exercise of choice is not marathon running- it’s walking but walking enough to burn 400 calories a day, “The good news is small changes for all of us, things that take very little time and effort, like walking an extra 2,000 steps a day about 15 minutes can burn 100 calories.” Trimming 100 calories from what you normally eat each day can help, too. Skip the cheese on the cheeseburger, choose the low fat mayonnaise, eliminate one tablespoon of butter, ask for club soda instead of tonic water in cocktail, use non fat milk in your latte. What else does the slim set do to maintain their weight?
They Eat Until Satisfied Not Stuffed - Try putting your fork down halfway through a meal and ask yourself using a 1 to 10 scale, how full are you? Take a sip of water and think about it some more. Talk to your dining companions. You’ll give yourself time to gauge how hungry you really are and by eating slowly it allows the stomach time to trigger the brain’s sensation of fullness. A diet study conducted at the University of Rhode Island found that women consumed fewer calories and were more satisfied when they ate at a slower pace. Bottom line: By eating more slowly the women ate 70 calories less and said they enjoyed the meal more.

They Eat More Fruit and Vegetables - Bet you’re not surprised by this one! According to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association healthy weight women eat one more serving of fruit and eat more fiber and less fat per day than overweight people.
And even though many people associate weight loss with high protein intake, the statistics from the successful dieters in the National Weight Control Registry don’t support the eat-all-the-steak-you-want diet. Their diets were on average 20% protein, 24% fat and 56% carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the best source of healthy carbs.
They Have a Plan and Stick to It - 78% of successful dieters in National Weight Control Registry ate breakfast every day. And- sorry to tell you this- they consistently monitor their food intake. According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine conducted by Dr. Rena Wing of Brown University, folks who lost weight and kept it off continued to be careful about consumption of lower calorie menu options and moderated their fat intake. Beth Weitzman, the uber busy editor in chief of Jezebel Magazine, works with a personal trainer to keep her focused on fitness and carefully edits her menu choices when dining out, “I order seafood and request that it be cooked clean (no butter, just lemon and or olive oil) and a side of steamed veggies with nothing on them. OK Cafe does a great job with this and their menu offers lots of great healthy options; as does Seasons 52.”

They’re Smart about Splurging. Whether it’s chocolate brownies, French fries or lasagna that you crave, realize you love these foods and allow yourself to enjoy them in sensible portions. Feel the textures and smell the aromas to help you feel more satisfied with a smaller portion. Registered dietitian, Allison Beadle says, “Tex Mex is my soul food so I have to find smart ways to save calories so I split chicken or beef fajitas with someone else, order pica de gallo to increase veggies and when I have to have cheese enchiladas, I just try to make sure that I’m totally in the moment and aware of what I’m eating—enjoying the decadent cheesiness as much as humanly possible!.” Then, you guessed it, she balances her indulgence with more exercise the next day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Little Things Add Up or Down on the Scale

It’s the little things that mean a lot. And it turns out that little proverb can be applied to weight control, too.
To keep current on nutrition issues, I recently attended an American Dietetic Association three-day course on adult weight management presented by experts in all areas of the field, including diet counseling, physical activity and clinical assessment.
Back to the little things.
I learned encouraging news that little bouts of exercise — as few as 10 minutes in duration — can add up to significant gains in fitness.
Unfortunately, it’s the little bites eaten here and there above our daily caloric needs that can add up to sizable weight gain over time.
Call it the “creep.” The cumulative effect of small daily errors in energy balance can slowly but surely feed the growth of body fat.
As obesity expert Dr. Robert Kushner of Northwestern University explained: “By consuming just 12 calories more per day, you can gain 2 pounds a year. By eating 125 calories more per day, you can gain more than 12 pounds in a year.”
The sage budget advice to “watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves” holds true here, too.
On the exercise front, registered dietitian Ruth Ann Carpenter of the Cooper Institute in Dallas, summarized physical activity guidelines for weight maintenance, “Do 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week such as walking, biking or gardening. Split it up into at least three days a week with no less than 10-minute bouts at a time.”
If you want more health benefits, you’ll have to do more exercise.
It’s the calories, folks
Bottom line: To prevent weight gain each day, you should walk 2,000 steps and cut 100 calories. (Skip the cheese on the burger and pass on another pat of butter.)
To support weight loss, you should walk at least 10,000 steps and cut 500 to 1,000 calories a day.Putting this knowledge into practice is of course what counts.
And in my case, since the meeting was being held in the expansive Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center in Nashville, I had plenty of opportunities to put my pedometer to work.
Surprisingly, even though I was sitting in meetings with a few breaks, I was able to get in 9,000 steps the first day. (I got lost a lot and wandered through the 9 acres of beautiful indoor gardens with walkways and waterfalls.)
I also munched on fresh fruit snacks offered by the hotel during our seminars and had lots of healthy lunch options.
One day I could go to Stax, the build-your-own-burger place, and pile on the lettuce, tomatoes and pickles on top of a small hamburger or chicken sandwich.
The next day I could get a big green salad topped with grilled salmon at
 Cascades Seafood Restaurant. Cutting calories while enjoying great taste is getting easier thanks to menu alternatives today.
Learning how to make these healthy lifestyle choices in a world that weight-control experts call an “obesigenic environment” is a critical survival skill needed to prevent weight gain and related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
So I’ve taken Kushner’s list of forces that contribute to obesity and given them a healthy makeover.
Fit in a fattening world
Hurried life, always rushing: Walk even faster to burn more calories. Take the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. Park farther away and walk instead of circling to find the closest parking spot. Make moments of calm count. Savor your foods.
Food available everywhere: This often means more variety, so be selective about what you choose, accept the fact that this won’t be the last time someone offers you cake or cookies, stick to three meals and a snack instead of uncontrolled grazing.
Cooking less: If you don’t know how to cook, take a class or buy a cookbook to learn techniques for easy-to-prepare, lower-calorie recipes. You won’t have bad cooking habits to unlearn.
Eating out more: Whether it’s fast food or fancy, go online to look at the menus ahead of time to help plan healthier choices. Learn to be specific in requests, “May I have extra lemon with my fish?”
Exercise engineered out of our lives: Take the stairs, hide the remote, just say no to robot vacuum cleaners, open the garage door yourself, ditch the drive-through by actually walking into the restaurant.
Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at carolyn@

Order This, Not That! Mexican Menus

Follow this link to find out what to enjoy at Mexican restaurants......if you want to find the slimmest ways to dine South of the Border.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kids Surprise Parents at Dinnertime

How about some good news on kids and what they’re eating? Turns out all that talk to “eat your vegetables” might be sinking in because a new survey found that children are making more of an effort to do just that when dining out. The Kids & Moms Consumer Trend Report conducted by Technomic asked 1,500 moms and 1,200 kids between ages 6 to 12 about their dining habits. Results might surprise parents who automatically assume their kids will say ‘no’ to substituting fruit for the fries. About 80 percent of the children surveyed said they have tried to eat more fruit in the past six months and 77 percent said they tried to eat more vegetables. A respectable one third of kids said they do consider health information when dining out. Salads are leading the pack in popularity on kids’ menus and older children are skipping the chicken fingers and pizza and opting for healthier items from the adult side of the menu.

Once upon a time it was a special occasion thing to eat out with your parents but now it’s part of everyday life and that means restaurant foods have a bigger impact on health and nutrition. Mother of two registered dietitian, Janice Bissex, MS, RD and co-author with Liz Weiss MS RD of The Mom’s Guide to Meal Makeovers says “If eating out is a frequent occurrence, some ground rules should be set.” Bissex recommends limiting soft drink consumption and encouraging water, low fat milk or juice as healthier beverage options.
Kids’ menus are generally a disappointment to dietitians because the standard selection of fried chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, and burgers with fries doesn’t encourage eating a variety of foods and can be too high in fat and calories (especially for inactive kids). But, what concerns Bissex the most is what is not offered on kids’ menus. “I’d like to see more whole wheat bread for sandwiches, cut –up fruit, and baby carrots. And instead of pasta in butter I’d prefer to see pasta and marinara sauce with broccoli.”
Kid-Friendly and Health-Friendly
The good news is that family friendly restaurants are listening and working with nutritionists to add healthier menu options for children. The Technomic report recognized a growing presence of fruit and vegetables on kids’ menus. Bob Evan’s Farms offers a low-fat strawberry yogurt with fresh fruit, Jason’s Deli serves organic carrots and apples and even IHOP has a tilapia entrée served with steamed broccoli and lemon!
But, no matter how “healthy” the menu options offered at restaurants; that doesn’t mean kids have to eat it all. One of the most important lessons in life long nutrition is recognizing when you are full. Registered dietitian Jo Anne Lichten, PhD RD, author of Dining Lean says “We all know that restaurant meals are getting bigger than we need. It’s no different for kids’ meals.” Lichten does the meal time math, “So, don’t ever make a kid finish everything on their plate.”

Hey Mom Was Right! 1. Don’t wolf it down – Teach kids to savor flavors and slow down. The faster you eat, the more you are likely to consume; that’s the key to winning a pie-eating contest, not life long healthy eating habits.
2. Don’t spoil your appetite- If a meal includes a soft drink ask that it be served with the meal so children don’t fill up on high calorie sugar water. Ditto on diving into the bowl of tortilla chips or bread basket before the meal arrives.
3. Don’t be afraid to try it – Some kids are more adventurous than others sampling sushi at age six while others are stick to the basics. But, it’s important to encourage tasting new foods when dining out. The more variety in the diet, the more types of nutrients are provided.
4. Learn to share – Whether its showing kids how to split up a platter of pasta as a first course sampling for the whole family or ordering one slice of cheesecake with four forks; dining out teaches proper portion control when you share.
5. Go out and play! - Kids need to be active to be healthy and burn enough calories to stay fit. Kids who are considered very active (60 minutes or more of physical activity) need only 1600 to 1800 calories per day. Since, most kids eat 4 to 6 times a day (including snacks) a kids meal of 400-500 calories is more than adequate. Note that most children’s restaurant meals range from 500 to over 700 calories.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Julia's Kitchen and Me

Visited Bon Appetit! the Smithsonian exhibit of Julia Child's Cambridge kitchen today. Quite a buzz there with nationwide launch of Julie & Julia today. Then I saw it. There is a VHS copy of CNN show I did with Julia resting in full view right next to her little TV set in the kitchen display. It says in her handwriting "CNN with Carolyn O'Neil"! I was shocked to absolute silence. Now that's powerful.

Here's the proof if you can squint to see the writing on the tape label. CNN feature on Julia in the Smithsonian exhibit of Julia's Kitchen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cocktails with Julia

"It's all about the jaunty scarf!"
Lunch at Le Cirque Restaurant in NYC: Julia Child, Carolyn O'Neil, Patricia Wells
The Rediscovered Cocktail Recipes of Paul Child
Written by Carolyn O’Neil for Gourmet Magazine 2002

While, I haven’t received that many mind you; I have learned to anticipate with quiet excitement the ceremony of opening a robin’s egg blue box from Tiffany’s.
But, there was something different about this one. It arrived via U.S. Mail, a bit beat up and sealed with clear plastic tape. A plain white mailing label slapped on top sported a simple line drawing of pots and pans in red ink with the return address: 103 Irving Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. “That’s Julia Child’s house,” I thought, “What could this possibly be?”

Inside I found an olive green metal recipe file box that was a bit rusty on the bottom.
No jewels in this Tiffany box, or were there? When I opened the recipe file I found twenty-seven handwritten 3 by 5 index cards each detailing ingredients and instructions on how to make a cocktail. The first card written in pencil then traced over carefully in pen was titled, “Paul’s Rumbrosia.” And in the upper right hand corner a notation “invented 1948”. These were the cocktail recipes collected and created by Paul Child, Julia’s late husband.

Flipping through I noticed many were noticeably splattered apparently from enthusiastic good use. It was the names of the cocktails that really drew me in. Butterfly’s Breath, Dawn’s Early Light, Ceiling Zero, Buddha’s Eye, Rum Figaro, and Richer By Asia. And again, most cocktails included the date and place of the their concoction. Paris 1949, New Delhi 1945.

Stephanie Hersh, Julia Child’s assistant explained that they were sent to me because I was a Trustee for the Foundation of International Association of Culinary Professionals, an organization Child helped to establish.
The idea was to potentially auction off the recipe box at an upcoming IACP Foundation fundraiser that I was chairing to benefit culinary scholarships and restoration of historic cookbooks. (Note: We did auction them off and they now belong to Atlanta caterer Bill Neals.)

Hersh found the box of recipes, “When I was packing up the pantry.” It is amazing what you can find when you clean out the kitchen cupboards, especially when it is the kitchen of Julia Child. During the winter of 2000, Julia Child (then 89) had already moved to her new home in sunny Santa Barbara and Hersh stayed on in wintry Cambridge to oversee the final distribution of personal treasures to family and friends. Since then, the entire kitchen including appliances, furniture and walls has been packed up and meticulously reassembled as an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution. According to Hersh, “they took everything as it was the day they arrived, even the coffee cup that Julia left in the dishwasher.”

It was time to call Julia in Santa Barbara to find out more about this collection of cocktail recipes. Just back from breakfast and an exercise class and just before she was to lunch with friends visiting from Cambridge, Julia remembered Paul, “He enjoyed the names as much as the cocktails. Everything had to be exact so he liked to keep notes on things and he enjoyed fooling around with flavors and colors.”

From 1949 to the early 50’s the Child’s, married in 1946, lived in Paris while Julia studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu, the launching pad for her first book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1”. “We had a wonderful place. It was the third floor of a private house. We did lots of entertaining. It was lots of fun with a mixture of French and Americans.”

“I don’t think people drink cocktails as much anymore. People drank alcoholic drinks then. We didn’t have easy wine around. Wine was for dinner. You’d ask people over for drinks before dinner. It’s a nice custom to have cocktails.”

Anne Willan, long time friend, cookbook author and owner of La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Burgundy, remembers pre-dinner cocktails with the Childs. “Julia took care of interim nibbles such as olives, while Paul looked after the drinks. His specialty was a reverse martini—a gin martini with more extra dry vermouth than gin and a tantalizing hint of lemon zest. Paul would retreat to the classic butler’s pantry, adjacent to the kitchen, and go to work in silence, if not in secret. As a dedicated martini drinker, I remember this with affectionate addiction.”
Willan reports that Julia reminisced recently, “The best thing about a reverse martini is that you can have two of them.”

The cocktail hour was fueled very much by Paul’s worldly wit and wisdom. Barbara Haber, friend of the Child’s and Radcliffe College’s Schlesinger Library Curator of Books remembers get-togethers in Cambridge in the sixties, “Paul was a very accomplished photographer. He was a painter. He had been in the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA, during World War II. He was well read and a storyteller, quick to laugh, florid in his descriptions, a raconteur and a man of great wit. He had star quality. Their sociability was extraordinary.”

And while Julia commandeered the kitchen preparations for dinner, cocktail hour food was simple. A bowl of gold fish crackers was the favored accompaniment.

Julia remembers “Paul loved to make drinks with rum, especially dark rum” and many cocktail recipes in the box feature gin, (Garnet, Himalaya Sunrise, Dawn’s Early Light, Ceiling Zero ). But, there was a special place for bourbon at their bar, too. Julia recalls that James Beard “inspired Paul to study the mint julep. When Jim visited us in France and you asked him what he’d like to drink he’d say ‘bourbon.” And the evidence of a shared passion for bourbon is in the box. Torn from the magazine, and neatly folded behind the recipe cards is a June 1957 House & Garden article by Beard, “The Julep and Other Summer Drinks.” Beard’s authoritatively detailed mint julep recipe insists on crushed ice, preferably crushed in strong canvas bags “the heavy duty bags used by banks for carrying large amounts of silver.” After seven paragraphs of historical background and five paragraphs of instruction Beard’s mint julep recipe concludes, “Serve with straws and feel the glow.”

Another article on Mint Juleps from Gourmet 1958 made the Paul Child collection cut, too.
Julia says of the mint julep, “ They’re great fun. I haven’t had one in years.”

But, she is recounting those Paris years with Paul in a memoir she’s working on now. How can she remember the dinner time details of 40 years ago? “I kept journals.”

“I think of cookbooks as the literature of our profession, ” believes Haber, who has dedicated her career to championing the academic value of writing on foods as “social history.” She is working with Child on an IACP Foundation project to restore old cookbooks. “Julia has given permission to use her name on book plates that read “Restored in honor of Julia Child with funds donated by ….”
The money goes to libraries across the nation to rebind or reproduce historically valuable cookbooks.
But, before you head to the attic to see what recipes grandmother left behind, note
that Haber cautions, “Not all personal recipe collections are as valuable as Paul Child’s cocktail recipe cards. They have added value because they cast light on the Child’s lives. They are artifacts that illuminate his wit and how this famous couple entertained.”

And while many old recipes are fascinating they’re not always easy to reproduce. Take Paul’s Rumbrosia for instance that calls for nine ingredients including orange bitters, Himbersaft raspberry syrup and jasmine tea.
“I don’t have Jasmine tea behind the bar these days” says Chris King, bartender at the Ritz Carlton, Buckhead in Atlanta. King agreed to test Child’s recipes and prepare them for a private party of my friends who volunteered to help with the mixology research.
Years ago, Jeopardy had a category called “potent potables” and these cocktails could have been the winning ‘make sure it’s in the form of a question’ response “What are the cocktail recipes of Paul Child.”
The cosmopolitan drinking young women on Sex and The City have nothing on Julia and Paul. “These drinks are pretty strong!” commented King who updated the drinks for today’s tastes and available ingredients, without downgrading the octane, by the way.

We started with a Himalaya Sunrise. Child’s recipe reads.
Himalaya Sunrise: September 1948 Make a martini. Pour in enough cherry juice to color it pink. Put one cherry in the bottom of each glass.
King modified it with crème de Noya and triple sec. The liquid was the color of a pale pink topaz. Then our group, moved on to test drink number two made with vodka instead of the original gin - the jewel toned Garnet, deep purple from the Welch’s grape juice. Then it was on to the awaited Paul’s Rumbrosia riddled with dark rum. As the laughter and conversation rose one particularly inspired guest encouraged me. “Why not call Julia?” Another friend produced a cell phone and I dialed the number. What felt mildly like a prank call made with the help of liquid courage turned into a delightful moment as Julia answered and said “I wish I was there!” Chris King was handed the phone “Hello Miss Child. I think we’re seeing the comeback of the cocktail.” Everyone raised a glass and shouted a spirited greeting as the cell phone was held out to the group, “Hello Julia.”

Julia offered this advice, “Tell everyone to have a wonderful time and not to mix their drinks too much.”
A lesson in cocktail history we learned that night.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Farmer in Chanel

The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell....

no the farmer in Chanel!

Accessorizing for an afternoon in the fields takes a stylish turn when you learn this heirloom yellow tomato plant is bearing fruit for all to see on the back lawn of the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation on Lake Oconee an hour and change away from Atlanta.

Carolyn goes for the gold plucking a perfectly

ripe heirloom tomato with Chef Jaco Smith.

Chef's Garden

Chef Jaco Smith, who runs Georgia's Bistro at the Ritz, is so dedicated with putting Southern grown products on his menus that he worked with local farmer Sid Cox of Deerwood Farms in nearby Sparta to carve out a section of the lawn in front of the terrace to create a Chef's Garden. In less than 8 weeks the little plot is bursting with tomatoes, mint, rosemary, three kinds of basil and lots of other herbs. "We don't even have to order these herbs anymore from our suppliers. We just pick our own for use in the kitchen."

Garden Chef for a Day

The Chef's Garden is open to guests who sign up for Smith's Saturday "Garden to Grill" cooking classes. And in total Ritzy style each guest cook gets his or her own personalized chef's jacket, an apron and a chef's hat of course. Then the cooking begins. First, Chef Jaco reviews the menu for lunch, then we pick what we need from the garden and assemble it all in an outdoor kitchen and on the grill. The best part is when other guests walk by and wonder "What's going on here?" "Who are these people in the chef's hats?" "How can I join the fun?" Simply sign up for the next class! The menu morphs with the seasons and Chef Jaco gave us the scoop on what's next, "We are expanding the garden to include Fall crops including pumpkins, squash and winter greens."

First Course:

Strawberry, Herb and Summer Green Salad with Sweet Grass Dairy Goat Cheese and a Kiwi Raspberry Dressing.

(Chef Jaco's lesson: a few fresh herbs go a long way in adding taste to green salads)

Second Course:

Herb Grilled Scallops and Shrimp with Heirloom Tomatoes, olives, capers and garden pesto.
(Chef Jaco's lesson: use fresh rosemary sprigs as skewers for grilled shrimp)

Third Course:

Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops with

Pickled Shallots and Raisins
Warm Fingerling Potato Salad

(Chef Jaco's lesson: use sourcream instead of mayo for warm potato salads b/c the mayo will separate when heated)

Pretty Fab Picnic! Overlooking sparkling clean Lake Oconee my group of "Garden to Grill" guest chefs leave the kitchen behind to enjoy the three course lunch we prepared with Chef Jaco Smith paired with wines from Georgia's Bistro.

I love camping!! Actually we coined a new phrase on this weekend trip to the Ritz-Carlton Lodge- Glamping!

With a round of glamourous activities including a sunset cocktail cruise, elegant private dinner in the Presidential House (with dessert in the billiards room), morning "Zen" kayaking on the Lake with yoga session on a little island, dinner by the Lake in the light and warmth of personal chimineas, marshmallow roasting around the Ritz campfire and pampering treatments at the Spa- this is definitely my kind of camping!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Smart Thinking about Drinking

Beau-tea-ful!!! I was introduced to a deliciously smart iced tea idea recently at the blissful Amanyara Resort in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos where the tea is blended with ice to create a beautifully presented refreshing frozen beverage in a tall glass garnished with lime.
Hot weather trimming your appetite? But, you’re still not losing weight. Hmmm, maybe it was something you drank? The first line of diet defense in the battle of the bulge focuses primarily on food choices. And while we still need to watch our plates, we may need to add a serious look at our glasses, cups and car’s drink holders. It turns out that beverages play a significant role in supplying the excess calories that can cause weight gain. Researchers who watch what we drink and how much found that on average 22% of the calories we consume are the ones we drink. And too often, they're calories from soft drinks and other sugary beverages.
So, what should we do to control the liquid portion of portion control? First of all think before you drink. That “free-refill” of sweet tea may be costing you a belt notch or two over time. Here’s what to consider when you're adding a soft drink to your fast food combo, grabbing a fruit juice out of the cooler at your favorite sandwich place or when the server asks, “What would you like to drink?”

Water’s the Winner- Water is of course calorie free and the ultimate thirst quencher. But, if you think it can be a bit boring, add a splash of fruit juice to make your own flavored water. Zero calorie fruit flavored waters with no added sugars are a good choice, too.
Enhanced Waters- These products add everything from herbs to vitamins to the watery mix. Many are artificially sweetened to keep calorie levels down, but make sure to read Nutrition Facts label and choose one with less than 20 calories per 8 ounce serving.
Sports Drinks- They may be associated with winning big on the tennis court or cooling you down after mowing the lawn, but their dehydration fighting electrolytes come with a calorie price tag because of their sugar content. So, you might try the new crop of artificially sweetened lower calorie sports drinks available today.
Coffee/Tea- Calorie-free all by themselves, coffee and tea gain weight when you add sugar and cream. Choose non fat or low fat milk and watch the sugar and honey factor.
And even though pitchers of free flowing super sugary sweet tea are a Southern institution, why not update tradition and ask for a customized mix? Try 90% unsweetened and 10% sweet tea in your glass. You’ll save hundreds of calories and you still get a hint of sweet tea taste. At fast food places, I add a splash of lemonade to the unsweetened ice tea.

Milk- USDA diet guidelines recommend we consume three cups of milk per day for good health. Ever try low fat chocolate milk over ice? Close your eyes and think chocolate milk shake and save hundreds of calories.
Fruit Juices- Full of nutrients but relatively high in calories per ounce. I make a 50/50 mix of 4 ounces orange juice with 4 ounces of sparkling water to cut calories and get some good nutrition. A serving of fruit juice is 4 ounces not a 36 ounce tumbler!
Soft Drinks – Count about 150 calories for a 12 ounce can of soda. Diet drinks are calorie free. There are no nutrients in either choice, but if you're a soft drink fan and drink more than three cans a day -or drive around with a 36 ounce ‘big gulp’ in your car- you can cut 450 calories a day when substituting the diet version. In fact you'd lose about a pound each week.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Independence Day Lessons Afloat

Ah the special light effects at sunset as the pinks and golds mellow everything out even if you're not drinking Champagne. This is what I call a boat! 165 feet long and four decks high cruising out of Naples into the Gulf of Mexico with friends Bob and Suzy Goldman.

Happy Fourth of July! Oh and for some content on
food and nutrition how about this?
Champagne before sunset- 100 calories a glass
Champange during sunset - 100 calories a glass
Champagne after sunset- 100 calories a glass