Monday, April 27, 2009

Juice Couture

Mixologist Stephanie Ruhe of The Mansion on Peachtree turns The Bar
into a juice bar each Wednesday with freshly made fruit and vegetable based libations.

A man walks into a bar. Then he finds it’s been turned into a juice bar. So, in this scene the punch line is literally punch but it’s still designed to make you smile. On Wednesdays next to the mixings for martinis, mojitos and a myriad of other popular cocktails, thirsty customers at The Bar at The Mansion on Peachtree in Buckhead see and hear a professional juicing machine at work turning a tower of fresh produce into colorful concoctions.

The Mansion’s mixologist Stephanie Ruhe came up with the idea as an alternative to afternoon teas and as a kind of new-age Happy Hour for those who need some midweek motivation, “Like a lot of people today I am really into wellness and make fresh juices of all kinds at home so I decided to plug in a juicer behind the bar and started what I call the Mansion Squeeze.” Guests can choose one of Ruhe’s five featured recipes such as the “Fresh Start” made with cucumber, strawberry, lemon and celery or “The Green Madness” which is a mix of parsley, cucumber, celery and green apple, “You should have a base, add something more acidic and something sweet. It’s really the same concept as when I make my cocktails.” Or you can design your own juice with the award winning mixologist’s help, “Strawberries and ginger are a great combination. Ginger adds a nice kick, but be careful not to use too much.”

Executive Chef Eric Chopin of The Mansion’s NEO restaurant creates light bites based on fresh and seasonal produce to enjoy at the bar and after eyeing all of the veggie trimmings in the catch basket of the juicer this resourceful Frenchman proclaimed to gathered guests, “Don’t throw them away! You can use those to make a flavorful stock or a wonderful soup!”

Drink Your Vegetables
There’s a cornucopia of nutrition studies to support the health benefits of being enthusiastic about eating and drinking fruit and vegetables. Research findings presented at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting included a study from the University of Michigan that found participants who ate one and a half cups of tart cherries increased their body’s antioxidant activity significantly ( reducing risk factors for heart disease and inflammation). Another study conducted at Baylor College of Medicine, found that participants who drank at least 8-ounces of low sodium vegetable juice as part of a calorie-controlled diet lost four pounds over 12 weeks, while those who followed the same diet but drank no juice lost one pound.
What is it about juice that’s considered so healthy? It’s basically the concentration of vitamins, minerals and the hundreds of other plant nutrients that you’re consuming when you down a shot of juice. But, registered dietitians caution that juice doesn’t contain the fiber that whole fruits or vegetables contain so isn’t as filling which could lead you to consume a lot of excess calories by drinking too much juice.

I Feel Better Already
Wellness is the new healthy. A 2008 survey conducted by the Food Marketing Institute found that one of the most powerful drivers of dietary change for folks today is to improve wellbeing, not to treat a disease. Ruhe says she may even find more fans for Brussels sprouts, “My favorite juice mix of all time is made of Brussels sprouts, pineapple, ginger and pear. I was amazed at how great it tasted!” So, do juices cleanse and detoxify the body? Will drinking them make you thinner or your hair shinier? You’ll find just as many opinions in the health field as you will recipes to enjoy juicing. Bottom line: most Americans consume far fewer servings of fruit and vegetables than recommended for overall good health so if throwing them into a juicer gets you to consume more, then whir away.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bloody Mary Cocktail Counts as Veggie Serving

While "eat your vegetables!" isn't breaking news, more specific details on why eating more produce is good for our health continue to emerge from the world of science. The Experimental Biology Conference held each year is a confab of science nurds who gather to share their latest and greatest findings and nutrition is a big part of the program. The photo above is not from the conference!!! But, it does show my two friends Jackie and Anne enjoying advice on eating more vegetables in the form of a Bloody Mary. Low sodium veggie juice please.
Here are two examples of studies supporting the nutrition mantra to eat more fruits and vegetables.

· Drinking at least one glass of low sodium vegetable juice daily may help overweight people with metabolic syndrome achieve better weight loss results. A study, conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine, found that participants who drank at least 8-ounces of low sodium vegetable juice as part of a calorie-controlled DASH diet lost four pounds over 12 weeks, while those who followed the same diet but drank no juice lost one pound.
· Eating as little as one and a half servings of cherries can boost powerful antioxidants in the body. Through a first-of-its-kind study, scientists at the University of Michigan found that participants who ate just one and a half cups of frozen tart cherries increased their body’s antioxidant activity and had significantly increased levels of five different anthocyanins – the natural antioxidants that give cherries their RED color.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Under the Argentine Sun

Cheval des Andes Polo ......Lunch in Mendoza .....Argentina winery

I love summer! And if you're like me you can't wait for the robust yet refreshing flavors of the warmest why not have two summers and spend part of your winter in Argentina! That's when it's summertime in the southern hemisphere. I tell ya...I have a new slogan for Argentina's Tourism folks.. "What took you so long?!" On a trip to Buenos Aires and Mendoza (Argentina's Napa Valley) I fell in love with the sunny weather, the incredible wines, the delicious foods, the wonderful people and the incredibly affordable peso! I was lucky enough to be invited to one of the best culinary events in the world.....the Masters of Food and Wine South America. Held each February in BA ( Buenos Aires) and in Mendoza at the lovely Park Hyatt properties, this large scale yet intimate ( somehow ) event is a parade of the world's greatest chefs from Michelin star French guys to hot chefs from U.S cities and South America. To find out how you can join the food and fun next year go to or email
Don't Cry for Me Argentina!
Yes! I had the famous flavorful grass fed beef raised in Argentina. What I loved the most were the condiments that are traditionally served with the grilled meats at parillas ( steak houses).
Here's the dish on dieting part- the beef, lamb or pork may be center stage but interesting salads such as hearts of palm with tomato, onion and green olives grace the tables. Pickled onions, chimichurri sauces and other savory treats add punch to the parilla feasts so you don't have to eat Texas sized steaks. This is Argentina and the dining style is more European with smaller portions and the pace is slow and easy.
Then the wines....and the wine knowledge that flows!! At each Masters of Food and Wine event top wine experts, sommeliers, wine makers are on hand to pop corks and pour the best. Argentina's best know grape varietal is Malbec, a velvety smooth, red wine with the all of the aromas of Cabernet Sauvignon but with the black currant and spices of Merlot. But Argentina is becoming known for its white wines too..especially Torentes. I made a point of sampling this elegant white wine with the character of viognier but with great acidity. The sparkling wines of Argentina are top class, too. Uh, could it be because top Champagne houses from France including Moet Chandon and top sparkling producers from Spain such as Cordorniu have wineries in Argentina, too?
Polo and Tango
Sure Madonna may have dipped into town to shoot that little movie "Evita" but the real action happens everynight in BA when the tango halls fill up with locals young and old...and tourists..talented and not so talented (me) to tango! It's great fun just watching...which is what I should have done! I was kicked back to my table of friends after a handsome Argentinean asked me to dance and then asked, "Have you ever had a tango lesson?" I responded, "No, but I thought it looked easy. I've been watching for 20 minutes." Uh, it's not easy!!!! I did buy a pair of fabulous black lace tango shoes at a cool little shop in BA called Comme il Faut...a French term that means "as it should be" and is the name of a famous tango tune.
On to another spectator sport. I attended an sophisticated Hermes meets white jeans and boots polo exhibition at Cheval des Andes winery in Mendoza. The blue sky, bright sun day began with a glass of bubbly and inspiring views of the Andes and polo players!!! I thought, "I don't care if I've died and gone to heaven. I really like it here!" Viva Argentina!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

To Salt or not to Salt?

Put down that salt shaker and step back from the table!

That’s a one sentence summary of the latest public health alert on sodium intake from health watchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC report concludes that 70% of U.S. adults should limit sodium intake- a number far greater than many had expected. Although guidelines for daily sodium intake were published in 2005, the percentage of people who should be following the lower limit hadn’t been figured out yet. Talk about spicing things up! The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend healthy adults consume no more than 2300 milligrams of sodium (about one teaspoon of salt) per day. A lower limit of 1,500 mg per day is recommended for adults with high blood pressure, the over 40s, and all African-American adults. FYI: most of us consume around 4000 milligrams of sodium a day so it looks like just about everyone will have to shake some of their salt habit to follow current health advice.
Cutting Salt Not Simple
Fortunately, there are good minds with discriminating taste buds working on lowering sodium content of popular foods-even fast foods. Chick-fil-A dietitian, Jodie Worrell says there’s an industry wide movement to trim salt content from menus, “Sodium removal is a difficult project. Trans-fat removal took two years.” So Worrell’s Chick-fil-A product development team is working to find a win-win for taste and health, “Taste panels meet every other Monday. For instance, we are looking at ways to add salt topically on fries so you get the salty flavor with less total sodium.” Another challenge for restaurants is that consumer demand for lower fat foods meant adding flavor with other ingredients such as vinaigrette dressings and spice blends which are often pretty high in sodium. If you do choose to limit sodium intake, Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods list sodium content to help you keep track. But, when it comes to dining out, you’re often on your own. Some restaurants provide sodium information on their websites, so that’s helpful. But, in general here are a few salt savvy tips for dining out.

Salt Savvy - The main source of sodium in the diet is table salt (Sodium Chloride or NaCl), which is 40 per cent sodium by weight. 1 tsp salt = 2325 mg sodium
Taste buds adjust. Scientists who study taste have found that when you cut back on salt you get used to it in about three weeks. You may even discover the real flavor of foods!
· Note that pickles, cheese, smoked meats, gravies, sauces, salad dressings, barbecue sauces, soy sauce and broths are usually high in sodium so use sparingly.
· Ask the server for help. Request that foods be prepared without added salt, or ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side. For low-sodium dressings, try lemon or a splash of vinegar.
· Look for menu items you can season your self at the table, such as a baked potato instead of mashed potatoes.

· Here’s a surprise. Surface salt, such as a light shake on scrambled eggs or fresh sliced tomatoes, can give you the salt flavor hit you crave with just a small sprinkling.
· Eat more spinach, cantaloupe, oranges and other fruits and vegetables. They’re naturally low in sodium and are good sources of the mineral potassium which acts as the counter-balance to sodium in body fluid regulation.

Heavy on the Sodium:

Soy sauce/steak sauce
Cheese/cheese sauces
Cold cuts/ Sausage/hot dogs
Salad dressings
Cakes/Biscuits (because baking soda or baking powder which contains sodium bicarbonate is used is leavening agent)

Light on (or no) Sodium:

Fresh herbs, spices
Lemon juice
Vinegar and Oil
Fruit sauces and salsas

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Looking for an escape from the doldrums brought on by life’s downers? A little trip to candyland might help and won’t hurt diet and health goals if you navigate wisely.
Savoring a decadent creamy dark chocolate or enjoying a return to childhood chomping on a stick of licorice are simple and affordable pleasures.
It seems the downturn in the economy has triggered an increase in candy sales nationwide. In Atlanta, while you may not be able to swing a multi-course dinner at Annie Quatrano and Clifford Harrison’s award winning Bacchanalia restaurant, there’s probably room in the budget for a shopping trip to their Star Provisions store to raid the retro-candy collection of sweets such as Bit-O-Honey and Mary Janes all for under 30 cents.
Even dietitians give the “AOK!” If you check the diet advice provided on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s you’ll see that guidelines for healthy eating include a daily allowance for “discretionary calories.”
I call them splurge calories, and depending on how much exercise you get each day, most of us can spend about 200 calories on the little extras, which include foods like candies.
Confections fall into a few nutritional categories.
Some are simply sugar based like hard candies and gummies. Some are combinations of fat and sugar, like chocolates. Some add other ingredients that add additional calories but often add nutrients such as chocolate-covered nuts and dried fruits. All require paying attention to how many you gobble to avoid indiscretions in consuming your discretionary calories.
Then there’s the dental effect that’s often not so sweet. Registered dietitian Cheryl Orlansky of the Laureate Medical Group in Atlanta, who is also a registered dental hygienist, has this candy caution, “Sticky carbohydrates that adhere to the tooth, whether in the form of jelly beans or caramels, break down on the tooth and mix with plaque (bacteria on the tooth) to form an acid that can start the cavity process. We call these foods cariogenic. Hard candies or sugar-free candy would be a better choice than anything that will stick to the teeth.”
Dark chocolate has been the confectionary darling of the diet world lately because of the antioxidant disease-fighting power in cocoa.
Look for chocolates with at least 65 to 70 percent cocoa content.
Orlansky concurs, “The best health promoting candy would be dark chocolate for the antioxidants, so in a 1 ounce serving, you get the benefits of the chocolate as well as satisfying the sugar craving.”
And studies have shown that chocolate actually contains compounds that prevent dental caries.
But that’s not a green light to eat chocolate all day.
Orlansky explains how often you console yourself with candy plays a role in dental health, too.
“Most dental professionals will tell you that it is the frequency of sugars in the diet and contact on the tooth surface versus the amount that increases risks for cavities.”
So satisfy that sweet craving by choosing candy snacks that add up to no more than your splurge allotment for the day, enjoy a small amount of dark chocolate or dark chocolate-covered dried fruit or nuts to incorporate some healthy nutrients and remember to brush afterward.