Saturday, August 7, 2010

Watermelon Gazpacho & More New Tastes

The smiling chef with the view of Beaver Creek's awesome mountains behind him is Steven Topple, the talented chef at fabulous Beano's Cabin. If you're going skiing in Vail/Beaver Creek area you better make your reservations to eat there now! Chef Topple cooked a wonderful lunch for me and my friend Debbie Kopp, who lives in Vail.

Made me think that one of the best parts of traveling is tasting new things. Simple as it is...I had never thought of combining watermelon with a traditional tomato gazpacho before I enjoyed the one created by Chef Topple. The watermelon lightened up the tomato taste and added another refreshing taste of summer to the soup. The two dishes in his hands about to hit the table and our tastebuds are Fresh Dungeness Crab with Apple Tower and Pancetta Wrapped Rabbit with carrot salad and cinnamon cider sauce.

As we wheel our carts down supermarket aisles or peruse a restaurant menu chances are we’re on the hunt for familiar tastes and the usual favorites. We’re creatures of habit, especially when it comes to food choices. Add to that the additional worries brought on by a lack luster economy and there’s even more reason to steer clear of expensive impulse purchases. Dark chocolate covered dried apricots sound delicious, but will they fit into the food budget? But, sometimes wandering off in a new direction can lead to fresh discoveries that satisfy culinary and cost demands – often led by other forces at work. According to results of the 2010 Food & Health Survey, conducted by The International Food & Information Council Foundation (IFIC), taste is the biggest influence on food and beverage purchasing decisions (86%) followed by price (73 %). However, the next biggest impact on food buying habits is concern about health (64%). And of the Americans who say they care about the healthfulness of their diet, a whopping 76% are moved to change the types of foods they’re eating. So, what’s new?
A Change for the Better
Whether it’s to lose weight, maintain weight or boost overall health status; Americans are adding and subtracting foods to support their goals. The IFIC survey found that nearly half of those questioned say they’re trying to eat more protein and consume less salt. Coffee drinking habits are changing too. While, less say they’re eliminating caffeine from their diet (10 % compared to 16 % in 2006); nearly three-quarters report consuming caffeine in moderation this year.

Meanwhile, some results from the IFIC survey read like a shopping list of a concerned yet confused consumer. Nearly three-fourths of Americans are trying to consume more fiber and choose whole grain versions of foods, but they don’t really know what the benefits might be. (For the record, whole grains are beneficial for digestive health, heart health, weight control and provide a myriad of disease fighting antioxidant rich plant nutrients.) Dietary fat remains a dizzying area, too. Most (64%) are trying to consume fewer artery clogging trans-fats and saturated fats but less than half (43%) say they’re choosing more heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Maybe that’s because they don’t know the canola oil salad dressings and salmon they’re eating are sources of Omega-3’s? One thing remains a constant in food and health surveys (including this one from IFIC) a significant barrier getting in the way of improving diets is the perception that newly adopted healthy foods won’t taste as good as old favorites. So here are some suggestions for great tasting healthy foods you may have noticed but might not have tried before.

New and New to You Foods for a Healthy Menu – why not try something new for taste and health?

Jicama- Eat more veggies by trying new varieties. Pronounced "hick-ah-mah," this large brown tuber doesn't look very pretty when judging from its plain Jane outside. But, it's the Cinderella of vegetables! Cut it open to reveal a white interior that looks and tastes kind of like an apple. It’s crunchy, slightly sweet and perfect for salads or as cruditĂ©s with an impressive 6 grams of fiber per cup!

Scandavian Crispbreads: Messages to consume at least half of your grains as whole grains may be new. but these flat breads have been around for years. Super crunchy, high-fiber, whole grain crackers like Wasa crispbreads from Norway are only 40 calories a slice. No added sugar or fat. Top off with turkey and Swiss or humus and tomato slices.

Quinoa: Add more players to your whole grain cast. Quinoa (keen-whah) seeds cook up into slightly nutty tasting light and fluffy rice-like grains. Perfect as a side dish combined with fresh herbs and chopped veggies. Unlike other grains, quinoa is good source of complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids.

Flat Iron or Hangar Steaks: Cut back on saturated fat and still enjoy beef. Leaner lesser known cuts of beef such as the Flat Iron Steak or hangar steak (think Steak Frites in French bistros) are lower in total fat and calories per serving but big on flavor. Order medium to medium rare and slice against the grain to maximize tenderness.

Cocoa Nibs: Enjoy the taste of chocolate in tiny bites. Cocoa nibs are crunchy slightly bitter sweet roasted bits of cocoa beans. Loaded with antioxidants and the mineral magnesium, a little goes a long way. Sprinkle on a fruit and yogurt parfait or add a mocha hit to your coffee. At Canoe Restaurant, Executive Chef Carvel Grant adds a kick of cocoa and crunch by adding cocoa nibs to Fallen Chocolate Soufflé with Chocolate Mint Ice Cream.

Yerba Mate: Cutting back on caffeine but still need a boost? This weird sounding South American tea possesses health benefits that sound pretty good. A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana found that yerba mate's super high antioxidant content out performs red wine and green tea. Mate contains one third the caffeine of coffee, and provides a milder stimulant lift.

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