Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Healthy Holiday Party Tips and Gift Ideas

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, tinsel and lights. Put on sparkly holiday fashions and let your makeup glow. But when it comes to going all out enjoying the festive meals and sweet goodies of the season remember to accessorize with care.  
Go easy on high calorie add-ons such as nuts, cheese, cream sauces, dips, gravy, butter, sugar and whipped cream – small additions that can add up to plenty around your waistline. That dress you bought on sale back in November for a New Year’s Eve bash may not zip up as easily now. Trim calories wherever you can so you can use them on the splurge foods you don’t want to miss. 
Bourbon Balls from my new Slim Down South Cookbook!
Only 67 calories with the crunch of healthy pecans.

Of course, managing calorie intake isn’t a simple task and is especially challenging during the holidays. On a typical day, a person makes over 200 decisions about food. That’s according to Dr. Brian Wansink of Cornell University, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think. Wansink’s research was the first to show that choosing a smaller plate during a holiday buffet, for instance, would help folks think they were eating more than they did. 
Another Wansink study published in the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that even plate color can affect how much we eat – and there’s certainly plenty of color festooning holiday tables.

Wansink says, “In a groundbreaking new study we found that the color contrast between the plate and food may have a tremendous impact on how much people serve themselves.” Partygoers in the study were directed to buffets serving pasta with either tomato or Alfredo sauce and randomly given red or white plates. Participants who had low-contrast between the food and plates (red pasta on a red plate, or white pasta on a white plate) served themselves approximately 22% more than participants with high-contrast food and plates (red pasta on white plates, or white pasta on red plates). So, to help trick yourself into eating less, choose dinnerware that contrasts the color of your food. Whether on paper or china the serving size of mashed potatoes, for instance, is more obvious on bright red and green holiday plates.
Molasses-Spice Crinkles Cookies are pretty
 and pretty obvious to see how many
are on the snow white china from Slim Down South Cookbook

Holiday Helpers:  
Where the bowls are- Don’t sit so close to the buffet table. Wansink’s study “Serve Here, Eat There” showed that leaving some distance between you and the food resulted in men eating 29% fewer and women 10% fewer calories.
Be Sociable- Wait at least 20 minutes before eating at an event. Make at least one full lap around a party to greet people before starting in on the appetizers.  
Don’t Go Hungry- Consider it nutrition pre-gaming. By eating a pre-party snack you won’t be so ravenous that hurdle past other guests to get to the artichoke cheese dip.
Give the Gift of Health - Here are a few bright ideas for last minute gifts in the
healthy cooking category.  
ü  Salad spinner- create a gift basket with olive oils, mustards and vinegars.
ü  Slow cooker- one of the best ways to tenderize tasty cuts of lean meat and concentrate natural flavors of seasonal vegetables.   
ü  Microplane grater - for zesting citrus, grating whole spices to add flavor without calories
ü  Specialty spices – more expensive spices like cardamom, vanilla, saffron, smoked paprika and curry powders are elegant gifts to add flavor and healthy antioxidants with no calories.
ü  Immersion blender – make rich and creamy textured soups and sauces from cooked vegetables without the need for much or any cream. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Atlanta Chefs ahead of 2014 Food Trends

Chef Joe Schafer of King + Duke hands me yummy collards in kimchi broth with sausage from Whippoorwill Farms
Chef Joe Schafer of King + Duke hands me yummy collards in kimchi broth with sausage
Menu predictions for what we’ll be sampling at restaurants in 2014 are already showing up on the plate in Atlanta.  Guests at the Atlanta Les Dames d’Escoffier International 13th annual Afternoon in the Country were treated to a tasting of dishes from more than sixty Atlanta area chefs at an outdoor party set at the rural Serenbe community located about thirty miles south of downtown.
More than 60 chefs and 30 farmers joined forces to create great food at the annual Afternoon in the Country Event, south of Atlanta.
More than 60 chefs and 30 farmers joined forces to create great food at the annual Afternoon in the Country Event, south of Atlanta.
Guests enjoyed a beautiful fall afternoon of tasting and talking to friends.
Rich, familiar and hard to resist earthy flavors such as The Feed Store’s braised root vegetables with braised chicken thighs were the order of the day.  Bacchanalia chef Anne Quatrano served up snails and Aria’s Gerry Klaskala dished out slow cooked black eye pea ragout with collard greens and country ham.
These are the peas and greens.
The future of food is looking a lot like a polished version of dining’s delicious past according to the Sterling-Rice Group’s 2014 restaurant report which lists “Refined Classics” as one of the top trend picks.  Local Three Kitchen treated the gathered foodies to elegant bites of “meatloaf and potatoes”.
Also on the list, “New Farm to Table” with lesser-known cuts of pork and beef and a wider variety of proteins from goat to rabbit jumping onto menus.  Veni Vidi Vici’s chef Jamie Adams served oxtail gnocchi.
Chicken makes way for duck. The team from Leon’s Full Service presented duck ham on a savory pancake frisee and pears from Whippoorwill Hollow Farms.

Duck confit starred in caterer Bold American Events’ tasty offering with a sweet potato gnocchi and Brussels sprouts leaves.  More duck from Livingston restaurant in a petite bite of sweet tea infused duck breast with ginger applesauce and candied lemon pecans.  Which brings us to another predicted trend for the New Year -lots of lemon.  Preserved lemons added bright notes to Chicken and The Egg chef Marc Taft’s braised short rib with smoked Gouda grits.
And tart lemon with spicy ginger beer balanced the sweet notes of Belle Meade Bourbon in the Tennessee Stud cocktail served on the rocks for guests to sip.
Kazia Jankowski, associate culinary director of the Sterling-Rice Group says, “Lemon is pure. Lemon is versatile. Lemon is nostalgic. For those reasons, it and not other citrus will be the flavor of next year. Lemon’s bright flavor is fresh and unadulterated.”
Year of the Yolk
Quail eggs sunny side up!
Quail eggs sunny side up!
Another yellow food beaming brighter on the culinary scene is the egg yolk. Good-bye egg white omelet, hello the whole thing.
Chef Steven Satterfield of Miller-Union who presented a sunny side up quail egg on butternut squash hash says, “The yolk is where it’s at! The texture is unctuous and a runny yolk is one of my favorite things on earth.” Nutrition note: egg yolks contain important nutrients including choline, which supports brain health.
Registered dietitian, Janet Helm who tracks healthy food trends on her blog Nutrition Unplugged says, “I think it gets people excited about food. Quinoa, kale, Greek yogurt and chickpeas became trendy, so perhaps that motivated more people to buy these foods and use them more often.  That's a good thing."
Seven Lamps' Kabocha squash wrapped in surryano ham is a Southern twist on classic melon with prosciutto
Seven Lamps' Kabocha squash wrapped in surryano ham is a Southern twist on classic melon with prosciutto
Thank you Ladies! The Atlanta Chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier. I'm in the back somewhere on the left.
Thank you Ladies! The Atlanta Chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier. I'm in the back somewhere on the left.
Congratulations to the LDEI Afternoon in the Country organizing teams!! We earned big $$$ for culinary scholarships and grants for culinarians in the Atlanta area to improve their skills so that we all can eat even better as the trends march on!!!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Big Love for Small Plates

Big Love for Small Plates on the Menu

 Whether the menu lists them as small plates, bites, snacks, starters or sides to share there’s healthy enthusiasm for dishes designed for do-it-yourself dining.  After years of coping with enormous restaurant servings, calorie counters are thrilled with the opportunity to savor smaller portions. 

Atlanta native and novelist Patti Callahan Henry who walks daily for fitness and to unscramble plot lines says, “I do love the ‘small plates’ section because then I can get two of them.”  

Registered dietitian Toby Amidor likes the trend toward tinier too, “I always feel frustrated with places that don't offer small, tasty food so this is the perfect answer for me!”

Not having to commit to one entrée for dinner appeals to diners in search of a variety of flavor experiences.  Patricia Tinsley, an Atlanta marketing professional, likes the small plate offerings at The Spence, “I never order entrees there so there’s more to linger over and make (wine) pairings with.”
Richard Blais is big on small plates at The Spence
Small Wonders
Little servings don’t necessarily mean less work for the chef.  The dim-sum style of service at Gun Show stars a parade of chef Kevin Gillespie’s small scale creations with large impact including plates of smoked pork belly with cornbread and marinated butterbeans and North Carolina trout with corn mousseline and shrimp salad. The good thing is you don’t have to decide which to have; you can order both and keep going.
Atlanta lifestyle author and consultant Kimberly Kennedy, says “I’m a fan of variety over the predictable meat and three. Each small dish is like art to be appreciated on its own merits.”

Millennials Morph the Menu

So what’s driving the trend away from the traditional trio of appetizer, entrée and dessert? Marketing experts say it’s the desire to lure in the millennial generation, representing twenty seven percent of the US population. Between 18 and 34 years old this slice of the populace pie has a high propensity for dining out. 
Let's Share!
A report from the Center for Culinary Development says Baby Boomers known as the “me generation” have nothing on millenials because this younger crowd demands customization and flexibility.

Desserts are smaller too. Hey, get your own!

Katie Chapman, 22, (my daughter) observes, “Baby boomers grew up when dining out was mostly a special occasion. 
Katie ( center ) bonding with buds and bubbles.

If someone orders his or her own dinner, it’s awkward to ask ‘Can I have a bite of your steak?’ We eat out as a way to socialize and have conversation and small plates open up the table for sharing.”
No big deal if you're late for dinner of small plates.

Nina Hemphill Reeder, lifestyle editor for Upscale Magazine says she likes the flexibility of the grazing style menu, “Friends can come late and leave early and eat without throwing off the balance of a multi-course sit down meal.”
Tuna tartare for two or more.........
The report also notes millenials favor fitness and understand more about healthy foods and ingredients than their parents or grandparents.  Bring on the quinoa, kale and hummus. 

Downside of downsizing

The lobster mac’n cheese may come in a small ramekin but you’re still looking at a 500-calorie splurge. Atlanta dietitian Marisa Moore, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says pick a variety of foods to balance your meal, “The good news is that there are often a number of vegetable dishes available from hardy greens and roasted vegetables to simple salads.”   
Can't beat sharing the beet salad.
Amidor says, “Although the plates are small, several put together make a meal. Choose two to three small plates tops and spread the love by sharing with the table.” 

And good luck figuring out how to split the bill.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Alaskan Seafood Ship to Shore

 If you love the taste of grilled salmon, poached salmon, plank roasted salmon, smoked salmon, salmon mousse and want to try some salmon jerky then you should consider a trip to Alaska. You can fish for salmon, visit salmon hatcheries, see salmon leaping up stream to spawn, watch seals and bears devour salmon, and buy souvenirs shaped like salmon. 

     ALASKA: This state is salmon central.                                                     

Now you're talking! Salmon Leather. Not sure if it's for biting on or for belts.

Told you they sold salmon jerky. And while you're at it......

On a recent cruise through southeastern Alaska’s Inside Passage with stops in the ports of Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan I gained a greater appreciation for the abundance of wild seafood in this state with thirty-three thousand miles of coastline.  

View from the bow of the Holland America Line MS Oosterdam
In Alaska, you can hop on a floatplane and follow a fishing guide to isolated locations ............
Sitka. You'll need one of these to get around Alaska. Oh, and the things in the foreground.

....or you can simply rent a fishing pole to drop a line off a bridge in the middle of town in Ketchikan and pull in a salmon in seconds. 
If he can catch a salmon, you can. And he did. 
If you don't like salmon, Holland America Line's MS Oosterdam's menu offers an Alaska frontier sized menu with lots of other seafood, beef, pork, lamb, chicken and vegetarian as well as gluten free menu choices. 
My mom, Jessie O'Neil, doesn't like salmon but chose to wear the color while enjoying a frozen drink.
Her homage to Alaska's snow and ice.
You're sexy and Juneau it!
The Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800’s may have gotten things going in these parts.....
Gold mining themed souvenirs are easy to find in Ketchikan, gold not so easy anymore.
Looks like my packing list for the 7 day cruise! Minus the frying pan. 

...but today’s tourism treasure is built on sharing the wealth of wilderness beauty, fresh air and plenty of room to roam.  

And plenty of great places to eat on shore.........

Local restaurants greet guests with menu boards boasting Alaska salmon, cod, halibut, King and Dungeness crab.  
I know, it's kind of expensive - but it's fantastic!
Grilled, fried, blackened or made into tacos or chowder seafood is the star attraction.
On Location On Board
Passengers on Holland America Line don’t have to wait until the ship docks to start sampling and learning about Alaskan seafood and locally brewed beers. 
Working up an appetite on an Alaskan cruise.

The cruise line’s new On Location program offers cooking classes in the Culinary Arts Center and the ship’s menu selections feature locally inspired dishes, “We want to depict the area we are sailing in,” says Colin Harding-Jones, executive chef of the MS Oosterdam.  
With Exec Chef Colin Harding-Jones on MS Oosterdam. I am not a real life guard. 

Harding-Jones’s cooking demo shared how to prepare Coho salmon without overcooking and how to spice it up with a ginger cilantro pesto sauce.  ( Dish pictured at top of blog )
All hands on deck with cameras in hand!
Mild temperatures in southeast Alaska and plenty of sunshine helped set the scene for a festive outdoor Salmon Bake on the deck around the swimming pool of the MS Oosterdam.  

Cooks flipped salmon filets on grills, steamed mussels and clams and served apple and berry pies to two thousand passengers hungry to taste more of Alaska’s bounty.
Who wants pie?!
What about Baked Alaska?
 Alaskan desserts included Yukon whiskey laced sourdough bread pudding, Alaskan berry compote and of course, Baked Alaska was served one night (without the open flames for shipboard safety). “We have one guy in the galley with a blow torch dedicated to browning the classic meringue top,” says Harding-Jones.
Here it is! Baked Alaska!
But, guess what, trivia lovers? That iconic dessert was invented in New York City in 1876, nowhere near an iceberg.  Named by chef Charles Ranhofer at Delmonico’s restaurant the dessert made with ice cream, cake and meringue celebrates the U.S. purchase of Alaska’s nearly 600,000 square miles from Russia for 7.2 million dollars.  
But it sure tastes great with a glacier view. 

Yes, that's why they call it Glacier Blue, at Tracy's Arm Alaska Inside Passage.