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Friday, December 24, 2010

Gone, but not "for-gratin"...

As I sat down to write this blog post tonight, it occurred to me that it's been a couple weeks since my last entry. I guess the holidays have gotten the best of me! I've been gone, but I hope not "for-gratin" (we'll get to that in a second). Tonight, Keith and I were enjoying a peaceful Christmas Eve in front a roaring fire (yes, in Charleston) with a glass (or two) of bubbly...

...When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a news alert naming me blog of the year!
That's right, yesterday FoxNews.com included The Svelte Gourmet in their "Best Health Blogs of 2010" feature! (!!!) I'm beyond excited, and I hope this means I'll be able to share my stories and recipes with even more people in 2011. Which reminds me, New Year's Resolution time is only a week away...

So back to the task at hand. Onion gratin. Which, let me tell you, is SO good that I've made it for the past few dinners I've hosted and attended -- a couple Thanksgivings and a Christmas feast already this year! It sounds a little weird, with the main ingredient being the modest onion, but the combination of spices and flavors turns this pungent veggie into a sweet and savory masterpiece. And at only around 85 calories per serving, you're still well below the calorie counts of mashed potatoes, sweet potato casseroles, any "cream of" dish -- even less than a 2-inch dinner roll!

Gone, But Not "For-Gratin" Onion Gratin
Serves 8

4 medium sweet onions
Dried sage
Dried thyme
Salt
Pepper
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (grated, shredded or ground)
1/2 cup skim milk
1 egg
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp salted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mist cookie sheet(s) with olive oil. Slice onions 1/4 inch thick, keeping rings intact. Lay onion slices in a single layer on the cookie sheet(s), sprinkle with sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Mist lightly with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes. In the meantime, mist a pie dish or casserole lightly with olive oil. In a separate bowl, beat milk and egg. Remove onion slices from oven and reduce oven temperature to 375. Place onions in casserole or pie dish in a single layer, sprinkle with half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Place remaining onions in another layer. Pour milk/egg mixture over onion layers, sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano, then sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs. In a small saucepan, brown butter (cook butter on high until it foams, foam subsides, and milk solids fall to the bottom of the pan and begin to brown). Remove from heat when butter begins to turn a deep golden brown and immediately drizzle over casserole. Bake for 30 minutes.

I'll keep this entry short and sweet (seriously, wait until you taste what happens to those onions!) since it's Christmas Eve. I'm sure you all have better things to do tonight, but I encourage you to make this soon -- even as a last minute addition to your Christmas menu (as you probably already have everything you need in the pantry!). This will be one recipe your friends and family request again and again.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I'll see you all back here in a week or so. Get your resolutions ready -- armed with some great healthy recipes, you won't have to break them!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The a-maz-ing 100 calorie cupcake!

The other day I was reviewing the Thanksgiving menu with Keith, and Courtney asked what we were having. I got past the requisite turkey, stuffing, etc. to the Spinach Artichoke Au Gratin with Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto. "Jenny, I think the problem with your recipes is that they're designed for a more mature palate." Ha! She's 10! Not a minute later, she was dipping her whole grain garlic toast into her dad's bowl of Creamy Broccoli Soup -- "This tastes a-maz-ing!" I think her palate is maturing, no? Victory!

"A-maz-ing" is really what I want to be about. Not just "good." Or worse, "good....for diet food." GAH! Nope, I want my recipes to taste "a-maz-ing" and I'll keep trying until they do. Trust me, Keith and I have rejected plenty! He knows I have the bar set high and "fine" isn't good enough.

So last week I talked about keeping Thanksgiving under control -- or at least allowing people the option to eat healthfully if they want to. The festivities are at my house this year, and everyone is responsible for a portion of the meal. I'll be baking bread (which isn't even whole wheat, but it's a special holiday treat), some sides, and of course the Spinach Artichoke Au Gratin from last week's post. I love to bake, so I wanted to do the desserts, too. Pumpkin pie is always expected, and I happen to LOVE IT. However, this is more of a cheesecake family. OK, really just Keith -- but if there's no cheesecake, it'll break his heart. All I really want is a cupcake. Any kind, really. Cupcakes are huge right now -- and I mean that both figuratively and literally! The cupcake craze has taken bakeries by storm and even created some that sell only the adorable little cakes.

So my idea was to make pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Pumpkin pie on the bottom and cheesecake on the top! The best of both worlds! Plus, cupcakes have got to be healthier than pie or cheesecake, right? Your standard slice (1/8th of the recipe) of pumpkin pie has about 400 calories (without whipped cream!) and that cheesecake packs a whopping 500 calories per slice. Yikes!

I'm about to break it down further, so if you really don't want to hear any more, skip to the recipe! But seriously, you should listen. Because these innocent little cupcakes are certain diet sabotage. I did a little digging and found out that a red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles -- the original cupcake-only bakery in Beverly Hills, has 497 calories! Ahhh! They also sell the mix, so let's compare apples to apples...er...pumpkins to pumpkins. One pumpkin cupcake has 270 calories...and the cream cheese frosting has 130. That's 400! Might as well eat the pie. The news doesn't get much better. Head to your local grocery store for a cupcake and you'll take in 200-300 overly sweet calories. You're better off heading to the baking aisle, right? Nope. With calories in box mixes ranging from 120 (if you can squeeze 24 out of that box) to 240 and another 75 calories per tablespoon of icing, you might as well hang it up.

So should I try to attempt a lighter pumpkin cream cheese cupcake? Only if it's a-maz-ing. Because "good...for diet food" just won't cut it.

The jury's still out, but I think I might be a genius (hee hee). Somehow, I managed to create a recipe that makes 24 regular-sized cupcakes that only have 100 calories each -- including the frosting! That's a third of the calories of a box mix cupcake and icing and an even smaller fraction of those bakery varieties. AND...here's the kicker....they taste a-maz-ing. If you like pumpkin-flavored things, of course. Which I do. A LOT. I'll still make Keith his cheesecake, but I'll have these to satisfy my sweet tooth. For only 100 calories. Or I could eat 5 for the same number calories in that slice of pie with whipped cream. It's been known to happen!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 24

2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 can pure pumpkin puree (15 ounce can)
1 cup skim milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs (separated)

Frosting
1 cup light cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars, cinnamon, ginger and salt. In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, milk, vanilla and egg yolks only (reserve egg whites in another bowl). Using an electric mixer (I like to use an electric hand mixer for these), mix wet ingredients, then add dry ingredients and mix for about 30 seconds. Rinse beaters and beat egg whites for about 3 minutes or until peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into batter until white streaks disappear.

Line a large cookie sheet with 24 heavy-weight cupcake wrappers (buy the kind that say "muffin pan not needed"). I baked half of this recipe this way, and half in a lined muffin tin. As you can see from the photo, these cupcakes will expand if not constrained by a tin (cupcake on the left). The bigger, the better, right?! Fill each cupcake wrapper 2/3 full and bake for 15 minutes in the middle of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. In the meantime, beat softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Chill until cupcakes are cool, then frost!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spinach Artichoke Au Gratin. Dinner party done light!

Ah, November. I've always loved autumn, and here in Charleston, it's just starting to feel like it. For me, November always sparks the beginning of the holiday season -- at least the planning part. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite meals. It's the one meal of the year that I let myself splurge. (OK, seriously, I splurge regularly -- but this is the one meal I'll admit to!)

These past few months, I've been working really hard in the gym and staying within my limits in the kitchen. It's paying off! I feel fabulous and while I love Thanksgiving, I want to find a way to do it without the elastic pants. I know it can be done -- after all, the base of the meal is turkey. Diet food!

That's about where the diet part stops, unfortunately. And I know this post may make me unpopular at first, but don't shoot the messenger! It's time to break it down. I'll gain my popularity back with the recipe later in the post...trust me!

So what are we really eating at Thanksgiving -- or any holiday meal or dinner party, for that matter? It's difficult to calculate, since the traditional family recipes can vary so much. However, research and averages can get us pretty close, at least as far as the staples go. My numbers are based on relatively small serving sizes, since Thanksgiving dinner often has so many choices, you can't even fit them on one plate. And herein lies the problem, at least for me -- I can't leave anything to chance, I have to try it all!

I make it a rule not to eat potatoes for regular meals, but Thanksgiving has two kinds. Mashed potatoes, often with butter and sour cream, and sweet potatoes, often sweetened even more with brown sugar, nuts, even marshmallows. Unfortunately, both pack on the calories -- 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream can have over 200 calories. And that's without the gravy! Steer clear of that sweet potato casserole or the candied yams. They boast a staggering 200-300 calories in just a half cup. Shockingly, the side serving of this popular dish from Boston Market has 460 calories. Ahhhhhhh! For me, a sweet potato doesn't need any extra sweetness. Try eating one plain and see what you think!

By this time, you should know to stick to white meat turkey instead of dark meat. Fewer calories and half the fat! Gravy is made of, at a minimum, turkey drippings (stock and fat) thickened with flour. If you have to have the gravy just this once, don't drown that turkey! Have only a tablespoon or two. I like to have a side of tomato slices and/or pickles with my meals, so I dip whatever meat I'm having in the juice from those (yes, I know I'm weird).

OK, so those are the obvious ones...right? Stuffing is made of bread and fat, and though family recipes vary greatly, it's already off to a bad start. And speaking of bread, that little 2-inch dinner roll has 80-90 calories -- without the butter! A pat (about a teaspoon) of butter adds another 30-40 calories. So you should stick to fruits and veggies, right? Not this time! That quintessential green bean casserole has 167 calories in just 1/2 a cup. The cranberry sauce packs 209 calories in 1/2 cup. I know half a cup of tart cranberry sauce is a lot, but my brother can eat that much -- watch it, Evan!

Well now I've depressed myself. And I knew what I was going to say before I said it. A quick calculation, if you try everything (which I do), brings us to 1010 calories. That's 4 oz of white meat roasted turkey for 120 calories, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce and one measly dinner roll with butter. I didn't even calculate stuffing or gravy...or myriad other sides....or dessert! So it's shaping up to be a meal that has more calories than I might eat in a day, maybe two.

So I've been quite long-winded, but I feel it all needed to be said. No wonder we unbutton our pants and fall asleep after dinner. Don't blame the tryptophan -- we just eat too much!

So what do you do? Make this! This Spinach Artichoke Au Gratin recipe is the answer and I can't wait to make it for my family this year. It has gourmet ingredients that make it special, it looks and tastes fancy enough for a dinner party, and it's bursting with the flavors of artichokes, Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto. Delicious! And you don't even have to tell anyone that it only has 80 calories in 1/2 a cup. I promise they won't suspect!

Spinach Artichoke Au Gratin
Serves 12 (1/2 cup servings)

16 oz. package frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed dry)
18-20 oz. quartered artichokes (frozen or canned and drained -- not the marinated kind!)
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup skim milk
1 egg
2 oz light cream cheese
2 tbsp light sour cream
3/4 cup shredded, grated or ground Parmigiano-Reggiano (divided)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 oz prosciutto, roughly chopped
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roughly chop artichoke hearts and combine with spinach and garlic in a casserole dish. In a separate bowl, combine milk, egg, cream cheese, sour cream, 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper. Beat with an electric mixer until cream cheese and egg are mixed in well. Pour mixture evenly over casserole, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano mixed with the panko, and top with prosciutto. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until top just starts to brown and the prosciutto crisps. Avoid digging in before your guests arrive!

So what about dessert? For fear of adding insult to injury, I'll skip that discussion until next week. Don't worry, the svelte Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing will be your saving grace! Stay tuned...

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Go ahead, flaunt that muffin top!

OK, I know what you must be thinking...but I didn't mean it that way! The term "muffin top" has developed a bad reputation of late, due in part to the increasing popularity of the hip-hugging skinny jean. With only the skinniest of skinny able to wear them, it's no wonder the rest of the world experiences some some spill-over.

This season makes me crave comfort food like no other season. But I want to wear my favorite jeans, body-skimming sweaters and cute boots without looking like I'm stuffed into them -- or coming out over the top!

At some point over the past few years, bakery muffins got bigger. You may still own a standard-sized muffin tin, but you'll be hard pressed to find a standard sized muffin at your regular breakfast place, bakery or coffee house. Instead, you'll find giant, crumb-topped masterpieces that are sure to ruin any diet. In fact, you could have two doughnuts for the same calories as that muffin -- not that you should! While a muffin may seem like the healthier choice with its fruit and nut-filled goodness, don't be fooled!

I'm left with only one option, since I'm craving a muffin -- reinvent comfort foods! Hopefully this will become a series for fall, as I already have some ingenious recipes planned. The first, however, is one of my favorites -- my mom's blueberry muffins, reconfigured.

Let's get one thing straight. My mom is a wonderful cook and she's always kept a keen eye towards feeding us healthy food. She's my inspiration! Where she doesn't use substitutions to make the ingredients healthier, she is always careful to keep portions to a reasonable size. I've taken her recipe for this standard-sized muffin and made just a couple tweaks to make it even lighter! I hope you love it as much as we do -- this is one muffin top you can be proud of! And they're so easy, the kids whip them up by themselves on a regular basis!

Mom's Blueberry Muffins
Makes 1 dozen

1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar OR 1/2 cup stevia-based granular sweetener
2 cups flour (all purpose or whole wheat)
3 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg beaten
1 cup milk (skim or lowfat)
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine dry ingredients, cut in applesauce (it will give you a texture like meal, as cutting in a fat would), combine beaten egg with milk and turn liquids into the batter. Stir vigorously for about a minute, then fold in blueberries. Using a long-handled 1/4 cup measure, fill muffin cups (greased with cooking spray or lined with muffin cups) 2/3 full. Lightly sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes in the center of the oven until the tops start to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Play with the ingredients and see what you like! Using regular sugar in this recipe yields a muffin with about 150 calories and virtually no fat (just what's in the milk and egg). Using a sweetener instead of sugar cuts the calories in each muffin down to 100. Try it with both kinds of flour and see what you like -- the whole wheat will keep you feeling fuller longer! What I can tell you is that I've played with the combinations and one thing is certain -- you'll end up with a delicious, crackly-topped muffin that pairs perfectly with your morning coffee.

Enjoy!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"The Svelte Gourmet, Lose Weight With Flavor -- a diet plan comparison by health guru Dwayne Ivey"

Thank you to all who voted for me in FoodBuzz's The Next Food Blog Star challenge! Unfortunately, I didn't make it this year -- I'll try again next year! Thank you for your support!

This process and my experiences blogging have elucidated a lot of things. One is that, while the "foodie" crowd is definitely an interest to me, they may not always agree with my less traditional approach to certain dishes. After all, I'm taking the fat out and altering the ingredients and techniques drastically. That's ok, I've never been one to follow the crowd. This blog was originally meant to help people learn to cook more healthfully, and I'm not going to compromise my mission!

Recently, I've had a lot of attention from the health and fitness gurus, and I couldn't be happier. Fitness blogger Dwayne Ivey recently discovered The Svelte Gourmet and reviewed my cookbook. Here's what he has to say. Thanks, Dwayne, I'm in some great company here!

While I'll still dabble in the foodie arena, I want you to know that these recipes and techniques are for the "every day" cook, and each one will help you on your road to better health. Thanks for reading!

THE SVELTE GOURMET, Lose Weight with Flavor: Diets & Weight Loss
by Dwayne Ivey, Staff Writer (Ranked #3 expert in Diet Programs)

http://factoidz.com/the-svelte-gourmet-lose-weight-with-flavor-diets-weight-loss/

DietFad diets are supposed to come and go like a breeze during the day. Some, however, have turned into religions for many.

Fad diets have a ton of followers and are typically riddled with questionable theories. Most have a M.D. backing their way of eating, and they cost you money to learn about or to do. What’s more, fad diets are rarely recommended by the food health professionals as a healthy approach to nutrition.

It seems like almost every year there is yet another fad diet craze going on. The media loves to exploit the emotional side of dieting because people are very interested about losing weight or getting into shape. I am going to tear apart some of the most popular fad diets over the last 20 years and that are still thriving as a sales force in the United States of America. Those such as Atkins www.atkins.com, The Zone Diet (http://www.zonediet.com/), South Beach Diet (http://www.southbeachdiet.com/), Weight Watchers (http://www.weightwatchers.com/), Jenny Craig (http://www.jennycraig.com/), The Subway Diet (us.macmillan.com/jaredthesubwayguy), The Svelte Gourmet (http://www.thesveltegourmet.com/), and Body for Life (http://www.bodyforlife.com/).

Many of these diets are full of great well-written handiwork. Some have absolutely die hard and wonderful content. Often, for some of the diets, full pages are written in a way that include healthy approaches and skewed thinking into one. This combination, to the untrained eye, can all seem very believable and doable, even exciting. Add the fact that many of you recommend what works to your friends and family and the word-of-mouth marketing becomes viral. So, even today, with all of the science that proves how the body works, there are many myths and untruths that are being touted as fact by herds of people.

In my first article factoidz.com/health-truth-about-diets-weight-loss-the-atkins-diet/, I exposed The Atkins Diet. In my second thru sixth articles, I exposed The Zone Diet (factoidz.com/the-zone-diet-diets-weight-loss/), The South Beach Diet (factoidz.com/the-south-beach-diet-diets-weight-loss/), Weight Watchers (factoidz.com/weight-watchers-diets-weight-loss/), Jenny Craig (factoidz.com/jenny-craig-on-the-hot-seat-diets-weight-loss/) and The Subway Diet (factoidz.com/the-subway-diet-does-it-work-oprah/). Now you get to examine The Svelte Gourmet (http://www.thesveltegourmet.com/) with me. You be the judge for yourself and choose for you, the most important person in your life.

THE SVELTE GOURMET:

Does The Svelte Gourmet approach work to lose body weight: Yes.

Is it a healthy approach? Yes

THE SVELTE GOURMET:

Svelte is defined as, “Slender or graceful in figure or outline; slim” by The American Heritage Dictionary (education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/svelte). After having reviewed The Svelte Gourmet, I thought the term ‘graceful’ was very fitting. The Svelte Gourmet first premiered in 2009 by Jennifer Fox. Fox stated, “My goal in creating The Svelte Gourmet was to put the flavor back in and show people how easy it can be,” as featured on ABC news. Though not a chef by trade, this writer knows enough about food to know a chef when he sees one and I will refer to Jennifer Fox as Chef Fox.

The Svelte Gourmet has been featured on ABC, NBC, and a variety of other media outlets. Their approach can be found in book form and online in a living Website (http://www.thesveltegourmet.com/) where the author offers regular tips (www.thesveltegourmet.blogspot.com/) and advice to members and visitors alike. Chef Fox offers new recipes to devour on her Website that seem to shake the foundation of kitchens everywhere.

The last 20 years in nutrition have produced countless methods and marketing ploys to attract your wallet like a 5 lb magnet would do to a tiny screw. Amidst the ambiguous infomercials and thousands of diets and exercise programs that are fluff more than they are practical & sincere approaches to nutrition; there are a few real diamonds to be shown. The Svelte Gourmet is a true gem-one to not just admire, but one to also handle like a carpenter will his hammer-kept close and used often.

THE SVELTE GOURMET: A diet or lifestyle?

The Svelte Gourmet, the book “A Month of Main Courses” will serve as the real meat and potatoes and backbone of any nutrition plan you create. When I began this 8 part diet series, I admit that I randomly chose the order for which I would write my 8 parts (after The Atkins Diet, that is) and fate has placed the order quite well, I must say.

The Svelte Gourmet very fittingly follows my last article on Jared, The Subway Guy which also fit very perfectly following my write ups on both Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. The Svelte Gourmet is by far the most delicious of any of the nutrition plans written about thus far in this series. The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad, for example, makes my mouth water at the mere mention of it.

The Svelte Gourmet is a healthy approach to eating savory real foods without tacking on unnecessary calories. Creating easy to prepare meals following the recipes as created, or modified slightly to taste, will allow anyone modifying their food intake the liberty to enjoy the food they eat, while also enjoying weight loss from a modified food plan. Forget the meal replacement bars! These fresh and quick meals make for not only satisfying meals, but also meals to look forward to. Usually, diets give you foods that are ill-tasting and leave you in want. The Svelte Gourmet was created with the idea of reducing the unneeded calories and specifically keeping the taste! I like that.

For those individuals who want to lose weight, I see The Svelte Gourmet as a great approach and one that will not overwhelm you. You will reach your desired weight loss goals with minimal frustration. You will replace poorly created meals, restaurant meals, or high sodium frozen dinners with quality fresh produce, meats, poultry and seafood. This modification of food consumption will also be a benefit to your heart. Take a read of The Svelte Gourmet’s book recipes ‘A Month of Main Courses’ and compare it to what the American Heart Association (http://www.heart.org/) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (http://www.usda.gov/) have to say about overall health and obesity. You will find, as I did, that The Svelte Gourmet is a heart healthy approach to food consumption, in addition to tasting great.

The Svelte Gourmet does offer an online calorie tracker for those wishing to keep tabs on how much they consume, as well.

For athletes, on the flip-side of the weight equation (those trying to keep weight on for their sport,) and wishing to remain lean and get quality foods without having to dump on extra fat for calories; a simple increase in quantity will give the desired result: Eating in a healthy manner with the best ingredients available. As a cyclist and triathlete, I understand this dilemma all too well. The Svelte Gourmet allows me to expand my horizons and enjoy the process.

THE SVELTE GOURMET: A glimpse

You can see a pleasant video clip on NBC here of a 2009 interview with Chef Fox: (www2.counton2.com/lifestyles/2009/dec/29/my_news_2_simple_food_swaps_to_a_healthier_you-ar-536264/)

The Svelte Gourmet will make you feel good about food consumption and knowing that you are eating healthy, in spite of the fact that the food tastes unbelievable. To obtain weight loss, there are a few sacrifices that must be made. You cannot eat 10,000 calories in a day, not exercise, and expect to lose weight and wonder why you don’t when you skip one dessert. The Svelte Gourmet allows you to not also sacrifice the flavor as you modify your food consumption and begin to exercise. This is worth it’s weight in gold. I love food. I want to experience it and allow the fireworks to light up the sky every time I eat. I want this for you too.

If your goal is to lose weight, The Svelte Gourmet will aid in your endeavor and with a healthy foundation.

•A few recipes
As someone who must consume 3000-3500 calories per day to maintain my lean muscle mass, you would think that I would seek to request permission from the author to publish the delicious London Broil with Horseradish Sauce or Whole Roasted Chicken with Fresh Herbs recipes. Instead, I find that two of my favorite items from the Svelte Gourmet are their salad and “Faux”jito rum drink. And since both are great tasting and low on calories; those are what I will publish, permission obtained, of course.

•“The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad (for 1 serving): thesveltegourmet.blogspot.com/2009/10/skinny-on-restaurant-salads.html
•1 handful spinach or baby spinach
•1/2 cucumber, sliced
•1/2 tomato, sliced
•1 tbsp green olives, sliced
•1/8 cup blue cheese or Gorgonzola crumbles
•1 tsp pine nuts
•Several shakes of Heinz Salad Vinegar
•Combine all ingredients, toss, let rest for 5 minutes.
•Enjoy! You can make this salad your own by adding other fresh produce with very little caloric impact.”
The healthy recipes are not only easy to make and amazing to view (vivid photographs tantalize your sight and accompany every recipe in the book!), they are nutritious too. In fact, I contacted the author to get permission to publish both the photo and recipe for the “Faux“jito as I’m a sucker for both mint and rum. Shhh, don’t tell anyone!

•Note: When it comes to getting results in your nutrition and exercise program, alcohol can be the single most detrimental element to your progress-I’ve watched it happen to several individuals. I am one to promote enjoyment of your life and typically not to the total exclusion of any one thing (except for maybe lard & a few other choice items.) The Svelte Gourmet offers a great low-calorie alternative to a typical 200 calorie Mojito type drink (only 69 calories!) Yum!
"Faux"jito (serves 1) (thesveltegourmet.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html)

•Mint leaves
•Lime wedges
•White rum
•Diet lemon-lime soda (such as Sprite Zero, Diet Sierra Mist or Diet 7-Up)
•Ice
•Sugar (just for the rim of the glass!)
•Muddle a few (3 or 4) mint leaves with 1 ounce white rum and the juice from 1 lime wedge (1/8th of the lime). Muddling is done by lightly crushing the mint (just until the leaves bruise) using a mortar and pestle, a muddler, or whatever you have on hand (a small wooden spoon would work just fine). Just don’t shred the mint! Run the squeezed lime wedge around the rim of the glass, then dip the top of the glass in a shallow plate of granulated sugar to coat the rim. Pour the muddled mixture into your glass, fill with crushed ice, and top off with the diet soda. Cheers!
•The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at (www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html)


THE SVELTE GOURMET: Conclusion

The Svelte Gourmet is a healthy food addition to any weight loss program. It is not a ‘How to lose weight guide,’ it is a ‘This is a healthy & better way to eat’’ resource and one that is filled with flavor. The Svelte Gourmet was created as a lifestyle by a self-proclaimed ‘yo-yo’ dieter and became mainstream within the last two years. The Svelte Gourmet is a healthy and delicious approach to any food consumption plan. You get the flavor, but not the unwanted or unhealthy calories.

As you continue your journey into diets and nutrition, The Svelte Gourmet will be there for you on your hip like a pistola in the Old West. As Jared, The Subway Guy did not give a diet, but rather healthy antidotes for losing weight, The Svelte Gourmet adds to your foundation of knowledge by giving you an easy to follow reference guide that you can use daily for improved health and food consumption.

I can also envision both Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig easily adopting The Svelte Gourmet lifestyle and implementing the food choices for each of their programs. If I were a magician, I would blink my eyes and integrate some of the methods, thus far, of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Jared, The Subway Guy, and The Svelte Gourmet all into one nice concise little book for a healthy and fun approach to weight loss.

Alas, I have one more analysis in this series! Body for Life is up next for close inspection and review. Continue with me and take out your microscope, we are about to get to work again!

Thank you for your time, your attention, and your votes! I wish you a Svelte Gourmet delicious filled evening, I may just have to make a “Faux”jito.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ready, Set, Blog! (Why The Svelte Gourmet is The Next Food Blog Star!)

The freedom to choose is a wonderful thing. For all intents and purposes, the world is my oyster (literally, as I live in Charleston, South Carolina where oysters abound!). I am fortunate to be in a time and place where I can choose who I want to be, where I want to go, and what I want to eat.

Choosing what I want to eat is the tough one. I like to try everything, and I like everything I try. I suppose being a picky eater would be worse, but my situation is not without issues. Let's put it this way -- no one has ever accused me of eating "like a bird." I'm not proud of this, but I'm over it. It is what it is. I love to eat.

Food is trendy. It's a good time for us! Eaters rejoice! Then repent. Because it seems to me that in our world of choices, the hardest decision we have to make is between eating "healthy" and eating "tasty." My life used to be in a perpetual state of turmoil. I was eating out, enjoying my social life and on a culinary adventure. Or I was on a diet, bored and deprived -- but thrilled with the results! I would work really hard to look fabulous in that dress so I could go out and....eat. Vicious cycle.

But we're not really eating that badly, are we? We grab lunch at the deli or eat out on weekends. We have a milkshake, but we'll skip lunch to make up for it. Not too bad, right? That's what I used to think, but now I know better. There's an obesity epidemic in this country, and it's no wonder. And we're drawn to a good deal, but guess what? We don't need to eat all we can eat! A little digging elucidated that the milkshake with all fresh ingredients I was having "as lunch" had 2,000 calories -- more than I should be eating in an entire day! During my diet phases, I'd stick with a salad that I later learned had 1,200 calories in the lunch portion. Wow. Who knew? More digging proved it -- eating out was a losing battle in my battle to lose.

I'm tired of choosing. I want both. Healthy and delicious. The Svelte Gourmet was an experiment -- a challenge. Could I create food that was both figure friendly and foodie-approved? Could I come up with recipes that were special enough for a dinner party but simple enough for a Wednesday? Could I publish a cookbook that would give us a month of variety without cheating on our diets? I don't want to choose anymore -- and I'm sharing my successes, failures and follies with you so you don't have to either.

So why should I be The Next Food Blog Star? Because I'm having a blast. And I've learned that I'm not alone in this. Many of us struggle with this every day. You've told me your stories, you've inspired me to keep writing and you've challenged me to recreate your favorites so you can eat them more often. I'm happy because I'm making you happy. I've loved every minute of it, good and bad. I'm putting myself out there and I've had my share of ridicule. Maybe I'm not "authentic" in my cuisine or educated on the "proper" ways to prepare dishes, but that's ok. Thai Tuesdays at the Foxes satisfy our cravings despite the substitution of whole grain pasta and bean sprouts for rice noodles in my Pad Thai (and if you're like me, you'll understand why finally finding seedless tamarind paste in Charleston raised my heart rate more than any sweat session at the gym!). "Unfried" Fridays rival our old nights out on the town (and the "Faux"jitos don't hurt, either). Make-your-own-pizza night is a family favorite, and the fact that it's healthy gets lost in the fun.

I write for the "every day cook." Those of us who love to (have to) put meals on the table every night -- after we get home from work. Those of us who want great food without having to spend hours in the kitchen followed by hours at the gym. Those of us who don't want to choose between healthy and tasty.

I'll keep writing whether I win Project Food Blog or not. I've tried to make changes so my life didn't revolve around food, but it didn't work. This blog is my outlet and you're my muse. If you enjoy what I write and love what I cook, please vote for The Svelte Gourmet. Thank you for reading!

To vote for The Svelte Gourmet, please click the Project Food Blog Official Contestant box to the top left of this post. Voting on this first challenge is open September 20-23. Thank you!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Raising the (salad) bar!

I've heard from many of you that the biggest problem with The Svelte Gourmet recipes is portion control. I'm flattered that you enjoy my recipes so much! I'm as guilty of portion uncontrol as anyone -- and with the ridiculous portion sizes in most restaurants, it's no wonder that we don't know when to stop.

Sometimes I just need a system reset. A few days of calorie reduced meals to shed the extra pounds of overindulgence. Enter the mighty salad! Salads for lunch and dinner for a few days cut out a ton of carbs from your normal diet and still keep your metabolism moving (unlike skipping meals, which will backfire!). Filling up on mostly veggies really means that you're cutting down on the rest of your portions.

Now here's the kicker. You can bore yourself to death with veggies and store-bought diet dressings, leaving you unsatisfied and with the propensity to overeat later. Or you can completely sabotage your efforts by ordering a salad right off the menu in a restaurant -- sadly, many are WORSE than ordering that cheeseburger. Check out this recent article from Men's Health, titled "Worst Salads In America." Frightening!

So how do we choose between complete boredom and diet sabotage? We don't! If you're having a salad with your meal, try The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad. At under 100 calories, it's a great way to fill yourself up before digging into that main course and overeating. We have this salad virtually every night with dinner, and it remains Keith's favorite part of the meal. Try it!

So what about the main course? Well, my philosophy is that you can take any type of cuisine and make it into a satisfying, low calorie salad. Again, if you're a purist in your approach to cooking (Greeks wouldn't consider this Greek, or this veggie isn't found in Asia), then you probably won't be a fan of my interpretations. But to me, they taste great, help me to lose weight, and are completely boredom-free. I can have a different salad for each meal and not feel like I'm eating the same thing over and over!

Start with the basics -- lettuce, mixed greens, or spinach. Add cucumbers, tomato and any other raw veggie you like (I avoid potatoes and corn because they're starchy). Then you need a lean protein. If you have a favorite chicken or beef marinade that's calorie and fat conscious, then by all means, use it. For grilled chicken, I like to marinate it for 30 minutes in 2 tbsp melted butter, 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup water, then baste it with a fresh batch of the mixture. Delicious! This is pretty much "Dad's Chicken on the Grill" from the cookbook. For this purpose, London broil or sirloin (both lean cuts!) are great grilled with just salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Now it's time to mix it up! Start with the base of veggies and the protein of your choice (try to stick to 4 ounces cooked and sliced on top). Now add the flavor:

Asian Salad
Sliced green onions
A few chopped peanuts
Red pepper flakes
No sugar added Mandarin orange segments
Dressing of rice vinegar, a few drops of sesame oil and minced ginger to taste

Mexican Salad
Onions (cooked until somewhat soft and browned in just a touch of olive oil)
Sliced jalapenos (you can cook these with the onions, leave them raw, or use the pickled kind)
Less than one ounce finely shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
Dressing is simply the tomato-based salsa of your choice -- as much as you want!

Greek Salad
Red onion
Less than one ounce crumbled feta cheese
One tablespoon sliced or chopped calamata olives
Dressing of red wine vinegar, lemon juice and dried oregano

See? Easy, right? And trust me, you'll feel like you're eating a different meal every night. No more boring salads!

For more variations, try different proteins -- shrimp, fish like salmon, or tuna mixed with 1 tbsp light mayo and chopped pickles/celery/onions. I often use whatever protein I have left from a meal for a salad the next day. Just watch your portions -- try to stick to 4 ounces. If you follow these rules, each of these salads has between 250 and 350 calories -- in the whole meal!

My rule of thumb for dressings is simple. If the traditional version is vinegar- and oil-based, just skip the oil or replace the oil with water to cut down on the harshness of the vinegar. If it's a creamy dressing, use plain yogurt or fat-free buttermilk (or a combination of both) instead of sour cream or mayonnaise. Using fresh herbs, vinegar and garlic will work great for a ton of flavor. If you're not that motivated, even those powder dressing packets work great in a pinch! The Italian dressing packet that comes with the glass carafe is great if you fill the vinegar to the V line, then use water to both the W (water) and O (oil) lines. If you're making ranch with the dressing/dip mix, simply replace the sour cream/mayo with the yogurt/buttermilk as aforementioned. Using these tricks will make your vinegar-based dressings have virtually no calories and your creamy dressings will have about 10 calories per tablespoon. Can't beat that! Just watch the salt and be on the lookout for MSG if you're using a store bought "packet" of anything!

If you're eating out, order mixed greens and veggies with grilled chicken or fish. Skip the bacon, cheese, and whatever else comes on that salad -- if you see something on the ingredient list that wouldn't fit into a diet at home, don't order it on your salad! The lettuce does not automatically make it healthy! Skip the prepared dressing and ask for the oil and vinegar carafes -- and just use the vinegar!

I challenge you to raise the (salad) bar. I promise it doesn't have to be boring. Mix it up and you'll see results without the traditional "salad diet" boredom. Enjoy, and please let me know what versions you use! I would love some new ideas!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I'm in a bit of a pickle...

Wow, this has been one crazy summer. From the first weeks of the kids being out of school, we have had non-stop company. Our family from both sides, our friends, and a multitude of visiting pets have graced us with their presence this summer. It's been wonderful to see everyone and we've had a blast.

As I mentioned in my last post, summer's bounty keeps showing up at my doorstep. And I love it! It's been a saving grace when I have a house full of guests and enough veggies to feed them. But really, one can only eat so many cucumbers. And being a Yankee, I'm just getting my feet wet preparing okra, let alone a ton of it. The peppers are gorgeous, but we can't eat this many. To waste them would be awful. It's really a bit of a pickle.

I used to be afraid of canning. I wasn't confident about the process and I was wary about something that could sit on a shelf for literally years and be safe to eat. Canning is something that should be left to the experienced, I thought. I was certain that I would poison us. Unless I was extremely careful, botulism would surely be in our future. Plus, I'm an instant gratification type of person. Waiting a couple hours for the food to be done is too long -- pickles can take weeks to soak up all that flavor. So I steered clear...until this summer. I was going to have to overcome my fear and impatience for the sake of these beautiful, plentiful veggies.

What I did figure out is that if the jar seals properly, you know it. If it doesn't, you can just put your creation in the fridge. Refrigerator pickles last for weeks! This is how I did the pickled peppers from the last post, and we're still eating them. Yum! Pickles of all sorts are delicious and light and add so much flavor to your food -- you can skip the mayo and just throw on a pickle! Chop them up and mix them with your tuna or chicken for a flavorful salad. I've altered The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad to include whatever we have pickled -- sometimes it's a bit sweet, sometimes spicy and zingy. Fabulous!

Taylor created this zesty recipe and it is SO good. Pickling is a matter of taste. If you like sweet pickles, you'll need some sugar. Dill pickles are awesome. Most versions are salty. These are spicy, salty and "dilly." I almost prefer eating the onions in the jar over the cucumbers. I suspect you could use this recipe for any veggie that you want to pickle. Give it a shot and let us know what you end up with!

Taylor's Spicy Dills
Makes 2 large jars

3 medium-large cucumbers
1 medium onion
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
4 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp dill seed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Sterilize the jars and lids in your dishwasher, home canner, or boiling water. If you're canning these for preservation, follow the canning directions on your canner or jars. If you're making these as refrigerator pickles, simply sterilize and pack the jars and put them in the refrigerator.

Thinly slice the onion and slice the cucumbers crosswise or in spears. Heat remaining ingredients in a small saucepan until boiling. Pack onions and cucumbers tightly into hot jars, then add hot liquid, leaving 1/4 inch headroom at the top of the jar. Seal and process if using a long-term canning method. Add a lid, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate if making refrigerator pickles. These were good after a few hours and even better after a few days. Let's see what happens after a month. I'll let you know!

If you have canning or pickling tips for me, please share! I'm new at this!

This summer has been busy and fun, but it hasn't left me much time for blogging. However, The Svelte Gourmet is still making headlines. I was featured this week in Charleston's Post & Courier with my Baked Eggplant Parmesan recipe and I won Recipe4Living's "Summertime Sippers" contest with my PB&B Milkshake. Check them out!

Also, don't forget -- The Svelte Gourmet: A Month Of Main Courses cookbook is on sale through the end of August. Only $14.99! It's available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peter Piper has nothin' on me!

Earlier this year when I planted my garden, I wrote "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary." I had a beautiful garden box built by my husband and the kids, myriad seeds and seedlings, and high hopes for the bounty of summer. Four months later, one thing is certain. I may be able to cook, but I'm going to have to get my ingredients elsewhere. I definitely do NOT have a green thumb.

I'd like to blame it on the drought we're having in Charleston, but I'm kidding myself. I'm to blame. Maybe I spend too much time in the kitchen and not enough time weeding, watering and cultivating. I would post a picture of the garden, but it's a bit embarrassing. So I'll move on.

Luckily, my in-laws and neighbors have had success in their gardens, despite the lack of rain. With regular drop-offs throughout the week, I have so many vegetables. I don't know what to do with them all. Literally! Look at these gorgeous peppers. The variety! The colors! But I've ever only used a pepper here and there to spice up a dish. What in the world do I do with all these?

Another nursery rhyme comes to mind. Pickled peppers! I guess it's technically a tongue twister, but you get the idea. Peter Piper has nothin' on me!

This recipe is a little bit random, but that's why I like it. If you don't have an ingredient, substitute something you do have! This is about using what God gives us (in this case, a whole bunch of peppers!). Taylor describes these pickled peppers as having "a hundred different flavors." I call it depth. They're sour, salty, sweet and spicy. You can eat them on their own, or top off a sandwich with them. No need for fatty condiments when you have this burst of flavor. Some are mild, some are hot -- watch out!

I didn't measure any of the ingredients, I just kept tasting it until I thought it was interesting. Cooking is an art -- stretch yourself! See what you come up with.

Also, I recommend wearing rubber gloves when cutting the peppers. I didn't, and though I washed my hands dozens of times, the residual heat on my fingertips still burned my eyes for days.

Pickled Peppers
Variety of peppers, sliced lengthwise
Equal parts vinegar and water
Sugar
Black peppercorns
Minced garlic
Salt
Mustard seeds
Bay leaves
Pinch of ground cloves

Pack peppers into jars. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in a saucepan. Pour over peppers, put on the lids, and let cool. Refrigerate for one week before eating.

I made these as refrigerator pickles, but if you're comfortable with safe canning methods, you could certainly make these for preserving in the pantry. As they are, they'll last for several weeks in the refrigerator.

I have a huge bucket of cucumbers that arrived a couple days ago, so I'll tackle more traditional pickles next. Then okra pickles...then...I guess it depends on what shows up on my front porch. How exciting!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is 25% off until August 31, 2010. Only $14.99! Enjoy a whole month of healthy, delicious dishes. What better time than bathing suit season?

Order now!
www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer Special!


The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is 25% off until August 31, 2010. Only $14.99! Enjoy a whole month of healthy, delicious dishes. What better time than bathing suit season?

Order now!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The great news about apple butter!

I have some great news about apple butter! And at this point, you're thinking one of two things. One, what is apple butter? Or two, this woman needs to get a life. But seriously, if you haven't tried apple butter, you should. Immediately.

I live in Charleston, South Carolina now, but I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania -- home of the Pennsylvania Dutch, or Amish. Lancaster was such an interesting place to grow up, but I wouldn't exactly call it "svelte." While farming is a huge part of the culture, Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine is typically full fat all the way. I grew up with a lot of diet saboteurs (not in our house, of course -- my mom is a svelte cook, too!). There was "shoofly pie," whoopie pies, funnel cakes and chicken corn soup. True county fair food. Delicious! Chicken pot pie was my favorite. Only the chicken pot pie I grew up with didn't have a crust or resemble a pie at all. My grandmother made the best, even though our family isn't Pennsylvania Dutch. It was more like chicken and dumplings. Even the word "dumpling" sounds fattening, doesn't it? Sort of like "chow chow," which, ironically, isn't bad for you -- it's pickled vegetables! I still won't eat it. Chow chow. It makes me giggle.

But apple butter was the one thing I could never resist when we went to any type of "family restaurant." No need for butter or jelly. Apple butter is amazing, but I've never seen it anywhere but home. And for all these years, I just assumed it was bad for me. Sounds bad, doesn't it?

I hadn't thought about apple butter in years. I was talking to a colleague the other day who was familiar with the area where I grew up. He brought up apple butter and we both laughed about how it was such a guilty pleasure. Obviously, my next move was to revamp it.

So what's the good news? I did some digging, and I learned that apple butter doesn't have to be bad at all. In fact, most of the recipes I found were quite light on the sugar and didn't have any fat. I had assumed....

So what is apple butter? Basically, it's just reduced applesauce with a few extra spices. You can make your own apple sauce if you're feeling motivated, but I wasn't. I just grabbed a jar -- an unsweetened jar! -- of all natural applesauce and off I went. This is so easy -- quite possibly the easiest recipe I'll ever post on here. I now have a new refrigerator staple that is light (only 10 calories per teaspoon!) and reminds me of home. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Apple Butter
Yields 1 cup

4 cups unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot, tilt the lid slightly so steam can escape, and cook on low for 8 hours. That's it!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Recipe Makeover #3 - Egg Rolls!

Here in my neck of the woods, we've just celebrated The Fourth of July -- American Independence Day. And what's more American than egg rolls? Huh? What?!

Actually, there's some truth in this. Italian, Mexican, Chinese and other international cuisines are all influenced by our American ways. Some good influences, some bad (portion sizes, for one!), and some just different.

So our cousins Tony, Julie and their daughter Sirona come to visit us from Arizona every year at this time. Julie and I are having a blast in the kitchen, preparing dinners, discussing menus and having companionship as we wash the mountains and mountains of dishes in the sink (4 adults, 3 kids, a revolving door of visitors, 2 dogs, 2 cats and a tortoise make for a lot of dishes!). Anyway, I love it -- the chaos, the family bonding, and the cooking!

Julie and I were talking about some of our vices, and she asked me how bad egg rolls really are. "Wait, never mind -- I don't want to know. It's not going to stop me from eating them." Oh, Julie. You can't bait me like that and not expect me to go on a research mission to find the answer -- good or bad!

Well, it turns out that the answer is "it depends." An egg roll, basically, is pork (or chicken or shrimp), eggs, vegetables and lots of Chinese flavors rolled into a wrapper and deep fried. I did some searches, and from what I can tell, you're looking at around 200 calories (never mind the fat, salt and MSG) for a standard sized "take out" egg roll. So that's not too bad, right? Well it depends. If you eat two egg rolls and stop, then you're not doing too badly (this being a vice and all). However, at least in the Chinese take-out places here, the egg rolls come in pairs and are meant as an appetizer. Then you add the entree, and all bets are off.

So I told Julie that she and her egg rolls could be Recipe Makeover #3. I'd never attempted them before, but you know I like a challenge. And lest you think I just automatically know how to cook all this stuff, here's my method -- I go to my favorite recipe sites, write down the flavors (ingredients and spices) from the ones that seem the most "authentic," eliminate all the really unhealthy parts (the deep frying, for example), and mix and match to taste until I find a flavor/texture/method that gives us "authentic" flavor without all the fat and calories.

I put "authentic" in quotes because of my original point. Though I've traveled throughout my life, I've never been to China. Therefore, my only frame of reference is what I read or order here. So forgive me if I've butchered the egg roll! Or, even better than forgiving me, teach me!

Tony, Julie and Sirona were here for a while, then left to visit a friend for a few days. I told Julie I'd have her egg rolls ready for testing when she got back. Well. The recipe I came up with makes 16 egg rolls....and I managed to salvage two for her. TWO. Keith ate eight and I ate five. Yes, I can do math -- the last one was a casualty (I'm clumsy). They were SO good. Julie agrees! And at only 87 calories each, go ahead and eat five for dinner -- just not as an appetizer! I made sweet and sour sauce and duck sauce for them, but Keith and I both agreed that these were best with plain soy sauce (low sodium, of course!)

The Svelte Gourmet Egg Rolls
Makes 16

Meat:
6 oz pork loin, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic

Veggies:
1 cup matchstick carrots
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 chopped green onions
1/2 head napa cabbage, cut into thin 2-inch strips

Cooking & Assembly:
3 tsp olive oil, divided
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
16 sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen (I use 9"x14" rectangular sheets)
1 egg white

Preparation:
Marinate pork cubes in soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and ginger for at least 30 minutes. Mix vegetables in a large bowl. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a wok or large skillet. Add eggs, either scrambling or cooking into a large pancake that can be cut into pieces later. Remove cooked eggs from wok and set aside to cool. Heat another teaspoon olive oil. Stir fry pork AND marinade for 2 minutes. Remove meat with a slotted spoon, leaving juices in wok. Heat last teaspoon of oil, adding vegetables and stir frying for 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from wok, place into a colander over a bowl and allow to drain and cool for 15-20 minutes. Chop pork and eggs and add to vegetables.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Working quickly so the phyllo doesn't dry out, gently fold 1 sheet of dough in half. Place a couple tablespoons of filling on the first 3rd of the sheet and fold over bottom and sides. Brush exposed phyllo with egg white and continue to roll up until the edge seals to the roll. Place seam side down on a baking sheet misted lightly with olive oil. Repeat process with remaining phyllo dough and filling. Brush tops of all egg rolls with egg white and bake for 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Enjoy!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Faux"jitos!

I love mojitos. A bubbly concoction of rum, mint and lime, they're especially refreshing. The mojito (moe-hee-toe) is my favorite summer cocktail, and it pairs beautifully with my porch rocking chair and a nice summer breeze (did I just say that? Wow, I'm getting old!).

However, there are a couple inherent problems with my favorite drink. The first problem is that on the rare occasion that Keith and I go out for drinks, I'm usually looking at a 50/50 shot at getting a mojito, since a lot of restaurants don't stock fresh mint. The second problem is that once the bartender tops the rum with sugar or "simple syrup" (simply sugar and water!), this refreshing Cuban drink can pack a caloric punch to the tune of 200+ calories -- each!

Lucky for me, the only thing I've managed to grow successfully in my summer garden is spearmint. It's popping up everywhere, including outside the garden. I don't think I could kill it if I tried...which is good, because as it turns out, I don't have much of a green thumb. I did manage to harvest a few lovely tomatoes before the plant mysteriously wilted and my basil is doing ok. So really, my summer is pretty much complete with the endless makings for mojitos to serve with caprese salad. Yum!

OK, so now to tackle the second problem. A mojito, at its most basic, is white rum and lime juice muddled with mint leaves and sugar, then topped off with crushed ice and club soda. Once you add up 1 to 2 ounces of rum and throw in the sugar, each drink comes in around 160-200 calories -- or more (some places will top it with sugary Sprite or something in lieu of club soda or sparkling water).

My solution? The "faux"jito! Faux (pronounced "foe") is the French word for fake or false. If you're a purist in your beverage mixology, I suggest you stop reading now!

My "faux"jito comes in around 69 calories (just about what's in an ounce of rum, really). It's light enough to be diet friendly, and since it doesn't go overboard on the rum, I can have more than one and enjoy my company without tipping over (as I said, we don't get out much). I should also note that I rarely include ingredients in my recipes that contain artificial sweeteners, but it's necessary in this case. If you come up with an equally light alternative, please let me know! A classic mojito is typically served in a high ball glass, but I was feeling festive.

Lastly, I hope that you enjoy your summer, your family and your friends, but please drink responsibly. Enjoy!

"Faux"jito
serves 1

Mint leaves
Lime wedges
White rum
Diet lemon-lime soda (such as Sprite Zero, Diet Sierra Mist or Diet 7-Up)
Ice
Sugar (just for the rim of the glass!)

Muddle a few (3 or 4) mint leaves with 1 ounce white rum and the juice from 1 lime wedge (1/8th of the lime). Muddling is done by lightly crushing the mint (just until the leaves bruise) using a mortar and pestle, a muddler, or whatever you have on hand (a small wooden spoon would work just fine). Just don't shred the mint! Run the squeezed lime wedge around the rim of the glass, then dip the top of the glass in a shallow plate of granulated sugar to coat the rim. Pour the muddled mixture into your glass, fill with crushed ice, and top off with the diet soda. Cheers!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Serving up the weekend...with a side of hummus.

As I sit here eating my very first home-grown tomato sandwich of the season (so good that I actually closed my eyes when I bit into it) and munching on a local raw potato with a sprinkle of sea salt (I know, empty carbs...but it's my guilty pleasure. Yum!), I'm thinking about what I can possibly write about today that would be of interest to you. Truth be told, I'm still basking in the warm glow of a fantastic Father's Day weekend.

Granted, this was Keith's weekend. But I got to enjoy it by default! It was a weekend filled with togetherness -- enjoying the summer sun, homemade pizza and a movie, family Wii night, and lots of cooking! It just gets better and better as the kids' interest in food and confidence in the kitchen keeps growing.

Admittedly, the weekend wasn't all svelte. But such is life, right? The entire weekend was a culinary adventure, with the girls wanting to experiment. Besides The Svelte Gourmet pizza (a weekend staple) and the batch of Raisin Honey Bran Muffins I made, Taylor baked peach cobbler, Courtney learned to macerate blackberries (that she picked in the yard), and they baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I had some bananas ripening too quickly on the counter, so I sliced them up, roasted them at 400 for about 20 minutes, then tossed them with a few dark chocolate chips. Wow. I guess we were in a dessert mood this weekend.

Taylor and I enjoyed another experiment, too. We were at the grocery store picking up pizza toppings and peaches, and she picked out a small carton of calamata olive hummus in the deli section. One of her many discoveries in her new life as a vegetarian. But wait a second, $5? For that little thing? I almost detected a chuckle and eye roll when I suggested that we could make it just as good, if not better, ourselves -- and for 1/5th of the cost (I already had everything at home except the chick peas).

Me: "Just grab some garbanzo beans."
Taylor: "Huh?"
Me: "You know, chick peas."
Taylor: "Huh?"

OK, so we'll start from scratch. Hummus, basically, is mashed chick peas, garlic, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Then whatever other delicious flavoring you want to add. She's into calamata olives right now, as am I, so we decided on those and headed home.

Me: "Just get out the food processor."
Taylor: "The what? I thought you didn't want us eating processed food."
Me: "Ha! Not the same, dear."

So I introduced her to the food processor and off we went, whipping the ingredients into a delicious, svelte masterpiece. Commercial brands vary, but they typically come in around 100 calories and 6 grams of fat per 1/4 cup of the plain variety. Taylor's calamata hummus comes in a bit lighter with 85 calories and considerably less fat (1.5 grams) in 1/4 cup. Coupled with some celery sticks, cucumber slices, or a bit of toasted whole wheat pita, you've got a great snack with a little protein punch. Double the serving and add yogurt or an apple on the side and you have a perfect lunch. Enjoy!

Taylor's Calamata Olive Hummus
Makes five 1/4-cup servings

1 can (15.5 oz) garbanzo beans (chick peas)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp salt (add more to taste)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp sliced calamata olives
1 tbsp juice from calamata olive jar
1 tbsp water

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Quick and easy! Taylor loved it and ate it all weekend. I plan to make more and have it for lunch this week. Next time, I'll experiment with adding fresh herbs, sundried tomatoes, and maybe some pine nuts. Yum!

To top off this fabulous weekend, the girls surprised us with breakfast in bed (another one of the benefits of being married to their father on Father's Day!). They made French toast, scrambled eggs, grits, cinnamon toast and coffee. Amazing. They are really turning into great cooks, and nothing could make me happier.

Happy Father's Day!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

But I skipped lunch!

It's after school and the kids really want ice cream...and I skipped lunch, so I'll just have this milkshake. It can't be as bad as if I'd eaten a meal, right? Or, instead of my normal sandwich and fruit, I'll just grab a salad at the nearby restaurant. Better? Or, I didn't eat everything on my plate, so I couldn't have had too many calories. Does this sound familiar?

I feel duped. And sabotaged.

I'm a chronic label reader, as you know. But what if there isn't a label? More and more restaurants are now including nutrition labels on their menus. But what about the ones that don't? Do you know what you're eating?

Men's Health recently reported that Cold Stone Creamery's PB&C milkshake has 2010 calories -- "the equivalent of 68 strips of bacon or 30 chocolate chip cookies" -- 68 grams of saturated fat (131 total fat grams) and 153 grams of sugar. WHAT?! Not that I've ever had one of these, but I'm sure I've had something similar somewhere along the way. Unbelievable. And is it really THAT good? I'd not only have to skip lunch, I'd have to not eat for two days to justify this type of caloric intake. And there really is no justification for all that saturated fat. The magazine states that their information is from Cold Stone's website, so I looked into it and it checks out. I did have to dig through layers of pages to actually get to the nutrition chart, but it's there. WOW. Not one milkshake has under 1000 calories. And on the preceding page, the company brags about their commitment to our health and their fresh ingredients.

I'm not going to go into further detail, because then I'd have to be fair and critique every chain. Just trust me when I tell you that I have looked into these places, and it's appalling. I used to order the "low carb menu" steak and blue cheese salad at Panera Bread, until I realized that the LUNCH SIZED portion had over 1,200 calories! Lucky for us, magazines and newspapers are starting to expose the ugly truth. It's really no wonder we have such an obesity epidemic in this country.

So digest this -- The Center for Science in the Public Interest just released their study on nine dishes to avoid, Xtreme Eating 2010. We all recognize, I hope, that fast food, fried food, desserts, and obvious "junk foods" are going to make us fat and unhealthy. But what about those items that we believe -- falsely, I might add -- to be fresher and healthier? The organization describes California Pizza Kitchen's nearly 1700 calorie Tostada Pizza with Steak as the equivalent of eating "a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizza topped with SIX Taco Bell Crunchy Beef Tacos." Ha!

I know, this is no laughing matter. They go on to report that P.F. Chang's Double Pan-Fried Noodles Combo has more calories than 10 eggrolls and 7,690 milligrams of sodium -- 5 days worth!!! The Cheesecake Factory's Pasta Carbonara with Chicken has 2,500 calories and 85 grams of saturated fat. More saturated fat than we should eat in four days, and terrible even if you only eat half.

Next time you're out, remember that nutrition information is based on a recommended 2000 calories and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat PER DAY. Not per meal. And if you're dieting, this number should be a lot less.

Maybe you're a foodie who avoids chain restaurants like the plague. Still, I wonder how much cream and butter those 5-star chef's are using? Most chefs care about your taste buds, not your waistline. Unfortunately, there is so much bad food out there that I could go on and on. Eating out is a danger zone for dieters. It's ok for a special treat once in a while, but any more often is certain diet sabotage. And the problem appears to be getting worse.

So my advice is to cook and eat at home. You'll save a fortune, you'll have a better grasp on your intake, and it's not that difficult. Most of my recipes come together in less than 30 minutes -- and I know that to be true only because I usually decide what we're having for dinner just when I'm about to drop over from hunger.

But what if you're craving that milkshake? You just have to have it? Instead, have mine. It takes just minutes to make and it only has 250 calories. Keith and I like these so much that sometimes we skip lunch or dinner and have this treat instead!

PB&B Milkshake
Serves 2

2 bananas
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 cup skim or lowfat milk
ice

Puree in a blender until smooth. Done. If you want a thicker shake, slice and freeze the bananas first (maybe you already have some in there after reading my last post!) and you can skip the ice altogether.

For an entire month's worth of diet-friendly recipes, The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Break bread without breaking the bank!

The other day I was in my favorite grocery store picking up a few things for a recipe I wanted to try. "A few things." Ha! Maybe it's because I randomly run to the grocery store on a whim when I get it in my head to experiment with something new, but I rarely get out of the store for under $50. A few things. Right! Don't even get me started on how much a "normal" trip to the grocery store costs.

So anyway, I got in the checkout line behind a woman whose order was obviously not going to be quick...but I wasn't in a hurry and my curiosity got the best of me. She was meticulously separating a full cart of items into two orders. Then she handed the cashier a stack -- and I mean STACK -- of coupons. But they were on plain paper. Odd. Her first order, after the coupons, came to $3.98. Mouth agape, I kept watching. Her second order came to -$1.25. She got money BACK. What?! She got a month's worth of groceries for about $2.75. Good stuff, too! She turned around to apologize to me for taking so long, but I just congratulated the coupon-clipping genius, my mouth still agape.

And my little basket came to $17.50 for just "a few things." Wow, do I feel dumb! I asked the cashier what kind of coupons she was using. Turns out, she prints them online. Hmmm...I spend HOURS on the computer every day. Maybe this is something I should look into. So I did, and in my next trip to the store, I saved $30.

Lately, I've been looking for ways to save a few dollars. With the amount of cooking and experimenting I do -- and often with choice ingredients! -- every little bit helps. So it really burns me up when I open the produce drawer and find that all the things I had good intentions for are now starting to ripen beyond their prime. It's SO frustrating.

So now I re-purpose them. For example, pretty much any vegetable can be a great base for soup. Throw it all in a pot with some broth and seasonings and simmer away. Then freeze it and you've wasted nothing.

Alternatively, if you see that your bananas are getting a little spotty on the counter, slice them into a freezer bag and throw them in the ice box. They last for months and are great for smoothies -- and you don't need to water them down with a lot of ice, since the bananas themselves are frozen (Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie recipe coming next week!). Grapes and berries are fantastic in the freezer, too, and can be pulled out for baking or snacking.

For things like apples, pineapple, papaya, etc., consider investing in a small dehydrator. They aren't expensive at all and you can make the best dried fruit (or jerky if you have a spare London broil). My oven has a dehydrating feature, so check your manual -- yours might, too! If you have peaches or pears that are softening too quickly, simply slice them and grill them on a hot grill pan (with sides) until they release their juices and begin to caramelize. If you can resist eating them all on the spot (AMAZING dessert), then store them in the freezer as a topping for frozen yogurt or a light dessert on their own. Really fantastic.

Don't you hate it when you open a box of cereal and find that the bag you so carefully rolled down is now wide open? Or when you reach into a bag of snack food (healthy, I hope!) and find that it's stale? Talk about a waste -- and an expensive one, too. These days, we're hard-pressed to find a bag of snack food or box of cereal for under $3.00 -- so it really burns me up when they're wasted. And in my opinion, most plastic chip clips are worthless. They break, they don't open wide enough, and they're expensive. Instead, head to your local dollar store and pick up a package of wooden clothes pins. I got 50 for $1.00. They don't break, they don't crush your food like rubber bands do, and they are so inexpensive that I don't mind when the kids take a new one each time they have a snack (they seem to disappear in the couch cushions like socks disappear in the dryer). Using clothespins to keep bags closed is a trick I grew up with -- thanks Mom!

Let's face it, eating healthfully can get expensive. Fresh produce often costs more than the processed stuff, and it doesn't last more than a few days. Luckily, it's a little easier in the summer -- at least where I live! On Memorial Day, the kids and Keith and I headed out in the woods behind our house and foraged for blackberries. We had a blast, we bonded, and we didn't spend a dime. I have those berries in the freezer just waiting for a purpose. My alter ego, Dough Girl, is tempted to bake a blackberry pie. I'll try to sway her, but she's a tough cookie -- no pun intended!

What tips do you use to save money in the kitchen? Where's Heloise when we need her? After all, a penny saved means more groceries...and that means more recipes!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Operation Rescue! Plus, Black Bean Burgers.

So Taylor has decided that she wants to be a vegetarian. I think a few too many "predator vs. prey" episodes on the nature channel made her think twice about eating meat. And I can't say I blame her! Keith and I told her that we would support her decision to become an herbivore as long as she's feeding her body the fuel and vitamins it needs to operate properly. Apparently, she'd been simply skipping the meat in her meals and just eating the sides. But what about protein?! Sugary peanut butter just won't cut it in this house!

Hmmm...I've never ventured down the meatless path. I had to think about this one for a while. And in the meantime, we planned a lovely day on the boat with the kids and our dog Penny. Charleston's waterways are a beautiful network of tidal creeks and inlets. We love to hop in the boat for a day of exploring. When the tide is low, the sandbars emerge and some of the saltwater wildlife gets a chance in the sun.

Ahhh...sunshine and a slight sea breeze make for a gorgeous day on the water. Add family, tunes, and some ice cold Corona (Light, of course!) and you have what I consider a nearly perfect day. The tide was going out and we stopped at a nearby sandbar to explore. Taylor, Courtney and Penny hopped out of the boat and ran to play with hermit crabs, dig for clams and play in the sand and surf. That didn't last long, though. It only took a few minutes for the girls to discover some abandoned crab traps -- unlawfully abandoned, I should add. You see, trapping crabs is legal, but allowing the traps to shift to a place where they emerge at low tide is not. Unfortunately, these particular offenders even clipped their distinguishing buoys, leaving traps full of crabs to be buried under the sand and bake in the sun.

Fortunately for these crabs, we had animal activists Taylor and Courtney on the case! And a majority of the crabs were still alive! With the traps clipped and buried in the sand, the crabs must have surely been starving, surviving only when the tide came back in. So we started digging. Even Penny helped! It was hard work, but those girls dug for hours. "Hmmm....we need some water to pour in here to rinse the sand away. Jenny, can we use your beer bottle? Oh wait, we don't know if these crabs are 21!" Oh, precious Courtney.

We managed to save many blue crabs and stone crabs, releasing them into the water for another shot at life. It felt good. And it made me realize that if Taylor was serious about being a vegetarian, then I needed to do what I could to teach her how to do it the right way.

My first attempt? Black Bean Burgers! At first we looked in the frozen food section of the grocery store, comparing and contrasting the veggie burger section. First of all, the sodium content in many brands is as bad as the "bad" processed food. Couple that with preservatives and an exorbitant price tag, and I'm done with that option. So homemade it is! And I must say, I didn't miss the meat in my meal that night at all.

What I found is that with a very basic (and inexpensive!) base recipe, you can adapt your black bean burgers to your taste and mood. For flavor, anything goes! I flavored these with a somewhat traditional "barbecue sauce" made with ketchup, mustard, honey, Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder. Yum! If you're in the mood for Asian food, season them with soy sauce, garlic, ginger and Sriracha. That's next on my list, because it sounds amazing. If you're in a hurry, a few tablespoons of bottled salsa will do the trick -- and don't forget the guacamole to top it off! Like I said, anything goes. Play with what you like and let me know what you come up with!

Now, here's the basic recipe:

Black Bean Burgers
Serves 4-6

2 cans black beans (14.5 ounces each), drained and rinsed
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (using whole wheat earns you bonus points!) 1/2 cup wheat bran
2 eggs

That's it! Roughly mash the beans with the back of a fork or potato masher, incorporate the rest of the ingredients and the flavorings of your choice! Grill over medium heat for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through and misting with olive oil or butter spray so they don't dry out or burn.

Serve them with some Svelte Macaroni & Cheese, Unfried Green Tomatoes, Roasted Spinach with Truffle Oil & Sea Salt, or The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad. Voila! You'll get plenty of protein and fiber from the burgers, but you won't be asking "where's the beef?!"

I'm inspired now. Dozens of crabs lived to see another day. And I'm going to break out of my comfort zone a little bit and try more meatless main dishes. Stay tuned!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!
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