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Monday, March 29, 2010

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary..."

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?" A lot better than mine! (Mary being my mother...)

What's the opposite of green? Because that's what color my thumb is. You'd think gardening would go hand-in-hand with cooking, but unfortunately, my mom didn't pass her green thumb onto me. My parents have a beautiful yard with gorgeous blooms virtually every month of the year, but the summer vegetable garden is my favorite. I don't think there is anything else in the world like that first bite of summer tomato from my parents' garden. I don't even waste time with a fork, I just bite right in. YUM. I eat so many that my stomach hurts and I break out into a rash, but I don't care. They always were, and still are, my favorite food. No cooking required!

Unfortunately, my tomato-growing experience has been less than fruitful (pun intended!). I was relegated to container gardens for most of my adulthood (apartments in Washington, DC don't usually come with a garden plot!). My container plants always yielded a few red beauties, but I would eat them right there on the porch as they ripened. So really not much use in the kitchen -- or for anyone else! Then there was the year I tried those tomato planters that hang upside-down. I planted Better Boys and Early Girls...and I got beautiful, red, juicy tomatoes that were the size of large peas. Arg!

My mom claims it took her years to get it right, but I'm sort of (really) impatient. Last summer, we were just finishing the new house, and Keith built me a garden for my herbs. This year, though, is the year for veggies! And it couldn't come at a better time, when I get to chronicle my experiences for you -- if nothing else, it will keep me diligent about the weeding and feeding. I hope.

This weekend I planted. The weather was gorgeous and the sun was shining. My garden still has some stoic survivors from last year -- fragrant rosemary, which was fantastic with pork last night, and enough mint for me to open a mojito bar. That stuff is coming up everywhere, and it smells really good. Especially since Keith weed-whacked a bunch of it and there's now chopped mint all over the place. No worries, though, it's really resilient!

This year, I added basil and oregano on the herb side and peas and Roma green beans on the veggie side (and of course I saved room for some tomato plants!). Cooking with bright, bold fresh herbs are a great way to keep your meals full of flavor, without adding fat. Yum! I'm also looking forward to the peas (I love eating them right out of the pods), and steamed beans with a drizzle of olive oil and some garlic, salt and pepper are amazing. I can't wait! Fresh veggies are one of the best ways to stay svelte -- arm yourself with a bag of fresh peas in the pods to snack on, and you're good to go! And my favorite way to eat green beans is raw. Try it, I promise I'm not crazy. They are SO good.

So here's the current picture of my garden. You can see the rosemary, and that giant bundle of sticks is last year's basil bush. I think I'll trim it down to the base, and maybe it will grow back...thoughts? Anyway, I hope to have beautiful "during" and "after" pictures to show you -- along with recipes! What are you planting this year? Anything you love to grow, but need a great recipe for? Most importantly, any tips for those of us without green thumbs?!

Maybe someday I'll have a giant garden with a lot of variety, but for now, I thought I'd start small and see what happens...farmers' markets, stand by!

Thanks for reading!

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Eat Better, Weigh Less: 7 Questions With The Svelte Gourmet"

This week, I had the privilege of being interviewed by John McGran, editor of Diet-to-Go, about my thoughts on a healthy lifestyle. Below is the story! Enjoy!

Submitted by John McGran on March 24, 2010 - 11:08am

Diet-to-Go is rolling out a new feature -- "7 Questions with..." -- and this week's premier guest is The Svelte Gourmet, a.k.a. Jenny Fox from Charleston, South Carolina.

The Svelte Gourmet caught my attention while I was compiling our weekly Diet Blog Carnival round-up of interesting and educational Internet features. Jenny's columns consistently appeared in our "best of" round-up so I decided to extend an offer for her to appear in this inaugural question-and-answer series.

"7 Questions with..." will feature top names in the fields of food, diet, nutrition, fitness and motivation, so be sure to come back regularly.. and to tell your health-minded friends about the new and improved Diet-to-Go blog.

Back to matters at hand -- The Svelte Gourmet (that's Jenny pictured at right). I chose to interview Jenny because I was intrigued by her approach as "your personal trainer in the kitchen."
While Diet-to-Go will serve you delicious, perfectly portioned meals to help you get healthier and lose weight, the Svelte Gourmet can teach you to cook healthy meals once you reach your goal weight.

7 Questions with The Svelte Gourmet

DTG: The Svelte Gourmet is your "personal trainer in the kitchen" -- what does that mean and why do I need a personal trainer in my kitchen?

SG: The Svelte Gourmet's mission is to help people understand what they should be eating for optimal health, both inside and out, and how to make it taste great! Through my "personal training" lessons, The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook, and my blog, I show people how to turn healthy ingredients into culinary masterpieces.

Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry, and with good reason. Millions of people are overweight and facing obesity-related health problems. It’s not just about looking good in a bathing suit. It’s about managing heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and a host of other weight-related diseases.

One doesn’t have to look very far to find the next diet gimmick that promises to help you shed those pounds. However, in order to lose weight and keep it off, it takes a lifestyle change – eating right and exercising, not just for a week or a month, but forever.

Sounds daunting, I know, but it doesn't have to be. As your “personal trainer in the kitchen," I teach you lifestyle lessons that will help you and your families lose the weight and keep it off.

DTG: What fuels your passion for eating healthy and for educating others to do the same?

SG: Like millions of people, I tried diet after diet, only to lose weight and gain it back. I knew that I had to make a change for good, but I thought that meant that I would have to give up my favorites – pizza, burgers and sweets. What I realized is that it is possible to still have these things in my life, regularly!

I love to cook and experiment, so I've found ways to take the fat and calories out, and keep the flavor. In fact, many have said that my recipes actually taste better than the more fattening foods they were used to!

I've put together the collection of recipes that helped me to lose weight and keep it off. I've taken the guesswork out of it – my recipes are simple, fast and use ingredients you can find at any grocery store.

Even better, you and your families and dinner guests get to enjoy tasty meals night after night, often without even realizing that they're healthy!

Once I realized that a lifestyle change was simple, it became my mission to show others how to make the change in their lives.

DTG: Why do you think there are so many overweight and out-of-shape Americans?

SG: There are many reasons, but I think two of the biggest are convenience and the "bigger is better" mentality.

Our society is so focused on convenience that our entire lives can be managed from the computer. We don't have to leave the office chair to work, shop, socialize or even order food. And the portions of food to which we've become accustomed are enormous – often 4-5 times the amount we should be eating for a meal.

Our food comes ready to eat and handed to us through the car window "super sized." Our bodies have gotten used to a sedentary, convenient, all-you-can eat lifestyle. And we’re getting bigger and bigger.

DTG: Changing bad habits and starting a healthy lifestyle can be a daunting task. What are three simple steps I can make today to improve my health and my weight?

SG: First, get moving! You don’t need a gym membership or a house full of fancy exercise machines. Take a walk, ride your bike, chase the dog or the kids… just get out of the chair!

Second, start cooking! The first step is recognizing that it doesn’t take hours to make healthy food from scratch. In fact, it can often be faster than thawing and heating a frozen, processed dinner or ordering a pizza. I can get you started with delicious recipes that are fast, easy AND healthy.

Third, set small, attainable goals! Start with a commitment to yourself for today. “I will make dinner tonight.” “I will walk around the block.” Once you see how easy it is to do those things once, you’ll realize how easy it is to also do them tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

DTG: You say you are not a dietitian or nutritionist -- so why should I trust your tips and advice?

SG: For years, nutritionists, dietitians and trainers have been giving me the basic formula for eating more healthfully – lean proteins, whole grains, lots of vegetables, heart-healthy fats and proper portion sizes. I’ve taken this information and put it into easy to follow recipes that have been reviewed by health and fitness professionals.

DTG: How can a busy mom find the time to shop and cook healthy meals for herself and her family -- and how can she get her kids to eat more healthily?

SG: My recipes, tips and tricks are for the "every day" cook. They are designed to be fast and convenient, but still healthy and delicious. You won’t have to run all over town to specialty markets and health food stores, because my recipes use a clever mix of ingredients that you can find at most grocery stores.

Also, most of The Svelte Gourmet recipes come together in 30 minutes or less. Even I don’t like spending all day in the kitchen! I’ve also designed many of the recipes – like The Svelte Gourmet chili, lasagna and pizza -- to work well as leftovers.

It’s extremely easy to freeze leftovers or double a recipe so you can feed your family more than once with minimal effort.

Many of The Svelte Gourmet recipes are foods that kids love already – pizza, spaghetti, burgers and chicken. However, I’ve found that getting picky kids to eat more healthfully is a matter of involvement. When the kids help cook, they tend to eat more.

Cooking together provides great bonding time, it teaches the kids healthy eating habits early in life, and they take pride in the finished product. Your readers can find a lot of tips and tricks for getting kids to eat more healthfully at www.thesveltegourmet.com.

DTG: Finally Jenny, what are the 5 worst foods that the majority of us tend to have in our fridge/pantry -- and what should we replace them with?

SG: No. 1 is the "white foods" such as white bread, white flour, white rice and white pasta. These foods are often stripped of their fiber and nutrition and they break down quickly in your body, resulting in spikes to your blood sugar that leave you craving more. Replace with whole-grain products like whole wheat bread, brown or basmati rice, and whole grain pasta. Whole grain foods take your body longer to digest, meaning you’ll stay fuller longer without spikes to your blood sugar.

2. Mayonnaise or sour-cream-based foods. I’ve found that substituting plain yogurt for mayonnaise or sour cream in recipes affords you a lot of flavor with minimal calories and fat! Even full-fat yogurt has a fraction of the fat of mayonnaise. A cup of plain yogurt has around 150 calories, compared with 180 calories in only 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise! Try it in your dip or salad dressing recipes, or even in soups as a replacement for heavy cream.

3. Fatty proteins. Replace the ground beef with ground chicken or turkey breast. Instead of pork chops, try pork tenderloin. Instead of a ribeye, try a nice, lean sirloin. Replace the drumstick and wings with a juicy chicken breast (yes, it’s possible!). Lean proteins make a world of difference in your diet, and they can still be very flavorful with the right seasonings and cooking methods!

4. Bags of fried, processed snack foods. It’s a pretty safe assumption that anything with day-glow orange “cheese” powder isn’t good for you. Same goes for fried potato chips and butter-laden popcorn. Instead, try crunchy veggies with your new yogurt dip, air-popped popcorn with parmesan cheese and garlic, or fresh fruit salad with nuts.

5. Packaged baked goods. I know it’s easy to grab a box of iced cupcakes or store-bought cookies, but please don’t. I’m not saying you need to swear off baked goods forever, but when you do crave them, bake them yourself. You’ll savor them more, and they’ll taste a lot better! Consider healthy substitutions like whole grain flour, honey instead of sugar, and dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.

Thanks to you Jenny for providing so much food for thought. We hope to see you back here in a future installment of "7 Questions with..."

Meanwhile, to get your regular fix of Jenny and to sample her yummy recipes, check out her website www.thesveltegourmet.com and grab a copy of her cookbook, "The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is stress sabotaging your weight loss?

Keith says I cross every bridge not before I come to it, but before it's even built. Really, I just think I'm a good problem solver -- and problem "avoider!" Not only do I have Plan A figured out, but also Plan B....and C, and D, and E. My head spins and these "what if" scenarios play out in my head over and over. OK, so maybe I am a bit....high strung.

And now I have one more thing to worry about -- it seems that stress can make (or keep) you fat. As if the other side effects of stress aren't enough! How does stress affect weight? Here are just a few theories.

First, medical experts point to cortisol as one possible culprit. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex in response to stress. Apparently, your body's "fight or flight" response produces elevated levels of these adrenal cortical hormones. It refocuses your biochemical resources and energy on survival and inhibits digestion, suppresses your immune system and raises your blood sugar. Unfortunately, cortisol doesn't discriminate -- it is produced if you're being chased by a lion, or if you're stuck in traffic (the thought of being late is a very big stressor for me!). Chronically elevated cortisol levels cause your body to accumulate abdominal fat and make it very hard to lose weight. Lovely.

And that's not all. Lack of sleep is a surprising one -- if you're too stressed or too busy to sleep, listen to this! According to sleep researchers, your body produces hormones to suppress appetite and to increase appetite (can I get rid of that one?!). When you experience chronic sleep deprivation, your body makes more of the appetite increasing hormone and less of the suppressing one. URG...this is getting worse!

Next are the obvious ones. I think we all recognize that emotional eating, finding solace in comfort foods, and eating to fill a void can contribute to weight gain. I never thought I was an emotional eater, but I've realized that I'm an emotional baker! When I get stressed out, I turn to flour and sugar. I don't know what it is about baking that relaxes me, but my mind stops spinning and I can escape for a while. And even though I don't eat my culinary creations right away, they still manage to disappear. One glaring example is the batch of molasses cookies I baked Sunday night at midnight...that are now gone.

Unfortunately, I've figured out the hard way that stressing about stress doesn't fix it. Quite the contrary. So what can we do? Below are a few tips I've found for reducing stress:

Exercise! For me, nothing takes away the knot in my stomach like the gym. Unfortunately, when I'm stressed, my motivation sometimes disappears, too. But once I'm in the habit of going to the gym, I find that my stress levels are markedly lower. And in addition to helping lower stress, exercise also burns calories, so that's why it's my number one tip.

Get away! Even though a vacation would do the trick, I'm talking about taking little breaks from the stress -- physically or mentally. If work is causing you stress, eat lunch away from your desk. Take a walk. Take an hour for yourself. Write in a journal. Read a book. Call a friend. Anything that takes you away from the stressor for a little bit. Just stay away from the fridge!

Try yoga. I've heard that it works really well for some people -- I'm just not one of them! First of all, I'm not very "bendy." And my balance is terrible. So for me, yoga has just caused me more stress! And when the instructor says to "clear your mind," my racing brain just fills up. But I really want to master a relaxation technique like yoga or meditation, so I'm going to keep trying. Any tips for me?

Find a hobby. OK, so maybe cooking isn't the best example for weight loss -- even though mine is svelte! But what about knitting, golfing, fishing, or biking? Anything that makes you happy, relaxes you, and takes you away from the stress.

Take a bath. For some, there is nothing like a hot bath to calm your nerves. Pour in some soothing, aromatic bubble bath, turn on soft music, or simply close your eyes and pretend you're a million miles away. Let "Calgon take you away!"

Laugh! First of all, laughing is said to reduce cortisol. Yippee! It also increases "feel good" hormones like endorphins and boosts your immune system. Even better, laughing is a great abdominal and cardio workout! So find something -- anything -- to laugh at. Laugh at your spouse. Laugh at the kids. Laugh at the dog and cat. Laugh at a movie. And it's true what people say -- laughing is contagious.

I know many of you are like me. We have to work hard to find ways to reduce stress. And anything that makes losing weight harder just causes more stress. For those of you who are cool as cucumbers, then more power to you! Let us know what you do to keep your stress levels low. We could all use more suggestions!

Don't forget! I'll be hosting a cookbook signing on Thursday, March 18th (tomorrow!) at Silver Belles of Charleston boutique. If you're in Charleston, I would love to see you! Stop in, bring your friends and enjoy complimentary refreshments from The Svelte Gourmet! Visit www.thesveltegourmet.com/news.html for details.

If you're not local but still want a copy of the cookbook, The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html.

Enjoy!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Recipe Makeover #1 - Svelte Macaroni & Cheese!

What?! Yes, you heard that correctly. Traditional, homemade baked macaroni and cheese. YUM!

I'm saying "yum!" now, but this week in The Svelte Gourmet test kitchen did NOT run as smoothly as usual. Last week, as you may remember, I blogged about eating at home and sending in your favorite "not-so-svelte" recipes for a makeover. Many of you jumped on the opportunity to send me scrambling! And I'll tell you, this one was certainly a challenge.

The suggestion for a lightened version of mac 'n cheese came from Amanda Cook, creator of one of my favorite blogs, Vintage Savoir Faire. Taking a cue from her tag line, I tried my best to make my great-grandmothers proud! But it wasn't easy...

So first, let's break it down. What is macaroni and cheese? Well, first there's macaroni. Pasta. Not svelte, especially when consumed in large quantities, since one ounce has 100 calories. And cheese. Oh, glorious cheese! Cheese is quite good for you if you exercise portion control -- but just one ounce (yes, ONE!) of most cheeses packs a whopping 100 calories. So what do we have? A dish based solely on pasta and cheese (each 100 calories per ounce). And I promised you I'd try to keep it under 200 calories per serving, so already you can see the challenge!

Since Amanda didn't have a specific recipe in mind and there are a million ways to make this traditional dish, I browsed some of my favorite cooking websites -- both gourmet and home style -- to figure out some common themes with mac 'n cheese. Here's what I found to be average for most of the recipes that serve 8 as a side dish (1/2 to 1 cup serving size):

1. 2-3 cups of cheese (one TV chef's recipe had 6 cups of cheese -- for 6 servings! Ahhh!)
2. At least 4 tablespoons of butter (at 100 calories per tablespoon!)
3. A cup of whole milk or sometimes heavy cream (gasp!)
4. 4 tablespoons of flour (often cooked with the butter to make a roux)
5. Varying amounts of breadcrumbs
6. Typically 8-12 ounces of pasta
7. About half the recipes included at least 2 eggs

So let's say that this is our recipe. Calculating this conservatively (with 2 1/2 cups of cheese, milk instead of cream, etc.), I get 433 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving! For a side dish! Does your recipe resemble this one? Yikes!

So how in the world am I supposed to make a dish that has virtually NOTHING healthy in it "svelte?" Let's just say I started on Sunday and we've had failed mac 'n cheese every night this week. But I never give up!

I started the week fully believing I could perform miracles. Let's just take all the bad stuff out, add some healthy (and sneaky!) substitutions, and OF COURSE it will taste authentic. Makes sense, right?! And of course I have to make it gourmet. That's what I was going for originally, so my first version starred Gruyere and white truffle oil. YUM! At least that's what I hoped. Trying to make a roux with whole wheat flour just wasn't a good idea. The Gruyere is usually a stand-out flavor, but it was overshadowed by the faulty roux. The truffle oil added a nice touch, but that was about the only redeeming quality. NEXT!

OK, so the next night, humbled, I went back to the old standbys. No more showboating. I have to get it right this time! So I went with cheddar, but instead of a lot of regular cheddar, I opted for considerably less "extra sharp" cheddar. I thought the best way to get it to coat the pasta, since I didn't have that much cheese to work with, was to make a cheese sauce. So off I went, heating the milk (I skipped the roux after the first incident!), and melting the cheese. I wanted to use whole grain pasta, since you know I prefer whole grains over those stripped of their fiber. Oh, and I thought a little crushed red pepper would give it a nice pop of flavor.

Well. What I had this time was what tasted like chili pepper and wheat, with maybe a hint of cheese somewhere in there. Dry as a bone, too. Where did all the cheese sauce go?!?! Foiled again!

One more shot...I figured if it didn't work this time, I would have to just tell you to eat less (or none!) of the real stuff. That would have gone over like a lead balloon, I'm sure! So I had to do a little compromising. After all, you're looking for comfort food, and I really wanted to deliver.

Tonight, my friends, I had success! I loved the end result and Keith said it tasted like real mac 'n cheese! It was the perfect texture, full of flavor, and not at all dry! And get ready for this -- it has less than half the calories and a quarter of the fat of our traditional recipe above! At only 195 calories and 5 grams of fat per 3/4 cup serving (that's big!), consider Macaroni & Cheese made over! Now promise me that you'll read the whole recipe and don't be alarmed by the secret ingredient! I'll explain at the end!

The Svelte Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese
Serves 8

7 oz elbow or shell pasta (NOT whole wheat)
4 cups cauliflower florets, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups lowfat (2%) shredded cheddar or cheese blend (I used lowfat 4-cheese Mexican blend and it was fabulous!)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
2/3 cup 2% milk (skim would make the fat and calories even lower!)
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp butter, melted
2 tbsp panko bread crumbs
butter spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain well. Steam cauliflower florets until very soft, drain. Let pasta and cauliflower cool a bit while you prepare the other ingredients. Shred the cheese if it's not pre-shredded. Beat the milk, egg and salt together in a small bowl. Mix the melted butter with the panko in another bowl.

Mash the cauliflower with a potato masher, a whisk, or whatever you have handy. Mix it with the pasta until well combined, being careful not to break up the noodles. Take a pinch of each of the cheeses and toss them with the panko/butter. Set aside. Combine the rest of the cheese with the pasta and cauliflower. Spray the bottom and sides of your casserole dish lightly with spray butter, then spread the mixture evenly in your casserole dish. Pour the milk/egg/salt mixture over the top. With your mixing spoon, carefully stir and fold until the milk mixture is combined with the pasta/cauliflower. Sprinkle with the panko/butter/cheese mixture and bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes or until the top just starts to brown. Voila!

OK, hold on. Who said anything about Macaroni-Cauliflower & Cheese? That's cheating! But trust me on this, you will not be able to taste the cauliflower at all. I had it in all three versions, and despite how terrible the first two were, Keith had no idea there were veggies in any of it. The bite of the cauliflower disappears and it melts into that lovely, cheesy, custardy texture that you're looking for. Try it! I think you'll be surprised. It adds volume to the dish with negligible calories, and you won't even know it's there! Magic!

Is this version as good as the "real thing?" Some may think so, some may not. But try it and then ask yourself this -- is the fattening one really worth it? 433 calories and 20 grams of fat? Maybe for a special dinner, but at least with this new one, you can enjoy it more than once a year without the guilt!

I truly hope you enjoy this recipe -- I wouldn't have dared attempt mac 'n cheese if it weren't for Amanda's suggestion, and I hope you all continue to share your suggestions and ideas with us! Thank you, Amanda!

For more "magic" recipes, try The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook, available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html.

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Svelte Gourmet takes on the Charleston Wine + Food Festival!

The 2010 Charleston Wine + Food Festival could have been intimidating for me, with thousands of chefs and foodies sampling my fare. After all, I was serving a "cream of" soup with no cream (gasp!) and facing an audience whose mission is flavor, not diet-friendliness. But I decided to go into it with a positive attitude, excited to share my healthy take on broccoli soup -- and it didn't hurt that I've received a ton of compliments on it from those of you here in cyberspace! So thank you!

The festival was sensory overload in a good way! The smells were amazing, the weather was gorgeous, the people were buzzing and the food was absolutely beautiful. It was intense, and I had a ball. I came away from it feeling very positive about The Svelte Gourmet's debut!

There were a few things that struck me as I spoke to hundreds of people yesterday. I was fortunate to have the first booth inside the FedEx Grand Tasting Tent, so I was told by many that the aroma of the soup filled the front vestibule and encouraged people to seek it out! Also, many were shocked that there was a healthy option at the festival, since they'd been inundated with calorie-laden, cream-based dishes. Risottos, pastas, soups, a variety of cream sauced dishes....yum! However, people were excited to try something lighter.

My favorite reaction was the incredulity many (most!) people had when I told them that the soup they were tasting only had 25 calories in their tasting and 75 calories per 1-cup serving. "But it can't possibly, it's delicious and it's cream of..." I started referring to my not-so-secret ingredient as "magic" yogurt. The best was when people sampled it and loved it even before realizing that it was "healthy."

I was touched as I talked to people about their struggles with weight loss and I loved hearing how so many had recently lost weight. They were truly interested in how they could make their healthy food taste good, so of course the cookbook was very popular! I also prepared recipe cards for everyone so they could make the soup at home -- and I truly hope they do! I also talked to a lot of people who said that they don't pay much attention to healthy foods, but they know they need to start. One thing I'm learning as I get deeper into this is that cooking and eating habits are things that families learn together. They have to unlearn the bad habits and pick up some new ones if a healthy lifestyle change is really going to happen. I connected with so many people this weekend and I am thrilled to be a part of their changes going forward.

As the afternoon progressed, people were coming to me saying things like, "Is this the diet soup I've heard so much about" and "I was told I had to come over here and taste this soup." I was also "recognized" several times, I suppose from my blog and local news appearances! It was quite exciting! I am touched and honored to have been a part of this year's festival, and I look forward to doing it again in future years! Thanks to every one of you who came by my booth! I loved meeting so many new fans and I hope you all continue to follow The Svelte Gourmet and share your stories and comments with us here!

I also loved helping Louie's Kids through cookbook sales, and I will continue to donate a portion of sales to help those in need. Thank you for joining me in supporting these great causes!
Extra special thanks to Keith, Gayle and Cheryl for all your hard work this weekend! Thank you!

Mark your calendars! I will be doing a cookbook signing on Thursday, March 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Silver Belles of Charleston gift shop (2487 Ashley River Road). Please drop by and see me and sample some complimentary dishes from The Svelte Gourmet! I will have cookbooks there for purchase, or you can bring your well-worn (I hope!) copies with you. Tell your friends!

To order The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses online, please visit www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html.

For the recipe for Creamy Broccoli Soup, please click here! Enjoy!
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