Healthy Eating Habits in a Fast-Paced World

This article originally appeared on Frontdoor News.

Healthy Eating Habits in a Fast-Paced World

Food is a cornerstone to life. Of course we need it for nourishment, but it’s also enjoyable, comforting and a great tool for bringing people together. With food being such a fundamental component of life, it can also be easy to overindulge in it.

If you’re like me – always thinking about your next meal – you might have a tendency to eat and want great food. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but when it becomes troublesome is when we overindulge. There are a few tips and tricks that can be implemented to help you bypass the extra calories without forgoing a satisfying meal.

Many nutritionists suggest, and I happen to agree, that one of the top adversaries to healthy eating is our hectic lives. Eating on the go, and not sitting down to let the body register that food is being consumed can lead to bad food choices and overeating.

So, for instance, if you cave to that afternoon craving, don’t eat it in the car when you’re driving. If you have a favorite restaurant that serves good snack foods and appetizers, go in, sit at the bar, and order your favorite small dish. This option is healthier for you and gives you that much needed 10 or 15 minute break in the average person’s busy day.

In the end though, finding something that works for you is key. For instance, my wife leaves just a small portion of food aside on each plate she has throughout the day. In her mind, she’s leaving 300 to 400 calories out of her diet on a daily basis, thus preventing her from gaining weight. What you do with the leftovers is your business. Alternatively you could ask your dining companion to split a dish with you, try scaling back on a recipe to yield a smaller portion, or ask your server if they offer half portions.

However, not everyone has the willpower of my wife to leave perfectly delicious food on the table. I was once witness to a friend who, near the end of our meal, poured packets of sugar all over the gooey, cheesy, deliciousness on their plate. I was appalled and verbalized my disgust, to which they replied, “Yes, I know. Now I won’t eat it.” Like I said, whatever works!

Another great tip for eating less is to ask for to-go boxes at the beginning of the meal. Once you’ve eaten to taste, put the leftovers immediately in the to-go box and push it to the side of the table. This way you’re not picking at your food, and eating past the point of being full while waiting.
My number one tip: opt for smaller portions spaced out over time. Your body will have time to register the food and you will know when you’re full before it’s too late.

Feel free to share your own tips and tricks with us. We’d love to hear from you. Cheers, and happy eating…within reason!

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits

Want to mix it up a bit at the Thanksgiving table? Try these sweet potato biscuits. Two traditional seasonal items in a slightly untraditional way. Enjoy!

Ingredients
Yield: Approx. 1 dozen

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 ½ t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
2 t sugar
1 t salt
6 T cold unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sweet potato puree, cold (leftovers)
3 scallions chopped
1 cups butter milk

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients. Cut in butter using the piecrust making method (cut butter into thin slices and work into the flour using fingers and working quickly). Chill for 20 minutes. Toss scallions into flour mixture.

Make a well in your flour mixture and add the sweet potato puree. Slowly fold it into the dough (the more you work it, the tougher your biscuits will be). Chill an additional 20 minutes and when cool, make another well and add buttermilk, mixing with hands until just held together. Using a spoon to scoop, drop on to a greased baking sheet. Brush melted butter on top.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 17 minutes or until done. Enjoy hot, right out of the oven, especially with wasabi butter!

By Chef Josh Hebert, Posh Restaurant

The Improv Chef – How to Make a Japanese Omelet

Why not shake up your morning routine with this cultural twist on a traditional omelette. Tamagoyak, which translates to ‘grilled egg’, is a type of Japanese omelette, made by essentially rolling together layers of cooked egg. These are typically prepared in a usually are prepared in a makiyakinabe (a rectangular omelette pan). With a few simple ingredients, and some patience, you can wow your friends at your next brunch. Enjoy!

Chawanmushi

The Graceful Orchestration of Japanese Cuisine

This article originally appeared on Frontdoors.

By Chef Joshua Hebert

Umami factor aside, the fresh, top quality, pure simplicity of Japanese cuisine, makes even the most seemingly boring ingredients incredibly exciting. No culture relishes in pure perfection like the Japanese, and in the culinary world they have mastered the delicate balancing act of allowing nature’s perfections and imperfections to guide the cuisine.

They are an attention-to-detail, food-obsessed culture. Everything from their street food, to their execution, raw ingredients, and kaiseki multi-course dining experiences are all top notch.

Japanese staples
The Japanese have long followed a practice that only recently became a popular term in the U.S. – farm-to-table. The only difference is the ingredients coming from their farms are a little different. There are various types of ginger we’ve never had in America, varieties of edible bamboo, sea plants, and exotic, flavorful fish we often cast aside.

Vegetables and seafood have traditionally played major roles in Japanese eating with meat taking a back seat. In fact, for most of its history, it was considered taboo to eat meat in Japan.

Their coastal proximity made for easy access to some of the freshest fish available and they developed a palate for some of the world’s most exotic fish – everything from eels to potentially deadly blowfish. They relish in the oiliest of fish like mackerels and bluefin tuna that we tend to steer clear of. They also utilize every part of the fish from the bones to the skin and guts.

As for seasoning, the Japanese prefer to keep things as close to natural as possible. They do, however, commonly use miso (soybean paste), sho yu (soy sauce), mirin (saki), dashi (broth), konbu (seaweed) and dried bonito (dried fish) to flavor their dishes – all components of umami.

Tradition at the table
Traditionally meals in Japan were served on zen, individual portable tables, chairs weren’t used, and chopsticks were the utensil of choice. While certain traditions have been displaced by modern society, much of it remains today.

With the exception of street food, people take time to enjoy their meals, even if it’s only for 20 minutes. It’s a moment. It’s a place in time. And it’s a sign of their respect for the food.

This respect is also seen in the presentation of the food, which reflects their view of nature and not adding anything artificial to the plate. The way the ingredients are displayed on the dish represents how they might be seen in nature, the season, and even the imperfections of nature, which leads me to the art of kaiseki-ryo¯ri.

Orchestrating kaiseki
Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner that evolved from the Japanese tea ceremony. It is like a ballet. There is a very precise order to it and it is served bite by bite with each building upon the next.

In a kaiseki meal, the first course might be a raw vegetable, the second a cooked vegetable, the third a raw piece of fish, the fourth cooked fish, the fifth cooked fish with a vegetable, and so on. There is a very deliberate progression through the most delicate flavors to the most extreme, and everything from the dinnerware used to the position of the food on the plate has meaning.

It embraces the notion of wabi-sabi, in which the imperfections of say an heirloom tomato are preferred over a perfectly shaped hothouse tomato that has been genetically altered. It’s all arranged based on how it might look in nature, or how it looks by season. There’s a lot of the thought that goes into it and it’s very gracefully orchestrated.

Next time you plan, prepare or sit down for a meal, why not take an extra few minutes to savor it and think about where, why and how your ingredients came to be. Better yet, if you have the opportunity, take part in a kaiseki dinner.

The Periodic Table Meets the Dining Table

This article originally appeared on Frontdoors.

By Chef Joshua Hebert

We’ve all been there – feeling sluggish, dehydrated, a lack of focus, maybe a bit of anxiety. Sometimes it’s the result of a cold, food poisoning, or a hangover, and sometimes it’s unknown. Regardless of the culprit, it’s never a pleasant experience. But there is trick to remedying this, and I’m not talking menudo or pho. This actually requires a trip back to your sixth grade science class when you learned about the elements of the periodic table.

I never thought I’d be writing about magnesium, but my research on the mineral actually came out of necessity, so I figured why not impart my knowledge. The night before a trip to San Francisco I ate something that gave be a severe case of food poisoning. Not what you want when you’re en route to one of our nation’s food meccas. Holed up in my hotel room with a stomachache, the sweats and exhaustion, I began feverishly researching a possible remedy.

All searches kept leading me back to magnesium.

Magnesium (Mg) is a chemical element and its ions are essential to all living cells. It’s one of the most vital minerals for the human body and is necessary to more than 300 biochemical reactions, including normal muscle and nerve function, steady heart rhythm, a healthy immune system, and regulating blood sugar levels. It even plays a role in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. Have I bored you yet? Try to stick with me.

Though it seems more like a miracle mineral, it’s actually more commonly referred to as “the forgotten mineral.” Magnesium deficiency has been linked to heart disorders, fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, and eye twitching. Any of those sound familiar?

While differing studies about magnesium intake abound – some say most Americans don’t get enough magnesium, while other studies show we do – we do know the body works extremely hard to keep magnesium levels in the blood at a constant.

Though it may be rare to be truly deficient in the mineral, the body’s magnesium balance can easily be thrown off by way of intestinal viruses, vomiting, dehydration, or in my case food poisoning. Too much coffee, soda, salt, or alcohol, excessive sweating without replenishing the body, and prolonged stress can also lower magnesium levels. Pretty much everything we subject our bodies to on a daily basis.

Symptoms aside, magnesium also regulates calcium, potassium and sodium, which we all know do a body good. For those who care, magnesium is actually really good for your skin too.

So how does this all tie into food? Well there are a number of foods that are tremendous sources of magnesium. Some include, dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli, as well as bananas, avocados, almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts, seeds (namely pumpkin and squash seeds), legumes, soy, and whole grains like brown rice and millet. Of course there are a ton of supplement options out there too.

If you’re feeling any of the aforementioned symptoms, you might try turning to Mother Earth to fill your belly and replenish your body.

 

Steak and patty pan squash sautéed in stout.

An Ale (or Lager) for Every Palate

This article originally appeared on Frontdoors.

By Chef Joshua Hebert

It’s been said that beer is the basis for modern static civilization. Not in the sense that is has a paralyzing effect on those who drink it (though it can), rather the discovery of converting barley into beer gave nomads a reason to stay put – to tend to their crops and the brewing process.

This early discovery sparked a passion and the creation of a beverage that would eventually become a staple in many cultures. With the variety available today, there’s never been a better time to be a beer drinker.

Alas, not everyone can palate beer, but if you’re looking to get into it, approach it the same way you would wine – progress from light to more full bodied. If you follow the history of beer in America, our palates have, almost by default, been trained to this natural progression.

A country of lagers
Nearly every beer out there can be traced back to an ale or lager. Of course there are some other styles that don’t fall into either of those categories, but for simplicity sake, I won’t get into those. Prior to the “beer renaissance” much of what American palates have been accustomed to was the American-style lagers, which is the style produced by most of the major beer conglomerates in our country.

Over time, ales began to hit American taste buds, which sparked the thirst for more malty, hoppy, rich flavors. Enter India Pale Ale (IPA), Imperial IPA, double IPA, Dunkel, and Bock to name a few. American-style lagers, in many regards, have served as the gateway beer.

It’s been said Deschutes noticed this same phenomenon and created their Twilight Summer Ale as an entry beer to some of their more full-bodied beers like its well-known Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter. Supposedly it worked. Those who once thought pale ale was too bitter, began to progress to the Mirror Pond.

A work in progress
If you are new to beer, take the cue from history, and Deschutes, and start with an American-style lager, then something a little more adventuresome like a hefeweizen. From there, a pale ale, then maybe an IPA, then you’ll be on your way up the beer tree advancing to new richer, heavier branches.

Of course the right pairing always makes the transition more palatable too. As some general rules of the thumb, match strength with strength and try to find similar flavor combinations. For example, hefeweizens pair well with lighter seafood dishes, pale ales with salmon, IPAs with burgers, and stout with steak, to name a few. Cheers and happy pairing.

How to Create an Umami Bomb

This article originally appeared on Frontdoors.

 
What do mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, meat, and soy sauce have in common? They all comfort the soul via the palate.

Just as mashed potatoes coat your mouth like a warm blanket, many other foods provide your brain with the same experience courtesy of a natural compound called glutamate. That protein exists in a number of foods such as aged cheeses, tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, soy sauce, and the list goes on. It creates a sensation called umami, which is often referred to as the fifth sense. The others being sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

By now the term “umami” has hit the masses, no longer relegated to chefs and fervent foodies. Most have experienced it at one time or another, but didn’t have a label for it. The best way to describe umami is a taste that made you say “wow” and left you craving more.

As a sense, umami doesn’t hit your palate as much as it hits your mind and your body to create a soul-warming sensation. How do you knock someone off their feet with umami? Create an umami bomb – something that’s loaded with different layers of umami, which creates an over-the-top flavor.

First a little history
Though umami seems like a more recent revelation, it has actually long been a natural component of foods. It was identified in 1908 by professor Kikunae Ikeda from Tokyo Imperial University who discovered the distinct savory taste common in tomatoes, cheese and meat was different from the four existing tastes.

While working with kombu, an edible seaweed traditionally used in Japanese cuisine, he identified glutamate – one of the most common amino acids in nature – as the compound responsible for umami. This led him to the study of glutamate salts – calcium, potassium, ammonium and magnesium glutamate – and eventually monosodium glutamate (MSG), the sodium salt of glutamic acid and a naturally occurring amino acid.

Creating umami
Creating an umami experience can be as simple as choosing foods already rich in quintessential umami – ripe tomatoes, prosciutto, shitake mushrooms, kombu, fish sauce, etc. Techniques like searing, roasting, fermenting, aging and curing will also enhance umami.
Debates aside, MSG is also extremely effective. It basically works as a flavor enhancer because it balances, blends and completes the total experience of other tastes.

It’s all about layering technique and rich ingredients to create an umami bomb and an unforgettable experience.

Steak and Eggs

The Art and Health of Smaller Portions

Originally printed in Food & Flourish magazine.

To me there is nothing more artful in the culinary world than a thoughtfully composed tasting menu.

A good tasting menu will stretch a chef’s imagination, engage every sense of the individual eating it, and take them on a journey through a variety of flavors. More importantly however, are the portion sizes.

I may have reached a point of contention with that last sentence, but stick with me. Yes, the portion sizes on tasting menus are smaller and will rarely leave those with healthy appetites feeling stuffed, but this is intentional. The point is to leave you pleasantly satiated without being stuffed to the point of discomfort.

Overconsumption has long been in an issue in our country, made more prevalent in recent years with the onset of any number of health issues. It’s not too often you hear a chef talk about it, but the way I see it it’s up to us as chefs and restaurateurs to be calorically responsible by scaling down portions to healthy sizes. Of course, as consumers we’re not completely off the hook. There’s a mentality shift that needs to happen too.

Value is often shown through larger sizes and it’s what we’ve grown accustomed to in nearly every area of life from food to the massive family size packages of household items. Value sizing certainly has it’s place, but when it comes to food is where it becomes concerning.

According to a review published by the National Institutes of Health larger portions not only contain more energy, which is not being burned, but also encourage people to eat more. The problem is we don’t necessarily eat to our appetite or hunger. We eat what’s in front of us. So portion size leads to overconsumption of calories. We’ve also learned it’s good manners to clean our plate, and we certainly don’t want to waste food, but we also shouldn’t feel obligated to eat a 16-ounce steak just because its served to us.

We have to understand that food is fuel for our bodies. It’s fuel that can and should be enjoyable, but it’s all about portion control.

To be honest, I really wasn’t aware of portion sizes until I moved to San Francisco and began working in kitchens in the city. I noticed plates coming out of the kitchen were about 15 percent smaller. Then I started realizing the green nature of it – if you don’t have five scallops every time you go out, instead you have two, naturally there will be a lot more scallops in the world. This theory can be applied to any ingredient – seafood, beef, heirloom vegetables, bacon (oh wait…there’s no bacon shortage).

The bacon shortage hoax raises an interesting point though. It was an effort to reduce the blow of the impending bacon inflation in the UK. Food inflation may force us to think twice about buying that extra large piece of steak, and instead fill the craving with a reasonably sized portion.

Smaller portion size doesn’t have to be a negative thing though. Think of it this way, it opens the door to more variety and exploration. No one is saying you have to eat less, you just allow yourself to enjoy more flavors. With smaller portions of bold flavors, you will feel satisfied. Chef’s honor.

Let’s put a bigger emphasis on quality over quantity and the adventure food can afford us. Have fun with your food. Experience it, and remember a stuffed stomach does not equate to satisfied taste buds.

Valentine’s Day Amuse Bouche – Oysters with Vanilla Sherry

A while ago I created these oysters with vanilla sherry vinaigrette for a magazine feature on aphrodisiac recipes. Incidentally, I thought it fitting for Valentine’s Day. Enjoy and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Oysters with Vanilla Sherry Vinaigrette
Ingredients: (for 12 oysters)

12 cleaned, shucked oysters
Seeds from 1/4 vanilla bean
1 tbs. sherry vinegar
1 pinch minced shallots
1 sprig of fresh thyme (leaves removed)
3 tbs. canola oil
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Blend all ingredients. Drizzle over oysters and enjoy!

Oyster with Vanilla Sherry Vinaigrette

Oyster with Vanilla Sherry Vinaigrette