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Can Gourmet Food be Healthy to Eat

How Gourmet Foods Can Also Provide a Healthy Alternative

A Chef Shows How

“Although 47% of consumers want more healthy restaurant options, just 23% tend to order healthy food when dining out…” Technomic, The Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report

Obesity. Diabetes. Cholesterol. Trans Fats. Glutens. – The hazards of a poor diet and the benefits of eating “healthy” have never been more top of mind. Pundits point to our fast-food culture as the nemesis of proper nutrition and even local governments have jumped on the bandwagon to regulate change and increase awareness. It’s working. But the sad fact remains that while the general public understands the need to eat better, when it comes to eating out, they don’t.

Maybe it’s the “all in” mentality that says “If we’re going to eat out, let’s splurge.” Maybe it’s the tempting flavors that today’s chefs are bringing to the table. Maybe it’s the portion sizes that fill us up long before the plate is clean. In any case, as Technomic recently documented, the dining public doesn’t often do what they say.

But there is hope.

As USA Today recently reported (4/13/2011), some of the major U.S. restaurant chains are looking at some ‘eye-popping’ numbers when it comes to sales of nutritional food options. “For the first two months of 2011, the top-selling entree at Applebee’s wasn’t a gloppy burger or flashy fajita plate. It was a sirloin and shrimp entree from the chain’s diet menu. This marks the first time that a low-calorie item ever ranked as the chain’s best seller for a single month – let alone two in a row.”

Stop. Rewind. Re-read the description of that top-selling entree. Does it say ‘sirloin and shrimp’?
The take-away from all this is simple: 1) People want to make healthy food choices, but 2) they don’t want to sacrifice flavor. A sirloin and shrimp entree doesn’t sound like a sacrifice, and any operation can utilize the same strategy to create its own top-selling healthy menu choices. In the Southwest, foodservice distributor Shamrock Foods’ healthcare team asked Arizona Chef Richard Serna of Cottonwood Tucson – an addiction treatment and holistic drug rehab facility were nutrition is part of the treatment – to design a delicious, gourmet-style menu around healthy, cost-effective items. Here’s the result:

A Healthy Dining Menu Menu and recipes by ExecutiveChef Richard Serna, Cottonwood Tucson
Chicken Apple Hash with Curried Chive Sauce, Egg White Scramble and Blueberry Oat Smoothie3 Bean Hot Spinach Salad with Wilted Spinach, Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Asparagus, Pickled Shallot, Carrot Vinaigrette and Lemon Grass Skewered TofuQuinoa Potato Cake and Slow Roasted Beets accompanied with Pan Seared Tenderloin of Beef With Morel Cream SauceSweet Potato Gnocchi, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Strawberry Sauce and Pistachio Pieces

Recipes by Chef Richard Serna Menu item #3: Beef Tenderloin and Presentation

4-oz Beef Tenderloin Medallions
½ Tbsp. olive oil
3 tsp. herbs (Parsley, Basil Chive mix)
Salt and pepper

Method:Coat each medallion with a pinch of salt pepper and herbs. In a hot saute pan, heat oil and sear each tenderloin Medallion to medium rare. Reserve pan for the cream sauce.To assemble each place, place one quinoa potato cake on the place, top with a Medallion, add the morel cream sauce to the base of the potato cake. Add beets and heirloom carrots to the side.Morel Cream Sauce
Yield: 4 servings

½ cup shallots (minced)
2 cups re-hydrated morels
1 cups mushroom stock (liquid used to re-hydrate the morel mushrooms)
2 ½ Tbsp. fresh garlic (minced)
1 1/3 cup skim milk
4 Tbsp. demi glace

Method:Using the pan used to sear the Beef Tenderloins, deglaze pan with the mushroom stock, remove, add the shallots, garlic, morels and reduce. Once the liquid starts to thicken, add the milk and let simmer. Finish off with the Demi Glace to make a nice sauce for the beef tenderloins.

Quinoa Potato Cake Yield:
4 servings (2.5 round cutter)

1/2 cup cooked black quinoa
1 cup cooked white quinoa
2 cups cooked potato (riced)
1 Tbsp. roasted garlic (minced)
4 Tbsp. sour cream
2 tsp. mixed herbs
¼ tsp. salt

Method:In a bowl, combine all ingredients until mixed well. Once mixed, add to a parchment lined half sheet pan. Level the thickness of the pan and the mixture on one side of the sheet pan. Let cool before cutting out rounds.Once cooled and cut, sear the potato cakes to a golden brown and finish in the oven at 3500F for 8 minutes or until warmed through.
Roasted Baby Beets and Carrots (2 per serving)

12 heirloom carrots (peeled and boiled)
8 baby gold beets
1 Tbsp. oil
Salt and pepper

Method:Trim the tops of each beet leaving a bit of green and rub with oil, salt and pepper. Add to a roasting pan and cook at 3500F for 30 minutes or until beets are cooked.Peel off skins before plating.For the carrots, par-cook in boiling water and plate immediately.

Nutritional Facts for the entire entr©e: Serving Size, 551g; Calories, 580; Calories from Fat, 190; Total Fat, 22g; Cholesterol, 80 mg; Sodium, 1670mg; Total Carbohydrate, 60g; Protein, 34g.

Menu Item #4: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Vanilla Ice Cream
Yield: 4 servings

1/3 cup sweet potato puree
½ oz. whole egg
3 tsp. brown sugar
¾ cup flour
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch clove
Pinch salt

Method:To make the sweet potato puree, add a cup of diced sweet potatoes to a pot of boiling water until soft. While warm, mash the sweet potatoes through a sieve and measure out the puree.In a bowl, add the puree, spices, sugar and mix well. Add the egg until well incorporated and slowly fold in the flour. Do not over mix. Roll out mixture on well-floured surface. Cut out ½ tablespoon sized gnocchi from dough. Should make 16 total. Heat water to boil in a medium sauce pan and boil the gnocchi. They should rise to the surface of the water when done. Let cool. Place 4 pieces per order.

Vanilla Ice Cream
Yield: 4 2-oz. servings

1 cup cottage cheese (pureed)
1/3 cup 2 % milk
½ cup sugar
1/3 fresh vanilla bean (scraped)
2 Tbsp. whole egg
1 ice bath

Method:Puree the Cottage cheese in a blender and set aside.Heat milk and vanilla bean with guts, and half of the sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat until just starts to simmer. In bowl, add the egg and the other half of the sugar, mix well. While whisking, slowly add the heated milk to the egg mixture until eggs are tempered. Add back to the sauce pan over a low heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to thicken.Remove from heat and cool over an ice bath. Once the mixture has cooled, remove the vanilla bean and add the pureed cottage cheese. Mix well and add the mixture to an ice cream maker. Churn until it reaches ice cream consistency.

Nutritional Facts for the entire dessert: Serving Size, 127g; Calories, 220; Caolories from Fat, 15; Total Fat, 1.5g; Cholesterol, 35mg; Sodium, 150mg; Total Carbohydrate, 44g; Protein, 8g.

Creating Your Own Healthy Menu

For help in creating healthy menu items, start with the USDA and US Department of Health and Human Services’Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. And for help in understanding that ‘hefty’ document, use the handy summary below.

Calories do matter and moderate exercise can only go so far; find ways to keep the numbers low. Gazpacho instead of chowder; fish tacos instead of enchiladas? Both choices satisfy the urge for ethnic tastes'”and give you great ways to tell a ‘healthy’ story on your menu.

Less is more for most healthy dishes. Reduce the amount of these items that you use:

Sodium – Hold the salt shaker. Also, avoid using these salty foods in your recipes: cured meats, chips, salted crackers. The more processed and ready-to-eat, the greater the chance that ingredient has high levels of sodium. Your patrons need to consume less than 2,300 mg per day of sodium, so each healthy meal you serve should contain one-third of that amount or less.

Saturated Fats – Reduce or avoid animal fats and fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter and margarine. Use oils instead, in small amounts.

Cholesterol – Reducing the portion size of animal foods (chicken, beef, pork, egg yolks) reduces cholesterol.

Trans Fats – The poster child for great ideas gone bad, trans fats made cooking and baking easier and refrigerated storage less of an issue. But the miracle of Crisco has now been shunned by most responsible operators, chain and independent alike. Luckily, there are numerous Zero Trans Fats options available, including fry oils, salad oils, butter alternatives and more.

Sugar (soda and sugary beverages; grain-based desserts).

Refined Grains (white breads, pizza, grain-based desserts, tortillas)

Here are some foods you can feel free to use more and more often:

Vegetables and Fruits – especially dark-green, red and orange varieties. A colorful plate is a healthy plate; think beans and dried peas, fresh broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash and pumpkin.

Whole Grains – Some examples include buckwheat, bulgur, miller, oatmeal, quinoa, rolled oats, brown or wild rice, whole-grain barley, whole rye and whole wheat. Whole grains include the entire grain seed, known as the kernel. It consists of three components: the bran, germ and endosperm. If the kernel has been cracked, crushed or flaked then it is a “whole grain.”

Fat Free and Low Fat milk and milk products.

Lean Meats – seafoods, lean cuts of meat and poultry. Don’t forget beans and peas as side dishes or even entrees. Soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds are the foundation of many ethnic favorites.

Oils – Canola, sunflower, blends and more. Use trans fat free oils to replace solid fat wherever possible.

Minerals and Vitamins – Choose foods that provide more potassium, fiber, calcium, and vitamin D. These include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk and milk products.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends ‘Nutrient Dense Foods’ as a foundation for healthy diets. In plain-speak that means foods and beverages that offer multiple positive nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc.) with relatively few calories. Importantly, the nutrient value should not be diluted with added solid fats and sugars or refined starches in the cooking or preparation process. Keep it pure, keep it simple.