'Tis the season for fun and festivities. For weeks we whirl between office holiday parties and sparkly New Year celebrations, with a stop for family gatherings featuring the annual retelling of Uncle Bob's "hilarious" flaming turkey story.
With all the dashing about, nobody could blame you for wanting to hunker down at home for a night and let someone else do the cooking. But that doesn't mean you have to order pizza or stop off at Bigbelly Burgers. Charlotte's local food scene offers plenty of tasty, healthy alternatives to mass-produced takeout meals.
This past Wednesday, Queen City citizens and food advocates gathered together inside the 7th Street Public Market to celebrate Food Day 2012, a national celebration and movement for healthy, affordable and sustainable food.
Food Day was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a coalition of food movement leaders, individuals and organizations, to “promote safer, healthier diets, support sustainable, organic farms, reduce hunger, reform factory farms to protect the environment and to support fair working conditions."
One of the primary goals of the annual Food Day celebration is to encourage communities to create localized events to raise awareness and incite a dialogue about food issues. This year, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension partnered with local nonprofit, Know Your Farms and Carolinas Medical Center to host La Vida Local: A Celebration of Real Food, which focused on the topic of eating real, whole, unprocessed foods.
You know me: I like healthy foods. But sometimes it's fun to make a sweet seasonal treat. After all, life without the enjoyment of decadent foods is just not living.
These pumpkin butterscotch muffins blur the lines a bit between healthy and not-so-healthy.
The muffins start with a chewy pumpkin dough with very little fat, but when you take a bite, you'll grin at the sweet butterscotch chips that will remind you of something amazing your mom used to make (if you're mom was anything like mine).
My mom used to make this incredible concoction called seven layer bars, which consisted of butterscotch chips, chocolate, chips, coconut, butter, sugar, and flour. That's about it. It was absolutely heavenly and how I started my love of butterscotch chips. I'm salivating just think about it.
Anyway, back to my muffins ...
These days, most Americans can’t tell you where their food came from any more than they can tell you where Dubstep came from. It just appears on store shelves ready for consumption.
Unless you are a farmer or on a diet of whole organic foods, many of the ingredients in what you’re eating come out of a biotech lab. In this lab, they did historically unprecedented stuff like splice the DNA of fish with corn so that the corn wouldn’t die when sprayed with harsh pesticides.
“Cool, it’s science. Delicious science,” you say. The problem is, there have been no long-term independent studies of its effects on humans. Are you cool with being the test subject? Or making your children the guinea pigs?
Many countries are not. Foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOS ) have been banned in countries throughout the world. Those not willing to ban them have required they be labeled so consumers can choose whether or not they consent to eating them. Except for here in North America, where we take our freedom so seriously. Despite a 2007 campaign promise from President Obama to require labeling of GMO foods, they are sticking these experiments into everything from soda to tofu, and most of us are none the wiser.
Today I want to share with you one of the easiest, freshest, most delicious things you can make as an appetizer, salad topping, taco filler — this stuff is pretty darn amazing. My black bean and corn salsa is a crowd pleaser. Whenever I put it out at a gathering of friends, there is never any left by the time dinner is served. When I make it for myself, it never lasts but a few days in the fridge. The star ingredient is the corn. It packs a sweet starchy punch that makes this salsa so incredibly tasty.
And the best part is that it only has five ingredients. Well, six if you count salt, which I don't.
I believe in giving credit where credit is due and I cannot claim credit for this recipe. This recipe is completely my husband's through and through. It was one of the very first meals we made together five years ago when we first started dating, and I first started experimenting in the kitchen with his encouragement.
I had never eaten Thai green curry in my entire life, much less cooked with it! But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I absolutely love the taste of spicy green curry and especially love the contrasting texture and sweetness of the green apples in this recipe.
I should be fined for my overuse of the term "simple" when referring to the recipes I make, but I swear this little dish is so very simple. You can complicate things by roasting your own chicken, but I prefer to keep it easy and purchase a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.
Eat this chicken salad your favorite way - on a sandwich, in a pita, on a salad, with some crackers - whatever strikes your fancy.
This week I dove far down into my crockpot arsenal to find something exotic, spicy, and savory.
Chana Masala ...
... in a crock-pot!
You know, I used to think that I hated Indian food. After trial and error, I learned that I actually don't. I just hated all the fried stuff I ate at Indian food buffets. So I stopped eating what my husband ordered at Indian food restaurants and decided to branch out into a healthier version of Indian food.
According to the "Eat This, Not That" guide to fast food, Chick-Fil-A's chicken sandwich rates a C+ on the grade scale. The rating didn't completely surprise me since there's very few fast food entree items that make good marks, but the guide doesn't explain why the grade is so low (I'd suspect the 1370 mg of Sodium). But thanks to Food Babe, I discovered what really goes into my favorite chicken sandwich. Check out her blog post and see what I'm talking about.
Sherri Beauchamp has worked as a chef since 2004 and says she got into the food industry because of her passion for cooking. When we chatted recently, our discussion ranged from how she helped prepare special allergy free meals for a young client with autism to how to get the best quality fish at a high-end restaurant. Sherri is a true foodie. I asked her to tell me what her other passions were, she paused and asked “Can I pass on that question?”
Creative Loafing: What is the main request from your clientele? Do you have many clients who come to you because they need to change their diet due to a health concerns?
Sherri Beauchamp: The main requests are for healthy cuisines packed with a lot of flavor. Some of my clients have food allergies, gluten intolerances, and so forth and are tired of eating the same things. And, they don’t have time to be creative.
Tell me more about your client who had autism? What did his diet consist of? And, how did your prepared meals help him?
He had a Gluten-free, Soy-free, Casein-free, Apple-free, Corn-free diet which absolutely helped him. The combination of the food and other treatments his mother did for him really made a difference. If you saw him now you would never think he had an issue. He is learning just as well as his sister.
What are a few things a person who is trying to eat for optimal health should buy at the grocery store?
You need to have all the colors of the rainbows. Don’t limit yourself. Consume multiple veggies and more whole grains. Forget the white starchy stuff. Go for the healthy version of protein. Focus on grass fed and grain fed. And, know where your food source is coming from and how they are processing the food.
When you go to a restaurant, what do you normally order from the menu?
Items that are the freshest. I will ask the waitress which fish has arrived here the earliest and which has been sitting around the longest.
Do you teach cooking classes?
I teach one-on-one or in small groups in the home.
For more information about Chef Sherri visit: www.theseasonalkitchen.com.
Tara DiPetrillo was bedridden for about a year with a severe case of sciatica (which is severe pain that stems from the back to the legs) before getting back into a more health-conscious lifestyle.
The healthy lifestyle blogger and multimedia/make-up artist started a vegetarian diet when she was 14 years old. “I stayed on the vegetarian path for about six or seven years, not eating seafood for 10. After being in a relationship with a meat eater, I somehow started to eat animals again,” she says.
Since her re-dedication to the raw/vegan lifestyle — along with a hot yoga practice — she says her back feels much better. “My skin looks healthy, young and has that glow. I'm often mistaken for being 10 years younger. I have more energy. Dark circles faded under my eyes. Cellulite, that I started to get while bedridden, began to diminish. My nails are stronger. The list can go on,” she advises.
With that, she also emphasizes that it's not only about the food you eat. Daily exercise and meditation strongly contribute to your overall wellbeing.
Creative Loafing: What does your diet consist of?
Tara DiPetrillo: I consume a mostly raw, organic, vegan diet. I eat a lot of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables as well as grains and nuts. I'm fond of “superfoods” and eat them daily. I also drink a ton of water (preferably alkaline water when possible), fresh-made juices and smoothies.
What is your favorite dish to prepare?
Fruit smoothies are probably my favorite. They are quick, easy, full of nutrition and tasty! I have also been hooked on making a quick bean and veggie salad.
What are the ingredients for the bean and veggie salad?
I gather organic garbanzo beans, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, broccoli (cut up real small, as it is hard to digest raw), spinach, celery and red onions. I season it with Traders Joe's Everything Seasoning. That has become my new salad dressing. If you let it sit for a while the tomato juice starts to settle to the bottom [it acts] like a dressing.
Where do you buy your food?
I buy my food at Trader Joe's, Healthy Home Market and Earthfare.
What are a few things a person who is trying to eat for optimal health should buy at the grocery store?
Superfoods! They are high in phytonutrient content and are packed with vitality.
What are five things you have to have in your kitchen and/or refrigerator?
Juicer, blender, superfood powders, lots of greens, and fruit are essential.
What is your favorite local restaurant? And, what do you normally order from the menu?
Hands down, Luna's Living Kitchen is my favorite local restaurant. I love everyone in there, and they offer the most delicious living, vegan food. My favorite things to order are the "El Luchador" smoothie, the "Lunasagna" dish and for dessert the chocolate pudding! They also sell alkaline water by the jug.
Are there any great blogs or websites you frequent for advice, information and recipes?
There is an abundance of amazing sites out there:
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