The world is full of food fantasies, many masquerading as good advice. Too often people looking for quick fixes want to believe these magical promises. But good nutrition isn’t based on misconceptions or old-wives tales, so it’s time for a reality check on common myths like these:
Fantasy: Eat dry-roasted nuts because they have less fat than oil-roasted nuts.
Reality: The only difference is in flavor. The amount of fat, 14 grams per ounce, comes from the nut itself and isn’t affected by preparation method, says Roberta L. Duyff, MS, RD in Food Folklore—Tales and Truths about What We Eat.
Fantasy: Eating spicy foods burns calories.
Reality: Adding cayenne or chili peppers to your food may make it taste better—and may create enough heat that you eat less. That’s the only way hot stuff will help with weight loss.
Fantasy: Choose the salad bar for a lower-calorie meal.
Reality: The average plate from a salad bar may have more calories than a fast-food combo meal, warns Duyff, who practices in St. Louis. Adding pasta, potato, or even fruit salads to the leafy greens significantly raises calorie count--not mention how numbers skyrocket when you pour on creamy salad dressing. One-third cup of cottage cheese is a good substitute using the same calories found in one tablespoon of blue cheese dressing.
Fantasy: Consuming food after 6:00 p.m. causes greater weight gain than eating earlier.
Reality: It’s not when you eat, but what that matters. While regular mealtimes may reduce impulsive snacking, calories count the same no matter when they are consumed. “If you eat early and need to take the edge off hunger, save dessert from dinner to eat later, or have a nourishing snack--and include the calories in your daily total,” recommends Duyff. The key is to leave out late night binging on high-fat choices like chips or cookies.
Fantasy: Organic foods are healthier and safer than foods grown by conventional farming methods.
Reality: Organic is a production claim, not a food safety or nutrition claim, says Harshavardhan Thippareddi, Ph.D., a food science professor at the University of Nebraska. Food value is comparable regardless of how the food was grown. “From a nutrition standpoint, spending extra dollars just to buy organic isn’t necessary,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, M. A., R. D. of New York. While organic products are free from man-made chemicals, which appeals to some consumers, organically grown foods are just as likely to harbor harmful bacteria. Proper washing and handling is important for all foods.
Fantasy: If you’re avoiding caffeine, skip the chocolate bar.
Reality: A 1-ounce milk chocolate bar contains 6 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 85 mg. in 8 ounces of regular coffee. An occasional splurge with the sweet stuff won’t give you the jitters--and chocolate is a great comfort food when your mood needs lifting.
Fantasy: Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs.
Reality: The color of the shell relates to the breed of chicken that laid the egg, not nutritional value, which is the same for both. Buy brown eggs only if you like the color.
Fantasy: Solid margarine has more cholesterol than margarine in a tub.
Reality: Both are made from vegetable oils, so neither has cholesterols. Only foods of animal origin—like butter or lard—have cholesterol. For the record, both margarine and butter contain about 100 calories and 12 fat grams per tablespoon; however, Geise suggests choosing whipped margarine (lighter due to the addition of air) if you’re trying to cut back on calories and transfats that pose cardiovascular risks.
Fantasy: Sugar causes hyperactivity.
Reality: No scientific study has shown a link between eating sugar and hyperactivity, says Orlando, Florida dietician Tara Geise. Most evidence is simply anecdotal: Occasions such as birthday parties when children consume a lot of sugar involve excitement and extra activity, which might lead parents to think sugar is the culprit when the environment is a more likely cause.
Fantasy: Carbohydrates and protein consumed together make an unhealthy combination.
Reality: Carbs raise blood sugar level quickly, but proteins act as a buffer to this spike. “Combining carbs with protein gives a smoother, longer-lasting increase in blood sugar and energy level, and you’ll feel more satisfied,” says Taub-Dix. She recommends spreading peanut butter or cheese on bread for a healthy pick-me-up.
Fantasy: Natural products are always better than processed items.
Reality: All-natural doesn’t mean there’s no sugar, says Taub-Dix. For example, honey is a natural food, but it contains 75 percent sugar, no better for you than refined sugar. And fresh foods aren’t always best, either. Improperly storing fresh fruits and vegetables may actually result in a decreased nutrient value as compared to equivalent frozen foods.
Fantasy: Drinking ice water shrinks your stomach, so you eat less.
Reality: Loading your tummy with liquid may take the edge off hunger and fill you up temporarily, but your stomach won’t decrease in size. Nor will chewing ice burn calories, says Geise. Just think how easily America’s obesity problem could be solved if such a simple remedy actually worked.
Food is love. It is the heart of the American home. Whether it’s the figurative ‘bringing home the bacon’ or more literally putting dinner on the table, food represents the simplest, but most important way, in which we take care not only of ourselves, but of those who are most important to us. But as important as we know that experience is, both for what it provides as well as what it symbolizes, few things can be as daunting at the end of a long day, when the siren song of pre-packaged meals and take-out dinners is at it’s loudest, as having to take the time to prepare that meal from scratch. How do we bridge the gap between the time and energy we have left at the end of the day and our desire to put that perfect dinner down in front of our families?
Traditionally there have been two ways of confronting the problem. Rachel Ray has spent the last decade championing the ‘30 minute meal’, relying on prepackaged and ‘Semi-Homemade’ to take some of the work out of preparing a fresh meal each day. The second approach has been to spend Sunday in the kitchen putting together a dish that you can reheat during the week, usually something like a slow cooked stew, or a simmering pot of chili. It makes life easy during the week. Pop a big pot on the stove, turn a knob and dinner is ready. The truth is, both are great ideas and useful tools to have under your belt. But while a ’30 Minute Meal’ gives you a little bit of variety, it still means spending a half hour in the kitchen at the end of the day, and prepackaged produce will never have the flavor or freshness. While few things are as satisfying as a good Irish stew on a cold winter’s night, those dishes tend to be heavy and a bit too much as the weather starts to turn warm. And how many nights in a row can you dig into that dish with the same zeal? So where is the middle ground? How do you bring the variety of the ’30 Minute Meal’ closer to the flavor and ease of those classic one-pot dishes?
The trick is to focus on a couple of simple recipes that compliment each other, and learn how they can be used to create a variety of different meals. Take a simple homemade tomato sauce: by itself it is a beautiful way to finish pasta, but it offers so much more versatility than that. Sear off chicken, then add two cups of the same tomato sauce, a handful of green olives, the juice and zest of a lemon and a cup of chicken broth and you can transform it into a simple, rustic Mediterranean treat. Thin the tomato sauce with an equal part chicken stock, add diced country bread and top with some torn basil and you have a classic Tuscan bread soup. One recipe quickly gives you three dishes with different flavors, different textures, and completely different characters.
Our Green Minestrone is another example of a dish that offers a number of different options and is a great way to provide your family with a different and exciting meal each day. Finished with a spoonful of pesto, it’s a hearty and delicious meal all by itself. Spoon a little bit of the vegetables into a sauté pan and finish with a squeeze of lemon and you have a great accompaniment for seared salmon. Or take the leftover pesto and toss it with angel hair pasta, and you have a quick easy meal anyone would be happy with.
After a long day, no one wants to spend their evening chained to a stove, but taking care of ourselves, and the ones we love, matters. Putting good food on the table is a central part of that. With a little bit of planning and a little bit of creativity, there are ways to take the stress out of midweek meals and still give our families the kind of balanced, nutritious and delicious meals we all deserve.
Green Minestrone Soup Base
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Leek, White and Light Green Only, Chopped
2 Stalks Celery, ¼” Slice
1 Zucchini, Seeds Removed and Diced
1 Large Potato, Peeled, Diced
1 Clove Garlic, Crushed
1 Liter Chicken Stock
1 Can (400g) Cannellini Beans
Heat a medium sized stock pot over high heat. Add the Olive Oil, then the Leek, Celery, Zucchini and Potato. Turn the heat down to medium and saute the vegetables until they just begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add in the garlic and continue to cook for three more minutes.
Add in the chicken stock, stirring and loosen anything that is sticking to the bottom. Turn the heat back up to High and bring the soup to a simmer.
Divide the Cannellini Beans in half. In a small bowl, crush one half of the beans with a potato masher. Add all of the beans to the soup and bring it back up to a simmer.
The crushed beans act as a thickener, adding body to the minestrone. If you aren’t serving the soup immediately, cool it down and store it in the refrigerator.
8 oz, Basil, Large Stems Removed
2 Cloves Garlic
2 oz Pine Nuts
1 Lemon, Juice of
¾ C Parmesan Cheese, Grated
1 C Olive Oil
Combine all of the ingredients expect the Olive Oil in a food processor. Pulse to chop.
With the food processor going, drizzle in the Olive Oil. Stop and scrape down the sides, then pulse again. When the Olive Oil is incorporated, pour the pesto into a bowl or jar and cover with plastic wrap, pushing the plastic against the surface of the pesto.
Planning the Week:
Day 1: Salmon with Spring Vegetable Stew
4 – 6 oz portions, Salmon
2 C, Soup Base
1, Lemon, Zest and Juice
Heat a pan on medium high. When hot, add 1 tbs of Olive Oil. Sear the Salmon (skin side down if the skin is still on). Let cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness.
Bring the Soup Base up to a simmer and let reduce slightly while the Salmon is cooking.
Turn the Salmon, searing on the other side. Again, allow it to cook for 3-5 depending on thickness.
Grate the Zest of the Lemon into the Soup Base. Then finish it with the Juice of the Lemon.
Spoon the Spring Vegetable Stew into the bottom of a large bowl. Place the Salmon in the center of the ‘Stew’.
Day 2: Green Minestrone
1 recipe, Soup Base
8 oz Pasta
4 oz Green Beans, Cut into ½” Pieces
¼ Head Savoy Cabbage, Stems Removed, Sliced Thin/p>
Bring the soup up to a bare simmer. Add the French Beans and Cabbage and allow the soup to come back up to a simmer.
Add the pasta and bring the soup to a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer and cook for 8 – 10 minutes, until the pasta is done.
While the Pasta is cooking, prepare the Pesto (Below).
Ladle the soup into bowks and garnish with a spoonful of Basil Pesto.
Day 3: Angel Hair Pasta with Pesto and Shrimp
1 lb, Angel Hair Pasta
½ lbs Shrimp
Pesto, Left Over
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add salt, then the pasta. Cook for 8 minutes or until just tender.
Heat a large skillet. Add 1 tbs off Olive Oil. Sautee the Shrimp quickly, 1-2 minutes a side, then remove from them from the heat. Finish with the juice of a lemon.
Strain out pasta. In a large bowl, toss together the Pasta, Pesto and Shrimp. Serve in large bowl.
Stepping from the narrow alley, through the arched brick doorway, a feeling begins to creep over you: the feeling that you are closing in on a hidden treasure, tucked just out of sight, but waiting. The truth is that, despite its location, McCrady’s is far from a secret, but it is a genuine treasure.
Entering the former 18th century Charleston, S. C. public house, one of the oldest eating establishments in the country, feels like stepping into a gorgeous old wine cellar. The atmosphere is dark, but comfortably so, and beautifully appointed. Care is taken to highlight the charms of the historic building. Rough brick and dark wood beams are left exposed, playing off heavy, metal chandeliers, lantern sconces and chairs chosen as much for their comfort as an eye toward design. Moving into the bar, you start to move from a wine cellar into a speak-easy. Seating is broken up into nooks, filled with exposed wood table tops and tobacco-leather chairs, creating a feeling of intimacy tucked away inside this gorgeous old building. The dining room, by contrast, feels surprisingly open and spacious, the lighting just a little brighter, with a touch of color on the walls. There is real room between the tables – the trappings of fine dining (taking it even further, the private dining room is the picture of Southern splendor, appointed with the elegance of a formal dining room.) The effect is to offer a nod to the history of the space while also creating the impression of exclusivity.
If the location can make this space feel like a hidden gem, the food has made sure the secret will never be well kept. Helmed by Chef Sean Brock, McCrady’s is continuing to define what seasonal, local, fine dining can be in the low country. The passion for seasonal local, sustainable ingredients, and a pride in the providence of those ingredients is written all over the menu. But, where many chefs are willing to sit back and let those ingredients speak for themselves, Brock is willing to push the envelope further, applying inventive new techniques in an attempt to bring something unique and superlative out of the incredible products he has sourced. It is a testament to his skill and creativity that ordering from his menus is a genuine challenge.
Whether choosing the Chef’s Tasting menu, the three course Market Menu, or ordering A La Carte, the choices are both numerous and enticing. For the most part, they manage to live up to their promise. An appetizer of grilled octopus, golden beets, orange puree and fennel immediately stands out. The octopus is braised in sous-vide for 25 hours before being lightly grilled, taking on just a touch of char that adds a soft smokiness to the incredibly tender meat that is complimented by the sweetness of the golden beets and balanced by the slight acidity of the orange puree. The sweet breads are a harmony of textures, crusty on the outside, but creamy when you bite into them. Rounded out by capers and rye that bring the dish back from the edge of being too rich, the result is something both decadent and elegant at the same time. And a duo of butter-poached Maine lobster with seared bay scallop was perfectly prepared, the sweet lobster contrasting the heartier scallop. If there is any failing, it is that some of the pairings can become too busy for the plate. The duo of pork from Eco-friendly Foods was rich and succulent, making the touch of banana puree that accompanied it felt extraneous. But the trio of Kathadin Lamb was right back on track, complimented by earthy kale and oyster mushrooms with just a touch of sweetness from caramelized florets of cauliflower and fragrant pine nuts. Despite his use of the kind of techniques so often labeled molecular gastronomy, there is soul to Brock’s cooking that clearly rings through the best of his dishes, making them more than just an intellectual exercise, but a pleasure to eat.
Setting the tone for the meal, the service at McCrady’s is warm and knowledgeable, built around a staff that has a genuine interest in what they do. From the moment you call to make a reservation, a genuine effort is put into the little details many restaurants let slip through the cracks, whether it is asking if your visit is part of a celebration, checking on allergies, or taking the time to find out what you are looking for before making recommendation. From the General Manager, Kellie Holmes, to the servers, to the hostess who greets you at the door, everyone you speak to will be warm and friendly, intent on not only making you feel at home, but also making your night feel like something special.
At its core, that's what McCrady’s is... It is a special occasion restaurant, designed to make you feel like royalty for a night. But the food has balance and depth. It doesn’t overpower or create that sense of fatigue that can plague the special occasion restaurant. Instead McCrady’s beckons you back with the promise that there is still more left for you to experience.