Lately, it’s become my mission to find heart healthy items on the menus of Orange County’s finest restaurants. I mean, what happened to the emphasis on lighter, lean protein, lower-sodium, fiber rich entrees with those cute hearts used to highlight them on the menu?
Andrew Knowlton, Bon Appétit’s Ask the Foodist, put words to my frustrations when he replied to this question: Dear Foodist: I like the occasional superrich dish, but aren’t today’s restaurant menus a bit overloaded with bacon-this and duck fat-that? –Stuffed. Andrew’s response: … with every gastropub and pork-crazed spot in the country taking up the mantra “more is more,” when it comes to flavor, I’ve had my fill. Remember when appetizers were meant to stimulate the appetite? Now they often bludgeon it. Salt and fat have become culinary crutches for many chefs who’ve adopted the fast-food mentality of more calories and more gimmicks.
Thank you, Andrew, and more importantly, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States. AND, personally, it has had a huge impact on my life.
If you’re a regular reader of She’s Cookin’ you know that most of my summer recipes have featured produce and herbs from our urban garden. We’ve planted a garden for years and what began as a hobby has developed into a solution to the strict dietary restrictions mandated by The Don’s cardiologists to keep him ticking for many more years.
In many ways he’s fortunate, although he was destined to suffer from heart disease due to his family history, he has survived several heart attacks and a quadruple bypass in 2001; an arrhythmia, running through the DFW airport in 2003, that necessitated an ICD (implanted cardiac defibrillator); and, in the past few months, more complications and three hospital stays.
The good news is that recent angiograms show his arteries are in fine shape after ten years, largely due to our wholesome diet, we’re celebrating twenty-two (22!) years of marriage today, and red wine and organic dark chocolate have no sodium and are considered heart healthy in moderation
Which brings me back to True Food Kitchen…
Great tasting food that’s good for you! Simple pure flavors… Seasonable, sustainable, local ingredients. This is the mantra of True Food Kitchen and one that I subscribe to as well. So, if you’re looking for a healthy restaurant choice, True Food Kitchen is at the top of the list of Healthy Places to Eat Out.
Earlier this month I attended one of Executive Chef Michael Stebner’s cooking demonstrations to learn tips and techniques on how to avoid the bad-for-you trans fats, moderate fat intake, and prepare meals with healthy, good-for-you fats… yes, there is such a thing as fats that are not only good for you, but necessary to maintain a healthy, nutrient-rich lifestyle! Chef Michael demonstrated three recipes featuring delicious and healthy ingredients:
· Avocado, Walnut and Manchego Cheese Bruschetta
· Grilled Steelhead Salmon with Wok’d Vegetables and Sesame-Chili Ponzu (pictured below)
· Raw Chocolate Tart with Almond Crust
Attendees are treated to a delicious, light lunch that includes the featured recipes as well as other dishes on the True Food menu and you learn about nutrition based on the principals of Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet and food pyramid. Plus, Chef Stebner is really great about answering questions and has a very friendly, down-to-earth style, so it’s no wonder that his demonstrations sell out quickly (a steal at $35.00!). FYI, True Food Kitchen sends cooking class details to their email list AND they promote via online calendars & social media, but your best bet is to join True Food Kitchen’s VIP E-Club to get first dibs!
First things first: lunch. Chef Stebner was happy to see some familiar faces because that means True Food’s idea for these “seminars” is making people happy - they are designed to educate people who want to know and show us that healthy food can taste delicious. Then he got down to the business of explaining the difference between monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega 3 and omega 6 oils and began preparing the Avocado, Walnut, and Manchego Bruschetta, which was super easy and, with the good fats in avocado and walnuts, makes a tasty and nutritious appetizer. He pointed out that even though cheese is usually considered a no-no, moderation is key, using very thin slices of quality cheese adds mega flavor.
Moving on to the wok’d vegetables, he shared some wonderful wok techniques like using canola oil because of its higher smoke point, having your wok super hot, and not moving the vegetables around too much because that causes them to steam rather than achieving the slightly charred edges that comes with caramelizing of the vegetable sugars. When it came to the raw vegan Chocolate Tart he admitted to not being a baker – that’s his wife – and was charmingly a bit nervous about attempting this recipe in front of a group. All went well as you can see in the video.
No-Bake Chocolate Tart
From True Food Kitchen | Yield: 6-8 servings
Perfect in the summer when you crave a rich chocolatey dessert but don’t want to turn the oven on! Or, in my case, if you’re really not a baker to begin with Double bonus: vegan and gluten free.
1 cup shredded coconut
¾ cup raw almonds, ground
⅓ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup agave nectar
⅓ cup coconut oil
Combine all ingredients and press into a tart shell to form the crust or small ramekins to make cute individual desserts. Chill wile you make the filling.
1 cup coconut oil*
1 cup cocoa powder
¼ cup agave nectar
½ cup almond butter
In a food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth and our into tart shell or small 3″ ramekins to make cute individual desserts. Chill another 2 hours or until firm.
* Yes, coconut oil is a saturated fat, but it’s a medium chain fatty acid that behaves differently from partially hydrogenated or saturated fat from animal sources, if you’d like to know more about why coconut oil is now considered a good fat, read this NY Times article. I personally love the nutty flavor and it’s a wonderful plant-based substitute for butter in baked goods.
Happy Anniversary to us!
451 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660-6936