Maureen Fraîche

Mixing Business and Pleasure in the Kitchen

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Figuring out weight loss… …minus the gimmicks.

Thanks to the booming diet industry, supplement-funded magazines, and tabloid-circulated celebrity eating plans, there is a ton of confusion out there regarding the ‘right way’ to lose weight.

Despite what you’ve been sold, there is no silver bullet when it comes to weight loss.  Your weight is simply a balance between the calories (or energy) you eat and the calories you burn.  Call it the Dieter’s Law of Thermodynamics.  If you consume more calories than your body needs, your body is frugal and will squirrel away the extra energy as fat for later use.  On the other hand, if you consume fewer calories than you burn, your body will have to tap into these fat stores and other tissues to make up the difference, which will ultimately result in weight loss.  Therefore, the trick to weight loss is to create a calorie deficit.

Click to learn more!

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Le Creuset Silicone Pastry Brush

Whether for basting those baby back ribs, applying an egg wash, or glazing a pastry, odds have it you’ve got a pastry brush hiding in one of your kitchen drawers.  I’m also guessing that if you gave it a once-over, that old solider is in a sad state–worn-out, shedding bristles, maybe even sticky with some residue of unknown origin.

Let me help you.  Toss that old brush and get yourself a Le Creuset Silicone Pastry Brush.

You need this.

Click to learn why!

Hearthbread

Oh my.  This recipe is amazing and great for bread-making newbies!  I’ve made it so many times that I rarely use the recipe and it is always a hit.  The bread is soft, slightly salty, and deliciously aromatic.  It is also super versatile.  I especially enjoy hearthbread with spaghetti, which just happens to be on the dinner menu tonight.  While a simple topping of chopped parsley and minced garlic is my favorite stand-by (and the reason there is always fresh parsley in my house), the savory possibilities are near endless.  Artichoke hearts, olives, roasted tomatoes, fresh herbs, your favorite cheese…I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

This is my first recipe post and while I’m hoping there aren’t any issues, I do hope you’ll let me know if you have any questions or problems!  Enjoy!

Recipe after the jump!

Fact or Fiction Friday!

So welcome to the first installment of Fact or Fiction Friday!  Have a question or topic you’d like to see addressed?  Send ’em my way and I’ll do my best to demystify, debunk, and otherwise shed light on your nutrition and fitness queries.

Today’s question is, “I heard that by doing a bunch of crunches I could whittle away the fat in my midsection.  Is it true that I can pick and choose where I shed body fat from?”

Sadly, this is fiction!  It is not possible to target and trim fat from specific body parts (also referred to as spot reducing).

It is a common myth that weight training or exercising a specific body part will result in isolated fat loss from that particular area.  While you will most certainly strengthen and develop the muscles you train, you’ve got to create an overall calorie deficit to lose body fat.  (As the saying goes, you might have a six-pack, but you’ve got to take it out of the cooler!)  Once a calorie deficit is created, the body simply taps into fat stores wherever they may be and this varies from person to person. While some may quickly lose weight around their face and arms, others may lose weight more quickly around their midsection or thighs.  Be patient and eventually the excess weight will come off!

Food Profile: Greek Yogurt

I love yogurt and apparently I’m not the only one.  Have you checked out the yogurt shrine–er, section–at your local grocery store lately?  The selection is staggering!  (I would say it almost rivals the toothpaste aisle.)  More recently, Greek yogurt has crept into American food culture and has finally become readily available in most locales.  But what is this stuff?  How is it different from ‘regular’ yogurt?  And is it worth the extra money?

Simply put, Greek yogurt is strained yogurt.  In fact, before the stuff was stocked at my local grocery store, I’d occasionally make it by hanging plain, natural yogurt in a few layers of cheese cloth.  (Yes, I know.  Kinda crazy.)  What is being strained out, you ask?  A yellowish liquid called whey.  As a result, Greek yogurt is very thick and creamy.

Not all brands are created equal and many vary considerably in their nutritional content.  Calorie content might be as little as 100 calories per serving and I’ve seen as high as 310 calories.  Why?  Some have zero fat and others are on par with premium ice cream.  Similarly, some have zero added sugar and others turn this yogurt into a dessert.  Protein content can vary from 8 grams up to a whopping 21 grams per serving.  To find the right brand and variety for your needs, just check out the nutrition facts label.  A low-fat, plain Greek yogurt can be a great choice for someone looking to add protein without bouncing the calorie budget, while a full-fat, sweetened variety could be an efficient way to boost energy intake for a person struggling to get in enough calories.

Regardless of variety, all Greek yogurts on the market contain active and live cultures, meaning they contain those healthy bacteria that are so important for gut health and immunity.  They also contain calcium, though less than standard yogurts (unless otherwise fortified).  Some may also be fortified with vitamin D, but usually not.

Greek yogurt is super versatile and can be eaten alone, used in cooking, or as a substitute for other high-fat dairy products, like sour cream or heavy cream.  For cooking and substitution, plain (read: unflavored, unsweetened) varieties are best.  Also remember that fat-free dairy products are more likely to curdle or break at high temperatures or when acids are added.  A gentle hand is best; when mixing Greek yogurt with other ingredients, carefully fold using a rubber spatula.  Avoid vigorous mixing or whisking as this tends to loosen up the thick and creamy texture.

Here are a few of my favorite uses for Greek yogurt:

  • Mash up a mix of your favorite berries (use thawed frozen berries in the off-season).  Add a couple drops of vanilla or almond extract and fold together with the yogurt.  Top with toasted and sliced almonds and a drizzle of honey.
  • Making homemade fruit or veggie dip?  Use low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Make a quick and satisfying pasta dish using a multi-grain pasta (try Barilla Plus!), pre-made pesto, and Greek yogurt (fold the latter two together and then add to your cooked pasta).

Balance, Variety, Moderation

I hardly need to quote statistics to convince you that we live in a perpetually dieting society.  As a dietitian, I have seen it all.  The grapefruit diet.  The cabbage soup diet.  The Atkins diet.  The list goes on and on.  And what do all of these diets have in common?  Calorie restriction, elimination of foods (or entire food groups!), hunger, boredom, cravings… Though such diets all promise quick weight loss, the eventual punch line is almost always regain.

But why?  Diets are designed to be a temporary means to an end.  Most folks who “go on” a diet hope to at some point “get off” the diet.  Unfortunately, this kind of temporary lifestyle change can only guarantee temporary results, causing many dieters to lose and regain the same 10, 20, 30 or more pounds over and over again.  Dieting becomes a lifestyle in and of itself, leaving many individuals wondering what “normal” eating is like.

Good nutrition boils down to three main principles: balance, variety, and moderation.  This is just good common sense.  When you envision a healthy diet, what comes to mind?  Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, healthy fats—a balanced diet incorporates all of these foods, forbidding none.  This sort of variety will not only ensure that your body is fueled with every essential nutrient you need for health and wellness, but will also look and taste great!  The final principle, moderation, is what brings it all together.  Anything in excess spells trouble.  The key is to load up on nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories and limit your indulgence of energy-dense foods, which are high in calories but provide few nutrients.  Pay attention to serving sizes. (Ever measure yourself ½ cup of ice cream?)  All foods can be a part of a healthy diet, but the ever-important question of “How much and how often?” will make all the difference in your health and waistline.

By following these very basic principles of good nutrition, you can get off the dieting rollercoaster and make changes that will last a lifetime—improving both the quality and length of your years.  So take inventory!  Take a minute to assess your current eating habits and look for areas of improvement.  Create a list of changes you would like to make and get started on your own nutrition makeover.  As Adelle Davis once said, “We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.”

Finally.

So here it is.  Maureen’s food and nutrition blog.  I’ve been wanting to get this thing started for quite some time, but I’m sure you know how that goes.  My hope is that this blog will be a nice blend of personal and professional; a place to highlight my exciting endeavors in the kitchen as well as shed some light on various nutrition topics.  If you’d like to know a little more about me, there’s a handy little link for that.  Thanks for reading!

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