Date Night Dinner

Date Night Dinner! So I have been invited to teach a cooking class at Gourmet Gallery. I really do have fun teaching those. But I was given the theme “Date Night.” LOL – since my own date nights seem to … Continue reading

When in Mexico…

So I got to accompany my sweet and fun sister to Mexico last weekend for the wedding of some dear friends. Mexico in February is the place to be! It was absolutely beautiful! It was such a treat to jet … Continue reading

Culinary Trends that are Shaping the Olive Branch

Here at the Olive Branch we like to try cooking trends and experiment with new flavors and recipes. Last month Leah explored the world of southern cousine and whipped up some chicken and waffles. It was a true success and you can make it yourself, just find the recipe here. This month Leah’s looking a little further into cooking fads that are taking over the culinary world. Nation’s Restaurant News recently posted the Top 10 Culinary Trends of 2013. Leah’s excited to experiment with these trends so stayed tuned for recipes featuring these fads! For now, read on to see how you can get creative in the kitchen and impress your friends with the trendiest cook techniques of 2013.

DIY chocolate

This one caught our eye: Healthy Kid’s Meals. With new food regulations, we’ve seen schools improve on their lunch options. At the Olive Branch Leah makes sure our menu includes healthy and delicious meals for kids. Our grilled cheese is served with fruit so your little ones get all the nutrients they need!

Greek yogurt can be found at any grocery store these days; there are so many brands it’s hard to know which one to choose! But Greek yogurt is more for just eating by itself, now it can be used as a substitute for many traditional ingredients. Anything consisting of mayonaise or sour cream can be substituted with plain Greek yogurt. We don’t currently have any recipes with Greek yogurt, but we’re excited to try using it in our homemade mac & cheese or even putting it on top of a baked potato!

It can be challenging to find gluten free items in Central Texas, but due to the increase in demand and popularity, gluten free foods can be found almost anywhere these days! Most manufacturers have started developing not only GF bread, but also GF sauces, desserts and snacks. Leah has been working on creating items that are gluten free and enjoyable for everyone! For those that have celiac or gluten sensitivities, we’re hoping on board with this trend so you can eat at the Olive Branch too! Many of our salads are made with our homemade gluten free dressing. Items like our quiche and chicken salad are free of the protein composite as well. Although our whole menu is not gluten free, we continue to think of ways to accommodate our customers!

Glutenfree

For a chef, new culinary trends are an exciting thing. Leah’s mind is constantly turning with new ideas for ingredients and recipes. This month, we’ve even added an appetizer menu! Our Italian queso,  garlic bread, chips, hummus, and salsa are available for you to snack on before you enjoy your dinner. And they’re all homemade recipes by Leah! Stay tuned for more recipes to come, but until then, stop by the cafe to see how we’re putting these culinary trends to use!

(Photo’s curtsey of Nation’s Restaurant News)

My Plate

A couple of years ago the USDA decided to do away with the “MyPyramid” and switched it with “MyPlate,” as a better example of what Americans should try for everyday to make sure all their nutritional needs are being met! This example is more consumer friendly because you don’t have to deal with all the percentages on the pyramid, and can instead look at a plate and make all your meals match it, to the best of your ability.

Many consumers haven’t realized that MyPyramid has been replaced! So this blog will explain the general concept of it and some easy ways to apply better nutrition practices in your everyday life. Then throughout the next couple of blogs I will do a series of sorts on each different component. Hopefully it will help dispel any myths about fad-diets or other nutritional things you’ve heard and will help uncloud healthy eating.

Here is what MyPlate looks like!
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/

There are even actual plates you can buy that have all the little sections like this, or you can just use your judgement on a regular plate.

The basic premise is to make half of every meal fruits and vegetables. This is probably the hardest part to get for most Americans (myself included!) but it’s the most important! There is no unhealthy vegetable or fruit – they all have great things in them that we need every day!! Go out on a limb and try new vegetables and keep it interesting. There are a ton of recipes for everything online these days, so the possibilities are endless!!! This is when it can also be fun for cooking because this component adds so much color to meals!! The more different colors, the better!

Try Leah’s fruit salsa recipe for a colorful assortment of fruits:

Fruit Salsa:

  • ½ Can crushed pineapple
  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 1 Cup diced fresh strawberries
  • 1 peach, diced
  • ½ pint raspberries
  • ½ pint blackberries
  • 1-2 jalapenos, diced finely

Instructions

  1. Salt to taste
  2. Combine all of the fruits together in a bowl.  Add the finely diced jalapenos a little at a time to control the heat.
  3. Taste for seasoning and add a sprinkle of salt to bring all of the sweet and hot flavors together.
  4. This salsa is delicious over grilled fish or chicken or simply served with tortilla chips.  You can also pour the salsa over a block of cream cheese and drizzle it with honey.  Serve the cream cheese with crackers as a unique (and easy) appetizer.

Grains can be tricky, because people think so often that carbs are evil and should be cut out. First off, any diet that completely cuts out a food group (including fat) is not a healthy diet!! There’s a reason each of the groups exists, and, in fact, carbs should be where most of your calories come from! I’ll get into each group into more detail in the coming posts, but as a general tip when it comes to grains make sure that the majority (if not all) of them are WHOLE grains!! When looking at bread or pasta, or whatever, the first ingredient should be WHOLE wheat flour. These provide more nutrients than other breads, and more fiber which most Americans don’t get.

Protein is arguably one of the most important aspects of a well balanced diet. Protein allows your body to function properly, gain muscle, and a host of other things. When thinking about your protein, try to make it lean cuts. Lean beef or pork, chicken, turkey, even tofu. And it is recommended that twice a week your protein source be seafood.

The last part of MyPlate is Dairy. Dairy is also really important, as it’s typically a main source of calcium which is mega important. But when choosing your milk, stay away from whole milk and try to go for fat-free (skim) or 1% if possible. You get the same benefits of calcium and vitamins, but without the extra fat and calories from higher fat milks.  Silk or soy milk is a great alternative, or add some low-fat yogurt to your meal.

That was a really, really brief overview of MyPlate, and hopefully it wasn’t too confusing!! Other important things to watch in general are portion sizes, eating slower so you eat less, and just taking control of what you put in your food. Nutrition is such an essential part of life, and can really be life changing!! Hopefully with the next few posts you’ll be more aware of what you’re putting in your body, and how to make healthier choices!  — Jordan