Foodies, too, can eat healthfully and stick to diet | NevadaAppeal.com

Foodies, too, can eat healthfully and stick to diet

Michelle Palmer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Michelle Palmer's apple tart with date and walnut crust.
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Wow! I can’t believe another year has passed. I’m finding it’s true that the older you get the quicker they do go by. I know it’s not politically correct to talk about age and weight, so before you turn the page or start writing letters to the editor, if you have a serious obsession with good food, as I do, hear me out.

For most of us, I think it’s safe to assume that we over-ate through the holidays. It’s comfort food season, and we’re a little remorseful right now (especially as we begin to dream of the island vacation we’d like to take during that big cold snap we’re bound to have sometime this winter). But panic sets in as we realize we’re terrified of being seen in a swimsuit right now. And I’m not just talking to the female readers here, men.

I know that most people are fed up to the eyeballs with diet advice. But I also know that the most obese country in the world is the good ol’ U.S. of A. (It’s well documented in easily accessible sources such as the movie “Super Size M,” the book “Fast Food Nation” and even the little booklet I picked up at the checkout counter the other day titled “Weight Loss Kit for Dummies.”) Personally, even closer to home is the fact that my father passed away at the young age of 60 from obesity-related health problems. Keeping that in mind, I hope that you know this little message comes from my heart (and my own little soapbox, obviously).

Now, some of you knew me when I weighed in at 210 pounds and was affectionately referred to as “The Pillsbury Dough Girl.” I was the baker at Mount Rose Ski Resort in the early 1980s when they had a steakhouse and a full made-from-scratch menu. Those days are long gone up there, and I’m glad to say, so is the Pillsbury Dough Girl.

When I finally couldn’t take it anymore – not wanting to end up like my dad – it took over a year, but I lost more than 100 pounds (of course I haven’t kept it all off!)

So, armed with that background information, I hope you’ll be encouraged by a couple of guidelines as you put up the good fight and really, really try to find a way to make this year’s resolutions work.

First, keep in mind that not all diets are right for all people. To be truly successful, you have to make some changes in how you think about food, and you have to really, truly commit to that. Smaller portions are often a very simple way to initiate change. I have reduced my portion size simply by replacing my oversized dinner plates with smaller ones.

Second, it’s well worth investing a little bit of time and energy in learning about diet and nutrition. Simply by reading health- and nutrition-related publications or attending seminars, you’ll become more aware of the food you ingest daily.

Now, this is the best part for us foodies. When you want to eat something that you’ve never seen recommended in a health magazine (like the triple chocolate cake on the front of the magazine next to it), MAKE SURE IT’S WORTH IT!

It’s generally true that you get what you pay for. I’ve found that when I spend that little extra to buy the purest, best ingredients, not chemically enhanced, genetically modified, or colored, etc., complete with the fat (our bodies DO need fat to work right) and cholesterol (an important building block of every cell in our bodies) yet low in salt and processed sugars and flours, I can be completely satisfied with a much smaller portion. Suddenly, with the best ingredients, that small portion of your favorite, formerly forbidden dessert can become the highlight of your week.

So maybe your dream is not as grandiose as being a “beach babe” this winter (or “cabaña boy,” as the case may be). But you can enjoy life, eat healthfully, occasionally indulge in your favorite foods, and lose those extra comfort food holiday pounds with a little common sense, some moderation, and of course a daily walk around the block for good measure. Just last night on the news, Consumers Reports stated that all we need in addition to a balanced diet is to do some sort of exercise just four hours a week, not all in one day, to make that diet work.

So here are two healthy recipes. The apple walnut tart is highly recommended and is reminiscent of baklava. It will quiet that little voice inside urging you to be good and will definitely satisfy your sweet cravings. The second will satisfy that other voice reminding you that you’ve already cheated on your resolution, so why not just start your diet tomorrow? Use the best ingredients you can find then take the time to savor and enjoy, but please, in moderation.

If you’re Internet savvy, check out the delicious healthy recipes at http://www.whfoods.com, and of course there’s always http://www.foodtv.com.

Now look out below, I’m stepping off my soapbox. And would you please pass me that last Christmas cookie? (I’m starting tomorrow!)

Apple Tart

4 apples, peeled, cored, thin sliced

1Ú2 cup fresh apple juice

11Ú2 cup dates, seeded

1Ú4 cup raisins

21Ú2 cup walnuts

1Ú4 t. cinnamon

1Ú8 t clove

1Ú8 t allspice

2 T. honey

Over medium heat, sauté apples and raisins in apple juice with cinnamon, cloves, allspice and honey until just tender, about 10 minutes. Remove fruit with slotted spoon; allow to cool while reducing juice until just thick. Using a food processor, pulse dates and walnuts (no more than 40 seconds). Press mixture on sides and bottom of 9-inch tart pan. Fill with cooled fruit, brush on reduced juice, and chill for at least 1 hour.

Chocolate Truffles

8 ounces semisweet chocolate (the best you can find), coarsely chopped

1Ú2 cup heavy cream, heated until bubbles form on pan sides

4 T unsalted butter, room temp

1 T amaretto

Cream butter and amaretto together; set aside until needed. Put 8 ounces chopped chocolate in bowl, pour hot cream over it, and let stand 3-4 min. Slowly stir with spatula until chocolate is melted, then thoroughly stir in butter-amaretto mixture. Refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.

Using a melon baller, scoop up heaping teaspoons of the chocolate mixture then use your hands to roll them into smooth balls, about 3Ú4-inch diameter. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Michelle Palmer is a consultant and “chef for hire.” She owns Artisan Eats in Carson City, 844-FOOD; and Absolutely Michelle’s in Reno, 849-2333. Go to http://www.absolutelymichelles.com.