Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rachael, Ground Turkey Does Not (Necessarily) A Healthy Diet Make

Well, I HAD to see Bill on Rachael. I do love him and he looked fabulous. But before he came out, she talked about how lucky she is to have a family that gave her such a wonderful relationship with food. She wants to use that as a vehicle to give back to the world. Even SHE sounded sheepish about the name of her foundation - The Yum-O! Organization - as she announced plans for it. I get that that's one of her trademark expressions, but it's kind of dumb, even if the goals are lofty.

The three goals for the Yum-O! Organization* are:
Get People Cooking
Get Rid of Hunger in America
Give Culinary Scholarships

Then she introduced a family she's working with who eats junk food three times a day. I think it's great that she's their cheerleader, but the recipes she suggested for them will not change their lives. I'm sorry, but ground turkey is not the answer to the obesity problem in America. (And she did a similar horrible thing that Giada did. But, at least, Rachael MADE hers from scratch). She diluted a Turkey Bolognese and called it soup. AAAARRRGGGHH!!! I'm not sure why that bothers me so much. Just make the soup and call it SOUP (see next paragraph).

Ok, Ms. Blogger, you may say, what do YOU suggest to cure the eating crisis in the U.S?

There are 2 simple things that we can add to our meals that will make a huge difference.

The first is to serve a cup - that is 8 oz. - of soup before you eat. If you're only eating 8 oz, it almost doesn't matter what the soup is, but obviously here's an easy place to go really low fat and pack in the vegetables. Studies have shown that people actually take in fewer calories at meals following soup, than those served soup-less. You can make literally gallons of soup on the weekend and freeze it. Put a container in the fridge in the morning and by evening, you're ready to heat and go. You can also freeze cold soups. Obviously, gazpacho is best fresh, but if the alternative is no soup, then go ahead and freeze it. (Who wouldn't love slushy gazpacho in a martini glass with a little vodka? Oh, that's for another day...)

The other solution to increase healthy eating is to really buckle down and serve a salad every night. This is made easier by a few things:

  • Make the dressing in advance and it's ready to go. Make it on Sunday (blender...great emulsion...remember?) and you'll have it all week. If you use only 1 tablespoonful of dressing per person, again it doesn't really matter what the dressing is. If you use only balsamic vinegar, you can use ladlefuls.

    Have a few high quality ingredients always in the house to go with the lettuce. The 2 easiest: broccoli and red cabbage. (I always ask my supermarket to cut a head of red cabbage in half and that lasts for the week.) If you're on the fence about raw broccoli, steam it for 60 seconds. It's amazing how that improves the flavor.

    Always dress the salad in a bowl big enough to handle a vigorous toss. If every element isn't touched by dressing, it won't be flavorful, your family won't eat it, you won't bother to make it, you'll be less healthy and on and on and on. Do you see how much trouble you could have saved yourself by just using a BIG bowl for the salad?!

    Put the salad on the plate BEFORE the other stuff. I like to use the salad as a bed for whatever I'm serving. If you're one those have-to-eat-everything-separately people, put the salad in a big ring around the plate and whatever you're serving in the middle. (I LOVE salad right on top of slice of pizza. And it has the added benefit of cooling down the slice.)

Where were we? Oh, at the Rachael Ray Show with Mr. President. Rachael WAS nervous, as the article yesterday said, when she introduced him. He gave her mother, a special visitor today, a kiss as he strode out. You can hate him, but you can't deny that he's incredibly charismatic.

He talked about HIS foundation's initiative on fighting childhood obesity and partnering with the American Heart Association. He and Rachael chatted with a couple of kids and, unfortunately, she took him into the kitchen, where she showed him the stuff she'd already cooked earlier in the hour. Does she only know one recipe to turn into meals for the week? I DID like it (I admit it) when she added a can a black beans to the turkey bolognese and called it chili. The President didn't flinch when she added cheese and BAKED chips to the top. He actually talked about the huge difference between baked and fried chips. OK, but let's try new things too, instead of just substituting something less crummy for something really bad.

Believe me, I LOVE cheese, but we really have to learn to escape the tyranny of cheese (mayo, which I LOVE LOVE LOVE, is the other one.) When I make chili, I serve it scalding hot, with plain yogurt and tons of salsa (which has outsold ketchup since 1991!). Why scalding hot? Because then you HAVE to add the yogurt to cool it down. (I admit I also like to dump my salad on top of that too.)

But anyway, Rachael had an important visitor today, when she made her important announcement. I just hope Rachael, herself, learns new healthy cooking tricks. Mostly, I hope that she expands her recipe base to include more vegetables and less meat and stops calling everything Yum-O.

*The name IS a little confusing. Is it The Yum-O Organization, or is the "O" meant to represent the word "Organization" and it's just Yum-O? This is the problem one faces when normal English isn't in place. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know she's in the dictionary now for evoo and who knows maybe for yum-o too.)

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