A Healthy Cooking Lesson From The Kentucky Derby Chef (Yes It's Possible)

Growing up in a Jewish household my background in cooking was centered on noodle kugel, latkes and attempting to learn my mother’s recipe for the perfect matzah ball soup. As I grew older and my palate grew wiser, I tried recipes ranging from Italian and Thai to a good ol’ American hamburger and healthy salads. Things like fried chicken and grits simply weren’t in my vocabulary and I was pretty much a virgin when it came to Southern delicacies.

So, when I got the chance recently to get a cooking lesson from the ultimate down Southern chef, I jumped at the opportunity to expand my cooking repertoire. But, I had a challenge for him: make the dishes healthy!

"It's totally possible to eat healthy Southern food," Chef David Danielson, the executive chef at Churchill Downs since 2011, told me. "There's this big misconception that all of our dishes are heavy, but we actually use a lot of fresh veggies and make big family-style salads." He proceeded to spend an afternoon showing me how to whip up some of the dishes set to be served at next year’s Kentucky Derby that would also be great everyday nutritious dishes like roasted and pickled asparagus salad (see recipe below). But first, as a New Yorker I needed to know what were the most important things when it comes to creating a solid Southern meal any time of the year.

Here’s what Chef Danielson had to say.

1. Get yourself a cast iron pan

Every good cook needs a cast iron pan. They are sturdy and can take the heat, are perfect for going from stove top to oven, are not stick if properly seasoned, are versatile because you can fry in them, sauté, as well as bake in them, and they will last forever if you take care of them.

2. Shop at farmers’ markets

The fruits and vegetable you buy at farmers markets are the freshest and tastiest available, they are allowed to ripen in the fields then picked and brought directly to you. Shopping at farmers’ market allows you to taste and prepare foods in season and discover new produce you don’t normally see in your grocery store. Farmers are always bringing an interesting variety of product to the market. Know where your food is coming from, support local farm families and connect with your community.

3. Learn out to pickle

Learn to pickle so you can enjoy fruits and vegetables all year long. You can pickle just about everything from garden vegetable to summer fruit. It’s easier than you think. Fruits can be used for meat glazes or in salad dressings and pickled vegetable can brighten up any fall or winter dish. They also make great accompaniments to cheese and charcuterie platters.

Now time for that recipe!

  •  4 Bunch standard asparagus
  •  4 tablespoon olive oil
  •  ½ cup cider vinegar
  •  1 teaspoon mustard seed
  •  ½ teaspoon black peppercorn
  •  3 tablespoon sugar
  •  2 bay leaf
  •  3 ounce thinly slices country ham
  •  1 hard boules egg

-Trim bottom inch of asparagus, separate asparagus by half , placing first half in flat bottom baking pan.
- In a small saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, bay leaf and black pepper bring to a low simmer until sugar is dissolved then remove from heat, pour pickling liquid over asparagus in pan place in refrigerator let sit minimum of 4 hours.
-Pre heat oven on broil high setting.
-Spread out remaining asparagus in a single layer on a cookie pan drizzle with olive oils and season with salt and pepper, place pan in oven under broiler for approx. 4-6 minutes unlit asparagus starts to get blistered and some brown color. Remove from oven let come to room temperature.
-To assemble salad place small bundles of asparagus on a platter alternating between pickled and roasted, top with some slices country ham and dices egg, drizzle with some pickling liquid.

The Secret to Curing Your Food Addiction

Trying to eat better? Brad Lamm has a solution: Know your style.

Lamm, an interventionist who works with those struggling with food addictions, has identified six types of eaters and their motivations. Knowing your type is crucial. “It reveals the behavioral changes you need to make,” says Lamm, founder of Breathe Life Healing Centers in Los Angeles. To find your style, read on.

Emotional eater

The style:

“You eat in tragedy or triumph, rather than [by taking] natural hunger cues,” says Lamm. You lack the ability “to distinguish between food as fuel [and] food as a coping mechanism.”

The strategy:

List “nonfood” ways to elevate your mood, such as a spa treatment.

Habitual eater

The style:

You indulge in junk food under a “just this once” excuse, but don’t stop eating. “If you’re not careful, ‘just this once’ becomes a part of your daily routine,” says Lamm.

The strategy:

“Journal about your eating each day to help you see your habits in black-and-white, and keep an eye on where and when to cut back,” says Lamm.

External eater

The style:

You fall victim to food that appears in front of you, like bagels in the office kitchen, and you’re susceptible to advertisements.

The strategy:

Shake off the “I see, therefore I need to feed” mentality, says Lamm. Be aware of external cues and your sensitivity to them. “Stop and think, ‘Do I really want to eat this?’ ” says Lamm.

Critical eater

The style:

You have a wealth of knowledge about nutrition and health but a strong “all or nothing” way of thinking. You might consume an entire box of snacks and think, “Well, this day is a bust anyway, so whatever,” and subsist only on green juice the next day to counteract your overindulgence.

The strategy:

Ease up on your food rules and be more realistic. “Think less about how self-destructive you feel when you’re ‘off the rails’ and more about how your next eating choice will be a healthy one,” says Lamm. “The whole day doesn’t have to be a wash if you made one poor meal choice. Restart it at any time.”

Sensual eater

The style:

You relish every bite and don’t hold back when trying exotic and decadent dishes — even if it means putting on the pounds.

The strategy:

“Keep your portions in control and this style of eating will not get the best of you,” notes Lamm. “Stick to the ‘three forkfuls’ rule” — allowing yourself only three bites of indulgent dishes.

Energy eater

The style:

You work out all the time, so you think you can eat all the time, but you tend to “inaccurately calculate the quantity of fuel [you] actually need to power through [your] day,” says Lamm. The snacks you’re eating are likely healthy, but you’re consuming too many.

The strategy:

Try journaling to get a clear picture of just how much you’re eating, and make an effort to eat more protein to help you stay satiated.

Why People in These Countries Are Living Longer (PS It Has to do With Pasta)

Originally appeared in the New York Post

In recent years, we’ve all been told that to eat healthfully, we have to forgo bread and pasta and up our protein intake.

But according to one researcher, the people living the longest, healthiest lives are doing the opposite. In his new book “The Mindspan Diet: Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk, Minimize Memory Loss, and Keep Your Brain Young” (Ballantine Books, out now), Harvard biologist Preston Estep III singles out what he calls “the mindspan elite” — countries whose residents not only have long life spans but also have relatively low rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Life expectancy is only one measure of health, and it doesn’t include quality of life. If it is accompanied by a very high dementia rate, then that effectively subtracts years,” Estep tells me. “Life expectancy [can be] misleading.”

According to Estep’s data analysis, Japan came out on top in terms of “mindspan,” with an average life expectancy of 84 and low rates of cognitive decline. Mediterranean France and Italy, Spain and Costa Rica also rank among the elite. Despite having a life expectancy of 79, the US is a “mindspan risk” country, according to Estep, because of its high rates of Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Estep found some surprising similarities among the top-ranked diets. The main food source for many of the longest-lived people is bread, pasta and rice. “Refined carbs are the base of the ‘mindspan diet,’” Estep says.

But these countries aren’t enjoying the same carbs we are. In the US, bread and pasta — whether it’s whole wheat or white — tend to be enriched to contain about three times the amount of iron as their non-enriched equivalents in the Mediterranean, Japan and Costa Rica. Estep believes consuming too much iron damages DNA, cell membranes and neurons. “People with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have substantial amounts of iron and other metals in their brains,” he says.

While the “mindspan elite” have the lowest rates of cognitive decline and brain disorders, places with high iron consumption — such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Finland — lead the world in Alzheimer’s disease incidences. This excess iron can also come from too much meat consumption, according to Estep.

“Parts of northern Europe lead the world in dementia risk,” he says. “High meat consumption and [the] resulting high body stores of iron are likely a primary reason they have such a high dementia burden.”

“It’s a myth that we need to eat so much protein, especially from meat,” he continues. “In fact, it’s hard on the kidneys and may promote cancer and accelerate the progression of dementia. Pinto beans, found in the Costa Rican diet, [contain] just the right amount [of protein].”

Olive oil was another common denominator of the “mindspan elite,” especially among the Mediterranean and Spanish diets. “Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), which is less reactive in the body,” says Estep. Foods with MUFA have been linked to a decreased risk for breast cancer, heart disease and stroke, as well as helping weight loss and lowering cholesterol — all things that help you live longer.

Countries that rely on butter and other animal products, he says, tend to rank among the “mindspan risk.” Despite the controversial nature of some of his assertions, Estep insists he approached his research with an open mind and wasn’t looking to favor bread over beef.

“I just followed the evidence with no particular dietary philosophy in mind,” he says.

This Is Your Feel-Happier Diet

The words “diet” and “deprivation” may as well be one and the same for many people. But when you’re on a diet, you may see your waistline changing — but you won’t necessarily feel vibrant and nourished.  

“Deprivation is what causes us to fly off the wagon,” health coach Sheila Viers tells Yahoo Health. “Of course we want to lean to eat whole foods for the majority of our nourishment, but it’s meant to be a pleasurable experience as well. What is nourishing to our spirit (meaning no guilt, shame or fear) is nourishing to our physical body too.” 

So, what about a diet focused on happiness and helping you feel more nourished?

Click HERE to find out eight foods that will do just that!

Foods that fuel your mood

We have heard the expression, “You are what you eat”. The foods that we put into our bodies become our blood, our new cells and contribute to how we function on a daily basis. Food can actually affect our moods as well. One way to think about it is that you have two brains: the one in your head and the other in your gut, both of which are created from the same tissue during foetal development. These two organs work together to balance and change your mood through the vagus nerve, which transmits what’s going on in your stomach to your head.

Fuelling your body with foods that promote an optimal connection between these two organs is key to avoiding mood swings, but also helps if you’re feeling a particular emotion strongly. Need energy for that tough Sunday morning? Sure, a coffee will give you that quick boost, but a banana will help you feel energised for a longer period of time. Whether you’re anxious, stressed or tired, there are particular foods you can eat to counteract those feelings.

Click HERE to find out four moods and the food that can help you deal with or enhance them.