Living Lite

Size Matters: A Delightful Discovery at La Madeleine

May 21, 2012

What a surprising respite! I was delighted Saturday morning, after my three mile walk to Memorial Bridge and back, to find La Madeleine open at 7:00 am. I was delighted to find a delicious cafe latte - and muffins and pastries even a nutritionist could love - and they weren't "diet" pastries.

Yes, you heard right! How could I enjoy La Madeleine and even its pastries?

First, I admit I'm a food snob. I buy all my fruits and vegetables at Farmers Markets, because I believe so strongly in the benefits of seasonal, locally grown produce. There are few restaurants I really enjoy because I expect fresh, superior ingredients, interesting small plates, and polite, professional service. I only frequent independently-owned businesses, because I think it preserves the uniqueness of the town and I want to support small businesses. So I've been at a loss since my favorite diner, Furin's of Georgetown, closed and Laura and Ricardo Bonnino left Griffin Market, along with their one-of-a-kind Italian delicacies. What to do? Where to go?

So on Saturday morning, after my walk, when I was in the mood to sit at a cafe and enjoy a latte and a little something, I broke down and tried Le Pain Quotidien - CLOSED - just as well. I've never had a good experience there and I blame them for Furin's closing (rightly or wrongly). Okay, what next... I wandered over to La Madeleine across the street, into which I have never walked before, tried the door, and it opened. Uh-oh, am I really in la Madeleine? I skeptically, cautiously walked up the stairs. After I asked if they could serve me a Cafe Latte and I was met with a cheerful YES. I was committed. But, "My! those muffins are huge," I said, feeling tempted but calculating the 500+ calorie counts in my head. "But," says a perky cook behind the counter, "we have smaller ones, let me show you!"

And there began my delightful discovery of an array of mini pastries, desserts and muffins I could enjoy and even recommend at la Madeleine. The size was perfect, just enough to enjoy, but not feel over-stuffed and miserable. I borrowed the manager's pen so I could scribble down some of the numbers for you:

Mini Blueberry Muffin - 160 calories (regular is 630)
Mini Lemon Cream Cheese Muffin - 170 calories
Mini Bran Muffin - 140 (regular is 550)
Mini Fruit Tart - 150 (regular is 500)
Mini Lemon Tart - 200 (regular 820)
Mini Sacher Torte Parfait - 300
Mini Tiramisu Parfait - 220 (regular 520)
Mini French Vanilla and Fruit Parfait - 110

I had a lovely time, sitting among the country French decor at the window, a lively Vivaldi playing in the background. Friendly, professional staff buzzing around. Will I visit more than once or twice a month? Probably not. But it's nice to know it's there!

For more information about la Madeleine, and what to look for in restaurant eating without the bulge ...

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Taste Strawberry Granita at the C.H.O.P. Farmer's Market Friday

May 17, 2012

Visit this Friday, May 18th at the Capital Harvest on the Plaza Farmers Market (13th & Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.) noon to 2:00 pm for a free sample of one of the most popular recipes at the market: Strawberry Granita! Excerpted from my book, Diet Simple, a granita is an Italian frozen treat, made with any seasonal fruit. The basic recipe was provided to me by long-time Georgetown resident and friend, Carol Cutler.

I hope to see you at the C.H.O.P. Market, where the mission is to demonstrate just how delicious seasonal, local fruits and vegetables can be. You see, when you buy from local farmers, you're buying fruit picked that very morning, so it is at its peak ripeness, and has maximum flavor and nutritional value. It also means you are buying a superior variety of fruit or vegetable, a variety which may be more tender, flavorful, and juicy, a variety more unique to the region. This saves precious resources using less water, energy, and pesticides - and that's good for the environment.


Strawberry - or Any Fruit - Granita

(excerpted from "Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations" LifeLine Press, 2011)

The best ice cream in the world can be found in Italy, hands down. But much more typical of Italian fare is granita, the wonderfully fresh, flavored ice that is so refreshing after a meal. Here is a granita you can whip up in a flash, and at any time of the year. Even though it is based on frozen strawberries, the taste says "fresh" thanks to the helpful addition of orange flavoring.

8 servings

grated peel and juice of 1 orange (or 1/4 cup of another juice)
2 teaspoons orange liqueur or another liqueur (optional)
20 ounces frozen sweetened or fresh strawberries (or other fruit in season)

Optional: 1 Tablespoon Sugar (if using fresh strawberries), or Splenda
Optional: 8 mint sprigs

Put eight small sherbet dishes in the refrigerator to chill. If using fresh berries, place them in the freezer until frozen. Cut the frozen sweetened or unsweetened berries into large-sized chunks and put into a food processor. Add the orange juice, peel, and liqueur. Add sugar or Splenda, if using fresh strawberries and they aren't sweet enough. Pulse for about 30 seconds to break up the chunks, then process on high until the mixture is smooth. When the mixture has been pureed, spoon immediately into the chilled dishes and place in the freezer. If the granita has been frozen for more than six hours, remove it from the freezer 10 minutes before serving time. If desired, decorate with the mint sprigs.

(Muffin cup liners can also be used. Fit each one into a cup in the muffin pan and fill to the 3/4 level, the frozen ice will expand. Place immediately into the freezer.)

Per serving: 80 calories, 0 grams fat, 20 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 0 mg sodium, 0 grams protein

There are few foods which match the intense color and flavor of berries. Fortunately, they are nutrition superstars. Learn more about the nutritional benefits of berries...


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Eating to Save the Planet

May 14, 2012

For those of you who want to make a contribution toward saving the planet, you may want to consider changing what you eat.

What you eat profoundly affects not only your health, but the environment, too. This is important news because when it comes to environmental issues and halting global warming, many of us feel overwhelmed and helpless. So it’s amazing that something as simple as making better food choices can reduce global warming by lowering greenhouse gases, saving land, and conserving diminishing water and energy supplies.

Your protein choice will make the most significant difference on the environment (and your health). Producing meat requires six to seventeen times more land than growing vegetable protein, 26 times more water. And producing vegetables is up to 50 times more energy efficient than meat production, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Eating vegetable protein will also save your health. Decades of research has found that plants contain compounds (phytochemicals) with potent powers of healing. People who eat a plant-based diet are leaner, have less cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

But when eating more fruits and vegetables, it’s important to consider how and where they’re grown. Environmental resource conservation is reduced if food is transported long distances and grown in large industrial farms which specialize in only one or a few foods. Locally, organically produced food saves water, energy and encourages a region’s unique varieties of fruits and vegetables. Heirloom varieties, for example, have been passed down through generations, have natural resistance to pests, disease and are better able to tolerate local conditions without too much extra energy, pesticides or water.

How you can protect the environment through your food choices:

* Buy seasonally and locally at farm stands and farmers’ markets,
* Eat a plant-based diet,
* Reduce meat consumption,
* Use heirloom varieties, whenever possible,
* Buy organic whenever possible.

I'll see you at the Rose Park Farmers Market on Wednesdays, Capital Harvest on the Plaza Farmers Market (13th & PA Ave) on Fridays and the Dupont Circle Farmers Market on Sundays!

This article was excerpted from: The Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2007; 107: 1033 - 1043 "Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food and Nutrition Professionals Can Implement Practices to Conserve Natural Resources and Support Ecological Sustainability"

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