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John Beck is our resident chef. He is ready to handle your questions about food preparation and ingredients, equipment or recipes. And when it's time for that much-earned night off (when you make dinner by "making reservations") Chef John can offer recommendations on  Louis eateries.

About the Chef

John Beck has been a Morrison Executive Chef for BJC HealthCare for the last 14 years. The 10 years prior to that, he was Executive Chef for America's Center. He has been awarded the RCGA/St. Louis Hospitality Industries "Chef of the Year" award.

Chef JohnJohn has traveled extensively throughout the United States to learn various styles of regional cuisine. John has conducted cooking demonstrations at all BJC facilities, and participates in BJC's Health Literacy program and numerous community service events and health fairs. He also frequently has represented BJC as a guest chef on St. Louis' Fox television network presenting heart-healthy cooking demonstrations. John currently sits on the Advisory Committee for an adolescent obesity website.

Chef John's seafood tip: For ideas on ocean-friendly seafood, go to the EDF Seafood Selector guide or the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. Also see Morrison's approach to these scaly dilemmas.


Get the Ask the Chef flyer to display in your workplace.

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Morrison Healthcare Food Services Dietician Aaron Reinberg and Executive Chef John Beck show you how to make a cranberry quinoa salad, a healthy and delicious addition to your holiday meals.



Ingredients:
1 ½ cups water, broth or apple juice
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup red bell pepper
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup minced carrots 
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Bring water to a boil in a sauce pan. Pour in quinoa, cover and continue to simmer on low heat about 15-20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed. Place in refrigerator until chilled, about 2 hours. 
  2. Once cold, stir in remaining ingredients and re-chill before serving.

Nutrition Facts: (3/4 cup)
Calories 176
Fat 4 g
Carbohydrate 32g
Fiber 4g
Protein 5 g

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We have had several discussions at work on the cost of eating healthy. Many of our employees feel it is more expensive to buy fresh and/or healthier choices than it is to buy less healthy options. Can you offer any tips/resources/examples on how people can shop and eat healthy on a budget?

From the United States Department of Agriculture and ChooseMyPlate.gov. Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost more. Use these tips and materials to help you make choices that are not only healthy but also economical. 

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Morrison Healthcare Food Services Dietician Aaron Reinberg and Executive Chef John Beck show you how to make two delicious frozen treats. First, they demonstrate how to make frozen yogurt-covered blueberries. Second, they make frozen bananas on a stick covered in chocolate and coconut.



Frozen Chocolate Covered Bananas
12 Servings

Ingredients:
4 large ripe bananas, peeled and cut into thirds
¾ cup semi-sweet or bitter sweet chocolate chips, melted
¼ cup shredded coconut (optional)

Directions:
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
2. Insert a popsicle stick into each piece of banana.
3. Cover each piece with melted chocolate using a spatula and sprinkle with coconut.
4. Place banana on baking sheet and freeze until frozen, about 2 hours.

Nutrition Facts: (1/2 cup)
Calories 100 Total Fat 5g Carbohydrate 26g Fiber 2g Protein 1g

Frozen Yogurt Covered Blueberries
4 Servings

Ingredients:
2 cups Greek Yogurt (Plain, Vanilla or Honey flavored)
1 large carton fresh blueberries
Toothpicks

Directions:
1. Line a small baking sheet with wax paper and empty yogurt into a small bowl.
2. Using a toothpick, dip each blueberry into the yogurt and swirl it around, shake off excess and place on baking sheet, using another tooth pick to help slide it off.
3. Once all blueberries are coated in yogurt, place baking sheet into freezer, and let freeze for at least an hour.

Nutrition Facts: (1/2 cup)
Calories 120 Total Fat 0g Carbohydrate 25g Fiber 4g Protein 9g

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What are the four ways a chef can control vitamins concentration and retention through careful food preparation?

Most people know that vegetables contain very high amounts of nutrients and minerals. Veggies also provide you with vitamins essential to bodily functions. Their fibrous texture aids digestion, and most vegetables are low in calories, making them ideal for healthy living and weight loss. However, according to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, certain cooking methods can leach vegetables of their nutrients, robbing you and your kids of their full benefits. The right cooking methods preserve the nutrients and improve your family's overall health.
Step 1
Cook vegetables whole as often as possible. Opening the flesh of the vegetables to hot water and roasting pans leaves the nutrient-rich parts exposed, aiding nutrient loss. If you must cut your vegetables, cut them very small so they heat quickly and lose as few nutrients as possible.

Step 2
Leave the skins on your vegetables, if you can. If not, peel them as thinly as possible, using a vegetable peeler instead of a paring knife. The most nutrient-rich part of a vegetable is often right underneath the skin.

Step 3
Place the vegetables of your choice into a colander and rinse them well under room-temperature water before cooking. Wash the vegetables before cutting them to avoid losing water-soluble vitamins.

Step 4
Steam or simmer vegetables instead of boiling. For steaming, suspend the vegetables over the water in a mesh steaming basket. For simmering, just cover the vegetables in water and keep the heat on medium. The water should bubble just a little and never reach a boil.

What is the Paleo recipe craze? Is it healthy?
Loren Cordain is acclaimed as the founder of The Paleo Diet Movement. His 2010 popular book, "The Paleo Diet," is based upon eating wholesome, contemporary foods from the food groups our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have thrived on during the Paleolithic era -- the time period from about 2.6 million years ago to the beginning of the agricultural revolution, about 10,000 years ago.

These foods include fresh meats (beef, pork, lamb, poultry and game meat), fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and healthful oils (olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed).

Foods not consumed by our Paleolithic ancestors include dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods, so they are not included in the menu.

Mr. Cordain is a professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University. His education includes a bachelor's degree in health sciences from Pacific University, a master's degree in physical education from the University of Nevada-Reno and a Ph.D. in health from the University of Utah.

Omitting entire food groups is generally not seen as a viable, long-term eating option. Although we can all benefit from reducing our consumption of refined sugars and processed foods, the total elimination of dairy, cereal grains an legumes would be a cause for concern related to essential vitamins and minerals.

Talk with your physician or make an appointment with a registered dietitian to get more feedback.

How much sodium is in deli honey mustard chicken salad?
The total sodium count can vary depending on how the chicken salad is prepared. To give you some idea, I found one deli honey mustard chicken salad that clocked in at a whopping 3,050 mg. The maximum recommended level of sodium is 2,300 mg per day. And I found another that came in at 43 mg. I also uncovered a salad recipe for people with diabetes or anyone else counting carbohydrates; see below. If you know the deli or store that makes the specific deli honey mustard chicken salad you are referencing, check their website for sodium counts.

1 cup cooked chicken breast, cubed
3/4 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel, grated
dash pepper
1/4 cup fat-free honey Dijon salad dressing
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup smoked Swiss cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons walnuts, coarsely chopped
In a small bowl, combine chicken, grapes, water chestnuts, lemon peel and pepper. Drizzle with dressing; toss to coat. Divide spinach between two plates; top with chicken mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and walnuts.

Servings two -- per serving:
323 calories
11 g fat (3 g saturated fat)
67 mg cholesterol
473 mg sodium
29 g carbohydrate
3 g fiber
28 g protein
diabetes exchanges -- 4 lean meats, 1-1/2 fruit, 1 vegetable, 1 fat

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Morrison Healthcare Executive Chef John Beck and dietitian Aaron Reinberg visit the dairy section of the Dierberg's in Brentwood, Missouri. They explain the nutritional values found in whole, two percent and skim milk.



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Morrison and BJC HealthCare's Aaron Reinberg, MPH, RD, LD and Chef John Beck show you how to grill a delicious salmon with vegetables.



Grilled Wild Salmon with Fresh Herb Rub
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pound wild Alaskan salmon fillet
1 teaspoon olive oil
Fresh herb mix
2 1/2 teaspoon Italian parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon basil, chopped
2 1/2 teaspoon oregano, chopped
2 1/2 teaspoon chives, chopped
2 1/2 teaspoon cilantro, chopped
Preheat grill to 425

Sprinkle lemon juice and herb mix on both sides of fish. Spray grill with olive oil. Grill fish 3-5 minutes or until fish flakes when tested with fork and internal temperature reaches 155. Portion size: 4 oz.

Grilled Summer Vegetables
4 oz yellow pepper, sliced
4 oz red pepper, sliced
4 oz zucchini, bias cut
16 medium size asparagus spears
sea salt
black pepper
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Mix salt, pepper and olive oil. Grill vegetables for 2-3 minutes per side while brushing with olive oil mixture. Internal temperature must reach 140.

Grilled Pineapple Wedge with Honey and Lime
1 pineapple
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon lime peal, grated

Peel and cut off top of pineapple. Cut in half lengthwise and each half into four wedges. Remove 1/4 inch of the core. Combine lime juice, honey and lime peal. Stir until honey is dissolved. Add pineapple to mixture to coat on all sides. Let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, rotating several times. Heat grill to medium. Grill all three sides of pineapple about 10 minutes. Place warm pineapple back in lime juice mixture and let cool. Serve over vanilla frozen yogurt.

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John Beck, executive chef with BJC and Morrison Healthcare Food Services, and Aaron Reinberg, MPH, RD, health and wellness manager for BJC and Morrison visit the cereal aisle of Dierberg's. They explain the difference between various cereal ingredients and what to look for when you're trying to eat healthy.



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Morrison Healthcare Executive Chef John Beck and dietitian Aaron Reinberg visit the seafood section of the Dierberg's in Brentwood, Missouri. They explain the difference between wild-caught and farm-raised fish, and why one is better for you than the other.



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Dietitian Aaron Reinberg and Chef John Beck share some tips on how to make healthy and affordable choices in the meat section of your local grocery store.



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John Beck, executive chef with BJC and Morrison Healthcare Food Services, and Aaron Reinberg, MPH, RD, health and wellness manager for BJC and Morrison, take you on a shopping trip to Dierberg's showing how you can save money on produce at the grocery store.



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Chef John Beck and Aaron Reinberg, MPH, RD, cook a calorie-friendly flatbread spinach pizza that offers a fun and tasty family activity.

Florentine Flatbread Pizza
Cooking spray
10 ounces (1 box) chopped frozen spinach
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 minced clove garlic
4 sliced mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt to taste
4 flatout multigrain flatbreads
6 tablespoons pesto
3 ounces diced deli sliced low fat ham
1/2 cup low fat feta cheese
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella 

Pre-heat oven to hottest temperature or broil.

Thaw frozen spinach. Drain excess water by pressing spinach into a clean towel. Heat sauté pan over medium heat. Mist with cooking spray. Sauté onion, garlic and mushrooms until softened, 5-7 minutes. Stir in spinach. Season with nutmeg and salt. Set aside. Can do ahead and refrigerate up to 3 days. Lay out flatout and spread 1-1/2 Tablespoons pesto evenly on each piece. Sprinkle each with equal parts ham, vegetable mix, and top with feta and mozzarella cheese. Bake in oven until flatout is crispy and cheese is slightly browned.

Serves four -- per serving:
350 calories
16g fat
28g carbohydrate
12g fiber
34g protein

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Chef John Beck and Aaron Reinberg, MPH, RD, make roasted Mediterranean eggplant.

Roasted Mediterranean Eggplant
2 large eggplants, cubed (peeled if desired)
1 red onion, diced, 1 inch pieces
2 bell peppers, cut, large cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 teaspoons dried basil (or 2 tablespoons fresh basil)
1 small red onion, minced
1/2 cup halved yellow grape tomatoes
1/4 cup reduced-fat feta
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 

Preheat oven to 425° 

Toss eggplant, onion, bell peppers, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on cookie sheet and roast 20 minutes. Over low heat, sauté garlic and basil in olive oil for about a minute until garlic is soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When vegetables are roasted, add to a large bowl. Combine with garlic oil and remaining ingredients.

Suggestion: Serve with whole wheat pasta or grilled chicken.

Per 1 Cup Serving:
170 calories
11 grams total fat
16 grams carbohydrate
7 grams fiber
3 grams protein


How many calories are in burnt ends?
Burnt ends, a traditional part of Kansas City barbeque and considered a delicacy in the barbeque world, are flavorful pieces of meat cut from the ends of a smoked brisket -- pork or beef. Burnt ends  can even be made from ham. And they're usually smothered in barbeque sauce. So, calories? It depends upon if the burnt ends are from pork, beef or ham; and how fatty the burnt ends are. Also, it depends on the type of barbeque sauce, as there is great variation. To give you some idea: a 3-ounce serving of beef brisket has 304 calories, 218 of them from fat.


How many calories are in pina colada monster muffins?
The pina colada muffin recipe on the allrecipes website has 203 calories per muffin. I cannot find online a commercially prepared muffin. If you know the brand name of the muffin, you could contact the manufacturer through their website and ask about the nutrition facts.


We ate out recently. We were both sick by the time we got home and had pain in our abdomen. We wondered if the oil they used for the shrimp, cheese sticks and french fries, onion rings, chicken strips was changed ever.
Many establishments and restaurants try to save money by not changing the fryer oil regularly. Every restaurant can purchase a test kit that will notify the owner that it's time for an oil change -- or at least filter the oil.

Also, it is not recommended to use the same oil to cook fish, chicken and fries. Each protein item, especially, should have its own dedicated fryer to avoid flavor carryover.

To my last point . . . what are you doing eating all of that fried stuff anyway?

Stick to grilling, searing, roasting and steaming foods. Your tummy and waistline will thank you!


Can you give me a good redfish recipe?
Blackened Redfish  
1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp. paprika powder
3 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
olive oil
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)

Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly to form the blackening mix. Rub 3 or 4 single/serving redfish fillets with the olive oil and dust with the blackening mix. Heat a cast iron skillet to nearly red hot. Drop one-half of the stick of butter into the pan. Immediately place the redfish fillets in the pan which should be cooked for no more than 2 minutes per side. Add additional butter after turning if needed.

It is recommended to cook blackened fish outside because of the amount of smoke that is generated.

Alternate method for inside cooking. It will still generate quite a bit of smoke. Use any type of skillet, preferably with a non-stick finish. Place the pan on the burner set on high and add one-fourth of the stick of butter. Wait until the butter turns dark brown, nearly black. Then, put in 2 or 3 prepared fillets. Cook about 2 minutes per side maintaining high heat. If more remains to be cooked, add more butter and allow the butter to turn dark brown once more before placing the additional fillets in the skillet.

Parmesan Redfish
6 Redfish fillets, 8 to 10 ounces each
2 cups half and half cream
2 eggs
1 cup of flour
2 teaspoons white pepper
3/4 cup cracker meal
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon basil
2 tablespoons parsley
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup olive oil
1/4 pound butter, unsalted
2 lemons, cut in wedges, for garnish
Directions:
Combine all ingredients except the flour, half and half cream, eggs, oil and butter. Dust the fillets in the flour, then dip in cream and egg mixture. Coat with all of the other dry ingredients combined.

Saute in olive oil and butter on medium high heat until fillets are golden and fish starts to flake. Garnish with lemon and parsley.


How do I make meats and fish interesting without using salt?
There are so many ways to add flavor and make chicken, beef and seafood interesting without using salt. I do not use salt on anything but still enjoy the flavors of all my recipes. At Global Foods Market  in Kirkwood, Missouri, you will find a large selection of salt-free seasonings. My new favorite is Thai Seasoning Blend. I use it on everything, It also works great on salads and veggies. These flavorings are pretty universal for all foods:

  • All salt-free seasonings at Global Market
  • Fresh lemon or limes
  • Chopped fresh herbs
  • Minced shallots and garlic
  • A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • A drizzle of good balsamic vinegar or any infused vinegars
  • Wasabi-infused mustard
  • Create you own recipes by using the spices and herbs you like best

There so many salt-free seasonings on our markets today due to consumer awareness and demand for these products. Hey, go on a salt-free seasoning adventure this weekend and see how much is out there.


Do you have a recipe for sweet German pancakes? I remeber them from when I was little. They were thin like crepes, but very sweet. I remember mixing them by hand with eggs, sugar, milk and very little flour. We filled them with preserves.
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
butter

Heat a large nonstick skillet and melt a small amount of butter in it. Mix the milk, flour and sugar together until smooth. Pour enough batter in the skillet to cover the whole bottom in a thin layer. When the edges start drying, flip using a large spatula. It doesn't take much time on the second side. These pancakes do not fluff up like typical American-style pancakes. Top with your choice of applesauce, cinnamon-sugar or syrup. After adding topping, fold pancakes in half with the topping on the inside and lightly sprinkle cinnamon-sugar over top.


How many calories are in a corn meal muffin from your cafeteria?
Our regular corn muffin has 124 calories and is a good source of fiber.


I often eat a lot of fats. I look two months pregnant. How do I get my figure back?
From Ask the Exercise Specialist
Along with proper nutrition, exercise can help you achieve your goal of flattening your stomach and getting back into shape. The three components of a balanced exercise program include cardiovascular (walking, running, biking or aerobics), strength training (free weights or machines), and flexibility or stretching exercises. These should all be included in your routine to achieve optimum results. The cardiovascular exercise helps you lose fat, the strengthening exercises help you tone the muscle under the fat and the flexibility reduces the chance of injury.

From Ask the Dietitian
For a healthy diet, consume plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat meats and dairy products. You do need some fat in your diet, so make it the heart-healthy kind, using olive oils and nuts; and stay away from fried foods and high-saturated fat foods such as bacon, cream cheese and sour cream. Eat at least three meals a day. Some suggest even six small meals, not going any more than four to five hours without a meal or snack. Some snack ideas could be a piece of fruit or fat-free yogurt. Consume lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken, fish and ground round. Cut back on empty calories -- sweets, soda, snack cakes and chips. Instead, eat pretzels, baked chips and drink water. See a registered dietitian to help you make a plan that fits your lifestyle and can help you work on making changes in habits and behaviors. Exercise helps; walking is the best form of exercise. Think of it not so much as getting your figure back, but doing the most you can to help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases that can be a result of an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle.

If you are a BJC employee, see if there is a Weight Watchers program at your facility. The American Dietetic Association website can help you find a registered dietitian in your area, or review the nutrition counseling services at:


Tuna in water and tuna in olive oil -- which is healthier and why?
Fresh tuna has one percent fat per body weight, making it a favored choice for those on low-fat diets. However, the depth of the water and water temperature affects the fish's fat content, which can vary from catch to catch but also between different varieties of tuna.

For example, two cans of water-packed white tuna of equal size, even from the same company, can vary from one to five grams of fat per two-ounce serving. Due to this fat variation, it is actually possible for tuna packed in water to have more fat than tuna packed in oil. Amazing but true -- and yet another reason to always check the label on every can of tuna you purchase.

To boost omega-3 fatty acids (famous for fighting heart disease), choose canned albacore, which often contains not only more omega-3 fatty acids than chunk light canned, but also more than even fresh tuna.

For those allergic to soy, know that most tuna packed in oil has added soybean oil. There is canned tuna packed in olive oil available in most markets, although it is usually more expensive. However, most canned tuna fans prefer the olive oil-packed tuna above all others for flavor. Luckily, olive oil is heart-healthy. The oil actually leeches out some of the cholesterol. Drain and gently rinse off the oil if you must. 


How many calories are in a foot-long tuna Subway grinder with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers?
A foot-long tuna sandwich from Subway is 780 calories with 48 grams of fat -- that's with light mayo -- so it doesn't make Subway's healthy list. There's good news and bad news for tuna salad sandwich lovers. The bad news: you probably can't eat a store-bought or restaurant version of the sandwich, if you're trying to be healthy. The good news: you can make healthy substitutions. Try whole wheat, high-fiber bread instead of white, and use fat-free mayo or something else altogether. Tuna salad can be made with lemon juice and a bit of olive oil. Or try combining the tuna with some light cream cheese. But as always, go easy on the fats and add extra veggies if you're trying to cut calories.


Is it harmful to reuse cooking oil?
No, but I do not like to fry different types of foods in the same oil. If you are frying meat or protein in oil, use that leftover oil only for meats. Same with starchy items (potatoes, yams, tortillas). Strain leftover oil through cheesecloth to remove the impurities, and keep it refrigerated until time to use it again. The oil may cloud in the refrigerator, but will become clear again as it gets to room temperature.

In general, you can use cooking oil up to five times. Look for these signs that the oil has deteriorated so much that it will no longer cook effectively:

  • Darkening in color
  • Thickening
  • Rancid or off  smell
  • Smoking before oil gets to appropriate cooking temperature


What are the health effects of shrimp paste?
Fish paste -- or shrimp paste -- is a common condiment in many Thai and Filipino dishes as a flavor extender. Misconceptions on health hazards arise from its preparation, including the wet-treatment of fish or shrimp with salt over a long period.

Shrimp paste contains a relatively high level of a polyunsaturated fatty acid technically known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), essential for neural development in infants during their first few years. The acid components also perform a vital function in brain and retina development, but it also plays an important role in preventing stroke, heart disease, arthritis and non-dependency on insulin. Shrimp paste is rich in protein, B vitamins, calcium and iodine.


Is sauteed shrimp paste bad for pregnant women?
Shrimp paste -- fermented, ground shrimp that is sun dried and then cut into fist-sized rectangular blocks -- is a common ingredient in Southeast Asian and Southern Chinese cuisine. Shrimp paste is often known for the region it comes from, since production techniques and quality vary from village to village. Because of these variations in production and where you purchase the shrimp paste, check with your physician before you consume it.


How many calories are in a cup of sugar?
There are 770 calories in a cup of sugar. One serving of sugar (1 teaspoon or 4.2 grams) is 16 calories.   


My recipe calls for baking parchment. Can I use grease-proof paper or baking paper instead?
Baking paper works just as well. It has the same characteristics as parchment paper, works well with high heat and prevents sticking.


What’s the best oil for cooking and baking?

Canola and olive oils are two great oils for cooking and baking. Compared with vegetable oils, these oils have far more monounsaturated fat (good fat) and very low quantities of saturated fat (bad fat). These oils are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your brain, heart and blood circulation. Peanut oils are great to cook with, but avoid if you have peanut allergies. Soybean, safflower and sunflower oils can all be used for cooking and making healthier salad dressings. Avoid palm and coconut oils -- they have much higher quantities of saturated fat. Even though these oils are better for you and easy to cook with, remember they still have calories. Instead of regular olive oil, try extra virgin olive oil -- it has the same amount of calories and great nutrients, but stronger aromas, so you can use less of it and still be satisfied.


Is orange roughy a good fish to eat?
orange roughyThis deep sea fish that can live up to 149 years and was once known as “slimehead,” grows very slowly and doesn’t reproduce until it’s 20 years old. Consequently, years of heavy fishing have decimated orange roughy populations. Further,  Environmental Defense has issued a health advisory for orange roughy due to high levels of mercury and should NEVER be eaten by children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and other high-risk populations; particularly those with weakened immune systems. Other high-mercury fish include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. High-risk populations should eat no more than two or three meals, 12 ounces total, of low-mercury fish and shellfish a week. If you're in a high-risk population, don't eat the skin and fatty parts of fish, where pollutants collect. Another concern with orange roughy is the way it’s caught -- bottom-trawling, a fishing method that can damage the seafloor habitat (and we don’t know what impacts that damage might have on fragile deep sea ecosystems). The BEST fish to eat are those that are:

  • Low in mercury
  • Not over-fished or farmed destructively

Shrimp Salmon, tuna, tilapia, trout, shrimp and abalone are all great, safe fish to eat. Other great options include herring, flounder and lobster. The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency both recommend limiting fish consumption by category, not by individual species. For example, both cod and mahi mahi are moderate-mercury fish, and only one type from this category should be eaten per month -- not one meal of cod and one of mahi mahi.

Critical points here are to be aware of your fish vendor (and the origination of the fish) and if you have any fish allergies. For ideas on more ocean-friendly seafood to consume, go to the EDF Seafood Selector guide or the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. Also see Morrison's approach to these scaly dilemmas.


How many calories in a barbequed beef rib?
A 3-ounce portion of beef rib is about 342 calories. Added sauces are extra. About.com Health  has a calorie counter that can give you additional nutritional information.


How long do you cook one pound of orange roughy in the oven?
Orange roughy is a medium-firm fish, so set your oven at 350 degrees. And rather than cooking by weight, I prefer to cook by the thickness of the fish -- 6 to 9 minutes per inch. Works every time!


What is the best oil to use in high-heat cooking
?
Grapeseed, refined avocado, refined almond, coconut, refined safflower and refined sunflower are all high-heat oils.


What are the eight months you're allowed to eat fresh oysters without getting a stomachache?
Eat oysters only in months containing an r, not for any safety or freshness reasons, but because most oysters spawn during the summer months, leaving them tired, mushy and subprime for eating purposes.


I have celiac disease
 and would like to make my own high-protein shakes. I have had problems with premade and powder shakes, so I need to focus on at-home recipes. What help can you offer?

The Celiac Sprue Association website offers recipes and other information about celiac. The National Library of Medicine website provides additional information, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website  has information and links to other websites that might be helpful.

weismonstermuffin 
How much fiber is in a Weis Raisin Bran Monster Muffin?

The monster muffin, indeed, is three servings, each 180 calories with 12 grams of sugar and 1 gram of dietary fiber. Here's how the other nutrients stack up (per serving):
Total Fat 9 g       *14%
Saturated Fat 2 g     *10 %
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 30 mg     *10%
Sodium 190 mg     *8%
Total Carbohydrate 25 g     *8%
Dietary Fiber 1 g     *4%
Sugars 12 g
Protein 3 g
Vitamin A     *0%
Vitamin C     *0%
Calcium     *2%
Iron     *8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.


What do I look for when looking for flank steak? Under what name is it called?
Flank steak is exactly what you want to ask for. They average around 2-3 pounds per piece, and cook very well on a charcoal grill.


What are some good cheap cuts of beef for steaks that would also be good on the grill?

There are many affordable cuts of meat that work well when grilled. When we think of economy cuts, we usually think of meats that need to be braised or simmered for long periods of time. Make these cuts tender by marinating them before grilling: 
1 C. Italian dressing
the juice from 1 lemon or lime
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
1 T. fresh garlic, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients and pour over meat. Marinate 1-3 hours.

Beef cuts to look for are flank steak, skirt steak, tri-tips, bottom round and beef stewing cubes (great for kabobs and skewers).


Is there any kind of muffin or cake you can cook without flour and sugar?

Try using rice flour and, of course, Splenda, which tastes exactly like sugar. If you search online for "flourless cake" (yes, use the quotation marks, so the complete phrase is searched for), you can find recipes that use a mousse technique that is common in French cuisine, but is rather complicated.


Does roasting garlic diminish its nutritional value?

Any cooking process will deplete the nutritional value of foods. For instance, when we boil vegetables in water there are usually more vitamins left in the water than in the vegetables we are cooking. As far as roasting garlic goes, there is so little nutrition in raw garlic to begin with (one clove = 4 calories, 1 carbohydrate, 2% vitamin C and 1% calcium), this need not be a concern.


MuffinRaisin Whole Bran Muffins
You can refrigerate this muffin batter to make 1-2 muffins at a time. Or make them all at once and freeze. They just take a few minutes to thaw.

3/4 cup bran cereal (not flakes)
1/4 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons raisins
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 400

In mixing bowl pour boiling water over bran cereal. Stir. Let stand 5 minutes. Add oil, sugar, egg, buttermilk and raisins. Mix well. In small bowl mix flour and baking soda. Stir into bran mixture. Mix well.

Lightly oil muffin tin. Don't stir the batter if it has been kept in the refrigerator. Fill the muffin tins 3/4 full of batter. Bake the muffins for 12-14 minutes until the top springs lightly back to the touch.

YIELD: 6 muffins

Nutritional Information Per Muffin:
136 Calories
6 gram Fat
36 mg Cholesterol
19 gram Carbohydrates
4 gram Protein
3 gram Fiber
258 mg Sodium


Face from the Nose UpDoes your nose really affect the taste of your food?
Absolutely!!! Try pinching your nose and eating something. That is why we can't taste food when we have a head cold. For more detail about the taste-smell relationship, go to the National Institutes of Health's website.


HamHow long should I cook a fully cooked bone-in smoked ham that weighs about 8 pounds?
I recommend 6 to 8 minutes per pound at 325 degrees. If you can place the ham on a rack in a baking pan I also suggest that you put 3 to 4 cups of apple or pineapple juice in the bottom to add extra moisture and flavor.


M & MsWhat kind of oil do you use in the Monster Cookie recipe?
There is no oil in the Monster Cookie recipe; it uses a stick of butter. But the best oil to use for baking is canola. It does not change the flavor of the batter, but adds the moisture that you need.


Sugar Jar - EmptyDo you have any sugar-free dessert recipes that still taste like they are special for the holidays?
There's good information about sweeteners and desserts on the American Diabetes Association website. You can get recipes and cooking tips at the Splenda website. There are many recipes on the Sweet 'n Low website. And the Equal website  offers many recipes for desserts and snacks.

Fish - SilverDo you have a recipe for fish (such as orange roughy or whitefish) that is quick, easy and does not taste like fish?
The BJC HealthCare website has links to numerous credible web sources for recipes, including a website dedicated to seafood and fish. Cooks.com has 12 pages of recipes using orange roughy. Another website offers orange roughy recipes emanating from southern cuisine. And RecipeZaar has plenty of whitefish recipes. Let the world be your oyster by exploring on the 'net!

Sugar Jar
Is natural brown sugar safe for someone to eat who has an allergy to white granulated sugar?
I am going to say no. Brown sugar and granulated white sugar come from the same source. The only difference is that the brown sugar is not processed to the degree that white sugar is. I would also be careful of the term "natural"; the Food and Drug Administration has no regulations concerning what is natural. The words to look for are "whole and organic," which are regulated by the FDA under the National Organic Program. Be sure to check with your physician before adding any foods to your diet that you have concerns about.


Beef RibsHow many calories are in skirt steak?
A 3-ounce serving of skirt steak has 174 calories, 77 from fat. Skirt steak -- also called beef plate skirt steak, fajita meat and Philadelphia steak -- is a boneless cut of beef from the lower part of the brisket. Cut from the beef flank, the skirt steak is the diaphragm muscle (which lies between the abdomen and chest cavity), and it looks like a thick-grained flank steak. It's a long, flat piece of meat that's flavorful, but rather tough. Properly cooked, skirt steak can be quite tender and delicious. You can pound it flat, marinate briefly, then cook over high heat. The skirt steak also can be quickly grilled; pan-fried; or stuffed, rolled and braised. Skirt steak has become quite fashionable because of the delicious Southwestern dish, fajitas.

Gas Stove Top
What kind of oil should I use for cooking?
The two oils that have great flavor and are very healthy for us are canola oil and olive oil. When it comes to the olive oil, you don't have to use extra virgin to cook with -- which can be expensive. Any good olive oil will do.


I really like the Marinara Sauce at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. Can I get the recipe?
Marinara Sauce
¼ C. fresh onions, diced
4 Tbs. olive oil (recipe calls for extra virgin)
1 Tsp. fresh garlic, minced
3 C. diced canned tomatoes
1 oz. tomato paste
1 Tsp. sugar
2 Tsp. fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped
1 Tsp. dried oregano
1 Cup chicken stock

OnionHeat oil in heavy-bottomed pan. Sauté onions and garlic until soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Add diced tomatoes. Simmer 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour.



SteakHow can I prepare steak and not grill it?
A really good method is called searing. Season your steak with fresh cracked pepper and course ground salt. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and let the pan get very hot. Carefully add the steak and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side. The time will depend on the thickness of the steak and the amount of doneness you like. Remove the steak, and add some mushrooms and butter to the pan for a great topping.

Oatmeal-Raisin CookieI need a recipe for oatmeal cookies that contains no butter or shortening. I have to lower my LDL (bad cholesterol) -- and oatmeal and oat bran are good, but I'm unable to use butter or shortening.
Try substituting applesauce for the butter or shortening. It will add moisture and creaminess to the batter. There are also many types of margarine in our local grocery stores that claim that they can actually lower you cholesterol.


Another BisonWhere can you find bison without going to a fancy store?
You can find high-quality bison cuts prepackaged for sale on many internet sites. The National Bison Association has a listing of bison shops in Missouri, as well as information on the health benefits of bison, and cooking tips and recipes.

BisonWhat are bison burgers? Are they nutritionally better than hamburgers?
Are you sick of plain old burgers? If you're having a barbecue, offer your guests something different -- something that might even cater to their diets. Here is a look at what's cooking in the world of burgers.

Why choose bison over beef? It is very low in carbohydrates, high in protein, extremely high in iron and low in fat. Just look at the fat on ground beef compared to that on the ground bison. In fact, the fat content is actually lower than the fat content of skinless chicken.

Cooking up a bison burger is simple. Use about nine ounces of ground meat to form a loose patty. Season it with cayenne pepper, paprika, and salt and pepper. After cooking it on each side for just a few minutes, put a dome over the patty for a couple minutes to lock in moisture. Because it is a low-fat content and bison does tend to overcook quickly, you want to put some sort of cover on top. And if you want to add cheese, cover it again. That will give the cheese a nice melt.

The finished product may look like a regular burger, but it's a lot more tender, because there is less marbling. It will just sort of melt in your mouth. It's great! A healthier option nearly everyone can appreciate.

Pile of FishFor health reasons, I'm trying to eat more fish, but then I think of mercury. Should I be concerned? Is one fish better than another in terms of mercury retention? Where should I get my fish?
Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet -- containing high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat and contain omega-3 fatty acids. A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children's proper growth and development. So, women and young children, in particular, should include fish or shellfish in their diets.

Nearly all fish and shellfish, however, contain traces of mercury. For most, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system. The risks from mercury in fish and shellfish depend upon the amount eaten and the levels of mercury in that fish and shellfish. Therefore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are advising women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to avoid some types of fish and shellfish that are higher in mercury.

By following these recommendations for selecting and eating fish and shellfish, women and young children will receive the benefits of eating fish and shellfish and be confident that they have reduced their exposure to the harmful effects of mercury.

  • Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish; they contain high levels of mercury
  • Each week, eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury; five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish; another commonly eaten fish, albacore (white) tuna, has more mercury than canned light tuna, so when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week
  • Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers and coastal areas; if no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don't consume any other fish during that week

As you know the best quality seafood comes through local wholesale distributors who supply restaurants and Country Clubs. And as they are not readily available to the public, we are very lucky to have here in the St. Louis area two top-notch seafood retail shops. They are Bob's Seafood at I-170 and Delmar in University City and Whole Foods Market at Brentwood Square just south of The Galleria on Brentwood Boulevard. They both have extremely knowledgeable staff members and a large variety of the freshest seafood anyone could dream of.

M & MsDo you have a recipe for some kind of trail mix type cookie or Monster cookie?
Try this recipe for Monster Cookies. Be sure to use the raisins! Also Butterfinger or Snickers crumbles can be used instead of the M&M pieces.

Monster Cookies

PREHEAT: 350

3 eggs
1-1/4  cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-ounce jar creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup multi-colored chocolate candies
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup raisins, optional
2 teaspoons baking soda
4-1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

In very large mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add salt, vanilla, peanut butter and butter. Mix well. Stir in chocolate candies, chocolate chips, raisins, baking soda and oatmeal. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. Allow cookies to cool 3 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in large, resealable plastic bags.

Chocolate ChipsHow can I make the greatest chocolate chip cookies that stay chewy?

This is a great recipe for soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies

My Big, Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

PREHEAT: 350

2-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
8-ounce block dark chocolate, coarsely chopped 

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Place butter and sugars in bowl of electric mixer. Cream on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Gradually add dry ingredients. Continue to mix until batter is smooth. Turn off the mixer. Fold in chocolate chunks using the spatula.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of cookie dough into your hands. Roll it into a ball. Place on prepared cookie sheets 3 inches apart. You should get about 4 cookies on each pan. Press down the tops of the dough slightly.

Bake 12 minutes until light brown.

Allow cookies to cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Eggs in a Bowl 
What does vitamin B12 do?
Vitamin B12 also is called cobalamin because it contains the metal cobalt. This vitamin helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. It also is needed to help make DNA, the genetic material in all cells.

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal foods, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and milk products. Fortified breakfast cereals also are a good source. Those over 19 need approximately 2.4 micrograms per day of vitamin B12. For more information about this vitamin, direct your questions to BJC HealthCare's Ask the Dietitian.

Toddler Eating
How can I sneak fiber into my 2-year-old's diet? She is not allowed to eat nuts or processed meats like hot dogs, vienna sausages or bologna.
Your daughter needs 19 grams of fiber per day for her age group (1-3 years). She can get more fiber in her diet by increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables she eats. If she doesn't care for fruits or vegetables, try giving her a high-fiber cereal such as Cheerios or oatmeal. You also can make her sandwiches with whole-grain or whole-wheat breads.

Bread and Butter
What are good fats and bad fats?
The good fats include both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These types of fats work in the body to help decrease bad cholesterol, low-density level lipoproteins (LDL); and increase high-density level lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Polyunsaturated fat is a good fat, but monounsaturated fat is better for the body. Polyunsaturated fats include: soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, walnuts and fish oil. Monounsaturated fats include canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, nuts and avocados.

The bad fats include both saturated fat and trans fatty acids. These fats raise cholesterol levels. They are solid at room temperature. Trans fatty acids are hydrogenated or processed, which makes them unhealthy. Saturated fats include butter, coconut and palm oils, chocolate, meat fats, poultry skin, whole and 2% milk, cheese and hard shortening. Trans fatty acids include stick margarine, hard shortening, commercially fried foods, i.e., french fries, baked goods and high-fat snacks. Check your local market for the new food labels that require all foods with trans fatty acids to be labeled starting January 2006.

Gravy Dish
There are many recipes that use yogurt for sauces and as an ingredient to make food lower in fat. I am allergic to yogurt. What can I substitute?
I have two very good substitutes for sauces that normally call for yogurt. The first is tofu. Yes, I said tofu. Try using the extra-smooth variety. It will give you a creamy texture and lots of protein just like yogurt, and it's very low in fat. The second is part skim ricotta cheese. It is somewhat like an upscale version of cottage cheese and makes wonderful sauces and dips. Use either one of these products hot or cold!


Mixed NutsWhat is your pick for where I could purchase a nut grinder? Mine is broken. I've shopped some local merchants, but cannot find one.
If you enjoy kitchen goodies, you are going to love this store. We're lucky enough to have one here in St. Louis at Plaza Frontenac . . . on the second floor at the south end. It's Sur La Table, and it's wonderful! Happy shopping!

Fish
I need to eat more fish, but I don't know how or where to get fresh fish or what I should look for to make sure it's fresh. What are some of your favorite ways to cook fish?
You are so very right. We all need to eat more fresh fish!! We have all seen the media information about how adding just two servings of fish each week can help our health.

In the St. Louis area, we have two excellent seafood vendors: Bob's Seafood in University City (6655 Delmar Boulevard, 314.725.4844) and Whole Foods Market on Brentwood Boulevard just south of the Galleria in Brentwood Square (1601 S. Brentwood Boulevard, 314.968.7744).

When checking for freshness, always use your nose first. There should be no smell at all. Fresh fish will have a clean, almost nonexistent aroma. The next is the firmness of the flesh -- when you touch the flesh, it must bounce back immediately. One advantage of using the seafood dealers I mentioned is that they take the guesswork out of this; they will not sell you a bad product.

When it comes to cooking, my favorite way to keep the calories low and the flavor high is grilling. Keep in mind that some fish is better suited for grilling than others. Great grilling fish include tuna, salmon, halibut, swordfish and all other firm-fleshed fish. You can always get free recipe cards and advice on cooking from your seafood stores. And both of the stores I mentioned are awesome!


TomatoesI am not particularly fond of vegetables but find that they help fill me up without adding many calories, which is a big plus in my weight losing efforts. Can you suggest ways to "spark up" the appeal of vegetables and how to prepare them without losing the nutritional value? Also what seasonings work well with veggies?
We have come a very long way from the dull, drab days of canned veggies, so don't even go there. First start with a trip to your grocery store or better yet, go to one of the great farmer's markets we have to get a look at what is available. You are going to be surprised at the many varieties you find. Ask questions and taste, then decide what you really like.

When it comes to cooking methods the best way to preserve the nutrients is by grilling and steaming. I grill all my veggies on my outside grill and use a simple seasoning of sea salt, fresh ground pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon or lime. This way you can really taste the flavor of the fresh vegetables! Remember the brighter the colors, the higher the nutritional value!
"Eat fresh, be happy"
Chef John


What can I do to make sure my 15-month-old is eating the right foods? She loves to eat, but still is very picky. She doesn't like meat unless it is in baby food dinners.
I recently saw a great segment on ABC's "Good Morning America" that featured super baby foods. There is a wonderful website  and a book by the same name. At the website, you will find topics such as which foods to introduce to your baby at each age and a month-by-month schedule, how to make meals fun, the consistency to make the foods at each age and tons of other helpful information! Also 350 super healthy, quick and easy recipes.


Being new to this area, I don't know much about barbecue, but our local friends frequently invite us out to eat at barbecue joints. What is a healthy (not fatty) cut of beef or pork to order? I'm pretty sure "ribs" is not the answer!
When eating out, look for cuts of beef such as flank or skirt steak. When ordering pork, ask if they use the loin or tenderloin. Always ask the manager or owner of the establishment if you are not sure about any item. They will be glad you are interested in their business.


I learned to make mashed potatoes from my Mom, using milk and lots of butter. I know that's not the healthiest way, so what else can I do?
Move over butter and cream. It's time to infuse one of America's favorite dishes with some inspiration! Next time, try adding some of these combinations to really wake up your potatoes: fresh chives and smoked cheddar cheese, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, roasted garlic and buttermilk, horseradish, sour cream and fresh dill, red chili olive oil, and one of my favorites -- Wasabi mashed potatoes, made with that wonderful Japanese spicy horseradish. Also try using some different types of potatoes like Yukon gold or baby bliss. Wait . . . did someone say mashed Peruvian purple potatoes? Now you're talking!!


When I broil burgers or steaks indoors in the winter, it's just not the same as the grill. What can I do to capture that just-off-the-grill flavor?
Burrrrr! I understand completely. I've had great results with a product from Penzeys Spices called Chicago Steak Seasoning that is available at their local store* or online. It has a very good smoky flavor and it is great on all foods. I even use it on asparagus that I roast in the oven! This seasoning gives any food that wonderful outdoor summertime taste that we all crave in the middle of winter! There are many other brands available in local supermarkets. I just happen to love the folks at Penzeys Spices.

* = Penzeys Spices at 7338 Manchester Road in Maplewood (314.781.7177) is open Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Get map.)

 
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