MenuDirections 2013: Recipe and Diet Revamps on Day Two

Chef Jet Tila and a power panel led by Dr. James Painter headline second day of conference.

The second day of MenuDirections 2013 featured two general sessions focused on revamps—both of recipes and lifestyles.

Celebrity chef Jet Tila, managing partner, manager food and beverage at The Charleston in Santa Monica, Calif., kicked the morning off with a cooking demonstration designed to take two comfort foods and make them a little bit healthier. The presentation started with classic Thai curry. Tila was able to reduce calories by substituting tofu for beef and cut salt by using aromatics as flavor boosters. The second dish was chicken friend steak, mashed potatoes and gravy. To decrease calories chef Tila used cornmeal flour and cornstarch instead of pure flour for the dredge for the chicken. He also used skim milk for the gravy instead of cream and made a slurry with water and flour to add thickness. He cooked the potatoes in a steamer and riced them to make them fluffy. He also used sour cream in the potatoes instead of butter and cream. All these changes shaved off 471 calories from this classic Southern favorite.

Other observations from the session:

• Indian curry is made by a masala of dried spices. Thai curry is ground together from shallots, garlic lemon grass and fresh herbs.

• Never shake a can of coconut milk. Instead of oil use the cream from the top of the coconut milk to caramelize onions, shallots and garlic. It builds flavor.

• Yum in Thai means the perfect balance of sweet, salt, sour and spicy.

The second general session of the day featured MenuDirections favorite Dr. James Painter, R.D., chair, school of family and consumer sciences at Eastern Illinois University. This year, Painter brought along Tara Gidus, M.S., R.D., CSSD, LD/N, of Tara Gidus Nutrition Consulting, and Marie Spano, M.S., R.D./LD, FISSN, CSCS, of Marie Spano Nutrition Consulting, for a power panel that looked at sugar as a friend and sugar as a foe.

Painter remarked that the important thing to remember with sugar is that the more added sugar your body takes in, the fewer nutrients you take in. So sugar is a foe when it replaces other nutrients. Painter also waded into the controversial question of chocolate milk in schools, saying he felt that anything that got students to get the nutrients found in milk was worth a little added sugar. He thought the same with sugar in salad dressing since it gets people to eat salad. However, sugar becomes a foe when it takes the place of nutrients, such as in fruit drinks where the marketing makes consumers believe they are getting real fruit when they are drinking mostly sugar water such as Sunny D.

Other observations from the session:
• Tara Gidus: Figs and raisins retain more nutrients when they are dried than dried cranberries. Dried cranberries have six times the sugar as a fresh cranberry. Dried fruits are excellent during exercise, especially for athletes. 

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